November 2006 Archives

The Friday Evening Pig Races

"Fair Use" be damned -- I'm posting this one in full in case of future link rot. From the ABC Television Station KTRK comes this story:
Residents use pig races to deter building of mosque
By Ted Oberg

(11/29/06 - KTRK/KATY, TX) - There's an awful lot of exciting news when you round the corner on Baker Road. One of two big yellow signs announces a new neighbor is coming soon.

K.I.A., that's the Katy Islamic Association, plan to build a mosque here.

"It's not an appropriate place to have a mosque or church," said resident Barbara Simpson.

It isn't going over real well.

"As a house of worship, they shouldn't be disturbing the peace and tranquility of 15 homes," said resident John Wetmore.

Neighbors tell us they're concerned about traffic and drainage and a little fear of the unknown. Some of the homeowners even offered to buy the land back for more than a million dollars. The K.I.A. doesn't seem very interested in the offers.

"We're not going anywhere," said Katy Islamic Association member Alvi Muzfar.

So it seems the community at the end of Baker Road has a pretty good fight. But this fight has gone much farther than many between two neighbors. You see in these fights, sometimes neighbors throw mud at one another. In this instance, they're wallowing in it.

Craig Baker owns pigs. He's the guy behind the second big yellow sign on Baker Road. That's the one announcing Friday night pig races.

"What does it matter, I can do whatever I want with my land right," asked landowner Craig Baker.

Sure can. But aren't pigs on the property line racing on a Friday night a little offensive to a Muslim neighbor?

"The meat of a pig is prohibited in the religion of Islam," said Katy Islamic Association member Youssof Allam. "It's looked upon as a dirty creature."

Yeah, there's that and also that Friday night is a Muslim holy day.

"That is definitely a slap in the face," said Allam..

Now before you go thinking Craig Baker is unfair, or full of hate, or somehow racist, hear him out.

Baker has long roots here. His family named the road and when the new neighbors moved in, he tells us, they asked him to move out.

"Basically that I should package up my family and my business and find a place elsewhere," said Baker. "That's ridiculous, they just bought the place one week prior and he's telling me I should think about leaving."

That new owners deny they ever said anything like that, but Baker isn't budging.

Baker admits the pigs are a message he is not leaving.

The 11-acre property is sandwiched between a pricey subdivision and Craig Baker's business.

K.I.A. eventually plans to build a mosque, a gym and a school there. There's no date for the groundbreaking ceremonies, or the first pig race.
(Copyright � 2006, KTRK-TV)
I love it -- what a perfectly American way to deal with a problem like this.

Light posting this evening

We were at a meeting of the local Friends of the Library looking at ideas on how to fund a new and larger library in our area. The current one is only 1,200 sq. ft. and is in a multi-purpose building so all the bookshelves, computers, tables, etc... have to be set up and broken down every day. Looking at getting a 5K sq. ft. or larger building across the street from the local Elementary School. It was a crappy night with temperatures of 32-34 making the local roads with their packed snow and ice a skating rink but still about 30 people showed up. A good time was had by all -- I really love living up here!

Like we never guessed...

From ABC News:
EXCLUSIVE: Iranian Weapons Arm Iraqi Militia
Hezbollah Training Also Linked to Iraq Violence

U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.

Iranian-made munitions found in Iraq include advanced IEDs designed to pierce armor and anti-tank weapons. U.S. intelligence believes the weapons have been supplied to Iraq's growing Shia militias from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is also believed to be training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran.

Evidence is mounting, too, that the most powerful militia in Iraq, Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, is receiving training support from the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah.

Two senior U.S. defense officials confirmed to ABC News earlier reports that fighters from the Mahdi army have traveled to Lebanon to receive training from Hezbollah.

While the New York Times reported that as many as 2,000 Iraqi militia fighters had received training in Lebanon, one of the senior officials said he believed the number was "closer to 1,000." Officials say a much smaller number of Hezbollah fighters have also traveled through Syria and into Iraq to provide training.

U.S. intelligence officials believe the number of Al-Sadr's Mahdi army now includes 40,000 fighters, making it an especially formidable force.
And we had that grotesque Pig/Monkey chimera al-Sadr in our sights two years ago and didn't kill him. It's payback time for poor leadership on our part... here, here, here and here.

The Energizer Bunny of spammers

I thought I had a good case of persistent head bashing against a concrete wall before with: The idiot at Well, perusing the log files over coffee this morning, I ran into someone even more stupid. From Poland, I present This mornings tally: Incoming: 2022 Unique IP addresses: 28 Successes: 2 (DAMMIT!) Attempts from 1944 Successes from ZERO! They are trying to post comments for the usual Pills, Porn and Casinos. Needless to say, I am not expecting any cure from their ISP although I did write to them. Talk about a frickin luuser...

A birthday coincidence

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French President Jacques Chirac is celebrating his 74th birthday today (November 29th). Coincidentally 74% of the French public have no confidence in him. From Pave France (the British need more parking) comes this homage:
Soixante-Quatorze Bougies
This is Pave's second birthday post for Jack. He is 74 today.

Coincidentally 74% of the French public have no confidence in him. Were he to reign till he turned one hundred, its a good guess that 100% of the French public would have no confidence in him.
And it seems that Jacques is not having a happy birthday -- he is in Latvia and plans for his birthday party were less than optimal. Pave France has the details and photos...

A new storage technology

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Very interesting... From ExtremeTech comes this story about a new technology being developed at Fujitsu:
Fujitsu Stakes Future of Hard Drive on HAMR
On Tuesday, hard drive and peripheral maker Fujitsu announced it had developed a multi-layer optical element for a new storage technology known as heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR).

Considered by many to be the future of hard drive storage, HAMR is a technology that magnetically records data on high-stability media using laser thermal assistance�or, as it's also commonly known: heat. Many believe this technology will significantly extend the capacity of modern magnetic disc drives, eventually allowing more and more bits of information to be crammed into them.

As Joel Hagberg, vice president of marketing and business development for Fujitsu points out, because heating and cooling is paramount to HAMR, Fujitsu successfully developed highly efficient optical elements that can be incorporated into the hard disk drive during the manufacturing process.

"From an advanced development standpoint, Fujitsu has worked on a lot of technologies," said Hagberg.

"There are a lot of enabling technologies that are going to be required if storage capacities are to continue at their current rate. An efficient optical heating element is one of those."

Theoretically, HAMR allows for storage of up to 50 terabits per square inch, an unthinkable level by today's standards. To put that number into perspective, a person could store the entire printed contents of the Library of Congress on a single disc drive in their notebook computer with that capacity.

But for today's perpendicular drives, the Holy Grail for storage remains around the 1 terabit per square inch level. And this is where HAMR becomes quite useful. If the storage density�the number of data bits stored on a given disc surface�continues to grow at its current rate, within the next five-to-ten years the data bits will become so small that they may become magnetically unstable due to a phenomenon known as superparamagnetism�a big word that basically describes the adverse effects of magnetic flux on data bits.

As many see it, the solution is to use a more stable medium, but unfortunately modern magnetic heads are unable to write data on such media.

According to Hagberg, HAMR solves this problem by heating the medium with a laser-generated beam at the precise spot where data bits are being recorded. When heated, the medium becomes easier to write, and the rapid subsequent cooling stabilizes the written data. The result of this heat-assisted recording is a dramatic increase in the recorded density that can be achieved.

Tuesday's announcement places Fujitsu�a company that spends 2.5 billion dollars per year on R&D�with other storage-focused companies (including Seagate), all of whom are experimenting with what they refer to as "enabling technologies" for HAMR.
Very cool -- I do a lot of photography and disk space is always an issue. I can see setting up a nice RAID array of these on a Linux box as a household server.

