September 2006 Archives

The Hezzie Hundreds

An interesting (pick any from the list below):
  • lack of basic research and/or critical thinking
  • wishful thinking
  • outright bias in reporting
    from Bloomberg:
    Hezbollah, With $100 Bills, Struggles to Repair Lebanon Damage
    By Kambiz Foroohar

    On an August morning, men in T- shirts and baseball caps guard metal barricades that block the street leading to the al-Mehdi al-Shahid high school in southern Beirut, Lebanon, black sports bags hanging menacingly off their shoulders.

    Inside, other guards in jeans watch as 500 people wait for aid beneath yellow flags that bear a fist clenching a Kalashnikov assault rifle, the symbol of Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group that fought Israel to a draw earlier in the month.

    Upstairs, past posters of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, silver-haired Ali Ahmad Sharara tells a Hezbollah worker that he lost his home in Israeli bombings and now lives with his children. "It's so badly damaged that it will fall down or be pulled down," says Sharara, a former shoe factory owner.

    Without hesitating, the worker reaches into a black plastic shopping bag and takes out $12,000 in a bundle of new $100 bills. Sharara, 62, pockets more than twice the average annual Lebanese salary. All told, Hezbollah may pay out as much as $180 million in cash for rent and furnishings for people made homeless after the group's July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers incited 33 days of Israeli bombing, says Riad Salameh, governor of Lebanon's central bank.

    For Sharara, the payout comes after he registered with Hezbollah as a war victim just 48 hours earlier.

    "If Hezbollah hadn't taken care of those who'd lost their homes, it would lose support," Lebanese Finance Minister Jihad Azour says. "Politically they had to do it."
    Mighty philanthropic activity for a known band of terrorists who otherwise seem to be having money problems. Maybe it's that the money is not what it seems to be. Some photos of Hizbollah sites show sheets of uncut $100's while the US Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing store states that the largest denomination available as uncut sheets are $50 bills (in sheets of 16 for $900 -- a $100 premium, yes Virginia, they are printing money). Fortunately, the Blogosphere is on top of it as usual: From Brian at Snapped Shot comes these two entries: From here:
    A sudden lack of context
    Now that Hezbullah has suddenly morphed into a philanthropic organization, we learn from this photograph that they are distributing approximately US$12,000 to the needy in areas destroyed by Israel. Of course, what is our intrepid photographer obviously not curious enough to know? Well, that Hezbullah has already been dinged for counterfeiting U.S. currency:
    One of the most prominent and influential members of the Hizballah terrorist organization, along with two of his companies, was designated by the Treasury Department today under Executive Order 13224. Assad Ahmad Barakat has close ties with Hizballah leadership and has worked closely with numerous Islamic extremists and suspected Hizballah associates in South America's tri-border area (TBA), made up of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina...

    Barakat has also been involved in a counterfeiting ring that distributes fake U.S. dollars and generates cash to fund Hizballah operations. As of early 2001, Barakat was one of two individuals reportedly in charge of distribution and sale of the counterfeit currency in the TBA.
    Emphasis Brian's His other entry: The latest on the Funny Money Scandal
    Wow! It would seem that our original story is taking off in more directions than we'd ever imagined! For starting with a mere, "Hezbullah has been known for counterfeiting," and seeing the context of the discussion evolve into such a detailed analysis of the photographic evidence is awe-inspiring, to say the least. Once again, this proves to me that investigative journalism isn't dead:�it lives on in cyberspace, even if it's been dead in the mainstream media for a decade.

    With that in mind, I'd like to summarize, if I may, the discoveries of some of my fellow bloggers.
    What follows is a wonderful ramble. Great reading. Of course, Allahpundit weighs in: Photographic evidence of Hezbollah counterfeiting? (Update: Cameo from Scar Lady?) There seems to be an issue about the signatures on the bills. Finally, here is the US Treasury Office of Public Affairs:
    Treasury Designates Islamic Extremist, Two Companies Supporting Hizballah in Tri-Border Area
    One of the most prominent and influential members of the Hizballah terrorist organization, along with two of his companies, was designated by the Treasury Department today under Executive Order 13224. Assad Ahmad Barakat has close ties with Hizballah leadership and has worked closely with numerous Islamic extremists and suspected Hizballah associates in South America's tri-border area (TBA), made up of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

    "Today, we are designating a key terrorist financier in South America who has used every financial crime in the book, including his businesses, to generate funding for Hizballah," said Juan Zarate, the Treasury Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Executive Office for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. "From counterfeiting to extortion, this Hizballah sympathizer committed financial crimes and utilized front companies to underwrite terror."

    Barakat is currently serving six and a half years in a Paraguay prison for tax evasion, and was detained in June 2002 by Brazil - at the request of Paraguay - on suspicion of tax evasion and criminal association.
    Philanthropy my big hairy ass. Money laundering pure and simple. And not very subtle about it. A bunch of poltroons...

    Spammers go buh-bye!

    I had written earlier that I was getting a lot of comment spam attempts and that they were coming in from what seemed to be some new software as they were able to get through my filters. I tweaked the filters and in the last 22 hours, stopped 133 attempts from 89 separate IP addresses. Not one got through. Most of these are from AOL or Comcast accounts so I cannot go banning entire netblocks but needless to say, these addresses are added to a black-hole file. Stupid little script kiddies... Go back to the "apartment" in your mom's basement and jerk off to your sister's old Hello Kitty doll.

    The Double-slit experiment

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    One of the classic experiments that helped establish Quantum Physics is Thomas Young's double-slit experiment. It had been shown to work not only with a continuous wavefront but with single particles -- electrons, photons, etc... It now seems to work with single macroscopic objects. From PhysOrg News:
    Single-particle interference observed for macroscopic objects
    With a variation on the famous double-slit experiment of quantum mechanics, scientists Yves Couder and Emmanuel Fort from the University of Paris 7 are rewriting the textbooks. Their accomplishment, however, has less to do with quantum mechanics than with an observation once considered experimentally impossible: the wave-particle double nature of a macroscopic object (an oil droplet and its associated surface wave).

    The droplet, which is about 1mm (10 million times larger than an atom), is also one million times larger than the second largest object--a 2-nm molecule called a buckyball--whose wave-particle duality was observed in 2003.

    "The interest of our result comes from the fact that we observe single particle diffraction and interference with a classical system," Couder told "This phenomenon was thought to be reserved to the quantum scale."

    Although there is no specific dividing line between the quantum and macroscopic scales, an object larger than an atom generally has much too small a wavelength to be detected. Wave-particle duality, one disturbing chapter of quantum mechanics, means that all objects (quantum and macroscopic) sometimes behave like waves and show interference, and other times like particles--objects that have mass and obey conservation laws. Duality, though strange, could explain why objects seem to be in two places at the same time and communicate instantaneously across distances. These abilities, to scientists, would be even more difficult to reckon with than wave-particle duality, which is accepted as an "interpretation" of the world rather than a literal description.

    Couder and Fort have recently designed an experiment that enabled them to detect the interference pattern of an object they call a "walker"--a droplet of silicon oil and the surface wave packet it emits, which should be thought of as one entity. The scientists forced the droplet to bounce indefinitely on the surface of a vibrating fluid. At a certain instability threshold, the droplet emits a wave packet which in turn makes the droplet "walk" on the liquid surface.
    I love Quantum Physics -- it is simultaneously beautiful and really weird. I do not profess to understand it but I love it. Two great Quantum quotes:
    Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.
    ~~Niels Bohr.

    If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics.
    ~~Richard Feynman

    Photography from Albumen to Ziatype

    Fantastic and deep site dedicated to using older photographic printing technologies and sometimes bringing them into the present with photoshop, inkjet and other wonderful trickery. Check out: alternative photography Good stuff!

    Driving in Russia

    Ran into this photo-essay of what a major road in Russia looks like after a little bit of rain. From EnglishRussia:
    Russian Roads
    This is Russian Federal highway Moscow city - Yakutsk City, named �Lena�, nowadays.

    The road doesn�t have asfalt surface, though it is a Federal, vital highway.

    Everytime it rains the road gets paralized, these shots are made a few days before the traffic jam for 600 cars got stuck there. Hunger and lack of the fuel followed, according to the witnesses. One woman gave a born to a child right in the public bus she was riding.

    Construction team afraids to appear on site because during their previous visit it was beaten by people who stuck in the jam for a few days. People breaking the locks on the trucks, in a search of food and warm cloths.

    Fuel, food, firearms and steel tow-line are the things that are needed most these days on this Federal highway.
    Three of the many photos from this site:


    What happens when years of communism are replaced with a Mafia. We have an extended community of Russian people living in our area and they are somewhat insular but very very nice people (and committed to being American dammit!). They will do well...


    One of any Blogger's Banes are people who think they have the next bestest marketing idea and post comments to people's blogs advertising the basic PPC and pump-'n-dump stock scams. (PPC - Pills Porn Casino) I have a good script that knocks out 99% of this skunk crap but some new software seems to have crawled out from under a rock and I had over 100 attempted comments posted to this blog since this morning. Note the word "attempted" as in tried to post a comment but FAILED! To the spammers: My geek fu is better than yours will ever be. It took me a few days to recognize the avenue of attack and recognize that it was a new program (hey, I'm in school full-time, co-run a farm and starting a business) but you toddlers have been blasted out of the water. Impotent little script-kiddies...

    Not much posting tonight either...

    The muse is taking a vacation and Jen is out of town for a week so I have to take care of the Farm by myself. Those Goats are demanding I tell you -- if it's not the poor television reception in their barn (I have to hold the rabbit ears just so to get proper reception for the Oprah show) it's the quality of the bon-bons they tell me that Jen feeds them. I have to fly them in fresh from Paris daily. I have not gotten them the Plasma Screen they want so they are sulking. And don't get me started on the Ducks. Little martinets. Outside of that, school is awesome -- getting to the point where I can sit down to a blueprint and write the native CNC machine code to produce the part for some fairly complex scenarios (drilling and tapping, pocket milling, repetitive drilling using subroutines). My plane trig is coming back nicely -- some of the assignments will have one leg of a triangle measured and an angle specified and we need to find the other two legs and two angles. A couple decades of writing programs has helped me a lot but it's interesting as the teacher has never heard about code reuse, programming editors, macros, structured programming, using lots and lots of comments, etc... I am doing this and he is grumbling a bit but my stuff runs just as fast as everyone else's so there is no complaint. I'll have pics of the shop posted in a few days. Dave

    No posting tonight

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    Getting two packets of stuff together for our business. Item number one is dealing with a contractor who screwed us over. Item number two is a building permit for the Cidery. Both of these are very pleasant tasks... Mmmmbbbwwwaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!! Today, Northwest Washington; tomorrow a few years from now, the world!

    WOW! Just WOW!!!

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    Heads up Science Geeks. The entire publications of the Royal Society (all 340+ years worth) are now available online. Go here and check it out: The Royal Society
    Nearly three and a half centuries of scientific study and achievement is now available online in the Royal Society Journals Digital Archive following its official launch this week. This is the longest-running and arguably most influential journal archive in Science, including all the back articles of both Philosophical Transactions and Proceedings.

    For the first time the Archive provides online access to all journal content, from Volume One, Issue One in March 1665 until the latest modern research published today ahead of print. And until December the archive is freely available to anyone on the internet to explore.

    Spanning nearly 350 years of continuous publishing, the archive of nearly 60,000 articles includes ground-breaking research and discovery from many renowned scientists including: Bohr, Boyle, Bragg, Cajal, Cavendish, Chandrasekhar, Crick, Dalton, Darwin, Davy, Dirac, Faraday, Fermi, Fleming, Florey, Fox Talbot, Franklin, Halley, Hawking, Heisenberg, Herschel, Hodgkin, Hooke, Huxley, Joule, Kelvin, Krebs, Liebnitz, Linnaeus, Lister, Mantell, Marconi, Maxwell, Newton, Pauling, Pavlov, Pepys, Priestley, Raman, Rutherford, Schrodinger, Turing, van Leeuwenhoek, Volta, Watt, Wren, and many, many more influential science thinkers up to the present day.
    The fee is a bit steep -- about $10K for access to everything for one year but for a research facility or a library, this is cost of doing business and the material is well worth it. They mention that individual articles are available for a "reasonable price" to the private hobbyist but there is no mention of what that is. Still, it is free for the next few months -- I guess I can just kiss whatever spare time I ever had goodbye for the next three months...

    Interesting news from the Automotive front

    Don't know how long it will take this to be installed on the average passenger car but this is fantastic if true. From Reuters:

    Honda unveils diesel system to rival gasoline cars
    Japan's Honda Motor Co. has done it again.

    The car maker that floored the world in the 1970s with the first gasoline engine to meet U.S. clean air guidelines without a catalytic converter said it has developed a new and simple diesel powertrain that is as clean as gasoline-fuelled cars.

    The technology marks a big step forward for Honda at a time when rivals are racing to come up with ways to clear the world's strictest emissions regulations, called Tier II Bin 5, that the United States will usher in next year.

    Diesel engines, which now power half of Europe's new cars, are slowly gaining traction with fuel-conscious consumers around the world since they typically get 30 percent better mileage than gasoline cars. Their weakness has been the higher exhaust levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx), a greenhouse gas.

    Honda said on Monday its new diesel drivetrain features a unique method that generates and stores ammonia within a two-layer catalytic converter to turn nitrogen oxide into harmless nitrogen.

    Honda engineers said the technology is superior to a process pioneered by Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG because the latter requires a complex system and heavy add-ons to generate ammonia from urea-based additives.

    A bit more about their timeline:

    The system would need fine-tuning for the wide-ranging cetane indices of diesel fuel found in the United States. Honda also needs to develop technology to measure emissions levels according to U.S. On-Board Diagnostic System requirements.

    But Japan's third-biggest auto maker said it planned to roll out the advanced diesel engine in the United States within three years. DaimlerChrysler, which along with Volkswagen AG already sells diesel cars in the world's biggest auto market, is preparing its next-generation diesel car for a 2008 launch.

    Very cool if they work the bugs out!

    Wal-Mart and Pharmaceuticals

    This will be interesting to see.

    Wal-Mart's pharmacies are doing a test run in Florida selling 291 specific Generic Drugs in their pharmacies for a flat $4.00 per month of medication. This is having a bit of a ripple through some businesses. From BusinessWeek Online:

    Wal-Mart's Generics Hit Pharma Stocks
    When Wal-Mart Stores disclosed on Sept. 21 that it will make 291 generic drugs available for only $4 per prescription, the news slammed many pharmacy retailers and generic drug stocks. The announcement also was one more step in the company's carefully orchestrated campaign to improve its image.

    The Bentonville, Ark., retailer test program starts Sept. 22 at the 65 Wal-Mart, Neighborhood Market, and Sam's Club pharmacies in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area, and will be expanded to the entire state in January, 2007. The company added that it plans to take the program to as many states as possible next year. "Each day in our pharmacies we see customers struggle with the cost of prescription drugs," said Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr., in a press release.

    Wal-Mart says the generics�covering every major therapeutic category used to treat and manage conditions including allergies, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes�will be sold at different savings and are available for up to 30 days worth of supply. The popular diabetes drug Metformin, for example, at $4 for a 30-day supply, represents a nearly 50% savings from the cost of the brand-name version of the drug, Wal-Mart says. Getting the generic, Lisinopril, at that price saves customers nearly $100 annually.

    Wal-Mart's national rollout of the plan would clearly put pricing pressure on rival pharmacy retailers, including big drugstore chains Walgreen. and CVS. Smaller chains such as Rite Aid and Longs Drugstores would likely be hurt more because they don't have as large of a buying clout with drug manufacturers. Discount rival Target and warehouse club Costco, which also sell pharmaceuticals, could also feel some pain.

    On Sept. 21, CVS shares tumbled 8.4%, to $32.47, on the news. Walgreen's shares fell 7.4%, to $46.28. Rite Aid was off 5%, to $4.52. And Longs lost 4.3%, to $46.01. Costco's shares fell 3.1%, to $50.26, and Target was down 1.2%, to $54.39. Wal-Mart's stock, meanwhile, fell less than 1%, to $48.46.

    And of course, the price war is just starting. From the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

    Target to follow Wal-Mart's lead with $4 prescriptions
    Wal-Mart's move to slash prices on generic drugs to a flat $4 has triggered a competitive battle that is looking like a boon for Florida consumers, many of whom are older people who take multiple prescriptions on a permanent basis.

    Quickest on the draw after Wal-Mart's bombshell was Target Inc., which announced early Friday that it would match Wal-Mart's dramatic price cuts at all its pharmacies in the Tampa Bay area, including Sarasota and Manatee counties.

    That is the precise battleground that Wal-Mart established this week for its rollout.

    And they are making money at $4.00 -- makes me wonder what their actual cost is and how much of a markup these drugs have...

