October 2006 Archives

To all...

Many thanks for the kind thoughts and rememberences. I'll be posting more later in this week and as I said, we get our internet connection restored this coming Friday. Every one here is stumbling around in a bit of a fog but we are maintaining a sort of calm and should get through the next week or so without much problem. Looking at taking a trip to get away from it all for two weeks or so. Thanks again! DaveH

Happy birthday to me...

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Oh Yeah -- October 27th, 2003 I posted this entry number one. Been a fun three years and looking forward to a lot more. Dave

News from the home front

First, my Mom passed away this morning around 4:00am. She was on "comfort care" and so had no pain or discomfort. I will write more in a few days -- right now we are all kind of walking around in a haze. It has been two days since I checked and we have had 1354 attempted spams with only six successes. Considering that there were only 208 unique inbound IP addresses, some people are using the old "if it didn't work the first time, keep bashing at it" school of thought. Needless to say, this exposes them for the looosers they are. And thanks for trying to hit me when I'm down... Finally, we get our home internet service back this coming friday. I'll be starting to work on the tarpit in a week or so after that. More in a few days...

Still here...

Been waiting for the local Starband repair person to return my calls and starting to activly look around for a different provider... A week without internet is downright torture!!! Parents are getting a bit better. My Dad is happy at his facility but my Mom had to be placed in the hospital yesterday and is refusing to eat or drink. The doctors are worried about her kidneys. As for spammers -- still knocking and still (except for one lucky turd) not getting in. Tally for today: Incoming: 150 Successful: 1 (dammit!) Unique IP addresses: 55


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A few of them got in yesterday (out of the 910 that tried on Saturday and Sunday), had 119 tries today and zero sucesses with 53 unique IP addresses. Needless to say, work on the tarpit will be delayed for a few weeks until everything else gets settled out but it is on the horizion.

An interesting life...

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My Mom is pretty well settled into her nursing home but she is not eating very well. She has much better color in her cheeks and is looking a lot better rested than when she went in but she is noticably looking what little weight she has. Time to talk to the doctors; unfortunatly, she is quite lucid and although I have power of attorney, if she refuses medication, they have to obey her wishes. I wish I could bring a baseball bat into her room but the nurses might frown on that technique. Dad gets moved into his assisted living home tomorrow. Got everything prepped and ready (as much as I could). This is one of these things that you always know will happen but it still sucks when it does and you can never be fully prepared for it. Add to this that our internet connection is still down at our house and will probably be down for a week or so (I checked the cables from the reciever to the dish today and they are fine. The reciever is able to recieve but it cannot send anything.) And Mercury enters retrograde this Saturday... Fine, just bloody fine.

On the road again

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Checking in from a hotel in Seattle. Down with a van cleaning out my parents ome and will be here for another day (and I thought that I was a packrat - I spent my childhood studying at the feet of masters!!!) Several more trips will be needed but a visible dent in the lot was made today. Heading up to a storage locker for sorting later this winter. Some spammers have gotten through but I have trapped several hundred and their numbers are now added to the black-hole. To make things a little more interesting (and Mercury isn't even in retrograde yet!), our satellite internet connection went down Thursday with either a bad cable (fixed Monday) or a bad reciever (fixed in about a week or so). I have other systems I can use but they are not as convenient as walking out to my shop, firing up the wood stove, opening a beer and pontificating away... Hoping for a relativly smooth return to normalcy.

Another one sees the light...

From the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:
Decorated Scientist Defects From Belief in Global Warming � Caps Year of Vindication for Skeptics
One of the most decorated French geophysicists has converted from a believer in manmade catastrophic global warming to a climate skeptic. This latest defector from the global warming camp caps a year in which numerous scientific studies have bolstered the claims of climate skeptics. Scientific studies that debunk the dire predictions of human-caused global warming have continued to accumulate and many believe the new science is shattering the media-promoted scientific �consensus� on climate alarmism.

Claude Allegre, a former government official and an active member of France�s Socialist Party, wrote an editorial on September 21, 2006 in the French newspaper L'Express titled �The Snows of Kilimanjaro� (For English Translation, click here: http://epw.senate.gov/fact.cfm?party=rep&id=264835 ) detailing his newfound skepticism about manmade global warming. See: http://www.lexpress.fr/idees/tribunes/dossier/allegre/dossier.asp?ida=451670 Allegre wrote that the �cause of climate change remains unknown� and pointed out that Kilimanjaro is not losing snow due to global warming, but to local land use and precipitation changes. Allegre also pointed out that studies show that Antarctic snowfall rate has been stable over the past 30 years and the continent is actually gaining ice.

�Following the month of August experienced by the northern half of France, the prophets of doom of global warming will have a lot on their plate in order to make our fellow countrymen swallow their certitudes,� Allegre wrote. He also accused proponents of manmade catastrophic global warming of being motivated by money, noting that �the ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people!�

Allegre, a member of both the French and U.S. Academy of Sciences, had previously expressed concern about manmade global warming. "By burning fossil fuels, man enhanced the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which has raised the global mean temperature by half a degree in the last century," Allegre wrote 20 years ago. In addition, Allegre was one of 1500 scientists who signed a November 18, 1992 letter titled �World Scientists' Warning to Humanity� in which the scientists warned that global warming�s �potential risks are very great.� See: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~sai/sciwarn.html

Allegre has authored more than 100 scientific articles, written 11 books and received numerous scientific awards including the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society of the United States.

Allegre's conversion to a climate skeptic comes at a time when global warming alarmists have insisted that there is a �consensus� about manmade global warming. Proponents of global warming have ratcheted up the level of rhetoric on climate skeptics recently. An environmental magazine in September called for Nuremberg-style trials for global warming skeptics and CBS News �60 Minutes� correspondent Scott Pelley compared skeptics to �Holocaust deniers.� See: http://www.epw.senate.gov/fact.cfm?party=rep&id=264568 & http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2006/03/22/publiceye/entry1431768.shtml In addition, former Vice President Al Gore has repeatedly referred to skeptics as "global warming deniers."

This increase in rhetorical flourish comes at a time when new climate science research continues to unravel the global warming alarmists� computer model predictions of future climatic doom and vindicate skeptics.
The article then goes on to talk about (and provide links to) such subjects as:
  • Global Cooling on the Horizon?
  • Sun�s Contribution to Warming
  • �Global�? Warming Misnamed - Southern Hemisphere Not Warming
  • Oceans Cooling
  • Polar Bears Not Going Extinct
Fun reading and a very good antidote to Gore's bloviations.

The End of an Era

Say it ain't so! From the LA Times:
Kitschy Pink Flamingo Faces Extinction
The plastic bird, found on lawns across the U.S., ceases production. Its maker looks for a buyer.

The plastic pink flamingo, a front-lawn icon that has been reviled as kitschy bad taste and revered as retro cool, is dead at age 49.

The pop culture symbol met its demise after its manufacturer, Union Products of Leominster, Mass., was socked with a triple economic threat � increases in costs of electricity and plastic resin combined with loss of financing. Production ended in June, and the plant is scheduled to close Nov. 1, according to the president and chief executive, Dennis Plante.

Union Products made 250,000 of its patented plastic pink flamingos a year in addition to other garden products.

Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, paid tribute to the bird that has been immortalized everywhere � in the 1970s John Waters movie "Pink Flamingos" and on lawns across America.

"Let's face it," he said, "as iconic emblems of kitsch, there are two pillars of cheesy, campiness in the American pantheon. One is the velvet Elvis. The other is the pink flamingo."

The birth of the plastic pink flamingo in 1957 coincided with a booming interest in Florida, Thompson said, making it possible for those in other parts of the country to have a little piece of the Sunshine State's mystique in their yard.

By the late '70s, according to Thompson, the pink flamingo became a symbol of bad taste. It was considered trash culture and embraced by folks with a wise-guy attitude.
But there is some hope:
Featherstone and President Plante are hoping for a resurrection. Plante has been seeking another company to buy the molds. So far, two companies in the U.S. and one in Canada have expressed interest.

"I am hoping that someone will come forward and save the plastic pink flamingo from extinction," Plante said.
Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link...

Late-Onset Creativity

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Been running into a bit of this myself what with taking up blacksmithing and knife-making as well as updating my general metalworking skills with the class I'm taking. This is a bit of a different lifestyle than my last 30 years which was spent starting and running two successful businesses, five years at MSFT and three years with a wonderful Ocean Engineering group. David St. Lawrence was a high muckey-muck at SUN and is now doing custom woodworking and blogging about business ideas and the growth of creativity in his recently adopted hometown of Floyd, Virginia. Here he talks about Late-Onset Creativity:
Late-life Artists - Transforming Life Experience Into Art
I see an increasing number of professionals who find themselves transforming their life experiences into art. Many of these mid and late-life artists were launched into art by taking a course taught by a professional artist, while others simply find themselves caught up by late-onset creativity.

Whatever the reason, these late-life artists are playing an important part in Floyd. In fact, the majority of students at the residential craft school at the Jacksonville Center in Floyd are grey-haired veterans of life and industry.

