January 2006 Archives

You are what you eat

| 1 Comment
Little known food facts -- two common dyes used for coloring foods are made of something you don't really want to think about. From The Albuquerque Tribune:
Food, cosmetics labels may have to list insect-based dye
Truth in labeling might start bugging people when they learn how two widely used food and cosmetic color additives are made.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed Friday requiring food and cosmetic labels to list cochineal extract or carmine if their ingredients include either of the two red colorings that have been extracted from the ground bodies of an insect known since the time of the Aztecs.
OK -- so we have a bit of an EWWWW!!! factor going... A bit more -- the reason:
Release of the proposed rule came after the FDA received 35 reports of hypersensitivity to the colorings, the agency said. A 1998 petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest asked that the FDA take action.
The widespread use of the dyes in products, including yogurt and lipstick, hasn't exactly been well-disclosed: The ingredients are typically listed as "color added" or "E120," the FDA said.
Where are these found:
Carmine puts the red in ice cream, strawberry milk, fake crab and lobster, fruit cocktail cherries, port wine cheese, lumpfish eggs and liqueurs like Campari, the FDA said.

Carmine is also used in lipstick, makeup base, eye shadow, eyeliners, nail polishes and baby products, the agency said. Meanwhile, cochineal extract shows up in fruit drinks, candy, yogurt and some processed foods.

That could upset vegetarians, Jews trying to keep kosher and anyone who might blanch at learning their blush is made from bugs.

Not that the stuff hasn't been around long: indigenous people living in pre-Columbian Mexico were the first to recognize a cactus-sucking insect called the Dactylopius coccus costa was a good source of dye.

Cochineal extract is made from the dried and ground female bodies of the insect. Carminic acid gives that extract its dark purplish-red color. That acid is used in turn to make carmine.
And the FDA's stance on this:
The FDA ruled out banning the use of the colorings since it found no evidence of a "significant hazard" to the general population. It also declined to require that labels disclose the colorings are made from insects, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest had asked.

"Why not use a word that people can understand?" said center executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Sending people scurrying to the dictionary or to Google to figure out what 'carmine' or 'cochineal' means is just plain sneaky. Call these colorings what they are: insect-based."

The FDA said comments on the proposed rule are due April 27. The FDA plans to tackle the labeling of prescription drugs that include the colorings in a separate rule.
Plain language from a government agency? I am liking this! As I said, there is a big EWW!! factor but it's good that they will be labeling things for what they are and not trying to hide what the source is. If the manufacturers knickers get in a twist, find something else to use...

A question of who picks up the tab...

Kim DuToit has an interesting story today:
Billing The Fed
You know, it�s hard for me not to sympathize with this position:
An Ohio sheriff has billed the Department of Homeland Security $125,000 for the cost of jailing illegal aliens arrested on criminal charges in his county, saying he�s angry that the federal government has failed in its responsibility to keep them out of the United States.[snip]

He said 900 foreign-born inmates have been booked into the crowded Butler County jail in the past year. �Why should Butler County taxpayers have to pay for jail costs associated with people we don�t believe should ever have been in this country, let alone this state or county, to begin with?� Sheriff Jones said. �They are in my jail because they have committed crimes here.

�It�s time the federal government should at least pay for the criminals they let stay here,� he said. �If they don�t want to pay for them, then they can deport them.�
The response from ICE (aka. INS) has been errrr underwhelming.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency �repeatedly reached out to the Butler County Sheriff�s Department� and, on multiple occasions, offered ICE enforcement resources to the sheriff in addressing the il legal alien population in Butler County.

�As part of these efforts, ICE agents have interviewed the foreign nationals in the sheriff�s custody awaiting trial on state or local charges,� he said. �ICE has placed immigration detainers on all of the individuals who are illegal aliens subject to removal from the country."
Yeah, that�s all very well, but serving these criminals with papers isn�t quite what�s needed. To use that ghastly quote: �Show us the money.�

Or start making a serious effort to keep illegals out.
Very good ideal -- part of Homeland Securities charter is to strengthen the border. They should be doing their job but they seem to be doing the big lie, emphasizing what they are failing at. From today's web page comes this "announcement" dated January 17th:
Homeland Security and State Departments Announce Initiative to Keep Borders Secure and Open
January 17, 2006 - Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced plans to strengthen security at U.S. borders while "keeping the welcome mat out for those who want to come from overseas" at an event held at the Department of State. The joint agenda for securing borders and opening doors to those who lawfully cross our borders to work, learn, and visit includes the increased use of modern technology to establish a comprehensive enrollment network for registered, trusted travelers to the United States.
They have enough problems with the Canadian border -- we live a few miles away and people are running over several times/month. The Mexican border is even more porous.

Light posting tonight

Working on a paying project. Editing video.

The Council of Europe...

| No Comments
...actually recognizes evil for what it is. From this page at the Council of Europe web page:
PACE strongly condemns crimes of totalitarian communist regimes
The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) today strongly condemned the massive human rights violations committed by totalitarian communist regimes and expressed sympathy, understanding and recognition for the victims of these crimes.

The Assembly � which brings together parliamentarians from 46 European countries � said in a resolution that these violations included individual and collective assassinations and executions, death in concentration camps, starvation, deportations, torture, slave labour and other forms of mass physical terror.

The peoples of the former USSR by far outnumbered other peoples in terms of the number of victims, the parliamentarians said.
But don't recognize the Chinese who suffered and died under Mao's incompetent ham-handed dictatorial reign. What was that -- 80 Million? But wait! There's more:
They also called on all communist or post-communist parties in Council of Europe member states which had not so far done so �to reassess the history of communism and their own past [�] and condemn them without any ambiguity�.

�The Assembly believes that this clear position of the international community will pave the way to further reconciliation,� the parliamentarians added.

The Council of Europe was �well placed� for this debate, the Assembly pointed out, since all former European communist countries, with the exception of Belarus, are now its members and the protection of human rights and the rule of law are the basic values for which it stands.

A draft recommendation calling on Europe�s governments to adopt a similar declaration of the international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority of the votes cast.

For more information, please visit http://assembly.coe.int or http://www.coe.int/PAsession
Is it just me or does someone really need to grab these good people by the shoulders and give them a good shaking until they wake the heck up? Their hearts are in the right place, they are just so... so... proper and politically correct and sensitive to others' demands. So dithering that they are incapable of taking a stand for something that has a deep meaning to them. If they had something that had a deep meaning...


| No Comments
The Augustine volcano in Alaska has been acting up. Here is the Alaska Volcano Observatory page for Augustine Here is the webcam page.

Two Energy boards

| 2 TrackBacks
Stumbled onto two excellent online communities dealing with energy. Check out Peak Oil and The Oil Drum. A sample post from The Oil Drum:
Graphs that Blow Your Mind...
...or break your jaw when it hits the floor. I was working on a different piece when I stumbled across these numbers and I couldn't resist posting this graph immediately.

Click for full-size Image

Annual production of cement by country in billions of metric tons.
Source: USGS.

Cement is mainly used to make concrete, and is sort of the "active ingredient" in concrete - it is combined with sand and gravel in roughly fixed proportions. So cement production is a rough proxy for the total amount of construction going on in a country.
If that isn't enough, one of the commenters reminded us that it takes a lot of heat to calcine the limestone. Another commenter worked out the numbers and came up with the equivalent of 1.1 Billion Barrels of Oil. The Chinese use coal for the cement production but this only highlights the intense environmental problems over there as the cement plants are small operations and not equipped with any of the current pollution controls. Needless to say, these two sites will be posted to the Blogroll when I next do updates.

Measured leadership in Iran

| 1 Comment
Iran is once again showing itself to be careful and considerate. From the Turkish Press:
The rumor is that Iran will carry out a nuclear experiment in March...
Teheran is getting ready to counter a "preemptive strike" by USA and Israel. The Air Force Command of the Revolutionary Guard has ordered its Shahap-3 Missile Units to keep their mobile missile ramps in motion in preparation for such an attack. Responding to this order, in darkness of the night the primary missile ramps have been moved to Kirmanshah and Hamedan, and the reserve ramps to Isfahan and Fars regions.

The above actions are the basis for the efforts of the USA to attract Russia and China, as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to its side, and for commenting that a military intervention is always on the table. These actions are also the basis for Israel�s overt preparation for a possible offensive action and for making authoritative announcements that it "will not permit Iran" to proceed with its nuclear plans. Suddenly, all these activities have created a renewed global atmosphere of war. They are spreading anxiety and paranoia.
Wonderful, just frickin' wonderful... Fortunately, we have the predator drones -- there is probably about an hour of prep needed to launch the Shahab as it uses a liquid fueled motor. More than enough time to spot them and to take them out.


| No Comments
I want some of what they are smoking. From the UK Independent comes this story:
UN unveils plan to release untapped wealth of...$7 trillion (and solve the world's problems at a stroke)
The most potent threats to life on earth - global warming, health pandemics, poverty and armed conflict - could be ended by moves that would unlock $7 trillion - $7,000,000,000,000 (�3.9trn) - of previously untapped wealth, the United Nations claims today.

The price? An admission that the nation-state is an old-fashioned concept that has no role to play in a modern globalised world where financial markets have to be harnessed rather than simply condemned.
WTF? They cannot manage a simple Oil-for-Food program and now they propose to delete the concepts of nation-states (ie: national sovereignty) and we all are just one big happy family... C'mon now, let's have a big group hug. Some more:
At the heart of the proposal, unveiled at a gathering of world business leaders at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, is a push to get countries to account for the cost of failed policies, and use the money saved "up front" to avert crises before they hit. Top of the list is a challenge to the United States to join an international pollution permit trading system which, the UN claims, could deliver $3.64trn of global wealth.
You want to get rid of the cost of failed policies? Hey, the United States contributed Three Billion Dollars to the UN in 2002 and was expected to do the same in 2003 according to this report (PDF). A few examples of what they are trying to do:
Millions of people across the developing world have died from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, as well as from other pandemics. Vaccines needed to avert them require much-needed investment.

SOLUTION: An advance commitment by rich countries to buy $3bn (�1.7bn) worth of vaccines would be enough to encourage pharmaceutical giants to invest in finding medicines that would eliminate these pandemics.
SAVING: $600bn
Hey -- how about letting people use DDT again. That would save about 2,000,000 lives per year. The majority of everything else could be greatly minimized (ie: brought down to western levels) if there was better education. For example, some cultures view Vaccines as something that the "west" is doing to sterilize them or make them weak. Same thing with AIDS/HIV and the use of condoms. Another example:
Big business and global money ignore countries where they see the risk of conflict outweighing their potential profit margins.

SOLUTION: Guarantees by international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund to lower the cost of borrowing for poor nations by underwriting investors' loans to conflict-torn states.
SAVING: $22bn
Pariah States are generally the result of corrupt government. Nobody in their right mind would invest in a nation ruled by a despot. In this case, it is the United Nations' own fault that this level of corruption still exists. This was one of the things they were supposed to be doing wasn't it? Look at their track record... One more:
Poor countries suffer most from swings in investment tastes by the big global investors that means money can leave as soon as it arrives.

SOLUTION: Enable countries to buy "insurance policies" against big swings in growth that would ensure that they did not have to cut public spending every time. In 1997 it wreaked havoc across South-east Asia.SAVING: $2,900bn
I am sorry but this one rates a big frickin' Boo-Hoo on my Care-O-Meter. A company invests in a nation with resources but a corrupt government. A company is initially optimistic and more than willing to spread the wealth around (after all, a healthy, well educated populace is a potential customer base). Said company sees all of it's investments going into corrupt government, local contractors who are 'cousins' of the 'president' and the factories never get built to specifications. When they finally manage to get something marketable, pirates come in and kidnap people or steal product. For a classic example of this read the following: News from Russia:
Nigeria continues search for hostages after oil platform attack
Nigeria authorities continued the search Saturday for four foreign nationals abducted by gunmen who attacked an oil platform last week.
And this: Aljazeera.net:
Nine killed in Nigeria oil raid
An armed gang dressed in military fatigues has attacked the offices of Agip oil company, a unit of Italy's ENI, in Nigeria, killing nine people.
So... Do you think that I would be interested in investing in Nigeria's Oil Resources? I may have placed a bunch of investments in the country but now, I am figuring out how to cut my losses and get the hell out. Corrupt government again. The shear gall that the United Nations would propose to eliminate national sovereignty and put itself up as the nanny for the world is unreal. They have no grasp of reality.

Angela Merkel Rules too!!!

| No Comments
Germany has just stepped up to the plate. From Reuters:
Hamas faces EU threat to cut Palestinian aid
The European Union could not fund a Hamas-run Palestinian Authority if it did not renounce violence and recognize Israel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Israel on Sunday.

It was the most explicit threat to cut aid from Europe, the biggest donor to the Palestinians, since Islamic militant group Hamas won a shock victory in parliamentary elections last week. The United States has also threatened to block funding.

Hamas, expected to form the new government, has denounced Western threats to cut aid as blackmail and rejected calls to disarm and end its formal commitment to destroy Israel.

"Such a Palestinian Authority cannot be directly supported by money from the EU," said Merkel, standing beside Israel's interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem at the start of her first visit to the region.

Diplomatic sources said Merkel consulted other European leaders before the two-day trip. Last year the European Union gave the Palestinian Authority 500 million euros ($615 million), money vital for its survival.

U.S. Secretary of State Rice said she believed the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and other powers involved in the Middle East were "on the same page" -- that funding must not go to Hamas and other groups that advocated destroying Israel.

In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Congress would cut funding unless Hamas changed, echoing President George W. Bush's pledge to withhold funds.
That culture recognizes strength and power. They are being shown it right now. About 30 years too late but now is an excellent time to start. Glad to see an EU politician with some stones.

Rice Rules!

| No Comments
Continuing on this earlier post about "Palestinian" money worries, it seems that they just got a bit more intense. From Bloomberg:
Rice Says U.S. Won't Aid Hamas-Led Palestinian Government
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. won't financially support a Hamas-led Palestinian government and will ask other nations to cut off aid as well.

"The United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence," Rice said en route to London, where tomorrow she will review the Palestinian elections with representatives of the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The group, known as the Quartet, has been working on peace negotiations.

The U.S. is trying to build a consensus within the Quartet and among other nations for withholding aid as a way to isolate the incoming government until Hamas renounces its call for Israel's destruction. Hamas, which the U.S. and EU regard as a terrorist organization, trounced the ruling Fatah party in the Palestinian parliamentary elections on Jan. 25.
You are about $368,000,000 short? How about the tried and true liberal technique -- hold a bake sale.

Money worries

Now that Hamas has gotten control of the government of "Palestine", things will get interesting. The 1998 Charter of Hamas specifically states these things:

...Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realised...

...The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him...

and it just gets better and better as you keep reading this filth.

Anyway, it seems that they may have some money problems. From The Globe and Mail:

Isolated by world criticism and strapped for cash, the Islamic militant group Hamas faces an uphill struggle to even begin cleaning up Palestinian government as it has promised to do.

Internally, the old Fatah rulers vanquished by Hamas in last week's parliamentary election are refusing to co-operate with the new guard, almost openly hoping for their failure.

International donors, who have annually made up a huge shortfall in the perpetually strapped Palestinian Authority, are balking at funding a Hamas regime.

Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said Sunday that Israel will stop the monthly transfer of tens of millions of dollars in taxes and customs money it collects for the Palestinians to a Palestinian Authority headed by Hamas.


The most immediate crisis, even before Hamas has a chance to form a government, is payday. The Palestinian Authority coffers are empty.

The $54-million (U.S.) on average that Israel transfers monthly to the Palestinians could make the difference between paying salaries of security forces and civil servants or failing to meet the payroll. Mr. Olmert said that money would stop after Hamas forms a government.

Wretchard at The Belmont Club has an excellent (as usual) presentation and commentary of just who contributes to the "Palestinian" people:

The root of all ...
The Council of Foreign Relations describes the Palestinian Authority's financial system this way:

Where does the PA government get its funding?
From a combination of overseas assistance and tax collection, Abuznaid says. He estimates that taxes - from businesses in the territories, as well as a customs tax collected by Israel and then paid to the Palestinians - account for about 40 percent of the PA budget. Donations from abroad make up the rest. The PA has run into budget trouble lately, running a massive deficit and sparking the wrath of European donors by adding thousands of people to the security service instead of cutting costs. Experts say Fatah padded its payroll with young militants to win their votes ahead of the polls, and expect the PA will be unable to pay all their salaries after the elections. Since November 2005, the European Union has withheld $42 million in aid payments to the PA as punishment for missed fiscal targets.
Sixty percent of the PA's funds come from foreign donors. American Future, quoting the Times of London, has a breakdown of donor contributions to the Palestinian Authority.

The three key players are the Arab League at $197M, the USA at $368M and the EU at $338M. All the other figures are in the $43M to $17M range. Wretchard then offers this commentary:

Part of the problem may be rivalry over who will control the money. The fact that a large proportion of the Palestinian Authority's money comes from external sources can create what can be called the Simple Plan effect, after a book written in 1994 about a group of friends who stumble onto four million dollars and eventually wind up killing each other for its possession. Roger Stern of Johns Hopkins University writing at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has a more sophisticated version of the Simple Plan effect applied to regional politics. He argues that monopoly rents arising from the huge difference between the lifting cost of oil and the cartel price has created a vast inflow of money from the rest of the world which has destabilized the Middle East.

Wretchard then talks about the Congo -- an area wracked by rich resources and the fighting over them and has this to say about the Palestinian people:

But whereas the Congo is wracked by a war over its natural riches, the struggle for donor funds in Palestine is a perverse scavenger's brawl over the begging bowl of the Palestinian people. Perhaps never before has a government stood to gain more from the misery of its people (60% foreign aid) than their prosperity (40% taxes). It creates a perverse set of incentives and one wonders whether 'in such wars, the goal is not to diminish misery but to gain more of it to sell ...' Just wondering.

The next six months will be interesting...



China is ramping up their research on Pebble Bed Reactors.

The idea is that each chunk of fuel is wrapped in a Silicon Carbide, ceramic and graphite shell. At the highest level of activity, the melting temperature of the SiC (2,700 Celsius) is far above the highest temperature the fuel can reach so there will be no leaks.

MS/NBC/Newsweek has the storyof one reactor in China:

China Leaps Forward
The people's republic is embarking on the world's biggest nuclear building spree.

American businessman Edwin deSteiguer Snead went to China seeking a future for nuclear energy. He's pretty sure he found it. On a recent bitterly cold day, Snead took a ride out to a military zone northwest of Beijing, not far from one of the most well-known sections of China's Great Wall. In the spartan lobby of an unassuming concrete office building that contains the control center of a nuclear reactor, Snead studied a model of the reactor, housed in a hillside at the site. Nuclear scientist Chang Wei pointed at the model, which looked like a basement furnace split down the middle, and explained how the design - including 27,000 balls of uranium wrapped in layers of super-strong silicon carbide, ceramic material and graphite - makes it physically impossible for the reactor to do anything but shut down if something goes wrong; the dangerous uranium would be trapped inside the spheres, which have a melting point much higher than the temperature inside the reactor could ever reach.

"So let me see if I can describe it in Texas English," said Snead, 76, an entrepreneur who hopes to build a nuclear power plant on 55 acres in Texas. "There's no way it can explode or melt?"

Chang nodded in the affirmative. She went on to explain how the design requires only a fraction of the control-room staff a more conventional reactor would need. Snead, apparently impressed, exclaimed that this newfangled Chinese technology may be the key to assuaging the nuclear fears of Americans. He wants to go back and sell the idea to Texas A&M University or another school willing to back a research center. "I think the Americans will be buying nuclear plants from China within five years," he said.

While experts in the United States and Europe talk about reviving plans for nuclear power, China, as in so many other fields, is racing ahead. The so-called pebble bed technology behind the Beijing test plant originated in Germany more than three decades ago, and the U.S. nuclear-power industry also pursued it. But when public opposition to nuclear energy forced those countries to curtail nuclear research in the 1980s, Beijing took over. China expects to complete a small commercial plant, which will produce 195 megawatts of electricity, within five years in the eastern province of Shandong. Huaneng Power, one of the country's largest electricity companies, is ponying up about half the $300 million price tag. What makes the pebble bed technology so important is its fail-safe design - it would not be possible for the reactor to melt down or explode like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. The uranium in each sphere can't get hot enough to melt the casing and escape. Also, the main coolant for the system is inert helium, not water, as is used in other types of reactors (water, of course, contains oxygen, which is combustible). As global warming and politics render the world's reliance on fossil fuels problematic, China may in a few short years hold the key to a renaissance in nuclear power.

There are some disadvantages to Pebble Bed, the key one being that the core's power density is a lot less than a Pressurized Water Reactor so it takes a much larger reactor to generate the same amount of energy. The lower cost and simpler operation more than make up for this though.

Interesting discovery off the California coast. Under certain conditions of pressure and relatively low temperature, methane will form a mix of methane and water as a frozen methane hydrate. Oil and Gas Journal has the story:
Frozen methane found off California coast
Geologists conducting a survey off the Southern California coast found something they weren't looking for - frozen methane. The deposit, found on an active fault zone in the Santa Monica basin, lies approximately 15 mi off the coast and at a depth of nearly 2,600 ft. It is a newly discovered find at the base of an undersea mud volcano.

While methane hydrate deposits have been found around the world, the ecosystem surrounding this particular find is different. According to Jim Hein, a marine geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists found clams and seashells with unique chemical characteristics, suggesting the area experienced an extreme flux of methane mixing water.

What this find shares with the other deposits is a lack of immediately-available technology to mine it. If the technology is found, scientists estimate that the methane trapped in frozen hydrates could power the globe for centuries.

While methane hydrates offer the potential for vast amounts of energy, environmental and business concerns linger, particularly for the Southern California find. Mining this deposit poses challenges due to its proximity to shipping lanes from Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Environmentalists worry about mining for hydrates, which contain three times the amount of methane than is currently found in the atmosphere. Some scientists say releasing it could adversely affect the climate.
Very cool! As for the "scientists" who fret about releasing it into the environment? Get real people -- after it has been brought to the surface and put into a pipeline, the Methane is too valuable to squander. It will not enter the atmosphere, it will be used. A good chunk of it will be burned but a lot of it will be used as feedstock for other industrial processes, not the least of which is the production of Hydrogen by steam reforming. If the environmentalists want to ban mining this resource, they had better accept the consequences that this will have on their precious Hydrogen Economy. Can't have it both ways people... Here is the abstract of the paper announcing the discovery.

Target's new line

| No Comments
It seems that Target caters to a lot of other people besides mall rats. From the Washington Post:
Retailer Target Branches Out Into Police Work
Minneapolis Forensics Lab, Donations Help Law Enforcement Agencies

When arson investigators in Houston needed help restoring a damaged surveillance tape to identify suspects in a fatal fire, they turned first to local experts and then to NASA. With no luck there, investigators appealed to the owner of one of the most advanced crime labs in the country: Target Corp.

Target experts fixed the tape and Houston authorities arrested their suspects, who were convicted. It was all in a day's work for Target in its large and growing role as a high-tech partner to law enforcement agencies.

In the past few years, the retailer has taken a lead role in teaching government agencies how to fight crime by applying state-of-the-art technology used in its 1,400 stores. Target's effort has touched local, state, federal and international agencies.

Besides running its forensics lab in Minneapolis, Target has helped coordinate national undercover investigations and worked with customs agencies on ways to make sure imported cargo is coming from reputable sources or hasn't been tampered with. It has contributed money for prosecutor positions to combat repeat criminals, provided local police with remote-controlled video surveillance systems, and linked police and business radio systems to beef up neighborhood foot patrols in parts of several major cities. It has given management training to FBI and police leaders, and linked city, county and state databases to keep track of repeat offenders.

The efforts are part of a trend in corporate donations directed at solving societal problems. "Target is pushing forward a different model of corporate giving," said Douglas G. Pinkham, president of the nonpartisan Public Affairs Council. Others are doing the same. Exxon Mobil, for example, is building hospitals in the developing world. Cargill Corp. is building schools in areas where potential employees lacked basic skills.

Target's law enforcement efforts date back at least a decade but intensified after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The company has applied in-store practices, such as inventory-tracking technologies, to the business of identifying and locating criminals. "In many ways, Target is actually a high-tech company masquerading as a retailer," said Nathan K. Garvis, Target's vice president of government affairs.
A bit more:
"One of the nation's top forensics labs is located at Target's headquarters building in downtown Minneapolis," said FBI Special Agent Paul McCabe, who has worked with Target. "They have abilities and technology that far surpasses many law enforcement agencies in the country."
Fascinating. I also like the idea that corporations are doing different kinds of philanthropy other than just forking over cash which sometimes gets mismanaged.

Wine Wars

| No Comments
A war is brewing in France. Alder at the Vinography: a wine blog writes:
Bordeaux vs. Languedoc: The Knives Come Out
Every piece of news about wine coming out of France these days seems laden with misfortune. I shake my head -- partially in sincere pity, partially with the amazement of someone watching a self-induced nervous breakdown. The French just can't seem to get a lucky break, and now it seems they may even be headed for a sort of civil war of vinous proportions.

Before we get to that however, let's review the situation, shall we?

The short story is this -- there's far too much wine in France -- too many barrels filled with stuff that people won't drink (and therefore can't be sold) and too many vineyards growing grapes, that then get turned into that excess wine. Tied up in both those vineyards and the wine are many people's livelihoods, and suffice it to say, those folks ain't doing so well these days. Which is why they are firebombing wineries, dumping truckloads of manure here and there, and bricking up the entrances to important wine related organizations. What they hope to accomplish with these efforts, I don't know. But a lot of people have gone from winegrower to terrorist in the last year or so.

Of course oversupply is only the beginning of a long list of problems that the French wine industry faces, from an outdated appellation system, to a shrinking number of wine drinkers in the country, to insanely archaic laws about how wine can be marketed, the wine industry, especially the lower ends of the market, are up the proverbial shit creek without a paddle.

The government is taking, or attempting to take various measures to alleviate the situation, including distilling some of the excess wine into industrial grade alcohol and even car fuel, and they are also taking a page from the United States playbook of subsidized agriculture and paying / forcing winegrowers to rip out vineyards to stem the tide of unwanted wine.
And the government is stepping in. Sheesh -- we can just write that industry off than can't we... How about this -- cut back on the volume production and focus on your core competency, the really fine high-end wines. That is where the profit is to be made.

The IC Time Machine

| No Comments
The 555 timer Integrated Circuit was introduced in 1971. I remember reading about it and then playing with them. What a very cool thing! It was originally designed to do very basic timing functions but because so much of the internal circuitry was brought out from the chip, you could use the internal building blocks for lots of other functions. Here are a few links about this wonderful chip: LM555 and LM556 Timer Circuits An awesome collection of cookbook circuits using the 555. It has web-based calculators for determining the values for your external components. The 555 Timer IC A wonderful oral interview with Dr. Hans R. Camenzind -- he is the guy who developed this chip. From the interview:
Hans, let�s start the Oral History with your recollections of the initial success of the 555 integrated circuit.
That 555 family was a total surprise. I wanted to make it flexible, that was the whole purpose, but I didn�t realize it was so flexible. There are applications now that still sound crazy to me. And the quantity! In the second year it moved to the largest quantity sold of any IC and it has stayed that way for 30 years. The original application was as a timer and oscillator, but it has moved well beyond that.
And finally, Wikipedia has a nice entry.

Be careful what you ask for...

| No Comments
Fun story from Red Herring:
Microsoft: Too Much, Too Late?
Analyst says after eight years of squabble with the EU over documentation, the software giant is frustrated.

Software analysts called Microsoft�s surprising announcement on Wednesday, that it will provide its source code to rivals, little more than eye candy that would be almost useless to licensees of the Redmond giant�s protocols.

David Mitchell, software practice leader for Ovum, a consulting firm based in the United Kingdom, said that providing a developer, who is looking to build products that interoperate with Windows servers, with over 100 million lines of source code is overwhelming.

"I know of few developers on the planet who can digest that volume of source code even if it�s exceptionally well structured and clean," said Mr. Mitchell. "This could be Microsoft�s sense of frustration showing."