    Happy Birthday

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    An interesting fifty-year birthday is coming up this Tuesday, September 26th. From The Scotsman:
    Underwater connection that brought clarity to the west
    It is a long and choppy way from Oban on the windswept west coast of Scotland to Clarenville on the east coast of Canada � 2,240 miles to be precise. But thanks to a cable stretched out two miles below the cold Atlantic Ocean, Scotland's links to North America became if not physically closer, then a lot clearer, 50 years ago this month.

    The first transatlantic submarine cable went live at 6pm on 25 September 1956 � instantly trebling the number of calls that could be made between the UK and the United States or Canada and giving customers vastly improved sound quality. The cable, which replaced unreliable, crackly radio links, allowed for 36 simultaneous transatlantic conversations.

    Amazingly, considering that it cost the princely sum of �3 for three minutes � today the same call would cost less than 30p � the cable carried almost 300,000 calls in its first year of service.

    The cost reflected the huge investment and technological difficulties of installing the cable, in a joint initiative between the Post Office Engineering Department, the American Telegraph and Telephone Company (AT&T), Bell Telephone Laboratories and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation.

    Fifty per cent of the shares were held by the American companies, 40 per cent by the Post Office Telecommunications and 10 per cent by the Canadians.

    The project was extremely ambitious, with two armoured sub-sea cables developed by Bell Laboratories used to connect Oban with Clarenville. The cable was laid by the cableship Monarch � built by the Post Office in 1945 to replace a vessel of the same name destroyed during the war - and it was the only ship capable of conveying the 1,500 nautical miles of cable which had to be laid in one piece across the deepest part of the Atlantic.

    The Oban end of the cable was then connected to Glasgow and London, with the Clarenville end linked to Newfoundland and on to Nova Scotia.

    "The advent of the first transatlantic cable, which was nicknamed TAT1, was hailed as a major breakthrough in telecommunications and heralded the age of reliable and cost effective mass communication across the Atlantic," says David Hay, BT's head of heritage and corporate memory.

    Using technologies developed during and after the Second World War, the cable cost �12.5 million to lay and took three years to complete. Hay adds: "By any standards this was a historically significant engineering achievement."
    This was an historic achievement if it had been done on dry land. To have done it under water where none of the electronics could be serviced makes it even more amazing. The electrical losses were so great that they had to have amplifiers every hundred miles or so -- the failure of one of these would shut down the cable. It operated for twenty two years.
    HMTS Monarch, the ship that laid the first transatlantic telephone cable.
    Picture: BT Heritage

    Turnabout is fair play...

    It started out as a normal prostitution sting but went very strange very quickly.

    From the Associated Press:

    Women Arrested After Bizarre Sex Sting
    A police sting took an odd turn when an officer pretending to be a john met a suspected prostitute pretending to be an officer.

    Police spokesman Sgt. Tom Connellan said here's what happened Thursday:
    A male undercover officer driving in a neighborhood known for prostitution was flagged down by a woman. The woman got in his car and they went to a nearby parking lot to negotiate a price for sex.

    She asked the officer if he was a cop and he said no.

    "That's OK, because I am," the woman said as she pulled out handcuffs and a two-way radio. She barked into the radio: "Move in!"

    The officer, concerned the woman was armed and looking to rob him, forced her from the car. Moments later, officers who had been monitoring the situation arrived and grabbed Greene and her radio.

    A male officer pretending to be female used the radio to find out who was on the other end. That person was waiting in a car in a nearby alley.

    Police charged Lisa Greene, 31, with first-degree criminal impersonation, prostitution and fifth-degree conspiracy. Elena Irwin, 20, was charged with fifth-degree conspiracy and possession of a hypodermic needle.

    "We believe these people were going to rob people or extort money," Connellan said.


    The Physics Chip

    Very high geekdom... Due to the development of advanced gaming software with incredibly high graphics demands, video card makers have moved a lot of image processing from the host computer and onto dedicated computers on their video card products. This allows for greater efficiency for the host computer and some incredible graphics for the gamer (and photographer, CAD user, or for anyone who keeps multiple windows open on their desktop) (I do all three -- thanks gamers!)

    Some people have gone as far to tap the resources of these cards for specialized Scientific Computing as the GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) are very oriented to scalar and vector three-dimensional rendering. Well, it seems that video card manufacturer NVidia is developing a special "Physics Chip" designed to process Newtonian mechanics found in the physics of realistic games and to assist the video cards as well as being targeted towards scientific computational needs. From The Register Hardware:

    Asus exposes Nvidia physics card product
    Nvidia is developing a standalone games physics processing card, motherboard maker Asus has let slip. Announcing a new mobo equipped with three PCI Express x16 slots, the Taiwanese firm said the third connector was specifically for "Nvidia's upcoming Physics card".

    The revelation comes days after it emerged ATI will be likewise pitching its graphics chip technology as a co-processor for compute-intensive scientific and engineering applications, not just games physics.

    Both Nvidia and ATI have been eyeing the opportunities physics processing offers to help them sell more graphics cards for some time. This year, both firms have allied themselves with Havok, the games middleware company that's developed a games physics API that can accelerate physical effects calculations on the GPU.

    GPUs aren't far front the point where they'll be able to deliver fully photorealistic imagery at high resolutions and high framerates. As such they're going to need new markets for their parallel processing technology. Scientific and financial modelling calculations are obvious markets to aim for, alongside game physics.

    Very cool -- prices should come down fairly quickly and this will be a boon to small engineering companies. There is a field called Computational Fluid Dynamics that is very processor intensive and this is a CPU that would greatly improve the speed of processing. Startup Chipmaker Ageia just started selling their PhysX chip Once again -- thanks gamers!!!

    A clever idea

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    Still in the prototype stage (not a real product) but check out the Remember Ring�:
    The Remember Ring� utilizes patent pending Hot Spot� technology to deliver a reminder that it's "That time of the year again!"

    24 hours before your special day, the Hot Spot� on the interior surface of your Remember Ring� will warm to 120� F for approximately 10 seconds, and continue to warm up every hour, on the hour, all day long!

    Hot enough to cause discomfort but not hot enough to burn-the Remember Ring� is impossible to ignore!

    "Remembering our wedding anniversary is easy with Remember Ring�!" says Thom Ketmann, who has been married for 4 years. His wife Cayli agrees. "At first I was pretty upset! Like, why do you need a silly gadget to remind you? But then I remembered how angry I was when he forgot my birthday. That won't happen again."

    It's maintenance free! Using a micro thermopile, The Remember Ring� converts the heat from your hand into electricity, keeping the battery charged and microchip clock running perpetually. Just specify your anniversary date when you order, and we'll program your ring for you. Set it and forget it-until your anniversary!

    Some fans of the Remember Ring� wear multiple rings. "I got two of 'em." says Jon Harshmen, "Well, I got one actually-my wife got me the other one." Holding up his hands to show both rings he says, "Anniversary and Birthday, baby. It's like a hand gun. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it."

    Remember Rings require no special care, and are completely water proof and impact resistant. Select one of our seven styles in 14k white and yellow gold. Available in sizes 10-13.

    Light posting tonight as well...

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    Been busy... Wrapped up the first week of school -- I was initially planning to attend part-time but there is so much to be learned and the teacher is really good so I am going for the full-on brain dump and will probably do some additional part-time work next quarter. Granted, I have done some programming in the past but Stan was able to get me producing usable CNC programs after a few days of bookwork and one day of machine familiarization. Still need to get the file system and subroutine handling worked out for that specific machine's operating system but that will come in a few days. (more on that later) Major fun. The other good news is that this college also has a large and well-funded Culinary Arts program and guess who does the lunches in the school cafeteria. We are not talking mystery meat...

    Unintended consequences - An artificial reef

    From the Miami Herald comes this story of an environmental idea gone wrong:

    Artificial reef made of tires becomes ecological disaster
    What began 30 years ago as an idealistic plan to shape an artificial coral reef has become an underwater wasteland

    A plan in the early 1970s to create a massive artificial reef off Fort Lauderdale has turned into an environmental mess with the U.S. Navy, Broward County and others trying to figure out how to remove about two million tires covering 36 acres of ocean floor.

    What was intended to lure game fish now is damaging sensitive coral reefs and littering Broward's tourist-populated shoreline.

    "They thought it would be a good fish habitat. It turned out to be a bad idea," said William Nuckols, project coordinator and military liaison for Coastal America, a federal group involved in the cleanup. "It's a coastal coral destruction machine."

    The tires dot the ocean bottom a mile and a half from the end of Sunrise Boulevard. Environmentalists say strong tides -- especially during hurricanes and tropical storms -- cause the loose tires to knock against coral reefs, disrupting the ecosystem. In some cases, tires have washed ashore.

    Now, the U.S. Navy, Broward County and a few other groups are looking at a three-year plan to remove the tires. The organizers surveyed the waters last month.

    "We're trying to work out all the specific details," Nuckols said.

    Touted as the largest of its kind nationwide, the tire reef was created with the best of intentions.

    In the spring of 1972, a nonprofit group called Broward Artificial Reef, or BARINC, hatched an idea to build a three-mile reef while at the same time disposing of old tires. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers endorsed the project; similar ones had been created in the Northeast and Gulf of Mexico.

    Broward County pitched in with the funds. BARINC even raised $8,000 from bingo games.

    And so, the tires came from Goodyear and junkyards, bundled on barges to be dumped at sea. The idea was that an artificial reef -- called Osborne Reef -- would form from the stacked tires.

    But it didn't work.

    Metal clips holding the tires together corroded, and the tires spilled across the ocean floor. Unlike sunken barges also used to build artificial reefs, the tires moved with the tide, and marine life never formed. Fishermen grumbled that game fish never came because the water there was too shallow.

    "I do know we made a mistake in doing it," said Ray McAllister, one of BARINC's founders and now professor emeritus of ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University. "They weren't the great attractions we thought they would be."

    Today, the loose tires are damaging the environment because the tide tosses them about, causing them to bang against delicate marine life.

    Granted, this was 30 years ago but geeezzz!!! They should have figured that the tire would be buoyant enough in water to move around and snap their moorings. The photo that accompanies the article is perfect -- 30 year old tires without a shred of visible marine growth -- not even any major seaweed. Probably lots of small stuff but nothing like what they were thinking they would get:

    William Nuckols, (C)2006, all rights retained by photographer
    Photograph used by permission.

    Light posting tonight

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    Working on some other stuff...

    Frank Zappa says:

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    Frank was someone who was wiser than we often realize. From his 1989 book:
    "Defense Money should be put into manpower and equipment appropriate to the kinds of conflicts we are really going to encounter in the next quarter-century. The manpower should be dedicated, the equipment should be easy to operate and maintain, and the management of military assets should be streamlined. Let's say we have to make some 'show of force.' The most common scenarios involve small guerilla or terrorist groups. Nuclear retaliation? It has been suggested by others that Aerosol Pork Grenades would be a better deterrent--Islamic Martyrs are denied entrance to heaven if they show up at the gate smelling like a pig. Denial of The Big Payoff removes a certain cachet from acts of voluntary self-destruction."
    But then again, we all know this. We just have to own up to it. And act. That last little gubbin will determine the course of history for the next 20 years or so...

    It's not just a good idea, it's the law

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    I have always been a bit miffed at why it is that liberals who profess to have nothing but the best intentions, always wind up supporting some of the most corrupt despots on the face of this planet. Che? Classic bully who begged to get out of being shot but loved to attend firing squad murders. Mao, Lenin, Stalin -- just another bunch of social misfits who happened to have killed over one hundred million people. Saddam -- known WMDs, known Children's prisons, mass graves, supporter of terrorist states, massively corrupt (thanks Kofi and Kojo). Two pathological sons who liked shredding people. Head first if they liked you, feet first (and slowly) if they didn't. Castro -- good PR person but he treats his people like dogshit. Cuban medical care? Sure if you have US Dollars but Cuban citizens have to pay out of their own pocket for the anesthesia used in their surgeries. Otherwise, it's a bottle of rum. It turns out that there is a term for this mental aberration. Check out the Wikipedia entry for: Iron law of oligarchy:
    Iron law of oligarchy
    The Iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into oligarchies.

    Robert Michels was disturbed to find that, paradoxically, the socialist parties of Europe, despite their democratic ideology and provisions for mass participation, seemed to be dominated by their leaders, just as the traditional conservative parties.

    Studying political parties, he concluded that the problem lay in the very nature of organizations. Modern democracy allowed the formation of organizations such as political parties, but as such organizations grew in complexity, they paradoxically became less and less democratic. Michels formulated the "Iron Law of Oligarchy": "Who says organization, says oligarchy."
    And of course, the liberals who read this will think knee-jerk spew that Michels was a precursor to the Chimpy McBusHitler crowd but check this out:
    At the time Michels formulated his Law, he was an anarcho-syndicalist. He later became an important ideologue of Mussolini's fascist regime in Italy.
    About as left as you can get... And one bit more:
    Michels stressed several factors that underly the "Iron Law of Oligarchy."

    Any large organization, he pointed out, is faced with problems of coordination that can be solved only by creating a bureaucracy. A bureaucracy, by design, is hierarchically organized to achieve efficiency � many decisions have to be made daily which cannot efficiently be made by large numbers of people. The effective functioning of an organization therefore requires the concentration of much power in the hands of a few.

    This process is further compounded as delegation is necessary in any large organization, as thousands - sometimes even hundreds of thousands - members cannot make decisions using participatory democracy; this has been dictated by the lack of technological means that would allow large number of people to meet and debate, and also the issues related to the crowd psychology. The delegation however leads to specialization: the development of bases of knowledge, skills, and resources among a leadership, which further serves to alienate the leadership from the 'mass and rank' and entrenches the leadership in office.

    Bureaucratization and specialization are the driving processes behind the Law. These create a specialized group of administrators in a hierarchical organization. Which, in turn, leads to the rationalization and routinization of authority and decision-making, a process first and perhaps best described by Max Weber, and to a lesser and more cynical extent, by the Peter Principle.
    And of course, under the Peter Principle, a person gets promoted until they reach a level at which they are incompetent. They will stay there for the rest of their career. Explains a lot...

    A fine rant

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    Today's rant comes from Sam Harris writing at the LA Times:
    Head-in-the-Sand Liberals
    Western civilization really is at risk from Muslim extremists.

    Two years ago, I published a book highly critical of religion, "The End of Faith." In it, I argued that the world's major religions are genuinely incompatible, inevitably cause conflict and now prevent the emergence of a viable, global civilization. In response, I have received many thousands of letters and e-mails from priests, journalists, scientists, politicians, soldiers, rabbis, actors, aid workers, students � from people young and old who occupy every point on the spectrum of belief and nonbelief.

    This has offered me a special opportunity to see how people of all creeds and political persuasions react when religion is criticized. I am here to report that liberals and conservatives respond very differently to the notion that religion can be a direct cause of human conflict.

    This difference does not bode well for the future of liberalism.

    Perhaps I should establish my liberal bone fides at the outset. I'd like to see taxes raised on the wealthy, drugs decriminalized and homosexuals free to marry. I also think that the Bush administration deserves most of the criticism it has received in the last six years � especially with respect to its waging of the war in Iraq, its scuttling of science and its fiscal irresponsibility.

    But my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world � specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.
    OK -- he is setting his bona-fides and then gets to the meat of the problem:
    On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

    This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are.

    A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world � for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. The truth is that we are not fighting a "war on terror." We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

    This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims. But we are absolutely at war with those who believe that death in defense of the faith is the highest possible good, that cartoonists should be killed for caricaturing the prophet and that any Muslim who loses his faith should be butchered for apostasy.

    Unfortunately, such religious extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.

    Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb � and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.
    Heh... "pestilential theology" A worship of the true False Prophet and holding Satan to be the true God is more like it. Not to mention the fear and shame that is an integral part of the familial culture. He goes on to make a couple more excellent points and then closes with these four wonderful paragraphs:
    Increasingly, Americans will come to believe that the only people hard-headed enough to fight the religious lunatics of the Muslim world are the religious lunatics of the West. Indeed, it is telling that the people who speak with the greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right, whose infatuation with biblical prophecy is nearly as troubling as the ideology of our enemies. Religious dogmatism is now playing both sides of the board in a very dangerous game.

    While liberals should be the ones pointing the way beyond this Iron Age madness, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant. Being generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity, liberals should be especially sensitive to the dangers of religious literalism. But they aren't.

    The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

    To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.
    To paraphrase, the liberals have been shunning the only people who see this danger for what it is and who will rise to defeat these 9th century swine. That is going to be one major cognitive dissonance when the liberals wake up. Can't wait!
    Last week (Sept. 11th to be exact), Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech and in it, read these words from a 14th century Byzantine emperor�s hostile view of Islam�s founder. �The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war,� the Pope said. �He said, I quote, �Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.�� Benedict added �I quote� twice to make it clear these were someone else�s words. Needless to say, the Islamists knickers got wrapped into a twist and they are calling for the Pope to be killed, jihad, more jihad and just generally ululating their pointy little heads off.
    Well now, the moderates are coming out of the woodwork. None other than Muammar Gaddafi's eldest son has suggested that Pope Benedict XVI do the following:
    Pope asked to convert to Islam
    The elder son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has called on Pope Benedict XVI to convert to Islam immediately, dismissing last week's apology from the pontiff for offending Muslims.

