October 2005 Archives

I had posted earlier about Duke Power and their proposed order of two Westinghouse AP1000 Reactors: Nukes on order I received this comment from Rod Adams:
The news that you have reported is definitely good, but you have weakened your publication's credibility with the incorrect numbers that you have posted.

The capacity of the AP 1000 is a bit more than 1100 MWe, not 11 MWe.

I am pretty sure that your figure for electric power demands of New York City is also off by a factor of 100.
He is right on both counts. I quoted the Power Output figure from Westinghouse's website with a little rounding but I dropped two orders of magnitude in the rounding process! From the AP1000 website
The AP1000 is an advanced 1117 to 1154 MWe nuclear power plant that uses the forces of nature and simplicity of design to enhance plant safety and operations and reduce construction costs.
Also to address the question of New York City's electrical demand, I did a bit of googling and ran into this excellent paper which starts with 2000 and projects it forward to 2005. For 2000, the Summer Peak Load was 10,340 MW for NYC and 4,564 for Long Island. (The total for the entire state was 30,200 -- the city is quite the consumer.) That makes my error a factor of 295 times off. Again, I am sorry for my errors -- the 35 MW for NYC was stuck in my brain from somewhere and I failed to fact-check myself when quoting it. As for the new entry to the blogroll -- Rod Adams runs this website: Atomic Insights His blog is here: Atomic Insights Blog A welcome addition and thanks!

Quick Watson; the game's afoot...

Mark Russinovich is truly a hacker's Hacker for Windows systems. His primary website SysInternals is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to dig deeply into that convoluted mess of beauty and elegance that is the Windows 2000 and XP Kernel. His utilities are a great boon to those of us not at his Olympian heights when we try to figure out some strange behaviour with our systems. He also runs a Blog and today's entry is a wonderful foray into some unmitigated Crap-ware that Sony installed on his system when he went to play an Audio CD:
Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far
Last week when I was testing the latest version of RootkitRevealer (RKR) I ran a scan on one of my systems and was shocked to see evidence of a rootkit. Rootkits are cloaking technologies that hide files, Registry keys, and other system objects from diagnostic and security software, and they are usually employed by malware attempting to keep their implementation hidden (see my �Unearthing Rootkits� article from the June issue of Windows IT Pro Magazine for more information on rootkits). The RKR results window reported a hidden directory, several hidden device drivers, and a hidden application.
He posts a screenshot showing something very very strange and then continues:
Given the fact that I�m careful in my surfing habits and only install software from reputable sources I had no idea how I�d picked up a real rootkit, and if it were not for the suspicious names of the listed files I would have suspected RKR to have a bug. I immediately ran Process Explorer and Autoruns to look for evidence of code that would activate the rootkit each boot, but I came up empty with both tools. I next turned to LiveKd, a tool I wrote for Inside Windows 2000 and that lets you explore the internals of a live system using the Microsoft kernel debugger, to determine what component was responsible for the cloaking.
Mark then goes through the step by step process he went through to figure out exactly what was happening and he tried to delete it. His CD drive disappeared. Mark then outlines just how poorly written and unsafe to the system this software is (and yeah, he gets his CD drive back again). Finishes off with these thoughts:
The entire experience was frustrating and irritating. Not only had Sony put software on my system that uses techniques commonly used by malware to mask its presence, the software is poorly written and provides no means for uninstall. Worse, most users that stumble across the cloaked files with a RKR scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files.

While I believe in the media industry�s right to use copy protection mechanisms to prevent illegal copying, I don�t think that we�ve found the right balance of fair use and copy protection, yet. This is a clear case of Sony taking DRM too far.

Cool tech for small computers

I ran into the Gumstix website while researching distributed control systems for a much-down-the-road project. Very cool little computers -- a decent Intel chip, 64MB SDRAM, 16MB Flash, Linux kernal 2.6.11 pre-installed all for about $150. Communication is via Serial but there is a slew of add-on boards that add additional options -- $65 gets you one ethernet and one CF-II slot. There are also breakout boards and boards for almost any function you might want. Oh yeah -- the name Gumstix describes the size of these puppies. They are a bit over 3" long and a bit over 0.8" wide. Yes, I know about BASIC Stamps but these puppies have an OS, can multi-task and can use most Linux code out there. Need more I/O? Get a LabJack which plays well with Linux 2.6.11

WTF? Hurricane Relief effort

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Anheuser-Busch has been donating loads of drinking water that they have canned in one of their beer lines (nine million cans so far). They have been trucking these to the southeast for victims of Katrina and Rita. And then, they meet Pastors from the Southern Baptist Convention who are running a food and supply distribution site. NBC-2 has the story:
Religious beliefs trump hurricane relief
Hurricane victims who wanted water had some difficulty finding it at a relief station in Clewiston Friday. The volunteer group running a supply center doesn't like the company that donated the water, so they decided not to give it to those in line for help.

Twenty-two pallets of the canned water, distributed free by beer company Anheuser-Busch, bears the company's label � and members of the Southern Baptist Convention refused to hand it out to those in need.

Resident lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group.

"The pastor didn't want to hand out the Budweiser cans to people and that's his prerogative and I back him 100-percent," said SBC volunteer John Cook.

The SBC felt it was inappropriate to give the donation out, and they weren't happy when NBC2 wanted to know why.

"Why do you want to make that the issue? That's not the issue. The issue is that we're here trying to help people," Cook said.

No one disagrees with that, but the Red Cross says Anheuser-Busch is also trying to help.

The water has been available all along, but the SBC volunteers set it aside and few people knew it was available.

While the SBC is standing its ground, the Red Cross says water is water and they're now handing out the supplies.
The vice-president of operations for Anheuser-Busch, Mike Harding, released a statement on the donation Friday reading:
"As we have seen numerous times in recent years, safe drinking water is a critical need following natural disasters such as Hurricane Wilma. At the request of various relief agencies, Anheuser-Busch and its wholesalers have donated more than 9 million cans of drinking water since Hurricane Katrina hit in August, and when called on, we�ll continue to provide water to all victims of Wilma as long as it�s needed."
"I don't think it makes a difference who gives it out. It's going to a good cause. It's going to help everyone," said storm victim Lisa Simmons.

And many victims are grateful Anheuser-Busch is stepping in to help.
The article goes on to update that two members of the SBC are now distributing the water alongside the Red Cross. What part of Charity do these people fail to understand? There should be a special place in Hell for those people who Meddle...

Ex-President Clinton

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Interesting report from NewsBusters:

Clinton Lies Again, Press Misses It Again
Former President Bill Clinton added his comment to the praises for Rosa Parks, now lying in honor at the Rotunda of the US Capitol. In making his statement, he told another lie, like his claim about black churches being burned in his community when he was growing up.

It was many months later that some enterprising reporter bothered to check the facts and found out that there were no black churches burned then in Arkansas. That fact was reported, but it never caught up with the original lie that Clinton told. As Mark Twain correctly observed, "A lie can go around the world before the truth gets its trousers on."

The latest Clinton lie, however, required no research to expose it. Here is what he said, from the AP story about Rosa Parks:

Clinton said he was 9 years old when Parks refused to give up her seat. and he and his friends "couldn't figure out anything we could do since we couldn't even vote. So we began to sit in the back of the bus when we got on."

Hellooo. Hope, Arkansas, was a town of less than 9,000 when Bill Clinton was growing up there. Towns that small do not have public bus systems. So, he had to be talking about school buses. At that time, the school system in Hope was racially segregated. There would not have been any black students on the bus, relegated to the back of the bus.

An observant reporter might have included those two facts, about no public buses and the school buses being segregated like the schools were, along side of Clinton's statement. But, asking AP reporters to be observant is, perhaps, a bit much.

So, Clinton was lying, again. Why did he do it? First, this is a lifelong pattern. The spotlight must always switch back from whatever is the subject at hand, to Bill - his life, his times, his ego, himself. Note that this statement neatly does that.

Plus, as author John Armor says:

We all sat in the back of any bus because it was easier to get away with stuff when you were as far as possible from the view and supervision of the driver. Bill was just taking an ordinary situation and trying to turn it into something that made him look good.

Heh... Backseater here as well growing up.

Iran's new president -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- made some waves the other day by saying that Israel should be wiped off the face of this earth. I blogged about it here and here.

And now this -- Charles at LGF links to an article at Iran Focus

Iran's President says 2 or 3 hangings could end market woes
Tehran, Oct. 30 - Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the latest cabinet meeting in the Iranian capital that "if we were permitted to hang two or three persons, the problems with the stock exchange would be solved for ever", according to a Tehran-based newspaper.

Ahmadinejad was addressing a cabinet meeting held to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation at the Tehran Stock Exchange, the daily Ruznet reported on Sunday.

Ministers and experts disagreed with all the different views and proposals raised at the meeting, which came to an end without any concrete results. Tempers flew high and participants shouted at each other during the discussion, according to the daily. Frustrated with the inability of his economic advisers and experts to come up with any solution, Ahmadinejad told them that the only way out of the current stock exchange and financial market problems was to "frighten" speculators by hanging two or three of them.

This goes beyond draconian... It will be interesting to see how many companies stay in Iran after the next year or so and how much foreign investment comes in. And also, the wiping Israel meme seems to be gaining traction in cultured Cambridge, Massachusetts. Charles posts a picture of a sticker that is cropping up all over the city:

Wiping Israel Off the Map at Harvard
Iranian "president" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" has struck a chord at Harvard. LGF reader JS emailed this photo of a sticker posted all over the place by a leftist group:

(Note: "Gone Baby Gone" is a band, who apparently have nothing to do with the new stickers.)

The price of Gasoline

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Very interesting news from the TaxProf Blog:
Gas Taxes Exceed Oil Companies' Profits
With BP, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell reporting record profits, the Tax Foundation reminds us in its latest Fiscal Fact that the biggest beneficiaries of gasoline sales are federal and state governments, not the oil industry:
High gas prices and strong oil company earnings have generated a rash of new tax proposals in recent months. Some lawmakers have called for new "windfall profits" taxes�similar to the one signed into federal law in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter�that would tax the profits of major oil companies at a rate of 50%. Meanwhile, many commentators have voiced support for the idea of increasing gas taxes to keep the price of gasoline at post-Katrina highs, thereby reducing gas consumption. However, often ignored in this debate is the fact that oil industry profits are highly cyclical, making them just as prone to "busts" as to "booms." Additionally, tax collections on the production and import of gasoline by state and federal governments are already near historic highs. In fact, in recent decades governments have collected far more revenue from gasoline taxes than the largest U.S. oil companies have collectively earned in domestic profits...
Interesting -- the Fiscal Fact link has the numbers and references for you to check. For 2004, the Oil Companies made $42.6B and the Government took $58.4B.


Very cool tool -- free too. From their website:

Stickies for Windows
Stickies for Windows lets you put yellow sticky notes on your Windows desktop, much like the popular MacOS application. It is very simple, very customizable, and completely free!

Fully configurable, the stickies can be emailed to someone else. Fast, small and useful.

The Giant Magellan Telescope

They just cast the first mirror for this and it came out very nicely!

Story at Physorg.com:

First Giant Magellan Telescope Mirror Casting is 'Perfect'
"We're very happy to see this one come out looking so gorgeous," Mirror Lab Technical Director J. Roger Angel said. "We'll see more once the mold is removed, but so far, looking through the front surface, it looks great."

The mirror is the first of seven 8.4-meter (27-foot) mirrors that the Mirror Lab is making for the Giant Magellan Telescope. The GMT is the world's first extremely large ground-based telescope to start construction.

This part of the article gives you a sense of the scale of this project:

The colossal telescope will feature six giant off-axis mirrors around a seventh on-axis mirror. This arrangement will give it a 22-meter (72-foot) aperture, or 4.5 times the collecting area of any current optical telescope. It will have the resolving power of a 24.5-meter (80-foot) diameter telescope, or 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT is slated for completion in 2016 at a site in northern Chile.

And one more excerpt:

For the casting last July, Mirror Lab workers used 40,000 pounds of Ohara E-6 borosilicate glass. The furnace hit peak temperature, 2,150 degrees Fahrenheit (1,178 Celsius) on July 23. As the furnace rotated at 5 revolutions per minute, glass melted around the 1,681 hexagonal cores in the mold. This created a 'honeycomb' mirror blank with a faceplate of the desired curvature. The honeycomb mirror weighs only a fifth as much as would a solid mirror of the same size.

The rotation produces centrifugal force which makes the molten glass slump out toward the rim. It just happens to form a nice parabola -- this trick cuts a lot of time from the final grinding and polishing. Here is a photo:


Remember, this is one of the seven mirrors that will comprise this telescope. I had the great pleasure to visit the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i and that thing is huge.

This puppy will be a bit more than twice the diameter (4.5 times mirror area).

The website for the project is here: Giant Magellan Telescope

Here is an artists' rendition of the finished scope:


2005 Darwin Award Winners

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This years list of Darwin Award Winners has been posted. From the website:
Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, the Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it.
The winner:
Failed Frame-Up
"Unusual" and "complicated" is how the Missaukee County sheriff described the mysterious death of 19-year-old Christopher, who called 911 at 1:22am and calmly informed the police dispatcher that his neighbor had stabbed him. Suddenly he began screaming and begging for help. A woman was heard shouting in the background, "Why did you do this?" Deputies arrived quickly, only to find that Christopher had bled to death from stab wounds to his chest.

After an evening spent imbibing large quantities of alcohol, Christopher noticed a shortage in his liquor supply that could not be attributed to his own depredations. He concluded that his neighbor had stolen a bottle of booze! He menaced said neighbor with a knife, to no avail, whereupon he retired to his own apartment to brood about revenge.

Finally he figured out the perfect way to get back at that conniving bottle-thief: he would stab himself and blame the neighbor!

A witness saw Christopher enter the bathroom while he called police. When he emerged from the bathroom, he looked perfectly fine, but a moment later he began screaming as gouts of blood spewed from his chest. He ran to the door of the apartment, and collapsed.

The evidence pointed to self-inflicted wounds. Deputies found the knife that killed him in the kitchen, and an autopsy concluded that he had stabbed himself in the chest twice. The first wound may not have looked dangerous enough to him, so he took the knife and tried again, this time plunging it into his left ventricle. This wound was plenty dangerous: he had only two minutes to live.

Christopher died in vain. His deathbed accusation fell on deaf ears, as a witness stated that the neighbor was not in the apartment, and the neighbor offered to take a lie-detector test to demonstrate his innocence. All Christopher got for revenge was an accidental death sentence.
Six more at the website...

Firefly and Serenity Wiki

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Just stumbled across a wonderful Wiki for the TV Series Firefly. FireflyWiki If you enjoy science fiction with a wild wild west undertone, the follow-up movie Serenity is well worth seeing while it is still in the theaters.

Nukes on order

Finally! From Westinghouse:
Westinghouse Pleased Duke Power to Pursue COL for 2 AP1000s
Duke Power's announcement today that it will prepare a combined construction and operating license (COL) for two Westinghouse AP1000s is a major step forward for nuclear power by a prominent, forward-looking U.S. energy company, Westinghouse Electric Company officials said today.

"Duke's decision is forward looking in that it will further ensure long-term and diverse generating options for Duke and its customers," said Steve Tritch, Westinghouse President and CEO. "As a result of this action, Duke will be in a position to commence construction of new nuclear plants as early as the 2010 timeframe."

The Westinghouse AP1000, set to receive Design Certification in December, is the only Generation III+ plant to receive Final Design Approval (FDA) from the U.S. NRC. Competing designs are still in the earliest stages (application or pre-application submittal) of the multi-year FDA process.
Very cool -- each reactor is rated for about 11 MWe which is enough to power a good sized city. New York requires about 35 MWe. Ten Megawatts of coal generated power requires about 90 traincar loads of coal per day to produce. Ten Megawatts of Nuclear requires about six kilos of fuel/day. Less environmental impact for the mining and refining and no greenhouse gasses.
Westinhouse's website for this unit can be found here: AP1000 Duke Power's website is here: Duke Power but their server seems to be down. Short article about them at Wikipedia

Northern Migration

Interesting population shift going on -- the Christian Science Monitor has the story:
Mexicans head north for a better life. Way north.
Born, educated, and married in Mexico City, this young, upper-middle class couple turned to one another one day and said, "Let's leave."

"I could not picture the future or having kids in Mexico," says Maria Carral, a graphic designer. "We were both really tired of the insecurity, the traffic, the economic ups and downs.... We were ready to move on to a better life."

Like so many Mexicans, Maria and her husband chose to move north - but in their case, that meant Canada, not the United States.

For a small but growing number of Mexicans the promised land of "El Norte" means life above the 49th parallel. And while the US is fortifying its borders and tightening entry requirements, Canada is putting out the welcome mat.

"Canada has awakened to Mexico and vice versa," says Mendel Green, an immigration lawyer in Canada. "It's a fit."
The article also looks at what a Mexican has to do to get a Tourist Visa in Canada and the USA
"Just getting a hearing [for a visa] at the US embassy is a feat," says Javiar Gomez, a Mexico City house painter who waited four months to hear whether or not he could get a tourist visa to visit his brother in Chicago last year. He didn't get the visa. "You have to pay [a nonrefundable $100 fee] before knowing if you will be accepted or not. Its infuriating," he says.

Temporary workers who want to go to Canada fill out one form. There's no charge. The same application to the US, according the US Embassy website requires, among other things:
● A copy of the I-129 petition and the original approved I-797 petition.
● A BANAMEX receipt for the 1,150 pesos (adjusted according to exchange rate) application fee. There can be additional fees for individuals obtaining work visas."
● Supplementary application form if applicant is male between the ages of 16 and 45.
Any Mexican can apply for an immigrant visa to Canada. But the US rules say that only Mexicans who have family or a sponsoring employer can apply for the same visa.
I know that the US has a growing population and we need to be careful about who comes in but we could be doing a bit to streamline the processs... The $100 non-refundable fee is a bit much.
Looking to get away from it all? Cold War City is for sale. The Times Online has the story:
For sale: Britain�s underground city
Welcome to Cold War City (population: 4). It covers 240 acres and has 60 miles of roads and its own railway station. It even includes a pub called the Rose and Crown.

The most underpopulated town in Britain is being put on the market. But there will be no estate agent�s blurb extolling the marvellous views of the town for sale: true, it has a Wiltshire address, but it is 120ft underground.

The subterranean complex that was built in the 1950s to house the Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan�s cabinet and 4,000 civil servants in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack is being thrown open to commercial use. Just four maintenance men are left.
A bit more about the site:
During the war the mine was a munitions dump and a factory for military aircraft engines. It was equipped with what was then the second largest telephone exchange in Britain and a BBC studio from where the prime minister could make broadcasts to what remained of the nation. The telephone directories were last updated in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came down.

A system of underground power stations would have provided electricity to the 100,000 lamps that lit its streets and guided the way to a pub modelled on the Red Lion in Whitehall.

A spur line was built inside a tunnel on the main London to Bristol railway, linking it to the bunker. It was meant as an escape route for the royal family to flee London in the event of an attack.

Code-named Burlington, it was never used and as the timescale for a perceived Soviet nuclear onslaught shrank to the notorious four-minute warning of armageddon, the whole concept of evacuating the Queen and her government became obsolete.

The bunker�s very existence was meant to be top secret until it was decommissioned last year. The last cabinet records were removed a decade ago.

Problems in the Alabama government

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From CBS News:
Former Alabama Governor Indicted
Former Gov. Don Siegelman was charged Wednesday in a "widespread racketeering conspiracy" that includes allegations he took a bribe from former hospital executive Richard Scrushy for a key state appointment.

Also indicted on federal charges were two members of Siegelman's administration and Scrushy, the former head of the HealthSouth medical-services company who was acquitted earlier this year in a massive accounting-fraud case.

Siegelman, who was governor from 1999 to 2003, was charged with racketeering, fraud, bribery, extortion and obstruction of justice.

Siegelman called the long-running grand jury probe a political witch hunt by Republican prosecutors trying to derail his current Democratic campaign for a second term in 2006.
The MSM is all over Scooter Libby but not a peep over this one. Hmmmm...

Light posting tonight

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Working on a website for a client plus researching CNC Machining

Quoting 'victim' 2,000

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Charles at LGF links to an article by Michelle Malkin regarding the reporting by the NY Times of the death of 'victim' 2,000 -- a Corporal Jeffrey B. Starr who was on his third term in Iraq (voluntary):
On Wednesday, the NYTimes published a 4,625-word opus on the "2,000 dead" milestone--a "grim mark," read the headline--on page A2. Among those profiled were Marines from the First Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, including Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr. Here's an excerpt from the Times' passage about Cpl. Starr:
Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Corporal Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents' home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. "I kind of predicted this," Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. "A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."
Last night, I received a letter from Corporal Starr's uncle, Timothy Lickness. He wanted you to know the rest of the story--and the parts of Corporal Starr's letter that the Times failed to include:
Yesterday's New York Times on-line edition carried the story of the 2000 Iraq US military death[s]. It grabbed my attention as the picture they used with the headline was that of my nephew, Cpl Jeffrey B. Starr, USMC.

Unfortunately they did not tell Jeffrey's story. Jeffrey believed in what he was doing. He [was] willing put his life on the line for this cause. Just before he left for his third tour of duty in Iraq I asked him what he thought about going back the third time. He said: "If we (Americans) don't do this (free the Iraqi people from tyranny) who will? No one else can."