An Inconvenient Truth - the reality

Hat tip to Doug Ross for the link to this story:
An Inconvenient Truth: Al Gore Can�t Give Junk Science Away
This is pretty hysterical, folks, and certainly requires all drinking vessels to be placed at a safe distance from nearby electronic equipment. Laurie David, the global warming alarmist and spouse of comedian Larry David (�Curb Your Enthusiasm�), wrote an op-ed published in Sunday�s Washington Post. In it, she stated that the company which produced Al Gore�s �An Inconvenient Truth� wanted to donate 50,000 DVD copies of the schlockumentary to the National Science Teachers Association so that educators around the country could brainwash America�s youth with Gore�s junk science. Thankfully, the NSTA said, �No Thanks�: �In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other �special interests� might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer �political� endorsement of the film; and they saw �little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members� in accepting the free DVDs.� Can I get a group �Hallelujah?�

Now, most folks would think that�s a reasonable explanation. However, if you are the type that buys into the global warming myth, reason is not your strong suit. As such, David sees mischief afoot. And, who�s to blame? Well, if you guessed �oil companies,� come on down and accept the keys to your brand new Cadillac:
Still, maybe the NSTA [sic] just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.
And with that Exxon Mobil Corp. utterance, Laurie David drifts off the road sideways into tinfoil hat land with conspirators lurking behind every gas pump. Anyone out there ever hear of the term "Variable Star", how about Little Ice Age and Medieval Warming Period. How about the freezing weather we are having now and the horrible Hurricane Season we just went through...


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Talk about a bad spell of weather... With all the snow we have had; guess what is due in tonight or tomorrow -- freezing rain. Gonna be a fun commute for people. Been listening to a Canadian radio station and in the last few days, Vancouver had over 60,000 people without electricity. Now it's down to only 10,000 this evening.

Dancing Cows

From the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Finding a cure for dancing cows
Ontario farmers point to excess electricity after livestock adopt strange behaviour

Some dairy farmers in Ontario have begun noticing peculiar goings-on with their cows, odd movements similar to dancing.

Robert Jantzi, who has a 70-head herd of Holsteins in this rural community west of Kitchener, started seeing the behaviour about three years ago. "They'd get up, they'd just be wiggling their back ends," he says.

Normally, cows lounge peacefully in their stalls, with just a bit of shuffling and tail-swishing. But Mr. Jantzi says the dancing wasn't the only worrisome thing. Cows were producing less milk of poorer quality and his animals would often kick him.

"Something was bothering them," he says.

Mr. Jantzi has since discovered that his herd was being affected by a manmade electrical phenomenon known as stray voltage or tingle voltage. In many rural areas of Ontario, so much electricity is sloshing around antiquated power lines that some of the juice is leaking into the surrounding countryside and into barns, discomfiting cows and causing them to unwillingly shuffle about.

It is largely for the sake of the uncomfortable cows that many farmers in Ontario have been lobbying for a solution. They've persuaded one of their own, Maria Van Bommel, a chicken farmer and Liberal MPP for a rural area around the city of London, to introduce a private member's bill in the legislature that would force power utilities to upgrade their lines.

Most private member's bills languish in obscurity, but in Ontario, the possibility that so many dairy cattle are being bothered by errant voltage has struck a nerve.

Last month, Ms. Van Bommel's bill, the Ground Current Pollution Act, received second reading -- a rare milestone for legislation not sponsored by a governing party -- after receiving praise from politicians in all three parties.

Since the vote, Ms. Van Bommel says she has received dozens of calls from concerned farmers in Ontario and Alberta complaining of the same problem.

The utility companies are in agreement:

The issue is well known in the utility industry. Hydro One, an electricity distributor owned by the provincial government, has recently issued a statement on it and concedes that varying amounts of low-level voltage may exist between the earth and electrically grounded farm equipment such as stanchion pipes, feeders, milk pipelines or even wet concrete floors.

"The issue of tingle voltage is a phenomenon that is not unique to the province of Ontario or to Hydro One," it says.

And the cause:

The stray voltage problem occurs when the neutral wires used to return electricity from a site to power substations don't have the capacity to handle all the juice. The excess power completes the circuit by travelling through yards, cattle and barns.

The problem has recently become worse because rural electricity demand has been increasing due to suburban encroachment and growing farm usage, and outstripping the capacity of the wires.

In cities, the grid tends to be more modern and up-to-date, making urban areas less vulnerable -- although there are some worries that stray voltage can get into residential plumbing.

The problem "is extremely widespread. It's endemic," says Ted Cowan, a researcher for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The federation estimates that several hundred of the province's 6,000 dairy barns are dealing with it at any given time.

And one farmer's story:

Besides the dancing, his cows were experiencing a condition that looked like mastitis (infected udders). This would also suddenly worsen on weekends, when there was more power usage in a suburban development near his farm.

It will be interesting to see if this happens in my area as a lot of farmland is being developed near places like Lynden and north of Bellingham.

Medical Terminology

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Wonderful canonical list of medical terminology and acronyms. Definitely not politically correct... A few examples:
Acades vulgaris - medical students.
Acute Lead Poisoning - Gunshot wound
Bones and Groans - non-specialist general hospital
Brothel Sprouts - Genital warts
CLL - chronic Low Life
Dunlap Syndrome - belly done lapped over the waistband; obese
Eating In - Intravenous feeding
Faecal Encephalopathy - Sh*t for brains
GROLIES - (UK) Guardian Reader Of Low Intellect In Ethnic Skirt
You get the general idea.

A scientist talks with God

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Cute story swiped from Mostly Cajun (who is at work waiting for some tech support):
Scientists and God
One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to God and said, �God, we�ve decided that we no longer need You. We�re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don�t You just go on and get lost?� God listened very patiently and kindly. After the scientist was done talking, God said, �Very well, how about this? Let�s say we have a man-making contest.� To which the scientist replied, �Okay! Great.� But God added, �Now we�re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam. �The scientist said, �Sure, no problem!� and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God looked at him and said, �No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!�


A great read from a website I just stumbled across: The Daily WTF

The story in question is this one: Don't Worry, We'll Fix It!

Don't Worry, We'll Fix It!
We're in a bit of a jam, an email to the support desk read, we accidentally ran an entire day's worth of transactions for 11 Oct 2009 instead of 11 Oct 2006. Can you fix this?

In the world of retail, it's not an uncommon practice to "open" for a business date that is not the current date. Think of 24-hour stores that want to "close" the day at 11:00 PM instead of midnight, or the cases when the registers are out of commission. Whatever the reason, it's a feature that customers want and a feature that T. Ferguson's company provides in their point-of-sale systems.

Obviously, there's no way for the software to know if a different date is purposeful or accidental; all it can do is default the "open" date to the current date and hope that someone would notice a mistake on the registers, receipts, etc. before the day was "closed" out. The support email was the first "problem" that T.'s company had with this feature since first offering fifteen years ago.

Despite having a nation-wide chain of stores, with each bringing in nearly $500,000/day in sales, this company decided not to go for the extended-hours support contract. With no one to call at 9:30 PM for support, the shift manager ignored the incorrect date and "closed out" the store's point-of-sale system. He left a note for the general manager, who promptly emailed support the next morning.

The general manager also called the support line at 9:01 AM -- just after it opened -- to make sure they got the email. He was very concerned that the error would gravely impact their October reports, forecasting reports, inventory, and just about anything else that relied on that day's transactional data. The support rep assured the general manager that the development team was working on a way to fix the issue.

From a programming perspective, this was actually an easy thing to fix. All of the daily transactions are stored in a single database table, so a simple UPDATE script and a "re-close" should do the trick. They reproduced the "problem" on a test machine, ran the fix script, and watched it worked like a charm. T. called up the store to let the manager know how they planned to resolve the issue.

"But," the manager asked, "what about when someone makes a return? Their printed receipt will have a different transaction date. Won't the register refuse the return?"

"Nope," T. replied, "we only use the store number, register number, and transaction number when we validate the receipts for returns."

"Sounds great," the manager said in a much less stressful tone, "what a relief! I was really worried about how bad this would be."

Of course it was not that easy... The technical support group made a fix and the store technicians ran it but when they opened their database, they only found that one day's worth of transactions... From the story:

The technician reported this back to the development team. After a bit of digging, they figured out why only the one day of data was left: part of the register closing code purges data that's over three years old. And how does one find three-year old data when the system clock is not a reliable indicator? Why, by taking the business date of the newest transaction and subtracting three years, of course!

The manager's day was about to get much, much worse.