A little background for those who are not familiar with the Center: The Jacksonville Center offers a wide range of classes from pastels and watercolors to pottery, glassworking and blacksmithing to students of all ages. The students range from beginning artists and craftworkers to well-known professionals who are cross-training in other disciplines. The cooperative interaction (synergy) between students at different levels is one of many benefits of these classes.

I think the reasons we find so many late-life artists emerging is that "Art" is not an easy way for a young person to make a living . Many young people, myself included, investigated making a living as artists and concluded reluctantly that we were not able to support a family with art although we could do so as engineers, salespersons or business managers. Some artists were making a good living, but I concluded that I did not have the skill or connections to succeed at that time.

Many of us made our choices to work at careers which enabled us to support our families, but once we reached an age where we had no corporate responsibilities, we could reignite our passions for creative work and explore new opportunities as craft workers and artists.

This delayed entrance into the world of art is not necessarily a disadvantage. Unlike ballet, where you are too old at 13 to entertain thoughts of a career, a career in painting can be launched at the age of 79 (Grandma Moses).

Art can be considered a communication where the artist evokes a response in the observer. Artists with a great deal of interesting life experience only need to learn to translate that life experience into a recognizable communication and they will generally find a ready audience.

Late-life artists may even have a certain advantage over young artists. At the same level of technical skill, the older artist has more to communicate about that will resonate with potential buyers.
Work from an older artist has a lot more resonance to the viewer than work from a younger one. I am leaving myself open to a lot of "No F@#%!@&* Way" comments and in many cases this is justified but still, I look at work from a younger artist and they can have a very very cool and creative idea and you can appreciate that idea but there is no resonance. Or one of their pieces may speak volumes to you but it's a one-shot deal where earlier and later works do not share this attribute. Someone who is a bit older, has knocked around this planet a bit and has seen a lot of other cultures will have a larger palate to draw from when they start to express themselves -- they may not have as polished a technique as the art-school trained 25 year old "next big thing" but their work will speak for itself.

Two days tallies

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Was in Seattle getting my parents house packed up and ready to sell. Didn't get near a computer yesterday so here are two days statistics: Incoming: 423 Successful: ZERO (loosers) Unique IP addresses: 159 So far I have about 7,580 addresses in my black-hole list with only one person asking to be re-instated (they didn't realize that their system was infected and they were reinstated) Some of these listings are individual accounts (a surprising number are from Comcast) Some larger netblocks are in there too -- when I receive more than fifty spams from a large school or several hundred from a nation, that entire netblock gets black-holed. Not a big number when you look at the four billion IP addresses out there but still...

George Dyson

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Is the son of Physicist Freeman Dyson, lives in Bellingham and builds traditional Aleut Skin Kayaks (Baidarka) as well as writing and lecturing on the history of Physics. Ran into him at dinner tonight here while having dinner with my Dad and Jen.
One of the things I love about Bellingham is that it seems to attract a goodly number of productive but eccentric and creative people.

It's an Analog World out there

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Computers use ones and zeros to process but our world is analog; there are no specific units in a gorgeous sunset, in the sound of a singer, in the movement of a child on a swing.

In order to get sound or images or positional data into a computer, some form of analog to digital conversion is needed. Digital to Analog conversion is needed to get a stored print out to your printer or screen.

One of the premier companies for analog semiconductors started in a basement in Cambridge, Massachusetts over forty years ago. I'm talking about Analog Devices.

As they offer a huge scope of products, their website is deep and wide. I just stumbled on this branch and if you do any work with electronics at all, you need to visit here: Analog Dialog Potpourri

Lots of links for Do It Yourself high fidelity audio, Digital Signal Processing, reference sheets for their major product lines (lots!), books, product manuals, application notes, patents by ADI employees, Rarely Asked Questions including "Strange but true stories from the call logs of Analog Devices" Lots of great stuff!



Everyone has a pet theory for what causes Autism. Some hold to the belief that Thimerosal - the mercury derived preservative used for some vaccines - is the villain (after all Mercury is toxic in largish doses so smaller doses should be just as toxic -- and don't get me going about amalgam dental fillings, I should save this for another post)

A recent paper said that since older couples tended to have a higher instance (a few percent) of autistic children that it was the males damaged sperm that was at fault (damaged eggs? Naaaa).

Well in Slate, there is an interesting possibility and one that I could see as a major contributing factor - television:

TV Really Might Cause Autism
A Slate exclusive: findings from a new Cornell study.

Last month, I speculated in Slate that the mounting incidence of childhood autism may be related to increased television viewing among the very young. The autism rise began around 1980, about the same time cable television and VCRs became common, allowing children to watch television aimed at them any time. Since the brain is organizing during the first years of life and since human beings evolved responding to three-dimensional stimuli, I wondered if exposing toddlers to lots of colorful two-dimensional stimulation could be harmful to brain development. This was sheer speculation, since I knew of no researchers pursuing the question.

Today, Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3. The researchers studied autism incidence in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They found that as cable television became common in California and Pennsylvania beginning around 1980, childhood autism rose more in the counties that had cable than in the counties that did not. They further found that in all the Western states, the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders.

So the TeleTubbies are evil after all! Parents should not use the Television as a babysitter despite how effective and simple it is. The causes of autism might lay a lot deeper in the physiology of the brain (for example, autistic people tend to have larger brains) but a constant dose of television and computer games would certainly go a long way to foster the otherworldly disease.

I sometimes see kids playing the portable twitch games and they are completely unresponsive to outside stimuli.

Light at the end of the tunnel...

...and it is not an oncoming train! Woo Hoo!!!

Got my Mom out of the hospital and checked into a fantastic nursing home.

My Dad is going into the room they were originally planning to stay in together. Mom's facility is only a couple blocks from Dad's so he will be able to walk over and visit. (Or take a shuttle if it's raining.)

We are heading down to Seattle tomorrow morning with a rental truck to gather a bunch of their financial papers and daily-use furniture and will hire professional movers for the big stuff.

Everyone is happy and stable. (well, stable might not go so far as to describe your humble editor but...)

And the spammers? Incoming: 238 Successful: 4 (all identical; three from the same IP address) Unique IP addresses: 114 The successful series was a variant on one that is already blocked. I have changed the code to allow for a wider variation on some parameters. We will see if this works.

And the official Synthstuff(tm) recomendation for today:

Do not grow old!

Back to the farm again...

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...for a day of rest and recuperation. And many heartfelt thanks for the kind emails and comments! Mom was a lot more ill than we thought and my Dad's short-term memory is essentially gone. He still has his personality and long-term memories but something that happens ten minutes ago just simply is not resident in his brain. Fortunately, she is in a great hospital and has been stabilized and we found a really nice nursing home that both of them can move to when she gets discharged from the hospital Thursday. Wednesday, we head down to Seattle to start moving their stuff up here and getting their Seattle house ready for the market. We are using the same listing agent that we used for our own house when we sold it. This person thoroughly knows the market and was able to tell us the specific things we needed to do to make our house attractive to today's buyer. We did these and not only did we list at a higher price than we thought the place was worth, on the first day we got an offer for $40K over our asking with no building inspection required. If anyone is looking at selling or buying a house in the Sand Point/U. Village area of Seattle, you would not do wrong by using this person -- email me if you want the name and contact information. Spammers are still at it -- several hundred yesterday and 131 today. Success rate for these odious little cretins: ZERO! Heh... And for each and every one of the attempts -- banned and put into a black-hole list. Anyone trying to see if their script-kiddie-fu is any good is wasting their seed-corn as any attempt by them results in all of their proxy (zombie) systems being detected and banned. So sad to see such stupidity on such a large scale... (NOT!)

Offline for a while...

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My Mom is having real dificulties and is unable to care for herself. My Dad has is starting to get serious Vascular Dementia and went out for a bite to eat Saturday at around 7:00PM. Jen and I got a call at 11:00PM from the Police and Fire officers at their house in Seattle that he was missing and that my Mom was definitly not able to care for herself. (She is in her 80's and confined to a power chair with really bad arthritus). Needless to say, Jen and I hightailed it down to Seattle and spent the night there. Dad called home around 4:00AM about 50 miles away. The good news is that they had already reserved a room at a very nice assisted living facility in Bellingham. They are incredibly stubborn and had no clear plan on when to move there. Jen and I pulled the plug, bundled them into their van and drove up tonight. We will be getting their room furnished Monday and Tuesday and then we will head down to Seattle, rent a truck, load up all of their belongings and put them into storage up here. Needless to say, I will not be spending that much time on the computer for at least a week. I am still watching out for Spam: Incoming: 318 Successful: ZERO! Unique IP addresses: 103


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Shades of Physicist Alan Sokal's groundbreaking paper: �Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity� published in peer-reviewed Journal Social Text. A deep-sounding paper but totally bunkum. Sokal's website goes into some delicious detail on the thoughts that went into it and the reactions that followed when he announced that it was all a joke. Well, it has happened again. From Slate, meet British sociologist Harry Collins:
The Amateur's Revenge
Posing as a physicist�and getting away with it.

W.H. Auden once remarked, "When I am in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a drawing room full of dukes." Scientists often do have an aristocratic air. After all, they know things�important things, nature's secrets�that the rest of us could never understand ourselves. Or could we?