Several months after Jeffrey was killed his laptop computer was returned to his parents who found a letter in it that was addressed to his girlfriend and was intended to be found only if he did not return alive. It is a most poignant letter and filled with personal feelings he had for his girlfriend. But of importance to the rest of us was his expression of how he felt about putting his life at risk for this cause. He said it with grace and maturity.

He wrote: "Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

What Jeffrey said is important. Americans need to understand that most of those who are or have been there understand what's going on. It would honor Jeffrey's memory if you would publish the rest of his story.
Mr. Lickness also told me: "Even more than a Marine, Jeff was a man of God. At a recent memorial service at Camp Pendleton for the 16 Marines from his unit killed in Iraq we got to meet the men who were with him when he died. They told us of his bravery under fire, his leadership, his humor and his humanity. America lost the best it has, but the family knows he's with his Heavenly Father and we will see him again."

Now you know what the Times left out. Now you know the rest of Corporal Starr's story.

You can pay proper tribute to Corporal Starr here.

More about Corporal Starr from his uncle here.

Thank God for men like him.

As for the Times, what do I always say? It's always more informative for what it leaves out than for what it puts in.
The "Newspaper of Record" indeed... And for "Celebrating the 2,000th Death", check out these photos of happy people.

Finding Me

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Very cool tech -- hat tip to Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools for the link to this life-saver: epirb_mcmurdo.jpg
McMurdo Fastfind Plus
Find-me anywhere personal locator

It's not that often you run across a piece of gear that can actually save your life. Whether you're backpacking, backcountry skiing, scuba diving, or flying in the wilderness, the McMurdo Fastfind Plus is a must-have in the event you find yourself in a serious emergency situation. Up here in Seattle every year hikers, mountain climbers, and backcountry skiers get lost and don't return. Whenever I read about them in the paper I kind of sigh and think of how easy it would've been to be rescued.

When a person activates the Fastfind Plus, it uses its integral GPS to provide a 406 MHz alert signal via the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system. You see a visual indicator of GPS acquisition. Fastfind Plus also transmits on the International Aircraft Emergency Frequency of 121.5 MHz providing a homing signal for the Search And Rescue (SAR) services. With the combination of an integral GPS and satellite transmitter, Search and Rescue authorities can be notified of your emergency along with your pinpoint location within minutes, anywhere in the world.

The Fastfind only weighs 10 oz, which isn't bad considering that it can save your ass. For scuba divers, a waterproof aluminum canister is also available. I might mention that these devices are only to be used in the most dire, life-threatening emergency. It is a violation of Federal Law to misuse the device and is subject to a $250,000 fine.
Very very cool technology. We have had EPIRBs for the last 15 years or so but this is a definite jump in features and technology with about the same sticker-shock as the current crop of EPIRBs ($550) (EPIRB - Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon -- these send out a cry for help but it is the satellite's job to home in on the beacon. Accuracy can be poor as several hundred feet which in a mountainous area or in confused seas can be fatal. This puppy gathers its own location and sends that data as well as hollering on all of the traditional EPIRB frequencies.)

Happy Hallowe'en

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From Cox and Forkum:
Click for full-size Image

The Arcata, CA Police Blotter

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This is a hoot... The person who writes the Police Blotter column for the local Arcata Eye newspaper has a great sense of humor and it shows. A few entries:
September 3rd - 3:46 a.m.
On somebody's porch, he was prowling
A male type, "banging and growling"
The mixed-up man thinking
(Perhaps 'cause of drinking)
That friends owned the home he was fouling.

3:59 a.m.
Though told to leave, growly returned
To the porch where his presence was spurned
Exceedingly lame
But cops too, know that game
And with handcuffs made sure he adjourned.

October 6 - 6:07 a.m. A traveler holding a help-me sign outside a Valley West restaurant modulated his alcohol-tinged exhalations with verbal abuse, directed at a competing signholder whom he alleged had pushed him out of his "space." The spaced traveler and the interloper were advised.
Cox and Forkum once again, nail it. This is regarding Iran's new president's statement that Israel should be wiped off the map delivered in a speech at this conference: "The World without Zionism"
Click for full-size Image
Charles at LGF has a link to a Yahoo/AP news item:
Arab States Silent on Iran's Remarks
Arab governments remained silent Thursday as international condemnation grew over a call by Iran's new president for Israel to be destroyed.
The news reporter should realize that Iran is Persia under a new name; it is not an Arab nation. And now, they are transforming themselves into a very large and very loose canon with their fixation on nuclear weaponry. The next few years will be very interesting. Libya is now a nice place to visit.
Was reading Maggie's Farm and saw there that Victor Davis Hanson had a column at the NY Times regarding the 2,000th death in Iraq:
2,000 Dead, in Context
As the aggregate number of American military fatalities in Iraq has crept up over the past 13 months - from 1,000 to 1,500 dead, and now to 2,000 - public support for the war has commensurately declined. With the nightly ghoulish news of improvised explosives and suicide bombers, Americans perhaps do not appreciate that the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the effort to establish a democratic government in Iraq have been accomplished at relatively moderate cost - two-thirds of the civilian fatalities incurred four years ago on the first day of the war against terrorism.
He then compares this with some other wars:
Compared with Iraq, America lost almost 17 times more dead in Korea, and 29 times more again in Vietnam - in neither case defeating our enemies nor establishing democracy in a communist north.

Contemporary critics understandably lament our fourth year of war since Sept. 11 in terms of not achieving a victory like World War II in a similar stretch of time. But that is to forget the horrendous nature of such comparison when we remember that America lost 400,000 dead overseas at a time when the country was about half its present size.
An excellent read... 60 years is a long long time ago but the lessons and sacrifices then need to be brought to present times and reflected on. First one being that fascism has not died and that we are dealing with it again.

Updates to the Blogroll

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Added three new blogs to the list on the right. Gates of Vienna Gun Guy and Maggie's Farm Check them out -- the level of writing in Maggie's Farm and Gates of Vienna is very high. Gun Guy is al all-out fun read -- his mildest essay rant would give most P.C. people gibbering fits of apoplexy.

The 2,000th 'Victim'

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Dymphna at Gates of Vienna has a thoughtful essay on the 2,00th victim and the way we look at death. She also has an interesting statistic to think about.
The Valiant and the Victims
What�s the difference between a victim, a fatality, and a dead hero? Let us consider some lives and some deaths. Let us see if there may be a thread that connects them.

Over on The Neighborhood of God I described the bloody death of a 7th century young woman who�d valiantly fought off and escaped her incestuous father, only to die by his sword anyway, far from home. In my view because she refused to submit, Dymphna therefore was not a victim. However, one of my commenters disagreed. Did the simple fact that she failed ultimately to escape her father's sword seal the meaning of her life? I can understand why someone might see it that way, though her death is not how I choose to characterize Saint Dymphna; to me she is defined in her refusal to submit the core of her integrity to another person. Yes, her refusal contained her death warrant, but it was that very defiance which ultimately trumped her father�s rage. Dymphna�s courage and determination resonate down the centuries, bearing a significance she could never have imagined.

And yesterday, I heard about the long awaited, the hoped-for, the tipping point death of the war in Iraq: Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr. was # 2,000 in the line of soldiers who have fallen in Iraq while serving their country and liberating the Iraqis. The meaning of his life was dumped into the total "body count" cauldron that the unscrupulous keep on the fire in aid of an enemy who would see us vanquished and the Iraqis returned to hell.

Last year, there was another death in Iraq, one which stood out from the thousands of victims of this ugly war. Remember Fabrizio Quattrocchi? Remember his defiance? Mr. Quattrocchi didn�t choose death. But when it showed up wearing the visage of evil, he turned and faced valiantly what he could not escape. Attempting to tear off his mask, he yelled his last words: "Now I'll show you how an Italian dies."
Dymphna then continues with this thought and offers up the tale of 42,000 deaths:
Just three examples: the girl, the sergeant, the contract worker. None of them chose to die, but all of them chose how to face death. One in defense of her integrity, another in the defense of his country, and the last because, like the first, he refused to submit to evil.

Meanwhile, back here at home, in 2003 � the year the war began in Iraq � forty two thousand people victims died in traffic accidents. They died for no reason. 42,643 people are gone and from none of their deaths can we salvage some small shred of consolation. These horrible deaths are merely wasted lives, cut off without reason.

So where is the hue and cry? Where are the headlines? Where are the protestors demanding that something be done about this on-going annual carnage right here in our country? Extrapolating from the figures for 2003, we can reliably estimate a death toll from traffic accidents (in the United States alone) of at least 125,000 men, women, and children dead since the start of the war in Iraq. Where are the Cindy Sheehans to carry on about this ignoble carnage? Where are the placards blaming�blaming whom, precisely? The car manufacturers? The highway engineers? The government for not setting a lower speed limit? The people who exercise their freedom to drive?
Indeed -- I am doing a hatchet job excerpting her post, it's worth your time to go there and read the entire thing.

Alternative to Hybrid Automobiles

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Hybrids are great for slow traffic and lots of short trips but when you are doing more than 20-30 miles, the advantage wears off and you are back to "normal" gas mileage. The Detroit News Auto Insider has an interesting article on the new technologies available for Diesel and why they will give Hybrids a good run for their money:
Forget hybrids, America; diesels will provide economy, performance
Technology allows diesels to meet toughest upcoming emissions rules; automakers' hybrid alliances show lack of belief in gas-electric future
Peugeot of France doesn't sell its cars in the U.S., but its new 407 Coupe is powered by an engine that will induce a warm glow in Americans.

The engine is a diesel, and it means that Americans forced by high gas prices to seek alternatives to fuel-guzzling motors can do so without making sacrifices.

The new car, launched here in October, is powered by a 2.7 litre V-6 diesel which is quieter than a gasoline engine, has so much torque that its acceleration is blistering and instantaneous, does an average 27.6 miles per U.S. gallon, and most important of all, the engine is made by Ford and is already used in top-of-the-line Jaguars and Range Rovers. This is no smokey, under-powered, bag-o-nails old diesel rattlebox. It is creamy smooth, quiet, sophisticated, and environmentally friendly.

To be fair, Ford makes this latest technology common rail diesel engine in a joint venture with Peugeot. But the capability of the engines like these in terms of economy and refined performance makes Europeans wonder why Americans are making such a fuss about hybrid engines.

Despite all the hullabaloo about hybrids, experts predict that by 2012 Americans will be buying roughly twice as many diesels as hybrids. By then, diesels will also be able to match the toughest emission regulations set by California.

Expensive Hybrids

The runaway price of gasoline has forced Americans to look for more economical fuel. Sure, the gas-electric hybrid engines powering the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX400h are breathtaking technological achievements. But they are heavy and expensive. And claims by Toyota that the Prius will average 54.7 miles per U.S. gallon have not been borne out in Europe, where you can expect around 42 mpg (35 miles per U.S. gallon). Diesel-powered cars like the VW Passat can easily better that, and can combine frugality with much better performance than the Prius.

You would expect leaders of big European manufacturers to echo this idea, and they do, describing hybrids as an expensive blind alley.

"Despite the big public debate right now, it (hybrids) will just be a niche technology," German luxury car maker BMW AG chief executive Helmut Panke told Reuters at the Tokyo car show.

"They (hybrids) do not have long-term economic prospects because they are a lot more expensive to produce (than diesels) with the same results," said Jean-Martin Folz, chief executive of French mass car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Experts like Peter Schmidt, editor of the pan-European bi-weekly newsletter Automotive Industry Data, reckon that Toyota's hybrid venture, although an impressive engineering program, was more of a public relations exercise.

"Toyota lacks one fundamental element -- image - unlike BMW or Mercedes. Toyota cleverly used the environmental theme to boost this," said Schmidt.

Schmidt agrees that diesels are at least the match for hybrids in terms of economy and performance at a cheaper price, but says the crucial element in diesel success in America will be its ability to match tough new laws curbing emissions of soot or particulates, and dangerous nitrogen oxides (NOx)
An interesting look at some very cool technology. Hybrids have their place but it will be interesting to hear from their owners in a couple years when the battery packs start needing replacement...

Dilbert has a blog

Scott Adams has just started a weblog. Dilbert.blog A sample post:

Nerdiest thing ever
What's the nerdiest thing you ever did?

I'm talking about thoroughly unnecessary nerdiness, i.e. the highest level of achievement. Recently I bought a projector that takes a signal from just about any source and shines a big picture on any flat surface. I hooked it up to my laptop and watched a wall-sized movie on my white office wall while I paid my bills.

You might ask why I bought the projector in the first place. No reason. I just couldn't resist the urge to project large images on walls. It's exactly the sort of device you have to acquire first and later figure out why you did it.

I was inspired by some friends who show movies on the side of their house during their annual Halloween party. All they do is hook up an X-Box to the projector, add a couple of portable speakers, and it's like being at the drive-in.

I watched the movie Alexander on my office wall. It is quite possibly the worst movie ever made. But if you project it large enough on a wall, the nerdish pleasure in doing so actually compensates for the complete lack of cinematic value. I knew I'd enjoy it because my aforementioned friends showed Van Helsing on their house last Halloween and I couldn't have been happier. The plot of that movie is, if I may summarize: Monsters get killed. That kind of storytelling plus a couple of beers makes for a good time.

Ever since I bought the projector, I spend way too much time looking for random, flat surfaces upon which I can project images should the opportunity ever arise. As I type this, I notice that my neighbor in an apartment across the way has the worst view ever of a big blank wall outside his balcony. Now I want to befriend him so we can sit on his balcony and project movies on the big wall while drinking tasty beverages. But I won't. I just like thinking about it.

So what's the nerdiest, unnecessary thing you ever did?

My answer would be my brief foray into PDA world. I bought two of them and have never used them more than a few days. I am using a spiral-bound book of 3X5 note cards for keeping track of stuff and it works a lot better for me.

Miers bows out

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Harriet Miers announced that she was withdrawing her nomination for the post of Supreme Court Judge late this afternoon. MS/NBC has the story:
Miers withdraws Supreme Court nomination
Bush accepts decision 'reluctantly,' promises quick replacement

Under withering attack from conservatives, President Bush abandoned his push to put loyalist Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court and promised a quick replacement Thursday. Democrats accused him of bowing to the "radical right wing of the Republican Party."

The White House said Miers had withdrawn because of senators� demands to see internal documents related to her role as counsel to the president. But politics played a larger role: Bush�s conservative backers had doubts about her ideological purity, and Democrats had little incentive to help the nominee or the embattled GOP president.
Roberts was a good choice but I didn't have any thoughts on Miers -- word was that she was a very good lawyer but there was no real published record of her opinions on the Constitution.

The mask slips

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Iran's new president dropped quite the bomb. The Scotsman has the story:
Iran president: Wipe Israel off map
Iran's ultra-conservative new president has broken his silence on Israel and declared the Jewish state was a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map".

With these words President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set himself a foreign policy course sharply at odds with that of his moderate predecessor.

Harking back to language used by of the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, the hard-line president also called Israel a "fabricated" entity.

His fiery words were certain to further heighten tensions over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

Ahmadinejad also took a slap at some of Iran's Arab neighbours in the Persian Gulf as they seek to break new ground in their relations with Israel.

"Anybody who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury; any (Islamic leader) who recognises the Zionist regime is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world," state-run television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

The president was apparently addressing thousands of students during a Tehran conference called The World without Zionism.
"fabricated" entity indeed -- "Palestine" has less credibility as a state than Israel. What is it with these people?

Eng-Tips Forums

Great collection of forums for various kinds of Engineering. Here are the first few forum subjects:
  • Aeronautic Engineers
  • Aerospace Engineers
  • Agricultural Engineers
  • Automotive Engineers
  • Bioengineers
  • Chemical Engineers
  • Civil / Environmental Engineers
  • Coastal Engineers
  • Computer Engineers
Good stuff...

Happy blog-day to me!!!

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At 1:14PM on October 27, 2003, I posted this entry:
Hello world!
says it all...

Posted by Dave Halliday at October 27, 2003 01:14 PM
It has been an interesting two years with over 4,000 posts, close to 32,000 visits and no sign of slowing down...


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With the new milling machine, I have been exploring some of the internet sites dedicated to machining. One of these sites Industrial Hobbies has a good explanation of the various degrees of tolerance when machining. (How close to the actual design you are -- 0.001" is one thousandth of an inch.) Getting to a higher and higher degree of tolerance is something that comes with work, time, experience and patience. Here is a brief intro and the examples for Tolerance:
In search of Tolerance
Tolerance is without a doubt one of the most misunderstood terms when people talk about CNC. To be exact tolerance has noting to do with CNC, the proper term is resolution (ability to return to a known location) when discussing CNC. But, tolerance is the work that folks like to use.

Maintaining tolerance is the ability to produce something within specifications, no more no less. In the hobby (and small business) arena this is a loaded question, because for the most part you the �designer�, the �machinist� and the �quality inspector�; the tolerance can be whatever you want +/- 1� (one foot) +/- 0.000050 (50 millionth) or anywhere in between. It�s your call.

Reasonable Expectations
0.050 With a tolerance of 50 Thou� you can produce most things that are used around the home and shop, some model projects but nothing too serious. Some of your friends will be amazed with your results, some will not. Basically, you threw the machine on the bench, threw down a few beers (not a good idea) and �fired it up�.

0.020 With a tolerance of 20 Thou� you�ll be able to do some of the more difficult hobby stuff but still nothing too serious. You did everything as above but without the beers.

0.010 With a tolerance of 10 Thou� you�ll be able to do most hobby stuff, except engines and extremely complex mechanical projects. You trammed (squared) the machine and played with the gibs (adjustment bolts). You think about machining more than once a week, and look for ways to improve your tolerance.

0.005 With a tolerance of 5 Thou� you�ll be able to do some simple engines and fairly complex mechanical projects. From time to time you re-tram your machine. You realize that more expensive cutters will more than likely help and you think about popping for a �good� set of gauges. Your CNC code now includes a finish pass. Your friends are impressed.

0.001 With a tolerance of 1 Thou� you�ll be able to do most model engines, except turbines. You can check the square-ness of you machine in less than 5 minutes and adjust as necessary in another 5. Your code now has �lead in�s and lead out�s� and you know whether you need to use a climb or conventional cut. You�ve lapped, scraped, or re-ground the ways of your machine and know when it doesn�t �feel right�

0.0005 With a tolerance of half Thou� you�ll be able to complete any model in any book you find new or old. Your CNC code is poetry in motion and you are considering leaving your real job in order to be a machinist. When you read Home Shop Machinist, and say, �I can do it better�

0.0001 With a tolerance of Tenth� you have left your day job and do this full time. You know what temperature you machine needs to be at to �hold tol� and you adjust your machine accordingly. You are considered a skilled craftsman. Your friends have no idea what you�re talking about anymore.
I love that last line... And no, I have not trammed the mill yet (building up the workspace for it) but the old Southbend I have works reliably at one to five Thou' when I'm anal about it.

Wonderful optical illusion


Meet Mr. Angry and Mrs. Calm - the image here is reduced, click on the image to open the full-size version for the best effect.

Click for full-size Image

Now move back from your screen... Come closer... Move back... It works if you print it out too -- not a computer artifact.

Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link to this page.

Big Round Numbers

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What is it that draws people to Big Round Numbers? What makes 2,000 fundamentally different than 1970 or 2051? For some reason, many people have been salivating at the prospect of a 2,000th American Service fatality in Iraq. Cox and Forkum nail the sentiment exactly and they offer some interesting links:
Click for full-size Image
Charles Johnson at LGF is tracking the responses in his Grim Milestone series here, here, here, here, here, here and here with many more sure to follow in the next few days until something else catches the Lefts attention.

Great product ship notice

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Bought a CD online a few days ago and just got this email from the company (CD Baby):
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved 'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Tuesday, October 25th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as 'Customer of the Year'. We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you once again,

Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby
Got to love a company that has fun doing business. This must be an awesome place to work. They have interesting merch and really decent prices. I will be checking here first before heading over to Amazon. (stopped shopping at big-box 'record stores' years ago)

Bringing out the dead

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Interesting news from Medgaget on one way the dead are being identified in New Orleans:
Smith and Nephew Part Numbers used to ID NOLA Dead
As has been made abundantly clear, the poor suffered the most from Hurricane Katrina. One unfortunate side effect of that has been the difficulty in identifying their badly decomposed remains. As the Memphis Business Journal reports:
These are the bodies collected block-by-block as New Orleans was drained of flood waters. FBI forensic specialists were able to identify some victims through fingerprints, but most bodies were too deteriorated. It's when they moved on to using dental records that they stumbled on a cultural reality: most of the flood victims were poor, and poor people don't normally go to the dentist; but sometimes they do wind up in a trauma center and leave with a piece of steel or titanium inside.

When medical examiners began removing these implants they noticed an abundance of Smith & Nephew's starburst logos and set upon a new way of identifying the dead.

"We're helping the medical examiners identify bodies using the part number and batch number etched onto each implant," says Carolyn Shelton, manager of Regulatory Compliance at Smith & Nephew.
Smith and Nephew's website is here.

