February 2007 Archives

Awwww - couldn't happen to a nicer company

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From the Seattle Post--Intelligencer again:
Airbus to shed 10,000 jobs, sell plants in bid to halt slide
Airbus, steadily losing its market lead to Boeing Co., unveiled drastic plans Wednesday to follow in its U.S. rival's footsteps by cutting thousands of jobs, selling off manufacturing sites and outsourcing more work to external suppliers.

Strikes and protests greeted the European planemaker's long-awaited announcement that it intends to shed 10,000 staff and sell, close or spin off six plants, as it struggles to survive the crippling fallout from a two-year delay to its A380 superjumbo and the weaker U.S. dollar.

"We are doing what other companies have done, but we're a bit late," Airbus Chief Executive Louis Gallois said as he presented the "Power8" restructuring strategy to reporters.
And this line really surprised me:
Gallois is also seeking partners to back a belated push into carbon-fiber composite technologies by investing in three other Airbus sites that produce fuselage and wing parts: Meaulte in northern France, Nordenham in Germany and Filton in Britain.
Not into composites yet -- these have been proven superior and have been on the market for a decade or more. Just shows what a heavily top-down management style, balkanized factories in different nations and heavy EU subsidy will do for a company.
Washington State seems to be passing a good law for a change. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Doggy diner bill moves forward
Animal lovers in the state are one step closer to being able to dine out with their dogs. A bill that would allow people to bring their dogs to restaurants passed out of committee Tuesday, but health officials still have some concerns.

The bill would allow leashed dogs to sit with their owners in outdoor seating areas of restaurants, bars and cafes for a three-year trial period. For businesses to participate, cities would first have to pass an ordinance approving the practice.

Originally, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, wanted the bill to allow dogs inside bars, as long as they were well-behaved, leashed, and there with the bar owner's permission.

Health officials testified against the bill because of worries that dogs' presence in food establishments could spread disease-causing bacteria.

Department of Health spokesman Jeff Smith said health officials haven't had time to review the changes to the bill and that they still oppose it.

But Jacobsen said that there is no real health issue associated with having dogs in food establishments, and that people already do it anyway.

"There's only one thing we can get from dogs, and that's rabies," Jacobsen said. "If you think about it, you have them in your house. Seattle people take their dogs on the buses all the time, and that doesn't seem to be disruptive."

He said that having dogs in public places like bars and restaurants makes for a more friendly environment.

"In my mind, they make it a more human setting, a more natural setting," Jacobsen said. "I just find it more relaxing having them around."

State health departments model their animal regulations around the Federal Food Code, which says live animals shouldn't be allowed in places that serve food (unless they're service animals). Florida, however, has a policy that allows dogs to sit with their owners at outdoor seating areas of restaurants.

Spencer Fairbanks, a manager at Broadway Grill on Capitol Hill, said his customers often bring their dogs to the restaurant's outdoor seating area and he's never received any complaints about them.

"It's good for our business, because we're in such a densely populated part of the city that people have to get out with their dogs, and they tend to combine errands," he said. "We're very dog-friendly."
Very cool!
Interesting article at Eco Totality about Al Gore's purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for his limousine liberal lifestyle:
Why the Gore Story Matters
As the controversy over global warming doomsayer Al Gore�s voracious energy-eater mansion rolls on, there�s an angle I think merits deeper investigation than it is currently getting. While much of the focus has been on whether or not Gore is an environmental hypocrite, the story has raised the profile of the role of �carbon offsets� in achieving a �greener,� more environmentally friendly world.

In its original story, The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville reported that Gore buys �carbon offsets� to compensate for his home�s use of energy from carbon-based fuels. What is a �carbon offset,� exactly? Essentially, it�s a payment someone makes to an environmentally friendly entity to compensate for personally using non-green energy.

As Wikipedia explains, a carbon offset �is a service that tries to reduce the net carbon emissions of individuals or organizations indirectly, through proxies who reduce their emissions and/or increase their absorption of greenhouse gases.� Wikipedia goes on to explain that �a wide variety of offset actions are available; tree planting is the most common. Renewable energy and energy conservation offsets are also popular, including emissions trading credits.�

So far, so good. So, where does Gore buy his �carbon offsets�? According to The Tennessean newspaper�s report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management. a company he co-founded and serves as chairman:
Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe�
The post then points to a link to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission list of their US holdings featuring companies like these:
Granted, I am cherrypicking names that I know to not be particularly at the vanguard of green activity (except for Whole Foods and with supermarket profit margins around 5%, I'm surprised at this investment although it's only $4M out of the total US portfolio of $206M.) So basically, the Goricle is drumming up business for his own investment company by pumping up the gobal warming hysteria.

Cool technology

One of the trade journals I really like is Machine Design. They have a lot of interesting articles about emerging technology and I look forward to each issue. This months issue has a short piece on some work being done at Johns Hopkins University for Surgeons. All people have some kind of tremor in their hands and what these researchers are doing is to try and develop a robot that the surgeon would grip. The instrument (scalpel or syringe) would be on the other end and the robot would sense and damp out the surgeons tremor allowing for a much greater degree of precision. From Machine Design:
Robot could steady surgeon's hand
A snakelike robot could help surgeons make incisions and tie sutures with greater precision. A second robot, the steady-hand, may curb a surgeon's natural tremor and let the doctor inject drugs into tiny blood vessels in the eye, dissolving clots that can damage vision.

The robots are being perfected at the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center at Johns Hopkins University. "Human hands are remarkable, but they have limitations. There are times it would be useful to have a third hand, and we can provide that. Sometimes a surgeon's fingers are too large to work in a confined space within the body. We can help by building tools that act like tiny, highly dexterous hands," says Russell H. Taylor, a professor of computer science and director of the center.

One potential use for the team's snakelike robot is in throat surgery. Currently, a doctor must insert and manually manipulate long inflexible tools and a camera into this narrow passageway. The snakelike robot, in contrast, could enter the throat, its two thin rods carrying tools at their tips. Capable of six degrees of freedom, the tools easily bend into an S-curve.

During surgery, a doctor at a workstation would see a three-dimensional view of the operating site while guiding the robot. The tools' movements are nimble, thanks to sophisticated software that can make up to 100 adjustments/sec.

The steady-hand system was built to help with another challenging task: microsurgery. At this scale, even the best surgeons display some tremor in their hands. Yet the slightest uncontrolled movements can be troublesome during surgery on microscopic structures. To address this problem, the steady-hand robot can grasp a needle and move it carefully in tandem with the surgeon in a technique called cooperative manipulation.

Before they are used on human patients, both the snakelike robot and the steady-hand system will need perhaps five more years of lab testing and prototyping. Still, Taylor believes both have a good chance of eventually joining more traditional tools in hospital operating rooms.

Very cool -- and this is just the beginning of such tools...
From Editor and Publisher comes this welcome story from Associated Press:
AP Entertainment Editor Institutes Ban on Paris Hilton Coverage
The Associated Press decided to give up a major vice last week: its addiction to stories about Paris Hilton. In the past year, Hilton has appeared on the wire an average of twice a week.

The wire service's entertainment editor Jesse Washington sent a memo to staffers on Feb. 13 that said, barring any major events, the AP would not run any mention of Paris Hilton on the wire, according to the memo, which was obtained by the New York Observer.

In the Observer article Washington was quoted as saying, "There was a surprising amount of hand-wringing. A lot of people in the newsroom were saying this was tampering with the news." Washington added that one editor's response was: "This is a great idea -- can we add North Korea?"

The AP was largely successful in the experiment, but Washington said that, unfortunately, her name did pop up in a couple of stories.
Thank you. Now if they could do something about B.S. and A.N.S., media will be worth reading again.

Bee gone?

The USA's honeybee population is shrinking. From the NY Times:
Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Keepers in Peril
David Bradshaw has endured countless stings during his life as a beekeeper, but he got the shock of his career when he opened his boxes last month and found half of his 100 million bees missing.

In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers have gone through similar shocks as their bees have been disappearing inexplicably at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation�s most profitable.

�I have never seen anything like it,� Mr. Bradshaw, 50, said from an almond orchard here beginning to bloom. �Box after box after box are just empty. There�s nobody home.�

The sudden mysterious losses are highlighting the critical link that honeybees play in the long chain that gets fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and dinner tables across the country.

Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction.

Now, in a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.

As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call �colony collapse disorder,� growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis.

Along with recent stresses on the bees themselves, as well as on an industry increasingly under consolidation, some fear this disorder may force a breaking point for even large beekeepers.
Not good -- honeybees polinate much of the food we eat and without polination, no new crops.

Housing Bubble

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Looks like the housing market may be doing some adjusting on its own. From Reuters/Business:
January new home sales fall 16.6 percent
Sales of new U.S. homes fell 16.6 percent in January and prices were little changed as the number of new homes on the market decreased slightly, according to a government report on Wednesday showing some weakness in the unsteady housing sector.

The monthly decline was the sharpest in 13 years, since a 23.8 percent drop-off in January 1994.

New single-family home sales fell to an annualized rate of 937,000 units from an upwardly revised rate of 1.123 million units in December, the Commerce Department said.

Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting January sales to dip to 1.080 million from the previously reported rate of 1.120 million units in December.
Home resales are up though and it seems that the West is being hit the hardest for new sales:
Home resales, which represent 85 percent of the housing market, climbed to a 6.46 million-unit annual rate.

Across the regions, the West saw the sharpest decline in new home sales with a 37.4 percent drop. In the Northeast, new home sales fell 18.7 percent while they decreased 8.1 percent in the Midwest and 9.7 percent in the South.

Communism in our schools

Get 'em young and train them to be good little pawns. From TCS:
L'Eggo My Lego
Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos.

A ban was initiated at the Hilltop Children's Center in Seattle. According to an article in the winter 2006-07 issue of "Rethinking Schools" magazine, the teachers at the private school wanted their students to learn that private property ownership is evil.

According to the article, the students had been building an elaborate "Legotown," but it was accidentally demolished. The teachers decided its destruction was an opportunity to explore "the inequities of private ownership." According to the teachers, "Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation."

The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society -- a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive."

They claimed as their role shaping the children's "social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity ... from a perspective of social justice."
Baaaby Jebus -- if my kid was at that poor excuse for a school, I would yank them out that same day. Talk about pussifying someone. Capitalism is unjust and oppressive? Explain how it's the only form of enterprise that works successfully. Collectivity? Talk about collectives to the hundreds of millions of men women and children that starved to death in Stalin's and Mao's collective paradises. In an ironic side-note, going to the website for this magazine, we see that although they mention the article, you have to actually purchase a download if you want to read it. Isn't that a bit... er... capitalistic? The school in question is here: Hilltop Children's Center A bit more from the TCS article:
Not all of the students shared the teachers' anathema to private property ownership. "If I buy it, I own it," one child is quoted saying. The teachers then explored with the students concepts of fairness, equity, power, and other issues over a period of several months.
Smart kid. A bit more:
Given some recent history in Washington state with respect to private property protections, perhaps this should not come as a surprise. Municipal officials in Washington have long known how to condemn one person's private property and sell it to another for the "public use" of private economic development. Even prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, which sanctioned such a use of eminent domain, Washington state officials acting under their state constitution were already proceeding full speed ahead with such transactions.

Officials in Bremerton, for example, condemned a house where a widow had lived for 55 years so her property could be used for a car lot, according to the Institute for Justice. And Seattle successfully condemned nine properties and turned them over to a private developer for retail shops and hotel parking, IJ reports. Attempts to do the same thing in Vancouver (for mixed use development) and Lakewood (for an amusement park) failed for reasons unrelated to property confiscation issues.

The court's ruling in Kelo, however, whetted municipal condemnation appetites even further. The Institute for Justice reports 272 takings for private use are pending or threatened in the state as of last summer. It's unclear if Legos will be targeted. But given what's being taught in some schools, perhaps it's just a matter of time.
Makes me even more glad to be out of the Soviet of Seattle.

Nucor Steel

I was on an online forum and the subject of Nucor Steel came up. Looks to be a very well-run company with a very curious history. Wikipedia has an entry for them:
Nucor Corporation
is one of the largest steel producers in the United States, and the largest of the "mini-mill" operators (those using electric arc furnaces to melt scrap steel, as opposed to companies using traditional blast furnace technology). Nucor claims to be the largest recycler of scrap steel in the United States, recycling over 19 million tons of scrap steel annually.
What makes the company interesting is the way that it is organized:
The Nucor Culture
The Nucor Culture can be summarized in five areas: decentralized management philosophy, performance based compensation, egalitarian benefits, customer service and quality, and technological leadership. Underlying these elements is the fact that none of Nucor's plants, whether built from scratch or acquired, are unionized. Nucor is opposed to unions, believing them to be a destructive force in the US steel industry. No Nucor plant has ever held a successful union certification election, even though Nucor management has not engaged in the controversial "union busting" tactics adopted by other companies.

