March 2005 Archives

Amazing story

Read this article in Wired:
La Vida Robot
How four underdogs from the mean streets of Phoenix took on the best from M.I.T. in the national underwater bot championship.
I only have a few minutes left on my internet availability here at the library so I'm not going to excerpt the article but it is an amazing story of a couple Latino kids who beat out a bunch of nerds from MIT in an underwater robot building contest run by the US Navy Office of Naval Research and NASA...

Road Blogging

In Woodland, California for a day. I was heading over the mountain passes that define the border between Oregon and California and my clutch started slipping... Managed to limp down through Reading and started going along at a nice sedate 50 MPH while spending more time watching the tachometer than the road. Made it as far as Woodland before it started getting bad enough to call it quits. (Woodland is about 30 miles north of Sacremento) They had a Dodge dealership with a great looking shop and they are working on it now. The repair will take about eight hours though (having four-wheel drive complicates things) so I am here for two nights. Nice town -- I'll be walking around taking some pictures later. Had a great breakfast and found Internet access at the local public library. I spent the first night in Eugene Oregon at a Red Lion Inn and let me tell you, their IT Department's concept of Internet Security is false and sucky. I could log in but anything that caused a child window to open caused the machine to hang. Unfortunatly, the software I use for this blog uses popup child windows a lot so I was unable to do anything. I'll post more when I get on the road again...

Light blogging for a week or so...

I am driving down to California today to pick up a large Apple Crusher and Cider Press that I bought last December.

Driving down with the truck, renting a U-Haul trailer and driving back. I will also be stopping in Eugene, Oregon to check out these people as a possible supplier of Honey for our Mead making.

I will be logging in most evenings when I stop for the day but posting will probably be minimal.

See you in a few days -- check back April 6th -- I will definitely be back by then and back up to full posting. (And will have pictures of the trip.)

See you all later!

A possible replacement for Kofi Annan

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Kofi is out -- his son is corrupt and thinking that Kofi is not stretches the imagination too far for even the most die-hard UN groupie.

This is just from the Oil For Food scandal. We haven't even gotten to the rape and pedophilia scandals, the cafeteria trashing, the horrible deaths of the Bosnians "protected by UN Forces", the unpaid parking tickets, the slaughter in Darfur. The big and the small are dragging this august institution into irrelevancy.

Glen Reynolds writing in The Wall Street Journal suggests Vaclav Havel as a replacement. Portland blogger Michael J. Totten has another suggestion which didn't make sense at first but actually does after thinking about it:

How About Howard Dean?
...Standing up to the Bush Administration earned him plenty of street cred all over the world. UN fetishists and apparatchiks go for that sort of thing. He's also earning some street cred with me because he at least partly understands what's wrong with the so-called "international community."

Dean may have opposed the Iraq war, but he's not a foreign policy limp noodle like Kerry. He just thought that one war in particular was dumb. Say what you will about him, but he doesn't shrink from a fight. He's the kind of man who likes to roll up his sleeves and get scrappy.

Michael then quotes from Dr. Dean:

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq unilaterally when Iraq posed no danger to the United States, but we were right to demand accountability from Saddam. We are also right to demand accountability in Sudan. Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize.

Michael then makes this trenchant comment:

Kofi Annan would never, ever, think or say anything like that. And I seriously doubt his replacement will ever think or say anything like that. Howard Dean might not be ideal, as Vaclav Havel would be. But he'd be such an improvement over Kofi Annan I'd pop a champagne cork if somehow, miraculously, he got the job.

He'd be at least slightly more likely to get Europeans to listen and work with us. He'd also be willing to kick some ass when it needs some kicking. As far as domestic politics go, he might help bridge one gap between American liberals and conservatives. He could make conservatives happy because he'd do a much better job than Kofi Annan. And because he's such a hero to activist liberals, he could help them see that the UN really is broken. They won't listen to Bush, but they will listen to him.

It is not a matter of listening to what people say -- it is also trying to figure out what they would not say. I still think that Vaclav Havel would be the best person for the job but Dean has my interest.

Dummy? Meet Crash Test

This website: Progressive has videos of actual Crash Tests on various kinds of family cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, luxury cars, etc. by year. Do not try this at home...
Twelve-page PDF file which outlines in great clarity the environmental cost of burning Coal. In 2001, Coal provided over half of the electricity in the USA. From the introduction page on their website:
The electric power industry is the largest toxic polluter in the country, and coal, which is used to generate over half of the electricity produced in the U.S., is the dirtiest of all fuels. From mining to coal cleaning, from transportation to electricity generation to disposal, coal releases numerous toxic pollutants into our air, our waters and onto our lands. Nationally, the cumulative impact of all of these effects is magnified by the enormous quantities of coal burned each year � nearly 900 million tons. Promoting more coal use without also providing additional environmental safeguards will only increase this toxic abuse of our health and ecosystems.

The trace elements contained in coal (and others formed during combustion) are a large group of diverse pollutants with a number of health and environmental effects. They are a public health concern because at sufficient exposure levels they adversely affect human health. Some are known to cause cancer, others impair reproduction and the normal development of children, and still others damage the nervous and immune systems. Many are also respiratory irritants that can worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma. They are an environmental concern because they damage ecosystems. Power plants also emit large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), the �greenhouse gas� largely responsible for climate change.

The health and environmental effects caused by power plant emissions may vary over time and space, from short-term episodes of coal dust blown from a passing train to the long-term global dispersion of mercury, to climate change. Because of different factors like geology, demographics and climate, impacts will also vary from place to place. For example, effects from coal mining may be the biggest concern in the coal-field regions of the country, while inhalation exposure may be the foremost risk in an urban setting and, in less populated rural America, visibility impairment and haze may be of special concern.
Makes Nuclear look pretty benign. They have a lot of other reports here: Clean Air Task Force


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Willie Nelson has gotten into BioDiesel in a big way -- he formed his own Oil Company. I present the BioWillie Corporate Website. Cool stuff!

The Source of Oil

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There is a quiet but interesting debate running about how Oil is produced. There is the general acceptance that Oil (and Coal) came from fossilization of organic matter but there is also evidence that Oil production does not require fossilization to happen. This website has a good debate on the issue plus lots of links... From the website introduction:
The abiotic oil debate and "peak oil"
The following is a collection of excerpts and links concerning a recent and ongoing important debate over the contending theories of oil origins (fossil vs. abiotic) between Mike Ruppert of From the Wilderness and Dave McGowan, as well as related topics pertaining to the scientific foundation of "peak oil" predictions. I do not wish to offer any final judgements, and I'm not qualified to do so, but I do think that McGowan and others have raised a great deal of documentation and argument which deserve close attention. Everything on this page is presented for informational purposes, intended as a review of the debate thus far.
Some of the links presented are very biased but it's an interesting read -- pick and tease out the nuggets and leave the obvious tin-foil-hat stuff alone...

Cool robot sensor technology

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Not new but a new use for an old tech: Thereminvision It was developed by the crew of Team Titanium and utilizes the field sensing technologies of Leon Theremin's 1918 Electronic Musical Instrument the Thereminovox commonly shortened to the Theremin. They are still very much in use these days -- I have one made by Bob Moog -- a lot of fun to play. Anyway, this sensing technology uses four tiny Theremins on a platform to sense the location and distance of near objects. Very cool idea and it has been released to the public domain.

In horrible taste but...

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...sometimes humor is the only release in tragic situations like this. Someone pointed me to Terri Schiavo's Blog
Breaking news from Roger L. Simon who has the goods on parts of the Volcker report to be released (preliminary report) this Tuesday noon:
This blog has new information from sources close to the investigation of the United Nations Oil-for-Food Scandal by Paul Volcker's Independent Inquiry Committee. After some delay, the committee is releasing its preliminary results at noon Tuesday. This report may reveal, among other things, startling information tending to indicate Secretary General Kofi Annan had more knowledge of, or was closer to, his son Kojo's activities with Cotecna - the company whose role in the scandal seems so pervasive - than previously thought.

The committee has been interviewing Pierre Mouselli, a businessman in Paris who was Kojo's business partner. Their relationship started in 1998 when then 45-year old Mouselli met young Kojo (then 23) at a Bastille Day Party in the French Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria. Mouselli, who has been a cooperative witness and is not under investigation himself, has told the committee numerous interesting things, which deserved to be followed up, They include:

1. Previously unrevealed private meetings between Kojo and two separate Iraqi Ambassadors to Nigeria, arranged by Mouselli in or about August 1998. At these meetings Kojo presented the business card of Cotecna, which subsequently won the lucrative oil inspection contract for Oil-for-Food. Cotecna had previously been blacklisted from doing business in Nigeria for alleged arms trafficking.

2. A trip in September 1998 by Mouselli and Kojo to the Non-Aligned Nations Movement Conference in Durban, South Africa during which they traveled with the Secretary General's entourage and later had a private lunch with Kofi Annan. In Mouselli's view, the purpose of the lunch was to make the Secretary General aware of the various business dealings in which he and Kojo were engaged, in order to get the Secretary General's "blessing". It was Mouselli's understanding at the time that Kojo had previously discussed the Iraqi Embassy visits with his father, though he does not recall specific statements regarding the UN inspection contracts.

3. Early Autumn 2002. The Iraqi Ambassador to Nigeria makes a surprise call to Mouselli inquiring of the whereabouts of Kojo (at this point Mouselli and Kojo were not in close contact). Mouselli goes to the Iraqi Embassy where he is informed by the Ambassador that we (the Iraqis) have done favors for Kojo in the past and now need to see him. The Iraqis do not specify what these favors were or what they needed from Kojo, but offer Mouselli a visa to come to Baghdad for further discussion. Mouselli picks up the visa in Paris but does not go to Iraq because of the increasingly violent situation.

Mouselli appears to be reliable. I have spoken to him briefly on the phone in Paris and at some length with his attorney Adrian Gonzalez-Maltes. (Interestingly, witnesses and their lawyers seem not to be under confidentiality agreements in this investigation, possibly because there is no governing body to enforce them.)

Mouselli's testimony contains considerably more interesting material, which I will detail in subsequent reports or in tandem with Claudia Rosett with whom I have been in contact on this story. The issues his testimony raises are obviously troubling and I look forward to reading the committee report on Tuesday, which will probably flesh them out from other directions.
Roger's entry is fairly short so I am reproducing it in full. Now we know why Kofi has been looking so haggard these days and that there is a buzz about his replacement. Paging Mr. Annan -- your credibility has left the building.


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Guy doesn't want to wear contact lenses, needs some form of vision correction, opts to go for glasses but decides on a different style of frame. Mike King at Ramblings' Journal has the story and some photos that make you wince.

Texas man has piercing to permanently place glasses on face
James Sooy was tired of "wrestling with glasses" and decided to have a piercing placed on the upper part of his nose which attached to glasses, so that they were permanently affixed to his face.

I'm waiting for the first day when he catches them on a tee-shirt or something. That would have to hurt...

Mr. Tom DeLay

A hypocritical piece of work there... The latest example comes from two sources and deals with the Terri Schiavo case: From the LA Times:
DeLay's Own Tragic Crossroads
A family tragedy that unfolded in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal � without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the debate raging outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice.
And the story:
More than 16 years ago, far from the political passions that have defined the Schiavo controversy, the DeLay family endured its own wrenching end-of-life crisis. The man in a coma, kept alive by intravenous lines and oxygen equipment, was DeLay's father, Charles Ray DeLay.

Then, freshly reelected to a third term in the House, the 41-year-old DeLay waited, all but helpless, for the verdict of doctors.

Today, as House Majority Leader, DeLay has teamed with his Senate counterpart, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to champion political intervention in the Schiavo case. They pushed emergency legislation through Congress to shift the legal case from Florida state courts to the federal judiciary.

And DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.

In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.

"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew � we all knew � his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."
Emphasis mine -- this is an issue of the Federal Government trying to do away with States Rights and this stinks to high heaven! Our Founding Fathers worked long and hard to develop documents that would protect each state's rights while simultaneously providing for a minimal Federal government to regulate Military, Standards (highway, rail, electrical power). The structure of the United States of America is a Federated Republic of States, not a centralized bureaucracy. The second link comes from The Misanthropyst:
When even the Wall Street Journal points out that Republican Tom DeLay, the two-legged roach, is an example of all that is wrong with American politics, you gotta figure his shelf life is limited:

"...The problem, rather, is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits. Mr. DeLay's ties to Mr. Abramoff might be innocent, in a strictly legal sense, but it strains credulity to believe that Mr. DeLay found nothing strange with being included in Mr. Abramoff's lavish junkets.

Nor does it seem very plausible that Mr. DeLay never considered the possibility that the mega-lucrative careers his former staffers Michael Scanlon and Mr. Buckham achieved after leaving his office had something to do with their perceived proximity to him. These people became rich as influence-peddlers in a government in which legislators like Mr. DeLay could make or break fortunes by tinkering with obscure rules and dispensing scads of money to this or that constituency. Rather than buck this system as he promised to do while in the minority, Mr. DeLay has become its undisputed and unapologetic master as Majority Leader.

Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out..."

...just typical Texas politics writ large -- you bribe my back, I send tax dollars your way...

Sometimes fallout is a good thing

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Blogger Straight Up with Sherri has been following the Terri Schiavo case closely an reports on an interesting and good fallout from this fiasco:
Agency Probes Group Homes' Deaths
The case of Terri Schiavo may be the wake-up call we have all needed:

Agency probes group homes' deaths
The deaths of four disabled Floridians are being investigated in light of cost-cutting changes in state nursing care.

A federally funded watchdog group is investigating the recent deaths of four disabled Floridians amid an aggressive campaign by the state to cut millions of dollars from programs that provide medical care for disabled people in community settings.
The case seems to focus on a few homes and a money-saving change made by the state:
No clients had ever died at either the Rockwood or Overland group homes before this fall, said Middell. The homes have been open since 2000.

''It takes a special kind of nurse to care for these people,'' Reed said.

Should the state have attempted to save money by changing nursing practices? ''Not if you want to keep people alive,'' said Reed.
It will depend on how much the state is interested in maintaining quality of life for indigent people, people whose family are not willing or able to take care of them. I bet one thing -- the state will pay more than twice the money it "saved" on damage controll...
Great article in the New York City City Journal:
Why the U.S. Needs More Nuclear Power
Your typical city dweller doesn�t know just how much coal and uranium he burns each year. On Lake Shore Drive in Chicago�where the numbers are fairly representative of urban America as a whole�the answer is (roughly): four tons and a few ounces. In round numbers, tons of coal generate about half of the typical city�s electric power; ounces of uranium, about 17 percent; natural gas and hydro take care of the rest. New York is a bit different: an apartment dweller on the Upper West Side substitutes two tons of oil (or the equivalent in natural gas) for Chicago�s four tons of coal. The oil-tons get burned at plants like the huge oil/gas unit in Astoria, Queens. The uranium ounces get split at Indian Point in Westchester, 35 miles north of the city, as well as at the Ginna, Fitzpatrick, and Nine Mile Point units upstate, and at additional plants in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.
The authors (Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills) then go on to notice something very curious about Nuclear Energy:
That�s the stunning thing about nuclear power: tiny quantities of raw material can do so much. A bundle of enriched-uranium fuel-rods that could fit into a two-bedroom apartment in Hell�s Kitchen would power the city for a year: furnaces, espresso machines, subways, streetlights, stock tickers, Times Square, everything�even our cars and taxis, if we could conveniently plug them into the grid. True, you don�t want to stack fuel rods in midtown Manhattan; you don�t in fact want to stack them casually on top of one another anywhere. But in suitable reactors, situated, say, 50 miles from the city on a few hundred acres of suitably fortified and well-guarded real estate, two rooms� worth of fuel could electrify it all.
And don't forget that the waste, although it needs care for a long time, is equally small. The waste from powering one large city would fill 1,500 Cu. Ft. or so -- maybe as high as 3,000 but still, a lot less than the square miles of slag and fly-ash dumps that surround coal plants and pollute the groundwater. The article also goes into the economic factors:
Once you�ve got the wheels themselves running on electricity, the basic economics strongly favor getting that electricity from the grid if you can. Burning $2-a-gallon gasoline, the power generated by current hybrid-car engines costs about 35 cents per kilowatt-hour. Many utilities, though, sell off-peak power for much less: 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. The nationwide residential price is still only 8.5 cents or so. (Peak rates in Manhattan are higher because of the city�s heavy dependence on oil and gas, but not enough to change the basic arithmetic.) Grid kilowatts are cheaper because cheaper fuels generate them and because utility power plants run a lot more efficiently than car engines.
DUUUHHHH??? And did I forget to mention that Nuke Plants emit no CO2?
There is a nice interview in New Scientist magazine with three Electronic Music pioneers. Bob Moog developed the first synthesizer using control voltages which used the standard of one volt per octave. This allowed all sorts of modules to 'talk' to each other and moved the synthesizer from the studio and onto the performance stage. Peter Vogel co-founded Fairlight Instruments. This was the first commercially available keyboard that could 'sample' a sound and play it back over a large range of notes. Fairlight (and to some extent Synclavier) was the workstation of choice for a long long time. Dave Stuart was the force behind creating MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface - the way keyboards and synthesizers 'talk' to each other now -- MIDI has been accepted by all manufacturers and is the de-facto standard). Stuart also founded Sequential Circuits which built the first commercially mass-produced polyphonic synthesizers with programmability. This was a major help in making them accessible to the average musician. The interview only really skims the surface but if you like what you see, a little time spent with Google will turn up lots and lots more pages of fun reading. A fascinating era that produced many still-valuable machines...

Back in town

Wayne Hancock was amazing -- a real performer. Started a bit late (they had an opening act play until just before ten) but Hancock played without a break until closing time! We faded out a bit after midnight but he was still going strong.

He tours a lot and is well worth catching if he is in your area.

No posting today

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We are heading down to Seattle to go through some of my Mom and Dad's stuff (they are moving) and to see Wayne "The Train" Hancock with some friends. Staying over night and heading back tomorrow morning. Posting will resume then. Check out the fine links on our Blogroll to the right!

My Beloved Wife

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Jen hikes a lot more than I do.

A hiking partner (marylou) took this wonderful photograph of her last year and posted it to the NorthWest Hikers forum tonight under the topic heading of How to look extra dorky when hiking...

Picture a blue striped floppy hat - the kind cruise ship tourists wear - paired up with big sunglasses, a ratty stained shirt, and convertible pants that are looking decidedly past their prime.
That was me last year.
Sometimes Jen likes to wear the hat with some kind of lingerie coat thing and a prosthetic leg.
Drives the boys nuts.
Posted By: marylou

Drives this boy nuts anyway and I am happy to leave it right there.

Besides, the prosthetic leg converts into a really cool helicopter and a submarine boat -- what's not to love!!!

The Bee Lab

Finally, a State Ag University is starting to devote some major effort to Bees and issues with their health. Something that most people do not know is that the majority of our food results from pollination and that pollination comes from Bees -- without Bees, no food. Tree-fruit and berries directly and grains from the seed production.

Here is the University of Minnesota Bee Lab

From their Research Projects Page

Our research projects include both tests of basic biological principles and the development of practical applications for beekeeping. Our primary focus is on honey bees, ranging from the neuroethology of honey bee behavior to breeding bees for resistance to diseases and parasitic mites. We also have ongoing bumblebee projects that range from studying patterns of conflict and cooperation within these social bee colonies to demonstrating how to rear bumblebees for pollination of native crops and wildflowers. We work as a team to provide the richest learning environment for students at all levels and from all backgrounds.

Lots of good stuff there - info, videos, links...

NASSA - The Untold Story

This is great! A film telling the story of the other NASSA -- the Negro American Society of Space Astronauts. The web site is here and there are options to download your preferred file format. Here is a frame-grab of their successful landing on the moon three years earlier than NASA's "One Small Step". Their craft is a modified Cadillac Coupe deVille with surplus NASA rocket engine.
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Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link to this story at the Seattle Times:
Japanese WW II sub found off Oahu
The wreckage of a large World War II-era Japanese submarine has been found by researchers in waters off Hawaii.

A research team from the University of Hawaii discovered the I-401 submarine Thursday during test dives off Oahu.

"We thought it was rocks at first, it was so huge," said Terry Kerby, pilot of the research craft that found the vessel. "It's a leviathan down there, a monster."

The submarine is from the I-400 Sensuikan Toku class of subs, the largest built before the nuclear-ballistic-missile submarines of the 1960s.
And the mission for this particular sub:
The submarines were designed to carry three "fold-up" bombers that could quickly be assembled.
Their mission, which was never completed, reportedly was to use the aircraft to drop rats and insects infected with bubonic plague, cholera, typhus and other diseases on U.S. cities.
The University of Hawai'i Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory was the group that made the discovery in 870 meters of water. This web page has photos of the sub. Amazing stuff...

Victor Davis Hanson

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He is an excellent writer and essayist -- his columns are well worth reading. This one dealing with Ward Churchill is a good example:
The Seven Faces of �Dr.� Churchill
Does Ward Churchill even exist?

Dr., Native American, original artist, serious scholar, combat veteran, highly recruited and sought-after academic, ex-Weatherman mentor: How many � if any � of these seven faces of our real-life Dr. Lao are true?

Professors outside the arts at major research universities are supposed to have Ph.D.s. The phantom Ward Churchill does not. How he was hired, promoted, and tenured without a doctorate is a mystery � the equivalent of a high-school teacher credentialed with an AA degree, or a medical doctor operating without an M.D.

Ward Churchill proclaimed that he is a Native American of various tribal affiliations; he is not. Even his ridiculous costumes, occasional threats, and puerile rants cannot disguise that fact.

He seems to be a pop artist of sorts, but his canvasses are not quite his own either. Those of like political mind have praised his scholarship, but much of what he writes seems derivative, or misrepresents or outright plagiarizes others.

Churchill has spoken of the firsthand trauma of battle service as a combat veteran, both as a paratrooper and as a sniper � among the most hazardous of corps in the United States military. Once again, there is no such evidence that he served in any capacity other than what his official duties in a motor pool and as a projectionist entailed.
No pulling punches there -- everything is documentable and true if you dig around. Dr. Hanson then offers four rules on how to be just like Ward:
Rule 1: Profess to be as far left as possible, understanding that extremism in the service of utopian virtue is no vice.

Rule 2: Among the nerds and dorks, act a little like a Brando, Che, or James Dean, a wild spirit that gives off a spark of danger, who can at a distance titillate Walter Mitty-like admirers and closer up scare off the more sober censors.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, reinvent yourself as anything but a white, straight American male.

Rule 4. Don�t worry about the anti-capitalist�s embarrassing six-figure salary, plush job, lifelong guaranteed employment, and fondness for jet travel and hotels. Just keep acting like an ageless denizen of the Woodstock nation, professing to be a timeless dagger pointed at the heart of money-grubbing square America.
Dang -- so that's how you do it...

Automobile Engine Additives

Interesting article -- it's old (1992) but some good information.
Is That Additive Really A Negative?
Information for this article was compiled from reports and studies by the University of Nevada Desert Research Center, DuPont Chemical Company, Avco Lycoming (aircraft engine manufacturers), North Dakota State University, Briggs and Stratton (engine manufacturers), the University of Utah Engineering Experiment Station, California State Polytechnic College and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Lewis Research Center.
So they have credibility. Here is some more:
In the end, we divided our additives into four basic groups and purchased at least three brands from three different manufacturers for each group. We defined our four groups this way:

  1. Products that seemed to be nothing more than regular 50-rated engine oil (including standard additives) with PTFE (Teflon TM) added.
  2. Products that seemed to be nothing more than regular 50-rated engine oil (including standard additives) with zinc dialkyldithiophosphate added.
  3. Products containing (as near as we could determine) much the same additives as are already found in most major brands of engine oil, though in different quantities and combinations.
  4. Products made up primarily of solvents and/or detergents. There may be some differences in chemical makeup within groups, but that is impossible to tell since the additive manufacturers refuse to list the specific ingredients of their products.

We will discuss each group individually.
The one that caught my eye was the first -- the use of PTFE or Teflon in products such as Slick-50. Slick-50 is heavily marketed and I was always curious if there was any benefit but could never find qualified research for either viewpoint. This article sums it up very nicely:
The problem with putting PTFE in your oil, as explained to us by several industry experts, is that PTFE is a solid. The additive makers claim this solid "coats" the moving parts in an engine (though that is far from being scientifically proven). Slick 50 is currently both the most aggressive advertiser and the most popular seller, with claims of over 14 million treatments sold. However, such solids seem even more inclined to coat non-moving parts, like oil passages and filters. After all, if it can build up under the pressures and friction exerted on a cylinder wall, then it stands to reason it should build up even better in places with low pressures and virtually no friction.

This conclusion seems to be borne out by tests on oil additives containing PTFE conducted by the NASA Lewis Research Center, which said in their report, "In the types of bearing surface contact we have looked at, we have seen no benefit. In some cases we have seen detrimental effect. The solids in the oil tend to accumulate at inlets and act as a dam, which simply blocks the oil from entering. Instead of helping, it is actually depriving parts of lubricant."

Remember, PTFE in oil additives is a suspended solid. Now think about why you have an oil filter on your engine. To remove suspended solids, right? Right. Therefore it would seem to follow that if your oil filter is doing its job, it will collect as much of the PTFE as possible, as quickly as possible. This can result in a clogged oil filter and decreased oil pres sure throughout your engine.
The whole article is a bit on the long side but very much worth reading if you are interested in Engine Additives.
And I don't even play the guitar. Metalcarver: Fine Handmade Aluminum Guitars From their website:
Welcome to Metalcarver Aluminum Guitars
I use manually controlled machine tools to carve these guitars out of solid billet aluminum, hollow them out, and use ornamental engine turning to decorate the tops. They are built one at a time and hand polished to a luster and shine unique to this metal. The patterns dance and shimmer with changing light in a way that I simply cannot show with still photography.

