December 2013 Archives

From National Review:
Report: New York Investigators Obtain Fraudulent Ballots 97 Percent of Time
New York City�s Department of Investigation (DOI) has just shown how easy it is to commit voter fraud that is almost undetectable. Its undercover agents were able to obtain ballots for city elections a total of 61 times � 39 times using the names of dead people, 14 times using the names of incarcerated felons, and eight times using the names of non-residents. On only two occasions, or about 3 percent of the time, were the agents stopped by polling-place officials. In one of the two cases, an investigator was stopped only because the felon he was trying to vote in the name of was the son of the election official he was dealing with.

Ballot security in checking birth dates or signatures was so sloppy that young undercover agents were able to vote using the name of someone three times their age who had died. As the New York Post reports: �A 24-year female was able to access the ballot at a Manhattan poll site in November under the name of a deceased female who was born in 1923 and died in April 25, 2012 � and would have been 89 on Election Day.� All of the agents who got ballots wrote in the names of fictitious candidates so as not to actually influence election outcomes.

Last year, guerrilla videographer James O�Keefe sent hidden cameras into polling places around the country to demonstrate just how easy it is to commit voter fraud and how hard it is to ever know it happened. In Washington, D.C., one of his assistants was able to obtain Attorney General Eric Holder�s ballot even though Holder is 62 years old and bears no resemblance to the 22-year-old white man who obtained it by merely asking if Holder was on the rolls. In New Hampshire, poll workers handed his assistants ballots in the names of ten dead people. After a public outcry, New Hampshire�s legislature passed a photo-ID law over the veto of the state�s Democratic governor.
It's how the progressives stuff the ballot boxes to win elections. As we saw two weeks ago in Mexico, photo ID is required. Why are the Democrats so resistant if not to pave the way for stuffing the ballot box. Progressivism -- ideas so great, they have to be mandatory...

Fifty ways to leave

A great article from Max Borders and Jeffrey A. Tucker writing at The Freeman:

Fifty Ways to Leave Leviathan
State management of society is not only contrary to human liberty; it is also unworkable. It cannot achieve what it seeks to achieve, which is often all-round control of some sector of economic and social life. The attempt provokes a social backlash. People find loopholes and workarounds or just invent new ways to make progress possible. This is because people will not be caged. They struggle to be free and sometimes they succeed.

Over the last century-plus, the Leviathan State has gained the upper hand, sometimes through big periods of upheaval but mostly through a million daily nicks and cuts. What if this process is being reversed in our time? What if the apparatus of control is being undermined with a million acts of entrepreneurship that evade the State�s attempt to plan and command? There is a fundamental asymmetry between the structure of government and the structure of a networked people.

In our times, innovation has provided people with more tools. And often they use these tools to get around the barriers that politicians and bureaucrats have erected. Some of us take note of them every day. And while we may revel in their cleverness, we don't take time to look at the big picture. Here is where this phenomenon of small ways to break out from and break down the system - which pop culture often labels breaking bad - gets really interesting.

Consider the post office. It has not been privatized. It's just fallen gradually into disuse thanks to the advent of email, texting, and thousands of other ways of communicating. It may stick around for another decade or so, but as a kind of zombie. Surely its days are numbered.

This is the archetype. Government was supposed to provide but didn't. Now markets are picking up the pieces and making new products and services that facilitate better living, which reduces the role and significance of public policy. Every time the State shuts a door or closes a loophole, people find and exploit two more doors, two more loopholes.

Here are a few of their suggestions:

1. Airbnb: This service allows people to rent out their homes for a couple of days. It offers competitive prices compared to hotels and gets around the whole of the regulatory apparatus, zoning control, union monopolies, and other barriers to entry. Of course, in some states, hotel cartels aren't happy.
3. Bitcoin: Government ruined money long ago. The market has made an end-to-end crypto currency. It could mean death for the euro, the dollar, and other fiat currencies. The implications are awesome and inspiring.
22. Expatriation: Sometimes if you don't like it somewhere, you just have to leave. It's easier and easier to find better climes, whether for weather, taxation, or culture. Expatriation from the United States is reaching record levels in 2013. While this number is still only in the thousands, the option to leave is there and more people are availing themselves of it than ever.
44. Food trucks: Bricks-and-mortar restaurants love regulations because they can keep a boot on the necks of competitors. That's why cities that tolerate food truck culture are giving these restaurants a run for their money. If you can stand to eat your tacos on a park bench, it might be worth hitting a food trailer - the ultimate in microentrepreneurship. They are often at the forefront of experimentation and variety.

There are a couple trucks in our local area serving great food. 46 more ideas at the site...

Some bad news - Florida Oranges

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From National Public Radio:
Time Is Running Out To Save Florida's Oranges
It's not been a good year for Florida's citrus industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, for the second year running, the orange crop is expected to be almost 10 percent lower than the previous year.

The culprit is citrus greening, a disease that has devastated Florida's oranges and grapefruits, and has now begun to spread in Texas and California.
A bit more:
"I can't imagine Florida without commercial citrus," says Harold Browning, director of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, an industry group that is focused almost entirely on one problem: defeating citrus greening.

The disease is caused by a bacterium that's spread by a tiny flying insect called a psyllid. Greening ruins the fruit, making it bitter and unmarketable, and eventually kills the tree.

Browning says the disease � which originates in Asia � was first discovered in Florida just eight years ago.

"Within three to four years, it had spread pretty much through all the producing counties in the state," he says. "And then with time and with the transmission by psyllids, it's filling in the gaps."

Scientists and growers now say virtually 100 percent of Florida's groves are infected with citrus greening.
It can be prevented through spraying but the increase in cost is high:
In one of Boyd's groves of Valencia oranges, he's been doing the intensive spraying. Many of the trees have branches with yellowed leaves and shrunken fruit associated with the disease. But large sections are productive, with plump oranges ready for picking.

It's a stopgap measure, and Boyd says one that comes with a high price: His costs went from about $750 an acre to about $2,200 an acre.

Boyd says as long as citrus prices remain high, he and other growers doing this intensive spraying may keep their heads above water. But unless scientists find a cure for greening, he says it's just a matter of time before economic realities and the disease force him out of the citrus business.
We have our own share of agricultural pests here -- for apple trees, the Apple Leaf Curling Midge is a new and bad one.

Corn in the news - another bubble

From Bloomberg:
Corn Caps Biggest Drop Since 1960 as Harvest Rises to Record
Corn fell, capping the biggest annual drop since at least 1960, and wheat tumbled the most in five years as grain production climbs to records worldwide and outpaces demand for food, livestock feed and use in biofuels.

Corn plunged 40 percent in 2013, the most among 24 commodities in the Standard & Poor�s GSCI Spot Index, as the U.S. harvest rose to a record, recovering from the prior season when crops were hurt by the worst drought since the 1930s. Farmers worldwide are producing record amounts of everything from soybeans to wheat, leaving food costs tracked by the United Nations 13 percent below an all-time high reached in 2011 and spurring banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to predict further declines in crop prices in 2014.

�We�ve moved from a deficit environment to a surplus environment with big crops in the U.S.,� Chris Gadd, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. in London, said by telephone today. �Rather than trying to ration demand, the function of price now is to try and find demand.�
With the high government subsidies (our tax dollars) for ethanol production (that requires more energy to manufacture and ship than it yields as fuel), something had to break somewhere. Land that was deemed to be to expensive to farm was planted and now the bubble has burst. This will be good news for Mexico -- they import a lot of corn from the USA and now their food prices will be somewhat lower.

Our masterminds in 2014

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From CNN:
40,000 new laws take effect in 2014
It may have been the least productive year for Congress in history, at least in terms of passing laws � fewer than 60 of which made it through the House and Senate and were signed by President Barack Obama.

Across the country, however, state lawmakers were busy getting more than 40,000 bills passed, ones that tackle everything from drones to food stamp benefits.
A real sign of soft tyranny. We are too stupid to govern our lives -- our masterminds have to do this for us. All hail big government. Also, despite Congress only getting 60 new laws passed, there were tens of thousands of rulings that have the weight of law and were either directed through agencies like the EPA or were Presidential Executive Orders.

Genetic testing

There was some news a few months ago when the FDA put the kibosh on DNA testing lab 23andMe. Kira Peikoff had three labs do her DNA and found some discrepancies -- from the New York Times. (As a heads up - the NY Times is limiting the number of articles you can view before subscribing. CCleaner can eliminate this restriction - an excellent and free utility, use it on all of my machines.
Install CCleaner and hit the reload button (CTRL+R) if you get the nasty popup.)
I Had My DNA Picture Taken, With Varying Results
I like to plan ahead; that much I knew about myself before I plunged into exploring my genetic code. I�m a healthy 28-year-old woman, but some nasty diseases run in my family: coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer�s and breast cancer.
The upshot:
23andMe said my most elevated risks � about double the average for women of European ethnicity � were for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, with my lifetime odds of getting the diseases at 20.2 percent and 8.2 percent. But according to Genetic Testing Laboratories, my lowest risks were for � you guessed it � psoriasis (2 percent) and rheumatoid arthritis (2.6 percent).

For coronary heart disease, 23andMe and G.T.L. agreed that I had a close-to-average risk, at 26 to 29 percent, but Pathway listed my odds as �above average.�

In the case of Type 2 diabetes, inconsistencies on a semantic level masked similarities in the numbers. G.T.L. said my risk was �medium� at 10.3 percent, but 23andMe said my risk was �decreased� at 15.7 percent. In fact, both companies had calculated my odds to be roughly three-quarters of the average, but they used slightly different averages � and very different words � to interpret the numbers. In isolation, the first would have left me worried; the second, relieved.
Oops -- for once, I side with the FDA. I was thinking about spending some $$ at 23andMe but I think that I will wait until the science gets better...

From an email:

A group of wealthy investors wanted to be able to predict the outcome of a horse race. So they hired a group of biologists, a group of statisticians, and a group of physicists. Each group was given a year to research the issue. After one year, the groups all reported to the investors.

The biologists said that they could genetically engineer an unbeatable racehorse, but it would take 200 years and $100bn.

The statisticians reported next. They said that they could predict the outcome of any race, at a cost of $100m per race, and they would only be right 10% of the time.

Finally, the physicists reported that they could also predict the outcome of any race, and that their process was cheap and simple. The investors listened eagerly to this proposal. The head physicist reported, "We have made several simplifying assumptions: first, let each horse be a perfect rolling sphere".

Got the tee-shirt.

Farting around with Working on some other stuff tonight. Did the store buying run today and had a bunch more stops than usual. Surf for a little bit but no promises of posting...

Antarctic ice - another update (UPDATE again)

Another update at the bottom - a howler from The National Geographic of all people.

Anthony Watts has been following this story closely.

Turns out that it was not a tourist ship -- the ship was charted by a bunch of enviros who wanted to document the horrific loss of ice. The irony is strong in that one...

The warmistas were following the route of famed Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson and his team in their 1912 landing at Commonwealth Bay on the Antarctic continent.

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The absolute joke in this story is this bit of film from Mawson's team landing at Commonwealth Bay in 1912 -- take notice of the crushing ice in the bay. The idiots on the ship didn't even bother to study their history...

Go and read all of Anthony's post -- he has a lot of information on the Antarctic Ice (more now than in recent history and growing rapidly), some more about Mawson and his men and their expedition as well as links to news articles from the people stranded on board -- the ship was carrying quite a few journalists from the BBC, the UK Guardian and our own ABC. All pushing the global warming scam on their poor readership (links to these at the site).

UPDATE The National Geographic published this puff-piece two days ago -- there is a howler in it that makes me ashamed to have ever subscribed to their magazine. If this is the quality of proofreading and editing, they have sunk very low.

Here is the link to the article: Who's on That Russian Ship Stuck on Antarctic Ice? And Why?

The howler in question:

One related question remains worth noting, however: Where is the South Pole?

Prince Harry supposedly reached the South Pole earlier this month, but debate later broke out about the multiple - three, to be exact - South Poles in the area.

Why is this the case? Let's remember, the South Pole is essentially on a huge chunk of ice, which means the continent of Antarctica is constantly shifting around and moving.

Throw in global warming and ocean currents and you've got the recipe for a South Pole that moves about 33 feet (10 meters) per year.

Then there's the idea of a magnetic South Pole, which also isn't exactly steady, as it's been shown to move northward toward Australia about six to nine miles (10 to 15 kilometers) per year.

Looking for a South Pole that doesn't move? Check out the trustworthy ceremonial South Pole. And while you're at it, you can even take a photo there.

Yes, the North Pole is on floating ice -- there is no Arctic continent but the continent of Antarctica is firmly set in the ground and no quantity of global warming and ocean currents will shift it.

For the record, the three South poles are the Magnetic Pole, the Geographic Pole and the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility.

And, just as a heads up, the trustworthy ceremonial South Pole is located at the American Amundsen-Scott Station and it rests on the Geographic South Pole.

If this is what passes for journalism and proofreading at the National Geographic, I am truly saddened.

The Wolf of Wall Street - do not see it

Why? Read this letter from the daughter of the main character. From the Los Angeles Weekly:
An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, dear Kings of Hollywood, but you have been conned.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Christina McDowell, formerly Christina Prousalis. I am the daughter of Tom Prousalis, a man the Washington Post described as "just some guy on trial for penny-stock fraud." (I had to change my name after my father stole my identity and then threatened to steal it again, but I'll get to that part later.) I was eighteen and a freshman in college when my father and his attorneys forced me to attend his trial at New York City's federal courthouse so that he "looked good" for the jury -- the consummate family man.

And you, Jordan Belfort, Wall Street's self-described Wolf: You remember my father, right? You were chosen to be the government's star witness in testifying against him. You had pleaded guilty to money laundering and securities fraud (it was the least you could do) and become a government witness in two dozen cases involving your former business associate, but my father's attorneys blocked your testimony because had you testified it would have revealed more than a half-dozen other corrupt stock offerings too. And, well, that would have been a disaster. It would have just been too many liars, and too many schemes for the jurors, attorneys or the judge to follow.
She closes with the following:
But I refuse to give up.

Belfort's victims, my father's victims, don't have a chance at keeping up with the Joneses. They're left destitute, having lost their life savings at the age of 80. They can't pay their medical bills or help send their children off to college because of characters like the ones glorified in Terry Winters' screenplay.

Let me ask you guys something. What makes you think this man deserves to be the protagonist in this story? Do you think his victims are going to want to watch it? Did we forget about the damage that accompanied all those rollicking good times? Or are we sweeping it under the carpet for the sale of a movie ticket? And not just on any day, but on Christmas morning??

So here's what I'm going to do first. I'm going to hand you my shame. Right now, in this very moment. The shame that I've been carrying for far too long as a result of being collateral damage. Because each of you should feel ashamed. And then I'm going to go pre-order my tickets to August: Osage County in support of Julia and Meryl -- because at least, as screwed up as that family is, they talk about the truth.

I urge each and every human being in America NOT to support this film, because if you do, you're simply continuing to feed the Wolves of Wall Street.

Yours truly,
Christina McDowell
Time to send a good strong message where they will notice it -- the boxoffice.

Well DAGNABIT!

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Missed out on a great local auction. Western Washington University sells their surplus items through the Public Surplus auction website. They had a cart full of some electronic test equipment -- some working, some trashed beyond belief. I went to inspect it last Friday. I bid $400 on it -- the winning bid was $610. Rotsa ruck whomever bought it -- if they did not inspect it, they will have an unpleasant discovery when they come to pick it up. $400 was a bit high but there were a couple (working) pieces that I wanted. Every so often the buyer, on inspection, will refuse the sale and these lots get re-listed. I'll see what happens in a week or two...

Five resolutions

From John Kirkwood writing at Clash Daily:

5. Refine your skills!
Put the soccer ball down and pick up the Mossberg 500. Hunt, teach your kids to hunt. When the Shih-tzu hits the fan, their six years in youth soccer won't pass the time in the prison yard for political prisoners. When you went to Monticello, did you see Thomas Jefferson's youth basketball trophy?

Four more at the site.

The new birdwatching

Check out the Drone Survival Guide

More at Popular Science:

A Guide To Spotting And Hiding From Drones
Consider it a rough Audubon guide to the mechanical fauna of battlefields. Created by Amsterdam-based designer Ruben Pater, the Drone Survival Guide is, on one side, a rough bird watcher's guide to the modern robot at war. The other side is a short section of printed survival tips, and the guides are available in Pashto, Dutch, German, Italian, Indonesian, Arabic, and English.

The selection of drones included in the guide leads heavily towards those from NATO member countries, with the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and the United States all represented, as well as NATO itself, for the other member countries that use these drones. Partly because those are the countries that have used drones, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the most, but partly because they are just the countries where it is easier to get information about the scale and wingspan of their flying robots.

Also represented are drones from China, Morocco, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. In fact, Pater told Popular Science that part of his inspiration came from people in the Gaza Strip, who filmed Israeli drones overhead, and the challenge of making out what kind of machine it is from the silhouette alone. The silhouettes also resemble Airplane Spotter Cards, made during World War II so that servicemen could differentiate between aircraft, both friendly and allied.

Still watching for one in my skies -- I live a couple miles from the Canadian border on a well-traveled smuggling route.

Ho Li Crap - Gou Miyagi

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A little preemptive messaging?

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From The Daily Caller:
DNC sends email defending Obama from impeachment possibility
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent out a paranoid email Saturday evening urging supporters to vote for Democrats so that Republicans can�t impeach President Obama.

The email, subject line �Impeachment,� was sent to Obama for America supporters, imploring them to contribute to the DNC�s 2014 efforts. �What do these people all have in common?,� the email asked, featuring quotes from Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, and Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas discussing the possibility of impeaching Obama for one of his numerous instances of presidential misconduct.

The DNC email discussed the �I-Word� and said that �Republicans are actually excited about the idea.�

�Show these Republicans that they are way, way off-base, and give President Obama a Congress that has his back,� according to the DNC email, noting that Democrats need to win 17 GOP House seats to reclaim a majority.

The DNC, which recently expanded its political tactics to include boycotting independent news outlets, previously supported the last president to be impeached: Bill Clinton.
Hell, they should string the bastard up from the nearest banana palm. Something to note is that this article was posted 2:30 hours ago and has already garnered over 2,800 comments... Jimmy Carter must certainly be feeling relieved -- Obama will greatly overshadow him as worst president in 100 years.

Really Right Stuff

I have been working on a photography project and have been a user of the products from Really Right Stuff for several years now. What I use are camera body brackets and tripod adapters. They use the Arca-Swiss standard of locking plates and their products are absolutely bulletproof. A bit pricey but bulletproof. You can latch a camera onto its tripod in a few seconds and that puppy will not move until you unlatch it. The intro to their system is here: Intro to the RRS Quick-Release System Click the Next at the bottom of the page or follow the selections in the menu column at the top right. A shout-out to an excellent company making an excellent product in the USA.
Doing a quick trip into town and then working on some photography stuff. I'll surf and post later this evening.
On Christmas day (two days ago) I posted about a Russian ship stuck in the Antarctic ice -- they were dispatching an icebreaker to free it. From CNN:
Only at the South Pole: Icebreaker also stuck -- in ice -- heading for stranded ship
South Pole weather has stymied a rescue by a Chinese icebreaker trying to reach an expedition vessel trapped for the past four days in frozen seas, a ship officer told CNN Friday.

The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, was just six nautical miles away from the rescue, but now it's stuck in an Antarctica ice floe, too.

The Chinese crew is hoping a French icebreaker 14 nautical miles away will arrive and offer relief, said Zhu Li, chief officer of the Chinese ship.

But it's likely the French vessel Astrolabe will also be slowed by the polar cap's extreme frigidity, Zhu said.

Those two icebreakers -- plus a third, from Australia -- were battling the planet's coldest environment in trying to reach the stranded Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, whose 74 researchers, crew and tourists remained in good condition despite being at a frozen standstill since Monday.
Reminds me of that fun song by Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans:

Science as it is done

Too much fraud in research these days and it is not just Climate Research. From the New York Post:
Professor admits faking AIDS vaccine to get $19M in grants
An Iowa State University professor resigned after admitting he falsely claimed rabbit blood could be turned into a vaccine for the AIDS virus.

