August 2005 Archives

Live Blogging New Orleans

One of the IT Support people for New Orleans ISP directNIC is camped out in their datacenter and running a blog: Here is one sample entry:
You Want News?
New Orleans Police Department Status: The situation for the NOPD is critical. This is firsthand information I have from an NOPD officer we're giving shelter to. Their command and control infrastructure is shot. They have limited to no communication whatsoever. He didn't even know the city was under martial law until we told him! His precinct (5th Precinct) is under water! UNDER WATER -- every vehicle under water. They had to commander moving trucks like Ryder and UHaul to get around. The coroner's office is shut down so bodies are being covered in leaves at best or left where they lie at worst.

They don't even know their own rules of engagement. He says the force is impotent right now. They have no idea what's going on, no coordination, virtually no comms, etc. the National Guard is gonna air drop a radio system for them with 200 radios? They are getting very little direction.

The 3rd District bugged out to Baton Rouge because they flooded out.

His quote: "It's a zoo."

More first hand information direct from him shortly. He's trying to recover.

I am not trying to be an alarmist, but until we get a military presence of signicance in the city, the roving gangs of thugs own the streets.

Donations for Katrina Relief

FEMA has a list of links for people wanting to donate to the survivors of Katrina. The list has both Cash and Volunteer Labor coordinators. There have been reports of generic www-dot-help-katrina-dot-com websites that are nothing but scammers. If you are planning to help, a reputable charity is the best.

Strategic Oil Reserve will be opened up

President Bush has agreed to let Oil Companies borrow from the US Strategic Oil Reserve. Bloomberg has the story:
U.S. Taps Emergency Oil Reserve as Prices Surge
The U.S. will tap its emergency oil reserve after Hurricane Katrina shut down rigs and refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, disrupting gasoline supplies and leading to record crude-oil prices.

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in an interview today in Washington the Strategic Petroleum Reserve can deliver 5 million barrels a day, more than three times the amount that has been closed in the Gulf. That much probably isn't needed now, he said. The area represents about 30 percent of U.S. production.

President George W. Bush's administration last used the reserve, created in the 1970s after the Arab oil embargo, to respond to Hurricane Ivan and shutdowns of rigs offshore in the Gulf. Whether the release causes prices to drop may depend on how soon refineries can restart. Valero Energy Corp. yesterday said one of its refineries may need two weeks to resume operations.
The question of refinery capacity comes up again:
The government's oil "is not going to be of much help unless we get refineries running again," Adam Sieminski, global oil strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in New York, said before the announcement. "Releasing oil from the SPR right now would be actually inappropriate because there would be no place to put it."
What would it take to plan a couple of new refineries. We need them but environmental regulations have stymied all plans for new ones for the last 20 years or more...

Physical Computing

Computers are great but what if you want to tie them into things in the physical world. Have them sense a temperature and move a widget accordingly. Here is an excellent introduction to the world of Physical Computing Some cool ideas and links to resources and code libraries...

Katrina's impact...

...will be more far-reaching than people initially think. Airport Business has this story:
At Least Ten U.S. Airports Face Closure Due to Jet Fuel Shortages
Airlines and oil companies are working on plans to supply jet fuel to at least ten U.S. airports that could be shut down due to a lack of jet fuel caused by refinery and pipeline shutdowns from hurricane Katrina. The airports in most jeopardy for closure include Atlanta, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Tampa, Washington Dulles and West Palm Beach.

AAG has learned that ChevronTexaco and Shell had cargoes loaded prior to the shutdowns destined for Florida ports. However, with the Colonial and Plantation pipelines shutdown due to a lost of power it could be sometime for shipments to reach airports from Atlanta to Washington D.C.

With future supply uncertain, airlines are working on plans to allocate jet fuel at critically short airports. "While some airports may have up to five days of supply we have to expect that we won�t receive additional shipments for some time. We either run down to flumes or we try to make it last as long as possible," said one airline fuel manager. Today, airlines are working on plans to allocate fuel in hopes of extending available supply at problem locations.
Gasoline at our local filling station is at $2.99 -- up from $2.79 a few days ago. A lot of this could be helped if we had more refineries but we have not built a new refinery in this country for well over 20 years. Environmentalists...

Hits bottom, keeps digging

Ran into this link and I am hacked at the utter stupidity and mindlesness of it:
"For They That Sow the Wind Shall Reap the Whirlwind"
As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi�s Gulf Coast, it�s worth recalling the central role that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush�s iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2.
Robert F. Kennedy Sr. was a noble man and an honor to this nation. It was a tragedy when he was murdered by "palestinian" Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. His pipsqueak of a child is less than human at times... It is not the family name that makes one great, it is the "content of his character".

Light posting today and tomorrow

Had to run into town today and will be there tomorrow as well.

I am doomed!!! Woe is me!!!

I just got turned on to this site: Orion's Arm Broad and deep -- I will be spending a lot of time exploring...

Bee Happy

New Scientist has some good news about large power transmission lines.
Power lines may provide a haven for bees
Overhead power lines may be reviled by most people but for the humble bee they may be a saviour. The millions of acres of land-strips beneath power lines represent an untapped conservation resource for bees and other threatened creatures, new research suggests.

Normally regarded as blots on the landscape and accused by many of producing cancer-inducing low frequency electromagnetic fields, high voltage power lines are not typical candidates for conservation sites, says Kimberly Russell an invertebrate zoologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

But she says changes in management practice of this land appear to be offering a much needed home for bees, which have been in decline in many countries for decades.

In the US, the land covered by power lines makes up more than 5 million acres. That is more land than almost every national park in the US individually, including Yellowstone, says Russell.

Safe and selective
In the past, these areas were periodically mown and sprayed with non-selective herbicides to prevent vegetation from encroaching upon or damaging equipment. But some companies have now switched to simply removing tall vegetation and using safer, more selective herbicides.

To see what impact this alternate management practice had on native bee populations Russell and colleagues compared bees collected from unmown power line sites with those of nearby grassy fields.

"The statistics showed that the bees collected in the power line scrubs were more diverse than those in the grassy fields," says Russell, who carried out the work with colleagues at Utah State University and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, in Maryland.

The power line scrubs tended to have rarer species and more bee-parasite species, which is normally an indication of a healthy bee community, she says.
The five million acre number is surprising. Wonderful story -- perfect example of unintended consequences...

Al Sharpton visits Cindy Sheehan

Public figure and race activist 'Rev.' Al Sharpton visited professional mourner Cindy Sheehan in Crawford. They shared a private moment of prayer:
Yeah, very private:
Click for full-size Image
Hat tip to Charles at LGF

Physics Resource

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While looking for facts for the previous post An interesting use for Coal, I stumbled onto this website: The Physics Factbook� specifically this page. I checked each data point with two or three other sources but the numbers here are accurate and well presented. It seems to be an ongoing project with lots of serious and fun (such as this: Acceleration Perturbations of Daily Living) data. Check it out...

An interesting use for Coal

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This article in the Billings Gazette (Montana) talks about an interesting proposal:
Schweitzer wants to convert Otter Creek coal into liquid fuel
Montana acquired 533 million tons of federal coal near Ashland three years ago. A private company owns more than that interspersed checkerboard fashion among the state's holdings.

Both would like to develop that high-quality coal.

And there are others, too, who have ideas for turning the coal into energy, revenue and profits.

Because the price of oil is at unheard- of levels, and the United States needs alternative energy supplies, Gov. Brian Schweitzer has targeted an old/new process to turn the coal into diesel and jet fuel. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has put tax incentives for the process into the new energy and highway bills, and several U.S. energy technology firms have perfected the method.

The missing ingredient is investment capital - billions of dollars worth.

In a recent interview, Schweitzer said "there are a great number of believers, potential partners, who will put their money down."

The process is called Fischer-Tropsch, named for the German scientists who developed the process in the 1920s for converting coal to diesel fuel, which later ran the Nazi war machine. In more recent decades, the process was used in South Africa to fuel its vehicles when the world would not trade with the apartheid nation. It still produces 150,000 barrels of fuel a day from coal. Energy technology firms in the United States and elsewhere have fine-tuned F-T to make both its process and products pollution-free.

"There are no smoke stacks," Schweitzer said.
And a bit about the process and the results:
The F-T fuels are also clean - no sulfur, mercury or arsenic. Those ingredients are recovered from the process and are marketable byproducts on their own.

Schweitzer said a 150,000 barrel per day unit would cost about $7.5 billion to build. However, F-T units can be built in modules, so a 22,000 barrel per day unit could cost $1.2 billion, he said.

One impetus for the development of the F-T fuel is that the Pentagon wants to have a single battlefield fuel. The F-T product can be used as jet fuel also.

There are some obstacles, the governor acknowledged: Several different companies hold different patents for the process. For example, a Tulsa, Okla., company, Syntroleum, uses a process with common air, rather than pure oxygen, which make it safer and less expensive to make.

And it is the cost that heretofore has kept the process in the experimental/pilot project stages. For F-T, the break even point comes when crude oil is more than $35 a barrel. Friday crude oil futures settled at $60.57 a barrel.
And finally this line:
He said using the Fischer-Tropsch method, one ton of coal would produce 1.5 barrels of diesel fuel. A barrel is 42 gallons. "It would cost less that a $1 per gallon to make that diesel," he said.
I ran into this article from an email list and the person who posted it was decrying that they were going to waste a whole ton of coal and only produce a barrel and a half of diesel. It is all a plot by the evil BushHalliburtonChenyOilConspiracyCabal (pauses to wipe spittle off face) Something went click in my brain and I started to Google some numbers, specifically the energy densities of coal and diesel. The weights as well. 1.5 * 42 = 63 Gallons of Diesel 63 * 7.3 = 460 Weight in Pounds of 63 Gallons of Diesel (rounded) 460 * 0.453 = 208 Weight in Kilograms of 63 Gallons of Diesel 208 * 45.3 = 942 Mega Joules of energy in this quantity of Diesel 1 * 907.18 = 907 Kilograms in One Ton of Coal 907 * 20 = 18140 Mega Joules of energy in this quantity of Coal (The Energy Density for Coal runs from 17.4MJ/kg to 23.8MJ/kg) What this shows me is that for one dollar of operating costs, they are extracting one gallon of very high-grade pure Diesel, some marketable byproducts and over half of the potential energy of the coal. Considering that the operating efficiency of a Coal Boiler is only about 40% at absolute best, this is a win/win situation. UPDATE: I started wondering just how big is a ton of coal. Solid Bituminous is 1346 Kilograms per Cubic Meter and there are 264.17 Gallons per Cubic Meter. Doing the math: 907 / 1346 = 0.67 Cubic Meters for One Ton of Coal 63 / 264.17 = 0.23 Cubic Meters for 63 Gallons of Diesel. We are looking at a reduction of one third in volume and considering that there are sellable byproducts from this reaction, not much is being wasted here...

Holy Crap

Mike King at Ramblings Journal links to this National Weather Service warning:
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005












A thought on gas mileage

James Taranto does the wonderful "Best of the Web Today" every weekday. Last Friday he printed a thoughtful comment from one of his readers:
Make SUV, Not War--II
Our item yesterday about hysterical opposition to sport-utility vehicles brought this thoughtful comment from reader David Bookstaber:
I must admit I hate SUVs. I think they are obnoxious and dangerous compared with lower, lighter cars, and I believe relatively few SUV owners use the cargo, towing, and off-road features that would justify their expense. But still, this anti-SUV hysteria misses the mark.

Rank the following groups according to their guilt in keeping us dependent on foreign oil:
  • People who choose to drive an SUV that gets 15 miles a gallon instead of a sedan or wagon that gets 25 miles a gallon.
  • People who choose to live 10 miles from where they work each day instead of five miles.
  • People who choose to commute to work in private cars instead of on public transportation.
  • People who choose to heat and cool a 5,000-square-foot house when they could maintain a 2,500-square-foot-house with the same number of rooms.
  • People who choose to fly overseas for vacations instead of going to a local retreat.
  • People who oppose nuclear power plants.
I don't believe the SUV owners are at the top of the list. And my guess is that many of the SUV haters won't countenance somebody questioning their decisions to live where they want, in what they want, or to vacation when and where they want, even though on net those decisions probably consume more oil than an individual decision to drive an SUV.

I would also wager that the anti-SUV crowd has a large intersection with the anti-nuclear-power crowd. which, amusingly, also intersects with the pro-Kyoto treaty crowd. You just can't win with some people.
Makes you think... It is not just the limousine liberals, it's what every person can do. The alignment of the anti-nuke crowd with the pro-Kyoto (and the whole "peak-oil" crowd is in there too) is delicious.

Fun with comment spam...

Been getting a bunch of comment spam attempts from Iran. Several machines are being used (I track incoming data streams and resolve back to their ISP -- even further if I want to spend the time). The joke is that for a nation that is so morally "correct" in their own eyes, the spams are for porn and gambling for money. Both of these are very much forbidden under their practices. These posts never made it onto the website -- I'm running a couple scripts that block 99% of the bad stuff. I was tempted to block the whole ISP but I'm just going to block the eight specific addresses. They aren't getting through and this gives the other 16K addresses the ability to see my site. (large ISP) These people are beneath my contempt. Hypocrytes...

Katrina and New Orleans - getting closer

It looks like the hundred-year storm is coming.
Click for full-size Image
Expect gas prices to go over $3.00 and the price of heating fuel to rise. Planning to order a cord or two more wood tomorrow...

Katrina and New Orleans

It does not look good for New Orleans... Here is the latest three-day prediction from the National Hurricane Center:
Click for full-size Image
Steve H. at Hog on Ice has a bit of background on how sensitive this area is for several reasons and how this could affect all of us:
Putting Things In Perspective
Steve's hurricane could cause even more trouble...

When thinking about Hurricane Katrina, you might want to consider how she's going to affect your life. It doesn�t matter if you live on the Gulf Coast or not--Katrina just may affect you personally. In fact, no matter where you live in the US, this hurricane is packing enough punch to be felt from sea to shining sea, but I can't find anyone in the MSM talking about it.

Let me explain...

Most people don't think about the real damage being done by these hurricanes in the Gulf. The Gulf of Mexico is responsible for almost 1/4 of the nation's domestic oil and gas production�this doesn�t count the imported oil and gas that is offloaded in the Gulf�but I�ll get to that in a minute. When these hurricanes blow through, oil companies have to evacuate their rigs�which means shutting down production. Like sleep, you can never make up for lost production. There are production losses planned into the production schedule, but with a year like this one, we're falling behind�and it�s one of the reasons we�re feeling it at the pumps. Then you have the rigs themselves. Let�s take Thunderhorse for example. Thunderhorse is the world�s largest offshore platform. She�s 75% owned by BP and 25% by Exxon�BP is the operator. The rig is designed to take hurricanes and other weather events and remain operationally viable. However, when Hurricane Dennis came through, something went wrong and she started listing about 20 to 30 degrees. Fast work by BP crews and the US Coastguard prevented the loss of a $5 billion rig. None of these rigs out there are hurricane proof.
He also talks about Port Fourchon:
Most people have never heard of Port Fourchon, but it is the nation's premiere oil and gas support services facility--and right now it lies within 12 miles of Hurricane Katrina's CAT-3 or CAT-4 bullseye. Over 600 platforms and 75% of the Gulf�s deepwater projects lie within a 40-mile radius of Port Fourchon. Unfortunately, Port Fourchon is a Louisiana island. An island that is connected to the mainland by a single two lane old, single two lane bridge. This bridge is the only means of getting cargo and supplies to the Port. More than 1,000 cargo trucks go across this bridge each day, delivering materials to the Port for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) drilling rigs. If there�s no bridge, there�re no drilling parts and supplies.
This is going to hit us hard regardless of where we live. I am very glad that President Bush has been quietly refilling our strategic oil reserves after it was drained during Clinton's administration. (He did this to artificially lower gas prices)
A few years ago, I worked for Microsoft as a Lab Manager. I took care of the hardware while the developers used these machines for testing their new code. A key issue is to be able to reconfigure the hardware as quickly as possible. Since this is not a static "installation", overhead cable trays are the best thing to use -- you can move networking cables and fibre from rack to rack quickly. The issue is that these trays are eight feet off the floor. The solution -- drywall stilts. Here is a photo of me in my previous incarnation as computer geek:

Media Whore

Mike King at Ramblings Journal puts two and two together.
Cindy Sheehan: "If I truly was a media whore..."
"I�m like if I truly was a media whore do you think I would like maybe get myself fixed up a little bit before I went on?"
--Cindy Sheehan
Mike's comment on the two: "'Nuff said." Here is a little more from Cindy giving the context for her media whore statement. The website is "information from occupied iraq"
"...I don�t care about them talking about me being a crackpot or a media whore, or a tool of the left, you know. I�m like if I truly was a media whore do you think I would like maybe get myself fixed up a little bit before I went on? That doesn�t bother me at all, but what bothers me so much is when they say I am dishonoring my son�s memory by what I�m doing, that my son would be ashamed of me or what they really like to say is that I�m pissing, or shitting, or spitting on his grave."
Sorry Cindy - he lived nobly and died with honor. He wanted to go over there despite your trying to talk him out of it. He enlisted not once but twice. He volunteered for the mission into Basra where he was killed. He knew the dangers but he thought that he was doing the right thing for America and for the Iraqi People. By publicly calling him a child, by 'hinting' that he didn't want to go over there but was 'mislead' by his recruiting officer, you are demeaning him. Your husband feels the same way -- he just divorced you. Your family feels the same way -- they issued a statement saying that you are acting on your own and the family does not share your beliefs. I would not go so far as to call you deranged but you certainly fit a lot of the symptoms...

Not a good place to be

I would not want to be in New Orleans this weekend:
Click for full-size Image
From here: National Weather Service Hurricane Center Here is a webcam situated on Bourbon Street. The majority of Old New Orleans is built on land that has been reclaimed from the sea and protected by a system of dikes and levees. This land is now dry but it is still below sea level. A network of pumps move rainwater and leakage back out to the Ocean but it's capacity is fixed. A storm the scale of Katrina could put parts of New Orleans under 30' of water for up to ten days or more.
Denny Wilson at Grouchy Old Cripple is in fine form and rants about a certain letter to his local newspaper:
Letter From Jerry
So I was reading the Saturday letters in the Atlanta Urinal and Constipation and I came across this gem.
Act now to head off cold-weather crisis

When heating costs go up --- and you know they will be out of sight --- are we going to have to sit around the house with coats, caps and wool stockings to keep warm?

People making minimum wage are going to have to choose between eating and trying to keep warm, much less buying gas to get to their jobs.

Let's hope our elected officials get off their duffs and do something before there is a real crisis. Just because they can afford it doesn't mean the rest of us can.

Georgians should let their elected officials know they are upset with them and remind them they can be voted out of office.
It's ironic that this letter was written by someone named Jerry Lewis because it is hilarious. I like the part about sitting "around the house with coats, caps and wool stockings to keep warm". Hey, remember Jimmah Carter suggested we turn down our thermostats to keep warm. I'll just bet this guy is a Dimocrat. He wants for "our elected officials get off their duffs and do something". Whenever I hear that, it scares the shit out of me!

All right, Jerry. What do you want them to do?

Price controls? We tried that back in the 70's with Nixon, Ford, and Carter. That was a smashing success. Look anywhere in the world where there are price controls on any commodity and you will find shortages of that commodity. Do you want our gummint to repeal the Law of Supply and Demand? Can't be done. Gummints have been trying to do that since the ancient Persians. It's never worked. Ever. That's why centrally controlled economies always fail.

I know. Let's have the gummint impose gas mileage standards on SUVs. I see Minetta just came out with some of that bullshit. I got a better idea. Let's just do nothing and let gas prices seek the market level. The same thing will happen that happened in the 70's and the 80's. People decided they didn't want to pay those prices and sold their gas guzzlers. The same thing will happen again. There will come a time when people decide it's not worth spending $50 to fill up their gas guzzlers and will buy smaller and more efficient SUVs. Yep! It will happen.

The only way to keep the price of energy low is to increase the supply or decrease the demand. Better insulate your house. Buy a more efficient heating system. Buy better windows. Turn your thermostat down. Wear a sweater like Jimmah did when he was in the White House. What about the poor? Fuck 'em. Let 'em starve. They should have followed my three simple rules on how not to be poor.

So let's increase the supply.

Drill for more oil? Where? ANWR? The Dimocrats won't let us. California coast? The Dimocrats won't let us. The Gulf coast? Dimocrats won't let us. Off the Florida coast? Jeb and Dubya won't let us.

I know. Let's go to war against Canada and Mexico and steal their oil.

Maybe we oughta build more refineries? The environmentalists won't let us. We haven't built a new one in over 40 years.

There is one thing the gummint could do. Determine one gas blend to use throughout the country. Currently, due to environmental restrictions, there are 40 different blends used.

Not enough oil? Thank a Dimocrat.

Maybe we should build more nuke plants? Finally, it looks like we might do that.

The reason we have shortages and high prices is because our elected officials have gotten off their duffs and done something.

Unfortunately, everything they have done has been wrong.
What he said... His info about the refineries and the gasoline blends are all too correct. We have painted ourselves into a corner by "fixing" things without first taking a look at the big picture and factoring in the unintended consequences of our actions.

Homeopathy gets diluted to nothing

From the BBC News:

Homeopathy's benefit questioned
A leading medical journal has made a damning attack on homeopathy, saying it is no better than dummy drugs.

The Lancet says the time for more studies is over and doctors should be bold and honest with patients about homeopathy's "lack of benefit".

A Swiss-UK review of 110 trials found no convincing evidence the treatment worked any better than a placebo.

Advocates of homeopathy maintained the therapy, which works on the principle of treating like with like, does work.

Continuing dispute
Someone with an allergy, for example, who was using homeopathic medicines would attempt to beat it with an ultra-diluted dose of an agent that would cause the same symptoms.

The row over homeopathy has been raging for years.

In 2002, American illusionist James Randi offered $1m to anyone able to prove, under observed conditions in a laboratory, that homeopathic remedies can really cure people.

To date, no-one has passed the preliminary tests.

In the UK, homeopathy is available on the NHS. Some argue that it should be more widely available, while others believe it should not be offered at all.

I can see where the mumbo-jumbo of Homeopathy gained traction during it's early history in the 1800's. Get a charismatic "Doctor" and the patient would feel cured of many minor ailments. "Well, it still hurts - but not as much as it did before the treatment..."