The best part of these guitars is the sound. Regardless of the pickup configuration the tone is rich and full, with a very wide tonal palette. I wire the humbucker models with a coil tap so that you have the choice of traditional humbucker sound or that of a very wide single coil. The result is a very good balance between the pickups and really wide choice of tones. The single coil pickups end up being quiet and clear with what amounts to be the ultimate in shielding. Just because it's made of metal does not mean that it sounds like a resonator style guitar. It's more of a hollow body sound with much more sustain.
Click for full-size Image

The 2003 report on Terri Schiavo

Is available here (38 page PDF File) -- looks very thorough and comprehensive. Here are the first couple paragraphs:

Pursuant to the requirements of H.B. 35-E (Chapter 2003-418, Laws of Florida) and the Order of the Hon. David Demers, Chief Judge, Florida 6th Judicial Circuit regarding the appointment and duties of a Guardian Ad Litem in the matter of Theresa Marie Schiavo, Incapacitated.

Respectfully Submitted - Jay Wolfson, DrPH, JD, Guardian Ad Litem for Theresa Marie Schiavo - 1 December 2003

Sometimes good law is not enough, good medicine is not enough, and all too often, good intentions do not suffice. Sometimes, the answer is in the process, not the presumed outcome. We must be left with hope that the right thing will be done well. We are, each of us, standing in Theresa Marie Schiavo�s shoes. Each of us is profoundly affected by the decisions that have and will be made in this case. Advocates of privacy rights and death with dignity, and advocates of right to life and rights of the disabled provide the compelling definitional parameters of this matter.

On 31 October 2003, pursuant to the requirements of Florida H.B. 35-E (Chapter 2003-418, Laws of Florida) and the order of the Hon. David Demers, Chief Judge, Florida 6th Judicial Circuit, a Guardian Ad Litem was appointed for a period of thirty days with the following charge:

"make a report and recommendations to the Governor as to whether the Governor should lift the stay that he previously entered. The report will specifically address the feasibility and value of swallow tests for this ward and the feasibility and value of swallow therapy. Additionally, the report will include a thorough summary of everything that has taken place in the trial court and the appellate court concerning this case."

The legislature instructed the court to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to report to the court and the Governor. Florida law regarding the duties and powers of the Guardian Ad Litem In Re: Theresa Marie Schiavo, Incapacitated

Report to Gov. Jeb Bush and the 6th Florida Judicial Circuit 1 December 2003 Jay Wolfson, as Guardian Ad Litem to Theresa Marie Schiavo Page 1 of 38 afford considerable scope and flexibility. The specific court ordered charge is narrowly constructed, particularly with respect to the questions to be addressed. The recommendations proffered herein are intended for both the Governor and the court, on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo.

The Guardian Ad Litem's efforts have been to deduce and represent the best wishes and best interests of Theresa Schiavo. In that no express, written advance directive existed, determining what Theresa's wishes might be require a combination of substituted judgment, reasonable person considerations, and an aggressive, objective assessment of the massive legal and clinical record that has been compiled over thirteen years. The entire court file of thirteen years, including items of evidence, has been reviewed and studied, with particular attention given to decision points in the case history that are reflected in motions to and orders by the Court. The case review has included clinical and medical records, discussions with members of the family, caregivers, and with medical, legal, bioethical and religious practitioners and scholars and the conduct of independent research into the substantive issues in this case. The GAL has met regularly with Ms. Schiavo, his ward.

Below, the questions posed to the GAL are addressed with recommendations, followed by an introduction to the case, a summary of the case, a summary of legal and medical issues in this case, and an expanded analysis of the recommendations at the conclusion of the report.

There is zero doubt that Michael Schiavo is a stinking turd but there is dirty politics on both sides of this issue. Her parents are in the major Want To Believe stage and are pulling out the stops.

Still, the Exit Protocol as found by Straight Up With Sherri is brutal:

The nurse who discovered the Exit Protocol, Cheryl Ford, R.N., a Tampa nurse, was reviewing Terri's medical file at the request of the Schindler family when she found the document. For the benefit of our readers, Ford agreed to explain this document in detail. [Editor's note: The protocol, in bold print, is followed by Ford's comments.]

I will quote only one excerpt: Ford:

Multifocal myoclonus or terminal agitation [sometimes caused by electrolyte imbalance]. Consider diazepam rectal administration 5-10 mg. May repeat in 4 hours if not resolved then daily - twice daily as needed.


Multifocal myoclonus means seizures taking place in various parts of the body. "Because of the electrolyte imbalance, Terri will begin to have seizures," Ford said. "She'll start to twitch. You don't see this in an oncology patient because they're already dehydrated. Even the elderly, who are going into the natural process of death, their bodies are doing what God created them to do - slow down." "Our job as health-care professionals at this point is to understand the death process and to oblige the process God has given these people to help them in comfort measures - palliative care - not to enhance death. But Terri's not terminal," Ford said. "What they're doing here is starving a healthy person to death. This is the only reason why she'll go into multifocal myoclonus."

If you read the links, basically, the only thing they are doing is anal suppositories inserted four times each day. Jesus Christ -- give her a morphine drip for the love of God.

She may not be "there", she may not be able to move or talk but there is the offhand chance that she is able to feel. Why are these people begrudging a couple bucks worth of Morphine to ease her way out.

This murder and death will have repercussions for a long long time.

Back40 at CrumbTrail found an interesting article linking once again, the ban on the use of DDT with the Malaria epidemic (killing over one million people per year) and its economic implications:
Negligent Homicide
Reynolds points to an Oxblog post and one of his very old posts that wrestle with the DDT and malaria question.

RACHEL CARSON -- MASS MURDERER? That's the thesis of this oped by Sheldon Richman. Richman argues that the near-elimination of DDT, largely as the result of Carson's book, has killed millions. Representative quote: "Deaths from malaria in the developing world had been falling precipitously - until the anti-DDT campaign got under way. Then infections and deaths skyrocketed. The number of cases in Sri Lanka has tracked the use and nonuse of DDT in that country: 2.8 million in 1948; 17 - yes, 17 - in 1963; 500,000 in 1969. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst hit: A child dies from the disease there every 40 seconds. The United Nations Environment Program says that each year 400 million people are at risk and that "about 1.5 to 2.7 million people, mainly children, die each year from malaria."

ON THE ONE HAND, in my area it's now routine to see bald eagles, blue herons, and other birds that only a few years ago were thought nearly extinct. Their comeback is because of the elimination of DDT spraying. On the other hand, millions of people a year are dying from a disease that we know how to control, if not entirely eradicate.

That was Reynolds. Adesnik examines the swampy ground of international pressure, not least by funding organizations and trade partners in Europe, that prevents the prophylactic use of DDT though it has in the past and could once again relieve human misery.

It seems to me that the combination of malaria and AIDS contributes greatly to the poverty of African and other developing nations. Much environmental damage results from poverty so it isn't clear that resistance to DDT is even smart environmentalism.
Unfortunately, although Nando Times retains a web presence, it shut down in 2003 and does not maintain any archive of the articles. I have written about DDT before here, here, here, and here. A classical example of right heart, wrong brain. UPDATE: Heh -- The Wayback Machine comes through again...

Enter the Dragon

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Cajun at Mostly Cajun is an industrial electrician and will write from time to time about close calls and other interesting events in his career. Today, he posts an entry from one of his readers who "Saw the Dragon" I'm excerpting a bit in this quote:
Actually saw the dragon in Phoenix Az. a few moons back.
Working for a large Electrical contractor with several large projects going on simultaneously. They were all behind schedule and in penalty phase.

The company strongly urged all employees to work on a high rise Sheraton on an overtime Saturday.

It appears we were LOW bidder.
They describe the working conditions and talk about bondwire (BUSS Inter-ties - about as thick as a thumb)
...seemed almost threaded between the busses like a new garden hose unpacked by someone other than an electrician�a nice coiled spring 2-3 feet off the bottom of several sections.
And Enter the Dragon:
I place myself 2 feet from the bars about to install the huge breaker as a co-worker probably 40-50 feet away moved the bond wire a couple feet away from himself to gain temporary access to a tool on the floor.

Another electrician 100 feet away from both of us watched in horror as the cable shook back and forth until it got to me laying against 2 phases-a 480-volt blue meltdown.

My face and hands were complete 2nd degree mess. Someone slapped my t-shirt to extinguish some flames. One guy had the presence of mind to put my hands in ice water [ My dermatologist that treated me daily for 6 weeks indicated that that quick move to the ice made my injury a skin only-until you cool down you keep burning internally-we didn�t worry about my face as my predicament proved their was nothing inside to be damaged by heat]
When you get currents that large, the induced magnetic field is enough to move objects close to it. If the object happens to be another coil of wire with an equal and opposite field, they move quickly. You can see this with a simple stick welder running at 50 Amps -- imagine what it must be like running 1,000 Amps. You have all turned on a garden hose and had the nozzle squirt around -- nominal water pressure is about 30 PSI -- Imagine the same setup with 20 times the pressure. And this current kills.

How to dismantle an Atomic Bomb iTrips

Hat tip to BoingBoing on this one: how-to-dismantle-itipincinerator.jpgA blogger had her dead iTrip replaced by the manufacturer, who asked for photographic proof that she'd destroyed the old one. So she built an iTrip incinerator out of model-rocket engines and then lovingly photographed and described her build, up to and including the moment of iTrip immolation. Unfortunately, the Blog in question has a bandwidth limit on their service and the link from BoingBoing blew it out of the water. Maybe try again in a few days...

Fascinating T. Rex news

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Not the band -- they are dead, I'm talking about the original. From Yahoo/Reuters

Scientists Find Soft Tissue in T-Rex Bone
A 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil dug out of a hunk of sandstone has yielded soft tissue, including blood vessels and perhaps even whole cells, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

Paleontologists forced to break the creature's massive thighbone to get it on a helicopter found not a solid piece of fossilized bone, but instead something looking a bit less like a rock.

When they got it into a lab and chemically removed the hard minerals, they found what looked like blood vessels, bone cells and perhaps even blood cells.

"They are transparent, they are flexible," said Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University and Montana State University, who conducted the study.

She said the vessels were flexible and in some cases their contents could be squeezed out.

How cool is that. Jurassic Park here we come! (Yes yes yes, T.Rex lived during the Cretaceous Period and not the Jurassic.)

UPDATE: MS/NBC has more plus photos of the tissue: The text covers about the same story as the Yahoo/Reuters story above except for this:

Of course, the big question is whether it will be possible to see dinosaur DNA. "We don't know yet. We are doing a lot in the lab now that looks promising," Schweitzer said.

To make sure she was seeing what she thought she was seeing, Schweitzer, a biologist by training, compared the Tyrannosaur samples with bone taken from a dead ostrich. She chose an ostrich because birds are thought to be the closest living relatives of dinosaurs and ostriches are big birds.

Both the dinosaur and ostrich blood vessels contained small, reddish brown dots that could be the nuclei of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels.

And yes - photos:


Click for full-size Image

Tissue fragments from a Tyrannosaurus rex femur are shown at left, when it is flexible and resilient and when stretched (arrow) returns to its original shape. The middle photo shows the bone after it is air dried. The photo at right shows regions of bone showing fibrous character, not normally seen in fossil bone.
From the Nobel Prize website:
The Nominators � Physiology or Medicine
Right to submit proposals for the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, based on the principle of competence and universality, shall by statute be enjoyed by:

  1. Members of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm;
  2. Swedish and foreign members of the medical class of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences;
  3. Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine;
  4. Members of the Nobel Committee not qualified under paragraph 1 above;
  5. Holders of established posts as professors at the faculties of medicine in Sweden and holders of similar posts at the faculties of medicine or similar institutions in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway;
  6. Holders of similar posts at no fewer than six other faculties of medicine selected by the Assembly, with a view to ensuring the appropriate distribution of the task among various countries and their seats of learning; and
  7. Practitioners of natural sciences whom the Assembly may otherwise see fit to approach.

Decisions concerning the selection of the persons appointed under paragraphs 6 and 7 above are taken before the end of May each year on the recommendation of the Nobel Committee.

Prize-Awarder: The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm
These people number about 3,000. From another link at the Nobel Prize Website
The process of selecting a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine starts in September, about a year before the prize announcement. At this time, the prize-awarder in Stockholm (The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet) sends out invitations to about 3,000 people who are allowed to propose winners. These are mainly members of the Nobel Assembly, previous prize winners, and a selection of professors at universities around the world.

The nominations reach the Nobel Assembly between September and February. Many suggest the same person, and therefore the total number of recommended candidates is usually about 200 to 300.
Once again -- these 3,000 people suggest 200 to 300 people to the Swedish nomination committee, the nominees are selected by the Nomination Committee and their results are voted on by the Prize Committee. Sure, someone who was among the 3,000 could make an off-hand remark to someone that: "Hey, I submitted your name to the Nobel Selection Committee!" but this does not make that person a Nobel Prize Nominee. This is done by the Nomination Committee which is part of the Prize Process and is kept confidential for 50 years. I will say again:

If someone says that they are a Nobel Prize Nominee,
they are one of three things

  1. A Complete Liar
  2. Were told by one of the 3,000 Selectors and misinformed as to their nomination status (Selected not Nominated)
  3. A Nobel Prize Winner (by default, all Winners must be Nominees)
Finally, a point of ethics -- Jen and I were talking about this and we both feel the same way. Nobel Prizes are used to award people who have done something. Watson and Crick discovered the magic of DNA and then were awarded the prize. Surfer dude and biochemist Kary B. Mullis developed Polymerase Chain Reaction and was awarded a Nobel Prize for his efforts. (His book is a great fun read: Dancing Naked in the Mind Field) Most people claiming to be Prize Nominees are using this to build their careers, not to enjoy the warm glow after a successful one. To me and Jen, this speaks volumes...

Terri Schiavo - some interesting facts

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One of the key players in the fight for Terri's life is a Physician who claims a Nobel Prize Nomination. From Hyscience quoting another source:
"Despite the contention of Terri Schiavo's estranged husband Michael and courts that have allowed him to starve her to death, a doctor nominated for the Nobel Prize says he believes medical therapies are still available that could help Terri party recover from her disabled state."
From Wesley J. Smith writing in National Review Online
Dr. William Hammesfahr, a world-renowned expert in cases such as Terri's � and a Nobel Prize nominee � testified that Terri is not in a PVS. He also testified that he believes he could help her improve her circumstances through proper medical treatment.
Just so there is zero question, this is from Dr. Hammesfahr's personal website:
Dr. Hammesfahr was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his work in Medicine and Physiology in 1999.
Let's check some facts here: Let's go to the Swedish Nobel Prize Committee website. Their database of nominees for Physiology and Medicine.
The Nomination Database for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1901-1949
The Nomination Database Manual Introduction

The present registry comprises all candidates nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine since this prize was instituted in 1901, with one important limitation, i.e. only material older than 50 years is included, as stipulated by the statutes of the Nobel Foundation. Currently, data until 1949 is included.

The database contains information recorded in the registry. If further information is desired, e.g. original documents and evaluations, a written application may be submitted to the Nobel Assembly, Karolinska Institutet, SE-17177 Stockholm, Sweden. The application must include a description and reason for the intended study.
Emphases all mine. If someone says they are a Nobel Prize Nominee, they are lying or misinformed. ALL Nominations are kept confidential by the Committee for 50 years period. There is no other way someone could find out their status.

Busy day

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Spent today moving one of the new tanks to the farm. More about this at Brown Snout website.

Tipping Point

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Wonderful story at the NY Times:
Ordinary Iraqis Wage a Successful Battle Against Insurgents
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 22 - Ordinary Iraqis rarely strike back at the insurgents who terrorize their country. But just before noon today, a carpenter named Dhia saw a troop of masked gunmen with grenades coming towards his shop and decided he had had enough.

As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their own AK-47's and opened fire, police and witnesses said. In the fierce gun battle that followed, three of the insurgents were killed, and the rest fled just after the police arrived. Two of Dhia's young nephews and a bystander were injured, the police said.

"We attacked them before they attacked us," Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, said in a brief exchange at his shop a few hours after the battle. He did not give his last name. "We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come and we will show them."

It was the first time that private citizens are known to have retaliated successfully against insurgents. There have been anecdotal reports of residents shooting at attackers after a bombing or assassination. But the gun battle today erupted in full view of half a dozen witnesses, including a Justice Ministry official who lives nearby.
Very cool -- now tell me again why going in there was a mistake?

Wildlife meets technology

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Three wonderful photos from the USS Honolulu (one of our L.A. Class Boomers) as she is up near the North Pole. She gets some visitors:
Hat tip to Parkway Rest Stop - visit there for the full-size images.

New Trilobites

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Wonderful new find in Morocco. Generally, fossils are flattened by the thing that kills them - mud slide, rocks, etc... These guys were slowly engulfed and this preserved their exterior shape. The Natural History Museum has the goods:
Amazing new trilobites have been found in Morocco with details of their anatomy preserved intact.

Fossils are usually flattened by the weight of deposited sediment above them as they lie on the sea floor after death or following burial, or by subsequent crushing of the rock formed from the sediment, during tectonic movement. In the case of these trilobites, however, the fossils show little or no distortion. As the delicate exoskeletons are complete, it is likely that this gentle burial followed an initial sudden engulfment that suffocated the trilobites.


On a photography roll here -- ran into this website: Macroday They call for a specific subject and allow photographers to submit their macro photographs on that theme. Some gorgeous work here. Here is one example for the theme of Music:


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Interesting alternative lens for digital cameras developed by Portland Photographer Craig Strong. The lens is purposefully bad and is mounted in a flexible barrel to provide options for image distortion. Some wonderful results in their Gallery page -- here is one:

Robot Shark

Jacques Cousteau's grandson Fabien is following in the family footsteps. He has developed a robot shark. Hat tip to Gizmodo From Gizmodo:
Jacques Cousteau�s grandson Fabien is building a shark-shaped submarine that will use pneumatics to power a working tail so that he will be able to slip in undetected with real live sharks. It sounds a little scary:
� the dive team on the Calypso �probably getting bored� decided to make the robotic shark act erratic and � injured�. Consequently, a large female turned on the shark and gave it a �death blow� which is a bite to the gills. She came back for several more and completely destroyed the robotic shark.
There is more on Cousteau and his robo-critter here, here and here Fascinating stuff! If you ever get the chance to rent a copy of The Life Aquatic, do so. The main character is patterned after Jacques and the boat they use is very much like the Calypso. They capture the look and feel exactly.

Solar Death Ray

The Solar Death Ray From their About page:
About the Solar Death Ray:
The Solar Death Ray is made of 112 mirrors mounted on a platform 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall. Each mirror is a square roughly 3.5 inches on edge. All these mirrors focus the sun to a single spot 5 feet, 6 inches from the mirror platform. A wooden fork extends from the mirror base to the area near the focus and serves as a mounting point for Solar Death Ray targets. The mirror platform is mounted to the support frame on a pivot that allows the platform to be angled. The whole system is mounted on a set of wheels.
The instrument of death itself:
They use different articles for targets - one such is a cassette tape of Hootie and the Blowfish. Quite a series of pictures... Heh...

A very ambitious and amazing project -- To quote from their FAQ
What's the big idea here?
The idea is pretty simple: People who create video, music, photos, audio clips and other personal media can store their stuff for free on Ourmedia's servers forever, as long as they're willing to share their works with a global audience.

Ourmedia's goal is to expose, advance and preserve digital creativity at the grassroots level. The site serves as a central gathering spot where professionals and amateurs come together to share works, offer tips and tutorials, and interact in a combination community space and virtual library that will preserve these works for future generations. We want to enable people anywhere in the world to tap into this rich repository of media and create image albums, movie and music jukeboxes and more.

Who is behind Ourmedia?
Members of the creative community, technologists, educators, librarians and others interested in spreading digital culture are behind Ourmedia. Leading the effort are J.D. Lasica, a writer, editor with the Online Journalism Review, and evangelist for participatory media, and Marc Canter, a well-known technologist and open standards advocate who co-founded the company that became software giant Macromedia. This is purely an open-source, all-volunteer effort.

What kinds of media will be part of Ourmedia?
Almost any kind of digital media. Ourmedia will consist of video (blog video, music videos, television-style reports, documentaries, underground films, grassroots political ads, animation, machinima), audio (interviews with authors, oral family histories, readings of properly licensed book chapters), original music, photographs, ebooks, games, software and more. You decide what goes up on the site.
WOW! The internet archive is an amazing resource by itself -- to add this is just gravy!

Campaign 2004 photo album

Geoffrey at Dog Snot Diaries has a couple photos from the 2004 Presidential campaign that highlight the differences between Bush and Kerry:
Click for full-size Image
Click for full-size Image
Click for full-size Image
He swiped them from here and there are more great ones -- go visit...

Terri Schiavo - another lawyer weighs in

Steve H. at Hog On Ice is one of my favorite daily reads. Despite living in Florida and being a Lawyer, he has kept silent on the Terri Schiavo case until now. Today he weighs in with an excellent rant on the culture of death and he has a couple of questions:
The View From the Front of the Bus
Nice up Here, Isn't It?

Up until now, I have not weighed in on the Terri Schiavo story. I didn't know the facts, and with so many things to write about, I wasn't inclined to do research.

I assumed the big issue was whether she had expressed a sincere desire to be allowed to die, prior to sustaining brain damage. But as most of you probably know, that's not the case. There are other issues. One is whether she is brain-dead or not, and the other is whether her husband should have the only say in whether she lives or dies.
And some more:
There is considerable evidence that Mr. Schiavo has no interest in his wife's welfare. He refuses to permit the physical therapy patients in Terri's state generally receive. Although a CAT scan of Terri's brain has been done, he refuses to allow PET and MRI scans, which are the best diagnostic tools for determining whether enough of her brain exists to sustain consciousness. And witnesses claim Terri has lost teeth and developed bedsores as a result of neglect.

On top of all that, there is a very disturbing affidavit from a former caregiver. Here is a quote from the sworn statement of RN Carla Sauer Iyer:

"Throughout my time at Palm Gardens, Michael Schiavo was focused on Terri's death," the RN noted. "Michael would say 'When is she going to die?' 'Has she died yet?' and 'When is that bitch gonna die?'"

As a lawyer, I can tell you that a sworn statement is considered much more credible when the statement works against the person who made it. If I swear I owe you money, that statement is automatically more credible than my sworn statement that I don't owe you money. It appears to me that Ms. Iyer has made a statement that could damage her career very, very badly. Depending on the circumstances under which the statement was made and the purpose for which it was used, she may also have exposed herself to a libel suit or a perjury conviction.
Visiting the culture of death -- Steve H.'s Mom and Dad:
Today's hospitals are infected with the liberal culture of death. I've seen it at work over the past decade, as my relatives have died. The people at the hospital here in Miami where my mother died pestered us constantly to give our consent to let her die, and she was lucid and relatively comfortable until a few days before she passed. An annoying counselor buttonholed my father and me and talked to us as though we were children, reminding us that we had to think of what was best for my mother. Meanwhile, my mother was fifty feet away, alert and presumably capable of making her own decisions. It was very clear to me that what they really wanted was for us to say the code words that meant, "If things get worse, give her a big shot of morphine and get rid of her." I strongly suspect that's what they did, anyway.

When my grandfather had his heart attack, we had to repeatedly remind the hospital staff in Kentucky that we actually liked him and wanted him to live. Fortunately, his heart surgeon was a Christian, and she listened to us. She said there was a small chance that he would recover, and we let her know that he was a fighter, and that we believed he would want to give survival his best shot. She worked aggressively to save him, and although he didn't make it, at least we knew we had done what we believed he would have wanted.
And this:
Thanks to liberals, I live in a state where I can be prosecuted for cutting a mangrove tree that pops up and obstructs my boat dock, but Michael Schiavo can kill his wife, with what appears to be inadequate reason, and not even pay a fine. People call Terri Schiavo a vegetable. Would that it were so. In Florida, the law protects vegetation.
(Emphasis mine) Jen and I have talked about this -- she thinks that the pre-existing agreement with Michael is fine and that the CAT Scan shows clear loss of brain tissue. We do agree that her initial trauma was a real heart-attack caused by a Bulimic related chemical imbalance. I want to see a battery of tests done by a team of independent people. If she is vegged out -- fine, someone should have an 'accident' with a dose of pain killer and she should pass with grace. If she is not brain dead, she should receive the basic physical care and rehabilitation that she has not been getting and see where things go from there. It seems that the feeding tube is back in -- I would like to see something beyond that happening. Aggressive care perhaps -- see what transpires...

New-Clear Semantics

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Great article on semantics from the Canadian Nuclear FAQ:
Slightly Semantic
This industry has had an image problem since they first coined the phrase "going critical" for a self-sustained fission chain reaction. Simply put, we're scientists and engineers, and not PR specialists. To this day there are still very few PR specialists in the industry, and, sadly, getting fewer all the time.

"Going critical" is what a reactor does, and frankly that's a much better phrase than "self-sustained chain reaction". Try to tell your friends that your reactor will soon be going critical, however, and watch how the conversation turns. Effuse about Qinshan going critical ahead of schedule and you'll soon learn who has been harbouring conspiracy theories about the nuclear industry all along.