Decentralized Management Philosophy
Nucor is highly decentralized in its operations; there are only five employee levels at Nucor (supervisor/professional, department manager, division general manager, executive vice president, and president). Most operating decisions are made at the division level or lower. In addition, as stated above only 65 employees work at the Nucor corporate office, which may possibly be the smallest number of corporate office employees among major corporations.
And of course, the higher-ups are getting fat-cat salaries and screwing workers:
Egalitarian Benefits
Nucor's senior officers are not provided traditional "perks" such as company cars, executive parking spaces, or executive dining rooms. In fact, several programs (such as Nucor's Profit Sharing, Scholarship Program, Employee Stock Purchase Plan, Extraordinary Bonus, and Service Awards Program) are not available to Nucor's officers but only to lower-level employees. As a symbol of Nucor's egalitarian culture, the annual report has the names of every employee printed on the cover. In August of 2006, the company did purchase a corporate jet for use by senior management. In a letter to all employees from the CEO, Dan DiMicco explained that the frequent rentals of charter jets made a corporate jet purchase a cost-effective measure.
So their stock must be tanking - right?
And the history is great:
Nucor's history consists of three distinct areas: the Reo Motor Car era, the Nuclear Corporation of America era, and the current Nucor era.

The REO era
Nucor's origins are with auto manufacturer Ransom E. Olds, who founded Olds Motor Vehicle Company (later, as Oldsmobile, to become a part of General Motors) and then Reo Motor Cars, the predecessor to Nucor, in Lansing, Michigan. Though Olds' cars were popular, they were not profitable, and the company's truck business (featuring the famous Reo Speed-Wagon) was not sufficiently profitable to avoid a trip to bankruptcy court in 1938.

Reo exited the car business, concentrated on trucks (with little success), attempted to diversify into lawn mowers (which didn't help), and finally in December 1954 sold off its entire manufacturing operations (suffering a $3 million loss on the sale).

The Nuclear Corporation Era
After the sale, Reo ended up with $16 million in cash and no businesses. So it attempted to liquidate itself out of business.

However, a group of dissident shareholders noticed the tax loss and successfully challenged the liquidation in a proxy fight in September 1955. In what amounted to a "reverse hostile takeover", Reo was forced to take over a tiny corporation called Nuclear Consultants, Inc.

Eventually Reo emerged as "Nuclear Corporation of America", and relocated to the Empire State Building in New York City. However, Nuclear's attempts to emerge as a nuclear based company were no more successful than Olds was in making money on his cars and trucks. Thus, it then attempted to become a conglomerate, and once again moved its headquarters, this time to Phoenix, Arizona.

Among the many businesses purchased during Nuclear's attempts at becoming profitable was Vulcraft, a steel joist manufacturer located in Florence, South Carolina. Vulcraft was founded by Sanborn Chase (no relation to the coffee company), who died at an early age, leaving the company to his widow. Nuclear purchased Vulcraft from Chase's widow in 1962 and hired F. Kenneth Iverson as general manager.

However, Nuclear the conglomerate was no better than Nuclear the nuclear company or REO the truck manufacturer, and in March 1965 filed for bankruptcy. The Board of Directors fired Nuclear's President (and, in the process, had to return his private jet to him), but for two months could not find a replacement, as nobody wanted to head a corporation that was most likely going to go out of business. Finally, Samuel Siegel, an accountant with Nuclear (and friend of Iverson) who had actively been looking to leave the company, informed the Board of Directors he would remain with the company under two conditions: Iverson would become President and he (Siegel) would become Chief Financial Officer, conditions the Board quickly accepted.
Sounds like a great place to work for. I get a lot of their steel as they have a plant in Seattle that my local metal yard buys from. Kinda cool to realize that there is so much history to the company.

Pigs at the trough

You mean it isn't allright to scam the government? From FOX News/AP:
Mom Pleads Guilty to Coaching Kids to Fake Retardation
A Vancouver woman admitted Monday that she coached her two children � beginning when they were 4 and 8 years old � to fake retardation so she could collect Social Security benefits on their behalf.

Rosie Costello, 46, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to defraud the government as well as Social Security fraud. Her son, Pete Costello, 26, pleaded guilty earlier this month, but the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle said Monday that authorities had not located her daughter, Marie.

According to the plea agreement, Costello began coaching her daughter at age 4, and later used the same ruse with her son. He continued to feign retardation into his mid-20s � picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials.

The scheme came to light last year after Pete Costello got a traffic ticket while driving away from the administration's Vancouver office, then was videotaped acting normally when he contested the ticket in court.

Rosie Costello admitted that she collected more than $280,000 in benefits, beginning in the mid-1980s. Most were paid by Social Security, but the state Department of Social and Health Services paid $53,000.
Yikes! $280,000 since 1985 works out to $13,000 each year. Not a bad racket... And think of the people who really could have used the funds and benefits.

Just another quiet evening in Georga

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Hat tip to Sondra K for this post:
Today's WTF?
If you are too drunk to drive, you might want to think about ditching the assault rifle. And the cocaine. Ditto the marijuana. And you definitely don�t want to pretend you�re a police officer.

Gwinnett police have arrested a 24-year-old Lawrenceville man after he asked for change for $100 at a fast-food drive-through last week and the clerk noticed an assault rifle in his lap.

Some Georgia redneck? Nope.
Gwinnett police found Mohammed Faizal Taki semiconscious in a parked car nearby. Taki had pulled off on the side of the road. A search of his car revealed an assault rifle, cocaine, marijuana and various rounds of ammunition, police said. During processing, sheriff�s deputies found a small bag tucked in Taki�s shoes. The white, chalky substance field tested as cocaine, police said. Final tests are pending.

Police charged Taki with driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and cocaine, impersonating an officer, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a weapon during a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Taki was denied bond and is being held at Gwinnett County Jail.

Smells funny, don�t it? Drunken convicted felon of a Muzzie with drugs, large bills and an assault rifle?

So I decide to search the interweb for his name. Here�s his booking photo.
Such a nice lookin' Suthern' boy... And how many more like him are here waiting.

Foound it!

Been looking for an article on this and finally ran across it at Time Magazine. An excerpt:
...Telltale signs are everywhere � from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7� F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds �the so-called circumpolar vortex�that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa's drought. By blocking moisture-bearing equatorial winds and preventing them from bringing rainfall to the parched sub-Sahara region, as well as other drought-ridden areas stretching all the way from Central America to the Middle East and India, the polar winds have in effect caused the Sahara and other deserts to reach farther to the south. Paradoxically, the same vortex has created quite different weather quirks in the U.S. and other temperate zones. As the winds swirl around the globe, their southerly portions undulate like the bottom of a skirt. Cold air is pulled down across the Western U.S. and warm air is swept up to the Northeast. The collision of air masses of widely differing temperatures and humidity can create violent storms�the Midwest's recent rash of disastrous tornadoes, for example....
Published on Monday, Jun. 24, 1974 and titled Another Ice Age?

A wonderful post about the Goricle and his energy use-- Gerard compares it with another house:

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who's the greenest of them all?
Al's house:
"Gore's mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).... The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh -- more than 20 times the national average... Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh�guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year.... Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore's energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.Gore's extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore's mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year." (Tennessee Center for Policy Research)

George's house:
The 4,000-square-foot house is a model of environmental rectitude. Geothermal heat pumps located in a central closet circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees; the water heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. Systems such as the one in this "eco-friendly" dwelling use about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and cooling systems utilize. A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof runs; wastewater from sinks, toilets and showers goes into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is used to irrigate the landscaping surrounding the four-bedroom home. Plants and flowers native to the high prairie area blend the structure into the surrounding ecosystem.

No, this is not the home of some eccentrically wealthy eco-freak trying to shame his fellow citizens into following the pristineness of his self-righteous example.... This is President George W. Bush's "Texas White House" outside the small town of Crawford." (Common Dreams)

Gerard goes on:

Here we have the new religion of "Save the Earth Not the People" reverting to an ancient religious practice of "buying indulgences" in which the wealthy could assure their ascent into heaven no matter what their sins through cash payments to the Catholic Church (or in this case the Earth Church).
Indulgences occur when the [Catholic] Church, acting by virtue of its authority, applies existing merit from the Church's treasury to an individual. The individual gains the indulgence by participating in certain activities, most often the recitation of prayers. By decree of Pope Pius V in 1567, following the Council of Trent, it is forbidden to attach the receipt of an indulgence to any financial act, including the giving of alms.

The 1567 decision by the Catholic Church took the money out of the sin equation. It is a shame that the much younger Church of the Earth has yet to have this "Reformation" but then again it is a church much younger than Islam and we're still waiting on that Reformation.

Besides, new churches need funding and there is so much money to be made in this new and improved eco-scam.

I am not quoting this so as to deny global warming, it is happening but it is happening as a part of a much larger periodic cycle of climate and to consider, even for a moment that we humans have done anything more than contribute a few percent is pure fucking unadulterated hubris.

The reason I am quoting this is that the environmental 'movement' has veered away from critical thinking and hard science. They cherry pick data and ignore things that do not fit their mindset. They are purposely misleading the general public and any attempts to present a different viewpoint are shouted down, not listened to and discussed.

We need to have the general public wake up a bit here...

Stuart Brand - Heretic

Stuart Brand is one of the more original advanced thinkers out there. He founded the Whole Earth catalog, he hung out with the Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead at their famous Trips Festival in San Francisco, he organized the first Hackers Conference, in 1984, and helped found The WELL, the early electronic community that was a sort of prototype of the Web, you get the general idea... Well, from this article at the NY Times, it seems that he has not stopped pushing the boundaries and is indeed breaking them:
An Early Environmentalist, Embracing New �Heresies�
Stewart Brand has become a heretic to environmentalism, a movement he helped found, but he doesn�t plan to be isolated for long. He expects that environmentalists will soon share his affection for nuclear power. They�ll lose their fear of population growth and start appreciating sprawling megacities. They�ll stop worrying about �frankenfoods� and embrace genetic engineering.

He predicts that all this will happen in the next decade, which sounds rather improbable � or at least it would if anyone else had made the prediction. But when it comes to anticipating the zeitgeist, never underestimate Stewart Brand.
And some more:
He is now promoting environmental heresies, as he called them in Technology Review. He sees genetic engineering as a tool for environmental protection: crops designed to grow on less land with less pesticide; new microbes that protect ecosystems against invasive species, produce new fuels and maybe sequester carbon.

He thinks the fears of genetically engineered bugs causing disaster are as overstated as the counterculture�s fears of computers turning into Big Brother. �Starting in the 1960s, hackers turned computers from organizational control machines into individual freedom machines,� he told Conservation magazine last year. �Where are the green biotech hackers?�

He�s also looking for green nuclear engineers, and says he feels guilty that he and his fellow environmentalists created so much fear of nuclear power. Alternative energy and conservation are fine steps to reduce carbon emissions, he says, but now nuclear power is a proven technology working on a scale to make a serious difference.

�There were legitimate reasons to worry about nuclear power, but now that we know about the threat of climate change, we have to put the risks in perspective,� he says. �Sure, nuclear waste is a problem, but the great thing about it is you know where it is and you can guard it. The bad thing about coal waste is that you don�t know where it is and you don�t know what it�s doing. The carbon dioxide is in everybody�s atmosphere.�

Mr. Brand predicts that his heresies will become accepted in the next decade as the scientific minority in the environmental movement persuades the romantic majority. He still considers himself a member of both factions, just as in the days of the Merry Pranksters, but he�s been shifting toward the minority.

�My trend has been toward more rational and less romantic as the decades go by,� he says. �I keep seeing the harm done by religious romanticism, the terrible conservatism of romanticism, the ingrained pessimism of romanticism. It builds in a certain immunity to the scientific frame of mind.
Emphasis mine -- what a wonderful quote:
I keep seeing the harm done by religious romanticism, the terrible conservatism of romanticism, the ingrained pessimism of romanticism. It builds in a certain immunity to the scientific frame of mind.
A bit longish for a bumper sticker but this thought needs to be broadcast to a much wider audience...

Wrong Number - text messaging department

Make sure you have the right number when you text message someone. From Kentucky station KFVS12:
Mistaken text message lands teacher in jail
We've all dialed a wrong phone number, but that slip up landed one Heartland health teacher behind bars.

Police say 34-year-old Ann Greenfield mistakenly text messaged a Kentucky State Trooper trying to score marijuana.

"Trooper Pervine was in Paducah last night eating with his wife and his parents for her birthday and he started getting the text messages. The first one says something about needing some green."

Trooper Barry Meadows says his colleague Trevor Pervine had at least 30 messages in his inbox.

"He thought it was a couple of his buddies messing with him" said Meadows.

Turns out he was very wrong, Trooper Pervine called for back up, then drove to Murray to make the sale. That's where he found Ann Greenfield waiting in a parking lot.

"Once she was there she knew something was not right and tried to back out of the transaction but of course it was too late, they stopped her and placed her under arrest" said Meadows.

Superintendent Bob Rogers calls the whole thing a total shock. "Our number one priority is to ensure that the educational process is not disrupted."

Superintendent Rogers says part of Greenfield's curriculum as a PE and Health teacher is to teach students not to use drugs. And since this story's made headlines, some of the students have had questions for administrators like: "why is Greenfield telling us not to do drugs when she's doing them herself?"

This story is getting local parents' attention too.