With today's availability of scientific thought and modern statistical analysis, it is downright amazing that anyone still believes this bunkum.

A wonderful site for debunking Homeopathy can be found here: Homeowatch

Just Like Vietnam...

Gerard Van Der Leun found a wonderful statement about how the current war in Iraq is "just like Vietnam..."

"Iraq is just like Vietnam except:
We occupy Hanoi. We've captured Ho Chi Minh. The North Vietnamese have just held a free and democratic election. The North Vietnamese are working on a new constitution. Yes, Iraq is just like Vietnam."
-- Art Fougner - Flushing, N.Y.

It is a quagmire of the worst order - just ask any liberal.

Step right up

For auction on eBay, I present for your perusal this little item:
From the description:
Up for auction today I have a BOMB SHELTER. This shelter was made by the Canadian government and was designed to be buried, and at one point it was buried on a CP (Canadian Pacific) rail line in central Alberta. It was to be used by local politicians. I have heard many ideals on what it could be used for now from a smokehouse to a root cellar, to a hydroponics grow room, prison, dads hidy hole or maybe the coolest club house for the kids. That�s up to you if you are the winner, just like if you want to put it in the ground or not.

Now to get to the size of it, the MAIN BODY is 14 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet. The entry tunnel comes out 5 feet from the main body (making it 19 feet in total) and then turns up 8 feet, this pipe is 3 feet wide and is fitted with 7 rung ladder.
Starting price is only $2K Canadian and there are no bids so far. Own a piece of history!

At the rodeo

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Spent the afternoon running errands, had dinner at a wonderful local Mexican restaurant and then attended the first annual Lynden Rodeo. Despite minor problems with the sound system, it was a load of fun. Very close to a sell-out crowd so it should be back again next year. I will be writing about it (with photos) at our Brownsnout website tomorrow.

Now this is Harsh...

Someone at the U.S. Mint needs to get a clue... From USA Today:

U.S. Mint confiscates 10 rare gold coins
The U.S. Mint seized 10 Double Eagle gold coins from 1933, among the rarest and most valuable coins in the world, that were turned in by a jeweler seeking to determine their authenticity.

Joan S. Langbord plans a federal court lawsuit to try to recover them, her attorney, Barry H. Berke, said Wednesday. Langbord found the coins among the possessions of her father, longtime Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt, who had acknowledged having sold some of the coins decades ago. She now operates her father's business.

David Lebryk, acting director of the Mint, had announced in a news release that the rare coins, which were never put in circulation, had been taken from the Mint "in an unlawful manner" in the mid-1930's and now were "recovered."

The coins, which are so rare that their value is almost beyond calculation, are public property, he said.

But Berke said Mint officials couldn't prove the coins had been stolen, or were subject to forfeiture.

In 2002, Sotheby's and numismatic firm Stack's auctioned off a 1933 Double Eagle coin for $7.59 million, the highest price ever paid for a coin. That Double Eagle, which is believed to have been part of a collection belonging to King Farouk of Egypt, surfaced when a coin dealer tried selling it to undercover Secret Service agents.

After a legal battle, the dealer was permitted to sell the coin at auction on the condition he split the proceeds with the Mint.

In its statement, the Mint said officials were still deciding what they would do with the seized coins, which are being held at Fort Knox. They said they had no plans to auction them but would consider saving "these historical artifacts" for public exhibits. Other double eagle coins seized in the past were melted down.

Double Eagles were first minted in 1850 with a face value of $20. The 445,500 coins minted in 1933 were never put into circulation because the nation went off the gold standard. All the coins were ordered melted down, but a handful are believed to have survived, including two handed over to the Smithsonian Institution.

Isn't there some statute of limitations on this? I can see a legal element but there should also be compassion. Gorgeous coins:

The 445,500 Double Eagle coins minted in 1933
never went into circulation because
the U.S. dropped the gold standard.

Truth in the Media - Part Two

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Condoleezza Rice recently gave an exclusive interview to the New York Times. While talking about Israel's Gaza pullout she was quoted as saying: "It cannot be Gaza only" Turns out the NY Times shuffled several parts of the interview and put the "It cannot be Gaza only" quote way out of context. Charles at LGF links to Rick Richman at Jewish Current Issues who looked at the State Department posted transcript of the interview and found some interesting variations... Here is Rick Richman:
Condoleezza Rice and The New York Times
Last week, The New York Times published a story on their exclusive interview with Condoleezza Rice.

The first two paragraphs portrayed a Secretary of State focused, in the midst of a traumatic Israeli withdrawal, on signaling Israel that another one was next:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday offered sympathy for the Israeli settlers who are being removed from their homes in Gaza but also made it clear that she expected Israel and the Palestinians to take further steps in short order toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing," Ms. Rice said in an interview. But she added, "It cannot be Gaza only."
Since the Roadmap calls for the dismantlement of Palestinian terrorist capabilities and infrastructure in Phase I -- and does not require Israel to remove a single settlement (other than certain "outposts") during that phase -- Rice�s comments seemed gratuitously insulting. One would have thought she would emphasize the need for the Palestinians -- after a unilateral Israeli withdrawal that went far beyond their initial Roadmap requirements -- to comply with their own Roadmap obligations.

On the day of the Times story, a commenter at posted this comment: "This just doesn't sound right, or like Dr Rice. . . . She doesn't screw up like this."

Indeed, it didn�t . . . she doesn�t . . .and in fact the Times made the quote up.
Rick then goes on:
The transcript of the interview was posted by the State Department this week. It shows that the purported quote -- made the centerpiece of the Times story -- was constructed by the Times from two separate, unrelated comments by Rice -- one taken out of context, the other not even accurately quoted.
Rick's analysis is lengthy and excerpts don't do it justice. Visit his site to read the whole thing. Suffice to say, the NY Times doesn't come out of this looking very good. Their lie and bias is very evident.

Truth in the Media - Part One

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Cindy Sheehan has been grabbing a lot of press these days. John Hinderaker at Power Line takes a look at one of the reporters covering this story:
If the Facts Don't Fit, Make Them Up
No one has contributed more to the enshrinement of Cindy Sheehan as an antiwar icon than AP reporter Angela Brown. Tonight, however, Brown stepped over the line with an outright misrepresentation of Sheehan's history. Brown's article, which likely will appear in hundreds of newspapers, describes Sheehan's return to Crawford, Texas. It begins:
A woman whose son was killed in Iraq returned to Texas Wednesday to resume her anti-war protest near President Bush's ranch after a weeklong absence to care for her ailing mother.
The article concludes with an outright whopper:
Sheehan and other grieving families met with Bush about two months after her son died last year, before reports of faulty prewar intelligence surfaced and caused her to become a vocal opponent of the war.
As anyone who has followed this story knows, this claim is utterly false. Sheehan has always been a "vocal opponent of the war;" her opposition had nothing to do with "reports of faulty prewar intelligence." By her own account, as we noted here, Sheehan was bitterly opposed to the war before her son Casey re-enlisted in August 2003:
I begged Casey not to go. I told him I would take him to Canada. I told him I would run over him with a car, anything to get him not to go to that immoral war. *** The U.N. weapon inspectors were saying there were no weapons of mass destruction. So I believed all along that this invasion was unnecessary and that there was some other agenda behind it besides keeping America safe.
So, far from having been turned into a "vocal opponent" some time after her son's death, Ms. Sheehan already considered the war "immoral" before he re-enlisted in 2003, and she never did believe the intelligence about WMDs.
John then goes on to point out a couple other outright whoppers in Cindy's accounts of her talks with her son including this "fact":
Sheehan, a Catholic youth minister for eight years, never wanted Casey to join the military. But he did after being misled by his recruiter, she said. Although he also opposed the war, he didn�t try to back out of his duty.
And John comments: (Brown is AP reporter Angela Brown)
Brown must have known about Casey's re-enlistment, but she relates the story as though Casey was "misled by his recruiter" and thereupon was sent directly to Iraq. It's a little hard to claim, of course, that a soldier re-enlisted because he was misled by a recruiter, so, once again, Casey Sheehan's re-enlistment is discreetly dropped from the story.

Operation Crossroads

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Operation Crossroads was the code name for a set of two atomic bomb blasts on the Island of Bikini in 1946. Among the people observing these tests were three artists and a collection of their work is available online here: Operation Crossroads: Bikini Atoll Here are three:
Start of Able Bomb -- Charles Bittinger

Cross Spikes Club -- Arthur Beaumont

King Juda of Bikini Island -- Grant Powers

These are just thumbnails, larger copies of these are available at the website. Wonderful stuff! Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link!

Very cool idea for a tow truck

Your car has broken down; it's rush hour and you call for a tow. How long does it take the tow truck to get to you. A lot less time than you would expect if it is one of these:
What you are looking at is a Honda GL 1800 GoldWing which has had a special towing rig attached to it.
The rig is folded up behind a cowling until deployed. It has an independent braking system that makes the whole package stable and easy to drive. Maximum weight limit for the vehicle under tow is about 5,000 pounds! This is one of those ideas that is so good and so out-of-the-blue that you know the inventor got a puzzled expression on their face one day and reached for a pad and pencil to scribble on. This was followed by several years of maxing out credit cards and late night tinkering but it's here now and it seems to work. Very cool!

Problems at the Nations Museum

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The physical infrastructure of the Smithsonian Institution is in trouble. The NY Times has the story:
The Smithsonian's Newest Exhibits: Water Stains
It may not be obvious to the throngs of tourists who flock daily to its famed museums, but the Smithsonian Institution is falling apart.

Ominous drips from strained expansion joints have sprinkled down amid Asian artifacts in the institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The historic Arts and Industries Building is closed to visitors to protect them from metal panels dropping from its beautiful but dilapidated ceiling. At the National Air and Space Museum, a water stain mars the Lilienthal hang glider that inspired the Wright Brothers to fly. Even the 1940's prototypes of what was to become seemingly indestructible Tupperware were irreparably damaged in a plumbing breakdown.

The world's largest museum complex, the Smithsonian includes 18 museums and galleries, 10 science centers and a zoological park. It is charged with conserving and displaying the country's treasures, both grand and whimsical - the Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry, bits of moon rock from the earliest space missions, the "puffy shirt" worn by Jerry Seinfeld in his hit television series.

But years of inadequate financing and maintenance have led to widespread disrepair that is imperiling the collections, institution officials say.

This month, Congress slightly increased appropriations for the federally supported institution to $621.3 million for fiscal year 2006, up from $615.2 million this year.

But Smithsonian officials say that is not enough to address what a recent audit by the Government Accountability Office determined was a "broad decline in the Smithsonian's aging facilities and systems that pose a serious long-term threat" to its countless artifacts.

Smithsonian officials estimate that it will take a total of $2.3 billion over the next nine years to solve the most pressing problems. The Board of Regents, the institution's governing body, has considered charging entrance fees to compensate for the budget shortfall. Since it was established in 1846, the Smithsonian has never charged for admission, and Sheila P. Burke, the institution's deputy secretary and chief operating officer, said that so far the recommendation had been voted down.

"These are the nation's treasures," she said. "Ultimately we feel protecting them is a federal responsibility."

Private donations have increased over the last decade, officials said. But donors tend to direct money toward exhibitions and programs or, in the case of major contributors, special projects that can be named for them. In September 2000, Kenneth E. Behring, a California developer and philanthropist, gave $80 million to the National Museum of American History, which now has "Behring Center" attached to its name. But the money was primarily earmarked for the design of major new exhibition areas, including a hall devoted to military history that opened last year. "It is difficult to raise money for plaster and plumbing," Ms. Burke said.

"Everyone is holding their breath," said Mark Goldstein, director of the yearlong audit, whose results were published in April. "They have been relatively lucky so far, but who is to say they will be so lucky in the future if they are unable to fix the damage they are currently presented with?"
This sucks. These are our national treasures (Jerry's puffy shirt notwithstanding) and deserve to be kept in better conditions. Why did the Smithsonian Management let it decline into this state and why aren't they doing more fund-raising. Sure, "It is difficult to raise money for plaster and plumbing" but I bet people would be willing to dig in and give some more if they knew how much they were helping. Gifts don't have to be for shinny new things, they can be for treasured older things too...

A rough time at the Movies

Ars Technica has a good story about Hollywood's late awakening.

Hollywood faces the music: bad movies mean bad ticket sales
Last summer's movie scene was a let down for Hollywood studio executives, and it looks like this year will be even worse, despite the best efforts of Revenge of the Sith, Batman Begins, and War of the Worlds. Attendance compared to last year is down 11.5 percent, and that leaves the industry rushing about looking for a way to stop the bleeding.

Of course, we all know that Hollywood is having a rough time in the theatres, but what's surprising about this New York Times article is that the studios are apparently now beginning to entertain one theory pertaining to their dwindling tickets sales that I never thought I'd see: that's right, they're on to the fact that most of their movies are garbage. Not only that, but they're also frustrated that they can't salvage their bad movies with marketing.
"Part of this is the fact that the movies may not have lived up to the expectations of the audience, not just in this year, but in years prior," said Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. "Audiences have gotten smart to the marketing, and they can smell the good ones from the bad ones at a distance."
I'm not sure that Michael Lynton meant to admit that they knowingly bring bad films to the screen with the hopes of promotion and marketing victories, but he did. Add to that the fact that Sony had to settle a class action lawsuit for making up completely fake movie reviews involving a fictitious reviewer, and you've got the secret recipe for comedy gold.

Jen and I can always tell when the trailer has the best shots. The author brings up a very interesting idea:

This brings me back to something I've been calling for: simultaneous theatrical and DVD releases (and I like to throw in pay per view as well). Not everyone is a big fan of the idea, however. John Fithian, who happens to be the president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said that the structure of the movie industry is "sound," and that Hollywood execs looking at simultaneous releases are issuing "death threats."

Actually, they're not death threats, they're wake-up calls. If you wanted to hear Beethoven 100 years ago, you went to the symphony because that was the only way you could hear and experience it. Now it's merely an option, and most of us listen to our modern "composers" on our own terms. In my area, two adult movie tickets will run US$22, and if you dare to get a medium popcorn and two drinks, that adds $10.50 to the cost. Sorry, but $32.50 is a ridiculous amount of money for that "experience," especially when two cans of coke and better popcorn at home costs $2, at most.

John Bolton at work

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According to this article at the Washington Post, John Bolton has wasted no time getting down to work at his new job.
U.S. Wants Changes In U.N. Agreement
Less than a month before world leaders arrive in New York for a world summit on poverty and U.N. reform, the Bush administration has thrown the proceedings in turmoil with a call for drastic renegotiation of a draft agreement to be signed by presidents and prime ministers attending the event.

The United States has only recently introduced more than 750 amendments that would eliminate new pledges of foreign aid to impoverished nations, scrap provisions that call for action to halt climate change and urge nuclear powers to make greater progress in dismantling their nuclear arms. At the same time, the administration is urging members of the United Nations to strengthen language in the 29-page document that would underscore the importance of taking tougher action against terrorism, promoting human rights and democracy, and halting the spread of the world's deadliest weapons.

Next month's summit, an unusual meeting at the United Nations of heads of state, was called by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to reinvigorate efforts to fight poverty and to take stronger steps in the battles against terrorism and genocide. The leaders of 175 nations are expected to attend and sign the agreement, which has been under negotiation for six months.

But Annan's effort to press for changes has been hampered by investigations into fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program and revelations of sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers.

The United Nations originally scheduled the Sept. 14 summit as a follow-up to the 2000 Millennium Summit, which produced commitments by U.N. members to meet deadlines over the next 15 years aimed at reducing poverty, preventable diseases and other scourges of the world's poor. But the Bush administration is seeking to focus attention on the need to streamline U.N. bureaucracy, establish a democracy fund, strengthen the U.N. human rights office and support a U.S. initiative to halt the trade in weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. amendments call for striking any mention of the Millennium Development Goals, and the administration has publicly complained that the document's section on poverty is too long. Instead, the United States has sought to underscore the importance of the Monterrey Consensus, a 2002 summit in Mexico that focused on free-market reforms, and required governments to improve accountability in exchange for aid and debt relief.

The proposed U.S. amendments, contained in a confidential 36-page document obtained by The Washington Post, have been presented this week to select envoys. The U.N. General Assembly's president, Jean Ping of Gabon, is organizing a core group of 20 to 30 countries, including the United States and other major powers, to engage in an intensive final round of negotiations in an attempt to strike a deal.

"Now it is maybe time to go on some key issues where we still have controversies and negotiate on these key issues," he said Tuesday.

The proposed changes, submitted by U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, touch on virtually every aspect of U.N. affairs and provide a detailed look at U.S. concerns about the world body's future. They underscore U.S. efforts to impose greater oversight of U.N. spending and to eliminate any reference to the International Criminal Court. The administration also opposes language that urges the five permanent members of the Security Council not to cast vetoes to block action to halt genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing.
What's that Carpenters song title again? Oh yes: "We've Only Just Begun" Heh... A much needed breath of fresh air. How could anyone have opposed him so much?

Waiter Rant

Wonderful weblog from a Professional Waiter. Here is an excerpt from one post:
"Waiter," the customer asks testily, "Are you trying to tell me something?"

"Excuse me sir?" I reply, confused.

The man waves the pen I gave him to sign the check. It's one of those pharmaceutical pens. You know the ones drug reps hand out like candy in doctor's offices? It's labeled ZOCOR.

"Do you know what Zocor's for?" the man asks.

"It's for high cholesterol sir," I reply.

"Are you being a smartass?" the man says.

I stifle a laugh. This guy's at least three hundred pounds.

"Sir, it's just a pen." I say.

"Just checking," the man snorts. My, isn't he the sensitive type? Idiot.
He then goes on to sugest that Waiters present specific pens to specific clients as a sort of subliminal jab. Some examples:
Zoloft � Good for the obsessive compulsive guy who double checks the bill 5 times. (OCD)
Lipitor � You just had to have extra cheese with that, right pal? (Cholesterol)
Campral � Maybe you should stop drinking. (Alcoholism)
Paxil � Customer eating alone? (Social Anxiety Disorder)
Viagra � Ladies, sick of the old perv staring at your tits? (Erectile dysfunction)
Zyban � For the customer who bitches about the no smoking rule. (Nicotine Addiction)
Ritalin � Didn�t pay attention while I recited the specials? Bastard. (Adult ADD)
Nexium � But you asked for it spicy sir. (Acid reflux disease)
Propecia � You may have money you rude arrogant bastard - but I have all my hair. (Baldness)

The Price of Gas

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Interesting chart. Stuart at Randomuseless.Info kept a record of the price per gallon for the last 26 years and presents it as a graph. He also includes the overall USA City Average numbers and the two track pretty well. What is interesting is that the third line is the data adjusted for inflation.
Click for full-size Image
He provides the raw data if you want to play around with it yourself. Right now, at $2.80/gallon, we are effectively paying $0.90 in 1979 dollars. In 1979, gas was $0.80/gallon but quickly rose to over $1.30/gallon. Carter was president from 1977 through 1981 so this was on his watch. Under Ronald Regan, prices stabilized and began a decline. They have been holding quite stable up until recently.

Two on China

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The Communist Government of China has been flexing its muscles recently. From the Epoch Times International:
CCP Official Claims Sino-Japanese War Possible by Year�s End
Yuan Hongbing: CCP�s turn towards fascism is the most urgent danger for humankind

Tang Chunfeng, the former commercial counselor for the Chinese Embassy in Japan, said in Hong Kong recently that a war could break out between China and Japan this year. The remark followed on the heels of Chinese General Zhu Chenghu�s speech on the use of nuclear weapons against the United States. Former Beijing University professor Yuan Hongbing said that Tang�s speech proves again that the CCP�s turn toward fascism presents the most urgent danger for humankind. The danger is no less than before World War II.

On August 10, Tang Chunfeng, who now works for the Department of Commerce, said in Hong Kong that a military clash could erupt between China and Japan by the end of this year. He fears that Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi, faced with a domestic political crisis, "is bound to provoke a dispute with China, playing on the tensions over the disputed ownership of the East Sea oil and gas fields."
I had written about General Chenghu here: China's War Next up is this question from Jane's
Is China building a carrier?
Chinese shipyard workers have been repairing a badly damaged ex-Russian aircraft carrier and have repainted it with the country's military markings, raising the question once again of whether China is pursuing longer-term plans to field its first carrier.

In the latest developments, images show that workers at the Chinese Dalian Shipyard have repainted the ex-Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Varyag with the markings and colour scheme of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy (PLAN). Additional new photographs show that other work, the specifics of which could not be determined, appears to be continuing and that the condition of the vessel is being improved.

JDW believes that PLAN technicians have also conducted thorough studies of the basic structure of the Varyag during the past few years to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the carrier's structural design. Former PLAN commander General Liu Huaqing stated in his memoirs that China had purchased blueprints for the carrier - a fact that Russian sources confirmed to JDW. Moreover, Gen Huaqing added: "The competent departments of the defence industry employed Russian aircraft carrier designers to come to China and give lectures."

Still, China's ultimate intentions for the Varyag remain unclear. One possibility is that Beijing intends to eventually have it enter into some level of service. A military strategist from a Chinese military university has commented publicly that the Varyag "would be China's first aircraft carrier".
Why do they need it -- are they in danger of being attacked? Or do they have plans to expand their territories to include parts of Japan and Taiwan. We have know what good overlords they have been in Tibet...

Tin Toys

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Not your usual Tonka Truck... Retro 1-2-3 makes large and wonderfully detailed metal toys. Here are some photos of their GM Futurliner.
These 'toys' are 33" long and weigh 42 pounds. Price is $1,845. For information about the real Futurliner, check here A fascinating vehicle...

New entry to Blogroll

Ran into this one last night.
My Life as a...Gas Station Attendant.
The online journal of a man and his daily and weekly struggles with 40oz-guzzling vagrants, gasoline pump drive-offs, cantankerous coworkers, and eighteen-year-old gangsta potheads who don't think I can spot their fake ID's. It's a Tennessee tragedy, here for your amusement. Some names have been changed to protect the indolent.
Here is an excerpt from this story:
By any Other Name.
There is a young lady standing in front of my counter; clinically speaking, a fascinating series of events is taking place. The twin clusters of cells that are my eyes are perceiving her dimensions, in their primitive and deeply limited capacity to perceive space and color. They are sending messages to the ancient, instinctive part of my brain called the amygdala. The message they are sending can be roughly translated thus: this is a female of your species, of adequate height, with large, bright eyes, indicating perception and inquisitiveness. Its round, full hips and round, full breasts, respectively, indicate excellent childbearing and childrearing capacity. Her colorful decorative attire suggests good grooming status, an excellent ploy to attract mates and keep offspring free from disease and infection.

