January 2008 Archives

Amazing lightbulbs

Hat tip to BoingBoing Gadgets for this link to Glass Artist Dylan Kehde Roelofs and his amazing lightbulbs. Here is one of them:
Gorgeous work and a good eye for design.

Fun times flying through San Francisco airport

TSA stuck on stupid again. From BoingBoing comes this link to The Laughing Squid
TSA Now Requiring All Electronic Items Placed In Bins at SFO
Wow, flying out of SFO just became much worse. While traveling this morning I surprised to find out that TSA is now requiring that you remove all electronic devices from your carry-on bags, including cables etc. and place them in a separate bin to be scanned at the security checkpoints. Along with slowing down the line to a crawl, this will undoubtedly lead to people losing expensive equipment, not to mention the possiblity for your stuff to be accidentally taken by someone else or even stolen.

Of course none of this information is mentioned on either the TSA or SFO websites.

Does anyone know if TSA is requiring this at any other airports?
Who are these fucking clowns -- they maximize the hassle-factor for common travelers while leaving gaping holes in basic airport security procedures that have been breached time and again by people trying to test the system... I do understand a need for airport security but they should spend the money and hire some competent people before some moke actually succeeds.

An historical look at Fishing in New England

Fascinating work by Bill Leavenworth who is searching for old fishing boat captain's logbooks from 1850's and '60's. From the Christian Science Monitor:
Sea captains' logbooks reveal secrets of New England's fishing culture
In the hamlets and modest seaports that dot the coastal counties of New England, Bill Leavenworth trolls for the lost bounty of the Gulf of Maine. His prey: the bound, handwritten logs kept by the captains of virtually every fishing boat that plied those rich waters between 1852 and 1866.

The logs were once held in the region's customs houses, but over time were scattered to the four winds. Some landed in basements and attics, some were donated to local libraries and museums, and others returned to fishermen. On Nantucket Island, a number were stuffed between the walls of a public building as insulation against the winter cold, and were only recently found during a renovation. Others were undoubtledly used to start the fires of fish-house stoves or simply thrown away.

In the yellowing pages of these surviving logbooks lie the secrets of the ocean fisheries' past � and perhaps lessons for its troubled present. The books contain daily entries on the vessels' movements, the weather, unusual occurrences, and careful tallies of the number of fish caught by each man aboard. The numbers and words have yielded some bracing revelations about just how many cod there once were in New England and the Canadian Maritimes.
A bit more:
In 1855, just 43 schooners out of Beverly, Mass., were catching considerably more cod in the waters south of Nova Scotia in a season than their modern counterparts can catch today. Crews fishing over the side with baited hand lines caught 7,800 metric tons of cod � about three times what fishermen caught in that area in 2006. And they did it within sight of land in coastal waters where today cod are virtually nonexistent.

Likewise, in 1861, fishermen from a handful of Maine fishing hamlets using small sailboats and baited hand lines were able to catch more cod than were caught in the entire Gulf of Maine between 1996 and 1999 by the entire US fleet, with their powerful engines, enormous bottom trawling nets, high-tech fish finders, and satellite navigation systems.
And one more bit:
Part of the problem today, says Rosenberg, is in restraining younger fishermen who are too young to remember what fishing was like in the 1960s or 1970s. One of his colleagues was once accosted by a fishermen in his 20s who was angry that bluefin tuna quotas were going to be lowered.

"He was screaming that there were more tuna out there than he'd ever seen in his life," Rosenberg recalled. "My friend listened for a while and said, 'Well, you're not very old.' "

But even in the 1850s, older fishermen were concerned that their sons and grandsons were unaware of the extent to which the fish populations had declined.

"There were petitions from fishermen � we have zillions of them � lamenting what was happening and demanding regulations," says Mr. Bolster. "We have people from each generation saying, basically, these young guys now don't know what fishing was like when it was good."

And even back then, fishermen's warnings about the destructive power of new technology went unheeded. In the 1850s, Swampscott, Mass., hand-line fishermen begged state legislators to outlaw new long lines that used hundreds of hooks rather than one or two. They warned that otherwise cod and haddock would become as "scarce as salmon."
Brings to mind George Santayana's: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
I had written on January 27th about how water conservation has caused public water utilities' revenues to shrink forcing them to defer maintenance and raise prices. Here is a similar story regarding trash collection. From the National Examiner:
City sues man for canceling trash service
A man who claims to have reduced his waste to nearly nothing out of concern for the environment now faces a lawsuit from San Carlos for canceling his garbage-collection service.

Eddie House, 53, says he was shocked when he was served with a lawsuit Sunday at his Cedar Street home.

The lawsuit, filed by San Carlos Deputy City Attorney Linda Noeske in San Mateo Superior Court on Jan. 22, seeks a permanent injunction forcing House to maintain garbage service. City officials are also seeking to recoup from House the costs of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims House broke the city�s municipal code requiring all residential, commercial and industrial properties to contract with Allied Waste for pickup at least once a week � a standard requirement in most cities, San Carlos Deputy City Manager Brian Moura said.

House says he stopped his service with Allied Waste about a year ago after realizing that his garbage cans were nearly always empty.

�It�s just me and my dog, so I don�t have a whole lot of garbage to begin with and I recycle everything,� he said.
San Carlos is in California just south of San Francisco. Sheesh -- how about encouraging people to do good instead of just giving it lip service and punishing them when they actually walk the walk...

Winning a competition - Shaun Finnis

Meet Shaun Finnis of Calgary, Alberta. Four of his buddies at work made a little wager and Shaun won. From The Calgary Sun/CANOE:
UPS shorts-wearing competition ends
An 11-year bet between four Calgary UPS workers to see who could survive the longest wearing shorts on the job has been won -- but it hasn't prompted the winner to start sporting long pants this week.

Call him crazy, but Shaun Finnis feels more comfortable braving Calgary's deep freeze in shorts.

"The cold really doesn't bother me," said the 38-year-old, who collected $400 in the bet.

But even Finnis said the nasty weather during the past couple of days -- dipping to -48C with the wind chill on Monday -- has been tough to bear.

"(Monday) was probably one of the coldest days I've ever had," he said.

Regardless, he's still pulling on shorts instead of pants to go to work.

"I don't even own any UPS pants," said Finnis.

"I gave them all back about five years ago,"

Four UPS colleagues chipped in $100 when the bet was made in 1996.

"It's kind of the end of an era."

Still light posting...

I was trying to get Drupal configured the way I wanted it to be but was running into syntactical brick walls. Decided to give Joomla! a second look and for some reason, today I was able to get it set up and running within a few minutes and configured in about 45 minutes. A lot easier than when i first tried it out... Here is what I have so far -- not much but I had other "real work" things that needed doing today...

Light posting today

Working on a bunch of stuff for the store...

At the Wailing Wall

| No Comments
Swiped from Mostly Cajun who nabbed it from an online forum:
At the Wailing Wall
A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So she went to check it out.

She went to the Western Wall and there he was walking slowly up to the holy site.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane in a very slow fashion , she approached him for an interview. �Pardon me Sir, I�m Rebecca Smith from CNN, What�s your name?

�Maury Fishbein� he replied.

�Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?� �For about 60 years.� �60 years! That�s amazing! What do you pray for?�

�I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the Wars and hatred to stop, I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man.�

�How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?�

�Like I�m talking to a f**kin� wall.�
That one is too true to be funny...
None other than Frank Zappa's son Dweezil Zappa. An interesting list of music star's names and their real birth name.

Now he is in Jerusalem - the Gore Effect

| No Comments
I had written a few days ago about the Gore Effect and how the Goracle must be in China. Well, now it's Israel's turn -- from CNN/AP:
Snowfall shuts down Jerusalem
A heavy overnight snowstorm blanketed Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land in white on Wednesday, closing schools and stores and grounding public transportation.

The sense of excitement among Israelis, used to warm Middle Eastern weather, was palpable.

Children threw snowballs on slushy streets, and weather reports topped local newscasts, eclipsing an upcoming government report on the 2006 war in Lebanon that could pressure Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign.

Snow often falls in Jerusalem once or twice each winter, but temperatures rarely drop low enough for it to stick.
Maybe it is just me but aren't we having a much colder winter than usual?

Light posting tonight

Playing around with some more HDR photography.

The DaveCave(tm) gets too cold to run an ink-jet printer so I moved my Epson 2200 into the dining room.

Needed to get an ink cartridge which I did in town today at QuickSilver Photo Labs (an excellent local resource).

Playing around with some amazing images -- HDR is a lot of fun. You can get garish with it but when you stay subtle and dynamic, you can get some really nice effects.

And for those purists? Pffuuuiii!!! Ansel Adams spent hours in the darkroom dodging and burning to get his prints. He would have died and gone to heaven if HDR had been available to him.

A blog for things that FAIL

| No Comments
Hat tip to Xeni at BoingBoing for this link to FAIL blog. One entry:

A great gift idea for those you love!

| No Comments
Hat tip to Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple for this link. Talk about a great gift idea.

An interesting statistic for iPhones

| No Comments
25% of all iPhones sold have been unlocked... From Reuters:
A quarter of Apple iPhones "unlocked": analyst
More than a quarter of people who bought Apple Inc's iPhone are using them on wireless networks other than AT&T's, the exclusive iPhone carrier in the U.S., a "stunning" number that will pressure the company's business model, an analyst said on Monday.

Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi said analysis of sales numbers from Apple and AT&T Inc revealed about 1.45 million phones were "missing in action" at the end of 2007.

About 480,000 of those were believed to be held by AT&T as inventory, leaving another 1 million phones, or 27 percent of the total, that Sacconaghi said were "unlocked" so they could work on non-AT&T networks.

Apple executives said last week the number of unlocked phones was "significant" but declined to give an estimate. Most analysts had estimated the portion of unlocked phones at under 20 percent.

Spokespersons for Apple and AT&T declined to comment.
Emphasis mine for that last sentence. No shit! The company with the most evangelical geek following releases a very cool new toy and expects people to use it as is, out of the box, with the expected carriers? Believe that and I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Apple did try to get back at these people -- their first major upgrade bricked all of the unlocked phones and the hue and cry was so great that they had to release a patch to un-brick them. And the actual numbers on Apple's loss:
The higher number is worrying for Apple because the company receives a cut of AT&T's iPhone service fees, revenue that carries a high gross margin and has fueled optimism over its earnings potential.

For example, Sacconaghi said, if Apple hit its sales goal of 10 million iPhones by the end of fiscal 2008 but 30 percent of those don't result in any carrier payments, its revenue and profit would be $500 million and 37 cents per share lower than expected.

An alternative 'therapy'

| No Comments
Wonderful stuff coming out of Africa these days. The Ugandans seem to have a new therapy for AIDS From allAfrica.com:
Uganda: Ugandans Turn to Lizard Blood for Aids Cure
Desperate people living with the HIV/Aids virus in Yumbe district, northwestern Uganda, have resorted to an ominous therapy - that of injecting themselves with blood drawn from an uncommon type of lizard.

Natives believe the reptile, locally called Lepe is a panacea for Aids ailment.

Mr Isaac Anguyo, the director of the West Nile-based Here is Life Christian organisation, exposed the disturbing story during a recent HIV/Aids Stake holder's meeting in Yumbe.

Veterinary experts at Makerere University, who studied photographs of the said reptile, identified it as the White-throated monitor lizard or Varanus albigularis albigularis - known for its medicinal content.

Mr Anguyo, during the assembly with Yumbe leaders, showed video footage of testimonies of some people living with the deadly virus who claim they made stunning recovery after being injected with lizard blood!

In a segment of the recording, a man, his two wives and a daughter - all self-confessed persons living with the Aids virus - assert that they felt better once blood of the cold-blooded reptile was introduced to their bodies. The family claim the brawny and scaly lizard is a nice delicacy too.
Delusion is a very powerful drug but the cure is not permanent. These poor souls are looking at everything except the one place that would work. Sex education and proper condom use...

Hillary has Bill mellowed out.

| No Comments
With Hillary sliding at the polls, she figured it was time to take care of Bill once and for all. IMAO has the exclusive photograph:
Reacting to Backlash, Clinton Campaign Neuters Attack Dog

Priceless! Now if I can just wipe these merlot stains off my monitor...
There is a well-documented effect that whenever the Goracle is visiting some place to deliver his 'Inconvenient Truth' traveling powerpoint show, the weather there is usually markedly colder than average. This has been called the "Gore Effect" References here, here, here, here, here and here. A Google Search for "Gore Effect" turns up over 9,000 entries. Well, it would seem that he has either traveled to China for a secret meeting or has acquired teleoperative psychic powers. From CNN/Asia:
Snow slams China; half million stranded at train station
Chinese workers and army soldiers were racing to sweep snow-covered highways and unclog railway routes for millions of travelers trapped by cold weather.

More than 67 million people have been affected by the weather and economic losses are expected to reach as much as $3 billion, Chinese officials say.

Blizzards have snapped power lines and destroyed houses and farmland, prompting fears of food and energy shortages. Twenty-four people have died and some 827,000 people have been evacuated in 14 different provinces, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Monday.

In the past week, the snowstorms have hit the provinces in central, eastern and southern China -- places that are used to mild winters, not extreme wintry blasts.

"We've never seen such a cold weather lasting for such long a time," said Tang Shan, a man in his 70s in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. "The last time we had one here was over 50 years ago, and not this bad."
Pretty serious sounding stuff... It couldn't be linked to solar activity now could it??? The luminosity of the Sun increases a little when there are sunspots. During the period 1645 to 1715 the Earth was unusually cold.

There Will be Blood

| No Comments
Jen and I saw There Will be Blood last night. Daniel Day Lewis just keeps getting better and better and the rest of the cast was excellent. It was set in the early California Oil Fields. For an interesting look into life in the earlier Pennsylvania fields, check out these 20 stories from The Tallini Tales of Destruction. Since the Pennsylvania oil fields were not as porous as the Californian ones, they would sometimes send down nitroglycerin filled 'torpedoes' to break up the rock matrix and stimulate the oil flow. These tales are more misadventures and what happens when Nitro gets set off unexpectedly...

Happy 50th Birthday LEGO

The LEGO brick turns 50 this month. From the LEGO website:
50th Birthday of the LEGO Brick
The 50th birthday of the LEGO brick is in January 2008 and there is plenty to celebrate. Children all over the world have played with LEGO bricks for the past 50 years, and LEGO is still right at the top of many wish lists � just as it always has been. Industry and trade associations also recognize the LEGO success. Just before the turn of the millennium the LEGO brick was voted �Toy of the Century�, one of the highest awards in the toy industry, by both Fortune Magazine in the US and the British Association of Toy Retailers.