"Microsoft has provided the European Commission with between 12,000 and 13,000 pages of documentation and the Commission keeps asking for more," he added. "So this is Microsoft throwing up its hands and saying 'Take the source code. There is no more documentation.'"
And some of the back story:
Microsoft and the commission have been engaged in an antitrust battle since 1998. In 2004, the commission ruled that the Redmond software giant infringed on EC Treaty rules by leveraging its near-monopoly status in the PC software market (see Microsoft Faces Stiff EC Fines).

As part of its penalty, Microsoft was required to provide documents that act as a kind of reference guide for connection protocols between Microsoft�s servers and non-Windows applications.

The commission has ruled that the documentation provided by Microsoft was insufficient to enable its rivals to implement Windows Server communications protocols successfully, and has threatened to fine the company $2.36 million per day. Microsoft has an appeal of the original commission ruling scheduled for April 24.

Microsoft said on Wednesday that because its best efforts have met with the commission�s rejection, it will license the source code for its Windows Server software, on which the documentation is based, to its rivals.
What a bunch of whiners... MSFT has been bending over backwards to satisfy the EU and the EU keeps changing the rules and asking for more. Most Windows development books run 500-700 pages. This pretty much covers the key aspects of Windows server design. There are already a number of open source Linux products that successfully compete against MSFT Server products. For the EU to be dissatisfied with 12,000 pages shows that it doesn't know what it needs to be asking for. And that it should be buying some basic Windows programming books. Think about this for a moment, it is in MSFT's own interest for people who write applications to know the internals of Windows. For MSFT to finally throw up their hands and say fine -- here is the full source code, go figure it out yourself is what the EU should have expected to happen. They were already being given everything they needed, they just kept asking for more. Serves them right... Heh...

Bill Whittle is back!

| No Comments
One of my favorite writers is Bill Whittle whose essays cut to the heart of whatever catches his eye. His last one "Tribes" was published last September. Since then, he has been silent. Until last Thursday. It seems that he is writing a movie script. A Science Fiction movie script. He talks about his absence and the script here: LOST IN SPACE From Bill:
It's a science-fiction story. It takes place in the Strange and Mysterious World of Tomorrow -- the unimaginable world of TEN YEARS FROM NOW! In this mad, topsy-turvey, upside down Future World, several things happen that are inconceivable to Modern Man and his Puny Brain.

Here are some poster tag lines that may help. They are:

(spoiler alert!)

* Men traveling through space WITHOUT THE AID OF GOVERNMENT AGENCIES!
* People facing extreme risks and DECIDING TO TAKE THEM ANYWAY!
* Nuclear Energy being portrayed in a NON-EVIL FASHION!

It's a World Gone Mad! Only Science Fiction can capture such a fantastical future!
Considering the quality of Bill's essays, this will be a wonderful film. Can't wait dammit!

Rockwell Automation's Retro Encabulator

| No Comments
A nice presentation on Rockwell's new Retro Encabulator. A clear explanation of the technology involved.

A new satellite

A new satellite is due to be launched February 3rd from the International Space Station. Meet SuitSat:
This page will track SuitSat once it is released from the International Space Station (currently scheduled for February 3), and display reports of people that have heard the downlinked audio. Reports will be entered manually here and viewed here. More information about SuitSat is available here.

Just in: Pictures from the International Space Station showing SuitSat being readied for release.

From the AMSAT Web Page:
SuitSat Readies for Operation on 145.990 MHz
Now is the time to begin preparing your amateur radio station to receive signals from SuitSat, the most unusual Amateur Radio satellite ever orbited. SuitSat amateur radio equipment will be installed inside a surplus Russian Orlan spacesuit. It will become an independently orbiting satellite once it is deployed by the crew of the International Space Station during an extravehicular activity.
Very cool re-use of technology. The signal from SuitSat is loud enough that it can be picked up by fairly modest ground equipment. Imagine being a kid interested in space and actually hearing the signal from this.

Old Engine

| No Comments
Wonderful website dedicated to Old Engines and other technologies of the late 1800's to early 1900's. Harry's Old Engine

A fine rant from Gerard Van der Leun

| No Comments
Gerard Van der Leun read this transcript of an interview with Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein (I don't support our troops) and has these thoughts:
The Voice of the Neuter is Heard Throughout the Land
Joel Stein, "Humorist"
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They're trying to blow it up

-- Bob Dylan: Desolation Row

LIKE SOME HAGGARD CRACK WHORE banging on the door of a dealer's den willing to do anything , the hapless Joel ( "I despise our troops." ) Stein has been passed randomly about the blogsphere in the last couple of days.

Once a blogpile of such mountainous proportions starts, there's little left to comment on in terms of the content of Stein's small dry excretion after the first five hours. By that time the whole quisling screed has been pretty much picked apart like a biology major dissects an owl's pellet and glues the contents to a board with captions.

Then it is time for the masters of the trade to go to work and perform, live and on the air, "The Final Evisceration." In this case, Hugh Hewitt comes forward with what is perhaps one of the best full flensings of his career. [Pointer and "flensing" courtesy of LILEKS (James)]

If you have ever wanted to hear a classic radio interview cooly calculated to have the interviewee reveal himself in all his naked smallness before a national audience, you owe it to yourself to listen and read the audio and transcript of Hugh Hewitt interviewing Joel Stein. You owe it to yourself to listen to this segment -- and you'll need to listen in order to understand what comes next. You don't have to listen to all of it, although it is hard to turn the ear away. Just listen attentivily to the voice of Stein himself for a minute or so.

Go ahead. I'll wait here.

Back? Good.

What is of interest to me here is not what Stein writes or says. His own words damn him more decisively than a thousand bloggers blathering blithely What interests me is how he speaks.

If you focus on it, you realize that you hear this voice every day if you bounce around a bit in our larger cities buying this or ordering that, and in general running into young people in the "service" sector -- be it coffee shop, video store, department store, boutique, bookstore, or office cube farm. It's a kind of voice that was seldom heard anywhere but now seems to be everywhere.

It is the voice of the neuter.

I mean that in the grammatical sense:
"a. Neither masculine nor feminine in gender.
"b. Neither active nor passive; intransitive,"

and in the biological sense:
"a. Biology Having undeveloped or imperfectly developed sexual organs: the neuter caste in social insects.
"b. Botany Having no pistils or stamens; asexual.
"c. Zoology Sexually undeveloped."

You hear this soft, inflected tone everywhere that young people below, roughly, 35 congregate. As flat as the bottles of spring water they carry and affectless as algae, it tends to always trend towards a slight rising question at the end of even simple declarative sentences. It has no timbre to it and no edge of assertion in it.

The voice whisps across your ears as if the speaker is in a state of perpetual uncertainty with every utterance. It is as if, male or female, there is no foundation or soul within the speaker on which the voice can rest and rise. As a result, it has a misty quality to it that denies it any unique character at all. It is the Valley Girl variation of the voices that Prufrock hears:
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.

It's parting wistful wish for you is that you "Have a good one."
This is only the first part -- Gerard goes on and his commenters are wonderful as well. Gerard's rant bookends Kim DuToit's rant perfectly. For that one, go read: The Pussification Of The Western Male PLEASE NOTE: The link to the interview with Joel Stein does not seem to work as hoped. Instead, it points to a long long page of transcripts and the one with Joel is buried down quite deeply. When you get to this page, hit [CTRL]+F (to FIND). A dialog box will open. Cut and paste this: " Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein " and search. Well worth reading for a good look at the current iteration of the liberal american male...

Neat website

| No Comments
High geekdom of the best order -- simple and elegant. From Mark Coffey writing at Kevin Kelly Cool Tools comes this link: Mark:
Free Online Graph Paper / Grid Paper PDFs
Custom-Printed Graph Paper

OK, so I wanted to sit down and workout a grand plan for my new garden, so I figure a pencil and some graph paper is the way forward.

Just finding some simple 2mm graph paper with 1cm semi bold and 2 cm bold turned out to be a near impossible task. Then I discovered the Graph Paper PDF Generator at incompetech.com .

It does plain paper, lined paper, multi width, hexagonal, even semi-bisected trapezoid! All completely customizable. And it's free!

Available from Incompetech
Took a look around and this is nice -- very very nice. Bookmarked on my CAD computer. Nice for sketching out ideas before drafting them.

Free software utilities for Windows (mostly)

Here are a few of my favorite things: AVG Anti Virus from Grisoft (download) Supports Windows and Linux, Workstation version free for personal use. MailWasher (download) Free version available that is pretty good. Pro version offers more options but no real functionality gain unless you use Hotmail, AOL or MSN. Popup Stopper from Panicware (download) Free for personal use. Internet Explorer, Netscape & Mozilla only. Ad Aware from Lavasoft (download) Free for personal use. Did I miss anything? What are your personal favorites?

Al Gore criticizes Canadian Elections

| No Comments
Al Gore gets on the oil/environment platform again and demonstrates just how far out of touch with reality he is. From the Calgary Herald:
Gore accuses big oil of bankrolling Tories
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore has accused the oil industry of financially backing the Tories and their "ultra-conservative leader" to protect its stake in Alberta's lucrative oilsands.

Canadians, Gore said, should vigilantly keep watch over prime minister-designate Stephen Harper because he has a pro-oil agenda and wants to pull out of the Kyoto accord -- an international agreement to combat climate change.

"The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta," Gore said Wednesday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

"And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra-conservative leader in order to win the election . . . and to protect their interests."

Darcie Park, spokeswoman for oilsands giant Suncor Energy, said she's taken aback by Gore's remarks and hopes they don't resonate with Canadians.

"Our company just doesn't do business that way. We're really puzzled about where these comments came from," she said.
Unnnhhh Al... The Canadian Oil Sands have been commercially developed for the last 12 years starting with the foundation in 1994 of CONRAD: The Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development. Throughout this entire time, the government in Canada has been liberal. The sands are now outputting one million barrels per day as cited in this paper by Dr. Eddy Isaacs. Dr. Isaacs is the director of the Alberta Energy Research Institute. As for Al Gore saying that Stephen Harper wants to pull out of Kyoto. Harper should as Kyoto is a hellishly flawed bit of doggerel that should never have seen the light of day. Good one Mr. Gore. Nice to know that you have not lost your grip on reality...

Interesting news in Medicine

| No Comments
A bit early to be breaking out the good stuff but... From PhysOrg:
Scientists develop bird flu vaccine
University of Pittsburgh scientists say they've genetically engineered an avian flu vaccine that has proven 100 percent effective in mice and chickens.

The vaccine was produced from the critical components of the deadly H5N1 virus that has devastated bird populations in Southeast Asia and Europe and has killed more than 80 people.

Since the newly developed vaccine contains a live virus, researchers say it may be more immune-activating than avian flu vaccines prepared by traditional methods. Furthermore, because it is grown in cells, it can be produced much more quickly than traditional vaccines, thereby making it an extremely attractive candidate for preventing the spread of the virus in domestic livestock populations and, potentially, in humans.

"The results of this animal trial are very promising, not only because our vaccine completely protected animals that otherwise would have died, but also because we found that one form of the vaccine stimulates several lines of immunity against H5N1," said Dr. Andrea Gambotto, an assistant professor and lead author of the study.

The research is detailed in the Feb 15 issue of the Journal of Virology and made available early online.
You need to be registered to access the J. Vir. papers but the abstract is here.

A new kind of foliage springing up

Cell Phones are becoming more and more widespread and since a cell tower can only handle so many calls, new towers are being erected daily. Companies are now taking care to minimize the visual impact of these towers. Check out this story at Wayne's Word:

Cell Phone Trees
Fake Trees Are Springing Up Across America

New "species" of trees are suddenly appearing in San Diego County.

Their entire growth cycle is completed within a few days in one of the most unusual examples of urbanization.

Lots of pictures including this one:


The Face of Censorship

Google recently developed a site for the Chinese government: google.cn

Part of this deal was that they would censor things that were 'disturbing' to the delicate sensibilities of the Chinese People.

Charles at LGF did a search of one word on the USA site and on the CN site and came up with a compelling example of what Censorship means and why we need to re-think our dealings with such a totalitarian nation.

Google Image Search for "tiananmen" -- USA

Click for full-size Image

Google Image Search for "tiananmen" -- China

Click for full-size Image

You have to get to page five before you start seeing images of the tanks.

Told 'Ya...

A new book is coming out. What makes it interesting is that it was written by Iraqi Air Force General Georges Sada. From the NY Sun: Major hat tip to Cold Fury for this link.

Iraq's WMD Secreted in Syria, Sada Says
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

Hell -- there were reports of a three day long truck convoy of vehicles heading from Iraq into Syria in the days leading up to Iraqi Freedom. The weapons are real, they were there, they were moved. Saddam certainly had enough time with all the delaying and stalling tactics that were done by the UN(spit). Mark in Mexico looks into the life of Georges Sada:

Who is Georges Sada and why should we care?
The New York Sun publishes an interview with Georges Sada, director of the Iraq operations of the Christian humanitarian organization, World Compassion. Mr. Sada previously was known as General Sada and was Air Vice Marshal in Saddam Hussein's military. Mr. Sada has written a book, just published by Integrity Publishers, Saddam's Secrets - How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein.

Read the rest of Mark's post to get the measure of this man. It is odd that I would consider a Military General to be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize but Georges Sada is one of the better people out there. And for another witness to the movement of the WMD's, check out this article in the UK Telegraph from two years ago. If the link doesn't work for you, the Internet Archive has it stored in its Wayback Machine: "Saddam's WMD hidden in Syria, says Iraq survey chief"

Saddam's WMD hidden in Syria, says Iraq survey chief
David Kay, the former head of the coalition's hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, yesterday claimed that part of Saddam Hussein's secret weapons programme was hidden in Syria.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Dr Kay, who last week resigned as head of the Iraq Survey Group, said that he had uncovered evidence that unspecified materials had been moved to Syria shortly before last year's war to overthrow Saddam.

And don't forget Saddam's Gold:


The "Palestinian" elections

| 1 Comment

Cox and Forkum once again get to the heart of the matter.

Today's deals with the recent "Palestinian" Election:

Click for full-size Image

Nice that they included Jimmy Carter who once again, 'validated' the election saying:

Former President Carter said Thursday the Palestinian elections were "completely honest, completely fair, completely safe and without violence."

Carter, who led an international observer team from the National Democratic Institute, also said he hoped that the Hamas Islamic group would act responsibly now that it appears to have been elected to power in Palestinian elections.



| 1 Comment
Cute story from A Coyote at the Dog Show:
Looks like a cold winter
It was October and the Indians on a remote Wyoming reservation asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild.

Since he was a chief in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like.

Nevertheless, to be on the safe side he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. But being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?"

"It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold," the meteorologist at the weather service responded.

So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared.

A week later he called the National Weather Service again. "Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?"

"Yes," the man at National Weather Service again replied, "it's going to be a very cold winter.

The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.

Two weeks later the Chief called the National Weather Service again. "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?"

"Absolutely," the man replied. "It's looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters ever."

"How can you be so sure?" the Chief asked.

The weatherman replied, "The Indians are collecting firewood like crazy."
Heh... Our firewood pile (3 cords) is about half gone -- starting to get a bit concerned but there is a good local source for recycled hardwood shipping pallets cut to stove length at a cost comparible to good hardwood firewood. With all the shipping coming into Bellingham, there is no shortage.

The Gunroom of Patrick O'Brian

| 1 Comment
Patrick O'Brian was a writer of the highest quality. Literate, funny as hell (in a very dry way) and extremely factual. Plus a great storyteller. His main work is a series of novels set in England and the world during the Napoleonic wars during the 1800's. This series features Jack Aubry as he rises through the ranks. He is accompanied by his friend, Surgeon Stephen Maturin. The series is strongly chronological so if you are interested, start with Master and Commander. Plan on taking some time as there are twenty books in the series... Anyway, the place to go to meet like minded people is The Gunroom
"The music-room in the Governor's House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli's C major quartet."
With these words millions of readers have discovered the work of Patrick O'Brian, the twenty novels of the 'Aubreyad' chronicling the voyages of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin through the shoals and deep water of friendship, love, war and life.

The Gunroom is the home for a group of O'Brian's readers who enjoy discussion of O'Brian's works through the list GUNROOM@HMSSURPRISE.ORG. Here we share insights and information about the British Navy and nautical world of the 1800s, obsolete and unfamiliar language, Maturin's medicine, natural history, politics, geography and history to enhance our enjoyment and understanding of the books and characters.
Wonderful stuff!

Bill and Steve - compare and contrast

| No Comments
Interesting article in Wired comparing the public perception of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs:
Jobs vs. Gates: Who's the Star?
Until recently, Bill Gates has been viewed as the villain of the tech world, while his archrival, Steve Jobs, enjoys an almost saintly reputation.

Gates is the cutthroat capitalist. A genius maybe, but one more interested in maximizing profits than perfecting technology. He's the ultimate vengeful nerd. Ostracized at school, he gets the last laugh by bleeding us all dry.

On the other hand, Jobs has never seemed much concerned with business, though he's been very successful at it of late. Instead, Jobs has been portrayed as a man of art and culture. He's an aesthete, an artist; driven to make a dent in the universe.

But these perceptions are wrong. In fact, the reality is reversed. It's Gates who's making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who's taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society.

Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax.

In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products.
The author ( Leander Kahney ) then goes on to cite specific examples and closes with this:
Given Jobs' social detachment, I'm confused by the adulation he enjoys. Yes, he has great charisma and his presentations are good theater. But his absence from public discourse makes him a cipher. People project their values onto him, and he skates away from the responsibilities that come with great wealth and power.

On the evidence, he's nothing more than a greedy capitalist who's amassed an obscene fortune. It's shameful. In almost every way, Gates is much more deserving of Jobs' rock star exaltation.

In the same way, I admire Bono over Mick Jagger, and John Lennon over Elvis, because they spoke up about things bigger than their own celebrity.

It's time for Jobs to do the same.
Some good points! For another example of corporate (and personal) philanthropy, check out Google.org:
We hope that someday this institution will eclipse Google itself in overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems.
- Sergey Brin & Larry Page

If Microsoft made Guitar Amplifiers

Heh... Check this out:
If Microsoft made guitar amps...
1- The actual amp would be very cheap, but the system needed to adjust the volume and tone would be $200+. And you'd need a multi-user agreement if your mate plugs into channel 2.

2- You want your band logo on the face plate and speaker cloth but, even after reading "amps for dummies" three times, it still says "My Amplifier".

3- If one string breaks, the whole music stops.

4- To play your Gibson Les Paul through the Microsoft Bassman, you need Acrobat Reader. And you haven't got the latest version.

4- "Vol control 2006" has come out. Time to get a new amp and stash the old one in the loft with the others.

5- "Vol control 2006" still just goes round from one to ten, but it looks a bit flashier, has a "hilarious" .wav file as it goes round and the option to put a jerky old .gif of your 3-month-old sucking a bottle labelled "Jack Daniels" in the centre of the dial.

6- You need to get to a gig 20 minutes before startup in order to switch on. This is so that a nice pic of a field and some clouds can come up. The icons for adjusting the vol and tone will be any minute now...

7- Each chord played comes with the message "Your file has been transferred" and you have to click on the "OK" footswitch to play the next one.

8- The other guitarist keeps bringing along amps made by small independents that piddle all over yours, sonically. Your Microsoft amp sidles over to them, tries to reverse engineer their best features but makes a right pig's ear of it. It then pushes the small, independent amp off the stage.

9- The Penguin Cafe Orchestra will have nothing to do with Microsoft amps, and play in bars with only twenty people watching, congratulating each other on how easy it is to adjust their volume and tone knobs, still using an amp they bought five years ago.

10- If you play F# when the rest of the band play G, the bum note will hang forever in the air, despite your frantic attempts to close it down.

11- When you unplug the jack lead, you get the message "Are you sure you want to exit this amplifier?"

12- You switch off the amplifier. You've got twenty minutes teardown, but that's enough to get a quick beer at the bar. When you come back, the amp has the message "Ending last song. Last song is not responding. Click 'OK' to end last song." You now have only 5 minutes to teardown.
This is a new post on a guitar forum so there will probably be some good additions in the next few days...

Surge Supression

Good list of the eleven most common myths about Surge Supression.
11 Myths of Surge Protection
by Wendell H. Laidley

This is perhaps the most reasonable, yet the most misleading of all. With no surge protection at all, incoming surges will hit only the computer's power supply (which is considerably more surge tolerant than the data line circuitry), and will not affect the system ground level at all. Since shunt surge suppressors divert power line surges into data lines, using the wrong type of surge suppression can actually cause failures throughout the network. Thus the network is likely to be better off if individual nodes have no surge supp- ressor than if they have ones that shunt power-line surges into data-lines.
Others include:
Mr. Wendell H. Laidley is the President of Zero Surge Inc.

A bit of excitement in our area...

| No Comments
Two people wanted in a murder investigation tried to cross over into Canada early this afternoon. They tried first at the Sumas/Huntington crossing (this is the one we use -- it is about 20 minutes from our house). For some reason, they didn't get through so they drove the 40 minutes or so to the Peace Arch crossing where they were stopped and shots were fired. Here is the Vancouver Sun:
Shooting closes B.C. border crossing
U.S. authorities closed the border at Blaine, Wash., on Tuesday after an exchange of gunfire on the American side between border guards, police and two murder suspects from California.

Police in the United States had been in pursuit of the two men when they got to the border crossing, about a 45-minute drive south of Vancouver.

"Apparently there was a collision involved and the suspects exited the vehicle," said Trooper Bob Wilson of the Washington State Patrol. "I don't know who shot first. There was shots fired between U.S. Customs, Whatcom County Sheriff and the two male suspects."

One of the men was wounded, but the extent of his injuries was not known. Both men were in police custody.

Sheriff's deputies pursued the two men based on a description issued by police in Richland, Calif.

Washington's Transportation Department said traffic was diverted to the Pacific Highway crossing at the border between Washington state and British Columbia. The department said it started diverting traffic on I-5 northbound at about 2:30 p.m.

Wilson said it could take hours for the border to be reopened.
Seattle television station KOMO has a bit too:
Border Closed After Chase, Shooting
One person was shot after a brief car chase that ended at the Canadian border, sheriff's deputies said Tuesday.

The Peace Arch border crossing was closed after the 2 p.m. incident.

Whatcom County sheriffs' deputies received a tip that two people wanted in a California murder investigation may have been headed to the area, sheriff's spokesman Jeff Parks told Bellingham radio station KGMI. Shots were fired as two people were arrested, and Sheriff Bill Elfo said one person was wounded.
No mention on the KGMI website and the Bellingham Herald has only a minimal mention. A lot of people cross the border for work and there is an entire WA State community (Point Roberts) that is isolated from the US and you need to pass through the Peace Arch crossing to get there. This is going to be one slow rush hour...


| No Comments
In the early days of Computer BBS's and rudimentary graphics, Demos were a way to showcase your programming skills. A Demo is basically a set graphics piece with music that people could download and play on their systems. Here is a modern day demo running on an original PC. In these days of multi-Gigahertz CPU speeds and gigs of storage, here is a system running at 4.7MHz (this is 0.0047 GHz) 8088 IBM PC Model 5150 with 640K RAM, CGA video, 10MB drive, and Sound Blaster Pro. The Demoscene is alive and well and active -- check out pou�t.net for more...

Gorgeous George has been running off the rails recently.

Earlier he had pretended to be a cat.

Here is a link to that video.

Now, he is dancing 'robotic steps' in a red leotard with a noted London transvestite. From This is London

George sinks to new low
First he shocked TV viewers and his colleagues by pretending to be a cat and lapping milk from Rula Lenska's hand.

And one bit more:

Galloway was criticised by Labour opponents and commentators last week after pretending to be a cat in a task to get food for housemates. Labour Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong launched a petition calling on Galloway to represent his constituents, while another MP described him as 'a laughing stock'. There is also a website tracking how much his absence has cost his East London constituency.

I realize that this is just a television show but geezzz -- someone needs to up his meds a bit.

Oh yeah -- a photo was taken:


And this is the guy that the lefties were saying "spoke truth to power" during his visit to the USA? A laughingstock.

Other Canadian News -- fourth case of BSE

| No Comments
A bit of bad news from our neighbor to the north -- the fourth case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy has been found. The cow did not enter the food supply so there is no danger. From today's AgWeb News:
Update: Canada Confirms Positive BSE Find
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) today confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an approximately six-year-old cross-bred cow born and raised in Alberta. No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems.

USDA Sec. Mike Johanns released the following statement on the confirmation by Canada:
"I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Canadian Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell today, who apprised me of the new BSE detection in Canada. I assured him that based on the information he supplied, I anticipate no change in the status of beef or live cattle imports to the U.S. from Canada under our established agreement. As I've said many times, our beef trade decisions follow internationally accepted guidelines that are based in science. We will continue to evaluate this situation as the investigation continues. I have directed our USDA team to work with Canada and its investigative team. Minister Mitchell has pledged his full cooperation. I am confident in the safety of beef and in the safeguards we and our approved beef trading partners have in place to protect our food supply. We will continue to adhere to international guidelines in our relationships with all trading partners, and my hope continues to be that we achieve a system of science-based global beef trade."
The CFIA website is here: Canadian Food Inspection Agency From their statement:
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) today confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an approximately six-year-old cross-bred cow born and raised in Alberta. No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems.

This finding is not unexpected and was identified through Canada�s national surveillance program, which targets cattle at highest risk of being infected with BSE. The program has tested more than 87,000 animals since Canada�s first BSE case in 2003.

The geographic location and age of this animal are consistent with the three domestic cases previously detected through the national BSE surveillance program and the current understanding of BSE in Canada. The clustering of these cases is examined in the epidemiological report, Canada�s Assessment of the North American BSE Cases Diagnosed from 2003 to 2005 (Part II), which is available on the CFIA�s Website.

Food safety remains protected through the removal of specified risk material (SRM) from all cattle slaughtered for human food in Canada. SRM are tissues that, in infected cattle, contain the BSE agent. This measure is internationally recognized as the most effective means to protect public health from BSE.
Interesting that the four cases come from such a small cluster...

The Canadian Elections

| No Comments
Listening to the Election returns on a favorite Canadian radio station JRFM. The Liberal Prime Minister has just conceded. The Conservative party is doing very well across the board. This actually qualifies as two good things -- the second being that the Canadian Conservative party is nothing like what the USA Republican party is these days. They are closer to a Libertarian party. Go Tories! Very cool! It will be interesting to see if anyone does a red-state/blue-state map like the ones done for the 2004 election.

Firearm Technology

| 1 Comment

Check out Metal Storm -- a new idea in firearms originally from Australia but the company is now based in America.

From their website:

The Technology of Metal Storm Limited
Metal Storm technology is an electronically initiated, stacked projectile system that removes the mechanisms required to fire a conventional weapon. Effectively, the only parts that move in Metal Storm's technology are the projectiles contained within the barrels. Multiple projectiles are stacked in a barrel. The technology allows each projectile to be fired sequentially from the barrel.

Metal Storm's fully loaded barrel tubes are essentially serviceable weapons, without the traditional ammunition feed or ejection system, breech opening or any other moving parts. Metal Storm barrels can be effectively grouped in multiple configurations to meet a diversity of applications.

Metal Storm technology is ideally suited to the new generation of 'network centric' weapons that are designed to connect with today's battlefield. Importantly, Metal Storm enabled systems are capable of local or remote operation through a computerized fire control system.

Our technology achieves its performance through the concept of numerous projectiles stacked in a barrel, in which each projectile has its own propellant load, such that the leading propellant can be reliably ignited to fire the projectile, without the resulting high pressure and temperature causing unplanned blow-by ignition of the following propellant load, and without collapse of the projectile column in the barrel.

Very clever! They are publicly traded and are getting funding from the US for munitions development. The modular approach plus the withering firepower makes it a winner. I would hate to be the poor fool that has to go up against one of these...

High drool factor

| No Comments
From Digital Photography Review:
Zeiss Lenses for Nikon F Mount
After a mini-teaser campaign and numerous leaks it's now official. Zeiss has announced that is to introduce a range of new 'ZF' lenses which will have a Nikon F Mount (although it's not clear at this stage how much communication will go on between the lens and body). These new lenses appear to be the result of Kyocera's decision to ditch Contax. The first lenses to be introduced will be the Planar T* 50 mm F1.4 ZF and the Planar T* 85 mm F1.4 ZF. These lenses are slated to become available in 'Spring 2006' with 'several more.. ..during 2006' (at Photokina in September).
Baby wants candy! These will be lush, gorgeous things. They will also be priced waay out of my reach but hey, a guy can dream can't he...