Dr. Dong-Pyou Han spiked a clinical test sample with healthy human blood to make it appear that the rabbit serum produced disease-fighting antibodies, officials said.

The bogus findings helped Han's team obtain $19 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health, said James Bradac, who oversees the institutes' AIDS research.

The remarkable findings were reported in scientific journals but raised suspicions when other researchers could not duplicate Han's results.
And of course, Dr. Han got a severe disciplinary action:
Han agreed last month not to seek government contracts for three years
Two things really amaze me: #1) - that there was not a whistle-blower on his team and #2) - what was his exit strategy? This has the same problems as a Ponzi scam -- it gets bigger and bigger with more and more grant money coming in but there is no graceful exit. Its only exit is to come crashing down with all eyes on the instigator.

Cool old technology - the Vula encryption system

Back in the 1980's, personal computers were in their infancy but some people were doing amazing things with them. This article was written by Tim Jenkin of the African National Congress which was the group leading the fight against Apartheid in South Africa. From the African National Congress website:
Talking To Vula
The Story of the Secret Underground Communications Network of Operation Vula

The Importance of Good Communications
In the mid-`eighties there was a great deal of soul-searching taking place in the ANC. While there had been some spectacular armed attacks against the apartheid regime, the underground struggle had not really taken off. There was very little to show for the years of struggle, only hundreds of activists in the enemy`s jails and the loss of tons of precious weaponry.

Discussion raged among comrades at all levels about why the armed struggle had achieved so little and why there was no real underground to speak of. True, mass resistance had reached unprecedented levels and much of this was attributed to the courageous work of ANC activists who had been infiltrated back into the country. Nonetheless, there was no real ANC presence inside the country and the ANC could not legitimately claim to be the leading force behind the mass struggles taking place.
The communications system - this is a long article and I am excerpting heavily:
It was always the same pattern: comrades would go back home feeling enthusiastic and begin by sending a series of messages. They soon came to realise that it was a futile activity as it took so much effort to say so very little and the responses, as few and far between as they were, contained little encouragement and advice. There were only instructions which usually lacked any connection with the reality they were experiencing.
Tim made the following changes:
I was determined to do something about this so set out to revamp the communications methods being used from London. The first to go were the awful book codes we had always used. In their place I substituted proper numerical ciphers. Next to go were the complicated invisible inks. In their place I substituted ultra-violet, invisible-ink, marker pens and a whole variety of concealment methods including microfilms, secret compartments and audio cassettes.

All of this made little difference though, as it was the manual encryption that still took the time. A short message of a few hundred characters would take all evening to encipher. I tried various schemes to streamline the process but made little headway because it remained a boring, manual task. There was no help from our leaders for they were not concerned with the methods of secret communications. They were only interested in the clear messages that came out of and went into the communications. How the messages were transferred was none of their business. That was the concern of the comms officers like me.

It was at this time, the early `eighties, that personal computers were becoming affordable. In them I saw our salvation. A computer, I read, was eminently suitable for boring, repetitive tasks - and that`s what we had on our hands. The purchase of our first computer led to a revolution in our communications that ultimately made possible operations such as Vula.
A bit more -- they had tried using Modems but the telephone lines were so bad as to render them unusable. They explore DTMF signaling -- you know this as the touch tone phone (Dual Tone Multiple Frequency):
Ronnie put together a little microphone device that - when held on the earpiece of the receiving telephone - could display whatever number was pressed at the sending end. Using touch-tone telephones or separate tone pads as used for telephone banking services two people could send each other coded messages over the telephone. This could be done from public telephones, thus ensuring the safety of the users.

To avoid having to key in the numbers while in a telephone booth the tones could be recorded on a tape recorder at home and then played into the telephone. Similarly, at the receiving end, the tones could be recorded on a tape recorder and then decoded later. Messages could even be sent to an answering machine and picked up from an answering machine if left as the outgoing message.

We gave a few of these devices, disguised as electronic calculators, to activists to take back to South Africa. They were not immensely successful as the coding still had to be done by hand and that remained the chief factor discouraging people from communicating.
The equipment was smuggled into South Africa around 1988 and was handling large volumes of traffic in 1989. The police did manage to arrest some people and get the codes but provisions for this were in place and they were only out for a day or two. Like the modern-day internet, it was designed to route around damaged nodes. Very cool story of very courageous people freeing a nation. If you have the fifteen minutes, it is worth reading the whole thing.

Opening a beer

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Generally it's hold my beer and watch this but you have to open the beer first:
Hat tip to Denny for the link.

Two photos from yesterday

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First is Curtis' shot with the crossbow -- range is thirty yards with a scope:
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The point to consider is that this is the fifth or six arrow he has ever shot with a crossbow. The kid has a good eye... Next is the Wellington -- it was wonderful. This is an extravagance but it will show up from time to time. Absolutely delicious. The pastry and the mushroom and nut duxelles retain the juices of the beef and are a flavor-bomb. Half-way thinking of trying it with a chuck roast and doing a sous-vide for ten hours, finishing it off in the oven to crisp the pastry.
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A mite nippy outside

Not so much here -- today is a balmy 44�F but at Eagle Airport in Alaska.
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Holy crap -- that is cold. From Anthony Watts:
Welcome to the frozone
Extreme negative temperatures out-number extreme positive temperatures on the planet today, with a spread of over 100�C. Eagle airport in upper Alaska on the Yukon River is one such example.
Now that is brutal.
When a radio station starts losing listeners, their advertisers stop buying advertisements. That station either makes a significant change in programming or it goes out of business. From Truth Revolt:
Liberal Commercial Talk Radio Disappears in NY, LA, SF in 2014
2014 will mark the beginning of a massive change for liberal talk radio across the country. In New York, WWRL 1600 AM will flip to Spanish-language music and talk, throwing Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, and Alan Colmes off the air. In Los Angeles, KTLK 1150 will be dumping Stephanie Miller, Rhodes, Bill Press and David Cruz off the air in favor of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In San Francisco, KNEW 960 will leave Miller, Hartmann, and Mike Malloy without a radio home in the market.

Thanks to radio consolidation and the secondary status of leftist talk in major markets across the country, the final death knell for liberal talkers could be tolling. Leftist talkers simply don�t have the same radio draw as conservatives; KTLK was ranked #41 in the market in November 2013, with WWRL registering almost no pulse at all. KNEW registered just an 0.4 in the San Francisco market in December 2013, placing it #31 in the market.

The failure of commercial leftist talk means that only government-sponsored NPR remains in many major markets.
Heh... If there was an interest, stations would be airing it. I wonder how it would go if NPR were privatized? A lot of the shows would be very profitable - PHC, Car Talk, etc...

Time to start prepping

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From the Washington Examiner:
Be prepared: Wall Street advisor recommends guns, ammo for protection in collapse
A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, the NSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a �bug-out bag� that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.

David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, �Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms.�

His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a �financial apocalypse.� His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won't result in armageddon. �There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely,� said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.
You can get a simple shotgun for $300 and spend a couple weekend days at a gun range getting trained. A good investment...

Spot on - another Michael Ramirez cartoon

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Food coma - ate too much

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The Beef Wellington was a big hit. Have not had a better cut of beef that I can remember. Surf for a bit and then upstairs to dream of sugar-plums dancing...

About that global warming - antarctic ice

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From Yahoo/ABC News:
Cruise Ship Spends Christmas Stuck in Ice Off Antarctica
Fifty-seven people spent Christmas aboard a cruise ship that has become stuck in the ice in a remote region off the coast of Antarctica and rescue vessels are at least two days away, Australian maritime officials told ABC News.

The Russian-operated Akademik Shokalskiy, an ice-strengthened vessel built in 1984 for oceanographic research, became stuck in the ice about 1,500 nautical miles from Hobart, Tasmania, and issued a satellite distress call early this morning, Andrea Hayward-Maher of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

"We've been in touch with the master of the vessel, who says they are beset by ice," spokeswoman Hayward-Maher said. "They are basically trapped or stuck in the ice and can't move."

Passengers are believed to have enough provisions to wait out their rescue. One passenger tweeted that all on board were fine and their "spirits high."

"We're in the ice like the explorers of old! All are well and spirits are high. Happy Christmas," Australian professor Chris Turney tweeted.
It is the height of summer down there.

The Fillet is in the oven

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Dinner in about an hour. Had a wonderful round of Christmas presents. Curtis got a really nice crossbow from both of us. Got Lulu some gift cards and stuff and I am getting a really nice dress sporran for my kilts (still in transit from Edinburgh). Took some high-speed photos of the crossbow in action -- will post those in a while.

Merry Christmas to all

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Spending this morning cooking -- key lime bars, prepping the Brussels sprouts (oven roasted with bacon) and mashing the spuds. The Wellington will go in the oven around 3PM Wishing everyone the best for 2014

Rod says it best

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Swiped from Grouchy Old Cripple.
From satire site DuffelBlog:
Dead AK-47 Inventor To Be Buried In Mud For A Week, Cleaned Off, Then Put Back To Work
Russia has announced funeral arrangements for Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle.

�Comrade Kalashnikov will be buried in a pit of mud with full military honors,� said General-Major Saiga Molot, a spokesman for the Russian army. �After a week, we will exhume his body, clean it off, and put him back to work. We expect that there shall be no issue with his functions.�
Heh -- my Saiga could withstand this without missing a beat. This is a perfect example of great engineering. High tolerances are something to strive for but sometimes there is just too much of a good thing. When you are living in a contaminant-rich environment, sloppy works more reliably than finishing to ten-thou.
What he says:
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Just say no - "smart" grid

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From CNS News:
Smart Grid Technology, Now Spreading Across U.S., Will Raise Energy Prices to Reduce Demand
The Obama administration is spending billions of dollars to modernize the nation�s power grid, with the goal of changing the way Americans use energy. Your electric bill will go way up, unless you allow the utility to control your energy load at times of peak demand.

�Smart grid� technology involves a wireless, two-way flow of information between individual homes and the power plant. This allows the utility to charge more for electricity, depending on when it is used; and it enables the utility to manage energy for the consumer, to reduce the impact on the grid.

For example, customers eventually will be able to program their �smart� appliances and thermostats so the utility company can turn them off at times of peak electricity usage.
Fine -- you want me to install these "smart" appliances? Give them to me for free. I am all about saving energy and not wasting resources. I paid out of my own pocket to replace most of the lighting in my house with LEDs. Now that they are a relatively mature technology, the cost has come down to where I can see some savings in each monthly bill that will offset my capital expense in two or three years. I predict that these smart technology devices will be eminently hackable and defeating this onerous micromanagement will become commonplace...

RIP - Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov

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He invented the AK-47 and its variants. From Russia Today:
Inventor of AK-47 rifle Mikhail Kalashnikov dies at 94
The inventor of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has died at the age of 94. His ingenuity earned him widespread admiration, but his legacy became more controversial when his weapons were used in some of the world�s bloodiest conflicts.
A bit more:
For most of his life, Kalashnikov, who was famous for his frugal lifestyle, was feted as a straightforward hero.

The self-taught peasant turned tank mechanic who never finished high school, but achieved a remarkable and lasting feat of engineering while still in his twenties.

He was forever asked if he regretted engineering the weapon that probably killed more than any other in the last fifty years.

"I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it," he told them.

On a few occasions, when in a more reflective mood, the usually forceful Kalashnikov wondered what might have been.

"I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists," he said once.

"I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work � for example a lawnmower."

Indeed, at his museum in Izhevsk, where he spent most of his life working at the factory that was eventually named after him, there is an ingenious mechanical lawnmower Kalashnikov invented to more easily take care of the lawn at his country house.

It�s not what he will be remembered for.
A bit more:
But at the same time, Kalashnikov�s masterstroke was to combine the mechanisms of previous weapons to create something with a completely new function.

AK-47 is not a weapon designed for accuracy tests at the firing range. It is a weapon for firefights at close quarters, in harsh Russian conditions.

It can be assembled by a person with no military training, is fired by simply pointing at a target, and it can be easily looked after without a cleaning kit. It does not jam by itself (due to the generous allowances between moving parts, which also explain its mediocre accuracy at range) and it does not stop functioning in any weather conditions.

The AK-47 fulfilled its design brief to perfection, even though there is no way Kalashnikov could have known who it would be used by in the end. More than 60 years after its invention, it remains the world's most ubiquitous weapon.
I have a variant of his design - an AK-47 chambered in 12-guage. A semi-automatic shotgun with banana clips and a 20 round drum. Very heavy but a real kick to shoot. Made by Saiga -- the same factory he worked at.

Cooking up a storm

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Doing a Beef Wellington tomorrow so starting it tonight -- it needs several rests in the fridge so it's best to have a day or two to cook it. Gordon Ramsey has the definitive recipe:
Note that he is Metric so when he bakes it in a 200� oven, it is 200�C - about 400�F (392� to be exact)

Nothing today

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Had a very long shopping day today and working on some other stuff tonight. With Christmas coming in a few days, some of the deliveries at the store were bollixed up so I had a couple more stops on the buying run today. That plus the late shoppers made for a fun trip to town. I am really glad that I was not trying to get into Canada today -- one of our vendors is a few miles South of the Canadian border near one of the crossings and there were several miles of cars backed up waiting... Tomorrow will be spent sleeping in and then prepping Christmas dinner (salad, Beef Wellington, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts and Key Lime bars for desert). I'll post a bunch then...
And be prepared for the repercussions when the populace discovers that you have been deceiving them and "keeping them on the plantation" in exchange for their votes. Great news from Breitbart:
Al Sharpton's Chicago Town Hall Erupts into Revolt Against Machine Politics
On Thursday, a town hall meeting hosted by Al Sharpton and the National Action Network to address gun violence exploded into a revolt against �Chicago Machine� politics, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the aldermen in City Hall, with panel and audience members calling to vote out their elected officials.

One 82-year-old preacher even called for �Tea Party� style meetings in some of Chicago�s south side communities such as Altgeld Gardens and Trumbull Park.

�This was a historic event,� Paul McKinley of V.O.T.E. (Voices of the Ex-Offender) and former 2nd Congressional District GOP nominee to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. told Breitbart News. �Not because of Al Sharpton coming to town,� he continued. �This was first time since electing Mayor Harold Washington in the eighties that all of these grassroots groups and community organizers have come together under one roof to talk about the problems plaguing our community.�

While the stated goal for Sharpton was to bring the many different groups together to discuss solutions to the city�s violence epidemic, he may not have gotten the types of responses he was looking for. Calls for more gun control laws and getting guns off the streets were nonexistent and not mentioned by residents throughout the session.

Instead, attendees offered solutions addressing the problems facing their community as a whole rather than just taking on �gun violence� itself. Audience members addressed the need for jobs and solving the foreclosure crisis plaguing Chicago�s south and west sides. Perhaps the loudest message�and one that Reverend Al or the Chicago media have yet to report on�echoed by several different people in attendance as well as panel members was that it is time for the black community to start voting differently.

�The manner in which we have been voting needs to change,� Wendy Pearson, an activist against Chicago school closings, told the room. �I�m here to say to you that we have been trained to vote in a specific manner� we need to start looking at the manner in which our elected officials have been voting� if they have not voted in a manner that is beneficial to you, yours, and your community, then you need to start voting them out.�
Emphasis mine. That last paragraph is a thermonuclear option to the Democrat Machine. More:
McKinley told the room, �Stop blaming just anybody for the violence in the city of Chicago. Blame the right people, not just white people, but the right people. Because it�s not just white folks a part of this, but it is on the fifth floor. The fifth floor took your schools, the fifth floor just took your jobs that he said that he gave to the ex-offender� and every single alderman was a part of this criminal process.�

McKinley called on President Obama to help the grassroots by discontinuing aid and government grants that go through Chicago�s political machine to �name-brand-blue-ribbon-negro-organizations� such as the NAACP and Urban League. McKinley told Breitbart News those groups �are poverty pimps, and are part of the problem and not the solution.�
If Mr. McKinley survives the next couple of years and gets some more political experience (a successful tenure in Congress or IL Governorship), he could be a great President. People need to remember the history of the Democratic Party when it comes to Slavery and the South. Dr. Martin Luther King was a Republican. Malcom X was a Republican.
Revolution can be a force for good. I think we are seeing the seeds of a great one.

A couple photos from today

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First is my old dog Finnegan asleep under the Christmas Tree. I don't know how old he is -- got him as an adult from the pound but he is now deaf and blind. Spends most of the day sleeping.
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We have taken to calling him Pinball as he bounces of the walls and furniture as he moves around. Still has a great sense of smell and knows where each of us are. The next is dinner tonight. A Seattle restaurateur moved up here almost a year ago and hosts wonderful parties -- this was his Christmas buffet. About 80 friends and neighbors showed up. Food was wonderful! Here Sam is talking to the assembled crowd before desert was served:
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Very good people -- so glad that he is a member of the community.

Thinking about next years garden

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Just stumbled into this website: J. L. Hudson, Seedsman Ho. Li. Crap -- this site is broad and deep. I love that this business has been operating for 103 years with 40 years under the current caretaker. They do have a website and email but these are handled off-site as the business is off the grid. No telephone. Starting to take notes...

Heh - Ethan Krupp, the Obamacare Pajamaboy

A source of entertainment and snark for the season. This just in from The People's Cube:

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Google has been buying robot companies

First there was Boston Dynamics. Now, we find that they had also purchased a Japanese company SCHAFT Robotics The SCHAFT team just won this years DARPA Robotics Challenge From Gizmodo:
Google's Newly Acquired SCHAFT Robot Walks Away A Winner
The teams have broken down their robots and packed them up in crates and suitcases, loaded them into trucks and taken them on airplanes and gone home. Some will lick their wounds and rebuild to fight another day. The lucky ones will get a million dollars each from DARPA to continue developing their bots.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge trials, or DRC, ended yesterday. The 16 teams and their bots pushed, stumbled, drove, strutted and clambered their way through 8 disaster recovery-related challenges put to them by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the Pentagon's mad science arm, over the course of the last two days.

"This has been an extraordinary event that has exceeded my expectations by multiple, multiple times," said Gill Pratt, the DARPA program manager in charge of the DRC, during a closing ceremony. "I've been saying to the media for quite some time that I would be thrilled�thrilled�if even one of the teams scored half of the points in the DRC trials. Well, it turns out that 4 scored over half the number of points."

Team SCHAFT, which got started at Tokyo University and became a private company, ruled the field, garnering best in task awards in half of the challenges: the walking on uneven terrain challenge; the ladder-climbing challenge; debris clearing; and the hose-connecting challenge.

Team leader Yuto Nakanishi focused intently on his bot, a 5-foot, 5-inch, 209-pound blue bipedal machine, as it moved with uncanny grace through the challenges. Nakanishi was the very picture of cool and collected until the machine completed a given task with nary a stumble, at which point he pumped his fists and let rip a victory yell.
There is an external framework to prevent damage if the robot falls but this little guy is operating completely autonomously. It is specially programmed for each event but there is no instruction while it is operating -- it has to recognize the barriers in the road, uneven ground, objects to remove, valves that need to be operated, etc... More. Faster. Please.

Seeing the light - England goes nuke

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Great news from the UK Guardian:
Fifty new nuclear plants could be goal in official energy plans
Up to 50 nuclear power stations could be built under plans being looked at by the government. The remarkable figure � 10 times the number the government is openly discussing � is revealed in documents submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change by one of its own advisory bodies.

The documents are likely to raise questions as to what extent the government's energy policy is weighted in favour of nuclear and away from renewables such as wind turbines. It comes as Brussels begins an investigation into whether Britain is providing up to �17bn of potentially illegal public guarantees for the first nuclear power plant in a generation, Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which aims to provide 7% of the country's electricity.