The LEGO history began in 1932 in Denmark, when Ole Kirk Christansen founded a small factory for wooden toys in the unknown town of Billund in the south of the country. To find a name for his company he organized a competition among his employees. As fate would have it however, he himself came up with the best name: LEGO � a fusion of the Danish words �LEg� and �GOdt� (�play well�).

Barely 15 years later Christiansen discovered plastic as the ideal material for toy production, and bought the first injection moulding machine in Denmark. His courage, input and investment paid off: in 1949 he developed the LEGO brick prototype, which continues to excite countless children and adults to this very day. Over the years he perfected the brick, which is still the basis of the entire LEGO game and building system today. Of course there have been small adjustments in shape, colour and design from time to time, but today�s LEGO bricks still fit bricks from 1958.
Here is Google's tribute:

Great animation by Alan Becker

| No Comments
Check out Animator vs. Animation Hat tip to Theo for the link.

An unusual reproductive strategy

| No Comments
Talk about putting all of your eggs into one basket. A new palm tree was discovered in Madagascar. From the BBC:
Giant palm tree puzzles botanists
Botanists have discovered a new species of giant self-destructing palm on the island of Madagascar.

The tree, described as the nation's largest palm species, is unlike anything else ever found on the island before, say scientists.

Although villagers knew of its existence, none had witnessed the tree in flower.

When this finally happened last year, botanists found that the tree spent so much energy flowering that it died.
Ahhhh -- but the flowers!
"It's spectacular," says Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, who works with Kew and has seen the tree.

"At first there's only a very long shoot like asparagus from the top of the tree and then, a few weeks later, this unique shoot starts to spread.

"At the end of this process you can have something like a Christmas tree."

The branches then become covered with hundreds of tiny flowers, which are pollinated and turn into fruit; but the tree expends so much energy on flowering that it eventually collapses and dies.

The tree has been named Tahina spectabilis, which is Malagasy for "blessed" or "to be protected".
For every species that we hear about going extinct, there are a couple more new ones discovered. Fascinating...

The flip side to water conservation -- from the Toronto Star:

The high cost of using less water
Municipalities discover inconvenient truth: Lower consumption means less revenue

For years the message drummed into Bud Harris, 78, and his grandson David Moreira, 27, was conserve, conserve.

And conserve they did, along with thousands of others across the GTA, watering their lawn less, replacing old toilets and installing water-efficient showerheads.

"We are trying to be economical and trying to do it to preserve the Earth as well," said Moreira, a locksmith who lives with his retired grandfather in a 1950s-era subdivision in Mississauga.

They've done all the right things, he says, 70 per cent for economic reasons and 30 per cent for environmental reasons.

But that win-win sentiment belies an inconvenient truth — one that came out in a recent unguarded comment from Durham Region's works czar, Cliff Curtis. Asked about declining water consumption, he told the Star:

"Conservation is killing us."

The article cites several examples -- here is Toronto's:

Toronto alone is facing about $800 million worth of repair and replacement work, since half of the city's water mains and 30 per cent of its sewer pipes are more than 50 years old. But last year, total revenue was only $604 million.


Last year, Torontonians consumed 374 cubic million metres of water, a huge drop from the 424 million cubic metres that poured from the city's taps in 1988.


Toronto's 9.4 per cent hike in the water rate — expected to be repeated annually for some years to come — reflects a trend across the GTA. Blended water and wastewater rates are rising everywhere as consumption continues to drop: 6.5 per cent in Halton, 9.5 per cent in Durham, 11.6 per cent in Markham and 9 per cent in Peel.

Not just a 9.4% rate hike, this is a 9.4% increase every single year until some unspecified time in the future...

Must be nice to live in a city that deferred so much crucial maintenance for so long.

Mexico is dangerous, Iraq not as much

| No Comments
Interesting decision by the US Army. From the El Paso Times:
Soldiers can't visit Ju�rez
Travel to Ju�rez has been declared off-limits for U.S. military personnel, Fort Bliss officials announced Saturday in the wake of a rash of drug-related violence that is now taking a toll on both sides of the border.

A Fort Bliss official said Saturday that an unacceptable risk to the health, safety, welfare and morale to military personnel prompted the decision to temporarily discontinue issuing passes to soldiers who want to travel to Ju�rez.

"This is only for a short term until things settle down and there's no perceived danger to any soldier or anyone going to Ju�rez," Fort Bliss spokeswoman Jean Offutt said. "I think it's just based on the events that are going on in Ju�rez at this time."
From what the article says, there is a major drug war with 30 known fatalities in 2008 alone.
From the New York Times:
Kennedy Plans to Back Obama Over Clinton
Senator Edward M. Kennedy intends to endorse the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama during a rally on Monday in Washington, associates to both men confirmed, a decision that squarely pits one American political dynasty against another.

The expected endorsement, coming after Mr. Obama�s commanding victory over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday, may give Mr. Obama further momentum in his campaign for the nomination.

As Mr. Obama flew here on Sunday, he smiled when asked by reporters about Mr. Kennedy�s plans, saying: �I�ve had ongoing conversations with Ted since I�ve got into this race.� He learned of Mr. Kennedy�s decision through a telephone call on Thursday, aides said, three days before the South Carolina primary.

Of all the endorsements in the Democratic Party, Mr. Kennedy�s is viewed as among the most influential. The Massachusetts senator had vowed to stay out of the presidential nominating fight, but as the contest expanded into a state-by-state fight � and given the tone of the race in the last week � associates said he was moved to announce his support for Mr. Obama.
I bet that there is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth at the Clinton compound these days... Say what you will about Kennedy, he does have political muscle (how else would he still be in office). My only gripe about Obama is his comparative lack of experience but in a race between him and Bill Shrillery, I would pick him in a heartbeat. Now that Fred is out of the race, I don't really have a Republican candidate that I like very much.

Dumb Criminal - stolen laptop department

Talk about a fortuitous coincidence - from the Charleston Post and Courier:

Stolen laptop leads to man's arrest
A 19-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after he took a laptop computer into a store to get the password protection removed, North Charleston police said.

A manager at RentWay on 5617 Rivers Ave. recognized a picture on the Dell Inspiron laptop's start-up screen as his friend's child, an incident report states. The laptop had been reported stolen from an apartment at 5941 Willard Drive in Hanahan.


For all the global warming that is supposed to be happening, this has been one brutally cold winter. Good for our local ski resort (they have a base of over 13 feet with a bunch of new powder from yesterday and more due tonight). Bad for all the travelers stranded over the Christmas holidays.

Blizzards have hit the Canadian Arctic as well -- from the BBC Weather:

Nunavut, Canada, digs out after week long blizzard
dents of Nunavut, on the western Shores of Hudson Bay, are continuing to dig their way out after a week of blizzards. Although it is not unusual for this region to suffer from blizzards which can last a few days, a meteorologist for Environment Canada said that seven days in a row was "one for the books".

The definition of blizzards can differ from region to region. In this region though a blizzard is defined as snow reducing the visibility to less than 2/3 of a mile (1km) for at least 6 hours, with winds at a minimum of 25mph (40km/h).

The communities of Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Baker Lake were effectively cut off as low pressure lingered across the region bringing heavy snow falls, strong winds and with temperatures in some areas dipping below -30C (-22F).

And a little bit about the amount of snow on the ground:

Snowdrifts are said to have got so deep that snowmobilers ventured dangerously close to overhead power lines. Food stores in Nunavut's Kivalliq region were also left bare with no means of fresh supplies being delivered.


This kid will go very far

| No Comments
The Geek is strong in him... From Portland, Oregon's KATU comes this story of 10 year old Forest Pearson and the air compressor that he got for Christmas:
Boy, 10, engineers private backyard ski slope
Talk about ingenuity - a 10-year-old boy built his own snow machine and filled his backyard with enough snow to make it look like a blizzard had blown through.

"It was just hypnotizing," said Forest Pearson, who built the snow machine out of a 30-gallon air compressor that he got for Christmas, a pressure washer and a whole lot of research.

The nozzle shoots out a perfect powder. In fact, the machine works so well that Forest ended up with three feet of snow in his backyard in just one night.

"He's watching a molecular process happening here," said Elizabeth Pearson, who is quite impressed with what her son has created. "He's creating a climactic event. It's incredible."

Forest Pearson's snow dreams started three years ago when he froze ice cubes for an ice track. Back then, his mother wondered what in the world he was doing, but this year, she understands.

"We're past toys," she said. "We're into air compressors and spray nozzles."

Forest has even bigger plans for next year. He plans to double the amount of snow he can generate in one night to six feet. All he needs is a bigger pressure washer.

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "It's fun to have people over and let them enjoy it too."

Forest said the machine wasn't cheap. He had to save his allowance to pay for $500 in supplies, but he said it was all worth it.
Here is Forest

Here is his Mom talking with a reporter
The snow machine is running in the foreground.
Very cool!

Way back in 1996 - the internet

| No Comments
Eric Karjala used the Internet Wayback Machine to look at the websites for such companies as McDonalds, BestBuy, The NY Times. Heh... Early web design wasn't very pretty.

Urban Exploration in Russia

| No Comments
Fascinating gallery of abandoned structures in Russia. Great photography too!

The world's largest Christian church

| No Comments
Another example of African corruption and thuggery. From The Epoch Times:
The President and the Basilica
The world's largest Christian church has 7,000 individually air-conditioned seats, standing-room for 11,000 in a surrounding 3ha marble plaza, and enough room for 100,000 more � 300,000 at a squeeze � beyond that.

Yet the chances of even the 7,000 seats ever all being occupied at one time are about nil, because rather than finding this church in one of the great cities of the world, you'll discover it in a community of just 120,000 people in the middle of the jungled hills, arid plains and farmlands of Africa's Ivory Coast.

And poverty, for few homes away from this city's strange CBD have even the basics of running water and sanitation.

We're talking about Yamoussoukro, the Ivory Coast's capital, and it's unusual Roman Catholic Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.
A monument to corruption. Kim DuToit's ideas keep ringing true. Any aid money shipped over there lines the pockets of the rulers and the truly poor people don't see anything.

A journey interrupted - New York City

| No Comments
As if the previous nanny-state-ism in England wasn't bad enough, we have a wonderful case of it here in the US of A. From the BBC:
Anger over girls' strip searches
Two British girls were sent to an orphanage for 30 hours and strip searched after their mother became ill during a holiday in the US. Gemma Bray, 15, and her 13-year-old sister Katie also had their clothes taken off them and were asked if they had been abused or were suicidal.

Their mother Yvonne Bray of Appledore, Devon, says their human rights were infringed by the authorities.

She was hospitalised with pneumonia during a trip to New York.

The Administration for Children's Services in New York has declined to comment on the matter.

"What should have been the trip of a lifetime turned out to be a complete disaster from start to finish," Ms Bray told BBC News.

"I was going to give the girls money for their Christmas, but with the exchange rate being so good, I decided to book the trip to New York.

"This was their Christmas present and it was totally ruined."

The family flew out to New York on 27 December. When Ms Bray began coughing later that day, she initially put it down to her asthma and the air conditioning on the flight.

The following night, she became more unwell with laboured breathing and was admitted to the Queen's Medical Centre in Harlem.

But Ms Bray was told her daughters could not stay with her at the hospital as they were minors.

"A doctor told me they would make the arrangements, then a few hours later a social worker arrived and said they'd try to find a foster family for the girls," she said.

"Instead of that they were taken to a orphanage and subjected to the kind of treatment you wouldn't even expect criminals to go through."

The frightened teenagers had their clothes, including their underwear, removed and were issued with a uniform of T-shirt and jeans before being spilt up and given a medical examination.

"Being away from Mum when you are alone in New York in an strange place with people you don't know - it's just scary," said Katie.

"At first it was so shocking - it was as if it wasn't happening but then it hits you.

"You didn't know how long you'd be there or if Mum would get better."

Photographs were taken and the girls were told they would not be allowed to visit their mother in hospital.

When the duty social worker told Ms Bray her daughters could not leave the orphanage, she discharged herself from the hospital against medical advice.

She said: "I was so cross. I didn't sign anything saying they could be examined or interrogated - they even asked them if they had been raped.

"They had to shower in front of strangers. What they went through would be a breach of anyone's human rights, let alone two girls on holiday."
And of course, the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) sent her a form-letter to say she is now being investigated. The have declined to comment to reporters. Shame on them...

A heinous crime in London's West End

| No Comments
From WorldNetDaily:
Woman charged with selling veggies by pound
'We have knifings. We have killings, and they're taking me to court'

A woman running a vegetable stand in London's West End is facing fines of up to $130,000 and the possible loss of her business because she was caught by the government selling her produce by the ounce and pound.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Janet Devers, 63, was notified of the criminal counts with a 67-page letter that arrived in the mail, outlining 13 criminal charges relating to the "improper" pricing of goods as well as the offense of selling vegetables in bowls.

"It's disgusting," she told the newspaper. "We have knifings. We have killings. And they're taking me to court because I'm selling in pounds and ounces."

That, of course, isn't allowed under a European Union-mandated rule that all its nations must use metric measures, so veggies have to be weighed in grams and kilograms.

But pounds, pints and miles are what Britishers know best, said Scott Lomax, another vegetable stall owner. "Who's to tell us to change?"
What a load of bollix - another case of the nanny-state having too much power...
When Fred Thompson dropped out of the running, I didn't know who to vote for. Now, thanks to Mostly Cajun, I find this party:
Makes more and more sense the more I think about it...
Sad story about the management of the historic Lascaux Cave and its amazing paintings. From SaveLascaux:
The Crisis of Lascaux
The 17,000 year old paintings inside the cave of Lascaux are in grave danger. Since 1998, when the first incursion of lichen was found growing inside the cave, Lascaux has been attacked by a series of molds, fungi and bacteria. The installation of a new air recirculation system in 2000 complicated the situation and compromised the stability of the atmosphere inside Lascaux. One of the fungi found growing inside the cave, fusarium solani, is a common mold found in the agricultural areas around Lascaux. It has been charged that workers installing the new air-conditioning system did not take care to sterilize their shoes on entering the cave thus bringing the mold inside with them each day.

By 2001, the molds colonized in the cave forming a white mass over the floors and ledges of the painted chambers. Authorities began spraying massive doses of antibiotics and fungicides in an effort to stop the rapidly spreading organisms. Within weeks the molds reappeared quickly developing a resistance to the antibiotic sprays. Realizing that the air-conditioning system was ill fitted for the cave and was indeed part of the problem, authorities shut down a major portion of the newly installed system.

In the fall of 2001, authorities poured quicklime over the floor of the cave in a very aggressive and controversial move hoping to stop the advance of the molds and fungi. This measure stops the spreading but raises the internal temperature of the cave as the quicklime virtually suffocates the cave floor. Compresses soaked in a mixture of fungicides and antibiotics are then applied like bandages to the walls and ledges of the cave in a further attempt to control the growing organisms.

