January 2005 Archives

Iraqi Election

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I do not need to say anything more. Cox and Forkum have said it all with this simple cartoon:

New Blog

Ran into this Blog: Rising Slowly The author is based in the U.K. and writes about weather and forecasting and the science behind meteorology. Here is a sample post: bq. A forecaster's lot Pity the poor weather forecasters. These highly-trained professionals end up risking their backsides to report on extreme weather conditions for their TV station executives. bq. Just ask Phil Maddocks, from the New England town of Framingham:
Your chief reporting skill as a meteorologist is a willingness to stand outside in the worst of any storm while on camera. This demonstrates to viewers that you really must know what you are taking about, because if you didn't, would you really continue to stand out there in the middle of the blizzard/hurricane/tornado/flood?
bq. He's got a point, you know. More often than not (certainly in the UK), TV forecasters are professionals. Scientists. They studied for many years and took lots of difficult exams. Now, at the peaks of their careers, some TV producer calls them up and says: "Sian, love, would you mind reporting on the hurricane for us please? Find a nice stormy seafront to stand on. Ta." Heh... There is one poor soul on a local television channel that Jen and I have dubbed "Parka-Boy". A cruel science if one desires a television career... This Blog has been added to the Blogroll in the Science and Medicine section.

High Schoolers and Free Speech

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Interesting (and disturbing) article at CNN today: bq. Freedom of what? First Amendment no big deal, students say bq. The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech. bq. It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high school attitudes released Monday. bq. The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly. bq. Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories. bq. "These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous," said Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study. "Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation's future." And what were these kids taught in Civics Class? I know that college students generally have to take remedial classes in Math and English but to not know the basic fundamental mechanisms of the Government they live under is inconceivable. I had this drilled into me when I was ten. It is no wonder that the academics in College these days are such neo-Marxist nutcases. I take a look at some of the things coming out of Evergreen State College and thank my lucky stars that it is MY tax dollars that are underwriting that venerable institute... Criminey!

Five Questions

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Swiped from AcidMan See if you can get these, I got 1, 2 and 4 and was close but no cigar on 5 bq. 1. A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of assassins with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that haven't eaten in 3 years. Which room is safest for him? bq. 2. A woman shoots her husband. Then she holds him under water for over 5 minutes. Finally, she hangs him. But 5 minutes later they both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner together. How can this be? bq. 3. What is black when you buy it, red when you use it, and gray when you throw it away? bq. 4. Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday? bq. 5. This is an unusual paragraph. I'm curious how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it. It looks so plain you would think nothing was wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It is unusual though. Study it, and think about it, but you still may not find anything odd. But if you work at it a bit, you might find out. Answers???

Easy Entry

Wired Magazine has a story on the Olympics of Lockpicking. Sounds like a fantastic party -- the personalities are great. Two sample paragraphs regarding the guy who broke the fact that Kryptonite Bicycle Locks can be picked with a BIC Pen: bq. Marc Weber Tobias is the author of Locks, Safes, and Security: An International Police Reference, a two-volume, 1,400-page compendium referred to here as De Bijbel. Last summer, Tobias' report on how to use a ballpoint pen to hack tubular locks - locks with circular key interfaces, like those made by Kryptonite - made headlines coast to coast. Much to the company's horror, Tobias publicly ridiculed their bike lock as an overpriced horseshoe. "Those people are unbelievably arrogant," he says with a smirk. "I can't wait to break their next design and destroy that company." bq. Tobias shrugs off the notion that by publicizing the vulnerability, he's creating a crime wave. "People are just mad because they wasted 50 bucks," he says. "People trust their lives and safety to these locks. But most locks are garbage. Look around, they're easy to open. Not knowing that doesn't make you safer." Tobias rolls his eyes and waggles his head incredulously. "I mean, what do people want - security through ignorance? Wake up." A good read! And of course, the book referenced: Locks, Safes, and Security is not available on Amazon so I am going to have to do some digging...

The Anatomy of a Cartoon Character

Portland artist Michael Paulus works in a lot of different media but this one caught my eye: bq. A character study of 22 present and past cartoon characters. Animation was the format of choice for children's television in the 1960s, a decade in which children's programming became almost entirely animated. Growing up in that period, I tended to take for granted the distortions and strange bodies of these entities. bq. I decided to take a select few of these popular characters and render their skeletal systems as I imagine they might resemble if one truly had eye sockets half the size of its head, or fingerless-hands, or feet comprising 60% of its body mass. One sample:

Car and Moose

From the wonderful SNOPES website (they do one popup but hey, someone has to keep the lights on...) And you thought running into a deer could be dangerous bq. MOOSE STORY (TRUE) The following pictures are of a moose that went through a car's windshield this month near South River, Ontario. The VERY lucky woman driver ended up with just a broken wrist and needing a good bath. bq. When you view the pictures you will wonder how the woman managed to survive. Point of entry:
Point of exit:
Happened May 2004... Going to have to slow down on the curves here, we have elk, deer and bear. The coyotes and cougar are too wary to be hit so we don't worry about them. Anything smaller just goes into the stewpot except for Spilogale gracilis which get left on the road and driven away from in a timely manner.

Kerry's 180

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No, this is not a flashback. The guy continues to "serve" in public office and I continue to watch him. He was on Meet the Press on January 30th and Tim Russert asked him about his not signing Standard Form 180. If you will remember, I wrote about this here, here, here and here. He lied and said that he had personally released all his information but he never signed the Form 180 which would allow people to get the documents themselves. The Department of Defence said repeatedly that they had about 100 pages of documents that they could not release until Kerry signed the Form 180. The growing suspicion was that John Forbes Kerry received a less-than-honorable discharge from the Navy. This article sums it up nicely: bq. My suspicion along with a growing number of military personnel is that Kerry received an "other than honorable" discharge in the early 1970s as a consequence of his vehement anti-US, anti-military activities with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and his potentially treasonous t�te-�-t�tes with North Vietnamese Communist officials in Paris. And this one is interesting too: bq. I [DONALD L. NELSON, CAPT, JAGC, USNR] was on active duty as a U.S. Navy lawyer when all of this was going on some 25 to 30 years ago, and so was Mark F. Sullivan, who at all relevant times was the personal lawyer to J. William Middendorf, then the Secretary of the Navy. We remember. bq. We are trying to break this absolutely true story nationwide, i.e., Fox News, C Span, and hopefully all the major networks. We are positive that John Kerry was one of those dishonorably dismissed from the Navy for collaborating with the Viet Cong, after he was released from active duty but still in the Navy, and for a totally unauthorized trip to Hanoi. He later got an �honorable� separation in 1978, some 12 years after joining the Navy, under President Carter�s �Amnesty Program� for draft dodgers, deserters, and other malcontents who fled to Canada and Holland, among other places, to avoid military service to our country. bq. This is why he has refused, and continues to refuse, to release all of his Navy records: they reflect that he was Dishonorably Dismissed from the United States Naval Service. If they do not (which they do), he would have released them to the public. Again, he has not done so, because he well knows that the truth would kill his challenge to President Bush. The emphasis is mine in both cases. These two comments go to show that there is credible evidence that Kerry was less than honorably discharged, got his record "sanitized" by Carter and will not allow the original discharge to become known to the general public as it would be toxic to his career... Here is the transcript of the Meet the Press interview where Tim Russert talks with John Kerry specifically about his signing the Form 180:
MR. RUSSERT: Many people who've been criticizing you have said: Senator, if you would just do one thing and that is sign Form 180, which would allow historians and journalists complete access to all your military records. Thus far, you have gotten the records, released them through your campaign. They say you should not be the filter. Sign Form 180 and let the historians... SEN. KERRY: I'd be happy to put the records out. We put all the records out that I had been sent by the military. Then at the last moment, they sent some more stuff, which had some things that weren't even relevant to the record. So when we get--I'm going to sit down with them and make sure that they are clear and I am clear as to what is in the record and what isn't in the record and we'll put it out. I have no problem with that. MR. RUSSERT: Would you sign Form 180? SEN. KERRY: But everything, Tim... MR. RUSSERT: Would you sign Form 180? SEN. KERRY: Yes, I will. But everything that we put in it, Tim--everything we put in--I mean, everything that was out was a full documentation of all of the medical records, all of the fitness reports. And I'd call on those who have challenged me, let's see their records. I want to see the records of each of those people who have put up a challenge, because some of them have some serious questions in them, and it hasn't been appropriate... MR. RUSSERT: So they should sign Form 180s for themselves as well? SEN. KERRY: You bet.
So he will only sign his 180 after anyone who wants to see his records signs theirs? I will be surprised if he is in any kind of public office after his senatorial term runs out -- and that clock is ticking...

Raving Moonbat alert

Wizbang links to an amazingly stupid utterance:
You know, I really wish Iraq were having an honest, safe, real election. But that isn't happening, and that's a shame.
You are invited to click on a picture of a horses ass to see the origin. Turns out it's someone who prides themselves on being intelligent. You can find out for yourself by clicking here Scroll down and read some of the comments -- a bunch of stellar intellects at work there as well. Buncha maroons...

About sums it up...

Chris Muir does an online cartoon called Day By Day. Today's sums up the Iraqi elections perfectly:
(NOTE - the ballots are signed with a fingerprint in blue ink -- people are proudly displaying their ink stained fingers as a sign of strength and defiance to the terrorists - 72% turnout -- gotta love it)

NAMM Oddities

NAMM Oddities NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchandisers and they hold an annual trade show where manufacturers demonstrate new products. Sort of like a Sturgis for music geeks. Barry Wood runs a website called The Other Room - they do recording and mixing. He also has been going to NAMM each year and has documented the last eight years of unusual products being demoed at NAMM.
Conklin PacMan Bass You gotta love themed instruments. Aside from the little characters used as knobs, I particularly appreciated the use of the neck inlay dots.
Metasonix Butt Probe Metasonix is a stalwart follower of the "truth in advertising" credo. They do their best to warn you of audio atrocities that their pedals will inflict on your audio. The Butt Probe sounds pretty much like you'd expect, particularly in light of the fact that anal lubricant is not included.
Shadow Hills Surround Controller Here is one super-industrial strength surround controller. Personally, I think that they've stumbled upon a cold war era missile control center that's the source of all their components. This box is built like a tank. Those magic eye meters are great too.

IRS-><-Helpful (my brain hurts)

Combining the Internal Revenue Service and the word Helpful in one thought makes my brain hurt but a new website seems to do just this: IRS: Small Business and Self-Employed One-Stop Resource A portal to IRS information plus a bunch of tutorials, mailing lists and State Links. Looks like I'll be spending some time here in March/April...

Chicken Little Environmentalism

Ran into this link at INDC. Bill says: bq. I'd Say ... that this qualifies as a reasonable blog post that takes a stab at refuting the conventional narrative around global warming. The this that Bill is talking about is an excellent post at Hold The Mayo. The author, Stephen Macklin, talks about the recent dire prediction that we will have severe warming in about ten years from now: bq. Chasing the Unicorn Another august group of politicians and environmentalists recently released a report positing that we've basically got 10 years left before the effects of global warming become irreversible. If we don't take immediate and drastic action to reduce greenhouse gasses we are doomed to rising ocean levels, catastrophic weather, and widespread death disease and famine. Remember all those teenage fantasies about what you would do if you knew the word was about to come to end? Well it's apparently time to put those plans into action. Let the bacchanal begin. bq. The report has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. bq. Here's the truth. bq. Global Warming is the environmentalist's unicorn. It is the mythical beast that they have devoted their lives to pursuing. It's capture, they believe, would give them the power to return the world to a simpler more edenic time. bq. The holy grail of their quest to turn back the industrialized world is the Kyoto Protocol, their church the United Nations, and their bible the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The foundation of their belief system is based on what they call the settled consensus of science. This foundation is weak one, as there is no real consensus among scientists about the reality of global warming, man's roll in causing global warming, or what the effect of global warming might be. And recently another major crack has opened in that foundation. bq. According to an article recently published in Geophysical Research Letters a good deal of the consensus science my be based on very bad research. Steven then goes on to quote from this article and cite another. The issue here is that the environmentalists claims are based on computer modeling and that the modeling has been 'tuned' by the researchers to agree with what they are looking for. The famous Mann et. al "hockey stick" shaped temperature curve is discussed as well as McIntyre and McKitrick's debunking -- this I wrote about here, here and here. Good stuff!

72% Turnout!

The polls in Iraq are closed Leigh at A Western Heart has some numbers:
We'll start with the good news, from CNN:
Polls have closed in Iraq's first free election in a half century, with the independent election commission reporting a 72 percent turnout of registered voters nationwide by mid-afternoon amid attacks and threats of attacks to disrupt the vote. The commission's Adil Al-Lami and Safwat Rashid did not release figures for Iraq's largest province, al-Anbar -- west of Baghdad, including Falluja and Ramadi -- or the northwestern Nineveh province, which includes Mosul. "There has been a vast turnout in Iraq," Rashid said. "The news is freedom has won," Al-Lami said. "We have conquered terrorism."
Leigh then brings this into its true perspective:
72% of people voted? Remember that the highest voter turnout of the last 36 years in the United States brought out 60% of the eligible voting population.
Leigh mentioned starting with the good news. They follow this with an analysis of the moving target that blogger Andrew Sullivan presents when asked what would constitute a successful election. Complete with links pointing to several different numbers that Sullivan proposes. Leigh then closes with this wonderful observation:
But while the election created one big winner (the vast majority of the Iraqi people), it created a few losers in the media and the anti-Bush left. They claimed the Afghanistan elections would be delayed, and they were wrong. They claimed the Iraq elections either should or would be delayed, and they were wrong on both counts. They thought people wouldn't embrace democracy, and they were wrong. It doesn't leave many more places for the left to be wrong.
Writing on the walls guys... They want Democracy. They did not have it before but the Coalition went in there and gave it to them. We did the right thing...

Instalanche? Naaaa....

Notice the sudden uptick in site hits? Did someone refer me? Was it Glen or Charles or Roger or the Commissar or the fine people at Power Line?
Sigh... No. It was just me adding my other blog to the Site Meter family and checking in. Going from zero site-visits to one. WooHoo! I am such a Link Whore.

Been there -- done that...

This is a classic -- I had seen it before several times and ran into it again via email:

Manufacturing Dissent...

Wretchard at The Belmont Club points to something that has been percolating for a while in my thoughts. When you see a photograph of a car bomb or another IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in Iraq, why is it that there are always several photographers there capturing the moment of explosion -- mind you, not rushing to photograph the horrible aftermath; I am taking about being in the right place, at the time of the explosion with their camera ready and pointed in the right direction. Here is Wretchard:
The Obsidian Order is applying the commonsense test to photos taken by Ali Jasim of Reuters, Ali Al-Saadi of AFP and Khalid Mohammed of AP purporting to show a car exploding in front of a high school scheduled to be a voting center. These provide powerful visual proof of how 'insurgents' are winning in Iraq. The Obsidian Order observes that for openers, the car in the photos is not experiencing any kind of high-order explosion; it is simply burning. (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds)
What do you see? A car on fire, apparently not close to anything flammable. We are told this is in front of a school, but we do not see the school. The fire looks like petrol, probably in cans in the back of the vehicle, set off with an incendiary WP shell (White Phosphorus - the white smoke and sparks). ... The key and blindingly obvious point: there are at least three photojournalists from different outfits there exactly at the time it goes off! Interpretation: ... this was staged
Staged? Staged? The Obsidian Order forgets that coincidences of this type are normal in Iraq. An AP photographer also happened to be around when Iraqi election workers were murdered on Haifa street. Some French journalists just happened to be present when 'insurgents' attempted to shoot down a DHL cargo plane. So why shouldn't three wire service photographers happen to stroll by when a car 'explodes' in front of an obscure high school building in Baghdad?
Wretchard had linked to the original story at The Obsidian Order (now on our Blogroll) Here is the story from there:
What do you see? A car on fire, apparently not close to anything flammable. We are told this is in front of a school, but we do not see the school. The fire looks like petrol, probably in cans in the back of the vehicle, set off with an incendiary WP shell (White Phosphorus - the white smoke and sparks). There are people running, but they are not leaning at the angle of people who're running in a hurry. There are some people standing around in the background at what would be danger-close distance for shrapnel even from a single 152mm HE shell. You can see a second photographer in one of the pictures. The stories are inconsistent: one says "flames engulf a car following a nearby car bomb blast in another vehicle", another says "a car just as it explodes".
The key and blindingly obvious point: there are at least three photojournalists from different outfits there exactly at the time it goes off! This is not a lucky coincidence. The pictures are clearly taken less than a minute after the original explosion and less than a minute apart. Also: all of the photographers are stringers, not regular staff photographers.
Interpretation: One, this was staged, the particulars of the bomb ensure it will be ineffective and safe from the distance from which it was photographed, but visually spectacular. The people running are most likely also staged. Two, the reporters were invited to see it. Three, they knew it was staged.
My only question: who are these photographers - Ali Jasim, Ali Al-Saadi and Khalid Mohammed - really working for?
The Obligatory (bogus) Photograph:


You would think that displaying Pig-Headedness would be anathema in a predominantly Islamic population but Noooo... From the BBC: Row over tsunami warning system bq. Representatives of over 50 countries and organisations have clashed over the location of a co-ordination centre for an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system. bq. Thailand proposed that the centre should be in its capital, Bangkok, but was opposed by India and Indonesia. And more: bq. Thailand is hosting the two-day meeting for affected countries on the ravaged resort island of Phuket. bq. The representatives decided that work should start immediately on strengthening existing national and specialised institutions. bq. Correspondents say national egos appear to be getting in the way of international co-operation. And the all-seeing organization that will oversee this "organization"? bq. "We agree that the role of the United Nations is the most important in ensuring that all aspects in building an early warning system are co-ordinated effectively and timely," said Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, quoted by Reuters news agency. Double Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!!! Excuse me but when you are running a monitoring system that demands a fast response, you do not use the United Nations. They are just now reacting to things that started happening two or more years ago. And as much as I love Thailand and the culture, the Thailand Meteorological Department delayed warning people about the possibility of a Tsunami because they did not want to chance panicking the tourists and having them leave. This story can be found here, here and here... As this article says: bq. Thailand's Meteorological Department officials met to discuss the likelihood of a tsunami on Sunday morning after learning of the earthquake that hit northern Sumatra at 7.58am. They had more than an hour to react. bq. Thailand's The Nation newspaper has quoted a source at that meeting as saying officials decided to play down the threat because they were worried about repercussions from evacuations if the tsunami did not hit. bq. The newspaper quoted the source as saying: "The very important factor in making the decision was that its high (tourist) season and hotel rooms were nearly 100 per cent full. bq. "If we issued a warning, which would have led to an evacuation (and if nothing happened) what would happen then? Business would be instantaneously affected . . . we could go under, if (the tsunami) didn't come . . . we hesitated for a while whether we should issue a warning or not." bq. Thailand's chief weather forecaster, Kathawudhi Marlairojanasiri, said his agency issued radio and television warnings of a possible undertow along the southwest coast from 9am. bq. They aired as the first waves hit. By the time a website warning aired three hours later, at least 700 were dead � including King Bhumibol Adulyadej's jetskiing grandson. And they want the center for warning? With the United Nations?

Avalanches and Beer -- a good mix???

From Ananova: Man peed way out of avalanche bq. A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it. bq. Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains. bq. He told them that after the avalanche, he had opened his car window and tried to dig his way out. bq. But as he dug with his hands, he realised the snow would fill his car before he managed to break through. bq. He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported. bq. He said: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there." bq. Parts of Europe have this week been hit by the heaviest snowfalls since 1941, with some places registering more than ten feet of snow in 24 hours. Beer -- the eleventh essential!

Great photo

Ran into this great photo at Yahoo News
Iraqi immigrant Marwa Sadik from Seattle celebrates before casting her vote in Iraq's election at the former El Toro Marine Base in Irvine, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005. The Independent Iraqi Electoral Commission is allowing Iraqi immigrants living in 14 countries to vote by absentee ballot. Overseas voting continues through Sunday, which is Election Day in Iraq itself. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
She drove 20 hours to travel from Seattle to Irvine just to vote. Puts a whole new dimension on the term Voter Turnout...

Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology

As some of you might know, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been building Mosques here in the USA for Muslims to use. Nice gesture and all that. What is not as well known is the virulent form of Wahhabism being practiced at these Mosques -- sermons and literature. The Center for Religious Freedom spent one year collecting documents from these Mosques and have published a 89-page report (PDF format) on their content. bq. The 89-page report, �Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques,� is based on a year-long study of over two hundred original documents, all disseminated, published or otherwise generated by the government of Saudi Arabia and collected from more than a dozen mosques in the United States. bq. The propagation of hate ideology by Saudi Arabia is known to be worldwide, but its occurrence within the United States has received scant attention until now. Within worldwide Sunni Islam, followers of Saudi Arabia�s extremist Wahhabi ideology are a distinct minority, as is evident by the millions of Muslims who have chosen to make America their home and are upstanding, law-abiding citizens and neighbors. And some of the findings: bq. Among the key findings of the report: bq. Various Saudi government publications gathered for this study, most of which are in Arabic, assert that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and warn against imitating, befriending, or helping them in any way, or taking part in their festivities and celebrations; bq. The documents promote contempt for the United States because it is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law. They condemn democracy as un-Islamic; bq. One insidious aspect of the Saudi propaganda examined is its aim to replace traditional and moderate interpretations of Islam with extremist Wahhabism, the officially-established religion of Saudi Arabia. In these documents, other Muslims, especially those who advocate tolerance, are condemned as infidels. The opening fatwa in one Saudi embassy-distributed book, published by the Saudi Air Force, responds to a question about a Muslim preacher in a European mosque who taught that it is not right to condemn Jews and Christians as infidels. The Saudi state cleric�s reply rebukes the Muslim cleric: �He who casts doubts about their infidelity leaves no doubt about his.� Since, under Saudi law, �apostates� from Islam can be sentenced to death, this is an implied death threat against the tolerant Muslim imam, as well as an incitement to vigilante violence; bq. Sufi and Shiite Muslims are viciously condemned; bq. For a Muslim who fails to uphold the Saudi Wahhabi sect�s sexual mores (i.e. through homosexual activity or heterosexual activity outside of marriage), the edicts published by the Saudi government�s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and found in American mosques advise, �it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money;� bq. Regarding those who convert out of Islam, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs explicitly asserts, they �should be killed;� These are just a few of the items. The full report (PDF format) can be downloaded from here (right-click and save as) Sick stuff... Hat tip Charles at LGF


A group: "Citizens United" is placing this Billboard around Hollywood soon:
From this news article: bq. HUMAN EVENTS has learned that a billboard blitz "thanking" Hollywood for the reelection of President Bush will be unveiled early next week. bq. The advertisements feature the faces of liberal Hollywood icons Michael Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Affleck, Martin Sheen, Chevy Chase, Barbara Streisand, and Sean Penn, and offer thanks to Hollywood their help getting President Bush reelected. bq. Two versions of the billboard were created, both "thanking" Hollywood -- the first for "4 more years" and the second for "W. Still President." And when and where will these Billboards be posted? bq. Billboard creator Citizens United, a group that advocates a return to traditional American values, has purchased the use of three billboards near the Kodak Theatre (home of the Academy Awards) for the month of February, which includes Oscar Night, Sunday, February 27. Like I said -- Sweeeet!!! Hat tip to Charles at LGF

Back at the farm

Just got in - blogging will resume shortly...

Cool clock prototype

Hat tip to Gizmodo for the news of this product prototype: bq. Quattro Multi-Function Clock As the next in Near Near Future's 'Strangely Familiar' series of gadgets, this Quattro prototype alarm is a solid translucent block that has no visible buttons or markings. As the Quattro is rotated, its function changes�on the side it's a radio, tilted up it's an alarm, and horizontally it's a clock, each indicated by a contextual change in the display on the front. It gets better: the Quattro recognizes when you get close and lights up touch-sensitive buttons. Then it gets even betterer: a wirelessly connected teddy bear triggers the alarm's snooze function when you give it a hug. I want this future very badly.

No blogging today or tomorrow morning.

Heading into the "big city" (Seattle) for an overnighter -- got some paperwork for Brownsnout to deal with plus there is a crazy bunch of hiking and backpacking types who hold drunk debauched socials every month and we are going to this one. We will be back at the farm sometime Saturday afternoon...

Lab Glassware

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline has a wonderful essay on lab glassware. bq. Glassware Geek Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the first chemical reaction I ever did in a research lab. So I've been around, but I'm not old enough to remember the days before standard glass fittings. I think you have to go back to the 1950s for that, back to the days of rubber stoppers and hand-bent glass tubing. bq. Nope, for my entire lab lifetime it's been standardized glass joints. Those of you in the labs will have hardly given a thought to these, since they're part of your everyday experience, but I find that nonscientists are often quite taken by these. The joints are just ground glass (the "frosted" look as you'd see in a decorative mug), made to a standard diameter, angle, and length. (Here are some shots of equipment with them.) They make all flasks, adapters, columns, condensers and what-have-you interchangable, no matter where you bought it. You can assemble anything you feel like assembling, as long as you have the pieces and the patience. It's like glassware Lego. Wonderful stuff. I used these fittings too when I was studying Biology although we were still required to do a bit of glassblowing and that art has some amazing practitioners -- even today.
Actually, Nobel Laureates. Reuters has the story. bq. 70 Nobel Prize Winners Laud Beleaguered UN Chief Seventy Nobel Prize laureates including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Thursday endorsed the leadership of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the face of questions about his role in the tainted Iraq oil-for-food program. "He has never failed to take a critical look at the U.N. to examine its weaknesses and recommend improvements," the prizewinners said in a statement released by the nonprofit New York-based Better World Campaign. bq. "We commend Secretary-General Kofi Annan for effectively leveraging his moral authority, independence, and wisdom to elevate the United Nations to meet its highest principles," the letter said. bq. The United Nations said Annan was grateful for the warm words. Now -- who is this group "Better World Campaign" -- hey, the article gives a clue: bq. The Better World Campaign, which organized the letter, is a sister group to the U.N. Foundation, created in 1998 by a $1 billion pledge by media mogul Ted Turner in support of U.N. programs. This Ted Turner?
From The Diplomad comes this story of the United Nations, in two of their publications on their own website, taking credit for things they had little or nothing to do with. First, a bit about credibility -- from their own website: bq. About Me Name:Diplomad A Blog by career US Foreign Service officers. They are Republican (most of the time) in an institution (State Department) in which being a Republican can be bad for your career -- even with a Republican President! Join the State Department Republican Underground. FSOs (and others) Send us your suggested posts to diplomad-at-hotmail-dot-com OK -- it is a group blog and from one paragraph in this post, at least one of them is over in that area right now and seeing what is going on with their own eyes. On to the post: bq. More UNhonesty We warned you; some of you didn't believe us. We told you that on or about January 26, UN Undersecretary General and Disaster Relief Coordinator Jan "Stingy" Egeland would hold a press event to boast of what the UN has done on tsunami relief over the past month since the December 26 disaster. He did. bq. You can find the two documents thus far put out by the UN here and here. The Diplomad wants to underline that these documents appear on the UN's official web site; they are what the UN wants you to know; they comprise the official UN party line; they are not interpretations by journalists or bloggers. They start off by quoting from one of the UN Reports and have the following things to say (I am excerpting heavily -- visit the website if you want the item-by-item fact-checking): bq. So, "20 foreign militaries lent" their assets, eh? Lent? To whom? Not to the UN, that's for sure. For at least three of the past four weeks, the UN had nothing to do with the operations of the "20 foreign militaries." The UN certainly was not directing the Aussies, who were the first ones in; they blazed the path for the rest and thousands of people owe them their lives. They weren't running the assets of the Kiwis or the Singaporeans, either, and they sure weren't running ours. Up until just a few days ago, those "20" foreign militaries were Aussies, Singaporeans, Kiwis (who've gotten little credit for the fine work they've done), and Yanks with a modest but appreciated assist as of about 10-12 days ago of the Spanish and the Pakistani militaries. The coordinating was being done by the Australians, the USA and the Indonesian military. Up until just about four or five days ago, except for the disaster tourists such as Annan and Bellamy, the UN WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN -- except quite overwhelmingly in Jakarta's luxury hotels, a few UNocrats in Medan, and a tiny handful at the airport in Aceh writing up press releases claiming all the credit for the UN and bad-mouthing the hard-working Aussies and Americans. Emphasis mine, caps theirs. The diplomad then quotes from the other article on the United Nation website, does some severe fact-checking on that one too and closes with this paragraph: bq. The Diplomad finds absolutely stunning the language about the response being "remarkably, perhaps singularly, effective, swift and muscular" and that it "had succeeded in just one month. Normally, such a phase took three or more months . . ." Why was it so quick and effective? Thanks to President Bush who quickly threw together a "core group" of nations that responded right away, without waiting for the UN. Precisely the group that Clare Short and her ilk so criticized for undermining the UN. The United Nations does not work and it needs to be dismantled because it is sucking support and resources from the NGOs that are doing good work. Koffi and his corrupt cronies are offering zero benefit to this planet.
Two articles on the United Nations that need further audience so I thought I'd bring them to my readers -- all three of you! From Charles at LGF: bq. UN Contractor Arrested for Diverting Aid A leading United Nations contractor in Indonesia who is also the chairman of an �anti-corruption watchdog� group has been arrested for diverting large quantities of aid supplies, with help from the Islamic Defenders Front. bq. It should be noted, however, that last week he accused Indonesian officials of inflating refugee numbers to procure more aid. This could be payback, Aceh-style.
In a furore that threatens to undermine faith in the $10 billion relief effort, Farid Faqih, chairman of Government Watch and a leading United Nations contractor in Aceh, was in police custody yesterday after being apprehended by Indonesian air force officers. Last night the United Nations said it was conducting its own investigation into the claims. But at a press conference in Jakarta, Government Watch representatives insisted Mr Faqih had removed the aid for safekeeping. A spokesman for the Indonesian military, Colonel D. J. Nachrowi, told the Herald that Mr Faqih had improperly removed medical supplies, hundreds of cooking stoves and other aid from the central depot at Banda Aceh airport. Mr Faqih was arrested with three members of the Islamic Defenders Front, who allegedly assisted in the removal. The military then found large quantities of international aid in three warehouses operated by Mr Faqih. �Mr Faqih took goods that were clearly not his,� Colonel Nachrowi said. Mr Faqih appeared to have been badly beaten, but Colonel Nachrowi said it was unclear who was responsible.
Yeah -- they are there to help people. Sheesh -- what unmitigated crap. To steal from people whose lives depend on the very supplies you are taking. Religion of 'peace' and 'charity' indeed.

The Biology of B-Movie Monsters

Nice article on monsters and incredible shrinking things -- what would work and what would not. A sample: bq. In The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), the hero is exposed to radioactive toxic waste and finds himself growing smaller and smaller. He is lost to family and friends while fending off the household cat and must make his own way in a world grown monstrously large. He forages food from crumbs and drinks from puddles of condensation. In one famous scene, he defends himself against a house spider by using an abandoned sewing needle, which he has to struggle to lift. bq. Stop the projector! Time for a little analysis Fun stuff...