Makes you wonder why the TLA for Point of Sale is the same as the one for Piece of S*it. And this sort of "automatic feature" is common even in high-end software -- a simple dialog box asking if you wanted to purge old data or purging the data quietly but writing it to another database file named with today's date would be the way to go... (stepping off programming soapbox)

Light posting for a while

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Working on a script to parse the raw site logs and aggregate the IP addresses of the various bots out there. Looking at killing several site hosting issues, not just comment and trackback spam.

Freeking COLD!!!

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Was in town today for some errands -- so far we have had about a foot or more of snow at the farm - comes up to my knees in places. Today, the sky cleared up and the temperature started dropping. It is now around 11F and with the 20MPH winds, this puts the wind chill at around -6F. Going outside hurts! There was a reason I left New England! Have the kerosene heater running at a very low level to keep the internal temp of the DaveCave(TM) over freezing and will be doing most of my work from inside the house as again, there wasn't enough time to build a good fire in the wood stove. Still need to run a few scripts as I have been hit with a bunch of spammers, one of which is a a group of 26 different computers located at the Fairfax County Public Schools in Alexandria, VA. This is not a new situation as two of these machines have earned themselves a listing in the global black-hole registry (I check for that as well). Needless to say, an email has been sent and the entire netblock is temporarily banned. Also, I was thinking about the IP honeypot and came up with what may be a very elegant fix -- one which will catch 99% of the low hanging fruit (stupid script kiddies which amount for about 90% of the spam) and will give a serious three-layer defense against the pros. I'll be working on this sometime after Christmas although the occasional proof of performance test will be run in the background. Anything that effectively wins at whack-a-mole while saving me admin time is a good thing...

Cute list for geeks

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Here is: 101 Things you do NOT want your System Administrator to say.: The first 15
  1. Uh-oh.....
  2. Shit!!
  3. What the hell!?
  4. Go get your backup tape. (You do have a backup tape?)
  5. That's SOOOOO bizarre.
  6. Wow!! Look at this.....
  7. Hey!! The suns don't do this.
  8. Terminated??!
  9. What software license?
  10. Well, it's doing something.....
  11. Wow....that seemed fast.....
  12. I got a better job at Lockheed...
  13. Management says...
  14. Sorry, the new equipment didn't get budgetted.
  15. What do you mean that wasn't a copy?
Got the tee-shirt...

The Death of Socialism

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Fascinating bit of history about the early pilgrims and some changes they were forced to make to survive. From Tammy Bruce's online log:
1623: The Failure of Socialism; The Triumph of Individualism
It's appropriate to take a moment this Thanksgiving to recall what the Pilgrims discovered in 1623.

The original economic model of the Plymouth Plantation was essentially socialist. The property was communally attended to, and the crops equally distributed. It soon became apparent that the land was not productive enough to feed the residents, and further charity from Europe was not forthcoming. The colonists were on their own. The leaders contemplated this rude awakening, and decided they had better compromise their left-wing principles and privatize if they didn't want to starve. This is documented by William Bradford in his journal. Every American voter should read this:
All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours and victuals, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.

It seems that we keep forgetting this fundamental lesson. And every time we forget, we pay the price.
What is past is prologue.

SCSI for Samplers

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A musical sampler allows a keyboard player to play back er... samples... of any sound chromatically with a piano keyboard. Unfortunately, although there are many excellent ones out there, 99% of them used older technologies for data storage -- many of which like the Zip disk are getting fragile and hard to find. Enter SCSI for Samplers These people not only sell the older disk drives and CD-ROM players that will work with these older machines but they are selling a device that will allow you to use a Compact Flash card for data storage. Prices are very nice! I have two Kurzweil 2500RS's and love them. Nice to see someone continuing to support the data end of things.

In the safety of your own home

Into something perverted -- just hope that nobody decides to rob your home. From the Canadian Chronicle Herald:

Thief tips off police after finding child porn during break-in
A Red Deer man has been jailed after an outraged burglar spotted massive amounts of child pornography on his computer and called police.

William Mitchell, who pleaded guilty earlier this year in Red Deer provincial court, was charged in October 2005 after RCMP, acting on an anonymous tip, searched his home. An agreed statement says that someone had broken into Mitchell's residence and taken a video camera. The camera, the tipster said, had images of child pornography and would be left on the steps of a church.

Police retrieved the camera and soon realized the burglar had videotaped a computer monitor displaying images of child pornography.

Following the address printed on the burglar's note, police seized computer equipment containing 13,315 pornographic images.

Mitchell will remain in jail until he is sentenced on Dec. 1.

Cpl. Greg Brown of Red Deer City RCMP said outside the court that the burglary remains unsolved.

Given the choice of a child pornographer with over 13K images and a petty thief with ethics, I would keep the thief and let Mr. Mitchell rot in prison.

Happy Birthday Jukebox

From Jukeboxworks comes the story of this 117th birthday:

The official birthday of the jukebox is the 23rd November, 1889. The day of the first public demonstration of a coin-op phonograph in the Palais Royal restaurant, 303 Sutter Street in San Francisco. The operator was Louis Glass, general manager of the Pacific Phonograph Company on Pine Street two blocks away, and he had together with his business partner William S. Arnold been permitted by the proprietor, Fred Mergenthaler, to demonstrate the nickel-in-the-slot machine in the restaurant. Today Louis Glass alone is often regarded as the inventor of the jukebox concept.

The Jukeboxworks website is just a subset of a much larger (and incredibly researched) site on Juke Boxes which can be found here: Danish Jukebox Archives (most of the text is in English)

Trivia: The Rock-O-La brand had nothing to do with Rock and Roll, the person who founded that company was Canadian David C. Rockola

Bond, James Bond

Just got back from seeing Casino Royale and it was wonderful from start to finish.

It was nice to see Bond get back to his roots and loose a lot of the flashy gadgets and action sequences that were stealing the stage from the later efforts.

This Bond actually has a soul, the villains are three dimensional and the plot actually makes sense. Plus, all the inside jokes and double entendres make for a very entertaining 2+ hours.

This is one that needs to be seen in the theater...

There is a sequel in the works, one that follows up on Casino Royale.

Due to be released sometime 2008.

A smackdown on Rev. Jesse Jackson

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Mychal S. Massie delivers a righteous smackdown to Mr. Jackson:
Dear Rev. Jesse Jackson:
I read with interest your Sept. 12, 2006, article "Goodwill, unity, money have been squandered since Sept. 11," which appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. I do not object, as such, to your poisonous screed directed at President Bush. I object to the substance that so freely flows from your mouth and that can best be likened unto that which is consistent with encopresis albeit in your case, the malady can hardly be defined as involuntary.

You purport yourself to be a minister a reverend a so-called man of God but a minister is a servant and a reverend is a member of the clergy, which means said individual is to be obedient unto the God he serves. If one serves the "god" of chaos, deceit, lies, whore-mongering, dysfunction, greed and resentment then perhaps within ecclesiastical environs it can be said you serve well. Apart from same being the case, you are antithetical of everything that can remotely be identified as a biblical servant of the true "Living God." But I get ahead of myself.

In the piece you wrote, our military is "stranded [in Iraq] with inadequate training and inadequate direction." On what did you base that premise? On what basis do you brand the finest all-volunteer military in the history of civilization as poorly trained and inept? Or was your statement an effluence based on an a priori moment designed to gain political points for the upcoming election?

You spoke of "catastrophic climate change, global pandemics and unsustainable trade deficits" but you never make mention of the catastrophic zeitgeist that has wreaked havoc and "more economic damage" upon the community you self-servingly claim to represent. You are never heard making reference to the "pandemic" level of black on black crime, black abortion rates, black single-parent homes (albeit you contributed to those numbers) and black criminal behavior, all of which threatens the future of blacks as a whole.
And it just gets better and better... The closing four graphs:
You claim the president's credibility is gone, when in truth it is you who has no credibility. President Bush is fulfilling the role of his office. But as a minister, can the same be said of you? Are you fulfilling God's prescripts for the priestly office you claim to hold? How many people have you personally led to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? How many people have you preached the salvation message to?

What have you done to bring glory and honor to the name of Christ? Is that what you were doing as you paraded your pregnant mistress around the White House while supposedly ministering to a president taken with sexual sin of his own?