    "If this person were really someone reasonable, he would not agree to remain at his post one minute, but would convert to Islam immediately," Mohammed Gaddafi told an awards ceremony on Monday evening for an international competition to memorise the Qur'an.

    "We say to the pope - whether you apologise or not is irrelevant, as apologies make no difference to us."

    Gaddafi junior also hit out at "those Muslims who look for comfort in the words of a non-Muslim".

    He said Muslims "should not look for charity from the infidel... but should fight Islam's enemies who attack the faith and the Prophet Muhammad".

    On Sunday, the pope said he was "deeply sorry" for the reaction to a speech he made last week in which he quoted an obscure medieval text that criticised some teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman".

    The speech sparked several days of protests in Muslim countries against the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

    Back to school...

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    Had my first full day of classes today from 8:00 to 3:00. The teacher is great -- smart as a whip. Has a very military bearing -- don't know which branch but the stamp is there. There are two groups of students -- the one I started with are the entry level first quarter people. I am there to just take a few classes that interest me and I'm not intending to go for the full four year certificate program so after lunch, I moved to the other group. He had me work out two chapters from the book and seemed to be happy with what I knew. In the morning, he handed out a list of tools that the students needed to buy. Price for everything was around $1.4K if you bought cheap stuff and about $2.2K if you bought all Starrett and Mitutoyo (both top drawer in anyones book). There was a quiet collective groan in the air but when I looked at the list, I saw that the only stuff I didn't already have was a flexible 6" steel rule (I have a rigid Starrett 6" rule) and three specialized measuring tools and I was able to get these at Grizzly tools for about $120. Also need to buy a toolbox as I use a rollaround in my shop. My group has six people in it so there will be lots of one-on-one time. The shop is great -- I'll have photos up in a few days. Looking forward to the next couple of months!!! (except for the getting up at 6:30 to drive into town)

    A modest proposal

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    From Firehand at Irons in the Fire:
    Solution to the illegal immigrant problem
    Lets begin by bringing our troops home from Iraq to guard the border. When they catch an illegal immigrant crossing the border, hand him a canteen, rifle and some ammo and ship him to Iraq. Tell him if he wants to come to America then he must serve a tour in the military.

    Give him a soldier's pay while he's there and tax him on it. After his tour, he will be allowed to apply to become a citizen since he defended this country. He will also be registered to be taxed and he'll be a patriot.

    This option will probably deter illegal immigration and provide a solution for the troops in Iraq and the aliens trying to make a better life for themselves.

    If they refuse to serve, ship them to Iraq anyway.........

    ...........without the canteen, rifle or ammo.

    Problem solved.
    This would be met with the pleasant sound of liberal heads exploding and the less pleasant ratcheting noises from the media but, thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense...

    Found this little gem on the UK Daily Mail as well:

    Dawn of the Super Rat... and blame the end of weekly rubbish collections
    The demise of weekly rubbish collections has helped create a new breed of 'super rat', vermin control experts warned.

    With many councils now removing bin bags only once a fortnight in order to meet Government-imposed recycling targets, a new type of bait-resistant rodent has evolved among the millions of tons of rubbish left rotting in streets and gardens.

    Around one third of the 376 local authorities in England and Wales are now only picking up household waste and recyclable rubbish on alternate weeks - with the rest expected to follow suit within a few years.

    But the strategy has given rise to an explosion in rat numbers foraging among the bags of decomposing food which pile up during the long stretches between collection days.

    Scientist Martina Flynn, who has been commissioned by the British Pest Control Association to find new ways of combating the menace, said: 'If piles of rubbish are left out for two week - or even longer during holiday periods - that's exactly what they need to survive and flourish.

    'Rats are becoming harder to control, because they know food is easy to find and will eat that rather than poisoned bait. They are acquiring a behavioural resistance which means they won't eat what's in the bait box.

    Houses are much smaller 'over there' so the idea of keeping the garbage indoors is not an option. Wonder why the garbage services don't take some of the money they save and buy everbody rodent-proof cans. We use galvanised metal cans in the barn for our grain and seeds and have zero problems with rodents while bags of feed left out get 'shopped' in a few days. A bit more from the article:

    And rats are getting bigger, with giants of the species - bloated by their ever-richer diet of processed food from overflowing bins - growing to more than 1ft in length.

    Environmental scientist Doretta Cocks, who runs the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, said: 'Recycling is good in principle, but householders are not getting the service they have paid for in their council tax.

    'We should be concerned with the environment we are creating as a result of these measures and act before we have an insurmountable pest problem leading to a 21st Century plague.'

    Hey, if the Moose-limbs don't get them, the giant rats will... Sure sucks to be a European right now.

    In the interest of National Security

    From the UK Daily Mail:
    Six-year-old has passport rejected for being too pale
    With his glowing white skin, clear blue eyes and soft blonde hair, Noreen and Bruce Coles have always said their six-year-old son, Richard has the face of an angel.

    But when a photograph of the fair-skinned youngster was sent off for a new passport, officials found fault with his features, saying he was 'too pale' to have a passport.

    Though the submitted picture taken by a professional photographer met all the guidelines, his parents were appalled to learn that his complexion was too light to be processed.

    Mrs Coles, 44, said: "They said my son was too pale to get a passport. They claimed that he was too bright on his forehead, nose and cheeks- they said he was too pale to be put through the scanner.

    "I was furious. He's always been very pale. But short of putting make-up on him what could I do?"

    When the former office manager complained to passport officials last month, she was told that the only solution would be to re-take the photograph on an off-white background 'to reflect some darkness into his face'.

    Undeterred, Mrs Coles insisted that a manager inspect the photograph, who agreed that there was nothing wrong with the image.

    The manager agreed to process it manually to create an old-fashioned digital passport for the schoolboy, but she warned Mrs Coles that when biometric passports come in next month, staff will no longer be able to manually process a photograph rejected by the scanner.
    And buried in towards the end of this article was this little zinger:
    Last month, officials also rejected the application of five-year-old Hannah Edwards because the bare shoulders showing in her photograph could offend Muslims.
    Gee -- are the Muslims all "The Girl on the Billboard" perverts as well?


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    Anyone interested in Folk and American music will know of the Dobro -- this is a guitar with the bridge connected to several lightweight aluminum "resonators" in the guitar body. This adds a unique tonal character to the instrument and has been used by a lot of musicians in the last forty years. The Dobro stands for DOpyera BROthers and was the invention of John and Rudy Dopyera. The brothers passed away in late 1980's and their workshop, tools and instruments were placed in storage by family members. The family members have decided to sell these off in one lot. This is an amazing bit of Americana and is one of the more significant collections to be offered in recent history. From the Elderly Instruments website:
    The John and Rudy Dopyera Collection
    We are very proud to offer for sale the combined collection of John and Rudy Dopyera. Few instrument makers represent the American Dream quite as completely as these two inventors, innovators, marketers, and all-around creative force behind both the National and Dobro companies.

    The Dopyera brothers were born in what is now Slovakia, and came to the U.S. with the wave of Eastern European immigrants around the beginning of the 20th century. (In fact, the word �Dobro� is both a contraction of �DOpyera BROthers� and the word for �good� in their native tongue.) Engineers, tinkerers, businessmen, and accomplished musicians (their family had a history of violin making going back centuries, and Rudy was by many accounts an exceptionally talented and soulful Gypsy-style violinist), the two Dopyera brothers combined their Old World skills and traditions with the booming technology and futuristic tastes in art of pre-WWII America. Who else thought that spun aluminum might be a good material for sound projection? Who else engraved beautiful Art Deco designs on the bodies of their guitars? Only the Dopyeras.

    The unusual, experimental, and mostly one-of-a-kind instruments in this collection � John�s unusual (and spectacular sounding!) resophonic violin, Rudy�s balalaika-inspired Lullabyka, the Art Deco-influenced steel body uke and tenor guitar, even the actual workbench on which John perfected the fabled tri-cone resonator system � are uniquely American (and uniquely Dopyera) innovations.

    There�s no doubt that many of the great blues and slide guitar players owe their careers to these radical innovations of the Dopyeras; and there�s no question that both country and bluegrass music developed a whole new voice after the introduction of the Dobro. Because of the Dopyera brothers, American instruments � and American music � have never been the same.
    Here is a photo of the instruments that are included in the sale. I hope that some place like Experience Music or the Smithsonian gets it -- it would be nice for these to remain accessible to other musicians instead of being locked up as some rich fool's Preciousssssesss


    Very cool software -- they seem to be just starting out but it looks good. Check out Lamina:

    About Lamina software
    Lamina 1.0 makes it easy to fabricate large scale free-form structures from planar (sheet) materials like plastic, metal, or plywood. This fabrication technology can be applied to interior design, building architecture, lighting, signage, clothing, and sculpture.

    Lamina 1.0 uses computer methods to build precise physical structures in the real world. Your 3D model is approximated by a number of 2D parts that are numerically cut and attached to fabricate the final structure. Laser cutting, abrasive waterjet cutting and plasma cutting services are widely available and make creating parts inexpensive and fast.

    An example:
    A sculpture fabricated from waterjet cut stainless steel welded and sanded.



    Very cool -- model something in Rhino or any other 3D program, pass it through Lamina and Lamina spits out the DXF CAD file of the pieces to cut to make a solid object from your design. This would also be great for boatbuilding...

    Early day today

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    Jen got back safe from the backpack -- gorgeous scenery, lousy weather (snow and rain). I got up early to pick for the market - since I was on my own, I wanted to leave extra time to get everything ready on time. Starting school on Tuesday -- I was looking at taking a Metallurgy class and discovered that our local Community College has an excellent machining program with several sections on CNC Machining. The program is a two year certification but they have no problem with me coming in to take the occasional class or two. Looking forward to getting a basic foundation of CNC before tacking the four machines I am planning to build this winter (2x4 router table, CNCing my milling machine, 4x8 Plasma Cutter and a Sinker EDM).

    No posting tonight

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    Spent the last two days at planning meetings for the urban planning of our nice rural area. A valley next to ours has been designated as an "Urban Growth Area" despite the fact that we are literally 30 miles from any major employers and there is no real infrastructure to support this kind of growth (sewage, water and roads especially). Needless to say, a bunch of the people who have been here for a while are fighting this tooth and nail... Jen is off backpacking for a few days and I have to get up early to prep for Farmers Market tomorrow. Got the truck pre-loaded with some stuff but it is supposed to rain this evening and the canopy leaks so I'm not loading the soap. Might make for an interesting display though...

    Electric Scooter Parts

    I am building a couple of CNC machines for my shop.

    To gather information, I subscribe to a number of email lists and good vendors get mentioned on these lists. I ran into this place this evening and thought I'd share.

    Check out: Electric Scooter Parts

    From my viewpoint -- computer control of machinery, they have a wonderful range of motors, controllers, power transmission (chain and belt drive and pulleys/sprockets) for very reasonable prices.

    From the viewpoint of someone doing robotics, the same applies. They don't carry any remote control transmitters or receivers but to build a robot, everything else is here.

    From the viewpoint of my Mom who suffers from arthritis (as well as being 86) and is in a scooter full-time, this place is an awesome resource for spare parts and accessories.

    Electric Scooter Parts allows you to really pimp your ride -- check it out:

    Choppin' the ride with some new handlebars:


    Check out these Mag wheels:


    Mmmm... Chrome and fins -- what's not to love:


    The lens on the taillight is 3" in diameter. That will make a statement at the community center! Gotta get her an obnoxious backup beeper too.

    They also do a lot of replacement parts for battery bicycles and scooters. Prices are great and these are supposed to be awesome people to deal with (according to the email list).

    Food Pron

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    OMFG -- this looks soooo simple and sooooooo good. From Slashfood:
    Food Porn: Roasted Peaches with Meringue Topping
    Rowena, of the blog Rubber Slippers in Italy, put together a simple dessert of roasted yellow peaches with Italian meringue topping that is a great way to end a summer meal. The dessert takes advantage of the flavorful peaches that are in season right now, roasting them to enhance their sweetness even further. Italian meringue is made when a sugar syrup is boiled and streamed into beaten egg whites. The heat of the syrup cooks the meringue and allows it to hold its shape much better than an uncooked meringue will, so it makes a prettier and more stable dessert. The dessert takes little time to prepare and is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious - a dish sure to impress guests, as well as satisfying your sweet tooth with a light treat.
    Topped with a few crumbled roasted pistachio nuts. I'm going shopping for peaches tomorrow (we get some wonderful Pence Peaches this time of the year -- they are worth checking out if you are in the Washington/Oregon area.)

    A small item on the telephone bill

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    Talk about egregious gouging. From the Oneida Dispatch:
    Widow Rented Rotary Phone for 42 Years
    A widow rented a rotary dial telephone for 42 years, paying what her family calculates as more than $14,000 for a now outdated phone.

    Ester Strogen, 82, of Canton, first leased two black rotary phones - the kind whose round dial is moved manually with your finger - in the 1960s. Back then, the technology was new and owning telephones was unaffordable for most people.

    Until two months ago, Strogen was still paying AT&T to use the phones - $29.10 a month. Strogen's granddaughters, Melissa Howell and Barb Gordon, ended the arrangement when they discovered the bills.

    "I'm outraged," Gordon said. "It made me so mad. It's ridiculous. If my own grandmother was doing it, how many other people are?"

    New Jersey-based Lucent Technologies, a spinoff of AT&T that manages the residential leasing service, said customers were given the choice option to opt out of renting in 1985. The number of customers leasing phones dropped from 40 million nationwide to about 750,000 today, he said.

    "We will continue to lease sets as long as there is a demand for them," Skalko said.

    Benefits of leasing include free replacements and the option of switching to newer models, he said.

    Gordon said she believes the majority of people leasing are elderly and may not realize they are paying thousands of dollars for a telephone.

    Skalko said bills are clearly marked, and customers can quit their lease any time by returning their phones.
    And of course:
    Strogen says she's not a big fan of her new push-button phone.

    "I'd like to have my rotary back," she said. "I like that better."
    The granddaughters should look into buying a dial telephone. You can get a nice rotary for $35 at BoldOldPhones. The ever wonderful SparkFun sells a cellular retrofit red dial phone for $499: Port-O-Rotary The battery lasts for 4 days and you can take this puppy with you anywhere you have cell service. Would be a lot of fun to bring into a restaurant and have sitting on your table.

    The Girl on the Billboard

    There is a song that is getting a lot of airtime on our local country music radio station. "The Girl on the Billboard" was originally done by Del Reeves in in 1965 and redone this year by the Roadhammers. It isn't that great a song but what gets me is these lyrics:
    Oh, I love the girl wearin' nothin' but a smile and a towel
    In the picture on the billboard in the field near the big old highway
    And I guess I'm gettin' bolder 'cause I'd rather kiss and hold her
    Than just keep lookin' at her every day
    A bit more:
    You'll find tiny pieces of my heart scattered every which a-way
    Shattered by the girl wearin' nothin' but a smile and a towel
    In the picture on the billboard in the field near the big old highway
    The Girl on the Billboard was the advertisement for Coppertone Tanning Lotion and from the Wikipedia entry we learn that:
    Coppertone is the brand name for a suntan lotion, owned by Schering-Plough HealthCare Products Inc.

    It dates to 1944, when pharmacist Benjamin Green invented a lotion to darken tans. The company became famous the following year when it introduced the Coppertone girl, an advertising symbol showing a young girl in pig-tails, with a small, black, Cocker Spaniel puppy yanking on the back of her swimsuit bottoms, exposing her buttocks, showing the difference between her tanned body and her bare white backside. Accompanying the ads was the impish slogan, "Don't be a paleface!" (during that time, people thought exposure to the sun was healthy.)

    Modern Coppertone girl icon The original artist, Joyce Ballantyne Brand, created this iconic image using her daughter Cheri as model. Later, Jodie Foster made her acting debut as the Coppertone girl in a television commercial, when she was 3 years old.
    The fact that the Girl on the Billboard is three years old makes this song a little bit creepy to me... How about you?
    Didn't know the Roadhammers were into paedophilia...

    Willard Wigan

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    It would be interesting to see this guys studio and to view a film of him working on a piece. Check out Willard Wigan: His artwork: One example:
    Statue of Liberty in the eye of a needle

    New archaeological find

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    People mining the oil sands in Alberta stumbled across a major archaeological find. From The Hamilton Spectator:
    Eureka! Quarry near oil-sands full of ancient artifacts
    Oil-sands activity has uncovered vast wealth of a different kind -- a 10,000-year-old quarry rich with tools and weapons from some of the first Albertans, including a pristine spearpoint still smeared with the blood of a woolly mammoth.

