March 2007 Archives

Major gift to Seattle Art Museum

Very cool! From the Seattle Post Intellegencer:
SAM announces gifts of nearly 1,000 works
The Seattle Art Museum today announced gifts to its collections of nearly 1,000 works of art, collectively valued at more than $1 billion and including some of the biggest names of the 20th century.

"We are now a major museum," said Mimi Gates, SAM director. "We were important before, but now, unquestionably, we are major."

Two-hundred of the works will be on display when the expanded downtown museum reopens in early May. When it does, it will be as a fundamentally changed institution.

These gifts from more than 40 collections enrich the museum in all fields, yet the most important as well as the most numerous come in modern and contemporary art, particularly American.

Gates called the gifts -- which include works by Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, Alexei Jawlensky, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder, Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti -- the "most significant" ever for SAM.

"At no time in the museum's history have we been able to acquire such work in such depth," she said. "Some gifts are promised and some given outright. All will help establish Seattle as a center for visual art. I'm also excited that we have the space to show them. And we plan to share these gifts (by loan) with other museums in the region. Everyone benefits.

"What I've always loved about the museum is its global perspective. Now we can link our collections and exhibit them in a way that illuminates each and connects them in the contemporary realm."

Richard Andrews, director of the University of Washington's Henry Art Gallery, said it was a "landmark moment" in the life of the Seattle Art Museum. "These collections are well known for quality and diversity. With them, the museum significantly advances its prominence on the national scene."
SAM has always been a good museum but now, it is a great one.

Computer system performance issue solved

From this April article in the Register, we find why systems tend to slow down after a year or two of service:
Research reveals mislaid microprocessor megahertz
It's no wonder we need to upgrade our computers on a regular basis. Not only are chip companies regularly releasing ever-faster microprocessors, but new research has revealed that modern CPUs actually lose megahertz over time.

This startling conclusion follows a five-year research programme carried out by the Illyria University's Information Technology department.

"Five years ago, we activated a dozen new, freshly-purchased systems," said Computer Science Professor Asteio Artikolos. "Since then we have measured, on average, a 10-15 per cent reduction in the machines' clock speeds over that time. It's as if each machine's stock of megahertz were somehow leaking away.

"Each year, we have added new, faster machines. Not only have these seen a similar reduction over time in the number of processing cycles available each second, but the rate of decrease is greater than older, slower microprocessors."

So far Artikolos and his team have been unable to explain the phenomenon. One possibility is that the effect is related to the time dilation effect discovered by Einstein. Any moving body operates on a different temporal frame of reference than a static one, said Artikolis. As processors are clocked higher, so their transistors move more quickly, altering their apparent speed when measured by benchmarkers in a state frame of reference.

"It's certainly the case that many computer users notice a decrease in performance over time," Artikolos told Register Hardware. "A machine that seemed incredibly fast on the day of purchase seems torpid within three years. Traditionally, this was blamed on reduced free hard drive space and the increased memory requirements of software updates. Our research suggests a more fundamental problem, one that centres on the very way modern microprocessors operate."

Artikolos' findings pose an interesting question: where exactly are all these megahertz ending up? More research, he said, was needed.

Intel was unavailable for comment. AMD, however, claimed to be well aware of the problem and to be already designing processors capable of working beyond the limits of Einsteinian mathematics - with a negative temporal displacement facility built in.

"It's why all our processors appear two years ahead of the other guys' stuff," a spokesman said.
So that's why -- I always wondered about this...

Visit here for

| No Comments
the difference between a scientist and a normal person. So true it's scarry...

April offerings from Think Geek

| No Comments
Mail order store Think Geek is one of my favorites and around this time, they announce their new products. This year has some good ones. Here is one example:
The Lonely Guy Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame
You spend Friday nights at home, by yourself BY CHOICE. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. You're a snowflake - unique and beautiful and perhaps misunderstood. It's not your fault that they don't get you. While your solipsism might be personally gratifying, it can be often difficult to explain. Being lonely becomes hard work as you fabricate fake vacations, weekend plans, even friends. It's kinda sad, really.

Wouldn't it be cool if somebody could just do that stuff for you? Someone who could offer proof that you did go to Egypt last fall�that you and your dad did go fishing in Big Sky last June� that you partied hard in Cozumel... that you really do have a hot girlfriend in Canada� It's all possible with the new Lonely Guy� Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame.

Included with the photo frame is your very own green-screen. Stand in front of it, and (with your digital camera on a timer) snap a picture of yourself. The photo-frame's onboard processor isolates your body and digitally composites you in any one of hundreds of different situations. Be on the bridge of a starship, tour the Great Pyramids of Giza, or show off your beautiful and happy family.

So, relax and bask in the glow of your newfound friends and family, conveniently held inside plastic and electronics. There when you need an alibi, gone when it's time for just you and your thoughts.
Visit the website for some examples of this product. While you are there, also check out the Vilcus Plug Dactyloadapter. A steal at only $12.99 -- why didn't someone come up with this sooner.

Dark Roasted Blend

I really like this website: Dark Roasted Blend

Nothing about coffee, they collect odd photos and group them together into collections.

Here is one example from their Moments in Sports series:



Iraq battlefield slang

Every profession has its slang -- the military is no different. Here is a fun list of slang terms that have cropped up in Iraq. Here are five of them:
Ali Baba: Slang for enemy forces. Originated in the Persian Gulf War.

Beltway clerk: A derisive term for a Washington political operative or civilian politician.

Blue canoe: Slang for a portable toilet.

Casper: Slang for someone who always disappears when there's work to be done.

Semper I: Pejorative Marine lingo for being overly concerned with one's own personal interests.

Nice rant on knobs

| No Comments
The puppy-blender has a great rant on the use of knobs and their disappearance in today's equipment:
Bring Back Our Knobs: Analog vs. Digital
Sometimes you just want to reach out and touch something. But product designers don't always want to let you.

Not so long ago, if I wanted to adjust the heat in my car, or the volume on my car radio, I could grab a nice, simple knob. Turn it to the right, and the car got warmer, or the radio got louder. Turn it the other way, and the opposite occurred. I could always sense how far I was adjusting things � without ever taking my eyes off the road � because millions of years of evolution have produced a neurological feedback mechanism that lets me know just how much I'm turning my wrist.

Easy, effective, intuitive. That's simply good design, right? You'd think. But in most late-model cars, making those kinds of adjustments requires pushing buttons multiple times, or navigating menus within menus, and � almost always � taking your eyes off the road.

That's the trouble with buttons: Instead of working in a continuous analog motion the way knobs do, they only operate in discrete digital steps. And, since there's no tactile feedback, the only way to tell what the button is doing is to squint at an LCD readout.

So what do product designers have against knobs? Several things. First of all, most designers like a smooth, uncluttered look. Tiny buttons blend in better than a bunch of big knobs. (Of course, blending in makes the buttons hard to see, which is part of the problem.) Second, the utility of a knob is precisely its main flaw: It does only one thing. If you have a lot of things to control, you need a lot of knobs. With nested menus and a few buttons, you can duplicate the functions of dozens of knobs in much less space. Trouble is, what's saved in space and clutter (and gained in elegance) is lost in terms of usability.
What he said -- I know that knobs are much more expensive to manufacture than push buttons and that, as Glen says, today's devices have much greater function set but still, some time needs to be given to usability and to put some thought into the layers and menus...

Ethanol is not that green.

| No Comments
Nice report from the Canadian Broadcasting Company on the environmental impacts of ethanol used as an automotive fuel:
Ethanol-blend auto emissions no greener than gasoline: study
An unpublished federal report appears to undermine the belief that commercially available ethanol-blended fuel produces cleaner emissions than regular gasoline.

Many Canadians believe filling up with ethanol-blended gasoline reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that damage the environment.

Advertising sponsored by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association encourages the idea, telling Canadians renewable fuels are "good for the environment," and even some provincial governments, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan, say the fuel "burns cleaner" than gasoline.

The federal Conservative government committed $2 billion in incentives for ethanol, made from wheat and corn, and biodiesel in last week's budget.

But based on Ottawa's own research, critics say the investment is based more on myth than hard science.
Emphasis mine -- sounds like pure political enviro-think. A bit more:
The study found no statistical difference between the greenhouse gas emissions of regular unleaded fuel and 10 per cent ethanol blended fuel.

Although the study found a reduction in carbon monoxide, a pollutant that forms smog, emissions of some other gases, such as hydrocarbons, actually increased under certain conditions.

Re-branding Ben

| 1 Comment
Interesting report from the Table of Malcontents about the re-branding a national icon:
Racist or Not? "Uncle Ben" Becomes "Chairman Ben" On the Web
In a controversial online advertising campaign, food corporation Mars is revamping the original spokesmodel for Uncle Ben's Rice -- but instead of being a smiling, servant "Negro" ala ads from the 1940s, he'll be just "Ben," the wealthy African-American chairman of an imaginary rice company. The idea is to overturn stereotypes of African-Americans while retaining Uncle Ben's recognizable marketing iconography. The campaign, masterminded by TBWA/Chiat/Day and president of Mars' food division Vincent Howell (himself African-American), launched this week on the Uncle Ben's website. Already, multicultural activists are uneasy.

From the New York Times:
�This is an interesting idea, but for me it still has a very high cringe factor,� said Luke Visconti, partner at Diversity Inc. Media in Newark, which publishes a magazine and Web site devoted to diversity in the workplace. �There�s a lot of baggage associated with the image,� Mr. Visconti said, which the makeover �is glossing over.�
The website they are talking about is: Uncle Ben
I wonder what the designers were smoking when the picked out this way to re-brand the company. Sheesh!

Light posting today as well

Met with the building inspector again this morning as well as a roofing specialist and then headed into town to run a few errands. (for the "sooper seekret" project) Jen and I went out to a wonderful Italian restaurant near our town for dinner and I am now just settling into a bit of surfing and blogging.
UPDATED -- see bottom of post No really! From Reuters:
Corn is not the future of U.S. ethanol: DOE
New technology to make ethanol from crops such as grasses and trees instead of corn could ease price spikes of the grain within a decade, a U.S. Energy Department official said on Wednesday.

"I'm not going to predict what the price of corn is going to do, but I will tell you the future of biofuels is not based on corn," U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell said in an interview.

Output of U.S. ethanol, which is mostly made from corn, is expected to jump in 2007 from 5.6 billion gallons per year to 8 billion gpy, as nearly 80 bio-refineries sprout up.

Corn prices have doubled over the last year as the Bush administration, seeking to reduce oil imports while boosting output of fuels believed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, offers millions of dollars in incentives to boost ethanol production.

The corn prices, the highest in a decade, have spurred thousands of people in Mexico to protest over the price of tortillas, a national staple made from corn. The spike has also lead to worries that meat and dairy prices could eventually rise.

Sell said the future of biofuels is cellulosic ethanol, made from microbes that break down woody bits of non-food crops into sugars that can be fermented into fuel.

Cellulosic, and other new biofuels such as biobutanol, which can be made from petroleum as well as biomass, could begin to feed the commercial fuel market within six to 10 years, he said. They could also be part of a larger program to cut greenhouse gases, he added.
I would like to know who it was who spearheaded the subsidies for corn ethanol -- they were blind to the effects of this and are responsible for a lot of high food prices, especially basic staples that the poorer people depend on. UPDATE: Reader Al was kind enough to post a comment letting me know that the Ethanol subsidy came from Senators Tom Daschle (Democrat-S.D.) and Tom Harkin (Democrat-Iowa) right around 2002. Info is here: FindArticles (watch out for the pop-ups)
Taxpayer subsides cause crop overproduction, leading to more subsidy schemes, like biofuels - Dick Lugar, United States Senator
Proponents of "biofuels" mandates and subsidies -- including ethanol and biodiesel -- partly justify their pitch by claiming consequent reductions in huge surpluses of soybean oil or corn stocks and consequent higher prices for farmers, along with some dubious claims about reduction in foreign oil dependence.

But now comes U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Indiana), himself a part-time corn and soybean farmer, calling these chronic, growing, gigantic taxpayer subsidies for endless farm program cycles a "charade."

Writing for a column in the New York Times last month, Lugar blasted the ending U.S. Senate farm bill sponsored by Sens. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), both from big-corn states and both big backers of "biofuels" mandates and subsidies.

