April 2005 Archives

An interesting take on John Bolton

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Will Franklin at WILLisms has a wonderful thought about how the Democrats are actually helping John Bolton become an effective force for change at the United Nations when he becomes nominated:
He Wishes He Had John Bolton's Reputation.
This weekend, while watching The Interpreter, with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, ruminating upon the UN's Human Rights Commission re-electing serial abuser Zimbabwe to a three year term, it hit:

Although the smear campaign against John Bolton has become increasingly absurd, wouldn't it be nice if it were all true? Wouldn't it be great if John Bolton were the caricature the left is making him out to be, of a rabid rageaholic who nearly bites heads off of unsuspecting bureaucrats? Isn't that precisely what the United Nations needs, someone to knock some heads together, someone to call out certain fellow democracies for their moral ambivalence, someone to rip fear societies a new one?

The United Nations should be a force for good in the world. It has been reduced to, at best, an enabler of tyrants, and, at worst, run by them.
Will sets the stage and then presents this scenario:
Now, this scrutiny, this delay, may end up being Bolton's greatest gift, his most effective asset. He will go to the United Nations, and people will quiver and quake before his anticipated wrath. He will speak, and people will expect thunder. And when he does speak, and his words are reasonable, lucid, succinct, and rational, the world will wonder "who is this man? He isn't the man we've been reading about these past several weeks. He's not so bad."

But one day, when something absurd happens at the United Nations (and it will), Bolton, backed by the reputation he has earned over the past few weeks, will only have to furrow an eyebrow and raise his voice a bit, and people will know that America means business.

It's easy to wish that Bolton were as ill-tempered as Senate Democrats describe him. It's easy to imagine him walking into the UN and quite literally ripping the appendages off of the representatives of brutal dictators, utilizing them as weapons to pummel the enablers and equivocators.

John Bolton just is not that guy.

Isn't it nice, however, that the world, thanks to the Democrats, now thinks he is?
Once again Dems -- thanks! From the bottom of our hearts. Sincerely. Heh...
I just got turned on to this collection of photographs of an abandoned Russian High-Voltage testing facility. I have been into Nickola Tesla since high-school -- he invented Radio (not Marconi), he invented the fluorescent light, the alternating current motor, the system we use for distributing electrical power. Unfortunately for the history books, he was not a good manager -- his contemporaries Edison and Marconi were a lot better at marketing. Tesla lost a lot of money (as well as making a lot of money -- he once had a license to George Westinghouse for one Dollar for every horsepower of electricity used in the US) and he used to pepper his speeches with talk about cosmic death rays and sending free electrical power to everyone in the world. Not a good idea if you want to build credibility... This would be an awesome facility to move over here, even just for parts for Tesla researchers. Here are a few of the photographs:
The fun I could have with some of that...
I have a Java counter at the top of the main page that counts how many days it has been since J. F. Kerry promised on national television to sign his Form 180 and release all his military records. A reader turned me onto this website: Decision '08 and this entry:
Kerry Campaign: Initial Phases Going Smoothly
In a hastily organized news conference, a spokesman for the Perpetual John Kerry for President Campaign said the initial phases of "Operation Sign Form SF-180" were going better than expected. Specifically, in the 90 days since Kerry promised on national television to sign the form releasing his military records, the following milestones have been achieved:

  • a pen has been procured from a Walmart on the outskirts of Little Rock "for substantially less than the $12,000 budgeted";
  • a special committee has been formed to discuss the best way to remove the cap from the pen;
  • a copy of the notoriously difficult to obtain form has been located on eBay and bidding is underway; and
  • a "Dinner With John" fund raising extravaganza is in the works to obtain the necessary postage to mail the signed form, should such a step be required.
The spokesman hastened to add that Kerry would not be bound by a timeline, stating "Senator Kerry believes strongly that announcing a proposed signing date would only encourage further attacks by insurgent bloggers".
Day 90 and counting Senator...

Zimbabwe in the news again...

I wrote about Zimbabwe here a few days ago. Now it seems that they have been re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Commission -- see this post from WILLisms:
Zimbabwe Re-Elected To U.N. Human Rights Commission.
The United States needs a forceful individual like John Bolton at the United Nations, now more than ever.

This week, Zimbabwe was re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Commission:

The U.N. Economic and Social Council Wednesday elected 15 countries to the Human Rights Commission. Among the four chosen by the African group was Zimbabwe, whose leader Robert Mugabe is under U.S. and European sanctions.

The selection drew immediate objections from several countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia.
We recently profiled the egregious record of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe's re-election to the UN Human Rights Commission only adds to the already-ample body of evidence that the United Nations needs major reform, and it needs it A.S.A.P.
Will Franklin also links to a post at Publius Pundit regarding Condi Rice's speech at Community of Democracies meeting:
Publius Pundit notes that Secretary Rice is seeking the end of political tyranny worldwide at the Community of Democracies meeting in Chile:

"...tyranny is a crime of man, not a fact of nature. Our goal must always be the elimination of tyranny in our world."
So true -- that house needs to be cleaned and no one is making the first move...

An interesting twenty minutes...

From the NY Times:
A Currency Afloat (for All of 20 Minutes)
The Bush administration has been pressing the Chinese government for years to allow its currency, which is pegged to the dollar, to trade more freely. It got its wish on Friday - but only for 20 minutes.

A freely trading Chinese yuan would probably rise in value against the dollar, making Chinese exports to the United States more costly. That, in turn, would give relief to American manufacturers battered by low-priced Chinese goods as the American trade deficit has been growing faster with China than with any other country. It would also be a political victory for the Bush administration.

Until this afternoon, China had ignored the demands. But as traders drifted back to their desks from lunch in Asian financial capitals on Friday, the yuan suddenly broke out of its prescribed trading range. No one knows for sure if the move was deliberate or a result of a technical glitch.

But regardless of whether it was a Chinese test of their ability to manage a rising yuan or simply a case of the Chinese central bank briefly failing to buy enough dollars to keep supporting the American currency, traders noticed it and the prices for many other currencies began to shift in response.

The yuan climbed until it took 8.270 of them to buy a dollar instead of the usual 8.276. That difference, of only six thousandths of a yuan, might not seem like much of a change.

But it came on the eve of a weeklong holiday in China and at a time of intense speculation that a Chinese revaluation of the currency, which has been fixed by Beijing against the dollar for years, might be imminent. The brief appreciation, a hint of further rises if the yuan were to float, was enough to roil currency markets around the world.

The dollar fell and the euro, yen and gold rose as investors placed bets that if China let the yuan rise against the dollar, other countries would also permit their currencies to appreciate against the dollar because their exporters would no longer be so fearful of being undercut by Chinese rivals.
I am betting on a glitch. Fascinating that such a small change could have such a big effect in terms of other currencies (and gold) changing their prices on the news of such a small shift. Personally, I'm waiting for India to wake up and start exporting more stuff. I spend a lot of money at this place Grizzly Tools. They import tools from Taiwan, India and China. The Taiwan tools are awesome. I have one of their 17" bandsaws and it is solid and gorgeous. The factory over there is ISO-9000. All of Grizzly's precision equipment comes from there. Their Chinese stuff is much lower quality. Not as bad as Harbor Freight but pretty bad -- I bought one of their metal cutting saws and it needed a couple hours of tweaking to cut squarely and the casters were not able to fit their axle without some work on my part. India sells a lot of small machinists tools -- squares, levels, etc... These are works of art and I would love to see what they do with larger machinery. There is a company down in Oregon that imports Indian copies of the old English Lister Diesel engines and they are supposed to be beautiful and run forever. It will be interesting to see what happens if the Chinese exports do slow a bit -- right now, their over-the-top purchases of oil and steel are hurting our economy.

DOH! Sony does it again...

I had written earlier about Sony and how they really commit stupid marketing blunders when it comes to fundamental software. The example I quoted was their failure to include the most basic of music encoding protocols MP3 into their Walkman products, going instead with a proprietary and locked standard. Now, according to Ars Technica, they are doing it again:

Sony drops the ball on the PSP's wireless security
Now here's a major technical fumble of the kind you don't see every day: Sony launches the PSP worldwide, touting its 802.11b support, and only includes WEP support! As you know if you read our Wi-Fi blackpaper (or if you've been paying any attention at all to wireless news for the past few years), WEP is garbage. Someone clever commented in a Sony message board thread about this issue that WEP is so insecure and fast WEP-cracking utils are so widespread and easy to use, that it's almost like there's a Ron Popeil product out that'll do it for you.

Not being a PSP owner (*sniff*), I wasn't aware of this issue until I ran across this outraged ZDNET blog post from George Ou. Ou isn't the first person to be mystified by Sony's decision�some googling turned up this blog post from earlier in the month�but he's the first I've seen with a big soapbox. Ou is calling for Sony to stop producing PSPs without WPA support, and if possible to ship a firmware upgrade that'll put WPA support on all existing PSPs.

Sony does great on hardware -- their WEGA Televisions, the Trinitron was king of the hill for monitors for a long long time (still using mine) and their replacement for the DVD -- the BluRay -- is by far the better of several contenders. Now if they could just get a clue over to their software department...

iPod battery hacking

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Apple's iPods are nicely designed but people have been reporting short battery life with them. Apple will replace the battery for $99 but this is a bit extreme when you can do it yourself.

M Station has the details including where to order the replacement battery. Good to know...

Santorum / Accuweather

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I already covered the Senator Rick Santorum connection with commercial weather provider AccuWeather earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Now, those great folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have put up a handy web-based email server so you can send mail to your senators asking them not to support this bill. The form asks for your address but it uses this to direct the email to the correct Senator.
A few days ago, it was reported that two Massachusetts men had discovered a cache of money in a back yard. They should have kept their mouth shut. Reuters has the story:
Massachusetts Fortune Tale Too Good to Be True
In the end, the tale of buried treasure just didn't fit the bills.

Two New England men regaled television audiences this week with their story of finding 1,900 antique U.S. bank notes -- worth at least $50,000 -- in one of their backyards.

But their "Eureka!" traveled too far, too fast.

Investigators became suspicious over discrepancies in their stories and by Friday police had the men in court, saying the treasure was taken from a construction site where they had worked.

"If they had not gone ... on TV, they could have gone to New York or somewhere and just sold the money and they probably would have gotten away with it," Methuen, Massachusetts, Police Chief Joseph Solomon told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Earlier in the week, the same show had featured the men, Barry Billcliff of Manchester, New Hampshire, and Timothy Crebase of Methuen, who said they unearthed antique currency in Crebase's yard.
Ouch... Their fifteen minutes was their undoing... And the currency?
While the story may have been faked, the bills are real, said Domenic Mangano, owner of the Village Coin Shop in Plaistow, New Hampshire.

Mangano appraised the collection of bank notes, which date from 1899 to 1928, at more than $50,000.
From Harpers comes this article with some excerpts from "A Clarification of Questions," by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A few examples:
107. The whole body of an infidel, even the hair, the nails, and its wetness, is unclean.

125. When a clean object touches an unclean object and one or both are wet enough to convey that wetness to the other, then the clean object becomes unclean. But if the wetness is not enough to reach the other, the clean object does not become unclean.

145. If a host, while eating, realizes that the food is unclean, he must inform his guests. But if one of the guests realizes this, it is not necessary to inform the others, unless his relations with the others are such that as a result of remaining silent he himself becomes unclean.

464. If a woman begins menstruating while praying, her prayer is void.
Sheesh -- did this guy have "issues" or what...

A sticky wicket

This is going to raise a lot of eyebrows. From The Independent:
(Heads up -- the news item and story come from England so when they talk about Lords, these are lawyers and politicians -- not religious figures.)

Lords lifts final legal barrier to 'saviour siblings'
The final legal barrier to the creation of "saviour siblings" to treat children seriously ill with genetic disorders has been swept away by the law lords. In a landmark case, the House of Lords ruled yesterday that using modern reproductive techniques to create babies to be used to treat siblings could be authorised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

The decision delighted scientists and marked a victory for the couple at the centre of the case, Raj and Shahana Hashmi, who are hoping to have a baby with a similar tissue type to their son Zain to treat his rare blood disorder. Mrs Hashmi said : "It's nice to know society has now embraced the technology to cure the sick and take away the pain. It has been a long and hard battle for all the family and we have finally heard the news we wanted to hear.

And what of the 'saviour' -- I can see doing a tissue culture but attempting to clone or GM a foetus for the sole purpose of repairing genetic damage of a previous child is unconscionable. What health and/or quality of life issue will this new child have? I can sympathize with the parents; having a child who is genetically ill must be horrible, but there is probably a time where basic reality and possible medical alternatives conflict and it's probably best to stop there.

Adaptive Prosthetics

Very cool tech coming out of MIT regarding Adaptive Prosthetics. From MedGadget:
Another promising medgadget spotlighted in MIT's Technology Review is a new generation of prosthetics with sensors. One of the scientists involved is MIT's Hugh Herr:

Some of the latest prosthetic knees on the market already have microprocessors built into them that can be programmed to help the limbs move more naturally. But Herr has taken this idea one step further. He has developed a knee with built-in sensors that can measure how far the knee is bent, as well as the amount of force the user applies to it while walking. This artificial knee--recently commercialized by the Icelandic company Ossur--also contains a computer chip that analyzes the sensor data to create a model of the user's gait, and adapt the movement and resistance of the knee accordingly...
Here is the knee:
Herr has a bit of a vested interest -- he is a double amputee. The Icelandic company Ossur can be found here.

Fake or Foto

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A fun quiz -- here are ten images, some are CGI, some are photographs (albeit with 'creative' staging and lighting). I got eight out of ten right.
From Philadelphia, PA station WPVI comes this tale:
Au Revoir, Oreo!
After nearly a century of going unchanged, the favorite cookie you've come to know and love is undergoing a recipe change.

After 93 years, the Oreo cookie is going on a diet. Kraft says it's changing the middle of an Oreo.

The cookie maker is getting rid of trans fat. That's what gives the middle its flavor and texture. But it can also give you clogged arteries.

Kraft tried a number of recipes that didn't work.

Now, Kraft BELIEVES they've got it. They claim the new cookie tastes like the original.

The new Oreo reportedly makes its debut at the end of the year.
Excuse me? From the article: "Kraft BELIEVES they've got it" Either they have it nailed or they do not. From what it sounds like, I am guessing that some people cannot tell the difference and some people are chewing Kraft's collective asses up and down for even considering changing something as sacred as the filling on an Oreo Cookie. Of COURSE they are not healthy if you eat a whole box of them in one sitting. Nothing that tastes that good is. Instead of doing a socialist nanny-state maneuver and killing the fun for everyone, they should spend their R&D money for public education about diet. Here's a great place to start and it's open source: The Hacker's Diet

A busy day today...

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Spent today mowing the front lawn. One of the downsides of farming is that this is 20 acres (not counting the orchard and the critter pasture). Driving the tractor is fun and it was a gorgeous day but there was something missing -- tractor blogging? Hmmm... WiFi -- check Spare Computer -- check 1,500 Watt inverter -- check As they say -- developing.

A married man's Harley

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Shamelessly swiped from Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple who nicked it from Catfish.
Click for full-size Image
Actually a very cool conversion -- look at the full-size image for some of the detail. Nice workmanship. One of the fall fairs in this area has Lawnmower Racing as one of the events. This would be perfect for the unlimited class...

An air delivery alternative

Want to raise or lower something very carefully from the air but don't have a helicopter handy? Do what Nate Saint did in 1956 with a small plane -- here is an illustration. (The original is huge and I have reduced the resolution for faster downloading. The original is here)
Click for full-size Image
Story from the New Scientist:
ECUADOR, 1956. A small aircraft skims dangerously low over the rainforest, making tight circles above a narrow canyon. The pilot is Nate Saint, a missionary from the Mission Aviation Fellowship. He wants to show the Waodani people in the remote settlement below that he is friendly. Gifts are a universal language. Now all he has to do is drop them into a small clearing.

Keeping one hand on the joystick, he reels a basket loaded with machetes and cooking pots out of the plane on a long line. When enough rope is paid out, Saint's tight circular flight path combines with the forces of gravity and drag to hold the basket almost motionless in the air. He lets out more line, lowering the basket until it hovers a metre above the ground.
And today:
Although Saint's "bucket drop" technique, perfected over the orange groves of California, proved invaluable for making contact, it has been largely ignored - until now.

Almost 50 years after Saint's flight, Pavel Trivailo and a team of engineers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia are exploring the same basic principles to devise a more sophisticated air delivery system. They are working on an automated device that will allow them to pick up and put down loads - including people - with hardly a jolt. If their system is successful, it could speed up rescues at sea, make cargo or aid delivery far easier and help collect injured people from otherwise inaccessible regions of jungle or mountain.

Of course, helicopters have been successfully performing all these tasks for decades. So why bother developing an alternative now?

The problem is that helicopters have limited range, speed and cargo capacity. A Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft, for instance, can carry twice as much cargo, fly three times as fast and travel five times as far as the biggest helicopter. This could make a major difference when performing a rescue or trying to reach a remote disaster site. In war zones the complex rotor systems of helicopters make them more vulnerable than fixed-wing planes. And since rotors generate limited lift, helicopters cannot fly to high altitudes where the air is thin.
Very cool, simple idea. DOH!

Efficient Lighting

A nice one-page overview of what current technologies are best for efficient lighting. From their introduction:
Incandescent lights are basically electric space heaters that give off light as a byproduct. They are VERY inefficient, wasting most of the power they consume as heat.

Since lights are one of the biggest power uses in a remote home, pay close attention to what kind you use. If you replace all of your lights with efficient versions, you may be able to get by with fewer expensive batteries and solar panels!
And the numbers:
  • 32 watt T8 fluorescent--85 to 95 lumens/watt
  • standard F40T12 cool white fluorescent--60-65 lumens/watt
  • compact fluorescents--low 30's to low 60's lumens per watt, usually 48-60
  • T3 tubular halogen--20 lumens/watt
  • white LED--15-19 lumens/watt
  • standard 100 watt incandescent--17 lumens/watt
  • incandescent night light bulb (7w)--6 lumens/watt
  • incandescent flashlight bulbs--dismal, less than 6 lumens/watt
The website goes into the methods of testing and why some of the numbers are different from what you would expect. Good stuff!

Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of Africa. It exported food. Robert Mugabe took power in 1980 and things went downhill fast.

It now imports food, has over 4 Million people living with hunger and Mugabe still continues to offer solutions like his 2004 Obesity tourism proposal -- from the Times Online:

'Obesity tourism' is Mugabe's answer to feeding Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has come up with a bizarre proposal to solve the food crisis threatening half its population with starvation. It wants to bring in obese tourists from overseas so that they can shed pounds doing manual labour on land seized from white farmers.

Clearly the guy has a serious screw loose. He is at it again, this time with disastrous environmental consequences -- this from the South African Independent Online:

Zimbabwe turns to wildlife as food source
President Robert Mugabe's regime has directed national parks officials to kill animals in state-owned conservation areas to feed hungry rural peasants - a move that could wipe out what remains of Zimbabwe's impalas, kudus, giraffes, elephants and other species.

The directive is a major blow to efforts by conservationists to try to rehabilitate the wildlife sector which was devastated after Mugabe ordered his supporters to invade and confiscate white-owned farms in 2000.

The chaotic farm invasions saw party militants storming into conservation areas - both private and state-owned - to slaughter animals.

And of course, this stinking turd is propped up by the United Nations.


Medical Tourism

It's not just prescriptions. People are going overseas for elective surgery and getting really great deals and service.

Here is an article from CBS News which explores this:

Vacation, Adventure And Surgery?
Summertime. It's almost upon us. Millions will be heading out to foreign lands for vacation, adventure, tourism, or just a beautiful beach. But how about hip surgery or a multiple bypass or a facelift?

A growing number of tourists are doing just that: combining holidays with health care. And that's because a growing number of countries are offering first-rate medical care at third-world prices.

Many of these medical tourists can't afford health care at home; the 40 million uninsured Americans, for example. Others are going for procedures not covered by their insurance: cosmetic surgery, infertility treatment.

They take a look at a Thai Hospital and a patient who needed bypass surgery:

One patient is Byron Bonnewell, who lives 12,000 miles away in Shreveport, La., where he owns and runs a campground for RVs. A year and a half ago, he had a heart attack, and his doctor told him he really needed bypass surgery.

"They told me I was gonna die," says Bonnewell, who didn't have insurance.

He estimates he would have had to pay over $100,000 out of his own pocket for the operation he needed, a complicated quintuple bypass. And he says he actually decided not to do it: "I guess I figured I'd rather die with a little bit of money in my pocket than live poor."

But Bonnewell says his health was deteriorating quickly, when he read about Bumrungrad Hospital: "I was in my doctor's office one day having some tests done, and there was a copy of Business Week magazine there. And there was an article in Business Week magazine about Bumrungrad Hospital. And I came home and went on the Internet and made an appointment, and away I went to Thailand."