Light posting today

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I posted earlier (here and here) about a new toy coming to our household. This:
I picked it up today and in a three-hour channeling of Newton and Archimedes managed to get it off the trailer, into the shop and off its pallet. 960 pounds so I took things nice and slow. Cleaned it up (it was covered in grease to prevent rust) and ran a test doing a 1/2" slot into some 1" black iron pipe. As smooth as you could ever wish for. I grew up around machine tools (my Dad was a physicist and I would come in with him on Saturdays -- he would work and I would play in the student shop) but I wound up doing more and more woodworking and outfitting a fairly decent wood-shop. Lately though, I have been finding that wood doesn't inspire me much as a medium (I sill work with it though and am planning several projects over the winter). Metal on the other hand is opening up all sorts of possibilities and I really like working it. Blacksmithing, welding and now the milling machine. (I already have a nice 6" South Bend lathe with lots of goodies).

A Bad Day


Whoops! Updated -- see below... (dang!) OMG!

Take a look at these photos for the definition of "A Bad Day" The setting is Galway Harbour. Walsh's Recovery Service is the first vehicle sent out. And then Michael Long Truck & Crane Hire is dispatched with their Palfinger Crane.

Here are some thumbnails -- full images are available at the link above:


Reminds me of a series of Tugboat--Bridge photos that I'll post tomorrow. (thought they were already up) UPDATE: 10-25-2005 Some kind readers were good enough to point out the similarities between the fifth picture and the last one. A link to Snopes on the topic was also included in one comment. Sorry about that!

R.I.P. -- Rosa Parks


One of the good ones. From the NY Times:

Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement, Dies
Rosa Parks, a black seamstress whose refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., almost 50 years ago grew into a mythic event that helped touch off the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's, died yesterday at her home in Detroit. She was 92 years old.

Her death was confirmed by Dennis W. Archer, the former mayor of Detroit.

For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. In response, blacks in Montgomery boycotted the buses for nearly 13 months while mounting a successful Supreme Court challenge to the Jim Crow law that enforced their second-class status on the public bus system.

The events that began on that bus in the winter of 1955 captivated the nation and transformed a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. into a major civil rights leader. It was Dr. King, the new pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, who was drafted to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization formed to direct the nascent civil rights struggle.

Here is her booking photo:


And here is the very bus itself. It is now at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, MI.


Interesting Blog

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Just got turned on to Maggie's Farm and I am liking what I see. From their masthead:
We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime.
A brief excerpt from this post talking about the Left:
One further word about that "imperialism" word: When, since our own Civil War (definitely an imperialist venture), the Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War, has the US Government behaved imperialistically? We have been mainly anti-imperialist in our military ventures: saving Europe from imperial Germany twice, defeating an imperialist and expansionist Japan once (with no thank-you from China), and attempting to save many parts of the world from an imperial, expansionist Soviet Union. And now, we are anti-imperialistic against a multi-national Jihadist movement. The Marxist propaganda, or Marxist "interpretation", does not hold up to reality.
To be added to the Blogroll when I update it...

Richard Dawkins on Religion

A wonderful rant by Jeff Harrell at The Shape of Days:

The annoyance of just generally being an arrogant cocksucker
Richard Dawkins can lick my balls. Nominally an ethologist - a person who studies human behavior - Dawkins in recent years has turned himself into a sort of full-time, professional asshole. Back in the 70s and 80s, he wrote at length about some ideas that make decent metaphors but come nowhere close to being actual, literal truth; see his The Selfish Gene. Lately, he has somehow found a way to make a decent living by telling everybody how much smarter than us he is. For reasons passing my understanding, there are people out there who are still listening to him.

His most recent excretory function can be found in next month's issue of Prospect magazine, a disgusting and intellectually dishonest article called "Opiate of the Masses." I quote from the first paragraph:
Gerin oil (or Geriniol to give it its scientific name) is a powerful drug which acts directly on the central nervous system to produce a range of characteristic symptoms, often of an antisocial or self- damaging nature. If administered chronically in childhood, Gerin oil can permanently modify the brain to produce adult disorders, including dangerous delusions which have proved very hard to treat. The four doomed flights of 11th September were, in a very real sense, Gerin oil trips: all 19 of the hijackers were high on the drug at the time. Historically, Geriniol intoxication was responsible for atrocities such as the Salem witch hunts and the massacres of native South Americans by conquistadores. Gerin oil fuelled most of the wars of the European middle ages and, in more recent times, the carnage that attended the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent and, on a smaller scale, Ireland.
The joke becomes clear if you observe that "geriniol" is an anagram for "religion." Dawkins' column is nothing more than a snide, sarcastic, overbearingly superior thousand-word screed about the evils of religion in all its forms.

Not only is Dawkins' article insulting in the extreme to people of faith, it's insulting in its sheer laziness to people of mind as well. Dawkins refuses to draw distinctions between modern religions and medieval ones. To him, all religions are precisely equivalent. There is no difference between the Christianity of the 11th century, the fundamentalist Islam of today, and the Unitarians down the block who throw those nice pot-lucks every other Sunday night. They're all just psychopaths, you see; they're all murderers-in-waiting. To Dawkins, "Love thy neighbor as thyself" isn't a commandment. It's an infection.

One has to wonder, though, if Dawkins was even aware of the irony of his argument. By ascribing the evils of the murderers to religion, he's implicitly excusing them. They're not evil men, you see; they were just infected by a harmful idea. They would have been fine if not for evil, horrible religion. By attributing the evil in the world to an external force rather than holding people responsible for their actions, Dawkins is expressing a downright religious point of view. Instead of blaming Satan - "The devil made me do it!" - he's blaming religion. Same bullshit, different angle.

I wish one of Richard Dawkins' neighbors would invite him to go to church sometime. The boy could obviously use a little comfort, not to mention a king-sized dose of humility.

Perfect closing line... Dawkins jumped the shark a long long time ago.

Whoopsie... Microsoft Word Department

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From the Times Online comes this wonderful report of technology and the United Nations and how the two don't seem to get along that well...
UN office doctored report on murder of Hariri
The United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes.

The mistaken release of the unedited report added further support to the published conclusion that Syria was behind Mr Hariri�s assassination in a bomb blast on Valentine�s Day in Beirut. The murder of Mr Hariri touched off an international outcry and hastened Syria�s departure from Lebanon in April after a 29-year pervasive military presence.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, described the report�s findings as "deeply troubling". Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said: "It is an unpleasant story which the international community will take very seriously indeed."
"extraordinary computer gaffe" indeed... Heh... The United Nations doing what the United Nations does best.

Poaching on public lands

Sad story about the use of National Park lands in the Washington Post:

Poachers Looting National Parks of Treasures
A self-described "old-timer," Skip Wissinger has spent 32 years traversing the park's 300 square miles and identifying its natural treasures. But now many of the park's most prized resources -- its American ginseng plants, black bears and unusual butterflies -- are disappearing.

Looking over a vast hollow filled with wildflowers and vibrant grasses last month, Wissinger tried in vain to spot the small ginseng plants that used to grow there in profusion but are now being stolen to make tea, health supplements and aphrodisiacs.

"When I look down in that hollow and see no viable ginseng population, to me that is a very serious matter," said Wissinger, a National Park Service special agent. "In my view they are an integral part in the portfolio of the nation's natural resources."

That portfolio is now showing heavy losses. While the National Park Service does not keep comprehensive statistics on how much poaching occurs in its nearly 400 parks, its 2006 budget request reported that thefts have helped spur the decline of at least 29 wildlife species. "The poaching of wildlife from national parks has been steadily increasing each year for the past several years," the document said.

Some of these resources are scarce to begin with, and the toll that poaching takes on the national parks is rising.

"If there's something with a dollar amount attached to it in a park, somebody is trying to make a profit off it," said Dennis Barnett, law enforcement administrator for the Park Service.

Because national parks enjoy special protections -- hunting is prohibited, and activities such as mining and logging are restricted -- they are home to plants and animals that are scarce elsewhere. That has attracted thieves who often go to extraordinary lengths to spirit away flora and fauna and then sell to the highest bidder.

In Shenandoah National Park, the ginseng and the black bears that thrive along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains are the biggest draw for poachers. Wild ginseng sells for $400 a pound on the open market, 10 times the price of cultivated ginseng. And a black bear's dried gallbladder sells for $1,000 in Asia, making it worth more per ounce than cocaine.

Living things are not the only targets. Potsherds from national parks end up being sold on the Internet, sometimes by the pound. On occasion, poachers have transported their ill-gotten goods by water to evade authorities by cutting down ancient trees in California's Redwood National Park and floating them downstream.

There are a lot of archaeological thefts as well. One of the key problems cited in the article is that there are just not enough enforcement agents on the payroll. From the article:

Park officials said the biggest problem they face is a lack of money for enforcement. The Interior Department has only 51 special agents for 388 national parks, which means that each agent is responsible for patrolling more than 1.5 million acres.

"It means a lot of stuff is going to go on that they don't detect," Swain said. "They have to be in the right place at the right time."

Maybe this is where a vigilante group might not be a bad idea...

All things Spudgun

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Awesome website for people who build potato cannons. Reviews of various fuels, construction techniques, ignition (Stun Gun?!?), projectiles (Concrete balls!?!). Here is one of their units:
Electrical fueling and ignition. Their spud-fu is greater than mine. This humbles me to admit it. Other spud websites include: Spudtech Vochraye's Potato Propulsion Page

The Voodoo Sciences

Jerry Pournelle reprints and oldie but goodie of his from 1988.

As he says, it's still relavent... The Voodoo Sciences

"I wouldn't know anything about politics," my friend said the other day. "I'm only an engineer."

He happens to be a very good engineer, but he named his profession as if he were ashamed of it. I see this a lot. The social scientists are automatically assumed to know more about society and politics than the hard scientists - even when the subject matter is something like nuclear power.

I wouldn't be so sure.

During the Reagan Years we heard a lot about "voodoo economics." The term was usually employed by Democrats in reference to President Reagan's economic policies, but I've also heard professional economists use the term "voodoo economics" in a way that implies there is a real science of economics in contrast to "Reaganomics."

Certainly the official policy is that economics is a science. We have by law a Council of Economic Advisors to report to the president, while the Congress has its own staff of economists to tell them what they should do.

From all the evidence I've seen, we'd do as well to give the president a Council of Voodoo Practitioners, and let the Congress consult its Chief Astrologer. In fact, I suspect that a chief hungan and mambo would do less harm than our present economists: we'd be less likely to take them seriously. However much our Chief Voodoo Advisor protested that his work was scientific, we'd demand some kind of track record, some evidence that his predictions might once in a while come true; while we impose no such burdens on economists, which is just as well, since their track record is one of universally dismal failure.

One of the first things they teach stockbrokers is to stay out of the stock market. Brokers make their pile from selling advice, and from commissions on stock transactions. They can't predict the market, and few risk their own money. They, at least, only affect their clients' fortunes. Economists, though, can ruin the lot of us with their advice - yet if no science can predict a relatively closed system like the stock market, how the devil are you going to "fine tune" something a large as the American economy? I'd think it arrogant to try; as arrogant as the man with three illiterate drug-addicted spoiled brats writing a book on parenting.

But there's worse to come: to the extent that there is a "science of economics," its practitioners must behave in ways that other professions would brand unethical. Example: The Corporate Economist of a large aircraft company is going to give a speech. He has made his analysis (cast lots? examined tea leaves?) and he foresees nothing but bad news. We're in a 'downside cycle' and ain't much to be done about it. So he goes to a meeting of, say, the airline owners, and of course when asked for his predictions he gives his honest professional opinion.

In a pig's eye, he does. If he told what he thinks is the truth, he'd be fired. Worse, the Securities and Exchange Commission would look at all his financial records and possibly charge him with manipulating the value of his company's stock. It would be sure to fall, and if he'd prudently sold any shares recently he would likely go to jail.

No: his speech is predictable. He'll give some nodding acknowledgement to current hard times, predict an upswing, and tell his audience they better be prepared to buy a lot of airplanes.

Dr. Milton Friedman has a Nobel Prize in economics; one assumes he must know something about the subject. He once said, "Every economist knows that minimum wages cause unemployment. That's not a principal, it's a definition."

The logic seems clear enough, at least when applied to home economics: if I can get the yard cut for a couple of bucks, I'll pay it; raise the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour, and I'll cut it myself. Whomever I'd have fired will go jobless.

Of course not all economists agree with that. After all, it's not only possible, but likely that the Nobel Prize in economics will go in alternate years to people who disagree on nearly everything fundamental. I have a textbook on macroeconomics, and every chapter essentially cancels out the last, as each "school" presents its theories - and proves the others wrong.

In point of fact, economists don't have the foggiest notion of what's wrong with our economy or what to do about it; and the very best economics textbooks have almost nothing to say about science, engineering, research, development, and technology.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. recently said, "The collapse of economic forecasting, where experts generally disagree with each other and nearly all of them turn out wrong - a circumstance that, alas, discourage neither economists from making forecasts nor the rest of us from believing them."

So: will someone tell me what, other than one's political preferences, is the difference between "professional" and "voodoo" economics? And why we pay a Council of Economic Advisors while neglecting to have a Chief Astrologer?

Another excerpt:

Engineering students may apologize for deficiencies in "culture." The man who started the People's Lobby, the first of California's mass anti-nuclear groups, used to say proudly, "The only physics I ever took was Ex-Lax."

The fact is that engineers and scientists will have studied far more of the liberal arts than social scientists will have of physics or engineering. (And, alas, neither will know any history.)

Isn't it time we ended this farce? Granted, the social scientists have a tough subject matter; but it isn't made easier by involving us all in a conspiracy to act as if they had skills they just haven't got. It would be a lot easier to respect them if they made their students take hard courses: calculus through differential equations, real probability and statistics, operations research, basic computer science. Of course, it their students mastered these subjects, they'd probably get out of "social science" and into something useful. Meantime, though, they can stop trying to get the rest of us to act as if they know something we don't.

Jerry lays down a righteous cluebat!

Read the whole essay -- it is worth your time.

Last night's "Light Posting" entry

I received two comments asking about the milling machine pictured in that post. It is a Grizzly G3103. This comes with a power feed on the table. I am planning at some point in the future to implement CNC and this unit lends itself very well to this. I have a number of other Grizzly tools and have been very very happy with them with the exception of their ASO's (Anvil Shaped Objects). The Grizzly Anvils suffer from the same problem that a bunch of other Anvils have -- the people designing them have never used an Anvil. Wrong metal, wrong heat treating, wrong taper on the horn, wrong set of holes on the top. It is fun -- I have done a lot of woodworking (In high-school, I wanted to be a pipe-organ builder and apprenticed to one for a summer.) and still love it but metal is calling more and more to my heart. More elemental / less ephemeral.

Go read this now

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Wretchard is on a major roll -- this is an excellent post that defies excerpting. Just go here and read: The Far Line of Sand. I'll be here when you return. P.S. -- read the comments too...

Light Posting tonight


Had to go into town but it was a good thing.

Reserved one of these puppies:


I can mill on my lathe but the size of work is limited. Been lusting after a decent size machine for years.

Picking it up on Tuesday (Monday is welding class and I need to move some of the shop around before I can take it home.)

Forestry practices in the Amazon River Basin

Improved sensing technology is showing that the amount of logging is about double what was being claimed and what was thought. From The Scotsman:

Rainforest disappears twice as fast
Land clearance and logging is destroying the Amazon rainforest twice as fast as experts had thought, it has been revealed.

It was already known that in an average year 5,800 square miles of the Brazilian Amazon is burned or cut to make way for cattle ranching, farming and other development. But a new satellite study shows that the extent of the damage is doubled by selective logging.

Each year the unregulated activity destroys an area of pristine rainforest as big as the US state of Connecticut. Selective logging involves thinning areas of forest by picking out valuable trees such as mahogany and other hardwoods to be cut and transported to off-site sawmills. Until now the damage it causes has been largely hidden from orbiting satellites by the spreading forest canopy.

The new survey, using ultra-high-resolution imaging, was able to home in on areas just 98ft wide to reveal the true impact of selective logging.

US expert Dr Gregory Asner, from the Carnegie Institute in Stanford, California, who led the study, said: "With this new technology, we are able to detect openings in the forest canopy down to just one or two individual trees. People have been monitoring large-scale deforestation in the Amazon with satellites for more than two decades, but selective logging has been mostly invisible until now."

Previous research has shown that in logged forests, sunlight penetrating the canopy dries out the forest floor and makes it much more susceptible to burning. Another worry is the loggers' use of tractors and skidders that rip up the soil and the forest floor. Loggers also build makeshift dirt roads for access, and these tend to grow and fuel the deforesting process.

The article unfortunately then veers off into enviro-land:

But one of the biggest concerns is the effect on climate change. When a tree trunk is removed by loggers, the branches and other debris are left behind to decompose and release the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. An estimated 400 million tons of carbon enter the atmosphere every year as a result of traditional deforestation in the Amazon.

The scientists calculated that an additional 100 million tons is produced by selective logging - large enough to alter climate change forecasts on a global scale.

The Energy Information Administration (a division of the Department of Energy) published this report: World Energy Use and Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 1980-2001 which has CO2 stats for 2001 for these two locales: Asia (China is around 3,000 Million Metric Tons; India is next at around 900 Million) and the G-7 developed nations with the USA leading the pack at just under 6,000 Million Metric Tons. Considering that CO2 is a very minor problem (the major greenhouse gas is good ole' water vapor but since no one can do anything about it, it gets conveniently "ignored").

Just as a heads up, the composition of the atmosphere is as follows (I am rounding off the numbers in the table except for the CO2):

Nitrogen - 78%
Oxygen - 21%
Water - 0% to 4%
Argon - 1%
Carbon Dioxide - 0.0360%
Vanishingly small...

Freakshow - Michael Jackson edition

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Michael Jackson is in the news again. He seems to be moving out of Neverland. To the Arab nation of Bahrain! From Reuters:
Michael Jackson: Nevermore in Neverland?
Michael Jackson has been summoned for jury duty in California but won't be serving because he no longer considers Neverland Valley Ranch his home, court officials said on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear where the pop star would be hanging his famous black hat, although he has been in Bahrain for much of the past few months.

Jackson, who spent four months of this year in a central California courtroom before winning an acquittal on child sex abuse charges, was randomly called for jury duty as a resident of Santa Barbara County, court spokesman Gary Blair said.

But Blair said Jackson attorney Robert Sanger called court officials to notify them that the 47-year-old entertainer would not be able to serve because he would no longer be living at Neverland full time.

"Our jury services supervisor spoke with (Sanger) a couple of days ago and he notified her that Mr. Jackson was in Bahrain and that he would be changing his permanent address to somewhere other than the ranch," Blair said.
He might just fit in well there. After all, one of Mohammed's wives was nine when he married her.

Another T.L.A. - C.L.M.

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C.L.M. is a T.L.A. (Three Letter Acronym) meaning Career Limiting Move. Tonights example is from the Newsday:
Security screener at JFK Airport charged with stealing $80,000 from checked bag
A security employee at John F. Kennedy International Airport was charged Thursday with stealing $80,000 in cash from a checked suitcase headed for Pakistan, the Queens district attorney's office said.

The Transportation Security Administration screener, Frank Ulerio, Jr., 23, allegedly stole the money when he was inspecting checked luggage on Oct. 7 in a Pakistan International Airlines area at the airport. Prosecutors said he stole the cash from the suitcase of a 45-year-old passenger from Astoria, Queens who was flying to Pakistan.

The victim discovered the theft when he landed in Pakistan and police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, began an investigation.
The article goes on to say that Ulerio had gambling debts. How stupid can you be...

Bird Flu - H5N1

Europe and Asia are not happy. From the BBC News:

Bird flu fear grips Europe, Asia
Several nations in Europe and Asia are reporting new cases of the lethal H5N1 bird flu strain among poultry, sparking new fears that humans could be at risk.

Fresh outbreaks have been reported in Romania and Russia. China says it has lost thousands of fowl to the virus.

Hungary says it has developed a new vaccine that appears to protect humans and animals against the virus.

In Thailand, a man has died of bird flu, raising the country's death toll from the virus to 13.

The man was a farmer who had cooked and eaten infected chicken, officials said.

His seven-year-old son is in hospital with flu-like symptoms.

Meanwhile, Germany has ordered its farmers to keep poultry indoors as a precaution.

The article goes on a bit and then presents this sobering graphic:


The Orange Countries have had reported cases of H5N1 flu. The lines over the map are migratory bird routes. Quarantine anyone? Not likeley... The US Centers for Disease Control website has some good info; reference, history and what to do.

Open Office 2.0 released

When Open Office was first released five years ago, there was a question as to whether it would succeed and become a Microsoft Office Killer. Too early to tell yet as Version 2.0 has only just been released but prior versions were very interesting and 2.0 will definitely be given a through workout by lots of people (myself included). It has WRITER (compatible with MS Word), IMPRESS (think PowerPoint), CALC (Excel), DRAW (a vector drawing program with 2D and 3D capabilities) and some Database tools. Lots of nice extras like the ability to write in PDF and Flash (SWF) formats natively. The suite is fully compatible with MS Office file formats for both read and write. Check it out here: Open Office 2.0

Finally coming home

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From Fresno TV Station KFSN comes this story:
World War II Airman Found Frozen in Glacier
It was a plane crash back in 1942 that wasn't discovered until 1947. Now, hikers made a frozen discovery in connection with a World War II plane crash.

