May 2009 Archives

Where's the Goracle today?

Is Al Gore visiting New York State today? From the Utica, NY Observer-Dispatch:
Frost Watch: How to protect your plants
Local gardeners may want to take special measures to protect their plants this evening as a frost advisory has been issued for much of New York state, including Oneida County.

The advisory issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect until 8 a.m. Monday.

Temperatures are expected to fall into the mid-to-low 30s overnight, and a hard frost is likely as temperatures in colder areas approach freezing.

Brad Alcott, owner of Alcott's Greenhouses in Waterville, said the possible frost may catch some gardeners off guard.

"Memorial Day has always been the rule of thumb for planting in the garden. So June 1 is definitely late," he said.
Been a long cold winter here and a long cold spring. Finally getting some decent weather. Don't know how much Corn we will have this year. Standard rule is knee-high by the 4th of July. Last year, it was only a couple inches. I haven't seen anyone planting Corn this year and the Fourth is only five weeks away.

Two very cool things about New Zealand

Item #1 is that New Zealand has an official Wizard:
More here, here and website And #2 is that Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Queen's Service Medal:
Wizard of New Zealand awarded Queen's Service Medal
It nearly knocked him off his soapbox.

Christchurch's Wizard was today named as one of 75 people awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to the community.

He admitted he could not have predicted a QSM in his wildest dreams.

"I would be the last person in the world. I am in shock, I still can't believe it. It's not possible, I am not the right sort of person for it," he told NZPA.

The Wizard, 76, who was born as Ian Brackenbury Channell, was included in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours and was "notable for reviving the ancient art of rhetoric and was most often seen in The Square in Christchurch synthesising the ideas of famous philosophers".

He is also renowned for his wizard's gown, casting various spells, including one to help the Crusaders rugby team, and trying to avoid being counted on Census night.

The Wizard said awards normally went to sportspeople or people who did good works.

"I am not a sportsman, I don't do good works. I am just an entertainer who tries to get new ideas across. So maybe someone who has got ideas has done it (nominated me) because I am really an ideas man."

Nevertheless, he was delighted.

"It's lovely to see an award given for someone who has lived essentially a life of putting as much fun as possible into the world and as much thought as possible.
You are an asshat of the highest order. With your single pre-meditated act of violence, you succeeded in: #1) - setting the anti-abortion cause back ten years or more #2) - giving validation to the idea that there are conservative domestic terrorists #3) - committing #5 on God's list of 10 #4) - that you did this at his Church gives you extra brownie points with Satan #5) - giving the liberals (more) ammunition against the conservatives Probably a lot more but I am still sick at what happend for many reasons. Charles at Little Green Footballs has noticed that the comments at two Free Republic threads are about as sick as you could ever imagine:
Bad Craziness Watch: Right Wing Reaction to the Tiller Murder
At Free Republic, they�re celebrating the murder of Dr. George Tiller. From the following two threads:

Report: George Tiller Shot To Death [Child Murderer Killed At Wichita Church]

George Tiller (Child Murderer) shot to death at Wichita church

... a selection of comments, among hundreds (if not thousands) of similar comments:
I�m not weeping for the scumbag himself.I haven�t the fainest doubt that he is,at this very moment,rotting in the very special place in hell that he so richly earned.

What I�m saying is that this will hurt the anti-abortion cause...and hurt it badly.

If you doubt me...just watch.


Up to a few years ago, I would have agreed with your statement, Doug.

However, bush2 failed miserably with his �friendly tone� and I�m beginning to think we MUST bring a gun to a gun fight if we have any chance to win this battle against satan and his minions.


One less nazi as far as I am concerned.


What goes around comes around...


Hope the guy gets away.
Yet another reason why, although I am a conservative, I do not bother with Free Republic. A nest of vipers -- all reactive and no thinking and/or discussion alowed...
Got two spam attempts today. The first one was a simple match with hijacked forums. The second one pointed to 43 different fora, two of which I had encountered and logged already but 41 that were unique and new to me. Many thanks for piling on so many bad forums in one single post -- makes my work a lot easier...

Surviving the World

An excellent site. Here is lesson five:
More here: Surviving the World

The Astounding World of the Future

This has been around for about a year but I just ran into it:
Caution: Multiple drink alert...

Video from last weeks Sasquatch Festival

Around 2:00 the brownies start to kick in...
The lineup.

Dealergate - an update

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I had written about the Dealergate issue before. A large number of the Chrysler dealerships that are being closed by the US Government were ones that had made political contributions to the Republicans. There is only one dealer being closed who contributed to Obama and that was just a $200 contribution. Michelle Malkin has more on the story with a bunch of links to data:
Crunching the numbers: Dealergate & cronyism continued
The statistical gurus at financial blog Zero Hedge have taken a hard, long look at the question of Dealergate and cronyism. They�ve made their preliminary findings available here. Using regression analysis, they tackled the relationship between dealership survival and Clinton donor status - and found a significant correlation.
Go and read -- it is fascinating. It will be interesting to see what kind of spin the White House will put on this as a story of this magnetude will not remain on the fringes for long...


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More hope and change for 'ya

This time it is "restriction on oral communications" From Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:
White House: We�ll cut off criticism of Porkulus
Mark Tapscott notices an interesting blog post by Norman Eisen, who works for Barack Obama as Special Counsel to the President on Ethics and Government Reform. Anticipating a deluge of criticism over the thus-far ineffectual spending plan, Eisen has a straightforward plan to deal with criticism. He�ll simply use the power of the federal government to silence it. Problem solved!
�First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program. [emphasis mine -- Ed]

�Second, we will focus the restriction on oral communications to target the scenario where concerns about merit-based decision-making are greatest �after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Once such applications are on file, the competition should be strictly on the merits. To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see.

�Third, we will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists. If registered lobbyists have conversations or meetings before an application is filed, a form must be completed and posted to each agency�s website documenting the contact.�
To hell with the thrill up the leg crap, I am getting concerned about the cold sweat I am breaking out in these days. I want my Republic back again dammit!

Don't mess with bowlers

From The Oregonian:
Senior bowlers strike down Hillsboro purse thief
It turned out to be Pound-A-Punk day Wednesday at the Hillsboro Park Lanes Family Entertainment Center, a bowling alley in Hillsboro.

A 16-year-old would-be thief reportedly tried to swipe two purses from tables inside the bowling alley at 6360 S.E. Alexander St.

Then, at least from the teen's perspective, things went terribly awry.

The purses weren't the easy pickings he apparently thought they'd be. They belonged to two ladies from V.I.P. Summer Trio, a senior league, said Lanes owner Dean Johnson.

The women, along with other bowlers from the senior league, blocked the 16-year-old's escape through an exit on the building's west side. When he ran toward the glass doors at the building's front, league members were in hot and loud pursuit.

"One lady started screaming," said Nathan Krawitz, 44, who saw the whole thing.

Johnson said others in the league also sprang into action.

"A bunch of the senior ladies and senior men started hollering at him and chased him," Johnson said. "That's when Steve, my son, kind of held him down."

The center's front door is sliding glass, and Johnson said that confused the thief long enough for his 22-year-old son to come at him from behind the counter and pin the parried purse-snatcher to the floor.

Several of the senior bowlers dog-piled the teen and held him until police arrived.
Way to go Granny!!! Heh...

From the UK Guardian comes this sad tale of science and libel:

Why are they trying to gag a top British science writer?
This week, Simon Singh, one of Britain's best science writers, will decide whether to carry on playing a devilish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He has already lost £100,000 defending his right to speak frankly. He could walk away. No one would think the worse of him if he did. Or he could go on and risk losing the full million by ensnaring himself in the rapacious world of an English judiciary that seems ever eager to bow to the demands of Saudi oil billionaires, Russian oligarchs and the friends of Saddam Hussein to censor critics and punish them with staggering damages and legal fees.

It seems no choice at all. Any friend Singh phoned would tell him to cut his losses and run. But if he were to turn to the audience, he would hear scientists all but screaming at him to go to the Court of Appeal and challenge a judgment that threatens the robust discussions open societies depend on. A national defence campaign is ready to roll on his command. At a preliminary support meeting, a cheering crowd acclaimed him as a free-speech champion.

In truth, he makes an unlikely warrior. Singh is a serious and amiable man, whose accounts of the solving of Fermat's last theorem and code breaking won high praise and provoked no controversy. Last year, he published Trick or Treatment? with Professor Edzard Ernst on the reliability of "alternative medicine", and devoted a chapter to the strange history of chiropractic treatments. One Daniel David Palmer invented the therapy in Davenport, Iowa, in 1895, when he convinced himself that he had cured a janitor's deafness by "racking" his back.

Inspired by this miracle, Palmer developed the theory that "95% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae", rather than, say, the germs that so bothered conventional doctors of the time. Chiropractic therapy was a new religion, Palmer declared, and he was a successor to Christ, Muhammad and Martin Luther. At home, he practised vigorous racking on his children.

His son, Bartlett, described how he beat them with "straps until we carried welts, for which Father was often arrested and spent nights in jail". Bartlett bought the first car Davenport had seen and paid his father back by running him down on the day of the Palmer School of Chiropractic Homecoming Parade.

Palmer died of his injuries a few weeks later, but his ideas lived on. In 2008, the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) announced that its members could help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying. Writing in the Guardian, Singh said the claim was "bogus". Chiropractic treatments may help relieve back pain, but Professor Ernst had examined 70 trials and found no evidence that they could relieve other conditions.

The very idea that this is even going through the court system is ludicrous. Chiropractic is great for joint and muscle pain. I have used it before and gotten great relief. The same for acupuncture. I certainly do not see my acupuncturist when I have an infection or a burn or other injury, I see my Doctor. By the same token, for relief after my hip surgery, I used the acupuncturist and not prescription medication.

The idea that Chiropractors are trying to expand their scope into Medicine is foolish and dangerous to their clients.

The book: Trick or Treatment is available at Amazon.

There is also a website: Trick or Treatment and a £10,000 challenge to any homeopath to prove their efficacy in a standardized double-blind test of 100 or greater participants (as yet unclaimed).

Nothing like fixing the economy and creating shovel-ready jobs for everyone. From Marketwatch:
Payrolls shrunk another half million in May, survey says
ISM expected to rise to 42%, still 'squarely' in recession territory

The economy likely shed another 500,000 jobs in May, the seventh straight month with at least a half million jobs lost, including 539,000 in April, analysts surveyed by MarketWatch said. The unemployment rate probably jumped from 8.9% to 9.2%, the highest since 1983.

The Labor Department will release the May employment report on Friday at 8:30 a.m. It's the biggest economic release in a week chock full of data covering every sector of the economy.

In "normal circumstances," such heavy job losses "would be seen as very bad news," wrote Brian Bethune and Nigel Gault, economists at IHS Global Insight. But these times are anything but normal.

Investors "may be encouraged that the pace of job losses appears to be slowing -- albeit marginally," wrote Meny Grauman, an economist for CIBC World Markets. It would be the smallest monthly job loss since 380,000 were lost in October in the wake of the financial panic that followed the collapse of Lehman Bros.

If the economists are right, U.S. nonfarm payrolls fell to 131.9 million in May, down 6.2 million since December 2007 and the lowest payroll count since August 2000. All of the job growth since the 2001 recession has been wiped out, and then some.
The ISM mentioned in the second headline is an economic metric published by the Institute for Supply and Management:
Manufacturing ISM
The factory sector is still mired in its deepest downturn since the end of World War II, but, once again, the pace of decline appears to be moderating. The Institute for Supply Management index should rise slightly in May to 42% from 40.1%, economists said.

The ISM will be released on Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

At 42%, the ISM would remain "squarely in recession territory," said Wachovia's economists. "However, the recent increases corroborate the notion that economic recovery will begin late this year."

The ISM bottomed at a 28-year low of 32.9% in December, and has been marching higher steadily since.

The ISM is computed from a survey of purchasing managers at manufacturing firms. Instead of asking them how many widgets they sold, the ISM asks them if they sold more widgets this month than last.

The resulting survey tells us how broadly based the downturn is among companies, not how deep the downturn is. Any reading under 50% in the ISM shows that business is still getting worse (or getting no better) for most manufacturing companies.
So in order to "bail us out" of a recession, our government nationalizes the larger banks, takes over the reigns of our big three auto makers and forces us into more than one Trillion Dollars in debt. Doing nothing and letting the big businesses readjust would accomplish the same thing at a much lower cost and it would euchre the Unions out of their position of power in Detroit. This is not what I voted for...

A Total Eclipse of the Heart

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Remember the Bonnie Tyler video of the song? Here it is done literally -- and a serious mega-drink alert if you remember the original video:


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There are many ways to make Bruschetta -- go into a restaurant and you might be surprised at what you are served. I prefer the classical Southern Italian version -- a simple and wonderful warm-weather meal. To start, dice up some ripe tomatoes and put them into a colander over a bowl. Salt them with a teaspoon or more of salt. You want to drive off as much water as possible. The salt will come out with the juice so don't worry about the end result being too salty. Let them sit covered for an hour or so. Stir every so often. Take the 'maters and put them into a small bowl with some good Balsamic Vinegar. Balsamic Vinegar is a bit odd if you are not familiar with it -- the idea of spending $10 and (way) up for a small bottle of vinegar doesn't make sense until you taste it. This stuff has been aged in wood barrels and the taste is amazing -- you do not use that much so a small bottle will last for several months. This stuff is a luxury but, given the day-to-day cost, it is not really that expensive. I use the Trader Joe's vinegar, the Costco Balsamic is not that bad and it is very cheap. For the tappenade, take about a cup of drained pitted Kalamata Olives, put them into the blender with a couple pickled Artichoke Hearts and a teaspoon of brown sugar. A few turns of the pepper grinder and then process on the low speed for 20 seconds or so. You want it chunky. You do not taste the sugar but it helps to bring out the flavors. The artichoke hearts add a smoothness and help the flavor as well. Tear up a couple leaves of fresh Basil. Get some Dry Coppa or Prosciutto ham and slice it into ribbons about a half-inch wide. Get a loaf of really good fresh bread. We used a rosemary loaf from a local store that has a bakery -- it's about $4/loaf and will feed three people (three large slices per person). Take a plate or cookie sheet and pour a quarter cup of olive oil in it. Soak one face of your bread slices and then toast either under a broiler or on your grill. You want the bread to just turn brown. The Maillard reaction will give you a nice nutty-sweet taste and a crunchy texture. Take the bread off the grill. Top with a layer of the tappenade, some 'maters, a couple slices of Coppa or Prosciutto and then a few bits of basil and munch away. A wonderful and simple meal for a couple bucks per person. Easy to make and delicious.
About an hour ago, I got two attempts at comment spamming. Those of you who read this blog know that I really really hate spam and think that people who spam are scum. And this is insulting a lot of really wonderful scum. One of the attempts was using the hijacked public forum style of spamming. Someone will register at a newspaper or an online forum and then proceed to post links to PPC sites (pills, pr0n, casinos). They then try to post comments to various blogs linking to these fora. The one tonight was to an address that I already know about and was blocked. The second one was for what I am now calling "random tracker spam". These will lead off with four to six random alphabetic characters, a space and then a couple of gibberish URLs. My guess is that these are posted to "seed" a likely blog and that other bots will search for these initial seeds and start spamming those blog posts. What makes today a wonderful event is that these ID-10-Ts altered their approach. They inserted a few punctuation marks into their seed -- I was not testing for this and it would have slipped by and been approved and posted but for one tiny item... ??? The machine they used was already listed at as being a known spamming system. That flipped the comment into moderation where I could see the change and re-write the regex to accommodate their new strategies. Easy-Peasy. I take great delight in dealing with these mouth-breathers. My programming language is solder. I do hardware. I do not code. I am a piss-poor programmer. I have no code fu. You can ask any random person on the street and their code-fu will be better than mine. Still... Out of the last 500 or so attempts, I have probably had 20 successes and these are incorporated into the script that I use to eliminate future spams of this nature. At the end of the day, these people are simply not that smart. Their code certainly is not effective. They do not learn from their mistakes. When they try, they do not validate their machines. Can you say:


I knew you could...

A Lazy Day

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After the abnormally cold winter and very very long and cold spring, we are finally getting some decent weather here. Spent some time outside and we had a couple of people taking advantage of some late afternoon thermals off Black Mountain:



The last two critters are Demeter and Waylon. Now I'm off to the shop to do some much needed organizing. Dinner tonight is grilled Bruschetta with homemade tappenade and fresh Basil but I need to chop and marinate the tomatoes for an hour first.

Who profits from the CO2 cap and trade

An interesting bit of research from Lawrence Solomon at the Financial Times:
Lawrence Solomon: Enron's other secret
We all know that the financial stakes are enormous in the global warming debate � many oil, coal and power companies are at risk should carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases get regulated in a manner that harms their bottom line. The potential losses of an Exxon or a Shell are chump change, however, compared to the fortunes to be made from those very same regulations.

The climate-change industry � the scientists, lawyers, consultants, lobbyists and, most importantly, the multinationals that work behind the scenes to cash in on the riches at stake � has emerged as the world�s largest industry. Virtually every resident in the developed world feels the bite of this industry, often unknowingly, through the hidden surcharges on their food bills, their gas and electricity rates, their gasoline purchases, their automobiles, their garbage collection, their insurance, their computers purchases, their hotels, their purchases of just about every good and service, in fact, and finally, their taxes to governments at all levels.

These extractions do not happen by accident. Every penny that leaves the hands of consumers does so by design, the final step in elaborate and often brilliant orchestrations of public policy, all the more brilliant because the public, for the most part, does not know who is profiteering on climate change, or who is aiding and abetting the profiteers.

Some of the climate-change profiteers are relatively unknown corporations; others are household names with only their behind-the-scenes role in the climate-change industry unknown. Over the next few weeks, in an extended newspaper series, you will become familiar with some of the profiteers, and with their machinations. This series begins with Enron, a pioneer in the climate-change industry.

Almost two decades before President Barack Obama made �cap-and-trade� for carbon dioxide emissions a household term, an obscure company called Enron � a natural-gas pipeline company that had become a big-time trader in energy commodities � had figured out how to make millions in a cap-and-trade program for sulphur dioxide emissions, thanks to changes in the U.S. government�s Clean Air Act. To the delight of shareholders, Enron�s stock price rose rapidly as it became the major trader in the U.S. government�s $20-billion a year emissions commodity market.

Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, keen to engineer an encore, saw his opportunity when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were inaugurated as president and vice-president in 1993. To capitalize on Al Gore�s interest in global warming, Enron immediately embarked on a massive lobbying effort to develop a trading system for carbon dioxide, working both the Clinton administration and Congress. Political contributions and Enron-funded analyses flowed freely, all geared to demonstrating a looming global catastrophe if carbon dioxide emissions weren�t curbed. An Enron-funded study that dismissed the notion that calamity could come of global warming, meanwhile, was quietly buried.

To magnify the leverage of their political lobbying, Enron also worked the environmental groups. Between 1994 and 1996, the Enron Foundation donated $1-million to the Nature Conservancy and its Climate Change Project, a leading force for global warming reform, while Lay and other individuals associated with Enron donated $1.5-million to environmental groups seeking international controls on carbon dioxide.

The intense lobbying paid off. Lay became a member of president Clinton�s Council on Sustainable Development, as well as his friend and advisor. In the summer of 1997, prior to global warming meetings in Kyoto, Japan, Clinton sought Lay�s advice in White House discussions. The fruits of Enron�s efforts came soon after, with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

An internal Enron memo, sent from Kyoto by John Palmisano, a former Environmental Protection Agency regulator who had become Enron�s lead lobbyist as senior director for Environmental Policy and Compliance, describes the historic corporate achievement that was Kyoto.

�If implemented this agreement will do more to promote Enron�s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring of the energy and natural-gas industries in Europe and the United States,� Polisano began. �The potential to add incremental gas sales, and additional demand for renewable technology is enormous.�
Lawrence prefaces this by saying it is: First in a series. More. Faster. Please. I especially love the line: An Enron-funded study that dismissed the notion that calamity could come of global warming, meanwhile, was quietly buried. Can't go around telling the truth now, can we...

Barry O and the Unions

A dangerous game is being played. From the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. website come these two excerpts:

President Barack Obama Repeals Executive Order Prohibiting Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on Federal and Federally Funded Construction
On February 6, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13502, which repeals Executive Order 13202 and encourages federal agencies to require PLAs on federal and federally funded construction projects in excess of $25 million.

And a bit more:

Between 2001 and 2007, Executive Order 13202 ensured that at least $123.1 billion worth of federal construction projects was bid without discriminatory and wasteful union-only PLAs. The actual value of construction projects protected by Executive Order 13202 is exponentially larger, as the above figure does not include 2008 federal construction put in place spending or state and local construction spending from 2001-2008 that received federal funding or assistance that was protected by Executive Order 13202. It is estimated that free and open competition saved American taxpayers between 10 percent and 20 percent on federal construction spending and provided women, minorities and other qualified craft professionals the opportunity to work in their communities.

Granted, the ABC, Inc. has a dog in this fight -- most independent contractors are non-Union shops and want to stay that way in order to remain competitive. Still, locking large projects into Union-only shops is a waste of our money -- as the article said, 10 to 20% of the cost of large Federal construction projects.

The second item is the ABC, Inc. position and it amplifies the first:

ABC strongly opposes union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) on public construction projects.
Union-only PLAs drive up the cost of construction by reducing competition for the work and effectively exclude merit shop contractors from working on projects paid for by their own tax dollars.

A union-only PLA is a contract that requires that the project be awarded only to contractors and subcontractors who agree to:
  • recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job
  • use the union hiring hall to obtain workers
  • obtain apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs
  • pay into underfunded and mismanaged union benefit plans
  • obey costly, restrictive and inefficient union work rules

Sure, before the popularization of the automobile, workers were stuck in one place and were at the whims of the business owners. The Unions were important than as they gave bargaining powers to the workers that allowed them to get a fair salary. Now, the Unions have fallen victim to Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy and exist only to perpetuate their own existence. This is going to bite Barry in the ass as he is giving these people too much power. 2010 and 2012 should be interesting from the view of election security and honesty. Thought the 2008 election was corrupt? Just wait...

Detroit Automobiles - a post mortem

P.J. O�Rourke does a wonderful post-mortem of the big three and why they failed so spectacularly. From the Wall Street Journal:
The End of the Affair
The fate of Detroit isn�t a matter of economics. It�s a tragic romance, whose magic was killed by bureaucrats, bad taste and busybodies. P.J. O�Rourke on why Americans fell out of love with the automobile.

The phrase �bankrupt General Motors,� which we expect to hear uttered on Monday, leaves Americans my age in economic shock. The words are as melodramatic as �Mom�s nude photos.� And, indeed, if we want to understand what doomed the American automobile, we should give up on economics and turn to melodrama.

Politicians, journalists, financial analysts and other purveyors of banality have been looking at cars as if a convertible were a business. Fire the MBAs and hire a poet. The fate of Detroit isn�t a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It�s a tragic romance�unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses.

Foremost are the horses. Cars can�t be comprehended without them. A hundred and some years ago Rudyard Kipling wrote �The Ballad of the King�s Jest,� in which an Afghan tribesman avers: Four things greater than all things are,�Women and Horses and Power and War.

Insert another �power� after the horse and the verse was as true in the suburbs of my 1950s boyhood as it was in the Khyber Pass.

Horsepower is not a quaint leftover of linguistics or a vague metaphoric anachronism. James Watt, father of the steam engine and progenitor of the industrial revolution, lacked a measurement for the movement of weight over distance in time�what we call energy. (What we call energy wasn�t even an intellectual concept in the late 18th century�in case you think the recent collapse of global capitalism was history�s most transformative moment.) Mr. Watt did research using draft animals and found that, under optimal conditions, a dray horse could lift 33,000 pounds one foot off the ground in one minute. Mr. Watt�the eponymous watt not yet existing�called this unit of energy �1 horse-power.�

In 1970 a Pontiac GTO (may the brand name rest in peace) had horsepower to the number of 370. In the time of one minute, for the space of one foot, it could move 12,210,000 pounds. And it could move those pounds down every foot of every mile of all the roads to the ends of the earth for every minute of every hour until the driver nodded off at the wheel. Forty years ago the pimply kid down the block, using $3,500 in saved-up soda-jerking money, procured might and main beyond the wildest dreams of Genghis Khan, whose hordes went forth to pillage mounted upon less oomph than is in a modern leaf blower.
A wonderful ode to the American Automobile and to what we have lost in the last 30 years or so. Go and read.
Ted Rall is an editorialist and cartoonist and had a field-day with the Bush presidency (in a bad way). Imagine my surprise when I read this (from the Springfield Illinois State Journal Register)
Ted Rall: It�s increasingly evident that Obama should resign
We expected broken promises. But the gap between the soaring expectations that accompanied Barack Obama�s inauguration and his wretched performance is the broadest such chasm in recent historical memory. This guy makes Bill Clinton look like a paragon of integrity and follow-through.

From health care to torture to the economy to war, Obama has reneged on pledges real and implied. So timid and so owned is he that he trembles in fear of offending, of all things, the government of Turkey. Obama has officially reneged on his campaign promise to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. When a president doesn�t have the nerve to annoy the Turks, why does he bother to show up for work in the morning?

Obama is useless. Worse than that, he�s dangerous. Which is why, if he has any patriotism left after the thousands of meetings he has sat through with corporate contributors, blood-sucking lobbyists and corrupt politicians, he ought to step down now � before he drags us further into the abyss.
Rall has spent so much time on the fringes of the far left that he has topologically wrapped around and is now inhabiting the fringes of the far right. The column is also at his website but he has no provision for permalinks so you would need to search for it by date: 05/28/2009

X-RAY Vision

When I mention to people that I bought that small Dental X-RAY unit, I generally get an UNH? followed by a WTF?.

Here is a site with some gorgeous X-RAY images- some obviously photoshopped and assembled from multiple images but others glorious in their simplicity. Here are three of them:




Fun stuff!

The story seems to be gaining traction -- from The Washington Examiner:
Furor grows over partisan car dealer closings
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Republicans. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty.

The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?

Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan learned from a House colleague that his Venice, Florida, dealership is on the hit list. Buchanan also has a Nissan franchise paired with the Chrysler facility in Venice.

"It's an outrage. It's not about me. I'm going to be fine," said Buchanan, the dealership's majority owner. "You're talking over 100,000 jobs. We're supposed to be in the business of creating jobs, not killing jobs," Buchanan told News 10, a local Florida television station.

Buchanan, who succeeded former Rep. Katharine Harris in 2006, reportedly learned of his dealership's termination from Rep.Candace Miller, R-MI. Buchanan owns a total of 23 dealerships in Florida and North Carolina.

Also fueling the controversy is the fact the RLJ-McCarty-Landers chain of Arkansas and Missouri dealerships aren't being closed, but many of their local competitors are being eliminated. Go here for a detailed look at this situation. McClarty is the former Clinton senior aide. The "J" is Robert Johnson, founder of the Black Entertainment Television, a heavy Democratic contributor.

A lawyer representing a group of Chrysler dealers who are on the hit list deposed senior Chrysler executives and later told Reuters that he believes the closings have been forced on the company by the White House.