"Goodwill, unity, money" have indeed been squandered, but not since 9/11. They have been squandered on you and your morally depraved kind. You claim a title that should offer "hope," but instead you offer fool's parsley.

My prayer for you would be, and is, that you would confess the error of your ways while there is yet time, because the "Living God" takes a dim view of those who intentionally lead his children astray.
Hat tip to The Braden Files for the link to this wonderful writer.

Water water everywhere

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From the excellent Stupid Security comes this head scratcher:
Peter writes "Hi

My brother works at Gatwick airport and shortly after the 'Face cream can bring down airliners' story, he related this encounter.

He had to go through security and wanted to take a bottle of (unopened) water. He was prevented by the guard and was told he could buy bottled water inside. He asked why those bottles were safe, to be told that those inside had been 'screened'. He offered to hand his bottle over to be Xrayed, to then be told that they could not detect explosives with xrays. He then asked how they screened the bottles of water inside, to be told that every item goes through the xray machine.

At this point the guard got a bit flustered, possibly from his own logic breakdown, and came up with the typical fallback argument - "those are the rules and if you dont follow them we won't allow you through".

And thus the world is run by those least qualified."

Deserving of a state

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A perfect example of people who really deserve a state of their own. From United Press International:
Wired teddy bears found in West Bank
Wired teddy bears to be used for explosives were found in an Israeli raid of an explosives lab in the West Bank city of Nablus, military officials said.

Israeli paratroopers and intelligence officials also found cloth belts that could contain explosives, a hollow coat used for hiding explosives and 20 light bulbs and sockets used for activating explosives, officials said Saturday.
The state I am thinking of is Plasma How any of the "Palestinian" apologists can continue to support this failed culture is beyond me. Reminds me of Saddam's childrens prisons and how that story was ignored and talked around...

Snow Job

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Got about six inches of fluffy white stuff last night. The Mt. Baker ski area had to shut down some of their runs due to heavy snow and low visibility. Heading into town later this afternoon to catch the new Bond movie. Also, despite the heavy precipitation, the WildBlue satellite dish is working perfectly. If you are not able to get DSL or Cable broadband, these people seriously rock.

Conspiracy Theory -- Gas Prices

Interesting slant at Associated Press:

AP analysis: Firms crimping oil supplies
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - You'd think it was Texas. Dusty roads course the scrubland toward oil tanks and warehouses. Beefy men talk oil over burritos at lunch. Like grazing herds, oil wells dip nonstop amid the tumbleweed -- or even into the asphalt of a parking lot.

That's why the rumor sounded so wrong here in California's lower San Joaquin Valley, where petroleum has gushed up more riches than the whole gold rush. Why would Shell Oil Co. simply close its Bakersfield refinery? Why scrap a profit maker?

The rumor seemed to make no sense. Yet it was true.

The company says it could make more money on other projects. It denies it intended to squeeze the market, as its critics would claim, to drive up gasoline profits at its other refineries in the region.

Whatever the truth in Bakersfield, an Associated Press analysis suggests that big oil companies have been crimping supplies in subtler ways across the country for years. And tighter supplies tend to drive up prices.

The analysis, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, indicates that the industry slacked off supplying oil and gasoline during the prolonged price boom between early 1999 and last summer, when prices began to fall.

The article (a longish one) goes into a lot of the background details and also talks about the refinery's new owner Flying J of Ogden, Utah:

In Bakersfield, government regulators eventually began to nose around, wondering if Shell hoped to game the market. But the company finally hired an investment banker to scout buyers. In January 2005, it announced a sale to truck-stop operator Flying J, of Ogden, Utah, which also runs a small refining business. The price was kept secret. Shell did nothing wrong, federal regulators later decided.

Since the sale, drillers and refiners have been making profits as never before.

And a bit more:

In Bakersfield, Flying J's 350 refinery workers now process 2.7 million gallons of oil a day - as much as Shell did - in the churning nest of boilers, piping and stacks venting six stories above the scrubland.

"It's still a good refinery, good people, a lot of money to be made in the long term," says Andy Wheeler, the engineering manager transplanted from Louisiana. "There's still plenty of oil locally to produce."

The new owner won't discuss current profits but acknowledges making money. With limited oil from Shell, Flying J has kept its boilers busy with crude from other wells, also right here in the valley.

In fact, the refinery is so full of promise that Flying J has decided to spend several hundred million dollars to nearly double its gasoline output. It hopes to make about $85 million more a year in profit.

"Shell, in the last few years of operation, didn't invest any money into the place," says Wheeler, tooling past its giant storage tanks in his shiny SUV.

But the refinery's new bosses, says manager Gene Cotten, are "comfortable enough with the long-term crude supply to make that investment."

I love the quote: "Shell, in the last few years of operation, didn't invest any money into the place" Yeah, milk it for all it is worth and sell the remains to someone else to deal with. Still, it doesn't sound like Flying J is hurting and the refinery sounds like it is really busy. Flying J operates a couple other smaller refineries and has a line of truck stops on interstates. Sounds like a forward-looking company.


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No place like Africa and for that, I am very happy. This story from The Guardian:
Missing keys, holes in fence and a single padlock: welcome to Congo's nuclear plant
Amid the market stalls, hawkers and gridlocked cars on the road out of Congo's capital and into the Kinshasa hills there is nothing to mark the way to a nondescript clutch of buildings a few hundred yards down a side street.

The dilapidated concrete compound is protected by little more than a low-slung rusted barbed-wire fence and a rickety gate sealed by a single padlock. It would be easy enough to slip through a hole in the fence but there is no need, as the main entrance to what is supposed to be one of the best guarded sites in Congo is often unmanned.

The armed police assigned to watch the compound were not to be seen at the weekend as visitors wandered the corridors of what is Africa's oldest nuclear reactor facility - and the storage place for dozens of bars of enriched uranium - until finally challenged by a man in a tracksuit who called himself "security".

The International Atomic Energy Agency has long viewed Kinshasa's experimental nuclear reactor as a disaster in the making, either through an accident that releases radiation into the city or because of lax security.

There are now three locks to gain access to the reactor and uranium rods, because years ago the director handed over a set of keys to a stranger that included the only key required to get to the heart of the atomic plant. That carelessness is blamed for the disappearance of two rods of enriched uranium in the late 1970s. One is believed to have turned up in 1998 on its way to the Middle East via the mafia; the other was never found.

But new locks aside, there is little outward recognition of concern by the world's nuclear watchdog and among western governments at the prospect of Kinshasa's reactor catching the attention of terrorists scouring the globe for the right ingredients for a "dirty bomb".

The US - which helped found the reactor because Congo provided the uranium used in the atom bombs dropped on Japan - cut off the supply of spare parts to the reactor nearly 20 years ago due to the plant's decline. Washington has recently tried to persuade Congo to hand over the 98 bars of enriched uranium stored in triangular rods about 60cm (2ft) long and kept submerged in a circular pool underneath a padlocked metal grate or in the reactor.

But Congo's nuclear scientists hope to fire up the reactor again so that it can be put to a range of uses from medical research to mine prospecting, eight years after it was placed on standby because of war, poor maintenance and lax security.

At least the facility has entered the computer age. Little more than a decade ago it didn't have phones and technicians worked on blackboards.
And to think that Congo is one of the more advanced nations in that continent...

Back on the farm

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Was in Seattle for a few days getting the house down there ready for the market. The painter did an amazing job and the place looks beautiful. Good to be back -- it's gently snowing outside, I have the kerosene heater cranking (I have a wood stove and plenty of firewood but it takes about two hours to heat the DaveCave(TM) where the kerosene heater can keep me nice and toasty sitting by my side). Mt. Baker has over 100 inches of powder snow!!!


It was an English thanksgiving today -- Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, oven roasted Potatoes and Parsnips, Caramelized Onions, Squash and Carrots, Mashed Potatoes and an amazing Apple Pie to top it off. The Pie came from a local restaurant that does their own pastries.

We had some nice wine with dinner and one of the guests brought an awesome port for dessert. We also did a Cider and Mead tasting to people's overall approval -- the Mead is still a bit young (four months, it should be given a years rest for the flavors to develop fully) but the Strong Cider (9% ABV) was a hit.