This bill would give a whopping $171 billion in subsidies to corn, soybean, wheat and rice farmers, along with huge payments to milk, sugar and peanut producers.
Emphasis mine. $171 Billion Dollars in subsidies -- Mmmmmm -- that sure is some gooood pork!

A question...

| No Comments
If electricity comes from electrons, what does morality come from? Morons?

Sad Kermit

| No Comments
Hard to classify this website: Sad Kermit From the site:
Soon after the death of Jim Henson, Kermit the Frog turned to a life full of drugs, alcohol and sex. His fall to rock-bottom was quick and unrelenting. These songs document Kermit's pain during these years...and years to come.
Check out the video with NIN's Hurt Twisted genius in the absolutely best way.

Addendum to Light posting today

Make that "No posting today" Had an Acupuncture session today and am tired plus I am evaluating some point-of-sale software for our upcoming business purchase. More info on that sooper seekret when it happens... For those interested in Acupuncture, it works. I was somewhat skeptical but I know that a lot of people subscribe to it so there had to be some baseline effect that kept Acupuncturists in business. The bottom line is that the effect is pretty damn near immediate and the effects last for a long long time. Be careful who you choose as a lot of the Western trained practitioners are not full practitioners of the art. Seek out a Chinese trained practitioner -- there is a big difference. The events of the last few months (my Mom's health crashing and her passing, Jen and I having to move my Dad up here to a condo and empty out their Seattle house and sell it) had depleted my energy to the point where I was sleeping 10 hours/day and just hanging around when I was awake. Plus, I have some problems with lower back pain. Three sessions and these issues have disappeared. I am now going once/week until the major symptoms go away (my choice on the timing) and will drop down to about once/month for a "tune-up". Occasionally the needle will hit a nerve group and there will be a sting but over 90% of the needles just feel like a bit of pressure. I really do not like needles but I am already looking forward to my next session.

Light posting today

| No Comments
Was in town all day today -- just got back. We are buying a business* so had a lot of errands to run. *As if we didn't already have a lot on our plate -- fun times!

Old man screwed by Supreme Court

| No Comments
Got to wonder about some of their decisions... From the Denver Post comes this sad story:
Flats whistleblower skunked
The Supreme Court left an 81-year-old retired engineer without a penny to show for his role in exposing fraud at a former nuclear weapons plant in a ruling that makes it harder for whistle-blowers to claim cash rewards.

James Stone stood to collect up to $1 million from a lawsuit he filed in 1989 against Rockwell International, now part of aerospace giant Boeing Co., over problems with environmental cleanup at the now-closed Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant northwest of Denver.

A court eventually ordered Rockwell to pay the government nearly $4.2 million for false claims the company submitted. Stone could have received up to a quarter of Rockwell's payment, under the False Claims Act.

But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in the 6-2 ruling Tuesday, said Stone was not entitled to recover any money because he lacked "direct and independent knowledge of the information upon which his allegations were based." Scalia said Stone had little connection to the jury's ultimate verdict against Rockwell.

The company must pay the entire penalty anyway. The only question before the court was whether Stone would get a cut.

The outcome was sought by business interests that were looking for the court to limit whistle-blowers in false claims lawsuits.
And some more about the specific case in question:
James Moorman, president of the advocacy group Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund, agreed. Individuals whose information leads the government to pursue fraud can be told years later that they can't collect anything, Moorman said.

"No whistle-blower can afford to pursue a case to resolution under these circumstances," he said.

The Bush administration sided with Stone, arguing that it was in the government's interest to encourage whistle-blowers, even though the government keeps more money now that Stone has lost.

Hartley Alley, a Colorado-based lawyer who represented Stone, said the decision fails to recognize the importance of Stone's actions at Rocky Flats, now a Superfund cleanup site. "He is the one primarily responsible for exposing the criminal activities of Rockwell International at Rocky Flats," Hartley said.

In nearly four decades, some 70,000 plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs were made at Rocky Flats. Production was halted in 1989 because of chronic safety problems, prompting a raid by FBI agents. The Cold War ended before production could resume.

The company pleaded guilty in 1992 to violating federal environmental laws.
I realize that the Supreme Court is a vital element of the governmental system of checks and balances set up by our founding fathers but I wonder about some of their decisions from time to time.

Oddness on Saturn

The Cassini Probe has re-visited a very strange atmospheric structure first discovered 20 years ago by V'ger and it is still there. From the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn
An odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn has captured the interest of scientists with NASA's Cassini mission.

NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged the feature over two decades ago. The fact that it has appeared in Cassini images indicates that it is a long-lived feature. A second hexagon, significantly darker than the brighter historical feature, is also visible in the Cassini pictures. The spacecraft's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer is the first instrument to capture the entire hexagon feature in one image.

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."

The hexagon is similar to Earth's polar vortex, which has winds blowing in a circular pattern around the polar region. On Saturn, the vortex has a hexagonal rather than circular shape. The hexagon is nearly 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it.
The UFO'sters and AFDB crowd are going to have a field day... Wonderful images -- there are some videos at the NASA site.
Why none other than the Corporation that liberals love to hate -- Wal-Mart. From MS/NBC/AP:
Wal-Mart keeps spot as top corporate charity
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. increased its U.S. charitable giving 10 percent last year to $272.9 million, the world�s largest retailer said Tuesday, likely defending its position as the country�s largest corporate donor of cash.

The rate of growth was lower than a year earlier, when Hurricane Katrina relief helped push the annual rise to 19 percent, but it was ahead of Wal-Mart�s 7 percent rise in net profit last year. The company�s profit for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31 was $12.2 billion.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart released its annual donation numbers a few days after publicizing its annual bonuses to hourly store workers as it seeks to counter union-led critics by defending its record as a corporate citizen.
Heh... But these donations probably were selected at the Corporate level and given to special cases -- friends of Wal-Mart.
Internationally, Wal-Mart said its donations in 13 other countries where it has stores were also up 10 percent, to $28.9 million.

Wal-Mart said U.S. donations went to organizations including the National Teacher of the Year program, hospital aid group Children�s Miracle Network, the Salvation Army, United Way and food bank America�s Second Harvest.

Wal-Mart said the majority of donations are made at the local level by its 4,000 Wal-Mart and Sam�s Club stores to charities they pick.

�Supporting our local communities is at the very heart of Wal-Mart�s corporate giving philosophy. Our stores and clubs are empowered to support the issues and causes that are important to their neighborhoods,� Wal-Mart spokeswoman Shannon Frederick said.
Bzzzztttt. Wrong... Gotta love a successful business.

Childhood obesity in Canada

| No Comments
Sobering report from CBC News:
Obese children will die younger than their parents: report
About one-quarter of Canadians aged two to 17 are overweight or obese, and they are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, the Commons health committee warned Tuesday.

An all-party committee report titled "Healthy Weight for Healthy Kids" calls on the federal government to stop the trend toward increasing obesity levels among Canadian children by the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, and to decrease levels by at least 25 per cent by 2020.

The excess weight puts children at risk of a myriad preventable health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, susceptibility to heart attack and stroke, joint problems and mental health issues.

"It has been said that obesity outranks both smoking and drinking now in its effects on health and health costs," said committee chair Rob Merrifield, a Conservative MP for the Alberta riding of Yellowhead.
And some numbers:
About one-quarter of Canadians aged two to 17 are overweight or obese, and they are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, the Commons health committee warned Tuesday.
Rates among aboriginal children are worse, with 55 per cent living on reserves being overweight or obese, compared with 41 per cent for First Nations children living off reserves, said the report.
And of course, the report is calling for massive intervention by the Canadian Government instead of education of the parents and the children. Typical nanny-statism...

Starting them young

| No Comments
This just makes me sick to my stomach. From NBC11 in San Diego:
Officials: 'Meth Candy' Targets Young Users
Authorities Warn Of Effort To Expand Methamphetamine Market

Coloring and a candy flavoring added to the drug methamphetamine are part of a disturbing ploy to make the drug more appealing to younger users, according to authorities.

So-called "meth candy" started showing up recently, according to law enforcement officials.

"The bottom line is to sell the product and make money," said Arden Wiltshire of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. "Unfortunately, our young people are very vulnerable."

Wiltshire said manufacturers are adding color during the cooking process. She said the highly addictive drug's effects remain the same.

One variation of the drug has a bright pink color and fruity flavor. Authorities first discovered the drug, known as Strawberry Quik, last month in Missouri. Flavored and colored drugs also were found in California, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Texas, New Mexico, and Minnesota, according to authorities.

The drug is cooked with chocolate, cola and red energy drinks to mask its bitter taste. Methamphetamine crystals usually are white.

"I think it's really important for parents to be aware this is happening," said Dianne Pavia of the Riverside Unified School District.

Addictive-disease expert Dr. Sean O'Hara said it is sometimes mixed with Jell-o and other drugs, and it can be very appealing to young people.

"They think if they're getting something that has color in it or is sweet to the taste because it's been cut with sugar or Jell-o and had other chemicals added to it," O'Hara said. "It makes it seems like it's a less threatening drug."
I'd like to spend a few minutes alone with the genius that came up with this idea...

Stupid Movie Physics

| No Comments
Great website for dismembering the physics in some movies. They have explanations and photographs of what really happens. Check out Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics:
Since its start-up in 1997, "Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics" has received hundreds of thousands of visitors including NASA scientists, high school and university physics teachers and at least one published science fiction writer. We have received many helpful suggestions and constantly consider them as we improve our site.

"Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics" has been reviewed or listed in Physics Today Magazine, The News Letter of the American Physical Society, The New York Times, and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as numerous other publications. It has been listed on Fark and Slashdot and been featured on the Osgood Files and NPR as well as many other radio stations.

The vast majority of comments we receive are positive. However, for the others we offer the following: Yes, we do have lives and also do enjoy movies. No, we are definitely not "normal" but then we have never met a "normal" person, although we're sure there is one somewhere in the world.
The whole site is a lot of phun...

Want to live forever?

Then check out Alex Chiu's website -- proof once again that anyone can put up a website:
What do you think rapture is? Answer: Ones who believe shall not perish and will have everlasting life. Immortality Device is believed to allow humans to stay physically young forever. US PATENT # 5,989,178. The most imporatnt invention in human history. SEE OUR TESTIMONIALS HERE! Alex Chiu knows what causes you to age and hereby discovered a great solution to stop you from aging. See how to make the Immortality Device yourself.
Memo to Alex -- it's just magnets and these have zero known effect.

Whither the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa

| No Comments
It seems that Hawaii's state fish has been dethroned. From Fox News/AP:
Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Ousted in Hawaii
Everyone thought the humuhumunukunukuapuaa was Hawaii's state fish. As it turns out, the brightly colored fish with the excessively long name has been dethroned.

The news shook the world of Rep. Blake Oshiro, who found out the designation was no longer official from Joel Itomura, a 6-year-old fish-loving son of a friend and constituent.

"I was really surprised," said Oshiro, who has drawn up a bill that would make humuhumunukunukuapuaa � also known as the rectangular triggerfish or "humuhumu" for short � the official state fish for the islands.

The stubby-nosed, brightly striped and slightly aggressive little fish whose name few tourists even try to utter (it's pronounced HOO-moo-HOO-moo-NOO-koo-NOO-koo-AH-poo-AH-ah) is commonly believed to be the state's favorite. The fish figures into tourist trinkets, broadcast commercials and a much-beloved song about a little grass shack.

Much like its name, the fish's road to titlelessness is long and confusing.

In 1984 the state Legislature asked the University of Hawaii and the Waikiki Aquarium to survey the public and come up with a candidate for the state fish. The humuhumu was swept into the spot in part through the support of school children who learned of the campaign through classroom projects.

Although the issue of the state fish would seem to come with little controversy, the method used to poll the public was questioned and lawmakers limited the designation to five years.

No one told the public that the humuhumu's reign was over, so few knew anything had changed.

And the humuhumu has its opponents.

State Rep. K. Mark Takai said he had objections to a similar bill a decade ago because many of his constituents were in favor of the oopu, a brownish, freshwater gobbie endemic to the islands, he said.

The humuhumu is not unique to Hawaii, he said.

There is no lack of fish species specific to the islands. Thirteen species of wrass alone are found here and nowhere else in the world.

But while humuhumu may call more than just Hawaii its home, it has a few undeniable attributes on its side � cuteness and unpalatability.