He made that appointment after he learned that the bypass would cost him about $12,000. He chose his cardiologist, Dr. Chad Wanishawad, after reading on the hospital's Web site that he used to practice at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

And the quality of care:

How does he feel? "Wonderful. I wish I'd found them sooner," says Bonnewell. "Because I went through a year - I was in bad shape. I couldn't walk across the room."

How was the nursing? How was the treatment?

"I found it so strange in Thailand, because they were all registered nurses. Being in a hospital in the United States, we see all kinds of orderlies, all kinds of aides, maybe one RN on duty on the whole floor of the hospital," says Bonnewell. "In Thailand, I bet I had eight RNs just on my section of the floor alone. First-class care."

That's what the hospital prides itself on: its first-class medical care, which it can offer so cheaply because everything is cheaper here, particularly labor and malpractice insurance. You can get just about any kind of treatment, from chemotherapy to plastic surgery.

A classic case of supply and demand.

New Product

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Okay... I present for your examination Poop-Freeze From their website:
POOP-FREEZE� is a specially formulated aerosol freeze spray that, upon contact, forms a frosty film on dog poop (or cat poop) to harden the surface for easy pick-up. POOP-FREEZE is a great companion to a pooper scooper for clean fast dog poop or cat poop disposal.

POOP-FREEZE is non-flammable, contains no CFC�s and is perfect for both outside and indoor use. Totally safe for both humans and pets when used as directed. Great product testimonials have been given to POOP-FREEZE for dog poop and cat poop removal. POOP-FREEZE, a pooper scooper and dog poop waste bags are the perfect solutions to fast and easy dog poop and cat poop removal.
What are they thinking... The problem with scooping up poop is that a smudge is left where the 'load' rests on the surface. Freezing the outside surface will do nothing to prevent this. Interesting to see how much market penetration this will get -- is their business plan to get every pet owner to buy just one can?

The Wall of Sound

Whether you liked their music or not, the Grateful Dead had probably the best touring sound system out there.

Here is a nice description of it and why it was so good:

The Grateful Dead Sound System
The Grateful Dead sound system is really 11 independent systems or channels as shown in the table below. The source of sound are located behind and above the performers so they hear what the audience hears. Only one source location for each channel is used to cover the entire hall and the music is clearer both on stage and in the audience. The stereo effect is very satisfying and natural to persons all over the hall. Intermodulation distortion between instruments is of course non-existant.

Excessive reverberation and echos often impair the sound quality when performing in sports arenas. These buildings often sound worse than simple observation of reverberation times might indicate due to troublesome wall surfaces creating echoes. Conventional systems which have multiple sources for each sound add additional delays. The result is a confusing sound which causes the musicians and sound system operators to turn up the level in an effort to overcome this muddle of sound by the limiting effect of the ear. The Grateful Dead system with its single source for each instrument projects clear sound farther back into these cavernous nightmares, and since the sound from each instrument comes from a different direction, the echoes are more diffuse and therefore less objectionable.

Conventional systems are set up low to the ground and the major energy is projected straight back where it strikes the rear wall and is reflected back to the musicians with a delay approaching a half-second. Extremely high stage monitor levels are required to overcome this echo and musicians often comment that they can't hear well but that the high level hurts their ears. The low angle of aim also causes additional reflections from side and front walls which detract from clarity in the audience area. In the Dead's system the source of sound is higher and aimed down. The original sound is partly absorbed by the audience and the first reflection from the real wall is directed down into the audience for further absorption. In this way, the apparent reverberation is substantially reduced, and this effect is significant when the only absorptive material in a reinforced concrete enclosure is the audience.

The obligatory photo:


Microsoft behaving badly

This article in PC World  gives a perfect example of Microsoft making a stupid decision and a possible insight into the repercussions of an old marketing strategy gone very horribly wrong:

Microsoft's Metro Takes Aim at Adobe
Next version of Windows will include a new document format that rivals Adobe's PostScript and PDF.

The next version of Windows will include a new document format, code-named "Metro," to print and share documents, Microsoft says. Metro appears to rival Adobe Systems' PostScript and PDF technologies.

Metro was demonstrated during Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates' keynote at the start of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here on Monday.

The format, based on XML, will be licensed royalty free and users will be able to open Metro files without a special client. In the demonstration, a Metro file was opened and printed from Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Web browser.

Printers and printer drivers can include support for Metro and deliver better and faster printing results than with today's printing technology, Microsoft says. On stage, a Xerox printer with Metro built in was used to print a sample slide.

The Metro technology is likely to go head-to-head with Adobe's PostScript technology. "It is a potential Adobe killer," says Richard Doherty, research director with The Envisioneering Group in Seaford, New York. "But this is just the first warning shot. Adobe could put something that is even more compelling [on top of] Longhorn."

OK -- first take is WHY? Adobe PDF is in place, has been in place in some iteration since 1991 (when it was debuted at Seybold as IPS - Interchange PostScript). That is almost fifteen years folks.

Adobe did a couple things very right. Although they initially charged waaay too much for the creator and the reader, they "saw the light" and made the reader free and dropped the price of the creator down to a reasonable level. They made it compatible with their fonts which were the best (overall) in the DTP industry. Furthermore, Adobe has been very proactive about making the reader and the tools available on as diverse a platform as possible. It is possible to create a PDF file on an IBM and read it on a MAC or a Linux box.

To their extreme credit, they have been very gracious about third-party disassembling of the PDF format and the creation of other PDF tools. They could have declared the format to be proprietary but they realized that the more use PDF has out there, the more people will eventually buy Adobe product. Finally, the PDF format has a lot more to it than just document creation and reading. I used to work for a large Ocean Engineering and Marine Architecture company before moving to the Farm and one of the reasons they used PDF files was because an Engineer could digitally "sign" a document (a form of public-key encryption) and although someone might be able to hack the document and change the drawing, that act would also break the digital signature.

At the end of the day, PDF works and if something is not broken, don't fix it... What Microsoft is proposing to do with Metro is to make several sweeping changes all of which the market is going to push back against. XML is cool -- I mentioned it in an earlier post today as in "I wish this site was using it" but XML is for open information. Securing it would be a bitch. And finally, Microsoft is asking the printer manufacturers to add a processor for Metro into the Printer (and not using a driver like everyone else). This will require a lot more processing speed in the printer plus more memory. That will meet with a lot of enthusiasm... Plus, how will this printer print photographs? Manage color correction? What happens when you want to print a 30 Meg file onto one sheet of paper and the printer only has 16 Meg of RAM in it? A Printer Driver in the host PC can handle these with aplomb but to ask the printer to do this would be beyond the scope of its operations and I'm not going to even go into the concept of firmware updates...

In the opening paragraph, I said: "...repercussions of an old marketing strategy gone very horribly wrong..." I'm relying on memory here (the MARK-I analog stuff) but when Postscript first came out, Windows 3.11 was king. This was wonderfully described as a "colorful clown suit" for MS-DOS. Bill Gates was developing Win95 and wanted to use a better system for managing typefaces and printing. From what I have heard, Bill met with John (Warnock, co-founder of Adobe) and said basically; Look, let us have the "engine" for PostScript for free plus a basic set of Fonts and you can make your money from selling additional Fonts to our customers. Dr. Warnock said no. Bill then licensed the nascent TrueType technology that Apple had been developing. The problem with this early technology is that something designed on one machine would look quite different on another. Also, the font files were not generally embedded into the document so if someone was using a highly stylized font, brought the file to a printer and didn't include the font file, their document would look very very different much to their hearty dissatisfaction.

Around that time, I ran a business doing printing, copies and DTP so I am fairly familiar with these problems... Much of my work was customer education. With Microsoft's release of Metro (and couldn't they have chosen a better name for this), I'm wondering if Bill isn't trying to stick a thumb in Adobe's eye...

After the printing business, I went to work for Microsoft for five years, had a wonderful time and got to play with some amazing systems (I was a lab manager for large systems working with SQL and Scalability). They had some projects that never saw the light of day that would be incredibly useful to the average developer/sys-admin. They seem these days to be focused on Office / Commerce / Graphics business model and they are ignoring their strengths. Kind of a shame...

Another "corporate connection" that came to light when looking into the Santorum / Accuweather connection was Senator Santorum's ties to Wal-Mart.

We all know that Wal-Mart is a die-hard Republican organization so far as their dollars go. Using the search engine at OpenSecrets, we can enter "WAL-MART" as the "OCCUPATION / EMPLOYER of donor", tick the boxes for the 2000, 2002 and 2004 cycles, hit enter and find 241 recorded donations with an aggregate total of over $415,000.00. Sorting these by Amount gives this first couple entries:

Contributor	Occupation	Date		Amount		Recipient
WALTON		WAL-MART  	11/4/2002	$150,000	RNC/Repub National State Elections Cmte
PENNER		C.F.O.	6/17/2004	$25,000		Republican National Cmte
WALTON		CHAIRMAN	5/23/2003	$25,000		National Republican Congressional Cmte
PENNER		WAL-MART	9/26/2002	$15,000		RNC/Repub National State Elections Cmte
SCOTT		WAL-MART	8/17/2000	$10,000		Republican National Cmte
WALTON		CHAIRMAN	6/23/2004	$10,000		Republican National Cmte
PENNER		EXECUTIVE	6/3/2004	$5,000		New Republican Majority Fund
WALTON		OWNER	12/26/2001	$5,000		Leadership in the New Century
WALTON		PART-OWNER	9/24/2002	$5,000		San Diego County Republican Central Cmte
WALTON		WAL-MART	5/19/1999	$5,000		New Democrat Network
WALTON		WAL-MART	10/6/2000	$5,000		Republican National Cmte
WALTON		EXECUTIVE	12/21/2001	$5,000		Fund for a Free Market America
PLEASE NOTE: The Open Secrets website is a wonderful resource but: #1) - if you perform a search and save the URL of that search, you don't always get the search back again, many times it shows a "no records found" error. I am not posting the URLs of the searches any more but I am telling you the key words I used so you can do your own. #2) - they use a funky table layout (not XML) for their results page. If I post from any search (like I did above) it may display really strangely and/or be edited heavily. I will remove data to try to make it fit (first names and addresses in this case) but I do not change wording or numbers.

Back to the post... In fact, the corporation is so Republican, the only two contributions for John Kerry were from two different Pharmacist employees, one in KIRKWOOD,MO giving $500 and one in CHEEKTOWAGA,NY giving $250. Awwww... Searching for Santorum and Wal-Mart gives nothing at all but Wal-Mart also runs a Political Action Committee which is even more active than the individual Walton family and their employees. The PAC (Wal-Mart Stores) spent over $2.7M in the 2004 election cycle and $1.4M in the 2002. There we find $10K to Santorum in 2004, and $6,500 to Santorum in 2000 (also $500 in 1998). And you wonder why stories like these keep cropping up: From the Philadelphia Attytood:

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Wal-Mart)
We hear that Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum hasn't been spending much time of late in his adopted hometown of Penn Hills near Pittsburgh, the town that spent nearly $34,000 (NOTE: SEE UPDATE) to educate the senator's five kids while they were living in a luxury home in Virginia.

So Santorum probably doesn't even know that his neighbors are upset that a new Wal-Mart is coming to Penn Hills, so upset they held a meeting last night to complain about everything from traffic to the mom-and-pop stores that will likely be driven out of business.

But even the folks back in Penn Hills could get close enough to Santorum to complain, he might not hear them. Especially over the din of Wal-Mart corporate jet -- the jet that recently chauffered the Republican around the Sunshine State while Santorum alternately mugged for the cameras on Terri Schiavo's death watch and raised some $250,000 in campaign cash from deep-pocketed Florida donors. Under federal election rules, Santorum only need reimburse the retail giant at the rate of first-class air fares to Florida and not for the real cost of the lavish chartered travel.

When that story was broken earlier this week by our Daily News colleague John Baer, most of the outrage focused -- and rightfully so -- on the fact that Santorum had cancelled a public meeting on Social Security reform "out of respect" for the Schiavo family but didn't cancel his closed fundraising events.

And more -- it seems that Rick has his own PAC:

Lobbyists who work for the firms hired in recent years by Wal-Mart to represent its sweeping political interests -- including Patton Boggs, Cassidy and Associates and Ernst & Young, have given at least $21,793 more, most of that to a Santorum controlled political action committee called America's Foundation.

What does Wal-Mart get out of the relationship? Well, it's clear there's a huge overlap between what the retail monolith wants and what Santorum actually works for in Congress...when he's not busy assailing "judicial tyranny" or a "culture of death" for the TV cameras.

For example:

Overtime and minimum wages: It's hard to imagine an issue of greater importance to Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest low-wage employer. The overtime issues may be the most critical, because in recent years, Wal-mart has faced dozens of lawsuits over not paying its workers for overtime.

This winter, between the time that Wal-Mart PAC gave the $10,000 to Santorum's campaign and the jet trip to Florida, Santorum introduced an amendment for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's minimum wage and related overtime laws.

Santorum's amendment, which failed, would have raised the minimum wage, but only to $6.25 an hour, or about a dollar less than Democrats are seeking. More important was the overtime provision. Under Santorum's proposed rule, an employee could work 50 hours one week and 30 hours the next, but not receive overtime for that additional ten hours. Democrats noted that millions of workers might lose overtime pay.

Tort reform: Santorum is a major supporter of new proposals to limit lawsuits, including one that would move most suits against large companies from state to federal courts. Guess what? Wal-mart and its ally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, support this as well. Maybe that's because Wal-Mart is facing the largest class-action suit in history, a gender-discrimination case involving 1.5 million female employees.

As this article notes, Wal-Mart has given at least $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce, whose PAC gave $9,500 to help Santorum get re-elected in 2000. It also states:

Wal-Mart, the retailer many experts consider the most-sued company in America, stands to benefit from the new class-action law, which is designed to cut down on lawsuits and big verdicts by steering some cases into federal courts, away from state courts with track records of siding with plaintiffs and awarding multimillion-dollar verdicts, according to policy experts.

Lots more goodness at the Attytood website... This guy is like a hole in the ground, the more you dig, the more dirt you come up with...

Synthstuff has been WizBanged!

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Got a couple of very nice links links from Jay Tea at Wizbang and noticed a sharp spike in readership -- upward that is:


Woohoo -- Thanks!!!

UPDART: Jay Tea left a gracious coment direting my atention to the spalling of the word Whisbung in the title. Tis has been corroded.

UPDRAT #2: It seems that Jay Tree at Whistlebung is exerting some heretofore unknown psychic influence manifesting as an adverse effect on my readership numbers. I present the evidence:


He claimed in a private email to be a master of the Estonian Martial Art of Dzqwertyfvyial - the ancient art of Cat Scaring.

Little does he know that I have been a master of this art for the last one hundred and seventy years. Marshalling the Synthstuff minions. (all ten of them)

Senator Rick Santorum

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It may seem that I am unnecessarily dogpiling on this guy but there are a few things about him that get my ire up. My wife and I own a farm. We depend on up-to-date weather information for planning irrigation and pest management (going for organic certification in a few years). I have an onsite weather station but I need to get RADAR and Satellite information as well as trends in nearby areas. The National Weather Service and NOAA do a wonderful job with this at their public website. Senator Santorum has taken about $6,000 in contributions from the family of the company that owns Accuweather and has turned around and put forth a bill that will cut back the Charter of the NWS (National Weather Service) to just gathering the data and providing storm warnings. Hello World! -- gathering data and providing warnings is the most expensive part -- once the data is gathered, putting it up on a website is trivial, cheap and easily automated. Senator Santorum effectively wants to grant a virtual monopoly to two commercial weather information providers. The second item is that I was born and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have chosen to live in the Pacific Northwest but I still retain very fond memories of that city and an interest in Pennsylvania politics in general. Sen. Santorum is not a good politician and the following is a perfect example. Let's look at Sen. Santorum's family -- we have Rick, a wife Karen Garver Santorum and five children (Elizabeth, 13, Richard, 11, Daniel, 9, Sarah, 6, and Peter Santorum, 5 -- ages are correct as of November, 2004) Let's look at where the Santorum family lives:
The street address is 111 Stephens Lane in Penn Hills, PA A United States Senator, his wife and his five children live in this two bedroom house. It is a nice place and Penn Hills is a gorgeous area but it is not a large house by any stretch of the imagination. So why live here -- and now it gets interesting: From the Murrysville Star:
Taxpayers foot $100K bill for Santorum children to attend cyber charter school
Penn Hills School District records show bills paid with local taxpayers' money for U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's children to attend a cyber charter school total more than $100,000.

Since the 2001-2002 school year, at least three Santorum children have been attending a cyber charter school.

This year, the school district has to pay $38,000 for Elizabeth, 13, Richard, 11, Daniel, 9, Sarah, 6, and Peter Santorum, 5, to attend Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, which is based in Beaver County.

State law requires local school districts to pay the tuition of charter school students who live in the school district.

Santorum owns a home on Stephens Lane in Penn Hills, but he, his wife and six children live in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Herndon, Va.
And Santorum's reply (his office actually, he did not reply directly) when asked about this discrepancy (from the same article):
Santorum's office sent the following statement in response to questions about whether the senator lives in Penn Hills and why his children are registered with Penn Hills School District:

"Sen. Santorum is in fact a resident of the Penn Hills School District. He pays state, local and real estate taxes in Pennsylvania. He spends most of his time in Washington, D.C., serving the people of Penn Hills and the commonwealth as a United States senator.
OK -- lets go over to the Sewickley Herald and see just who does live in this house:
Santorum and his wife, Karen Garver Santorum, have owned the house at 111 Stephens Lane since 1997. They pay about $2,000 annually in property taxes to the district.

But records at the Allegheny County Election Office also show that the couple are not the only people claiming the home as their residence.

Bart and Alyssa DeLuca, both 25, are registered voters listed for the same address. They are not related to Penn Hills Mayor Anthony DeLuca or his father, state Rep. Tony DeLuca.

Alyssa, Karen Garver Santorum's niece, registered as a voter living at the Santorum house in September 2000. Then Bart registered with the election office in June 2001 by using the same address.

Bart is listed in the telephone book for 111 Stephens Lane. The phone number was recently disconnected.

A reporter rang the doorbell at the home last week when four cars were parked in the driveway but no one answered the door.
The emphasis is mine -- the house may be owned by the US Senator but his wife's niece and husband are living there, have voting records and a telephone number. Goes to show that a little nepotism doesn't hurt just so you keep it in the family... In fact, the Santorum's wife's parents own the house next door. From the same article:
Several neighbors refused to answer questions about Santorum's situation. They felt uncomfortable talking about the senator, especially when his wife's parents, Ken and Betty Lee Garver, live next door to the Santorum home.

Neighbors referred to Ken Garver as a well-respected pediatrician who had served many Penn Hills families.
Call me old fashioned but when you seek public office, you need to hold your own personal life to a higher set of ethical standards. It's called "setting a good example". I also think that if something is offered and you need it, then take it. If you do not need it, do not take it as there may be someone with a need greater than your own who could make better use of the resource. You should never manufacture a need just because you can. Ultimately, you do not rip people off. This is probably the worst crime in my book. As seen by this and by the $6,000 buyout by Accuweather, I would not consider Santorum to be fit for the job of Senator.

A cool capture

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We missed the Z-man again but -- from ABC News:
Zarqawi Eludes Capture; Computer Discovered
Jordanian rebel Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- Iraq's most wanted fugitive -- recently eluded capture by American troops, but left behind a treasure trove of information, a senior military official told ABC News.

On Feb. 20, the alleged terror mastermind was heading to a secret meeting in Ramadi, just west of Fallujah, where he used to base his operations, the official said.

Task Force 626 -- the covert American military unit charged with finding Zarqawi -- had troops in place to grab the fugitive, and mobile vehicle checkpoints had been established around the city's perimeter. Another U.S. official said predator drones were also in flight, tracking movements in and around the city.

A source who had been inside the Zarqawi network alerted the task force to the meeting. Officials deem the source "extremely credible."
And what they found?
What the task force did find in the vehicle confirmed suspicions that Zarqawi had just escaped. The official said Zarqawi's computer and 80,000 euros (about $104,000 U.S.) were discovered in the truck.

Finding the computer, said the official, "was a seminal event." It had "a very big hard drive," the official said, and recent pictures of Zarqawi. The official said Zarqawi's driver and a bodyguard were taken into custody.
As this thugs network is rolled up man by man. Say goodbye to your dreams of power and terrorism. Hat tip to Charles at LGF

A subtle shift...