A new wrinkle to desktop Fusion

| No Comments
Desktop Fusion is very much a reality -- check out the Farnsworth Fusor (yes, the same Philo Farnsworth who invented Television). The only problem is that this approach doesn't scale so it will not represent a source of power. Still very handy for generating Neutrons! There has been quite a buzz regarding sonoluminescence and now, some people think they are getting close to the real deal... From Science News Online:
Thermonuclear Squeeze: Altered method extends bubble-fusion claim
A technique that some scientists claim generates thermonuclear fusion in a benchtop apparatus works even without its controversial neutron trigger. So say the researchers who, since 2002, have reported that nuclear-fusion reactions can occur in a vat of chilled solvent agitated by ultrasound (SN: 3/6/04, p. 149. If this method of sparking fusion proves to be valid�a big if, critics insist�it could lead to a remarkably simple, cheap, inexhaustible power source.

Fusion reactions take place in the vat because clusters of bubbles form and then violently collapse, explains nuclear engineer and team leader Rusi P. Taleyarkhan of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. A neutron or another energetic particle triggers a bubble to form in a low-pressure trough of the ultrasound waves, he says. Then, high pressure from the wave crushes the orb to an enormous density and temperature that fuse some atomic nuclei of the bubble's gas.

Taleyarkhan and his colleagues have measured neutron emissions as a sign of fusion reactions. Because the group had used neutron pulses to trigger the process, other researchers have been skeptical of its neutron readings.

In an upcoming Physical Review Letters, Taleyarkhan's team presents evidence of fusion in bubbles initiated by a uranium-based trigger that emits alpha particles instead of neutrons. "We got away from the idea of using neutrons to produce neutrons," Taleyarkhan notes.
And if another lab is able to duplicate that work, hold on to your hat and hang on for a very interesting ride...

Late night out...

| No Comments
Jen and I went into town this afternoon to catch the show at the local Mt. Baker Theater. The Theater opened April 29, 1927 and has been more or less in continuous operation since. Gorgeously restored to original design, the acoustics are awesome. It is home to a Wurlitzer 2/12 organ (two manuals, 12 ranks of pipes -- fairly large). Today's Show? A screening of Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush accompanied by Hokum W. Jeebs on the Mighty Wurlitzer. He is an excellent performer, was having a lot of fun and the audience (about a thousand people) was appreciative. A fun time! They are doing Buster Keaton's The General next month on the 19th. Had dinner with my Mom and Dad who are s..l..o..w..l..y.. moving up here from Seattle.

The price of Oil

| No Comments
Mover Mike has a link to some info on just how bad the damage was from Katrina and Rita. He links to this article in Lubbock Online. (registration is required but Bug Me Not comes through yet again!)
Oil production in Gulf still at only one-sixth capacity
The Gulf of Mexico's offshore petroleum industry is far from recovering from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and at least one-sixth of the region's normal daily oil production will still be off line at the start of next storm season, a federal agency says.

Katrina and Rita destroyed 115 of the Gulf's 4,000 production platforms and damaged another 52, according to a report released Thursday by the Minerals Management Service, which manages federal offshore leases.

The storms' combined fury - much stronger when they swept across the Gulf than when they hit shore - also damaged 183 pipelines, including 64 classified as major. As of Thursday, only 22 had been returned to service, the MSS said.

There are about 33,000 miles of petroleum pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, 22,000 miles of which were exposed to the two storms.

As of this week, the MMS said 396,000 of the Gulf's normal daily production of 1.5 million barrels of oil were being kept from market because of storm damage, along with 1.8 billion cubic feet of the region's normal daily production of 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Future repair work will be slow, the MMS projected.

"For a long-term projection, approximately 255,000 barrels a day and 400 million cubic feet of gas a day will probably not be restored to production prior to the start of the 2006 hurricane season," the report said.

Hurricane season begins June 1.
The Minerals Management Service is an agency that I have not heard of before. Their home page is here, the Gulf division page is here and the Katrina/Rita Report is here (PDF file) The MMS also seems to have their fingers in the off-shore alt.energy pie with this page on Renewable Energy.

Mole Rats

Mole Rats are strange critters. If you ever saw the wonderful Errol Morris film: Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, one of the people he interviewed was Dr. Ray Mendez who specializes in Mole Rats. Now some other people have found that the Mole Rat has a remarkable way to navigate through its tunnel warrens -- the Earth's Magnetic Field. From the New Scientist:
Mole rat's magnetic magic revealed
The blind mole rat continually monitors its direction using the Earth's magnetic field when it makes long underground journeys, new research has revealed. It is the first animal discovered to have this talent.

Blind mole rats have no eyes and spend most of their time burrowing in subterranean tunnels. They often have to make long journeys from their nests to find food and yet are able to find their way efficiently through complex mazes of tunnels.

They use signals such as smell and balance to check their direction and progress over short distances. But scientists have now discovered that on longer routes they combine this information with constant reference checks of the Earth's magnetic field.

"On long journeys with many twists and turns, it's easy to get lost by relying only on internal signals. We found that the mole rats used the external reference of the Earth's magnetic field as an additional tool," says Tali Kimchi, at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Very cool! The sense of direction is a curious sense -- despite usually taking the long way around when driving somewhere, I generally have a good sense of which way is North in areas I spend time in. When we visited Jen's family last Thanksgiving, while driving around I generally got North and South correct but I would frequently flip East and West. After about five days there, I started to get it correctly most of the time. This is not just at her folks house, we were driving quite a bit.

Pig Spittle...

I had written earlier about Sir Banagor's wonderful rants on the psychopathy of the Islamic culture (here, here and here to start). It seems he has attracted the attention of one Steven. Sir Banagor:
Steven The Idiot
Steven is an idiot.

I don�t know him, but I can tell that he is one simply from a single comment he posted here.

You judge for yourselves:
New comment on your post #236 �Muslim Porn�
Author : Steven Muslim COnvert (IP: , host86-132-197-193.range86-132.btcentralplus.com)
E-mail : Steven@hotmail.com
Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=

Note to the webmaster: Can you delete all the profane messages on your websites. Your website is inspiring religious and racial hatred, I can have this website shut down. You have 7 days to remove all the messages, if you don�t we will contact your hosting company by doing a who�s on the domain name. So do the right thing an delete all the messages.
It�s called �Freedom of Speech�, Steven - something which most Muslims understand nothing about. I might venture to add that unless you have your entire Muslim brotherhood shut down and all the filth stemming from the cult-like worship from Saudi Arabia piled into a burning trash heap, I don�t see why I have to delete anything offensive to Muslims. In case you converted before reading the fine print, the Koran advocates killing Jews and Christians (mostly Jews, you know), so will you bloody well fuck off and die?
Another homer out of the ballpark. Why are the western born adherents of Islamic culture always so congenitally brain dead?

A code comment

In any programming language, it's possible to leave comments to someone who might be reading your code later. These are human readable but will be ignored by the computer as the program is being processed. In the C programming language, the comments are set apart by a /* and then each line of comment has an asterisk and a space at the beginning. The comments are closed by a */ Richard Bennett found a very literate comment in a scrap of code that resets the entire system (kills everything and forces it to reload from it's original default state):
Milton in the code
I found this in some code I was reading today:
* Farewell, happy fields,
* Where joy forever dwells; hail horrors!
* John Milton, Paradise Lost
I work for a very literate company, apparently.

Stardust Recovery

| No Comments
I had written earlier about the recovery of the Stardust Capsule. It turns out that the mission was a complete success and the scientists are delighted at the amount of comet debris that was collected. Astrobiology Magazine has the story:
Dissecting Stardust
As they clustered around the Stardust sample return capsule, Donald Brownlee, Stardust principal investigator from the University of Washington in Seattle, warned his team they might not be able to see any comet dust. The tiny particles may have made such small tracks in the aerogel collector that they would not be visible to the naked eye.

Wearing white bunny suits in a clean room at Johnson Space Center, the team anxiously examined the collector tray� and then broke into delighted celebration. Small black holes dotted the wispy aerogel tiles, and some were as large as half a centimeter wide.

The holes are carrot-shaped, with a large entry hole that tapers to a point. The first photograph of a cometary particle shows it residing in the very tip of the tunnel it drilled, like the dot of an exclamation point. The particle is only 11 microns across, and appears to be a transparent mineral grain.

"Scientifically, that's great, because there's been lots of discussion of whether comets contain minerals or glass," says Brownlee.

Michael Zolensky, Stardust curator and co-investigator from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, was among those excited to see evidence of the tiny comet grains. During Stardust's long seven-year journey to the comet Wild 2, he had given in to some pessimistic speculation.

"Maybe (the collection tray) wouldn't open properly. Maybe the particles would just smash all the aerogel out of the tray, and we'd come up with nothing at all. Or maybe (the aerogel) would even be covered with gunk from outgassing from the spacecraft," says Zolensky. "We were really worried about that, and got more and more worried as time went by. And so when we opened the tray just two days ago in the lab, we were relieved to find that everything went exactly right."

The scientists estimate they have up to a million comet particles, with a dozen or so that are the thickness of a human hair, and maybe even one that is larger than a millimeter. But it will take some time to know exactly what the aerogel collector tray holds.
Awesome -- good to see a space program so well implemented. The science from this is going to keep a lot of people very busy for a long long time... And I for one, welcome our new Alien Overlords!

Jarhead Red

| 1 Comment
A wine made by Marines for Marines. From the Firestone Winery:
December 14, 2005

What is Jarhead Red?
Jarhead Red is a wine made by Marines, for Marines, at Firestone Vineyard on California's Central Coast. The current vintage is a 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Net proceeds from the sale of this wine benefit the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, which provides educational assistance to children of U.S. Marines, with special attention given to children of fallen Marines.

Who are the Marines behind the wine?
The wine was made by winegrower, Adam Firestone (CAPT 1984-91) and vineyard foreman Ruben Dominguez (SGT USMC 1979-84) for Marines.

Was Jarhead Red inspired by or created for the recent movie "Jarhead?"
No, Jarhead Red predates the movie. There is no affiliation between the wine and the movie.

What were the origins of Jarhead Red?
Jarhead Red was conceived in 1999 as a celebratory bottling for the annual USMC Scholarship Foundation Birthday Ball in Los Angeles. Since the Marine Corps founding on November 10, 1775, at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Marines have gathered on this date and toasted their comrades present and absent, and the future of the USMC. Over the years, the wine gained a following by word of mouth and was enjoyed at Birthday Balls around the country. To meet this growing demand, the wine was released for distribution and sale last year.
Available from the Winery for $12.99 -- I'll have to get a couple to try...

A hostage who was not who she seemed.

| No Comments
The case of German �hostage� Susanne Osthoff and her capture by Islamist terrorists had an odd smell to it. It gets curiouser -- after she was ransomed and released, she was taken to the German embassy in Baghdad where among other things, she took a shower. Read this Reuters report for the rest:
Report says ransom money found on Osthoff
Part of the ransom money alleged to have been paid by the German government to win the freedom of Iraq hostage Susanne Osthoff last month was found on Osthoff after her release, the German magazine Focus said on Saturday.

Without citing its sources, Focus said officials at the German embassy in Baghdad had found several thousand U.S. dollars in the 43-year-old German archaeologist's clothes when she took a shower at the embassy shortly after being freed.

The serial numbers on the bills matched those used by the government to pay off Osthoff's kidnappers, the magazine said.
And of course, Osthoff was just an archaeologist working in Iraq:
...Osthoff, who converted to Islam and lived in Iraq...
And of course, there was no other compensation from the German government other than the money (US Dollars -- what? The Euro isn't good enough for terrorists?):
Two days after her release, the German government freed a Hizbollah member jailed for life in 1985 for the murder of a U.S. Navy diver. Berlin has denied a connection between the two events.
And people complain about our government being duplicitous...

Listening In

| No Comments
Robert X. Cringely has an excellent in-depth writeup on the history of telephone taps:
Hitler on Line One
There's a Long History of Intercepting Foreign Communications,
and Some of It May Have Been Legal

Who is listening-in on your phone calls? Probably nobody. Right now, there is huge interest in phone tapping in the United States because the Bush Administration (through the National Security Agency) was caught listening in without appropriate court orders. What I have noticed is that, for all the talking and writing on this subject, there seems to be very little real information being presented. So this column is my attempt to share what I've learned about the topic. It might surprise you.

Intercepting communications for purposes of maintaining national security is nothing new. From before Pearl Harbor through 1945, EVERY trans-Atlantic phone call, cable and indeed letter was intercepted in Bermuda by the Coordinator of Information (COI) in the White House and later by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Sir William Stephenson revealed this in his autobiography, A Man Called Intrepid. They literally tapped the undersea cables and shipped all post to Europe through Bermuda, where every single call was monitored, every cable printed out, and every letter opened. FDR and Churchill needed intelligence and they took the steps they needed to get it.

The computer monitoring of cell phone conversations pales in both scale and significance. One fun fact from that monitoring: The CEO of International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT) reportedly spoke with Adolf Hitler on the phone from New York City every week of the war. According to the book The Sovereign State of ITT, the call was placed from New York to South America, and then used a cable from South America to Berlin. Key companies that maintained the German telephone network were ITT subsidiaries at that time, and communications were obviously of strategic importance for Germany; thus Hitler needed to speak with the CEO every week. ITT never stopped running the German phones during the war and were evidently allowed to continue doing so to gather just this sort of intelligence (that's me putting a positive spin on a disturbingly ambiguous relationship). So information technology's ability to eliminate borders in warfare is nothing new, even though it seemed to take the New York Times by surprise!
Robert then goes into how taps are done today (outsourced by the telcos) and the ramifications of the CALEA and FISA acts. Good stuff!

Bugs in the dirt

Interesting study of soil bacteria and drug resistance. From Nature:
Superbugs abound in soil
Survey of bacteria reveals an array of antibiotic-resistance.

Bacteria that live in soil have been found to harbour an astonishing armoury of natural weapons to fight off antibiotics. The discovery could help researchers anticipate the next wave of drug-resistant 'superbugs'.

Researchers have long known that soil-dwelling bacteria make natural antibiotics, and that they have inbuilt ways to survive their own and other bugs' toxins; in some cases, the genes that help them dodge antibiotics have transferred into infectious bugs that plague humans.

Microbiologists have identified a few of the ways that soil microbes neutralize antibiotics. But Gerard Wright and his team at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, have shown that soil microbes carry a hidden trove of such arms.

The team collected handfuls of dirt from towns and forests across Canada, and grew the bacteria contained within them. They isolated 480 different strains of the common soil bacteria Streptomyces, which are known to synthesize a large number of antibiotics, and so are expected to have natural defenses against them. They then threw 21 different antibiotics (some natural, some synthetic), at the bugs to see if they could survive.

The strains were impervious to seven or eight antibiotics on average, the researchers report in Science, and two hardy ones were resistant to 15 drugs.

Many of the bacterial strains were immune to antibiotics that they have probably never been exposed to before. And the crafty creatures used some previously unknown ways to detoxify some drugs, such as adding a sugar molecule on to the drug telithromycin, which prevents it from crippling a cell.
Interesting! A blessing and a bane. Blessing in that we will gain insights on how bacteria adapt and gain resistance but a bane because this resistance can jump to something that seriously bothers us (thinking something like S. aureus which is a serious problem in hospitals).

Non Sequiter

| No Comments
Today's Non Sequiter was cute:
Click for full-size Image

Cold Comfort

| No Comments
Ouch! From Local6.com:
Man Trapped In Toilet When Lock Freezes
When a 58-year-old motorist nipped into a German highway rest stop public toilet to answer the call of nature Friday morning, he had no idea how cruel nature could be.

Off highway A6 near the town of Lichtenau in Bavaria, which has been experiencing cold weather and snow over the past few days, the man found himself trapped in the toilet stall after the lock froze while he was inside.

Unable to pry the door open, the man finally was able to explain his predicament when someone occupied the stall next to him and get them to call police on a cell phone.

After about an hour in the chilly cell, police were able to get the door open and free the man, whom they described about "thoroughly frozen through, but in good general health."
Wonder if he still believes in Global Warming?

Harry Porter's Computer

| 1 Comment

Very high geekdom! Dr. Porter teaches Computer Science at Portland State University and in his spare time, he is building a working computer. Out of mechanical relays!

Take a look at Harry Porter's Computer

Bring your drool cups -- Dr. Porter's geek-fu is greater than mine.

One of the 415 relays.
Dr. Porter and his Computer
A close look at one of the registers.

He did 'cheat' and use a 32K by 8bit static RAM for system memory (otherwise we would be looking at another 524,288 relays!) but it is a beautiful and classical Von Neumann processor and probably just as powerful as the early relay machines (no benchmarks are given and Dr. Porter doesn't mention if he got it to boot Linux yet).

I want!!!

| 1 Comment
Cute idea for a case-mod:
From an email list. It has obviously been scanned from a magazine -- don't know where it originally came from.

Kuwait Oil Reserves

| No Comments
Interesting tid-bit of news in this article from Reuters:
Brent rises $2 after Kuwait reserve report
London Brent crude futures rose $2 on Friday to its highest level since early September after a report that Kuwait's oil reserves are only half those officialy stated.

March Brent rose $2.01 to $67.24 a barrel after industry newsletter Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (PIW) reported it had seen internal Kuwaiti records showing that Kuwait's reserves were about 48 billion barrels, compared to the officially stated 99 billion barrels.

Ahead of the report, Brent had already gained $1.50 on mounting concern about supply from Iran and Nigeria had already fuelled a rally of $1.50.
Emphasis mine. Yikes! Lots of other sources of energy. The Canadian Oil Sands are coming online and the resources there are huge.

6,000 Interesting People

Dr. Clifford Pickover (one of the more interesting characters on the net) is compiling a list of 6,000 people one should at least know about. A fascinating collection of artists, thinkers, physicists, technologists... He has been doing this for two months so there are only about 50 people up so far but this will be a fascinating one to watch as it grows.

Prince Mongo

From the New Times comes this article about an interesting character:
The Alien Has Landed
It's Prince Mongo's planet. We only live on it.

The extraterrestrial sits on a couch in his bare feet, as always. He looks up at a blank artist's canvas hanging crookedly on the wall. Only it's not blank. There are vague grayish shapes and blotches in the white background.

"That picture is transforming right now," Prince Mongo proclaims. "It's the resurrection of the world. The Earth doesn't have much time left. We're on the second run right now. That painting is the tunnel to life."

When will it be finished?

"It won't end until the world ends. Then I will take the people I'm going to save back to Zambodia."

It may sound like the ravings of a demented street person babbling on the sidewalk, but Prince Mongo isn't homeless. He's sitting in his $2 million Fort Lauderdale home near Las Olas Boulevard. With a pool and an elevated wooden deck on the Intracoastal-connected canal in the backyard, it's a beauty of a place. And the home is apparently just a small part of his fortune. He also owns homes in Virginia Beach and Memphis, and he skis in Vail. "He's got more money than God," says his neighbor, Bill Concha.

But when Mongo sleeps, he does it on a little mat in the family room, like a poverty-stricken college student. He wears old T-shirts and shorts and, as mentioned, never, ever wears shoes (even when walking in the snow in Vail, he claims). "I don't need money," he says. "I live off the stars and the earth and the energy of the sun."

Prince Mongo isn't tall, maybe five-foot-seven, and he's got a pretty good-sized belly. He likes to eat. When I paid him a surprise visit last week, he offered me radishes, sushi, goat's milk, vegetable soup, and a ham sandwich. I told him I'd just had some eggs. "You ever have sardines and eggs?" he asked. "They're good."

The first thing I noticed was the change in his hair. When I'd first met Mongo the week before, his hair was grayish and seemed to have some kind of oil in it. Now it was pitch black, looking windblown and sticking straight up like something from a 1980s pop band. "It does funny things all the time," he said of his hair. "Some mornings, I'm blond. Some mornings, I'm a bush. And some mornings, it's black-black. There's great power in my hair; it helps protect me from demons trying to get near me."

Mongo looks to be in his 50s, but he says he's 333 years old. Three is his favorite number � it has some special significance in Zambodia, his original home nine light-years away.

"When I hit Earth, I fragmentized and went all over the world," he explains. "I then began assembling myself and still am."

His first identity on Earth was as a Blackfoot Indian chief in the Dakotas. Since then, he's had 33 wives, all of whom have died. "They can't last like I can," he explains.
prince-mongo-01.gif prince-mongo-02.gif
We aren't talking tin-foil hat time, this is tin-foil planet stuff. And people think I'm eccentric...

No posting tonight...

Finishing off the online store for our Brown Snout webpage. Painted myself into a corner last evening and had to re-install just in time for our ISP to have a bad hair day. We are to rural to have DSL or Cable Broadband so Satellite is the only option (well, except for a T-1... sigh... I used to work on those... DAVE! Get a GRIP MAN!) The performance was on par with dial-up and the CubeCart software has over 2,000 files so this took about five hours. The fault is not with CubeCart, this is awesome software and the support community is incredibly responsive. Working on getting payment options online and populating it with more items to sell...
The French woman who had the face transplant a few months ago has resumed her habit of smoking. From CBS News:
New Face, New Lips, Old Habit
The world's first face transplant recipient is using her new lips to take up smoking again, which doctors fear could interfere with her healing and raise the risk of tissue rejection.

"It is a problem," Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard, who led the team that performed the pioneering transplant in France on Nov. 27, acknowledged on Wednesday.

The woman's French surgeons made their first scientific presentation on the partial face transplant at a medical conference in Tucson this week, the 6th International Symposium on Composite Tissue Allotransplantation.

The news about her smoking came even as American surgeons said that they were growing more comfortable with the French doctors' decision to try the operation and that they hoped to offer such transplants to more patients.
WTF??? She was not smoking for a few months after the surgery so the chemical dependency is gone, it's the psychological dependency that is driving this. She surely realizes that there is no history of how people will react to this -- what happens if she rejects the transplant. After all, smoking causes a pronounced restriction in the blood flow in the smaller vessels and capillaries. Sheesh!

Sporadic posting today

Still working on the storefront for Brownsnout Should be live by 6:00PM PST

Penguins for sale

Want a very cool pet? Visit Penguin Warehouse From their website:
Thanks For Waddling In
Welcome to the most respected, domesticated penguin dealer on the Internet! Relax and take a look around our site where you can find information on our company, our products, and what goes into the care of a penguin. Penguin Warehouse, Inc. sells certified purebred penguins, useful penguin books, and many other items to make you and your new pet happy.
I think a Penguin or two would make an excellent addition to our menagerie at the farm... UPDATE - if you have not figured it out by now, this site is a joke. A parody. It's humor son. There are no Penguins for sale here so go away. Finally, I used to work for a public aquarium and the amount of effort needed to keep a penguin healthy and happy is major -- you mean to tell me that you already have the 400 gallon tank of refrigerated sea water for your new pet? Comments are closed...

Two posts in one!

| 1 Comment
Waiting for some files to upload and found these two gems: From Velociworld:
My elder daughter was in an horrific accident one year ago this February 13th. I posted pix of the mayhem. Her SUV rolled twicet, yada yada. She would have been killed in a lesser vehicle.

Anyhow, the driver and his passenger wife of the vehicle that hit her were very cool, very sweet. Wanted to know how she was at the accident scene, then they called her and sent her letters, wanted to make sure she was okay. Very upstate.

Now, a year later, he is suing for $110,000. Claims the accident aggravated an injury he sustained in 1984. That's cool. I'm down with milking an insurance company, I guess. And the fact that I'm only insured up to $100k scares me not. $10k exposure? Bring it on.

No, I was merely interested in how my insurance company responded. Their attorney offered them $4 thousand to fuck off and die.

I love my insurance company now. They have balls of steel. We shall play this little play out, but my feeling is my company won't cave. My adjuster called me, and from 500 miles away I could smell the brimstone burning in his loins. He wants these fuckers. Nasty smell, BTW.

We shall see what happens. I'm thinking a whole lot of nothing. Although I did turn my neck severely when I saw my daughter's car upside down, and now I have pains. Perhaps I should be recompensed.
Heh -- "smell the brimstone burning in his loins" Vman has the way with the words... and from Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple comes this entry and a link to the Best Blonde Joke Ever:
Best Blonde Joke Ever
Go here.

Heh. Heh. Heh.
Back to work...

Minimal posting tonight

Getting the online store for our Commercial Hard Cider and Mead business online. Lots of LAMP-work (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) If you are looking for a good online store that has excellent community support, check out CubeCart. At only $70, they are obviously counting on you to do all the development of your storefront but the application is very well written and for that $70, you get free updates for life. Lots of 3rd party mods and a number of people are active in doing custom programming. Good stuff! It is not online now but check out the Brownsnout Farm and Cidery Store sometime tomorrow afternoon. Jen's soaps and lotions will be available for sale as well. I'll be putting my blacksmithing stuff once I start developing a real product line instead of just hacking around learning the trade...

A car returned

| No Comments
Great story. From the BBC News:
Dream car returned, 37 years on
The owner of a Corvette sports car stolen when it was brand new in 1969 is to be reunited with the vehicle after it was finally found, 37 years later.

Alan Poster's prized possession went missing in New York, but was found 3,000 miles away in California, just as it was about to be shipped to Sweden.

"We can call this a miracle," Mr Poster told the New York Times.

The car had just been sold to a Swede, who was not aware of the car's past, for $10,000 (�5,700).

However, because Mr Poster had not insured the car, he was not compensated when it was stolen and is entitled to it back.

The Corvette Mako Shark, which was originally painted blue with matching upholstery, is now silver with a red interior.

It has had a new engine, but is missing some vital parts and does not run, a spokesman for the homeland security department said.

Mr Poster, who is now 63, said it was "probably the only car I've ever really loved".
Awwwww - purdy!
Ever wonder what that was for? Generally taxes are levied for specific purposes. This one was and Cleveland's News.Net.5 has the story:
3 Percent Fee On Cell Phones Started 107 Years Ago
There is a call to repeal a cell phone tax most people probably don't even know they are paying, NewsChannel5 partner ONN reported.

Anybody who has ever tried to decipher a cell phone bill knows how tough it can be. One of the charges is a 3 percent fee on every cell phone bill in America. The origin of the tax predates the invention of the cellular phone by nearly a century.

Annie Brinkman and her friend, Stacey Lemle, don't know it, but every time they use their cell phones, they are supporting the war effort -- the Spanish-American War.

The 1898 war involved Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

The fee began as a luxury tax on phones at the turn of the 19th Century. And we're all still paying for it today.

Phone bills don�t specify that the tax originates from the Spanish-American War. It is labeled as the federal excise tax, which amounts to 3 percent of every monthly bill.

"When you say it's a federal excise tax, you know, most of the time, oh it's the federal excise tax," said Laura Merritt of Verizon Wireless. "And that's just understood that it's a tax you pay. Where exactly those funds go is something that's a mystery to all of us."

It's not such a mystery anymore. And now, at least three federal courts have ruled the tax illegal. Many cell phone companies support a repeal of that tax. But they say they are caught in the middle.

"We're required to continue collecting that tax from our customers until the IRS tells us to stop doing that," said Merritt.

Some lawmakers are demanding cell phone companies stop collecting the tax and refund three years worth of fees.

But for now, every time you make a cell phone call, you'll continue to pay for a war fought more than 107 years ago.

According to the Web site www.mywireless.org, you can ask the IRS for a refund of up to three years of past taxes. You can also contact members of Congress to ask them to repeal the tax altogether.
And how many other taxes just like this are lurking out there...

