January 2007 Archives

Last post for a while (probably)

Heading down to the Caribbean for three weeks on a sailboat with my wife and my Dad. He is beginning to get Vascular Dementia so this will probably be his last big trip and with his wife passing a few months ago, it is a good time to get the Hell out of Dodge for a while. I will probably log on at various internet caf�'s along our trip but the ship doesn't have internet access so this blog will be on hold until after St. Valentine's day. As I said before, photos will be posted when I get back...

Global Warming - but which globe?

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It's not just happening here folks, it's all over. I'm talking about Global Warming. Mars is coming out of an ice age:
Mars Emerging from Ice Age, Data Suggest
Scientists have suspected in recent years that Mars might be undergoing some sort of global warming. New data points to the possibility it is emerging from an ice age.

NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has been surveying the planet for nearly a full Martian year now, and it has spotted seasonal changes like the advance and retreat of polar ice. It's also gathering data of a possible longer trend.

There appears to be too much frozen water at low-latitude regions -- away from the frigid poles -- given the current climate of Mars. The situation is not in equilibrium, said William Feldman of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"One explanation could be that Mars is just coming out of an ice age," Feldman said. "In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated. In others, that process is slower and hasn't reached an equilibrium yet. Those areas are like the patches of snow you sometimes see persisting in protected spots long after the last snowfall of the winter."
Pluto seems to be warming up a bit:
Global Warming on Pluto Puzzles Scientists
In what is largely a reversal of an August announcement, astronomers today said Pluto is undergoing global warming in its thin atmosphere even as it moves farther from the Sun on its long, odd-shaped orbit.

Pluto's atmospheric pressure has tripled over the past 14 years, indicating a stark temperature rise, the researchers said. The change is likely a seasonal event, much as seasons on Earth change as the hemispheres alter their inclination to the Sun during the planet's annual orbit.

They suspect the average surface temperature increased about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or slightly less than 2 degrees Celsius.
And the storms on Jupiter are getting more violent:
New Storm on Jupiter Hints at Climate Change
A storm is brewing half a billion miles away and in a rare event, astronomers get to watch it closely.

Jupiter is growing a new red spot and the Hubble Space Telescope is photographing the scene. Backyard astronomers have been following the action, too.

"Red Spot Jr." as it is being called, formed after three white oval-shaped storms�two of which were at least 90 years old�merged between 1998 and 2000.

A similar merger took place centuries ago and formed the bigger and legendary Great Red Spot, a storm twice as big as Earth and almost 300 years old.
And the meat of the issue:
The latest images could provide evidence that Jupiter is in the midst of a global change that can modify temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on different parts of the globe.

The study was led jointly by Imke de Pater and Philip Marcus of University of California, Berkeley.

"The storm is growing in altitude," de Pater said. "Before when they were just ovals they didn't stick out above the clouds. Now they are rising."

This growth signals a temperature increase in that region, she said.
It's all those probes dammit! The Sun being a variable star has nothing to do with it, it's the damn alien probes getting through my Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie(TM).
Moonbattery has a nice post on the current backlash happening with the Global Warming doomsayers:
Global Warming Backpedaling
Global warming cultists have gotten so carried away with their Chicken Little rhetoric that they're going to have to start backpedaling if they expect people to take them seriously.

Even the hardly conservative Houston Chronicle observes that two of the events that helped win over the gullible � Katrina and last year's warm summer � hardly constitute proof of Al Gore's hysterical predictions. If global warming caused Katrina, where were all the hurricanes last year? Whose SUVs caused summers to be even hotter in the 1930s?

Inevitably, the hyperbolic hype is falling in on itself. As climate scientist Kevin Vranes of the University of Colorado puts it:
Some of us are wondering if we have created a monster.
Despite stern insistence by leftist fanatics that there is no debate, scientists who won't drink the Kool-Aid are raising their voices. Says Judith Curry, an atmospheric scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology:
I think the rank-and-file are becoming more outspoken, and you're hearing a broader spectrum of ideas.
A broad spectrum of ideas is the last thing Al Gore wants. He recently canceled an interview with Denmark's largest newspaper Jyllands-Posten, apparently because the paper would also publish the views of global warming skeptic Bjorn Lomborg.

Avoiding contradictory views is a priority for Gore, who is standing on thinner ice than any polar bear. His grand scheme to remake human civilization would make the average person 30% poorer by 2100, and cost $553 TRILLION over the next century. People might start to wonder if it's worth it, once they consider that Gore's threatened 20-foot rise in sea level is exaggerated by a factor of 20, that his tale of global warming causing malaria in Nairobi is simply a lie, that only 2% of Antarctica has actually gotten warmer over the last 35 years, that global warming would save 10 times more lives than it would end in the UK, and that the computer models they use to invent scary scenarios could just as easily prove that the world is turning into a lump of Velveeta.
I have no doubt that the Earth may well be warming (although last Fall and this Winter do not seem to agree) but the idea that #1) - humans are the cause and #2) - humans can reverse it and #3) - warming is a bad thing is hubris and downright dain-bramaged. Looking at history, there are cycles of warming and cooling and we seem to be at the end of a 400 year period of cooling. An increase of a few degrees will not kill us... Hat tip to the excellent Maggie's Farm for the link.

Theodore Dalrymple on Opiates

Theodore Dalrymple is the pseudonym for a Doctor who practices in London and has done a lot of work with the poor and prisoners. His observations on society are spot-on and a sobering read.

Here he is on the myths of the drug war. From The Australian:

Addicted to myths about opiates
Almost everything you think you know about heroin addiction is wrong, writes Theodore Dalrymple in his latest book

IT is not only those who take heroin who are blinded by illusions, but almost the entire population, including - or especially - the experts. Every problem in contemporary society calls forth its equal and supposedly opposite bureaucracy. The ostensible purpose of this bureaucracy is to solve that problem.

But the bureaucracy quickly develops a survival instinct and so no more wishes the problem to disappear altogether than the lion wishes to kill all the gazelle in the bush and leave itself with no food for the future.

In short, the bureaucracy of drug addiction needs drug addicts far more than drug addicts need the bureaucracy of drug addiction. Thanks to propaganda assiduously spread for many years by everyone who has concerned himself with the subject, there is now a standard or received view of heroin addiction that is almost universally accepted by the general public, by the addicts and by the bureaucracy.

This view serves the interests of the addicts who wish to continue their habit while placing the blame elsewhere, as well as the bureaucracy that wishes to continue in employment, preferably forever and at higher rates of pay.

This standard or received view conceives opiate addiction as an illness and therefore implies that there is a bona fide medical solution to it. When all the proposed "cures" fail to work, as they usually do, and when the extension of quasi-medical services to addicts is accompanied not by a decline in the prevalence of the problem but, on the contrary, by an increase, who can blame addicts if, in continuing their habit, they blame not themselves but the incompetence of those who have set themselves up as their medical saviours and offered them solutions that do not work?

But where bureaucracies are concerned, nothing succeeds like failure. For example, the budget of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse increased by 16.2 per cent between 2001 and 2002, which would be quite a creditable performance if it had been a purely commercial enterprise. In the period, $US126,394,000 was added to its budget, but it would be foolhardy to suggest that a single drug addict stopped, or will stop, taking drugs because of this extra funding.

Dalrymple goes on to demolish the current beliefs about drugs and offers this reason why addicts start:

The temptation to take opiates, and to continue to take them, arises from two main sources: first, man's eternal existential anxieties, to which there is no wholly satisfactory solution, at least for those who are not unself-consciously religious; and second, the particular predicament in which people find themselves.

The addict has a problem, but it is not a medical one: he does not know how to live. And on this subject the doctor has nothing, qua doctor, to offer. What he ought not do, however, is to mislead the addict, or allow the addict to mislead him, into thinking that the problem is medical and requires, or is susceptible to, a medical solution.

It's worth the ten minutes to read the whole thing. If you like Dalrymple's writing, City Journal publishes his essays online. Excellent writing and a keen sense of observation.

PETA on trial

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A nice reversal for the hypocritical harpies at PETA. From the Raleigh News Observer:
PETA foes salivate at cruelty trial
Animal-rights group employees charged in dumping of dead dogs, cats

WINTON - All around this struggling farm town, chicken houses stand in the fields as a testament to the way many here earn their living -- raising, slaughtering and processing chickens.

It is an unlikely locale for an unlikely criminal case. Today, two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a radical animal-rights group that opposes meat-eating, are on trial for the strangest of charges: killing animals.

PETA is based in Norfolk, Va., but its work has international scope. The group, which raises more than $25 million a year from 1.6 million supporters, opposes any human use of animals, whether for food, fashion or research. In the more than two decades since its founding, it has become a major threat to medical researchers, meatpackers, fur sellers and others.

Now, two of its employees stand accused of tossing garbage bags full of euthanized cats and dogs into a Dumpster behind a Piggly Wiggly in Hertford County, 130 miles northeast of Raleigh.

Adria J. Hinkle and Andrew B. Cook, both of whom work in PETA's Norfolk office, are charged with 21 counts each of animal cruelty, a felony that can carry prison time, along with littering and obtaining property by false pretenses.

It is a strange turn of events for PETA. The group's supporters have often been prosecuted for their radical efforts to protect animals -- breaking into fashion shows to throw blood on fur-wearing models, liberating lab animals, showing gory videos outside the circus -- but PETA has never been accused of hurting animals.

Those who oppose PETA are seizing on the trial. The spectacle also has drawn a gaggle of lawyers, PETA staffers, reporters and curious onlookers to this rural county seat, where the small brick courthouse resembles an aging elementary school.

They sat through two days of jury selection -- longer than for many murder trials -- during which lawyers struggled to find jurors who weren't close friends or business associates of any of the more than 60 witnesses.

Several potential jurors were thrown out after saying they had read about the case, gossiped about it at work or formed strong opinions about PETA. Defense attorneys threw out a handful of farmers and avid hunters but left three people on the jury who work for a Perdue slaughterhouse a few miles from Winton.

Now, jurors will decide whether Hinkle and Cook were, as PETA argues, providing humane deaths to animals that would otherwise have been painfully killed in gas chambers -- or whether, as several local officials say, they were taking animals on the promise of finding them homes and secretly killing them.
In 2005, Penn and Teller did one of their excellent Bullshit shows about PETA, looking through papers that showed they purchased a large walk-in freezer for one of their no-kill animal shelters. The only reason they could come up with was that this was for storing animal carcases prior to disposal.

Man's Best Friend

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From Newsday/AP:
Wash. Lawmaker: Bars Should Allow Dogs
Dogs could sidle up to their human companions downing their favorite microbrews in Washington state bars under legislation proposed by a Seattle Democrat.

Sen. Ken Jacobsen said he got the idea while at a downtown Olympia pub and saw dogs waiting outside in the cold and rain.

"There's all sorts of places you can bring animals now," said Jacobsen, who doesn't own a dog. "You can take dogs into hotels. My God, some people are carrying dogs in their purses. Why can't we have them in the bars?"

The bill would allow bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to welcome dogs, as long as they accompany their owners and remain leashed. Establishments wouldn't be required to allow dogs, except for service animals.
Back about 20 years ago, I had an all black German Shepherd named Photon who would curl up under the cigarette machine in a bar I used to frequent. The locals knew that she was there but nobody saw her unless they knew what to look for. Cute story: The place used to have hot dogs every Monday (called Roto Weenies after the carousel used to cook them). At the end of the evening, these dogs were shriveled and nasty and Mark the bartender would give them away for free. One evening, the patrons suggested that I give one to Photon. Photon promptly ate the bun, licked off all of the condiments and left the wiener. That dog had good taste -- I miss her a lot...

Leaving Home

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Heading out tomorrow for our trip. Our local mountain is putting on a wonderful show for us. This was shot while standing on our porch just a few minutes ago:
Looking forward to the trip but already feeling homesick...

Comments and Trackbacks turned off for now

Because of my upcoming trip (and because of a recent major spam attack this morning) I'm shutting down the Comments and Trackbacks for three weeks. We head out tomorrow. The housesitters came today so they are getting acquainted with the critters (they have done this for us before) and we are packing furiously. Looking forward to the time away... I'll be taking several cameras so lots of (incriminating) photos will be posted on my return.

Domain Name Registration

Oops... From Yahoo News/Reuters:
Unpaid fee closes state debt groups' Web site
An association of debt management offices, who together manage billions of dollars of government debt, has had its Web site closed after it failed to pay the $35-a-year fee to keep the Web address registered.

The World Association of Debt Management Offices (Wadmo), a forum for treasury officials from more than 40 developing countries, ran the wadmo.net Web site, but the domain name expired on January 15.

Cecilia Mendoza, of the Wadmo secretariat in the Philippines Treasury, said Wadmo planned to renew the address but had been held up because it was cutting ties with the UN's UNCTAD agency, and transferring the body's duties to different officials.

"It's because we couldn't even withdraw money, because the (new) signatories are not yet authorized," Mendoza told Reuters by telephone from Manila.

Domain Bank, the domain name registrar, charges just $35 a year to register a ".net" internet address, or $250 a decade.

Wadmo's members span Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America, and include state debt management offices in Russia, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Romania, according to a cached version of Wadmo's Web site.
Couldn't their IT person have taken $35 out of their own pockets and been reimbursed for it? "new signatories are not yet authorized" -- spoken like a true ineffective bureaucrat. No wonder -- they were a part of the United Nations.

Curious bedfellows

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From The Belmont Club:
Test what?
"A senior European defence official told The Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October's underground test to assist Teheran's preparations to conduct its own � possibly by the end of this year."
Under the terms of a new understanding between the two countries, the North Koreans have agreed to share all the data and information they received from their successful test last October with Teheran's nuclear scientists. ... There were unconfirmed reports at the time of the Korean firing that an Iranian team was present. Iranian military advisers regularly visit North Korea to participate in missile tests.
The disclosure of the nuclear co-operation between North Korea and Iran comes as Teheran seems set on a collision course with the West over its nuclear programme, although it insists it is entirely peaceful.
One of the most valuable skills in diplomacy is never to let the facts get in the way of a good policy. Maliki is our man in Baghdad. America should seek engagement with Iran and Syria because they only want stability in Iraq. Pakistan is our friend. Yasser Arafat was our partner for peace and he never ordered the murder of an American ambassador. Teheran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful. In each case reality is subordinated to the overarching and luminous vision. And oh, this skill at diplomatic doublethink is called realism.
And the United Nations lets this sort of crap fly by with a 'strong admonition" if anything at all...

Fun at the Farm

We are putting up a building for the Hard Cider and Mead business and the foundation walls were poured today. The concrete guy thought that a pump truck would be the way to go and it certainly made things a piece of cake. The level of engineering on this truck is amazing, not only does it do an excellent job of pumping, there is a place for everything, the control system is very ergonomic and well thought out and the overall design is stellar. Here are a few pics:


Just under 20 yards of mud -- the building is an engineered metal structure (A Quonset Hut) about 25 by 40 feet and will hold our cider press, the fermentation tanks, the kegging and bottling equipment and our yeast lab. Looking forward to getting up and running this spring. A lot of local people have tried our test batches and like them so the local interest is high...

A matter of a few paintings

Odd story about an art heist and the fencing of some of the pieces.

From the SF Gate:

Perfect heist falls apart when loot is offered to the victim of burglary
It looked like the perfect crime.

Starting on Christmas Eve, a ring of thieves -- mistaken by neighbors as a moving crew -- removed $2.5 million in art, antiques and rugs from a Jackson Street mansion in San Francisco's Presidio Heights, taking two truckloads of loot without being detected.

It took months of planning to execute but afterward just days to become a perfect mess -- when one of the burglars decided to try to sell back some of the loot to the victim, who happened to be an heir to the Schlage lock company, one of the biggest makers of locks and security systems in the country.

The man who police say boasted of being the brains behind the caper, James Reem, 42, was arrested Jan. 12 and is in custody on $100,000 bail on grand theft charges.