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Ran into a very interesting photo today -- this is from Yahoo/AP. Look at it and tell me what do you see:
President Bush greets Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at his ranch in Crawford, Texas Monday, April 25, 2005. President Bush is seeking relief from record-high gas prices and support for Middle East peace as he opens his Texas ranch to Abdullah. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil producer. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Awww - they are holding hands -- isn't that so cute. But look at which hands are being used. People in the Middle East are very specific about what is done with the left hand and what is done with the right hand. From the US Navy's website on Middle East Taboos:
Right hand/left hand: In most Arab countries, the left hand is considered "unclean" and is not put forward (an important thing for all "south-paws" to know.) The left hand earned this interesting epithet in the harsh desert, a land of few trees and no paper. It was the custom to eat, shake hands, wave a greeting, all with the right hand while the left hand was reserved for certain "hygienic functions" or blowing the nose. (The left hand was cleaned by rubbing in the sand). For some desert nomads, this is still the way of things. Traditionally at meals the left hand is kept hidden in the folds of the robe.

Today it is extremely impolite to offer the left hand for a hand shake or to wave a greeting as this implies rubbing the "unhygienic residue" of the left hand on the person being waved to. Similarly, it is impolite to pass food or eat with the left hand. When eating and drinking, use your right hand. Use your right hand also when you pass, offer or receive anything. As an interesting note, throughout the tales of the "1,000 and One Arabian Nights" enemies are referred to as "They of the Left Hand."
This is especially sweet since I remember a photo from a few years ago of one of the Princes and President Bush in the Oval Office and Bush was seated in a chair and the Prince (forget which one) was leaning with his butt against the President's Desk looking down at Bush while talking with him. Not only was this Prince 'seated' at a higher level then President Bush, he was 'dissing' the official seat of power. Nice to see this subtle come-uppance...

Gas prices today

Bought some gas at Costco today:


Of course, I was in Vancouver, BC with some family and the price was per Liter.

A nice and all-to-brief moment of fantasy though.


After converting everything to Gallons and USD from CAD, it works out to $2.58 per Gallon USD -- still up there...

Nice looking webcam software

We run a separate website for our business (we are gearing up to manufacture Hard Cider and Mead this fall) at Brownsnout.com (Brownsnout refers to the critters on our farm plus it is also a variety of Cider Apple -- here and here)

We have an online Weather Station*** and one of the things displayed is a webcam of our orchard. I am updating the weather display and want to use a better webcam software. I ran into this and it looks interesting -- from Where's James comes Webcam Publisher 2.0 (Beta)

Looks to have some nice features and has FTP software built in. I'll be trying it out and see what happens. Oh yeah -- it's free.

*** And yeah -- the interest in weather is what made me start to explore the link between Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Accuweather in regards to his bill to cut the public display of weather data. As a farmer and orchardist, this data is critical for irrigation and orchard husbandry. Santorum is trying to take this away from us -- all for a measly $6K in donations...

Welcome Wizbang readers!

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We got a nice link from the fine folks at Wizbang earlier today. Welcome aboard - poke around and let me know what you think.

Santorum and Accuweather -- pigs flying

One very interesting fallout to this Santorum and Accuweather business is that it has brought together some very unlikely people. If you read my blog, you will find that I am fairly conservative (Libertarian actually). If you do a Google search on Santorum and AccuWeather, you will find Democratic Underground and The Daily KOS also weigh in on the blatant hypocrisy of this bill.
It seems it wasn't just me who got an email from "Deo". (Read here, here, here and here.) Boyd from Texas Native posted about this bill last week and someone named Sven left the following comment:
I think the bill should be withdrawn. I also hope the FDA opens a chain of free, tax-payer supported restaurants so I can get my hamburgers for free. And isn't it about time that the government took over public transportation? The price of a cab ride is outrageous.
I'll let Boyd tell the rest of the story -- here is his comment in its entirety:
What a coincidence, Dave. I had a similar post last week at http://www.texasnative.com/weblog/2005/04/senator-santorum-doesnt-want-you-to.html

and someone calling themselves "Sven" posted a similar comment. I'll bet you can guess what IP address it came from.

What scumbags.
Somebody better take AccuWeather's shovel away -- they are digging themselves a pretty deep hole...
Jay Tea at Wizbang reports on the last few years of Ray Reggie's life and what he has been doing. The lad has led an interesting life:
(Maybe) Coming soon to a major media outlet near you...
Yesterday, I briefly touched on the Ray Reggie mess. Now, it's time to delve a little more deeply into this scandal that could pit the two major Democratic power families against each other.

It all began back in 1992, when Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) married a Washington lawyer named Victoria Reggie. Everyone knows about the bagggage Ted brought with him, but it turned out that Vickie had some of her own. Namely, her brother Ray.

Ray was a political operative out of New Orleans. He was a talented fund-raiser, and used his his sister's new family connections to help him move up to the big leagues. He was soon in Washington, a favored confidante of the Clintons (in fact, he was a guest in the Lincoln Bedroom at least once). And in 2000, he was a key fund-raiser for Hillary's Senate bid.

But Ray had a darker side. He had a fondness for teenage girls (much like the late, not-overly-lamented Michael Kennedy, Ted's nephew), and liked to use the novel approach of pulling them over with a fake blue light in his car. He was also into creative financing, and was caught ripping off three banks for the sum total of $3.5 million dollars. And in 2002, it all caught up with him.

That would have been worth a minor scandal, but Ray apparently had something worth bartering with -- his contacts within the Democratic Party. In exchange for leniency, Ray agreed to wear a wire during future meetings with Democratic officials. And over the next 2 1/2 years, he met with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and numerous other party leaders and their staffs.

It turns out that their efforts to "turn" Ray were a good investment. Currently David Rosen, Hillary's main fund-raiser, is scheduled to go on trial next month for violating campaign-finance laws. He apparently bragged to Ray that he'd put on a Hollywood fund-raiser for Hillary that ran $1.2 million but only reported it cost $400,000, letting private donors pick up the rest of the tab -- meaning that $800,000 of donations went unreported to the federal government. And insiders say this is only the tip of the iceberg Ray led the feds to.
I would love to be a fly on the wall of the Democratic headwquarters right now. Or Sen. Kennedey's office. Jay links to the few stories about this that are showing up in the MSM.

Spain and Socialism

An interesting and hopeful look at the political climate among Spaniards. Hat tip to A Western Heart for this story: From A Western Heart:
Seems the Spanish 'love' affair with the Socialists may well be over:

Since prime minister Rodriguez Zapatero's administration took over power 12 months ago in April 2004, the people's trust in him has declined by 16 percentage points. 44.4% of Spaniards say they have little or no trust in Zapatero, according to the most recent survey carried out by government pollster CIS (Center of Sociological Investigation).

Didn't take them long, did it. Quite obviously, the pundits were right. An outburst of emotion over the bombing saw the previous government blamed and summarily dispatched.

The cold light of day (and a burgeoning raft of loony-left policies) seems to be giving the Spaniards a little pause for thought, though. One can only hope Zapatero doesn't do too much damage before the Spaniards get to correct their mistake.

Some small insight from el-socialismo himself: "I thought this business of governing would be complicated," Mr Zapatero was overheard telling a friend, "but really, I've got it licked."

The man is a fool.
Good on them -- maybe they will put troops back into the Middle East as some time in the future. Stand strong and the terrorist sons of pigs and monkeys will wither. They are weak and foolish little children and are following corrupt teachers. Bring them into the light.

I had found a link to some lovely photography of an abandoned Japanese Amusement Park the other day.

I backed up the URL a little bit and found that the amusement parks are just the tip of the iceberg. Start here and keep clicking-- some gorgeous stuff, here is one example:


For more of these, click on the File1, File2, File3 links.

To see some of this in the United States and Europe, check out here, here, here and here. These are by no means the canonical list but they will get you started.

My one regret about moving from the northeast to the northwest is that the buildings here are so new -- there isn't the wonderful architecture and decay so prevalent on the east coast. Spent many a wonderful weekend afternoon in Boston wandering along the waterfront, breaking into the old buildings and exploring, looking at the old machinery left behind.

Hacking Windows XP Passwords

Please note - this technique requires physical access to the machine in question. If you have this, hacking into any Operating System becomes fairly trivial.

TheTechMen has this method using a Linux CD-ROM and a cool tool:

Have you ever forgotten the password for one of your computers? Chances are, everyone reading this article has lost their password once, if not many times. It's very frustrating isn't it? I couldn't agree more. Well thankfully, if you've lost the password to one of your computers that's running Windows XP, 2000, or NT, it won't be too hard to retrieve it.

Actually, it's so simply to hack the Windows XP password it's sometimes scary. In short, all the hacker needs to do is slip a Linux CD into your computer, load and run a program called SamInside, and wait as SamInside decodes one system file that can easily be found in the windows folder - leaving absolutely no tracks for you to find.

Another option is to give these fine people $60 for the non-commercial license and get their utility that does this without having to run Linux.

They also have a 30-day Demo available for download.

Here is the link to some of their other password recovery tools.

People unclear on the concept

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From Mysanthropyst comes this link to a BBC article on why mob rule is always a good thing (plus a special tip of the hat to Communism -- the government of the future):

Book arson 'a Taleban-style' act
Officials of a prestigious library in India's north-eastern state of Manipur say nearly 145,000 books have been destroyed in an arson attack.

Protesters demanding the introduction of Manipur's ancient Mayek script set fire to the Central Library in Manipur's capital Imphal on Wednesday.

Officials say many of Manipur's most ancient texts were among the books destroyed by the fire.

The arsonists want the Mayek script to replace Bengali script in the state.

Historian Gangumei Kamei said the loss of so many books was "an incalculable loss" to Manipur's heritage.

And who did this:

Police say that a group of nearly 50 protesters started the fire. They say they came from two groups.

The first is a regional group, Mayek Erol Evek Loinasillon Apunba Lup (Meelal) - or the United Forum for Safeguarding Manipuri Script and Language.

For several months it has been demanding the introduction of Manipur's ancient Mayek script, and the abolition of Bengali script that has been used for the last three centuries to write the Meitei language.

The second organisation is a separatist rebel group, Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) which has called for a week's strike in support of the Meelal's demands.

A bunch of finer fucktards cannot be found... We had a somewhat similar incident in Seattle. Some eco-fascists burned down a greenhouse and research center -- they were targeting a researcher who hybridized Poplar trees to maximize pulp yields. Unfortunately, the fire also consumed a lot of the library including books dating back to the 1500's, it also killed native plants that were highly endangered and were being propagated for future reintroduction into the wild. About fifteen years ago, I had the great pleasure to meet Mitch Friedman of Earth First (he and some friends hired my business to typeset a book). I do not agree with all he is into but he has ethics and intelligence. Here is his take on that library arson:

Burning Poplars
A Setback in Opposition to Genetic Engineering

On May 21, some morons simultaneously torched a poplar tree farm in Oregon and the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The connection is that the Center houses a researcher, Toby Bradshaw, who studies poplar hybridization. Earth Liberation Front (ELF) activists took credit for the fire bombings and left graffiti at the Oregon site reading, �You cannot control what is wild.� (see EF!J June-July 2001).

I don�t use the term �morons� lightly. This action was incredibly stupid at every level, from the direct damage it did, to its larger strategic implications, to the way it reflects on people who engage in direct action. Here�s why:

Be sure to read the rest of Mitch's article -- he articulately eviscerates ELF point by point. In both cases, the arsonists are idiots, they are destroying the seed corn of what they are trying to protect without comprehending their actions. Brings to mind this essay on Narcissim. Nail meet hammer...

Swiped from Cajun
This actually explains a lot...
Interesting news about Canada's Prime Minister and a company he owns. From CanadaFreePress:
Saddam invested one million dollars in Paul Martin-owned Cordex
The Canadian company that Saddam Hussein invested a million dollars in belonged to the Prime Minister of Canada, canadafreepress.com has discovered.

Cordex Petroleum Inc., launched with Saddam�s million by Prime Minister Paul Martin�s mentor Maurice Strong�s son Fred Strong, is listed among Martin�s assets to the Federal Ethics committee on November 4, 2003.
And let's follow the money:
Yesterday, Strong admitted that Tongsun Park, the Korean man accused by U.S. federal authorities of illegally acting as an Iraqi agent, invested in Cordex, the company he owned with his son, in 1997.

In that admission, Strong describes Cordex as a Denver-based company. Cordex Petroleum Inc. is listed among Martin�s assets as an Alberta-based company.
And talk about tangled interrelationships:
Two years after taking the Park-through-Saddam one million dollars, Cordex went out of business.

On April 20, 1999, Bankrupt.com, an internet bankruptcy library states Kelly J. Sweeney Esquire of the Office of the Trustee in Denver, Col. as appointing four individuals to serve on an official creditor�s committee in the Chapter 11 case "commenced by Cordex Petroleum Inc."

Strong�s New Age Baca Ranch is located in Crestone, Colorado.

Indeed, according to Marci McDonald in Walrus Magazine, "Cordex Petroleums was formerly known as Baca Resources." (April 21, 2004).

�"Still, Strong has never been far from his prot�g��s side. Over the years, Martin has been a shareholder in at least two of Strong�s companies, including the defunct Cordex Petroleums, formerly known as Baca Resources. But Strong�s chief influence has been in shaping the trajectory of Martin�s career�business first, politics later, the eye on the prize always. 'My basic advice to him was, 'Paul, don�t try to ride two horses at once,' Strong says. When it came time to move to the next horse, Strong was waiting to give him the nod at the starting gate. When Martin was ready to throw in the political towel after (Prime Minister Jean) Chretien made clear he was sticking around for another election, Strong invited the finance minister to his log retreat in the Kawarthas for a weekend of cheerleading. 'I said, 'Paul, you�ve got a big investment in public life,� Strong recounts. 'You�ve come this far, you should stay in there.�"

According to the today�s New York Sun, "the next chapter in the United Nations crisis may erupt over U.N. investigator Paul Volcker�s membership on the board of one of Canada�s biggest companies, Power Corporation, since a past president of the firm, Canadian tycoon Maurice Strong, is now tied to the oil-for-food scandal."

The missing facts are: Not only are Volcker and Strong hooked with the ties that bind to Power Corporation Inc., a company under investigation in the oil-for-food scandal, Prime Minister Paul Martin was launched into the business world with Canadian Steamship Lines by Paul Desmarais�s Power Corporation Inc. and his predecessor Jean Chretien�s daughter, France is married to Paul Desmarais� son, Andre Desmarais.
Interesting -- don't hear much about that down here...
The NY Times Business website has a wonderful article on the legislation proposed by Senator Rick Santorum which will take down the free NOAA Weather website and force people to use commercial (either fee-based or pop-ups and advertising) sites: The article starts off with a bit of background:
There is a long historical background to the administration's choices, plus a variety of recent shifts and circumstances. The history stretches to the early days of the republic, and the idea that government-sponsored research in science and technology could bolster private business growth. Progress in farming, led by the land-grant universities, demonstrated this concept in the 19th century. Sputnik-era science, culminating in the work that led to the Internet, did the same in the 20th century.

In the last two decades, this old idea has been dressed up with concepts like "network economics" and "increasing return to scale." The results include the widely accepted understanding that the relationship of public science and private business is more important than ever. An environment in which the exchange of information is timely and inexpensive, rather than slow and costly, can foster the growth of many industries.
And the events of the last few years:
During President Bill Clinton's first term, the Office of Management and Budget issued a bold new document on balancing these interests. Although it reeked of "bridge to the 21st century"-style futurism, it had actually been prepared and approved by the previous Bush administration and was released under President Clinton virtually unchanged. The document was called O.M.B. Circular A-130, and its crucial argument was that the government should distribute information as quickly, as broadly and as cheaply as possible - technically, "at no more than the cost of dissemination" - and that it should do so via the most modern channels available. Of course, that meant the Internet.

The Clinton-era information wars followed. Mead Data Central, then the owner of Nexis-Lexis, had enjoyed an exclusive contract to distribute data from S.E.C. filings, at steep prices. After a lawsuit and a change in policy, that filing data became available free, over the Internet. Struggles with other companies, with similar results, occurred in the Patent Office, the I.R.S. and other agencies.
And the meat of the story:
One of the most important and contentious struggles, mentioned here last spring, appears to be turning out in a way that will burnish the Bush administration's pro-tech record. This is the "fair weather" controversy. The question at its core is whether the National Weather Service, which uses taxpayer funds to collect nearly all weather readings, will be allowed to make its information available through the Internet - or instead required to sluice it all to commercial weather services, as the S.E.C. once did with Mead.

The famous Circular A-130 argued strongly for Internet distribution, as did a special study of the question by the National Research Council in 2003. The weather service went ahead with such sites - and they have proved enormously popular. During the three months last fall when four hurricanes struck the South, weather service sites received nine billion hits - breaking a government record of six billion hits on NASA sites in the three months after the Mars rover landing last spring.

From an interest in aviation, I often visit the weather service's marvelous Aviation Digital Data Web site, at adds.aviationweather.noaa.gov. Without a doubt, it has saved many lives by making it easy for pilots to understand where the dangers from icing, thunderstorms and turbulence are. Last fall, the government invited public comment on the weather service's new strategy and received overwhelming support. Just after the election, the service announced that it would officially embrace an open-information policy.
Emphasis mine -- this bill is being put forth to take away from taxpayers and to directly benefit a small number of companies. Write your Senators and tell them that you do not want this bill passed. This is the camel's nose under the tent.

"An honest politician is one who when he's bought stays bought."
Simon Cameron (Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War) I had initially written about Senator Rick Santorum's bill which would gut the wonderful NOAA and National Weather Service website located at weather.noaa.gov The next day, I received a comment to that post from a reader named Deo who said:
The NWS�s original charter was to collect data and warn people. Now they�re spending my tax dollars making flash based radar? No thanks. The next thing you know they�ll be handing out free weather stations to everyone. But that will be okay, right - because we paid for it with tax dollars.
Sounds reasonable at first glance but as I wrote here, the cost of providing this website is trivial compared to the cost of gathering the data which is already in the charter. The only people who would stand to benefit from a bill of this sort would be the commercial weather providers -- Accuweather and The Weather Channel. Oh yeah -- when anyone posts a comment to any blog, the address of their computer is logged and reader Deo's system was at which happens to be in the Accuweather netblock (ie: the computer Deo used was connected to the Accuweather network at the time he made his post.) Cute move there... Because of this, I have been nosing around looking to see if there is any connection between $enator Santorum and Accuweather and I stumbled into this gem from The Raw Story:
Senator aiming to nix federal weather forecasts enjoyed AccuWeather money
A conservative Republican senator who proposed that federal meteorologists be forbidden from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and the Weather Channel, has received nearly $4,000 from AccuWeather's founder and executive vice president since 2000, RAW STORY has discovered.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the bill last week. The senator's supporters (among them the founder and executive vice president of AccuWeather) note the bill provides an exemption that would allow organizations the National Hurricane Center from alerting the public to hazards.

"The National Weather Service has not focused on what its core mission should be, which is protecting other people's lives and property," said Barry Myers, the Executive Vice President of AccuWeather told the Palm Beach Post Thursday. "It spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, every day, producing forecasts of 'warm and sunny.'"
The total donations from brothers Barry Lee and Joel as well as Mrs. Barry Lee add up to a nice even $6,000 - see for yourself at the OpenSecrets.org website Senators are come a lot cheaper than I would have guessed -- must be from Santorum's association with Wall-Mart...
Wired Magazine has an article on some interesting Pharmers in Indiana:
Cave Pharming Yields Big Crops
It's not the bucolic, sun-dappled landscape you might envision when picturing American farmland. But a chilly, damp cave with no natural light just may be the most productive agricultural environment around.

Purdue researchers and entrepreneur Doug Ausenbaugh didn't launch an underground farm because they thought it would yield more crops. They wanted to provide biotech companies a safe environment for growing crops containing pharmaceutical drugs for humans. But they were pleasantly surprised to find that not only did the former quarry apparently keep pollen from the corn, tobacco, soybeans, tomatoes and potatoes from escaping, but it also led to higher yields than greenhouses or outdoor fields.

Some researchers believe that growing drugs in crops could be a cheaper and easier way to get biotech drugs than growing them in vats of genetically modified bacteria, as it's done today. But companies pursuing this approach have suffered setbacks due to government regulators, protests from environmental groups, and at least one incident in which a pharmaceutical crop nearly slipped into the food supply.

Last year, Ausenbaugh founded Controlled Pharming Ventures to grow crops in a former quarry and underground warehouse, in the hope that it would reduce the risks inherent in "pharming." With the help of Purdue scientists and a grant from the Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, he seems at least to have proven that crops can grow robustly in a seemingly inhospitable 60-acre former limestone quarry in Marengo, Indiana.

"We didn't know if there would be some trace contaminant or gas in the atmosphere that could have been a show stopper to normal crop growth and development," said Cary Mitchell, a Purdue horticulture professor, in an e-mail. "There wasn't. Things went smoothly."
Cost is a bit high but the yields are a lot better -- Bt Corn gets 337 bushels/Acre there compared to 267 in an above-ground greenhouse. Cool stuff -- nice to see people thinking...

Deeper, always deeper...

