August 2006 Archives

A quiet storm

Quiet in the sense that we have heard very little about it. Ernesto has generated more hot air in the media than it has on land or sea. With all the hand-wringing and worrying and miles and miles of ink in the press, it is strange that we do not hear about another storm raging now. Meet Super Typhoon Ioke -- from the Voice of America:
'Monster' Typhoon Ioke Makes Direct Hit on Wake Island
Super Typhoon Ioke has made a direct hit on Wake Island, pounding the tiny U.S. Pacific territory with catastrophic winds of up to 300 kilometers an hour.

Ioke is the strongest central Pacific typhoon in at least 12 years. Forecasters expect the "monster" storm to submerge Wake Island and destroy everything on it that is not made of concrete.

Wake is home to a U.S. Air Force base and a scientific outpost, roughly midway between Hawaii and Japan.

The eye of the typhoon skirted the north edge of the coral atoll Thursday. The U.S. Air Force had already evacuated all of the island's 188 residents to Hawaii, 3,700 kilometers across the Pacific.

The residents - Air Force personnel and American and Thai contractors - left Monday aboard two U.S. C-17 Globemaster planes. It was the first time the territory was evacuated in nearly 30 years.
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Super typhoon knocks out weather sensors
Typhoon Ioke knocked out Wake Island's weather sensors on Thursday as it lashed the isle with some of the central Pacific's fiercest winds in over a decade, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters monitoring the 2.5-square-mile atoll's wind and temperature gauges from Hawaii said the instruments blew out as the storm approached with winds of up to 155 miles per hour and gusts of up to 190 mph.
Here is the 'ofishul' portrait from the US Navy:
Each line on the satellite image represents two degrees of Latitude or Longitude. At the equator, two degrees equals just under 140 miles. This puppy is over 500 miles in diameter!

An engine for a boat...

I had initially blogged about it in March of 2004: World's largest Diesel Engine I found today that the website had moved to another server and had been greatly expanded. Check out the all new: The Most Powerful Diesel Engine in the World! Here is one of the new photos showing the crankshaft in the crankcase:
You can see the rungs of the ladders used to descend to the oil pan. Here is the completed engine:
The very cool thing is that the efficiency is extremely high. More than 50% of the available energy in the fuel gets converted to motion. Contrast this to smaller engines in automobiles and aircraft where the efficiency is in the 25% to 30% range.

The Scream back home

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Very cool -- Edvard Munch's Scream has been found. From the Beeb:
Stolen Munch paintings found safe
Two masterpieces by artist Edvard Munch have been recovered two years after they were stolen from an Oslo museum.

The Scream and Madonna were found in a police operation. "We are 100% certain they are the originals. The damage was much less than feared," police said.

They had been missing since two armed men ripped them from the wall and threatened staff at the Munch Museum in the Norwegian capital in August 2004.

Three men were found guilty of charges relating to the theft in May.

"We felt it was a victory today when the pictures turned up," police chief Iver Stensrud told a press conference in Oslo.
Very good news indeed!

How to tell time -- Italian Version

Swiped from Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple

A good comeuppance

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I am not a fan of Thomas Kinkade by any means. Some people really like his work but then again, some people really like Kenny G.'s music especially when played on Bose sound systems. Kinkade to me is a decent illustrator who has taken his minimal skill set and has packaged and marketed the bejesus out of it and has made a decent amount of money off the American taste by convincing some people that his work is "fine art". A little clue here -- it isn't fine art. Not by a very long shot. Well, it seems that Thommy-boy has overreached a bit -- from the LA Times:
Painter Said to Be Focus of FBI Probe
The FBI is investigating allegations that self-styled "Painter of Light" Thomas Kinkade and some of his top executives fraudulently induced investors to open galleries and then ruined them financially, former dealers contacted by federal agents said.

Investigators are focusing on issues raised in civil litigation by at least six former Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery owners, people who have been contacted by the FBI said.

The ex-owners allege in arbitration claims that, among other things, the artist known for his dreamily luminous landscapes and street scenes used his Christian faith to persuade them to invest in the independently owned stores, which sell only Kinkade's work.

"They really knew how to bait the hook," said one former dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case. "They certainly used the Christian hook."

Kinkade has denied the allegations in the civil litigation.

Two former dealers told the Los Angeles Times that they had been asked to provide documentation of their business relationships with Kinkade's company. They said agents asked for copies of dealer agreements, retail sales policies, training materials from "Thomas Kinkade University" and correspondence, including e-mail.

Kinkade Co. spokesman Jim Bryant said Monday that the Morgan Hill, Calif.-based company was unaware of a criminal investigation and had not been contacted by the FBI or federal prosecutors.

"The Thomas Kinkade Co. asserts that there is no legitimate grounds for a federal investigation of any kind," Bryant wrote by e-mail.
"Thomas Kinkade University" indeed -- the man overreaches.

Light posting tonight

Working on some other stuff...


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Two views on current Ethanol production. From AgWeb:
Ethanol Production Reaches All-Time High
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has announced that U.S. ethanol production increased in June to 318,000 barrels per day (b/d), an all-time record. That is an increase of 25,000 b/d from May and a rise of nearly 28% from June 2005.

Demand for ethanol also rose to record levels in June at 395,000 b/d. That represents a 46,000 b/d jump from May and an increase of more than 42% from the same period a year ago.
�The U.S. ethanol industry has responded to the challenges of the President, the American public and the marketplace to increase the supply and availability of this cleaner-burning fuel,� said RFA President Bob Dinneen. �As a result, we are reducing our dependence on foreign petroleum, helping preserve air quality standards in America�s most polluted regions, and revitalizing economies in hundreds of rural communities around the country.�

Currently, 101 ethanol biorefineries nationwide have the capacity to produce more than 4.8 billion gallons annually. There are 42 ethanol refineries and 7 expansions under construction with a combined annual capacity of nearly 2.9 billion gallons.
And looking at the same numbers with a different perspective. From Seed Magazine:
The Battle between Food and Fuel
Exploding demand for ethanol could inflate the price of food and threaten the world's hungry

In 2005, Iowa grew over 2 billion bushels of corn. That's nearly 20 percent of the nation's crop, more than any other state, and many other countries, managed to produce.

Not content with accepting government subsidies to produce corn at cost, Iowa is increasingly trying to transform its cash crop into liquid gold by becoming a leading producer of ethanol. By the start of this year, Iowa produced more than a billion gallons of ethanol, and its production capacity is slated to expand by hundreds of millions of gallons. The state is turning corn into fuel so fast that by the end of next year, Iowa will actually suffer a crop shortage.
The Seed Magazine article is quite detailed (three pages). This is a complex issue. The cost to produce Ethanol is very close to what it can be sold for at the pump so without the high level of government subsidies and tax cuts it currently enjoy, it would be a non-starter. The government subsidies are causing a corn shortage so the cost of meat and corn derived foods will rise. All for a fuel that may well take more petroleum energy to produce than it will yield.

So huggable

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From MS/NBC comes this valuable bit of backwoods information:
Never hug a Swiss cow, hikers told
'Reports of unpleasant meetings' with cattle prompt new ground rules

Keep your distance. Avoid eye contact. And even if it looks cute, never hug a Swiss cow.

Responding to numerous �reports of unpleasant meetings between hikers and cattle� along Switzerland�s picture-perfect Alpine trails this summer, the Swiss Hiking Federation has laid down a few ground rules.

�Leave the animals in peace and do not touch them. Never caress a calf,� according to the group�s guidance, posted on the Web site

�Do not scare the animals or look them directly in the eye. Do not wave sticks. Give a precise blow to the muzzle of the cow in the event of absolute need,� it advises.

Evelyne Zaugg of the Swiss Hiking Federation said that while there were no precise statistics on incidents involving cows, walkers are reporting more run-ins than a few years ago.
Make sense -- more people on the trails and more clueless people out there. A cow can weigh 1,200 to 2000 pounds; they are large animals. A small misstep on their part could result in serious injury to someone standing near who was not accustomed to dealing with them. The Swiss website also has this informative poster (excerpted):

A look at Gaza

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An interesting look at the conditions in Gaza from Ghazi Hamad. Steven Erlanger writes in the San Jose Mercury News:
Blame placed upon Gaza
Official offers rare self-criticism

In an unusual instance of self-criticism, a well-known Hamas official has deplored the collapse of Gazan life into chaos and has said that much of the blame belongs to Palestinians themselves.

"Gaza is suffering under the yoke of anarchy and the swords of thugs," wrote Ghazi Hamad, a former Hamas newspaper editor and the spokesman for the current Hamas government, in an article published Sunday in Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian newspaper.

After so much optimism when Israelis pulled out of Gaza a year ago, he wrote, "life became a nightmare and an intolerable burden."

He urged Palestinians to look to themselves, not to Israel, for the causes. But he appeared to be placing the blame elsewhere than on Hamas or the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Ismail Haniya of Hamas. He said various armed groups in the Gaza Strip -- most affiliated with Fatah, Hamas' rival -- were responsible for the chaos.

"We've all been attacked by the bacteria of stupidity," Hamad wrote. "We have lost our sense of direction." He addressed the armed groups: "Please have mercy on Gaza. Have mercy on us from your demagogy, chaos, guns, thugs, infighting. Let Gaza breathe a bit. Let it live."
Brave words!

I am not using the "blockbuster" term lightly. From Paul at Wizbang comes this amazing piece of reporting:

The Katrina Video Congress Didn't Want You To See
I'm going to warn you now. If you've only heard the news from the mainstream media, everything you think you know about Katrina flooding New Orleans is wrong. If you think you already know everything there is to know about Katrina, then you can safely ignore this post. - If the sum total of your interest in New Orleans flooding is to bash Nagin or Bush, then please... Go to where your intellect will be more appreciated. If you'd like to have your whole understanding of the Great Flood of New Orleans changed, hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

We've all heard the story, in the early morning hours of Aug 29, 2005, the Category 4 Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, overwhelming the New Orleans levee system and flooding the city. If you read Wizbang, you've known since early October of 2005 this story was fatally flawed.

In the months since Katrina, we've learned that the storm was a Category 1 by the time she hit New Orleans. No "Super Hurricane," just an average storm. We've also learned that the New Orleans Hurricane Protection System was not overwhelmed by Katrina, it collapsed. Causing the Corps of Engineers to admit they flooded New Orleans not Katrina...  An admission that got scant little media coverage. The Great Flood of New Orleans was not a natural disaster but a man made one.

The reason the Corps finally had to admit responsibility was that the floodwall that failed - flooding 70% of the city - basically collapsed under its own weight. It was undeniable. The Corps tried for months to claim the water came over the top of the floodwall and washed it away from the backside. (Which would make it Congress's fault) Everyone who has seen the break or looked at the surge data knew this was a lie; that the wall suffered a catastrophic failure before the water reached the top. Almost a year later, the Corps admitted that the floodwall suffered from multiple fatal design flaws and failed prematurely.

What was not really told to the public however is how high the water got up the walls before they failed. - This is an important question to a city rebuilding ~ $250 billion in infrastructure. It is commonly assumed by the public that the water must have been quite high.

The question also has legal ramifications. Sovereign Immunity says citizens can not sue the government for damages unless there is negligence or Congress allows the government to be sued. If the public assumption is that Katrina was responsible for the flooding, Congress would never allow the government to be sued.

Perhaps that explains why Congress confiscated a video of the floodwall collapsing and refused to let the public see it until (a perfectly timed) 10 months after the storm. - Well after the storm passed but a few months before the current 1 year anniversary hype.

You've probably never seen it, but we have video taken by New Orleans firefighters as the 17th street canal floodwall was actually in the process of breaking during Katrina. It answers the question of just how prematurely the walls failed. The video was obtained by the National Geographic channel and aired a few weeks ago. (it took me a while to blog it, so sue me)

The video - if you understand it - is shocking. Sadly, no one at National Geographic or even the local TV station got the significance of the video. -- Because they were looking at the wrong thing.

I'm going to explain what is on the video that no one caught and I'll do my best to give you a good understanding of the whole thing.

Before I type their whole story, watch the firefighters' story as told by a local TV station a couple of months ago. As you watch the video, don't worry about the pictures for now, we'll get to them. For now, listen to the reporter and the firemen tell their story.

This is only a brief excerpt of a much longer post. Paul does an excellent job summarizing and showing evidence from the video as well as photos taken from the same spot showing concrete evidence of water levels and that the flood surge did not 'overwhelm' the levee. The issue here is the competence of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Levee system may have been built by contractors but they built to USACE specifications and if these specs were wrong, the government is in a whole world of hurt when it comes to lawsuits.

Jumping the Shark -- Tom Cruise GAY!

Tom Cruise made the perfect ass of himself on Oprah.
Note: Websites that were hosting the actual video of this amazing 'performance' were asked to remove the media by Cruises' lawyers. Cruise did an amazing verbal attack on Brooke Shields who was courageous about admitting to post-partum depression and seeking mental help to deal with this. He has since been 'fired' by Paramount Pictures for not accepting a salary that was commensurate with his current earnings. Well, he has inked a deal with a group that includes the owner of the Washington Redskins. From the LA Times:
Tom Cruise Cuts New Deal
Tom Cruise has cut a deal with a group that includes the owner of the Washington Redskins to finance the overhead costs of his film production company, sources close to the negotiations said today.

Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder, chairman of Six Flags Inc., is said to be a leading investor in an agreement that would give Cruise less than $3 million annually to finance staff and office expenses. In exchange, Snyder and the others will have the ability to finance movies developed by Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner.

The two-year deal gives Cruise less than the $3 million a year that he reportedly turned down from Paramount Pictures to renew his longtime deal with the studio that expires Thursday.

Cruise and Wagner had been receiving an estimated $10 million annually from Paramount to cover their overhead under the soon to be expired deal.

When Cruise was publicly dismissed from Paramount by the studio's owner, Viacom Inc. Chairman Sumner Redstone, last week, Wagner claimed that the team had lined up financing from hedge funds to cover the much larger cost of developing movies. The team was seeking at least $100 million, according to sources. The name of the hedge fund remains unknown and Cruise's lawyer Bertram Fields said last week there was no hedge fund deal.

Several top banking sources said they had not heard of any deal struck by Cruise with a hedge fund.
Another M. Jackson in the making? If not, at least a major shark jumping event... MI-3 was fun -- the baseballs scene was clever but it was more flash and bang than substance. A good rental or late-nite TV movie.

Oops (with a grain of salt)

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From Yahoo/AP:
Hezbollah head says he didn't expect war
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a TV interview aired Sunday that he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war.