The Roast was from a cow raised about ten miles from us, grass fed and its only unpleasant day was its last one.

Like I said, stuffed!

More like Fat, Dumb and Happy -- ed.

Frickin Laser-beams

Very high geekdom!

It seems that many DVD burners use visible light lasers and that the power output is enough to light a match or pop a balloon when focused properly. Some of them use Infrared diodes so your mileage may vary.

Here is a short page on how to convert the laser to personal use. Fun with Lasers

Howto: Make a DVD Burner into a High-Powered Laser

The laser pictured above has a peak output measured at 225 mW (average output 200 mW). It's a visible red at about 650nm. It can light matches, pop balloons, cut electrical tape, and so forth. It can do pretty much anything a Pulsar 150 from Wicked Lasers can do, because it's basically the same thing. The only differences? This laser was home-made, and cost about 1/3 the price.

So, how did I do it? Some luck, some deductive reasoning, and some electronics experience all come into play. This page is a brief guide.

Warning: This information is provided for entertainment purposes only. Lasers can be dangerous and proper safety precautions should be taken, including appropriate laser safety goggles. Working with electronics can also be dangerous. Lasers: dangerous. Electronics: dangerous. Danger: dangerous.

Caveman Chemistry

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Fascinating look at older techniques in Chemical Exploration and tracing our history of Science from the first discoveries. From the website: Caveman Chemistry
Half a million years ago our ancestors learned to make fire from scratch. They crafted intricate tools from stone and brewed mind-altering elixirs from honey. Their descendants transformed clay into pottery, wool into clothing, and ashes into cleansers. In ceramic crucibles they turned rock into metal, metal into colored glazes, and glazes into glass. Buildings of brick and mortar enshrined books of parchment and paper. Kings and queens demanded ever more colorful clothing and accessories in order to out-class clod-hoppers and call-girls. Kingdoms rose and fell by the power of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal. And the demands of everyday folk for glass and paper and soap stimulated the first round of chemical industrialization. From sulfuric acid to sodium carbonate. From aniline dyes to analgesic drugs. From blasting powder to fertilizers and plastics. In a phrase, �from Caveman to Chemist.�

Caveman Chemistry is an experiential exploration of chemical technology from the campfires of the stone age to the plastic soft-drink bottle. An experiential exploration? Not only will you learn about these technologies, you will learn to recreate them. Instructions are given for making bronze from metal ores; glass from sand, ashes, and limestone; paper from grass or straw; soap from fat; alcohol from honey; photographs from egg whites; chlorine from salt water and celluloid from cotton.

Your guides on this journey are the four alchemical elements; Fire, Earth, Air and Water. These archetypal characters deliver first-hand accounts of the births of their respective technologies. The spirit of Fire, for example, was born in the first creature to cultivate the flame. This spirit passed from one person to another, from one generation to another, from one millennium to another, arriving at last in the pages of this book. The spirit of Earth taught folks to make tools of stone, the spirit of Air imparted knowledge of units and the spirit of Water began with the invention of �spirits.� Having traveled the world from age to age, who can say where they will find their next home? Perhaps they will find one in you.

The complete text of Caveman Chemistry is available for browsing and may be purchased as an ebook or in paperback using the navigation bar to your left. If you would like to be notified about developments to the book or website, please join the Mailing List. This low-volume list is only for announcements about Caveman Chemistry.
The author (Kevin Dunn) teaches at the Department of Chemistry at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. I bet his classes are fun!

Light posting again tonight

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Gearing up for Thanksgiving and working on some web stuff...

Light posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff.

Our new robot overlords

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Memo to self -- be sure to rehearse before publicly demonstrating any new technology. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Robot not quite ready to step into spotlight
When you're showcasing a $135,000 bomb detection robot before a wall of television cameras and touting it as Chicago's latest terror tool, it's a good idea to rehearse first.

The Chicago Police Department apparently failed to do that with the robot affectionately known as "Frank," in honor of Frank Kaskey, its first bomb squad commander.

On Thursday, Mayor Daley, Police Supt. Phil Cline and Chief Emergency Officer Cortez Trotter watched uncomfortably as Frank took a half-dozen attempts to climb a two-step riser at Navy Pier.

Frank took what seemed an eternity to get up the first step and stumbled on the second before falling backward. Fortunately, it never did tip over.

But the demonstration was so painfully slow, it was tough to envision Frank easily doing what Cline said the robot could do: Locate suspicious devices, defuse bombs, detect hazardous chemicals or send messages and food to suspects and captives in hostage situations.

Afterward, Trotter was visibly annoyed.
Ouch! Hat tip to Stupid Security for the link.

Cognitive bias

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Fascinating list of Cognitive biases from Wikipedia: Decision-making and behavioral biases
Many of these biases are studied for how they affect belief formation and business decisions and scientific research

Bandwagon effect - the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink, herd behaviour, manias and socionomics. Carl Jung pioneered the idea of the collective unconscious which is considered by Jungian psychologists to be responsible for this cognitive bias.
Bias blind spot - the tendency not to compensate for one's own cognitive biases.
Choice-supportive bias - the tendency to remember one's choices as better than they actually were. Confirmation bias - the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions. And many more.

Killing two birds

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Game bird hunters have the problem of cleaning the shot from their meat. One company has come up with a solution to this. Check out Season Shot:
Season Shot is made of tightly packed seasoning bound by a fully biodegradable food product. The seasoning is actually injected into the bird on impact seasoning the meat from the inside out. When the bird is cooked the seasoning pellets melt into the meat spreading the flavor to the entire bird. Forget worrying about shot breaking your teeth and start wondering about which flavor shot to use!
Comes in Cajun, Lemon Pepper, Garlic, Teriyaki and Honey Mustard...

Mystery Meat

Strange news from Wales:

Dragon sausage food farce
A Welsh food firm last night hit out at bizarre rules that have forced it to explain that its 'dragon sausages' do not really contain dragons.

The company has been warned it could face legal action for misleading people that it uses dragon meat in its fiery sausages.

Trading standards chiefs are forcing the meat firm, Black Mountains Smokery, to include the word 'pork' on its labels for their Welsh Dragon Sausages, even though pork is already included on the list of ingredients - and dragons are obviously mythical.

The clampdown to satisfy the Government's Food Labelling Regulations was yesterday criticised by the Black Mountains Smokery boss.

Jon Carthew said the sausages had fallen foul of bureaucracy. 'I don't think any of our customers actually believe that we use dragon meat in our sausages,' he said. 'We use the word because the dragon is synonymous with Wales and I think everyone who buys from us knows that.'

His firm in Crickhowell turns out 200,000 sausages a year, with the Welsh Dragon Sausage including hot chilli.

His sausages, made from pork, leek and chilli, are sent to restaurants and stores all over Britain.

But he was stunned to get a warning letter from Powys County Council's Trading Standards Department, which had analysed his bangers.

It read, 'The public analyst has stated that the name Welsh Dragon Sausage is not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food.

'It is recommended that you include the type of meat eg pork/beef in the name of the food.'

The consumer watchdogs swooped after being tipped off that the sausages were in breach of the 1996 Food Labelling Act of misleading description on their Welsh Dragon Sausage.

The trading standards department ran a full analysis - and proved there was no dragon in it. The firm was informed it was an offence and they were breaking the law because of the misleading name.

Emphasis mine -- just how do you test for the presence of Dragon flesh. Here is the website for Black Mountains Smokery

My mouth is watering...

The oh-so talented Mr. Kevin Federline

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From Defamer:
House Of Blues Staff Unable To Trick People Into Taking Free K-Fed Tickets
For those of you worried that the avalanche of publicity stemming from background dancing impresario Kevin Federline's public dumping by longtime bling-enabler Britney Spears might cause a spike in demand for his L.A. live shows (hey, some of you might have incapacitating Glade-huffing habits that would allow you to think such a thing), this report from a concertgoing operative should put your drug-addled mind at ease, revealing that House of Blues staffers couldn't even give away tickets to K-Fed's upcoming, Wednesday night show, even when resorting to chicanery.
Heh... Want your own tickets? Here is the website: House of Blues I almost feel sorry for the poor fool. He may have been a good backup dancer but his stint as Mr. Britney is over. Talk about jumping the shark.