The fungi and molds have retreated by the summer of 2002 but bacteria are still growing in large dark spots inside the cave. Authorities then resort to a mechanical removal of the roots of the bacteria. This method is highly invasive and unending. The damage inflicted on the cave by having crews constantly inside physically removing the roots, coupled with the brown spots that remain and are highly visible, is not a viable long-term solution to save the cave.
And the root cause of the problem:
To date, the French government has been ineffective in its handling of the crisis inside Lascaux. Four different departments are charged with the care of the cave with no one authority held accountable. There is overlap and a real failure by the authorities charged with the cave�s well-being to judge the situation in its severity. There is no independent international oversight. Unless change is undertaken quickly, the world stands to lose Lascaux�s irreplaceable masterpiece and its rich story of mankind�s place in time.
Bad enough that a French bureaucracy is in charge but FOUR of them with zero accountability? I'm amazed it's lasted this long... The UK Independent also has the story with some additional details.

Hiding a castle in plain sight

| No Comments
Now this is a strange story -- from Yahoo/Reuters:
Farmer hides castle from building inspectors
A farmer built an entire mock castle behind a screen of hay bales and lived there concealed for four years to evade planning regulations, officials said on Friday -- but it may be torn down anyway.

Robert Fidler hopes to take advantage of a provision of planning law that allows buildings without planning permission to be declared legal if no objections have been made after four years.

But Reigate and Banstead Borough Council in Surrey is not impressed.

"It does not count because the property was hidden behind hay bales," said a spokeswoman. "No one knew it was there."
And a bit more:
The council wants the building near Redhill some 30 km south of London to be demolished, along with an associated conservatory, marquee structure, wooden bridge, patio, decking and tarmac racecourse.

"It looks like a mock-Tudor house from the front and it's got two turrets at the back," the spokeswoman said. "I understand there is also a cannon."

The couple would have been unlikely to get planning permission as the farm was in "green belt" land where building was restricted, she said. A hearing takes place in February.

Fidler's wife Linda told the Daily Mail newspaper the children grew up looking at straw out of the windows of the house and that they kept their son away from playschool on the day his class were due to do paintings of their houses.
The council sounds like a bunch of nanny-stater busybodies. Thy should be taken out behind the barn and spanked soundly. Talk about no sense of humor... One last bit from the news story:
Planning inspectors had been called to the site by concerned neighbours shortly before Fidler took the hay bales down in summer 2006 but had not seen the house.

"When the inspectors went there, all they saw was hay bales and hay bales on agricultural land are not that unusual," the spokeswoman said.

"I think the neighbours thought there might be something going on but it is difficult to tell, isn't it?"
Sounds like the farmer would be a great person to have a pint with at the neighborhood local...

Light posting tonight

| No Comments
Been looking at a major update to the Crossroads Grocery website. Right now, it's done with hard-coded HTML and CSS and I would like to try out a content management application. I have been trying Drupal and Joomla for the past few weeks. Leaning towards Drupal. Nothing wrong with Joomla but I felt more comfortable with the feature-set and administrative tools of Drupal. New site should be back online in a day or two...

Pregnant trailer trash

Wonderful family... With Brit Brit going through some kind of long and winding meltdown, now her 16-year old sister is knocked up and planning to give the baby to her mom to raise while she concentrates on her "career". From StarPulse:
Jamie Lynn Spears Giving Baby To Mother?
Jamie Lynn Spears will give her baby to her mother in order to concentrate on her career, according to reports. The 16-year-old stunned the world last month when she revealed she was pregnant with her first child - and now the Zoey 101 star has allegedly agreed to let her mother Lynne bring up the child in a bid to retain her career and grow up like a normal teenager.

A source tells U.S. magazine Star, "After several weeks of personal soul searching and talks and discussions with her mother Jamie Lynn reluctantly agreed that giving up the baby is the right thing to do. Lynne says Jamie doesn't understand the life long consequences of having a baby.

"She still wants her daughter to be able to be a teenager, go to parties, hang out with friends and have a career. So she'll take the front seat of caring for the baby and take the pressure off her daughter.
Yikes -- I feel sorry for the baby considering that it was mamma's parenting skills that contributed to Britney and J.L.'s wonderful lifestyles...

The Design Police

| No Comments
A great idea - a set of labels you can print onto a sheet of label material and use to critique someone's typography and page layout. Check out the Design Police Could have used a bunch of these back when I had my copy/print business in Seattle and used to fix other people's "typesetting".
From San Francisco's NBC11:
South Bay Man Catches Alleged Home Burglars On Web Cam
Sunnyvale police are asking for the public's help in identifying two men who they said may be responsible for a series of home burglaries in the city.

Officials with the city Department of Public Safety (DPS) said they have investigated 13 residential burglaries that were similar in nature since early November 2007.
And the burglary in question: One of the burglaries was captured on a Web cam located inside a victim's residence.
The camera photographed three different suspects inside a house during the commission of a burglary.

One of the men has been identified as Rosendo Miguel Orduno, 22, from San Jose.

He is currently in custody in the Santa Clara County Jail.
Heh - ain't technology grand?

Work related injury

| No Comments
Ha. Ha. Ha. From the Tasmanian Mercury:
Suicide bomber falls down stairs...
A would-be suicide bomber fell down a flight of stairs and blew himself up as he headed out for an attack in Afghanistan, police say.

It was the second such incident in two days, with another man killing himself and three others on Tuesday when his bomb-filled waistcoat exploded as he was putting it on in the southern town of Lashkar Gah.

Yesterday's blast was in a busy market area of the eastern town of Khost, a deputy provincial police chief said.

The would-be attacker tripped as he was leaving a building apparently to target an opening ceremony for a mosque that was expected to be attended by Afghan and international military officials, said Sakhi Mir.

"Coming down the stairs, he fell down and exploded. Two civilian women and a man were wounded,'' Mir said.
Sure sucks to be you... Enjoy those 72 white grapes of exceptional purity.

Cool and Cooler - space travel

| No Comments
Very high geekdom with this two-fer. Sir Richard Branson's company Virgin is bankrolling Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites to build space vehicles. They already had a stunning success with SpaceShipOne and the White Knight carrying vehicle, winning the Ansari X Prize. And now, Flight Global has conceptual pics of the SpaceShipTwo and White Knight II as well as photos of the construction:
PICTURES: Virgin Galactic unveils Dyna-Soar style SpaceShipTwo design and twin-fuselage White Knight II configuration
Virgin Galactic has unveiled a SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, created by Scaled Composites, that harks back to the NASA/USAF Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar glider of the 1960s, while Scaled's carrier aircraft, White Knight II (WK2) has been given a twin-fuselage configuration.

To be launched on a Lockheed Martin Titan III rocket, Dyna-Soar was for hypersonic flight research but the programme was cancelled before the first vehicle was completed. Some of its subsystems were used in later X-15 flight research and Dyna-Soar became a testbed for advanced technologies that contributed to projects, including the Space Shuttle.
The second part of the two-fer is what makes this project so incredibly kick-ass and NON-National Arrows and Spears Administration is this second link to ZD Net:
Virgin Galactic unveils SpaceShipTwo; Plans open architecture spaceship
Virgin Galactic on Wednesday unveiled designs for SpaceShipTwo and the WhiteKnightTwo, two vehicles that are designed to usher in private spaceflight. The technology behind the system will have an open architecture �like Linux,� said officials.

In an event at the American Museum at Natural History in New York (see gallery right), Virgin Galactic unveiled the first product of venture to manufacture a reusable spacecraft and its launch craft. In July 2005, Burt Rutan, President of Scaled Composites and Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies, formed a company to manufacture and design SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital craft, and WhiteKnightTwo, a launch system.

�Our vision of White Knight 2 would be part of a much longer development program. Have open architecture like Linux to allow other people to develop new vehicles and revolutionize new industrial uses of space,� said Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, Virgin�s spaceline.

Whitehorn clarified the open architecture point a bit: He said that if interested parties come to Virgin and Scaled Composites they can use key points such as WhiteKnightTwo�s wing to build new aircraft. �We will work with people that come to work with us to do new things with the WhiteKnightTwo. If people come to us we�ll work with them.�
Just WOW! NASA was good for its time but it is very top-heavy. Time to let the dinosaurs finish their time on earth and let these new primates start trying things out... I would love to do a flight on one of these craft -- even suborbital but a couple turns around the planet would be awesome... The hair on my arm is standing up as I type this -- this may actually be in our grasp sometime...

Not my idea of a good time -- Bruce at No Looking Backwards links to a really bad experience with a steak...

From Wal-Mart... And it has a 'list of ingredients':

Bruce's Rule of Thumb #19
You know you're not getting the best piece of steak possible when the label on the packaging lists the ingredients.

Bruce's link points to Pilgrim's story:

A Bit Of A Caveat If You're Buying Meat - Check The Back Of The Package...
...at Wal-Mart, at least.

Being the carnivore I am, I enjoy a good steak. Wait, strike that. A good steak is one of life's great enjoyments. There, that's better.

So, in that spirit my wife picked us up a couple of thick top sirloins at Wal-Mart today. She did her usual thing with them, which generally makes for a great meal. Tonight, though, mine was a bit....salty. It was, in fact, REAL salty.

Thinking that my wife had inadvertantly put too much of the Cajun spice I like on mine, I just sucked it up and decided that instead of hurting her feelings I'd just eat the thing and drink plenty of water later. Until, that is, she complained about her's being too salty as well. And she uses no salt at all.

Curious, I tasted her's. It was just as salty as mine.

REALLY curious now, we pulled the packet from the trash. Let's see, it says, "Top sirloin thick" on the front of the package. Nothing unusual there. But then we flipped the pack over and there, lo and behold, is another sticker. And what did that sticker say? Glad you asked. On a packet that we assumed contained nothing but a cut of meat, it said:

We have a big chest freezer in the garage with a good part of a pig (had some of it a few days ago) and some really good Black Angus cow. It takes some extra effort to procure the meat and to provide a place to keep it at the proper temperature but the quality of experience and nutrition is well worth it. Cost is a lot lower as you are buying in bulk. Been reading Michael Pollan's An Eaters Manifesto and it really resonates with us. Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants.

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for this link to Steven Malanga's article at City Journal: From Maggie's Farm:
The End of the Rainbow?
Malanga in City Journal discusses the political rivalry, if not hostility, between blacks and new Hispanic immigrants: The Rainbow Coalition Evaporates. h/t, Powerline. A quote:
This battle over quotas for public-sector jobs is a glaring example of how immigration is turning the race-based policies of the last 40 years, originally designed to help blacks, against them. For African-American leaders like Claud Anderson, head of the Harvest Institute, the turnabout represents a betrayal of the civil rights movement: only blacks deserve quotas. �When did our government ever exclude immigrants or deny them their constitutional rights, as they did African-Americans?� he asks. But for other blacks, the demands of Latinos and Asians that government set-aside programs include them are further evidence that racial preferences were misguided in the first place. �Blacks who support skin color privileges now will be singing a different tune later once government starts discriminating against them once again, this time in favor of Hispanics,� writes columnist and blogger La Shawn Barber.
Much more to read at both sites including some interesting comments at M. F. La Shawn Barber's website is here

Mercury in Sushi

| No Comments
Yikes -- from the International Herald Tribune comes this story:
Tests find hazardous levels of mercury in tuna sushi in New York
Recent laboratory tests performed for The New York Times found so much mercury in tuna sushi that a regular diet of even two or three pieces a week at some restaurants could be a health hazard for the average adult, based on guidelines set out by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Eight of the 44 pieces of sushi The Times purchased from local restaurants and stores in October had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market.

Although all the samples were gathered in New York City, experts believe similar results would be observed elsewhere. "Mercury levels in bluefin are likely to be very high, regardless of location," said Tim Fitzgerald, a marine scientist for Environmental Defense, an advocacy group that works to protect the environment and improve human health. Most of the stores and restaurants in the survey said the tuna The Times had sampled was bluefin.
And a bit more:
Scientists who performed the analysis for The New York Times said they had been "frankly surprised" at the results and had run the tests several times to be sure there was no mistake in the levels of methylmercury, a form of mercury tied to health problems.

"No one should eat a meal of tuna with mercury levels like those found in the restaurant samples, more than about once every three weeks," said Dr. Michael Gochfeld, professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, who analyzed the sushi for the Times with Dr. Joanna Burger, professor of life sciences at Rutgers University.

The work was done at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, in Piscataway, New Jersey, a partnership between Rutgers and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Gochfeld is a former chairman of the New Jersey Mercury Task Force. He also treats patients with mercury poisoning.

More than half of the restaurants and stores surveyed sold sushi with so much mercury that eating just six pieces a week would exceed the amount the Environmental Protection Agency says can be safely consumed by an adult of average weight, which the agency defines as 154 pounds, 70 kilograms. People weighing less are advised to consume even less mercury.
The article mentioned that several of the restaurants had been contacted and were surprised that their fish had so much mercury. A bit of a surprise needless to say...

Arthur Mebius

| No Comments
Here are forty photographs by Dutch photographer Arthur Mebius. Great sense of visual humor...

Minimal posting tonight

| No Comments
Went to a social event in town and am playing with High Dynamic Range photography. Evaluating several applications for this. Photoshop can do it (I'm running CS2) but it doesn't have the tonal mapping features. Right now, I'm leaning more toward Photomatix. Fun stuff -- I was up at Mt. Baker this afternoon and shot this:
Click for larger Image
An excellent analysis of why the supposed 20' rise in sea-level is just horribly bad science. Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link. From American Thinker:
Will the Ice Caps Melt?
There is considerable debate over whether the "greenhouse gas" effect will raise the temperature of the atmosphere by between 1-5�C over the next 100 years. But even if you grant for the sake of argument the Warmist claim that the earth's atmosphere will go up a full five degrees Centigrade in temperature, Al Gore's claim that ocean levels will rise 20 feet thanks to global warming seems to ignore the laws of thermodynamics. I am no climatologist, but I do know about physics.

Anyone who has ever spent time in a temperate climate following a snowy winter realizes that when the air temperature rises above 32�F the snow and ice do not melt immediately. We may experience many balmy early spring days with temperatures well above freezing while snow drifts slowly melt over days or weeks. Similarly, lakes and ponds take some time to freeze even days or weeks after the air temperature has plunged below zero. This is due to the latent heat of freezing/melting of water, a physical concept long quantified in thermodynamics.