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Very cool -- a bunch of spelunkers have passed the 2,000 meter mark and are planning to go deeper. The BBC has the story:
Cavers smash world depth record
A Ukrainian team has set a new depth record for caving.

The nine-strong group travelled 2,080m (6,822ft) underground, passing the elusive 2,000m mark at Krubera, the world's deepest known cave.
And some more - the conditions of the exploration:
Carrying about five tonnes of equipment, they had to negotiate vertical drops and freezing torrents of water. They were also forced to blast rubble from passages that were critically narrowed or blocked by "boulder chokes".

They set camps at depths of 700m, 1,215m, 1,410m and 1,640m, where they cooked meals, slept up to six people to a tent and worked for up to 20 hours at a stretch.
Five tonnes deployed among nine people works out to more than one thousand pounds per person. A lot of responsibility keeping track of it all and a lot of hard carry too. One bit more:
They examined all unexplored leads in the cave's lowest section until they broke through to a new series of passages and vertical pits. On 19 October 2004, team leader Yuri Kasjan dropped down a pit and discovered from his altimeter that he had passed 2,000m.

More pits and passages brought the explorers to a sandy chamber at 2,080m, the deepest to date any caver has ventured below ground (gold miners in South Africa regularly go beyond 3,400m).

The team christened the chamber Game Over. But the group now wants to return to the cave to see whether it leads even deeper.
Here is one of the team:
That facial expression is either "happy" or "manic" Not too sure which...

Abandoned Amusement Park in Japan

A wonderful set of photographs of an Amusement Park in Japan that has seen better days. The site is in Japanese so I don't know what the text says but the images are beautiful.

Page One, Page Two and Page Three

Here is one:


I reduced the resolution for fast download -- visit the site for the full image. Good stuff!

I had written yesterday about Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and his bill that would effectively shut down the wonderful NOAA Weather site and force people to use commercial weather providers, either fee-based or screens with lots of advertising and pop-ups. Reader Deo posted a comment to this:
The NWS's original charter was to collect data and warn people. Now they're spending my tax dollars making flash based radar? No thanks. The next thing you know they'll be handing out free weather stations to everyone. But that will be okay, right - because we paid for it with tax dollars.
Point One -- the commercial weather providers get the majority of their data from NOAA and the National Weather Service. They do very little collection on their own. There is little or no value being added by these companies except for packaging and some fancy graphics. Point Two -- you are very much correct about the National Weather Service (NWS) having an original charter of Collecting Data and Warning People. Your comment addressed a concern about: "spending my tax dollars making flash based radar". They already spent your tax dollars in the collection stage. Putting data they already collected onto a website is a very simple and cheap task. I do not have any numbers about their staffing and hardware budget but I have worked with groups that had large web databases (I used to work at Microsoft on the hardware support team for SQL Server and later for their Enterprise Scalability Lab) They already HAVE the website -- even if the current level of weather information is taken away by Santorum's poxy bill, the rest of NWS and NOAA is still there. They have the Datacenter and the Servers to run it. You would need a part time developer and there would be some extra overhead for bandwidth and server maintenance but I would be very willing to bet that the total cost to run this service is much less than the cost to run an automated weather station per year. When trying to think why Santorum is promoting such a literally useless piece of legislation, I can only think of following the money. Senator Santorum certainly seems to have done so. (Wal-Mart, et. al.) The website is such a benefit to people in so many ways that it would be a shame to take it away especially when the economic impact is so minimal. We are already paying for the data to be gathered, I would not mind spending an extra groat more to get it available on the web in a useful form. Finally - Point Three

Deo - you are a hypocrite.

When someone posts a comment to a blog, their IP number is recorded. I looked up yours ( and you made this comment from a computer located at Accuweather -- one of the two major companies that stand to profit from Senator Santorum's odious bit of legislation.
Search results for: 

AT&T WorldNet Services WORLDNET-MIS (NET-207-242-0-0-1) 
Accuweather ACCUWEATHER-93 (NET-207-242-93-0-1) 
Your post was not from a regular reader, you were trolling the web, looking for posts referring to Santorum / Accuweather and posting "reasonable sounding" comments in favor of the bill masquerading as a casual blog reader. FOAD Deo...

I wonder if Hell has WiFi

A Mr. Rogers Cadenhead noticed that Pope John Paul was probably not going to last very much longer and he picked out six names that he thought the new Pope might choose. (Benedict XVI, Clement XV, Innocent XIV, Leo XIV, Paul VII, Pius XIII) The funny thing is that all six of them were available as dot.COM domains so he went ahead and registered them all. His motives were actually really good -- in his words:
Update: A few news reports suggest that I might have popesquatted BenedictXVI.Com to sell it to pornographers. For the love of God, people, that's not going to happen. I will be running any plans I have for this domain by my own Catholic doctrinal enforcer, my never-miss-a-Sunday grandmother Rita.
Heh... Actually, he is in the process of contacting the Vatican to arrange for free transfer of the Domain over to their administration. In the meantime, he has http://www.benedictxvi.com pointing to a Charity that he likes: Modest Needs. In another update at his personal website, he does list Five Items he would like from the Vatican - not demands:
  • I. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel they built for the conclave.
  • II. One of those hats.
  • III. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.
  • IV. A back-cover blurb from the Pope for the next edition of Movable Type 3 Bible Desktop Edition. But only if he uses the book to create his own weblog.
  • V. World peace.
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is a nasty piece of work. Both sides of the political fence say this so there might actually be a germ of truth here. Here is an article dealing with Sen. Santorum's closeness with Wal-Mart. Here is a site proposing: "Dump Rick Santorum" (lots of links) And here is $antorum Watch (lots more links) Here is Santorum's own take on the bill in question:
Santorum Proposes to Modernize National Weather Service to Better Serve Public
U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, today introduced the National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005 to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the National Weather Service (NWS) within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"With the support of my colleagues, we can pass this legislation to modernize the description of the National Weather Service�s roles within the national weather enterprise, so that it reflects today�s reality in which the National Weather Service and the commercial weather industry both play important parts in providing weather products and services to the nation," said Senator Santorum.

Fourteen years ago the NWS took the extra step of carefully delineating the respective roles of the NWS and the commercial weather industry, in addition to pledging its intention not to provide products or services that were or could be provided by the commercial weather industry.

However, the parent agency of the NWS, NOAA, repealed the 1991 non-competition and non-duplication policy in December 2004. Its new policy only promises to "give due consideration" to the abilities of private sector entities. The new policy has enabled NWS and NOAA to expand into areas that are already well served by the commercial weather industry.

"This decision by NOAA to repeal the non-competition and non-duplication policy detracts from NWS�s core missions of maintaining a modern and effective meteorological infrastructure, collecting comprehensive observational data, and issuing warnings and forecasts of severe weather that imperil life and property," said Senator Santorum.

Senator Santorum�s bill restores the NWS non-competition policy. However, the legislation leaves NWS with complete and unfettered freedom to carry out its critical role of preparing and issuing severe weather warnings and forecasts designed for the protection of life and property of the general public.
Seeks to Modernize? Sounds like a giant step backward to me unless... just unless... you happened to be one of the big commercial weather sites like AccuWeather. Sure you can get free weather information from AccuWeather but you have to endure lots of advertisements and pop-ups. You can get a much better set of information from the wonderful NOAA website with zero advertising or pop-ups. How do they do this? You have already paid for this data with your tax dollars. They are already funded, by you. Senator Santorum wants to take this away so that commercial weather companies can make more money. Some news stories on this can be found here and here You might want to write your local Senator and have them put a stop to this odious bit of corporate pandering. It is a bit funny because I went to Sen. Santorum's website, found the email Sen. Santorum link, filled in my disagreement with his legislation, hit the send button and this was presented for my next screen:
Thank you for expressing your views.

2005... User unknown Act... User unknown Duties... User unknown Services... User unknown Weather... User unknown of... User unknown /home/webservd/dead.letter... Saved message in /home/webservd/dead.letter
dead.letter indeed... The bill in question is called: "National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005"

Getting the "Big Money" out of Politics

What a wonderful idea... Unfortunately (from The Hill):
Soros says be patient
George Soros told a carefully vetted gathering of 70 likeminded millionaires and billionaires last weekend that they must be patient if they want to realize long-term political and ideological yields from an expected massive investment in �startup� progressive think tanks.

The Scottsdale, Ariz., meeting, called to start the process of building an ideas production line for liberal politicians, began what organizers hope will be a long dialogue with the �partners,� many from the high-tech industry. Participants have begun to refer to themselves as the Phoenix Group. Rob Stein, a veteran of President Bill Clinton�s Commerce Department and of New York investment banking, convened the meeting of venture capitalists, left-leaning moneymen and a select few D.C. strategists on how to seed pro-Democratic think tanks, media outlets and leadership schools to compete with such entrenched conservative institutions as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Leadership Institute.

Senior Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials were quietly briefed about the meeting in recent weeks. DNC Chairman Howard Dean was aware of it, in part though his friendship with Stein, but one senior DNC source said the organizers �kept that list [of attendees] kind of tight.�
Oh -- That was only Getting the "Big Money" out of Republican Politics... Hat tip to Glenn the Puppy Blender.

Earth Day - 2005

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Cox and Forkum do a wonderful tribute to this year's Earth Day:
Click for larger Image
I lowered the resolution of image to save on downloading times. Be sure to visit their website for the full-size image in all its ironic glory.

Stealing Celestial Fire

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An interesting bit of research on how to trigger lightning on demand. The article is in IEEE Spectrum and deals with lab experiments using an ultra-short pulse of laser light to ionize air molecules to the point where they can trigger a lightning stroke.
Stealing Celestial Fire
A laser has sparked artificial lightning in a laboratory, a first step toward controlling real thunderbolts

There has to be a better way of tapping a lightning bolt than flying a kite in a storm, and a group of French and German scientists just may have found one. They have demonstrated in a laboratory that shining powerful laser pulses between two electrodes elicits a controllable form of lightning. They hope that their invention will eventually help to fend off lightning strikes on airports and power stations.

They employed their Teramobile laser, whose pulse lasts for a mere 100 femtoseconds and packs a peak power of 5 terawatts. The pulse rips the electrons from air molecules, creating a plasma; it also changes the refractive index of the air, a phenomenon called the Kerr effect. The effect focuses the light just enough to balance plasma-induced diffraction, creating a straight and highly conductive channel, called a filament, which can stretch up to 3.8 meters between the charged electrodes.

In the experiment, a 1- to 2-megavolt electrode simulates a thundercloud and an electrically grounded plate simulates the earth. The laser-induced filaments short-circuit the electrodes, triggering an electric discharge much like a lightning bolt. To complete the simulation, the researchers sprayed water between the electrodes. "We expected that the 'rainwater' would scatter light and perturb the filaments, but the filaments survived the interaction," says J�r�me Kasparian, a lead investigator and a member of the group from the University of Lyon, in France. Another team hails from the �cole Polytechnique, in Palaiseau, France; two others come from the Free University of Berlin and the Friedrich Schiller University, in Jena, Germany.
Here is a photo of the equipment in operation:
And as a heads up -- at 186 Million Miles/Second, a pulse of light lasting for 100 Femtoseconds will be just a smudge over 1/1000 of an inch long. Even if it's only packing half a Joule (our big electric fence charger runs at six Joules), I don't think I want to stand it its way. Talk about cosmic bullet...

Tools for rural living.

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Jen -- hide the credit cards... Kevin Kelly runs a site (on the BlogRoll) called Cool Tools. He updates a couple times/week and these are useful tools for living. An online Whole Earth catalog as it were. Today, he pointed to a place I never heard of before. I went to their site and started drooling profusely. They carry stuff we can use! The place I'm talking about is Gemplers Their prices are quite a bit higher than other online sources -- I'll use the Felco #2 pruner for an example -- a basic and very well made tool.
Gemplers charges $37.95. The FelcoStore charges $31.26 For chuckles, I looked up Smith and Hawken -- a high-end mail order and retail "Gentleman Gardner" store and they only charge $35.20. What I think Gemplers will be good for is for those esoteric items that we simply cannot find anywhere else and also as a resource to look up possible manufacturers for a specific need and then locate the same item elsewhere cheaper. Very good online resource though!
WOW! Sounds like he means it -- here is an excerpt:
The United Nations has already put in place a sweeping set of improvements, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan reorganizing and streamlining the world body to bring about, according to a U.N. reform dossier, "a culture of greater openness, coherence, innovation and confidence." A blue-ribbon panel has "set more stringent standards for judging the performance of peacekeepers, in the field and at Headquarters." And there is now a system for dealing with U.N. staff, that "gives more precedence to merit and competence and less to tenure and precedent."
Only one problem here -- this was written in 2002 and the reforms in question were started in late 1990's. Claudia Rosett has the goods:
Stale Kofi
Annan wants to "reform" the U.N. again. He must be in trouble.

Yet more scandal at the United Nations? Secret deals, millions in bribes, leading to billions in global kickbacks? What to do?

Have no fear, reform is here. The United Nations has already put in place a sweeping set of improvements, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan reorganizing and streamlining the world body to bring about, according to a U.N. reform dossier, "a culture of greater openness, coherence, innovation and confidence." A blue-ribbon panel has "set more stringent standards for judging the performance of peacekeepers, in the field and at Headquarters." And there is now a system for dealing with U.N. staff, that "gives more precedence to merit and competence and less to tenure and precedent."

All of which sounds terrific. Except that the reforms cited above, heralding the new era of openness, coherence, competence, integrity and improved peacekeeping are all plucked from a U.N. dossier released almost three years ago, in June 2002. These reforms were shepherded through by Mr. Annan starting in the late 1990s, with the help of his handpicked special adviser, Undersecretary-General Maurice Strong.

In the course of telling the press on Monday that he "cannot recall a single instance" of contact or discussion with officials responsible for the scandal-plagued Oil for Food program, Mr. Strong did confirm that he has been friendly for years and had a business relationship back in 1997 with a Korean, Tongsun Park. Mr. Park achieved prominence in the 1970s as the go-between who shuttled hundreds of thousands in bribes from the regime of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-Hee to assorted members of the U.S. Congress, in the scandal that became known as Koreagate.

Even if Mr. Strong had the best of intentions, his decision as a high-ranking U.N. official to be involved in any business relationship with the star bag man of Koreagate suggests seriously odd judgment. That should have been obvious even before U.S. federal prosecutors charged Mr. Park last week with accepting some $2 million from Saddam Hussein to convey yet more millions to two (so-far unnamed) high-ranking U.N. officials in an effort to shape the 1996-2003 Oil for Food program to facilitate Saddam's sanctions-busting embezzlement of billions meant for the people of Iraq.
United Nations hits bottom, continues digging...
hanoi-jane-fonda.jpg Jane Fonda who went to North Vietnam, met with top officials, made several propaganda radio broadcasts and had her photograph taken while sitting in a North Vietnamese tank (surprisingly, she was not arrested for Treason on her return to the US although what she did clearly qualifies) is now trying to jump-start her career with a new book and movie. She was at a book signing and one person who remembers her treason very well came up to her. Local6 has the story:
Police: Man Arrested For Spitting On Jane Fonda
Police said they arrested a man for spitting on two-time Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda (pictured, right) during a book-signing stop in Kansas City Tuesday night.

Fonda, 67, spoke at Unity Temple, in The Plaza shopping district, about her new best-selling book, "My Life So Far," and her new movie with Jennifer Lopez called "Monster-In-Law."

At about 9 p.m., police said 54-year-old Michael A. Smith, who had been waiting in line for about 90 minutes, passed a book to Fonda and then spit a large amount of tobacco juice into her face.

Fonda declined to prosecute Smith.

A Vietnam veteran, Smith was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, which is a city charge.
I would have used a pie but I can well understand Mr. Smith's sentiments...

People unclear on the concept

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From MyWay/Reuters
Stone Sculptor Held on Easter Island
A 71-year-old Canadian sculptor is being held on Chile's Easter Island, famed for its massive carved stone heads, after authorities accused him of moving stones from archeological sites to create "land art" figures, an official on the remote island said on Monday.

Bill Vazan of Montreal is accused of moving smaller rocks, not of damaging any of the giant moai statues, which are gradually eroding and are a carefully protected tourist magnet.

Vazan is not under arrest but must remain on the island while he is investigated on charges of damaging a historical monument, Carlos Soto, head of criminal investigations on the South Pacific island told Reuters by telephone.

Soto said Vazan created six large figures, two using stones believed to be archeologically significant. If found guilty he faces a fine of about $520 or up to three years in jail.
I must apologize in advance for the language which follows but Just How Fucking Self-Centered are you Mr. Vazan? I had written about Narcissism in an earlier post and linked to an excellent three-part essay on the subject which seemed to point to the fact that many people on the "liberal" "left" "moonbat" side of the spectrum seemed to have an unbalanced amount of it. This little story gives that post a lot more credence. They ARE nuts and the mental imbalance is well defined by the DSM-IV. Sheesh...

A new film -- V for Vendetta

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I'll let this press release fill you in:
The Wachowski Brothers and Joel Silver, the creators and producer of the revolutionary, $1.6 billion-grossing Matrix trilogy, have launched production on the action thriller V For Vendetta, starring Natalie Portman (Star Wars: Episodes I-III, Closer, Garden State), James Purefoy (Vanity Fair, Resident Evil) and Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game) in Berlin, Germany.

Produced by Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, V For Vendetta is directed by James McTeigue, who served as the First Assistant Director on the Matrix trilogy.

Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, V For Vendetta tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked vigilante (James Purefoy) known only as �V.� Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he detonates two London landmarks and takes over the government-controlled airwaves, urging his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression. As Evey uncovers the truth about V�s mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself � and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plot to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.
Well -- now we know what they have been doing the last couple years. Opens November 4th 2005.

Light blogging tonight...

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Jen's Mom and Sister (and cousin) are coming in for a visit this weekend so we are both in full MUST-CLEAN-HOUSE mode. She more than me -- we also have ten ducks that are rapidly outgrowing their brooder and I am building an outside duck house. Links Here and Here These guys are growing fast. They will be bug patrol in our garden. Jen also thinks that they will be the occasional dinner. We are also getting chickens. Fresh roasted chicken is awesome. Not that much into duck. More as this domestic dispute develops...

Take a look at Magnetricity The webmaster -- Rex Hebert -- is not only good at electronics, he has an excellent sense of design.

His website is one of the few that I like which violate the "no music" and "no animation" for the opening screen. Both are short, lush and fit the concept of the site.

Check out his Photoshop skills on these colorized photographs of Nikola Tesla and his laboratories. (Scroll down past the quotes although the quotes are very much worth reading as well...)

Nikola Tesla invented a few things that you may use from time to time.

  • His system of multiple-phase 60 Hertz power distribution is used in the USA. Other nations use it too but some use 50 Hz instead of 60. It's what come out of the wall outlets and runs everything.
  • The AC Motor? Tesla.
  • He invented Radio. Marconi? Challenged Tesla's patent but the US Supreme Court upheld Tesla's prior. (The fact that Tesla had demonstrated a remote controlled model submarine which started, stopped, turned right and left and dove -- all under radio control several years before Marconi ever sent his trans-Atlantic "S" helped establish the claim.)
  • Fluorescent Lights? Tesla.
  • Radio Astronomy? Tesla.
  • X Rays? Tesla.

The list goes on and on. My only gripe with this site is that Rex is also interested in "zero point" energy and generators that yield more out then put in. He has done some gorgeous work in designing and machining this unit but there are some simple laboratory mistakes that can trick people into thinking that more energy is coming out of a system then is actually there.

I don't see any hard data in his NeoGen page -- it will be interesting to check in from time to time to see what is developing.

Marla Ruzicka -- dead in Iraq

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Wretchard at The Belmont Club makes a very interesting point about the death of Marla Ruzicka:
Anyone who wants to remember Marla Ruzicka, the Bay Area activist who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, should first all remember how she died. Time gives this account of her death.

Ruzicka, 28, became a victim of the Iraqi conflict on Saturday, when a car bomb detonated beside her car on the perilous road from central Baghdad to the city's airport. Her longtime Iraqi aide and driver Faiz Ali Salim, 43, was also killed.

She didn't die while accompanying a military convoy. She wasn't killed at a US checkpoint or by American fire. She died on a road frequented by civilians killed by what was almost certainly a command detonated bomb; which didn't go off by itself but was set off by someone waiting patiently, at a distance, with his converted cellphone or garage door opener, until a likely victim came along. For Time to say that Marla Ruzicka was the 'victim' of an abstract Iraqi conflict is as misleading as to maintain that Iraqis who may have wrongfully died in US custody are 'victims' of 'international conflict'. To remember Marla Ruzicka it is important to remember that first and foremost she was murdered, murdered by insurgents.
Very good point -- this was not a stray bullet or RPG, this was intentional with the victim in sight. Maybe they waited until they saw a pretty woman. The Islamofascist treatment of women is not known for kindness... One of Wretchard's commenters was Dr. Sanity whom I wrote about here a few days ago. Here is her comment on this:
Somehow I suspect her death will be twisted into a Rachel Corrie-type moment; used as further evidence of the evil BushChimpHitler policies. Her death will be considered martyrdom, and she will be elevated to saint soon enough. That she was murdered by a group of people who could care less about the value of human life will not matter, since the people who see her as a "symbol" to bash the US with don't either.