In a recent experiment of his design, British sociologist Harry Collins asked a scientist who specializes in gravitational waves to answer seven questions about the physics of these waves. Collins, who has made an amateur study of this field for more than 30 years but has never actually practiced it, also answered the questions himself. Then he submitted both sets of answers to a panel of judges who are themselves gravitational-wave researchers. The judges couldn't tell the impostor from one of their own. Collins argues that he is therefore as qualified as anyone to discuss this field, even though he can't conduct experiments in it.

Collins' feat startled the scientific community. The journal Nature predicted that the experiment would have a broad impact, writing that Collins could help settle the "science wars of the 1990s," "when sociologists launched what scientists saw as attacks on the very nature of science, and scientists responded in kind," accusing the sociologists of misunderstanding science. More generally, it could affect "the argument about whether an outsider, such as an anthropologist, can properly understand another group, such as a remote rural community." With this comment, Nature seemed to be saying that if a sociologist can understand physics, then anyone can understand anything.
The Slate article goes on to mention Sokal and has some nice quotes. Fun stuff! ANd a big tip 'o the hat to The Braden Files

Hey Kim -- was it worth it?

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Reports from both China and the USA say that there was no radioactivity released in last weeks 0.5 Kiloton nuclear test. The effects of the blast could have been reduced by buffering it in a large cavity but for any of the underground tests done in the history of nuclear weapons, radioactivity has always been vented. Minute amounts yes but still, released. Looks like a dud to me. And for this dud, Kim Jong Il is getting a royal can of whoop-ass unloaded onto his head. From MyWay/AP:
U.N. Approves Sanctions on North Korea
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose punishing sanctions on North Korea including ship searches for banned weapons, calling Pyongyang's claimed nuclear test "a clear threat to international peace and security."

North Korea immediately rejected the resolution, and its U.N. ambassador walked out of the council chamber after accusing its members of a "gangster-like" action which neglects the nuclear threat posed by the United States.

The U.S.-sponsored resolution demands that the reclusive communist nation abandon its nuclear weapons program, and orders all countries to prevent North Korea from importing or exporting any material for weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles. It orders nations to freeze assets of people or businesses connected to these programs, and ban the individuals from traveling.

The resolution also calls on all countries to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent any illegal trafficking in unconventional weapons or ballistic missiles. The final draft was softened from language authorizing searches, but was still unacceptable to China - the North's closest ally and largest trading partner - which said it would not carry out any searches.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said North Korea's proclaimed test "poses one of the gravest threats to international peace and security that this council has ever had to confront."
That part about "calls on all countries to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea" is going to hurt. North Korea's primary source of cash income is selling weapons to terrorists, drugs and counterfeit US hundreds. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

Laser Television

This could be really cool if they get the color balance right. From The Australian Age:

Laser TV predicted to be death of plasma
It's being hailed by its developers as the next revolution in visual technology - a laser television that will make plasma screens obsolete.

Soon-to-be-listed Australian company Arasor International and its US partner Novalux unveiled what they claimed to be the world's first laser television in Sydney, with a pitch that it will be half the price, twice as good, and use a quarter of the electricity of conventional plasma and LCD TVs.

Manufacturing company Arasor produces the unique optoelectronic chip central to the laser projection device being developed by Silicon Valley-based Novalux, which is being used by a number of television manufacturers.

And displayed beside a conventional 50 inch plasma TV, the Mitsubishi-built prototype does appear brighter and clearer than its "older" rival.

With a worldwide launch date scheduled for Christmas 2007, under recognisable brands like Mitsubishi and Samsung, Novalux chief executive Jean-Michel Pelaprat is so bold as to predict the death of plasma.

"If you look at any screen today, the colour content is roughly about 30-35 per cent of what the eye can see," he said.

"But for the very first time with a laser TV we'll be able to see 90 per cent of what the eye can see.

"All of a sudden what you see is a lifelike image on display."

Combine that with energy efficiency, price advantage and the fact that the laser TVs will be half the weight and depth of plasma TVS, and Mr Pelaprat says "plasma is now something of the past".

Of course, this could be a healthy dose of vaporware and wishful thinking but still, the technology is feasible. As I said, getting the color balance will be crucial. Have you ever looked at a "white" LED.

Spammers on parade

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I thought that they were tapering off but the numbers surged the last two days. Incoming: 532 Successful: ZERO! (he he he) Unique IP addresses: 183 I now have a list of over 7,000 unique IP addresses and various netblocks that I am making available to anyone to use in their anti-spam efforts. I realize that many of these are probably dead machines. After I get the tarpit working, I'll be working on a "Time To Live" metric for the database and dropping older "fixed" machines. If a machine spams me and if it doesn't spam again for a few days, that IP address will be dropped off the database but it will be flagged. If that machine spams again, it will be given a little higher flag until it gets blackholed. Fun little programming project.
...or trigger a whoop-ass case of road rage. From BoysStuff:
Flickin the Bird Pump up Finger
Flick'n the Bird Pump Up Finger is an inflatable hand that sticks to your car window, and when you squeeze the pump, it communicates your state of mind and intention with a directness even Bernard Manning would find hard to beat!
(The website is in England -- Bernard Manning is an English comedian) A big tip of the hat to Gizmodo

Happy Birthday!

The hard disk drive turned 50 last September. From the IT Jungle:
The Disk Drive at 50: Still Spinning
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the announcement of an innovative storage technology that IBM created and launched for its early computers--a device that predates its vaunted System/360 mainframe by eight and a half years. Back in September 1956, it was just called the IBM 305 RAMAC, and it wasn't a disk drive so much as computing system attached to a giant disk drive. That device, the great-great-granddaddy of the spinning disk in your computer and those in use at your company, is arguably one of the most persistent pieces of technology ever created.

Early phonographs created by Thomas Edison stored data on a rotating drum. Edison made scratches in the drum to record sound, and then rotated the drum to recreate the vibrations that in turn caused a horn to vibrate with the sound that was recorded--with a much lower fidelity, to be sure. Eventually, records were turned into platters and mass-produced, creating a music-listening industry where once there had been a sheet music business and a world of half-rate musicians--our relatives and friends.

By the late 1950s, information had been encoded on punch cards for decades and had more recently be put on magnetic tape. The genius of the RAMAC drive was its speed. But storing data on the top and bottom of metal disks using magnetic material is not an IBM invention--in fact, it was created in 1952 by an engineer named Jacob Rabinow, who worked at the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory on its Aberdeen, Maryland, proving grounds. IBM's researchers initially chose a drum for RAMAC instead of a disk platter (which was easier to manufacture) because it was stiffer and therefore it was easier to maintain a consistent space between the drum and the head that read data off the drum or magnetically encoded it on the drum. But the RAMAC 305 actually consisted of 50 metal platters, spinning at 1,200 RPM and a recording density of about 100 bits per inch. RAMAC was capable of storing between 5 million and 20 million "words" of data. Yes, this predates bits and bytes as we know them.
Storage capacity of about half a meg and as large as a washing machine. The disks could become unbalanced and when that happened, this 800 pound machine would start rocking back and forth, sometimes walking around the datacenter crashing into stuff. Talk about good old days indeed!

Light posting tonight

We went to a community meeting regarding a large development going in a few miles from us.

Busy day!

Light posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff. The world continues to be a fascinating/infuriating place tonight but I am more focused on my own stuff this evening. The spam still continues but not at the levels I was experiencing earlier. Loosing heart children are we? Still not getting through either. Ha Ha! The tarpit is on my plate for next week. Machining class continues to be very awesome. I have been taking some photos and videos yesterday and today and I'll have these online in a few days or so. Sitting here, working on some fun projects, warmed by a nice wood fire, my dog loafing on his pillow about three feet to my left, listening to the coyotes singing outside while knowing that all of our critters are safe in their barns/coops. This is about as good as it gets...
Dang! Edmund S. Phelps can write:
Dynamic Capitalism
Entrepreneurship is lucrative--and just.

There are two economic systems in the West. Several nations--including the U.S., Canada and the U.K.--have a private-ownership system marked by great openness to the implementation of new commercial ideas coming from entrepreneurs, and by a pluralism of views among the financiers who select the ideas to nurture by providing the capital and incentives necessary for their development. Although much innovation comes from established companies, as in pharmaceuticals, much comes from start-ups, particularly the most novel innovations. This is free enterprise, a. k. a. capitalism.

The other system--in Western Continental Europe--though also based on private ownership, has been modified by the introduction of institutions aimed at protecting the interests of "stakeholders" and "social partners." The system's institutions include big employer confederations, big unions and monopolistic banks. Since World War II, a great deal of liberalization has taken place. But new corporatist institutions have sprung up: Co-determination (cogestion, or Mitbestimmung) has brought "worker councils" (Betriebsrat); and in Germany, a union representative sits on the investment committee of corporations. The system operates to discourage changes such as relocations and the entry of new firms, and its performance depends on established companies in cooperation with local and national banks. What it lacks in flexibility it tries to compensate for with technological sophistication. So different is this system that it has its own name: the "social market economy" in Germany, "social democracy" in France and "concertazione" in Italy.

