March 2006 Archives


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From ThinkGeek comes the buzzaire:
Power Air!
Here at ThinkGeek, we've done our best to find new and advanced ways to keep you, our customers, alert and awake. We've introduced caffeinated soap and caffeinated hot sauce, we offer the most caffeinated beverages and mints available, all because we understand the need for that extra something that only caffeine can bring. And now ThinkGeek Labs is proud to present the most revolutionary caffeine delivery system available: Buzzaire.

Buzzaire is, quite simply, a caffeine inhaler. One squeeze, one inhale, and you've just rushed 150mg of caffeine into your blood stream. Mints or drinks have to go through your digestive tract first before partying in your blood (or through your skin, in the case of caffeinated soap). But the lung/blood barrier is the fastest way (other than injection or IV) to get caffeine into your system. Not only will you get one heck of a rush, but you'll also freshen your breath! A hint of peppermint oil in each puff will give you a little extra perk with its peppy zing. Buzzaire can beat up your air!

Warning: Do not take more than 4 doses in a 24 hour period. Too much caffeine can be fatal. If any abnormal symptoms develop, please consult your doctor. Not to be used by children or pets.
Just went on sale this Saturday, April firs... Oh... Wait... DANG! (But I wonder how long it will take someone to actually get this to market.)

Final auction day

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Rented a 14' truck and drove down to pick up the last of the stuff. Another person there seriously offered me one of the candle making lines for free -- it had sold to someone for $250 and this guy traded it for some wax that they had bid on. The guy who offered it to me was realizing that he now had to move a 50' long mechanised assembly line by Monday. I would have loved to cherry-pick all of the motors, pneumatics and controls but I would have also had to dispose of the line itself. The drive down and back was uneventful with the exception of two drivers who got into my right-side blindspot and just stayed there driving merrily along. One of them got off a few exits later but one, I had to 'nudge' by gradually creeping into that lane and watch him speed up and pass on the right with a dirty expression on his face. In about five minutes, I saw him in the same position with another truck. Arrrgghhh... Start sorting the stuff next Monday - it's Christmas in April

The warm mud of Me...

Gerard Van der Leun is generally an excellent writer but today he outdid himself -- this essay nails current events on the head.
On the Return of History
IN THE DAYS AFTER THE TOWERS FELL, in the ash that covered the Brooklyn street where I lived at that time, in the smoke that rose for months from that spot across the river, when rising up in the skyscraper I worked in, or riding deep beneath the river in the subway, or passing the thousand small shrines of puddled candle wax below the walls with the hundreds of photographs of "The Missing," it was not too much to say that you could feel the doors of history open all about you.

Before those days, history happened elsewhere, elsewhen, to others. History did not happen to you. In your world, until that day, you lived in the time after history. There were no more doors in front of you, all history lay behind you. It was a given.

You would have, of course, your own personal history. You would live your life, no bigger or smaller than most others. You would meet people, have children, go to the job, enjoy what material things came your way, have your celebrations, your vacations, your possessions, and your dinner parties. You would hate and you would love. You would be loved and betrayed. You would have your little soap opera and the snapshots and emails to prove it. At some point or another you would die and be remembered by some for some time. Then it would all fade and the great ocean would just roll on. And that would be fine.

History was behind us. It was something our parents entered for a while during the war but they emerged into what was, essentially, the long peace. They'd had enough history, didn't want any more, and did what they could to keep history from happening. In general, the history of the Cold War is the history of what didn't happen punctuated by a few things every now and then such as Korea and Vietnam. But all in all, for over 50 years, history didn't happen.

With the end of the Soviet Union in a whimper and not a bang brighter than the sun on earth, history was officially over. The moment even got its own book, "The End of History," which stimulated an argument that even more than the book emphasized that history was over.

Most sensible people liked it that way. In fact, a lot of people really liked it that way. Because if history for the world was over, these people could get on making the history that really mattered to them: The History of Me.

More and more throughout the 90s "History" was "out," and "Me" was in. "Me," "Having My Space," "How to Be Your Own Best Friend," "Me, Myself, I," were hallmarks of that self-besotted age. The History of Me was huge in the 90s and rolled right through the millennium. It even had a Customized President to preside over those years; the Most Me President ever. A perfect man for the time and one who, in the end, did not disappoint in choosing "Me" over "Country." How could he do otherwise? It was the option his constituency of Many-Million-Mes elected him to select. I know because I was into Me then and I voted for him because, well, because he seemed to be "just like me." It was a sad day when "Me" couldn't run for a third term, but The Party of Me offered up "Mini-Me" and a lot of Mes turned out for him too.
And with this excerpt, he is just getting warmed up. Go and read the entire thing -- it will be five minutes well spent.

Michael Jackson visits Boston

Talk about a great hack. A couple of people 'faked' an appearance by Michael Jackson including attendance at a Gladys Knight concert. This is while the real M. Jackson was in Bahrain. Here is an abstract from the Boston Herald Here is the story from the people who did it: This is Michael Jackson's credit card.
It's easy to get a credit card in Michael Jackson's name -- or any other celebrity, for that matter. Just order a Chase Visa card in your own name, then call your credit card company and ask them to add an "additional cardmember." Because credit card companies don't give a rat's ass about anyone's privacy, they'll happily send you a new card in any name you choose.

With your new credit card, you can create all manner of mischief. Like, for instance, staging a public appearance of Michael Jackson in Boston when he was living in Bahrain. Which is exactly what we did, in our greatest media hoax to date.

The first step was to make reservations for Mr. Jackson at every expensive hotel in Boston: the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Boston's most elegant hotel, the Fairmont Copley Plaza. Posing as Mr. Jackson's assistant, I booked their most expensive suites, grilling hotel managers and security staff about how they would ensure Mr. Jackson's privacy. I asked for platters of cold cuts to be waiting when he arrived. "Plenty of ham," I demanded. "Mr. Jackson requires plenty of ham."

This stunt was going to cost me thousands of dollars, except I was planning on canceling all the hotel reservations before Saturday night even arrived. I just needed a plausible story for The Media, who were next on my hit list.

Next, I made an anonymous call to the Boston Herald news desk, tipping off the editor that Michael Jackson would be arriving at the Copley Plaza hotel at 6:30 pm on Saturday. Calling from a filthy payphone -- someone had recently dipped the receiver in a carton of chow mein -- I called the hotline for every Boston newspaper and TV station. Then I went home and sent anonymous e-mails to all the Michael Jackson fan sites, who were thrilled to hear that the King of Pop might be making a royal visit to his home country.

Satisfied that the buzz was building, I turned my attention to the most challenging task of all: pulling together the players that would be needed to pull off this caper, an Ocean's Eleven-style heist that would require over a dozen accomplices, and would ultimately make headlines across the world.

It was, quite simply, our greatest prank to date.
Heh... A great story -- rounding up people to play the various parts, some narrow escapes and a great concert.

Testing for BSE

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BSE or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy has been in the news more and more. Otherwise known as Mad Cow disease, it's origin is not fully understood although there are some good theories and it seems closely related to the human new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The evidence is that it is caused by feeding cattle animal products that are contaminated or infected with BSE (the animal protein causes the cattle to gain weight rapidly -- cattle are normally vegetarians) and if this is true, a human eating the infected cattle will possibly contract nvCF disease. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a testing program in place and operating but they do not test every cow destined for human consumption, they take a statistical sample.

One Premium meat producer wants to test each cow at their own expense but the USDA has said no. From the Creekstone Farms website:

Creekstone Farms to Challenge USDA's Decision to Decline Private BSE Testing
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, LLC, the privately held producer and processor of Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef, said today they will aggressively challenge USDA's decision yesterday not to allow them to voluntarily test all of the cattle they process for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) commonly known as mad cow disease. Creekstone Farms submitted to USDA their request to conduct private testing at their Arkansas City, Kansas processing plant on February 19, 2004. Although Creekstone Farms officials have held ongoing meetings with the USDA since that time, yesterday's announcement came as a surprise to the company.

"We are extremely disappointed but nonetheless relieved to finally have a response from the USDA," said John Stewart, CEO of Creekstone Farms. "We now know where USDA stands but are surprised it took them six weeks to respond with a 'no' to our request."

From The New Farm website:

Beef producer's bid to test all its cattle for BSE denied
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC, a privately owned producer and processor, is threatening legal action against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the agency's decision last week not to allow it to voluntarily test all of its cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease.


But the USDA refused the license request from Creekstone Farms. "We are looking at what the consensus of international experts is when it comes to testing, and that consensus is that 100 percent testing is not justified," Agriculture Department spokeswoman Alisa Harrison said. "That's why we feel at this time we cannot grant Creekstone's requested timeline for a decision."


"We are challenging USDA's authority to control the sales of BSE diagnostic tests in the United States and your decision to prohibit companies like Creekstone Farms from conducting 100% testing of young animals that would meet our customers' needs and requirements," wrote the beef company officials.

They said the USDA decision is costing Creekstone Farms a minimum of $200,000 a day in lost revenues, and put the agency on notice that the company will "continue to track this loss on a daily basis to determine damages."

And part of the problem starts coming clear:

Using the Rapid Test method for BSE, Creekstone Farms would to test more cattle than the USDA, at a lower cost, Stewart and Fielding wrote in their letter to USDA officials. "If our plan were to be implemented, we would test over 300,000 head of cattle over the course of a year, versus the USDA proposed cattle population of approximately 220,000 head."

"As well, the USDA is planning on spending a minimum of $72 million of taxpayer money to conduct these tests. The Creekstone Farms' plan will cost less than $6 million using the identical test kit, and our customers are willing to pay for the cost of the testing," the company officials wrote.

And clearer still -- starting to see red:

The company asks how the USDA can certify domestic and international sales/production of natural or organic beef products without testing all animals.

How can the USDA justify spending $72,000,000 in taxpayer funds to test 221,000 head of cattle in 12 months for $325/head, when a private company will use the same test method as APHIS to test 300,000 head for $5.4 million paid for by consumers in 12 months, at a cost of $18/head, Creekstone Farms asks.

Complete preparation and training to conduct the BSE testing took Creekstone Farms one month, the company wrote, asking why it would take APHIS five months to fully implement their program.

Another example of our tax dollars at work. It took the USDA five months to implement their testing program, Creekstone Farms did it in one month. The USDA spends $325 per cow for testing while Creekstone Farms spends $18 per cow using the same test. Arrrggghhhh...

A curious product endorsement

It seems that Albert Einstein likes our Cider:


Make your own here.

More auction fun...

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Just got back from bringing another load. One more trip to go. Photos in a day or so...

A curious shift in employment

From Der Spiegel online comes this story of people dropping one career for another:
From Johns to Geriatrics
A new project in Germany is teaching prostitutes a wholly new bedside manner -- retraining them to become care workers for the elderly. Many experts consider women with experience in the sex trade to be especially well suited to the job.

She used to call herself "Angie" and described herself to potential customers as "the buxom blonde from Bochum -- without taboos and available around the clock." She satisfied machos and mama's boys, blue-collar workers and ivory-tower academics, old and young. She learned how to adjust to completely different temperaments and needs. She did it six years long four or five times a day. Then she got pregnant, cancelled her ad in the newspaper and changed her job.

Angie, the whore, became Angelika the care worker for the elderly. Employed by a mobile social care service, the one-time blonde now has short brown hair and has traded her stilettos for sensible shoes. Instead of taking care of their sexual needs, she now helps her customers bathe and change their bandages. "It's easy for me," says Angelika, who just finished her training.
A bit more:
"It was a logical move," says Rita K�hn from Diakone Westfalen, which runs nursing homes across the country and is organizing the project. According to K�hn, prostitutes have "good people skills," aren't easily disgusted and have "zero fear of contact."
And part of the reason:
"The job situation is miserable," says Zohren, who estimates there are at least 50,000 prostitutes in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. The hooker surplus has led to a "dramatic drop in prices," meaning a john can get pretty much anything he wants for �30 these days. The only time any real money is to be made is during big events like a recent hunting trade fair in Dortmund.
Makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Prostitution is legal there and these ladies are experienced in making someone feel very good. 80-year olds need to feel good too -- the physical needs are different but the psychology and caregiving is not.