"It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers. It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President's automotive task force," said attorney Leonard Bellavia.
Be sure to read the comments to Mark's post -- lots of links to other aspects of the story. It will be interesting to see how long this keeps on before getting noticed by the Mainstream Media. NY Times? Your credibility is calling on line four...

I think not. Peter Robinson at Forbes Magazine does an excellent analysis:

The Problem With California
The state of California employs some two-and-a-quarter million people, includes almost 400 state agencies, oversees 29 different legal codes, administers a tax code that runs to more than 60,000 clauses or sections and spends more than $100 billion a year.

You'll hear it said these days that all this complexity makes California ungovernable, and I suppose that even when the economy is booming, not gasping, California will always prove more of a trick to run than the tiniest state, Rhode Island, or the least populous, Wyoming.

Yet the central problem in the Golden State--the disorder that affects every aspect of state government--can be described very simply: The political class in Sacramento believes the people of California exist for the state government, not the other way around.

The two words to bear in mind here are "public sector unions" and "lobbyists." Hundreds of thousands of Californians belong to public sector unions such as the California Teachers Association or the California State Firefighters' Association. They use the hundreds of lobbyists in Sacramento--registered lobbyists number more than 1,200--to petition the state government, redistributing wealth from other Californians to themselves.

How successful is the political class at getting what it wants? Here the telling figure is "35%." That's the proportion by which the state budget has expanded since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office in 2003. Note that Schwarzenegger has repeatedly expressed his opposition to new spending. Note further that he even seems to have meant it.

Everyone recognizes that there is a problem. Everyone recognizes that serious cuts need to be made. Nobody wants to be the first person to blink and loose their share of the pie so everybody gets to share in the mess...

A day to remember

Yesterday evening I had mentioned that I was planning a trip up to Canada to pick up two items I had won at auction. I left the house around 11:00 after getting breakfast and watering the garden and checking that the garbage was out. I noticed that there were some helicopters overhead but didn't think that much of it. We live a couple miles from the border and we are used to seeing choppers and border patrol vehicles all the time. I got on the road about 11:30 or so -- this is a trip I have made several times in the last couple of months. The auctions have a lot of crap and a lot of stuff waaay up in the arctic but there are two cities that generally have useful stuff and are only two hours away. Heading through Canadian customs, I was pulled over, handed a sheet of paper and told to go in the office and wait. This has never happened before. Fifteen minutes later, I am on the road again. The Canadian Costco carries a different product selection than the US Costcos so it is always interesting to stop in there. One of our employees has a bad tooth so she asked me to pick up a bottle of the Acetaminophen and Codeine tablets -- these are OTC up there and prescription down here. I said sure. I asked the Pharmacist how many bottles I could take over the border and was told fifty tablets per person, per car. There were 200 in the bottle. I stuffed the bottle deep down in the junk in my trucks center console and drove on. Lunch at Timmies. I go to the auction place and receive my first surprise: The picture in the auction website:
What was presented to me when I picked it up:
I had thought that this would be a nice countertop unit. Not something almost six feet tall and a good five hundred pounds or so. Oh well... And it was not a true Colorimetric unit, there were 48 temperature controlled wells and each well had an LED and phototransistor at the bottom. It is a backscatter colony counter that operates on a specific color of light. You put your sample in and stuff grows and you measure the growth by the amount of light scattered back to the phototransistor. By the pure definition, a colorimeter allows you to vary the wavelength of the light being used so you can plot absorption or backscatter against the wavelength, not just at one wavelength. As a homebrewer, this would have been great for culturing yeast and making sure of its purity and vigor. The people at the auction place are great and there is no problem having them use a forklift to load the trailer. The other item was a sweet little dental X-RAY unit. A couple of years ago, I had gotten an older X-RAY unit from a chiropractors office that had closed but the control panel was not functional (missing a lot of components) and it was too big for what I wanted. I sign off and start driving the 35 miles back to the border crossing. I get there and they ask where I live, where I was today, what is that crap in my trailer and if I have a receipt for it. I produced the receipt but unfortunately, I also gave them the printouts of the auction descriptions. The look at it, scratch their heads, spend some quality time with their radios and then motion me over to the side. (I am starting to see a theme here...) I take my slip of paper and sit down around 4:45 or so. It seems the issue is with the one single line of description of the unit in question:
fully automated blood culture and mycobacteria testing system
It is not like I am taking some foreign technology into the United States. This puppy was manufactured in Durham, North Caroline and then exported with zero issues into Canada. Now that I am trying to get it home and into the DaveCave(tm) it is suddenly an article of danger. I am bored out of my skull. I have two books in the truck but they will not let me out to get one. I walk around and am told to sit on a specific bench where I have no view of my truck. I left the windows rolled down as it was a hot day and I was not expecting anything -- this is just a piece of very very basic lab equipment. Finally, after two hours of deliberation, they hand me a sheet of paper stating that that infernal machine is not allowed in the US of A and that I am responsible for its disposal. This is at 6:00PM. The auction house closes at 3:00PM. There are no dumps open at 6:00PM that I know of. I get back into Canada, do the 70 mile round trip back to the auction house, unload this 500 pound piece of equipment at a nearby industrial park parking lot (by myself -- thank God for the previous work of Newton and Archimedes!) and I headed back home. I finally get back to the USA border, show my passport and am handed a sheet of paper, waved over to the side and told to go into the office... Again... Fortunately, two of the Officers that had processed me earlier were still on duty and recognized me. A quick (fifteen minute) once-over and I was on my way. All the while, the thoughts of the two hours without seeing my truck the first time while the Codeine pills were in there. Did they find them then and just not say anything waiting to see if I declared anything? On my way back the second time, I did pick up a 6Pack of hard cider and I did declare that (as well as a box of TimBits). It is now about 8:00PM and I am hungry so I stop in a local burger chain, grab a quick meal. I get back to the store at 9:30 to find that one of our customers had some issues with some videos that his daughter had rented and forgotten about and this moke threatened to come and punch out my employee on duty that evening. That phone conversation happened about fifteen minutes before I showed up so I hung out there until the 10:00PM closing. I sent an email to the auction house apologizing for this but letting them know that the US Border had a major case of the vapors with that "blood" machine and letting them know that I forfeited my $40CND and that I released the machine back into their custody. During the auction, there were eight other bidders so they should have no problem selling it again. As for me, I spent eight hours of my time, about five gallons of gasoline and two plus hours sitting on a hard bench with nothing to read. In their defense, the Border Patrol does an excellent job most of the times. Their background is law enforcement and that is the majority of what is needed. If I were King, I would set up an office, staffed 24/7 with geeks and scientists and if there was any sort of outlier, the data could be phoned in or emailed, the geeks could spend a few minutes on fscking Google, determine the safety of a unit and give a thumbs up or down. The people making the decisions today were not biologists, they didn't know that just because something was configured for doing blood assays that it could not just as easily be reconfigured by a maker or hacker to culture yeast for cider or beer. That office would catch more potential problems than are done now and they would provide fast passage for those people who were not a problem. Win/Win. But we are talking the government here...
Dirty Chicago Politics and the automobile bailout -- from Doug Ross:
Dealergate: Stats demonstrate that Chrysler Dealers likely shuttered on a partisan basis
This work builds upon the research done by numerous parties, most notably Joey Smith. It is a follow-up to my original post, entitled "Did anti-Obama campaign contributions dictate which Chrysler dealers were shuttered?" The odds that these closings occurred without partisan bias are roughly equivalent to the odds that Jean Claude Van-Damme will grab a Best Supporting Actor Oscar next year for a remake of Terms of Endearment.
How did the U.S. government's "car czar" decide which Chrysler dealers to close and which would remain open? No one appears to know, not even the President of Chrysler:
...Lawyer Leonard Bellavia, of Bellavia Gentile & Associates, who represents some of the terminated dealers, said he deposed Chrysler President Jim Press on Tuesday and came away with the impression that Press did not support the plan...

"It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers," Bellavia said. "It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President's automotive task force."
Follow the evidence trail, below, and judge for yourself.

Dealers on the closing list donated millions to Republicans, $200 for Obama
The initial pass at the list of shuttered dealers showed they had donated, in the aggregate, millions to Republican candidates and PACs and a total of $200 to Barack Obama.

In fact, I have thus far found only a single Obama donor ($200 from Jeffrey Hunter of Waco, Texas) on the closing list.

Another review of all 789 closing dealerships, by WND, found $450,000 donated to GOP presidential candidates; $7,970 to Sen. Hillary Clinton; $2,200 to John Edwards and $450 to Barack Obama.

Now, and this is important, Chrysler claimed that its formula for determining whether a dealership should close or not included "sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area."

Dealer Jim Anderer told Fox News' Neil Cavuto he can't comprehend how his dealership can be among those killed: he stated that his sales volume ranking is in the top 2 percent of all dealers.

Furthermore, Anderer says explanations aren't forthcoming. "They won't tell us. They seem to be running for cover right now because they won't give us a solid explanation. They come up with all these reasons, but none of them seem to make sense... This is insanity. The government is stealing my business. And they're telling me there's nothing I can do about it... There was no process that you could put your finger on and say, 'Hey, we cut 25 percent of the lowest performing dealers.' They didn't do that. Nobody will give us a real clear explanation of the formula that they came up with."
Doug then goes after the line:
Chrysler claimed that its formula for determining whether a dealership should close or not included "sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area.
and uses Google Maps to show the closing and remaining dealerships of several cities. The closures are arbitrary when looking at the population and frequently result in the Obama contributor having a monopoly in the area (with no competing dealerships in 20 mile radius). Say what you will but the numbers are there and campaign contributions are a matter of public record. This will be interesting to follow... Be sure to check out Joey's blog as he is doing a lot of the legwork to get the numbers.

France gets it - climate "change"

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From the London Financial Times:
Sarkozy in climate row over reshuffle
President Nicolas Sarkozy's desire to appoint an outspoken climate-change sceptic to a new French super-ministry of industry and innovation has drawn strong protests from party colleagues and environmentalists.

Claude All�gre argues that global warming is not necessarily caused by human activity. Putting him in charge of scientific research would be tantamount to "giving the finger to scientists", said Nicolas Hulot, France's best-known environmental activist.

Mr Sarkozy wants to bring Mr All�gre, 72, a freethinking, former socialist education minister, into the government in a reshuffle after next month's European parliamentary elections. The president appears to reckon that appointing someone from outside his own centre-right party will help to counter perceptions that he is a polarising, sectarian leader who decides everything himself. Several portfolios are already held by figures from the left and centre.

Alain Jupp�, the former centre-right prime minister, said the appointment would send a "terribly bad signal" ahead of international negotiations to secure a successor to the Kyoto treaty on cuts to carbon emissions.

One critic said that associating Mr All�gre with the government's ambitious environmental policy was like putting "organic farming alongside Chernobyl".

Mr Sarkozy is said to value Mr All�gre's experience, his plain speaking and his convictions on the need to free up the economy and shake up the public sector - particularly the university research establishment.
Heh - a wonderful move by Sarko. Breath of fresh air compared with the other Euros. I do not have the numbers to hand but I was reading that France is now 80% powered by nuclear; so much so that France's export of electricity to neighboring nations is its number four export! As for that line about: "putting organic farming alongside Chernobyl" That would actually work out quite well. Background radiation has fallen to very safe levels and the surrounding area has been declared a nature preserve. Since traffic through there is minimal (the area is quite the tourist attraction) and since other, traditional, manufacturing is gone and since there is no sewage or garbage from residents, it would be an ideal and pristine area for organic farming.

Ammo availability

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Ran into a new vendor - Ammoman Everything I checked was out of stock. 22WMR, 45ACP, 30.06, 9mm Luger All out of stock -- new stuff expected in but nothing in stock. Sure, this is a bubble -- I can still get the occasional box of 22 Magnum at Wallyworld but still...
I have and this absolutely hits home. Dead on.
For the clients that do not pull this kind of crap, I will bend over backward to make them happy. For those that do try to pull a fast one, I am really really busy that week but I am more than happy to refer them to a competitor. One that I know does lousy work.

Minimal posting tonight

Had my usual acupuncture session today and she went deep so I am feeling no pain and very floaty. Wonderful! Ate way to much Mexican food after and I still need to swap trucks tonight for a run up to Canada tomorrow to pick up some items I won at auction. Not too much posting. Had one spammer get through the script and actually post a live comment earlier this morning but I also had six attempts of which four were from systems registered at the database. Needless to say, there was a partial signature with that one poster this morning and repeat offenses should meet with moderation... Fish and Barrel -- meet Mr. Shotgun. Blammo!
Gawd -- what a freakshow. From the London Daily Mail:
'I bought my daughter Botox jabs for her 18th birthday'... says mother who has spent �45,000 on plastic surgery
Most mothers would aspire to pass on something of themselves to a teenage daughter.

But for Margaret King, that didn't mean offering young Jodie advice on the opposite sex or even guiding her on her wardrobe choices.

For her 18th birthday, she bought her Botox injections to get rid of the 'wrinkles' on the teenager's forehead.

Mrs King, who has spent �45,000 on cosmetic surgery procedures for herself, said: 'Jodie's forehead is like mine - she gets pronounced lines when she makes a facial expression. I knew Botox would solve the problem.'

Many surgeons do not recommend using Botox under the age of 30 because the skin has not sufficiently wrinkled and it could lead to an unnecessary loss of facial expression.

But Jodie, who had been worried about her complexion, is now addicted to the jabs and has spent �1,000 on them.

Her mother, a 49-year-old housewife who has had regular Botox injections for 11 years, has no qualms about her daughter inheriting her habit.

In fact, she is planning to buy Jodie a nose job for her 21st and has taken her for a consultation about breast enlargement.
And of course, there is a photo of the happy family:
Gaaaahhh... Shades of Jocelyn Wildenstein:
There should be an ethical rule for Plastic Surgeons to just say no at some point. These people have clearly gone over the edge and have made their faces and bodies an ugly travesty.
From USA Today/Associated Press:
Israeli report: Venezuela sends uranium to Iran
Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program, according to a secret Israeli government report obtained Monday by the Associated Press.

The two South American countries are known to have close ties with Iran, but this is the first allegation that they are involved in the development of Iran's nuclear program, considered a strategic threat by Israel.

"There are reports that Venezuela supplies Iran with uranium for its nuclear program," the Foreign Ministry document states, referring to previous Israeli intelligence conclusions. It added, "Bolivia also supplies uranium to Iran."

The report concludes that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is trying to undermine the United States by supporting Iran.

Venezuela and Bolivia are close allies, and both regimes have a history of opposing U.S. foreign policy and Israeli actions. Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador during Israel's offensive in Gaza this year, and Israel retaliated by expelling the Venezuelan envoy. Bolivia cut ties with Israel over the offensive.

There was no immediate comment from officials in Venezuela or Bolivia on the report's allegations.

The three-page document about Iranian activities in Latin America was prepared in advance of a visit to South America by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who will attend a conference of the Organization of American States in Honduras next week. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is also scheduled to visit the region.

Israel considers Iran a serious threat because of its nuclear program, development of long-range missiles and frequent references by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Israel's destruction. Israel dismisses Iran's insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful, charging that the Iranians are building nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear work is aimed only at producing energy. Its enrichment of uranium has increased concerns about its program because that technology can be used both to produce fuel for power plants and to build bombs.

Israel has been pressing for world action to stop the Iranian program. While saying it prefers diplomatic action, Israel has not taken its military option off the table.
And this wonderful little tidbit:
The Israeli government report also charges that the Iran-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon have set up cells in Latin America. It says Venezuela has issued permits that allow Iranian residents to travel freely in South America.
Camel's nose under the tent and all that. I think that poor old Hugo just got snookered. The "revolutionary" just may find a revolution on his hands... As for Iran's nuclear program -- with all of the oil they are sitting on, why do they need nuke for power generation? If course it is for weapons. Israel already took care of itself once against a similar threat, it can do so again...

What we can expect

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The cartoonist is Gary Varvel Hat tip to Theo

Happy 30th - VisiCalc

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Back in May of 1979, this advertisement ran in Byte Magazine:
VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program. It was the killer application that made people need to buy a computer. More information, an historical timeline and an executable copy of the IBM DOS version (all 27K of it) can be found at Dan Bricklin's website. This is one of those events that you can point to and say: Here is where it all began.
Looks like the state of Maryland is not doing quite so well. From the Wall Street Journal:
Millionaires Go Missing
Maryland's fleeced taxpayers fight back.

Here's a two-minute drill in soak-the-rich economics:

Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share." The Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would "grin and bear it."

One year later, nobody's grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year -- even at higher rates.
Heh. You do not accumulate a million dollars by being stupid. Even if the ancestral family house is in Maryland, you move to New Hampshire as your primary residence and visit MD on weekends...
From Canada's The Vancouver Sun:
Governor General eats raw seal heart to support hunters
Canada�s Governor General began her Arctic tour by gutting a freshly slaughtered seal, pulling out its heart and eating it raw, according to media reports.

Michaelle Jean, the Queen�s representative to the country, did it as a gesture of solidarity with the country�s beleaguered seal hunters, the reports said, adding that Jean expressed dismay that people would call the traditional hunting practices inhumane.

After eating the heart during a stop in Nunavut�s Rankin Inlet, Jean wiped her blood-soaked fingers with a tissue.

On Tuesday, Jean arrives in Kugluktuk, Nunavut.
And, here she is speaking before the Senate and delivering this observation:
'Today, we meet at a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. The global credit crunch has dragged the world economy into a crisis whose pull we cannot escape,' Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean read in the speech from the throne Monday in the Senate.
A classy lady and a good politician.

A great Office View

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Check out these 70 photos taken from the bridge of an oil tanker. Some gorgeous photography -- one taste:

Heh - and the winner is...

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Fun story from The Jerusalem Post:
Jewish woman wins Arab poetry contest using pseudonym
Using a pseudonym, a Jewish woman won an Arab poetry contest in Holland.

Tuvit Shlomi, 28, who works at the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel and attends an Orthodox synagogue in The Hague, won the prestigious El Hizjra Prize, a poetry award designed to promote the culture of Arab immigrants to Holland, particularly those from Morocco.

In a bid to ensure her work would be judged on the merits of its content rather than authorship, Shlomi submitted her poems using the pseudonym Wallada bint al-Mustaqfi, who was an 11th-century Andalusian poet and feminist.

"With an Israeli name, I could imagine they would see the entry and say 'nope, " Shlomi told JTA in a telephone interview.

The award recognizes emerging poets in Dutch, Arabic and Berber. Shlomi won in the 26-plus age category for her poems "My Dream is Dead" and "Ready for Winter."

In accordance with regulations, Shlomi informed contest organizers of her real name.

Abderazak Sbaiti, director of the El Hizjra Center for Arabic Art and Culture, told a Dutch daily he was pleased for Shlomi.

Shlomi's participation "proves how multicultural the Netherlands are," Sbaiti said.

Noting that the contest was not limited to those of Moroccan or Arabic background, he said, "We accept all cultures."

The results of the contest were announced last week.

One of the contest's judges, Erik Lindner, said Shlomi's concerns about using her real name were unfounded. Poems were judged on style and language, not theme or name.
Very cool for her and very cool for the judges to allow her to keep the prize. I bet there are a few not-as-tolerant panties in a bunch though. Perfect choice of pseudonym -- the judges should have caught the reference...

Spam for breakfast

Had nineteen attempts last night.

One with the multiple hijacked forums. I am predicting that this will die off fairly soon as this one had 23 different listings and none of them were new.

One was the conversational type with the single URL.

The other seventeen were the random six characters followed by a couple gibberish URLs. That little snippet of regex I posted yesterday nails these to the wall.

Of the nineteen attempts, none of them were successful. Zip Zero. Nada.

For a fun post/rant on regex, check out Sleestacks -- The Rant:

The Trouble With Regular Expressions
I have this problem with regular expressions. They're too handy for their own good. You say you don't know what a regular expression is? Well, let me just tell you, you don't know what you're missing out on. Think of it like a really super-duper complicated way of searching for something real specific when it's slapped in the middle of a whole back of other crap you don't want to even mess with. But it's not even just searching for something, you can search and replace really complicated text that's just too big to do by hand.

More than that, it's not like you just want to find every reference to the name "Meg" on your computer and change it to "Poop" -- you can use regular expressions to transform Huge Text File (A) into just the little sub-sections of important stuff -- or you can convert (A) from one textual format to another, like from HTML to Whiskey, or whatever the hell new-fangled nonsense is going on out there in web junky land.

There are plenty of programs out there that make use of regular expressions and you don't even know about it. I first started playing around with them way back in 1995 or so, not long after Rich Siegel started selling BBEdit for Macintosh, and I've been using them since. Here's an example - say you have a text file that looks like this:
Jimmy Jack Johnson sells 43 seashells to Yo Momma. She paid about three-fiddy.
You can do a regular expression find/replace on that text, which would look something like this:
's/^(J.*)\ J.*\ (J.*)\ (s)...s\ ([0-9]+).*\r/\1\ sucks\ \4\ \2\3\.\r/g'
Which would now make that first text look something like this:
Jimmy sucks 43 Johnsons.

Heh... If regex looks obscure, its because it is. One of the steepest learning curves I have ever experienced but one of the most useful things to know.

Damien Walters

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Just found out about him. English gymnast and tumbler. Here are two clips -- amazing work and much more here.

The perfect crime

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Check out these two mokes as they try to break through a window:

Buying a pre-filled propane tank?

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Nothing technically illegal but a really poor decision. From Google/Associated Press:
Propane suppliers quietly reduce size of refills
Backyard grillers may get a little steamed this holiday weekend when buying refilled propane tanks: They will be getting less fuel for their money than last Memorial Day.

When oil prices soared in 2008, propane suppliers quietly reduced by two pounds the amount of gas pumped into each 20-pound tank, saying they wanted to avoid raising prices.

Since then, propane prices have been cut in half as the price of oil has dropped. But smaller refills are still being sold nationwide by many dealers, and most buyers are unaware because the tank is the same size.

"It's a price increase," retired lawyer Stuart Barr said Friday as he swapped a tank at a Home Depot store in Denver. "I'm a great believer in full disclosure. Give me the information."

The problem, consumers say, is that no one tells them they're getting less propane. Companies have adopted similar practices in the packaging of coffee, sugar and laundry detergent.
The joys of sticky pricing. Especially since prices are now one half of what they were when Blue Rhino and Amerigas pulled this shite...

Renewable Energy

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Anthony Watts has been out of town for a couple weeks visiting an amazing site. During the interim, several other people have been posting and this one from Ralph Ellis really brings home the numbers when people talk about Renewable Energy:
Renewable energy � our downfall?
The government, under pressure from a disparate confederation of environmentalists and greens, have agreed to press ahead with a host of renewable energy sources, including wind, tidal and wave power. Yet, despite the vast sums of public money that will be allocated to these projects and the fundamental enormity of the decisions that have been made, there has been very little in the way of open debate on the subject. Like many aspects of today�s governmental system, the powers that be appear to have made a decision about future energy production based upon image, spin and the number of votes the policy will capture, while ignoring the basic truths and science that should be the foundation-stone of any policy. Nobody has even debated the absolutely fundamental question of whether any of these energy generation systems actually work. The media�s reaction to this steamrollered, image-based decision-making process has been muted to the point of being inaudible, and I can only assume that either very few in the media have any grasp of the calamitous implications of the government�s policy, or they are cowering behind their desks for fear of losing their jobs.

So why, then, do I consider renewable energy to be a danger to the entire nation, both economically and socially? This is, after all, �free energy�, and what can be the problem with a free resource? Well, as readers will probably be fully aware, no resource is free even if it appears to be so, and this is the first of the many lies about renewable energy that have been peddled by industry spokesmen and government ministers. Oil is not free, despite it just sitting in the ground; water is not free, despite it falling from the sky; nuclear power is not free, despite the raw materials being ridiculously cheap, and neither is any renewable energy resource �free�. In fact, the conversion process from �free� renewable energy to usable grid electricity is remarkably expensive and its enormous costs are being subsidised by the consumer. In the UK, this subsidy is achieved through Renewables Obligation Certificates, the cost of which are eventually passed onto the consumer. In 2006 the cost to consumers was �600 million, and this is predicted to rise to �3 billion in 2020. 1 That is about �200 per household per annum, on top of current energy bills, for the privilege of using of �free� energy.

Now one might argue that that is not very much money to demand from the public, given the advertised prospect of clean, renewable energy that will fuel our homes and our economy for the next few generations. Power at the press of a button, and not a drop of noxious emissions of any nature in sight � just an array of perfectly silent, gently rotating wind-turbines stretching towards the horizon � it is dream-world picture direct from the cover issue of an environmentalist magazine, and the answer to a politician�s prayers. In one master-stroke the environment is magically healed, and votes are captured by the million � roll on the next election.

However, it is my belief that this sublime day-dream actually holds the seeds for our economic decline and for social disorder on an unprecedented scale. Why? Because no technical and industrial society can maintain itself on unreliable and intermittent power supplies. In 2003 there were six major electrical blackouts across the world, and the American Northeast blackout of August 14th was typical of these. The outage started in Ohio, when some power lines touched some trees and took out the Eastlake power station, but the subsequent cascade failure took out 256 power stations within one hour.
It is a long essay but a good one -- Ralph has done his homework and shows just how much effort would have to go into a renewable replacement for our current infrastructure. He talks about true alternatives - Nuclear for one. Here is a bit:
If a nuclear power station had killed a whole school full of children the environmentalists would never let us forget it, but because it was the result of the coal industry they let the memory fade. If 6,000 workers were killed every year in the nuclear industry Greenpeace would go ballistic, but because these are coal mining deaths in China they are ignored. Why do some people exhibit these double standards? What is it about technical progress that they so despise? In some respects, some of these anti-nuclear demonstrators appear to be portraying themselves as the world�s very own technological Taliban, and in this guise they must be vigorously opposed.
Emphasis mine - what a wonderful turn of phrase: technological Taliban Nails the enviros perfectly. The 160+ comments are well worth reading as well -- a lot of links to data that backs up Ralph's thesis and a lot of amplification
First hint was from the US Geological Survey:
Tectonic Summary
The shallow, magnitude 4.7 seismic event that occurred on 25 May 2009 at 00:54:43 UTC is linked to the claim of a nuclear test by North Korean officials. While the USGS cannot positively identify the seismic event as a nuclear test, it was shallow and located in the vicinity of the 9 October 2006 North Korean nuclear test (magnitude 4.3). Moreover, comparisons of the seismograms of the 9 October 2006 and 25 May 2009 events at individual seismic stations shows similar features, suggesting that the two events are in close spatial proximity and are the same type of source, although the more recent event is larger.
Next up - Voice of America confirms it:
North Korea Confirms 'More Powerful' Nuclear Test
North Korea says it successfully conducted an underground nuclear test that was more powerful than the country's first test some two-and-a-half years ago.

The country's official KCNA news agency reported that Monday's test was "part of measures to bolster [North Korea's] nuclear deterrent for self-defense."

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency security session over the test. The news also shook South Korean financial markets with the main share index falling nearly four percent.
Stormbringer talks about the military repercussions:
The question has been posed - "Is there a military option?"