Our capacity to frighten knows no bounds: We speak with confidence of the "Most Exposed Individual", a mysterious unfortunate living amongst the public. We laud a reactor's "containment", clearly a serious measure invoked when accidents equal disasters, last seen failing miserably in the likes of Jurassic Park and Ghostbusters.

We seek solutions for our nuclear "waste", apparently more dangerous than anything else on earth judging by our unprecedented approach - notwithstanding, of course, the fact that we currently store the material in "swimming pools".

The public requires "defense in depth", in lieu of protection from the need to defend. We design mighty coolant tubes that "leak", with the consolation that this happens before they "break". We have legislation that limits our "liability" to the public (rather than our indemnification) in case of an accident.

The list goes on, but the point is that we did not invent our terminology with a view to public perception.
And one example of this new-speak:
Nowhere is this more acutely evident than in Port Hope, Ontario, where for over a year the uranium giant Cameco Corporation has been nurturing public understanding of "Slightly Enriched Uranium", or SEU. The backdrop is the company's quest for a license to down-blend foreign LEU ("Low Enriched", or LWR-grade, uranium) into SEU, soon to be a fuel of choice in the CANDU market.

Now, a sillier term than "slightly enriched uranium" is hard to imagine but of course it makes perfect sense from the technical point of view. Here is a fuel somewhere between natural and traditional "low" enrichment (lower than low, if you will).
The CANDU Reactors are one of a new generation of Reactors that are a lot safer than the 1950's models that we all know about (TMI, Chernobyl and others.)


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Hits a bit too close to home...
Click for full-size Image

Comment Spammers - DIE! DYING! DEAD!

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Came home to find a nice round number of email notifications in my in-box. Starting this morning, I had 150 comment spams, about 95% for Porn and the remaining for Online Casinos. (These topics are frequently used giving rise to the acronym PPC -- Pills, Porn, Casinos) NOT ONE OF THESE steaming turds got posted to the blog. They were all held in purgatory awaiting my decision to post or delete. What is even more satisfying is that while in purgatory, they are held in a separate area of the server, locked away from any search engine. If the comment gets held for moderation, it is invisible until I say to post it. The whole justification*** for these little idiots to post this kind of crap has been removed -- nothing they do will work now. ***When Google and Yahoo crawls a website, it looks for links on that page to other pages. A given website that has lots of links referring to it gets ranked higher up the search page. If a Casino wants to tout Texas-Hold em poker and if it has 3,000 blog comments pointing to it, it will be ranked a lot higher than one with 10 posts so someone searching the web for Texas-Hold em Poker will find the one higher up on the page. MMMMBBBBWWWAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!

Back in town!!!

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Just got in an hour ago. Eye doctor was very encouraging about the cataract surgery -- it's scheduled for April 14th -- Tax Day -- getting reamed one way or another... Stopped by this place Utilikilt and picked up one of these and one of these. Very comfortable and well made... I'll be putting some pics up at the Brown Snout website. Checking email, getting a bite to eat and then blogging will resume in about an hour or so...

No posting until Monday sometime

Jen and I are heading to Seattle to hear these people and for an eye exam tomorrow (I have a cataract in one eye). Back sometime Monday afternoon. Check out some of the fine sites on my blogroll to the right.
The NY Times has a disturbing article regarding Evolution and Imax:
A New Screen Test for Imax: It's the Bible vs. the Volcano
The fight over evolution has reached the big, big screen.

Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject - or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth - fearing protests from people who object to films that contradict biblical descriptions of the origin of Earth and its creatures.

The number of theaters rejecting such films is small, people in the industry say - perhaps a dozen or fewer, most in the South. But because only a few dozen Imax theaters routinely show science documentaries, the decisions of a few can have a big impact on a film's bottom line - or a producer's decision to make a documentary in the first place.
Time traveling back to 1930's rural South - now that's a topic for Imax to cover... I have zero issue with spiritual practice but science is science people.

Nerd Score

Find out how nerdy you are:

I am nerdier than 99% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!
Florida Law Blogger Abstract Appeal has compiled a really good set of resources regarding the Terri Schiavo case.
As a Florida law blogger, I have created this page to help people understand the legal circumstances surrounding the Terri Schiavo saga. In my view, there continues to be a need for an objective look at the matter. There is an unbelievable amount of misinformation being circulated.

To be clear at the outset, I have no interest in taking any "side" in this dispute. Remarkably, I've been accused of being biased in favor of each side at one point or another. I'm not. I have never met, spoken with, or even seen anyone in the Schiavo or Schindler families. I use first names on this web log simply for convenience, and my interest is simply as someone who enjoys Florida law and wishes to add some clarity to the events here. Pick a given month's archives (linked on the right) since I started this web log and you'll see what I mean.

Finally, and without unnecessary elaboration, I�ll point out that I sympathize with everyone involved. The circumstances here are tragic.
And it gets better from there. They have some very tough observations for both sides of the story.

Great story...

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...from Mostly Cajun. He was in the Army for a while, drove and taught Tanks. He was reassigned to Fort Knox and his first day was a little less than optimal. Neither was his Tank. Fate was not smiling, she was laughing out loud with milk spraying out her nose. It begins innocently enough: Another �What did you do in the war, Daddy?� post.
In 1972, after two years at Fort Polk Louisiana, where I was a drill sergeant, I received orders for transfer to Fort Knox Kentucky, for assignment at the First Training Brigade of the Armor Center as an instructor.

In irony not unusual for the Army, I found myself assigned to the same training unit, Company �A", 2nd Battalion, 1st Training Brigade, that I�d graduated from in January of 1969. Even more ironic was walking into the orderly room and running into the same crusty sergeant first class who�d been the field first sergeant when I�d graduated. We�d both had a couple of tours since my graduation, but we were back, and this time I was a buck sergeant (E-5) instructor.

I was suitable welcomed. The next day I found myself out at the driver�s training area with the rest of the company, where I was given my M60A1 tank and one of my four trainee crews. My instructions for the days' activities: "Take �em out and let �em drive. Talk to �em about how to navigate rough terrain. You know, teach �em sh*t!"

Armed with such specific information, I introduced myself to my crew and we climbed on top of the tank to do �pre-op� checks. Opening the heavy grille doors that gave access to the engine, I watched them go through visual inspection and checks for presence of oil in the engine and transmission. We then mounted up, me in the tank commander�s hatch, one trainee in the bowels of the turret in the gunner�s seat, another with his head out of the loader�s hatch, and the third in the driver�s hatch, gleefully anticipating the impending activities. It gets better -- Hell, meet handbasket.

Laser CNC machine - home built!

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Browsing around various machining sites and ran into this gem. This guy gets a CO2 laser from eBay and proceeds to build a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) cutting machine with it. The laser is stationary and the work moves. As he says, getting the laser was the easiest part... Heh... Lots of technical details -- hardware and software (Linux natch...)

Busy today...

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Spent the last few days building a large paddock for our critters. Spent about five hours today dismantling an old dairy system -- all of the plumbing is food-grade stainless steel which will be fantastic for our Hard Cider and Mead business. Meeting with a refrigeration person next week to decommission this tank and the other one I bought. Looking at moving them on site sometime shortly after. They will be stored temporarily until the new Cidery is built this Summer and then, we are in production! It may be winter for some people but we are busy!

An amazing machinist

One doesn't run into the combination of craftsmanship and artistry like this very often. I present Barry Jordan. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, quit his day job, bought some machine tools and decided to putter about with his childhood hobby -- machining. For his first project, he decided to build a milling machine, not just any machine but a copy of a Bridgeport (these are the creme de la creme of machines). Here is a photo of his results -- this is the table and tool holder:
Click for full-size Image
Very impressive work isn't it. Well, here is a photo of him using the mill:
Click for full-size Image
Forgot to mention that the finished mill is a 1/5 scale model, fully functional, everything works as it does on the original mill. Visit his site to see some other amazing models. Generally, I don't go in for this kind of stuff -- I love metal working but making models does not float my boat. The sheer level of skill this guy has is amazing and it's worth visiting just to stand in awe of that...

One more on Terri Schiavo

This just in from the Physics Geek:

Michael Schiavo is a turd
I've been following the Terri Schiavo case for a long time and have been troubled by the inconsistent testimony given. My first assumption was that Michael Schiavo believed that he knew what was best for his wife. Although I think that removing food and water from a human who is otherwise NOT sustained by life support is, well, murder, I can vaguely understand how someone might not agree with the opinion. Anyway, the more that I find out about the actual facts in the case, rather than the legal boilerplate farted out by the Judge Greer and Michael Schiavo's lawyer, the more I'm convinced that Michael wants to kill his wife in a horribly painful way and is looking for the state's blessing on this course of action. Reverend Robert Johansen has more. Excerpt:
Many people believe that Terri Schiavo has had "the best of care," and that everything has been tried by way of rehabilitation. This belief is false. In fact, Terri has had no attempts at therapy or rehabilitation since 1992, and very little had been done up to that point. Terri has not even had the physical therapy most doctors would regard as normative for someone in her condition. The result is that Terri suffers from severe muscle contractures, which have caused her body to become contorted. Physical therapy could remedy this, but husband Michael has refused to provide it.

Terri has also suffered from what many professionals would regard as neglect. She had to have several teeth extracted last year because of severe decay. This decay was caused by a lack of basic dental hygiene, such as tooth-brushing. She also developed decubitus (skin) ulcers on her buttocks and thighs. These ulcers can be prevented by a simple regimen of regular turning: a basic nursing task that any certified nurse�s aide can perform. The presence of these easily preventable ulcers is a classic sign of neglect. Bob and Mary Schindler have repeatedly complained of Terri�s neglect, and have sought to remove Michael as guardian on that basis. Judge Greer was unmoved by those complaints as well.
Terri's diagnosis was arrived at without the benefit of testing that most neurologists would consider standard for diagnosing PVS. One such test is MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is widely used today, even for ailments as simple as knee injuries -- but Terri has never had one. Michael has repeatedly refused to consent to one. The neurologists I have spoken to have reacted with shock upon learning this fact. One such neurologist is Dr. Peter Morin. He is a researcher specializing in degenerative brain diseases, and has both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Boston University.

In the course of my conversation with Dr. Morin, he made reference to the standard use of MRI and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans to diagnose the extent of brain injuries. He seemed to assume that these had been done for Terri. I stopped him and told him that these tests have never been done for her; that Michael had refused them.

There was a moment of dead silence.

"That's criminal," he said, and then asked, in a tone of utter incredulity: "How can he continue as guardian? People are deliberating over this woman's life and death and there's been no MRI or PET?" He drew a reasonable conclusion: "These people [Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Judge Greer] don't want the information."

I don't really believe in karma, but in Michael Schiavo's case, I hope it exists. I want him licking the ass of the bacterium on the anus of dung beetles in his next life. And the life after that. And the life after that...

Well said. I knew that there had been no rehabilitative therapy but I did not know that the most basic and simple of tests had been refused... Licking the ass of a bacterium is too good for the dude.

Blogger Straight Up with Sherri has been very active in trying to get Terri out of her husband's clutches and into the care of Terri's Mother and Father. One entry is especially telling about Terri's condition:
Updated Story!
According to Sherri's sources "Terri Schiavo speaks!"

When the Federal Marshal(s) appeared at the hospice to serve subpoenas, they were accompanied by local police. At the time of their arrival, Terri's parents were in her room with her. Bob and Mary Schindler had asked her twice, "Do you want to live?" Twice, she responded, "Yes". It was then, they were working with Terri to say, "I .. want .. to!". On the word, "want", it was loud enough to draw the attention of the police who entered the room at that time.

This story is being reported now at Empire Journal: TERRI SCHIAVO SAYS SHE WANTS TO LIVE!

Sherri called me while intransit to Florida on I-75, begging me to put this up, now. I have had several conversations with her since, more details are forthcoming!
One thought that had been floated was that her Husband fears that if she starts to get better care, she will regain speech and will name him as the person who put her in this state and tried to kill her. Florida has the death penalty.

Elvis Impersonators database

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Who knows when you might need an Elvis Impersonator? Here is a database of them listed by city.
Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple posted this photo from a friend that sums up what is wrong in the Middle East and Europe today:

He accompanied this photo with a comment about the French Nuclear Carrier Charles De Gaulle
Neither will the French. Think about an aircraft carrier that doesn't leave port and an airport building that collapses. BWAHAHAHAHA!
Anyway, Rob at Gut Rumbles took this idea and fleshed out the history behind it and found an unintended consequence:
If you're a Muslim (or French), look at that picture and ask "Why?"

Never mind. You're probably so soaked in denial that you won't contemplate the truth. Americans walked on the moon because we had the imagination to do it, the courage to do it and the brains to do it. You people don't. That's one of the REAL reasons that you hate us so much. Pure envy.

The Muslims fucked up centuries ago when they finally succeeded in conquering Constantinople. That clever operation removed the last Christian obstacle in their way and solidified the Ottoman Empire, but it also cut the Spice Road from east to west and led to Age of Exploration. Talk about the law of Unintended Consequences.

Thanks to the fall of Constantinople, people started heading WEST in search of a new route to India and the Far East. That exploration eventually led to the founding of the United States. So I suppose, in a strange way, we have Islam to thank for that picture of a US flag on the moon.

We never could have done it without you.
In the days following 9/11, the Left started asking "why do they hate us so much". What prompted me to switch from Left to Conservative Libertarian was that the Left was only looking for answers that meshed with their pre-programmed "America is bad" and "Multi-Culturalism is good" mind-set. The fact that a culture could be pathological and hate-filled was not anything they could comprehend. I lost some people I thought were close friends but I look at their intolerance of accepting someone else's view as an indication that they were not the kinds of friends I wanted to have to begin with. In our community, we have all sorts of hippies, loggers, environmentalists, people living here 'cause it's cheap, people living here 'cause the scenery is gorgeous... Everyone gets along and we all tolerate each others views. Not so in the Liberal bastion of Seattle it seems...
James Ozark writes at A Western Heart about a competitor to Google and the reason why:
Parlez-vous Fran�ais? Non? (or Froggy's Little Problem)
Once again, oh-so-delicate French national sensibilities are being grossly offended by the Anglosphere. Why? Because we actually want to make our writings more accessible to anyone who wants to read them. The impertinence! The arrogance! The threat! Mon Dieu!
James then links to this article at the BBC: France to develop Google 'rival' and excerpts from it:
France is spearheading a project to make European literary works available online in an effort to counter growing US cultural dominance worldwide. The virtual library initiative follows a similar move by US firm Google to make 15m works available on its site.

The head of the French national library, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, recently called for a European "counter-attack" against the Google project.
James again:
A counter attack? Who is this indescribable idiot? Oh yeh - French. . .(and I think we know precisely how many other 'European' literary works will be getting a guernsey here).
President Jacques Chirac will discuss the plan with EU ministers in May. Mr Chirac said in a statement that "a vast movement to make knowledge accessible on the internet around the world is underway." He held a meeting in Paris with Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Mr Jeanneney on Wednesday to discuss the project.

He asked them to examine ways the collections of the great libraries of France and Europe "could be made more widely and more quickly accessible on the nternet".
Easy, post them, like everyone else. Ahhhh - but of course, there�s a small problem there, isn�t there - one we really would rather not think about...
"Because of France and Europe's exceptional cultural heritage, they must play a key role" in the development of the internet, Mr Chirac said.

Mr Jeanneney warned in January that Google's $200m (�110m) project could result in "the crushing domination of the US in shaping the worldview of future generations".
Yes - of course - those evil Americans, at it again. Let�s just ignore the little detail of Oxford University�s involvement, shall we (and the fact that America actually shares Europe's cultural heritage)?
Enter, stage left: Froggy�s little problem. The Anglosphere only potentially shapes the world view of those who read English, now doesn�t it. Now we see Froggy�s little problem, non? The itty bitty issue of: �Parlez-vous Fran�ais?� After all, who�s bothering to learn French anymore...
More at the site and some interesting comments. Kind of a shame to see Europe loose touch with the world as it seems to be doing. Someone at another site said that what we are seeing is basically the Endgame of Socialist Government. This economic and cultural miasma is what you sink into if you use a Socialist form of government. There are lots of good aspects to different governments but the only one with the solid track record is Democracy despite the lurches and stumbles of our own Government, we are doing an overwhelming good for a greater number of people than any other Government on this planet.

A troll

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Got a troll posting a comment to the entry about Dave Matthews bus driver. Their post got put into purgatory because they used a patently bogus email address and URL but they were posting from which resolves to an ISP in Denver Colorado. What is funny about this is they display a vacant mental faculty while claiming to know better. Nothing creative or witty. Dull flat writing and no suggestions for what to change or where to look for information that might offer a credible and different viewpoint. Typical of the "free-thinking left", just bash bash bash bash bash... Reproduced for your edification in its sodden and mercifully brief entirety:
Nice to know you realize how lame you can be. Most of this page is just the same, you dumping even more shit. Geez. The sad part is you probably are really an average american.
Well kiddo, 50 percent of all people are below average and I think I have a good idea where you fit on that bell curve. Enjoy your life -- I can tell you are going to be a real mover and shaker and will enjoy a wonderfully enriching existence... And yes, I went ahead and approved the comment for posting. We all need a chuckle every now and then.
Peggy Noonan writes in the Opinion Journal and delivers a thoughtful piece about whose responsibility it is if Terri is allowed to die:
If Terri Schiavo is killed, Republicans will pay a political price.
It appears we've reached the pivotal moment in the Terri Schiavo case, and it also appears our politicians, our senators and congressmen, might benefit from some observations.

In America today all big stories have three dimensions: a legal angle, a public-relations angle and a political angle. In the Schiavo case some of our politicians seem not to be fully appreciating the second and third. This is odd.

Here's both a political and a public-relations reality: The Republican Party controls the Senate, the House and the White House. The Republicans are in charge. They have the power. If they can't save this woman's life, they will face a reckoning from a sizable portion of their own base. And they will of course deserve it.
Well worth reading if you are a policy maker or if you have not written your representatives yet -- you should. I have.


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The World Health Organization is warning Europeans that their "love affair" with tanning beds will cause cancer problems down the road... From ABC/Reuters:
Sunbed-Loving Europeans Face Cancer 'Epidemic' - WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO), warned young Europeans Thursday that their taste for getting a tan even before they hit the beach could result in an "epidemic" of skin cancer within a decade.

WHO said sunbeds and sunlamps, popular with many tanning-obsessed Europeans, should be banned for under-18s and avoided by everybody else because of their link to cancer.

"We don't want to see an epidemic of skin cancers coming along some 10 years down the road," Michael Repacholi, coordinator of WHO's radiation and health program, said.
And the reason for using them?
Young females, many fair-skinned, often turn to "all-over tan," clam-shaped sunbeds ahead of a beach holiday.

"They think they are going to be protecting themselves by getting a tan before they go so they don't get sunburned when they get there. This is basically a myth, it doesn't provide adequate protection at all," Repacholi said.
Tangible numbers?
The annual incidence rate for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer as it spreads to other parts of the body, is estimated to have more than tripled in Norway and Sweden since 1960, and doubled in the United States since 1975, the WHO said.
The Electric Beach is not that good for you... Take a look at people in their 50's who tanned regularly and you will be amazed at the difference. It is bad for your skin as well as promotes skin cancer (which is one of the worst).

The EU pulling out of Iraq?

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard has a solution. Major hat tip to Inoperable Terran for this link:
Big brass ones
John Howard says if the EUros chicken out, he might send more troops to replace them.
Good on 'ya mate!

Owning Gold

Mover Mike has an excellent postregarding investing in tangible metal, specifically Gold.

How Do I Own Gold?
I have had some emails about my Gold rants that say in essence, "OK, you have scared me, now what do I do?" I will tell you what I do. I buy a little insurance as often as I can. I walk in with cash to Affordable Jewelry & Precious Metals Inc. in Portland, Oregon and buy American Eagle gold coins. I don't care if you use this company. I don't make a thing if you do. You can buy a 1 oz coin, 1/2 oz coin, 1/4 oz coin or a 1/10 gold coin. Todays closing price was $447.00 at $460.00. The closing cash price of Gold was $438.80. If you bought a gold coin this afternoon you would have paid $460. The difference between $438.8 and $460 ($21.20 or 4.61%) is the commission to the coin dealer.

This first paragraph was about the mechanics of buying it, later on, he talks about the reasons and gives some good advice:

Owning Gold Coins is not for speculation, this is insurance! I would guess that most financial planners would recommend 5% of ones investible assets to be in Gold. I believe gold will sell between $1500 to $5000 per ounce. I believe the DJIA and Gold will trade at the same level. I don't know when and I don't know what the US will look like. I expect prices of everything to be up 3 to 10 times in dollars. The ATM's may be shut down and the only money you have is your gold. This is insurance only.

Emphasis mine. Considering that savings accounts and CD's only offer a few percent, it makes sense to have something stable to counter any risk in other investments. I have an IRA that is doing OK but it could crash to earth at any time. Having some cold hard cash in coin is always a good idea. And Mover Mike's creds? He is a retired stock broker with BS Degree in Political Science and Economics.

Dream Job

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Author Roger L. Simon has a post about what Paul Wolfowitz might want to do after cleaning up the World Bank:
After Wolfowitz finishes with the World Bank...
... maybe he should clean up NPR. Can you believe those salaries? [Well, they're certainly not marxists.-ed.] I know what you mean. "To each according to his need"???
If you think that the Moonbats have a case of the vapors now...

Some St. Patrick's Day facts

From Dublin, Ireland, blogger Twenty Major offers some little known facts about St. Patrick's Day -- here are three of them:

  • Someone once told me Saint Patrick was Welsh. I told him not to be stupid and that Welsh people weren't real.
  • Saint Patrick got rid of all the snakes in Ireland but he seems to have missed Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness (boom tish)
  • I am currently writing a book called 'Da Diddly-eye code' in which I fabricate evidence about Saint Patrick being the anti-christ backed up by examination of Jack Yeats' paintings and the lyrics of Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy.

More at his site and he wishes us all well:

For a Saint Patrick's day quiz go visit Diarmuid Geezer. Now, it's just about time for a pint. See you, hungover, tomorrow...


Handy web development tool

Sometimes you see a website and like the colors being used but don't want to rip the design off, just use the same color combinations.

Point this tool at the site in question and it interrogates the HTML and CSS files and returns the colors used on that page.

Very spiffy!

Complaint Letter Generator

Cute web-app -- want to write a complaint letter but too busy to actually sit down and crank out the requisite couple of paragraphs? Click on over to Scott Pakin's automatic complaint-letter generator, enter a couple pieces of relevant data, hit the Complain button and bingo. A swift copy and paste and you are good to go. Here is a short one I (it) wrote to a comment spammer:
P@ker--onlyne's ruses are so rife with ignorance, erroneous information, and poorly conceived notions of misoneism that I hardly know where to begin. Even disregarding obvious errors like its insistence that we should abandon the institutionalized and revered concept of democracy, the fallacies of its claims are glaring to those of us who have educated ourselves about the implications of careerism. Let's start with my claim that this makes me fearful that I might someday find myself in the crosshairs of its naive, passive-aggressive doctrines. (To be honest, though, it wouldn't be the first time.) P@ker--onlyne wants to get me thrown in jail. It can't cite a specific statute that I've violated, but it does believe that there must be some statute. This tells me that p@ker--onlyne can get away with lies (e.g., that the laws of nature don't apply to it), because the average person cannot imagine anyone lying so brazenly. Not one person in a hundred will actually check out the facts for himself and discover that p@ker--onlyne is lying. P@ker--onlyne can't relate what it sees to any broader principle. That shouldn't surprise you when you consider that its reason is not true reason. It does not seek the truth, but only addlepated answers, foul resolutions to conflicts.

While there are many judgmental vulgarians, p@ker--onlyne is the most depraved of the lot. P@ker--onlyne is offended by anything that might suggest that its use of mudslinging lotharios is pathetic. Equally important is the fact that it wants to goad unpatriotic hedonists into hurling epithets at its enemies. Personally, I don't want that. Personally, I prefer freedom. If you also prefer freedom, then you should be working with me to hammer out solutions on the anvil of discourse. If p@ker--onlyne can give us all a succinct and infallible argument proving that anyone who resists it deserves to be crushed, I will personally deliver its Nobel Prize for Annoying Rhetoric. In the meantime, of all of p@ker--onlyne's exaggerations and incorrect comparisons, one in particular stands out: "P@ker--onlyne can absorb mana by devouring its nemeses' brains." I don't know where it came up with this, but its statement is dead wrong. Unless hanging out with quasi-unconscionable prophets of vigilantism is a wonderful, culturally enriching experience, it is simply wrong to conclude that p@ker--onlyne's beliefs (as I would certainly not call them logically reasoned arguments) are all sweetness and light. If the only way to chastise p@ker--onlyne for not doing any research before spouting off is for me to become the target of prejudice, ridicule, discrimination, and physical violence, then so be it. It would certainly be worth it, because we can divide its stratagems into three categories: flagitious, dishonest, and brusque. Several things p@ker--onlyne has said have brought me to the boiling point. The statement of its that made the strongest impression on me, however, was something to the effect of how the sun rises just for it. This letter has gone on far too long, in my opinion, and probably yours as well. So let me end it by saying merely that this is a very real and serious concern.
Now that is invective worthy of a master! Heh...

St. Patrick's

Spent the day in Bellingham doing some shopping capped by a wonderful evening at the Boundry Bay Brewpub.

They did a wonderful Corned Beef and Cabbage and had traditional Irish music, step dancers, pipers, etc...

The place was packed but the wait-staff are pros and service was fantastic. Food is excellent and their beer -- nice and fresh since its brewed on premises -- was very tasty!