Dynamism and Fertility
The American and Continental systems are not operationally equivalent, contrary to some neoclassical views. Let me use the word "dynamism" to mean the fertility of the economy in coming up with innovative ideas believed to be technologically feasible and profitable--in short, the economy's talent at commercially successful innovating. In this terminology, the free enterprise system is structured in such a way that it facilitates and stimulates dynamism while the Continental system impedes and discourages it.

Wasn't the Continental system designed to stifle dynamism? When building the massive structures of corporatism in interwar Italy, theoreticians explained that their new system would be more dynamic than capitalism--maybe not more fertile in little ideas, such as might come to petit-bourgeois entrepreneurs, but certainly in big ideas. Not having to fear fluid market conditions, an entrenched company could afford to develop radical innovation. And with industrial confederations and state mediation available, such companies could arrange to avoid costly duplication of their investments. The state and its instruments, the big banks, could intervene to settle conflicts about the economy's direction. Thus the corporatist economy was expected to usher in a new futurismo that was famously symbolized by Severini's paintings of fast trains. (What was important was that the train was rushing forward, not that it ran on time.)

Friedrich Hayek, in the late 1930s and early '40s, began the modern theory of how a capitalist system, if pure enough, would possess the greatest dynamism--not socialism and not corporatism. First, virtually everyone right down to the humblest employees has "know-how," some of what Michael Polanyi called "personal knowledge" and some merely private knowledge, and out of that an idea may come that few others would have. In its openness to the ideas of all or most participants, the capitalist economy tends to generate a plethora of new ideas.
You do not have to be a student of that dismal science to know exactly what Edmund is saying. Awesome writing and it sure sucks to be Europe right about now. Go to the site to read the rest of the article, I only excerpted the first 30% or so...

An awesome political commercial

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My politics leans more towards self-sufficiency, minimal government and libertarianism. Jacksonianism is another branch of the same tree. Although I think that of the two commercial political parties available, the Republicans offer more of what I am looking for (although not much recently), the Democrats offer significantly less. Their foreign policy for example. This is a brief commercial made by David Zucker (Scary Movie 4, Airplane, Naked Gun) with stunt doubles for Kim Jong Il and Madeleine Albright.
Caution -- multiple drink alert!

Alberich Mathews - Photographer

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Here is Alberich Mathews' Flickr website -- be prepared to spend an hour or two looking at his photographs. Gorgeous work. A lot of it is done underwater and from unusual perspectives -- the results are striking. Four examples:



Visit his Flickr website for a lot more.

The Grand Soviet Republic of Seattle

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Just another day in the nanny state -- from the Seattle PI:
Urban bird owners get anti-flu advice
Hundreds of undocumented chickens live in Seattle, a clucking time bomb planted right in the urban core that poses just as great a risk for deadly bird flu as any rural chicken should the severe Asian strain of avian influenza ever finds its way to this region.

"All bird owners need to educate themselves how best to protect themselves and their animals," said Valoria Loveland, director of the state Department of Agriculture.

That includes the owners of at least 500 urban chickens living in Seattle backyards. Tuesday, state and federal officials held a public meeting to educate regional small-flock poultry and pet bird owners about the need to use standard "biosecurity" practices to protect against the disease. That included a call for all bird owners to register their flocks to assist with a statewide disease surveillance program.
Bullshit. Avian Flu represents zero danger in a normal urban or suburban settlement. The cases we have seen were in Asian countries where families lived in close proximity with a large number of birds. Overcrowding and poor sanitation were the cause, not the birds themselves. The article then goes on:
When a poultry farm just across the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia got hit in 2004 by a different form of bird flu (typically known as "highly pathogenic" avian influenza, or HPAI), Kinsel said Washington state officials knew any flock in nearby Whatcom County was at risk for the infection.
The pathogen was something that was basically harmless to humans. Here is an Alberta province website that has an excellent timeline of that entire summer. For that entire outbreak, only two humans got sick. The CDC has the writeup and here is the money quote:
Influenza A H7N3 infection was confirmed in two men (40 and 45 years of age) exposed on different farms March 13 and March 22�23. Both had direct conjunctival contact with infected poultry. One was not wearing eye protection, and the other was wearing glasses that were bypassed by a feather. Neither was taking oseltamivir prophylaxis. Neither was vaccinated against human influenza virus. Symptoms developed 1�3 days after exposure (March 16 and 24). Conjunctivitis and coryza developed in the first patient, and conjunctivitis and headache developed in the second. Both received oseltamivir treatment, and symptoms resolved fully. Active daily surveillance by the local health unit identified no secondary cases.
Since the outbreak started in February and was confined to about a 5 Kilometer radius, these people had one month to know that they might want to take some additional precautions. Seattle is just being Seattle and this is one of the many symptoms of that disease. Very glad to be out of there...

Talk about a high pucker-factor

From The Australian:

Lightning exits woman's bottom
A woman has suffered severe burning to her anus after being struck by lightning which hit her in the mouth and passed right through her body.

Natasha Timarovic, 27, was cleaning her teeth at home when lightning struck the building.

She said: "I had just put my mouth under the tap to rinse away the toothpaste when the lightning must have struck the building.

I don't remember much after that, but I was later told that the lightning had travelled down the water pipe and struck me on the mouth, passing through my body.

It was incredibly painful, I felt it pass through my torso and then I don't remember much at all." Doctors at the city hospital where she was treated for burns to the mouth and rear said: "The accident is bizarre but not impossible.

She was wearing rubber bathroom shoes at the time and so instead of earthing through her feet it appears the electricity shot out of her backside," a medic told local television news channel, 24 Sata.

"It appears to have earthed through the damp shower curtain that she was touching as she bent over to put her mouth under the tap. If she had not been wearing the shoes she would probably have been killed by the blast."

I'm going to be checking the sky each time I use the bathroom for the next few weeks... Yikes!


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Just noticed my hit counter:
I know that some blogs get this kind of traffic in a day or two but it's still a nice milestone for a small-potatoes operation like mine...

Saying no to the devil (the real one)

Venezuelan Communist "President" Hugo Chavez has been trying to buy admiration by shipping oil at less than cost to some customers (including heating oil to New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine). Some US Citizens are made of stronger stuff -- from CNN:

Shivering Alaskans to Hugo Chavez: Keep your oil
In Alaska's native villages, the punishing winter cold is already penetrating the walls of the lightly insulated plywood homes, many of the villagers are desperately poor, and heating-oil prices are among the highest in the nation.

And yet a few of the small communities want to refuse free heating oil from Venezuela, on the patriotic principle that no foreigner has the right to call their president "the devil."

The heating oil is being offered by the petroleum company controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, President Bush's nemesis. While scores of Alaska's Eskimo and Indian villages say they have no choice but to accept, others would rather suffer.

"As a citizen of this country, you can have your own opinion of our president and our country. But I don't want a foreigner coming in here and bashing us," said Justine Gunderson, administrator for the tribal council in the Aleut village of Nelson Lagoon. "Even though we're in economically dire straits, it was the right choice to make."

Nelson Lagoon residents pay more than $5 a gallon for oil -- or at least $300 a month per household -- to heat their homes along the wind-swept coast of the Bering Sea, where temperatures can dip to minus-15. About one-quarter of the 70 villagers are looking for work, in part because Alaska's salmon fishing industry has been hit hard by competition from fish farms.

The donation to Alaska's native villages has focused attention on the rampant poverty and high fuel prices in a state that is otherwise awash in oil -- and oil profits. In 2005, 86 percent of the Alaska's general fund, or $2.8 billion, came from oil from the North Slope.

The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, a native nonprofit organization that would have handled the heating oil donation on behalf of 291 households in Nelson Lagoon, Atka, St. Paul and St. George, rejected the offer because of the insults Chavez has hurled at Bush.

Chavez called Bush "the devil" in a speech to the United Nations last month. He has also called the president a terrorist and denounced the war in Iraq.

Chavez also owns the US chain of Citgo gas stations. A good place to start showing your feelings towards despotic governments and communism in general.

The Etymology of the word Nachos

Fascinating story from the Oxford English Dictionary web site about the inclusion of the word Nachos in their dictionary. It started with a slip of paper handed to the author in 1988:

Nachos, anyone?
In the 25 years during which I worked for the Oxford English Dictionary, before the days of sophisticated electronic searching, the methods used by OED library researchers like myself were varied, random, and frequently unscientific.

These were pre-computer days. The Internet was 25 years in the future. Gradually computer use for library holdings was introduced, but the more sophisticated searches (journals and newspaper texts) were restricted to use by authorized staff. I relied heavily on the many printed subject indexes to books, journals, reports, and newspapers. The general book stacks of the Library of Congress were then open to qualified researchers which made checking of references relatively easy. Browsing in a single library number frequently yielded answers impossible to find by other techniques.

Originally my work was the verification of quotations supplied by contributors after publication of the first Supplement in 1933, the sources for which could not be located readily in England. The early quotations needing verification were primarily bibliographic puzzles to be solved, but the work soon developed into requests to 'Please verify and supply antedating if possible.' Requests covered all parts of speech. Nouns (sb., at that time) soon became my favourites. I had many happy searches; one of the most rewarding was for nachos.