"She's teaching our children, yes that worries me," said Yvonne Giese.

"She's a school teacher she influencing our young ones," said Julie Treyburger.

Meanwhile, Trooper Meadows says this is the first time he can recall a drug arrest going down like this one. "This is the first time I can think of where someone uses a text message and got the wrong number."

Superintendent Rogers says Ann Greenfield is on paid leave until the school district completes its investigation.


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Thomas Watson, founder of I.B.M. had that as a sign over his desk. It is a pity that an unknown (and very dead) California motorist did not heed this simple advice... From the SF Gate:
Car crash kills man believed to be using laptop while driving
A man who authorities say appeared to be driving while using his laptop computer died Monday when his vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with a Hummer.

After the crash, California Highway Patrol officers found the victim's computer still running and plugged into the cigarette lighter of his 1991 Honda Accord.

The 28-year-old victim was a computer tutor in Chico. The Sutter County Coroner's Office was withholding his identity until his family could be notified.

"The screen itself shattered from the impact, so we can't be sure if he was working on it or not, but we think from the way it was found that he might have been working," CHP spokesman Sgt. John Pettigrew said. "It's a straight road right there, and it doesn't look like he fell asleep or anything else."

The couple inside the Hummer escaped the 8:30 a.m. collision with bumps and bruises, Pettigrew said.

The crash, near the intersection of highways 99 and 113 about 30 miles north of the state capital, totaled both vehicles. It closed a section of Highway 99 south of Yuba City for about two hours.
Talk about clueless...

4000 pounds per square inch

That is the water pressure around the Ocean depth of 9,000 feet. Most stuff gets crushed like a tissue paper. Not this lil' guy -- from Wired:
New Sub Dives Crushing Depths
Scientists at the University of Washington have developed an autonomous underwater vehicle that can stay out to sea for up to a year and dive to depths of nearly 9,000 feet -- nearly three times deeper than the deepest-diving military submarines.

Known as Deepglider, the 71-inch long, 138-pound device is made of carbon fiber that can withstand the deep ocean's immense pressure. The energy-efficient, battery-powered glider carries sensors to measure oceanic conditions including salinity and temperature -- information that is key to understanding climate change. When the measurements are complete, Deepglider rises to the surface and transmits the data via satellite to onshore scientists.

"Reaching a depth of 2,700 meters (nearly 9,000 feet) is quite a feat and promises to extend the nature and type of missions that can be carried out by gliders," says Princeton University engineering professor Naomi Leonard. "You could even imagine a heterogeneous fleet of gliders working in tandem at different depths to explore this otherwise impenetrable undersea."

Deepglider opens up new research possibilities for oceanographers studying global climate change. The glider's first trip revealed unexpected warming of water near the ocean floor, and scientists are interested in studying whether the temperatures are related to global warming.

"The maiden voyage was wonderful," says Charlie Eriksen, professor of physical oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle. "On every dive we got within 10 meters of the bottom and we were able to see some interesting bottom temperature and salinity variations that we didn't know about, that I certainly didn't expect."

During its maiden voyage, in November 2006, the glider remained at sea for 39 days and made 150 dives, the deepest of which was to 8,901 feet, just 33 feet shy of the sea floor.
Very cool -- remote sensing and telemetry are the new direction for exploration like this. Bob Ballard is doing some amazing archaeological work in the Black Sea with ROVs -- with autonomous vehicles like Deepglider, this extends our reach even further.

Fun times in a Seattle suburb

From the Seattle Times:
Ostriches on the loose cause Sea-Tac spectacle
A couple of wayward ostriches � which had been chased from their home by a band of marauding dogs � caused a spectacle Sunday as they ran back and forth on a busy SeaTac road before being corralled by police and animal control officers.

According to a spokesman with the King County Sheriff's Office, two ostriches were reported to be running up the middle of the road near the intersection of South 168th Street and 37th Avenue South in the city of SeaTac around 4 p.m.

"They were reported running down the middle of the road heading north," said King County Deputy Bob Conner. "Then they were running south, then apparently they were walking because they became exhausted."

Al Dams, with King County animal control, said three of the flightless birds had been on their owner's fenced property when marauding dogs broke through the fence and chased the creatures. Two of them managed to escape, while one ostrich died in the attempt.

Police, animal control officers birds' owner worked together for about two hours to corral the creatures who captured without further incident, police said.

Animal control officers said they are still looking for the marauding dogs.
Someone we know from an online forum saw the pursuit. Unfortunately, no photos have been posted as yet -- from what Eric said, there were a lot of police cars involved.
It seems that the Goracle likes to use electricity quite a bit. From the Tennessee Center for Policy Research:
Al Gore�s Personal Energy Use Is His Own �Inconvenient Truth�
Gore�s home uses more than 20 times the national average

Last night, Al Gore�s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore�s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh�more than 20 times the national average.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh�guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore�s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore�s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore�s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore�s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.
�As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use,� said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.

In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.
I first saw this on the Drudge Report and tracked it down to the initial report shown above.

A bit of Kiwi ingenuity

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Ken Jones was voulinteering at a local community television station in a remote part of new Zealand when he realized that they were thinking about spending $20,000 on a signal link. Ken came up with something much cheaper. From The New Zealand Herald:
$10 wok keeps TV station on air
Why pay $20,000 for a commercial link to run your television station when a $10 kitchen wok from the Warehouse is just as effective?

This is exactly how North Otago's newest television station 45 South is transmitting its signal from its studio to the top of Cape Wanbrow, in a bid to keep costs down.

45 South volunteer Ken Jones designed the wok transmitter in his spare time last year when he wanted to provide wireless broadband to his Ardgowan home.

"A group of us wanted to connect our computers to each other and then we worked out a way to get of getting the signal between two points," he said.

He discovered satellite dishes were between $100 to $400 retail and that smaller dishes, the same size as a wok, were $80.

Mr Jones thought he could do better.

Along with friend Murray Bobbette they worked out mathematical equations to prove the curved metal face of a wok would have the same effect as a small satellite dish.

"We have spent a lot of time getting it right -- the first time we installed one we had it up a pole with the handle still on the end of the wok," he said.

"We had it connected to the woolshed and initially you couldn't get a signal the width of the paddock and now it can reach up to 20km."

When the television station 45 South (UHF channel 41) started up in September last year, Mr Jones thought the same technique could be applied.

"The $20,000 for a commercial link was just money we didn't have, so we bought several woks from The Warehouse instead which was convenient and cheap," he said.

Pre-recorded clips at the studio are fed through a computer and beamed to Cape Wanbrow where they are relayed off to television sets around North Otago.

The classic case of Kiwi ingenuity has made its way onto the internet and the technique has been posted by an American website, Mr Jones said.

"People wanted to know all the details about how to make their own, so it is now all publicly documented," he said.
I have not been able to find the 'American web site' that Ken mentions. Great use of available resources though!

A matter of a parking ticket

Interesting article about parking tickets in San Francisco. From the SF Gate:
Parking tickets by the truckload
18 S.F. businesses rack up thousands of citations, pay city on monthly plan

International courier UPS receives an average of more than one San Francisco parking ticket every hour, giving the company the unenviable distinction of being the city's No. 1 parking violator.

Last year, United Parcel Service paid $673,334 in fines for 11,788 tickets -- an average of one ticket every 45 minutes throughout the year.

The company is not alone. Eighteen companies have special accounts with the city to pay off parking tickets in bulk. Together, they racked up 27,395 tickets and paid more than $1.5 million in fines for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

McMillan Electric Co. contributed $74,375 toward the total. The family-owned San Francisco firm, which does most of its business downtown, received 1,497 tickets over the year.

"It's a business decision," company president Pat McMillan said. "Is it cheaper to pay the ticket, or is it cheaper to pay the guys working for me to spend time looking for a legal parking space?"

McMillan pays his workers about $80 an hour and said risking a parking ticket often wins out. "I don't like it, but we've got a job to do, and we have to get our guys in there to work."

San Francisco, which issues about 1.9 million parking citations a year and collects about $85 million in fines, began its corporate program in 1998. The intent was twofold: help companies doing regular business in San Francisco manage their tickets, and streamline the collection process, said Maggie Lynch, spokeswoman for the Municipal Transportation Agency. The agency runs the city's parking enforcement operation.

Companies can enroll if they have at least 20 vehicles that park on city streets and if they have what Lynch described as "a history of citations." The participating firms are billed monthly and cannot protest the tickets. In return, they avoid late fees and having their vehicles clamped with immobilizing boots when a vehicle accrues five or more parking tickets.
Clever idea actually -- if SF is anything like Seattle or Bellevue, parking downtown during business hours is a joke.

Me next -- No! Me next!

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Serious geekdom. Someone has access to a large industrial robot and what do they do? Attach a seat with a five-point harness and take it for a spin -- literally. Check out this YouTube goodness


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Very cool website -- aggregates all sorts of data from different websites and presents them on one well-designed page. Check out OpenCongress From their website:
About OpenCongress
OpenCongress brings together official government information with news and blog coverage to give you the real story behind what's happening in Congress. Small groups of political insiders and lobbyists know what's really going on in Congress. Now, everyone can be an insider. OpenCongress is a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource with a mission to help make Congress more transparent and to encourage civic engagement.

Natural hazards

Fascinating look at our Earth from Earth Observatory.

Here is February 19th's snowfall over the Northeastern US:

Snow over the Northeast United States
After a late-winter snow and ice storm, the clouds over the Northeast United States cleared on February 19, 2007, affording the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite this stunning view of the brown and white landscape. Snow stretches from Maine to Virginia, highlighting the curving folds of the Appalachian Mountains, branch-like rivers and streams, and the solid white smoothness of frozen lakes. Beautiful though the snow is, it trapped hundreds of motorists in eastern Pennsylvania, shut down some air and train travel, closed businesses and schools, triggered power outages, and caused 15 deaths, reported CNN on February 15.

Honey, get me a beer

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Tired of getting your own beer? John W. Cornwell was so he built this Beer Launching Fridge.
Beer Launching Fridge
Have you ever gotten up off the couch to get a beer for the umpteenth time and thought, "What if instead of ME going to get the BEER, the BEER came to ME???" Well, that was how I first conceived of the beer launching fridge. About 3 months and several hundred dollars later I have a fully automated, remote controlled, catapulting, man-pit approved, beer launching mini-fridge. It holds 10 beers in its magazine with 14 more in reserve to store a full case. It is controlled by a keyless entry system. Pressing unlock will start the catapult rotating and when it is aiming at your target, pressing unlock again will stop it. Then the lock button can be pressed to launch a beer in the selected direction.

Almost all of the raw materials for the refrigerator were purchased from McMaster-Carr, some motors came from Jameco, and the switches/potentiometer were purchased at RadioShack. In total the beer launching refrigerator uses 3 limit switches. Two of which are triggered when the elevator reaches the top or bottom of its travel, and one is triggered when the catapult arm is fully cocked. I also have a potentiometer that is connected to the rotating catapult platform. The voltage across the potentiometer is read by the microcontroller to sense the angle of the catapult platform.
There is a cool video of it in operation on the site as well.

Wendy's Store #1 closing in a few days

Sad to see it go -- I prefer Wendy's over McD and Burger King. From USA Today/AP:
Wendy's to close original restaurant
Wendy's International Inc. said Friday that sagging sales will force it to close the restaurant where the nation's third-largest hamburger chain began in 1969. The iconic restaurant, filled with memorabilia and photographs of the late Wendy's founder, Dave Thomas, will close March 2.

"This is a very difficult decision, but the truth is we kept it open for sentimental reasons much longer than we should have," company spokesman Denny Lynch said.

Thomas, who died in 2002 of liver cancer, opened his first Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers on Nov. 15, 1969. He named the restaurant after his 8-year-old daughter, Melinda Lou, nicknamed Wendy. He later became a nationally known figure as a Wendy's pitchman in television commercials.

But the original restaurant, just a few blocks from the Ohio Statehouse, is unable to generate sufficient sales at night or during weekends, when government buildings are closed, Lynch said.

The restaurant has no drive-through window, has limited parking and soon would have required substantial building improvements, Lynch said. No sales figures were released.

Thomas knew before he died that his first restaurant was struggling, Lynch said.

"I guarantee he would support this decision," Lynch said. "He recognized that a company needs to be profitable."

Employees will be offered jobs at other locations, Lynch said. The company hasn't decided whether it will hold a closing ceremony.

"It's sad to see history disappear," said Mark Barbash, the city's director of development. Wendy's owns the building and the land, and city officials hope to meet with the company to discuss redevelopment ideas.

Memorabilia at the restaurant, including the dress worn by Thomas' daughter when she posed for the restaurant's logo, will be moved to the company's corporate offices in Dublin, a Columbus suburb.

Wendy's operates about 6,600 restaurants in the United States and abroad.
It would be nice if they dismantled the whole restaurant and rebuilt it at their cooperate headquarters. The historical value of this is major -- good corporate PR too.

Jackson Five to return?

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Or just a few of them? FOX News/Entertainment has the story:
Broke Jackson Family to Tour Again
Jacko, Janet Will Tour

It had to happen eventually: With no work coming his way, Michael Jackson, sources say, has agreed to do a tour with sister Janet and his brothers.

