July 2005 Archives

The SCOTUS Kelo Decision again -- this time from a leftie moonbat perspective. Paul at Wizbang covers Howard Dean's gaffe and takes on the kids at daily kos as well -- doubleplus goodness!
Kos Has a Lot of Work to Do
After Howard Dean made a complete ass of himself with the Supreme Court comment, (believe it or not) one of the Kos kids called the comments "[not] even remotely defensible."

The poster did not explain the comments to the kids however... Which is where the fun begins:

Here's the first few comments about the quote:
1) Um What?

2) Huh? I don't understand why you are offended by Dean's words.

3) (somebody let a ringer in to explain it)

4) This issue has made people mad. The public does not know who the lefties and righties are. In fact a couple of the "lefties" are Republican appointees who interpret the law isn a supposed liberal way. ... Anyway, why shouldn't we pick up on a "activist" court decision and spin it our way? ... This decision made the public mad. [Let's just lie to the public, they'll never know. -ed]

5) Definitely "Bush's Court" The SCOTUS appointed Quacky president in 2000. IMO, that makes them "Bush's Court". And in general they are pretty right wing. That make's them "Bush's Right-Wing Court".
So, as usual, Howard Dean is Right. [emphasis in original -ed]

6) I didn't understand either until I clicked the lnk [sic]
I didn't understand the problem with Dean's quote either until I click through the link to the Dean Nation post and found the sensible observation that the eminent domain case was decided by a five justice majority that included the four "liberal" judges; Scalia, Thomas, Rhenquist were in dissent.

7) Well, here's the thing...
I'm 100% behind it. Why? Because it resonates, and I'm perfectly willing to go for a false statement that illustrates a truth., [emp mine -ed]
The GOP is the party of Big Business. Big Business (business in general) is who benefitted from the Kelo case.
So, frankly, I say it's a great line of attack. Screw accuracy -- remind people that now big business can take their homes away to make a shopping mall, and that's A-okay by the GOP.
And on and on it goes. Half the Kos kids had no clue what was wrong with the statement the other half said the Dems should just keep lying about it.

Kos says he is trying to purge the moonbats from the site... From the looks of it, he's got some work to do.
Paul steped in as [xxxx - ed] a few times above... This really illustrates the sloppy thinking of the moonbats that they would be willing to embrace a known false statement because it illustrates something that to them represents a truth. Explains a lot behind the Joe Wilson and the TANG 'scandals' Word up -- FACTS! Please, just facts and stuff that is like... verifiable... Ahhhhhhhhh -- screw them...

Cool camera

Neat small camera -- Uncrate has the details:
James Bond Stealth Camera
Be a true spy with this ultra tiny digital camera that hides out in a Zippo-style metal case. Straight from Q's laboratory, the James Bond Stealth Camera ($80) takes up to 150 pictures at 640 x 480 size, record video up to 30 seconds long, or record up to 12 minutes of audio. The gadget also has a "James Bond 19 day surveillance mode" that automatically take photos at preset time intervals � for up to 19 days.
Actually a very nice and well thought-out feature set. USB interface, uses one AAA battery (nothing exotic) and only $80 from these fine people.

A bad day on the runway

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Click for full-size Image
Swiped from the Braden Files

An American Sheik

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Meet Sheik Horn -- Yahoo/AP:
Iraq Citizens Deem U.S. Soldier As Sheik
Sheik Horn floats around the room in white robe and headdress, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of village leaders. But he's the only sheik with blonde streaks in his mustache � and the only one who attended country music star Toby Keith's recent concert in Baghdad with fellow U.S. soldiers.

Officially, he's Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn, but to residents of the 37 villages and towns that he patrols he's known as the American sheik.

Sheiks, or village elders, are known as the real power in rural Iraq. And the 5-foot-6-inch Floridian's ascension to the esteemed position came through dry humor and the military's need to clamp down on rocket attacks.

Late last year a full-blown battle between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces had erupted, and U.S. commanders assigned a unit to stop rocket and mortar attacks that regularly hit their base. Horn, who had been trained to operate radars for a field artillery unit, was now thrust into a job that largely hinged on coaxing locals into divulging information about insurgents.

Horn, 25, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., acknowledges he had little interest in the region before coming here. But a local sheik friendly to U.S. forces, name-changed, explained the inner workings of rural Iraqi society on one of Horn's first Humvee patrols.

Horn says he was intrigued, and started making a point of stopping by all the villages, all but one dominated by Sunni Arabs, to talk to people about their life and security problems.

Moreover, he pressed for development projects in the area: he now boasts that he helped funnel $136,000 worth of aid into the area. Part of that paid for delivery of clean water to 30 villages during the broiling summer months.

"They saw that we were interested in them, instead of just taking care of the bases," Horn said.

name-changed, Horn's mentor and known for his dry sense of humor, eventually suggested during a meeting of village leaders that Horn be named a sheik. The sheiks approved by voice vote, Horn said.

Some sheiks later gave him five sheep and a postage stamp of land, fulfilling some of the requirements for sheikdom. Others encouraged him to start looking for a second wife, which Horn's spouse back in Florida immediately vetoed.

But what may have originally started as a joke among crusty village elders has sprouted into something serious enough for 100 to 200 village leaders to meet with Horn each month to discuss security issues.

And Horn doesn't take his responsibilities lightly. He lately has been prodding the Iraqi Education Ministry to pay local teachers, and he closely follows a water pipeline project that he hopes will ensure the steady flow of clean water to his villages.

"Ninety percent of the people in my area are shepherds or simple townspeople," said Horn. "They simply want to find a decent job to make enough money to provide food and a stable place for their people to live."
Oh yes -- Iraq is a quagmire and we should pull out immediately. Forgetting of course that Saddam never cared about "his people", caring only for himself, his cronies and spreading wahabism. A bit distressing that a Mr. Antonio Castaneda saw fit to print the full name of Sheik Horn's mentor. I substituted name-changed as this site gets scanned regularly by a number of search engines. Hat tip to Charles at LGF

Tornado Chasing

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This is insane but very very cool -- from AutoWeek:
Casey vs. the Tornado
Storm chaser builds an armored Ford F-450 to drive into tornados
Earlier this year near Paducah, Texas, cinematographer Sean Casey got the scary part of his wish. "The holy grail of all footage is to get a tornado coming right at you�filming with a wide-angle lens, and having the tornado hit you, impact the camera�and that shot really hasn�t been gotten yet," says the seven-year storm-chasing veteran. "If we can get that on IMAX, it would be a really nice, nice shot."

Because of heavy rain, his bulky IMAX camera didn�t get the shot. Casey was hit by a tornado twice that day, events he recalls with a calm, articulate tone belying that average folks think the feat is totally, completely, insanely nuts.

"The first was like being sandblasted by 70- to 80-mph winds. The last tornado was rain-wrapped. You couldn�t see the tornado. We just drove right into it," recalls Casey. "The wind reading was 55 meters per second, so maybe 110 mph."

Until three years ago Casey would never have tried driving into a tornado. "One year we had a pickup and we had the camera on a helicopter mount in the back. We were trying to get to the mode where you can film at any time. It was always a hard deal to jump out of a car, set up your sticks [tripod], set up the camera and then get your shot. But we were still exposed in the back of the pickup. Going down the highway at 80 mph, if something happens you�re dead."

"We had a close call in 2001 in a minivan where we actually locked ourselves out of the minivan," he says. "We were really close to these tornados. It was just after that we thought, 'Let�s build a vehicle that can take some abuse.' A vehicle where if you get hit by a tornado, even a violent one, you�re probably going to be okay."

So he built the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle), a long-wheelbase 1997 Ford F-450 diesel dually pickup. No one at Ford would recognize it, though. The body has been replaced by inexpertly welded thick steel plates, and incorporates a roof turret housing the large IMAX film camera. Occupants peer out through prison-window Lexan portals.

"It�s so ugly! It�s just a big mobile tripod for the camera," Casey says.
Here are two photos of Casey's rig:

That must be a rush.

Thinner and thinner

The Atkins company is going though Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceedings. Bloomberg has the story:
Atkins Nutritionals Files for Bankruptcy Protection in New York
Atkins Nutritionals Inc., founded by late diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins, filed for bankruptcy protection in New York today after struggling with increasing competition from low-carbohydrate food producers.

The company lists assets of $301 million and liabilities of $325 million in papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Atkins owes UBS Securities LLC and other lenders roughly $301 million under a 2003 loan, according to court papers.

"Mainstream companies such as Unilever, Kraft, and General Mills broke into the controlled-carbohydrate market with in 2004 with well-funded, aggressive product launches," Rebecca Roof, the company's chief restructuring officer, said in court papers. As a result, Roof said, sales in 2004 were "dramatically less than forecast."
The problem also stems from the fact that the diet simply did not work for many people. The premise is that by eliminating carbohydrates, you force your body into a state of Ketosis. In this state, the body stops deriving the majority of its energy from glucose and starts burning its stored fats. The "diet" works like gangbusters but your breath smells like paint thiner (acetone), you have absolutely zero energy and you aren't quite there mentally (the brain has a specific need for glucose). Most people would put a couple of days into the strict (effective) interpretation of the diet and would then backslide into a "low carb" mode letting their bodies slip out of Ketosis. Then, they are eating huge amounts of fat and not exercising as much since they are still not eating the carbs they should be for energy. Immediate weight gain. Good thing they didn't because Ketosis is incredibly hard on the body (it's one of the last things the body does before it starves to death). We would have become a nation of skinny Kidney Dialysis patients. A very good diet can be found here: The Hacker's Diet

To-Do lists

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Gerard Van der Leun writes at American Digest and has a wonderful take on to-do lists:
The "Not Insane" To-Do List
"There is no multi-tasking. There is only the monkey mind jabbering so fast it seems like multi-tasking."
LET'S FACE IT, we all have far too much to do. But the only reason this is so is because of the proliferation of productivity tools that respond to our insane lust to be "productive." Driving this insanity is the To-Do list which is, being limitless, is unlimited in its ability to drive us insane. It's time to stop the To-List insanity. Toss all you've previous To-Do Listing Systems you've got out -- paper and/or electronic -- and convert to this new, improved certifiably not-insane system.

Prints out on 3x5 cards suitable for your Hipster PDA

A PDF file suitable for printing is located RIGHT HERE.

Don't say I never do anything to increase your sanity, because I just did.


Moved the blogroll over to a manual system -- a little more difficult to maintain but it loads in a snap. I checked Blogrolling's website and they are having database "issues".
What happens when the liberals find the tables turned -- they squirm. :-) Blogger Brian Maloney is covering the growing question of what Air America is doing with the $480,000 in taxpayers money that was 'loaned' to it by the director of the New York city Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club. His articles are long with lots of links for verification so I will be excerpting small bits from them. He starts here: Federal Funds Diverted To Air America
Air America's Dirty Dough
Media Cover-Up, Bronx Community Programs Nearly Shut
What happens when the mainstream media, after years of seething over conservative talk radio's success, discover its alternative got diverted public funds, earmarked instead for inner-city youth and seniors?

The answer, with one key exception: they pretend it didn't happen.

Yes, only because of a New York Daily News tidbit do we know that Bronx-based Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club nearly shut down major programs recently, because almost $500,000 in governmental grant money was instead diverted to Air America's liberal radio network.
An excerpt from the tidbit:
According to published reports, the allegations involve Charles Rosen, the founder of Gloria Wise who has stepped down as executive director, investing city contract funds in Air America Radio, the liberal talk radio network.
Brian goes on: Air America Funding Issue Heats Up
What's Next?
Holding Air America Accountable For Funding Scandal
Now that Air America's sleazy funding scandal has received more attention, how can we continue to demand full accountability from the firm?

Here's where things stand:

--- Since the company isn't denying it received at least $480,000 in taxpayer funds meant for a Bronx community center, why doesn't it feel the need to repay the money, simply because of a network ownership change?

If any of the money was repaid, why won't they tell us? Some radio talk hosts have begun on-air campaigns to demand it be returned.

--- Why did Air America's response to our reporting leave out so many important details? The deflection of blame was unfortunate enough, worse was the refusal to address so many questions.

What do they have to hide?

--- Did any of Air America's talk show hosts address the controversy on Wednesday or Thursday's shows? If not, then their Bush-bashing credibility is forever shot.

How can they talk about ethics, integrity, or scandal, when the biggest one originated in their offices?
And on: Air America Issues Second Statement In Funds Scandal
Scandal Heats Up
Is Air America Answering Questions, Or Creating More?
So far, in seeking to determine whether Air America benefited from taxpayer money meant for a community youth center, we've accomplished two things: sending the blogosphere into action mode and compelling the company to respond to the developing firestorm.

Early Friday morning, I was made aware of a new, second press statement on the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club scandal. A number of emails and blog comments quickly followed, leading me to wonder if there was some kind of organized effort to turn the tables.

Sure enough, at the Daily Kos (king of the liberal blogosphere), there is this new post:
This post is a longish one as Brian does an in-line Fisking and then asks 11 questions. Brian then offers: Liberals Not Happy With Air America Scandal Reporting
Backlash Begins
A "Fake Story", What Took Lefties So Long?
If you've at all followed previous sticky liberal flaps, the routine should by now be clear:

First, it's silence, then quiet consultation, followed by a "collective" response, repeated verbatim across the Internet and mainstream media.

On Air America's taxpayer funding diversion scandal, it was inevitable liberals would snap out of their stunned silence and fight back.

Don't forget, Air America has been the realization of an ages-old lefty dream, to take on Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio. They're not going to let $480,000 in taxpayer funds meant for a community center, going instead to the network, get in the way.

The only question was how long it would take.

Answer: about four days. That must have been some pow-wow. How do we spin a way out of this mammoth mess?

When it came to how they would respond, there was never any question: with all of the usual tactics, name calling, trickery and nastiness.

What they're saying this weekend reveals much about the state of "progressive" politics.

Step one is to kill the messenger, that happens to be me this time.

It's a "fake story", Brian Maloney is "sweaty", "baloney", plus all of the usual radical-right labeling highlight (lowlight?) what we've so far seen. I'm noticing the same attack pattern across sites, with cut-and-pasted copy.

Emanating first from the Daily Kos, the nation's largest liberal blog site, it then spreads to smaller sites. I'm accused outright of making up a story:
It's fun to check in with Memeorandum now and then to see what the righties are linking to. Yesterday they were swarming like flies to a carcass to a story that appears to be phony.
Again, these are just excerpts from much larger articles and Brian has links to other sites with documentation so this story is not going away anytime soon.

France grows some brass ones!

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Roger L. Simon reports that France is showing a lot more courage than England when it comes to dealing with their local Islamofascist population.
Jeanne d'Arc fights back!
According to the Telegraph, the French are suddenly getting tougher on terror than the British:
The gulf between British and French treatment of preachers of hatred and violence was thrown sharply into focus yesterday when France announced the summary expulsion of a dozen Islamists between now and the end of August.

A tough new anti-terrorism package was unveiled by Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and a popular centre-Right politician.

His proposals reflect French determination to act swiftly against extremists in defiance of the human rights lobby, which is noticeably less vocal in France than in Britain.

Imams and their followers who fuel anti-western feeling among impressionable young French Muslims will be rounded up and returned to their countries of origin, most commonly in France's case to its former north African colonies.

Mr Sarkozy also revealed that as many as 12 French mosques associated with provocative anti-western preaching were under surveillance. Imams indulging in inflammatory rhetoric will be expelled even if their religious status is recognised by mainstream Muslim bodies.

Those who have assumed French citizenship will not be protected from deportation. Mr Sarkozy said he will reactivate measures, "already available in our penal code but simply not used", to strip undesirables of their adopted nationality. "We have to act against radical preachers capable of influencing the youngest and most weak-minded," Mr Sarkozy told the French daily Le Parisien.
Roger then goes on to comment:
Strip "undersireables" of their citizenship? Can you imagine how our civil liberties organizations would react if one of our major politicians started talking that way? Those "progressocrats" (how's that for a neologism?) react like the proverbial stuck pigs when someone gets a Koran wet. And back in the day I would certainly have sympathized with the ACLU, et al, on this. But we have reached a rather extraordinary pass. The limit of free speech has traditionally been defined as "yelling fire in a crowded theatre." We're light years beyond that now. Who cares what anyone's yelling? They're blowing up people in subways.
It has taken a long long time but people are starting to see the truth that Islamofascism is not a viable culture. Any culture based on raw hate and fear is not worth perpetuating.


A new 'product' from Biotechnology company Bio.Genica:
From their website:
Rethink Nature
Nature has never been a closed system, nor has it ever been balanced - we as a species have been affecting it for thousands of years. It has been our inspiration, and by choosing the best it has to offer we have been able to create absolute perfection. Patenting of living systems has become slowly accepted as our outlook on life has changed. As it is obvious that Genpets� have never, and would never exist in nature, it seems silly to even question them as a patented technology.

Unlike other domesticated pets, Genpets� have not been torn from their natural environment and forced to quickly adapt to a foreign habitat; instead, they are fulfilling a pre-designed destiny. Now doesn�t bioengineering nature make far more sense? Nature to us, is nothing more than inspiration for rough parts. We have picked out the best of everything to create absolute perfection.
Before you start reaching for your credit card, this is the work of Canadian artist Adam Brandejs. Each Genpet is robotized so they move and twitch in their packaging. The heart rate monitor shows activity. Hat tip to we-make-money-not-art for the link...

Urban Archeology

I am fascinated by ruined industrial buildings. When I lived in Boston there were a few sites I liked to visit. Here is one that is amazing -- Canfranc

From their website:

In 1853 Juan Bruil, himself executive director of a bank, from Zaragoza already had the idea to install a train connection through the central Pyrenees, the shortest link between Madrid and Paris. He submitted his proposal comprising 30 pages to the "Friends of the Country"; the latter a club of influencal enterpreneurs. In the same year at Christmas two engineers received a particular present: they should work out the initial plan for the project. This marked the begin of the quarrel regarding the best route and the fight of representatives of towns and provinces, who wanted to take advantage of the plans. It almost took 30 years until in 1882 the government approved the project. At the beginning however there was the problem to built a tunnel through the Pyrenees and no solution to it. Over 15 years experts watched the weather before they agreed on the valley of Arag�n and Canfranc as the future site of the boarder train station as well as the southern end of the tunnel. Technical obstacles and diplomatic difficulties marked the development of the construction project; the construction work were repeatedly stopped and caused delays. In 1915 the tunnel, which was 7875 meters long, was finished; the architects built an artificial plateau by using the stones taken out of the mountain and on this area the building of the train station arised, a mixture of classicism and art nouveau.

"The Pyrenees do not longer exist", proudly called King Alfonso XII. of Spain at the inauguration, general Primo de Rivera and the president of the French Republic being present. After 70 years of planning and construction work people of the sparse mountain valley hoped for a bit of the luxury built there, intended to attract guests from all over Europe to stay in the hotel of the train station. However already during the time the connection was built the Spanish government refused to adjust the width of their rail tracks according to the European standard, thereby planting the seed for the project to fail. Each passenger had to pass passport controls in the train stations, each bit of luggage customs, goods were shifted by crane from one train to the other. Soon it became apparent that the loss of time in Canfranc caused the connection to become ineconomic for hauliers. Only 8 years after its opening on account of the Spanish civil war the Somport tunnel, cutting through the Pyrenees and connecting France with Spain, became closed. Also during the second world war the connection remained closed. Thereafter again, but not for long, Canfranc became important, yet in 1970 when on the French side the rail bridge of Estanguet collapsed it was the end of the international rail traffic. Today on the Spanish side there is a train connection from Zaragoza to Canfranc and back twice per day.


Click for full size Images

Quite a bit of history in that place...

The disappearing Blogroll

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I use blogrolling to maintain and show my Blogroll. A nice free service that sometimes takes a few extra seconds to load but is free and the bloggers interface is a nice and easy one to use. (did I mention that it's free?) Well, it seems to be down tonight. I have been looking at a few (also free) plug-ins for my blog software that also support Blogrolls and I think it might be time to start seriously implementing one of them. Look for some changes in the next week or so (things are busy at the farm now that the weather has finally turned around and things have warmed up). ...watch -- it will have been down because they are upgrading to a much faster server piped into an OC48 connection...

Give a Man a Fish

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A spot-on assessment of African Aid and what its end result is. From Yahoo/AP
Economist Blames Aid for Africa Famine
In Niger, a desert country twice the size of Texas, most of the 11 million people live on a dollar a day. Forty percent of children are underfed, and one out of four dies before turning 5. And that's when things are normal. Throw in a plague of locusts, and a familiar spectacle emerges: skeletal babies, distended bellies, people too famished to brush the flies from their faces.

To the aid workers charged with saving the dying, the immediate challenge is to raise relief money and get supplies to the stricken areas. They leave it to the economists and politicians to come up with a lasting remedy. One such economist is James Shikwati. He blames foreign aid.

"When aid money keeps coming, all our policy-makers do is strategize on how to get more," said the Kenya-based director of the Inter Region Economic Network, an African think tank.

"They forget about getting their own people working to solve these very basic problems. In Africa, we look to outsiders to solve our problems, making the victim not take responsibility to change."
Hat tip to Charles at LGF for the link.

Optical Illusion

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One I had seen before (a good one!) and two I had not. (also good!) View them yourself here. #3 is amazing.

Brand Name Recognition

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From BoingBoing comes this story:
Toronto's Quick Boy Movers: incompetent and bullying
Back in June, Joey "AccordionGuy" DeVilla got a blog-comment about a moving company in Toronto called Quick Boys Moving, in which the commenter complained about the dreadful service he'd received from them.

Last week, someone from Quick Boys tracked Joey down on his work phone. They tried to intimidate him with legal threats into taking down the comment. At the time, the comment was the second result on Google for "Quick Boys Movers." Joey took the comment down temporarily and contacted the poster, a friend of his, who confirmed the story. Then he reinstated the comment and wrote a long entry explaining that Quick Boys is not only unqualified to help you move house, they're also thugs who try to censor their critics.

Joey's an engaging writer and many people are linking to his post, which has now risen to the number one spot for "Quick Boys Movers" on Google. There's a moral in there, somewhere.
The original article is here: At Last, My Blog Lands Me in Hot Water!