Self-defence with a Walking-stick

This is a reprint of an article by E.W. Barton-Wright from Pearson�s Magazine, 11 (January 1901), 35-44. bq. It must be understood that the new art of self-defence with a walking-stick, herewith introduced for the first time, differs essentially from single-stick or sword-play; for a man may be a champion in the use of sword or single-stick and yet be quite unable to put a walking-stick to any effective use as a weapon of defence. The simple and sufficient reason to account for this is that both in single-stick and sword-play a cut is always taken up by the hilt of the weapon, whereas if you attempted to guard a blow with a walking-stick -- which has no hilt -- in the same way as you would with a sword, the blow would slide down your stick onto your hand and disable you. Therefore, in order to make a stick a real means of self-defence, it has been necessary to devise a system by which one can guard a blow in such a way as to cause it to slide away from the hand instead of toward it, and thus obviate the risk of being disarmed by being hit upon the fingers. bq. After some fifteen years of hard work, such a system has been devised by a Swiss professor of arms, M. Vigny. It has recently been assimilated by me into my system of self-defence called "Bartitsu." bq. In the art of self-defence with a walking-stick, the stick is held in the hand with the thumb overlapping the fingers, and not, as in single-stick or sword-play, with the thumb resting on the blade. The stick is therefore manipulated with the wrist -- and not with the fingers as in sword-play -- and the blows are given by swinging the body on the hips -- and not merely by flips from the elbow. In this way blows can be made so formidable that with an ordinary malacca cane it is possible to sever a man's jugular vein through the collar of his overcoat.
Hat tip BoingBoing (they are on a roll today!)

Hi�ronymus Bosch action figures

This company makes action figures based on characters in Hi�ronymus Bosch's artwork.
Gorgeous workmanship -- check out their site for other artists they use, a very wide range from Escher to Arcimboldo, Beardsley to Klimt. Hat tip to BoingBoing

USS San Francisco update

This is the submarine that hit an uncharted mountain while running submerged at 500 feet. The US Navy has released some pictures of it sitting in drydock at Guam. (NOTE: This is a general gallery so I don't know how long this link will be valid). Here is one of the better ones:
Click for full-size Image
To think that it could sustain that kind of damage and only loose one crewman testifies to how well these gorgeous boats are built.

Bunny Suicides update

January 23rd, I had posted about a set of delightful cartoons available at a website. Simple line drawings of bunny rabbits killing themselves in some very imaginative ways. Today, that website disappeared from the face of this earth and the Internet Wayback machine does not have a copy of it. For good reason it turns out. Andy Riley, the author of these, has two books of the cartoons available for sale at Amazon - copyrights and all that good stuff. I was planning to try to find the original cartoons and post them on the web (they are that good) but for now, I'll just post links to the two books at Amazon. #1) - The Book of Bunny Suicides #2) - Return of the Bunny Suicides (psst -- Jen -- I already ordered one of each)

Busy this morning

Need to drive into town for some things - blogging will resume this evening.


Jen and I have started watching MythBusters on Discovery. Two special-effects experts try to separate truth from Urban Legend. They have done Archimedes' Death Ray, frozen chickens in a chicken gun penetrating aircraft windows, building a working cannon out of a tree trunk -- all sorts of fun stuff. They have a great grasp of science - no bloopers there. Check it out. Fun stuff!

Iran nuclear program

The EU has spoken - Iran must dismantle their nuclear program. Reuters has the story: Iran Must Dismantle Nuke Enrichment Program-EU bq. France, Britain and Germany have told Iran they will not settle for anything less than an end to sensitive nuclear processes key to the production of atomic bombs, according to a confidential EU document. bq. Iran has temporarily frozen its enrichment program, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or weapons, but insists that atomic fuel production is a sovereign right it will never abandon. bq. The document, which summarizes this month's talks between the European Union's "big three" -- the EU3 -- and Iran, said Tehran would only allow increased inspections by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and "certain restrictions on the level and extent of the uranium enrichment program." bq. "EU3/EU made clear that the outlined approach was unacceptable and that Iran missed the point with this," said the summary, seen in full by Reuters. "Iran has to recognize that the fuel cycle program is the core of the problem." bq. "Cessation (and) dismantlement of the sensitive part of its nuclear program includes the fuel cycle," it said. Well, they are saying the right things - but will Iran follow through. Let's look at the historical record: bq. The EU is using the talks to try to persuade Tehran to permanently give up sensitive nuclear processes in exchange for political and economic incentives. bq. The EU initiative began in October 2003, when Tehran first promised to freeze its uranium enrichment program. But this deal fell apart last year when Iran continued to produce parts for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium by spinning at supersonic speeds. Didn't back in 2003, probably will not now. Time to get some teeth EU(nuch)...

Say it with flowers a bean plant...

From BoingBoing comes this story at the BBC and the link to the Japanese website of TOMY Toys: bq. A Japanese toy company is selling plants that display written messages when they sprout. Six different messages like "I Love You" are inscribed through the plant with a laser beam.

Tsunami Cartoon

regarding the Arab contributions:
Click for full-size Image
Hat tip to M Simon at Power and Control

Conflict of Interest

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J Bowen at No Watermelons found a possible conflict of interest in his surfing. bq. #1) -- SayUncle offers this:
Got the latest Consumer Reports. In this issue, they test condoms. The two lowest ranked condoms for reliability were the freebies given by Planned Parenthood. Egad.
and bq. #2) -- Then we have this:
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation's most frequent provider of abortions, is performing more of the procedures than ever -- albeit in fewer clinics -- and relying increasingly on the revenue generated from abortions, according to its Fiscal Year 2004 annual report. With other services becoming marginalized in Planned Parenthood's overall business, the organization relied on abortion for 34 percent of its clinic income from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, up from 32 percent in Fiscal Year 2002 and FY 2003
'Kay now -- can we say Lawsuit? I thought you could... I tracked the links to the two sites. Here are the Consumer Reports ratings Here is the link to the Planned Parenthood Annual Report (PDF File) Information is on page 24 of the PDF file under Clinic Income

Building a computer

Most people think of doing this by buying some boards and a case and putting everything together. John Pultorak spent four years building his computer -- a replica of the Apollo Guidance Computer. bq. Abstract This report describes my successful project to build a working reproduction of the 1964 prototype for the Block I Apollo Guidance Computer. The AGC is the flight computer for the Apollo moon landings, with one unit in the command module and one in the LEM. bq. I built it in my basement. It took me 4 years. His page then links to a couple mirrors where the documentation can be found. Several hundred ICs, point to point hand wiring. This is a big project... Hat tip to BoingBoing

Victor Yushchenko's Blog

Very cool - Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko has a Blog. English language version of it is here. Ukrainian Version here Russian version here He is running RSS feed and has published his email address. This is a perfect example of someone who gets it - it being the new media as opposed to the Main-Stream-Media

The Big Dig

Jay Tea at Wizbang talks about the Massachusetts Big Dig highway project: bq. I haven't written much about Massachusetts' Big Dig project, but the latest revelations are just too good to share. bq. But first, a bit of background. The project to rework the highways in and around Boston have been going on for about 20 years. The plan was to tear down the elevated highways and replace them with sunken and buried roadways, along with a few new tunnels under Boston Harbor. The initial cost projection was around 2 billion dollars, making it the among the most expensive public works projects in US history. It's now behind schedule, pushing close to 15 billion dollars, and -- surprise, surprise!! -- having problems. bq. Now, all along officials and supporters have said there would be problems with the project. Simply put, whenever you try doing something this big for the first time, you're going to run into unforeseen problems. But yesterday's Boston Herald exposed a few of the screwups (print version only, it seems) that just boggle the mind. bq. 1) Several sections of tunnel walls were made of concrete, and it was done badly. So badly, large sections are already crumbling before the project is even finished. bq. 2) In the rush to meet milestones and deadlines, several roads were paved when the temperature was around freezing. As predicted, those sections of pavement are already falling apart. bq. 3) The Ted Williams Tunnel was built in sections, then assembled. One section, somehow, was built EIGHT FEET short. bq. 4) When they went to repair the sections of highway mentioned in #2, they did it so hastily that they paved over manhole covers. Let me repeat that: THEY PAVED OVER MANHOLE COVERS. One of Jay's commenters said the following: bq. I worked for Bechtel for 8+ years on the Big Dig as, among other things, a field inspector responsible for the oversight of the general contractors on the project. bq. I can tell you this. What you read in the papers is the tip of the iceberg. I left the project in 2000 as i was fed up with the utter incompetence festering at every level of management. bq. I've personally witnessed improper waterproofing techniques being used. My role at the time was limited to notification to the engineer in charge. Ouch!

Voter Database for WA State

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Very cool project. The people over at Sound Politics have put King and Snohomish county voter database up for you to look at. They are planning to add additional counties records as they get the data. Some of the Sound Politics readers are finding some interesting stuff: bq. One reader discovered by using the database that a complete stranger is registered at his house. The stranger's name does not even match the name of the couple who previously owned the house and lived there from 1990 to 2002. And: bq. Reader Deborah has been finding a lot of the voters who live in private mailboxes and storage lockers. It would be hard for me to believe that it's not illegal to list such an address on a voter registration form. Unfortunately, my understanding is that these are the sort of improper registrations that have to be challenged before an election and that they don't count as "illegal votes" for the purposes of a contest. I wish I were wrong. On the other hand, if it can be shown that election officials engaged in misconduct related to illegal registrations that might be a different matter. bq. As it turns out, long time observers of the King County elections office tell me that after the 1998 KING-5 News expose, the elections office eliminated private mailbox voters and implemented strict controls to prevent new registrations at such addresses. They also tell me that these controls were lifted after Dean Logan took over the department and it was never made clear why.

Cool tool for Web Development

This company: South River Technologies make a $50 tool that allows you to map a file or folder on a remote website to your Windows desktop or a drive letter. From their website: bq. WebDrive integrates WebDAV, FTP, or SFTP servers into the Windows desktop by mapping them to a network drive letter. Files are transferred by simply saving them to a drive letter - there's no need to run a separate FTP/SFTP client. WebDrive instantly web-enables any Windows application by providing the ability for these applications to directly open files on web servers. WebDrive can connect to WebDAV, FTP, SFTP(*), and HTTP servers supporting Microsoft FrontPage Server Extensions. Looks cool and if I were doing web development full-time, I would spring for it. For now, I'm using SmartFTP which is free for non-commercial personal use.

Cancer and Chemicals

The Nation has a writeup on this book: Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution Here are a few paragraphs from the beginning of the article: bq. Twenty of the biggest chemical companies in the United States have launched a campaign to discredit two historians who have studied the industry's efforts to conceal links between their products and cancer. In an unprecedented move, attorneys for Dow, Monsanto, Goodrich, Goodyear, Union Carbide and others have subpoenaed and deposed five academics who recommended that the University of California Press publish the book Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner. The companies have also recruited their own historian to argue that Markowitz and Rosner have engaged in unethical conduct. Markowitz is a professor of history at the CUNY Grad Center; Rosner is a professor of history and public health at Columbia University and director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia's School of Public Health. bq. The reasons for the companies' actions are not hard to find: They face potentially massive liability claims on the order of the tobacco litigation if cancer is linked to vinyl chloride-based consumer products such as hairspray. The stakes are high also for publishers of controversial books, and for historians who write them, because when authors are charged with ethical violations and manuscript readers are subpoenaed, that has a chilling effect. The stakes are highest for the public, because this dispute centers on access to information about cancer-causing chemicals in consumer products. Interesting -- the public was always told that these products were new and safe and modern. To know that the industries knew differently makes one wonder about products being made today... Here is one more paragraph about some of the documents they used in their research: bq. For Rosner and Markowitz the story began in 1993, when they traveled to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to look at what they were told was "a warehouse of material" about vinyl chloride and cancer. The address they were given turned out to be a "decrepit hovel in the desolate center of town," as Markowitz describes it. They found it "full of chemical industry documents, lining every wall and filling every corner." The material, Rosner told me, was "incredible. Not just company documents but records of meetings of the trade association for the chemical companies. No one had ever seen anything like it." This review is fairly long (five pages) but it gives an excellent overview of the book and the subject matter and the implications. Well worth reading. I went to Amazon and ordered a copy of the book (they have four left according to their website) and the individual reviews were consistently five-star. Looking forward to reading this...

Wikipedia: Unusual articles

Fascinating collection of articles at Wikipedia with rather unusual subject matter. Some samples: Douglas Corrigan - A pilot who made such a grave navigational error that, after taking off from New York, he landed in Ireland instead of Los Angeles. Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 - A name given to a Swedish child by his parents in May 1996. Sokal Affair - A famous hoax played by physicist Alan Sokal on the postmodernist humanities academics world. Meow Wars - Perhaps the largest and longest-lasting flame war in the history of the internet. They also have another page: Wikipedia:Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense. Well there go the next couple hours...

Neocons and Priuses

Interesting (and biased) article at Slate talking about: Why Iraq hawks are driving Priuses. bq. President Bush has a simple policy about energy: produce more of it. The former oilman has packed his administration with veterans of the oil and coal industries. And for most of the first Bush term, his energy policy and his foreign policy were joined at the hip. Since the Bush administration believed that controlling the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf was critically important to the American economy, the invasion of Iraq seemed to serve both the president's energy goals and his foreign policy ones. The "It's about the Oooiiilll!!!" meme surfaces yet again. BZZT - Wrong! bq. But a curious transformation is occurring in Washington, D.C., a split of foreign policy and energy policy: Many of the leading neoconservatives who pushed hard for the Iraq war are going green. James Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and staunch backer of the Iraq war, now drives a 58-miles-per-gallon Toyota Prius and has two more hybrid vehicles on order. Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy and another neocon who championed the war, has been speaking regularly in Washington about fuel efficiency and plant-based bio-fuels. Nothing wrong with that. I am not anti-environment, I love the environment (one reason why we moved from the city and onto a farm) but the current crop of self-proclaimed Environmentalists are a bunch of self-serving scare-mongers. They are funded to do these "studies" and if they are not able to promote these studies, their source of funds dries up so of course, they are going to promote whatever current crises are popular. Using less fuel, switching the lightbulbs to Compact Fluorescent, that sort of stuff is just plain common sense... bq. The alliance of hawks and environmentalists is new but not entirely surprising. The environmentalists are worried about global warming and air pollution. But Woolsey and Gaffney�both members of the Project for the New American Century, which began advocating military action against Saddam Hussein back in 1998�are going green for geopolitical reasons, not environmental ones. They seek to reduce the flow of American dollars to oil-rich Islamic theocracies, Saudi Arabia in particular. Petrodollars have made Saudi Arabia too rich a source of terrorist funding and Islamic radicals. Last month, Gaffney told a conference in Washington that America has become dependent on oil that is imported from countries that, "by and large, are hostile to us." This fact, he said, makes reducing oil imports "a national security imperative." Interesting viewpoint -- it does make a lot of sense and conservation is by far the best way to care for the environment. The article goes on to talk about some meetings and groups (giving links to them) although it still gives ink to the idea of Ethanol which is known to take more energy to produce than it can yield by combustion. Electric cars are good for short-haul use but nothing will replace gasoline as a prime mover. And of course, there is no mention of Nuclear...

What everyone needs. Edition #4,739

Hat tip to Gizmodo for this link: I had written about the personal stand-alone version here but here is a similar unit that fits into your PC chassis: Homebrew PC Self-Destruct Switch Again, the website is in Japanese but you can get the idea from the pictures
Click for full-size Image

Ted Turner meltdown

Ted Turner had a bit of a melt-down the other day.
The story is at DrudgeReport bq. Ted Turner called FOX an arm of the Bush administration and compared FOXNEWS's popularity to Hitler's popular election to run Germany before WWII. bq. Turner made the controversial comments in Las Vegas before a standing-room-only crowd at the National Association for Television Programming Executives's opening session. bq. His no-nonsense, humorous approach during the one-hour Q&A generated frequent loud applause and laughter, BROADCASTING & CABLE reports. bq. While FOX may be the largest news network [and has overtaken Turner's CNN], it's not the best, Turner said. bq. He followed up by pointing out that Adolf Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany prior to WWII. He said the network is the propaganda tool for the Bush Administration. bq. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy. Particularly when the news is dumbed down," leaving voters without critical information on politics and world events and overloaded with fluff," he said. And FOX's reply? bq. A FOXNEWS spokesperson responded: "Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network and now his mind -- we wish him well." Heh...

A Pocket of Near-Perfection

A story over at SpaceWeather reminded me of an article I saw at the NASA Websitelast year about a very beautiful experiment in space. The SpaceWeather (good place to check for Aurora activity) site said: bq. The solar explosion that sparked auroras over Europe also zapped NASA's Gravity Probe B satellite, temporarily causing it to lose track of its guide star, IM Pegasi. Gravity Probe B is no ordinary satellite--it's one of the most exquisite physics experiments ever attempted. Physicists are monitoring gyroscopes inside the spacecraft for wobbles that would indicate a subtle space-time vortex around Earth predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity. Good news: Solar activity has ebbed and Gravity Probe B is back to normal. I had forgotten just how beautiful this project was. From the project website at NASA bq. The idea behind the experiment is simple: Put a spinning gyroscope into orbit around the Earth, with the spin axis pointed toward some distant star as a fixed reference point. Free from external forces, the gyroscope's axis should continue pointing at the star--forever. But if the region of space through which the gyroscope orbits is slightly twisted, as Einstein's theory predicts, the direction of the gyroscope's axis would drift ever-so-slightly over time. By noting this change in direction relative to the star, the subtle frame-dragging effect can be measured. And the gyro in question? bq. The gyroscopes in GP-B are the most perfect spheres ever made by humans. These ping pong-sized balls of fused quartz and silicon are 1.5 inches across and never vary from a perfect sphere by more than 40 atomic layers. That means that if these gyroscopes were the size of the Earth, the elevation of the entire surface would vary by no more than 12 feet! Visit the NASA site for more of the well engineered tech and thought that went into this little bird. A gorgeous piece of design for an elegant experiment...

Wolf Moon

Interesting bit of folklore from The Farmers Almanac Tonight's full moon is called the Wolf Moon. February's is the Snow Moon Here is their description for their page that lists all of the names: bq. Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac's list of the full Moon names. Some nice back-to-the land stuff -- it is good to be aware of the cycles of nature as you go about your daily work. We need to remember that we live on a big planet that has a timetable of its own. The long-view and all that...

Good news for NY Subway

I had written about the Subway Fire before and at that time, the estimate was that the two lines would not be back to normal for three to five years. Fortunately, today, this has been revised downward to six to nine months. From The NY Times: Subway Disruptions Expected to Last Months, Not Years bq. Transit officials said yesterday that service on the A and C lines could be restored to full capacity in six to nine months, substantially revising their earlier prognosis that a fire in a Lower Manhattan signaling room would disrupt service on the lines for as long as three to five years. bq. The new time frame for repairs will still mean months of confusion and inconvenience on two lines that have an average weekday ridership of 580,000, and hardly diminishes how the fire underscored the vulnerability of a signaling system based on electromechanical switches that were first developed in the 1870's. This is the good news -- unfortunately, there is also bad news in this article: A harbinger: bq. Several former transit officials said yesterday that the agency has repeatedly acknowledged over the past 20 years that the signaling system was obsolete or unreliable, but nonetheless chose to devote the vast majority of its limited capital funds to other projects. Reports after two fatal crashes, in 1991 and 1995, recommended improvements in the signal system, though neither blamed the system for the deaths. The bad news: bq. Lawrence G. Reuter, the president of New York City Transit, said at a news conference yesterday that replacing the custom-made signal relays, switches and circuits would take less time than expected. "We were just this morning able to come to the determination that we could actually do this in six to nine months," Mr. Reuter said. "We were actually able to find enough relays left over in our system that we could salvage out of other jobs we had to do this work," he said. bq. About 90 relays were found to begin replacing the 600 that he said had been "totally destroyed" in the signaling room. So they are rebuilding the existing system using the 1932's technology. They will be implementing a system that has known problems plus, electrical components age over time and I would bet that the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) on these NOS parts (New Old Stock) is a lot less than when they left their factories over 70 years ago... Buncha maroons - the company is making money, they are paying their salaries. They either need to raise their rates, take a pay cut and deal with the infrastructure. They do not seem to realize that the infrastructure is their money-machine and if they let it decay, they will have a much worse crisis in another ten years.

MAC Mini

Apple just released a cute new $500 version of the MAC -- the Mini. This is a minimal configuration small box that will be perfect as an office system, for someone wanting to surf and check email or do minimal work with media (a slow processor, limited hard drive space preclude high-end use). The box uses standard USB keyboards and mice and you can use your existing PC setup, add a $40 KVM switch and use both from the same workspace. The issue here is that many people are still unfamiliar with OS X (Operating System Ten) and do not know how to maneuver around and run applications. Fortunately, the people at Ars Technica have a nice meet-and greet article on their website: bq. A mini-guide to Mac OS X for new Mini owners A couple of weeks after its unveiling, the budget-priced Mac mini has begun shipping. Targeted at would-be switchers and �adders,� the mini is easily the lowest-priced Mac desktop ever. There are always Mac owners who are looking to upgrade older equipment or looking to own a small form factor Mac. Many of those have snapped up Mac minis. bq. However, some of the new Mac mini owners are Windows or Linux users who have always wanted to fool around with Mac OS X, but have been turned off by the Apple�s price structure. A dual-CPU G5 tower will set you back at least two grand, while the least expensive iMac runs US$1,299. Even a good, gently-used Mac costs far more than comparable x86 gear. Now that Apple has a stripped-down Mac desktop available, the curious have finally begun taking the plunge. bq. As anyone who has ever switched platforms will attest, there is always a bit of a learning curve involved. Differences in how applications and the user interface behave can be great, and even when there is similarity across platforms, the small differences can be just as maddening. bq. One thing the Mac mini does not have is a comprehensive �welcome to OS X� guide. Printed documentation included with the mini is scanty � primarily EULA and warranty information, and Apple has never been one for flashy tutorials. That�s why we at Ars have pulled together a short list of things every newcomer to Mac OS X needs to know. There are some people who swear by their MAC -- the physical design and advertising and PR for MAC has always been top notch. They do claim to be "first" on a lot of things that just are not true and the company only has about 5% of the overall computer market so one's options are not as great as with a PC. Still, this 'lil box will find a home in many offices and households -- good basic design, nice price-point and good compliment of software. Sheesh -- I might get one in a year or so just to dink around with OS X, used it at my last job and I like that it is a GUI on top of Unix. Unix I like a lot! But then, I'm a command-line kind of guy...

Follow the Money

Interesting story about Iraq's first big media mogul (or moghul for the proper spelling, the word did come from near there). From the UK Guardian: bq. Media mogul accused of running Saudi-funded propaganda campaign Iraq's first independent media mogul has been running his empire with millions of pounds secretly provided by the Saudi regime, according to allegations made in the high court in London. bq. Based on documents lodged with the court, Saad Al-Bazzaz - dubbed the Rupert Murdoch of Iraq - was alleged to have received the money for the launch of his newspaper Azzaman, which is now the most widely read daily in Iraq. Mr Bazzaz also controls Iraq's first private satellite TV channel. bq. The papers emerged during a libel action in which Mr Bazzaz, a former exile in London, was accused of running a sophisticated covert propaganda operation funded by Saudi Arabian intelligence. bq. Mr Bazzaz's lawyers disputed the provenance of some of the documents. But the issue is more complex than it seems on the surface: (The settlement in question is a libel charge) bq. In the week of the Iraqi elections, the settlement will have repercussions in the Arab world about the independence of the new Iraqi media. Azzaman has built up a reputation for authoritative reporting and robust comment. bq. Until he left Iraq in 1992 after disagreeing with Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Mr Bazzaz headed up the regime's national news agency and the state TV and radio organizations. In the early 80s he was the head of the Iraq Cultural Centre in London and after settling in the capital he became a British citizen. In 1997 he set up Azzaman and after the fall of Saddam the operation moved to Baghdad. So, probably not Baath but not free of Wahabbist taint either... Iraq has a long way to go but it is taking the requisite first baby steps. I'm really looking forward to the reports of the election this coming weekend. The news I hear everywhere but the MSM indicates that the people there are anxious to vote and that democracy is something that is desired by them. They will not have our government, they will have their own government and it will grow into something good and strong. I would love to visit there in a year or so.

The evils of tea (and the virtues of beer)

This is an excerpt of William Cobbett's book: "Cottage Econony", published in 1822. His reasoning is hard to challenge. bq. ...But I look upon the thing in a still more serious light. I view the tea drinking as a destroyer of health, an enfeebler of the frame, and engenderer of effeminacy and laziness, a debaucher of youth, and a maker of misery for old age. In the fifteen bushels of malt there are 570 pounds weight of sweet; that is to say, of nutritious matter, unmixed with anything injurious to health. In the 730 tea messes of the year, there are 54 pounds of sweet in the sugar, and about 30 pounds of matter equal to sugar in the milk. Here are eighty four pounds instead of five hundred and seventy, and even the good effect of these eighty four pounds is more than overbalanced by the corrosive, gnawing, and poisonous powers of the tea. ...

al-Z speaks

Hat tip to Ian at Inoperable Terran for this link to an Editorial from Muslim Insurgent Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: The Editorial is being presented on IMAO and we start off with the site owners explanation: bq. [Ed. Note: IMAO is often charged with being "one-sided" and "anti-terrorist," so, in the interest of fairness, I'm allowing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to write a post uninterrupted on my blog to elucidate on what he said in his recent recording released on the internet.] bq. People of Iraq, I wish you to know that we have declared war on democracy and all those who seek to enact it. Democracy is based on the right to choose your religion which is against the rule of God and just plain wacky. The interim government is a tool used by the Americans to promote this lie that is called democracy. We must be wary of this plot and not accept oppression of the crusader harlots and the rejectionist pigs. Anyway, did you see what happened in Florida with their so-called democracy with all those people accidentally voting for Buchanan? Surely we do not want that in the holy land? Plus, Crossfire has been on a decline ever since Buchanan left. bq. The evil of the crusaders is not just in their democracy, though. The Great Satan comes in other forms, such as Taco Bell. There they give you a choice of what hot sauce, which is like having a choice of your holy book and is against all that is Islam. For instance, one day, I asked for mild sauce (the Koran) for my burrito (religion of Islam), but instead the crusader harlot gave me fire sauce (American evil). I did not notice this until I bit into my burrito, and, much like a corruption of Islam, it stung my tongue and was now inedible to me. Once, the crusader harlot didn't even ask me what sauce I wanted. I got home and had none for my burrito. Ever think of having Islam without the Koran? Such is a burrito without sauce on it. Plus, all those beans by themselves give you the toots. Even worse, I once found my bill from the so-called Bell of Taco much larger than I expected. It ends up that the imperialist American pigs charge you extra for every single item when you ask to have guacamole. I'm not really sure how that falls into the religion analogy, but surely this is a plot from the crusaders to take all that we have. Furthermore, that green goo doesn't look like it was ever anywhere near an avocado! For Allah's sake, they frick'n put the stuff on with a caulking gun! bq. Yes, the evil of the American crusaders is everywhere and encroaching on the good land of Iraq. It is a fight every day to stay from their corruption. The other day, I went into Sears to get more of those caps I like wearing, and an imperialist harlot crusader pig sprays me with a fragrance. This is much like how they wish to impose their religious beliefs upon us without our wanting - something that goes against all the teachings of Islam. Plus, it went right in my @$#% eyes! I don't care if it's from Calvin Klein! I can't see, you stupid @$#%! At least ask before you spray me, infidel! Caution -- multiple drink alert!

The Climate and Chicken Little

Back40 at Crumb Trail points out the latest doom-mongering from the FOE environmental group. bq. Foes of Earth The shrillness of climate doom mongering is increasing in advance of a report from the International Climate Change Task Force expected tomorrow. See this press release from the FOEs.
So far the EU is the only block of countries to have shown leadership on climate change. During his Presidency of the EU, and chairing of the G8, Tony Blair must support continued European leadership and not be tempted to cut a deal with the US that will undermine the EU and international agreements on tackling global warming. Friends of the Earth's Director Tony Juniper said: "This alarming warning must spur the Government into urgent action on climate change. Despite his apparent concerns, the Prime Minister has so far put short term political convenience ahead of desperately needed policies to tackle global warming. This is why UK carbon dioxide levels have risen under Labour. If Tony Blair wants the world to fight climate change, he must lead by example. He must take steps to ensure year-on- year cuts in UK emissions. "The alarm bells are growing louder. If world leaders fail to take urgent action it will soon be too late."
bq. Rubbish. The EU has done nothing. All of its energies have gone into Kyoto which does nothing at all about climate change. Treaties, taxes, regulations and the normal grift of government can hobble society but not reduce emissions enough to matter at all. Both the EU and the US would have to cease to exist to stabilize things, but only for a moment since China and India as well as other populous developing nations will add it all back and much more in short order. The "urgent action" proposed includes setting goals and forming better ties with developing nations such as China. That will help... not. A goal of getting 25% of electricity from "renewables" in developed countries by 2025 isn't achievable absent breakthrough technology and wouldn't change things anyway. China alone will increase emissions more than that. bq. The issue is technological. Better ways to produce power are needed and methods to cleanse the atmosphere are needed. The continued posturing of politicians and their indentured scientists is meaningless, as useful for climate management as the UN has been for tsunami relief... not at all. It's merely an excuse to fly to exotic locales and enjoy the perquisites of power, to pretend to be doing something and so stay in the public eye. It's the political equivalent of the academic requirement to publish or perish. Back40 then links to an article at Tech Central Station from Tim Worstall. Tim notices that one proven carbon-free technology is missing in their 40 page report on alternative energy solutions and sums up with this paragraph: bq. Allow me just to recapitulate this argument. A modest number of the international great and the good get together to bemoan the way the world is running to rack and ruin, identifying the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (and not coincidentally, the beginning of capitalism) as when our forefathers began to cause our problems, come up with a series of recommendations on how to reduce carbon emissions, lots of international action, international aid, international spending, international regulation, in short, lots for the international great and good to do, and in the process they take no position on nuclear energy? None at all? Not even a "Tsk, tsk, that will allow capitalism to survive?" His whole article is worth reading, so is Back40's

Media and Bias

Good essay by Thomas Sowell on media and bias: bq. Fourth estate or fifth column There are still people in the mainstream media who profess bewilderment that they are accused of being biased. But you need to look no further than reporting on the war in Iraq to see the bias staring you in the face, day after day, on the front page of the New York Times and in much of the rest of the media. bq. If a battle ends with Americans killing a hundred guerrillas and terrorists, while sustaining ten fatalities, that is an American victory. But not in the mainstream media. The headline is more likely to read: "Ten More Americans Killed in Iraq Today." A bit more: bq. Our media cannot even call terrorists terrorists, but instead give these cutthroats the bland name, "insurgents." You might think that these were like the underground fighters in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. bq. The most obvious difference is that the underground in Europe did not go around targeting innocent civilians. As for the Nazis, they tried to deny the atrocities they committed. But today the "insurgents" in Iraq are proud of their barbarism, videotape it, and publicize it -- often with the help of the Western media. bq. Real insurgents want to get the occupying power out of their country. But the fastest way to get Americans out of Iraq would be to do the opposite of what these "insurgents" are doing. Just by letting peace and order return, those who want to see American troops gone would speed their departure. bq. The United States has voluntarily pulled out of conquered territory all around the world, including neighboring Kuwait during the first Gulf war. But the real goal of the guerrillas and terrorists is to prevent democracy from arising in the Middle East. Read the whole thing -- Sowell is an excellent writer and makes his points very clearly. The Islamofascists are adept at using our media against us, witness the presence of cameramen and reporters at scenes of ambushes and terrorist bombings. Hat tip to DGCI

Booze in Space

Great story at Modern Drunkard about the consumption of Alcohol in Star Trek:
bq. And alcohol played and essential role in that quest. It was a beautiful situation�you not only got to drink, you got to drink ales, wines and liquors the human race couldn�t even imagine. And they always seemed stronger than our silly earthling libations, every alien race bragged their booze would floor a human if he so much as looked in the bottle�s direction. Klingon Blood Wine, Romulan Ale, Saurian Brandy�they came on harder than a photon torpedo barrage and when you woke up, if you woke up, you�d be nursing a nebula-sized hangover the fastest warp drive in the universe couldn�t outrun. Humans were considered the lightweights of the universe, a bunch of Bartle-and-James swilling high school punks among whiskey-chugging dilithium-crystal miners. Fun story - they also show some examples of the various drinks in the Federation Universe.