The newfangled, oh-so-clever part of my brain called the cerebral cortex translates this information into other words so that I can comfort myself by thinking that I am more than a monkey wishing to pass on its monkey genetic material. It gives me a slightly more refined message: there�s a hot, brown-eyed, brunette, nineteen-year-old college girl with a unique, funky sartorial sense about her, standing in front of me looking to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Good storytelling.

Big Meat Eater

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This looks really good. An indie film from Canada: Big Meat Eater
Bob Sanderson is the mild mannered butcher of the small, sleepy town of Burquitlam. His motto is "Pleased to meet you, meat to please you." Bob's life is thrown into turmoil when he decides to hire Abdullah (The Big Meat Eater) - a massive human blockhouse of a man - as an apprentice in his butcher shop. Unbeknownst to Bob, Abdullah has just murdered the Mayor of Burquitlam in a fit of pique - and the corpse is hidden in Bob's freezer.

An alien spacecraft arrives in search of a rare fuel - Bolonium - which is deposited in large quantities underneath Bob's butcher shop. Meanwhile, Jan, a boy genius, has stolen the Mayor's cadillac, installed a cyclotron and is set to launch it into outerspace...

Abdullah sings the blues while he charcoal grills gangsters and turns dalmation dogs into spotted spam... Alien robots desperate for bolonium possess the defrosted Mayor as their zombie agent... Bob and Jan are in turn the victims of repulsive temporary mutations... and Burquitlam itself becomes just another excuse for a bizarre musical comedy sci-fi/horror film.
Big Miller as Abdullah
Our local Library system doesn't seem to have it. Dang!

Fun times in Downtown Seattle

Really happy to have moved out to the country. KOMO-TV has the story of two Soldiers, recently returned from Iraq getting savagely beaten when they were out at a nightclub.

Police Need Your Help In Capturing Beating Suspects
Two soldiers who just returned from a year in Iraq were badly beaten in an attack outside Pioneer Square. But believe it or not, someone caught the beating on videotape. Now, police are asking for your help identifying the suspects.

The brutality of it all was captured on tape outside of Larry's Nightclub on First and Yesler on July 31.

Police say the victims were with two women who'd been groped by the suspects. One of the women threw a hot dog at the suspects and walked away.

They didn't get very far. The three suspects ran after them and began attacking the two men -- two soldiers who'd come home from the war.

The graphic videotape shows both victims getting beaten over and over again, and then after one of the victims loses consciousness, a suspect starts stomping on his head.

Now police want your help in catching these guys.

Pioneer Square is where Kristopher Kime was beaten to death a few years ago during a Mardis Gras celebration that turned into a street brawl. Some people like Urban life -- I do not...

A comment

Just had someone post a comment to this previous entry. Here is the unedited comment in full:

i think wealmart sux i shop there but come on pppl die tere and they run sweat shops and they steal ppl thee just another excuse for a bad store there illegal duhhh i hoped youd know w that by now silly ppl ok bubi

The email address was patently false but the IP number pointed to this august institution:

OrgName:    Liberty School District 
OrgID:      LSD-13
Address:    19818 W. High 85
City:       Buckeye
StateProv:  AZ
PostalCode: 85326
Country:    US

Christ on a Corn Dog... Doesn't anyone know how to write anymore? Why do incoming College students have to take remedial English and Math?

Drive in California?

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Check out Ticket Assassin From their website:
Why should you always fight your traffic ticket?

When you receive a traffic ticket, the court will usually suggest that you must appear twice to contest it: first to appear and plead not guilty and second to stand trial with the officer present. This is not true. You can contest your ticket by mail without making a single court appearance. Contesting your citation through the mail gives you a better chance of winning your case than at a court trial. Even if you seem to be guilty of violating the law, the procedural hassles for the prosecution will often lead to a dismissal. If the prosecution does not submit its version of events in writing to the court by the deadline date, your case will be dismissed regardless of your guilt or innocence. Dismissals due to lack of prosecution are won in approximately 30% of written defenses.

The law allows you to contest any traffic infraction entirely by mail. You can appear via mail through a Written Not Guilty Plea pursuant to CVC 40519(b). In your plea you can request a Trial by Written Declaration pursuant to CVC 40902. In this way you can contest your citation without appearing at all and, for reasons already discussed, will have a better chance of winning than at trial. Further, if you lose your trial by declaration, you have 20 days to request a Trial de Novo (new trial) pursuant to CVC 40902(d). You then can appear in court for the first time for your second chance of winning.

Why doesn't the court inform every defendant of their legal right to appear in court via mail (Written Not Guilty Plea), contest via mail (Trial by Written Declaration), and have a new trial (Trial de Novo) if they are not happy with the outcome of the first trial? Money. Most courtesy notices hardly mention or do not mention these rights at all. Many courtesy notices from California traffic courts begin, "To avoid the inconvenience and long lines associated with a court appearance... pay the bail amount listed above." The justice system uses its own bureaucratic inefficiency to discourage you from seeking justice. Nice.
Looks good -- I heard about this through someone who used their technique successfully. There are testimonials online and they seem quite favorable.

XP tweaks

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A collection of over 700 specific XP tweaks and adjustments. These are either REG registry patches or VBS scripts. Here is a random grab of eight of them:
  • Restore System Default Sounds
  • Increase Balloon Tip Display Time
  • Change Registered Owner and Organization
  • Release/Renew Bat File
  • Remove Internet Explorer Branding
  • Disable the Windows Logo Keys
  • Enable CD AutoPlay for Pro
  • Disable Media Player Update Message
Some useful stuff!

The art of Patricia Waller

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This is downright sick and twisted -- I love it! Patricia Waller lives in Karlsruhe, Germany and does Crochet pieces. Here are five examples:



A Good Doctor


From NewsNet5 comes the story of a Medical Doctor who calls things as he sees them:

Woman Files Complaint After Doctor Tells Her She's Obese
New Hampshire Doctor Outraged By Complaint

The New Hampshire attorney general is investigating a Rochester doctor because a patient complained that he bluntly told her she needed to lose weight.

Dr. Terry Bennett said that he's outraged by what he calls a baseless complaint. A patient was apparently insulted when Bennett told her that she was obese and could only get healthier by losing weight.

"It's an epidemic in the United States, and it's croaking us," Bennett said.

Bennett said that it's a lecture he gives to many of his overweight patients.

"It's your weight, ... and there's dozens of programs," Bennett said. "You don't have to come in here. You can join Jenny Craig. You can go see Weight Watchers."

Bennett said he tells obese patients that their weight is bad for their health and their love lives. But the lecture drove one patient to write a letter to the Board of Medicine, which has passed on the complaint to the Attorney General's Office.

"Did I sleep with somebody? Did I give somebody drugs? Was I careless? No. End of story," Bennett said. "That should have been the end of it."

Now, other overweight patients are coming to Bennett's defense.

"What really makes me angry is he told the truth," patient Mindy Haney said. "How can you punish somebody for that?"

When New Hampshire starts getting "nanny-ish" in their government, I begin to worry... After all, the state's motto is: Live Free or Die

Interview with Adam Savage

Steven at The Sneeze got the chance to interview one half of the MythBusters team.
Adam Savage Interview - Part 1

MythBusters is easily one of my favorite shows on TV. If you've never seen it, hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman use their years of special effects experience to scientifically put urban legends to the test-- and blow up a lot of stuff in the process.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Maker of Things and Buster of Myths: Adam Savage. We covered lots of ground including the birth of the show, feeling famous, gay fan mail and lots more...
I am not going to quote the whole interview as it is wonderfully long and rambles from subject to subject. Go and read it yourself. Part two should be up soon. And if you have not seen this show on TV, it is worth checking out -- Wednesday nights on Discovery. Lot's of fun!

Cool Geeky Java HTML Hack

I use this a lot here and thought I would pass it on. Basically, this is a javascript saved on your desktop as a file named xxxxxxxx.HTML When you double-click on it, it is opened by your browser and automatically run. It contains a list of Internet Sites that you want to visit (URLs) and it will automatically open each one in a new instance of Internet Explorer. It should work with Firefox and other browsers if they are set to being the default browser on your system. Here is a file called URL_Code.txt. Download it (right click with the mouse and save) Open the file with your favorite editor (or Notepad) and start entering your URLs at line six. Of course, you can keep multiple copies of this file with different lists for browsing different sets of sites. Handy! Don't know where I first found it -- it was on the web a few years ago. No credit or copyright was in the original source code.

A movie clip

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This is from Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard's 1940 release: The Ghost Breakers The clip requires Windows Media Player Play the clip here Please Note: We have a lot of readers on dial-up so I squished the video pretty intensely. The audio is untouched and the video is good enough so you do get Bob Hope's wonderful delivery... Hat tip to Extreme Wisdom for the link.

A big wedding in Hackensack, NJ

Two people were getting married and they invited all of their friends to the wedding. Some 60 to 80 showed up with gifts (the exact number is not known). The wedding was to be held on board the luxury yacht "The Royal Charm". The marriage never happened. What happened was the end result of six years of work by the FBI targeting a ring of criminals.

The Seattle Times has the story:

FBI uses bogus wedding to dismantle smuggling ring
They arrived with gifts of gold Rolex watches and suitcases of clothing, planning to attend a friend's wedding aboard The Royal Charm, a luxury yacht docked in Cape May, N.J.

But The Royal Charm turned out to be an FBI code name and the wedding an elaborate setup.

Guests who traded their cuff links for handcuffs were part of a string of nationwide arrests over the weekend that helped dismantle an international smuggling ring that moved drugs, counterfeit cigarettes and millions of dollars in fake U.S. currency into the country, authorities said.

"For those of the conspirators who thought they'd be celebrating a wedding," U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said, "the party ended as soon as they arrived in New Jersey.

"This organization had its hands in a slew of global criminal enterprises," Christie added in announcing the arrests in Washington, D.C.

Working in shadowy, loosely linked Asian networks, the 87 defendants named in federal indictments unsealed today smuggled 200 million fake cigarettes, 45,000 Ecstasy pills, hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of methamphetamine and Viagra and more than $3.3 million in Supernotes, a high-quality counterfeit currency, federal authorities said.

It started off with 1 billion Chinese counterfeit cigarettes with Marlboro and Newport brands. The Supernotes brought in another concern as they were virtually impossible to detect from "real" currency. The LA Times has some details on that aspect:

Of particular concern, Secret Service officials said, was the group's apparent ability to generate counterfeit U.S. currency that could fool even the most sophisticated detection devices. A government source said the bills, known as "super notes" because they were virtually identical to real currency, had been made in North Korea. The bills were seized before they entered the U.S. money supply, authorities said.

The group also used factories in China to churn out as many as 1 billion counterfeit cigarettes for sale in the U.S., some under the Marlboro and Newport brands. They also engaged in levels of money laundering and drugs and weapons trafficking that far outpaced the work of traditional Asian and European organized crime groups, top federal law enforcement officials said at a news conference at Justice Department headquarters.

Well, the NoKo's certainly have the ability to print currency-grade notes and it's not that big a stretch to put away their own plates and do some runs with dollar bill plates on the presses. After all, they need hard currency. It will be interesting to see how China wiggles out of this one.

Anodizing Aluminum

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A lot of people make stuff out of Aluminum but few people know just how easy it is to create an Anodized finish. I found a website that shows the basic process in wonderful detail. The author also has a $20 book that has additional tips and "secrets" but the basic info is on the website for you to do work like this:
He also sells chemical kits for a decent price.


You all know the great rant from John Hodge's novel Trainspotting. The one that begins:

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage.
Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that?

Here is the sysadmin version. True enough that I am wincing.

Click for full-size Image

R.I.P. Bob Moog

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Bob Moog passed away around 2:00pm this afternoon. He will be sorely missed. Good people as well as an original groundbreaker and visionary.

The Piano Man was a hoax

I had written about this guy before here: Piano Man From my May 16, 2005 entry:

A campaign to identify a mysterious mute piano virtuoso who turned up in Kent more than a month ago is drawing a huge response.

Officials say the U.K.'s National Missing Persons Helpline has been inundated with calls about the mysterious man, after his photo was published in the British press.

Police discovered the man, soaking wet and dressed in an expensive black suit, walking aimlessly in southeastern Kent in early April. The slim, six-foot-tall man has short brown hair and is believed to be in his 20s or 30s. He was admitted to Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham.

Because he was unable to speak, staff gave him a pen and paper hoping that he would write his name or otherwise communicate with them.

Instead, he produced detailed drawings of a grand piano, including the interior. Staff then brought him to the hospital�s chapel, where a piano is located, and he proceeded to play for two hours. He also drew a Swedish flag; however, hospital staff believe him to be a British citizen.

In the weeks since, the man has remained mute and generally anxious, except when he is brought to the chapel piano, where he plays for hours on end.

Well, it turns out that he wasn't 'playing' he was hitting the same note over and over and over again. Every morning, the nurses would ask him if he was going to speak with them today and on the 19th, he replied: 'Yes, I think I will'. The Mirror has the story:

It was thought he was a musical genius who'd lost his mind, tried to kill himself and retreated into a world of silence.. but he's really a gay German who fooled docs and can barely play a note.

mysterious Piano Man has finally broken his silence after more than four months - and has been exposed as a fake.

What is more, the man thought to be a musical genius can hardly play a note on the piano, according to latest reports.

The stranger refused to utter a single word after being found in a soaking wet suit on a beach near Sheerness, Kent.

Now, it is claimed he has confessed to medical staff that he was a gay German.

He said he had been working in Paris but had lost his job. He added that his father owned a farm in Germany and he had two sisters.

He made his way to Britain on a Eurostar train and claimed he was trying to commit suicide when police picked him up on the beach in April.

He flew home to Germany on Saturday. Health chiefs, who have wasted tens of thousands of pounds on treatment, are considering suing him.

The man used to work with mentally ill patients and is thought to have copied some of their characteristics to fool psychiatric doctors about his own imagined illness.

An insider at The Little Brook Hospital in Dartford, Kent, claimed: "A nurse went into his room last Friday and said 'Are you going to speak to us today?' He simply answered, 'Yes, I think I will'.

"We were stunned. He has been with us for months and we have got nowhere with him. We thought he was going to be with us for ever."

The patient was nicknamed Piano Man after reports that he entertained hospital staff with his remarkable talent for classical recitals. When medics gave him a pen and paper, he drew detailed pictures of a grand piano.

Now it is claimed he could only tap one key continuously on the piano in the hospital chapel.

And he said he only drew a picture of a piano for therapists because that was the first thing that came into his head.

Not bad -- out of work? Fake a mental episode and get a couple months R&R without having to do anything. Three hots and a cot. And why weren't the father and two sisters putting out missing persons reports? It is one thing to distance yourself from your family but to be so removed that they don't wonder where you are after several months of not hearing from you? Especially since his picture was broadcast throughout Europe. Talk about putting the 'fun' into dysfunctional. Hat tip to robot wisdom weblog for the link.

Aaaaiiiiii!!! - my eyes! my eyes!

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From time to time, I stumble across images that deserve to be shared. Today I found one so bad it makes my eyes bleed. Seriously. I will not even post a thumbnail; to see this horror, click here. What you are looking at is a photo of a Mr. Scott Thompson posing in a gym. Mr. Thompson tries to be a comedian under the stage name of Carrot Top. Talk about a face made for radio...

Cindy Sheehan - a metaphor

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Getting to be a Cindy Sheehan kinda day... Mark Steyn is a wonderful writer. His editorial in today's Chicago Sun-Times hits the nail on the head:
'Peace Mom's' marriage a metaphor for Dems
Cindy Sheehan's son Casey died in Sadr City last year, and that fact is supposed to put her beyond reproach. For as the New York Times' Maureen Dowd informed us: "The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute."

Really? Well, what about those other parents who've buried children killed in Iraq? There are, sadly, hundreds of them: They honor their loved ones' service to the nation, and so they don't make the news. There's one Cindy Sheehan, and she's on TV 'round the clock. Because, if you're as heavily invested as Dowd in the notion that those "killed in Iraq" are "children," then Sheehan's status as grieving matriarch is a bonanza.

They're not children in Iraq; they're grown-ups who made their own decision to join the military. That seems to be difficult for the left to grasp. Ever since America's all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as "children." If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that's her decision and her parents shouldn't get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the broadloom in Bill Clinton's Oval Office, she's a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year-old is serving his country overseas, he's a wee "child" who isn't really old enough to know what he's doing.

I get many e-mails from soldiers in Iraq, and they sound a lot more grown-up than most Ivy League professors and certainly than Maureen Dowd, who writes like she's auditioning for a minor supporting role in "Sex And The City."
He goes on with some examples of this and quotes this statement:
Casey Sheehan's grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins put out the following statement:

"The Sheehan Family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan Family supports the troops, our country, and our President, silently, with prayer and respect."
Mark then talks about the metaphor:
Yet in the wreckage of Pat and Cindy Sheehan's marriage there is surely a lesson for the Democratic Party. As Cindy says, they're both Democrats, but she's "more liberal" and "more radicalized." There are a lot of less liberal and less radicalized Dems out there: They're soft-left-ish on health care and the environment and education and so forth; many have doubts about the war, but they love their country, they have family in the military, and they don't believe in dishonoring American soldiers to make a political point. The problem for the Democratic Party is that the Cindys are now the loudest voice: Michael Moore, Howard Dean,, and Air America, the flailing liberal radio network distracting attention from its own financial scandals by flying down its afternoon host Randi Rhodes to do her show live from Camp Casey. The last time I heard Miss Rhodes she was urging soldiers called up for Iraq to refuse to go -- i.e., to desert.
So true -- the dems are going for the quick sound-bite, the publicity instead of actual work and support. Maybe we should re-institute the Whig party -- get a solid third party going to stir things up a bit...

Spiffy Flash clock

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Nice design -- simple and very legible: Clock Here is a collecion of some more. Including this famous one by Yugo Nakamura

Another Moonbat revealed

Actress Margot Kidder just outed herself - CBC has the news:
Margot Kidder becomes US citizen
Canadian actress Margot Kidder became a U.S. citizen Wednesday in Butte, Montana.

Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the Superman movies, said she did it to avoid possible deportation to Canada when she begins protesting the war in Iraq.

Kidder, 56, has lived in the United States for 34 years and has a residence in Livingston, Montana.

Kidder said her sole motivation was to protest the war in Iraq.

The actress was born in Yellowknife in 1948, and her family later moved to Vancouver.

In 1996 she made headlines when she was discovered in a delusional state in a Los Angeles neighborhood. She later talked of her battles with manic depression.
Margot Kidder in October 2000 (CP Photo)
Sheesh!!! Another foreign policy expert and great statesman.
Laurence Simon has the perfect solution to the question of Cindy Sheehan:
Let Cindy Sheehan meet the President
I have a very simple solution to the entire Cindy Sheehan affair.

Let her meet with the President.

That's right. I've finally changed my tune.

Let her meet with the President who thwarted the United Nations Security Council and made the case for war.

Let her meet with the President who hindered the progress of United Nations weapons inspectors.

Let her meet with the President who lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction that they'd use on Americans.

Let her meet with the President who killed thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Let her meet with the President who came to office in a rigged election, and maintained his grip on power through rigged voting and militaristic patriotism.

Let her meet with the President who turned his country's media into a mouthpiece for his fascist and discriminatory policies.

Let her meet with the President who transformed his country into a single-party dictatorship, sowing fear and resentment against any who dared to oppose his iron-fisted rule.

Let her meet with the President who proved himself a coward by fleeing when his country was attacked.

Let her meet with the President who should be brought up on war crimes charges for his dastardly misdeeds.

Let her meet with the President who spent billions of dollars on weapons while social welfare programs went unfunded and the poor continue to suffer for it to this day.

Let her meet with the President who has a track record of invading Arab Muslim countries for oil.

Let her meet with the President who knew full well about the bloodthirsty torture and murderous horrors at Abu Ghraib.

That's right. Let her meet with Saddam Hussein.

Tinfoil Time

Make one of these, put it on, gird your loins and wade into this steaming morass of conspiracy bunkum and piffle. Here are the first seven lead articles:

JFK II - The Bush Connection
A thorough, documented, criminal indictment of George Herbert Walker Bush, establishing beyond a reasonable doubt his guilt as a supervisor in the conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy.

The Illuminati Conspiracy
Interview with Terry Melanson, operator of the website: Illuminati Conspiracy Archive. Discussion of the history of the Illuminati dating back to Adam Weishaupt and his partnering with the Rothschilds. Author Charles Wilcox calls in to add the Jesuit/Vatican factor. Highly Recommended.

The Psychedelic Experience
A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead By Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., & Richard Alpert, Ph.D. The authors were engaged in a program of experiments with LSD and other psychedelic drugs at Harvard University, until sensational national publicity, unfairly concentrating on student interest in the drugs, led to the suspension of the experiments. Part One & Part Two

Tom Flocco interview
Alex Jones interviewed investigative journalist Tom Flocco, who has written for World Net Daily and many other major publications, was in attendance at many of the 9/11 whitewash Commission meetings and has broken many big stories in recent years.

David Shayler & Tony Gosling
An interview with David Shayler and Tony Gosling at the Big Green Gathering, amongst the lush Mendip Hills, on the 6th August 2005. David talks about the inconsistencies with the official story of September 11th and the war on terror.

John Conner
Corbin interviews John Conner, author of The Resistance Manifesto, a book that tackles the personalities and the agendas of the New World Order. John exposes the Luciferian plot.

Pop Go the Presidents - Part 2
How many assassinations have there really been? Author and historian Eric Jon Phelps discusses just how many Presidents were assassinated and why some were covered up.

I was going to close by saying that I wished I had stock in Alcoa but that is not a good financial position to be in:


You are looking at the last five years NOT corrected for inflation. >>ouch<< Wondering how many of their top-level managers used to work for Amtrak before moving to Alcoa. This is downright shoddy...

Jeremy Banx

Just ran into his work from an email.