Danger Will Robinson Danger

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A group called EAR (Electro-Acoustic Research) is bringing the designs of three prominent analog synthesizers designers and acting as a central clearing house for marketing kits and pre-built units in the two most popular form-factors. Some of these designs are modern interpretations of unique and classic designs of the past including:
The Livewire FrequenSteiner Filter
Exclusive re-release of Nyle Steiner's Classic Synthasystem filter

Oakley Sound Octal Resonator
Eight independent bandpass resonators with Selectable Mono or Stereo Outputs

The Model 21 Milton Model 21A Shmilton and 21B Expander
The infamous Milton sequencer comes to Eurorack format!
...and much much more. There has been a wonderful renaissance in Analog Synthesis today. Many of the original patents on circuits have lapsed into the public domain so people are taking the designs and bringing them up to date so you have the richness of sound but the thing stays in tune and the parameters don't drift. I have a modest system assembled from kits from this place: Synthesis Technology plus some homebrew circuits I've built over the years. Fun stuff.


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Seen at Flickr:
Heading north on I-79 in Pennslyvania on the way to Ontario last week I ran across the leftovers of this accident, where it appears a semi-trailer load of squash hit the overpass. There were truck parts all over the place, and the remains of the trailer were still stuck to the concrete pylons. It was probably a pretty bad wreck, and likely someone got hurt or killed, but the field of squash was just too damn surreal for me, I had to turn around and laid in the median taking pictures of the carnage.
The set with two more images is here: Flickr Squash
From the Texas CentreDaily:
Police chief faces daunting task of cleaning up violent border town
After seeing eight cops murdered during his first 15 days on the job, Police Chief Omar Pimentel has adopted a Gandhi-like approach to law enforcement.

"My message is very clear: I am not here to confront anyone," he said from his well-cocooned office at police headquarters. "I am not here to fight."

And who could blame him? Nuevo Laredo is one of the most dangerous towns for police in the Western Hemisphere, and he is the top lawman.

Gunmen in the crime-ridden border town have slain 17 current and former police officers since Jan. 1.

Pimentel's predecessor, Alejandro Dominguez, 52, who had vowed to clamp down on organized crime, was gunned down less than seven hours after becoming police chief June 8.
Yikes! Drug runners and two rival gangs. Tell me again how the "War on Crime" is working? I don't do drugs (Cider and Beer are my choice) but they should be legalized and you would need a Dr.'s prescription or some license to get. This would deny the majority of the revenue to the criminal gangs plus, the end user would get a consistently pure product at a reasonable price. The Government would get their taxes -- what's not to love!


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With the news that some large tiles were observed falling from the shuttle during its launch, BoingBoing poses the question: WWBRD:
In light of recent NASA woes regarding the Shuttle program, and new questions about its future, some suggest a "WWBRD" sticker campaign:

What Would Burt Rutan Do?

One Boing Boing reader provides this interpretation.

(Thanks, Lisa Julie/Doug Humphrey)
And Velociman has a rather pissed and pithy commentary on why the tiles are failing:
Yar, the shuttle fleet be grounded agin. Why? That pesky foam flying off at liftoff, damaging the orbiter, and all.

Let's back up. Why is the foam flying off? Because the original application method involved the use of Freon, that bastard gas, and the environmentalists pissed their trou over it. And so they took Freon out of the application process, and we ended up with seven incinerated astronauts over Tejas. And now we have another crew pissing their respective trou over their reentry.

Fucking madness. The introduction of Freon to the space program is miniscule. Bullshit. But we will slaughter astronauts like fatted calves, to appease the environmentalists.

On the other hand, true boys with the Right Stuff love it when the odds are skewed agin them. Anyone seen the odds on reentry at Tunica?
Thanks a lot people -- you "saved the planet" but are killing people one by one. Anyone got any actual quantitative proof of Freon's damage? . . . . . . . . .
-- crickets --
. . . . . .

New body in Solar System discovered

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Interesting report from Space.com:
Object Bigger than Pluto Discovered, Called 10th Planet
Astronomers have discovered an object in our solar system that is larger than Pluto. They are calling it the 10th planet, but already that claim is contested.

The new world's size is not at issue. But the very definition of planethood is.

It is the first time an object so big has been found in our solar system since the discovery of Pluto 75 years ago.

The announcement, made today by Mike Brown of Caltech, came just hours after another newfound object, one slightly smaller than Pluto, was revealed in a very confusing day for astronomers and the media.

The new object, temporarily named 2003 UB313, is about three times as far from the Sun as is Pluto.

"It's definitely bigger than Pluto," said Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy. The object is round and could be up to twice as large as Pluto, Brown told reporters in a hastily called NASA-run teleconference Friday evening.

His best estimate is that it is 2,100 miles wide, about 1-1/2 times the diameter of Pluto.
Very cool -- we all know about Sedna which is smaller than Pluto. Now, they are talking about a class of bodies that are much larger than Pluto. And lots of them...

The murder of Theo van Gogh and his son

The Islamic culture is dead. A Fatwa upon them all. And this from a pork-eating Dhimmi. Strong words but strong reasons too. It wasn't bad enough that this 14-year-old's dad was butchered in public in Amsterdam (shot, then a knife to the throat and then a letter pinned to his chest with the knife). Now these offspring of monkeys and swine are targeting his son. The website ADN Kronos has the story:
The 14-year-old son of controversial film director Theo van Gogh, slain by an Islamic extremist last November, is said to have been threatened and assaulted by Moroccan teenagers in Amsterdam and insulted by his classmates. The allegations were made during an interview the boy's grandparents gave to the Dutch television channel Nova. Amsterdam police have not confirmed any threats or aggression against Lieuwe van Gogh.

The family lawyer, Gijs de Westelaken, specified that after the murder, which profoundly shocked Dutch society, Lieuwe was attacked by some young Moroccan youths while he was walking the dog. The boy is said to have suffered bruising, but only spoke about the incident to his mother and did not lodge a police complaint.

On another occasion he is said to have been threatened with a pistol by two young men of North African descent in the neighbourhood where his father had lived. Neighbours called the police but when they arrived the attackers had fled.

According to his grandparents, Lieuwe was also subject to harrassment and insults at school, and was forced to change class after various classmates told him "it is a good thing your father is dead".

An Amsterdam police spokesman said that in the aftermath of the murder of the filmmaker, they were in frequent contact with the boy's mother and that Lieuwe had been under police protection for a period.

The Dutch director - a descendent of the painter Vincent van Gogh - caused controversy with his film 'Submission', broadcast in the Netherlands last August, which criticised the treatment of women in Islamic society.

He was murdered as he cycled to work in Amsterdam last November. The assailant shot Van Gogh and slit his throat. A letter was also pinned to his chest with a knife, quoting the Koran and threatening the Dutch-Somali MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the script for the film.

A young radical Islamist was on Monday given a life sentence for the murder. Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, had confessed to the killing during his trial and told the court he would do it again if he had the chance.
Read the last sentence again: "Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, had confessed to the killing during his trial and told the court he would do it again if he had the chance." Emphasis mine... If you have read my blog for a while, you will know that my first wife and I were involved in Sufism which is a branch of Islam and I met some wonderful and gracious people from the Middle East. I have nothing against the followers of Mohammed. I am pissed as hell at a small bunch of theocrats who have seized power over there and who are perverting this graceful spiritual practice and turning it into the tool for a classical Marxist power grab and consolidation move. These people are not your friends and multi-culturalism is not viable. Not now or ever. Wahabbism delenda est...

Separated at Birth

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There was a story a few days ago about the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, a Ms. Catherine Baker Knoll. She showed up -- uninvited -- at the funeral for a Marine who was killed in Iraq and used the service as a sounding board for her anti-Iraq views. Gerard Van Der Leun covers this with his usual thoughtfulness and succinct prose. He also offers up two photographs of Ms. Knoll:
Truth in Packaging
HERE'S THE OFFICIAL PORTRAIT of Catherine Baker Knoll, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.

She's the weasel who "showed up uninvited at a Marine's funeral and voiced her anti-war views." Passed out her card too. Just so those in attendance would remember who not to vote for.

But was she really who she said she was? Perhaps it was another of "Karl Rove's Dirty Tricks."

Here's a photograph of someone purporting to be "Catherine Baker Knoll, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania."
Sheesh -- I can see using a flattering photo but please use a non-photoshopped current one...

Bubble Cows

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No, this is not some new Japanese dairy drink involving tapioca. As I had mentioned in my previous post, the people at UC Davis are doing some excellent environmental work. Here is another example from USA Today:
Researcher looks to clear the air about cow emissions
In a white, tent-like "bio-bubble" on a farm near Davis, eight pregnant Holsteins are eating, chewing and pooping � for science. "The ladies," as they're called by University of California researcher Frank Mitloehner, are doing their part to answer a question plaguing one of California's largest agricultural industries: How much gas does a cow emit?

The findings will be used to write the state's first air quality regulations for dairies and could affect regulations nationwide.

But before he explains how it works, Mitloehner wants one thing to be clear.

"We're not talking about flatulence," he says.

He emphasizes the point because his research has been dismissed as "fart science," a label he says doesn't do justice to the seriousness of his work.

There are more than three million cows in California, the vast majority living in the booming Central Valley, home to some of the most polluted air in the country. How much to blame the cows and how much to blame the cars for the bad air is no small concern.

Mitloehner's research has suggested that cows are responsible for far fewer of the compounds that contribute to smog, known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs, than previously thought, perhaps as little as half the amount.
Here is a photo of the good Dr. Mitloehner:
Interesting work -- the idea that cows produce methane has always been out there but always accompanied with lots of "computer models" and various handwaving. Good to see that someone is taking a quantitative view of this...

Thanks China!

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It has been known for years that the prevailing winds in the Northern Hemisphere go from the West to the East (the Coriolis effect causes this). It has also been known that China's rampant air pollution problem (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)is carried to our shores and contributes to our own problems. A team at UC Davis (more on UC Davis in the next post) has found out that the levels reaching our shores are higher than previously thought. ScienceBlog has the story:
U.S. Gets More Asian Air Pollution Than Thought
Air pollution blows across the Pacific Ocean from Asia to North America far more regularly than was previously thought, says a new UC Davis study. The findings are likely to affect attempts to clear hazy skies over much of the U.S. and to understand how growing Asian air pollution will influence global climate change.

"Occasional, large-scale Asian dust storms had led us to believe that this pollution traveled east in infrequent, discrete events," said UC Davis atmospheric scientist Steve Cliff. "As it turns out, Asian pollution, particularly in the Sierra-Cascade range and elsewhere in the American West, is the rule, not the exception."

That may make it hard to meet air-quality goals set by the federal Clean Air Act, Cliff said. "Assuming Asia continues to develop as predicted, with commensurate energy needs from combustion, we will continue to increase our 'background' haze in the U.S," he said.

It also may change the prevailing notions of long-range aerosol transport, which are used by scientists trying to predict climate change using computer models, he said.
Most of China's energy comes from high-sulfur Coal. Someone I knew was in Beijing about fifteen years ago during winter and the air was enough to make their eyes water. It's worse, a lot lot worse. Instead of blowing all this money on Kyoto and making a very tiny clean "island" on this planet, why not take a fraction of that $$$ and spend it in nations like China and India where some very simple, cheap and effective techniques would reduce the atmospheric pollution by a factor of over 100 and would be a lot more effective than some top-down nanny-state fiat from the halls of Brussels... Oh, I forgot, the EUnuchs don't "do" effective...

Back in town...

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I headed down to Seattle to pick Jen up yesterday. She was due to be extracted from the trailhead around five PM and we were planning to rendezvous at another party member's house a few hours after that. (another person was doing the extraction -- I dropped them at the insert six days previous). To make a long story even longer, it was a no-show and no cell-phone availability for anyone including the person doing the extraction. I stayed at a cheap motel, hung out in Tukwilla (groan) until around four and headed up home to take care of our critters. I got a call from that areas Detective office about an hour ago that the SAR team has located them and they are fine. They should be out sometime tonight and I'll be heading back down tomorrow to get Jen. Should be a good story. Feeling much relieved!

Best of the Web Today

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One of my visit-every-day places is the Best of the Web Today. They are celebrating their fifth birthday and going over some of their earlier writing -- excellent stuff...

Light posting today

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Jen is winding up a five-day backpacking trip today and I'm driving down to extract her. Posting will resume tomorrow.

A Gasoline Powered Sofa

Sweet story about Mark, a Sofa, a 10-horsepower Tecumseh engine and some welding:
There is a love story in there too. Fun stuff!


Thunk!!! Another asteroid to watch -- CBS/SciTech has the story:
Asteroid May Buzz Earth In 2029
Humans live in a vast solar system where 2,000 feet seems a razor-thin distance.

Yet it's just wide enough to trigger concerns that an asteroid due to buzz Earth on April 13, 2029 may shift its orbit enough to return and strike the planet seven years later.

The concern: Within the object's range of possible fly-by distances lie a handful of gravitational "sweet spots," areas some 2,000 feet across that are also known as keyholes.

The physics may sound complex, but the potential ramifications are plain enough. If the asteroid passes through the most probable keyhole, its new orbit would send it slamming into Earth in 2036. It's unclear to some experts whether ground-based observatories alone will be able to provide enough accurate information in time to mount a mission to divert the asteroid, if that becomes necessary.
Chicken Little was right.

Missing - send out the SAR teams

Google Earth is drop-dead amazing. Microsoft is scrambling to play catch-up using their once ground breaking TerraServer database and machines. (I was working for the MSFT SQL Server lab when TerraServer moved back from an independent company into MSFT's hands -- it is not the best now but it was amazing when it was first created.) The UK website "The Register" has an interesting look at an oversight on MSFT's part:

Microsoft's Earth deletes Apple HQ
Not one but two Register readers emailed us to tell us that MSN's Virtual Earth is promoting a world free of the menace of Apple Computers.

If you've got time on your hands - stand up Jens and Stefan - have a look at Apple's Cupertino headquarters from Google and MSN's rival map sites. Both sites offer aerial photos alongside maps. MSN's version is here and Google's is here.

See the difference? Google shows the Apple Cupertino HQ - a lovely, shiny building probably full of iPods. MSN on the other hand shows an apparently empty field. Not as much as a black turtle-necked jumper remains of Apple's headquarters. This could be no more than an old picture taken before Cupertino was built or a glimpse of an imagined future.

How this terrible error came about is not yet clear. Nor can we be certain who else has been removed from Bill's upgraded planet.

Reg reader Michael Sage pointed out that zooming in on the UK will reveal towns like Norwich and Lowestoft long before little old London appears. Is London next to be removed? We need to know.

Even more disturbing MSN's Virtual Earth still shows the twin towers of the World Trade Center in all their pre-9/11 glory.

No comment from Microsoft HQ as yet but we'll keep you posted.

Sheesh -- this was not an omission on MSFT's part, they were just using a horribly old dataset. I visited a few sites I remembered from the TerraServer days and they are unchanged. Whomever let this go live should be drawn and quartered.

Very cool idea!

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Use the infrastructure but develop something unique. We-Make-Money-Not-Art has the link to this clever idea:
Spray leaves DNA evidence on burglars
UK firm Redweb Security has developed an "i-powder" to be used against burglars. The biosyntethic substance carries a "uniquely-traceable DNA code" registered to the owner and can be mounted in the ceiling, door or on the wall. When projected onto the perpetrator, the i-powder sticks like glue to clothes and skin and cannot be removed for several weeks, making it far simpler to catch and convict intruders.

"The key feature of our technology is that it irrefutably identifies a criminal with the scene of the crime," explained Clive Smith. "Each device containing i-powder is registered either to its owner or a precise location, and the unique DNA code contained within the substance remains detectable for several weeks. In this way, RedWeb presents law enforcement agencies with a weight of forensic evidence to assist in securing a conviction."
The company;s website is here: Redweb Security They are using a synthetic 'tagged' DNA that allows the PCR machines at forensics labs to detect vanishingly small samples off criminals hands and clothing. Another tool added to their kit-bag with little or no change to their infrastructure. Very cool!

SPAM can be bad for your health

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Just ask a Mr. Vardan Kushnir -- from MosNews Russia:
Russia�s Biggest Spammer Brutally Murdered in Apartment
Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.
I feel sorry for anyone who suffered from his loss but still, parts of me are going Boohhh-Yeah!!! I get several hundred stupid spams (correct domain but wrong address) each and every day. I have a good set of scripts that dumps them into /dev/null so it's not a really big problem but I still have to pay for that bandwidth.
An interesting article in today's Seattle Times
Effort here to charge London suspect was blocked
The Justice Department blocked efforts by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002 to bring criminal charges against Haroon Aswat, according to federal law-enforcement officials who were involved in the case.

British authorities suspect Aswat of taking part in the July 7 London bombings, which killed 56 and prompted an intense worldwide manhunt for him.

But long before he surfaced as a suspect there, federal prosecutors in Seattle wanted to seek a grand-jury indictment for his involvement in a failed attempt to set up a terrorist-training camp in Bly, Ore., in late 1999. In early 2000, Aswat lived for a couple of months in central Seattle at the Dar-us-Salaam mosque.

A federal indictment of Aswat in 2002 would have resulted in an arrest warrant and his possible detention in Britain for extradition to the United States.

"It was really frustrating," said a former Justice Department official involved in the case. "Guys like that, you just want to sweep them up off the street."
The moke in question:
We had him, we knew his history and we let him slip through our fingers. And then, he goes and does this.

A quote...

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...from someone who could call a spade a spade and be done with it:
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."
--Sir Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899). To excerpt one part to read it again:
"Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world."
Clean up your own house before you attempt to control ours...

Back in town

A very long two days... Jen and I went down Friday to where her other two hiking partners were living (also close to the trail-head). It is in a city close to Seattle and we have become wimps, we had to deal with lights and noise and neighbors!!!! Horrors!!!! Spent the night there and got about two hours sleep -- tossing and turning... Got up promptly at 5:00AM (Oh-Dark-Hundred in my book) and they were safely off on the trail at 7:00am. Drove back up to Seattle, had breakfast at Mom's Restaurant (awesome place) and went over to my parent's to help them sort stuff for their upcoming move. Arrived home around 3:00pm, took care of the critters (everyone was fine but don't ask them that; they were cruelly abandoned and left with insufficient provisions and the television was turned to the wrong channel, the masseuse didn't show up on time, etc. etc. etc...) Went for dinner to a local wonderful Mexican place and am now just settling into the computer. I'm tired and I am going to sleep after I make sure the world hasn't blown itself up or gone Liberal (and I really don't know which would be worse...)

Bush on Piracy

Interesting -- President Bush just named Chris Israel to be the US's first Piracy Czar. Ars Technica has the story:

Bush announces new Piracy Czar
President Bush has created a senior-level position in his administration for the purposes of battling piracy and counterfeiting. The position was given the go-ahead late last fall by Congress, and its primary aim is to thwart global piracy, which purportedly costs American businesses US$250 billion a year.

The first Piracy Czar will be Chris Israel, who was previously deputy chief of staff for Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. At the top of the agenda for now is China, which recently made pledges that it would crack down on rampant piracy in that country. Why piracy and why now?

The skyrocketing U.S. trade deficit -- which reached a record $618 billion last year -- has compounded U.S. concerns about piracy and counterfeiting. Companies that produce movies, music and software and other intellectual property account for a growing share of what the United States has to sell to the rest of the world.

Knocking $250 billion off that would be great, but economic realities won't allow for that to happen overnight. The massive black market in China is spurred in part by monopoly pricing - namely, prices are too high, and the only competition to bring them down is illegal competition. While pirated copies of Star Wars might sell for $1 on the street, 20,000 sales of that pirated DVD do not translate to 20,000 sales of $15 legit DVDs in the absence of piracy. It's going to take a long time to get an established and legitimate market for American entertainment exports setup in China, and its going to need businesses to realize that the key to success in the market is pricing, not enforcement. (And then, maybe they'll realize that for other markets, too.)

Interesting -- Carlos Gutierrez is no idiot so someone who was his deputy chief of staff is probably pretty effective at this sort of stuff. It will be interesting to see any reaction from nations (China) that will be impacted by this enforcement...

Light blogging today and tomorrow

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Jen is leaving for a five-day backpack and I will be driving her to the trailhead several hours south of us. Last minute scrambling to get everything together.

Artists unsure on the concept

What a friggin' twit.

A Mr. Mark McGowan -- well, the Guardian has the story:

Gushing Faucet Could Land Artist in Court
Mark McGowan went into the tiny backroom kitchen of a south London gallery three weeks ago and flipped on the cold water. He didn't turn it off, and doesn't plan to for an entire year.

"The Running Tap," as it's called, is McGowan's effort to protest against wasted water in London by blatantly letting it go down the drain.

"When you've got the tap on at home, you don't think about it. That's why this is art, because it makes people consider it," the environmentalist said.

The gushing faucet is an expensive exhibition that could waste about 3.9 million gallons of water. It could also land McGowan in a legal battle with Thames Water, the utility company. The circular sink has already swallowed about 193,000 gallons of water during a season declared the driest in London since 1976.

The project has outraged Thames Water, which said it could cost about $23,320 if the faucet runs for 365 days. The water company pleaded with McGowan to close the tap, but in vain.

"I think he certainly made a point," said Thames Water Spokeswoman Hilary Bennett. "We understand where he's coming from and we're sympathetic to that. However, he should turn it off now."

After two angry Londoners shut the tap off, McGowan turned it back on.

"If you're going to waste some water, you might as well waste it for a year," McGowan said. "It's always good to complete projects."

And this self-centered unthinking 'artiste' thinks that being an environmentalist makes this all worthwhile. 'Yo Mark -- word up dude. Get a bunch of these new-fangled 'solar cell' things and get yourself a marine "Bilge Pump" (and the name is supremely appropriate for the type of art you are reaching for). Do an ecological recirculating 'virtual tap' After all, you are pissing away 3.9 million gallons of water that could be turned into Bass or Guinness... Fool!