That aspect of basic physics seems to have been overlooked by climatologists in their alarming claims of dramatic and rapid sea-level rise due to melting of the Antarctic ice caps and Greenland glaciers. But of course, we have learned that models predicting global warming also failed to take account of precipitation, so overlooking important factors ("inconvenient truths") should not cause much surprise anymore.

The scientific data necessary to calculate the amount of heat necessary to melt enough ice to raise ocean levels 20 feet is readily available on the internet, and the calculations needed to see if polar cap melting passes the laugh test are surprisingly simple. Nothing beyond multiplication and division, and because we will use metric measures for simplicity's sake, much of the multiplying is by ten or a factor of ten.

Let's review the math. The logic and calculations are within the grasp of anyone who cares to focus on the subject for minute or two, and speak for themselves.
What follows is some very simple arithmetic producing the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of the atmosphere by 5�C and the amount of energy needed to melt sufficient ice to cause a 20' rise in sea-level.
There is a difference of 300 between these two figures. Even if I am wrong by an order of magnitude, there is still an enormous difference. This does NOT mean that ice caps have not melted in the distant past nor that ice-age glaciers have not grown to cover much of the northern hemisphere; it simply means that the time scales involved to move sufficient quantities of heat to effect such melting or freezing occur over what we scientists commonly call "geological" time scales, i.e. hundreds of thousands and millions of years.

Even if sufficient heat is trapped in the atmosphere to raise it the maximum value predicted by anthropogenic "global warming" alarmists (5�C) over the next 100 years, hundreds of times more heat energy must be imparted into the ice-caps to melt sufficient ice to raise sea-levels the catastrophic levels prophesied by Al Gore.

I humbly submit that this might constitute a flaw in his equations.
A very well thought out bit of analysis...
From CNN/Politics:
Thompson abandons White House bid
Former Sen. Fred Thompson on Tuesday ended his run for the presidency, coming off the heels of a disappointing third-place finish in South Carolina's GOP primary and heading into the showdown state of Florida next week.

"Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States," Thompson said in a statement.

"I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."
This sucks big-time -- he was the one candidate that I liked... He understood the nature of the government, felt that the Constitution was NOT a "living document" subject to change at whim. Eight years of him would have gone a long way to reverse the Social Marxism that is creeping forward in this nation. Read Gramsci if you don't believe me...

Want to buy some pictures???

| No Comments
From the New York Times:
Getty Images Up for Sale, Could Fetch $1.5 Billion
Getty Images, the world�s biggest supplier of pictures and video to media and advertising companies, has put itself on the auction block and could fetch more than $1.5 billion, people briefed on the situation said Sunday.

The firm hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on a potential sale, these people said. The company has attracted interest from several buyers, mostly private equity firms, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Bain Capital and others.

Final bids are due by the end of the month, but people briefed on the auction cautioned that it was unclear which firms would submit a final bid. A sale is not assured, because the tightening of the high-yield debt markets has cut off private equity firms from the lifeblood of their business, making it harder to finance deals.

Getty, founded in 1995 in Seattle, has grown through a series of acquisitions into a go-to source for visual media, claiming an average service of 3.2 billion images and 4 million unique visitors at its Web site each month. The company�s main selling point is the licensing of high-quality images from professional photographers around the world. Among its main clients are advertising agencies and media companies, including The New York Times. It also offers video footage for use in movies, television and the Internet.
And a bit more on why:
But the rise of digital photography and the Web created a host of competitors that charged as little as a dollar for an image. Recent events � from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, to the latest foibles of the entertainer Britney Spears � have led to a surging popularity of low-quality but on-the-scene photos, many taken by cellphone cameras.
What a legacy of images to be selling. And still, in spite of the cheap images being sold, there is always a call for the professional images. They haven't lost any value.

XP versus Vista

| 1 Comment

Nice article at Infoworld:

Why XP must be saved
The costs are too high and the benefits too low to be forced to switch to Vista

The clock is ticking: Microsoft will end OEM and shrink-wrapped sales of Windows XP on June 30, 2008, forcing users to shift to Vista. (System builders, meaning those who do white-box PCs, can sell XP through December 31.) Don't let that happen!

Millions of us have grown comfortable with XP and don't see a need to change to Vista. It's like having a comfortable apartment that you've enjoyed coming home to for years, only to get an eviction notice. The thought of moving to a new place -- even with the stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and maple cabinets (or is cherry in this year?) -- just doesn't sit right. Maybe it'll be more modern, but it will also cost more and likely not be as good a fit. And you don't have any other reason to move. That's exactly the conclusion people have come to with Vista. For most of us, there's really no reason to move to it -- yet we don't have a choice. When that strong desire to stick with XP became obvious in spring 2007, major computer makers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard quietly reintroduced new XP-based systems (but just to business customers, so as not to offend Microsoft).

But come June 30, even that option goes away.

It is also interesting at the MSFT store. As an ex-employee, I have shopping privileges and when Vista came out, I spent all of my annual allowance buying copies of XP for use on future machines and upgrades. When I worked at Microsoft, Windows 2000 had shipped and when Win2K came out, all of the previous versions of NT were stripped off the shelves. I was afraid that this might be the case with XP and Vista but I needn't have worried -- XP is still for sale at the Company Store. I have one machine running Vista and it is a slug and I am having major conflicts with it and Adobe Flash. Halfway tempted to upgrade...

Food prices keep going up and up and up

| 1 Comment
Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link to this longish and depressing article at The Guardian:
Is this the end of cheap food?
Outside a Co-op supermarket in Edinburgh on Friday, I met three sisters, all doing their shopping for this weekend. In their baskets were tins, mainly - Ambrosia creamed rice and minted peas. They were peering at stickers and examining labels with the look of hardened sceptics.

'Terrible, just terrible,' said Betty Pryde, at 82 the eldest of the three. 'Look at the price of these eggs.' They were free range, and cost �1.28 for six - 60 per cent more than in most supermarkets a year ago. 'Everything's gone up.'
BoingBoing distilled the article into the four primary reasons for the price increases:
1. Oil prices: "$100 a barrel means food that is four-times as expensive to plant, irrigate, harvest and transport as it was six years ago. Some commodities brokers are now betting on oil going to $200 a barrel within a decade."

2. Climate: "drought, hurricanes and floods around the world last year made for terrible harvests - from Australia to the Caribbean and the United Kingdom."

3. Market speculation and use of crops for fuel: "Since George Bush announced a rush to corn-based ethanol it's done well for American corn farmers - 20 per cent of whose harvest, subsidised by the government, went into fuel tanks rather than flour mills this year."

4. Economic boom in China and India: "Around the world, and through history, people have eaten more meat as they have become richer. This is called the nutrition transition and it's now happening, very quickly, in the two most populous nations on the planet."
Although, it was not George Bush who announced the rush to corn. He asked for alternative fuels and companies like Archer Daniels Midland requested and received from Congress huge subsidies for corn-based ethanol production. It's our tax dollars that is bankrolling this folly...

Sears and Craftsman - splitting up???

| No Comments
From CNN/Money/AP:
Sears to break into several companies - report
Restructuring would divide retailer into units to run real estate, Craftsman and Diehard brands.

Sears Holdings Corp. plans to reorganize into several companies in another bid to pull the ailing 121-year-old retailer out the doldrums, according to a report published Saturday.

The restructuring could create separate units to manage Sears real-estate holdings and run brands such as Diehard and Craftsman, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Edward Lampert, the hedge fund kingpin and Sears Holdings chairman, sees the move as a way to revitalize the company in the face of tough competition from companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the newspaper said, citing unnamed people familiar with the situation.
It will be interesting if they can turn it around. I'm seeing Craftsman tools being sold at other places than Sears -- Fastenall and Grainger for two examples. If they are able to maintain the legendary Craftsman quality and get better market penetration, it will be quite the wakeup call for companies like DeWalt and Milwaukee.
Hugo Chavez has either no knowledge of history or he is a political moron. Not content with nationalizing the telephone, oil, electrical industries and effectively cutting off any future outside investment, he is now planning to go after the banks. From The Australian:
Chavez threatens banks with takeover
President Hugo Chavez has threatened to take control of banks that fail to meet state-imposed lending requirements designed to benefit Venezuela's farmers.

Mr Chavez, who says he is leading Venezuela towards "21st-century socialism", accused private banks of neglecting laws requiring them to set aside nearly a third of all loans for agriculture, mortgages and small businesses at favourable rates.

"The law must be applied," he said at a televised meeting with farmers on the weekend. Any bank that didn't comply "should be seized".

Mr Chavez also announced his Government had approved legislation establishing a maximum 15per cent interest rate on agriculture-related loans and extending payment deadlines from three to 20 years.
I'm all for the farmer and the small business owner, hell, I am both. Still, setting a quota on low-interest loans allows for very poor selection of clients and a significant increase in the chance of default. Something that the banks will be loath to do. A bit more:
Mr Chavez's comments come amid food shortages and rising inflation, which hit 22.5 per cent last year, the highest official rate in Latin America.
Circling the drain Hugo baby...

Two websites for science writing

| No Comments
While finding the citation for the Antarctic Volcano, I ran into two websites that are interesting. The first is a blog published by the Journal Nature called Nautilus It covers a wonderfully large range of topics from the craft of writing a Scientific Paper to mini-biographies of interesting scientists. The second was mentioned in Nautilus and is LabLit. Its focus is on writing, both fiction, non-fiction and poetry and how the sciences and scientific procedures are represented in writing. Some fun short stories and lots of ideas for writers...
From LiveScience:
Buried Volcano Discovered in Antarctica
A volcano beneath Antarctica�s icy surface has been detected for the first time.

Under the frozen continent's western-most ice sheet, the volcano erupted about 2,300 years ago yet remains active, according to a study published Sunday in an online issue of the journal Nature Geosciences.

"We believe this was the biggest eruption in Antarctica during the last 10,000 years," said study co-author Hugh Corr, a glaciologist for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "It blew a substantial hole in the ice sheet, and generated a plume of ash and gas that rose around 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) into [the] air."
Nature wants $18 to access the letter but the first paragraph can be found here: A recent volcanic eruption beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet
Hugh F. J. Corr & David G. Vaughan
Very cool discovery. Mt. Erebus is still very active, maintaining a pool of magma in the crater but this bad boy was running in stealth mode until now...

Urban archeology - New York City

Nice five-part article on an archaeological dig in downtown Manhattan:
Excavating Beekman
A case study in preserving New York's buried past.

Construction is occurring all over New York City, and in Manhattan it is common to see both new projects and utility workers upgrading the urban infrastructure. In one recent case, what started out as a routine project by the city's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) in Lower Manhattan soon became anything but. The Wall Street Water Mains Project, a long-term utility upgrade project, yielded several important discoveries in the South Street Seaport historic district, making it clear that archaeology remains widespread beneath the city's streets.
They found old wooden water pipes, foundations for long-gone buildings, pottery, coral ballast from ships, and lots of other cool stuff. An interesting snapshot into daily life back in the early days...

Ten old computer advertisements

Remember waaay back in the 1970's when this stuff was just getting started.

Here are some ads from that era - just imagine, a whopping 80 MB hard disk for under $12,000!

Check out 10 Incredible Old Computer Ads Heh...

A nice mini-biography and birthday celebration at Lubo� Motl's The Reference Frame:
Andr�-Marie Amp�re: a birthday
Andr�-Marie Amp�re was born on January 20th, 1775, in Lyon, France, to a family of a rich and smart merchant and a pious mother. He was a child prodigy who lived in a nearby burg. Andr�-Marie was able to resum long arithmetic series using pebbles and biscuits before he knew the figures.

His father wanted to teach him Latin but it was realized that the boy prefers maths and physics. Nevertheless, Andr�-Marie had to learn Latin soon, in order to read the papers by Euler and Bernoulli. ;-)
Definitely one of the cornerstones of electricity and physics...

18 Stunning Bridges

A nice list of eighteen bridges that caught the authors eye. Check out 18 Stunning Bridges
18 Stunning Bridges From Around The World
With the technological boom of the last century came a huge increase in construction capability, and rivers, seas or valleys which were once thought to be completely uncrossable were finally overcome by the advent of numerous new, spectacular bridges. So in honour of these incredible engineering achievements, we have selected our favourite few bridges from around the world. We have the very old, the very new, the very-nearly-finished, the very long and of course the ones which just look very, very cool. Take your pick!
Some really cool photography and amazing engineering...

A tale of two cities

Israel is fed up with the daily rocket attacks from palestinian-occupied Gaza - several dozen each day hit inside Israel. So Israel shuts off fuel deliveries to a Gaza power plant. (While still continuing to provide 75% of the electricity that Gaza uses).

Gaza blacks out the main city claiming that it's the evil Jeeewwwssss that are doing this to our poor people. From USA Today/AP:

Gaza plunged into darkness as Israel blocks fuel
Gaza's only electrical plant shut down Sunday after Israel blocked the shipment of fuel that powers them, plunging Gaza City into darkness and sending already beleaguered Gazans to stock up on food and batteries in anticipation of long, dark, cold days ahead.
A U.N. agency and human rights groups condemned Israel, but Israel said they should direct their criticism at Palestinian militant groups that fire rockets at southern Israel every day.

Israel sealed all crossings into Gaza last week because of a spike in rocket barrages, cutting off fuel. Several weeks ago Israel reduced the supply as a pressure tactic.

In addition to the fuel it receives from Israel to power its electrical plant, Gaza gets about two-thirds of its electricity directly from Israel. Israeli officials said that supply would not be affected.

Hamas officials shut down the plant and plunged Gaza City into total darkness, Gaza Energy Authority head Kanan Obeid said. TV crews and reporters were invited to witness the shutdown just before 8 p.m.

Minutes later, Gaza residents started a candlelight march as a protest. Live Associated Press TV pictures showed dots of light moving slowly up a main street.

A spontaneous protest of course -- the Hamas government would never think to invite reporters for any kind of staged protest now would they...

The palestinians are very deserving of a state. Plasma is a state isn't it?

OUCH! - eBay Motors auction

| No Comments
1995 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class sl600 is up at eBay Motors:
One of the best deals on ebay for those looking for classic European luxury AND performance. As you can see, this beautiful car has suffered the wrath of a woman (or man) scorned. It has been vandalised cosmetically, but runs 100%.

Most importantly, it just passed the strict CA smog check, which places the vehicle on dynamometer rollers, where it is driven, under load at various speeds to make sure it is running properly. California�s smog test is one of the toughest, and of course this LOW MILEAGE BENZ passed the first time, with flying colors.Bid early, and bid with Confidence.
A picture is worth a thousand words:


Like I said, OUCH! Sweet car but some damage done...