Guerrillas from the Islamic militant group killed three Israeli soldiers and seized two more in a cross-border raid July 12, which sparked 34 days of fighting that ended with a cease-fire on Aug. 14.

"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," he said in an interview with Lebanon's New TV station.
A couple of things to remember. The terrorists are masters at Public Relations. Although they have enough military "might" to wreak terror on innocent civilians, they do not have the power to sponsor any kind of military and they do not have the courage to wage a conventional war. They know they would get slaughtered. Instead, they have moved their battlefield to the Media and have found themselves welcomed with open arms. According to the Koran, a practitioner of Islam has no moral compunction against lying to a Dhimmi (a non-Islamic) so they can get on television and spin whatever kind of yarn they want and the West laps it up. Contrast this to English-language translations of the Friday sermons at some Mosques and you will see a huge difference in attitude and stated goals. In the article above, it is interesting to note that Nasrallah said: "he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known..." Remember that Hesbollah denied any knowledge of and responsibility for the kidnapping stating later that the prisoners had been transfered to them from a splinter group. Another lie to the Western Media. It is also interesting to note Nasrallah's ruefulness over starting the war. I don't know if this is crocodile tears (we really are a peaceful people... really...) for the media or if there is some concrete feeling in back of it. If the latter is the case, it shows that he has misjudged the people they are trying to wipe out. Olmert may be a weak leader but if he fails, there are men and women with steel backbones who will take his place and wipe this pox on the face of God off the planet and down to Gehenna where they so belong.

Dangerous place -- Spark Fun Electronics

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Jen -- hold my Credit Cards for a few weeks will 'ya? Just found this place: Spark Fun Electronics One of the problems with 'do it yourself' electronics these days is that many of the really cool new chips are only available from the manufacturer in huge quantities -- thousands or more. The other is that since these chips were designed to be used in small electronic devices that are assembled by robot, they are tiny -- very very tiny and it is incredibly difficult for a human to attach wires and solder them to a circuit board. Spark Fun Electronics has solved both of these problems by selling single quantities of these chips already mounted onto a small circuit board. This board is "human scale" and has provisions for cables to be attached. Spark Fun Electronics also sells tools, software, single-board computers and sensors for robotics. Reasonable pricing too. Here is an example:
This is one of the newer Cell Phone Camera modules mounted onto the circuit board.The dots around the edge (Y0, Y1, Y2, etc...) are on their circuit board and are the places where you can solder your connections. The tan wrinkled thing between the two black objects is the factory installed cable from the circuit board to the camera. Camera is the black thing on the left. Want one? $30 and it's yours. Not bad for a color video camera that measures 1" by 0.8"

One small step

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NASA, like any large governmental agency has problems with basic incompetence. Look at the International Space Station or the Shuttle for a good example. Now it seems that many of the video and data tapes from the ground-breaking Moon Flight series are missing and presumed lost. Fortunately, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:
One small step in hunt for moon film world didn't see
A reel of film held for 20 years in a Sydney vault could unlock the mystery of what happened to the original tapes of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The reel belongs to Australian film producer and rock video director Peter Clifton, who had all but forgotten a pristine 16-millimetre film of the moon landing was part of his vast personal film catalogue.

Mr Clifton had ordered the reel in 1979 for a rock film he was making about Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon but forgot he had it until seeing a news report on television recently.

The footage of Neil Armstrong's "one small step" is considered among the most important artefacts of the 20th century but the original NASA tapes have been mislaid somewhere in the US.

It is hoped documentation associated with Mr Clifton's reel will help direct researchers to the warehouse or museum where the missing tapes are stored - if they still exist.

The grainy black-and-white television images broadcast to 600 million viewers on July 20, 1969, were a photocopy of a photocopy of the original images captured on the moon's surface by a specially built camera.

Few people ever saw the high-quality original images shot at 10 frames a second and beamed back to the Australian tracking station at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory.

When the images reached the tracking station they were transferred onto a one-inch, 60-frame-per-second tape and sent to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, at Maryland near Washington, DC, for safekeeping.

The footage broadcast to the world was shot by a television camera pointed at a monitor receiving the images from the moon.

"What was broadcast to the world was nowhere near as good as what was received," said John Sarkissian, an engineer at the Parkes Observatory.

All the Apollo mission flights and moon landings were captured in this way and transferred onto one-inch tapes at Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek in Australia and the Goldstone Observatory in California. The tapes were stored in 2614 boxes containing five reels of tape each and held for years in the US National Archives.

By 1984 most boxes were recalled and sorted at the Goddard Centre, but only two of 700 original Apollo 11 tapes have been found.

NASA announced last week it was launching a formal search and is recalling all the paperwork associated with the tapes.
Cool! There was a wonderful film made of the Parkes Station and its role in the Apollo 11 flight. It's worth your time to track it down and rent The Dish.

An AHA! moment

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There was a discussion of Bose audio equipment and this analogy came to me: Bose is to fine audio as Thomas Kinkade is to fine art.

Alternate Energy - over-unity

Over-unity refers to a violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics.

Getting more energy out of a closed system than you put into it.

Reports of this can generally be put down to either a combination of wishful thinking and stunningly bad lab practices or an outright attempt at fraud. The latest from Steorn (Wikipedia here) appears to be a case of the latter. A few talking points on the subject from Don Lancaster: (scroll down to the August 24 entry -- he doesn't support permalinks)

Outside of the inescapable fact that it flat out ain't gonna happen nohow noway, what other hurdles would a successful first law thermodynamic challenge face?
~ Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.

~ It is up to the claimant to prove correctness, NOT up to others to prove them in error.

~ The foremost goal of any legitimate researcher when "too good to be true" results occur is to attempt to prove themselves wrong.

~ The thermodynamic laws are tested and retested millions of times every minute.

~ Student lab errors have long ago discovered any and every possible variation on normal groupings of magnets and related common components.

~ "Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck" gets them every time. Peer review done in credible journals counts more than costly paid ads in non scientific ones.

~ There's a half life of any perpetual motion claim in which the credibility and failure to duplicate drops something like twenty percent per week.

~ "Publish or perish" is alive and well. There are zillions of second tier researchers just sitting around for something they can glomb onto and run with.

~ Questions such as "where is one net watt" and "why cannot the output be connected to the input" must be convincingly answered.

~ The ultimate criteria is whether the item is not in Aisle 13 of Wal-Mart because they immediately sold out.

~ The odds against are overwhelming. It always pays to bet on the side of bogosity. While holding on to your wallet.

~ Any technical field has secret insider gotchas that absolutely guarantee outsiders will make fundamental stupid measuring errors. Not the least of which is correct RMS power measurement of unusual waveforms.

And, of course...
~ Any individual knowledgeable enough to propose a first or second law violation already knows that they will never do so.

Again, more on pseudoscience bashing here.

Don's website is an excellent resource -- here is the home page, start here and start drilling down.

You Worry Me

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A bit long but swiped in full from Irons in the Fire:

By American Airlines Pilot - Captain John Maniscalco

"I've been trying to say this since 9-11 - but you worry me. I wish you didn't. I wish when I walked down the streets of this country that I love, that your color and culture still blended with the beautiful human landscape we enjoy in this country. But you don't blend in anymore. I notice you, and it worries me. I notice you because I can't help it anymore. People from your homelands, professing to be Muslims, have been attacking and killing my fellow citizens and our friends for more than 20 years now. I don't fully understand their grievances and hate but I know that nothing can justify the inhumanity of their attacks.

On September 11, nineteen ARAB-MUSLIMS hijacked four jetliners in my country. They cut the throats of women in front of children and brutally stabbed to death others. They took control of those planes and crashed them into buildings killing thousands of proud fathers, loving sons, wise grandparents, elegant daughters, best friends, favorite coaches, fearless public servants, and children's mothers. The Palestinians Celebrated, The Iraqis were overjoyed as was most of the Arab world.

So I notice you now. I don't want to be worried. I don't want to be consumed by the same rage and hate and prejudice that has destroyed the soul of these terrorists. But I need your help. As a rational American, trying to protect my country and family in an irrational and unsafe world, I must know how to tell the difference between you, and the Arab/Muslim terrorist.

How do I differentiate between the true Arab/Muslim-Americans and the Arab/Muslims in our communities who are attending our schools, enjoying our parks, and living in OUR communities under the protection of OUR constitution, while they plot the next attack that will slaughter these same good neighbors and children? The events of September 11th changed the answer. It is not my responsibility to determine which of you embraces our great country, with ALL of its religions, with ALL of its different citizens, with all of its faults. It is time for every Arab/Muslim in this country to determine it for me.

I want to know, I demand to know, and I have a right to know whether or not you love America. Do you pledge allegiance to its flag? Do you proudly display it in front of your house, or on your car? Do you pray in your many daily prayers that Allah will bless this nation, that He will protect and prosper it? Or do you pray that Allah with destroy it in one of your "Jihads"? Are you thankful for the freedom that only this nation affords? A freedom that was paid for by the blood of hundreds of thousands of patriots who gave their lives for this country? Are you willing to preserve this freedom by paying the ultimate sacrifice? Do you love America? If this is your commitment, then I need YOU to start letting ME know about it.

Your Muslim leaders in this nation should be flooding the media at this time with hard facts on your faith, and what hard actions you are taking as a community and as a religion to protect the United States of America Please, no more benign overtures of regret for the death of the innocent because I worry about who you regard as innocent. No more benign overtures of condemnation for the unprovoked attacks because I worry about what is unprovoked to you. I am not interested in any more sympathy...I am only interested in action. What will you do for America - our great country -- at this time of crisis, at this time of war?

I want to see Arab-Muslims waving the AMERICAN flag in the streets. I want to hear you chanting "Allah Bless America ." I want to see young Arab/Muslim men enlisting in the military. I want to see a commitment of money, time, and emotion to the victims of this butchering and to this nation as a whole. The FBI has a list of over 400 people they want to talk to regarding the WTC attack. Many of these people live and socialize in Muslim communities. You know them You know where they are.

Hand them over to us, now! But I have seen little even approaching this sort of action. Instead I have seen an already closed and secretive community close even tighter. You have disappeared from the streets. You have posted armed security guards at your facilities. You have threatened lawsuits. You have screamed for protection from reprisals.

The very few Arab/Muslim representatives that HAVE appeared in the media were defensive and equivocating. They seemed more concerned with making sure that the United States proves who was responsible before taking action. They seemed more concerned with protecting their fellow Muslims from violence directed towards them in the United States and abroad than they did with supporting our country and denouncing "leaders" like Khadafi, Hussein, Farrakhan, and Arafat. If the true teachings of Islam proclaim tolerance and peace and love for all people then I want chapter and verse from the Koran and statements from popular Muslim leaders to back it up. What good is it if the teachings in the Koran are good and pure and true when your "leaders" are teaching fanatical interpretations, terrorism, and intolerance?

It matters little how good Islam SHOULD BE if large numbers of the world's Muslims interpret the teachings of Mohammed incorrectly and adhere to a degenerative form of the religion. A form that has been demonstrated to us over and over again. A form whose structure is built upon a foundation of violence, death, and suicide. A form whose members are recruited from the prisons around the world. A form whose members (some as young as five years old) are seen day after day, week in and week out, year after year, marching in the streets around the world, burning effigies of our presidents, burning the American flag, shooting weapons into the air. A form whose members convert from a peaceful religion, only to take up arms against the great United States of America, the country of their birth. A form whose rules are so twisted, that their traveling members refuse to show their faces at airport security checkpoints, in the name of Islam.

Do you and your fellow Muslims hate us because our women proudly show their faces in public rather than cover up like a shameful whore? Do you and your fellow Muslims hate us because we drink wine with dinner, or celebrate Christmas? Do you and your fellow Muslims hate us because we have befriended Israel, the ONLY civilized democratic nation in the entire Middle East?

And if you and your fellow Muslims hate us, then why in the world are you even here? Are you here to take our money? Are you here to undermine our peace and stability? Are you here to destroy us? If so, I want you to leave I want you to go back to your desert sandpit where women are treated like rats and dogs. I want you to take your religion, your friends, and your family back to your Islamic extremists, and STAY THERE! We will NEVER give in to your influence, your retarded mentality, your twisted, violent, intolerant religion. We will NEVER allow the attacks of September 11, or any others for that matter, to take away that which is so precious to us: Our rights under the greatest constitution in the world. I want to know where every Arab/ Muslim in this country stands and I think it is my right and the right of every true citizen of this country to demand it. A right paid for by the blood of thousands of my brothers and sisters who died protecting the very constitution that is protecting you and your famil y. I am pleading with you to let me know. I want you here as my brother, my neighbor, my friend, as a fellow American. But there can be no gray areas or ambivalence regarding your allegiance and it is up to YOU, to show ME, where YOU stand." "Until then .. you worry me" ""

Never forget.


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There has been a lot on the web these days about Main-stream Media digitally altering photographs or the same scene being used as "proof" for several different "atrocities" in the Middle East. Charles Johnson lead the discovery of this had has the relevant articles posted at the top of his website here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 Here is a kinder and gentler example of Fauxtography Here, you use Photoshop to make a real scene look as though it was a photo of a model of the scene. From Receding Hairline:
With a very little effort, you can take existing photographs of everyday scenes and make it look like they're actually of miniature models.

It doesn't take much to fool the mind of the viewer, but there are a few basic rules you can follow to help convince your audience that they're looking at a railway set rather than the real world; see the section on picking the right photo at the bottom of this page. You'll need a copy of Photoshop CS or later to follow this tutorial.
Before and after:

The example in the tutorial is a bit overdone but I'm going to be having some fun this winter playing with this new technique... Cool! And also, click on the first links to see just how 'true' and 'unbiased' our media is these days.

You are what you eat?

A number of fast food restaurants have launched salads as a healthy alternative to their high-calorie hamburgers and fries. A little problem as explained by Your Health:
Doctors Rate New Salad Entrées Hyped by Chains
McDonald's Chicken "Salad" Packed with More Fat and Calories Than a Big Mac

Offering a salad entrée is the latest marketing push for fast-food and quick-serve chains, but according to a new analysis by the nutrition experts at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), many fast-food salads are not any more healthful than a greasy burger. For example, McDonald's Crispy Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad with dressing has a hefty 51 grams of fat and 660 calories while a Big Mac has 34 grams of fat and 590 calories. Surprisingly, this salad entrée also has just as much cholesterol, 85 milligrams, as the Big Mac.