Michael Moore has been very low profile recently and the folks at Moore-Watch are wondering what is up. They also point to another Watching site -- this one watches Morgan Spurlock, the guy who ate nothing but fast food for 30 days and documented the changes to his body. An interesting premise but it seems that Spurlock plays a little bit loose with accountability and basic facts and Spurlockwatch is all over it. One thing to note is that although Spurlock's physical changes were very dramatic, he also upped his caloric intake to over 5,000 Cal/Day (a good level is 1,800 to 2,200) and he also made a concerted effort to do as little physical activity as possible. A sample entry from Spurlockwatch:
One of Spurlock's favorite sources in his book is the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. After the Center for Science in the Public Interest, PCRM ranks second on his "Acknowledgements" page, and he uses them in both the text and the end notes. He runs an excerpt from a book written by Neal Barnard, the group's founder (p. 93). Barnard also gets a brief appearance in Super Size Me. It's probably safe to say that the group helped out with a good deal of the book's content. See Spurlock's blog here, where he mentions his attendance at PCRM's swanky black-tie fundraising gala.

So what exactly is the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine? They aren't physicians. Less than 5% of the group's membership are actual physicians.

In fact, PCRM is a rather militant animal rights group. Its aim? To end medical research on animals, and to foster public fear of eating cheese and meat with scare campaigns. Through lawsuits, intimidation, and stealth media placement, they're trying to push the vegan lifestyle.

PETA has directed more than $1 million to PCRM over the years. The group has been repeatedly and publicly reprimanded by the American Medical Association for spreading misinformation on the use of animals to test new AIDS treatments. The AMA's president said of PCRM in 1991, "They are neither responsible, nor are they physicians." PCRM has also called for an end to donations to groups like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association because those groups support testing on animals.

Barnard is a psychiatrist. He has no training in nutrition, diet, or internal medicine. Yet for some reason, Spurlock and others take him seriously when he talks about the health effects of meat and cheese consumption. Barnard has lobbied government agencies to put a "biohazard" warning label on meat and dairy, and once called cheese "morphine on a cracker." He has said, "there is no room for chicken in a healthy diet." And he's an inductee in the "Animal Rights Hall of Fame."

More disturbing, however, are PCRM's ties to animal rights terrorism. Barnard has engaged in several letter-writing campaigns with a guy named Kevin Kjonaas, who has ties to two animal rights terrorist groups, including the Animal Liberation Front. Kjonaas is now on trial on domestic terrorism charges.
Much more at the site... Needless to say, added to the Blogroll -- the author of the site stays in the background but their fact-checking chops are excellent. Good stuff and I plan to visit this one regularly!

Well dang it...

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Discover a cool blog only to have this be their most recent entry:
Taking a Break
As I�m sure you�ve already noticed, I�ve decided to take a little break from blogging. I�ve no idea just how long this hiatus will last, but I need to take some time to "untether" myself from the Net and tend to more important things (like spending time with the kids, getting some work done outside in the nursery, etc.). I�m sure I�ll get the urge to blog again at some point, but I�m content to give it a rest for now.
This is over at Farmer Blog. Their tagline says it all: "musings of an engineer turned farmer trying to live the simple life..." Oh well, there is a year worth of archives to read through. It is harvest time -- the busiest time for a farmer. I know we are crunched for time on our 30 acres... And there is nothing that would persuade me to go back to computers professionally. I am launching a small local consulting business to bring in some extra $$$ but no more working full-time at MSFT anymore thanks -- I put in my time and am outta there.

Gerard Van der Leun has an excellent collection of thoughts regarding the current state of the Democratic Party these days.

Demo-Demento-Depression : Just Say "Medicate!"
AS DIFFICULT AS IT IS TO IDENTIFY with the hamstrung, sold-out, and Gobstoppered Republicans currently dissipating electoral power in Washington, it must be much more difficult to be a classic Democrat these days. On some level it has simply got to make you sick.

The Democrat Disease has many manifestations but now most often presents as "Semantic Dementia" -- progressive and with no known cure. Not even a telethon. And as Republicans continue to refuse to step up to the plate and take a manly cut at the Big Whiffle Ball in the White House Tee Ball & Pack the Court Festival, the disease seems to be leaping the blood-brain barrier and infecting previously sane people. These tendencies need to be spotted and treated at the point of infection before the virus settles in the host. While it is true that "everybody wants to get you down in the hole that they're in," just because you have compassion for the afflicted is no reason to bed down with them in the ICU.

At a small conference I attended on Sunday I noted that more than one of those in the room introduced themselves as a "recovering Democrat." The only self-avowed "liberal Democrat" in the room was one Kevin Drum, but since he has made a tidy career out of this retro-identification he was issued a hall pass.

What was notable about this group was that, although identified with Conservatives, Libertarians and Republicans (the ostensible party in power), it found it almost impossible, at lunch and during breaks, to talk about politics in a way that did not let the current manifestation of the Democrats' depression and dementia drive the conversation.

This month that means "Karl Rove" and/or "Rove, Karl" until your teeth burst into flame and your head implodes like a gut-shot television. Maddening until you understood the origins of the discussion were not to be found in reality but in the fantasied utopias of the Democrat mindset. The nature of clinical depression and dementia is that, if enough people manifest the behavior consistently, it becomes communicable. The result of this transference is a compulsion to emulate the infected Democrats and actually engage their current favored fantasy as if it was something more substantial than a drunken dwarf spider's single-strand web across your front door on a sunny summer morn.

Sane people would listen for a moment to the Karl Rove mantra and reply, "Okay. Fine. I hear you. Bottom line: you've got nothing and are repeating the nothing you've got. Consult current medication dosage and increase. Then seek new professional help because the talking part of this cure just ain't making it. Moving right along now, how about those Mets?"

This, of course, does not happen since the compulsively political class is also the compulsively nattering class. It has been since all its members, of whatever party, ran for and lost the election for hall monitor in the sixth grade. Hence, it tends to natter on about whatever is put in front of it and labeled "Political Issue du Jour: Would You Like the Five-Minute Argument or the Whole Decade?" Like a skin rash, these sort of discussions tend to come out in the summer.

But since you can become what you behold, I'd caution fellow Independents and Republicans about engaging every manifestation of "Demo-Demento-Depression". Not only does it burn up the time available in office for doing real things, it can transform you. If you engage long enough, you can become the one thing in American life that is currently even more depressing than being a Democrat; being a Kennedy.

Yes, it is indeed the case that "Going Kennedy" is now known to be the penultimate stage of Demo-Demento-Depression; a fate even worse than not being elected since it often leads to not being elected (See "Kerry, John"). Still, a moment's reflection would lead you to an even more chilling conclusion: there now is a state of political dementia even more deadly than simply "Going Kennedy."

Nail meet hammer.

Aviation History

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A website dedicated to Aircraft Archeology in the Southwest. Arizona Aircraft Archeology From the website:
Arizona has long been regarded one of the best states for flight training by the military. This is primarily due to the sunny weather and open space that allows for a great training environment. Not only did airmen from the United States train here, but pilots from Germany, France, Spain, England, China and South America were trained here through the decades. The major airfields that were operational in Arizona through the years include: Kingman, Ajo, Yuma, Coolidge, Dateland, Luke, Williams, Falcon, Gila Bend, Yucca, Thunderbird, Marana, Davis-Monthan, and Douglas.

During World War II, Arizona became a major hub in the training of USAAF personnel on the many airfields that were located here. As a result, there were over 300 aviation mishaps that occurred in the mountains and flatlands all over the state by September, 1945. In the following years when jets were introduced to the Air Force, about 400 more aviation mishaps were within the state by 1960. A few of these crash sites were left the way they were the day they crashed, while most of the bigger pieces of the other crash sites have been cleaned up years ago by the military, forest service or by people who would melt the aluminum down to sell to scrappers. Either way, there is always something to photograph or document at these sites to help preserve what is left of these great WWII and early jet-era aircraft. Most of the planes located throughout the state are; AT-6, BT-13, P-40, P-38, B-25, B-17, B-24, B-29, B-50, F-5, T-33, T-37, T-38, P-80, F-84, F-86, F-100, F-101 and F-104.

Today, wreckchasing is a popular hobby among the people who enjoy hiking in the outdoors and have an appreciation for vintage military aircraft. If you find a site, you should respect it whether it was a fatal one or not. One thing I see at some sites that I find inexcusable, is trash. If you can hike it in, then please hike it out. Also, if you'd like to take a photograph of a painted surface like the national insignia or serial number, please turn that part back over so it is not facing up in direct contact with the eroding elements.

Here are some photos and stories I have of the approximately 100+ crash sites I have visited. Check back periodically as I will try to put up new sites from my collection monthly.
Here are two photos of a crashed F-14A Tomcat:

Fascinating combination of Archeology, Geotracking and Outdoorsmanship.

Awww Crap...

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Bombers have struck in London again -- multiple targets, smaller this time and no fatalities known. Roger L. Simon has John Howard's comments to the press:
PRIME MIN. HOWARD: Could I start by saying the prime minister and I were having a discussion when we heard about it. My first reaction was to get some more information. And I really don't want to add to what the prime minister has said. It's a matter for the police and a matter for the British authorities to talk in detail about what has happened here.

Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.
The Australian Prime Minister was in London meeting with Tony Blair today.

A bad day in the cubicle

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I can sympathize with McArthur -- I've had days like this:

CNet.COM is celebrating their tenth anniversary. One thing they have done is to collect some Top Ten lists.

Here is the: Top 10 Web fads

Internet phenomena. Memes. Grist for the e-mail forwarding mill. Whatever you call them, Web fads are entertaining, unintended consequences of life on the World Wide Web. Once the masses could put anything online easily, they turned up weird fetishes, hilarious parody, jaw-dropping narcissism, and moments of brilliance. And over the past 10 years, some of these ideas broke through to the mainstream. Whether it was dancing hamsters, a kid enjoying his day as a Jedi Knight, or the sudden ability to publish your thoughts online with just a few simple clicks, the following 10 Web fads still make us laugh, make us wonder, or make us feel guilty enough to update our blogs.

The first three: Hampsterdance, Mahir and All your Base are Belong to Us

China's War

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and this article by him offers some interesting insights into China and its relationship with the USA. He starts off by talking about the US involvement with Taiwan (we are bound by treaty to come to their aid if they are attacked). From his LA Times article:
China's stealth war on the U.S.
Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu of the Chinese People's Liberation Army caused quite a stir last week when he threatened to nuke "hundreds" of American cities if the U.S. dared to interfere with a Chinese attempt to conquer Taiwan.

This saber-rattling comes while China is building a lot of sabers. Although its defense budget, estimated to be as much as $90 billion, remains a fraction of the United States', it is enough to make China the world's third-biggest weapons buyer (behind Russia) and the biggest in Asia. Moreover, China's spending has been increasing rapidly, and it is investing in the kind of systems --- especially missiles and submarines -- needed to challenge U.S. naval power in the Pacific.

The Pentagon on Tuesday released a study of Chinese military capabilities. In a preview, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Singapore audience last month that China's arms buildup was an "area of concern." It should be. But we shouldn't get overly fixated on such traditional indices of military power as ships and bombs -- not even atomic bombs. Chinese strategists, in the best tradition of Sun Tzu, are working on craftier schemes to topple the American hegemon.

In 1998, an official People's Liberation Army publishing house brought out a treatise called "Unrestricted Warfare," written by two senior army colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. This book, which is available in English translation, is well known to the U.S. national security establishment but remains practically unheard of among the general public.

"Unrestricted Warfare" recognizes that it is practically impossible to challenge the U.S. on its own terms. No one else can afford to build mega-expensive weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost more than $200 billion to develop. "The way to extricate oneself from this predicament," the authors write, "is to develop a different approach."

Their different approaches include financial warfare (subverting banking systems and stock markets), drug warfare (attacking the fabric of society by flooding it with illicit drugs), psychological and media warfare (manipulating perceptions to break down enemy will), international law warfare (blocking enemy actions using multinational organizations), resource warfare (seizing control of vital natural resources), even ecological warfare (creating man-made earthquakes or other natural disasters).
Interesting to think about in light of the attempted buy-out of Unocal. Also, little known is the fact that the Chinese essentially control the day-to-day operations of the Panama Canal (thanks Bill Clinton!) and that also thanks to President Bill, the Chinese Overseas Shipping Company (COSCO) was able to purchase the Long Beach Naval Air Station for use as a shipping port. Yeaahhh Riiighhht... I used to be happy that China was seeming to become more of a capitalist nation but I have not been seeing very much change at the top and their overall strategies have not been very good for the planet... Major polluter, they are buying up more petroleum than they use (stockpiling it), they have openly stated that the nation of Taiwan is a 'wayward state that needs to come home'. I don't know about you but there is a significant difference in quality between Chinese products and Taiwanese products and I want to be able to buy independent Taiwanese motherboards and machine tools. I use both and these guys seriously rock.

An Ugly Dog

Actually, the Worlds Ugliest Dog -- Snopes has the story
Sam, the above-pictured canine, is a 14-year-old pedigreed Chinese crested owned by Susie Lockheed of Santa Barbara, California. In June 2005, Sam won the "World's Ugliest Dog" title at the Sonoma-Marin Fair contest for the third consecutive year.

The Associated Press described Sam thusly:
The tiny dog has no hair, if you don't count the yellowish-white tuft erupting from his head. His wrinkled brown skin is covered with splotches, a line of warts marches down his snout, his blind eyes are an alien, milky white, and a fleshy flap of skin hangs from his withered neck. And then there are the Austin Powers teeth that jut at odd angles.

He's so ugly that even the judges recoiled when he was placed on the judging table...
Unfortunately, Sam is suffering from a number of age-related ailments (congestive heart failure, lung and kidney problems) and will probably make no more public appearances, so he may have to cede his "World's Ugliest Dog" crown in next year's competition.
Probably a much loved sweetheart but sheesh...

Turbo Tap

Interesting invention -- the Turbo Tap They claim that this allows you to pour a perfect pint in less time and with less foam. From their website:
TurboTap�s groundbreaking, fluid-controlling draft beer technology is the product of a unique collaboration between fluid engineers and draft industry experts. We knew there had to be a better way to control and improve draft pouring.

Following initial design prototyping, core development work began in 2002. In late 2004 we formally launched a commercial model that easily could be installed at large scale venues and was capable of pouring perfect beer at up to four times the flow rate of conventional taps. Since then, the TurboTap has been an instant success, with stadiums, events and bars around the U.S. becoming TurboTapped.

This state-of-the-art, yet deceptively simple, piece of pouring technology delivers yield, speed, beer consistency and taste. Our competitors thought big. We thought smart.
Interesting. No direct sales, you lease this device which sort of rules it out for the home-brewer. Hat tip to Gizmodo for the link.

James Doohan - R.I.P.

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James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty passed yesterday. Sky News has an obituary:
James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty in the original Star Trek TV series has died aged 85.

Doohan, who played the Starship Enterprise's chief engineer, helped make the catchphrase "Beam me up Scotty" one of the most famous in TV history.

He died at his home in Redmond, Washington, with his wife Wende at his side, his agent Steve Stevens said.

The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.

Canadian-born Doohan was enjoying a busy career as a character actor when he auditioned for a role as an engineer in a new space adventure on NBC in 1966.

A master of dialects from his early years in radio, he tried seven different accents.

"The producers asked me which one I preferred," Doohan recalled 30 years later.

"I believed the Scot voice was the most commanding. So I told them, 'If this character is going to be an engineer, you'd better make him a Scotsman.'"

The series, which starred William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as the enigmatic Mr. Spock, became legendary among science fiction fans.

When the series ended in 1969, Doohan found himself typecast as the Enterprise's Montgomery Scott, and went on to star in five feature length Star Trek movies.
He will be missed...

Failure is not an option...

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A novel educational concept from England -- the Guardian has the story:
A child does not fail, but defers success
If your children come home with reports suggesting they have been asleep for most of the last school year, do not label them as failures. They have been merely "deferring success". Failure, says Liz Beattie, a retired primary school teacher, is a word that should be deleted from the classroom dictionary, because it can put children off learning.

Mrs Beattie and a colleague will propose abolishing the f-word in a motion to be debated next week in Buxton, Derbyshire, at the conference of the Professional Association of Teachers. The motion reads: "Conference believes it is time to delete the word 'fail' from the educational vocabulary, to be replaced with the concept of 'deferred success'."
Christ on a corn-dog. Talk about raving loony nanny-ism. Fortunately, other saner voices are being raised:
But others feel failure is as important for children as success - deferred or otherwise. "Everyone fails at some time in their lives and it is often in those circumstances that we learn the most," said Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education.
A quick Google turned up the website for the Campaign for Real Education and I very much like what I see... From their website:
The Campaign for Real Education was formed in 1987 by 14 parents and teachers, all of whom were concerned about falling standards and damaging changes in state education which were being forced through without any evidence to support them. Since then, the Campaign has been contacted by thousands of parents, teachers and academics with similar concerns. We now have a nationwide network of supporters and important links with like-minded people in other countries such as America, Australia, Japan and Switzerland.


This is a website that documents the TRIZ 40 Principles TRIZ is an Engineering discipline that came over from Russia. There are 40 Principles and the idea is that if you have a problem that needs to be solved, run through each of the 40 Principles until you find the best solution. Sort of like Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies but for serious geeks. A few Principles:

25. Self-service
Make an object serve itself by performing auxiliary helpful functions
  • A soda fountain pump that runs on the pressure of the carbon dioxide that is used to *fizz* the drinks. This assures that drinks will not be flat, and eliminates the need for sensors.
  • Halogen lamps regenerate the filament during use--evaporated material is redeposited.
  • To weld steel to aluminum, create an interface from alternating thin strips of the 2 materials. Cold weld the surface into a single unit with steel on one face and copper on the other, then use normal welding techniques to attach the steel object to the interface, and the interface to the aluminum. (This concept also has elements of Principle 24, Intermediary, and Principle 4, Asymmetry.)
4. Asymmetry
Change the shape of an object from symmetrical to asymmetrical.
  • Asymmetrical mixing vessels or asymmetrical vanes in symmetrical vessels improve mixing (cement trucks, cake mixers, blenders).
  • Put a flat spot on a cylindrical shaft to attach a knob securely.
9. Preliminary anti-action
If it will be necessary to do an action with both harmful and useful effects, this action should be replaced with anti-actions to control harmful effects.
  • Buffer a solution to prevent harm from extremes of pH.
Create beforehand stresses in an object that will oppose known undesirable working stresses later on.
  • Pre-stress rebar before pouring concrete.
  • Masking anything before harmful exposure: Use a lead apron on parts of the body not being exposed to X-rays. Use masking tape to protect the part of an object not being painted

A lot of this is just basic problem solving by shaking things up a bit. Still, to have a quantified list of things to try does help a lot of people. Good stuff!

How to deal with a Mossy Roof

People who live in the Pacific Northwest have to deal with a lot of rain during the winter and roof moss can get to be a problem. Here is one man's solution:
Click for full-size Image

Photoshop (and general Adobe) resource

Very nice online resource for Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, etc...

Lots of tutorials plus you can download their files and practice the tutorial yourself. Added to my Favorites...

From Don Lancaster whose blog does not support permalinks so click here and scroll down until you hit this entry for July 18, 2005:
Yesterday's bug fix deserves further comment. Here is one route towards correcting bizarre software bugs...
1. Make sure the problem is real; do not prejudge its cause.
2. Be able to reproduce the problem on demand.
3. Reduce the problem to its simplest form.
4. Make the problem worse.
5. Find the simplest difference that makes the problem go away.
6. Create a sledgehammer cure that makes the problem go away.
7. Take a hike. Literally!
8. Replace the sledgehammer cure with a more subtle and elegant one.
9. Thoroughly test for unintended side effects.
Spoken by someone who has worked in the trenches...

Clever Invention

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To file under the "why didn't I think of this" category: I present: Kwik Top From their website:
KwikTop is a small, re-usable, patented, in-expensive and user friendly bottle locking device with the unique feature of an integrated combination-lock.
Very clever -- a three-number combination lock. Sure, you could remove the top by force but that would leave evidence that someone did in fact snitch a drink. Considering some of the roommates I lived with in my 20's, this would have been a wonderful thing to have. The product comes from Australia and there are opportunities on the website to become a distributer but there doesn't seem to be any info about where to purchase it and no online store. Bummer...

A Joke swiped from Mostly Cajun

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A good one too:
An atheist was walking through the woods.

�What majestic trees�!

�What powerful rivers�!

�What beautiful animals�! He said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly charge towards him.

He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer.

He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out, �Oh my God�!!!

Time Stopped�������..

The bear froze.

The forest was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. �You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don�t exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer�?

The atheist looked directly into the light, �It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps You could make the BEAR a Christian�?

�Very Well,� said the voice.

The light went out.

The sounds of the forest resumed.

And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head and spoke: �Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

A short-sited view...

The Navhind Times has an interesting story about Mecca and how many of the sacred sites are being destroyed -- literally plowed under -- by developers wanting to put up new buildings:
Builders erase Mecca�s history
Some of Islam�s historic sites in Mecca, possibly including a home of the Prophet Mohammad, are under threat from Saudi real estate developers and Wahhabi Muslims who view them as promoting idolatry.

Mr Sami Angawi, an expert on the region�s Islamic architecture, said 1,400-year-old buildings from the early Islamic period risk being demolished to make way for high rise towers for Muslims flocking to perform the annual pilgrimage to Islam�s holiest city.

�We are witnessing now the last few moments of the history of Mecca,� Mr Angawi told Reuters. �Layers of history are being bulldozed for a parking lot,� he added.

Mr Angawi estimated that over the past 50 years at least 300 historical buildings had been leveled in Mecca and Medina, another Muslim holy city containing the prophet�s tomb.

Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia�s dominant doctrine which promotes a strict narrow interpretation of Islam, was largely to blame, he said.

�They (Wahhabis) have not allowed preservation of old buildings, especially those related to the prophet. They fear other Muslims will come to see these buildings as blessed and this could lead to polytheism and idolatry.�

The Washington-based Saudi Institute, an independent news gathering group, says most Islamic landmarks have been destroyed since Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932. It cited a 1994 edict by the kingdom�s senior council of religious scholars which ruled that preserving historical buildings might lead to polytheism.
Idiots. They are erasing their own history and timeline, lusting to live as it was around 950 AD -- and yet, they want to be players on the world stage. This is one sick "Religion of Peace" indeed...

New Blog added to the Blogroll

Check out Donklephont Their tagline: Big Teeth. Huge Ass. Surprisingly Reasonable. Gonna have to keep an eye on this one -- the writing looks pretty good so far! Added to the Blogroll at your right.