Ever play a Flash game or watch a Flash movie? You have used one of the main products from Macromedia.

They make a host of web development tools (I use HomeSite and Dreamweaver).

Today it was announced the Adobe is buying Macromedia for 3.4 Billion. Adobe has also bought other companies -- my favorite sound editing program was snarfed up by them and renamed Adobe Audition. It will be interesting to see what happens to HomeSite.

This program was originally written by Nick Bradbury and purchased by Macromedia. It is a wonderful light-weight editor for HTML.

It assumes that you have a working knowledge of HTML and you don't need a lot of hand-holding or behind the scenes code snippets added to your website.

For people who do HTML coding, do check out Nicks current products - TopStyle is a wonderful CSS editor in the same style as HomeSite.

He also has an excellent RSS News Agregator called FeedDemon.

Microsoft may be the 300-pound gorilla of software but some interesting other companies are catching up. Adobe is certainly the one for professional graphics and web development now...

Avian flu weblog

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Tyler Cowen from Marginal Revolution and some other people have been running an excellent blog specific to Avian flu -- current outbreaks and past events. A sample article: "Avian flu outbreaks in perspective"
Avian flu outbreaks seem to be occurring at a faster rate than in the past:

Asia's lethal H5N1 is grabbing most of the headlines, but it is not the only strain of so-called highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) on the march worldwide. There have been 15 known outbreaks of HPAI between 2000 and 2004, which killed or led to the culling of some 200 million birds, Ilaria Capua of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Venezie in Italy said at the meeting. In the 40 years before, she said, there were just 18 outbreaks, affecting 23 million birds: "We've gone from a few snowflakes to an avalanche." [My emphasis.]

Several strains other than H5N1 -- including H9N2 in China and Hong Kong, H7N2 in the United States, H7N3 in Canada, and H7N7 in the Netherlands -- have also caused human infection, disease, or even death.
The author of this post -- Silviu Dochia -- gives this link to the story quoted which has more information. Good stuff and something we need to keep track of. With world travel being as open as it is, a hot-spot in one place can rapidly diffuse to the rest of the world even before anyone knows something is wrong. Given a couple day incubation period, someone cousin could infect a person planning a trip to Los Angeles and the slight cough they had on the airplane could get several hundred people all of whom had other travel plans... A worst-case scenario for sure but still within the bounds of probability.
CNN has an interesting story about a CBS Stringer who was arrested in Iraq:
CBS stringer arrested in Iraq
U.S. military suspects cameraman of being an insurgent

A CBS stringer has been arrested as a suspected insurgent, U.S. military officials said Friday.

The video cameraman was wounded during a firefight in northeastern Mosul between U.S. troops and insurgents Tuesday.

U.S. military officials said the man's camera held footage of a number of roadside bomb attacks against American troops, and they believe he was tipped off to those attacks.

A U.S. military statement said troops believe the man "poses an imperative threat to coalition forces" and that he "will be processed as any other security detainee."
And the videotapes in question?
One official said at least four videos in the man's camera show roadside bomb attacks on U.S. troops.

All had been shot in a manner that suggested the cameraman had prior knowledge of the attacks and had scouted a shooting location in sight of the target.
This is something a lot of people have noticed -- some of the photographs and videos coming out of the Iraq war have been shot from the vantage point of the terrorists. Some of these have been of terrorist attacks on coalition troops and bases. How would these cameramen and reporters be able to take these photos if they were not working with the terrorists and had prior knowledge of the attacks they were documenting. Whose side are these people on again???

Words to live by

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Stumbled onto this while looking for something else entirely:
I do not choose to be a common man.
It is my right to be uncommon�if I can.
I seek opportunity�not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole.
I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout.
I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, this I have done.
All this is what it means to be an American.
Sums it up... From here is a this brief biography:
The Honorable Dean Alfange was an American statesman born December 2, 1899, in Constantinople (now Istanbul). He served in the U.S. Army during World War I and attended Hamilton College, graduating in the class of �22. Hamilton offers the �Dean Alfange Essay Prizes� established by Dean Alfange and awarded to the students who write the best and second-best essays on a feature or an issue of American constitutional government.

Alfange was the American Labor candidate for governor of New York and a founder of the Liberal Party of New York.


Cruise Ship meet Soliton The NY Daily News has the story:
'Freak' wave rocks cruise
70-footer hits N.Y.-bound ship

A "freak wave" more than 70 feet high slammed a luxury cruise ship steaming for New York yesterday, flooding cabins, injuring passengers and forcing the liner to stop for emergency repairs.

The Norwegian Dawn, an opulent ocean liner almost 1,000 feet long, limped into Charleston, S.C., yesterday afternoon after it hit vicious seas in an overnight storm off Florida - then was creamed by the rogue wave after dawn.
More on the effect to the ship:
It weathered most of a wild storm that featured gale-force winds and choppy seas. But then the vessel, longer than three football fields, was suddenly smacked by the "freak wave," said Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Susan Robison. It broke a pair of windows and flooded 62 cabins, she said.

"The sea had actually calmed down when the wave seemed to come out of thin air at daybreak," Robison said. "Our captain, who has 20 years on the job, said he never saw anything like it."

The tidal wave wrecked windows on the ninth and 10th floors and wreaked havoc below decks, destroying furniture, the onboard theater, and a store that sold expensive gifts.
OK - it was NOT a Tidal Wave and from the three paragraphs we can read that it broke two windows but wrecked windows on the ninth and 10th floors and I'm really sad about the store that sold expensive gifts. Still, it was a freak wave and these are called Solitons (and this IS the NY Post we are dealing with here...) What probably happened (there was no major earthquake activity in the Atlantic Oceans that day (I subscribe to an email service for seismic events)) was a Soliton -- several waves met in a way that allowed each of their heights to combine into a single rogue wave of greater than normal power. Here is a photo of a soliton hitting the Tanker Esso Nederlander taken from this website
Click for full-size Image
Brings to mind the Mariners Prayer: "Oh God, Thy Sea is so vast and my craft is so small"

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri

This is cool beyond words... In 1896, two archaeologists, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt were digging at an ancient rubbish dump in Egypt and (from Grenfell):
"The rubbish mounds were nothing but rubbish mounds." But they very soon realized what they had found. The unique combination of climate and circumstance had left at Oxyrhynchus an unequaled archive of the ancient world. "The flow of papyri soon became a torrent," Grenfell recalled. "Merely turning up the soil with one's boot would frequently disclose a layer."

Being classically educated Englishmen, Grenfell and Hunt were mainly interested in the possibility that Oxyrhynchus might reveal the lost masterpieces of classical Greek literature: the lost plays, histories and philosophical works of ancient Athens. They knew that the Constitution of Athens by Aristotle had been discovered on Egyptian papyrus in 1890. This hope inspired them and their successors to sift through the mountains of rubbish at Oxyrhynchus for the next century. Unfortunately, Oxyrhynchus was a fairly ordinary provincial town, not a center of learning, and most of its citizens had little interest in literature or philosophy. Besides, copies of the classics were rare and expensive in ancient times, and not likely to find their way to the rubbish dump. This means that literary finds were few, and most of them were copies of the well-known standard works, such as Homer, on which Hellenistic education was based.

Of the many thousands of papyri excavated from Oxyrhynchus, only about ten percent was literary. The rest consisted of public and private documents: codes, edicts, registers, official correspondence, census-returns, tax-assessments, petitions, court-records, sales, leases, wills, bills, accounts, inventories, horoscopes and private letters. Nevertheless, Grenfell and Hunt found enough to keep them going in the hope of finding more. In their first year of digging, they found parts of several lost plays of Sophocles, such as the Ichneutae and many other books and fragments, including parts of what appeared to be an unknown Christian gospel. These discoveries captured the public imagination, and Grenfell and Hunt sent articles and photos to newspapers in Britain, arguing the importance of their work and seeking donations to keep it going.

Grenfell and Hunt devoted the rest of their lives to the diggings at Oxyrhynchus, apart from the years of World War I. Every winter, when the Egyptian climate was bearable, Grenfell and Hunt supervised hundreds of Egyptian workers, excavating the rubbish mounds, digging up tightly packed layers of papyrus mixed with earth. The finds were sifted, partly cleaned and then shipped to Grenfell and Hunt's base at Oxford. During the summer Grenfell and Hunt cleaned, sorted, translated and compared the year's haul, assembling complete texts from dozens of fragments and extracts. In 1898 they published the first volume of their finds. They worked closely together, each revising what the other wrote, and publishing the result jointly. In 1920, however, Grenfell died, leaving Hunt to continue with other collaborators until his own death in 1934.
The above was excerpted from the Wikipedia entry for Oxyrhynchus Unfortunately, the majority of these papers were unreadable. Ink fades. Fortunately, Science advances and new technologies are developed all the time. One of which is an infrared imaging technology first developed for use on satellites and it has made the blind men see. Here is an article from The Independent:
Decoded at last: the 'classical holy grail' that may rewrite the history of the world
Scientists begin to unlock the secrets of papyrus scraps bearing long-lost words by the literary giants of Greece and Rome

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilization. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The original papyrus documents, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, are often meaningless to the naked eye - decayed, worm-eaten and blackened by the passage of time. But scientists using the new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, are bringing the original writing back into view. Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance".
All I can say is WOW! Jen's comment was "Alexandria?" Not only the literary works but all the tax records, public and private documents, correspondence, census-returns, tax-assessments, court-records, wills. An awesome look back into our history...

Jen would kill me...

...but this would be soo l33t for Lan Gaming Parties: From the eBay Automotive auction description:

Vehicle Description 2000 Model Year Winnebago Adventurer 37 with 15,267 miles 7 Workstations (6 sitting, 1 standing) with equipment as follows:
  • 17" Flat Screen monitor - 3 stations (2 sitting)
  • Herman Miller Aeron chair - 6 stations
  • Ergonomic Keyboard and mouse - all stations
  • Sony headphones - 5 stations
Clarity Visual Systems 4' x 5.5' externally viewable video wall with external speaker (some scratching / cracking of video screens visible) Retractable awning over video screen A/V Components and Server tower behind passenger seat in cockpit area, including:
  • DVD Player
  • Audio Mixer and Graphic Equalizer
  • Video Scaler
  • HP LaserJet 2100TN Printer
  • Compaq 128MB Proliant server
  • Intel 410T 10/100 internet switch
  • Rack slots for installation of notebook PCs (PCs NOT included)
  • All cabling intact (monitor, network, and peripherals) to connect PCs to workstations
  • Battery backup for computer components
DirecPC satellite system for internet connection 2 x 10kw Kohler generators mounted in driver's side cargo compartment Dual circuit breaker systems 32" LED display along passenger side roof 6.8L V10 gasoline engine with automatic transmission - excellent running condition - w/ cruise control Wood cabinetry in cockpit Sony 4 x 50w CD stereo Hydraulic leveling system Brushed metal interior components with Astro-turf walls and black rubberized flooring Coleman Mack climate control system in workstation area, standard A/C and heat in cockpit Track lighting throughout interior

Looks like a cool set of wheels for someone wanting to go get it (East Coast) Oh wait -- I haven't been to a LAN Gaming Party in what, five years? Ten years? Never Mind. Heh...

The Psychology of the Moonbat - Narcissism

Thanks to Roger L. Simon who points to this excellent Essay in Three Parts: Narcissism and Society From the Introduction:

It is not my intention to claim that ALL behavior or ALL of the evil in the world is a result of Narcissism. What I do believe is that Kohut's Psychology of the Self might be able to help us understand our own proclivities and leanings in the sphere of human activity. The Self, as I have discussed it, is obviously a critical part of our essential human nature. And, as is pointed out in the essay, understanding human nature is essential for political, economic, and social institutions and theories to work in the real world.

It would indeed be grandiose of me to say that this synthesis is the end of the discussion--rather, I hope it will add to the discussion that has been ongoing for quite some time about the role of the individual in society.

She (Pat Sandy writing as Dr. Sanity) starts off Part One by defining Narcissism:

According to the DSM-IV, the disorder begins by early adulthood and is indicated by the subject exhibiting at least five of the following:
  1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believes he is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement
  6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
  7. Lacks empathy
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes
Everyone has some Narcissistic traits, and a certain amount of Narcissism is a necessary and healthy thing. What's different about the personality disorder is that the symptoms are prominent and persistent over time and pervade every aspect of the person's existence. It can be very disabling in extreme cases; and in others those who have this personality can make the people around them thoroughly miserable, since some narcissists can be manipulative, predatory and completely lacking in empathy. Narcissists are notoriously spiteful and vicious and usually alienate anyone close to them.

Why is Narcissism Important?
All over the world, on a daily basis we see the horrible results of Narcissistic behavior. Individuals and groups; religions and nations act out their Narcissistic rage at various insults--real and imagined-- and people suffer and die for the purpose of the grandiosity of the tyrant, or the glory of the religion. It has been said that the 20th century was the "century of the Narcissist", but the 21st is well on its way to outdoing the horrors of the past as a seeming epidemic of malignant Narcissism caused by a crushing of human nature and the human spirit--all for the purpose of serving the self-aggrandizing vision of the few.

She then moves on to Part Two where she explores the scope of Narcissism and where it should be:

What we call Narcissism is a normal part of every human being's Self. Without Narcissism, we are unable to feel good about either ourselves or other people. In the healthy adult, the Grandiose Self is tamed and harnessed to an appropriate set of ideals and is capable of perceiving others as separate sources of action, thought, and feeling. All humans must undergo this process of maturation, the goal of which is the Cohesive Self.

She then explores several manifestations when the state of Narcissism is not "balanced":

Every therapist has had the "pleasure" of being the recipient of both Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Awe and this situation is referred to as "splitting". The patient either sees you as All Good or All Bad, but never as simply a good-enough person who makes mistakes. Indeed, every parent experiences this with the adolescent child who usually come to the realization that their parents are not perfect (surprise!). The adolescent then searches to find someone who can fill that empty need. These days, their idealization (idolization) falls onto icons of the popular culture--music or sports stars. Eventually they get over these kinds of infatuations as they further mature.

Narcissistic Awe in its extreme form can be expressed as bizarre mystical feelings; hyper-religious awe or hyper-religiosity in general; as obsessive love; as total immersion in a cult or belief system -- all of these behaviors can compensate for the fear that one is forever separated from that "perfect" Other.

Remember, we are not talking about appropriate admiration for someone, but an over-idealization that essentially treats the person as a �god� rather than a typical human being with imperfections and flaws.

Neither Narcissistic Rage nor Idealization is able to accept the reality that people can have good and bad qualities co-existing inside them. Neither see other people as acting separately from their own wishes or desires.

And more:

The second type of evil is more subtle, and it comes from the the opposite side of the Self. This side also does not see other people as individuals either; and instead sees them only as fodder for the expression of an IDEAL or as pawns for an Omnipotent Object (e.g., a dictator). People with this Idealizing Narcissistic defect (and by the way, such people are also capable of Narcissistic Rage when thwarted) completely reject the needs of the individual and enslave him or her to their IDEAL. Eventually, the enslavement--whether religious or secular--snuffs out human ambition, confidence, energy and self-esteem. These "do-gooders" cause considerable human misery and their ideologies can lead to genocidal practices and unbelievable atrocities on a grand scale, all in the name of the IDEAL or GOD.

She closes Part Two with a quote from C.S. Lewis:

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

Part Three she clarifies some points and then gets to the meat of her thesis:

All that has been written and discussed in Part I and II sets the stage for this analysis of politico-economic systems and the Self.

We have seen that the development of a Cohesive Self is dependent on two separate, equal and parallel developmental lines that arise originally from the biological and psychological fusion of the Infant and Mother early in life. If each of these lines are not interrupted in their normal evolution the Infant will eventually become an Adult with both narcissistic poles adequately developed and be able to function in the world in a healthy way - both in his attitude toward his own physical and psychic self; and in his attitude toward other human beings.

In some ways, the rise of human civilization from the cave to the present day has resulted because of attempts through the Rule of Law and social controls to set limits on the unrestrained Grandiose Self. This is primarily due to the destructiveness of the Narcissistic Rage generally associated with that part of the Self.

Because of this, the Grandiose Self has received a bad reputation philosophically, morally, and politically. The natural development of Governments and Religions (which ultimately are an expression of the Idealized Parent Image/Omnipotent Other side of the Self)have all too often attempted to ruthlessly suppress the Grandiose Self--much to the detriment of the individual AND the success of the particular society or religion.

In fact, despite the obvious truth that governments, nations, and religions are in a much better position to wreak far more systemized misery and death on human populations, it is almost always the Grandiose Self that gets the blame. As Wretchard at The Belmont Club pointed out in a recent post, a review of the 20th century,for example, shows that all the "people's revolutions" supported by the Left and purportedly for the purpose of "freeing" large populations of people; resulted instead in enslaving them and increasing authoritarian rule.

And her conclusion of the best, most balanced form of government:

The political and economic system that is optimally compatible with the Grandiose Self and the Idealized Parent; and which maximizes individual freedom, while acknowledging the needs of others...is Democratic Capitalism. When combined with Democracy and individual freedom, Capitalism will provide the greatest measure of happiness and well-being (by encouraging a Cohesive Self)for the greatest number of people. It allows for optimal expression of the Grandiose Self and limits (but does not suppress) it by the Rule of Law. And Democracy limits the power of the state also by the Rule of Law and by specific protection of minorities from the majority. The optimum advancement of each individual person will occur by securing for the individual the greatest amount of mental and physical freedom compatible with the general welfare.

There is lots lots more stuff to wrap your brain around in these three essays -- I have been excerpting pretty heavily. They are well worth the time spent to read and they give a real insight into some of the political fringe. You will immediately recognize about 90% of the people on Democratic Underground and Daily K0s and this gives real insight into the political drive of John F. Kerry and his gang of minions.

News of the Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile

The Washington Post has a disturbing article regarding the Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile. (The WaPo also has a counter-productive registration procedure, use the wonderful bugmenot to circumvent this little odious bit of tripe.) From the Post:
Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile at Risk
Makers Hesitate to Supply Government

Just three years after the largest and most serious shortage of childhood vaccines in two decades, the federal government's stockpile of childhood vaccines, designed as a buffer against shortages, is nearly empty -- and without immediate prospects of being filled.

Three of the four companies that produce the shots recommended for every American child told the federal government last year that they would not sell their products to this little-known but important piece of the nation's public health infrastructure.

Although opinions differ, it appears that the Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile has become an innocent bystander wounded in the government's crackdown on deceptive accounting practices.

No one has accused the vaccine manufacturers of wrongdoing. However, they can no longer treat as revenue the money they get when they sell millions of doses of vaccine to the stockpile because the shots are not delivered until the government calls for them in emergencies. Instead, the vials are held in the manufacturers' warehouses, where they are considered unsold in the eyes of auditors, investors and Wall Street.

Today, the stockpile contains 13.2 million doses of vaccine, less than one-third of the goal of 41 million doses. It is supposed to hold supplies of eight shots that together protect against 11 childhood diseases. However, for two of those products -- including the workhorse DTaP, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis -- it contains no doses. The vaccine is not in storage in company warehouses or anywhere else. It simply does not exist.

Created by Congress in 1983, the stockpile is supposed to contain enough vaccine to supply the nation's needs for six months. Its virtual collapse is an acute embarrassment to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the vaccine makers.
And the governmental agency responsible for this:
Although the vaccine makers may use income from the sales any way they want, in accounting terms the money can no longer be "recognized" as revenue. Because the amounts of vaccine are large -- the stockpile has a target of 10 million doses of DTaP, for example -- excluding those sales from the bottom line makes some companies unhappy.

The accounting change came after the SEC issued a bulletin in December 1999 seeking to clear up confusion about revenue recognition.
Write your representatives, especially if you have kids...

Stephen Rosenberg's favorite airport

Stephen Rosenberg is a BBC Reporter in Moscow and he had the occasion to spend some quality time in his favorite airport and lived to write about it. Some excerpts: It starts with his flight back to Moscow being delayed by weather:
All flights had suddenly been grounded. I felt like a prisoner who'd been promised his release, only to have the jail doors slammed back in my face. My worst nightmare was coming true. I was stranded at arguably Russia's worst airport.
The Airport itself:
At Mineralnye Vody airport it's so cold there is snow and ice INSIDE the terminal building. There are no trolleys, no porters - the check-in desks have been completely gutted - to register for your flight you have to lug your suitcases up steps, down corridors, and out into the airport's backyard.
Flight Security:
A security guard checks everyone who walks in. When I arrived he peered suspiciously at my British passport.