In a submission to a consultation on geological waste disposal, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management has said an upper limit of 75 gigawatts of nuclear power is "being examined" by the DECC in London.
Baby steps. No word as to the type of reactor but this is a great start and the thorium reactors can efficiently burn the waste fuel from conventional uranium reactors so waste storage is a non-issue.

Condemned to repeat it - WWI

An excellent essay by Margaret MacMillan at the Brookings Institute. A long read but worth it.
The Rhyme of History
Lessons of the Great War

Earlier this year I was on holiday in Corsica and happened to wander into the church of a tiny hamlet in the hills where I found a memorial to the dead from World War I. Out of a population that can have been no more than 150, eight young men, bearing among them only three last names, had died in that conflict. Such lists can be found all over Europe, in great cities and in small villages. Similar memorials are spread around the globe, for the Great War, as it was known prior to 1940, also drew soldiers from Asia, Africa, and North America.

World War I still haunts us, partly because of the sheer scale of the carnage�10 million combatants killed and many more wounded. Countless civilians lost their lives, too, whether through military action, starvation, or disease. Whole empires were destroyed and societies brutalized.

But there�s another reason the war continues to haunt us: we still cannot agree why it happened. Was it caused by the overweening ambitions of some of the men in power at the time? Kaiser Wilhelm II and his ministers, for example, wanted a greater Germany with a global reach, so they challenged the naval supremacy of Great Britain. Or does the explanation lie in competing ideologies? National rivalries? Or in the sheer and seemingly unstoppable momentum of militarism? As an arms race accelerated, generals and admirals made plans that became ever more aggressive as well as rigid. Did that make an explosion inevitable?

Or would it never have happened had a random event in an Austro-Hungarian backwater not lit the fuse? In the second year of the conflagration that engulfed most of Europe a bitter joke made the rounds: �Have you seen today�s headline? �Archduke Found Alive: War a Mistake.�� That is the most dispiriting explanation of all�that the war was simply a blunder that could have been avoided.

The search for explanations began almost as soon as the guns opened fire in the summer of 1914 and has never stopped. Scholars have combed through archives from Belgrade to Berlin looking for the causes. An estimated 32,000 articles, treatises, and books on World War I have been published in English alone. So when a British publisher took me out to lunch on a lovely spring day in Oxford five years ago and asked me if I would like to try my hand at one of history�s greatest puzzles, my first reaction was a firm no. Yet afterward I could not stop thinking about this question that has haunted so many. In the end I succumbed. The result is yet another book, my own effort to understand what happened a century ago and why.

It was not just academic curiosity that drove me, but a sense of urgency as well. If we cannot determine how one of the most momentous conflicts in history happened, how can we hope to avoid another such catastrophe in the future?
A good read -- she brings up the parallels between pre-WWI and today. They are chillingly similar. I disagree with her thesis that the cure is a stronger world government. I do not see this as being a successful endeavor ever given the corruption that inevitably rots any bureaucracy. We would be much better served with a world full of prosperous strong nation-states. Root out the corruption and demonstrate by example what can be done with minimal government intervention. Our own Tenth Amendment sums it up nicely:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
We would be too busy making money to go to war...

Windows XP - a case for extending its deadline

From security wonk Gregg Keizer writing at Computerworld:
Perspective: Throw Windows XP a lifeline, Microsoft
The forecast for Microsoft: There's a Windows XP storm coming.

According to statistics from analytics company Net Applications, Windows XP's user share declined by just two-tenths of a percentage point over the last two months, the smallest decrease since Computerworld began recording data for the aged OS in early 2007.

Normally, a Lilliputian decline when user share has been leaking like a rusted bucket of a boat would be time for celebration, but Windows XP's resistance to erosion is different. Support for the 12-year-old operating system is slated to end in less than four months, and Microsoft has been loudly telling customers that they need to move on before it stops providing public security updates.

They aren't. Or better put, they were, but then they quit.
And the cause for concern:
While overly-optimistic projections made at the end of September showed that Windows XP would have contracted to a significant-but-perhaps-manageable 21% in April 2014, the same forecast two months later pegged the remaining user share at more than 27%. So unless Windows XP restarts a descent, it's inevitable that a quarter of all personal computers will be running Windows XP come April.

The number has real-world ramifications, as Microsoft has repeatedly underscored this year. Absent security updates, Windows XP will be substantially more vulnerable to malware attacks, perhaps -- if Microsoft's own estimate is on target -- as much as 66% more likely to be infected after April 2014.
So Windows XP is still run on more than a fifth of all of the online computers. Those computers are business machines and any glitch in operation would hurt these businesses. Not to mention that Windows is Windows and most people don't see any difference between XP and 7 except for the user interface. I installed a copy of XP at the store for an older machine I am running -- the drivers aren't available for anything more recent. Needless to say, it will not be attached to the internet...

The year in review - 2013

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From Michael Snyder writing at The Economic Collapse:
83 Numbers From 2013 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe
During 2013, America continued to steadily march down a self-destructive path toward oblivion. As a society, our debt levels are completely and totally out of control. Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino on the entire planet and our big banks are behaving even more recklessly than they did just before the last financial crisis. We continue to see thousands of businesses and millions of jobs get shipped out of the United States, and the middle class is being absolutely eviscerated. Due to the lack of decent jobs, poverty is absolutely exploding. Government dependence is at an all-time high and crime is rising. Evidence of social and moral decay is seemingly everywhere, and our government appears to be going insane. If we are going to have any hope of solving these problems, the American people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and finally admit how bad things have actually become. If we all just blindly have faith that "everything is going to be okay", the consequences of decades of incredibly foolish decisions are going to absolutely blindside us and we will be absolutely devastated by the great crisis that is rapidly approaching. The United States is in a massive amount of trouble, and it is time that we all started facing the truth. The following are 83 numbers from 2013 that are almost too crazy to believe...

#1 Most people that hear this statistic do not believe that it is actually true, but right now an all-time record 102 million working age Americans do not have a job. That number has risen by about 27 million since the year 2000.

#2 Because of the lack of jobs, poverty is spreading like wildfire in the United States. According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program each month.

#3 As society breaks down, the government feels a greater need than ever before to watch, monitor and track the population. For example, every single day the NSA intercepts and permanently stores close to 2 billion emails and phone calls in addition to a whole host of other data.
Eighty more all with links to corroborating data. Here are a couple more that jumped out at me:
#11 Right now, four of the "too big to fail" banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is well in excess of 40 trillion dollars.

#12 The total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 381 times greater than their total assets.

#50 Small business is rapidly dying in America. At this point, only about 7 percent of all non-farm workers in the United States are self-employed. That is an all-time record low.
And this:
#79 53 percent of all Americans do not have a 3 day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes.

Duck Dynasty - a reality check

Some needed perspective from Nicki at The Liberty Zone:

Khodorkovsky out of prison and in Germany
I wonder if, with all the Duck Dynasty NOTnews hysteria (because ZOMG! SOMEONESAIDSOMETHINGBADABOUTGAYSGAYSGOTUPSETSOMENETWORK SUSPENDEDTHESOMEONEANDNOWEVERYONEHASTHEIRPANTIESINATWIST), anyone has any idea that today, a man who has spent 10 years in a Russian prison for the crime of standing up to Vladimir Putin, was pardoned by the same and allowed to escape to Germany.

Who?

Who is Mikhail Khodorkovsky?

Niki tells quite the story (go and read) and then concludes with this:

Things are going on in the world. Bad things. The 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing that saw 270 people perish is being commemorated today.

Tensions are increasing between China and Japan.

Uganda passed a law that would imprison gays for life.

People are dying in the Central African Republic.

Thailand is teetering on the brink of civil war.

A shooting in the Manila airport in the Philippines has left four people dead.

And six more NATO troops died in an aircraft crash in Afghanistan a few days ago.

But by all means, continue to shit yourselves over perceived "human rights violations" in the words of the Duck Dynasty guy and A&E Network's reaction to the interview. That's much more important.

/sarc

As Chris Ledoux said earlier -- Butch it the fuck up, Sally 

Now this looks like fun

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The latest from Stephen Chow. March 7th, 2014

Whoops - cleanup on aisle seven

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Discovered the hard way that the old tree stand had a leak. I was wondering why our tree was going through more than two gallons of water in the first couple hours and noticed the carpet was pretty soggy. Ran back out to the tree farm and picked up a new stand for $25. Will be sure to test this one next year -- the old stand was about ten years old. Lulu took off the more fragile ornaments, Curtis and I lifted the tree up and Lulu swapped out the stands. Oh well -- things were going too easy today anyway, got to throw in a little Murphy's Laws now and then.

Back from a sucessful hunt

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Went to a local tree farm and returned with this beauty:
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Lulu is at work trimming. She is the artist in the family.

Tree time

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We are heading out in a few minutes to get our Christmas tree. This will be Lulu's and my third Christmas together -- just keeps getting better and better.

Voting "rights"

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Swiped from Maggie's Farm.
These guys need to publicly apologize for what they have done. Their last initials are RSA and the corporation that they founded - RSA - was known for excellent cryptography products. Wait a minute -- from Reuters:
Exclusive: Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer
As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned.

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show.
There are a lot of things that I would sell for $10 Million. Neither my ethics nor my soul are on the list. RSA was later sold to EMC Corp -- their primary product is large disk arrays. They are very very good at this. I wonder if they will go after Rivest, Shamir and Adleman since their security product is now basically useless. Now that hackers know there is a back door, they will come looking for it. Also disturbing is that the current top Web security certificate company, VeriSign, was spun off from RSA -- does it have a back door as well? You might want to think about this before you make your next purchase from Amazon. https:// anyone?

Fritzing - Electronic Design Automation

I have designed a number of circuit boards over the years for various projects at work or home. One of the problems is capturing the schematic and translating that into the layout for a circuit board.

In the 1990's I sprung for OrCAD - $1,500 but I was doing a lot of custom electronics in Seattle. I subsequently tried to upgrade to their Windows version but the company had been sold to another company (Cadence Design Systems) and they had no record of my initial purchase so no upgrade. $1,500 down the rat-hole. Grrrrr...

I was working for a company that had EDA software and was able to use that after hours.

I have since gotten out of board-level electronics experimentation but have felt the urge to dip my toes in the water again for some audio projects (electronic music). There is a decent EDA tool for Linux.

Just ran into Fritzing -- have not checked it out but it seems to have the basic tools I need plus a couple other cool features. The latest version was uploaded on December 17th, 2013 so it is under active development. #I'll be trying it over the next couple of weeks and will report back...

Academic publication - a nasty troll

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There are not that many publishers for scientific journals. Elsevier is one of the biggies and it is turning nasty. From The Washington Post:
How one publisher is stopping academics from sharing their research
One of the world's largest academic publishers has launched a wide-ranging takedown spree, demanding that several different universities take down their own scholars' research.

Elsevier is a commercial firm that publishes some of the leading journals in many academic fields. In recent weeks, it has sent takedown notices to the academic social media network Academia.edu, as well as to the University of Calgary, the University of California-Irvine, and Harvard University.

In these cases, Elsevier is within its legal rights to demand the material be taken down. The firm often requires researchers to surrender their copyrights in a paper as a condition of publishing it. But the takedown campaign goes against a long-standing industry practice in which journal publishers look the other way when academics post their own work.

Elsevier's new hard-line posture is likely to intensify a debate over the future of academic publishing. Thanks to the Internet, academics no longer need traditional academic publishers to distribute their research to the world in paper form. And a growing number of researchers are beginning to wonder if legacy publishers are becoming more of an obstacle than an aid to distributing their work. Outrage over Elsevier's takedown spree could intensify their search for alternative models that allow academics to share their work directly�without companies like Elsevier taking such a big cut.
Double-edged sword here -- the market for these Journals is small so there is no real economy of scale. Submitting each paper for peer-review is expensive so the cost to the journal is a double whammy. Copyright protection is Elsevier's way to secure the revenue stream. There are some open-access academic journals but some of them have been PWND with fake papers. Their peer review is weak (but getting better -- PLOS one is a good one and a frequent read for me).

More faster please - Thorium in the news

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From Reuters:
The U.S. government lab behind Beijing�s nuclear power push
Scientists in Shanghai are attempting a breakthrough in nuclear energy: reactors powered by thorium, an alternative to uranium.

The project is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government body with close military ties that coordinates the country�s science-and-technology strategy. The academy has designated thorium as a priority for China�s top laboratories. The program has a budget of $350 million. And it�s being spearheaded by the influential son of a former Chinese president.

But even as China bulks up its military muscle through means ranging from espionage to heavy spending, it is pursuing this aspect of its technology game plan with the blessing � and the help � of the United States.

China has enlisted a storied partner for its thorium push: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The U.S. government institute produced the plutonium used for the Manhattan Project and laid important groundwork for the commercial and military use of nuclear power.

The Tennessee lab, as it happens, helped pioneer thorium reactors. The Pentagon and the energy industry later sidelined this technology in favor of uranium. The Chinese are now enthusiastically tapping that know-how, in an example of how the rising Asian superpower is scouring the world for all sorts of technology needed to catch up to America in a broad array of scientific fields.
We need to be doing this at home, not inviting the Chinese to pick over the bones of what we once did. There is a lot more at the article -- a bunch of Thorium's history and who is using it today.

Google Fonts

I am a typography geek and just ran across Google Fonts today.

632 font families available for download and use.

From their About page:

About Google Fonts
A web with web fonts is more beautiful, readable, accessible and open.

Google Fonts makes it quick and easy for everyone to use web fonts, including professional designers and developers. We believe that everyone should be able to bring quality typography to their web pages and applications.

Our goal is to create a directory of web fonts for the world to use. Our API service makes it easy to add Google Fonts to a website in seconds. The service runs on Google's servers which are fast, reliable and tested. Google provides this service free of charge.

Open Source Fonts
All of the fonts are Open Source. This means that you are free to share your favorites with friends and colleagues. You can even customize them for your own use, or collaborate with the original designer to improve them. And you can use them in every way you want, privately or commercially - in print, on your computer, or in your websites.

Very cool -- some good looking faces there.

More Duck Dynasty issues

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From The People's Cube:
Duck Dynasty's Robertson Angers Alcoholics, Philanderers
Phil Robertson�s recent controversial comments have drawn criticism from a wide spectrum of offended minorities.

Most inflammatory in his remarks was this infamous passage: "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men�Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

First to weigh in was Patrick O�Malley of the Alliance of Alcoholics and Philanderers. �What is wrong with this man?� asked an astonished O�Malley between sips of whiskey. �Everybody knows this nation was built on alcohol and infidelity. I was hurt more by his comments than my wife when she found out about my 11th affair. I can�t help it if I was born adulterous, and along comes this bigot acting like it�s a choice and a wrong one at that. We have no place for judgmental people like that in today�s society.�

O�Malley�s sentiments were echoed on MSNBC by former president Bill Clinton, who said, �As a fellow Southerner, sportsman, and Christian, I am deeply disappointed by Phil�s hurtful rhetoric. There are serial rapists and adulterers out there who feel really marginalized by this kind of exclusive language. I�m here to tell them that I feel their pain.�

Speaking from the Senate floor this morning, Harry Reid commented, �I especially take offense at his comment that the greedy and the swindlers, and I quote, �won�t inherit the kingdom of God� end quote. Just what authority is he claiming here? One higher than the Senate of the United States? I urge my Republican colleagues to join me in a bipartisan effort to support a bill repealing I Corinthians 6:9 and assuring swindlers their place in Heaven.�

Achmed al-Tikriti, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Muslims (GLAM) spoke out passionately on the Piers Morgan Show: �As a member of the most progressive and tolerant religion on earth, I urge Phil Robertson to reconsider his damaging statements and to declare jihad on his bigotry. It was enough that A&E would not ban �in Jesus� Name� at their unclean mealtime prayers, but this, this is more than we can bear. By the prophet, the pain is so hurtful! Make it stop!�
Heh...

Got what I want for Christmas

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From the New York Times:
Harry Reid Is Hospitalized
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, was hospitalized Friday after falling ill in the morning, his office said.

Mr. Reid, who just turned 74, was going to remain in the hospital as a precaution. As a result, he will not be presiding over the Senate�s final day of business this year.
The sooner he gracefully bows out and decides to spend time with his family the better. For the sake of this nation, this cannot happen soon enough...

Let it snow - coming down hard

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Woke up to a solid four inches on the ground and it is coming down hard. Looks like White Christmas...

Great Christmas Decoration

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I love it -- only way to make it better would have been to put a tangle of lights on the ground at the Grinch's feet.
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Drumming on Lake Baikal

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Very cool (literally) video -20�C
Gorgeous clear ice. Hat tip to Snow Addiction for the link.

Circling the drain - Reddit

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From Brendan O'Neill writing at the UK Telegraph:
Reddit has banned climate change deniers, and ripped its own reputation to shreds
Reddit, the massively popular links-sharing website where users post stories, pictures or info that they find interesting, prides itself on being open and liberal. It describes itself as �passionately dedicated to free speech�. In which case, why has it banned from its forums anyone who raises awkward or annoying questions about the science of climate change?

In a move that has been described by one British academic as �positive censorship�, a Reddit moderator has announced that Reddit is becoming �increasingly stringent with deniers�. The Reddit moderator says climate �contrarians� were too often expressing �uninformed and outspoken opinions�, and so the site decided to adopt a much more �proactive moderation�. Now, whenever a user makes a �potentially controversial submission� on climate change, the moderators issue that user with a �warning�. If the user persists in posting �potentially controversial submissions�, he�s �banned from the forum�.
So maybe if we just plug our ears and sing Kumbaya all those nasty facts will just Go Away!

A curious note - Duck Commander

With all of the flak going on over the GQ article and A&E's suspension of Phil Robertson I thought I'd show some support and buy a duck call.

Went to their website and they have 31 calls for sale. A couple of them are high-end collectors editions selling for $250. A bunch more are low-end plastic calls selling for $25 to $35.

The nice wood ones were selling for about $60 - $80 if they had any in stock! The ones I wanted were out of stock. I'll check back in a few days.

The Hollywood Reporter has the story:

'Duck Dynasty's' Phil Robertson on Indefinite Hiatus Following Anti-Gay Remarks
A&E has placed Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks he made in a recent profile in GQ.

"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty," A&E said in a statement. "His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

Be sure to check out the 27,400+ comments posted in the last 24 hours.

I have zero problems with gay people, I have known many of them and been at a few weddings. The problem I have is with the political mau-mau organizations that the more militant gays have developed. A&E caved to political pressure above and beyond what is normal in the USA. The 2010 census puts the number of gays/trannies/etc... at under 4%. This fraction of a four percent should not be able to own an outcome just because they are feeling dissed...

It is often fruitful to look at an organizations founding documents to understand their true identity. For this, I would point to The Gay Manifesto published in Gay Community News, February, 1987. Go to the link and read what is said. These are the people who are controlling this story.

Bryan Preston has some excellent words at PJ Tatler: 4 Reasons Why the Duck Dynasty Brouhaha Matters

Wonderful news - the EPA

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From the Daily Caller:
�MASSIVE SEIZURE OF POWER�: Climate scientists, economists challenge EPA
A group of climate scientists and economists are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency�s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary sources.

These critics see a �massive seizure of power� by the agency.

The scientists and economists, including the former chair of the EPA�s Science Advisory Committee, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, arguing that the agency does not have the authority to permit greenhouse gases from stationary sources. According to the group, such a permitting scheme is a �naked power grab of the most cynical sort.�
A bit more:
The lawmakers argue that the EPA has effectively usurped Congress�s authority to write the laws by moving to regulate greenhouse gases � which was done under the Obama administration.

�Our Constitution reserves the power to enact, amend, or repeal statutes to Congress alone,� reads the lawmakers� brief.

�The power asserted by the EPA here infringes on the constitutional prerogatives of Congress, undermines government accountability, and threatens liberty,� the brief says.
I hope the Court sees the light of reason.
Check out I Hate Cilantro
Supporting the Fight Against Cilantro!
Welcome! You are visiting the web site of a growing community of cilantro haters. We are, however, rational people. In fact, we are the most rational people on earth. No normally functioning human being would ever in a lifetime consider cilantro edible.