"Here's a cute little fish. It kind of looks like a pig and it squawks and everything," said Chuck Johnston, editor of Hawaii Fishing News.

It's also a good candidate because no one eats a humuhumu, he said. Picking a popular game fish such as the ulua could be a problem if environmentalists push to protect the fish from fishermen, he said.

Johnston has asked Gov. Linda Lingle to give the fish the state title in perpetuity through an executive order.

In her reply early last year, Lingle said that decision should instead be left to the public. She also pointed out that the humuhumu has not historically been held in very high regard, having been used by early Hawaiians as fuel for their fires, not their stomachs.

While Johnston had originally advocated for the Pacific blue marlin two decades ago, his support now for the humuhumu is unwavering.

"The logical choice is the one that was already selected," Johnston said. "It has been there. He's been crowned."

Pork - $20 billion worth

| No Comments
It seems that Nancy Pelosi's "strategic retreat" from Iraq will cost the US Taxpayer about $20 billion dollars more than President Bush's plan as she included such items as $100 million for the political party conventions, $13 million for �ewe replacement and retention, $3.5 million for the Capitol�s guided�tour program and much much more. It adds up to $20 billion. Full story at The Examiner:
Senate war bill features $20B in pork
Like their counterparts in the House, the Senate has larded its version of an �emergency� war spending bill with nearly $20 billion in pork-barrel outlays, including $100 million for the two major political parties� 2008 presidential conventions.

The $121 billion bill includes $102 billion for the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as $14 billion for Hurricane Katrina aid and more than $4 billion for �emergency farm relief.�

�Congress will have to make the choice between booze and balloons or bullets and body armor,� John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told The Examiner on Monday. Coburn and a handful of other senators hope to shame their colleagues into stripping the pork out of the war spending bill.

The Senate bill is $18 billion more than President Bush requested for military operations. The House bill, which passed last week, exceeded the administration�s request by $21 billion and included money for spinach growers, peanut storage and citrus farmers.

If the Senate bill goes to conference committee as written, the two chambers may find themselves fighting over the best cuts of pork.
And these people are supposed to be working for us?

Light posting tonight

| No Comments
Working on some stuff in the Dave Cave

The keys to the asylum

| No Comments
What lunatic thought up this policy? From the Daily Mail:
Convicts handed keys to the cell
Thousands of prisoners are being given keys to their cells in the latest farce to hit the criminal justice system.

They can roam in and out virtually at will under a scheme designed to give them more "respect and decency".

The astonishing measure prompted a furious response from MPs last night, who warned that the human-rights culture was out of control.

It will provoke a furious public backlash at a time when prisons are overflowing and dangerous offenders are being tagged and freed into the community.

Official figures revealed that 5,747 of the 9,577 offenders in Yorkshire prisons have keys for 'privacy locks' to protect themselves and their belongings.

Although many of them are at open prisons and youth offenders' institutes, others are in standard closed prisons for those who have committed serious crimes such as muggings, burglary and theft.

It also emerged that some youth prisons now call offenders 'trainees' or 'residents'.

Governors in other parts of the country are also understood to have introduced the key scheme.

Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies accused the Government of "turning prisons into hotels".

He said: "People will be horrified to know so many prisons give inmates their own keys. It will reinforce their views that the regime is far too lax and cushy.

"These people are banged up for a reason. But the Government seems more concerned about the human rights of criminals than those of their victims, who are footing the bill to keep them in increasingly pleasant surroundings."

Blair Gibbs, director of the Tax-Payers' Alliance, said: "It is hard to believe we live in a serious country any more when you hear lunacy like this. Our politicians are clearly not capable of running anything that resembles an effective criminal justice system."
Kind of removes the incentive to stay out of of prison... A perfect example of muzzy-headed thinking masquerading as politically correct thought.

A case of product mis-representation

| No Comments
Make a claim for your product -- better watch out for these two fourteen year old girls. From Yahoo/Reuters:
Schoolgirls find there's no C in Ribena
Global drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline faces a court case on Tuesday for misleading advertising after two 14-year-olds found its popular blackcurrant drink Ribena contained almost no vitamin C.

High school students Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo tested the children's drink against advertising claims that "the blackcurrants in Ribena have four times the vitamin C of oranges" in 2004.

Instead, the two found the syrup-based drink contained almost no trace of vitamin C, and one commercial orange juice brand contained almost four times more than Ribena.

"We thought we were doing it wrong, we thought we must have made a mistake," Devathasan, now aged 17, told New Zealand newspapers of the school experiment.

A GSK spokeswoman in New Zealand refused to comment ahead of the case on the grounds that it could affect the legal process.
Whoops -- better check that label again...

The Californication of America

Interesting premise for an article. From MS/NBC/AP:
Got problems? Blame the Californians
Many residents of Western states blame all their ills on Golden Staters

It�s dead inside Favorites bar this afternoon, where the propped-open door spills a bit of light onto the ancient Elvis pin ball machine and the grumpy man puffing on a cigarette in front of the video poker machine.

There�s no food here, unless you count the vending machine against the green wall. Owner Ray Medrano had to make a choice: Close the kitchen or ban smoking in the joint altogether. His customers love their smokes more than their food, so the kitchen lost.

For Medrano, there�s only one despicable group of people to blame for Nevada passing a smoking ban that eliminates smoking in restaurants and bars that also serve food: Californians.

�California has a negative influence on our society,� he said, glancing around as cigarette smoke fills the stuffy place. �They should keep their world in their world.�

It�s a popular refrain from many in the West. When Californians move in, it�s always their fault when things change. They infect the rest of the region with their politics and questionable driving, and make housing prices soar.

Etorphine Hydrochloride

Just ran into this stuff today (the write-up, not the actual chemical). Holy crap does it ever sound dangerous. Check out: Etorphine Hydrochloride
Technical Information
M99 (Etorphine)

M99 (etorphine hydrochloride) was synthesised by Bentley & Hardy (1963) and is chemically related to morphine. When given subcutaneously, M99 is 1,000 to 80,000 times more potent than morphine as an analgesic. Its use for immobilising game animals results largely from its ability to cause catatonia at very low dose levels (for example, the total dose for a rhino may be as low as 5 mg). Because of the great risk involved to man and animal in handling this substance, the possession and use of M99 is strictly controlled by law in almost all countries. Novartis enforces this and ensures that M99 and M5050 is only supplied to registered veterinarians.

The approved generic name of this compound is etorphine hydrochloride, and the chemical name is 6,14-endoetheno � 7 a (1-(R)-hydroxy-1 methylbutyl)-tetrahydro-nororipavine hydrochloride.

M99 is chemically related to morphine. This compound was synthesised by Bentley & Hardy (1963). The acute pharmacology was described in detail by Blane, Bora, Fitzgerald and Lister (1967). In laboratory animals M99 resembles morphine by causing analgesia, catatonia, blockade of conditional reflexes, and anti-diuretic effect. It also resembles morphine by causing excitement in mice, cats and bradycardia and hypotension in rats, dogs, cats and monkeys. When given subcutaneously M99 is 1,000 - 80,000 times more potent than morphine as an analgesic, depending on the test situation. Its use for immobilising game animals results largely from its ability to cause catatonia at very low dose levels.

The approved generic name for this compound is diprenorphine, and the chemical name is N-cyclopropylmethyl-6, 14-endoetheno-7-(1-hydroxy-1-methylethyl)tetrahydro-nororipavine. It is a potent morphine antagonist with an action similar to nalorphine. Its potency, however, was stated by Bentley et al. (1965) to be up to 35 times greater than nalorphine and to have a duration of action two to three times as long. In game animals it produced a rapid and complete reversal of the immobilisation produced by M99. Although it appears that there may be some degree of species variation in the response in practice it has been found that a dosage ratio M5050 to M99 of 1:1 is perfectly satisfactory i.e. 1.3mg diprenorphine produces reversal of the immobilising action of 1mg etorphine.
5mg is enough to immobilize a rhino? Yikes! Check out the required handling procedure:
Safety Precautions
  1. Keep M99 and M5050 together.
  2. Ensure that there is sufficient M5050 to reverse the effects of M99.
  3. Load the M5050 syringe first and keep it to hand throughout the procedure.
  4. Load the M99 syringe well clear of the patient or assisting persons.
  5. Use a disposable syringe.
  6. Discard empty M99/M5050 vials - never reuse containers for other drugs.
  7. Always ensure that a syringe loaded with an appropriate antidote for human use is at hand (Narcan).
  8. DON�T confuse different preparations.
  9. DON�T use a syringe that has previously been used for M99 or any other drugs.
  10. DON�T carry a syringe loaded with M99 in your pocket. Syringes loaded with M99 should carry a needle guard.

    Further advice on handling Large Animal M99
  11. Once the required dose of M99 has been withdrawn from the vial it is strongly recommended that the needle be removed from the syringe and discarded into a closed container. A sterile needle should then be inserted into the injection site and the syringe connected to it.
  12. Wear gloves.
  13. Do not pressurise the contents of the vial.
  14. An eye and skin wash should be made available.
  15. An assistant capable of giving an injection of reversing agent should be present whenever Large Animal M99 is used.
  16. The veterinary surgeon should fully brief the assistant on the procedure and indicate whether M5050 is to be considered as an antidote in the event of personal accident.
  17. To minimise risk of accident when injecting M99 i.v., the Portex Minivein or similar equipment can be used.
  18. Immobilise only one animal at a time and keep it under constant supervision at all stages. In cases of respiratory failure, inject M5050 immediately and maintain artificial ventilation.

Norton Sales

| No Comments
Uber geekdom - ran into this article in the LA Times:
North Hollywood junkyard: one giant heap for mankind
Mounds of titanium and steel glinted in the afternoon sun, valves and pipes protruding in all directions like half-formed metal organisms.

In one corner of the warehouse was a twin of the Apollo command module engine that brought Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong back from the surface of the moon nearly 40 years ago. Nearby was the second-stage motor for a Saturn V, the most powerful rocket ever used in the U.S. space program.

Jonathan Goff, a 26-year-old rocket engineer, climbed atop a mound of titanium spheres once used to store highly explosive liquid oxygen rocket fuel and scanned the area for used rocket parts. "This is definitely a cool place," he said.

For almost five decades, Norton Sales Inc. in North Hollywood has been collecting the nuts, bolts and heat exchangers from the rockets that helped American astronauts shrug off the steely embrace of gravity.

This is where the bits and pieces of America's space program came to die.

Through most of its history, the space junkyard has served as part museum and part fantasy camp for wealthy collectors willing to plunk down thousands of dollars for a piece of an Apollo rocket. Some of its best customers have also been car customizers looking for cheap, spaceflight-grade hydraulic valves.

Now, after decades of NASA's dominance of spaceflight, private rocketeers are launching their own commercial space industry � and they are flocking to Norton Sales, junkyard of the stars.

The Apollo command module engine goes for $1.5 million. That J-2 engine for the Saturn V? Yours for $500,000. A Thor rocket engine costs a relatively modest $75,000.
Their website is here: Norton Sales Anyone up for a road trip? This place sounds amazing...

Global Warming - good thing?

| No Comments
From Alabama Live/AP comes this story of how Global Warming might actually be a good thing:
Riches await as Earth's icy north melts
Barren and uninhabited, Hans Island is very hard to find on a map. Yet these days the Frisbee-shaped rock in the Arctic is much in demand � so much so that Canada and Denmark have both staked their claim to it with flags and warships. The reason: an international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, accelerated by the impact of global warming on Earth's frozen north.

The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the ice cap is warming faster than the rest of the planet and ice is receding, partly due to greenhouse gases. It's a catastrophic scenario for the Arctic ecosystem, for polar bears and other wildlife, and for Inuit populations whose ancient cultures depend on frozen waters.

But some see a lucrative silver lining of riches waiting to be snatched from the deep, and the prospect of timesaving sea lanes that could transform the shipping industry the way the Suez Canal did in the 19th century.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic has as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. Moscow reportedly sees the potential of minerals in its slice of the Arctic sector approaching $2 trillion.

All this has pushed governments and businesses into a scramble for sovereignty over these suddenly priceless seas.