He is a London cartoonist whose work is very reminiscent of another Brit Andy Riley (here and here)

Here is his website: JBanx

Here are two examples:



He has books and merch for sale here.

Burma-Shave and the trip to Mars

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Snopes has the wonderful story of Burma-Shave and a promotional stunt gone awry. Burma-Shave is famous for its advertising technique, using small sets of roadside signs forming a humorous couplet or joke.
Don't Take A Curve At 60 Per We Hate To Lose A Customer Burma-Shave Keep Well To The Right Of The Oncoming Car Get Your Close Shaves From The Half-Pound Jar Burma-Shave Don't Pass Cars On Curve Or Hill If The Cops Don't Get You Morticians Will Burma-Shave
Burma-Shave was sold to Philip-Morris in 1963 and the company ceased operations. The Snopes story is about one set of signs that backfired on them in 1955:
Free � Free
A Trip
To Mars
For 900
Empty Jars
From Snopes:
Burma-Shave had not reckoned on the determination of Arliss French, manager of a supermarket in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Mr. French wired Burma-Shave he was accepting their offer � where should the jars be shipped? In response, the company wired back:
If A Trip
To Mars You Earn
Remember, Friend
There's No Return
French was not to be dissuaded. He countered with another telegram:
Let's Not Quibble
Let's Not Fret
Gather Your Forces
I'm All Set
What could Burma-Shave do but respond?
Our Rockets Are Ready
We Ain't Splitting Hairs
Just Send Us The Jars
And Arrange Your Affairs
Underneath the bravado, Burma-Shave was concerned. They sent Ralph Getchman, their general manager, to Appleton to find out what was going on and determine just how serious this French fellow was.

Getchman's report was not what the home office had been hoping for. Arliss French's store was festooned with reproductions of the key Burma-Shave signs. Full-page ads run in the local paper entreated: "Send Frenchy to Mars!" Within the store was a huge pile of empty jars, and it was growing day by day. Also in the store was a mock rocket ship for the kids to swarm over. And from the roof of the establishment, little green men fired toy rocket gliders out over the parking lot.

On the spur of the moment, the head of Burma-Shave recommended offering the determined grocer a trip to the Mars Candy Company in Chicago for a weekend on the town. It was that spontaneous utterance that planted the suggestion of a solution in his head, a solution that was to provide everyone with enough wiggle room to look like the offer had been honored.

When French presented himself at Burma-Shave's head office, he was dressed for his trip � he arrived sporting a bubble on his head and clad in a silvery space suit with a big red owl on the front. His 900 jars arrived in a Brink's armored truck emblazoned with a "Send Frenchy To Mars!" sign.

Burma-Shave was ready � they presented tickets for French, his wife, and twelve children to travel to Moers, a little town in Germany that mercifully pronounced its name "mars." The Frenches were handed full jars of Burma-Shave and given the advice they be used to barter with the natives for goods and services.

The photos were many and the news coverage extensive. The Frenches enjoyed their German vacation, and Burma-Shave once again netted more by way of publicity than it lost in meeting its obligation.
Great story -- when I was growing up, my family used to drive a lot and I remember looking forward to seeing the signs. Never used the product but the signs were great.

A Quiet Prayer

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Gerard Van Der Leun offers a quiet prayer:
Dear Lord,
If it be Thy will and if Thou art truly the God with a deep sense of humor that passeth all understanding, please give unto the executives of CBS news the wisdom and the vision to make Cindy Sheehan the new anchor of the CBS Nightly News.

Fatwas Online

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An online database of Islamic Rulings or Fatwas: FatwaIslam Some examples:
Is it permissible for the Muslim to attend the meeting of the Buddhists for cremation of the dead if he is invited to it?
It is not permissible for the Muslim to attend the meeting of the Buddhists for cremation of the dead, regardless of whether he is invited to it or whether he is not invited to it - due to what this contains from participating with them in their evil rituals, and bringing happiness to them and showing pleasure at their activities.
Evil rituals? Showing pleasure at their activities? At a funeral?
Is learning the English language haraam (forbidden) or halaal (permissible)?
If there is a need for learning the English language, or other than it from the non Arabic languages, then there is nothing to prevent learning it.

As for if there is no need, then it is indeed disliked to learn it.
How about this for a need -- you are living in an English-speaking nation. You emigrated here under your own free will. What part of assimilation do you fail to grasp? One more:
Is it permissible to sit with those people who do not pray?
It is permissible to sit with them for the purpose of advising them and guiding them to the performance of the obligatory prayers in congregation � and not for the purpose of enjoying oneself by sitting with them and being sociable by chatting with them � otherwise, it is forbidden to sit with them.
Nice, you can sit with one of the "non-faithful" if it is for the purpose of conversion but being sociable is forbidden. And the definition of 'sociable' is? Merriam-Webster's Unabridged has it as this:
  • Inclined by nature to community life
  • Inherently disposed to companionship or association with others of the same species
  • Inclined to seek or enjoy companionship or social intercourse
  • Marked by or conducive to friendliness or pleasant social relations
Fundamental difference, no?

Blu-Ray takes the lead

Very cool news. I had written about the new Blu-Ray disks before here, here, here, here, here and here.

Basically, Sony took a standard DVD recorder, switched the laser from near Infrared to near Ultra Violet. The smaller wavelength allows data to be packed closer together and there is a corresponding increase in the amount of data that can be packed onto a disk. An elegant hack getting a capacity of 25GB on a single layer media just by changing the optics -- a gain of over six times.

Of course, other people couldn't let this stand so a competing standard HD-DVD was developed by Toshiba.

This has less capacity and the media is more complex (three layers) and therefore more expensive.

Fortunately, manufacturers have been tending towards Blu-Ray and this article at ArsTechnica gives some happy news:

Blu-ray wins two more backers, while HD DVD looks doomed
Late last week the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) pulled an Ace out of its sleeve and announced that not only will they support the Advanced Access Content System (AACS), just like HD DVD, but that they're adding two more weapons in the fight against piracy: BD+ and ROM-Mark. The ploy seems to have worked, because not only did it net them Twentieth Century Fox, but this week two other companies have hopped on board with Blu-ray.

Earlier this week Universal Music Group said that they would adopt Blu-ray as the standard for their next-generation audio discs�a nice catch for the BDA. Even better, Lion's Gate Home Entertainment today said that they, too, want on the Blu-ray bandwagon.

Stick a fork in it, it's done... I hate to think of how much money Toshiba spent on this.

It was an overly complex kludge from the beginning.

What manager approved it and are they still employed by Toshiba? Sheesh!

Today's San Francisco explosion

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Mostly Cajun writes about the explosion in downtown San Francisco.
News story on Foxnews about an explosion near a San Francisco mall.
"All of a sudden there was a big, big, big boom and the lights flickered off," said Ellen, who joined other workers in a smoky stairwell as she made her way to the street from the 28th floor above the Ralph Lauren store. She wouldn�t give her last name, but said she worked for Charles Schwab.

"I thought it was a bomb," she said. "It was very scary."

The blast came from a vault that houses four Pacific Gas & Electric Co. transformers fed by a 34,000-volt electrical cable, said company spokesman Paul Moreno.
Ah! Explosion in a transformer vault. Be still my throbbing heart. This is the stuff dreams are made of!
The cause could not immediately be determined because a bomb squad was investigating, but Moreno said there have been vault explosions in the past.
No sh*t, Sherlock! We don�t like �em, but they ARE a fact of electrical life. We do all sorts of testing and predicting, and we can, with a well-engineered and properly maintained system, reduce the number of these explosions, but they DO happen.
No utility workers were present when the explosion buckled a sidewalk and shot a manhole cover 25 feet across the street, according to Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.
We generally aren�t. Silly us! If we think the d*mned thing is getting ready to blow up, we haul major butt and shut it off!

Okay! Okay! I know THIS ONE!

Electrical disasters are both my hobby and my profession. Allow me a few points here.

34,000 volt cable. That�s a decent voltage level. Above that level, insulated cables get REALLY expensive and interesting to deal with. That�s also a huge amount of power. A cable with copper as thick as your thumb can carry multiple thousands of horsepower under perfectly normal conditions. That "normal conditions" presupposes that all the insulation in every component in the system is in good shape.
He then goes on to talk a bit about how these happen and why as well as give a few examples of personal experiences. He is a fun writer so it's worth visiting to read for yourself. Go and read: Oops

Furniture and Lasers

Gorgeous furniture from London designer Mathias Bengtsson. He is using CAD software and cutting individual laminations and then gluing them into chairs and furniture. Here is one of his chairs:

Hat tip to Inhabitant

Lights Out

Talk about power outages -- from the Financial Times:
Indonesian outage leaves 100m without electricity
Some 100m Indonesians were without electricity on Thursday as power outages hit the country's main grid, leaving office workers in Jakarta trapped in elevators and the state-owned power monopoly struggling for an explanation.

Perusahaan Listrik Negara said power was last night being restored across most affected areas after a failure hit the Java-Madura-Bali inter-connection system at 10.23am, causing outages across the main island of Java and nearby Bali.

But Eddie Widiono, PLN's president, warned that yesterday's problems highlighted the fragile state of an electricity grid that almost half of Indonesia's 220m population relies on.

In parts, the main transmission lines were more than 20 years old, Mr Widiono told reporters. The outages also highlighted what is rapidly becoming an energy crisis for Indonesia, one of the world's most resource- and energy-rich countries.
Talk about piss-poor planning. They are running with an infrastructure that is 20 years old in places. They have good oil reserves but they have to import because they haven't invested in the equipment to pump and refine their own. To highlight the mentality of these people:
In a big setback last year, the Constitutional Court struck down a 2002 electricity law that would have opened up the sector to competition and privatization.
Granted, California privatized their power supply and look at what happened there. But Pennsylvania did and that is a major success story. Depends on the leadership.

Strong Magnetism

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An interesting report at the NY Times about the consequences of the very strong magnets found in MRI machines"

M.R.I.'s Strong Magnets Cited in Accidents
The pictures and stories are the stuff of slapstick: wheelchairs, gurneys and even floor polishers jammed deep inside M.R.I. scanners whose powerful magnets grabbed them from the hands of careless hospital workers.

The police officer whose pistol flew out of his holster and shot a wall as it hit the magnet. The sprinkler repairman whose acetylene tank was yanked inside, breaking its valve and starting a fire that razed the building.

But the bigger picture is anything but funny, medical safety experts say. As the number of magnetic resonance imaging scanners in the country has soared from a handful in 1980 to about 10,000 today, and as magnets have quadrupled in power, careless accidents have become more frequent. Some have caused serious injuries and even death.

No one knows how many have occurred. But the safety experts say there is no doubt they are on the rise, and their growing frequency is prompting widespread calls for more regulation.

Safety guidelines drawn up by the American College of Radiology in 2002 and revised last year "have no teeth and are floating out there in intellectual Never-Never Land," Tobias Gilk, a Kansas City architect who designs medical scanning rooms, said.

He continued: "The X-ray in your dentist's office is more heavily regulated."

The report had an interesting thing that I did not know:

The magnets are never off, even at night, and cutting the electricity will not affect them. They draw most of their power from supercooled helium, which must be vented to shut down the magnet - a process that takes several minutes and has hazards of its own.

Makes sense -- the magnet is made from superconducting materials and as long as they are below the Curie point, they will be running at full strength. This page has some photos of what happens when ferrous objects get too close to an MRI machine: Simply Physics Here's a floor buffer:


Someone gets it

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Hat tip to Charles at LGF for this heads-up" We all know about Cindy Sheehan who's son died in Iraq. We tend to forget that her son volunteered twice to be there. He loved what he was doing and thought he was doing good work. Even Cindy's husband has been distancing himself from her. Finally, Cindy left Crawford to take care of her mother. Thanks to Charles, I read the following from Scott Randolph:
Cindy sealed the deal.
I actually felt myself become a republican today. It was around 10am, when I read the latest update of the Cindy Sheehan saga in I then shot over to read some blogs about it, and perused the comments in some of them, which was nothing but a long series of petty (albeit entertaining) partisan bickering.

Then it happend. The good little democrat in me tied the little noose around his neck and jumped off the stool. He just couldn�t take it anymore.

Take what? The whining. The constant whining by the extreme left about the reasons for war, the incompetence of this administration, and how we�ve all been lied to, and how we should pull out of Iraq immediately, because, *gulp* our soldiers were in danger.

Guess what folks�.they signed up to join the Army, not the boy scouts. Anytime your orientation to a new job involves an automatic weapon, you should be smart enough to figure out there�s danger involved. I actually read some people�s comments about many of the soldiers over there being naive�.they weren�t expecting to go to war, so, they should be allowed to go home. Wow.

Soldiers know, when they enlist, that it is entirely possible they will be shipped out and never come home. It�s part of the job. The fact that people still walk in to recruiters� offices and sign that piece of paper make them heroes. To imply that they are simple kids who didn�t know what they were getting into, or even worse, that they died for no reason, or an immoral reason, does a horrible thing. It strips their sacrifice of the honor that it deserves. Even though those folks sitting out there in the Texas fields claim to honor and support the soldiers, they obviously have been blinded by their own selfishness as to the real way to support them.

Because, long story short, we can�t end this war now. That would send the message that those bastardly little terrorists have won. It doesn�t matter if the administration told us the desert sand was made of gold, and we are going over there to collect it in little buckets to bring home, the concrete fact that we are at war doesn�t change. We are there, and we have a job to finish. We�ve toppled a regime that was dangerous not only to its own people, but also to the rest of the world. Now, we are there fighting the same terrorists we are fighting in Afghanistan. We�ve given liberty to millions of people, and we�re trying to help create a government, in an area that is very volatile, that will be a bastion of freedom and hope for an entire race of people. I hate the fact that our boys are getting killed over there, and I wish it didn�t have to happen.

But, it is, there�s nothing we can do about it, except for doing everything we can to offer support and hope to the folks fighting over there. Arguing and whining about the reasons we�re there, and the need to come home not only kills morale, but it is a complete waste of time.
Some of the comments that Scott gets are wonderful. Looks like a potential addition to the 'ole blogroll...

Childhood dreams

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Screw asking for a pony -- I was onto bigger stuff. I wanted one of these puppies:
Still do. Comes with a fully-loaded 245' long support ship for the paltry price of $1,750,000 If someone has that much to click, I'll set up a PayPal button... Seriously, this is a very good package for the price. The support ship alone is well worth the asking price.

Volume Controls - a bit more...

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Almost a year ago I wrote the entry Volume Control where I talked about a company that was selling a passive volume control for your high-end stereo for prices ranging from $3,780 up to $6,820. This was for a box (a very pretty box indeed) with two stepped transformers in it. Fixed voltage in, variable (stepped) voltage out. They then went on to say that you really needed to get the accessory knobs at $485 each. Their advertising copy said:
The beech wood is coated several times with C37 lacquer for best sound as pointed out by Dieter Ennemoser.
Well, today, I ran into another reference to the good Herr. Ennemoser and it seems that he is the very model of a modern pseudo-scientist. He got his start making violins and now has his own website filled with the most amazing bits of piffle and fluff. He is flogging a fiddle lacquer he makes called C37. From the how it works page:
The C37 � Theory
All attempts by science to explain the secrets of the character of sound have so far been unsuccessful. On other hand, there is the immensely rich store of experience accumulated by instrument makers, who, in earlier centuries before science had any impact, had their greatest successes.

There must be, therefore, some property of acoustics that has been overlooked by science.

The object of my research was to seek the missing link.

My technical training, my earlier passion for High Fidelity sound, and my profession as sound technician were the building blocks of my work. The more important part of training came later: a violin maker�s apprenticeship with master violin maker Carl Sandner in Mittenwald, Germany and further studies in violin playing and singing. That was followed by the the long hard search for sound quality in violins. Many years of innumerable experiments finally resulted in an important clue:

The imperative selection of the right materials (wood and varnish quality) raised the question about the existence of a reference property. I eventually discovered that human bones and tissue to possess similar qualities. A more detailed analysis showed that carbon is the decisive element in sound quality, and since the sound is also coloured by body temperature, I chose to call this property the
C37 structure.
(Where C = Carbon and 37 = body temperature in degrees Centigrade).

Further analysis showed that C37 frequencies lie very close together (at least 10 frequencies per octave) and this structure reoccurs in each octave.

Another important feature of the C37 structure is that the decay-pattern is the dominant feature rather than merely the amplitudes on a frequency response curve.

It is precisely the C37 Structure that enables our ear to discern the quality of sound. The ear consists of several interacting elements, eardrum, hammer, anvil, stirrup auditory hairs), each of which has its own C37 property, so that at the end of the chain, the C37 properties are transmitted in preference to others. Consequently the C37 structure is extremely sharp and clear at the end of this chain and gives humans a marvelously sensitive measuring instrument.
The website talks about using this wonderful stuff (r) on all sorts of things including the beechwood knobs mentioned earlier but also speaker cones, bells, the speaker boxes themselves. Testimonials abound. The question I had is if this new 'wonderful stuff (R)' is based on the relationship between carbon and body heat, why does it work on stuff that is perpetually at room temperature (whatever that is?). At $215 for two ounces of the stuff, it is still cheaper that Ink Jet ink (which is about $8K/gallon!) but still... And I am still waiting for a double-blind test to see if people can tell the dfference... I like good audio but enough is enough.

Aww Crap... Part Two

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I had written about this July 5th but it seems like there are only a few days left. From Bob Moog's Caring Bridge:
This is a very sad entry. We called in Hospice yesterday, when I still felt that the main help they could give us was to manage his agitation, but there has been a real change today, and it is clear that he will not be with us for much longer.

Duke reviewed the MRIs and everyone was very nice, but surgery is no more an option than earlier, and chemo is not appropriate for the late stage he is at now. We tried an anti-cancer tea that a loving customer/friend brought from Europe last week, and got what seemed to be a real response for three and a half days. But you have to be able to eat a full meal and then drink the tea, and on Sunday, after talking to me(!) and eating a good breakfast, he stopped being able to eat or drink much at all. On Monday, our nutritional consultant had several suggestions even for this late date, but you have to be able to swallow, and now that's becoming really difficult. I feel that the tumor is outwitting us.

The next few days will be hard. Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers.
In case you live under a rock somewhere, Bob Moog was the guy who invented these wonderful things:
Bob invented the voltage controlled synthesizer. Other people (Serge Tcherepnin and Don Buchla) were working with voltage control but their systems were never stable enough for live performances and their use was relegated to the recording studio and academic music departments.

Brand Name Recognition -- Wal-Mart in the news

When people being paid minimum wage make a bad decision. The Houston Chroniclehas the report:

Answers sought in death outside Wal-Mart
Man accused of theft begged to be let up from hot pavement, witness says

A man suspected of shoplifting goods from an Atascocita Wal-Mart - including diapers and a BB gun - had begged employees to let him up from the blistering pavement in the store's parking lot where he was held, shirtless, before he died Sunday, a witness said.

An autopsy for the man, identified as Stacy Clay Driver, 30, of Cleveland, was scheduled for Monday, but officials said results probably would be delayed by a wait for toxicology tests.

Driver's family, as well as one emergency worker, are questioning company procedure, including whether Wal-Mart workers administered CPR after they realized he needed medical attention.

When Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department paramedics arrived, Driver was in cardiac arrest, said Royce Worrell, EMS director. Worrell said Monday he heard from investigators that Wal-Mart employees administered CPR to Driver, but he was not sure that happened.

"When we got there, the man was facedown (in cardiac arrest) with handcuffs behind his back," Worrell said. "That's not indicative of someone given CPR."

The events were witnessed by a number of people in the parking lot including a Mr. Portz:

Houston lawyer Charles Portz was outside the store at 6626 FM 1960 East when employees chased Driver into the parking lot Sunday afternoon.

Portz said three employees caught Driver, who twisted and turned until his shirt came off and he broke free and ran.

"They chased him right past me," said Portz, who followed the chase, then saw four or five employees hold Driver on the ground. Driver was pleading with them to let him up, Portz said. "The blacktop was just blistering," he said.

The high temperature at Bush Intercontinental Airport Sunday was 96 degrees.

So the tarmac was well into the 120-140 range and Drivers shirt was off and he was being pressed into direct contact with it.

Portz said one of the Wal-Mart employees had Driver in a choke hold as other employees pinned his body to the ground.

"He was begging, 'Please, I'm burning, let me up,' " Portz said of Driver. "He'd push himself up off the blacktop, like he was doing a push-up.

"About 30 people were saying, 'Let him up, it's too hot,' " Portz said. He said another employee brought a rug for Driver to lie on, but one of those holding Driver said he was fine where he was. "After about five minutes, (Driver) said, 'I'm dying, I can't breathe, call an ambulance,' " Portz said.

Emphasis mine. More:

Employees struggled with Driver before he was handcuffed, Martin said.

"There was a struggle, and when they finally succeeded after getting him detained in handcuffs, he continued to struggle," Martin said.

After Driver was handcuffed, Portz said one employee had his knee on the man's neck and others were putting pressure on his back.

"Finally the guy stopped moving" and the employees got off him, Portz said. "They wouldn't call an ambulance.

"I looked at him and said, 'Hey, he's not breathing,' but one guy told me (Driver) was just on drugs. I told them his fingernails were all gray, and finally they called an ambulance."

Martin said investigators have no indication that Driver was intoxicated.

He also said a review of surveillance tape showed that nine minutes had elapsed between the time employees "got (Driver) under control and the time EMS showed up."

Worrell said paramedics arrived two minutes, 19 seconds after they received the call. Paramedics performed CPR on Driver en route to Northeast Medical Center Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Emphases mine. Sam Walton -- you will be soon learning the benefits of paying someone minimum wage and giving them responsibilities that are beyond their ability to discharge.

More "missing WMDs" found in Mosul

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From the Washington Post: (Use Bug Me Not for login username and password if you need to.)
Iraqi Chemical Stash Uncovered
Post-Invasion Cache Could Have Been For Use in Weapons

.S. troops raiding a warehouse in the northern city of Mosul uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory containing 1,500 gallons of chemicals believed destined for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians, military officials said Saturday.

Monday's early morning raid found 11 precursor agents, "some of them quite dangerous by themselves," a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, said in Baghdad.