It's the reason you are here. Please browse the site in support of your anti-cilantro confederates and help spread the word any way you can.
Here is one from their stories page:
"I grew up in Los Angeles eating every kind of ethnic food, and I swear to you that I never encountered cilantro until 1985, at which point it simply appeared to be in all restaurants.

The first time I encountered cilantro, I thought something had gone bad in my salad dressing. It was disgusting. But my friends were all gushing about how delicious it was. I pushed it around on my plate and said nothing. Sometime later, I encountered it again - in a Chinese chicken salad. Again, I thought the salad had gone bad. But no, it was the cilantro.

Now, whenever I see it on the menu in any dish, I tell the waitperson that I'm allergic to it. It's the only way I can ensure that it's not in my food. If I taste it, I can't get the soapy, poisonous taste out of my mouth."
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Lots more at the site -- foul stuff...

A backhanded compliment from Vladimir

From CBS News:

Putin: I Envy Obama In Light Of NSA Revelations "Because He Can Get Away With It"
Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the U.S. National Security Agency, and even said he envies President Barack Obama in light of the NSA revelations "because he can get away with it."

Putin's comments at a Thursday news conference reflected support for the NSA surveillance as a necessary tool to fight terrorism, but added that government rules should "limit the appetite" of the data-collecting agency.

The 16-year KGB veteran and former head of Russia's primary espionage agency said that the American spy program "isn't a cause for joy, it's not a cause for repentance either." He added that "on a political level, it's necessary to limit the appetite of special services with certain rules."

So basically, the former head of the KGB and the current leader of Russia cannot get away with the security breaches that Obama does on a daily basis. Says a lot about our freedoms. Welcome to the soft tyranny.

Glad I do not shop at Target

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The Target in Bellingham is nice, nothing against them or their company; I just don't go there to shop very often. From Washington, D.C. station WTOP:
Target: 40M card accounts may be breached
Target is grappling with security and a public relations nightmare just as the holiday shopping season is wrapping up.

The nation's second largest discounter said Thursday that data connected to about 40 million credit and debit card accounts was stolen as part of a breach that began over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The dates involved:
The chain said customers who made purchases by swiping their cards at terminals in its U.S. stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 may have had their accounts exposed. The stolen data includes customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the three-digit security codes located on the backs of cards.
Yikes!

Immigration - some numbers

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A sobering six minutes:

Obamacare - a twofer

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First is the latest promotion for Obamacare. Next is singer Chris Ledoux's reply.
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From Chemical & Engineering News:
Multidrug Resistance Gene Released By Chinese Wastewater Treatment Plants
In recent years, increasing numbers of patients worldwide have contracted severe bacterial infections that are untreatable by most available antibiotics. Some of the gravest of these infections are caused by bacteria carrying genes that confer resistance to a broad class of antibiotics called β-lactams, many of which are treatments of last resort. Now a research team reports that some wastewater treatment plants in China discharge one of these potent resistance genes into the environment (Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2013, DOI: 10.1021/ez400152e). Environmental and public health experts worry that this discharge could promote the spread of resistance.

When Pedro J. J. Alvarez of Rice University and his collaborators detected abundant antibiotic resistance genes in China�s Haihe River several years ago (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2010, DOI: 10.1021/es100233w), they wanted to find out how the genes were reaching the environment. So they decided to examine wastewater treatment plants in the region, because antibiotic resistance genes are widespread in fecal bacteria. The treatment plants cultivate bacteria in the incoming water to break down sewage and industrial wastewater. The water is then disinfected with chlorine and released into local waterways. Farmers sometimes use treated sludge, the solid by-product of the treatment process, as a fertilizer on their fields.
Need to use a bit more chlorine there. This stuff is dangerous as hell. A lot more in the rest of the article.

Our Chuck (the schmuck) Schumer

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From Kimberly Paxton writing at the D.C. Clothesline:
Schumer: Veterans Should Take a Pay Cut But Congress Should Not
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) believes that it�s time that US military veterans do their part for America by taking a cut to their retirement benefits.

Because, of course, veterans haven�t done enough for the country.

Members of Congress, however, should take no such cuts. According to the rather despicable gun-control advocating Senator Schumer, the government officials have sacrificed enough.

Civilian federal employees have been cut, cut, cut. I think there was a feeling, if you�re going to cut them further, which was done, that the military retirees should have about an equal amount. It�s small,� the New York Democrat told MSNBC�s �Morning Joe.�

�I think (Rep.) Paul Ryan and (Sen.) Patty Murray looked everywhere they could to try and find compromise. Everybody had to take a little,� Schumer said.

�They�re going to have to pay a tiny, little bit into it, which they never have,� he added.

But Schumer maintained members of Congress should not be forced to take a pay cut. He said they have already sacrificed, since they have not seen a pay raise �in a long time,� and explained most of them are paying more for healthcare insurance.

�We have taken pretty big cuts,� he said. (source)

Let�s tally up the numbers to put things in perspective:
◾The average pension for a retired veteran was $9,669 in 2011. (source)
◾The salary for a US Senator is $174,000. (source)

Just so this statistic is perfectly clear, the members of Congress bring in over 17 times the amount that retired vets do.

Despite this, veterans under the age of 62 will be looking at a 1% per year cut in their benefits. Members of Congress will not be looking at any reduction.
A perfect example of why Congressional Term Limits are a very good thing. Schumer went to Law school, clerked for a few years and then ran for the Senate. He has never worked a day in his life and is hopelessly out of touch with his constituents.
His interviews with Joseph Campbell were exceptional but he is not at the top of his game any more -- has not been for some time. From American Thinker:
Bill Moyers Sees a Ghost
Bill Moyers saw a ghost: "The specter stood there, watching the screen, a snickering smile on his stubbled face. Sure enough, it was the ghost of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin farm boy who grew up to become one of the most contemptible thugs in American politics."

I almost wish all the rest of us could see only the ghost of Bill Moyers, but he is still with us, this time lashing out to belittle Congressman Allen West of Florida. West offended Moyers by daring to say, "I believe there are 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus."

This observation so enraged Moyers that he hurled the most vicious epithet in the repertoire of the left: he compared West to McCarthy, who, according to Moyers, "seized on fear and ignorance to announce his discovery of a conspiracy within: Communist subversives who had infiltrated the government."

But Moyers commits a fatal mistake by continuing to maintain that McCarthy had no evidence for his claim, the key element that the left brandishes to discredit McCarthy in the historical record. Moyers is hoisted all the more severely with his own petard in light of his framing his attacks on McCarthy and Rep. West with references to George Orwell's 1984 and the author's warning to beware, in a paraphrase Moyers uses, "the amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today."

Actually, it is Moyers who is flushing events down the memory hole to bolster his opinions. In the 1930s and '40s, the federal government was indeed infiltrated from top to bottom by Soviet-directed operatives in far greater numbers than McCarthy estimated. We know this due to the revelations in 1995 by NSA and CIA of the Venona files, over 500,000 messages sent in code from Moscow to their agents-in-place in the United States.
Time to gracefully retire from public life Bill. Allan West has more intelligence in his little pinky. Bill -- your followers may be content to believe your misstatements but there are some of us out here who read history.

High speed rail

There is a big push in the USA to develop high-speed rail.

One of the more idiotic endeavors ever -- these rail lines are heavily subsidized by the federal government and the operating costs are so high that in the USA, it would be cheaper to buy every regular rider a Prius than subsidize their train ticket.

Kris De Decker runs the Low-Tech magazine blog and although he doesn't post that often, when he does it is well worth reading.

Today's post is excellent -- Europe has about a 20 year head start on High Speed Rail and Kris writes about the glaring inefficiencies and unintended consequences of promoting this dead-end technology.

From Low-Tech Magazine:

High Speed Trains are Killing the European Railway Network
High speed rail is marketed as a sustainable alternative to air traffic. According to the International Union of Railways, the high speed train "plays a key role in a stage of sustainable development and combating climate change". As a regular long-distance train traveller in Europe, I have to say that the opposite is true. High speed rail is destroying the most valuable alternative to the airplane; the "low speed" rail network that has been in service for decades.

The introduction of a high speed train connection invariably accompanies the elimination of a slightly slower, but much more affordable, alternative route, forcing passengers to use the new and more expensive product, or abandon the train altogether. As a result, business people switch from full-service planes to high speed trains, while the majority of Europeans are pushed into cars, coaches and low-cost airplanes.

A look at European railway history shows that the choice for the elite high speed train is far from necessary. Earlier efforts to organize speedy international rail services in Europe accompanied affordable prices and different ways to increase the speed and comfort of a rail trip. Quite a few of these services were even faster than today's high speed trains.

The high-speed tickets cost about three times more than the regular trains and only save about 25% of the travel time. Commercial no-frills airline flights are about half the cost of the high-speed so rail ticket sales are plummeting.

Simply does not work. Here in the USA, there is an additional folly known as light urban rail. These moronic planners try to concentrate people into high-density zones and service them with this rail. Unfortunately, as the demographics shift, people will want to move to a different area so it is a simple matter to relocate the tracks?

Ummmm... Not so much.

Our brilliant masterminds forget about buses which can adapt to demographic changes and are very efficient in their own right (economies of scale).

As a Coda, this is from Low-Tech Magazine's ABOUT page:

What is Low-tech Magazine about?
Low-tech Magazine refuses to assume that every problem has a high-tech solution. A simple, sensible, but nevertheless controversial message; high-tech has become the idol of our society.

Instead, Low-tech Magazine talks about the potential of past and often forgotten knowledge and technologies when it comes to designing a sustainable society. Sometimes, these low-tech solutions could be copied without any changes. More often, interesting possibilities arise when you combine old technology with new knowledge and new materials, or when you apply old concepts and traditional knowledge to modern technology. We also keep an eye on what is happening in the developing world, where resource constraints often lead to inventive, low-tech solutions.

Underlying the common view of a high-tech sustainable society is the belief that we don't have to change our affluent lifestyle. This is not a realistic view, but it sells. However, changing our lifestyle does not mean that we have to go back to the middle ages and give up all modern comforts. A downsized, sustainable industrial civilization is very well possible - and more fun, too!

Like I said, not a frequent poster but when something new shows up, it is always thoughtful and worth reading.

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What needs to be done here is so very simple. An armed society is a polite society.

An interesting thought - Vladimir Putin

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From Patrick J. Buchanan at CNS News:
Is Putin One of Us?
Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative? In the culture war for mankind's future, is he one of us?

While such a question may be blasphemous in Western circles, consider the content of the Russian president's state of the nation address.

With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, "In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered."

"They're now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil."

Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.

No moral confusion here, this is moral clarity, agree or disagree.
Putin's history is nothing to be proud of but he certainly sees things as they are today...
Get development out of the hands of a state-run monopoly and put it in the hands of the Free Market. Then stand back. From Yahoo/Associated Press:
Mexican state legislatures pass energy reform bill
In a steam-roller operation that ended Monday, a majority of Mexico's state legislatures approved sweeping energy legislation that will allow private companies to explore for and produce oil and gas in the country.

It took only about three days for 17 of the 31 state legislatures, one more than needed, to approve the transformation of Mexico's state-controlled oil industry that Congress passed last week. Some of the state congresses voted through the laws in the early morning hours after little or no debate.
We need the energy for economic development? Check. These people want to explore and drill? Check. OK - let's do this...
What were these people smoking. The new Murray/Ryan budget is draconian. It slashes funds for disabled veterans but greatly extends benefits to public-sector unions. From FOX News:
Senate GOP fails in final bid to restore military pension cuts to budget bill
A final effort by Senate Republicans to halt cuts to pensions of military retirees failed late Tuesday, after Democrats blocked an amendment to the controversial budget bill.

The two-year budget agreement, which cleared a key test vote earlier in the day, was expected to get a final vote no later than Wednesday.

Ahead of the final vote, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., tried unsuccessfully to use a parliamentary tactic to force a vote on the amendment, which he wrote to undo the cuts for military retirees.

A provision in the already House-passed bill would cut retirement benefits for military retirees by $6 billion over 10 years.

Sessions wanted to instead eliminate an estimated $4.2 billion in annual spending by reining in an IRS credit that illegal immigrants have claimed.
Emphasis mine. The illegals get $4.2 billion of government cheese to secure a bloc of Democrat voters. Our brave servicemen who have put their lives on the line to defend this country get a cut? These quislings disgust me.

Raising the bar - talk about clueless

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From The Guardian:
Tourist walks off pier while browsing on Facebook
A tourist is lucky to be alive after she fell into Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay while browsing on Facebook, police say.

The woman was walking along St Kilda pier engrossed in social media when she walked off the pier into the dark and chilly water about 11.30pm on Tuesday.

A quick-thinking witness raised the alarm. Police officers were able to point out the distressed woman floundering in the water to the water police, who rescued her about 20 metres from the pier. It is believed the woman did not know how to swim. She was taken to hospital for treatment.
Walking distracted near something that can drown you is not how to go through life. Swimming - maybe there's an App for that...
Where do they think that money came from in the first place? From USA Today:
Should GM repay $10B rescue cost? CEO says no
The General Motors bailout may have cost the government $10 billion, but GM CEO Dan Akerson rejects any suggestion that the company should compensate for the losses.

He says Treasury officials took the same risk assumed by anyone who purchases stock.
That money came from our tax dollars and was a loan. I reject any suggestion that I should buy a General Motors product at any time now or in the future.

Very cool website - deslide

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This is wonderful. When I visit a website that promises a top ten of something or other, it is generally presented as a slide show. You have to click through each page to see the post. They do this to sell additional advertising. Enter deslide. Copy and paste the URL into this website and away you go.
Obamacare needs to be killed in the cradle -- nothing more, nothing less. From the Seattle Times:
Expanded Medicaid�s fine print holds surprise: �payback� from estate after death
It wasn�t the moonlight, holiday-season euphoria or family pressure that made Sofia Prins and Gary Balhorn, both 62, suddenly decide to get married.

It was the fine print.

As fine print is wont to do, it had buried itself in a long form � Balhorn�s application for free health insurance through the expanded state Medicaid program. As the paperwork lay on the dining-room table in Port Townsend, Prins began reading.

She was shocked: If you�re 55 or over, Medicaid can come back after you�re dead and bill your estate for ordinary health-care expenses.

The way Prins saw it, that meant health insurance via Medicaid is hardly �free� for Washington residents 55 or older. It�s a loan, one whose payback requirements aren�t well advertised. And it penalizes people who, despite having a low income, have managed to keep a home or some savings they hope to pass to heirs, Prins said.

With an estimated 223,000 adults seeking health insurance headed toward Washington�s expanded Medicaid program over the next three years, the state�s estate-recovery rules, which allow collection of nearly all medical expenses, have come under fire.
A bunch more at the site - welcome to the brave new world... It's what people have been saying all along -- Medicare and Medicaid are unsustainable. Social Security is unsustainable. All of these big-government give-aways are unsustainable. Sure, they work fine for ten or twenty years; by then, the originators have safely moved on to something else and are immune from the consequences.

Fun at the EPA - John C. Beale

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I had posted about Mr. Beale at the beginning of October as his story was first coming to public light. Now, from NBC News:
Climate change expert's fraud was 'crime of massive proportion,' say feds
The EPA�s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors.

John C. Beale, who pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits over a decade, will be sentenced in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. In a newly filed sentencing memo, prosecutors said that his lies were a "crime of massive proportion" and �offensive� to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.

Beale�s lawyer, while acknowledging his guilt, has asked for leniency and offered a psychological explanation for the climate expert�s bizarre tales.
And this:
Two congressional committees are now pressing the EPA, including administrator McCarthy, for answers on the handling of Beale�s case. The new inspector general�s reports fault the agency for a lack of internal controls and policies that allegedly facilitated Beale�s deceptions.

For example, one of the reports states, Beale took 33 airplane trips between 2003 and 2011, costing the government $266,190. On 70 percent of those, he travelled first class and stayed at high end hotels, charging more than twice the government�s allowed per diem limit. But his expense vouchers were routinely approved by another EPA official, a colleague of Beale�s, whose conduct is now being reviewed by the inspector general, according to congressional investigators briefed on the report.

Beale was caught when he �retired� very publicly but kept drawing his large salary for another year and a half. Top EPA officials, including McCarthy, attended a September 2011 retirement party for Beale and two colleagues aboard a Potomac yacht. Six months later, McCarthy learned he was still on the payroll.
The entire organization is rotten. They need to have their funding cut 80% and reorganize -- get some actual scientists in there, not career bureaucrats. And only 30 months? They should throw the book at him -- Pour encourager les autres...
From Bj�rn Lomborg writing at the UK Telegraph:
The great biofuels scandal
Last week, the EU missed an opportunity to end the most wasteful green programme of our time � one which costs billions of pounds annually and causes at least 30 million people to go hungry every year. By failing to agree a cap on the use of biofuels, the Council of Ministers has given tacit support for a technology that is bad for both taxpayer and environment. Legislation will now be delayed until 2015.

The biofuel story is a perfect example of good intentions leading to terrible outcomes. Moreover, it is a lesson on how powerful, pseudo-green vested interests can sustain a bad policy. Hopefully, it will also be a story of how reason can prevail in the divisive climate debate.

Greens initially championed biofuels as a weapon against global warming, claiming they would emit much less CO2 than fossil alternatives. As plants soak up CO2 while growing, the subsequent combustion simply releases the CO2 back into the air, resulting in zero net emissions.

But the dream has become a nightmare, as environmentalists turn against it. Even Al Gore claims biofuels are a �mistake�.
Much more at the site -- political agenda meets unintended consequences and nobody wants to go on the record as admitting that they were ever wrong on something. Much more at the site and the 70+ comments are worth reading as well.

A child's name

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Curious -- by itself, nothing but added up with all the other information, this is a strong corroboration. From The Reaganite Republican:
Youngest Obama Daughter's Real Name NOT 'Sasha', but Soviet/Russian 'Natasha'...
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It was once not uncommon in 'captive' communist satellite nations (subjugated to the USSR) to give your child a Russian name, mostly to show support for the Soviet system and provide them a leg-up in the commie world. But how many (esp black) Americans do YOU know with a Russian first name?

How amusing it is then that the Obamas' last federal tax return revealed a fact not publicly known- that 'Sasha's actual legal name is 'Natasha', a diminutive form of 'Natalia' which means 'birthday' or 'Christmas' in the language of the USSR. And something tells me it wasn't just because it sounded pretty.

Of course it's a family tradition with Obama- after all, his parents met in Russian language class at the University of Hawaii. And WHAT kind of people took Russian in America in 1961...? Outside of CIA spooks, Lee Harvey Oswald comes to mind...
Like I said, curious...

Only the best and brightest

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Unreal - from Bryan Preston, writing at the PJ Tatler:
Secretary of State John Kerry Doesn�t Know that North Korea Has Nuclear Weapons
In which the United States secretary of State discloses that he really isn�t all that up to speed on what�s going on in the world.
ABC News journalist Martha Raddatz asked Kerry, who was in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, about the execution of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un�s uncle.

�I mean it really reminded me of � of a video that we saw of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing, having people plucked out of an audience and people sitting there sweating and nobody daring to move or do anything,� said Kerry, according to the transcript provided by ABC News. �Um, this is the nature of this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship and of his insecurities. And � and I think we � we need to factor that into the urgency of getting China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, all of us, uh, to stay on the same page and to put as much effort into the denuclearization as possible. To have a nuclear weapon, potentially, in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong In � Jun � just becomes even more unacceptable.�
North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests. Two of those have occurred since 2009, with the most recent happening February 12, 2013. John Kerry was confirmed as secretary of state on January 29, 2013. The North Korean nuclear test, which occurred a couple of week after Kerry�s confirmation, demonstrated that North Korea has been able to miniaturize a nuclear weapon to fit as a warhead on a missile. Kim Jong Un had been North Korea�s dictator since 2011.
Oh, he just mis-spoke. Jet lag 'ya know. He really is very very nuanced. Talk about all hat and no cattle...