Hikers found the frozen body of an airman while scaling Mount Mendel Glacier in the Kings Canyon National Park. Now, the military is working to find out who this airman is and whether he was ever reported missing.

It's believed the airman has been frozen in the glacier for decades until a pair of climbers got much more than ever imagined on a hike.

Two glacier climbers, 13,000 feet above the national park floor on Mount Mendel, made the incredible discovery.

"They were hiking, ice climbing ... it's a pretty popular ice climbing route in K.C. and what they noticed was the head and shoulder and a part of an arm of a person at the base of the glacier that had melted out over the course of this summer," explained Alexandra Picavet, from the National Park Service.

National Park Service representatives believe the serviceman was likely part of a crew aboard an AT-7 navigational training plane that crashed on November 18, 1942.

"When we got this report, we got the report of a person wearing a parachute with a patch that said U.S. Army Corp. There was no Air Force in 1942 ... that didn't come until 1947, or after World War II," said Picavet.

In 1947, five years after the crash, hikers discovered a portion of the plane, along with four bodies. Recovery crews didn't know there was at least one airmen left behind.

Tuesday afternoon, an archaeologist and two U.S. park police officers went up to survey the area. A team of two will camp nearby to preserve the scene until the body can be recovered.

It's believed most of the plane is still preserved under the glacier above the spot the latest airman was found.

Veterans familiar with common military practices say the serviceman should have some identification on him.

The climbers who found the man said they could not find anything around his neck, but they did cut out a piece of the parachute that 63 years later is still strapped to his back.

The crash is believed to be one of many that happened in the Sierras during the 1940's and 1950's.

The Park Service is working with a number of agencies and is hoping to chisel the ice around the body on Wednesday to get the man out and eventually identified.

They say it's going to be a long, tedious process.
A strange story but nice to have it resolved. Odd that this person was not reported as missing though...

Something to look for...

Printing with a color laser printer? It might be wise to think of this the next time you run off a sheet of $20's. From TechNewsWorld:

Codes Make Printers Stool Pigeons
Clandestine codes used to track the output of some color laser printers have been cracked by a research team led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to the organization, the codes are part of a deal cut by the U.S. Secret Service with some printer makers to help curb the counterfeiting of currency.

In a statement released yesterday, the EFF said the codes, which are invisible to the human eye but can be seen with a microscope or under blue light, reveal the date and time a page was printed as well as the printer's serial number.

Widespread Adoption
The EFF has published a list of printers that deploy the coding scheme at its Web site.

"The whole industry has agreed to do this tracking without regard to how expensive the printers are," EFF staff technologist Seth David Schoen told TechNewsWorld.

The EFF has broken codes on pages printed on Xerox DocuColor printers, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, Schoen said. But code crackers saw similar dots on pages printed with Dell color lasers, which sell for US$299 to $399.

While the codes may aid the Secret Service's fight against counterfeiting, the practice raises some larger issues for society, according to EFF Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "People who want to protect their anonymity -- whether they're whistleblowers or dissidents or journalists or whatever -- when they print something out, should know that there's an issue here," he said.

This rankles... I have been thinking that a Color Laser might be a nice addition here (Ink-Jet printer output is not waterproof) -- they are getting very very cheap. I'll have to shop more carefully. I am not doing anything illicit but this is not cool.

Wallace and Gromit

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Jen and I saw this today. Wonderful. They had lots of fun making this too -- lots of insider references to other movies.

Meet Wilma

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Awww Crap... Wilma has been upgraded from a Tropical Storm and is a CAT-2 Hurricane aimed for Florida. From the National Hurricane Center
Click for full-size Image.
MS/NBC has a report on the damage and ten deaths it caused in Haiti:
Hurricane Wilma builds to Category 2 strength
Storm triggers mudslides in Haiti, killing up to 10; may hit Fla. by weekendHurricane Wilma triggered mudslides that killed up to 10 people in Haiti as the season�s record-tying 21st storm strengthened rapidly on Tuesday and headed for the Gulf of Mexico on a path toward storm-weary Florida.

Wilma was expected to strengthen into a powerful Category 4 storm on the five-step scale of hurricane intensity, with winds over 130 mph by the time it crosses from the Caribbean Sea into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

The National Hurricane Center�s long-range forecast track, which has a wide margin of error, had it crossing southern Florida on Saturday. The state was hit by four hurricanes last year and has been struck by Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina and Rita this year.
This season is not abnormal -- a number of people have charted out Hurricane occurrences and seen that there is a natural 40-60 year cycle to their activity. We are unfortunately entering a season or two of high activity.

Site down for a few hours...

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People looking at any of my sites were getting an HTML 500 error. The problem was PEBKAC error -- fixed now. I deal with a lot of SPAM -- people trying to leave helpful comments to posts which are actually advertising vehicles containing links to various websites (PPC's -- Pills, Pr0n and Casinos) I am working on a script that tracks them and eliminates them but sometimes it is a wee bit too aggressive. Should have tested it before heading into town for several hours...

Jumping the Shark

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Finally... From InsideBayArea/TriValleyHerald:

Peace mom slips from public stage
Cindy Sheehan plans to return to presidents ranch for Thanksgiving
Peace mom Cindy Sheehan peered out a window 14 floors above the Civic Center on Friday and asked, Want to see my new car?

She pointed to a sky-blue Volkswagen Beetle convertible parked near City Hall. She explained she hasnt treated herself to much since her son, Casey, died in Iraq in April 2004, but shed always wanted such a car and recently decided it was time for a change.

Sheehans life has changed profoundly since Caseys death -- richer in grief, and in purpose -- and especially since her transformation into an anti-war icon with her August vigil near President Bushs Crawford, Texas ranch.

But after drawing the international spotlight at Camp Casey in Crawford, her name is fading from headlines.

In Crawford, her every word was beamed by a forest of satellite trucks to millions worldwide. On Friday, she and a state lawmaker were attended by TV cameras from one English and one Spanish station; one radio reporter; and one mainstream print reporter.

And more:

She who bursts upon the scene as new news very quickly departs the scene as old news, and for the same reasons, said Todd Gitlin, a 1960s activist whos now an author and Columbia University journalism and sociology professor. In August, in contrast to the news surroundings then, she was hot. In October, shes not.

Its not a judgment on her sincerity or efficacy, he said, but she doesn't -- and perhaps can't -- have the star status and historical staying power of some 1960s activists such as Mario Savio or Abbie Hoffman, Gitlin said.

There arent very many of those names that survived the 60s at all, he noted, and those that did were part of a society-wide, rebellious counterculture. Todays anti-war movement is simply that - theres no built-in generational audience today as there was 40 years ago. It may be the kind of movement we have now ... is also going to be more episodic, partly because of the way its organized - much more fluidly, more electronically than things were organized in the60s.

Larry Sabato, professor and director of the University of Virginias Center for Politics, said Sheehan was a summer of 05 phenomenon. This is a classic (media) mode of covering controversy - its the August doldrums, and a feeding frenzy develops and they usually last a month or two and are gone.

I do not doubt the original level of her personal tragedy -- she was an anti-war leftist and her own son volunteered to serve in Iraq. Casey was told that it would be dangerous and that he could possibly loose his life -- he was not a child when he signed up. Casey thought that the work that he was doing over there was so important that he volunteered for a second term of service. Unfortunately, he was killed during that second term. I do mourn his loss. As I said, I do not doubt Cindy's original tragedy but she came to discover that she really really liked the media spotlight and when she delivered ad-hoc speeches to the faithful (as opposed to "press conferences"), some amazing things popped out of her pie-hole. Her actions became so egregious that her husband divorced her and her other family issued a disclaimer saying that they were not responsible for her actions. One quick example was something I blogged about here from Mike King's Ramblings Journal:

Cindy Sheehan: "If I truly was a media whore"
 I'm like if I truly was a media whore do you think I would like maybe get myself fixed up a little bit before I went on?
--Cindy Sheehan

Buh-Bye  Also, the lack of punctuation,spacing and spelling in the Berkley-based "InsideBayArea" 'news' is their own doing. I did not have the heart to copy-edit it -- it was perfect on its own merits...

The end of the dinosaurs

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An interesting essay by Glen Reynolds (Instapundit) over at MSNBC/Slate/Glennreynolds.com:
The old industrial state
I've written here before about GM's problems, and Thomas Bray notes that it's a case of the bankruptcy of the industrial welfare state. He's right, and the problem isn't limited to GM. Enterprises based on similar models -- bloated pension costs, lots of perks for managers, little concern with competition or delivering value to the alleged customer -- are failing all over. In fact, the serious structural problems facing the Western European nations, as their huge pension and healthcare liabilities, and their political inability to do much about those, sap budgets and lead to crushing levels of taxation, are just another example of the same problem, as are the problems of the other two Big Three automakers.
Glenn then quotes from this excellent article by Michael Barone and then continues with a few interesting observations (including the fact that eBay vendors, if treated as a whole, are beginning to overtake WalMart as America's Largest Retailer and eBay is starting to offer health benefits to people who sell more than $1K/month through their website. He closes with this observation:
Which suggests that we should be modeling our policies around dynamic approaches rather than trying to save Old Economy behemoths that were never very good at competing. (Indeed, the notion that we could help the "working man" at GM do well by making sure that other workers paid too much for inadequate cars was always a bit iffy, wasn't it? That's not expanding the pie, just taking a bigger share for some at the expense of others.)

I certainly don't mean to suggest that there's no role for government -- things like more health-insurance portability, for example, would go a long way toward facilitating the growth of small businesses -- but I do think that we should be looking at things differently. In a dynamic economy, we should probably be trying to embrace dynamism, rather than -- as the UAW and auto executives did with notable lack of success -- trying to stop change.
Some interesting thoughts.


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Was just turned onto this blog - vfxblog. They seek out people who are on the cutting edge of Visual Effects in Movies and Games, interview them and provide a bit of the story on how some things were done. vfxblog was brought to my attention by a link from Brian Weaver's October 14 entry regarding the spectacular crash of Serenity towards the end of the film. The interview is with Illusion Arts co-owner Bill Taylor and it turns out that the crash was actually a six-foot long scale model shot with a green-screen. CG was used to fill in the scenery and CG was used to tweak some events. The runway was built as a prop. Dang -- that was good work by these people -- that ship had mass and heft. Going up on the 'ole blogroll next time I update it.

Large Electronics

There is a Russian High-Voltage testing facility at Novosibirsk, Siberia. It is called the Siberian Power Research Institute and is referred to as SIBNIIE. I blogged about it here earlier and was under the impression that it was an abandoned facility but it turns out that although there are disused bits scattered around, it is still very much active and in use. A reader from a High-Voltage email list recently had the pleasure of visiting it and was allowed to take photographs. Here are a few:
This is a disused Insulator -- the point of interest is
the beautiful Lichtenberg figures in the glass.

One of the many big transformers
that support research at the facility.

Their main research tool -- still very much in use.
This is a Marx Generator and is capable
of generating sparks in the
tens of millions of volt range.
It duplicates lightning.
Other machines mimic it in a smaller form,
this puppy has the voltage and current
to duplicate it.

Here is the inside of the tower -- the rounded things are the spark gaps,
about the size of a watermelon. Tiny indeed...
WOW! They were not able to see it in operation but it is in frequent use and is used to test power distribution equipment, test for EMP resistance and to test aircraft. The USA has a few facilities like this but nothing that does this level of raw unleashed power. Jen and I are planning a Cider trip to England next spring but I mentioned to her that a trip to Novosibirsk might be called for in 2007.

19th Century Hearing Aids

I find old medical collections fascinating and this one is no exception. From Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO:
Deafness in Disguise
Concealed Hearing Devices of the 19th and 20th Centuries
These range from a simple 10dB gain "trumpet" for one ear such as this pretty flower:
To this 30dB gain bone conduction "fan" (assuming you still had good teeth):
Hats were even used (as this morose/peeved Gentleman demonstrates):
One of the more elaborate -- this "vase" is designed to be the centerpiece at a table and the silk-covered rubber tube run 'discretely' under the table linens to the ear of the person who needed it.
The 20th Century section goes into early electronic devices -- fake 'cameras' and 'purses' that could hold the heavy batteries. I love how far technology has come in such a short period of time! (spoken by a guy who is taking up Blacksmithing? --ed.)

Robot Art

There is a website dedicated to Photoshopping fun ideas: Worth1000

They run contests oriented around specific themes.

Todays is to incorporate a Robot into classic art works.

Some fun stuff, some hack work some excellent Photoshop-Fu Here is a thumbnail of one example:


You can view the full-size Photoshop here

The original can be viewed here William Bouguereau - Le Ravissement de Psyche

English/American dictionary

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Great resource and fun place to just spend an hour or so. The English-to-American dictionary is the work of Chris Rae. From his website:
As a Scot who has spent some time in the USA on holiday lately, I have discovered a bewildering array of words which are in common use on our side of the pond and invariably mean nothing at all or something exceedingly rude on the other side. I once noted down about fifteen of them and that afternoon formulated them into this dictionary. Since then the dictionary has thrived (well, lived) on contributions from readers and is steadily growing into a decent reference.
The link posted above is for the main page and you can search from there. To view the entire dictionary as one large web page, click here. Four examples:
anorak n. As well as being a waterproof jacket, an anorak is someone who's a little bit too knowledgeable about one subject. Generally a subject like seventeenth century flower pots or steam trains, rather than athletic sexual positions or gunfighting. Americans (and also Brits, as our languages merge ever closer) would call them "geeks". I have a feeling that it's because train-spotters all wear brightly-coloured anoraks, but I've no real basis for thinking that. This is just another example of me foisting my half-thought-out biased views on the general public via the one-way medium of the web. I love this dirty town.

scotch n. Scotch is a contraction of the word "Scottish" but is now only used in the context of foodstuffs, and whisky - we refer to anything else as being "Scottish". So we aren't Scotch people; we are Scottish people. If we were Scotch people, we would be made primarily from whisky. Oh, wait�

sleeping policeman n. This is an odd one. A sleeping policeman is, would you believe, a speed-bump. I sincerely hope that its name is not derived from someone's keenness to flatten members of the constabulary.

table v. To Brits, tabling something means to put it forward for discussion shortly. To Americans, it means to put it aside; leave it for the moment. Not entirely sure how these separated.
I used to live in Boston and one place I lived in had two Doctors from England living next door. They (husband and wife) were over here for a few years and in order to practice, they had to take several examinations, one of which was an English Proficiency exam. Their comment were quite specific: "...and they dare to call it English"

Windows Noises

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Cute -- a complete musical composition done with Windows sounds - chord, ding, chimes, the Microsoft Sound and a few others. Flash.

Light posting tonight

Spent all day today at a Blacksmithing conference and then Jen and I went to the "ofishul" grand opening of this place -- a local Mexican restaurant. My belly is full of good food and Margaritas, my head is full of new ideas for projects...


A nice list of 23 tips for improving the performance of Windows XP (I know, reformat and install Linux unh. unh.-ed.) Some obvious, some subtle:
23 Ways to Speed Up Windows XP
4.) Disable file indexing. The indexing service extracts information from documents and other files on the hard drive and creates a "searchable keyword index." As you can imagine, this process can be quite taxing on any system.

6.) Empty the Windows Prefetch folder every three months or so. Windows XP can "prefetch" portions of data and applications that are used frequently.

13.) Turn off any and all unnecessary animations, and disable active desktop. In fact, for optimal performance, turn off all animations. Windows XP offers many different settings in this area. Here�s how to do it: First click on the System icon in the Control Panel. Next, click on the Advanced tab. Select the Settings button located under Performance. Feel free to play around with the options offered here, as nothing you can change will alter the reliability of the computer � only its responsiveness.

22.) If you�re sick of a single Windows Explorer window crashing and then taking the rest of your OS down with it, then follow this tip: open My Computer, click on Tools, then Folder Options....
These are excellent ideas -- I have only excerpted the quotes so please do visit the site for the full remedies. As for Jen and Me -- still running several flavours of Windows 2000. My Music Computer is running XP but that is more for a sense of discovery. Win2K is fully stable (at least more than its advocates -- ed.), bomb-proof and the performance on smaller machines is just fine. UPDATE: October 16, 2005 They are excellent ideas but they were plagerised from this guy's list. The actual author is Carey Holzman who has this excellent site. Carey also co-hosts the Computer America talk show which is kicking off it's 14th season. Carey's list is dated February 2nd, 2004; The Plagerised list is dated October 12th. Carey was kind enough to drop me a comment with links to back up his claim. I removed the link to the plagerised list and will not refer to that source again. Sorry about that!

Pirate Treasure

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It is still out there folks -- or is it... From the Australian branch of NEWS.COM:
Billion-dollar pirate treasure trove found
TREASURE hunters believe they have found a legendary trove of 18th century jewels and gold coins worth billions of dollars on Chile's Robinson Crusoe island.

The island in the Juan Fernandez archipelago, 700km west of Chile was a refuge for corsairs crossing the Pacific Ocean.

Legend has it Spanish navigator Juan Esteban Ubilla y Echeverria stashed a fortune on the island in 1715.

It was later found by a British sailor Cornelius Webb and reburied in another area. An expedition using a metal-detecting robot believe they have pinpointed the site.
The Guardian has some more:
600 barrels of loot found on Crusoe island
The archipelago is named after Robinson Crusoe, but perhaps it should have been called Treasure Island.

A long quest for booty from the Spanish colonial era appears to be culminating in Chile with the announcement by a group of adventurers that they have found an estimated 600 barrels of gold coins and Incan jewels on the remote Pacific island.

"The biggest treasure in history has been located," said Fernando Uribe-Etxeverria, a lawyer for Wagner, the Chilean company leading the search. Mr Uribe-Etxeverria estimated the value of the buried treasure at US$10bn (�5.6bn).

The announcement set off ownership claims. The treasure hunters claimed half the loot was theirs and said they would donate it to non-profit-making organisations. The government said that they had no share to donate.
Nice government -- this has lawsuit written allll over it... The technology used is very cool as well:
This most recent announcement, however, deserves greater credence because of the equipment used by the treasure hunters: a mini robot that can scan 50 metres deep into the earth. The robot, dubbed "Arturito", was invented by Chileans and over the past year has grabbed headlines by breaking some of the country's biggest criminal mysteries.

First, the robot detected the buried arsenal of a rightwing sect known as Colonia Dignidad. The guns and rocket launchers were buried at some 10 metres and while the authorities had searched for years, the robot found the buried weapons almost instantly. Then, in the case of missing businessman Jose Yuraszeck, Arturito was able to analyse the soil and identify the molecular composition of human bones, allowing investigators to dig straight to the body of the murder victim.

- BUT -

Reading the New Scientist, we have the story but some questions:
Robot claims 'treasure island' booty
A robotic treasure hunter has laid claim to the find of the century, on the very archipelago that inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe.

The robot, called "Arturito" or "Little Arthur", is said to have discovered the 18th-century buried treasure on the island of Robinson Crusoe - named after the book. The island lies 660 kilometres from the coast of Chile in South America.
And the questions start to creep in:
The Chilean company responsible for developing Arturito, Wagner Technologies, announced at the weekend that the robot had found the booty by probing 15 metres below ground. The company plans to start excavating in a matter of days, as soon as permits can be obtained.
So they are claiming 800 barrels of gemstones and ingots but have not actually set eyes on them. A bit more from the New Scientist -- they asked Adam Booth who is an expert in Ground Penetrating Radar about Arturito:
Adam Booth an expert in GPR archaeology at the University of Leeds, UK, says it would be necessary to use a low-frequency signal to search at 15 metres' depth. But this would decrease the resolution of the signal, he says. It would be "very, very difficult", to distinguish between different metals so far down, Booth told New Scientist.

But Booth says further details could be gleaned by using other techniques in combination with GPR, such as magnetometry, which measures disturbances to the Earth's magnetic field.

Robert Richardson, a robotics expert at the University of Manchester, UK, says a robot could feasibly hunt for treasure, but believes a human controller would be crucial. "It is difficult to interpret GPR images, requiring a trained operator," he says. "It sounds more of a mobile sensing platform than a robot."

Marvin Pitney of US company Subsurface Radar Solutions agrees that it can be tricky to identify sub-surface objects accurately. "It takes years of practice," he says. "But once you get really good at interpreting images you can tell the difference between metals and plastic."
OK so technically it is possible but not an easy task. I tried Googling Wagner Technologies and Chile and only returned hits referring to this story including this one from this blog:
Crusoe Island Treasure Claim was a Hoax!
Well, here's a surprise. They were lying when they said that Arturito had discovered 800 tons of treasure. Just a big fat calculated lie to draw attention to their stupid little robot. They're sheisters and snake-oil salesmen. What's sad is that, Chile is nothing but an technological backwater, and always will be. And this just reinforces that. Anyone that thinks that some mental dwarf living on the wrong side of the equator is going to develop technology that the industrialized world doesn't have is an idiot. There is no technology on earth that can say for certain that a mass of metal 50 feet underground is gold or iron. The only people that don't know that are the idiotic talking heads that swallowed this story hook, line, and sinker because they're so incomprehensibly dense.

And, when the technology does exist, it won't come from Chile. Certainly not from the criminal idiots at Wagner Technologies or Wagner Industries or Wagner Security or Wagner Transportation or Wagner whatever they call themselves tomorrow. Chile is a confederacy of dunces and criminals.