I'm told that Michael reluctantly met with his siblings on Monday in Las Vegas. Sisters Janet and Rebbie, as well as Jermaine, Randy, Marlon, Tito and Jackie, all knocked on Jackson's Las Vegas door around 7:30 p.m. Nanny Grace Rwaramba, who runs the door, made them wait between 30 and 60 minutes before allowing the brood in.

What was discussed was the family's financial situation and the fact that Jackson has so far been unable to get work in Vegas. Sources say concert promoter Leonard Rowe of Atlanta, who worked with the Jacksons in the 1980s, was there and made a proposal: a family tour with all members.

The weird thing is, Michael seemed to understand what was happening.

That's good, too, because Jackson is still "radioactive," according to those familiar with the casino business. For example: The owner of one big casino hotel in the Caribbean recently told his chief executive to make sure Jackson was not invited to a big music event being arranged there this summer.

A successful Jackson family tour could change all that for Michael. It would also be a financial boon to a family that needs cash in a hurry. Jackson recently took a new mortgage on his parents' home, and his own home � the Neverland Valley Ranch � is in hoc to the tune of $25 million. Jackson himself relies on cash from royalties on his own songs. But that only comes to a maximum of $7 million a year. As described in court testimony, Jackson could go through that kind of money in just a couple of weeks.

The tour idea also works for Janet Jackson, whose last two albums have been huge duds. The idea of Michael and Janet performing a couple of duets, or Janet's brothers backing her on her own hits, would be a tantalizing notion to any promoter.

The question remains: If Michael agreed, will he go through with it? Stay tuned...
Emphasis mine -- for such a recluse, he is burning through a lot of money. I wonder if he still owns the Beatles catalog -- the article didn't mention that and it was a significant part of his income. I could live very comfortably on the loose change under his Barca-Lounger cushion...

A little programming problem...

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From Flight Global News:
Navigational software glitch forces Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors back to Hawaii, abandoning first foreign deployment to Japan
Lockheed Martin is rushing a software fix to Hawaii after 12 US Air Force F-22A Raptors en route to Japan for the stealth fighter�s first overseas deployment had to turn back because an unspecified problem with their navigation systems.

The F-22s, of the 27th Fighter Squadron from Langley AFB in Virginia, were en route from Hickham AFB in Hawaii to Kadena AB on Okinawa for a three- to four-month deployment. They are expected to try again by the end of the week, after the software fix is incorporated and tested.

Asked to comment on rumours the problem related to crossing the international dateline, the USAF said: "The aircraft experienced a software problem involving the navigation system en route from Hickam to Kadena. For operational security reasons we will not discuss specific aircraft systems or locations."
Dateline was probably not the issue as most systems sync to GMT for all time-keeping functions. I'm putting my money on a problem moving from longitude W179.99 degrees to E180.00 degrees. This isn't the first time that airplanes have had issues either. The F-16 fighter had a tencency to flip upside down when crossing the Equator. Gorgeous airplane:

The Goracle under the bed

It seems that the visage of Al Gore and his minions are causing Scottish children to loose their sleep. From The Scotsman:

Children losing sleep over global warming
Half of children between the ages of seven and 11 are anxious about the effects of global warming and often lose sleep over it, according to a new report.

A survey of 1,150 youngsters found that one in four blamed politicians for the problems of climate change, while one in seven said their own parents were not doing enough to improve the environment.

The most feared consequences of global warming included poor health, the possible submergence of entire countries and the welfare of animals.

Most of those polled in the survey by supermarket chain Somerfield understood the benefits of recycling - although one in ten thought it was linked to riding a bike.

Pete Williams, of Somerfield, said: "Kids are exposed to the hard facts as much as anybody. While many adults may look the other way, this study should show that global warming is not only hurting the children of the future, it's affecting the welfare of kids now."

Way to go alarmist media... While growing up, my night fears were the Soviets until it was pointed out that they didn't want to destroy us, they wanted to move here. The presentation of the debate about Global Warming and our personal contribution to it is presented in such a sensationalized way that it's very easy for someone not trained in critical scientific thinking to get hopelessly swayed by a few theories and to ignore all of the others.

Daylight Savings Time

The dates for Daylight Savings Time are being shifted this year and there are a lot of software applications and operating systems that track DST and will be thrown off kilter if not patched. The Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium has a great list of links to various information and patch sources. Get it done before March 11th, 2007

Poetic Justice...

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Just released today. From CNN News:
Genealogists: Thurmond's family owned Sharpton's kin
The Rev. Al Sharpton is a descendant of a slave owned by relatives of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond -- a discovery the civil rights activist called "shocking" on Sunday.

Sharpton learned of his connection to Thurmond, once a prominent defender of segregation, last week through the Daily News, which asked genealogists to trace his roots.

"It was probably the most shocking thing in my life," Sharpton said at a news conference Sunday, the same day the tabloid revealed the story.

Some of Thurmond's relatives said the nexus also came as a surprise to them. Doris Strom Costner, a distant cousin who said she knew the late senator all her life, said Sunday she "never heard of such a thing."

"My momma never would talk to me about nothing like that," Costner said of ancestors who owned slaves. "She only talked to me about good things."

The revelations surfaced after Ancestry.com contacted a Daily News reporter who agreed to have his own family tree done. The intrigued reporter then turned around and asked Sharpton if he wanted to participate. Sharpton said he told the paper, "Go for it."

The genealogists, who were not paid by the newspaper, uncovered the ancestral ties using a variety of documents that included census, marriage and death records.

They found that Sharpton's great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, was a slave owned by Julia Thurmond, whose grandfather was Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather. Coleman Sharpton was later freed.

Thurmond, of South Carolina, was once considered an icon of racial segregation. During his 1948 bid for president, he promised to preserve segregation and, in 1957, he filibustered for more than 24 hours against a civil rights bill.

Sharpton, who ran for president in 2004 on a ticket of racial justice, said he met Thurmond only once in 1991 when he visited Washington, D.C., with the late soul singer James Brown, who knew Thurmond. Sharpton said the meeting was "awkward."

"I was not happy to meet him because what he had done all his life," Sharpton said.

Thurmond was seen as softening his segregation stance later in his life. He died in 2003, at 100. The long-serving senator was originally a Democrat but became a Republican in 1964.

Thurmond's children have acknowledged that Thurmond fathered a biracial daughter -- Essie Mae Washington-Williams' -- whose mother was a housekeeper in the home of Thurmond's parents.

Telephone message left by The Associated Press on Sunday for Strom Thurmond Jr. and an attorney who once represented Washington-Williams, were not returned.
The fallout from this will be fun to see -- talk about carrying a bit of baggage...

The New Deal -- a look at FDR's Legacy

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Interesting look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his lasting legacy re: the Gold Standard and the US Dollar. From The View From 1776:

How FDR Destroyed the Dollar
Until 1933, the U. S. dollar was the among the strongest and most stable currencies in the world. With the stroke of a pen, President Franklin Roosevelt torpedoed it. We are still plagued with the resulting inflation.

All governments lust for taxpayers' money. The ability to direct the expenditure of large sums of money confers great power upon political leaders. But the spending requirements that President Franklin Roosevelt had in mind upon taking office in 1933 were of extraordinary dimensions. Inflating the currency, in socialist theory, was a way to create more money for that end.

In the 1920s, after the disillusionment of World War I, socialism enjoyed great vogue in the United States. Social Gospel ministers extolled it, intellectuals lauded it, and popular magazines ran many favorable articles about it. In that period, the general public had no awareness of the horrors then being effected in the name of socialism in the USSR, and Hitler's National Socialism was still in the future.

It was against that background that Franklin Roosevelt campaigned for the presidency in 1932 with the promise to give state-planning a try. Described in that way, it seemed to be no more than a proposal to coordinate government spending more effectively.

FDR's ideas, however, went much further than that, as demonstrated by the barrage of government take-over programs enacted immediately after his inauguration. His "brain trusters," socialistic Ivy League professors, were proposing to nationalize the private banks and agriculture, and to regulate industrial production, prices, and wages on the model of Mussolini's Fascist state-corporatism.

And a bit more:

In April, 1933, the President issued an executive order that abrogated gold payment clauses in government and private contracts and made it illegal for private citizens to keep their gold coins or to own gold for any purpose other than industrial applications. He completed the destruction of the dollar by arbitrarily reducing the dollar's gold content.

Before FDR's executive orders, Federal Reserve currency could be exchanged at the Federal Reserve banks for gold at a price of $20.67 per ounce. President Roosevelt ordered that the dollar be devalued almost 41% by raising the price per ounce of gold to $35.00. At the $20.67 gold ratio, one dollar would buy 0.048 ounces of gold. At the $35 ratio, one dollar would buy only 0.0286 ounces of gold.

The inflation set in motion by FDR's actions has continued without cease. The London gold price was $664.95 on February 16, 2007, a de facto 96.9% devaluation of the dollar vs the price before President Roosevelt began the devaluation process. The Consumer Price Index is now approximately 905% higher than in 1932.

Before FDR�s inauguration, gold coins minted by the Treasury were in common use, Federal Reserve paper currency was exchangeable for gold, and U. S. Treasury debt gave holders the option to take payment in currency or gold, at a fixed rate. Moreover, most corporate debt similarly provided for payment in currency or gold. This gave the dollar a fixed value and made it one of the world's strongest currencies, "as good as gold."

In effect, President Roosevelt confiscated 40% of assets in the hands of individuals, corporations, and banks, without offering any compensation to them.

Interesting to see the very foundations of the problems we are suffering from today. Communism never caught on to any great extent although its practitioners certainly tried. Socialism on the other hand is with us in more insidious ways than we like to think...

Top-down control does not work at any level, be it a small business or a large corporation, a school or a medical facility. Who in their right minds would think that it should work for government?

Political Correctness and Islamofascism

Hat tip to RL at Augean Stables for this post on this essay by Iranian ex-pat Amil Imani:
Political Correctness and the Rise of Islamism
Tough article by Amil Imani, an Iranian expatriot and apparently an ex-Muslim spares no delicate sentiments nor does he accept the standard distinction between Islamism and Islam. His comments on the issue of political correctness' current counterproductive role and Islam's danger describe the dynamic of demopaths and their dupes. It's the same dynamic that makes the MSM major contributors to the success of Jihad in the 21st century.

Political Correctness is the Incubator of Islamism
by Amil Imani
14 Feb, 2007

Time and again we are told by the politically correct "experts" not to worry about Islam posing a threat to our way of life. We are repeatedly lectured that only a very small minority of Muslims are troublemakers who are giving the peaceful masses of Muslims a bad name. We are also informed that the terrorists, who happened to be Muslims, are the disaffected and the young. And not to worry, since as the fire of youth turns to ashes of old age the rebellious will mellow, as they always have.

With heavy assurances like this, coming from so many know-it-all authoritative figures, we can sleep soundly without the aid of sleeping pills. After all, people reason that these pundits are "experts" whose job is to know and tell it like it is. Those who voice contrary views must be a bunch of racist, alarmist hate mongers. Who is right?

Wouldn't be more prudent to let the facts settle the matter, rather than blindly accepting either position? Of course it would, except for one huge problem. In the face of threats, people tend to go to the mind's medicine cabinet and take a few denial and rationalization pills, in the same way that it is the aspirin bottle they turn to when a headache strikes. Why not? We are the Easy Species. We love effortless, quick and simple solutions. And that's not invariably bad. It has given us all kinds of labor and time saving devices.

Yet, the Islam problem is very real and deadly. Neither the pronouncements of the experts, nor the tranquilizing pills of the mind can make it go away. It is here and it shows every sign of imposing itself on us. Let us look at some of the facts.
Good stuff -- Imani is not afraid to speak truth to what passes for power these days. Wake up people!!!

Customer Service

Nice essay from Joel Spolsky on what it takes to provide great customer service:
Seven steps to remarkable customer service
As a bootstrapped software company, Fog Creek couldn�t afford to hire customer service people for the first couple of years, so Michael and I did it ourselves. The time we spent helping customers took away from improving our software, but we learned a lot and now we have a much better customer service operation.

Here are seven things we learned about providing remarkable customer service. I�m using the word remarkable literally�the goal is to provide customer service so good that people remark.

1. Fix everything two ways
Almost every tech support problem has two solutions. The superficial and immediate solution is just to solve the customer�s problem. But when you think a little harder you can usually find a deeper solution: a way to prevent this particular problem from ever happening again.

Sometimes that means adding more intelligence to the software or the SETUP program; by now, our SETUP program is loaded with special case checks. Sometimes you just need to improve the wording of an error message. Sometimes the best you can come up with is a knowledge base article.

We treat each tech support call like the NTSB treats airliner crashes. Every time a plane crashes, they send out investigators, figure out what happened, and then figure out a new policy to prevent that particular problem from ever happening again. It�s worked so well for aviation safety that the very, very rare airliner crashes we still get in the US are always very unusual, one-off situations.

This has two implications.