All six of McDonald's entrée salads are packed with fat and cholesterol, mainly from chicken and cheese, earning them all the lowest rating of one star. Other artery-clogging salads include Wendy's Chicken BLT and Subway's Meatball Salad. Two salads out of the 34 rated by PCRM earned five stars: Au Bon Pain's Garden Salad and Subway's Veggie Delite.

"We did not expect these new salad entrées to be so loaded with fat and cholesterol," says Brie Turner-McGrievy, M.S., R.D., the clinical research coordinator at PCRM. "Americans thinking about getting in shape and heading to the beach this summer should steer clear of the heavily hyped "salads" that are smothered with chicken, cheese and other fatty foods. Real salads with plenty of fresh veggies and chickpeas or beans for protein are best for heart health and slimming."
I'm flabbergasted (NOT). And a quick reminder for those who saw the film Super Size Me. In this film, Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald's fast food for thirty days and suffered various physical problems as a result of this diet. What Spurlock does not say is that he specifically increased his caloric intake to over 5,000 calories/day -- over double the amount the average person needs. He also restricted his movement to keep his caloric outflow as low as possible. From the excellent Morgan Spurlock Watch website:
Les Sayer
Sayer is a biology professor who replicated Spurlock's thirty-day experiment to teach his students about how the documentary medium can be abused to further a political agenda. The difference between Sayer and Spurlock: Sayer didn't deliberately double his daily calorie intake, nor did he stop exercising. He ate three meals per day at McDonald's, diversified what he ate, and was able to keep his calorie count between 2,000 and 3,000. Over 30 days, he lost 17 pounds. His blood pressure dropped. And his cholesterol basically remained the same. He suffered none of the effects Spurlock shows in Super Size Me.
From Sayer's website, he has really put his money where his mouth is:
McDonald's for a Year!
A quick summary of my blood tests show that all measurable results are within normal parameters. Eating McDonald's for a year has not had the deleterious effect that many people predicted. During the concluding minutes of the Super Size Me movie, Spurlock asked one of his physicians if he should eat McDonald's for a year, and in an unusually uninformed response from someone in his profession, he said no, wrongly assuming that Spurlock's weight gain and ill-health were a result of eating McDonald's food for a month.

Well, after McDonald's for a year, I am thoroughly satisfied that my hypothesis has been proven: McDonald's is not the issue, it's the lack of exercise.

My final weight on June 1st was 217 lbs (the same as it was in March 2005), and my blood pressure was 143/81 (taken by my college's registered nurse. It was 148/79 taken by the same person in March 2005).

Other blood work included: Cholesterol: 3.98 mmol/L (<5.20 mmol/L is normal); HDL (good cholesterol): 1.20 mmol/L (>0.90 mmol/L is normal); Sodium: 140 mmol/L (133-146 is normal); Triglyceride: 1.51 mmol/L (<2.30 mmol/L is normal).
Sayer also provides links to seven JPG Lab Test Printouts of his blood chemistry workups. Lookin' good!

Peaceful Purposes

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently announced that he was continuing Iran's pursuit of Plutonium and equipment but that it was specifically for Peaceful Purposes (as opposed to Uranium which is used for commercial power generation -- which Iran needs considering that it has the majority of the Earth's oil reserves). Thanks to Scott Ott at Scrappleface, we hear of President Bush's reaction:
Bush: B-2 Flights Over Tehran for �Peaceful Purposes�
Just hours after Iran opened a new plant capable of making plutonium �for peaceful purposes�, U.S. President George Bush assured his Iranian counterpart that any B-2 bombers that appear over Tehran in the near future would also serve peaceful purposes.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cut the ribbon on the new heavy-water nuclear plant Saturday as part of a month-long Iranian tribute to the effectiveness of the United Nations.

Mr. Bush hailed Iran�s �transparent diplomacy� and said, �I called President Ahmadinejad today to congratulate him, and I told him that if he happens to notice one of them Stealth bombers going over his town at about 600 miles per hour, he can be assured that the pilot has only the best intentions in his heart for world peace.�

�There�s nothing like the B-2 when it comes to giving peace a chance,� Mr. Bush added.
And to think that some useful idiots quislings people think that Bush does not has the interest of world peace at heart...

South Park -- couldn't happen to a nicer guy

Interesting article about Saddam's recent movie viewing from The Sun Online:
Saddam's cartoon torture
TOPPLED dictator Saddam Hussein is being tormented in jail � by being forced to watch HIMSELF in South Park.

The evil tyrant is portrayed in the movie version of the cult cartoon as the Devil�s gay lover.

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut was banned in Iraq on its launch in 1999 for showing Saddam as a homosexual.

The film featured him trying to take over the world with Satan.

He is currently behind bars in Iraq as he stands trial on charges of genocide.

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone yesterday revealed Saddam is made to watch the movie �repeatedly� by the US Marines guarding him.

Speaking at Edinburgh TV Festival, Matt said: �I have it on pretty good information from the Marines on detail in Iraq that they showed him the movie.

�That�s really adding insult to injury. I bet that made him really happy.�
And in other news:
The American animators also confirmed that Tom Cruise threatened to pull out of all publicity for Mission Impossible III unless Paramount, which also makes South Park, axed a repeat showing of an episode lampooning him.

It showed a Scientologist character called Tom Cruise struggling to come out as gay. Cruise was dumped by Paramount last week.
This is the Sun after all so a grain of salt is needed but still...
Heh... Bootylicious!

Alternate Energy

Fun article at OtherPower. This is a re-print from a 2002 article where they build a working wind turbine in one day using cheap surplus parts. Not too shabby a performance either -- with a 25 MPH wind, it puts out 60 watts using a 4' diameter homebuilt turbine propeller. Cute hack: The stator requires some iron pole pieces to complete the magnetic circuitry and to direct the magnetic field from the rotor into the stator windings. Not having the iron for the pole pieces and not wanting to take the time to fab something up (the entire project took one day after all), they put one of the rotor magnets into a plastic bag and dragged it around their yard. A good percentage of the Earths crust is composed of Magnetite Sand and they took the sand that was attracted to the magnet, mixed it in with some epoxy and glued the resulting putty into the stator compartments. Clever!
60 Watts is not much but it is enough to run some lights and a radio for a few hours/day. Need more? Build more or scale up this design.

Nurturing my Inner Redneck

The Second Annual PRCA Rodeo in Lynden was tonight.

Last year was a lot of fun and tonight was even better.

They had a lot of rough spots last year including an announcer who wasn't very good.

This year was awesome. I took a few photos and will post them later.

The Farmer's Market is tomorrow so it's an early bed for me...

Penguins for sale -- update

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In January of 2006, I ran into and wrote about the Penguin Warehouse -- a cute website that purports to sell Penguins for pets. (they are offline now) To my amazement, some people actually think this is for real and I have been getting comments about "how much do they cost" and "where can I get one". Needless to say, I added an UPDATE for that entry and turned off commenting and trackbacks. Sheesh!

Our highly responsible Main-Stream Media

You were leaked copies of secret recordings made by the FBI.

These recordings are of a group of Islamist terrorists who were freely talking about blowing up buildings in the US and waging jihad.

These pigs have been arrested but are awaiting trial. What do you do? You release the tapes -- hey, good for the ratings! From NBC:

FBI Video In Liberty City 7 Case Leaked Without Authorization
The U.S. attorney's office is asking a federal judge to investigate the unauthorized release of secret FBI surveillance video in the Liberty City Seven terrorism case.

The video involved a secret FBI undercover videotape of terrorism suspects allegedly planning to launch war on the United States, NBC 6's Jeff Burnside reported. The video also shows images taken by defendants, according to prosecutors, of the Miami-area buildings they allegedly considered blowing up.

The complete videotape was leaked to a local TV station. The leak has led the U.S. attorney back to court to file a motion with federal Judge Joan Lenard, urging that "the court should make inquiry regarding release to the media."

Mike Tein, who used to prosecute federal cases, is on the committee that makes rules for federal court. He said releasing evidence in advance of the trial risks tainting people who might become jurors.

"Because, a trial -- that's the show. That's the game. That's the time when the playing field is level and the judge is calling balls and strikes as she sees fit. What they've done -- whoever did this -- is put their thumb on the scale of justice before the trial has begun," Tein said.

The videos had been released to their attorneys as part of the discovery process but somehow, a copy found its way over to a CBS television station. From CBS:

Judge Won't Block CBS4 Liberty City 7 Reports
The Attorney For Narseal Batiste Wanted Use Of Undercover Video Banned
CBS4 has obtained Government Evidence In The Alleged Terror Case

A federal judge has denied a request for a temporary injunction which would have prevented CBS4 and from showing undercover surveillance video of 7 men implicated in a Liberty City terrorism scheme.

Attorney Ana Jhones had filed the request with Federal Court judge Joan Lenard at the US Courthouse in Miami, asking that CBS, and any other media outlet, be prevented from showing the undercover video showing her client, Narseal Batiste, the alleged ringleader of what prosecutors claim was a terrorist cell based in Liberty City.

The request was denied following a teleconference between Jhones, the judge, and attorneys for CBS.

The "Liberty City 7", as they have been dubbed, face terrorism charges after government agents uncovered an alleged plot to blow up buildings including the Sears tower, the Miami Federal Courthouse, and the Miami FBI offices, as well as other structures.

The undercover video shows Batiste and others taking what prosecutors claims is an oath to the al Quaeda terrorist organization, as well as conversations in which Batiste tells and FBI undercover agent his plans for blowing up buildings.

The mokes in question:


Yeah -- you can just see the intelligence and compassion radiating out from those faces. Rot in hell you sons of a pig and monkey. Worship the god of darkness and hate and his false prophet (the pederast and murderer) and see what you get.

A large Piano

Piano builder David Klavins thinks outside of the box and has significantly advanced the art of Piano building. His Model 370:
Model 370 from a different vantage point:
They have a three minute clip of the Bach Chaconne in d-minor for download. Gorgeous stuff -- they have a couple of CDs available but unfortunately, nothing I'm really interested in music-wise.

Divorce Attorney advertisement

Great advertisement for a law firm that specializes in Divorces:
Swiped from the City Comforts Blog

A modest checklist for Global Warming

Wanna quick ten-point checklist to see if Global Warming is actually happening?

Hie thyself to Envirospin Watch and check out this list:

The 10 final proofs of 'global warming'.....
You should believe in 'global warming' when.....

(1) apocalyptic academics stop flying round the world to conferences and for their extended summer holidays - er, sorry - 'field research';

(2) The Guardian and The Independent stop advertising cheap flights and holidays;

And my favorite:

(8) politicians stop canvassing by helicopter, plane, and battle bus, and Al Gore finds it "inconvenient" to travel about lecturing on 'global warming'

Busted -- very very busted.

The Emerald Hunter

It seems that there is quite the Emerald mine in North Carolina. From the Charlotte Observer:

Treasure hunter with a green thumb unearths huge crystal
Miner says gemstone may be a record-breaker

Jamie Hill, Alexander County's "emerald man," has done it again.

Known for unearthing large crystals at his mine about 55 miles north of Charlotte, Hill said he found a 10-inch, 591-carat emerald Wednesday that may break a North American record for size.

Hill, whose mine has produced several large emeralds since he found an 88-carat crystal in 1998, pulled out the latest wonder after spotting a quartz seam in granite Wednesday afternoon as he and his team prepared to dynamite some of the rock.

Quartz can signal precious stones underneath, so he used a jackhammer to create a trench beside the seam and take a closer look. Nothing.

Then he spotted another quartz seam about five feet away and started working on it. He used hand tools to pick away and look. "All of a sudden," he said, "it opened up into a cave."

And there, inside the cave, was a twin green crystal that took his breath away.

"I had a fit," the ever-energetic Hill said Thursday. "I about hyperventilated."

Heh... Looking at the stone, I'd be hyperventilating too:


It's destination will most likely be a museum -- from the Observer:

Hill called it a museum-quality piece, not one that would be cut for jewels, because of its unusual length and twin formation. "Every museum in the world would love to have such a neat piece," he said. "It would be real showy."

Michael Wise, a mineralogist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington who has seen Hill's other emeralds, said a 10-inch crystal would be one of the largest ever found in the United States. He said he didn't have enough information to know if it breaks any records, though the discovery piqued his interest.

"I think I'd better get ahold of Jamie and get down there," he said by phone as he prepared for an already-planned trip to San Diego to give a lecture on the hiddenite gemstone for which Hill's hometown is named.

"He would have to find it just when I'm leaving town," Wise said. "Now I think I'd rather be in Hiddenite."

Hill is quite the American Character; the Observer did a nice profile of him a few years ago.

A change of Mnemonics

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Not only is Pluto no longer considered a planet, we now have to come up with a new mnemonic to remember the order...
Dang. I'll miss that one!

Light posting last few days

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Been working on some other stuff and haven't been in a blogging mood. Should resume tonight or tomorrow.

Ran into this website: The Doctor is In and he is blogging one of the more fascinating construction projects in our area in a long time.

There is a bridge across the Tacoma Narrows -- the second one was built in 1950 to replace the first one that spectacularly failed during a windstorm in November of 1940 (it opened July 1940). Needless to say, the traffic loads have increased to the point where a new bridge is required. The engineering and technology going into this project is fascinating. I was working for a company in Seattle that did Ocean Engineering and they backed off from doing some work on this project as the conditions are fairly extreme.

The tides flow through the Narrows at speeds up to several miles/hour and this makes placing caissons "interesting".

Our old friend Bechtel is doing the work of course. Anyway, check out Dr. Bob's website


Good stuff!

August 22nd

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Should be an interesting day tomorrow one way or the other... From Bernard Lewis writing at the Wall Street Journal:
August 22
Does Iran have something in store?

During the Cold War, both sides possessed weapons of mass destruction, but neither side used them, deterred by what was known as MAD, mutual assured destruction. Similar constraints have no doubt prevented their use in the confrontation between India and Pakistan. In our own day a new such confrontation seems to be looming between a nuclear-armed Iran and its favorite enemies, named by the late Ayatollah Khomeini as the Great Satan and the Little Satan, i.e., the United States and Israel. Against the U.S. the bombs might be delivered by terrorists, a method having the advantage of bearing no return address. Against Israel, the target is small enough to attempt obliteration by direct bombardment.

It seems increasingly likely that the Iranians either have or very soon will have nuclear weapons at their disposal, thanks to their own researches (which began some 15 years ago), to some of their obliging neighbors, and to the ever-helpful rulers of North Korea. The language used by Iranian President Ahmadinejad would seem to indicate the reality and indeed the imminence of this threat.