There is always a military option. The question is not "Is there a military option?" Rather, the question is "Can we afford the price?"

Unfortunately, the primo window of opportunity to have launched an attack would have been BEFORE 9/11.

The fact remains we could still launch an attack on North Korea, although our resources are stretched mighty thin. Options include anything from commando raids - which are difficult to plan & coordinate - to air strikes, to full scale conventional military invasion - up to and including missile attacks.

Planning considerations must include the fact that the North Korean military is a fanatic organization that makes the Waffen SS look like Boy Scouts. They will fight to the bloody end. To complicate matters, the entire country is in hardcore defensive posture (beaucoup anti-aircraft artillery, anti-helicopter cables strung between mountains, minefields galore, and beach defenses a la Atlantic Wall).
The consensus was that the first test was a partial dud -- there is a specific range of yield that should have been expected for a bomb of that type and the test was lower than it should have been. In a few weeks, we will have more information.

SPAM - the other white meat

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Here is an example of the other older kind of spam that I get a lot. The following has been edited -- the letters that came in on the attempt were random and I have changed two or three of them in each URL to disallow searching. Poster's name is entered as: dbqrbyw Comment is:
The structure doesn't change -- there is a four, five or six character header with unique capital and lowercase letters, a space and then a couple of URLs with gibberish characters. I am suspecting that the controller tries to seed likely blogs with these, they then have the bots search for the seed posts and follow up with posts of their own. And here is the regex that kills them dead: /\b\d{6}\b/ End of story. Like I said earlier, playing whack-a-mole with a bunch of mouth breathing script-kiddies...
From USA Today:
Alaska prosecutes man who feeds wild bears
Charlie Vandergaw's love of bears landed him on a recent Animal Planet series -- and in trouble with the law.

Vandergaw's knack for winning the animals' trust was showcased in a documentary made last year by a British filmmaker at Vandergaw's remote Alaska cabin and aired as part of Animal Planet's series "Stranger Among Bears." The videos show Vandergaw scratching the belly of one black bear as if it was the family dog, feeding a cookie to a large black bear sitting under a tree, and feeding dog kibble to a cub from his outstretched hand.

Vandergaw has been coexisting with bears this way for the last 20 years, and he wants to be left alone.

That is not likely to happen now that the state is using a beefed-up law to prosecute Vandergaw for feeding bears. Game officials consider feeding bears a danger to humans, especially if others duplicate the behavior.
"Game officials consider feeding bears a danger to humans" I can see their point but, where is this happening?
Sean Farley, a research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, denies that Vangergaw prompted the stiffer penalties. Farley, who helped troopers serve a search warrant last year on Vandergaw's cabin, about 50 miles northwest of Anchorage, said bears there had be scared off with "cracker shots" that make a loud noise when fired.
The state has seized the plane that he normally would use to reach the cabin, Bear Haven, which isn't accessible by road. According to charging documents, the plane was used to transport dog food to the cabin.
This is happening 50 miles away from the city, at a cabin that is only accessible by airplane. Seriously WTF??? A bit more:
Farley said there is a psychological component to Vandergaw's behavior with the bears. "They are associating with Charlie only because of the food. That association is fulfilling some psychological need for Charlie," he said.
Right -- our dogs only associate with us because we feed them. This Farley idiot is a research biologist and works for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and he is completely blind to the wonderful interactions you can have with a critter. He needs to be reassigned to a job more suited to his levels of perception. Get him a bucket of nails, a hammer and a couple pieces of 2X4 and let him sit in a corner and pound nails all day... Vandergaw realizes the risks and has chosen to build a friendship with these wonderful creatures. That is his choice and his responsibility. If I was in the same living situation, I would be doing the same thing.
The video is a trailer for a television show and is a bit over the top but it does show Charlie having a wonderful relationship with a number of different bears. The article also makes reference to being Treadwelled -- a reference to Timothy Treadwell who tried to make friends with some Grizzly Bears and got killed for his troubles. There are a lot of different stories about Treadwell but the overall picture is that he was a very troubled person (drug and alcohol addictions) and should never have been out with the bears.
When I think of a way to describe this book, words fail me. Go to Amazon and read about it. 100 pages of total awesomeness...

Dorothy - in her later years

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No word as to who did this bit of sheer genius. Swiped from Theo

Quote of the week

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The 'TEA Party' movement is an unhealthy mutation from public dissatisfaction with the Obama administration�s economic policies."
� David Axelrod, Senior White House Adviser, April 2009
From Newsmax:
FBI Keeps Tabs on TEA Parties
Since when is free speech, as personified by the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party grass-roots citizens movement, �unhealthy�? Since the leftward tilt of federal agencies accelerated during the first 100 days of the Barack Obama presidency.

Consider, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has moved far to the left on the political spectrum in record time under Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Consider also the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The once fabled and incorruptible FBI is showing signs of becoming a mere �yes man� for the Obama administration.

Evidence for the yes-man charge is found in a recent report by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis Assessment (I&A), entitled, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." The report names law-abiding U.S. citizens, who choose not to support the liberal agenda of the Obama administration, as prime subjects for FBI surveillance.

This Obama enemies list is a lengthy one, encompassing all �single-issue� advocates, including those who are pro-life, those who are gun owners, those who oppose illegal immigration, those who oppose �same -sex marriages� (such as Miss California), those who support third-party candidates, those who criticize free trade agreements, and, believe it or not, those military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and those veterans still around.

A citizen-taxpayer who falls into several of these categories is even more likely to be targeted. The FBI appears to be following, in lockstep, the DHS agenda, in complete disregard for the constitutional rights of the citizenry. Lest the DHS, A&I, DOJ, and FBI forget, the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, the right to peaceful assembly, and free speech.

A similar DHS report, also prepared by the I&A, was withdrawn within hours of its release. Dated March 26, 2009, and entitled, �Domestic Extremism Lexicon,� it was a dictionary of political incorrectness. Its senior author was transferred to the DHS Office of the Director of National Intelligence, perhaps to prepare more and more anti-citizen reports.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has chosen to stand with those who would denigrate U.S. citizens by failing to denounce the DHS "Rightwing Extremism" report. Instead he actively supports the goals of this controversial DHS report as well as those of the withdrawn DHS "Lexicon." The question arises, Who is left on the left to watch those foreign nationals who have sworn to destroy the United States?

No congressional investigation is underway regarding the origins of the DHS report or the withdrawn DHS "Lexicon." Apparently the DHS guidelines for these reports were White House approved.

The worst aspect of this sad state of affairs is that the FBI historically has been a strong, disciplined, and effective bureau that lived up to its motto of �Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.� For a century, countless books, articles, news accounts, movies, radio, and television shows have documented the Bureau as one of the world�s leading investigatory agencies. Now in 100 days, its proud history of crime fighting, spy-catching, civil-rights protecting, and domestic intelligence-gathering has been downgraded to political pandering and bureaucratic one-upmanship.
2010 will be good. 2012 will be a relief.

Politics in Detroit

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'Bidness' as usual. This is a vacant lot:
It is owned by this person:
City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson. Ms. Watson pays $68 each year in property tax. From the Detroit Free Press:
Watson paid pittance for taxes on 'nonexistent' Detroit house
Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson paid only $68 in property taxes this year because city records say her well-kept, brick Tudor-style home doesn't exist. Although the home has occupied its west-side plot since 1926, city records have classified the parcel as an empty lot for the past decade.

Watson said she was unaware of the discrepancy until the Free Press contacted her. She said the change came before she was elected to City Council -- and without her involvement.

"I pay the taxes. All I know is I had a big drop when my house got hit hard by a tornado," she said. "We had great damage."

Watson said she could not recall the specific date the tornado hit, saying it might have been 2002, or perhaps 1993.
There are several words for people like that. Liar comes to mind. Cheat is another. A classic quote:
As recently as Tuesday, Watson blasted state officials who she said have cut $130 million from the city's portion of revenue sharing over the years. "They owe us," she said during a City Council meeting, demanding that the state pay the money to help Detroit through its financial crisis and reduce its deficit.
They owe us... Yeah, right... And one more little bit:
Watson's failure to realize she was paying significantly less than she should is noteworthy because she occasionally admonishes city officials for not being more diligent in collecting outstanding property taxes. She says the city needs that money to reduce its deficit, which recent estimates put at close to $300 million.

Watson, who is paid $81,000 a year and gets a city-owned Ford Crown Victoria, said her taxes are paid in full. She said it never occurred to her that her tax bill was a fraction of what it should have been.
But those are the little people who aren't paying their fair share. Those rules don't apply to me. Entitlement writ large...

Islam - waking up?

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A new hope from Pakistan -- from MS/NBC/Associated Press:
Pakistan's mystics targeted by Taliban
'And to think they do this in the name of Islam,' one says

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Worshipers still flock to the grave of Rahman Baba, a Muslim mystic revered by millions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But they now pray at a mound of rubble and twisted steel � all that remains of his tomb since militants bombed it.

The blast in March was the most high-profile in a recent spate of attacks against Pakistan's homespun, tolerant brand of Islam by hard-liners trying to replace it with the more austere version espoused by the Taliban, al-Qaida and other Sunni extremist groups.

"This hurts deep in my heart," said Ihasan ul-Haq, as he looked through a rainstorm onto the ruins of the once ornate, whitewashed tomb on the outskirts of Peshawar, a main northwestern town coming under the influence of the extremists. "And to think they do this in the name of Islam."
An excellent article -- one that gives great hope but also shows the dark side of what the USA built up while trying to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980's. My first wife was a Sufi and these are some of the most kind and gracious people you would ever meet. It is tragic that they are now pawns in this political battle. The Taliban needs to be removed now, force does not equal purity. The Taliban and all other forms of radical spiritual practice are worshiping the hind end of Satan, not the clarity of God. A great quote from Pakistan's Foreign Minister:
"If you want to understand the inclusiveness and tolerance of Islam, you have to visit the shrines of Sufis," Qureshi said. "I believe that if you want to counter terrorism in long term, the strongest weapon is not the Kalashnikov, it is education, it is a changing of hearts and minds."

Got another one a few minutes ago

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Stooopid -- this one was from Canada: to be specific. They posted one URL for clan__xxx__templates (remove the __xxx__) but then gave me two brand new shiny URLs that were automatically added to the list.

The spamming circle-jerk

I have written about the new type of comment spam. Someone will register at an online forum, create an identity and use that forum to post advertisements for pills, pr0n and casinos (although there is not that much online gambling these days). The fora they choose are poorly moderated so posts like these can have lifetimes of several weeks to indefinitley. The script kiddies then try to make big bucks by posting links to these forums in comments to a blog. When these came out a few months ago, they got moderated and blocked as they already tripped a few red flags in my system. When I saw what was happening, I wrote an additional set of rules to look specifically for these - a few lines of PERL maintaining a flat file of URLs, nothing fancy. Not a coder... What I love so much about this latest batch of spammers is that they are trying to post links for many corrupted forums in one blog comment so if their post trips up on one URL, I can often harvest ten or more other brand new URLs to watch for. These idiots are mixing stale and new forums in their scripts and by doing this, they are effectively poisoning their new fora as I will now know to look for them as well. How pervasive is this problem? I now have a list of 167 unique URLs that are spam related. I received two comment attempts this afternoon, both of which were blocked by an older URL but combined, they added 17 brand new URLs to my watch list.


In history, there are stories of mighty warriors wailing out their cris de coeur, bemoaning that there were no worthy opponents. In my own small way, I feel the same. I am playing whack-a-mole with a bunch of mouth breathing script-kiddies who live in their Mom's basement. Certainly, there is a perverse fun to be had in my Odyssey. I am smarter than they are. I will confess to a small thrill up the leg when code written by an avowed non-programmer and hardware junky beats them down to the mud and steals their lunch money. These people are by no means intelligent. Being able to consistently rack up high scores on a computer game is not an indicator of intelligence. It means that the player has the idiot/savant ability to second-guess and memorize the game designers story arc. If these people are so intelligent, why are they still living in their Mom's basement and sending out spam. SPAM is the Carbuncle on the ass of the Internet. The Internet is an amazing construct with (almost) a life of its own. Unfortunately, there are people whose chosen purpose in life is to take a dump in the town square. They then look around and notice all the people pointing at them and they think: Ohhhh Look! Everyone is looking at Meeeeeeee!!! Arrrggghhhhhhh...
Sitting down for the second time today (not counting driving the truck and trailer) since 10AM. The event was a success with about 120 people showing up. Many Hempler's Hot Dogs were consumed, the music was awesome and the weather was nice and sunny and warm. I took some photos and will post them sometime soon. Sleeping in tomorrow and then unloading the truck and the trailer.


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Just wow! Chris Byrne writing at The Anarchangel had been hinting about an essay he was writing. It showed up yesterday and it is a wonderful read:
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.
Leadership is a very unusual subject. Thousands of books have been written on it. Millions of speeches and talks have been given about it.


Leadership is one of those funny subjects that must be learned, but can't be taught.

Oh there are many elements of leadership that can be taught: techniques, technologies, aids, processes etc... but those aren't leadership, they are its accoutrement (some are critical certainly, but they don't make a leader).

Leadership must be learned; but it cannot be taught. It can only be discovered from within, by each individual. Except in a few rare cases (yes, some really are just natural leaders), leadership only appears when it is needed critically. When someone is tested, and must rise to the occasion. It must then be developed, and refined, or it is wasted.

Unfortunately, we have spent the last hundred years removing those tests that bring leaders to the front, out of our societies. At the same time, we have been removing the structures that nurtured leadership, and allowed it to grow and flourish.

Is it any surprise we have so many "managers" but so few leaders?

Leaders solve problems, with people.
Chris also took a look at management a few years ago. Check out Managing Cynicism Wonderful writing and absolutely spot on in his observations...

That's it for the day

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Heading out to attach the trailer and pick up 12 picnic tables and chairs. Then it's off to move food and equipment to the site and set up the kitchen. As I said yesterday, today will be a blur but it should be a lot of fun. Back sometime around midnight...

For the love of one's fellow man

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From China - the BBC News tells this story:
China bridge jumper 'gets a push'
A man threatening to commit suicide by jumping from a Chinese bridge was approached by a passer-by who shoved him over the edge, local media say.

Lai Jiansheng, 66, said he was fed up with the desperate man's "selfish activity" which caused huge traffic jams in Guangzhou, southern China.

Chen Fuchao fell 26ft (8m) on to an air cushion and is recovering in hospital, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Xinhua said Mr Lai was "taken away by police", but gave no further details.
Mr. Lai's comment:
Pictures in the China Daily show him saluting to the crowd after Mr Chen fell on to the partially filled emergency air cushion.

"I pushed him off because jumpers like Chen are very selfish," the newspaper quoted Mr Lai as saying.

"Their action violates a lot of public interests. They do not really dare to kill themselves. Instead, they just want to raise the relevant government authorities' attention to their appeals."
It's one thing to be pragmatic but this is taking things a bit too far...

That is it for the night

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Tomorrow is going to be a blur so I am off to an early bedtime...
I ran into the concept of Satoyama the other day and saw this entry for it. It is a six minute video produced by the United Nations University -- Institute of Advanced Studies. Here is part of the blurb from their website:
Harvest time in satoyama
For many Japanese, satoyama represents the ideal of coexistence between humans and nature. It is commonly described as secondary woodlands and grasslands adjunct to small villages, and is the scene of rich biological diversity.

The first written reference to satoyama dates back to 1759. Forester Hyoemon Terauchi recorded the livelihoods of rural mountain woodland communities and used the term satoyama to describe the human managed landscapes surrounding those communities.
So far, it sounds wonderful that the United Nations would be exploring this idea (some of their child organizations actually do good work). The concern in Japan is that the farmer population is aging, few young people are interested in farming and Japan currently produces only 39% of its food. How they choose to go about changing this makes my skin crawl:
In 2006, the United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) initiated a comprehensive national ecosystem assessment focusing on satoyama. Referred to as the Satoyama-Satoumi Sub-Global Assessment, it is intended to be part of the network of over 30 sub-global ecosystem assessments. To ensure an in-depth report, Japan was broken down into 5 clusters (one of which is the Hoku-Shinetsu Cluster and the work of UNU-IAS Operating Unit Ishikawa/Kanazawa featured in the video).

Focusing on the last 50 years of satoyama landscape change, each cluster report follows the framework of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The findings will be integrated into a national report to be published in time for the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan.

Many of the writers assessing the ecosystem services provided by satoyama landscapes hope that their findings will feed into designs for a sustainable society that draw from the past to forge a contemporary model for sustainability; a model that contributes not only to sustainable food and fuel production but also to biodiversity conservation strategies and initiatives in Japan.
What they are doing (this is mentioned in detail in the video) is setting policies designed to get younger people into farming. These policy papers will be given to the Japanese Government who will turn them into law administered by a new government bureau. This sort of top-down nanny-statism is the absolute worst kind of soft tyranny that I can imagine. If they want to make young Japanese people get interested in farming, how about some tax breaks? How about rolling broadband out to these areas? How about an infrastructure -- agricultural colleges, banks giving long-term low interest rates for farm machinery. All of these would jump-start agriculture without having to form another branch of government. The methods employed by the United Nation would require subsidies, higher taxes, bigger government and would not be effective. The methods I jotted down would reduce taxes, keep government the same size, stimulate both the national and the local economies and, as long as the tax breaks are in place, be highly effective. Here is some more on Soft Tyranny. A contemporary view here.

Barry's staffing problems

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It seems that it is really hard to get decent domestic staff in Washington, D.C. First, the person in charge of procuring gifts for visiting dignitaries fucks up big time - several times. Now it's visiting kinderg�rtners. From NBC/Washington:
Sobbing Kindergarteners Snubbed for Steelers?
Thursday was supposed to be the highlight of the year for more than 100 kindergarteners from Stafford County, Va. They got up early and took a chartered bus to the White House for a school field trip. But when they arrived, all the 5-year-olds got was a lesson in disappointment.

The buses from Conway Elementary arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a little later than planned, and they were locked out.

"We were going to the White House, but we couldn�t get in so I felt sad," 5-year-old Cameron Stine said.

Parents say they were just 10 minutes late for their scheduled tour. School officials say White House staff said they needed to get ready for the president's event with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, so they couldn't come in.

"I was angry cause they were disappointed," parent and chaperone Paty Stine said.
And a bit more:
A lot of preparing had gone into the trip. Conway Elementary teachers had been planning the trip for months, each child paid $20 for a seat on the chartered bus, and names were submitted to the White House for clearance.

Parents say they tried to make it on time, but their chartered buses hit heavy traffic that slowed them down substantially. They thought they were supposed to show up by 10:15, but they say they arrived at 10:25 instead, and couldn�t get in.

"The person who headed this White House trip up came out and said, 'I�m sorry, the White House tour's off.' There were a lot of crying kids," parent Barbara Stine said.
Now that is just plain cold. Whomever made that call needs to find another position. After making a serious apology and arranging for Obama to meet with the kids in person.

ID-ten-T spammers

One of the ways that comment spammers try to "social engineer" their little packages of pus onto an otherwise clean blog is by coming off all conversational and trying to look like a legitimate comment. When you preview all the comments left on a board, you only see the first line or two on the main screen. Here is what some Fscking fool left last evening - text has been altered to prevent searching:

Good Morning,
I am suxre by noxw you hawve hearrd the baauzz aroqund the fluffy bunnies. Whati doi youi alli thiink oif iit?
Dwo yowu thinwk it'ws wortwh inwwvesting iwn ?
I am getting into fluffy bunnies and it sexxems to be a good invexxtment
Here are sxme sxtes I fxund that maay help
Boxxb Paxxerson

First of all:

#1) - if I had a guaranteed formula for making money, I sure as hell would not be trying to spread it around. I would not want for anyone else to know about it and I would most certainly not try to sell this information. If it worked, why the fsck would I need to make stupid money from selling the information all the while diluting my primary revenue stream?

#2) - the three domains that were used in the email are all legitimate business domains that have had one of their forums hijacked by spammers.

I still find it hard to believe that there are people stupid enough to buy from spammers. This spam never made it out to the general public, my script caught it and held it in moderation until I could look at it.
As for the title, spell it out: ID-ten-T = ID-10-T = ID10T Loosers...

At least in Australia -- I hope this spreads. From Australia's The Age:
Greenpeace heads into red as costs bite
It's not only regular companies that are under pressure. Even multinational stunt outfit Greenpeace is feeling the pinch.

The latest accounts of Greenpeace Australia Pacific show it has slumped into the red after a big jump in personnel expenses.

The company suffered a $1.5 million turnaround, losing $193,992 and ringing up a $438,475 deficit on the operating cash-flow front.

Judging from accounts for calendar-year 2008, the eco-political concern will need to pay attention to its soaring wages, salaries and superannuation bill, which jumped 31 per cent and swallowed up $7.6 million.

The personnel costs take a decent chunk of money raised from Greenpeace's supporter base, which, over time, has been falling alarmingly. Six years ago the outfit had nearly 130,000 supporters but the latest accounts said the base was "approximately" 100,000.

Greenpeace recently copped flak for "auto-upgrading" some regular donations, without specific permission from contributors. "We are not the first organisation in Australia to try this," fund-raising heavy Chris Washington-Sare reportedly said at the time.
The auto-upgrading was quite the bit of a scandal when it happened. A person would sign up for an automatic deduction of $15/year from their credit card only to find that this had been "upgraded" to $25 or $30. Greenpeace sent them a letter first but if there was no reply to the letter, that was taken as a tacit approval of the higher contribution. Considing that probably the majority of their constituants are younger people on tight budgets, this really put them into a bad light. And a bit more:
The donations were swallowed up by what Greenpeace described as "fund-raising expenditure" of $7.2 million, "campaigning expenditure" of $11.5 million and "organisational support" at $1.9 million.
So they raise $20 million and spend $7.2 million doing this. That is 36% - from the ever excellent BoardSource:
How much should be spent on overhead and fundraising costs?
Because most donors want to ensure that their gifts are well spent, many are concerned about the level of expenditures on overhead and fund-raising. In other words, how much money is spent providing programs and services, and how much is spent on renting an office, paying staff, and sending out fund-raising appeals?
yadda - yadda - yadda

Many organizations boast that they spend only five or six percent of their funds on overhead; other well-known and effective nonprofits spend 25 or 30 percent on overhead.
So Greenpeace is above the very high-side of what would constitute a well managed fund raising campaign. And one bit more:
Travel looked to have soaked up a pretty penny, with Greenpeace personnel visiting Tokyo, Niue, Pohnpei, South Korea, Poland and Papua New Guinea, while Greenpeace vessel MV Esperanza toured seven east-coast Australian cities and treated more than 5000 visitors to its take on climate change.

The Esperanza also was involved in the Forests for Climate tour in Papua New Guinea.
I find it telling that one of the two people who founded Greenpeace, left the group and now embraces sustainable logging and nuclear power. Pournelle's Iron Law again...

The Blogroll

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I have been remiss on maintaining the Blogroll -- some blogs have moved, some have moved on and I have a list of other blogs I want to add and delete. I should be publishing the new version sometime early next week...

Hero - Staff Sgt Bartek Bachleda

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From Japan Today:
U.S. airman spots aircraft fuel leak at 35,000 feet on Narita-bound flight
Most of us hear stories of Airmen saving lives in combat, but a U.S. airman who saves the lives of more than 300 passengers is definitely a story worth hearing.

A fuel leak on a civilian aircraft caught the attention of Staff Sgt Bartek Bachleda, 909th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, during a flight from Chicago to Narita airport last week. After alerting the pilots and aircrew, the ranking pilot made the decision to divert the flight to San Francisco.

�I noticed the leak on the left side of the aircraft right behind the wing earlier during take-off,� said Bachleda.

Bachleda continued analyzing the outflow of fuel to be 100% sure it was a leak while the plane was reaching cruising altitude. Almost an hour into the flight, he told a flight attendant of the possible leak, but was given an unconcerned response.

Bachleda then began to capture the possible leak on video. He then got the flight attendant�s attention by saying, �Ma�am it�s an emergency.� He identified himself to her and showed her the image on video.

�She was completely serious and was no longer handing out drinks,� he said. �I told her you need to inform your captain before we go oceanic.�

The captain came from the cockpit to where Bachleda was sitting to see the leak and view the video footage. Bachleda said the captain and the crew were trying to figure out how the aircraft was losing 6,000 pounds of fuel an hour and then they knew exactly what was going on.
The wit to recognize what he was looking at, to document it, to get past the blas� attendant and to the Capitan. Not every day that you save 300 lives (including your own).
From The Heart:
The obesity epidemic in the US is due solely to increased food intake
The amount of food Americans eat has been increasing since the 1970s, and that alone is the cause of the obesity epidemic in the US today. Physical activity�or the lack thereof�has played virtually no role in the rising number of expanding American waistlines, according to research presented at the 2009 European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam last week.

The finding is contrary to the widely held assumption that decreased physical activity is an equally important driver of overweight and obesity in the US, said lead author Dr Boyd Swinburn (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia).

If Americans want to get serious about winning the battle of the bulge, they are going to have to cut down on the amount of food they eat, Swinburn, who is director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, told heartwire.

But, he warned, that won't be easy. "The food industry has done such a great job of marketing their products, making the food so tasty that it's almost irresistible, pricing their products just right, and placing them everywhere, that it is very hard for the average person to resist temptation. Food is virtually everywhere, probably even in churches and funeral parlors."
Makes a lot of sense -- portion size has grown incredibly and with the super-sizes available, you can stretch your stomach for under five bucks (and consume more than your normal daily 2,000 calories). People lie to themselves and say it's a thyroid problem or some such but no, it's just basic overeating. Take this lovely woman for example -- from the London Daily Mirror:
Junk-food fans need a carrot... and stick
If you saw a character like Leanne Salt on Little Britain, you'd think the writers had lost the plot. This girl is beyond parody.

But Leanne Salt isn't Matt Lucas in an XXL track suit. She's as real as the McDonald's chicken nuggets she stuffs into her eight-month-old triplets. She's as real as the trays of microwave lasagne and packets of Wotsits her babies tuck into when she can't be bovvered to wheel them down to Maccie D's.

Leanne Salt is the Health Department's worst nightmare and the DWP's biggest problem. How bad? This bad...

Leanne first hit the headlines last August when she became the fattest-ever mother of triplets, weighing in at 40 stone. She was so vast the NHS had to provide a specially-made operating table for the delivery.

It finally took a 68-strong team of medics and an NHS bill of �200,000 to safely deliver her babies, Deanna, Daisy and son Finlee.

You'd think after that national humiliation you'd make an effort to look after your health if not for your own sake, then certainly for the sake of your babies.

If you'd spent your life being called "fattie", surely you'd move Heaven and Earth to make sure your children didn't suffer the same fate.

But instead of doing everything in her power to make sure her babies would grow up to be happy and healthy, Leanne condemned them to her future.

At just six months old when most babies get their first taste of pureed vegetable, Leanne was wheeling them down to McDonald's. And as she gleefully told Closer magazine, "they had chicken nuggets and chips and loved it!"