Nek Chand

There are people who like to do large "folk art" assemblages. Houses or towers or large garden sculptures. A Mr. Nek Chand falls into the latter category in a large way -- acres of glorious visions cataloged here. About Mr. Chand:
One day 36 years ago, Nek Chand, a humble transport official in the north Indian city of Chandigarh, began to clear a little patch of jungle to make himself a small garden area. He set stones around the little clearing and before long had sculpted a few figures recycled from materials he found at hand. Gradually Nek Chand's creation developed and grew; before long it covered several acres and comprised of hundreds of sculptures set in a series of interlinking courtyards.

After his normal working day Chand worked at night, in total secrecy for fear of being discovered by the authorities. When they did discover Chand's garden, local government officials were thrown into turmoil. The creation was completely illegal - a development in a forbidden area which by rights should be demolished. The outcome, however, was the enlightened decision to give Nek Chand a salary so that he could concentrate full-time on his work, plus a workforce of fifty labourers. Nek Chand's great work received immediate recognition and was inaugurated as The Rock Garden of Chandigarh.

Now over twenty five acres of several thousand sculptures set in large mosaic courtyards linked by walled paths and deep gorges, Nek Chand's creation also combines huge buildings with a series of interlinking waterfalls. The Rock Garden is now acknowledged as one of the modern wonders of the world. Over 5000 visitors each day, some 12 million people so far, walk around this vast creation - the greatest artistic achievement seen in India since the Taj Mahal.
Sweet story and the photographs in the gallery are a lot of fun:

The Timescope

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Hat tip to McArthurweb for this link: From the McArthurwebsite:
Visitors to the ART+COM roof terrace can enjoy a fascinating insight into Berlin's past. This is made possible by a digitally augmented telescope titled the "timescope". Visitors can view the development of Tauentzienstra�e from 1904 to the present day.

The basic idea of the "timescope" is a virtual journey in time via telescope. The device contains additional controls that enable viewers to view a place in the past or future time through its eyepiece.

The "timescope" can be used for a wide range of purposes: it can be set up for use with tourist sites such as the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate or the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church for example, giving visitors the chance to get a closer view of how these locations looked in the past. The "timescope" can also be used for large-scale building projects. In such cases it can be used not only to show how a building project has progressed, but also to show how a building will look in the future. Additionally, it can be used at geological interesting sites, enabling viewers to perceive natural history visually.
When I was in my teens, my parents traveled through Europe several times and one of the big tourist attractions (to me anyway) was a Camera Obscura -- here is an entry for the one in Edinburgh which was one of the ones we visited (in operation since the 1850's) This is something similar that operates through time as well as space. Wonderful stuff! ART+COM's other projects are well worth checking out.

P.E.T.A. and a comic strip

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The comic strip wins hands down. Prickly City is one of Jen's and my favorites. Today's was wonderful:
Click for full-size Image

The Truth and Joe Wilson

Interesting series of links and commentary at Ramblings Journal about Joe Wilson (hubby of Val Plame) who has been in the news for some vague reason.

Joe Wilson's a liar
Josh Marshall has boiled the entire sordid Plame/CIA affair down to a basic truism: Joe Wilson's a liar.

The Democrats have latched onto Wilson's lies, because they figure to knock off the percieved power behind the throne. And they're looking more and more stupid by the day as a result.
Joe Wilson's a liar. Plame's covert status wasn't protected well by the CIA. It was just a short phone call. Rove really wanted to speak about welfare reform. Wilson said Cheney sent him to Africa. Plame sent Wilson to Africa. Rove leaked Plame's identity in the interests of good journalism. Wilson went on too many TV shows.

Unable to keep all his lies straight, Wilson shoved his Bass Weejuns even deeper down his throat yesterday on CNN with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: But the other argument that's been made against you is that you've sought to capitalize on this extravaganza, having that photo shoot with your wife, who was a clandestine officer of the CIA, and that you've tried to enrich yourself writing this book and all of that.

What do you make of those accusations, which are serious accusations, as you know, that have been leveled against you.

WILSON: My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.

BLITZER: But she hadn't been a clandestine officer for some time before that?

WILSON: That's not anything that I can talk about. And, indeed, I'll go back to what I said earlier, the CIA believed that a possible crime had been committed, and that's why they referred it to the Justice Department.

While Blitzer was giving Wilson enough rope to hang himself, the Democrats in the Senate were simultaneously making complete fools of themselves by trying to ramrod an amendment to the Homeland Security legislation that would force the White House to withdraw Karl Rove's security clearance, under the guise of "protecting our covert agents" around the world.

I understand the visceral hatred that liberals feel for Karl Rove and George W. Bush. I really do. But this game of charades they are playing really makes them look bad.

Mike King nails it on the head. This is an overblown publicity attempt by Wilson and Plame and the Demos are jumping on it. Plame had not served overseas in over five years before this whole tempest in a teapot erupted. She was a desk-jockey. Yellowcake indeed...

A $100,000 bet

Frm Maxim Online comes this story of a high-stakes gambler and one of the more unusual bets in history:
The Man With the $100,000 Breasts
Close your eyes and try to remember the wildest dare you ever accepted. Now open them and meet one twisted son of a bitch who�s got you beat by 38 inches.

When I first met Brian Zembic, he was living in a bathroom. This was not because he couldn�t afford to live in an apartment with a bedroom. It was because a couple of his degenerate gambling buddies bet him 14 grand that he couldn�t stay in a bathroom for 30 days straight.

I�d been hearing about Brian for months. A gambler friend of mine described him as �an animal, a guy who�d do anything to win a bet.� Finding him, however, hadn�t been easy. Brian doesn�t have a permanent address; he�s always jumping to another motel, another apartment, another country. It took me a month just to get him on the phone.

On a sizzling day in Las Vegas, I finally track him down. Brian is six days into the bathroom bet, and he�s going a little stir-crazy. It�s a nice bathroom, as far as bathrooms go, carpeted, brightly lit, bordering on spacious. But it�s still a bathroom. Brian�s allowed to keep the door open but prohibited from crossing the threshold into the adjoining hallway; a housekeeper brings him sandwiches whenever he yells for her. There�s a row of $100 bills on the mirror; each day Brian tapes another to the glass, a little way of reminding himself how much he�s earning during this self-imposed sentence. He spends most of his time reading and practicing magic tricks, which are occupations that could keep him busy for a month, no problem. But now, Brian explains, unforeseen circumstances are weakening his resolve: �Joey�one of the guys who made the wager with me�he owns the apartment, and he�s been sending people over here to take dumps. It�s brutal.�

Four days later his buddies cave in and buy Brian out of the bet for $7,000. �I didn�t think he�d do it,� Joey admits shortly after paying Brian off with a thick stack of hundreds. �I wouldn�t do it. You wouldn�t do it. I couldn�t imagine anybody with half a brain staying in a bathroom for a goddamn month. I thought it was a good bet.�
And the bet in question:
On this particular night, Brian�s engaged in a passionate debate with his buddy Jobo, one of the most avid backgammon players who�s ever lived. Jobo tends to express his opinions with a stolid certainty that does not invite contradiction. Tonight he�s yammering on about how crazy it is that women get breast implants. How, in the hopes of attracting men, they actually jam big bags of salt water under their skin.

Brian suggests that getting implants probably isn�t so bad. �Look at Maggie,� he says, referring to a mutual friend with a sizable breast job. �She seems pretty happy with her boobs.�

�You think so?� Jobo asks. �Is that what you think? How�d you like it if you had to walk around with those things all day?�

At that Brian leans back in his chair and starts laughing. But everyone else in the club goes quiet, because they know that Jobo is not a man who likes to be laughed at. After a few seconds, Jobo lays his hands flat on the table and gives Brian a hard look. �Tell you what, pal,� Jobo says. �I�d give you a hundred thousand if you got a set.�

Now, a hundred grand to Jobo isn�t going to change his life one way or another. He plays backgammon matches against Saudi sheiks for stakes nearly that high; so Brian knows Jobo isn�t bullshitting. But $100,000 to Brian Zembic�$100,000 for not working�well, that�s the mother lode.

�How big would they have to be?� Brian asks.

�Big as Maggie�s,� says Jobo. Maggie�s breasts, it must be noted, are 38C.

They hammer out the wager�s fine points: Brian�s responsible for the surgery costs. Jobo will put the $100,000 prize in escrow. To collect, Brian has to keep the implants in for a year.

�You know I�m crazy enough to do it,� Brian more or less announces to the room. Jobo just shakes his head. �No you�re not. Nobody�s that crazy.�
It turns out that he was that crazy and he went and had the operation. There are a few strange twists and turns to the story -- visit the website for the entire thing.

Trinity Remembered

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Today (July 16th) marks the aniversary of the first Nuclear explosion. The website Trinity Remembered has some wonderful photographs and documents of the event. From the site:
The world's first nuclear explosion occurred on July 16, 1945, when a plutonium implosion device was tested at a site located 210 miles south of Los Alamos on the barren plains of the Alamogordo Bombing Range, known as the Jornada del Muerto. Inspired by the poetry of John Donne, J. Robert Oppenheimer code-named the test Trinity. Hoisted atop a 100-foot tower, the plutonium device, or Gadget, detonated at precisely 5:29:45 am Mountain War Time over the New Mexico desert, releasing nearly 21 kilotons of energy, instantly vaporizing the tower and melting the surrounding desert sand and turning it into a green glassy substance, now known as Trinitite. An enormous blast came seconds after the explosion, sending searing heat across the desert and knocking observers to the ground. The success of the Trinity test meant that an atomic bomb using plutonium could be readied for use by the U.S. military.
A fascinating look at a part of our history.

Mike Davis -- Sinister Paradise

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Mike Davis is one of my favorite writers. His subject is the urban environment and all that goes into it and how people cope with it. Example books are City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, Ecology of Fear : Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. He sometimes strays off-topic for example the excellent Late Victorian Holocausts: El Ni�o Famines and the Making of the Third World. Well worth checking out in the library. As a connoisseur of cities, he recently had the experience of visiting Persian Gulf city-state of Dubai:
Sinister Paradise
Does the Road to the Future End at Dubai?

The narration begins: As your jet starts its descent, you are glued to your window. The scene below is astonishing: a 24-square-mile archipelago of coral-colored islands in the shape of an almost finished puzzle of the world. In the shallow green waters between continents, the sunken shapes of the Pyramids of Giza and the Roman Coliseum are clearly visible.

In the distance are three other large island groups configured as palms within crescents and planted with high-rise resorts, amusement parks, and a thousand mansions built on stilts over the water. The "Palms" are connected by causeways to a Miami-like beachfront chock-a-block full of mega-hotels, apartment high-rises and yacht marinas.

As the plane slowly banks toward the desert mainland, you gasp at the even more improbable vision ahead. Out of a chrome forest of skyscrapers (nearly a dozen taller than 1000 feet) soars a new Tower of Babel. It is an impossible one-half-mile high: the equivalent of the Empire State Building stacked on top of itself.

You are still rubbing your eyes with wonderment and disbelief when the plane lands and you are welcomed into an airport emporium where hundreds of shops seduce you with Gucci bags, Cartier watches, and one-kilogram bars of solid gold. You make a mental note to pick up some duty-free gold on your way out.

The hotel driver is waiting for you in a Rolls Royce Silver Seraph. Friends have recommended the Armani Hotel in the 160-story tower or the seven-star hotel with an atrium so huge that the Statue of Liberty would fit inside, but instead you have opted to fulfill a childhood fantasy. You always have wanted to be Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Your jellyfish-shaped hotel is, in fact, exactly 66 feet below the sea surface. Each of its 220 luxury suites has clear Plexiglas walls that provide spectacular views of passing mermaids as well as the hotel's famed "underwater fireworks:" a hallucinatory exhibition of "water bubbles, swirled sand, and carefully deployed lighting." Any initial anxiety about the safety of your sea-bottom resort is dispelled by the smiling concierge. The structure has a multi-level failsafe security system, he reassures you, that includes protection against terrorist submarines as well as missiles and aircraft.
Mike then starts to talk about the people who actually make this happen and he pierces the underbelly with swiftness and accuracy:
An Indentured, Invisible Majority
The utopian character of Dubai, it must be emphasized, is no mirage. Even more than Singapore or Texas, the city-state really is an apotheosis of neo-liberal values.

On the one hand, it provides investors with a comfortable, Western-style, property-rights regime, including freehold ownership, that is unique in the region. Included with the package is a broad tolerance of booze, recreational drugs, halter tops, and other foreign vices formally proscribed by Islamic law. (When expats extol Dubai's unique "openness," it is this freedom to carouse -- not to organize unions or publish critical opinions -- that they are usually praising.)

On the other hand, Dubai, together with its emirate neighbors, has achieved the state of the art in the disenfranchisement of labor. Trade unions, strikes, and agitators are illegal, and 99% of the private-sector workforce are easily deportable non-citizens. Indeed, the deep thinkers at the American Enterprise and Cato institutes must salivate when they contemplate the system of classes and entitlements in Dubai.

At the top of the social pyramid, of course, are the al-Maktoums and their cousins who own every lucrative grain of sand in the sheikhdom. Next, the native 15% percent of the population -- whose uniform of privilege is the traditional white dishdash -- constitutes a leisure class whose obedience to the dynasty is subsidized by income transfers, free education, and government jobs. A step below, are the pampered mercenaries: 150,000-or-so British ex-pats, along with other European, Lebanese, and Indian managers and professionals, who take full advantage of their air-conditioned affluence and two-months of overseas leave every summer.

However, South Asian contract laborers, legally bound to a single employer and subject to totalitarian social controls, make up the great mass of the population. Dubai lifestyles are attended by vast numbers of Filipina, Sri Lankan, and Indian maids, while the building boom is carried on the shoulders of an army of poorly paid Pakistanis and Indians working twelve-hour shifts, six and half days a week, in the blast-furnace desert heat.

Dubai, like its neighbors, flouts ILO labor regulations and refuses to adopt the international Migrant Workers Convention. Human Rights Watch in 2003 accused the Emirates of building prosperity on "forced labor." Indeed, as the British Independent recently emphasized in an expos� on Dubai, "The labour market closely resembles the old indentured labour system brought to Dubai by its former colonial master, the British."

"Like their impoverished forefathers," the paper continued, "today's Asian workers are forced to sign themselves into virtual slavery for years when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates. Their rights disappear at the airport where recruitment agents confiscate their passports and visas to control them"
I have heard Singapore described as "Disneyland with a Death Penalty"; I can only imagine what it must be like to work in Dubai... Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

Catastrophic Sea Level Changes

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And their dependence on Global Thermal Cycling (currently in a warming trend): ZERO An interesting write-up at Science Daily about some research into sand avalanches and changes in ocean levels:
Scientists Find Evidence Of Catastrophic Sand Avalanches, Sea Level Changes In Gulf Of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico, 130 miles south of Galveston, Texas -- An international team of marine research scientists working for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) have found new evidence that links catastrophic sand avalanches in deep Gulf waters to rapid sea level changes. By analyzing downhole measurements and freshly retrieved sediment cores, IODP scientists are reconstructing the history of a basin formed approximately 20,000 years ago, when sea level fell so low that the Texas shoreline shifted almost 100 miles to the south. The data are important to reconstructing climate change history and gathering insights about the development and placement of natural resources, particularly gas and oil deposits.
Fascinating -- here is a map of the area under study. Basic research data are here as well...

Clueless Twit looses Job

Meet Mr. Bassam Khalaf pictured below. He is a "rap artist" in Houston, TX.


CNN/AP has his story and how he came to loose his day job:

When Bassam Khalaf raps, he's the Arabic Assassin. His unreleased CD, "Terror Alert," includes rhymes about flying a plane into a building and descriptions of himself as a "crazy, suicidal Arabic ... equipped with bombs."

Until last week, Khalaf also worked as a baggage screener at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

"I've been screening your bags for the past six months, and you don't even know it," said Khalaf, who also said Thursday that he is not really a terrorist and that his rhymes are exaggerations meant to gain publicity.

From Mr. Khalaf:

Khalaf, 21, was hired on January 16 and fired July 7, according to a TSA termination letter that cited his "authorship of songs which applaud the efforts of the terrorists on September 11th, encourage and warn of future acts of terrorism by you, discuss at length and in grave and alarming detail various criminal acts you intend to commit, state your belief that the U.S. government should be overthrown, and finally warn that others will die on September 11, 2005."

Khalaf, who was born in Houston and is of Palestinian descent, said working as a baggage screener was the best paying job he's ever had. He said he hoped to use any extra money he earned to produce his CD.

And a bit more:

Khalaf said his terrorist-themed rhymes are more about marketing. He called his songs art and pointed to other rappers who have rhymed about terrorism. He specifically cites Eminem's song, "My Dad's Gone Crazy," which discusses blowing everything on the map up except Afghanistan and says: "There's no tower too high, no plane that I can't learn how to fly."

"Controversy sells," Khalaf said. "It brings a lot of attention. Everybody wants to label all Arabics terrorists just because a couple of people messed up. Well, I'm going to play along with that character. I'm going to let you think I'm one."

Marketing my ass. This moke is just plain misogynist and hate-filled, fully buying into the failed culture of Jihad and Hate that spews forth from the nether regions of pigs and dogs.

From the article: "working as a baggage screener was the best paying job he's ever had" -- gee, that has to be a high-paying job and the opening to a great career path.

Word up - learn to read and write proper English, loose the useless cultural baggage, get a good education and then stand back and be amazed at what you can earn if you are willing to work hard for it.

It's what makes America great -- you live here, be part of the team or get off the bus.

Water Balloons in Space

Not exactly but NASA has some fun footage of people popping water balloons on the Vomit Comet. From the website:

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to pop a water balloon in space?
Experimenters burst water balloons in the low-gravity environment produced aboard a NASA Glenn DC-9 aircraft.

The tests were conducted in part to develop the ability to rapidly deploy large liquid drops by rupturing an enclosing membrane. As can be seen from the experiment footage, the initial rupture process is nearly ideal, but the finite size of the balloon material eventually ejects a spray from the drop surface. Then, when the balloon material leaves the drop entirely, it causes a large deformation of the drop (blob) which oscillates throughout the remainder of the test. Calculations suggest that such oscillations will continue for hours before the drop eventually becomes spherical. Highspeed photographs of punctured Water Balloons in a Lab were also taken.

Our tax dollars at work. Heh... Very cool stuff!


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Jen and I have chickens at our farm and they have a distinct personality unlike our other birds (ducks and guniea foul). I ran into this study today -- interesting and well done!
Chickens worry about the future
Chickens don't just live in the present, but can anticipate the future and demonstrate self-control, something previously attributed only to humans and other primates, according to a recent study.

The finding, published in the current issue of the journal Animal Behaviour, suggests that domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus) are intelligent creatures that might worry.

"An animal with no awareness of 'later' may not be able to predict the end of an unpleasant experience, such as pain, rendering [the pain] all-encompassing," says lead author Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe.

"On the other hand, an animal that can anticipate an event might benefit from cues to aid prediction, but may also be capable of expectations rendering it vulnerable to thwarting, frustration and pre-emptive anxiety.

"The types of mental ability the animal possesses therefore dictate how they should best be managed and what we might be able to do to minimise psychological stress."
And the test in question -- a very clever one actually if you think about it:
Abeyesinghe, a member of the Biophysics Group at the UK's Silsoe Research Institute, and her colleagues tested hens with coloured buttons.

When the birds pecked on one of the buttons, they received a food reward.

If the chicken waited 2 to 3 seconds, it received a small amount of food. If the bird held out for 22 seconds, it received a "jackpot" that paid out with much more to eat.

"In their natural environment it may pay to get food while you can, before someone else does," says Abeyesinghe.

"But counter to this, we found that when a much larger food reward was delivered for the jackpot condition, hens chose it over 90% of the time, ruling out that they have absolutely no awareness of the near future."
Our dinosaur ancestors live on as fun critters (with the occasional visit to Freezer Camp, Mr. Oven and the Dinner Plate).


A collection of stories about the use of Nitroglycerin in the very early days of Oil. A brief excerpt:
McLaurin relates the story of nitroglycerin, the reluctant lubricant, "Thus far the losses of human life were occasioned by the explosion of great quantities of the messenger of death. The next instance demonstrated the amazing strength of Nitroglycerine in small parcels, a few drops ending the existence of a vigorous man at Scrubgrass, Venango county, in the summer of 1870. R.W. Redfield, agent of a torpedo company, hid a can of nitroglycerin in the bushes, expecting to return and use it the following day. While picking berries Mrs. George Fetterman saw the can and handed it to her husband. Thinking it was lard oil , which nitroglycerine in its fluid state resembles closely, Fetterman poured some into a vessel and sent it to his wells. It was used as a lubricant for several days. Noticing a heated journal one morning, Fetterman put a little of the supposed oil on the axle, with the engine in rapid motion. A furious explosion ensued, tearing the engine house into splinters and partially stunning three men at work in the derrick. Poor Fetterman was found shockingly mangled, with one arm torn off and his head crushed into jelly. The mystery was not solved for hours, when it occurred to a neighbor to test the contents of the oil can. Putting one drop on an anvil, he struck it a heavy blow and was hurled to the earth by the force of the concussion. The can was a common oiler, holding a half-pint, and probably not a dozen drops had touched the journal before the explosion took place. Fetterman was a man of remarkable physical power, weighing two-hundred-and thirty pounds and looking the picture of health and vigor. Yet a quarter-spoonful of nitroglycerine sufficed to usher him into the hereafter under circumstances particularly distressing."
Nitro is particularly bad stuff -- the Anarchists Cookbook does not touch it but it does give a recipe for TNT which is marginally safer. Except the recipe in the Anarchists Cookbook leaves out a few precautions so if you make the TNT using their technique, it will blow up in your face. Stick with black powder -- not as much bang but a whole lot safer...

Fantastic Old Electronics resource

Jeff Behary is a fascinating person -- his website is devoted to Electrotherapy Machines and Nikola Tesla

He now has an online library featuring Engineering Manuals, Catalogs, Owners Manuals for old coils and violet-ray equipment.

Fascinating stuff to look through. He also has his own book online as well. Very cool site!