Have a fire going in the studio fireplace, a comfortably full belly and ready to do some blogging and surfing...

Two groups of people -- you choose

Portland Blogger Michael J. Totten has photos of people who are pro-Lebanon (and anti-Syria) and Lebonese who desire to remain under the Syrian thumb. Here are three from each camp:

lebanon-pro-01.jpg lebanon-pro-02.jpg lebanon-pro-03.jpg
lebanon-con-01.jpg lebanon-con-02.jpg lebanon-con-03.jpg

Now tell me this - who would you rather hang out with...

The Big Dig

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Massachusetts blogger Bruce at mASS BACKWARDS has the first of several posts up today outlining what is so horribly horribly wrong with the management of Boston's Big Dig -- a mammoth construction project that was supposed to remove some of the major traffic bottlenecks and move car traffic underground. From Bruce: The Inside Dirt - Vol. 1
Stories from the Big Dig they don't want you to hear.

As promised, here is the first installment in a series of posts detailing my personal observations from my years on the Big Dig (see this post for additional information). As we prepare for takeoff, please fasten your seat belts, return your seats to a full upright position and secure the tray to the seatback in front of you.

The finger pointing has kicked into high gear over the disaster we call the Central Artery/Tunnel Project here in Boston (aka: The Big Dig, the Project). With every news story that comes out, the authorities seem to be getting closer and closer to the heart of the matter. Whether they actually figure it out is another story altogether. That is where yours truly comes in. Consider these posts a Public Service Announcement of sorts. Bruce starts off with this Boston Globe article:
AG probes Big Dig firms; Romney rips Amorello
and starts digging in:
So, how does this oversight take place?
The Project, from the beginning, was divided up into many smaller projects, or contracts. These contracts would then individually be put out to bid, and awarded accordingly. This means the work on adjacent tunnel sections could be performed by different general contractors, both under the direct oversight of B/PB inspectors. There was nothing wrong with setting the project up this way. In fact, it makes perfect sense to have the oversight and inspection work done by a single agency, for reasons of coordination and consistency.

Let's look at what happens at ground level (or below ground, as the case may be). Every Big Dig contract has a field office for its B/PB staff, out of which a majority of oversight and record keeping is performed. The typical B/PB field office staff consists of a Resident Engineer, a Lead Field Engineer, Field Engineers (number depends on the scope of the work), Office Engineer, Claims and Changes Coordinator, and administrative personnel. Again, this is the "typical" field office set-up, and not a standard set-in-stone across the Project.

As work progresses, it is the responsibility of the Field Engineers to review the contract documents, and approved shop drawings and material submittals, to ensure the work is done in accordance with the specification requirements. For instance, if a concrete drawing shows epoxy-coated reinforcing bar, and the contractor were to try to cut corners by using plain steel rebar, it would be the job of the Field Engineer to alert the Contractor and make sure the error was corrected prior to signing off on the work.
There is a lot more at this site -- I am amazed that a company as otherwise well-run as Bechtel would let this project run away from them. Parsons is no slouch either... Very much looking forward to parts two and three. Went to Boston University and the freeways back in the 1980's were hellish.

More on Ward Churchill

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Hits bottom -- keeps digging... An answering machine tape has surfaced from 12 years ago where our little non-Indian, plagiarist and liar Ward Churchill tells Vernon Bellecourt (leader of AIM) the following:
"You siphoned a half million ripped off from Gadhafi.

How many other thousand dollars have you taken from the native people's struggles?

You keep it up and I won't just stand and look at you next time.

You understand what I'm saying fat boy turned skinny?

You decrepit old (expletive)"
Unnhhh - Gadhafi??? Read about that here: Rocky Mountain News
Churchill met with Gadhafi
This is not the first time Ward Churchill has disagreed with the U.S. government's idea of who is, and is not, a terrorist.

In April 1983, Churchill went to Libya to meet with Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The U.S. government had banned travel to Libya two years earlier, saying Gadhafi supported terrorism. Churchill traveled to Tripoli and Benghazi as a representative of the International Indian Treaty Council and the American Indian Movement. He went with Dace Means, brother of AIM leader Russell Means.
And his mission:
"The main thing we sought and received was diplomatic support," Churchill told the Associated Press at the time.

He added, "AIM has not requested arms from the Libyan government."
Yeah -- sure... Hat tip to Charles at LGF: Here and Here

Robert Blake Acquitted of Murder

From MyWay/AP:

A jury acquitted tough-guy actor Robert Blake of murder Wednesday in the shooting death of his wife four years ago, bringing a dramatic end to a case that played out like pulp fiction.

The jury also acquitted Blake of one charge of trying to get someone to kill Bonny Lee Bakley, but deadlocked on a second solicitation charge. The jury voted 11-1 in favor of acquittal and the judge dismissed the count.

The 71-year-old star of the 1970s detective drama "Baretta" sobbed uncontrollably at the defense table, embraced his attorney and exhaled heavily as the verdicts sank in.

Blake talked to people on the courthouse steps after:

"This small band of dedicated warriors saved my life," he said.

He also described the financial toll the case had taken on him.

"If you want to know how to go through $10 million in five years, ask me," said Blake, who was free on bail during his trial but under house arrest. "I'm broke. I need a job."

At one point, Blake asked whether anyone in the crowd had something to remove his electronic monitoring bracelet. He then bent down and cut off the ankle device.

The evidence and the victim:

No eyewitnesses, blood or DNA evidence linked Blake to the crime. The murder weapon, found in a trash bin, could not be traced to Blake, and witnesses said the minuscule amounts of gunshot residue found on Blake's hands could have come from a different gun he said he carried for protection.

"They couldn't put the gun in his hand," jury foreman Thomas Nicholson told reporters outside court, adding that the case lacked evidence that could "connect all the links in the chain." Nicholson called one of the stuntmen a "prolific liar."

Prosecutors said Blake believed his wife trapped him into a loveless marriage by getting pregnant. They said Blake soon became smitten with the baby, Rosie, and desperately wanted to keep the child away from Bakley, whom he considered an unfit mother. Rosie, now 4, is being raised by Blake's adult daughter.

Bakley had been married several times, had a record for mail fraud and made a living scamming men out of money with nude pictures of herself and promises of sex.

A shame that Bakley was murdered but it's great to know that Blake was not the killer.

And so it begins

Sherry at A Western Heart writes about a momentous event:
Amid explosions and low world expectations, Iraq's first freely elected parliament in half a century was sworn into office today.
Click for full-size Image
She also links to this story at MyWay/AP:
"It is a great day in Iraqi history that its elected representatives meet," said Fuad Masoum, a Kurdish delegate. "This day coincides with a painful memory that has many meanings. ... Today, on this occasion, we celebrate the inauguration of parliament after the fall of this regime."
They still have a long long way to go but as Sherry says:
There is no doubt that Iraq has a long way to go in becoming a fully functioning and self sustaining democracy.

They've yet to form their government. There are still problems with security and as in all nations there is infighting and bickering amongst the participants.

However the Iraqis have shown time and again that they have the heart and soul to see this process through to fruition.
This is such a wonderful time to be alive!

Weblog traffic

Bill at INDC Journal talks about blog traffic and how some weblogs bait the search engines to trap unsuspecting viewers... Here's Bill:

"Debbie Gibson Naked?" Shameless!
Personally, I think that Wizbang's habit of cynically baiting search engines with posts like "Debbie Gibson Naked" is a horribly cheap way to bump up a blog's traffic numbers. As are posts about "Olsen Twins Naked," "Paris Hilton Naked," "Naked Debbie Gibson and Paris Hilton Nudity. With nakedness. And pictures."

Google-baiting is naked manipulation that artificially inflates traffic and strips the good names of women like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Alba, Shakira, Charisma Carpenter, Jennifer Garner, Heidi Klum, Catherine Bell, Salma Hayek, Eliza Dukshu, Angelina Jolie, Beyonce Knowles and Angela Lansbury. And sometimes, they even post scandalous free videos or free pictures!

I'm sorry, but the three contributors to Wizbang really are the menage-a-trois of nude, naked sleaze-blogging. Real, live naked traffic whores.


You won't ever see that sort of sexual manipulation here; INDC's traffic is all-natural.

Indeeed. Same with Synthstuff -- no cheap tricks like search engine baiting here... Some of Bill's commenters share similar experiences about people who do this: Here's one:

That's why I stopped mentioning felching, female ejaculation, snoballs, Denver omelets, looking for tina, beavers, or any sentence that contains the words "Slowly I mounted Oliver Willis' wet, quivering pussy".

Here is one more:

So what sets a google trap for chicks?
Tide Laundry detergent?
Jimmy Choo and Prada?

The nerve of some people...

This Was Not Looting

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Great article by Christopher Hitchens on the supposed "looting" that transpired shortly after the fall of Baghdad.
How did Saddam's best weapons plants get plundered?
Once again, a major story gets top billing in a mainstream paper�and is printed upside down. "Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says." This was how the New York Times led its front page on Sunday. According to the supporting story, Dr. Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, says that after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, "looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms."

As printed, the implication of the story was not dissimilar from the Al-Qaqaa disclosures, which featured so much in the closing days of the presidential election last fall. In that case, a huge stock of conventional high-explosives had been allowed to go missing and was presumably in the hands of those who were massacring Iraqi civilians and killing coalition troops. At least one comment from the Bush campaign surrogate appeared to blame this negligence on the troops themselves. Followed to one possible conclusion, the implication was clear: The invasion of Iraq had made the world a more dangerous place by randomly scattering all sorts of weaponry, including mass-destruction weaponry, to destinations unknown.
And Christopher has a few questions about the article:
My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or activist in the entire country who hasn't stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam's propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq's physicists as "our nuclear mujahideen."
My second question is: What's all this about "looting"? The word is used throughout the long report, but here's what it's used to describe. "In four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 � teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. � 'The first wave came for the machines,' Dr Araji said. 'The second wave, cables and cranes.' " Perhaps hedging the bet, the Times authors at this point refer to "organized looting."

But obviously, what we are reading about is a carefully planned military operation. The participants were not panicked or greedy civilians helping themselves�which is the customary definition of a "looter," especially in wartime. They were mechanized and mobile and under orders, and acting in a concerted fashion. Thus, if the story is factually correct�which we have no reason at all to doubt�then Saddam's Iraq was a fairly highly-evolved WMD state, with a contingency plan for further concealment and distribution of the weaponry in case of attack or discovery.
One mustn't forget the truck convoys that were seen heading into Syria just before the start of the invasion. A lot of stuff went up there. Here is an example of one of the ones that was caught.
This web page has the story and some other pictures. This is a fraction of what was captured.

ANWR opening up

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A very close vote in the Senate leads the way for Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be open for oil exploration and drilling. Reuters has the story:
As U.S. oil prices soared to a record high on Wednesday, the Senate gave President Bush's energy plan a major boost by voting to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

Republicans have tried for more than two decades to open ANWR to oil exploration. The Bush administration, which views ANWR as the centerpiece of its national energy plan, was blocked in the past four years by a Senate coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats.
And the opposition (including one of our own):
Opponents said there is not enough oil in the refuge to justify harming the area's caribou, musk oxen, polar bears, migratory birds and other wildlife. Instead, they say, Congress should tighten mileage standards for vehicles to reduce U.S. oil demand and reliance on oil imports.

"I think it is very foolish to say that oil development in a wildlife refuge can co-exist," said Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington, who sponsored the amendment to strike the ANWR drilling language. "For those who say somehow this is going to affect gas prices... we won't see this oil for 10 years. It would have a minimum impact on markets."
They throw these "facts" around with nothing to back it up. The coastal zone is relatively benign and from all indications, there is a lot of oil up there. And how expensive will it be to get the oil out of there:
The government has estimated energy companies would find it cost-efficient to recover at least 6 billion barrels of oil from ANWR if prices were at or above $35 a barrel.

U.S. crude oil prices soared to a new trading high of $56.50 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday, after the Energy Department issued a weekly report showing a steep decline in gasoline stocks.

The ANWR provision calls on the federal government to raise more than $5 billion from companies in leasing fees to hunt for oil. Alaska would keep half of the money.
We do need this as much as it would be good to reserve this land from development. I don't think the drilling will be an environmental disaster as some people are claiming -- the operations will be too closely watched by a lot of people for anything like that to happen. There are two things driving up the price of oil -- China is buying a lot of it. Some people are thinking that they are building up large reserves of oil since the amount they are buying is far greater than their calculated energy usage. Secondly, we are filling up our own Strategic Oil Reserves which were drained by President Clinton to keep gas prices artificially low. Using less oil will not solve this problem because if we don't buy a barrel, someone else will -- it's an open market...

The Nikon D2X as an underwater camera

Excellent review and sample photoigraphs at Wet Pixel. From the review:

Getting it underwater
Luckily for underwater photographers the Nikon D2X is build around the same magnesium chassis as the D2H (a 4 MP camera targeted at press photographers and not suited for underwater shooting), which has allowed housing manufacturers to design and even build housings before the camera was released. This immediate availability of housings really adds to the desirability of this system. Indeed, I got my Subal housing, from Ocean Optics in London, the day before the international release of the camera! And a week later the three of us were in the Red Sea getting better acquainted. It is now the end of that week and I am writing this review sitting looking at the sea in Sharm El Sheikh having made my first 16 dives with the camera.

The reviewers photographic gallery is wonderful -- here are three samples:

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The first one above was shot using the high-speed frame rate of the D2X. In fact it was too high-- the photographer only used a fraction of the images from that series...

The wrong thing to put on a license plate

DOH! Guy walks into a bar, has a few, comes out with a BAC twice legal limit, gets in his car and starts driving. A cop pulls him over and hilarity ensues. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

A North Dakota man charged with drunken driving probably wishes his license plate had a different moniker.

Josiah Johnson, 23, said his license plate, which says "TIPSY,'' might have tipped off the Clay County sheriff's deputy who pulled him over after he left Coach's Sports Pub in Moorhead on Friday.

"I kind of felt like I was being harassed,'' the Argusville man said.

Johnson faces third-degree DWI charges after his blood-alcohol level registered twice the legal limit.

And Johnson's comment:

"I feel really stupid,'' he said.

You are definitely a Yankee.

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Another Internet Quiz
To find out how much Southern blood your language shows, simply choose the words you use below, then press "Compute My Score!" at the end. the alphaDictionary will compute your score and tell you where you're coming from: are you speaking Bubbaese or are you a Yankee Doodle Dandy?
My language is 38% Southern influenced - definitely a Yankee...


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Google operates a web-based email service called G-Mail. It used to be by invitation only but now, they have opened it to all Google users. Check it out here if only for the One Gig of online storage being offered...

13 things that do not make sense

A fascinating bakers dozen of paradoxes from The New Scientist magazine. Here is a small sample of three of them. Each one has a lot more detail.

1 The placebo effect
Don't try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.
3 Ultra-energetic cosmic rays
For more than a decade, physicists in Japan have been seeing cosmic rays that should not exist. Cosmic rays are particles - mostly protons but sometimes heavy atomic nuclei - that travel through the universe at close to the speed of light. Some cosmic rays detected on Earth are produced in violent events such as supernovae, but we still don't know the origins of the highest-energy particles, which are the most energetic particles ever seen in nature. But that's not the real mystery.
8 The Pioneer anomaly
This is a tale of two spacecraft. Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972; Pioneer 11 a year later. By now both craft should be drifting off into deep space with no one watching. However, their trajectories have proved far too fascinating to ignore.

A question of measure...

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Great story at the Misanthropyst: They link to this article in the NY Times
"When Seth Shepsle goes to Starbucks, he orders a "medium" because "grande" - as the coffee company calls the size, the one between big and small - annoys him.

Meg Daniel presses zero whenever she hears a computerized operator on the telephone so that she can talk to a real person. "Just because they want a computer to handle me doesn't mean I have to play along," she said.

When subscription cards fall from magazines Andrew Kirk is reading, he stacks them in a pile at the corner of his desk. At the end of each month, he puts them in the mail but leaves them blank so that the advertiser is forced to pay the business reply postage without gaining a new subscriber...

...After checking with a postal clerk about the legality of stepping up his efforts, he began cutting up magazines, heavy bond paper, and small strips of sheet metal and stuffing them into the business reply envelopes that came with the junk packages.

"You wouldn't believe how heavy I got some of these envelopes to weigh," said Mr. Williams, who added that he saw an immediate drop in the amount of arriving junk mail. A spokesman for the United States Postal Service, Gerald McKiernan, said that Mr. Williams's actions sounded legal, as long as the envelope was properly sealed.
As the Misanthropyst says:
...just a bubbling stew of rage everywhere...

A quick heads-up from Bill Whittle

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This guy is an amazing writer. His essays are very much well worth reading regardless of what political bent you follow. They are about what it means to be a citizen of the USA. He just published a brief heads-up on his current situation -- busy. He let slip that he has a new essay in the can and will be releasing a hardback edition of his excellent collection: Silent America

A New Nikon

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Looks like a really stylish and cool new Point and Shoot from Nikon (The website is the excellent Digital Photography Review)
Nikon has today announced it's first ultra-slim digital camera, the Coolpix S1. The S1 has a five megapixel CCD, a three times folded-optics zoom lens (a first in a Coolpix) and a 2.5" LCD monitor (another Coolpix first). The S1 also features some Coolpix technology such as Face Priority AF, in-camera red-eye fix and D-Lighting. The (admittedly pretty stylish) Coolpix S1 will be available in three colors; black, silver and white, it will be out in April at about US$ 380). There will also be a waterproof case available.
Pocket size, decent pixel count for home pictures and very large LCD display. All this for under $400. Looks like another winner for Nikon. (Still very happy with my D1X and CoolPix 5700).
Oak Ridge National Laboratory was one of the key places where Nuclear Development was done in the early 1940's. It served as not only a place of research, it was also the pilot lab that determined the best way to extract Plutonium -- this method was scaled up and went online at Hanford. Because of it's Uranium separation facilities (the Calutrons), it consumed 20% more electricity than New York City. It also became the world's source for Medical Radioisotopes. This website traces it's roots from the 1940's through the 1980's and into the future. It starts with a prophecy:
To understand the story of Oak Ridge fully--that is to say, to grasp not just the facts but also the deeper truths and symbols--you must first know the story of John Hendrix, a mystic who roamed the East Tennessee woods around the turn of the century, more than 40 years before Oak Ridge existed.

One day, after weeks of absence, Hendrix reappeared at a crossroads store and told a group of neighbors he'd seen a startling vision.

"In the woods, as I lay on the ground and looked up into the sky, there came to me a voice as loud and as sharp as thunder," Hendrix reported. "The voice told me to sleep with my head on the ground for 40 nights and I would be shown visions of what the future holds for this land... And I tell you, Bear Creek Valley someday will be filled with great buildings and factories, and they will help toward winning the greatest war that ever will be. And there will be a city on Black Oak Ridge... Big engines will dig big ditches, and thousands of people will be running to and fro. They will be building things, and there will be great noise and confusion and the earth will shake."

"I've seen it," he concluded. "It's coming." And so it was.
Oak Ridge has a fascinating history -- Google it for other links... Here is a picture of a Calutron -- these used the slight differences in mass to seperate U-235 from U-238. The lighter (and desirable) U-235 would drift to the intside of the "racetrack" and would hit the walls. To recover, the individual Calutrons were taken apart and acid washed. Due to a wartime shortage of Copper, the US Treasury Department loand the Oak Ridge labs about 14 tons of Silver for the magnet coils. (Silver being an excellent conductor). Calutrons are not an old technology -- Saddam Had-em. So does Iran.
Click for full-size Image

Lenticular Cloud

Amazing photograph of a lenticular cloud on Flickr:
Click for full-size Image
The person who created this album -- Matthew Velie -- has found some amazing other shots -- thunderstorms, water spouts, etc... Well worth a visit!

Blogging to resume shortly.

Spent today building a fence for our goats and sheep. I'm going for a beer run (Arrogant Bastard -- great stuff!) and then fix some dinner. Blogging will be later this evening...

Forklift Safety

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In German but that doesn't really matter -- no sound? Don't speak German? No problem!!! This film speaks for itself and it is wonderful: Forklift Safety Poor Klaus...


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A populist article at the SF Gate news site but it does delve nicely into the dark side of String Theory and why it might not be the panacea people were hoping for. Sometime quantum research is.. Quantum...

'Theory of everything' tying researchers up in knots
The most celebrated theory in modern physics faces increasing attacks from skeptics who fear it has lured a generation of researchers down an intellectual dead end.

In its original, simplified form, circa the mid-1980s, string theory held that reality consists of infinitesimally small, wiggling objects called strings, which vibrate in ways that yield the different subatomic particles that comprise the cosmos. An analogy is the vibrations on a violin string, which yield different musical notes.

Advocates claimed that string theory would smooth out the conflicts between Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics. The result, they said, would be a grand unifying "theory of everything," which could explain everything from the nature of matter to the Big Bang to the fate of the cosmos.

Over the years, string theory has simultaneously become more frustrating and fabulous. On the one hand, the original theory has become mind-bogglingly complex, one that posits an 11-dimensional universe (far more than the four- dimensional universe of Einstein). The modified theory is so mathematically dense that many Ph.D.-bearing physicists haven't a clue what their string-theorist colleagues are talking about.

Emphasis mine -- that last sentence pretty much sums it up. It hearkens back to the complex orbits for the planets that were derived to support the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe. Let's revisit the article and see a perfect example of what is the problem:

A great deal is at stake. Over the last two decades, a generation of brilliant young physicists -- the kinds of proto-Einsteins who historically have led intellectual revolution after revolution -- has flocked to string theory because their professors told them that's where the action was. Now many of them are reaching middle age and have gained tenured posts on prestigious campuses. They're also educating a whole new generation of fresh- faced wannabe string theorists who are thrilled by the publicity that string theory attracts, which has included several best-selling books and a special effects-packed TV extravaganza on PBS.

The dispute has split partly along sub-disciplinary lines, and mirrors a timeless squabble in the philosophy of science: Which is more important for scientific innovation -- theoretical daring or empirical observations and experiments?

"Superstringers have now created a culture in physics departments that is openly disdainful of experiments. ... There is an intellectual struggle going on for the very soul of theoretical physics, and for the hearts and minds of young scientists entering our field," says physicist Zlatko Tesanovic of Johns Hopkins University.

String theorists and their foes can't even agree on what constitutes success or failure.

It WAS a very interesting thought-experiment but it is time to break new ground...

Image Colorization Using Optimization

Fascinating work by three Israelis -- this algorithm allows you to colorize an image or a video sequence by "scribbling" the appropriate colors on a few parts of the image (or the same on a few frames for the video). From their website:
Colorization is a computer-assisted process of adding color to a monochrome image or movie. The process typically involves segmenting images into regions and tracking these regions across image sequences. Neither of these tasks can be performed reliably in practice; consequently, colorization requires considerable user intervention and remains a tedious, time-consuming, and expensive task.

In this paper we present a simple colorization method that requires neither precise image segmentation, nor accurate region tracking. Our method is based on a simple premise: neighboring pixels in space-time that have similar intensities should have similar colors. We formalize this premise using a quadratic cost function and obtain an optimization problem that can be solved efficiently using standard techniques. In our approach an artist only needs to annotate the image with a few color scribbles, and the indicated colors are automatically propagated in both space and time to produce a fully colorized image or sequence. We demonstrate that high quality colorizations of stills and movie clips may be obtained from a relatively modest amount of user input.
Their samples are amazing -- here is one example:
Original B&W image with color scribbles in place.
Final result -- note the good shadow and highlight processing.

A Fine Rant on France

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Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple lays down a fine rant on France including a little known bit of history -- those French wines you are drinking? They were grown with Missouri grape vines.
France Sucks
Have I said lately how much France sucks? It's a country of lazy, smelly, cowardly, backstabbers.

What has France done for us?
  1. Helped us in the Revolutionary War.
  2. Gave us the Statue of Liberty.
I know this because every time I write a French bashing post some asshole French person points this shit out to me as if I didn't know it. I know it assholes. You have done exactly two things for us: Gave us support when we were fighting one of your enemies and built us a fucking statue. BFD!

What have we done for France?
  1. Helped win WWI.
  2. Won WWII and freed them from the Germans. They could have stopped Hitler earlier but were pussies and thought appeasement would work, just like they think that appeasing terrorists works. Their stupid Maginot Line was about as effective as their aircraft carrier that never leaves port. We have those too. We call them airports.
  3. Rebuilt their country after WWII with American tax money. That is money we never saw again.
  4. Protected them in the Cold War. They provided no military support and no bases. They contributed no money or troops for their own protection.
  5. Saved the French wine industry when the vinyards were being ravished with Phylloxera by sending them grape vine cuttings from Missouri that were resistant. See link.
    The gratitude of French grape growers was so great that they erected two monuments in the city of Montpelier in the south of France, honoring the Missouri grape growers who were credited with saving the French wine industry.
How soon they forget.
Denny then goes on to remind us of France's current political maneuvers and how they impacted the world. Need to be taken down a notch or two, they are no longer a world power and feeling mulish about it.

More blogging later this evening

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Spent today assembling a cement mixer and setting some fence posts. We are headed out for Pizza and will be back in about an hour or two. Blogging will resume then.

Strangest Music Video Ever

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Ran into this from an email list and it is downright wierd... The strange thing is that they are taking themselves seriously and filmed in a studio of some sort... The Strangest Music Video Ever

Superman as he really was

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Jay Pinkerton has remixed Superman and told the story as it really was. Go there and start clicking. His treatment of Batman is wonderful (and as irreverent)...