    "It's got this echo of the Ice Age world," said Jack Ives, Alberta's provincial archaeologist, who described the find in a hearing before the province's energy regulator yesterday.

    "There's quite a rich concentration of artifacts."

    The so-called Quarry of the Ancestors, which scientists suspect may be one of the first places where humans put down roots in northern Alberta after the retreat of the glaciers, is found on an outcrop of hard, fine-grained sandstone adjacent to the Albian Sands oil-sands lease about 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
    A bit more:
    The quarry was discovered in 2003 when Birch Mountain Resources, which quarries limestone in the area to make chemicals used in oil-sands mining, conducted a routine archaeological survey prior to its own proposed expansion.

    The site's importance was evident almost immediately, said Nancy Saxberg, who conducted the field work.

    "We went into the woods and dug a couple of holes, and everywhere we dug a hole we found archaeological material," she said.

    Spearpoints, knives, scrapers, stone flakes and tiny micro-blades that would have been fastened to a wood or bone handle all began to emerge from the boreal loam.

    "People were prying this stuff out of the ground in chunks," Saxberg said.

    One investigator turned up a spearpoint still sharp enough to penetrate flesh. When tested, it contained traces of proteins that matched elephant blood. The only possible source would have been a mammoth, an animal thought to have died out more than 10,000 years ago.

    "It was pretty thrilling," Saxberg said.

    The site, spread out over a square kilometre, was so large that Saxberg said the normal archaeological practice of establishing the boundaries of a site had to be modified.

    "We couldn't define the sector because the sector was so freaking huge."
    And of course, the first nation peoples are going to be shafted again and the area will be developed:
    The depth of that history has thrilled members of the Fort MacKay First Nation, on whose traditional land the quarry sits.

    "The community, especially the elders, found it to be very important to them," said Lisa Schaldemose of the Fort MacKay band.

    Although band members are cautious about claiming the quarry's ancient toolmakers as ancestors, artifacts are on display at the band office and community gatherings have been held on the site.

    In an area where land access is increasingly complicated by oil-sands leases, Schaldemose said Fort MacKay wants the quarry to be permanently available to its community for use as a gathering place.

    Everyone agrees the quarry, which is surrounded by oil-sands leases, should be preserved.

    Birch Hills Resources, which owns the quarry rights, will expand elsewhere, said owner Don Dabbs. "We recognized the importance right off the top. This area has had a very long history of being important to people."

    TransCanada PipeLines has rerouted a line to avoid the site. Shell Canada has altered plans in the area. And Ives's department is asking Community Development Minister Denis Ducharme to declare the site a provincial historic resource, which would preserve it.
    Very cool -- not only is the oil development company shifting their explorations, the pipeline company is re-routing. I would not mind going up there in a few years when they get some of these artifacts into a museum. Seeing the oil sand development would also be fascinating.

    Advice to those who live in New Orleans

    Just ran into this blog: Rule 308 A sample post:
    What I Learned From Hurricane Katrina
    Having been inundated by the surge of media coverage on the year since Katrina, I'm sure you're tired of it. But perhaps not. Here's my little commentary on What I Learned From Hurricane Katrina:
    1. Don't live anywhere that is below sea level and in close proximity to the sea.

    2. Don't live anywhere that is below sea level and in close proximity to the sea AND is prone to violent tropical storms.

    3. If you ignore 1 & 2, be prepared to GTFO and fend for yourself.

    4. Make sure your state and local authorities are not corrupt and incompetent.

    5. If your state and local authorities are corrupt and incompetent, and you know it, don't expect them to become suddenly clean and efficient and save you in your hour of need. See #3 above.

    6. If all else fails and you are stuck in a natural disaster that hits your home that is below sea level and in close proximity to the sea, and you had no plan to fend for yourself, and your famously corrupt and incompetent state and local authorities left you high and dry-- sorry, LOW AND DROWNED-- don't make the same mistakes over again.
    And don't demand that the rest of the country bail you out indefinitely. Help you out, yes, and do everything we can to alleviate your suffering and get you back on your feet. But listen to you complain while you make the same mistakes over again? Sorry. No can do.

    Sound harsh? Sorry, it probably is.
    Harsh yes -- the truth can be when you don't want to hear it. It is funny to see the difference between liberals and conservatives on something like this. The libs were all up in arms that FEMA and the Government took so much time to come into Louisiana. A point in fact, Governor Blanco had to ask them in and she didn't for about 48 hours. The way our Government is set up is that it is a person's personal responsibility to save themselves, their Municipality is there to aid them (think Fire, Police, Medical, S.A.R.), the State comes next and only then, do the Feds step in. Conservatives have already grabbed their Grab-And-Go packs, loaded a couple extra jerry cans of Gas and Water and their camping gear into their largest vehicle and they are on the road. The idea that you would sit back, do nothing and wait for the Federal Government to bail you out is anathema.

    Tanks for the memories - 90th anniversary

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    From the BBC:

    Ninety years of the tank
    Tanks. The very word conjures up an image of armoured monsters emerging from the smoke of war or morning mist, trundling their way across the battlefield, turrets searching for targets.

    Or perhaps long columns of panzers clattering along tree-lined French roads in that long, hot, disastrous summer of 1940.

    They were first deployed September 15th 1916, 90 years ago.

    The history of their development has some fascinating turns:

    An agricultural manufacturer came up with the idea of an armoured trench-crossing tractor, moving on caterpillar tracks, but the Army rejected it.

    An engineer officer with vision, Lt-Col Ernest Swinton, took a similar American design to First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, known for his fondness of wacky military gadgets.

    Headed by Churchill, a Landships Committee of soldiers, manufacturers and politicians was formed in 1915 to design a "mobile machine-gun destroyer".

    Needing a code name to conceal their real use from the Germans they were labelled "mobile water tanks for Mesopotamia" (the campaign in what is now Iraq) and the name stuck. They did indeed resemble a water tank - large and box-like, made from boiler-plate and peppered with rivets.

    This is a technology that has come a long long way and done many things. The UAVs and battlefield robots will be replacing a lot of tanks but there will still be a call for them for some time.

    Once again, proof that anyone can put up a website

    Have a short walkabout in Perry Logan's mind (what is left of it):

    The Replicans have all the money.

    The Replicans virtually own the news media.

    The Replicans can spread disinformation about Democrats at will, poisoning the waters of information beyond anything seen in history, saturating the minds of all Americans before they know what hit them.

    The Replicans have gerrymandered countless voting districts, suppressed the Democratic vote; illegally purged voter lists; bilked, duped, and conned countless Democrats from voting.

    Adding insult to injury, the 9/11 Truth Movement people and other low-IQ conspiracy nuts help the Replicans out--repeating every bit of disinformation about Democrats the Replicans spew. So all these dumb white guys help them out for free!

    Meanwhile, our votes are being counted by wildly partisan right-wing companies; the election process in key states is managed by wildly partisan Replican officials; Democrats wait seventeen hours to vote, etc.

    On top of all this, Replican voters will vote for a lamppost if you tell them to. Apparently, some of them voted TWICE for The Worst President Ever. So they don't even have to field qualified candidates.

    Now that, my friends, is a heavily-tilted playing field!

    And yet--even on this tilted field, even with all these advantages--they still have to cheat to win. Ain't that somethin?

    Ha... I bet Karl Rove wishes they had this much power. And why is it that the true whack-jobs always have the worst designed websites. This website is downright fugly!

    A closing of the seasons

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    The weather has turned cool here -- it has been raining off and on today, the light slow sweet rain that heralds the coming of Fall and Winter. The first fire of the season is burning in my studio (the DaveCave) -- the last two evenings were a bit chilly so today I stocked the woodbin and laid a small cosy fire. Spent today at an auction of a local Welder who passed away suddenly. Got a few good tools and was somewhat surprised at the number of people present for such a small one-man operation. Tim was well liked by the community and it seems that lots of people wanted to get a souvenir and to help out his widow as the bidding wars on some items wound out to several times the list price for new tools. Still, everyone had a good time, there were lots of good bargains too (I got a 1/2" Hole Hawg drill and a nice machinists square). Just finished a dinner of stir fried homegrown broccoli, bush beans and carrots tossed with some rotelli pasta, coarse-ground black pepper, a good Olive Oil and some freshly roasted pine nuts. Desert was locally grown sweet corn from a farmer we know from about ten miles away. Farming might not pay well (still waiting to get the Hard Cider business up and running) but we live a relaxed lifestyle and eat very very well...

    Magician Ricky Jay

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    I had mentioned that Ricky Jay served as a consultant on The Illusionist. His website has a wonderful 1993 article from The New Yorker that gives some illustration of his magic prowess. Here is just a small excerpt from the beginning of the article:
    Secrets of the Magus
    from the New Yorker Magazine
    by Mark Singer

    The playwright David Mamet and the theatre director Gregory Mosher affirm that some years ago, late one night in the bar of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago, this happened:

    Ricky Jay, who is perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive, was performing magic with a deck of cards. Also present was a friend of Mamet and Mosher's named Christ Nogulich, the director of food and beverage at the hotel. After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his card.

    "Three of clubs," Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over the top card.

    He turned over the three of clubs.

    Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, "Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card."

    After an interval of silence, Jay said, "That's interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time."

    Mosher persisted: "Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card."

    Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, "This is a distinct change of procedure." A longer pause. "All right-what was the card?"

    "Two of spades."

    Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.

    The deuce of spades.

    A small riot ensued.

    Deborah Baron, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, where Jay lives, once invited him to a New Year's Eve dinner party at her home. About a dozen other people attended. Well past midnight, everyone gathered around a coffee table as Jay, at Baron's request, did closeup card magic. When he had performed several dazzling illusions and seemed ready to retire, a guest named Mort said, "Come on, Ricky. Why don't you do something truly amazing?"

    Baron recalls that at that moment "the look in Ricky's eyes was, like, 'Mort, you have just fucked with the wrong person.' "

    Jay told Mort to name a card, any card. Mort said, "The three of hearts." After shuffling, Jay gripped the deck in the palm of his right hand and sprung it, cascading all fifty-two cards so that they traveled the length of the table and pelted an open wine bottle.

    "O.K., Mort, what was your card again?"

    "The three of hearts."

    "Look inside the bottle."

    Mort discovered, curled inside the neck, the three of hearts. The party broke up immediately.
    I have seen Jay do some awesome performances on TV. He is considered to be the master of close-up magic and card manipulation. It must have been fun to be on the set while The Illusionist was being filmed...

    The Illusionist

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    To celebrate our anniversary, we went into town for a movie and dinner. We saw The Illusionist and was very pleasantly surprised. A local newspaper movie critic said that Edward Norton's acting was wooden but this is far from reality. He was very subtle and very very good. The role had no part for overacting and Norton did the part perfectly. I was very pleased that they did a number of the classical Victorian Illusions including the Orange Tree of Jean Paul Robert-Houdin. The did these with no CGI involved -- these are honest stage illusions. There was a classical projection illusion towards the end of the film that was CG enhanced but this did not detract from the story. One quibble: There was a bit with a sword that is within the technology of that time but would have required extensive room preperation and in the storyline, Norton's character didn't have the time. Norton had help from college buddy Ricky Jay as well as Magic Consultant James Freedman The story line is wonderful as well -- a love triangle and murder mystery with a delicious twist at the end... Dinner was at On Rice, a wonderful Thai restaurant in Bellingham. A good time was had by all!

    Four years ago

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    Jen and I got married. It was Friday the thirteenth (an auspicious start). We had thought about doing a wedding with family but with all the complications, we just eloped -- we were married in front of a County Judge and then headed off to see Lyle Lovett and Bonnie Rait in concert. We did have an awesome party a couple months later at a local brewery so we did manage to get family and friends together for that. Jen -- I love you. Happy anniversary.

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    Handy website! Check out: What they say:
    What's that thing?
    With this service you can create a temporary e-mail address that will forward all incoming mail to your usual e-mail address.
    Simply enter your e-mail address and the life time of your spambox and we will generate you a temporary e-mail.

    Why does exist?
    Many websites ask for your e-mail address to download software or to register. But you don't know what they'll be doing with your e-mail.. Your e-mail will probably be stored in a database which will then be resold to spammers and you will be receiving unsolicited bulk e-mail.

    So? How does this website help?
    We create for you a temporary e-mail address that will expire in the time you chose, all the mails directed to this e-mail will be transparently forwarded to your real e-mail.
    For example, you need to register on a forum that requires e-mail verification, so you generate a spambox e-mail with an expiry of one hour. The generated e-mail will expire in an hour, way enough for the Forum to send you the verification code.

    But.. You could be collecting my e-mail address!
    Yes, we could be, but we're not doing it. We've got an automatic cleanup agent that wipes out every n-minutes the expired spambox e-mails. Don't worry, we won't sell your e-mail to spammers.
    Looks like some very kind person has some spare server space on a fat pipe and decided to fix an odious problem. Have not used it yet but plan to and will report back if there are any "issues" (I have a bunch of throw-away email addresses of my own.)

    Deepwater Drilling

    A few days ago, I wrote about the massive oil find off the coast of Louisiana National Geographic has a good article on deepwater drilling:
    Deepwater Drilling May Open New Oil Frontiers
    Oil companies are buzzing after Chevron, Devon Energy, and Norway-based Statoil ASA last week announced the successful discovery of oil at a staggering depth beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

    Jack 2, as the new test well is called, extends downward for more than five miles (eight kilometers).

    The well delves through 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) of seawater and more than 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) of seafloor to strike oil in the lower tertiary formation�a layer of rock laid down between 65 million and 24 million years ago.

    The find, potentially the United States' largest in four decades, could yield from 3 to 15 billion barrels of crude oil. Even though the top estimate would not do much to slake the nation's growing thirst for fuel, it could boost existing U.S. reserves by 50 percent.

    But experts suggest that the cutting-edge technologies used to create and operate the well are far more important than any single oil find.

    Such technologies could open access to previously unattainable oil across the globe. And high oil prices are making the enormous startup costs worth the gamble.

    "It's giving folks greater confidence to explore in the deepwater Gulf region," said Judson Jacobs, director of upstream technology for Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) in Boston, Massachusetts.

    The Gulf is hardly unique, he adds. Other promising deepwater locations await exploration off the coasts of Brazil, the United Kingdom, West Africa, and Southeast Asia.
    Very cool article but I really wish people would stop doing the 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) style of scientific journalism. Excuse me but the 7,000 foot figure has got to be an approximation and to then take that number and say that the depth is exactly 2,134 Meters is numerical fraud. The article goes into some of the problems that they had finding the site, there was a salt deposit that "tricked" the seismic plots so they almost missed it. There seem to be a number of other areas worth looking at so I think we can put Mr. M. King Hubbert up there on the shelf along with all the other Malthusians. Ha Ha...

    Beard Research

    Okaaaaayyyy... From this site:

    Beard research
    The challenge:

    I ski (XC) in the winter. I run in the winter. I cycle in the winter. I have a beard. People have been saying, "A beard keeps you warmer."

    Sure it sounds good, but has anybody ever really tested this theory? In the interest of science, I thought of cutting off my beard for a winter to determine if it would be colder without it. Thinking about it for a while, I realized that this was no good. Maybe it would be a warmer (colder) winter this year. Maybe I would forget how cold (warm) it was last year.

    I needed a control! Another person was no good; their perception of cold may not agree with mine. I had only one choice. Shave half of my beard.

    The experiment:

    Iiiyyyiieeeee!!! My eyes. My poor bleeding eyes!!!

    Optical Illusions

    A collection of 604 Optical Illusions collected from various sources.

    Some old stuff, some stuff I have not seen before; all good! Check out: Optical Illusion

    Three examples:

    Which ball is on what shelf.

    Say aloud the color of each word.

    And finally, this classic:

    I used to work for a large Engineering company and this last one drove them nuts.

    I didn't tell them the solution to the missing square and finally, one of them got it.

    Office hierarchy

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    An oldie but a goodie:

    Light posting tonight

    Spending some time thinking and remembering thoughts from five years ago. There is still a red hot coal in my gut when I think of the willful stupidity of the people who perpetuate the Islamism, the Jihad, the Islamofascism (the Mullah's reign of power is a classical form of Fascism after all - read your history). They are stuck in a cycle of fear, shame and hate and cannot will not adapt to the changes around them. To summarize Charles Darwin: Adapt or Die It is interesting to follow the history of the early Christians -- they were as bloodthirsty a group as you would ever (not) want to meet but they saw the writing on the wall (to borrow a metaphor) and reformed themselves. If you read Martin Amis' wonderful essay (posted earlier today), you can see that there is a lot of ideological cross-pollination between the Nazi, Fascist and Soviet Communism and the current crop of Islamic leaders. We are talking about a set of regimes whose sole claims to fame are over one hundred million murders and a form of government that has never operated successfully anywhere in history. This is a culture stuck in the seventh century and who thinks has the atavistic knowledge that they are the chosen people and that everyone else is grossly inferior. Am I wrong? Then why then do we have the discrepancy of Nobel Prize laureates; name one Arab technology company; where is the big Arabian Medical Center that all the rich "Princes" go to? Why is there a huge problem with Hemophilia caused by interbreeding? Why is their school system such a joke? And they blame the West...