Regardless of climate change, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is moving full speed ahead. State-controlled Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA plans to start tapping gas from its offshore Snoehvit field in December, the first in the Barents Sea. It uses advanced equipment on the ocean floor, remote-controlled from the Norwegian oil boom town of Hammerfest through a 90-mile undersea cable.
Couple of howlers in there -- polar bear population has actually been increasing quite a bit and the ice pack melting may well be part of a 300-year cycle. Still, a sea route through the polar region would be an incredible boon to shipping and the prospects for oil and mineral extraction are huge. And a bit more from the article -- talk about foresight:
Global warming is also bringing an unexpected bonus to American transportation company OmniTrax Inc., which a decade ago bought the small underutilized Northwest Passage port of Churchill, Manitoba, for a token fee of 10 Canadian dollars (about $8).

The company, which is private, won't say how much money it is making in Churchill, but it was estimated to have moved more than 500,000 tons of grain through the port in 2007.

Light posting tonight

| No Comments
Working on some other stuff...

Jeb Bush snubbed

| No Comments
From Yahoo/AP:
Jeb Bush denied honor at U. of Florida
University of Florida President Bernie Machen says he was "tremendously disappointed" with the school's Faculty Senate vote to deny former Gov. Jeb Bush an honorary degree.

The Senate voted 38-28 Thursday against giving the honorary degree to Bush, who left office in January.

"Jeb Bush has been a great friend of the University of Florida," Machen said Friday, adding that the Senate's action is "unheard of."
The article goes on:
University officials said they could not recall any precedent for the Senate rejecting the nominees put forth by the Faculty Senate's Honorary Degrees, Distinguished Alumnus Awards and Memorials Committee. The committee determines whether nominees deserve consideration according to standards that include "eminent distinction in scholarship or high distinction in public service."

"The committee endorsed him," Machen said. "It is unheard of that a faculty committee would look at candidates, make recommendations and then (those candidates) be overturned by the Senate."
I guess Bush Derangement Syndrome hits George's brothers as well...

Overdrawn at the Food Bank

| No Comments
Photographer Troy Paiva ran into something unusual in his travels. A huge cache of food sitting in the desert rotting. From MS/NBC comes this story:
Huge cache of food bank leftovers found
California photographer makes a smelly discovery in the desert

Troy Paiva has seen a lot of weird stuff in his decades of stalking the high deserts of Southern California with his camera, but nothing compares with the massive, rotting mess of food and drink that he stumbled upon recently in the Mojave Desert.

�There�s thousands of things out there,� said Paiva, 46. �There�s a whole pallet of yogurt, there�s a whole pallet of Reddi Wip whipped cream. It�s cases and cases and cases, stacked on pallets and pallets and pallets.�

And it all came from a food bank, which is now scrambling to clean up the mess after receiving a call from
There is a slideshow of this at the MS/NBC link above. The food bank would take all of its past-due food and take it to a pig farm at the site but the farm closed down so they just kept leaving the stuff there, even though it wasn't being used.

A case of over-medication

Sad story about the death of a four year old girl in Massachusetts. From the Associated Press:

Girl's Overdose Death Raises Questions
In the final months of Rebecca Riley's life, a school nurse said the little girl was so weak she was like a "floppy doll." The preschool principal had to help Rebecca off the bus because the 4-year-old was shaking so badly. And a pharmacist complained that Rebecca's mother kept coming up with excuses for why her daughter needed more and more medication. None of their concerns was enough to save Rebecca.

Rebecca - who had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity and bipolar disorder, or what used to be called manic depression - died Dec. 13 of an overdose of prescribed drugs, and her parents have been arrested on murder charges, accused of intentionally overmedicating their daughter to keep her quiet and out of their hair.

Interviews and a review of court documents by The Associated Press make it clear that many of those who were supposed to protect Rebecca - teachers, social workers, other professionals - suspected something was wrong, but never went quite far enough.

But the tragic case is more than a story about one child. It raises troubling, larger questions about the state of child psychiatry, namely: Can children as young as Rebecca be accurately diagnosed with mental illnesses? Are rambunctious youngsters being medicated for their parents' convenience? And should children so young be prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs meant for adults?

Jesus -- what ever happened to proper parenting. These two mokes substituted drugs for this. The parents are classic:

Both were unemployed; they collected welfare and disabilty benefits and lived in subsidized housing. Michael Riley, who is also awaiting trial on charges of molesting a stepdaughter in 2005, claimed to suffer from bipolar disorder and a rage disorder; his wife told police she suffered from depression and anxiety.

The article also quotes three disturbing statistics:

A study of mentally ill children discharged from community hospitals, published in January in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found the proportion of children diagnosed with bipolar disorders jumped from 2.9 percent in 1990 to 15.1 percent in 2000.

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002 estimated that about 7 percent of elementary school-age children - or approximately 1.6 million youngsters ages 6 to 11 - have been diagnosed with ADHD.

The annual number of U.S. children prescribed anti-psychotic drugs jumped fivefold between 1995 and 2002, to an estimated 2.5 million, according to a study published last year by researchers at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.

We never used medication twoenty years ago -- why the sudden jump?

Rat Poison in an 'imported ingredient'. From CNN/Reuters:
Rat poison found in recalled pet food
A chemical used in rat poison was found as the source of contamination in Menu Foods brands, officials say.

An ingredient used in rat poison that causes kidney failure in cats and dogs has been found in samples of Menu Foods cat food, New York State officials said Friday.

Food manufactured by the Canadian company has been blamed for the deaths of at least 14 animals.

Aminopterin, a folic acid derivative used in rat poison, was discovered in samples obtained from the Ontario-based company, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said at a press conference.

Use of aminopterin is forbidden in the United States because it can cause cancer and birth defects in humans as well as kidney failure in dogs and cats, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets said.
And a bit more:
Menu Foods had said the timing of the complaints coincided with the use of an ingredient from a new supplier. The company declined to name the supplier or the ingredient, which it has stopped using. The company estimates the recall could cost it up to $34.5 million.
Here is the NY State Department of Agriculture & Markets press release. And here is the WikiPedia entry for Aminopterin.

Invasive Species - Earthworms

| No Comments
I had always thought that Earthworms were good for the environment but this turns out not to be the case. Check out the Great Lakes Worm Watch:
Forest Ecology and Worms
Ask anyone on the street if earthworms are good for ecosystems and you will undoubtedly receive a resounding �YES!�. When asked why, they may say something like �earthworms mix and aerate the soil�. It is a basic ecological concept that we may have learned as early as kindergarten. However, recent research on invasion of these seemingly benevolent creatures into previously worm-free hardwood forests of the Great Lakes Region has seriously challenged that belief. Researchers at the University of Minnesota, and elsewhere, have documented dramatic changes in native hardwood forest ecosystems when exotic earthworms invade. These changes including losses of native understory plant species and tree seedlings, changes in soil structure and declines in nutrient availability. There is also fascinating evidence emerging that the changes caused by exotic earthworms may lead to a cascade of other changes in the forest that affect small mammal, bird and amphibian populations, increase the impacts of herbivores like white-tailed deer, and facilitate invasions of other exotic species such as European slugs and exotic plants like buckthorn and garlic mustard. These results suggest that exotic earthworms may pose a grave threaten the biodiversity and long term stability of hardwood forest ecosystems in the region.
The site has some fascinating photos of a forest floor with no earthworms and one with -- very visible changes.

Google history

| No Comments
Ran into this website which has photos of the first machines Google ran on (taken on May 1998). Here is one of them -- an overview of the hardware:

Cluttered Desk

| No Comments
Creative Mind or so this article at The Christian Science Monitor says:
Disorderly habits can be a boon to productivity
A messy desk may be a sign of uninhibited creativity at work.

Were you planning to read this column right now? Did you budget extra minutes in your schedule for it? Or have you made a spontaneous decision that's now distracting you from more important chores while adding extra stress and disorganization to your life?

In my personal universe, chaos and order wage an ongoing battle that is often fiercely fought among the scribbled notations, newspaper clips, and other snippets of information scattered around my work space. So I can sympathize with Karen Jackson, a Texas schoolteacher who recently nabbed first place in a contest to find America's messiest desk.

The competition was sponsored by Little, Brown and Company as part of their promotion for a new book titled, "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder � How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place," by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman. The authors claim that neatness has a wide range of negative consequences and can actually make workers less effective.
I fall squarely in the cluttered desk camp -- glad to have some backup as I always claim that an empty desk indicates and empty mind...


| No Comments
Very cool open-source software for hard disk encryption: TrueCrypt From their website:
TrueCrypt is a software system for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volume (data storage device). On-the-fly encryption means that data are automatically encrypted or decrypted right before they are loaded or saved, without any user intervention. No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without using the correct password/keyfile(s) or correct encryption keys. Entire file system is encrypted (e.g.., file names, folder names, contents of every file, free space, meta data, etc).

Files can be copied to and from a mounted TrueCrypt volume just like they are copied to/from any normal disk (for example, by simple drag-and-drop operations). Files are automatically being decrypted on-the-fly (in memory/RAM) while they are being read or copied from an encrypted TrueCrypt volume. Similarly, files that are being written or copied to the TrueCrypt volume are automatically being encrypted on-the-fly (right before they are written to the disk) in RAM. Note that this does not mean that the whole file that is to be encrypted/decrypted must be stored in RAM before it can be encrypted/decrypted. The are no extra memory (RAM) requirements for TrueCrypt. For an illustration of how this is accomplished, see the following paragraph.

Let's suppose that there is an .avi video file stored on a TrueCrypt volume (therefore, the video file is entirely encrypted). The user provides the correct password (and/or keyfile) and mounts (opens) the TrueCrypt volume. When the user double clicks the icon of the video file, the operating system launches the application associated with the file type � typically a media player. The media player then begins loading a small initial portion of the video file from the TrueCrypt-encrypted volume to RAM (memory) in order to play it. While the portion is being loaded, TrueCrypt is automatically decrypting it (in RAM). The decrypted portion of the video (stored in RAM) is then played by the media player. While this portion is being played, the media player begins loading next small portion of the video file from the TrueCrypt-encrypted volume to RAM (memory) and the process repeats. This process is called on-the-fly encryption/decryption and it works for all file types, not only for video files.
Great for laptops or for when you have sensetive data.

Betting on the horses in Hong Kong

Interesting news from the Hong Kong horse racing world. From The Independent:
Racing: Hong Kong rocked by discovery of poison darts
Hong Kong triads, or organised-crime gangs, are believed to be behind a sinister and elaborate poison-dart device embedded in the turf near the starting point for races at the Happy Valley racecourse.

During a routine examination of the track an inspector came across the poison dart shooter, which had 12 metal tubes, each around a foot long, filled with darts buried in the grass under the spot where the starting stalls would be placed for the three races over 1,200 metres (six furlongs) on Wednesday night's card, the Hong Kong Jockey Club said in a statement.

Happy Valley and Sha Tin are Hong Kong's two tracks. Turnover on a single day's racing in Hong Kong can outstrip the income many European or American courses generate in a whole year. A single race here can take in nearly �20m and the gambling-mad people of Hong Kong spend �5.4bn a year on the racing.

The bizarre device could have harmed one, a few or all of the horses in the stalls. The tubes were wired together and linked to a wireless receiver, and spaced in a way that each tube would aim upwards at the horse standing overhead.

"The full nature of the device and its intended purpose has not been established. However, no explosives were found," the Jockey Club statement ran.

A senior police source told local media that he believed the plan was to fire some kind of tranquilliser upwards to where the starting stall was. "I doubt very much that it was meant to do anything more than just slightly tranquillise the horse. That's my speculation," the source said.

It is fairly obvious that the poison-dart shooter was related to gambling and most likely linked to the triads, said the police source.

"It could well be that triads are part of that, especially the gambling which is done outside the Jockey Club's system. If you can get the horse to slow down just enough, it looks like a normal race and the favourite may not come in."
And I bet that they will bust some minor character but the real people involved will never be found.

Our islamic friends in Germany

| No Comments
A German judge ruled for sharia in a divorce case. From The Sun:
Judge gives the OK to wife hit
A divorce court judge ruled a man was right to beat and abuse his wife � because the Muslim holy book allowed it.

The terrified partner, a 26-year-old mum of two, filed for a quickie divorce after her husband hit her and even threatened to kill her.

But the judge in Frankfurt, Germany, rejected her application � quoting a Koran verse which some have controversially interpreted to mean a man can beat his wife if she acts in an �unchaste� fashion.

The woman judge said it was �a religious thing� because both the wife and husband were from Morocco � home to many Muslims.