Would the same constraints, the same fear of mutual assured destruction, restrain a nuclear-armed Iran from using such weapons against the U.S. or against Israel?

There is a radical difference between the Islamic Republic of Iran and other governments with nuclear weapons. This difference is expressed in what can only be described as the apocalyptic worldview of Iran's present rulers. This worldview and expectation, vividly expressed in speeches, articles and even schoolbooks, clearly shape the perception and therefore the policies of Ahmadinejad and his disciples.

Even in the past it was clear that terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam had no compunction in slaughtering large numbers of fellow Muslims. A notable example was the blowing up of the American embassies in East Africa in 1998, killing a few American diplomats and a much larger number of uninvolved local passersby, many of them Muslims. There were numerous other Muslim victims in the various terrorist attacks of the last 15 years.

The phrase "Allah will know his own" is usually used to explain such apparently callous unconcern; it means that while infidel, i.e., non-Muslim, victims will go to a well-deserved punishment in hell, Muslims will be sent straight to heaven. According to this view, the bombers are in fact doing their Muslim victims a favor by giving them a quick pass to heaven and its delights--the rewards without the struggles of martyrdom. School textbooks tell young Iranians to be ready for a final global struggle against an evil enemy, named as the U.S., and to prepare themselves for the privileges of martyrdom.

A direct attack on the U.S., though possible, is less likely in the immediate future. Israel is a nearer and easier target, and Mr. Ahmadinejad has given indication of thinking along these lines. The Western observer would immediately think of two possible deterrents. The first is that an attack that wipes out Israel would almost certainly wipe out the Palestinians too. The second is that such an attack would evoke a devastating reprisal from Israel against Iran, since one may surely assume that the Israelis have made the necessary arrangements for a counterstrike even after a nuclear holocaust in Israel.
OK -- that set the scene, now why August 22nd:
What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

A passage from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook, is revealing. "I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours."
Hey jihadis -- yeah you, eating a ham sandwitch... You know that black cube in Mecca? The one that holds sacred artifacts (a meteorite) and was built by Bechtel, USA (Bin Laden Construction assisted but Bechtel was the primary contractor)? Goodbye to Jerusalem - say goodbye to the Kaaba -- simple cause and effect.

R.I.P. Joe Rosenthal

He took this picture:


From the San Jose Mercury News:

AP photographer who captured Iwo Jima flag-raising dies at 94
Joe Rosenthal, The Associated Press photographer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal image of World War II servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima, has died. He was 94.

Rosenthal died Sunday of natural causes at an assisted living facility in suburban Novato, said his daughter, Anne Rosenthal.

"He was a good and honest man, he had real integrity," she said.

Rosenthal's iconic photo, shot on Feb. 23, 1945, became the model for the Iwo Jima Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The memorial, dedicated in 1954 and known officially as the Marine Corps War Memorial, commemorates the Marines who died taking the Pacific island in World War II.

The photo was listed in 1999 at No. 68 on a New York University survey of 100 examples of the best journalism of the century.

Unclear on the concept...

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Drudge Report had a flash news item last evening:
The BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION declares its noble mission is to bring "innovations in health and learning to the global community."

But the world's largest philanthropic organization also is among the organizations that collectively loaned nearly $400 million to MEDIANEWS GROUP INC. -- for the acquisition of newspapers in California and Minnesota!

"I thought this foundation was all about starving kids, not starving newspapers," mocked one Seattle insider.
'Scuse me but a "LOAN" is not "GIFT" Loans are expected to be repaid and generally with an interest charge being added into the agreement. A loan is a profit-making venture between someone who has money and wants to increase it and someone who needs money but fully expects to be able to repay it over a period of time. The Gates Foundation was merely increasing it's financial base -- not gifting monies to newspapers...

Got Comics?

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Cool story about a very early comic book collector and an unexpected windfall to his heirs. From the UK Globe and Mail
Holy windfall, Batman!
Tom Crippen knew he faced a daunting task after the death of his father, an inveterate pack rat who never threw anything out. It wasn't just the stockpiles of old opera programs, paper clips, Christmas cards, baseball caps, paperbacks or souvenir coffee mugs.

Mainly, it was the awesome collection of 11,000 comics that had colonized the family garage and basement.

�The shelves were just piled high with comics,� said Mr. Crippen, a freelance editor living in Montreal. �I knew they were worth money, but I thought, $50,000, maybe $100,000.�

Mr. Crippen was wrong. After painstakingly dusting off and cataloguing the comics � a process that took four months � he called in the experts to the family home outside New York.

And � Holy windfall, Batman! � the superheroes delivered.

The cache of vintage comics, many of them rare and in immaculate condition, were evaluated at $2.5-million (U.S.).

�When they told me, it just made my jaw drop,� Mr. Crippen said. �The comic books were literally worth more than the house itself.�
The Dad started buying comics at age eight and kept them all in good condition. He kept collecting and had his mother continue buying them when he went away to Grad School. The collection spans fifteen years. Unfortunately, not all is right in Gotham:
Unfortunately, this comic-book story does have a dark subplot. While he was poring over his father's comics, Tom Crippen noticed that, in such a methodical collection, vast numbers of copies were missing. The mystery began to unfold when the experts were called in. They told Mr. Crippen that, unbeknownst to the family, large numbers of his father's comics had been in circulation since the early nineties. Many bore distinctive marks, including a D on the front cover that earned them the name �D collection.�

No one is sure how the comics went missing. However, some of the comics were traced to a New York dealer who said he'd bought them in the early nineties from a man who'd entered his store. The Crippen family discovered that the seller's name was that of a contractor who'd been doing extensive renovations at the Crippen home at that time.
The Crippens are not pressing charges -- why spend this windfall on what would probably be a dry well. Still sorry to hear that scum like that walk the earth... Probably a Democrat. (grin)

Finding a submarine

One of the unfinished stories of World War Two may well be coming to a close.

The USS Grunion dropped off the charts on July 30th, 1942.

The three sons of its Captain never stopped looking for it and they may well have it located.

From the Seattle PI:

Lost submarine found off Alaska
Search for father may have turned up USS Grunion

There was no distress call, no indication of enemy depth charges exploding or bulkheads breached, just a dead silence that stretched from a few days into 60 years.

The USS Grunion disappeared in July 1942, leaving 70 American families grieving and the three sons of skipper Mannert L. "Jim" Abele without a father. Abele's boys -- who were 5, 9 and 12 and lived in Newton, Mass., when their father disappeared -- grew up and built their own lives. But they dwelt on the fate of their father.

At 2 a.m. Wednesday, a grainy sonar picture e-mailed via satellite appeared in Bruce Abele's in-box, appearing to show what they had searched for for much of their adult lives: the outline of an oblong object believed to be the Grunion deep in frigid Alaskan waters.

If the discovery is confirmed, it would signify a triumph of luck and perseverance, and put to rest a quest for clues that has spanned decades.

"It's big, very big," 76-year-old Bruce Abele, the eldest of the three sons, said Wednesday. "This mystery has been a part of my consciousness for as long as I can remember."

The Grunion, one of the Gato-class attack submarines commissioned early in World War II, was on its maiden operational voyage when it disappeared while patrolling the seas between Alaska's tip and Japan, according to a Navy Web site.

Very nice human touch to the story:

A break came in 2002, when a Japanese man, Yutaka Iwasaki, posted a translation of an article in an obscure Japanese shipping journal on one of several Web sites dedicated to the Grunion.

The article, written by a military officer on board an armed Japanese merchant ship, the Kano Maru, described an exchange of cannon fire and torpedoes with a U.S. submarine in an area where the Grunion would have been patrolling.

Iwasaki's involvement changed everything, John Abele said Wednesday. Not only did the brothers have a place to look for their father's submarine, but they also had newfound friends from the other side of the war.

They were so inspired by the cooperation they received from Iwasaki and others in Japan that they decided to expand the search to find two Japanese sub-chasers, SC-25 and SC-27, that the Grunion sank, along with the Arare, a Japanese destroyer that went down in the same area.

"This has been a very emotional thing for a lot of us," John Abele said.

They talked with Bob Ballard, hired one of the best Oceanic Survey companies (Williams and Associates in Seattle), hired an Alaskan Crab boat (the Submarine went down around around the Aleutian Islands -- horrible conditions more often than not) and proceeded to start searching.

The sons run a website outlining their search efforts: USS Grunion

Here is one of the preliminary sonar scans. You will see shadow distortion -- imagine looking at a toy sub on the floor with a flashlight held at an angle, the main body of the sub is to the right and the shadow of its superstructure extends off to the left: Grunion_Sonar.jpg

Fun with Guns

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Another dumbaass with a gun. From the Billings, Montana Gazette:
Self-shooting leads to teens' arrest
Two teenagers who fled Oregon with two dozen stolen weapons were arrested here after one shot himself in the leg, apparently while twirling a handgun on his finger.

Emily Ann Whitehead, 18, and Christopher Stahl, a juvenile, were arrested at St. Patrick Hospital's emergency room Wednesday night after Whitehead brought Stahl there for treatment of a gunshot wound.

Court records said the teens stole 25 guns from Stahl's father in Terrebonne, Ore. They are also accused of stealing a Playstation 2, a DVD player and a video camera.

Whitehead was charged Thursday in Justice Court with obstructing a peace officer, deceptive practices and theft. All are misdemeanor charges. Stahl has not appeared in court. Whitehead is accused of hindering an investigation by lying to sheriff's deputies about the nature of Stahl's gunshot wound.

Stahl apparently shot himself near Seeley Lake, and Whitehead drove him to Missoula. Hospital staff are required by law to contact authorities when treating a gunshot wound.

Whitehead told deputies she rummaged through a mailbox in Seeley Lake and found a blank check from a credit-card company. Whitehead brought the check to the First Valley Bank in Seeley Lake, made it out to herself in the amount of $950, opened an account and withdrew $100.

Court records said she admitted taking the Playstation and the guns.
Idiots -- should have had better (accidental) aim.

Chicken or Egg

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Not that I am surprised but it seems that the good Rev. Al Sharpton is kinda missing the point here -- a chicken and egg sort of thing. From Cajun at Mostly Cajun:
I�ve heard the message before, but this is a new angle:
Sharpton: �Gangsterism� Harming Blacks
Rev. Al Sharpton Says Potential Black Leaders Falling Under �Gangster Mentality�

INDIANAPOLIS Aug 18, 2006 (AP)
� Many black youths fall under a spell of �gangster mentality,� preventing them from becoming leaders and making a positive impact in politics, the Rev. Al Sharpton said.

The civil rights activist faulted Hollywood and the record industry for making �gangsterism� seem cool and acceptable.

�We have got to get out of this gangster mentality, acting as if gangsterism and blackness are synonymous,� Sharpton said Thursday at the annual conference of the National Association of Black Journalists.

I seem to remember that �Reverend� Sharpton was one of the black �leaders� who jumped down Bill Cosby�s throat for making similar remarks some time ago.
For a long time the blacks have been looking for an "authentic" culture. They took the street, gangster, drug-dealing, rap elements and turned it into something that Hollywood for some reason likes to market and promote. And now clowns like Rev. Al have their knickers in a bunch about how the popular perception of black people is that of brutal, semi-literate thugs and how if a black man seeks to improve himself, he is derided by his "friends" for trying to turn white. As Cajun goes on to say, these people are focused on the dregs and on the Hollywood stars and are totally ignoring the middle class. From Cajun:
For some years I�ve noticed the big disconnect between the real black community�s image and the image portrayed by popular black culture. In the area where I live and work, it is impossible to find a job where one does not meet a racially mixed workforce. I find myself working with black as well as white engineers and electricians and operators, and there�s no noticeable difference in competence that can be correlated to skin pigmentation. We share the same goals: healthy families, job satisfaction, personal successes.

However, these sorts of black people are hardly the ones that get the media exposure. We get to see plenty of rap stars and hedonistic millionaire athletes instead.
Cajun has more to say and it is spot on...

Speed record

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A vehicle was clocked doing 317 miles per hour yesterday. What makes this special is that it was at the Bonneville Salt Flats and that the vehicle was powered by a Diesel Engine. Here is the website for the JCS Dieselmax project. From this news release:
The international diesel land-speed record for diesel-powered vehicles moved a step closer today as the JCB DIESELMAX broke the Bonneville Salt Flats course record with a measured-mile speed of 317.021mph.

Having already achieved a recorded average speed over a measured mile of 308mph in the late afternoon of Thursday 17 August, the JCB DIESELMAX needed to complete a second run within 24 hours at least matching this speed in order to take the record.

Today the second run was completed successfully achieving an average speed of 325mph. The average speed of the two runs was thus recorded as 317mph, thus establishing the JCB DIESELMAX as the fastest-ever diesel over the Bonneville course.

�Entering the Bonneville record books is a wonderful way to complete JCB�s participation in Speed Week and team confidence is high as we prepare the car for the record attempt next week,� said Project Director, Dr Tim Leverton, �the team has done a wonderful job but the biggest challenge is still ahead of us.�

Having achieved the course record, the JCB DIESELMAX team will now prepare the vehicle for its official FIA record attempt. The car will now be fitted with the 750bhp JCB444-LSR �record� engines.

For the world record attempt the JCB DIESELMAX will need to complete two runs within the space of one hour from entry of the measured mile on the first run to exit on the second.
The record they are looking to break was set in August, 25, 1973 by Virgil Snyder in the Thermo King Streamliner -- 235.756 mph. Since these are just time trials, the "official" record has not been broken yet but considering that when they finish this series, they are putting in a larger engine, it looks like they are planning to shatter the old record instead of just nudging it aside. JCB makes construction equipment sold worldwide and the engines they are using are the same as found in their larger backhoes.

What a way to go...

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Meet Clark Sorensen. Clark is a Potter and has carved a niche for himself by specializing in a specific product. Check these out:


Prices are in the $5K to $9K range but well worth it for the quality of workmanship involved. Call me a country bumpkin but I like just stepping outdoors and peeing a lot more than standing in front of a porcelain fixture no matter how gorgeous it is. Closer to nature or something... Have to keep reminding myself whenever we visit people in the city...

No posting tonight

We went to the Northwest Washington Fair this afternoon. An annual event and a lot of fun to go to. It isn't as 'commercialized' as the other large fairs in this area (specifically the Puyallup) and it has maintained its strong agricultural roots with not only the animal displays and 4H and FFA but also wonderful displays of canning, quilting, and many of the other rural arts. They do have live music and tonights performer was none other than Merle Haggard in a sold-out show. A bit on the short side but really really good! His band is downright amazing - very talented musicians all. And next week, the PRCA Lynden Rodeo (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) Summer may be winding down but these early fall events are very much looked forward to...