Government Expected Contentious Debate Over Rights To Loot

(Oct. 5, 2005) A new twist in the story of buried treasure on Robinson Crusoe Island, which has kept Chile and the world in suspense for the last three weeks, surfaced Monday after Wagner Technologies renounced all claims to the treasure supposedly worth US$10 billion.

Wagner Technologies, the company that claims it discovered the treasure, met late Monday with government officials in Valpara�so in what was expected to be a contentious debate over the rights to the treasure.

But according to Fernando Uribe-Etxeverr�a, lawyer for Wagner Technologies, the company does not believe it is capable of excavating the treasure; all it wanted was the free press.

This abrupt turn of events surprised government officials, who were prepared to discuss excavation permits and decide how to divide the treasure with the company. Wagner instead agreed to turn over the coordinates to the government on the condition that if the treasure is excavated, a portion would be given to a number of Chilean charities, as well as the island�s residents.
Riiiggghhttt... There is ten billion dollars worth of treasure sitting there and we don't want to claim any of it because we do not have the ability to dig a fifty foot hole in the ground. Cripes -- I'd be out there with Buttercup that same day.

Norman Ernest Borlaug

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Wikipedia has a good writeup on Dr. Norman Borlaug who is reviled by the enviros but who's applied science is directly responsible for saving one billion human lives. Nobel Laureate on top of it all. What's not to love?
Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.

During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of his grain and modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations. These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

More recently, he has helped apply these methods of increasing food production to Asia and Africa. Borlaug has continually advocated the use of his methods and biotechnology to decrease world famine; although his work has faced environmental and socioeconomic criticisms, he has emphatically rejected most of these as unfounded or untrue. In 1986, he established the World Food Prize to recognize individuals who have improved the quality, quantity or availability of food around the globe.
His hypothesis is worth thinking about:
Borlaug has continually advocated increasing crop yields as a means to curb deforestation. The large role he has played in both increasing crop yields and promoting this view has led to it being referred to by agricultural economists as the "Borlaug hypothesis", namely that increasing the productivity of agriculture on the best farmland can help control deforestation by reducing the demand for new farmland. According to this view, assuming that global food demand is on the rise, restricting crop usage to traditional low-yield methods such as organic farming would also require at least one of the following: the world population to decrease, either voluntarily or as a result of mass starvations; or the conversion of forest land into crop land. It is thus argued that high yield techniques are ultimately saving ecosystems from destruction. On a global scale, this view holds strictly true ceteris paribus, provided that all land consists either of forests or is used for agriculture. Because other land uses exist, such as urban areas, pasture, or fallow, further research is necessary to ascertain what land has been converted for what purposes, in order to determine how true this view remains. Increased profits from high yield production may also induce cropland expansion in any case, although as world food needs decrease, this expansion may decrease as well.
The "critics" from the environmental trenches:
Throughout his years of research, Borlaug's programs often faced opposition by people who consider genetic cross-breeding to be unnatural or to have negative effects. Borlaug's work has been criticized for bringing large-scale monoculture, input-intensive farming techniques to countries that had previously, but inadequately, relied on subsistence farming, and as widening social inequality owing to uneven food distribution. There are also concerns about the long-term sustainability of farming practices encouraged by the Green Revolution in both the developed and developing world. Other concerns of his critics and critics of biotechnology in general include: the construction of roads in populated third world areas, which could lead to the destruction of wilderness; the crossing of genetic barriers; the inability of crops to fulfill all nutritional requirements; the decreased biodiversity from planting a small number of varieties; the environmental and economic effects of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides; the amount of herbicide sprayed on fields of herbicide-resistant crops.
And Borlaug's reaction:
Of environmental lobbyists he has stated, "some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things".

A letter from Robert Redford

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JR writing at A Western Heart posts this emailed letter from actor Robert Redford. JR has highlighted the egregious distortions and errors in red. JR Prefaces the letter with this comment:
Apparently the email below has been widely circulated. The absurdities I have highlighted in red show that the email is meant for true believers only. Nowhere is it mentioned that only about 1% of the ANWR is proposed for drilling. And the "massive oil spills still devastating the Gulf Coast" are pure fiction of course. How desperate Hollywood actors are to be taken seriously! And how ably they reveal why they are NOT worth taking seriously.
And Robert Redford's email:
From: "Robert Redford, NRDC Action Fund"
Subject: Don't let the Arctic Refuge become Katrina's next victim
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 15:02:35 -0400 (EDT)

Dear NRDC Action Fund Supporter,
The Bush Administration and Congressional leaders are shamelessly exploiting Hurricane Katrina as the latest excuse to hand over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the oil industry. Given the massive oil spills still devastating the Gulf Coast, it defies belief that our leaders are rushing headlong to hand over America's greatest wildlife sanctuary to the oil lobby. Instead of making America more energy efficient -- the fastest way to meet our energy needs and avoid oil supply shocks -- they would sponsor yet another corporate raid on our natural heritage.

This cynical exploitation of a national tragedy has revealed, as nothing else could, the complete bankruptcy of President Bush's pro-polluter energy policies -- policies inspired by nineteenth-century oil barons. Five years of coddling the oil industry has given us higher gas prices and left us more vulnerable than ever to oil shortages -- not to mention oil spills, air pollution, despoiled public lands, and catastrophic global warming.

You and I must not let the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge become the next preventable casualty of this president's failed policies. Within the next few weeks, Congress will cast its make-or-break vote on a Budget Reconciliation Bill that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge. I urge you to pour your heart and soul into defeating that bill. If you've alerted five friends to the urgency of this effort, mobilize five more:
(link to website removed)

Make a donation so that the NRDC Action Fund can run ads mobilizing the public in key Congressional districts:
(link to website removed)

Write a personal, hand-written letter to your Representative:
(link to website removed)

Please do what it takes to win. Because all the beauty and wildness we've worked so hard to protect over the past 30 years could be lost in a single day. We can win this fight, but only if we build overwhelming public pressure on Congress one person at a time. Thank you for joining with me to make it happen.

Robert Redford
NRDC Action Fund
A few comments of my own.
"Five years of coddling the oil industry has given us higher gas prices and left us more vulnerable than ever to oil shortages"
What is driving the prices up is the fact that China and India are ramping up their consumption. China is not only using much more petroleum than before, they are buying more than they use and are building up a reserve. To add to the fun, part of the high domestic cost is the simple fact that no new refineries have been built in more than 20 years. Crude does us no good if we cannot get gasoline from it. Add to this the knee-jerk reaction that enviros have when Nuclear Power is mentioned. If our gas and coal power plants were taken offline and replaced with Nuclear Reactors, our CO2 emissions would be reduced significantly. Redford's email is a heart-felt expression of concern but unfortunately, it is very misleading and only serves to continue the lies and hysteria that the enviros are using to cloud the facts.

North Korean Counterfeiting

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Bill Gertz writes at The Washington Times talking about a problem with North Korea:
U.S. accuses North Korea of $100 bill counterfeiting
The Bush administration formally has accused North Korea of manufacturing high-quality counterfeit $100 "supernotes" for the first time, according to an indictment made public yesterday as part of a 16-year probe.

"Quantities of the supernote were manufactured in, and under auspices of the government of, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)," said the indictment of Irish national Sean Garland and six others. "Individuals, including North Korean nationals acting as ostensible government officials, engaged in the worldwide transportation, delivery, and sale of quantities of supernotes." It was the first time the federal government provided details of North Korea's suspected counterfeiting of U.S. currency. The May 19 indictment was unsealed Saturday after Mr. Garland was arrested in Belfast.

A Justice Department spokesman said the State Department will file a formal extradition request for Mr. Garland in the next several days.

Mr. Garland, leader of the Marxist-Leninist Worker's Party, an arm of the Official Irish Republican Army, used his party contacts in North Korea and other nations to coordinate the purchase of fake $100 bills forged in North Korean, the indictment stated.

"This arrest is one of the most significant related to the 16-year-long investigation into the distribution of this family of highly deceptive counterfeit U.S. currency notes," said U.S. Secret Service Special Agent James B. Burch, head of the Washington field office.

The indictment accuses Mr. Garland of meeting with North Korean government officials in Warsaw in 1997 to buy a quantity of supernotes.

The indictment is the second major U.S. case involving North Korean supernotes. In September, authorities in California arrested several Chinese nationals in connection with suspected North Korean supernote trafficking. That indictment, however, only identified North Korea as "country 2."

U.S. officials said identification of North Korea as the source of the counterfeit notes was delayed in order not to upset the six-party talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear arms program.

A tentative agreement on Pyongyang's dismantling of its arms program was reached last month.
Emphasis mine -- nice bedfellows there... Also, it was good of them to do one item at a time. Now that Korea has severe limits on its nuclear development, we can start on the other stuff. A bit more on the odious Mr. Garland:
Mr. Garland and the six other men are charged with conspiring from 1997 to 2000 to buy more than $1 million in supernotes from the North Koreans during travels in Ireland, Britain, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Germany and elsewhere. Mr. Garland, through his lawyer, has denied the charges. He was released on bail Saturday.

The indictment also said that North Korea successfully modified its forged notes to include the new "big head" $100 bill -- so named for its larger likeness of Benjamin Franklin -- after the U.S. Treasury Department redesigned the bill in 1996 in an effort to thwart counterfeiters.

Prosecutors also accuse Mr. Garland of attempting to mask North Korea as the source of the counterfeit notes by limiting those with knowledge to a close circle of associates and telling others that Russia was the location where they were produced. Using his position as Worker's Party leader and his Dublin business known as GKG Communications International Ltd., Mr. Garland would make official party visits around the world to make arrangements for the supernote purchases, the indictment said.

The indictment indicates that North Korea was using its diplomatic outposts in Russia, Belarus and Poland to provide the supernotes to Mr. Garland and his accomplices.

The six co-defendants charged in the indictment are outside the United States and are being sought by U.S. and British authorities.

A new wine

Interesting... From The Times Online:

Premature ageing device that puts old wine in new bottles
FOR those who yearn for a well-aged, full-bodied vintage wine but lack the funds to feed the habit, the solution may lie with a Japanese boffin, a zany-looking contraption, a couple of metres of latex tubing and a few hundred volts of electricity.
Squirrelled away in his chemical engineering laboratory in rural Shizuoka, Hiroshi Tanaka has spent 15 years developing an electrolysis device that simulates, he claims, the effect of ageing in wines. In 15 seconds it can transform the cheapest, youngest plonks into fine old draughts as fruit flavours are enhanced and rough edges are mellowed, he says.

Reds can become more complex, and whites drier. A wine costing £5 a bottle could taste the same as one costing twice that, which "will create huge changes to the global wine industry".

It may sound far-fetched, but the ultra-competitive wine industry is taking no chances.Wineries in California, South America and other parts of the new and old wine worlds are taking a close interest in Mr Tanaka's machine, and several are already testing it. The machine works by pumping wine and tap water through a specially designed electrolysis chamber equipped with wafer-thin platinum electrodes. The water and the wine are separated by an ion exchange membrane - the key component, for which Tanaka holds the patent.

Without diluting the wine, the electrolysis causes a rapid rearrangement of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms around the alcohol molecules, which would normally take place over years if the wine were ageing naturally.

Sommeliers at the boutique Engelhardt winery describe its effects as "interesting". A Chilean producer will arrive in Japan next week with 12 gallons of its finest red for further testing.

As the device approaches commercial readiness in January, the Robert Mondavi winery has asked to be kept updated on the results of trials. Because the electrolyser is capable of converting about four litres of wine a minute, some producers are considering ageing entire barrels before the wine is bottled.

I wonder if it offers the same flavor profile as a real "aged" wine or if it just knocks some of the rough edges off. You would have a market for three products now -- cheap rough stuff, electrolyzed and true aged.

There was a buzz about a year ago regarding taking a Brita charcoal water filter and running rot-gut cheap vodka through it. We had a party at our house and one of the guests brought two unlabeled bottles, one the filtered rot-gut and one top-shelf vodka.

About half of the guests could tell no difference. Jen and I have taken sensory analysis training and picked out the good stuff without hesitation but the differences were very subtle.

An interesting movie coming up?

If this is done right, it could be a blockbuster.

If not, it could be another Waterworld.

Time will tell. From The Telegraph:

Paradise Lost to be given the Hollywood treatment
Paradise Lost, John Milton's epic poem about Adam and Eve's temptation and fall, is to be turned into a feature film for the first time since its publication more than 330 years ago. Hollywood producers aim to keep the screen version faithful to Milton's 1667 original, a complex work comprising 12,000 lines of blank verse. The production is described as "epic in scope and size".

Vincent Newman, whose company Vincent Newman Entertainment is spearheading the project, said: "Paradise Lost represents the epitome of mythology in that it is the oldest myth with a capital M. I always felt that the story really captures the initial struggle between good and evil and is also the first human love story."

Paradise Lost tells of Satan's failed rebellion in Heaven and his role in Adam and Eve's fall from grace. The work conjures stunning images such as angels falling from Hell, Satan's journey through chaos and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Milton declared that the poem's aim was "to justify the ways of God to men" but debate has raged as to whether he achieved this or rather exposed the cruelty of the Christian God.

The screenplay has been written by Phil DiBlasi and Byron Willinger. No director or actors have yet been chosen for the film, which is due for release in 2007.

IMDB shows an entry for a "Vincent Newman" (born in Fresno) working as a producer producing such films as these:

  • Blind Horizon (2003) (producer)
  • A Man Apart (2003) (producer)
  • Poolhall Junkies (2002) (producer)
  • In the Shadows (2001) (producer) (as Vincent G. Newman)
  • Sol Goode (2001) (producer)
  • A Better Way to Die (2000) (executive producer)
  • The Last Marshal (1999) (producer) (as Vincent G. Newman)
  • Soundman (1998)

He has a number of proposals listed at IMDB as well. IMDB has nothing for Phil DiBlasi (or Philip) - it has an entry for a Joseph DeBlasi whose single entry was for a 1984 career writing for Miami Vice. The other writer listed is Byron Willinger -- IMDB turns up zero. Googling the names comes up with some hits but mostly talking about Paradise Lost. Dang... If these people get funding, and if they can actually PULL IT OFF it will be awesome. The storyline is thick but intense. Lord of the Rings on steroids.

I seriously hope that it is not another Waterworld or Heavens Gate or a Henry Jaglom piece of belly-button introspection. A story this deep deserves a good telling, not a "package job" by some hacks as this will scare away serious people who might otherwise think of doing their version (thinking: Peter Jackson, Bob and Harvey Weinstein or Joss Wheedon).

Earthquake in Pakistan

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I had written about this when I first heard about it (here). There was not much news at the time but as word got out, we found out that it was a big one -- over 30,000 people killed and huge numbers of buildings damaged. Here is the report from the Mayor of Muzaffarabad in Kashmir. From the South African IOL News Service and Reuters:
'Kashmir has turned into a graveyard'
Sikander Hayat Khan says he is prime minister of a graveyard, surveying his ruined capital from a tent where he has slept since a weekend earthquake destroyed towns and villages across Pakistani Kashmir.

Critics say the prime minister of Azad Kashmir, or Free Kashmir as Pakistan calls it, is little more than Islamabad's puppet, but that doesn't lessen Khan's sense of responsibility for his people in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

"It's the biggest natural disaster. It has totally paralysed Kashmir," he told Reuters in the tent on the lawn of his official residence in the small city of Muzzafarabad.

"For the first two days we have been either digging ground to recover bodies or digging to bury them."

"Kashmir has turned into a graveyard."

Survivors throughout the Himalayan region are living in fear of aftershocks, and Khan's aides persuaded him to abandon the residence in case it collapsed around him.

Burying the dead and relocating the homeless are top priorities for Khan, although his own administration has been rendered totally helpless by the destruction of infrastructure, communications and transport links.

Like others, he expects the death toll to go well beyond 20,000 in Kashmir alone, without counting the dead from neighbouring North West Frontier Province.

Ahead lies the risk of more deaths from disease and exposure for the nearly 1.5 million Kashmiris affected by the quake on Pakistan's side of the ceasefire line with India.

Khan welcomed India's offers of help as a positive sign for the peace process with Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars since partition in 1947, two over mostly Muslim Kashmir.

However, despair over the tragedy his people faced could not erase ingrained distrust of India's motives.

"They offered us help on humanitarian grounds and I hope that there should be no politics involved in it," Khan said.

Muzaffarabad, a city of 100,000, is without power, without water, and food is getting scarce.

The sewerage system was ruptured by the quake, and residents have no option but to seek what privacy they can find amidst the rubble or behind bushes when they need a toilet.

"We are fearing epidemic diseases if the situation remains unchanged. Water is polluted, dead bodies are still under debris, we are trying to control the situation but magnitude of disaster is very great, so we are unable to do it quickly."

Khan reckoned it would take up to six months to complete the rescue and relief work, and meanwhile temperatures are dropping and by the end of this month Kashmir's harsh winter will have begun.
It has been a busy year starting with the Tsunami and now this...

An interesting Rumor...

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A very interesting roumor coming out of the horror in Pakistan.
We know that Osama BinLaden has been hiding there so this piqued my interest.
From India Daily

Osama Bin Laden dead in Pak occupied Kashmir in the massive earthquake?
Rumors in Pakistan held Kashmir points towards some massive losses for Al-Queda is Pakistan held Kashmir. Some international think tanks believe Osama Bin Laden hiding in the safe sanctuary of Pakistan held Kasmir may be killed by the massive quake.

However, no evidence suggests that the deadly earthquake that rocked Pakistan injured or killed the world's top terror leader, Osama bin Laden.

The quake shook the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. However, authorities at this point have no information indicating he's been injured or killed, said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity.

Talk about a "Divine Hand" if this is true... Heh...

Solutions from unexpected places

Japanese Knotweed is nasty stuff - it prospers over a wide range at the expense of lots of other native plants. Fast growing (as much as 6"/day) it propegates freely and can spread quickly.

Well it turns out, Jenn at Invasive Species blog found a link that outlines a possible use for Knotweed.

Weed Killaz
There is an interesting post over at Treehugger (previously known to me only as a place to find cool eco-friendly stuff to buy) about one weed's anti-fungal capabilities. Turns out that extracts from ground up and dried Giant knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis, Polygonum sachalinense, Reynoutria sachalinensis, etc.) have been found to very effective at preventing a variety of fungal infections, including the insidious powdery mildew. Which means, of course, that a company has come along that would like to spray it all over everything (Read the EPA docs here). The product, Milsana Bioprotectant Concentrate, has been under development for quite a few years, but while I found this label (.pdf), I can't seem to find any place to buy it - perhaps it is intended for commercial use only.

If this works on Apple Scab I will be very interested...

The USA, Hungarian Jews and Gold

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Nice move by the USA -- from Yahoo/Reuters:
US apologizes to Hungarian Jews over 'Gold Train'
The United States on Tuesday apologized to Hungarian Holocaust survivors whose possessions were stolen by U.S. soldiers at the end of World War Two after allied forces seized what became known as the "Gold Train."

Washington has previously reached a $25.5 million settlement with elderly Jews over the trainload of gold, artwork and other property that was plundered by the Nazis and then fell into the hands of the U.S. Army.

Most of the haul was auctioned off to pay for post-war refugee aid programs, and some was requisitioned by U.S. Army personnel for use in offices or kept as trinkets.

In the apology issued by the Department of Justice, the U.S. government acknowledged that U.S. military staff failed to return requisitioned items such as typewriters, Oriental rugs and silver cutlery. It also acknowledged that some property was stolen from a warehouse.

"The United States regrets the improper conduct of certain of its military personnel and seeks in this settlement to provide meaningful assistance to those Hungarian Holocaust survivors still living who qualify as financially needy," the apology read.
And the action was well recieved -- the US could never return everything but they are doing a good measure to help the people who were hurt.
"The settlement is, I believe, in all the circumstances a fair and just one," Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"It is both an acknowledgment of the history of what took place as well as an effective means of assisting elderly Hungarian Jewish survivors through the important social welfare projects to be administered by the Claims Conference."
Good news...

Expedition 360

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Amazing story of exploration. Englishman Jason Lewis has completed 2/3ds of a journey around the world under human power only. He is bicycling, hiking, roller-blading and for the wet 70%, kayak and a pedal-powered boat. Starting from England, he has gone across the Atlantic, the US, US to Hawai'i, Hawai'i to Australia and is now in Indonesia. Here is the website for Expedition 360 Here is the page for the Indonesian Leg They are calling this one of the World's "Last Great Firsts" and it is not hard to see why...

Thomas Sowell on Spoiled Brat Politics

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Dr. Sanity points to an interesting article from Dr. Thomas Sowell:
Spoiled Brat Politics
Thomas Sowell at Townhall.com:
An editorial in a recent issue of the National Geographic's "Traveler" magazine complained that kayakers in Maine found "residential development" near national parks and urged its readers to use their "influence" to prevent such things.

"You are the stakeholders in our national parks," it said.

Really? What stake do kayakers and others of like mind have that is not also a stake held by people who build the vacation homes whose presence offends the kayak set? Homeowners are just as much citizens and taxpayers as kayakers are, and they are even entitled to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment.

The essence of bigotry is denying others the same rights you claim for yourself. Green bigots are a classic example.