Got spam?

Thank some Russian hackers. From eWeek:
'Pump-and-Dump' Spam Surge Linked to Russian Bot Herders
The recent surge in e-mail spam hawking penny stocks and penis enlargement pills is the handiwork of Russian hackers running a botnet powered by tens of thousands of hijacked computers.

Internet security researchers and law enforcement authorities have traced the operation to a well-organized hacking gang controlling a 70,000-strong peer-to-peer botnet seeded with the SpamThru Trojan.

According to Joe Stewart, senior security researcher at SecureWorks, in Atlanta, the gang functions with a level of sophistication rarely seen in the hacking underworld.

For starters, the Trojan comes with its own anti-virus scanner -- a pirated copy of Kaspersky's security software -- that removes competing malware files from the hijacked machine. Once a Windows machine is infected, it becomes a peer in a peer-to-peer botnet controlled by a central server. If the control server is disabled by botnet hunters, the spammer simply has to control a single peer to retain control of all the bots and send instructions on the location of a new control server.

The bots are segmented into different server ports, determined by the variant of the Trojan installed, and further segmented into peer groups of no more than 512 bots. This allows the hackers to keep the overhead involved in exchanging information about other peers to a minimum, Stewart explained.
This sort of technology would be cool if it weren't so damned annoying and time consuming. Right now, I'm blocking about 6,000 specific IP addresses from the USA, all from major ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon, etc...

An effective leader

Loser is more like it. Robert Mugabe is single-handedly responsible for taking a wealthy food-exporting nation and turning it into a starving, poverty-ridden cess-pit.

Does he learn from his mistakes?

Doesn't seem so. From ITV News:

Mugabe to seize remaining farms
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has passed a law to remove the final white farmers from their land.

The law states farmers should be given three months' notice to leave, but many are told they have only hours to leave.

The law will affect the whole country.

Food production is at a record low and millions are facing starvation.

For those who oppose Mr Mugabe there is only brutal repression.

We have filmed Zimbabwe police officers beating people for complaining about conditions.

Sounds like a wonderful place to live...

Three movies

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The last month has been a time for some escapism so Jen and I have been going to a lot more movies than we usually see. Three stick in my mind: Flushed Away -- this was done by Aardman, the same people behind Wallace and Gromitt and it their first all-CG film. Wonderful! It is ostensibly a kids movie but there are so many in-jokes and references to other films crammed in that we were laughing through most of it. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan -- about as politically incorrect as you can get and I loved every minute of it. Some of the best scenes are the tight closeups of people as they react to Cohen's character. The rodeo was wonderful. Finally, a much darker film -- The Prestige. It felt long at the theater but there was so much crammed into it that the two-hour length is needed. David Bowie's portrayal of Nikola Tesla at his Colorado Springs Laboratory was spot on from what I have read of personal accounts (Tesla is a big hero of mine). The development of the Turn and its final Prestige is one that will be sticking in my subconcious for a very long long time. See this one...

MIT Open Courseware

This is an incredible resource for self-study. Over 1,400 Graduate and Under-Grad level classes are available online for free complete with handouts, lecture notes, suggested reading, assignments, exams and projects. Check it out at: MIT's OpenCourseWare The departments offered are:
  • Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Anthropology
  • Architecture
  • Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation
  • Biological Engineering
  • Biology
  • Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Comparative Media Studies
  • Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Engineering Systems Division
  • Experimental Study Group
  • Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • Health Sciences and Technology
  • History
  • Linguistics and Philosophy
  • Literature
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Media Arts and Sciences
  • Music and Theater Arts
  • Nuclear Science and Engineering
  • Physics
  • Political Science
  • Science, Technology, and Society
  • Sloan School of Management
  • Special Programs
  • Urban Studies and Planning
  • Women's Studies
  • Writing and Humanistic Studies

Nice people...

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I'm not bashing the arabs particularly but they do present a nice big fat target a lot of the time... From The Times Online:
Blair hit by Saudi 'bribery' threat
SAUDI ARABIA is threatening to suspend diplomatic ties with Britain unless Downing Street intervenes to block an investigation into a �60m �slush fund� allegedly set up for some members of its royal family.

A senior Saudi diplomat in London has delivered an ultimatum to Tony Blair that unless the inquiry into an allegedly corrupt defence deal is dropped, diplomatic links between Britain and Saudi Arabia will be severed, a defence source has disclosed.

The Saudis, key allies in the Middle East, have also threatened to cut intelligence co-operation with Britain over Al-Qaeda.

They have repeated their threat that they will terminate payments on a defence contract that could be worth �40 billion and safeguard at least 10,000 British jobs.

The Saudis are furious about the criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into allegations that BAE Systems, Britain�s biggest defence company, set up the �slush fund� to support the extravagant lifestyle of members of the Saudi royal family.

The payments, in the form of lavish holidays, a fleet of luxury cars including a gold Rolls-Royce, rented apartments and other perks, are alleged to have been paid to ensure the Saudis continued to buy from BAE under the so-called Al-Yamamah deal, rather than going to another country. Al-Yamamah is the biggest defence contract in British history and has kept BAE in business for 20 years.
The article goes into a lot more of the actual specifics. Good on Tony to put a final stop to this ongoing corruption -- bribery has another side to it and Britain should not have any 'obligations' to nations that are not our friends...

A new technology for oil?

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Interesting if this scales up to commercial production. From UPI:
Analysis: Israel sees shale replacing oil
The Israeli process for producing energy from oil shale will cut its oil imports by one-third, and will serve as a guide for other countries with oil shale deposits, according to one company.

A.F.S.K. Hom Tov presented its oil shale processing method on Tuesday, outside Haifa and just down the street from one of the country's two oil refinery facilities.

"Because the patents for this process belong to (the company), Israel is the most advanced in the world in the effort to create energy from oil shale," Moshe Shahal, a Hom Tov legal representative and a former Israeli energy minister, told United Press International.

Shahal estimated that the company's Negev Desert facility would begin full-scale production in three to four years, while other countries with oil shale deposits will need five to six years to reach production.

Oil shale is limestone rock that contains hydrocarbons, or fossil fuels -- about 20 percent of the amount of energy found in coal. Using the rock as a raw material and coating it with bitumen, a residue of the crude oil refining process, the company can produce natural gas, fuel, electricity, or a combination of the three.

Older technologies squeezed the hydrocarbon material out of the rock, with extremely high pressure and at high temperatures.

According to Professor Ze'ev Aizenshtat, an oil shale expert, the Hom Tov process is more environmentally friendly than other methods of converting oil shale into energy. It also allows for more flexibility in the kind of fuel produced, produces less waste and operates at lower temperatures than other methods.

Though the production process may be more environmentally friendly, the end product is still a fossil fuel, similar in quality to a high-grade diesel when in liquid form.
We already do shale to oil extraction but the Israeli process has one advantage. Some more from the UPI article:
It would cost about $17 to produce a barrel of synthetic oil at the Hom Tov facility, meaning giant profit margins in a world of $45 to $60 per barrel crude. Yearly earnings are forecasted to be between $159 million and $350 million, Shahal said.
Emphasis mine -- holy crap! No wonder the arabs want those pesky Jews wiped off the face of the earth. Again, this work has only been tested in the lab and there is no guarantee that it will scale up to commercial volumes but still, the potential is definitely there and this will change the geopolitics of that area quite a bit. Long time coming!

Sir Winston Churchill at age 25

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"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!

Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.

The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."

Sir Winston Churchill
The River War, 1st edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50
(London: Longmans, Green & Co.,1899).
He had it in a nutshell... I defy anyone to find fault with this. Hat tip to The Braden Files

Local weather

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This last storm was not as bad as the others. We are still digging out though. Here are a couple of pictures of what we had to deal with recently. Here is the main road heading from Bellingham to Mt. Baker:
This tree was leaning across the road for two days before highway crews and arborists could get it removed. It was leaning across telephone lines on the left and the high-tension feeder lines on the right. With all the rain it was a lovely combination. Here is a local creek running several feet above normal:
It is normally a mild trickle, it is now flooding people's yards. Here is a road near our house. I got out of the car to try to move some of the wood off the road and saw that the power line was still lying on the ground.
What caught my eye was the number of wire splices in the wire that was lying on the ground -- I counted seven of them. I walked up and down the road a bit and saw that most other sections had either none or just one. I would guess that this section has been broken before...