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Just got back from the auction and I am fried. It is a two hour drive from here to Seattle and the auction was another 45 further down the road. Couple that with the fact that the auction preview started at 8:00am today, I had to leave at what is now to me an ungodly hour. When I worked at MSFT, I would get up at 5:30 or so to beat the 520 bridge rush -- take a long lunch (but still be available) and then leave at 4:30 to beat the rush home. Now, I usually get up at 9:30 or so and stay up until midnight or later. Waking up at 6:00am was a bit of a shock to the system... Lots of great stuff. There were a couple largish commercial candle makers there and the proprietary machinery went for a fairly high price. The majority of it was entirely shop built in house and high quality. The office computers went for waaay over value -- old P4 Compaq desktops with 40GB hard disks going for over $300. I would have paid $60 and been happy but nothing over $80. I did buy about 40 feet of roller conveyor for use in handling apple boxes -- most commercial fruit growers pack their apples into large wooden bins (a 4 foot cube) but these require automation to move and we are not growing just one kind of apple. We are planning to use smaller bushel boxes (the kind you see in grocery stores) as these are easy to handle by one person and they are more suited to keeping all the different kinds of apples separate. Plus, our sorter and crusher each have a one bushel capacity for their intake feed chutes. I also got a huge amount of spare parts from the electrician's work area plus the mechanics work area. The electrician was Russian -- all the parts bins are first labeled with Cyrillic characters and then in English. Lots of expensive splash-proof electrical stuff that can be pressure washed and sanitized. I am going back down there tomorrow with the trailer to take it all back home. Overall? Another great Murphy auction.
Going to this auction tomorrow: Aroma Candle and Scent Company It is about two hours south from us and a full-day auction with over 1,400 items being sold. We should be back by 7:00pm or so if we do not stop for dinner on the way. Looks to be a good sale -- stockpots and packaging materials for Jen's soap and lotion business plus lots of stuff for the cider and mead business. Loooong day through...

RIP Stanislaw Lem

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Damn. From Yahoo/Reuters:
Solaris author Stanislaw Lem dies at 84
Polish author Stanislaw Lem, one of the world's leading science-fiction writers, died on Monday in his home city of Krakow at the age of 84 after a battle with heart disease.

Lem, whose books have sold more than 27 million copies and have been translated into more than 40 languages, won widespread acclaim for The Cyberiad, stories from a mechanical world ruled by robots, first published in English in 1974.

Solaris, published in 1961 and set on an isolated space stations, was made into a film epic 10 years later by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and into a 2002 Hollywood remake shot by Steven Sodebergh and starring George Clooney.

"Shortly after 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) Stanislaw Lem died in the heart clinic, where he had been treated over the past few weeks for circulatory problems," Andrzej Kulig, director of the Jagiellonian University hospital told Reuters.

Lem, born on September 12, 1921 in what is now the Ukrainian city of Lviv, studied medicine before World War Two. After the war, communist censorship blocked the publication of his earliest writing.

After the fall of communism in 1989 Lem ceased writing science-fiction, instead devoting himself to reports on near-future predictions for governments and organizations.

He wrote essays on computer crime, as well as technological and ethical problems posed by the expansion of the Internet.
SFWA has a brief obit here

Problems with Pyrex

Some interesting stories are starting to circulate about Pyrex cookware shattering violently under very modest handling. A good article can be found at this Consumer Affairs website:
Pyrex Panic: Shrapnel in the Kitchen
Nothing's worse than being betrayed by an old friend. So Molly of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was shattered when her trusted Pyrex baking dish blew.

"I have used Pyrex and Corning Ware for all my 33 years of married life and never had a problem until last evening," Molly wrote us last October. "I had four people for dinner, had just taken a Pyrex baking dish from the oven and placed on top of stove when it exploded, sending glass all over."

Molly's dinner was ruined and there were burn marks on the carpet, where the shards of hot glass landed but, fortunately, no one was injured.

Not everyone is so lucky. Many of the consumers we've heard from, like Dave of Fort Smith, Ark., have become adept at picking shards of glass out of their feet and fingers. Dave was washing a Pyrex cooking dish in soapy water when he noticed something strange.

"My left hand index finger was starting to have a bad burning sensation. I continued on washing, not realizing that there was about an 3/4-inch-long piece of Pyrex glass stuck in my left index finger," Dave wrote, adding: "I mean stuck, stuck."
OK -- let's look at Pyrex for a moment. What makes Pyrex different from regular glass are two major things: #1) - Pyrex is another name for Borosilicate Glass and contains about 10% Boric Oxide in addition to the Silica and other chemicals. From Wikipedia:
The boron gives borosilicate glass a reduced thermal expansion coefficient (about one-third that of ordinary glass). This reduces material stresses caused by temperature gradients, thus making it more resistant to breaking.
#2) - Pyrex is also annealed which means that after it is molded to shape, it is held at near melting temperatures for a long time to allow the residual stresses to 'mellow out'. From Wikipedia:
Annealing, in glassblowing and lampworking, is heating a piece of glass until its temperature reaches a stress-relief point, that is, a temperature at which the glass is still too hard to deform, but is soft enough for internal stresses to ease. The piece is then allowed to heat-soak until its temperature is even throughout; the time necessary for this varies depending on the type of glass and thickness of the thickest section. The piece is then slowly cooled at a predetermined rate until its temperature is below a critical point, at which it can no longer generate internal stresses, and then the temperature can safely be dropped to room temperature. This relieves the internal stresses, making the glass much more durable. Glass which has not been annealed will crack or even shatter when subjected to a relatively small temperature change or other shock.
Emphasis mine -- for an excellent example of glass shattering with just a minimal effort, take a look at this short video from the Tacoma Museum of Glass where they demonstrate a Physics classic, the Prince Rupert Drop. The bulb of the drop is so strong that you can actually hammer on it with surprising force but if you make the tiniest scratch on the tail, the whole thing shatters violently into small shards and powder. The curious thing is that Corning no longer makes Pyrex cookware. They still retain the name but it is now made by World Kitchen under license. Applying that famous razor of William of Occam (paraphrased as: "Given a choice between two explanations, choose the simplest -- the explanation which requires the fewest assumptions.") I am willing to guess that World Kitchen is not making Pyrex cookware, that their cookware has little or no Boron Oxide and that it probably has not been annealed. There is a very simple test for revealing internal stress in transparent objects. Take two polarized lenses and rotate them 90 degrees to each other so the light passing through is reduced to the minimum amount. Put your object in between the two lenses and any stresses will show up as dramatic color bands and patterns of light and dark. Edmund Optics has a page on polarization including these two pictures, one with and one without:
I am busy tomorrow but will try this in a few days. I have some old pieces of Pyrex cookware from about 15 years ago that have been through hell and back without a chip or crack. I'll pick up a new Pyrex pie plate and see if there is a difference...

Check that man's resume...

Turns out that Bill Clinton's present chauffeur is an illegal immigrant wanted by the police.
From United Press International:

Clinton chauffeur an illegal immigrant
An embarrassing hole in security surrounding former U.S. President Bill Clinton turned up when one of his chauffeurs was found to be a wanted man.

Shahzad Qureshi, 42, was in one of three cars awaiting Clinton at Newark Airport last week when a Port Authority policeman happened to check license plate numbers.

The computer came back showing the Pakistani national had skipped a residency-status hearing in 2000, and a deportation order had been issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the New York Post reported.

Qureshi was still in jail Monday awaiting immigration processing, the report said.
But it's Bush's fault!!! Hat tip: The Drudge Report

Robert Jordan Ill

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Noted Science Fiction author Robert Jordan is ill with a very rare protein problem. He writes about it here:

Important note from Robert Jordan: March 25, 2006
I have been diagnosed with amyloidosis. That is a rare blood disease which affects only 8 people out of a million each year, and those 8 per million are divided among 22 distinct forms of amyloidosis. They are distinct enough that while some have no treatment at all, for the others, the treatment that works on one will have no effect whatsoever on any of the rest. An amyloid is a misshapen or misfolded protein that can be produced by various parts of the body and which may deposit in other parts of the body (nerves or organs) with varying effects. (As a small oddity, amyloids are associated with a wide list of diseases ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to Alzheimer's. There's no current evidence of cause and effect, and none of these is considered any form of amyloidosis, but the amyloids are always there.

He will be going through some drastic therapy and the possibility of his death is not a remote one. Wish him well -- he will be in my prayers...

Cold Heat Glue Gun

Cold Heat is a company that developed a material that uses a small amount of current (a battery is fine), heats up to as high as 800 degrees and can then, cool to room temperature in a few seconds. I have one of their cordless soldering irons and love it. My bench iron is very lightweight so if I am doing a lot of work, I will fire that up but for doing just a few joints, I use the Cold Heat soldering iron exclusively. I have owned it for a year and only needed to change the batteries once. Now, they have come out with a hot-glue gun that uses their technology. From the website: Freestyle Cordless Glue Gun The ColdHeat Freestyle cordless glue gun is designed for crafting of all kinds as well as light home repair. It is a truly cordless glue gun, featuring a long-life rechargeable battery � not just a few minutes of retained heat use like some other so called 'cordless' guns. The Freestyle also heats fast.
Only $30 -- good deal.

Holy shit - it _IS_ 42 after all.

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From Seed Magazine:
Prime Numbers get Hitched
In 1972, the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote an article called "Missed Opportunities." In it, he describes how relativity could have been discovered many years before Einstein announced his findings if mathematicians in places like G�ttingen had spoken to physicists who were poring over Maxwell's equations describing electromagnetism. The ingredients were there in 1865 to make the breakthrough�only announced by Einstein some 40 years later.

It is striking that Dyson should have written about scientific ships passing in the night. Shortly after he published the piece, he was responsible for an abrupt collision between physics and mathematics that produced one of the most remarkable scientific ideas of the last half century: that quantum physics and prime numbers are inextricably linked.

This unexpected connection with physics has given us a glimpse of the mathematics that might, ultimately, reveal the secret of these enigmatic numbers. At first the link seemed rather tenuous. But the important role played by the number 42 has recently persuaded even the deepest skeptics that the subatomic world might hold the key to one of the greatest unsolved problems in mathematics.
The article then takes a fascinating walk through the Riemann Hypothesis, prime number distribution and a possible connection between primes and quantum physics. Douglas Adams is giggling somewhere.

Laser Monks

Monks with frickin' laser beams?

No -- LaserMonks is something a lot less exciting but still very very cool. They offer laser and ink-jet refills. Prices are fairly competitive with other resellers and they offer both a "compatible" cartridge and the original name-brand ones. NewEgg had a bit better prices on some of the units I looked at (six -- I have several printers) but sometimes their price was higher. From their website:

Our monastery is part of the 900-year-old Cistercian Order; our particular Abbey was founded over 75 years ago in the United States. Every monastery has a monk in charge of all the temporal needs and activities of the community. Among my duties as Steward of Temporal Affairs are developing and managing ways to support our life and charities.Contrary to popular understanding, monasteries are self-supporting. A part of our day is given to some sort of remunerative work, from which we support our modest living needs in the monastery, and then use the rest for charitable work. Our Abbey was at this time looking into various new income projects, which had ranged from growing Shitake mushrooms, raising Christmas trees, to building a golf course and conference center.An income project that was based on a necessary consumable item, like toner and ink cartridges, was exactly what the monastery needed - a solid, consistent, income that would not be affected by difficult economic times. Everyone has to have toner and ink to print, businesses especially. And everyone wants to save money. Add to this the fact that we use the money for good works and to support monks who dedicate their lives to serving God and neighbor, and you have the ultimate win-win situation.The manufacturers were elated with the possibilities. They immediately said we should market not only to schools, churches, and other non-profits, but especially to businesses. "Look, you're monks. You have an image and long tradition of being trustworthy and providing top quality products. You're offering a great product at a great price. Once people hear about you, it's an easy decision. Why would anyone pay more money, when they can have quality products for less, from monks who use the income to help others?"

They do good work with the profits too.

The Profits of War

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JimK at Moorewatch looks at the money that Michael Moore received for his film 9/11 and comes to an interesting conclusion:
Michael Moore, war profiteer
$21 million buys a lot of baseball hats and sweatpants, huh?
Fahrenheit 9/11, now an event, took in more than $228 million in ticket sales worldwide, a record for a documentary, and sold 3 million DVDs, which brought in another $30 million in royalties. After the theaters took their share of the movie�s gross (roughly 50 percent) and distributors deducted the marketing expenses (including prints, advertising, dubbing, and custom clearance) and took their own cut, the net receipts returned to Disney were $78 million.

Disney now had to pay Michael Moore�s profit participation. Under normal circumstances, documentaries rarely, if ever, make profits (especially if distributors charge the usual 33 percent fee). So, when Miramax made the deal for Fahrenheit 9/11, it allowed Moore a generous profit participation�which turned out to be 27 percent of the film�s net receipts. Disney, in honoring this deal, paid Moore a stunning $21 million. Moore never disclosed the amount of his profit participation. When asked about it, the proletarian Moore joked to reporters on a conference call, �I don�t read the contracts.�
I defy anyone to find another person that made more money off the war in Iraq. I mean an individual, not a company. Moore made $21 mil for his pocket. Name someone who made more than that.
A very good point -- corporations helping out certainly made more but individuals? I do not think so... I wonder how much Mr. Moore is giving to charity this year.