The idea that government is supposed to make your desires override the desires of other citizens has spread from the green bigots to other groups who claim privileges in the name of rights.
And Dr. Sanity offers these thoughts:
Sowell rightly refers to this as "spoiled brat" politics. It results in the transformation of providing "equal opportunity" to providing "equal outcomes". It leads to a world where, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Garrison Keillor may think that is a sort of ideal place, but in reality, it is a place where the mediocre is glorified; and where it is a sin to be above average.
And a bit more from the good Dr.
In psychiatry we use the term "sense of entitlement" to describe the outrageous attitude of some of our more narcissistic clients who believe that the world "owes" them and they want to collect NOW. Patients with this type of attitude always want more. Whatever you do is never good enough for them, and they also generally show no gratitute or express any thanks--even when someone goes out of their way for them. Like the most spoiled of royalty, they merely expect that they should be the center of your world at all times.

This attitude is normally seen in toddlers, who want what they want and they want it now. Every parent has had to deal with this kind of whining. When you see this attitude repeatedly in an adult, then you know you are dealing with psychopathology. Many adults whimper at the slightest inconvenience, delay, or restriction. Why? Because, like toddlers, they are convinced they deserve what they want when they want it. They are "entitled" to it.

At any rate, read Sowell's entire article, and you will begin to understand why the victimhood game is so popular and why the number of spoiled brats in our society is growing exponentially.
Good stuff from both of them. We saw "entitlement" with Katrina and we saw much less of it with Rita. Blue-State New Orleans v/s Red-State Texas -- any thoughts on that?

The Kennedy Plan for Iraq

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Not all people are suited for Politics. Mostly Cajun highlights part of Senator Ted Kennedy's career and offers the use of that as an exit strategy for "Our War in Iraq"
Kennedy Plan to get out of Iraq
Ted Kennedy plays on his life experience in coming up with a plan to get the U.S. out of Iraq�

Click for full-size Image
Makes sense -- after all, it worked very well for him once... For every John Fitzgerald, there are always many lower orders in the gene pool. More Clorox please...

Iraqi's agree on Constitution

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This is awesome -- I would have loved to seen some of the closed-room sessions that resulted in this. From the NY Times
Leaders in Iraq Agree to Change in Constitution
Iraqi political leaders said they had agreed to an important last-minute change in the draft constitution on Tuesday evening in exchange for a promise by some prominent Sunni Arab leaders to give public support to the document in the nationwide referendum on Saturday.

The change would create a panel in the next parliament with the power to propose broad new revisions to the constitution. In effect, the change could give the Sunnis - who were largely shut out of the constitution-writing process - a new chance to help redraft the document after elections in December.

The agreement was a major victory for American officials, who had spent weeks urging Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders to make changes that could soften Sunni opposition to the charter and forge a broader consensus. The Americans had voiced fears that if the constitution passed over strong Sunni opposition, more would turn toward violence.
And a bit more about why:
The change would also give Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted elections in January, a significant new motive for participating in politics. The more parliament seats they win in the December elections, the better chance they would have of changing the constitutional provisions they oppose, like allowing for the creation of semiautonomous regions within Iraq.

The constitutional panel would have four months after its creation to propose changes to the document, Mr. Makky said. Those proposed changes would then be voted on by the full assembly, which would have to approve them by a two-thirds majority. The changes would then have to be approved in another popular referendum.
Some Shiite's are happy about this:
It was not clear what led to the breakthrough in the talks, but some Shiite lawmakers seemed supportive of the agreement. "Anything that brings our views closer and relieves this polarization will be helpful," said Ali Dabagh, a member of the Shiite alliance that holds a majority of seats in the National Assembly.
The Shiites won the majority of the vote but not all that many Sunni's voted for whatever reason. Now that they see the Coalition is serious about hearing their voice, maybe they will step up and be counted.

eBay auction

Check out this eBay Auction

WOW! What a collection -- over 400 classic vintage computers. 6,000 pounds of them.

The museum's website is here: Freeman PC Museum

Umm Jen -- I am not bidding on this, I'm just pointing other people to it so they can drool a bit.

Louis Freeh and the War on Terror

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I had written earlier here about Bill Clinton's bungling the efforts of the FBI to investigate terrorism. It came to my attention that New Yorker covered this quite nicely back in 2001:
Louis Freeh's Last Case
On June 25, 1996, shortly before 10 p.m., three sentries posted on a rooftop at Khobar Towers, a high-rise compound that housed the two thousand American military personnel assigned to the King Abdul Aziz Airbase, in Saudi Arabia, noticed a tanker truck pull up to a perimeter fence. The area had been declared a likely target for a terrorist attack, and when the sentries saw two men jump out of the truck into a car and speed away they recognized the possibility of a bomb. They desperately tried to evacuate the building, pounding on the doors of sleeping airmen; four minutes later, the truck exploded, shearing off the face of Building 131. The explosion was so powerful that it left a crater eighty-five feet wide and thirty-five feet deep; the blast could be heard in Bahrain, some twenty miles away. Nineteen men were killed and about five hundred were injured. Greater casualties were avoided only because the bombers had put water in the tanker, forcing the blast downward.

Louis Freeh, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was visiting relatives in New Jersey when he was told about the bombing, and he immediately dispatched a hundred and twenty-five agents and employees to Saudi Arabia. (Though the Saudis had primary legal authority, the F.B.I. is charged with investigating the deaths of Americans overseas.) Shortly after returning to Washington, Freeh and Robert (Bear) Bryant, then his national-security deputy, boarded an Air Force jet for the seventeen-hour flight to Saudi Arabia. It was unusual for F.B.I. directors to visit crime scenes, but Freeh had become a familiar sight to agents working on big cases.
And some more:
President Clinton had publicly promised to punish those involved, vowing "to make sure those responsible are brought to justice." Almost from the start, however, the F.B.I. team in Saudi Arabia complained about a lack of access to key Saudi evidence. In response, Freeh pushed the National Security Council and the State Department to impress upon the Saudis the importance of the investigation. Samuel R. (Sandy) Berger, who became the Clinton Administration's national-security adviser, told me that Clinton wrote to King Fahd and met with Fahd's half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, in New York, personally urging them to co�perate. The Secretaries of Defense and State, Berger added, made personal appeals to the Saudi hierarchy.

Over the next few months, Freeh travelled twice more to Saudi Arabia. "Louis would go over there and try to negotiate for them to show us the evidence," Esposito said. "And then, at the highest levels, they would agree to it. And then . . . it wouldn't happen, so Louis would have to make another trip." But Freeh also heard from his Saudi counterparts that there had been little followup to the Administration's statements; as a result, a mixed signal was being sent about the seriousness of United States resolve. Freeh came to believe that the Clinton Administration feared jeopardizing its strategic relationships in the Middle East by pressing too hard; in fact, by the end of the Clinton era, Freeh had become so mistrustful of Clinton that, although he believed that he had developed enough evidence to seek indictments against the masterminds behind the attack, not just the front-line suspects, he decided to wait for a new Administration. The matter is unusually sensitive, because any indictments are likely to name Iranian government officials, especially those with ties to Iranian intelligence, commonly believed to be the source of terrorist activities.
It's a fairly long article but one worth reading for insight into Clinton's "legacy" and how his inactivity only strengthened the Iranian and Saudi support of terror.

A World Record Shattered

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The world's record for 'Punkin Chucking was shattered last Saturday by team TreBarBaric. Our local Skagit Valley Herald:
Pitching Pumpkins
TreBarbaric team smashes world record for second year in a row Like a barbarian at the gates, Wes Frank, leader of team TreBarbaric, stood in his blue-gray kilt and silver hard hat and gave the order.

"Mount up," Frank said.

Three members of TreBarbaric climbed astride their trusty steeds � sorrel stick ponies � and took a lap around "The Machine."

Standing 58 1/2 feet tall, The Machine is a trebuchet, a siege engine similar to a catapult. But TreBarbaric�s trebuchet flings pumpkins, rather than stones.

On Saturday, TreBarbaric�s seven men, who hail from their castles in Lyman and Sedro-Woolley, were just one pumpkin pitch away from their mission: Take back the world record.

After their stick pony sally, the men got down to the serious business of pitching pumpkins. After the words "fire in the hole" and the warning blast of a handheld air siren, Frank pulled the pin holding his wooden war engine in check.

With a whoosh of wind and whorl of wood, The Machine flung a white pumpkin high above the grass field of Skagit River Park in southeast Burlington.

For a moment, the burly men of TreBarbaric watched as the pumpkin flew across the sky. It smashed down, almost out of sight behind a truck and near foliage at the north end of the park. The men waited as the crew of volunteers measured their fifth and final toss.

"They are way up by the trees," one of them said.

The announcement � 1,676 feet � was almost drowned out by their victory shouts.

"That�s 300 feet better, baby," yelled Scott Wakeman of TreBarbaric.

Last year the team�s throw of 1,269 feet held the world record for 13 days. Then the mark was broken at the world championship pumpkin chucking contest in Delaware when Yankee Siege flung a gourd 1,399 feet. This time, TreBarbaric smashed the record by 277 feet.

About 5,000 people, who likely saw TreBarbaric�s final toss, attended Saturday�s Burlington Harvest Festival and Pumpkin Pitch, said Christi Kinney, city parks and recreation coordinator.
A description of the people attending by a member of another team:
"We have a nice cross between engineers and rednecks," said Kevin Orcutt, a member of team Gourdinator.
Photos by Frank Varga / Skagit Valley Herald
From left) Steve Kramer, Brandon Krauch, Scott Wakeman and Trevor Blue of TreBarbaric with The Machine in the background celebrate their world record-breaking pumpkin pitch Saturday. The seven-member team who live in various communities in eastern Skagit County smashed the former record by 277 feet, setting 1,676 feet as the mark to beat. TreBarbaric held the record last year for 13 days.
Have to mark my calendar for next year... Dang... Although the blacksmithing class that day was awesome.

Light posting tonight

Welding class tonight. We were still laying bead after bead with the stick welder (getting a bit better here...) but the teacher had two Oxy/Acetylene torches set up and we took turns cutting off pieces of metal and putting holes into other pieces. Fun stuff! Last Saturday was my last Blacksmithing class and the teacher there invited the class to visit his Studio -- one other student and Jen and me went out last Sunday and got the royal tour. Lots of ideas for setting up my own Forge workspace. To make things more fun, there is a regional Blacksmithing organization that covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Alaska and British Columbia and it turns out that they are having a major meet-up in Mt. Vernon, WA about a 45 minute drive south of us. These happen at various places so finding one so close is pure luck.


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Jen and I saw the movie Serenity this afternoon. She was out of town helping a friend move to Mexico for the last two weeks otherwise we would have been there a lot sooner. This is one kick-ass Movie. George Lucas has the writing skills of one of Joss Whedon's toenail parings. To properly review it would give away a few things that should be savoured in the theater but let us say that it was one of the better movies that either of us have seen in a long long time. Serenity follows a one-year television series called Firefly that aired in 2002. FOX mucked with the schedule and shuffled the episodes around so the series "tanked" when it first aired but it continued to have a strong (rabid --ed.) fan base and when the DVD set of the first season was made available for sale, the response was so overwhelming that Joss got the chance to make this movie. Serenity is a complete story so you do not need to have seen the Firefly series but the interplay between characters and the history evolved in the series deepens the plot-line in the movie so if you see Serenity and like it, check out your local library and get the Firefly -- The Complete First Season DVD set and watch and enjoy their world and then go see Serenity again. Also nice is that although Serenity is a complete story, there are a few loose ends that could be nicely tied up by another movie -- sequel time!

Cheburger Cheburger

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Everybody's favorite Tee-Shirt Icon is not getting the respect it used to. Witness some graffiti at Che's hometown of Rosario, Argentina. Mora at Babalu Blog has the story:
Spotted on a wall in Argentina...
Here's what they're saying about che in his own hometown of Rosario, Argentina...

En ingles, it says 'Cut the myths.'
The Cheburger reference is to these Tee-Shirts that shows a better photo of brutal murderer Che Guevara:

Russian Personal Computer history

Nice website covering the history of Russian Personal Computers Ranging from Apple ][+ clones to partial IBM-PC clones to waaay off in left field with proprietary operating systems and not that much software available. Some visionary with mice and graphics that beat the MAC hands down. 'Bout the same as here...

Investing in Iran

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Looks like Iran's development of Nuclear Technology is having unintended consequences. From Yahoo/Reuters
Traders shun Iran bourse as atomic crisis deepens
Investors are bailing out of Iran's stock market, preferring gold and foreign bourses while international pressure ratchets up against Tehran's disputed atomic programme, traders said on Sunday.

The total bourse capitalisation had dropped to $38.2 billion dollars on Sunday, down from $45 billion in late June when conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a landslide presidential election victory.

The TEPIX all-share index stood at 10,151 points on Sunday, down 27 percent in the 14 months from August 2004, when it stood at 13,880.

"Everything depends on the nuclear negotiations, and the market really craves good news," said Akbar Zarganinejad, the head of a leading brokerage.

Iran stands on the brink of referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions after failing to convince the world its atomic ambitions are peaceful. Iran insists it needs atomic technology to fuel power stations.
Whoops -- not exactly confidence-building. The issue with Iran's development is that they are putting a lot of effort into equipment than can only be intended for bombs. The level of purity for a bomb is a lot higher than is needed for nuclear fuel so the fact that they are looking at these technologies means that they are not looking at a power reactors. Spending all this money on power reactors is strange as well as they are sitting on a huge reserve of oil.

A Western Dialogue

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Mostly Cajun has compiled a list of things that you will never hear in a Western. Here are the first seven:
Things you�ll never hear said in a Western�
1. Guns? We don�t need no stinking guns
2. Hey Buck, do these chaps make my ass look big?
3. Injuns! Quick, pull the wagons into an irregular dodecagon
4. Lets see�.hardtack and pemmican..that�s three grams of fat, seven grams of protien, and two starches.
5. Gentlemen, rather than get caught up in mindless reaction, let�s draw on our feminine selves for a more intuitive solution.
6. Can we postpone this duel till 12:05? I gotta use the little boy�s room.
7. It�s like I keep tellin� ya Earl. men is from Tombstone, women is from Dodge.

25 Words

What do these 25 words have in common:

Aggressive, Ambitious, Competent, Creative, Detail-oriented, Determined, Efficient, Experienced, Flexible, Goal-oriented, Hard-working, Independent, Innovative, Knowledgeable, Logical, Motivated, Meticulous, People person, Professional, Reliable, Resourceful, Self-motivated, Successful, Team player, Well-organized

They are Resume-Killers

Read here for more

One nugget:

Instead of... "Excellent written communication skills"
Try... "Wrote jargon-free User Guide...

More at the site

A Cycle of Dumb

What is Past is Prologue

These words by William Shakespeare are engraved over the doors to the National Library of Congress.

The meaning is that History often repeats itself and we seem to be suffering from that a lot these days. It is unfortunate that some people are no longer with us. About 25 years ago, Presidential wanna-be Algore's wife Tipper got her panties into a bunch over some "bad words" in "record albums" - Frank Zappa testified before Congress and delivered a cluebat of mammoth proportions.

Ex-President Clinton's wife Hillary is now on a campaign to censer Video Games and to keep them out of Kids Hands (isn't that the Parent's job? --ed.)

CBS News/Gamecore presents Frank Zappa's Statement To Congress from September 19, 1985.

Here are two links -- six-page with pictures and links and a two-page of just the text Part #1 Part #2

From the Articles introduction:

Where Is Our Zappa?
There is nothing scarier than the Cycle of Dumb. In it, we often find politicians from every side attempting to legislate taste and opinion under the guise of protection.

In the 80s, Tipper Gore led the charge against obscenity in music. Now Hillary Clinton is fighting to keep the video games she and her ilk think are harmful out of kids' hands. Both are the wives of Democrats.

In order to throw a wrench into the machine, or at least, as Burroughs said, to educate the mark, I'm proud to present Frank Zappa's Congressional testimony.

It's easy to draw parallels between the legal threats music faced over twenty years ago and what lawmakers are trying to do to video games now. Though this testimony is long, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't read it in full.

Find more Frank Zappa at Zappa.com, watch: Frank on Crossfire and Frank's second time on Crossfire.

Setting up Frank's Words: (The PMRC was an American committee formed in 1985 by the wives of several congressmen. They included Tipper Gore (wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore); Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; and Nancy Thurmond, wife of Senator Strom Thurmond. -- Such a nice cast of characters.)


The First thing I would like to do, because I know there is some foreign press involved here and they might not understand what the issue is about, one of the things the issue is about is the First Amendment to the Constitution, and it is short and I would like to read it so they will understand. It says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

That is for reference.

These are my personal observations and opinions. They are addressed to the [Parents' Music Resource Centre] as well as this committee. I speak on behalf of no group or professional organization.

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years, dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design.

It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation.

No one has forced Mrs. Baker or Mrs. Gore to bring Prince or Sheena Easton into their homes. Thanks to the Constitution, they are free to buy other forms of music for their children. Apparently, they insist on purchasing the works of contemporary recording artists in order to support a personal illusion of aerobic sophistication. Ladies, please be advised: The $8.98 purchase price does not entitle you to a kiss on the foot from the composer or performer in exchange for a spin on the family Victrola. Taken as a whole, the complete list of PMRC demands reads like an instruction manual for some sinister kind of "toilet training program" to house-break all composers and performers because of the lyrics of a few. Ladies, how dare you

More Frank:

Well, one of the things that has been brought up before is talking about very young children getting access to the material that they have been showing here today. And what I have said to that in the past is a teenager may go into a record store unescorted with $8.98 in his pocket, but very young children do not.

If they go into a record store, the $8.98 is in mom or dad's pocket, and they can always say, Johnny, buy a book. They can say, Johnny, buy instrumental music; there is some nice classical music for you here; why do you not listen to that.

The parent can ask or guide the child in another direction, away from Sheena Easton, Prince, or whoever else you have been complaining about. There is always that possibility.

Parental Responsibility??? One last Frank:

Senator Hawkins: Mr. Zappa, you say you have four children?
FZ: Yes, four children.
Hawkins: Have you ever purchased toys for those children?
FZ: No; my wife does.
Hawkins: Well, I might tell you that if you were to go in a toy store, which is very educational for fathers, by the way; it is not a maternal responsibility to buy toys for children - that you may look on the box and the box says, this is suitable for 5 to 7 years of age, or 8 to 15, or 15 and above, to give you some guidance for a toy for a child.
Do you object to that?

FZ: In a way I do, because that means that somebody in an office someplace is making a decision about how smart my child is.

Frank Zappa is a National treasure and is missed.

You may not always like his music but he was one of the smarter people around.

He died from Cigarettes...


Whoring for ratings

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British broadcaster David Frost is joining up with Al-Jazeera. CBC World News has the story:
Veteran British broadcaster David Frost to join Al-Jazeera International
Veteran British broadcaster David Frost will go on-air next spring with Al-Jazeera International, the English-language channel of the popular Arab satellite broadcaster, the network announced.

Frost, who broadcast his final Breakfast with Frost program for British Broadcasting Corp. in May, would be among the "key on-air talent" on the 24-hour news and current affairs channel, Al-Jazeera said in a statement Friday.

The statement quoted Frost as saying he was excited about his new job.

"Most of the television I have done over the years has been aimed at British and American audiences," he said. "This time, while our target is still Britain and America, the excitement is that it is also the six billion other inhabitants of the globe."

Frost's interview shows have long attracted world leaders. He notched 500 editions of Breakfast with Frost before bowing out.

His new network has had repeated run-ins with the U.S. administration, which says Al-Jazeera's exclusive broadcasts of speeches by Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders show an anti-American, pro-terrorist bias.

Al-Jazeera denies it holds any anti-American bias and says it reports the news objectively.

The English-language channel is part of the network's expansion. Al-Jazeera, launched in 1996 in Qatar, recently began an Arabic-language children's channel as well as a sports channel and another dedicated to covering live events without an announcer.
Emphasis mine -- of course it doesn't have Bias. It is a member of the Main Stream Media and they do not have Bias...
You know I sometimes froth at the mouth (sometimes? --ed.) This article really cuts to the core of what I see the problem to be with today's Left. I grew up during the Vietnam War and demonstrated to end it. Worked with a lot of great people. My concern is that the Left has lost its moral compass and their behaviour after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 only served to bring that home to me in such a clear manner that I jumped ship and am now a conservative. My vote for Bush was a strike against Kerry. If the Democrats had run a serious candidate, I would have considered them but Kerry was not suited to be President. He is the embodiment of the Peter Principle. Sasha Abramsky writing at Open Democracy explores just where the Left is these days:
Whose al-Qaida problem?
Much of the left�s opposition to the Iraq war and the Bush administration�s anti-terror campaigns � voiced by figures like Tariq Ali, Robert Fisk, George Galloway, Naomi Klein, and John Pilger � has blinded it to the need to engage with real problems and threats, says Sasha Abramsky.

As summer 2005 began, I flew to London to stay with my parents. A few days after I arrived, four bombs blew up tube trains and a bus in central London on 7 July. It was the second time I had been in a city that was under attack by terrorists. Four years ago, I was living in Brooklyn when al-Qaida slammed passenger jets into the World Trade Center.