The seventh splice was up on the other pole and I had the sun in back so couldn't get a good photo. There are eight splices now.

Big Iron

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You think construction machinery is large? Check out this bucket excavator made by Thyssen-Krupp:
This is the largest mobile machine in the world and was built for open-pit mining. Being so large, it occasionally has problems with picking up other construction machines such as this unfortunate bulldozer:


Ouch! Hat tip to The Thrilling Wonder Story for the link. Thyssen-Krupp's website with more information and photos is here: Thyssen-Krupp

Oh Noooo Mr. Bill.....

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Crap -- staring down the barrel again. From the National Weather Service:
224 PM PST SAT NOV 18 2006


224 PM PST SAT NOV 18 2006




Wonnerful, just #@$& wonnerful... ...crawling back into the DaveCave(tm)

Two exhibitions

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Almost missed one and am planning to see the other. I'll be catching both in a week or so. These are both in Vancouver, British Columbia, an hour to our north. First up is Gunther Von Hagens who is an old-school anatomist and has developed a method of plasticizing human tissue. Other people are doing this as well but Von Hagens has very much an artists touch. Bodyworlds3 runs from September 15th 2006 through January 14th 2007. Here is a link to the exhibition: Bodyworlds3 Here is the link to Von Hagens home page: Gunther Von Hagens The second show (the one I almost missed) is a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla. The symposium was last Friday but the exhibition is running through November 30th. Here is a brief description from the website:
Nikola Tesla�s Wonderful World of Electricity
Exhibition from the Nikola Tesla Belgrade Museum, November 16 � 30, 2006

A traveling exhibition from the Nikola Tesla Museum, is shown in only 4 cities in the world: Perth, Vienna, Paris and Vancouver. The Exhibition, under the technical sponsorship of IEEE Vancouver Section, will arrive to Vancouver on November 14th and will be set up in the Foyer of the BC Hydro Head Office which has been generously donated by BC Hydro.
Website is here: Nikola Tesla

A little water damage

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While we have been digging out up here, other places in WA State have also had their share of problems. The National Park Service just posted some photos of the damage that Mt. Ranier National Park sustained through the same set of storms. And we think that we had problems...

Light posting tonight

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Working on some stuff in the DaveCave(tm) now that we have electricity again...

Phun with Physics

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John Cramer is a Seattle science fiction author and columnist who practices what he preaches at the University of Washington His most recent experiment is an interesting one. From the Seattle P-I:
Going for a blast into the real past
If the experiment works, a signal could be received before it's sent.

If his experiment with splitting photons actually works, says University of Washington physicist John Cramer, the next step will be to test for quantum "retrocausality."

That's science talk for saying he hopes to find evidence of a photon going backward in time.

"It doesn't seem like it should work, but on the other hand, I can't see what would prevent it from working," Cramer said. "If it does work, you could receive the signal 50 microseconds before you send it."

Uh, huh ... what? Wait a minute. What is that supposed to mean?

Roughly put, Cramer is talking about the subatomic equivalent of arriving at the train station before you've left home, of winning the lottery before you've bought the ticket, of graduating from high school before you've been born -- or something like that.

"It probably won't work," he said again carefully, peering through his large glasses as if to determine his audience's mental capacity for digesting the information. Cramer, an accomplished experimental physicist who also writes science fiction, knows this sounds more like a made-for-TV script on the Sci Fi Channel than serious scientific research.

"But even if it doesn't work, we should be able to learn something new about quantum mechanics by trying it," he said. What he and UW colleague Warren Nagourney plan to try soon is an experiment aimed at resolving some niggling contradictions in one of the most fundamental branches of physics known as quantum mechanics, or quantum theory.
A brief background:
One of the paradoxes of interest to Cramer is known as "entanglement." It's also known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, named for the three scientists who described its apparent absurdity as an argument against quantum theory.

Basically, the idea is that interacting, or entangled, subatomic particles such as two photons -- the fundamental units of light -- can affect each other no matter how far apart in time or space.
And what John is looking at:
"If you do a measurement on one, it has an immediate effect on the other even if they are separated by light years across the universe," Cramer said. If one of the entangled photon's trajectory tilts up, the other one, no matter how distant, will tilt down to compensate.

Einstein ridiculed the idea as "spooky action at a distance." Quantum mechanics must be wrong, the father of relativity contended, because that behavior requires some kind of "signal" passing between the two particles at a speed faster than light.

This is where going backward in time comes in. If the entanglement happens (and the experimental evidence, at this point, says it does), Cramer contends it implies retrocausality. Instead of cause and effect, the effect comes before the cause. The simplest, least paradoxical explanation for that, he says, is that some kind of signal or communication occurs between the two photons in reverse time.

It's all incredibly counterintuitive, Cramer acknowledged.
The article has a lot more detail about the experiment and includes this wonderful quote:
"I thought it would get shot down, but people got excited by it," Cramer said. "People tell me it can't work, but nobody seems to be able to explain why it won't."
This sounds really plausible -- entanglement has been observed in other experiments and although I am not a Physicist (I leave that to my Dad), I cannot see anything wrong with John's theory...

RIP Milton Friedman

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From CNN/Money:
Nobel economist Milton Friedman dead at 94
An advocate of deregulation and 'supply-side' policies whose influence soared under Ronald Reagan.

Milton Friedman, the Nobel-prize winning economist who helped shape modern free-market economics, died Thursday in San Francisco. He was 94.

A spokesman for the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation confirmed the news to CNN. The cause was heart failure, according to Reuters.

Friedman, who won the Nobel prize in 1976, helped interpret and popularize so-called "supply-side" economics, which came to dominate much of U.S. public policy in the second half of the 20th century.

Supply-side economics holds that minimally regulated markets offer the most efficiency in the distribution of goods and services.
A giant...

Generator blogging

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I had written earlier about the severe wind and rain that we have been having in the last few days. Our power went out last night and we are running on a generator; probably until Saturday. One of the advantages over satellite is that if we can get power to the dish, we have internet. A bunch of people in town are within Comcast's service area and they are without internet, cable and phone. Single sourcing a service is not always the best thing...

Woo Hoo!!!

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One of the more minor things in the constellation of things that went wrong recently was that our email went down. The hardware for our satellite ISP broke, we were offline for two weeks and when we came back, everything worked really well except for the email. It turns out that our host for these services changed their email software and I needed to refresh our local DNS cache. Did this and bingo, almost 2,000 new emails in my inbox. I just hope that the light we are seeing at the end of the tunnel is not the proverbial oncoming train...

Ski season approaches!!!

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One of the good things about winter up here is the luxurious snow available just 30 miles up the road at Mt. Baker. Looks like things are happening a little bit on the early side with the Ski Resort due to open ahead of schedule. The Mt. Baker daily conditions are here: Snow Report Here is the entry from today (November 14th):
We've had 63 INCHES of NEW SNOW in the past 4 days!

Check out the photos from Monday in the Gallery here. . .it's soooo deep that the Pisten Bully snowcats basically had to dig their way up to the top of Chair 5 and to quote a crew member " you could have straight-lined the bottom of Canuck's Delux."

Not only are crews getting ready for OPENING DAY ON THURSDAY, but we're having to dig things out first!

Once again, we're expecting a bit of a warm spell with this system antcipated to move in today and tonight, but the freezing level is expected to drop quickly on Wednesday - setting us up for a great day on Thursday.

We look forward to seeing you THURSDAY NOVEMBER 16 for OPENING DAY!
Very cool! OF course, all of this precipitation has it's down side at lower levels. Here is a photo (from the same website) of the road you take to get to Mt. Baker -- this was taken November 7th (last week):
Mother Nature always has the last word...