"You know," he said, "America's trying to destroy Russia," ramming home his point with an imaginative combination of gestures using his fingers and elbows.

"Sorry," I replied meekly, "I'm British".

"British!" he responded raising his eyebrows. "Then you must go and drink some tea!"
He manages to find the V.I.P. Restaurant:
Eventually I located the VIP restaurant. Unfortunately, though, it didn't have any tea, or food. In fact, it didn't even have any table or chairs, just a picture of a bottle of water on the wall. And a rusty sink full of cigarette butts.
He was there for a very long ten hours...

Comment Spam - killer tool

When someone who has written a leading tool recommends another tool for the same job, it is worth taking notice. In this case, Jay Allen, the author of the wonderful MT-Blacklist posted a note saying that we might want to take a look at SpamLookup written by Brad Choate and Tobias Hoellrich. I did and I have had zero postings of comment spam or spam trackbacks on my website since. Here are a two entries from the SpamLookup log for today (it NAILED over 100 potential spams - Go SpamLookup Go!!!)
Blocking comment on XXXXXXXXX based on wordlist match: Match on phrase: XXXXX-XXXX-XX (Wordlist filter)
Here, it took the comment, parsed it against a list of words and blocked it. The offending word was a variation of a bluffing card game with references to holding and the second largest state in the USA. MT-Blacklist did this and did it well but that was the only tool in its arsenal.
Blocking TrackBack ping for XXXXXXXXX since domain IP does not match ping IP for source URL http://bambi.fluffy.bunnies.iseedeadspammers.com; domain IP: XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX; ping IP: XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX (TrackBack Ping IP filter)
Here is where SpamLookup shines. It can look at the IP Address of the referenced URL and compare it with the IP Address of the potential poster. Many of the stupid script kiddies (probably still living in their Mom's basement at age 24 and "unable" to find gainful employment) think that sending emails, comments and trackbacks are the road to riches. Their IP addresses are not those of the PPC's they are trying to flog. (PPC refers to Pills, Porn, Casinos -- the clients of this pox.) The other source is from zombie systems -- some people have zero concept of computer security and will click on any pop-up that appears on their screen, especially the ones that let them know in a friendly way that there may be a problem with their system. Clicking on these allows the host system to install Zombie-Ware which runs in the background (no visible indication of operation) and starts up again with each reboot. These Zombie systems can be leased out to people for sending spam. Again, the IP Addresses will differ and again, SpamLookup can determine if there is a stochastic relationship between the two or if the spam is sent from some idiot. Say BuhBye -- If you run a MoveableType Blog, it's worth the five minutes it takes to install this wonderful software. SpamLookup also plays nice with MT-Blacklist so there is no reason not to have both running on your server. Good stuff!!!

The Auditor

Great critter story and a good example of how resilient some animals can be. From the Montana Standard comes this story of The Auditor:

Mongrel calls Berkeley Pit home for 16 years
Within the environmentally hostile confines of the Berkeley Pit lives perhaps Superfund's most amazing paradox. Its name is "The Auditor."

Its genus is Canus, but its species -- if indeed there ever were another single dog like it on the planet -- would be nothing other than extraordinarius.

This mysterious mongrel has called the 5,000-acre contaminated expanse of the Berkeley Pit federal Superfund site, combined with Montana Resources' active mine permit area, its home since 1986. Ironically, its only help in surviving has come from the compassion of miners.

"He really is a neat dog," says MR Operations President Steve Walsh.

The Auditor, who got his name by always showing up "when you least expected it," has served as the open pit copper mine's de facto mascot since its employees befriended the stray nearly 16 years ago. Numerous snap shots of him are proudly placed alongside ore samples and awards plaques in the main office's glass display case.

Here is a little background on where he lives:

"God only knows what he does all day," says MR employee Ron Benton. "You've got to won der why an animal would choose a place so forlorn."

Forlorn indeed. Not a single blade of grass, nary a tree, shrub or weed can survive on the acidic crust that dominates this animal's yard. Reeking of sulfur and acidity, this is the kind of soil that eats men's boots, let alone the feet of any normal dog.

And the water here is lethal, should you suppose he walks on that.

In 1995, the deceptively calm surface of the Pit infamously claimed the lives of 342 snow geese that made the mistake of a migratory stop.

"It's unbelievable how it could live in a place that's supposed to be so toxic," says local veterinarian Ed Peretti. "He's one tough dog, I'll tell you that."

A new source for Avatars -- South Park

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A German hacker has developed a tool to make your own Avatar based on characters from South Park. Here is mine -- experts will agree, the resemblance is uncanny...
Hat tip to Notional Slurry for the link.

Keeping the Liberals

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Israel's Prime Minister, Arial Sharon visited President Bush at the Crawford Ranch last week. Bush drove Mr. Sharon around the ranch, came to one corral and made the following remark. The SFGate has the story in its photo section:
That corral's where we keep the liberals
President Bush shows off his Crawford, Texas,
ranch to the Israeli prime minister
I think that this little dig backfired for the SFGate. My first impression was "What a wonderful idea!" Hat tip to M. H. King at Ramblings Journal for spotting this gem.

A list of Journals

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Unique in the fact that they are Open Source. Data at Truck and Barter found The Directory of Open Access Journals Here are the general subjects:
  • Agriculture and Food Sciences
  • Arts and Architecture
  • Biology and Life Sciences
  • Business and Economics
  • Chemistry
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • General Works
  • Health Sciences
  • History and Archaeology
  • Languages and Literatures
  • Law and Political Science
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Philosophy and Religion
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Science General
  • Social Sciences
  • Technology and Engineering
From their website:
Welcome to the Directory of Open Access Journals. This service covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. We aim to cover all subjects and languages. There are now 1529 journals in the directory. Currently 385 journals are searchable at article level. As of today 72019 articles are included in the DOAJ service.
I can see the point of charging for Journals -- even the relatively high prices since they are usually printed well, on good paper (to last) and are not sold in large volumes. We are not talking Readers Digest here, we are talking about something that may may sell 5,000 copies of each edition. On the other side, when trying to research something, tracking down a specific article can be a royal pain. When I was living in Seattle and could walk into the UW Libraries, it was not as bad but in the country, trying to ferret something out online becomes a lot more challenging. Nice to see the Open Source movement spreading!

A news story -- almost

Canadian news agency CBC News has this story about a bit of reporting in the Boston Globe:

Boston Globe retracts fabricated story on seal hunt
The Boston Globe on Friday retracted a story by a Halifax-based freelance writer that purported to describe the opening of the seal hunt.

The story, which was published Wednesday, contained details that "hunters on about 300 boats converged on ice floes, shooting seal cubs by the hundreds, as the ice and water turned red."

However, the seal hunt was actually delayed until Friday morning due to bad weather.

OOPS! -- turns out the reporter was a stringer (not a Globe employee) and -- obviously -- was not at the site when she filed her story.

Reminiscent of the reporters in Baghdad filing their "man on the Arab-Street" stories from the Hotel Bar...

Estate Taxes and Socialism

Will Franklin at WILLisms has a look at the current debate over Estate Taxes and just who is for them and who is against them. Here is Will:
The Death Tax: A Socialist Notion.
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives voted 272-162 to repeal the estate tax. Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, brandishing a wooden music box that he bought at a forced IRS sale of his great Aunt Lilly's farm property, said the death tax "is a socialist notion and it needs to go away."

We just happened to watch this moment live on C-SPAN.

In the background, members of the other party immediately snickered, presumably at Gohmert's assertion that the death tax is a socialist notion. Could they have been snickering at something else? Possibly. Perhaps someone just happened to crack a joke at that very moment.

But it was pretty clear they were paying close attention to Gohmert's speech, and when he delivered his soundbite line, they launched into derisive laughter.

So, is Gohmert some kind of nutjob who goes around calling everything socialist, and therefore worthy of petty snickering, or does he have a valid point?
Will then fact checks this curious notion:
Well, in The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx explains ten action-items (much like the Ten Commandments of communism, or similarly, a "Bill of Wrongs") "generally applicable" for the beginning of a successful transition to communism.

Number three:

"Abolition of all right of inheritance."
He then cites some more quotes from Marx and then brings things into current perspective with this quote from The Socialist Party USA: and a paragraph of conclusion:
We need a steeply graduated estate tax...

So, Gohmert was pretty much dead-on. The death tax is a socialist notion. That individuals would dismissively snicker at that idea speaks volumes.

Almost there

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A digital Amanuensis - a cool tool:
Octave Multipod 5-in-1 USB Multimedia Tool
The Octave Multipod 5 in 1 is an ultra-portable, quick, easy, affordable way to capture select sounds and images surrounding your life. Take pictures, Record Audio and video, store Data or use as a webcam � all with a single device about the size of a pack of gum.
Here is the published feature set:
  • Built-in USB connection uploads pictures to a Computer for storage or for making prints
  • Records up to 12 minutes of video with sound
  • Digital voice recording system accommodates about an hour of dictation - from recording lectures to leaving personal memos
  • At only 3 3/8" long x 15/16" inches wide x 7/8" inches and under one ounce in weight, it can easily be attached to clothing and objects for convenience and practical use
  • May be used as a web cam, using a flex USB cable for PC hookup, for adding your image to Email and Instant Messages
  • Built-in rechargeable Battery charges from USB port on your PC
  • MSRP: $149.88
Getting there -- it needs NTSC video (640*480 at least) and one hour of recording time but we are getting close -- very very close... I will buy a unit with the current specs for $40 when they become available. Hat tip to Gizmos for Geeks

Great quote for Tax Day

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"Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed." � Robert Anson Heinlein

Blogger Roger L. Simon has been doing a wonderful job of following the developments in the Oil For Food scam the United Nations aided a few years ago. Recently he has developed a source close to the investigation and has been breaking some fascinating stories. Today's is no exception:

The Food-for-Kojo Program
I respect the right of the Wall Street Journal to keep much of their newspaper on a subscription-only basis, but today's Oil-for-Food tidbit is too good not to quote:

Among all the leads and clues churned up in the wake of Paul Volcker's second interim report on the United Nations Oil for Food scandal, one strikes us as especially deserving of further scrutiny. It is the news, first reported by the Financial Times, that in 1999 Secretary-General Kofi Annan's son Kojo invested $235,000 in an ailing Swiss soccer club called Vevey-Sports and was elected the club's president. Yet, according to the FT, Kojo had little to do with the club's management and was never once seen at a match.

The Volcker Committee's recent report does not address Kojo's investment in Vevey-Sports. But here's a question it might wish to pursue: Where did the 25-year-old Annan -- who comes from a family of moderate means and who, until 1998, was making some $2,500 a month -- get that kind of throw-around money?

Good question, isn't it? Maybe Senators Dodd and Boxer will go onto that one since "reform" of the United Nations seems so high on their agendas.

Indeed - Roger's commentors have some interesting things to say too -- scroll down and read...

A paper from MIT

We all know (or should) about Physicist Alan Sokal's groundbreaking paper: "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" published in peer-reviewed Journal Social Text. The thing we need to remember is that it was a fake, a joke and was intended entirely to see if a "paper" created with a meaningless stream of buzz-words would pass muster. Sokal's website outlines the thought that went into it, the paper itself and the aftermath when he revealed in another journal that the paper was a joke and the readers of Social Text were the butt of it. In a blissful recursive-onanistic excursion, there are now "legitimate" philosophy papers that were written about this event and someone has written a delightful Postmodernism Essay Generator -- reload the page for a new essay... Well, it has happened again -- this time from MIT and it's not a person, it's a computer program and the paper: "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" was accepted for presentation at the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida. From the CNN article:
MIT students pull prank on conference
Computer-generated gibberish submitted, accepted

In a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference.

Jeremy Stribling said Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with "context-free grammar," charts and diagrams.

The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.

To their surprise, one of the papers -- Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.
The software they used is running publicly at this site: "SCIgen - An Automatic CS Paper Generator." I think I'm going to cut and paste and buff up my resume a little bit...
Channel 4 in England has compiled a list of the worst Jobs in History ranging from Roman/Saxon through Victorian. Here is one example from the Tudor Era:
Groom of the Stool
Attention all ambitious noblemen! Following the untimely death of Sir Henry Norris, a new groom of the stool is required by Henry VIII. The primary duty of the groom is to see 'the house of easement be sweet and clear' or, more plainly, to clean the royal rear and privy.

It's always interesting to look at your own stool but imagine looking at the king's and laying it in a dish. As for wiping � with the hands: there is no toilet paper at the Tudor court � just try not to think of the meat-heavy diet of the big man.
And there's more of this description as well as about 40 other really good careers with opportunity for advancement... Really! Would I kid you?

Celebrity Names

A canonical list of Celebrity Names and their actual birth names -- here are a few samples: Bob Dylan -- Bobby Zimmerman Bruce Lee -- Lee Yuen Kam Charo -- Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza (well no wonder!) Courtney Love -- Love Michelle Harrison David Bowie -- David Robert Hayward-Jones Demi Moore -- Demetria Guynes Elle MacPherson -- Eleanor Gow Lucy Lawless = Lucille Frances Ryan And lots lots more at the site...

More mass graves found in Iraq

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From the NY Times
Iraqis Find Graves Thought to Hold Hussein's Victims
Investigators have discovered several mass graves in southern Iraq that are believed to contain the bodies of people killed by Saddam Hussein's government, including one estimated to hold 5,000 bodies, Iraqi officials say.

The graves, discovered over the past three months, have not yet been dug up because of the risks posed by the continuing insurgency and the lack of qualified forensic workers, said Bakhtiar Amin, Iraq's interim human rights minister. But initial excavations have substantiated the accounts of witnesses to a number of massacres. If the estimated body counts prove correct, the new graves would be among the largest in the grim tally of mass killings that have gradually come to light since the fall of Mr. Hussein's government two years ago. At least 290 grave sites containing the remains of some 300,000 people have been found since the American invasion two years ago, Iraqi officials say.
Emphasis mine. And there are people who still insist that Saddam is innocent and that our going into Iraq was an act of imperialism. Mental Illness is what comes to mind as the facts are so clear and obvious even as grudgingly presented by the MSM.

Missing H2N2

Ouch! The UN World Health Organization sent out samples of a very deadly flu virus to 4,000 labs in 18 countries. This was done at the request of the College of American Pathologists, which assists laboratories to do quality testing.

Because people were worried about this virus getting into the wrong hands, the labs were asked to destroy it. Unfortunately, according to this article at CTV.CA, some labs are saying that they never received their package. Two of those labs are in Mexico and Lebanon. From the article:

Deadly influenza virus shipments missing: WHO
Health experts have destroyed most samples of a deadly influenza strain mistakenly sent to labs around the world; but two shipments meant to reach Mexico and Lebanon are missing, UN officials said Friday.

"We don't know where these boxes got lost, but the investigation into what has happened between the shipment of these panels and their non-arrival is ranking very high on our 'to do' list," WHO influenza chief Klaus Stohr said, referring to the Mexico and Lebanon shipments.

And the flu virus itself:

H2N2 caused the 1957 pandemic that killed an estimated one million to four million people around the world. It was last seen in humans in 1968.

Cataract Blogging - day two

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Woke up this morning with my pupil still dilated and colors still a bit strange. At first, I was getting a bit of double vision but that has settled out and I'm now able to drive with no problem. Went into the local eye doctor for the post-op exam and i now have 20/25 vision in that eye (and expected to improve as I heal) One thing that was unexpected was that the new lens has no color shift where my left eye (with the Mark-1 model lens) shows a distinct grey-green shift to colors. I never noticed this when both lenses had the same shift but now that one doesn't, it's really prominent. Which explains a lot when I color corrected my monitor for photography and it didn't look quite right...

Helicopter Pilot

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This was on BoingBoing. Here is the site: Kyle Rocks! and it has some of the most amazing aerobatic model helicopter flying I have ever seen. The Pilot is doing things that I didn't know could be done with a helicopter. Here is one video: video (11.5MB) (others at the website) Here is a photo of Kyle the pilot with his craft:
Looks a bit young you say? He should -- he's Nine! Kids these days (grumble)...

The Queen of Denmark gets it

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark gets it when it comes to Islamofascism and its attempts at penetrating Western culture. From this article at Yahoo/UK/AFP:

Danish queen warns against rise of Islamic fundamentalism
Denmark's Queen Margrethe II warned against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Denmark and the world in a new book out, saying people must on occasion "show their opposition to Islam".

"It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and very lazy," she said in the authorized biography "Margrethe" written by journalist Annelise Bistrup.

While she did not specifically refer to fundamentalism, she spoke of "these people for whom religion is their entire lives".

"We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance," she said.

"And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction," added the queen, who has reigned since 1972 and celebrates her 65th birthday on Saturday.

Emphasis mine -- that says it all... I have had the pleasure to know a number of moderate Islamics, it is the fascism, utter intolerance and fundamentalism that is the concern. An interesting parallel can be found in the 1980's writing of Seattle Science Fiction author FM 'Buz" Busby (who sadly passed away last February 2005). His series on the Demu make me think about the Islamist fanatics who move to Dhimmi countries and try to convert the populace. From this fan site (warning -- it's Tripod so be ready for lots of #@$& pop-ups):

According to their religion, the only true intelligence in the universe is Demu. When they ranged out of their planetary system, they encountered other intelligent beings, and they conceived it their duty to turn these "animals" into Demu through conditioning and plastic surgery.

They feel this is a generous and holy mission, and they are unable to comprehend the resistance of other races to this conversion. Because of this attitude, initial meetings between the Demu and other frontier races were somewhat strained at best.

And more from this spot-on essay at Authors Den:

A look at the culture of homogenization.
Science fiction author F.M. Busby wrote a trilogy of books involving the relationship between humans and several other species of aliens, most notably a rather pig-headed (not literally, they actually were more crab-headed) race known as the Demu.

What was most notable about these hard-shelled, humourless genocidal maniacs was that they didn't go out into the universe to kill everyone else. They went out to make everything right. In their view.

They were certain that only Demu had souls, had true intelligence. So, they'd capture some aliens and see if they could teach them the Demu language. If they could, then obviously nature made a mistake and it was to them to rectify the problem by surgically altering these poor unfortunates to resemble Demu.

Ghastly enough, but their medical technology was lacking anesthesia. Their idea of mercy was to cause you the greatest pain first, hoping you'd pass out from the shock and then they could finish removing your lips, teeth, body hair, external genitalia and those annoying excess finger joints while you were comatose from shock.

Hat tip to Charles at LGF for the Queen Margrethe II link.

Cataract Surgery - after

Just got back from the Cataract Surgery (it was about two hours away in Bellevue, WA) We were there for about three hours although most of that was waiting for eye drops to take effect. The procedure itself took less than ten minutes and was totally painless. The worst part was when I had some Novocain injected into my eyelids and that was weird but not painful. Here is the patient before me -- some chap named Alex.
They said that the anesthetic would wear off in about four hours and sure enough, I could start to move my eyelids when we were a few minutes from home. Came home, took the bandage off and I can now resolve blades of grass... One side effect is that the anesthetic used also affects the optic nerve so the visuals and color balance is very strange right now. During the surgery it was downright bizarre -- very LSD-like. My field of vision was a diffuse white light and I could see movement but only the edges of things and then, they were strobing. Colors are still a bit wonky and I can see the flicker of my monitor with the new eyeball and not the left. See what the next couple days bring... Here I am doped to the gills, wired for sound and ready for the knife:
Click for full-size Image
They gave me a video of the procedure which I'll post when I get it digitized. Very cool stuff actually... UPDATE: The people who did the work deserve a big fat plug: Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute I am not an opthalmic surgeon but it is possible to recognize professionalism in a field not your own. The 'sureness of touch' when people are operating instruments, the item-by-item procedure that is followed and the fact that a second person checks each item as a followup, the complete transparency of the business -- no question was unanswered and nobody had to get info from another source (I am interested in optics and scientific instrumentation so I was asking some pretty obscure questions -- the people operating the equipment had an actual understanding of what they were doing, they were not just following some list on a piece of paper). If you live in the Pacific Northwest and have cataracts or need refractive surgery, give these people a call -- I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Cataract Blogging - before

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No blogging today and probably nothing tomorrow either. Jen and I drive down to Bellevue to PCLI where my right eye will get the equivalent of an Alien Rectal Probe. I spent a lot of time on the water in various kinds of boats and always eschewed sunglasses. I am now paying the price -- one major cataract in the right eye and one very minor one in the left. Doubling your dose of Ultra Violet Light is something that has payback -- not immediate but eventual. Fortunately, the surgery is dead-simple these days. There is a technique that was initially developed about 20 years ago - they stick an ultrasound probe into your lens, emulsify it, hoover it out and stuff a plastic lens in its place. Office visit, insurance covers it and out the door I go. Looking forward to it. My Mom and Dad are worried but that is because they remember their own friends having invasive surgery and having to lay in a hospital bed for weeks with their head between two sand bags. I will be walking out of the clinic tomorrow an hour or so after the procedure, Jen will drive us home and I'll check into the local Eye Doctor the following Friday for a post-op check. I'll be bringing a camera and if they allow photography, I'll ask someone to take a picture or two.