Over these four years, I have spent more time than is entirely healthy obsessing over the new realities. Some of my friends and relatives tell me I�ve changed � that my politics aren�t as "leftwing" as they used to be during the anti-nuclear movement in Britain back in the 1980s. In a way, they are right. My core politics haven�t changed, but it seems to me that the world has changed so dramatically � traditional alliances and reference points have become unreliable, the ground rules of the power game have so shifted � I�d be a fool not to incorporate these changes into my analytical framework.
After setting the stage a bit more, Sasha then examines some current Left thought:
British journalists Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Tariq Ali, along with British MP George Galloway, and, on the other side of the Atlantic, commentators such as Naomi Klein have all essentially blamed Britain and the United States for bringing the attacks upon themselves. While being careful to denounce the bombers and their agenda, these advocates uttered variations on the same theme: get out of Iraq, bring home the troops from all points east, curtail support for Israel, develop a more sensible, non-oil-based energy policy, and our troubles would dissipate in the wind.
Sascha gives a bunch of examples but then starts asking questions:
Pilger, Fisk, Ali, Galloway, and Klein grasp the undeniable fact that shortsighted western policies and alliances of convenience over the past century have contributed to today�s mass alienation of young Muslims, to a climate in which millennial groups such as al-Qaida flourish.

These advocates understand � in a way the cartoonish "good versus evil" language in which George W Bush frames world events certainly cannot � the rage the Iraq war in general has stoked among Muslims, and in particular, how searing are the images of humiliation rituals and torture emanating out of Abu Ghraib. They rightly recoil at the news-in-brief references to "collateral damage" when Iraqi civilians are killed compared with the oceans of ink generated whenever a western target is hit by terrorism.
And then, the clue-bat to the head:
The left�s blindspot
But theirs is also a truncated analysis. They assume that groups like al-Qaida are almost entirely reactive, responding to western policies and actions, rather than being pro-active creatures with a virulent homegrown agenda, one not just of defense but of conquest, destruction of rivals, and, ultimately and at its most megalomaniacal, absolute subjugation.

It misses the central point: that, unlike traditional "third-world" liberation movements looking for a bit of peace and quiet in which to nurture embryonic states, al-Qaida is classically imperialist, looking to subvert established social orders and to replace the cultural and institutional infrastructure of its enemies with a (divinely inspired) hierarchical autocracy of its own, looking to craft the next chapter of human history in its own image.

Simply blaming the never quite defined, yet implicitly all-powerful "west" for the ills of the world doesn�t explain why al-Qaida slaughtered thousands of Americans eighteen months before Saddam was overthrown. Nor does it explain the psychopathic joy this death cult takes in mass killings and in ritualistic, snuff-movie-style beheadings. The term "collateral damage" may be inept, but it at least suggests that the killing of civilians in pursuit of a state�s war aims is unintentional, regrettable; there is nothing unintentional, there is no regret, in the targeting of civilians by al-Qaida�s bombers.

Moreover, many of those who reflexively blame the west do not honestly hold up a mirror to the rest of the world, including the Muslim world, and the racism and sexism and anti-semitism that is rife in many parts of it. If bigotry were indeed the exclusive preserve of the west, their arguments would have greater moral force. But given the fundamentalist prejudices that are so much a part of bin Ladenism, the cry of western racism is a long way from being a case-closer.

We should attend to the way bin Laden and his followers invoke "the west." They do so alternately to describe any expansive and domineering "first world" economic and political system and, even more ominously, to demarcate a set of ostensibly decadent liberal political, cultural, social, and religious beliefs and practices.

Indeed, what al-Qaida apparently hates most about "the west" are its best points: the pluralism, the rationalism, individual liberty, the emancipation of women, the openness and social dynamism that represent the strongest legacy of the Enlightenment. These values stand in counterpoint to the tyrannical social code idealised by al-Qaida and by related political groupings such as Afghanistan�s Taliban.

In that sense, "the west" denotes less a geographical space than a mindset: a cultural presence or a sphere of anti-absolutist ideas that the Viennese-born philosopher Karl Popper termed the "open society." In his day, when fascists and Stalinists held vast parts of the globe, the concept of "the west" prevailed over a smaller territory than today. But with the rise of bin Ladenism, the prevalence of this concept again is shrinking.

It is because bin Ladenism is waging war against the liberal ideal that much of the activist left�s response to 11 September 2001 and the London attacks is woefully, catastrophically inadequate. For we, as progressives, need to uphold the values of pluralism, rationalism, scepticism, women�s rights, and individual liberty and oppose ideologies and movements whose foundations rest on theocracy, obscurantism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and nostalgia for a lost empire.
Sasha then goes on to talk about the Open Society and explore two paths. Very very much good stuff! You will not go wrong by giving this piece a deep and serious read regardless of what side of the "fence" you sit on.

Earthquake in Pakistan

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A 7.6 Richter -- definitely not a mild one... Hit at around 8:50PM our time (Pacific Daylight Time) Here is the USGS page Bloomberg has some news:
Pakistan, India Are Hit by 7.6 Magnitude Earthquake (Update2)
Pakistan and India were shaken by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake, one of the biggest to strike the region. Government officials said they fear widespread damage to life and property.

The earthquake, 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep, struck at 8:50 a.m. local time 95 kilometers north-north east of Islamabad, which has a population of more than 500,000, and 125 kilometers west-northwest of Srinagar in the disputed territory of Kashmir in India, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its Web site.

One person died in Baramulla town in Indian Kashmir when a building collapsed, India's NDTV reported. One child died in a Rawalpindi in Pakistan when a school came down, Agence France- Presse reported, citing a government spokesman.

"It appears to be one of the most high-intensity earthquakes felt in Pakistan," Muhammad Hanif, a spokesman for Pakistan's meteorological department, said.
Reuters has a bit too:
Big quake rocks Indian subcontinent
A major earthquake with a magnitude of at least 7.6 struck Pakistan on Saturday and was felt across the Indian subcontinent, sending people fleeing from their homes into the streets.

There was no immediate word of any serious casualties.

Pakistan's private Geo TV channel reported that the top floors of a 12-storey apartment block in Islamabad had collapsed and an unknown number of people were trapped inside.

The quake was also felt in the Pakistani and Afghan capitals.
Several 5.6 and 5.9 aftershocks as well... I have been reading "A Crack in the Edge of the World" by Simon Winchester. Wonderful read and it seems that 1906 was not a quiet year geologically. 2005 (December 2004 Tsunami included) is proving to be bumptious as well...

Bill Clinton and FBI Director Louis Freeh

Louis Freeh who was FBI Director during the Clinton Administration is coming out with a book that promises to paint the Clinton Administration in a less than good light. Dr. Sanity has the story:

Clinton is Freehed
Louis Freeh, former FBI director under Bill Clinton is coming out with a book and from this report, it sounds like Bill Clinton's legacy (such as it is) will take a direct hit:
In the book, "My FBI," he writes, "The problem was with Bill Clinton -- the scandals and the rumored scandals, the incubating ones and the dying ones never ended. Whatever moral compass the president was consulting was leading him in the wrong direction. His closets were full of skeletons just waiting to burst out."

The director sought to distance himself from Clinton because of Whitewater, refusing a White House pass that would have enabled him to enter the building without signing in. This irked Clinton. "I wanted all my visits to be official," says Freeh. "When I sent the pass back with a note, I had no idea it would antagonize the president," he tells Wallace.

Returning the pass was only the start of the rift. Later, relations got so bad that President Clinton reportedly began referring to Freeh as "that F*ing Freeh." Says Freeh, "I don't know how they referred to me and I really didn't care," he says. "My role and my obligation was to conduct criminal investigations. He, unfortunately for the country and unfortunately for him, happened to be the subject of that investigation," Freeh says.

Looks like a good read -- and people called Regan the "Teflon" President. Clinton was the master. And the Clinton Library? I posted about this here and here are the two photos:

The Clinton Library
Swiped from Missouri Trailer Trash

A quote

Callimachus at Donklephant posts a quote and asks people who said it:

Who Said This?
"Religion plays the role of direction, enlightenment, and offering advice. It should not be dragged into the political process, as this diminishes its sacredness. Religion should not be politicized."
A. John Locke
B. James Madison
C. Sandra O'Connor
D. some Islamic cleric you never heard of in the Middle East.

Well, it's "D." Ayatollah Hussein Ismael Al Sadr gets it. [Not the young thug al-Sadr; he's not even an ayatollah.] He gets something millions of Americans, including a few in top leadership positions, consistently fail to see, even though the concept is rooted in the political fabric of the nation they profess to love.

You can interpret an Iraqi Shi'ite religious leader's statement in support of separation of mosque and state in any number of ways. My first reaction, though, was, I wonder how we can get him onto the Supreme Court?

Very cool -- more voices like Ismael Al Sadr please!

New research into Plant Growth

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Wonderful and thought-provoking news from Back40 at Crumb Trail:
Super Natural
Some textbook editing may be needed.
A team of scientists led by University of Connecticut plant biologist Roberto Gaxiola has discovered an overlooked genetic key to generating plants that are more productive, more drought resistant and can grow in soils low in nutrients. Their work is the first to successfully test in cells a 30-year-old hypothesis that explains the movement of a primary growth and development hormone through plants and is expected to prompt biology textbooks to be rewritten.

The researchers from UConn, Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University determined that one of three proton pumps found within plant cells, previously believed to have an extremely limited function, plays a critical role in plant root and shoot system growth and development by controlling cell division, expansion and hormone transport. Over-expressing the single gene that encodes this particular proton pump significantly enhances the transportation of the primary plant growth hormone, auxin, and results in plants with stronger, more extensive root systems and as much as 60 percent more foliage, the researchers report in the Oct. 7 issue of the prestigious journal Science.

"This discovery has the potential to revolutionize agriculture worldwide," said Gaxiola, an assistant professor-in-residence in UConn's plant science department. "This over-expression regulates the development of one of the most important parts of the plant, the roots. A plant with larger roots is a healthier and more productive plant, because, with a larger root system, the plant is able to get water and nutrients from larger soil areas.
Gary quotes some more from the article and closes with this:
Gee. I mean G.E. It's going to be real hard for neo-Luddites to continue to bad mouth genetic engineering. This isn't about evil corporations, herbicides, pesticides, patents or any of the other excuses used thus far to demonize a technology because of an application. This is about feeding the world using less resources and greening the waste lands.

This is too good. I can't see the defect but I'll try to remain calm while this stuff is verified.
Golden Rice provides Vitamin A to people who have no other good source. Round-up Ready crops allow for reduced till farming and a much lower use of herbicides. What do the anti-G.E. Luddites have against benefiting people? Is it because they do not have the mental tools to understand the science involved? We don't need no steenking Science -- this is Gaia we are talking about here bub...

A nasty little war

There are Internet Service Providers and then, there are Internet Service Providers... It is like an onion, there are a few "backbones" (Cogent and Level3 are two) and there are some big players (AOL, Comcast, RoadRunner are some good examples) and then there are the local ISPs who buy a block of addresses from one of the backbones and carve out their own little fifedom in Cyberspace.

Among the top-level providers, there has always been an agreement to provide peering. If someone from my netblock wants to access a site in your netblock, we will both carry the traffic, even though it is between competitors and usually amounts to some serious bandwidth.

Well yesterday, Level3 threw a hissy-fit and severed peering with Cogent.

Here is Cogent's comment:

Level 3* has partitioned its part of the Internet from Cogent's part of the Internet by denying Level 3's customers access to Cogent's customers and denying Cogent's customers access to Level 3 customers. Level 3 terminated its peering with Cogent without cause (as permitted under its peering agreement with Cogent) even though both Cogent and Level 3 remained in full compliance with the previously existing interconnection agreement.

Many Level 3 customers can still exchange traffic with Cogent customers because the Level 3 customer is multi-homed, i.e. it also has a connection to Cogent or to one of the many other networks with which Cogent has a peering relationship. As described below Cogent is offering a solution to Level 3 customers that are not multi-homed.

Cogent will offer any Level 3 customer, who is single homed to the Level 3 network as of October 5, 2005, one year of full Internet transit free of charge at the same bandwidth currently being supplied by Level 3. Cogent will provide this connectivity in over 1,000 locations throughout North America and Europe.

Cogent is committed to an open Internet. The existing interconnection facilities between Level 3 and Cogent remain intact. Cogent hopes that Level 3 will reactivate these connections, restoring a full level of service to their customers.

There is also a short writeup at Hardware Geeks:

Network Divorce
Today in an ugly feud, level3 one of the largest Internet backbones cut off a direct peering connection with Cogent Communications another Internet backbone.

What does this mean for us the users of the internet? Well it just means that people on one network won�t be able to access websites on another network or will experience slower speeds when connecting to websites.

Already users on our forums have posted problems accessing certain websites. User Dark Vegata is unable to reach startdock.com.

Typically networks will connect to each other for free but sometimes a larger network will get Greedy and that is what appears to have happened here. Level3 says they are larger than Cogent and although what they are asking for has not yet been made public it is assumed they want money.

So how long will this dispute go on? Who knows it has come to my thing is bigger than your thing type of situation.

Hey Level3 -- had any cancellations recently? Why don't you fire the dim-bulb manager that thought of this piece of goose-shit, re-edit your routers to enable peering again and get on with life.

Frickin' Loooooosers...

Pumpkin Gutter

This is the website of Artist Scott Cummins who normally resides at Outside the Lines.

Once a year, he updates Pumpkin Gutter with new designs -- these are amazing:


These are just some thumbnails -- visit Scott's site for full-size images plus several views of each carving, lit and unlighted. This guy has a sick and twisted imagination -- I love it!

Where it's @

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Interesting article on other nations "definition" of the '@' symbol.
Where It's At -- and Where It's Not
I'm talking on the phone to an Israeli writer who goes by the nickname Winkie, and I want to send him some information. "What's your e-mail?" I ask.

"Winkie M, Strudel, Yahoo dot com," he says.

"Strudel?" I said. "As in the pastry?" (I'm thinking: Maybe he has a little bakery on the side?) "You mean WinkieM, then s-t-r-u-d- . . . "

"No, no -- it's strudel , that little A sign," he says. "I think you call it 'at'?"
The Canonical List can be found here: A Natural History of the @ Sign

The Noguchi Filing System


Interesting take on filing documents.

The Noguchi Filing System

A book I read recently has prompted me to try a rather unconventional filing system, the system proposed and used by Noguchi Yukio, an economist and writer of bestselling books about such things. Implementation of the system requires the user to discard many conventional notions about how to store paper documents.

The basic elements of the system are as follows.
All the user need prepare is a collection of A4-sized envelopes and some means for marking the outside of the envelope. If some color coding (optional) is to be done, this can be done with marker pens.

All documents, regardless of their class, level of importance, or perceived chance of being required at a later date are stored in A4-sized envelopes, which have the flaps cut off, as shown below.

And here is the clever part:

New documents (envelopes) are added at the left end of the "envelope buffer," and whenever a document is used (i.e., the envelope removed from the shelf), it is returned to the left end of the bookshelf. The result of this system is that the most recent (and frequently) used documents migrate to the left, while documents that are not used often or not used at all migrate to the right. After the system has been in use for a while, the shelf starts to look like the following.

In the above "frequency-of-use sorting" of files, some of the files on the right side will be classified as "holy files," to be retained indefinitely. These, however, are removed from the shelf and stored in boxes. If a "holy file" is in use, it is part of the working file group at the left. Thus, holy files are really dead files, but ones which the user cannot part with. The solution is to get them out of sight into a box someone. In essence, this system works on the principle that categorized files are dead files, and that categorizing files should only be done when they are to be put in your file graveyard.

Very nice!

Calling a spade a spade

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President Bush spoke to the National Endowment for Democracy and had these words:
Bush: Radicals Seek to Intimidate World
President Bush Accuses Radicals of Trying to 'Enslave Whole Nations and Intimidate the World'

President Bush, trying to reverse a slide in public support for the war in Iraq, said Thursday that Islamic radicals are seeking to "enslave whole nations and intimidate the world," and called that a prime reason not to cut and run in Iraq.

"There's always a temptation in the middle of a long struggle to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder," he said, seeking to address calls from anti-war activists for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

In a speech before the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush said Islamic militants have made Iraq their main front in a war against civilized society.

"The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia," Bush said.
Good -- many people are not aware of this or actively select their news sources and do not hear this truth.

Say bye-bye to Venezuela

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Venezuela's 'President' Hugo Chavez just pulled the plug on foreign investment. Yahoo/AP has the news:
Venezuelan tax agency orders shutdown of IBM, other foreign companies
Venezuela's tax agency said that it had imposed fines and ordered the temporary closure of several foreign companies, including International Business Machines, due to tax irregularities.

The Seniat agency ordered the 48-hour shutdown of U.S. computer company IBM Corp.'s office in Caracas, as well as auto parts company Bosch Rexroth Corp., for bookkeeping irregularities related to the value added tax, the agency said in a statement. Others such as Microsoft Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens and Colombina SA will face closures ranging from 24 to 48 hours, as well as fines, it said.

The reasons for the punitive actions against the latter were unclear.

Company officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Seniat officials have pursued an aggressive "zero evasion" campaign that has helped the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reach new tax collection records.

The president has said that all companies must pay their taxes, particularly foreign ones that pay taxes in their home countries but often skip what they owe in Venezuela.

Under Chavez, Seniat has told foreign oil companies they owe more than $3 billion US in unpaid taxes going back several years. The government has said oil companies won't be able to continue operating in the country if they refuse to pay those claims.
So tell me again why I would want to open a business there? Especially curious is the taxation of the Oil Companies -- Oil is the major source of income for the Venezuelan Workers Paradise -- without it, it will sink to become another Cuba.


Very cool, small and free Windows database for storing personal data.

Check out NeoMem

It is a flat database so importing, managing and exporting large quantities of data is not an easy task but for home use, it looks really good -- simple UI and easy to work with.

Hurricane Katrina -- CAT1?

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Paul at Wizbang points to some data that shows that Hurricane Katrina had lessened quite a bit before hitting New Orleans:
Katrina a Category 1 When it Hit New Orleans?!?

It's been getting more widely accepted that Katrina was NOT a Category 4 storm, especially by the time it hit New Orleans. Now we get more data that is just chilling.
New data suggest Katrina was a less intense, Category 3 storm
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - Hurricane Katrina might have battered New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as a considerably weaker system than the Category 4 tempest initially reported.

New, preliminary information, compiled by hurricane researchers, suggests the system struck southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29 with peak-sustained winds of 115 mph. That would have made it a Category 3 storm, still a major hurricane but a step down from the enormous destructive force of a Category 4.

Katrina might have further downgraded to a strong Category 1 system with 95-mph winds, when it punched water through New Orleans' levees, severely flooding most of the city and killing hundreds. The levees were designed to withstand a Category 3 storm.

If verified, the wind information, compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Research Division, could have chilling ramifications. ...
Emphasis mine -- Paul (who is from that area) then goes on to say:
I spent a full day in the West End area looking at damage. I find it hard to fathom (at first) that much damage was caused by 65mph winds. A good winter storm will give us 65mph winds but of course there is a difference between a few gusts of 65 and several hours of sustained winds.

A few months ago Tropical Storm Cindy hit New Orleans as a direct hit and people in town were amazed how much damage we got from a tropical storm. I made the point that it was all about geography. A direct hit from a TS is much worse than a hurricane 100 miles away. I've heard it claimed that my half of town never saw hurricane force winds from Katrina. ... Although driving thru town, you'd have a very, very hard time believing that.

Having said all of the above, continuing from a previous post. If the stormwalls failed in Cat 1 winds, somebody has some explaining to do.
The previous post that Paul links to above is one where he looks at the Levee failures. The part that failed was a brand new floodwall. The 30-year-old Levee's performed flawlessly -- they held. The unanswered question for now is was this engineering failure or did the contractor cheat and not build to spec. This question will be answered in the next year or so and someone will hang, twisting slowly in the wind...

Bad Web Design in 2005

Jakob Nielsen is at it again. Here is his list of the: Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005

For this year's list of worst design mistakes, I decided to try something new: I asked readers of my newsletter to nominate the usability problems they found the most irritating.

I assumed that asking for reader input would highlight many issues that I hadn't noticed in my own user testing. This was not the case. Instead, all of the top thirty problems were covered in existing usability guidelines. Thus, when you read this year's top ten list, you'll probably say, "Yes, I've heard about this before." That's okay.

There's value in reminding ourselves of past findings and raising their priority on the agenda of things to be fixed. Because these mistakes continue to be so common, it makes sense that people continue to complain about them the most.

And the list -- here are excerpts from the top three:

1. Legibility Problems
Bad fonts won the vote by a landslide, getting almost twice as many votes as the #2 mistake. About two-thirds of the voters complained about small font sizes or frozen font sizes; about one-third complained about low contrast between text and background.

2. Non-Standard Links

3. Flash

Robot sniper detector

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Very cool (but short) article on iRobot's new toy. They make the Roomba for us folks but they also make some nice things for the Military and one of them is a Robot designed to find snipers.
iRobot unveils sniper detector
On Monday, the company announced a prototype system designed to pinpoint incoming rounds from rifles and mortars, and also to provide surveillance and targeting capabilities. The remote-controlled gear, named Redowl (short for "robot enhanced detection outpost with lasers), is designed to work with iRobot's PackBot combat device.