In September 1988 a slip of paper (the usual 4 x 6) for this word came from one of the editors, stating that the earliest quotation in the OED files was from a 1978 issue of the Tucson (Arizona) Magazine, but that the recently published Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary showed 1969 as the earliest date in their files. Could I antedate? Added was a postscript asking if I could find its etymology. WNCD had suggested it might be 'fr. Sp. "nacho" flat-nosed'. Could I confirm this? I had only learned of nachos a few years earlier when a Mexican restaurant opened in our Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Those nachos were delicious! I could have made them my entire meal, but how could anyone who has looked at and eaten nachos see any relationship between one of these and the adjective flat-nosed?

A chance encounter in the Library of Congress and a 1954 church cookbook turns up:

...Ignacio 'Nacho' Anaya, gives the Victory Club as the place in which he invented his 'nacho specials', and provides his own original recipe.

Read the whole article -- a lot of fun.


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This is getting ridiculous. Incoming: 270 Successful: back to ZERO! again!!! Unique IP addresses: 181 In addition, someone has been forging their email header and pretending to spam people from an older domain of mine (an ex-business but I still retain the domain name for sentimental reasons) so I have been flooded with email bounces from spam detection systems. Different IP address than my domain name but 99.999% of people don't bother to go that far. These are now routed to /dev/null -- a minor curiosity and/or annoyance.

Light posting this evening

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Spent the evening at a community meeting. Despite the remoteness of our little corner (about 25 miles from a major city and its employers) development is looking over the horizon. A number of people had attempted to block it but in meetings with the county council and the land use people, it seems inevitable. A different group of people has sprung up saying basically, we know that you are planning these developments. We need this sort of community center, kids after-school programs, day-care, an enclosed farmers market, etc. etc. etc. If the developers come, at least we will get a nice community center out of it. It's like being a kid and having to go to the doctors to get a vaccination. A nice lollipop goes a long way to ease the pain.

An earth-shattering ka-fizzle?

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Some arm-chair science-types are looking at what would be needed to cause a 4.2 Richter quake. Turns out to be about 2 kilo-Tons of TNT. For comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kT. From what I have read, the Norks were looking to get about 400kT. Again, this is all woolgathering and late-night posting but we will see in a day or so. Here is the USGS map of the site: (Orange square in the upper right)

Well crap...

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From the US Geological Survey, Earthquake Hazards Program: Magnitude 4.2 (Light)
Date-Time Monday, October 9, 2006 at 01:35:27 (UTC)
Distances 70 km (45 miles) N of Kimchaek, North Korea
90 km (55 miles) SW of Chongjin, North Korea
180 km (110 miles) S of Yanji, Jilin, China
385 km (240 miles) NE of PYONGYANG, North Korea
The UTC time would put it right at 06:35:27 PM on the west coast here. Still no signature data -- this will take a coordinated study of data from quite a few seismic observatories. Considering the import of the event, this data should be available in a few days. And of course, the United Nations will act swiftly and issue a stern warning. I would hate to be on the receiving end of one of those.

Well this changes things a bit...

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It seems that North Korea's nuclear test was successful. Happened about two hours ago. From CNN:
North Korea confirms nuclear test
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Monday the country has performed a successful nuclear test.

South Korean government officials also said North Korea performed its first nuclear test, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.

According to KCNA, there was no radioactive leakage from the site.

South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the Yonhap report.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun convened an urgent meeting of security advisers over the issue, Yonhap reported.

The North said last week it would conduct a nuclear test as part of its deterrent against a possible U.S. invasion.
From CTV Canada:
North Korea claims first nuclear weapon test
North Korea has claimed to carry out what its neighbours have long feared -- the test of a nuclear weapon.

"The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to our military and people," said a quote carried Monday by the Korean Central News Agency, the communist state's official agency.

"The nuclear test will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and surrounding region."
And a bit more:
The test occurred at 9:36 p.m. EDT Sunday night (10:36 a.m. local time on Monday), it said, citing defence officials as a source.

However, the U.S. Geological Survey said it hasn't detected any seismic activity on the Korean peninsula in the past 48 hours of the type one might expect from a nuclear test.

The North had been threatening such a test as part of its deterrent against what it claims is a possible U.S. invasion. The U.S. has said it has no plans to invade the country it once called part of an "axis of evil."
The seismic data will be crucial. It is possible to detect the differences between nuclear and conventional explosives and to pinpoint their site of detonation. It seems (from another source) that there has been a 3.5Mag quake recorded in NoKo but the data for that is not fully in yet. If the test was successful, it will be a big concern as NoKo is the primary source of munitions for terrorists. Due to government mismanagement, the nation is incredibly poor so being able to offer a nuke or two for sale would cause any number of the islamist pigs to salivate greatly.

Moron spammers

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Eight of them actually got through today. All identical and all gone, never to darken my door again. Incoming: 165 Successful: 8 (DANG!) Unique IP addresses: 88

A fine temper

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Firehand is a blacksmith and gunsmith living in Oklahoma. His blog Irons in the Fire is a daily read for me. Today, he talks about tempering a knife blade. I am learning blacksmithing and metallurgy and it's interesting that many people know about "tempering" but few know what is actually involved. Here is a good explanation with pictures:
Having finally made time to do this, I'm going to harden the blade that was forged here and ground here.

Here's the blade, and that line drawn in is important. Generally, I want to bring it up to critical heat in that range back from the edge, not much farther.

That means that section will be at full hardness, with the area further back tougher to support the hard section. Not a big factor with a small blade like this, and you can harden the entire blade. It is how I prefer to do it on all but smaller blades.

I lit the forge, and made three of the roasting forks while it burned clean and larger, so I had a clean fire with all the coal that will be on/around the steel coked. I also got a small pot I keep for this and filled it with quenching oil. Before I started on the blade I took a piece of steel and brought it up to a bright red, then quenched it to heat the oil; warm oil(around 100F) flows better and gives a more even quench. When it was ready, the blade went into the fire.

Note that it goes in roughly horizontal and with a very low air flow at first to let it soak up heat. Depending on how thick and/or wide a piece is, you may only need the low air blast. The big factor on even heat is to make sure the fire is large enough to bring the whole blade up to temp.
Check out the links to the first two posts. Blade making is a lot of fun -- as simple or as complex as you want it to be and the results are a very personal tool that will serve you for a long long time.


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Read the whole thing. Public Environmentalism meet Personal Responsibility From the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler:
More Hollyweird Excrement
DNA may implicate Malibu stars� toilets

This was just too much to pass up. La-La Land Loons vs. Enviro-Loons Vs. The Attack of the Escaped Turds.
Just whose waste is fouling the most star-studded stretch of the Southern California coast? Los Angeles County officials intend to find out, and if the evidence leads back to the toilets of some of Hollywood�s rich and famous, the sewage could really hit the fan. �This is going to get messy,� predicts Mark Pestrella, the public works official assigned to the project.

Environmentalists and health officials suspect Malibu homeowners� leaky septic tanks are allowing what gets flushed down the toilet to flow down the hills and into the Pacific Ocean. To identify the offenders, authorities intend to use DNA testing and, if necessary, get court warrants to inspect septic tanks. And that includes tanks buried in the backyards of Hollywood celebrities.
Holy Human Waste Batman, search warrants for septic tanks? DNA testing�.Do you really, really think the celebs will provide DNA samples. Although it is entirely possible to find Oliver Stone�s next movie script floating around in one of them, and it might pay for the lab work. I know wishful thinking, but I guarantee George Clooney�s stunt double is a floating wrinkle-neck.
Malibu, whose spectacular seaside cliffs, canyons and beaches have attracted numerous environmentally minded celebrities over the years, including Sting and Tom Hanks, was incorporated in 1991 specifically to stop construction of a sewer line. There are an estimated 2,400 septic tanks in this city of multimillion-dollar homes strung along 25 miles of coast.

Malibu residents fiercely guard their privacy and their right to use septic tanks, and many deny their septic systems are the source of dangerous ocean bacteria levels that rise sharply after heavy rains.

Under pressure from Southern California regulators, investigators over the next few months will begin testing sea water. If DNA shows the waste is human and not from, say, raccoons or coyote, they will follow the trail up creeks that traverse neighborhoods in Malibu, where clean-water advocates such as Pierce Brosnan and Ted Danson live.
Hypocrisy in action. The plebes are forced into abandoning their septic systems and paying through the nose for municipal sewer tie-in assessments. The elitist turds created their own little socialist utopia to ensure their shit (which is way to good to put into a public system) agenda is maintained status-quo.
Where the tests show a concentration of human waste, inspectors will sleuth out the source. Though they will not request DNA samples from residents to match waste with its human source, they may ask a judge for authority to inspect tanks of property owners who bar them from taking samples.
You really didn�t think the stellar fecal matter denizens would ever actually get tested didja?
Read the rest -- sounds like a job for Mr. Hankey...