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Are you curious about electric motors and want to understand how they work? This page has an excellent and detailed explanation of AC, 3-phase and DC motors -- some math but not needed for a basic understanding. Basic Motor Theory Good stuff!

Then and now

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A wonderful collection of screen captures of games at fosfor gadgets. The left image is from a twenty-year old version, the right from an XBOX 360. Here are a few:


I have never really gotten 'into' computer games but I continue to be very greatful for them as they are what has driven the development of cheap good graphics systems for computers. A video card that cost $1,200 in 1980's dollars is now left in the dust by one that costs $60 today.

Meltdown at Microsoft

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Microsoft recently announced that its two main moneymakers would not be shipping their much-anticipated upgrades this year. Windows Vista and MS Office are slated to be released in 2007. I ran into a blog run by someone who works there and who has some commenters who work there as well. Fascinating look at an ongoing trainwreck. Check out Mini-Microsoft An excerpt from this post: Vista 2007. Fire the leadership now!
It certainly sounded like Microsoft leadership committed to us, our customers, our partners, and our shareholders that Vista would be out in 2006.


We should have asked for more details around the "or else" part of that commitment.

I was upset at missing the back-to-school market. Now we're missing the holiday sales market. All of those laptops and PCs are going to have XP on it. What percentage will upgrade to Vista? Well, I guess that's the little dream that I need to give up on. Vista's deployment is going to come from people buying CPUs with the OS pre-installed, not dancing down the CompUSA aisle as they clutch that boxed version of Vista to their loving chest. So not only did we miss last year's opportunity, we're missing this year's opportunity, too. With the convergence of high-tech media, this holiday season would have been an explosive nodal point to get Vista out for a compounded effect.

Personally, I've been holding off of buying a laptop and a new mega-big-iron PC until Vista is done. I'm super-excited to get Vista Ultimate on that new PC and be able to hook Media Center up to my Xbox 360. And now I'll wait.
And a bit more:
People need to be fired and moved out of Microsoft today. Where's the freakin' accountability?
The comments are well worth reading too:
ballmer: fired!
allchin: fired!
valentine: fired!
jones: fired!
partners at windows division: fired!

windows does need a clean start. it's a no brainer at this point! and if the company doesn�t have what it takes to send you out without a job, you should be seriously thinking about leaving your chair to smarter, more motivated people. we cannot ship our OS. this is not a joke. if we don't take some radical decisions, the company is over.
The culture isn't accountable. Clamoring for a bunch of people getting fired is a waste of time. It�s OUR fault that this company is a disaster. You know who is responsible for our mess, US. It�s your fault. Take responsibility and stop being a bunch of front line victims. It�s pathetic.

Being a 10+ year vet I feel ashamed and sad. This company is a mess on so many levels.
Fascinating reading. I had the pleasure of working there for five years. A lot of fun but it was good to get out of there.

A suicide note

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Remember on March 3rd when a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student drove a rented SUV through a crowd of people? The Herald Sun has the text of the letter he left behind in his apartment:
In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing this letter to inform you of my reasons for premeditating and attempting to murder citizens and residents of the United States of America on Friday, March 3, 2006 in the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina by running them over with my automobile and stabbing them with a knife if the opportunities are presented to me by Allah.

I did intend to use a handgun to murder the citizens and residents of Chapel Hill, North Carolina but the process of receiving a permit for a handgun in this city is highly restricted and out of my reach at the present, most likely due to my foreign nationality.

I am a servant of Allah. I am 22 years of age and I was born in Tehran, Iran. My father, mother and older sister immigrated to the United States in 1985 when I was two years of age and I've lived in the United States ever since.

I attended elementary, middle and high school in North Carolina and I was accepted into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I began my college career in August 2001 and graduated in December 2005 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy with Allah's help.

I do not wish to pursue my career as a student any further because I have no desire to amass the impermanent and temporary fame and material wealth this world has to offer. However I made the decision to continue my studies and to graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill so that the world will know that Allah's servants are very intelligent.

Due to the killing of believing men and women under the direction of the United States government, I have decided to take advantage of my presence on United States soil on Friday, March 3, 2006 to take the lives of as many Americans and American sympathizers as I can in order to punish the United States for their immoral actions around the world.

In the Qur'an, Allah states that the believing men and women have permission to murder anyone responsible for the killing of other believing men and women. I know that the Qur'an is a legitimate and authoritative holy scripture since it is completely validated by modern science and also mathematically encoded with the number 19 beyond human ability. After extensive contemplation and reflection, I have made the decision to exercise the right of violent retaliation that Allah has given me to the fullest extent to which I am capable at present.

I have chosen the particular location on the University campus as my target since I know there is a high likelihood that I will kill several people before being killed myself or jailed and sent to prison if Allah wills. Allah's commandments are never to be questioned and all of Allah's commandments must be obeyed. Those who violate Allah's commandments and purposefully follow human fabrication and falsehood as their religion will burn in fire for eternity in accordance with Allah's will.

Sincerely yours,

Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar
A perfect example of the sociopathic nutcases that we are dealing with. I try to be understanding when dealing with other cultures but this one is so repugnant in its ignorance, fear and hatred that it needs to be smashed back down into the pigs offal it came from. Hat tip to Charles at LGF for the link.

Spinner Wheels are passé

Those spinner wheels you see on cars have now officially become passé. Jumped the Shark. 16 minutes - buh bye... Say hello to PimpStar wheels by Dub Wheels.
The PimpStar is a huge leap forward in the evolution of the wheel. With the PimpStar's built-in full color LED lights, microprocessor and wireless modem, you can display virtually any image, including text, graphics, logos, and even digital photos!

The included software allows you to create your own images and send them to each wheel individually or all wheels at the same time as you drive! You can even pre-load up to six images into each wheel and program them to change automatically at the time intervals you select. The wheels are environmentally sealed, so you don't have to worry about going to the car wash; and they are powered by the vehicle electrical system so there are no batteries to run out or change, ever.
Pricing starts at $12,500 for four with Pirelli tires. And I bet that 3rd party add-ons will have that down to $1K in a year. The technology and software is not that difficult. And I was thinking of putting spinners on our tractor -- that would be fun to see...

Rick Santorum in the news again...

I had written earlier about how Senator Santorum from Pennsylvania was trying to shut down this excellent and free weather service provided by the US Government and require everyone to use a fee-based commercial weather service for the same information. Start here and follow the links: Stormy Weather He has excellent manners on the Senate Floor too -- comparing some Democrats to Adolph Hitler. I even got a troll posting a comment on Santorum's proposal from someone using a computer at Accuweather (one of the companies that stands to benefit from this and who has contributed to Senator Santorum's campaign). Well, it seems that he is having some problems with his charity and some minor ethics issues. From Bob Casey's website is this video outlining some of the interconnections as well as links to several newspaper articles. The Philadelphia Inquirer website has this article:
Big donor to Rick's charity was seeking federal aid
The largest known giver to a controversial charity founded by U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum made its $25,000 donation as the senator was working to win as much as $8.5 million in federal aid for the donor's project in Delaware County.

Federal tax records show that Preferred Real Estate Inc., the developer of the Wharf at Rivertown project in Chester, wrote the check to Santorum's Operation Good Neighbor Foundation in 2002.

On his campaign Web site, Santorum boasts of winning $8.5 million in federal aid for the riverfront redevelopment of an abandoned Peco Energy plant - an effort that culminated in the earmarking of $6 million in highway money last year.

But good-government experts were troubled by the appearance of a developer giving money to the senator's charity at the same time it was lobbying for federal dollars. Unlike a campaign contribution, checks to a charity can be written by a corporation and are not subject to any limit.

"It's a neat window into how Washington works," said Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project, one of several watchdogs troubled by the potential conflicts when a member of Congress also solicits funds for a charity he runs. "It shows that, more and more, Washington is for sale."

The Operation Good Neighbor Foundation - a charity that Santorum established in 2001 with the aim of helping faith-based groups and others battling poverty and social ills - already is under fire for spending considerably less on aid and more on expenses than the Better Business Bureau and other charitable watchdogs recommend.

Also, several campaign aides are on the payroll or connected with the charity, including Santorum's campaign finance chief, lobbyist Rob Bickhart, who's been paid $75,000 by Operation Good Neighbor in salary and whose company also receives rent from the charity.
His own finances don't really bear close examination either. From The American Prospect:
With A Little Help From His Friends
Exclusive: An investigation into the private and public finances of Rick Santorum suggests that the Senate GOP might want to reconsider making him its ethics czar.
And a bit more:
The Santorums bought their oversized Shenstone "estate" even though his financial disclosure forms since 2001 have shown little family income beyond his Senate salary, now $162,100, and he admits that life hasn�t been financially easy. The senator made a startling remark to The New York Times Magazine last spring: "We live paycheck to paycheck, absolutely." But he explained that his parents help out. "They�re by no means wealthy -- they�re two retired VA [Veterans Administration] employees -- but they�ll send a check every now and then," he said.

The Prospect decided to heed Santorum�s advice by taking �an honest look at the family budget� -- his family budget. What we found is that Santorum�s exurban lifestyle is financed in ways that aren�t available to the average voter back home in Pennsylvania -- namely a political action committee that lists payments for such unorthodox items as dozens of trips to the Starbucks in Leesburg, a number of stops at fast-food joints, and purchases at Target, Wal-Mart, and a Giant supermarket in northern Virginia. Although a Santorum aide defends those charges as legitimate political costs, good-government experts say the expenditures are at best unconventional, and at worst a possible violation of Senate rules, and the purchases appear to be unorthodox when compared with other senators� filings. Santorum�s PAC -- a "leadership PAC," whose purpose is to dispense money to other Republican candidates -- used just 18.1 percent of its money to that end over a recent five-year period, a lower number than other leadership PACs of top senators from both parties.
The article goes into a good bit of detail about the mortgage that Santorum got for this $400K residence. I had thought him to be an odious little carbuncle for the Accuweather crap, now I just think that he is dirty.

Ahhh rats

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Baby steps to space. SpaceX first launch goes wrong. From
SpaceX's Inaugural Falcon 1 Rocket Lost Just After Launch
After years of development and no less than three scrubbed attempts, a solitary rocket Falcon 1 rocket roared toward space Friday only to be lost just after liftoff, its builders said.

The private launch firm Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launched the two-stage Falcon 1 rocket at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT) in a space shot staged from the U.S. military�s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean�s Marshall Islands.

But moments after ignition, webcast video from the rocket appeared to show a rolling motion before the feed was lost. Details surrounding possible causes for the rocket�s failure were not immediately available.

"We had a successful liftoff and Falcon made it well clear of the launch pad, but unfortunately the vehicle was lost later in the first stage burn," SpaceX chief Elon Musk said in an update posted to his El Segundo, California-based firm�s website. "More information will be posted once we have had time to analyze the problem."
And they will get this figured out. They already have a few other clients for future launches. Private access to space will be the driving force in the next 20 years or so -- NASA and Big Government Science had its day but it is a dinosaur and needs to be laid to rest.
Like we expected anything different. From Reuters:
Paris job law rally turns violent
Rampaging French youths set fire to cars and looted shops in Paris on Thursday, marring protests against a youth jobs law that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, in a conciliatory move, agreed to discuss with unions.

Aides said Villepin would meet senior trade union officials on Friday to try to defuse a crisis that has triggered a national strike threat and drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters on to French streets.

In Paris, riot police fired tear gas in clashes with youths, dubbed "casseurs" by the French, in the Invalides areas near the Foreign Ministry, Reuters witnesses said.

Youths threw stones at police and set fire to the door of an apartment building in running battles at the end of a largely peaceful rally by thousands of students and workers against the CPE First Job Contract.

"This time, there are lots of young criminals on the march who are there to steal and smash. This discredits the movement," said Charlie Herblin, a 22-year-old worker on the march.

Dozens of young people, many wearing masks or hoods, overturned cars, smashed shop windows and robbed student demonstrators of clothes and mobile phones, witnesses said. Police said they had arrested 42 people.

Clashes also erupted in the western city of Rennes, where about 300 to 400 youths battled with police.

Tens of thousands of students marched in cities throughout France, including Tours, Orleans and Marseille, as part of rolling protests designed to maintain pressure on Villepin to axe a contract they say will create "Kleenex workers" whom employers can throw away at will.
Emphasis mine -- kind of hard to discredit when you have little or no credibility to begin with. At least Monsieur Herblin is actually a worker and is employed. As for the Kleenex Workers -- I would bet that the companies are salivating over people who actually have a skill and solid work ethic, the only people who get thrown away in this plan are those slackers who just want a free ride. Good riddance in my book... And it is nice to see Mr. de Villepin growing some stones. I was at odds with his decisions three years ago but he seems to be slowly seeing the light. This kind of legislation was needed twenty years ago.