"This was a not a simple burglary of opportunity -- this is basically a heist," said San Francisco burglary inspector Denise Fabbri, who described Reem as a longtime criminal and drug addict who recently relapsed after being sober for five years. "He almost bragged that he organized it, but he basically lost control."

Reem told investigators he got the idea for a big hit at the Jackson Street mansion after committing a smaller burglary there in September in which he got away with small furniture, candlesticks, jewelry, figurines and other valuables worth about $100,000.

He soon learned that his once and future victim was Robert Kendrick, grandson of the co-founder of Schlage lock, said Fabbri, and then went about assembling a burglary team, one by one, each member known to Reem but not the others.

And then things start to get loopy:

On Dec. 27, a member of the ring -- a man police don't want to name pending further investigation -- inexplicably went back to the Kendrick mansion and knocked on the front door, Fabbri said.

"He said he had been to the flea market, and he saw property there that doesn't belong in a flea market,'' Kendrick said, recalling his astonishment. "He said he traced it from what he saw to where I lived."

Kendrick said the man offered to go back to the flea market, on Alemany Boulevard, and retrieve the stolen property. Indeed, he came back an hour later with some coins and a Kendrick family book of etchings, said Kendrick.

But when he returned, a second individual, who turned out to be Reem, was with him and started lecturing Kendrick about how poorly he had secured his home, said Kendrick.

"He said: 'You don't take proper care of your property,' " Kendrick said. "They gave me my (ex-) wife's etchings and a bottle of wine, Pinot Grigio."

Kendrick said he called police and told them he planned to do a bit of investigating of his own by visiting the same flea market that Sunday.

When he did, Kendrick said, he ran into Reem and saw a U-Haul truck -- the same kind his neighbors had said they had seen during the Christmas burglary -- parked in one of the flea market sales stalls.

"One of them said 'Hello Robert' when I walked by -- it was Reem," Kendrick said.

Kendrick said he saw a tire and speakers in the back of the U-Haul that he thought could be his. But the two still chatted amiably, he said.

An hour later, after walking around the market, Kendrick peered back into the truck, saw an electric blanket that had come from his home -- and called police, he said.

The only thing that comes to mind is WTF??? Reem had a fence lined up, why re-introduce himself (and his team) to the victim. Filed under: 'Stupid Criminal'

A modest shopping spree

Meet Ms. Angela Buckborough Platt -- formerly a bookkeeper for J&J Materials Corp. From ABC News/AP:

Worker Bought Talking Trees, Charges Say
Bookkeeper Charged With Stealing $6.9 Million Bought Real Estate, Talking Trees, Feds Say

A bookkeeper for a construction materials company embezzled $6.9 million and used the money to go on a shopping spree that included a 104-acre ranch and a half-dozen talking trees like those in "The Wizard of Oz," federal authorities said Monday.

Prosecutors say Angela Buckborough Platt also bought eight show horses; a fleet of motor vehicles including a 1964 Ford Thunderbird; a house on five acres in Rhode Island; Hollywood-grade cinematic props to decorate her home for Halloween; and a life-size ceramic statue of Al Capone.

Samantha Martin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said that when friends or relatives asked Platt about her wealth, she told them that she was the CEO of a corporation or that she and her husband had won the lottery.

Platt, 43, of Wyoming, Pa., was charged Monday with one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. She has agreed to plead guilty in a deal subject to court approval, Martin said.

Platt bought six of the talking trees, which were Hollywood-grade cinematic props, for $3,000 each to decorate her home for Halloween, the U.S. attorney's office said. She also splurged on a 20-foot-tall smoke-emitting dragon called "The Slayer," which sported hydraulically powered wings and a "booming dragon roar," authorities said.

Platt, formerly of Cumberland, R.I., worked as a staff accountant for J&J Materials Corp. in Rehoboth from 1999 to 2006.

Authorities say that in June 2000, Platt began to write checks from company accounts to herself. The weekly deposits initially ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 but eventually neared $50,000, prosecutors said.

Her theft was discovered in June by another bookkeeper who had been newly hired to assist her.

I'm surprised to see that the company was able to take a $6.9Mil hit over six years without anyone getting suspicious. If construction materials are that lucrative, I am in the wrong business!

The workers paradise of Venezuela

Nice guy -- Hugo Chavez calls the US names and then says that it will not pay Verizon the full market price for it's investment in Venezuela's telephone system when it gets "nationalized".

From Forbes:

Chavez Roars, Verizon Snores
It was far from unprecedented. On Sunday, fiery Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told U.S. officials to "go to hell." Literally.

Figuratively speaking, he said the same thing to Verizon Communications when he announced Sunday that his government will not pay market price when it nationalizes CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, of which Verizon owns 28.5%.

"I'll pay when the law dictates and in the form the government decides," Chavez said.

"I'm going to tell them that CANTV was given away, and that they shouldn't come here saying it must be paid for at the international price."

Meanwhile in the United States of America:

Yet in a recent note, Richard Klugman, an analyst for Prudential Equity Group, said "the impact on Verizon should be minimal." Indeed, the New York -based telecommunications company posted profits of more than $7 billion in 2005.

And let's take a look at how the rest of the Venezuelan economy is doing with all the nationalization going on:

Venezuelan Stocks Fall On Chavez's Nationalization Efforts
Newly re-elected Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's plans to nationalize major industries such as power and telecommunications hit the market as expected on Tuesday, as shares of AES and C.A. Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela (CANTV) fell precipitately in afternoon trading.

Since his election in 1998, Chavez has striven to transform his home country into a socialist republic. Over the past eight years, the fiery Venezuelan leader has changed the nation's laws, established cooperatives with state funds and begun a substantial land reform program in an effort to help poor farmers.

In the process, however, his critics have accused him of autocratically consolidating power and pushing his nation headfirst towards a state-controlled economy.

The latter is something the president and his supporters proudly admit.

"We're heading towards socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it," said Chavez in announcing his plans for nationalization on Monday. "The nation should recover its ownership of strategic sectors."

Some numbers excerpted from the article:

That didn't sit well with investors as shares of CANTV plunged $4.34, or roughly 26%, to $12.50 in afternoon trading.

Electricidad de Caracas... ... In afternoon trading, shares of AES fell 88 cents, or 4.2%, to $20.14.

A true workers paradise indeed...

Offline for a few weeks - heads up...

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I will be mostly offline for three weeks beginning this Thursday evening and ending on the feast of St. Valentine (February 14th)

Comments and trackbacks will be disabled as I will be away from good internet access for most of that time.

After my Mom passed away, my Dad came up with the idea of doing a nice trip somewhere -- we will be spending this time in the Caribbean on board a sailboat.

Warm salt air, sunshine and getting the hell out of Dodge for a while. We have people to housesit and take care of the critters so they are in great hands. I'll be posting a bit between now and then but thought I'd give a heads up...

I had written back in 2004 and 2005 about how Consumer Reports gave a very negative review to the (supposed) high-end Ionic Breeze air cleaner from Sharper Image and how it failed some very basic tests for cleaning. Posts here, here and here. Consumer Reports ran the test several times including one with an "improved" unit and it failed every time. Sharper Image did not like this so they sued Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports won the lawsuit with Sharper Image having to pay about $400,000 in C.R.'s legal fees. Well, it seems that the general public is weighing in as well too. From CBS News/AP:
Sharper Image Settles Air Purifier Suit
High-Tech Store Will Discount For Allegedly Misleading Air Purifier Claims

Sharper Image Corp. has agreed to discount its high-tech gadgets by more than $60 million and make several other concessions to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the specialty retailer misled customers about the effectiveness of its air purifiers.

Questions about the purifiers helped lead to a sales slide and the arrival of a new management team that is now trying to salvage the 194-store chain.

Because the vouchers require a purchase, the settlement could actually help Sharper Image spur more sales � an elusive goal during the last two years.

Under the proposed settlement disclosed Friday in a regulatory filing, Sharper Image will offer $19 merchandise credits to each of the roughly 3.2 million consumers who have bought one of its "Ionic Breeze" purifiers since May 6, 1999.

The ultimate cost of the settlement will hinge on how many of the eligible customers redeem the merchandise vouchers, Sharper Image said in Securities and Exchange Commission documents.
And a bit more:
Besides the discounts, Sharper Image agreed to tone down its advertising claims about the power of the Ionic Breeze and pay up to $1.87 million in fees to the lawyers who filed the suit on behalf of Manual Figueroa.

Figueroa said he paid several hundred dollars for an Ionic Breeze to help remove dust, pollen and other nettlesome particles from the air, only to discover the device did not work as advertised.
And one last excerpt:
After suffering its first loss in 15 years in 2005, Sharper Image's troubles deepened in 2006 as its sales plummeted by 21 percent during the first 11 months of the fiscal year.

The slide resulted in the September ouster of Richard Thalheimer, Sharper Image's founder and longtime chief executive. A new management team is led by turnaround specialist Jerry Levin.

Sharper Image's slide began when sales of its once-popular Ionic Breeze started to crumble after Consumer Reports derided the products as ineffective.
And if they had owned up to the Ionic Breeze not doing its job, they could have weathered the bad review and come out ahead. Instead, they ramped up the advertising and nearly sunk the company.

Global Warming overstated? O RLY

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From the Houston Chronicle:
Climate scientists feeling the heat
As public debate deals in absolutes, some experts fear predictions 'have created a monster'

Scientists long have issued the warnings: The modern world's appetite for cars, air conditioning and cheap, fossil-fuel energy spews billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, unnaturally warming the world.

Yet, it took the dramatic images of a hurricane overtaking New Orleans and searing heat last summer to finally trigger widespread public concern on the issue of global warming.

Climate scientists might be expected to bask in the spotlight after their decades of toil. The general public now cares about greenhouse gases, and with a new Democratic-led Congress, federal action on climate change may be at hand.

Problem is, global warming may not have caused Hurricane Katrina, and last summer's heat waves were equaled and, in many cases, surpassed by heat in the 1930s.

In their efforts to capture the public's attention, then, have climate scientists oversold global warming? It's probably not a majority view, but a few climate scientists are beginning to question whether some dire predictions push the science too far.

"Some of us are wondering if we have created a monster," says Kevin Vranes, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado.

Vranes, who is not considered a global warming skeptic by his peers, came to this conclusion after attending an American Geophysical Union meeting last month. Vranes says he detected "tension" among scientists, notably because projections of the future climate carry uncertainties � a point that hasn't been fully communicated to the public.
The articles then go on to talk about the Climate Models, their uncertainty, and how there is a monolithic "OMFG -- we are all gonna die!!!" sort of hysteria being presented to the general public.

Happy go Latte

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Espresso stands are going to new heights (or depths) to sell more coffee. From the Seattle Times:
Some coffee stands get steamier
In a short, sheer, baby-doll negligee and coordinated pink panties, Candice Law is dressed to work at a drive-through espresso stand in Tukwila, and she is working it.

Customers pull their trucks up to the window, where Law greets each with an affectionate nickname, blows kisses, and vamps about as she steams milk for a mocha. "You want whipped cream?" she asks, a sly smile playing on her pierced lip.

The next customer rolls up, and Law throws a long leg onto the window sill, like an indie-rock ballerina at the barre.

"Do you like my leg warmers?" she asks. "Aren't they hot?"

Hot is not the half of it. To stand apart from the hordes of drive-through espresso stands that clutter the Northwest's roadsides, commuter coffee stops such as Tukwila's Cowgirls Espresso are adding bodacious baristas, flirty service and ever more-revealing outfits to the menu.

At Port Orchard's Natt� Latt�, baristas sport hot-pink hot pants and tight white tank tops. Day-of-the-week theme outfits ranging from racy lingerie to "fetish" ensembles are the dress code at Moka Girls Espresso in Auburn and at several Cowgirls Espresso stands in the area. Bikini tops are the special at Caf� Lorraine on Highway 9 in Woodinville, and the women of The Sweet Spot in Shoreline pose provocatively in Playmate-style profiles on the stand's Web site.

"In this area, we all know how to make good coffee," said Barbara Record, who opened Bikini Espresso in Renton last month. The trick is to set your business apart, she said, and sex is one sure-fire way to do that.
Gives a new meaning to "eye opener"

Meet Mr. Popularity

From the Telegraph:

Entire village suspected of mayor's murder
Miguel Grima was not a well-liked man. As mayor of a tiny hamlet in the foothills of the Pyrenees in northern Spain he had ruffled a few feathers.

The farmers turned against him when he put a stop to the centuries-old custom of herding livestock through village.

The hunters got annoyed when he refused to issue them with shooting licences and the local drinkers revolted after he prevented the settlement's only bar from setting out tables on the terrace in summer.

He had repeatedly received anonymous threatening letters and reportedly told friends recently that he feared for his life and he was considering standing down as mayor of Fago at the next election.

So last Friday evening when he failed to return home from a late council meeting in a nearby town, his wife took his absence seriously and contacted police.

The next day the battered body of Mr Grima was discovered in a roadside ditch. He had been shot at least four times in the head and chest at point-blank range.

Police believe Mr Grima was the victim of a meticulously planned ambush involving at least three perpetrators and, in a move worthy of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, the police are considering the entire population of the village as suspects.

Fago, the second smallest village in the province of Aragon, comprises fewer than 90 stone-built residences tightly packed on cobbled streets around a 16th century Romanesque church, a stone's throw from the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

Always quiet in the winter months, the place resembles a ghost town as this week the majority of the 37 permanent residents have been taken in for questioning by the police and have had to give DNA samples.

Those who own property for use as a weekend getaway or holiday home are also being sought. Although no official statement has yet been given, the Guardia Civil have indicated that they strongly believe those responsible for the murder of the 50-year-old mayor bore a grudge over his policies in the village.

There is no shortage of contenders. During his 12 years in office, the mayor, a member of the conservative Popular Party and the owner of the village's only guest house, had been involved in almost four dozen individual court cases with homeowners in Fago.

He had taken out injunctions to prevent people making home improvements and closed down a bed and breakfast because it competed for business with his own establishment.

Mr Grima had even incurred the wrath of the parents of the only two children living in the village by banning basketballs and shooting hoops in the village's only flat area - the central plaza.

The most public battle in recent times came about after the mayor imposed taxes of almost 400 euros a month on outdoor tables at Fago's only drinking establishment - the Casa Moriega bar - an amount locals consider high for an isolated village which attracts only a modest number of visitors in summer.

To protest against the prohibitively high tax, the owners of the bar hung a huge banner on the facade of the building stating: "Fago is not Madrid, not Paris, not London... Fago is not New York."

Santiago Miramar, the only villager who would comment on this week's events, said there were few in Fago who didn't consider themselves an enemy of the mayor.

"He was an unpleasant man who ran this place like his personal kingdom. He made life difficult for most of us but for a select few he made life impossible," he said.

Another villager, who refused to be named because he had been told by a judge that no one was to speak publicly while they were under suspicion, said: "Revenge is a dish best served cold. I'm not saying anything more than that."


Spider Silk

Very cool -- one of the more interesting substances out there is spider web silk. Much stronger than steel, it promises to be useful in a lot of applications. The problem is that until now, it has defied synthesis.

From Extreme Tech:

MIT Labs Moves Ahead In Synthesizing Spider Silk
Polymeric nanocomposites, synthetic substances that are both strong and stretchy, like organic spider silk, have baffled scientists looking to replicate their unique properties. On Friday, a team from MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) announced they had devised a new way to create such Lycra-like materials in a lab.

Scientists have previously suggested that a mere pencil-thick strand of silk could actually stop a Boeing 747 in mid flight. The naturally occurring substance�on a weight basis�is stronger than even steel.

As early as 1996, DuPont started an advertising campaign in Scientific American about how they were studying the biopolymer structures of the spider webs. Yet more than 10 years later, fabricating these types of artificial silk-like substances in a lab has proven difficult for engineers.

There has been progress in creating materials that fulfill either the stretchy or strength quota, but never both at the same time, according to the MIT team responsible for new discovery.