One: it�s crucial that tech support have access to the development team. This means that you can�t outsource tech support: they have to be right there at the same street address as the developers, with a way to get things fixed. Many software companies still think that it�s �economical� to run tech support in Bangalore or the Philippines, or to outsource it to another company altogether. Yes, the cost of a single incident might be $10 instead of $50, but you�re going to have to pay $10 again and again.

When we handle a tech support incident with a well-qualified person here in New York, chances are that�s the last time we�re ever going to see that particular incident. So with one $50 incident we�ve eliminated an entire class of problems.

Somehow, the phone companies and the cable companies and the ISPs just don�t understand this equation. They outsource their tech support to the cheapest possible provider and end up paying $10 again and again and again fixing the same problem again and again and again instead of fixing it once and for all in the source code. The cheap call centers have no mechanism for getting problems fixed; indeed, they have no incentive to get problems fixed because their income depends on repeat business, and there�s nothing they like better than being able to give the same answer to the same question again and again.

The second implication of fixing everything two ways is that eventually, all the common and simple problems are solved, and what you�re left with is very weird uncommon problems. That�s fine, because there are far fewer of them, and you�re saving a fortune not doing any rote tech support, but the downside is that there�s no rote tech support left: only serious debugging and problem solving. You can�t just teach new support people ten common solutions: you have to teach them to debug.

For us, the �fix everything two ways� religion has really paid off. We were able to increase our sales tenfold while only doubling the cost of providing tech support.
Six more excellent and thoughtful ideas at his website...

Finding Pork in unusual places

It seems that the Department of Homeland Security does quite the job of distributing Pork. From CNS News:
Homeland Security Funding 'Pork' Under Fire
In 2005, Kentucky won a $36,300 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to protect bingo halls from terrorist infiltration, and last year, the federal government granted $46,908 in homeland security funds to protect a limo and bus service that transports New Yorkers to the affluent Hamptons region in Long Island.

In 2004, five days before Christmas, the government announced a $153 million homeland security grant to provide food and shelter for the homeless, and in the last fiscal year, $15.7 million in homeland security funds went for enforcement of child labor laws.

While spending government money on questionable projects isn't especially unusual in Washington, some government watchdogs and other groups say homeland security money should be off limits for pork barrel spending.

"Money spent on these projects is money not spent on something we need," Veronique de Rugy, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Cybercast News Service. The AEI issued a report last year concerning wasteful homeland security spending.

In many cases, Congress earmarks spending, while in others, the DHS has discretion in allocating state and local grants.
A few more examples of this:
$102,000 for the promotion of public awareness of a child pornography tip line;

$203,000 for Project Alert, a drug use prevention program in schools;

$7.9 million in homeland security funds went to investigate missing and exploited children;

$900,000 to the Steamship Authority that runs ferries to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts;

$180,000 for a tactical urban combat truck with similar armor to a military Humvee in LaCrosse, Wis.
Don't know about you but I certainly feel a lot safer knowing this... (set sarcasm=off)

Jumping the shark -- possibly two sharks?

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From the UK Telegraph:
Michael Jackson 'to convert to Islam'
Michael Jackson could soon convert to Islam, according to his brother Jermaine.

The fallen pop star, who was acquitted of child abuse charges two years ago, has been reading Islamic books and developed an interest in the faith, his brother claims.

Jermaine, 52, became a Muslim in 1989 and said he thought it "most probable" that Michael, 48, would follow him.

"When I came back from Mecca I got him a lot of books and he asked me lots of things about my religion and I told him that it's peaceful and beautiful," he told The Muslim News, a monthly British Muslim newspaper.

"He read everything and he was proud of me that I found something that would give me inner strength and peace.

"I think it is most probable that Michael will convert to Islam."

He added: "He could do so much, just like I am trying to do. Michael and I and the word of God, we could do so much."
It would be interesting to see just how many self-absorbed "useful idiots" jump on this bandwagon and declare "Islam" to be the new "Black" (in terms of color of clothing and trendiness). It would be also wonderful to see how the hard-line Mullah's would reconcile this with their theocratic practices.

Quantum Computing

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Very high geekdom... Illiad and the folks at User Friendly get Quantum Computing.
Click for full-size Image

Hat tip to Dust My Broom for a link to how ex-fruit-fly geneticist and popular television host David Suzuki is doing his part for the environment while on his Canadian coast to coast tour.

From Lisa at Dust My Broom:

David Suzuki is a carbon-spewing beast
Tom Brodbeck, writing for the Winnipeg Sun, questions David Suzuki's carbon polluting transportation choicefor his cross-country propaganda tour:
With all the alternative-energy modes of transportation out there, Suzuki and his entourage are crossing Canada in a sprawling, "rock-star-style" diesel-burning tour bus, emitting more greenhouse gases during his 30-day tour than many of us do in a year.

That's right. Mr. Kyoto isn't so green after all.

"It's diesel," Jason Curan, a media staff member on the Suzuki tour told Sun Media yesterday. "It's a tour bus - kind of like a rock-star tour bus."

You know, one of those big-ass, diesel-guzzling, carbon-spewing beasts?

The kind that emits tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and supposedly contributes to some future catastrophic climate event.

[..] You want to know how many people are travelling with Mr. Kyoto in this oversized carbon burner? Seven. Sometimes eight - including the bus driver.

A link to the Winnipeg Sun article here: Eco-icon not so green

Lisa also had some photos of the bus -- it is a monster:




Quite the rig and no, they were not able to get Bio-Diesel fuel, it's running on straight dead dinosaurs.

Nice people these Islamists...

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If you have a problem with the way that someone behaves, you kill them. Right? From the Times of India:
'I killed her because she was un-Islamic'
Muhammad Sarwar, the killer of Pakistani Punjab's woman minister Zil-e-Huma, believes that women cannot rule over men.

�I have no regrets. I killed her out of the conviction that she was leading an un-Islamic life and spreading an evil influence on other women,� Sarwar told interrogators in custody, according to a police source.

Sarwar belongs to Ahle Hadith, a local religious vigilante group, and had allegedly killed four prostitutes in 2002, but was acquitted for want of evidence.

He shot the young woman minister at her meet-the-public function, posing as a visitor last Monday. Sarwar was irked by her increasing popularity, sources in the Punjab Police told Daily Times Thursday.

Police said that Sarwar has "his own interpretation of Islam". Sarwar told interrogators that he was fired by a passion to purge society of women who defy Islamic customs.

Sarwar owns a hardware shop in Gujranwala and has nine children - four sons and five daughters. He had ordered his wife and daughters to stay at home and veil their faces.

Slain minister Zil-e-Huma belonged to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid), was related to Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi and was a vocal supporter of President Pervez Musharraf's liberalization drive.

Opposition to women seeking political office has been a recurring theme in Pakistan society. Sections of Islamic clergy had issued edicts against Benazir Bhutto when she became country's prime minister in 1988.
If this is what an Islamist does when they are 'irked', I would hate to see one of them pissed off... As for the murders of the four prostitutes, your own society degrades women to the point where that is, sometimes, the only way they can earn money for food. You see a problem but are blind to the cause. Besides, it's not like this was the only woman in politics. From Reuters:
Muslim "fanatic" kills Pakistani woman minister
A suspected Islamist zealot shot dead a Pakistani woman provincial government minister on Tuesday because he believed women should not be in politics, officials said.

Zil-e-Huma, social welfare minister of the Punjab government, a women's activist and supporter of President Pervez Musharraf, was about to give a speech to dozens of people when the lone attacker shot her in the head. She died later in hospital.

The gunman, identified as Mohammad Sarwar, was immediately arrested.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat told Reuters the gunman had been implicated in six previous murder cases but had never been convicted because of a lack of evidence.
And women in politics:
Women make up just over 20 percent of the lower house of parliament, according to the country's main human rights group, and there are three women ministers in the cabinet of the federal government.
That whole "lack of evidence" pigshit really stinks... Good riddance to at least one of the followers of the false prophet and minion of Satan. And I am not talking about the poor Mrs. Zil-e-Huma God rest her soul.

Don't mess with Grandpa

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From CNN/AP:
Police: U.S. seniors fight off muggers, killing one
A tour group of U.S. senior citizens fought off a band of muggers in eastern Costa Rica, sending two of the assailants fleeing and killing a third, police said Thursday.

One of the tourists -- a retired U.S. serviceman whom officials estimated was in his 70s -- allegedly put Warner Segura in a headlock and broke his clavicle after the 20-year-old and two other men armed with a knife and gun held up their tour bus Wednesday, said Luis Hernandez, the police chief of Limon, 80 miles east of San Jose.

The Americans had arrived in Limon on the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Carnival Liberty.

"It was a group of 12 senior citizens from the United States who were going to spend a few hours in the area, but their tour bus entered a dangerous sector known as Cieneguita", Hernandez said.

The tourists drove Segura to the local Red Cross branch, but he was declared dead, Hernandez said. He declined to give the names or hometowns of the tourists.

The Red Cross also treated one of the tourists for an anxiety attack, Hernandez said.

Costa Rican authorities said they did not plan to file charges against the tourists, who left on their cruise ship after the incident.

"They were in their right to defend themselves after being held up," Hernandez said.

Hernandez said Segura had previous charges against him for assaults.
Great that no charges were filed and the tourists were allowed to rejoin the ship without delay. Costa Rica is a very civilized place.
From KEYE Television in Austin Texas:
Documents Show Merck Donated To Texas Lawmakers
Cervical Cancer Vaccine Maker Had Been Pushing For Mandate

Gov. Rick Perry's chief of staff met with key aides about a new vaccine to prevent cervical cancer on the same day its manufacturer donated money to his campaign, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

Texas became the first state to require the vaccine against human papillomavirus earlier this month when Perry issued an executive order requiring it for girls entering sixth grade. Lawmakers are considering overriding the measure.

A calendar for chief of staff Deirdre Delisi obtained under Texas' open records laws shows she met with the governor's budget director and three members of his office for an "HPV Vaccine for Children Briefing" on Oct. 16. That same day, Merck & Co.'s political action committee donated $5,000 to Perry and a total of $5,000 to eight state lawmakers.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the timing of the meeting and the donation was a coincidence. "There was no discussion of any kind of mandates," Black said.

The documents obtained Wednesday by The AP provide new detail about the relationship between the governor's office and Merck, which makes the only HPV vaccine on the market.

Perry's mandate has inflamed conservatives, who say it contradicts Texas' abstinence-only sexual education policies and intrudes too far into families' lives. Though there is a provision in state law that allows parents to opt out of the vaccine, opponents say the shots are too new and too costly to force on young girls.

Merck had waged a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to get state legislatures to require 11- and 12-year-old girls to get the three-dose vaccine against the virus that can cause cervical cancer as a requirement for school attendance. But it announced Tuesday it was suspending those efforts after its motives were questioned. The New Jersey company stands to make billions if Gardasil is required nationwide.
HPV is most definitely NOT a good thing and people should take every reasonable precaution to avoid it but what Merck seems to be doing comes a little too close to being highly unethical. What is amazing is that the three-course series for Gardasil is estimated to cost $300 to $500 per person and that Perry and friends were to throughly purchased, wrapped and shipped for $5K each. I would have held out for a lot more but then again, I'm not in Politics... Out tax dollars at work...

Politically correct business signage

Only in Seattle and specifically, the Wallingford district. A Brother and Sister owned company has had a successful few years marketing very high-end accouterments for Dogs and Cats. They had a retail store in Poulsbo but recently closed that and have now opened a retail outlet in the very trendy (left, yuppie, politically correct, etc. etc. etc.) district of Wallingford. The name of the business: High Maintenance Bitch From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
High-end dog shop's sign raises neighbors' hackles
If dogs desired sparkly jewelry, glittery makeup and sweet smells just like many little human girls, they'd feel like princesses in this newly opened Wallingford store.

Luckily for the founders of High Maintenance Bitch, which sells high-end pooch products, little princesses eventually grow into women dog owners -- preferably with spare cash and a strong affinity for double-entendres.

"Our company is probably the most high-end pet brand in the world," co-founder Lori Pacchiano said.

Though Paris Hilton and Tyra Banks may coo over products such as Gel-ous Bitch bath gel and Street Walker paw cleanser, the store has drawn the ire of some Wallingford residents who dislike the sign that hangs outside the company's flagship boutique.

"I am probably the most progressive liberal person in the world and I am personally offended by the sign," said Janet Stillman, executive director of the Wallingford Neighborhood Office. "It's so blatant and so in your face."
Poor Ms. Stillman has probably not had a good rollicking orgasm belly laugh in ten years if that. The signage in question:
Credit: Gilbert W. Arias/Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Local TV Station KING-5 is also covering the scandal... Wallingford a-twitter. The Liberal Gentry being titillated against their will. The horror... PLEASE NOTE: Personal Disclaimer -- I bought several properties in Wallingford back when it was a run-down working-man's bedroom community in the early 1980's. I remodeled these and sold them for decent bucks when Wallingford was starting to be "discovered" so I certainly cashed out on the real-estate bubble there about ten years ago. It was a nice place to live back then, very quiet and a nice mix of students and people who had lived there all their lives -- my neighbors directly to the east remembered when there was an orchard on my property and half the rest of the block. I have driven through there a few times recently and it is very gentrified. I would not want to live there now.