Very Cool -- as soon as the Supreme Court of the US steps on it's nethers and issues the land-grabbing Kelo decision, a go-to state like Texas lays down a law. From KFDM.COM
Texas House Approves Amendment to Limit Eminent Domain
The state or local governments in Texas would be banned from seizing private property mainly for economic development under a proposed state constitutional amendment the House approved Tuesday.

The legislation is a response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that municipalities have broad power to bulldoze homes to make room for shopping malls or other private development to generate tax money.

The House approved the proposed amendment 132-0.

If passed by the Senate, it would go before Texas voters in November.

"We need to make sure the protection is in the constitution for property owners," said Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, sponsor of the measure. "I think we have an opportunity to be proactive in protecting people's property."
If passed by the Senate - considering the House vote of 132 to ZERO, I think the Senate vote is a shoe-in. This is a wonderful nation -- sometimes things get messed up but then, the correction mechanisms step in (in this case, States Rights) and things get set right again. Unnhhh -- SCOTUS -- was a vote of 132 to ZERO emphatic enough for you?

A Guide to the Islamic Sects

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Rick Ross runs an excellent website dealing with cults and such. He also devotes a lot of time explaining the ins and outs of various of the World's Spiritual Practices -- here is his page on Islam:
A Guide To Islamic Sects
The world's second-largest faith, Islam is hardly monolithic. Schisms, focusing first on disagreements over who should lead the new faith and later on matters of doctrine, began developing soon after the prophet Muhammad's death in the year 632.

Here are some of the major sects within Islam, which has 1.3 billion followers:

Accounting for at least 85 percent of the Islamic world, the Sunni claim to be the direct continuation of the faith as defined by Muhammad. For many years they acknowledged the religious authority of a ruling caliph, the major point of contention with the breakaway Shiite movement. The Sunni derive their name through reliance on the "Sunnah" or the observed sayings, lifestyle and practices of Muhammad as recorded in a collection of writings called the Hadith. The Sunni accept the "Sunnah" as a source of spiritual wisdom, while the Shiite insist on the primacy of the Koran.

The smaller of the two principal branches of Islam, the Shiite account for at least 10 percent of all Muslims. They originally were followers of the fourth caliph, Ali, who was Muhammad's son-in-law through the prophet's daughter Fatima. Ali claimed that Muhammad on his deathbed selected Ali as leader of the faith, but Ali was murdered during the fifth year of his reign. The Shiite formally broke away from Muslim leaders recognized by the Sunni around 680. A principal belief of the Shiite is that no caliph since Ali has been legitimate. The movement became popular among disaffected non-Arab Muslims who feared they were held in lower esteem within the faith.

Accounting for less than 1 percent of all Muslims, the Kharijis were the first major schism within Islam. They broke away in 658 when they rejected the use of arbitrators empowered to decide major issues within the faith.
And my favorite:
These are the mystics within the Muslim faith, a religious order that follows mystical interpretations of Islamic doctrines and practices.
And let's not overlook the "Religion of Peace" (tm) which is being exported Wholesale by those loving people in Saudi Arabia:
Wahhabi Movement:
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab began a campaign of spiritual renewal in the smaller city states of Arabia in the mid- 1700s. His extremely traditional group opposed all innovations within Islam, often using violence to enforce its views. The group threatened to become the first nation state in Arabia, prompting a crackdown by the Egyptian army in 1818. Today, Wahhabism is quite strong in Saudi Arabia. It demands punishment for those who enjoy any form of music except the drum and severe punishment up to death for drinking or sexual transgressions. It condemns as unbelievers those who do not pray, a view that never previously existed in mainstream Islam. Wahhabism has been an inspiration to Osama bin Laden.
Nice people...

Yikes! for two reasons

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A man and his daughter coming from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, Canada via ferry boat was busted for having a pipe bomb in the glove box. CBC News has the story and a photo:
Explosive device seized at Victoria ferry dock
A U.S. man has been charged with possessing an explosive device after allegedly carrying a homemade pipe bomb in his truck on a ferry to Victoria.

The 39-year-old, who lives near Seattle, was stopped when he arrived in the capital on Tuesday night after taking the Coho ferry from Port Angeles, Wash.

Canada Border Services Agency officers said they became suspicious while questioning the man, who was traveling with his daughter.

They said they examined his truck and found a suspicious device in the glove box � a 7�-centimetre brass pipe that was capped on each end and had a 15-centimetre green fuse-like string glued to one end.

They arrested him, secured the ferry terminal and called in the Victoria police.
This is the "infernal device" posed alongside a common ball-point pen. It seems to have been made of 1/4" common brass pipe. The article had zero mention of whether there were actually explosives inside. If it was black powder or rifle powder, there would have been a nice bang and some shrapnel over a couple yards or so but this is not a big scary "bomb" The two reasons I mentioned? #1) - why are they making such a huge stink over this. The poor guy is toast if he tries to apply for a job or bank credit in the next twenty years. #2) - why did this putz keep the device and not toss it overboard halfway through the trip. If he was serious, he could have brought through powder and fuse and gotten much larger pipe once in Canada. This little thing was a toy -- a firecracker.

An interesting question. Coca Cola bottling plants are setting up shop in India and in a few cases, they are drawing down the available aquifer with their wells. (India gets the majority of its water in the three-month Monsoon season -- the rest of the year is very dry.) In the Indian City of Chennai, a world-famous Photographer has a billboard up which Coke doesn't like. They are suing him.

The India Resource Center has the news:

Coca-Cola Threatens Top Indian Photographer with Lawsuit
The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited, a subsidiary of the Atlanta based Coca-Cola company, has threatened Mr. Sharad Haksar, one of India's celebrated photographers, with a lawsuit.

Mr. Haksar, a leading international photographer and winner of the 2005 Cannes Silver Lion, has placed a large billboard in one of Chennai's busiest areas - one of India's largest cities - with his own "work (which) is solely an expression of creativity."

The billboard features the ubiquitous red Coca-Cola wall painting, commonly found across India. Directly preceding the Coca-Cola ad, and part of the billboard, is a dry water hand-pump, with empty vessels waiting to be filled up with water - a common scene in India, particularly in Chennai.

On July 11, 2005, the law firm of Daniel & Gladys, who represent Coca-Cola's Indian subsidiary, sent a letter to Mr. Haksar threatening him with serious legal actions unless the billboard was replaced 'unconditionally and immediately'. Coca-Cola would seek Indian Rupees 2 million (US$ 45,000) for "incalculable damage to the goodwill and reputation" of Coca-Cola, and also sought an 'unconditional apology in writing'.

Mr. Haksar said, "I have no intentions of issuing any apology. Because I have not committed anything wrong. If Coke pursues this legal course, my lawyers shall take appropriate counter action."

Mr. Haksar's billboard highlights the severe water shortages being experienced by communities that live around Coca-Cola's bottling plants across India. A community close to Chennai, in Gangaikondan, has already held large protests - protesting against an upcoming Coca-Cola plant. In the neighboring state of Kerala, in the village of Plachimada, Coca-Cola has been unable to open its bottling facility for the last 16 months - because the community will not allow it to.

Coca-Cola is in serious trouble in India. A massive rural movement has emerged to hold the company accountable for creating water shortages and polluting the remaining water and soil.

"We appreciate Mr. Haksar's efforts and we condemn Coca-Cola's attempts to silence a public discourse on the issues," said Amit Srivastava of the international campaigning organization, India Resource Center. The campaign continues to receive tremendous public support internationally and has put the Coca-Cola company on the defensive.

The recently held Live - 8 concerts pulled out with negotiations with Coca-Cola over sponsorships because of public opposition, spearheaded by the India Resource Center. Coca-Cola was also banned from the Make Poverty History March as a result, on July 2, 2005, a march of close to 300,000 people in Edinburgh in Scotland.

The Billboard in question:


Interesting... As I said at the beginning of the post, India gets the majority of its water in three months. The aquifers can only hold so much and for one company to draw them down (one publically visible company, there have got to be lots of other mitigating factors), this draws the public eye and ire. The one thing that can be used to mitigate this problem are dams, lots and lots of dams. It is strange then that leftists and so-called environmentalists like Arundhati Roy continue to speak out against them when they are the one thing that can offer a continuous supply of water to India's growing population. Roy in 2003 - a film Roy in 1999 in full-bore hand-wringing florid prose. Sharad Haksar's website is here: Sharad Haksar Takes a long time to load but worth it. Some gorgeous work. Image seven is the one with the Coke and the Pump. He skewers a couple other Brands as well, look at 4,5 and 6.

Lard glorious Lard

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Ever want to "get back to nature" Here is how to prepare a years worth of shortening (Pig Fat!) It is actually great stuff -- makes fantastic soap and can turn pie crusts into a thing of beauty. From Easy Fun School:
Rendering Lard
A 225-pound hog will yield about 30 pounds of fat that can be rendered into fine shortening for pastries, biscuits, and frying. The sheet of fat just inside the ribs makes the best quality, snowy-white lard. This "leaf" fat renders most easily, too -- and is ninety percent fat. The "back" fat, a thick layer just under the skin, is almost as good, giving about eighty percent of its weight in lard.

A slow fire and a heavy pot that conducts heat evenly are most important in making lard. Put �" of water in the pot to keep the fat from scorching at first. Remove any fibers, lean meat, and bloody spots from the fat, and cut into very small pieces. It�s not necessary to remove pieces of skin, but many people prefer to. Put a shallow layer of fat in the pot. When the first layer of fat has started to melt, add more. Do not fill the kettle to the top -- it can boil over too easily. Stir frequently and keep fire low.
There's a good bit more -- basically involving lots of time and care maintaining the fire at the proper temperature and stirring often. Nice that one can drive to a store and get either vegetable shortening or real Lard for a few bucks. Ain't civilization grand? (grin)

Desktop Bonanza

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Chickenhead has a fun collection of desktops for your PC created from the Advertising Iconography of the 1950's Here's a classy one:
Mmmm... Smoking and Bowling. Bowling and Smoking. Seriously, there are a lot of fun ones here -- put them on someone else's desktop while they are at lunch if you don't want one of these for yourself.

One of the wonderful aspects of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit the information. If some five-year-old decides to throw a tantrum and mess up a page, previous editions are automatically saved so that it is easy to roll back to the previous versions.

Some of the edits are actually quite funny and rather than consigning them to /dev/null, there is a special topic at Wikipedia where these gems are archived: Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense

Here is one example from April of 2005:

Wikipedia:2005 Britannica takeover of Wikimedia
On 1 April 2005, Encyclopedia Britannica announced its immediate takeover of the Wikimedia Foundation (to be known henceforth as Wikimedia) and all of its projects, including Wikipedia (now Wikipedia), Wikisource, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, and Wikinews. Founder Jimmy Wales, giving a brief statement to the New York Times from his Maui compound, was reported to be "extremely pleased" with the £133.7 million severance package given to each of the five trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Despite the board's confidence, some Britannica investors privately indicated financial concerns about the deal, noting that "the Wikipedia wasn't really a free encyclopedia after all." Economy measures expected to be implemented as part of the agreement include an immediate restriction on previous contributors to Britannica. It's expected that to create or edit a page will now cost users £99.97/page in English. Affordable fee localization will be provided for Wikipedias of economically troubled states.

Wikipedia administrators, members of the Wikimedia Board of Trustees and Arbitration Committee members will receive free access. However, their adminship powers will be stripped permanently.

Prospective contributors are welcome to sign up at Encyclopedia Britannica's Web site and send proposals in outline format using Courier New exclusively.

Contributions handed in on time and in simple English will make the contributor eligible for a grand prize drawing of a rare 1956 photo of Margaret Thatcher. Contributors will in both word and deed release and indemnify in the sole possession of Encyclopedia Britannica and its heirs and trustees. Nothing in this agreement should be construed to release, exempt, hold harmless, or in any way free the contributor from the presumption that said party deserves what he gets. This agreement is made under the laws of the Principality of Liechtenstein.

And of course, there is a photo of this event:

Encyclopedia Britannica legal team completing transfer of Wikipedia assets from Jimbo Wales and his young Cuban friend.


Two Quotes

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If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.
--Isaac Newton

If I have not seen as far as others, it is because there were giants standing on my shoulders.
--Hal Abelson
From Wired magazine:
A Drug to Eradicate Diarrhea
Napo Pharmaceuticals is poised to launch the first Third World blockbuster drug.

It sounds counterintuitive -- drugs marketed to poor people don't typically lead to big profits. But Lisa Conte, Napo's founder and CEO, hopes not only to bring an affordable diarrhea medication to millions of people in developing nations, but also to reshape the pharmaceutical industry.

The current development model for drug companies is fizzling, she said. More and more prospective blockbuster medications are failing in the final stages of development, and companies will have to consider selling at a lower price to larger numbers of less affluent customers.

"The pharmaceutical industry of the future needs to include emerging and developing economies," Conte said at the Biotechnology Industry Organization annual meeting last month in Philadelphia. "We're not going to be able to enjoy the pricing we have in the past."
And the business model in question:
Last Thursday, Napo announced a deal with Glenmark in India to develop and commercialize Crofelemer as a pediatric and acute infectious diarrhea treatment. Napo signed a similar deal on June 15 with Asiapharm in China.

The deals bypass the typical pharmaceutical approach: Target rich people and charge a high price. Under that model, drugs typically are available in the developing world about 15 years after they've been introduced in premium-price markets like North America and Europe, when patents have expired or companies can afford to distribute excess drugs at a loss.

This is one of the first times a drug will be introduced in poorer markets.
And the drug in question:
Crofelemer comes from the South American tree croton lechleri, which is known by locals as dragon's blood because a machete to its bark brings a blood-like ooze. The extract can treat diarrhea, but too much of it can also make the patient sick. Shaman researchers isolated a molecule from the extract that can be given in larger doses.

Indigenous people "led us to a situation where we could make and improve a pharmaceutical product as far as safety and efficacy and get it back to the population that provided the information," Conte said.

Crofelemer has an advantage over other treatments such as Immodium. While drugs like Immodium are absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body, Crofelemer acts locally only in the gut, preventing interactions with other drugs the patient might be taking.

Also, "anti-motility" drugs like Immodium slow down flow of material through the intestine. While this stops diarrhea, it also allows whatever toxin is causing the diarrhea to linger in the body longer, giving it an extra opportunity to infect its host. That's why children, whose immune systems are not fully developed, as well as adult patients with immune problems like AIDS, can't take anti-motility medications.

Crofelemer instead stops the flow of excess water, which makes it possibly the first effective treatment for children and AIDS patients.
Interesting... The article doesn't mention if Napo is going through FDA approval for use in the USA. This is a big hurdle and costs a lot of money. It is not a bad business model to market volume especially if the cost of entry is not that high. Dehydration is a major killer -- many diseases: AIDS, Cholera etc... cause massive problems and with no clean source of water, the patient is open to all sorts of secondary problems with other diseases and parasites. This will be interesting to watch.

While we are on the subject of GR8

Here is some Science writing (from an email list) The Atlantic Monthly has it but they charge $$$ :-(

The Greatest Opening Paragraph in a Work of Non-Fiction:
"Julian Skidmore is lithe and petite, with small wrists and delicate features, and a serene but determined countenance. Watching Skidmore at work for a while, her auburn hair held back by a blue ribbon, a glint of light catching the small pearl in each earlobe, I was reminded of Gainsborough's portrait of the young Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Then Skidmore removed her left arm from a camel's rectum, peeled off a shoulder-length Krause Super-Sensitive disposable examination glove, and said, "Can I make you a cup of coffee?" She had completed eight of the morning's sixteen ultrasound scans. It was time for a break."

--from Lulu, Queen of the Camels, by Cullen Murphy
Atlantic Monthly, October 1999


California skateboarder Danny Way already holds some distance records for jumping. He just jumped a big one: China's Great Wall

Skateboarder takes great leap over Great Wall
California skateboarder Danny Way jumped over a 18.6-metre gap in the Great Wall of China, becoming the first person to clear the ancient fortification without motorised aid, his sponsor said.

Way then went on to jump the wall three more times on Saturday, taking off from a specially built ramp at the nearly 3,000-year-old Ju Yong Guan Gate and adding in 360-degree spins as spectators looked on.

"I was aware of the dangers and my heart was pumping in my chest the whole time, but I managed to pull it off with the help of my team and I'm honoured to have my visions embraced by the people of China," Way said in a statement.

Others have tried to jump the Great Wall before. In 2002, Wang Jiaxiong, a mountain biker, fractured his skull and died after overshooting his planned landing area. Way was the first person to try the jump on a skateboard.

Way already holds the world records for distance jumped by skateboard and for height at 24 metres and 7.1 metres, respectively.

Very cool!

The United Nations -- 60 years old

And Blogger Zombie has photographs and trenchant commentary from the San Francisco celebration:

The United Nations 60th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco on June 25, 2005
A zombietime exclusive on-site report

On June 26, 1945, The United Nations was founded in San Francisco, when delegates from around the world formally signed the U.N. Charter. Ever since then, the city of San Francisco has hosted 10-year U.N. anniversary celebrations in years that end in "5." I decided to attend this year's shindig, celebrating the U.N.'s 60th birthday.

In most decades, the U.N. birthdays have been major events, with presidents and world leaders showing up to mark the day. Truman was there in 1945; Eisenhower made an appearance in '55; Johnson showed up in '65; and Clinton in '95. (In 1985 Reagan sent Secretary of State George Shultz. 1975 was the exception, when the event was intentionally low-key and President Ford skipped the party entirely.)

So, this year, the event's organizers (the United Nations Association, or UNA) invited President Bush, Secretary of State Rice and many other leading national and international public figures, hoping to create a blockbuster celebration.

Only this time around, something went wrong. The White House seemed to ignore the invitation, and the head of the UNA started to gripe to the press. A weekend of celebrations and speeches was scheduled for June 25th and 26th, and soon it become quite clear that no one of significance was going to show up.

Much to the dismay of the organizers, the nonattendance of any real political celebrities became itself the one newsworthy aspect of the event.
The absence of the world's key players from the recent United Nations 60th anniversary in San Fransisco surprised even the U.N. members themselves. The disinterest came as a stark reminder that the world body is facing a crisis and is in desperate need of reform. There was no Blair, Bush, Chirac or Putin and not even the top UN official, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, bothered to front up. Such indifference has to be an indication of the current lack of enthusiasm of the world's major players for the organization that is theoretically supposed to monitor and guide the course of world affairs. Instead, the various events were attended by a crew of political "has-beens" and second-rank officials.

Considering President Bush's well-known distrust of the U.N., it could be expected that he'd give the anniversary a pass. More painful was the snub from Kofi Annan, who also stayed away and sent an underling in his stead.

But the press missed the biggest insult of them all. Both California Senators -- Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer -- as well as Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, had all been invited, and were all in San Francisco on June 25th (the opening day of the celebration), but they all skipped the U.N. festivities and instead spent the day at a private party held by filmmaker George Lucas just two miles away at the Presidio. (The SF Chronicle's coverage of the Lucas event mentions them by title only, but the Chronicle did provide a photo of Boxer laughing it up with Lucas.)

That's gotta hurt. Especially since these three leading Democrats have been strong pro-U.N. voices in Congress. I guess partying with George Lucas is more important than world peace.

Well darn our irrelevance, full speed ahead -- Zombie has some photos that are not to be missed. Here is one sample:

During a break for "High Tea," audience members mingled with actors hired for the occasion to dress as if it was 1945. Which was quite telling, actually; just as the modern-day anti-war protesters wish it was 1968 all over again and want to recreate the ambience of that year, U.N.-boosters wish it was 1945 all over again and want to recreate the feeling of that year. This was their one opportunity to turn back the clock, not just fashion-wise but philosophically as well.


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1FTR - One for the road AFAIK - As Far As I Know AFZ - Acronym Free Zone BANANA - Built Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody BRS - Big Red Switch DILLIGAFF - Do I Look Like I Give a Flying F---? PEBCAK - Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard
and of course, one that is classic in its simplicity:
TLA - Three Letter Acronym

Welcome to reality guys...

From Yahoo/AP

London Muslims Fear Backlash After Bombs
Thousands of Muslims crowded London mosques for Friday prayers, condemning the bombings, but also wary they could be made scapegoats and fearful of reprisals against their growing and vibrant community.

At the East London Mosque, near the site of one of Thursday's attacks, an imam told the 8,000 worshipers to be "confident in our identity" as part of London's multicultural fabric.

The mosque said it had received hate e-mails and a telephone threat to disrupt Friday prayers. A few police officers stood outside during the prayers, which ended peacefully.

Outside, some Muslims said the attacks had made them more cautious on the streets, but others said they were secure in their identity as Londoners - confident of the city's tolerant traditions.

Tolerant to a point. A Few questions:

What language do you speak at home?
Do you want to establish sharia or are you willing to submit to British Law?
What language do you teach your children first?
Thought not...

The concept of emigrating to a new land is not to bring your old land with you. You left it for a reason. Sure, bring a strong cultural comfort zone but don't expect the rest of us; the Vietnamese, the Greek Orthodox, the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Chinese, the Philippines, the African Christians, etc. etc. etc. to adapt to you. You have chosen to move to a new country and there are established standards of language and culture to follow when you do.

The Melting Pot is what made America as strong as it is today -- it works.

Not everyones cup of tea but I am personally fascinated by it. If you are as well, click some of the links. The Dittrick Medical History Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio has an amazing collection of early Medical Equipment. From the introduction on their website:
The Dittrick Medical History Center is dedicated to the study of the medical past through a distinguished collection of rare books, museum artifacts, archives, and images. The Center originated as part of the Cleveland Medical Library Association (est. 1894) and today functions as an interdisciplinary study center within the College of Arts and Sciences of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
This is their homepage. This is a collection of Medical Equipment from 1800 to present. Finally, this is what caught my eye -- it is a collection of early photographs of dissections. Some gruesome and some humorous (the med student is lying on the table supposedly 'asleep' and being attended to by corpses in various states of dissection.) As I said, not everyone's cup of tea. The first two links are totally "gross-out" safe, it is only the third that needs some caution. I personally think anatomy is fascinating. Finally, if this is your cup of tea, you might want to check out this place too - M�tter Museum

A Fabulous Fourth...