RIP Adwaitya

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Adwaitya??? Not exactly a household name but Adwaitya passed away at the tender age of 255. From United Press International:
Clive's tortoise dies at age 255
Adwaitya the tortoise, once owned by the man whose British East India Company helped colonize India in the 18th century, has died at the age of 255.

Adwaitya, or "The only one," was one of four giant Aldabra tortoises given to Robert Clive by British seamen who caught them in the Seychelles Islands, reports The Times of London. The other three died soon after they arrived in India.

In recent years, Adwaitya had numerous illnesses.

"Our records show the tortoise was born in 1750, but some have claimed he was born in 1705," said the Calcutta zoo's director.

"Adwaitya, who delighted the zoo visitors for 131 years, died (Wednesday) morning. His shell will be preserved in the zoo."

Clive, who became known as the "Conqueror of India," arrived in South Asia 1743 as a clerk in the East India Company. But it was his military skill that helped him lay the foundation for eventual British rule of India. Clive died in 1774.
To see what that critter has seen -- an interesting life for sure!

Back home - yayyy!!!

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Got home around 4:00pm this afternoon. Probably not too much blogging tonight as I have a good stack of email to go through (I am on a few fairly active lists). It is so good to be back again. The trip was fun and it was great to see Jen's family again but all that pales to the joy of being home, in the "Dave Cave" with my dog curled up on his bed to my left and some good tunes playing in the background. Turning into a regular hermit... Not that that is a bad thing mind you!


Back at Jen's parents place and have access to a computer without all the hotel internet 'security' features...

I have a couple of scripts that capture comment and trackback spammers and I know that I have been getting quite a flood of them while I was away. Turns out that I had 10,886 attempts at spam, two of which got through of which one of those was automatically quarantined.

Of the 10,886, there were 1,219 unique IP addresses which have been added to the bit bucket (this script needs to be run manually for now as there are too many false-positives).

Mostly PPC -- Pills, Pr0n and Casinos

I take a quick scan of the IP addresses and recognize various USA internet cable providers -- very few from AOL but lots from Comcast and Cox. These are most likely zombie systems but when I try to contact these ISPs, they want to see chapter and verse with log files and screen captures before they will do anything. Bleagh... A quick install of SNORT would go a long way to eliminate much of this.

The other nasty customers have their IP address registered in other countries but they rent server space in the USA -- I cannot touch them as their parent registrar is not subject to USA laws.

But as I said earlier, out of 10,886, all but two got directly blocked, two got through and one of those was automatically quarantined and the one that did get through was only "live" for about an hour before I nuked it.



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While we were driving down, we heard a story about Eephing on NPR. I found the link on NPR's website:
Jimmie Riddle and the Lost Art of Eephing
The eccentric Southern tradition of "eephing" is best described as the hillbilly equivalent of the hip-hop human "beat box" vocal style -- a kind of hiccupping, rhythmic wheeze that started in rural Tennessee more than 100 years ago.

Just like human beat-box artists of the 1980s rendered perfect imitations of drum machines with their mouths, the original eephers of the 1880s imitated the hogs and turkeys living in their backyards.

The odd music genre -- variously spelled "eefing," "eeephing" or "eeefing" -- appealed to a young Memphis producer named Sam Phillips, who recorded "Swamp Root" as one of his first singles. It didn't really catch on, but another of Phillips' offbeat performers -- a fellow named Elvis Presley -- would.
They provide a few audio samples -- fun stuff!

Six Cycle Engine

Very cool actually -- the inventor, Bruce Crower, has been involved in racing and currently builds high-performance cams and other engine parts. From Damn Interesting:
The Six-Stroke Engine
Under the hood of almost all modern automobiles there sits a four-stroke internal combustion engine (ICE). Though the efficiency of the design has been improved upon significantly in the intervening years, the basic concept is the same today as that used by the first practical four-stroke engine built in the 1870s. During every cycle in a typical car engine, each piston moves up and down twice in the chamber, resulting in four total strokes� one of which is the power stroke that provides the torque to move the vehicle. But the automotive industry may soon be revolutionized by a new six-stroke design which adds a second power stroke, resulting in a much more efficient and less polluting alternative.
A bit more:
His addition to the ICE design is simple in principle, yet a stroke of genius. After the exhaust cycles out of the chamber, rather than squirting more fuel and air into the chamber, his design injects ordinary water. Inside the extremely hot chamber, the water immediately turns to steam -- expanding to 1600 times its volume -- which forces the piston down for a second power stroke. Another exhaust cycle pushes the steam out of the chamber, and then the six-stroke cycle begins again.

Besides providing power, this water injection cycle cools the engine from within, making an engine's heavy radiator, coolant, and fans obsolete. Despite its lack of a conventional liquid cooling system, his bench engine is only warm to the touch while it is running.
Clever idea -- the engine gets a bit more power from the waste heat (the article is stating 40% more power). There is a downside in that the vehicle will need to carry as much water as gasoline so the weight saved by not needing a radiator and cooling system is somewhat lost by the extra baggage but still, this is not a bad idea and would be fantastic for a fixed engine such as a generator...

Penultimate day in San Diego

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Jen's Aunt is getting married today -- civil (we hope!) ceremony at the City Hall (gorgeous building right on the waterfront) with the reception to follow at Balboa Park. We head back home tomorrow. The trip has been a lot of fun but both of us really want to get back home and be with our critters and toys.

The French are Revolting

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Interesting... I had been hearing about the riots in France (500,000 protestors, 160 arrests and 17 injuries in Paris alone) but didn't really understand the reason. Here is a short article about the riots from UPI:
French labor protests turn into riots
Damage assessment began in Paris Sunday following riots involving 500,000 protesters upset with a new French labor law that makes young workers vulnerable.

Saturday's demonstration began as a peaceful march, but by Saturday evening into Sunday morning, became violent, with cars being torched, firebombs thrown and police deploying tear gas and water cannons, the BBC reported.

More than 160 people were arrested and at least 17 demonstrators and seven police officers were injured in the clashes, the ITN network said.
It turns out that it is very simple. When you get hired in France, you are essentially hired for life with guaranteed 35 hour workweeks, month-long vacations, pensions, etc... Very cushy. The problem is that some people turn into slackers and do not carry their weight -- they cannot be fired except for gross negligence so they do the barest minimum. Other not-so-subtle issues creep up too, a companies workload fluctuates according to the demands of the marketplace. When a company is busy, if it hires new people, it cannot lay off those people when the demand decreases. This prompts the company to hold off hiring new people so current workers are overworked and the company looses its competative edge. The new law that is being protested against is this (from Reuters):
French gov't defends job law, plays down ultimatum
The French government defended on Sunday a new job law that has provoked mass protest marches and played down a union threat to call a general strike unless the law is withdrawn by Monday night.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the government would not back down over the law, an attempt to reduce youth unemployment which lets employers fire people under 26 for any reason during a two-year trial period.

Unemployment stands at 9.6 percent nationwide and over 20 percent for young people.
The law is an attempt to give young people experience of work and to tackle French employers' reluctance to take on new staff because of the high financial cost and the difficulty of sacking workers.
This law sounds like a win-win situation. It removes one of the barriers to companies hiring people -- not being able to lay them off if needed. It also gives the company an oppertunity to get a good "handle" on this person's work ethic and give them a two year chance to prove themselves worthy of continued employment. The Job Market is tight due to France's work policies. Kids who are unwilling to activly improve themselves and to make themselves marketable to a potential employer will not get hired as there are hundreds of more qualified people salivating at the prospect of employment. And just who are these protestors???

The Wedding Reception

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We spent the day in Balboa Park today and then drove with Jen's Sister and her family to the Wedding Reception of her Grandfather. It was a nice small affair -- only the immediate family and friends. I would guess well over 150 people and more like 170. Met some wonderful people today -- one family lives in WA state about three hours from us and we are agreeing to meet up sometime down the road. I am tired so I will not be posting any more today...

San Diego - second day

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Spent a wonderful several hours this morning walking around Old Town. It was warm and sunny -- something still lacking where we live 1,200 miles to the North. My Mom and Dad happened to be travelling through on an unrelated trip (they are setting sail tomorow for a nice long cruise down the Mexican coastline (grrr...) so we had dinner together. Thanks to reader Steve Johnson who left a comment on my previous post, we ate at Anthony's Fish Grotto. Sheesh! I thought Seattle had good seafood -- this place is as good or better. We were unable to secure a window seat but the view from the table was perfectly good and the food and service was awesome. Before dinner, we wandered around Balboa Park for a while and stopped into the Natural History Museum. Thanks Steve (who has the wonderful blog Strange New Products)! Tomorrow is when Jen's grandfather is getting married and then the following Monday, another relative (Aunt?) is getting married as well. We head back home on Tuesday. Fun trip but it will be awesome to get home again -- even if it is all cold and wet...

Something to watch over the next few days

From the Associated Press:
U.S., Iraq Launch Massive Air Assault
In a well-publicized show of force, U.S. and Iraqi forces swept into the countryside north of the capital in 50 helicopters Thursday looking for insurgents in what the American military called its "largest air assault" in nearly three years.

There was no bombing or firing from the air in the offensive northeast of Samarra, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. All 50 aircraft were helicopters - Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks - used to ferry in and provide cover for the 1,450 Iraqi and U.S. troops.

The military said the assault - Operation Swarmer - aimed to clear "a suspected insurgent operating area" and would continue over several days.
Very cool -- gather some good intellegence, leave the area alone for a few months to build a false sense of security and then go in and hammer them into the ground. It will be interesting to see what transpires after the military releases that information. Nice to see the Iraqi troops working so tightly too -- they are shaping up into a formidible force for peace.

A new type of hacking

This could be interesting...

From the Department of Computer Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam: A few excerpts:

Introduction to RFID Technology
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is the latest phase in the decades-old trend of the miniaturization of computers. RFID transponders are tiny resource-limited computers that do not have a battery that needs periodic replacement. RFID tags are inductively powered by their external reading devices, called RFID readers. Once the RFID tag is activated, the tag decodes the incoming query and produces an appropriate response by using the energy of the incoming radio wave to power the chip long enough to respond. RFID tags can do a limited amount of processing, and have a small amount (<1024 bits) of storage.


RFID Threats
Unfortunately, businesses and governments are not the only ones interested in RFID. Civil liberties groups, hackers and criminals are also keenly interested in this new development, albeit for very different reasons. Civil liberties groups are concerned about RFID technology being used to invade people's privacy; RFID tags enable unethical individuals to snoop on people and surreptitiously collect data on them without their approval or even knowledge. For example, RFID-enabled public transit tickets could allow public transit managers to compile a dossier listing all of a person's travels in the past year -- information which may be of interest to the police, divorce lawyers, and others.

And the main thesis of this paper:

A completely different category of threats arises when hackers or criminals cause valid RFID tags to behave in unexpected (and generally malicious) ways. Typically, computer-bound or mobile RFID readers query RFID tags for their unique identifier or on-tag data, which often serves as a database key or launches some real-world activity. For example, when an RFID reader at a supermarket checkout counter reads the tag on a product, the software driving it could add the item scanned to the list of the customer's purchases, tallying up the total after all products have been scanned.

Here is where the trouble comes in. Up until now, everyone working on RFID technology has tacitly assumed that the mere act of scanning an RFID tag cannot modify back-end software, and certainly not in a malicious way. Unfortunately, they are wrong. In our research, we have discovered that if certain vulnerabilities exist in the RFID software, an RFID tag can be (intentionall) infected with a virus and this virus can infect the backend database used by the RFID software. From there it can be easily spread to other RFID tags. No one thought this possible until now. Later in this website we provide all the details on how to do this and how to defend against it in order to warn the designers of RFID systems not to deploy vulnerable systems.

While we have some hesitation in giving the "bad guys" precise information on how to infect RFID tags, it has been our experience that when talking to people in charge of RFID systems, they often dismiss security concerns as academic, unrealistic, and unworthy of spending any money on countering, as these threats are merely "theoretical." By making code for RFID "malware" publicly available, we hope to convince them that the problem is serious and had better be dealt with, and fast. It is a lot better to lock the barn door while the prize race horse is still inside than to deal with the consequences of not doing so afterwards.

The back-end software is available, fully licensed for a few $K and anyone who works at a business that uses RFID could pull a copy of the software during their lunch-break with minimal problems. Spend a bit of quality time poking at it and voila -- one cracked system. The RFID chips themselves should be simple to spoof -- a bit of RF circuitry and a PIC chip and you are good to go. Slip this into the box or hold it in your hand while it is being scanned and you are in.

Hotel Internet

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It is interesting how various hotels "define" their concept of internet security.