The PackBot is a robot small enough to be carried by a single soldier. It has already done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Redowl features a laser pointer and illuminator, an acoustic localizer and classifier, a thermal imager, GPS (Global Positioning System), an infrared and daylight camera, and two wide-angle cameras. iRobot, which also makes the Roomba household vacuum robot, developed the Redowl system in conjunction with the Photonics Center at Boston University.

In field tests, the PackBot-Redowl combination had a success rate of 94 percent in locating the source of rounds fired from 9mm pistols, and M-16 and AK-rifles, at a range of more than 100 meters, the company said.

"Snipers have had the advantage of being effectively invisible--making them a deadly threat on the battlefield and in urban settings," retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, general manager of iRobot's government and industrial robots unit, said in a statement. Redowl "is a mobile system, which means snipers can run but they cannot hide anymore."
Awesome use of C.O.T.S. technology plus a little clever thinking...
Cute little bug too unless you are a terrorist.

Speed Racer

Serious Geekdom from the mind of Dr. Peter Diamandis.

Dr. Diamandis was the guy behind the $10M X-Prize which Burt Rutan's team won recently. Now Dr. Diamandis wants to do rocket racing. As a sport. Move over NASCAR, you are sooooo old...

The Rocket Racing League website. The BBC has a nice writeup too:

X-Prize man launches rocket race
Peter Diamandis, the man behind the $10m X-Prize for suborbital space travel, has brought forward his new initiative: the Rocket Racing League.

The RRL will see Grand Prix-style races between rocket planes, flown by top pilots through a "3D trackway" just 5,000ft (1,500m) above the ground.

The first "X-Racers" will be built for the series, but it is hoped new teams will soon enter with novel designs.

Events will be staged across the US, culminating in a final in New Mexico.

Dr Diamandis says the RRL's mission, much like the Ansari-sponsored X-Prize, is to serve as a technology accelerator.

He wants it to speed up development in the areas of airframe, propulsion and spacecraft design.

The concept behind the league may remind people of the pod races in The Phantom Menace, the first of the Star Wars prequels.

"The Rocket Racing League will inspire people of all ages to once again look up into the sky to find inspiration and excitement," said Dr Diamandis, who holds the position of chairman in RRL.

And how close is this to actually happening?

The first RRL events are expected to take place next year.

Dr Diamandis said the races would be run over aerial tracks that were about two miles (3.2km) long, one mile (1.6km) wide, and about 5,000ft high, running perpendicularly to spectators.

The X-Racers will take off from a runway both in a staggered fashion and side by side, and fly a three-dimensional course with long straights, vertical ascents, and deep banks.

Each pilot will follow his or her own "virtual tunnel" of space with the aid of satellite-navigation technology, safely separated from their competitors by a minimum distance.

Spectators will be able to follow the races by looking at the exhaust plumes in the sky and on hand-held GPS tracking devices.

The project has the support of the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Very cool! Here are three photos from the Rocket Racing League website:

X-1 Racer taxiing for takeoff

X-1 pit stop -- refueling

X-2 Racer concept mockup

Take NASA's budget and give it to these kinds of people and we will have tourists on the Moon in a few years.

Jesse Jackson gets his come-uppance

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This is rich. Jesse Jackson finally has to stand trial for Assault and Civil Rights Violations. From Judicial Watch:
Court Rules Jesse Jackson Must Face Civil Trial for Assault and Civil Rights Violations

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes corruption, today announced that on January 17, 2006, Jesse Lee Peterson, et al., v. Jesse Jackson, et al. (BC 266505) will go to trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court after a ruling last week by Judge George H. Wu. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit against Jackson, his son Jonathan, and others on behalf of Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who was the victim of a physical and verbal assault at an event hosted by Jackson�s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. in December 2001. Rev. Peterson is an ordained minister, who has dedicated his life to working with underprivileged black youth and men in our society.

The Jacksons and the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, who had sought to have the case dismissed, will now face multiple civil charges, including: Assault, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and a California Civil Rights Claim. Jonathan Jackson also will face the additional charges of Battery and False Imprisonment.
A PDF file of the Legal Brief can be found here. Hat tip to Conservative Insurgent for the link. Heh... After so many years of dishing it out, he finally has to take some of his own medicine. Black Leadership my kiester -- Jackson is a two-bit hustler.

Environmentalism and its hidden agenda

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The Mises Institute is putting out some wonderful stuff these days. This is an article about a ten-year old essay that was prescient: The Toxicity of Environmentalism The author opens with this comment and then posts the essay:
The environmentalist fear mongers are gearing up for a new propaganda blitz, based on an alleged connection between the two recent major hurricanes and alleged global warming. They apparently believe that modern education and cultural reconditioning have been at work long enough for most Americans by now to have adopted the mentality of primitive tribal villagers, who can be frightened into sacrificing their sheep and goats (substitute SUVs and air conditioners) to avoid the wrath of nature.

In the hope that a sufficient portion of the American population still possesses enough rationality and self-respect to reject this intellectual outrage with the anger and contempt it deserves, and in the hope of encouraging them to do so, we present George Reisman�s 1990 essay "The Toxicity of Environmentalism."

This is an essay, as topical today as when it was first written, which lays bare the hidden agenda of the movement and skewers its every aspect, especially the notion that global warming, real or imagined, is an excuse for collectivist control of the economic system.
The essay is very well written and defies excerpting. If you are at all interested, go and read -- takes about ten minutes and very interesting...

Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Air Cleaners

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These people just cannot win... (heh!) I had written about the Consumer Reports magazine smack-down of these over-priced gadgets before here and here. Basically, Consumer Reports magazine ran a number of Air Cleaners through some simple quantitative tests and rated them on their effectiveness. The Sharper Image unit (the Ionic Breeze) came in as unacceptable as it failed to clean the air and also added a large amount of Ozone which can cause respiratory distress for some people. The Sharper Image asked CR to retest the Ionic Breeze which they did and still, it failed. The Sharper Image then filed a lawsuit against Consumer Reports only to have it tossed out and they had to pay about $500K court costs and lawyers fees. Well, they are at it again and The Washington Post has the story:
Air Cleaner Dust-up
Upgraded Ionic Breeze Unit Still Fails Sniff Test at Consumer Reports

In its latest review of air purifiers, Consumer Reports (CR) has again recommended against the Ionic Breeze Quadra, despite the addition of a device meant to eliminate some of the ozone emitted by the product. Its manufacturer, Sharper Image, disputes the assessment, saying the magazine's evaluation method is flawed.

The exchange extends a feud between CR and Sharper Image that started two years ago, after the magazine gave a failing grade to an earlier version of the air cleaner. Sharper Image sued Consumers Union, which publishes CR, for libel in 2003 after earlier reports said that the Ionic Breeze performed poorly at removing dust and smoke particles from the air. A federal court dismissed the suit.

CR's October 2005 issue -- which gives the Ionic Breeze "poor" grades for its ability to clean dust and smoke particles from the air -- went to press before the release of the newest Ionic Breeze model, which includes OzoneGuard, a feature that partially clears ozone from the air. CR then published a supplemental report online that gave the OzoneGuard model poor marks.

"Our air-cleaning tests show that the Ionic Breeze with OzoneGuard does a poor job of removing smoke, dust and pollen particles from the air when new and after 500 hours of continuous use," reported the CR update. "While earlier versions of the Ionic Breeze significantly exceeded the ozone limit in the voluntary, industry-standard Underwriters Laboratory test, the Ionic Breeze with OzoneGuard still adds ozone to the air, measuring just within the test limit" of 50 parts per billion (ppb).

The Ionic Breeze is an ionizing air cleaner, which electrically charges airborne particles and traps them on oppositely charged metal plates. Ozone is a byproduct of this process that can in large enough quantities aggravate asthma, damage the lungs and irritate the respiratory system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Sharper Image leads the ionizer market; ionizers, overall, make up about a quarter of the $410 million-a-year air cleaner market, according to a CR report on air cleaners released in May.

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter cleaners -- which trap most particles and remove odors while producing much lower amounts of ozone -- make up another category of air purifiers. Use of a third type, called ozone generators, is discouraged by many experts because of the emission of high amounts of ozone.

Sharper Image took issue with the testing methods used by CR.

CR based its findings on the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) system, the industry standard for evaluating air cleaners. CADR measures the rate at which contaminants are removed from the air, according to Richard Shaughnessy, an American Lung Association adviser and program director of indoor air research at the University of Tulsa.

"We consider any air cleaner with a clean air delivery rate (CADR) of under 100 to be ineffective," CR reported in its update. "CADR values for the Ionic Breeze were consistently in the 20s for dust and smoke and in the 30s for pollen. . . . Our highest-rated air cleaner removed particles from the air roughly 20 times faster than the Ionic Breeze."
Doesn't get any clearer than that...

Being a mule

A disheartening look into the drug trade. From BBC News:
Sunshine island's deadly trade
The majority of foreign women in UK jails are there on drugs offences. Here, one Trinidadian woman explains why she risked her life and liberty by swallowing cocaine to smuggle into Britain.

When the men approached Sonia Joseph (not her real name) and said they had a job for her she was pleased.

The single mother-of-six had had trouble making ends meet since moving to a village near Port of Spain, Trinidad, two years earlier.

She knew the two men - they had helped her out when she was between jobs, organising a car to take her children to school, sometimes bringing her food.

"I assumed that was a favour, a friendly gesture because they knew my cousins," she said. "I thought they were safe."

But what Sonia did not realise was that after two years spent winning her confidence, the men now required payment-in-kind for their "favours".

The job, the men explained, meant swallowing packages of cocaine powder, tightly wrapped in latex and then going on a journey - she was not told where.

"I said 'I can pay some other way, through work'. They said 'it is not an option, you owe us.'"

If she did not comply, she was told, "anything might happen" to her children between home and school.
And the X-Ray of "sonia's' belly:
The little oval shapes you are looking at are 100 latex-wrapped 1.2 Gram packages of pure Cocaine. If one of those had ruptured, she would be dead. They put her in jail but the article says nothing about the fate of her two "friends" back in Trinidad. And where the *$^#@ does Trinidad get cocaine? Follow the money...

More welding tonight

I am taking a weekly evening welding class and tonight was the second session.

The first was a classroom lesson on safety, required equipment and technique.

This was using stick welding (which I had never done) and taking a 10X6 piece of steel plate, laying bead after bead. I have done wire welding (MIG) before and since the deposition of material with that is fairly fast, I was going a lot too fast with the stick. Have to re-train the muscle memory.

Fun stuff!

Dengue Fever

is nasty stuff but the mosquito that carries it has a very narrow range of habitat. Until now... From The Scotsman:

Global dengue pandemic alert as mosquito mutates
The world is seeing an explosion in dengue infections as the virus-carrying Aedes mosquito adapts to cities and grows immune to old methods of population control.

"It's a global pandemic," said Dr Duane Gubler of the Asia-Pacific Institute of Tropical Diseases in Hawaii. "It's quite clear that the disease has evolved. There just is more dengue in the world."

Dengue causes severe joint pain, high fever, nausea and a rash. It can lead to internal bleeding. There is no cure or vaccine.

All across Asia, governments are scrambling to contain the virus, with Singapore alone recording more than 11,000 cases this year.

"Guerrilla" mosquitoes were the world's new enemy, said Dr Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in France. He and Dr Gubler were among seven experts invited by Singapore's Ministry of Health to investigate the city-state's current spike in infections.

Dengue is particularly nasty -- here is the Wikipedia entry. An outbreak in Indonesia in 2004 had 80,000 infected with 800 deaths.

Outbreak in Toronto

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Something is happening in Toronto according to the Toronto Sun:
Mystery bug kills 4
SARS ruled out as Scarborough nursing home, hospitals deal with outbreak that's affected 73 others

Hospitals brought out their SARS suits to deal with a mysterious respiratory outbreak that has killed four patients and put dozens of others into quarantine.

"There is no guarantee that this is not the beginning of the next pandemic," Dr. Allison McGeer, a microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital said yesterday, adding tests so far have shown the outbreak is not SARS, avian flu or influenza.

"This is a sizable outbreak and it's somewhat unusual. We are doing everything we can to find the organism. We still have to identify it so this is serious."

Experts have said it's only a matter of time before a worldwide outbreak of a potentially deadly flu overtakes Toronto, infecting as many as 900,000 people.

This outbreak, which occurred at the Seven Oaks nursing home at 9 Neilson Rd. in Scarborough, began on Sept. 25 and has killed four and affected 68 other residents and five employees.
The spooky thing is that it hit five employees as well. It is not a disease of the aged or infirm. No clues yet as to what it is:
"We don't know what it is. The patients have severe flu-like symptoms and we have them in isolation," said Katie Cronin-Wood at Rouge Valley hospital, which is caring for 12 patients.
It comes before the flu season too -- early.

The Economics of Dr. Chomsky

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An interesting short article looking at Noam Chomsky's views on the world fro an Economics perspective:
Chomsky's Economics
Aside from Noam Chomsky's work as a linguist, he is a great critic of US foreign policy, the corporate state, and the media establishment. There is much to criticize in these spheres and Chomsky does so prolifically. He is so prolific a critic that we are inevitably drawn to the question, "What is Noam Chomsky for?" It is difficult to discern this from his essays and remarks which are overfilled with analysis and criticism.

Why should we care what Chomsky, or any critic, is for? Simply because if we get rid of that which the critic criticizes, and install the critic's favored form of regime, it just might be worse! To so conclude does not and would not justify the status quo; it would merely point us away from a particular alternative to the status quo.

It turns out that figuring out what Chomsky is for is not easy. He just doesn't say much about it. He doesn't like what we have now. He disfavors Stalinism and fascism. He despises the libertarian alternative to the present regime, which he calls American libertarianism. So he is not for a minimal state, anarcho-capitalism, or a free market.

He describes Murray Rothbard's vision of a libertarian society as "so full of hate that no human being would want to live in it." (I will not attempt to dissect this insane remark here except to note how the "anti-authoritarian" Chomsky purports to speak for all human beings.) He is against any form of capitalism. It goes without saying that he is not a political conservative. But he has repeatedly denounced "Marxism" and fiscal Keynesianism and protectionism as well.

What is left? Not much. Chomsky uses the following terms to define himself: libertarian, libertarian socialist, anarchist, and anarcho-syndicalist. It is not clear what any of this means, which is just as well for Chomsky. If it isn't clear what he is for, it is difficult to criticize it. But I will try anyway.
The author (James Ostrowski) then proceeds to expose Dr. Chomsky's very muddled reality. He has footnotes and references for fact checking -- good stuff...

A code cracked

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I have not yet read the book The Da Vinci Code but it has generated a lot of interest in the ceiling of Rosslyn Chapel. It seems that the code has been cracked. The Scotsman has the story:
Composer cracks Rosslyn's musical code
A musical code hidden in mystical symbols carved into the stone ceiling of Rosslyn Chapel has been unravelled for the first time in more than 500 years.

Scottish composer Stuart Mitchell took 20 years to crack a complex series of codes, which have mystified historians for generations. His feat was hailed by experts as a stroke of genius.

The codes were hidden in 213 cubes in the ceiling of the chapel, where parts of the film of Dan Brown's best-seller The Da Vinci Code were shot this week.

Each cube contained different patterns to form an unusual 6�-minute piece of music for 13 medieval players. The unusual sound is thought to have been of great spiritual significance to those who built the chapel.

The melody was unravelled after Mr Mitchell discovered the stones at the bottom of each of 12 pillars inside the Midlothian chapel formed a cadence (three chords at the end of a piece of music) of which there were only three types in the 15th century.

Mr Mitchell, 40, who has been nominated for the British Composer Awards 2005, said the music sounded like a nursery rhyme. "Everyone wants to hear something miraculous but William Sinclair, who designed the chapel, was an architect, not a musician," he said. "It is evident from the nursery rhyme style of the music that he could not play very well.

"It is in triple time, sounds childlike and is based on plain chant which was the common form of rhythm of the time. In the 1400s, there wasn't a great deal of guidance for tempo so I have chosen to make it run for six and a half minutes but it could be stretched to eight minutes if a different tempo was used.

"At the end of each pillar there is a musician playing a different medieval instrument so over the next few months I will be working on obtaining these instruments so we can record the piece as it was meant to be heard."

The Edinburgh musician, who has named the piece The Rosslyn Canon of Proportions, added: "There are a great deal of layers but I can't give it all away. I took photographs of the cubes and broke them down into sections. I found a lot of symbolism and decoys to throw people off. The key was recognising the cadences and that each arch was the music for a different musician."

The strange combination of instruments in the piece includes bagpipes, whistles, trumpet, a medieval mouth piano, guitar and singers.

The music covers two pages of manuscript but Mr Mitchell has given a sneak preview of five bars.

James Cunningham, author of The Medieval Diatonic Scale, has seen Mr Mitchell's manuscripts from the chapel. He said: "I believe this is an excellent interpretation of the symbolism of the stone arches in Rosslyn Chapel. It is a stroke of genius to have discovered the cadences which inspired the music.

"Although many people have attempted to decode the cubes, Mr Mitchell has proved that a musician was what was needed here rather than a historian or architect."

Stewart Beattie, of the Rosslyn Trust, said he looked forward to hearing the work. "We are always interested in information which moves the chapel forward in terms of discovering its codes.

"However Rosslyn Chapel has been provoking people for the last 500 years and I'm sure it will continue to fulfil its function by remaining enigmatic."

Visitors have flocked to the 15th-century chapel since The Da Vinci Code, which has sold 17 million copies worldwide, fuelled speculation that it was erected to house the Holy Grail.
It will be interesting to see the reaction from this as well as to see the final version of his proof. It might also be fun if there were two or more messages encrypted -- an architect is by nature a mathematician and being able to place a broad message and a subtle message in the same context is not impossible. Also, maybe the music was a favorite tune of one of the patrons of the Chapel.
Stuart Mitchell in Rosslyn Chapel under the stone ceiling cubes which he discovered encoded the notes of a piece of medieval music.

An interesting case of epidemiology

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Certain bugs and beasties cause effects in the bodies that they infect. Could this extend to mental behaviour and could a common micro-organism be at the root of a common disease? The Times Online has this story which might go a long way to explain the increase of schizophrenia:
Could mental illness be infectious?
Incidences of chlamydia found in patients suffering from schizophrenia may reveal a link between viruses and mental disorders.

Chlamydia is already known to cause considerable human misery. Not only is one strain of the micro-organism responsible for Britain�s "epidemic" of sexually transmitted disease, but another variant can cause a serious respiratory-tract infection similar to Sars.

Now comes the surprising finding by a German research team that chlamydia may be linked with schizophrenia. Dr Rudolf Wank, an immunologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, has reported recently that schizophrenic patients are much more likely to be infected with one or more variants of chlamydia. More importantly, he found that targeting the bug with specially treated immune cells improved the patients� symptoms dramatically.

About 40 per cent of the 75 patients he studied were infected with chlamydia, compared with 6 per cent in the control group (ie, people who did not have schizophrenia). As Dr Wank explains: "Chlamydia comes in three varieties, two of which can cause a flu-like respiratory infection or pneumonia, while the third causes the sexually transmitted disease. The patients were much more likely to have one or more of these." The team also found that the risk of developing schizophrenia rose dramatically for patients with a certain group of immune system genes.

"Kurt" had been on antipsychotic medication for more than 20 years; he was aggressive, his speech incoherent and he was unable to work. In a report published in the journal Medical Hypotheses, Dr Wank described how, after identification of the strain of chlamydia infecting him and treatment with "treated" immune cells, within a few weeks Kurt�s aggression had disappeared and his speech had improved.

The idea that an infection might cause mental illness has a long history � it is well known, for instance, that certain conditions can have a psychological effect. Hepatitis B may cause depression and the microbes causing syphilis and Aids are linked with dementia.

Living on the Gulf Coast

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One of the ways people deal with hardship is through humor. Mostly Cajun posts this email he received:
You know you live on the Gulf Coast when:
(I�m laughing! Really! This�un�s from an e-mail from K Cooper)

You have FEMA�s number on your speed dialer.

You have more than 300 C and D batteries in your kitchen drawer.

Your pantry contains more than 20 cans of Spaghetti Os. (Or even better, Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Ravioli)

You are thinking of repainting your house to match the plywood covering your windows.

When describing your house to a prospective buyer, you say it has three bedrooms, two baths and one safe hallway.(And it�s higher than the 100-year flood plain!)

Your SSN isn�t a secret, it�s written in Sharpie on your arms.

You are on a first-name basis with the cashier at Home Depot.

You are delighted to pay $3 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

The road leading to your house has been declared a No-Wake Zone.

You decide that your patio furniture looks better on the bottom of the pool.

You own more than three large coolers.
A bunch more on his website. Good stuff!

Forging Ahead

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Been taking classes in Blacksmithing and today was the first hands-on lesson.

Very cool stuff -- I have always done a lot of woodworking but never got into metal very much until a couple years ago when I bought a small wire welder (MIG).

Been getting more into welding -- a larger MIG and then a Plasma Torch (which uses Nikola Tesla's work!) and a TIG welder.

Our county offers blacksmithing classes twice/year and I finally had the time to take one. Being able to move and shape a bar of metal with a few hammer-blows is a lot of fun.

Making things at a very primal level...

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