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...or Moron of the Year award winner. I'm not going to tell you what this is. Go and visit Kim DuToit's website for a series of four photographs that detail a stunning example of human stupidity...

Reaction in Britain

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Interesting reaction in London and Britain in general after the terrorist bombings two days ago. The Telegraph has the results of a poll:
Britons will never give in to terrorists
The perpetrators of Thursday's atrocities are living in a fantasy world if they think the British people can be intimidated by terrorism, let alone converted to Islam.

The findings of YouGov's survey show they are equally deluded if they think they can drive a wedge either between Britain and the United States or between most Britons and their Muslim fellow countrymen.

The vast majority of YouGov's respondents are proud of London's emergency services and of the way ordinary Londoners responded to Thursday's bombings.

They have no intention of changing the way they live and work merely to satisfy the desires of a few fanatics.

Not surprisingly, people's willingness to see the authorities taking whatever steps are necessary to apprehend and, if need be, detain potential terrorists has risen sharply.

More than 80 per cent believe the threat is so serious that the authorities should act against suspected terrorists even if they have not committed any offence.
And a few more tid-bits (this is an extensive article):
The survey also reveals increased support for identity cards. Compared with last week, support for ID cards has increased significantly, almost certainly as a result of the attacks. Even so, people by a wide margin remain unconvinced that the introduction of cards would help prevent terrorist acts.
The response of Tony Blair and his ministers to the attacks has clearly boosted the standing of both. Early this year, twice as many people said they were dissatisfied with Mr Blair as Prime Minister as said the opposite. In the aftermath of Thursday's bombings, Mr Blair's approval rating has flipped from negative to positive for the first time in five years.
The results of the poll (a large image) can be found here
People are voicing serious (and legitimate) complaints about the Supreme Court's recent 5-4 decision to expand the scope of Eminent Domain to encompass land-grabs that would increase the tax base of the community. Now, after this decision, a private developer could pitch a proposal to the city or township and if the governing board of that township agreed, they could foreclose the private houses and lands of anyone not willing to sell. Jen and I are farmers -- we are raising apple trees to make hard cider (we also will be making Mead, Cyser and Melomel -- first brews late this fall hopefully.) We also sell excess eggs and whatever we are growing that we cannot consume. This organization: American Farmland Trust has an excellent and scary implication of Kelo -- what if developers want to build a housing development on some farmland. Rural ag land is not taxed at a high rate -- we don't need schools, roads, emergency services, water, sewage or highways for a bunch of trees. We have thirty acres and it's just Jen and me (although we plan to have kids). If these thirty acres were developed (thinking 40-50 single-family houses), the county could charge much higher property taxes. Fortunately, Whatcom County regulations where we are are strict -- we can see an example of this just to our north where someone bought a parcel of about 60 acres and they were only given permission to develop a few five acre lots to sell -- they had to keep 40 acres undeveloped. Driving around closer to Bellingham though and you see that the regulations are a lot looser. What obviously used to be farmland has new housing going up cheek to jowl. Kelo will have a long long reach before it is repealed. The Supremes stumbled big-time on this one... Getting back to the American Farmland Trust article, they had some wonderful news to close with:
Critics of the ruling are already at work on legislation to hinder the use of eminent domain takings for economic development projects. On June 30, the House voted 231 to 189 to approve a measure that would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to seize private property to make way for profit-generating projects, such as hotels or malls. The measure, an amendment to an appropriations bill, would apply to funds administered by the departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. Key members of the House and Senate have vowed to take even broader steps soon, and various states may also take action to impose stricter standards on eminent domain takings.

"Farmers concerned about the potential use of eminent domain in their areas should attend local government meetings and get involved in the relevant planning process," said Bob Wagner, AFT�s managing director for field programs.

Less is More

Hat tip to we-make-money-not-art Advertisements for the French Phone Book in Paris are borrowing from a British artist known as Moose and putting advertisements onto the Paris Metro floors and walls. By cleaning them. They say that the advertisements ( called �clean-tags�) will be gone in one month.
A French advertisement
Moose at work in Leeds

Lost at Sea

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Cool story of a School Science Project gone horribly wrong and then an amazing recovery. CNet NEWS.COM has the story:
Lost at sea, found in flash
A high-flying, student-assembled research balloon that appeared doomed after crashing into the Pacific Ocean has ended up yielding valuable astronomical data, thanks to hardy memory cards that survived the plunge.

As a result, astronomers now have information that will help them focus more clearly on galaxies, planets, stars, comets and other objects in space. And the California engineering students who first set the balloon afloat have been awarded special university honors for their efforts--and seen how a seemingly sunken venture can end up an unexpected treasure trove.

The balloon, set aloft by students at the University of California at Santa Cruz to measure atmospheric turbulence, plunged into the ocean and was assumed lost after it broke apart in flight.

"It was a sad feeling, thinking that we weren't going to see (the balloon) again," said Skye Vendt-Pearce, the 23-year-old leader of the student team. "It was, 'Oh, we have nothing to show for our four or five months of work.' It was like saying goodbye to a friend."
But the Fates were smiling that day:
But five days after the balloon disappeared, a beachgoer found the apparatus washed ashore about 20 miles north of where it had dropped into the ocean, and called the university. When the students arrived, they saw that a small padded lunch bag containing the circuit board for the telemetry equipment and a SanDisk 1GB standard SD memory card had been thoroughly soaked by saltwater. Nearby were the shattered remains of the Aiptek PenCam SD digital camera, which had been separated from the bag. The camera's memory card, a SanDisk 128MB standard SD card that generally sells for about $20, was among the rubble.

Back at UC Santa Cruz, students dried out the camera card using alcohol, slipped it into a PC card reader and saw a string of high-elevation photos, some taken at heights of up to 79,000 feet. The images showed various representations of the craggy coast, wave crests, rip currents and even the Watsonville, Calif., airport. The camera had snapped pictures every 10 seconds, Vesecky said, and not a single image was lost.
They were not able to read the other Flash memory but they sent it to SanDisk who was able to use some hardware tools to extract all the data. Very cool finish to an awesome project... Here is one of the pictures:
SanDisk does good stuff -- I have several digital cameras and use their products exclusively. I have tried other brands but had problems.

Science Toys

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Some of the projects from the Science Toys website:
Science Toys You Can Make With Your Kids
Magnetorheological fluids
A magnet in mid-air
Pyrolytic graphite in mid-air
The Gauss Rifle: A Magnetic Linear Accelerator
A Curie-effect heat engine
A Magnetic Ring Launcher
An electric motor in 10 minutes
Fun with High Voltage
A 10 minute railgun
Lots more projects involving Radio, Thermodynamics, Aerodynamics, Light and Optics, Biology, Mathematics and Electronics. Great weekend or evening projects for doing with kids. The site does sell components of their projects but there is nothing proprietary about them and a well stocked shop should have most of the stuff anyway...

Basic UNIX in ten minutes

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A nice and succinct ten-minute tutorial to moving around the UNIX Operating System (Command Line only -- BASH Shell preferred (GUI? Phooey!))

Brought to you by...

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the Epsom Salt Industry Council Everything you could ever want to know about Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulfate) From their FAQ:
Why is Epsom Salt called Epsom Salt?

One of the earliest discoveries of magnesium sulfate, the scientific name of Epsom Salt, occurred back in Shakespeare's day in Epsom, England, which explains the first half of the name. The term "salt" probably refers to the specific chemical structure of the compound, although many people mistakenly assume it refers to the crystalline structure of Epsom Salt, which has an appearance similar to that of table salt. (Table salt, of course, consists of sodium chloride, so it's an entirely different substance than magnesium sulfate.)

Robot Wisdom

An interesting blog from several perspectives: Robot Wisdom The epitome of a linker -- this guy makes Glen look positively logorrheic. A couple of entries from today:
Virtual IPO for virtual real-estate company (2ndLife)
Quietly professional poem: Was it those unexpected / words of thanks (Poems.com)
Virtual cross-burner gets 13-day ban (2ndLife-no-pix)
Michelle Pilecki is HuffPo's greatest discovery (HuffPo-NellieB)
EthanZ's subdued response to G8/Africa hoohah (AccraBlog w/links)
GetYourWarOn gets serious (mnftiu-no-links?!?)
The blogger in question is Jorn Barger -- he was the person that coined the term Weblog, never made a cent from this and is currently homeless in San Francisco. Wired Magazine has a nice profile of him:
A bum in a Google cap. Now there's a sign of the times, I think as he shambles toward me. He looks pretty much like any other tattered street person in San Francisco - long, windblown dirty-blond hair with a beard to match. Unbuttoned shirttails flapping in the afternoon breeze.

But he's walking with someone I recognize - Andrew, a dapper writer I've known for years. We stop on the sidewalk, and Andrew introduces me to the guy in the Google cap: "This is Jorn Barger," he begins. "Another homeless blogger," his companion finishes.

Jorn Barger. It takes me a moment to recognize the name. Barger is an online legend I've been following for a decade. He was the unstoppable Usenet poster who could carry on simultaneous debates about Ibsen, Chomsky, artificial intelligence, and Kate Bush. He was the keeper of the James Joyce FAQ. Barger's prolific posting made him famous, if not popular, in the proto�blogosphere.

Barger crossed over from Usenet to the Web in 1997 and set up his own site, which he dubbed the Robot Wisdom Weblog. He began logging his online discoveries as he stumbled on them - hence "weblog." I barely understood what he was talking about, and still I read him giddily. Barger gave a name to the fledgling phenomenon and set the tone for a million blogs to come. Robot Wisdom bounced unapologetically from high culture to low, from silly to serious, from politics to porn.

But unlike today's blabby bloggers, Barger steadily honed his one-paragraph posts into shorter and more compact bursts. By mid-2000, he'd shrunk Robot Wisdom into a list of links centered on a minimalist page. His style merged the ethereal brevity of haiku (another peculiar Usenet subgenre) with the restless topic-hopping of Joyce.


From CTV Canada comes this story of a missing cotter pin:
Missing cotter pin blamed for B.C. ferry accident
A missing 3 cm cotter pin set off a chain of events that led to the grounding of a ferry at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver last week.

BC Ferries says a control arm connecting the engine speed control device to the engine fuel rack disconnected when a nut came off the attachment bolt.

The nut came off because an inexpensive cotter pin that is normally in place to hold it in place was missing.

The disconnection of the bolt allowed the propulsion system to over-speed. Protective devices known as "over-speed trips" then engaged, and led to the shutdown of the propulsion system.

The ferry was unable to slow down and crashed into the Sewell Marina, crushing 24 smaller vessels.
Somebody is going to be looking for a new job fairly soon...

The cost of a new car

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Interesting crunching of numbers here -- Ironman at Political Calculations asks just how expensive it is to own a new Hybrid Car:
Do Hybrids Really Save Money?
The convergence of electric and gasoline-powered motors under the hoods of some of today's most popular cars represents a real engineering achievement. The electric motor provides lots of torque at low speeds, virtually nil emissions and good fuel economy for driving that involves lots of stop-and-go activity - such as in cities. Meanwhile, the traditional internal combustion engine provides good performance at higher speeds and surplus energy to recharge the electric motor's batteries. The engineers who spent many years getting the two technologies to work well together as a hybrid vehicle certainly deserve a lot of credit.

Most people however, buy hybrids with the idea that they will save money over the cost of a traditionally gasoline-only powered vehicle over its useful life. But do they? The automobile research firm Edmunds has put the new hybrids to the economic test. Edmunds looked at the hybrids as well as the traditional vehicles that most closely fit the same passenger class, and compared their market value plus their costs of ownership. Here, in a nutshell, is the results of Edmunds' study:
The upshot is that there is a $3K to $5K 'premium' to be payed for getting the hybrid. Interesting... The battery is definitely something to consider as it needs to be replaced every few years. I wonder how many people buy them because they are cool and they buy into the low-gas mileage mind-set (true for short hops, not true for long-distance driving).

For Sale -- One Curious Island

Oak Island is for sale -- asking price is $7 Mil. From CBC News:
For sale: 1 Canadian 'treasure island'
Oak Island, rumoured for two centuries as the home of hidden treasure, is being offered for sale to the Nova Scotia provincial government for $7 million.

After being locked in a legal struggle for seven years, the two estranged business partners who own most of the island, located off Nova Scotia's South Shore, are giving up their hunt for the buried treasure.

Dan Blankenship, 82, and David Tobias, 81, have agreed to shut down their business, Oak Island Tours Inc.

Everything from the Holy Grail to Captain Kidd's pirate treasure has been rumoured to be hidden on Oak Island, but 200 years of searching has failed to yield any treasure. Blankenship and Tobias have spent almost 40 years in their search.
Oak Island definitely has something that was built a fair length of time ago and was designed to deter intruders. So far, people have dug down the 13' diameter pit to a level of 170 feet encountering layers of oak planks caulked with coconut fiber, tunnels dug from the ocean into the pit causing sudden flooding, inscribed stones, parchment, spruce and metal pieces. There is no end in sight. This site has the story.
My first wife was a practicing Sufi and I had the extreme pleasure to meet her friends, many Muslims in the bunch. A warmer and more cordial group of people you could never meet. I took part in the spiritual practices and can honestly say that this is a very viable and active religion. A key practice of Sufism is the conscious act of "Polishing your Heart" -- making it shine as a mirror that reflects your love out to the rest of the world. The pig-fucking sons of monkeys that are grabbing the headlines these days have no relationship with Sufism or Muslim. These are a distinct and psychotic minority -- a sub-culture of fear, lust and envy that should have died out hundreds of years ago but were kept alive by the theocrats and dictators that needed willing idiots to perpetuate their personal lush life of corruption. They live in palaces while the willing idiots fester in hate and kill themselves to perpetuate the "cause". One of the teaching methods of Buddhists is the Koan -- a riddle with two levels. One outside and perceived as a common joke and one inside and enjoyed as a subtle teaching when discovered. Sufis use the same technique -- these are usually told as tales of Nasrudin - here are a few:
There was once a small boy who banged a drum all day and loved every moment of it. He would not be quiet, no matter what anyone else said or did.

Various people who called themselves Sufis, and other well-wishers, were called in by neighbors and asked to do something about the child. The first so-called Sufi told the boy that he would, if he continued to make so much noise, perforate his eardrums; this reasoning was too advanced for the child, who was neither a scientist nor a scholar. The second told him that drum beating was a sacred activity and should be carried out only on special occasions. The third offered the neighbors plugs for their ears; the fourth gave the boy a book; the fifth gave the neighbors books that described a method of controlling anger through biofeedback; the sixth gave the boy meditation exercises to make him placid and explained that all reality was imagination. Like all placebos, each of these remedies worked for a short while, but none worked for very long.

Eventually, a real Sufi came along. He looked at the situation, handed the boy a hammer and chisel, and said, "I wonder what is INSIDE the drum?"

'If you want truth', Nasrudin told a group of Seekers who had come to hear his teachings, 'you will have to pay for it.'
'But why should you have to pay for something like truth?' asked one of the company.
'Have you noticed', said Nasrudin, 'that it is the scarcity of a thing which determines its value?'

Nasrudin's oldest son was looking for a wife.

'Which qualities are you seeking?' Nasrudin asked the youth.

'Intelligence rather than beauty,' replied the young man.

'If that is the case,' said the Mulla, 'I have an excellent way of finding you the perfect bride.'

He told the youth to follow and went into town. When they reached the main square, Nasrudin started to cuff his son and shout:
'How dare you do exactly as I say? This is the punishment fit for one who obeys!'

'Leave him alone!' hissed one young woman. 'How can you beat him for being a model son?'

'This is surely the woman for me, father,' said Nasrudin's son.

'Best to have a choice,' replied the Mulla and led the way to the neighboring town. Here, he acted out exactly the same scene. But this time, a young girl began to cheer him on:
'That's right! Hit him! Only a fool obeys blindly!'

'Son,' said Nasrudin, with a smile, 'I think we have found you an intelligent bride.'
If we can get past the problems with this pissant group of people who have hijacked a subtle and elegant spiritual practice, the Middle East will open up once again like a Rose and we will welcome these people into our hearts. I would love to have sorbet in Tehran. Unfortunately, this will take some continuity, will and stones on the part of the people of the West so that this message is driven home with enough force to break the cycle of madness. If it does not happen now, it will happen at some time in the future because the terrorism will continue to escalate until something is done. (Thinking General "Black Jack" Pershing in the Philippines which actually only bought about 50 years of peace there...)

In solidarity

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For the first time in the history of the United States, a foreign flag flew over the US State Department building in Washington DC.
Blogger Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit has the story and the picture.
Police officers raise a British flag in front of the State Department in Washington, D.C., Thursday, July 7, 2005, in remembrance of those killed in the London bombings. (AP Photo/Yuri Gripas)

It was the first time a foreign flag has been raised at the State Department.

MORE: Pejman Yousefzadeh notes that after September 11, Queen Elizabeth ordered her personal guards to play The Star Spangled Banner instead of God Save The Queen. As he says, "class engenders class."

Automotive Radio Technology

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From Mostly Cajun:
My New Car..
I just got my new Lexus RX400h, and returned to the dealer the next day, complaining that I couldn�t figure out how the radio worked.

The salesman explained that the radio was voice activated. "Watch this! He said, Nelson!"

The radio replied, "Ricky or Willie?"

"Willie!" He continued and On The Road Again came from the speakers.

I drove away happy, and for the next few days, every time I�d say,

"Beethoven!" I�d get beautiful classical music, and if I said, "Beatles!" I�d get one of their awesome songs.

One day, a couple ran a red light and nearly creamed my new car, but I swerved in time to avoid them. "A##HOLES!" I yelled�..

The French National Anthem began to play, sung by Jane Fonda and Michael Moore, backed up by John Kerry on guitar, Al Gore on drums and Bill Clinton on sax...

I LOVE this car!!!!!!!!!

A picture worth a thousand words...

The good Emperor Darth Misha has been on a roll today with the London bombings. He posted this and right now, I can only agree:
Click for full-size Image
Still a few buildings standing though. Must have been the Air Force -- should have used Navy...

Shocking new evidence...

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Science Daily reports on a groundbreaking new study regarding Children's Academic Studies and the Home Environment.
Television In The Bedroom May Hurt Child's School Performance
A study of elementary school students found that children who had television sets in their bedrooms scored significantly lower on school achievement tests than children without TVs in their bedrooms. Having a computer in the home was associated with higher test scores, according to the same study, which was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Stanford University. The study is published in the July 4, 2005, edition of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Who'da thunk it...
Donald H. Rumsfield issued a statement this afternoon - a brief excerpt:
But if these terrorists thought they could intimidate the people of a great nation, they picked the wrong people and the wrong nation. For generations, tyrants, fascists, and terrorists have sought to carry out their violent designs upon the British people only to founder upon its unrelenting shores.

Before long, I suspect that those responsible for these acts will encounter British steel. Their kind of steel has an uncommon strength. It does not bend or break.

The British have learned from history that this kind of evil must be confronted. It cannot be appeased. Our two countries understand well that once a people give in to terrorists� demands, whatever they are, their demands will grow.

The British people are determined and resolute. And I know the people of the United States are proud to stand at their side.
Downright Churchillian. (and I am not talking about Ward...)

An open letter

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A wonderful rant from one Londoner to the Terrorist pig-scum who detonated the bombs this morning. From the London News Review:
A Letter To The Terrorists, From London
What the fuck do you think you're doing?

This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.

Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work.

All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.

And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.

Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.

And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.

So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city.
Doesn't get any clearer than that...

Religion of Peace -- at it again


Islamofascist scum in London have set off several bombs this morning.

WikiNews has an ongoing report here. UPDATED: The WikiNews article has been moved - I updated the link. CNN has the timeline Steve H. at Hog on Ice has something to keep in mind:

What people need to remember is that there is no way to end terrorism. It will always be with us, not because our policies are wrong, but because terrorists enjoy killing, and it isn't possible or desirable to pacify all of them. All we can do is fight back and make them pay a heavy price. In the past, that has always discouraged terrorism, and appeasement has always increased it.

Keep the victims of this cowardly, pointless act in your prayers, and hope for the day when we see their attackers paraded before the cameras in handcuffs.

London has now harvested the result of Spain's appeasement.

UPDATED: Charles at LGF links to Europhobia who is live-blogging this tragedy. Where is General 'Black Jack' Pershing when we need him...

On the Outside

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From an email list:
A farmer asks an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician to build him the largest possible pen out of a fixed amount of fencing.

Without giving it a second thought, the engineer builds the farmer a large, circular pen.

After a moment's consideration, the physicist builds a long straight piece of fence, and says, "We can consider the length of the fence to be infinite," pointing out that fencing off half the globe would be a more efficient solution.

The mathematician laughs gently at both of them, builds a tiny pen around himself, and says "I declare myself to be on the outside."
Cheater... Heh...

What a way to go...

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Pittsburgh, PA resident James Henry Smith was a Pgh. Steelers fanatic and passed away after a long bout with cancer.

TBO/APhas the report on his funeral:

Deceased Steelers Fan Laid Out at Funeral Home on Recliner in Front of TV, Beer at His Side
James Henry Smith was a zealous Pittsburgh Steelers fan in life, and even death could not keep him from his favorite spot: in a recliner, in front of a TV showing his beloved team in action.

Smith, 55, of Pittsburgh, died of prostate cancer Thursday. Because his death wasn't unexpected, his family was able to plan for an unusual viewing Tuesday night.

The Samuel E. Coston Funeral Home erected a small stage in a viewing room, and arranged furniture on it much as it was in Smith's home on game day Sundays.

Smith's body was on the recliner, his feet crossed and a remote in his hand. He wore black and gold silk pajamas, slippers and a robe. A pack of cigarettes and a beer were at his side, while a high-definition TV played a continuous loop of Steelers highlights.

"I couldn't stop crying after looking at the Steeler blanket in his lap," said his sister, MaryAnn Nails, 58. "He loved football and nobody did (anything) until the game went off. It was just like he was at home."

Longtime friend Mary Jones called the viewing "a celebration."

"I saw it and I couldn't even cry," she said. "People will see him the way he was."

Smith's burial plans were more traditional - he'll be laid to rest in a casket.

Very very sweet. But Jen, honey? When my time comes (in 50-60 years or so).

Please don't have me mummified in front of a terminal with a puzzled expression on my face.