Google has been digitizing the text of books and incorporating this data in this Google website: Google Books A bunch of publishing ninnies have been up in arms, lawyering up and trying to get Google to stop this. (it falls under the auspices of "fair use" so is totally legal) The smarter publishers have noticed a nice effect -- an increase in sales. From Slashdot: Publishers Thank Google for Book Sales
"A few book publishers are actually thanking Google for an apparent rise in sales due to Google's scan plan. Google is busy defending itself against authors and publishers that have brought lawsuits for ignoring copyrights. The director of the Oxford University Press said, 'Google Book Search has helped us turn searchers into consumers.' It seems to work in favor of the smaller publishers: 'Walter de Gruyter/Mouton-De Gruyter, a German publisher, said its encyclopedia of fairy tales has been viewed 471 times since appearing in the program, with 44 percent of them clicking on the 'buy this book' Google link.' Do you think that Google's 'sneak peak' search access increases sales or violates copyrights on intellectual property?" Heh... Only a small amount of the text is indexed and it would stand to reason that if someone is searching for a particular set of words, they would be inclined to purchase a book that matched their desire. We are seeing the same thing with the major media and the minor media. The majors are still thinking that they dominate the market while the minors are nimble and provide the content that people want. Dinosaurs anyone? Jen and I eat what the dinosaurs eventually evolved into. Tastes like chicken.

A bumper crop

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Today's SPAM was higher volume than usual but there was the same effect. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. (except for a few extra server cycles) Incoming: 246 Successful: ZERO! Unique IP addresses: 113 Bless their pointy little heads. If I was in that business, I'd quickly find something else to do. Guess they are too stupid to recognize a loosing proposition when it stares them in the face. I'll be starting work on the tarpit sometime next week or the week following. That is a fun project!

Pocket Protector

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I was looking through the Modern Mechanix blog and this jumped out at me. From the December 1950 issue of Popular Mechanics:
As geeks everywhere wince and curse the name and family of T.C. Evans...

Modern Mechanix Blog

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1950's version of High Geekdom: Modern Mechanix The author has scanned in a bunch of articles, advertisements and covers of 1950's era copies of Popular Science, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, Modern Mechanix magazines. Meet their vision of the man of the future:
A trip down memory lane...

Google Code Search

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A shiny new toy from Google. Since Google already searches the web, and since there is a lot of computer source code on various people's websites, Google had an Ah-Ha! moment and indexed this code at a separate website. Check out Google /*Code Search*/ Lots of stuff out there!

Huo Yuan Jia - Fearless

Jen and I saw this tonight. Awesome film. Gorgeous cinematography and fantastic old-school martial arts. The air-fu of Crouching Tiger was a lot of fun and very well done but this is the real stuff.

If you like Kung-Fu movies, you will love Fearless.

Good plot-line too -- something that is often lacking.


Clever product

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Got a mosquito problem? Check out the SkeeterBag It's a nylon mesh bag that you slip over a window box-fan and it traps the mozzies and keeps them there until they dehydrate. Only $10 -- worth checking out if you have a problem.
From their website:
Testing for Skeeter Bag� began in the summer of 2004 at a puppy breeding facility in Central Florida. The facility cares for over 100 adult dogs and as many as 30 puppies at a given moment. Their mosquito problem was out of control. On June 12, 2004 the first trap was set six feet above several dogs on the sleeping porch and by morning it had over 3,500 mosquitoes inside. As the mosquito season picked up as many as 38,000 mosquitoes were caught in a night (estimated by weight 1 gram � 1,000 dried mosquitoes). In reaction to these astronomical result the inventors, Sidney McCarty IV and Mark Eugene Valentine coined a phrase for Skeeter Bag�, �It�s like a black hole in a mosquitoes universe.� They also said jokingly, �Let�s face it man, you�re the bait, you and your beloved animals are at the center of their universe. Why not use that?�

Spammers -- fast and furious

Incoming: 190
Successful: ZERO
Unique IP addresses: 103

These are all coming from Zombie systems -- people with always-on connections to ISPs like Comcast and Cox. A very few of them are from school systems.

If you leave your computer running all the time, you need to get a good hardware firewall. I like the Linksys WRT-54G - you can disable the WiFi if you want to and it still is an awesome firewall for under $60.

Stay on top of the updates from Microsoft too -- a lot of new stuff coming out.

I was pruning my email accounts and thought I'd post this little shot:
I clean out this little cess-pit daily. I have a "junk" domain as the top level at my ISP and then all of the "real" email accounts are set up as sub-domains and get 'filtered' out by content to their respective accounts. The stuff left behind (14 Megabytes since last evening) doesn't match any of the filters and gets left behind and deleted each day. The downside: legitimate email that is incorrectly addressed will fall into this cess-pit. The workaround: if someone calls me and says that they really really did send me an email, I can wander (a download and GREP works great!) through the cess pit and see if they mistyped your address. The upside: I now get about 20 SPAM emails each day. This is down from the several hundred I used to get. These now go to /dev/null Simple, cheap, effective, fun. What's not to love!


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The crap just keep rolling in and just keeps getting blocked. One successful but I added a script to catch those (the names of public figures with hyphens). Last night's tally: Incoming: 111 Successful: ZERO {---- I love that part!!!! Unique IP numbers: 78 The thing with the IP numbers is that when a spam comes in, it comes from a computer with an address -- an Internet Protocol number. When I sit down to review the day's takings, I don't only try to block successful SPAMs, I also gather these IP addresses and put them back into the server with the command to deny these systems any and all future access to any of my websites (I run several including some commercial ones for clients). Takes a big bite out of the repeat offenders. Today's numbers: Incoming: 161 Successful: ONE {---- I hate that part!!!! Unique IP numbers: 73 More incoming but a few sites were hitting me five or ten times in rapid secession. Had a few instances of neighboring IP addresses -- machines in the same office or school. This is interesting as people seem to be testing me but they are stupid in that they are eating their own seed corn. They try to hit me and see if they can get through, but each and every hit results in that specific machine getting permanently banned from my sites. I distribute this information to anyone who wants it so their constant quest to find something that works is killing them -- drastically reducing the number of Zombie systems they have at their useful disposal.

Like I said earlier:


nyuk nyuk nyuk...

Oh yeah, I usually get a comment or two each day and these are coming through just fine. I also test several times/day and these work too (trying to post different comments that come --}{-- this close to tripping the filters).

The 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge

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High geekdom indeed! The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been issuing a Grand Challenge to roboticists and putting their money where their mouth is with a one million dollar purse (recently up to $2M). The idea is that an autonomous vehicle has to navigate a 150 mile course through the Mojave Desert (finish line was in Vegas Baby!). Here are my previous entries: 2004, 2005 The 2004 Challenge was not successful -- the best vehicle was only able to get seven miles. The 2005 Challenge had five teams complete the course with the fastest team winning the $2M purse. DARPA decided to mix things up a bit for the next Grand Challenge. The 2007 entries will have to deal with human vehicular traffic and obey traffic laws (signs and lights). From the New Scientist:
Robot cars will race in real traffic
The first 11 teams for a race in which robot cars will jostle with real ones along mocked-up city streets have been announced. The teams must construct autonomous vehicles to navigate an unfamiliar urban environment in the shortest time possible.

The robot racers will face a "simulated" urban course 96 kilometres (60 miles) in length in November 2007. The course will feature urban obstacles, such as trees and buildings, traffic signs and other moving vehicles. Its location is yet to be disclosed.

The contestants must obey traffic regulations. As well as merging with other traffic, changing lanes and observing stop signs, the robo-participants will have to pull into a parking lot for a short period. The first three vehicles to complete the course in less than 6 hours will be awarded prizes.

The event is called the Urban Grand Challenge and organised by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It is the follow-up its original Grand Challenge, a robotic race across a 212 km desert course, which was successfully completed in October 2005.
Very cool! Here is the DARPA website: The DARPA Urban Challenge Here is the 2005 winning vehicle from Stanford:

A great tragedy for beer drinkers

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One of the worlds premiere locations for growing hops is to the east of us in the Yakima River Valley. The conditions are ideal and this valley produces 75% of hops used in the US. Last Monday, two million pounds (about 4% of the US output) went up in smoke in a warehouse fire. From the Yakima Herald-Republic:
Hop warehouse burns to ground in Yakima
About 4 percent of the nation's total hop yield was lost to fire Monday, as 2 million pounds of the pungent beer-making crop smoldered in a Yakima warehouse.

The fire began just before noon in a Division Street warehouse leased by S.S. Steiner Inc., filling the lunch-time sky with smoke. It was under control by Monday evening, allowing cleanup crews to start hauling away the damaged hops. Firefighters expected to monitor the scene through the night in case hot spots flared up.

"This will affect the U.S. market particularly because in some of the varieties, there was a feeling we were already a little short this year," said Ann George, the administrator for the Moxee-based Washington Hop Commission.

Representatives of the Steiner company declined to comment Monday afternoon.

The hops, packed in 10,000 bales weighing about 200 pounds each, were probably worth between $1.75 and $2 per pound, based on average prices this year, George said. That puts the fire's monetary damage between $3.5 million and $4 million. Depending on the varieties, the hops' value per pound could be even higher, she said.
Brewers everywhere issue a collective sob.

Getting closer...

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Once again, if you think you understand Quantum Mechanics, you really do not understand Quantum Mechanics. From CNN\Science and Space:
Scientists teleport two different objects
Beaming people in Star Trek fashion is still in the realms of science fiction but physicists in Denmark have teleported information from light to matter bringing quantum communication and computing closer to reality.