She added: �The exercise of the right to castigate does not fulfil the hardship criteria defined by German law.�

But the wife�s lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk filed a claim saying the judge had a conflict of interest and should have stepped down.

She said: �The judge seems to be saying that the right to castigate means a husband can beat his wife.

�Apparently the judge deems it unchaste when my client adapts a Western lifestyle.� The judge has since been excused from the case.
That judge needs to be thumped a couple times so she can feel what its like. Talk about sending the wrong message...

A nasty Trojan

| No Comments
A very nasty piece of work has been floating around the last couple weeks. Don Jackson at Secure Works did a very through examination and analysis:
Gozi Trojan
Russian malware authors are finding new ways to steal and profit from data which used to be considered safe from thieves because it was encrypted using SSL/TLS. Originally, this analysis intended to provide insight into the mechanisms used to steal that data, but it became an investigation into the growing trend of malware sold not as a product, but as a service. Eventually it lead to an alarming find and resulted in an active law enforcement investigation.

A single attack by a single variant compromises more than 5200 hosts and 10,000 user accounts on hundreds of sites.
  • Steals SSL data using advanced Winsock2 functionality
  • State-of-the-art, modularized trojan code
  • Spread through IE browser exploits
  • Undetected for weeks, months by many AV vendors
  • Customized server/database code to collect sensitive data
  • Customer interface for on-line purchases of stolen data
  • Accounts compromised by stealing data primarily from infected home PCs
  • Accounts at top financial, retail, health care, and government services affected
  • Data's black market value at least $2 million

There are two other known variants. New variants, similar attacks inevitable.
One person's suggestion was to put the entire nation of Russia on dialup for the next ten years until they learned their lesson and started policing themselves a little better. The majority of the spam coming into this site originates from there or links to a Russian server.

Light posting tonight

| No Comments
Working on some other stuff for a project of ours.

A good look at Hydrogen

| No Comments
An interesting 35 page PDF paper on Hydrogen and its use as fuel.
Energy and the Hydrogen Economy
Between production and use any commercial product is subject to the following processes: packaging, transportation, storage and transfer. The same is true for hydrogen in a �Hydrogen Economy�. Hydrogen has to be packaged by compression or liquefaction, it has to be transported by surface vehicles or pipelines, it has to be stored and transferred. Generated by electrolysis or chemistry, the fuel gas has to go through these market procedures before it can be used by the customer, even if it is produced locally at filling stations. As there are no environmental or energetic advantages in producing hydrogen from natural gas or other hydrocarbons, we do not consider this option, although hydrogen can be chemically synthesized at relative low cost.

In the past, hydrogen production and hydrogen use have been addressed by many, assuming that hydrogen gas is just another gaseous energy carrier and that it can be handled much like natural gas in today�s energy economy. With this study we present an analysis of the energy required to operate a pure hydrogen economy. High-grade electricity from renewable or nuclear sources is needed not only to generate hydrogen, but also for all other essential steps of a hydrogen economy. But because of the molecular structure of hydrogen, a hydrogen infrastructure is much more energy-intensive than a natural gas economy.
The upshot is that it is more efficient to add carbon to the hydrogen and make gasoline (iso-octane) than it is to transport the hydrogen and use it in a vehicle. If you try to use Hydrogen in a vehicle, the overall expenses are much higher than expected...

The Ohio Valley Creative Energy Project

Very clever idea -- they are building an arts center for glass, ceramic and metal work near a landfill and using the methane gas captured from the landfill as fuel.

Check out the Ohio Valley Creative Energy Project:

Ohio Valley Creative Energy has over 30 member artists from all over the region and is supported by the Clark County, Indiana Government, The EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), The Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, Stewardship Associates, Hoosier Energy, and the Clark County Rural Electric Membership Co-operative (REMC). The involvement of all of these organizations is critical for the successful implementation of this project.

OVCE, Hoosier Energy, and Clark County REMC have united to develop the first commercial-community Landfill-to-Gas (LFG) project in the U.S. Hoosier Energy will use a majority of the landfill's gas to power an electricity generation station that will feed into the Clark County REMC's power grid, providing 1,000's of Southern Indiana homes with "green" power. The excess gas, or flared gas will be donated by these companies to power the OVCE arts campus. This equals to be less than 10% of the total gas flow collected at the landfill.

Glass, Metal, and Clay studios all require an abundance of heat and energy to operate. Because of this, energy prices are reflected in studio costs for artists working in these heat intensive materials. Glass artists pay between $30-50/ an hour for studio time, so working artists can easily spend $5,000 a month just doing their job. This dilemma stifles artists creativity, forcing them to "make objects that sell" rather than art.

At the OVCE Arts Center artists will be able to explore their creativity through experimentation and collaboration, because we will be able to offer them a low cost studio to work from. Studio costs will vary, ranging from $100-300/ per month depending on the studio of choice. In addition to providing a studio space, artists are expected to engage themselves in professional development through OVCE's business incubator program. The goal of OVCE is to produce self-sustainable artists by the end of their 3 year term, leaving their experience with the necessary tools to succeed.

A perfect use of a perfect resource...

Happy 50th Birthday - Bubble Wrap

From the Glasgow Daily Record:
Top of the Pops for 50 years
Bubble Wrap's half-century

Bubble Wrap is turning 50 - and it's still as popular as ever.

The plastic packaging has prevented the destruction of countless fragile items.

And millions of people have burst its bubbles with a satisfying pop as a simple form of stress relief.

But Bubble Wrap was invented by mistake, stationery store chain Ryman said yesterday. Two US engineers came up with the product while trying to make a textured plastic wallpaper in Hawthorne, New Jersey.

Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes realised they may have hit on a better idea and their wallpaper flop could serve as a unique cushioned packing material.

Within three years, the inventors had founded the Sealed Air Corporation - now the world's leading manufacturers of packing materials.

Bubble Wrap is made by passing two layers of plastic film over a drum that is punched with holes.

One layer of the sheeting is sucked into the holes and the other layer is laminated on to its back, creating air pockets.

Bubble Wrap's alternative use as a quirky tension relieving device is just as popular as its intended one.

It is almost impossible to hold the plastic sheets without popping one or more of the bubbles.

People are so fond of bursting the bubbles that websites have even been devoted to "virtual Bubble Wrap" so fans can pop away online.

Lisa Bond, of Ryman, said: "It's incredible to think Bubble Wrap has been around for 50 years, especially as it was an unintended invention.

"Not only has it taken the packaging world by storm, but households and offices around the country readily use the air-filled sheets as a fun way to let off steam."

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor of Design Week, said: "Bubble Wrap is one of those fantastic products that we couldn't live without."
Here is the website for Virtual Bubblewrap

Limousine Liberals

Nice article by Charles Krauthammer writing in Time Magazine. He writes about the growing awareness that public figures may talk about the environment but they sure as hell don't practice what they preach:
Limousine Liberal Hypocrisy
Goldman Sachs has been one of the most aggressive firms on Wall Street about taking action on climate change; the company sends its bankers home at night in hybrid limousines.
--The New York Times, Feb. 25
Written without a hint of irony--if only your neighborhood dry cleaner sent his employees home by hybrid limousine--this front-page dispatch captured perfectly the eco-pretensions of the rich and the stupefying gullibility with which they are received.

Remember the Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore global-warming pitch at the Academy Awards? Before they spoke, the screen at the back of the stage flashed not-so-subliminal messages about how to save the planet. My personal favorite was "Ride mass transit." This to a conclave of Hollywood plutocrats who have not seen the inside of a subway since the moon landing and for whom mass transit means a stretch limo seating no fewer than 10.

Leo and Al then portentously announced that for the first time ever, the Academy Awards ceremony had gone green. What did that mean? Solar panels in the designer gowns? It turns out that the Academy neutralized the evening's "carbon footprint" by buying carbon credits. That means it sent money to a "carbon broker," who promised, after taking his cut, to reduce carbon emissions somewhere on the planet equivalent to what the stars spewed into the atmosphere while flying in on their private planes.

In other words, the rich reduce their carbon output by not one ounce. But drawing on the hundreds of millions of net worth in the Kodak Theatre, they pull out lunch money to buy ecological indulgences. The last time the selling of pardons was prevalent--in a predecessor religion to environmentalism called Christianity--Martin Luther lost his temper and launched the Reformation.
Charles closes with this one-liner:
If Gore really wants to save the planet, he can try this: Turn off the lights. Ditch the heated pool. Ride the subway. And spare us the carbon-trading piety.

I hate Macs

| No Comments
Cute rant by Charlie Brooker at The Guardian -- here is an excerpt:
I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, "I hate Macs", and then I think, "Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?" Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb.
Charlie also takes on the "Hello, I'm a Mac" "And I'm a PC" television commercials. Fun stuff indeed!

If you decide to have surgery

| 1 Comment
don't have it at St. Joseph's General Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, CA. From The National Post:
Superbug forces Alberta hospital to shut
Dirty equipment raises disease fear in Edmonton suburb Vegreville

Alberta health authorities have closed a Vegreville hospital to new admissions and most visitors after the spread of a bacterial-resistant superbug and the discovery that some patients may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis during surgeries performed with dirty tools.

The equipment sterilization room at St. Joseph's General Hospital was shut down Friday � though it was first directed to do so more than one month ago -- after a recent audit found bits of flesh and blood left on tools and inside scopes used to examine patients and take tissue samples.

Those tools weren't properly scrubbed and brushed inside and out before being sterilized, and were then used on other patients, inspectors discovered.

"We believe the risk is very low," said Dr. Gerhard Benade, the medical health officer for the East Central Health Region.

Fewer than one per cent of patients who had certain surgeries are at risk of having been infected by a blood-borne pathogen, he said.
Yikes -- I'm surprised that someone from the equipment sterilization room didn't blow the whistle or that a surgeon didn't notice the contamination and sound off. Careless way to operate.

RIP - Larry "Bud" Melman

| No Comments
From CNN/AP:
Letterman's Larry 'Bud' Melman actor dies
The balding, bespectacled nebbish who gained cult status as the oddball Larry "Bud" Melman on David Letterman's late-night television shows has died after a long illness.

Brooklyn-born Calvert DeForest, who was 85, died Monday at a hospital on Long Island, the Letterman show announced Wednesday.

He made dozens of appearances on Letterman's shows from 1982 through 2002, handling a variety of twisted duties: singing a duet with Sonny Bono on "I Got You, Babe"; doing a Mary Tyler Moore impression during a visit to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her 1970s show was set; handing out hot towels to arrivals at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Cue cards were often DeForest's television kryptonite, and his character invariably appeared in an ill-fitting black suit behind thick, black-rimmed glasses.

"Everyone always wondered if Calvert was an actor playing a character, but in reality he was just himself -- a genuine, modest and nice man," Letterman said in a statement. "To our staff and to our viewers, he was a beloved and valued part of our show, and we will miss him."
He will be missed -- a funny man.

Care for a nice cup of tea?

| No Comments
From Yahoo/Reuters comes this story of a small hospital mixup:
Scandal brews over China tea-for-urine samples
A group of Chinese reporters came up with a novel idea to test how greedy local hospitals were -- pass off tea as urine samples and submit the drink for tests.

The results: six out of 10 hospitals in Hangzhou, the capital of the rich coastal province of Zhejiang, visited by the reporters over a two-day period this month concluded that the patients' urinal tracts were infected.

Five of the hospitals prescribed medication costing up to 400 yuan ($50), the online edition of the semi-official China News Service ( said in a report seen on Wednesday. Of the hospitals, four were state-owned.

"It makes one shiver all over even though it's not cold," the China News Service said after its reporters and colleagues from Zhejiang Television tested the hospitals.

The Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper said in a commentary on Wednesday: "Healthy people are diagnosed with diseases. Small ailments are said to be serious problems. Patients have become automatic teller machines for the hospitals."
And if you sugar your tea, are you considered a diabetic. Classic old-school corruption, communism is still there, just operating under a new name.

Big cocaine bust off coast of Panama

| No Comments
Big party at the Coast Guard tonight. From the LA Times:
Seized cocaine Mexico-bound, U.S. says
A task force plays a role in the confiscation of 20 tons of the drug from a ship off Panama.