"If you look closely at the structure of spider silk, it is filled with a lot of very small crystals," said Gareth McKinley, a professor of mechanical engineering and part of the group that devised the new method of producing the material.

"It's highly reinforced."

The secret of spider silk's combined strength and flexibility, according to scientists, has to do with the arrangement of the nano-crystalline reinforcement of the silk as it is being produced�in other words, the way these tiny crystals are oriented towards (and adhere to) the stretchy protein.

Emulating this process in a synthetic polymer, the MIT team focused on reinforcing solutions of commercial rubbery substance known as polyurethane elastomer with nano-sized clay platelets instead of simply heating the mixing the molten plastics with reinforcing agents.

According to McKinley, the process yields a nanocomposite that is randomly reinforced with these nano clay discs, making it very strong, yet also stretchy.

As with all things having to do with thin reinforced materials, the U.S. military has been closely monitoring MIT's progress. In fact, the research was funded by the U.S. Army. But interest in the new material doesn't stop there. Clothing and fabric companies could also benefit from the discovery as well as medical companies who make stents and other biomedical devices.

The corresponding research behind MIT's discovery appears in the January issue of Nature Materials.

The abstract for the paper is here: High-performance elastomeric nanocomposites via solvent-exchange processing

The US Government is subsidizing the production of ethanol from corn and this is causing a spike in the prices. Two articles show some of the unintended consequences: High price of corn affecting diary operations:
Walloped by high corn prices
Energy from corn a must to maintain milk production

Dairy farmers are staggering under significantly higher corn prices and wondering how they're going to adjust to the sea change fueled by ever-increasing demand for corn for ethanol production.

Elma, Wash., dairy farmer Jay Gordon, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, said dairy farmers have just started to feel the punch of the higher prices, primarily because their corn contracts have only recently begun elapsing.

Industry experts across the nation warn that this ravenous appetite for corn is not a passing trend, but rather a permanent fixture in the industry as food acreage is converted into fuel acreage.

During a recent national potato conference, John Petty of Wisconsin Agri-Services predicted that corn could stay in the range of $4 to $4.50 or even higher this year.

Of course, most dairy farmers knew corn prices would go up based on the number of ethanol plants in operation and under construction.

"But I don't think any of us expected this to happen so fast," Gordon said. "I'm hearing from a lot of producers that their corn costs are rising by 30 percent. We're all struggling with this."
The price of corn causing a lower demand for beef cattle:
Corn demand depresses cattle prices
More new ethanol plants on the horizon

The rising demand for corn is driving beef cattle prices down.

That's what Lyle Holmgren, University of Utah extension specialist, told beef producers at the recent University of Idaho Beef School in Chubbuck.

"The increased demand for corn in making ethanol is impacting prices significantly," he said. "Last year at this time, corn was selling for about $5 per hundredweight. This year it's at least $7 per hundredweight. Corn producers are loving every minute of it, but it's not so good for the cattle folks."

The reason for the increased demand is that the 110 ethanol plants in this country are producing 5.3 billion gallons of ethanol. The majority of the plants are in the Midwest.

"There are another 81 plants planned or under construction right now," Holmgren said. "With the planned expansions, that capacity will double. That's how fast this is moving. The bottom line is we can expect corn prices to remain strong and to impact anyone feeding corn."

Holmgren said he expects many more acres to go into corn in 2007. However, the increased demand for corn will probably outstrip the increased production.

Feedlots are already paying lower prices for 400- to 500-pound feeder steers because it will cost more to feed them up to sale weight.

"Prices in Utah were $1.49 per pound in early 2006," Holmgren said. "Prices now are at about $1.15. Prices for finished cattle are down, too."

The price was $93.50 per hundredweight for finished steers a few months ago. The latest price is about $84.50 per hundredweight.

This is coming at a time when many producers were rebuilding their herds because of recent strong beef prices.
But of course, with every push, there is an equal and opposite push-back:
Coalition to fight biofuel subsidies
Groups include oil, meat, dairy, nutrition advocates

Oil companies, meat and dairy groups and nutrition advocates are likely to form a coalition to oppose higher renewable-fuel mandates and tax breaks for alternative energy in the farm bill, said Charles Stenholm, a lobbyist and former House Agriculture Committee member.

Stenholm said the coalition would support research, particularly on cellulosic ethanol, but in other aspects of alternative energy urge Congress to "be careful about the way the government subsidizes it" and "let the market be the determinant as much as is humanly possible."

Stenholm, who is a senior government affairs adviser at the Olsson, Frank and Weeda law firm, said he has been hired by the American Petroleum Institute to protect its interests in the renewable-energy debate and that his clients also include the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Pork Producers Council and the Livestock Marketing Association.

Oil companies have long argued that government intervention favorable to renewable fuels is unfair. Stenholm said meat and dairy groups are concerned that increased use of corn for ethanol is leading to higher feed prices while nutrition advocates are concerned that food prices may rise, making it harder for poor people to afford food. As a veteran of farm bill debates in Congress, Stenholm said, "Until you get the nutrition community behind your overall (bill), you can't pass it."

Agriculture Department Chief Economist Keith Collins said at a Farm Bureau session Sunday that the use of ethanol has so far not increased food costs because producers and processors have made their decisions based on past years' supply and demand, but that the demand for corn for ethanol could increase food costs in future years.

Nice sendup of John F. Kerry

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Jonah Goldberg does a wonderful sendup of John "Lurch" Kerry:
Kerry Prankster
Disliking Brahmin Lurch isn�t just for right-wingers anymore. It�s as American as apple pie.

This is the new era of bipartisanship. I know this because I hear it on TV all the time, so it�s got to be true. Therefore, I call on all patriotic Americans to seize this golden opportunity for real change by speaking with one clear voice to Washington.

Don�t let John Kerry run again.

Yes, yes, it�s true: I am biased. I have never been kind to the Brahmin Lurch. After his �botched� joke suggesting that American troops are uneducated losers, I wrote that Kerry �is an awful politician, a human toothache with the charisma of a 19th-century Oxford Latin tutor.� In response, countless readers wrote in to complain that I�d been unfair to Latin tutors.

But balancing out my personal animosity is my professional self-interest. As a conservative columnist, there is nothing I should want more than to see Kerry whack his forehead against the concrete wall of history one more time. Why? Because attacking Kerry is always good copy. And, if my North Star were the GOP�s good fortune, I would light a candle every night at my Lee Atwater shrine in prayer that the Kerry baloney leap once more into the grinder.

After all, he�s the most beatable of Democrats. His political instincts are duller than a prison-cafeteria spork. And never in my lifetime have we seen a presidential candidate with a more thumbless grasp of the way average Americans talk or live.

Which brings me to the really salient point: Disliking John Kerry isn�t just for right-wingers anymore. It�s as American as apple pie.

Despite enormous name recognition; despite the kind of sympathetic coverage that only alleged victims of the �Republican attack machine� get; despite constant efforts to stay in the news, a stockpile of cash from his wife, and his last campaign; and despite enormously impressive hair; he is near the bottom in all the important rankings of serious candidates.

And when I say near the bottom, I mean if he claws his way up a bit, he�ll be at the bottom.
And Jonah is just starting to warm up... Heh...
It seems that the Weather Channel is showing a bit of bias. From the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:
AMS Certified Weatherman strikes back at Weather Channel call for decertification
Well, well. Some �climate expert� on �The Weather Channel� wants to take away AMS certification from those of us who believe the recent �global warming� is a natural process. So much for �tolerance�, huh?

I have been in operational meteorology since 1978, and I know dozens and dozens of broadcast meteorologists all over the country. Our big job: look at a large volume of raw data and come up with a public weather forecast for the next seven days. I do not know of a single TV meteorologist who buys into the man-made global warming hype. I know there must be a few out there, but I can�t find them. Here are the basic facts you need to know:
*Billions of dollars of grant money is flowing into the pockets of those on the man-made global warming bandwagon. No man-made global warming, the money dries up. This is big money, make no mistake about it. Always follow the money trail and it tells a story. Even the lady at �The Weather Channel� probably gets paid good money for a prime time show on climate change. No man-made global warming, no show, and no salary. Nothing wrong with making money at all, but when money becomes the motivation for a scientific conclusion, then we have a problem. For many, global warming is a big cash grab.

*The climate of this planet has been changing since God put the planet here. It will always change, and the warming in the last 10 years is not much difference than the warming we saw in the 1930s and other decades. And, lets not forget we are at the end of the ice age in which ice covered most of North America and Northern Europe.

If you don�t like to listen to me, find another meteorologist with no tie to grant money for research on the subject. I would not listen to anyone that is a politician, a journalist, or someone in science who is generating revenue from this issue.

In fact, I encourage you to listen to WeatherBrains episode number 12, featuring Alabama State Climatologist John Christy, and WeatherBrains episode number 17, featuring Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University, one of the most brilliant minds in our science.

WeatherBrains, by the way, is our weekly 30 minute netcast.

I have nothing against �The Weather Channel�, but they have crossed the line into a political and cultural region where I simply won�t go.
The WeatherBrains podcast site is here: WeatherBrains

Next time someone says Duck!

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From the Raleigh WRAL website:
Shot Duck Survives 2 Days in Florida Fridge
Neither gunfire nor two days in a refrigerator could slay this duck.

When the wife of the hunter who shot it opened the refrigerator door, the duck lifted its head, giving her a scare.

The man's wife "was going to check on the refrigerator because it hadn't been working right and when she opened the door, it looked up at her," said Laina Whipple, a receptionist at Killearn Animal Hospital. "She freaked out and told the daughter to take it to the hospital right then and there."

The 1-pound female ring-neck ended up at Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, where it has been treated since Tuesday for wounds to its wing and leg.

Sanctuary veterinarian David Hale said it has about a 75 percent chance of survival, but probably won't ever be well enough to be released back into the wild.

He said the duck, which has a low metabolism, could have survived in a big enough refrigerator, especially if the door was opened and closed several times. And he said he understands how the hunter thought the duck was dead.

"This duck is very passive," Hale said. "It's not like trying to pick up a Muscovy at Lake Ella, where you put your life in your hands."
One of our Ducks was attacked by a neighbors dog and is fine now but when I came across the dog with the duck in his mouth, the duck was totally limp and remained so for some time after. Finding a live duck in the fridge would give me quite the start for sure!

Tears of Joy

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Seems that human tears are not just neutral saline. From PhysOrg:
Tears reveal some of their deepest secrets to researchers
It's no secret why we shed tears. But exactly what our tears are made of has remained a mystery to scientists.

A new study sheds some light on the complex design of tears. What we think of as tears, scientists call tear film, which is made up of three distinct, microscopic layers. The middle, watery layer � what we normally think of as tears when we cry � is sandwiched between a layer of mucus and an outer layer of fatty, oily substances collectively called meibum.

It's in this outer layer that researchers describe, for the first time, a new class of lipids � a type of fat � that make up part of the film. They also identified one of these lipids, oleamide, which had not been known to be a part of tears before.

With each blink, meibum spreads over the surface of the eye. It keeps the watery middle layer in place, ensuring that our eyes stay moist.

Finding these lipids may help scientists better understand the causes of eye-related disorders such as dry eye disease, which affects anywhere from 12 to 14 million Americans, said Kelly Nichols, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of optometry at Ohio State University.

"The lack of certain compounds in the tear film may result in a number of different eye-related disorders, including dry eye," she said. "The amount of oleamide and related lipids in tear film may be related to these disorders."

Dry eye is really a collection of irritating symptoms that includes microscopic damage to the front of the eye. The eyes may ache, burn, feel extremely dry or excessively tear.

The researchers report their findings in the current issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.
The Journal abstract is here: Identification of Fatty Acids and Fatty Acid Amides in Human Meibomian Gland Secretions Very cool -- just when we think we "know everything", something as simple as a teardrop reveals itself to be something elegant and complex.

Move over H5N1

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This makes Bird Flu look like a springtime walk in the meadow. From The Guardian:
Bacteria tests reveal how MRSA strain can kill in 24 hours
Scientists have unravelled the workings of a deadly superbug that attacks healthy young people and can kill within 24 hours.

PVL-producing MRSA, a highly-virulent strain of the drug-resistant superbug, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, has spread around the world and caused deaths in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia. PVL or panton-valentine leukocidin toxin destroys white blood cells and usually causes boils and other skin complaints. But if it infects open wounds it can cause necrotising pneumonia, a disease that rapidly destroys lung tissue and is lethal in 75% of cases.

Thousands of infections have been recorded across the US, but scientists believe the number is likely to rise in Britain.

In 2004 the bug claimed the life of Richard Campbell-Smith, a fit 18-year-old Royal Marine, who died three days after scratching his legs on gorse during a training exercise in Devon. In December an outbreak at Norfolk and Norwich University hospital killed a baby and infected five others. According to the Health Protection Agency there were 106 cases of PVL-MRSA in England and Wales in 2005 and one confirmed death from necrotising pneumonia caused by the infection.

Scientists at the University of Texas in Houston and Lyon University in France conducted experiments into PVL to work out why it was so lethal. They took two batches of normal staphylococcus aureus bacteria and modified one of them to produce the PVL toxin.

The researchers exposed mice to the different groups of bacteria, to see if they developed lung infections. Animals that inhaled the normal staphylococcus were unaffected, but those that inhaled the PVL-producing staphylococcus quickly developed necrotising pneumonia, with some dying within 48 hours. Further tests on the PVL-producing bacteria showed they also produced higher levels of proteins that caused massive inflammation and made the bacteria more "sticky", helping microbes cling to people's skin and making it more easy to spread.
Needs early diagnosis that someone thinking "it's just an infection" might ignore. So far it seems to not be that prevalent but no telling what might happen. We had a recent case of Necrotizing Fascitis in a young boy from the Bellingham area -- he is recovering nicely but will need a lot of plastic surgery before this is all over.

Gimme a break!

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I can see not wanting to move from a house that you love but this is a bit ridiculous. From the SF Gate:
Divorcing Couple's House Divided by Wall
Like two Cold War adversaries, Chana and Simon Taub are separated by a wall � one that was built straight down the middle of their home to keep the bickering spouses apart.

Neither one wanted to move out of their beloved Brooklyn house, and so, in one of the strangest divorce battles the city has ever seen, a white drywall partition was erected a few weeks ago on orders from a judge.

The divorce case, which has been staggering through the courts for nearly two years, has been dubbed Brooklyn's "War of the Roses," after the 1989 movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as a battling couple.

Aside from the wall, the Taub version of the story has some other farcical elements: Chana says her husband of more than 20 years has bugged her phones. Simon says his wife owns too many shoes.

It's not as if the Taubs have no place else to go. For one thing, they own a place two doors down. But for reasons that include stubbornness, spite and their love of the home, both insist on staying in this particular house in Borough Park, a heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

"It's my house. And emotionally, in my age, I want to be in my house!" says Simon, 57, who was the one who requested the wall. He calls his wife a gold-digger.

Chana, 57, who claims her husband abused her, says she has as much right to stay as he does, if not more. "I need a house to live in and money to live on!" she says. "I worked very hard, like a horse, like a slave for him."

In New York City, it is not unusual for couples to fight over a house or refuse to move out during divorce proceedings. Judges sometimes ask couples to set boundaries, such as letting a spouse have access to the study during a certain part of the day.

But an actual wall? That's a new one, says Barry Berkman, a New York divorce lawyer.

The wall separates the living room from the staircase on the bottom floor of the Taubs' richly decorated, wood-paneled home, a three-story brown-brick rowhouse whose market value has been put at $923,000 by the city.

She gets the top floor, where the bedrooms are situated, along with the kitchen on the second floor. He gets the living room on the first floor and the dining room on the second floor. So that they don't run into each other on the second floor, the door between the dining room and the kitchen is barricaded on both sides.

One of the couple's children is staying with Dad; three others are staying with Mom.

Chana says that for two decades she served Simon like a virtual slave, putting up with physical and mental abuse that grew more severe over the years. She says she had to flush the toilet after him, and put on his socks and shoes for him. He became so violent by mid-2005 that she filed for divorce, she says.