Cutting Boards

| No Comments
Cooks Illustrated is a fantastic cooking magazine. Jen subscribed to it before I met her and now we fight over each new issue as it arrives. Their approach is to take a specific recipe and try different versions and have each version tasted by a group of people. They then write about the pros and cons of each version -- the finished product is always delicious and reading about the versions that didn't work as well provide a wonderful insight for other cooking experiments. They are not afraid to use applied science either -- the case of cutting boards:
The Truth About Cutting Boards and Bacteria
The Bac Story

In 1994, a research report was published that proved to be the opening salvo in a long battle over which material was more sanitary for cutting boards, wood or plastic. The researchers found that fewer bacteria could be recovered from wooden boards infected with live cultures than from plastic boards treated the same way. These results caused the researchers to question the prevailing view that plastic was more sanitary than wood; some have further interpreted the data to mean that wood is, in fact, a safer material for cutting boards. In a report that followed, researchers at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lab concluded that beef bacteria on polyethylene and wooden cutting boards had statistically similar patterns of attachment and removal. Even so, the idea that wood is more sanitary than plastic persists and was recently reaffirmed in the food section of the New York Times.
The upshot is that they are both about the same -- able to retain bacteria for a long time. Hot soapy water does wonders for getting rid of most bacteria and a regular application of dilute bleach (or a sanitizing wipe) will guarantee sanitation. The article doesn't mention this but running the board through your dishwasher will also guarantee sanitation.

Problems with biodiesel

| 1 Comment
It seems that the oils in biodiesel can go rancid just like regular cooking oils. The city of Roaring Fork, Colorado just found this out... From the Colorado Post Independent:
Transportation authority deals with biodiesel scum
Algae problems in biodiesel fuel threatened to put the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority�s bus fleet out of service in October before being discovered.

"It kind of caught us off guard, quite frankly," RFTA official Ken Osier told U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, during a visit by Salazar to RFTA�s Glenwood Springs office Monday.

The problem occurred after RFTA used a $25,000 state grant to start using diesel with a 5 percent blend of biodiesel fuel, which is derived from vegetable oil.

Just as cooking oil can go rancid, biodiesel can go bad. Osier, RFTA�s director of maintenance, said algae growth can produce something akin to the green scum that sometimes forms on top of ponds.

"That�s what we were pulling out of our fuel tanks," Osier said.

Osier said in an interview that things "got real shaky" for RFTA�s fleet before it determined the problem. It was blocking filters, causing problems with pumps, and threatening to result in widespread bus breakdowns as RFTA entered its busy winter season.

It turns out the problem is quite common in biodiesel but can be detected with tests and reduced with an anti-algae treatment, Osier said. But he said RFTA�s biodiesel supplier failed to provide any warning.

"We had a long talk with them about it," he said.
"a long talk" indeed... Any technology has a steep learning curve and biodiesel is just another one in a long long line. If there was a supplier of biodiesel in our area, I would use it for our tractor but the closest place is about 20 miles away and I don't feel like hauling tanks around when a good source of regular diesel is about two miles down the road. Drive Buttercup down whenever she needs her tank topped off...

A Job Offer

| No Comments
Disgraced Korean Stem Cell "researcher" has been offered a job by a "U.S. biotech firm". South Korean Chosun Ilbo has the story:
A Tempting Job Offer for Hwang Woo-suk
The U.S. biotech firm Clonaid has sprung to the rescue of the embattled cloning scientist Hwang Woo-sook with an offer to join a research partnership at its secret research facility. Clonaid was founded by the Raelian Movement, a cult-like religious group that maintains humans were created by aliens and claims to have cloned a human being. The company is represented by French scientist Dr. Brigitte Boisselier.

A press release from the company on Monday said Boisselier has written to Hwang to outline the proposal. Boisselier said she believed Hwang��s discoveries to be original and that groups opposing stem cell research such as the Catholic Church conspired to undermine Hwang by making it appear as though the scientist concocted his data. She said he had become a victim of a conservative anti-scientific faction, according to the press release.

There is little chance that Hwang, who has maintained his opposition to creating fully-grown clones of human beings, will join the firm. Clonaid probably knew this was a long shot and may have made the proposal to promote the religion.

In 2002 Clonaid announced that a girl named Eve was born through cloning somatic cells donated by 30-year-old American woman. At that time, the announcement attracted worldwide attention, but the Raelians refused to produce verifiable proof, ostensibly to protect the girl, so the scientific world believes the claim to be fiction.

Clonaid founder Rael, formerly known as Claude Vorilhon, teaches that a race of aliens called the Elohim created human beings, and Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed were recipients of messages from the aliens.
I just hate the feeling of snorting cold beer through your nose... The two are made for each other though -- a perfect match.

The 8 phases of goatse

| No Comments
If you have not seen goatse, spend some quality time with Google. You will know it when you see it. (The original site has been taken down.) Derek Clark has sucessfully documented the Eight Phases of goatse Heh...

The United States of Islam

| No Comments
Currency artist Stephen Barnwell has come up with a new series and it is chilling. Come and visit The United States of Islam Two images from the site: Here is part of the opening page:
This is the $3 Sacagawea bank note:
My thumbnails do not do any justice to the amazing quality of Stephen's work. Visit the site and be prepared to be thoroughly creeped out by this alternative history.


| No Comments
Need a nice simple 2D CAD program? Check out A9Tech makers of A9CAD and A9CAD Pro. A9CAD is free, the Pro version costs $29.95 They also have a nice conversion program that goes between CAD formats and image formats. The killer deal is that it will convert between different version numbers of AutoCAD. Want to open an ACAD 2006 file but only have ACAD 14? A9Converter is for you.


| No Comments
The name Jon Lech Johansen might not be on everyone's lips but for people who do not like the way the Content-Scrambling System (or CSS) encryption on DVDs force you to watch boring previews and limit your menu choices, he was the light at the end of the tunnel. His program DeCSS allowed people to make copies of the DVD without these limitations -- hop over to what you want to see when you want to see it. There is a war happening between two new rival high-definition disk formats vieing for commercial dominance. Blu-ray and HD DVD. I personally think the Blu-ray is the better format and that HD DVD is a poorly thought out hack. Regardless, both standards will use the newer Advanced Access Content System (AACS) encryption system. Last week, Jon made this post on his blog:
DeAACS.com AACS, like CSS, will be a success. Not at preventing piracy. That�s not the primary objective of any DRM system. Anyone who has read the CSS license agreement knows that the primary objective is to control the market for players. Don�t you just love when your DVD player tells you "This operation is prohibited" when you try to skip the intro?

6 years ago I didn�t think of registering decss.com. Not intending to make the same mistake twice, a while ago I registered deaacs.com.

Now if only products that implement AACS would come to market...
Emphasis mine. Heh...

Coherent Light

| No Comments
For almost 50 years, if you wanted coherent light, it was lasers and free-electron lasers. Now table salt has been added to this list. Science Daily has the news about some ground-breaking work being done at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:
Livermore Researchers Find New Source Of Coherent Light
With the exception of lasers and free-electron lasers, there hasn�t been another fundamental way to produce coherent light for close to 50 years.

But a group of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a new source of coherent optical radiation that is distinct from lasers and free-electron lasers.

Applications for this research are numerous, but the most immediate result may be a new diagnostic tool to determine the properties of shock waves, said Evan Reed, an E.O. Lawrence postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore and lead author of a paper that appears in the Jan. 13 edition of Physical Review Letters.

Through a series of theoretical calculations and experimental simulations, scientists generated a mechanical shock wave inside a dielectric crystalline material, in this case kitchen salt (NaCl). One might expect to see only incoherent photons and sparks from the shocked crystal.

But what they found was so much more. Weak yet measurable coherent light was seen emerging from the crystal. The emission frequencies are determined by the shock speed and the lattice make-up of the crystal.

The team found that measurable coherent light can be observed emerging from the crystal in the range of 1 to 100 terahertz (THz).

"To our knowledge, coherent light never has been seen before from shock waves propagating through crystals because a shocked crystal is not an obvious source to look for coherent radiation," Reed said. "The light and radiation was in a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is not usually observed in these types of experiments."
There all along, nobody thought to look before. I can see a number of uses for this right off the bat -- the technology is going to get better. Imagine a small chemical analysis system powered by something similar to the piezo fire starter in a lighter or barbecue. Cheap ways to analyze motion and impact. The list goes on...

The secret to Office Productivity

| No Comments
Nancy Hauge writes at the Kansas City Star on Office Productivity:
The real key to productivity? Free junk food
In an eye-opening survey conducted several months ago by the Boston Consulting Group, a leading business think tank, three out of four top executives from 68 countries said they planned to increase research and development spending this year. Fewer than half of the 940 respondents, however, thought the increases would produce the necessary profit or competitive advantage to justify the expenditures.

Why such a disconnect? Perhaps it's because they're spending too much of their money on the wrong things: technology, rather than Twinkies.

My experience tells me that the rapidity with which an enterprise creates value is directly related to how well it stocks the company kitchen. The lower the nutritional value of the food choices, the greater the intellectual property produced.

I have spent time in a variety of industries: software, hardware, compression technology, storage technology, outsourced manufacturing and digital media. What they all have in common is this: They all run on junk food.

During my career, I have spent hundreds of all-night sessions alongside my entrepreneurial colleagues as we prepared for market launches, product launches, term sheets, due diligence reviews, tape outs, quarterly results, auditors and IPOs. I don't remember ever ordering in anything nutritious when the heat was on.

When engineers, scientists and technologists have to stay up all night, they don't reach for NoDoz -- they reach for Cheetos.

It's always a sign of decline when a company slows down on junk-food purchases. Many CEOs and CFOs deny the value of the kitchen. It is an easy expense to control or cut when money gets tight. It seems like no big deal. People can bring food in or buy their drinks from a vending machine. They will understand that investors don't want the company "wasting" its limited resources buying snacks for the staff.

But the purpose of junk food is not just to give the team a little blood sugar bump at 3 p.m. When you stop supplying fun food, morale and productivity decline.
She supplies an anecdote to back this up:
I once worked for a start-up computing company that grew to $7 billion in annual revenue during my stint. In the early years we brought in doughnuts every morning. As time went on the doughnut bill got to be outrageous. So we cut back to doughnuts only on Wednesday mornings. Funny thing, our product launches began to stretch out. We were not moving as fast as we once had.

When I asked the vice president of engineering what had happened, he said, "You cut back the doughnuts! My guys used to get in here by 8 a.m. every day to get their favorite doughnut before it was gone. Now they come in around 9. I have 600 engineers in this organization, and I lost about 600 man-hours per day because you stopped the doughnuts!"
Very true -- when I had my business, I made sure there were always treats in the kitchen as well as a large well-stocked candy bucket out front for the clients. Good places I have worked for have always done free sodas and frequent catered parties. Microsoft always stocked their kitchens with basic munchies and drinks and managers were encouraged to order pizzas in during death marches. It's the little details like this that make or break a company...

Virtual Machine Shop

As you know by reading my blog, I am seriously getting into metalwork.

Just ran into this place today and it is a really good resource: Virtual Machine Shop Very deep!

Rootkits in the news

| No Comments
Some of you are familiar with the big flap over Sony's rootkit. A rootkit is a way to write software such that its installation and operation are 'invisible' to the standard user or sysadmin. This may have some legitimate uses but it can open a big can of worms if someone discovers a vulnerability in that software and exploits it. Standard computer security software cannot test something that they cannot see... Sony used a rootkit as part of their ham-handed 'copy protection' on a number of CD audio disks -- you had to install their software (and their rootkit about which nothing was said) in order to play their music on your own computer. This was discovered by Mark Russinovich at Sysinternals. Mark is one of the major deities in the Windows pantheon. Well, Mark has been busy testing other software and it seems that Symantec is using rootkit technology. Their use is not as egregious as Sony's but it is still a nasty piece of work...

Stardust Memories

Very cool -- Stardust, the Comet Sampler from NASA made a successful landing this morning at 2:10am.

Here is the Jet Propulsion Labs website and here is the NASA website 

Here it is on the ground as it landed:


Here it is being carried off the helicopter at the clean lab:


Augustine's Laws

| No Comments
Sorry about it being hosted on a fortunecity site (pop-ups and advertising) but it's worth it for this list. Here are the first ten of the fifty two:
Law Number I: The best way to make a silk purse from a sow's ear is to begin with a silk sow. The same is true of money.

Law Number II: If today were half as good as tomorrow is supposed to be, it would probably be twice as good as yesterday was.

Law Number III: There are no lazy veteran lion hunters.

Law Number IV: If you can afford to advertise, you don't need to.

Law Number V: One-tenth of the participants produce over one-third of the output. Increasing the number of participants merely reduces the average output.

Law Number VI: A hungry dog hunts best. A hungrier dog hunts even better.

Law Number VII: Decreased business base increases overhead. So does increased business base.

Law Number VIII: The most unsuccessful four years in the education of a cost-estimator is fifth grade arithmetic.

Law Number IX: Acronyms and abbreviations should be used to the maximum extent possible to make trivial ideas profound...Q.E.D.

Law Number X: Bulls do not win bullfights; people do. People do not win people fights; lawyers do.

John Murtha

| No Comments
Mostly Cajun looks at John Murtha and has a little problem with Murtha's consistency:
Remember John Murtha?
He�s ths dummocratic congressman who touted his own service in the Marines during his anti-bush, anti-war rants.

Well, I�m starting to understand Mr. Murtha. Seems he�s kinda like Mr. John �F*ck you buddies� Kerry in the way that he remembers his wartime service. Things seem to change. Murtha waves his two Purple Hearts around a lot, but there�s a problem. He never tells the same story twice about the wounds he received which qualify him for the awards. According to this article:
�In the first incident, his right cheek was lacerated, and in the second, he was lacerated above his left eye. Neither injury required evacuation,�
Cajun then goes on to quote other sources as follows (excerpted): "I was wounded in the arm with shrapnel" and "In the other, my knee was banged up and my arm was banged up" and "struck in the ankle by a shot" and "small scratch on your cheek" and "The other purple heart [sic] you even declined to explain,� wrote Bailey" And Cajun's closing comment:
So here, it seems, we have another big-mouth dummocrat pseudo-war hero who can�t seem to tell the same story twice about himself�
And now Murtha is anti-Bush and anti-Iraqi Freedom. Another partisan hack.

Olduvai George

| 1 TrackBack
Carl Dennis Buell is an amazing illustrator. He has worked for several decades with 'traditional' media but has been recently using Photoshop and a graphics tablet. Check out OlduvaiGeorge A sample entry is here: I�m A Professional, Don�t try this at Home:
I�m A Professional, Don�t try this at Home
Actually do try it! If you have any artistic talent at all, a Wacom Graphics Tablet and a layered art or retouching program like Photoshop can make you better quicker than drawing with pencil and paper.

It�s a matter of what you�re after, but I use Photoshop because I like the setup, I like the tool selection, and mostly because it�s what I had to learn on. The Wacom Graphics Tablet is an unbelievably wonderful bit of technology. The tablet is pressure-sensitive and the feel of the stylus on it is very much like the feel of a felt-pen on vellum.

I was worried at first, but it took me all of about 10 minutes to get used to drawing on the Tablet while looking at the computer screen. It�s so much a part of the way I work now; I actually have more problems looking at the paper when I use a pencil.
Carl then walks the reader through eleven stages of drawing a Mammoth starting here:
And ending with this:
Gorgeous work -- the blog has only been around since November 2005 but it will be added to the blogroll at the next update...

Minimal blogging today

We have had about 25 days of rain but today was relatively clear so I spent it doing outdoor things (getting firewood in and looking for scrap iron along the railroad tracks for blacksmithing (got 40 pounds of good high-carbon steel bolts and spikes)) This evening, we went to a presentation on the Lone Jack Gold Mine which is about 20 miles from where we live. First staked in 1897, it is still in operation today. A fascinating bit of history! I am spending this evening dismantling a dead microwave oven to salvage the power transformer -- I am building a small spot welder for sheet metal and blacksmithing work and the cost of a power transformer with this sort of power would be several hundred dollars. This transformer is 120 in and has a rated capacity of 1,500 watts, more than enough. By taking off the old high-voltage secondary (about 2kV) and winding on a new low voltage/high current one, I will be able to build my own for a couple bucks worth of copper rod for the electrodes. I have most everything else...

An interesting life -- Larry Wachowski

If that name seems familiar, he is one of the Wachowski brothers that did The Matrix. It seems his personal life is just as strange -- from the Rolling Stone Magazine:
The Mystery of Larry Wachowski
Could the co-creator of The Matrix real life truly be stranger than fiction?

One night in January 2001, Larry Wachowski, co-director of the blockbuster Matrix movies, walked into a dark club in West Hollywood, where the rules of identity easily blurred, just like in his films. The Dungeon served the devoted BDSM -- bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism -- community in Los Angeles. It was a place where power dynamics between two different types of people were regularly played out: eager submissives, or slaves, and the dominatrixes who, for an hour or for a night, took complete charge of their minds and bodies, using ropes, whips, chains, knives and needles. Wachowski fell into the former category. And, friends say, he liked engaging in his pastime while dressed like a woman.

One of the people Wachowski met that night was among L.A.'s highest-profile dominatrixes, a tall, imposing blonde with a traffic-stopping figure who used the nom de kink Ilsa Strix. Inflicting extreme pain seemed to be Strix's specialty: "My greatest accomplishment in some ways," she once said, "[was] putting 333 needles into a single penis." Strix cracked a bullwhip on her slaves like no other. She ran the Dungeon with her handsome and strapping partner Buck Angel, a partial female-to-male transsexual known today in the porn world as "The Dude With a Pussy."
It gets stranger and stranger to the point where Larry's wife of nine years filed for divorce. Buck Angel, the spouse of Ilsa also filed for divorce. A strange strange tale... The Wachowski brothers have a new film coming out: V for Vendetta Larry is the one on the left:
Here is a photo of Ms. Strix modeling two forged blades from Little John's Forge:
Despite the tripod.com website, Little John's is one of the more 'interesting' and qualified blacksmiths for historical and fantasy Knives and Swords.

Fantastic electronics resource

Check out DigChip Great resource for getting info and data sheets on older and obsolete parts. Registration is required to be able to download the data sheets but this is free and a simple procedure. They also have new chip info and a circuit and App. Note library. Don't know if they sell the email addresses but I used a proxy name on my domain so I'll know soon enough...

calling the 48-hour rule but...

| No Comments
From Charles at LGF comes this link to news that will be wonderful if true:
Pakistani Military Sources Say Zawahiri May Be Dead
Forensic Tests to Reveal Fate of al Qaeda Number Two

Today, according to Pakistani military sources, U.S. aircraft attacked a compound known to be frequented by high-level al Qaeda operatives. Pakistani officials tell ABC News that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, may have been among them.

U.S. intelligence for the last few days indicated that Zawahiri might have been in the location or about to arrive, although there is still no confirmation from U.S. officials that he was among the victims.

The attack took place early this morning Pakistan time in a small village a few miles from the border with Afghanistan.

Villagers described seeing an unmanned plane circling the area for the last few days and then bombs falling in the early morning darkness.

Eighteen people were killed, according to the villagers who said women and children were among the fatalities.

But Pakistani officials tell ABC News that five of those killed were high-level al Qaeda figures, and their bodies are now undergoing forensic tests for positive identification.

Officials say Zawahiri was known to have used safe houses in this area last winter and was believed to be in the area again this winter.

Zawahiri, who appeared just last week in a new videotaped message, had increasingly been taking the operational reins of al Qaeda, and is thought by U.S. officials to be the current true mastermind of the terrorist group.

Pakistani officials tell ABC News that the bodies of the five suspected al Qaeda figures will be recovered at first light in Pakistan, but it will still take a day or two for any kind of positive identification. U.S. officials in Washington did not comment.
Again, we need to wait 48 hours before breaking out the Champagne and doing the happy dance but this has a ring to it that is bringing me a nice warm glow. He got stupid and reused a safe house. Either that or the people of Pakistan got fed up with the al Qaeda pig-shits and that was his only option. Damn shame about the children casualties but the al Qaeda and other terrorists have a long history of not following the Geneva Conventions and wearing civilian clothing into combat scenarios and using children and civilians for shields and the local schools, hospitals and churches for offensive positions. The left has a long history of crying foul on the US and the Geneva Conventions, let them look with an open eye to the enemy's transgressions...

A Happy and Sad event

| No Comments
I am into electronic music and one of the people behind the recent revival of Analog Synthesizers is Paul Schreiber at Synthesis Technology. Paul has been building various modules following a hard-line no compromises approach to hardware and audio quality. One of Paul's guiding lights was the guy who started it all, Robert Moog. In his lifetime, Bob shipped a grand total of 6683 separate synthesizer modules, either singly or assembled into packaged systems. Today, Paul shipped module number 6684. Paul's reaction:
Click for full-size Image
(That's Bob standing by one of Paul's systems.) The annual National Association of Music Merchants conference (NAMM) will be held next week. Unfortunately, Bob Moog died a few months ago from a brain tumor. Paul was looking forward to a little bit of good natured neener-neenering with Bob...

Impeach the bastard!

| 1 Comment
There is a growing move for Impeachment in the USA but not for whom you would suspect. (Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers notwithstanding) From Mostly Cajun:
Impeachment Effort Under Way
In that period of time between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I noted in this article that there was an effort beginning with the intent to impeach our own Governess Blanco.

That effort, at first tentative, has now picked up steam. All the major media outlets in Louisiana are reporting it, and non-scientific polling by TV stations has run heavily in favor of impeachment. This article says that the Louisiana GOP may even get involved.

Here�s the website link. As I said in my original article, the impeachment process in Louisiana is an uphill fight. There�s never been a successful one here at state level. But I�d sure like to see this one happen in view of the message it would send to the croneyistic, politics-as-usual crowd.

Of course, there is a down side to a successful effort, and in our case, that is our Lieutenant Governor, who would, by default, assume the governorship. That is Mitch Landrieu. Why a down side? Our dummocratic senator is Mary LANDRIEU. Both are children of Moon Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans, and NOT a particularly good one, unless you were one of his buddies whose pockets were being lined with tax dollars. New Orleans became the cesspool it was, pre-Katrina, under the loving attention of politicians like the Landrieu family.

But just maybe a recall might throw a scare into ol� Mitch and subsequent politicians in Louisiana that we WANT good government for a change�
Heh... Now that would send a message to the Democrats.


From Eureka Alert comes this story of a bacterium with multiple antibiotic resistance.

Supersized 'island' of resistance genes discovered in an infectious bacterium
Insight may help in fight against hospital infections

Researchers have discovered a cluster of 45 genes coding for antibacterial drug resistance in the bacterium, Acinetobacter baumannii, a major cause of hospital-acquired infections worldwide. The study was reported in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

"We expected to find resistance genes," said lead author, Pierre-Edouard Fournier, researcher at the Structural and Genomic Information Laboratory at France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). "But the grouping of most of these genes within a single genomic island was totally unexpected." The resistance island--a group of resistance genes clustered close together on a chromosome--is the largest discovered to date.

The research team also discovered new resistance genes. "We were surprised to discover 19 new resistance genes that escaped the scrutiny of the large number of laboratories already working on multi-drug resistant A. baumannii throughout the world. This is a demonstration of the efficiency of the whole genome approach in characterizing new pathogens," said Jean-Michel Claverie, senior author of the report and Director of the Structural and Genomic Information Laboratory at CNRS.

This bacterium acquires resistance genes quickly--just thirty years ago it was completely susceptible to antibiotics and now it is resistant to a wide-range of antibiotics.

"A. baumannii is exceptionally prone to pick up foreign DNA from other bacteria," Claverie said. The study traced the origin of many resistance genes to other bacteria, including Salmonella, indicating frequent genetic swapping between bacteria.

Resistance genes are usually located on small auxiliary circles of DNA called plasmids that can be exchanged with other individuals. But in A. baumannii, resistance genes were incorporated into the main chromosome, not the plasmids, according to the study.

"It is like the A. baumannii genome is 'anticipating' any antibacterial challenge by setting up some kind of easily accessible 'shelves' to store the antibacterial resistances genes as they become needed and are available in the environment," Claverie said.

Yikes! How widespread is A. baumannii?

Resistant A. baumannii has become a major public health concern worldwide. Recently, a high incidence of resistant A. baumannii was reported in US Army service members injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. In France, the resistant strain is widespread in 54 healthcare facilities, where 26% of infected patients die.

The mechanism for immunity is not a good one from our standpoint but we do have the long-term advantage in that A. baumannii is essentially putting all its eggs into one basket and if we can find a way to disrupt that, we will be able to knock it out.

Global warming a good thing?

| No Comments
Patrick Moore co-founded Greenpeace and dropped out because he disliked "environmental extremism" that was not supported by Science or Logic. I had written about him before here and here He gave a talk yesterday in Hawai'i -- the Honolulu Advertiser has the story:
Greenpeace co-founder praises global warming
Global warming and nuclear energy are good and the way to save forests is to use more wood.

That was the message delivered to a biotechnology industry gathering yesterday in Waikiki. However, it wasn't the message that was unconventional, but the messenger � Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore. Moore said he broke with Greenpeace in the 1980s over the rise of what he called "environmental extremism," or stands by environmental groups against issues such as genetic crop research, genetically modified foods and nuclear energy that aren't supported by science or logic.

Hawai'i, which is one of the top locations nationwide for genetically modified crop research, has become a focal point in the debate about the risks and value of such work. Friction between environmentalists and other concerned groups and the biotech industry surfaced most recently in relation to the use of local crops to grow industrial and pharmaceutical compounds. Last year that opposition halted a Big Island project planning to use algae for trial production of pharmaceutical drugs.
A bit more:
In direct opposition to common environmentalist positions, Moore contended that global warming and the melting of glaciers is positive because it creates more arable land and the use of forest products drives up demand for wood and spurs the planting of more trees. He added that any realistic plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the emission of so-called greenhouse gases should include increased use of nuclear energy.
He is preaching to the choir as far as I am concerned. Nuclear is the most environmentally friendly and cost effective solution for electrical power that I can think of. As for logging -- we live bordered on two sides by state forest lands and although there are clearcuts, these will be back to mature forests in 30-50 years. Trees are a sustainable crop.


Great photograph. Got it from an email list so I don't know which ship this is or the conditions of the photograph but I thought I'd share it.

Click for full-size Image

Battleship firing two of its guns. The effect on the water is the shockwave flattening the waves.

In favor of Wiretaps - circa 2000

| No Comments
A bit of history from the Clinton administration. The Chairman at Maggie's Farm points us to this article at The American Thinker:
Under Clinton, NY Times called surveillance "a necessity"
The controversy following revelations that U.S. intelligence agencies have monitored suspected terrorist related communications since 9/11 reflects a severe case of selective amnesia by the New York Times and other media opponents of President Bush. They certainly didn�t show the same outrage when a much more invasive and indiscriminate domestic surveillance program came to light during the Clinton administration in the 1990�s. At that time, the Times called the surveillance �a necessity.�
�If you made a phone call today or sent an e-mail to a friend, there�s a good chance what you said or wrote was captured and screened by the country�s largest intelligence agency.� (Steve Kroft, CBS� 60 Minutes)
Those words were aired on February 27, 2000 to describe the National Security Agency and an electronic surveillance program called Echelon whose mission, according to Kroft,
�is to eavesdrop on enemies of the state: foreign countries, terrorist groups and drug cartels. But in the process, Echelon�s computers capture virtually every electronic conversation around the world.�
Echelon was, or is (its existence has been under-reported in the American media), an electronic eavesdropping program conducted by the United States and a few select allies such as the United Kingdom.

Tellingly, the existence of the program was confirmed not by the New York Times or the Washington Post or by any other American media outlet � these were the Clinton years, after all, and the American media generally treats Democrat administrations far more gently than Republican administrations � but by an Australian government official in a statement made to an Australian television news show.
Lots more to read at The American Thinker. Curious how something could be so bad for one administration but so good for another...

Disposable Cell Phones

ABC News writes about Disposable Cell Phones and who might be buying them. In large quantity...

Surge in Sale of Disposable Cell Phones May Have Terror Link
Phones Can Be Difficult or Impossible to Track; Large Quantities Purchased in California, Texas

Federal agents have launched an investigation into a surge in the purchase of large quantities of disposable cell phones by individuals from the Middle East and Pakistan, ABC News has learned.

The phones - which do not require purchasers to sign a contract or have a credit card - have many legitimate uses, and are popular with people who have bad credit or for use as emergency phones tucked away in glove compartments or tackle boxes. But since they can be difficult or impossible to track, law enforcement officials say the phones are widely used by criminal gangs and terrorists.

"There's very little audit trail assigned to this phone. One can walk in, purchase it in cash, you don't have to put down a credit card, buy any amount of minutes to it, and you don't, frankly, know who bought this," said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI official who is now an ABC News consultant.