Petrified Wood made to order

Cool story over at Yahoo/AP: bq. Scientists Create Petrified Wood in Days Researchers at a national science laboratory in south-central Washington have found a way to achieve in days what takes Mother Nature millions of years � converting wood to mineral. bq. The ability to make petrified wood could hold promise for separating industrial chemicals, filtering pollutants and soaking up contamination, said Yongsoon Shin, research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. bq. "Wood petrified is very hard and very porous material � it's not really a wood component," Shin said Monday in a telephone interview. As a mineral product, petrified wood has a large, hard surface and a porous inside, making it ideal to soak up or separate substances or act as a catalyst in other processes, he said. The article goes on to say what they did and to list some possible uses for the product. Fun stuff!

Egypt kinda forgot about those labs...

Seems like the scientists in Egypt are getting a bit forgetful these days. From Reuters: bq. Egypt Says Failed to Tell UN Watchdog of Research Egypt acknowledged on Tuesday it failed to tell the U.N. nuclear watchdog about some of its research, after Western diplomats said the agency was investigating an Egyptian laboratory designed to process plutonium. bq. Plutonium can be used in nuclear weapons. The official Middle East News Agency (MENA), quoting an unnamed Egyptian official, repeated the government's position that its nuclear program was peaceful. Yeah - those labrotories... C'mon now -- open up.

Only in San Francisco

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This is taking the nanny-state idea a bit too far - from Reuters: bq. City Ponders Ecology Tax for Grocery BagsSan Francisco, which has long prided itself on environmentally friendly policies, is debating whether it should become the first U.S. city to tax grocery bags to encourage recycling. bq. On Tuesday, the city's Department of the Environment will vote on whether to recommend a 17 cent fee on each bag, be it paper or plastic, in an effort to curb the use of an estimated 50 million bags a year in the Californian city. This is downright stupid. Where will the tax be collected - when the store owner buys a box of bags? At the point of sale? There is no word in the article who would benefit from the tax.

The da Vinci workshop

An interesting story here... From Reuters: bq. Da Vinci Workshop Discovered in Italy -Researchers A forgotten workshop of Leonardo da Vinci, complete with 500-year-old frescos and a secret room to dissect human cadavers, has been discovered in Florence, Italy, researchers said on Tuesday. bq. The find was made in part of the Santissima Annunziata convent, which let out rooms to artists centuries ago and where the likely muse of the Renaissance artist's masterwork, the Mona Lisa, may have worshipped. bq. "It's a bit absurd to think that, in 2005, we have found the studio of one of history's greatest artists. But that is what has happened," said Roberto Manescalchi, one of three researchers credited for this month's discovery. bq. "The proof is on the walls." Fascinating. I love it when bits of history surface. We are always finding writers and composers work in dusty corners of libraries. This time a whole workroom, all because someone knew what they were looking at...

Great Quote

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953

Google Video Search

Google now lets you search recently aired TV footage. Give it a try here: Google Video

The Mount Graham Aerial Tramway

Geekdom from 1923. Don Lancaster is from Pittsburgh (so am I - we grew up in parallel Universes, did the same stuff at the same time but never met!) and is one of the leading early Microcomputer pioneers. He is also into Arizona history, caving and lots of other cool stuff - his website is at Tinaja. He writes about the Mount Graham Aerial Tramway in this (PDF format) article. The thing was built in 1923 but the route covers: bq. A total length of 7.5 miles and an elevation delta of 5804 feet. Which is well over one vertical mile! He talks about the scope of the project and just how they built it and then offers this analysis: bq. Success and Failure Judging by the few surviving photos, great heaping loads of lumber got delivered on down to Pima Terminal. Sadly, the aerial tram got shut down and was partially dismantled one year after it started operation. Part of the reason might have been underlying economic problems with the sawmill. Or new Forest Service regs. But the tram apparently needed continuous repairs and seemed to have had woefully excessive downtime. At least, that�s what today�s on-ground evidence suggests to me. My guess is that the delivered cost-per-board was too high to make much economic sense. The system design and construction was all done using local help, because an experienced real tram engineering firm was "too expensive". There were several gruesome fatalities and a number of other gory accidents. The transfer terminal literally ate an operator for lunch one day. At least one track cable failed spectacularly. Giving a profound new depth of meaning to the term sprooiinnggg�. In those days, of course, OSHA inspectors were dealt with simply by hooking them onto the next tram car. One series of repeated tower failures required at least five rebuilds. Done without any attempt at improving the design or fixing the problem. Other towers were hastily rebuilt or added without proper footings. Scattered piles of fire bricks in strange places suggest impromptu blacksmithing. Collisions between cars and towers apparently occurred. To the obvious detriment of both. Lost loads and shattered towers still litter some of the more remote canyon bottoms along the route. I guess the final analysis was that the Mt. Graham aerial tram delivered the boards but not the bucks. He closes out with these rules for success: bq. To work hard, you gotta play hard� No matter whether it�s hiking, caving, hang gliding, bike, ski, or scuba, you flat out have to get down and dirty. Study the classics� That�s where all the fundamentals of appropriate technology, elegant simplicity, and workable real world results first come down. It ain�t creative unless it sells� No matter how wonderful your design, iffen it don�t pay for itself in one manner or another, you have a failure. Cheapest is rarely the most cost effective� Solid footers, steel, and real bearings outperform wood, rocks, and low grade iron. Every time. Guaranteed. Budget for maintenance� Design your product from the ground up to be fixable and improvable. Always aim for minimum total life cycle costs. Check his website out -- lots of great stuff!

The China Bubble

There is a thought out there that China's economy is very much overinflated and is ready for a major recession. Tyler Cowen at Narginal Revolution offers some information that seems to back this up as well as offer some other problems down the road... bq. China facts of the day Percentage of Chinese workers who have no pension, private or public: Eighty percent (kind of puts our social security dilemmas in context, no?) Expected ratio of workers to retirees, circa 2030: Two-to-one Projected shortfall of the Chinese national pension system by 2033: $53.3 billion Those are all reasons why China may be an overvalued economy; see Business Week, 31 January, p.47 for more information.

Missed it by one day...

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Dang! Yesterday, January 23rd, was National Pie Day: bq. National Pie Day - January 23rd Created by the American Pie Council, National Pie Day is dedicated to the celebration of pie. As part of our American heritage, this day is a perfect opportunity to pass on the love and enjoyment of pie eating and pie making to future generations.

Great quote - Cowgirls

bq. "I never intended to become a cowgirl. Sure, I grew up on a ranch, and I loved riding horses when I was a child. I knew my way around a milk cow all right, but never, ever did I dream cowgirl dreams. Cowgirl just wasn't a career option back then, at least not a very glamorous one. Movie star -- that's what little girls of my generation longed to be. ... bq. Over the years I've discovered that there's more to being a cowgirl than punching cows, or winning rodeo trophies, or galloping off into a movie sunset with Roy. Cowgirl is an attitude, really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands. They speak up. They defend the things they hold dear. A cowgirl might be a rancher, or a barrel racer, or a bull rider, or an actress. But she's just as likely to be a checker at the local Winn Dixie, a full-time mother, a banker, an attorney, an astronaut." bq. "Children of my generation longed to be movie stars. Today, even movie stars want to be cowgirls. I'm in my golden years, as they say, but I still sometimes find myself thinking about what I'd like to be when I grow up. It's sort of silly, I know, but -- I think I'd like to be a cowgirl." bq. Dale Evans Rogers, Los Angeles, 1992 Quoted from The Cowgirl Companion, p.ix, by Gail Cilchriest, ISBN 1-56282-868-1 Says it all -- this is the attitude that I think defines who we are as Americans and we are in some places loosing it. (think Blue Counties)

A little too much caffeine?

Charles at LGF points to an over-the-top commentary on President Bush and his inauguration. bq. George Bush�s second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French in Notre Dame in 1804. bq. The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon. Lodi, Marengo, that sort of thing. Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal. Like I was thinking - switch to decaf for a week or so and see if the voices quiet down a bit...

New York Subway Fire

From NY Times: bq. Fire Cripples 2 of City's Subway Lines A fire that began with a homeless person trying to keep warm by igniting wood and refuse in a shopping cart has crippled two of the city's subway lines, which might not be restored to normal capacity for three to five years, officials said today. Emphasis mine - OUCH! Here is some more and an indication as to why the three to five year timeline: bq. The Sunday afternoon blaze in Lower Manhattan was described as the worst damage to subway infrastructure since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It gutted a locked room that is no larger than a kitchen but contains some 600 relays, switches and circuits that transmit vital information about train locations. Hit the nerve center. These lines started operation in 1932 so the equipment is fairly old and not very replaceable. They have to engineer a replacement that will run on all of the old signal levels. The two lines carry 580,000 people each weekday.

Aurora Sculpture

Gorgeous stuff - the artist Ed Kirshner works in glass and plasma. Online gallery is here: The Aurora Group Here is a small taste:
Click for full-size Image

Wikipes - online recipe guide

Someone has taken the Wikipedia software and adapted it for the entry and storage of recipes. It just started January 1st and not that many entries as yet but it's an interesting idea and I'll be checking back from time to time...

Is Bugs Gay?

Hat tip to BoingBoing for this link to a series of screen-shots. bq. Quien es mas queer: Buggs or Spongebob? Following up on ridiculous protests by Christian conservative groups over the alleged homosexual agenda-promotin' ways of cartoon icon SpongeBob SquarePants, Boing Boing reader John Martz argues through a series of screengrabs that Bugs Bunny himself may be a little light in the loafers. Here are a few:
bugs1.jpg bugs5.jpg bugs9.jpg bugs17.jpg

Old Woodworking Machines

The Old Woodworking Machines website is very cool - they have about 1,200 manuals scanned into PDF format for older woodworking equipment. They also have 2,100 photos. Priceless resource for anyone trying to research or restore an older piece of machinery. There is also a discussion forum and classified ad section.

Non-smoking nation

This is interesting - the nation of Bhutan has banned the public use and sale of tobacco. Slate has the story: bq. The First Nonsmoking Nation If you're indignant that your boss just shut the smoking room and outraged that you have to leave the bar to light up, take heart. Life could be worse. You could be Bhutanese. bq. The tiny, trendy Himalayan kingdom recently became the world's first nonsmoking nation. Since Dec. 17, it has been illegal to smoke in public or sell tobacco. Violators are fined the equivalent of $232�more than two months' salary in Bhutan. Authorities heralded the ban by igniting a bonfire of cigarette cartons in the capital, Thimphu, and stringing banners across the main thoroughfare, exhorting people to kick the habit. As if they have a choice. Interesting article - there are some loopholes, people can import tobacco for their personal use (although the customs duty and sales tax are high) and foreigners are exempt.

Microsoft working on Flying Car?

From The Register comes this story about Microsoft MapPoint and an unusual set of driving directions. bq. Is Microsoft preparing a flying car? No future is complete without a flying car, but it's the invention that like Longhorn, never arrives. However many readers write in with evidence from Microsoft Norway that such a vehicle may be in trial. The company's Map Point directions service is suggesting a route that at the very least, requires an amphibious vehicle similar to that great British invention, the Hovercraft. bq. If you ask Microsoft's Mappoint how to get between the Norwegian towns of Haugesund and Trondheim - a journey of about 700 kilometers using a conventional road vehicle, the user is presented with a rather dramatic detour. Here is a screencap of the route in question:
I would hate to have to reboot in mid-air...

Unmade beds are good for you!

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According to this story at BBC/News: Untidy beds may keep us healthy bq. Failing to make your bed in the morning may actually help keep you healthy, scientists believe. bq. Research suggests that while an unmade bed may look scruffy it is also unappealing to house dust mites thought to cause asthma and other allergies. bq. A Kingston University study discovered the bugs cannot survive in the warm, dry conditions found in an unmade bed. Interesting...

2000 uses for WD40

What it says: 2000 uses for WD40 Good stuff - use it all the time on the farm.

Sir Peter Maxwell

From his "About" page: bq. Sir Peter Maxwell is a billionaire tycoon from Gloucestershire, England. He was born on the 19th January 1956 to the late Peter James Henry Maxwell III and Lady Jane Maxwell nee Smythe. From his "Testemonials" page: bq. You are a hypocrite and the most uninformed person I have ever talked to. I hope everyone reads your articles and sees what a fucking pig you are. And bq. The reason you like the idea of a third world woman is because she might be the only one who could or would possibly want you. An American or British woman would turn away from your fat oversized ego. The articles are amazing: bq. Peasant Rebellion: How Should We Control It? - February 18, 2004 Throughout my many years as one of Britain's most powerful magnates, I have seen governments and politicians come and go. The many systems we have seen in place have each had their own isolated successes, but none of these governments have effectively dealt with the issue of peasant rebellion. bq. Every fifteen or twenty years the nation faces a peasant uprising inspired by many causes. The fact is that these rabbles of unruly vagabonds need no specific reason to rebel, they do it because it is their peasant nature. Whenever they do rebel look at the reasons they give for their grievences, tax hikes or poor farming legislation. These cited reasons for rebellions make Sir Peter josh with hearty laughter since they are simply false. The real reason peasants rebel is because they are either drunk or jealous; envious of the immense wealth of men like myself. bq. What is needed is a fearsome, medieval-like ruler to quash the unruly peasants and to force them to submit to the will of the ruling classes since it is their duty to obey. This duty is clearly defined in the Bible and is the perogative of every patriotic Englishman. Some nay-saying human rights campaigners may protest at the impending cruel and ruthless suppression of the peasant classes, but if a few peasants end up swinging from the gallows the nation will be the better for it. The less disloyal plebians Britain has- the better. Satire - wonderful wonderful satire...

The Polar Express: A Virtual Train Wreck

A wonderful two-part article on what works in computer animation and what does not. The Zemeckis film: "The Polar Express" was supposed to work. It did not. Ward Jenkins at the Ward-O-Matic explains why here and here. From the first article: bq. That's my main question. Why, with all the millions pumped into the production of this technological "masterpiece," do all the children still look so creepy? It's ironic, don't you think? I mean, you read Newsweek's article on the film and you'd believe that this was the second coming of filmmaking. But after reading about 500 visual-effects specialists working for three years, and about 72 cameras capturing Tom Hanks' movements, 194 "jewels" on the actor's body for recording thus movements into the computer (152 on the face alone), and $164 million spent on the movie, I just have to say: SO WHAT? So what if you spent so much on the technology for this film. If you can't make believable characters and put them in a likable story, it's like putting paint on poo. You can't hide the stink. bq. So, what's going on here? Motion-capture is what the big hub-bub is all about. And guess what? It's nothing new. But don't tell the promotional department at Warner Bros. They want you to think that what Zemeckis & Co. are creating here is the next level in motion picture making, that this is where's it's heading to. Not so. This technology has been used before in other movies, most recently in the entire LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, and even going back as far as 1997's TITANIC, for all the little crewmen and passengers on that doomed ship. Actors in the latter film were recorded doing basic movements like walking, picking things up, waving, talking, etc. In the LOTR movies, the technique was ramped up and utilized the best most notably with the full-fledged digital character of Gollum. It's also used extensively in the gaming industry, capturing movements for characters fighting, hitting, dodging, blocking, all sorts of moves. Ward also mentions that Zemeckis was also responsible for: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" which is a classic in animation. He then goes on with part two. In this article, he dissects the motion-capture frames of actors and shows them alongside the final movie frames illustrating where the emotion was lost (the acting). He also talks about Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and how his character was done. Much more attention to detail. If you are into film making, this is an excellent read. His blog has been added to my blogroll...

Dining in North Korea

A nation that needs to take care of its own people and then worry about building Nuclear Weapons and Missiles. From Reuters: bq. N.Korea Cuts Food Ration to Half Needed North Korea has cut daily food rations to 250 grams (8.8 ounce) per person, just half the minimum daily energy requirement, officials from the World Food Program said on Monday. bq. Richard Ragan, the U.N. food agency's country director for North Korea, said the cut from 300 grams per day appeared to be temporary and was not unprecedented in a country where fluctuations in public food distribution have been a regular occurrence. And more: The reclusive communist state has suffered from persistent food shortages, although conditions appear to have improved since famine caused by drought and flooding in the mid- and late-1990s were believed to have led to the deaths of a million people. And more: bq. Despite its best harvest in 10 years, North Korea was again expected to experience food shortages in 2005 and to require external aid, the World Food Program said in November. I bet the weapons developers, the military and the government are eating very well. Beloved Leader is looking a bit chubby...

The Future of Bookstores

A very snarky lede paragraph but an otherwise interesting commentary on the state of popular book publication these days and its future. This is from the UK Guardian and was written by author John Sutherland bq. No more bookshop idyll There was a sad news item last week about 130,00 penguins doomed to die because of the havoc wrought on their environment by climate-warming. Damn George Bush and his SUVs. 'Scuse me -- as if. We are currently going through a 400-year cycle of warming and cooling and are entering a warming period. SUVs may go against your nuanced sensibilities but they are not the cause, they are a minor contributor but not the cause. Harrumph... Back to our regularly scheduled pogrom: bq. It's been a disastrous year for the other Penguin as well. Last spring the imprint's super-agglomerated parent group, Pearson, brought on-stream its new, airport-sized warehouse at Rugby. The computer operating system, predictably, crashed. They always do. From April to June the system stayed obstinately down. Penguin books were scarcer than Penguin's teeth. Delivery, almost a year later, is still constipated and hiccupy. Ouch! Wonder who did the development on that one. Anyway, John goes on to decry the passing of the small independent bookstore: bq. The book trade tends to enjoy long, stable periods of operation punctuated by seismic upheaval. The next big upheaval is imminent. Go into any high-street bookshop today and you are confronted with a dizzying profusion of wares. There are more books on display than any normal person could read in a lifetime. Where to start? bq. It used to be that patrons (never "customers") went into a bookshop, browsed for hours on end and bought one book or perhaps no book at all. Now booksellers want you to "load your cart" with three for two, or an armful of "50% off" items. It's the Tescoisation of the British book business. Nowadays you would no more think of going into a bookstore and old-fashionedly browsing than taking a tin-opener into the local supermarket and sampling the baked beans. (Tesco is a large grocery chain in Europe.) More product being sold is a bad thing? I thought that authors only got paid when their books sold. The idea that someone would walk into a book store, spend several hours and walk out empty handed is not my idea of good marketing... I do feel bad for the small bookstores that were running a marginal revenue stream who were pushed out of the marketplace when a chain store moved in, it would be nice if there was a way to ease that transition but that is business raw in tooth and nail. He also talks about Amazon: bq. Despite the healthy Christmas sales, the walk-in, walk-round bookstore is doomed. "Cyberglobalism" is about to happen. International copyright is already a dead letter. You want the book everyone is reading in the US? It won't be published in the UK for months, but Amazon.com will send it to you, copyright restriction be damned. bq. After the cyberglobal dust settles it won't be Amazon or any other of the webstores which comes out on top. Despite its web address, Jeff Bezos's outfit functions as an old-fashioned middleman. They add a surcharge of up to 40% for "handling" the product. Web-based publishers can do that themselves, direct-delivering from their warehouse. Two things are necessary: getting their act together and a state-of-the-art mega-sized warehousing system. There is some other fascinating stuff regarding the early history of Penguin Publishing, how they started and what their corporate philosophy was (Jeff Bezos would have approved).

Jury Duty

Imagine trying to select from this pool of people. CNN Law Center has the story: bq. Attorney meets the 'jury pool from hell' Defense attorney Leslie Ballin called it the "jury pool from hell." bq. The group of prospective jurors was summoned to listen to a case of Tennessee trailer park violence. bq. Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite." bq. When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed. bq. Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth." bq. Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: "In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you're probably guilty." He was not chosen. bq. The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother's girlfriend in the face with a brick. Ballin's client was found not guilty. Heh... Some days it just doesn't pay to wake up.

Update on Sulawesi quake

From Reuters bq. Strong Earthquake Shakes Indonesia's Sulawesi A large earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale shook Indonesia's eastern Sulawesi island early on Monday, damaging buildings and panicking residents, officials and local media reports said. The temblor comes a month after a massive quake off Aceh province in western Sumatra island that sent a tsunami hurtling across the Indian Ocean, killing more than 234,000 people, most of them in Indonesia. bq. A large quake was also felt in the Aceh provincial capital, Banda Aceh, on Monday morning, rattling buildings and sending residents into the streets. bq. There were no immediate reports of casualties as a result of the Sulawesi quake which hit at 3:10 a.m. (1510 EST Sunday), the meteorological and geophysics agency said. bq. Police went around the streets calming residents, many of whom feared a tsunami could be headed toward the Sulawesi coast, local radio stations reported. bq. "At least eight houses are damaged, but there is no report of casualties yet," meteorological and geophysics agency official Sutiono told Reuters. bq. The damaged homes were in Palu, a town about 16 km (10 miles) from the epicenter. bq. The earthquake was followed by at least two aftershocks and the airport at Palu, which is 970 miles northeast of Jakarta, had been closed, media reported. (Reporting by Achmad Sukarsono, Harry Suhartono and Dan Eaton in Jakarta and Dean Yates in Banda Aceh) No word yet if it is related to the earlier Aceh quake or from a different fault-line.

Exploring the law of unintended consequences

From The Register Scott Granneman from SecurityFocus writes: bq. Back in the 1970s, long before the revolution that would eventually topple him from power, the Shah of Iran was one of America's best friends (he was a dictator who brutally repressed his people, but he was anti-communist, and that made him OK in our book). Wanting to help out a good friend, the United States government agreed to sell Iran the very same intaglio presses used to print American currency so that the Shah could print his own high quality money for his country. Soon enough, the Shah was the proud owner of some of the best money printing machines in the world, and beautiful Iranian Rials proceeded to flow off the presses. bq. All things must come to an end, and the Shah was forced to flee Iran in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini's rebellion brought theocratic rule to Iran. Everyone reading this undoubtedly knows the terrible events that followed: students took American embassy workers hostage for over a year as Iran declared America to be the "Great Satan," while evidence of US complicity in the Shah's oppression of his people became obvious, leading to a break in relations between the two countries that continues to worsen to this day. bq. During the early 90s, counterfeit $100 bills began to flood the Mideast, eventually spreading around the world. Known as "superbills" or "superdollars" by the US Treasury due to the astounding quality of the forgeries, these $100 bills became a tremendous headache not only for the US and its economy, but also for people all over the world that depend on the surety of American money. Several culprits have been suggested as responsible for the superbills, including North Korea and Syria, but many observers think the real culprit is the most obvious suspect: an Iranian government deeply hostile to the United States... and even worse, an Iranian government possessing the very same printing presses used to create American money. bq. If you've ever wondered just why American currency was redesigned in the 1990s, now you know. In the 1970s, the US rewarded an ally with a special machine; in the 1990s, the US had to change its money because that ally was no longer an ally, and that special machine was now a weapon used to attack the US's money supply, where it really hurts. As an example of the law of unintended consequences, it's powerful, and it illustrates one of the main results of that law: that those unintended consequences can really bite back when you least expect them. Scott then segues into present times and riffs on unsecured email, viruses, DRM and all sorts of things that make computers go bump in the night...

R.I.P. Rose Mary Woods

Dropping like flies today... NY Times has the obituary: bq. Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's Secretary, Dies Rose Mary Woods, the devoted White House secretary to Richard Nixon who found herself at the center of one of the great mysteries of Watergate after 18 minutes of a crucial White House tape were somehow erased, died Saturday near her hometown in northeastern Ohio, her family said through a local funeral home. She was 87. And the 18-minutes: bq. In one of the most memorable photographs of the era, Miss Woods is shown attempting to recreate the awkward scenario in which, she said, she could have accidentally erased part of the tape as she was transcribing it on Mr. Nixon's orders in 1973, after the scandal had broken. The photograph shows Miss Woods at a desk, reaching far back over her left shoulder for a telephone as her foot hits a pedal controlling the transcription machine.
A more plausible explanation is that offered in the movie Dick

Bunny Suicides

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This is downright sick - I love it! A collection of cartoons about bunny's... suiciding. Here's one:
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Airbus A380

Varifrank has an interesting observation about the new Airbus A380 and its viability. Economic viability that is... bq. No Bucks, No Buck Rodgers With great pomp and with the whir of cameras everywhere, the Europeans announced the launch of the Airbus A380, an aircraft slated to carry over 800+ passengers. The Europeans are justifiably excited about this occasion, as they can no claim the crown of the � world largest commercial aircraft�. bq. Now, If you�ve been to this site often enough you know I love aircraft, any aircraft, flying or not. I even like the looks of the Wilga. My wife calls my obsession � air porn�, and I tend to agree with her. I think that flying is the ultimate expression of technological man. You can talk all you want about big computer programs and big system wiring diagrams but there�s just nothing better than making an airplane with your own two hands, sitting in the pointy end and doing something that was impossible just a 100 years ago. Flying is freedom personified. bq. So, I don�t want anyone to think I�m just �banging on the Euros� here. I like the A380, and I hope it will be successful. However the challenges the A380 faces are not aerodynamic, they are in another science altogether, once that is far less understood and more often than not ignored. That science is economics. He points out that Boeing did look at two designs for very large aircraft of this type but when they shopped them to their customers, the customers kept coming back with: bq. What their customers told them was clearly and emphatically �No thanks�, �we really just want a bigger more efficient 737�. He also points out the Concorde as well as three other European aircraft that were the downfall of their representative companies. bq. More recently, The Concorde serves as another aircraft, magnificent in its engineering but horribly deficient in its ability to capture market. The Concorde was highly subsidized by the people of France and the United Kingdom, and for both governments to get the investment back, they would need to see a minimum of 250 orders. What they got was 16 and all were made to their own government owned airlines. Interesting observations. Europe is in bad enough financial straits as it is -- what will the Airbus do for their economy.

Quake in Indonesia

No more news than this: bq. HK Observatory Reports Big Quake in Indonesia A large earthquake hit Sulawesi, Indonesia, early on Monday, the Hong Kong Observatory said. bq. The quake, measured at 6.1 on the Richter scale at 4.15 a.m. (1515 EST) in Hong Kong, was centered about 25 miles south-southwest of Palu, the observatory reported. bq. It gave no further information. bq. The quake comes less than a month after the magnitude 9.0 Dec. 26 quake in the west of Indonesia that generated a tsunami, killing as many as 234,000 people around the Indian Ocean rim.

Robots in the Operating Room

Prostate Operations are now being done with a $1.5 Mil. four-armed robot. One such system was unveiled at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento and the SacBee was on hand for a report: bq. Robo doc debuts at Sutter Real surgeon remotely controls tiny devices that reduce damage bq. It is the rare surgery that lures onlookers to the operating room window and commands the rapt attention of the cancer center's medical director. But that's what happened last week when 75-year-old Edwin Carlson became Sutter General Hospital's first patient to go under the, well, four-armed robot. bq. For several hours the massive piece of machinery pulled and prodded, cut, cauterized and stitched until Carlson's diseased prostate gland was safely out of his body. bq. The robot wasn't acting alone. A Los Angeles-area surgeon with expertise in robot-assisted prostatectomy sat at a console several feet away operating its arms. Like a conductor directing a symphony, his flittering hands maneuvered tiny instruments that had been inserted through small incisions in Carlson's abdomen. bq. The surgeon's delicate movements were translated by the robot's arms, which looked like a giant tarantula crawling above the anesthetized patient.
Click for full-size image

Viral Freedom - Arabic Blogging tool

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The excellent people at Spirit of America funded the development of Blogging Software which supports the Arabic language. Developed by iUpload this tool: bq. Today, iUpload, a leading content management solution provider that develops corporate blogging software, announced that iUpload's Personal Publishing platform is being used by Spirit of America. The non-profit organization is funding the development of an Arabic blogging tool, that will make Internet publishing and free expression in the Middle East easier and more accessible than ever before. bq. Spirit of America, with the assistance of organizations, will make the Arabic blogging tool available at no cost and will host Arabic blogs for free for those working to advance freedom and democracy in the Arab world. iUpload's blogging software, which is an integral part of Personal Publisher is being used in this important effort. bq. The Iraqi non-governmental organization Friends of Democracy is the first organization to work with Spirit of America in using iUpload's blogging tool to help pro-democracy groups and individuals create blogs and publish and share their thoughts on the Internet. Emphasis mine.

M. Moore meet A. M. al-Zarqawi

Paratrooper at Moore-watch lines up two quotes and lets the reader figure it out. bq. al-Zarqawi puts it bluntly enough for even Moore to understand
�The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not �insurgents� or �terrorists� or �The Enemy.� They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow�and they will win.� - Michael Moore, 4/14/2004
"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology,� �Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it� - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, 1/22/05
bq. Most of us didn�t have to hear it put so bluntly from the �insurgents� to know what the hell is going on over there. Perhaps this will serve as the cramming-down-the-throat of reality that Moore needs to realize that this war is ideological. Some of you scoff at the �They Hate Our Freedoms� point of view, but you can count on at least on more person who subscribes to the theory whole heartedly: al-Zarqawi himself. bq. You�d think that at some point, Moore would be more angry at the terrorists, insurgents, and detractors than he is with his own countrymen, but alas, I guess being mad at the bad guys just doesn�t play at the box office. Moore has got to eventually pull his head out of his ass and realize that the hatred these folks feel towards us goes back a long long way, even before the evil George Bush took office ( as if anything existed before Bush, as far as Moore is concerned). My guess is that this statement will go largely un-commented upon by the More, for there are too many cheap shots to be taken at Bush and his cabinet to be bothered with a statement such as this from a terrorist who has killed Americans with his own hands. Well said. The situation over there is about as plain as day and we are doing very good work. The "insurgents" are fighting for a lot more than this election. If democracy gets a foothold over there, the top-down theocratic governments will topple and be pulled down by their own citizenry. They have ridden high off their people for too long...