Simon denies ever laying a hand on Chana, and says he gave her a luxurious lifestyle. But he says his sweater manufacturing company went bankrupt in the late 1990s, and he suffered a second heart attack in 2005 that only worsened their financial problems. He says she wants a divorce to squeeze what money he has left.

Chana says she doesn't want much from her husband, mainly just alimony, child support and a fair share of property.

In August 2005, a judge said Simon, whom Chana had forced out of the house, could move back in after building a wall. Chana appealed. An appeals court eventually allowed the wall, calling it a novel concept. The wall went up in December, and Simon moved back in.

At one point during the transition, someone said Chana had 300 pairs of shoes trapped on Simon's side. Chana claims that is a lie Simon cooked up to make her look like the Imelda Marcos of the Orthodox Jewish community.

"I am not interested in shoes," she says.

Simon retorts: "Maybe it was 299. I didn't count it."

Chana says that since Simon has returned, he has been monitoring her via video cameras. Simon says the surveillance goes both ways, and points to cameras on her side, though Chana claims she does not control those. Chana says Simon has bugged her phones. Simon says that's crazy � he doesn't care who she talks to.

Kimberly Flemke, a couples therapist in Philadelphia, says when spouses go so far as to refuse to leave a house while divorcing, it often means neither is ready to move on.

"It's clear that if they're going to go this length, there's still far too much connection," she says. "I would hope they'd both go to therapy."
I think that a bit more than therapy is called for here. A good swift kick in the 'nads (if the kicker can find any) would be closer to what is needed with these people. I am continually amazed that people this dysfunctional can survive and seemingly prosper in society.
From the Russian news agency Novosti:
Russian academic says CO2 not to blame for global warming
Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other gases emitted through human activities, believed by scientists to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, are an effect rather than the cause of global warming, a prominent Russian scientist said Monday.

Habibullo Abdusamatov, head of the space research laboratory at the St. Petersburg-based Pulkovo Observatory, said global warming stems from an increase in the sun's activity. His view contradicts the international scientific consensus that climate change is attributable to the emission of greenhouse gases generated by industrial activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

"Global warming results not from the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but from an unusually high level of solar radiation and a lengthy - almost throughout the last century - growth in its intensity," Abdusamatov told RIA Novosti in an interview.

"It is no secret that when they go up, temperatures in the world's oceans trigger the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN panel of thousands of international scientists, widely regarded as an authority on climate change issues, established a consensus many years ago that most of the warming experienced over the last half-century has been attributable to human activities.

However, scientists acknowledge that rises in temperatures can potentially cause massive increases of greenhouse gases due to various natural positive feedback mechanisms, for example the methane released by melting permafrost, ocean algae's reduced capacity to absorb carbon at higher water temperatures, and the carbon released by trees when forests dry up.

Abdusamatov, a doctor of mathematics and physics, is one of a small number of scientists around the world who continue to contest the view of the IPCC, the national science academies of the G8 nations, and other prominent scientific bodies.

He said an examination of ice cores from wells over three kilometers (1.5 miles) deep in Greenland and the Antarctic indicates that the Earth experienced periods of global warming even before the industrial age (which began two hundred years ago).
Another voice in the wilderness. I will look more closely at Kyoto when they make China and India and all of the other exempt 'developing nations' comply as well. That and adding Water Vapor into their model. (H2O is the worst 'greenhouse gas' by a long long shot.)

A minor point of law

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Is a cassette recorder the same thing (in principle) as a digital recorder? No according to U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts... From the Seattle Times:
Judge rules in favor of record companies
A lawsuit in which record companies allege XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. is cheating them by letting consumers store songs can proceed toward trial, a judge ruled Friday after finding merit to the companies' claims.

U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts made the finding in a case brought by Atlantic Recording Corp., BMG Music, Capitol Records Inc. and other music distribution companies against the licensed satellite radio broadcaster.

In a lawsuit last year, the companies said XM directly infringes on their exclusive distribution rights by letting consumers record songs onto special receivers marketed as "XM + MP3" players.

XM has argued it is protected from infringement lawsuits by the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which permits individuals to record music off the radio for private use. The judge said she did not believe the company was protected in this instance by the act.
The decision:
Although XM argued in court papers that an XM + MP3 player is much like a traditional radio-cassette player, the judge said "it is not."

"It is manifestly apparent that the use of a radio-cassette player to record songs played over free radio does not threaten the market for copyrighted works as does the use of a recorder which stores songs from private radio broadcasts on a subscription fee basis," she said.
This Judge either needs to recuse herself or to get a clue. The signal coming over satellite radio is highly compressed and if anyone was looking at distributing music for resale, they would go to the parent source -- buy one copy of the CD, rip it and sell the MP3 files from that, not from a satellite system. People who listen to this non-commercial radio may wish to save particular programs and mixes and this (IMNSHO) is perfectly just. Another example of the dinosaur media thrashing around while trying to recoup the "glory years" when it owned everything. Looking here we see that Judge Batts was a Clinton appointee -- figures... Judge Batts' Wiki entry is here.

Chicken Little Science

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When a scientific study gets publicized to the general public with hysteria, this is Chicken Little Science. A perfect example is this one at the WWTI/ABC television station news page:
Study: Raindrops Can Wreak Havoc on Earth
U.S. scientists say raindrops can wreak havoc on Earth, and although they do it on a microscopic scale, they have the force of a hammer.

The study was led by Arizona State University Assistant Professor Mark Schmeeckle and Vanderbilt University Professor David Furbish. They focused on the effect of raindrops hitting bare soil and discovered violent collisions occur when water hits bare soil.

The researchers conducted several experiments simulating raindrops hitting sand on flat surfaces and said their findings might have a big impact on soil erosion research, adding to the knowledge engineers use to devise systems to prevent hill and mountain erosion.

In semi-arid and arid regions ... where there is not a lot of vegetation on hills, raindrops directly and dramatically affect soil as they hit, Schmeeckle said. A lot of material transport from hill slopes will eventually make it into the river systems. This study will lead to a much better understanding of the processes of how soil is eroded and transported on hill slopes.

The findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.
I'm cowering under the bed for the next couple of weeks... Dang, did not know that spring showers were to be avoided. The abstract for this 2007 paper is here: Rain splash of dry sand revealed by high-speed imaging and sticky paper splash targets and it seems that Schmeeckle has been riding this particular horse since 200 as there are two | other papers at the AGU site dealing with the same subject.

How to succeed in the workplace

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From FOX News:
Woman Denied Unemployment Benefits After Detailing Efforts to Avoid Work
Unemployment benefits are being denied to an Iowa hotel worker who was fired for using her employer's computer to keep a journal of her efforts to avoid work.

A supervisor found the journal late last year and fired Emmalee Bauer for misuse of company time.

The journal was entered into evidence at a recent state hearing dealing with Bauer's request for unemployment benefits. Bauer testified the journal was intended to help her deal with anxiety and frustration.

Administrative Law Judge Susan Ackerman denied Bauer's request. The judge says the journal demonstrated Bauer's refusal to work, as well as her "amusement at getting away with it."
DOH! When I was doing IT for a company, I would routinely look at the servers for 'odd' non-business files. I don't mind people bringing MP3 files into work but they shouldn't use a corporate server for storing them, especially when clients have access to the same file areas. Same goes for documents and images...

Getting MADD

It seems that the original (Canadian) Mothers Against Drunk Driving needs to clean up it's own house a bit... From the Toronto Star:
MADD's outspoken founder punished
The founder of MADD Canada, who spoke out against the national organization's fundraising practices, has been stripped of his role on the charity's two key committees.

"I feel betrayed," said John Bates, 79, whose quarter-century battle against drinking and driving earned him the Order of Canada.

Bates learned Monday evening he was gone from the charity's finance and policy committees, which monitor the organization's expenditures and revenues, and set the tone for the charity.

The news came to Bates during a brief teleconference involving five of the 17 board members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"This seems to be in response to asking too many questions," Bates said yesterday. "But I don't believe in spending donor money the way MADD head office does and I feel I had a responsibility to speak out."

A recent Star investigation, in which Bates was quoted, revealed that most of the millions MADD raises stays with the paid telemarketers, door knockers and direct mail companies hired by the charity to raise cash.

While MADD insists that 83.6 per cent of donated funds goes to the charity's programs, the Star found that it was virtually the reverse, with about 81 per cent of MADD money spent on fundraising and administration.
81 percent administrative overhead? Yikes! By comparison, MADD USA is doing a lot better with 77% being spent on programs instead of the Canadian 19%...
Government subsidies for using corn to produce Ethanol for fuel. Sounds good; right? Mexico does not grow enough corn for their own use, they need to import it. Guess what... From CBS News:
Mexico Signs Deal to Hem Tortilla Costs
Mexican president signs accord to contain soaring tortilla prices, protect dietary staple

President Felipe Calderon signed an accord with businesses on Thursday to curb soaring tortilla prices and protect Mexico's poor from speculative sellers and a surge in the cost of corn driven by the U.S. ethanol industry. The corn tortilla is the basic staple of the Mexican diet and is especially crucial for the poor. The accord limits tortilla prices to 8.50 pesos ($0.78) per kilogram and threatens to use existing laws to achieve prison sentences of up to 10 years for company officials found hoarding corn. Some stores have been selling tortillas for as much as 10 pesos ($0.91) per kilogram.

It also raises quotas for duty-free corn imports to 750,000 metric tons (826,733 U.S. tons), most of which will come from the United States.

The measure is to be reviewed for possible modifications on April 30.

"The unjustifiable price rise of this product threatens the economy of millions of families," Calderon said. "We won't tolerate speculators or monopolists. We will apply the law with firmness and punish those who take advantage of people's need."

The rise in tortilla prices has been one of the first major challenges for the conservative who took office in December, putting him in an uncomfortable position between the interests of business and those of the poor.

Tortilla prices rose by 14 percent in 2006, more than three times the inflation rate, and they have continued to surge in the first weeks of 2007.

The rise is partly due to U.S. ethanol plants gobbling corn supplies and pushing prices as high as $3.40 a bushel, the highest in more than a decade.
The production of Ethanol from biomass is about breakeven. You need to put a lot of energy into this through growth, harvesting and distillation and the overall recovery of energy is about par. The US Government is subsidizing Ethanol development so corn growers are selling a lot of corn to Ethanol plants who are driving the price up. The unfortunate thing is that this overall increase in food corn (cereals, tortilla's, corn syrup, etc...) is not just borne by the US, it also affects all the nations that the US exports to. Some of these nations cannot well afford this price jump.

Light posting tonight

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Working on a web page for a client and probably an early evening as we are still both a bit under the weather.

Bucket Blogging no more

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Yaaaayyyyyy!!! I was in town ordering some rebar for the cidery building and running some other errands and when I got home, the pipes had thawed enough that we now have running water. That hot shower tomorrow morning is going to be so freakin' sweeeeeet!!!

A vested interest maybe?

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Wonderful idea put forth by a CEO who doesn't know anything about the science behind the story but who might have something to gain. From the Detroit News:
Higher gas taxes needed to fund hydrogen fuel technology, supplier CEO says
The federal gasoline tax should be bumped up to fund the development of hydrogen technology as an alternative vehicle fuel, said Metaldyne Corp. chairman and CEO Tim Leuliette today.

Speaking at the 2007 Automotive News World Congress in Dearborn, Leuliette pointed out that drivers in the United States pay only 30 percent to 40 percent of what motorists in other industrialized countries pay for petrol.

"Gasoline is too cheap in America," said Leuliette. He said the United States is alone among industrialized nations in having no national energy policy, and he faulted Washington for failing to develop one. Leuliette said U.S. dependence on foreign oil is a threat to national security, the environment and the economy.

Hydrogen, he said, is the best alternative but will require a substantial investment to develop. He suggests the federal tax fluctuate with the rise and fall in oil prices so that consumers always pay the same at the pump.
BZZZTTTTT!!! Hydrogen is an energy transport platform, it is not a fuel. It costs more energy to make than it yields on combustion. Electrolysis is hideously inefficient and due to some basic fundamental laws of chemistry and physics, it will remain so. Steam reformation of Methane is much more efficient but it yields an equal volume of CO2 and consumes a high-energy feedstock (Methane) and produces a low energy product (Hydrogen). Either way, it is a loosing proposition...

Benjamin Franklin quote

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Great quote:
So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do.
--Benjamin Franklin
Hat tip to Bird Dog at Maggie's Farm

Nice sendup of the 'Global Warming' scare

James Lewis has written a wonderful explanation for non-scientists as to why the whole 'global warming' hue and cry should be taken with a grain of crystalline Sodium Chloride:

Why Global Warming is Probably a Crock
As a scientist I've learned never to say "never." So human-caused global warming is always a hypothesis to hold, at least until climate science becomes mature. (Climate science is very immature right now: Physicists just don't know how to deal with hypercomplex systems like the earth weather. That's why a recent NASA scientist was wildly wrong when he called anthropogenic warming "just basic physics." Basic physics is what you do in the laboratory. If hypercomplex systems were predictable, NASA would have foolproof space shuttles -- because they are a lot simpler than the climate. So this is just pseudoscientific twaddle from NASA's vaunted Politically Correct Division. It makes me despair when even scientists conveniently forget that little word "hypothesis.")

OK. The human-caused global warming hypothesis is completely model-dependent. We can't directly observe cars and cows turning up the earth thermostat. Whatever the human contribution there may be to climate constitutes just a few signals among many hundreds or thousands.

All our models of the earth climate are incomplete. That's why they keep changing, and that's why climate scientists keep finding surprises. As Rummy used to say, there are a ton of "unknown unknowns" out there. The real world is full of x's, y's and z's, far more than we can write little models about. How do you extract the human contribution from a vast number of unknowns?

That's why constant testing is needed, and why it is so frustrating to do frontier science properly.

James then walks you through some basic arithmetic and statistics and closes with the following:

The Bottom line: our best imaginable model has a total probability of one out of three. How many billions of dollars in Kyoto money are we going to spend on that chance?

Or should we just blow it at the dog races?

So all ye of global warming faith, rejoice in the ambiguity that real life presents to all of us. Neither planetary catastrophe nor paradise on earth are sure bets. Sorry about that. (Consider growing up, instead.)

That's why human-caused global warming is an hypothesis, not a fact. Anybody who says otherwise isn't doing science, but trying to sell you a bill of goods.

Personally, after looking at the data and the historical record, I think that we are entering a period of warming but the idea that it is human-caused is ludicrous. The earth is so much bigger than we are ever going to be and the natural cycles swamp anything that man can accomplish. This cycle of warming and cooling has been going on every 400 years for the last several thousand and there is precious little that we can do to stop it or to change it.

Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin

I missed his tri-centennial last year. Benjamin Franklin was born 301 years ago today. Printer, statesman, musician, electrician and physicist, author, engineer. One of my heros...

Hot Stock Tip

Think you do a good job of picking stocks? Rely on your brokers advice? From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Primal picks
The monkey likes his veggies, syringes

This year, Mr. Adam Monk, the Sun-Times' stock-picking monkey who has beaten the market for four years running, is into erectile dysfunction. He's also into syringes, women's clothes and fresh fruit and vegetables. But don't get the wrong idea.

These are the businesses of Mr. Monk's latest stock picks, made last week exclusively for the Sun-Times. And that means only one thing: It's time again for the Sun-Times Monkey Manager stock-picking contest, celebrating the wisdom of the everyday investor and primate.

Yes, despite all you hear about consolidation and cost-cutting in the Mainstream Media, with its Incredible Shrinking Newspapers, here we are back with the contest this year, and again with a fabulous prize for the reader who guesses the top-gaining stock of 2007. It's from Apple Vacations, America's Favorite Vacation Company, and details run alongside this story.

To get the stock-guessing juices flowing, I visited Mr. Monk last week at his natural habitat, Animal Rentals Inc., 5742 W. Grand. The senior-citizen cebus monkey crawled over newspaper stock pages (yes, we found some!) arrayed on a desk, and marked his five favorites with a pen. It's now a time-honored ritual, documented by a Sun-Times photographer and the accounting firm Howard, Fine & Howard.