State lotteries funding education

A sobering look at where the money actually goes -- from The Washington Post:

Mega Millions: Do lotteries really benefit public schools?
State lotteries that participate in games such as Mega Millions were sold to the public as enterprises that would benefit schools with millions of dollars in proceeds a year. So has public education really received a windfall?

If you look at the payouts from lotteries to schools, you might be impressed by the numbers. In California, for example, all lottery donations to public schools from kindergarten through college, total $24,018,713,472 since 1985. Yes, that's $24 billion. K-12 schools alone have received a total of $19.3 billion.

It makes you wonder how some California public schools have had to hold bake sales to keep the lights on, doesn't it?

In fact, in state after state, where lotteries send millions of dollars to public education, schools are still starved. Why?

Because instead of using the money as additional funding, legislatures have used the lottery money to pay for the education budget and spent the money that would have been used had there been no lottery cash on other things. Public school budgets, as a result, haven't gotten a boost because of the lottery funding.

In Virginia, lottery tickets have a tag-line that says "Helping Virginia's Public Schools" and more than $5 billion in lottery proceeds have gone to public education in the last 24 years, about $450 million annually.

But, according to the Virginian-Pilot, the money is used by state lawmakers to cover education expenses rather than extra money. And when it is time to cut budgets, education doesn't get spared.

Reminds me of this graph from October, 2012:

cato_education.jpg

From The Cato Institute -- preceding link has source materials and links.

From FOX News:
Judge deals blow to NSA phone data program
A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records likely violates the Constitution, in a major setback for the controversial spy agency.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange. However, he also stayed his decision "pending appeal," giving the U.S. government time to fight the decision over the next several months.

The judge wrote that he expects the government to "prepare itself to comply with this order when, and if, it is upheld."
To quote a doormat I own: Come Back with a Warrant.

The recent Colorado school shooting

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What the major media are not reporting are these two items. #1) - The shooter was an avowed socialist and believed in Keynesian economics. #2) - The shooter was stopped inside of 80 seconds by the presence of an armed School Guard. More at the Christian Science Monitor:
Colorado school shooting: Armed guards the answer?
As they investigate the latest school shooting in the United States � Friday at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo. � one thing is clear to law enforcement officials there: The presence of an armed deputy sheriff on regular duty at the school was the key factor in preventing more deaths and injuries.

As soon as he heard the first of five gunshots, that officer and the two school administrators he was talking to raced toward the commotion shouting their presence and ordering students and staff to follow the school�s lock-down protocol.

As a result, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said at a briefing Saturday afternoon, the heavily-armed shooter realized he was about to be confronted by an armed officer, and he took his own life.

�We believe that that action was absolutely critical to the fact that we didn�t have more deaths and injuries,� Sheriff Robinson said. The whole episode � from the time the shooter entered the school until he shot himself � lasted just one minute and 20 seconds.

Milton Friedman on Socialized Medicine

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35 years ago and he 'gets' Obamacare. Step by step, he outlines the fall. The free market is the only system that works. The progressives have been trying to get this soft tyranny implemented for the last 100 years and we blinked...

The Selfie

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Michael Ramirez nails it:
20131215-selfie.jpg
A big tip 'o the hat to Mostly Cajun for the link.

WA State's Obamacare is having problems

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Website crashes and then this - from Seattle station KING5:
Some enrollees report erroneous debits by WA Healthplanfinder
For the second week in a row, the Washington Healthplanfinder website is down, and it's causing problems for people who are dealing with billing issues. Some of them say the website is mistakenly debiting their accounts.

Shannon Bruner of Indianola logged on to her checking account Monday morning, and found she was almost 800 dollars in the negative.

�The first thing I thought was, �I got screwed,�� she said.

The Bruners enrolled for insurance on the Washington Healthplanfinder website, last October. They say they selected the bill pay date to be December 24th. Instead the Washington Healthplanfinder drafted the 835 dollar premium Monday.

Josh Bruner started his own business this year as an engineering recruiter. They said it�s forced them to pay a lot of attention to their bills and their bank accounts.

�Big knot in my gut because we're trying to keep it together,� said Shannon Bruner. �It's important to me that this kind of stuff doesn't happen.�

They're not alone.

One viewer emailed KING 5 saying, "They drafted my account this morning for a second time."

Another woman on Facebook with a similar problem commented, "We are all in the same boat."
And the WA State website was being touted in the other Washington as an example of Obamacare done right. This is not how to do insurance. They are mucking with a very large sector of the US economy (one sixth) and doing so incompetently.

The answer to an age-old question

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Hell No!

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I have read a bunch of Stanley Kurtz' writings and he is spot on.
From CBS News:
NSA leaders split on giving amnesty to Snowden
CBS News learned Thursday that the information National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has revealed so far is just a fraction of what he has. In fact, he has so much, some think it is worth giving him amnesty to get it back.

Rick Ledgett is the man who was put in charge of the Snowden leak task force by Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the NSA. The task force's job is to prevent another leak like this one from happening again. They're also trying to figure out how much damage the Snowden leaks have done, and how much damage they could still do.

Snowden, who is believed to still have access to 1.5 million classified documents he has not leaked, has been granted temporary asylum in Moscow, which leaves the U.S. with few options.
Emphasis mine - holy crap! Betting that the Russians already have them - they are putting themselves out on a limb housing and feeding him, they would want hard payment.

Boston's finest - license plate scanning

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From the Boston Globe:
Boston Police halt license scanning program
The Boston Police Department has indefinitely suspended its use of high-tech scanners that automatically check whether drivers have outstanding parking tickets, lapsed insurance or other violations after a Globe investigation raised serious privacy concerns.

The police inadvertently released to the Globe the license plate numbers of more than 68,000 vehicles that had tripped alarms on automated license plate readers over a six-month period. Many of the vehicles were scanned dozens of times in that period alone.
And this little tid-bit:
Nearly 1,700 plates registered five or more scanner hits over the six-month period, most for insurance violations or unpaid traffic fines. The most-scanned plate came back as a hit for lapsed insurance more than 90 times.

But some repeat alarms were for serious violations. One Harley Davidson motorcycle that had been reported stolen passed license plate scanners a total of 59 times between Oct. 19, 2012, and March 13, 2013. It was often recorded on sequential days or multiple times in a single day, all by the same scanner and almost always within the same half-hour span in the early evening.

Boston police chief technical officer John Daley indicated that each of these scans prompted an e-mail alert to the department�s Stolen Car Unit, but there is no indication that the motorcycle was ever apprehended or even stopped.
They spent all that money on the technology but failed to implement the organizational changes to make use of the new data. Stupid is as stupid does. Our tax dollars at work.

Google gets into Robots in a big way

Google announced that they had purchased Boston Dynamics. From the New York Times:

Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots
BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas have joined Google's growing robot menagerie.

Google confirmed on Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that has designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and even cheetahlike run faster than the fastest humans.

It is the eighth robotics company that Google has acquired in the last half-year. Executives at the Internet giant are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection. But Boston Dynamics and its animal kingdom-themed machines bring significant cachet to Google's robotic efforts, which are being led by Andy Rubin, the Google executive who spearheaded the development of Android, the world's most widely used smartphone software.

The deal is also the clearest indication yet that Google is intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even elder care.

Here is the website for Boston Dynamics and their YouTube channel. Very cool stuff!

Here is Big Dog (turn down your speakers):

Unseasonable weather

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Nice and warm in Angoon, Alaska: From the Weather Underground:
20131214-alaska-temp.jpg
Got to be a busted station. All that global warming going on...

Don't mess with Texas

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Bill Whittle is a national treasure.

The Colorado school shooter

Another stupid child going out with a bang. Talk about delusional - from the Denver Post:

Arapahoe High gunman held strong political beliefs, classmates said
The teenage gunman who entered Arapahoe High School on Friday afternoon and shot two fellow students with a shotgun was outspoken about politics, was a gifted debater and might have been bullied for his beliefs, according to students who knew him.

And buried in the story:

In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as "Keynesian."

"I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn't the market correcting itself?" he wrote. "If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn't it be able to overpower regulations?"

Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing "you republicans are so cute" and posting an image that reads: "The Republican Party: Health Care: Let 'em Die, Climate Change: Let 'em Die, Gun Violence: Let 'em Die, Women's Rights: Let 'em Die, More War: Let 'em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?"

In other words, he was just another flaming liberal who snapped when his world view was challenged.

Delusional - New York Mayor

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Looks like de Blasio is drinking the Democrat Kool-Aid. From Politicker:
Bill de Blasio Walks Away From White House Meeting With Sweeping National Hopes
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio went down to Washington, D.C. today to meet with President Barack Obama, emerging emboldened that a �progressive movement� was sweeping the nation.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, which included 15 other newly-elected mayors, Mr. de Blasio said it was clear to him that the fight against inequality�which formed the centerpiece of his campaign�was gaining steam far beyond the five boroughs.

�You can�t have a room full of mayors�literally every corner of the country�all spontaneously saying to the president of the United States the same exact things from their own experience: Something�s going on here � So what we have to do is organize it and amplify it,� he told Politicker.
Decoupled from reality - here, here, and here for a start.

China on the moon

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Congratulations - the Chang'e 3 lander made a successful soft landing. From the Associated Press:
China successfully soft-lands probe on the moon
China on Saturday successfully carried out the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades, state media said, the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

The unmanned Chang'e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth's nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process.

The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called "Yutu," or "Jade Rabbit," the goddess' pet. After landing Saturday evening on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon, the rover was slated to separate from the Chang'e eight hours later and embark on a three-month scientific exploration.

China's space program is an enormous source of pride for the country, the third to carry out a lunar soft landing - which does not damage the craft and the equipment it carries - after the United States and the former Soviet Union. The last one was by the Soviet Union in 1976.
Government funded probe. Looking forward to when the Moon Express lander gets there in 2015 - private enterprise, not government. Capitalism rules!

Ice free in five to seven years

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Stated by Al Gore in 2008 and 2009:
Meanwhile, arctic ice is at a long-time high level. Go figure...

Looking forward to these hitting the shelves. From The Verge:

Oculus raises $75 million to jump-start the virtual reality business
In June, Oculus raised $16 million to finish research and development on its critically acclaimed virtual-reality headgear, and today the company's taking the next step. With a new lead investor, Andreessen Horowitz, the company has now secured another $75 million in Series B funding. Marc Andreessen himself is joining the Oculus board, along with fellow partner Chris Dixon, and it's a brand-new version of the Oculus Rift headset that convinced them to join in.

"Virtual reality has been a long-standing dream in tech and sci-fi. To me it always felt kind of inevitable but it was one of those things, you never knew quite when it would become a reality," Dixon tells The Verge. He was impressed with the first developer kit he saw last year, but not enough to invest. Now, however, he says that Oculus has achieved what he was looking for. "The dimensions where you need to improve this kind of VR are latency, resolution and head tracking, and they have really nailed those things."

I don't play computer games -- for some reason I never really got into them. That being said, I love that they are out there. The gaming industry spearheaded the development of high quality graphics equipment. The first color graphics card for the PC displayed 640 by 200 pixels and a whopping palate of 16 colors. They cost around $300 in 1981 dollars ($770 in today's dollarettes) Compare that to today's video cards...

The Oculus will be a game changer.

The story behind the Doritos Locos Taco

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I had posted this earlier today and thought I'd do some research. From ABC News:
The Story Behind Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco
Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed, 54, has overseen the fast food chain in one of its most explosive periods of growth ever.

Since he became CEO in early 2011, the company introduced the wildly popular Doritos Locos Tacos in 2012, debuted a Cool Ranch version last month, and now sells about one million Doritos Locos Tacos every day.
A bit more:
Creed explained how one taco, the Doritos Locos Taco, helped create 15,000 jobs for the Yum! Brands subsidiary. Taco Bell says it has 150,000 team members in its restaurants nationwide.

�It�s very possible because two things happened. One is we grew the business,� he said, adding that Taco Bell�s sales grew by 8 percent last year.

Second, it helps if you add two or three employees to each of Taco Bell�s 6,000 locations.
8% growth is not too shabby in this economy...

Wooo Hoooo!!! We have water again

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Was sitting at the computer working on a project and heard some gurgling sounds emanating from the kitchen faucet. The pipes have thawed out again -- I once spent two weeks with frozen pipes so this is not a record but it was an uncomfortable itchy five days. Don't have to get water from the stream anymore. Filling the Llama's tank was getting to be a bit of a chore...

Our Drone Future

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A dystopian vision. Still looking for drones in my neck of the woods but haven't seen any yet. I live a couple miles from the Canadian border along a prominent smuggling route.
From Neuroskeptic writing at Discover:
Legal Threats Backfire
Last week, a young radiation biologist by the name of Benjamin J Hayempour was featured on the blog Retraction Watch. Hayempour had just had a paper retracted for its �unexplained close similarity� to another paper � a phrase that many people would consider a euphemism for �plagiarism�.

Plagiarism is so common that it�s a bit boring. If one plagiarized paper had been all there was to the story, Retraction Watch might not have run it; it certainly wouldn�t have got much traffic.

However, Hayempour went and made the story at lot more interesting � by having his lawyer threaten Retraction Watch with a lawsuit. This was probably the worst move he could possibly have made. Within hours, a mob of readers had trawled Hayempour�s other publications and uncovered numerous other �close similarities�. Instead of one retraction, he might well end up with several.
Neuroskeptic looks at this paper from McGuire et al (2007) comparing it to this Hayempour paper from 2013 and has this to say:
The passage even contains a classic plagiarism �smoking gun�. McGuire et al twice misspelled �haemoglobin� as �heamoglobin�� and so did Hayempour et al.
Busted! Hayempour will be lucky to get a job teaching high school science... Streisand Effect? Here.

It's 1977 all over again

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So true - taco

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20131213-taco.jpg

That sign language interpreter

Has quite the history. I had posted earlier here and here. Now this from eNews Channel Africa (eNCA):

EXCLUSIVE: Mandela deaf interpreter accused of murder
eNCA can reveal the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial on Tuesday faced a murder charge in 2003.

It' unknown if the case was ever concluded as the court file is mysteriously empty.

The man now known by many as the "fake interpreter", stood just a foot away from world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, who is one of the most heavily protected men on the planet.

President Jacob Zuma and leaders from China, Cuba, Brazil and India were also on the stage.

eNCA's investigations have found that Thamsanqa Jantjie, who is being treated for schizophrenia, has also faced rape (1994), theft (1995), housebreaking (1997), malicious damage to property (1998), murder, attempted murder and kidnapping (2003) charges.

Many of the charges brought against him were dropped, allegedly because he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

A bit more on this from this article -- also from eNCA:

Mandela memorial interpreter 'was hallucinating'
The man accused of faking sign-language while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said Thursday he saw "angels" at the event, has been violent in the past and suffers from schizophrenia.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me."

He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.

Says something for the people handling security. This moke should have been vetted...

Having waaay too much fun

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Merry Christmas from Silencerco

Buying a telescope

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Around the Christmas Shopping Season, a lot of stores will carry TSOs* for people to buy. (*Telescope Shaped Objects) These are usually priced around the $200 range and are decorated to look very cool and 'sciency'. Unfortunately, the money spent on these features take away money that could be spent on better optics so these are not really usable as telescopes. They disappoint and are put in a closet and forgotten after a few sessions. Money would be better spent on a decent pair of binoculars ($80), a lawn chair ($30) and a good book on observing ($30). If the astronomy 'bug' doesn't strike, you still have a nice pair of binoculars, a good lawn chair and a book you can donate to your local library... Chemist Derek Lowe is an amateur astronomer and has a great post on buying a telescope:
Science Gifts: Telescopes, Etc.
As longtime readers know, one of my spare-time occupations is amateur astronomy. I often get asked by friends and colleagues for telescope recommendations, so (just as I did last year), I'd like to provide some, along with some background on the whole topic..

The key thing to remember with a telescope is that other things being equal, aperture wins. More aperture means that you will be able to see more objects and more details. It's only fair to note that not all amateur astronomers agree with this, or about which kind of scope is best. As you'll see, larger apertures involve some compromises. And keep in mind that while a bigger scope can show you more, the best telescope is the one that you'll actually haul out and use. Overbuying has not been my problem, dang it all, but it has been known to happen. These days, eight-inch reflectors are a good solid entry point, but smaller ones will be cheaper (and perhaps worth it to see if this is something you really want to get into).

There, I've mentioned reflectors. Those are one of the three main kinds of scopes to consider: the other two are refractors, and folded-path. The refractors are the classic lens-in-the-front types. They can provide very nice views, especially of the planets and other brighter objects, and many planetary observers swear by them. But per inch of aperture, they're the most expensive, especially since for good views you have to spring for high-end optics to keep from having rainbow fringes around everything. I can't recommend a refractor for a first scope, for these reasons. A cheap one is not going to be a good one. That's especially true since a lot of the refractors you see for sale out there are nearly worthless - a casual buyer would be appalled at the price tag for a decent one. No large refractors have been built for astronomical research for nearly a hundred years.
A nice long informative post with lots of links to sources of information and vendors. On a personal note, I am an astronomy geek as well -- belonged to a club back when I lived in Boston and had an 8" Newtonian in New Hampshire. Attended Stellafane regularly. When I moved to where I am now, I was thinking that finally, I could get a decent telescope and start observing again. That changed when I looked to the North and saw the light pollution from the city of Abbotsford (123,865 people) 15 miles due North... Got a lot of other things keeping me busy.
We had a good solid thaw today and still no water so looking at possibility that the pump might have been damaged or that there is a broken pipe somewhere. Fun, fun, fun... Did a run into town for some errands and then working on some other stuff tonight. Posting will be light.
I had posted yesterday about the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's funeral. Jimmy Kimmel had a real sign interpreter on his show last night -- fun stuff:

Barry at the Mandela memorial - update

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I thought that Michelle was looking a bit pissed when Barry was doing his selfie at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. He was having some fun with the very attractive (and married) Danish Prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Here are the two following photos:
20131211_selfie-aftermath.jpg
I would love to know what Michelle was telling him later that night...

Crossbow v/s soft body armor

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The body armor panels will stop a bullet but here is what happens when you fire a broadhead:
More videos here: Twang 'n' Bang Been having waay too much fun with a small compound bow. Many bales of hay have been brutally murdered. Picked it up six months ago.

No water - day three

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It got up to 37�F today so I am starting to consider that there is something mechanically wrong with the water system along with the initial freezing. I get good pressure and flow at the well house but nada at the residence. Tomorrow, I will check to see how frequently the pump is cycling and try to use compressed air to pressurize the water pipe. Take a good look where the water pipe crosses the creek. The joy of country living.

Postal service in Canada

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Our own Post Office is going through its share of problems but Canada is taking it to a whole new level. From Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
Canada Post to phase out urban home mail delivery
Canada Post is phasing out door-to-door delivery of regular mail to urban residents and increasing the cost of stamps in a major move to try to reduce significant, regular losses.

The Crown corporation announced its plans Wednesday, saying urban home delivery will be phased out over the next five years.

Starting March 31, the cost of a stamp will increase to 85 cents each if bought in a pack, up from 63 cents. Individual stamps will cost a dollar.
Draconian.

Now this will be an interesting story

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From myway:
Mandela ceremony interpreter called a 'fake'
A man who provided sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela's memorial service, attended by scores of heads of state, was a "fake," the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said on Tuesday.

Asked about the claim by The Associated Press, South Africa's government said it was preparing a statement.

Three sign language experts said the man was not signing in South African or American sign languages. South African sign language covers all of the country's 11 official languages, according to the federation. It wasn't immediately clear if the unidentified man was using a different method to communicate.

The unidentified man seen around the world on television next to leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama "was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for," said Bruno Druchen, the federation's national director.