Combined, the chemicals would yield an agent capable of "lingering hazards" for those exposed to it, Boylan said. The likely targets would have been "coalition and Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians," partly because the chemicals would be difficult to keep from spreading over a wide area, he said.
And the articles description of the "lab" scene:
U.S. military photos of the alleged lab showed a bare concrete-walled room scattered with stacks of plastic containers, coiled tubing, hoses and a stand holding a large metal device that looked like a distillery. Black rubber boots lay among the gear.
Here is the image in question:
Click for full-size Image
OK -- there is an abrasive cutoff tool (the yellow saw-looking thing on the workbench). Now take a closer look at the "distillery":
Specifically, the top part. Three things come to mind: #1) - this is not a distillery. My wife and I are starting a commercial alcohol business. Please tell me what part of the still this is. I sure can't. For information on what a still looks like, check out The Amphora Society This container has a conical bottom and a cooling jacket (the area labeled "bulge" -- there is a cooling-water fitting just above the text bubble I added. The conical bottom is used to concentrate solids. #2) - this may be a biological fermentation vessel. If it is, these people are doing a horrible job of basic lab sanitation. Not for themselves but for the stuff they may be trying to grow. Conical bottomed fermenters are the "holy grail" of brewers -- expensive but worth it as you can remove impurities as they settle to the bottom without loosing too much of your product. Since fermentation is an exothermic process and since you need to limit the temperature to where the yeast or bacteria thrive, cooling jackets are common. #3) - my first thought on this being a fermenter was tempered by the very heavy construction and thick walls of the vessel in question. Chemical reactions can also be exothermic and if one is making unstable chemicals (ones that "go BOOM" to phrase it technically), a modicum of chilling might be in order. High pressures are sometimes needed as well. The cutoff saw is another interesting clue -- it is used for cutting pieces of metal to length. If someone was making pipe bombs, this would be a needed tool. Also, for salvaging 'dud' munitions whose explosives had not discharged. My guess is a fairly sophisticated (for them) bomb factory with the possibility (with horrible implications) of chemicals being added to the IEDs. We all know what happened to the WMD's, they are in Syria and Iran now -- convoy after convoy were spotted leaving Iraq. We did find stores of WMDs, just very old ones or ones that had no payloads. We found a bunch of Russian MIG fighters buried under the sand. The weapons were there, just as the prisons, the rape chambers, the children's prisons, Uday Hussein's plastic shredder and the mass unmarked graves. We are doing good work there and need to continue.

10MPH - the movie

WOW! Two guys -- Josh Caldwell and Hunter Weeks -- made this film: 10 MPH Josh stepped onto a Segway in Seattle and, taking 100 days, rode it to Boston. Hunter filmed. The trailer is a hoot and there is some gorgeous photography. Here is one taken at the beginning of their journey near Prosser, WA -- wheat country:
Click for full-size Image

Problems for Leonard Cohen

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Sad news -- CBC has the story:
Songwriter Leonard Cohen sues former manager over missing funds
Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is suing his former business manager, alleging she siphoned $5 million US from his personal savings and investments while he spent time in a Buddhist monastery.

Cohen, best known for songs such as Bird on a Wire and Suzanne, filed the lawsuit this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In it, he alleges Kelley Lynch took millions from his accounts between 1994 and 1999, while Cohen was living at the Mount Baldy Zen Center in Los Angeles.

In the lawsuit, Cohen says the amount of money taken was far greater than the 15 per cent management compensation to which Lynch was entitled. Cohen, 70, had planned to live on his savings in retirement, and had stopped touring and making new songs while at the monastery.

The suit says that Cohen discovered Lynch's activities when an informant approached his daughter last October. It says he investigated and fired Lynch a short time later. She had worked for him for 17 years.

A Los Angeles phone number for Kelley Lynch was disconnected and she could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The suit also names Richard Westin, a tax professor and lawyer who allegedly was hired by Lynch to help her defraud Cohen. Westin didn't immediately return a message left Wednesday.
The disconnected phones speak volumes...

The Patent Room

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A nice collection of illustrations from US Patent Applications from the 1920's through the 1950's. Here are three samples as thumbnails -- visit the site to see the full-size images:

The Pitch Drop Experiment

I stumbled on this a few years ago and promptly lost the link.

Thanks to an email, here it is: The Pitch Drop Experiment From their website:

The first Professor of Physics at the University of Queensland, Professor Thomas Parnell, began an experiment in 1927 to illustrate that everyday materials can exhibit quite surprising properties. The experiment demonstrates the fluidity and high viscosity of pitch, a derivative of tar once used for waterproofing boats. At room temperature pitch feels solid - even brittle - and can easily be shattered with a blow from a hammer (see the video clip below). It's quite amazing then, to see that pitch at room temperature is actually fluid!

In 1927 Professor Parnell heated a sample of pitch and poured it into a glass funnel with a sealed stem. Three years were allowed for the pitch to settle, and in 1930 the sealed stem was cut. From that date on the pitch has slowly dripped out of the funnel - so slowly that now, 72 years later, the eighth drop is only just about to fall.

The experiment was set up as a demonstration and is not kept under special environmental conditions (it is actually kept in a display cabinet in the foyer of the Department), so the rate of flow of the pitch varies with seasonal changes in temperature. Nonetheless, it is possible to make an estimate of the viscosity of this sample of pitch (R. Edgeworth, B.J. Dalton and T. Parnell, Eur. J. Phys (1984) 198-200). It turns out to be about 100 billion times more viscous than water!

In the 69 years that the pitch has been dripping no-one has ever seen the drop fall. If you're interested in trying your luck, or at least just having a look at the experiment, you can view it live. Fortunately you can also see students of the University of Queensland milling around outside the cabinet, so it is more exciting than watching grass grow! There is a 9V battery beside the bell jar to give an idea of scale, and the audio over the live video is an interview with Professor John Mainstone, who maintains the experiment.

There is also a Video clip showing what pitch is like at room temperature and what happens when you hit it with a hammer.
Click for full-size image.

This experiment is one of the more interesting by-ways of Physical Science.

Bloggers through History

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Heh... One of the founders of MovableType -- the blogging software I use -- has written a presentation on what history would be like if blogging had been available: Here is one:
Click for full-size Image

Fascinating technology

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One way bullet-proof glass. Think about this for a moment. It's real and these people are making it: Labock Technologies. The idea is that someone outside your vehicle can shoot at you and you are safe but free to return fire. The link goes into some of the technology and offers some videos -- very clever idea!
Click for full-size Image

Credence Clearwater Revival Revisited

Jen and I saw them this evening at the Northwest Washington Fair and my gawd they ROCKED!

I was a bit worried about who they would have for vocalist but the new guy John Tristao (from this neck of the woods) was a perfect fit -- he has the voice and is dynamite on stage.

The band's chemistry was palpable -- they were having a good time and so was the audience. About five or six songs into their set, the audience was standing on its feet rocking out. (They played (including a bunch of encores) about one hour, 45 minutes.)

Here is their main website: Creedence Clearwater Revisited
Here is their tour schedule: 2005 Concert Dates You will not be disappointed!

The fair was a lot of fun too -- we spent about six hours wandering around looking at the various animals and displays. Lots to see and it's interesting to be able to check out different kinds of critters that we have heard about but not seen. Some of the varieties of chickens look like they may be showing up here next spring if not sooner... (Polish and Cochins, Frizzles look like a lot of fun too.)

Strike Four!

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From CBS News:
Man Survives 4th Lightning Strike
According to the National Weather Service, the odds of getting struck by lightning are one in 700,000. But for Carl Mize, the odds are much greater.

Mize, a University of Oklahoma physical plant worker, has been struck four times, most recently earlier this month. And while lightning injuries can be serious and even fatal, Mize has suffered relatively minor injuries.

"I have a hole in my tennis shoe," the 45-year-old, Mize, told The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler of his latest strike.

As the bolt hit, he said his right foot bounced off the ground and his body tensed up. He then pulled off his tennis shoe and found his toes completely numb, he said.

"We were repairing a water line break up on the north campus, and a storm rolled in pretty fast," he said. Mize was the acting supervisor of a crew of four, using a backhoe to dig up a broken water line.

His co-workers, who know his history, saw lightning in the distance and began joking. Mize said co-worker Dennis Maddox told him "I'm getting away from you!" and then walked away. Mize, who has worked on utility crews at OU for 23 years, laughed at Maddox's fear- for about two seconds. Then the bolt hit.

"The guy that rides in the truck with me, he wants hazardous duty pay now," Mize told Syler laughing.
And his plans for the future:
Asked if he considered getting a desk job, Mize said, "No. I enjoy being outside. It's all right. I just need to stay in when the clouds are around."

Mize is heading back to work later Monday morning.
Lightning strikes are fascinating but dangerous. Their effect on people is not what you would think -- some people (like Mize) are minimally affected. Some people are fried to a crisp instantly and some people survive but with curious neurological tics that come and go for the rest of their lives. People who work with high-voltage call it riding the serpent.

Another cool Google beta program


From Google Video:

Your work deserves to be seen.
You've made a great video. Now who will watch it?

Whether you produce hundreds of titles a year or just a few, you can give your videos the recognition and visibility they deserve by promoting them on Google - for free. Signing up for the Google Video Upload Program will connect your work with users who are most likely to want to view them.

They don't have the user side of things up yet, they are strictly soliciting material for show. Looks like it will be an awesome resource!


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Ran into this page from an email list. Don't know anything about it but these are some strangely tricked out cars. What could have prompted the owner to do these mods? What kool-aid were they drinking?

More Cowbell!!!

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Dont' know if this is for real or not but...

Christopher Walken 2008

"Our great country is in a terrible downward spiral. We're losing jobs, losing benefits, and losing lives. We need to focus on what's important-- paying attention to our children, our environment, our future. We need to think about improving our underbudget educational system, making better use of our resources, and helping to build a stable, safe, and tolerant global society. It's time to be smart about our politics. It's time to get America back on track."
How about running for Senator first -- I can think of one from NYC that needs to be voted out.


A twofer about Apple Computers and neither of them good.

Item One from Apple Insider:

Apple fails to patent iPod interface
A near three-year-long attempt by Apple Computer to patent the menu-based software interface of its popular iPod digital music player has ultimately proved unsuccessful, AppleInsider has discovered.

The company's patent application, which lists Apple vice president Jeff Robbin and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs as two of its primary inventors, received a final rejection last month from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Standing in Apple's way appears to be a prior filing by inventor John Platt, who submitted a patent application for a similar software design for a portable device in May of 2002 -- just five months before Robbin submitted his claims on behalf of Apple.

Platt's application describes his invention as a system or method that "generates playlists for a library collection of media items via selecting a plurality of seed items, at least one which is an undesirable seed item." The process by which the iPod's software displays its own menu-based interface is very similar to the process Platt's filing goes on to describe.

Second is this from WIRED:

Mac Hacks Allow OS X on PCs
Imagine if your next Mac cost you only $300, and ran faster than any G4 or G5 you've ever used.

That future may already be unfolding: Hackers have found a way to bypass a chip designed to prevent the Mac OS from running on non-Apple PCs, which are often cheaper than Macs.

And more:

OSx86 is designed to run on Apple Computer's next generation of hardware, which some call "MacIntels" and others "MacTels" because the machines will run on Intel microprocessors rather than the PowerPC processor used in current Macs. The hacked version of OSx86 is based on pirated software, which came from copies of the operating system sent to participants in the Apple Developer Connection. The ADC participants also received MacIntel computers for testing and development.

Now the hacked version of OSx86 is running on Dell laptops and other PCs with Intel and AMD microprocessors.

"Mileage varies depending on what kind of hardware you're using, but it (OSx86) is working on several PCs," said "Mashugly," a college student majoring in communications who manages the OSx86 Project, a community of developers interested in the new operating system.

No one knows exactly why OSx86 appears to be running faster on the PCs than the Mac OS does on today's Macs.

"To be honest, we're not sure," said a hacker nicknamed "cmoski," who said he works for a large software company. "Some in the Pentium camp want to say, 'Because a Pentium is faster, of course,' some want to say (Intel chip architectures are better than Apple's) and some in the PowerPC camp just want to say that it isn't full OS X (running on the beta systems)."

The hacked OSx86 bypasses a chip, the Trusted Platform Module, or TPM, that is intended to prevent the system from running on ordinary PCs.

"We have even gone so far as to remove the TPM kernel extension called AppleTPMACPI.kext entirely," said cmoski.

Ouch on that one -- Apple has held onto the proprietary hardware business for waaay too long.

This is one of the reasons that they have about 7% of the market share right now where MSFT and Linux have the other 93%. Even when they had a lock on the hardware, they were incredibly slow to adapt. Function Keys on the MAC appeared five years after they did on the PC, the PC had the ability to write to CD-ROM disks first, first on studio-quality audio as well. Two button mice? How about a few weeks ago for the MAC and ten years ago for the PC.

They need to take stock of themselves and come to the realization that they always have been and always will be a software company. Ditch the hardware side of things and stick with writing killer code and making awesome consumer fetish electronics. Their original choice of the Motorola 68000 was inspired -- that was an awesome CPU but when Motorola moved into the academic RISC camp, they took several hundred steps backwards by drinking that kool-aid. (RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing and is based on the premise that instead of using a CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) that takes several clock cycles to do a built-in hardware multiply function, a RISC chip could perform the same operations with repeated additions and column shifting. Since the RISC chip didn't have to be as complex as the CISC chip, it could be made to run a lot faster. They had their heyday for a few years but as overall chip speeds improved, the benefits became moot and Apple is the last vendor that still uses RISC. Even Motorola got out of the business, selling their line to IBM who still makes the G4 and G5 -- Apple accounts for about 60% of their business.

In a quiet announcement, IBM said that the G5 was the end of the line so they are getting out of it too.

Looks like Steve finally woke up and smelled the cappuchino...

Or the pavement...

Our tax dollars at work

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Three guys from MIT (two of them work for Hasbro) have invented the Catsup Crapper. It is a motorized toy that carries a catsup bottle. It will run over to your plate of fries and... The video is actually kinda fun! (Quicktime)
Here is a fascinating website that brings together a bunch of disparate data and compares them in a very understandable fashion. The entry for a 1000�MWe Power Plant catches my eye; this is an electrical power plant that generates enough energy for an "average" city of one million people:
Coal: 9000 tons/day of 1 "unit train load" (100 90 - ton cars/day)
Oil: 40,000 bbl/day or 1 tanker per week (note: "bbl" means barrels)
Natural Gas: 2.4 l08 SCF/day
Uranium (as 235U): 3 kg/day
Much less impact from the mining, much less waste to process. The waste is dangerous but we are talking about small volumes here once the stuff from the 50's and 60's is dealt with. (Thanks again Jimmy Carter)

What if Martha Stewart was a Goth

Great site -- Gothic Martha Stewart - DIY home decor for the morbidly inclined. From their "About" page:

About Gothic Martha Stewart
This site sprung from the hypothetical question: "What if Martha Stewart was a goth?" For the uninitiated, Martha Stewart is a phenomenally successful domestic arts champion and stylemaker who advocates an upscale but not ostentatious style of living which has a lot to do with making things yourself and finding new uses for the old, instead of just buying everything new.

Martha is famous for her how-to projects (which she calls "Good Things") that range from cooking up chocolate candy to painting furniture with faux finishes to making your own potpourri to sewing ribbons onto pillowcases to creating door wreaths for every holiday. Good Things frequently involve the use of a hot glue gun or just a little bit of straight stitching, and many of the projects are quite easy for even the novice.

For quite some time, those of us on the newsgroup have discussed similar little projects that we could do to make our homes as beautifully gothic as our wardrobes. Many of our projects were direct adaptations of Martha's Good Things -- except we used scraps of black velvet, vintage lace, purple satin ribbons, dried blood-red roses, and other typically goth things we had around the house. Little did Martha realize how easily her elegant eggshell blues and seafoam greens could be turned to black and burgundy!

If Martha Stewart were really gothic, color is the only thing she'd have to change. Her central ideas are already well-suited to the gothic subculture. Martha adores finding old linens and gently worn furniture at flea markets. She sews a lot of her own household dressings. She paints and experiments with unusual painting techniques on objects small and large. She loves flowers, live and dried. Her style flirts with Victorian, Art Deco, and modern elements and frequently mixes them into a very beautiful mishmash. And even though her surroundings look very rich, many of her ideas are created from rather simple and inexpensive materials, like fabric scraps and secondhand dishes.

So I decided to take what many of us knew instinctually and write it all up in detail to help those who are just beginning or perhaps never noticed how much you can do with very little. Taking Martha Stewart's ideas as a starting point, I've tried to give them a blatantly gothic touch so that, with just a little time, some inspiration, and some effort, anyone can make their home into as gothic as they want it to be.


The kind of email spam I LIKE to receive!

Got this little missive in my email tonight:


Bullet Proof server:

Clean IPs
P4 3.2GHz CPU
Dedicated 100 M fiber
Unlimited Data Transfer
Any software
Based in China
US$599.00/per month
You may use the server for:
Bulk Hosting
Direct Mailing
We also supply Target list according to your
order, and sending out your message for you.

Looking forward to do business with you.


Support Team

A couple of things popped out at me.

Allan was specific in mentioning "Clean IPs". The IP or Internet Protocol Address is one way that people have used to combat spam. Every computer has a unique Address and it is possible to compile a list of known "bad" ones and any communication from these are simply tossed in the 'ole bit bucket. There are even groups of people who maintain black-hole databases of known bad IP addresses and software available to look up each incoming communication.

By specifying that their IP range was "clean", they were saying that it wasn't in anyone's black-hole list (yet!).

Next, there is the whole "Direct Mailing" line along with the "We also supply Target list according to your order, and sending out your message for you."

I looked that Allen's return email address, saw that they had a very large range of IP addresses (65 thousand different IP Addresses - a CIDR Class 16 netblock) and baned the whole lot of them. A little bit more of China goes dark because of a few people spamming.

The funny thing is that Allen forged his email to look like it originated from another Internet Service Provider - a smaller one with only 512 IP Addresses (now banned as well). In reality it came from which is owned by the China Railway Telecommunications Center. Running a personal business from work? The irony is that these addresses were already in my banned list. They had a big netblock too -- about 2 Million unique addresses. Some day's it is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Just because -- #3

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I sometimes run into images that don't really have a story behind them but are so unusual that they deserve to be spread around a bit. Here's #1 and #2 Here is someone with a bit of a smoking problem:
Click for full-size Image

Photo Website

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Ran into this website while looking for something else entirely. Some really nice photography plus very good tips and techniques. Petteri's Photo Portfolio To be added to the Blogroll...

Now at Costco

Costco is an amazing place -- the pioneer warehouse retail store. From time to time, they offer some things a bit removed from the usual bulk mayonnaise / clothing / tires selection. For example, take a look here:
"Atelier De Cannes" by Pablo Picasso
This is an original crayon on paper drawing by Pablo Picasso. The front of the work is signed and dated (May 27, 1958) by Pablo Picasso. The authentication is a hand written and signed declaration by Picasso's daughter, Maya on a photograph of the actual drawing. She is the world's utmost authority.
Yours for only $129,999.99

Spall CHuker anyone?

Heh... From SFGate:

Artist corrects her infamous spelling mistakes in Livermore mural
"What's in a name?" Shakespere asked.

Make that "Shakespeare." Miami artist Maria Alquilar, much maligned for 11 misspellings that popped up in the educational mural she designed for the Livermore public library last year, spent today under the hot sun correcting her mistakes.

In addition to fixing the bard's name, she changed "Eistein" to "Einstein," "Gaugan" to "Gauguin" and more.

But Alquilar, who at first claimed artistic license and said she wasn't going to return to fix the faux pas because people were being too mean about it, was giving no media interviews as she worked under a broad-brimmed straw hat and blue tent. She sliced and diced the tiles with power tools, protected from the public by a barrier.

She wagged her finger at a television cameraman and threatened to throw a rock at a print photographer.

"No pictures of me!" she yelled. "If I'm in it, I'm going to sue you."

Apparently, Alquilar wanted to return quietly to do the edits, for which city officials are paying her $6,000 plus travel expenses. That's on top of the $40,000 she received for creating the 16-foot circular mosaic, made up of 175 historical names and cultural words.

But after she arrived Sunday, word spread, and today she had a consistent audience for her work, which she expected to complete today or Wednesday.

Assistant City Manager Jim Piper assured reporters that city officials were spell-checking Alquilar's replacement tiles.

"We certainly believe they are spelled correctly," he said.

Livermore officials selected Alquilar in 2000 to create a mosaic at the entrance to Livermore's new library, which opened in May 2004. Icons representing science, art, literature and history surround a tree of life in the center.

Library patrons were of varied opinions about whether a name by any other spelling smelled as sweet.

A woman named Betty, who wouldn't give her last name for fear of reprisal from her stickler school-teacher chums, said she didn't mind the imperfect art.

"I feel sorry for her out in the heat," she said. "It was kind of fun to have something unique. I thought it was very nice."

But Jarod Vash, 17, who was borrowing videos with his girlfriend and her family, said he thought the misspellings were embarrassing.

"When the story first broke, I thought, 'Oh, Livermore, the town that misspells stuff,' " he said. "The only thing we've got in Livermore, and it's misspelled."

But he added, "Everybody makes mistakes."

"Not this bad," said his girlfriend's 13-year-old brother, Eric Smyth.

Sheesh -- I cannot imagine doing a permanent public installation and not spell checking every single word and having other people do the same for me. Shoddy... Here was her entry for Vincent Van Gogh:


Hummer meets its match

Hummer H2? Farrrgghh - a pseudo H1 suitable only for shopping malls.

Hummer H1 - OK but no longer Top Dawg.

How about this -- The Roadawg

Chinese Amphibious Assault: The Roadawg
Chrysler's Chinese Jeep-building partner, Beijing Jeep - maker of several amphibious vehicles - has sold the marketing rights to a line of off-roaders the company recently showed at the Bejing motor show. The buyer, a company called Rodedawg International Industries, Inc. aims to distribute the amphibious 4x4 off-road vehicles, branded "Rodedawg" (we would have gone with "Surf and Turf") to a worldwide audience of sportsmen, farmers and, possibly accidential sailors.
Once only used by the Chinese military, the Rodedawg, the company says, would be ideal for border patrol agents patroling Rio Grande river as well as civilian use, and will have a price point of around $50,000. A marketing blitz is planned, with demo models slated to appear in airports and shopping malls. And, we'd imagine, boat shows.