His selections are included in an accompanying table. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that Mr. Monk, progressive as ever, is trying something new. One of his stocks isn't a stock at all, strictly speaking. It's an exchange-traded fund, Market 2000 HOLDRS Trust (MKH), which represents shares of the 50 largest-cap companies. "It's going to be a big year for that part of the market," Mr. Monk told this reporter. "I had this pathetic intern working for me, and I told him to go buy me some large caps. He came back with this boxload of incredibly ugly cheesehead things. So I got into that market with this ETF."

His other picks include companies in pharmaceutical supplies (the syringes) and medical devices (for sundry pelvic issues), historically two of Mr. Monk's favorite sectors. Rounding out his portfolio are Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. (FDP) and ladies' apparel maker Cygne Designs Inc. (CYDS).

And Mr. Monk's track record?

In the four years since Mr. Monk has chaired and inspired this contest, his stocks have posted annual returns of 37 percent, 36 percent, 3 percent and, in 2006, 36 percent, beating the major indexes every time. It's proof that you don't have to be an insider CEO, an insider hedge-fund manager or a loudmouth on CNBC to make money in the market.

Not too shabby!


OMFG -- check out this patent

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Hat tip to J. Bowen at No Watermelons Allowed:
No comment
Just check out Patent 6055910.

And please don't ask how I found it.
Words... Fail...

Big Man on Campus

Study math? maybe you might do well at Poker. From the Pennsylvania CentreDaily:

Penn State student holdin' $1.5 million
N.J. native beats out 936 poker players

Ryan Daut didn't expect to come back to college this semester as a millionaire.

Daut, a 22-year-old doctoral candidate in mathematics at Penn State, went to the Bahamas to play in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, which started Jan. 4 at the Atlantis Resort and Casino in Nassau.

The New Jersey native was the last man standing Wednesday -- beating 936 opponents and walking away with the tournament's $1.5 million grand prize.

Daut, who said online poker is his primary source of income, was one of 937 people who each put in $8,000 to enter the tournament.

"It was a big relief when I won," Daut said. "I was pretty excited about it."

Daut said his math skills were part of his winning strategy, but his hand selection and "reading" of other players were what won the game.

"Math is a big part of poker, but a lot of things are more important than mathematical aspects," Daut said. "I played pretty standard, played a strong game."

Daut said when he was down to just one opponent, the game became much more interesting.

More "interesting" -- I don't doubt it... Good job and great luck with future games!

Quote of the Day -- Ronald Regan

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"Republicans believe every day is 4th of July, but Democrats believe every day is April 15." -- Ronald Reagan

Raising the Minimum Wage - a bad idea

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Mrs. Du Toit sums up her thoughts on why raising the Minimum Wage will hurt those people it was supposed to protect. Jen and I both think the same way but it's nice to have it articulated so very well...
Determining Wealth
I�ve been keeping a close eye on the actions of the Congress ever since the idiots were voted into power. Much of what they have done, so far, and much of what they�ve planned to do will have disastrous results. Most of the time I watch or read the events in a way one might watch a scary movie�through your fingers, covering your eyes.

Which is exactly how I approached the discussions of raising the minimum wage.

Of all the stupid things the democrats are prone to do, this is surely the worst for the economic health of the country. The fact that it always ends up hurting the people it was advertised to help, is always the greatest tragedy.

Writing about something like this is difficult, because of all the details of it. I�ll start with the basics.
She then goes step by step outlining why this is a bad idea citing numbers and examples. Well worth a read and it will go a long way to explain the (in her words) Economic Death Spiral that many low-income people will experience if this gets voted into law.

Back home again (for a while)

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Finally home again after a very strange four months... Get some of our things done for a change (including seeing if something can be done about the XYZZY frozen water line) Planning an extended trip at the end of this month but that's a couple weeks away.

A choice of facilities

Planning a conference?

Make sure your facilities allow you to demonstrate and use your product.

From Yahoo News/AFP:

Hong Kong tobacco expo bosses fume over no-smoking rules
Organisers of a tobacco industry conference in Hong Kong are fuming after discovering it will be a no-smoking event thanks to the city's new smoking ban, a report has said.

The Tobacco Asia Expo, which starts this week, had been organised for Hong Kong's new Asia World Expo Centre on the understanding the wide-ranging laws that ban smoking in public places would not be passed until later this year.

Event planners had also believed that the venue would provide smoking areas where visitors to the show could test the products on display.

"We booked the venue a long time ago. We understood from people in the industry at the time that the debate on the ban was working its way through the system and that only sometime in 2007 this law would be enacted," Glenn John, editor of Bangkok-based Asia Tobacco magazine, one of the organisers, was quoted as telling the Sunday Morning Post newspaper.

"We thought it might be the middle of the year. Little did we know it would start on January 1, only two weeks before our show."

The ban applies to all public venues, beaches, most bars and restaurants. It was passed at the start of the year, more than a decade after the idea was first mooted.

It is designed not to curb the deadly habit but to protect the city's 200,000 hospitality trade workers from the dangers of second-hand smoke.


Mead, wonderful wonderful Mead!

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We are making hard Cider but we are also making mead (fermented Honey and Water). It is enjoying a revival. From the Vermont Telegram and Gazette:
Region to get chance to quaff its own mead
Medieval nectar at health food store near you

If mead, that ancient alcoholic beverage made from honey, conjures up images of lords and ladies and medieval banquets where you toss your turkey leg bones on the floor, Jake Feldman wants to change that.

It�s time for the drink known as the nectar of the gods to snap out of the Renaissance and come into the 21st century, he said. Meadmaster Feldman, who works for Honey Gardens Apiaries, is just days away from embarking on a mission to raise the profile and change the image of mead. Honey Gardens is releasing Feldman�s first batch of Melissa Sparkling Mead to a small group of natural foods stores and one downtown Burlington restaurant.

�I have to not only sell it; I have to educate people about what it is and why it�s a good thing to drink,� Feldman said.

Getting the word out about mead and dispelling myths is key, said David Myers, owner of Redstone Meadery, whose job title is chairman of the mead at the Boulder, Colo., meadery. Redstone is the largest craft meadery in the country, he said.

�Most people think of mead as a very singular beverage. They think of it as a very sweet, heavy dessert wine. Mead can be sparkling or still, sweet or dry,� Myers said.

Honey Gardens joins a tiny, but growing group of United States beverage makers. There are only about 80 or 90 meaderies in the country and another 30 or so wineries where mead is produced, said Myers, who is a founding board member of the International Mead Association. That compares with 1,378 craft breweries making beers and ales nationwide, according to the Brewers Association in Boulder.

The market is growing, however, especially in places such as Colorado and the West Coast. Myers estimates that the number of meaderies nationally has more than doubled in the past five years. Sales at Redstone grew more than 40 percent last year and topped the half-million-dollar mark, he said.
At my Mom's internment, I offered people tastes of our Cider and our Mead. The overall reception was very favorable -- a number of them had never had either and really liked what they tasted.

The Saudi's and the letter 'X'

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Curios and not-unexpected story from the middle east. From the New York Sun:
Will Saudis Ban the Letter �X'?
The letter "X" soon may be banned in Saudi Arabia because it resembles the mother of all banned religious symbols in the oil kingdom: the cross.

The new development came with the issuing of another mind-bending fatwa, or religious edict, by the infamous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice � the group of senior Islamic clergy that reigns supreme on all legal, civil, and governance matters in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The commission's damning of the letter "X" came in response to a Ministry of Trade query about whether it should grant trademark protection to a Saudi businessman for a new service carrying the English name "Explorer."

"No! Nein! Nyet!" was the commission's categorical answer.


Well, never mind that none of the so-called scholars manning the upper ranks of the religious outfit can speak or read a word of English. But their experts who examined the English word "explorer" were struck by how suspicious that "X" appeared. In a kingdom where Friday preachers routinely refer to Christians as pigs and infidel crusaders, even a twisted cross ranks as an abomination.

So after waiting a year, the Saudi businessman, Amru Mohammad Faisal, got his answer: No. But, like so many other Saudi businessmen who suffer from the travesties of the commission, he seemed more baffled than angry. He wrote letters to Saudi newspapers to criticize the cockamamie logic. An article he wrote appeared with his photograph on some Arabian Web sites. It sarcastically invited the commission to expand its edict to the "plus" sign in mathematics and accounting, in order "to prevent filthy Christian conspiracies from infiltrating our thoughts, our beliefs, and our feelings."

This would have been funny had it not been so sinister.

The Saudi commission has shaped life and death: declared jihad against Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan, banished women from public life, and forced piety at the tip of the whip and the sword. Its edicts have hindered business, education, travel, women's rights, and life itself, creating a fertile ground for terrorism and producing the 15 Saudis who participated in the September 11, 2001, attacks � and many others like them.

Among the commission's deeds is the famed 1974 fatwa � issued by its blind leader at the time, Sheik Abdul Aziz Ben Baz � which declared that the Earth was flat and immobile. In a book issued by the Islamic University of Medina, the sheik argued: "If the earth is rotating, as they claim, the countries, the mountains, the trees, the rivers, and the oceans will have no bottom." Another bright light of the commission, Sheik Abdel-Aziz al-Sheikh, recently stopped a government reform proposal aimed at creating work for women by allowing them to replace male sales clerks in women's clothing stores. Sheik al-Sheikh damned the idea, saying it was a step "towards immorality and hellfire." The underlying logic is breathtaking: Women are more protected by buying their knickers from men! Over the years, the commission has rendered Saudi Arabia a true kingdom of darkness. Movie theaters are banned, as are sculptures, paintings, and music, and the mixing of sexes in public.

The commission really has it in for women. They must don the all-enveloping veil, or niqab, in public; they cannot drive themselves nor ride anywhere without a male guardian, and they cannot travel alone domestically or abroad.

The commission also excels at banning the construction of houses of worship � other than mosques � even though the majority of the 8 million expatriates working in the kingdom come from Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths. Indeed, celebrating a private Sunday Mass inside a home could lead to jail, public lashings, and expulsion.

One of the most criminal travesties committed by the commission's foot soldiers, the Mutawaeen, or religious police, was dramatically reported by the muzzled Saudi press itself on Friday, March 15, 2002, when the Mutawaeen forcibly prevented girls fleeing a burning school from leaving the building because they were "improperly dressed."

The day after, the Saudi Gazette newspaper quoted witnesses as saying the police stopped men who tried to help the girls, warning the men: "It is sinful to approach them."

Of the 800 teenage pupils in Mecca, 15 burned to death and more than 50 were injured. Yet, the commission and its royal enablers thrive.
All of this is in plain sight but most of the American Left still think that these people walk on water. Useful idiots all...

Follow your bliss...

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...as long as it is stolen meat. From Fox News:
BBQ Sauce Gives Lead on $1,500 West Virginia Stolen Meat Mystery
BECKLEY, W.Va. � A bottle of barbecue sauce was the latest lead in a police hunt for $1,500 of stolen meat, according to Beckley police.

The owner of Southern Red's Barbecue reported the theft early Thursday morning after the owner discovered 12 pork shoulders and six beef briskets were missing from the restaurant's outside grills. Police Lt. Eric Rogers said the total retail value of the meat was $1,500, which makes the crime a felony.

Police followed a trail of meat chunks, which were found in the restaurant's parking lot, and later discovered at a Red Carpet Inn nearly four miles away, behind a trash can.

Police Sgt. Jeff McPeake conducted interviews with hotel residents, and inside one room he saw a bottle of barbecue sauce in plain view atop a dresser. He asked the woman who answered the door about the condiment and she said two friends had brought over a bunch of meat the night before. The woman allowed a search of her room, which led to the discovery of 50 pounds of meat crammed into two hotel refrigerators.

The woman said she did not know where her friends had obtained the meat from.
"friends" had obtained the meat -- yeah riiight...

Light posting today and tomorrow

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We are heading down to Seattle to drop Jen's sister off at the airport (she of the bucket blogging / not running the taps at night fame) so posting will be a little light today and tomorrow. Jen and I are staying at the hotel too to take showers... The weather is supposed to warm up later this week -- the pipes in the house are OK, the freeze is somewhere in the pipes leading up to the house.

Quite the record

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32,500 feet in an open-basket hot air balloon. From the Telegraph:
The 'mad Englishman' sets a new record
The British explorer David Hempleman-Adams has broken the world altitude record in a hot air balloon.

Mr Hempleman-Adams endured temperatures of minus 60C to fly his balloon to 32,500ft (6 .1 miles) � just above the cruising height of a jumbo jet � and smash a record that had stood for more than 27 years.

An airline pilot flying below the 50-year-old adventurer radioed him to say: "Only a mad Englishman would do that in an open basket."

It was his fourth attempt to break the record set by Carol Davis, an American, who flew at 31,299ft in 1979.

Under aviation rules, altitude records have to exceeded by three per cent. The sealed black box was taken away for ratification by an official observer. The result is expected to be confirmed in the next four weeks.

The balloon, with the explorer in a 3ft by 4ft basket and wearing a parachute, was launched from a sheltered site near Red Deer, Alberta, at 5.20pm British time on Friday. He landed just under two hours later at 7.17pm.

At one point in the flight, his equipment started to freeze and the burner went out. Despite wearing an oxygen mask, the explorer also suffered slight hypoxia (dizziness through lack of oxygen).

The descent provided the greatest challenge. When Mr Hempleman-Adams reached 32,500ft, he discovered that he only had five per cent of his fuel left, forcing him to descend at 1,500ft a minute.

"It was pretty hairy," he said yesterday. "Doing it at that speed made the balloon very unstable and it was rotating and shaking the whole way down. It was such a hard landing, I think I must be two inches shorter." It could, however, have been far worse � he landed near the only lake and power cables in the area but managed to miss both.
And just one of Mr. Hempleman-Adams other adventures:
In 1998, he became the first man to do "the adventurers' grand slam" � the highest mountain on each of seven continents plus the four geographic and magnetic poles.

Bucket Blogging

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As if things couldn't get more interesting... When we were down in Seattle for the memorial service, Jen's sister from California was house sitting for us. We got a call from her saying that there was no water. We have been experiencing temperatures well below normal (global warming anyone?) and somewhere a pipe froze -- probably outside. We keep the water dripping overnight and as this is such an ingrained habit, we forgot to mention to her about doing this... Beginning the third day of no running water. We make a habit of keeping a number of 5 gallon bottles of spring water and there is a running creek on our property so we are not dying of thirst but we are missing hot showers and the ability to do laundry at home. Going back to the land is a nice idea but I do love our creature comforts.

A closing

Buried my Mom's ashes today -- the minister from their church made the drive up here and there was a very nice service with about ten close friends and relatives. Small, quiet, beautiful -- just the way she would want it.

Partway through the outside ceremony, the sky opened up and our view of Mt. Baker came out. Looks like she is organizing the weather in Heaven.

Time to get on with life -- looking forward to getting back into blacksmithing and metalwork...

Happy Birthday HAL

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Very high geekdom. From the Wikipedia entry:
HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is a fictional character in the Space Odyssey series, the first being the novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey, written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1968. HAL is an artificial intelligence, the sentient on-board computer of the spaceship Discovery. HAL is usually represented only as his television camera "eyes" that can be seen throughout the Discovery spaceship. The voice of HAL 9000 was performed by Canadian actor Douglas Rain. HAL became operational on January 12, 1997 (1992 in the movie) at the HAL Plant in Urbana, Illinois, and was created by Dr. Chandra. In the 2001 film, HAL is depicted as being capable not only of speech recognition, facial recognition, and natural language processing, but also lip reading, art appreciation, interpreting emotions, expressing emotions and reasoning.
Looking forward to meeting you someday...

Back at the farm

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The memorial service was wonderful. The internment is tomorrow and this will close another chapter of life. It was odd last Friday, I rented a back-hoe and dug my Mothers grave. Never thought I would be doing that. Blogging should resume as normal in a day or so...