Nicole Du Toit, an official sign language interpreter who also watched the broadcast, said in a telephone interview that the man on stage purporting to sign was an embarrassment.

"It was horrible, an absolute circus, really really bad," she said. "Only he can understand those gestures."
Friend of a friend? Wonder if we will ever get the backstory...

Health care in Oregon - a success story

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From the Washington Examiner:
Oregon signs up just 44 people for Obamacare despite spending $300 million
Oregon, once touted as a model for President Obama's health care law, signed up just 44 people for insurance through November, despite spending more than $300 million on its state-based exchange.

The state�s exchange had the fewest sign-ups in the nation, according to a new report today by the Department of Health and Human Services.
WA State is doing a lot better with 17,770 people on the dole Obamacare. This is out of a population of 6,897,000 -- 0.258%

Barry at the Mandela memorial

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Talk about acting dignified - from Politico:
Experts snap at memorial selfies
20131211_obama_selfie.jpg
Nothing good can come of bringing an iPhone to a memorial service.

That�s the consensus of etiquette experts who said Wednesday that President Barack Obama�s selfie at Nelson Mandela�s memorial was no time for a picture-perfect moment, but differed over whether it amounted to a serious protocol violation.
Leader of the free world and all that good stuff. This memorial was about Nelson Mandela, not King Barry.

The bottom of the gene pool

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Talk about feral. From The Washington Times:
Teen thugs in DC run wild � even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
Tyran McElrath was already in trouble with the law when he sneaked through a rear window of a Northwest D.C. home last year in the course of a burglary.

Inside, the 18-year-old encountered an 81-year-old woman who was legally blind. He savagely beat her and ransacked her house.

The crime is detailed in court records that also explain how officials quickly caught the youth: He was wearing a GPS tracking device assigned to him by the city�s juvenile justice agency.
Hmmmm - the stupid is strong in that one...

Flash Mob for the Christmas Season

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The United States Air Force Band playing at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Crank the volume then hit the full-screen button. 6:24 of awesome cheer...

Well dangit!

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Got up to a balmy 34�F today, the well house is nice and toasty and I get great flow and pressure. No water at the house though... There is a layer of snow on the ground that, when it melts, is flooding the water pipe with 32� water keeping things frosty. The unmelted snow acts as insulation. Air temp is back down to 32.2�F so I am not expecting any miracles tonight. Snow is forecast for this evening but rain and temps in the 40's for tomorrow. Heading out to check the mail and run some errands. Such is life in the country - but the house is warm, there is plenty of food in the pantry and I can walk out to the creek when I need water. Life is not that horrible.

Barry's ratings

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From the London Daily Mail:
Oh, Bam! President's approval rating plummets to 38 per cent overall, just 34 per cent on health care and 40 per cent on Iran
Barack Obama is facing poll numbers that are now in the same territory as President George W. Bush's following Hurricane Katrina.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released numbers on Tuesday showing that just 38 per cent of registered voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president, with a whopping 56 per cent saying they disapprove.

The president has lost his landslide electoral edge among young voters, too, with a negative 41�49 per cent rating among 18- to 29-year-old voters. His once formidable support among Hispanics has also evaporated: They now support him by an historically small 50�43 per cent margin.

Worse for Obama's fast-approaching legacy-building years, the public believes he is not 'honest and trustworthy,' by a 52�44 per cent score. A smaller majority, 51 per cent, said he lacks 'strong leadership qualities.'
Thats got to leave a mark...

Between a rock and a hard place

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Highway 99 runs north/south along the Western end of WA State. It goes through Seattle and Bellingham and the Seattle leg is served by a small viaduct. This viaduct is not earthquake-proof and is being replaced with a new tunnel. The drilling machine is stuck. From Seattle station KING-5:
Drilling cranes ready to find out what's blocking Bertha
Two drilling cranes have been set up to determine what the obstruction is that has forced the giant boring machine called �Bertha� to stop in her tracks.

The cranes are set up at Old Alaska Way and Jackson Street, right above where Bertha is stopped.

Bertha, which is digging the new Highway 99 tunnel under Seattle, has been stopped since Friday, about 60-feet underground due to the unidentified obstruction.
That part of Seattle is built on landfill from the old regrade project. It could be anything...

Godzilla

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Release date: May, 2014

These people are not playing Farmville

From watchdog organization Open The Books:
FARM SUBSIDIES & THE BIG DOGS 2008-2011
Quantifying Farm Subsidies into Major American Urban Areas: Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL, New York City, NY, & Wealthy Entities Across America
20131210-chicago.jpg
CITY OF CHICAGO, IL FARM SUBSIDY RECIPIENTS
We show that millions of dollars in Federal Farm Subsidies are flowing into major American urban areas- where there are no farms...

Examples from our report:
  1. Three Year Economic Savings Program, Inc. -- a charity-arm of The Nation of Islam based in Chicago, received farm subsidies at the home address of Minister Louis Farrakhan.
  2. New York based National Audubon Society received $960,000 - including a New York based tobacco subsidy.
  3. Executives at U.S. Department of Agriculture and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. the people who created and manage these transfers, participate in the subsidy largess.
  4. Elected U.S. Senators and Representatives received hundreds of thousands of dollars in farms subsidies.
Full report (PDF) is here: Federal Transfer Report, Farm Subsidies & The Big Dogs I could use a nice subsidy right now and I actually farm! Where's my free stuff?

Time for a heat wave

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Sitting here looking at 30.6�F and mentally willing it to get warmer. Pipes are still frozen.
From the Associated Press:
Cold dis-comfort: Antarctica set record of -135.8
Feeling chilly? Here's cold comfort: You could be in East Antarctica which new data says set a record for "soul-crushing" cold.

Try 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit below zero; that's 93.2 degrees below zero Celsius, which sounds only slightly toastier. Better yet, don't try it. That's so cold scientists say it hurts to breathe.

A new look at NASA satellite data revealed that Earth set a new record for coldest temperature recorded. It happened in August 2010 when it hit -135.8 degrees. Then on July 31 of this year, it came close again: -135.3 degrees.

The old record had been -128.6 degrees, which is -89.2 degrees Celsius.

Ice scientist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said the new record is "50 degrees colder than anything that has ever been seen in Alaska or Siberia or certainly North Dakota."
Polar ice coverage is greater than in the last ten years, Antarctica is showing record cold temperatures. Where is the warming? We certainly could use some now. I remember back during the great heat wave of July 2012 when 2,253 records for high temperatures were broken. The media were having a field-day. What the news media did not tell you is that during the same period, 936 records for low temperature were also broken. Media? Crickets...

Our new $100 bill

Great story on the design of the new $100 - they interview some of the people in back of the technology.

From Esquire:

A Hundred Bucks Says You Won't Read This Story
Our new hundred-dollar bill, like every other single piece of American folding money, is born in this rotary boiler. It's a perfect sphere, an angry kettle fifteen feet across, spinning high off the ground between two stained concrete towers. Most people swear out loud when they see it for the first time. A network of gears, each tooth the size of a fist, churns away in the darkness behind it. The towers and the gears allow the boiler to spin like a planet, like Saturn, rust-colored with wide rings of black grease. It is hot in its shadow, the steam coming off it like breath, and every surface within twenty yards is either dripping or damp. The boiler feels almost monstrous, a relic of a spitting industrial age, corrosive and mean, and it feels that way especially when it finally stops spinning and its oval maw clangs open, vomiting tons of boiling cotton that hits the floor with a heavy slap. There it is, the earliest, no-bullshit incarnation of cash: piles of raw cellulose cooked to its fibrous essence, as brown as it is white, and scalding. American money is born in a flame.

The boiler is housed in an ancient redbrick mill, built in 1863, tumbling toward the shore of the Housatonic River in tiny Dalton, Massachusetts. The mill is named for a local hero, Captain Byron Weston, but is owned and operated by Crane & Co., makers of fine paper. Today the company is under the stewardship of fifty-three-year-old Doug Crane, the seventh generation of his family to manage the business. (The Crane ledgers, which begin with Colonel Thomas Crane in 1770, include the sale of "13 reams of money paper" to a Boston silversmith named Paul Revere.) Winthrop Crane, Doug's great-great-grandfather, won the first contract to supply the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing with paper in 1879, when the mill was only sixteen years old. Crane paper has been the money in American pockets since.

In the beginning, Crane & Co. made paper from discarded rags collected by stooped men pushing carts. American currency is still made with rags - until the last decade or so, mostly from the trims and off-cuts of denim manufacturers, including Levi's. Paper money wore soft, like a pair of blue jeans, because it was made from blue jeans. But recently, Americans decided they liked jeans that stretched, so jeans companies began adding spandex to their fabric. Money with spandex in it wouldn't be money anymore, which means much of Crane's time is now spent on a global search for waste cotton that wasn't used to make elastic pants.

Crane also makes high-end papers for business. Their stuff is gorgeous. A great story.

Well DANG!!!

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Just got home from the store buying run and working at the new business, turned on the faucet and nothing. Checked the weather station and it got up to 29.5�F this afternoon -- so close and yet so far. I am heading into town tomorrow again but will keep an eye on the temperature. Supposed to get up to 33�F tomorrow - downright tropical - and the rest of the week is getting warmer and wetter with temps forecast for 42�F on Thursday...

Minimal posting tonight

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Lulu and Curtis are spending the next couple days at their house in Bellingham until I get the water sorted out here. It is supposed to get warmer tomorrow and Tuesday so looking forward to having running water again. The well house is fine -- there is a hose bib there that has nice pressure and flow. The blockage is somewhere in the pipe from the well house to the farm house. As I said, it crosses over a creek so that is the tender part of the system. There was one winter when we went almost two weeks so it is not an impossibility, just a niggling hardship... Working on some other stuff tonight and have an early morning tomorrow so posting will be light.

Let it snow

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20131208_SnowNational.jpg
Counting Alaska, the USA has about a 75% snow coverage. From here.

Swamped - gun registration

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From the Everett, WA Herald:
State�s handgun database lags far behind sales
Washington residents are buying handguns faster than information on the buyers, sellers and weapons can be put into the state's firearms database used by law enforcement.

The Department of Licensing began November with a backlog of about 106,000 pistol transfers to enter into the database used by city, county and state authorities to find owners of handguns that turn up during investigations.

Last week, employees in the state agency were handling purchases made in March, punching in details on the make, model, serial number and caliber of weapons, as well as who bought them.

With existing staff unable to catch up, the department is asking the governor and lawmakers for $409,000 in next year's supplemental budget to hire several part-timers to clear away the paperwork that is piling up.

"We're required by law to keep up this database," said agency spokeswoman Christine Anthony, noting that hard copies of each sale exist and can be searched by hand if necessary. "We see this as a public safety issue that law enforcement should be able to access this information from their vehicle."
Couple of things: #1) - WA State does not register long guns (rifles, shotguns, evil looking black assault weapons, machine guns, etc...) so why do they need to register pistols. #2) - there is no requirement to register the private sale of a pistol (the evil gun show loophole). #3) - we already have the Federal form 4473 which is filed for each gun purchase from a dealer so why bother to duplicate that effort. #4) - $409,000 to fund several part-timers? Good lord -- talk about government inefficiency and waste. #5) - from the article: Lt. Shane Nelson of the Washington State Patrol expressed a similar view. He said the state database is "not instrumental" and others are available if needed. Another case of unnecessary government growth and duplication of services. Just say no...

Water in the news

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Malthusians always cry about how we are running out of things. They are always being proven wrong, never seem to learn from history. Here is a story about clean water from the London Daily Mail:
Vast freshwater reserves discovered under the ocean floor which could supply future generations
Vast freshwater reserves have been discovered under the ocean floor which scientists believe could sustain future generations.

Australian researchers claim to have found 500,000 cubic kilometres (120,000 cubic miles) of freshwater buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves off Australia, China, North America and South Africa.

The discovery comes as United Nations estimates suggest water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of the population of the world over the last century.

Lead author Vincent Post, from Flinders University, said: �The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we've extracted from the Earth's sub-surface in the past century since 1900.
These deposits were formed when the sea level was profoundly lower and were trapped by layers of silt and clay when the sea level rose. No global warming in sight...

Oil in the news - a two-fer

First - domestic oil, a reality check from David Limbaugh (Rush's smarter brother) at Newsmax:

Obama's Big Lies on Big Oil
How much truth is there in President Barack Obama's latest favorite mantra that we consume a disproportionate share of the world's oil, especially considering how little of the world's reserves we have?

Recently, Obama said: "But here's the thing about oil. We have about 2, maybe 3, percent of the world's proven oil reserves. We use 25 percent of the world's oil. So think about it. Even if we doubled the amount of oil that we produce, we'd still be short by a factor of five."

First, let's look at the raw numbers and then examine Obama's misleading framing of the issue. This is important because he uses these statistics to justify his reckless expenditure of federal funds to pursue alternative "green" energy sources, such as the disgraceful and scandalous Solyndra project.

Obama is lying with numbers -- we are very well off, up to 400+ years of known reserves. Second, our antipodal friends -- from the Adelaide Advertiser News:

$20 trillion shale oil find surrounding Coober Pedy 'can fuel Australia'
Brisbane company Linc Energy yesterday released two reports, based on drilling and seismic exploration, estimating the amount of oil in the as yet untapped Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy ranging from 3.5 billion to 233 billion barrels of oil.

At the higher end, this would be "several times bigger than all of the oil in Australia", Linc managing director Peter Bond said.

This has the potential to turn Australia from an oil importer to an oil exporter.

This post was from January 2013 -- the current numbers tend towards the 200+ billion barrels mark - more than the Saudis.

Just say no - Ukraine

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Glad to see the people standing up for themselves -- they managed to get out from under the jackboot of communism but their newly elected president is returning to Russia. From the New York Times:
Protesters in Kiev Topple Lenin Statue as Rallies Grow
In the biggest demonstration yet after weeks of growing momentum, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians filled the streets of Kiev on Sunday, tearing down and breaking up a monument to Lenin in the city center and intensifying their outcry over President Viktor F. Yanukovich�s turn away from Europe.

Carrying blue-and-yellow Ukrainian and European Union flags, the teeming crowd here filled Independence Square, which has been transformed by a vast and growing tent encampment, and where demonstrators have occupied public buildings, including City Hall.

�Resignation! Resignation!� members of the crowd chanted, reiterating their call for the ouster of Mr. Yanukovich and the government led by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. Thousands more people gathered in other cities across the country.

The giant rally reflected just how deeply roiled this nation of 46 million people has become in the weeks since Mr. Yanukovich said he would not complete political and free-trade agreements with the European Union that he had been promising to sign for more than a year.
A bit more:
Many Ukrainians view the accords with the European Union as crucial to a brighter future, with Western-style rule of law that could combat what many view as deeply entrenched public corruption and cronyism among the country�s wealthy elite. They also see the agreements as eventually offering better economic opportunities.

The accords were also viewed as a way to break free of the grip of Russia, which nearly a quarter-century after the collapse of the Soviet Union continues to exert heavy sway here, including complete control over Ukraine�s crucial supply of natural gas.
It is always about consolidating money and power -- same with this administration and Obama's handlers.

Heat wave

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It's up to 23�F now but still no Dihydrogen Monoxide at the house. Heading out to the pump house to check the heat and will check the span over the creek. Lunch first...

Dang it's cold outside... UPDATE

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When things get below 15�F, I keep a drizzle of water running in the kitchen sink. The well house has a heater but one section of the pipe to the house is exposed as it crosses over a creek. I was sitting here tucking into my second glass of wine when I heard the faucet start to spit. Got it running with a lot more volume and the spitting has quieted down for now. Just checked and the ground surface temp is down to 4�F - radiation cooling in all of its glory... UPDATE: Air temp is 6�F and ground temp is -1�F. I had a good rate of flow going through three faucets but it just trickled to a stop in the last ten minutes. It is supposed to warm up a bit tomorrow and quite a bit on Monday. Should have running water tomorrow afternoon. Have bottled water at the house and I can shower at the store tomorrow. Life in the country...

Nuclear Power - not fun anymore

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Fascinating essay by Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar at Nobel Week Dialogue:
The future of nuclear power: Let a thousand flowers bloom
In the summer of 1956, a handful of men gathered in a former little red schoolhouse in San Diego. These men were among the most imaginative scientists and engineers of their generation. There was their leader, Frederic de Hoffmann who had worked on the Manhattan Project and was now the president of the company General Atomics. There was Freeman Dyson, a mathematical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton who had previously reconciled disparate theories of quantum electrodynamics � the strange theory of light and matter. And there was Edward Teller, another Manhattan Project veteran; a dark, volatile and brilliant physicist who would become so convinced of the power of nuclear weapons to save the world that he would inspire the caricature of the mad scientist in Stanley Kubrick�s classic film �Dr. Strangelove�.

Together these men and their associates worked on a single goal: the creation of a nuclear reactor that was intrinsically safe, one that would cease and desist its nuclear transformations even in the face of human folly and stupidity. The reactor would have the rather uninspired name TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics) but its legacy would be anything but uninspiring. At the heart of the reactor�s success was not a technical innovation but an open atmosphere of debate and discussion. Every day someone � mostly Teller � would come up with ten ideas, most of which sounded crazy. The others � mostly Dyson � would then patiently work through the ideas, discarding several of them, extracting the gems from the dross and giving them rigorous shape.

TRIGA benefited from a maximum of free inquiry and individual creativity and a minimum of bureaucratic interference. There was no overarching managerial body dictating the thoughts of the designers. Everyone was free to come up with any idea they thought of, and the job of the rest of the group was to either refine the idea and make it more rigorous and practical or discard it and move on to the next idea. The makers of TRIGA would have been right at home with the computer entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley a few decades later.
The reactor:
It took less than three years for the engineers and technicians to take the reactor from the design stage to manufacturing. The first TRIGA was inaugurated by none other than Niels Bohr in San Diego. Seventy of these safe reactors were built. They were safe and cheap enough to be operated in hospitals and universities by students and their main function was to produce isotopes for scientific and engineering experiments. They were also robust and safe enough to be proliferation resistant. As Dyson recounts in his elegant memoir �Disturbing the Universe�, the TRIGA is perhaps the only nuclear reactor that made a profit for its creator.
And here is the money shot -- this quote from Dyson's book:
�The fundamental problem of the nuclear industry is not reactor safety, not waste disposal, not the dangers of nuclear proliferation, real though all these problems are. The fundamental problem of the industry is that nobody any longer has any fun building reactors�.Sometime between 1960 and 1970 the fun went out of the business. The adventurers, the experimenters, the inventors, were driven out, and the accountants and managers took control. The accountants and managers decided that it was not cost effective to let bright people play with weird reactors. So the weird reactors disappeared and with them the chance of any radical improvement beyond our existing systems. We are left with a very small number of reactor types, each of them frozen into a huge bureaucratic organization, each of them in various ways technically unsatisfactory, each of them less safe than many possible alternative designs which have been discarded. Nobody builds reactors for fun anymore. The spirit of the little red schoolhouse is dead. That, in my opinion, is what went wrong with nuclear power.�
How to kill an industry -- hand it over to the accountants and the middle-management fuckups. Those in management who have arrived at their final bureaucratic post as stated in the Peter Principle:
The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, "Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence."

That's it for this year

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The meeting was a good one -- business took about 30 minutes to attend to. Acceptance of last years minutes, voting on five board members (reelecting the standing ones), a few presentations and bam -- on to the raffle prizes and then the potluck dinner. As I expected, the food was really good -- several great chefs and two restaurants brought food. Just settling down to a glass or two of wine, surf for a bit and then to bed. It is seven degrees out and expecting to get colder. Unusual for this neck of the woods...

Local meeting

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We are off to our annual Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting. Lulu's third one! We have been together now for well over two years and the relationship just keeps getting better and better. I am furnishing the PA system so have to be there all night. Lulu and Curtis will be arriving in their own vehicle and will bug out early. These are a lot of fun and a nice get together of local business types. Buffet dinner and there are some restaurants represented so good eats.