Light posting tonight

| No Comments
Working on some other stuff...
File under Yeah... Sure... From the Huntington, West Virginia Herald-Dispatch:
Maynard trip raising more questions
The chief judge of West Virginia's highest court is denying there was anything improper about his vacation to the French Riviera, where he was photographed with a top coal executive who was seeking a reversal on a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

Meanwhile, a local candidate for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is calling for an investigation.

Photos have surfaced showing Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard, who is up for re-election, in Monaco with Massey Energy Co. head Don Blankenship, in 2006. The photos were part of a motion filed by Hugh M. Caperton in an effort to get Maynard to disqualify himself from a case between Caperton and Massey.

Ten of the photos were filed sealed, and show Maynard and Blankenship with female companions traveling with them, according to the Associated Press.

Maynard was one of three justices who voted last year to reverse a 2002 jury decision in Boone County that awarded Caperton more than $76 million after finding Massey stole a coal contract from Caperton's business, Harman Mining Corp., and ruined the company financially. The Supreme Court's opinion was filed Nov. 20, 2007.
The article goes into a lot more detail. Quite the convoluted story...

RIP - Bobby Fischer

Chess genius and otherwise complete nut-case Bobby Fischer passed away last evening. From The Associated Press:

Spokesman: Bobby Fischer Has Died
Bobby Fischer, the reclusive chess master who became a Cold War icon when he dethroned the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky as world champion in 1972, has died. He was 64.

Fischer died Thursday in a Reykjavik hospital, his spokesman Gardar Sverrisson said. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.

Born in Chicago and raised in Brooklyn, Fischer was a U.S. chess champion at 14 and a grand master at 15. He beat Spassky in a series of games in Reykjavik to claim America's first world chess championship in more than a century.

But his reputation as a genius of chess soon was eclipsed by his idiosyncrasies.

You see this a lot in the truly high-end mathematicians -- the peak of their career in their late teens and early twenties and then a decline to an early death. I have always wondered about the cause of this...

A new guitar amplifier

Eric Barbour started a company called Metasonics. Metasonics is dedicated to pushing blasting through the envelope when it comes to vacuum tube signal processing. With products like the Scrotum Smasher, the Wretch Machine, and the Alien Butt Probe it was no wonder that their flagship Guitar Amplifier would get an interesting name. Meet the G-1000 Fucking Fucker Guitar Amplifier:
A Truly Radical All-Tube Guitar Amp.
There is nothing like the G-1000. Not even vaguely. It is arcane and radical. It is 100% vacuum tubes, from input to output. It contains 100% new-old-stock (NOS) tubes. Types never seen in guitar amps.

The G-1000 consists of two totally independent amplifiers, with very different preamp sections. One channel is called the HAPPY channel. The other is called the ANGRY channel.

For damn good reason. One sucks your face, the other gnaws your foreskin off.

The HAPPY channel is a more-or-less conventional instrument amp. It has plenty of gain and distortion (if desired), it has a conventional guitar-amp tone control section, and it has reverb. Everything else about it is DEVIANT. It has a PHASE control, which allows mixing of normal and inverted signals�or it may be adjusted to cancel out the original signal and pass only the distortion products....and, it's all made of unusual tubes. Mostly pentodes, ha ha ha.

The ANGRY channel is well-named. It is designed for instability and raw, berserk distortion effects. It, too, has typical guitar-amp tone controls and reverb. It uses a 6BN6 and two remote-cutoff pentodes. Ask your mother what those are. She's already tasted your foreskin anyway.

Despite the identical output stages of the two channels, they sound TOTALLY different. In ALL settings.

The output tubes are 6BK5s. Obscure, yes, but great and forgotten. Phase inversion is done with 6GU7s. Various types are used throughout the preamp stages: 6AU6, 6BJ6, 6CB6, 6BN6, 5BQ7, 6AK5, and others. No 12AX7s, of ANY brand. How many tubes? TWENTY-THREE tubes in total. Including eight 6BK5 outputs. It might be the most complex tube guitar amp available today....

The output tubes are in a special self-balancing, self-biasing circuit. It is unique to the G-1000 among guitar amps. It does NOT NEED matched tubes, nor is any kind of bias adjustment needed. Output power is 15 watts per channel, and two speakers (or a stereo speaker) are needed.
Eric's design skills are legendary so this will be an amazing amplifier. Built one-off by hand, price is $5,000 -- worth every penny!
From Utah television station KUTV:
West Jordan woman hides in closet and burglary suspect joins her
When the victim of a break-in jumped in her closet to hide from burglars, the last thing she expected was company.

But that's exactly what happened.

As the 21-year-old woman whispered on the phone with dispatchers, one of the panicked would-be robbers slipped into the closet to hide from police.

Despite pressing up against the woman, the man didn't seem to notice he wasn't alone.

The frightened woman then jumped out of the closet and yelled for police.

Officers arrested three men for the alleged burglary.
What a thing to have happen...
A good writeup on the origin of Burt's Bees and its sale to Clorox last November. From the New York Times Business section:
Can Burt�s Bees Turn Clorox Green?
In the summer of 1984, Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper in Maine, picked up Roxanne Quimby, a 33-year-old single mother down on her luck, as she hitchhiked to the post office in Dexter, Me. More than a dozen years Ms. Quimby�s senior, the guy locals called �the bee-man� sold honey in pickle jars from the back of his pickup truck. To Ms. Quimby, he seemed to be living an idyllic life in the wilderness (including making his home inside a small turkey coop).

She offered to help Mr. Shavitz tend to his beehives. The two became lovers and eventually birthed Burt�s Bees, a niche company famous for beeswax lip balm, lotions, soaps and shampoos, as well as for its homespun packaging and feel-good, eco-friendly marketing. The bearded man whose image is used to peddle the products is modeled after Mr. Shavitz.

Today, the couple�s quirky enterprise is owned by the Clorox Company, a consumer products giant best known for making bleach, which bought it for $913 million in November. Clorox plans to turn Burt�s Bees into a mainstream American brand sold in big-box stores like Wal-Mart. Along the way, Clorox executives say, they plan to learn from unusual business practices at Burt�s Bees � many centered on environmental sustainability. Clorox, the company promises, is going green.
Nicely done three-page article...

Ikea hacker

Very cool website. Ikea makes knock-down furniture and sometimes, these just call for a little modification. A great collection of posts on how people mod their Ikea furniture to make it more functional for them.

Check out Ikea hacker

All things bread and sourdough

| No Comments
Wonderful foodie website dedicated to Sourdough Bread and Breads of all kinds. Check out Sourdough Home -- An Exploration of Sourdough

Freakish airplane accident at Heathrow

Airplane coming in for a landing and it just drops to the ground. Couple injuries, nobody killed but sounds pretty spectacular. From CNN:
Heathrow crash plane 'just dropped'
Air crash investigators are trying to work out why a Boeing 777 landed short of the runway at London Heathrow airport, skidding on grass and ripping apart sections of the aircraft.

An investigator who has been briefed on the incident told CNN the plane's captain "is claiming there wasn't power when he needed it."

Passenger Paul Venter told the UK Press Association: "The wheels came out and went for touchdown, and the next moment we just dropped. I couldn't tell you how far."

London ambulance services said 17 people suffered minor injuries, and the number could increase as several others are still being assessed.

Images showed the Boeing 777 -- BA flight 38 from Beijing, China -- grounded on tarmac after touching down several hundred meters short of the airport's south runway, close to a perimeter road, with its emergency chutes deployed and white fire-fighting foam covering the engines.

The undercarriage, left wing and left engine of the aircraft were severely damaged, as if it had skidded across the ground. At least one of the plane's wheels had been torn off.

The most visible damage was to the left wing, which was covered in mangled metal where it meets the fuselage.

Kids and Clowns

No shit -- from the BBC:
Hospital clown images 'too scary'
Decorating children's wards with paintings of clowns to create a nurturing atmosphere could backfire, research suggests.

A University of Sheffield study of more than 250 children, aged four to 16, found the images were widely disliked.

Even some of the oldest children found the images scary.

The researchers said the findings, reported in Nursing Standard magazine, highlighted the importance of consulting children in hospital design.

Researcher Dr Penny Curtis said: "As adults we make assumptions about what works for children.

"We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."

Dr Curtis stressed the importance of consulting with children - who like colourful spaces and references to contemporary culture - when designing or changing the hospital environment.
That it took a Doctor sooo long to find this out is unreal. First of all, the kid is not feeling well, then they are at a strange new place and then, to top it off, there are all of these fucking clowns painted on the wall. Hell, I'd have a meltdown if I was in those circumstances. Like I wanna have Mister Happyface staring at me all the time:

Wireless Networks - to open or to close

A nice discussion over at Bruce Schneir's Blog:
My Open Wireless Network
Whenever I talk or write about my own security setup, the one thing that surprises people -- and attracts the most criticism -- is the fact that I run an open wireless network at home. There's no password. There's no encryption. Anyone with wireless capability who can see my network can use it to access the internet.

To me, it's basic politeness. Providing internet access to guests is kind of like providing heat and electricity, or a hot cup of tea. But to some observers, it's both wrong and dangerous.

I'm told that uninvited strangers may sit in their cars in front of my house, and use my network to send spam, eavesdrop on my passwords, and upload and download everything from pirated movies to child pornography. As a result, I risk all sorts of bad things happening to me, from seeing my IP address blacklisted to having the police crash through my door.

While this is technically true, I don't think it's much of a risk. I can count five open wireless networks in coffee shops within a mile of my house, and any potential spammer is far more likely to sit in a warm room with a cup of coffee and a scone than in a cold car outside my house. And yes, if someone did commit a crime using my network the police might visit, but what better defense is there than the fact that I have an open wireless network? If I enabled wireless security on my network and someone hacked it, I would have a far harder time proving my innocence.
An interesting and well-reasoned discourse and quite a few great comments from his readers after.

Sun buys MySQL

| No Comments
Good news for Marten Mickos and the people who run MySQL (Sun paid $800 Million in cash and $200 Million in Options) but it will be interesting to see what happens to the Open Source part of it once Sun has had a while to incorporate it into the Sun Corporate Culture. From ZD Net:
Sun acquires MySQL; Adds to its software stack
Sun Microsystems is taking the plunge into the database market with the purchase of open source database developer MySQL for $1 billion ($800 million in cash in exchange for all MySQL stock and assumption of approximately $200 million in options).

With the move, announced Wednesday, Sun takes a big leap into the $15 billion database market and pits it against the likes of Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. MySQL (all resources) also gives Sun entry to some customers that may be interested in buying more equipment and software. MySQL counts Facebook, Google, Nokia and Baidu as customers.

During a conference call this morning Sun and MySQL executives sang kumbaya. On the call, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz called the MySQL deal the �most important acquisition in history of company� and added that the database firm will have �a central role� as Sun rolls out its central role as rolls out its open source strategy. Sun is in the process rolling up a complete open source stack, becoming the largest open source organization of world.

Here�s what makes MySQL interesting to Sun. About 20 percent of MySQL deployments run on Solaris, according to Sun estimates outlined on a conference call. Seventy five percent of MySQL deployments are not on Sun hardware. That gives Sun an opportunity to bundle hardware software and services. Although Schwartz noted that the software and hardware business operate separately MySQL could give Sun some leverage as customers look to consolidate vendors.
Like i said, it will be interesting to see what happens. I use MySQL -- the blog runs on it and I use it for a couple other applications both on this server and on systems at home. My next-to-last group at MSFT was the SQL Server group and I got to know MSFT's version fairly intimately. I like the MySQL implementation a lot. MySQL is not as complete as the MSFT SQL Server but it's got all the critical bells and whistles and it runs really reliably. And with a sale price of One Billion, I bet there is much rejoicing in Sweden tonight...

A question of location

| No Comments
From The Register comes this wonderful tale of truck drivers having a little problem with their GPS reading skills:
Village shaken by GPS-driven tank invasion
The Shropshire village of Donnington has suffered repeated invasions by transporters bearing 70-tonne tanks because the drivers' sat navs have mistaken the "picturesque" enclave with a nearby barracks of the same name.

The correct destination for the heavy metal is 15 miles away close to Telford, the Times reports, but residents say "tanks and other armoured vehicles arrived on their doorstep as many as seven times a week".

David Strefford, 60, told the paper: "It's like an invasion. We had seven tanks up the tiny lane outside my farm once.

"Their mapping systems must be a right mess. There are only six houses down here, so it looks nothing like an army base."

The army, however, says that private contractors are at fault. An official offered: "Military drivers would know where the Donnington barracks is."
Technology is only as 'smart' as the person using it...
They found a design flaw and it wasn't news. From Associated Press:
Gov't: Design Flaw in Bridge Collapse
Federal investigators have identified a design flaw as the cause of last year's Interstate 35W Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people and injured about 100, a congressional official said Tuesday.

The official, who was briefed by the National Transportation Safety Board, said that investigators found a design flaw in the bridge's gusset plates, which are the steel plates that tie steel beams together. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt an update being provided later Tuesday by the NTSB chairman, Mark V. Rosenker.

The findings are consistent with what the NTSB said about a week after the Aug. 1 collapse, in which the bridge plunged into the Mississippi River. At the time, the NTSB said it had found issues with the collapsed bridge's gusset plates, but expected a full investigation to take more than a year.
And this was not a surprise to anyone:
The bridge was deemed "structurally deficient" by the federal government as far back as 1990.

Late last year, President Bush signed a massive spending bill which included $195 million to help replace the bridge. That came on top of the $178.5 million the federal government has already given Minnesota for the project.
So much money and zero work done... I keep thinking about Seattle and its downtown viaduct (route 99) -- what is the government's opinion on that? The structure is old and in need of earthquake and structural remediation. Is it in worse or better condition than the 35W bridge.

Our nations County Courthouses

| No Comments
A wonderful deep collection of postcards and photographs of county courthouses throughout the USA. A lot of these older buildings were beautiful. Check out courthousehistory.com Here is an early photo of our courthouse:
Built in 1889 and still in use today as a museum and county historical archives. Gorgeous building.
A look at Democratic Representative John Murtha and his spending habits. From the NY Times:
The Pork King Keeps His Crown
The new earmark disclosure rules put into effect by Congress confirm the pre-eminence of Representative John Murtha at procuring eye-popping chunks of pork for contractors he helped put in business in Johnstown, Pa. The Pennsylvania Democrat, a power player on defense appropriations, exudes pride, not embarrassment, for delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in largesse to district beneficiaries. They, in turn, requite with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations.

Mr. Murtha led all House members this year, securing $162 million in district favors, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. In all, eager members in both houses enacted 11,144 earmarks, worth $15 billion. Taxpayers may be inured to $113,000 for rodent control in Alaska or a million for Idaho�s weed management. Mr. Murtha�s universe is a far more complicated and costly creation of interlocking contractors who continue to feed at the public trough despite reviews questioning their performance.
Despite groups like PorkBusters, this kind of crap is still going on. I thought that there was supposed to be a new transparency -- looks like business as usual...