Until now scientists have teleported similar objects such as light or single atoms over short distances from one spot to another in a split second.

But Professor Eugene Polzik and his team at the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark have made a breakthrough by using both light and matter.

"It is one step further because for the first time it involves teleportation between light and matter, two different objects. One is the carrier of information and the other one is the storage medium," Polzik explained in an interview on Wednesday.

The experiment involved for the first time a macroscopic atomic object containing thousands of billions of atoms. They also teleported the information a distance of half a meter but believe it can be extended further."Teleportation between two single atoms had been done two years ago by two teams but this was done at a distance of a fraction of a millimeter," Polzik, of the Danish National Research Foundation Center for Quantum Optics, explained.

"Our method allows teleportation to be taken over longer distances because it involves light as the carrier of entanglement," he added.

Quantum entanglement involves entwining two or more particles without physical contact.

Although teleportation is associated with the science-fiction series Star Trek, no one is likely to be beamed anywhere soon.
Things are conserved as the light going one way carries the information of the matter going the other so no actual data is being exchanged but still, we are getting closer. Something like this, down the road ten years or so, could use pre-loaded "smart" light to add its information to matter as it is being teleported so you could theoretically create tissues or materials of any kind. Sort of like Charles Townes' LASER back in the 60's, just bumped up a notch or two.

Maxon Crumb

Meet Maxon Crumb -- brother of cartoonist Robert and quite the artist in his own right.

The SF Gate has a nice writeup on him-- he is doing a lot better these days, taking some art commissions and more at home with other people -- a warm interview with an amazing portrait:

Still in the shadows, an artist in his own right
Judging by his appearance in "Crumb," Terry Zwigoff's 1995 documentary about an artistic and deeply troubled family, Maxon Crumb didn't seem long for this world. The younger brother of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb was filmed in his seedy hotel room, sitting on a bed of nails and begging for money on San Francisco sidewalks. He looked haunted, spiritually ransacked -- done in by the family abuse that drove his oldest brother, Charles, to suicide.

Twelve years later, Maxon Crumb still resides in the same Sixth Street dump, and still maintains an extreme spartan diet -- "only plant food" -- and an ascetic spiritual practice that includes long, holy-man treks to Bolinas Ridge, where he sits in lotus position for 12 hours at a time. But in the years since "Crumb" was released, he is no longer dependent on government assistance and has stopped panhandling and started supporting himself with his art. His paintings -- more intricate, surreal and disturbing than Robert's antic work -- sell for as much as $3,200; his ink drawings go for $1,200.

Screw the notion of a "thousand-yard stare"; this is the face of a man who has walked through Hell and emerged from the other side back into this plane.

Sixth floor - lingerie, housewares, panic

I have zero idea where this is (although the signs are Japanese) but you walk up to an elevator, there is a sign that says that work is being done, the door opens and you are presented with this Trompe d'Oeil floor:
I'd be taking the stairs thank you very much!
Excellent set of thoughts with explanations. Here is Myth #7 which nicely summarizes my feelings about the differences between academia and the real world:
Myth #7: A Ph.D. means something.
Reality: The only thing a Ph.D. means is that you're not a moron, and you're willing to put up with the bullshit it takes to slog your way through a Ph.D. program somewhere. Empirically, having a Ph.D. is negatively correlated with business success. This is because the reward structure in academia is almost the exact opposite of what it is in business. In academia, what your peers think matters. In business, it's what your customers think that matters, and your customers are (almost certainly) not your peers.
Emphasis mine -- this is the disease that is causing academia to so loose touch with the world. It's a gigantic circle-jerk, there is no feedback, no induced self-correction. Entropy is increasing when it should be forced into decrease. If the terms "feedback" and "induced self-correction" seem vaguely familiar, thank Norbert Wiener. Wiener founded the study of Cybernetics -- got his Ph. D. at Harvard at the tender age of 18. Fascinating character. Mathematicians have always been a little off plumb. Wiener was an excellent mathematician and hence very much off plumb...

Very cool music

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Roger Powell is one of these people who has been doing amazing stuff with music for the last thirty years but not that many people today remember him or know of his work. He has been keeping a low profile recently, a senior programmer at Apple and occasional performances with friend David Elias here. Well, he has an album coming out and from the clips, it sounds incredible. Check out his website: Fossil Poets and give a listen to 48 seconds of Miles per Gallon.mp3 A few other clips here A nice interview at Electronic Musician

Senator Maria Cantwell scandal brewing

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Interesting developments in the Maria Cantwell scandal that is developing in WA State.

Cantwell is one of the incumbent Democratic Senators and seems to have been loaning one of her lobbyists large quantities of money. And that is just the tip of the iceberg...

Stephan at Sound Politics has been doing an excellent job of unraveling the threads.

Check it out: Maria Cantwell was the "other woman" in lobbyist's divorce

The Seattle Times has recently reported on the close ties between Sen. Maria Cantwell and former boyfriend, boss and campaign consultant, lobbyist Ron Dotzauer. Begging explanation is a $15,000-$50,000 personal loan to Dotzauer reported in Cantwell's financial disclosures since 2001. (See Times articles here, here and here).

The loan was apparently extended to help Dotzauer through messy divorce litigation. The Times didn't mention that the court file, oddly, was entirely sealed. I had the file unsealed last Thursday. Cantwell is identified as the "other woman".

Nasty timing for the upcoming election... Not a particular fan of Cantwell so I would be happy to see Mike Mcgavick get the job. His last job was as head of Safeco Insurance and when he started his tenure, they were close to bankruptcy but he was able to turn them around. The stockholders were pretty happy.

Willie Nelson

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As you may know, officers stopped his tour bus, boarded it and found some marijuana. Willie was busted. He had this to say:
Willie Nelson�s public statement regarding being caught with a bag of marijuana:

"It�s a good thing I had a bag of marijuana instead of a bag of spinach. I�d be dead by now."
Nothing like putting things into proper perspective... Hat tip to Mostly Cajun for the link.

Meet Peggy

Awwwwww... From the Beeb:

Equine surprise for new landlady
The new landlady of a Tyneside pub has spoken of her surprise at discovering that one of the regulars is a horse.

Jackie Gray recently took over the Alexandra Hotel in Jarrow and said she was shocked when carthorse Peggy joined owner Peter Dolan for a pint.

The 12-year-old female, which has a taste for John Smiths and pickled onion crisps, has apparently been visiting the pub for several years.

Mrs Gray was taken aback at first but says Peggy is no bother at all.

She said: "When I bought the pub a few weeks ago I heard rumours that one of the regulars was a horse but I didn't quite believe them.

"It was a hot day when the horse came in and I was shocked at first because I have never run a pub before."

Retired oil rigger Mr Dolan, 61, from Jarrow, bought Peggy six years ago and discovered her fondness for the pub when she followed him inside.

She had been tied up, but the rope was so long she was able to follow Mr Dolan right up to the bar.

He said: "Peggy's no bother at all. Most of the regulars know her as she's been coming in here for years and for them Peggy's a bit of a novelty. She's a proper lady."

Such a sweet lady. The BBC photo is not that good quality but this is definitely a horse that is comfortable (the photo is not staged, the horse is very relaxed and happy) and about to have a nice pint... Mmmmm... and maybe some pickled onions. Mmmmmmmmmmmm... (whicker)

Bearing well

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You probably know that I am into machining and using computers to control their operation (faster operation, better precision, less waste, I can go and do something else while the part is being machined, etc. etc. etc.) One thing that is universal to all this is to have good bearings. Unfortunately, these command a premium price at most places. Not VXB Good people, an amazingly deep inventory and really really good prices. If you are into anything that requires bearings (bicyclists, SK8rs, hobby shop geeks, MAKErs) you need to check out this place. Prices are listed so comparison shopping is easy.


This is getting more and more fun... Today, I actually had four comment spams -- identical and from the same IP address but I adjusted the processing to block these. I now have several other attemps for the same spam being blocked in my log file. Heeee Heee Heeeeeeeee... Today's totals: Attempts: 62 Sucesses: 1 (with four identical entries) Failures: 61 Unique addresses: 51 LUSERS Heh. Maybe I should start an Area 51 -- a LUSER Area 51 where all you LUSERS can hang out... Here it is: /dev/null Lots of company. A bit hot and smelling of sulfur but you get the general idea. Next up will be a tarpit. Wonderful idea used for email spammers and definitly useable for comment spammers. A little description: #1) - Someone initiates a connection and tries to post a comment. #2) - The comment gets flagged as spam. #3) - My server forces the connection to be maintained for 20 minutes (or whatever until the other guy times out...) Downside, no one else will be able to post a comment on that same post for the 20 minutes. Two upsides: #1) - The Zombie systems used by the spammers will suffer a major loss of internet connectivity during that time. If their owner is online at the time, they may be prompted to check out why their system is running so slow and get rid of the zombie software. #2) - The Zombie system will be unable to post any other comment spam for 20 minutes or so. Major downtime for them. Heh...