Law enforcement officials say the phones were used to detonate the bombs terrorists used in the Madrid train attacks in March 2004.

"The application of prepaid phones for nefarious reasons, is really widespread. For example, the terrorists in Madrid used prepaid phones to detonate the bombs in the subway trains that killed more than 200 people," said Roger Entner, a communications consultant.

150 Phones in One Sale, 60 Phones in Another
The FBI is closely monitoring the potentially dangerous development, which came to light following recent large-quantity purchases in California and Texas, officials confirmed.

In one New Year's Eve transaction at a Target store in Hemet, Calif., 150 disposable tracfones were purchased. Suspicious store employees notified police, who called in the FBI, law enforcement sources said.

In an earlier incident, at a Wal-mart store in Midland, Texas, on December 18, six individuals attempted to buy about 60 of the phones until store clerks became suspicious and notified the police. A Wal-mart spokesperson confirmed the incident.

The article goes into more detail -- other purchases and the phone's uses for terrorism in the past. I can see buying ten or twenty of them if you have a large family and there is some special event or get-together but 60 or 150? Also, what about the smaller terrorist cells that do only need ten or twenty phones, these purchases are flying below the radar at this time. Hat tip to Charles at LGF for the link.

A school shooting

| No Comments
James Ozark at A Western Heart takes a closer look at a 1989 School Shooting:
More Wonders of Multiculturalism. . .
And the media, those intransigent guardians of all we should think and say, wonder why we�re not listening anymore. . .
Misogyny Day
I recall with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach the horrific murder in 1989 of 14 female students in a classroom on the campus of the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, an engineering school of the Universite de Montreal. A deranged young man named Marc Lepine stormed the classroom with a hunting rifle, ordered the men out and then systematically began killing the remaining female students while loudly proclaiming his hatred for women, especially Quebecoise women.

. . .each anniversary of the massacre is marked in Canada with commemorations by womens' groups and the CBC about the tragedy of male violence against women and how modern man comes with a little part of Marc Lepine in every version.
And the money quote:
. . .it appears that a very important fact about Marc Lepine was left out of the reports.

Like, for example, his name wasn't "Marc Lepine" at all.

His name, as the Great Mark Steyn points out today in a column in MacLean's, was in fact "Gamil Gharbi." It turns out that "Marc" adopted the name in an attempt to distance himself from his Algerian immigrant Muslim father, though "Marc" never bothered to have it legally changed.

By identifying "Marc" with a common Quebecois name the ideologues were able to turn "Lepine's" killing into a parable about Western man's horrific violence against women.

By identifying Gamil Gharbi as the killer, all you have is yet another sad example of Islam's disfunctional and completely over-the-top misogyny.

But that isn't much of a story, now is it?
James provides the link to source material.

Home Automation

| No Comments
A canonical list of Home Automation resources. Links to personal HA websites, manufacturers, general electronics information, software. Good place to start if you are interested in Home Automation at any level...

The Windows MetaFile bug?

| No Comments
Steve Gibson has been poking around Windows for a long long time. He is the author of the excellent disk drive tool SpinRite as well as his security program ShieldsUp. On his website is this transcription of a show he did with Leo Laporte:
The Windows MetaFile Backdoor?
Description: Leo and I carefully examine the operation of the recently patched Windows MetaFile vulnerability. I describe exactly how it works in an effort to explain why it doesn't have the feeling of another Microsoft "coding error." It has the feeling of something that Microsoft deliberately designed into Windows. Given the nature of what it is, this would make it a remote code execution "backdoor." We will likely never know if this was the case, but the forensic evidence appears to be quite compelling.
And the money quote:
Steve: And so, you know, because I'm a developer when I'm not being a hacker, I wanted to understand - oh, and the other thing is, I want to write a robust testing application, you know, that always works all the time. So I wanted to know, like, okay, what bytes have to be set which way, what matters, what doesn't. Because, you know, that's the way you get something that is as solid as, you know, the code that I put out from GRC. So what I found was that, when I deliberately lied about the size of this record and set the size to one and no other value, and I gave this particular byte sequence that makes no sense for a metafile, then Windows created a thread and jumped into my code, began executing my code. Okay, Leo? This was not a mistake. This is not buggy code. This was put into Windows by someone. We are never going to know who. We're never going to know - well, actually I'm going to find out when because we're going to know when this appeared because this appeared - I'm guessing this is not in older versions of Windows, which is why this function - or if it is in older versions of Windows, it's done slightly differently. I'm still on the hunt.

So this is not my last report on this. I expect to have a much better sense for this a week from now. But the only conclusion I can draw is that there has been code from at least Windows 2000 on, and in all current versions, and even, you know, future versions, until it was discovered, which was deliberately put in there by some group, we don't know at what level or how large in Microsoft, that gave them the ability that they who knew how to get their Windows systems to silently and secretly run code contained in an image, those people would be able to do that on remotely located Windows machines...

Leo: So you're saying intentionally or - Microsoft intentionally put a backdoor in Windows? Is that what you're saying?

Steve: Yes.
Curious... The rest of the transcript goes into quite a bit of detail on how Steve arrived at this conclusion. He also mentions that he is working on a tool to check this theory out as well as to look for other backdoors.

Buh-Bye Jihadi's

| No Comments
It could not happen to a nicer (and I mean that sincerely) group of people. Meet your new bestest friends -- SignOn San Diego has the story:
Marines are signing up for another special role
Corps becomes part of militarywide team

A Camp Pendleton veteran is ready to lead the Marine Corps' inaugural band of "snake eaters."

Fresh from a tour there as deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik is forming the Marine Corps' first-ever special forces command.

Hejlik was at the San Diego Convention Center yesterday to speak at the Naval Institute's West 2006 conference, which was expected to draw at least 10,000 visitors.

The Marines, who consider all in the Corps to be elite, long have resisted joining forces with commando teams such as the Navy SEALs and the Army's Green Berets.

But today, special forces get the first call in the fight against terrorists. They toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan and struck the first blows against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
A little bit more:
"We are a very conservative organization," said retired Gen. Joe Hoar of Del Mar, who served in the Marines from 1957 to 1994. "We're not prepared to make changes just because it's fashionable. But I think the time has come."

When the Marine Corps Special Operations Command unfurls its flag next month at Camp Lejeune, N.C., only Hejlik and a few staff members will wear the unit's patch. Hejlik expects to have two companies ready for combat by year's end.
One last little bit:
Unlike traditional units, which deploy en masse and rely on brute strength, special forces are small and stealthy. They typically work in teams of about 12, often behind enemy lines. They typically speak the local language.
I am almost starting to feel sorry for those poor sons of pigs and monkeys. Get ready to greet your 72 white raisins. Heh... Here is the photo of Brig. Gen. Hejlik that accompanied the news article. Somehow, I don't picture him as being very much into appeasement and multi-culturalism:

It's a Gas - Methane sources

It seems that one of the primary sources of Methane might be from an unexpected source.

 The National Geographic has the story:

Plants Exhale Methane, Contribute to Warming, Study Says
Grasses and other green growth may produce 10 to 30 percent of Earth's annual methane output, a new study reports, making plants a surprising�and potentially significant�contributor to global warming.

Until the data were unveiled in this week's Nature, scientists had believed that plant-related methane formed only in oxygen-free environments, such as bogs.

But a team of European researchers identified a large range of plants that release methane under normal growing conditions. The gas also seeps from dead plant material.

David Lowe is a study co-author and an atmospheric chemist with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand.

According to Lowe, "We now have the specter that new forests might increase greenhouse warming through methane emissions rather than decrease it by being sinks for carbon dioxide."

Kind of reinforces the thought that any attempt to model the climate will be wrong. Climatology is still a very very young science and we are just starting to scratch the surface.

There is also a marked tendency in the press to ignore historical data such as the 400 year periodic cycle of warming and cooling and the 40-80 year cycle of Arctic Ice advancing and receding.

Sure, the climate is changing -- it always does. To assign the concept that humans are the cause is hubris at a very large scale.

An Interrupted Journey

| No Comments
A ship heading for Gaza was stopped by the Lebanese. The Jerusalem Post has the story:
Lebanese nab terrorists headed for Gaza
The Lebanese army caught a boat on its way to Israel last week that was loaded with weapons, including long-range missiles, Channel 1 revealed Thursday night.

According to military sources who confirmed the report, the boat was on its way to Gaza from Lebanon and planned to drop off canisters filled with weapons, explosives and rockets off the coast where they were to be collected by Palestinian fishermen.

Government officials speculated that the boat was funded by Iran or Syria and that the weapons were meant to reach either the Hamas or the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

In 2002, the Karine A ship was captured in the Red Sea by special IDF forces. The boat's cargo, intended for the Palestinian Authority, included 50 tons of advanced weaponry including Katyusha rockets, rifles, mortar shells, mines and a variety of anti-tank missiles.

"There are attempts to smuggle weapons into Israel all the time," one official said. "They will do anything they can to get weapons here which they can use in attacks against Israel."

According to Lebanese media reports, the boat - together with four passengers - was caught off the southern port of Tripoli. The boat's point of origin was a dock at Naher Al Bard - a nearby Palestinian refugee camp.

Officials conjectured that the Palestinians onboard were members of the terrorist organization that fired Katyushas toward Kiryat Shmona last month.
Oh yeah --- these 'people' are ripe for a state of their own... Hat tip to Charles at LGF

Religious Fervor

Every year, a number of people are trampled to death while on Hajj to Mecca.

This year was a bit over the top with at least 345 people trampled to death. MyWay/APhas the story:

At Least 345 People Die in Hajj Stampede
Muslim pilgrims tripped over luggage while hurrying to ritually stone the devil Thursday, causing a crush that trampled at least 345 people to death in the latest stampede to mar Islam's annual hajj.

Saudi authorities have sought for years to ease the flow of increasingly mammoth crowds, but the tragedy underlined the difficulty in managing one of the biggest religious events in the world, which this time drew more than 2.5 million pilgrims.

The deaths on the final day of stoning came a week after another hajj disaster - the Jan. 5 collapse of a building being used as a pilgrims' hotel that killed 76 people in Mecca.

In the stoning ritual, all the pilgrims must pass a series of three "pillars" called al-Jamarat, which represent the devil and which the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin.

The site in the desert of Mina outside the holy city of Mecca is a notorious bottleneck in the weeklong pilgrimage and has seen deadly incidents in seven of the past 17 years, including a stampede in 1990 that killed 1,426 people and one in 2004 that killed 244.

"I heard screaming and ... saw people jumping over each other," said Suad Abu Hamada, an Egyptian pilgrim. "Police starting pulling out bodies. The bodies were piled up. I couldn't count them, they were too many."

Bodies covered in white sheets lined the pavement near the ramp where the stampede occurred, and emergency workers rushed the injured away on stretchers. Police cleared part of the site, but thousands of pilgrims continued the stoning ritual.

The Interior Ministry put the death toll at 345, and the Health Ministry said 289 people were injured. State-run Al-Ekhbariyah television said most of the victims were from South Asia.

After the 2004 stampede, Saudi officials widened ramps leading to a platform the width of an eight-lane highway where the three pillars are located and created more emergency exits to accommodate the crowds.

Each of the small, round pillars also were replaced with 85-foot-long walls to allow more people to stone them at once without jostling each other. The walls were extended through the bottom of the platform so more pilgrims can carry out the stoning from below.

Thursday's stampede occurred below the platform, near one of the four big ramps. In theory, the crowds are supposed to enter the platform using two of the ramps and exit down the other two, but pilgrims often ignore the rules.

Thousands of pilgrims were rushing to complete the last of the three days of the stoning ritual before sunset when some of them began to trip over dropped baggage, causing a large pileup, said Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Many pilgrims carry personal belongings - tents, clothes and bags of food - as they move between the various stages of the hajj.

"This was fate destined by God," al-Turki said. "Some of the pilgrims were undisciplined and hasty to finish the ritual as soon as possible."

The mindlessness is stunning... What a twisted and strange spiritual practice. They go through the proscribed actions without pausing to meditate on what the allegory is.

Blowing smoke

| No Comments
Neat development for reducing pollution from power plants -- algae... From the Christian Science Monitor comes this tale of a real rocket scientist and his idea:
Algae - like a breath mint for smokestacks
Isaac Berzin is a big fan of algae. The tiny, single-celled plant, he says, could transform the world's energy needs and cut global warming.

Overshadowed by a multibillion-dollar push into other "clean-coal" technologies, a handful of tiny companies are racing to create an even cleaner, greener process using the same slimy stuff that thrives in the world's oceans.

Enter Dr. Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. About three years ago, while working on an experiment for growing algae on the International Space Station, he came up with the idea for using it to clean up power-plant exhaust.

If he could find the right strain of algae, he figured he could turn the nation's greenhouse-gas-belching power plants into clean-green generators with an attached algae farm next door.

"This is a big idea," Berzin says, "a really powerful idea."

And one that's taken him to the top - a rooftop. Bolted onto the exhaust stacks of a brick-and-glass 20-megawatt power plant behind MIT's campus are rows of fat, clear tubes, each with green algae soup simmering inside.

Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40 percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another bonus: 86 percent less nitrous oxide.
And its not just that small power plant at MIT:
GreenFuel has already garnered $11 million in venture capital funding and is conducting a field trial at a 1,000 megawatt power plant owned by a major southwestern power company. Next year, GreenFuel expects two to seven more such demo projects scaling up to a full production system by 2009.
And the kicker is that the Algae produce an oil that can be turned into BioFuel. GreenFuel Technologies website is here They have competition: Greenshift


| No Comments
Stolen from Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple:
z sent me this. I need to start doing this.

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. (I blog, workout, ogle babes at the mall, and have fun with my trolls. - GOC)

I went to the store the other day. I was only in there for about 5 minutes. When I came out there was a city cop writing out a parking ticket.

I went up to him and said, "Come on buddy, how about giving a senior citizen a break?"

He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. I called him a name. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for worn tires.

So I called him a worse name. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first one. Then he started writing a third ticket.

This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

I didn't care. My car was parked around the corner but this one had an "Elect John Kerry" bumper sticker on it.

I try to have a little fun each day now that I'm retired.

It's important at my age.
And there are still people out there with Kerry stickers on their cars...

A detour to a neighboring country

This article at National Review Online caught my eye. It is by Claudia Rosett who has been doing wonderful work poking a sharp stick into United Nation's Oil for Food scandal:
Strong Implications
What the Park arrest portends.

In the ever-more-amazing United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal, the arrest in Houston last Friday of South Korean businessman Tongsun Park brings us a step closer to understanding the origins of the largest humanitarian fraud in U.N. history. Not least, Park may be able to provide some answers to questions surrounding one of the top former U.N. officials with whom Park had dealings � the godfather of the Kyoto treaty, former potentate of the Canadian-power industry, and longtime eminence of U.N. policy, 76-year-old Canadian Maurice Strong.
And a bit more:
But one of the most intriguing episodes in Park's alleged Iraq-related ventures, as recounted in a Sept. 7, 2005 report from the Volcker committee, involves a Jordanian bank check for $988,885, allegedly bankrolled by Saddam's regime, made out to "Mr. M. Strong," and delivered in August of 1997 by Park to Maurice Strong. . (To see a copy of the check, as reproduced in the Volcker report, click here).
Since we live about four miles from the Canadian border (as the crow flies), I decided to poke around some Canadian blogs a bit. Turns out that Mr. Strong is quite the piece of work... This website is a group aggregator of conservative websites: The Blogging Tories One blog: Strong World had a mention of Rosett's article and called in some other references:
(Maurice) Strong Implications
Here's an enlightening article on how:
  • Maurice (Chairman Mo) Strong helped Kofi Annan reform the United Nations in 1997,

  • those reforms changed control of the Oil-for-Food program from the Security Council to the Secretary-General, and

  • just days after this was announced, Maurice Strong accepted $1 million of Saddam Hussein's money from Korean businessman Tongsun Park.
Bill also points to this Globe and Mail article:
Lobbyist's ties to Strong under scrutiny
Man arrested in UN oil-for-food scandal had dealings with prominent Canadian

The recent arrest of a lobbyist on charges of conspiring with Iraq to bribe UN officials in connection with the oil-for-food program puts his dealings with prominent Canadian Maurice Strong under closer scrutiny.

Tongsun Park, who was in jail yesterday and scheduled for a bail hearing in a Houston court today, is charged with acting as an illegal agent for a foreign government by allegedly accepting millions of dollars from Saddam Hussein's regime as part of an effort to influence high-ranking UN officials.

Though he is not named in the criminal complaint, then-secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali is identified as the target of the bribery attempt by the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program, which covered the same allegations in its report in September.

U.S. federal prosecutors also noted that Mr. Park introduced Iraqi officials to a second senior UN official who was identified by the separate committee report as Mr. Strong. And they allege that Mr. Park invested $1-million (U.S.) that he received from Iraqi officials into a failing oil company controlled by the Canadian diplomat's family.

Until last week, Mr. Park had been outside the United States and out of the reach of U.S. prosecutors. As a result of his arrest Friday, he will have to explain either to U.S. Attorneys or a jury his relationship with Mr. Strong.
Bill also has this post: Time to examine Maurice Strong written last April that starts asking questions and directing readers to this article by Judi McLeod writing at the Canada Free Press: (Saturday, April 23, 2005)
Microscoping Maurice Strong
Canadian businessman and UN envoy Maurice Strong is one weird dude.

Weird in his sidekicks. Mikhail Gorbachev, for one. The former Soviet leader and the Canuck really believe they can replace the Ten Commandments with their overstated Earth Charter,

Weird in his handpicked prot�g�s. Try Canada�s Prime Minister Paul Martin, the career politician whose one and only trip to the election polls as Canadian PM reduced the powerful Liberal Party to minority status. This, after assuming the mantle left by the departure of Jean Chr�tien in pomp and splendour Indian smudging ceremonies, addressed by Irish rock star, Bono. Martin�s surrealistic ascension to the Prime Minister�s Office (PMO) had such an emotional impact on Strong that he wept.

Strong actually teared up at the mention of Martin in the PMO on Canada�s state-controlled television network, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which ran a special, called the Life and Times of Maurice Strong just three months after Martin�s December 12, 2003 swearing-in ceremony. In the special, CBC reporter Ann-Marie McDonald gushed about how Strong was a special guest in the still Gorbachev controlled Kremlin and how he came away with a saber-shaped bottle of brandy from Joseph Stalin�s special stock.

McDonald went on to describe Strong as "a cross between Rasputin and Machiavelli", "the Michelangelo of networking" and an "international traveling salesman with buts of paper in his pocket".
The next week or two will be interesting. There was a huge scandal regarding $100,000,000 Canadian that were given to some media companies by the government and no work was done for this. They are having an election on the 23rd of this month -- this will be interesting to follow...

Email Spam

| 1 Comment
Is anyone else noticing a big uptick in the amount of spam that you are receiving the last few days? Trapping the IP addresses and they seem to be coming from zombie systems -- no consistent source to them... yet... We hatsessss the spammerssssss

The switch

| 1 Comment

Apple finally switched to using Intel chips.

This years MACWorld announced the MacBookPro

Apple was using PowerPC chips that were originally developed by Motorola. Motorola dropped out of the market and sold that line to IBM. Apple comprised about 70% of IBM's customer base for these chips and this was not enough of a market for IBM to develop faster units so Apple had to resort to other tricks to boost performance.

The PowerPC is based on RISC technology -- an academic thought-experiment that gained way to much traction in the real world. The idea was that a Computer that had a simplified or 'reduced" instruction set (R.I.S.-Computer or RISC) would be faster than a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) Each instruction, being simpler, would execute a lot faster and although you would need to execute more of them (they were less powerful), you would see a speed improvement. Needless to say, this didn't work and RISC remained a backwater.

Apple announced that it would be using Intel chips last year and their first products are soon to be in stores. The part of the advertising copy that I like:

You've dreamed about it long enough. Now it has a name: MacBook Pro. Powered by a dual-core Intel engine. Up to four times the speed of the PowerBook G4. Eight times the graphics bandwidth.

Considering that the G4 was their flagship, this really shows the difference between CISC and RISC... $1,999 is not a bad price for what they are offering. No mention of battery life though.

Welcome aboard! (tee hee...)

Two comments

I received two comments on this blog today that deserve a wider audience. First from B�r� Zolt�n comes this comment to my post on Russia's offer to Iran:
Dear Readers,
Do you want that Palestine will be free?
If your answer is yes, I recommend you the following home page: http://www.alah.hu
"This image shows the future. A minaret-form skyscraper rises from the mass of the buildings in New York, the most densely populated city of the United States. The building is the �Tower of American-Islamic Friendship�.
It symbolizes two things: on one hand there are a growing number of Moslem people in the U.S.; and on the other hand it shows that the U.S. is in alliance with the Islamic countries.
Due to the new friendship America does not provide any more financial or military aid to Israel, which leads to the weakening of Israel and consequently, the freedom of Palestine."
Starts off nice enough although the question of who is going to fund the giant minaret and where in NYC it will be built is not answered. Given the current self-inflicted state of affairs in so-called 'Palestine', they don't have enough money to educate their children and get them reading let alone proper health care. Then the comment veers off into it's actual agenda - Israel bashing. I went to the website and it is tinfoil hat land. Palestine is not a nation, it is an area. The people who are claiming Palestinian heritage are Egyptian (as was Arafat) or Jordanian. During the early 1950's Arafat spent several years in Moscow and got the support of the KGB who wanted to destabilize the new nation of Israel as the thought of a strong Democracy so close to home worried the Communists. Now that Communism is essentially dead (Thank God -- what was it -- over 100 Million people murdered?), the left-over Palestinian peoples are acting out the playbook without realizing that the game is over and done with. They could have had their land years ago if they did not use terror and instead worked with the Egyptians, Arabs and Israelis. The second comment was from a Mr. JowieNeckBone for my post Happy Birthday to you!: Mr. JowieNeckBone:
Jeremy Reimer doesn't even have a degree related to this field, or even a certification, much less hands on experience in it (years of it professionally) and you're going to cite him as some kind of expert? Oh, please. The idiot Reimer is just another wannabe with no skills period who scours wikipedia and other sources and spits back already known information.
Wow! Talk about flying spittle... Jeremy Reimer has a degree in Physics from University of British Columbia. Considering that Tim worked at CERN and it was through Physics Departments around the world that the WWW first gained traction (the guy who turned me on worked at the UW Physics Department). Mr. NeckBone is all hat and no cattle. Consider:
Jeremy Reimer doesn't even have a degree related to this field, or even a certification, much less hands on experience in it (years of it professionally)
You do not need a degree to write an article about an historical event in a popular and well-respected geek news website.
The idiot Reimer is just another wannabe with no skills period who scours wikipedia and other sources and spits back already known information.
Jealous??? Spitting back already known information pretty much covers writing an article on the 15th anniversary of an event. As for web presence, a Google search for the two characters turns up five hits for Mr. Neckbone and 27,800 for Jeremy Reimer. Because of the chance of other J. Reimers, I also searched for him plus the website he writes for -- arstechnica and got 18,800 hits. Not too shabby...

Migraine cure?

| No Comments
Interesting news for Migraine Sufferers from North Carolina's News14:
Migraine Zapper
Migraine headaches are a pain for about 28 million Americans. While there are a number of drugs on the market, they only work for about half of patients. Now, researchers are testing a new device that zaps those headaches away.

Imagine being able to get rid of a migraine with just the pull of a trigger.

"The first time I did it, I was really scared to push that button the first time. After that, it was fine," says Sheralee Nester.

This transcranial magnetic stimulator, or TMS for short, is the latest weapon being studied to alleviate migraine headaches.

"By creating a magnetic field with this device, we're hoping that this will interrupt this electrical stimulation before it leads to the throbbing migraine headache," Yousef Mohammad, M.D., a neurologist at OSU Medical Center in Columbus, tells Ivanhoe.
Fascinating -- a migraine is essentially a disruption in the electrical fields of the brain (cause unknown at this time). By using a magnetic pulse, they are able to nip the attack in the bud. A preliminary trial is showing a 75% cure rate.

Furthur coming back

| No Comments
From the Seattle Times:
Kesey's bus on magic road to resurrection
Zane Kesey picked at moss competing with swirls of brightly colored paint and patches of rust to cover the 1939 International school bus that his father, the late author Ken Kesey, rode cross-country with a refrigerator stocked with LSD-laced drinks in pursuit of a new art form.

"This comes off pretty easy," he said, a fond smile playing over his face. "It's amazing, some of the things that are coming out � things I remember."

For some 15 years, the bus dubbed "Furthur" has rusted away in a swamp on the Kesey family's Willamette Valley farm, out of sight if not out of mind, more memory than monument.

That is where Ken Kesey � author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and hero of a generation that vowed to drop out and tune in with the help of LSD � intended it to stay after firing up a new version.

But four years after his death, a Hollywood restaurateur has persuaded the family to resurrect the old bus so it can help tell the story of Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the psychedelic 1960s.

David Houston, owner of the roadhouse Barney's Beanery in Hollywood, Calif., said he read Kesey's books while in high school and college.

"The story of the bus was always very compelling. To find out it had been just left to go � I really wanted to restore the bus and tell its story to the world."

Houston hopes to raise some $100,000 to get the bus running and looking good. The Kesey family will maintain control of the bus, taking it to special events.

"People think of a bus as transportation," said Zane Kesey. "No. It's a platform, a way to get your messages across."

Last fall, a group of old Pranksters hauled the bus out of the swamp and parked it next to a barn to await restoration.
Very cool -- a fascinating artifact of that generation. I had known that it was rotting away in Oregon -- a year ago, part of its sound system was auctioned off (went for several thousand). Nice to see that it will be preserved for history.

The Coelacanth and Civilization

| No Comments
A bit of sad news in the Guardian:
Dinosaur fish pushed to the brink by deep-sea trawlers
After surviving for millions of years, the coelacanth is threatened by commercial fishing fleets

It is not every day that you come face to face with a dinosaur dating back 400 million years, but for the fishermen in Kigombe on Tanzania's northern coast it has become almost routine.

In the middle of Kigombe, a village of simple huts on this breathtaking edge of the Indian Ocean, a young fisherman stood proudly before a large green plastic container. Ceremoniously he reached inside and hauled out a monster of a fish, slapping its 60kg (132lb) of flesh on a table, where three children gawped at its almost human-like 'feet'. This is a living fossil, a fish with limbs, a creature once believed extinct: a coelacanth.

Now it seems that man may have discovered the fish just to eradicate it, as ever deeper trawling throws up serious fears for the already dwindling populations of the fish, which lives at depths of between 100 and 300 metres (328ft to 984ft).

The appearance of these creatures off the Tanzanian coast is a dramatic and as yet unfinished chapter in the extraordinary story of the coelacanth, an ancient fish that was 'rediscovered'. The coelacanth evolved 400 million years ago - by contrast Homo sapiens has been around for less than 200,000 years - and was believed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs until one was caught off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

The fish has a remarkable physiology - it has no backbone, but an oil-filled 'notochord' and four limb-like appendages, with stubby fins. It has a double tail and gives birth to as many as 26 young at one time. It is believed to gestate for 14 months and may live for more than 80 years. The young develop inside the mother, attached to the outside of a huge yolk-filled egg of about 100mm (3.9in) in diameter.
I know people have to eat but it would be a real shame if these wonderful creatures were fished to extinction.

A Girl's Best Friend

Ten reasons why you should never accept a diamond ring:

Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone, Under Any Circumstances, Even If They Really Want to Give You One

1. You've Been Psychologically Conditioned To Want a Diamond
The diamond engagement ring is a 63-year-old invention of N.W.Ayer advertising agency. The De Beers diamond cartel contracted N.W.Ayer to create a demand for what are, essentially, useless hunks of rock.

2. Diamonds are Priced Well Above Their Value
The De Beers cartel has systematically held diamond prices at levels far greater than their abundance would generate under anything even remotely resembling perfect competition. All diamonds not already under its control are bought by the cartel, and then the De Beers cartel carefully managed world diamond supply in order to keep prices steadily high.