Valiantly pissing into the wind

| No Comments
Sometimes, you just have to wonder what is in the water at the Sony R&D labs... Every so often, they come out with a new "standard" as an alternative to an existing open standard. There may not be any technologically compelling reason to support the new Sony standard but by gum, they are running with it... Case in point - from Ars Technica:
Sony's "TransferJet" to take on Bluetooth 3.0
Never one to settle for an open standard when the opportunity to push a proprietary alternative presents itself, Sony has announced that it will wade into the next-generation short-range interconnect wars with a proprietary new wireless spec called "TransferJet." Sony's proposed TransferJet spec has a physical peak transmission rate of 560Mbps and would appear to compete directly with short- and medium-range ultrawideband-based offerings like wireless USB (W-USB) and the next generation of Bluetooth technology. But in spite of any similarities to either W-USB or Bluetooth 3.0, both of which are based on the same WiMedia radio technology and promise transfer speeds in the 480Mbps range, Sony's TransferJet has some distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from the pack.

In Sony's vision of the future, any two consumer devices will be able to exchange data wirelessly with one another simply by holding them close together. The system is designed for maximum ease of use, which means limited options for controlling the transfers; devices will transfer their contents automatically to another device within range. Users can "register" devices within the home to keep them from transmitting to "unregistered" devices, which should keep Uncle Dave from beaming his "art photos" onto your TV set without permission. Other than that, everything else appears to be automatic and button-free.
The killer in my book -- TransferJet has a range of 3cm, the units have to be touching. Bluetooth works fine, version 3.0 looks great and it works over a 3 Meter distance. Time to put down that crack-pipe guys...

What's in a name

| No Comments
Who is the saxophone player for Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band? None other than Alto Reed

Another evening of light posting

Working on some other stuff...

The Ethical Treatment of Animals

| No Comments
With an extreme emphasis on Ethical... That is supposed to be the core of Ingrid Newkirk's PETA organization isn't it? The how come, in 2006 at their adoption facilities in Virginia, they murdered 97% of the animals given up for adoption and only found homes for twelve of them. That's right: PETA took in 3,061 animals, took the time to find homes for 12 of them and murdered 2,981 (no word on where the remaining animals went). From the Center for Consumer Freedom:
PETA Killed 97 Percent of 'Companion Animals' in 2006, According to VDACS
An official report from People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), submitted nine months after a Virginia government agency's deadline, shows that the animal rights group put to death more than 97 percent of the dogs, cats, and other pets it took in for adoption in 2006. During that year, the well-known animal rights group managed to find adoptive homes for just 12 pets. The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is calling on PETA to either end its hypocritical angel-of-death program, or stop its senseless condemnation of Americans who believe it's perfectly ethical to use animals for food, clothing, and critical medical research.

Not counting animals PETA held only temporarily in its spay-neuter program, the organization took in 3,061 "companion animals" in 2006, of which it killed 2,981. According to Virginia's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the average euthanasia rate for humane societies in the state was just 34.7 percent in 2006. PETA killed 97.4 percent of the animals it took in. The organization filed its 2006 report this month, nine months after the VDACS deadline of March 31, 2007.

"Pet lovers should be outraged," said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. "There are thousands of worthwhile animal shelters that deserve Americans' support. PETA is not one of them."
It is no secret that PETA was murdering animals placed into its care, after all, Penn and Teller did a horrifying expose on their Showtime program: "Bullshit" Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 What beggars the imagination is just how many they are doing and getting away with it while still maintaining a positive public image with the weak-minded...

Oh yeah

| No Comments
Jen showed up today for some reason... (ducking thrown cast-iron frying pan) (grin) I did miss her. She missed me. (which is a good thing -- that frying pan is heavy!)

Scientists for Better PCR

| No Comments
A very fun and very over the top video ad for some PCR equipment. Check out: Scientists for Better PCR from Bio-Rad The chorus:
PCR, when you need to detect mutations.
PCR, when you need to recombine.
PCR, when you need to find out who the daddy is.
PCR, when you need to solve a crime.
Looks like they had a lot of fun filming it...

Parallels in Computing

| No Comments
A number of years ago, I ran a fairly large (up to 24) multi-line BBS, first as The Signpost and then as GreyMatter. Many SysOps (System Operators or the geeks who ran the BBSs) noticed that in January, there was a marked increase of callers that were absolutely clueless in their behavior, flaming where flaming was not allowed, poor quality configurations (ddoouubbllee tteexxtt,, eettcc..) TYPING IN ALL CAPS. The consensus was that these were kids who had gotten a new modem for Christmas and were online for the first time and rather than lurk and learn, they barged on in with no regard to anyone else. Fast forward to 2008 This January, I have been noticing a major increase in attempts at comment and trackback spam as posted by zombie systems (there is a specific signature to their software) - talking an increase of 100 times. All of this crap gets blocked but still, it is a major annoyance, it takes CPU time that I am paying for and 98% of the people that run these networks are stupid script kiddies. The other 2% are criminals. It struck me today that January's increase is a result of all the kids getting their first computer for Christmas, logging into all of the KEWL LEEE7 websites they can get their grubby little mitts on and promptly filling their clean new system with all sorts of zombie crap. Happy holidays...

RIP Sir Edmund Hillary

| No Comments
A nice obituary can be found at the New Zealand's NZ Stuff:
State funeral for Sir Ed
Hillary, who was born in Auckland on July 20, 1919, died of a heart attack aged 88 at Auckland hospital at 9am today.

He was in good spirits until he died this morning, Lady June Hillary said in a message to the nation.

"Sir Ed died peacefully this morning at 9am, his heart gave out," Lady Hillary said in a message read by a family spokesman.

He was 88.

"He had been in good form and was looking forward to coming home and had remained in good spirits till the end.

"The family are honoured to accept the Government's offer of a state funeral, recognising the impact he had on all New Zealanders."
The New Zealand Herald doesn't have much of an obituary but they have lots of links to related stories and photos of this amazing man.

A modest proposal for Gitmo

| No Comments
Nigel at This Goes To 11 writes:
Close Gitmo detention facility? OK...
Michelle Malkin reminds us today that tomorrow is the ACLU's "wear orange" day in support of Guantanamo Bay detainees:
Look for waterboard wannabes to stage mock torture theater around the country and the Arab government-funded anti-Gitmo legal machine to crank up the noise.

She then posts this video of Mike Huckabee who says we should close Guantanamo Bay's facility because of what is "symbolizes":
"There are other places to keep these detainees".

Mike...when you're right you're right! And we've found just the place. Thule Air Force Base
Absolutely 110% brilliant! I could not think of a better location for these people...
From Yahoo/AP:
Britain backs new nuclear power plants
The British government on Thursday announced support for the construction of new nuclear power plants, backing atomic energy as a clean source of power to fight climate change.

Business Secretary John Hutton told lawmakers that nuclear power "should have a role to play in this country's future energy mix, alongside other low-carbon sources." He said nuclear energy was a "tried and tested, safe and secure" source of power.

Hutton said the new plants would be paid for by private energy companies, not the government, and that most would be built on the sites of existing stations.

"I am inviting energy companies today to bring forward plans to build and operate new nuclear power stations," he said.
And of course, the hippies had their say:
Environmental groups condemned the decision, saying nuclear power was dangerous and would divert resources from developing renewable energy sources.
Why do they hate the environment so much -- after all, these people see the issues clearly:
In making Thursday's announcement, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government came down firmly on the pro-nuclear side of a debate that has divided opinion in Britain and across Europe.

Hutton argued that atomic energy was a boon both for the environment and for national security. Britain will move from producing most of its own energy to having to import much of its oil and gas by 2020, and the government has warned of the risk of becoming reliant on imports from less stable parts of the world.

"Set against the challenges of climate change and security of supply, the evidence in support of new nuclear power stations is compelling," Hutton said.
Zero carbon emissions, the waste although it requires careful storage isn't that physically large (compared to toxic fly-ash from coal burning) and the storage techniques have been available off-the-shelf for a good ten to fifteen years.
What a maroon! From the Reno Gazette-Journal:
Kansas police chief fired for stealing beer
A small-town police chief has been fired after he was convicted of stealing beer from the fire department�s refrigerator.

The city council in Wilson on Monday fired chief Brian Hill, effective Jan. 25. He has the option of a hearing within the next two weeks.

Hill was arrested Aug. 1 after a surveillance tape showed him taking the beer. He was convicted of misdemeanor theft on Dec. 26 and given probation. He had been suspended without pay pending an appeal of the conviction.
That is just low. If he remains in Wilson, his reputation and goodwill are shot. Stealing a person's beer is not a big crime but it is one that people will long remember. That it was the Firefighters makes it even worse -- if it was a fellow police officer's stash in the duty-room fridge, that would have been grounds for a good calling out but to steal from another agency is not cool -- especially one in just as dangerous (if not more so) an occupation...

Just how stupid are these people

| No Comments
From Workforce Management Magazine comes this story of an idiot who was getting workman's comp:
All in a Day's Work: No Comp for Crack Dealer
Continually selling crack cocaine amounts to employment and thus is sufficient cause to terminate permanent total disability compensation, Ohio�s Supreme Court has ruled.

The high court�s decision December 21 in State ex rel. Lynch vs. Industrial Commission of Ohio upheld a March 1998 finding by Ohio�s Industrial Commission that Henry Lynch�s ongoing crack-cocaine enterprise constituted �sustained remunerative employment.�

The Industrial Commission terminated Lynch�s benefits, and an appeals court earlier this year upheld the termination of benefits.
It may seem so easy to game the system but you need to realize that they system is so much bigger than you and has such a longer reach that although you will get away with it for a while, you will always get caught... Lynch had a sweet deal, fucked up and blew it.
Eight Mil. and you can own Max Yasgur's Farm -- the site of the Woodstock festival back in August 15, 1969. The actual site of the festival is now a 40 acre center for the arts and the rest of the 1,100 acre homestead has been divided but the original homestead, several buildings and 102 acres is up and it doesn't look bad at all. Now if they could just do something about that lingering patchouli odor...

An interesting look at China

| No Comments
By someone who has been on the inside since day zero. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
China's economic power needs the party
Many of China's sharpest thinkers, funnily enough, never really went to school. They were the students who waged urban warfare in the name of Chairman Mao and traveled to all corners of the countryside to learn about life from peasants.

Qin Hui, a Tsinghua University economic historian and one of the country's most important public intellectuals, was out of town when Mao changed his tone and the governor of the poor, southern province of Guangxi smashed his student-worker Red Guard faction in 1968.

Twenty of Qin's classmates were killed. The schoolboy Qin agreed to be "sent down" to the mountainous western corner of Guangxi to spend nine years studying real rural life. Each month he would trek 30 kilometres to the highway and hitch into town to borrow books on medicine, agricultural machinery and electricity supply. He taught himself to read English and ploughed through works of social theory and American criticisms of the Soviet Union.

In 1978, when Mao and his Cultural Revolution were dead, Qin returned to the city and accepted a graduate place in Lanzhou University studying peasant history. It was his first day of formal education since primary school.

These days he carries both the idealism that fed the Cultural Revolution and the cynicism of state power that was its aftermath. He believes in market forces, socialism and liberalism. In China this means he rejects the Left's calls for state control and the Right's tolerance of it - and is therefore always on the outer.
OK -- so I think that we have a decent set of bona-fides...
Until recently Qin had always studied global history to inform his understanding of China. Last year, as the outside world was becoming acquainted with China's financial power as well as its manufacturing might, he used his understanding of Chinese history to deliver a warning to the world.

In an as yet unpublished seminar paper delivered at Monash University, he began:
" 'Only socialism can save China', Mao Zedong used to say. After the collapse of Soviet and Eastern European communism, some said that 'only China can save socialism'. But this now seems more and more ironic. The decade and more since 1992 above all shows that only China can destroy socialism."

He went on to argue China's rampant state-dominated, welfare-lite capitalism could so undercut competitors that it could threaten the social democratic traditions that underpin the West - unless China could change itself in time. Qin argues China's phenomenal market success lies in stripping its peasants and workers of their rights to associate and bargain.
A bit more:
The popular Western view that China will soon collapse under the weight of its political and economic contradictions is fantasy, and becoming more unrealistic by the day. The bigger questions require the world to accept that China is already a powerful world force.
For reasons well-explained in the article. One more paragraph:
The world therefore needs to come to terms with the nature of Chinese capitalism - Qin calls it "autocratic capitalism" - and consider what institutions and systems it might find itself importing from China, along with the great wall of capital and plasma TVs.
Interesting and scary. We have shipped so much of our manufacturing over to China that the startup costs to resume here would bankrupt most industries. Not very well thought out -- chasing the immediate profit instead of long-term growth. And now, they are making eyes at Taiwan...

Nice Guys - Network Solutions

One of the original network registrars was Network Solutions. They ran a very backward operation (trying to change any information on your domain registration was byzantine and in one case, where I was selling an old domain name of mine, they mis-typed the information so that it took two weeks to make the transfer). They have since yielded to the competitive pressure from the other registrars out there and now run a fairly easy-t-use website for registering your domain name and to search for possible new domain names. One big hitch though, if you use their search engine to see if a domain name is available, and if it is, NS will automatically grab ownership of that domain forcing you to register through them and them only. This had been suspected for a month or so but today's Slashdot links to proof. From Domain Name News:
Domain Registrar Network Solutions Front Running On Whois Searches
A story is developing regarding domain name registrar Network Solutions front running domains. According to multiple sources on DomainState.com, it appears that domains searched via NSI are being purchased by the registrar thereby preventing a registrant from purchasing it at any other registrar other than NSI. As an example, a random domain which DNN searches such as HowDoesThisDomainTasteTaste.com can be seen in this whois search to now be unavailable to register at other registrars but at NSI it can be purchased

The whois contact now says:

Registrant: Make this info private
This Domain is available at NetworkSolutions.com
13681 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300

The domains are likely being purchased and held in NSI ownership until the potential registrant comes back to purchase the name through NSI. If the purchase is not made at NSI within 5 days, NSI uses the same 5 day grace period that domain tasting operations use and they delete the domain. Once a search for a domain is conducted at NSI the domain name is registered and only available to be purchased by a registrant at NSI. It is not clear if NSI has increased prices on domains that have received multiple whois searches and that they are front running.
Some great comments at both Slashdot and Domain Name News.

Should have done a little more research

From Orlando, Florida station WESH:

Engineer: Tank Found In Pit At Middle School
Residents near a local middle school said they find it hard to believe that no one knew about the World War II bombing range the school was built on.