RIP -- Robert Anton Wilson

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He had been ill for a long time and passed over this morning. From his blog RAW Data:
RAW Essence
Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts and leaves his body @4:50 AM on binary date 01/11.

All Hail Eris!

On behalf of his children and those who cared for him, deepest love and gratitude for the tremendous support and lovingness bestowed upon us.

(that's it from Bob's bedside at his fnord by the sea)

RAW Memorial February 07
date to be announced
One of the more inventive writers/thinkers/free spirits out there.


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Seems like Apple could have spent a little less time on design and a bit more on their legal department. From Light Reading:
Cisco Files iPhone Suit
Releasing a major downpour on Steve Jobs's iPhone parade, Cisco Systems Inc. said late today that it has filed suit against Apple Inc. for trademark infringement for use of the "iPhone" brand.

Cisco has owned the iPhone marque since it acquired Infogear in 2000 as part of its Linksys division. Infogear originally filed for the trademark on March 20, 1996, according to Cisco.

Linksys began shipping a new line of iPhone products early in 2006 and announced an expanded series of iPhone products in mid-December, just three weeks before the splashy debut of Apple's iPhone yesterday at the Macworld expo in San Francisco. (See You Say iPhone, I Say...?)

Loath to believe that Apple would go forward with the iPhone launch without owning the trademark, most observers assumed that some kind of licensing agreement had already been reached between the two California computing powerhouses. That proved not to be the case; after Jobs's presentation at Macworld on Tuesday, Cisco released a terse, 65-word statement saying that Apple had made "numerous requests for permission to use Cisco's iPhone trademark over the past several years" and that recent discussions between the companies had been "extensive."

"We expect to receive a signed agreement today," the statement concluded. Obviously that hasn't happened.

RIP -- Yvonne De Carlo

CNN has an obituary:

Yvonne De Carlo, 'Munsters' star, dead
Yvonne De Carlo, the beautiful star who played Moses' wife in "The Ten Commandments" but achieved her greatest popularity on TV's "The Munsters," has died. She was 84.

De Carlo died of natural causes Monday at the Motion Picture & Television facility in suburban Los Angeles, longtime friend and television producer Kevin Burns said Wednesday.

De Carlo, whose shapely figure helped launch her career in B-movie desert adventures and Westerns, rose to more important roles in the 1950s. Later, she had a key role in a landmark Broadway musical, Stephen Sondheim's "Follies."

But for TV viewers, she will always be known as Lily Munster in the 1964-1966 slapstick horror-movie spoof "The Munsters." The series (the name allegedly derived from "fun-monsters") offered a gallery of Universal Pictures grotesques, including Dracula and Frankenstein's monster, in a cobwebbed gothic setting.

I used to love the Munsters as a kid -- that and the Addams Family. Great stuff...

Light posting through this weekend

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Friday is my Mom's memorial service. She passed away last October. We are expecting a number of close friends of hers to attend so logistics have been keeping us busy. Heading down to Seattle tomorrow to set up the service and then back up her for the internment of her ashes at our Farm. She loved to garden so we will be planting a flowering dogwood tree over her site this spring when the ground warms up a bit. I will be monitoring but not posting very much...
...do not go back to same store to claim a winning. From Houston's ABC 13:
Suspects arrested in lottery ticket robbery
Houston police are questioning four people who police say may have stolen several lottery scratch-off tickets from a convenience store. One of those being questioned apparently tried to cash in one of those tickets at the same store.

Tai Nguyen was so worried about the safety of his clerk that he came immediately to the store when she called following the robbery Tuesday morning. It was about 4am when three armed men got away with about $500 worth of lottery tickets, cigarettes and cash from the store on Ella near Airtex in northwest Harris County. So Nguyen was a little startled when a few hours later, a man walked into the store wanting to cash in a Texas Hold 'Em lottery ticket.

"That Hold 'Em ticket was one that we lost," said Nguyen. "I know that's the ticket that belonged to me. I know it because I know the number, I know that ticket."

Nguyen went to the back and called police. The man was still standing at the counter when authorities arrived.

Jaywalking in Atlanta

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Talk about overreacting -- from the History News Network: You want the entry for Day 3 so scroll down a bit...
Day 3: Saturday January 6, 2007 It was a day of news.
The morning brought word that one of the lifetime members of the AHA attending the annual convention had been arrested and tossed in jail for jaywalking.

On Thursday, just after noon, the Tufts historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto was arrested by Atlanta police as he crossed the middle of the street between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels. After being thrown on the ground and handcuffed, the former Oxford don was formally arrested, his hands cuffed behind his back. Several policemen pressed hard on his neck and chest, leaving the mild-mannered scholar, who's never gotten so much as a parking ticket, bruised and in pain. He was then taken to the city detention center along with other accused felons and thrown into a filthy jail cell filled with prisoners. He remained incarcerated for eight hours. Officials demanded bail of over a thousand dollars. To come up up with the money Fernandez-Armesto, the author of nineteen books, had to make an arrangement with a bail bondsman. In court even the prosecutors seemed embarrassed by the incident, which got out of hand when Fernandez-Armesto requested to see the policeman's identification (the policeman was wearing a bomber jacket; to Fernandez-Armesto, a foreigner unfamiliar with American culture, the officer did not look like an officer). The prosecutors asked the professor to plead nolo contendere. He refused, concerned that the stain on his record might put his green card status in jeopardy. Officials finally agreed to drop all charges. The judge expressed his approval. The professor says he has no plans to sue. But the AHA council is considering lodging a complaint with the city.
They also have a nice You-tube interview with Felipe. Talk about excessive use of force...

Generator blogging Again

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We had another of the freak windstorms today and the power went out about 1:00PM this afternoon. There is a tree leaning against some wires a few hundred feet from our driveway so that may have something to do with it... Neither of us felt like cooking so we went out to the local Casino for their buffet (tonight was steak night) and came home and fired up the generator. No running water (need a bigger gennie for that) but lights, furnace, internet and we are happy...

Cool Amazon search tool

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This website: How to search Amazon for Deals is basically a collection of links that will open a page at Amazon showing all the things that they are offering for 90% off, 80% off, 70% off, 60% off, etc... They are arranged by category such as: Apparel & Accessories, Beauty, Bed & Bath, Books, Camera & Photo, etc... Well, you begin to get the idea. Definitely a site to bookmark and keep for when retail therapy is called for. But look honey -- it was 80% off

Body blogging

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Jen and I went up to Vancouver today to catch the BodyWorlds exhibition which closes in a few days. I know that there is another show in Seattle (Bodies) but that is done by med students at China's Dailin university whereas, the Body Worlds shows are done by anatomist Gunther von Hagens and the difference in quality is quite evident. BodyWorlds is art pure and simple; Bodies is just that, dead preserved bodies. Von Hagens did work at Dailin for a while but he is not there now and I would consider the Bodies show to be a rip-off and second rate. If you have the chance to see one of the BodyWorlds shows, make the effort to do so -- if you have any interest in anatomy or biology, it is worth your time. Gorgeous work.

A high pucker factor

Check out these three photographs of a truck accident. Jen's comment: "That dude's gonna be shitting spaghetti for the next year"
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Images are thumbnails -- click on each for the full-size...

Making new years resolutions

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Excellent thought from David St. Lawrence:
The wording of goals is quite important
When you think of a goal as a tool for focusing your intention, you will understand why the wording of a goal might be so important.

If your goal is stated as an objective to be reached, what happens then? You will discover, as I have, that striving to achieve a goal is an adventure of the highest order and extremely absorbing. Reaching a goal on the other hand is a short-lived pleasure and it has little staying power.

If your goal is to achieve an ability, on the other hand, it's like you have given yourself another tool to improve your life. There is adventure while you are achieving the goal and there is continual satisfaction as you exercise your new ability.

This is not idle conjecturing. I have been working with misworded goals for some time. How do I know? Because reaching the goal provided little or no satisfaction!

There is a goal that I have been working on for many years with little lasting success. It is the goal of achieving and maintaining an orderly workspace.

I think I discovered today why I cannot seem to accomplish this task which is easily achieved by so many others. I am using the wrong wording for the goal.
If I stop and think about it carefully, I do not WANT a totally neat workspace or desktop!

What I want is a workspace that will let me efficiently handle a wide range of activities at high and low volumes without loss of control.
Now THAT is a goal that stirs my imagination!
I read this a few hours ago and my mind still keeps coming back to it. I collect clutter (static cling) and have time and again, tried to get rid of it but it keeps coming back and my impression was that the clutter was impeding my efficiency. But, thinking about it from another perspective, I am already reasonably efficient. David's statement illuminates what I am trying to achieve and defines where I was going wrong. A change is needed, not an elimination. Making Ripples is a blog that I read daily for very good reason...

Fun at the Port of Miami

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There seems to be an issue with a driver trying to bring a truck into the Port of Miami. The driver said that he was alone but was found to have two others hiding in the cab. Kim Priestap at Wizbang! is doing a very nice job of covering this story as it breaks:
Breaking: All Cargo Operations Suspended at the Port of Miami
This is what appears to have happened:

The driver got to the Port of Miami and needed access to make a delivery. He didn't have a day pass or proper identification, so he was directed to another area of the port. When he was asked if he was alone, he said yes, but then two other men were found in the back seat of the cab. One report said it was a language barrier that caused a "miscommunication." Nonetheless, officials implemented normal security measures, so the bomb squad and HazMat were called in. The three men are still being questioned.
and some more:
This is just breaking on Fox News. Apparently, Port of Miami security detained and searched a cargo truck and found two men of Middle Eastern origin hiding inside. Now, from what is being reported on Fox, all cargo operations have been suspended, what ever that means, and the FBI and customs officials are on the scene.
and another update (from the Miami Herald):
An FBI spokeswoman in Miami said an Iraqi semi-truck driver trying to get into the port was been arrested after the cargo in his truck did not match what was declared on the truck's manifest.

A second Iraqi nationakl (sic) and third Lebanese national were found hiding inside the truck, the official said.

"Right now, we're trying to figure out what these men were trying to do," said Judy Orihuela, the FBI spokeswoman.

She said the incident began when the Iraqi driver tried to make a delivery at the port and was told he needed a day pass.

During the questioning, inconsistencies surfaced as to the cargo. It in his story and the Lebanese national was found, she said.

The incident prompted a shut-down of the port as members of several federal, local and state law enforcement agencies converged on the busy facility. Among the agencies responding was the Center for Domestic Preparedness, an agency that deals with suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Orihuela said the men appear to be in the U.S. legally and have resident status. They are not on any watch list.
The Moose-limb monkey turds are probing security -- use a few sock puppets and have them try to get into an area with something that is not on the truck manifest. The sock-puppets will either spend a few years in jail or most likely be deported back to their hometown to much adulation. The Jihadi's will know that the Port of Miami is vigilant. Doom on you you little goat fsckers.

Light posting tonight

Been a bit busy today and Jen and I are both down with the creeping crud. The visits to CA for the holidays are always good for 'testing' our immune systems (and we do our share of vectoring too -- one person's flora is another's pathogen). Sitting here in a nice warm DaveCave(TM) listening to a Canadian country music station and surfing the web doing important work and saving the world from Liberals...

More English Efficiency

I am reminded of this quote from a post a few days ago:

"(person's name) moral and emotional distortions were characteristic of an intellectual trying to force people into a structure of ideas, rather than allowing ideas to flow naturally from the way people actually behaved."

Change the person's name to English Efficiency Experts and you have this from This is London:

7million spent on consultants who advise civil servants to put 'black tape on desks'
Black tape has been put on the desks of civil servants to show them where to put their pens as part of a £7m Government 'efficiency' drive.

It is the latest idea from consultants being paid to come up with so-called innovative ideas to improve the working environment of public sector staff.

The tape is also used to mark out exactly where the computer keyboard should be placed, as well telephones. Previous novel thinking by the consultants included a desk ban on family photographs - along with any 'inactive fruit'.

Staff representatives described the idea, which is being piloted by hundreds of staff who process National Insurance payments, as 'madness'. They point out that shift workers share desks - so must repeatedly adjust the black tape, depending on the length of their arms.

But Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - which is paying consultants £7.4m for so-called Lean programme - said the tape would help to keep desks clear of clutter. Officials said it is 'much better to work in a tidy work environment where everything has its place'.

Only (hopefully) in Jolly Olde England... If they tried that bullshit over here in the colonies, there would be an immediate revolt... People work more efficiently when they are comfortable.

A perfect example of the quote: "an intellectual trying to force people into a structure of ideas, rather than allowing ideas to flow naturally from the way people actually behaved"

A story from one of Kim Du Toit's readers (from Seattle no less):

No Helping Hand
I thought I'd share with you an email exchange I had recently with Reader Jim K. from the Seattle area:
Years ago, I was a FFL firearms dealer. I was Clintoned out of my license (that's another story), but I still have leftover inventory including an unopened crate of semi-auto AK-47s.

Recently, four young families moved up here to Washington state after making small fortunes in the California real estate boom. These people are all friends of a friend so I run into them frequently. They are all liberal, but not of the raving moonbat type. None of them are anti-gun, but neither are they much interested in fireams.

Last summer I mentioned to several of these Silicon Valley escapees that I had a crate of AKs (I love doing this - the reactions are usually interesting). One guy responded with something like "when things get bad, we're coming to your house." He said this as a joke so I did not think much of it.

Partially due to recent events (Katrina, the Indian ocean tidal wave) and following your and Instapundit's suggestions, I have created an emergency "abandon house" kit and also stored several months worth of unperishable food. I have also urged my friends and family to do the same. Most have, to some degree.

Recently I was at a party with these four families present. I was encouraging them to make their own emergency kits and store food. Also, I described my efforts in this area. Once again someone made the "when things get bad we're coming to your house" statement. This time it was not a joke.

And a bit more from Jim K.

On Christmas Eve I went to a party where the four liberal families I previously discussed were present, and followed your advice. After bringing up the emergency kit issue again, lots of people complained and teased me (in a good natured way) but as expected, the "we'll just come to your house" meme reared its ugly head. I stated, as you suggested, that I would *NOT* help them in an emergency unless they first took measures to help themselves. This did not go over well. Much argument followed. The net result:

1) I am no longer welcome at any of the four homes (no great loss).

2) I am now morally equivalent to Hitler and George Bush.

3) One woman called me a potential child molester (I'm not sure of the logic, but it had something to do with not helping her starving kiddies when the world goes whacky).

4) Republicans are evil, therefore, I am evil (being a Libertarian, this seemed a bit unfair, but the finer points of political philosophy were lost in the debate).

5) Another woman (a hardcore feminist) screamed "I'll call the police!! Hoarding in an emergency is just wrong. You won't get away with it."

6) The case of home brew ale I brought to the party was consumed (even some liberals have good taste in beer).

7) It was the females who did most of the ranting about my vile character and lack of moral fiber. They also had the worst potty mouths.

8) As I was leaving (actually, 'kicked out' ) one of the guys said, with complete sincerity: "If things get bad, I really hope you'll help us out." I said nothing, just shook my head and left.

We are soooo glad to not be living in Seattle. At one point in my life, I was considering moving to San Francisco (just when the whole computer thing was starting) and I am very glad that I did not.

Some of the culture is nice, there are a few restaurants that I really miss but all in all, Bellingham is an awesome city and our farm is where our hearts are. You will get my blacksmithing hammer when you pry it from my cold dead fingers...

Two meditations on engineering

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Two very nice essays on Engineering -- what constitutes it and how it has affected our lives. First is from Og at Neanderpundit:
What makes an engineer?
I don�t have an engineering degree- though I do engineering work. I am an autodidact in almost everything I�ve done, and that ability, to learn what I need to learn quickly, has served me well.

What I have done, is become an engineer the way engineers USED to be made, the way they�re educated to this day, in the UK.