3. Diamonds Have No Resale or Investment Value
Any diamond that you buy or receive will indeed be yours forever: De Beers' advertising deliberately brain-washed women not to sell; the steady price is a tool to prevent speculation in diamonds; and no dealer will buy a diamond from you. You can only sell it at a diamond purchasing center or a pawn shop where you will receive a tiny fraction of its original "value."

A number of human rights and environmental issues as well... The parent site is worth some time -- lots of other good stuff there.


A massively deformed little kitten that didn't live past its first day. An odd little bug:


From Yahoo/AP:

Cy, short for Cyclopes, a kitten born with only one eye and no nose, is shown in this photo provided by its owner in Redmond, Oregon, on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2005. The kitten, a ragdoll breed, which died after living for one day, was one of two in the litter. Its sibling was born normal and healthy.

Unusually small litter too...

A little problem.

| No Comments
It seems that Sprint Nextel had a little outage today. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Fiber-optics cut affects Sprint service
Sprint Nextel Corp.'s wireless, long-distance and Internet customers along the West Coast were without service for several hours Monday after a fiber-optic cable was cut west of Phoenix.

The problem was compounded by network repairs near Reno, Nev., that had forced the company to route calls from that region through the Phoenix lines, spokesman John Taylor said.
Dial-tones were restored by 7PM EST. Redundancy pathways are good but one must always look at how many failures the system can have and what your acceptable quality of service is. The internet was designed to route around failed nodes; the phone company could take lessons (and not have such big frikking nodes!).


| No Comments
Jen and I saw Munich today and it left us both stunned. Spielberg can tell a good story when he wants to... Spielberg takes care to show both sides of the terrorist/Israel Nation issue but does not flinch from showing the terrorists as they are. Still, it is a terrible realization on Avner's part (he is the primary character) when he sees that the people he kills are just replaced and often by someone more sociopathic. I was in high-school when Munich happened and the memory is still fresh. Yeah, the terrorists got recognition, hell, Exxon Mobil got recognition when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound. It is one of the ironic twists of fate that had the Palestinians been civilized, they would have gotten their own state by now. Their constant use of terror has seriously hurt their case and all they are doing now is breeding more terrorists.

Light posting today

| No Comments
Ran into town for some supplies and to see a movie. Was welding yesterday and kept getting crappier and crappier welds. This is generally an indication of contamination but this was the same metal that was giving me gorgeous welds a few feet away. Out came the wire brush and flap sander, everything nice and shiny. Still crappy welds. Finally took a look at the Shield Gas tank and no gas! $40 worth of Argon/CO2 later and we are back in business...

Like Duuuhhhh...

From WebMD comes this startling discovery:

Canine Fix for Seniors' Loneliness
Lonely Nursing Home Residents Soothed More by Dogs Than People

For seniors in nursing homes, loneliness may fade faster after visits from a friend that can bark but not talk.

Lonely residents of three nursing homes in St. Louis were given "animal-assisted therapy" for their loneliness.

Their "therapist" was a specially trained dog.

Spending time with animals has been shown to be soothing. Studies have linked pet ownership to less stress and depression, better blood pressure, and more exercise.

In the nursing home study, seniors who spent time alone with a dog reported less loneliness than those visited by a dog while in a group with two or three other seniors.

The study is scheduled to appear in the March issue of Anthrozoos.

Send in the Dogs
"It was a strange finding," researcher William Banks, MD, says in a news release.

He and his colleagues expected that in small groups of seniors, sharing time together with a dog would spark conversations. That ought to ease loneliness more than meeting alone with a dog, the researchers reasoned.

Their prediction didn't pan out. The solo seniors showed more improvement in loneliness after spending time with a dog.

Everyone got the same amount of time with the dog -- 30 minutes per week for six weeks. Participants, most of whom were white women around 80 years old, also took before-and-after loneliness surveys.

"The residents found a little quiet time with the pooch is a lot nicer than spending time with a dog and other people," Banks says.

He and his colleagues offer a few reasons why loneliness didn't lighten as much as they predicted in the groups.

Some seniors had hearing problems, which could have hindered group conversations. Or maybe seniors in the groups already knew each other well and didn't care to chitchat, the researchers note.

I love Dr. Bank's quote: "It was a strange finding".

Obviously the good Dr. has not spent time around dogs. Nursing homes either for that matter. Jen's Grandmother had to have a hip replacement while we were down there for Thanksgiving and she was in a Nursing Home for a couple weeks until she learned how to get around again (the artificial hips have a limited range of available motion).

They didn't have dogs at that time but there was a memorial photograph of a wonderful looking one on the wall at the entry and the place had a couple cats roaming around (the cats probably poisoned the poor dog to get all the attention to themselves -- cats are like that...).

Happy Birthday Steven Hawking

| No Comments
Steven Hawking born this day in 1942. Wikipedia has a nice biography of him. One of the more brilliant minds. Also, one of the funniest. Two examples from the Wikipedia biography:
The Onion, a satirical newspaper, ran an article claiming that Hawking's head had been mounted on a super-robotic cyborg body, complete with laser-guided missiles and a jetpack. Hawking, with his typical good humour, sent them a letter cursing them for exposing his evil plans for world domination.

Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data is seen playing poker with holographic depictions of Stephen Hawking, Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein at the begining of the season six cliffhanger Descent. Hawking portrayed his own hologram for this episode. When taking a tour of the set, he paused at the Warp Core, smiled, and said "I'm working on that."
Heh... And let us not forget his ongoing second career as MC and Rapper: MC Hawking


| 1 Comment

Very cool website -- MedTees

From their website:

At MedTees.com, we pick up where diagnosis and treatment leave off. That is, what happens AFTER the dust settles and you go home and they CAN'T fix what's wrong or the fix is tough to live with.

Life happens. Illness happens. In fact, illness will eventually be inevitable for all of us. As the Baby Boom ages, we are becoming aware that living with illness is already a reality for more and more people. Yet illness in America is still "in the closet." How? Conventional wisdom says if illness has to happen at all, illness should be overcome, fixed, and left behind. We have few role models and few realistic stories about living with a less-than-perfect body, or less-than-perfect health. How we choose to deal with the cards that life gives us is what this site is all about. Whether it is through humor (sometimes the best medicine), support, or just increasing awareness of the diseases themselves, MedTees.com hopes to empower people to live their lives to the fullest. This is where humor, support, patient-to-patient interaction can make the difference. Hopefully we will educate and inform along the way, and importantly, contribute to programs who support the research and treatment of many chronic medical conditions.

Awesome -- here is their shirt for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:


It's run by a Cardiologist and Clinical Psychiatrist Husband and Wife team.

The Doc has a blog here: Dr. Wes

At one place I worked, I could have definitely used the OCD shirt for one of my bosses...

Bizarre Stuff

Very cool website -- Bizarre Stuff -- dedicated to reviving a lot of the home science experiments that were so common from the late 1800's through about 1970 or so. These days, you click together pre-assembled modules and call it 'building a radio'. It used to be that you had to wind your own coils.

Experiments cover Chemistry, Sound, Electricity, Weather, Physics, Biology and much much more. Check it out.

Strange lawsuits for 2005

| No Comments
A British Insurance Company compiled a list of the more egregious lawsuits it dealt with in 2005. From the BBC:
Dubious insurance claims 'rising'
A man who tried to sue a local authority after he soiled his trousers has made it on to a list of the most spurious compensation claims.

He blamed the accident on the closure of a bus station toilet and demanded the price of a new pair of trousers.

The case was among thousands of public liability claims - costing councils and insurance firms �250m a year - recorded by public insurer Zurich Municipal.

The firm said exaggerated and spurious claims were on the increase.
The article lists a couple other doozies too... Hat tip to Physics Geek for the link.

Some thoughts about Coal

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a thoughtful article on Coal in the light of the recent mine disaster:

Mine tragedy a reminder of coal's role
When Rick Honaker was growing up in coal country, his grandmother would dispatch him to the backyard, pail in hand, to scoop up the shiny, black rocks that fed her stove. It was the only fuel in a home that had long sent its men to the mines.

Now, a generation later, the only time Honaker's own children have ever seen a lump of coal is when he brings one home. Honaker, who teaches mining engineering at the University of Kentucky, figures his kids need to see where they came from - and where we all may be going.

Until this past week's mining tragedy in West Virginia, coal was very much out of sight, out of mind - and, for many people, just as well forgotten.

But even as the tragic death of 12 men beneath the ground reminds the nation of its grimy coal-mining past, the ebony jewel they sought remains very much part of our present. Even if we don't know it.

A bit more -- some history and the present uses:

Meanwhile, the coal miner's union is a shadow of what it once was, when its bulldog of a leader challenged President Franklin D. Roosevelt for political power. And in cities like Pittsburgh, where factories long ago filled the sky with soot and smoke, the coal fires have been relegated to memory.

But if we don't see or feel or smell the power of coal any more, that does not mean we have left it behind.

More than half this country's electricity is supplied by coal. About 130 new coal-fired power plants are on the drawing boards for the next few years, and that could be just the beginning.

With the price of power sharply higher, the U.S. - long known as the Saudi Arabia of coal - is likely to be relying on it for generations to come.

Coal, its image notwithstanding, is not old-fashioned. It's just that most Americans have the luxury of ignoring it.

"The problem is, it's not burned by us directly. It's burned in power plants. And because of that we can live with the illusion that coal is the fuel of the past," says Barbara Freese, author of "Coal: A Human History," a book documenting the rock's role in industrialization.

50% of our electrical power and 130 more coal burning plants planned. To broaden our focus, how many deaths will be caused by the air pollution, accidents at rail crossings, mining casualties. How much CO2 are these plants pumping into the atmosphere. Nuclear is a very good option -- we have lots of ore (so does Canada) and although the waste is radioactive for a long time, the volume is very small -- a few pounds per day of operation as compared with tens of tons of toxic ash for a coal plant.

A curious state of affairs

| No Comments
From Pakistan Link:
Jackson to Build Mosque in Bahrain
World�s top pop singer Michael Jackson, who recently settled down in Manama has donated a huge amount of money, the figure was not disclosed, for building a state-of-the-art mosque near his luxury palace in the Bahraini capital, according to his spokesman. The proposed mosque would be designated for learning the principles and teachings of Islam, as well as teaching of English language, for which high-standard teachers would be brought from United States under his personal supervision, the spokesman said.

Jackson did so as a token of appreciation to the Bahraini people, who welcomed him and treated him as if he was one of the citizens of their country. Michael Jackson has moved to reside in Manama after the long-judicial battle, which ended up with being acquitted of the charges of child molestation.

The court hearings were followed up by news agencies for many months, and the number of reporters who attended and covered them was estimated at more than 2000 from all countries in the world.

It is noteworthy that Germain Jackson, the brother of Michael, had embraced Islam at the beginning of 1990s. He was one of former Jackson Five band and the solo singer had felt his brother Michael has great interest in Islamic books. He was impressed by the tolerant spirit of Islam in his dealing with Arab and Muslim personalities for long years. The most prominent among those figures is Prince Al Waleed bin Talal and the Bahraini royal family.
Considering their 'prophet' "pleasured himself between the legs of his bride Aisha" when she was a mere six years old and that he finally popped her cherry at age nine, it seems that there is a lot in common...

At the movies

| No Comments
An interesting insider's look at the economics of running a movie theater. From Slate Magazine:
The Popcorn Palace Economy
The thirsty moviegoer fuels the business.

Once upon a time, movie studios and movie theaters were in the same business. The studios made films for theater chains that they either owned or controlled, and they harvested almost all their revenue from ticket sales. Then, in 1948, the government forced the studios to divest themselves of the theaters. Nowadays, the two are in very different businesses. Theater chains, in fact, are in three different businesses.

First, they are in the fast-food business, selling popcorn, soda, and other snacks. This is an extremely profitable operation in which the theaters do not split the proceeds with the studios (as they do with ticket sales). Popcorn, for example, because of the immense amount of popped bulk produced from a relatively small amount of kernels�the ratio is as high as 60:1�yields more than 90 cents of profit on every dollar of popcorn sold. It also serves to make customers thirsty for sodas, another high-margin product (supplied to most theater chains by Coca-Cola, which makes lucrative deals with theater owners in return for their exclusive "pouring" of its products). One theater chain executive went so far as to describe the cup holder mounted on each seat, which allows customers to park their soda while returning to the concession stand for more popcorn, as "the most important technological innovation since sound." He also credited the extra salt added into the buttery topping on popcorn as the "secret" to extending the popcorn-soda-popcorn cycle throughout the movie. For this type of business, theater owners don't benefit from movies with gripping or complex plots, since that would keep potential popcorn customers in their seats. "We are really in the business of people moving," Thomas W. Stephenson Jr., who then headed Hollywood Theaters, told me. "The more people we move past the popcorn, the more money we make."
The article goes on to talk about the second business -- movie exhibition. There, the theaters get 50% of the ticket price but have to pay for expendables like salaries, bulbs, etc... The article talks about some work-arounds theaters use to save money -- using the bulbs way past their prime (very dim picture), opening the gap of the gate (the film jams less often but the focus is not as good -- this is done to allow the theater to have only one projectionist for several films). The third and final business is the pre-show advertising. Jen and I see some films on the big screen because that is the only way they should be seen -- King Kong and War of the Worlds were two examples. We also have a good collection of DVD's and sometimes really prefer to make our own popcorn at home...

Sean Penn in the news again...

| No Comments
I had written earlier that he was featured at Position #20 of John Hawkins' "The Twenty Most Annoying Liberals In The United States" Now he and Cindy Sheehan (she is #1) have teamed up -- from the SFGate/AP:
Sean Penn, Cindy Sheehan highlight Sacramento peace forum
Peace activist Cindy Sheehan said Saturday that America will get out of Iraq when millions of citizens take the simple step she did outside President Bush's vacation home last summer.

She sat down.

With Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn in the front row, Sheehan told a Sacramento peace rally that critics of the war need to do more than listen to speeches like hers.
These people jumped the shark a year or so ago. Time to give it up... Also, I spent some serious surfing time trying to get #1) - a photo of the event or #2) - a reporting that had an estimate of the number of people present. I found neither. The reason for my search was thinking that it might have been as well attended as Cindy's book signing was earlier this year:

Happy Birthday Dr. Trips...

| No Comments
Dr. Albert Hofmann will celebrate his 100th birthday this coming Wednesday. If his name sounds somewhat familiar to you, it is probably because he was the person to first isolate Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and discover its curious effects on the human nervous system... The NY Times has a wonderful article: (use Bug-Me-Not for a username and password)
Nearly 100, LSD's Father Ponders His 'Problem Child'
Albert Hofmann, the father of LSD, walked slowly across the small corner office of his modernist home on a grassy Alpine hilltop here, hoping to show a visitor the vista that sweeps before him on clear days. But outside there was only a white blanket of fog hanging just beyond the crest of the hill. He picked up a photograph of the view on his desk instead, left there perhaps to convince visitors of what really lies beyond the windowpane.

Mr. Hofmann will turn 100 on Wednesday, a milestone to be marked by a symposium in nearby Basel on the chemical compound that he discovered and that famously unlocked the Blakean doors of perception, altering consciousnesses around the world. As the years accumulate behind him, Mr. Hofmann's conversation turns ever more insistently around one theme: man's oneness with nature and the dangers of an increasing inattention to that fact.

"It's very, very dangerous to lose contact with living nature," he said, listing to the right in a green armchair that looked out over frost-dusted fields and snow-laced trees. A glass pitcher held a bouquet of roses on the coffee table before him. "In the big cities, there are people who have never seen living nature, all things are products of humans," he said. "The bigger the town, the less they see and understand nature." And, yes, he said, LSD, which he calls his "problem child," could help reconnect people to the universe.

Rounding a century, Mr. Hofmann is physically reduced but mentally clear. He is prone to digressions, ambling with pleasure through memories of his boyhood, but his bright eyes flash with the recollection of a mystical experience he had on a forest path more than 90 years ago in the hills above Baden, Switzerland. The experience left him longing for a similar glimpse of what he calls "a miraculous, powerful, unfathomable reality."
Fascinating insight into someone who inadvertently helped propel a genre of art, music, lifestyle...

What is . . .

| No Comments
Very cool -- you type a question and it tries to answer. Check it out: Lexxe

Tom DeLay steps down

| No Comments
From Reuters:
DeLay relinquishes House majority leader post
U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, now under indictment in Texas and tainted by a corruption scandal, told fellow House of Representatives Republicans on Saturday that he will not try to reclaim his job as majority leader.

"Today I have asked Speaker (Dennis) Hastert to convene our conference for the purpose of electing a new majority leader," DeLay, a close ally of President George W. Bush and one of the most powerful conservatives in Congress, said in a letter to House Republican leaders.

DeLay's decision to resign after three years of tumultuous reign as majority leader set off a scramble among at least a handful of Republicans who want to capture the second most powerful post in the House.
And the Democratic take on this:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said DeLay had "engineered" a "culture of corruption ... so pervasive in the Republican conference that a single person stepping down is not nearly enough to clean up the Republican Congress."
What with the revelations over the growing Abramoff scandal, time to keep quiet for a while...

A near-death experience

| No Comments
From ABC News/AP comes this story of a cow:
Cow Escapes Meat Plant, Dodges SUV, Train
Feisty Cow Escapes Slaughterhouse, Dodges Vehicles, Train and Braves Icy River Before Recapture

A cow that escaped a slaughterhouse dodged vehicles, ran in front of a train, braved the icy Missouri River and took three tranquilizer darts before being recaptured six hours later. News of the heifer's adventures prompted a number of people to offer to buy the animal.

The black, 1,200 pound heifer jumped a gate at the packing plant at around 5 a.m. Thursday and apparently wandered through residential areas. Police received reports at about 9:30 a.m. that it was in the middle of a busy intersection.

Police tried to catch the cow, and had her wedged between a stock trailer and a fence, but the heifer barreled through the fence toward the river, nearly being hit by a Chevrolet Suburban.

It was the first of many near-death experiences.

With the police in pursuit, the cow ran toward the railroad tracks and darted in front of an oncoming locomotive, briefly giving the police the slip again.

Crossing another road, the cow was nearly struck by a semi tractor-trailer.

"By then it was a madhouse," said police officer Corey Reeves. "People were coming out of the woodwork to see."

When police, animal control officers and slaughterhouse workers surrounded the cow in a park near the Missouri River, the cow jumped into the icy water.

As she swam to the west bank of the river, Reeves said she sank lower in the water and was being swept downstream. But the cow found a sandbar near the river's west bank and walked to shore.

"I was totally amazed she was able to swim the river," said Del Morris, the slaughterhouse manager.

As police scrambled to head off the cow on the other side of the river, a veterinarian with a tranquilizer gun was called.

Pursuers again believed they had the cow cornered at a chain link fence, but the heifer ran through a perimeter set up by officials.

The chase began to slow as the cow ran up against several strong fences. Dr. Jennifer Evans of Big Sky Medical Center shot the cow with a tranquilizer dart.

It had little effect.
They finally shot several more darts and re-captured the cow. No word as to her ultimate fate.

Road trip to Mexico -- circa 1977

| No Comments
Kuro5hin has a story from terryfunk who spent an interesting summer in 1977 driving down to Mexico. He happens to be a great storyteller:
When You're Lost In the Rain, In Juarez and It's Eastertime Too
Being a college student meant being poor. I did sleazy, crazy things, and when I could manage it, I had fun. Scalping student football tickets, working part time, and scrounging, however, wasn't fun.

Then I began smuggling birds from Palenque, Chiapas MX. That was fun.

Yeah, I was stupid--I admit, but it sounded too exciting. The prospect beat shoveling horse stalls at the brood mare ranch where my girlfriend and I lived. My buddy from south Texas had called me one night and proposed a trip to the southern end of Mexico. He explained that we could get rare falcons, Toucans, and green parrots and bring them to the U.S. and make some money. It seemed like a plan; he and I had had adventures before.

So I bought 'The People's Guide to Mexico', read it in one night, and considered myself an expert. I was taking second year Spanish and that's how I justified the trip to everyone. My girlfriend and I spent the next two weeks getting ready for the trip, which was to last no more than a month. We'd come back to the states with a considerable investment, on our way to riches. Yeah right....

On a Thursday night in the middle of June, we packed up the Volkswagen, little realizing how far Eagle Pass, Texas really was. We left the next morning before dawn. It took us all day with no air conditioning and with a head wind thrashing us around to reach Eagle Pass. There we met up with our friend.

Having survived the trip of almost 1000 miles, we encountered our next challenge--Mexican customs. In those days Piedras Negras was no more than a village. But the customs officials were quite savvy. With all the camping gear we had stashed, our first order was to get through customs with something left intact. Who knew that camping gear was contraband in Mexico? Our bolsas were lightened by about $30 each, and we were finally permitted to proceed to the interior.

The first day in this unbelievable country was full of surprises. My second year Castillian Spanish was less than useless. Furthermore, the existence of various dialects of Mexican Spanish had never even occurred to me. By the time I realized that everyone was NOT speaking some kind of Spanish pig Latin, the dialect would change again and then again. I gave up trying to speak perfectly and ended up sounding like some gibbering, retarded Mexican midget with a frontal lobotomy.
And it gets better and better and better... The falcons he brought back wound up in a breeding program to re-introduce them to areas of the SouthWest where they were once native. Also, check out the very lame comments to this story from people who fail to grok the differences between a Mexican adventure now and one from 30 years ago...


| No Comments
The European and EU subsidized company Airbus was looking to overtake Boeing this year. Thanks to James Ozark at A Western Heart, we find out that things did not happen as planned:
Shock, Confusion, Amazement? Airbus losing out to Boeing
The European consortium Airbus looked set overnight to be overtaken by arch-rival Boeing in the race for new business, as the US company announced a record 1,002 orders in 2005 following a remarkable comeback.
Stunned, stupified, and stymogrified, after all the 'A350 will be the finish of Boeing' hype?


I had my money on Boeing the moment I heard it was gambling on shorter haul aircraft (while Airfluff consortium threw the farm at the long haul A350).

You know, I�d pretty much bet on a Boeing any day of the week over the Eurofluffies.

I wonder why. . .
I know that Boeing does a lot of Government work but it is not as heavily subsidized as Airbus is. Nice to see that know-how and a serious roll-your-shirt-sleeves-up work ethic will severely trounce government subsidies any day...

Granite Countertops on the cheap

Nice little post at Finkbuilt on using 3/8" granite tile to make a great looking countertop. Here is the result:
Lots of great tips...
I had written about David Letterman's surprising attack of O'Reilly when Bill was a guest on his show. Now, from Newsday it seems that Bill O'Reilly is getting good publicity from this event:
Bill O'Reilly gains publicity from verbal joust with David Letterman
As the saying goes, you can't buy publicity this good, and maybe Bill O'Reilly should put David Letterman on his Christmas card list next year.

Reaction to the CBS talk show host's Tuesday night encounter with Bill O'Reilly on "Late Show" spilled across morning TV, cyberspace and radio yesterday, but much of it - no surprise - came from O'Reilly himself, who went on the offensive last night on "The O'Reilly Factor" and during his noon radio show.

On last night's "Factor," he declared that "the culture war plays out on the David Letterman program!" then added that "right now there are two main issues dominating the culture war in America: the role of God in the public arena and the war on terror." Then - no surprise - he replayed much of Tuesday's verbal joust with Letterman on his own show, interviewing guests like veteran journalist (and Fox contributor) Juan Williams who said, "some of the horrible things [he said about you] - I'm surprised you don't have a black eye this morning."

Earlier in the day on radio, O'Reilly blasted Letterman as a card-carrying member of the "secular progressive movement" - telling his listeners, "I just went [on to 'Late Show'] for a few laughs [but] in the back of my mind, I said, 'well, you know, Letterman might want to go...here."

And for those of you just tuning into this flap, "here" is where he went: O'Reilly's jugular.

20 Liberals

Hat tip to Ian at Inoperable Terran for this wonderful link. Each year, John Hawkins does a list of 20 Liberals who annoyed him the most in the previous year. This year's crop is a doozy! He starts at #20 with the following:

The Twenty Most Annoying Liberals In The United States: The 2005 Edition

20) Sean Penn
Spicoli scores again! This is the first time Madonna's former life partner made the list since 2002, but his publicity trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was just too good to pass up.

Just think about it: Here we have a very liberal, very pompous actor whose first thought after seeing mega-disaster on TV is, "I bet I could get a lot of press out of this if I went to New Orleans."

So, "I am Sam," went out to New Orleans and apparently, he's looking to play an action hero, because he manages to get himself photographed running around with a shotgun. He's just oozing machismo, isn't he?

Then, as if he hadn't been conspicuous enough, he decided to try to attract some more attention to himself by hopping in his boat and going out looking for stranded people. One problem: the boat sprang a leak. Which leads us to our defining picture:

And a defining quote from a bystander looking at Penn's leaking -- (and fully packed) boat...
"How are you going to get any people in that thing?" -- Anonymous

Read the list for the rest. Here is his list of Honorary Mentions:

Margaret Cho, Ramsey Clark, Hillary Clinton, George Clooney, Juan Cole, John Dean, The Democratic Underground, Al Franken, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Linda Foley, Jesse Jackson, Eason Jordan, John Kerry & Teresa Kerry, Paul Krugman, Bill Maher, Moby, Michael Moore, Michael Newdow, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Andrew Sullivan, Kayne West, Joe Wilson, James Wolcott

It has been a great year for flaming moonbats!

Microsoft and WMF vulnerability

| No Comments
Microsoft was planning to release the patch later this month in a general Tuesday security update but it changed its tune this afternoon: From Knowledge Base entry KB912919 Here and here

PC Gaming

Gaming on PCs as opposed to Dedicated Game Consoles has been a game of catch-up in the last five years or so. Evan Kirchhoff at 101-280 writes about it and his experience with Valve -- a leading PC gaming company:

PC Gaming: Not Yet Dead Enough, But I Think If We Hit It With The Shovel A Few More Times It'll Stop Moving
At a friend's house last night, we were looking at his new XBox 360 and 42" TV (verdict: you should buy both items immediately; either one taken individually may be less fun), and he was talking about how he'd finally converted to console gaming after one too many sessions wrestling with warring Windows drivers. I nodded smugly: yeah, I've heard of other people being confused by their computers.

Newly inspired by the general notion of "playing videogames", I went home and tried to finally finish off Half-Life 2, a good game I set aside at the 2/3 point earlier in 2005. Apparently I will now never be able to finish Half-Life 2, because the clever automated "Steam" engine that automatically downloads game patches from Valve has decided to patch my game to a point that is not compatible with my current Windows XP graphics drivers, and ATI's graphics driver upgrade system is too much of a miserable shambles to work successfully for a Radeon 9800 card that is for god's sake almost 2 years old now, unless possibly I also install a newer Windows service pack, which then introduces the issue of potentially breaking some of the software I actually need to work on to make money, and at this point I refer you to the technical bulletin "Fuck You, Valve".

I've grown used to the idea that updating a Windows machine will break all previous game software -- I'm down with that. But even with this machine frozen into a specific, favored state (no, I don't allow "Windows automatic updates", or for that matter random hobos sleeping in my car), I evidently have once-perfectly-functioning games that are unilaterally breaking themselves when I'm not looking.

What he is experiencing is a symptom of a significant problem. Microsoft does everything they can to make sure that your application will work just fine on the current version of Windows but there is no guarantee that it will work for future updates, patches or versions. A software manufacturer needs to re-submit their application each time a new patch comes out to have it tested. And this ignores the interaction between dumb-ass software and other applications. Some software will only work with a specific version of the Windows file xyzzy.dll so guess what, it uploads that version to /windows/system32 and overwrites what may be a newer version that another application depends on (or a version that was uploaded to correct a security problem). When I was first getting involved in computers, back in the CP/M and MS-DOS era (yeah, I know...), an application lived in a folder. All of the drivers lived in that folder as well. Nothing was written to the system folders. If you wanted to delete the application, you deleted that folder and it was totally gone. I love the fact that this is still true in a large part with Linux. The few Windows applications I have written use this programing style as well. It is not hard to do...

Hacking the Senseo Coffee Maker

Coffee Makers like the Senseo are somewhat popular mostly for their convenience (a personal dose of coffee without having to deal with beans and the used coffee grounds). Unfortunately, they use proprietary 'pods' of pre-loaded coffee -- high price and stale mediocre Java. John Wolf at INeedCoffee has the step-by-step instructions for making your own pods that work just fine (and if they don't work just fine, what to do...) Jen and I generally go through at least one full-size Mr. Coffee pot each morning -- the little Senseo pods would drive us nuts. The website: INeedCoffee deserves some examination -- lots of good stuff there.