Impulse Purchase

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Was at Home Depot getting some stuff for a project and noticed a new tool from Klein. If you do wiring or any kind of electrical work, you will know Klein Tools as being one of the top toolmakers for this field. Good stuff, reasonable price, in business since 1857. 'Nuff said. What I saw and what came home with me was their Model 98002BT Beverage Tool:

Digital Photography

Ran into an interesting technique a few weeks ago. This is something that I had experimented with a few years ago but I never realized that there were actual products out there to streamline the process. In a scene, the difference in illumination between a light area and a dark area can sometimes exceed the ability of film or digital sensors to record. You can get detail in the shadows but lighter area are rendered as all white (blown out). If you expose for detail in the light areas, the shadows are rendered as all black. Meet HDR or High Dynamic Range Photography. You take several photographs, one exposed for the deepest shadows, one exposed for the lightest highlights and digitally combine them. A couple of geniuses Raanan Fattal, Dani Lischinski, and Micheal Werman wrote a paper in 2002 that figured out how to tonally map the large differences in illumination onto a standard output device (printer or video screen). The results are otherworldly and beautiful:

HDR processed
Links to the software:
FDR Tools
Photomatix from HDRsoft
HDR Shop from University of Southern California
(big wince factor on the price on this last one especially since a lot of it seems to run as JavaScript (S..L....O.....W......) and their "Feature List" contains the following:
The program should never 'lock up' when busy.)

Area 31

We all know about Area 51 - the Top Secret military base located near Groom Lake, Nevada. Here is Area 31 from our neighbors to the North. They are doing some amazing Science -- check out these projects: They are into their own version of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and they managed to score these two wonderful observatories. Here is their single TARGET dish (Telescope Antenna Researching Galactic Extraterrestrial Transmissions):
They also scored this 32 element Solar Interferometer array from a closed Canadian Radio Observatory and these are being pressed into service as well:
These two scopes are loitering with intent around the "water hole", a clear band of frequencies around the H line at 1420.4 MHz, as well as the Formaldehyde line at 4.83 GHz. And of course, with this level of geekdom, there is a Tesla Coil lurking somewhere...
Very cool!

Not qUITE riTE

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Scooters are waay cool -- perfect for urban streets, cheap, easy to park, highly maneuverable, killer gas mileage (up to 100MPG). What's not to love. Their emissions. From the Willamette Week Online:
Polluter Scooters
What's worse: breathing the fumes of an SUV or a two-stroke scooter?

With temperatures rising like gas prices, scooters may seem the perfect mode of transportation.

You get up to 100 miles per gallon, on top of the hipster factor and the feel of the wind in your hair. But there's one imperfection to these sassy little two-wheeled machines: A March 2005 study by the Environmental Protection Agency shows most scooters on the road pollute more than SUVs.

That sounded so counterintuitive that WW decided to test a few scooters, with help from the crew at Esquire Motors in Goose Hollow, which donated its time and emissions-testing equipment.

Then came the hard part.

Telephone calls and emails seeking scooters to test from scooter shops and groups went unanswered; other scooter owners proved willing to talk�until the story's angle was revealed. Finally, however, we persuaded three scooter lovers to volunteer their vehicles.

Patrick Fitzgibbons, co-owner and founder of P-Town Scooters, let us test his vintage scooter, which established just how bad older models are. Although he knew his pride and joy wasn't the cleanest of motorized vehicles, Fitzgibbons was still surprised by the results.

"How bad is it?" he asked.
And the numbers:
Pretty bad. His 1968 Piaggio Gran Turismo, with a two-stroke, 150-cc engine, registered 4,900 parts per million of hydrocarbons and 8.6 percent carbon dioxide emissions. That was 29 times the hydrocarbon levels and nearly three times the carbon dioxide rate of another scooter WW tested�a 2006 MotoFino 150T-10D with a four-stroke engine, courtesy of Prestige Motors in Southeast Portland. The MotoFino kicked out 168 ppm of hydrocarbons and 3.1 percent CO2.

Four-strokes tend to burn cleaner than two-stroke engines, which run on a mixture of fuel and oil. One of Fitzgibbons' customers, Shayne Weinstein, offered up for testing his more modern two-stroke, a 2005 Stella also made by Piaggio. Its levels of 1,100 ppm of unburned hydrocarbons and 7.1 percent CO2 fell in between the older two-stroke engine and the four-stroke.
And the SUV -- it seems that the publisher of the Willamette Week owns one and the numbers there:
As for the SUV, we borrowed WW publisher Richard Meeker's 2006 Subaru Tribeca. The six-cylinder engine in Meeker's SUV pumped out less than 10 ppm of hydrocarbons and 1 percent CO2. In other words, the two-stroke scooter WW tested produced about 490 times the hydrocarbons and more than eight times the Co2 of the SUV.
Here are the numbers from every vehicle tested:
CO2       Hx  Vehicle
8.6    4,900  1968 Piaggio Gran Turismo
7.1    1,100  2005 Piaggio Stella
3.1      168  2006 MotoFino 150T-10D
1.0       10  2006 Subaru Tribeca

Some British Backbone

Excellent editorial from Lord Stevens -- England's top cop:
If you're a Muslim - it's your Problem
When will the Muslims of Britain stand up to be counted?

When will they declare, loud and clear, with no qualifications or quibbles about Britain's foreign policy, that Islamic terrorism is WRONG?

Most of all, when will the Muslim community in this country accept an absolute, undeniable, total truth: that Islamic terrorism is THEIR problem? THEY own it. And it is THEIR duty to face it and eradicate it.

To stop the denial, endless fudging and constant wailing that somehow it is everyone else's problem and, if Islamic terrorism exists at all, they are somehow the main victims.

Because until that happens the problem will never be resolved. And there will be more 7/7s and, sometime in the future, another airplane plot will succeed with horrific loss of innocent life.

Equally important, those British politicians who have seemed obsessed with pandering to, and even encouraging, this state of denial, must throw off their politically-correct blinkers and recognise the same truth�that Muslim terrorism in Britain is the direct responsibility of British Muslims.

If only they would follow the lead of Home Secretary John Reid, whose tough, pragmatic, clear-sighted approach has been a breath of fresh air. Only then can they properly work out how to tackle it.

For instance, every airport in Britain is in chaos over the plane bomb-plot alert as every passenger is subjected to rigorous security checks. Why? They take lots of time, lots of staff, and are extremely expensive.

I'm a white 62-year-old 6ft 4ins suit-wearing ex-cop�I fly often, but do I really fit the profile of suicide bomber? Does the young mum with three tots? The gay couple, the rugby team, the middle-aged businessman?

No. But they are all getting exactly the same amount and devouring huge resources for no logical reason whatsoever. Yet the truth is Islamic terrorism in the West has been universally carried out by young Muslim men, usually of ethnic appearance, almost always travelling alone or in very small groups. A tiny percentage, I bet, of those delayed today have such characteristics.

This targeting of airport resources is called passenger profiling�the Israelis invented it and they've got probably the safest airports and airlines in the world.

In all my years at the front line of fighting terrorism, one truth was always clear � communities beat terrorists, not governments or security forces. But communities can't beat terrorism unless they have the will to do so. My heart sank this week as I saw and read the knee-jerk reaction of friends and neighbours of those arrested in this latest incident, insisting it was all a mistake and the anti-terrorist squad had the wrong people.

I have no idea whether those arrested are guilty or not. But neither have those friends and neighbours. They spoke as if it was inconceivable such a thing could happen in their community; that those arrested were all good Muslims; that Islam is a religion of peace so no Muslim could dream of planning such an act.

But we heard the same from the family and friends of the 7/7 bombers, didn't we?
Excellent -- channeling 'ole Winston there...

Evolution of the desktop

Fun set of images showing the evolution of the computer "desktop" from 1984 through present. Here are five of them:

MAC 1.0 - 1984

Windows 1.0 - 1985

Windows 3.0 - 1990

MAC 7 - 1992

KDE (Linux) - 2005

Quite the journey, both for user interface and the hardware...

No posting tonight and little tomorrow

Jen was in Seattle for the memorial service of someone from an online community of ours. The good news is that Ed died among friends and doing something he loved. A quick "Oh Shi***** and then peace. We have Farmers Market tomorrow and need to get up early to pick. Spew will resume Monday.

New website for Nuclear Information

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New site for information on Nuclear Power: Nuclear A tidbit of information:
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency a nuclear reactor which would supply the needs of a city the size of Amsterdam � a 1000MW(e) nuclear power station � produces approximately 30 tonnes of high level solid packed waster per year if the spent fuel is not reprocessed. In comparison, a 1000MW(e) coal plant produces 300,000 tonnes of ash per year.
Sure, the waste needs special handling. The cool thing is that we are dealing with 10,000 less by weight than what the equivalent coal plant produces each year (not to mention the Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur and Mercury emissions that go up the stack.) The coal ash is not benign -- toxic stuff with heavy metals and acids. Good stuff!

A very happy birthday tomorrow

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Time to eat some cake -- the IBM PC turns 25 tomorrow. From Tom Hormby at Low End Mac comes the story: What a Legacy! The IBM PC's 25 Year Legacy IBM was in a time of transition in the early 1970s. The Watson dynasty came to an end in 1971 after 60 years of the Watson family leading IBM. The man who had managed Data Processing for 20 years, Frank T. Cary, became CEO in 1973 and made radical changed to IBM's corporate structure. Carry split the company into semi-antonymous independent business units (IBUs).
Entry Level
The IBU responsible for low-end minicomputers, The Entry Level Systems (ELS) IBU, was placed in IBM's sprawling facility in Boca Raton, Florida, and tasked with creating new machines that would advance the IBM brand. William Lowe was the first director of the Entry Level Systems IBU.

The two brand new products that the ELS IBU released were the IBM 5100 (released in 1975) and 5120 (released in 1980). Designed as data collection and analysis systems for small labs, the 5100 (above) had an integrated CRT, keyboard, and tape drive. It was capable of running popular software for IBM's mainframes in emulation.

The 5120 was a larger, more expandable version of the 5100 that did not have a built in CRT. Tens of thousands were sold, which was a big success for IBM.
The Microprocessors started coming into their own in the 1970's. The first commercial success was the Altair 8800 in 1975. This success prompted William Lowe to explore the idea of a low-cost computer for businesses and consumers.
'Skirt the Bureaucracy'
The only way to do this, according to William Lowe, was to skirt the IBM bureaucracy. He had two proposals. The first was to buy a microcomputer company outright (he mentioned Atari by name); the other was to create a brand new microcomputer.

The plan was submitted to IBM's Corporate Management Committee (CMC), and it was enthusiastically received. Microcomputers were gaining a foothold in the business world, so CMC asked that a prototype be built for review in a month's time. A small team was established in the ELS IBU to create the prototype.

Bill Snydes, the IBM 5120 manager, was selected to lead the hardware engineering team working on the prototype and was given a staff of 12 engineers. At the time, IBM had no microprocessor ready for release (the predecessor to POWER, the IBM 801, would not be ready for almost two years), so Snydes decided to use the Intel 8088 processor. Though it was a 16-bit processor (meaning that it could handle larger numbers than other microcomputers), it used an older bus design that slowed it down, unlike the more expensive 8086.

Snydes noted in the CMC review that other open and processing standards would be adopted to keep down costs.
Making the system open was a stroke of genius as it allowed anyone to build a plug-in card to work with the computer. We got good graphics, sound, enhanced disk storage, connection to laboratory and industrial equipment within a few years without IBM having to develop anything. Anyway, Microsoft comes online, VisiCalc and EasyWriter become the first "killer apps" and the rest, as they say, is history.
The final IBM PC was released on August 12, 1981, and it changed the world. Computers with the power of mainframes of the 1960s were now available to small businesses and consumers.

The marketers predicted they would sell 250,000 units over five years, a huge success by IBM standards. By the end of 1983, IBM had sold 750,000 units.
It has been a long fun ride with no signs of slowing down!

Corrosion at British Petroleum

Some odious little things are starting to creep out from the woodwork over the British Petroleum pipeline problems and their stunning lack of preventive maintenance.

Greg Palast is an Energy Economist and has already had dealings with British Petroleum (or BP as they like to be called) From his weblog:

British Petroleum's "Smart Pig"
Is the Alaska Pipeline corroded? You bet it is. Has been for more than a decade. Did British Petroleum shut the pipe yesterday to turn a quick buck on its negligence, to profit off the disaster it created? Just ask the 'smart pig.'

Years ago, I had the unhappy job of leading an investigation of British Petroleum's management of the Alaska pipeline system. I was working for the Chugach villages, the Alaskan Natives who own the shoreline slimed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker grounding.

Even then, courageous government inspectors and pipeline workers were screaming about corrosion all through the pipeline. I say 'courageous' because BP, which owns 46% of the pipe and is supposed to manage the system, had a habit of hunting down and destroying the careers of those who warn of pipeline problems.

He cites several examples of this career assassination and continues:

Now let's talk timing. BP's suddenly discovered corrosion necessitating an emergency shut-down of the line is the same corrosion Dan Lawn has been screaming about for 15 years. Lawn is a steel-eyed government inspector who has kept his job only because his union's lawyers have kept BP from having his head.

Indeed, it's pretty darn hard for BP to claim it is surprised to find corrosion this week when Lawn issued a damning report on corrosion right after a leak and spill were discovered on March 2 of this year.

Why shut the pipe now? The timing of a sudden inspection and fix of a decade-long problem has a suspicious smell. A precipitous shutdown in mid-summer, in the middle of Middle East war(s), is guaranteed to raise prices and reap monster profits for BP. The price of crude jumped $2.22 a barrel on the shutdown news to over $76. How lucky for BP which sells four million barrels of oil a day. Had BP completed its inspection and repairs a couple years back - say, after Dan Lawn's tenth warning - the oil market would have hardly noticed.

But $2 a barrel is just the beginning of BP's shut-down bonus. The Alaskan oil was destined for the California market which now faces a supply crisis at the very height of the summer travel season. The big winner is ARCO petroleum, the largest retailer in the Golden State. ARCO is a 100%-owned subsidiary of - British Petroleum.

BP could have fixed the pipeline problem this past winter, after their latest corrosion-caused oil spill. But then ARCO would have lost the summertime supply-squeeze windfall.