    A liberal gets it

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    A very wonderful (and long) essay by Martin Amis at The Observer: Setting the scene...
    The age of horrorism
    On the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, one of Britain's most celebrated and original writers analyses - and abhors - the rise of extreme Islamism. In a penetrating and wide-ranging essay he offers a trenchant critique of the grotesque creed and questions the West's faltering response to this eruption of evil.

    It was mid-October 2001, and night was closing in on the border city of Peshawar, in Pakistan, as my friend - a reporter and political man of letters - approached a market stall and began to haggle over a batch of T-shirts bearing the likeness of Osama bin Laden. It is forbidden, in Sunni Islam, to depict the human form, lest it lead to idolatry; but here was Osama's lordly visage, on display and on sale right outside the mosque. The mosque now emptied, after evening prayers, and my friend was very suddenly and very thoroughly surrounded by a shoving, jabbing, jeering brotherhood: the young men of Peshawar.

    At this time of day, their equivalents, in the great conurbations of Europe and America, could expect to ease their not very sharp frustrations by downing a lot of alcohol, by eating large meals with no dietary restrictions, by racing around to one another's apartments in powerful and expensive machines, by downing a lot more alcohol as well as additional stimulants and relaxants, by jumping up and down for several hours on strobe-lashed dancefloors, and (in a fair number of cases) by having galvanic sex with near-perfect strangers. These diversions were not available to the young men of Peshawar.

    More proximately, just over the frontier, the West was in the early stages of invading Afghanistan and slaughtering Pakistan's pious clients and brainchildren, the Taliban, and flattening the Hindu Kush with its power and its rage. More proximately still, the ears of these young men were still fizzing with the battlecries of molten mullahs, and their eyes were smarting anew to the chalk-thick smoke from the hundreds of thousands of wood fires - fires kindled by the multitudes of exiles and refugees from Afghanistan, camped out all around the city. There was perhaps a consciousness, too, that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, over the past month, had reversed years of policy and decided to sacrifice the lives of its Muslim clients and brainchildren, over the border, in exchange for American cash. So when the crowd scowled out its question, the answer needed to be a good one.
    The diffferentiation between Islam and Islamism:
    Let us make the position clear. We can begin by saying, not only that we respect Muhammad, but that no serious person could fail to respect Muhammad - a unique and luminous historical being. Judged by the continuities he was able to set in motion, he remains a titanic figure, and, for Muslims, all-answering: a revolutionary, a warrior, and a sovereign, a Christ and a Caesar, 'with a Koran in one hand', as Bagehot imagined him, 'and a sword in the other'. Muhammad has strong claims to being the most extraordinary man who ever lived. And always a man, as he always maintained, and not a god. Naturally we respect Muhammad. But we do not respect Muhammad Atta.

    Until recently it was being said that what we are confronted with, here, is 'a civil war' within Islam. That's what all this was supposed to be: not a clash of civilisations or anything like that, but a civil war within Islam. Well, the civil war appears to be over. And Islamism won it. The loser, moderate Islam, is always deceptively well-represented on the level of the op-ed page and the public debate; elsewhere, it is supine and inaudible. We are not hearing from moderate Islam. Whereas Islamism, as a mover and shaper of world events, is pretty well all there is.

    So, to repeat, we respect Islam - the donor of countless benefits to mankind, and the possessor of a thrilling history. But Islamism? No, we can hardly be asked to respect a creedal wave that calls for our own elimination. More, we regard the Great Leap Backwards as a tragic development in Islam's story, and now in ours. Naturally we respect Islam. But we do not respect Islamism, just as we respect Muhammad and do not respect Muhammad Atta.
    A bit of history...
    Those who know the field will be undismayed by the singling out of Greeley, Colorado. For it was in Greeley, Colorado, in 1949, that Islamism, as we now know it, was decisively shaped. The story is grotesque and incredible - but then so are its consequences. And let us keep on telling ourselves how grotesque and incredible it is, our current reality, so unforeseeable, so altogether unknowable, even from the vantage of the late Nineties. At that time, if you recall, America had so much leisure on its hands, politically and culturally, that it could dedicate an entire year to Monica Lewinsky. Even Monica, it now seems, even Bill, were living in innocent times.
    The Islamist goal...
    I will spell this out, because it has not been broadly assimilated. The most extreme Islamists want to kill everyone on earth except the most extreme Islamists; but every jihadi sees the need for eliminating all non-Muslims, either by conversion or by execution. And we now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria) or on something resembling a nation state (Sudan). In the first case, the result was fratricide, with 100,000 dead; in the second, following the Islamist coup in 1989, the result has been a kind of rolling genocide, and the figure is perhaps two million. And it all goes back to Greeley, Colorado, and to Sayyid Qutb.
    And one last bit on events that helped shape the current situation:
    By the beginning of the 20th century the entire Muslim world, with partial exceptions, had been subjugated by the European empires. And at that point the doors of perception were opened to foreign influence: that of Germany. This allegiance cost Islam its last imperium, the Ottoman, for decades a 'helpless hulk' (Hobsbawm), which was duly dismantled and shared out after the First World War - a war that was made in Berlin. Undeterred, Islam continued to look to Germany for sponsorship and inspiration. When the Nazi experiment ended, in 1945, sympathy for its ideals lingered on for years, but Islam was now forced to look elsewhere. It had no choice; geopolitically, there was nowhere else to turn. And the flame passed from Germany to the USSR.

    So Islam, in the end, proved responsive to European influence: the influence of Hitler and Stalin. And one hardly needs to labour the similarities between Islamism and the totalitarian cults of the last century. Anti-semitic, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-democratic, and, most crucially, anti-rational, they too were cults of death, death-driven and death-fuelled. The main distinction is that the paradise which the Nazis (pagan) and the Bolsheviks (atheist) sought to bring about was an earthly one, raised from the mulch of millions of corpses. For them, death was creative, right enough, but death was still death. For the Islamists, death is a consummation and a sacrament; death is a beginning. Sam Harris is right:

    'Islamism is not merely the latest flavour of totalitarian nihilism. There is a difference between nihilism and a desire for supernatural reward. Islamists could smash the world to atoms and still not be guilty of nihilism, because everything in their world has been transfigured by the light of paradise...' Pathological mass movements are sustained by 'dreams of omnipotence and sadism', in Robert Jay Lifton's phrase. That is usually enough. Islamism adds a third inducement to its warriors: a heavenly immortality that begins even before the moment of death.
    It is a long essay (three pages) but well worth the time spent reading as Martin Amis has gone into a lot of the history. Excellent writer. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

    Another unusual dwelling

    I had written about the underground fortress in Blaine, WA (a few miles from the Canadian border crossing) earlier here: A house for sale... Here is one in Colorado for the especially paranoid types. Check out: The Ultimate Secure Home
    For Sale By Owner - The Ultimate Secure Home:
    Strategically located in the awesome San Juan mountains of Southwest Colorado, this patented steel-reinforced concrete earth home was built to withstand almost any natural or man-made disaster you can name. It is more secure, safe, and functional than any conventional house could ever be, yet still has a level of comfort that one might not expect to find in an underground home.

    The house and its 4.3 acre parcel are currently offered at only $475,000 ($20,000 below appraised value). Or $495,000 for the house with a 4.38 acre boundary adjusted parcel.


    The rocks around the entrance in the top picture are all made from concrete and painted to look like granite. The dwelling is huge and also features an inner "blast room" built to withstand a nearby nuclear bomb. The equipment at the bottom is an air filter designed for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical air filtration. Quite the hobbit hole... Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

    Big muddy

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    Holy crap! A story of oil drilling gone wrong -- from the LA Times:
    The Gray Ooze That Ate the Indonesian Villages
    Nothing, it seems, can stop the mud.

    For more than three months, the hot, noxious goop has spewed up through a crack in the earth at a natural-gas exploration site, swamping everything in its path.

    The expanding, surreal gray lake with the stench of rotten eggs has enveloped more than 10 square miles of land in eastern Java, Indonesia's most densely populated island. The flow has forced 8,000 to 10,000 people from their homes, engulfed about a dozen factories, contaminated fish farms and intermittently closed a major highway.

    Confusion has reigned over how to stop it. An effort to drill a series of relief wells was slow to begin and has thus far failed. With the mud continuing to gush, emergency crews have scrambled to put up earthen barriers to contain and redirect the flow away from villages. Some of the dams already have been breached, and officials are running out of space.

    In a country reeling from a string of natural disasters, this man-made fiasco has thrown a fresh, harsh light on an overwhelmed government struggling to counter accusations of corruption and ineptitude.
    A bit more:
    It is unclear what went wrong during the drilling of a 2-mile-deep exploration well. Several environmental and community groups have accused the company of shoddy work and lax oversight, saying a protective lining that could have prevented the disaster was not properly in place.

    Company officials initially suggested the mudflow had resulted from an earthquake days before, but quickly abandoned the idea.

    The company has since taken responsibility for the damage but won't say what caused it, citing a police investigation.

    The disaster, and the government's inability to cope with it, have angered residents. Their frustration has deepened with reports that Aburizal Bakrie, the government minister responsible for coordinating responses to natural and man-made disasters, owns a stake in the gas exploration project.

    Adang Setiana, a deputy to Bakrie, said the government's response had not been influenced by the minister's connections. Bakrie is one of the country's wealthiest men.

    At the shore of the mud lake, white smoke billows ominously. Large bubbles burp at the center, marking the roughly 50-foot-wide crack, where temperatures reach about 140 degrees. Only rooftops and the tips of denuded trees poke above the surface of the mud, which is 20 feet deep in places.

    Tests have found elevated levels of phenol, which can irritate human skin and cause breathing discomfort, according to a report by WALHI, a leading environmental group. There have been no reports of hospitalizations, although two people have died in accidents related to the mudflow: an emergency crew member reportedly caught in an explosion of a pent-up gas deposit and another run over by a bulldozer.
    Makes me wonder why they were drilling in such a geologically active area... I am not an oil expert but most wells seem to be in very geologically old and stable places, not active geothermal areas. Maybe they were after something deeper and had to penetrate an active zone -- the engineering behind that would be remarkable and something obviously went horribly wrong.

    A new blog - Pennylicious

    Fun new blog. Not too many entries yet but it will be one to watch. The blog is Pennylicious and it's author writes about the lighter side of currency. An example:
    Got Change for $200 Bill?


    This happened in 2004: a customer ordered $2 worth of food at a Dairy Queen in Kentucky and paid with a $200 bill (complete with picture of the White House lawn with signs saying "We like broccoli") and got $198 change!
    The author also posts about large legitimate currency (the biggest legal US bill is the $10,000 note with Salmon P. Chase on the front), the wonderful JSG Boggs, various famous counterfeiters. A fun read!

    Light posting tonight

    Got up at 6:00am to pick for Farmer's Market. Went out after to a new restaurant that opened up a few weeks ago. It used to be a dive of a roadhouse -- you would drive by and there would be maybe two or three cars parked there. Got the feeling that it was the same two or three. The new owners have done a wonderful job with the remodel and the food is excellent. Blue Mountain Grill in Acme, WA on SR-9 just north of Sedro-Woolley. Anyone coming up from Seattle for Skiing at Mt. Baker can shave 30 miles off their trip by taking SR-9 to Deming and stop for a bite and a brew.

    More website referral links

    When you search for something on the web, what you searched for is presented to the web server that you visit from that search engine. Thus, it is possible to see what people are looking for when they visit. Two days ago, I noticed a spike in traffic, took a look at the referrer logs and wrote about what I saw: A bunch of sick ghouls The dead are still walking. Today, I have the following:
    actual footage of steve irwins death
    ooooo -- all CAPS -- that is going to get a real accurate search! MORON...
    actual footage steve irwins death
    Actual Steve Irwin Stingray Video
    bindi sue erwin
    Can't even spell the frikkin' name correctly on that last one but Google still coughed out 21K hits.
    crocodile dundee music "song" played train station
    gertrude steve irwin
    ????? - W.T.F. I'll be looking into the IP addresses and doing Originating Nations in a day or two. The weekend is coming up and we have the Farmer's Market.

    When life hands you lemons...

    From Yahoo/AP comes another story. This one is about turning a personal disaster into something really good.

    A change in wedding plans:

    Jilted bride turns wedding into charity
    A woman who learned six weeks before her wedding that her fiance was cheating on her is turning her would-be reception into a charity benefit.

    "I'm really just trying to turn it around and make something positive out of it," said Kyle Paxman.

    Paxman, 29, had planned to celebrate her nuptials at the Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain on Saturday. When she found out about her fiance, she called off the 180-guest wedding and the four-year relationship.

    She and her mother canceled the band, photographer and florist, but learned they would not be reimbursed for the reception and block of rooms they had reserved. So they turned the reception into a benefit for the Vermont Children's Aid Society and CARE USA, an international relief organization that aims to combat poverty by empowering women.

    They sent out invitations to 125 women for drinks and a gourmet four-course dinner. In exchange, they hope the guests will make donations to the charities.

    Sad that this happened and that she had to find out so close to the Wedding date (especially after a four-year relationship) but it was a good turnaround -- CARE does good work; don't know about the other charity but I'm assuming that she did her homework. I'm still scratching my head that someone cheated on this person:


    There may have been extenuating circumstances; significant personality differences, cold feet, financial or medication problems but jeeez, the guy should have had the guts to terminate the relationship gracefully instead of cheating with every intention of continuing with the Wedding... Good riddance.

    By their fruits ye shall know them

    As you might have guessed, Jen and I love animals. I think that a good dog is a real sign that God loves us and wants us to have friends. Our Dogs and Cats and more recently Sheep and Goats are, in a definite sense, members of our family. They all have individual personalities and they have good days and bad days and despite not having a spoken language, they are able to communicate volumes to anyone willing to learn to listen. Let us look at Saudi Arabia with this article at Yahoo/AP:

    Saudi religious cops ban dog, cat sales
    Saudi Arabia's religious police, normally tasked with chiding women to cover themselves and ensuring men attend mosque prayers, are turning to a new target: cats and dogs.

    The police have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence.

    The prohibition on dogs may be less of a surprise, since conservative Muslims despise dogs as unclean. But the cat ban befuddled many, since Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad loved cats -- and even let a cat drink from his ablutions water before washing himself for prayers.

    The religious police, known as the Muttawa, have the role of enforcing Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic code. Its members prowl streets and malls, ensuring unmarried men and women do not mix, confronting women they feel are not properly covered or urging men to go to prayers.

    But the government also gives the Muttawa wide leeway to enforce any rules they deem necessary to uphold the social order.

    The decree -- which applies to the Red Sea port city of Jiddah and the holy city of Mecca -- bans the sale of cats and dogs because "some youths have been buying them and parading them in public," according to a memo from the Municipal Affairs Ministry to Jiddah's city government.

    The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, urges city authorities to help enforce the ban.

    Pet owning is not common in the Arab world, though dogs are kept for hunting and guarding. In large cities around the Middle East, stray dogs often wander the streets and are considered pests. Street cats are also plentiful, and people will often feed them or play with them -- but it isn't a widespread custom to keep one in the home, and many cannot afford it.

    However, in the past decades, owning dogs or cats has become a fashion statement among Saudis. Showing off a Doberman, pit bull or fancy breed of feline has became a status symbol.

    Ahhhh - gotcha. The affluent Saudis are buying status animals and this scares the Theocrats (they seem to be an apartheid state the more I look into how their society functions - I thought that was an anathema to lefties...) so they unleash their Muttawa storm troopers. It's only in two cities now but I bet that if people cave there, it will be all over the democratic nationdespotic kingdom of Saudia Arabia. Makes me want to go into their malls with one of these, nicely socialised and on leash:


    The more I know about people, the better I like my dog
    ~~ Mark Twain

    And a big hat-tip to Charles at LGF for the Yahoo/AP link. His blog has some excellent comments regarding this. Here is one:

    The police have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence.

    I wish they would also get rid of other signs of Western influence, like computers, cars, television, airplanes, fighter jets, guns, explosives....the rest of the world would be safer

    So true...

    A house for sale...