Magnetic Silicon

Very cool tech hack from University at Albany - SUNY bq. Silicon is best known as the material used to make semiconductor computer chips with integrated circuits. Today, scientists at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) at the University at Albany published research that could lay the foundation for using silicon to develop chips with magnetic properties, potentially impacting the development of electron-spin-based or "spintronic" devices. bq. Spintronics exploits the quantum mechanical property of electron spin, as well as its charge state. Potential spintronics applications include magnetic random access memory (MRAM), which could enable the development of computing devices that are always on, don't require time to "boot up" and don't require a traditional hard drive. bq. While semiconductor materials such as silicon are utilized for memory and central processing units, the permanent information in computers is stored in magnetized hard drives which utilize the spin of the electron.. Recent research has discovered that a semiconductor can be made magnetic by doping it with an impurity such as Mn. The resulting material or diluted magnetic semiconductor (DMS) combines the properties of magnetism used in permanent information storage with that of semiconductor memory and logic devices. DMS spintronic devices have the potential to operate at considerably higher speeds and consume less power than conventional devices. And I wonder when this will hit the streets - I would guess about four years and some people are going to become very wealthy. Good for them - this is amazing work!

Guide to music ripping/encoding

Excellent article at Ars Technica on the various formats for music storage and software options. bq. A guide to ripping and encoding music MP3, MP2, MPC, APE, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, OGG, etc. The list of audio formats out there seems to go on and on, and to the uninitiated, it's a daunting task sorting through them all. Chances are, most of us started out using an all-in-one ripper/encoder. For me, it was MusicMatch JukeBox, back when you had to pay to encode anything higher than 96Kbps. Times changed, and I discovered the joys of p2p, back before the RIAA made a big stink about file-sharing. I am embarrassed to admit that I downloaded MP3s based on their file size... the smaller the better. You see, I had not made the tenuous connection between quality and file size. All that mattered was that I had dialup Internet access, and the quicker I could download a file, the better. Come to think of it, I didn't even know what variable bit rate (VBR) was, and when I saw the bitrate changing in Winamp one time, I deleted the file because I thought there was something wrong with it. The article then goes on to talk about lossy and lossless compression and preferred software to use. Good overall look.


Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution asks the question:
Why has transportation progressed so slowly, relative to expectations?
Interesting thought -- I remember reading glittering prophecies in the issues of Popular Science from the 60's and 70's. We have people trying to do interesting things (Moeller Skycar) but overall, it remains a royal pain to travel anywhere... Tyler starts off with a few typical predictions and then weighs in with four hypotheses: bq. Those not atypical forecasts are from 1961, courtesy of www.geekpress.com. But the rest of the predictions are eminently sensible, if not always accurate. Or try watching The Jetsons. Why have we expected so much more progress in transportation than we have received? I can see several hypotheses: bq. 1. In the last fifty years, for technological reasons, transportation has been relatively stagnant. More decentralized uses of flying still consume too much energy and are too dangerous. bq. 2. The public nature of the relevant property rights (e.g., roads, airspaces) has hindered progress. bq. 3. Futurists have no job or no audience unless they predict changes. They are especially inclined to exaggerate about transportation, perhaps because it is so visible in our lives. bq. 4. We have focused on moving physical resources and information, rather than moving people. In the former areas progress has been immense. Who needs better transportation when the world can be brought to your doorstep? Visit his site for a fifth. Good stuff...

Everything went flying...

Ran into this email from Brian Frie, a crew member aboard the submarine USS San Francisco which ran into an uncharted seamount while traveling at a 500 foot depth and running at full speed (about 30MPH). bq. To All, I thought that I would put out a note since a lot of you have been calling and writing to find out how things are and if I�m OK and what happened. If you hadn�t heard, my boat hit a uncharted submerged sea mount at the highest speed we can go at about 500 ft. below the surface. There were about 30 of us that were seriously hurt and, unfortunately, one of my shipmates didn�t make it. bq. First off, I am OK. I am pretty beat up with my entire left side and butt as one big bruise. My shoulder is separated and may require surgery. They will evaluate later this week. I am very fortunate that I hit the wall and didn�t go down a ladderwell that was right next to where I hit. If I had gone down that, I would have got really messed up. bq. I took a tremendous shot to my left thigh from something. If it had been slightly lower in the knee area it would have been really ugly. But all in all I am in good shape. We hit it at about noon right after field day (where all of us clean the boat for several hours). Thank God we didn�t hit while we were doing this or it would have been much worse. We would have had flying deck plates through the air and such. Not good. bq. As it was, it happened while chow was going on and most people were either sitting and eating or on watch. I don�t remember much of the collision. People describe it as like in the movie, �The Matrix,� where everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster that the brain can process. My mind has blanked it out exactly what happened. Adrenaline kicked in and I have no real memory of how I got down to middle level or what I did immediately following. It is amazing that only one person was killed.

So near yet so far...

Charles at LGF found this wonderful picture:
As Close As He'll Ever Get
And that his view is being blocked by someone wearing a cowboy hat. Priceless...

High Life

The Flying Wallendas have an historical record going back to 1780 as a travelling circus troupe specializing in aerial performances. One of the Wallendas -- Mario -- was involved in an accident that killed two members of the Flying Wallendas and left Mario Wallenda paralyzed from the waist down. He held several positions -- worked in a Contact Lens lab until retirement, he has done woodcaving, lapidary, RC Airplanes. All boring... He wants to go back up on the wire again. Hendersonville News has the story: bq. A Flying Wallenda returns to high wire Using a seat on a pulley, a handful of young men hoisted Mario Wallenda from his wheelchair to a high wire 40 feet above the ground. bq. Up on the wire sat Wallenda's "sky cycle," a two-wheeled, motor-powered contraption that he was about to ride across the wire. Down below, his friends and family watched in silence. And his reason: bq. Asked why it's worth the risk to go back onto the high wire, Wallenda will give a different answer every time. bq. First, he'll say that he has nothing else to do but putter around in his garden. Then, he'll say that he's gotten to the age where he does not care anymore. He'll also say that he thought it would be cool, that's all. bq. Wallenda doesn't really expect noncircus people, or "towners," as he calls them, to understand. bq. "It's an adrenaline high," he said. bq. He savored the rush of performing -- "It was more fun than a barrel of monkeywomen." Heh...

A three hour tour...

There was a spate of Cruise Ship illnesses last year. We have another one -- MS/NBC has the news: bq. More than 250 aboard cruise ship fall ill Stomach virus strikes passengers in Western Caribbean bq. More than 250 people aboard a cruise ship fell ill with a stomach virus while touring the western Caribbean, cruise line officials said Saturday. bq. About 233 of the 3,465 passengers aboard the Mariner of the Seas became sick after the vessel left Port Canaveral on Jan. 16 for a seven-day cruise through the western Caribbean. The ship was expected to return early Sunday. bq. Twenty of the vessel�s 1,190 crew members also showed symptoms. And more: bq. Passenger Crystal Wiles, an accountant from Frederick, Md., said in a phone interview from the vessel that she and her husband had been quarantined for three days. She criticized the cruise line�s handling of the illness and said the company was undercounting the number of people affected by the virus. bq. �The treatment has been horrible,� Wiles said. Last year, I had a theory but didn't expound on it. This still could be the case so here it is: #1) - The ships dump sewerage overboard. Some treated but some not. #2) - The cruise ships follow about the same courses so they will be sailing through the same water that was polluted by the earlier ship. #3) - they take on seawater and use low-pressure and low-temperature distillation to make fresh potable water. The reason for the low pressure/low temp is that they can use waste heat from the engines for the distillation (put water in a vacuum and it boils at a much lower temperature). #4) - The temperature of distillation is not enough to kill off any E. Coli present in the incoming seawater. A wild-assed guess but it does sound plausable... Last year, they were unable to find a solid epidemiology for any of the incidents.

R.I.P. Johnny Carson

TV Host Johnny Carson passed away early this morning. MSNBC has a nice obituary.

Michael Moore's Bodyguard

A number of people have been blogging about how Michael Moore hired a bodyguard that was recently arrested for carrying an unlicensed pistol. JimK at MooreWatch has the full and accurate story. Please note, the page will open to a small precis - click on the More... link for more. Here is the "approved version"
A bodyguard who has protected outspoken moviemaker and gun-control advocate Michael Moore was arrested at Kennedy International Airport for allegedly carrying a pistol without a New York license, authorities said Thursday. Patrick Burk, 34, was arraigned Thursday evening on a felony charge of criminal possession of a weapon and was released on his own recognizance, said Patrick Clark, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney�s office. A return court date was set for Feb. 3. Burk was questioned by police Wednesday night after he notified a United Airlines ticket agent that he wanted to carry his weapon � unloaded and in a bag � on a flight to Los Angeles, said Port Authority spokesman Tony Ciavolella. The bodyguard, who works for the California-based security firm Gavin de Becker & Associates, told police he had traveled to New York with Moore earlier this month, Ciavolella said. He produced licenses for his Mauser handgun from California and Florida, but not New York, which prompted his arrest. Burk�s attorney, Marc Greenwald, said his client �was following proper airline procedures when he was checking in and informed the airline that he had an unloaded and locked weapon in his checked baggage, which he is entitled to do.� Moore spokesman Mark Benoit said the filmmaker �wasn�t there and had nothing do with this.� Burk has been assigned to protect Moore at times in the past but is not his personal bodyguard, Gavin de Becker said. De Becker defended Burk, saying he had followed proper procedures at the airport. He called him �a leading professional in his field.�

To be a fly on that wall...

There was an entry at Dean Esmay's website about how President Bush's inaugural speech was written and there was a brief mention of one meeting: bq. "One meeting, arranged by Peter Wehner, director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, included military historian Victor Davis Hanson, columnist Charles Krauthammer and Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis, according to one Republican close to the White House. White House senior adviser Karl Rove attended, according to one source, but mostly listened to what became a lively exchange over U.S. policy and the fight for liberty." OMG - these three people in one room - I really really hope that someone was running a tape recorder.

Hillary tries to rework herself.

From NewsMax comes this interesting tidbit: bq. Holy Hillary: I Always Prayed Borrowing a page from President Bush, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton told a Boston audience this week that prayer has always played a meaningful role in her life - though accounts from her days as a student radical suggest that's probably not true. bq. "I've always been a praying person," Clinton told a crowd of more than 500, including many religious leaders, at Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza. And the reality of the situation: bq. Though she was raised as a Methodist, Clinton's open embrace of God, along with her insistence that she's "always been a praying person," has to come as a shock to those who remember her college days. bq. Back then, Clinton was far more likely to be seen reading not the Bible but the writings of Marx and Mao - and had close associations with unabashed Communists, to whom the mere mention of religion was heresy. bq. One was Robert Treuhaft, who, as noted in the late Barbara Olson's Hillary biography, "Hell to Pay," had "dedicated his entire legal career to advancing the agenda of the Soviet Communist Party." bq. In 1972 Treuhaft offered the future senator a summer internship at the University of California's Berkeley campus. Clinton accepted, immersing herself in Truehaft's brand of radical Stalinism. When she returned, she was, according to Olson, "a budding Leninist." bq. If Sen. Clinton was "a praying person" back then, she must have kept it well concealed from her radical mentors. Now that should be a lot of fun if she decides to run in 2008. I would like to see that happen and see all that gets dredged up. I'm still waiting for John Forbes Kerry to sign is Standard Form 180 to release his military records. Bush did it, Kerry did not. What is Kerry trying to hide. Dems these days -- bunch of rank amateurs...

Robert Redford meets the Indians

Dr. David Yeagley is (justifiably) on the warpath at Bad Eagle The specific article is here but there are other entries building up to it that are worth reading. Dr. Yeagley opens up looking at some groups (predominantly athletic) that use Indian motifs and their support of American Indian interests. He then takes a look at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. bq. Redford's Token Indians The Cleveland Indians have never claimed to support American Indian interests. Robert Redford's Sundance Institute does. The Atlanta Braves have never professed to foster Indian culture or talent. Redford's Institute does. The Washington Redskins, located in the national center of social ills, D.C., do profess at least a concern for inner city youth. Redford's Sundance Institute has nothing to do with Indian people or Indian reservations. bq. The Skins, the Braves, and the Indians have all been relentlessly attacked by Leftist Indian activists, because their professional athletic teams use Indian names, images, and logos. So why hasn't Redford's "Sundance" Institute been raided by the same Leftist-trained Indian activists and the hordes of white liberals behind them? Is it because the Sundance Institute professes to be culturally sensitive? Is it because the "Sundance" programs claim to have an interest in Indian people? Does Redford get a free pass to use an Indian name because of an appearance of concern for Indians? a political cover of "compassion"? Dr. Yeagley then takes a long look at Sundance Institute, what it does and who does it. Follow the money plays out well here too. I'm cherrypicking from this article. bq. Redford himself has produced not a single Indian script or film. The Sundance Institute does not produce either, for anyone. bq. The Sundance offers misleading impressions about it's "work" for Indians. Under "Programs," one finds a "Native American" category. Yet, to apply, one submits his entry to the general application, for a decision from the board. Bird Runningwater, who heads the "Native American Initiative," has no say in who is awarded a stipend-less fellowship to come to the Institute. The Institute looks like is has an Indian program, but it really doesn't. They may as well have a Lithuanian Initiative, a Somalian Initiative, and have a token representative, like Runningwater. Apparently Runningwater is the sole salaried beneficiary of the Institute. Yes, the Institute offers a giant step forward for Indiankind. Indeed. There is simply no special effort for Indians. The Institute offers only a fraudulent impression of interest. Who? bq. Since the Institute invited Michael Moore in 1997 Follow the money: bq. ...the Institute will now be funding it's future 'documentarists' through the money of George Soros This is a very well written but dense and long series of posts. If you are interested in the current American Left, Film in general or Robert Redford, it's worth checking this site out. Dr. Yeagley backs up his statements with lots of links and facts for you to check... Good stuff!

Wendy Carlos' Recording Tips for the Beginner

From Wendy's homepage comes this list of helpful hints for those about to engineer an audio recording: bq. Recently a good friend was enthusiastically about to commence his first professional set of recording sessions (you know who you are...!) In my usual helpful, supportive, but ever malicious way, I decided to jot down a series of "Helpful Tips for the Novice Recording Engineer", and send it to him. With tongue firmly in cheek, here is the nasty parody that resulted. A few samples: bq. The best microphone for an accordion is none. (This rule-of-thumb also applies to bagpipes and rappers.) bq. If you are recording onto tape, good maintenance practice would be to clean the tape head and path. Do not use peanut butter for this, even the "creamy" kind. Mustard, crazy glue, or mayonnaise are also poor choices (trust me), but in an emergency, Vodka on a Q-tip will work, especially if recording Russian music (hint: save some for yourself, but substitute an olive for the Q-tip.) bq. Usually it's preferable to put reverb on AFTER the solo tracks are recorded, as true reverb filters not only don't exist yet, but are unusually expensive, and difficult to abuse. bq. Be sure the sound passes through the cables in the proper direction (note the arrows on the connectors or cord.) Otherwise, when a singer inhales, you will hear an exhale, and vice versa. This is as horrible as the worst possible vice: punning (and as you know, there is no vice versa.) bq. Do not wave at a performer unless seated. Good studio practice minimizes all Standing Waves. Heh... Wendy did the original "Switched On Bach" (she was Walter back then) and has been doing some amazing work in several different disciplines ever since.

Germany starts to get it

From Charles at LGF comes this encouraging news: bq. According to weekly magazine Der Spiegel, German authorities are drawing up lists of hundreds of Islamic extremists to be deported.
Der Spiegel said authorities were already using their powers under an immigration law introduced this month in conducting an operation dubbed �Aktion Kehraus� (�Action Sweep Out�). The Interior Ministry declined to comment on the report beyond saying that deportations were a matter for Germany�s 16 federal states. Under new rules, potential deportees will not be able to use normal legal channels to challenge an expulsion order. A special panel of the Federal Administrative Court will be responsible, with no right of appeal. Der Spiegel said judges were expected to deal with up to 2,000 cases per year. Since the revelations in 2001 that Arab students who had lived for years in Hamburg led the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Germans have questioned their liberal laws under which some suspected militants even draw welfare benefits.
Very good... It's a start of a long process.

Google unveiled

J. Bowen at No Watermelons found this paper (PDF format) that details the architecture of Google. Very cool. I knew that they had somewhat graduated from their shelves of cheap PCs but their direction is interesting. Racks and racks of cheap 1U Single Proc boxes. And speaking of scalability... I worked for MSFT for some time both as permatemp and blue-badge and managed this lab:
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This is one row of the 1200 'client' machines -- these simulated a large volume of traffic coming in to a web site and database.
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A very gorgeous box (with a stack of Compaq servers and a disk array on the left). This was the Unisys ES-7000, they were a mainframe company and decided to evolve PC technology to mainframe specs. 32-proc, 96 PCI bus slots, gobs and gobs and gobs of RAM, three separate power inputs (you would be on three separate power sources and two could fail and it would still run). Excellent engineering and one of the most intelligent people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Unfortunately, Windows does not scale that well. Neither do may other OS's so the Google technique is the way to go. Expensive lesson for all. Distributed systems of small boxes work best. You do need to keep your ducks in a row on this but the technology is straightforward and easy to scale. Finally, a pr0n shot: we got a different Compaq disk array and 700+ drives. Each drive came in it's own box. Here is the mess that we left for the cleaning crew. (I did give them two days notice) (Marc and I broke down the boxes after the photos) (Recycle yes -- I'm still using a bunch of them)
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Interesting follow-up

In January 2003, NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about his visits to Cambodia and how he purchased two teenage girls -- sex slaves. ($150 and $203). He set them free and made sure that an NGO was looking after them. A year later, he has followed up on the story, revisiting these people. Original series here, here, here, here and here. (Please note: the NY Times uses an archaic fee-based service to view older articles such as these) Current stories here and here -- one good and unfortunately, one not so good... Good first: bq. Leaving the Brothel Behind A year ago, a pimp handed me a quivering teenage girl. Her name was Srey Neth, and she was one of the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who are enslaved by the sex trafficking industry worldwide. bq. Then I did something dreadfully unjournalistic: I bought her. Kristof then returned her to her family home and gave her $100 to set up a small store. Things were going great until: bq. At first, it turns out, everything went well for Srey Neth. Our plan was for her to start a shop in her village, near Battambang. She invested $100 I had given her to build a shack and stock it with food and clothing. For a few months, business boomed. bq. The problem was her family. Srey Neth's parents and older brothers and sisters had a hard time understanding why they should go hungry when their sister had a store full of food. And her little nephews and nieces, running around the yard, helped themselves when she wasn't looking. bq. "Srey Neth got mad," her mother recalled. "She said we had to stay away, or everything would be gone. She said she had to have money to buy new things." bq. But in a Cambodian village, nobody listens to an uneducated teenage girl. Indeed, the low status of girls is the underlying reason why so many daughters are sold to the brothels. So by May, Srey Neth's shop was empty, and she had no money to restock it. bq. "It was our fault," her father told me, looking ashamed. "It was not Srey Neth's fault." She moved to Phnom Penh and started going to Beauticians School. Plans to open her own shop. (Kristof was her first paying customer.) Other story is not that good: bq. Back to the Brothel After I purchased Srey Mom from her brothel for $203 a year ago and brought her back to her village, the joy was overwhelming. Her parents and siblings had assumed she was dead, and they shrieked and hugged and cried. bq. I had doubts about the other sex slave I had purchased, Srey Neth, whom I wrote about on Wednesday - and who in fact is thriving and is now preparing to become a hairdresser. But I was pretty sure that Srey Mom would make it. bq. So I'm devastated to say that a year later, I found Srey Mom back here in the wild town of Poipet, in her old brothel. She's devastated, too - when she spotted me, she ran away to her room in the back of the brothel until she could compose herself. bq. "I never lie to people, but I lied to you," she said forlornly. "I said I would not come back, and I did. I didn't want to return, but I did." bq. Yet, sadly, such an experience is common. Aid groups find it unnerving that they liberate teenagers from the bleak back rooms of a brothel, take them to a nice shelter - and then at night the kids sometimes climb over the walls and run back to the brothel. Key problem is drugs: bq. "Ninety-five percent of the girls take drugs," Srey Mom told me. Some girls inject morphine, but brothel owners worry that needle holes make girls look unsightly, so methamphetamine pills are most common. bq. Some brothel owners welcome addiction, because it makes the girls dependent upon them. But Srey Mom said that is not true of her brothel owner, Heok Tem, whom she calls "Mother." bq. "Mother doesn't want us to use drugs," Srey Mom said. She has an eerily close relationship with Mrs. Heok Tem, and these days that emotional bond keeps her in the brothel as much as do her debts. Mrs. Heok Tem seems to feel genuine affection for Srey Mom and truly helped in the effort to get Srey Mom to start a new life, but she also cheats Srey Mom ruthlessly - I examined the brothel's account books - and rakes in cash by pimping the girl, which exposes her to AIDS. bq. "It's wrong," Mrs. Heok Tem admitted. But for now, she says, she needs the money. Kristof mentions that 36 percent of girls in local brothels have H.I.V. He then closes with this: bq. President Bush declared in his inaugural address this week that "no one deserves to be a slave" and that advancing freedom is "the calling of our time." I can't think of a better place to start than the hundreds of thousands of girls trafficked each year, for this 21st-century version of slavery has not only grown in recent years but is also especially diabolical - it poisons its victims, like Srey Mom, so that eventually chains are often redundant. Very true. Kristof sometimes strays into the far left but on basic human rights and actually doing something about it, he is one of the good guys. A bully pulpit does not have to be a bad thing... Hat tip to Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution

Iranian Bloggers Jailed

Hat tip to Brian at Grafyte for the link to this story: bq. When blogging can get you locked up Javad Gholam Tamayomi, Omid Memarian, Shahram Rafihzadeh, Hanif Mazroi, Rozbeh Mir Ebrahimi, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Fereshteh Ghazi are some of the most courageous people you've never met. Not exactly household names, but each deserves a standing ovation. bq. During a crackdown against Iran's nascent online press last year, these sundry online journalists and bloggers got chucked into jail. The cyber seven were subsequently released but continue to invite the periodic and not-so-tender attention of the local police. bq. A blogger named Mojtaba Saminejad, also arrested on trumped-up charges at the beginning of November after condemning the jailings in his blog, is still being held in prison. bq. Increasingly, it seems, blogging can get you in big trouble. And as the number of Web logs and Internet news sites grows, journalists and bloggers regularly find themselves at odds with governments that are unenthusiastic about freedom of expression. The author then talks about the filtering, monitoring and censorship that is going on in Iran and China and suggests the following: bq. Get a backbone Internet infrastructure providers can't plead willful ignorance anymore. In China, for example, Cisco Systems routers do the heavy lifting for the country's surveillance infrastructure. Internet traffic passes through only five hubs, making it oh so easy to snoop on Web surfers and read private e-mails. bq. I'm not suggesting that Cisco was complicit in setting up a spy system, but the company's engineers did help program the equipment. Wouldn't it have been something if CEO John Chambers had shown more interest in how his company's technology was going to be used? Who knows--maybe Cisco could have extracted even a small concession from the authorities in Beijing. The business world doesn't produce heroes, but we should expect its leaders to occasionally demonstrate guts. Emphasis mine -- excellent thought... The entire article is worth checking out.

Two from Slashdot

One of my favorite sources for Geek and Tech news is Slashdot -- it's like the Drudge Report for tech heads... Two stories caught my eye today: #1) -- Sony Admits MP3 Error bq. "In a rare show admission of taking a wrong turn, Sony's officials have admitted that their stance on MP3 players was wrong." While this was pretty obvious to anyone who has ever shopped for a portable MP3 player, it is nice to see Sony admit their shortcoming. The article links to this news item from Australia's news.com.au: bq. SONY missed out on potential sales from MP3 players and other gadgets because it was overly proprietary about music and entertainment content, the head of the company's video-game unit said. bq. Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said he and other Sony employees had been frustrated for years with management's reluctance to introduce products like Apple's iPod, mainly because the Sony had music and movie units that were worried about content rights. Sony's follow-ups to the walkman did not play MP3 files -- MP3 is the worlds most used format for music data. Sony's sales were really really low. DOH! The free market speaks! Item number two is a sad one: #2) -- The Forgotten Huygens Experiment bq. An experiment onboard the Huygens probe didn't run as planned because someone forgot to turn it on. The team lead for the experiment has put eighteen years of his life into the project, just to watch it not happen after a seven year ride to its destination on Titan. This article links to the story in Yahoo/AP bq. Professor's Saturn Experiment Forgotten David Atkinson spent 18 years designing an experiment for the unmanned space mission to Saturn. Now some pieces of it are lost in space. Someone forgot to turn on the instrument Atkinson needed to measure the winds on Saturn's largest moon. bq. "The story is actually fairly gruesome," the University of Idaho scientist said in an e-mail from Germany, the headquarters of the European Space Agency. "It was human error � the command to turn the instrument on was forgotten." Dr. Atkinson's comment: bq. "In total, the core of our team has invested something like 80 man years on this experiment, 18 of which are mine," Atkinson wrote. "I think right now the key lesson is this � if you're looking for a job with instant and guaranteed success, this isn't it." That's gotta suck...

Powell son to step down too

We all know that General Colin Powell stepped down as Secretary of State (with Condi replacing him). His son, Michael was head of the Federal Communications Commission and he too is leaving. MS/NBC/AP has the story: bq. FCC chief stepping aside in March Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell, who opposed tight regulation of telecommunications but backed unprecedented fines against broadcast indecency, announced Friday he is resigning. bq. Powell, who has held the job for four years, said in a statement that he informed President Bush that he would depart in March. bq. Powell, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also is leaving the Bush administration, said he had completed a �bold and aggressive agenda� and looked forward to spending more time with his wife and two sons. And his legacy: bq. While tackling complex issue ranging from telephone competition to rules for media ownership, Powell is perhaps best known for overseeing a dramatic crackdown on broadcast indecency that began before the infamous �wardrobe malfunction� during singer Janet Jackson�s Super Bowl halftime performance last February. bq. The FCC received more than 1 million indecency complaints in 2004, most of them involving Jackson. CBS is contesting a proposed FCC fine of $550,000 for the incident. bq. Fines for indecent programming exceeded $7.7 million last year, a huge increase from the $48,000 imposed the year before Powell became chairman. Powell has praised the record fines, saying the commission was �wielding our sword� to protect children and viewers who object to racy programming. Don't forget Howard Stern there too... Driven from Broadcast to Satellite because of Powell's efforts.

Our new friends - The United Nations

Go here and read this -- here is one paragraph: bq. It has been three weeks since my ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln, arrived off the Sumatran coast to aid the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami that ravaged their coastline. I�d like to say that this has been a rewarding experience for us, but it has not: Instead, it has been a frustrating and needlessly dangerous exercise made even more difficult by the Indonesian government and a traveling circus of so-called aid workers who have invaded our spaces. Here is another: bq. As I went through the breakfast line, I overheard one of the U.N. strap-hangers, a longhaired guy with a beard, make a sarcastic comment to one of our food servers. He said something along the lines of �Nice china, really makes me feel special,� in reference to the fact that we were eating off of paper plates that day. It was all I could do to keep from jerking him off his feet and choking him, because I knew that the reason we were eating off paper plates was to save dishwashing water so that we would have more water to send ashore and save lives. That plus the fact that he had no business being there in the first place. And two more: bq. As a result of having to host these people, our severely over-tasked SH-60 Seahawk helos, which were carrying tons of food and water every day to the most inaccessible places in and around Banda Aceh, are now used in great part to ferry these �relief workers� from place to place every day and bring them back to their guest bedrooms on the Lincoln at night. Despite their avowed dedication to helping the victims, these relief workers will not spend the night in-country, and have made us their guardians by default. bq. When our wardroom treasurer approached the leader of the relief group and asked him who was paying the mess bill for all the meals they ate, the fellow replied, �We aren�t paying, you can try to bill the U.N. if you want to.� Hat tip to Kim DuToit You may now understand what he means when he talks about RCOB moments - Red Curtain of Blood... Refer to rule #5 here

Maintenance work...

Mostly Cajun at Mostly Cajun occasionally posts stories from his workplace. Today was wonderful although it did not happen to him -- this is an apocryphal story folks -- keep moving, nothing to see here... bq. Clearing out the toilet Back several jobs ago I was an electrician at a very large petrochemical plant. Occasionally my duties put me in one of its THREE powerhouses, this on built during WW II. It was a pretty good job, interesting stuff to work on, and a good bunch of guys to work with. bq. Anyway, one day I and a couple of the pipefitters were sitting in the lunchroom taking a break, drinking coffee and talking. In shuffled old Linus, the janitor. Linus was a legend. Thirty-five years with the company, he�d never missed a day of work. He talked in a slow, careful drawl. bq. �Mr. Bobby,� he said, �Mr. Bill tole me to come talk to you.� Visit the link to read the rest of the story -- needless to say, Mr. Bill was not sitting pretty...

If we cannot stop her, maybe we can delay her

This is downright petty... Condoleezza Rice won the confirmation vote by 16 to 2 (John Kerry and Barbara Boxer if you weren't able to guess) Then, the Democrats delayed the approval until after President Bush's Inauguration. Condi was there but she was not there as confirmed Secretary of State, she was there as Condi in Limbo. Now, from CNN: Rice confirmation vote delayed bq. The confirmation of Secretary of State designate Condoleezza Rice has been postponed to next week. bq. Senate Democrats objected to a full Senate vote on Thursday, saying they wanted more time for floor speeches. This photo of her with Boxer is classic, Boxer looks soooo smug, like she is pulling off something really really big, pulling the wool over Condi's eyes and Condi is looking at her like: What???