Enron Corporation was infamous for deliberately timing repairs to maximize profit. Would BP also manipulate the market in such a crude manner? Some US prosecutors think they did so in the US propane market. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) just six weeks ago charged the company with approving an Enron-style scheme to crank up the price of propane sold in poor rural communities in the US. One former BP exec has pleaded guilty.

Lord Browne, the imperious CEO of BP, has apologized for that scam, for the Alaska spill, for this week's shutdown and for the deaths in 2005 of 15 workers at the company's mortally sloppy refinery operation at Texas City, Texas.

BP touts itself as being very environmentally aware. Here is a little bit BP's environmental record and the Exxon Valdez shipwreck:

Exxon took all the blame for the spill because they were dumb enough to have the company's name on the ship. But it was BP's pipeline managers who filed reports that oil spill containment equipment was sitting right at the site of the grounding near Bligh Island. However, the reports were bogus, the equipment wasn't there and so the beaches were poisoned. At the time, our investigators uncovered four-volume's worth of faked safety reports and concluded that BP was at least as culpable as Exxon for the 1,200 miles of oil-destroyed coastline.

But something else is going on here. The output from the Prudhoe Bay fields is dropping. Here is some data from the BP Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust IRS form 10-K:

Historical Production
Production from the Prudhoe Bay field began on June 19, 1977, with the completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. As of December 31, 2005 there were about 1,111 active producing oil wells, 33 gas reinjection wells, 82 water injection wells and 136 water and miscible gas injection wells in the Prudhoe Bay field. Production from the Prudhoe Bay field has declined over the past five years. The average well production rate was about 546 barrels of oil per day in 2001, 375 barrels per day in 2002, 350 barrels per day in 2003, 317 barrels per day in 2004 and 293 barrels per day in 2005.

Emphases mine - down almost 50% in only five years. I do not have production data from before 2001 but I'll be digging a bit... The other thing of interest is the size of the pipeline and the size of the replacement. From the 10-K again:

Transportation of Prudhoe Bay Oil
Production from the Prudhoe Bay field is carried to Pump Station 1, the starting point for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, through two 34-inch diameter transit lines, one from each half of the Prudhoe Bay field. At Pump Station 1, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the pipeline operator, meters the oil and pumps it in the 48-inch diameter pipeline to Valdez, almost 800 miles (1,287 km) to the south, where it is either loaded onto marine tankers or stored temporarily. It takes the oil about seven days to make the trip. The pipeline has a capacity of approximately 1.4 million barrels of oil per day.

And from Yahoo/AP

But in the meantime, there are still concerns about what this recent leak will mean for the short-term oil supply. Dean, the BP spokesman, said the company is working with suppliers to get replacement pipeline quickly to the site.

BP has approached the Japanese firm JFE Steel Corp. and other steel producers about buying 18-inch pipe to replace the corroded sections at Prudhoe Bay, said David Belvin, senior technology manager of sales and service at JFE's Houston office.

Belvin said the company, a unit of JFE Holdings Inc. that is one of the top steel pipe manufacturers, is asking for deliveries in September, which will be a challenge.

Emphases mine. Hmmm... The area of a circle is computed by multiplying the the square of its radius by 3.141. The area of an 18" circle is 254 sq. in. The area of a 34" circle is 907 sq. in. We are talking about a three-times reduction in carrying capacity. And this is their permanent solution. Is Prudhoe Bay running dry?

Gasoline use per capita

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We are a nation of gas guzzlers -- or so the enviro-weenies would have you believe.

Make you feel guilty so you quietly submit to their Cultural Marxism and top-down "leadership" (You will do this -- it is for your own good) Ironman at Political Calculations takes a look at the facts:

How Much Gas Do Americans Use?
The question seems obvious given all the news coverage related to the price of oil and the geopolitics related to its supply, not to mention the seemingly endless whining about SUVs on the roads of the United States from environmentalists, but really, how much gasoline is supplied to the average American, and how has that changed over time? Are individual Americans consuming more or less gas than they did in years past?

He cites his sources and explains the simple calculations. Here is the graph he came up with:




American Science and Engineering (tag line: When you can't afford to compromise) makes a series of X-Ray and Nuclear Backscatter imaging devices that are tunable to organic materials instead of just responding to the materials density and radiological absorption. They have a "brag page" showing what their equipment can do and it is downright impressive (and this is the stuff they put online for the general public!). Here is a truck full of bananas with a few tarantulas hidden away:

A simple design is most often best.

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Building a better mousetrap -- bicycle foot clip department. From Kevin Kelley's Cool Tools comes this very nice foot clip that doesn't require you to wear a dorky shoe that scratches the h*ll out of the flooring and immediately makes you a high-level bureaucrat at The Ministry of Silly Walks From the website:
Simple cheap toe clips


PowerGrips give most of the benefits of toeclips or clipless/cleat systems on bicycle pedals, without most of the downsides. The concept is simple: an asymmetrical strap of cloth that attaches securely to most bicycle platform pedals. The strap is attached in such a way that it loosens when you rotate your heel away from the bike, and tightens when you "heel-in". This gives you similar benefits of a clipless/cleat system; greater efficiency in pedalling, because you can pull on the pedals' upstrokes, rather than just being able to push down. They are just as easy (if not easier) to disengage from. The PowerGrips also have a couple of other benefits which fit well with all but the higher-end performance cyclists.
There are people who like to buy the high-end stuff for the sake of owning something "high-end" (My performance is so awesome that I strain these high-end widgets to their limits!!! Look at me!!!) but for me, this looks like a product that works and works well for 99% of the population. $17 at Amazon -- gotta love it!

Streamlining airport check-in security

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SteveH at Hog on Ice has the perfect way to do this:
My Plan to Streamline Airport Screening
To speed up screening at airports, here is what we do. We have one line for the bulk of the populace, where you get probed, stripped, searched, and felt up. Then we have another line, where you walk straight onto the plane. IF you eat a piece of bacon first.

If you're a Jew, you can get around the bacon test by blowing your nose on a Koran.
Mmmmm... Bacon!

Light posting tonight

Jen and I and three other friends spent the day taking a tour of Seattle's first major hydroelectric power generating facility. This place is still in operation, providing about 20% of Seattle's electrical needs. Construction started in the 1920's and is still ongoing with plant upgrades. Here is the website for the tour: Diablo Dam Good Dinner Tour
Power, Romance, Adventure....and Chicken! Enjoy a fully escorted tour and boat cruise plus all-you-can eat crispy-baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetarian spaghetti, vegetables, fruit gelatin salad, rolls and butter, beverage and home made pie ala mode.
We ate dinner at around 3:00PM and I am still stuffed. Good food, lots of fun and an excellent tour. Due to heightened security, we could no longer ride the inclined railroad or go inside the power house but there was a really nice visitors gallery overlooking the generators and nobody seemed to mind my hanging out near an open door shooting photos from the ground level. I'm sorting through the photos and will post some either tonight or tomorrow. Gotta go back if only for that homemade Apple Pie -- Jen is an awesome cook and she agreed that this was better than her apple pie (and we grow apples!).

Next time Mike -- don't leave town!

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From this website:
A few of us at work have been pranked one too many times by a certain coworker by the name of Mike. He was out of town for a few days and we had some extra cardboard laying around. This is what happens when you push creative IT workers too far! Enjoy your new office Mike!
A few photos:



More photos at the site including Mike's reaction.

R.I.P. - James Van Allen

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Ever hear of the Van Allen belt -- a band of radioactivity that surrounds the Earth? The guy that discovered it passed away today at 91. He did a lot more than just the Van Allen Belt. The Iowa City Press-Citizen has a good obituary:
James Van Allen dies
James Van Allen, a pioneer in space physics and longtime University of Iowa professor, died early this morning at University Hospitals, UI interim president Gary Fethke announced today.

Reading from a prepared statement, Fethke said until his death, Van Allen remained an active member of the faculty.

"We and I will miss him greatly," said an obviously shaken Fethke, his voice quivering, before the opening of the Iowa state Board of Regents meeting this morning in Iowa City. "We extend our sympathies to the Van Allen family."

Regents president Michael Gartner called Van Allen "an Iowa treasure."

"It's a sad day," he said.
The article talks about his work:
Van Allen was responsible for no less than getting the United States into the space race at a time when the nation was terrified that the Soviet Union would conquer us from above.

It was Oct. 4, 1957, when the USSR launched Sputnik, a 183-pound, basketball-sized satellite that became the first man-made object in Earth orbit.

The Soviets' triumph struck fear in the heart of the United States, and the government immediately took action not only to bolster its own efforts to reach space, but to improve math and science education in public schools.

Van Allen was hailed as a national hero when the United States struck back. This line is from the NASA article "Sputnik and the Dawn of the Space Age:"

"On January 31, 1958, the tide changed, when the United States successfully launched Explorer I. This satellite carried a small scientific payload that eventually discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth, named after principal investigator James Van Allen. The Explorer program continued as a successful ongoing series of lightweight, scientifically useful spacecraft."

The Van Allen Belts, as they are now known, remain a crucial area of study in space science, as evidenced by a recently announced, $100 million NASA project to study the effect of the belts on satellite communications and global navigation systems. The University of Iowa is the lead institution of the study.

The fact that UI remains at the forefront of space research is a testament to Van Allen as a teacher. As impressive as his own work is the work of UI space scientists Don Gurnett, Louis Frank and others who were all Van Allen protog�s. Now, most of the university's top work is being conducted by a third generation of UI-grown space scientists.
And a bit more:
During World War II, Van Allen worked for the Navy developing proximity shells at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

After the war, Van Allen returned to his real passion: the study of cosmic rays. A cache of almost 100 captured German V-2 rockets allowed the most sophisticated study of the cosmos possible up to that time. Van Allen traveled to White Sands, N.M., where he built intricate instruments for the rockets that could fly up to 100 miles above the earth. That work began to establish Van Allen�s reputation as an expert in rockets and the study of space.
And more:
His work prompted President Eisenhower to invite the Van Allens to the White House, and on May 4, 1959, Van Allen was on the cover of Time magazine.

�In the race into space, the Russians can claim bigger satellites and more powerful rockets,� Time declared. �If the U.S. can retort that it has a big lead in scientific achievement, the man most responsible is James Van Allen, whose instruments, designed and largely constructed in his basement laboratory, brought back from space discoveries the Russians never made.�

Later, Van Allen also built instruments for Mariners I and II, which flew by Venus; Mariner IV, which explored Mars; and Pioneers 10 and 11, the first human-made spacecraft to reach Jupiter and Saturn.

In his later years, he became known as a staunch critic of human spaceflight, arguing that the cost and the dangers to human life were too high, and all research of any real value could be conducted by machinery and robots.

NASA heard the call. In the 1990s, the administration put a greater emphasis on smaller, cheaper, unmanned missions that yielded greater science and were seen as less of a failure if something went wrong.

That attitude led to the incredibly successful Mars Pathfinder missions, and severe public criticism of the costly International Space Station and President Bush's call for a manned mission to Mars.

Van Allen also was a critic of the space shuttle program. Following problems that plagued the July 2005 flight of the shuttle Discovery and in the wake of the February 2003 destruction of the Columbia shuttle, Van Allen described the program as �too expensive and dangerous.�

�It�s a vastly difficult effort with almost no significant purpose,� Van Allen told The Associated Press.
The quantity of "right stuff" on this planet just suffered a noticeable decrease. He was an original and will be missed.

Why did the BP pipeline corrode?

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Slate Magazine has an excellent series called The Explainer where the background behind a prominent news item is... well... explained.

Here is their Explainer for the BP Pipeline corrosion scandal:

My Pipeline's Corroded
But I thought oil prevented rust.

Severely corroded pipelines will force BP to shut down its oil field at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, company officials said on Sunday. After a major spill in March, the company discovered stretches where the pipe had lost more than 70 percent of its mass to corrosion. Why does oil corrode a pipeline?

It has water in it. The crude oil that flows from Prudhoe Bay isn't the pure stuff we might use to stave off rust in our cars. When an oil company pumps crude out of the ground, it can also pump out a hot mixture of water, carbon dioxide, sulfur, and microorganisms. (Crude oil with lots of sulfur in it is called "sour," as opposed to "sweet.") If enough of these contaminants collect in a steel pipe, they'll work together to eat away at its inner surface.

Water is the main concern. If there's only a little bit of water in the oil, or if the oil is flowing fast enough, you generally won't have a problem. That's because the water will be dispersed in tiny droplets that are suspended in the flow. These suspended droplets won't react much with the steel surface of the pipes.

Problems can arise in stretches of pipeline that run at lower pressures. In these spots, water droplets can coalesce and fall out of the oil flow. They might inundate globs of sand or dirt that have also fallen out of the crude-oil mix and form a watery sludge on the edge of the pipe. Once a watery muck forms in one part of the pipe, the natural process of corrosion speeds up. The crude can also serve as a breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria, which form slimy, sulfur-producing colonies on the inside of the pipe.

To make matters worse, crude oil comes out of the ground hot, and the pipelines are insulated to maintain those high temperatures. Oil flows better when it's hot, but heat also exacerbates corrosion within the pipes.

Sometimes the oil companies introduce corrosive bacteria, water, or gas into reservoirs themselves. When an oil field gets old, it starts to lose pressure, and it becomes harder to draw out the remaining crude. Engineers can try to add pressure underground by putting in seawater or carbon dioxide. While this increases the field's output, it also sours the product and leads to more pipeline corrosion.

The fact that British Petroleum didn't run the 'Smart Pig' through the pipe because there was too much sludge should have raised a big red flag. I am imagining that the person responsible for this decision is on their way to a filing/clerical job in Gary, Indiana for the rest of their professional career.

Star Trek Inspirational Posters

We have all seen those dull "Inspirational Posters" in various offices. Here is a wonderful off-center series based on Star Trek
Page One
Page Two
One example:
The text reads:
I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.
I'm not a big fan of Sir Paul McCartney's more recent music (Band on the Run onward) -- a little too insipid for my tastes, but I have the greatest love for his earlier work in the Beatles and for his social philanthropy. His divorce from Heather Mills is turning very very nasty and I would not wish that on anyone. From The Sun:
Lady Mucca's war of lies
The McCartney divorce is going to be the most bitter high-profile split since Charles and Diana�s ten years ago.

Heather Mills, dubbed Lady Mucca after The Sun exposed her porno past, has hired the same lawyers used by the late Princess as she battles Macca for his millions.