Magnet Therapy

I think that most people will automatically write that one off as bogus but the (hopefully) final nail in the coffin is talked about over at BBC News:
Magnet therapies 'have no effect'
Magnet therapies which are claimed to cure conditions ranging from back pain to cancer have no proven benefits, according to a team of US researchers.

Sales of the so-called therapeutic devices, which are worn in bracelets, insoles, and wrist and knee bands, top $1 billion worldwide, they said.

But a major review showed no benefits, a British Medical Journal report said.

The team also warned self-treatment with magnets risked leaving underlying medical conditions untreated.

Professor Leonard Finegold of Drexel University in Philadelphia and Professor Bruce Flamm of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California said turning to magnetic therapies could also cause "financial harm".

"Money spent on expensive and unproved magnet therapy might be better spent on evidence based medicine," their report said.
The test was a double-blind so the users had no way of telling if the bracelet had a magnet or not. The placebo worked as well as the real magnet. I am amazed that people believe this -- there are also hucksters that sell 'magnetic' water purifiers and devices to improve gas mileage based on magnets that are clipped onto the gas line. Pure un-adulterated bunk each and every one of them...

Peace Love and Happiness

That was the tag line of a very popular Miami children's television host, Skipper Chuck. He recently passed away. Val Prieto at Babalu Blog has the obit:
Peace, Love and Happiness.
I think those may have been the first three words I ever learned and spoke in English. Peace, Love and Happiness. I learned them on tv, sitting down in front of the tube with my grandparents and watching the Skipper Chuck Show.


Chuck Zink, the Skipper, died yesterday of a massive stroke
I cannot even begin to tell you how saddened I am. Skipper Chuck gave this boy fresh off the boat a true first glimpse of what America was. His demeanor and expressions and actions made me feel welcome in this new foreign world.
It was in the role of "Skipper Chuck" that Mr. Zink made his longest-lasting impression. He debuted as the skipper on Popeye's Playhouse in January 1957 on WTVJ, which at the time was the CBS affiliate station on Channel 4 out of Miami. He played the part until 1979, when Skipper Chuck went off the air.

His job, strictly speaking, was to introduce cartoons starring Popeye, the muscle-bound, spinach-chugging sailor man created by illustrator Max Fleishman. But Mr. Zink made more of the assignment than just segues between cartoons. He and his on-air nautical sidekicks regaled their television audience with friendly chatter, games and giveaways. Local children formed his live, in-studio audience.

Soon after the program premiered it was renamed The Skipper Chuck Show, an acknowledgment that the host was at least as popular as the cartoons he introduced. Entertainers such as Jackie Gleason and Danny Thomas, and sports stars including then-Miami Dolphins' coach Don Shula, would drop in to chat with the skipper and some of the estimated 14,000 children who sat in the studio bleachers during the show's run.

The Skipper Chuck Show also broke ground by putting children of different races together on the air at a time when integration was a bitterly contested idea in parts of the country.

"Colored and white children are now going to school together. They should be able to sit on my show together," Mr. Zink recalled in a 1999 interview.

After a while he began to end each broadcast by wishing his young audience "peace, love and happiness" and holding up three fingers. This variation on the two-fingered peace symbol became one of Skipper Chuck's signatures, and a gesture he often saw flashed back at him by fans who spotted him in public.
Rest in Peace, Love and Happiness, Skipper.
I never had the pleasure to see Skipper Chuck's show but growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, I had people like Josie Carey and Fred Rogers. It is a shame that shows like this would never get on TV these days. Today, it's all about marketing sugar and disposable toys and cheap animation. Brings to mind the great Ernie Kovaks quote: "Television: a medium, so-called because it is neither rare nor well done." Now more than ever...
A great evening in a Dublin Pub as related by Twenty Major:
You can't say that
So two Americans came into Ron's last night. I have no idea how they found it because it's well off the beaten track but nevertheless in they came and they sat down at the bar. They were also both the spitting image of that bloke from Cameo who wore the codpiece.

They ordered a pair of Guinness and sat talking amongst themselves oblivious to the fact they were as out of place in Ron's as Brian Kennedy in a room full of people who aren't complete and utter cunts.

I was sitting with Jimmy and Dirty Dave who seemed fascinated by them.

"I once had a dream that I was having sex with 80s pop star Sinitta", he told me and Jimmy. "When I licked her she was all salty. Since then I've always wondered if all black people were salty or is it just sweaty 80s pop stars in the throes of dreamariffic sex."

"Why don't you ask them?" I said and fair enough, the mad fucker did.
Go and read the rest... Ya gotta love the Irish -- they really know how to tell a story! (heh)

Light blogging today

| No Comments
We went up to Canada for some shopping. Just got back; time to get some dinner and see what's up in the world. Look for some posts in about an hour...

A case of domestic bliss

| 1 Comment


She was innocent all along -- her actions were just how she dealt with grief.

More info here: Another comment - Cynthia Sommer

Meet Ms. Cynthia Sommer:
From the LA Times:
Extradition Sought in Man's Death
Prosecutors are seeking the extradition of a woman in Florida accused of poisoning her husband � a Marine sergeant � and then using his life insurance to pay for breast enhancement and a libertine lifestyle.

Cynthia Sommer, 32, moved to Florida from San Diego in 2002 with a new boyfriend, an ex-Marine, just weeks after an autopsy performed by a military pathologist found that her husband had died of a heart attack.

Further toxicology tests determined that Sgt. Todd Sommer, 23, had died of acute arsenic poisoning. The tests were ordered by the military and confirmed by civilian experts.

Todd Sommer was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar when he died Feb. 18, 2002, after complaining of nausea for several days.
Dang -- kinda throws a harsh on that mellow... The Deputy District Attorney's comments:
"This is the coldest homicide I've had, in terms of being absolutely coldblooded," Deputy Dist. Atty. Laura Gunn said.
A bit more:
Sommer, being held in a West Palm Beach jail, is resisting the extradition attempt. A hearing is set for today.

San Diego prosecutors have filed for special circumstances � murder by poisoning � which could lead to the death penalty, if Sommer is convicted.

Court documents filed by prosecutors allege that Sommer was eager to get her husband's life insurance of more than $250,000 and the monthly survivor payments of nearly $1,900. The couple had a son and she had three other children from a previous marriage.

In an interview conducted by Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents, Sommer said her husband had been nauseated and vomiting for a week before his death. Sommer's "close proximity to the victim allowed for the type of access required to facilitate acute arsenic poisoning," an investigator wrote.

Sommer's neighbor on the Miramar base told the investigators that after Todd Sommer's death, his wife threw a series of loud parties and showed the results of her breast augmentation, which had cost $5,400.

"Cindy's excuse for the lifestyle she started living after [her husband's death] was that he was very strict. He didn't like for her to go out partying [or] staying out with her friends," a family friend told investigators.

"Todd also didn't want her to get her breasts enlarged, so I think that she was living out the fantasy life that she really wanted," the friend said, according to court documents.

Sommer also paid to have her name listed on an Internet service that provides an "adult dating community focused on sexual discovery."

Court documents portray Sommer as a dissatisfied employee of a sandwich shop, heavily in debt and unhappy with having to care for four children. Before moving to San Diego, she was investigated by child welfare workers in North Carolina in 2001.

After her breast surgery, Sommer began a relationship with another Marine, Ross Ritter, who was later discharged from the Marine Corps. Sommer had her furniture shipped to his home in Florida at government expense, court records show.

The same day that she was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, Ritter was taken into custody on an unrelated drug charge.

There does not appear to be a connection between Ritter and Todd Sommer's death, and no further indictments are expected in the case, Gunn said.
The two emphases are mine -- "heavily in debt" and "unhappy with having to care for four children" These speak volumes -- someone who always got by on her "looks" and never bothered to grow up. The life of the party but not someone you would want to take home - - - to live with. As she started to get older, the feral urges within started to gain power. She will claim insanity and might get away with life behind bars (although the two jurisdictions are Florida and California so there is hope!) Also, Arsenic is probably one of the most stupid poisons to use. It stays with the body forever and shows up in hair, bone and fingernails and can be detected with a simple chemical test. It also causes great agony to its victims and for this woman to live with this poor guy while she was poisoning him and for her to not feel something boggles the mind. I know the perfect place for her -- Tookie emailed* complaining that there aren't any women where he is now, just dead and rotting Thai tranny heroin victims. *Did not realize that Hell had Internet Cafes. I thought it was just thugs and lawyers down there -- tech support too? Sheesh -- go figure...

Bad news for Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon just underwent emergency neurosurgery after he suffered from a severe stroke and cerebral hemorrhaging late Wednesday night. Judith at Kesher Talk is live-blogging. Last few entries:

07:33am (Israel Time) Peretz to Olmert: I am at your disposal, I will do all I can to help (Israel Radio)

07:29 IDF arrests eight wanted militants across West Bank overnight Wednesday (Itim)

06:55 Doctor: Sharon still under anesthesia, on respirator, in very serious condition (Haaretz)

06:54 Doctor: We expect surgery to continue for a few more hours (Haaretz)

06:44 Sharon returned to surgery after undergoing CT scan (Channel 1)
It is now about 8:15 AM in Israel so Judith's reports are very timely. (Israel is ten hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time) What might be interesting is if Sharon dies, Bibi Netanyahu would be in a very good position to return. Next to him, Ronald Regan looks like a moonbat liberal. (grin) Here is a June 2005 interview of him at World Net Daily talking about Gaza:
Netanyahu: Gaza evacuation a reward for terror
Former PM sounds off regarding plan to withdraw Jewish communities

WND: In short, why are you opposed to Sharon's plan to evacuate the Jewish communities of Gaza and parts of the West Bank?
BN: Well, I voted against the government with regard to the withdrawal and presumably I will vote against it when it comes up in another vote before the plan is actually carried out. I won't change my vote. This is because the Palestinian terrorists don't view our departure as a reasonable move but as a flight from terror and a sign that terrorism works. If you flee from terror, then terror continues to chase you. This plan simply emboldens the terrorists to continue their tactics until the completion of their ultimate goal: the destruction of Israel.
And these words:
WND: Israel has said it wants Egypt to take over security of the Gaza/Egypt border. Meanwhile, IDF officials at the border tell me Egypt has done nothing to stop the weapons-smuggling tunnels, and media monitors say Egypt continues to demonize Israel in its state-run press. What are your thoughts on Egypt assuming security control?
BN: I opposed this from the start. Egyptians won't die for us. Furthermore, in order for them to even do it, it means Israel will have to allow an even stronger Egyptian force along the border, and this is in direct violation to our peace treaty with Egypt � which means we have to manipulate a treaty that has held up for decades. Regardless and quite apart from the problems we have with a cold peace with Egypt, such as the propaganda you describe and the failure to stop the weapons smuggling, this cold peace is better than a hot war. I am not saying there will be a war, just that with the treaty, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Well, here is what is happening on the ground today -- from Yahoo/AP:
Palestinians Enter Egypt After Border Smash
Hundreds of angry Palestinians streamed into Egypt on Wednesday after militants with stolen bulldozers broke through a border wall, and two Egyptian troops were killed and 30 were wounded by gunfire in the rampage.

About 3,000 Egyptian Interior Ministry troops who initially had no orders to fire swarmed the border but were forced to withdraw about a half-mile, said security forces Lt. Sameh el-Antablyan, who announced the casualties.

Gen. Essam el-Sheikh said Egyptian forces later began firing back.

The scene was one of utter chaos. An Egyptian armored vehicle was burning and hundreds of Palestinians could be seen crouched in farm fields just inside Egypt.

The militants' rampage through the southern Gaza town of Rafah underscored the growing lawlessness in Palestinian towns, especially in Gaza, and represented the most brazen challenge to the authority of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
As my beloved Wife says:
And they want a state? Fine. Give them one.


Churchill (the real one) on Islam

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

A fine ride in the country

| No Comments
From The News Telegraph:
French Riviera gang terrorises passengers in two-hour train rampage
Hundreds of passengers were terrorised by a mob of youths rampaging through a train on the French Riviera.

One young woman was sexually assaulted, travellers were robbed of phones and cash, and carriages were wrecked in the two-hour assault, it emerged yesterday.

Up to 40 youths involved in the attacks had taken advantage of a special fare of about 80p to travel from Marseilles and Avignon to celebrate the New Year in Nice.

They were part of a larger group of 100, many drunk from their overnight festivities and escorted by police to Nice station for their return journey at dawn on Sunday.

A small police team accompanied the Lyons-bound train at first. But trouble broke out soon after their departure.

Eventually the driver stopped the train at Les Arc-sur-Argens to appeal for extra police assistance. Only three officers turned up and violence continued as they awaited reinforcements before boarding the train. The line was blocked for an hour and a half as police gained control of the train.

Passengers spoke of being warned they would be killed if they refused to hand over belongings or told police what had happened.

They said they were too frightened to intervene and several refused to lodge complaints of theft or assault.

"It was a real scene of pillage on the train," the regional prosecutor, Dominique Luiggi, said yesterday as details emerged. "Passengers were in a state of panic."

One witness said there had already been assaults and threats, including other indecent attacks on young women, on Saturday's outward journey.

He said the robbers were of Arab origin and had boasted about their plans to cause more trouble on the train.
Emphasis mine -- only strengthens Sir Banagor's diatribe. These people are pig offal -- they follow a corrupt pederast prophet and their culture has produced nothing of value for over 900 years. One of my favorite quotes from the wonderful movie Syriana:
"You want to know what the business world thinks of you? We think a hundred years ago you were living out here in tents in the desert chopping each others head's off, and that's exactly where you're gonna be in another hundred. So yes, on behalf of my firm, I accept your money."

A fine discourse on Islam

Sir Banagor was reading a bit of news about an Israeli Archaeological digs at Temple Mount and had a Red-Curtain-Of-BloodTM moment:
Islam Pisses on You Every Fucking Day
I have to say it: I hate Islam.

I do. People, don�t even bother to call me �Islamophobic�. Every day which passes, I don�t �fear� Islam more than I fucking loathe it.

Via Solomonia: Washington Times - Artifacts with links to Bible unearthed:
JERUSALEM � Israeli archaeologists, screening tons of rubble scooped out of this ancient city�s sacred Temple Mount, have discovered hundreds of artifacts and coins, as well as jewelry, some with biblical links dating back more than three millennia.

Most of the stones and earth originally were taken to an organic garbage dump in nearby Bethany, the New Testament town known in Arabic as Al-Azariya, and could not be retrieved. But a substantial portion was diverted to the Valley of Kidron, mentioned in the Old Testament and located just outside the Old City�s massive walls.
What the article doesn�t tell you is that for years now, the Muslim Waqf - the Muslim authority which �oversees� the Temple Mount as if they fucking own the place - has been digging underground and dumping everything like trash, keeping anyone non-Muslim outside to beg for access after the broken pieces have been discarded.

I rage. I fucking bloody well rage. Pardon while I wish ill at this moment on every single adherent to this bile called the Koran.

It isn�t enough for Muslims the world over to claim that Jews have no connection to Israel. It isn�t enough for them to kill Jews at every turn. It isn�t enough for them to smash Jewish holy places any time they can with bombs, looting, and fire. But since years now, they have been quite methodically - oh just like the Nazis which they are - destroying the very fabric of history itself. The evidence of a Jewish history is far too much for them to bear. These are the same uncouth little shits who burn books because of Jewish mention or ideas. Like the Nazis, they rid their countries, books, museums, and the very earth itself of anything Jewish.

Anything Jewish at all.

People keep to this ideology that Islam is a �religion of peace�. Islam is a religion of pigs. Islam is a religion of gluttony fed on the history and effort of every other religion and people upon which they come in contact. They fatten themselves on the destruction of everything around them which is non-Islamic. They have dug into the earth itself to feed their bloated egos which produces only the wretched slime of the world in return.
He is just starting to warm up and although his writing is inflammatory, there is not one factual error that I can see.

A Tale of Two Cities

| No Comments
Katrina, not Dickens... From Mostly Cajun comes two links to two newspaper articles:
Thank you, Houston!
Hurricane Katrina has had a positive effect on Louisiana crime rates.
...New Orleans, where police say they have never seen things so quiet, with only two killings in four months.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the media made a very big deal about convoys of buses (no, not Mayor Nagin�s sunken fleet of school buses) hauling refugees to Houston where they were initially dropped at the AstroDome and eventually dispersed throughout the city.

We in Southwest Louisiana, knowing what sort of people had hung around New Orleans after the evacuation order, knew that there was a sizable criminal presence in that number of people, and so THIS ARTICLE comes as no surprise at all.
The murder rate in the Texan city leapt by 24 per cent last year, with the toll for November and December up by 70 per cent on the same period in 2004.

There were 324 murders in Houston in 2005, compared with 263 in 2004. Of the 2005 tally, 51 occurred in November and December - up 21 on the same period of 2004.
Sniff!! I am SO proud of the publicity my state gets! the linked article is in a BRITISH newspaper!
Why am I not surprised... I bet the number in Houston would be a lot higher too except that the citizens of Texas are generally armed as opposed to those of the Democratic Workers Paradise of New Orleans.


Great article on the detoxing craze currently prevalent. From the BBC:

What's the point of detoxing?
The body is well capable of getting rid of toxins - that's what the liver, lungs, kidneys and skin do. So what's the point of detoxing?

If celebrities such as Carol Vorderman are to be believed, a detox diet can be a life-changing experience.

It can reportedly help people lose weight, beat cellulite, banish bloating and make your skin glow.

The theory behind the diet is that bodies are continually overloaded with toxins, which build up in a person's system and cause problems.

Clearing the system by detoxing promises all kinds of results and is now a multi-million pound industry, with products and supplements to help expel unwanted toxins. But making dietary changes is at the core of most.

A bit more:

The British Dietetic Association says detox diets are marketing myths rather than nutritional reality.

"Detox is a meaningless term that is used all the time and because it hasn't been defined, it's impossible to say if it has worked or if it hasn't," says a spokesman.

"The body is set up to deal with the chemicals it doesn't want, and excrete them."

A recent study by American researchers also concluded that detox diets do no more than the body's own natural system to get rid of toxins. They said most modern books and detox kits serve up "empty promises".

Scientists and dieticians argue that the benefits people feel are not due to their body getting rid of excessive toxins but are due to changing from what is likely to have been a "poor" diet.

Fewer headaches, for example, is probably the result of being fully hydrated due to drinking so much water and better skin may be due to eating more antioxidant-packed fruit and vegetables.

Same goes for enemas and 'high colonics' -- utter bilge and snake oil; the body cleanses itself naturally, unless you are eating a wretched diet, nothing that you do to detox will aid your body's functioning. As for the mega-vitamin craze, we excrete any vitamins that are surplus, we do not store them for later use. These people have the most expensive pee on the planet.

How typical... The wife of Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, Laurie David, is a typical Hollywood flaming environmentalist except when it comes to building a wind power plant which might be visible from their summer cottage on Martha's Vineyard, just off Cape Cod. From Rhode Island's Providence Journal comes this tale of hypocrisy:
Curb your environmentalism
The critically acclaimed HBO show Curb Your Enthusiasm, based on the life of Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, tells the tale of a fabulously rich, petty and self-absorbed Hollywood writer who blunders into various disasters. It's often hilarious, the best thing on TV. But nothing this season was as deliciously funny as the script that real life has been writing for him.

Laurie David, the wife of the real Larry David, is a global-warming crusader who rails against SUVs and preaches the virtues of energy-saving light bulbs. Meanwhile, she lives in multiple houses and flies around in private jets that burn more fuel than the average person could save in a lifetime of switching off lights.

The Davids own a summer home on Martha's Vineyard, where they heard from authorities for building a 21-by-16-foot stage and a large stone-and-concrete barbecue pit near protected wetlands, while ripping up native vegetation and planting sodded grass. A neighbor reportedly asserted that the Davids went ahead on their construction without the proper permits to be ready for a visit by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He had inspired Mrs. David to become an environmental "activist."

It's human nature: The powerful, from Hollywood to Washington to Paris, love to posture as the moral superiors of others, but often do what they darn well please in their own lives.

The Davids' story is sit-com stuff. Far more damaging to the public is the seeming hypocrisy of their hero Mr. Kennedy -- and his wealthy allies in the quest to kill the proposed Cape Wind project.

Cape Wind Associates Inc. wants to build one of the world's largest wind projects in Nantucket Sound. Nearly five miles away from the nearest shore, but close enough to be economically feasible, making use of the stiff breezes that blow through the sound, it would produce enough clean, renewable energy to meet 70 percent of the Cape and Islands' electrical-energy needs year round.

That's energy that would not need to be produced by the polluting oil-burning Mirant Plant, on the Cape Cod Canal, or at the polluting coal-fired Brayton Point, in Somerset, or other power plants in New England fired by very expensive natural gas.

If you think that sounds like exactly the kind of project the global-warming doomsayers have been advocating for years, you're right. But the Beautiful People's environmentalism often stops, it seems, at their own backyards.

The Kennedys' ancestral estate is in Hyannisport, on Cape Cod, and were the turbines installed, Uncle Teddy and company might be able -- on very clear days -- to detect bumps on the horizon. This, they apparently believe, would spoil their water view. They also fear that the turbines might make their sailing less pleasant. And so, because of the political clout of the Kennedys and fellow owners of one of the world's priciest stretches of real estate, all sorts of political maneuvers have been undertaken to stop Cape Wind cold.

It is Robert Kennedy's job, it seems, to couch such striking selfishness in the language of compassionate environmentalism. He did so in The New York Times on Dec. 16 ("An Ill Wind Off Cape Cod"), making wind power sound like one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse. Wind turbines, he warned, would: slice and dice "migrating song birds and sea ducks"; be too noisy; generate electricity at too high a price; waste taxpayers' money; drain $1 billion worth of tourism from Cape Cod and cost 2,533 jobs; have to be equipped with flashing warning lights that would "steal the stars and nighttime views"; gravely endanger boats in fog and storms; and so on.

But he's not against wind power, mind you! It just can't be introduced into the Nantucket Sound "wilderness," which Americans (especially, one presumes, members of the yachting class) need, to "renew our spirits and reconnect ourselves to the common history of our nation, humanity and to God."

In his piece, Mr. Kennedy advanced the rather novel theory that "our most important wildernesses are those that are closest to our densest population centers, like Nantucket Sound." But if pristine areas and populated regions are both off-limits to energy development, someone afflicted with a logical mind might ask, What's left?

Some environmentalists aren't buying Mr. Kennedy's pitch.

"Nantucket Sound is not a pristine wilderness. It is among the busiest shipping channels on the East Coast and is surrounded by heavily populated communities. Cape Wind, at worst, constitutes a relatively minor intrusion upon this already developed landscape," wrote Ted Norhaus and Michael Shellenberger, in The San Francisco Chronicle ("Arctic battle should move to Hyannis Port," Dec. 21).

Worried about global warming, the authors urged "the national environmental community to condemn Kennedy's anti-wind crusade and make the development of Cape Wind one of its highest political priorities." And they urged Mr. Kennedy to resign as senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That seems unlikely. In the real world, money and power speak with great authority. The rich want their water views and sailing vistas unimpeded, and someone else, somewhere else, can pay the price for protecting the environment.
Sorry for the long quote but this deserves to be read. Environmentalists like Laurie David and Robert Kennedy are doing far more damage than they realize. They have no scientific training but they are in the public eye and able to speak to large numbers of people. Most of the general population doesn't seek out scientific facts to back up what they hear. They then vote based on wrong information. It was public demand that lead to the ban on DDT that is currently responsible for almost two million deaths each year.

David Letterman -- moonbat

Time to switch to Leno. From NewsMax:

Letterman to O'Reilly: 'I'm Not Smart Enough' to Debate War
It didn't take long for fireworks to erupt last night when Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly guested on David Letterman's "CBS Late Show," with the late night host finally admitting he wasn't "smart enough" to engage in a debate over the Iraq war.

And the confrontation:

But the confrontation really heated up when Letterman suggested, "Let's talk about your friends in the Bush administration. Things seem to be darker now than they might have been heretofore."

The comments prompted O'Reilly to launch into a point-by-point defense of the Iraq war, beginning with the argument that even if U.S. intelligence had "screwed-up" on weapons of mass destruction, "for everybody's protection, it's best for the world to have a democracy in that country functioning and friendly to the West."

Letterman seemed to turn downright hostile, however, after O'Reilly defended U.S. soldiers and attacked Cindy Sheehan.

"The United States, particularly the military, is doing a noble thing - the soldiers and Marines are noble," the Fox host insisted. "They're not terrorists. And when people call them that, like Cindy Sheehan called the insurgents 'freedom fighters,' we don't like that. It is a vitally important time in American history and we should be very careful of what we say."

The comment prompted Letterman to admonish O'Reilly, "Then you should be very careful about what you say, also . . . I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan. Honest to Christ, honest to Christ."

The sometimes volatile Fox host let the personal attack slide and continued arguing his case.

A few moments later, Letterman threw in the towel, admitting: "I'm not smart enough to debate you point to point on this."

The CBS star, however, couldn't resist tempering his concession with one last insult, telling O'Reilly in the next breath: "I have the feeling that about 60 percent of what you say is crap."

What a thing for a host to say to their guest. Letterman should have known about O'Reilly's views -- probably invited him onto the show so he could pick O'Reilly apart and then got mulish when he could only "win" by invective and ad-hominem.

Sad news about the W. Va. Miners

| 1 Comment
Went to bed last night with such a feeling of elation when I heard that 12 of the Coal Miners trapped in an explosion were OK. Woke up this morning to the tragic news that that report had been a mis-communication and that only one man is alive and that he is in critical condition. From a report in today's LA Times:
Ben Hatfield, president of the International Coal Group, told the families gathered at the Sago Baptist Church that "there had been a lack of communication, that what we were told was wrong and that only one survived," said John Groves, whose brother Jerry Groves was one of the trapped miners.

At that point, chaos broke out in the church and a fight started.

Hatfield said the erroneous information spread rapidly when people overheard cell phone calls between rescuers and the rescue command center. In reality, rescuers had confirmed finding 12 miners and were checking their vital signs, he said.

"The initial report from the rescue team to the command center indicated multiple survivors," Hatfield said during a news conference. "That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center. It quickly got out of control."

Hatfield said the company waited to correct the information until it knew more about the rescue.
The article also cited concern over safety problems at the mine:
ICG finalized its purchase of the Sago Mine last fall, buying the operations from the Anker West Virginia Mining Co., which had gone bankrupt. Anker had owned the mine since April 2001, acquiring it from a local contract miner.

The contract miner had in turn bought the mine two years earlier from Anker.

The mine's federal health and safety violations had nearly doubled over the last year, rising from 68 citations in 2004 to 181 in 2005. Nearly half of the 2005 totals were deemed "significant and substantial," the government's term for serious mine safety problems. The deficiencies included problems with the firm's ventilation and roof support plans.

At least 46 federal violations had been cited since October. And records from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration indicated that at least a dozen roof collapses occurred in the last six months.

In addition, Terry Farley, a West Virginia mine safety official, confirmed that the Sago Mine was also cited by state regulators for 208 violations in 2005, up from 74 the year before.

Mine safety experts said that the sudden rise in safety problems should have alarmed ICG when it was preparing to buy the mine.

"That's a significant number for a mine that size," said Kenneth P. Katen, a former deputy assistant Labor secretary for the mine agency under the Reagan administration. "If you have a sudden increase of violations, that's something that should have drawn the new owners' attention."
So in five years, Anker West went from being able to purchase a coal mine to bankruptcy. This gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling when I think about the money they must have been pouring into daily operations for safety equipment and proceedures... Maybe something good will come of this disaster and there will be a greater watchfulness on the part of the owners and operators.

Unconfirmed 'interesting' news

The source has been wrong from time to time and nothing about this appears on other web sites but if this is correct, the fallout will be wonderful:

Retired General Ali Duba, known as father of Syrian intelligence and loyal aide of Presidents Assad father and son has fled to London from Damascus.