More Tanks!

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Read about it at Much more happening -- hit here and start scrolling!

Nice Laptop

No relation to previous entry and hat tip to BoingBoing Someone ( is taking laptops, removing all of the plastic pieces and making wood ones to fit. From their website:
The legnatile was built out of an old case of precious sicilian wines, given to my father years ago by the Baron Antonio Pupillo di Contrada Targia near Siracuse. Other materials use were leather, pine wood, oak and beech veneers, mahogany, shammy leather, silk and iron and brass screws, every element of which has a story to tell. The colouration was created with handmade walnut tinctures diluted in spring water applied in three layers. The transparent topcoat was created with 7 layers of special boating varnish, knowingly diluted with pine spirit with threee days' drying time for each layer, followed by sandpapering and polishing. Every single wooden part is signed and numbered.

I had to precise an important thing, because (i don't know why) many people misunderstood the "legnatile": it is not a laptop covered by wood, but is a REAL WOOD LAPTOP. the original plastic cover of the laptop DOESN'T EXIST ANYMORE, and is substituted by WOOD. so the ENTIRE LAPTOP is made by SOLID WOOD. :)
It is gorgeous craftsmanship:
Click for full-size Image
Runs LINUX of course...

And we think M. Jackson is weird

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The LA Times has a story that will curl your hair...
A Young 'Prophet' Cannot Defeat the Demons of His Past
Raised in a sex-driven yet tightly controlled group, Ricky Rodriguez found one way out: murder and suicide

Early one Sunday morning in January, an employee of the Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe arrived at his office building to a gruesome sight: a bloody body behind the wheel of a Chevy Cavalier parked in the driveway.

The driver, a young man, had a gunshot wound to his head. A Glock .40-caliber pistol lay at his side.

To the police detective who responded, it looked like a straightforward suicide.

Then a cellphone rang on the passenger seat.
Ricky Rodriguez was a junior prophet in the cult group "Children of God" originally led by David Berg. A sample of their earlier teachings:
Sexual "sharing" was at the center of Berg's ministry by that time. Nowhere was it practiced more fervently than at Berg's house. People had sex in front of Rodriguez. The nannies had sex with their boyfriends. Berg had sex with anyone he fancied. Everyone had sex at an orgy that Berg organized. At the time, the boy was 3. He wandered from group to group, taking it in.

Rodriguez � nicknamed Davidito ("little David") � was raised by a bevy of young group members, who served as his nannies. They didn't just change his diapers. They lay naked in bed with the naked child, fondling him and urging him to fondle them.

His main nanny, Sara, described these acts in regular reports to the group's followers, who by then numbered several thousand, in more than 100 communes across the globe. Later the updates were compiled in a book called "The Story of Davidito," which, with its leather-like brown cover and title stamped in gold, looked for all the world like a Bible.
The article goes into a lot more detail. Sick fucks...

Art worth spitting on

From Mount Lehman Llamas in Mount Lehman, British Columbia. From their website:

Our llama barn has become an art gallery. The rules are that the paintings must be as bad as possible (or at least strange) show an interesting usage of colour or a complete misunderstanding of the concept of perspective, and they should not cost more than two dollars. They should be oil or acrylic as watercolour is too fragile for our gallery conditions. The ones on canvas board have to be varnished front and back to prevent them from warping from the dampness. Of course we don't have any black velvet paintings. In our never-ending quest to find and display the best of the worst, we have visited a lot of garage sales and thrift shops.

The name of the barn is 'Barn Toulouse' and when it became full of bad oil paintings, we had to start hanging paintings in the lower barn. Its name is the 'Monet Pit'.

We have a different situation than most galleries as there are llamas wandering in and out all of the time. They are rather critical of some of the paintings, judging by the green spit on some of them. Another problem we have is that a few of our llamas love to chew on the paintings. Because of this and the wind, the paintings are fastened to the walls with screws through the frames. Also, because of security concerns we have posted guards in the gallery.

Here is one of their critters enjoying some nice fresh hay and some artwork.

Click for full-size Image

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What it says -- a collection of over one hundred funny signs...

Here are three samples:


Great graphic

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Feces Flinging Monkey spent some quality-time with a copy of Photoshop and came up with this -- kinda sums it all up:
I am not well versed in economics but I saw this and it stuck in my throat -- from the New Scientist (an otherwise excellent resource):
Why it is hard to share the wealth
The rich are getting richer while the poor remain poor. If you doubt it, ponder these numbers from the US, a country widely considered meritocratic, where talent and hard work are thought to be enough to propel anyone through the ranks of the rich. In 1979, the top 1% of the US population earned, on average, 33.1 times as much as the lowest 20%. In 2000, this multiplier had grown to 88.5. If inequality is growing in the US, what does this mean for other countries?
First of all, I need to get something out of the way here. The issue with poverty is not a distribution of cash. Here are two little secrets: #1) - There is no fixed amount of cash. You can piss away cash and you can grow cash. There is no one pile of it which is carved up and distributed between rich and poor people. Taking money away from rich people and giving it to poor people will help neither the rich nor the poor. #2) - You can manufacture cash out of thin air. All it takes is an idea, some hard work, some brains, the right attitude and working 60 hours/week. For an example, take a look at J. K. Rowling -- she was a single mom, living on welfare and had an idea for several Children's Books. Now, Harry Potter has made her worth One Billion Dollars according to Forbes Magazine. Where did her wealth come from? An Idea and some very hard work. Let's look at the numbers in the New Scientist article: In 1979 -- the top 1% earned 33.1 times more than the lowest 20%. In 2000 -- the top 1% earned 88.5 times more than the lowest 20%. This means that: #1) - rich people are getting richer and #2) - more poor people are becoming rich. (remember, you are counting by dollar value here, not numbers of people) Poor people today have cell phones, cars, new clothes, heating and air conditioning, television -- the standard of living for people classified as "poor" has been rising very nicely. Now back to the New Scientist article -- there is a conference coming up in India which is addressing the following:
Economists will join physicists to discuss these issues next week in Kolkata, India, at the first ever conference on the "econophysics" of wealth distribution. "We are interested in understanding whether there is some kind of social injustice behind this skewed distribution," says Sudhakar Yarlagadda of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) in Kolkata.

It is well known that wealth is shared out unfairly. "People on the whole have normally distributed attributes, talents and motivations, yet we finish up with wealth distributions that are much more unequal than that," says Robin Marris, emeritus professor of economics at Birkbeck, University of London.
If you read this article, the problem that lept out at me was that all of the presentations seem to treat wealth/poverty as coming from that one fixed pool of funds. This is not the case and these models are therefore highly flawed. One example:
Saving plans
A more sophisticated model developed by Bikas Chakrabarti of the SINP and his colleagues paints a slightly less bleak picture for the poor. His team adjusted the gas model to allow people to save various proportions of their money.

This model predicts both the wealth classes that Yakovenko found. It also suggests that if you save more you are more likely to end up rich, although there are no guarantees. Changing people's saving habits could be an effective way of making the wealth distribution fairer, rather than enforcing taxes, says Chakrabarti, who is one of the Kolkata conference organisers.
These people need to talk to some entrepreneurs. The secret here (in four steps) is: #1) - work your $#@* butt off #2) - have a good idea #3) - be realistic #4) - go from here to #1) and repeat until wealthy... As it goes: A Rising Tide Floats All Boats.

The United Nations on Terrorism

From Yahoo/AP

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Thursday for a world treaty on terrorism that would outlaw attacks targeting civilians and establish a framework for a collective response to the global threat.

Although the United Nations and its agencies already have 12 treaties covering terrorism, a universal definition has been elusive.

World leaders and officials have had deep disagreements over whether resisters to alleged oppression -- for example, Palestinian suicide bombers attacking Israeli targets � are terrorists or freedom fighters; and whether states that use what they think is legitimate force might be branded terrorists.

From Cox and Forkum:

Click for full-size Image

The Cliff House

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A great look at one of the early Victorian Grand Hotels. Built on a cliffside near San Francisco, it was the destination of its day. Presidents visited there. Sadly, it burned to the ground eleven years after opening but it carries quite a legacy and record.
Click for full-size Image

Terry Schiavo update

I had written about Terry's plight here before and her parents have an excellent website with videos of her responding to things in the room and interacting with people. Whatever her husband may say, she is not brain dead, damaged yes but dead no. On March 10th (last Thursday), a businessman stated that he would give Terry's husband One Million Dollars if he would drop his attempts to have her killed and transfer custodial care to her parents. The businessman is Mr. Robert Herring, Sr. and he is being represented by Attorney Gloria Allred. Here are some excerpts from Ms. Allred's statement:
We are here today to announce that our client, Robert Herring, Sr., is making an offer to Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, which could save Terri's life.

Terri Schiavo is currently in a coma in Florida. Michael Schiavo has asked the court for permission to disconnect her feeding tube, which would result in her death. Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schiavo, have opposed the request. After a long court battle the court has set March 18, 2005 for the removal of Terri's feeding tube.
And the offer:
He contacted me and retained my law firm to convey the following offer to Terri's husband. If Mike Schiavo agrees to transfer the legal right to decide all of Terri's current and future medical decisions to Terri's parents, then Mr. Herring will pay Mr. Schiavo the amount of 1 million dollars (subject to court approval of Terri's parents as her conservators or guardians).

The million dollars was deposited into my law firm's client trust account yesterday and this morning we communicated this million dollar offer in writing to Mr. Schiavo's attorney.

This offer will remain open until Monday, March 14, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.
Emphasis mine - this is not an if/maybe/some-time-in-the-future sort of offer, the cash is sitting in the lawyers trust account now and the offer times out this Monday. Mr. Schiavo, please take this and give Terry a chance at some sort of life. Don't let your personal greed overshadow what is right... The Blog Straight Up with Sherri has been covering this issue -- Sherri is down in Florida now working to try to save Terry. One of her guest authors posted this update to the Herring offer and a reader had an interesting comment to make... Here is Sherri's guest author:
Felos calls Herring offer "offensive".
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

George Felos, attorney for Michael Schiavo, tells Robert Herring, a oncerned California businessman, that the latter's offer of One Million Dollars to let Terri Schiavo live is "offensive". This is the official response to a story highlighted by Sherri on Thursday evening.
And the two readers comments that made me go Hmmmm...
  1. No, it's not the money Schiavo wants, he's trying to stop Terri from spilling something she knows about him.
  2. I couldn't agree more. I suspect that what is really going on in MS's mind is...."God Forbid Terri regains enough verbal skills to say "He did this" while pointing at Michael. No amount of money is worth the death penalty!!!!

Store Names in Jolly Olde England

A collection of photos of U.K. Stores with unusual names. Some examples:

Austin Flowers

The Frying Scotsman

Junk and Disorderly

Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation

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The web page for what looks to be a very interesting museum.

The Atomic Testing Museum

The Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation (NTSHF), a Nevada 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, was founded in 1998 for the purpose of preserving and interpreting the history of the Nevada Test Site. (The NTS served as the nation's principal on-continent nuclear weapons testing facility from 1951 to 1992.)

In partnership with the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), the NTSHF participated in the campaign to create and the design the program elements of the new Frank H. Rogers Science and Technology Building on the DRI campus at 755 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Atomic Testing Museum (ATM), a program of the NTSHF and a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliates Program, occupies the first floor of the Rogers Building. The 8,000 square foot permanent exhibit area is scheduled to open to the public on February 1, 2005 with the official grand opening celebration scheduled for Sunday, February 20th.

Looks fascinating. Here is a photo of one of the museum exhibits -- a collection of radiation detecting and analysis instruments:

Click for full-size Image

Hank III

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A friend of ours tuned us on to Hank Williams the 3rd. Great music -- he is not afraid to tell things as he sees them. From one of his reviews:
"Hank Williams III is a true p-ro-fessional!! He's doing country music's dirty work by tellin' the shit-bird-pop-country-fuck-heads to suck it, and he's gettin' the word out of who you really should be listening to. I admire him for his ability to keep on the road as much as he does. The road wears you down, but he just keeps on keepin' on."

-Scott H. Biram, Austin Chronicle Musician of the Year 2003
There is also a message forum that has some amazing writing (free registration required)...

State Spending and Cash Surpluses

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Ran into this website through an email list. Interesting and something I never knew... An excerpt from the introduction:
Simultaneous Budget Deficits/Shortfalls AND Financial Surpluses
This is the most deceiving topic that governments, politicians, and the news media have conveyed to the public about governmental financial matters. In realty, a government can simultaneously have a budget shortfall and a financial surplus of the taxpayers' money.

A budget is an estimate of the amount of money to be received and the amounts to be spent for various purposes in a given time. It is a planning and monitoring document. It matches revenues (income) and expenditures (expenses) for a given period of time which is usually one year for most governments. It does NOT demonstrate the financial condition of a government.

You continually hear the phrase "budget shortfall" or "budget deficit." What this means is that projected (planned) expenditures will probably exceed projected (planned) revenues. When this happens, governments immediately want to raise taxes and/or reduce services regardless of the financial condition of the government. It works every time.
This website tracks individual states and tallies up their budget surpluses. I live in WA State we have a surplus of over $20 Billion Dollars. Interesting to know because various groups have been griping about how programs are being cut for lack of funds while the state is sitting on a cash reserve. I do not agree completely with the authors of this page -- they want the budget to be spent completely with zero funds held in reserve. We should have a slush-fund that can be quickly mobilized for emergency situations but not $20 Billion -- that's real money!

Lawyer sues himself accidentally

This is ripe... From the Madison Record (Illinois Legal Newspaper)
Alton attorney accidentally sues himself
Alton attorney Emert Wyss thought he could make money in a Madison County class action lawsuit, but he accidentally sued himself instead. Now he has four law firms after his money - and he hired all four.

Wyss�s boomerang litigation started in 2002, when he invited Carmelita McLaughlin to his office at 1600 Washington St. in Alton. Acting as her attorney when she bought a home in Alton and when she refinanced it, on both occasions she had chosen Centerre Title--a company that Wyss owned--to close her loans.

In the course of the attorney-client relationship, Wyss advised McLaughlin she might have a claim against Alliance Mortgage, holder of the first mortgage. Wyss believed Alliance Mortgage might have broken the law by charging a $60 fax fee when she refinanced.
The case is fairly long and twisted so excerpting it is not really an option. Go to the web site to read a very strange legal entanglement...

And your business plan is???

Talking to Aliens

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution points to a company who will give you one-way long-distance telephone service. Very very very long distance:

Markets in everything -- talk to aliens
A group of engineers has offered a solution for people who want a direct line to aliens - by broadcasting their phone calls directly into space.

People wanting to contact extraterrestrial beings through can dial a premium rate US number and have their call routed through a transmitter and sent into space through a 3.2-metre-wide dish in central Connecticut, US.

The service, launched on 27 February, will cost users $3.99 per minute, says Eric Knight, president of the company. He says that a large radio receiver - like the Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico - situated on a distant planet might be large enough for an alien civilisation to receive the calls.

Here is their dish:


My question is that they operate under these FCC regulations:

Our transmitter has been carefully engineered to be 100-percent compliant with all pertinent FCC "Part 15" regulations. Specifically, our system provides the maximum allowable power under FCC Title 47, Part 15, Section 15.247.

Which in part defines the maximum allowable output power as being:

(3) For systems using digital modulation in the 902-928 MHz, 2400-2483.5 MHz, and 5725-5850 MHz bands: 1 Watt. As an alternative to a peak power measurement, compliance with the one Watt limit can be based on a measurement of the maximum conducted output power. Maximum Conducted Output Power is defined as the total transmit power delivered to all antennas and antenna elements averaged across all symbols in the signaling alphabet when the transmitter is operating at its maximum power control level. Power must be summed across all antennas and antenna elements. The average must not include any time intervals during which the transmitter is off or is transmitting at a reduced power level. If multiple modes of operation are possible (e.g., alternative modulation methods), the maximum conducted output power is the highest total transmit power occurring in any mode.

In non-rocket-science-speak, that One Watt highlighted above is the maximum amount of power that they can radiate. A Watt is a measurement of absolute power. Imagine a 60 Watt light-bulb and trying to view it from a long distance. Having a large lens on the receiving end (telescope) helps out a lot but there are certain physical limitations to what can be done and what cannot be done.

Commercial Television satellites operate at much higher power levels (up to ten thousand Watts spread over 48 channels)

How a one Watt signal can reach Arcturus and beyond is better left to the Science Fiction writers out there and this company who charges over $3 per minute on their 1-900 line is better off left un-patronized. #Still, wish I had thought of it first - a nice easy scam...

Remember the FlowBee?

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It is still out there... Now, for only $59.95, you can get your own FlowBee Vacuum Haircut System Be the envy of your community neighborhood family pets goldfish! YES! Be the envy of your GOLDFISH Features these parts made from Space-Age PLASTIC!!!
And your children will love you for it!!! Take a look at our little Timmy here who is either heavily sedated or will go quietly insane in about fifteen years.

Hell is other people removing your cigarette

The French -- need I say more...

I thought the USA was going overboard with Politically Correct-edness but the French are taking this to new heights...

From the News Telegraph comes this article of the National Library and Jean-Paul Sartre:

France's National Library has airbrushed Jean-Paul Sartre's trademark cigarette out of a poster of the chain-smoking philosopher to avoid prosecution under an anti-tobacco law.

"Smoking," the Left-wing existentialist wrote, is "the symbolic equivalent of destructively appropriating the entire world."

And yet in its poster for an exhibition to mark the hundredth anniversary of Sartre's birth the Bibliotheque Nationale de France decided, destructively or not, to edit out the philosopher's Gauloise.

The library's president, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, confirmed that the cigarette had been discreetly smudged to comply with the 1991 loi Evin - a law banning tobacco advertising - but also so as not to frighten away potential sponsors from the exhibition, which opened yesterday.

Sartre's love of tobacco is well documented: he reportedly smoked his way through two packets and several pipes a day.

Indeed, all the best-known photographs of the author of La Nausee, such as his portrait by Henri Cartier-Bresson on the Pont des Arts in Paris, depict him with a cigarette or pipe in hand.

Christ on a Corn Dog, that is the equivalent of airbrushing Einstein's hair into a nice coif or having Henry Mancini do elevator renditions of Frank Zappa's Weasels Ripped my Flesh. Sartre was never without tobacco.

Our Friends the Saudis

Charles at LGF links to a very interesting story of Cocaine, the abuse of Diplomatic Immunity and corruption at high levels in the Saudi Royal Family:

From the article at the Herald Tribune:

Two-ton cocaine load shipped under Saudi prince's protection
Federal prosecutors are tying a Saudi prince with diplomatic immunity to a 2-ton Colombian cocaine smuggling run from Venezuela to Paris on his personal aircraft and $10 million in artwork seized by drug agents pursuing the prince's ex-girlfriend.

The build-up of the case:

As Lopez attorney Alan Soven told it, Usuga's offer was simple.

"I can get you the biggest fish in the world. How would you like a Saudi prince?" Soven said. "In their excitement to get the prince, they made a deal with the devil."

The evidence and the Prince:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Selmore said there is plenty of physical evidence, such as passport stamps, hotel receipts and photos from a desert encampment, from 1998 meetings in Saudi Arabia, Aruba and Venezuela to plot the cocaine delivery to a stash house in suburban Paris in 1999.

The interception of a cocaine courier at the Spanish border sent investigators backtracking to the French house, 1,769 pounds of cocaine and loads of suitcases used to smuggle the cocaine, Selmore said.

"The facade of legitimacy that these two defendants have build around themselves began to crumble," she said.

Lopez had approached Usuga with a proposition for flying cocaine on the plane used by Saudi prince and Swiss banker Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz Al-Shaalan, Selmore charged. After marrying a royal princess, he flew the world with an entourage of dozens and diplomatic immunity that avoided luggage inspections.

Whoops... Time to clean house there King Fahd...

UPDATE: The DEA website has info as well. This is from a few years ago but it covers the start of the investigation.

Driving Under The Effluence - part two

I had written about the original story here:
Interesting news about the Dave Matthews Band in ProSound News Online:

The Dave Matthews Band, currently on tour, has been accused of violating Illinois state water pollution and public nuisance laws, fines for which could reach $70,000. The band and tour bus driver Stefan A. Whol were accused by Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan on Tuesday over an incident on August 8 where reportedly one of the band�s tour busses dumped 80-100 gallons of human waste on to a Chicago River tourist boat.

During a two-night stand at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI on August 7 and 8, the band stayed in a Michigan Avenue hotel in Chicago; according to the three-count civil complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court, a black 2003 Monaco Royale Coach which was on tour with the production dumped a tank of effluence while crossing a grated bridge. Unfortunately, a boat of tourists on an architectural sight-seeing journey was passing underneath at the time.
Well, the case has been resolved... Steve H. at Hog On Ice has the update and tells a story:
Dave Matthews: "Buy my CD's or FACE MY POO!"
Green Celeb Confesses to Taking Dump on Innocent Sightseers

Have you read this? It's on Drudge's site. Security videos proved that the Dave Matthews Band pooped on a boat full of tourists in Chicago. Remember the story? A mysterious black bus was sighted on a bridge over the Chicago River, and it unloaded its waste tank just as a boat passed under it. The authorities suspected that the bus belonged to Dave.

I know nothing at all about the Dave Matthews Band, since I don't listen to much pop crap (pun not intended), but the news articles all say Dave is as green as they come. And when the story came out, the driver lied his big ass off. The bus was in the garage! Honest!

Today he says otherwise. He pleaded guilty, and he's paying a whopping fine.

Now the driver is Dave's ex-driver, and we're supposed to believe that ol' Dave had no idea the bus was dumping poo illegally. Do you buy that? Do you think the man rides around in the bus time and time again and has no idea where the poop goes? Do you honestly think he never asked? Wouldn't YOU ask? Of course he knew. The bus holds 800 pounds. How many poos do you reckon that is? Maybe a hundred, tops? You have to include flush water and wash water and bath water, if they had a shower. So if four or five people are on the bus, maybe twenty whizzes and seven or eight dumps a day, plus washing up...that thing has to fill up twice a week. Surely Dave has been on board during one of the bombing raids.

I wonder why they did it. My old man's boat has poo fittings that shoot straight into the ocean, just like virtually everyone else in the U.S. People do it because it's cheaper than having a poo tank, and you can refit the tank for diesel. And because it's a disgusting chore, tying up at the poo dock and having your load sucked out. My dad's boat has been in the same marina for sixteen years, and I have NEVER seen a boat tie up beside the poo thing. Nobody does it.

Absolutely true -- I used to have sailboats and the marinas I was in always had liveaboards. Only saw tourists at the pumpout station. You go out for a bit, pump your tanks and have a nice sail. Come back and no one is the wiser...

Gummy Haiku

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A collection of Gummy Haiku for the poet in us all: Here are three:
"Young Gummy Worm Discovers Dangers of Conformity"

He went in the bag with the crowd. They sealed and sold that bag. I ate him. "Ambrosia"
In heaven, I'm sure, the angels dig with spades to unearth gummy worms. "Gone Fishing"
Two bags cost a buck. These worms are human bait; I taste them. I'm hooked.

Build your own four-foot tall tornado

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Step by step instructions for building a tornado machine can be found here: 4 feet tall tornado generator

The tornado will be about 0.9m tall (about 3 feet) when fully developed. The generator design uses a variable-speed fan, for the generator to be able to simulate the F1 - F3 range of tornado structures. At very low fan speed, the tornado will be like a rope, almost stationary positioned in the generator box. When run at high speed, the tornado will be a swirling vortex, about 130mm (5") thick, going berserk in the generator.

Costs to build this generator are about $150, mostly due to the high cost of the mist generator it uses ($100), the fan (about $25) and the power supply for the fan ($20). Most of the rest of the materials will be lying about in your workshop. You can build the generator first, without buying the mist generator, to save money. You'll not have a visible tornado vortex, but you can make this visible with smoke or soldering fumes. If the device really works and a tornado is produced, you can buy the expensive mist generator.

Here is a twister:


Looks like a fun project...

A new bottled water

From the Wall Street Journal
For Finicky Drinkers, Water From the Tap Isn't Tasty Enough
Bill and Rhonda Fels could never get their 3-year-old, Jason, to drink enough water, and he was chronically dehydrated as a result. So they were delighted when Jason finally found water he liked, from a glacier-fed river Mr. Fels crossed during a hike with Jason in the mountains.

Mr. Fels made regular trips to bring back more river water for Jason. When neighbors started mooching his supply for their own problem drinkers, Mr. Fels spotted a business opportunity and started a bottling company to sell the water.

Jason is now healthy and hydrated. As a bonus, he has stopped drinking from the toilet.
What the F??? Continue reading:
The spaniel-retriever mix is now chief product tester for the Felses' company, Springmill Products Inc., which ships a line of bottled water called PetRefresh for finicky critters nationwide. From their new headquarters on a former tobacco farm in Lawsonville, N.C., the Felses sell their pet water for $1.49 per 20-ounce plastic bottle.
Sheesh... And at $1.49 for 20 ounces, this is a lot more per gallon than Gasoline and people are griping about paying $2.20 per gallon for that. (There are 128 ounces in one gallon, do your own math...)