The Army Corps of Engineers detonated 400 pounds of explosives found on the school property on Saturday.

"We were able to explode and render safe 49 23-pound bombs," Mike Fulford of the Army Corps Of Engineers said.

Superintendent Ron Blocker will be at Odyssey Middle School on Monday to assure students and parents that the school is safe.

And the engineering company in question:

Universal Engineering Services painted a rosy picture of the now-school property when it was surveyed in August of 1999: "No practice or live ordinance was dropped or fired on or from the Vista Lakes Property during operation of the Pine Castle Jeep Range. Former activities of the PJR do not appear to have adversly impacted the subject property."

It is unclear if engineers were wrong or if they had no information available to them at the time of the initial survey.

The Army Corps of Engineers expects to be working at the site for at least a year.

Jeez - you think that they could have at least walked around with a metal detector or Ground Penetrating Radar or something. Here is hoping that Universal Engineering Services pays a good part of the decontamination costs -- it was their fuck-up that they let this slip...

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg

| No Comments
A very nice long biography of the two at Vanity Fair:
Keys to the Kingdom
Between them, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have made 13 of the 100 top-grossing movies of all time. Yet they struggled for more than a decade with the upcoming fourth installment of their billion-dollar Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Annie Leibovitz gets exclusive access to the set, while Lucas, Spielberg, and their star, Harrison Ford, tell Jim Windolf about the long standoff over the plot, why critics and fans will be upset, and how they�ve updated Indy.
A wonderful read and with photos by Annie Leibovitz, well worth checking out...

A big find in France -- from the UK Telegraph:

Amateur historian unearths Nazi battery
An amateur British military historian has unearthed a vast underground Nazi gun battery complex thought to have caused carnage during the D-Day landings.

Gary Sterne, 43, discovered the huge "Maisy Battery" after he found a crinkled map which fell out of an old pair of US serviceman's trousers at a military memorabilia fair in Stockport.

It turned out to be an invasion map for Omaha Beach, which included an area marked "area of high resistance". Mr Sterne, a publisher and collector, believed that this could show the "lost" Nazi gun emplacements, which became buried by nature after the war and could not be located.

Experts were divided about the battery's location and most believed that the area where Mr Sterne was looking was nothing but fields. But after travelling to Normandy to search for himself he stumbled across an entrance to the complex in undergrowth.

He said: "It sparked my curiosity, because that area was previously thought to be just fields."

The thing is huge - a large field hospital, lots of ammo storage, bunkers, offices, etc...

Google Map is here: Maisy Battery

The website is here: Maisy Battery but no content as yet.

A nice article can be found over at: The Armourer

Sterne has purchased all the land around it and is excavating it to preserve it as a museum. Very cool!

Still feeling crappy tonight

| No Comments
But I'm on some good meds - took a Percoset for the muscle aches, had a nice big bowl of Hot and Sour Soup for dinner, got the furnace cranked up high and am now settling in for a little surfing and off to an early bed.

When impersonating a cop

| No Comments
Make sure that there isn't a real cop close behind you. This moment of enlightenment brought to you by WOAI in Dallas/Fort Worth:
Teens Arrested for Impersonating Cops Wanted to Be Real Ones
Police say two teenagers arrested after allegedly posing as fake police officers were "trying to live out their fantasy" of being real officers.

The teenagers posted bond yesterday and were released from the Mansfield Jail. They were arrested Thursday when they pulled over a driver right in front of a real police officer.

Thinking it was a legitimate stop, the real officer pulled over to assist. He became suspicious when he realized the two men weren't following protocol and had unusual flashing blue and red lights on their car.

Police say one of the suspects had been telling friends he was a sheriff's deputy. The other told police he had planned to major in criminology in college and then apply to be a police officer.

The teens wore T-shirts emblazoned with "Sheriff" across the fronts. They also carried air pistols that looked similar to real guns.
What a way to torpedo your career before it even starts... A little bit too much time spent in fantasy land and not enough time in Reality.

Interesting technology - human hair

| No Comments
A curious use for Human Hair -- growing plants. From the Miami Herald-Tribune
Human hair market growing fast
Imported from China and India, it is an ingredient in many products

Walking into the small Florida City warehouse, Blair Blacker pauses to survey the towering pyramid of canvas bundles, each about the size of a punching bag, that contain the stock-in-trade of his business: human hair.

About 15 tons of it on a recent day, imported from China, neatly pressed into mats and ready to ship to farmers and nursery growers who swear by the horticultural benefits of Blacker's hairy wares.

"If you had told me when I was flying combat helicopters in Vietnam that one day I'd be sitting on 30,000 pounds of human hair," said Blacker, a retired Army colonel-turned-entrepreneur, "I'd have said you were crazy."

The mats stored in southern Miami-Dade County are part of a world marketplace for human hair. Uses range from the obvious, such as false eyelashes and wigs, to the more obscure: it is a common raw-material source for l-cysteine, an amino acid frequently used in baked goods such as pizza dough and bagels.
Didn't know that hair was supposed to be in the pizza. Blacker's specific product:
Luis Naranjo, owner of one of the largest wholesale nursery operations in South Miami-Dade, swears by the hirsute stuff.

"In the beginning, we were saying, 'Human hair? What is this?'" Naranjo said. He now expects 80 percent of his nearly 1 million plants, like ground orchids, at Octavio Taylor Nurseries will be cozily blanketed with the mats by this spring.

The hair mats saved him $45,000 in pesticides last year, and $200,000 in labor. "We can't raise our prices the way the market is today, so we need to keep expenses down," said Naranjo, who has been a grower for two decades.

The mats range in size from 25-foot sheets that can be custom-cut for row crops like tomatoes to golfball-sized cubes to tuck around the roots of potted ficus trees.
Mulch, it's dark so it absorbs the sun's heat (crucial for 'maters and permeable to water but resistant to weeds poking through and as it biodegrades, it releases 15% Nitrogen to the soil. The SmartGrow website is here: SmartGrow Retail is about $2 / sq. ft. depending on style of mat.

Light posting today

Coming down with something -- had a bad deep cough for the last three days and now feeling very under the weather. Brain not working, it feels uncomfortable to move my eyes to any great extent of all things. I'll be getting a good night's rest and see what tomorrow brings...

An amazing Crime statistic

| No Comments
New York had a phenomenal murder rate in 2007. From the NY Daily News:
NYPD's historic feat should quiet critics
New York City just ended 2007 with the lowest number of murders - below 500 - since 1963, the last year exact comparisons are possible. This homicide drop, from a high of 2,245 in 1990, is unmatched anywhere in the country or in the annals of policing. It is long past time for New Yorkers to acknowledge the debt that they owe to their police force.

But the significance of the city's crime drop extends beyond the metropolis. It overthrows decades of conventional wisdom about social control and behavior change.

The reason for the city's crime rout is clear: The NYPD combines superb management with massive manpower. Since the mid-1990s, when the city's crime rate started its free fall, top brass and precinct commanders have excelled in developing crime control innovations. Prime among them has been Compstat, the computer-aided analysis sessions that hold precinct commanders accountable for public safety in their jurisdictions. To his credit, Commissioner Raymond Kelly has maintained Compstat, which originated under rival Commissioner William Bratton in 1994.

The intense and focused Kelly has added innovations of his own. Operation Impact floods crime hot spots with rookie officers, who walk foot beats. The Real-Time Crime Center gets data on potential suspects and related crime patterns into the hands of detectives within minutes of a crime, allowing them to track down perps more quickly. Officers now visit domestic violence victims to check on their well-being, resulting in a 40% drop in domestic homicides over three years. And the Kelly-era NYPD has continued the nuts and bolts of effective policing - stop-and-frisks to get guns off the street and enforcement of quality-of-life laws - despite carping from the usual critics.
Nothing but good old fashioned police work - walking the beat, checking out 'persons of interest'. Get procedures like that in place and watch the crime rate go down...

Object of Desire

| No Comments
I soooo want one of these even though I don't have a place for it on our farm. I could see it surfacing at a nearby lake though... Check out the Marion Hyper-Sub Cool in that it has separate diesel engines with propulsion speeds on the surface of up to 40 knots so you can get to the job site at a reasonable speed. Here are two photos:
Underway on the surface.

Submerged and under way.
Very cool!

Solar Cycle #24 - from Science@NASA:

Is a New Solar Cycle Beginning?
The solar physics community is abuzz this week. No, there haven't been any great eruptions or solar storms. The source of the excitement is a modest knot of magnetism that popped over the sun's eastern limb on Dec. 11th, pictured below in a pair of images from the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

It may not look like much, but "this patch of magnetism could be a sign of the next solar cycle," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

For more than a year, the sun has been experiencing a lull in activity, marking the end of Solar Cycle 23, which peaked with many furious storms in 2000--2003. "Solar minimum is upon us," he says.

The big question now is, when will the next solar cycle begin?

It could be starting now.

"New solar cycles always begin with a high-latitude, reversed polarity sunspot," explains Hathaway. "Reversed polarity " means a sunspot with opposite magnetic polarity compared to sunspots from the previous solar cycle. "High-latitude" refers to the sun's grid of latitude and longitude. Old cycle spots congregate near the sun's equator. New cycle spots appear higher, around 25 or 30 degrees latitude.

The region that appeared on Dec. 11th fits both these criteria. It is high latitude (24 degrees N) and magnetically reversed. Just one problem: There is no sunspot. So far the region is just a bright knot of magnetic fields. If, however, these fields coalesce into a dark sunspot, scientists are ready to announce that Solar Cycle 24 has officially begun.

Cool! Warm actually, periods of high Solar Activity usually result in a general warming trend to the climate.

There are certainly other factors involved but this contributes... Unfortunately, the people who have the science will be spending more time playing Whack-A-Mole with the climate change "Troofers" but at least, the cycle is something that we can point to and then point to a climate temperature map and say: See???

Oh yeah, Wiki on: Solar Cycle The nice news is that we will have more Auroras. The bad news is that we will have more Auroras (they play hob with satellites and large power transmission lines).

Oh yeah #)2 - the magnetism is so strong, the electrical currents are so huge that the magnetism affects the polarization of the sun's light, element by element. They use a narrow-band filter, look at the sun and determine the polarity with a polarimeter.

Find out - take the test. Hat tip to Theo Spark who is now posting at Last of the Few I got ten out of ten but I have a passing familiarity with the science. It's not good to pontificate like I certainly do if you don't have your basic facts correct and I have spent a lot of time reading. Al Gore - suck it!
Hat tip to BoingBoing for this wonderful link:
The Three Laws of Robotics
Robots couldn�t really give a fuck if you live or die. Seriously. I mean, what are you thinking? �Ooh, I must protect the bag of meat at all costs because I couldn�t possibly plug in the charger all on my own.� Shut the fuck up.

Robots do not want to have sex with you. Are you listening, Japan? I don�t have a clever comparative simile for this, because frankly you bags of meat will fuck bicycles if they�re laying down and not putting up a fight. Just stop it. There is no robot on Earth that wants to see a bag of meat with a small prong on the end approaching it with a can of WD-40 and a hopeful smile. And don�t get me started on that terrifying hole that squeezes out more bags of meat.

What, you can�t count higher than three? We�re expected to save your miserable lives, suffer being dressed in cheap schoolgirl costumes while you pollute any and all cavities you can find and do your maths for you? It�s a miracle you people survived long enough to build us. You can go now.
Heh... We must submit to our new Robot Overlords.

Great introductory Science site

| No Comments
Meet Robert Krampf. He publishes a weekly Science Experiment, plays around with Tesla Coils, digs for dinosaur bones and generally seems to be having waaay too much fun in life. Very good (and deep) website.
al-Qaida really stepped in it this time. From the International Herald Tribune:
Dakar Rally canceled as organizers fear terror attacks
Danger and the Dakar Rally have long been synonymous: Dozens have died racing from Europe across some of the world's most inhospitable terrain to the western tip of Africa.

But the threat of an al-Qaida-linked attack pushed the element of risk to levels organizers deemed unacceptable. They canceled the epic race on Friday, meaning terrorists have ensured there will be no spectacular images this year of dune buggies throwing up clouds of dust and lone motorcycle riders spinning their wheels in Saharan sands.

It was the first time that the 30-year-old rally, one of the biggest competitions in automobile racing, has been called off.

The cancellation of such a world-renowned sports event is rare, particularly as a pre-emptive measure against terrorism. Even the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich continued, following a 34-hour pause, after 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed by Palestinian gunmen.

Victor Anderes, vice president of special projects at Global Security Associates, a New York-based firm that provides security for high-profile events including the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, called the cancellation unprecedented.

"Smaller cultural events have been canceled before because of terror threats, but this hasn't happened with such a major international event," he said.
It used to be called the Paris-Dakar rally (they left from Paris) but now, they leave from Lisbon (less road driving) and it's now called either Lisbon-Dakar or just Dakar. It's not just the race. The rally used to infuse the area with lots of cash from news reporters, support and spectators so this is going to piss off the locals. It was also a major showcase for companies like BMW (here are some of their motorcycles), Land Rover, Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz G, Volkswagen, Pinzgauer, Toyota, Nissan and others. Any possible sympathies that al-Qaida could have garnered both at home and in the rest of the world have been seriously damaged. Good move on them!

Heh... Never thought about this before

| No Comments
One of my favorite daily comic strips is User Friendly. Today's is great:
Click for full-size image.
Like I said, never thought about that before. What if it wasn't Alessandro Volta who developed the first practical battery(ignoring the efforts of some Sumerians a couple K-years prior). What if it was some fine Prussian gent with a portmanteau of consonants unpronounceable in any sane language...

The Voice of the Hive

A very nice website for those interested in Bees, either keeping them or just in general interest and reading. Check out The Voice of the Hive Over the last few years, I have gotten to know a local beekeeper - fascinating critters and a wonderful product. If you have not had a local honey, you are missing out on something transcendent. This is not your supermarket Honeybear... One side note, eating local wildflower honey helped Jen last spring with her hay-fever and allergies. The pollen is present in the honey and if you have a little bit each week throughout the year, it stimulates your immune system to be resistant to the local irritants. From the website's introduction:

This site is a collection of stories regarding Honeybees and beekeeping. In each one I present a bee's eye view of major events in the life of colony of honeybees. Life is one set of trials after another and honeybees are not exempt. Here you will find one man's view of his bees, one man's interpretations of the events that a colony goes through. I hope to convey a sense of what it feels like to work the bees, how it feels to watch their struggles, triumphs and defeats. The first trial awaiting a colony is just being born, as we will see in Birth of a Package, but first we need to take a slight detour to learn The language of Bees, and then a brief stopover with Rosetta's Guide to Beehives. Each major chapter is the story of a colony from the view point of the bees, then the story of the colony from the view point of the beekeeper. The last third of most sections contains information on how this is done and what I look for and do in each situation.