Lies of the Left

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The Diplomad nails it with this wonderful essay: bq. Our Favorite Ten Lies We are bureaucrats. We like things tidy. We like options clearly laid out -- and we don't want too many of them. Above all, we like lists; we love top ten lists. We're not too good at math so we restrict ourselves to lists with ten things. Re Math: Don't forget that according to our personnel evaluation reports in the Foreign Service 90% of us are ranked in the top 10%. bq. Our Acting Principal Deputy Vice Chief Diplomad for Coordination of Coordinating Coordinators and List Making has sent us his top "ten mistaken ideas people hold." bq. We are sure our intrepid readers can come up with more candidates for the list, but for what it's worth we present ours for your consideration. bq. In no particular order our list is as follows, bq. Top Ten Wrong Ideas that People Around the World Still Believe: Here are the top five -- visit The Diplomad for the short commentary for each of the ten entries. Very very good - spot on... bq. 1) There's some magic "Third Way." 2) Foreign Aid Helps Poor People. 3) If the USA Pressured Ariel Sharon, there'd be Middle East Peace. 4) You can't make a country democratic by force. 5) The United Nations is the hope for the future of mankind,and its corollary, if we didn't have the UN we'd have to invent it.

Bush's Lavish Inauguration

I remember hearing the figure but didn't have a source to go to. Fortunately, Paul at Wizbang does so I'm pointing to this article on his website: bq. Inaugural price tag in line with history Now they tell us.
Inaugural price tag in line with history Reuters news agency this week headlined a story, "Critics Say Bush Inaugural Too Lavish for Wartime," then quoted one "critic," Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, who complained that the estimated $40 million for the Bush-Cheney inauguration is extravagant. ... But a review of the cost for past inaugurations shows Mr. Bush's will cost less than President Clinton's second inauguration in 1997, which cost about $42 million. When the cost is adjusted for inflation, Mr. Clinton's second-term celebration exceeds Mr. Bush's by about 25 percent. According to the Consumer Price Index, $42 million in 1997 is the equivalent of $49.5 in 2004. The significant majority of funding for this year's festivities, including nine officials balls, are from private donations and tickets for events held by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a similar setup to fund raising Mr. Clinton used to underwrite his inauguration. Mr. Clinton had a record 12 balls in 1997.
bq. Multiple snaky things could -and probably should- be said about the people propagating this nonsense, but I'm feeling charitable on inauguration day. bq. I'll call them idiots tomorrow. bq. Update: Right Wing Duck has a surprisingly interesting accounting of the Inaugural expenses. Heh...

Shades of Mad Max

These people are located in Oregon and their business is importing very heavy slow diesel engines from China and India for use as generating plants for people who live off-grid. The engines are designed to run for years at a time with minimal maintenance. When maintenance is needed, it can be performed by the owner -- no fancy electronic modules to burn out. The basic design of these engines dates back to the 1800's - no reason to change them if they ain't broke. The owner had a dead Chevy Metro and a spare diesel 10 Horsepower Engine and the two just seemed made for each other. Here is the story: Remember Mad Max Movies? bq. Gasoline is $100 a gallon, but with this vehicle you're all set! Skim the fat off the stew pot, and transesterify it to make beefodiesel.... you will have enough fuel to get to town and back in this car!
The owner sold the car on eBay to some people in WA State and they drove it back -- here is their report: bq. The car proved to pull the steepest hill they could find at more than 15 miles an hour with this hefty load! Flat ground produced nearly 50 miles per hour. Later, the car was driven with driver only, and Joel found the top speed to be no more than 50 on the flat, and he did see speeds nearing 60MPH when going down hills, this suggests that the drive system is pretty well optimized as per the ratios... Very nice idea for a city commuter car. The new owners are reporting 110 MPG although the builder thinks that is a bit optimistic. A conversion kit is available through eBay Motors. UPDATE: Someone decried the lack of Muffler Bearings. Here is a source: Muffler Bearings They also stock such useful items as High Quality Synthetic Blinker Fluid and the Pilot Wrench

What every household needs

Too many DVDs, and CDs and not enough time to rewind? Are your DVDs running a bit too slow? The DVD rewinder is the perfect solution! This novelty rewinder comes with the exclusive Centriptal Velocity Spindle providing the world�s fastest DVD rewind! The DVD Rewinder is a great gift for the technical savvy, the couch potato, teens with too much time on their hands, and the gadget buff!
Only $21.99 -- batteries not included... UPDATE: I was horribly remiss. The link is here and yes, these are products that are for sale. The word "novelty" comes to mind though...
This is sick... I know that the EU's have put a lot of government subsidies into the French Airbus and they need to sell a bunch of their new A380 Jumbos but this is sick. Hat tip to Mover Mike -- a new arrival on the blog 'scene': bq. Tsunami-hit Thais told: Buy six planes or face EU tariffs
TSUNAMI-struck Thailand has been told by the European Commission that it must buy six A380 Airbus aircraft if it wants to escape the tariffs against its fishing industry.
bq. This is not a good time to get tough with Thailand. The article Mike links to is in The Scotsman - it goes on to say: bq. While aid workers from across Europe are helping to rebuild Thai livelihoods, trade officials in Brussels are concluding a jets-for-prawns deal, which they had hoped to announce next month. bq. As the world�s largest producer of prawns, Thailand has become so efficient that its wares are half the price of those caught by Norway, the main producer of prawns for the EU. bq. To ensure the Thais cannot compete, EU officials five years ago removed its shrimp industry from the EU�s generalised system of preferential tariffs - designed to share Western wealth with developing countries by trade. bq. The EU has instead slapped a tariff of 12 per cent on its fish - three times that imposed on prawns from Malaysia, its neighbour. And whatever happened to the concept of Free Trade?

Barbara Boxer - Fake but accurate

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Mike King at Ramblings' Journal takes a look at what California Senator Barbara Boxer said during Condi Rice's confirmation hearings and fact checks her ass: bq. Boxer gets caught in her own lie Senator Barbara Boxer (Raving Moonbat-CA), in her zeal to try to attack Secretary of State-designee Condoleezza Rice during confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill yesterday, falsely insisted that WMD was the only thing that Congress voted on when authorizing military action in Iraq. bq. BOXER: Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote. bq. Boxer has been so enamored by the notion of attacking the Administration that she obviously didn't do her homework before spouting her lies. Boxer failed to note that seven different points were included in the authorization, contrary to her insistance otherwise. bq. To coin a phrase, let's go to the videotape!
1. Iraq's harboring of Al-Queda terrorists
2. Iraq's support for International Terrorism
3. Iraq's "brutal repression" of its citizens
4. Iraq's failure to repatriate or give information on non-Iraqi citizens detained and captured during Gulf War I, including an American serviceman.
5. Failing to properly return property wrongfully seized during the Kuwait invasion
6. The attempted assassination of former President Bush in 1993
7. America's national security interests in restoring peace and stability to the Persian Gulf
bq. Mind you, this does not include the enforcement of the United Nations resolutions (that everyone from the Left to the UN itself seems to so conveniently forget in their ongoing endeavor to attack this President and this Administration). Indeed... WMDs were only a very minor aspect of the compelling reasons. And if we want to talk about WMDs, lets take a look at what people were saying: If The Bush Administration Lied About WMD, So Did These People -- Version 3.0 Two sample quotes: bq. "Iraq made commitments after the Gulf War to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction, and unfortunately, Iraq has not lived up to its agreement." -- Barbara Boxer, November 8, 2002 bq. "The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons. He has had a free hand for 4 years to reconstitute these weapons, allowing the world, during the interval, to lose the focus we had on weapons of mass destruction and the issue of proliferation." -- John Kerry, October 9, 2002

Mark your calendars

As Professor Bainbridge notes: bq. Something to look forward to Misery is expected to peak on Monday, as 24 January has been pinpointed as the worst day of the year. (link)

World Power Systems

Stumbled across this page while looking for something else and spent the next hour browsing around. If you are into art, old computers (drum memory and vacuum tubes), and very strange creations that seem to date from the Cold War era but don't quite seem real, check out Tom Jennings website: World Power Systems People who have been online before the Internet came into being will recognize that name as one of the chief architects of the FidoNet Computer BBS system. Fascinating stuff:
Model 23 Trinitite Box
This is was first WPS product. The heart of the device is a tiny diorama, water colors on lead, with a reactor-shielding lead glass window, revealing a view, north and east, from the stolen McDonald Ranch, towards the Oscura Mountains, not quite north enough to encompass the Trinity Site; the soil and rock in the foreground is a recently-native form of man-made rock called trinitite. It is mildly radioactive (only four times average background radiation at sea level; quite safe within or without its little box). In the sky is the window of a Geiger-Mueller tube; with each disintegration of Cesium-137 within the trinitite a beta particle is emitted; those that reach the G-M tube cause a small spark within the tube, made audible with electronics inside the Model 23. Each same spark, processed by other electronics within, triggers one view of each of the frames on the film strip, projected badly on a tiny viewing screen visible in the viewing hood, after the red start switch is pressed. Some of the front-panel controls affect operation of the device.

Parse this phrase:

From CNN News
Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider
C'mon now -- who was the editor on that one... The article refers to a telephone poll: bq. Forty-nine percent of 1,007 adult Americans said in phone interviews they believe Bush is a "uniter," according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday. Another 49 percent called him a "divider," and 2 percent had no opinion. Of course, there is no mention of where the sample was taken from or who did the polling. They claim 95% accuracy but do not back this up with data. Shades of this technique.

The end of comment spam

Finally... One of the "joys" of running a blog is that people will read an article and post a comment to it. One of the down sides is that these comments can be totaly unrelated to the topic and be actual advertisements for pron or gambling sites or mail-order drugs... The people leaving this spam are not directly interested in having you read the comment, they are looking to increase their websites visibility with search engines like Google. From Slashdot: Google Cans Comment Spam bq. "Comment spam is in many ways even more annoying than regular email spam, since you generally have to do more than just hit the delete button to get rid of it. Its defining characteristic is that spammers abuse websites where the public can add content (blogs, wikis, forums, and even top referrer lists) to increase their own ranking in search engines. It seems, however, that the days of content spam are numbered: today Google announced that, in partnership with MSN Search and Yahoo!, that they have implemented a way to block content spam." COOL!!!

Christian Charity @work

Christian relief workers in India have been helping a lot. Almost. The people from Samanthapettai have this story (via Yahoo/ANI) bq. Rage and fury has gripped this tsunami-hit tiny Hindu village in India's southern Tamil Nadu after a group of Christian missionaries allegedly refused them aid for not agreeing to follow their religion. bq. Samanthapettai, near the temple town of Madurai, faced near devastation on the December 26 when massive tidal waves wiped it clean of homes and lives. bq. Most of the 200 people here are homeless or displaced , battling to rebuild lives and locating lost family members besides facing risks of epidemic,disease and trauma. bq. Jubilant at seeing the relief trucks loaded with food, clothes and the much-needed medicines the villagers, many of who have not had a square meal in days, were shocked when the nuns asked them to convert before distributing biscuits and water. bq. Heated arguments broke out as the locals forcibly tried to stop the relief trucks from leaving. The missionaries, who rushed into their cars on seeing television reporters and the cameras refusing to comment on the incident and managed to leave the village. bq. Disappointed and shocked into disbelief the hapless villagers still await aid. Fucktards... These people (this one relief relief group) are displaying ZERO CONCEPT of Christian Charity. I can only imagine where these asshats will be spending their eternity (and it is on a level far far below lawyers and politicians - Satan is licking his chops and looking up Kali's number on his PDA).

Talk about mixed messages...

This is cute -- from Varifrank we find out about lefties who wear blue bracelets to show their anti-bush sentiments.
But from a different Frank (Taranto) at Best of the Web Today we learn that Blue Bracelets have a different meaning: bq. No Wonder They're Blue Yesterday we noted that some people are marketing blue bracelets so that disconsolate Democrats can make a public showing of their sadness. At least that's what we thought they were for. It turns out that blue bracelets have another meaning, according to an October story in the Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner:
A new trend, which has some parents and school officials concerned and may very well shock others, has surfaced in Marion County. The newest twist on Truth or Dare, the game involves wearing colored rubber bracelets, which have various meanings, some sexual.
Students break the bracelets off one another and then are supposedly entitled to specific acts, some as innocent as a hug, others sexually explicit. . . . One e-mail from a teacher concerning the sixth-grade code stated that a red bracelet stands for a "lap dance" while a blue one symbolized oral sex.
bq. When you talk to Angry Left types, the thing they always say about the last Democratic president is: "Clinton lied about [an act of oral sex]!" Believe it or not, this is supposed to be an argument against the liberation of Iraq--but perhaps it actually does reveal something about the psychosexual development of the Angry Left. Hmmmmm...... The woman from Varifrank's website is wearing four of them! Aw crap, she is also wearing Patchuli... Forget it!

What a MEGA-putz...

From Yahoo/Reuters comes the latest bloviation from a Mr. Jan Egeland, the United Nations official who criticized the USA for being "stingy" in their aid to the Tsunami relief. bq. Disaster Looms for Megacities, UN Official Says Earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters could kill millions in the world's teeming megacities and time is running out to prevent such a catastrophe, the United Nations point man on emergency relief said on Tuesday. bq. Jan Egeland, the U.N. Director of Disaster Relief, said many of the world's megacities, including Tokyo, are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and the poor were most at risk from a lack of investment and planning. bq. "Perhaps the most frightening prospect would be to have a truly megadisaster in a megacity," he said on the first day of a disaster prevention conference in the Japanese city of Kobe, where an earthquake killed nearly 6,500 people a decade ago. bq. "Then we could have not only a tsunami-style casualty rate as we have seen late last year, but we could see one hundred times that in a worst case." Hello??? Megacities are mega because they are prosperous. Prosperous cities suffer fewer deaths per capita during a catastrophe than poor cities. Look at Kobe ten years ago. Look at Bam, Iran. A nation of poor people with rich leaders, the mullahs. The mullah's severely limited any western aid from entering and about 40,000 people died. Bam's population is around 78,000 Kobe has a population of around 1,500,000 people and only suffered 6,500 fatalities. By my math that's about 20 times more people and 6 times fewer casualties overall. Looking at it another way:
Kobe: 0.004 deaths per capita
Bam: 0.5 deaths per capita
Now tell me again who has the better survival rate? Mr. Egeland is falling into that same tired innumerate trap of looking at airplane crashes and decrying "how horrible they are" while failing to notice that per mile traveled, they are a lot safer than any other mode of transportation. You are more likely to die driving to the airport than taking your flight.

The relevance of the New York Times

A very interesting observation at Powerline: bq. The New York Times -- ignorant, biased, and irresponsible Last month, in response to a piece by Thomas Friedman, Rocket Man wrote that there is a serious national debate going on but "the New York Times just isn't part of it, because it operates at too low a level of information to be useful to knowledgeable news consumers." This piece by the Times' Sarah Boxer about the Iraq the Model bloggers confirms Rocket Man's judgment. It also demonstrates both the bias and the stunning irresponsibility of the author. bq. Let's start with the Times' "low level of information" (commonly known as ignorance). As Jeff Jarvis notes, two of the Iraq the Model bloggers were in this country last month. They met with President Bush and even made it to New York where they were interviewed on WNYC. The visit was reported by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post and Dan Henninger in the Wall Street Journal, as well as by many major centrist and conservative blogs. Yet, Boxer treats the bloggers existence as a "mystery" that she discovered by searching the internet and selecting a blog that "promised three blogging brothers in one." bq. Next, bias. Boxer reports allegations by a minor left-wing fringe blogger that the three "Model" bloggers are working for the CIA. As Jarvis notes, she quotes this blogger at length, but fails to quote the many who questioned this unsupported allegation. Boxer then seizes upon the rather cryptic message of one of the brothers (Ali) about his departure from the blog, which suggested unhappiness with some Americans, but never mentions his follow-up statement in which he made clear that he did not quit because of problems with the U.S. or its policies. bq. Finally, irresponsibility. Boxer wonders aloud whether Ali is: "A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war?" I leave this one to Jarvis:
So here is a reporter from The New York Times -- let's repeat that, The New York Times -- speculating in print on whether an Iraqi citizen, whose only apparent weirdness and sin in her eyes is (a) publishing and (b) supporting America, is a CIA or Defense Department plant or an American.
Ms. Boxer, don't you think you could be putting the life of that person at risk with that kind of speculation? In your own story, you quote Ali -- one of the three blogging brothers who started IraqTheModel -- saying that "here some people would kill you for just writing to an American." And yet you go so much farther -- blithely, glibly speculating about this same man working for the CIA or the DoD -- to sex up your lead and get your story atop the front of the Arts section (I'm in the biz, Boxer, I know how the game is played).
How dare you? Have you no sense of responsibility? Have you no shame?
bq. Ed Cone has more on the subject. The New York Times is in a bit of a sticky place here -- its work is journalism and anyone who cares can check it for the price of a newspaper or a few mouseclicks. They are proving themselves time and time again to be horribly out of touch with reality, Jayson Blair was only the tip of the iceberg. Main Stream Media indeed...

Bill Gates - teen heartthrob

From Slashdot comes this priceless story: bq. Bill Gates in 1983 Teen Beat Magazine So normally I resist the temptation to post this sort of thing because it just seems like a cheap shot, but I just can't hold back on this one, so Bill, if you're reading this (ya right ;) I'm sorry, but I just have to share this one. And I hope in 2021 I'm a billionaire and people are posting my yearbook pictures to take cheap shots at me too! Anyway, We recently found pictures of a photo spread Mr. Gates did in 1983 for Teen Beat magazine. Enjoy.
Well, at least those are better than this one:

What everyone needs. Edition #4,738

Hat tip to Gizmodo for this link: "Personal Self-Destruct Button" The website is in Japanese but one look at this and you sort of get the idea:

Career Limiting Move

From Florida's Local6 website: bq. Women Lack 'Natural Ability' In Some Fields, Harvard President Says The president of Harvard University prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers. bq. Lawrence H. Summers, speaking Friday at an economic conference, also questioned how great a role discrimination plays in keeping female scientists and engineers from advancing at elite universities. And Summers career as President of Harvard? bq. Summers already faced criticism because the number of senior job offers to women has dropped each year of his three-year presidency. Better buff up that resume boy -- you might need it... Sheesh.

Martin Luther King

Rob over at Gut Rumbles has a very good remembrance of Martin Luther King: bq. MLK Revisited bq. I admire people of courage. bq. I'm not talking about the window-smashers and the graffitti-artists who giggle through the night committing acts of vandalism, or political operatives who play dirty tricks against the opposing campaign. That's not courage. That's the behavior of a feral rat. bq. Martin Luther King was a courageous man. He had a set of stones on him, because he walked into situations where he KNEW that he was going to get his ass whupped, have the police set dogs loose on him and probably still spend the night in jail. He did it anyway. He was willing. bq. He made a difference, too. I remember the freedom marches from when I was a boy, and some Southerners said, "kill 'em and be done with it." A few of those red-neck bastards did exactly that. But others watched and thought, "This ain't right." bq. In MY humble opinion, that's the biggest difference Martin Luther King made in this country. WHITE SOUTHERN PEOPLE of good conscience and good will could not watch the firehoses and the beatings without thinking, "This ain't right." bq. It wasn't right. And Martin Luther King made it impossible to look away and ignore that crap anymore. He made America see its own face in the mirror, and a lot of people didn't like the reflection. He changed this country. bq. Unfortunately, his legacy has gone to the dogs. And that's a crying shame for everybody in this country, black or white. Very true. A great man and unfortunately, his legacy has been taken over by people like A. Sharpton and J. Jackson. Not in the same league by any means -- not even remotely close...

Nice work if you can get it...

Ran into this story from an email list I'm on... From Reason Magazine: Cut-Rate Diplomas bq. How doubts about the government�s own �Dr. Laura� exposed a r�sum� fraud scandal Laura L. Callahan was very proud of her Ph.D. When she received it a few years ago, she promptly rewrote her official biography to highlight the academic accomplishment, referring to it not once or twice but nine times in a single-page summary of her career. And she never let her employees at the Labor Department, where she served as deputy chief information officer, forget it, even demanding that they call her �Doctor.� bq. Callahan�s management style had always been heavy-handed. Once, while working in a previous supervisory role at the Clinton White House, she reportedly warned computer workers to keep quiet about an embarrassing server glitch that led to the loss of thousands of archived e-mails covered by federal subpoena. But with her newly minted Ph.D., Callahan became intolerable, several employees say, belittling and even firing subordinates who did not understand the technical jargon she apparently picked up while studying for her doctorate in computer information systems. And the Ph.D in question? You bet - a diploma mill! bq. �When she was running around telling people to call her �Dr. Callahan,� I asked where she got her degree,� says Richard Wainwright, a computer specialist who worked for Callahan at Labor for two years. �When I found out, I laughed.� bq. It turns out Callahan got her precious sheepskin from Hamilton University. Not Hamilton College, the highly competitive school in Clinton, New York, but Hamilton University, the unaccredited fee-for-degree �distance learning� center in Evanston, Wyoming, right on the Utah border. Such diploma mills frequently use names similar to those of accredited schools. bq. Unbeknown to Callahan, Wainwright had once lived near the small town of Evanston (population: 10,903) and knew it well. As a student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he received his bachelor�s degree years ago, he had made beer runs to Evanston, less than 60 miles away. He knew there were no universities there, or at least none worth attending. �Evanston doesn�t have much but a few motels and liquor stores,� he tells me. �I looked up Hamilton University on the Web and saw it was an old Motel 6, and I knew it was bogus.� So she was booted out? Not exactly: bq. Callahan�s fraud was exposed in May 2003. Curiously, she wasn�t forced to resign until March 26, 2004, after being placed on administrative leave�with pay�the previous June. That means she continued to draw her Department of Homeland Security salary of between $128,000 and $175,000 for nearly 10 months while under a serious ethical cloud. Misrepresenting qualifications on a r�sum�, an official bio, or an application�including submitting false academic credentials�is grounds for immediate dismissal, according to federal rules written by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Heh... Our government inaction. And some people think that big government is better.

Light blogging today...

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Been doing some web development and basic organization of the studio space. Usual spew will return tomorrow! Thanks for your patience.

Rain blogging

The cold snap broke and it is raining warm and wet. About 1.8 inches by noon with estimates of five to ten over the next few days. Of course, the ground is still frozen so this makes for some high rivers. Fun stuff! My weather station is at the Brown Snout site: Maple Falls Weather

Huygens Images of Titan

There have been some amazing images of Saturn's moon Titan coming from the Huygens spacecraft. The really neat thing is that the best of them are not coming from the sponsors (European Space Agency -- ESA), they are coming from independent people downloading the raw image data. Glen at Instapundit has the link: "Open Source Processing of Huygens Images of Titan" bq. While ESA slowly releases images from Huygens, full collections of Huygens imagery have already been processed and refined well beyond anything ESA has done - and you can download them yourself. bq. See Amateur compositions of the Huygens images for one spectacular example. This mosaic shows the 'drainage systems' at Huygens landing site. This panorama - in simulated colors, shows the location where Huygens landed from the air. bq. If you scroll to the bottom of this page you can download all of the raw images yourself. bq. Why wait for ESA to get around to this - and have all the fun? Here is one sample:
This image is a thumbnail, click to see full size

British toilet paper

For those that have not had the pleasure, using toilet paper in England can be an awakening experience (especially after a long night at the local). Thin Waxed Paper is about the best description I can come up with. Charmin ain't it by a long shot... Hat tip to Da Goddess for this link to the British Enlightenment:
Those Wacky Brits Are At It Again!
The British are a wee bit off. How else do you explain why it took eighteen years to find softer toilet paper??
Jan. 4, 2005 � Britain's civil service embarked on an 18-year quest for the perfect toilet paper after a doctor voiced concern about a diplomat's haemorrhoids, according to a government file made public Tuesday.
John Hunt, a London physician, wrote to the Treasury's medical adviser in 1963 after he examined Sir John Pilcher, who was Britain's ambassador to Austria and, later, Japan, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"A patient of mine ... thinks that the government lavatory paper is out of date and extremely bad for his complaint (haemorrhoids) and he has asked me if there is any chance of it being changed to a softer type," Hunt wrote.
Leave it to a diplomat to suddenly cause everyone concern over a crappy...er...substandard product.
It soon emerged that Her Majesty's Stationery Office, in charge of buying all government toilet paper, preferred the rough stuff because it cost the taxpayer less.
A lively correspondence followed, involving such interested parties as combative staff unions, the august School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (which thought hard, shiny paper was better) and the Treasury typing pool.
In the 1970s, "creped paper" gained favour as the price factor evaporated. Then in 1980, a team of epidemiologists weighed in with a report that argued that soft paper was more hygienic.
The following year, soft paper made its debut in government toilets, bringing relief to countless bureaucratic bottoms.
Ah, the beauty of bureaucracy! And everyone got paid while millions bled.
The hefty dossier was among 50,000 files brought to light Tuesday by the National Archives in Kew, west London under a Freedom of Information Act that came into effect on New Year's Day.
Thank God for the Freedom of Information Act. We couldn't live without knowing this.
I hope they can sleep better now. I know I won't be....I'll be haunted by visions of powder-wigged sphincters dancing around on cotton balls, waving pound notes. It wouldn't be so bad if John Cleese were in there, but I'm afraid he's horribly absent from the festivities.
I have had the pleasure of traveling over there a number of times and each time it was the same paper. The last time was about six years ago. It will be nice to know that something different awaits the next time over. Now if the Germans could do something about their toilets...

A Parable for our Times

WIth all the flap from the left over "No WMD's", Varifrank brings the reality of this into our culture and makes the case very very clear: bq. Welcome Neighbor! At the end of your block sits a house. Its state of disrepair and unkempt nature drives down the property values of your neighborhood. What�s worse? The home is occupied by a nefarious gang of outlaws to terrorize you and your neighbors. You stay inside; you don�t dare leave your home unoccupied for any length of time, as it will assuredly be robbed. bq. While the police are at the house once a week to check into some form of problem, they seem unable to get at the issue or to actually change anything. While there are individual arrests, the gang itself continues to occupy the house as a whole. Individual players come and go but the terror remains. You and your neighbors go to the city council to complain, only to be told that there�s nothing that can be done. They take a vote and decide to start a �neighborhood watch program� and to implement a �drug free zone�. Funds are drawn from the coffers for city workers to erect the signs on light posts in the neighborhoods. bq. Within weeks, each of the signs has been vandalized. It's today's Must Read. Go there and read it. I'll be here when you to get back... Added to the Blogroll by the way

Joel on Software

Joel Spolsky runs a software company and runs an excellent blog: "Joel on Software" I had written about him before pointing to one of his essays. I was browsing his website today and realized that he had collected all of his essays and was linking to them from one page: Joel on Software - Archive. If you are a small business person or a software developer, these are excellent reads into the current state of working in Geekdom. Good stuff!

A Modest Proposal...

Bryan at Truck and Barter got an email from a celebrity and talks about it: bq. Arctic Refuge I received an e-mail from Robert Redford forwarded to me this weekend. The text of the message can be read here. Mr. Redford, speaking on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), argues that oil exploration should be stopped in this country. Right or wrong, using the political process to inhibit exploration does not address the underlying issue of oil consumption. bq. I enjoy the beauty of Alaska, Montana, Utah and the rest of this great nation as much as anybody. However, these areas have only been opened to our exploration and enjoyment because of industries pouring billions of dollars into airports, roads, utilities and building a local economy. Allowing any special interest to deny economic self-sufficiency to these areas will effectively cut off access to all but the richest adventurers. In Alaska, the oil industry has single handedly built the economy and attracted thousands of workers, residents and visitors who would otherwise have never seen that great state. Bryan then talks about the results of Mr. Redford's proposal and offers this alternative: bq. If the FCC can auction off the national resource of bandwidth, why not auction off public land. Certainly Robert Redford could pitch-in to help his environmentalist organizations to buy a few hundred acres of the Arctic Refuge. bq. It is an honorable effort to preserve beautiful land and protect wildlife. However any effort which ignores the welfare of our human family is short-sighted. Put your money where your mouth is -- excellent idea! Some organizations are doing that already with private lands; what could be done with our public lands?

Medical Interns and Sleep

Jen and I were talking about this a few days ago... Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution writes about Medical Mistakes and sleepless Interns: bq. Medical mistakes More people die from medical mistakes each year than from highway accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS and yet physicians still resist and the public does not demand even simple reforms. bq. The New England Journal of Medicine, for example, has just published another study, as if we needed it, showing that interns who are kept awake for 30 hours straight are a danger to themselves and innocent bystanders as well as to patients:
Researchers found that interns more than doubled their risk of getting into a car accident after being on call, a stint that meant working for 32 consecutive hours with only two or three hours of sleep, on average. Interns were also nearly six times as likely to report nearly having an accident on their way home.
I wonder if there is ever going to be a reform...

Venezuela chooses the Zimbabwe model

Awww crap... Looks like another economic train-wreck with the citizens being the "beneficiaries". From Questions and Observations comes this story: bq. Maybe its because they both have "z's" in their name, but for whatever reason, the winner of the Moammar Gadhafi Human Rights Award, Venezuelan El Presidente Hugo Chavez, has decided that land redistribution is the way to go in that benighted country. bq. If you're not familiar with Zimbabwe's disasterous attempt at this very same thing, you might want to read through this blog to refresh your memory. Robert Mugabe did exactly what Chavez is considering, and the results have destroyed Zimbabwe's economy. bq. Of course, wrapped in the arrogance in which most socialists cocoon themselves, Chavez obviously believes that the idea is sound, it just hasn't been executed properly. To summarize what is happening in Zimbabwe -- it went from an exporter of food to an importer. The inflation rate is over 300%, unemployment is 70% and from a 2003 report: bq. At least 7.2 million out of Zimbabwe's population of 12 million is at risk of starvation, with deaths from Aids-related illnesses "peaking at about 2,500 per week", says Stephen Lewis, the UN's special envoy on HIV and Aids in the region. From this article: bq. He said the land reform exercise had also created numerous job opportunities, with more new farmers needing labour. "I cannot give you the exact number of jobs created so far but, yes, the agricultural sector has created most of them. In fact, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has the same figures on unemployment, and that is what I am using." bq. But a CSO official, who declined to be identified, said the organisation had not released any statistics on the unemployment situation since 2001. Riiight -- things are just great but we cannot release hard numbers just yet... Also from the same article: bq. The CCZ noted an increase in the prices of basic foods as well as non-food items. A 50 kg bag of the staple maize meal now costs Zim $60,000 (US $10), while the price of a 750 ml bottle of cooking oil is now Zim $21,000 (US $3.67), up from Zim $16,000 (US $2.80), a gain of almost 24 percent. A perfect example of rampant inflation. The Zim Dollar used to be about $55Zim to 1$USD -- now it looks like $6,000Zim to $1USD. A workers paradise indeed...