Environmentalism as it has become

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Great essay from Dr. Tim Ball over at Watts Up With That:
The Effects Of Environmentalist and Climate Alarmist Crying Wolf Begin To Appear
The cover story of the November 25, 2013 Canadian weekly magazine Macleans pictures self-appointed Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki.

The caption reads, �Environmentalism Has Failed� �David Suzuki loses faith in the cause of his lifetime.�

Suzuki doesn�t realize he�s the cause of the failure as a major player in the group who exploited environmentalism and climate for a political agenda. Initially most listened and tried to accommodate, but gradually the lies, deceptions and propaganda were exposed. The age of eco-bullying is ending. Typically Suzuki blamed others for the damage to the environment and climate but now he blames them for not listening to him. He forgets that when you point a finger at someone three are pointing back at you.

Environmentalism was what academics call a paradigm shift, which Thomas Kuhn defines as �a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.� It was a necessary new paradigm. Everybody accepts the general notion it is foolish to soil your own nest and most were prepared to participate. Most were not sure what it entailed or how far it should go. Extremists grab all new paradigms for their agenda but then define the limits for the majority by pushing beyond the limits of the idea. Environmentalism and the subset climate are at that stage pushed there by extremists like Suzuki. Instead of admitting the science is wrong they double down and make increasingly extreme statements, just like the IPCC. It underscores the political rather than the scientific agenda. For example, Suzuki, apparently frustrated that politicians were not listening to his demands for action on climate change said they should be jailed.

Environmental groups grabbed environmentalism and quickly took the moral high ground preaching that only they cared about the Earth. Suzuki set up the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) with tax benefits that required it to be non-political, but after active involvement in an Ontario election he was forced to resign. His major theme in the election was to push the climate change and alternate energies put in place in that Province when Maurice Strong was in charge of Ontario Hydro, the state controlled energy agency. Ontario is the perfect example of how and why climate energy policies promoted by Strong as Founder of UNEP are a disaster.
Well worth reading and be sure to check out the 100+ comments as well. Reader JMac nailed it:
We need to move away from �Environmentalism�, which is driven by fanaticism and leftist politics, and move back to the concept of �Conservation�, which historically has had a broader appeal to those on the left and right because it is based in stewardship, and balance, and consideration to multiple factors including the needs and quality of life for real people.
Hear hear!

It's not just here

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The US is in the middle of a horrible cold snap. Iceland is experiencing the same. From The Reykjav�k Grapevine:
Temperatures Drop Below -30�C, Breaking Records
Some parts of Iceland have seen record-low temperatures, but that hasn't stopped tourists from enjoying themselves.

As reported, unusually low temperatures have swept across Iceland over the past two days. While temperatures in the capital got as low as -13�C, MBL reports that the M�vatn area of north Iceland hit a bone-chilling -31�C yesterday.

Meteorologist Trausti J�nsson pointed out that this is the coldest temperatures recorded in Iceland since 8 March 1998, when the mercury dropped to -34�C. In fact, yesterday's temperatures at M�vatn are the lowest recorded temperatures in Iceland for December 6 of any year.

Undaunted by these temperatures, tourists around M�vatn decided to enjoy some outdoor bathing in -31� C temperatures.

"It's fine to show up in this kind of weather. The damned wind is our enemy," Birgir Steingr�msson, a caretaker for the baths, told reporters. "There was this crappy northwestern blowing and it was snowing ice nails yesterday, but [the cold] is actually the best weather."
When I backpacked through Iceland, I spent a few days at Lake M�vatn. It was late August and the temps were getting colder. I spent a couple hours one day in a covered lava tube standing in wonderful hot water looking out at the field being covered with snow. Went back to my tent and spent the night with a blizzard depositing about ten inches of snow. High winds -- it felt like an ice giant was slapping the walls of the tent. I was snug as a bug and nice and warm. Left a few days later -- I had spent two months there and it was time to get home.

Unions

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The Czar of Muscovy has an excellent analysis of contemporary labor unions and their impact on society. Minimum wage and all that... From The Ancient & Noble Order of the Gormogons:
All About Unions and Minimum Wage
There are basically three different types of labor unions. There are trade unions, who are the oldest, consisting of your electricians, masons, plumbers, carpenters, and so on. These men and women serve a serious function, and the union provides them training in the best construction techniques, safety, project management, and a whole host of other things that make it pretty easy to tell when a building was built by union trades, and when a building was built by a bunch of twits who taught themselves how to bang nails with a hammer.

The second type of union, which we rail on all the time, is the public sector union. These are your teachers, police, fire, DMV workers, pencil pushers, and break takers who will sue the everloving spook out of you if you ask them to work to 5:01 on a weekday. They might agree to work one weekend a decade if you agree to double their pension. They are, of course, an unskilled bunch of cretins who are an instant and irreversible financial drain on any local, municipal, county, or state government they touch.

The third type, which we do not talk about too much, is the industrial union: this is a grab bag of service sector employees (janitors, farm workers, nuclear power plant workers, nurses, grocery baggers) as well as organized labor unions, which include everything from teamsters, steelworkers, drivers, postal employees, and on and on.
A bit more:
Imagine a world where a union simply says �We had our day. We did our thing. People don�t see the need for us, so we decided to close up the whole thing and go home. Enjoy the higher wages, former members: you don�t owe us any more dues.� Yeah, us neither.

So unions need to drive up membership. And what better way to do it than to convince undereducated younger fools that they deserve higher pay? You know, for just showing up.
A bit more:
The unions will tell you that your boss dreads replacing you. In fact, you can call his bluff at any time because replacing you with a robot will cost him millions of dollars he doesn�t have. Automate your job? What a farce: you know he�ll cough up the do-re-mi.

No, kids: robots are so1970s. It�s almost 2014. For $5,000, he can replace you and all your peers by hiring a coder one time to replace you with an app. Once customers realize they can order cheese and substitute onion rings for fries by tapping on a smartphone icon, you�re smoke. History. If you support a $15/hour living wage, you probably cannot do basic math�so let us help you here. $5,000 is about what you would make during summer vacation at $15 per hour. That�s not much, right? Your protest said as much. Think he�s bluffing now?
So true -- these people are leveraging themselves into a world of hurt. Unions are dinosaurs. They did have their function but their time has passed. 'Puter also had this to say a few days ago:
Detroit's Pensioners Screwed Themselves (And So Are All Other Public Pensioners)
Detroit�s public sector unions are squealing like stuck Irish pigs about their pensions being treated as just another unsecured obligation of a bankrupt employer. �Puter wrote about bankruptcy judge Steven W. Rhodes� decision here yesterday.

�Puter�s written extensively on public sector pension obligations and bankruptcy law. �Puter�s always believed public pension benefits are properly treated as unsecured claims in bankruptcy, regardless of any contrary state law. And that�s exactly what Judge Rhodes held as a matter of law. While it�s satisfying to see his longstanding position vindicated, �Puter�d rather focus on the incoherence in the unions� new claims.

Faced with the likelihood union members� pensions will be crammed down in Detroit�s bankruptcy, unions immediately switched tactics, claiming union pensioners are blameless victims of heartless politicians. Unions are telling anyone who will listen that public workers are hardworking middle class men and women who through no fault of their own have been wrongfully stripped of their meager retirement savings.
Much more at each site. Worth reading.

Some good news regarding the banksters

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I have zero problem with capitalism. Crony capitalism is a different matter and needs to be stamped out. There should be no barriers to entry for someone with a good idea and no person or corporation should be allowed a monopoly on their area of business. Glad to see that there is one branch of this government that feels the same way. From The Washington Post:
SIGTARP proves that some bankers aren�t too big to jail
A bank executive in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison. Another from Orlando received eight years. In Stockbridge, Ga., a top bank officer is serving 12 years.

At a time when the government is being criticized for not holding senior bank executives liable for crisis-era crimes, a little-known federal agency is compiling a growing list of criminal convictions.

Since 2008, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program has pursued criminal charges against 107 senior bank officers, most of whom have been sentenced to prison. Created to supervise the government bailout of the auto and financial industries, the agency has found dozens of cases of bank executives who misused bailout funds.

SIGTARP has a staff of 170, a budget of $41 million and an enforcement track record that rivals agencies twice its size. The agency�s work has resulted in $4.7 billion in restitution paid to the government and victims. Lawmakers are holding SIGTARP up as a model and questioning why other agencies are not producing similar results.
More at the site. Nice to know that we have some efficient and effective branches of the Government. Wish we had more of them...
I own a small Grocery Store and am starting up a new service business and although Point of Sale systems could be helpful, we are too small for the commercial units (IBM - $3K/month lease) and the security on the PC based units were never that good in my opinion. Especially for Merchant Services -- always used a dedicated credit card processing terminal. Turns out my concerns were not unfounded -- from Ars Technica:
Credit card fraud comes of age with advances in point-of-sale botnets
Underscoring the growing sophistication of Internet crime, researchers have documented one of the first known botnets to target point-of-sale (PoS) terminals used by stores and restaurants to process customers' credit and debit card payments.

The botnet remained active at the time of writing and had compromised more than 20,000 payment cards since August, researchers from IntelCrawler, a Los Angeles-based security intelligence provider, told Ars. The researchers arrived at the findings after infiltrating one of the control servers used to send commands to infected machines and receive pilfered data from them. A recently captured screenshot (above) showed that it was controlling 31 machines that the researchers said belonged to US-based restaurants and retailers. Some of the infected machines are servers, so the number of affected PoS devices could be much higher. The researchers have reported their findings to law enforcement agencies that they declined to identify by name.

PoS-based hacking is nothing new. The best-known incident stole data for more than 146,000 cards after infecting 200 terminals used at Subway Sandwich shops and other small merchants. According to federal prosecutors, the criminals behind that intrusion infected one or more servers with "sniffing" software that logged payment card numbers and sent them to a remote server. Although the now-convicted crooks were able to install a backdoor on the computers they accessed so they could change configuration settings and install new programs, there is no evidence of a botnet that actively controlled the infected machines in lockstep.
Keep each system separate. Use a stand-alone machine for CC processing, keep your POS register (if you have one) de-coupled from the internet. They are out to get you and being the person responsible for the harvesting of a couple dozen credit card numbers in this small community could kill a business' reputation. There is a lot of leverage to be had by keeping things old school. Less hassles...

Vaccines in the news - measles epidemic

From Slate:

Still Not Vaccinated? US Measles Cases in 2013 Spike to Three Times Normal
The CDC just announced that measles cases in the United States in 2013 tripled over the annual average. There were 175 cases (so far), when usually there are about 60.

Why?

Well, let's see. In March, there were 58 cases alone in Brooklyn, N.Y., tied to a Jewish community that refused or delayed vaccinations. In Texas, a megachurch that preached anti-vaccination views had an outbreak with at least 20 cases. In North Carolina, 23 cases were reported in one outbreak; most of them in a religious (Hare Krishna) community that was largely unvaccinated.

In all three of these outbreaks, someone who had not been vaccinated traveled overseas and brought the disease back with them, which then spread due to low vaccination rates in their communities. It's unclear how much religious beliefs themselves were behind the outbreaks in Brooklyn and North Carolina; it may have been due to widespread secular anti-vax beliefs in those tight-knit groups. But either way, a large proportion of the people in those areas were unvaccinated.

A bit more about measles:

Listen: Measles is not a disease we should be screwing around with. 30 percent of cases develop complications like pneumonia, diarrhea, or ear infections. One in five children who contract it are hospitalized. One in a thousand will get encephalitis. One or two out of a thousand will die from it.

Yes, die. From a disease that is essentially wholly preventable with a vaccine. Worldwide, measles kills well over a hundred thousand people every year. That's 18 deaths per hour.

The purported link between vaccines and autism is bogus. The Doctor who first promoted it was being paid by trial lawyers to show this evidence. The sample size was twelve hand-picked individuals. Dr. Wakefield's paper was retracted from publication and Dr. Wakefield now goes by Andy -- his license to practice Medicine was stripped because of his fraud.

Global Warming Deniers - just go away

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Great short video shows the real temperature history of our planet.
From Anthony. Major drink alert... Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
--George Santayana

TEDx in Bellingham

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Crap -- missed it. I have been a big fan of the TED talks since their inception in 1984. There has been a spin-off called TEDx - the x are independently organized TED events. There was a series in Bellingham last month. Here is a page with the speakers and videos. Click on the pictures for their bios and videos.

The amazing color card changing trick

About those job numbers

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From CNS News:
41% of Net New Jobs in November Were in Government
Federal, state and local governments hired a net additional 338,000 workers in November, equaling 41 percent of the total of 818,000 net additional jobs created in the United States during the month.

At the same time, the unemployment rate for government workers fell from 4.4 percent in October to 3.2 percent in November. (The overall national unemployment rate fell from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent.)

In October, governments around the country employed 19,726,000 people, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In November, that rose to 20,064,000�a net increase of 338,000 people employed by government.
That is a startling number -- 19,726,000 employed by some entity of government. Our 2010 census counted 308,745,538 people which means that one out of fifteen people are employed by the government. That is way to high a number for efficient operation. That is 6.3% of the total population working or not.

The cost of traveling - Joe Biden

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Three days in Singapore. A $538K hotel bill. From the Weekly Standard:
Vice President Biden's $583K Shangri-la Hotel Bill in Singapore
Vice President Joe Biden's $585,000 hotel bill for a Paris visit early in 2013 focused a lot of attention on the issue of the high cost of VIP travel. Even as Biden is currently on a swing through the Far East, the State Department has posted a $583,000 contract with the Shangri-la Hotel in Singapore for the vice president's three-day/two-night stay this past July, his most recent Far East visit.
I can not imagine what it would be to blow a half-million dollars for a few nights of lodging. A perfect example of how out of touch these people are from reality.

A nip in the air - more cold coming

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Got down to 12�F last night -- currently a balmy 18�F with wind gusting to 20MPH for a wind chill of 1.6�F. Getting some more firewood in today from the barn -- load up the bin on the porch. It holds about four days worth. I pitty the rest of the UNited States -- the jet stream is not just hitting us, it's all over. From Accuweather:
20131206-jet-stream-cold.jpg
More at Accuweather:
One of the Worst Ice Storms in Years Continues From Texas to Kentucky
An ice storm will continue to affect millions of people into Friday and threaten to cut power for hundreds of thousands from northern Texas to western Kentucky.

Travel by vehicle or foot will be dangerous during and after the storm, due to icy roads and falling trees and power lines. The power could be out for days in hard-hit areas. In some locations hit by ice, temperatures will dip into the single digits and teens in the storm's wake, causing wet and slushy areas to freeze solid and adding to the hardship for those without heat.
At least we just have the cold -- the jet stream has not had the chance to pick up any moisture...

A fun project - EME

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Amateur radio operators have been bouncing signals off the moon for decades but the equipment required to do so has always been beyond the reach of the casual ham. This is abbreviated as Earth-Moon-Earth or EME. Now, a group in Sweden have set up a powerful beacon that can be received with minimal equipment on the receive end. Check out station ON0EME. Lots of engineering details and construction techniques at the site.

Little coward

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Received a personally threatening email today. Stupid is as stupid does...

More developments on the private Space horizon

First it was launching a satellite into geosynchronous orbit.

Now it's mining the moon. From FOX News:

Private company plans US's first controlled moon landing in 40 years
A U.S. spacecraft hasn't made a controlled landing on the moon since Apollo 17 left the lunar surface on Dec. 14, 1972. That's about to change.

Moon Express will unveil the MX-1 spacecraft at the Autodesk University show in Las Vegas on Thursday evening -- a micro-spacecraft that will in 2015 mark the first U.S. "soft" landing since the days of the Apollo program, FoxNews.com has learned.

The craft looks for all the world like a pair of donuts wearing an ice cream cone, and the tiny vehicle clearly isn't big enough for a human being. But it is big enough to scoop up some rocks and dirt, store them in an internal compartment, and return it to Earth. After all, the moondirt Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin once trod holds a king's ransom of titanium, platinum, and other rare elements.

Moon Express plans to mine it.

Website is here: Moon Express

Kerry addicted to Botox

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Has to be real -- I read it on the internet. From The Daily Rash:
John Kerry Enters Rehab After White House Stages Botox Intervention
This morning the White House acknowledged that President Obama invited John Kerry to Thanksgiving dinner last week in order to stage an intervention. Earlier in the week Obama met with several members of his administration to discuss Secretary Kerry�s Botox usage. After a lengthy discussion, the decision to stage an intervention was unanimous. Jay Carney credited the vice president for using Thanksgiving dinner as a decoy.

�Vice President Biden said a White House invitation would be the perfect excuse for Secretary Kerry to avoid spending the holiday with members of his wife�s family. Secretary Kerry accepted the invitation enthusiastically, even offering to stay late and help clean up.�

During his 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry regularly scheduled photo-ops of himself wind sailing the rocky seas or dominating treacherous ski slopes to demonstrate his youthful vigor. As the years passed, collegiate-style hairpieces helped the senator maintain the facade of turning back time, but the inevitable aging process began to betray the youthful bounty of his track-star coif. It was in 2009 that Kerry resorted to using Botox in an effort to forestall the insidious ramifications of aging.

Sources inside Kerry�s inner circle say he was so excited after his first Botox injection that he immediately demanded more. �His instantaneous excitement for Botox was startling,� a former staff member quipped. �He was like Michael Moore discovering head cheese.�

A former housekeeper claims John Kerry began hiding bottles of Botox in the nooks and crannies of his five multimillion-dollar estates.

�Senator John would wander around his houses in the middle of the night injecting Botox into his face. He kept bottles hidden so Senator Lady would not find out. One night he became enraged when he couldn�t remember where he�d hidden his stash. He threw dishes and food against the walls until Mrs. Senator came down and threatened to withhold his weekly allowance.�
Heh...

Quote of the day

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�As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart�s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.�
--H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, 26 July 1920

Bias - Los Angeles Times

Rush Limbaugh is moving to a different radio station. Here is the LA Times reporting this:

Clear Channel moving Rush Limbaugh from KFI to revamped KTLK
Rush Limbaugh's radio tirades will have a new home on Los Angeles airwaves next year.

KFI-AM (640) is losing the conservative host's three-hour show, long a fixture on the station, to KTLK-AM (1150), which owner Clear Channel is hoping to pump up as an outlet exclusively dedicated to right-leaning chatter.

Emphases mine -- this seems a little over the top to me. Clear Channel is doing this to gain wider coverage because Limbaugh's show is popular and he sells advertising. This is a business decision. Conservative talk radio is a huge market despite what the masterminds at the LA Times think.

A big fan of XP

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Turns out that China is a huge user of Windows XP From Network World:
Windows 8 Update: China prefers to stick with dying Windows XP rather than upgrade
China says it wants Microsoft to extend support for Windows XP because that will help it in its fight to stop proliferation of pirated Microsoft software.

A report from TechWeb written in Chinese says the release of Windows 8 means a substantial increase in the selling price of a Windows operating system, especially in light of the upcoming end-of-life of Windows XP, which is still used by a large percentage of Chinese.
And some numbers:
Microsoft has been doing its best to promote Windows 8, but the latest monthly report on operating systems in use on the Internet shows that combined use of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 has declined over the past month compared to the month before.

In October the combined use represented 10.25%, but in November that dropped to 9.3%, according to NetMarketshare, which tracks use of key Internet technology.
OUCH! Goes back to that every-other version of Windows. XP rocked, Vista sucked, Windows 7 rocks 8 and 8.1 sucks. In the process of building a Windows NT machine -- I have an older piece of equipment that requires it. It will be off the internet so security is not an issue.

A bit of pencil history

There is a brand of pencil called Faber-Castell.

Turns out that this company is managed by Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell. From the New York Times:

Hands-On Bavarian Count Presides Over a Pencil-Making Empire
Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell has been known to hurl wooden pencils from the tower of his castle to the stone courtyard below.