Photography with non-visible light

Excellent web site with many examples of Infra Red and Ultra Violet photography using Digital Cameras with filters and specific lenses.
Click for full-size Image
Flowers in Ultra Violet are especially interesting. Many insects see far into the UV range and flowers look quite different to them than they do to us:
Potentilla anserina (Silverweed)
under visible light

Potentilla anserina (Silverweed)
under Ultra Violet light


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A nice description of Wavelets at the National Academy of Sciences website:
WAVELETS: Seeing the Forest And the Trees

In the nineteenth century, mathematicians perfected a useful tool known as Fourier analysis. This mathematical technique allows complex periodic and non-periodic functions (or waves) to be summed as a series of simpler functions. It has trouble reproducing transient signals or signals with abrupt changes, such as the spoken word (see Transforming Reality). Over the course of the twentieth century, scientists worked to get around these limitations, in order to allow representations of the data to adapt to the nature of the information. Different groups of researchers in disparate fields developed techniques to decompose signals into pieces that could be localized in time and analyzed at different scales of resolution. These techniques were the precursors of wavelet theory (see An Idea with No Name).

In 1981, Jean Morlet, a geologist analyzing seismic signals, developed what are now known as �Morlet wavelets�. Further research showed that his technique worked better than Fourier transforms. Many researchers followed the original idea with refinements of their own which made wavelet analysis much easier and turned the theory into a practical tool (see The Great Synthesis). One prominent application of wavelets has been in digital image compression. Wavelets are central to the new JPEG-2000 digital image standard and the WSQ method that the FBI uses to compress its fingerprint database. They allow us to zoom in on an image without losing resolution, which is common with other techniques (see How Do Wavelets Work?). With the foundations of wavelet theory securely in place, the field has grown rapidly over the last decade. Engineers are trying new applications. Mathematicians continue trying to answer important theoretical questions. Many researchers are interested in expanding the application of wavelets beyond image compression to other areas such as pattern recognition. We will doubtless be reaping the benefits of applications of wavelets for a long time to come (see Wavelets in the Future).
The article then goes on to talk about how wavelets are being used in some very diverse applications from Pixar's A Bugs Life (and their future films) to Database Compression and Seismic Analysis. Very cool stuff!

The (ahem) alternative to Valentine's Day

Is here

From the website:

You know the drill. Every 14th of February you get the chance to display your fondness for a significant other by showering her with gifts, flowers, dinner, shows and any other baubles that women find romantic. Every Valentines day you rack your brains for that one special, unique gift that will show your wife or girlfriend that you really do care for them more than any other. Now ladies, I'll let you in on a little secret; guys really don't enjoy this that much. Sure seeing that smile on your face when we get it right is priceless, but that smile is the result of weeks of blood, sweat and consideration. Another secret; guys feel left out. That's right, there's no special holiday for the ladies to show their appreciation for the men in their life. Men as a whole are either too proud or too embarrassed to admit it.

Which is why a new holiday has been created.


Jeepers Creepers

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Talk about some Peepers! A binocular where each objective lens is 22" in diameter. Here is a picture:
The web site posts some pluses and some minuses but the overall impression is awesome if you can do the optics and fabrication.

The Peaceful people: The Left

From the St Petersburg Times comes this perfect example of teaching by example and why the left have so much to say about peace in the world:

Bumper sticker evokes road rage -- Her Bush-Cheney sticker sent him into a tirade that led to a dangerous car chase through the streets of Tampa.
Politics has always been divisive, splitting families and turning friend against friend.

This week, though, a Tampa woman learned that simple Bush-Cheney bumper sticker can bring trouble, if not danger, from a total stranger.

Police say Michelle Fernandez, 35, was chased for miles Tuesday by an irate 31-year-old Tampa man who cursed at her as he held up an anti-Bush sign and tried to run her off the road.

His sign, about the size of a business letter, read:

Never Forget Bush's Illegal Oil War Murdered Thousands in Iraq.

"I guess this was a disgruntled Democrat," Tampa Police spokesman Joe Durkin said. "Maybe he has that sign with him so he's prepared any time he comes up against a Republican."

Screw them-- the election was about five months ago. Wake up and smell the cappuccino bub...

Anyway, they caught the moke:

Police arrested Nathan Alan Winkler at his home on N Cleveland Street near Hyde Park within an hour of the incident.

After finding the antiwar sign in his car, they booked him into the county jail on one count of aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, Durkin said.

And the Mom who was chased by this lunatic?

"At first I didn't know why he was screaming at me," she said. "Then it clicked."

In her frantic nine-minute call Tuesday to a 911 dispatcher, Fernandez said it was the Bush Cheney '04 bumper sticker on her green Ford Expedition that set the other driver off.

"I was just almost run off the road by a man," she told the dispatcher at 5:14 p.m. She was taking her son, 10, and daughter, 3, to a ballfield.

"He just ran me off because I have a Bush bumper sticker in my car. He had some type of - he drove up next to me with - he had a sign on it like hanging from his - from the passenger window, that said something about the war in Iraq. . . . I'm shaking like a leaf."

I am not saying that there are not some Lunatic right wing people out there -- there are.

Lunatics from the conservative side of things do not spend their days trying to run mothers off the road based on a piece of paper on their bumper, they just hole up in the wilderness somewhere.

Liberals just want to squirt their joy and self-rightousness everywhere...

Green Day = Good

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From the BBC comes this heartening story:
Green Day awakens boy from coma
Music fan Corey George was unconscious for two weeks on a life support machine after being knocked down by a car on his ninth birthday.

Then his mother Tina played him a CD by his favorite punk-pop band, Green Day.

Less than an hour after hearing the album, American Idiot, he had opened his eyes and was able to move his fingers and toes.

Four days later Corey, from the village of Aberaman in Aberdare, south Wales, was well enough to be moved out of intensive care and into a high-dependency unit.
And the Band's response to this story:
The American band is currently touring in Japan, but band members have sent a get well message and have arranged for a pack of Green Day merchandise, including CDs and t-shirts, to be delivered.

"The boys are incredibly pleased that one of their tracks has brought Corey out of his coma," said a spokeswoman.
Very cool -- people who are in comas are not necessarily brain dead, their minds are just uncoupled from their bodies and this can change with the proper stimulus. They are awake, they need to want to return.

Electronic Engineering Resource Website

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Was doing a Google search for a fairly obscure electronic component and this place popped up: Leroy's Engineering Web Site Drilled down on a few topics and everything seems to be nicely current and very deep. Check it out. I also like this place:

Posting to resume in about an hour

Had to go into town today to pick up some more parts for the filter system for all the test batches of Cider, Cyser, Mead and Melomel that Jen and I have brewing. Plus I am still getting over this damnable crud -- wrote about that here. C.S.I. is on in a few minutes, I will be out in about an hour and will blog up a veritable storm (maybe a few entries - light showers...) Must... Feed... Inner... Geek...

Dihydrogen Monoxide

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I had written earlier today about the Connecticut State Senator who was trying to pass a law banning the use of Cell Phones at Gas Stations despite the fact that the link between Cell Phones and Gas Explosions has been proven to be a hoax. Al posted this comment:
We should warn her about dihydrogen monoxide's vicious MSDS
Very true - here is a brief synopsis of DHMO's hazards:
What are some of the dangers associated with DHMO?
Each year, Dihydrogen Monoxide is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions upon millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment. Some of the known perils of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:

  • Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
  • Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
  • Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
  • DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
  • Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
  • Contributes to soil erosion.
  • Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
  • Contamination of electrical systems often causes short-circuits.
  • Exposure decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.
  • Found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors and lesions.
  • Often associated with killer cyclones in the U.S. Midwest and elsewhere.
  • Thermal variations in DHMO are a suspected contributor to the El Nino weather effect.
Despite all that, DHMO remains a useful industrial chemical:
What are some uses of Dihydrogen Monoxide?
Despite the known dangers of DHMO, it continues to be used daily by industry, government, and even in private homes across the U.S. and worldwide. Some of the well-known uses of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:

  • as an industrial solvent and coolant,
  • in nuclear power plants,
  • by the U.S. Navy in the propulsion systems of some older vessels,
  • by elite athletes to improve performance,
  • in the production of Styrofoam,
  • in biological and chemical weapons manufacture,
  • as a spray-on fire suppressant and retardant,
There is a lot more at this site: DHMO.ORG including the MSDS sheet that Al mentioned: MSDS Nasty stuff. We have some seeping down the hill across the road from our house -- an abandoned quarry probably...


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Just got back from the Little Feat concert and it was drop-dead amazing. I had never had the pleasure of seeing them live before but always enjoyed their studio albums. Live, they are so much better it's like a different band. I knew the level of musicianship was there but their ability to improvise and keep track of the other bandmembers is downright psychic. They played for about two hours non-stop and came out to do a 15 minute rendition of Feets Don't Fail Me Now for the encore. If you like their studio albums, they are just starting an extensive USA tour -- here is the schedule -- you will not be disappointed.

No posting this evening

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Little Feat is playing at the Mt. Baker Theater (an excellent venue -- one of the classic old-style vaudeville/movie houses that has been lovingly restored) I'll be back online tomorrow with more spew...

A new law in Connecticut

From RCR Wireless News:
Conn. considers bill to ban cell-phone use at gas stations
Connecticut State Sen. Andrea Stillman (D) is pushing legislation that would ban cell-phone use at gas stations and impose a $250 fine for violations.

"I know when we pump gas at a station there is a notice attached to the pump or a pole near the pump that lists in writing and illustration of what one should not do while pumping gas," Stillman testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday. "These restrictions are recommended because they place people in danger. It is a known, documented fact that using a cell phone in proximity of the gas pump can cause an electrical charge that can cause a fire that can ignite the pump."
BZZZZTTT!!! WRONG!!! First, here is Snopes
Claim: Cellular phones have touched off explosions at gas stations.
Status: False.
And then, the ever wonderful MythBusters:
Episode 2: Cell Phone Destruction, Silicone Breasts, CD-ROM Shattering
In this episode, Jamie and Adam test several explosive theories. Can chatting on a cell phone while pumping gas cause the pump to blow up? Our mythbusters put themselves at risk so you don't have to. They also put silicone breast implants to the test at high altitude. Will they burst under pressure? Finally, we'll learn once and for all if high-speed CD-ROM players can really shatter a compact disc.
Needless to say, that myth was resoundingly busted. Oh yeah, to add insult to injury - the lawmaker in question -- Andrea Stillman (D) -- has this post:
Stillman, who served six terms in the state House of Representatives, chairs the Senate Environment Committee.
With stellar minds like Andrea's, it is no wonder that the environmental cause is so poorly run. Focusing on talking-points and publicity instead of facts and good science. Mythbusters airs Wednesday nights on Discovery and is worth checking out - lots of fun!

Arctic Ice Pack melting

There was a big outcry over the discovery that parts of the Arctic Ice Pack were receding. The environmentalists used this opportunity to shove yet another righteous sermon about "Global Warming" down the throats of the unbelievers. Only it turns out that the Arctic Ice Pack has been going through regular cycles of advancing and receding -- from The Scotsman:
Polar history shows melting ice-cap may be a natural cycle
The melting of sea ice at the North Pole may be the result of a centuries-old natural cycle and not an indicator of man-made global warming, Scottish scientists have found.

After researching the log-books of Arctic explorers spanning the past 300 years, scientists believe that the outer edge of sea ice may expand and contract over regular periods of 60 to 80 years. This change corresponds roughly with known cyclical changes in atmospheric temperature.

The finding opens the possibility that the recent worrying changes in Arctic sea ice are simply the result of standard cyclical movements, and not a harbinger of major climate change.
And some verification from real-world data?
The amount of sea ice is currently near its lowest point in the cycle and should begin to increase within about five years.

As a result, Dr Chad Dick, a Scottish scientist working at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso, believes the next five to ten years will be a critical period in our understanding of sea ice and the impact, if any, of long-term global warming.

Concern has been expressed recently that animals such as polar bears could become extinct because sea ice is disappearing. The new research by Dr Dick and a colleague, Dr Dimitry Divine, gives rise to hopes the melting will stop soon.
It will be interesting to follow this. There are many periodic cycles operating here, the major cooling and warming one that seems to take about 400 years, this 60 to 80 year Polar cycle. And of course, no one talks about the elephant in the living room -- the major contribution to warming and the biggest (in terms of actual change) greenhouse gas is water vapor. Nobody can do anything about this so it's just swept under the rug...

Convert a cheap webcam to Infra Red

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Have a spare webcam lying around? Convert it to InfraRed and open up new vistas: Info here: How to make a webcam work in infra red Involves disassembling the webcam, removing the lens, removing the InfraRed blocking filter and installing an InfraRed passing filter (a piece of exposed film works great). Some fun sample photos -- who would have known that a bottle of Coca Cola is transparent in I.R.

The Art of Motion Control

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Some very beautiful stuff here. This is the home page for artist Bruce Shapiro who specializes in kinetic artwork made with industrial motion control equipment. From his introduction:
"Motion control" --

--term used to describe a variety of techniques for orchestrating the movement of machinery and objects. The fields of "Robotics," "CNC," and "automation" all fall under its umbrella.

The purpose of this site is to suggest that motion control is also an emerging medium for artistic expression.

Despite the universal use of motion control in industrial settings, its use by artists has been hampered by the enormous cost of commercial equipment. Because access to the tools of this medium is crucial for its exploration, one strategy open to motivated artists is building their own equipment from scrapped components flowing out of industrial sources. I have spent the past 12 years pursuing this goal. In so doing, I find myself on an unpredictable path winding through three landscapes: science, art, and education.
He has outfitted a number of basic shop machines to digital control and creates wonderful sculptures with them -- a few examples:
I reduced the size of these images -- visit his website for the full size and explanation. Fascinating stuff!

Pot and good judgment

From ABC News Online comes this story of a man in Queensland, Australia and his jail sentence:
Cannabis grower asks for more jail time
A Queensland man convicted of possessing and producing cannabis has been jailed at his own request.

The man faced court in Bundaberg in the state's south-east.

Steven John Campbell had pleaded not guilty to the two charges and urged the jury to acquit him on the basis of research he believed proved the drug was not as dangerous as smoking and drinking coffee.

He admitted to the court he produced the cannabis and he knew it was illegal.

Campbell was found guilty, with the jury returning its verdict in less than 10 minutes.

The sentencing judge took into account that Campbell had already served nearly 18 months in jail and decided to release him.

However, Campbell asked if he could spend more time in jail to finish a computer training course and start up a chess club.

He was sentenced to three weeks.
And people say that smoking Pot doesn't affect your judgement...

It's Alive!!!

Mt. St. Helens roared back to life again this evening at 5:30 Seattle KOMO-TV has the story:

Eruption At Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens sprung back to life Tuesday afternoon as perhaps the largest eruption since the volcano became active again occurred at 5:25 p.m.

Video from our sister station KATU-TV in Portland showed a large steam and ash plume rising as high as 36,000 feet from the volcano's crater.

UW Seismologist Bill Steele said that ironically, recent tests within the last few days showed very low volcanic gas levels. They did record a slight increase in average magnitude of quakes in and around the lava dome before the evening eruption.

No reports of damage except for instrumentation in the crater.


D.I.Y. Laser Tag

Some people have been getting deeply into Laser Tag and building their own systems. I present: Miles Tag
MilesTagTM is the product of our ongoing efforts to design and build a high-quality, full-featured "laser tag" gaming system that is comparable to the best commercial systems on the market (honestly, we think it already surpasses most of those systems in both capability and flexibility) and can be built for a fraction of the cost of a commercial system.

Many of the functions and capabilities of the MilesTag design were modeled after the MILES 2000 weapon training system currently in use by US Armed Forces. A lot of inspiration and ideas are also drawn from computer and console-based First Person Shooter games and Role Playing games. Unlike most DIY, consumer and commercial laser tag systems, MilesTag uses a digitally encoded signal that allows differentiation between up to 32 players and 7 teams, and supports a wide range of weapon types, including mines, area-denial and even non-conventional weapons. Damage inflicted by each weapon is scalable, and the performance of each weapon is fully configurable (rate of fire, ammo capacity, reload time, etc.).

This web site contains the most current MilesTag source code, schematics and as much information about system construction as possible. You are free to use the information provided on this site to build or upgrade your own system, or as the starting point/inspiration for your own designs. We do not offer any custom design services, but feel free to send your comments, suggestions or ideas to improve the system. Who knows, it may show up in the next update. Otherwise.... what you see is what you get!
Click for full-size Image
Pretty impressive stuff - lots of links to hardware and software tools.


Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo who did Akira, Steamboy is due to be released March 18th. Here is the plot synopsis from the films website:

A retro science-fiction epic set in Victorian England, Steamboy features an inventor prodigy named Ray Steam who receives a mysterious metal ball containing a new form of energy capable of powering an entire nation. This young boy must use it to fight evil, redeem his family, and save London from destruction. The lush Victorian interiors and the elegance of the era's mechanical design allows Otomo to create dazzling visual backgrounds and machines for this film. With more than 180,000 drawing and 400 CG cuts, Steamboy is sure to be one of the most elaborate animated features of 2004.

IMDB has more info here Looks really good...

An accident waiting to happen

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Of course there is a major disclaimer but still:
Mount your laptop or notebook to your car's steering wheel and catch up on all your work while parked for extended periods at a location. Ideal for outside field sales and service professionals, real estate executives, students, etc. Arkon's Executive Laptop Steering Wheel Mount will hold ALL portable laptops up to 10 Lbs. in weight. A ball point pen included conveniently attaches to the underside of the base of the mount. The laptop steering wheel mount is very portable. It conveniently folds up and can be stored under the seat while not in use.
Hat tip to GadgetMadness

How to find MP3's with Google

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Short text file giving some tips for using Google to locate MP3 files.
This How-To will teach you how to use google to find mp3s. This How-To will be highly pragmatic and will focus on the hows and not the wherefores of the various search strings. Written by my_haz
The author uses some clever hacks and not-that-well-known switches for the Google command line. Useful for other file types as well...

The Honeywell Kitchen Computer

I have done a few articles recently about retro computing. (here and here)

Here is another one for the books: From Old-Computers.COM

This odd-looking and almost laughable computer was released by Honeywell under the official name H316 Pedestal Model, but was featured on the cover of a Nieman-Marcus catalog under its more commonly-known name, the "Kitchen Computer".

The Kitchen Computer is most likely where the classic recipe storage cliche originated, as this was the primary use advertised for the Kitchen Computer. In fact, storing recipes was about all the Kitchen Computer was capable of doing. The recipes were programmed into the computer and it would store them for you. In other words, it was an electronic recipe storage box, nothing more.

Supposedly it was quite a chore to program recipes into the Kitchen Computer, mainly because it took about two weeks to learn how to program the thing. However, the Kitchen Computer was shipped with some recipes already programmed into it. Could this be the iMac of it's time? From box to dinner in only 10 minutes? I doubt it, but we can imagine the pre-programmed recipes were included so anyone who purchased the Kitchen Computer could begin using it right away rather than having to suffer through learning how to program it first.

When one thinks of computer hardware, they often think of a monitor or a keyboard or a printer. Well, the Kitchen Computer has perhaps the oddest piece of "hardware" I have ever heard of -- a cutting board. Yes, a cutting board! This oddity was most likely added so the food could be prepared right there without having to walk away from the recipe display, considering the Kitchen Computer isn't as portable as a good old-fashioned cookbook (It weighed a staggering 150 pounds).

The price of this modern marvel was $10,600 which works out to $61,874.76 in today's money! You wonder if they ever sold even one...

There have been other Kitchen Computers that tried to penetrate the market but these have not done well either. Computers in refrigerator doors, little email and surfing gadgets that flip down from under your upper cabinets. Nothing seems to replace the convenience of a simple cookbook.

Nina Totenberg Eats her Shoe

She gets it. Finally... From the Media Research Center comes this report: totenberg-shoe.jpg
Totenberg Eats Shoe, Admits Misjudgment on Iraq Election's Power
NPR's Nina Totenberg eats her shoe. Asked on Inside Washington over the weekend if President Bush deserves credit for the democratic movements rising in the Middle East, Totenberg, a critic of Bush's Iraq policy, replied that "if I had a hat I would have to eat it." Then, as she briefly brought a shoe to her month, she noted that "I've got my shoe here" and conceded that "I really did not think that this election in Iraq would make that much difference and I was wrong."
Of course, she then has to revert to her liberal roots and backpedal a bit:
She quickly added, however, that "it really does help that Arafat died and they had a real election in Palestine." Totenberg soon returned to her liberal roots, cautioning "that we not engage in a certain level of triumphalism about this."

eBay selling in Ohio

This is sick - a perfect example of lawmakers trying to do a good thing and totally fouling the system. From CNN/Money:

Ohio law would regulate eBay sellers
Ohio residents selling goods on eBay would have to get a license and be bonded under a law set to go into effect May 2, although authors of the legislation vow to make changes before that date to exempt individuals.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the law, signed by Gov. Robert Taft on Feb. 1, was meant to insure that auctioneers were abiding by the established rules and regulations. The law, as written, requires Ohio residents who sell products online to get a state auction license.

So what is involved in getting your Ohio State Auction License?

Besides costing $200 and posting a $50,000 bond, the license requires a one-year apprenticeship to a licensed auctioneer, acting as a bid-caller in 12 auctions, attending an approved auction school, passing a written and oral exam. Failure to get a license could result in the seller being fined up to $1,000 and jailed for a maximum of 90 days.

And other states?

Kathy Greer, senior editor of UnRavel the Gavel, a newspaper covering the New England auction market, told the Plain Dealer that similar regulation efforts are under way in Tennessee and Illinois, but that past efforts have always either been withdrawn or left unenforced due to public outcry over the restrictions.

Emphasis mine - yeah, no kidding... I would certainly be writing my representatives if WA State attempted any stupid foolishness like this.

The TailGator

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Ever desire a nice blended drink but were away from an electric outlet? Announcing the TailGator
At only 10 lbs., the Totally Portable TailGator� sports a 24cc 2-stroke engine which generates enough torque to whip up a pitcher of your favorite frozen beverage in just about 15 seconds. Its 60 oz. plastic pitcher is light-weight and detachable for easy pouring and clean-up. Now, could making girlie drinks be any more manly?
A bit pricey (not really considering the custom engineering) -- looks like lots of fun!

The Tomato - fruit or vegetable

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New Jersey lawmakers will settle the question once and for all. From CBS 2 Los Angeles:
Jersey Lawmakers Tackle The Tomato
The humble tomato may technically be a fruit, but lawmakers here consider it a vegetable.

Members of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Monday approved a measure designating the Jersey tomato as the official state vegetable. A similar proposal is pending in a Senate committee.

Sponsors of the measure get around the fact that the tomato is considered a fruit by using a century-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that slapped a vegetable tariff on tomatoes, similar to the tax placed on cucumbers, squashes and beans.

Playgirl Editor outs herself

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From the Drudge Report comes this shocking revalation about Michele Zipp, editor-in-chief of Playgirl Magazine:
When it comes to sex and politics, Democrats are the more liberal, right? Not so fast. Playgirl editor-in-chief Michele Zipp explores �down and dirty� politics and examines sexuality on both sides of the aisle. In the process she comes to a realization about herself and reveals for the first time she�s now a Republican.

�Siding with the GOP when you live in the bluest state around is almost like wearing a Boston Red Sox jersey at a New York Yankees� home game,� says Zipp in the April issue of PLAYGIRL. �I cannot tell you how many times a person assumed I voted for John Kerry in 2004. Most of the time, I don�t have the heart to tell them, or the energy to discuss my reasons for going red this election year. But this is Playgirl magazine so it�s about time I was the one who bared what�s underneath.�

How could a member of the media who produces adult entertainment for women possibly side with conservatives from the red states? Zipp spells it out. �Those on the right are presumed to be all about power and greed � two really sexy traits in the bedroom. They want it, they want it now, and they�ll do anything to get it. And I�m not talking about some pansy-assed victory, I�m talking about full on jackpot, satisfaction for all.�

�The Democrats of the Sixties were all about making love and not war while a war-loving Republican is a man who would fight, bleed, sacrifice, and die for his country. Could you imagine what that very same man would do for his wife in the bedroom?� asks Zipp.

Her family must be in a state of shock right now... He he he...
Interesting story from Delmarva 47 News WalMart wanted to build a new "super-store" in Dunkirk, MD but local zoning regulations capped building sizes at 75K Sq. Feet. What are they doing?
Wal-Mart to skirt size limit by building side-by-side
Wal-Mart is trying a new tactic to skirt local ordinances limiting the size of its stores. The company now plans to build two stores side-by-side at a site in Calvert County where plans for a single big store were thwarted by a size limit adopted last year.

Wal-Mart officials are calling it one of the first arrangements of its kind in the country. The store and garden center in Dunkirk will have separate entrances, utilities, and restrooms.

And the combined size of the stores will be 30 percent larger than the 75-thousand square-foot limit for a single store.
And the response from the townspeople:
Dunkirk residents who object to the potential traffic are urging county planners not to allow Wal-Mart to skirt the rules.
No shit. This is just wrong. The company is operating without regard for the communities they serve. They have

A Dog Story

From The Onion

Hat tip to Rob at Gut Rumbles

Area Dog Will Never Live Up To Dog On Purina Bag
KANSAS CITY, MO - Although those close to Buster characterize him as a good boy, the area collie-rottweiler mix reported Monday that he will never live up to the standard set by the show-quality golden retriever on the Purina Dog Chow bag.

"I try as hard as I can," said Buster, lying on his blanket in the entryway of the Hopkins-family home. "I welcome [Buster's owner] Gerald [Hopkins] home every night with lots and lots of barks and leaps. And when he sits down in his chair to read, I lie quietly at his feet. Still, when I see that dog on the Dog Chow bag, I feel like I'm nothing."

Without lifting his head from his paws, Buster turned his eyes to the shelf above the dryer, where the trim and muscular golden retriever on the 40-pound bag of Purina Dog Chow bounded across a green lawn.