Gag me with a spoon

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From the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Eco-pilgrims gather to 'heed the Goracle'
Hundreds pack U of T hall in show of devotion to climate cause

They came in their hundreds to hear him speak, and even those left standing outside the crowded hall would not be deterred from lingering in the proximity of the Baptist prophet from Tennessee.

It wasn't any old-time religion that drew these believers to Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, but a concept they feel is every bit as crucial to humanity -- global warming -- that made them want to get close to Al Gore, the impassioned former U.S. vice-president, as he delivered his now famous Inconvenient Truth about climate change.

Like many a bygone leader who happened along at a key moment in history, Mr. Gore -- who has been sounding the environmental warning bell for years -- has suddenly inspired the kind of faith and fervour in others that he insists will be needed to overcome such a monumental problem.

"From my perspective, it is a form of religion," said Bruce Crofts, 69, as he held a banner aloft for the East Toronto Climate Action Group amid a lively prelecture crowd outside the old hall.

"The religion for this group is doing something for the environment."

While he no longer espouses traditional religion, Mr. Crofts recalled how, as a Sunday school teacher decades ago, he included Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Robert Kennedy as well as Jesus Christ in his lessons, as examples of great leaders who stepped forward when called upon by circumstance. In that sense, he feels Mr. Gore fits the bill.

"We don't have seats tonight, but we just felt it was important to show some support for this guy," Mr. Crofts said. "He's flown in the face of the Bush administration and a lot of negative politics in the U.S. in order to do this stuff."

And some of the people who attended?

There were vegans seeking new recruits, people calling for the closing of Ontario's coal-fired power plants, a Greenpeace mascot dressed as a polar bear -- even the UFO believers showed up.

"I know you won't believe this," one of them, a man named Victor Viggiani, said with a practised tongue, "but the extraterrestrial technology involved in this...it's free energy, man. Absolute free energy, and it'll be the end of fossil fuels."

Mr. Viggiani, a retired school principal, tried to get an information package to Mr. Gore when he arrived at a side door, but "the Secret Service were there; they saw my backpack and they pushed me away."

And a little bit more:

"It was not our intention to have a religious approach," ecoSanity group founder Glenn MacIntosh said, "but it was our understanding that it was that kind of movement that people were craving; that kind of spiritual connection in their gut."

So it isn't science that people are craving, just some nebulous "spiritual connection in their gut". Could this be the first sign that Global Warming might be jumping the shark at long last? And, just for chuckles I Googled Victor Viggiani's name and came up with 1,690 hits -- some wonderful links for UFO conspiracy theories. Definite AFDB territory.

Military Deaths

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Thanks to The Physics Geek for bringing these two related posts to my attention. From Physics Geek (with embedded links to their source documents):
So who's counting?
For those of you who want to blame Bush for the astronomical number of dead US men and women fighting in a war overseas, you might want to see how many soldiers were killed when we weren't at war:
The total military dead in the Iraq war between 2003 and this month stands at about 3,133. This is tragic, as are all deaths due to war, and we are facing a cowardly enemy unlike any other in our past that hides behind innocent citizens. Each death is blazoned in the headlines of newspapers and Internet sites. What is never compared is the number of military deaths during the Clinton administration: 1,245 in 1993; 1,109 in 1994; 1,055 in 1995; 1,008 in 1996. That's 4,417 deaths in peacetime but, of course, who's counting?

Link via Jonah.

Update: Even more perspective:

You asked for more information on military deaths. Here is a table of all military deaths, broken down by cause, over the 25 year period 1980-2004. This includes all active duty and reservists.

The gist is that soldiers are more likely to die from accidents than hostile action (combat and terrorist actions combined). The death count from accidents has been lower than the death count from hostile action. The fall in accidental deaths is greater than the increase in deaths by hostile action.

Note that there were far more military deaths in 1980, the last year of Carter's presidency, than any year of the current administration. The death rate was, also, higher. This was because of lower standards and less care in training.

The bottom line is that we're fighting this war with lower casualties than that expected from normal training accidents in a peacetime army. You should be embarrassed that you didn't know this. It's a testament to the near universal innumeracy and incompetence of the journalism profession that most journalists haven't even seriously considered looking at basic statistics and putting things in context 5 1/2 years after 9/11.
I knew that the Military Deaths were a lot lower than with any other conflict or war in history, especially given the cowardly way the Islamists hide behind civilians and store their weapons in their churches (mosques) where they know we will not go but the information that the peacetime deaths were so high is staggering. Goes to show what an all-volunteer military backed by good training can accomplish...

The President's Energy Plan

Swiped from Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple -- this says it best:
Couldn't have said it better myself...

It's my Birthday and I'll Die if I wanna...

Apologies to Lesley Gore but this birthday party takes the cake. From the Times Online:

Zimbabwe bans protests as Mugabe gets ready to party
Police in Zimbabwe imposed a three-month ban on political rallies and demonstrations across large parts of Harare today as Robert Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, celebrated his 83rd birthday.

The blanket ban, announced in state-controlled newspapers, came as supporters of the hardline President prepared a lavish cake-and-fizzy-drinks birthday party in the central city of Gweru, to be held on Saturday to mark. The ban follows weekend clashes in the capital between police and activists from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which culminated in riots squads firing tear gas and water cannon to stop an opposition rally.

Authorities claimed that the rally caused "pandemonium, looting and the destruction of property". The MDC, in reply, described the ban as a "state of emergency" that showed the growing sense panic within the Mugabe regime.

The move came as Mr Mugabe warned critics that he would not yield to pressure to stand down.

Speaking in an interview to mark his birthday, Mr Mugabe was as defiant as ever, saying he was still the man in power and would remain so for the time being. "There are no vacancies because I am still there. Can you see any vacancies? The door is closed."

A bit more:

The party has been deducting money from civil servants' wages and bullying near-bankrupt businesses for donations to raise the 300 million Zimbabwean dollars (about 30,000 at real exchange rates) to pay for the celebration on Saturday. In attendance will be the 21st of February Movement, an organisation of children established with the sole purpose of gathering on this day each year to pay homage.

Together with hundreds of Mr Mugabe's rich and powerful cronies, they are expected to hear a long address from the Most Consistent and Authentic Revolutionary Leader - his official title. The cost of the party would supply 300 Aids sufferers with antiretroviral drugs for a year in a country where only 50,000 people out of 500,000 infected have access to them.

"If they said, Come and join us, and sent a car here to fetch me, I would never go," Abigail Zvikomo, who sells vegetables on the streets of Harare, said. "Even though I am starving, I would not go. I hate him."

The price of bread rose 136 per cent yesterday. Four loaves would cost a farmworker 15,000 dollars, a month's wages. On Friday the Government doubled the price of maize-meal, the national staple, to the point where it will take a farmworker two months to pay for a 50kg (130lb) bag, enough for a family of six for a month.

With inflation at 1,600 per cent, the country is seething with discontent. The 450-odd junior doctors who run the hospitals are in their eighth week of a strike. So are about a quarter of the 100,000 teachers. The civil service is mooting similar action.

And, while the President's guests party, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions will review his failure to bring workers' salaries into line with the cost of living and decide whether to strike.

"We send him regular reports on the situation," said a provincial head of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Mr Mugabe's secret police. "We tell him the truth, that the population is fed up with the economic situation and that it is building up to an explosion."

The shame is that Zimbabwe used to be the farming Breadbasket of Africa -- exporting large quantities of food to other nations. Now it has to depend on imports and still it is unable to feed its citizens.

People in the American Left point to the three thousand dead American Soldiers in Iraq and cry shame... Where is their cry for the 3K dead EACH FUCKING WEEK in Zim from poverty, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS.

Wake up to the real issues people -- just like Global Warming and the left's beloved top-down nanny solution as opposed to the much better solution of individual self-reliance. (The nature of which we saw so pitifully lacking with New Orleans and Katrina) And of course, the two million deaths per year in Africa from malaria that could be significantly reduced with DDT will not even be mentioned -- that is only 38,000 deaths per week...

Loitering with Intent

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Not saying that they are actually gonna DO anything mind you but... From the Sydney Australia Herald Sun:
Second US carrier arrives off Iran
A second US aircraft carrier arrived in Middle Eastern waters today as promised by US President George W Bush amid an escalating crisis with nearby Iran over its nuclear program.

The USS John C Stennis and its accompanying strike group joined the USS Dwight D Eisenhower in the Sea of Oman but has not yet entered Gulf waters, the US Fifth Fleet said from its base in Manama.

The Stennis "entered the US 5th Fleet area of operations ... to conduct maritime security operations in regional waters, as well as to provide support for ground forces operating in Afghanistan and Iraq", said a US statement.
Here are the home pages for both the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower The Eisenhower was launched in 1975 and was the third nuke in the surface Navy. It was extensively rebuilt and refueled (for the first time since 1975) in 2001. The Stennis is much newer being launched in 1993 and it operates with a large group of other support ships and aircraft. The fact that the Stennis is entering the area means that things are ratcheting up a bit... We have been having very good success with capturing various high-level terrorists and their computers and paperwork. I am betting that things will get interesting in the next two months or so...

A question of maintenance

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We flew on American Airlines and except for the schedule screw-up on our Miami to Dallas flight that was caused by a well-predicted storm in Boston (stranded the flight crew but the storm had been predicted four days in advance) the flights were uneventful. I used to like American as they had decent food and they used Boeing airplanes exclusively. Well, it seems that one of the Seattle to Dallas flights arrived with a little less airplane than when it left. From Dallas News:
AA flight lands at D/FW without a wheel
An American Airlines flight from Seattle landed without a wheel under the cockpit, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

Flight 1276 landed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport before noon and was making its way to the gate when the captain was informed that it appeared the plane had a missing wheel, said spokesman John Hotard.

The plane was stopped before reaching its gate, and the 145 passengers were allowed to leave, he said.

The pilot did not realize the wheel was missing since there was a second wheel under the cockpit, Mr. Hotard said.

No injuries or delays were reported. The wheel was found at Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle, he said.
Makes me re-think flying AA if their maintenance is that bad... We also had another issue when flying -- my Dad insisted on flying First Class and it used to be that you would have free access to a nice lounge while waiting for your flight. We discovered on this trip that having a first class ticket is not enough (we were paying about three times the cost of the economy seats for our flight), we also had to be card-carrying members of their "club" -- membership costing about $400 per person... Like I said, time to re-think flying American...

A rough day at work...

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From Down Under (New Zealand -- the other down under) comes this story of a Mr. Gavin Finch and his day at work:
Man rescued from tree, chopper swings him into another
A Marlborough arborist with a broken leg spent 95 minutes stuck in a tree, only to be airlifted by rescuers straight into another tree, giving him more cuts and bruises.

Gavin Finch, 31, of Nelmac Marlborough, was topping a large pine overlooking Picton Harbour when a branch twisted and struck him as it fell yesterday afternoon.

Police, ambulance and fire officers were unable to reach Finch, who was halfway up the 40m tree, perched on a branch.

Nelmac manager Bob Boyes said it was decided to call the Wellington-based Westpac rescue helicopter to lift Finch out.

"He was topping some pines and one of the limbs � a real gnarly one � cut back on him and caught him on the leg. Just one of those things with trees; you get the odd freaky one," Boyes said.

However, as Finch and a paramedic came free of the tree, they swung sideways into another tree.

Finch suffered more cuts and bruises from that collision, Boyes said.

Helicopter crewman Dave Greenberg said it was not the perfect rescue, but conditions were difficult.

Finding Autumn

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At Vanity Fair, author (and editor) Nick Tosches writes about his journey to find where the Windows XP wallpaper 'Autumn' was photographed:
Autumn and the Plot Against Me
The mysterious origins of a Windows desktop image.

After about seven hours and as many six-packs, the computer guy has transferred everything from my old computer to my new, state-of-the-racket computer. The whole shebang is programmed, fine-tuned, and ready to go. The computer guy stands back, burps, and smiles.

I look over from the couch at the new 19-inch analog TFT-LCD flat-screen monitor delivering an 800-to-1 contrast ratio, 260 cd/m2 brightness, 1280 x 1024 resolution, 170/170-degree viewing angle, and a scanning frequency of 30�81 kHz horizontal and 56�75 Hz vertical, or so I'm told.

What I see are the green hills, blue sky, and stratocumulus and cirrus clouds of the Napa County bitmap landscape called Bliss, the Microsoft Windows XP default desktop wallpaper. It looks like an invitation to suicide on a Sunday afternoon.

"Can you change that thing?"

The computer guy goes into the settings. I look again and see a rustic path carpeted with beautiful autumn leaves from big old maple trees that bow, lush and dreamy, overhead. That's more like it. And it's also the beginning of a certain madness.

I go to Jersey City, I go to Paris, I go to the Arabian Peninsula, I come back home.

I sit on the couch and stare at that rustic path and those big old maple trees. By now I know the name of this particular wallpaper or background or whatever it is: Autumn. Moving to the desk and gazing more closely, I see a vague, dark, summoning something at the end of the path. A cabin? A covered bridge? A barn? I want to be there, for real, on that path, under those maples, moving slowly toward that dark, summoning something.