Loved it so much, they now tuck into it once or twice a week, bringing their calorie intake up to 1,249 a day nearly double the recommended 765 for their 17lb weight.
And it is not her fault:
Of course none of this is Leanne's fault. She blames her weight on a "thyroid problem" rather than the cakes, crisps and chocolate she inhales every day. While her mother goes out to work as a carer every day, Leanne says she's simply too busy to cook or tidy up the house which is brimming with piles of dirty laundry and toys.

Once a week Leanne makes an effort to get herself and the babies dressed to go out so she can collect the benefits that pay for her fast food and fags.
40 stone is 560 pounds... Fags are the English term for cigarettes - fagot has a Latin origin meaning a stick. The Hackers Diet is really popular.

A local bit of Schadenfreude

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From the Bellingham Herald:
Bellingham peace advocate pleads guilty to harassing wife
An outspoken peace advocate and Iraq War veteran pleaded guilty Thursday, May 21, to harassing his wife.

Evan M. Knappenberger, 24, of Bellingham pleaded guilty to domestic violence harassment, a gross misdemeanor, at a hearing in Whatcom County Superior Court. He was sentenced to 30 days on work crew or work release.
Peace advocate indeed -- physician heal thyself...

A pause in the chaos

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I attended last years Hoedown but was never involved in the infrastructure and planning of it. This year is a bigger event (300 hot-dog and chili dinners being served in a vacant field with electricity but no running water or sewage. Been running around all day today and there is still a couple hours of stuff to do while it is still light. Tomorrow should be a bit easier -- playing catchup on anything we might have forgotten. Saturday will be a lost day -- the event starts at 6:00PM and we need to build a firepit, set up the kitchen, get power to the band, organize where on the field people will park, etc. etc. etc. Since I am one of the few people in the Chamber to have a valid food handlers license, I am Chef Dave for the day. I have cooked in restaurants before so this will not be above my pay grade. Sunday will be a delicious twelve hours of sleeping in...

That is it for tonight

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Long day and had a wonderful deep acupuncture session. Off to the DaveCave(tm) to check email and then to bed. Long day tomorrow. And Friday. And Saturday. Get to sleep in on Sunday...

Wall-E casemod

Check out this gorgeous computer case made from scratch. Eighteen days -- Russia -- 110 pictures showing start to finish. Here is the final product:
Gorgeous work.

The California Voters speak - loudly

Heh... The election results are in from yesterday's special election and boy howdy have the voters ever spoken... From the California Secretary of State's office:
  • 1A "Rainy Day" Budget Stabilization Fund 34.1% Yes 65.9% No
  • 1B Education Funding. Payment Plan. 37.4% Yes 62.6% No
  • 1C Lottery Modernization Act 35.4% Yes 64.6% No
  • 1D Children's Services Funding 34.3% Yes 65.7% No
  • 1E Mental Health Funding 33.6% Yes 66.4% No
  • 1F Elected Officials Salaries 73.9% Yes 26.1% No
Line item by line item: 1A - Increase the size of the state's emergency "rainy day" fund BUT allow the state to tap into it on an arbitrary basis (ie: pull them out of the financial hole they are in) 1B - Major funding increase to Education but when you read the text of the proposition, this money goes to the teachers union. Bad idea. 1C - allows the state to borrow up to $5B from future lottery funds to balance the 2009-2010 budget. 1D - "redirects" (love that word -- steals is more like it) $608 Million from the California Children and Families Program placing it in the state General Fund. 1E - same as above except $230 Million and Mental Health Care programs. 1F - Encourages balanced state budgets by preventing elected Members of the Legislature and statewide constitutional officers, including the Governor, from receiving pay raises in years when the state is running a deficit. Big government needs to be Terminated...
From the New York Times:
Credit Card Industry Aims to Profit From Sterling Payers
Credit cards have long been a very good deal for people who pay their bills on time and in full. Even as card companies imposed punitive fees and penalties on those late with their payments, the best customers racked up cash-back rewards, frequent-flier miles and other perks in recent years.

Now Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And to make up for lost income, the card companies are going after those people with sterling credit.

Banks are expected to look at reviving annual fees, curtailing cash-back and other rewards programs and charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks, according to bank officials and trade groups.

�It will be a different business,� said Edward L. Yingling, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association, which has been lobbying Congress for more lenient legislation on behalf of the nation�s biggest banks. �Those that manage their credit well will in some degree subsidize those that have credit problems.�

As they thin their ranks of risky cardholders to deal with an economic downturn, major banks including American Express, Citigroup, Bank of America and a long list of others have already begun to raise interest rates, and some have set their sights on consumers who pay their bills on time. The legislation scheduled for a Senate vote on Tuesday does not cap interest rates, so banks can continue to lift them, albeit at a slower pace and with greater disclosure.
Going to have to start spending soon -- I have a couple hundred thousand points on an American Express card that I have never redeemed and that I always pay off on time. My Costco Amex (different account) gives me a couple pennies off on Gasoline and a percentage rebate check. Never redeemed the points as the stuff available in the online catalog is consumerist crap (cheap electronics, bad cruises and "designer" clothing and luggage). If these companies seriously try to do crap like this, I will go John Galt on their ass. We already switched most of our accounts from BofA to a local Credit Union and really love the incredible level of service. An example: I maintain two joint accounts for me and my Dad. His investments come into one account and I use that to pay his bills. He is 93 and his brain is starting to get really soft so he doesn't have day-to-day access to that account. I set up another one for his "walking around" money and keep a couple grand in that one for him to have a meal out or to get some cash for groceries (he has an attendant come in every day to cook and clean and drive him wherever he wants to go). A few days ago, I got one letter advising that there was a potential fraudulent use of his walking-around account and that those cards were frozen and new cards were being mailed out. The next day, I received the new cards and everything is back to normal. I have not received the month-end statements but there is about $1,500 missing from what should be the balance. The Credit Union did an incredible pro-active job looking for this and catching it and getting us reset back to normal operation as soon as possible and they promise to restore any missing funds. It will be interesting to see the contraction of big business and the expansion of the smaller, more service oriented businesses. Too big to fail? I think otherwise. And don't confiscate my benefits or I will move my business elsewhere... Hat tip to Mark J. Perry for the link.

A YouTube twofer

Two Memes for today.

Whack a Kitty:

My Little Pony: Reign of Buttercup Sprinkles

Great idea for a bumper sticker

Swiped from the ever wonderful Miss. Cellania
From the New York Times:
Taxpayers May Lose Out in TARP Paybacks
Americans were promised a reward for rescuing the nation�s banks. In return for all those bailouts, the banks essentially granted stock options to the government � a potential jackpot for taxpayers once the crisis blew over.

But now banks, eager to get Washington out of their hair, are pushing to undo those investments as quickly � and cheaply � as possible. If the Obama administration acquiesces, billions of taxpayer dollars could be left on the table, The New York Times� Eric Dash writes.

At issue are so-called warrants that the government received from the banks last autumn, when the financial world was teetering. Like options, warrants give their owners the right to buy stock at a set price over a certain period of time, in this case, 10 years.

Now, with many banks itching to return their bailout money, the warrants are raising some thorny questions. What are these investments worth? Should the government drive a hard bargain, or let the banks off easy? Should it maximize profit for taxpayers, or minimize pain for banks?
DOH! This is so stupidly obvious it should not even be brought up -- the people who are going to profit are the political insiders; the people who have steadily and regularly contributed to the campaigns of the various corrupt congress-critters and as a result, benefit from the pork. 2010 -- we might not be getting into space as much as we would like but I would not mind a certain Odyssey from the other Washington...
Crap. A bunch of people (helped a lot by Jenny McCarthy and Oprah) are touting the rubbish that children can be hurt by the standard childhood vaccinations and that concerned parents should not allow their children to be vaccinated. Fortunately for these defenseless children, a thing called Herd Immunity protects them as long as a specific percentage of the overall population remains vaccinated. Below that percentage, all bets are off. Also, if the percentage is too low, people who have been vaccinated are also at risk as the vaccines immunity will lessen over time. For adults, this is particularly bad as 'childhood' diseases like Chicken Pox and Mumps have the potential to be life-threatening when you are an adult. From the BBC:
Measles outbreak 'worst in years'
Health chiefs in Wales are dealing with a "massive" measles outbreak, with numbers already four times the highest figure recorded over the past 13 years.

Four nursery school children were treated in hospital as part of 127 cases across mid and west Wales, while there are another 35 cases in Conwy.

The National Public Health Service (NPHS) in Wales saw 39 cases last year. Its highest figure in 2003 was 44.

Officials appealed for parents to take up the MMR vaccine.

Dr Mac Walapu, consultant in communicable disease control for the NPHS, said: "For as long as there are children who do not receive their MMR vaccinations, there is the potential for outbreaks of measles to happen and we would remind anyone in Wales, and not just in the affected area."

A spokeswoman added: "We need to be up front with parents."

She added: "We try not to be too scary when we talk to people about this, but children die of measles and children are impaired by measles. "It puts children in hospital. The reality it is that this is happening now, in Wales. Measles is very contagious."
Hat tip to Charles for the link.

A savvy political appointment

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Hillary is sending Bill to Haiti. From CNN/Politics:
Clinton to be named U.N. envoy to Haiti
Former U.S. President Clinton has been tapped as a United Nations special envoy to Haiti, a senior U.N. official said Monday.

An official announcement will be made Tuesday, the official said.

The two-term president has traveled to Haiti on several occasions, most recently in March with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

At the time, the Clintons voiced optimism at Haiti's potential because of political stability and economic growth after decades of chaos. The Caribbean country is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
A brilliant move on Hillary's part -- with one out of sixteen people infected with the HIV virus, Bill will be disinclined to sleep around.

It is finally over for the mis-named Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka.

From Reuters:

Tamil Tiger founder Prabhakaran dead at 54
In the end, Tamil Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran appeared to have no time to bite the cyanide capsule he wore to take in case of imminent capture.

The architect of Asia's longest-running civil war had vowed never to be taken alive, and on Tuesday, Sri Lankan army Commander General Sarath Fonseka said soldiers had killed the island's most wanted -- and until now -- most elusive man.

For 37 years, Prabhakaran had done one thing better than anything else on his fearsome resume: avoid capture. But on Tuesday, there was little doubt about the elusive Tiger chief's whereabouts, even though an LTTE official denied he was dead.

Video footage showed what the military said was Prabhakaran's corpse with the top of his head blown off. The founder of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was shot and killed on Monday, the government said.

Before meeting his end near a marshy lagoon in the land he fought three decades to establish as a separate nation for Sri Lanka's Tamils, Prabhakaran had almost single-handedly propelled one of the world's most brutal and intractable wars.

He sent thousands of foes and followers to their deaths, either by signing off on their assassinations or ordering them to blow themselves up with a bomb strapped to their chest.

The man known to friends as "Thamby", or little brother in Tamil, started out with a few friends by robbing banks to fund their rebel group in the 1970s, and eventually turned it into one of the world's most well-funded and well-armed irregular groups.

The LTTE at its peak ruled a quarter of Sri Lanka's land mass, maintaining a standing army, navy and even a combat air wing of small planes that carried out attacks in the capital and elsewhere during its two years aloft from 2007-2009.

A stocky man who brooked no dissent from his own organisation or the wider Tamil community, Prabhakaran has been accused of eliminating all of his opponents, including lieutenants.

The list included nearly every moderate Tamil politician in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

And of course, just like all the other "people's" revolutionary leaders:

Shortly before the end, troops recovered his personal photo album and the Defence Ministry published pictures showing him frolicking with his eldest son, Charles Anthony, in a pool, or dining in relative luxury with his family.

Sending children off on suicide attacks while living the life of luxury at home. The Reuters article makes no mention of his political alliance -- making it sound as though all he wanted was a separate homeland for "his people"

In reality, they have links with all of the "A" list terrorist organizations, PLO, al-Qaeda, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group. At heart, they are Maoists.

Good riddance to sociopathic scum...

Bad Fido - dogs water dish causes a fire

Memo to self -- do not set a full glass water dish out on my deck. From the Seattle Times:
Dogs' water bowl may be cause of fire in Bellevue
The spring sunlight that delighted so many across the Puget Sound region this weekend may have been responsible for setting a deck on fire Sunday.

After ruling out other possible causes, investigators for the Bellevue Fire Department blamed the blaze in the 17100 block of Northeast Fifth Street on the dogs' glass water bowl. The partially-filled bowl apparently concentrated the sun's rays like a magnifying glass, said Lt. Eric Keenan, the department's community liaison officer.

"It's very unusual, but it's not unheard of," he said.

The 11-inch-diameter bowl was elevated above the wooden deck in a wire stand, Keenan said. "There was nothing else in that area that could be identified as a fire source � no smokers, no electrical devices."

No one was home when the fire started just before 3 p.m. Neighbors called in the alarm when they noticed flames and smoke.

The deck was destroyed and the adjacent kitchen badly burned. Total damage was estimated at about $215,000.
An 11 inch bowl can concentrate a lot of light. It hope they get with the manufacturer as the design of the bowl could have been changed to limit the chance of this happening -- simple optics... Then again, if it was just a simple kitchen mixing bowl, those are common -- we have five or six of them here.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich
Americans know how to use the moving van to escape high taxes.

With states facing nearly $100 billion in combined budget deficits this year, we're seeing more governors than ever proposing the Barack Obama solution to balancing the budget: Soak the rich. Lawmakers in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Oregon want to raise income tax rates on the top 1% or 2% or 5% of their citizens. New Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn wants a 50% increase in the income tax rate on the wealthy because this is the "fair" way to close his state's gaping deficit.

Mr. Quinn and other tax-raising governors have been emboldened by recent studies by left-wing groups like the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities that suggest that "tax increases, particularly tax increases on higher-income families, may be the best available option." A recent letter to New York Gov. David Paterson signed by 100 economists advises the Empire State to "raise tax rates for high income families right away."

Here's the problem for states that want to pry more money out of the wallets of rich people. It never works because people, investment capital and businesses are mobile: They can leave tax-unfriendly states and move to tax-friendly states.
Like duh??? The money quote:
Or consider the fiasco of New Jersey. In the early 1960s, the state had no state income tax and no state sales tax. It was a rapidly growing state attracting people from everywhere and running budget surpluses. Today its income and sales taxes are among the highest in the nation yet it suffers from perpetual deficits and its schools rank among the worst in the nation -- much worse than those in New Hampshire. Most of the massive infusion of tax dollars over the past 40 years has simply enriched the public-employee unions in the Garden State. People are fleeing the state in droves.

One last point: States aren't simply competing with each other. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently told us, "Our state is competing with Germany, France, Japan and China for business. We'd better have a pro-growth tax system or those American jobs will be out-sourced." Gov. Perry and Texas have the jobs and prosperity model exactly right. Texas created more new jobs in 2008 than all other 49 states combined. And Texas is the only state other than Georgia and North Dakota that is cutting taxes this year.

The Texas economic model makes a whole lot more sense than the New Jersey model, and we hope the politicians in California, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota and New York realize this before it's too late.
Emphasis mine - sheesh -- I knew they were doing well; I didn't realize that it was this well...

Jobs that suck

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Jen is watching the new Discovery show Doing Da Vinci Talk about horrible jobs -- these folks are given money to recreate the machines Da Vinci drew in his notebooks and see if they work. Wonderful stuff!
Just wow! Wonderful artifact and a great photo - here is the Flickr pool.
Hat tip to David Hobby at Strobist for the link.

Correct me if I am wrong but

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Does this seem stupidly dangerous to you - from Florida Today:
Titusville students return after lightning scare
Students at Andrew Jackson Middle are back in their classrooms after a possible lightning strike on the east side of the school that damaged an exit sign, causing sparks and smoke.

"Everything went dark, we lost all electricity for about 30 seconds," Principal Jim Hickey said. "Then a teacher called and said we had an issue in the 400-wing."

Students were evacuated from the school for about 20 minutes. Several students changed into dry gym clothes or had their parents bring clothes after standing outside the school.

"There was a full-fledged thunderstorm going on and they did exactly what they were trained to do," Hickey said. "I'm proud of everyone. No one panicked."
They moved from a perfectly safe building that had a minor electrical problem in an exit sign and outside into a full-fledged thunderstorm. One which had just struck the school? Even if the kids are under a shelter of some kind, standing on the soil is dangerous as a close strike can cause major flows of current through the ground. I realize that the idiot in charge was just following orders procedure but still, some element of thought should have figured into the situation.

The big fire - aftermath

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I posted a few days ago about the big training fire we had to get rid of a dilapidated building. I swung by yesterday -- one day after the fire -- and took this picture. I am holding a non-contact pyrometer (otherwise known as a digital thermometer). If I am getting 404 at the surface, I would hate to think what it is like a foot or so below.

Memo to spammers

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When sending out comment spam containing URLs of various hijacked websites, do not sample your warez. It makes you stoopid!@#
If one URL is going to make you mad money, then thirty eight of them is going to make you even more. Talk about shooting fish in a barrel -- I am being attacked by fscking idiots.

Light posting today

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Gorgeous weather -- first really glorious weekend this year. Spent some time at the store helping out and am spending the rest of the afternoon rewiring a trailer. This evening, I will be getting the Burn 542 files ready to upload to the Tube of You (account name nwblacksmith) and a couple of DVDs burned for the fire departments involved. All this means is that I will only be reading about 5% or 10% of the internet today and will not have as many curious links to explore...

Taking a bite out of crime

Chilling story from Reason Magazine:

A Forensics Charlatan Gets Caught in the Act
Video from a defense attorney's sting exposes Mississippi bite-mark "expert" Michael West.

In 1992, a Phoenix man named Ray Krone was convicted of murdering a cocktail waitress named Kim Ancona. The crime was brutal. Ancona had been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times, and bitten on her breast and neck. Krone was indicted after a local dentist named John Piakis, who had received all of five days of forensic training, told police and prosecutors that Krone's crooked teeth created the marks on Ancona's body.

At trial, a more experienced bite-mark analyst from Las Vegas named Ray Rawson confirmed Piakis' findings: The bite marks on Ancona's neck could only have come from Krone. Rawson included a 39-page report with his testimony. It must have been convincing, because the jury convicted Krone despite no other physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was sentenced to death.

In 1995, Krone was given a new trial after an appeals court threw out his conviction over an unrelated legal technicality. Rawson testified again. And Krone was convicted again. After the second trial, however, the judge refused to sentence Krone to death, writing, "The court is left with a residual or lingering doubt about the clear identity of the killer."

The judge's misgivings proved prescient. Over the strenuous objections of prosecutors, who maintained that Rawson's testimony was in itself sufficient to affirm Krone's conviction, Krone's attorney Christopher Plourd succeeded in getting a court to force the state to turn over biological evidence from the crime for DNA testing. The testing proved Krone was innocent. It also provided a match to Kenneth Phillips, a man who arguably should have been a suspect from the start. Phillips lived less than a mile from the crime scene, was already on probation for assaulting a female neighbor, and was arrested three weeks after Ancona's murder for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl. Several witnesses had described a man fitting Phillips' height, weight, and complexion to police near the crime scene the night of the murder.

After 10 years in prison, including two spent on death row, Ray Krone was exonerated and released from prison in 2002.

But Krone's lawyer wasn't quite finished. In addition to his job as a criminal defense attorney, Christopher Plourd is a legal specialist in forensic science, having served on several government commissions looking at the role of DNA testing in the criminal justice system.

Plourd was livid that his client could have been convicted not once, but twice, based on obviously erroneous testimony that was presented as scientific. It seemed to confirm what Plourd and other critics of bite-mark analysis have long suspected - that there is little "science" behind the method at all. So in 2001, the lawyer decided to conduct a "proficiency test" on some unknowing and prominent bite-mark expert.

What follows is a step by step takedown of a noted bite-mark expert. Plourd (the lawyer) sent in photographs of Kim Ancona's breast bitemarks along with a dental cast of his own teeth. Two months later, a very compelling 20 minute video (available at the site) came back proving conclusively that there was a solid match. The article also says that bite-mark evidence is still being used to convict people when there is no other evidence available... A good case for reform if I ever saw one...

An opening of the door - Cuba and the USA

Could Cuba's vast off-shore oil deposit be something that would promote the USA to reopen relations with her? From the Washington Post:

Cuba's Undersea Oil Could Help Thaw Trade With U.S.
Deep in the Gulf of Mexico, an end to the 1962 U.S. trade embargo against Cuba may be lying untapped, buried under layers of rock, seawater and bitter relations.

Oil, up to 20 billion barrels of it, sits off Cuba's northwest coast in territorial waters, according to the Cuban government -- enough to turn the island into the Qatar of the Caribbean. At a minimum, estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey place Cuba's potential deep-water reserves at 4.6 billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, stores that would rank the island among the region's top producers.

Drilling operations by foreign companies in Cuban waters are still in the exploratory stage, and significant obstacles -- technological and political -- stand between a U.S.-Cuba rapprochement eased by oil. But as the Obama administration gestures toward improved relations with the Castro government, the national security, energy and economic benefits of Cuban crude may make it a powerful incentive for change.

Limited commercial ties between U.S. businesses and the island's communist government have been quietly expanding this decade as Cuban purchases of U.S. goods -- mostly food -- have increased from $7 million in 2001 to $718 million in 2008, according to census data.

Thawing relations could eventually open up U.S. investment in mining, agriculture, tourism and other sectors of Cuba's tattered economy. But the prospect of major offshore reserves that would be off-limits to U.S. companies and consumers has some Cuba experts arguing that 21st-century energy needs should prevail over 20th-century Cold War politics.

I am all in favor of this -- our beef is with the government much more than with the people of Cuba. I would love to be able to visit there as I have visited other islands in the Caribbean. Once we start getting "western" culture in there and exposing the people to what capitalism can do, the government will either have to reconfigure itself or die. Great revolutions have always failed and will always fail in the future. One thing gets me though -- they show a map of the deposit with a miles scale:


If the miles scale is correct, this deposit is more than 200 miles off Cuba's shoreline. It is just as close to Tampa, Florida as it is to Havana, Cuba. Who's oil is this and why aren't we out there prospecting? We are currently beholden to foreign governments -- some friendly and some not -- for the majority of our petroleum. Why aren't we locking down a couple hundred years of domestic supplies for our own use.

Welding Rodeo

I spent yesterday at the Bellingham Technical College annual Welding Rodeo.

This is the fourth year I have attended it and it is always a lot of fun.

I brought my camera:

A good turnout.


This was the first year that they offered the general public
a chance to try out welding on their own.
A good number of people were waiting in line for the chance
to try this very fun craft.




A local blacksmith was there demonstrating his craft.
I really like the design of his forge and that small stand
with the post vise and the grinder is going to be swiped for my shop.
Very portable and useful...


Two of the booths -- there were eight booths.
The second one is going for a Mayan theme.

The Marimba Bond set a nice upbeat tone to the whole event.


Two photos of the new welding school digs.
A lot nicer than the old building where I took my clases.

A fun time and something I look forward to every spring.

Next up is the Bellingham Highland Games.

The building demolition was scheduled for 8:00am and it started promptly. Since the inside was so nasty, they decided to not set up several scenarios inside for people to practice on but to work a bunch of their equipment on the outside of the building. There were fourteen new volunteers who had never manned a hose or run a saw so they got some valuable experience. The trainees came from as far as thirty miles away so this was a valuable training experience for several departments, not just our own. I was there with a camera:
They not only brought a bunch of fire engines and tankers,
they also had an aid car standing by.

A look at a pumpers control panel.
Running the hoses out.

Training a couple new people on the saw.
This is an abrasive cutoff wheel that can go through anything, concrete, metal, wood...

A thorough briefing - very safety concious...


They stacked some pallets in the basement to serve as kindling.
The fire was lit with a highway flare.

A final walk-though to check the building -- again, very safety conscious.

The first wisp of smoke -- things happened very quickly after that.

Needless to say, there was a lot of interest from the locals.



Breakthrough - the first fire outside the building wall.

Learning how to run a hose -- there is a lot of water pressure there and it takes a good measure of control.

The various teams rotated around several exercises.
Everybody was having a great time.

This is no longer a house...

A couple people stayed to monitor the fire and to make sure
it didn't flare up. This was shot later this afternoon.
The place is now a smoking hole in the ground...
There was none of the distress of a real house fire -- this was on purpose and nobody was in danger, the firemen knew exactly what they were walking into. And the title of this post comes from a line in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
A misquote (actually: "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" from H8) but the Schadenfreude is delightful. Again, mad props to whomever at the CIA is authorizing the release. There are some government agency's that you most definitely do not want to fuck with -- yes Nancy, they are bigger than you are. From the Washington Post:
CIA Chief Rebuts Pelosi's Charges
CIA Director Leon Panetta yesterday rejected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's charge that the agency misled her about its use of coercive interrogation methods, escalating a controversy that has dogged the speaker for weeks and intensifying a debate over Bush administration policies that the Obama administration has tried to avoid.
From Victor Davis Hanson:
Yes, Nancy, There Really Is a God Nemesis
There is an odd sense among Democrats that nemesis simply does not exist.

A once-vein-bulging Al Gore who barnstormed the country slurring President Bush by calling him a liar now seems baffled about the precedent he set of a vice president (albeit now much more politely in the case of Cheney) questioning the policy of the current president.

A Nancy Pelosi, hellbent on releasing once-classified memos for partisan advantage, and eager to begin 'Truth" hearings, suddenly believes such an inquisition will not apply to herself, despite the fact that she, like so many Democrats from Senator Schumer to Senator Rockefeller, in that dark period in 2001, spoke of the need for, or was complicit in, approving enhanced interrogation techniques.

Then the president himself, who jump-started his campaign in Iraq's crisis year by slamming the commander-in-chief on renditions, military tribunals, email and phone intercepts, Predator drone attacks, and Iraq, now suddenly wishes to explain the nuances and complexities of these policies and why he will continue the Bush protocols � apparently oblivious to the hypocrisy involved with his own prior self-interested stridency. These examples could be easily augmented.
Μολὼν λαβέ motherfsckers...
I am not happy with a lot of the things that Obama has done but these two items really tickle my fancy: Department of Justice Environment Division? From Think Progress:
Obama Nominates Superfund Polluter Lawyer To Run DOJ Environment Division
From the NY Times:
DOJ nominee's industry experience a worry for some
And coal mining? From the West Virginia's Charleston Gazette:
Rahall: EPA clears 42 of 48 permits for approval
Congressman Nick J. Rahall is having a telephone press conference right now to announce that the Obama administration has cleared for approval nearly all of the mountaintop removal mining permits that the EPA has been reviewing.
What the enviros fail to tell you is that built into these permits is the requirement that the companies restore the mountains -- clean them up put down an impermeable layer and replace the topsoil and replant. The word you are looking for is "park". I do love the gentle popping sound of liberal heads imploding. Hope and Change anyone? Chicago politics writ large... And, as an afterthought, pre-election, a lot of people said that the Republicans didn't have a strong candidate. Looking around, I don't really see any other strong candidate for the Democratic party either. Everybody is dirty -- time to drain the Potomac marshes and start over.

Long day today - welding rodeo, etc...

Got up really early yesterday so I slept in until 11:00 today. Then headed off to the Welding Rodeo as well as stopping in to see my Dad.

Today was amateurs day for the rodeo -- students from some community colleges and high schools.