Some serious hard-core drool factor here. $50K is right in line with the price of an H2 and a low end H1. Have to see what the reliability is though -- one person said of the first H1's "They are the ideal vehicle to have in the woods. If you get lost, you merely follow the trail of parts and fluids back to civilization."

What a way to go...

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From Reuters/UK comes word of a Mr. Lee who used to live in South Korea. Unfortunately, the good Mr. Lee is no longer among the living -- the cause of his demise?
S.Korean man dies after 50 hours of computer games
A South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session in an Internet caf�, authorities said on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old man, identified only by his family name Lee, had been playing on-line battle simulation games at the cybercaf� in the southeastern city of Taegu, police said.

Lee had planted himself in front of a computer monitor to play on-line games on August 3. He only left the spot over the next three days to go to the toilet and take brief naps on a makeshift bed, they said.

"We presume the cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion," a Taegu provincial police official said by telephone.

Lee had recently quit his job to spend more time playing games, the daily JoongAng Ilbo reported after interviewing former work colleagues and staff at the Internet caf�.

After he failed to return home, Lee's mother asked his former colleagues to find him. When they reached the caf�, Lee said he would finish the game and then go home, the paper reported.

He died a few minutes later, it said.
Emphasis mine. Talking about needing to get a life only this time it's a bit too late...

Biting the hand that feeds them

Noted foreign policy expert and sometime entertainer Mr. Jagger released his new opinions today. Matt Drudge has the report:
"You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/ You call yourself a patriot. Well, I think your are full of sh*t!... How come you're so wrong, my sweet neo-con."

Ready to drop in the coming weeks, a new Bush-bashing tune from the ROLLING STONES: "Sweet Neo Con."

"It is direct," Mick Jagger says with a laugh to fresh editions of NEWSWEEK.

"Keith [Richards] said, 'It's not really metaphorical.' I think he's a bit worried because he lives in the U.S." Jagger explains. "But I don't."

The full lyric also mocks National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

News about the song surfaced a few weeks ago with many expecting that it would not make the finally cut on the new CD, A BIGGER BANG.

Jagger once vowed not to comment on the political process in the United States.

"I feel very much at home in America. I've spent half my adult life here. I have many personal feelings. But I'm from the school that considers it impolite to comment on other people's elections. Now if I had the vote - and I should have, as I pay so much in taxes - I would have a lot to say."

Now with the elections long over, the tongue is unleashed!
Hey, don't let a small thing like ethics or morality stand in the way when there is money to be made. You have an excellent forum for making people wake up and think and you go and blow it on a cheap political tingle...

Shuttle safely on the ground

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NY Times has the story
Shuttle Lands, Safely Ending First Mission Since Columbia
The space shuttle Discovery glided back to Earth to a pre-dawn landing here in the Mojave desert today, nearly 14 days after its 5.8-million-mile journey began.

Discovery swooped through the darkness of the Mojave Desert and landed on the Edwards runway at 5:11 a.m. PDT, well before sunrise.

It was the first shuttle mission since the loss of the Columbia and its crew of seven astronauts in February 2003, which plunged the space agency into what Michael Griffin, NASA's administrator, has called the "depths of despair."

Discovery's mission, on paper, was straightforward: it involved resupplying the International Space Station and testing new technologies and techniques for detecting, measuring and repairing damage from launch debris.

But at the core, the mission of Discovery was to get the United States back in the business of launching humans into space.

NASA administrators were ecstatic about the successful return into space."If you want to know how I feel, I feel fantastic," the program manager, Bill Parsons, said at a post-landing news conference. "This is a wildly successful mission in so many ways."

The landing was originally planned for the shuttles' home, Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But unpredictable weather along the Space Coast led mission managers to "wave off" four Florida landing opportunities in two days, and to finally call for a change of plans.
Good news! I was worried when I saw the images of the tiles falling off in launch and the space-walk to repair the underlayment.

Celebrities as kids

A fun collection of celebrities photos from when they were kids.

Here's Phil Collins:


The Worlds Ugliest Dog

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I had written about Sam earlier here Well it seems that Sam now has his very own website: Sam's Website There is the option to buy some tee shirts and yes -- a BLOG! Cute stuff!

Looks like a fun time!

There are various "celebrations" that are known worldwide.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Carnival in Bahia, Brazil

Now, let's travel to Korea for the Boryeong Mud Festival

Korean mud festival sees anarchy reign
The girls wrestling in bikinis, crumpled beer cans and a mud-splattered Miss Universe looked shocking in a country renowned for its cosmetic excesses and sharp conservative edge.

But they were signature motifs at the eighth Boryeong Mud Festival, a seven-day event that kicked off Saturday. It has since spawned a 2 billion won (US$1.9 million) a year cottage industry and mushroomed from a promotional campaign for local cosmetics into a quasi rock festival.

Whereas the Spanish throw tomatoes and chase bulls, Korea this week demonstrated the biggest case of mud worship outside of Israel, where the Dead Sea's black banks are heated to soothe arthritis and psoriasis clinics ring its tranquilizing, bromide-laden waters.

"We learned that Boryeong mud is more mineral-rich than Israeli mud and better protects our skin due to its strong moisturizing properties and high germanium content," festival director Kim Dong-il said.

As this sleepy West Coast town, some 200 kilometers south of Seoul, surrendered to "mud cage" raves, blood-red sunsets and tropical downpours, however, not everyone was convinced of the mud's cosmetic properties.

"It's not really about beauty, just about fun," said Miss Universe 2004 Jennifer Hawkins, a beach baby from Down Under who came as host of the prime-time travelogue "The Great Outdoors" for Australia's Channel 7.

Sounds like quite the party...

Universal Packing List generator

Planning a trip?

Check this site out for your packing list: The U.P.L.

I tried a few options and it looks pretty good.

Prickly City on Climate Change

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Today's is spot-on if I say so myself...
Click for full-size Image
We can dream can't we...

Light posting tonight

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Learning phpbb and developing the Whatcom Chat website. The index page for Maple Falls Computers is now online. Other pages (including a blog) will be added in a few days. Also doing all the collateral marketing stuff -- 'bidness cards, fliers, brochures etc...

A look at President Carter's Legacy

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This article dates from October 2002 but it is relevant today and highlights just how much damage ex-President Carter has done to the USA with his policies during his one term in office.

American Journal: Starring Jimmy Carter, in War and Peace

Now they've given Jimmy Carter the Nobel Peace Prize. Looking at the present, wretched incumbent, Democrats feel smug about their paladin of peace.

But there's continuity in Empire. Presidents come and Presidents go. There are differences, but over much vital terrain the line of march adopted by the Commander in Chief doesn't deviate down the years. Is George Bush "worse" than, say, Jack Kennedy, who multiplied America's military arsenal, nuclear and nonnuclear, and dragged the world to the edge of obliteration forty years ago? Sure, Carter wasn't as bad as Reagan. By the low standards of his office, he did his best in the Middle East. But how bad is bad? Carter's projected military budgets for the early 1980s were higher than the ones Reagan presided over. Remember his plan to run MX missiles by rail around the American West?

Recall when Carter said America would not stand idly by while Nicaragua tried to set forth on a different path after the Sandinistas threw out Anastasio Somoza? Carter told them they had to retain the National Guard, which had been Somoza's elite band of US-trained psychopathic killers. The Sandinistas said no. So Carter ordered the CIA to bring up the officers and torturers running the Argentine death squads to train a force of Nicaraguan exiles in Honduras scheduled for terror missions across the border. They called them the contras.

El Salvador? In October 1979, a coup by reformist officers overthrew the repressive Romero dictatorship and pledged reforms, including land reform. But within weeks, it became clear that the reformers among the new rulers had been outmaneuvered, so they resigned en masse as the real leaders stepped up frightful repression in the countryside, killing close to 1,000 people a month. Some 10,000 were killed in 1980, most of them peasants and workers.

The Carter Administration sent millions in aid and riot equipment to the Salvadoran military, dispatched US trainers and trained Salvadoran officers in Panama. The Administration cast the conflict as one between the "extremes" of left and right, with the junta trying to steer a "moderate" course. In fact, 90 percent of the killings were carried out by the army or paramilitary death squads acting under army or government supervision. The Carter Administration continued to push this line throughout 1980, not suspending aid until the killing of four Maryknoll nuns in December. It's all coming back to you? Yes, it was the Carter Administration that restored the Khmer Rouge to military health after the Vietnamese kicked them out of power in Cambodia.

Bad decision after bad decision after... You get the picture.

The article also talks about his telling the military of South Korea to "hit back hard" at students protesting the dictatorship. They did on May 17, 1980 killing over 1,000. And then there is the selling of arms to Indonesia which had just invaded East Timor.

Don't forget the covert CIA operations in Afghanistan. His constant public pronouncements of faith and his sisters work for the Christian Right gave this group the traction that they are enjoying to this day. So much damage in only four years...

A fine whine...

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There is a saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and now that the islamofascists have "stirred things up" and the so-called "moderate" islamists have failed to police themselves, countries are starting to take notice of this threat within their borders and are starting to deport the more vocal exponents.

The Mail has the story of one such moke:

Deportation not fair, says extremist (on benefits)
An extreme Muslim cleric whose family have been living on benefits in Britain for 20 years says it would not be 'fair' to deport him.

Speaking after the Prime Minister announced his clampdown, father-of-seven Sheik Omar Bakri said: "I have wives, children, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law. It would be hard on my family if I was deported."

Since Syrian-born Bakri settled in Britain, he and his extended family have raked in benefits amounting to at least £300,000.

He is registered disabled because of an injury to his leg during his childhood, and was recently supplied with a £31,000 Ford Galaxy under the Motability scheme.

Bakri, who lives in a £200,000 home in North London, tops up his £250-a-week benefit payments with an extra £50 incapacity allowance.

He has praised the September 11 terrorists as 'magnificent', called Israel 'a cancer' and said homosexuals should be 'thrown from Big Ben'.

In January, he declared that Britain had become a 'land of war', and called on Muslims to unite behind Al Qaeda. He has supported suicide bombings and urged his followers to kill non-Muslims ' wherever, whenever'.

Waaaaa... And what part of cultural assimilation do you fail to grasp? You left Syria and moved to England. Idiot!

R.I.P. Ibrahim Ferrer

Just Damn! One of my favorite singers -- Babalu Blog has a wonderful Obituary:
Ibrahim Ferrer, R.I.P.
Sad news - the great Cuban sonero, Ibrahim Ferrer, a man whose voice was as distinctive and stirring as Celia Cruz's, has died in Havana. He was 78.

He was my favorite singer.

His lashing voice, striking son and bolero songs, and individualistic humor came to life in Ry Cooder's 1999 Buena Vista Social Club film, which while avoiding direct politics, was unintentionally the most damning large-scale film against castro ever made.

Ferrer was a real Cuban who lived and suffered through the castro regime, same as everyone, and for many years was driven from pre-castro-era stardom to obscurity by castro's state planners, the blotting-paper-faced communist bureaucrats who wouldn't know a great singer if he was right in front of them. castro's gray mediocrities consigned the great talent of Ibrahim Ferrer to shining shoes. That's right, castro forced him to give up his golden singing and instead made him a shoe-shine boy. It tells you just about all you need to know about the nature of the castro regime.

In Cooder's movie, Ferrer was extremely humble, questioning, open, and exuberant. He was passionate about Cuban music - and dancing, too. He played checkers on the patio. He loved Cuban traditional religion, and showed his statues of Santa Barbara and other santos to the filmmakers. Of course he was a threat. But after Cooder's movie, even they could no longer ignore him.

I have his albums and every single off other musicians' records I can get my hands on, and I notice his work improves in succession. It's vibrant, spirited, and highly disciplined. You can tell that this is a great talent even if you do not know much about Cuban music. His talent is that obvious.

He was incredibly good in so many ways.

I love the sexy rhythms and lilting low undertow of Guaguanco Callejero from his Buenos Hermanos album, exuberantly extolling the beauty of his black woman. We all love that black woman he's hailing like a goddess - '!ave maria, morena!'

But I especially love the subtle undercurrents of cutting political putdowns in some of Ferrer's songs, things I hear in his voice and read through his lyrics.

In his Oye el consejo from his Buenos Hermanos album, he, at age 76, manages to convincingly portray the spirit of a 16-year-old boy who's being nagged by his oppressive mother as he longs to be free and experience Havana. She yells that he never listens to her. And he doesn't. Sound political? Maybe it was.

The 1940s-era song, Buenos Hermanos, from his Buenos Hermanos album, is mysterious and stirring and evocative even if you cannot understand a word. But when you read those lyrics, those biting sarcastic lyrics about how 'big brother takes care of me, giving me crumbs and bones and gristle and fat' then you know that, even though there is the political cover of the 1940s, this was a true anthem of the real Cuba under castro. And sung with such heart.

He was taken too young. I hope to god it wasn't the air-conditioning, the castroite power outages suffocating Cuba as I write this. I hope not that.

iQue lastima!

Rest in peace, son of Cuba.
And there are still people who idolatrize Castro and Guevara...

Russian Sub rescued with all hands!

There is always something haunting about accidents at Sea.

The Russian Submarine I wrote about here and here has been recovered with all hands. MSNBC/AP has the story:

Trapped Russian sub surfaces with crew alive
Vessel with 7 sailors aboard was freed by British unmanned submersible
Seven submarine crew members trapped for nearly three days under the Pacific Ocean were rescued Sunday after a British remote-controlled vehicle cut away the undersea cables that had snarled the vessel.

The seven crew members, whose oxygen supplies had been dwindling amid underwater temperatures in the mid-40s, appeared to be in satisfactory condition, naval spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said. The seven were being examined by ship medics, he said.

Very wonderful news. The MSNBC/AP article goes into a lot of detail about the rescue. I was a bit wrong about the rescue sub -- it was a Super Scorpio but it was one owned by the Brits, not one of ours.

A couple of Photography sites

I had the very great pleasure of meeting Dr. Harold Edgerton a number of times back when I worked at this place in the 1970's. He let me borrow some of his strobe equipment and I had a lot of fun taking photomicrographs of various marine critters. I was looking for something else and stumbled onto a few sites about photography, especially specialized and scientific photography. From Belgium -- fotoopa:
An overall clearing house for high-speed photography - HiViz Lots of great resources here - equipment reviews, hacking current cameras, schematics for controllers, kits for sale if you don't want to build your own, etc... For controlling all of this, there is the Mumford Time Machine Brian Mumford is an Horologist and built the Time Machine to calibrate the clocks he was building and repairing. He got to thinking that it would also have uses controlling time-lapse and high-speed photography. It does. Then we go to Rochester, NY to look at the work of Ted Kinsman. Here is a photo of Ted using the Time Machine to shoot a balloon:
Finally, we look to our history and see the work of a Mr. Augustus Frederick Sherman, a a registry clerk in Ellis Island's immigration division in the early 20th century (and an amateur Photographer). The NY Times has a nice article on Mr. Sherman's work and a few photographs:
When Old and New World Met in a Camera Flash
If Peter Mesenh�ller expected to find the misery of the tired, the poor, the wretched emanating from a few photographs displayed in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum the day he first visited in 1996, he was in for a surprise. "I immediately got stunned by the dignity, the pride, the self-confidence," Mr. Mesenh�ller, a cultural anthropologist specializing in early still photography and immigration studies, said by phone from his home in Cologne, Germany. "It was totally different from the usual image we have of the huddled masses."

Mr. Mesenh�ller had alighted on the photography of Augustus Frederick Sherman, a registry clerk in Ellis Island's immigration division in the early 20th century. In the hours when he wasn't determining the fate of some of the thousands of immigrants disembarking daily in New York Harbor from foreign vessels, he was coaxing the hopeful to open their trunks, don their finest attire and level their gaze at his camera.

Some 75 photographs of these immigrants are on view at the Ellis Island museum in "Augustus Frederick Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905-1920." Organized by Mr. Mesenh�ller and Diana Edkins, director of exhibitions and limited-edition prints for the Aperture Foundation, a nonprofit photography organization, the show coincides with the group's publication of a book of the same title with 40 more images. The show continues through Sept. 6 before traveling to 16 sites in the United States and abroad.

Understanding Mr. Mesenh�ller's fascination - obsession, really - requires no great stretch of the imagination. As they hover disconcertingly between art and artifact, Sherman's portraits are powerful in their directness yet almost antiseptic in their disaffection.

Dressed gallantly in their native costumes, solemn families and individuals announce themselves to their new world with no apologies. A Romanian shepherd sits with hand on hip, his decoratively embroidered sheepskin coat opened to reveal a lush pelt of curly wool. A Ruthenian, from Ukraine, stares out with pale eyes, her neck encircled by loops of iridescent beads above a peasant blouse and shearling vest. Two men from Borana, in Ethiopia, with sculptural hair ornaments sticking straight up from their heads display their shields; the woman between them hides her hair beneath a wrap.

Identity Theft -- CoolWebSearch is bad

A possible big ID Theft operation seems to be ignored by the FBI

Ars Technica has the news:

Massive spyware-based identity theft ring uncovered
Researchers from a little-known security software company named Sunbelt Software have seemingly uncovered a criminal identity theft ring of massive proportions. According to one of their employees, Alex Eckelberry, during the course of one of their recent investigations into a particular Spyware application - rumored to be called CoolWebSearch - they've discovered that the personal information of those "infected" was being captured and uploaded to a server.

One can only speculate about why someone would do such a thing; the amount of data that could be gathered would almost certainly be daunting for even a few people to sift through and exploit. On the other hand, the researchers at Sunbelt have personally uncovered the personal information of two individuals who, combined, could be taken for well over US$350,000.

The list of stolen information includes not only bank accounts but website passwords, eBay accounts, what sort of adult images you fancy, and, supposedly, even more. The researchers initially had tried in vain to get a hold of someone who could take action on this issue but didn't get a response right away:
We have notified the FBI, but of course no response (too busy doing other more important things). We have notified a few of the parties involved...If anyone has any other ideas, send 'em to us. Right now, we're sitting upon literally thousands of pages of stolen identities that are being used right now.
Good news came today, though, that the FBI had responded and are currently working the case. We've emailed Alex and tried to see if we could get any more details about the whole thing out of him, but at the time of publication, we had not received a response. Hopefully the people who've perpetrated this massive-scale theft of personal data can be quickly caught and brought to justice due to the quick actions of Alex Eckelberry and the researcher who discovered the crime, Patrick Jordan.

The news article has a few updates that expand on the scope of this scam and cover a little bit of how it was discovered. I will say it again: If someone is offering a cool new piece of software for free, they are getting their money from a different revenue stream. Sometimes it is legit -- Adobe Acrobat, Apple iTunes and QuickTime Sometimes it is Malware like CoolWebSearch.

A double-edged sword...

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I present for your inspection a poster that is being shown in London:


This is downright Orwellian


Imagine being a poorly educated (by choice) Islamist full of righteous indignation at "western corruption" (meanwhile you emigrated to England and are living on the dole (re: taxpayers backs)). You understand the technology of a cell phone and a bomb but CCTV cameras are beyond your minute grasp. Do they really see everything? You tone down your jihad a bit and go back to sitting on the couch watching pron on the telly, popping open another can of cheap beer and munching on some fried pork rinds... Heh...

England Follows France

From Dr. David Yeagley:
England to Deport Muslims
Tony Blair has announced that racial Islamic leaders in England will be deported from the country. "The first batch of deportation orders will begin shortly. Let no-one be in any doubt -- the rules of the game are changing," Blair told a news conference.

The world may be encouraged. England is showing the first signs of courage, the kind of courage it takes to win a war, to preserve a nation, to make the world better. Hear ye, Hear ye!

Of course, we'll be nauseated by the endless protests of the human rights advocates (really nothing but professional agitators). We'll be verbally attacked by the self-destroying idealists who honor the killer's right to kill us. We'll live with the drone of discontent in those who revel in the very freedoms they actually despise.

But England has made a good move. Indeed, America should have made such a move, not after 9-11, but after the first WTC bombing in 1993. Anti-American Muslims were involved then.

Blair need not offer an elaborate explanation for deportation. It is a radical move, in radical times. The enemy demands it. Other European nations will follow the lead. America may be last to wise up, since the delusive human rights lobby is so terribly strong here.

Blair also wants the authority to close down places of worship used to foment extremism and deport any foreigner actively engaged with extremist bookshops or Web Sites.

Stand tall, Mr. Blair. Stand tall. The brave stand with you. Like Martina McBride sings:

Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know, that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It's Independence Day
Earlier, France issued a statement saying that they were doing the same thing, even to Muslims who had received French Citizenship. Wake up people -- it's time to wake up!!!


From Yahoo/Entertainment:
Michael Bullish on Bahrain?
Sounds like Michael Jackson has found a way to beat the heated up California housing market: Buy in Bahrain.

The longtime Golden State resident has purchased 14 acres' worth of "palatial property" as a "potential new home" in the oil-rich Persian Gulf kingdom, the New York Post first reported Monday. His next-door neighbor is said to be Sheik Abdullah bin Hamad al Khalifa, a longtime friend.

Brian Oxman, a Jackson family attorney, said Tuesday he didn't have any information about his star client sealing a real-estate deal. He said he "probably" would have been informed had a sale gone through.

Jackson and his three children flew to Bahrain in late June, shortly after his acquittal in California on child-molestation charges. At the time, the pop star, in and out of hospitals, before, during and after his trial, was said to be unwinding at the palace of a Bahranian prince.

According to the newspaper, Jackson is quite taken with his new surroundings and quite fond of the local custom that sees people take to the streets in long, flowing, hooded garments known as djellabas. In the United States, when the mood struck, the singer sought to obscure his identity with a more garish collection of ski, surgical and Spider-Man masks.
Yeah, wearing a djellabas has got to be more comfortable than those surgical masks and they do just as good a job of concealing that nose of his.

The Aum Pendant

One of my favorite reads is The Examining Room of Dr. Charles He does not post every day but when he does, they are wonderful little insights into life and the Medical Profession. Today's was wonderful:

"What is that?" I asked the young Indian girl with long black hair.

"This necklace you mean?" she asked as I pulled the stethoscope earpiece out of my right ear so that I could hear her better. "It's a gift from my family in India."

Adorning her neck was a simple chain with a curious pendant attached. I looked closer at the cryptic emblem but could not discern what it meant. "Is that a Hindu symbol?" I pushed further.