Tax Blogging

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Backfilling a couple more months worth of data into Quicken. We are filing an extension this year since our situation changed so radically in 2004 - sold the Seattle house that I owned outright (but we are now married), bought the Farm and starting two business entities; one involving the production of Alcoholic Beverages. Blogging a little bit when the numbers start to blur. Going to look for a good Farm Accountant later this month (give them a few days to relax). Let them take the Quicken file and work their magic. I owned a business in Seattle for twelve years and the accounting company I used paid their fees in savings. Yes, they can Tax your Imagination. And the good side? Think of all the new Conservatives being born this month -- I'm paying WHAT to the gub'ment? Take the Red Pill -- please!

Britney Spears -- preggers

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Kevin Aylward at Wizbang covers the story that is on everybody's minds these days:
Britney Spears Makes It Official - She's Pregnant
This evening Britney and Kevin "Cletus" Federline announced the worst kept secret in the world on her redesigned web site:
Dear Fans,
The time has come to share our wonderful news that we are expecting our first child together. There are reports that I was in the hospital this weekend, Kevin and I just want everyone to know that all is well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Love Britney and Kevin
Kevin (from Wizbang) then comments:
Congratulations to Federlines. As much as we delight in mocking Britney and her hayseed husband, now that Fetus Spears has been confirmed it seems like a good time to make a peace offering. In lieu of a present Wizbang will henceforth be retiring our all time favorite Britney picture.
Full size is available here -- suitable for framing... And it seems the lil' tyke already has a blog. UPDATE: Jen's comment was priceless (after she scooted her chair away from the screen in disgust). Tammy Faye??? Although, I have to say that their kid seems to have turned out interesting and I would like to read his book

Chinese Coal -- the price to pay

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I'm looking at Power Generation (of which most comes from Coal Burning Plants). I have been looking at the Chinese and their horrid Environmental situation (and considering that the Northern Hemisphere winds blow from West to East, our situation as well) (and don't forget that they are exempt from anything having to do with the Kyoto protocols -- worst polluter, least price) and I ran into this article that talks about another cost the Chinese are paying for their energy -- from China Labor Watch:
The world's most dangerous job?
The news of the death of 213 miners following a gas blast at a colliery in Liaoning on February 14 barely registered outside China, but it was further evidence of an ongoing tragedy, and symbolic of the enormous human cost that China is paying for its phenomenal economic growth.

Officially, more than 6,000 Chinese miners lose their lives each year in industrial accidents. The real figure is believed to be much higher, however, because operators often conceal accidents to avoid fines and costly shutdowns.

China produces 35 per cent of the world's coal but accounts for 80 per cent of fatalities globally. The death rate is 30 times that of South Africa and 100 times higher than in the United States. Mining coal in China is probably the most dangerous job in the world.
And another excerpt talking about the reason why:
The problem is that Beijing is devoted to a policy of economic growth, regardless of the human cost. It is also devoted to its monopoly of political power, which means there are no effective counterweights to its control.

The rapidly growing economy places a high demand on energy, which the coal mining industry can supply without advanced technology and safer - but more expensive - equipment. It has an abundant supply of workers, whose wages are kept artificially low by repressive policies. In a system where lives are so cheap, there are huge profits to be made - a powerful lure to maintain the status quo.

There are also political considerations. The Chinese government does not allow miners to form independent trade unions to protect their rights, nor does it allow non-governmental organisations to monitor the safety of the industry. Of course, the miners know the dangers they face, but they have no way of protecting their interests and rights. They have no option but to go down the mine each day in order to support their families.
Communism is such a successful form of government isn't it... It will be interesting when the winds of Democracy blow strong and clear over there. We have seen some gusts (Tienanmen Square) but the old corrupt party hacks are still entrenched and living in the Celestial Palace.

Comparison of yields

A short opinion piece in The Times Online which really drives home the ridiculous claims being made for "Green Power" -- the OpEd piece is talking about the upcoming election in the U.K.:

It's this simple: wind farms the size of London, or safe, clean nuclear plants
ELECTION ROOM 2005 is filled with elephants hidden behind the flimsiest of political camouflage. For me, the bull elephant is the need for a practical energy policy for Britain.

On this issue, I am disenfranchised because all three main parties, despite differing degrees of enthusiasm and rhetoric, share the same outlook: an unconvincing belief that "renewable energy" - wave, wind and solar power - is a credible way to solve Britain's energy problems.

Political correctness is warping energy policy. Predicating policy, through the doomed Kyoto Protocol, on unpredictable environmental concerns is disastrous. It will slow economic growth, dull our competitive edge, deny much-needed energy expansion and expose us to political turmoil overseas. The result will be a Britain in which the lights go out by 2020, if not earlier, while billions of people in the developing world remain energy-starved.

Lord Broers, this year's Reith lecturer, has given warning that British energy policy makes over-optimistic assumptions about the potential of "renewables", such as wind. He argues that "all of these energy sources should carry the costs of their overheads with them. If you have wind power, you have to have back-up from gas generation."

Kenneth J. Fergusson, the president of the Combustion Engineering Association, develops the case, stating that: "Britain should stop subsidising wind-mills (only building them to the extent that they are commercially viable)." He reminds us that "Britain is heading for a crisis in power supplies to which no amount of preferential treatment for renewable energy sources can do more than make a peripheral contribution for decades to come".

The author (Philip Stott - Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at the University of London) then goes on to cite some comparisons:

To replace a 1,000 megawatt (MW) nuclear station supplying just 1/65th of peak demand requires 30 miles of wave machines; or it would need a wind farm that would cover an area equivalent to Inner London, or for solar power, it would require an area half as much again. If we were to try to replace the output of that 1,000MW nuclear power station with bio-oils or biomass fuels, we would have to cover the entire Scottish Highlands with oil-seed rape or turn Wales into a giant willow coppice.

Yet, as Professor Fells reminds us, by 2020, we will have only one nuclear plant operating. Moreover, we will be importing 90 per cent of our gas from countries such as Algeria, Iran, Iraq, and Russia, while we accept nuclear-generated power from France, which is set to reassert its successful nuclear policy (59 plants and expanding).

There are a lot of alternative sources for energy but none of them are as compact and reliable as Nuclear Energy. Coal is popular but it's horribly polluting and has a huge waste disposal problem. Wind / Wave / etc... are nice but they don't meet the demand and they take up a huge amount of real-estate.

Hot Business Opportunity

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Was looking into industrial process equipment and ran into this business opportunity that could not be passed up:
Click for full-size Image
Just think how much fun it would be to own a Beverage Alcohol Production facility just 30 miles due East of Tehran. Especially if you buy it from an American vendor. (starting to save my pennies...)


A very interesting company and product: OOPic. I found it while looking at the D.I.Y. submarine site I wrote about yesterday. Computer programming these days is done with Object Oriented Code - a device or a routine is not unique to itself, it is an "object" with properties and one object can be reused many times with different properties instead of having to be written each time. Saves a lot of time for the programmer and the code is just as fast to run. There is a very active area of experimentation with small "embedded" systems - systems which are specific purpose (controlling a microwave for example) and have a minimal input and output functions (as opposed to the full keyboard, mouse and video of a PC). These units generally have a lot of general purpose inputs and outputs - digital and analog. OOPic seems to be the first embedded system board that offers Object Oriented programming. Here is what one of their boards looks like:


Cost is about $70 for the board plus all of the programming software. It can be programmed in C or a Visual Basic clone. Looks very interesting. For our Hard Cider and Mead business I am looking at using embedded systems to monitor tank temperature and fluid management. I have a lot of experience in the older Intel 8051 embedded processors and was looking at using them but this deserves a close second look...

Last November, I wrote about a lawsuit against Consumer Reports filed by Sharper Image which didn't like CU's reporting that their Ionic Breeze Air Cleaners were, in a word, worthless... The current issue of Consumer Reports magazine has this little tidbit:
Sharper Image pays $525,000 to end lawsuit against CU
Sharper Image Corp. has ended a product-disparagement lawsuit that it brought against Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, paying CU court-ordered attorneys� fees and costs totaling $525,000.

Sharper Image sued after Consumer Reports judged the company�s Ionic Breeze Quadra air cleaner �ineffective� in an October 2003 report. A U.S. District Court dismissed the suit, ruling that Sharper Image had not shown our findings to be false. Because Sharper Image�s claims affected CR�s rights of free speech and press, the court ordered the company to pay our legal expenses. Sharper Image filed an appeal but later withdrew it, ending the legal action.

"Sharper Image�s decision to withdraw its appeal puts an end to a lawsuit that should never have been filed, over reviews that were truthful, carefully researched, and fairly stated," said Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union. "This is a victory for every American concerned about the rights of an unbiased organization to test products independently, and to speak out in the interest of product performance and quality."
Heh... And lets look at the Sharper Image Website Lots of great testimonials but nothing quantitative, all subjective. And they are still selling them for over $400 each -- not bad for a nice plastic case ($8), a fan and speed controller ($12), a solid-state HV supply ($6) and some metal electrodes ($3)... Consumer reports gave it some very specific real-world tests to do (fill a room with cigarette smoke, turn on the cleaner and measure what happens -- repeat with fine particulates, etc...) The plain fact that The Sharper Image did not appeal the decision and decided instead to fold and pay up the half-million in legal fees indicates that they do not have a leg to stand on. If The Sharper Image had been able to find an independent, bonded testing lab to repeat the tests and provide vindication, they would have. The simplest solution for this paradox is that the units do not work -- they are a perfect example of the Placebo effect magnified by the fact that people are being charged over $400 each for the units. Nobody will willingly admit that they spent this much on a placebo.

Two submarines

Two interesting sites about submarines. (not this one)


The first one is a large builder of Tourist and Research machines.

The second one is a geek working out of his garage. U.S. Submarines-- gorgeous work and priced accordingly.

Check out this puppy - the Seattle:


Here are the technical specs

I don't see any reference to MSRP on this one...

On the other side of the spectrum, here is Doug Jackson's website: www.submarineboat.com -- How to Build Your Own Submarine ...without repeating my mistakes.

He is building from scratch a wet-sub with decent performance both submerged and on the surface. You can not only dive (you will need SCUBA gear) but you can get to the dive location at 20 KTS. Trailerable and looks like it is easy to maintain.

He also gives some great tips for welding and casting -- like the website says: ...without repeating my mistakes.

Cool stuff!

Network Security Tool

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Very cool CD-ROM image -- it's a distribution of Linux with 75 various Network Security tools installed. You can boot this on most x86 'puters regardless of what OS is installed on the hard drive. From their website:
Network Security Toolkit (NST)
Welcome to the Network Security Toolkit (NST). This bootable ISO live CD is based on Fedora Core 2. The toolkit was designed to provide easy access to best-of-breed Open Source Network Security Applications and should run on most x86 platforms.

The main intent of developing this toolkit was to provide the network security administrator with a comprehensive set of Open Source Network Security Tools. The majority of tools published in the article: Top 75 Security Tools by insecure.org are available in the toolkit.

What we find rather fascinating with NST is that we can transform most x86 systems (Pentium II and above) into a system designed for network traffic analysis, intrusion detection, network packet generation, wireless network monitoring, a virtual system service server, or a sophisticated network/host scanner. This can all be done without disturbing or modifying any underlying sub-system disk. NST can be up and running on a typical x86 notebook in less than a minute by just rebooting with the NST ISO CD. The notebook's hard disk will not be altered in any way.

NST also makes an excellent tool to help one with all sorts of crash recovery troubleshooting scenarios and situations.
The Fedora Core 2 they refer to is of course the open-source arm of the wonderful RedHat Linux distribution. A good thing to have in one's basic toolkit... Hat tip to Stefano Demiliani for the great link.

John Bolton and the UN

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He is up for nomination for Ambassader to the United Nations and some of the lefties have their knickers in a bunch. Professor Bainbridge talks about one such moonbat -- Senator Barbra Boxer who says:
Senator Barbara Boxer says John Bolton holds the UN in disdain, which Babs seem to think is somehow disqualifying. Seems to me that it ought to be part of the job description for US ambassador to Turtle Bay.
  • The oil for food scandal
  • Peacekeeps not protecting the folks they were sent to guard
  • Peacekeepers raping the folks they're supposed to protect
  • Nepotism
  • Libya chairs the UN Human Rights Commission
  • Demanding that the US taxpayer pay 1/5 of its budget
  • France has a veto, for pete's sake

What Boxer doesn't seem to get is that her party lost the White House and is in the minority in both the House and Senate in no small part because the Democrats are (correctly) seen as putting multilateralism ahead of vigorously pursuing US interests.

Some new posts over at Brown Snout

I posted photos of the trip to Fresno (to pick up a large Apple Grinder and Press) over at our other website.

More Critters

The Trip to Fresno and

The Press comes home

It was a fun trip despite the blown clutch and flat tire.

Woodland, CA is a gorgeous little town -- enjoyed my time there very much.

About Me - Bull**** facts

Rob at Gut Rumbles started it and Kim DuToit answered. Here are mine:

What time is it? A bit after midnight -- time to head off to the house and crawl up into bed -- it was a full weekend and I'm tired.
Name as it appears on birth certificate: David (something) Halliday - not into identity theft.
Piercing: None and none planned -- toss around the idea of a tattoo (small Dragon perched on my right forearm) from time to time but don't have one of them either.
Eye color: Dark brown. A cataract makes things interesting but that is getting gouged out this coming Thursday and replaced with a plastic lens. Looking forward to it!
Place of birth USA - not into identity theft.
Favorite food: Lots -- beef stew, pasta, salads, good fresh bread
Ever been to Africa? Yep -- as a kid visiting with my parents (Kenya and Tanzania). Awesome place! I read about what is happening there and almost weep with the stupidity of the kleptocrats that are ruining it (and getting UN recognition).
Favorite Clothing? Jeans (Carhartt) and a sweatshirt and a ratty sweater in winter.
Ever been toilet papering? Nope -- had it happen to me once but it was Jen's family that did it to our car at our Wedding Reception so I can't get too pissed at them...
Have you ever had a speeding ticket? Couple times, not for 20 years or so but I still speed.
Been in a car accident? Two minor car accidents (one my fault, one not). Three minor motorcycle accidents. No injuries.
Favorite day of the week: None really -- during the time I lived in Seattle, it was Saturday but up here on the farm, every day is wonderful. Get up, work a bit, play a bit, blog a bit...
Favorite restaurant: In the Bellingham area - On Rice for Thai, The Black Forest Steakhouse in Everson for Fillet Mignon and German, Cafe Akroteri for Greek, Boundary Bay for microbrews with decent pub fare, Casa 542 for "mountain Mexican"
Favorite flower: Nothing really -- I like plants and flowers but don't have any real favorites.
Favorite sport to watch: Watch? None. Liked to play soccer and baseball a bit but haven't for a long time.
Favorite drink: Cider, Mead and Microbrews plus the occasional single-malt.
Favorite fast food restaurant: In-n-Out Burger -- wish there was one up here. They do a very few things really really well.
What color is your bedroom carpet? Beige -- came with the house and we will be replacing it sometime down the road.
How many times did you fail your driver's test? Got it first time.
Favorite perfume: Sweat
What do you do most often when you are bored? Answer quizzes like this? Not bored that often...
Bedtime? Around now -- sometimes later, sometimes earlier.
What is your favorite color? Dark Blue, Dark Green.
How many tattoos do you have? None but think about getting one every so often (see above piercing comment).
Have you ever run out of gas? Yeah -- a few times when I was young and stupid. Now that I am older and stupid, I'm more careful about watching the gas gage.
What is the last book you read? Animals in Translation by Dr. Temple Grandin -- If you are into animals at all, get this and read it. (Should be in most libraries) Currently about 200 pages into Witness by Whittaker Chambers. This is a sobering look at the spread of Communism in the USA and Europe from the 20's onward from someone who was there. He is an excellent writer. Fascinating bit of history which we seem to be repeating dammit...

Orson Scott Card on religion

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Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping links to a quote from writer Orson Scott Card:
Here is one simple truth, borne out by statistics over many decades and generations: The religions that demand of their members some real and rational degree of sacrifice, obedience, and adherence to faith are growing stronger and stronger; while the ones that say, in effect, that you can do what you want and God doesn�t expect much of us anymore, except to be vaguely nice - they are losing members rapidly.

Because if it doesn�t matter what you do, then why would you bother to belong?
That water is deep...

New Anti-Spam tool

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Just installed SpamLookup -- I thought MT-Blacklist was awesome but this is downright spiffy. If you are running Moveable Type 3.x, you need to get this software. Kiss the little toy-boy spammers goodbye with a simple five minute install... Heh - click away kiddies...

Two mokes board a KLM Flight from Amsterdam to Mexico City.

These people are on the US Terrorist Watch No-Fly list.

The USA refuses airspace access to this flight which has to turn around and fly back to Amsterdam.

The Dutch let the mokes walk away. Charles at LGFhas the story:

US Bars KLM Flight from Airspace
A KLM plane from Amsterdam to Mexico was refused access to US airspace today and had to turn back, because it was carrying two passengers who were on a terrorist watch list.
Flight 685 from Amsterdam to Mexico City was denied permission to fly south across the Canada-U.S. border on Friday because the names of two passengers aboard were included on a U.S. "no-fly" terrorist watch list, KLM spokesman Bart Koster said.
The flight, carrying 278 passengers, returned to Amsterdam, Koster said. He told The Associated Press that on Saturday, a flight without the two listed passengers departed Amsterdam and arrived in Mexico City.

And then, to add insult to injury:

And when the plane got back to the Netherlands, Dutch authorities let the two passengers walk away.
The suspected passengers were not arrested on their return to the Netherlands because Dutch authorities saw no reason to detain them, the ANP news agency reported.

Unclear on the concept...

Farm Fish / Wild Fish

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AN interesting brouhaha at the NY Times regarding the labeling of Farm raised Salmon as Wild-Caught:
Stores Say Wild Salmon, but Tests Say Farm Bred
Fresh wild salmon from West Coast waters used to have a low profile in New York: it generally migrated eastward in cans. But a growing concern about the safety of farm-raised fish has given fresh wild salmon cachet. It has become the darling of chefs, who praise its texture and flavor as superior to the fatty, neutral-tasting farmed variety, and many shoppers are willing to pay far more for it than for farmed salmon.

Today, "fresh wild salmon" is abundant, even in the winter when little of it is caught. In fact, it seems a little too abundant to be true.

Tests performed for The New York Times in March on salmon sold as wild by eight New York City stores, going for as much as $29 a pound, showed that the fish at six of the eight were farm raised. Farmed salmon, available year round, sells for $5 to $12 a pound in the city.

For shoppers, said David Pasternack, the chef and an owner at Esca, a theater district fish restaurant, buying authentic wild salmon "is like a crapshoot."
And the testing process that determined this:
Yet last month, when fresh wild salmon should have been scarce, 23 of 25 stores checked by The Times said they had it in stock.

The Times sent random samples of salmon bought on March 9 to Craft Technologies in Wilson, N.C., for testing and comparison of levels of natural and artificial pigments, a method that scientists at the Food and Drug Administration have used to identify wild and farmed salmon. The Craft scientists analyzed pigments known as carotenoids.

Only the sample bought at Eli's Manhattan on the Upper East Side ($22.99 a pound) tested wild. Salmon tested farmed at six stores: Dean & DeLuca in SoHo ($16.95); Grace's Marketplace ($28.99) and Leonard's ($19.95) on the Upper East Side; M. Slavin & Sons wholesale market at the Fulton Fish Market ($4.50 a pound for whole fish) and its Brooklyn retail store ($5.99); and Wild Edibles at the Grand Central Market ($20.99).
Whoopsie -- sorry, must have put the wrong label on the package... Yeah righhht... And the owners comments:
Officials at the stores had a variety of explanations.

Peter Leonard, an owner of Leonard's, said that his records did not go back as far as March 9, but that his sales clerks "must have gotten the salmon from the wrong pile in the back."
And this classic:
A whole salmon sold to this reporter as wild from Slavin's in the Fulton Fish Market was pulled from a box marked "farmed Canada."

"I know you are looking at the label, but believe me," the clerk at Fulton said. "Don't pay any attention to the label."
To give them some credit -- sometimes farm fish will escape into the wild and live there for a while before being caught. There were fish that were tested with both natural and artificial carotenoid pigments. The majority however were obviously farm raised. The article concludes that although Chefs may not be able to visually distinguish between the two, the taste and texture is different but by then, it is too late... Also, the Fulton Market has an "interesting" past -- I majored in Marine Bio. and Phys. Oceanography and still get National Fisherman magazine. Every few years, they report some new scandal at Fulton's. If I lived in NYC, that is one place I would not shop...