They form teams, there is an 8:00am mad dash for the steel scrap pile and there is a theme for the year -- this year it was "Space".

There were a couple of booths there too -- a local blacksmith was making railroad spike tomahawks. The event was at the new quarters for the welding school -- a vast improvement over the old place where I took some classes five years ago. I took a lot of pictures and will post them soon.

Tomorrow promises to be a full day as well -- the house I looked at here is scheduled to be used by the local fire department for training and will ultimately be burned to the ground. The fire department will stage several scenarios for training (some falling asleep in bed with a cigarette, kitchen fire, etc...) and the firemen will have the chance to learn best how to put them out.

Later that afternoon, a reader of this blog will be stopping by -- he is traveling around the USA on business and is in Seattle for a few weeks. He has posted comments and we have struck up a lively conversation via email -- it will be fun to match an online person with a real human.

Could not be happening to a better or more ethical person. From FOX News:
Hoyer Declines to Back Up Pelosi's Claim That CIA Misled Congress
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer does not vouch for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's accusation against the CIA.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's deputy in the House declined to back her up on her stunning claim Thursday that the CIA misled Congress about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, panned the recent criticism of Pelosi as a "distraction" during a verbal tangle with Republican Whip Eric Cantor on the House floor.

But when asked directly whether he shares Pelosi's belief that the CIA misled Congress, he backed off.

"I have no idea of that. I don't have a belief of that nature because I have no basis on which to base such a belief," Hoyer said. "And I certainly hope that's not the case. And I don't draw that conclusion."

Hoyer was challenged on the issue after Pelosi, facing questions over how much she knew early on about the Bush administration's interrogation policies, told reporters Thursday afternoon that the CIA misled Congress. She adamantly insisted that she was not aware that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques were being used on terrorism suspects.

"Every step of the way the administration was misleading the Congress, and that is the issue and that's why we need a truth commission," she said, referring to her call for a congressional investigation into such Bush-era policies.
And the next round of "leaked" documents will show up at WikiLeaks in, five, four, three, two... Must be lonely at the top.
An insightful observation from Jerry Pournelle in his monthly Computing at Chaos Manor:
The Conficker Worm is still out there, but we got through April without its crashing the entire Internet. (See last month's column.) The current panic (dying out as I write this) is over swine flu. One Hong Kong hotel quarantined all the guests while rushing a suspected swine flu victim to hospital. A Dulles-bound aircraft from Europe did an emergency landing in Boston because one passenger had symptoms. It was later determined that she had a bad cold. Mexico City was a ghost town last week, although we hear that they are now allowing restaurants to open again (but the waiters wear masks). We now know that the swine flu isn't as severe as the usual seasonal flu that kills 30,000 or so people in the US every year, and there are some indications that we're standing down from the panic, but there are still schools closing and school proms being cancelled.

I confess being a bit puzzled here. The Internet allows news to spread very quickly, and perhaps that contributes, but the swine flu panic seems more driven by conventional mainstream media than the Internet. Indeed, the Internet was quick to disseminate the true information about the low death rates and comparatively low severity of this particular flu; that this was, in fact, not much different from an early appearance of an annual seasonal flu. The panic happened anyway. Apparently the denizens of the Internet don't include the public authorities responsible for all the panic? I'd think there's a lesson in there, but I am not sure what it is.
Maybe it is a manifestation of the same disconnect with reality that is causing newspaper readership to tank. The MSM have painted themselves into a corner with their very obvious biases while it is the "town commons" property of the internet that allows news to be fact-checked so quickly -- the accuracy is higher and with so many people reporting on the same events, each persons bias is easy to see so it is possible to get a clear picture of what actually happened.

George Galloway gets pwned

Wonderful interview with George Galloway:

Here he is dancing:


He has been banned from entering Canada.

He took a bunch of very dirty money from Saddam Hussein during the Oil for Food Scandal.

And check him out as a cat (embedding disabled) Amazing that media whores like this can get traction...

Tip of the hat to Theo Spark

Back home

Spent a couple hours stripping out the old linoleum and getting the water heater and pressure tank out of the basement. The last tenants in the house were not what I would call good renters to put it mildly. We had toured the house last fall when it was up for sale and there was rat urine and droppings everywhere. Coming in today it was worse. The winter storms had gotten in through some broken windows (even though there were sheets of plywood over them) and mold and rot was everywhere. We all wore facemasks but they just filter out the big chunks. Here are a few photos:
The building in question.

The usual suspects...

There were children living here!!!

Taking up the linoleum -- note the ceiling

Ceiling detail -- yuck!

Mold everywhere

Covered in rat turds

Removing the roof vents

There she goes!
The fire department is coming in this Saturday at 8:00am. I'll be there with camera.

Busy day today

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Our local Chamber of Commerce just purchased ten acres of land to build a new visitors center. There is an old residence that will be burned this Saturday by our local fire department -- they will stage several scenarios for training purposes. There are some parts of the water system (pressure tank and heater) that need to come out and the linoleum needs to go as well. This is all happening today. The people that were living there when the house sold weren't exactly the cleanest tenants -- the place is full of old rat droppings and urine. Fun. fun. fun...
It's not like they are actually going to do anything but... From the London Times:
Russia warns of war within a decade over Arctic oil and gas riches
Russia raised the prospect of war in the Arctic yesterday as nations struggle for control of the world�s dwindling energy reserves.

The country�s new national security strategy identified the intensifying battle for ownership of vast untapped oil and gas fields around its borders as a source of potential military conflict within a decade.

�The presence and potential escalation of armed conflicts near Russia�s national borders, pending border agreements between Russia and several neighbouring nations, are the major threats to Russia�s interests and border security,� stated the document, which analysed security threats up to 2020.

�In a competition for resources it cannot be ruled out that military force could be used to resolve emerging problems that would destroy the balance of forces near the borders of Russia and her allies.�

The Kremlin has insisted that it is not �militarising the Arctic� but its warnings of armed conflict suggest that it is willing to defend its interests by force if necessary as global warming makes exploitation of the region�s energy riches more feasible.

The United States, Norway, Canada and Denmark are challenging Russia�s claim to a section of the Arctic shelf, the size of Western Europe, which is believed to contain billions of tonnes of oil and gas.
Well socialism and communism did not work for them so now they are going capitalist in a big way. They have been staking claim to the shelf for about ten years -- sending subs and expeditions on a regular basis. Will we understand the meaning of this pronouncement or will we keep lurching along our path towards being a second-class nation. What would Obama do? What would Reagan do? There is a difference...


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From Theo:
A man is sitting in a bar far from home when Barack Obama comes on TV. The man looks at the TV and says, "Obama is a horse's ass."

Out of nowhere, a local jumps up and punches him in the face, knocking the first guy off his bar stool, then stomps out.

He gets up, rubbing his cheek and orders another beer.

Shortly after, Michelle Obama appears on the TV. He looks at the TV and says, "She is a horse's ass too!"

Out of nowhere, another local punches him on the other side of the face, knocking him off his bar stool again.

He gets back up and looks at the bartender, "I take it this is Obama country?"

"Nope." replies the bartender. "Horse country."

I posted yesterday about the chilly roo and the NZ Ski Resorts.

Australia and New Zealand are about 25 to 40 degrees South of the Equator.

How about 23 degrees North of the equator - near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:


From the May 13th, 2009 edition of the Saudi Gazette:

In one of the rare occasions, Saudis enjoy the snowfall in Al-Baha city south-west of Riyadh, Tuesday. Torrential rains pouring down on Al-Baha accompanied by gusty winds were accompanied by snow capping the mountains and covering the valley areas and the forests of Al-Zaraeb and Khayrah.

Hat tip Anthony.

A fly on the brain

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Fire Ants are migrating north into Texas causing problems with electrical wiring (somehow they are attracted to the fields) and young calves. The fix? Phorid Flies with an interesting life cycle. From Yahoo/McClatchy:
Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies
It sounds like something out of science fiction: zombie fire ants. But it's all too real.

Fire ants wander aimlessly away from the mound.

Eventually their heads fall off, and they die.

The strange part is that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service say making "zombies" out of fire ants is a good thing.

"It's a tool � they're not going to completely wipe out the fire ant, but it's a way to control their population," said Scott Ludwig , an integrated pest management specialist with the AgriLife Extension Service in Overton , in East Texas.

The tool is the tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where the fire ants in Texas originated. Researchers have learned that there are as many as 23 phorid species along with pathogens that attack fire ants to keep their population and movements under control.

So far,four phorid species have been introduced in Texas.

The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs. The maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain, and the ant starts exhibiting what some might say is zombie-like behavior.

"At some point, the ant gets up and starts wandering," said Rob Plowes, a research associate at UT.

The maggot eventually migrates into the ant's head, but Plowes said he "wouldn't use the word 'control' to describe what is happening. There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly. This wandering stage goes on for about two weeks."

About a month after the egg is laid, the ant's head falls off and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants away from the mound and lay eggs.

Plowes said fire ants are "very aware" of these tiny flies, and it only takes a few to cause the ants to modify their behavior.

"Just one or two flies can control movement or above-ground activity," Plowes said. "It's kind of like a medieval activity where you're putting a castle under siege."
Very cool -- uses no pesticides; the flies are specific to that species of ant and once the ants die back, the phorid flies will too. You will never be rid of either but the population will be much smaller. And a tip 'o the hat to SlashDot And if you think that is weird, check out the Cordyceps fungus:
Now that is weird...

A look at Snopes

Whenever there is a new "it really happened to a friend of a friend of mine" story floating around, one of the first places I check is but I never knew who was behind it, only that their research seemed to be first rate and they published links to the data to back up their assessments. Readers Digest did a nice story on Barbara and David Mikkelson who started Snopes back in 1995 and who run it today:

Rumor Detectives: True Story or Online Hoax?
A few years ago, a woman and her husband were coming home from a ski trip in British Columbia when they spotted a disabled car on the side of the road. It was raining and the driver looked distressed, so they stopped and helped him fix his flat tire. The man was extremely grateful but didn't have any cash to reward them, so he took down their personal information. A week later, the couple got a call from their bank saying their mortgage had been paid and $10,000 had been deposited into their account by an appreciative Bill Gates.

"Ah, the grateful millionaire," Barbara Mikkelson says with a satisfied grin. "It started with Henry Ford. Then it was Nat King Cole. Then Donald Trump. We even have a version Oscar Wilde wrote back in the 1890s."

With her bemused tone and a habit of peering over her spectacles, Mikkelson has the air of a night-shift detective who has seen it all-and in a way, she has. Barbara, 49, and her husband, David, 48, run, the Internet's preeminent resource for verifying and debunking rumors, ridiculous claims, and those e-mail chain letters your sister-in-law can't stop forwarding. Whether it's an urban legend like the Gates story, an overblown warning about the latest computer virus, or that bizarre photo circulating of "Hercules, the world's biggest dog," chances are has checked it out and rated it as "true," "false," or "undetermined."

A great story about an awesome site. And the name Snopes comes from a family in a William Faulkner novel.

A bit of light posting tonight

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Had a deep acupuncture session today and feeling very mellow. I'll be surfing a bit but not my usual read-the-internet-corner-to-corner daily routine.
On April 23rd of this year, I picked up a Remington 597 chambered in .22 Magnum. As explained here, we already have a wonderful Marlin but it is chambered in an uncommon and pricey round. $2.50 per bang. The Remington is less than 20� per bang loud pop. I have a couple hundred rounds that I got from a store that was closing but I wanted to lay in a supply as people are saying that there is a shortage. No shit Sherlock... I was online at Cheaper Than Dirt this evening and here is their selection of .22 Mag ammo:
Every single SKU was Out Of Stock and none of them had any option for back-ordering. This too is a bubble and this too will pass but...

Summertime in Australia

It is late Summer in Australia, here is a photo of one of the indigenous critters enjoying a nice warm sunbath:


Hat tip to Anthony Wattsfor the link. Anthony's comment:

WUWT reader David Summers sends this photo along taken a few days ago in Australia from a colleague that 'returned there for the summer'

In Ski News for New Zealand from

Mt Ruapehu launches 'Wicked Little Campaign':
It's been snowing all weekend and looks set to continue for most of the week at Whakapapa and its counterpart Turoa, on the southern flank of NZ's largest ski area in the heart of the North Island There's an old saying "snow in May will never stay" but it sure looks like it could stay with more (snow) forecast.

To encourage more Australian skiers and boarders the operator of new the largest ski area in NZ, Mt Ruapehu, has launched The 'Wicked Little Campaign' which is heavy on sexual innuendo.

It is asking Aussies to come over for a quickie and size does matter. Mt Ruapehu has the longest vertical descent in Australasia and it offers 1800 hectares of lift accessed terrain when you combine Whakapapa and Turoa, <\


Snow blankets Mt Hutt, Coronet and Remarkables
Continuous snowfalls on New Zealand's premier mountain resorts of Mt Hutt in Canterbury and Coronet Peak and the Remarkables in Queenstown, has blanketed the mountains in snow with forecasts predicting a lot more on the way.

The crew at Mt Hutt has been unable to get up the mountain after 80cm of snow has fallen to 800m, burying the top half of the access road, with staff reported to be working around the clock to clear roads before the next set of snow storms arrive.

Further south in Queenstown, The Remarkables received 15cm of snow to deliver good snow cover across the entire ski area, and down to the 11km mark on the access road.

Miss California gets to keep her crown

Glad to see someone standing up for their convictions. From Fox News:

Carrie Prejean Keeps Her Miss California Crown
After weeks of scandal and controversy following her honest answer to a simple question at the Miss USA pageant, Carrie Prejean has emerged as she started.

"Carrie will remain Miss California," Donald Trump said at a press conference Tuesday.

The controversial beauty queen was named first runner-up at the April 19 pageant, during which she cause a firestorm by responding to a judge's question by saying she favored limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

Since then, the state pageant has been investigating whether Prejean, 21, violated her contestant contract by making public appearances with groups opposed to same-sex marriage, and by failing to reveal that she had posed in racy photos, some of which were release just hours before the press conference.

But Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organization, praised Prejean for her "honest answer" when she was asked a "very tough question," noting that it was the same answer that President Obama has given.

Speaking for herself at the press conference, Prejean said she found it "appalling" that a professional photographer would release compromising photos to TMZ in a violation of her trust. Prejean said the pictures were taken on a windy day where she said she was inadvertently "exposed."

Ultimately however, Trump said that after careful review, the pictures taken were "fine," and that while some were indeed risque, many were in fact "quite lovely."

Thank you Mr. Trump for showing some courage in the face of moonbattery.

Three interesting graphs

Dr. Roy Spencer takes a long look at CO2 and its sources and finds some interesting numbers:
Global Warming Causing Carbon Dioxide Increases: A Simple Model
Global warming theory assumes that the increasing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere comes entirely from anthropogenic sources, and it is that CO2 increase which is causing global warming.

But it is indisputable that the amount of extra CO2 showing up at the monitoring station at Mauna Loa, Hawaii each year (first graph below) is strongly affected by sea surface temperature (SST) variations (second graph below).

Click for full-size...
Dr. Spencer then walks you through the creation of a simple model taking into account both Human CO2 production and CO2 production from the Ocean (as a function of sea surface temperature).
The best fit (shown) assumed only 10% of the atmospheric CO2 increase is due to human emissions (b=0.1), while the other 90% is simple due to changes in sea surface temperature. The peak correlation between the modeled and observed CO2 fluctuation is now at zero month time lag, supporting the model�s realism. The model explained 50% of the variance of the Mauna Loa observations.

The best model fit assumes that the temperature anomaly at which the ocean switches between a sink and a source of CO2 for the atmosphere is -0.2 deg. C, indicated by the bold line in the SST graph, seen in the second graph in this article. In the context of longer-term changes, it would mean that the ocean became a net source of more atmospheric CO2 around 1930.

A graph of the resulting model versus observed CO2 concentration as a function of time is shown next:
Click for full-size...
Smoking gun anyone?
This was back when they were an innovative company and were able to come up with amazing products like the Turbo Encabulator. I had known about this training film for a couple years but these were always low quality copies. Finally, docah posted a very good copy of it in March of this year:
Excellent presentation -- very easy to follow even though I am not a trained mechanic.

Under my Bus

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From Pajamas Media

Swine Flu hits Toontown

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Swiped from Theo

Understanding the sciences

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Swiped from Miss Celania:
It's all in where you're coming from.
A mathematician, a biologist and a physicist are sitting in a street caf� watching people going in and coming out of the house on the other side of the street. First they see two people going into the house. Time passes. After a while they notice three persons coming out of the house.

The physicist: "The measurement wasn't accurate."

The biologist: "They have reproduced."

The mathematician: "If now exactly one person enters the house then it will be empty again."

The Onion reviews the new Star Trek movie

Chavez is on a roll

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He certainly has an interesting view of those people who get up each morning and try to make something of themselves. From Mere Rhetoric:
Chavez In The Grips Of Hopenchange: "The Rich Are Not Human, They Are Animals In Human Form"
At least Obama didn't hand this clown a popularity boost and then excuse his public attack on American-led globalization as "a nice gesture." Think how awkward that would be right now!

The last time this particular phrase got dropped, it was being used by one of Sarajevo's most powerful imams to describe Jews. It's nice to see that Chavez is getting something from the Muslim world beyond Iranian military ties and Iranian-Syrian weapons boats. Because linguistic and discursive diffusion - that's the way civilization advances.

When Chavez says "rich," do you think there's any chance he means...? Probably not, right? Because Sean Penn insists that he's a "warm and friendly man," and warm and friendly men would never use the exact same rhetoric the Nazis used to demonize the exact same people the Nazis demonized. Or the people who the Nazis' modern day Islamist descendants demonize.
How blind are these people. Chavez is operating on the traditional Marixt idea that there is a fixed pool of money and that injustices result from improper distribution of said money. This is economic bullshit of the worst order. Money can be created and destroyed out of thin air -- the last few months have shown the destruction mode. Someone like J.K. Rowling can come along and out of her own head, create something like Harry Potter that will created billions of dollars, an entire motion picture franchise as well as book and toy spinoffs for well into the next ten years. Chavez should have been looking after the real needs of his people and of his nation. He should have been spending the oil revenues on building up Venesuela into a world class nation with universities, medical shcools, banking, etc but no, he squanders Venesuela's wealth on feel-good social programs that (as the proverb said) give the man a fish and not teach him to fish.


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Here: latfh sorry...

Object of desire - Carbon E7

Talk about a badass ride -- check out Carbon Motors and their new vehicle, the E7:


3.0 liter turbo diesel, 300 horses under the hood, huge brakes (14" front, 13" rear), integrated FLIR for night vision, voice recognition computer, automatic scanning and OCR of oncoming license plates, the list just goes on and on. The emergency lighting is faired into the body of the car to reduce drag. Lots of little touches like the rear compartment is totally separate and sealed from the front compartment. The rear compartment has a drain plug and is fully hoseable. A lot of thought went into this. I am not a LEO but I would not mind taking one of these puppies out for a spin... Five minutes from the Tube of You:


I had written one post yesterday about a recent utterance by an Islamic Judge. Now here is one Abbot how the Islamists treat some of their schoolchildren. They gas them. But not to worry, they only gas the girls. From MS/NBC / Associated Press:
Fears of mass poisoning of Afghan schoolgirls
Police say 61 girls hospitalized due to sudden illness

Doctors are investigating whether dozens of girls were poisoned at a high school in northern Afghanistan on Monday after 61 girls went to the hospital because of sudden illness, officials said.

Dr. Khalil Farhagga said the 61 students and one teacher from a school in Parwan � one province north of Kabul � complained of irritability, tearing and confusion. Several girls also passed out.

The mass hospitalization comes about two weeks after a similar incident in Parwan, where dozens of girls were hospitalized in late April after being sickened by what Afghan officials said were strong fumes or a possible poison gas cloud.
To blow up civilians, to use human shields and now to gas your own children. This is not multiculturalism, this is brute thuggery and fear. They are not followers of God, they worship the black prophet: Mohammad, the prophet of Satan.
The idea that idiots like this walk the streets -- from Florida's Treasure Coast Palm:
Aspiring rapper robs Fla. store for 'street credibility,' police say
Authorities say a 21-year-old aspiring rapper robbed a Gainesville convenience store and shot a clerk with a BB gun to gain �street credibility.�

Police say Steven Gilmore Jr. has confessed to the Friday night robbery. He also confessed to a restaurant robbery that occurred last week.

According to the Gainesville police, Gilmore shot the clerk in the temple with a BB gun during the robbery.

Gilmore is being held in the Alachua County jail on robbery and aggravated battery charges. According to the Gainesville Sun, a 16-year-old accomplice was also arrested.
Street Cred? Fuck him! Musicians like Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Theolonius Monk, Satchmo are spinning in their graves.

A perfect storm

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An awesome story of disaster with a very cool resolution. In 1983, Michael Rea and his wife bought a run-down building in the far north of England in the Shetland Islands. Then, in 1992, a hurricane with winds recorded at 212 Miles Per Hour demolished the house. Micheal and his wife decided to rebuild and their story is fascinating. From Vector One Media:
The Zero Carbon House
Zero Carbon House is a project to deliver a low energy house. It is located on the Shetland Islands in northern UK. The project has been gaining much attention and much support. Plans have been developed to include solar and wind generation and a unique horticultural area as well. Vector1Media asked Michael Rea, the owner of the property to share his story about Zero Carbon House. The following is his personal account and description of the project.

The project began as a demonstration for a zero carbon footprint house located on the most northerly island in Great Britain at Uyeasound, Unst, Shetland. The construction site has great historic interest as it was a trading station used by the Hanseatic Merchants from Bremen, Germany who established a booth on the site during the 14-15 th century.

Behind the booth was the Merchants house which was demolished in the late 1950s to make way for the new house which stands on the original site. The location was used in the 19th-and early 20th century as a hotel and local folk law has it that Robert Louis Stevenson stayed there while his father built Mucckle Flugga lighthouse.

In 1983 my wife and I purchased the booth which was in a very sad state and had existed as part of the 19th century start up premises for the trading company that is still trading on Unst, Alexander Sandison and Co. The premises were used as a shop and it was also the island bakery. The upstairs part of the premises was a sail loft where they made and repaired those products and a well at the back of the house is Shetland's deepest well, and provided the water for the bakery.

We found all of the old day books and account books which we loaned to the archives in Lerwick. This gives an insight into the social and commercial life of the island. Although the truck system had been outlawed, the accounts still showed that it was still operational at the later part of the 19th century.

In 1992 a hurricane with recorded wind speeds of 215 mph caused so much damage that we had to demolish the property. We used a local company to do this work and I had a telephone call from their head man who said 'Michael, we have chucked your hoose in the Loch'.

We spent a number of years deciding on what we wanted to put onto the site and traveled to Canada and Scandinavia to look at timber-frame houses. We eventually decided to purchase a timber frame house from Scotframe Timber Engineering in Scotland. From there, we took an off the shelf house kit from their designs, re configured it and added a sun room and what was going to be the garage incorporated this into the house structure to provide an office and an additional utility room.

I then met Dr. Jeff Kenna in 2000 who is the CEO of Energy For Sustainable Development and Jeff asked me to consider using our house as a demonstration project. Jeff and I and his company also worked on community energy schemes to show that communities can own wind farms and bring substantial funds into their own communities from selling energy to themselves using a structure called an ESCO. Coupled with carbon credits this can bring huge benefits to remote and urban communities.
The house enjoys a zero-carbon footprint. The cool thing about it is that it is not buried into the ground somewhere, it looks and works like a normal house. it was also constructed from COTS -- Commercial Off The Shelf materials -- no exotic space-age unobtanium, just stuff you get from the big-box builders store. The crucial element is the engineering and the design. A lot of thought went into the design and the infrastructure. The house has its own website with a lot more information: the Zero Carbon House Project For all my ranting against the Global Warming sub-prime science, I am very much concerned with the environment. Projects like these are exactly what needs to happen, not the cap and trade bullshit, not the restrictions on trade or manufacturing. And yes, four generations of Robert Louis Stevenson's family was in the curious business of Lighthouse Building. The story was wonderfully told by Bella Bathurst in her book: The Lighthouse Stevensons. Your local library should be able to get a copy.

Early history

From an email list:

History 101

For those that don't know about history ... Here is a condensed version:

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups:

1. Liberals, and
2. Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed. Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement.

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing.. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. Those became known as girlie-men. Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer, mostly Bud or Miller. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, engineers, corporate executives, athletes, members of the military, airline pilots and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America . They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history:

It should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above before forwarding it. A Conservative will simply laugh and be so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded immediately to other true believers and to more liberals just to tick them off.

And there you have it.

Just WOW! - Star Trek

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Went in to see it tonight. Theater was packed but we had advance tickets and got there 45 minutes ahead of time. The people playing Kirk, Spock, Bones, McCoy, Scotty, Uhuru, Sulu and Chekov absolutely nailed their roles. A good plot, the scene with Spock graduating from the Vulcan Science Academy was really well written -- a lot of interplay with very few words. The time travel was handled without paradox. They got in a lot of the in-jokes -- Kirk bedding the green chick, the gratuitous new guy in the red uniform dying on the away team, the Dammit Jim line -- without sounding forced. And yes, they did not get the Enterprise right -- I understand that the insides need to be updated but they could have left the outside the same and not affected the plot or story arc at all. They had a fun appearance by an AirTrax fork lift in one scene (these things are seriously cool). This is one that must be seen on the large screen if you are at all interested.

Stupid Politicians

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But then, I repeat myself. (shoutout to Mk. Twain) From the Portland Maine Press-Herald:
Measure would put an end to free store 'camping' for RVs
The Yonder Hill Campground in Madison used to be filled to capacity every summer night with recreational vehicles. But that was years ago. RV owners have found they can skip the $36 campground fee and park overnight at the Skowhegan Wal-Mart for free.

The campground's owner, Allen York, said he often sees 25 to 30 RVs parked at the Wal-Mart.

In recent years, he said, there has been a cultural shift in how RVers travel, influenced in part by Web sites that use searchable databases to guide RVers to free parking spots.

"What has happened is nothing short of a phenomenon," York said. "All of a sudden, we are looking at empty lots when we should be in the prime season."

Owners of the state's 275 campgrounds are pushing legislation that would ban RVs from parking overnight at commercial lots, such as Wal-Mart. The Legislature's Health and Human Services committee voted 8-2 to endorse the bill, LD 114, which may come up for a vote in the House this week.

Proponents say the measure would help local campgrounds and RV parks stay in business and also allow the state to recoup nearly $1 million in lost state lodging taxes.
And of course, the RVers aren't taking this lying down:
While Wal-Mart is staying on the sidelines, RVers around the nation are mobilizing. News about the legislation has spread via the Internet on message boards and newsletters. People are sending e-mails and making phone calls to legislators, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci's office, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Maine tourism offices.

If it passes, Maine would become the first state in the nation to ban RVs from commercial parking lots. Similar bills in Montana and Nevada were defeated after protests from RVers, according to a news release by the Escapees RV Club, a Texas-based club with 32,000 members nationally.

"If this legislation passes, it may well set a precedent for the rest of the country, and we could see our freedom to choose where we park permanently revoked!" the club said in an electronic newsletter.