In this country, at the turn of the century, an engineer was a man capable of operating an engine, hence the term. When most people think �engine� they think �motor�, but that�s not what an engine is, an engine, strictly speaking, is a mechanism. Most people think of �internal combustion engine� or �steam engine� but those are just mechanisms used to convert one form of energy into another.

Consider the lathe. At one time, lathes were just things that turned. Most of what they did was let you cut or file or turn something that was round. Around 1810, Henry Maudslay invented a machine that combined the accuracy of Jesse Ramsden�s �dividing engine� with his rigid, accurate lathe.

This created the engine lathe. There are still bucketloads of people who think that an engine lathe is used to make engines. An engine lathe is used to make accurate cuts on metal, both inside and outside diameter, and most importantly, cut threads. Up to this time, most threads were cut by wrapping a piece of line around the part and the threads cut with a file. An engine lathe meant, that for the very first time, threads could be accurately cut, and a thread made on one machine would fit a thread made on another.
Og then brings this into the present time with the observation that a lot of the really cool innovations -- the disruptive technologies are being made by amateurs who could well be called Engineers -- they understand the mechanisms and can figure out new ways to put things together. The next one is from Chris Byrne at the Anarchangel:
What makes a good, or great engineer?

I'm an engineer; at heart, by education, by training, by experience, and by profession.

I have degrees in aerospace, and computer engineering; I have a large amount of direct materials, mechanical, electrical, and information systems engineering experience and training; but those things are not what made me an engineer.

I'm an engineer, because it's what I am, mind body and soul. It's wired into me at the very base level of my intelligence and personality. Sure I could have chosen to do something else, some other profession; and I've certainly held jobs that had little (on the surface) to do with engineering; but an engineer is what I am, no matter what I do. Even serving in the Air Force, and doing security work; I've always had an engineering mindset and method, because it's simply who I am...
and a bit more:
Ok, but what is a good engineer? What is engineering?

Engineering is the art of HOW. How things work, how things are built, how things interact and react, how problems are solved.

Engineering is the fusion of the theoretical and empirical. Scientist understand WHY things work, technicians know THAT things work if they do certain things... but engineers understand HOW things work (and to do so must understand much of the other two), and this understanding allows them to do and build, and fix new things.

A great engineer is a great engineer, no matter what their discipline; no, not all knowledge and experience transfers, but if someone makes great mechanical engineer, they most likely could make a great aerospace engineer, or nuclear engineer with the proper motivation, training, and experience; because great engineering requires three fundamental drives or abilities in edition to training, education, and experience:
1. The innate understanding of how components, systems, and methodologies interact with each other; and the ability to distinguish and determine causation, correlation, and effect.

2. The absolute drive to figure out the "how" of everything around them.

3. The ability to generalize knowledge, experience, and insight gained on one system, component. or methodology; to other systems, components, and methodologies; similar or dissimilar.
We call the synthesis of these things, ingenuity; and it's what makes engineers something other than technicians or scientists.
Lot's more on both sites and well worth your time reading. Good stuff!

Nuts -- just nuts...

Three 'adventurers' are planning to fly over Mt. Everest with Paragliders. These are essentially a glorified lawn-mower engine with propeller strapped to your back and a floppy cloth sail 'wing' above you. These do look like fun when you are a few hundred feet above a nice mellow piece of land but in a jetstream, above a mountain? Not for me thank you... Here is the team website: GKN Mission Everest and here is an interview of one of the insane people trying to pull this off -- from The Telegraph:
Over the top
Bear Grylls is a man of his word. When he vowed never to set foot on Mount Everest again, he really, really meant it. What he didn't mean was that he never intended to breathe its rarefied atmosphere again. And he certainly didn't say that he would never enter its death zone again in another test of endurance.

He may have renounced climbing the world's highest mountain, but he didn't promise not to fly over it with a motorised rucksack on his back and a very large parachute above his head.

That is exactly what the 32-year-old adventurer plans to do in May: para-motor over the howling summit with a friend, wearing a little flying machine that looks as if it would hardly propel him to the cloud base over his Wiltshire farmhouse on a nice day.

Many people have told Bear (full name Edward Michael Bear Grylls) that this bid to glide into the record books is not a good idea.

Explorers don't call the mountain the "ceiling of the impossible" for nothing. But Bear has been fascinated with Everest since he was a boy and in 1998, aged 23, he became the youngest Briton to reach the summit and survive. Everest still holds him in its magnetic field of attraction.

"Well, I am returning, but with a very definite aim not to set foot on it again," he says, feeding logs to the open fire in his farmhouse.

"If I end up on Everest this time, I'm going to die. We have to stay in the clear air well above it at 32,000ft. Even if you survive a crash on the mountain, you are only going to live as long as your oxygen lasts, which would be a couple of hours.

"It's a very different expedition from climbing Everest, when the prize sometimes goes not to the bravest or the fittest, but to the person who can just stick it out. This one involves not only planning and training, but developing technical paragliding skills and really good judgement. As my dad used to say: instinct is the nose of the mind."
If they pull this off, they will have some insane bragging rights -- this is something that no one else has done and no one else will be doing for a long long time.

Memo to self -- when pawning some...

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...stolen goods, do not revisit the pawn shop a few days later, especially if there is a police car parked outside... From The Indiana Star:
Police find easy arrest at Valparaiso pawn shop
A man suspected of selling $9,000 worth of stolen musical equipment made it easy on investigators when he returned to a pawn shop, walking right into police custody.

Burton Montgomery, 20, Valparaiso, strode into the Ameripawn store Tuesday as officers were there to get information on him as a suspect.

"Who would have thought when the police were there investigating that the guy would walk right in?" Porter County Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Emmons said. He faces a charge of conversion on allegations that he helped in the Nov. 21 theft and sale of the musical equipment taken from the home of a member of the Ball Brothers, a gospel group.

Montgomery led police to the alleged burglar, who was arrested and charged. Police said the man admitted breaking into the home and stealing keyboards, digital memory cards, about 350 CDs and other items.
DOH! Heh...

England again -- this time it's wind chimes

From This Is London:

Council slaps noise ban on man's tiny wind chime
A council has ordered a man to move a tiny wind chime from his back garden following an investigation that cost more than £1,000.

David Bavington was stunned to receive an official letter claiming that the 1" diameter chime was a 'statutory nuisance' following a complaint.

And he was warned he had to take it down - or be served with a noise abatement order and face legal action.

Ironically Mr Bavington, 57, and his wife Sheila bought the chime to create a feeling of calm while they were sitting in the garden of their £300,000 detached home in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, with noisy airliners flying overhead on final approach to Coventry airport just over a mile away.

But, instead, it has landed them in a two-month legal row with officials at Rugby Borough Council, which has spent £1,000 writing letters, phoning the couple and sending two officers out to listen to the chime because of a complaint that it tinkled too loudly in windy weather.

A bit more:

The Bavingtons' next-door neighbour, Robin Trigger, refused to say whether he had made the complaint. He added: "I have absolutely no comment to make."

Sheesh! To spend that much over such a picayune thing... Classic nanny-stateism at its finest.

Toys 'R' Us does the right thing...

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Toys 'R' Us offered a $25,000 savings bond to the first child born in 2007.

Turns out it was the child of an illegal Chinese immigrant.

They rescinded their offer and awarded it to another child. But -- from Fox News:

Toys 'R' Us Reverses Decision on Denied New Year Baby Prize
After coming under fire for denying a Chinese-American infant a $25,000 prize in a New Year's baby contest because her mother was not a legal U.S. resident, the Toys "R" Us company said Saturday evening that it had reversed its decision.

The Wayne, N.J.-based company said it would award each of the three babies in the grand prize pool of the "First Baby of the Year Sweepstakes" a $25,000 savings bond. Toys "R" us is the parent company of Babies "R" Us, which sponsored the contest.

Toys "R" Us, which opened its first mainland China store less than a month ago, changed its mind after Chinese-American advocates protested and the story was reported in ethnic newspapers and The New York Times among other outlets.

Very good move for them.

Into Thick Air

A group of people launch an expedition to climb the highest peak in Kansas.

Here is the trip report:

Five grown men spend agonizing minutes acclimatization to the crushing atmospheric pressure levels found in Troy's basement. On the night before leaving for the exotic lands and untamed mountains of Kansas, our brave team is seen planning what could be a trip into the jaws of death .

Late word from Kansas confirms that the northern border of the Sunflower region is closed to climbers. Studying the map, the team decides which route will be the safest at this time of year. Grimly, a poll is taken. The team votes for the Northeast Ridge.

Looking at the statistics, we can tell what is in store for us. An average of two people per day leave for the top of Mount Sunflower. Some days, nobody makes it...

Here are three photos from their climb report:

Planning the ascent.

One of the team falls!!!

At the summit after a long long slog...

Reminds me of my ascent of Pennsylvania's Mt. Davis. I am still sore from that one and it was over 40 years ago...

Llama shelters

Looking at our website referrals, it seems that a lot of people are finding us by searching in Google for Llama Shelters I am almost finished with the one I am building and will post photos and a description when I am done. Need a day or two of clear weather to finish it. Basically, there is a paddock of about 0.5 acre size, the shelter is about ten by ten feet square and is five feet tall at one end and seven feet tall at the other with a sloped roof. The roofing material is steel panel and the sides are tarps so that I can remove them during the summer and the shelter will be a nice sun shade. I will post more when I am done.

More socialized medicine follies

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This time it's Australia, from Science Daily:
Should Smokers Be Refused Surgery?
Last year a primary care trust announced it would take smokers off waiting lists for surgery in an attempt to contain costs. In this week's British Medical Journal, two experts go head to head over whether smokers should be refused surgery.

Denying operations is justified for specific conditions, argues Professor Matthew Peters from the Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Australia.

Professor Peters says that smoking up to the time of any surgery increases cardiac and pulmonary complications, impairs tissue healing, and is associated with more infections.

These effects increase the costs of care and also mean less opportunity to treat other patients, he writes. In healthcare systems with finite resources, preferring non-smokers over smokers for a limited number of procedures will therefore deliver greater clinical benefit to individuals and the community.
The obvious problem here is that once you start targeting smokers, where do you stop. This is the classic "nose of the camel under the tent flap" -- what is next? Drinkers? People over 60? The homeless? Mentally Ill? Eugenics is a nasty thing...

The Joys of Socialized Medicine

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From England's The Sun: (they use 999 for emergency phone calls, just like our 911)
999 team lunch as man dies
A man died after two ambulance crews could not be sent to his aid � because they were on EU-enforced lunch breaks.

The victim collapsed in a betting shop, five minutes from his local ambulance station.

But under the barmy European Working Time Directive, exposed by The Sun last month, crews couldn�t be disturbed.

A paramedic was sent in a car and realised the unnamed man was having a heart attack.

He dialled 999 but an ambulance did not arrive for half an hour.

By then, the patient had died on the floor in Edmonton, North London.

Last night London Ambulance Service chiefs ordered a full probe.

The EU rules � which have angered staff � mean crews in the capital can be called out only in the last ten minutes of their 30-minute breaks.

Otherwise, they are banned from helping, even if there is a road crash outside their building.

Other UK ambulance services have chosen to opt out of the rules.

A London spokesperson said last night: �We can confirm crews were on a rest break at the time.

�Our sympathies are with the patient�s family.�
By bureaucrats for bureaucrats. Cripes -- what a stupid stupid law written by someone who was blind to the possible consequences...

Got Ramen?

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Sitting down to lunch and having a bowl of Ramen noodles in honor of the passing of Mr. Momofuku Ando. From Market Watch/AP:
Inventor of ramen instant noodles dies
The Japanese inventor of ramen instant noodles, Momofuku Ando, died at age 96 Friday after suffering a heart attack, the Associated Press reported.

Ando founded Chukososha Co. in 1948. A decade later the company changed its name to Nissin Food Products Inc. and launched Chicken Ramen, the world's first instant noodle product. In 1971 the company introduced Cup Noodle. By 2003 total sales for the Cup Noodle brand topped 20 billion servings.

Anndo came up with the idea for a cheap, convenient noodle soup because Japan in the post-War War II period was facing chronic food shortages.

For the most recent fiscal year, Nissin reported total revenue of $2.74 billion.

He is survived by his wife, Masako.

Yikes! Disk capacity milestone

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Want a bit more storage for your desktop? How about One Terabyte for under $400 From Reg Hardware:
Hitachi hails 'industry first' 1TB desktop hard drive
Hitachi has announced what it claims is the world's first 1TB desktop hard drive, pledging to ship the beast later this quarter, with enterprise- and consumer electronics-oriented versions to follow in Q2.

The 3.5in Deskstar 7K1000 will cost $399 at retail, but Hitachi will also offer a cheaper, 750GB model too. The drive spins at 7,200rpm and connects across a 3Gbps SATA bus, though the media data rate peaks at just over 1Gbps. It has 32MB of on-board buffer memory, a 8.7ms average seek time and a 4.17ms average latency.
Hitachi was the company that bought IBM's hard disk capabilities (as Lexmark did their Printers and Chinese company Lenovo did their computer systems). Why did IBM spin off all of these great assets? Still, nice to see that you can get this capacity -- recent hard disk prices have nicely punctured the old one dollar = one gigabyte pricing. We are now looking at one dollar = 2.5 GB (and much faster too) -- very cool!

Laptop Blogging

I love the DaveCave(TM) but with no heat except for a wood-burning stove and a two-hour lead time for coming up to temperature, it's pretty brutal out there in Winter when (as was today) I am not around to start a fire in the afternoon.

Was in Seattle preparing for my Mom's memorial service and returned an hour ago. Went out there for a bunch of chilly email messages and I am now seated at the kitchen table in a warm house typing this.

Technology advances at the Farm. Woo Hoo!!! Also, we are looking at getting a color laser printer for Jen's soap-making. Anyone have any likes/dislikes?

Quote of the day

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Swiped from Kim DuToit:
"(person's name) moral and emotional distortions were characteristic of an intellectual trying to force people into a structure of ideas, rather than allowing ideas to flow naturally from the way people actually behaved.�

Our tax dollars at work...

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From MS/NBC/Washington post:
New Orleans repeats mistakes as it rebuilds
Many houses in areas that Katrina flooded are not on raised platforms

By ones and twos, homeowners here are reinhabiting neighborhoods, even the most devastated ones, and many view their return as a triumph over adversity.

But experts involved in the rebuilding believe that the helter-skelter return of residents to this low-lying metropolis may represent another potential disaster.

After Katrina, teams of planners recommended that broad swaths of vulnerable neighborhoods be abandoned. Yet all areas of the city have at least some residents beginning to rebuild. With billions of dollars in federal relief for homeowners trickling in, more people are expected to follow.

Moreover, while new federal guidelines call for raising houses to reduce the damage of future floods, most returning homeowners do not have to comply or are finding ways around the costly requirement, according to city officials.

"It's terrifying: We're doing the same things we have in the past but expecting different results," said Robert G. Bea, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and a former New Orleans resident who served as a member of the National Science Foundation panel that studied the city's levees.

"There are areas where it doesn't make any sense to rebuild -- they got 20 feet of water in Katrina," said Tom Murphy, a former Pittsburgh mayor who served on an Urban Land Institute panel for post-Katrina planning. "In those places, nature is talking to us, and we ought to be listening. I don't think we are."

Laptop Blogging

Wooo Hooo! After "doing computers" for more than 20 years, I finally broke down and got a laptop. I had always disliked the proprietary hardware of the early systems and the difference in cost between a laptop and desktop of equivalent performance really put me off my feed but, the new crop of systems in the last few years narrows the gap to where it makes sense to own one. As a caveat; I always went to work and used a desktop and when traveling, was always able to find a machine to use. The issue of absolute portability has never been a concern. The system I got was an HP Pavilion dv6174cl -- dual core CPU, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard disk and decent NVIDIA graphics. Costco at just under $1,200 -- SKU# 183004 Even has a webcam as witnessed by this photo of your ever-so-erudite pundit:
I generally look a little bit more civilized but I have just spent the last three hours removing all sorts of AOHell/PeepHolePC/EarthSink, 'free' trials, software demos and general cruft and now, finally, have a decent system under my fingertips. p.s. -- the keyboard is great but get a small wireless mouse...