Twenty tons of cocaine seized off the Pacific coast of Panama over the weekend were believed headed to a Mexican port for delivery to the notorious Sinaloa cartel, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The seizure Sunday of drugs valued at more than $275 million wholesale was described by the officials as the largest recorded maritime cocaine bust.

The drugs were believed to have been purchased by Ismael Zambada, a suspected leader of Mexico's so-called Sinaloa cartel, officials said. The cache was seized aboard a 300-foot Panamanian-flagged freighter destined for an unspecified port in Mexico.

The drugs had been loaded onto the ship off Colombia's northwest Pacific coast. The ship was steaming northwest about 15 miles off the Panamanian island of Coiba when it was intercepted by units of the U.S. Coast Guard, Panamanian police and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Fourteen crew members, 11 of them Mexican and the others Panamanian, were arrested.
Good for them!

Dog Food recall -- an observation

| No Comments
Was reading through the list of the brands affected by the recent dog food recall and it struck me that of the 53 different brands affected, we have the gamut ranging from the Winn-Dixie, Stop & Shop and Price Chopper house brands all the way to the Iams, Eukanuba and Nutro brands. How are these "Premium" brands supposed to be so much better when they are made by the same people who also make the ultra-cheap discount-store brands... If the premium brands were so much different, why are the containing the same ingrediants...
A nice quiet domestic scene -- from Australian
Husband rips wife's eyes out after she refuses sex
A man who ripped out his wife's eyes in a fit of rage was sentenced by a French court to 30 years behind bars today.

Mohamed Hadfi, 31, tore out his 23-year-old wife Samira Bari's eyes following a heated argument in their apartment in the southern French city of Nimes in July 2003 after she refused to have sex with him.

Ms Bari, who had demanded a divorce before the attack, was permanently blinded.

Hadfi, a Moroccan, initially fled to Germany. He was finally arrested and sent back to France, where he was indicted for "acts of torture and barbarity leading to a permanent disability".

Prosecutor Dominique Tourette demanded that Hadfi be sentenced to 30 years in prison, two thirds of which must be served in full, calling the defendant a "diabolic torturer".

Once his sentence is served, Hadfi will be deported and barred from ever returning to France.
And the lawyers statement:
His lawyer Jean-Pierre Cabanes meanwhile insisted there were extenuating circumstances.

"This is the result of a marriage that was arranged, not chosen," he said, pointing to the gulf separating his client, who came from southern Morocco, and his young wife, who had grown up in France.

Mr Cabanes begged the jury for leniency, claiming his client's action "appeared to stem from a mental illness."
Mental Illness indeed -- it's called Islam.

The dark side of Ethanol Fuel

| No Comments
It seems that a number of people are spitting out the Kool Aid regarding the use of Ethanol as fuel for internal combustion engines. Although it is possible, there are a lot of other factors that need to be considered and have been glossed over by the enviros and the US government (which heavily subsidizes Ethanol). From Businessweek comes this good article:
Ethanol's Growing List of Enemies
As demand for the alternative fuel drives corn prices up, an unlikely assortment of groups are uniting with the hopes of cutting government support.

Paul Hitch has spent his entire life raising cattle and hogs on a stretch of the Oklahoma panhandle he says is "flat as a billiard table." His great-grandfather started the ranch in 1884, before Oklahoma was a state, and now Hitch, 63, is preparing to pass the family business on to his two sons.

But he worries that they'll face mounting pressures in the industry, particularly because of the soaring price for corn, which the business depends on to feed the livestock. In the past year, corn prices have doubled as demand from ethanol producers has surged.

"This ethanol binge is insane," says Hitch, who's president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. "This talk about energy independence and wrapping yourself in the flag and singing God Bless America�all that's going to come at a severe cost to another part of the economy."

The ethanol movement is sprouting a vocal crop of critics. While politicians including President George W. Bush and farmers across the Midwest hope that the U.S. can win its energy independence by turning corn into fuel, Hitch and an unlikely assortment of allies are raising their voices in opposition. The effort is uniting ranchers and environmentalists, hog farmers and hippies, solar-power idealists and free-market pragmatists.
And some of their reasons:
More corn for ethanol producers, of course, means less for livestock. Ranchers in wide-open Western states and pig farmers in the rural stretches of the South and Midwest are finding their businesses slammed by policies cooked up in Washington.

Hitch says the feedstock that's primarily made from corn is the single biggest expense for his business. As corn costs have doubled, meat packers and processors like Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods have to pay more for the animals they buy.
Economists argue that making ethanol from corn wouldn't make any sense without the government's help. The mix of federal and state subsidies to corn ethanol amounted to a conservative estimate of $5 billion to $7 billion in 2006, says Koplow of Earth Track. A considerable chunk of that money comes from the 51� tax refund for each gallon of ethanol refiners blend with gasoline to make fuels that can power flexible-fuel cars.

At the same time, the government imposes a 54�-per-gallon tariff on ethanol from Brazil, which is a cheaper and more energy-efficient product made from sugar cane. Some economists say American politicians are subordinating smart energy policy for political support in key states like Iowa.
If the government is going to play a role in energy markets, there are other players who would like more attention. Supporters of solar and wind energy make the case that if the government is going to hand out subsidies and mandate use, in the name of energy independence, they should get the same kind of treatment as ethanol.

"Why are we supporting ethanol with a mandate, but not wind and solar?" says Randy Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Assn. "There's a lack of consistency in policy."
I'm just excerpting a much longer article -- good insight into bad policy.
It seems that prospecting for oil has a very good side to it. From the Toronto, Canada Globe and Mail:
Alberta's development boom helps fossil hunters hit pay dirt
On the hunt for a new quarry, an Alberta gravel company recently rumbled toward a stone outcropping not far from the oil sands north of Fort McMurray. Among the rock and dirt, workers found a curious collection of ancient implements.

Archeologists were spellbound.

The gravel company had stumbled upon a 9,000-year-old mine where the ancestors of today's aboriginal people fashioned stone tools.

"This turned out to be a very significant find," said David Link, who is in charge of monitoring historical sites across the province. "It's really kind of cool."

Throw enough shovels into the ground in Alberta and you're apt to hit oil or gas. But the energy-fuelled development boom that has swept the province in recent years has also spawned a bonanza for fossil hunters and historians.

A motherlode of artifacts is being unearthed in Alberta in places slated for subdivisions, roads, pipelines, mines and wells.

Fossils and bones from the dinosaur era have turned up. So has evidence of other prehistoric creatures and plants.

Previously unknown sites used by early humans are also being uncovered.

"Every year is a record-breaking year," said Dr. Link, who is director of the Heritage Resource Management Branch with Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture. "Over the last five years, it just goes up, up, up."
Very cool!

What we are up against in Iraq

| No Comments
Charles at LGF has a link to a story that shows the kind of low-life cowardly scum we are dealing with in Iraq:
Iraq insurgents used children in car bombing
Insurgents in Iraq detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle with two children in the back seat after US soldiers let it through a Baghdad checkpoint over the weekend, a senior US military official said Tuesday.

The vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint but was allowed through when soldiers saw the children in the back, said Major General Michael Barbero of the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

"Children in the back seat lowered suspicion. We let it move through. They parked the vehicle, and the adults ran out and detonated it with the children in the back," Barbero said.
Emphasis mine -- Islam is not a religion of peace, it is a cult of hate, fear, oppression and death.

Format C: /s /v

| No Comments
DOH! From Fox News:
Computer Tech Accidentally Erases Info on Alaska's $38 Billion Oil Fund
Perhaps you know that sinking feeling when a single keystroke accidentally destroy hours of work. Now imagine wiping out a disc drive containing an account worth $38 billion.

A computer technician at the Alaska Department of Revenue deleted applicant information for an oil-funded sales account � one of state residents' biggest perks.

While reformatting the disk drive during a routine maintenance check, the technician mistakenly reformatted the backup drive as well and, suddenly, all the data disappeared.

A third line of defense � backup tapes that are updated nightly � were unreadable.

"Nobody panicked, but we instantly went into planning for the worst-case scenario," said Permanent Fund Dividend Division Director Amy Skow, about the computer foul-up in July that ended up costing the department more than $200,000.

Nine months worth of information concerning the yearly payout from the Alaska Permanent Fund was gone: some 800,000 electronic images that had been painstakingly scanned into the system months earlier, the 2006 paper applications that people had either mailed in or filed over the counter, and supporting documentation such as birth certificates and proof of residence.

The only backup was the paperwork itself � stored in more than 300 cardboard boxes.

"We had to bring that paper back to the scanning room, and send it through again, and quality control it, and then you have to have a way to link that paper to that person's file," said Skow.

Staff working overtime and weekends re-entered the lost data into the system by the end of August.

Last October and November, they met their obligation to the public and a majority of the estimated 600,000 payments for last year's $1,106.96 individual dividends went out on schedule.

Former Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus said no one was blamed in the incident.

"Everybody felt very bad about it and we all learned a lesson. There was no witch hunt," said Corbus.

According to department staff, they now have a proven and regularly tested backup and restore procedure.
Sheesh -- not testing and re-testing the backup and restore procedure is insanity. Just because a tape runs and just because the backup software said the procedure went alright does not mean that you have a successful backup. Test and re-test -- once a month at the least, weekly if you have the time and hardware...

RIP - John W. Backus

| No Comments
John W. Backus is not a familiar name to non-geeks but to geeks he is well known as the developer of the FORTRAN programming language, the first widespread high-level language. From the NY Times:
John W. Backus, 82, Fortran Developer, Dies
John W. Backus, who assembled and led the I.B.M. team that created Fortran, the first widely used programming language, which helped open the door to modern computing, died on Saturday at his home in Ashland, Ore. He was 82.

His daughter Karen Backus announced the death, saying the family did not know the cause, other than age.

Fortran, released in 1957, was �the turning point� in computer software, much as the microprocessor was a giant step forward in hardware, according to J.A.N. Lee, a leading computer historian.

Fortran changed the terms of communication between humans and computers, moving up a level to a language that was more comprehensible by humans. So Fortran, in computing vernacular, is considered the first successful higher-level language.

Mr. Backus and his youthful team, then all in their 20s and 30s, devised a programming language that resembled a combination of English shorthand and algebra. Fortran, short for Formula Translator, was very similar to the algebraic formulas that scientists and engineers used in their daily work. With some training, they were no longer dependent on a programming priesthood to translate their science and engineering problems into a language a computer would understand.

In an interview several years ago, Ken Thompson, who developed the Unix operating system at Bell Labs in 1969, observed that �95 percent of the people who programmed in the early years would never have done it without Fortran.�

He added: �It was a massive step.�

One Flat Beemer

Ouch -- check out these photos of a BMW coming out a little worse for the wear in a construction accident. Here is one of them:

An Inconvenient Debate

| No Comments
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley has issued a challange to Al Gore to debate our part in global warming. Breitbart has the story:
Al Gore Challenged to International TV Debate on Global Warming
In a formal invitation sent to former Vice-President Al Gore's Tennessee address and released to the public, Lord Monckton has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge Gore to what he terms "the Second Great Debate," an internationally televised, head-to-head, nation-unto-nation confrontation on the question, "That our effect on climate is not dangerous."

Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher during her years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said, "A careful study of the substantial corpus of peer-reviewed science reveals that Mr. Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, is a foofaraw of pseudo-science, exaggerations, and errors, now being peddled to innocent schoolchildren worldwide."

Monckton and Gore have once before clashed head to head on the science, politics, and religion of global warming in the usually-decorous pages of the London Sunday Telegraph last November.

Monckton calls on the former Vice President to "step up to the plate and defend his advocacy of policies that could do grave harm to the welfare of the world's poor. If Mr. Gore really believes global warming is the defining issue of our time, the greatest threat human civilization has ever faced, then he should welcome the opportunity to raise the profile of the issue before a worldwide audience of billions by defining and defending his claims against a serious, science-based challenge."

The arena of the glittering "Second Great Debate" will be the elegant, Victorian-Gothic Library of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, which was the setting for the "Great Debate" between the natural scientist T. H. Huxley and Bishop "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce on the theory of evolution, following the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. Lord Monckton says he chose this historic venue "not only because the magnificent, Gothic architecture will be a visually-stunning setting for the debate but also because I hope that in this lofty atmosphere the caution and scepticism of true science will once again prevail, this time over the shibboleths and nostrums of the false, new religion of climate alarmism."
Heh... I would love to see this -- Gore's guts would be all over the stage. Monckton is brilliant.