Although she once claimed she had no interest in the former Beatle�s �800million fortune, ex-hooker Heather went to see top divorce firm Mishcon de Reya this week.

The Monday meeting she had with six of their top legal eagles went on for five hours.

A source close to the 38-year-old ex-model said: "They wanted to go through every minute detail about the marriage and forthcoming divorce."

"Heather now has a month to get her defence in before the divorce takes place."

She has ordered the London-based legal team to fight Sir Paul for an incredible �200million.
A bit more -- and since Heather is Mucca, Paul is being dubbed Macca:
Heather now insists she is poverty-stricken, being forced to drive around in battered cars while crashing at her sister�s modest home in Hove, East Sussex, all as a result of Macca�s supposedly heartless actions.

The truth is she owns a �2million beachside mansion in Hove and a �550,000 barn in East Sussex, both courtesy of Sir Paul.

She also drives around in a top-of-the-range Porsche or a flash BMW X5 when she thinks the cameras are not on her.

Over the past two weeks Heather has stepped up her media campaign and has gone into publicity overdrive.

Sources close to her say she has been tipped over the edge because she has realised it will all soon come to an end � she will no longer be Lady McCartney and she fears disappearing into oblivion.

The Sun told on Monday how Macca had frozen their joint account because Heather had been taking out �obscene� amounts of cash.

She bought the barn with Macca�s money �on a whim� and is now telling friends she wants another house in Brighton.

Her team of advisors are known to tip off certain friendly photographers and newspapers about her every move in a bid to ensure positive and sympathetic coverage towards her.
The article closes with this thought and these two photographs:
Heather should remember one thing.

She may aspire to be the Queen of Hearts � but all she will ever be is the Queen of Tarts.
She is very much royalty -- meet the new Bitch Queen... Sir Paul is in my prayers. The fact that they have a daughter together breaks my heart.

You're going to the moon, Alice!

Great story about Russian ingenuity in the Seattle Times:

Russians able to fake it like no one else
Always wanted to brag to your friends about your trip to Brazil, but couldn't afford to go? No problem.

For $500, nobody will believe you weren't sunning yourself last week on Copacabana Beach, just before you trekked through the Amazon rain forest and slept in a thatched hut. Hey! That's you, arms outstretched like Kate Winslet on the bow of the Titanic, on top of Corcovado.

Persey Tours barely was keeping bill collectors at bay before it started offering fake vacations last year. Now it's selling 15 a month - providing ersatz ticket stubs, hotel receipts, photos with clients' images superimposed on famous landmarks, and a few souvenirs for living-room shelves.

If the customer is an errant husband who wants his wife to believe he's on a fishing trip, Persey offers not only photos of him on the river, but a cellphone with a distant number, a few dead fish on ice and a lodge that - if anyone calls - will swear the husband is checked in but not available.

Of course, it's not the real thing. But in Russia, this is a distinction that easily can drift into irrelevance. If there is a world capital of audacious fabrication, it must be Moscow, where fake is never a four-letter word.

The article continues to talk about the down sides of counterfeit, the fake medicines with nothing of value in them, fake food (wines and caviar). The article's penultimate paragraph is this lament:

"To maintain a struggle with fakes in the market, you need to have a well-functioning system of law-enforcement organs, a good judicial system, a customs system. All of this is lacking," said Dmitry Yanin, head of the Confederation of Consumer Societies in Russia. "I think everyone understands that there will be no qualitative change on the market in fakes in Russia."

It closes with this great (fake) trip taken by a Gas Station owner:

Dmitry Popov, founder and chief executive of Persey Tours, certainly hopes not. Last year, he made $2,000 helping a Siberian gas-station owner convince his friends that he had rented a ride on the Russian space shuttle to the moon.

The title comes (of course) from that immortal sage Ralph Kramden.

Whew... I think I'll stick with The Korea Times version of the story instead of the one at Nature Materials. From The Korea Times:
Korean Scientists Create Magical Substance
A team of Korean scientists has created a new substance that can convert inexpensive intermediate crude oil to valuable gasoline in a very efficient fashion.

The team, led by Prof. Ryoo Ryong at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, yesterday said they had generated a new-type of zeolite that can be a petrochemical catalyst dozens of times more effective than today's norm.
A bit more:
"Zeolite is the most widely-used catalyst now in the petrochemical industry. It has many outstanding advantages but the hitch is that its efficiency was mediocre due to its slow reaction rate," Ryoo said.

"In comparison, our new-fangled zeolite shows a substantially advanced reaction rate, at 1.5 times to dozens of times better than the one currently available," the 50-year-old professor said.

Zeolite refers to a group of minerals that have a porous structure. It makes extremely active catalysts by confining molecules in small spaces with its crystalline pores.

In the value-added process of upgrading gas oils to gasoline, firms from around the globe widely resort to the substance as a significant catalyst.
By comparison, here is the title and opening paragraph from the Nature Materials paper:
Amphiphilic organosilane-directed synthesis of crystalline zeolite with tunable mesoporosity
Zeolites are a family of crystalline aluminosilicate materials widely used as shape-selective catalysts, ion exchange materials, and adsorbents for organic compounds1, 2. In the present work, zeolites were synthesized by adding a rationally designed amphiphilic organosilane surfactant to conventional alkaline zeolite synthesis mixtures. The zeolite products were characterized by a complementary combination of X-ray diffraction (XRD), nitrogen sorption, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The analyses show that the present method is suitable as a direct synthesis route to highly mesoporous zeolites. The mesopore diameters could be uniformly tailored, similar to ordered mesoporous silica with amorphous frameworks3. The mesoporous zeolite exhibited a narrow, small-angle XRD peak, which is characteristic of the short-range correlation between mesopores, similar to disordered wormhole-like mesoporous materials4, 5. The XRD patterns and electron micrographs of the samples taken during crystallization clearly showed the evolution of the mesoporous structure concomitantly to the crystallization of zeolite frameworks. The synthesis of the crystalline aluminosilicate materials with tunable mesoporosity and strong acidity has potentially important technological implications for catalytic reactions of large molecules, whereas conventional mesoporous materials lack hydrothermal stability and acidity.
An English Major he is not but he is a genius and hopefully soon, a very suce$$ful chemist... Very cool. We are seeing advances in the Fischer-Tropsch process. (I wrote about them here, here and here.); maybe the two will play nice together. F-T is a catalytic process and this new Zeolite allows catalysts to work much faster. Here is a Scanning Electron Micrograph of the little buggers:
I seem to be finding a lot of interesting contract 'issues' recently. (here and here) Here is one about a software license that was not fully comprehended, a giant robot, some parked cars and a city in New Jersey. From Wired:
Giant Robot Imprisons Parked Cars
The robot that parks cars at the Garden Street Garage in Hoboken, New Jersey, trapped hundreds of its wards last week for several days. But it wasn't the technology car owners had to curse, it was the terms of a software license.

The garage is owned by the city; the software, by Robotic Parking of Clearwater, Florida.

In the course of a contract dispute, the city of Hoboken had police escort the Robotic employees from the premises just a few days before the contract between both parties was set to expire. What the city didn't understand or perhaps concern itself with, is that they sent the company packing with its manuals and the intellectual property rights to the software that made the giant robotic parking structure work.

The Hoboken garage is one of a handful of fully automated parking structures that make more efficient use of space by eliminating ramps and driving lanes, lifting and sliding automobiles into slots and shuffling them as needed. If the robot shuts down, there is no practical way to manually remove parked vehicles.

In the days that followed, both sides dragged each other into court. Robotic accused Hoboken of violating its copyright. "This case is about them using software without a license," said Dennis Clarke, chief operating officer of Robotic Parking, in a telephone interview last week.

At the same time, Hoboken accused Robotic of setting booby traps in the code, causing the garage to malfunction. Then Robotic accused Hoboken of endangering its business by allowing a competitor into the garage.

In the meantime, many of the garage's customers simply couldn't get their cars out.
In cases of software like Microsoft Office or Quicken or Adobe Photoshop, there are enough paying customers to keep the price down to a reasonable level and to allow the person to keep using the software indefinitely. New operating systems and chipsets may come along and their software might not work on these, but if the user stays with the same vintage of hardware, they will be able to use their application for as long as they wish. The companies will even offer free patches and reduced prices for upgrading to newer versions. For software like that from Robotic Parking (website here), they may only sell a few hundred copies of this software each year and their software is very complex and has, absolutely has, to be failsafe. Software of this sort with all the attendant testing will be expensive and considering that each and every installation will be different, this adds up to a very high cost of development. In cases like this, a License with a timer is the way to go. The company can be assured of continued revenues and the customer can be assured of an ongoing high level of support. When I worked for Microsoft, my team was part of the development group for Windows Datacenter. This was a stripped-down release of Windows 2000 that was designed for large server farms and nothing else. You cannot buy this product, it comes bundled with the server farm and you then license it annually. You are given access to a crack team of support people and developers so you are assured of the best service that MSFT can provide. When I worked for the Ocean Engineering company in Seattle, we used Computational Fluid Dynamics to work out designs for ship hulls and bridge piers. Same thing -- the market for that is only forty or fifty thousand 'seats' per year so they sell annual licenses and the software comes crashing to a halt on the 365.25th day. I would love to have been at that City Council meeting where they discussed the fact that their robot garage wasn't going to work until they paid their bill... (Imagine a thick New Joisy accent: Hey Guido - yous'wanna get some of yo boys to work them over a bit?) Here is a photo from Wired of the Hoboken facility:
A bit closer to my areas of interest... I had written last week about a commercial sports contract that has made two people a nice pile of money. Now, it's Canadian Telecom company Rogers that is on the loosing end of the deal. From the Toronto Globe and Mail:
'A basic rule of punctuation'
It could be the most costly piece of punctuation in Canada.

A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal's cancellation.

The controversial comma sent lawyers and telecommunications regulators scrambling for their English textbooks in a bitter 18-month dispute that serves as an expensive reminder of the importance of punctuation.

Rogers thought it had a five-year deal with Aliant Inc. to string Rogers' cable lines across thousands of utility poles in the Maritimes for an annual fee of $9.60 per pole. But early last year, Rogers was informed that the contract was being cancelled and the rates were going up. Impossible, Rogers thought, since its contract was iron-clad until the spring of 2007 and could potentially be renewed for another five years.

Armed with the rules of grammar and punctuation, Aliant disagreed. The construction of a single sentence in the 14-page contract allowed the entire deal to be scrapped with only one-year's notice, the company argued.

Language buffs take note � Page 7 of the contract states: The agreement �shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.

Rogers' intent in 2002 was to lock into a long-term deal of at least five years. But when regulators with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) parsed the wording, they reached another conclusion.

The validity of the contract and the millions of dollars at stake all came down to one point � the second comma in the sentence.

Had it not been there, the right to cancel wouldn't have applied to the first five years of the contract and Rogers would be protected from the higher rates it now faces.

�Based on the rules of punctuation,� the comma in question �allows for the termination of the [contract] at any time, without cause, upon one-year's written notice,� the regulator said.
Heh... (tm) Rogers now has to pay as much as $28.05 per pole. I really hope that the contract lawyer who spotted that extra comma got a nice corner office and a significant pay raise...

Summer Drivers

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We live in an area that has a lot of recreational options. Mt. Baker is the place where snowboarding was essentially invented. We have a lot of river running of various types. A few miles away is a County Park with a lake (stocked for fishing), 100 campsites and some rental cabins. Add to that the high cost of rural property in Western British Columbia, Canada, there are several camping time-shares and resorts that cater to our good neighbors to the north (even if they speak funny, eh?) All this adds up to is a higher than normal volume of vehicular traffic on our roads during peak vacation times -- often with some spectacular results... As far as we know, nobody was hurt. This happened today:

Now that has to be a blow to one's ego... Nice clear warm day, smooth stretch of road. There were some curves coming up though as evidenced by the next photo.


Here is the long-shot -- notice the gradual drift off the road. No skid marks, nothing.
I don't know if they just fell asleep or were distracted. I would hate to think of the speeds involved if they were unable to take that part of the road as it gets very winding and very wooded very fast, only a hundred yards further on... On the other end of the spectrum are those people who like to take their time, just enjoying the scenery and driving ten or fifteen miles under the posted limit of 50MPH and ignoring the string of locals behind them who would really like to drive faster than 35MPH. There are few opportunities for passing on some of our roads so people generally drive at a good clip and keep traffic moving. Even the logging trucks.

Simple Boats

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Ran into this website looking for a simple small boat design. We live a couple miles from a gorgeous two-mile long lake and although there is a lot of traffic on it during summer, it is practically deserted the other three seasons. I was thinking about a stable platform for photography as well as just a basic knockabout for time on the water. The site is from Finland but the author (Hannu Vartiala) has an excellent command of English and the site is very readable. Check out Hannu's Boatyard Something like this really catches my eye -- 10 1/2 feet long, two sheets of 3/8" plywood...

A Fatwa upon them!

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Seeds of dissent -- from The Jerusalem Post:
Saudi religious leader blasts Hizbullah
A top Saudi Sunni cleric, whose ideas inspired Osama bin Laden, issued a religious edict Saturday disavowing the Shi'ite guerrilla group Hizbullah, evidence that a rift remained among Muslims over the fighting in Lebanon.

Hizbullah, which translates as "the party of God," is actually "the party of the devil," said Sheik Safar al-Hawali, whose radical views made the al-Qaida leader one of his followers in the past.

"Don't pray for Hizbullah," he said in the fatwa posted on his Web site.

The edict, which reflects the historical stand of strict Wahhabi doctrine viewing Shi'ite Muslims as heretics, follows a similar fatwa from another popular Saudi cleric Sheik Abdullah bin Jibreen two weeks into the conflict with Israel.

"It is not acceptable to support this rejectionist party (Hizbullah), and one should not fall under its command, or pray for its victory," bin Jibreen said at the time. That fatwa set off a maelstrom across the Arab world, with other leaders and people at the grass roots level imploring Muslims to put aside differences to support the fight against Israel.
Good! But of course, this tired old trope continues to be recycled -- this time by Kuwait's prime minister, Sheik Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah:
"I believe that if this Israeli war on Lebanon goes on, it could contribute to creating new terrorists, and that of course would pose a new danger in the area," he told Egyptian magazine el-Mussawar.
Excuse me -- learning that you have an excellent chance of going kaboom is not good for recruitment. If we waffle, that is what will create more terrorists. If we show strength and crush them, they will melt into the sands. They are showing that they cannot win on a tactical or military front. Unfortunately, they are winning on the media front but the cracks are showing around the presentation -- the same few faces is all of the images, visible photoshopping of "authentic" photographs, the placement of US and EU photographers with terrorists who are actively shooting our troops. Once people wake up, it will be over and everyone can go on with their lives...