A moving experience

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Finished unpacking a 17 foot U-Haul truck today -- six filing cabinets full of hotel receipts from 1983 and the like. My Mom liked the minutiae of bookkeeping and saved every record that she could get her mitts on. My Dad's condo garage (two-car) is now standing-room only. I set up a large table in there, will get some decent lighting in there over the next day or two and we will be spending this winter sorting through it all. The issue here is that we have found stock certificates and cash (several countries bills and change) scattered through envelopes from telephone bills from the 1990's absent the bill (those are in another cabinet somewhere) but complete with the enclosed advertising pamphlet. I can see where I get my packrat tendencies. There is a lot of very cool stuff in there too (in sort of a time-capsule way) so I'll be posting some of the more interesting ones. Not too much else to post today -- the world is turning along without my notice, the Middle East is still full of ninth century corrupt theocrats who want a return of their beloved caliphate (which didn't work back then either -- don't these mokes understand history). Congress will be a lot of fun for bloggers everywhere what with Nancy Pelosi (who visually reminds me of a perpetually startled small town real-estate agent) is championing Murtha for speaker -- considering Murtha's ethics and history, this should be a fun Ka-Boom. Starting back with the Precision Machining class later this week and am looking forward to that a lot!

Back at the farm

Back at the farm after two days in Seattle working on the house down there. Met with the Realtor, picked out some paint and carpet colors and signed some stuff. It will be good to get this place on the market and be done with it. I'm finally putting a cork in -- still an attempt every few minutes, still gay porn. On top of this, we are having email problems. It looks like the ISP rejiggered something as there are new directories and the file format (naming conventions etc...) are different. We will see.

Reading Timbuktu

Fascinating story from Scientific American about a dig in Mali:

Libraries in the sand reveal Africa's academic past
Researchers in Timbuktu are fighting to preserve tens of thousands of ancient texts which they say prove Africa had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance.

Private and public libraries in the fabled Saharan town in Mali have already collected 150,000 brittle manuscripts, some of them from the 13th century, and local historians believe many more lie buried under the sand.

The texts were stashed under mud homes and in desert caves by proud Malian families whose successive generations feared they would be stolen by Moroccan invaders, European explorers and then French colonialists.

Written in ornate calligraphy, some were used to teach astrology or mathematics, while others tell tales of social and business life in Timbuktu during its "Golden Age," when it was a seat of learning in the 16th century.

"These manuscripts are about all the fields of human knowledge: law, the sciences, medicine," said Galla Dicko, director of the Ahmed Baba Institute, a library housing 25,000 of the texts.

"Here is a political tract," he said, pointing to a script in a glass cabinet, somewhat dog-eared and chewed by termites. "A letter on good governance, a warning to intellectuals not to be corrupted by the power of politicians."

Bookshelves on the wall behind him contain a volume on maths and a guide to Andalusian music as well as love stories and correspondence between traders plying the trans-Saharan caravan routes.

Timbuktu's leading families have only recently started to give up what they see as ancestral heirlooms. They are being persuaded by local officials that the manuscripts should be part of the community's shared culture.

"It is through these writings that we can really know our place in history," said Abdramane Ben Essayouti, Imam of Timbuktu's oldest mosque, Djingarei-ber, built from mud bricks and wood in 1325.

Very cool! Islam is not by definition bad; the people who practice the true version are very interested in preserving their sense of history and culture. The problem lies with a vocal group of apostates and worshipers of satan and it is unfortunate that these people have been grabbing an inordinate amount of attention recently. Jumping the shark doesn't even come close for those children of pigs and apes -- nice to see some of the real Muslims getting some press...

RIP Jack Williamson

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Noted Science Fiction author Jack Williamson passed away yesterday. From Locus:
SF Grand Master Jack Williamson, born 1908, died this afternoon at his home in Portales, New Mexico, at the age of 98. His first published story was "The Metal Man" in Amazing Stories in 1928, the beginning of a writing career that spanned nine decades.
From Wikipedia:
Williamson was born April 29, 1908 in Bisbee, Arizona, and spent his early childhood in western Texas. In search of better pastures, his family migrated to rural New Mexico in a horse-drawn covered wagon in 1915. The farming was difficult there and the family turned to ranching, which they continue to this day.

Williamson discovered the local library and used it to educate himself. As a young man, he discovered the magazine Amazing Stories, after answering an ad for one free issue. He strove to write his own fiction, selling his first story at age 20: The Metal Man appeared in the Dec. 1928 issue of Amazing Stories. His work during this early period was heavily influenced by A. Merritt.
To give a wee bit of perspective, when his first story was published in 1928, a Mr. Issac Asimov was eight years old. Jack had a very long and productive career and will be sorely missed.

The idiot at

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This idiot just doesn't give up... I normally block the IP addresses of egregious spammers just to make things simple but I'm watching this one a bit more closely. Grepping through the system logs, I can see that they are pushing gay porn sites with a passion on three of the blogs that I host. (This one, Brown Snout and an older closed blog that I'm keeping as sort of a 'spam observatory') In the last twenty hours we have: Incoming: 141 Successful: ZERO! From 90 Unique IP addresses: 44 Heh... Just bugs on the windshield of life...

Idiot of the week...

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As you will know, I have been doing 'battle' with people trying to post comments or trackbacks that have nothing to do with the post but are advertisements for various PPC (Pills, Porn, Casino) and stock pumping scams. These people operate from zombie systems -- PCs that are always on and connected to the internet but owned by people who don't see the need to run the various MSFT security updates. These systems are taken discovered, exploited and used as email and processing servers by the spammers. Generally, I will see a flurry from one system and then it will either stop suddenly (someone was curious as to why it was running so slowly and called a 'computer guy') or taper off (the spammer is loosing interest). The idiot of the week is this poor godless soul at IP address: They are using HopOne Internet Corporation at 1010 Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC. So far, in the last 22 hours, I have received 772 attempts at spam. None of them have gotten through but what makes the bozo at so unreal is that their system was responsible for 718 of the 772 attempted hits. Talk about energizer bunny. Talk about loooooooser... Incoming: 772 Successful: ZERO! Unique IP addresses: 39!

Light posting tonight and for the next few days

Spending yesterday and today going through about 1,600 emails that stacked up during the time without internet. Mostly slash and burn but still some ones that require immediate attention so working with those. Jen spent yesterday and today in Seattle with two movers loading up the last of the furniture from my Mom and Dad's house and I'm heading down there Sunday to undo some of his re-muddling efforts (Dad, I love you but let ME do the carpentry from now on...) The new internet service is fantastic -- a little bit of a lag time while packets are gathered but a much better transfer rate once things are underway. Downloaded a 17MB Adobe upgrade in just a few minutes and I was putting this off with Starband as it would have taken waay to long and would have been interrupted several times. If you are rural and looking for an alternative to dialup, check out WildBlue.

Is this thing on???

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Wooo Hooo!!! We have internet at the farm now. The installers from Wild Blue just finished and OMFG, the service is much faster than Starband. Crisp and quick downloads. It is past dinnertime so am going to run into the local roadhouse and grab a burger and beer and come back and surf. I already have a nice wood fire going in the "DaveCave" so this should be a pleasant (and long!) evening...

More fun...

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Last few days we have been hit with a Pineapple Express resulting in major rainstorms and flooding. The guy (Joe) who was scheduled to install our dish yesterday (re-scheduled actually) was stymied by road closures. We are tentatively talking about Thursday but for now, I am using another computer in town. A local river (the Nooksack) crested yesterday at 16.12 feet. Flood stage is 12 feet and the record is 20. It has been an interesting several weeks...

Internet still down

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The installer was supposed to come out and get our satellite connection up and running last Friday between 8:00 and 4:00pm. Around 3:00pm I called WildBlue and got the number for the local installer. I called them and they said that they would have to postpone the installation as the installers car was broken down that day. It seems that although the truck was inoperable Friday that they have a service place that can guarantee its being on the road that next Monday. The fact that it was gusting up to 40 MPH and pouring down buckets didn't have anything to do with this. I wouldn't want to be standing on a ladder installing a dish in that weather either... Still, a heads-up telephone call would have been really nice... Spammers still knocking at the gates but not getting in today at least...

Back in Seattle

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Back in Seattle packing up my parent's house. My Dad is with us and we met with his minister yesterday to plan a memorial service later this year. We get Internet at the farm tomorrow -- looking forward to that! Had a bunch of spammers post -- a small loophole in my regex parsing algorithm but that will be fixed in a day or two.

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