The callers are delivering a simple message: If the Legislature passes this bill, RVers will no longer come to Maine.

"I like Maine. I want to visit there. But I don't want to be told I have to pay to camp," said Jim O'Briant of California, who administers, which tells RVers where they can park for free.
Don't these idiots know that protectionism flat does not work. Like it says: "If the Legislature passes this bill, RVers will no longer come to Maine. So you have not only a measured drop in RVers overall, you have the corresponding loss of business in stores, restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, grocery stores, Wall-Marts, shopping malls, movie theaters, amusement parks, fishing charters, etc. etc. etc... State taxes go down but Maine doesn't stop spending so the local tax base is going to get hit next time they pencil out the state budget. The Mark Twain quote I alluded to is this:
Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
--Mark Twain

A Trek into town

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Heading into Bellingham to see a movie. Very psyched!

From Arab News:

Judge's comments raise women's ire
A Jeddah court judge's approval of husbands slapping their wives on the face if they spend money lavishly on unnecessary things triggered a hue and cry during a seminar on domestic violence here recently.

"If a person gives SR1,200 to his wife and she spends SR900 to purchase an abaya (the black gown) from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment," said Judge Hamad Al-Razine.

The judge made this comment in the presence of Princess Adila bint Abdullah, deputy chairperson of the National Family Safety Program, who attended the seminar on the role of judicial and security institutions in preventing domestic violence.

Al-Razine was explaining the causes of an increase in domestic violence in the country, adding that women were also equally responsible. "But nobody puts even a fraction of blame on them," he said before making the controversial comment.

And this is a Judge. Words.

Fail. Wonder what it must be like living in such a culturally backward society.

And why is the left pandering to these people when a lot of the moral values that the left hold dear are being trounced. Cognitive dissonance...

Let's see now -- you have a nation that has minimal resources except for a large pool of oil. You spend all of the oil money on social programs so your subjects ♥ you but you are not spending anything on infrastructure and promoting the development of other native businesses. All of a sudden, the price of oil falls down to its normal value (bubble anyone?). What do you do. From the BBC NEWS:
Chavez seizes oil service firms
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has sent troops to take over companies that provide services for the oil industry.

"This is a revolutionary offensive," he told workers near Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela's main oil-producing area.

Military vehicles were used as the state oil company seized supply boats and two US-owned gas facilities.

Mr Chavez nationalised Venezuela's main oil assets two years ago. The fresh drive comes as falling oil prices put state finances under pressure.

The move places hundreds of boats, several ports and an estimated 8,000 oil workers under state control.

The state-owned oil company PDVSA has recently clashed with foreign and local service providers over the prices they charge.

The service companies are owed billions of dollars by PDVSA. But the state firm says lower oil prices mean the contractors are being paid too much.

President Chavez has re-invigorated his nationalisation programme since his victory in a February referendum that removed limits on how many times he and others can stand for re-election.

Venezuela has some of the biggest oil reserves in the world and is the largest oil exporter in the Americas.
Fusion faster please... Why is it that the most incompetent and corrupt leaders are always the ones who seek no term limits.


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From The Consumerist comes this story of Barnes and Noble's shelving techniques:
Barnes & Noble Shelves "Diary of Anne Frank," "Guiness Book of World Records" Under Fiction
When reader Lynn asked an employee at the Tyson's Corner Barnes & Noble in McLean, VA why the Diary of Anne Frank and the Guiness Book of World Records were shelved under fiction, he jokingly responded: "Some Albanian probably put it there." Good one, Barnes & Noble!!! Full picture, inside.
And, if I recall correctly, the Maya Angelou (I know why the caged bird sings) book is her Autobiography. Also solidly in the Non-Fiction camp...

England sinks lower and lower

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and lower... From Cranmer:
Queen�s Trinity Cross honour deemed unlawful because it offends non-Christians
Cranmer is weary � although he be but ashes � and bears his burden of suffering Job-like. He is in black dog mode, depressed at the preponderance of corruption in high places, and sick at heart with the systematic eradication of the Christian culture of the United Kingdom.

It is one thing for a television soap opera to insist that crosses be removed from churches; or for street preachers to be arrested for �incitement�; or for ordinary Christians to lose their jobs for daring to articulate their traditional beliefs. But to hear that Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council � one of the most ancient and principal councils of the Sovereign � has decreed one of Her Majesty�s honours to be illegal because of its Christian association beggars belief. It is as of the Council itself is seeking to undermine the Sovereign, for she swore at her Coronation to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law, and swore to govern her people according to their laws and customs.

And those laws and customs are Christian.

So when an honour for service and gallantry which was instituted and established by Her Majesty is criticised by Muslims and Hindus on the grounds that �its Christian name and cross insignia are offensive�, it becomes evident that an unacceptable threshold has been crossed.
And I bet that Rowan Williams (here, here and here) thinks this is a fantastic idea. Multiculturalist twits all of them. In reflection, they are worse then twits -- these people are consciously doing harm all the while thinking that they are in the right and that they are making the world a better place. There is a special place in hell for these sociopaths...

That's it for the evening

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Working on learning phpBB 3.0.4 -- setting up a community website. Had one up earlier using Simple Machines but had some problems with people posting spam so I nuked it. phpBB works a lot more like my brain works (what a horrible recommendation -- convoluted, dark and half the information is locked in strange places, far away from prying eyes). Out to the DaveCave(tm) to check email and an early bedtime. Got up really early (for me) this morning -- neither Jen nor I slept well.

Honest Lobbyists in Washington

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Not. From Furious Seasons:
In Senate Probe, NAMI Admits To Over Half Its Budget Being Pharma Dollars
Most of you are aware that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to the National Alliance on Mental Illness last month, asking for the organization, which lobbies Congress, to reveal how much it gets from what pharma companies. NAMI has long been known,a s I've pointed out for three years, to be receiving about 50 percent of its annual budget (around $12 million to $13 million total) from pharma companies, which is kind of interesting for a group that styles itself as "the nation's voice on mental illness." Of course, many of the group's initiatives, nationally and locally, involve getting people to understand that mental illness comes from bad brains and that bad brains require medications made by the companies supporting NAMI. It's the bio-pharma marketing model run amok. (Much past coverage of NAMI here.)

Anyway, NAMI replied to the Senator and its reply was obtained by MindFreedom, a fairly anti-meds group, and posted to its website. In it, Michael Fitzpatrick, NAMI's executive director, states that the group has received on average 56 percent of its annual budget from pharma companies from 2005 to 2009. Fitzpatrick, who defends the group's pharma dough, claims that NAMI's strategic plan is to reduce that percentage dramatically in coming years. He told me the same thing when I met with him in 2005 (back when I was still at a newspaper). Four years later, NAMI is still pulling in many millions from pharma.

In fact, NAMI is now breaking out its pharma contributions each quarter, a practice it apparently began this year. For the first quarter of 2009, NAMI took in $1,249,340 from pharma companies and foundations. You can read the list here, including $25,000 from AstraZeneca for "Exemplary Psychiatrist Awards," presumably to be presented at NAMI's annual convention. In fact, you'll be amazed at how much of that $1.2 million is aimed at NAMI's annual convention--$147,500.
If I was king -- all lobbyists would have to be completely transparent. That and term limits. And a couple other things too... It's good to be a king!

A name you can trust - Elsevier

Not any more. In the field of Scientific Journals, the publisher Elsevier is well known. Here is the page where they list all of the journals they publish -- I didn't count them but it looks like two or maybe three thousand titles. The key thing with a Scientific Journal is that the articles are peer-reviewed. If you come up with something spiffy, you send it into a Journal, they send copies of your paper to five or six people in the same field who make notes on what you are saying and if they agree that you are on the right track, the paper gets published. This is how Scientific Journals have been published for many years. Well, say hello to the Journal: "Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine" From BoingBoing:
Merck and Elsevier publish fake peer-reviewed journal
Pharmaceutical giant Merck paid science publishing juggernaut Elsevier to publish a fake peer-reviewed scientific journal, Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine.
What's wrong with this is so obvious it doesn't have to be argued for. What's sad is that I'm sure many a primary care physician was given literature from Merck that said, "As published in Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, Fosamax outperforms all other medications...." Said doctor, or even the average researcher wouldn't know that the journal is bogus. In fact, knowing that the journal is published by Elsevier gives it credibility!

These kinds of endeavors are not possible without help. One of The Scientist's most notable finds is a Australian rheumatologist named Peter Brooks who served on the "honorary advisory board" of this "journal". His take: "I don't think it's fair to say it was totally a marketing journal", apparently on the grounds that it had excerpts from peer-reviewed papers. However, in his entire time on the board he never received a single paper for peer-review, but because he apparently knew the journal did not receive original submissions of research. This didn't seem to bother him one bit. Such "throwaways" of non-peer reviewed publications and semi-marketing materials are commonplace in medicine. But wouldn't that seem odd for an academic journal? Apparently not. Moreover, Peter Brooks had a pretty lax sense of academic ethics any way: he admitted to having his name put on a "advertorial" for pharma within the last ten years, says The Scientist. An "advertorial"? Again, language unfamiliar to us in the academic publishing world, but apparently quite familiar to the pharmaceutical publishing scene.
The quoted text was from this blog: Well now, it seems there are other "Journals" out there. From today's BoingBoing:
Elsevier has an entire division to publishing fake advertorial "peer-reviewed" journals
Remember the revelation that pharma giant Merck had paid Elsevier to publish a fake peer-reviewed journal that promoted its products? Turns out Elsevier has an entire division devoted to publishing fake journals for money:
Now, several librarians say that they have uncovered an entire imprint of 'advertorial' publications. Excerpta Medica, a 'strategic medical communications agency,' is an Elsevier division. Along with the now infamous Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, it published a number of other 'journals.' Elsevier CEO Michael Hansen now admits that at least six fake journals were published for pharmaceutical companies."
The first one really hits home with me -- they are touting Fosamax. The hip replacement surgery I needed last year was a result of Avascular Necrosis. I am on a few email lists and the overwhelming cause of this disease is exposure to steroids and to Phosphorus. I had bad skin growing up in Pittsburgh, PA back when the mills were in full operation with no thought to pollution. A few weeks on Prednisone cleared me right up. The connection between Prednisone and AVN was not known at that time. Fossamax is just a form of Phosphorus marketed to women who are candidates for Osteoporosis. It does work for that but it can also cause AVN of the jaw. Phossy Jaw has been known for about 100 years -- odd that Merck would ignore the historical record. Even odder that they would resort to astroturfing a Scientific Journal to advertise it. Elsevier just jumped the shark...
Fun post over at One Div Zero
A Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming Languages
1801 - Joseph Marie Jacquard uses punch cards to instruct a loom to weave "hello, world" into a tapestry. Redditers of the time are not impressed due to the lack of tail call recursion, concurrency, or proper capitalization.

1842 - Ada Lovelace writes the first program. She is hampered in her efforts by the minor inconvenience that she doesn't have any actual computers to run her code. Enterprise architects will later relearn her techniques in order to program in UML.

1936 - Alan Turing invents every programming language that will ever be but is shanghaied by British Intelligence to be 007 before he can patent them.

1936 - Alonzo Church also invents every language that will ever be but does it better. His lambda calculus is ignored because it is insufficiently C-like. This criticism occurs in spite of the fact that C has not yet been invented.

1940s - Various "computers" are "programmed" using direct wiring and switches. Engineers do this in order to avoid the tabs vs spaces debate.

1957 - John Backus and IBM create FORTRAN. There's nothing funny about IBM or FORTRAN. It is a syntax error to write FORTRAN while not wearing a blue tie.
Spot on - the rest of them are just as good. He doesn't post that often and he is more into the hardcore programing than I am but check out his archives for some interesting writing.
Whomever at the CIA is releasing this stuff - Thank You! From the Washington Post:
Top Pelosi Aide Learned Of Waterboarding in 2003
A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended a CIA briefing in early 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were being used in the interrogation of an alleged al-Qaeda operative, according to documents the CIA released to Congress on Thursday.

Pelosi has insisted that she was not directly briefed by Bush administration officials that the practice was being actively employed. But Michael Sheehy, a top Pelosi aide, was present for a classified briefing that included Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee, at which agency officials discussed the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida.

A Democratic source acknowledged yesterday that it is almost certain that Pelosi would have learned about the use of waterboarding from Sheehy. Pelosi herself acknowledged in a December 2007 statement that she was aware that Harman had learned of the waterboarding and had objected in a letter to the CIA's top counsel.
The article goes on in some detail to quote Pelosi on various dates and her quotes are all over the map. She is lying through her teeth and I hope that her constituents remember this when she is up for re-election.


Great cartoon:

I bought a bird feeder.
I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed..
What a beauty of a bird feeder it was, as I filled it lovingly with seed.
Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage
of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.
But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio,
above the table, and next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop.
It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table .. everywhere!
Then some of the birds turned mean.
They would dive bomb me and try to peck me
even though I had fed them out of my own pocket.
And others birds were boisterous and loud.
They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed
at all hours of the day and night and demanded
that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore.
So I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone.
I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio.
Soon, the back yard was like it used to be .... quiet, serene....
and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

Now let's see. Our government gives out free food,
subsidized housing, free medical care and free education,
and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen.
Then the illegal's came by the tens of thousands.

Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services;
small apartments are housing 5 families;
you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor;
your child's second grade class is behind other schools
because over half the class doesn't speak English.
Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box;
I have to 'press one ' to hear my bank talk to me in English,
and people waving flags other than 'Old Glory'
are squawking and screaming in the streets,
demanding more rights and free liberties..

Just my opinion, but maybe it's time for the government
to take down the bird feeder.
If you agree, pass it on; if not, continue cleaning up the poop

A lot of truth there...

Some people from the University of Washington have spun off a company called Helion and are looking to market an over-unity fusion reactor. They already have a working 1/3 (not over-unity) scale model. More info here and a PDF presentation is downloadable here. When one is presenting an image, it is often customary to include a human figure to give a sense of scale. Helion does this too. I like their choice of figure:
Doing desktop fusion is not an unusual thing -- the technology was invented by Philo T. Farnsworth (who also invented the television) back in the early 1960's. These are not plasma globes or anything like that -- they kick out a large volume of neutrons so atomic fusion is happening within a very small space. Hospitals use them to make isotopes. Even 17-year-old Thiago Olson built one. The problem is that they take a lot more energy to run than they give off. The cool thing is that they seem to scale up so getting a fusor large enough should mean the end of energy worries and the beginning of some major worries for our "friends" in the Middle East and Venezuela. The other key player is EMC2 which is getting some funding from the US Navy.
Wonderful observation over at Neptunus Lex:
Taking on the Speaker
CIA is refusing to back down in face of Speaker Pelosi's carefully worded denials that she had been fully briefed on expanded interrogation techniques that some have chosen to label torture - an emotionally loaded but practically ambiguous term that apparently no longer means what it used to:

Intelligence officials released documents this evening saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress ever briefed on the interrogation tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The memo, issued by the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to Capitol Hill, notes the Pelosi-Goss briefing covered EITs including the use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah. -- EIT is an acronym for enhanced interrogation technique. Zubaydah was one of the earliest valuable al-Qaeda members captured and the first to have the controversial tactic known as water boarding used against him.
The interesting thing for me here is not that a politician might choose to dissemble over an embarrassing revelation, but that an arm of the federal bureaucracy would so deliberately impeach one of the most powerful (and vindictive) members of the political branch. CIA could have chosen to let sleeping dogs lie and give Pelosi a pass, but instead the spooks chose to publicly confront her with inconvenient facts.

There are any number of ways for a Speaker of the House to make things uncomfortable for an adversary that depends upon the disbursal of public funds and who can arrogate to herself (or her proxies) broad and penetrating oversight responsibilities. Either they've got more on her than they're showing and this is a shot across the bow, or else they've taken the measure of her juice and they're just not that impressed.
And in the comments section, Lex observes the following (regarding the CIA acting against other politicians in the past:
Yeah, but that's usually done behind the scenes, unattributed leaks and so on.

They're taking her on in public.
Heh. Gonna make a bowl of popcorn and watch this little train wreck evolve...

Obama as a hustler

Wonderful rant at Velociworld:
The Confidence Man
As I continue to take the measure of our president I've become convinced that he is nothing more than the ultimate manifestation of the gaffler, the swindler. He is the urbane confidence man, exploiting both our weaknesses and our virtues. His immeasurable genius is in his ability to employ the tactics of the carnival barker to hustle us, yet leave us feeling somehow noble afterwards (videlicet Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

The tactics are classic:

1) The false sense of urgency: they don't call them hustlers for nothing. Everything with President O'Bunko had to be done yesterday! Crises impel us to act rashly, lest we miss out on a supposedly fleeting window of opportunity. One doesn't really have to have their weight guessed that very moment at the Coastal Empire Fair, but one is often impelled by the exhortation to act Now!Now!Now! Just as we were told the stimulus bill had to be passed immediately. The economy was melting before our eyes, like an ice cream cone in the sun.

Why, they didn't even have time to read it first. That urgent.

2) Misdirection: Just as the carny misdirects your attention in the shell game, so President O'Flimflam misdirects us with assaults upon Rush Limbaugh, or AIG employees, or "speculators", or whatever other daemon he can summon, in case our attentions are drawn to his disastrous economic policies. Staff support is key here.

3) The "inside man": The next level up from the shell game is three-card monte, wherein the grifter uses an inside man to "conspire" with the mark to take the game. This is misdirection taken to a new level. The inside man boosts the confidence of the mark, and convinces the mark he can win. Psychic hucksters and televangelists are reknowned masters of the inside man. President O'Barker is very fortunate in this area, as he has an entire media-industrial complex proactively fomenting false issues in order to misdirect the public. They also pen slippery tributes intended to instill in us, the marks, confidence in the Grifter-In-Chief.

The true measure of a confidence artist is his ability to play upon our greed if we are so inclined, or our virtue if we are not. Hence the greedy amongst us are warned to take the deal now. Before the others. The pie is only so big. The TARP recipients are the greedy marks here. Of course, it's like any deal with the devil. Trying to renege is blasphemy. And verboten. Nein!
One of the better writers out there -- doesn't post very often but when he does, it deserves a slow savoring.

Frank Zappa on music file sharing

In 1983! From Techdirt:

Did Frank Zappa Come Up With A Business Plan For File Sharing In 1983?
Reader SunKing sends in this little tidbit that I'd not seen before (perhaps some of you have). It comes from The Real Frank Zappa Book and discusses his response to "the home taping movement" and the attempt to get everyone to rebuy their old albums on CD by proposing a system where you could subscribe to whatever genre of music you wanted and get it delivered in batches. He first talks about how ridiculous it is to focus just on selling discs of music:
Then he talks about how to "embrace" home taping:
It is our proposal to take advantage of the POSITIVE ASPECTS of a NEGATIVE TREND afflicting the record industry today: HOME TAPING via cassette of material released on vinyl.... First of all, we must realize that the taping of albums is not motivated by 'stinginess' alone .... People today enjoy music more than ever before, and, they like to take it with them wherever they go. THEY CAN HEAR THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AUDIO AND BAD AUDIO . . . THEY CARE ABOUT THAT DIFFERENCE, AND THEY ARE WILLING TO GO TO SOME TROUBLE AND EXPENSE TO HAVE HIGH QUALITY 'PORTABLE AUDIO' TO USE AS 'WALLPAPER FOR THEIR LIFESTYLE'.

We propose to acquire the rights to digitally duplicate and store THE BEST of every record company's difficult-to-move Quality Catalog Items [Q.C.I.], store them in a central processing location, and have them accessible by phone or cable TV, directly patchable into the user's home taping appliances, with the option of direct digital-to-digital transfer to F-1 (SONY consumer level digital tape encoder), Beta Hi-Fi, or ordinary analog cassette (requiring the installation of a rentable D-A converter in the phone itself . . . the main chip is about $12).

All accounting for royalty payments, billing to the customer, etc. would be automatic, built into the initial software for the system.

The consumer has the option of subscribing to one or more Interest Categories, charged at a monthly rate, without regard for the quantity of music he or she decides to tape.

To think of how different the music business would be if people had adopted these ideas. A rare genius gone way to early.

Caught with her knickers down. From ABC News:
Intelligence Report: Pelosi Briefed on Use of Interrogation Tactics in Sept. �02
ABC News� Rick Klein reports: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the use of �enhanced interrogation techniques� on terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah in September 2002, according to a report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence�s office and obtained by ABC News.

The report, submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee and other Capitol Hill officials Wednesday, appears to contradict Pelosi�s statement last month that she was never told about the use of waterboarding or other special interrogation tactics. Instead, she has said, she was told only that the Bush administration had legal opinions that would have supported the use of such techniques.

The report details a Sept. 4, 2002 meeting between intelligence officials and Pelosi, then-House intelligence committee chairman Porter Goss, and two aides. At the time, Pelosi was the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

The meeting is described as a �Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of particular EITs that had been employed.�

EITs stand for �enhanced interrogation techniques,� a classification of special interrogation tactics that includes waterboarding.

Pelosi, D-Calif., sharply disputed suggestions last month that she had been told about waterboarding having taken place.
She was the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. She sat down for meetings with key intelligence officials. Everyone else said that waterboarding was discussed. Why is she trying to lie her way out of this... I have to say this though, she makes an eloquent case for term limits...

Redneck Trailer Hitch

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From an email list:
Class lll Hitch Install
Wouldn't you love to see how the trip went, reckon he ended up doin' some off roadin' somewhere...


She's hitched up and ready to roll!!
Amazin' how the extra weight smoothes out the ride.
Needed to air up the rear tires a bit ('bout 160 psi).


Added some heavy-duty chain for extra support on the tailgate,
(note the 'Heavy-Duty 'S' hooks to attach the chain)
Also paid-up for some BIG 5/16 sheet metal screws to attach the frame to the tailgate.
Yep, probably overkill, but didn't want the possibility of having an axerdent.


Most of the time was spent on the front porch whittling down that MASSIVE 4x4 to fit precisely into the ball mount receiver.
Note: The 14'x14' piece of 3/8' plywood on the underside of the tailgate
to distribute the load more evenly.
B'gosh it costs a little more, but jeez, you just can't be too safe.

The NYT acquired the International Herald Tribune and proceeded to do the following.

From Thomas Crampton's blog:

Reporter to NY Times Publisher: You Erased My Career
Dear Mr. Sulzberger,

Hell hath no fury like a reporter deleted.

I have a major personal and professional gripe against The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

For more than a decade, as you know, I enjoyed a wonderful and globe-trotting career at both newspapers. I would recommend anyone to work for these publications. You were a great employer, I had great colleagues and both publications are great to read.

That said, your normally web-savvy team just made one of the most boneheaded moves done by a major news website since the dawn of the Internet.

When you merged the IHT and NY Times websites about one month ago I saw real logic and had high hopes. The NY Times has been leading innovation in online journalism for quite some time, while was run on a shoestring budget out of Paris, by a feverishly overworked team.

Despite their small budget and small team, however, the IHT website managed to build an online global media powerhouse often outranking the NY Times website on international stories in Google News.

The IHT website earned an ever-increasing pagerank due to all of the blogs and sites linking to stories there. (Based on the number of Internet pages linking back to a site, pagerank starts at 1 and rises to 10. A page with a Google rank of 5 will show up higher than a page with a Google rank of 3 and the grew to match at a Google rank of 9. You can check pagerank of any site here.)

So, what did the NY Times do to merge these sites?

They killed the IHT and erased the archives.

1- Every one of the links ever made to IHT stories now points back to the generic NY Times global front page.

2- Even when I go to the NY Times global page, I cannot find my articles. In other words, my entire journalistic career at the IHT - from war zones to SARS wards - has been erased.

Boneheaded is treating it lightly. The NYT erased a world-class library. They could have kept it online and served advertising on those pages and made a decent revenue stream but no, it wasn't relevant to the web designers so off to the bit bucket. Somehow I am not surprised by this... Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

Foolproof scheme - bicycles

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Meet bigger fool - from the Bellingham Herald:
Craigslist ad leads Bellingham police to alleged bike thieves
Two Bellingham men were arrested Thursday, May 7, after police discovered the pair had been stealing bicycles and selling them on Craigslist.

The investigation began when a woman, whose mountain bike had been stolen, told Bellingham Police she thought she saw the bicycle for sale on Craigslist, said Mark Young, police spokesman. An officer went to the Web site, tracked down the listing and saw the bike being offered for $1,500. The ad included a picture that matched the description of the woman�s bicycle, Young said.

The police officer called the phone number provided in the listing and set up a time with the seller to buy the bike.

The officer drove an unmarked patrol car to a local shopping center where he met Jeremy Randall Schuitema, 22, who came to the meeting riding the bike, Young said. The officer checked the serial number, which matched that of the woman�s missing mountain bike.

Schuitema was arrested. Further investigation led police to take David Jordan McDonough, 19, into custody as well, Young said. The pair eventually led police to their apartment where five other stolen bikes were found. All of the bikes were impounded as evidence.
What kind of idiots would think that they would not get caught.

Spam Fail


Been getting a lot of the new kind of spam recently -- someone will hijack an online forum, post a PPC (mostly pills these days) and then other bots will link to it.

Talk about a dead-on easy signature to recognize! FOOLS!

So far, I have been having about ten attempts each evening and none of them have been successful. Last night, seven were nixed and four were put into moderation. Four mouse clicks later and four more will be permanently nixed.

And yes, their IP addresses get automatically added to the ban list so moderating them will never be an issue again...

These idiots think that they are clever with new spam techniques. You need to realize that they are not dealing with a ninja programmer. I am barely able to program my way out of a paper bag -- my fu is hardware.

Still, I am able to beat their ass to the ground and steal their lunch money with about 120 lines of PERL and some regex. Repeat along with me:


Happy Birthday Edwin

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Edwin Land would be 100 years old today. Who he? Invented the Polaroid Camera and Instant Photography. Hat tip to The Online Photographer

Alternative Energy in the 1870's

Fascinating website tracing the history of wave and tide powered power plants built in San Francisco and Santa Cruz:

A Brief History of Wave and Tidal Energy Experiments in San Francisco and Santa Cruz
In 2003 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution allowing for a tidal energy pilot project in the bay. The project, sponsored by Board President Matt Gonzalez gained little attention until a few months later when he jumped into the mayoral race at the last minute. Tidal energy was included in his platform and appeared on his campaign literature. As a result, the project was discussed in mayoral debates and articles written about Gonzalez included tidal energy. The project gained praise from some and ridicule from others.

And while this was happening, San Franciscans were for the first time in over a hundred years entertaining electricity from the ocean as a legitimate solution to some of their power problems.

In California the idea of power from the ocean has been pursued since the 1870's. Experiments have taken place as far south as Imperial Beach near the Mexico border and as far north as Trinidad, in Humboldt County. The two biggest successes were built in the 1890's in San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

Although there have been many failures, the perseverance of these early Californians sheds light on their ingenuity to make use of their landscape and resources. Their efforts were chronicled by their local newspapers and many of these anonymous newspaper reporters did an excellent job of reporting on the drama and aspirations that surrounded many of these machines.