On your meds

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I think that everyone has had the challenging pleasure of knowing at least one person who was bi-polar or suffered from schizophrenia. When they are up, they are incandescent -- wonderful fun people to be around but when they are down, they are an energy sink dragging everyone they come into contact with into their black hole of despair. There are meds around for this -- some of the modern ones are "too effective" in that people do not like taking them as although it does level out their swings, it also seriously dulls their up-time, the time when they are on top of the world and they are willing to suffer all the other times for the taste of the top. The older medications are not as strong or "targeted" but, they seem to have a much better overall effect, much to the chagrin of a few companies. From the Washington Post:
In Antipsychotics, Newer Isn't Better
Drug Find Shocks Researchers

Schizophrenia patients do as well, or perhaps even better, on older psychiatric drugs compared with newer and far costlier medications, according to a study published yesterday that overturns conventional wisdom about antipsychotic drugs, which cost the United States $10 billion a year.

The results are causing consternation. The researchers who conducted the trial were so certain they would find exactly the opposite that they went back to make sure the research data had not been recorded backward.

The study, funded by the British government, is the first to compare treatment results from a broad range of older antipsychotic drugs against results from newer ones. The study was requested by Britain's National Health Service to determine whether the newer drugs -- which can cost 10 times as much as the older ones -- are worth the difference in price.

There has been a surge in prescriptions of the newer antipsychotic drugs in recent years, including among children.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is likely to add to a growing debate about prescribing patterns of antipsychotic drugs. A U.S. government study last year found that one of the older drugs did as well as newer ones, but at the time, many American psychiatrists warned against concluding that all the older drugs were as good.

Yesterday, in an editorial accompanying the British study, the lead researcher in the U.S. trial asked how an entire medical field could have been misled into thinking that the expensive drugs, such as Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel, were much better.

"The claims of superiority for the [newer drugs] were greatly exaggerated," wrote Columbia University psychiatrist Jeffrey Lieberman. "This may have been encouraged by an overly expectant community of clinicians and patients eager to believe in the power of new medications. At the same time, the aggressive marketing of these drugs may have contributed to this enhanced perception of their effectiveness in the absence of empirical information."
Whoops! Sometimes newer is not necessarily better.

A little bit of early Christmas shopping

Might want to pick up a few of these to give to your culturally sensitive friends.

Check out: Dashboard Mohammed

These are 10oz. ceramic bobbleheads, not cheap plastic.
Perfect stocking stuffers for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts,
if you're a twisted freak like me.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin for the link.

What do you do...

Heard this one yesterday.

Here's the scenario:

  • You are on horseback running as fast as it can gallop.
  • About eight feet behind you is a tiger.
  • To your left is a large cliff.
  • To your right is an elephant.
  • In front of you is a Zebra.

What do you do...
(answer below the fold)

9/11 Conspiracy Theorists

Nice writeup at the Rolling Stone about those 9/11 conspiracy theorists who think that it was "an inside job".

For those who think that the twin towers were demolished by explosive devices, ask yourself this; why don't the theorists have any structural engineers in their group. Anyone with a mote of engineering and who has studied the design of the building (which was seriously flawed regarding any kind of fire) will fully understand why they both collapsed when the temperature of the steel pillars reached a few hundred degrees.

In a nutshell:

Building was designed to have an open floorplan. There were no structural support walls. The entire structure was supported by tubular steel columns on the outside and a traditional structural steel column in the center where the elevators were located.

This produced a large strength requirement and no commercially available steel could handle this load.

Heat treated steel was specified as it was able to withstand the load. The only problem with heat-treated (tempered) steel is that it looses its temper when it gets hot. (some loss at 300°F, major loss at 500°F, putty at 800°F)

The buildings were 110 stories tall, the airplanes driven by the terrorists came in around the 70th floor. The flights had just taken off and were transcontinental runs so they were full of fuel.

When the steel temperature reached a couple hundred degrees, a forty-story pile-driver nailed the building into the ground killing the 3K innocent civilians and Firefighters and Police Officers trapped inside.

End of story...

Anyway, check out the Rolling Stone article:

THE LOW POST: I, Left Gatekeeper
Why the "9/11 Truth" movement makes the "Left Behind" sci-fi series read like Shakespeare

A few weeks ago I wrote a column on the anniversary of 9/11 that offhandedly dismissed 9/11 conspiracy theorists as "clinically insane." I expected a little bit of heat in response, but nothing could have prepared me for the deluge of fuck-you mail that I actually got. Apparently every third person in the United States thinks George Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks.

"You're just another MSM-whore left gatekeeper paid off by corporate America," said one writer. "What you do isn't journalism at all, you dick," said another. "You're the one who's clinically insane," barked a third, before educating me on the supposed anomalies of physics involved with the collapse of WTC-7.

I have two basic gripes with the 9/11 Truth movement. The first is that it gives supporters of Bush an excuse to dismiss critics of this administration. I have no doubt that every time one of those Loose Change dickwads opens his mouth, a Republican somewhere picks up five votes. In fact, if there were any conspiracy here, I'd be far more inclined to believe that this whole movement was cooked up by Karl Rove as a kind of mass cyber-provocation, along the lines of Gordon Liddy hiring hippie peace protesters to piss in the lobbies of hotels where campaign reporters were staying.

Come on Matt -- tell us what you really think! Heh...

He continues:

I don't have the space here to address every single reason why 9/11 conspiracy theory is so shamefully stupid, so I'll have to be content with just one point: 9/11 Truth is the lowest form of conspiracy theory, because it doesn't offer an affirmative theory of the crime.

Forget for a minute all those Internet tales about inexplicable skyscraper fires, strange holes in the ground at Shanksville and mysterious flight manifestoes. What is the theory of the crime, according to the 9/11 Truth movement?

Matt gives a possible fly-on-the-wall view of the Oval Office planning for 9/11 and then concludes with this thrown gauntlet:

I challenge a 9/11 Truth leader like Loose Change writer Dylan Avery to come up with a detailed, complete summary of the alleged plot -- not the bits and pieces, but the whole story, put together -- that would not make any fifth grader anywhere burst out in convulsive laughter. And without that, all the rest of it is bosh and bunkum, on the order of the "sonar evidence" proving the existence of the Loch Ness monster. If you can't put all of these alleged scientific impossibilities together into a story that makes sense, then all you're doing is jerking off -- and it's not like no one's ever done that on the Internet before.

And Dylan, while you are at it, run those by a licensed structural engineer and have them sign off on them.

I'll be here waiting...
















Today's fresh sheet

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In the ongoing battle with comment spammers. Today's numbers Incoming: 114 Unique IP numbers: 71 Successful: BIG FAT ZERO I did get one trackback or referral spam around 4:00am local time but I killed that and nailed the door shut when I woke up a few hours later. It's like playing whack-a-mole with really stupid moles...

A tipping point?

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Ran into this little gem at McArthurweb: From Corporations.org: Of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 51 are now corporations and 49 are countries.
(Corporations are in bold italics)

RankCountry / CorporationGDP / sales ($mil)
1United States8,708,870.00
5United Kingdom1,373,612.00
13Korea, Rep.406,940.00
16Russian Federation375,345.00
23General Motors176,558.00
26Exxon Mobil163,881.00
27Ford Motor162,558.00
32South Africa131,127.00
33Saudi Arabia128,892.00
39Toyota Motor115,670.90
40General Electric111,630.00

Sources: Sales: Fortune, July 31, 2000. GDP: World Bank, World Development Report 2000.

And that is the data from 2000 -- wonder just how much the landscape has changed in the last six years...


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A website that collects and presents interesting images. Unfortunately, no reference as to where they came from but still, worth checking out. Go here: Knuttz.net One example -- an image (from a collection of 20 images)
Check out the rest of the series for the motorcycle. The build quality is superb. Fun stuff

Gore-bot jumps the shark

Al Gore should reign in the bloviating a bit. From the Drudgereport:
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore warned hundreds of U.N. diplomats and staff on Thursday evening about the perils of climate change, claiming: Cigarette smoking is a "significant contributor to global warming!"

Gore, who was introduced by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the world faces a "full-scale climate emergency that threatens the future of civilization on earth."

Gore showed computer-generated projections of ocean water rushing in to submerge the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, parts of China, India and other nations, should ice shelves in Antarctica or Greenland melt and slip into the sea.

"The planet itself will do nicely, thank you very much what is at risk is human civilization," Gore said. After a series of Q& A with the audience, which had little to do with global warming and more about his political future, Annan bid "adios" to Gore.

Then, Gore had his staff opened a stack of cardboard boxes to begin selling his new book, "An Inconvenient Truth, The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It," $19.95, to the U.N. diplomats.

What a clueless putz! Notwithstanding the fact that the sun is a variable star and that we have had periods of warming and cooling about every four hundred years, CO2 is a very minor greenhouse gas. Water vapor is the elephant in the living room and since there is nothing that we can do about it, nobody mentions it.

The Daily Catch

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Comment spammers are still trying to post. Today's count is 76 attempts of which 41 were unique IP addresses. Today's successes? ZERO Heh... More fun than shooting fish in a barrel. And sorry for the light posting the last few days, Jen has been out of town so I'm doing all the farm stuff as well as school and the market.

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