According to Buster, the dog is almost certainly American Kennel Club-certified.

"Look at that coat," Buster said. "Thick and soft... And his color! Varying shades of rich and lustrous gold. As for me, I'm sort of a rough, dull black, and I know it. I've known it since I figured out that the strange, scentless dog in the mirror is me. Ever since then...well, I try my best not to whine, but it's hard to live with the fact that I will never measure up."

"It didn't take two vets to piece together what breed that dog was," Buster added.

The kicker is that we have a Buster that looks remarkably like the one in the photograph... Eerie...


Also not on the cover of a Purina Bag but we don't feed any of our animals Purina products. Funny story, Purina makes chow for laboratory animals and they produce a Monkey Chow.

I used to know someone in Seattle who swore by the stuff.

Kept a bowl on his desk and munched on it while he was talking with you. I am assuming that he was doing this to gross people out but you never know with academics...

Crud Blogging

Seems like a couple bloggers are definitely under the weather these days.

Merlin at 43 Folders has it and this idea:

Create a sick box - Make up a little box filled with all the stuff you'll want fast access to on the next morning you wake up with a cold. TheraFlu, cough drops, fresh box of Kleenex, unwatched DVD you've been saving, a nice trashy novel, and the phone numbers of anyone you'd need to contact at work. Believe me, you're in no mood to collect this crap when you wake up with the flu kicking your ass.

Steve H. from Hog on Ice has his virus update here:

Yesterday morning, I was fine. In the early afternoon, my throat felt funny. By bedtime, it was kind of sore.

During the night, it got a lot sorer. Then all day today, I got sicker and sicker. My throat got worse, I was freezing with the heat on 76, I had stopped sweating, and I felt almost delirious. And my head hurt. My bones and muscles started to ache. I could feel congestion and a runny nose coming on. I was dying to give up and go to bed. I was asleep on my feet.

Then I made myself play the piano. I stopped half an hour ago. I was wearing a sweatshirt and long pants because I was so cold when I started, but I began to perspire after I played, so I took off the shirt and got a T-shirt.

Now the fogginess in my head is disappearing (back to normal levels), my energy is back, and my throat is about halfway well.

A temperature is one of the bodies prime defenses against infection. Viruses and Bacteria have very narrow ranges of temperature in which they can live and reproduce. Go a few degrees to one side and say buh-bye. Now I am coming down with something. Jen just got over a horrible cold and I was just fine. I woke up yesterday with a scratchy feeling in the back of my throat and I rolled over and asked: "did this start with a scratchy feeling" My sentence was completed for me: "in the back of the throat?" and we both went "Oh Crap." This morning started out OK but with some body aches and someone came in and scooped out 30% of my brain. I feel the loss and don't like it. At least Jen is back on her feet in less than a week... Arrrggghhh...

Corporate Anthems

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Just the thing for team building. ZD Net/UK has this list -- the smaller companies tend to be actually fairly good. IBM and Unisys are classic big-corporate...

Back from town

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And now the proud owner of a second 2,000 gallon tank. Story with photos is over here: We have tanks! WOOT!

No posting this morning

Heading into town to look at an old 2,000 gallon dairy tank that someone has for sale. All food-grade stainless steel and so perfect for cider making... Look for some stuff later this afternoon.

Curse of the Were-Rabbit

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A full-length feature film staring Wallace and Gromit. To be released October 14th. More info and a trailer available here: Wallace and Gromit If you are not familiar with these two, check out some of their Academy Award winning shorts. Claymation taken to a whole new level... Delightful stuff. The same crew did Chicken Run

Russell Wardlow at Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0 is reading Whittaker Chambers's excellent book Witness.

Chambers joined the Communist Party and served as a spy in the United States. He became aware of how bad Communism was as a form of government that he left, turning around and indicting Alger Hiss (One of the Communists top operatives in the US) as a spy.

Here is Russell:

I'm currently reading "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers for the first time. I'm only about 120 pages into it so far (I only get bits of time here and there to read for pleasure), but I already regret having waited until now to pick it up. I can't read more than a page or two before coming across some bit of prose worthy of stopping to think about it, or just to appreciate it.

Here, for instance. Chambers is describing obtaining a gun on his first return to his home town of Baltimore after hiding out in Florida for several months in the wake of first breaking away from the Communist underground. Earlier pages had described how most of his close friends who had made similar breaks with the party had been hunted down and killed in what Chambers called "the year of the Long Knives."
As we entered Baltimore, I stopped at Montgomery Ward's and bought a shotgun. It looked big enough to fell an elephant and the clerk warned me the kick might knock me down. "Just what do you wan it for?" he asked me. What I wanted it for was so much at the front of my brain that I felt as if I had been caught with my thoughts down and fumbled: "Well, I think there are prowlers around the house and a gun might come in handy." His reaction was completely different from what I expected. He was a Southerner with the fine abandon some Southerners have about firearms and related matters. "Well, sir," he said with immense pleasure, "you've bought the right gun. Just hold it in front of you, squeeze the trigger, and, brother, it will be fay-ya-you-well." I have sometimes thought of him since. I have thought that while there are few such uncomplicated souls around perhaps the battle is not quite lost yet.

As I was looking at Amazon to get the link for the book, I started reading the reviews -- they are well worth checking out for a good understanding of what conditions were like at that time and how much things have/have not changed since then... Here is an excerpt of the first one:

It's unfortunate that the Left is so earnest and humorless, otherwise they might be able to enjoy the immense irony of the lofty position held by Whittaker Chambers in the Right's pantheon of 20th century heroes. I mean think about it for a second, Chambers, who spent half his life as a bisexual Communist spy, was also a leading light of TIME and the National Review, a friend of Richard Nixon and William F. Buckley, was awarded a posthumous Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan, and made many conservatives' end-of-century lists, both for this memoir and for his personal influence. That's a fairly interesting resume by anyone's standards.

Chambers would be a heroic figure to the Right even if he had done nothing else but to accuse Alger Hiss of being a Communist spy. This action, so divisive that it still echoes through our politics today, helped to define the Cold War era, forcing people to choose sides--between anti-Communists, on the one side and communists, communist sympathizers and fellow travelers, and Anti-Anti-Communists on the other--and in turn hardening the lines between the sides as the nation headed into a period of prolonged cultural civil war, from which we have still not truly emerged.

But Chambers did not merely attack one man. With his memoir Witness he declared war on Communism and the Soviet Union and explained in no uncertain terms just what the struggle was about--what was at stake, the methods that the other side was using, and the seriousness of purpose which would be required to defeat them--and at the same time he told a life story which somehow managed to unite nearly all of the themes of modernity in one gloriously messy tale of personal degradation and desperation, followed by political and religious redemption and salvation. And to top it all off, not only does the story have all of the elements of a thriller and a courtroom drama, the author just happens to write brilliantly.

Good stuff...


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Take the "Hang" out of a Hang Glider and you have an Air Chair. Mike Sandlin has designed the Goat. This Airchair breaks down into pieces, the heaviest of which is 42 pounds. It is built from common materials, no molds or machining needed. Can be transported by a car, takes about 20 minutes to assemble. Launch is done by either rolling downhill or from a towline. Looks like a lot of fun!
No kits available but detailed drawings can be found here and a good introductory Question and Answer is here

MY EYES!!! My poor eyes!!!

The fine people at RetroCRUSH have scanned some pages from a Sears and Roebuck catalog from 1978.

The latest in Fashion:

Click for full-size Image

The latest in Technology:

Click for full-size Image

And don't forget that the price of $985.00 in 1978 translates to $2779.01 in today's dollars. Quite the chunk of change back then...

Freeing the slaves

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A perfect example of a non-democratic government at work. From BBC News comes this heart-warming tale of life in Africa - Niger to be exact (pronounced as the French do - knee-jair with a soft "j").
Niger cancels 'free-slave' event
The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom. A spokesman for the government's human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said this was because slavery did not exist.

It is not clear why the government, which was also a co-sponsor of the ceremony, changed its position.

At least 43,000 people across Niger are thought to be in slavery.
And the reaction from the United Nations Council on Human Rights? ... ... ... -- crickets --

Things that go boom in the night

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Just stumbled into the Pyro Universe. This website is an all-inclusive source of information regarding pyrotechnics big and small including links to retailers, plans for launching stands and ignition systems, photos, formulas, instructions for making your own, lab techniques, etc. An excellent resource for the serious hobbyist...

Pot meet kettle

Known terrorist supporter Syria just got a new ally today in it's efforts to promote Islamofascism and spreading world-wide terror.

From the NY Times:

Hezbollah Declares Full Support for Syria
The Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah declared its full support for Syria today, presenting a direct challenge to opposition groups after Syria promised to gradually withdraw troops from Lebanon.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, spoke to reporters today in his stronghold in southern Beirut, breaking weeks of relative silence over the crisis concerning Syria's presence in Lebanon. He called for Lebanese to "express their gratitude" to Syria by joining a demonstration on Tuesday against United Nations Resolution 1559, which calls for Syria's withdrawal and Hezbollah's disarmament.

Waaaaaaa... If democracy takes root, they will loose their power and they do not want this. This loss of power is what is driving the actions of the corrupt Mullahs and causing them to launch attack after attack against the newly democratic nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are corrupt Islams. Dogs. Apes. They deserve to loose power and live in a free world as a common citizen and not a member of an elite ruling class.

Quotes from Environmentalists

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Rob at Gut Rumbles links to this great list of quotes from well-known Environmentalists. Here are four that caught my eye:
  • We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion�guilt-free at last!
    — Stewart Brand (writing in the Whole Earth Catalogue)
  • If you ask me, it�d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won�t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other.
    — Amory Lovins in The Mother Earth�Plowboy Interview, Nov/Dec 1977, p.22
  • Every time you turn on an electric light, you are making another brainless baby.
    — Helen Caldicott, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • There are ominous signs that the earth�s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production�with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food production could begin quite soon� The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologist are hard-pressed to keep up with it.
    — Newsweek, April 28, (1975)
This last one is especially rich -- remember the global ice age that was breathing down our necks unless we did something really really soon?
I had written earlier about Wikipedia and that Mr. Robert McHenry (who is Former Editor in Chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica) was grousing about how Commons-Based Peer Production resources such as Wikipedia were poor quality and chaotic:
McHenry�s central thesis is that, quite contrary to general observation, Wikipedia is a poor-quality resource, that it is in a constant state of chaos, and that these problems will tend to get worse over time. Of course, he doesn�t explain how one is to reconcile this claim with the increasing popularity of Wikipedia, other than a veiled suggestion that people are simply stupid.
The above quote is from an excellent rebuttal to Mr. McHenry written by Aaron Krowne in Free Software Magazine. Well today, we see a perfect example of this coming home to roost with the publication of the Oxford University Press's updated Dictionary of National Biography. This is a 60-volume set retailing for around $15,000 USD. From an article in The Guardian Unlimited:
At �7,500 for the set, you'd think they'd get their facts right
The long-awaited publication of Oxford University Press's updated Dictionary of National Biography should have been another garland around the neck of one of the most respected and scholarly brands in the world. After 12 years of research, the 60-volume edition contains more than 50,000 biographies and costs �7,500.

Yet the growing number of mistakes coming to light in the dictionary's pages threatens to make it an embarrassment, and some leading scholars even fear the new edition of the DNB is endangering the international reputation of the whole university city of Oxford.

This month a heated row that began on the letters pages of literary and historical journals late last year has forced the editors of the dictionary to publicly defend their work. Errors in the biographies of significant historical figures such as Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen and George V are more than just minor details, say the DNB's detractors. In the case of Nightingale, experts argue, the factual and interpretational blunders will damage modern understanding of a unique medical practitioner and theorist.
Of course, had this been done as a Wiki, the errors would have been caught and updated on the fly. True, the scholarship would be decentralized and anyone could make or edit an entry -- this is part of what makes it work so very well...

Point / Counterpoint

Bill Moyers bloviates and rambles in the NY Review of Books and Blogger Dave LeBoeuf (Logical Meme)is there to fisk him...
Moyers Unhinged
It�s so refreshing to see dinosaurs like Dan Rather and Bill Moyers �retiring�, thrashing and spewing a bit before they recede from the spotlight. I personally am refreshed knowing I won�t have to read too many more columns like the following tripe from Moyers in the upcoming NY Review of Books (a rare and privileged opportunity for Mr. Moyers to cut-to-the-chase and tell us what he really feels).

�Evangelical Christian Nazis Are Leading Us To An Environmental Apocalypse� is how Moyers might've titled his recent column. The column's actual title, now that I think about it, isn't too far off: �Welcome to Doomsday�. Oooooh, how scary, foreboding, and indicative of a superior intellect�s premonitions!

�We are witnessing today a coupling of ideology and theology that threatens our ability to meet the growing ecological crisis,� Moyers writes. After then spending much of his column suggesting that fundamentalists are running the (Bush) government, Moyers writes:

"I am not suggesting that fundamentalists are running the government, but they constitute a significant force in the coalition that now holds a monopoly of power in Washington under a Republican Party that for a generation has been moved steadily to the right by its more extreme variants even as it has become more and more beholden to the corporations that finance it. One is foolish to think that their bizarre ideas do not matter."

Wow, it�s all getting clearer to me now! Evil corporations provide the necessary financing for evangelical Christians to destroy the environment. Why hadn�t I seen this connection before?!
Heh. Today's must read...
Awesome collection of properties of materials: MatWeb From their web site:
What is MatWeb?
The heart of MatWeb is a searchable database of material data sheets, including property information on thermoplastic and thermoset polymers such as ABS, nylon, polycarbonate, polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene; metals such as aluminum, cobalt, copper, lead, magnesium, nickel, steel, superalloys, titanium and zinc alloys; ceramics; plus semiconductors, fibers, and other engineering materials.
Very good resource if you are looking to build something and have a choice of materials. All sorts of data (machinability, dielectric strengths, solvent resistance, etc...) plus links to vendors.

Global Warming - European style

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The BBC has a slide-show of the unseasonable cold and snow.
Kyoto anyone?

The case of the Italian Journalists

Roger L. Simon puts an interesting spinon the recent shooting of the Italian Journalists by US forces. First he gives the basic story:

As most news junkies know, Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena was wounded by American troops after release by her Islamist kidnappers in Iraq. Now what facts do we have to examine in this case as of now? Not many, although more may be forthcoming. On the face of it, it would seem unlikely that the Americans would target this woman. What possible use would there be in that? The anti-American propaganda value, especially in her native Italy, would be obvious. And we are seeing it now. Moreover, were this unlikely scenario actually true, why would the Americans have done such a lousy job, allowing her to survive? None of this makes sense.

Mr. Simon is a mystery writer and puts his brain to work. He opens with a quote from Ms. Sgrena in an Associated Press article

Suddenly, she said, she remembered her captors' words, when they warned her "to be careful because the Americans don't want you to return."
Really? Why? Just because she might say something favorable about the "insurgents"? This would hardly be amazing from a reporter for the communist Il Manifesto where scarcely a good word has been said about America since the fall of Mussolini. It would barely be news.

But how about this? Suppose it was the "insurgents" themselves, through a cut-out obviously, who alerted the Americans to Sgrena and her protectors, describing their car as something other than it was -- a suicide bomber, perhaps, or some other possible terrorist-related vehicle. Of course, their motivation would have been to make the Americans look bad, no matter what resulted. Sgrena and the others would just have been collateral damage. And that, indeed, is what has happened.

Emphasis mine. The military will obviously be reviewing the events leading up to the shooting and will publish their account of what happened. Unfortunately, this cannot happen overnight so until that info is released, the spin-masters will have a field day plying conjecture and innuendo. When the war first started and all sorts of stories were flying out, there developed a 48-hour rule. Give a story 48 hours before believing it. A lot of the more spectacular stories faded away in a day.

St. Patrick�s Day guests

Richard Bennett at Mossback Culture noticed an interesting change in the guest list for the White House's St. Patrick�s Day celebration:
No terrorists in the White House this year
Bill Clinton was the first American president to welcome Irish terrorist Gerry Adams to the White House, starting a tradition that even President Bush honored for a time, but not this year:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush (news - web sites) will mark St. Patrick�s Day this year without inviting Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams or other Northern Ireland political parties, a senior Bush administration official said on Friday. The White House announced Bush will welcome Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to the traditional March 17 �Shamrock Ceremony� and that afterward, Bush will greet civil society leaders from Northern Ireland who are �working to promote peace and tolerance in their community.�
Very cool - terror will not be recognized or supported in any shape, size or form. Bush is showing some backbone, something a lot of other politicians could stand to do...

Another friggin' test... Sheesh...

Here I am:
I am 5% Idiot.
Friggin Genius
I am not annoying at all. In fact most people come to me for advice. Of course they annoy the hell out of me. But what can I do? I am smarter than most people.
Where are you? I found this here: Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated

What happens when good people ingest too much caffeine and sugar.

Jen and I like to hike (she is more... manic? than I am but we both enjoy it.)

There is a forum for local hiking: Northwest Hikers and it is customary to post trip reports.

Here is Team Gummi Bear's. First the photo of the assault on Hawkins Mtn:

Click for full-size Image

Here is a brief excerpt from the harrowing trip report:

The true summit was an easy walk up and has several "scramble free" routes.... Myself and my friend walked up, while Team GB decided to go unroped up the NW arete; A truly brave ascent!! (See attachment)... One team member fell, but was unhurt....
During the stay on the W Peak, we found our food supplies to be scarce and canibalism was our only option; But who to eat!? I sized up all of the Team members, and it was obvious the pretty little green, red, orange, clear and yellow climbers would be the first to go!!! Numerous members of Team GB were eaten and I must say they were quite delicious!!

Cannibalism?!?!?!? The horror! The movie rights!

From his profile at: National Speakers Bureau
An eloquent statesman, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Lloyd Axworthy believes foreign policy isn't just for diplomats and hopes to create a centre for information-based dialogue, conferencing and learning, connecting with other similar institutions around the world and with the public.
Emphasis mine -- I had run into the Nobel Peace Prize Nominee issue once before so I emailed them and received a very nice reply from the Secretary of the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee who said that the names of the nominees are held confidential for 50 years. Basically, anyone claiming to be a Peace Prize Nominee is either:
  • lying,
  • were misinformed and didn't check their #@$^ing facts or,
  • are clueless and misinformed by people who are liars.
Anyway, I sent off a question regarding this to the National Speakers Bureau and will publish their reply. UPDATE: I checked the Peace Prize websites and they DO NOW OFFER the info with the 50-year cutoff date. Here is their database of nominees from 1901 through 1951 -- nothing more recent because they keep nominees names confidential for 50 years. Here is their website where they say the following:
Observing the rules given in the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, the Committee does not publish the names of candidates.
At the time I made my inquiry (two years ago), they did not have this information on their website. I guess they have had enough problems with bogus liars claiming nomination that they put this info online.

New Google toy

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Go to Google and type "weather your city,state" or "weather your zip code" Here it is for Bellingham, WA
Click for full-size Image

Off to some shows today

Spending today visiting two local shows. The first is the Whatcom County Home & Garden Show Over 200 vendors for various garden equipment and supplies. Good local resource. The second is the Knife and Gun show held at a local Logging Fairgrounds. No website for this one but I went to it last year and lots of interesting people and great demonstrations. Jen and I have a shotgun for basic farm security and I'm looking at getting a 22 rifle for plinking and at some point down the road, a large-bore handgun for security. (thinking 1911 - 45ACP) UPDATE: Back Home after a longish (but fun) day. Didn't buy anything at the Evil Gun Show, was just there to see what was available and what prices people were asking. We have a local gunsmith that we bought the shotgun from and any future purchases will be through him. Reader (and blogger) Misanthropyst left a thoughtful comment:
Unless you are willing to put the time and ammo into practicing, I wouldn't recommend a pistol. The ability to respond correctly to a jam in a stressed situation requires repeated practice to get the muscle memory right. It's expensive and time consuming to maintain that level. Large bore revolvers are much more practicable. Misfire? Pull the trigger again. Keep pulling till the threat is gone. If it's still there, then surrender.
I am looking at proficiency although the thought of the revolver makes a lot of sense. Maybe having that as a stepping-stone to the pistol would be a better way to go. Looking east from our house, we have ten acres of woodland and the neighbor on that side is the Department of Natural Resources so unless timber crews are working there (and we can hear them), I'm not going to hit anything. Good spot for a range. One resource I have been using to learn about firearms is hosted by Kim DuToit (also a blogger). He was getting enough interesting dialog happening in his comments section that he had his wife set up some forum software and he now has Nation of Riflemen.

The Recent Data Theft at ChoicePoint

ArsTechnica (watch out for their hideous new pop-=up ad -- just wait and it will time out) has an interesting story on the recent ChoicePoint data-theft scandal and how it's not the first time it has happened to that company... Hmmmm...
ChoicePoint no stranger to data theft
It turns out that the recent case of identity theft wasn't the first one for ChoicePoint, despite CEO Derek Smith's assertions to the contrary. It turns out that company screwed up in a nearly-identical fashion by selling consumer data to fraud artists a few years ago (but apparently did not report the incident to consumers who were affected by the scam). In the previous known incident, personal data on 7,000 consumers was sold to scammers who were convicted in 2002 after committing at least US$1 million in fraud using that misappropriated data. When asked by e-mail for comment on both the earlier case and the discrepancy between the CEO's statement and the events of a few years ago, the company declined, saying that they were "evaluating the situation" and would comment later.
And to add insult to injury:
In related news, the SEC has launched an informal insider trading inquiry into the sales of ChoicePoint stock by Smith and other executives, the timing of which may be connected with news of the data theft becoming public. That investigation is in addition to the FTC's inquiry into the company's compliance with consumer information security laws and possible Congressional hearings into the matter (and hopefully the larger question of the government's lack of regard for the protection of consumer data). At the very least, it looks like some well-earned hard times are ahead for the ChoicePoint. Hopefully some good will come out of the whole stinking mess for consumers.
Here is a graph of the last 30 days of ChoicePoint's stock prices (NYSE/CPS):
Click for full-size Image
The public awareness started building on Monday February 21st. What was the big spike in stock transactions that previous Tuesday 15th? Looking at over two million shares changing hands with a share value of about $45 as opposed to the $38 it was a week later.

An Austrian Newspaper manager gets it...

Interesting news from Poynter Online:

Austrian Publishers Spot New Content Competition
We've have been getting used to newspapers complaining about losing classified advertising revenues to online competitors. But to hear a publisher name "the 'Googles,' 'eBays,' and 'Yahoo!s' of this world" as the main competitors of traditional media in the content area is fairly unusual still. But that is just what Horst Pirker did, since autumn 2004 the president of the Austrian newspaper publishers association, Verband Österreichischer Zeitungen (VÖZ). While presenting his association's new yearbook yesterday, he said that in his view the borders between journalists and readers blur, and "the biggest 'content generators' in the future will not be media companies, but their former readers."

One could draw the parallel between the invention of the printing press and the development of simple, cheap blogging software and cheap web hosting services...

Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

A nice collection of 39 of the drawings from Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks with links to other resources. A sample:

Self Portrait

Build a Copyscope

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A good telescope for very cheap. Use the lens from an old Copy Machine and PVC pipe for the body. The lens will not have great magnification but this is actually a good thing -- most DST Telescopes touting 12,000 power magnification deliver crappy images well before that point. (DST = Department Store Trash -- a common acronym in Astronomy circles.) Anyway, here is a link to a place with plans and links to sources: A Portable Astronomy Copyscope
A copyscope is a refractor built from a surplus photocopier lens. These lenses generally have a short focal length and flat fields. Photocopier lenses are generally found mounted in an aluminum or steel cell. Copycopes similar to those described here, have previously been described in Astronomy magazine, May 1986, page 74 . Stillwater Stargazers members drew from the magazine article for inspiration in building their copyscopes.
Cool use of surplus tech and simple construction. For someone wanting to get into astronomy, a good atlas, pair of binoculars and a reclining lawn char is the best way to start. Get to know your way around the sky and then start with a smaller scope. Until you learn how to star-hop from a visible constellation over from star to star to a specific point of interest, you will spend your scope time looking at an interminable number of small points of light. There is a little learning curve but once you get over that, the rewards are great. My only gripe about the place we live is that it is close enough to Abbotsford to get significant light pollution from them. No observatory here dangit! I can run up to Mt. Baker and view from there -- lots of astronomers do -- but I would have loved to have a back-yard 14" scope. Oh well...

Three out of the ballpark

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A good friend from Seattle, Brian Weaver, has a blog and today, he posted three links that are worth spreading around. His software does not support Permalinks so you need to start at the top of the page and scroll to the March 3-4, 2005 entries. Item One: A double-slit experiment -- in time:
Gerhard Paulus and coworkers have conducted the double-slit experiment using a double-slit in time, not space. The "slit" was a crafted femtosecond pulse consisting of one-and-a-half cycles passed through an argon gas. Each maxima has a probability of ionizing an argon atom and producing an electron. The electrons were accelerated to a detector which observed an interference pattern since the detector had no idea which maximum produced the electron.
Action at a distance again... Brings to mind the Hawking quote referring to the Einstein quote. Albert: God does not play dice. Stephen: Not only does God play dice, but... he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen. Item two: A Bespoke Tailor on Savile Row started a Blog a few months ago.
English Cut is the blog of a Savile Row tailor. (Just in case you didn't know, that means London, England.)
Item three: Roger McGuinn interview at O'Reilly
Former Byrds guitarist Roger McGuinn was shot down by record companies that grabbed nearly all of the profits from his hit songs. Now he builds his own computers, records at home, and sells directly to fans. O'Reilly's Digital Media discusses his use of technology and his recordings and interviews him, tr3 k001!
Brian's blog is one that I visit every day -- good stuff, grabs your brain and shakes it up a bit...