Cool (with a significant: "Like DUUHHH!!!" component) technology for older women.

Medgaget has the report:

Weighted Back Support and Exercises Improve Balance, Decrease Risk of Falls in Older Women
Research out of the Mayo Clinic shows that wearing a simple weighted back support together with an exercise program protects older women from falls, improves the sense of balance and lessens back pain:
By wearing a unique weighted back support device and participating in a special exercise program, women over 60 with osteoporosis-caused curvature of the spine improved their balance and experienced diminished back pain, giving researchers at Mayo Clinic a promising therapy to reduce falls among this population...

Within four weeks in the study, the researchers noted significant changes in balance and gait. They also recorded back extensor strength improvements and significant decrease in back pain. Mayo Clinic researchers present their findings in the July 2005 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings...

Very cool -- this would add years to someones mobility. My Mom has serious mobility problems these days but she has never trusted Doctors that much (with good reason -- some have given her horrible advice). Something like this, simple with proven benefits, would have been wonderful for her if introduced ten years ago. Now if I can get her to get her Cataracts fixed.

The Physics Geek links to something that boggles the mind: Liquid Cereal
By all that is Sacred! I had to go digging but here is the Nutritional data from BevNet: This is for their "Apple & Cinnamon" product -- the others are about the same:
Ingredients: fat free milk, water, cereal blend (yellow corn meal, whole oat flour, rice flour), sugar (sucrose), natural artificial flavors, FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C blue #1, sodium chloride, tricalcium phosphate, stabilizer (locust bean gum, guar gum, maltodextrin, carrageenan), sucralose, ascorbic acid, vitamin A palmitate, and vitamin D3

Nutrition Facts: serving size: 11 fl oz; calories 160; total fat 1g; saturated fat 0.5g; trans fat 0g; cholesterol 5mg; sodium 170 mg; potassium 300mg; total carb 32g; dietary fiber 1g; sugars 21g; protein 7g; vitamin A 30%; vitamin C 30%; calcium 30%; iron 2%; vitamin D 30%; phosphorous 20%
It actually does not look that bad -- Corn meal, Whole Oat flour and Sucrose, not HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). The founder of this company used to be CEO of Snapple so he knows a thing or two about boutique drinks...1
From Yahoo/Reuters:
Africans puzzled by Live 8 but hope for change
Few Africans watched the star-studded Live 8 gigs meant to highlight their plight but many said on Sunday any bid to relieve poverty was welcome -- even faraway rock concerts performed for rich whites.
And more:
Africans who knew about the concerts thought they were a good idea but wondered why their own musicians had been sidelined -- a criticism that prompted the last-minute addition of the much smaller Johannesburg gig.

"What do participating musicians know about Africa?" asked Susan Outa, a student in Nairobi. "How do we know whether half of them have even visited a single African country?"

At the Johannesburg show on Saturday some 8,000 people stared nonplussed at a giant screen beaming live footage of U2 and other western acts little known in Africa from glitzier concerts in rich countries.

But while artists said they would have loved to share the stage with international stars such as Bjork and Bono, they said the local concert offered a chance to educate young Africans about the issues behind their daily strife.

"As a young African man this gives me a chance to talk to other young Africans about the issues that are stopping them from being free," said Zola, South Africa's king of kwaito -- a version of hiphop that grew from the townships.
First, get rid of all the despots. My favorite example is Zimbabwe which went from being a food exporter to a food importer all to support President Bobby Mugabe's jet-set lifestyle. People complain about the disparity between rich and poor in the USA but a floating turd like Mugabe gets a free pass because he rules a non-American country. Cultural relativism at it's stinking and hypocritical worst.

Smile, you're on Candid Camera

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Classic -- from Yahoo/Reuters:
Jordan arrests mentor of Qaeda's Zarqawi
Jordanian authorities have arrested the spiritual mentor of Iraq's al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Jazeera television said.

The Arabic channel quoted its correspondent as saying authorities arrested Issam Barqawi, better known as Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi, as the television was broadcasting an interview with him.

Islamist and security sources have said the 43-year-old Muslim cleric -- who molded the militant Islamic views of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- was released on June 28 after a six-month detention at intelligence headquarters following his acquittal at a trial of Jordanian and Saudi sympathizers of al Qaeda.
(emphasis mine) Memo to self -- if I am ever wanted by the authorities for terrorism and get the chance to be interviewed on Television, check the name of my interviewer. Abu Al'n Funt would not be a good one... Mopping up the swine one by one.

About $#@%&*% time!

Puppy-blender Glen links to this awesome news item:
US delight as Iraqi rebels turn their guns on al-Qa'eda
American troops on the Syrian border are enjoying a battle they have long waited to see - a clash between foreign al-Qa'eda fighters and Iraqi insurgents.

Tribal leaders in Husaybah are attacking followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist who established the town as an entry point for al-Qa'eda jihadists being smuggled into the country.

The reason, the US military believes, is frustration at the heavy-handed approach of the foreigners, who have kidnapped and assassinated local leaders and imposed a strict Islamic code.

Fighting, which could be clearly heard at night over the weekend, first broke out in May when as many as 50 mortar rounds were fired across the city. But, to the surprise of the American garrison, this time it was not the target.

If a shell landed near the US base, "they'd adjust their fire and not shoot at us", Lt Col Tim Mundy said. "They shot at each other."

The trigger was the assassination of a tribal sheikh, from the Sulaiman tribe, ordered by Zarqawi for inviting senior US marines for lunch. American troops gained an insight into the measures the jihadists had imposed during recent house-to-house searches in nearby towns and villages.
Emphasis mine. This is cool beyond belief -- there are definitely two groups operating in Iraq, there are the locals who were supporting Saddam and benefited from that support. There are also the non-Iraqi theocratic medievalists who are coming into Iraq hoping to get a piece of the Great Satan. These are the suicide bombers and the "insurgents" you hear about in the MSM. They are being supported by the Bank of Saudi Arabia plus lots of EU Charitable Organizations. Their leaders want a theocratic despotic rule and are willing to sacrifice their followers to get this. The leaders advocate a spartan lifestyle while they live in luxury. The locals however are seeing that #1) - we are not taking the country over, rather, we are doing all that we can to make sure it stays in Iraqi hands and #2) - this "Democracy" thing has some tangible advantages and it might be something to check out -- hence the Sheikhs lunch with the Marines. The fact that this is happening in Husaybah which is near the Syrian border is awesome. Nail that border shut and we will stop the "insurgency". I still want to know what was in that three-day convey from Iraq into Syria just before we started in. WMD's? Here is the contents of one tanker truck:
Each brick is 33 pounds of Gold. Story here.
...Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
Stop Comparing Me to American Moonbats
As a holy activist battling infidel crusaders and their heretic lackeys here in Mesopotamia, Allah knows I have to have a thick skin. Still, every once in a while, I�ll run across something that really gets my blood boiling. For instance, after my last opinion piece I got this nastygram from some choad over in Great Satanland:
I am appalled and sickened that anyone would draw a parellel between Al-Zarqawi and the American Left.
Oh, ya think? Well, I got news for you, Moby: I�m not exactly thrilled about any such comparison MYSELF, okay? See, I didn�t spend the last ten years crawling in the sand at jihad training camp, getting my knuckles thwacked by an Imam every time I forgot a Quran verse, and living in smelly Baghdad safehouse just to get compared to a bunch of trucker-hat AltWeekly motards from Austin and Seattle.

Me, like the American Left? I mean, are you fucking joking me?

As. Fucking. If.

Oh sure, the infidel progressives like to talk a good game. They�ll call you "freedom fighters" and "the resistance" and "Iraqi Minutemen." But soon as you need some volunteers to take out a grade school full of collaborators, they�re like, "sorry dude, I�ve got to run off some International ANSWER fliers at Kinkos."

Next, when you string up some smoldering infidel carcasses from a Fallujah bridge, they�re all like, "fuck yeah, screw those mercenaries! High five, man! C�mon, man, don�t leave me hangin� bro!" But where were these guys when there was dismemberment and heavy carcass-lifting to do? Updating the UBB scripts on their fucking message boards, that�s where.

And please, don�t even get me started about the armchair quarterbacking. They want you to kill crusaders, but only enough that the other ones go home, I guess so they can film the survivors for a weepy poignant Vietnam documentary. Oh yeah, great plan, Field Marshall Von Sundance. I�m right on it, just as soon I FIND A PLACE WHERE I CAN GET TWO FUCKING HOURS OF BOMB-FREE SLEEP.

Holy dung, like I don�t have enough of my own local idiots to put up with. Do you realize how hard it is to find decent jihad recruits when you're taking fire from infidels and Iraqis? Cripes, you should have seen the collection of numbnuts and droolers on the short bus from Saudi yesterday. Good Allah, I swear the only way we�re ever gonna turn these morons into martyrs is to plant detonation buttons inside their nostrils.
And he goes on. Wonderful spot-on stuff... His link to this entry is where he is starting to warm up. The pen is mightier than the sword.

A highly charged legal matter...

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An interesting case of fraud in England -- from The Guardian:
Man used electric underpants 'to fake heart attack'
A judge yesterday threw out a claim by a man who, the court heard, used "electric underpants" to give himself fake heart attack symptoms.

Marcus Danquah, 41, of Kirton Lindsey, Lincolnshire, had sought up to �300,000 in damages after claiming that a wrongly wired �34.50 Morphy Richards 42400 Comfi Grip iron gave him a heart attack.

But the company alleged that he had wired the iron so that it became live and would give an electric shock to anyone who touched it. It also claims that he used the "amps-in-his pants" device in his underwear to create false reading on a hospital heart monitor.
And the pants:
The judge said that Morphy Richards claimed Mr Danquah had interfered with the equipment with the help of a hidden device. "They say it was hidden in his underpants and that the claimant referred to this device as his 'electric underpants'.

"The defence included evidence from an eminent cardiologist who said that the results in the hospital were produced as a result of interference. Some numerous other experts and factual witnesses have said that the entire claim is a sham."
The joke would have been on him if the doctors wanted to do an immediate transplant.... Sheesh. Hat tip: BoingBoing

The Sunday Cartoons

Last Sunday (July 3rd) cartoonist Gary Trudeau wrote a Doonesbury strip about Bloggers.

A number of bloggers have taken offense but it's Mostly Cajun who delivers the goods:

Oh, not THAT much freedom! On Gary Trudeau
Okay, I'm a day or two behind on talking about Garry Trudeau's Sunday comic strip.

If you don't read the Sunday comics, he takes a sophomoric swipe at bloggers. Here's a link to his Sunday strip.

His character asks the question, "Who reads this stuff?" Well, in my case, a hundred or so folks drop by every day to visit and read what I have to say. Most of you are like me, just plain ol' folks out here in the flyover country. I'm a lower -tier blogger. I wish I was one of the big dogs, but I don't have the inclination to devote the effort needed to climb out of the lower levels of the blogosphere. But a hundred folks... Let's think about that number in terms of traditional neighborhood activism. A hundred adults is a pretty decent little sphere to influence... I don't delude myself that MY voice alone is going to change the country or the world, but it's ANOTHER of many voices that will , as Mark Twain said, note that "taffy is being distributed."

Trudeau purports to ask a hypothetical "blogger", "Isn't blogging basically for angry, semi-employed losers who are too untalented or too lazy to get real jobs in journalism?"

THAT little line got my hackles up. Let's look at it one piece at a time.

"Angry": Damned right I'm angry. I'm angry at our government becoming a kleptocracy. I'm angry at the people who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11 and I'm angry at the obstructionists who stand in the way of prosecuting the war against those killers and their supporters. I'm angry at a mainstream media which tells only one side of the news to support their obstructionist views. I'm angry at a court system which apparently ignored 200 years of Constitution. I'm angry. About a lot of things. Including this elitist attitude of Trudeau's.

"Semi-employed": I have been continuously employed since 1968. Most of my fellow bloggers are employed. Some of them work in academe. Some of them work in law. A few are retired after being employed, and some are stay at home moms.

"Losers": If by "loser" you mean that I don't hobnob in the lofty environs of the media Left, then yes, I'm a "loser." Me and 62 million other "losers" just re-elected the President. I regularly "contribute" five figures worth of taxes to the government, and I buy the silly-assed paper that puts Trudeau's comic strip up, thus paying his salary.

"Untalented": I can say, at the expense of self-promotion, that I am at the TOP of my field, in a real job which demands real results, not the stroke of an editor's pen. A bad day at my job results in very concrete and tangible results: The lights go out, the motors don't run, things blow up. Trudeau's bad day might get him a few letters or at worst, a paper might drop his strip. There are many "talents" in the world. That I can write (almost) daily is but one of them. And after reading Trudeau and other liberals, I think that I and many more bloggers do at least as good a job of writing. And this is only a hobby.

Mostly Cajun then goes on to dismember the "Real jobs in journalism", the market value, the Free Press and the final swipe re: Cat Food.

The Mainstream Media still fail to see the big picture...

Aww Crap...

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Via a private email, I found that Dr. Bob Moog is bedridden with a brain tumor. There is a website where you can send him messages: Bob Moog You need to register to read other people's messages but you can leave one without registration. Moog started out building Theremins (I have a recent one) and proceeded to build the first voltage controlled electronic music modules. This morphed into the first real-time performable music synthesizer. This guy started it all... There was another person in Berkeley, Don Buchla who is still making synthesizers and also lays claim to the first voltage controlled system but he marketed his "music boxes" to the academic world as they were never real performance machines -- I worked with a large Buchla 200 series unit and whenever the air conditioner came on, the tuning would drift. Moog machines were (and still are) temperature and voltage corrected, well engineered and rock solid.
Moog is still in business -- Moogmusic sells Theremins, stand-alone modules with his signature filters and processors as well as the groundbreaking re-issue of the classic MiniMOOG, the Voyager He and his family and friends are in my prayers.

A screed from one of the masters

Gerard Van der Leun writes at American Digest and had some things to say about Art and Politics.

Wonderful thoughts and wonderful writing:

The Political Art and the Art of Politics
THE CLASSICAL THEMES of art have always been -- virtue, nobility, patriotism.

Since I practiced none of these in my youth, and throughout much of my career worked actively or passively to under-mine them, I came -- at last -- to yearn to discover what they could possibly be in this blighted age. After all, I was not alone in my abnegation. My entire generation, one way or another, had tossed virtue, nobility, and patriotism over the side of our Ship of Fools thinking to lighten the vessel and keep it upright and afloat. As the Not-So-Great Generation, we did not understand the physics behind removing the ballast when all aboard were struggling to climb over each other to get as high as the very top of the top gallants.

Since the beginning of this century, the more I surveyed the vast and troubled social sea on which I had finally awakened adrift with the rest of the wreckage, the more I saw that these virtues -- in a shriveled and shrunken form -- seemed only to be found in the scattered sanctuaries of the Church and what remained to the Republican Party. But looking long at both these institutions I found I could not fit in either one or the other or some amalgam of both.

Perhaps art could be my refuge, my refiner and restorer? It was, I knew, folly to even think so. The "art" of our age , in the main, had been for so long mired in a swamp of the impish and the perverse that, mirroring the tainted soul of my generation and, in the absence of the classical themes defining it, art had no power to uplift, but only the power to degrade its central soul, beauty, until even that sunk beneath the surface of the expression of an age defined by human wastes. The celebration of shit as art had, at some point in the 1990s, gone beyond metaphor and been enshrined in the cathedrals of art, the museums, and subsidized by the government. Shit as art had become, by default, the official art of the era.

Of our popular arts, worse still was to be expected from them and they did not disappoint. Where the "higher" arts merely expunged beauty, truth, virtue, nobility and patriotism from their vocabulary, the popular arts actively substituted ugliness, lies, evil, degeneracy, and sedition.

He goes on for a few more paragraphs, naming names and taking no prisoners. That guy can write!

Excuse me; I meant to do that!

Google's SMS tool

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Working at Google must be fun -- they keep rolling out such neat new stuff. Do you have a cell phone with SMS? Google has a new service for you:

What is Google SMS?
Google SMS (Short Message Service) enables you to send queries as text messages over your mobile phone or device and easily get precise answers to your questions. No links. No web pages. Just text - and the information you're looking for:

  • Get local business listings when you're on the road and want to find a place to eat.
  • Obtain driving directions to get from point A to point B without having to ask for directions.
  • Find movie showtimes and theater locations of movies currently playing near you.
  • Check weather conditions and 4-day forecasts to plan your day.
  • Get quick answers to straightforward questions.
  • Compare online product prices with ones you find in retail stores.
  • Look up dictionary definitions to expand your vocabulary or prove a point.

A list of how to do all of this can be found here: How to use Google SMS

Sample business listings query
Sample results from Google Local


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Must be rough to be a celebrity -- from Ananova: Justin 'threw up' at his own restaurant
Justin Timberlake reportedly threw up after eating too much at his restaurant.

Timberlake was eating at Chi in Los Angeles but couldn't make it in time to the bathroom and threw up on the floor, according to America's Star magazine.

"He really overdid it," a source told the magazine. "He partied until he puked, right there at the bar.

Staff allegedly discussed how much they thought they could get for Timberlake's vomit on eBay. Talk about getting PR for your business... Taking brand-name recognition a bit far. "I'll have what the gentleman on the floor is having"


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There has been a case in the news recently (one, two, three) about a multiple murder of a family and how eight-year-old Shasta Groene was found at a Denny's eating with a man who turned out to be a registered sex offender. The man is Joseph Edward Duncan III and it turns out that he was a blogger. His blog -- Blogging the Fifth Nail was offline for a while but the Internet Archive has it from January of 2004 through February of 2005. The Blog itself seems to be back online with new material up to Friday May 13th. Link: Original Blog Link: Internet Archive capture of Original Blog This is one sick fuck. A post from August 1, 2004: (he has already spent time in Jail)
I dreamed again last night about being back in prison. This time it was the lack of companionship that seemed to be emphasized in the dream. In the dream I stood in the day room looking at the other inmates and felt terribly alone, and frustrated, because the inmates were for the most part a bunch of losers and I just didn't fit in. In the dream I was also transported to a juvenile jail. When I realized I was in a juvenile center I yelled at the guards, "This is wrong! I'm 40 years old, I don't belong here!" They said that I did, and there was no mistake. Weird.
A post from April 24th, 2005:
Yes, I am still alive. I honestly wish not, I just don�t know how to kill myself so it makes sense. Nothing makes sense to me right now. Last night I realized I was "scared and alone." Being scared doesn�t bother me as much as being alone, but it is a fate that I probably chose sometime before I was ever born because I�ve been making the decision to fight my battles alone since I was a small child. The current battle is of epic proportions (I do not make this claim idly either). It is a battle between me and my demons. Only two people in the world have a clue as to the power and nature of my demons (besides me) and they will probably never read this. But just the same, these demons are stronger than even I gave them credit for, and now they are taking my best blows and not even staggering. I�m afraid, very afraid. If they win then a lot of people will be badly hurt, and they�ve had their way before, so I know what they can do. I�ve been praying a lot and asking God for help. I�ve asked him to step in and intercede directly, because I see no other way at this point that I can win. If you are reading this, and you believe in God, please pray for God to help me defeat my demons. God has shown me the right choice, but my demons have me tied to a spit and the fire has already been lit. I don�t know if the right choice is even an option any more!
The last post on this website is on May 13, 2005. Shasta's mother, older brother and mother's boyfriend were discovered bound and bludgeoned to death on May 16. I hope that the Idaho Courts have a good sense of what "fry the bastard" means and the will to do it. Talk about being a great candidate for retroactive birth control...

Typical of the species -- Moonbat

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I normally don't spend too much time reading the rants of the left. I will read a little to see if they might be bringing up something new and if they provide links to back themselves up. I also see if disproven tropes are being bandied about (Downing Street Memos, Bush TAG memos, who 'outed' Plame, Gitmo maltreatment, etc...) When I read a rant like this though, I am amazed at the quantity of warm spittle vomiting forth from this person's passions and the simultaneous lack of facts, proof, links to data, etc... that could go a long way to help his credibility. The title and a few lines (the post is two run-on paragraphs with minimal sentence structure so it's hard to excerpt):
!!!WAKE UP!!!

Here we are in the Twentieth Century helplessly watching yet another Human Culture be "Oppressed" by a "White Suppremest Imperialistic Power". Who's country is the opposite of independant and who's Rich illustirous lifestile is nothing more than the "Spoils of War" A Nation that FORCES its POLITICAL GOALS upon another society through MILITARY POWER is called an Empire. And when its POLITICAL GOALS are RACIALY and FINANCIALLY motivated its called a "HATE CRIME" or WAR CRIME/CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY And don't be mistaken an EMPIRE is exactly what the United States intends to build. Expressing no COMPASHION FOR HUMANITY, CONCIENCE nor sense of WRONG or RIGHT the FACIST WHITE SUPPREMEST IMPERIALISTIC POWER known as the United States Government has yet again SLANDERED and OPPRESSED another HUMAN SOCIETY. Justifying 3000 American lives lost in a plane accident the United States Launched a 4 day bombardment of a heavily populated CIVILIAN area killing upwards of 100,000 inoccent people. Proving Once agian they will not only STEAL another cultures land but HUMILIATE and GENOCIDE their NATURAL WAY OF LIFE. Never in my life did i really think I would be so glad to live in the Great White North(THE GOOD SIDE OF THE BORDER) Now realalizing that only 195 years ago to this Canada Day that 10's of thousands of Canadians gave their lives to stop a MASS AMERICAN INVASION for the CIVIL RIGHTS and FREEDOM we have today. We Truely are free. To the South are 260 million Brainwashed Nazi Capitalists who will Point Certain Death in whatever direction their CORUPT GOVERNMENT points its twisted finger. How Quickly ANITITERRORISM turns to TERRORISM.
And he goes on, and on, and on, and on...
Seems a number of people were waiting quietly for the Kelo decision. The Institute for Justice has a list of over a dozen land-grabs that are in motion -- privately owned property being taken by Eminent Domain for the purpose of commercial development. Isn't one of the primary planks of Marxism the abolition of private property?