Whoops -- art exhibit gone horribly wrong

From BBC World News:
Gold theft in a Japanese museum
Three masked men have stolen a massive block of gold bullion on display in a museum in Japan.

The gold bar, valued at $1.71m (1.27m euro; �0.87m), weighed about 220 pounds (100kg) and was kept in an open safe.

The museum, in the central city of Takayama, said the gold was not protected by sensors as they wanted visitors to be able to touch it.

But the group of thieves went one step further, helping themselves to the precious metal and dragging it away.

The gold was lugged past an employee alerted by the noise, down a staircase and out of the museum where the three men were driven away by a fourth accomplice.

"The gold was exhibited on the second floor, which was monitored by a security camera from the first floor," said 59-year-old Hisao Nakahagi, the owner of the gold.
That has got to suck for Mr. Nakahagi but who in their right mind would display a bar like that in such a way that someone could walk off with it. At least some kind of pressure switch that would have let holy hell loose if the bar was shifted...

The Bellingham No. 1 Coal Mine

I recently found the tailings of an old Coal mine in Glacier, WA -- this is a town about ten miles from us and is the center for the skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. Since I am learning blacksmithing, a cheap source of coal is a good thing and a friend turned me on to this one. There is more in the tailings than I will ever use in several lifetimes and it is all accessible with a 4X truck. While trying to find out more about this mine (and the location of the adit), I was researching other coal mines in the area. The biggie has always been the Bellingham Number One Mine and until yesterday, I had no clue about where it was located or how big it was. I found this 2004 report: Bellingham/Lake Whatcom Coal Mines Bellingham No. 1 Coal Mine Preliminary Assessment Report Whatcom County, Washington TDD: 03-01-0002 and was blown away at just how big these operations were. Here is a thumbnail:
From the scale of the map, the underground chambers are several square miles in size, extending down to underneath the bay. The openings (adits) and ventilation tunnels have been filled up but the chambers are still there. Now that would be some fun exploring!!!

Distant Early Warning

Nice article at American Heritage Magazine about the 1950's through 1980's radar stations in the Canadian Arctic:

The Dew Line
It was North America's first defense against a Soviet attack, and life on it was the Cold War at its coldest.

In the early hours of April 17, 1952, World War III nearly began - although not many people realized it at the time.

The previous afternoon an intelligence source had reported unusual levels of activity at Soviet air bases. Shortly after midnight U.S. Air Defense Command headquarters, in Colorado Springs, got word from Alaska that vapor trails from 'bogeys' (unknown aircraft) had been sighted high over the Bering Sea, coming from the direction of the Soviet Union. As shaken generals fretted over the report, another message arrived: Five more bogeys had been sighted off the coast of Maine. It looked as if this might be the real thing - an atomic sneak attack. Commanders ordered a full-scale alert. Fighters were scrambled and Air Force bombers prepared for a retaliatory strike.

And then nothing happened. The vapor trails over Alaska disappeared, along with the supposed enemy bombers. The unknowns over Maine were identified as off-course civilian airliners. Faster than it had begun, the threat vanished.

Although the people of North America slept undisturbed through the incident, it was ice water in the face for the military. It was bad enough that the U.S. defense network had been brought to the brink of war by such flimsy evidence. Much worse, though, was that it had taken 90 minutes for the first report of enemy planes to make its way up the chain of command to those in charge, and even longer to figure out what was actually going on. The mechanisms in place to spot, report, and confirm sightings of unknown aircraft were more suited to the Battle of Britain than the jet age.

How could America tell the difference between a real enemy attack and an apparent one? In the aftermath of the 1952 incident the defense establishment studied this question intently, and a big part of the answer turned out to be the Distant Early Warning Line - the DEW Line, for short - a string of radar stations along the very edge of civilization in one of the most desolate, hostile, cold, and empty places on earth.

A bit about life at the stations:

Upon the handover, the military enlisted another AT&T subsidiary, Federal Electric, to operate and maintain the DEW Line. Although it was under military control, the line was staffed and run chiefly by civilians, with Air Force officers at the main stations. What could possibly have persuaded someone to spend a year or more sitting in prefabricated housing, staring at a radarscope, in the middle of a frozen wilderness?

"Money, says Lynden ('Bucky') Harris, who signed up for several tours on the DEW Line, working various jobs, including personnel, transportation, and logistics, and eventually managing the entire line. �The money was very attractive." Workers signed up with Federal Electric for 18 months (with a two-week leave at the halfway point) at $1,000 per month plus a $1,500 bonus at the end of the stint. In the late 1950s those wages rivaled the earnings of doctorate-level engineers and professional baseball players. Better yet, the pay increased markedly with additional tours.

Applicants had to have appropriate experience and expertise, and they had to pass a battery of interviews and tests. "I went for the interview in Los Angeles," says Mike Shaw, a DEW Line veteran from 1962 to 1964 and 1968 to 1973. "They gave you about 50 tests. We joked for years after that that they had to make sure you were crazy." After acceptance, all personnel received specialized training. Technician/operators, who would form the backbone of the line, were sent to radar school in Streator, Illinois. After six to eight weeks they graduated to their new duties as 'radicians', a contraction of radar operator and technician. Radicians were also trained in first aid, weather observation, and cryptography. Other DEW Liners worked as cooks, mechanics, administrators, and pilots, among other occupations.

Here are some photos from the article:


Fascinating bit of US history.

Digital Bedouins

| No Comments
Nice article on how to leave your office and still stay connected. Great tips for consultants, coders, writers, etc... From Computerworld:
Freedom from the office -- the Bedouin way
Leave the office behind -- forever

San Francisco Chronicle journalist Dan Frost wrote a nice piece recently about local digital nomads he called Bay Area Bedouins. These are people who work for San Francisco start-up companies without offices, who roam from one coffeehouse to the next, working wherever they find a Wi-Fi connection. (Traditionally, a Bedouin is a desert-dwelling nomad who lives in a tent and moves around to find greener pastures for his camels, sheep and goats, bringing everything he needs with him.)

No matter who you are, you can embrace the new Bedouinism. You don't have to live in the Bay Area or the desert or work for a start-up. You don't even need access to a coffeehouse. It's easy, and I'll tell you how. But first, let me tell you why becoming a Bedouin can improve your life.

Boost your career
There are several ways Bedouinism can help your career. The most obvious one is that, when you carry your office with you, you'll be more responsive to colleagues and customers. Instead of replying to requests for a document with: "I'm on the road today, so I'll send it to you when I'm at my desk on Monday," you can reply with: "Here's the document."

A less obvious way the new Bedouinism can help you is that you can get closer to your business. For example, you can spend more time on the road visiting customers and attending more trade shows and other events that give you an edge. You can spend more time with suppliers and other business partners. You can do all this without a major penalty to your normal workload. You'll no longer do business the traditional way, in which you have two work modes: "in the office" and "on the road." Rather, you'll have only one work mode: "wherever I want to be and ready for anything."
Good advice about techniques, equipment and accessories.

An inconvenient source of pollution

| No Comments
It seems that Al Gore has done his share of pollution. From The Tennessean:
Tenn. mine enriched Gore, scarred land
No major pollution violations, but threat remains

Al Gore has profited from zinc mining that has released millions of pounds of potentially toxic substances near his farmstead, but there is no evidence the mine has caused serious damage to the environment in the area or threatened the health of his neighbors.

Two massive white mountains of leftover rock waste are evidence of three decades of mining that earned Gore more than $500,000 in royalty payments for the mineral rights to his property.

New owners plan to start mining again later this year, after nearly four years of inactivity. In addition to bringing 250 much-needed jobs to rural Middle Tennessee, mine owners will resume paying royalties to some residents who, like Gore, own land adjacent to the mine and lease access to the zinc under their property.

Gore has yet to be approached by the new owner, Strategic Resource Acquisition, said his spokeswoman Kalee Kreider, and he and wife, Tipper, have not decided whether they will renew their lease. It was terminated when the mine closed in 2003.
The mine is re-opening and some locals are having some questions:
But now that the mine is reopening and Gore�s status as an environmentalist has grown, some of Gore�s neighbors see a conflict between the mining and his moral call for environmental activism.

�Mining is not exactly synonymous with being green, is it?� said John Mullins, who lives in nearby Cookeville. A conservative, Mullins welcomes the resumption of mining for the benefits it will bring the community. But he says Gore�s view that global warming is a certainty is arrogant and that by being connected to mining, Gore is not �walking the walk.�
Lots more at the article -- some good investigative reporting...

Safe and Secure

| No Comments
Odd news story from Chattanooga, TN station WTVC:
Bizarre Story of Woman, Safe, Crack, Guns and Boyfriend
Early Thursday morning, an Athens officer spotted Terrina Bates lugging a metal SAFE while walking along Highway 39.

After changing her story multiple times, she finally told officers she stole it from her boyfriend, Gregory Bell. Police say Bell came to the police station and opened the safe. Listen to what officers found inside.

Detective Scott Webb said, "He (Bell) gives consent to search the safe, they open it up and find about eight grams of crack cocaine, two pistols with the serial numbers filed off and approximately 25 hundred dollars cash."

Bell made his six thousand dollar bond Thursday while Bates went to court this morning saying she wanted to go back to jail out of fear of Bates.

Just yesterday she said in court the crack cocaine was hers.
The guy wanted to go back into jail because he was afraid of this woman, this sweet flower of motherhood, this apple of his eye. I am thinking two things. #1) strange bedfellows and #2) he should flee the county if not the state...

Preston Q. Boomer

Amazing person I just found out about. He has been teaching Science for over 50 years at the San Lorenzo Valley High School. A true American Original. Check out this story at the Baltimore Sun:
Science with a 'Boom'
For five decades, Preston Q. Boomer's unique and creative teaching style has kept students at one California high school riveted.

"The Boom" is bouncing around the classroom like an overgrown kid. With his bushy gray eyebrows and mad scientist's grin, he's demonstrating the density of methane to 25 rapt teenagers at San Lorenzo Valley High School.

"Let's see if we can do this without burning the place up again," he says.

"Again?" gasps one girl.

Explosions are nothing new to Preston Q. Boomer's physics and chemistry classes. Neither are flash fires, electric shocks, spark-spitting transformers or deafening gongs, sirens and klaxons. He begins many lectures with the subversive come-on: "Want to blow something up today?"

It's the Boom's Big Bang Theory of teaching: Noise is fun, even instructive. But his wacky experiments can go awry. One day the cops showed up as a result of a half-baked Boomer stunt. The teacher was testing whether a 1.5-million-volt Tesla coil could shoot a spark across the room. In the process, he cut off all police radio communications for miles.

Boomer's reaction: "Neat!"

Preston Boomer is 75.

He's been teaching science at the same school near Santa Cruz since 1956, the year Elvis Presley released "Heartbreak Hotel." He's had 8,000 students in the past half-century - three generations of some families. Many teachers and administrators once sat in his class. He often hears from former students long retired. But like the Robert Crumb cartoon posted in his class, he prefers to "Keep on Truckin'."

High school graduates everywhere can recall a teacher who was a favorite despite the generational divide. Boomer is that teacher taken to the next level. He is one of fewer than 20 California instructors with 50 or more years in the classroom. It's not just his longevity that amazes colleagues and students; so does his energy.

Boomer's pension now outpaces his salary, so he'd make more money if he called it quits. Yet with no mandatory retirement in his district, he says his goal is to remain "until they drag my corpse off the lab table."

There's this thing about retired teachers, he says: "Before you know it, they're dead."
As you might well guess, his house is a bit unique. Here is his personal website with a tour of Boomeria including a 2,500 pipe classic tracker baroque organ, underground catacombs, castle, water cannons, an engine room with live steam engines, catapults, etc... Here is an online tribute to his 50 years teaching with some great photographs -- here are four of them:
Like I said, a true American Classic...

Public Transportation

| No Comments
A good post at The Commons about the true cost of public transportation:
Ten Billion Served (and Hundreds of Millions Fleeced)
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) just announced that the U.S. transit industry carried more than 10 billion transit trips in 2006, the first time the industry has exceeded 10 billion trips since 1957. Naturally, APTA -- the transit industry's leading lobby group -- sees this as "10 billion reasons to increase local and federal investment in public transportation."