We are staying at one that allows a good set of features but has disabled right-clicking and will not allow me to open Notepad.

I can see where right-clicking might be used to swipe an image without permission but when a website tries to prevent that, it is a trivial matter to circumvent it. Preventing right-clicking at the users browser is more of a serious issue. Rather than flip from page to page, I would rather open an interesting link in a new window. Can't do this here...

They also offer "free internet" in the rooms but this is so hamstrung that I cannot do any work at all. It allows you to open one page at a time and cut and paste is a major chore. Their "service" is partitioned into Office / Entertainment / Games / etc... and you are presented with a screen with some hot-buttons. No "normal" browser window.

At least, this is not like one place I stayed at where they disabled popup windows -- not just pesky advertisements but all popup windows. This blog software uses popups to perform various functions so it was impossible to work.

Had a wonderful dinner at the Cafe Coyote in Old Town and Jen and I are going to be spending a lot more time there -- saw some fantastic metalwork, a maratime antique store and lots of Indian artwork stores. Good thing we do not live down here, we would be broke...

In San Diego

Arrived in San Diego -- we will be there for five days.

Quick post -- went online to check for spammers (only one made it - the log file shows several hundred attempts that were blocked by my scripts) -- we are heading out to walk around the old town for a couple hours and then get dinner.

We were at the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park earlier -- amazing place!

I'll post later this evening.

In California

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Spent the night in Ashland Oregon (gorgeous little town!) and got into Jen's parent's house late this afternoon. Uneventful drive and we missed some really bad weather over the passes. When we got into Ashland, there were snow advisories requiring chains for all vehicles wanting to continue South. We had planned to spend the night there anyway and by morning, the snow had all been removed. Had a few excellent microbrews at the Standing Stone brewery (the food is great too but we ate dinner earlier in the evening) and our breakfast at Brothers was really good. Well worth a visit if you are driving through the California/Oregon border...

Heading South tomorrow

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Jen's maternal grandfather got married recently (private ceremony) and they are having a party in a few days. Wishing them both all the joy in the world! We are driving down to San Diego for this party so postings will be thin on the ground for the next week or so. I will be online at least once/day if I can, but... We have some good people housesitting and taking care of our critters and this will be a fun road trip but still, we would rather just be here at home...


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Like it says: DO NOT PRESS Heh...


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I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Two news items prompt this thought. Item one from The Independent
How Islamic inventors changed the world
From coffee to cheques and the three-course meal, the Muslim world has given us many innovations that we take for granted in daily life. As a new exhibition opens, Paul Vallely nominates 20 of the most influential- and identifies the men of genius behind them.
The article then lists the 20 with a brief paragraph of explanation. Let's look at the dates of these inventions: #1 - Coffee - pre 15th Century #2 - How the eye works - 10th Century #3 - Chess as we know it - 10th Century #4 - Attempted flight - 852AD and 875AD Are you starting to see a distinct trend here? In fact there is only one item in this list of 20 that comes later than the 15th Century. That is the inoculation of people with Cow Pox as a defense against Small Pox and this happened in 1724. What caused this culture of enlightenment to undergo such a plummet to today's culture of fear, ignorance and thuggery. The other news item is this one from Yahoo/Reuters:
The sun is going away, but don't panic...
The Nigerian government, anxious to avoid a repeat of riots that marked a solar eclipse in 2001, warned citizens they may suffer "psychological discomfort" during a new eclipse this month but urged them not to panic.

Information Minister Frank Nweke said an eclipse five years ago caused riots in northern Borno state because people did not know why it happened.

"Some people even felt some evil people in their communities were responsible for the eclipse," he said in a statement on Thursday aimed at reassuring Nigerians that the eclipse is expected to darken parts of the country on March 29.

"The eclipse is not expected to have any real damaging effect, only social and psychological discomforts are envisaged," Nweke said.
Nigeria is predominantly Muslim. The life expectancy at birth is around 46 years. The median age of the population is 18 years old. The joke of the matter is that the country is very oil rich and has a large agricultural output. Apparently, the Muslims in power do not see the benefit of a general education for their citizens.
UPDATED: 03/11/2006 8:00PM From BBC News:
Churchill sculpture sparks uproar
A mental health charity has defended a statue it commissioned of Sir Winston Churchill in a straitjacket.

The statue has been criticised as "absurd and pathetic" by his grandson, Tory MP Nicholas Soames.

Charity Rethink commissioned the 9ft high sculpture, unveiled in Norwich, to highlight the stigma of mental health.

Rethink said the image of Churchill - who suffered bouts of depression - was designed to "portray a more positive image of people with mental illness".

Rethink director of campaigns Paul Corry said Churchill was often used by professional counsellors when talking about depression.

"We did not intend the statue to be offensive in any way," he added.
Christ on a corn dog -- these people work in the fields of mental health. They are supposed to know about what makes people tick and what might deeply offend someone. To top it off, this strata of society is bending over backwards to appease a bunch of medieval terrorists who are actively waging their war on Western society but they trivialize one of the greatest leaders they ever had and the one key person who rescued Great Britain from fascism a mere 60 years ago. Churchill did have debilitating problems with depression -- in his diaries, he writes about his 'little black dog' that followed him around. Anyone researching his life will know about this. To make it a mater of public spectacle shows a stunning lack of common sense and feelings. Those looking to see the content of character need look no further, there is none with these upper-class twits such as MP Ian Gibson in the photo above who said: "critics have 'misinterpreted' the statue". No, critics know exactly what the statue says and they are too polite to do to you what you just did to Churchill. UPDATE: Jen just articulated what was bothering me about this statue. It is a big lie writ large for everyone to see and for them to ultimately draw the wrong conclusion. Churchill suffered from depression but he was never incapacitated by it and he was never institutionalized, never placed in a straightjacket. By contrast, this statue is an honest one:
Churchill's contemporary in the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered from Polio at 39 and used a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His policies brought America out of the great depression of the 1930's and he was instrumental in getting large amounts of war material to England while we were still officially neutral. When Japan struck Perl Harbor in 1941, Roosevelt ramped up America's economy even further and the rest is history. This attempt of manipulating the historical record by depicting Winston Churchill as someone who was institutionalized and confined to a straitjacket is despicable. I would love to spend about 40 minutes with the low-life that thought up this piece of trash. And people think that Piss Christ is bad art, this puts Andres Serrano on par with Michaelangelo.

A clear advertising message

One of the key things in advertising is to deliver a clear message. If your ad looks like something but the ad copy is for something else, you will not always connect and when you do, you will wind up with a confused viewer.

Ran into a perfect example of that this morning:


This just screams "Pharmaceutical" but if you read the copy, you will see that they are selling lubricating fluids for use while machining.

I can see the company wanting to separate themselves from the rest of the oil companies but this is not the way to do it...

Oil Spill in Alaska

Big brew-ha-ha over an Oil Spill on the north slope of Alaska. The Seattle Times has the story:

Recent oil spill largest ever at Prudhoe Bay
More than 200,000 gallons of crude leaked from a ruptured transit line onto the tundra in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, making the spill discovered earlier this month the largest ever on the North Slope, according to an official estimate released today.

The estimated spill size of 202,000 to 267,000 gallons far surpasses the 38,000 gallons spilled in 2001, officials said. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons when it ran aground in Prince William Sound in 1989.

"I can confirm it's the largest spill of crude oil on the North Slope that we have record of," said Linda Giguere with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. She said the state began comprehensive record keeping on spills 10 years ago, following years of cursory record keeping since the trans-Alaska oil pipeline was built in the 1970s.

A bit more:

To date, workers have recovered 52,920 gallons - or 1,260 barrels - of crude. The effort has been slowed in recent days by wind-chilled temperatures that dipped to more than 70 degrees below zero.

"It's a significant spill. The volume is large, but the footprint is small," Giguere said. "It's contained and controlled, which is the really good news. Morale is high, despite the cold temperatures and harsh conditions."

The plant, 650 miles north of Anchorage, usually processes 100,000 barrels of oil daily - slightly less than 10 percent of the daily flow through the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline. For now, a six-inch pipeline is being used for production of 5,000 barrels daily.

Naturally, the enviros are screaming their little pointy heads off. Let's look at a few facts:

Oil Spill: 220,000 Gallons - Standard Short-Course Swimming Pool**:
330,250 Gallons Oil Recovered so far: 52,920 (about 25%)
Gallons in one barrel of Oil: 42
Gallons per day from the plant: 4,200,000

So you are looking at an amount that is a fraction of the daily output. It was a slow leak (otherwise, they would have caught it and shut the line down immediately) but it was hot oil leaking onto frozen ground and will be very easy to clean up once the weather abates a bit. Another article mentioned that the amount of land affected was under two acres -- this is a square of land 295 feet on each side. Not that big. (One Acre = 43,560 Square Feet)

**The standard short-course swimming pool is what most schools and recreational facilities have, it is 1/2 the length of an Olympic Pool.

Fly by wire

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Scary story from England -- from The Telegraph:
The accelerator has jammed, the brakes have burned out and I'm trapped in my BMW doing 130mph
A motorist was trapped in his car driving at almost 130mph for 60 miles after the accelerator jammed.

Kevin Nicolle, 25, was unable to stop the automatic BMW going at top speed after the malfunction on the A1.

His terrifying journey, which was followed by four police cars and a helicopter, ended when he smashed the car into a roundabout, flipping it on its roof.

Amazingly, the former lorry driver walked away from the accident uninjured.

"The whole thing was just a blur," he said. "I can't get it out of my head. I was terrified, hysterical and crying.
It will be interesting to see BMW's report on this. Fly by wire has been around aviation for a long time but the efforts taken to make it bomb-proof are major. Boeing uses three different kinds of computers for each system and they vote on the outcome. The different CPUs require that the same software be written three different times. This basically eliminates both hardware and software glitches. Fly by wire is just coming into the higher-end cars with electronic foot-pedals and steering. I would be curious to see how they plan for eventual failure. All this aside, I wonder why the guy didn't just turn off his ignition when he realized that the car was not going to stop.

OCR finally online

I had written about my frustration with ScanSoft's eStore DigitalRiver a few days ago here.

The following day, instead of going to an internet cafe to download the code, I went to a local office supply store and bought a box version of it for cheaper than it was being sold for on the web.

My concern then was that if DigitalRiver was so flaky, what would it be like to get a refund. To my joy this morning, I found that they are very good about refunds. They fired off an email to me, I clicked a box and sent it back.

So far, so good. I'll be checking online Monday to see if this actually shows up in my account.

It also turned out that my 6-year old scanner was not compatible with the software. It could see it and I tried several versions of the drivers but it would not work. I wound up getting a new scanner today and things are wonderful. ScanSoft (since renamed Nuance) OmniPage is excellent software. I had played with earlier versions of OCR software and found some serious issues -- OmniPage is a definite cut above the rest and well worth it if you are dealing with documents.

An interesting item -- I was looking at some low-end scanners as my old scanner works great with Photoshop. Saw some for around $150 or so that looked interesting. Saw a Xerox unit for $350 that had an Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) and that caught my eye until I looked at the all-in-one machines a bit further down the aisle. I settled on an HP 7210 which also has an ADF (and a much better designed unit then the one on the Tek scanner) plus, it has FAX, Ethernet, memory card readers and a printer.

The cost was the same so what's not to love. Tektronix? Wake up here! The market is knocking at your door and you are sound asleep... And yes, still doing taxes -- have a personal joint checking account, a partnership for the Farm and an L.L.C. Corporation for the cider business. We leave on our California trip Monday and have a lot to do (I let the books slide a bit...)

Neverland Closes

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Been waiting for this to happen for some time. From MTV News:
Michael Jackson Ordered To Shut Down Neverland Ranch
Singer allegedly failed to pay employees, maintain workers--compensation insurance.

Authorities ordered Michael Jackson to shut down his Neverland Valley Ranch on Thursday (March 9), alleging he failed to pay his employees and maintain workers'-compensation insurance, Reuters reports.

The state's Department of Industrial Relations also fined Jackson $69,000 ($1,000 per employee) for letting his insurance policy lapse two months ago. The 2,800-acre central California ranch must remain closed until back wages are paid and insurance issues are taken care of, a spokesperson for the department told Reuters.

Just a few days ago Jackson was cited for allegedly failing to pay at least 30 employees since December and now must not only cough up $306,000 in back wages but also pay a $100,000 fine.
One fortunate note:
State officials have arranged with local authorities for the care of the animals in Neverland's zoo.
Talk about tanking a good career -- a shame...

From Craig's List:

A social worker finally snaps
After years of idealism, I have finally decided that I am sick and f***ing tired of helping the disenfranchised and oppressed. I have a master's degree in social work, and I've worked in a number of different settings. I've been a social worker for Children's Protective Services, a therapist on a psych ward, and I've worked as a case manager for a non-profit that shall remain nameless. I've had a number of clients over the years that I would now like to thank for helping me come to the realization that certain people are beyond help.