Seen over time, what begins as a dream and run of unsuccessful pursuits appears to look more like the steady progression of an evolving knowledge and improved technology.

Four pages of wonderful stories and pictures with a lot of notes and reference materials. A great read. Here is one scheme:

From the Springfield, Il State Journal-Register:
In My View: Climate emergency is overstated
Al Gore should be ashamed that he equated cap-and-trade legislation with civil rights legislation. Civil rights legislation was used to give equal rights to those who had been oppressed and abused and to allow them economic freedom and democracy. Cap and trade will take away rights and punish everyone economically.

Here are some questions the media and the congressmen should ask Gore, but probably won�t:
Why won�t you debate scientists who believe that humans do not cause global warming? How was the Earth much warmer millions of years ago, 1,000 years ago, 700 years ago, etc. before the use of fossil fuels? How come the warmest decade in the United States is the 1930s during the Great Depression if rising CO2 and human activity cause warming?

Did the New York Times, other media and the scientists report in the 1920s that the ice caps were melting? Did the media and scientists report and predict in the 1970s that there was an ice age coming? If they were so wrong then why should we believe them now?

Did the computer models you use predict the current 10-year cooling period? If you can�t predict temperatures, storm activity and other factors six months out, why should we trust your 100-year predictions?

Hasn�t plant life thrived because of rising CO2? Isn�t the reason rain forests have been destroyed because humans tore them down to produce biofuels because of the environmentalists? Temperatures and CO2 have had nothing to do with the destruction of rain forests, have they? Haven�t the Earth and people thrived the last 140 years because of fossil fuels? Hasn�t the quality of life and length of life improved?

Cap and trade has proven in Europe to be a scam and has not reduced pollution so why do you want it here? You and Bill Clinton were in office for eight years and you did not push cap-and-trade legislation. Why? Didn�t Congress essentially vote down Kyoto in 1998 by 98-1?

What has changed since 1998 to say we are in a dire emergency other than the United States has cooled and hurricane activity the last few years has been lower than the previous 40? Isn�t the air cleaner and the water safer than any time in recent history? Did a judge in England show that your book was factually incorrect on many items? Why haven�t you corrected the record? If you truly believe that human activity and fossil fuels are destroying the Earth, why do you have four large houses, fly in private jets and drive SUVs? Doesn�t it actually show that you are disingenuous at best and the main purpose of your propaganda is to make yourself and others rich?
Inconvenient Truths indeed...

ACORN in the news

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Great interview by Glen Beck of an ACORN National Spokesman Scott Levenson:
Hat tip to Gateway Pundit for the link. A much tamer interview with this toad was done last October by Greta van Susteren Here is Greta's introduction:
ACORN Responds to Palin Attack and More
ACORN's is under fire, but tonight ACORN's national spokesperson is here to respond.

Now the group works to register low income voters and is under investigation for voter fraud in at least 13 states. But what exactly is ACORN's relationship with Senator Obama?

Governor Palin says this in an e-mail to supporters, "ACORN's political action committee has endorsed Barack Obama, and Senator Obama himself said 'I have been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career.' The Obama campaign even paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN affiliate for get out the vote activity.

And now we find out that ACORN is suspected of voter registration fraud. But the Obama-Biden Democrats would rather sweep these facts under the rug and use their mainstream media allies to bury this story.

But we can't let that happen. We can't allow leftist groups like ACORN to steal this election."
And of course they are still being prosecuted for voter fraud with pending cases in Nevada and Pennsylvania. Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) is in their back pocket with this story at The Spectator:
Conyers Kills ACORN Probe
It would have been hard Monday for Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) not to understand how Bill Ayers felt the day the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. Unforgiving history records that on Sept. 11, 2001, the retired domestic terrorist's "I don't regret setting bombs" comment ran in a New York Times profile.

While obviously of a much lesser magnitude, the House Judiciary Committee chairman's May 4 statement exonerating ACORN couldn't have come out at a worse time. "Based on my review of the information regarding the complaints against ACORN, I have concluded that a hearing on this matter appears unwarranted at this time," Conyers said in a statement aired that night on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight."

Just hours earlier his fellow Democrats in Nevada, Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto dropped a bombshell. ACORN and two former senior ACORN employees in the state, they announced, had been charged with a total of 39 felony counts related to voter registrations.

"By structuring employment and compensation around a quota system, ACORN facilitated voter registration fraud in this state," said Masto. "Nevada will not tolerate violations of the law by individuals nor will it allow corporations to hide behind or place blame on their employees when its training manuals clearly detail, condone and, indeed, require, illegal acts in performing the job for the corporation."
And finally, Barney Frank has his pudgy little fingers in that pie as well. From The Hill:
Frank and Bachmann do battle over key ACORN amendment
Two partisan heavyweights did battle Thursday over an amendment prized by conservatives, as House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) withdrew backing for a bill that would have toughened regulations for community organizing groups.

Frank withdrew his support from an amendment offered by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) that would forbid groups like the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) from receiving federal grants if any of their employees have been indicted for voter fraud.
And these are the people that represent us in Washington. ACORN is a corrupt vote-generating machine for the Democratic party. If the Republicans tried this shit, the outcry would be screeching and immediate. 2010 is coming -- time for a clean sweep...
Someone should have checked the track record of Summit Structures LLC from Allentown, PA a bit more closely. From the National Football League website:
Builder of collapsed Cowboys facility had past issues, court records show
Court records show the company that built the collapsed Dallas Cowboys training facility also manufactured at least three other buildings that have fallen in heavy weather since 2002.

The other tentlike facilities manufactured by Allentown, Pa.-based Summit Structures LLC or its related company, Cover-All Building Systems, were warehouse-type buildings in Philadelphia and upstate New York and an indoor arena for horse competition in Oregon. All the buildings fell in weather conditions that included heavy snow, according to records and interviews.

A Summit spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call or e-mail seeking comment Wednesday.

The collapse of the Cowboys' facility in heavy winds Saturday left 12 people injured, including a 33-year-old scouting assistant who is paralyzed from the waist down. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the incident.

Scouting assistant Rich Behm, whose spine was severed in the accident, remains at Parkland Hospital, along with special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who had surgery to repair vertebrae in his neck. Assistant athletic trainer Greg Gaither, who suffered a broken leg, was released Wednesday from Baylor University Medical Center, the team said.

Beth Hungiville, executive director of the Lightweight Structures Association, said four of the membrane-style buildings collapsing in seven years is far from normal.

"That is certainly very unusual," she said. "You would not usually find that many failures in that short a time."
That is going to be a nasty lawsuit... The engineering is pretty simple for structures like this -- being supported by air pressure makes structural calculations a lot easier. I guess it is a lot cheaper to use thinner materials but not so much in the long run.
From the E3 Gazette:
Obama, Unions, Card-Check and Dept. of Labor Cuts
A little dot-connecting math...

The sum of this...

Obama Slashes Union Enforcement
"President Obama today unveiled a paltry $17 billion in cuts to the $3.4 trillion federal budget, about half of which will come out of defense spending.

But buried in the budget documents released by the White House today is a 9 percent cut in the unit of the Department of Labor that is in charge of regulating unions."

"Under the leadership of Elaine Chao during the Bush administration, the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards took its job of policing unions seriously. Its actions led to 929 convictions of corrupt union officials and to the recovery of more than $93 million on behalf of union members. Yet the Obama administration has proposed slashing its budget from $45 million in 2009 to $41 million in 2010, citing an insufficient "workload" for the office."
... PLUS -

HR 1409 - Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 - to abolish secret-ballot in union-adoption,
"Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 - Amends the National Labor Relations Act to require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of the bargaining unit employees have authorized designation of the representative (card-check) (Unions get to see the names of those voting for&against, in the name of 'fairness' - MD.) and there is no other individual or labor organization currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit."

Come on everyone, stay with me:

* Giving Unions the names of those employees voting "Nay" to installing the Union...

Combined with

* Stealth budget-cuts to the unit that investigates corrupt Union practices...

...Anyone? Anyone?.... Bueller?
2010 is not that far away...

One more post for tonight

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A great explanation of the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff and its contribution to the 1929-1940 depression. The 1919 depression started off worse (lower employment and GDP) but because the government didn't try to micro-manage things, commerce corrected itself and it was over in about a year. Roosevelt's efforts are said to have prolonged the later depression by up to ten years.
Hat tip to Maggie's Farm
Life can be rough at times. This evening, one of our alcohol distributors hosted a spring beer tasting event at a local casino. There were about 20 different breweries represented -- from Budweiser to some of the very esoteric and interesting craft breweries. Each brewer brought a sampling of their wares and we had to taste them. Like I said, life can be rough at times. Oh yeah, the casino's catering department put on a huge spread of meats, cheeses and fruit for us to nibble on.

Still feeling the effects so I am calling it quits for this evening. Head out to the DaveCave(tm) to check email and then off to bed...
Either an inside job or an unfortunately good job of hacking. From WikiLeaks comes this story of the purloined database:
Over 8M Virginian patient records held to ransom, 30 Apr 2009
May 3, 2009

On Thursday, April 30, the secure site for the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) was replaced with a $US10M ransom demand:
"I have your shit! In *my* possession, right now, are 8,257,378 patient records and a total of 35,548,087 prescriptions. Also, I made an encrypted backup and deleted the original. Unfortunately for Virginia, their backups seem to have gone missing, too. Uhoh :( For $10 million, I will gladly send along the password."
The site, appears to have been entirely disabled and is presently unavailable. The PMP is used by pharmacists and others to discover prescription drug abuse.

The PMP declined to comment, although when contacted, appeared to be aware of the issue, instantly referring inquiries to the director of the DHP, who is presently unavailable.
Click on the text of the ransom note to see the full version. Odd that there would be no off-site backup. That is standard with any critical data. I would look for recently dismissed IT staff...

Portugal and its Drug problem

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Drug problem? Not so much these days. A fascinating article at Time Magazine:
Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?
Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It's not the Netherlands.)

Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze�filled "coffee shops," Holland has never actually legalized cannabis � the Dutch simply don't enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment � so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to "drug tourists" and exacerbate Portugal's drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.
The majority of the crime in the USA, the violence in Mexico, the staggering health costs of treating addicts. All of these would fade away if we decriminalized drugs. It really makes you wonder who is being paid off to keep them illegal.

Help save Wardenclyffe

A good article in the New York Times about Nikola Tesla's only surviving lab and the company that wants to sell it for $1.6M and deliver it to a buyer: be delivered fully cleared and level. The lab on the site was designed by noted Architect Stanford White and is a gorgeous building. Efforts are being made to turn it into an historical site with a museum of Tesla's work.

A Battle to Preserve a Visionary's Bold Failure
In 1901, Nikola Tesla began work on a global system of giant towers meant to relay through the air not only news, stock reports and even pictures but also, unbeknown to investors such as J. Pierpont Morgan, free electricity for one and all.

It was the inventor's biggest project, and his most audacious.

The first tower rose on rural Long Island and, by 1903, stood more than 18 stories tall. One midsummer night, it emitted a dull rumble and proceeded to hurl bolts of electricity into the sky. The blinding flashes, The New York Sun reported, "seemed to shoot off into the darkness on some mysterious errand."

But the system failed for want of money, and at least partly for scientific viability. Tesla never finished his prototype tower and was forced to abandon its adjoining laboratory.

Today, a fight is looming over the ghostly remains of that site, called Wardenclyffe - what Tesla authorities call the only surviving workplace of the eccentric genius who dreamed countless big dreams while pioneering wireless communication and alternating current. The disagreement began recently after the property went up for sale in Shoreham, N.Y.

A science group on Long Island wants to turn the 16-acre site into a Tesla museum and education center, and hopes to get the land donated to that end. But the owner, the Agfa Corporation, says it must sell the property to raise money in hard economic times. The company's real estate broker says the land, listed at $1.6 million, can "be delivered fully cleared and level," a statement that has thrown the preservationists into action.

It would be a tragic loss if this place was leveled. Tesla's inventions include the fluorescent light, the system of power generation and distribution used worldwide to this day (even his choice of 60Hz and 110/220 remains the standard in North America). He displayed a working radio controlled boat three years before Marconi sent his three dots across the Atlantic. He also invented the alternating current synchronous motor and the three phase motor. The guy was a genius but he was also very flamboyant and quite neurotic so history has not treated him very kindly. The fact that he has been adopted as the poster child for every crackpot conspiracy theorist and UFO-logist out there doesn't help either.

Cheap and easy 3D photography

A couple clever techniques and some free software to make your own 3D photographs.

Check it out at Neil Creek Photography - How to take 3D photos

A nice post-mortem on Circuit City

Joel Spolsky writes excellent software and also writes excellent essays on the computer world and business in general. His blog: Joel on Software is not to be missed. Here is his take on the Circuit City meltdown:
Why Circuit City Failed, and Why B&H Thrives
Many companies that have gone bust didn't die because of the recession. They failed for one reason: They treated customers poorly

When Circuit City went kaput in January, I didn't waste my time on the chain's so-called going-out-of-business sale. First of all, Circuit City never had anything good in stock, even before it decided to go out of business. A year ago, I looked at the retailer's entire selection of laptops, and all I found were these huge, ugly, shiny things festooned with garish stickers announcing that they had "Intel Inside" and were "Vista Adequate" and "Y2K Ready." Also, I had read on the Consumer Reports website that Circuit City's liquidator had actually raised the price on many items for the going-out-of-business "sale."

Truth be told, I don't think I ever bought anything from Circuit City anyway. On weekends, I would occasionally wander into the local branch, attracted like a moth to the bright wall of plasma TVs. When I actually needed a new TV, however, I found the Circuit City salesperson to be so aggressively unknowledgeable and remarkably useless that I fled to Best Buy, where I was helped by a cheerful, 20-year-old twerp who knew everything. I later learned that in 2007, Circuit City had fired the chain's 3,400 most experienced salespeople and replaced them with generic, untrained, near-minimum-wage workers.

So it was no surprise to me that Circuit City failed. The chain's CEO, in an e-mail, blamed the demise on "poor macroeconomic conditions" -- an assertion that was repeated by The Associated Press, which cited "the expanding financial crisis" for the liquidation.

You know what? I don't buy the argument that the economy caused Circuit City's failure. Take one look at its competitors, and you know that the market for consumer electronics and computer equipment remains strong, even in this economy. You can walk into any Apple Store and see large crowds of people lining up to buy computers and iPods. But enough has been said about how wonderful Apple is. I want to tell you about another first-class consumer electronics retailer -- a much smaller business you probably haven't been to, unless you live in New York City or are a professional photographer or an avid hobbyist. It's called B&H.

B&H opened in 1973, and it's an amazing place. If you are in Manhattan, you should visit the store, on Ninth Avenue at 34th Street. The first thing you will notice? The place is humming. Originally a camera store, B&H has grown to carry more than 250,000 items, including all kinds of pro audio, pro video, and computer gear. The company is closely held and somewhat press shy, so it's hard to know how successful it is. "Our business remains strong, particularly considering the overall economic climate," a spokesperson says. I suspect that's an understatement. The store is always packed with customers, browsing through hundreds of varieties of camera bags with every possible combination of lens compartments; the room full of telescopes; and, of course, enough lenses to burn all the ants in the Sahara to a crisp. The electronic superstores in Tokyo's Akihabara district are the only other places where I have seen so much gear under one roof.
I have never had the pleasure of visiting B&H but have dealt with them online many times and every single transaction was flawless. There is a business in Bellingham called Hardware Sales that operates on the same pattern. The place has been around since 1962(they started out selling logging and mining supplies and dynamite) and have morphed into a general hardware, tool rental, office furniture and high-end home decorating supply (kitchen and bath cabinets and lighting primarily). The owner, Alta McClellan is 93 and still comes into work each day (except for her vacation when she spends a week in Vegas). Joel also touches on one of the wonderful quirky aspects to B&H and closes with these two wonderful paragraphs:
But wait: The conveyer belts, the prices, the smart salespeople, the fact that they recommend cheaper products almost as a rule -- none of these is actually the most amazing thing about B&H. Really, the most amazing thing is that because the owners of B&H are Orthodox Jews -- Hasidim, in fact -- the store closes every Friday afternoon for the Jewish Sabbath, and on Jewish holidays. Moreover, B&H's website, which reportedly accounts for 70 percent of sales, shuts down, too. is, to my knowledge, the only major online retailer that closes for 25 hours every weekend.

Even as competitors like Circuit City go bust, B&H remains packed with loyal customers. And that makes me very happy. For a business owner, there's nothing more satisfying than watching honest dealers expand their operations while the schmucks, with their going-out-of-business markups, go down the drain. It's inspiring to know that starting with the premise of treating your customers well really does pay off.
The standard nickname for B&H is Beard and Hats due to the Hasidic dress. Like I said, wonderful place to shop.
Might make for some interesting times ahead if this pans out. From Jack Kelly at Real Clear Politics:
The CIA's Fight With Obama
Has Barack Obama made an enemy who can sabotage his presidency?

The presidency of George W. Bush began to unravel when some in high positions at the Central Intelligence Agency began waging a covert campaign against him.

It began in the summer of 2003 when officials at the CIA asked the Justice department to open a criminal investigation into who had disclosed to columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, wife of controversial former diplomat Joseph Wilson, worked at the CIA.

The officials knew at the time the Intelligence Identities Protection Act did not apply to Ms. Plame, who'd been out of the field for more than five years.

Another blow was struck with the publication in 2004 of the book "Imperial Hubris" by Michael Scheuer, who'd headed the bin Laden desk during the Clinton administration. It was harshly critical of the Bush administration's conduct of the war on terror in general, and the invasion of Iraq in particular.

Never before had a serving officer been allowed to publish such a book.

The CIA typically slow-rolled and censored books even by retired CIA directors.

"Why did the CIA allow such a controversial book to be published in the first place?" asked attorney Mark Zaid, who specializes in national security law. "There is simply no question that the CIA could have prevented the publication of Scheuer's book if it had wanted to do so. And no court would have sided with him."

Why would some at the CIA want to sabotage President Bush? One motive might have been to deflect blame for intelligence failures. The CIA confidently had predicted Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. But none were found. The tactical intelligence the CIA provided to the U.S. military forces invading Iraq proved nearly worthless. And the CIA was caught flat-footed by the insurgency that developed several months after Saddam's fall.

There may have been a simpler motive. The novelist Charles McCarry was a deep cover CIA operative for ten years. "I never met a stupid person in the agency," he said in a 2004 interview. "Or an assassin. Or a Republican."

The CIA's war against President Bush was motivated by ass covering, or by political partisanship. But with President Obama, it's personal.

Many are furious about his disclosure of explicit details of the interrogation methods used on some al Qaida bigwigs, and his waffling on whether or not those who employed them will be subject to prosecution.

Others are incensed by his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and to let some of those incarcerated there (17 Chinese Uighurs) loose in the United States.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held two hush hush meetings with CIA Director Leon Panetta and Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee last week.

"Her fear and frustration have apparently given way to panic after word reached her of the CIA's reaction to the damage she, President Obama and other Democrats have done to the spy agency in the last three months, wrote Jed Babbin, a former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, in Human Events May 1. "Pelosi learned that her actions and those of President Obama have so damaged CIA morale that the agency's ability to function could be in danger."
Obama may have a well paid off Congress doing his beck and call but there are other bloks in the government that march to their own drummers. Obama would do well to remember this.
Say what you may about Al Gore's devotion to Anthropogenic Global Warming (and the serious money he stands to make from promoting it), the man is seriously intelligent. Errr... Maybe not so. From Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters:
Al Gore Got a D in Natural Sciences at Harvard
Want to know why Nobel Laureate Al Gore likely doesn't want to debate any of the myriad of scientists and politicians that have challenged him to such a t�te-�-t�te regarding his manmade global warming theories?

Could it possibly be because Gore was a terrible science student, and clearly never excelled at anything relating to what folks in Norway and in the media consider him to be so expert at?

The following was reported by the Washington Post on March 18, 2000 -- and conveniently ignored by media ever since Gore began lecturing the world about subjects he practically flunked as a student! -- in an article marvelously titled "Gore's Grades Belie Image of Studiousness" (h/t NBer dscott, and tangentially Greenie Watch):
For all of Gore's later fascination with science and technology, he often struggled academically in those subjects. The political champion of the natural world received that sophomore D in Natural Sciences 6 (Man's Place in Nature) and then got a C-plus in Natural Sciences 118 his senior year.
I have said it before and will say it again. It is not about the environment, it is about power and control.

Yummie - the food we eat

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A rather unnerving article from Chow on the quality of our food and what the government allows as contaminants:
Fresh, Hot Cup of Cockroaches
Listeners nationwide spat out a mouthful of coffee this morning when NPR�s Fresh Air featured an entomologist who informed us that preground coffee is full of cockroaches.

It seems Douglas Emlen, a biology professor at the University of Montana, was doing a research trip with an older entomologist who was obsessed with good coffee, and who kept making deviations from the trip route to get it. In the pre-Starbucks �80s, Emlen says, it was hard to find whole coffee beans, and the entomologist would sometimes go 45 minutes out of his way to find it. Why? As the entomologist finally explained, he had to drink only freshly ground coffee, because he had a serious allergy to cockroach.

�Preground�you know, your big bulk coffee that you buy in a tin�is all processed from these huge stockpiles of coffee � that get infested with cockroaches,� says Emlen. �And there�s really nothing they can do to filter that out. So it all gets ground up in the coffee.�

Of course, we all sorta knew this. Who hasn�t seen the lists of percentages of insect parts allowed by the FDA? And who hasn�t then willfully forgotten it because he wants to go on eating hot dogs?
The USDA The Food Defect Action Levels makes you want to swear off Ground Paprika, Hops and Unground Thyme. It's just a bit more protein I guess but still...

The Star Trek Failure Generator

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Kepitan, there are errors in the polarized subspace pulse-wave! Adjust the boridium warp core polarity with aluminum transwarp factor Mr. Chekov Many many more here: The Star Trek Failure Generator Hit refresh or the link for a new one.

Political self-preservation

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From the Seattle Times:
Gregoire signs bill to restore voting rights for some felons
Starting this summer, felons will be able to reregister to vote once they're no longer on parole or probation.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill Monday that eases the restoration of voting rights for felons who are no longer in state custody but owe court-ordered fines and restitution. It takes effect July 26.

The old law said felons couldn't vote until they'd completed their entire sentence, including paying all restitution and other court fees.

The new law removes the requirement that felons pay off all those debts before their rights are restored. However, their voting rights could be revoked if a felon willingly fails to make regular payments on those financial obligations.

Rep. Jeannie Darneille, the Tacoma Democrat who sponsored the measure, said the new law will "help someone who's been an ex-offender to reintegrate fully into society."
Spike Nelson posted a comment that absolutly nailed the issue:
Dirt-bags tend to be democrats because they love handouts and not having to be held accountable. So, if you're Gregoire it only makes sense to create some new voters, so-what if they haven't fulfilled their obligations. It's nothing more than vote prostitution. REMEMBER! Gregoire's agenda is the most important thing; she's the Governor of the left, the green, the corrupt and the pathetic.
Portland Oregon's mayor is going through a rough patch... From The Oregonian:
Witnesses describe crash involving Portland mayor
Mayor Sam Adams was involved in a three-car accident Sunday that resulted in no injuries but left a few questions about the cause.

Adams was driving his GMC pickup about 6:15 p.m. at 1457 North Hayden Island Drive, near the parking lot of Car Toys at Jantzen Beach.

Ryan Reed said he was turning his 2002 WRX Subaru wagon right from North Hayden Island Drive into the Car Toys parking lot when Adams' pickup, which was behind his car, "T-boned" his vehicle, striking the passenger side.

Reed, an employee of the Tigard Car Toys store, said the impact pushed his vehicle over a curb, through shrubs, into another vehicle and 50 to 70 feet through the Car Toys parking lot. Reed estimated that Adams was truck was going 25 to 30 mph when it struck his car.

Car Toys employee Randy Schweitz, 22, said he was helping a customer outside when he heard a "huge crash." He said he saw the pickup strike the side of the Subaru and push it over hedges and into a parked Honda. "And then the Honda and the Subaru kind of parted, and the mayor's pickup was powering through both of them. He was still on the gas pedal," Schweitz said. "After he broke free of the collision, he kept driving. He kept peeling out, and finally came to a stop about 100 feet away, near the Plaid Pantry lot."

Witness Alex Vaynberg, who also works at the Car Toys store, agreed with the distance. "The pickup kept pushing the cars to the other side of the lot," Vaynberg said.

According to the mayor's office, Adams thought the Subaru was turning left and tried to pass it on the right when it turned right and they crashed.

After the accident, Reed said that Adams asked whether he was OK. Reed said he had some back and neck pain and went to the emergency room just to make sure he was all right.

Schweitz, who had run to check on the victims, told police at the scene and The Oregonian on Monday, that he was two to three feet from Adams and smelled alcohol on the mayor's breath. "It seemed like beer," Schweitz said.
And it's not just today's crash - from station KATU:
Are the mayor's foibles affecting city business?
Troubling words about Portland's mayor are coming from powerful people in Oregon's capitol.

Four state senators, all Democrats and all representing parts of Portland, said they are concerned about the city's absence in Salem and are wondering whether the city is missing out on opportunities.

"I frankly see more of my constituents from Tigard and their city council than I have of Portland," said Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland.

"Any time you have your largest city not with a grand presence, you feel that there is something missing," said Sen. Margaret Carter, D-Portland.

"The incident that occurred and the difficulty he has got himself into has caused him to lose respect among a number of people and lose credibility, clout, power," said Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland.

Monroe was talking about the mayor's romantic relationship with Beau Breedlove in a bathroom at City Hall. Breedlove had been a teenage intern at the legislature and while the Attorney General continues to investigate the Adams scandal, the senators wonder about the mayor's political credibility.
Gaaaa -- nothing says "classy" like boinking your sweetie in a public toilet stall.

Now who are you going to believe

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Some career politicians or some scientists who actually went there and measured it. From the Malta Business Daily:
Ban Ki-Moon appeals for action on climate change
United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, yesterday issued a dramatic call for global action on climate change following yesterday�s conferral ceremony during which he was invested as a Doctor Honoris Causa.
And a bit more:
Scientists were warning that glaciers and polar ice caps were melting far faster than expected just two years ago, he continued. �Worst case scenarios� in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were already being revised.
From MS/NBC:
Huge ice sheets melting faster, expert warns
The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have awakened and are melting faster than expected, a leading expert told peers ahead of a conference of ministers from nations with Arctic territory.
From The Canada Free Press:
North Pole Sea Ice twice as thick as expected
The research aircraft �Polar 5� today concluded its Arctic expedition in Canada. During the flight, researchers measured the current ice thickness at the North Pole and in areas that have never before been surveyed. The result: The sea-ice in the surveyed areas is apparently thicker than scientists had suspected.

Normally, newly formed ice measures some two meters in thickness after two years. �Here, we measured ice thickness up to four meters,� said a spokesperson for Bremerhaven�s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. At present, this result contradicts the warming of the sea water, according to the scientists.
And from the Financial Post:
Thick Arctic ice surprises scientific expedition
Ice in the Arctic is often twice as thick as expected, report surprised scientists who returned last week from a major scientific expedition. The scientists - a 20-member contingent from Canada, the U.S., Germany, and Italy - spent one month exploring the North Pole as well as never-before measured regions of the Arctic. Among their findings: Rather than finding newly formed ice to be two metres thick, "we measured ice thickness up to four metres," stated a spokesperson for the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research of the Helmholtz Association, Germany's largest scientific organization.