    I knew it was around here but the address has always been kept confidential. Turns out it is in Blaine, WA, about 40 miles from us and near the I-5 connection with Canada. A nice unassuming house on a decent size city lot. A nice place for the $595K asking.
    blaine-01.jpg blaine-02.jpg

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    What isn't evident is what the previous owner did for a hobby. From the website:
    The Fortress
    The Underground Fortress is an 8th wonder of the world! It is an unbelievable feet of engineering. The Fortress goes a total of 45 feet under the house! That is below sea level! The fortress has over 1600 sq. ft. of living area, plus hundreds of more square feet of passages and secrets rooms. It was all hand dug over a 20 year period, and all the walls were constructed with a small electric hand cement mixer. There are 3 ft concrete walls, using 5-bag cement (20% denser than regular cement). Not only are the walls thick and dense, but the finishing work is amazing quality. These walls keep it a constant 60F degrees year round. It is so well insulated that even one small space heater can heat all 1600+ sqft of fortress space in a few hours. The fortress has amazingly fresh air in it with an incredible air ventilation system that pulls air outside and brings fresh air in, leaving no moldy or musty smell that you commonly smell in basements. Because of the walls and systems, there are very few bugs/spiders down in the fortress and we have never seen any signs of rodents. The fortress also has 4 sump pumps that keep the ground water from being an issue. The sump pumps are on float valves that make them come on automatically when they fill up with water. 3 of the pumps are for ground water and the other one is for sewage of the bathroom/kitchenette area. The fortress is also fully wired with electrical/phone/plumbing/drains. It also has many secret doors, and a 1-ton blast door at the entrance and a 3-ton motorized door to seal you in and close the fortress to the outside world. There are at least 5 ways to get in/out of the fortress back into the house!

    The fortress comes with almost everything needed to still be a fully functional �bomb shelter�, it comes with everything needed to survive almost any situation. Everything having to do with the survival gear is being left behind for the new owner. All these items are worth in the many thousands of $$$. After you experience this underground fortress, you will be awe struck with amazement, there is no other home like this anywhere on Earth! The producers of the History Channel show Secret passages of the Cold War, claimed that this was the best civilian made bomb shelter in all of North America! You still will not believe it once you see it.
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    That would be an "interesting" house to insure given that parts are below the water table in a port city and that the work was done without apparent engineering or building permits but sheesh -- what a monument to a person's persistence. Would be fun to tour but I bet the $595K is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Hockey -- old school

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    Ran into this photo of the Hanson Brothers, renowned Canadian Hockey players.
    Definitely people you would want on your side in a bar brawl...

    A change of seasons

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    Summer is starting to wind down here and I was poking around the web for sources for a couple nice shirts for fall and winter.

    When you are talking about outdoor gear and such, Cabella's is the name at the top of anyone's list but I also ran into this place:

    Ugly Dog Hunting Company
    and their adorable mascot Ruff:


    Not as broad or as deep as Cabella's but they seem to be having a good time, have some excellent quality stuff and their prices are pretty reasonable.

    A bugs life

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    UPDATE - September 9th: - it seems that for some reason, goulout pulled the video from YouTube one day after this post. Very much a shame as it was awesome. Dang! A wonderful combination of actual footage and 3D animation from goulout His description:
    Imagine a blend between a National Geographic documentary and a Tex Avery cartoon. This short is a combination of 3d characters and live footage.

    Putting them in their place

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    A few days ago, the nation of Pakistan signed a treaty with pro-Taliban forces in the Northern Waziristan region. They will leave them alone as long as the Islamofascists stick to themselves and don't export terror. From the Christian Science Monitor:
    Pakistan signs peace deal with pro-Taliban militants
    Critics say treaty, which calls for end to terrorist actions, seems 'a total capitulation' by Islamabad.

    In a move that some say appears 'a total capitulation' to pro-Taliban forces, Pakistan signed a peace deal with tribal leaders in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan Tuesday, and is withdrawing military forces in exchange for promises that militant tribal groups there will not engage in terrorist activities.
    Donklephant sums it up very well:
    Did We Just Lose?
    To understand what this means, go back to our original purpose in invading Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, had an intimate relationship with Al Qaeda in the years leading up to 9/11. The Taliban gave Al Qaeda a safe haven in which to train and house recruits, a �home� where Al Qaeda leaders could meet and plan.

    After 9/11 we set out on a course of punishing the Taliban and denying Al Qaeda the use of this safe haven. Our purpose was not primarily to bring democracy to Afghanistan, or build schools for Afghan girls, but to improve our own security by denying Al Qaeda a secure base of operations.

    The Taliban were overthrown. Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri escaped, along with a number of Taliban, over the border (we believe) into the Waziristan region in southern Pakistan. The Pakistani government � formerly the chief Taliban sponsor, but now an ally-of-convenience in the War on Terror � vowed to root them out, while forbidding us to do any of the rooting ourselves.

    Now, after five years of futile efforts by the Pakistani government, they�ve signed a deal in which they promise to walk away if the Taliban behave themselves. It is a Pakistani surrender. They got beat, and now they are walking away.

    But Waziristan � Talibanistan � is still legally under Pakistani sovereignty. So any US military action there will be a violation of same, and any tacit acquiescence by Pakistan�s military dictator, General Perfez Musharaf, would most likely bring down the general�s government.

    In other words, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have traded Afghanistan for Waziristan, and gained this huge advantage: we dare not attack them there for fear of bringing Musharraf down.
    Well, if the Taliban violates the terms of their agreement, we will have a nice target-rich environment. The old adage of: "Give 'em enough rope" comes to mind. I bet some very nice satellites are being shifted around right now...


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    There are lots of jokes about engineers:
    How can you tell when an Engineer enters a room,
      the level of Charisma drops thirty percent.
    But if it wasn't for Engineers, we would still be living in caves, hunting with sticks and cooking our meals over an open fire. (actually doesn't sound that bad. Hmmmm....) Here is one person's list of the Top Ten Engineers in history:
    Top Ten Engineers of All Time
    Engineers are the people who have built our world. Everything we use today was at one point nothing but an idea in someone�s head, that was successfully designed and built. So who are the best engineers throughout history?

    10. Nicolaus Otto
    Nicolaus Otto developed the four-stroke or Otto-cycle engine and the first internal combustion engine, where fuel is burned directly in the piston chamber. The Otto-cycle is still used in the internal combustion engines that run all of our cars today. Despite developing the engine, it was Otto�s peers such as Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz who first apply it to locomotion, forever changing how people move around the world.

    9. Alan Turing
    Alan Turing developed the binary architecture now used in all computers, as well as much of the theory behind computers. He is regarded as the father of computer science. The computer you�re currently using would not exist without his contributions to the field. He also broke the German Enigma code during WWII, without which victory would have been far more difficult, if not impossible. After the war he made many other contributions to code making and breaking. While he never really built anything physical, his enormous influence in computer science earned him a place in the top ten.

    8. Mikhail Kalashnikov
    While much of Kalashnikov�s AK-47 was borrowed from other guns, his simplification of their designs to make a nearly flawlessly functioning rifle was his genius. The gun is cheap to manufacture, easy to use, and hard to break. It�s hard to argue with success, after 57 years the AK-47 is still in production, and there are dozens of different varieties from shotguns to sniper rifles and the familiar assault rifle. It is arguably one of the best guns in history, and definitely one of the most influential. After all, what other gun has African children named for it?
    Seven more plus a couple also-rans. A good collection and something that would be really hard to pick.

    The Charmer

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    It seems that Nation of Islam leader "Screwy Louis" Farrakhan has a bit of a history. From Fade to Black comes this story:
    In a biography entitled "Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and His Nation" [1996 Harper Collins Publishing] the author Arthur J. Magida briefly touches on an obscure fact that in the 1950's Louis Farrakhan was a Calypso Singer who went under the name "The Charmer" [Page 29].

    Although unfamiliar with Calypso music we had a hunch that these recordings would be rich with comedic possibilities.... we were not wrong.

    So, we donned our grass skirts, grabbed our favorite maracas, put on our Carmen Miranda headsets, and dove into the world of Calypso music. We called hundreds of antique record stores across the country, dug through countless bargain bins and placed numerous 'want ads' in search of any and all recordings by "The Charmer".

    After a six month search, we were able to find only three albums with music by "The Charmer". ("The Charmer", "Calypsos Too Hot To Handle" and "Calypsos from the West Indies.") After purchasing the albums (from people oblivious to whom "The Charmer" really was) we digitized all the songs and now bring them out of obscurity.
    They have a number of the songs available as RealAudio (really unfortunate choice of Codec) It would be fun to blast these at one of his oh-so-serious "gatherings"

    Tony Blair stepping down

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    Damn -- he is one of the good ones. From the Beeb:
    I will quit within a year - Blair
    Tony Blair has confirmed that he will step down as prime minister within the next 12 months.

    Mr Blair said the Labour conference in two weeks' time would be his last as Labour leader - but he did not name a precise date for his departure.

    He also apologised for Labour's conduct in recent days, admitting it "has not been our finest hour, to be frank".

    Allies have suggested Mr Blair will announce a timetable early in the New Year and hand over power in May.
    He is very much a friend of America and a foe to terrorists despite the Islamist pigheads establishing a significant beachhead in England. He will be missed and in forty years, after the whole Islamofascist bullshit has been taken care of, he will be remembered as being as much a friend of England as Sir Winston or Ronnie here in the colonies.
    It seems that typing the following: confidential "do not distribute" into Google turns up some interesting search results. Almost 65,000 hits and most seem to be just what they say... Note to document creators, ask your IT department if your corporate network is exposed to the outside world. You would be amazed just how many are. If your IT person says: "Huh?", take the top H.R. person out to lunch and explain the need for a better level of IT person.

    Historic Newspaper online

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    Very cool! The entire run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is now available online with a decent text search engine. Check it out here: Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1841-1902 The interface is a bit funky -- odd Java craplets but it's a good start for this impressive collection. Tesla was living in NY City at this time and the paper has quite a few articles on him including the fact that he was fined $100 (the equivalent fine today would be $2215.56).

    More on Greer

    Aussie blog A Western Heart has the definitive post on Germaine Greer's disgusting ass-hattery over the tragic death of Steve Irwin (and a great picture of her; swiped and proudly displayed for your edification here):
    Now what red-blooded male wouldn't want to cuddle up to that in front of a roaring fireplace, on a bearskin rug, on a cold winter's evening. Mmmmmm...
    From JR at A Western Heart:
    Greer, the disgusting Greenie
    Although he was an outspoken conservationist, lots of Greenies disliked Steve Irwin out of jealousy -- he got so much of the publicity and admiration that they crave -- AND he was a supporter of Australia's conservative government. So they made various specious complaints about him "disturbing" the animals he filmed. So what we see below from Australia's chief ratbag -- "publicity at any price" Germaine Greer -- is a regurgitation of that. It shows what scum she is (and always was) that she should at this time defame such a brave and brilliant man. It is a credit to Australia's responsible Left that her words were rightly dismissed by one of their chief spokesman as "politically correct claptrap"

    Feminist Germaine Greer should keep her thoughts about the death of Steve Irwin to herself, Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said today. In an article in British newspaper The Guardian, Ms Greer said that the animal world had finally taken revenge on Irwin for causing stress to the animals he handled. "I think Germaine Greer should just stick a sock in it," Mr Rudd said in Canberra today. "You have got a grieving mother, you have got a couple of grieving young kids and a grieving nation and what to you get from Germaine Greer? You get a bucket load of politically correct pap - it's just nonsense.

    "Steve Irwin was a nature conservationist, an animal conservationist and made a huge contribution to the preservation of wildlife worldwide. "And what do we get from Germaine Greer? - some gratuitous, politically correct claptrap. She should put a sock in it," he said.

    Greer said she had "not much sympathy" for Irwin if he was grappling with the stingray that killed him on the Great Barrier Reef. Those on the boot with Irwin say he was not in any way harassing the stringray when it lashed out at him as he swam over it.
    JR also has what he calls: "a reality-based account of Steve Irwin"
    An American diver who owes his life to Steve Irwin says he was shattered to learn about the Crocodile Hunter's death. "He saved my life," an emotional Scott Jones said today from his home in Iowa. "I've lost a good friend."

    Mr Jones was part of a tragic scuba diving expedition in the Sea of Cortez, off the coast of Mexico, in 2003. Mr Jones' friend, 77-year-old Katie Vrooman, died during the dive after a sea surge knocked her twice against rocks. Mr Jones fought to hold on to her unconscious body for almost two hours and, while hanging off rocks and floating in the water, attempted to resuscitate her. Eventually Mr Jones had to let Ms Vrooman's body go and he spent a harrowing night alone perched on rocks.

    In a lucky twist of fate, Irwin and his film crew happened to be in the vicinity shooting a documentary and heard an SOS call on their radio that two divers had gone missing. Irwin, who had never met Mr Jones or Mr Vrooman, decided he would abandon his film project to try to find them.

    Mr Jones was precariously sitting on a rock outcrop dehydrated and scarred from being battered on the rocks. Irwin, dressed in his khaki shorts and shirt, dived in the water and swam across to save Mr Jones.

    At the time, Mr Jones did not realise Irwin was a celebrity. The quietly-spoken Mr Jones said he had heard of Paul "Crocodile Dundee" Hogan, but not the Crocodile Hunter. "After they got me on to the main boat, Steve helped me get my wetsuit off me and he went below to do something," Jones recalled. "Somebody behind me said 'So what do you think of the Crocodile Hunter?' "So I was looking around for Crocodile Dundee. I thought when the makeup comes off Dundee's looks must change. "But, when I finally got home my daughter turned the Animal Planet channel on and I started watching his show from then. "It was wild. He was jumping on crocodiles and things like that."
    Both of these are excerpts -- visit the site to see the rest.

    A nifty new invention

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    From Modern Mechanix, we get this page scan of the April 1940 issue of Popular Science and their announcement of a nifty new tool:
    Gotta get one! And that issue has a great cover:

    We're all gonna die!!!

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    or at least get a little warmer and there isn't anything we can do about it. It's a conspiracy -- the Earth is trying to kill us. From The New Scientist:
    Siberia's pools burp out nasty surprise
    Northern Siberia's thaw lakes are belching out up to five times as much methane as previously thought. And as global warming causes the permafrost to melt, lakes worldwide could emit even more methane, reinforcing climate change.

    Katey Walter at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and her colleagues developed a new technique to measure the amount of methane bubbling out of two lakes in northern Siberia. In autumn, when the lakes froze over, they identified regions where methane was being released by searching for gas bubbles pushing through the ice. They then placed umbrella-shaped bubble traps over the hotspots and measured emissions daily for one year. At both lakes, the gas flux was five times as high as previously estimated. Walter's team also got similar figures from smaller studies on more than 100 other lakes in the region (Nature, vol 443, p 71)

    Human activity is still the biggest source of atmospheric methane, but lakes can no longer be ignored. "Until now we didn't realise that lakes were such an important source," says Walter. Over the coming years methane flux from Siberian lakes is likely to increase, as melting permafrost releases carbon into the lakes. "Bacteria eat this carbon and burp out methane," says Walter.
    And the Kyoto was based on an outdated climate model that didn't include Water Vapor (the worst of the "greenhouse gasses" by far) because it didn't fit their agenda. And in another 400 years, the Earth will start cooling and there is not a thing that we can do about it.

    Put a sock in it Germaine...

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    ...your fifteen minutes expired a long long time ago. From MS/NBC/Reuters:
    'Crocodile Hunter' exploited animals, critic says
    Feminist author Greer says 'It�s no surprise that he came to grief�

    Feminist academic Germaine Greer said on Wednesday she hoped the death of Australian �Crocodile Hunter� Steve Irwin would mark the end of what she called exploitative nature documentaries, a discordant note amid floods of tributes.

    Irwin died in a freak diving accident off Australia�s northeast coast on Monday after he was hit in the chest by the serrated barb from a stingray�s tail.

    Echoing comments she made this week in Britain�s Guardian newspaper, Australian-born Greer likened Irwin to a lion tamer and said he had intruded on the habitats of animals and treated them with �massive insensitivity.�

    �It�s no surprise that he came to grief,� Greer told Nine Network television.
    What better testament to academic life could we have than this. The people in the hallowed halls of learning don't have a clue about real life and what people are all about. They isolate themselves and only accept input that meets their narrow criterion, willfully ignoring all else. Time for a good house cleaning (or enema)

    A bunch of sick ghouls

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    Noticed a spike in traffic recently and went through the referrer logs to see what triggered it. This time I should not have done this as the searches that people were running are the kind of shit that should not be done by decent people. From someone using Yahoo Canada:
    results on steve irwins death,news for sept.5,2006
    OK -- benign enough. and then from Yahoo US:
    queensland police video actual death of steve irwin
    bindi sue irwin photos
    "steve irwin" "actual video" "stingray"
    steve irwin barb video actual footage
    steven irwins death on video
    bindi sue irwin
    shocking video websites, steve irwin stingray video
    I can understand curiosity about the man and his untimely death but to be looking for images of his eight year old daughter is not quite rite in the head if you understand my train of thought... As for those fucktards who are searching for videos of Steve's death; I can hazard a guess that you are living in your parent(s) house, never finished College, work for a fast food restaurant, really get into video games and have had sex with an actual, other, consenting human being less than five times in your entire life and your partners were really disappointed with the overall experience. No authentic Man or Woman who has seen death happen and who knows the realities of life would ever search for crap like this.