1) The mother and father who forced their newborn son to nurse from the family dog: Thank you!! I thought it was going to be just another typical Monday morning. You know, examining 4 year olds and finding anal warts encrusting their little rectums, watching 7 year old little Johnny masturbate the way that Daddy taught him to, and removing little Suzie from her home so Mommy wouldn't be able to put cigarettes out on her thighs anymore. Boring, run-of-the-mill stuff. Then you two beautiful people entered my life. Just in time, I might add! I was beginning to think that abusive parents were losing their sense of creativity. Silly me! What's that? Oh, I know it wasn't your fault. Of course not. No, I agree, formula IS really expensive these days. You're absolutely right, sir, it WOULD have been worse to just let the baby starve. Can I ask you just one question though? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, you could have used your WIC voucher to purchase some formula instead of selling it so you could buy a goddam crack rock? F*** me, you say? Nope. F*** YOU, you smarmy pile of rhino shit! F*** you and your crack whore "baby mama". Your child is coming with me! Merry F***ing Christmas!

And five other case reports follow.

That gene pool can use a lot of chlorox.

Just another success story of the entitlement/welfare state democratic paradise.

A Dog Story

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From CNN/AP -- meet Rocky:
House contract carries long-term leash
New home purchase has catch for young Missouri couple

Housing contracts can get complicated in a hurry. Just consider the clause that Jared and Whittnie Essner agreed to when they bought their first home last week:

"Rocky will be allowed to remain in home (with lots of love, care and attention) and negotiated visitation rights from current master. Chain link fence stays for him."

"In every offer, there's always something to be negotiated," said their real estate agent, Greg Lincoln. In this case, that something happened to be a beagle-mix dog named Rocky.

Jared, 20, and Whittnie, 19, were married last spring. They looked at more than 30 houses before settling on the quaint home at the corner of State and Mildred in this southeast Missouri town, about 100 miles south of St. Louis. The place made an instant impression on them when they toured it. So did the home's sole inhabitant: Rocky.

"We thought, there honestly can't be a dog here if there's no one present," Jared said. Then, Rocky came bounding toward him.

One thing about Rocky -- he's not shy. He is not much bigger than a football, but covers the distance from his doghouse to the gate in a matter of seconds. He nuzzles guests and stares up at people with big round eyes. Rocky seems to smile in the way certain dogs can, with his pink tongue hanging over his lip.

"He's the most lovable dog I've ever seen," Jared said.

The story of how Rocky came to occupy a 2-bedroom house by himself began three years ago. That's when a retiree named Carlos Chitty decided to get a dog.

Carlos, 93, and his wife Ruby, 88, lived at the house for years. They never had kids, and life got pretty quiet after Carlos Chitty retired as owner of Carlos Grocery in downtown Scott City.

"My wife said, 'Why don't we ever have any company?'" Chitty recalled. "I said, 'Didn't you notice that all our friends have passed away and we're still hanging around? That's why.'"

Chitty saw an ad in the paper for free dogs. He said he drove to a home at the edge of town, where more than a dozen dogs were up for adoption.

Again: Rocky's not shy.

"Man, that little dog came running across the yard. He about licked my face off," Chitty recalled.

Twelve years ago, Ruby Chitty was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Carlos watched her personality slowly slip away. By the time Rocky came around, Ruby didn't remember Carlos, or really remember herself, Carlos said. But Rocky was always there.

"I could talk to him. He would ride in my car. We were really buddies," Chitty said.

Earlier this year, it became clear Carlos couldn't take care of his wife any longer. "We'd just gone as far as we could go," he said. They moved into a nursing home. Rocky wasn't allowed.

Friends and family took care of Rocky for a couple of months before the Essners saw the house. The couple didn't want Rocky to be evicted, so they wrote him into the contract.

The couple seems to be living up to their end of the deal. Rocky spends fewer nights outside and sleeps inside the house's entryway on a big pillow. Jared Essner installed a night light by the pillow recently because he thought it was too dark at night.

Carlos Chitty visited Rocky last weekend. At the retirement center, his dresser includes four pictures: Two portraits of Carlos and his wife, and two portraits of Rocky.

Chitty said he wouldn't have given up the dog if he didn't have to. But it meant a lot to him when Whittnie Essner told him Rocky was still his. The couple were just dog-sitting.

"I thought, well, if anybody has the dog, I'd want you to have him," Chitty said he told her.

Code Bloat

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Arrrgghhhh... Trying to download some OCR software to streamline the tax stuff (need to get four months of bank statements input into Quicken) I found something that looked pretty good and went to download it. 404 Megabytes for a single application with zero option to download chunks. With the satellite connection, downloads sometime get dropped but the hosting service (Digital River) does allow for restarting a download without loosing the previous data if you catch it within 30 seconds or so. I had to re-start about twenty times and was up to over 300 MB of received data. The download got wedged again, I hit the download button again and was presented with the following error message:
The number of downloads you have attempted indicates you are having difficulty receiving your file. Please contact Customer Care for assistance in receiving your product.

Message Number: 12
The words Customer Care have a link that presents me with the option of entering the order number and my password. I do this and I am presented with the same file download page I just left. I go to download the file and am presented with the same fricking error message and by now, the 30 seconds or so is gone along with the fricking 300+ Megs of the stupid 400 Meg application I just paid money for. The product is ScanSoft (now Nuance) OmniPage and because of the stupid error-handling system at Digital River, I am going to have to drive into town, find an internet caf� that actually has PCs for people to use and pay them to let me download the fricking software that I was planning to use tonight. Needless to say, I am not a happy camper and although this may well be an excellent application, I really fail to see why a simple OCR program needs to take up 400 Megabytes of space... I sent some email -- we will see what happens...
Some savvy people in Australia are turning what was a waste stream into a salable product. When you make fruit juice concentrate, one of the ways to do this is by freezing -- the water freezes at 32 degrees F while the juice stays liquid because of the high sugar concentration. You can also distill but you run the risk of a flavor change from the heat (even with vacuum distillation). o18 is taking this ice, melting it and bottling it and selling it as a premium bottled water.
Sheer Marketing Genius! Hat tip to Strange New Products for the link.
A big tip 'o the hat to Maggie's Farm for the link to this analysis at The American Thinker of this article at Popular Mechanics debunking a number of the major Hurricane Katrina myths. (still with me? good!)
Popular Mechanics Takes on Katrina Myths
Last week�s Associated Press release of a video, taken just prior to Hurricane Katrina�s arrival in New Orleans last August, has generated a new round of second-guessing and finger pointing regarding who is to blame for the supposedly slow, poor response to this natural disaster. Falling under the fold was an in-depth cover story on this subject by an unlikely source, Popular Mechanics.

In its March issue, PM took on virtually all of the media myths and misnomers that were so drilled into the citizenry by press representatives that many have become part of the public psyche. Thankfully, its authors made it clear right in the first paragraph that they planned on pulling no punches:
�In the months since the storm, many of the first impressions conveyed by the media have turned out to be mistaken.�
How mistaken? Well, PM and its staff put together a list of seven myths concerning Katrina that have been purported by the media, and like a good mechanic, quickly isolated the flaws inherent in the press coverage while making much-needed repairs.
Myth #1: ""The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."�Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005�
For those that have forgotten, Broussard is the man that cried on Meet the Press the Sunday after Katrina hit, claiming that a co-worker�s mother died in New Orleans as a result of the delay in the rescue effort. Broussard�s claims were later thoroughly discredited. In addition, Broussard was responsible for dismissing all of the pump operators in Jefferson Parish before the storm arrived, and is in the middle of a lawsuit filed by parish residents that claim this decision was largely responsible for the flooding.

That said, PM didn�t agree with Broussard�s assertions regarding this matter either:
�Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest�and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm�s landfall.�
Certainly, it seems hard to categorize 100,000 workers as an abandonment. Unlike many in the media that make such bold statements without verification, PM backed up its position with actual facts. How refreshing:
�Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day�some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, �guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways,� says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.�
As the proof is often in the pudding, PM bolstered its view on this myth with the following conclusion:
�While the press focused on FEMA�s shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success�especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state.�
It�s amazing how quickly the press forgot their own highly publicized casualty estimates in the tens of thousands, and saw no victory in that number coming in 90 to 95 percent less than they had advertised.
Read both The American Thinker and Popular Mechanics for more.

Splash Cute (and seriously addictive) Flash game.

Hat tip to Sir Banagor for the link.

Drat man -- I have work to do and you distract me with this most annoying trifle. What level did you get to?

Spall Chucking

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It seems that Barbra Streisand's 'people' should spell check her 'opinion' pieces a little better before putting them online. It has subsequently been corrected but not before Matt Drudge did a screen capture. Corrected: The Importance of Balanced Power in Congress Uncorrected: Matt Drudge
Click for full-size Image
Some of the errors are pretty egregious.

Taxing your imagination...

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Found out for sure today that you can only do business bookkeeping in QuickBooks -- for our personal checkbook, I will need to get a copy of Quicken. Wunnerful, just wunnerful... Still working on the bookkeeping (we are leaving for a 10-day long road-trip and want to get this to the accountants before we go).

The Sunday Doonesbury comic

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was an excellent one:
Click for full-size Image

A machinist's machinist...

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Take a look at this fully-functional Colt 1911 (original design by John Moses Browning):
Sorry for the crappy photo but this is what was provided. This gun was hand-machined from solid steel billets, rod and spring stock. It works. Click here to see it with the Canadian Penny that I deleted in the first image... Meet David Kucer. Truly a machinist's machinist! Wow! Lots of pictures of his work and his shop and custom built tools.

That's it for this evening...

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Still working on taxes. Several more days to go.

Hollywood = Democratic Moonbat

Not so fast there... Check out this entry at WikiPedia: List of celebrities with links to the U.S. Republican Party Some givens like John Rhys-Davies, Ben Stein, Ted Nugent and Robert Duvall but also some surprises like Grace Slick, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Mel Gibson and Jim Caviezel.


Mmmm... From the BBC News comes this report of activities on the Scottish Island of Islay:

Distillery makes 'strongest' dram
A distillery on a west coast island is preparing to produce the "world's most alcoholic single malt whisky".

Managers at Bruichladdich on Islay will use an ancient recipe to distil the whisky four times and produce an alcohol content of at least 92%.

Bruichladdich believes it will be akin to a drink described 300 years ago by travel writer, Martin Martin.

Managing Director Mark Reynier said the distillery was doing it as a bit of fun and it was unlikely to be repeated.

He said: "We are doing this because we have this ancient recipe and therefore we can.

And Martin Martin's report:

In his 1695 travel book, The Western Islands of Scotland, Martin Martin refers to a quadruple distilled whisky known as "usquebaugh-baul" and wrote what is probably the world's oldest whisky tasting note.

He said: "The first taste affects all the members of the body: two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man should exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life."

The secret lies in the drink being distilled four times - usually malt is only distilled twice.

If they have someone who knows what they are doing running the stills (and they seem to!), that will be a delight to savor in 40-70 years.

Bruichladdich was founded in 1881, purchased by Jim Beam and then closed in 1994.

Four locals bought it and reopened it in May of 2001.

Website here: Bruichladdich

A case of 'compassion fatigue'

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From MS/NBC Newsweek:
Katrina's Latest Damage
Crime is up. Schools are overcrowded. Hospitals are jammed. Houston welcomed a flood of hurricane evacuees with open arms. But now the city is suffering from a case of 'compassion fatigue.'

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Houston earned a loving moniker among many of the evacuees who sought refuge there: the Big Heart. This, after all, was the city that housed, fed and mended more than 150,000 survivors in a herculean effort that won national acclaim. Houston officials mounted what is believed to be the biggest shelter operation in the country's history, including MASH-like megaclinics that took on problems ranging from emergency care to eyeglass prescriptions. Then, just as quickly, officials disbanded those facilities to usher evacuees into more-permanent housing, offering them generous vouchers that covered rent and utilities for a year. "No other city really provided the resources and assistance Houston has," says Angelo Edwards, vice chair of the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association. "If not for Mayor [Bill] White and his administration, a lot of us would've been lost."
Emphasis on ACORN mine -- this is an organization that is deeply linked with shakedown artist Jesse Jackson. Not the people you want speaking for a diverse group of people, these are people with a specific agenda -- handouts and welfare. Two more quotes from the article:
"We extended an open hand to all kinds of people," says Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. "If they want to return home, it's their right." And if they want to stay, she adds, they "need to stand up, get on their feet and get jobs."
Of 189 murders in the six months after the hurricane, 33 involved Katrina evacuees as either suspects or victims, according to Police Chief Harold Hurtt. Initially, the killings resulted from clashes among rival New Orleans gangs, says Hurtt. More recently, they've stemmed from robberies or narcotics, he says. Many cops are struck by the brazenness of the evacuees. "It seems like the face of crime has changed in Houston," said Officer Brandon Brown one night last week as he patrolled the sketchy Fondren area of the city, where many of the arrivals have settled. "It's more tense, more violent."
Stories like this really show the difference between red-state and blue-state citizens. We only need to look back to this post from two days ago to see the difference. Here I am linking to Mostly Cajun who writes:
The truth of the matter is that Katrina only side-swiped New Orleans. MISSISSIPPI took the BIG HIT! You won�t see it on the mainstream media because the governor of Mississippi is a Republican and he�s not into Bush-bashing, and the people of the Mississippi coast are like the people of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas after Katrina: They got back to ruins and started sorting out their lives without resorting to rape and pillage.
Not one more cent -- let them get jobs and earn their own cash.