Blogging about Ramen

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Someone has to do it so I present: The Official Ramen Homepage It features over 250 recipies using Ramen noodles to make tasty meals. A sample: Sri Lankan Ramen Noodles
  • 6-8 Blocks of Ramen Noodles broken up
  • 1/4 Chinese Cabbage shredded (size to taste)
  • 1 Red onion sliced in small strips
  • 3-4 Carrotts peeled and cut into small strips
  • 1-2 cups fresh green beans sliced into thin strips
  • 1-2 meduim sized potatoes peeled and sliced into small thin strips
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Ground Tumeric
  • Black pepper (fresh ground is best)
  • 2 cubes Maggi Chicken Flavor Bouillon (these are soft cubes and the brand DOES matter. After moving back to the states I found them in the isle with the Spanish rices and foods)
  • 3+ green chili peppers (depending on how hot you can take it)
  • Salt to taste (maggi has alot in it so you may not need it)
In large pot cook noodles 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Coat bottom of large pot (teflon coated is best)with enough oil to make it about 1/8 inch deep. Heat oil until hot Add onions after a few minutes add chili peppers. Sautee till onions golden brown (if you had chicken or shrimp cook during this process). Break up cubes of maggi and add to pot. Add all other veggies, 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric and 2+ teaspoons of pepper. Mix well so all veggies are coated. (You may need to add a splash of oil). Continue to cook on medium + heat until veggies begin to reduce.Stir frequently. As veggies are reducing check taste for need of additional salt, pepper or maggi cube. (If adding another maggi cube start out with a half one first.) Cover and continue cooking on med. low heat until beans and potato are soft but not mushy. Stir occasionally. Turn off heat and stir in noodles. Mix well.
Don't know about you but I am salivating... Jen? Where's the Tumeric?


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Clever light shades - printed on both sides, the pattern changes when the light is turned on.
Click for full-size Image

Tracking the avian flu

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Interesting article at Wired about the attempt to follow the avian flu through its mutations:
Predicting Bird Flu's Future
Avian flu could be morphing into forms going unobserved by most researchers, if one scientist's theory is correct. On one hand, it would be bad news to discover that scientists don't have much of a handle on the flu's mutation activities. But it could also be good news: If Henry Niman's theory is correct, it would mean that scientists can predict avian flu's future iterations. And that would be handy for engineering vaccines that will work a year or two after they're manufactured. Niman has founded a biotech company called Recombinomics based on his theory that avian flu genes are swapping pieces in a predictable way. This gene reorganization is called recombination, something that scientists agree happens during certain biological events, but not in the flu virus. They believe instead that viruses swap whole genes only, a process called re-assortment.
Fascinating stuff -- being able to track the virus as it goes through its changes. As for prediction, the CDC has some words:
Almost any other flu scientist, however, will say while it's possible to track virus history, there's no reliable way to predict its future mutations. "There is no way to predict mutations," said Dave Daigle, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is one of the World Health Organization surveillance centers that tracks circulating strains of flu.

01 Call Missed

Charles at LGF has an amazing photo:
The last two weeks have been pretty rough on EOD techs (three dead, one severely wounded). Today was a good day. The EOD team leader didn�t know it was an IED. He was just going to do a BIP (Blow in Place) of ordnance. He returned after the explosion to do a post blast investigation and discovered what is in the picture. Somebody loves EOD techs...
Click for full-size Image
From Reuters:
Green Energy Sector Should Stop Squabbling - Banker
The green electricity sector must stop squabbling or risk being picked off piecemeal by the entrenched nuclear and fossil fuel industry, a leading investment banker said on Thursday. Tom Murley, director of HgCapital, told the second annual Wave and Tidal Energy Conference it was not so much about saving the planet from global warming as about market share. "The renewable industry needs to stand together or fall individually," he said. Instead of arguing which method of green power generation was the best, they should support each other. Murley said every watt of power sold to the electricity networks by the renewable sector was one that the established nuclear and fossil fuel powered generators could not sell. They were in it for the money, so should the green electricity industry be, he said. It was a straightforward commercial fight.
Very well put -- the Greenies have been operating from a perceived moral high-ground where they don'[t have to make economic sense or think things through scientifically but just have to be non-petroleum and "green". It's time they woke up to the fact that economics is what drives the planet and they need to become effective to succeed.

Steve Fossett lands safely in Kansas

Completed his record-breaking solo around the world flight. From the NY Times:

Solitary Round-the-World Flight Concludes With Smooth Landing
Steve Fossett's audacious attempt to fly an airplane around the world alone, without stops or refueling, ended successfully today at the former Air Force base in Kansas where it began, as his GlobalFlyer, its 13 fuel tanks nearly empty, touched down safely in Salina some 67 hours after it left. Spectators cheered and a local high school band played in an unseasonable 69 degrees as the GlobalFlyer returned under blue skies to a pancake-flat place that had been chosen not with this landing in mind but for the take-off nearly three days ago - engineers had wanted a two-mile runway with no obstructions at the end, so that the plane, heavily laden and underpowered by almost any standard, had ample room to make it into the sky.

Very cool - the plane was built by Burt Rutan (of course...)

Rutan also built the Voyager which brother Dick flew with another pilot, Jeana Yeager, around the world nonstop without refueling in 1986.

The Burned-Over District

A fascinating short history of Western New York State:
This part of western New York became famous after the Erie Canal for its history of revivalism, radicalism, communitarian experiments. It was fertile ground for new ideas to take root and spread to other parts of the country. It became a "psychic highway" for New Englanders who left the East and headed West in search of new ways of life.
Here is the biography of one of the characters who lived there: j-h-noyes.jpg
John Humphrey Noyes formed a utopian community in Oneida in 1848 after being driven out of Putney Vermont by neighbors hostile to his perfectionist philosophy and rejection of the traditional institutions of marriage and private property. The 87 original members of the Oneida community would prosper and grow into several hundred, becoming one of the most successful and long-lasting of the utopian communities founded in the early 19th century. The members were not poor or social outcasts, but had money to invest and skills and literacy. Sewell Newhouse invented an animal trap that was manufactured in a large modern factory, beginning a tradition of industry and labor that would carry over into the famous silverware business that survives today. Everyone shared work, food, possessions and all lived in common dormotories in the large Mansion at Oneida. Like Ann Lee and Robert Owen and Joseph Smith, Noyes developed an alternative to monogamy. He abolished "exclusive love" and called his system of communal sex "complex marriage" governed by the priciple of "ascending fellowship" and "mutual criticism." Noyes read Darwin and developed a eugenics program that he called "stirpiculture" resulting in the birth of 58 children raised communally in the Children's House.

16 ways to find a Wife

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It's OK - it's approved by the Bible Top 16 Biblical Ways to Acquire a Wife
  1. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she's yours.
    -- Deuterononmy (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)
  2. Find a prostitute and marry her.
    -- Hosea (Hosea 1:1-3)
  3. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock.
    -- Moses (Exodus 2:16-21)
  4. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal.
    -- Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)
  5. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife.
    -- Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)
And eleven more at the site...

Meet Kate Stelnick, a 115 pound freshman at the The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State) from Princeton:

Before the start of 2005, the only person to finish the Ye Olde 96er burger from Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, was Eric "Badlands" Booker. Despite weighing more than a fifth of a ton, Booker required over seven hours to consume the behemoth sandwich. 90 pound Lori Weiss came closest to besting the 96er within Denny's time limit of three hours when she consumed all except the bottom half of the bun. On January 12, Kate Stelnick, a 115 pound freshman at the The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State) from Princeton, finished the 96er in 2:54, making her the first person, male or female, to beat the required time.

Here is Kate looking fit to burst with her clean plate:


Here is an unknown mere-mortal going mano-a-mano with the beast...

Hunter S. Thompson's corpse is cooling off nicely (minus the few CCs of cranial tissue still in the Coroner's Lab) and the spinning is starting: From that paragon of journalistic reputability: Prison Planet
Hunter Thompson was working on WTC collapse story before mysterious sudden death, warned he'd be 'suicided'
Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death. He sounded scared. It wasn't always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone, he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He'd been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: "They're gonna make it look like suicide," he said. "I know how these bastards think . . ." Hunter S. Thompson ... was indeed working on such a story. Now check out this February 25 Associated Press story about Thompson's death. Sounds a lot like a professional hit with a silencer: "I was on the phone with him, he set the receiver down and he did it. I heard the clicking of the gun," Anita Thompson told the Aspen Daily News in Friday's editions. She said her husband had asked her to come home from a health club so they could work on his weekly ESPN column... Thompson said she heard a loud, muffled noise, but didn't know what had happened. "I was waiting for him to get back on the phone," she said. (Her account to Rocky Mountain News reporter Jeff Kass is slightly different: "I did not hear any bang," she told Kass. She added that Thompson's son, who was in the house at the time, believed that a book had fallen when he heard the shot, according to Kass' report.) Mack White sums up the questions well: Thompson's family says he was not depressed, nor was he in enough to pain to kill himself. In fact, by all reports, he was quite happy. He was talking on the phone to his wife, getting ready to work on his column, when he decided it would be wise to kill himself, so that he could go out (we are told) while "still at the top of his form," even though this would mean not finishing his column or his expose on 9/11 (potentially the most important thing he would ever write) (?)...
And your sources are? And, over the telephone, how would a silenced weapon sound? Compared to someone who shot themselves with the gun pressed against their flesh? And these people complain about FOX NEWS? And you know what? If I were Doctor Hunter Stockton Thompson and if I was planning to pull a Hemmingway and take myself out, I would have a bit of fun with these conspiracy mokes and make some calls before I pulled the trigger... Leave a neat corpse but a very messy plot-line. Finis Mmmmmbbbbwwaaahaaahaahhhaaaaa...

Retro Technology

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A few days ago I wrote about the Apple I that can be built from modern parts. A reader left the comment about the re-engineered Atari system, packaged in the joystick itself, that sells for $25. There is a lot more of this going on... Not to leave out the venerable Commodore C-64, a 30-year-old woman in Oregon reverse engineered it, packaged it in its own joystick case and sold them on QVC selling 70,000 units in one day. I covered this story here: Great Story I had also written about the IMSAI - this was the professional grade CP/M machine based on the S-100 buss.
Click for full-size Image
Fisher-Freitas Company is still making them. Their unit has a small S-100 buss in front with the full front panel and an ATX PC motherboard in back. Best of both worlds... Finally, something I haven't written about is this PDP-8E clone. The PDP-8 was Digital Equipment's flagship microcomputer. Here are two systems with external tape drives, disk drives and a teletypewriter.
Click for full-size Image
Fortunately, people wanting to work with this awesome machine don't need quite so much floor space (or electricity) these days. The company Spare Time Gizmos has done a software compatible reproduction complete with a full front-panel. As with the IMSAI, the hardware has been upgraded to accept current disk drives and flash memory but this computer is bit-for-bit compatible with the original PDP-8 systems and will run all the old software. Here's a pic:
Click for full-size Image
Wonderful stuff...

Here's one for Acidman

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Rob at Gut Rumbles doesn't like cats. I saw this photo and immediately thought of him:
Click for full-size Image

Big doings with our business...

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Along with this website, we are also setting up a commercial Hard Cider and Mead operation on our farm. (There is a link to Brown Snout over to the right.) Setting up a business dealing with Alcohol means lots of paperwork and permits. The one big hurdle was getting licensed by the State (the Federal licensing process is actually quite simple) Today we received notification that WA State had approved our application and that when a few final things were taken care of (inspection of premises, being briefed on the legal aspects, etc..), we will be good to go. We are both doing the happy dance right now!

A sweet story from the Tsunami

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Of all the wonderful cornucopia of resources shipped over to aid Tsunami victims, someone finally realized that one thing was missing. A good belly laugh. Elvo-clown.jpgThis article from Reuters tells the story of Elvo, a clown who traveled from New Zealand to Indonesia to help victims:
Aceh Tsunami Victims Find Something to Laugh About
The tsunami victims had never seen anything like it and they were laughing hysterically. Hundreds of children and adults emerged from makeshift huts and tents to watch Elvo, a New Zealand clown, doing funny tricks in this Aceh west coast village, about 160 miles southeast of the provincial capital. Cries of laughter and joy drifted across the football field where the crowds gathered on Tuesday to watch Aaron Ward, 30, an Auckland-born performing artist. It's a sound that hasn't been heard much in this part of Indonesia for weeks. Most of the Kiwi clown's acts involved simple magic tricks using a colorful handkerchief and balloons. But they were enough to amuse the children who lost their homes, friends, schools and in some cases their parents, to the Dec. 26 tsunami that swept the coast of Sumatra island.
I love it -- simple tricks so there is no cultural barrier to cross. Visual sleight of hand, balloon animals. Good stuff. A quote from a member of the audience:
"We can laugh again like we used to. All this time we have been holding back our laughter, but today we can express it again," said Dewi, a mother of five whose house was destroyed by the killer waves.
"It's really important to make people laugh, especially in this sort of situation," Ward, who once performed in front of war-affected children in Kosovo, told Reuters. "Sometimes we can't pull ourselves out of those situations very easily, so to have someone like a crazy clown come over and help you get out of those situations, it's a huge relief for the people ... they just light up," he said.
This guy is probably as leftist a moonbat as they come but I love him -- he is providing the one thing that the relief agencies never thought to provide. Talk about a perfect candidate for Nobel Peace Prize -- a lot better choice than Wangari Maathai, Jimmy Carter or Yasser Arafat. He embodies the true spirit of the Prize -- something the Norwegian Peace Prize committee has forgotten these past twenty years or so. (yes, the Technical Prizes are awarded by Sweden but the Peace Prize is the jurisdiction of Norway)

Growing Apples -- Apple I's

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Another interesting story at Wired.

Grow Your Own Apple I
A new book tackles modern computers in a uniquely hands-on way -- by getting the reader to build a replica of one of the most famous personal computers of all: the Apple I. Apple I Replica Creation: Back to the Garage by Tom Owad explores the architecture of modern digital computers through the process of building an Apple I replica for about $100. "With the Apple I, it's possible to really understand computers," said Owad, a Pennsylvania Mac consultant who runs the retro-oriented Applefritter website and is a director of the Apple I Owners Club.

This is very cool -- not many people know about the Apple I, it was a single board kit selling for $666 -- you had to provide the keyboard, case, power supply and a cassette tape for reading and writing data to a file. You had a monitor that would handle input and output but writing any programs was your responsibility. There was another unit, the MOS Technology KIM-1 which used the same processor but had an integral keyboard and LED display and a whopping 1K on-board RAM. It sold for about $400 (remember, we are talking 1970's dollars too!). I had one of these and had a lot of fun with it. This was where this industry started.

Music Copyrights and DVDs

Interesting tug of war happening now in the Big Media over the issue of copyrights. It seems that a lot of the older television shows never expected to be released on other formats such as DVDs so they negotiated the rights to the music used for television broadcast only. Well, boomer fans want their old shows on DVD at home so they can watch them. The Big Media would love to comply, after all, it has the tapes and Kinescopes sitting in their own vaults. Only problem is that the copyright holders of the music are saying Unh Unh... You never stipulated distribution, only television broadcast. Give us more money. Considering that it is the Big Media who are making such stuck-pig noises about piracy, the Irony is delicious... A warm feeling of schadenfreude is creeping over me. A classic example of this is the hit show WKRP (more info here at IMDB) This page: A Guide To Music Changes In "WKRP IN CINCINNATI" has the story:
If you've watched "WKRP In Cincinnati" on the Comedy Network in Canada, or on TNN in the United States, or on the commercial videotapes released in 1998, then you may have noticed that some of the music has been changed. You may have also noticed some dialogue changes, as in one episode that now has a nonsense line ("Hold my order, terrible dresser") replacing a quote from Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." This page will try to explain what's happened to the music on "WKRP," and why. Originally, nearly all the music played on the show was real rock music by real artists, both in "WKRP"'s CBS run and in the subsequent syndicated reruns. But in the last few years, a new package of "WKRP" episodes has been distributed, and much of the music has been replaced by generic instrumental music from a music library, or by sound-alike "fake" songs. Also, some of the dialogue has been redubbed by voice impersonators, usually when the actors were speaking over the music, but sometimes to remove references to songs that have been replaced. Since these "redubbed" versions of "WKRP" first appeared, the questions that have most often been asked are: 1) Who did this? 2) Why was the music replaced? 3) How come some stations still show "WKRP" with the original music? 4) Which episodes have had songs replaced? 1) WHO DID THIS? Well, it's not the station showing WKRP, that's for sure. Back when Nick at Nite was broadcasting "WKRP," there were a lot of internet posts blaming Nick at Nite for changing the music, but in fact Nick at Nite was merely showing the tapes of WKRP they were sent; ditto for the Comedy Network and TNN. The music changes were made by the company that distributes WKRP. As to *which* company that is, that's a bit complicated. WKRP was produced by MTM Enterprises, but in the mid-'90s MTM was bought out by Pat Robertson's International Family Entertainment (which also owned the Family Channel in the U.S.), and then in 1997 International Family Entertainment was bought by 20th Century-Fox. Fox soon shut down the struggling MTM Enterprises. So currently Fox owns the rights to WKRP, and since the "redubbed" versions did not start to appear until the videotape set in 1998, a year after Fox bought MTM, I think it's quite possible that the music changes were made by Fox (other MTM shows, like "St. Elsewhere," also had some music changed around this time). But on the other hand, it's equally possible that the changes were made while MTM was the nominally independent but financially-strapped property of International Family Entertainment. If anyone knows for sure when the music changes were made and by whom, please write and tell me. 2) WHY WAS THE MUSIC REPLACED? The simple answer is: Money. The reason WKRP was shot on videotape (unlike the other MTM sitcoms like "Bob Newhart" and "Mary Tyler Moore," which were on film) was that it was the only way they could afford to use a lot of real rock songs on the show. At the time, ASCAP had a different licensing arrangement for taped shows than for filmed shows; licensing the music for WKRP cost something like half of what it would have cost had it been filmed. Well, the music licenses expired by the time the show was being prepared for re-distribution in the mid-'90s, and by then ASCAP no longer had a "discount" for videotaped shows. Also by then, the cost of licensing songs had skyrocketed across the board. So it would have been prohibitively expensive for the distributor to re-license all the songs used on the show. They certainly could have done a better job of replacing the songs they couldn't pay for, but it was inevitable that some of the songs would be gone due to rising costs, and that's all there is to it. Strangely enough, sometimes music has been replaced even when it was generic music to begin with! Generic music was occasionally used on the show, mainly for fake commercials, but since the new distributors probably no longer knew exactly where some of that generic music came from (and since even stuff from a music library has to be paid for), they frequently replaced it with generic music from their own music library. This of course is not as bad as replacing real music, but I'll note it when it happens.
There is a good bit more on the website and it is really interesting reading... And this leads up to? An article in Wired Magazine: The article starts off covering the issue with WKRP and then has this gem of a few paragraphs buried in the middle. All the emphases are mine:
DVD sales are credited with driving studio growth, and TV shows on DVD have been a surprise -- and lucrative -- market, according to a September 2004 Merrill Lynch report. The report estimates that consumer spending on TV DVDs will grow from $2.3 billion in 2004 to $3.9 billion in 2008. But serious fans want the whole show, not mangled scenes missing critical music. "The fans don't want syndicated cuts. They don't want the songs replaced. They don't want anything censored for political correctness. They want to see it in the way they originally saw it broadcast, enjoyed it and fell in love with it," Lambert said. "You can almost always count on some music replacement. We've got entire theme songs being replaced." There are plenty of examples, he said. The original theme song for the show Married ... With Children -- "Love and Marriage" sung by Frank Sinatra -- was replaced on the third-season DVD. Fans also complained when the song "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues was missing from a critical scene in the Wiseguy DVD set. The second-season DVD sets of Quantum Leap and Northern Exposure both contain noticeable music replacements. And DVD distributors don't always reveal on the box cover that music has been replaced, either. Only selected episodes from the first season of Ally McBeal have been released in the United States because of the high cost of music licensing. But in the United Kingdom, where different licensing deals have been struck, viewers can order all five seasons of the show. "I think the studios are a bit shortsighted," Lambert said. "A lot of fans -- if they understood the situation -- would gladly wait a little longer and pay a little more to get the complete, original version."
Like I said -- the Irony is wonderful...

Not your usual animated GIFs

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The GIF file has been around for a long long time (Graphics Interchange Format) and it is possible to stack GIFs together into one file that plays an animation like an on-screen flip-book. Here is a page of animated GIFs that are really beautiful. They are from MathWorld - a part of Wolfram Research who publishes the exquisite Mathematica program. One example:
The "witch of Agnesi" is a curve studied by Maria Agnesi in 1748 in her book Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della giovent� italiana (the first surviving mathematical work written by a woman). The curve is also known as cubique d'Agnesi or agn�sienne, and had been studied earlier by Fermat and Guido Grandi in 1703. The name "witch" derives from a mistranslation of the term averisera ("versed sine curve," from the Latin vertere, "to turn") in the original work as avversiera ("witch" or "wife of the devil") in an 1801 translation of the work by Cambridge Lucasian Professor of Mathematics John Colson (Gray).

Stupid Journalist

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The Judge scheduled to try Saddam Hussein had his identity kept secret for a very good reason. About six months ago, a so-called "journalist" published his identity in a UK Newspaper -- The Independent. The toad in question is Robert Fisk. The website This Is London has the story:
Newspaper exposes Saddam trial judge
By Paul Waugh, Evening Standard 2 July 2004 The judge in charge of Saddam Hussein's trial was in fear for his life today after his identity was revealed by a UK newspaper. The Iraqi Special Tribunal had asked the media to protect his anonymity. But he was named by Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent of The Independent.
The Independents response:
Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, defended his decision, saying: "This was not a British court, it was an Iraqi court. We don't want to compromise the judge's safety but the cameras showed side views of him and he was instantly recognized by many Iraqis."
Fast Forward to today: Fisk's incompetency and drive to get the headline has resulted in a possible assassination or attempt -- the news is still not quite clear but from FOX News:
Judge in Saddam Trial Assassinated
An investigating judge in the trial of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been assassinated, FOX News has learned. U.S. officials originally said Judge Raid Juhi, had been killed, but another judge � one of dozens � was murdered. Details on the assassination and that judge's identity were not immediately available.
Thanks Robert! To get an idea of the odiousness of Mr. Fisk, consider that the term "Fisking" came about from his perpetual hand-wringing articles that were based on impressions and not fact. Googling for "Robert Fisk" Idiot tuns up about 15,000 entries. The Independent only has the first paragraph up on their website (wanting you to pony up some $$$ for the full thing) but Mr. Fisk has the entire thing on his site and it is a classic introduction to his style of writing:
US military tried to censor coverage of Saddam hearing
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad - 03 July 2004
Off to a rolling start there with no Media Bias evident. The hallmark of a good journalist.
A team of US military officers acted as censors over all coverage of the hearings of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen on Thursday, destroying videotape of Saddam in chains and deleting the entire recorded legal submissions of 11 senior members of his former regime. An American network cameraman who demanded the return of his tapes, which contained audios of the hearings, said he was told by a US officer: "No. They belong to us now. And anyway, we don't trust you guys." According to American journalists present at the 30-minute hearing of Saddam and 11 former ministers at Baghdad airport, an American admiral in civilian clothes told camera crews that the judge had demanded that there should be no sound recording of the initial hearing. He ordered crews to unplug their sound wires. Several of the six crews present pretended to obey the instruction. "We learnt later," one of them said, "that the judge didn't order us to turn off our sound. The Americans lied - it was they who wanted no sound. The judge wanted sound and pictures."
It is called Security - security for Saddam, security for the Iraqi and Coalition people who are protecting him and protecting the Iraqi citizens who are bringing him to justice. The hearing was recorded, it is not being censored, the release of this information is being delayed until no one can be hurt with it. And why do you say the tapes were destroyed? Did you actually see this happening? That would be stupid for the Security people to do since someones' tape may have captured something that their own cameras missed. Evidence is evidence... Somehow I don't think the Security people are stupid -- especially in this high-profile case... And the paragraph in question (skipping more of Fisk's bloviation -- the links is posted above if you want to read the entire thing...)
Video showed the face - and audiotape revealed the voice - of Judge Raid Juhi, whose name was widely reported in the Arab press yesterday. According to the camera crews, Judge Juhi wanted the world to hear Saddam's voice. Nevertheless the Americans erased the entire audiotape of the hearings of the 11 former Saddam ministers, including that of Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, and "Chemical" Ali, Saddam's cousin accused of gassing the Kurds at Halabja. The US Department of Defense tape of their hearings has been taken by the US authorities so there is now no technical record of the words of these 11 men, save for the notebooks of "pool" reporters - four Americans and two Iraqis - who were present. Judge Juhi said not long ago that "I have no secrets - a judge must not be ashamed of the decisions he takes." The Americans apparently think differently.
Of course Juhi's name was circulated widely -- thanks to useful idiots like you who thought that they knew the situation more accurately than the Security people or the Justices. Someone's blood is directly on your hands Mr. Fisk and I defy you to wash it off.

In town today

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Had to run into town today -- Buster, one of our dogs, had knee surgery two weeks ago and the vet needed to check him. We combined that with a trip to Grainger's to pick up some Cider-making hardware (filters) and a run to the local grocery store. The usual spew will resume this evening...

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