I return to Paris, go from there to Tokyo, from there to Milan and Lake Como, then back here. I'm tired of everything, everywhere. I want only to go to Autumn.
A fun voyage of discovery and yes, he finally finds where it was taken...

A simple life

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Interesting article in today's Seattle Times about an unwanted hitch-hiker in Puget Sound:
The blob that's invading the Sound
Like knights heading into battle, two dozen people in rubber-coated diving suits and 40-pound air tanks clanked down the gravel beach.

They each clutched weapons: windshield ice scrapers, barbecue tongs, a spatula nabbed from the kitchen.

Their hated enemy lay beneath Hood Canal's frigid waters, a creature that had scorned a previous assault, expanding its territory at a ferocious rate.

It's a 6-inch-long blob of goo called a tunicate, a siphon-feeding animal much like a clam without a shell.

Around Puget Sound, the appearance of the tenacious, fast-spreading breed of sea creatures, also called sea squirts, is alarming divers, biologists and government officials.

While their impact on the Sound's troubled ecosystem is unknown, some of the same species have wreaked havoc elsewhere, coating miles of underwater habitat in slime, smothering farmed shellfish, displacing native species and proving extraordinarily hard to fight off. One species found here has already damaged shellfish farms in eastern Canada.

Their presence may be further evidence that the Sound is under stress, making it particularly vulnerable to invaders, like a bulldozed piece of land overrun by blackberries and dandelions.

Invasion spotted

Not every tunicate causes trouble. The Sound has long been home to a variety of the siphon-feeding creatures, many resembling delicate little tubes of blown glass.

But in 1998, scientists saw the first sign of trouble. They discovered two non-native varieties of tunicate at marinas. In 2004, a third kind showed up, at a popular diving spot near Edmonds.

It's not known how they got here. Two species originally come from Asia. The origin of the other is unclear. Scientists think ocean-going ships might have brought some species here. One species might have come from industrial shellfish operations using contaminated equipment or shellfish.

These invasive tunicates have cropped up at more than 20 places throughout the Puget Sound and Hood Canal. In some spots there are just a handful. But in the southern reaches of Hood Canal, the bottom is coated with a forest of tiny, pale white tubes.

"It was like on an alien planet. This stuff was just everywhere. It was the creepiest thing I'd ever seen," said Janna Nichols, a diver who leads volunteer efforts to destroy the tunicates.
An excellent page on the one infesting the sound (Ciona savignyi) is here at the University of Washington: Ciona savignyi Science News also has some info: Squirt Alert I used to work for these people doing IT support: The Glosten Associates and while I was there, they were working on a solution to the Shipboard Ballast Water problem. A ship is designed to carry a specific load and may become unstable if the load is not there. A tanker coming into port to deliver its cargo will pump saltwater into its tanks to compensate for the weight lost. When the tanker goes back to its home port, that water is pumped overboard when new cargo is taken on. The refineries in Puget Sound (as well as those in the Gulf States) see a lot of foreign ballast water and are suffering from alien invasions (non X-Files variety). Glosten's idea was to have a computer system monitoring the tanks and the pumps and at some point in mid-voyage, flush each tank and refill it with mid-ocean seawater. In the mid-ocean, invasive species like the Zebra Mussel and the tunicates will simply sink to the lightless abyss and die. At the same time, there are no surface species that can cause problems in port waters. Talk about Win/Win. This system would operate as a sealed unit with a tamper-proof database; it would tie into the ships systems so the Captain could just initiate the process and the system would log the data and location as the tanks were flushed.
Interesting story at BBC News regarding the Russian's "power generating" reactor being built in Iran:
Iran, Russia in nuclear plant row
Iran has rejected claims by Russian officials that it has failed to meet payments for work on the Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran.

Russian officials had warned the $1bn (�513m) deal might be delayed.

Moscow last year backed limited UN sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment after objections to the Bushehr deal were dropped.

BBC correspondents say Moscow may be wary of delivering nuclear fuel next month, as scheduled in the deal.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes but the US suspects it of seeking nuclear arms.

UN deadline
Under the Bushehr deal, Russia would have started the fuel shipments by March, launched the plant in September and begun to generate electricity by November.

Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency spokesman Sergey Novikov said the "launch schedule definitely could be affected" by the reported delay in payments.

One unnamed Russian official told Associated Press Iran was blaming "technical reasons" for the delay.

But Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, said: "Iran has had no delay whatsoever in making payments for the Bushehr nuclear power plant to the Russian company."

A UN Security Council deadline is due to expire on Wednesday for Iran to stop the enrichment of uranium.

The United States is pushing hard for the international community to take tough action.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says it would be uncomfortable for the Russians if they began to supply nuclear fuel to Tehran before the International Atomic Energy Agency had given the country's nuclear programme a clean bill of health.

He says many analysts see the reports that Tehran is falling behind on its payments as a pretext to delay the delivery.

The fuel amounts to approximately 100 tonnes of partially enriched uranium.

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow says experts believe Iran has a shortage of uranium and this fuel could be diverted and enriched to weapons-grade material.
The diversion and conversion into weapons-grade material is not an idle concern, Iran has the equipment needed to do this and is continually expanding their enrichment capabilities (their thousands of gas centrifuges for example). My guess is that the Russians want to get their money out of Iran before all of their pretty toys get taken away in a very large, Earth Shattering Kaboom.

Excellence in Academia

From The Minnesota Daily:
Gore may get doctorate
The U is in the confidential stages of considering an honorary degree for Al Gore.

Former Vice President Al Gore could pay a visit to the University in the near future to receive an honorary degree for his work in climatology.

University President Bob Bruininks spilled the beans at the February Board of Regents meeting, saying that "two of our colleges are working with Vice President Gore to provide, we hope, an honorary doctorate."

Gore has been in the news lately for his 2006 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," about global warming. University spokesperson Daniel Wolter said since Gore is an expert in the subject, several colleges at the University have expressed interest in inviting Gore to speak on campus.

"He's in the news and is a legitimate expert on a pressing issue of global concern, climate change, so this level of interest is understandable," Wolter said. "However, no plans have been set and it's unlikely that would occur this spring."
Emphasis mine -- christ on a corn dog. Gore is a politician, not a climatologist and if he ever actually made a study of the field, he would find lots of data that contradict his statements. Here is the main webpage for the Univeristy of Minnesota Nice to see such stunning work at a US University. The article also lists a few of their other Honorary Degree recipients, here is the full list from the UM website: Honorary Degrees. An odd combination with Winona LaDuke, Madeleine K. Albright, Hillary Rodham Clinton, musician and sleep aid Yanni Chryssomallis and Archbishop Desmond Mplio Tutu on the flaming moonbat side and people like John Bardeen, Norman E. Borlaug, M. Joycelyn Elders and Jane Goodall in the lineup of people who actually did solid work in their fields... An interesting list to check out and nice to see that there is not one single voice when recommending nominations.

Mo' Hotta

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Sufferin' Scoville! A New Mexico State University professor has grown the worlds hottest pepper clocking in at over one million Scoville Units. The El Paso Times has the story:
NMSU prof finds hottest chile pepper on record
Paul Bosland recalls taking a bite of a chili pepper and feeling as if he were breathing fire. He gulped down a soda, thinking, "That chile has got to be some kind of record."

The Guinness Book of Records agreed, confirming recently that Bosland, a regents professor at New Mexico State University, had discovered the world's hottest chile pepper, Bhut Jolokia, a naturally occurring hybrid native to the Assam region of northeastern India.

The name translates as ghost chile, Bosland said.

"We're not sure why they call it that, but I think it's because the chile is so hot, you give up the ghost when you eat it," he said.

Bhut Jolokia comes in at 1,001,304 Scoville heat units, a measure of hotness for a chile. It's nearly twice as hot as Red Savina, the variety it replaces as the hottest.

By comparison, a New Mexico green chile contains about 1,500 Scoville units; an average jalape�o measures about 10,000.

The Bhut Jolokia variety has potential as a food additive in the packaged food industry, Bosland said. It could be pickled while green, dehydrated and used as seasoning. Because the heat is so concentrated, food manufacturers would save money because they'd use less.

"This isn't something you'd pickle whole and eat, but it could replace dehydrated jalape�o as an additive," Bosland said.

A member of NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute who was visiting India sent Bhut Jolokia seeds to NMSU for testing in 2001. The plant doesn't produce fruit easily, so it took a couple of years to get enough for field testing, Bosland said.

He then grew Bhut Jolokia, Red Savina and haba�ero peppers under controlled settings and found that Bhut Jolokia had significantly higher Scoville ratings. Those findings were confirmed by two independent laboratories.

Bhut Jolokia seeds are available through the Chile Pepper Institute.
Ghost Pepper indeed. Don't know about food additive though as you get get pure Capsicum and it clocks in at at 16,000,000 Scoville Units.

Brain Blogging

Cripes -- I thought that all the bad stuff was over and behind us. I woke up last evening around 3:00am puking my guts out and unable to walk straight or form a coherent sentence. Jen drove me to the local hospital emergency room and I spent the next 30 hours under their care. Turns out it was a Transient Ischemic Attack and not in itself serious (I am 99% back to whatever passes for normal except for a mild loss of strength in my left hand and a little tingling on my left fingertips) but TIA's can be a pre-cursor to a more serious full-on stroke. I'll be seeing a neurologist in the next week and have some drugs to take for blood pressure (always been on the high side) so we will see what happens from here. The FNU never stops around here!

Late evening

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Went into town tonight for a meeting with some hiking/backpacking friends. Late evening but a fun one. It's nice to be rejoining 'civilization' again.

Today's Doonesbury -- 02-18-2007

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Well worth checking out here. Nailed it.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Hot dog joint hit with foie gras fine
Hot Doug�s is in hot water with the city.

The Northwest Side hot dog joint, known as much for its thuringer as it is for specials like gyros sausage with creme fraiche tzatziki, is the first restaurant in Chicago slapped with a $250 ticket for offering � in sausage form � the outlawed delicacy, foie gras.

�People are actually dying from the cold, and I�m getting hassled because of some sausage,� owner Doug Sohn said Friday afternoon, hours after a city Health Department worker ticketed him inside the restaurant. He has been outspoken about his distaste for the Chicago City Council�s ban on the fattened duck liver, a controversial food because of concerns about animal abuse.

Even after the ordinance took effect in August, Sohn continued serving it occasionally, and about 6 a.m. Friday, he posted the day�s specials on his restaurant�s Web site, including �Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Sauce Moutarde and Armagnac-Truffle Chicken Mousse� for $6.50.

A representative of the Health Department showed up at the restaurant, 3324 N. California, before he even opened his doors at 10:30 a.m., Sohn said.

�I was impressed. I�d like to see them react that quickly to anything in the city,� Sohn said. He said he doesn�t think the snitch is among his regular customers.

Does dish have a future?
He was ordered to remove the offering from his menu, which he did, was issued a ticket, and the meat was �tagged.� He was told the city would contact him about what to do with the meat this week.

Hot Doug�s had already racked up two previous complaints, said Tim Hadac, spokesman for the city�s Health Department.

The first triggered a warning letter, which Sohn framed and placed next to his cash register. The second complaint led to an inspection, in which officials found foie gras in a walk-in cooler but not on the menu.

�They insisted it wasn�t for sale,� but that the fatty liver was for �personal use,� Hadac said.

The most recent complaint prompted another inspection Friday. Inspectors this time found foie gras in the kitchen and on the menu.

The city has sent warnings to nine restaurants so far.

Sohn is wondering if the ticket will stand up at a March 29 court hearing because, technically, he hadn�t sold any foie gras when he was ticketed. �And the ordinance says nothing about possession,� he said.

But does foie gras have a future in his tiny �encased meat emporium,� as he calls the restaurant?

Will the customers who line up down the block � even in subzero temperatures on a Friday afternoon � once again delight in the forbidden duck as a techno beat pounds from the stereo?

�It�s sort of at the point where I don�t really care,� he said. �If we don�t serve it, we don�t serve it. I hope people opposed to it are leading ethical and moral lives. And they better not be wearing leather shoes.�
Emphasis mine -- indeed! Hot Doug's website is here: Hot Doug's I am not that much of a sausage fan but these have me salivating...

Spam glorious spam

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Welcoming our new readers from the Anzali Technology Incubator, Iran Sorry pig-boys, my code is better than your code. And besides, shouldn't you actually be studying things like Science, Math and Chemistry so you can escape your theocratic hell-hole? Editing and running an existing computer script is most definitely NOT programming and if you think it is, you have a long way to go to get any kind of job that requires more than uttering: "Would you like fries with that?" You need to shed the fear and shame cultural baggage, drop-kick your mullahs back into the 9th century where they belong, denounce terrorism of any kind, embrace capitalism like every successful economy on this planet and join the 21st century. We (and Israel) will be here to welcome you when you show us that you are serious...

My database is bigger than your database

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Interesting list of the top ten databases (in size) in the world. I would like to see where the ex-MSFT Terraserver would be on this list -- used to be the biggest (I was working for MSFT SQL Server group at that time -- major hardware fun!). Also, I find it interesting that they do not list the software used except when it is proprietary -- would be fun to see what is driving these puppies... Number Ten is the Library of Congress and they just get bigger from there.