United Nations Oil for Food scandal

Glenn at Instapundit links to a very detailed report of the Oil for Food scandal brewing at the United Nations. bq. Desert desperadoes How the United Nations' oil-for-food program was transformed into a piggy bank for Saddam Hussein and the biggest financial scandal in the world body's 60-year history bq. Fallen behind on your scandal news lately? Well, don't look now, but the doozy the United Nations has brewed up in its Iraqi oil-for-food program is about to come to full boil. The Treasury Department, the Department of Justice, the Manhattan district attorney's office, five legislative committees, at least three foreign governments, and, oh yes, the United Nations itself are asking who's responsible for the more than $4 billion in illegal kickbacks on Iraqi oil sales and goods from suppliers exporting food, medicine, and other materials to Baghdad. Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker, who is heading the U.N.'s investigation of itself, is due to weigh in later this month with his findings and has already given a glimpse of the mess with a "provisional" assessment of a program plagued by sloppy, myopic management that may or may not turn out to have included criminal conduct. The Volcker report should be good reading, as the former Fed chief has had unfettered access to U.N. documents and personnel. U.S. News has learned that the Justice Department has lent him some experienced federal prosecutors, while the Manhattan district attorney's office is providing information gained through its subpoena power. A bit more about the top leadership at the United Nations: bq. The scandal, wherever it ultimately leads, has only deepened the already considerable woes of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Some U.N. officials close to Annan--including Benon Sevan, named by Annan to run the program's day-to-day operations--have been tarred by the mess. Annan's son, Kojo, who had business dealings with a Swiss company that had a U.N. contract to inspect humanitarian goods brought into Iraq by the program, has also come under scrutiny. Both men have denied any wrongdoing. bq. ...The investigations, into what may be the largest financial scandal in U.N. history, come at a time when Annan is grappling with a host of other public-relations disasters, among them allegations that U.N. peacekeepers raped Congolese girls and a no-confidence vote on senior management by U.N. staffers... Funny thing - the U.N. knew about the kickbacks and did nothing (how unlike them...) bq. Summaries of U.N. sanctions committee meetings make it clear that member countries, including the United States, were aware that Saddam was attempting to game the system. More than once, committee members were shown evidence that kickbacks were being paid by aid suppliers, that Saddam was diverting aid to his military, and that Iraqi oil was being smuggled illegally. The question now for everyone examining the sieve like oil-for-food program is why so little was done to stop such abuses and what responsibility Washington may have. A Senate investigator who has reviewed some of the sanctions committee minutes told U.S. News that, overall, U.S. performance looks to have been pretty good. "When the U.S. or the Brits or the Dutch bring up a concern with the program," the investigator explained, "the Russians and the French and the Chinese stop the proper oversight." The Russians and the French again... Along with France and Russia, the Chinese also sold Saddam arms so they don't want the gravy train to stop either. The article is four pages so it's a bit of a long read but it is very well written and worth reading if you are following this scandal.

Hero of the world...

From Misanthropist comes the story of Stanislav Petrov:
bq. Sirens blaring, warning lights flashing, computer screens showing nuclear missiles on their way, one man in charge of a red button labeled �START� - that�s start a retaliatory strike � and a roomful of people at their terminals and switchboards waiting for him to push it. Sound like a typical Hollywood Cold War cliffhanger? bq. It was indeed just like in the movies, says the man who was poised over the red button over twenty years ago, except �in the movies, Hollywood specialists and directors can stretch a little situation into half an hour. In our case, from the time I made the decision to when it was all over, it was five minutes max.� bq. Stanislav Petrov was a Soviet army officer monitoring the satellite system for signs of a U.S. attack, the year was 1983, and his instructions, if he detected missiles targeting the Soviet Union, were to push the button and launch a counter-offensive. bq. He didn�t. Minutes later, no missiles came; months later, the frightening data across his monitor was determined to have been a system glitch. Today, the Association of World Citizens is calling him �the forgotten hero of our time,� a title befitting the man whose responsibility had been to start World War III. Fascinating bit of our (and their) history. We used to be friends and we are becoming friends again. I would love to travel through Russia...

Happy Birthday Blog

No, not mine (that is in October) but MostlyCajun is a few days shy of one year. Good stuff!!!

Two interesting Electronics Links

Ran into these while researching process control and monitoring systems for our Cidery: Electronics components and development systems: Futurlec Cool 8051 projects and source code: PJRC (Jen? The business checkbook and credit card are still in their usual drawer -- don't panic -- yet...)

Mohammed al-Dura Revisited

Roger L. Simon (an excellent writer by the way -- finished some of his Moses Wine books from the Library) writes about the heart-bending story of: bq. Mohammed al-Dura Revisited Who can forget the heart-rending video of the young Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Dura dying in the arms of his father after being shot by Israeli soldiers? Made by France 2, it became a symbol of Infiada II. For some time now, however, many people have cast doubt on the authenticity of this video. And now French TV [is] Allegedly Using Threats to Avert Fraud Probe:
French state-owned television is using what some call intimidation and threatened libel lawsuits to quiet calls for an investigation of TV images that showed the alleged shooting of a Palestinian boy by Israeli soldiers in 2000. The video from the TV channel France 2 has become famous around the world as a symbol for the current Palestinian intifada (uprising) and shows a boy trying to take shelter behind a man during a gun battle in September 2000 between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip. Independent media analysts in France and Israel have provided what they call conclusive evidence that the video of the incident was staged and at least one member of the French Assembly has called for an official investigation of the episode, but France 2 has so far refused to undertake a comprehensive inquiry. France 2 Television did not respond to numerous requests for interviews by Cybercast News Service in Paris, choosing instead to provide copies of articles reporting it was filing a libel suit against un-named individuals for defamation.
Looks like fake but accurate all over again... Another comment from the article:
"The child we see during the shooting is not the same child that we see in the morgue in other footage, who has bullet wounds and is identified as Mohammed al-Durra by hospital staff," said Juffa. Juffa said he had no information about how the child in the morgue was killed, but doctors there said the boy arrived hours before the actual Netzarim gun battle described in the video took place.
These people are as good as Mikey Moore regarding using bits and pieces from various non-related clips to "flesh-out the story" Charles at Little Green Footballs been all over this as a search on his website for Mohammed al-Dura turns up 35 references...

Physical Security - driveway department

Found this image at Stupid Security. A perfect example of good physical security -- we must have all cars stop at the gate until it opens...

Once more into the breech

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David Limbaugh points to a disturbing article from Michelle Malkin regarding a hijacking that might have almost been: bq. A MYSTERY IN THE SKIES Physician blogger Dr. Bob says one of his patients, a federal air marshal, told him about a foiled hijacking involving boxcutters hidden in overhead luggage bins:
He and his partner were assigned to a flight (the airline, airport, and destination were not disclosed) in their customary undercover security role. They boarded the airplane early in order to meet the flight attendants, at which time the cleaning crew was still on the airplane -- somewhat longer than expected. My patient and his partner sat together in seats near the middle of coach class. The passengers began to board, and he and his partner noticed a single Middle Eastern man sitting near the front of first class. After a number of passengers had boarded, two Middle Eastern men walked by this man and made eye contact, but said nothing. They sat down together in the front of coach class. Shortly thereafter, two other Middle Eastern men also walked by the man in first class and made eye contact without speaking. They sat near the back of coach class. Shortly after the flight attendants completed their post-boarding check of the overhead bins, an announcement came from the cockpit: the pilot stated that there had been a security breach, and everyone needed to deboard the plane for a second, more thorough, security screening. The Air Marshall and his partner were confused, as they had not triggered the security alert nor been notified of it prior to the announcement. After all the passengers had deplaned, the Federal Air Marshalls checked with the flight attendants for more information. During a final check of the overhead bins, a flight attendant had noticed that one of the blankets was slightly unfolded, and he repositioned it in the bin. At this time, a razor blade fell out of the blanket. Concerned, but still believing this might be a straightforward mistake, the flight attendant began to check other overhead bins. Several additional incompletely folded blankets were noted, and hidden in each one was a box cutter: a total of five. It appeared that these had been placed there by the cleaning crew prior to the boarding of the airplane. After the repeat security screening, the passengers reboarded -- all except the five Middle Eastern men, who were nowhere to be found. The flight proceeded to its destination uneventfully.
Read the comments and the updates for additional verification and links to other stories. I'm glad I don't have to fly that often...

Canada's Pizza Scandal

Bit of a scandal brewing up in Canada these days. BBC News has the scoop: bq. Canada minister in pizza scandal Canada's immigration minister Judy Sgro has resigned over allegations that she agreed to help a pizza shop owner avoid deportation in return for free food. bq. Harjit Singh says he delivered free pizza and garlic bread to Ms Sgro and up to 16 election campaign volunteers. bq. He says Ms Sgro reneged on the deal and ordered his arrest to "save her job" as another immigration scandal broke. bq. Ms Sgro says she had no alternative but to resign in order to fight "these outrageous fabrications". bq. Her resignation comes as a blow to the ruling Liberal party, which lost its parliamentary majority in June elections after a scandal over the misuse of millions of dollars of government funds. bq. Prime Minister Paul Martin said he accepted Ms Sgro's resignation with "great regret". The article goes on to talk about another scandal brewing with her and a Romanian stripper. Looks like the Liberals are having a bit of a hard time up there. There was this government funds scandal earlier in 2004 - BBC News. This was a $188m government project and as the BBC reports: bq. At least half the money was siphoned off by Quebec advertising and communication agencies with ties to the Liberal Party. bq. Mrs Fraser said that many of the transactions involved false invoices or contracts, or no contracts at all. Conservatives are looking forward to the next elections...

R.I.P. Jimmy Griffin

Not too many people will know this name immediately but he was the co-founder of the Rock and Roll band Bread. A brief obituary can be found at USA Today/AP: bq. Singer-songwriter James Arthur "Jimmy" Griffin, a founding member of the 1970s pop group Bread, has died after a battle with cancer. Griffin, 61, died Tuesday at his home in Franklin, about 25 miles south of Nashville, officials at Crawford Funeral Home in Nashville said Thursday. bq. Griffin won an Academy Award for best song for co-writing The Carpenters' hit For All We Know for the movie Lovers and Other Strangers. He also wrote country hits including Conway Twitty's Who's Gonna Know and Restless Heart's You Can Depend On Me. bq. "He had an amazing voice, and never lost a bit of quality," said longtime friend Terry Sylvester of The Hollies. bq. Griffin did not sing lead vocals on most of Bread's singles � that slot was occupied by David Gates � but his harmony vocals and guitar work were crucial elements in the band's soft rock success. Their hits included Make It With You,Baby I'm-a Want You and Everything I Own. Our connection with this band? The property that Jen and I live on was owned by the Bread keyboard player -- Larry Knechtel -- our house was designed and built by him. Larry's wife, Vicky has bad arthritis and could not take the damp of the winter and spring so they are now living in Eastern Washington. Larry used to do a lot of studio gigs - the classic Simon and Garfunkel "Bridge over Troubled Waters" keyboard part was played by Larry.

A look at Zell Miller

You may remember Senator Miller from his speech at the Republican National Convention. He also put forth a lot of his thoughts in this book: "A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat" This book was first published in October 2003 Yesterday's colum by Rich Lowry talks about Zell Miller and puts out some interesting ideas: Rich opens up talking about Zell's book and then looks at the Democratic Party of today: bq. Many of the things that Miller said in his book have now become nearly conventional wisdom among Democratic loyalists. All the Democrats who now say that the party has foolishly given up on the South, that it is unable to connect with religious voters, that it is too beholden to liberal orthodoxy on social issues, that Americans don't trust it on national defense, and that it doesn't speak the language of most Americans should take a deep breath and repeat after me: "Zell Miller was right." bq. This turnabout is extraordinary given the kind of criticisms that were lodged at Miller last year, especially after he amplified the arguments in his book in a humdinger of a speech at the Republican National Convention. An AFL-CIO official said Miller had "lost his damn mind." James Carville said Miller was being "cynically manipulated by people who are greedy to hold on to power at any cost." Well, Miller appears, in light of events, to have been the shrewdest cynically manipulated lunatic in all of human history. Heh... Very well put.

Digital Photography ten years ago

The puppy blender links to a fascinating look back into Digital Photography's history and the fun of using the new Kodak's NC2000
bq. A look back at the NC2000 One night in the summer of 1999 Tony Kurdzuk was shooting a feature story on 24-hour diners. He and a writer, both working for the Newark Star-Ledger, drove a good percentage of the length of New Jersey, starting at midnight and finishing at 5:00am, dropping in on all-night eateries, Kurdzuk firing away at every stop. bq. His camera was the "filmless" Associated Press/Kodak NC2000e, an improved version of the original NC2000, the "first electronic camera designed specifically for photojournalists" in the words of the AP. A comment on using the new camera: bq. Kurdzuk pauses for a moment, and then figures out how to sum it all up: "The NC2000, in general, was a practice in masochistic anxiety." And more: bq. But there was another side to the equation, he acknowledges. "It was a combination of excitement and anxiety. There was a lot of excitement about how cool this stuff was. You'd show up at an event, and you'd be the only guy with a digital camera, and everybody was ooohing and aaahing. That was always really cool. [But] I could never trust what the camera was doing. When you popped that card into the computer there was always that little thought in the back of your mind: what happened this time, what went wrong? But you kept doing it because it was so cool. And it was where the industry was going." bq. "It was like the Wild West and panning for gold," remembers Nick Didlick. "It was wild and woolly." Didlick, then a staff photographer at the Vancouver Sun, first shot with an NC2000 in August 1994, just six months after the camera's announcement. It was plagued with shutter problems (detailed in the full story) but there was also a design issue with the batteries: bq. And then there were the batteries. "Yeah," says Gerry Magee, "that was one of the whoops's on it." bq. Bob Deutsch, then and now a staff photographer for USA Today, puts it differently: "The first thing I said to them was, 'How do you change the battery?' And their comment was, 'What do you mean?' And I said, 'This is crazy. You can't produce a camera with a non-replaceable battery.' And they said, 'Well, it's too late.' And I said, 'Then why the hell are you showing it to me?'" The article then goes on to talk about the cottage industry that grew up around this $13,000 camera -- Photoshop plugins to correct for the color, ways to work with flash, battery life (short). There is also a wonderful gallery of images from this camera. Fun look back. I do a lot of photography with the Nikon D1X and love it. Used to shoot a lot of Kodachrome slides but for now, digital is the way to go. Still have my Nikon F-2 bodies but not using them...

Earthquake movie

Amazing short animated GIF file. From New Scientist: bq. First ever earthquake movie created A pioneering technique using data from GPS receivers has been used to make the first movie of an earthquake. The animation shows the Earth's surface deforming during a magnitude 8.3 quake in September 2003 off the coast of Hokkaido in Japan. bq. Seismometers monitor quakes by measuring accelerations in the Earth's crust. But the calculations required to turn accelerations into measurements of how the surface moved are tricky. Seismometers are sensitive to small accelerations but they cannot make accurate measurements of huge jolts. bq. GPS receivers are not as sensitive, but they are robust enough to work throughout a major quake. "They measure position directly," says Kristine Larson, an aerospace engineer at the University of Colorado in Boulder, US, who has been pioneering the use of GPS data in seismology. bq. A grid of more than 1000 GPS monitoring stations throughout Japan recorded the Hokkaido quake. Each receiver measured its position once every second to within a few millimetres. This accuracy was made possible using a modified version of normal GPS data analysis. bq. The team used the measurements to build up one of the most detailed pictures ever of seismic waves propagating during a quake. Larson says the technique complements data available from seismometers. Very cool use of technology... The GPS receivers can achieve millimeter accuracy with several clever hacks. The primary source of error is atmospheric distortion of the radio signal from the satellite. Surveyors are lucky though that this error is the same amounts over a fairly large area. You maintain a station at a fixed location which receives the GPS signal, calculates the proper offset and retransmits that to the other GPS units. Clever, cheap and fantastic accuracy...

Things to do while on hold...

If you are stuck in front of a computer for any length of time, check out The Fridge. bq. This is the fridge. It's generally reckoned a pretty good way to keep your beer cool. But it is also the perfect canvas for poetic endeavour. bq. Just click and drag the magnets around until you're happy with your poem. Then add a title, and your preferred nom de plume, and save it for posterity. (Once saved, you'll get instructions on how to find it again, and even embed it in your own web page.) bq. Not inspired by this selection of words? Choose a different set from the dropdown box, and load it up. Cute - they also have a collection of other people's works... If Blogging slows to a crawl, you have a possible reason.

A new addition to the Blogroll

Thanks to Sherry at A Western Heart I now know about Masamune What brought him to Sherry's attention was this two-part article: bq. Have you ever read a post or an article and found yourself blown away by the sheer talent you have just been exposed too? bq. For me such a writer exists in the form of Masamune who in my opinion happens to be one of the blogosphere's elite yet underexposed voices. bq. In Part 1 of Foreign Devils: An Understanding of Arab Hate, Masa speaks about feeding the beast that drives the hatred towards Israel and America.
Mr. Ajami believes that Anti-Americanism indulges France's fantasy of past greatness and splendor and gives France's unwanted Muslim children a claim on the political life of a country that knows not what to do with them. As to many in the Middle East, I tend to agree with his sentiments: "These are people who are envious. To them, life is an unbearable burden. Modernism is the only way out. But modernism is frightening. It means we have to compete. It means we can't explain everything away with conspiracy theories. In this, he quotes Bernard Shaw regarding the preface to 'St. Joan,' he said "Joan of Arc was burned not for any reason except that she was talented. Talent gives rise to jealousy in the hearts of the untalented." For those who cling to Anti-Americanism as a means of understanding this hate - I would simply ask you this, why do you use hate to understand hate? Perhaps its true - when reasoning with this ilk, I must use another scale.
bq. In Part 2, he takes a look at the doctrine of hatred being taught in many of America's Muslim schools.
The sun feels rather warm on this wintery day, with chimes of the thistle in the air, its sharp tongue haranguing the acute minds of innocence at the elite Islamic Saudi Academy just outside Washington, D.C. Where students are taught that "the Day of Judgment can't come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews." While in an adjoining class, students are taught a similar tale where the young impressionable minds hear that "one sign of the Day of Judgment will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say: 'Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.'" Moreover, if you were to search the maps of the Middle East in the geography classes, you would be hard-pressed to find a map of Israel. Truly, because it is taught that Israel does not exist.
bq. If you are familiar with Masa's work you already know what a gift he has. But if this is your first time experiencing him I promise you will find yourself adding him to your favorites and returning quite often. Indeed - a welcome addition to the Blogroll - to be visited frequently...

New toy from Hasbro/Playskool

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Hasbro/Playskool have come out with a new toy:
bq. No need to freeze your copy of The Empire Strikes Back DVD searching for spuds among the asteroids -- Playskool brings the elusive Star Wars potato to you! This dark side incarnation of Mr. Potato -- Darth Tater -- comes with lightsaber, cape, helmet, shoes, eyes, nose, teeth, and more! A Sith Lord could only hope to look so good! Discover the root of all evil this Spring with what is certain to be a mashing success with collectors. Hat tip to BoingBoing

The CBS Story finally revealed:

Major caution - multiple drink alert... It was a good thing that I had swallowed and that my demijohn of Arrogant Bastard Ale was sitting comfortably on the desktop otherwise, I would be spending the next few minutes blotting the moniT*r and finDing a replacement for the keybo$2Id Farewell, My Producer Excerpts from the new Inspector Dan Rather mystery by David Burge bq. It was a quiet cold Monday at Black Rock. Too quiet, I thought, slowly polishing the lens on my trusty Sony VC6809. New York is not the kind of town that likes to keep secrets, and my tingling senses told me that somewhere in Gotham somebody was spilling some beans. And in my line of work, you get to know deep down in your gut those beans have a habit of being silent - but deadly. bq. My name is Rather. And I'm a dick.

CBS alters their published report on Rathergate

Charles at Little Green Footballs drops this bombshell:
Get a load of this.
CBS has altered the PDF file for their report on Memogate, to prevent copying and pasting.
Here�s the page at CBS News, with modified PDF file: CBS Ousts 4 For Bush Guard Story.
Rather obviously (pardon the pun), this is aimed at making it harder for blogs to criticize the report, by stopping them from copying and pasting sections to illustrate points.
Did CBS think no one would notice?
We got a PDF copy before CBS altered it; here it is.
And here is an early copy of Appendix 4, which has also been altered at the CBS site.
UPDATE at 1/13/05 4:55:27 pm:
LGF reader Angel Piper reports that whoever turned off copying/pasting in the CBS documents also forgot to set a password on the files.
This means you can �unlock� the documents yourself if you have Adobe Acrobat 5 (the full version, not just the reader).
CBS: Pathetic ... and lame!
Main Stream Media (MSM) - What a bunch of maroons...

India #1)-Gets it #2)-Shows some backbone

I wrote earlier about how Indonesia asked the Western relief effort to leave after Kofi Annan visited their country. There is no published link at this time but the stench of the United Nations lingers strong over this turn of events. The fine folks at Bloggledygook have a much more encouraging story: bq. However, if Britney Spears wants to visit, we would reconsider. India has told Kofi Annan to stay away.
NEW DELHI, JANUARY 10: Reinforcing the message that it is fully capable of dealing with the domestic consequences of the tsunami on its own, India politely turned down a request last week from the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit Tamil Nadu. After attending the tsunami summit in Jakarta last Thursday, Annan has been visiting the badly affected regions in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Annan�s office apparently expressed a desire on the part of the Secretary General to see relief work in India. The Manmohan Singh government, which has been discouraging its own ministers from travelling to the tsunami-affected areas, was in no mood to have a high-profile international visitor like Kofi Annan adding to burden of the local administration. It is also being pointed out that once the doors are opened to one foreign visitor, there will be no end to similar requests from other international personalities.
The closing comment at Bloggledygook is great: bq. Now why can't Mayor Bloomberg do this? Just tell Kofi that he's not welcome and see what happens. Heh...

Serious Drool Factor

Scott at AMCGLTD links to this story: From the article: bq. It turns out that the car was owned by the same lady from new. She parked the car in 1978 with just under 29,000 miles after a surgery that left her upper body seriously weakened. Whether it was started regularly or not is unknown, but absolutely everything worked when we started it up again 26 years later. The car in question (a 1964 Alfa Giulia 1600 spider):
The car after a few hours of loving attention:
As Scott said so aptly: bq. I'll shake his hand if I ever meet him, but I'll be mumbling "lucky bastard" under my breath when I do.

Venice drys out

In a strange turn of events - the city of Venice normally has major problems with flooding. It is built on marshes and is gradually sinking into the Adriatic Sea. To exacerbate this, winter storms usually cause flooding (Acqua Alta) as the prevailing winds drive the waters of the Mediterranean to the East causing sea levels to rise. This winter, due to an unusual combination of planetary alignment and dry weather is causing markedly low water levels. CNN/Reuters has the story bq. Gondolas stuck as Venice waters recede Gondolas are running aground and hotel docks hang in midair as Italy's lagoon city Venice, more commonly awash at high tide, dries out because of good weather and an unusual combination of planetary influences. bq. Only the Grand Canal, Venice's biggest and most famous waterway, can still take water traffic, and the falling canal levels have given rise to terms such as "ghost town" and "desert" in local papers. bq. "The phenomenon is due to low pressure, that is, the good weather that coincides with the syzygy, the alignment of the moon, earth and sun," said Venice's tides office. bq. The new moon this week has helped push water levels to their lowest point in more than a decade, nearly 2.5 feet (80 cm) below sea level, it said. The lowest fall on record was 4.1 feet (1.21 meters) below sea level in 1934. bq. The city assured tourists that water levels would soon start rising again, restoring the romantic look they expect.
That looks about 4 feet lower than the tide line...

The Monster and the Nursery

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Wonderful article at Tech Central Station: bq. Monsters, like leftists, don't reproduce naturally. Ordinary uncontraceived heterosexual relations do not create little vampires and zombies. Monsters perpetuate themselves through blasphemous acts, like assembling dead body parts into human form, or sharing ancient curses through biting. Indeed, much of the pathos inherent in horror movies and fiction springs from the parasitic manner in which monsters absorb non-monsters into their unholy fold. It's bad when George Romero's zombies rise from the dead to eat you, but when their bites transform your friends and your wife and, eventually, you into a zombie � that's scary. And Dracula is just a weirdo with a fang fetish until his nocturnal prowlings turn your fianc�e into the Bloofer Lady. Deformation is creepier than plain ol' death. Douglas amplifies this a bit and then gets to the heart of the matter: bq. By now, it's a right-wing pundit clich� to point out that birth rates on the Left are plummeting rapidly. Over in flawlessly liberal Europe, the non-Arab population treats childbearing the way the Atkins diet treats carbohydrates. Here in the states, the reproduction rates among the Religious Right - and in the red states generally - greatly outpace the reproduction rates of our over-educated latte-sipping superiors. But in one-man one-vote democracies, small populations either discard their political power, or discard democracy. bq. Moreover, history teaches us that children are the most successful way to ensure that your cultural and ideological preferences survive after you depart. Eventually, the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers will die, and their preferences for big government and laissez-faire social morality will die with them. If, in 50 years, the home-schooled and Sunday-schooled outnumber the boarding schooled and Ivy Leagued, who can doubt that conservatism will own the future? bq. What's a non-reproducing leftie to do? Discarding leftism is out. Having more � ick � children � with their stinky diapers and expensive college educations and drain on the world's limited resources and whiny tantrums right in the middle of All Things Considered � is out, too. So the Left is, er, left with two options for ensuring the survival of their ideology: the Bride of Frankenstein option and the Dracula option. A bit more: bq. The Bride of Frankenstein option is immigration. By importing hordes of proto-citizens unassimilated into the prevailing culture, the Left hopes to create an overclass of ethnic leaders dependent on affirmative action and government jobs to maintain their mandarin status. bq. The problem, of course, is that the Bride of Frankenstein reviles the monster it was created to marry. The Europeans are learning to their horror that their Arab immigrants detest and revile the socially liberal ideology that their presence permits. Similarly, the American left is discovering that most blacks and Hispanics want no part of the radically heterodox morality that leftist intellectuals promulgate. Whereas the left wants to reform (or, in the extreme, abolish) bourgeois middle-class American morality, most American minorities want to embrace that morality more fully. As the '60s generation of minority leaders passes away, a new, independent-minded, and conservative-friendly generation of leaders is coming to take their place. And this new generation of leaders will not be bought off as easily as their parents were. And the other option -- what was it again... bq. The remaining option is the Dracula option: the hijacking of little red-state kids through academia and the mass media. It's the lament of conservatives since time out of mind, and it's the plot of Tom Wolfe's latest novel: every year, conservative families spend outrageous sums in order to send their smartest, most capable children to elite colleges, wherein radical leftists brainwash them into newly-minted blue-staters. And the less-capable red-state kids hear the siren call of leftist values every time they flip the "on" switch on the idiot box. Prime-time television and the network news highlight the glamour and appeal of liberal places, beliefs, and lifestyles, while conservative values are either ridiculed ("dumb old Dad"), reviled ("The priest did it? The businessman was corrupt? Who'd've guessed?"), dismissed ("We at CBS News stand by our story"), or ignored (insert any aspect of religious life here). The old song is still mostly true: How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen a TV show about Paree? bq. In the movies and in the book, Dracula dies when a stake is driven through his heart. Sadly, we won't be staking Harvard or CBS anytime soon. But there's another way to kill a vampire: starve him. Without fresh blood, vampires wither into irrelevance. At the beginning of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula was weak and enfeebled for want of fresh blood. Keep the fresh blood away, and the vampire ceases to be a problem. I'm just cherry-picking some choice bits -- read it for the full blast.

Tsunami Wave Basin

With the current awareness of Tsunamis, I want to point out that some of the major research being done is located in the Pacific Northwest at Oregon State University's Wave Research Laboratory.
This is a small image swiped from their website -- they have a lot of interesting pictures plus movies for viewing. Fascinating stuff -- big wet science!
There was a nice article at the Wall Street Journal Opinions page Monday regarding the current Governors election in WA State: bq. Don't Count Rossi Out A stolen election in Washington state? Not if bloggers can help it. bq. The new media--talk radio, bloggers and independent watchdog groups--have followed up their success in exposing Dan Rather's use of phony memos by showcasing another scandal: Washington state's bizarre race for governor, which features a vote count so close and compromised it allows Florida to retire the crown for electoral incompetence. If Democrat Christine Gregoire, who leads by 129 votes and is scheduled to take the office Wednesday, eventually has to face a new election, it will have been in large part because of the new media's ability to give the story altitude before it reached the courts. bq. When the idea of a revote was first broached three weeks ago by a moderate Republican former secretary of state, Ms. Gregoire's reaction was swift: "Absolutely ludicrous." With Republican candidate Dino Rossi filing a formal court challenge last Friday alleging a massive breakdown in the vote count, she may still think the idea of a court-ordered revote is laughable, but her legal team is taking it seriously. "There's not even a 50-50 chance a court would rule with Republicans to set aside the election," says Jenny Durkan, a Gregoire confidant who is representing state Democrats. Hardly an expression of supreme confidence. bq. The feeling that a revote is possible is buoyed by polls showing the public still thinks Mr. Rossi, who won the first two vote counts before falling behind in the third, actually won. His legal team has also compiled a strong body of evidence showing irregularities, certainly one far more detailed than that which North Carolina officials used last week to order a statewide March revote of the race for agriculture commissioner after a computer ate 4,438 ballots in a GOP-leaning county. Without those votes, the GOP candidate was leading by 2,287 votes out of 3.5 million cast. The article goes on to describe some of the more egregious discrepencies and to mention other elections where the "winner" was ousted. It has been a very interesting couple of months. Gregoire was sworn in last evening. The next couple of weeks should prove interesting either way. If she stays in office, it will also be interesting to see just how well she cleans house in King County -- will she have an effective political legacy or will she be a one-term-wonder...


The Non-Sequitur cartoon from the 12th was spot on:
The image is a thumbnail -- click to see full-sized.

We see Koffi's hand

Several sources have reported that the Government of Indonesia is saying to the relief effort: "Get Out" I cannot say for sure, but I smell the hand of the United Nations in this. Do not deal with these infidels, we are your leaders" Like the United Nations is legitimate, like it has any ANY moral high-ground to stand on these days... Barf! Turtle Bay delenda est.

Small blogging today (just this entry)

Was working on a project at my Mom and Dad's house all day today so was out of town. Also talked with a new Honey vendor for our Cider and Mead venture. Tasted some awesome Raspberry honey -- took eight gallons of it home with me to make some Mead, Cyser (Honey and Apple Cider fermented together) and Melomel (Honey and Fruit (usually berries) fermented together). The flavor of this honey is so good that a couple pints of it are going to be re-directed to culinary use, not booze... The spew will resume as usual tomorrow... Dave

What a way to go

From Sir Banagor comes this link about the sermon of a preacher in Florida: bq. OVIEDO, Florida (AP) -- A Presbyterian minister collapsed and died at the pulpit after saying "And when I go to heaven...," his colleague said. bq. The Rev. Jack Arnold, 69, was nearing the end of his sermon Sunday at Covenant Presbyterian Church when he grabbed the podium before falling to the floor, said the Rev. Michael S. Beats, the church's associate pastor. bq. Several parishioners with medical backgrounds tried to revive Arnold and paramedics were called, but he appeared to die instantly, Beats said. Cause of death: bq. The cause of death was believed to be cardiac arrest. He had bypass surgery five years earlier. Quick, painless and doing something you loved. Not bad!