This defection follows the blunt charges leveled against Bashar Assad by former Syrian vice president Khalam Haddam last Friday, and the UN inquiry commission�s demand that the Syrian president make himself available for questioning in the Hariri assassination.

What I and a bunch of other people are wondering about was the three-day convoy from Iraq to Syria in the days that lead up to the beginning of the war. WMD? I know that there were trucks with stunning amounts of gold bricks that were stragglers, not in the convoy.

If anyone knows about the WMDs and the rest, Duba should...

12 Miners found alive!

Thank God! The W. Va. Coal Miners that had been trapped for 41 hours have been located and 12 of them are alive. There was a lot of concern over Carbon Monoxide levels. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Families say 12 W.Va. miners found alive
Twelve miners caught in an explosion in a coal mine were found alive Tuesday night, more than 41 hours after the blast, family members said.

Bells at a church where relatives had been gathering rang out as family members ran out screaming in jubilation.

Relatives were yelling "They're alive!"

One miner was found dead earlier Tuesday, the mine's owner, International Coal Group Inc. said.

Neither the company nor the govenor's office immediately confirmed the news.

There were hugs and tears among the crowd outside the Sago Baptist Church located near the mine, about 100 miles northeast of Charleston.
For wonderful boots-on-the-ground reporting, check out Fifteen Minutes blog:
West Virginia mine explosion, my time there
UPDATE: I just heard, after e-mailing this post: Twelve alive. The church bells are ringing.
I've had some time to sleep and some time to think about the past two days. It's a blur. I don't often like revealing my thought processes about my work and reporting, but I need to decompress. Here's what I remember, unedited and kinda raw.

The first you thing you notice driving through Buckhannon are the signs at area businesses, asking for prayers for the trapped miners. It's a little ominous and the town, though might small, is really quiet.

We went to the McDonalds for breakfast with a photographer from the AP out of Pittsburgh this morning. We really stuck out, not in a weird way, but a "we can tell you aren't from around here way." They're friendly, though, but they didn't recognize us and you could tell.

Everyone in the McDonalds was talking about the mine, sharing rumors they'd heard, stories of people they know in the mine and thoughts about the fate of those trapped. Despite the massive media presence, they really weren't passing much accurate information to each other. Don't know whose fault that is, because as I listen to the reports and read the wires, they're really accurately reporting what the Gov. and the coal company is telling us.
Fifteen Minutes will be added to the blogroll at the next update -- great writing and nice design of the front page.

Dumb Criminals - #347

| No Comments
A Swedish man discovers that a stolen cell phone can land you in jail. From the Reuters 'Oddly Enough' web page:
Careless talk traps phone thief
Swedish police caught a burglar after he answered a phone he had just stolen and did not hang up, letting them eavesdrop on his getaway ride in a taxi.

The man broke into a house in Overtornea in the far north of Sweden, stealing a mobile phone and other possessions.

The police rang the stolen phone and heard him swearing about the late arrival of a taxi which he had ordered to take him to neighbouring Kalix, 60 km (37 miles) away.

"The thief answered the phone but then just put it away without turning it off," said Overtornea policeman Kurt Paavola.

The police tracked down the taxi and arrested the man late on Monday.
Whoops -- memo to self...

Geothermal heating and cooling

| No Comments
Very cool idea finally starting to gain traction. (I have seen articles about it from 20 years ago but only now seeing systems being installed). From the NY Times:
Heat From the Earth to Warm Your Hearth
Russ Root made an efficient move last year - to a new home he had built in Goshen, Conn. While it is considerably bigger than his former house, in Chenango Forks, N.Y., it will cost far less to cool and to heat. That is because he did something he had thought about ever since he built his last house, 15 years earlier: he installed a geothermal system instead of an oil-guzzling boiler.

Now all the heat to warm his house is supplied by the earth beneath him. It's pumped up, through plastic piping, in water circulating in his backyard six feet underground - where the temperature stays at about 45 degrees - and distributed by a fan through the house's ductwork as air warmed to around 95 degrees.

The bill for Mr. Root's geothermal pump, its ground loop of piping and the house's ductwork was just over $21,500. While a geothermal system, including labor, typically costs more than a comparable furnace and air-conditioning system, the price was about the same for Mr. Root, because the extra expense of digging and looping - $1,500 in his case - was more than offset by a $2,000 rebate from Connecticut Light and Power.

"I was in the black from the day I moved in," said Mr. Root, who is a lineman for the utility, which treated him as it would any customer.

The water circulates through the geothermal pump over coils containing refrigerant, which absorbs its heat. The refrigerant is then raised to the higher temperature under pressure by a compressor. In the summer, the method is reversed. His home is cooled by circulating hot air out of the house - a process that is similar to the operation of a refrigerator, an appliance that his basement pump resembles.

The system is quiet, clean and odorless, and uses little electricity. Maintenance consists of cleaning a filter every few months; the pipes are guaranteed to last 50 years. There are virtually no moving parts other than the pump. After living for more than a year in the 2,900-square-foot home, a third bigger than his old house, Mr. Root finds that his energy costs are running about 20 percent less than the $2,700 he used to spend, or about 40 percent less per square foot.
Very cool -- this is a version of what is called a Heat Pump. Unlike an Air Conditioner or Refrigerator that move heat from one area to another, Heat Pumps can be reversed and used for heating and air conditioning. Since you are not using the electricity to create heat, only to move it, they are very economical to run. Since there is more work pumping 10 degrees up to 70 than there is in pumping 45 degrees up to 70, it makes more sense to start at the higher temperature. Ditto when it is hot inside and hot outside, pumping heat into a net sink takes less energy that trying to pump it into an area that is just as hot.

Seattle blessed Seattle...

Hey -- a 2005 Darwin Award happened in Seattle!

Hat tip to Gerard Van der Leun for this information about the 2005 Darwin Awards:

Home Town Boy Makes Good
SEATTLE RESIDENTS WERE PROUD, DAMN PROUD when a now ex-resident made the finals of The 2005 Darwin Awards today.
(31 May 2005, Seattle, Washington) Strength and endurance are two of the most important characteristics that can be passed on to improve the species, so physical challenges between males are frequent. In this case, two drinking buddies found themselves on an overpass 40 feet above a busy freeway in downtown Seattle at 2:45 a.m. It turned out to be the perfect place to determine who had more strength and endurance. Whoever could dangle from the overpass the longest would win!

Unfortunately, the winner was too tired from his victory to climb back up, despite help from his 31-year-old friend. The unidentified champion fell smack into the front of a semi-truck barreling down the highway at 60 mph and bounced onto the pavement, where he was hit by a car. The car did not stop. Authorities did not identify the winner of the competition.
Ah, yes, Seattle home of industrial-strength drunks.

Gerard did not mention that the Darwin Awards are ranked by vote and the Freeway Dangler is one of the top three winners. Go Seattle!!!

Farris Hassan's Day Off

| No Comments
Dr. David Yeagley takes a close look at the Farris Hassan story and asks some questions:
Farris Hassan: the Mis-told Tale
The media marvelled at the story of Farris Hassan, the American-born Iraqi teenager from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who decided to make a bold and daring trip to Baghdad. The young man has been lauded for his courage, albeit reprimanded for his naivete. Yet, the media, which always loves the exitement of the story, rather than the truth about it, has completely avoided the most important matters of the story, and the most obvious concerns.

How did this underaged young man get his passport? Anyone who has ever travelled internationally knows how carefully these things are examined, or at least supposed to be. How did he stage this trip without his parents knowing? In fact, they knew he wanted to go. They just didn't believe he was going to do it, and made no effort to prevent him. It makes a better story to say, "Why, the kid ran off on an adventure without his parents knowing!" A lot of money was involved in the expenses of the trip. What kind of 'officials' allowed all this to happen? What kinds of stories did Farris tell them? Why did they believe him? The details of the story are revealing, yet no one seems concerned. No appropriate reprimand has been pronounced.

Shame on all. Shame on the stupidity of the media for not investigating the important details of the story. Shame on the "adults" who approved of Farris' trip at every step--and there were many steps. Shame on Farris' parents--who knew he was dying to go to Baghdad for some time, and had given him money. Shame on Farris and his parents for allowing this farse of a story to be paraded in the media, without telling the whole truth. Shame on the two high school friends who did not report immediately what they knew of Farris' plans.

This is a story of lies, really. Was Farris never questioned at the airports? Were his belongings never examined? Was there no thought that this whole trip was a wreckless endangerment? Are Arab people to never be suspected of anything? Ever? Do they own the travel business of the world now? Are all things subject to their whims and indulgences?
One of Dr. Yeagley's thoughts was this perfect money quote:
The kid wants to be a newsman. Therefore a wonderful news story he provided for the newsmen of the world. He has in fact revealed anew all that is ill in the media, the distortion, the bias, the irresponsibility, the carelessness, and the insult the media offers the public.
Some good thoughts and yet another perfect example of mis-reporting and bias on the part of the Main-Stream Media...

Navajo Code Talkers

| No Comments
The Navajo Code Talkers are a fascinating bit of WW-II history. This was the only code in use that was not broken or compromised and it greatly aided the USA and Europe to defeat primarily the Japanese Imperialists in the Pacific Theatre. The Department of Navy - Naval Historical Center has a vocabulary and list of common words as used.

Cute Overload

A... well... website with cute pictures:

Jay Tea at Wizbang offers a modest proposal concerning Identity Theft that should appeal to all parties involved (with the minor exception of the thief):
Punishing the victims
Robert Eckert of Yarmouth, Massachusetts is a marked man.

He's got a lengthy history of encounters with the police, numerous arrests and cour appearances. He can't drive down the road without wondering if he's going to get pulled over and taken in again. He's been fingerprinted so many times his fingertips are almost permanently stained.

His offense? 12 years ago, he lived next door to a dirtbag named James Jones. And Mr. Jones, after one of his numerous arrests, gave his name to police as "Robert Eckert."

That led to Eckert's name being listed as an alias for Jones. And every single time Jones gets in trouble with the law, a flag goes up and Eckert is hauled in again until he can exonerate himself.

I have a simple solution to identity theft cases like this, where a person is victimized for years by a scumbag. After a certain point, the victim can just kill the offender, and face only charges of attempted suicide.

In this case, Mr. Eckert could kill Mr. Jones. Since Mr. Jones repeatedly insists that he is Mr. Eckert, it could be considered a form of suicide. And since Mr. Eckert is verifiably alive, the attempt must have been unsuccessful. All that remains would be some other minor charges -- littering, discharging a firearm, and the like.

Yeah, it's a bit draconian. But it oughta do wonders in the fight against identity theft.
Makes sense to me...

A belated Christmas Gift

| 1 Comment
This is an auditory version of the annoying photographs I post from time to time. A rendition of O Holy Night that just keeps getting better and better and better. The file is hosted on Fred McKinnon's blog so I cannot guarantee it's availability. Swiped from Steven at The Sneeze

Yasser Arafat

While writing the last post I remembered this photo of him and Saddam from 1980:


Awwwww... Hat tip to Charles at LGF

Brotherly Love

"Wonderful" report on HIV in Iran from Breitbart:
Iran's HIV cases top 12,000
Some 12,556 people in Iran are infected with the HIV virus, 631 of whom have already developed AIDS, according to the health ministry's latest figures reported by a student news agency.

Based on the statistics reported the news agency ISNA, the age range of 25-34 with 3,800 cases accounts for the highest rate of infection and most of the reported cases are men, with 11,875, compared to 681 women.

The report put the number of dead at 1,457.

Intravenous drug use is still the main cause of infection at 62.3 percent, followed by unknown causes with 27.9 percent and sexual contact at 7.4 percent.

The official number of the country's infected was 10,265 in April.

But with testing facilities limited and shunned sufferers often unwilling to come forward, experts estimate that as many as 40,000 people may be HIV positive.
The bodies of the terrorists fighting in Iraq are sometimes autopsied and frequently show Opiate usage. A taste of heaven to the ignorant cannon fodder perhaps. As for "sexual contact", this article does a wonderful job of explaining Islam's schizophrenic mind-set when dealing with homosexuality. Far from being a sin over there, it is rampant. After all, Yasser Arafat died from AIDS although no one will ever admit that officially... A wonderful source is the Romanian former KGB Officer Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa who wrote:
"I just called the microphone monitoring center to ask about the 'Fedayee,'" Arafat's code name, explained Munteaunu. "After the meeting with the Comrade, he went directly to the guest house and had dinner. At this very moment, the 'Fedayee' is in his bedroom making love to his bodyguard. The one I knew was his latest lover. He's playing tiger again. The officer monitoring his microphones connected me live with the bedroom, and the squawling almost broke my eardrums. Arafat was roaring like a tiger, and his lover yelping like a hyena."

Munteaunu continued: "I've never before seen so much cleverness, blood and filth all together in one man."
He also wrote an overview of Arafat's politics here. Religion of Peace? More like a culture of hypocracy, shame and fear.

One Man's Decision

| No Comments
Wonderful essay by Wall Street Journal reporter Matt Pottinger on a decision of his:
Mightier Than the Pen
Why I gave up journalism to join the Marines.

When people ask why I recently left The Wall Street Journal to join the Marines, I usually have a short answer. It felt like the time had come to stop reporting events and get more directly involved. But that's not the whole answer, and how I got to this point wasn't a straight line.

It's a clich� that you appreciate your own country more when you live abroad, but it happens to be true. Living in China for the last seven years, I've seen that country take a giant leap from a struggling Third World country into a true world power. For many people it still comes as a surprise to learn that China is chasing Japan as the second-largest economy on the globe and could soon own a trillion dollars of American debt.

But living in China also shows you what a nondemocratic country can do to its citizens. I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square, and I've been videotaped by government agents while I was talking to a source. I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.

When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule. They feel alien to us, but from the viewpoint of the world's population, we are the aliens, not them. That makes you think about protecting your country no matter who you are or what you're doing. What impresses you most, when you don't have them day to day, are the institutions that distinguish the U.S.: the separation of powers, a free press, the right to vote, and a culture that values civic duty and service, to name but a few.

I'm not an uncritical, rah-rah American. Living abroad has sharpened my view of what's wrong with my country, too. It's obvious that we need to reinvent ourselves in various ways, but we should also be allowed to do it from within, not according to someone else's dictates.

But why the Marines?
My excerpt was about 1/3 of a fairly short read so go there and read the rest. This is one American who sees things as they are and has not drunk the Kool-Aid. God be with you Matt!!!

Global Warming

From A Western Heart comes two weather observations:

Global warming ... err ... cooling again
Extreme Winter weather claims 23 lives in Europe
They must be wishing global warming was real

Wild winter weather across Europe has killed dozens of people, with the homeless freezing to death and others dying in huge traffic pile-ups on icy roads. Polish police said 23 people, many of them homeless, had died of cold in that country since December 20.

Swirling snow and thick fog enveloped most of Italy, and Florence recorded 25cm of snow, the most it has seen in two decades. As temperatures in northern Italy dropped as low as -17C, a homeless man, 22, was found dead, apparently of exposure, in Rome's main railway station.

Forty vehicles piled up on icy asphalt on Hungary's busiest motorway, killing an eight-year-old boy and injuring 11 other people, one of several mass crashes involving a total of about 60 cars. A 40-vehicle accident on a highway in neighbouring Slovakia killed one person and left 22 injured.

Blizzards, ice and high winds prompted a nation-wide weather warning in the Netherlands. Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, Europe's fourth-largest, was preparing to shut down some of its runways as thick cloud cover blew in.

Yeah but... but... but... That's just a localized phenomonon... (Pausing to wipe Moonbat spittle off face)

Sydney's hottest day suddenly cools
I wonder which temperature the Greenies will quote?
And the Perth temperature will not suit the Greenies either!

Sydney revellers awoke to a scorching start to the year yesterday, with the city suffering its hottest day since 1939. The mercury hit 45.2C at Sydney airport, while a high of 44.2C was recorded at Observatory Hill in the city centre. In the state's west, Ivanhoe recorded the highest temperature of the day, reaching 47C. At a surf competition on Sydney's northern beaches, the MC used a loudspeaker to say what everyone was thinking: "It's stinking hot, extremely stinking hot."

Shortly after 9pm, Sydney was hit by a southerly change, with gusts of 94km/h. Within an hour of the change, temperatures had plummeted from 40C to 24C at Sydney airport and 26C in the city.

Canberra residents also endured 40C, a hazy Brisbane sweated through a sticky 30C and Melburnians enjoyed a cool respite from their hottest New Year's Eve. But Hobart was a chilly 16C and rain in Adelaide brought temperatures down to 23C.

Short-lived heat spell that finally broke.

New critter discovered and named

| No Comments
From The National Geographic comes this fascinating story: Their News Service is getting really good these days!)
New Mammal Named After Chocolate Giant
A lost bet and a sweet tooth led to the announcement this week of a new mammal named after a chocolate brand.

Dubbed Kryoryctes cadburyi �- as in Cadbury chocolate �- the dinosaur-era mammal was roughly the size of a large cat, covered with quills, and toothless.

A distant relative of today's spiny anteater, the species lived about 106 million years ago alongside dinosaurs in what is now Australia.

The tale of how the low-slung creature came to be named after a candy company, however, begins about ten years ago in a rocky cove some 140 miles (220 kilometers) southwest of Melbourne.
And what a tale -- two excerpts; first, The Reward:
Helen Wilson, then a student at Australia's Monash University, was one of the bone diggers in the summer of 1987.

"The food at the dig was terrible, and all of us students lived on chocolate," Wilson said. "I asked Tom what we'd get if we found a dinosaur jaw, and he said he'd give me a kilo [2.2 pounds] of chocolate"�which she went on to win and consume almost single-handedly.

If a dinosaur jaw was worth two pounds of chocolate, what would a mammal specimen merit?

"For Tom, a mammal bone was the holy grail," Wilson said.

Quite certain that a mammal bone wouldn't be found, Rich promised a cubic meter [35 cubic feet, or about a ton] of chocolate to anyone who came up with a specimen.
And The Resolution:
Rich was thrilled that the dig had turned up an ancient mammal but somewhat dismayed at having to come up with a ton of chocolate, worth about U.S. $10,000.

Fortunately, Cindy Hann, a teacher and volunteer from the Dinosaur Cove dig, came to his rescue.

Hann had taught a boy whose father was the head of the Cadbury factory in Melbourne. He offered to make good on the chocolate bet.

"It turns out that it is technically impossible to make a cubic meter of chocolate, because the center would never solidify," Rich said. So the chocolate factory made a cubic meter of cocoa butter, the basis of all chocolate.

Because there was no way of knowing who had actually found the bone, Rich invited all of the volunteers who had participated in the Dinosaur Cove dig to the presentation of the prize at a local Cadbury chocolate factory.

After photos were taken of the giant slab of cocoa butter, the bone diggers were let loose in a room full of chocolate bars.

"It was a bit like Willy Wonka," Wilson said. "There were chocolate bars on the counters, the tables. We carried out boxes and boxes of chocolate."

Naming a newfound animal species is largely left up to the scientist who discovered the creature.

Kryoryctes means "cold digger" and reflects the fact that the animal was well adapted for digging and lived at polar latitudes. (A hundred million years ago, Dinosaur Cove, at the southern end of Australia, was well within the Antarctic Circle.)

As for the second part of the mammal's name �- cadburyi �- it's a safe bet you can figure it out for yourself.
Very cool story!

Want a cool pet?

We is up for auction on eBay -- from BoingBoing:
Two-headed snake for auction
This two-headed albino rat snake will be auctioned on eBay with a starting bid of $150,000. The 6-year-old snake, named We, currently lives at the World Aquarium in St. Louis, Missouri. The aquarium purchased her for $15,000 just after she was born. From the Associated Press:
An inch (2.5 centimeters) thick and 4 feet (1.2 meters) long, she is a healthy size for a rat snake. While her body is white, the heads have a reddish appearance.
We has survived because, unlike some two-headed animals, both mouths are connected to the same stomach, (aquarium president Leonard) Sonnenschein said.
Cute lil' bug:
CNN has more here.

Property Tax

Interesting news item at ADN Kronos International:

Israel: Vatican owes Jerusalem most of 65 Million Dollar Debt
As the Vatican and Israel prepare to meet in January in a fresh attempt to resolve a long-standing tax dispute, Jerusalem officials said this week that the Catholic Church owes most of a 65 million dollar debt in unpaid property taxes in the city. According to Israeli law, properties that are used as houses of prayer are exempt from paying property tax (arnona). But Christian churches, are required to pay property tax for buildings they own that are not used for worship, such as hostels and schools.

City officials, cited by the Jerusalem Post newspaper, say that the total amount of unpaid property tax amounts to roughly 300 million Israeli New Shekel (about 65 million US dollars), with the Latin Patriarchate the biggest offender.

"The debts in question belong to many church institutions in Jerusalem, and primarily relate to adjoining establishments such as educational institutions, guest houses, and halls which belong to the churches," deputy city spokesman Rafi Shamir said in a written statement.

Sounds perfectly alright to me -- the Catholic Church certainly knows the local laws but they still went ahead and started using these premises. And if they somehow persuade the Israeli's to give in, that would only open up claims from all of the other faiths that have property in Israel.

Responsible Pet Ownership

Mr. Right at The Right Place offers a good guide to keeping Moonbats as pets:

The Proper Care and Feeding of Moonbats
It has come to our attention here at The Right Place that many people foolishly purchased moonbats as pets for themselves or their children during this holiday season. While the appeal of keeping these hideously ugly, ill-tempered, high-pitched screeching wonders of nature as housepets truly eludes us, we hope to perform a public service by presenting these helpful tips for caring for your new pet, courtesy of the world's foremost moonbat expert, Dr. Wayne Bruce:
The Responsible Pet Owner
The first, most important thing for all responsible moonbat owners to do is to have their pets spayed or neutered immediately to help control the moonbat population. This is especially important during election cycles, as they tend to go into heat at such times. Attempts to increase their numbers can be loud, obnoxious and quite dangerous to civilized societies. Remember, the world has more than enough moonbats already, so be responsible and help us to keep their numbers in check.

A Brief History of the Moonbat in the Wild
The common moonbat, or lunaris vespertilio, was first catalogued as a species during the 1960s, when it was found primarily in large, colorful, and quite smelly colonies on or near college campuses across the United States. Sometimes referred to as "Hippies", they also frequently migrated in large numbers to various fields and stadiums, usually drawn by the lure of psychedelic rock music or very bad folk singing and the smell of burning rope. Though their numbers have dwindled somewhat since then, they are, unfortunately for society, not yet ready for the endangered species list. Over the years, they have shifted from nesting inside college dorms to faculty lounges and the studios of many mass media outlets with alarming ease. Many have even found their way into government offices, where they can be especially dangerous and hard to get rid of! Attempts to control the moonbat population have met with only moderate success, but many moonbats will surprisingly enough, with time, evolve into something resembling a human being. Unfortunately, though, many do not manage this metamorphosis, and these are what we sometimes call "Deaniacs", "Kossacks", "DUmmies", or more simply, "Fruitcakes".

Caution -- multiple drink alert -- go and read the rest...

Awww crap...

| No Comments
From the United States Geological Service comes a report that a Magnitude 7.3 earthquake has just happened underwater off the Sandwich Islands. Nothing yet on any of the Tsunami websites but this is a hell of a way to start a new year...

Serious Drool Factor

High High Geekdom...

Mr. Jalopy at Hooptyrides just bought a shop!

Hooptyrides, Inc.
Everybody is asking, what is the big secret project? Why no updating to Hooptyrides? What could be so complex and exhausting as to command all available attention? A shop!

Old hot rods and speed equipment are too expensive. Admittedly, I am a cheap and easy hustler, but by any measure, Ardun heads and 32 Fords are expensive. But, it makes sense. Hot rodding was not a SEMA megabusiness and enough speed equipment was never cast. And, increasing speed is advancing technology. Old technology was thrown away just as it is now. And the demand is huge because we all want it. And it is worth it, at some level. Hot rodding's place in history is cemented and the best old stuff is damned near blue chip. Hot rodding is too great, too striking, too fantastic to not be a classic and the stuff of provenence is destined for museums. But I still don't buy much. It is just too expensive. A Mercedes SSK is pretty expensive. Bugattis. Pre-war custom bodied American coupes are pricey.

But it ain't like buying a hot rod shop! That is value! That is stupid! An absolutely sensible decision! Sober and calculated! Not like a $500 gauge or a $1000 manifold, this is folly on a grand scale!

Located in Los Angeles, I bought a shop that I have been watching for 10 years. Over many a breakfast, I told Coop that all I needed was that dusty shop. One day he called and said there was a sign out front. The purchase, naturally, was byzantine. The owner had been operating a performance auto shop for over 40 years and closing that sort of chapter adds a dimension of complexity to the most simple deals. But, that is over, all parties are happy and it is mine. The Sun distributor machine, the Clayton Dyno, plumbed for air, the Hein Werner jacks, the two hydraulic lifts, the drill press, the band saw, the vises, the grinders, the TIG welder, the welding tanks, the trash can of fan belts, the Sun tune-up machine and a barrel of distributors. It already feels like home. Wait til I spend 1000 hours there.

Very cool! A shop is a very personal space and it makes a big difference to have an area dedicated to just shop activities and not shared with storage or a household garage. Two photographs:

Machine Shop - Hooptyrides, Inc.
1964 Chevelle Wagon - Hooptyrides, Inc

Ethanol Tractor Fuel story

Great home-made fuel story at Neanderpundit:
Thirty years ago, I was sixteen years old. To rid themselves of the onerous burden of dealing with an annoying teenager, my parents would often send me off to be with the grandparents for extended periods.

My grandmother made me bib overalls. Out of 28 ounce denim. To give you some idea what that's like, regular jeans are made out of 12 or 14 ounce denim. Wearing grandmas bibs was like wearing an iron truss. Until you'd worn them in a bit, you couldn't sit down without a blacksmith, and the chafing was nothing but horrid. I learned to wear two pairs of underdrawers in the summer to prevent the family jewels from turning into mashed potatos.

Anyway, that summer I was finally big enough to plaw, and plow I did, all damned day, for weeks. I plowed with the ol man's ford 8N, and in gramma's garden, one of the horses. We were also allowed to keep our 22's with us, to shoot what squirrels we could find, rabbits, the occasional fox or other varmint, and crows were always fair game.

The old man had a still. He was a cheap bastard, and gas had gone up to over a quarter. So he made shine, not necesarily to drink but to run in the tractor. See, the hogs still ate the mash after it had been fermented out, and they loved it, or seemed to. They also seemed to fat up faster. And the old man got the additional benefit of several hundred gallons of alcohol a year. Which ran in the tractor and in the farm truck. Now, if there should happen to be a petcock in the fuel line, and if a guy should happen to stop and lean on the old man's truck and sit a gallon milk bottle on the ground, and open that petcock, talk to the old man for a couple minutes, then close the petcock, grab his bottle, and walk away, now that couldn't do much harm, could it? The old man himself never touched the stuff.

Anyway, the point of that story was to tell you this one.
Visit Neanderpundit's site for the rest of a great story!

A must have product for Dog owners

| 1 TrackBack

From Strange New Products comes this little item:

Breakfast Cereal for Dogs
Bow Wow Breakfast Cereal for Dogs is a new line of dog food intended for morning consumption. The company that makes it claims it's specifically formulated to meet a dog's needs in the morning.

I'm not sure specifically what a dog's needs are in the morning. I find my dogs often need to poop in the morning, maybe that's what it means.

They have six varieties in all, including:
  • Barkfast Squares
  • Chompions
  • Chewa-Bunga
  • Fido Flakes
  • Grrr-nola
  • Pooch-Cheez

And the really scary thing is that this will probably sell pretty well...


Changes to the Blogroll

Added the following Blogs -- check 'em out! Business Pundit Deker Marketing Small Business Trends Mystic Bourgeoisie The Daily Demarche has ceased publication and has been removed...

January 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Environment and Climate
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Depot
Ice Age Now
Jennifer Marohasy
Solar Cycle 24
Space Weather
Watts Up With That?

Science and Medicine
Junk Science
Life in the Fast Lane
Luboš Motl
Next Big Future

Geek Stuff
Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF

The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
User Friendly
What The Duck

Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?

Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog

Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
The Online Photographer

A Western Heart
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2005 is the previous archive.

February 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9