    A new food has been invented. Get ready for deep-fried Coca Cola. From Florida station WFTV:

    Newest Fair Food: Deep-Fried Coca-Cola
    There are fried Twinkies and even fried candy bars.

    Now, vendor Abel Gonzales Jr. has come up with a new artery-clogging concoction for the State Fair of Texas. It's fried Coke.

    Gonzales deep-fries Coca-Cola-flavored batter. He then drizzles Coke fountain syrup on it. The fried Coke is topped with whipped cream, cinnamon sugar and a cherry. Gonzales said the fried Coke came about just from thinking aloud.

    Gonzales' diet-buster wins the creativity honor at the second-annual Big Tex Choice Awards Contest.

    Judges for the contest chose Shirley London's Fried Praline Perfection as the tastiest fried delicacy.

    The two won out among 26 entries such as fried macaroni and cheese and a deep-fried cosmopolitan.

    London said she came up with the fried pralines idea after buying pralines at the fair last year. She plans to sell the pralines alongside fried marshmallows.

    Gonzales achieved notoriety in 2005 with the fried peanut butter, banana, and jelly sandwich -- selling an estimated 25,000 of the treats, according to the fair's Web site. The site said London got media attention in 2004 with her fried marshmallows on-a-stick.

    This is the same state fair that brought about the corn dog. The Web site said Neil and Carl Fletcher conjured up a sweetened corn-battered wiener on-a-stick and sold it for 15 cents during the 1942 State Fair of Texas.

    Actually doesn't sound half bad... Wonder how long it will take to migrate up here.

    A local burger place has been doing a Crispy Kreme Burger which has been selling a lot better than it should...

    Giving the oil shortage the slip...

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    Interesting find in Mexico. From WorldNet Daily:
    Massive oil field found under Gulf
    Reserves south of New Orleans could rival North Slope, boosting U.S. supplies by 50%

    Chevron and two oil exploration companies announced the discovery of a giant oil reserve in the Gulf of Mexico that could boost the nation's supplies by as much as 50 percent and provide compelling evidence oil is a plentiful deep-earth product made naturally on a continuous basis.

    Known as the Jack Field, the reserve � some 270 miles southwest of New Orleans � is estimated to hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil.

    Authors Jerome R. Corsi and Craig R. Smith say the giant find validates the key thesis of their book, "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil," that oil did not come from the remains of ancient plant and animal life but is made naturally by the Earth.

    "We have always rejected the theories that oil and natural gas are biological products," Corsi told WND. "Chevron's find in the Gulf of Mexico validates our argument that the Gulf is a huge resource for finding oil and natural gas."

    The Wall Street Journal reports today the find could boost the nation's current reserves of 29.3 billion barrels by as much as 50 percent.

    Chevron discovered the field by drilling the deepest to date in the Gulf of Mexico, down 28,175 feet in waters nearly 7,000 feet deep, some seven miles below the surface of the Earth.

    The second biggest source of oil in the world is Mexico's giant Cantarell field in the Gulf of Mexico near the Yucatan Peninsula. It was discovered in 1976, supposedly after a fisherman named Cantarell reported an oil seep in Campeche Bay.

    In March, Mexico announced the discovery of a field that could be larger than Cantarell, the Noxal field in the Gulf of Mexico off Veracruz.

    In "Black Gold Stranglehold," Corsi and Smith argued the theory developed in the Soviet Union in the 1950s by Prof. Nikolai Kudryavtsev that oil is a deep-earth, abiotic product. The theory, the authors wrote, "rejected the contention that oil was formed from the remains of ancient plant and animal life that died millions of years ago. According to Kudryavtsev, oil had nothing to do with the unproved concept of a boggy primeval forest rotting into petroleum. The Soviet scientist ridiculed the idea that an ancient primeval morass of plant and animal remains was covered by sedimentary deposits over millions of years, compressed by millions of more years of heat and pressure."
    And yet another reason to thank Jimmah Carter:
    Earlier this year, Cuba announced plans to hire the communist Chinese to drill for oil some 45 miles off the shores of Florida. This move was made possible by the 1977 agreement under President Jimmy Carter that created for Cuba an "Exclusive Economic Zone" extending from the country's western tip to the north, virtually to Key West, Fla.
    Whatever happened to our 200-mile territorial limit. Granted Cuba is closer than 200 miles but sheesh -- Jimmah gave away the farm here in a foolishly ignorant attempt at appeasement. He could have pushed for a quid pro quo and gotten human rights reforms and better medical care for the Cuban citizens but nooooo -- just give it away. Finally, there is some vindication for Dr. Thomas Gold who's landmark 1992 paper: The Deep Hot Biosphere got people re-thinking the origins of petroleum. From Dr. Gold: "Hydrocarbons are not biology reworked by geology (as the traditional view would hold) but rather geology reworked by biology" I have just this one question for those who would debate this idea. Given that there is a large oil deposit found underneath 7,000 feet of seawater and another 28K feet of earth, where did the vegetable matter come from that made this deposit. The current thought is that the vegetable matter came from the Carboniferous period, specifically the later Pennsylvanian half. Certainly a lot of the coal beds come from this period but oil? You can argue that plankton and marine algae died and were compressed and incubated much like the terrestrial coal precursors but there was no known geological activity that could bury this deposit to the five mile depth that it is sitting at today. I am thinking that the early geologists looked at the similarities between coal and oil and conflated the two origins. We need to separate the two and re-think a bit...

    The Tie that Binds

    Fascinating bit of history on the origin of a piece of clothing. From a Croatian Necktie store:

    Many events in the history of mankind eventually fade into oblivion, but others, leave their indelible marks for the entire world to see. More than 350 years ago, the Croats initiated one such influential occurrence. Although started in the 17th century in a small region on the Adriatic coast, the consequences of this event are still very much evident the world over. 600 million people now wear the ubiquitous symbol of Croatia around their necks, close to their hearts.

    Did you know that Croatia is the mother country of the necktie?

    In his book, La Grande Histoire de la Cravate (Flamarion, Paris, 1994), Francois Chaille tells us about the appearance of this article of clothing and how it became fashionable.

    "... Around the year 1635, some six thousand soldiers and knights came to Paris to give their support to King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. Among them were a great number of Croatian mercenaries led by a ban, or Croatian viceroy.

    The traditional outfit of these Croats aroused interest on account of the unusual and picturesque scarves distinctively tied about their necks. The scarves were made of various cloths, ranging from coarse material for common soldiers, to fine cotton and silk for officers. This elegant "Croatian style" immediately enamoured the French, who were delighted by the new article of clothing, which had been previously unknown in Europe.

    For the gallant French officers in the thirty-year war, the advantage of the Croatian neck scarf was its enviable practicality. In contrast to the lace collar that had to be kept white and carefully starched, the scarf was simply and loosely tied around the neck without need for any additional care. Just as elegant as the stiff, high collars, the new scarves were less awkward, easier to wear and remained visible beneath the soldiers' thick, long hair.

    Around the year 1650, during the reign of Louis XIV, the Croatian scarf was accepted in France, above all in court, where military ornaments were much admired. The fashionable expression, 'a la croate', soon evolved into a new French word, which still exists today: la cravate. This innovation symbolized the height of culture and elegance. On his return to England from exile, Charles II brought with him this new word in fashion. Over the next ten years, this fashion novelty spread across Europe, as well as across the colonies on the American continent..."

    Since that time in the 17th century, derivatives of the word croata have been present in many languages, (i.e., English, German, French, Portuguese, Italian), meaning cravat or tie. It follows then that Croatia is the mother country of the necktie, as France is the mother country of high fashion, Brazil of coffee, Switzerland of cheese and watches, Portugal of port wine etc.

    The Central European version of the Highland Tartan. The two knots used these days are the Four-In-Hand and the Windsor.

    A true workers paradise

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    I was reading about Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel in this article at Japan Times and these two paragraphs jumped out at me:
    No less than 41 percent of the voting-age adult population lives primarily on government transfers such as state pensions, full-scale public stipends, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, and social assistance. (In East Germany, the figure is a whopping 47 percent.)

    Among those adults who actually vote, recipients of public transfers form a clear majority. Indeed, the upper 10 percent of income recipients pay more than 50 percent of aggregate income tax revenue, and the upper 20 percent pays about 80 percent, while 40 percent of income recipients pay no income taxes whatsoever. Small wonder that a huge majority of the population -- and even a slight majority of CDU voters -- prefer a strengthening of the welfare state to a more market-oriented system.
    Isn't Germany supposed to be an Economic Powerhouse of the New Europe? Let us check with the CIA World Factbook for Germany:
    Economy - overview:
    Germany's affluent and technologically powerful economy - the fifth largest in the world - has become one of the slowest growing economies in the euro zone. A quick turnaround is not in the offing in the foreseeable future. Growth in 2001-03 fell short of 1%, rising to 1.7% in 2004 before falling back to 0.9% in 2005. The modernization and integration of the eastern German economy continues to be a costly long-term process, with annual transfers from west to east amounting to roughly $70 billion. Germany's aging population, combined with high unemployment, has pushed social security outlays to a level exceeding contributions from workers. Structural rigidities in the labor market - including strict regulations on laying off workers and the setting of wages on a national basis - have made unemployment a chronic problem. Corporate restructuring and growing capital markets are setting the foundations that could allow Germany to meet the long-term challenges of European economic integration and globalization, particularly if labor market rigidities are further addressed. In the short run, however, the fall in government revenues and the rise in expenditures have raised the deficit above the EU's 3% debt limit.
    These numbers sure give me a lot of incentive to make money in Germany...

    Programming Quotations

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    Great collection of Programming Quotations at (a great Seattle area ISP) Here are four:
    Once a new technology starts rolling, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.
    ~~ Stewart Brand

    Programming can be fun, so can cryptography; however they should not be combined.
    ~~Kreitzberg and Shneiderman

    ... the designer of a new system must not only be the implementor and the first large-scale user; the designer should also write the first user manual. ... If I had not participated fully in all these activities, literally hundreds of improvements would never have been made, because I would never have thought of them or perceived why they were important.
    ~~Donald Knuth
    And this wonderful one:
    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
    ~~Bertrand Russell
    Lots more at the website. Awww -- here are two more (this is a good collection!)
    There are only two industries that refer to their customers as "users".
    ~~Edward Tufte

    Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they're much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity. A language that makes it hard to write elegant code makes it hard to write good code.
    ~~Eric S. Raymond

    A comparison of two people

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    Found this over at The Braden Files
    The global Islamic population is approximately 1,200,000,000, or 20% of the world population...

    They have received the following Nobel Prizes:

    1988 - Najib Mahfooz.

    1978 - Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat
    1994 - Yaser Arafat

    1990 - Elias James Corey
    1999 - Ahmed Zewail

    1960 - Peter Brian Medawar
    1998 - Ferid Mourad

    The global Jewish population is approximately 14,000,000, or about 00.02% of the world population...

    They have received the following Nobel Prizes:

    1910 - Paul Heyse
    1927 - Henri Bergson
    1958 - Boris Pasternak
    1966 - Shmuel Yosef Agnon
    1966 - Nelly Sachs
    1976 - Saul Bellow
    1978 - Isaac Bashevis Singer
    1981 - Elias Canetti
    1987 - Joseph Brodsky
    1991 - Nadine Gordimer

    1911 - Alfred Fried
    1911 - Tobias Michael Carel Asser
    1968 - Rene Cassin
    1973 - Henry Kissinger
    1978 - Menachem Begin
    1986 - Elie Wiesel
    1994 - Shimon Peres
    1994 - Yitzhak Rabin

    1905 - Adolph Von Baeyer
    1906 - Henri Moissan
    1907 - Albert Abraham Michelson
    1908 - Gabriel Lippmann
    1910 - Otto Wallach
    1915 - Richard Willstaetter
    1918 - Fritz Haber
    1921 - Albert Einstein
    1922 - Niels Bohr
    1925 - James Franck
    1925 - Gustav Hertz
    1943 - Gustav Stern
    1943 - George Charles de Hevesy
    1944 - Isidor Issac Rabi
    1952 - Felix Bloch
    1954 - Max Born
    1958 - Igor Tamm
    1959 - Emilio Segre
    1960 - Donald A. Glaser
    1961 - Robert Hofstadter
    1961 - Melvin Calvin
    1962 - Lev Davidovich Landau
    1962 - Max Ferdinand Perutz
    1965 - Richard Phillips Feynman
    1965 - Julian Schwinger
    1969 - Murray Gell-Mann
    1971 - Dennis Gabor
    1972 - William Howard Stein
    1973 - Brian David Josephson
    1975 - Benjamin Mottleson
    1976 - Burton Richter
    1977 - Ilya Prigogine
    1978 - Arno Allan Penzias
    1978 - Peter L Kapitza
    1979 - Stephen Weinberg
    1979 - Sheldon Glashow
    1979 - Herbert Charles Brown
    1980 - Paul Berg
    1980 - Walter Gilbert
    1981 - Roald Hoffmann
    1982 - Aaron Klug
    1985 - Albert A. Hauptman
    1985 - Jerome Karle
    1986 - Dudley R. Herschbach
    1988 - Robert Huber
    1988 - Leon Lederman
    1988 - Melvin Schwartz
    1988 - Jack Steinberger
    1989 - Sidney Altman
    1990 - Jerome Friedman
    1992 - Rudolph Marcus
    1995 - Martin Perl
    2000 - Alan J. Heeger

    1970 - Paul Anthony Samuelson
    1971 - Simon Kuznets
    1972 - Kenneth Joseph Arrow
    1975 - Leonid Kantorovich
    1976 - Milton Friedman
    1978 - Herbert A. Simon
    1980 - Lawrence Robert Klein
    1985 - Franco Modigliani
    1987 - Robert M. Solow
    1990 - Harry Markowitz
    1990 - Merton Miller
    1992 - Gary Becker
    1993 - Robert Fogel

    1908 - Elie Metchnikoff
    1908 - Paul Erlich
    1914 - Robert Barany
    1922 - Otto Meyerhof
    1930 - Karl Landsteiner
    1931 - Otto Warburg
    1936 - Otto Loewi
    1944 - Joseph Erlanger
    1944 - Herbert Spencer Gasser
    1945 - Ernst Boris Chain
    1946 - Hermann Joseph Muller
    1950 - Tadeus Reichstein
    1952 - Selman Abra ham Waksman
    1953 - Hans Krebs
    1953 - Fritz Albert Lipmann
    1958 - Joshua Lederberg
    1959 - Arthur Kornberg
    1964 - Konrad Bloch
    1965 - Francois Jacob
    1965 - Andre Lwoff
    1967 - George Wald
    1968 - Marshall W. Nirenberg
    1969 - Salvador Luria
    1970 - Julius Axelrod
    1970 - Sir Bernard Katz
    1972 - Gerald Maurice Edelman
    1975 - Howard Martin Temin
    1976 - Baruch S. Blumberg
    1977 - Roselyn Sussman Yalow
    1978 - Daniel Nathans
    1980 - Baruj Benacerraf
    1984 - Cesar Milstein
    1985 - Michael Stuart Brown
    1985 - Joseph L. Goldstein
    1986 - Stanley Cohen (& Rita Levi-Montalcini)
    1988 - Gertrude Elion
    1989 - Harold Varmus
    1991 - Erwin Neher
    1991 - Bert Sakmann
    1993 - Richard J. Roberts
    1993 - Phillip Sharp
    1994 - Alfred Gilman
    1995 - Edward B. Lewis

    The Jews are not demonstrating with their dead on the streets, yelling and chanting and asking for revenge.

    The Jews are not promoting brain washing their children in military training camps.

    The Jews are not teaching their children how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non Muslims.

    The Jews don't hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics.

    The Jews don't traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels.

    The Jews don't have the economic strength of petroleum, nor the possibilities to force the world's media to see "their side" of the question.

    Perhaps the world's Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems.
    And people still think that Muslims are the new Jews. They are not -- not by a long long shot. Walk outside tonight and take a look at the Moon. Almost full, nice harvest moon. Some people from America went there and walked on the surface and made it back safely. Some other advanced nations are talking about doing this as well and we are thinking of returning. For all their money and oil, the Arabs could never do this. They have invested in hate and fear and shame, not knowledge. Their schools are a f*cking joke. And we treat them as equals and listen to them without hearing when they say they want to wipe the Jews of the face of the earth and when they say that they want to enslave us if we do not convert to Islam. I am sad that it is going to take another five or ten years for the West to really wake up and see who their bed-partners are. Things are going to be interesting. Very glad that we don't travel much and are far away from a major urban area.

    Death by Environmentalism

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    Interesting read at The Atlas Center (Ayn Rand):
    Death by Environmentalism
    What does it mean in practice to hold a philosophy that declares that pristine nature has intrinsic value in itself, and that regards Man and his activities as intrusive threats to the so-called ecological balance?

    I have discussed the history, meaning, and basic premises of environmentalism previously, in my monograph The Green Machine and in my recorded talk "Green Cathedrals," both available from The Objectivist Center. I also explore these issues on my Web site.