Justice Served...

From Slashdot comes this link: bq. ID theft mastermind gets 14 years A Briton involved in what is believed to be the largest identity theft case ever has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by a New York judge. Philip Cummings, 35, used his job as a computer helpdesk employee to steal personal information from more than 30,000 unwitting customers. He worked in a position of trust and violated that. He was nailed. Cool! bq. Cummings, who worked for Teledata Communications - a New York-based software company which helps lenders access major credit databases - had access to clients' codes and passwords. bq. He would steal people's credit reports and pass them on to an accomplice, who would sell them on and share the profits with Cummings. bq. The stolen identities, bought by intermediaries for about $60 per name, were then used to access the victims' bank accounts and use their credit cards. bq. The criminals would buy expensive goods, including computers and electronic equipment, and resell them to other members of the network. bq. By changing a customer's personal details, the thieves could even have new credit and ATM cards mailed directly to them. Hey Phil - if the soap drops in the shower, don't bend over to pick it up if you get my meaning -- 14 years is a long long time unless you are into that kind if thing...

Second case of Canadian BSE

Ouch... There was the case in Washington last year where it was found the cow came from Canada. There was another case of BSE found in Canada and now, a third one has been found. Here's the story from Canadian Press: bq. New case of mad cow confirmed, U.S. to send team to investigate Federal officials have confirmed Canada's second case of mad cow disease in 10 days - a development that could threaten U.S. plans to reopen the border to Canadian beef. bq. They say it's no threat to human health, but unlike the case confirmed last week, this infected cow was born after feed precautions were put in place in 1997 to prevent further spread of the disease. bq. That has U.S. agriculture authorities concerned; they are sending a team to Canada to evaluate the case before deciding whether to change their plan to resume the cross-border cattle trade. The feed ban has been criticized by some as to small -- from the same article: bq. "This is a complete disaster," said Shiv Chopra, one of three Health Canada scientists fired last year after denouncing the 1997 feed restrictions as inadequate. bq. "What does it take to stop feeding animals to animals?" bq. The 1997 rules banned cattle meat-bone meal from cattle feed but allowed the continued use of cattle blood, milk, and gelatin and parts from other animals such as pigs and horses. bq. "They're still feeding cows to cows and lies to the public," said Mike McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition. A hard one to call. Jen and I prefer to eat organic meat whenever possible (or meat from good restaurants, not Mickey D's). Already lost enough little grey cells, don't want to catch Creutzfeldt-Jakob. Still, the odds of this happening are very small (probably less than winning big in the lottery) and there is enough public focus on this now so biotech companies will develop a good cheap quick field test for BSE.

The Kennedys

Interesting insight into the (ab)use power of this family. From No Watermelons bq. Boys will be boys but.... ...no girl of Joe Kennedy's had better act like her male relatives. bq. Kathleen Kennedy was Joe Kennedy's oldest daughter. Legend has it that she was mentally disabled, so Daddy had her lobotomized when she was 23. She died this past week at 86. bq. Was she mentally disabled? Perhaps no more so than any of her siblings. she was able to attend school and travel Europe without a chaperone. But she was sneaking out at night and returning to her convent school disheveled and drunk, the nuns feared she was picking up men and more, and she threw temper tantrums. Heavens, Joe Kennedy couldn't let anyone disgrace the family! If that meant that Rosemary would wind up in an infantlike state, mumbling words and sitting for hours staring at walls, well....I won't accuse even Joe Kennedy of expecting that outcome, but it was an awfully heavy-handed way to respond in any case. bq. Her troubles are over now finally, and she lives on as the inspiration for the Special Olympics. Sad. And you look at people like Ted and wonder why they still consume oxygen. The family's two bright stars died early and we are left with the dregs...

New Microsoft Tools

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I had written about MSFT's new SpyWare detection and removal tool here Today they released their malware detection and removal tool. This program runs online and detects and removes these particularly nasty applications: Berbew, Doomjuice, Gaobot, Msblast, Mydoom, Nachi, Sasser and Zindos with more to come as they develop the tool. Both are free and both are well worth checking out. MSFT SpyWare tool here MSFT MalWare tool here

Rock Slide

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We are having unusual weather this winter. Much colder than normal up here and massive rain in California. The rain triggered a rock slide. One very big rock. Yahoo/AP has the photo:
A boulder some 25 feet high blocks both lanes of the Topanga Caynon Road, Monday, Jan. 10, 2005, as electrical contractors fix broken power and communication lines in Malibu, Calif. No injures where reported, but the road remains closed. The storm system was blamed for at least nine deaths during the weekend in Southern California, including a man killed when his vehicle plunged into the surf off Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, and a homeless man killed when the hillside where his tent was pitched gave way. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

IBM gets it

Hat tip to Slashdot for the link to this story: bq. I.B.M. to Give Free Access to 500 Patents I.B.M. plans to announce today that it is making 500 of its software patents freely available to anyone working on open-source projects, like the popular Linux operating system, on which programmers collaborate and share code. bq. The new model for I.B.M., analysts say, represents a shift away from the traditional corporate approach to protecting ownership of ideas through patents, copyrights, trademark and trade-secret laws. The conventional practice is to amass as many patents as possible and then charge anyone who wants access to them. I.B.M. has long been the champion of that formula. The company, analysts estimate, collected $1 billion or more last year from licensing its inventions. bq. The move comes after a lengthy internal review by I.B.M., the world's largest patent holder, of its strategy toward intellectual property. I.B.M. executives said the patent donation today would be the first of several such steps. The article does point out that this is a drop in the bucket: bq. I.B.M. may be redefining its intellectual property strategy, but it apparently has no intention of slowing the pace of its patent activity. I.B.M. was granted 3,248 patents in 2004, far more than any other company, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patent office is announcing today its yearly ranking of the top 10 private-sector patent recipients. Still, this is a wonderful development and a boon for the open source movement... At my previous employer, I ran the Postfix email system. This is an open source project developed by a staff member of the I.B.M. T.J. Watson Research Center. Excellent stuff!

A very big Demolition Derby

From this NASA website bq. Get Ready for the Largest Demolition Derby on the Planet Scientists say Slow-Motion Collision Near Antarctic Research Station Imminent bq. It is an event so large that the best seat in the house is in space: a massive iceberg is on a collision course with a floating glacier near the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. NASA satellites have witnessed the 100-mile-long B-15A iceberg moving steadily towards the Drygalski Ice Tongue. Though the iceberg's pace has slowed in recent days, NASA scientists expect a collision to occur no later than January 15, 2005. bq. "It's a clash of the titans, a radical and uncommon event," says Robert Bindshadler, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and if the two giant slabs of ice collide, we could see one of the best demolition derbies on the planet. "Even a 'tap' from a giant can be powerful. It will certainly be a blow far larger than anything else the ice tongue has ever experienced," says Bindshadler. bq. When the iceberg and the ice tongue collide, the impact will likely "dent their bumpers," says Bindshadler. The edges could crumple and ice could pile or drift into the Ross Sea. But if the B-15A iceberg picks up enough speed before the two collide, the results could be more spectacular. The Drygalski Ice Tongue could break off. The NASA Website will be following the story and they have pictures and an animation that shows the size of this iceberg. It is the size of New York's Long Island. This is huge.

The new MAC

Just announced today. $499 and it looks really cute:
For that price, it makes it very competitive with the Wintel machines. Add a KVM switch and you have the best of both worlds...

US Navy Submarine accident update

From the NY Times: bq. Navy Says Sub Hit Mountain That Was Not on Its Charts A nuclear attack submarine that ran aground Saturday in the South Pacific, killing one sailor and injuring 23 others, appears to have smashed into an undersea mountain that was not on its charts, Navy officials said yesterday. bq. The submarine, the San Francisco, was cruising at high speed - about 30 knots - and was more than 400 feet below the surface when the accident forced it to blow air into its emergency ballast tanks to surface. bq. Some of the tanks were damaged by the impact. One officer said the effort to keep the submarine afloat was initially "very touch and go." bq. The accident occurred 350 miles south of Guam, and the vessel returned to its base there under its own power yesterday. The Navy is investigating how the crash occurred. Ouch... Had I not won the draft lottery back in 1970, I would have volunteered for the US Navy and as I am fascinated in things Oceanographic and Nuclear, I might have been on the Thresher when it went down.
Heh... Thank to The Misanthropist we can do just that - five to twelve cents per mouse-click...
Ever wake up just wanting to screw with some millionaire thief? Welcome to the Internet, where to ask is to receive: He then points to this BoingBoing article:
"...Noted crooked scumbag Ken Lay, of Enron fame, is so desperate to get his "version" of the breathtaking scam he and his rich buddies pulled off into the public eye before his trial that he's paying search engines 5-12 cents/click to return a link to his bogus account of his wrongdoings when searchers enter "Ken Lay" into the search-box. Put the search words "Enron scandal" or "Ken Lay," or even this Enron reporter's name, "Mary Flood," into any of the above search engines and one of the first things you will see is www.kenlayinfo.com. If you hit on Lay's Web site from there, then Lay pays between roughly 5 cents and 12 cents. Update: Clicking this link will bring you to Ken Lay's page while costing him one click's worth of traffic. Click early, click often!..."
I clicked and it's a nice looking site -- very very corporate looking. Reminds me of Mick Jagger's "Memo from Turner" bq. Weren't you at the Coke convention back on nineteen sixty-five You're the misbred, grey executive I've seen heavily advertised. You're the great, gray man whose daughter licks policemen's buttons clean. You're the man who squats behind the man who works the soft machine. bq. Come now, gentleman, your love is all I crave. You'll still be in the circus when I'm laughing, laughing on my grave. bq. When the old men do the fighting and the young men all look on. And the young girls eat their mothers meat from tubes of plasticon. Be wary of these my gentle friends of all the skins you breed. They have a tasty habit - they eat the hands that bleed. bq. So remember who you say you are and keep your noses clean. Boys will be boys and play with toys so be strong with your beast. Oh Rosie dear, doncha think it's queer, so stop me if you please. The baby is dead, my lady said, "You gentlemen, why you all work for me?" A Perfect Executive...
Department of Temperature... As many of you might know, Jennifer and I live on 30 acres in Northwest Washington State. We have been enjoying some unusual weather and tonight promises to be a doozy. Dead clear sky so radiation cooling will be at its maximum. We usually get the coolest temperatures of the night around 5:00AM to 7:00AM (sunrise is around 8:00AM now). It is close to midnight and the temperature is already down to 10 degrees F. Last night, it was down to 17 and the water line from our well suffered a partial freeze. We have one faucet running at a slight flow to keep the line open tonight. The critters are fine (two sheep and two goats -- just checked them in their own barn). To see what the weather is like near Mt. Baker, check this out...

Tsunami - science update

NASA released their report on the devastating Tsunami in Indonesia today. bq. How the Earthquake affected Earth The Dec. 26th Indonesian megathrust earthquake quickened Earth's rotation and changed our planet's shape. bq. January 10, 2005: NASA scientists studying the Indonesian earthquake of Dec. 26, 2004, have calculated that it slightly changed our planet's shape, shaved almost 3 microseconds from the length of the day, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters. bq. Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Dr. Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said all earthquakes have some effect on Earth's rotation. It's just that the effects are, usually, barely noticeable. bq. This one was not usual: The devastating megathrust earthquake registered nine on the new "moment" scale (modified Richter scale), making it the fourth largest 'quake in one hundred years. Although they caution: bq. None of these changes have yet been measured--only calculated. But Chao and Gross hope to detect the changes when Earth rotation data from ground based and space-borne sensors are reviewed. Our planet at work. We in the Puget Sound are somewhat overdue for a biggie and the Yellowstone Caldera is way overdue...

Porn goes mainstream

From an email list I subscribe to comes a link to this story: bq. Columbia House To Sell Pornography Columbia House, that company we have all subscribed to at least once which sent us 12 CDs or cassettes for nothing but the exorbinant cost of shipping and handling (as long as we bought six more in the next two years), has decided to expand its product base to include pornography. While the business will be handled by a subsidiary and under a different name, (Hush), it is fully owned by Columbia House and is in partnership with Playboy. The company promises that they will not offer Hush products to their current client base. Instead, Playboy will handle the marketing, sending information to their direct mailing list which numbers in the millions. Geez - next thing you know, we will be listening to The Talking Heads MUSAK while riding in the elevator. Oh... Wait...

Jacques wacky idea - part deux

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Earlier today I had written about Jacques Chirac's loony idea for a global tax to aid disaster relief. The idea on its own sounds noble but I would think that the presenter of such an idea would offer an example to the world. France has. For the current disaster relief in Indonesia, France has ponied up a grand total of $177,000 US Dollars plus five helicopters and a navy frigate. Two more ships are due to arrive in a week. As a comparison, Amazon ran a find raiser and its customers chipped in $15.2 Million US Dollars. The gifts from corporate America amount to another $180 Million. (Links to sources for these figures are given in the original entry). Al from The Misanthropist wrote in with a tongue-in-cheek comment:
They _do_ have an Aircraft Carrier. Unless it's docked for repairs. why isn't it helping?
I had written about this a year ago and the source link is still online: bq. NAVAL AVIATION: French Carrier Disaster Gets Very Strange December 4, 2003: France is considering quietly retiring their new nuclear powered aircraft carrier and joining with Britain to buy a new carrier of British design. Actually, the French had planned to built a second nuclear powered carrier, but they are having so many problems with the first one that they are quite reluctant about building another one. Britain is building two 50,000 ton conventionally powered carriers, at a cost of $2.5 billion each. France would order a third of this class, and bring down the cost of all three a bit. The new French nuclear carrier �Charles de Gaulle� has suffered from a seemingly endless string of problems. The 40,000 ton ship has cost over four billion dollars so far and is slower than the diesel powered carrier it replaced. Flaws in the �de Gaulle� have led it to using the propellers from it predecessor, the �Foch,� because the ones built for �de Gaulle� never worked right. Worse, the nuclear reactor installation was done poorly, exposing the engine crew to five times the allowable annual dose of radiation. There were also problems with the design of the deck, making it impossible to operate the E-2 radar aircraft that are essential to defending the ship and controlling offensive operations. Many other key components of the ship did not work correctly, and the carrier has been under constant repair and modification. The �de Gaulle� took eleven years to build (1988-99) and was not ready for service until late 2000. It�s been downhill ever since. So the plan is to buy into the new British carrier building program and keep the �de Gaulle� in port and out of trouble as much as possible. The British have a lot more experience building carriers, and if there are any problems with the British designed ship, one can blame the British. Its fun to Google - entering this string: "aircraft carrier" "Charles De Gaulle" problems Calls up close to 4,000 entries. Heh...

DDT starting to gain public awareness

Nicholas Kristof has an excellent editorial in the NY Times:
It's Time to Spray DDT If the U.S. wants to help people in tsunami-hit countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia - not to mention other poor countries in Africa - there's one step that would cost us nothing and would save hundreds of thousands of lives. It would be to allow DDT in malaria-ravaged countries. I'm thrilled that we're pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the relief effort, but the tsunami was only a blip in third-world mortality. Mosquitoes kill 20 times more people each year than the tsunami did, and in the long war between humans and mosquitoes it looks as if mosquitoes are winning.
Since the NY Times removes articles from public access after a short interval, I put the rest of the article as an extended entry. Click on the Continue reading: "DDT starting to gain public awareness" link below for the rest. It is worth reading...

Great photo of Tsunami Relief

Here is a photo of sailors aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln filling water jugs for distribution to Tsunami victims:
The image is a thumbnail -- click on it for the larger version. We are there distributing relief while the United Nations sits in hotel rooms and holds press conferences...

Jacques wacky idea...

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French President Jacques Chirac has this idea... I'll let the article in at News.com/Australia tell the story:
French President Jacques Chirac made a new call today for an "international tax", saying such a levy would help generate funds to help poor countries and those hit by disasters such as the Asian tsunami. "These events stress the need to increase public aid towards development and to find innovative financing mechanisms such as an international taxation," Mr Chirac said in a New Year speech to the Paris diplomatic corps. He said France would press the international tax idea this year at meetings of the Group of Eight - the G7 rich countries plus Russia - and at the United Nations, but gave no details of his proposals. France has also supported Britain's proposal for an International Finance Facility to double Third World aid, but continues to push its "international tax" as an additional idea. Mr Chirac made the tax proposal at a meeting of the Group of Eight - the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia - last year but won little support from the other powers for the idea.
Emphasis mine - no shit sherlock... If you want to raise money for disaster relief, start by opening your own pockets. Amazon.com customer donations to Tsunami Relief: $15.2 million Corporate America donations to Tsunami relief:$180 million Amazon number from Amazon Corporate America number from KTVU French donations to Tsunami Relief: $177,000 plus five helicopters and a navy frigate. Two additional ships are scheduled to arrive in one week. Military aid story from DefenseNews Donation number from Tim Blair Jacques should get his tax and this just in -- reports of giant flying pigs over the north pole. Film at eleven...

UN Tsunami Relief - an update

Wretchard at The Belmont Club with some links that point out the United Nations fondness for VIP Suites and Limos and avoidance of actually doing anything... These two links stand out: From the Financial Times: bq. The UN is being criticised for its failure to organise dozens of aid groups in and around Banda Aceh more than a week and a half after the tsunami hit the region, forcing some of them to bypass the international body and take action into their own hands to ensure aid reaches areas with the most urgent needs. "If we wait for the UN to tell us what to do, we wouldn't do anything," said Abdul Hadi bin e Rashid, first admiral of the Malaysian navy at the country's operations tent at Banda Aceh airport. "There are people who are hungry and angry. Why wait? So we just do it." From The Daily Telegraph: bq. At the same time, US officials were briefing journalists about the lack of a UN presence at the airport in Banda Aceh, the capital of the province. "Look around and see who's present, and you will also see who's missing," said one. "I think you can read between the lines. "They [the UN] have their compound in town, their cars, but are they getting food out? Are they setting up clinics?" bq. The UN has been desperate to put experts on the ground all week, fearing that thousands of people have yet to receive food or medical treatment. Michael Elmquist, the UN co-ordinator, said he had approached the Americans for help. "The answer was, I should go through the Indonesians," he said. The Indonesian military agreed to lend three helicopters for the UN to use yesterday. But the mission to assess needs was cancelled due to a lack of paperwork. When UN officials arrived at the airport they were told they had failed to hand in flight permission forms by 8pm the previous night. "They were at the airport and I was expecting them to go out," said Mr Elmquist. "We were not informed in advance that it was necessary to fill in these forms." Time for them to just go away. The United Nations original charter was noble but they have devolved into a bureaucracy for maintaining tinpot despots and give them the moist sheen of legitimacy...

CBS News and the Memos

CBS finally released the results of their investigation into Rathergate. As you may recall, Dan Rather came up with a supposed memo prior to November's elections which was critical of President Bush's service int he Texas Air National Guard. Only problem was that it was a forgery and a very blatantly poor one at that. Charles Johnson typed the text of the memo into MS Word with its default settings and the two matched up perfectly. There were no true-proportional or kerning typewriters in common use at that time. Wizbang has some synopses here, here, here and here: bq. Snippets From The CBS PDF (1 Update) Wizbang will read 234 pages so you won't have to. (This will updated often) bq. This is just too funny. The whole thing started when Mapes went cruising the lefty moonbat sites and gets suckered. bq. From page 59:
On Monday, August 23, Mapes learned that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett was rumored to have important documents regarding the President?s TexANG service. Paul Lukasiak, who operates a website on which he posts disparaging analyses of President Bush?s TexANG service, told Mapes that another blogger, Linda Starr, had seen new TexANG documents regarding President Bush. Starr hosts a website that recently contained the slogan, ?Bush lied, Americans died,? and is the editor of Online Journal, an online newsletter often critical of President Bush. Mapes contacted Starr, who responded that she believed that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett had a two-page, classified document regarding President Bush?s TexANG service, and Starr speculated that it might be a disciplinary report. This disciplinary report was thought to relate to an assessment of whether Lieutenant Bush was fit to fly jets armed with nuclear weapons. Starr 60 told Mapes that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett was trying to determine the best way to disseminate the information to journalists ?without leaving any fingerprints.?
Paul also mentions the ten "serious defects" in the preparation and reporting of the story - item two is a doozey: bq. The most serious defects in the reporting and production of the September 8 Segment were:
1. The failure to obtain clear authentication of any of the Killian documents from any document examiner; 2. The false statement in the September 8 Segment that an expert had authenticated the Killian documents when all he had done was authenticate one signature from one document used in the Segment;
And who made the false statement? Dan Rather, that's who. He lied on prime-time TV. Hindrocket at Power Line has a very excellent in-depth analysis as well. bq. I've now read the Thornburgh report in its entirety, and have just finished giving an interview to CBS News, some (small) portion of which is likely to be on the evening news tonight. bq. In general, the Thornburgh report is better than I expected. It criticizes 60 Minutes harshly, and is a treasure trove of factual information. However, while the report is damning, the question is whether it is damning enough. In two key respects, the report walks up to the precipice, but declines to jump. Read the rest for a very interesting account of the personalities at work in the CBS heirarchy...

United Nations Tsunami Relief

An interesting comment from The Diplomad They start off their entry listing some relief agencies that are doing good work:
We've had many readers ask us about good NGOs. We do not want to get into the endorsement business but we want to acknowledge some VERY good organizations doing exceptional work. If you want to give money to them that's your business. International Organization for Migration (IOM) CARE Catholic Relief Services Mercy Corps Save the Children
The then close with this following bit of news:
By the way, as we wrap up day sixteen, the UN still has not begun saving people in the corner of the tsunami-blasted Far Abroad. The UN has distributed ZERO on the ground -- an absolutely disgraceful performance.
This is from someone with boots ont he ground experience - if the UN is

Embalm the Vote

Today's Cox and Forkum cartoon expresses the current situation in the WA State Governors Election perfectly:
Heh... For more of this story, check out Sound Politics

A blogger looses it

and writes the story... Hat tip to Instapundit for this link to Varifrank's story:
Today, I was "Unprofessional"... Over the past 6 weeks, I've been deeply enmeshed in one of those "go live at the end of the year" projects that we in the IT industry have learned to love. The kind where managers assume that since no one is working, why that would be the perfect time to go live! Of course, it means that your doing complex work at the point of maximum distraction with many many holidays and no staff. This year we had a major distraction, and I'm bothered that I described it that way. On Christmas Day, a disaster visited the human race. Hundreds of thousands of people, quietly living their lives on the edge of the sea were killed. They were killed, not by suicide bombers or suitcase nukes or crazed men hijacking planes into buildings. They were killed with simple seawater. Those that were killed werent just simple minded fools who wandered lemming like out into the unusually low tide, only to be mowed down by the sudden flood. They were people enjoying the sights from the second story of a hotel when the ocean rose up to engulf them. The horror of it all hasnt even begun to sink in to most of us. There is a tendancy in the western world to overlook the disasters of the third world. Unless it involves us "white folks", the press of the western world does not seem to care or think that we do. In this disaster, one example of disgusting western depravity could be found in the many press outlets that made big news out of a "supermodel" who was (gasp!!!) harmed in the disaster. Imagine if someone on September 12th had published a report that Zsa Zsa gabor and her poodle were put out by the lack of cabs in Manhattan. It made me sick to my stomach to see this item on the news. Today, The Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that 5,000 Americans could not be accounted for, Sweden also announced roughly the same figure for their citizens. Now we care. And shame on us all. Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro collegues tossed this little turd out to no one in particular: " See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, theres a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier..." After which he and many of my Euro collegues laughed out loud. and then they looked at me. I wasn't laughing, and neither was my Hindi friend sitting next to me, who has lost family in the disaster. I'm afraid I was "unprofessional", I let it loose - "Hmmm, let's see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster, now what kind of ship would we want? Something with its own inexhuastible power supply? Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water? Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it? Something with 4 hospitals and lots of open space for emergency supplies? Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier? Well "Franz", us peasants in America call that kind of ship an "Aircraft Carrier". We have 12 of them. How many do you have? Oh that's right, NONE. Lucky for you and the rest of the world, we are the kind of people who share. Even with people we dont like. In fact, if memory serves,once upon a time we peasants spent a ton of money and lives rescuing people who we had once tried to kill and who tried to kill us. Do you know who those people were? that's right Franz, Europeans. Theres is a French Aircraft carrier? where is it? Right where it belongs! In France of course! Oh why should the French Navy dirty their uniforms helping people on the other side of the globe. How Simplesse... The day an American has to move a European out of the way to help in some part of the world it will be a great day in the world, you sniggering little fucknob..." The room fell silent. My hindi friend then said quietly to the Euros: "Can you let your hatred of George Bush end for just one minute? There are people dying! And what are your countries doing? Amazon.com has helped more than France has. You all have a role to play in the world, why can't you see that? Thank God for the US Navy, they dont have to come and help, but they are. They helped you once and you should all thank God they did. They didnt have to, and no one but them would have done so. I'm ashamed of you all..." He left the room, shaking and in tears. The frustration of being on the other side of the globe, unable to do anything to assist and faced with people who could not set aside their asininity long enough to reach out and help was too much for him to bear. I just shook my head and left. The Euros stood speechless. Later in the breakroom, one of the laughing Euros caught me and extended his hand in an apology. I asked him where he was from, he said "a town outside of Berlin". He is a young man, in his early 20's. I asked him if he knew of a man named Gail Halvorsen. He said no. I said "that's a shame" and walked away to find my Hindi friend.

The Radar Pages

Stumbled onto this fascinating site through a link in an email... It's a history of Radar development in England starting with the R.A.F. Chain Home system from the 1930's and closing with the systems used during cold-war era through the 1970's. Lots of photos of the hardware, schematics of the transmitters and receivers. The Links page is good with lots of other Radar and Communications history web sites. One of these links: Larry's Home Page deserves special mention -- it covers the history of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line). This is a fascinating bit of North American history for those interested in the Cold War. Fascinating stuff...

Trip Report

Jen and I like to hike and backpack. There is a local association of people who maintain the trails and its members will frequently write trip reports of their hikes to serve as a resource for others that may plan the same hike. Here are the first two paragraphs from one such report: bq. Mailbox Peak Hike past the gate up the road keeping to the right at a "Y" in the road. Soon the road will re-enter forest. Keep an eye on the left side of the road looking for the usually unmarked trail head. If you come to a stream passing through a culvert under the road you have gone about 100' to far. As luck would have it I visited my dentist Karen D. Sakuma D.D.S. last week and her hygienist Marsha gave me a new tooth brush (not that I don't buy them on my own, I usually buy a new one every three months or so). So anyhow I had my old tooth brush with me and that is now marking the trail head as per tradition. So look for a Crest complete tooth brush with a black and blue handle with soft bristles stuck in the ground at the trail head. If you see any other type of tooth brush it's the wrong trail. Make sure you test the bristles with your thumb to ensure they are soft bristles. Don't rely on the color alone to identify the tooth brush. bq. So now you're on the trail. The trail passes through second growth forest. Listen for the sound of enchanted wood-nymphs playing their well lubricated Sousaphones. Don't expect to see them though, they bury themselves up to their necks in the mud and place manure on their heads to disguise themselves so people won't step on them. They play old Gilbert and Sullivan show tunes -- badly. Expect to hear a few bars of "Three Little Maids from School" from the Mikado played over and over. When you reach a stream do not cross it. For God's sake whatever you do, do not cross it. The trail clearly turns to the left and heads away from the stream, so don't cross the stream. Only a very stupid person would cross that stream. If you do cross the stream, throw these instructions away, they won't help you anymore. Now that you haven't crossed the stream (I sure hope you didn't cross that stream) follow the trail, still flat for a short distance. Ignore the fresh meat hanging from trees, they're just there to attract grizzly bears. The local chapter of the Brownie Scouts has been collecting sperm samples from the grizzly bear population for a 4-H club science project. This means the male grizzlies are fairly docile, but the sows may be a bit testy (seems backwards doesn't it). The project has had a negative impact on both the population of Grizzly bears and Brownie Scouts, but the results are expected to radically change the way we use cellophane. Soon the trail starts to go up. If you're not sure which way this is, stand, then look down at your feet. Now snap your head backwards really hard so year neck swivels 180 degrees. You are now looking up. That's where the trail goes. Now would be a good time to call a chiropractor to have your neck realigned. I don't know what was in Bill's trail mix that day but I want some...

Light blogging

Jen and I both caught the creeping crud from our trip down to California this last week. (It was her family!!!) (dodging a thrown shuttle) so posting will be a bit lighter than normal for a couple days...

Two paths for Global Warming

Back40 at CrumbTrail points to an announcement from the Bush White House and draws a parallel between Climate Variability and the Tsunami Relief Effort:
Climate Nous
Dr John H Marburger, III, science adviser to President George W Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, makes the case for the US approach to climate variability.
"The issue of climate change respects no border. Its effects cannot be reined in by an army or advanced by any ideology. Climate change, with its potential to impact every corner of the world, is an issue that must be addressed by the world." - President George W Bush, June 11, 2001. With these words, President Bush clearly acknowledged the seriousness of climate change and launched a responsible and practical climate policy with three primary aims: (1) to introduce new technologies for producing and using energy that can dramatically reduce the relationship between economic growth and the generation of greenhouse gases; (2) to improve scientific tools and understanding needed to respond more effectively to the problems posed by climate change; and 3) to enlist the cooperation of other nations to address the entire spectrum of climate change issues. To advance these aims, the US spent approximately $5.1 billion in financial year 2004 on climate change science research, advanced energy technologies, voluntary programmes, and related international assistance - far more than any other nation.
See the article for a brief expansion of the details of that vision. Most of what we hear is that the US does not support Kyoto and so is not taking climate variability seriously or doing useful things. Given that even full compliance with Kyoto - something that the signatories are no where near to and is exceedingly unlikely to occur - does nothing about climate variability, this is an obviously nonsensical view. The US approach is far better. It remains to be seen whether the various policy aims will be achieved and whether they are effective over time, but it is clearly a better direction than Kyoto, more likely to yield progress. There is a parallel to the current tsunami relief efforts. The UN/EU approach is to talk more than act, and restrict acts to planning conducted in plush surrounds. The US approach is the reverse, more act than talk, and doing those things that are immediately useful in parallel with planning. The more convinced you are that climate variability will be significant and that it is caused by humans the more you should support this "vision" since it has far more likelihood of having significant effects. Taking immediate actions, such as the Methane to Markets Partnership, plucks the most valuable low hanging fruit for magnified effect. Spending serious cash on a variety of research initiatives at the same time is the most likely way to achieve larger effects over time. Immediate benefits, longer term benefits. Why aren't those who claim to be concerned about climate change supporting these efforts? It seems like they don't give a fig about climate, that it is just a wedge issue to advance their otherwise inimical political objectives. Shame on them. We would do well to spend our energies pressing for more and faster progress in this direction rather than obstructing progress for petty political advantage. How did it come to be that the "environmental movement" is effectively anti-environment? Politics is so weird. It doesn't matter if we dislike Bush or disagree with many of his policies, we can still support those that are both sensible and effective. Environmentalists need to crawl out of the cesspool of party politics and do something useful for the environment for a change.
Indeed. There is historical record of periodic climate variability - 900 years ago, wine grapes were growing in Greenland. In the 1500's, people were ice skating on the great canals of Europe. We are presently leaving this cooling period and entering into a warming one. Rather than sit around in meetings, the USA is trying to do something effective. Kyoto was broken before it left the conference room. It's climate models are obsolete and the economic cost outweighs an benefit that would result. The world would be better off spending that money on Malaria, AIDS, Clean Water. Once again, we are reminded of the gulf between Old Europe and America/New Europe.