O.M.G. - We are all gonna die!!!

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Recent news from Antarctica -- the ice is melting. This has been gaining a lot of traction but, they are not telling the entire story. From The Scotsman:
Antarctic ice sheet is melting at rate of 36 cubic miles a year, says study
Melting Antarctic ice is adding so much fresh water into the oceans every year that it could fill Loch Ness 18 times over, according to scientific research published yesterday.

Previously it was thought that the massive ice sheet would actually help mop up some of the sea level rise caused by global warming, because rising temperatures would increase the amount of snow falling on the continent.

However the latest survey - using a new technique to measure the mass of ice with NASA satellites - has become the first to suggest that overall it is in "significant decline". They found it was losing 36 cubic miles a year, enough to raise global sea level by 0.4 millimetres a year.
Bot... Let's look at this article in PhysOrg:
East Antarctic Ice Sheet Gains Mass and Slows Sea Level Rise, Study Finds
From 1992 to 2003, Curt Davis, MU professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his team of researchers observed 7.1 million kilometers of the ice sheet, using satellites to measure changes in elevation. They discovered that the ice sheet's interior was gaining mass by about 45 billion tons per year, which was enough to slow sea level rise by .12 millimeters per year.
And a bit more:
"Ice sheet response to climate change is a complex process that is difficult to measure and even more difficult to predict," Davis said. "The overall contribution of the Antarctic ice sheet to global sea-level change will depend on how mass changes in the ice sheet's interior balance mass changes from the coastal areas."
In other words, we don't really know that there is a correlation. For a graphic image of the Sea Level change over the 163 years from 1841 to 2004, check this post out: The rising Sea Level

Light posting next few days

Tax Time... Switching over from Quicken to Quick Books and we have two businesses plus personal so watching where everything goes takes a bit of care. Bleeagh...

A fine(al) rant on Katrina and New Orleans

Mostly Cajun has posted a most wonderful (and last) rant on Katrina:

Final word on New Orleans and Katrina
All over the news - All over the blogs - The story that President Bush was told about the inadequacies of the New Orleans levees only days before Hurricane Katrina

I will add my voice to the many: Any person with half a brain KNEW that New Orleans was in trouble before Katrina. You only need to know that water runs downhill to know that New Orleans was in trouble. Still is. At least a lot of it. the OLD part of the city was built on the high ground. The rest is in trouble. Build a wall? Walls fail. Eventually. Always.

The truth of the matter is that Katrina only side-swiped New Orleans. MISSISSIPPI took the BIG HIT! You won't see it on the mainstream media because the governor of Mississippi is a Republican and he's not into Bush-bashing, and the people of the Mississippi coast are like the people of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas after Katrina: They got back to ruins and started sorting out their lives without resorting to rape and pillage.

The fact is this: New Orleans is mostly a disaster because of decades of neglect. It isn't a lack of money. Enough money has gone through New Orleans to encapsulate the city, but after being siphoned off by corruption and being diluted by silly spending on frivolities meant to buy votes, the money wasn't spent on levees, and instead of intelligence in city planning, construction was allowed on ever lower 'land', land kept dry only by the forces of man. And with Katrina, man's forces failed.

Go and read the rest -- it is spot on... Like I said before, the four levels of support are:

  • Personal
  • Municipal
  • State
  • Federal

This is the way it's set up in our government (Heh - spell checking I found I had typed "givernment" - maybe I should leave it at that) and this is what should have happened for New Orleans. Instead, Bush had to fly down to persuade Blanco to accept Federal aid (she refused to ask for 48 hours after the storm).

The Mayor of Vancouver: Sam Sullivan

Seems awesome. One of the side-effects of living so close to Canada is that you start to get interested in their politics and culture as well as ours. Since they are hosting the next Winter Olympics, the Mayor of Vancouver, BC was in Turin to bring the flag to Canada. He is quadriplegic and in a wheelchair as a result of a skiing accident when he was 19. Part of the ceremony was that he would wave the flag. He had a special bracket attached to his motorized chair and he used that. His comment was wonderful:
"They have commented in Vancouver that we sent Canada�s worst skier to the Olympics, he said.
It seems that he is also interested in outdoors activities and is working with this amazing group: CORD - Climbing Over Restriction and Disability Society One of the climbers Brad Zdanivsky has a website: VerticalChallenge which shows some of the amazing skills and adaptations of C.O.T.S. technology that allow these people to do some jaw-dropping things.
A Quadriplegic Rock Climber
As a late teen, a car accident left rock climber Brad Zdanivsky a quadriplegic. For most people, this would put an end to their climbing aspirations. Not Brad. Instead he set his sights on climbing the mammoth Stawamus Chief, on Canada's West Coast.

Beginning in 1997 Brad set about designing and testing a device for pulling himself up this sheer rock face. Each subsequent year has seen improvements in the gear and increasingly impressive climbing successes�including Brad's ascent of the 1000-foot Grand Wall of the Chief in 2003.

Undaunted by the extraordinary challenges of this endeavor, Brad will make an attempt on the summit of the Chief in September of 2005, climbing 650 m (over 1,900 ft.) in a single day. He will be supported in this by a large number of volunteers who are inspired by Brad's vision, courage and determination to succeed.
Sure, he has a large support system setting ropes and belaying but he is doing the physical work himself. He is not some touron having their sorry ass hauled up a mountain just to say that "I did it". Brad is "doing it" really really "doing it!"

The two other stories occupying my attention these days are the decay of the Canadian public health care system
Canada's Private Clinics Surge as Public System Falters
The Cambie Surgery Center, Canada's most prominent private hospital, may be considered a rogue enterprise.

Accepting money from patients for operations they would otherwise receive free of charge in a public hospital is technically prohibited in this country, even in cases where patients would wait months or even years before receiving treatment.

But no one is about to arrest Dr. Brian Day, who is president and medical director of the center, or any of the 120 doctors who work there. Public hospitals are sending him growing numbers of patients they are too busy to treat, and his center is advertising that patients do not have to wait to replace their aching knees.

The country's publicly financed health insurance system � frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity � is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine.

Dr. Day, for instance, is planning to open more private hospitals, first in Toronto and Ottawa, then in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. Ontario provincial officials are already threatening stiff fines. Dr. Day says he is eager to see them in court.

"We've taken the position that the law is illegal," Dr. Day, 59, says. "This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."
and the election of David Emerson who campaigned as a Liberal but as soon as elected, switched to the Tory (Conservative) party. From CBC News: There oughta be a law
Is anti-defection legislation really the way to stop MPs from switching parties?
"I'm not here to do anything unethical. The moment I feel I can't serve effectively I will disappear as quickly as I arrived."
� Newly minted Conservative Industry Minister David Emerson, elected as a Liberal Jan. 23, 2006.
Canada's newest party hopper, David Emerson, clearly didn't intend to set off such a firestorm when he agreed within days of the election to cross the floor and join Stephen Harper's new Conservative government. A businessman-turned-politician only two years ago, Emerson may be forgiven for not having the finely tuned sensibilities of an old pol. His constituents, however, may not be in much of a forgiving mood.

Elected in a downtown Vancouver riding that hasn't elected a Tory since 1958, Emerson has been facing days of angry street protests, as well as grumbling in his new caucus, an opinion poll that says 62 per cent of British Columbians disapprove of what he did and a demand from his former Liberal riding association that he repay $97,000 in campaign expenses.

On top of this, the Emerson defection, following on the outrage the Tories themselves felt less than a year ago when their very own Belinda Stronach crossed to the Liberals, has renewed calls for an anti-defection law. In B.C., 77 per cent of those polled want switchers required to face their electors again in a byelection to validate their move. And NDP MP Peter Stoffer is promising to reintroduce just such a bill when the Commons reconvenes.

Light posting this evening...

It is my Dad's 90th Birthday today so we went into town to have dinner with them. They just joined the Bellingham Golf & Country Club and we had dinner there. The food was good but the service was abysmal -- dinner took 2 hours and 15 minutes. My Mom has arthritis and had asked for a straw for her drink -- this took about 30 minutes to get. Each of us had a bread plate and a butter knife but the bread and butter never arrived. We didn't order any wine but the wine glasses were not cleared until the entr�es arrived and then, only three sets were removed. The remaining two glasses didn't get taken away until the desserts were ordered. Jen's order was not done correctly: medium well instead of medium rare. I asked for a single malt with my dessert and they did not have any. A well-stocked bar should keep one example of each 'odd' liquor for that rare request -- I would have taken any single malt had they had one. The food and presentation was otherwise quite good. And no, it was not that busy and they were well staffed. They will get one more chance. And Dad had a great time -- he got a nice smaller DeWalt 12 Volt power drill (I have one of their big versions and it seriously rocks) for home repair work, a bedside reading lamp and is shopping for a watch tomorrow.

Meet Kebira

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A new Meteorite Crater has been found and it's a big'un:
Click for full-size Image
Press release here: Boston University
Researchers from BU�s Center for Remote Sensing locate crater using detailed satellite data
Images here: BU Kebira Cool use of existing technology! 31 Klicks in diameter is huge. No word as to the age yet.

Non Sequitur

Today's was a good one:
Click for full-size Image
Learning indeed...
Meet the mind of a Mr. Chris Roller. A small excerpt from his website -- here he is talking about Bill Gates:
Bill and I have a lot in common - we're both computer geeks. I was programming computers at age 13 on a Apple IIe and Commodore Vic 20 with 3.5 K of RAM (it was a power horse back then) and Apple IIe. I was programming assembly and basic - mostly to make games because I just loved video games and I always thought it would be my career in life. After six years of nuclear Navy, I had deep regrets. I could have spent the six years in a very timing-critical field called the computer revolution. The 6 years of Navy, although challenging and rewarding in every sense, essentially made me miss the boat, and I felt big regret for a number of years, mad that I could have been a major part of the Microsoft revolution or related computer industry. I eventually worked at IBM for 6 months making OS/2, the Windows operating system competitor. When that fell through the floor, Microsoft started hiring people from IBM. The bastard didn't hire me. I couldn't figure out what the hell I was doing wrong. Heck, I figured it was my BO, or maybe it was penis envy. It turns out Bill has been watching me for at least 10 years, and the jerk-off decided not to hire me (which would have kept me comforted) so he could feed me to the tigers in a computer industry which can hire and fire in a heartbeat and could care less of the feelings that get broken along the way. Now, 8 years later, he now thinks he can make up for this cruelty by telling me he wants to run for president with me. Bill can't make up his mind though. Similar to the decision whether he should wipe his ass with hundred or thousand dollar bills, he can't decide whether he should be the president or vice president. You see, I'm going to be so busy soon in litigation with lawsuits that it will be tough for me to do the presidential duties, but I think the plan is for me to run for President and Bill to be the vice, but he will probably be running the show for at least the first year. Bill's not used to taking the back seat to anybody (he checks mine out occasionally though), but maybe he'll make an exception if I give him a big hug. The way I talk, you would think I've met the guy before. We computer nerds all know each other and are quit alike.
A nice morning constitutional through a (very) delusional mind...


Portland Blogger Michael J. Totten is traveling around Iraq these days reporting on conditions he finds there. Not surprisingly, he finds conditions quite different than are being reported in the main-stream media. His latest entry is from the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya:

The Utah of the Middle East
SULEIMANIYA, IRAQ  When I first saw the city of Suleimaniya, in Northern Iraq, during daylight I was startled. Out my hotel room window was a straight street, the first such street I had seen in almost half a year. That probably doesn't sound like a big deal. And it isn't. But it threw me for a second. There aren't many right angles and straight lines in the East. Those few that exist are as striking as snow in the tropics for people like me who are used to disorienting and chaotic urban environments.

Suleimaniya isn't North America even if it reminded me of home for a brief moment. And the only thing out my window that really looked Western was the straight street. Nothing else did. But the longer I stayed in the city the more like home I decided it was.