    But here I want to focus on the consequences of accepting core environmentalist premises�specifically, their deadly impact on human life.

    In the same way that so many intellectuals once turned a blind eye to the massacres perpetrated by communists, most intellectuals now evade the three decades of mass destruction and misery perpetrated by environmentalists. Sharing the movement's underlying philosophic precepts and focusing their gaze upon its proclaimed goals, they remain blissfully ignorant of its wretched consequences, or�when brought to their attention� excuse them as unfortunate "excesses" wrought by a few overly zealous "idealists," whose hearts are nonetheless in the right place.
    Come on Robert, tell us what you really think! Heh... Doesn't pull any punches. This is a long article so I'm just excerpting a bit. He gives a few examples and dissects them with a clear understanding of what is really going on. A sample:
    The French Heat Wave Deaths
    According to an Associated Press report (September 9, 2003): "The heat baked many parts of Europe, killing livestock and fanning forest fires, but experts said the heat was more severe in France because temperatures did not drop at night, meaning those exhausted from the daytime heat enjoyed no respite when the sun went down."

    However, the high temperatures alone do not explain mass deaths in a modern nation. After all, summer temperatures in the American West soar frequently above 100 degrees Fahrenheit�as they did again this year�without corresponding heat-related deaths. Indeed, climatologist Patrick J. Michaels pointed out on Fox News (August 20, 2003) that "the mean summer temperature in Paris is the same as in Detroit, Chicago, and Denver, and when these American cities heat up to record levels�there's no proportional number of excess deaths." What, then, was so different about France?

    The Associated Press story gives the following clue: "The bulk of the victims�many of them elderly�died during the height of the heat wave, which brought suffocating temperatures of up to 104 degrees in a country where air conditioning is rare."

    This prompts an obvious question: Why is air conditioning so rare in a technologically sophisticated country like France?

    In an interview, Michaels told me that a major reason is the impact of environmentalism on government energy policy. To address the alleged threat of global warming, France, along with the rest of the European Union, has imposed steep energy taxes in order to reduce energy consumption. As a result, Michaels explained, energy costs to consumers in France are about 25 percent higher than to consumers in the United States. At the same time, average incomes in France are considerably lower than those in America, which, in relative terms, makes electricity there all the more expensive.

    Sure enough, the high energy taxes have worked exactly as the environmentalists planned: they have reduced energy consumption. Seeking ways to cut their electric bills, French citizens realized that air conditioners consume more energy than almost any other household appliance. For the poor and the elderly, especially, air conditioning simply became unaffordable. So, by the millions, they decided to forgo the amenity that environmental taxes made so expensive. Air conditioning, so universal in America, became in France an indulgence of the well-to-do. As Chantal de Singly, director of the Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris, put it in Le Monde (August 19, 2003), the heat wave revealed two classes of French citizens: "the France of the air conditioned versus the France of the overheated."
    Temps in Paris are the same as many major American cities but the French, in fear over an unsubstantiated climate model that does not take into account the most pernicious Global Warming Gas of all, have taxed the comfort out of their citizens. A government? A fraud...

    Crap - R.I.P Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter)

    From the Australian branch of

    Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin dead
    THE Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, is dead.

    He was killed in a freak accident in Cairns, police sources said today.

    It is understood he was killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest and reportedly into his heart.

    He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary when the tragedy occured.

    The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) was called about 11am (AEST) and an emergency services helicopter was flown to the crew's boat on Batt Reef, off the coast near Cairns, with a doctor and emergency services paramedic on board.

    Irwin had a puncture wound to the left side of his chest and was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Irwin's body is being flown to Cairns.

    Tasmania Police this afternoon confirmed his wife Terri was travelling in the state at the time of the tragedy.

    A spokeswoman said police had made contact with Mrs Irwin and "passed on a message relating to the death of her husband".

    The Irwins have two children - a daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin, eight, and a three-year-old son, Robert (Bob) Clarence Irwin.

    Steve Irwin - known worldwide as the Crocodile Hunter - was famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry "Crikey!".

    In an sad twist, it has been reported that his new documentary was aimed at demystifying the stingray.

    Damn! 44 is waaaay too young to go, especially for someone with the appetite for life that Steve had.

    Another page on the AU website has a nice obituary.

    His spirit will be missed He will be missed -- his spirit will live forever and if you are going to go out, going out doing something that you love is the way to do it. A quick "Oh Shit!" and then Peace.

    No posting tonight

    Had the Farmer's Market today. It our worst day yet -- lots of people stopped but they were all in a "we are leaving tomorrow" mode and didn't want to buy anything. We did make money but not what we were expecting. Piffle! Got up at 6:00am to pick so pretty tired -- working on some web development for one of my other sites and for a client. Heading into town tomorrow but spew will resume tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I will leave you with this -- shamelessly swiped from Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple:
    A Marine
    A U.S. Marine squad was marching north of Basra when they came upon an Iraqi terrorist, badly injured and unconscious. On the opposite side of the road was an American Marine in similar but less serious state.

    The Marine was conscious and alert and as first aid was given to both men, the squad leader asked the injured Marine what had happened.

    The Marine reported, "I was heavily armed and moving north along the highway here, and coming south was a heavily armed insurgent. We saw each other and both took cover in the ditches along the road.

    "I yelled to him that Saddam Hussein is a miserable, lowlife, scumbag, and he yelled back that Senator Ted Kennedy is a good-for-nothing, fat, left wing liberal drunk. So I said that Osama Bin Ladin dresses and acts like a frigid, mean spirited woman!"

    He retaliated by yelling, "Oh yeah? Well so does Hillary Clinton!".....

    "And, there we were, Sir, standing in the middle of the road shaking hands, when a truck hit us."

    A belated Happy Birthday

    Dang -- I should have been on top of this one... Benjamin Franklin is one of my heroes. A classic American Geek; self-taught, printer, scientist, inventor, musician, linguist, slaveholder turned abolitionist, philanthropist, patriot and diplomat. Last January 17th was his 300th birthday. A toast to your health, good sir!


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    Gorgeous piece of artwork. My tastes are not exactly mainstream normal but I really like this. From The Telegraph (UK) Images of the Week:
    Visitors walk under 'Head On' by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. The installation consists a pack of 99 life-sized wolves, fabricated from painted sheepskins and stuffed with hay and metal wires, barreling in a continuous stream towards - and into - a glass wall.
    Good to see that the shades of Sol and Peggy are still pushing the boundaries of good artwork. The Deutsche Guggenheim website for this exhibition is here: Head On

    Nepotism is OK... long as you keep it in the family. Hat's off to Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens for sending some lucrative consulting gigs to a State Senator Ben Stevens. Remember, Sen. Stevens was the one who is trying to get Federal Highway funds to build the $320 Million bridge to nowhere. From The Sunlight Foundation:

    Catalog of Ted Stevens' Actions That Have Benefited Clients of Ben Stevens
    From the miracle of Nexis comes this list compiled by Chuck Neubauer, Judy Pasternak and Richard T. Cooper of the Los Angeles Times in June 2003 of Sen. Ted Stevens official actions in the U.S. Senate that have benefited the clients of his son, state Sen. Ben Stevens. Regrettably, that article (part of a two-part series the Times did looking at congressional offspring who became lobbyists) is not available online; this is a small chunk of it.
    The Stevens connection

    The special interest: Cook Inlet Region Inc., (CIRI), a Native Alaskan corporation created by federal legislation sponsored by Sen. Stevens

    What Sen. Ted Stevens has done: Put a rider on an appropriations bill to help CIRI make a profit from a telecommunications investment. Pushed other legislation that would benefit CIRI, including an attempt in January to make CIRI eligible for tribal gaming.

    How much Ben Stevens has been paid in consulting fees: $218,774

    The special interest: VECO, a large Alaskan engineering and construction company with business around the world. It started out as an oil field service contractor.

    What Sen. Ted Stevens has done: Helped settle a contract dispute between VECO and Pakistan while chairing an appropriations subcommittee that was considering legislation to remove sanctions against Pakistan. Mandated that federal job training money be used to train Russian oil field workers for VECO and other Alaskan companies. Pushed for the Alaska Natural Gas pipeline.

    How much Ben Stevens has been paid in consulting fees: $148,000 in consulting fees from 2000 to 2002. $64,000 in lobbying fees in 1996 and 1997.

    The special interest: Special Olympics

    What Sen. Ted Stevens has done: Brought more than $10 million in federal aid to put on the 2001 Special Olympics Winter Games in Anchorage.

    How much Ben Stevens has been paid in consulting fees: $715,395 in salary over three years to run the Alaska games. $57,000 as a consultant to the national Special Olympics since he ended his job running the Anchorage games.

    I just excerpted the first three out of a list of ten such egregious examples of Pork and Nepotism. Fortunately, following this link from Instapundit, it seems that the FBI just raided a number of Alaskan lawmakers including the Junior Mr. Stevens. From the Anchorage Daily News:

    FBI raids legislative offices
    Agents are quiet on purpose of Alaska investigation; Veco is named in the warrants

    Federal agents swarmed legislative offices around the state Thursday, executing search warrants in a coordinated series of raids that appeared to target the long-standing relationship between the oil field service company Veco and leading lawmakers.

    The FBI reported making no arrests.

    Above Anchorage's Fourth Avenue, FBI agents spent most of the afternoon behind the closed doors and drawn blinds of the fifth-floor offices of Senate President Ben Stevens and Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Cowdery, both Anchorage Republicans. Through slits in the blinds, one agent in Stevens' office, wearing rubber gloves, could be seen packing away evidence in a container.

    In Juneau, tourists and residents were greeted with the extraordinary sight of FBI agents hauling out files from the Alaska State Capitol after searching offices there.

    Fruit does not fall far from the tree...

    A simple idea...

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    Brain-fart or whatever, just had this thought: If the United Nations wants to prove that it is able to provide leadership to this discombobulated group of nation-states that we call a Planet, how about giving them a simple test.
    Pick one area of conflict.

    Fix it to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
    C'mon Kofi -- step up to the plate and give it your best!

    Antithesis - residential division

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    Holy Cripes! According to this article at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, some people are actually trying to market downtown condos in Seattle that are around 300 square feet in size -- for $150K on up!
    296 square feet -- but it's home
    Tiny condos in Belltown to start at $149,950

    Park two of GMC's biggest Sierra pickups next to each other. That's a lot of truck, but a small condominium -- at least by Seattle standards.

    But a local developer is betting Seattle urbanites are primed to carve out their own two-truck chunks of Belltown. The moda condos, set to break ground in October, promise "New York-style living," with units as small as 296 square feet that start at $149,950.

    "I think there's unmet demand for affordable new construction in downtown," said developer G. David Hoy, president of HMI Real Estate Inc. "I also believe downtown needs more diversity."

    Debra Smith, who now lives in a studio apartment in Queen Anne, has already reserved a moda studio. She extolled the location, the price and even the size.

    "I like having everything in just one room," she said. "I just think it's a waste of money to have all this space that you don't really need."

    Moda is not Seattle's first small-condo project. The Montreux building, built in 1999 at 425 Vine St., has condos barely above 300 square feet.
    Click for full-size Image
    Spending time on a boat is a lot of fun -- I used to have sailboats when I lived in Seattle and it was always a lot of fun to go and spend a few nights on them tied up to the dock just to get away and take a mini-vacation. But I always had a house to go back to. Granted, I like to work with my hands and have always had a shop of some sort as well as the music and electronics equipment but sheesh -- I can't even put my IDEAS into 300 Sq. Ft. let alone my living space. The word(s) you are searching for: Jail Cell

    Been There - Done That

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    From Team Moon Robotics comes this list of common shop tools. Here are four examples:
    DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your soda across the room, splattering it against that freshly painted part you were drying.

    PLIERS: A simple hand tool used to round off bolt heads.

    CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 16-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.

    TROUBLE LIGHT: The home mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin", which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, its main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate that 105-mm howitzer shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.
    Lots more at the site: Team Moon Robotics

    Revisionism - start with the children

    From the Houston Chronicle comes this story of China's new history books:

    Where's Mao? In China's new history book, Marxism is out
    When high school students in Shanghai crack their history textbooks this fall they may be in for a surprise.

    The new standard world history text drops wars, dynasties and communist revolutions in favor of colorful tutorials on economics, technology, social customs and globalization.

    Socialism has been reduced to a single, short chapter in the senior high school history course. Chinese communism before the economic reform that began in 1979 is covered in a sentence. The text mentions Mao Zedong only once - in a chapter on etiquette.

    Nearly overnight the country's most prosperous schools have shelved the Marxist template that had dominated standard history texts since the 1950s.

    The changes passed high-level scrutiny, the authors say, and are part of a broader effort to promote a more stable, less violent view of Chinese history that serves today's economic and political goals.

    And more:

    J.P. Morgan, Bill Gates, the New York Stock Exchange, the space shuttle and Japan's bullet train are all highlighted. There is a lesson on how neckties became fashionable.

    The French and Bolshevik revolutions, once seen as turning points in world history, now get far less attention. Mao, the Long March, colonial oppression of China and the Rape of Nanjing are taught only in a compressed history curriculum in junior high.

    "Our traditional version of history was focused on ideology and national identity," said Zhu Xueqin, a historian at Shanghai University.

    "The new history is less ideological, and that suits the political goals of today."

    How sweet -- the only political movement responsible for directly murdering over one hundred million people and which had zero compunction about editing history (see the photos below of Nikolai Yezhov and Joseph Stalin where Leon Trotsky gets the boot) now finds itself on the business end of the editors brush...



    And you just have to love a political theory about the betterment of the working class that was formulated by someone who never held a real job in his life with the exception of editing a radical newspaper for one year from 1842 to 1843. Marx studied law but never practiced. Sponged off of his wife's parents and Engels.

    An Earth-Shattering Ka-Boom

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    Moon shattering actually. If you have clear skies tomorrow (Saturday) evening, grab some binoculars or a scope and take a look at the Moon around 10:41 Pacific Daylight Time (Sept. 3rd 0541 GMT). From Science@NASA
    SMART-1 to Crash the Moon
    Amateur astronomers, grab your telescopes. A spaceship is about to crash into the Moon, and you may be able to see the impact.

    The spacecraft: SMART-1, a lunar orbiter belonging to the European Space Agency (ESA).

    The impact site: Lacus Excellentiae (The Lake of Excellence), an ancient, 100-mile wide crater in the Moon's southern hemisphere.

    The time to watch: Saturday, September 2nd at 10:41 p.m. PDT (Sept. 3rd, 0541 UT).
    And why are we being treated to this display of celestial fireworks?
    Why is SMART-1 crashing? There's nothing wrong with the spacecraft, which is wrapping up a successful 3-year mission to the Moon. SMART-1's main job was to test a European-built ion engine. It worked beautifully, propelling the craft in 2003 on a unique spiral path from Earth to the Moon. From lunar orbit, SMART-1 took thousands of high-resolution pictures and made mineral maps of the Moon's terrain. One of its most important discoveries was a "Peak of Eternal Light," a mountaintop near the Moon's north pole in constant, year-round sunlight. Peaks of Eternal Light are prime real estate for solar-powered Moon bases.

    But now SMART-1 is running low on fuel. It has to come down sometime�and soon�so ESA mission scientists decided to crash it in a place where the crash can be seen from Earth and studied.

    When SMART-1 hits the ground, it will explode in a flash of light. This won't be the sort of explosion we'd see on Earth. The Moon has no oxygen to support fire or combustion. Instead, the flash will be caused by rocks and soil made so hot by the impact that they suddenly glow.

    The area will be in complete darkness at the moment of impact, so much the better to see the flash. How bright will it be? No one knows. Estimates range from 7th to 15th magnitude. In other words, it might be bright enough for backyard telescopes--or so dim that even big professional observatories won't see a thing. The only way to find out is to look. Observing tips may be found here (ALPO), here (ESA) and, in many languages, here (REA Brazil).

    "We'll be watching," says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "Measuring the brightness of SMART-1's impact is important to our research."
    Very cool! We have a good measure of light pollution from Abbotsford to our North
    I was at our Honey vendor today to get some more jars to sell at the local farmers market (Gerry's honey is the only thing we sell that we do not personally produce). He was saying that the price of Honey was going up in October and that it wasn't just him, everybody is doing it. The reason? Government subsidized Ethanol production. Since the government is giving so much money to farmers for Ethanol production such that the price of corn is elevated, food manufacturers are turning to alternative sources of sweeteners, Honey being the primary choice. Price of Honey goes up. And for the people who think that Ethanol is an alternative to Gasoline -- it takes almost a gallon of petroleum fuel to deliver one gallon of Ethanol. The only "economic advantage" comes from the Government Subsidies and this money is coming from the taxpayers -- us -- so we are paying more for an inefficient fuel, it's just coming out of a different bank account so it doesn't hurt as much at the pump.

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    About this Archive

    This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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