Happy Birthday World Wide Web

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WWW turned fifteen today. Google groups has the archived posting from Tim Berners-Lee making the announcement.
From: Tim Berners-Lee
Date: Tues, Aug 6 1991 12:00 pm
Email: timbl@info (Tim Berners-Lee)
Groups: alt.hypertext
Not yet ratedRating:
In article <> I promised to post a short summary of the WorldWideWeb project. Mail me with any queries.

WorldWideWeb - Executive Summary
The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system.

The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.
I remember where I was when I first heard about it. I have been on the internet for some time as well as running a multi-line BBS system. I was sitting in Seattle's Caf� Allegro when a guy who worked at the UW physics department came in reading this document. He sat down at my table and let me read it (we were friends). The overall thought was: "This is going to be big. Really really really BIG!" Talk about understatement...

Chinese economic train wreck?

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I do not know Jim Jubak's credentials but what he says seems to jive with the current situation and his projection seems to be plausible. From MSN/Money:
China's economy is out of control
China is growing so fast -- using cheap money to build steel mills, highways and textile factories it doesn't need � that the coming crash grows uglier by the day.

In a train wreck, there comes the moment when it's no longer possible to avert disaster. Pull the brakes as hard as you can, the momentum of the train is so great that disaster is unavoidable.

I fear that China's economy passed that point of no return in the second quarter of 2006.

Today, I'm going to tell you why I think China's economy is headed for a train wreck. Not tomorrow, but in the reasonably near future. I'd say 2009.

And in my next column, I'll sketch out the likely effects of that train wreck on the rest of the global economy and the folks, like you and me, who invest in it.

If you've been following the debate in the U.S. about the likelihood that cheap money here has produced a bubble in housing prices, you're already familiar with the basic scenario for a train wreck in China. Cheap money makes it easy to borrow to buy assets. That produces an asset bubble -- in the United States, first in stocks and then in real estate. As the asset bubble grows, borrowers get in over their heads as their judgment is overwhelmed by the excitement of rising prices. And lenders under the influence of similar emotions make loans to unqualified borrowers.

When the asset bubble starts to deflate, overextended borrowers default on their loans, putting pressure on lenders, who respond by tightening their lending standards, reducing the amount of money available to all borrowers. That sends the economy into a slowdown or worse.
It's a longish two-page article but if what he says is true, China is due for some bumpy times not that far down the road. Since they are now buying so much of the worlds (read: Middle East) oil, it will also be interesting times for our Arab "buddies". Couldn't wish it on a nicer bunch...

Testing for BSE - more

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A nice article on Creekstone Farms in USA Today. I had written about them last March: Testing for BSE The USA Today article covers a lot of what I had written about but adds some new information that makes me even more glad that we have our half a cow in our freezer. We made a connection with the sister of someone who raises pigs organically and we will be getting a whole hog sometime next spring. From USA Today:
Mad cow watch goes blind
Creekstone Farms, a Kansas beef producer, wants to reassure customers that its cattle are safe to eat by testing them all for mad cow disease. Sounds like a smart business move, but there's one problem: The federal government won't let the company do it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture -� invoking an obscure 1913 law intended to thwart con artists from peddling bogus hog cholera serum to pig farmers -� is blocking companies from selling the testing kits to Creekstone.

USDA is doing the bidding of large cattle barons afraid that Creekstone's marketing will force them to do the same tests to stay competitive. It's true that the incidence of mad cow disease is quite low. But there's little logic in stopping a company from exceeding regulations to meet the demands of its customers, or protecting its rivals from legitimate competition.

Not only is USDA blocking Creekstone, the department said last month that it's reducing its mad cow testing program by 90%. The industry and its sympathetic regulators seem to believe that the problem isn't mad cow disease. It's tests that find mad cow.

The department tests only 1% of the roughly 100,000 cattle slaughtered daily. The new plan will test only 110 cows a day.

By cutting back on testing, USDA will save about $35 million a year. That's a pittance compared with the devastation the cattle industry could face if just one human case of mad cow disease is linked to domestic beef.
The scaling back on testing was news to me. Here is another:
Scientists don't know the exact cause of BSE but think it's spread when cows are fed ground-up parts of cattle and other cud-chewing animals. The government has tightened cattle-feed rules, but loopholes still permit cattle blood as a milk substitute and chicken waste as a protein supplement.
I knew that they were tightening up the feed rules but I had no idea about the blood and chicken waste (offal, feet, feathers) loopholes. A bit more:
Sixty-five nations have full or partial restrictions on importing U.S. beef products because of fears that the testing isn't rigorous enough. As a result, U.S. beef product exports declined from $3.8 billion in 2003, before the first mad cow was detected in the USA, to $1.4 billion last year. Foreign buyers are demanding that USDA do more.

"In a nation dedicated to free market competition," says John Stewart, CEO of Creekstone, which is suing USDA, "a company that wants to do more than is required to ensure the quality of its product and to satisfy customer demand should be allowed to do so."

When regulators disagree with reasoning like that, you know the game is rigged.
Rigged the same way that the big producers are trying to ram NAIS down the throat of the small farmer without any thought being given to its implications. I have written about NAIS before and if you are at all interested in preserving the small family farm or have any interest in riding horses, agritourism, agricultural fairs (The Puyallup Fair and the NW Washington Fair are but two of WA State's fairs) or such excellent school programs as FFA or 4H, you need to be very active in stopping this odious bit of legislation.

Whoooo Hoooo!!!

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Today, we received the Federal permits for our business. There are still a few more hoops to jump through but we are now street-legal to manufacture hard cider and mead. I love talking to people in our community and seeing that wonderful light dawning in their faces when they realize that the person they are talking with is planning to engage in the business of manufacturing good booze on a commercial scale. Heh...

Laurie Lipton

Imagine if you will, Diane Arbus using a pencil and paper rather than a camera.

Throw in a fun bit of morbid humor and you have the work of Laurie Lipton.

Three examples from her website:



Just one of those days...

Excellent stuff!

In the doghouse

Meet Barney, a Doberman security dog partnered with Greg West (also shown).
Barney found some chew-toys and proceeded to have quite a bit of fun. Unfortunately, they were not his to play with. From
Dog destroys Elvis' teddy bear at museum
A guard dog has ripped apart a collection of rare teddy bears, including one once owned by Elvis Presley, during a rampage at a children's museum.

"He just went berserk," said Daniel Medley, general manager of the Wookey Hole Caves near Wells, England, where hundreds of bears were chewed up Tuesday night by the 6-year-old Doberman pinscher named Barney.

Barney ripped the head off a brown stuffed bear once owned by the young Presley during the attack, leaving fluffy stuffing and bits of bears' limbs and heads on the museum floor. The bear, named Mabel, was made in 1909 by the German manufacturer Steiff.

The collection, valued at more than $900,000, included a red bear made by Farnell in 1910 and a Bobby Bruin made by Merrythought in 1936.

The bear with Elvis connections was owned by English aristocrat Benjamin Slade, who bought it at an Elvis memorabilia auction in Memphis, Tenn., and had loaned it to the museum.

"I've spoken to the bear's owner and he is not very pleased at all," Medley said.

A security guard at the museum, Greg West, said he spent several minutes chasing Barney before wrestling the dog to the ground.
No biscuit for you!

Computer Vision resources

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Checking out a CNC-related idea and ran into these two related websites for machine vision: Computer Vision Hardware The most recent of the two -- a list of manufacturers and other lists. Vendors of Vision Equipment Older list but has resources for camera lenses and other goodies -- there is a good bit of overlap but the two lists complement each other.

Get Rich Slowly

Excellent blog on personal finance and investing. Soon to be added to the blogroll. Get Rich Slowly

Geothermal Energy

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The enviros tend to be a short-sighted bunch. They are willfully ignoring a source of electrical energy with almost zero carbon emissions and significantly reduced mining impact (compared to Coal). Not only are they shorting Nuclear, they are also ignoring Geothermal. From Technology Review:
Abundant Power from Universal Geothermal Energy
An MIT chemical engineer explains why new technologies could finally make "heat mining" practical nearly anywhere on earth.

The answer to the world's energy needs may have been under our feet all this time, according to Jefferson Tester, professor of chemical engineering at the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. Tester says heat generated deep within the earth by the decay of naturally occurring isotopes has the potential to supply a tremendous amount of power -- thousands of times more than we now consume each year.

So far, we've been able to harvest only a tiny fraction of geothermal energy resources, taking advantage of places where local geology brings hot water and steam near the surface, such as in Iceland or California, where such phenomena have long been used to produce electricity. But new oil-field stimulation technology, developed for extracting oil from sources such as shale, makes it possible to harvest much more of this energy by allowing engineers to create artificial geothermal reservoirs many kilometers underground.

Tester calls it "universal geothermal" energy because the reservoirs could be located wherever they're needed, such as near power-hungry cities worldwide.
The rest of the article is an interview with Dr. Tester. He is looking at providing about 25% of our current energy needs with simple and existing technologies. Also, this is heat that is being continually generated from nuclear reactions within our Earth's mantle, this is not a pool of residual heat that will decay over time. Talk about an ultimate renewable resource. What's not to love?

Have I got a deal for you...

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I am not into commercial sports but this story is a lot of fun. From the LA Times Sports Page:
The TV Deal the NBA Wishes It Had Not Made
The Silnas of the ABA's St. Louis Spirits still cash in on the contract that began with the merger in 1976.

Roughly once a month, the NBA cuts 31 checks to NBA teams as revenue from its multibillion-dollar national television contract.

There are only 30 NBA franchises, so who gets the extra check?

The money goes to brothers Ozzie and Dan Silna, co-owners of the long-forgotten ABA team, the Spirits of St. Louis.

Thirty years ago, Ozzie Silna, with attorney Donald Schupak, negotiated a deal that cleared the way for the ABA to merge with the NBA. It ranks as one of the best sports deals in modern times, one that has paid the Silnas about $168 million and continues to pay off.

"I would have loved to have an NBA team," said Ozzie Silna, 73, a Malibu resident and environmental activist. "But if I look at it retrospectively over what I would have gotten, versus what I've received now, then I'm a happy camper."

Part of the Silnas' deal called for them to receive one-seventh of the annual TV revenue from each of the four ABA teams entering the NBA. The deal turned out to be so lucrative that several NBA teams have tried to break it, without success.

"We honor the deal," said Donnie Walsh, the Indiana Pacers' chief executive. "I can't say we haven't met and tried to settle it. But it's the greatest deal known to man. What more can you say?"

The key line in the Silnas' TV contract that makes NBA executives cringe reads: "The right to receive such revenues shall continue for as long as the NBA or its successors continues in its existence."

In other words, the deal lasts as long as the NBA does.

Another key component is that Silna, anticipating the NBA expanding, capped the brothers' portion of shared television revenue at a maximum of 28 teams. The other NBA teams share their revenue among all 30 teams.

The Silnas' contract stands ironclad, despite occasional court challenges. Harry Weltman, former general manager of the Spirits, argued to the Supreme Court in 1991 that he was entitled to a share of the revenue to no avail.
Hey, you signed the paper, you honor the deal. Still, the hindsight in this case is 20/10 and delicious!

The Geek Squad

For a number of reasons, I am very much a non-Fan of Best Buy and will patronize any other retail outlet except for them. Their marketing practices and pressure make my rear teeth ache. Add to that the fact that 90% of the items in the store are at Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (best buy indeed!) and the junk that is at discount is just that, junk. It seems their in-home service is also something to avoid. From Associated Content:
Best Buy's Geek Squad: Conquest of Branding Over Competence
Warning - Using the Geek Squad May Be Harmful to Your Computer

Face it, the brilliance of American business is not perfecting quality of products and services, it is in marketing, advertising, and branding. That is what the Geek Squad is all about. They have niffty language, make their agents wear uniforms and drive the cutest little cars covered with advertising. They say that: "Our mission is to alleviate the world's computer problems, educate people to fearlessly embrace technology and practice the art of human interaction." Sounds so noble. Their real mission is to make money, which is just fine if their services were top quality. But my own experience and that of many others who have shared their pain on many Internet sites is that the youthful Geek Squad agents have nice personalities but lack technical competence. The result is that when customers expose their prized computers to their agents, because they need technical help, they put themselves at risk.

Computers have become so crucial in our lives and when things go wrong it is like becoming seriously ill. So naturally your instinct is to seek professional help. But the Geek Squad does seem to adhere to the wisdom of health professionals: first do no harm.

One of the Geek Squad's standard services is called data transfer. Simply put, copy data from an old computer to a new one. For that they charge plenty. So what might be the worst case scenario or nightmare of having the Geek Squad come to your home to perform this job. Think a minute. What happened to me is that they destroyed the hard drive of my old computer and I lost the hard drive in it and, worse yet, lost over five years of all kinds of data and files.

And an interesting aspect of the Geek Squad business model is that if something bad happens and you have to bring something into a Best Buy store they do not allow their agents to physically take anything back to their store. In my case, I had to take back my old computer box, wait several days and then learn that they had destroyed my hard drive and data.

Were they so sorry that they accepted blame and responsibility? Did these military-style geeks offer compensation? No and no. They acted as if somehow it was a strange coincidence that the hard drive died exactly when their agent had removed it from my old computer, tried but failed to connect it to the new computer (that I bought at Best Buy) and then discovered when he put it back into the old computer that it no longer worked. And let me emphasize that when the agent let me know that he intended to remove the hard drive from my old computer that I was very concerned about the risk of doing that - but he insisted that there was no risk. So much for Geek Squad military-style competence.
Granted, had the author been doing regular backups of his system, he would not have lost five years of work but still, the timing of the hard drive failure raises my eyebrow... The fact that they didn't refer him to a data recovery service is egregiously incompetent. If I faced the loss of five years of data, I would have no problem coughing up a couple hundred bucks to have the service recover as much of the data as they can. I do some measure of consulting for clients in our small community and data transfer to me is the simple matter of bringing a portable hard drive, plugging it into their 'puter, copying the files they want to save and then moving them over to the new machine. Works great and no hard drive is harmed in the process of making this transfer. The Geek Squad is giving a bad name to geeks everywhere and a major black eye to Best Buy ( like they needed help with this). Scroll down and read some of the comments -- it isn't just this author having problems... UPDATE: Was just pointed to GeekSquad Sucks

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