NY Times - pro Nuke?

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The tide may be turning... Nicholas Kristof writes in the NY Times
Nukes Are Green
If there was one thing that used to be crystal clear to any environmentalist, it was that nuclear energy was the deadliest threat this planet faced. That's why Dick Gregory pledged at a huge anti-nuke demonstration in 1979 that he would eat no solid food until all nuclear plants in the U.S. were shut down.

Mr. Gregory may be getting hungry.

But it's time for the rest of us to drop that hostility to nuclear power. It's increasingly clear that the biggest environmental threat we face is actually global warming, and that leads to a corollary: nuclear energy is green.

Nuclear power, in contrast with other sources, produces no greenhouse gases. So President Bush's overall environmental policy gives me the shivers, but he's right to push ahead for nuclear energy. There haven't been any successful orders for new nuclear plants since 1973, but several proposals for new plants are now moving ahead - and that's good for the world we live in.
Very cool to see the MSM wising up to the advantages...

An aging hippie actually gets it!

The Misanthropist reads about Stewart Brand so we don't have to.

He found this link which indicates that Mr. Brand actually has a clue about Nuclear and the Environment:

From the Misanthropyst:

The clue-bulb goes on over the head of an aging hipster -- Stewart Brand realizes nuclear energy is green. It also solves our energy independence and terrorism issues. It's a shame that the oilmen are in charge [Exxon Mobile posted 2004 profits of $21.5 Billion -- why would they want things to change?]

From the Technology Review column by Stuart Brand:

Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbanization, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.

And his thoughts on Nuclear Power specifically:

Let's Go Nuclear
Can climate change be slowed and catastrophe avoided? They can to the degree that humanity influences climate dynamics. The primary cause of global climate change is our burning of fossil fuels for energy.

So everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production. Kyoto accords, radical conservation in energy transmission and use, wind energy, solar energy, passive solar, hydroelectric energy, biomass, the whole gamut. But add them all up and it's still only a fraction of enough. Massive carbon "sequestration" (extraction) from the atmosphere, perhaps via biotech, is a widely held hope, but it's just a hope. The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power.

Nuclear certainly has problems - accidents, waste storage, high construction costs, and the possible use of its fuel in weapons. It also has advantages besides the overwhelming one of being atmospherically clean. The industry is mature, with a half-century of experience and ever improved engineering behind it. Problematic early reactors like the ones at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl can be supplanted by new, smaller-scale, meltdown-proof reactors like the ones that use the pebble-bed design. Nuclear power plants are very high yield, with low-cost fuel. Finally, they offer the best avenue to a "hydrogen economy," combining high energy and high heat in one place for optimal hydrogen generation.

The storage of radioactive waste is a surmountable problem (see "A New Vision for Nuclear Waste," December 2004). Many reactors now have fields of dry-storage casks nearby. Those casks are transportable. It would be prudent to move them into well-guarded centralized locations. Many nations address the waste storage problem by reprocessing their spent fuel, but that has the side effect of producing material that can be used in weapons. One solution would be a global supplier of reactor fuel, which takes back spent fuel from customers around the world for reprocessing. That's the kind of idea that can go from "Impractical!" to "Necessary!" in a season, depending on world events.

The environmental movement has a quasi-religious aversion to nuclear energy. The few prominent environmentalists who have spoken out in its favor - Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, Friend of the Earth Hugh Montefiore - have been privately anathematized by other environmentalists. Public excoriation, however, would invite public debate, which so far has not been welcome.

He certainly hits the nail on the head. The overall environmental impact is a lot less than Coal -- mining, refining and waste disposal. The volume of fuel is minuscule compared to Coal and we have Nuclear ores in abundance in the USA.

Considering that there is about a ten year lag from the first plans to commissioning the plant, we need to get going now. Faster! Please!

Ten Common Problems

House Wiring that is... The ever excellent Taunton Press (Fine Woodworking / Homebuilding / Gardening / etc...) has a ten-point checklist for house wiring:

Ten Common Wiring Problems
A master electrician details some frequently found mistakes that could cost you your house or your life

If I were an electrical inspector, I'd have a checklist ready for anyone who came into my office asking for an inspection. I'd smile, hand them a sheet of paper and say, "Don't call me until you have checked all your wiring against this list." In fact, Code Check Electrical, an expanded version of such a list written by a former building inspector, has been published by The Taunton Press.

In a perfect world, inspectors would catch every problem. In reality, they may catch a few, or even most, but probably not all. Finding every problem means tracing every wire, staring at every cable sheath with a magnifying glass and opening every outlet box, and inspectors just don't have that kind of time. Those of us who've been in the trade for a long time are aware of how inspectors are pressed for time. Bad electricians take advantage of this situation, but good electricians wire with professional pride and won't compromise their integrity. Make sure you get the latter to do your wiring.

The first five (each comes with explanations and an illustrating graphic):

1. Small, overloaded and poorly designed main panels
2. Subpanel wired improperly
3. Accidentally using the wrong gauge of cable
4. Using 14-ga. wire on a 20-amp circuit
5. Improperly stapled cable

Very good stuff... The wiring book they mention is a $17 purchase but it should be up to the usual level of Taunton excellence although this checklist (and common sense) will get you through the most egregious of potential errors.

Buddies -- Bush and Clinton ???

Dr. David Yeagley has an interesting observation on the recent closeness between the two presidents:

Keeping your enemies closer
Don Vito Corleone said to his son Michael, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." (from The Godfather, Part II)

Could this be the reason the Bush family continually keeps Bill Clinton in their intimate circles, and in high-profile roles? First President Bush gives Clinton a major role in the tsunami relief efforts; and now Clinton attends Pope John Paul's funeral, side by side with the Bushes.

Another example can be found at the Washington Times in this article:

Bush picks brains of Clinton, father
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE -- President Bush solicited foreign policy advice from former President Bill Clinton at CIA briefings this week and even told Mr. Clinton that he liked his approach to reforming Social Security.

'It was really a lot of fun, Mr. Bush told reporters yesterday after spending three days with Mr. Clinton and former President George Bush in Rome.

'These CIA briefings a lot of time prompt policy discussions,' he added. 'It's interesting to get their points of view about their experiences in particular countries.'

I think that the Republicans are going to face a real opponent in 2008 and he is keeping the major players close to his vest. Smart move. Plus, G.W. has shown a very good ability to work with both sides of the political spectrum. Not a bad thing actually -- we are all supposed to be working towards the betterment of this nation. People who let politics and moonbattery interfere with this vision fall very short of the ideal...

Poor Little Crab

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Some scientists are using a robot saw to cut a pipe laying on the Ocean floor at 6,000 foot depth. The pressure inside the pipeline is 0 psi, pressure outside around 2,700 psi. And then, along comes a crab: Gory video here: Crab v/s Pipe

Clueless Vendor (Best Buy)

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I have come to dislike Best Buy -- they do occasionally have some decent pricing but it is all loss-leaders and the savings usually come in the form of a mail-in rebate that takes forever to be processed if at all and if you buy more than one of the item, the rebate is generally limited to "one-per-household." For the most part, their prices are MSRP. They seem to pay their sales staff a minimal amount (judging from the knowledgeably and training levels) and the stores are horribly laid out -- it is a discomfort to browse there. I think that CircuitCity is a better brick and mortar store and NewEgg is an awesome online-only retailer both from a pricing standpoint and from a customer service and after-sale support one.

Anyway, WorldNetDaily has this great story about Mike Bolesta who was handcuffed to a pole in the Cockeysville, Md. Best Buy store.
His "crime" was to pay a bill using US Currency -- legal tender. Two Dollar Bills...

Man arrested, cuffed after using $2 bills
A man trying to pay a fee using $2 bills was arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail after clerks at a Best Buy store questioned the currency's legitimacy and called police.

The fee in question and the $2 bills:

After Best Buy personnel reportedly told Bolesta he would not be charged for the installation of a stereo in his son's car, he received a call from the store saying it was in fact charging him the fee. As a means of protest, Bolesta decided to pay the $114 bill using 57 crisp, new $2 bills.

As the owner of Capital City Student Tours, the Baltimore resident has a hearty supply of the uncommon currency. He often gives the bills to students who take his tours for meal money.

"The kids don't see that many $2 bills, so they think this is the greatest thing in the world," Bolesta says. "They don't want to spend 'em. They want to save 'em. I've been doing this since I started the company. So I'm thinking, 'I'll stage my little comic protest. I'll pay the $114 with $2 bills.'"

Yeah -- another reason to shop at BestBuy and what's with the name anyway, most of the merchandise there is selling at Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price, there is no Best Buy at BestBuy...

LCD Monitor Review

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Hat tip to Slashdot for the pointer to this excellent review of eight budget LCD Monitors. The reviewer is not ticking off a shopping list of features, they actually explain a lot about the various LCD technologies (several) and the pluses and minuses, the kinds of video cards to use, contrast, colorimetry, etc... This is not just a review, it's also an excellent short tutorial.

Fantastic Voyage

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Not this Fantastic Voyage but pretty darn close (although without Raquel Welch it lacks some of the interest...) From ScienceDaily
Nano-Probes Allow An Inside Look At Cell Nuclei
Nanotechnology may be in its infancy, but biologists may soon use it to watch the inner workings of a living cell like never before. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy�s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a way to sneak nano-sized probes inside cell nuclei where they can track life�s fundamental processes, such as DNA repair, for hours on end.

"Our work represents the first time a biologist can image long-term phenomena within the nuclei of living cells," says Fanqing Chen of Berkeley Lab�s Life Sciences Division, who developed the technique with Daniele Gerion of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Their success lies in specially prepared crystalline semiconductors composed of a few hundred or thousand atoms that emit different colors of light when illuminated by a laser. Because these fluorescent probes are stable and nontoxic, they have the ability to remain in a cell�s nucleus � without harming the cell or fading out � much longer than conventional fluorescent labels. This could give biologists a ringside seat to nuclear processes that span several hours or days, such as DNA replication, genomic alterations, and cell cycle control. The long-lived probes may also allow researchers to track the effectiveness of disease-fighting drugs that target these processes.
Very cool -- the techniques these days use dyes but controlling where the dye goes can be a challenge. That plus the lifetime in vitro. Dyes are great for a quick snap of a situation but not good for a long-term study. These people are probably taking very close notice (and sending out some headhunters with very fat wallets)
What part of bottom-feeding scum don't you get. From WSMV Channel 4 News:
Brother wants to sell video of James Earl Ray autopsy
A videotape of James Earl Ray's autopsy is up for sale, the brother of Martin Luther King Jr.'s confessed killer said Monday.

Jerry Ray said he hopes to sell the two-hour video for up to $400,000, though no firm price has been set.

"A lot of people have an interest in things like that," Ray said.

Ray made the announcement on a sidewalk near the National Civil Rights Museum on the site of King's assassination on April 4, 1968.

Ray intended to hold a news conference just below the balcony where King was felled by a rifle slug. He left without argument when told to move on.

The museum was hosting visitors on the 37th anniversary of King's death.
A very small part of me almost admires this cretins chutzpa but Christ on a Corn Dog, what a maroon...

People unclear on the concept

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Marta left a comment on an old post of mine referring to an interview of Bjorn Lomborg and his thoughts on Global Warming. The text of her comment is as follows:
After reading your book I realized that you are not from this planet....how can you even publish a book like where did you get all your data. As far as I know you have no background in the areas you discussed in your book
Unnnhhh -- Marta, Bjorn doesn't read the blog, this is my blog. Anything written was written by me and nobody else. I do quote from other people's writing (these quotes are indented from the main body of the text to set them off) I posted a link to Lomborg's own website here. Going back to Marta's comments (they are from Canada):
As far as I know you have no background in the areas you discussed in your book
From Lomborg's website:
M.A. in political science (Cand.scient.pol.) 1991. Ph.D. at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. 1994. Assistant professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, 1994-1996. Associate professor 1997-2005. Director of Denmark's national Environmental Assessment Institute February 2002-July 2004.

Bj�rn Lomborg is an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus. In 1998 he published four lengthy articles about the state of our environment in the leading Danish newspaper, which resulted in a firestorm debate spanning over 400 articles in major metropolitan newspapers. The articles lead to the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001, which has now been published in Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Korean and Japanese.
Gee -- it looks like he might know what he is talking about. Marta again:
how can you even publish a book like where did you get all your data.
Boy they sure do teach English good up in Canada... As for his data -- when the book first came out, a case was lodged against him by the Danish (He's Danish) Committees on Scientific Dishonesty. Here is the result of their findings:
The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has December 17 2003 repudiated findings by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DSCD) that Bj�rn Lomborg�s book �The Skeptical Environmentalist� was �objectively dishonest� or �clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice�

The Ministry, which is responsible for the DSCD, has released a highly critical assessment of the Committee�s January 7 ruling. The Ministry finds that the DCSD judgment was not backed up by documentation, and was �completely void of argumentation� for the claims of dishonesty and lack of good scientific practice.

The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DSCD) have finally ended their case March 12, 2004, rejecting the original complaints. They have decided that the original decision is invalid and has ended any further inquiry.
Hey Marta (you still here?) -- how about you getting your facts into order before launching a blind incoherent spew...

Handheld MRI

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From MedGaget:
BBC News reports that a portable MRI, even a handheld one, might one day be possible:
...conventional MRI scanners need to use big magnets that have to be chilled by complicated cooling systems, which is expensive.

Igor Savukov and Michael Romalis have shown that a device called an atomic magnetometer can detect magnetic signals from water without giant magnets or complicated cooling systems.
And more from the BBC article:
Eventually it should be possible to do away with the shielding and build a hand-held MRI machine that images tissues inside the body as easily as a digital camera takes a photo, they told New Scientist.

Professor Peter Morris from Nottingham University's MRI centre said: "It's interesting, but it's a long way to go before it becomes a viable imaging system.
The technology is talked about here (with pictures) Very cool stuff!

How to bail out your brother-in-law...

DOH! From MyWay/AP News:
Smelly Money Lands Indiana Man in Jail
A man who went to the sheriff's department to bond out his brother-in-law also ended up in jail when police realized the money he handed them reeked of marijuana.

Timothy Richards, 45, of Columbus, went to the Decatur County Sheriff's Department and when he handed dispatcher Julie Meyers $400, she counted it and then noticed something unusual.

"When I walked back toward the jail I noticed the money was damp and smelled funny," Meyers said.

A jailer who sniffed the money told her it smelled like marijuana, she said.
And the upshot?
(State Trouper)Ayers found a pipe and a small amount of marijuana and charged Richards with possession. If convicted, he could face six months to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Richards remained in jail for several hours Tuesday - until his brother-in-law made bail and came back to pay his own $250 bond.
Very cool new-tech/old-tech application here:
Midi Scans of Player Piano Music Rolls
The process of scanning music rolls first generates a very large file, basically containing hundreds of thousands of pixels. That initial .CIS file is then converted into an events .SCN file, which in turn is converted into a .MID music file containing a single piano track. The files available here are the final relatively small .MID files which may be "played" through most any computer's sound card, an electronic keyboard, or in a Disklavier, PianoDisc, PianoMation, Pianocorder equipped piano. All are Midi Type 1 files, with identifying data imbeded within the tracks through the use of CakeWalk.
2,650 titles available for non-commercial use. Other people are doing this as well -- here is another site with over 700 scanned rolls. Turns out there is even an International Association dedicated to this:
The International Association of Mechanical Music Preservationists (IAMMP) is a group of volunteers dedicated to the preservation of music rolls.
Music rolls, developed in the mid 1800's, were used in player reed organs, push-up piano players, player pianos, and similar instruments. Much of this music is in danger of being lost as the paper rolls continue to deteriorate. IAMMP members are constructing electronic scanners, based on the pioneering work of Richard Stibbons, to convert the punched paper music into digital form. The digital files are being archived and converted to appropriate data formats to be played on the computer, Disklaviers and similar instruments or, in a different form, used to operate perforators to create fresh rolls of original accuracy. Membership in this group is open to anyone who has an interest in helping to preserve our mechanical music heritage. Use of the information contained in this e-group is primarily for hobby purposes.
This website has plans for building your own scanner using parts from a cheap flatbed scanner and some surplus motors and gears. Lots of software and schematics available. Very cool tech!

Ten best

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Rob at Gut Rumbles lists his ten "favorite" people:
#1: Jimmy Carter. That man was the worst President of the Th Century and I believe that the grinning bastard may hit the top five of ALL TIME WORST!!! before all is said and done. The man was a complete incompetent. And anybody who believes that the trouble we have in the Middle East TODAY didn't start under Carter's watch is full of shit. Nobel Peace Prize, my ass.
It continues and gets better -- Michael Moore, Rachel Carson and Jacques Chirac make appearances. My personal ten list would be almost the same -- delete Fonda and Clinton, they aren't malevolent, just stupid and blind to the big picture. I would add Yasser Arafat - he was a Russian KGB tool for a long time but he had multiple chances to break from them and if he really cared about the Palestinian Jordanian people, he would have broken the cycle of terrorism a long long time ago. I would also add one person but also a composite of behavior that we see all too much today -- Neville Chamberlain -- the sense that terrorism as a tool of state can be countered by appeasement. Carter could have raised a finger and said "Unh Unh" and the Middle East would be a lot quieter today. Clinton could have spent more time on foreign policy than on himself and 19-year-old interns and the Middle East would be a lot quieter today -- this would have taken longer than if Carter had nipped it in the bud but it could have been done. Neither of them saw what was happening. Clinton was just stupid and blind but Carter should have had some sense. Good that he was only a one-term-wonder -- hate to think of what the balance of power would be if he had a second...

Back in town...

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Whew -- what a long strange trip it's been... With emphasis on long -- I was planning to visit some suppliers in Portland today but the call of home was too strong and I just bailed. A week is just too long to be away from this place... Blogging will resume in force tomorrow. The cider press is awesome -- the person who had it before me was getting 500 gallons of juice per day from it. Tomorrow, Jen and I get to unload it from the trailer.

A bit of French Whine

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It seems that there has been a drop over the last two years of exports of French Wines. Anybody care to hazzard a guess why? Hmmm??? The French Government currently subsedizes Wine exports to the tune of 70 Million Euros anually. Some "radical" Vintners are rioting, throwing sticks of dynomite in hopes the government will increase this subsidy and alleviate the crisis. Charles at LGF has the link to this article in The Independent
The grapes of wrath: depressed French wine producers bomb Government offices
Terrorist attacks by radical wine producers on government offices in the south of France yesterday served notice that the country's wine crisis may be spinning out of control.

Sticks of dynamite were thrown at agriculture ministry offices in Montpellier and Carcassonne in the early hours, causing serious damage but no injuries. A car was also burned outside ministry offices in N�mes.

The attacks, which were condemned by mainstream wine producers' associations, were claimed by a group called comit� r�gional d'action viticole (Crav).
Gee -- Who would have though that the actions of the French Government two years ago would have such reprocussions -- who cares if they were selling arms to Saddam during the embargo and skimming off $$$ from Oil-for-Food and massivly obstructing the efforts of the coalition to bring about peace. You made your bed, it is time to live in it...

John Paul II

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Mostly Cajun has a really nice Obituary of Pope John Paul II who passed today. An excerpt:
...Seems like the 70�s and 80�s were Poland�s decade. John Paul�s ascension to the papacy showed the world that there were indeed huge holes in the Communist Bloc in that such a man of faith could come out of the stench that the Soviets had made of central Europe.

So Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, and Lech Walesa, shipyard electrician, both put faces on the faith that did NOT die behind the Iron Curtain, and the curtain fell, darkness fleeing from light.

Blogroll update

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Marvin Hutchens moved his blog: Little Red Blog onto Moveable Type (Yeah!) and to a different URL. His blogroll has been moved from "Gone but not Forgotten" category to the General one.

Cool new music tool from Bob Moog

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Bob Moog's company -- Moogmusic -- manufactures a line of pedals called Moogerfoogers - he has taken the classic Moog filters and effects and repackaged them into classic stomp-boxes. His latest one looks awesome -- from the website:
This very limited edition Moogerfooger offers a quiet reflective sound. It is the perfect accompaniment to obnoxious guitar solos - simply press the bypass switch and luxuriate in 4 minutes and 33 seconds of pure warm analog silence. It's a great way to encourage audience participation - primarily the sounds of them shifting uncomfortably in their seats, coughing, muttering and cursing amongst themselves, as well as the occasional catcall. Really talented MF-4'33" performers may even cause flying produce to appear. When the audience finally relaxes, focusses, and listens, they will discover a whole new world of sounds around them of which they were previously not aware.

Bob describes the sound as somewhat "cagey" and says that it could be his greatest achievement in guitar effects.

Orders will be taken from now through April 1st only. After that the MF-4'33" will be effectively silenced forever.
Referring of course to this which is actually quite beautiful when performed correctly...

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