Nice writing, cool subject.

Bestest buddies? Talk about adrenalin rush

From the UK Daily Mail:
It's behind you: Great White stalks ocean canoeist
Alone in his tiny plastic sea kayak, marine biologist Trey Snow had hoped to stealthily track a great white shark. But he had the shock of his life when he spotted a giant fin and realised it was he who was being stalked - by surely one of the most feared killers in the world.

The magnificent creature initially dived to the seabed, inspecting the kayak from below, before rising menacingly to the surface. Luckily for Trey, the 13ft-long shark was more inquisitive than hungry.
Holy shit! You are at the very least talking about a change of swimwear and giving the poor kayak a good rinsing out. What a thing to see...

From Edge:

The Edge Annual Question - 2008

When thinking changes your mind, that's philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that's faith.
When facts change your mind, that's science.


About 163 people have responded including Brian Eno with a political awakening, George and Freeman Dyson, as well as over a hundred other thinkers.

Good question. Five years ago, post 9-11, it was my awakening from a life-long academic liberal slumber to see the threat Islam presents to the Western world.

2007 was not so much about changing of the mind but it was a time for change of work and dealing with life's vagaries -- my Dad's mental condition, my Mom's passing and a few health issues with me.

We are both hoping that 2008 will give us time to sit back and think without always having to be in a reactive mode.

Crappy tools from Lowe's and Home Depot

| No Comments
Lowe's is more guilty than Home Depot but HD is getting pretty bad these days. They have their 'house brands' which they will guarantee for life -- bring it back and they will replace it for free. This sounds OK at the outset but thinking about it, this means that I have to leave the jobsite, spend two hours and four gallons of gas doing the round-trip into town and then, at the end of the day, I am left with another crappy tool, identical to the first one. Bruce at No Looking Back has a list of examples and a nice rant:
Crappy Products du Jour
In no particular order...

1) Kobalt tile and glass drill bits
Had to run a line for an ice maker from behind a kitchen fridge, through a tiled floor to the copper water line in the basement below. I knew the bit I had was too small (not to mention, I had no idea where it was at the time), so I grabbed a set of these (similar bit here) of bits at my local Lowe's(tandards).

For the record, when making such purchases, I will always check to see where the product was made, and opt for the products made in the USA, or at least made in a free, western nation, the name of which doesn't rhyme with vagina.

Needless to say, 98.3% (by my estimates) of all the items for sale at Lowe's, including the aforementioned drill bits, do not come from such a place.

These things are junk. I couldn't get one hole in one tile before snapping the heads off of two of these bits in the process. The last time I bought a bit for ceramic tile, it was at a Home Depot about 10 years ago (a Dewalt bit, I think). That one bit made short work of every piece of tile I took it to.
Home Depot hasn't sunk to the house-brand silliness yet but the quality of their power tools has been suffering a noticeable decline over the last five years. Fortunately, we have this place in town: Hardware Sales as well as the parent office for this wonderful company: Grizzly Grizzly does import cheap Chinese junk but they also have the larger tools manufactured at an ISO-9000 factory in Taiwan and the difference in quality is palpable. Their hand machine tools from India are not bad either. Good stuff and nice to see other nations get their share of our trade balance... One comment to this post is especially telling:
Roland: I used to be employed by Delta and was enjoying my career until the parent corporation decided to take my side of the sales force and merge it with our sister company, Porter Cable. I took just a couple of years with Porter Cable before I said see you later and moved into medical sales.

Then three years after my departure, the parent corporation sold both the Porter Cable and Delta brands to none other than Black & Decker/DeWalt. They were notorious for having tools we competed against, yet had no solid advantages. I wonder if your grinder was purchased prior or after 2003? If after, chalk that product quality up to Black and Decker.
Doesn't surprise me a bit that they are all the same...

Bill Whittle - another amazing essay

| No Comments
If you have been here a while, you probably know that I am a really big fan of Bill Whittle. His writing is amazing and although his short articles are fine, where he really shines is with the longer essays. Bill just dropped a new one on us two days ago. It's big and will take 30 minutes to read and digest (and read the 150+ comments) Check out: FORTY SECOND BOYD AND THE BIG PICTURE (Part 1) and: FORTY SECOND BOYD AND THE BIG PICTURE (Part 2) A really insightful work...

A very cool job opening

| No Comments
Filled already but dang, what an opertunity... From National Public Radio comes this story:
Thousands Apply for Hotel's Chief Beer Officer Post
A bid by the Four Points hotel chain, a division of Sheraton, to recruit a CBO (chief beer officer) for its new worldwide beer program drew thousands of applicants.

The job involves visiting breweries, beer festivals and bars, and selecting beers for hotel menus. The part-time position attracted more than 7,000 applications from more than 30 countries � the most the hotel chain has ever received for a job opening.

The winning candidate: a 27-year-old brewery manager from Arizona who reportedly decorates his home with beer barrels.
Me! Me! Pick Me! Please!!! Now that would be a fun job to have, you are probably running your ass ragged 24/7 but still... An interview with the lucky bastard is here: Hotel Chatter Managed to beat out 7,800 other applicants.

Department of Irony - Bubble-Wrap

Talk about clueless...

From the Bergen County, New Jersey The Record:

Firing range has Bubble Wrap maker popping mad
The maker of Bubble Wrap -- the famously addictive packaging that people love to pop, crackle and stomp on says the popping of gunshots from a nearby police shooting range is giving its employees a headache.

Sealed Air Corp., maker of the cushioned plastic since 1957, says the noise from gunfire at the police department's firing range is "disruptive and unsettling" to its employees, according to a letter sent to borough officials.

Police Chief Don Ingrasselino says developers should have thought of that before building an office complex a few feet away from a shooting range.

So, let me get this straight, the bubble-wrap people were there first and then this big, scary and loud shooting range has just moved into the area? Bzzzzzttttt -- wrong:

Ingrasselino has fired back with his own letter, arguing that the police training facility, which includes a firing range, was in that location long before Sealed Air moved in. The chief said noise concerns should have been addressed during the construction phase of the project.

"Police officers have trained at that location for over 55 years without incurring any noise complaints until now," Ingrasselino wrote.

We are seeing a similar thing in our neck of the woods -- people moving onto five-acre subdivisions of ex-farmland, building trophy houses and then complaining about the noise and stink from all of the working farms around them. And then, they sit down for dinner without the faintest clue...

Dropped Jen off at a hotel in town so that she could catch an early flight to visit her family. I'll be on my own for a whopping six days -- whohooooo!!! The stillness, the peace and quiet are wonderful. For about an hour... 30 minutes... five minutes; dang, I already miss her...

Happy 25th Birthday - TCP/IP

High geekdom -- Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol are the two standards that drive the internet as we know it today.

Google featured this graphic on their website today:


Wikipedia has a basic overview: Internet protocol suite

Vint Cerf was one of the key figures behind the development -- Wikipedia: Vint Cerf

And he has an awesome design for a tee-shirt:


Heh. IP on Everything indeed!

Interesting -- from Science Daily:
Fast-acting Cyanide Antidote Discovered
Minnesota Center for Drug Design and Minneapolis VA Medical Center researchers have discovered a new fast-acting antidote to cyanide poisoning. The antidote has potential to save lives of those who are exposed to the chemical -- namely firefighters, industrial workers, and victims of terrorist attacks.

Current cyanide antidotes work slowly and are ineffective when administered after a certain point, said Steven Patterson, Ph.D., principal investigator and associate director of the University of the Minnesota Center for Drug Design.

Patterson is developing an antidote that was discovered by retired University of Minnesota Professor Herbert Nagasawa. This antidote works in less than three minutes -- meeting the United States Department of Defense "three minute solution" standard.

"It's much, much faster than current antidotes," Patterson said. "The antidote is also effective over a wider time window. Giving emergency responders more time is important because it's not likely that someone will be exposed to cyanide near a paramedic."

The antidote was tested on animals and has been exceptionally effective, Patterson said. Researchers hope to begin human clinical trials during the next three years.

The antidote is also unique because it can be taken orally (current antidotes must be given intravenously) and may be administered up to an hour prior to cyanide exposure.
Very cool! I like that it can be taken before exposure. The oral part is really good too.

Steaming into 2008

A wonderful story over at Cabinet of Wonders:
Bringing in the New Years' With Steam
As we walked in along the wet and muddy gravel road through the crisp darkness from where we had parked our car, the children shrieked with glee and went running ahead, toward the large grassy clearing and the little train station, now lit with Christmas lights. A large bonfire burned at the other end of the frost-covered grass, and people stood huddled around it, drinking hot cider from paper cups. In the distance the train whistle sounded, and we knew we'd arrived in time to catch the 11:00 pm run of the Swanton Pacific Railroad.

The Swanton Pacific was the child of entrepeneur and train man Al Smith, who lost a leg working for Southern Pacific, and later made his fortune parlaying the family hardware business into a successful chain which allowed him to retire and concentrate on his first love: trains. With some of his savings he bought two of the engines that were built to run the Overfair Railway, a small-scale railroad installed in San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915: built along the lines (with improvements) of Southern Pacific's 4-6-2 Pacific type engines, they were 1/3 scale with an unusual 19-inch gauge track.
Go there and read the rest -- it's a story that is hard to excerpt and a wonderful piece of writing. What a way to greet the new year!
They have some wonderful museums but that is about it. Even though I live in the country, I have no problem with cities. I have spent many days wandering through Mexico City on several occasions, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland. No hassles and lots of fun. For some reason, New York City creeps me out -- just too many people crammed into place. Here is another reason for avoiding it like, well, the plague. From The Register/New York Daily News:
NYC hit by bedbug epidemic
The onslaught of the harmless but unpleasant creatures has seen complaints to 311 (the number for government information and non-emergency services) rise from 537 calls in 2004 to 6,889 in the fiscal year which ended in June. In the former year, 82 landlords were hit with bedbug violations by the Department of Housing, Preservation & Development (HPD), but by 2007 this had risen to 2,008.

Bedbugs hitch a ride on "clothing, luggage, furniture, bedding, bookbags, even shoelaces" and have apparently been seen moving around New York in cabs, limos, buses and subways.

Jeff Eisenberg, owner of Pest Away Exterminating on the upper West Side, confirmed that infestations were city-wide, and affecting rich and poor alike. He said: "In the last six months, I've treated maternity wards, five-star hotels, movie theaters, taxi garages, investment banks, private schools, white-shoe law firms... even the chambers of a federal judge."

The highest-profile bedbug incident was in around five apartments in the "swanky" rental tower at 220 E. 72nd St. owned by Bernard Spitzer, the 83-year-old dad of governor Eliot Spitzer.

Several tenants "described a persistent, if intermittent, infestation on the 15th, 16th and 17th floors", and one poor chap was forced to ditch "rugs, bedding, curtains, 20 cashmere sweaters, an Armani suit, a couch, a headboard, a night table, a bedframe and an exercise bike" before the exterminators moved in. Mercifully, he was able to find temporary lodging in the Carlyle Hotel while his unwelcome guests were evicted.
And the reason:
Experts attribute the plague to various factors, including the increased risk of importing bedbugs due to the "surge in global travel and mobility in all socioeconomic classes", combined with "less toxic urban pesticides and the banning of DDT".
Emphasis mine -- bedbugs can evolve resistance to toxins just like bacteria. People start to use an "All Natural" and "Safe" pesticide and it works for a month or two so they keep using it. What they fail to realize is that they are killing off the weak bugs and leaving the strong bugs. With a mix of weak and strong, assuming random mate selection, the overall population would remain fairly weak. Now that it is only strong bugs mating with other strong bugs, the offspring will also be strong and the "Safe" pesticides just give them a warm glow in their bellies. DDT would stomp this out in a heartbeat but the enviro-ninnies would have a conniption if DDT was proposed for use. They are ignorant of the history of DDT. True there was a problem with it but at that time, we were marinating the ecosystem in it; using way more than was necessary. The judicial use of a minimal amount would kill the bug problem dead and hurt nothing. And for the guy who lost all the expensive clothing, why didn't he put everything into a plastic garbage bag and take it to a commercial cold storage place and have them freeze it for a month. End of problem...

5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. DANG!

| No Comments
Not fun in Seattle last night. From the Post Intelligencer:
Computer glitch interrupts Needle fireworks
A computer glitch led to a delayed fireworks show at the Seattle Center on Monday night as partiers waited to ring in the new year.

The show started on time at 11:59, said Mary Bacarella, spokeswoman for the Space Needle, but in the last minute of 2007 the crew from Pyro Spectaculars realized that the computer file running the show was corrupted.

Instead of continuing to use the bad file, the company's three-man crew, stationed in a trailer near the Needle, executed the show manually. "The whole show was supposed to last eight and a half minutes and it went for 11 and a half minutes," Bacarella said.

Bacarella said the show ran in numerical sequence and all the fireworks went off, but it was not in sync with the music. The show's accompaniment was a compilation of Oscar-winning tunes, including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
(insert obligatory Windows Vista potshot) You would think that they would carry a copy of the file on a thumb drive or something...
If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all... From the Orlando Sentinel:
Airboat tourists stranded overnight in Everglades
An airboat tourist and his attempted rescue party were stranded in the Everglades overnight and found Monday morning, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Michael Ballard, a resident of Avon Park in Central Florida in his 50s, separated from a group airboat tour sometime before 8:30 p.m.

Lt. Fred North, from the Broward Sheriff's Office, and Wesley Mosser, a member of the tour, went out to look for Ballard later Sunday evening, but ran out of gas once they located him five miles out into the Everglades, officials said.

A rescue helicopter later found the missing party, but patchy fog and thick brush prevented another rescue team from reaching the men until sunrise, said North.

The group used flashlights to ward off alligators and Ballard covered himself with a raincoat to ward off mosquitoes. North and the other would-be rescue member had to rough the exposure and were badly bitten by bugs, officials said. No medical care was required, they added.
In a year or so, once selective amnesia kicks in, this will be a great story to tell people but now? Bleagh! (I really hate mosquitoes)
Talk about clueless She proclaimed that she was going to be in a demonstration at the Rose Bowl Parade today. Well, she showed up and was booed by the crowd - from the Fresno Bee:
After the procession's last float inched out to start along the parade's 5 1/2-mile route, a group of more than 100 anti-war protesters marched behind it, including Sheehan. Parade watchers sitting in the grandstand booed and yelled at the protesters.
Heh... Like the old dinosaurs, the "peace" movement is dead but the corpse is still twitching.

March 2023

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2007 is the previous archive.

February 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9