All right... From his About Dokaka: bq. As a five-year-old child, Dokaka hummed along with melodies on television, but one day plugged headphones into the TV, discovering that the sounds in his head matched those piping through the headphones. He quickly realized that songs consist of many parts like bass, drums, etc. Within a year, he began to record himself humming. bq. At 18, Dokaka started drumming in bands, and four years later stumbled upon his childhood recordings, reigniting his interest in humming. He was first heard humming by others when his band's bassist missed practice, so he hummed the bassline. The band's singer found the humming catchy and recommended professional recording. Dokaka financed and produced his own recordings and uploaded them to the internet, dubbing himself with the onomatopoeic name "Dokaka" from his drum-derived humming sounds! Here is a list of MP3 tunes for download Very trippy in small doses.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou

We just saw this tonight and it is a wonderful wonderful movie... Recommended highly -- the interplay between characters is well done with a lot of subtle depth and the humor is elegant and dry. The movie revolves around a take-off of a Jacques Cousteau documentary style and the cast and crew nailed that perfectly... Whomever was responsible for the set dressing deserves a raise -- I majored in Physical Oceanography and Marine Biology back in the late 60's and I used some of the equipment in the movie and recognized a lot of the other stuff. The stuff you see is authentic and old, even the vintage camera (Arriflex) and sound (Nagra) equipment. I was thinking that The Team Zizzou ship (the Belafonte) looked a lot like the Cousteau Calypso. The two ships share a common origin, they are both 50-year-old ex-Navy Minesweepers. Well worth seeing... Here is a review, here are some production notes.

New tech at other website

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The website for our Commercial Hard Cider business is here Brown Snout As part of growing all the apples and running a farm, I installed a weather station in 2003. Today, I was evaluating software and found a package that allows me to connect the station to the internet. Check it out here Brown Snout Weather It will be going through a cleanup and rework over the next few weeks but the core software looks really good.

The Wacky Warning Label Contest

For eight years, the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (M-LAW) has hosted a Whacky Warning Label contest to find the most obviously unnecessary warning label on an American-made product. Here is this years winner:
Radio Hall of Fame personality, Dick Purtan, holds a toilet brush which warns: �Do not use for personal hygiene.� The brush was selected by listeners of Purtan�s morning show on Oldies 104.3 WOMC in Detroit as the winner of M-LAW�s Eighth Annual Wacky Warning Label Contest.
Past winners this year include: * A label on a baby stroller warns: �Remove child before folding * A brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook on the end warns: �Harmful if swallowed * A household iron warns users: �Never iron clothes while they are being worn� * A label on a hair dryer reads, �Never use hair dryer while sleeping� * A warning on an electric drill made for carpenters cautions: �This product not intended for use as a dental drill.� * The label on a bottle of drain cleaner warns: �If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.� * A smoke detector warns: �Do not use the Silence Feature in emergency situations. It will not extinguish a fire.� Sheesh!


...this would explain a lot of things:
I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!
Hat tip to Misanthropyst for the link to this quiz...

Examining WalMart

Jen and I make it our policy not to shop at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club. The company is known for poor treatment of its workers and harms the communities where it has stores. We much prefer Costco which pays its employees well, has a fantastic benefits package and still sells good stuff for very very cheap. An interesting insight into Wal-Mart can be found at the New York Review of Books Here is one tidbit: bq. One of the most telling of all the criticisms of Wal-Mart is to be found in a February 2004 report by the Democratic Staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee. In analyzing Wal-Mart's success in holding employee compensation at low levels, the report assesses the costs to US taxpayers of employees who are so badly paid that they qualify for government assistance even under the less than generous rules of the federal welfare system. For a two-hundred-employee Wal-Mart store, the government is spending $108,000 a year for children's health care; $125,000 a year in tax credits and deductions for low-income families; and $42,000 a year in housing assistance. The report estimates that a two-hundred-employee Wal-Mart store costs federal taxpayers $420,000 a year, or about $2,103 per Wal-Mart employee. That translates into a total annual welfare bill of $2.5 billion for Wal-Mart's 1.2 million US employees. bq. Wal-Mart is also a burden on state governments. According to a study by the Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2003 California taxpayers subsidized $20.5 million worth of medical care for Wal-Mart employees. In Georgia ten thousand children of Wal-Mart employees were enrolled in the state's program for needy children in 2003, with one in four Wal-Mart employees having a child in the program.[9] Go read the article for more, much much more... Hat tip to Brian Weaver at Grafyte -- his blog doesn't have permalinks but scroll down to the January 5 entry...

Tsunami Relief options

Hat tip to Dean Esmay for this link: bq. Free Shipping From Fed Ex To Help Tsunami Stricken Areas! Our friend Marc has some thoughts on principled charity vs. simply giving money. Conservatives will especially appreciate his message. bq. Speaking of which, have I mentioned that a really great way to give disaster relief is not to send money, but to take advantage of Federal Express' free shipping to tsunami-ravaged Asia? So that instead of just sending cash you can send new (please, only new) bottles of unopened water, food, clothing, medical supplies, and so on to areas hard-hit by the Tsunami? bq. Because I'm not sure you were paying attention last time I mentioned it. bq. More details right here. bq. What are you waiting for? Indeed -- Jen and I sent in a donation to a Seattle group that does excellent work and has very low administrative overhead.
From CBC News: bq. Often-controversial director Oliver Stone has blamed the failure of his epic film Alexander on the "raging fundamentalism" in the U.S. South. bq. The film, which stars Irish actor Colin Farrell in the story of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, was greeted with derisive reviews. bq. Colin Farrell plays the title role in 'Alexander.' (AP photo) It was also a failure at the box office. Budgeted at roughly $150 million U.S., it has pulled in only $34 million so far. Hey Oliver -- how about this: It was a bad movie and nobody wanted to see it. The critics panned it and it closed early in the theaters. I would think that if there was a hue and cry from raging fundamentalists, that would have driven people to see the movie to see for themselves what the controversy was. In your case though, nobody went. Yawn...


Microsoft has released a beta version of their new anti-Spyware software. I'm partial to AdAware and use it on all of my systems but at first glance, this looks pretty good. Only nit is that it seeks to "authenticate" your copy of Windows before they let you proceed with the download. There is a way round this but I'm betting that this will go away an MSFT will be a lot more sticky about seeing if you are running a "valid" copy of Windows before they let you update anything...

Job opening at Microsoft

Heh... From TechWeb: bq. Oops: Blue Screen Of Death Interrupts Gates' CES Show Bill Gates' keynote presentation Wednesday night at the Consumer Electronics Show didn't quite go according to plan: glitches, including a dreaded "Blue Screen of Death," interrupted the show several times. Microsoft's chairman, who shared the stage with late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien, kept his cool when Microsoft Media Center crashed during the presentation, and an Xbox displayed the blue screen of death. bq. As the Xbox went down for the count, the Microsoft executive running that part of the presentation, Garrett Young, said, "This is a little bit of demo karma, sorry, I'm out of system memory apparently. Yeah, so just imagine, if you will, that I was customizing my car and doing some really cool stuff." bq. O'Brien played to the crowd during the crashes with lines like "right now nine people are being fired," and "Who's in charge of Microsoft? Oh." Ouch!

You might be a liberal...

Good list from Dog Snot Diaries: bq. As a public service, and with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, here are the early warning signs that reveal if you, or someone you care about, just might be a liberal. * You think that protestors outside nuclear power plants are dedicated activists, but protestors outside abortion clinics are dangerous zealots interfering with a legal activity. * You believe that more federal regulations will make your life better. * You think that Rush Limbaugh�s listeners are mindless �dittoheads,� but you have never doubted anything that you heard from Michael Moore. * You believe that the network news is a better indicator of what �real� news is than talk radio, Internet news sites, and blogs. * You believe that Mikhail Gorbachev deserves more credit for losing the Cold War than Ronald Reagan deserves for winning it. * You pride yourself on your global awareness, global sensitivity and global outlook, but can�t name your state legislator or school board representative. * You are dedicated to helping the poor, the downtrodden and the less fortunate, but you have never given blood. * You believe that rich people should not be allowed to contribute so much money to candidates for office (except for George Soros). * You believe that government should make a special effort to hire members of traditionally oppressed groups, such as African-Americans (except for Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice). * You feel a deep sense of common cause with oppressed groups, such as Hispanic immigrants (except for Cuban Americans fleeing Castro). * You believe that a mother�s wishes for her child, especially a mother�s last, dying wish for her child, should outweigh the wishes of a father who had long before deserted his family (unless the child is named Elian Gonzalez). * You have no problem with Hollywood movie starts flying around in private jets to give speeches on the evils of SUVs. * You think that raising taxes will reduce the budget deficit. * You are more concerned, more often, with the rights of convicted felons than you are with the rights of small business owners. * You uphold a woman�s right to choose, unless a woman chooses adoption, chooses to be a stay-at-home mom, chooses to homeschool, or chooses to start a business. * You are more concerned with Vice President Cheney�s links to Halliburton than with Saddam Hussein�s links to international terrorism. Many more at the site. My problem is that I know some of these people...

The Environmental take on the Tsunami

Some really bad science there and Cox and Forkum nail it:
Visit their website for the background and commentary. Excellent stuff...

A sad story

I had heard of this several times but Kuro5hin has a nice wrap-up with links: bq. The Loneliest Mystery of the Deep For the last 12 years, a single solitary whale whose vocalizations match no known living species has been tracked across the Northeast Pacific. Its wanderings match no known migratory patterns of any living whale species. Its vocalizations have also subtly deepened over the years, indicating that the whale is maturing and ageing. And, during the entire 12 year span that it has been tracked, it has been calling out for contact from others of its own kind. bq. It has received no answer. Nor will it ever. Click on the link above -- there are pointers to audio recordings, the tech behind the recordings, the people curious about just who this is and what it might be. A sad story in some senses but a fascinating one too... UPDATE: I was reading through the comments on the Kuro5hin site and one popped out at me: bq. Didn't anyone have the same first thought I had?: bq. ANSWER THE WHALE. bq. If it truly is the only whale on that frequency, it's not like you're going to confuse an entire whale civilization. Answer him. I'm sure the whale-sound scientists could come up with something that would be a basic set of sounds, akin to simply "yelling out loud" in whalespeak. Like DUUUH! It would be a valid test and might yield a reply. How cool would that be.

The tide turns in Indonesia

Some distressing news from A Western Heart: bq. The Religion of Peace to the Rescue? Or is Violence on the Cards? Apparently several radical Islamic groups are currently recruiting people to head over to Aceh, pronto! Absolutely no one's questioning their right to help their own people, and of course they're making all the right bury-the-hatchet type noises - or are they?
Radical groups arrive in force Radical Islamic groups best known for smashing bars and violent support of jailed cleric Abu Bakar Bashir have sent large contingents to Aceh province with funding from the Indonesian Government. At the airport, members of Bashir's group, the MMI, have been unloading trucks with supplies to be ferried to disaster-struck areas by US navy helicopters. One man was proudly wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt.
bq. Great. And I'll bet laughing boy just slipped that on because everything else was in the wash. The reality, however, is sounding far more sinister. Something has been brewing for several days now, with various Asian media outlets around the region reporting an increasingly disturbing movement, including the recruitment of Jihadis, to go to Aceh. With that in mind, and with the example of the clever fellow in the latest in Osama casual wear, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this lot aren't going in with the intention of seeing if they can provoke an incident. The question is, if something happens, is the Indonesian Government going to protect our people, and (God forbid) shoot its own?
The head of the FPI contingent, Hilmy Bakar Almascaty, said about 250 members of his group had come to Aceh with plane tickets from the Indonesian Government. He said another 800 were on an Indonesian warship on their way to help clean up the province. "FPI is not only an organisation that destroys bars and discos, it has a humanitarian side as well that the media is not happy to expose," he said.
bq. Maybe that's because our definitions of humanitarianism don't necessarily accord, hey Dr Almascaty?
Early yesterday morning, 50 of his troops wearing FPI shirts went through military drills before heading to the city to help collect corpses that still have not been recovered from the millions of tonnes of rubble.
bq. Wow - now that's got to be appropriate, hasn't it? Of course, you never do know when you might have to go into action to, I don't know, take out - well - anybody who needs it, I guess. I wonder who they might have in mind?
Dr Almascaty . . . was determined to ensure that foreign soldiers and aid workers did not lead to a breakdown in shariah or Islamic law. "If anyone who comes here does not respect the shariah law, traditions and constitution, we must give them a warning and then we must attack," he said.
bq. I think the word 'attack' carries some pretty important overtones, myself. More at the link above. And let us not forget that Saudi Arabia has given $150 Million to the families of suicide bombers but only $30 Million to their brethren in need. It was $10 Million but they upped it when US Private Contributions topped $350 Million.
From the Opelika-Auburn News (Alabama) bq. Opelika plant closes When they clocked out for the Christmas holidays, Quantegy employees planned on returning to work, as scheduled, Monday. But, there's no job to go back to - for some 250 employees. bq. "No Trespassing" signs were erected Friday afternoon and security passwords were changed at the Opelika plant, 2230 Marvyn Parkway. bq. "Quantegy, Inc. has ceased operations pending restructuring. This is due to financial issues that have plagued the industry and Quantegy for some time. All employees are on lay off pending further notice," according to a brief press release issued by the company Friday. The Opelika plant, once employed some 1,800 workers, has recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Some back story: bq. Almost 60 years ago, the story was different. "In 1945, after capturing several German 'Magnetophon' tape recorders from Radio Luxembourg, the American Signal Corps recorded a speech by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower to be played to the people of occupied Germany... And more (talking about the American development of magnetic tape): bq. Maj. Orr located a German scientist, Dr. Karl Pfleumer, who gave him a basic formula for magnetic tape. Within two weeks, Maj. Orr had managed to manufacture his first reels of usable audio tape. After returning to his home in Opelika, Alabama, Orr set up a magnetic tape manufacturing facility and soon afterwards began marketing his own tape under the "IRISH" brand name. Orr continued his manufacturing operation and in 1959, Orradio Industries became part of the Ampex Corporation. bq. Founded by Alexander M. Poniatoff, The Ampex Corporation had been developing audio tape recorders since the end of WWII starting with its model 200. The company's first sales of the Model 200 were to Bing Crosby Enterprises and the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). In 1956, Ampex announced a historic breakthrough - the first practical video tape recorder. bq. Shortly after this introduction Poniatoff and Orr entered into negotiations and in 1959, Orradio Industries became the Ampex Magnetic Tape Division of Ampex Corporation. In November of 1995, the Ampex Recording Media Corporation was put up for sale, and the recording media pioneer became Quantegy Inc., according to www.quantegy.com Fast forward 2005... bq. "It's like Happy New Year - you don't have a job," said one former Quantegy employee. "Most of these employees have worked there 28 to 30 years - they don't know anything else; they are a different breed of people, dedicated to the company. The average age is 50 plus, and no matter what they say - it's not easy to start over." Ouch! Cassette tapes will be around forever and the Mini-DV and VHS video tapes too but the lifespan of pro grade Audio recording tape is nearing an end for most people... I started out with several tape recorders that used 1/4" wide tape and recorded on two tracks (stereo - left and right). You would record and then flip the tape over to get another 30 minutes (there were four tracks on the tape and you could record and play back two at a time). The top "pro-sumer" machines at that time were Revox, Crown and Magnecord. I owned a Magnecord 1024 (and wish I still did!). I then graduated to an Ampex 1/4" four-track (able to record the four tracks simultaneously but you lost the option of flipping the tape over for more capacity). My last machine was a Tascam TSR-8 1/2" eight track machine. I was in Hog Heaven. Cost me about $2,500 back in 1985 -- put several hundred hours on it and sold it at a garage sale for $500. Still an excellent machine! I now record direct from the mixing board to hard disk with much better fidelity but I really miss working with the tape. There is something nice and tangible about working with a metal splicing block, a razor blade and some tape that gets left out in a point-and-click environment... I recently upgraded my Cakewalk software to their new Sonar package and although it has a lot of neat features and I do not plan to go back, I still miss the cleanness and the sound of tape.

Change in comment policy

We have been getting hit by script kiddies leaving automated comments on this website. They are posting comments on as many Blogs as possible with the intention of raising their profile in search engines. I have made the decision to close all posts to comments after they are about one week old. Posts older than this will return an error message if you try to leave a comment. Posts newer than this will not be affected. I realize that someone might stumble on an older post and have something to offer, if this is the case, they can email me and I will unlock that post for them to comment. I am sorry for the inconvenience but this is necessary -- over the last few weeks, these lusers have been posting several hundred comments for hard-core pornography sites being hosted on Russian servers. This is not a situation where a quiet word to an ISP Security person would put a stop to this. More drastic measures are needed. If you run a blog and need something like this, leave me a comment to this post and I'll pass on the link to the software I'm using. I went through a few applications before choosing this one and it seems to work very fast and very well...

IKEA Desk names

It probably translates into something innocuous in Swedish but IKEA has some pretty strange names for their desks. I own a JERKER (use it for my sound mixing console and it works great). They have now come out with a FARTFULL... Anyone out there speak Swedish and can lend a clue?

Other websites

I run two other Blogs - the first one is for our Farm and Hard Cider business: BrownSnout There are some posts with photos of our Farm and details of our Christmas road-trip to CA and some of the stuff we picked up along the way. The other Blog is NorthWest Data Security I do consulting for computer users in the Washington State / Whatcom County / Mount Baker area. Hardware and Software tech support, virus and malware removal, spam filtering, website development. $45/hour

Tsunami Blogging

A good Blog for Tsunami Relief in India is India Uncut Start at the top and scroll down... A sample post: bq. Despatches 35: The fisherman�s mafia Nityanand Jayaraman, an independent journalist and activist, has been working on various projects in Cuddalore for the past few years. He enlightens us on what is happening in one of the worst-affected areas there, Devana Pattanam. bq. First, some background. In many of the fishing villages around, Jayaraman tells us, the locals don�t trust the local justice system, so they have their own internal mechanisms to deal with disputes and crimes � even murder. When problems cannot be sorted out in the village concerned, they go to Devana Pattinam, which is a sort of Supreme Court in this system. But the dispute resolution process in Devana Pattinam is run by a local mafia, which basically consists of thugs. bq. What has happened now is this: World Vision and the Bollywood film star, Vivek Oberoi, who was on the flight to Chennai with me when I came here from Mumbai, arrived here some days back and announced that they were going to �adopt� the village. Then they went off. And as soon as they did so, the local mafia took over. They beat up a local policeman who was trying to direct relief supplies, and took charge of all supplies themselves. Now, normally it would help a village if all supplies went to a single source and were given out, methodically, from there. But here, things are different. bq. Devana Pattinam is a hotbed of caste problems, with four different castes here that do not interact with each other. The mafia, as you�d expected, is diverting all aid to its own caste, its own people. Even the relief lists that the administration is getting, for purposes of compensation etc, are skewed because the mafia is making these lists. Jayaraman has prepared alternate lists that are comprehensive and intends to hand them over to the district administration, but even they will have a tough time navigating these waters. bq. �Tell me,� I ask Jayaraman, �haven�t the people from different castes come together at a time of crisis like this?� bq. �No,� he says, �the tsunami has, in fact, worsened relations. Earlier they were getting by just doing their own thing, and they could afford to ignore each other. But now they are competing for the same resources. It�s getting worse.� There is always hope that people will break through existing prejudices in times of crisis but I don't know... Wish someone would invent the "Universal Clue-Bat", runs on two D Cells and would administer common sense to anyone, regardless of language or culture... We need this!

DIY Electronics - Radio Receiver

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M. Simon over at Power and Control is building a classical radio receiver - a regenerative. These are hard to tune (you are close to a threshold where crossing over gives you a loud squeal) but the sensitivity and the precision of tuning is excellent for what amounts to a fairly simple circuit. DIY stands for Do-It-Yourself which is unfortunately not that common these days... There is a good description of the project plus lots and lots of links to other circuits and explanations of theory. If you wanted to build a small short-wave receiver from scratch, this would be a very good place to start. I had a nephew visit last summer and he and I built one of these kits from Ramsey Electronics. It is a superheterodyne receiver - the design that followed the regenerative (more complex, softer tuning but easier to operate) and he is having a blast with it, picking up Chinese and Spanish broadcasts.

The Diplomad

A new shining star on the Blog World -- added to the Blogroll to your right. I present: The Diplomad From their own introduction: bq. A Blog by career US Foreign Service officers. They are Republican (most of the time) in an institution (State Department) in which being a Republican can be bad for your career -- even with a Republican President! Join the State Department Republican Underground. FSOs (and others) Send us your suggested posts to diplomad-at-hotmail-dot-com They are close to the Tsunami Relief and have some very trenchant observations regarding the United Nations handing of this humanitarian crisis compared with the US, Australia, Japan, etc... A sample post: bq. almost fUNnny . . . Day 9 of the tsunami crisis. bq. I know I had promised to lay off the UN for a bit . . . but I can't. As one reader commented on a previous Diplomad posting on the UN, "it's like watching a train wreck" -- you know it's horrible, but you've just got to look at it. bq. In this part of the tsunami-wrecked Far Abroad, the UN is still nowhere to be seen where it counts, i.e., feeding and helping victims. The relief effort continues to be a US-Australia effort, with Singapore now in and coordinating closely with the US and Australia. Other countries are also signing up to be part of the US-Australia effort. Nobody wants to be "coordinated" by the UN. The local UN reps are getting desperate. They're calling for yet another meeting this afternoon; they've flown in more UN big shots to lecture us all on "coordination" and the need to work together, i.e., let the UN take credit. With Kofi about to arrive for a big conference, the UNocrats are scrambling to show something, anything as a UN accomplishment. Don't be surprised if they claim that the USS Abraham Lincoln is under UN control and that President Lincoln was a strong supporter of the UN. bq. Maybe watching the UN flounder is not like watching a train wreck; perhaps it's more akin to watching an Ed Wood movie or reading Maureen Dowd or Margo Kingston -- so horrible, so pathetic, that it transforms into a thing of perverse beauty. The only problem, of course, is that real people are dying. bq. UPDATE: More on "The UNcredibles": WFP (World Food Program) has "arrived" in the capital with an "assessment and coordination team." The following is no joke; no Diplomad attempt to be funny or clever: The team has spent the day and will likely spend a few more setting up their "coordination and opcenter" at a local five-star hotel. And their number one concern, even before phones, fax and copy machines? Arranging for the hotel to provide 24hr catering service. USAID folks already are cracking jokes about "The UN Sheraton." Meanwhile, our military and civilians, working with the super Aussies, continue to keep the C-130 air bridge of supplies flowing and the choppers flying, and keep on saving lives -- and without 24hr catering services from any five-star hotel . . . . The contrast grows more stark every minute. Visit this site - it has become one of my daily must-reads...

Urban Dictionary

From Dean Esmay comes this link to the Urban Dictionary It's a WIKI but not very well moderated -- some chaff but a lot of fun digging through... Sample definition: bq. abercrombie CloneWear. How about wearing a beaten up hat, hoodie, khaki shorts, and sandals every day out of the fuckin year? As seen on every frat boy since 1999. That abercrombie kid is like a cartoon character, every day he wears the same shit. Heh...

Iraqi Medical Libraries

From Conservator comes this link regarding two U.S. Military Doctors who are starting a book drive for Iraqi Medical Libraries. From the S.F. Gate bq. Helping to restock the medical libraries of war-scarred Iraq THE DIAGNOSIS: Two U.S. doctors -- one an Army Reserve captain, the other a retired Army colonel -- realize Iraq's medical libraries are badly outdated, and decide to do something about it. bq. THE PRESCRIPTION: A book drive to get updated material into the hands of Iraqi professors and students elicits more than 100,000 items from medical schools, publishing houses and people around the globe. bq. THE PROGNOSIS: "Everyone here -- doctors and students -- feel like they are born again," said Dr. Thamer Al Hilfi, a professor at the University of Tikrit College of Medicine. The project has expanded to include nursing, dental and veterinary books. Very nice! 100,000 books is not a shabby library... And just as a reminder: Who let Iraq's Medical Libraries get outdated?

Cool Bio-Tech toys - Inteins

Derek Lowe at In The Pipeline has an article on something that I have never heard of before but sounds like a very cool new tool for biochemistry: bq. Tadpoles to the Rescue? Speaking of odd ideas that might have applications in drug discovery, there's an interesting one in the latest issue of Nature Methods (2, 31). A group at the Molecular Sciences Institute in Berkeley reports a new way to detect and quantify molecular binding targets. And if you think that this sounds like something we're interested in over here in the drug discovery business, you are correct-o-matic. bq. This idea piggybacks, as you might expect, on the mighty king of detection and quantification in molecular biology, PCR. The ability to hugely amplify small amounts of DNA is unique, the biochemical equivalent of a photomultiplier , and many people have taken advantage of it. In this case, they also make ingenious use of weird beasts called inteins, about which a great deal of background can be found here. Briefly, inteins are sort of DNA parasites. They insert into genes and are read off into an extraneous stretch of protein in the middle of the normal gene product. But then they quickly clip themselves out of the protein - they have their own built-in cut-and-splice mechanism - and leave the originally intended protein behind them, none the worse for wear. Derek goes on to tall about one of the very practical applications of this work: bq. The paper demonstrates this in several different systems, going all the way up to a real-world example with blood serum. What's impressive about the technique is that it seems to work as well as antibody methods like ELISA. Getting a good reliable antibody is no joke, but these folks can make smaller proteins with much worse intrinsic affinity perform just as well. And if you turn around and do the trick starting with an antibody, you can increase the sensitivity of the assay by orders of magnitude. And you get a real quantitative readout, with about +/- 10% accuracy. To give you the most startling example, the authors were able to detect as few as 150 single molecules of labeled bovine serum albumin in a test system. Considering the way that progress works for stuff like this, you will see a portable room-temperature tester for most diseases (Stock and Human -- imagine a quick reliable test for BSE or Avian Flu) as well as for very small amounts of specific chemicals. As Derek said, this piggybacks off PCR. The developer of PCR (Kary B. Mullis) got the Nobel for his work - interesting to see if these people get the prize as well... A wonderful book by Dr. Mullis is Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

Back home again!

After 1,030 miles of driving in two days, we arrived home tonight. Now to check up on several hundred emails (as if I need to lengthen my "stock portfolio"). Not complaining -- I'm running SpamAssasin and it nailed several thousand of the buggers, still gripes me to pay for the bandwidth... Light blogging tonight and the usual mindless stream will resume tomorrow. UPDATE: I'm tired - heading off to bed. Blogging will resume tomorrow.

Michael Crichton interview

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There is a very nice interview in today's Times Online We are packing to head back up to our farm in Washington State so I don't have the time now to excerpt any good bits but it's well worth reading for insight into his writing of State of Fear and Environmental concerns in general... You can see the entire text of the interview by clicking on the "Continue reading..." link below.

Defending against a Tsunami

Interesting editorial in the Wall Street Opinion Journal: bq. A Great Natural Disaster Prosperity is the best defense against a tsunami. bq. The world's thoughts are with the victims of the tsunamis that swept across South Asia Sunday, killing at least 23,000 and leaving millions homeless. In the coming weeks and months, the priority must be to render the survivors every possible assistance. The response so far has been admirably swift. bq. One might think that a disaster of this scale would transcend normal national or political considerations. But in the world of environmental zealotry, even an event such as this is seen as an opportunity to press the agenda. Thus, the source of the South Asian tsunami is being located in global warming. bq. In an interview with the Independent newspaper in Britain, Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree." Speaking to the same newspaper, Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper pressed the argument home: "Here again are yet more events in the real world that are consistent with climate change predictions." It is perhaps appropriate that the strongest, recent refutation to such feverish assertions may be found in Michael Crichton's new thriller--also about environmental extremists, a tsunami and the myths of global warming. Yadda yadda yadda -- but there is more, much much more: bq. People prone to hysteria often become further unhinged in the face of a great disaster, and that may explain these remarkable comments on the tsunami disaster. Still, these comments by the movement's leadership may serve as a case study of how such imaginings work their way into public discussion of the environment. That is all the more reason to come to grips with the real causes of calamities such as this. bq. Geologists say that groups of giant earthquakes hit Sumatra every 230 years or so. The last quakes there were in 1797 and 1833--and surely not even Greenpeace would blame those on greenhouse gases -- and so Sunday's latest quake was more or less on schedule. (Emphasis mine) And now the defence: bq. It is preposterous to blame the inexorable forces of nature on the development of industry and infrastructures of modern society. The more sensible response to natural disasters is to improve forecasting, put in place efficient communications and evacuation procedures and, should the worst arrive, conduct relief efforts and rebuild what nature has destroyed. Those cautionary measures, as is now clear, cost money. The national income necessary to afford them is made possible only by economic growth of the sort too many of environmentalists retard with their policy extremism. Emphasis mine again -- a few more paragraphs bq. Rich countries suffer fewer fatalities from natural disasters because their prosperity has allowed them to create better protective measures. Consider the 41,000 death toll in last December's earthquake in Iran compared with the 63 who died when a slightly stronger earthquake hit San Francisco in 1989. bq. The principal victims of the tidal waves in Sri Lanka and elsewhere Sunday were the poor people living in coastal shanty towns. The wealthier countries around the Pacific Rim have an established early-warning system against tsunamis, while none currently exists in South Asia. Developing countries that have resisted the Kyoto climate-change protocols have done so from fear that it will suppress their economic growth. These countries deserve an answer from the proponents of those standards. How are they supposed to pay for such protection amid measures that are suppressing global economic growth? bq. As we mourn the loss of life and unite to help the survivors rebuild their lives and communities, let's also bear in mind that the best long-term help is an economic environment that allows these nations to put in place better manmade defenses against future depredations from nature. Enviros are trying to stop many nations from continuing their efforts to develop while totally ignoring other nations who are committing great acts of environmental pollution (China and India). It is through global free trade and development that these poorer nations can elevate the the lifestyle of their citizens to a more comfortable one. Sometimes it seems that the left and the environmentalists believe that there is a fixed pool of currency and that the richer nations are hoarding it and in order to achieve social justice, this pool needs to be re-distributed. This is plain outright wrong. Money can be created and destroyed. The poorer nations can create their own wealth if their citizens are given the oppertunity... Let's give them this chance.

January 2021

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