Iraqi Kurds build parks in residential areas filled with single-family homes, something completely unheard of in Beirut and Cairo where everyone lives in apartment towers and there is almost no green space at all. I prefer dense urban environments to suburbs, and I always have. But there was something oddly refreshing about the layout of Suleimaniya. I couldn't stop thinking that it was the Utah of the Middle East.

I met an Kurdish Iraqi couple in Suli who lived for a while in the United States. Ras Rasool is a teacher. Her husband Shwan Zring is an engineer and a member of the Iraqi National Congress. They both came back to Iraq to help rebuild after Saddam's regime was demolished. Utah was the first place they landed when they arrived in the States. They stayed there for seven months. When I said "Suli looks to me like the Utah of the Middle East" they both burst out laughing. "That's exactly what we think as well," Shwan said.

Utah (at least the urban part) bores me. And I get a kick out of Beirut (the Paris of the Middle East). But Suli is relaxing. Suli is calm. Suli is weirdly prosperous, tidy, and suburban considering which country it's in.

Somewhere around 800,000 people live in the city today. Three years ago only half as many lived there. Like any city that undergoes rapid urban migration, most of the newcomers live on the outskirts. Unlike in most Third World cities, the people who live on the outskirts don't live in shanties or slums. Their part of the city is actually more prosperous than the old urban core.

Three photos:




Gorgeous city. I would love to be able to travel freely over there some day.

From The BBC:
Glitter jailed for abusing girls
British former rock star Gary Glitter has been jailed for three years after a Vietnamese court found him guilty of sexually abusing two young girls.

The jury found that Glitter, real name Paul Gadd, had molested the girls, aged 11 and 12, at his home in the resort town of Vung Tau, southern Vietnam.
Good -- 11 and 12 are just too young by anybodies standards (except for Mohamed who married his 9-year-old cousin but that's another story...) Considering that Mr. Glitter molested Vietnamese children, I can only assume that his next three years will be 'educational' to say the least.

The Supremes

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Here is an artists illustration of three of the Supreme Court Justices during today's testimony:
Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (sleeping) and Samuel Alito. From WorldNetDaily:
Snorer in the court? Ruth Bader Ginsburg snoozes
Justice dozes off during political redistricting hearing, colleagues let her sleep

Was it a case of dreaming of a better America, napping on the job, or just being asleep at the switch?

Serving on the highest court in the land is apparently a tiring affair for at least one Supreme Court justice who caught 40 winks on the bench, literally.

According to the Associated Press, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg snoozed during testimony today over political redistricting in Texas.
Obviously, the other Justices will fill her in on the testimony and there was no backstory given to her being so tired but still, when you are in this public of a position, choking down a couple handfuls of No-Doz might have been a good idea...

Double posting

Running into some network problems that are causing double posting. It is not a simple matter to remove the extra post, I need to rebuild the entire site and with the network problems, the rebuild frequently fails. No problem when that happens, it just means that the extra post will be visible until the rebuild successfully completes. We use a satellite internet provider (Starband) and have been having problems with them recently. Been looking around at other satellite vendors and they seem to have some good competition...

The monster that is the EU

Some food for thought from The Brussels Journal:

Former Soviet Dissident Warns For EU Dictatorship
Vladimir Bukovksy, the 63-year old former Soviet dissident, fears that the European Union is on its way to becoming another Soviet Union. In a speech he delivered in Brussels last week Mr Bukovsky called the EU a monster that must be destroyed, the sooner the better, before it develops into a fullfledged totalitarian state.

Mr Bukovsky paid a visit to the European Parliament on Thursday at the invitation of Fidesz, the Hungarian Civic Forum. Fidesz, a member of the European Christian Democrat group, had invited the former Soviet dissident over from England, where he lives, on the occasion of this year's 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. After his morning meeting with the Hungarians, Mr Bukovsky gave an afternoon speech in a Polish restaurant in the Trier straat, opposite the European Parliament, where he spoke at the invitation of the United Kingdom Independence Party, of which he is a patron.

In his speech Mr Bukovsky referred to confidential documents from secret Soviet files which he was allowed to read in 1992. These documents confirm the existence of a conspiracy to turn the European Union into a socialist organization. I attended the meeting and taped the speech. A transcript, as well as the audio fragment (approx. 15 minutes) can be found below. I also had a brief interview with Mr Bukovsky (4 minutes), a transcript and audio fragment of which can also be found below. The interview about the European Union had to be cut short because Mr Bukovsky had other engagements, but it brought back some memories to me, as I had interviewed Vladimir Bukovsky twenty years ago, in 1986, when the Soviet Union, the first monster that he so valiantly fought, was still alive and thriving.

Emphasis mine. Makes a lot of sense... The Russians liked to meddle to counter the Democracy of the West. That hand is still being felt today with the "palestinian' tribespeople, Russia and Yasser Arafat went waaay back and it was Russia who sponsored his rise to power and who gave him the money and arms to build his terrorist organization. Now, like some zombie from the 1950's, the same creeping Marxism is advancing on Europe and nobody seems to be lifting a finger. I'll just hang out up here with my wife, our guns, our well-stocked pantry and wait for the world to come to its senses again...

Bad times in Kenya

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Kathryn Cramer is blogging about the recent unrest in Kenya with the police shutting down and burning newspapers:
Media Shutdown in Kenya
I went to look at a news story on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation site a moment ago, and on the page there was this ominous message, which I take to be a form of SOS:
BREAKING NEWS: Kenya Television Network, KTN is off-air and Standard newspapers off streets after people said to be security agents conducted an overnight operation shutting down their facilities. Information Minister denies prior knowledge of the raid. KBCNewsAlert�
She also links to this article at
Armed men in midnight raid on Kenyan TV station & paper
Close to 100 masked men, some armed with AK-47 assault rifles, raided the offices and printing press of Kenya's Standard Group, stopping the operations of its television station and newspaper, writes Eric Nyakagwa.

The masked men staged simultaneous raids on the editorial offices of Kenya Television Network (KTN) and the group�s printing press in a Nairobi industrial area, where they vandalized machines and carried away some machinery crucial for production.

At both premises, the raiders, who struck shortly after midnight on Wednesday night, roughed up security officers who were on duty and managed to access the group�s headquarters after one of the men in the group identified themselves as a police officer and demanded entry.

The security men were all herded into a corner as the attackers demanded access to the editorial floors and the KTN transmission room where they took away a computer, some power units and interfered with cables, effectively disabling transmission.

At the printing press, they vandalised equipment and burned most of the Thursday papers, which were either rolling off the press or were being packaged for distribution.
Power to the People? Naaa -- corruption and cronyism. Africa just being Africa although Kenya was a surprise to me, they seemed to have their stuff together.

Strange Bedfellows

Amazon and Toys "R" Us have parted company.

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Toys "R" Us wins fight to end partnership with Amazon
Toys "R" Us will be allowed to dissolve its fractious agreement with, according to a decision today in the Superior Court of New Jersey, where the two retailers have been duking it out since May 2004.

"We strongly disagree with the judge's ruling in this case and are currently in the process of reviewing a number of different options," said spokeswoman Patty Smith. "My understanding from the ruling is that nothing effectively changes for another 90 days -- keep in mind, we supplement our existing toy inventory with items not carried by (Toys "R" Us), with items from a number of third party sellers such as eToys and Discovery Channel, and the ruling does not affect our relationship with these other parties."

Amazon's toy store, though, is dominated by Toys "R" Us offerings: a search of the site revealed 17,387 offerings from the toy giant, compared to 95 items from the Discovery Channel and 526 items from eToys.

Smith declined to comment on whether the Seattle-based Internet retailer would seek to overturn the ruling, strike another agreement with Toys "R" Us, or seek new partners to supplement its toy inventory.

A spokeswoman from the Wayne, N.J.-based Toys "R" Us said it is too early to say how its site would change, except that after the 90-day separation period, visitors to the site would no longer be directed to when ordering. "At this point, we are talking with some experienced potential partners, but it is premature to discuss it," said spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh. "We're the largest seller of toys on the Internet in the U.S. and committed to maintaining that position."

And a bit more:

The partnership between the two retailers, struck in August 2000 and supposed to last 10 years, is a telling example of how badly wrong such plans can go: at its conception, the deal was lauded as a blueprint for future alliances between brick and mortar retailers and 'pure play' e-tailers. Instead, it soon slipped into bitter accusations.

Toys "R" Us claimed that Amazon misled the company into believing it had the exclusive right to sell toys on its Web site. Amazon, in turn, said Toys "R" Us couldn't keep up with consumer demand, causing hot items to run out of stock.

Toys "R" Us had no clue just how powerful a marketing opportunity the Internet was, their management still considered Brick and Mortar stores to be the "wave of the future". Finally, clearer heads prevailed and the quickest way they could get online was partnering with Amazon. They botched that up by treating Amazon as a second-rate partner, shipping hot items to the stores and ignoring the fact that the customer placing the order through Amazon was a valid customer too. And now, they are re-adjusting. They have a large store in Bellingham that is closing, one of 73 that they are closing nationwide.

National Animal Identification System

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back40 at Muck and Mystery has a good roundup of information on the proposed NAIS legislation and why it represents a direct violation of several Constitutional Amendments. I had written about it here before: NAIS - your government at work and about Jen and I driving down to our state Capitol to meet with our Representative: Light posting again today Here are two sites to further acquaint yourself with this legislative train-wreck:

Stop Animal
Anyway, back to Gary at Muck and Mystery:
That's the USDA proposed National Animal Identification System. Use a chicken, go to jail.
Indeed, the only general systems of permanent registration of personal property in the United States are systems administered by the individual states for two items that are highly dangerous if misused: motor vehicles and guns. It is difficult to imagine any acceptable basis for the Department to subject the owner of a chicken to more intrusive surveillance than the owner of a gun.

For example, whereas the owner of a long gun generally can take the gun and go hunting beyond the confines of his or her own property without notifying the government, the Department proposes that the chicken owner, under pain of unspecified "enforcement," must report within 24 hours any instance of a chicken leaving or returning to the registered property. (Standards, pp. 13, 18-19, 21; Plan, p. 17.)

Even more important than the trammeling of basic property rights under the program is the insult to fundamental human rights, which must remain free from government interference.

* See; Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 565 (2003).
* These fundamental human rights include decisions about nutrition and bodily integrity.
* See also; Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990);
* See also; Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165 (1952).
Gary quotes a bit more from the article (which suggests an excellent alternative) and then closes with this:
The needs of small holders have been consistently disregarded for quite a long time. There is merit to the above argument that the severity of current threats in hugely increased by the resultant system of mass production and consumption. We have an interesting conflict here since the needs of big ag and global traders are great, they are seriously threatened and have already suffered set backs, but the proposed solutions will further erode the distributed small holder network that many are coming to see is a solution to not only this problem but a host of other food related failures.
Absolutely -- if they shut us down, what will they do a few years from now when it is shown that a decentralized food chain is actually the safer way to go. Jen just got done with our seed order for this year -- over $400 but it will feed us from Spring through Fall as well as give us enough to sell at the local farmers market. We have 25 chickens brooding in the downstairs bathroom (in the tub for another week or two). The pantry is well stocked. We do not have food problems...
Nice milestone. From the Wikimedia Foundation:
English Wikipedia Publishes Millionth Article
March 1, 2006 The Wikimedia Foundation announced today the creation of the 1,000,000th article in the English language edition of Wikipedia. The article is about the Jordanhill railway station in Scotland, and it was started by Wikipedia contributor Ewan Macdonald. Wikipedia is a free, multilingual, online encyclopedia with 3.3 million articles under development in more than 125 languages.

The full text of the English Wikipedia is located at In addition to articles, the English Wikipedia offers dozens of graphical timelines and subject-specific portals. Its media repository includes four hundred thousand images and hundreds of full-length songs, videos, and animations, many of which are available for free distribution.

Although its method of editing is new and controversial, Wikipedia has already won acclaim and awards for its detailed coverage of current events, popular culture, and scientific topics; its usability; and its international community of contributors. BBC News has called Wikipedia "One of the most reliably useful sources of information around, on or off-line." Daniel Pink, author and WIRED Magazine columnist, has described Wikipedia as "the self-organizing, self-repairing, hyperaddictive library of the future," and Tim Berners-Lee, father of the Web, has called it "The Font of All Knowledge."

Wikipedia is among the world's most popular websites, receiving tens of millions of visitors every day. It is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation, and has spawned sister projects, including a dictionary, a library of textbooks, a compendium of quotations, a news site, and a media repository. These projects are all run using the open source MediaWiki software.
Very cool -- I use it regularly, excellent source of information.

Melting Metal

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Good website on metal casting and foundry work: Lots of good info, tips and photos.

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