The Faber-Castell family has been making wooden pencils by the hundreds of millions here in a storybook setting, bisected by the swift Rednitz River, which was once the main source of power here. A torrent of brightly colored pencils flows from clattering machines in a century-old factory with a tile roof and windows framed in pastel hues.

Faber-Castell is the largest maker of wood-encased pencils in the world and also makes a broad range of pens, crayons and art and drawing supplies as well as accessories like erasers and sharpeners. About half the company's German production is exported, mostly to other countries in the euro zone. That means that Faber-Castell contributes, at least in a small way, to Germany's large and controversial trade surplus - which now rivals China's for the world's largest.

Faber-Castell illustrates how midsize companies - which account for about 60 percent of the country's jobs - are able to stay competitive in the global marketplace. It has focused on design and engineering, developed a knack for turning everyday products into luxury goods, and stuck to a conviction that it still makes sense to keep some production in Germany.

"Why do we manufacture in Germany?" the count asked during an interview at the family castle near the factory. "Two reasons: One, to really make the best here in Germany and to keep the know-how in Germany. I don't like to give the know-how for my best pencils away to China, for example."

"Second, 'Made in Germany' still is important."

Great story.

Good Lord - our Senators live here?

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From CNN -- this is the house that Chuck (the schmuck) Schumer, Dick Durban and George Miller live in. All Democrat. Talk about infantile behavior/zero standards of cleanliness.

Cool Tool for Photography

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I think I just stumbled on my Christmas gift to myself. If you are into Photography, check out CamRanger This puppy is deep! I do time lapse, HDR and Macro. Win, win and win...

A nip in the air

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Outside air temp is 15�F and it is going down. Ground surface temp is 10�F due to radiation cooling. Got a space heater going in the bathroom in the DaveCave(tm) and a faucet running here. Yes, it is Winter. Gorgeous crescent moon tonight -- clear skies.

About those drowning Polar Bears

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Remember this animated scene from An Inconvenient Truth:
Turned out to be 100% fabrication and the "scientist' who came up with the 'data' has been fired. From Anthony Watts:
Al Gore�s �polarbeargate� scientist forced to retire
WUWT readers may recall our coverage of Charles Monnett, whose antics with polar bear sitings and attribution led Al Gore to put this famous animated video clip into An Inconvenient Truth and make wild claims about polar bears drowning for lack of sea ice.

Monnett�s legal case is over, and he has been forced to resign.
Heh - more at the site including links to the investigation and the settlement agreement. He gets to keep his cushy Federal retirement package.
Want to get paid $15/hour to flip hamburgers? Check these people out: Momentum Machines
Fast food doesn�t have to have a negative connotation anymore. With our technology, a restaurant can offer gourmet quality burgers at fast food prices.

Our alpha machine frees up all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant.

It does everything employees can do except better:
  • it slices toppings like tomatoes and pickles immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.
  • our next revision will offer custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground to order? No problem.
  • Also, our next revision will use gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant, giving the patty the perfect char but keeping in all the juices.
  • it�s more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.
The labor savings allow a restaurant to spend approximately twice as much on high quality ingredients and the gourmet cooking techniques make the ingredients taste that much better.
The $15/hour minimum wage is not about getting entry-level people to be paid more, it's all about union contracts, most of which are based on a multiple of the minimum wage. Minimum wage goes up, union employees get a bigger chunk of money and benefits. Unfortunately, without the benefits of increased productivity and lessened downtime.

Mr. Popular

Looks like the veneer has worn thin -- from National Journal:

Millennials Abandon Obama and Obamacare
Young Americans are turning against Barack Obama and Obamacare, according to a new survey of millennials, people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are vital to the fortunes of the president and his signature health care law.

The most startling finding of Harvard University's Institute of Politics: A majority of Americans under age 25--the youngest millennials--would favor throwing Obama out of office.

The survey, part of a unique 13-year study of the attitudes of young adults, finds that America's rising generation is worried about its future, disillusioned with the U.S. political system, strongly opposed to the government's domestic surveillance apparatus, and drifting away from both major parties. "Young Americans hold the president, Congress and the federal government in less esteem almost by the day, and the level of engagement they are having in politics are also on the decline," reads the IOP's analysis of its poll. "Millennials are losing touch with government and its programs because they believe government is losing touch with them."

Time to educate them about conservative values and basic economics. They are being setup to pay for all of Barry's social programs and they are just waking up to the reality of this...

Kanye West's fifteen are up?

From the Kansas City Star:

Despite a meager crowd, Kanye West inspires awe at the Sprint Center
The most shocking aspect of Kanye West's spectacular concert Tuesday night at the Sprint Center wasn't another suspect remark from the brash rapper. The meager attendance of less than 4,500 seemed inconceivably small for one of the most vital artists in popular music.

West almost certainly could have filled the Sprint Center five years ago. Tuesday's poor attendance indicates how his scandalous love life, frequent impolite pronouncements and his gradual shift away from conventional hip-hop have alienated many of his fans.

fifteen? From Andy.

Some interesting technology

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Two websites to visit. This one. That one.

Border Collies

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I love the breed but do not have them -- prefer shepherds (old school - not modern) and spaniels. That being said, this video is hilarious. No slo-mo was used -- this is realtime and really showcases their nature:
Hat tip to Neatorama for the link.

The best gun salesman in the world

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From The Washington Times:
Black Friday 2013 gun sales sixth-highest in history but lower than 2012
President Obama�s determination to pass gun-control laws in his second term continues to drive people to the gun dealers.

The number of National Instant Background Checks (NICS) run on Black Friday 2013 was the sixth-most in history at 144,758, according to the FBI.
Another interesting data point:
About one quarter of all gun sales are to first-time owners, according to a poll of retailers by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).
An armed society is a polite society.

A note from the future

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20131203-amazon-drone.jpg
Heh...

Kudos to SpaceX

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First geosync satellite launched successfully. From Space.com:
SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 Rocket On High-Stakes Commercial Satellite Mission
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lit up the night sky over Florida Tuesday (Dec. 3) in a landmark communications satellite mission that catapulted the private spaceflight company into the commercial launch business.

The upgraded Falcon 9 rocket launched into space from SpaceX's pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a mission to deliver the 3.2-ton SES-8 communications satellite into orbit. The liftoff at 5:41 p.m. EST (2241 GMT) marked SpaceX's first entry into the large commercial satellite market and its first launch into a geostationary transfer orbit needed for such a mission.
Low Earth orbit -- trips to the space station, etc... are easy. Geosync is a lot harder -- this is a milestone for private space exploration.

A bit of nostalgia for Pittsburgh, PA

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I was born there in 1950 and grew up until I left in 1969. There was the Pittsburgh Press and the Post-Gazette. The Post-Gazette has been going through its photograph archives and posting them on Tumblr along with the background story. Absolutely wonderful stuff. Here is the entry for today:
20131202-pgh-gas.jpg
Dec. 1, 1913: Nation�s first drive-in gas station
Here at the Digs we remember a time when gas stations were manned by young men in grease-stained uniforms who filled your tank for about $7, checked your oil and battery and cleaned your windshield. Then you gave him a tip.

Attached to each of these gas station was a garage bay, where a cigarette-smoking mechanic with scarred knuckles scooted under rusty heaps in search of oil leaks and faulty starters. Ah, we fondly remember his curses.

OK, we realize this memory dates us, and perhaps even betrays the fact that a member of the Digs staff was, years ago, one of those grease-stained young men.

But we resurrect this memory for a reason: Yesterday we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the nation�s first drive-in gas station. It was located, of course, in Pittsburgh, at Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street.

In the Post-Gazette files, we found two pictures of the pagoda-style building. A canopy covered workers and customers as autos were fueled. Signs atop the building announced �Good Gulf Gasoline� and �Superior Auto Oil.� Men in the pictures (yes, they�re all men) wear sporting caps or bowlers.

Before the advent of the drive-in filling station, gasoline was sold at grocery stores, livery stables, hardware stores, even pharmacies. Vehicles pulled next to a curb or sidewalk, where fuel was hand-pumped into a container, then poured into the vehicle�s tank.

Some drive-in filling stations did exist before 1913, but they occupied buildings and structures that had been modified to sell gas. Pittsburgh�s was the first structure designed and built as a drive-in filling station.

On its first day, the Gulf station sold 30 gallons of gasoline at 27 cents per gallon (we found one report that says this amounts to $6.39 in today�s dollars).

Later, Gulf introduced the first free road map and the first restroom opened to customers.
A fun bit of history.

A bit of fun in Seattle

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From gCaptain/Reuters:
Bail Set for Seattle High-Speed Ferry Thief
A man accused of leaping a fence at the Seattle waterfront and briefly commandeering a high-speed ferry used to shuttle passengers between Washington state and Canada was in jail on Monday with bail set at $200,000.

U.S. authorities say Samuel Kenneth McDonough was able to set the high-speed catamaran adrift into the region�s Elliott Bay on Sunday with no one else on board before authorities intervened to stop him and found he had locked himself in the ferry�s wheelhouse.

�It first appeared the clipper ship was adrift,� Seattle police said in a statement. �However, when a tugboat went to retrieve the boat they discovered there was a man on board.�

McDonough, 33, told police he had been trying to take the ferry to West Seattle, the statement said. He was arrested on suspicion of burglary, malicious mischief and reckless endangerment, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle said.

The ferry McDonough is accused of commandeering, a 330-passenger catamaran, is normally used to take foot passengers between Seattle and Victoria, in nearby British Columbia.
Sure... The captain left the keys in the ignition so you can just start it and drive it where you want to go. The ship is 132 feet long. Parking? No problem. I would like to know what that guy was on so I can avoid it like the plague -- talk about industrial strength stupid...

Obamacare - the surge to fix the website

Great long article at The New York Times:

Inside the Race to Rescue a Health Care Site, and Obama
As a small coterie of grim-faced advisers shuffled into the Oval Office on the evening of Oct. 15, President Obama's chief domestic accomplishment was falling apart 24 miles away, at a bustling high-tech data center in suburban Virginia.

HealthCare.gov, the $630 million online insurance marketplace, was a disaster after it went live on Oct. 1, with a roster of engineering repairs that would eventually swell to more than 600 items. The private contractors who built it were pointing fingers at one another. And inside the White House, after initially saying too much traffic was to blame, Mr. Obama's closest confidants had few good answers.

The political dangers were clear to everyone in the room: Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary; Marilyn Tavenner, the Medicare chief; Denis McDonough, the chief of staff; Todd Park, the chief technology officer; and others. For 90 excruciating minutes, a furious and frustrated president peppered his team with questions, drilling into the arcane minutiae of web design as he struggled to understand the scope of a crisis that suddenly threatened his presidency.

"We created this problem we didn't need to create," Mr. Obama said, according to one adviser who, like several interviewed, insisted on anonymity to share details of the private session. "And it's of our own doing, and it's our most important initiative."

Got that right Barry -- you could have hired some professionals -- SAP, Google or Amazon -- at the outset and could have come in for about a million and the website would have been ready in about a year. #More:

The website had barely been tested before it went live, so a large number of software and hardware defects had not been uncovered. Fixing the account creation software simply exposed other problems; people still could not register to buy insurance. A system intended to handle 50,000 simultaneous users was fundamentally unstable, unable to handle even a tiny fraction of that. As few as 500 users crippled it, according to people involved.

Bad move -- they could have hired out the testing. The last lab I worked for at MSFT did just this -- we could simulate huge loads against a server. We had over 2,500 client machines, each of which could simulate several hundred random users. Had a lot of fun figuring out how to 'push' a disk drive image out to any number of machines. Got pretty good at it. Just for fun I dug up a photo -- here is one row of 420 machines. There were five more rows.

20131202-wall.jpg

Back to the story -- the number of people working to fix the website is amazing:

But while the contractors were grateful to Mr. Zients for helping to create order, they saw the administration's 'tech surge' -- announced by Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden a few days before QSSI took over � as mostly an exercise in public relations.

The announcement conjured images of an army of software engineers descending on the project. In fact, the surge centered on about a half-dozen people who had taken leave from various technology companies to join the effort. They included Michael Dickerson, a site reliability engineer at Google who had also worked on Mr. Obama's campaign and now draws praise from contractors as someone who is 'actually making a difference,' one said.

Even so, one person working on the project said, 'Surge was probably an overstatement.'

Six people? A good team would need about fifteen. Manager, manager's admin, a person to keep track of the design specs, integrate change orders and distribute work to the individual programmers, two people to do the compiling and distribution of the new code and maintain the version control system and ten programmers. Have daily short meetings of top-level people (client included if they wish) and weekly thrash-it-out meetings with all hands (but no clients ever). You would have a large website up and running in no time.

It is a long article (seven pages) but worth reading just for an insight in how not to build an enterprise-level website.

And this great quote:

"There's so much wrong, you just don't know what's broken until you get a lot more of it fixed," Mark Bertolini, the chief executive of Aetna

Lulu and my insurance premiums went up $100 each and our co-pay is now $40.

The sooner this thing gets repealed and free-market capitalism is allowed to work, the better for everyone.

Our work in Afghanistan

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From CNS News:
After 12 Yrs of U.S. Occupation, Afghanistan Sets Record for Growing Opium
After 12 years of occupation by U.S. military forces, Afghanistan set a record for growing opium poppies in 2013, according to newly released data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

�Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a sobering record high in 2013,� said the UNODC. �According to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey, cultivation amounted to some 209,000 hectares, outstripping the earlier record in 2007 of 193,000 hectares, and representing a 36 per cent increase over 2012.�

In fact, according to the latest worldwide data on opium-poppy cultivation, Afghanistan dedicates more land to the cultivation of opium poppies than all of the rest of the world combined.
And, of course, the proceeds from the sale of this opium are what fund terrorism. The Afghani farmers are told to grow this by the Taliban. If they refuse, their family vanishes. We need to recognize what Russia did -- there is no winnable war in the Middle East. Back out, leave a pay-phone and a quarter and ask the surviving tribe to call us when it's over.

The Elements

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Tom Lehrer:
And also this fun one from Wikipedia: List of fictional elements, materials, isotopes and atomic particles Quite the list from Adamantium to Xithricite

This just came in over the transom.

From ZD Net:

Amazon unveils delivery by drone: Prime Air. No, seriously
Not content with next-day delivery service through its Prime program, Amazon wants orders to land on people's front porches in as little as half an hour.

Just when you thought the technology industry couldn't get any stranger, the latest idea from the retail giant is to offer an audacious delivery-by-drone service.

In a Sunday evening "60 Minutes" program aired on CBS (ZDNet's parent company) Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the new service, dubbed Prime Air, to CBS anchor Charlie Rose.

The company has been working on the "octocopter" project in a secret research and development lab at its Seattle, Wash.-based headquarters for months in efforts to ramp up its competition against its rivals. According to the program, the octocopter drones will pick up packages in small buckets at Amazon's fulfillment centers and fly directly to customers' nearby in as little as 30 minutes after they hit the "buy" button.

But the service won't launch overnight. In fact, it may take as long as four to five years for Prime Air drones to take to the skies, as the program is still subject to safety and regulatory rules by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Bezos also admitted that it wouldn't work for everything, but would be ideal for smaller items.

20 minute video of the demo is here -- you see the unit in operation in the first few minutes:

Here is Amazon's 1:20 promotional video from their website for Prime Air:

All that being said, that is Bezos in the video and that is an Amazon Fulfillment Center.

I would be sorely tempted to order something shipped to a fictitious address, toss a blanket over the copter and disable the GPS. Cool toy!

James Gurney has gone a long way beyond his Dinotopia books. Today, his blog covers painting blacksmiths at work including this wonderful four minute film showing his technique at the forge at Old Sturbridge:
And here is the promotional video from Old Sturbridge - gives a nice taste of what blacksmithing is about:
From Inside Higher Ed:
Academe as a Drug Gang
It's the season of preparation for big disciplinary meetings -- and for the job interviews that take place there. So once again -- amid continued tight job markets in many fields -- scholars will be debating why there aren't enough good academic jobs for new Ph.D.s, and the determination of so many new Ph.D.s to find the elusive tenure-track openings. Why, many wonder, do people even pursue Ph.D.s in the hope of tenure-track careers that are so hard to launch?

A blog post last week offered an unexpected idea: New Ph.D.s are behaving like those who seek to join drug gangs.

"If you take into account the risk of being shot by rival gangs, ending up in jail or being beaten up by your own hierarchy, you might wonder why anybody would work for such a low wage and at such dreadful working conditions instead of seeking employment at McDonald's. Yet, gangs have no real difficulty in recruiting new members. The reason for this is that the prospect of future wealth, rather than current income and working conditions, is the main driver for people to stay in the business: low-level drug sellers forgo current income for (uncertain) future wealth. Rank-and-file members are ready to face this risk to try to make it to the top, where life is good and money is flowing," wrote Alexandre Afonso, a lecturer in political economy at King's College London.

He cites the work of the economist Steven Levitt and the sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh in understanding drug gangs. "With a constant supply of new low-level drug sellers entering the market and ready to be exploited, drug lords can become increasingly rich without needing to distribute their wealth towards the bottom," he writes. "You have an expanding mass of rank-and-file 'outsiders' ready to forgo income for future wealth, and a small core of 'insiders' securing incomes largely at the expense of the mass. We can call it a winner-take-all market.

Then he turns to academe and finds very similar conditions. "The academic job market is structured in many respects like a drug gang, with an expanding mass of outsiders and a shrinking core of insiders. Even if the probability that you might get shot in academia is relatively small (unless you mark student papers very harshly), one can observe similar dynamics," he writes. "Academia is only a somewhat extreme example of this trend, but it affects labor markets virtually everywhere.... Academic systems more or less everywhere rely at least to some extent on the existence of a supply of 'outsiders' ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail."
Heh -- both my Mom and Dad were on this track when I was a child 50 years ago. It hasn't changed much. More at the site and the comments are worth reading too...

Oh no you don't

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This beggars the imagination. From The Washington Post:
Obama may be a rare ex-president who stays in Washington
Throughout his time in office, President Obama has opened many outside-the-Beltway speeches with a suggestion that he, too, feels like an outsider in the nation�s baffling, frustrating capital city. He shouts to the audience about how good it is to be wherever he is that day � Cleveland, Miami, San Francisco. Then he takes pokes at the town where great success in his chosen profession has brought him.

�It is good to be out of Washington,� he often says � a line that, in good times and in bad, always generates warm, sympathetic applause.

Changing Washington may not have come off as Obama promised. But for the president and his supporters, the city has been an object of contempt they can believe in.

Now, though, Obama has raised the possibility that he might remain a resident of the capital after his lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. expires in January 2017.

In an interview this week with Barbara Walters of ABC News, Obama and the first lady, Michelle, said they may live in Washington beyond their time in the White House to allow their younger daughter, Sasha, to graduate from Sidwell Friends School.

Sasha would be a high school sophomore at the end of the president�s second term, giving the family a couple years to enjoy, or endure, Washington as private citizens.
Sasha can keep in touch with her friends through social media -- her friends know that she is the daughter of a president whose term of office expires in 2017. Nothing new there. Why doesn't Barry want to move to his new $35 million Beachfront Hawaiian Estate? More here, here, here and here. With such nice digs waiting for him, it makes me wonder what Barry (or rather, his handlers) has up his sleeve...

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Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
FAIL Blog
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Neatorama
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF
TYWKIWDBI


Comics
Achewood
The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Dilbert
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
Tundra
User Friendly
Vexarr
What The Duck
Wondermark
xkcd


NO WAI! WTF?¿?¿
Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?


Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog


Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
DIYPhotography
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
PetaPixel
photo.net
Shorpy
Strobist
The Online Photographer


Blogrolling
A Western Heart
AMCGLTD.COM
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cobb
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Instapundit
iowahawk
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Neanderpundit
neo-neocon
Power Line
ProfessorBainbridge.com
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Samizdata.net
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Velociworld
Weasel Zippers
WILLisms.com
Wizbang


Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Allah
BigPictureSmallOffice
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
MegaPundit
Masamune
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Publicola
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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January 2014 is the next archive.

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