"Yes" kind of, she answered with growing unease.

The delicate swirls of the glyph were smoothly drawn as if by a painter's brush, and within the symbol there existed some kind of meaning. "Do you mind if I ask what it stands for?"

The young girl looked down at her sternum while lifting the pendant off her chest. She turned it over once and then explained: "It stand for Aum. It's hard to describe what it means in words, but it's sort of like the birth of the universe."

I complimented her on the jewelry, and the heady sentiment behind it, but then kept on going with my physical examination. High school students can only tolerate revealing a certain quantum of their own extraordinary uniqueness.

Over the next several months I gradually forgot the encounter until one day, while perusing astronomical pictures on the internet, I came across an image of the Lagoon Nebula. In it there were brilliant stars, bright gases as richly colored as human eyes, and shadowy dust filaments leftover from supernovae debris, all of which were swirling in infinity, creating new stars and heavenly matter. I remembered what the young girl had said ― birth of the universe.

My curiosity about the symbol around her neck reawakened. I learned that it was indeed Aum, or Om, a Sanskrit icon tracing back to the world's oldest surviving religion of Hinduism. It represents the incomprehensible absolute, the source of all manifest existence, and the unknowable infinity of space and time.

Dr. Charles then goes into a wonderful examination of this symbol and concludes:

I wonder how I will react the next time I see the young girl in my office, and whether she will be wearing that pendant. While I have only grazed the surface of her religion it has left me with a deeper appreciation for the wisdom, if not proven scientific knowledge, of the ancients.

Despite by newfound respect for Aum, I promise not to begin chanting in the examining room. Or at the very least while anyone still might be around.

He doesn't post every day but it's well worth your time checking in couple times/week. Wonderful writing.

Registrations and Trademarks

Are they clueless or just inane. From BoingBoing, we learn:

Application to trademark "BLOG"
Marble Sportswear Inc., a sportswear company based in Beverly Hills, appears to be attempting to register this mark:

for "retail clothing stores at physical locations and online".

Here is the information from the US Patent Office Database Unnh... What part of Extensive Prior Use to you fail to comprehend?

Super Scorpio

Ran into the website for the small ROV that the US Navy is sending to help the Russian one.

Not too much hard data but it looks very cool: Super Scorpio

Maximum Depth 5,000 ft
Weight: 4,500 lbs.
Dimensions: 4x4x8ft
Speed: 4 Knots Forward/AFT and 2 Knots Laterally
Fly Away Capable
107-122kHz CTFM SONAR, 2000 ft range, (EDO 250)
Two black and white video cameras (OSPREY SL-90)
Two HMI Lights, Four 250 Watt in candescent lights
1 inch steel Cable Cutter
Two Manipulators Capable of lifting 250 lbs. each

Now that would be fun to play with!

The Epemeral Web

Is not that Ephemeral -- the Wall Street Journal has an interesting story:

Lawyers' Delight: Old Web Material Doesn't Disappear
Wayback Machine and Google Archive Billions of Pages, Including Deleted Ones
Earlier this year, executives at Dell Inc. tried to shut down, a Web site promoting an obscure brand of computers. Dell's lawyers dispatched a stern letter, and within a few days, the site's owner revamped it into an online discussion group about computers. The old version disappeared from view.

The PC giant still wanted to seize the address, a move permitted under rules governing the use of domain names. But Dell had to prove to an arbitration panel it had been used in "bad faith." So Dell's legal team turned to the Wayback Machine, a massive archive of Web pages dating back nine years. There, Dell found copies of the deleted site and was able to prove that its owner, Innervision Web Solutions, had used it to redirect consumers to another Web address selling PCs with names such as ZMachinez and Jetbook. In May, an arbitration panel ordered the domain name be transferred to Dell.

The Web, seemingly one of the most ephemeral of media, is instead starting to leave permanent records. Through the Wayback Machine, and similar services offered by companies such as Google Inc., it's now easy to retrieve all kinds of online material, from defunct Web pages to old versions of sites. While these databases have caught on among historians and scholars, they are proving particularly enticing for lawyers.

Fascinating. It's not just business law either -- the archives were instrumental in a murder case:

Archive tools played a pivotal role in a February trial of three teenagers accused of murdering a 12-year-old Toronto boy. The prosecution's star witness was a teenage girl who had taped a phone call in which one of the accused bragged about the murder plan before it was committed. She testified that she found his obsessions with blood and gore immature. The defense argued that the boy was only trying to impress her.

After the case was handed to the jury, a reporter for Canada's National Post reported that the girl had posted comments on a Web site for vampire enthusiasts in which she said her "likes" included blood, pain, drugs and knives. The postings had been removed from the original site and the reporter found them using Google Cache and the Wayback Machine. The report prompted the judge to declare a mistrial on the grounds that the witness's credibility had been damaged.

Dennis Lenzin, an attorney for another of the defendants, says the defense "was completely taken aback" by the postings. He says he researched the girl online using only Yahoo Inc.'s search engine and didn't know of the archives' existence. The case "is a warning shot" for all lawyers, he says.

Another Russian Sub in trouble

This time, the people are OK and help is on its way. From Sky News:

Rescuers are in a race against time to free the crew of a Russian mini-submarine trapped more than 600ft below the Pacific.

The US Navy has sent two specialist rescue submarines to help in the mission to retrieve the sub which has a crew of seven.

It became stranded after getting caught up with an unidentified object off the Kamchatka Peninsula on Russia's Pacific Coast.

The Russian navy is trying to find out how it happened - although one theory is that the vessel became entangled with a fishing net.

Captain Igor Dygalo said a US plane was delivering a robotic rescue vehicle to the accident site.

He also said Britain was providing unspecified "rescue means".

Pacific Fleet spokesman Captain Alexander Kosolapov said the sub was 625ft below the surface - equivalent to the height of London's BT Tower.

He said there was contact with the sailors, who were not hurt.

Conflicting reports said there was enough oxygen in the vessel to last between one and five days.

The accident has echoes of the Kursk tragedy in 2000, when a torpedo shaft exploded on a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.

Official dithering and a refusal to accept foreign help were blamed for the deaths of all 118 sailors on board.

No word on what it was doing there -- there is a lot of oil in that region so maybe they were propspecting... Just a guess.

Sending my prayers to the crew.

Voting with your feet

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A number of people publicly stated that they were emigrating to Canada if President Bush won the 2004 election. CBC has the numbers:
Few Americans moved north after Bush win: stats
The hordes of Americans who vowed to move to Canada after George W. Bush was re-elected president last November haven't followed through on the threat, immigration numbers show.

A total of 14,666 Americans applied to emigrate between November 2004 and March 2005, according to statistics from the main processing centre in Buffalo, N.Y. That's 1,600 fewer than had applied in the six months leading up to the U.S. election.
Emphasis mine -- so very typical of the lefties... Always talking a nice "sound-bite" but do they ever put their money where their mouth is?

A collision

From Strategy Page's Military Photos section:

When Two National Icons Collide
C-130 1, Bald Eagle 0
The U.S. Air Force C-130 was flying near Tacoma, Washington when it collided with an bald eagle. The pilot got splattered with blood. The C-130 and eagle landed together, but only the C-130 was still alive.


Kary Mullis

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I have mentioned him twice before (here and here) and his autobiography is a fun read. He has his own website now.

Working on a new website

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This one addresses our local community. Check it out at Whatcom Chat Still in the very early stages (only up for 12 hours) but I'm looking to do a community portal and forum site.

The rising Sea Level

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Someone on an email list linked to this story at CBC and bewailed: "Lord, here comes the flood" A brief excerpt from the CBC story:
Collapse of Antarctic ice shelf could have global effects
The unprecedented collapse of an ice-shelf in Antarctic could indirectly lead to a significant rise in global sea levels, researchers say.
First of all, if you visit the story, you will see that it does not carry a byline. No person is putting their name to this piece of erroneous piffle and fluff. It is a shame to see a fine institution like the Canadian Broadcasting Company fall for the current "Human Caused Global Warming" hysteria... They are saying firstly that an Ice Shelf in Antarctica called the Larsen B broke up because the glaciers that formed it were advancing too fast for it to withstand the strain. When that happened in 2002, a number of people were all-a-twitter until saner heads remembered that an "Ice Shelf" floats on the ocean water (it is formed when the glacier flows into the ocean) and just as a floating ice cube in your drink will not change the level in your glass as it melts, neither will the ice from an ice shelf displace seawater is it melts. The CBC article is now claiming that some bloviating, handwaving "researcher" is saying that since the glaciers are advancing faster, the increase of ice coming into the ocean will cause a rise in sea level and that this is caused by global warming. What they fail to realize is that temperatures have been cooler there and there has been an increase in precipitation. This has triggered an increase in glaciation. The precip comes from the surrounding seawater so although this water may take a couple-hundred-year vacation, no water is being added to the ocean. You are looking at a circulation of water: Ocean-->Air-->Precipitation-->Ice-->Ocean. For a wonderful examination of Sea Level change from 1841 to 2004, this picture is worth a thousand words:
Here is another view -- this time, the mark has been traced over with line to emphasize it.
These photos are from this website -- here is the text that accompanies them:
The 1841 sea level benchmark (centre) on the 'Isle of the Dead', Tasmania. According to Antarctic explorer, Capt. Sir James Clark Ross, it marked mean sea level in 1841. Photo taken at low tide 20 Jan 2004. Mark is 50 cm across; tidal range is less than a metre.
Let's read that again and consider four things #1) - the mark was placed at mean sea level. The word "mean" in this use denotes the "mathematical average". The sea rose above it and set below it by an equal amount during the tidal cycle. #2) - The mark was made in the middle of the tidal range in 1841 and it was photographed 163 years later at the bottom of the tidal cycle. #3) - the tidal cycle is one meter and the mark is 50 centimeters or one-half meter long. #4) - the mark is sitting about 30 or 40 centimeters above the water in the photograph. Given that there is some wave surge, it looks like the level of the ocean has not changed one bit in 163 years. Granted, this will not show a change of a centimeter or so but to have such a good record over 163 years and to not have any visible change surely pricks the credibility of the climate change people... We have been going through a historically recorded series of global warming and cooling cycles lasting about 400 years. We seem to be entering a warming one now. This is not man made, we don't have anywhere near the power to do this. We sure have the hubris to think that we can...

Light blogging today

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Went into town for some errands (bought 160 lineal feet of steel angle and bar for the farm and for blacksmithing some projects), got eight bales of hay, did a dump run and got dog food. Topped it of with a wonderful dinner with my Mom and Dad who are in the process of moving up to this area. Just got back so I'll post some stuff. Blogging will resume tomorrow.

Ahhhh rats...

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One of the seminal venues for punk and rock music may be shutting its doors. The (Australian) Daily Telegraph has the story:
Historic music club to close
FAMED New York rock club CBGB began the last month on its lease yesterday as E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt stepped up in hopes of saving the grungy East Village rock palace.

The famous club that helped launch the likes of Blondie, the Ramones and Talking Heads is battling its landlord, the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), over $98,000 in back rent and a $24,000 increase to its monthly rent.

The BRC, a non-profit group that aids the homeless, wants its money and guarantees of future rent payments before agreeing to a new lease.

"I can't put the needs of the club second to the needs of the BRC and the homeless," BRC director Muzzy Rosenblatt said, although he noted the two sides were talking.

Van Zandt, a star on The Sopranos TV show, put together Sunday night's punk-rock and grunge benefit featuring Blondies' Deborah Harry and said benefit shows would be held all month at the club and that a free Washington Square Park rally was in the works.

CBGB owner Hilly Kristal was less optimistic: "I don't think [Rosenblatt] has any intention of giving us a lease."
What a legacy to be able to tell your kids that you were instrumental in forcing this cultural icon out of business... Rosenblatt should be ashamed of himself. And tell me again why gentrification is a good thing?

Don't touch those nuts!

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The BBC has a story about the filming of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (wonderful film BTW!) The scene with the squirrels? They were real. Tim Burton was not happy with the way that CG rendered fur so he had forty squirrels brought in and trained and then spent eight weeks on the set. The BBC News Magazine has the story:
How are squirrels trained to act?
Forty squirrels were trained to crack nuts in the new film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. How?

Even with sophisticated computer-generated technology available, director Tim Burton refused to take any short cuts with the famous Nut Room scene in Roald Dahl's novel.

It had to be as life-like as possible, Burton decided, which meant squirrels cracking and sorting nuts on a conveyor belt.

In the film, they are seen sitting on stools testing the quality of the nuts until their work is rudely interrupted by one of the humans, in an action they take strong exception to.

Some of the squirrels were hand-reared and required bottled milk on set, and others came from squirrel rescues or private homes.

Steve Vedmore, an animal trainer from Brynmawr, south Wales, worked for eight weeks on the film.

A cool ride

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Hat tip to BoingBoing for this story about First Sgt. William von Zehle who also has a passion for Mercedes Cars and collects them. While over there, he spotted a 560s that sported some unusual aftermarket additions and turned out to have a rather unique history. The Danbury, CT NewsTimes has the story:
A wheel deal
Ridgefield soldier buys car that may have been Saddam's
A year's service in Iraq gave William von Zehle a host of memories, some good, some bad. The first sergeant in the Danbury-based 411th Civil Affairs Battalion returned home from Baghdad a certified hero for his rescue efforts when terrorists destroyed the United Nations headquarters in the Iraqi capital. He helped foster democracy where it never existed and gave hope to a people still suffering the after effects of war and oppression.

He also came home with a new car, a Mercedes Benz that possibly once belonged to Saddam Hussein.

The lanky Ridgefield resident spotted the car in a driveway in an upscale neighborhood soon after he arrived in Baghdad in April 2003. The Mercedes had a band of steel just below the windshield that normal cars don't have. The extra steel helps the chassis withstand the weight of the armor plating and bulletproof glass.

"I could tell right away it was armored," von Zehle said, "and I thought that was kind of neat."

An armored Mercedes in the middle of Baghdad was strange enough to make von Zehle stop. The anxious owner, worried the soldier was going to just take the car, began yelling at von Zehle in Arabic. But it turned out the owner spoke English as well and soon he and von Zehle were dealing.

"I told him I collect Mercedes and just wanted to take a look at the car. He asked me if I wanted to buy it," von Zehle said. "The guy was a Sunni (Muslim) who could see which way the wind was blowing and he was moving to Jordan."
Heh... The seller had a legitimate receipt (from the Iraqi Government). They settled on the equivalent of $5K USD and von Zehle's fun started. He has to pay a number of extra taxes (la mordita), the shipping company gets the car into a minor accident, mashes the right front fender and the hood is different. He finally gets it home to find that the state of Connecticut considers this to be a grey-market vehicle and will not register it unless everything was intact including the original bulletproof glass (looters broke it in Baghdad). Price for the glass is over $14K. Still, an awesome story and an interesting piece of history...

At a loss for words

A tragic crime, the murderer is caught but there is a problem.

The murderer has no language.

The Washington Post has the story. (use bug-me-not for a username and password)

The Unspeakable
The girl, raped and strangled, had been dead for nearly 48 hours when two police officers and a dog handler burst into Y-B's tavern, led by a drooling bloodhound named Patton, the big dog sniffing frantically.

Not to go into the details of the story but they do find who did it but there is a problem. The criminal in question is from El Salvador and has been deaf from birth. He was never educated and can only scrawl his name and speak a few words. He is not only illiterate, he is without language. Herein lies the problem -- back to the WaPo article:

"I've never had a case like it," said Edward W. Webb, sitting with Martinez's file in Virginia's Office of the Capital Defender in Norfolk. Webb said he doesn't know what his client did or didn't do along Pocahontas Trail that night seven months ago. He and Martinez, of course, aren't able to discuss it.

Which is the problem.

An accused criminal who can't assist in his own defense -- who can't communicate in any meaningful way with his attorney -- is legally incompetent to stand trial. The U.S. Supreme Court says so. A vast majority of such cases involve mentally ill defendants, but that's not the issue for Martinez. His claim is "linguistic incompetence."

And some more:

In Virginia, a capital defendant -- one facing lethal injection or life in prison without parole if convicted -- can be institutionalized indefinitely if found incompetent while treatment specialists work to "restore competence."

For Martinez, that would mean absorbing the first formal education of his life.

He would have to learn words -- what they are, what they signify -- and become proficient enough at sign language to work with his lawyer. The process could take years and could prove fruitless, depending on his aptitude and willingness to learn, experts said. His incentive: Eventually he could leave a hospital for jail, stand trial for murder and possibly be executed.

"The success rate for this type of thing evidently is not terribly high," Webb said.

The crime is tragic and the guy seems to be completely guilty but still, a fascinating legal question.

New entry to the blogroll

Strange New Products has been added to the Blogroll in the Geek Stuff section.

History of water

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Quite an interesting history of drinking water and its sanitation, filtration and chemistry from 500 B.C. forward.
A Brief History of Drinking Water
An abundant freshwater supply is a basic necessity for the development of human civilization. For thousands of years we have lived in cities built on rivers so that we could drink, wash, and move from place to place on these waters. Yet, only in the last 200 years have we seen rapid developments in water treatment. We have come a long way in the last century, and the future holds a lot of promise. This is a brief summary of where we've been and where we're headed.
A sample entry:
1800 A.D.
In 1804, Paisley, Scotland, became the site of the first filter facility to deliver water to an entire town.
In 1806, a large water treatment plant opened in Paris, using the River Seine as a source. Water was settled for 12 hours prior to filtration then run through sponge prefilters that were renewed every hour. The main filters consisted of coarse river sand, clean sand, pounded charcoal, and clean Fountainebleau sand. The filters were renewed every six hours. A simple form of aeration was also part of the process, and pumps were driven by horses working in three shifts (steam power was too expensive). This plant operated for 50 years.
A year later in Glasgow, Scotland, filtered water was piped directly to customers.
The year 1832 saw the first slow sand filtration plant in the United States built in Richmond, Va. In 1833, the plant had 295 water subscribers. The next US plant to open was in Elizabeth, N.J., in 1855.
A typhoid epidemic in 1850s London was associated with bad water, but the actual cause of the disease was unknown. British physician Sir John Snow traced the 1854-55 cholera outbreak in London to sewage contamination of a particular public well. His discovery became known as the Broad Street Pump Affair.
The name "Broad Street Pump Affair" comes from the fact that there were public wells and one well had become infected with Cholera. Dr. Snow tried persuading the city that the water from that particular well was responsible for the epidemic but they didn't believe him. He finally went in one evening and removed the pump handle, rendering the pump inoperable. The epidemic slowed and stopped. Case closed.

When James Doohan passed away a few weeks ago, the Scottish town of Linlithgow proposed a memorial plaque to honor Star Trek's Montgomery Scott. Now, a few other towns are claiming that honor. From CBC/Arts:

Scottish cities battle to be Scotty's hometown
James Doohan, who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the original TV series and its subsequent films, died on July 20.

The next day, the town of Linlithgow announced plans to raise a memorial plaque to honour the Canadian actor, claiming that Star Trek lore pointed to the central Scottish town as the birthplace and hometown of Doohan's defining character.

However, three other cities have now also claimed to be the fictional space engineer's hometown: Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Elgin.

In their arguments, representatives of the cities point to lore from fan websites as well as to past interviews with Doohan, who has said he based Scotty's accent on that of a soldier from Aberdeen he befriended during his service in the Second World War.

West Lothian councillor Willie Dunn, who first announced the Linlithgow initiative, accused the rivals of "boldly clinging onto our coat-tails" in an interview with U.K. newspaper the Times and said representatives from the four locations "should all agree to meet up in 2222 and see who was right."

Heh... Love that last line.

The Religion of Peace

A powerful website devoted to exposing the lie of Islam and showing the world that terrorism is a core part of its practice.

Scroll down the front page where they have a list of Terrorist attacks committed by Islamists since 9/11.

Here is an excerpt of that list showing terrorist activity for the month of July. One Month.