Balmer on Windows Vista

Curiously sober report from Steve B. on Vista sales predictions in last friday's SiliconValley:

Ballmer: Vista sales expectations may be too 'optimistic'
Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said Thursday that Wall Street's current expectations for revenue from its newest operating system may be too "optimistic."

"I'm really excited about how enthusiastic people are about Vista, but I think some of the revenue forecasts for Vista in 2008 are overly aggressive," Ballmer said in a meeting for financial analysts. "(Vista) is primarily a chance to sustain what (Windows) revenue we have -- not every release is a revenue growing opportunity."

Windows Vista, the company's long-delayed operating system upgrade, was released with much fanfare to consumers at the end of January. The delayed release was largely to blame for the company's 28 percent drop in second-quarter profits last month.

The excitable CEO declined to disclose specific financial guidance, but Ballmer did say he expects 2008 operating expenses to grow by less than the $2.7 billion increase in 2007.

"How much less? We'll say somewhat less. We're moderating growth in operating expenses, but I would not expect a huge drop -- just a small drop."

Ballmer also responded to a question about a series of commercials made by smaller computer maker Apple Inc. The ads poke fun at Microsoft, the world's largest software company, through a geeky character who calls himself a "PC."

"I'll give Apple credit for what it's done," Ballmer said. "It's not like they've really grown a lot of market share (through the commercials). Remember, when you're the little tiny niche guy who owns about 2 percent of the worldwide (computer) market, you can be cute one time and it helps you grow."

Cute one time? Hell, the MAC/PC commercials are brilliant. We are die-hard Windows snobs but we still love them. As for Vista sales -- it seems like it was released a lot too soon. Some software that I use (CAD/CAM and music/video editing) will not work on Vista, DRM 'management' is going to require new drivers for legacy 'quality' video and audio cards (ie: not bloody likely). Remember when Balmer was so enthusiastic about Windows 1.0?

Britney Spears bald

No, I don't have the pictures, you can find them all over the web. I'm just trolling for search engine hits. Britney Spears bald Britney bald Spears bald Britney Spears shaved head shaved head Normalcy This Blog will resume shortly...


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Not the disease -- the programming language or to be more specific: Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System Alex Papadimoulis writing at The Daily WTF has the story of Bryan and his first job out of college:
A Case of the MUMPS
You may not realize it, but the majority of us developers have been living a sheltered professional life. Sure, we�ve got that living disaster of a C++ application and that ridiculous interface between PHP and COBOL written by the boss, but I can assure you, that all pales in comparison to what many, less fortunate programmers have to work with each day. These programmers remain mostly forgotten, toiling away at a dead-end career maintaining ancient information systems whose ridiculously shoddy architecture is surpassed only by the tools used to create it. Bryan H lived in such a world for over two years. Specifically, he worked at a �MUMPS shop.�

With no experience and a three-week old college diploma, Bryan was pretty happy to land his first programming job. He had never heard of the programming language that the company used, but he was assured that he�d receive plenty of training and should have trouble picking it up. And they weren�t joking about �plenty of training.� Bryan�s first three months were spent entirely in a classroom filled with other recent grads, all learning about what the next forty years of their lives had in store: MUMPS, MUMPS, more MUMPS, and, if they were extra lucky, a dash of Visual Basic.
)))shudder((( Wikipedia has a good entry for MUMPS and offers this example of MUMPS Code (I am excerpting the first twenty lines or so): %DTC %DTC ; SF/XAK - DATE/TIME OPERATIONS ;1/16/92 11:36 AM ;;19.0;VA FileMan;;Jul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oor Bryan...
I present for your edification the web page of a Mr. Marshall Hall, Pres. of the The Fair Education Foundation, Inc. From the website:
The non-moving Earth
& anti-evolution web page of

The Fair Education Foundation, Inc.

Exposing the False Science Idol of Evolutionism, and Proving the Truthfulness of the Bible from Creation to Heaven...
- since 1973 -
Marshall Hall, Pres.

Read all about the Copernican and Darwinian Myths (and their many ramifications going all the way to Kabbala-based Big Bangism!)
Makes the TimeCube guy sound positively lucid...

Classic Cars

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OMFG! Check out the photos on this Norwegian Mazda Owners forum. The basic story is this:
ok, so imagine you live in portugal and your moving house. you find a lovely farm house set in a decent plot of land. the place has been empty for 15 years!

whilst exploring your new property you find a large barn in the trees. the door is padlocked shut and its all rusted solid. so you grind the padlock open.........
Scroll down for the photos. Amazing find!

Quote of the Day -- Main-stream Media

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From an email came this classic about the Main-stream Media:
The MSM is the Matrix, and the blogosphere is the red pill.

RIP - Robert Adler

The name may not be familiar to you but I bet that 99% of you have used his invention in the last day or two. From BBC News:

TV remote inventor dies aged 93
Robert Adler, a US inventor best known for the creation of the couch potato's dream device, the TV remote control, has died at the age of 93.

He received an Emmy award in 1997 for the 1956 invention jointly with fellow engineer Eugene Polley.

Adler earned more than 180 US patents throughout his 58-year career.

His widow Ingrid said the remote was not his favourite invention, that he rarely watched television and was "more of a reader".

"He was a man who would dream in the night and wake up and say: 'I just solved a problem,'" she told the Associated Press news agency.

"He was always thinking science."

Adler began working for electronics corporation Zenith in 1941 and stayed at the company until a merger in 1999.

Zenith produced the first remote control device, attached to the TV by a cord, in 1950.

Later wireless devices communicated with the TV by flashing at photo cells in the TV, but these were affected by sunlight.

Adler's contribution was to create a device which used ultrasonic signals.

He was also known for his work on military communications equipment during World War II, and is considered a pioneer in surface acoustic wave technology, essential for modern-day TV and computer screens.

I remember the first remotes -- you pressed a button and a spring loaded hammer would hit a small bar of metal. Volume up and down, channel up and down and set on and off -- that was it. Clever solution to a difficult problem. I also love the fact that he was not much of a television watcher -- neither are we; sounds like he would have been a fun person to know.

Quote of the Day - FDR

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I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird, and not enough the bad luck of the early worm. -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Pssst -- wanna see something secret???

You all know that big cubical building in Mecca -- the one built to house their most holy icon -- the piece of meteorite that they think came from the moon? The "black stone"? Yahoo/AP has the results of a photo-op when the palestinians went to visit:

In this photo released by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, accompanied by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, prays in front of the black stone inside the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Friday, Feb. 9, 2007.


Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal prays in front of the black stone inside the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in Mecca early Friday, Feb. 9, 2007. Rival Palestinian factions signed a power-sharing accord aimed at ending months of bloodshed and agreeing that the Islamic militant group Hamas would head a new coalition government that would 'respect' past peace agreements with Israel.
Here are a few more images (hmmm... thought that iconic representation was against their beliefs...).

Looks like a glory-hole to me...
Considering that their most holy icon was supposed to have come from the moon, I bet that pictures like this must really chap their britches:
Never been there and given the lavish care they spend on their children's education, never will... Feeling snarky and jet-lagged tonight.


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When planning the trip, I made sure to spend a day or two at each place coming home so we could all decompress and hopefully lessen the Jet Lag. It is still odd to feel like it is 3:00AM and to look at the clock and see that it is not even 11:00PM local time. Back to whatever passes for normal in a day or so but still, strange...

The new workers paradise

Meet the fun face of socialism and top-down government. Mr. Hugo Chavez has decided that since (while on his watch) food has become very scarce and expensive, he needs the People's Government needs to put price caps in place to ensure equitable distribution for all citizens... If you were driving a car during the mid-1970's under Jimmy Carter's most excellent one-term adventure, you should remember just how successful Carter's gasoline price caps were:
Here is a bit of the Chavez article:
Food shortages follow Chavez price controls
Meat and sugar were scarce in Venezuelan stores this week as merchants resisted price controls.

Meat cuts vanished from Venezuelan supermarkets this week, leaving only unsavory bits like chicken feet, while costly artificial sweeteners have increasingly replaced sugar, and many staples sell far above government-fixed prices.

President Hugo Chavez's administration blames the food supply problems on speculators, but industry officials say government price controls that strangle profits are responsible.

Such shortages have sporadically appeared with items from milk to coffee since early 2003, when Chavez began regulating prices for 400 basic products as a way to counter inflation and protect the poor.

Yet inflation has soared to an accumulated 78 percent in the last four years in an economy awash in petrodollars, and food prices have increased particularly swiftly, creating a widening discrepancy between official prices and the true cost of getting goods to market in Venezuela.
Sorry people, socialism is DEAD. It is pining for the fjords, passed on; no more; ceased to be; expired and gone to meet 'is maker; bereft of life, rests in peace -- but you get my drift... The people get the government AND THE ECONOMY that they deserve.

A bold new Vista

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Check out The Register's review of MS Vista. Here is the last paragraph:
So, there's our first look at Vista. It does benefit from a lot of good ideas, many of them Apple's, of course, but good nevertheless. It simply doesn't work very well, unfortunately. There are serious problems with execution; it's not polished; it's not ready. It should not be on the market, and certainly not for the outrageous prices being charged. Don't buy it, at least until after the first service pack is out. Don't pay to be a beta tester.
File under "Praise, Damning with Faint"

Fear and Money in Dubai

Wonderful article by Mike Davis (a favorite author of mine). A taste:
�As your jet starts its descent, you are glued to your window. The scene below is astonishing: a 24-square-mile archipelago of coral-coloured islands in the shape of an almost-finished puzzle of the world. In the shallow green waters between continents, the sunken shapes of the Pyramids of Giza and the Roman Colosseum are clearly visible. In the distance, three other large island groups are configured as palms within crescents and planted with high-rise resorts, amusement parks and a thousand mansions built on stilts over the water. The �Palms� are connected by causeways to a Miami-like beachfront crammed with mega-hotels, apartment skyscrapers and yachting marinas.

�As the plane slowly banks toward the desert mainland, you gasp at the even more improbable vision ahead. Out of a chrome forest of skyscrapers soars a new Tower of Babel. It is an impossible half-mile high: taller than the Empire State Building stacked on top of itself. You are still rubbing your eyes with wonderment as the plane lands and you are welcomed into an airport shopping emporium where seductive goods entice: Gucci bags, Cartier watches and one-kilogram bars of solid gold. The hotel driver is waiting for you in a Rolls Royce Silver Seraph. Friends had recommended the Armani Inn in the 170-storey tower, or the 7-star hotel with an atrium so huge that the Statue of Liberty would fit inside it, and service so exclusive that the rooms come with personal butlers; but instead you have opted to fulfill a childhood fantasy. You always have wanted to play Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
His longer books take a while to get into (his writing style is very dense) but they are very much worth the time spent. This article gives a good taste of his writing and is a fascinating look at one of the more interesting places on the planet. Dubai is going to be interesting to watch as the politics (and available oil) in the Middle East plays out over the next fifteen years...

One key to rule them...

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In last December, a certain hacker was able to successfully crack the encryption for the new HD DVD high-definition DVD disks making them playable (and allowing you to make back-ups of your data -- yeah... righhhht...) One month later, the same person cracked Blu-ray disks. Well, here is the whole shooting match in a bit more than a page of text from an online forum. Here is the way to grab the Volume ID and Media Keys for any new format disk; either Blu-Ray or HD DVD. Daily Tech has more here as well as some history. Took 'em long enough. Heh.

Farm Blogging

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Finally got back today. Our airplane was ready in Miami, sitting at the gate but its Crew was sitting in Boston stranded by a snowstorm that had been predicted four days previous. Plan ahead doesn't seem to work for airlines... We managed to squeak aboard two other flights, stopping at Dallas and getting into SeaTac around Midnight. Spent the night down there and drove up this morning. It's 4:00PM here but our internal clocks are still set to 10:00PM so it will take a day or two to adjust. Good to have gone but it's great to be back... The usual spew will resume tomorrow accompanied by pictures and stories.

Quick note...

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Comments and trackbacks will be turned back on in a few days when I get home.

Miami Blogging

Just got back onto USA soil this evening. Went to our hotel in Miami's South Beach area and had a quick bite to eat. Drinking a Mai-Tai in the hotel bar and savoring three weeks of perfect (and much needed) relaxation...

The last four months have been a long long emotional roller-coaster what with my Mom's health going downhill and crashing, my Dad showing more and more signs of Vascular Dementia, Jen and my having to clear their Seattle house, put much of it in storage and get it sold and finally doing the memorial service, digging the grave for my Mom's ashes and going through with that burial.

We will be back home late tomorrow and I will start posting the day after.

Not much seems to have happened while I was off-line -- same people telling the same big lies and the odd celebrity checking out. Couple of neat things and was connected to a couple really fascinating people on the the boat we were on. More and many pictures over the next week or so.

And everything that Grouchy Old Cripple says about Bonaire for SCUBA diving is absolutely true. The place is amazing.

January 2021

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democrats give conservatives indigestion
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About this Archive

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