Light Posting today, tomorrow

Have some of Jen's family visiting for the next few days so posting will be a bit light.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister "Gets It"

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Great news item at Yahoo/AP about the current crisis and the actions of some people to help by raising money and why this action is doomed to failure. Plus, a fantastic administering of clue-bat to fellow Africans by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Good Intentions Often Go Bad in Africa
Africa is filled with good intentions that ended badly. Half-completed hydroelectric dams covered with weeds, empty irrigation pipes decaying in the equatorial sun and roads that literally lead to nowhere dot the continent, testaments to corruption and bad judgment. Despite billions of dollars in aid, Africa has gone backward since the 1970s on every measurable level.

When the leaders of the Group of Eight wealthy nations meet this week in Scotland to discuss helping the poorest people on the planet, they will try to ensure any new pledges will not be good money following bad.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Commission for Africa say that times have changed, and the world now has a chance to reverse the continent's economic and social decline. But there is a vast range of opinions on how to avoid the mistakes of the past.
No Shit... And Prime Minister Zenawi has this to say:
"The donors should use development assistance not to prop-up all sorts of unsavory leaders simply because of their geopolitical or other interests, but to support actual development," Meles said, referring to the Cold War years when African leaders pocketed development money from either the United States or the Soviet Union with impunity.

"On the African side, I think it is time for Africans to stop blaming everyone except themselves for the dire situation we find ourselves in," he added. "We need to own up to our own shortcomings in the past and come up with alternative strategies and implement them."
The article also quotes Michael Clough:
Michael Clough, an Africa expert and author on U.S.-Africa relations, points out that the countries who received the most aid during the Cold War now have the biggest problems, with Liberia, Sudan and what is now called Congo, topping the list.

"The countries that are emerging are those that did not receive a lot of assistance," he said. "So the whole premise that providing more assistance is going to be the key to development doesn't prove to be true."

Too often, Clough said, aid is granted based on the relationship between a country's leader and the international donors, not on the ability of the nation to use the aid properly. Fortified with international support and aid, these leaders too often become more authoritarian because they control the nation's financial and natural resources.

In nations that have not received a great deal of aid, African leaders have been forced to compromise with their opposition and to use resources wisely to remain in power, he added.

"The governments have to be responsive, representative and serve the interests of their people," Clough said. "As simplistic as that seems in a way, that is the ultimate precondition for development, unfortunately that is not and has not been the case for a lot of African governments."
There are people out there who can see the big picture -- let's hope that this time, they can affect the outcome and not just be standing by helplessly while the whole fustercluck of aid money and corruption begins again... There are people dying horribly while their "leaders" are living in mansions.
We all know that the voice of Tigger (Paul Winchell) passed away recently. What was news to me was that Paul had an idea for an artificial heart and patented the first one.
Medgaget has this curious bit of history: They link to a quote from his autobiography:
Winchell is one of those rare people whose diverse talents repeatedly led him to the crossroads of history and celebrity. His autobiography is full of supporting anecdotes. For instance, his dance moves once beat Ricardo Moltalban's at a televised competition, which led to a dinner party invitation. At that meal, he was introduced to Dr. Henry Heimlich, who would soon be known for a fancy maneuver of his own. Heimlich invited Winchell into his OR at Montefiore, and on one visit Winchell had the brainstorm for the artificial heart:
... My work in TV was to make people laugh but the "miracles" I had just witnessed made me feel that I was living at both ends of the spectrum. I took advantage of Hank's offer, visiting often and gradually he became my best friend.

Early one morning, I watched a sad George Robinson lose a patient during open-heart surgery and an idea struck me that sent me running to Heimlich. "Hank", I began excitedly, "I just watched poor George lose his patient and I got to wondering if an artificial heart with its own power source were available, could it keep a patient alive during a crucial period?" He looked at me and smiled. "You'd make a good physician Paul", he said. "You build your own dummies, so why don't you make a model of your idea and if you need my input, I'd be glad to help". All I needed to hear was that my thinking wasn't too far out and I went right to work constructing a model.
Medgaget then quotes a bit more:
Odd as it may seem, the heart wasn't that different from building a dummy; the valves and chambers were not unlike the moving and eyes and closing mouth of a puppet. Yes, meeting Heimlich at the Murrays had set me off on a path that I could never have anticipated. For months I worked and reworked the model, running to Hank for advice each time I got stuck. True to his word, he was always available with suggestions for corrections and improvements. Not being very conversant with the dynamics of cardiac function, I overlooked several vital circulatory issues and each time, Hank put me back on track. At last, after examining all the changes, Hank looked at me and said very simply, "If this were my idea I would get it patented." I could scarcely believe my ears. After all the many months of trial and error, his encouragement sent me straight to my patent attorney's office where I applied for a patent and then I awaited the examiner's report. The initial search revealed that the device was cleared for patent and no prior art had been found. I filed in the summer of 1956.
And the end result:
I returned again to Utah when I heard rumblings that the FDA was considering trying the technology on a human being. I met a young man there who had been hired to adapt the invention for human physiology. His name was Robert Jarvik, a brilliant biomedical engineer who had begun to modify the heart for a human being. Until then my patent had been used primarily for animal studies and was much too large for the human chest. By the time Jarvik had reduced the unit, a brave dentist named Barney Clark volunteered to be the first recipient of an artificial heart. I continued to make suggestions to Kolf because my patent had called for rechargeable batteries to power the unit but Kolff preferred compressed air, which I still believe is impractical. As the project drew near I began to perceive a change of attitude towards me and correspondence from Kolff began to dwindle.

One day I received a call from Merv Griffin asking me to appear on his talk show with Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the first cardiac surgeon to do a human heart transplant, and discuss the pros and cons of live heart transplant versus artificial ones. It turned out to be one of the most emotional programs in which I had ever participated. As Chris Barnard and I sat being interviewed by Merv, millions of viewers saw a rare moment of TV history. As Dr. Barnard was relating an incident in which he was operating upon a dear friend, he revealed that his patient expired on the table. "Paul" he said to me, "If I'd had a devise like yours at the time my friend might have survived". Then he stopped talking and began to sob...
Very cool... We knew about Heddy Lamarr having the patent for Spread Spectrum communications. What other technology is lurking out there in Holywood...

Cheap DVDs

Interesting blurb in the NY Times about cheap DVDs being sold:

Attack of the $1 DVD's
The scientist in the 1959 horror film "The Killer Shrews" is not only mad but also cheap. Monstrously cheap. To solve the problem of world hunger, he tries to breed humans down to half their normal size. Rather than increase the food supply, he reasons, he will decrease demand. But his penny-pinching plans go awry, naturally, or unnaturally, creating a pack of giant, munchies-afflicted shrews.

"The shrews were actually hound dogs with fangs stuck to their heads and hairy rugs on their backs," recalled James Best, who portrayed the hero, Thorne Sherman. Mr. Best's love interest was played by Ingrid Goude, a former Miss Universe who was, he said "very well-endowed but not very well-paid; she got about 15 cents." Mr. Best, now 78, reckoned that that was about 35 cents less than the budget of the entire movie.

"The Killer Shrews," the masterwork of Ray Kellogg, is one of hundreds of cheap old films now available as ridiculously cheap new DVD's. Because of lapsed or improperly registered copyrights, even some very watchable movies - among them, Howard Hawks's "His Girl Friday," Marlon Brando's "One-Eyed Jacks" and Francis Ford Coppola's "Dementia 13" - are now in the public domain and can be sold by anyone.

While overall DVD sales are robust - last year retailers sold $15.5 billion in discs - the low-end market is positively booming. Recently, 19 of the 50 top sellers on the Nielsen VideoScan national sales charts were budget DVD's. "The prices are irresistible," said Gary Delfiner, whose Global Multimedia Corporation offers 60 film, cartoon and television titles with prices ranging from 99 cents to $1.99.

Global, based in Philadelphia, is one of a half-dozen major players in what's called the dollar DVD industry. Since starting up in September, the company said, it has shipped more than two million discs.

Sheathed in cardboard slipcases, they are distributed to some 15,000 99-cent stores around the country, as well as thousands of supermarkets, drugstore chains and, soon, lingerie shops. "An intimate apparel store is a great place to sell old romances," said Mr. Delfiner, whose catalog includes the 1939 Irene Dunne-Charles Boyer weepie "Love Affair" and the 1954 tearjerker "The Last Time I Saw Paris," with Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson.

I could see spending five or ten bucks on a bunch of DVDs on a whim. Have to visit a dollar store sometime... There does not seem to be a webpage for Global Multimedia Corporation but they do sell some of their disks at Amazon Let's hope these 12 offerings are a toe in the water and they find the water to their liking. Buying through Amazon would be a lot better than depending on a local dollar store to stock the films that Jen and I would be interested in...

New look for an old friend

Don McArthur used to write at Misanthropist. That site was down for a few weeks but it's back up at the same URL as mcarthurweb running some home-brew software. Good posts as always -- a sample:
You get one life, and you should be careful to do something memorable with it. Maybe not this memorable, but memorable.
Richard Prendergast Raikes was born on January 21 1912, the son of an Indian Army major. Until his parents came home when he was 10, he was brought up in Wales and London by his grandparents and by three aunts, who hero-worshipped their seven brothers for having earned eight DSOs and four MCs in the First World War: two of them had died, one became a general, another an admiral. With the burden of family expectation on his shoulders, young Dick entered Dartmouth in 1925 to become Chief Cadet Captain and to be awarded the King's Dirk.

...In 1935 Clyde was sent to Palestine during the Arab general strike. Raikes spent several weeks fighting fires, evacuating a maternity home by a burning timber yard, and building an armoured train which, after two hours' shunting practice at Haifa station, he took over the railway system of north Palestine.

On several nights Raikes took this train to Samakh, near the Sea of Galilee, to keep open the line despite ambushes and derailments - "an enjoyable game of cowboys and Indians", he recalled. One night Raikes joined up with the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force and enjoyed riding on horseback at full gallop across boulder-strewn country by the light of a burning oil pipeline...

...Back on Malta as first lieutenant of the submarine Severn, Raikes's last years of peace were filled with dances, parties, moonlit picnics and running a stable of 11 horses for a Maltese friend, Mr Schembri. He also took part in trials to enter an enemy harbour at night while conning his submerged submarine from a tiny platform built around the periscope. In the warm Mediterranean, Raikes wore only a bathing costume, but the experiment was abandoned when, on entering St Paul's Bay, the sight of him apparently walking on water caused several local fishermen to cross themselves and jump into the sea...
Heh -- reminds me of Lawrence or the Swedish guy who was kidnapped and hired a bounty hunter to take out his kidnappers. I love that last bit with the submarine. That would be cool to ghost quietly through the water with the sub just at sealevel.

Holy crap!

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From Slashdot: Royal Society Finds Lost Newton Papers They link to a news item from the Royal Society:
Lost Newton manuscript rediscovered at Royal Society
A collection of notes by Sir Isaac Newton, thought by experts to be lost forever, have recently been rediscovered during cataloguing at the Royal Society and go on display to the public for the first time next week at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition.

The notes are written about alchemy, which some scientists in Newton's time believed to hold the secret for transforming base metals, such as lead, into the more precious metals of gold or silver. Much of the text consists of Newtons notes on the work of another alchemist of the seventeenth century, Frenchman Pierre Jean Fabre. But one page of the notes presents a more intriguing prospect it offers what may be Newton's own thoughts on alchemy, written almost entirely in English and in his own handwriting.

Although the notes were originally uncovered following Newton's death in 1727, they were never properly documented and were thought to be lost following their sale for �15 at an auction at Sotheby's in July 1936. During the cataloguing of the Royal Society's Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection the notes were discovered and, with the help of Imperial College's Newton Project, were identified as being the papers which had disappeared nearly 70 years before.

The notes reflect a part of Newton's life which he kept hidden from public scrutiny during his lifetime, in part because the making of gold or silver was a felony and had been since a law was passed by Henry IV in 1404. Newton is famous for his revolutionary work in many areas including mathematics and the fields of optics, gravity and the laws of motion. However, throughout his career he, and other scientists of the time, many of whom were Fellows of the Royal Society, carried out extensive research into alchemy.
I would love to see that when a facsimile version is printed. Of course, Sir Isaac did not have particle accelerators handy when he was working so transmutation had to wait another couple millenia but still, it would be wonderful to see the personal notes of his mind at work on this problem...
Cool! From Yahoo/AP:
Redneck Games Celebrate 10th Anniversary
In his garage, Melvin Davis keeps 230 trophies he's won racing motorcycles, go-karts and pickup trucks. But he's best known for a sport that earned him four trophies topped with crushed Bud Lite cans.

"Yeah, looking back on it I'm proud. But when I done it I felt a little silly," said Davis, 68. "People were going, 'There's the bobbing-for-pigs-feet champion!'"

Bobbing for pig feet, the mudpit belly-flop, the armpit serenade � they're all part of the Redneck Games, a series of good ole'ympic events for the ain't-so-athletic celebrating their 10th year in middle Georgia.

Started as a Southern-fried spoof of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, with a propane torch lighting a ceremonial barbecue grill, the gag games draw tourists like moths to a backyard bug-zapper.

Organizers estimate 95,000 attended the July event during its first decade in East Dublin, a rural pit stop of 2,500 residents between Macon and Savannah.

What started as a gathering of about 500 during the 1996 Olympics ballooned to 10,000 by 2001 and reached an estimated 15,000 last year. More are expected when the 10th Annual Redneck Games are held next Saturday.
And the parent website for the games is here: Redneck Games Up here, we go to logging shows, tractor pulls and lawnmower races. Down there, they do Mudpit Bellyflops, Armpit Serenades and Pigfeet Bobbing. Sounds like my kinda people (living in a warmer climate though).

DDT - bad for the environment?

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Two links on the touchy subject of DDT. Touchy because there is so much bad science and hype surrounding a very useful chemical. First: The Straight Dope

Was Rachel Carson a fraud and is DDT actually safe for humans?
Claiming Silent Spring (1962) is full of lies is a bit harsh. Let's say it contains certain statements at variance with the facts as we now understand them. I'm willing to believe this was a natural result of the fledgling state of environmental science at the time, whereas right-wing conspiracy theorists (who apparently include the parties you mention--Hecht supports crank-for-all-seasons Lyndon LaRouche) see it as evidence of a campaign of deceit by the liberal cabal. We could spend pages debating the details, but the bottom line is this: Soaking the biota in DDT like it was bubble bath, standard practice at the time Silent Spring was written, was a bad thing and Carson was right to condemn it. But refusing to use DDT because of exaggerated fears of environmental damage is, in some circumstances, far worse.

Rachel Carson, a biologist and writer who worked for many years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is widely credited with catalyzing the modern environmental movement. Silent Spring was the first popular book to call attention to the dangers of indiscriminate introduction of pesticides and other chemicals into the environment. Carson's principal target was DDT (if you really want to impress the ladies, Craig, tell them it stands for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), a cheap and effective insecticide first employed on a large scale during World War II to control typhus and malaria. After the war DDT was widely used in the United States in agriculture and in mosquito abatement programs.

This article sums it up nicely -- we were as it says: "soaking the biota in DDT like it was bubble bath..." and this is not good. To put a 100% overall ban on its use is not the appropriate response though, especially when dealing with environmental disasters like the over one million deaths from Malaria each year that could be brought to a dead stand-still with a light dusting of DDT on the walls inside people's houses. One more paragraph from this article:

I don't mean to suggest that DDT is benign. On the contrary, it's a potent contact toxin, and though it breaks down quickly in sunlight, it's much more persistent in soil and water and accumulates in plants and fatty animal tissues with long-term exposure. But its drawbacks have to be weighed against its benefits. Malaria currently infects 300 to 500 million people annually, mostly in Africa, and causes as many as 2.7 million deaths. Alternative methods of mosquito control cost more and are less effective. Some 400 scientists and doctors have signed a petition opposing the inclusion of DDT among the 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to be banned under a United Nations treaty now up for ratification, and a few public health experts are campaigning to bring DDT back. DDT isn't a panacea; India, which still uses it, suffered nasty outbreaks of malaria in the 90s, and insects in many parts of that country have become resistant to the chemical. But it remains an important tool, and in a time of rising global pestilence we shun it at our peril.

The second link: Junk Science

100 things you should know about DDT

Things 17, 18 and 19:

Extensive hearings on DDT before an EPA administrative law judge occurred during 1971-1972. The EPA hearing examiner, Judge Edmund Sweeney, concluded that "DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man... DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man... The use of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife."
[Sweeney, EM. 1972. EPA Hearing Examiner's recommendations and findings concerning DDT hearings, April 25, 1972 (40 CFR 164.32, 113 pages). Summarized in Barrons (May 1, 1972) and Oregonian (April 26, 1972)]
Overruling the EPA hearing examiner, EPA administrator Ruckelshaus banned DDT in 1972. Ruckelshaus never attended a single hour of the seven months of EPA hearings on DDT. Ruckelshaus' aides reported he did not even read the transcript of the EPA hearings on DDT.
[Santa Ana Register, April 25, 1972]
After reversing the EPA hearing examiner's decision, Ruckelshaus refused to release materials upon which his ban was based. Ruckelshaus rebuffed USDA efforts to obtain those materials through the Freedom of Information Act, claiming that they were just "internal memos." Scientists were therefore prevented from refuting the false allegations in the Ruckelshaus' "Opinion and Order on DDT."

Time for a change eh?

From Ars Technica:
On Thursday, Michael Gallagher, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce announced a stunning change in US policy regarding the Internet.

In four short paragraphs, the US has declared it will retain "its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file." The "root zone file," or Domain Name System (DNS), is composed of 13 computers containing the master lists of net suffixes, and is currently managed by private companies under the supervision of the US government. At the same time, the new policy also makes it clear that US will not interfere with country suffixes (ccTLD), as "governments have legitimate public policy and sovereignty concerns with respect to the management of their ccTLD." Finally, the principles state that while the US will maintain ultimate DNS control, the technical, or day to day, operations can continue to be run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Of course until yesterday, it had been assumed that ICANN would eventually take over ultimate control of the DNS.
The article then goes on to trenchantly comment on why the US Department of Commerce made this decision:
ICANN was created in 1998, largely at the behest of the US government. The idea then was to foster competition in the domain registration business under ICANN guidance, resulting in a flowering of personal and commercial expression. It worked big time, as there are now more inane and useless websites than anyone back in the 20th century could have dreamed possible. ICANN also began with high hopes (or naive fantasies) regarding a democratization of the web. The board of directors was to include actual Internet users voted on by people who never leave their computers, as well as representatives from countries where most people had never even seen a computer. This failed big time, as ICANN quickly transformed itself into a self-perpetuating bureaucracy with an exploding budget and seeming disdain for the people actually using the Internet. Since then there has been talk of the United Nations becoming involved in some capacity, most likely through the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). In fact, world leaders will be gathering in Tunisia shortly to complain bitterly about the recent US decision and attend expensive banquets.
This is so true... Once again, this will not affect people who want to set up alternative Top Level Domains. This will only affect those people who want to take over the administration of the .COM, .ORG, .GOV and .NET domains. As the personal owner of several of these (all registered with US Based ALT registrars), I want the DNS servers managed by US companies who bid competitively for the job. Watching the slow trainwreck that ICANN has become does not give me confidence in them for anything but planning meetings in very nice places...

War of the Worlds

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Jen and I saw this today. We were initially worried as some of the reviewers did not rate it very highly, they were giving it two stars and saying that the special effects were OK but there was no human story, just this guy trying to get to Boston with his kids and why did he have to make that journey. What they failed to grasp was that what we see on the screen is the classical Hero's Journey -- Homer's Odyssey brought into the 21st Century complete with Scylla and Charybdis and Polyphemus. Plus, the special effects seriously rock! They are not bombastic, they are subtle and if you are into CG, you will know what I mean and go Oooooooo... at the appropriate moments. Finally, they were very faithful to the original Mercury Theater of the Air radio broadcast and the first (George Pal) movie. It is intense -- see this one on the big screen.

From Bleeding Edge to Leading Edge

How one CIO moved from mainframes to Linux, saved a whopping bunch of money and lived to tell the tale. Basic story: it works folks... The publication for Chief Information Officers (CIO.COM) has the story:
Open Source Ascendant
How Cendant Travel Distribution Services replaced a $100 million mainframe with 144 Linux servers and lived to tell about it.

In the summer of 2003, Mickey Lutz did something that most CIOs, even today, would consider unthinkable: He moved a critical part of his IT infrastructure from the mainframe and Unix to Linux. For Lutz, the objections to Linux, regarding its technical robustness and lack of vendor support, had melted enough to justify the gamble. "The issues raised around open source, around its viability, were in the past," recalls Lutz, CIO for Global Agency Solutions with Cendant Travel Distribution Services, the parent company of online travel brands Orbitz and CheapTickets.com.
The article continues in a lot more nuts and bolts detail and basically concludes that he had some really rough periods but the transfer worked well and Linux runs like a champ. Instead of running on four large IBM Mainframes, they are running the application on 144 multi-proc servers arrayed as twelve clusters. Annual maintenance dropped from $100 Million/year to $2.5 Million/year. These words were written on a Windows 2K box but they have been uploaded to a Linux box running Apache. Win2K for the applications (Photoshop, Sonar, CAD), Linux for server reliability...

RIP - Luther Vandross

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MSNBC/AP takes notice of his passing:
Luther Vandross dies at age 54
Famed R&B crooner faced setback after stroke in 2003

Grammy award winner Luther Vandross, whose deep, lush voice on such hits as "Here and Now" and "Any Love" sold more than 25 million albums while providing the romantic backdrop for millions of couples worldwide, died Friday. He was 54.

Vandross died at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, N.J., said hospital spokesman Rob Cavanaugh. He did not release the cause of death but said in a statement that Vandross "never really recovered from a stroke" two years ago.
A great voice and wonderful person -- he will be missed...

Mmmmmm Steak...

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Sorry to all of the vegetarians out there (I was one myself for over five years), there is nothing like a good steak grilled to perfection. The Detroit News interviews a chef at the Morton's Steakhouse in Pittsburgh asking what the home griller can do. Basic good info. There is also a sidebar that goes into the "touch" method of determining the done-ness of a steak. I learned this when working in restaurants -- simple, precise and you are not slicing the meat and letting all the juices out. Good stuff!

A salute to the Glorious Fourth

A site that archives the old fireworks package artwork. Some classics:



And of course, the classic:


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