Noka Chocolates

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Fascinating take-down of Noka Chocolates. Noka bills themselves as a premier luxury chocolate but they are not, they just use a commercial bulk chocolate and repackage it. From Dallas Food comes this excellent ten-part article.
What's Noka Worth?
Four years ago, while standing on a mountaintop in Switzerland, a pair of Canadian accountants, Katrina Merrem and Noah Houghton, decided to leave the ledgers behind and enter the world of gourmet chocolate. Two years later, they founded Noka Chocolate in Plano, Texas. On to the chocolate...

Instead of the usual array of elaborate molded and filled chocolates seen in most chocolatiers' shops, Noka opened with a spartan lineup of small, rectangular molded chocolates (the "Vintages Collection") and simple, unflavored ganache truffles (the "Grand Cru Collection"). The idea driving this minimalism is summed up in the following line from the company's FAQ: "Our passion is tasting real chocolate, in its rarest and purest form, unadulterated by vanilla and any other flavorings."

Noka's molded chocolates and truffles are made with single-origin chocolate -- chocolate that is made from beans grown and harvested in a single country of origin, rather than a blend of beans from different countries. The company takes great pride in the quality and purity of the chocolate. As they state in their FAQ, "Regular dark chocolate contains a blend of cacao from a variety of different origins. Most regular chocolate also contains vanilla, added to round out quality imperfections and create a consistent flavor. We focus solely on the highest quality single-origin dark chocolate and as such there is no vanilla in any of our chocolate."
The price of this chocolate is obscene, ranging from $309/pound on up to $2,080/pound depending on package size and product. Thanks to some excellent detective work by the author, we find that they just buy bulk chocolate from Bonnat for around $12/pound, remelting and molding it and selling it with a 1,300% markup... A great read and some fantastic detective work. Hat tip to Kim DuToit for the link.

The Concourse of Hypocrisy

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Zombietime is a documentarian of the moonbat class in Berkeley. They posted this today -- a collection of gas guzzlers with bumper-stickers. Check out the Concourse of Hypocrisy:
The Concourse of Hypocrisy
The citizens of Berkeley, California pride themselves on being the most socially conscious environmentalists in the world. They also hate war, since every war these days is dubbed a "war for oil." But that doesn't stop Berkeley environmentalists from driving big cars and enjoying the convenience that comes from consuming all that oil we shouldn't have! Many of their fuel-burning high-priced cars display bumper stickers condemning the oil-based economy and the culture of consumption.
And hands-down winner for best of show:
The vehicle in question is a 1997 Mazda MPV featuring a stunning 18 MPG and contributing 10.1 tons annual greenhouse emissions. From the website:
Best in Show! This Mazda MPV had the worst emissions and got the fewest miles per gallon of any car in the competition, combined with one of the most hypocritical bumper stickers. Congratulations on a job well done!
Zombietime's main page is here and well worth spending some time reading. They also debunk a number of the stories in the MSM.

Light posting tonight as well

Been finishing off a website revision for a client and almost done. One of the things I really love about living up here is that everyone has several revenue streams. Nobody has "real" jobs, they do a bit of this and a bit of that and everyone gets by comfortably. I'm doing web design, computer repair, blacksmithing, welding, photography. Jen is doing the soaps and lotions and weaving. The cider business will be coming online in a few months so things should be interesting. There are two largish "Project-X's" lurking on the not-so-distant horizon as well. I was talking with a friend from Seattle a few months ago and commented that up here, we had more balls in the air than we ever had in Seattle but the stress level was a lot lower. In Seattle, we had our basic day jobs, a 45 minute commute and that was about it and we were stressed out. Here, things are a lot more mellow.

No Soup for You!

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Fun little news item from The Guardian:
Pork soup handouts not racist - French judge
Pork soup is back on the menu for homeless people in Paris after a judge ruled it could not be deemed racist.

Organisers of soup kitchens linked to extreme rightwing groups overturned a ban imposed by the city authorities over fears that its handouts discriminated against Jews and Muslims.

Police had shut down food distributions by the organisation SDF (Solidarit� des Fran�ais) - the same initials as given to the homeless group Sans Domicile Fixe - because of alleged xenophobia and fears of protests.

But the judge at the administrative tribunal in Paris decided that as there was no evidence the SDF had refused to serve Jews and Muslims, who do not eat pork for religious reasons, it could not be accused of discriminating against them. The city's police prefecture was ordered to pay �1,000 (�670) in costs to the group.

In a statement, Roger Bonnivard, the group's president, said: "After weeks of dirty manoeuvres, intimidation, harassment, all kinds of pressure, and despite a new ban, the Paris police authorities now have to adhere to the decision. There are no legal grounds allowing anyone to ban pig soup."

Groups across the country associated with a rightwing organisation called Bloc Identitaire have been handing out "soupe au cochon" since 2004. Last winter Fabienne Keller, the mayor of Strasbourg, justified banning the soup kitchens saying: "Schemes with racial subtexts must be denounced."

The groups insist that they are only serving traditional Gallic fare to "our own". Pork soup is a staple of the French pastoral heartland from which, nationalists say, all true French spring.

However, the SDF website leaves no doubt about the group's intentions. As well as giving the recipe for pork soup, it advises how the dish should be served - with bread and wine, in a "Gallic atmosphere" with no queues.

"The only condition to eat with us: to eat pig," it reads, concluding: "Attention, cheese, dessert, coffee, clothes, snacks go with the pig soup: no pig soup, no dessert - the only rule of our action: our own before the others."
Heh... Here is your free soup but you must assimilate to the point of loosing your cultural phobias. Gotta love it! I wonder how many automobiles will be torched by 'youths' over this one... The Solidarit� des Fran�ais website is here and from what I can read with my very rusty high-school French, they seem like great people.

High School Yearbook Photo

Meet Mr. Patrick Agin -- a Portsmouth Rhode Island high-school senior. Here is the photo he wants to use in his Yearbook:
Not so fast says the high-school. From the East Bay RI website:
PHS aims to disarm sword-wielding senior
Patrick Agin's portrait is welcome in the Portsmouth High School yearbook, school officials say, but that medieval broadsword over his shoulder has got to go. With yearbook photo deadline looming, Mr. Agin has not decided yet whether he'll consent to being disarmed, but the choice he says he has been offered is clear: Allow the school to crop the sword from his senior shot, provide a new picture, or go without a yearbook photo altogether. He likes none of the above.

Principal Robert Littlefield declined to discuss the particulars of Mr. Agin's case, saying confidentiality concerns prevent him from talking about individual students.

But "hypothetically speaking," the principal said he does not believe students should appear in the yearbook armed � with swords or weapons of any kind.

The photo in question shows Mr. Agin wearing a chain mail coat and holding that sword over his shoulder. From his belt hang a drinking mug and what appears to be a second smaller sword.

The picture has nothing to do with weapons or school safety and everything to do with one of his favorite pastimes, says his mother, Heather Farrington.

"One of Patrick's extracurricular activities has been participation with his family in the SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism." That international society, with many thousands of members, "promotes research and reenactment of the medieval period, the years 400-1600 in the then known world," Ms. Farrington said.

"To reflect his passion about re-enactment and his participation with the SCA, Patrick chose to sit for his senior picture in costume, specifically chain mail and a sword."
And this from BoingBoing:
Chain-mail-and-sword kid fights for right to appear in yearbook
A high-school student in Portsmouth, RI is fighting tooth and nail with his high-school administration for the right to dress in chain mail and hold a sword in his yearbook photo. The school has resorted to dirty tricks to keep him out of the yearbook -- including manufacturing fake photo deadlines -- and the student has attracted the assistance of the ACLU in fighting for his right to display his inner geek.

More seriously, the issue is that the principal is interpreting the school's zero-tolerance weapons policy as including a prohibition on holding a prop sword in a yearbook pic. The ACLU is interested in the case as an investigation of the harmful effects that zero-tolerance policies have on free expression.

First, school officials have admitted that last Monday was not the deadline for submitting yearbook photos. The deadline for publishing the yearbook is actually February 28, two months from now. In light of this new deadline, the ACLU has agreed to withdraw its motion for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the school from printing the yearbook without Agin's picture.
Heh... Mr. Agin is getting a better education than the High School principal ever realizes.

Telephone Tax refund for 2006 returns

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The IRS is now offering refunds for the 3% Federal Excise Tax on long-distance telephone calls that was enacted during the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a �luxury� tax on wealthy Americans who owned telephones. I posted about this here last May: Telephone Tax repealed Here is the IRS web page: Telephone Tax Refund Questions and Answers Makes it worth digging through your old bills if you made a lot of long distance calls...

Bluetooth - problems in the air?

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A little legal wrangling in our neck of the woods. From C|Net News/Reuters:
U.S. group sues Nokia, Samsung over Bluetooth
An intellectual-property management group has sued mobile phone makers Nokia, Samsung Electronics and Matsushita-owned Panasonic for infringing on a patent for wireless Bluetooth technology.

"Defendants have manufactured, used, imported into the United States, sold and offered for sale devices which, or the use of which, infringes at least the '963' patent," Washington Research Foundation said in a complaint filed at the U.S. Western District Court of Washington at Seattle. WRF helps manage investment in and licensing of technology developed by researchers in the state of Washington.

The WRF complaint targeted products containing Bluetooth chips from British chipmaker CSR, which is the world market leader for chips that wirelessly connect electronic gadgets such as cell phones, headsets and laptops.
And the outcome is that a few lawyers will get richer, the costs will be passed on to the consumer and it will be business as usual. Call me a cynic...

SOLD! to bidder number...

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Want to own a piece of history? Whitney Houston is auctioning off a lot of stuff to pay for her coke habit and rehabilitation. Check it out at A.J. Willner Auctions Bidding starts at Tuesday, January 9, 2007. The real pity is this note at the end of the page:
Pursuant to a N.J. Superior Court Order (Warehouseman's Lien)
She stored the stuff and defaulted on the rent. Lots of good (if a bit older) music equipment here. If I was in N.J., I would be there with some cash...

Product Recall in Iran

Various nations manufacture other nations products "under license" from the parent company. Generally, quality control is not as stringent.

A perfect example is the US "Guinness" beer of twenty years ago. This was brewed by one of the major US brewers "under license" and was abject crap. Fortunately, the real stuff is coming over and the 'gadget' is a stroke of genius to get the nitro carbonation.

Other nations have other problems -- take Peugeot and Iran. From Yahoo News/AFP:

'Self igniting' Iran cars worry police
Hundreds of Iranian-made cars have suddenly caught fire on Iran's roads over the past months, with police pointing to the Peugeot 405 as the main culprit.

Since the beginning of the Iranian year in March, there have been 125 incidents of cars catching fire without warning and then killing or injuring the occupants, traffic police chief Mohammad Rooyanian said Monday.

"Around 300 people have been killed or wounded and 40 percent of the fatalities were attributed to the Peugeot 405," he told the hardline Kayhan newspaper.

"We are not to going compromise on this issue. We are emphasizing the need to improve the safety of the vehicles, so that our citizens will not be worried any more," he added.

The Peugeot 405 and other well-known models from the French carmaker have been manufactured under license since 1990 by Iran Khodro, Iran's largest car manufacturer.

"Fire service figures from the first six months of the year have said that 700 cars caught fire in Tehran, out of which 70 percent of them were manufactured by Iran Khodro," Rooyanian added.

He he he he he...

The Shipping News

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A tragedy if this happens. From The Scotsman:
Viking longships' last voyage strikes fear into the heart of archaeologists
A ROW has broken out in Norway over a decision to move three ancient Viking ships, which may not survive the journey.

The University of Oslo has decided to move three longships, probably by lorry and barge, to a new museum, despite dire warnings that the thousand-year-old oak vessels could fall apart en route.

A retired curator of Oslo's current Viking Ship Museum has said that the delicately preserved ships, two of which are nearly 80ft long, were almost equal in archaeological importance to the Pyramids.

"Even if I have to live till I am 100, I will go on fighting this move," the former curator, Arne Emil Christensen, 70, said. "The best way to stop it is still through diplomacy, but, if necessary, I will be in front of the ships, chained to the floor."

The university's board of directors has to move the sleek-hulled vessels over the objections of Christensen and several other Viking Age scholars, including the former director of the British Museum, David Wilson, and the director of Denmark's Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Ole Crumlin-Pedersen.

The board wants to transport the popular ships from a remote Oslo peninsula where they have been housed for more than 75 years to a large, multifaceted museum in the centre of the capital.

The three ships were recovered in pieces from separate Viking burial mounds more than a century ago, then painstakingly reassembled with rivets, glue, creosote and linseed oil.

Since then their condition has deteriorated markedly. Christensen said they have the consistency of dry crackers are now too fragile to move.

The most spectacular of them, the Oseberg ship, was built around the year 800 and has featured on the covers of many history books.
So fucking typical... They have the funds to build a nice shiny new museum but they do not have the funds to preserve a national treasure. I used to work for a public non-profit museum and this was rampant even then (30 years ago). When I read about all the waste in the US National Park system, I cringe. It is unfortunate to see this kind of 'management' happening in other countries as well. Rope, Manager, Tree Some assembly required...

Light posting again tonight

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Working on some web development for a client so posting will be a little thin tonight.

A change at the top

Programmer Pete Wright has undergone an awakening and is now no longer with Microsoft:

Good bye Microsoft; Pete has now left the building!
In 1991, I installed Windows 3 on my desktop PC at work. Work at the time was indentured servitude at a construction company in my home town where they massively underpaid a naive but talented guy (me) a measly 4 grand a year to write Progress applications and maintain Cobol stuff on an ageing mainframe. As I recall, I had more disk space, processor and memory on the Amiga in my bedroom at the time than the mainframe had.

When I installed Windows I was stunned. At last, PC's seemed capable of displaying a graphical user interface on a par with the Amiga's own Workbench. I was a young hacker who at the time used the somewhat embarrassing mantra of "Work for a living, live for Amiga". My boss, a former accountant who happened to be in the right place at the right time when the construction company considered a mainframe, was not so impressed. I got an official warning for installing a 'game' on my work computer. I distinctly remember him bellowing at me that Windows was a "toy" and would never see the light of day in any workplace.

He talks about his experiences with programming, coming from database maintenance and creation, moving up from various companies to becoming a top programmer at MSFT and Peter finishes off with these paragraphs:

I'm writing this on my Mac using NeoOffice Writer while the PC under my desk is, for the last time ever, removing Windows and all the trappings that go with it to install Ubuntu Linux. My Microsoft career is now officially over.

Microsoft don't innovate, in my opinion. Vista looks like a pile of crap compared to Mac OS X and Ubuntu with GLX. Their software is buggy, overpriced, and stress inducing. Their development tools are staid, designed and developed by committees to solve every problem you could ever conceive of, while being ideally suited to solving none.

The people that write code for a living with Microsoft technologies (by and large -- not all, and if you're reading a blog about coding then you're probably not included in this generalization) are day coders. They code to pick up a pay check -- they have no passion, no drive, little talent and create environments filled with tedium and political bullshit.

Today, I've resigned to leave that world behind forever, and I couldn't be happier.

Microsoft are the new IBM, and Microsoft customers are just like the huge corporate suit wearing monoliths that bought into the whole IBM mirage back in the 70's and 80's. I don't want to work for IBM. I just want to write cool software with talented passionate people, and make a difference in the world. I want to push the boundaries again like I did in the 80's and early 90's. I want to have fun and come home with a smile and a hug for my wife and kids instead of trudging through the door burdened with stress induced by boredom and corporate ineptitude.

Add this to the post about the true cost of Windows Vista and this makes Linux a lot more attractive to the newbie...

Light posting tonight

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Slept about twelve hours yesterday -- coming down with something and needed to kick it. Slow day and slower evening so light posting tonight...

January 2021

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democrats give conservatives indigestion
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