The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the six research organizations involved in the month-long expedition, called Pan-Arctic Measurements and Arctic Climate Model Inter Comparison Project. The other five include three from Canada (Environment Canada, University of Alberta, York University) one from the U.S. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and one from Italy (Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate.

The path-breaking project broke new ground by employing the Polar 5, a fixed-wing aircraft, rather than a helicopter with its more limited range. The Polar 5 not only landed in the Arctic ice, it towed a device called EM-Bird on an 80 metre-long rope 20 metres above the ice surface. The EM-Bird conducts electromagnetic (EM) induction sounding for ice thickness measurements.

The thickest ice that the expedition found was at Ellesmere Iceland, where thicknesses often exceeded 15 metres.
Like I said, who are you going to believe... More about the Polar 5 here: Research plane Polar 5 on Arctic campaign
Cool news -- from this article at National Geographic News:
Sun Oddly Quiet -- Hints at Next "Little Ice Age"?
A prolonged lull in solar activity has astrophysicists glued to their telescopes waiting to see what the sun will do next�and how Earth's climate might respond.

The sun is the least active it's been in decades and the dimmest in a hundred years. The lull is causing some scientists to recall the Little Ice Age, an unusual cold spell in Europe and North America, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.

The coldest period of the Little Ice Age, between 1645 and 1715, has been linked to a deep dip in solar storms known as the Maunder Minimum.

During that time, access to Greenland was largely cut off by ice, and canals in Holland routinely froze solid. Glaciers in the Alps engulfed whole villages, and sea ice increased so much that no open water flowed around Iceland in the year 1695.
But of course, the AGW'rs have to weigh in (it's their job/grant monies on the line after all):
"[Global warming] skeptics tend to leap forward," said Mike Lockwood, a solar terrestrial physicist at the University of Southampton in the U.K.

He and other researchers are therefore engaged in what they call "preemptive denial" of a solar minimum leading to global cooling.

Even if the current solar lull is the beginning of a prolonged quiet, the scientists say, the star's effects on climate will pale in contrast with the influence of human-made greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).

"I think you have to bear in mind that the CO2 is a good 50 to 60 percent higher than normal, whereas the decline in solar output is a few hundredths of one percent down," Lockwood said. "I think that helps keep it in perspective."
Dr. Lockwood, I call bullshit on you. The effect of CO2 on the temperature is minimal at best. You all point to positive feedback causing a catastrophic "tipping point" when CO2 reaches a certain level but time after time, it has been shown that this Earth has a very powerful negative climactic feedback mechanism and that there is no "tipping point". Right now, our CO2 is about 350 parts per million. To visualize that, think of a decent size stadium -- one that seats 10,000 people. If those 10,000 people represent our atmosphere, three and one half of those people will represent the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. It has been as high as 6,000ppm with minimal effect to our temperature. Hat to to Anthony for the link.

Do we want to head in this direction?

We are sliding toward greater governmental control of our personal lives. England surpasses us in that department and here is one example of nanny-statism gone too far. From the UK Telegraph:

Shopper asked for proof of age to buy Asda teaspoons
The shop assistant reportedly informed the customer that someone had once been murdered with a teaspoon, and therefore age identification was now required.

That the woman had also bought plates and picnic ware at the Halifax branch in West Yorkshire did not appear to reassure the shop assistant as to her innocent intentions.

The receipt for the bizarre sale was published on the website, a website set up by an internet entrepreneur Ken Frost to "expose and resist the all pervasive nanny state that is corroding the way of life and the freedom of the people of Britain".

The site was subsequently bombarded with comments and suggestions for other items that could cause harm.

One posting read: "Tea towel and a couple of bottle of diet cream soda and you've got all the equipment for waterboarding an Asda manager."

The nannyknowsbest website is in part, one of the funnier things I have read in a while and also deeply chilling -- a foretelling of life in the USA if we don't get off our collective butts...

From the New York Times:
Lost Manuscript Unmasks Details Of Original Ponzi
In the summer of 1920, William H. McMasters, one of Boston�s top publicists, was in a pickle. A new client, a dapper and charming Italian immigrant named Charles Ponzi, was raking in millions on promises to pay investors 50 percent interest in 45 days.

�If he was everything he claimed, I would have a client such as no man ever had in the publicity field,� Mr. McMasters wrote in a newly found and never published memoir. But, he reflected, �if he was crooked or deluded, I must make up my mind to have him stop taking the money from the public.�

As fate would have it, Mr. McMasters decided that Ponzi was indeed a fraud and wrote a newspaper expos� in The Boston Post. The front-page article declaring that Ponzi was insolvent and had used incoming deposits to pay off earlier investors proved instrumental in unmasking him as history�s most infamous swindler � at least until Bernard L. Madoff came along.

Mr. McMasters remained convinced of his service to humanity � �I do not anticipate that another Charles Ponzi will ever appear in the financial world,� he wrote.

Now that bittersweet narrative, so far known only in fragments, has emerged, offering insights into Ponzi�s downfall, the machinations of the press, and one momentous week that rocked the financial world nearly 90 years ago.

The memoir � �The Ponzi Story,� typed on 206 double-spaced pages and completed around 1962, six years before Mr. McMasters died at 94 � is part of a trove of 2,200 books, manuscripts and pamphlets on swindlers and their frauds, hoaxes and confidence games acquired a year ago and recently catalogued by John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

�We bought it before the financial crisis,� said Larry E. Sullivan, the school�s associate dean and chief librarian, calling the collection �oh so timely.� But, he said, �McMasters was the clincher.�
Now that would be an interesting read. Here is the website for the John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Computer Backups

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Very good (and funny) screed on backing up your data from Jamie Zawinski:
Hello, this is a public service announcement. I am here to tell you about backups. It's very simple.

Option 1: Learn not to care about your data. Don't save any old email, use a film camera, and only listen to physical CDs and not MP3s. If you have no posessions, you have nothing to lose.

Option 2 goes like this:
What follows is very good but oriented towards Mac and Linux. I have a couple of machines running Linux. For the laptop and photo/email/music machines I use Acronis. Decent software for the $$$. As for when to restore?
When (WHEN) your backup drive goes bad, which you will notice because your last backup failed, replace it immediately. This is your number one priority. Don't wait until the weekend when you have time, do it now, before you so much as touch your computer again. Do it before goddamned breakfast. The universe tends toward maximum irony. Don't push it.
Maximum Irony indeed... BTDTGTTS (Been There, Done That, Got The Tee Shirt)
Working on a web site and moving some stuff around in the DaveCave(tm) Not much on the intarwebs anyway -- a quiet Monday...

Serious drool factor - TechShop

Check out the newest TechShop in Portland (home page, equipment list)

From the website:

TechShop - A Place To Create, Make and Build
TechShop is a 33,000 square foot membership based workshop that provides members with any skill level to have access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a creative and supportive community of like minded people so you can build the things you have always wanted to make.

TechShop is perfect for inventors, "makers", hackers, tinkerers, artists, roboteers, families, entrepreneurs, youth groups, FIRST robotic teams, crackpots, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and anyone else who wants to be able to make things that they dream up but don't have the tools, space or skills.

TechShop started in the Bay Area and they are planning to build shops throughout the USA. You become a member for $125/month or $1,200/year and have full access to all of the tools. Classes are offered.

If they opened one in Bellingham, I would so be first in line to get an annual membership...

Here is the woodshop:


The Portland facility also has these other shops: Electronics Lab, Fabrication Shop, Finishing, Foundry, Grinding Room, Machine Shop, Sheet Metal Shop, Wood Shop and Industrial Sewing.

If they were smart, they would open a Hostel with a restaurant and brewpub next door. Some people would never leave (cough)...


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Nice Osprey - looks like a great feast too.
Swiped from Maggie's Farm who got it from Wizbang

Thomas E. Woods

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I ran into his writings yesterday when I viewed this speech of his.
With the economy going through it's troubles, I have been looking at Economics and the differences between the Keynesian and the Austrian schools. The simplicity and beauty of the Austrian school are amazing. Why the USA is sticking with the Keynesian system boggles the minds -- it simply does not work in the real world. One of those failed thought experiments like socialism or communism that sound good on paper but don't translate to the real world with any degree of accuracy. Wikipedia has some good information on both schools and it is well worth checking out -- we are living through a time when one system is being put to the rather painful test using our money... Wikipedia Austrian School Wikipedia Keynesian economics

Shocked I tell you - Shocked!

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From the Washington Times:
EXCLUSIVE: Lobbyists help Dems draft climate change bill
Lawmakers bristle at Bush parallel
Democratic lawmakers who spent much of the Bush administration blasting officials for letting energy lobbyists write national policy have turned to a coalition of business and environmental groups to help draft their own sweeping climate bill.

And one little-noticed provision of the draft bill would give one of the coalition's co-founders a lucrative exemption on a coal-fired project it is building.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, both of California, were among the Democrats -- then in the minority -- who slammed Vice President Dick Cheney for holding closed-door meetings to draft energy policy early in the Bush administration.

Republicans "invited energy lobbyists to write the energy bill that gouges consumers with big payoffs to Big Gas and Big Oil," Mrs. Pelosi said in 2005. "They have turned Washington, D.C., into an oil and gas town when it is supposed to be the city of innovation, of new, of fresh ideas about our energy policy."

But the sweeping climate bill Mr. Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the panel's key environmental subcommittee, introduced at the end of March includes a provision that benefits Duke Energy Corp., a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), whose climate plan released in January the lawmakers have frequently called a "blueprint" for their climate legislation.

The exemption would save Duke Energy -- along with other firms now building new coal power plants -- from having to spend millions of dollars outfitting its Cliffside, N.C., power plant currently under construction with "clean coal" technology.
How can these corrupt bastards live with themselves -- how can they sleep at night. Were they once decent people and have been corrupted by the power in Washington or were they always sociopathic and amoral.
From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
Alberta pigs likely infected with flu from worker: CFIA official
In what would be the first reported case of its kind, a farm worker with the swine flu virus is believed to have infected about 200 pigs in Alberta, a top official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Saturday.

Dr. Brian Evans, executive vice-president of the CFIA, said at a news conference in Ottawa that the pigs were apparently infected by a farm worker who had recently been in Mexico and fell ill upon his return.

The worker returned from Mexico on April 12 and worked at the Alberta farm two days later. He "may have exposed pigs there to the illness," Evans told reporters.

The man has since recovered. The pigs are also recovering and the herd in question has been quarantined, he said. Samples from the infected pigs are being analyzed.

"We have found the virus is the one being tracked in the human population," Evans said. About 10 per cent of the 2,200 pigs at the farm exhibited flu-like symptoms such as loss of appetite or fever, he said.
I know, it's all the bacon jokes -- the pigs are taking revenge. And I bet that revenge would taste better with a couple strips of Bacon. Mmmmmmm... Bacon...
The Grand Canyon to be exact and it's Yves Rossy and his Jet Wings. He has flown the English Channel from Calais to Dover and wants to try the Canyon. From the Daily Express:
YVES Rossy spread his wings to conquor the English Channel and now he's set to take on a new challenge.

The Swiss pilot , 49, has been tinkering with the jet-propelled wings that allowed him to "fly" from Calais to Dover last September.

He has now come up with a more powerful set of wings that he hopes will carry him across the Grand Canyon.

It took him 10 minutes to complete the 22 mile Channel crossing and parachute to the ground.

The former military pilot admitted to having his eye on the Grand Canyon for some time before he began searching for launch sites over the landmark.

He wants to complete the flight by the end of October.
Very cool -- this is a wonderful melding of two technologies. Small jet engines are now reliable and cheap to buy or to build. Add a couple of these to a rigid wingsuit and you are all set.

One of the joys of living in WA State

If you are a smoker that is.

From Seattle station KOMO:

Smokers: Latest tax hike is 'the last straw'
The recession and the biggest federal cigarette tax increase in history - a 62-cents-a-pack hike April 1 - have sent Washington smokers scrambling for ways to quit.

Analysts expect the higher prices to drive cigarette consumption down by about 6.25 percent, leading to an estimated $20.9 million loss in state tax revenue and tobacco settlement money.

The price hike already has caused a boom in the stop-smoking business, and for families of smokers struggling to quit, has increased tension already stretched by the economic slump.

The federal cigarette tax rose to $1.01 a pack April 1, but many manufacturers raised prices in March in response to an expected loss in sales. A pack of premium cigarettes in Washington now costs at least $7, which adds up to more than $2,500 a year for pack-a-day smokers.

In addition to paying the federal tax, Washington's 800,000 smokers face state taxes of $2.025 a pack, the fifth-highest rate in the country after New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Yvonne Russell is one of the smokers driven to quit by the federal tax hike.

"As soon as I found out prices were increasing again, I said, 'No more,' " fumed Russell, 35, a smoker since she was 18. "It's just getting ridiculous."

Sure, Obama is cutting the Income Taxes for the demographic that does not pay a lot of Income Tax but he's comin' after your money in many other smaller ways. The IRS cut is awesome publicity but when everything pencils out, it's a lame publicity stunt.

The people who are productive in society are going to get nailed. Where is the incentive to be productive (or for at least the next three years and 260 days)...

According to John M. Broder at the New York Times, you get a Thesaurus and start shifting your message:
Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus
The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is �global warming.�

The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.

Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about �our deteriorating atmosphere.� Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up �moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.� Don�t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like �cap and cash back� or �pollution reduction refund.�

EcoAmerica has been conducting research for the last several years to find new ways to frame environmental issues and so build public support for climate change legislation and other initiatives. A summary of the group�s latest findings and recommendations was accidentally sent by e-mail to a number of news organizations by someone who sat in this week on a briefing intended for government officials and environmental leaders.
The people running the Global Warming Climate Change machine hijacked the environmental movement and they are doing more damage to our Planet than could be done if people were setting out to deliberately cause a change in our climate. By redirecting people's attention and efforts away from our present Solar minimum and the resultant cooling of the Earth, they are setting up hundreds of thousands of people for a long and painful death from winter's cold temperatures. All the while they are making every attempt to throw a monkey wrench into our fuel use and future development so that the cost of the fuel to heat your house and to drive your car will be far and above what it would normally be in a true market economy. It is not about the Environment -- it hasn't been for the last twenty years. It is about Power and Control -- Social and Cultural Marxism. Hat tip to Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That for the link to the story and be sure to peruse his 70+ comments -- some good links and thoughts...


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From Google/Associated Press:
Cowboy ticketed for 'riding under the influence'
A man in a cowboy hat who rode a horse through a Denver suburb has been cited for riding an animal under the influence. Police said Brian Drone was given a $25 traffic violation ticket in a strip mall parking lot Friday. Drone told KUSA-TV that he was out for a "joyride" in Arvada with his horse, Cricket.

Sgt. Jeff Monzingo says the citation was the first he'd seen in 15 years of working in law enforcement.

Police say deciding what to do with the horse was a "tricky call" because "you can tow a car" in typical drunk driving cases.

A stable owner eventually offered Drone and his horse a ride home.
From Jolly Olde England comes this story -- from the Sunday Express:
A BOY of six has been ordered by a council to stop building pebble dams in a stream � in case they trigger a flash flood.

It has warned �Daniel Johnson�s �father Rob that the little piles of pebbles could block the brook and cause a �major �disaster�.

But Mr Johnson, 33, said the dams his son beavers away at creating are five inches high and the water in the stream is just a couple of inches deep.

�I am gobsmacked by this, it�s just ridiculous,� he said yesterday. �This is about a child being supervised by a parent and playing in a stream two inches deep.

�We have made pebble dams a few times. It�s the stuff you do with your kids.

�It is a normal, everyday activity, something people do all over the country.

�The parish council has told me to stop doing it � but even the rain would wash the pebbles away.

�Daniel doesn�t make proper dams. It�s just a few pebbles in a row that the water flows around. We have lots of people stopping us and saying they used to do it with their grandchildren.�

A letter sent out by the council accused Mr Johnson of �repeatedly rebuilding� dams in the stream, Nettleham beck, near Lincoln, despite them being cleared away by the council on several occasions.

After explaining the threat of flash flooding, the letter ends by stating: �We request you cease your activity forthwith.�
The members of that parish council have waaaay too much time on their hands. Talk about Pournelle's Iron Law of Beaurocracy...
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.
Talk about playing the race card -- from the Orange County Register:
Editorial: Profiting from persecution
There's something disturbingly totalitarian about the Fair Housing Council of Orange County, a nonprofit organization that polices housing "discrimination" in the county and shakes down local landlords for large settlements. The Register's Brian Joseph reported on a particularly disturbing case that should not only alarm Orange County residents, but should lead to reform in the way anti-housing-discrimination laws are enforced.

In 2006, Newport Beach resident Dan Bader placed an innocuous ad in Craigslist, seeking a tenant for a 480-square-foot room in his house. He wrote, "Well suited for professional adults" and "Perfect for 1 or 2 professionals." Any normal person would see that for what it is: a realistic description of a small room. But the housing council, which proclaims its mission as "fostering diversity in housing," saw ominous motives. Officials viewed the ad as a form of discrimination against people with children and filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. With such actions, we'll definitely see less diversity in housing as fewer people are willing to subject themselves to these Orwellian anti-discrimination enforcers.

Mr. Bader was forced to attend a hearing in Los Angeles and told that the complaint would be dropped if he paid $4,000 in fines and agreed to take five years' worth of re-education classes at $250 a pop � even though the state ruled that he does not discriminate. The four grand would go to the Fair Housing Council, which funds its operations in part from fines assessed from the people the agency targets. This is a blatant conflict of interest, an unethical system that merges enforcement with profiteering.

Even though Mr. Bader was declared innocent of any "crime," he still was asked to pay up and go to classes. What a scam. To his credit, Mr. Bader did not want to be blackmailed, and he chose to fight, leading to a two-year battle. Sure, the state ultimately dropped the suit after the housing council retracted its complaint � not out of any obvious decency, but because the council was happy that Mr. Bader was being forced to pay its attorney fees. The council gets its money, which is all this seems to be about. Meanwhile, Mr. Bader owes a total of about $44,000 in fees to his own attorney and to this council for a frivolous charge.
Don't these people have anything better to do? Talk about a total fscking waste of time and money. Sheesh...
Got the first PPC comment spam for Tamiflu. A failure like all the others, it languished in moderation until I took a look at it and yes, that IP address is now shitcanned along with the other 800 or so of its bretheren...
Some back-burner items are starting to stink a bit so I will be getting to them over the next few days. The fire (now given a name - the Santa Fe Trail fire) is still burning but it is starting to rain with the slow persistent drops that indicate a long fall so the danger should be passed. I spoke with someone who was working on the crew today and there is still no "official" news as to cause or damage. Finally, check out this work by designer Jonathin Jarvis. He understands design on an Edward Tufte level. He also understands what went on to create the current financial meltdown. He communicates this with a sterling clarity of vision. Check it out:

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Hat tip to Charles at LGF for the link.
It seems that not everyone that gets into Social Work does it because of their desire to take care of people. From The Boston Globe:
Social workers charged in starvation death
By all accounts, there is blame to go around for the 2006 starvation death of disabled teenager Danieal Kelly.

Her mother, Andrea Kelly, pleaded guilty to murder this week for criminally neglecting the once-vivacious girl. Her case worker and a supervisor are charged with involuntary manslaughter for alleged "ghost visits" to the family's squalid home.

Yesterday, federal prosecutors took aim at their entire company, MultiEthnic Behavioral Services, which had a $1 million-a-year contract with the city to provide in-home services to needy families. "At some point, they realized they could get paid for doing nothing," US Attorney Laurie Magid said at a press conference.
A bit more:
Company owners furiously forged documents before routine audits and in the panic that followed Danieal's death, the federal indictment charges. Worried supervisors tried to destroy computer evidence and client files, prosecutors said.
And of course nothing will happen to the people in that company; maybe a token slap on the wrist. And with a name like: MultiEthnic Behavioral Services you KNOW that they got that $1,000,000/year contract based on the previous work of their founders, the abilities of their employees and that this wasn't just shoehorned through to fill a minority owned diversity clause somewhere...

A Perfect Tan

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This is stupid - in England, they have automated tanning beds and anyone can walk in off the street, plunk some coins into the timer and fry themselves. From the London Daily Mail:
Girl, 10, suffers burns on 70% of her body after 16 minutes in coin-operated tanning booth
A girl of ten has suffered burns to more than 70 per cent of her body after spending 16 minutes on a sunbed at a tanning salon.

By the time Kelly Thompson got home after using the unmanned, coin-operated solarium she was in agony and was rushed to hospital.

Now she has been told to stay out of the sun for up to ten years because her damaged skin is more susceptible to cancer. Doctors who treated her said she would have needed skin grafts if she had spent two more minutes in the tanning booth.

Yesterday, her mother demanded a ban on unsupervised coin-operated sunbeds.

Sharon Hannaford, 34, added: 'These sunbeds are very high powered and there is nobody there to prevent a youngster going in and doing this. I want them shut down.'
I would question the parent more than I would the tanning outfit. Take a look at this picture and see if you see why:
While Mum could be from a Mediterranean lineage and therefore have naturally olive complexion, her facial features suggest pure England. So do those of her daughter. You are going to obsess about a perfect tan in front of your ten year old daughter and not educate her on the technique needed and the inherent dangers? You have no right to pass the blame on to the tanning salon...
Busy day today -- ran payroll for the store. I love doing this because we have an awesome crew and it feels good giving them a decent wage for their work. Yesterday, a trailer parked near some friends (actually, one of our employees and his wife) caught fire. Not so much caught fire but almost exploded -- fireball and all that. There is a lot of poverty in this area -- it is one of the last relatively cheap places to live. Get a plot of land for $30K and bring in a trailer and you are all set. With the poverty comes drugs and there have been many meth labs found by the local constabulary. I have not heard the story but I think that yesterday's event was another meth lab announcing its existence and that it was closed for business. The problem is that it was parked on a wooded hillside and the trees caught fire. They were still on fire today. Here are some photos:
The crew yesterday.

The fire today -- driving back from town.

Dropping water.

Dropping water.

Dropping water.

Dropping water.

The two choppers working together.
No word as to any injuries or property damage from the fire. Our local newspaper has this story:
Large fire burning north of Kendall, no homes threatened
A 60-acre forest fire was burning about one mile north of Kendall in the Red Mountain area Friday, May 1, but was not threatening any homes.

The fire was reported at about 5 p.m. Thursday, said Mark Morrow, public information officer for the Department of Natural Resources. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Morrow said people might have started it. No lightning struck the area, and no power lines have gone down near it.

The fire grew to 60 acres overnight but firefighting efforts had halted its growth Friday.

Helicopters and about 100 people were fighting the fire Friday evening, Morrow said. If it doesn�t get windy and the forecasted rain comes through, firefighters could wind down their efforts Saturday.
Praying for rain -- our house is on the Eastern slope of that mountain and the wind comes out of the West...

That phrase sends a cold chill down my back. Check out the story of Centra Bank and their experience with TARP

From National Public Radio:

Small Bank Hit With Big Bill In Bailout
The Troubled Asset Relief Program was crafted at the outset of America's economic crisis by people under a great deal of stress, and probably without much sleep. It's had some unexpected consequences for the banks that borrowed money in the bailout.

Take the case of Centra Bank, a relatively small institution in West Virginia. Centra accepted a loan from the government and promptly paid it back. But that money came with strings attached, and over the past couple of weeks, Centra executives have realized they lost the better part of $1 million in their dance with TARP.

CEO Douglas Leech describes Centra as a community bank. He helped found it in 2000 by maxing out his credit cards and mortgaging his house. Leech says Centra is the kind of place where a human being answers the phone when you call, usually before the second ring. He says Centra is not an international bank and had never made a subprime loan.

"When we make a loan, we can see the collateral, the businesses," he says. "We see them open their doors and close their doors in the evening. We go to church, to school with our neighbors -- and that's where our business is done."

A bit more:

"Receiving TARP funds was really like Merit Badge in the Boy Scouts," Leech says. "It was being made available to only the strong banks. And you, in fact, may not be looked at quite as favorably if you didn't receive the TARP."

Centra filled out what Leech remembers as a three-page form. Soon the Treasury Department wired the bank what amounted to a $15 million loan. The government got $15 million of "preferred shares" in Centra that paid a 5 percent dividend. In common terms, think of it as a loan at 5 percent interest.

And the kicker:

Centra wired back the $15 million plus a little interest to Treasury. But then there came the issue of the warrants. Centra is a private bank, and to protect the taxpayer, the warrants let the government pay $750 for preferred stock worth $750,000.

Leech figured he'd just return the $750.

"Two days later, the lady that runs our wire transfer department came in to me and said, 'Doug got a wire back from Treasury for $750.' Simultaneously, my assistant delivered to me a letter from Treasury indicating that in order for us to exit the TARP program, the pathway was to wire $750,000. Plus interest."

Even though the bank had held the money for only six weeks, Centra had to pay the equivalent of a 60 percent annual interest rate on it. If Centra had stayed in TARP longer, the money would have been a cheap loan. But exiting early came with a stiff penalty.

Sixty Percent Interest for a loan only held for six weeks? There is more at NPR -- it's not just the money. These poor people got the shaft.

A very clever idea

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Drag racing on city streets is a popular thing but it causes a lot of accidents. Here is the solution that some Florida police came up with. From
Florida Officers Battle Drivers in Legal Street Races
If you talk to Anthony Gonzalez, you will realize quickly that there is no talking him into slowing down on the road.

"Adrenaline rush -- the closer I feel to getting killed, the more I love it," Gonzalez said.

The trick is controlling the passion for racing from spilling onto public roadways.

"How fast have you gone?" Local 10's Sasha Andrade asked Gonzalez.

"One-hundred-sixty, 170," he replied.

Police officers are redirecting people like Gonzalez from the street to the County Line Drag Way. The program is called Beat the Heat. Once a month, officers will race anyone over the age of 18 for $25.

"You could bring your mother’s minivan. You can bring a pure racing car. It doesn't matter," said Officer Jose Ayala with the Medley Police Department.

"We're actually getting a lot of kids and adults alike come here and say, 'We used to race in Davie. You probably used to chase us around, and now we're here on the track and we want to race your car,'" said Officer Ron Bradley with the Davie Police.

Officers said they have seen a drastic reduction in illegal street racing since Beat the Heat started in 2007.

"We used to have races in the warehouse district almost every Friday, Saturday night. They've completely stopped," Bradley said.

Racers told Local 10 that they actually prefer the track.

"It's better and it's safer," one racer said.
Pure genius -- gets the kids off the street and they have the fun of pitting their cars and driving skills with a Police Officer.
Had the one spam I mentioned yesterday afternoon and then had three more this morning around 4:00AM. Attempts: four Sucessful attempts: ZERO! Hey script kiddies -- get a magic marker from your mom's kitchen drawer and draw a big "L" on your forehead. That way, everyone else can know what I know about you. If they don't already suspect...

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