7/31/05 India Badarkot 1 0 A civilian is shot to death inside his own home by militant Muslims.
7/31/05 Iraq Haswa 7 12 Seven civilians are killed by a Jihad car bombing.
7/30/05 Afghanistan Charchino 3 0 A district governor and his two bodyguards are assassinated by the Taliban in a roadside attack.
7/30/05 Iraq Baghdad 6 26 A Fedayeen suicide bomber kills six Iraqis near a theatre. Twenty-six others are injured.
7/30/05 Iraq Baghdad 3 0 Police find the bodies of three airport workers, bound and tortured by the Jihadis. Their throats were cut.
7/30/05 Iraq Basra 2 2 A bomb attack on the British Embassy convoy leaves two security guards dead and two children injured.
7/30/05 India Srinigar 2 25 The Mujahideen stage an attack on a hotel that claims the lives of two security personnel and injures about twenty-five others.
7/29/05 India Kupwara 2 0 The Mujahideen invade a home to kill the wife of a police officer, along with his young nephew.
7/29/05 Iraq Rabiah 52 35 A suicidal religious extremist wanders into a crowd of people and detonates explosives strapped to his body, killing at over fifty people.
7/29/05 Thailand Pattani 1 3 A village leader is gunned down and three others suffer injuries in a separate attack in Narathiwat.
7/29/05 Algeria Boumerdes 2 4 The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat kill two Algerian police officers in an ambush.
7/29/05 India Rajouri 6 0 Muslims line up five Hindu villagers and then slit their throats. Elsewhere in the same district, they murder a woman with an axe.
7/29/05 India Doda 2 0 Islamists kill two policemen in an ambush.
7/28/05 India Sokar 3 0 A 5-year-old girl, her mother and grandmother are slaughtered in a home invasion by the Mujahideen.
7/27/05 Iraq Baghdad 2 0 al-Qaeda executes two Algerian diplomats that were abducted several days earlier.
7/26/05 Afghanistan Kandahar 2 0 The Taliban kill a police chief and one other with a rocket attack on their car.
7/26/05 Chechnya Dargo 1 3 Muslim terrorists ambush a security patrol, killing one and injuring three.
7/26/05 Ethiopia Jigjiga 5 30 A Muslim separatist group, the ONLF, kills five people, including a child, in two grenade attacks against civilian targets.
7/26/05 India Mahore 1 0 Hizb-ul-Mujahideen members invade a home and murder a civilian.
7/26/05 Iraq Baghdad 16 27 Sunni gunmen massacre sixteen Shia civilians with an automatic weapons attack on their vehicles. Over two dozen are inured with gunshot wounds.
7/26/05 Iraq Hilla 3 0 Three policemen are killed when terrorists fire a rocket at point-blank range.
7/26/05 Iraq Basra 3 0 In two separate attacks (one in Tikrit) Jihadis kill three innocents, including a child and a truck driver.
7/25/05 Iraq Baghdad 12 16 A Fedayeen suicide bomber drives his car in front of a hotel and slaughters a dozen people. Sixteen others are injured.
7/24/05 Iraq Baghdad 22 30 A horrific scene as a Fedayeen suicide bomber kills twenty-two people, mostly civilians in a crowded area near sidewalk cafes.
7/24/05 Dagestan Makhachkala 1 4 Muslim terrorists put a bomb beneath a passenger train that kills one and injures four commuters.
7/23/05 Afghanistan Kandahar 1 0 The Taliban assassinate a judge as he is walking to work.
7/23/05 Israel Kissufim 2 5 Palestinian gunmen murder an Israeli husband and wife. They also open fire on medical rescue workers, injuring five of them.
7/23/05 Egypt Sharm el-Sheik 88 119 More than eighty tourists and workers are killed when Islamic militants detonate three powerful car bombs outside a caf� and two hotels. One suicide bomber drove into the lobby. Over one-hundred people suffer injuries.
7/23/05 Thailand Narathiwat 1 0 Islamic militants shoot a 58-year-old village leader twice in the head as he is riding with his wife.
7/23/05 Lebanon Beirut 0 12 Twelve people are injured by a car bomb placed in a Christian neighborhood.
7/22/05 Iraq Baghdad 12 5 Four Jihad attacks leave twelve Iraqis dead, including a senseless ambush on a wedding party that left the bride and her mother dead.
7/22/05 Pakistan South Waziristan 4 0 al-Qaeda suspected in shooting deaths of a tribal leader, his two sons and brother.
7/21/05 Afghanistan Helmand 2 0 The Taliban ambush a vehicle carrying two people. Both are killed in the explosion.
7/21/05 India Anantnag 1 2 Militant Muslims fire on a bus stop, killing a civilian and injuring two others.
7/21/05 Iraq Mahmudiya 5 8 A religious extremist kills himself and five innocents in a blast at a traffic checkpoint.
7/21/05 India Sopore 2 2 Two civilians are killed when the Mujahideen attack a security camp.
7/20/05 Pakistan Gilgit 3 0 Three people are gunned down in sectarian attacks.
7/20/05 Iraq Hilla 4 4 Two Jihad car bombings kill four and injure four, including a young girl.
7/20/05 Iraq Baghdad 10 21 A suicidal Sunni murders ten people near an airport and causes egregious injuries to at least a dozen others.
7/20/05 India Srinigar 6 17 Hizbul Mujahideen suicide bomber targets a missionary children's school in the Indian capital, killing at least six and injuring more than a dozen.
7/19/05 Chechnya Znamenskoye 14 36 Fourteen people, including civilians, are killed in a Jihad attack by Muslim separatists on a remote road.
7/19/05 Iraq Baqubah 13 0 Jihadis stage a shooting attack on a minivan carrying civilians, killing thirteen in all.
7/19/05 India Chitabas 6 0 The Hizbul Mujahideen enter a residence and slaughter six members of a family, in a heinous attack.
7/18/05 Iraq Baghdad 7 0 Islamic insurgents murder six policemen and a government worker in six separate shooting attacks.
7/18/05 Pakistan Karachi 1 1 A Sunni cleric is attacked in his car by Shia on motorcycles, who manage to kill his son.
7/18/05 Pakistan Quetta 1 1 A Shia schoolteacher is gunned down, and his wife critically injured.
7/18/05 Thailand Yala 3 1 In three separate attacks, Muslims behead a farmer and shoot at least two other people to death, including a school principal.
7/18/05 Pakistan Chilas Farm 5 15 Five passengers aboard a bus are killed when the Mujahideen ambush it along a mountain road. Fifteen others are injured.
7/18/05 Afghanistan Uruzgan 9 0 Nine villagers are slaughtered in a Taliban raid.
7/18/05 India Arwani 1 1 The Mujahideen shoot a man to death outside his shop.
7/17/05 Iraq Baghdad 22 21 Four Fedayeen kill twenty-two people in separate suicide suicide bombings.
7/16/05 Iraq Basra 3 2 Muslim terrorists kill three British soldiers with a roadside bomb.
7/16/05 Thailand Narathiwat 2 0 Muslim separatists attack a school, killing two security guards.
7/16/05 India Baramulla 2 0 The Mujahideen shoot a man to death outside his home, and also stage a separate attack that kills a 6-year-old girl.
7/16/05 Iraq Musayyib 71 160 A religious extremist with explosives wrapped around his chest, detonates himself in a crowded city street, killing over seventy other people. Nearly two-hundred others are injured in the horrific attack.
7/15/05 Thailand Narathiwat 2 0 Two female teachers are gunned down by Muslims on motorcycles as they are walking home.
7/15/05 Iraq Baghdad 27 100 Seven suicide bombers take at least twenty-seven innocents with them to Allah. About one hundred others suffer injuries; many lose limbs.
7/14/05 Thailand Yala 2 21 Islamic militants set off four bombs in restaraunts and other business areas, killing at least two people.
7/14/05 Israel Netiv Haasara 1 1 Palestinian terrorists hit an Israeli residence with a missile, killing a woman.
7/13/05 Iraq Baghdad 27 25 An Islamic suicide bomber deliberately plows his car into a group of children, slaughtering at least twenty-seven. Children were amply represented among the injured.
7/13/05 Pakistan Jhal Magsi 3 3 Three children, including two brothers, are killed by a homemade bomb.
7/13/05 India Bigambri 1 0 The Mujahideen abduct a civilian, then kill him in captivity.
7/13/05 Iraq Jalawlah 2 16 A suicide bomber kills two others inside a Sunni mosque.
7/12/05 Israel Netanya 5 70 The terror group, Islamic Jihad, takes credit for a suicide bombing, in which a bomber kills five Jews crossing the street in front of a mall. All of the victims were female, two were teenage girls. About seventy others were injured.
7/12/05 Iraq Kirkuk 3 15 Sunnis detonate a car bomb in an industrial district, killing three civilians and injuring fifteen more.
7/11/05 Somalia Mogadishu 1 0 al-Qaeda assassinates a Somali peace activist outside his home.
7/10/05 Iraq Syrian Border 7 0 Two Islamic suicide bombers kill seven customs agents.
7/10/05 Iraq Kirkuk 4 15 Suicidal Sunni kills four civilians on a highway, near a hospital. Fifteen are injured in the blast.
7/10/05 Iraq Baghdad 25 47 A al-Qaeda suicide bomber blows himself to Allah, taking twenty-five innocents with him. Nearly fifty others are injured.
7/9/05 Algeria Tezi Ozo 4 0 A group of thirty Islamists set-up a fake roadblock, then slaughter four Algerians that are fooled into stopping.
7/9/05 Iraq Baghdad 8 0 A family of eight Shia is grusomely murdered by Sunni radicals as they sleep in their home.
7/9/05 Pakistan Karachi 1 0 A Shia cleric is gunned down on a street by Pakistani Sunnis.
7/8/05 India Rajouri 4 0 Four Indian soldiers are ambushed and killed by Islamic militants.
7/7/05 Iraq Baghdad 1 0 al-Qaeda Organization for Holy War pronounces "Allah's judgment" and kills a kidnapped Egyptian diplomat on video.
7/7/05 Afghanistan Helmand 10 0 Ten Afghan police officers are captured by the Taliban and senselessly beheaded.
7/7/05 UK London 52 750 Islamic terrorists massacre more than fifty commuters on three separate subway trains and a double-decker bus on the street with four suicide bombs. Over seven-hundred people are injured.
7/7/05 Iraq Mosul 5 52 Five people at a market are killed when Sunni terrorists lob more than a dozen mortar rounds into the square.
7/6/05 Thailand Narathiwat 1 0 Muslims on motorcycles shoot a 52-year-old in the neck and hand as he is riding to market.
7/6/05 Iraq Jbeila 13 30 Thirteen civilians are slaughtered in twin suicide bombings by Muslim extremists. About thirty others are injured.
7/6/05 India Budgam 1 0 The Mujahideen kidnap a student from his classrom and subsequently shoot him to death.
7/6/05 Algeria Skikda 1 13 Islamic fundamentalists bomb a convoy, killing one Algerian solider and injuring thirteen others.
7/5/05 Dagestan Makhachkala 2 0 A prominent politician is assassinated, along with his uncle, by suspected Islamists as they sit in their car at a light.
7/5/05 Iraq Baghdad 3 0 Islamic extremists shoot three barbers to death for shaving beards.
7/5/05 Thailand Pattani 1 0 A 44-year-old security force member is abducted and beheaded by Islamists.
7/5/05 India Pulwama 2 1 In two separate home invasions, the Mujahideen shoot two people to death and critically injure the wife of one.
7/4/05 Iraq Baghdad 2 4 A remote-controlled bomb kills two civilians, including a woman.
7/4/05 Iraq Baghdad 2 1 Sunni insurgents kill a painting contractor, and kidnap, torture and behead another man.
7/4/05 Afghanistan Bande Sardeh 1 2 A suicide bomber on a bicycle kills a Turkish engineer and injures two others.
7/4/05 Iraq Fallujah 3 9 Three civilians are blown to bits, and nine others badly injured by a Fedayeen suicide bombing on a busy road.
7/4/05 India Wagbal Karhama 1 0 A youth is abducted and hanged by the Mujahideen.
7/4/05 Dagestan Makhachkala 2 2 Two policemen are killed by an insurgent bombing.
7/4/05 India Dadsar 1 0 The Mujahideen abduct then shoot a civilian to death.
7/3/05 Syria Damascus 2 0 Two Syrian border patrol personnel are killed an an Islamic extremist, near Lebanon.
7/3/05 Afghanistan Kandahar 1 0 Pro-democracy cleric is killed by a Talibn sniper his home.
7/2/05 Iraq Mahmoudiya 2 0 A bomb hidden in a vegetable cart targets a Shia funeral procession.
7/2/05 Iraq Hillah 6 26 Two Sunni suicide bombers kill at least six people and injured dozens more in a Shia neighborhood.
7/2/05 Iraq Baghdad 16 22 A suicidal Muslim bomber kills sixteen other people outside a police station. About two dozen others are injured in the blast.
7/2/05 Dagestan Makhachkala 11 23 Russian troops and civilians are casualties in a radio-controlled bomb attack outside a bathhouse blamed on Islamic militants.
7/2/05 Afghanistan Paktika 6 2 The Taliban attack a UN convoy with a roadside bomb, killing six Afghan security personnel.
7/1/05 Iraq Baghdad 1 0 A Shiite cleric is gunned down in cold blood by Sunnis in a drive-by attack.
7/1/05 India Kashmir 3 0 Three civilians are abducted from their homes and executed by the Mujahideen, including a 65-year-old man.

Moonbat Central

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Excellent website for those wanting to keep track of "who's who" on the Left. Discover the From their About page:
Welcome to DiscoverTheNetwork. This site is a "Guide to the Political Left." It identifies the individuals and organizations that make up the left and also the institutions that fund and sustain it; it maps the paths through which the left exerts its influence on the larger body politic; it defines the left's (often hidden) programmatic agendas and it provides an understanding of its history and ideas.

The site is made up of two principal data elements along with a powerful search engine to locate and explore the information stored. The first of these elements is a database of PROFILES of individuals, groups and institutions, which can be accessed through the heptagram on the home page, or the DTN DIRECTORY on the navigation bar. The PROFILES provide thumbnail sketches of histories, agendas and (where significant) funding sources. More than 1,500 such groups and individuals have already been delineated in the PROFILES sections of this base. The information has been culled from public records readily available on the Internet and other sources, whose veracity and authenticity are easily checked.

The second data element of this site consists of a library of articles, which analyze the relationships disclosed in the database and the issues they raise. These analyses are drawn from thousands of articles, both scholarly and journalistic, that have been entered into the base and linked in the TEXT columns that appear on the PROFILE pages. The judgments that inform these analyses are subjective, reflecting informed opinion about the matters at hand. In every case possible, their authors and sources are identified so that users of the database can form their own judgments and opinions about the reliability and value of the analyses.
Very well done with lots of references and links to back it up.

A disturbance in the force

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Apple just (finally) released a mouse with more than one button... The MightyMouse

Cute Dog Photo

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Awwww... Pilot John Kounis, editor of Pilot Getaways magazine made a doggie headset to protect his Lab's hearing during flight. "While flying [Woody] wears a special doggie headset made from kneepads, foam, and velcro straps."
Hat tip: Philip Greenspun

Holy Hollerith Batman!

Hat tip to BoingBoing for this curious link.
Rember punch cards?
"Remember punch cards? I use them. Still got a box or two. Great for taking notes, they fit in VHS boxes for notes, I even print my business card on them. Sure makes people take note."
So begins a very interesting discussion on the Stilyagi discussion board.
"Our tool crib at Ford still used punch cards for inventory control until the early/mid 80s" says another person. "Just think of the concept--the data is made up out of thin air! The card is just there to organize the holes" notes another.
The posters figure out how many punch cards it'd take to read a 3-minute mp3. Answer?
"Assuming a non-Hollerith encoding with eight bits per column, and an MP3 file encoded at 128kbps CBR, there would be 36,864 cards in that deck, and the card reader would need a throughput of 205 cards per second. It might be wise to include an 8-column sequence number, however, so that a misordered deck can be repaired by a card sorter; with 72 data columns per card, the total is precisely 40,960 cards (40K cards), requiring a 228 card/second throughput." The 21 boxes of cards needed would by 5 feet 9 inches tall.
That such a huge leap in technology is well within living memory astonishes Y.
Astonishes me too -- my first computer programming classes consisted of punching out FORTRAN statements onto a card deck, submitting the deck, coming back that next day to see what blew up and to resubmit my deck. The idea that my camera uses One Gigabyte Flash memory is wonderful. A fun time to be alive!

Monkey business

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Creepy. Today's Seattle Times has this story from Puerto Rico:
Monkeys threaten San Juan
When hordes of monkeys began invading Puerto Rico's agricultural fields, devastating crops and eluding capture, the major concern was trapping them before they reached urban areas, where they would pose a public health hazard and be nearly impossible to round up.

Fear is turning to outrage. Authorities recently acknowledged a clan of these pesky moneys, escapees from defunct medical-research laboratories along Puerto Rico's southern coast, has turned up just 20 minutes outside metropolitan San Juan � home to 1.5 million residents and a virtually unlimited number of hiding places.

"It would be very bad if these monkeys got to San Juan," said Jose Chalbert, director of Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources, an agency that recently proposed capturing the wild monkeys because they carry diseases.
And where did these monkeys come from?
Primates are not native to Puerto Rico. But the island has been home to a species of monkey dating back to the 1950s when scientists brought them here for medical experiments.

The animals � descendants of the patas and rhesus monkeys that escaped from medical-research labs � are known to be fertile and aggressive.

Mature monkeys can weigh up to 50 pounds, and it's estimated the monkey population in southeast Puerto Rico stands at between 1,000 and 2,000 � and it's growing every day.
Yikes -- up to 50 pounds and aggressive. Being primates, it's not as though you could find some convenient disease to wipe them out.

A man and his Cathedral

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A fascinating vision -- Don Justo's Self Built Cathedral
Justo Gallego Mart�nez is building his very own Cathedral in Mejorada del Campo near Madrid, Spain.

This is no "model" cathedral and he is neither a qualified architect, nor engineer, nor bricklayer -- he is a farmer. "The plans have only ever existed in my head" and have evolved over time in response to opportunity and inspiration. Nor does he have formal planning permission from the authorities of Mejorada del Campo.

Nor does he have the benediction or support of the Catholic Church. After eight years in a Trappist order -- and just prior to taking his vows -- he was obliged to leave, considerably weakened by tuberculosis and the monastic regime. His cathedral is dedicated to Nuestra Se�ora del Pilar, Madre de Jes�s. He explains: "It's an act of faith." The cathedral has been bequeathed by him to the Bishopric of nearby Alcal� de Henares.

His awesome undertaking has been treated as meaningless both by those in his immediate community (who laughed at him as 'el loco de la iglesia') and by the secular and religious authorities. But if Don Justo is to be considered "loco", what is the price of "sanity" in today's world?




The results are in...

...for the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction ContestAnd the winner is a Mr. Dan McKay from Fargo, ND who wrote:

As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.

The contest?

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" Beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The contest began in 1982 as a quiet campus affair, attracting only three submissions. This response being a thunderous success by academic standards, the contest went public the following year and ever since has attracted thousands of annual entries from all over the world.

Global Warming and Tropical Storms

There was a report in today's Bellingham Herald:

Global Warming Making Hurricanes Stronger
Is global warming making hurricanes more ferocious? New research suggests the answer is yes. Scientists call the findings both surprising and "alarming" because they suggest global warming is influencing storms now - rather than in the distant future.

However, the research doesn't suggest global warming is generating more hurricanes and typhoons.

The analysis by climatologist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows for the first time that major storms spinning in both the Atlantic and the Pacific since the 1970s have increased in duration and intensity by about 50 percent.

These trends are closely linked to increases in the average temperatures of the ocean surface and also correspond to increases in global average atmospheric temperatures during the same period.

"When I look at these results at face value, they are rather alarming," said research meteorologist Tom Knutson. "These are very big changes."

Yow! This global warming thing is causing stronger hurricanes.

We gotta do something...

BZZZZZTTTTT!!! Wrong. There are several cycles affecting tropical storms and we are starting into a collection of several of them.

Some excerpts from a 2001 article at Science Daily:

Scientists: Future Atlantic Hurricane Picture Is Highly Complex
In a highly publicized article in the journal Science this summer, a team of meteorologists predicted that the current resurgence in North Atlantic hurricane activity will continue for at least the next 10 to 40 years.


Their findings: The number of hurricanes making landfall in a given year is controlled not only by the long-term, multi-decade trend described in the Science article, but by three shorter-term cycles as well. These four distinct "temporal modes" � each probably the result of a different atmospheric and oceanic phenomenon � combine to determine the number of tropical storms that make landfall each year, Xie and Pietrafesa explain.

We have this graph from MESO (Multi-community Environmental Storm Observatory)


This article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

20 years of hurricanes
Meteorologists believe this year's storms part of a cycle started in '95
The record-setting 2004 Atlantic hurricane season has almost two more months to churn up trouble, but it already reminds veteran tropical storm predictor James J. O'Brien of the Wild West.

"It was like ducking bullets from all directions," said O'Brien, director of the Center for Ocean-Atmosphere Prediction Studies at Florida State University in Tallahassee. "The thing that impresses me is that four hurricanes missed me." Tallahassee, located in the state's panhandle, so far has escaped largely unscathed.


"We are a decade into the active phase of a natural 60-year or so cycle of hurricane activity," said Dr. Hugh E. Willoughby, of the International Hurricane Research Center in Miami. "This season is active, but not dramatically more so than others since 1995."

Finally, this from the Boston Globe

Hurricanes more powerful, study says
Researcher at MIT sees larger storms with stronger winds
The destructive power of hurricanes in the North Atlantic and North Pacific has nearly doubled over the past 30 years, at least partly because of human-induced global warming, according to a controversial new study by a prominent climate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Though the number of tropical cyclones worldwide has hovered at 90 a year for decades, MIT hurricane specialist Kerry Emanuel contends that the storms are growing larger and reaching higher maximum wind speeds than in the past. Focusing on the cyclones that have been most closely measured -- hurricanes striking the Eastern United States and typhoons in Southeast Asia -- Emanuel concluded that today's storms, on average, release far more energy than their predecessors did in the mid-1970s.

"There seems to be a clear correlation" between increasing strength and length of storms and a temperature increase of 0.5 degrees Celsius on the surface of the sea during the same period, said Emanuel, whose paper was published online yesterday by the journal Nature.

But... the Globe then went on to check with Dr. William Gray (his chart was used by the MESO paper above)

One of the nation's leading hurricane forecasters, William Gray of Colorado State University, said Emanuel is leaping to conclusions based on imprecise information about the strength of hurricanes, especially in decades past. He said Emanuel's formula for calculating the energy released by hurricanes obscures the fact that no one directly measured the winds in many of the storms, roughly estimating speeds from satellite images instead.

"It's a terrible paper, one of the worst I've ever looked at," said Gray, who does not believe that cyclone intensity worldwide is increasing. He also questioned Emanuel's contention that human actions, such as the burning of oil and other fuels, have caused the surface of the ocean to warm. Gray said the ocean-temperature increase is natural.


Pop... Pop... Pop - splat... Pop...

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Those are the sound of moonbat heads exploding. FOX News has the story:
Bush Appoints Bolton to U.N. Job
President Bush bypassed Congress Monday and appointed John Bolton (search) to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform. So today I've used my constitutional authority to appoint John Bolton to serve as America's ambassador to the United Nations (search)," Bush said, with Bolton at his side, during an announcement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

"I am sending John to the U.N. with my complete confidence ... His mission now is to speak for me on critical issues facing the international community. And he'll make it clear that America values the potential of the United Nations to be a source of hope and dignity and peace," Bush said.
Some reactions:
"It is the president's prerogative and the president has decided to appoint him through this process for him to come and represent him. And from where I stand, we will work with him as the ambassador and representative of the president and the government," Annan said in a morning press conference. "We look forward to working with him, as I do with the other 190 ambassadors, and we will welcome him at a time when we are in the midst of major reform."
--- Kofi Annan
"The abuse of power and the cloak of secrecy from the White House continues. It's bad enough that the administration stonewalled the Senate by refusing to disclose documents highly relevant to the Bolton nomination. It's even worse for the administration to abuse the recess appointment power by making the appointment while Congress is in this five-week recess. It's a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton's credibility at the U.N."
---Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
"Kofi Annan has been more gracious about Bolton than the Senate minority leader or Dodd ... I hope more, some responsible Democratic senators distance themselves from these statements from Senator Dodd and Senator Reid."
---Bill Kristol, Weekly Standard editor
Say what you like about Annan, at least he is gracious enough to accept the reality of the situation. Playtime is over and it's time to clean house. Hat tip to Charles at LGF

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