The 10-billion milestone looks a lot less impressive when compared with the growing population of urban residents. It works out to just 42.7 trips per urban resident in 2006. (A trip, incidentally, is a transit boarding: if you get on a subway, then transfer to a bus, that is counted as two trips.)

While 42.7 trips per urbanite is more than were carried in 2005, it is not more than 2001, and it is less than in any year between 1907 (the first year for which transit data are available) and 1993.

In the meantime, transit subsidies already average 64 cents per passenger mile, compared with less than 0.4 cents for subsidies to auto driving. Over the past decade, APTA's transit factbook says that the U.S. has "invested" more than $100 billion in public transit capital improvements, mostly for expensive rail transit projects. Many of the cities that have built rail transit lines have actually seen transit ridership drop because the high cost of rail has forced them to cut bus services.

As I explain in more detail in my Antiplanner blog, the real problem with the transit industry is too much money. Because transit agencies get the vast majority of their funds from taxpayers rather than transit riders, their incentives are to build expensive, glitsy urban monuments rather than provide economical transit services to those who need them. The solution is to stop subsidizing transit agencies and instead give vouchers to transit users, who can use them for buses, taxis, or any other public conveyance.
Very good point -- we look at the revenues and the cost to ride the bus and we think that the service is working. We fail to take into account the amazing amount of cash that the transit authorities rake in through government subsidies and grants. Seattle is still reeling from the cost of the "Monorail Project" which eventually failed after driving up everyone's car registration costs substantially. And King County is still building the very expensive light-rail system that will whisk passengers from SeaTac airport into downtown Seattle. No word on ticket prices but they need to be able to compete with companies like Shuttle Express who take you from your doorstep directly to SeaTac (with a few other stops to other passengers doorsteps) for under $20. If Jen and I were still living in Seattle, we would have direct bus service from our house to the train but it would have taken us a good hour to get there. Add to this the time spent waiting for the next train and all the stops the train would make on its way to the airport and we would be looking at a two hour journey. Compare this with the 30-45 minutes the Shuttle Express took us and you can see where we would have spent our money...

Mr. Bean to play Osama Bin Hidin'

| No Comments
Alllll right... From the UK Sun:
Rowan is Osama Bean Laden
Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson may be about to spark World War Three � by playing Osama Bin Laden.

The star is to portray the world�s most wanted man in a comedy sketch.

Many actors might find it a scary role to take on, given what the terrorist could do if he didn�t find it funny.

But Rowan thinks it�s about time the tables were turned on the terror chief by making him a laughing stock.

Rowan, currently starring in Mr Bean�s Holiday, said: �There�s something potentially comic about anyone hiding in the way he is, with the whole world looking for him.
It will be interesting to hear the seething from the Islamists. Personally, let 'em seethe -- if they can't poke fun at one of their icons, they aren't civilized in my book. A healthy sense of humor is essential to life.
Which has a lighter footprint on this earth, a Prius hybrid or a gas burning HumVee. The answer may well surprize you. From Central Connecticut State University's The Recorder Online:
Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage
The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate �green car� is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.

Before we delve into the seedy underworld of hybrids, you must first understand how a hybrid works. For this, we will use the most popular hybrid on the market, the Toyota Prius.

The Prius is powered by not one, but two engines: a standard 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter gas engine found in most cars today and a battery- powered engine that deals out 67 horsepower and a whooping 295ft/lbs of torque, below 2000 revolutions per minute. Essentially, the Toyota Synergy Drive system, as it is so called, propels the car from a dead stop to up to 30mph. This is where the largest percent of gas is consumed. As any physics major can tell you, it takes more energy to get an object moving than to keep it moving. The battery is recharged through the braking system, as well as when the gasoline engine takes over anywhere north of 30mph. It seems like a great energy efficient and environmentally sound car, right?

You would be right if you went by the old government EPA estimates, which netted the Prius an incredible 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 miles per gallon on the highway. Unfortunately for Toyota, the government realized how unrealistic their EPA tests were, which consisted of highway speeds limited to 55mph and acceleration of only 3.3 mph per second. The new tests which affect all 2008 models give a much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and acceleration of 8mph per second. This has dropped the Prius�s EPA down by 25 percent to an average of 45mpg. This now puts the Toyota within spitting distance of cars like the Chevy Aveo, which costs less then half what the Prius costs.

However, if that was the only issue with the Prius, I wouldn�t be writing this article. It gets much worse.

Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the �dead zone� around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.

The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius� battery and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario, becoming every environmentalist�s nightmare.
And it just gets better and better and better...

Elton John's travel problems

| No Comments
From The Register:
Elton John menaces Tobago
Could turn island gay, archdeacon claims

Sir Elton John may be banned from performing a forthcoming gig on the Caribbean island of Tobago for fears the musical Friend of Dorothy could turn the whole place gay, The Sun reports.

Sir Elton is slated to take to the stage at a jazz festival in April, but his imminent arrival has ruffled a few feathers on an island where homosexuality is "widely condemned".

Archdeacon Philip Isaac warned: "His visit can open the country to be tempted towards pursuing his lifestyle. He needs to be ministered to."

Festival organiser Anthony Maharaj countered: "He is coming as one of the world's greatest performers - not to preach about what lifestyle people should have."
Words fail...
A case of bad science getting publicized. From the Seattle Times:
How one number touched off big climate-change fight at UW
The number is eye-popping, and it was repeated so often it became gospel.

The snowpack in the Cascades, it was said, shrank by 50 percent in the last half-century. It's been presented as glaring evidence of the cost exacted by global warming � the drying up of a vital water source.

That statistic has been repeated in a government report, on environmental-advocacy Web sites and in media coverage. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently mentioned it in a guest column in The Seattle Times.

Here's the problem: The number is dead wrong.

The debunking of this statistic, and the question of just how much the state's snowpack shrank, is stirring up a heated debate among the region's climate scientists.

On Monday, it escalated further when University of Washington researcher and State Climatologist Philip Mote stripped a colleague of his title as associate state climatologist, triggering concerns that scientific dissent is being quashed. Losing the title doesn't affect the man's employment at the UW.

The affair might be dismissed as a tempest in an ivory-tower teapot. But it comes at a time when the science of climate change is getting more attention from policy-makers and the public.
And some different numbers:
On one side, Mass, who is working with Albright, said they see only a small downward trend in Cascade Mountain snowpacks, perhaps 10 to 15 percent since the 1940s. The measurement can be exaggerated by starting during a time of high snowfall, in 1950, and ending at a time of low snowfall in the mid-1990s, Mass said. But snowfall has increased again in recent years, and there is little overall change in snowpack in the past 30 years, Mass said.
In late February, professor Dennis Hartmann, chair of the UW Atmospheric Sciences Department, stepped in to referee. After a meeting with the researchers, Hartmann issued a statement saying that snowpack appears to have dropped 30 percent, and that warming in the future will likely affect snowpack, particularly at lower elevations.
Even the worst-case examples are still 20% less than the 50% initially quoted. Reminds me of Otto von Bismarck's famous aphorism: Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. We need to include Climate Science in that list...

Self defense - plant department

Interesting article on plants own self-defense against other plants and how it might be used in agriculture. From Science News Online:
Herbal Herbicides
Weed killers manufactured by Mother Nature

Certain plants are picky about the company they keep. Once established, walnuts and some sandy shrubs, for instance, create a virtually barren border of ground around them. Many other plants aren't quite so antisocial. They permit numerous species into their neighborhoods, while barring a few plant types.

Chemical defenses play a major role in determining which plants flourish in woodlands, meadows, farms�or even in suburban lawns. Although this herbal warfare has been recognized since Biblical times, its study is "still regarded as a relatively young and immature field of science," notes Yoshiharu Fujii of Japan's National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences in Tsukuba.

Only in the past few decades have scientists focused on the chemical warfare underlying botanical standoffishness. They've demonstrated that many plants manufacture compounds that sicken or kill intruders.

The potential payoff from influencing this defense is huge, notes Alan R. Putnam, a retired Michigan State University horticulturist who spent 18 years studying allelopathy, or plants' chemical defenses against other plants. By inhibiting crop growth, "allelochemicals undoubtedly cost world agriculture billions of dollars annually," he says. By understanding chemical-defense mechanisms, he argues, "we could put them to work to benefit agriculture."
It then goes on to list some specific examples -- very cool in that they can either manufacture the chemical that the plants are using or they can tailor one plant to express the chemical of another and thereby give it the same powers. Cut way down on synthetic chemicals-based herbicides.

More cheese pleese

| No Comments
It started with Kim DuToit writing about cheese here: Curds and Whey Other bloggers took up the topic including this gem from Francis W. Porretto at Eternety Road:
The Great Pyramid Of Cheese
Fran here. No, it's not quite Sunday yet. But Og the NeanderPundit has posted about...cheese. As it happens, this is a subject in which I have a gourmand's interest, and a little information that others don't usually possess. So I've decided to share it with you.
On one evening not too long ago, a friend of mine, who has an extensive extended family, was dining with most of them. Included were several pre-teens. The bill of fare was, as is common in their not-particularly-pecunious household, macaroni and cheese.

One of the pre-teens commented on how different the entree tasted to him from "real" macaroni and cheese -- by which he meant, as pre-teens often do, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. He contrasted my friend's wife's dish unfavorably with the commercial preparation.

An uncle to the clan cleared his throat. "Kevin," he intoned, "you know I sell cheese, don't you?" The youngster nodded. "Well, it's about time you learned about the Great Pyramid of Cheese." And he told them all about it.

It seems that there are places where they make Cheese. The real stuff, straight from the milk, brimming with the odorific and oleaginous virtues that your narrator has found he cannot renounce. And it is good.

Most of it, anyway. Some wheels of cheese just don't turn out right. But they're not thrown away, oh, no. That would be wasteful. They're sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce... Cheese Food. Cheese Food is regulated by law to contain no more than 49% non-milk additives, and must not contain any but a specified list of preservatives and artificial flavor enhancers. There are people who eat Cheese Food by choice. There are others who are trying to help them.

But some batches of Cheese Food don't come out right either, and they're not thrown away, either. They're sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce... Process Pasteurized Cheese Food. PPCF is the step down from Cheese Food, and may contain up to 70% non-milk additives, plus a much wider range of flavor and color enhancers, and preservatives that guarantee that it will not spoil over the three months between your toddler's two demands for a grilled cheese sandwich right now, mom!
Visit Eternity Road for the thrilling conclusion to this story of industrial food processing -- you will never willingly eat a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese again...
For $25 Million. From MS/NBC/AP:
N. Korea says it�s preparing to shut nuke facility
But, Pyongyang demands $25 million in funds be released first

North Korea told delegates at international nuclear talks on Saturday that it is preparing to shut down its main nuclear facility, South Korea�s chief nuclear envoy said, a key step promised in a landmark pact last month.

North Korea�s delegation told a working group meeting that it has �begun preparations to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility,� South Korean nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo told reporters.

North Korea also said it will submit a list of its nuclear programs and will disable its nuclear facility �as soon as the right conditions are created,� Chun said, without explaining what the conditions were.

The remarks came hours after North Korea�s main negotiator said his country will not stop its nuclear activities unless all of the $25 million of its money frozen in a Macau bank is released.
So nice that they are finally playing well on the world stage... set sarcasm=off
and it started snowing... From the Boston Globe:
Interfaith group braves storm in climate change trek
As the world's warmest winter on record drew to an end with a weekend snow storm, a group of religious leaders started walking across the state Friday to bring attention to global warming.

"People have been asking me what happens if it snows," said the Rev. Fred Small of the First Church Unitarian in Littleton. "I tell them: 'we walk.'"

The nine-day haul from downtown Northampton to Copley Square in Boston was planned far before forecasts called for a weekend of snow and sleet just a few days before the start of spring.

"It was windy and cold. I was walking on the front of the line and I felt like I was bow of a ship with the wind just coming into my face," said the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of the Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, where the group warmed up on bowls of lentil and minestrone soup after walking eight miles in deep snow from Northampton to Amherst.

Bullitt-Jonas said the walkers kept their spirits strong by singing "Keep on walking forward, never turning back," a hymn they had chanted in prayer services before the march to Boston.

The Rev. Andrea Ayvazian of the Haydenville Congregational Church said the snow was so deep, it felt like she was breaking trail.

In all 24 clergy members will walk the entire distance from Northampton to Boston, while some 800 people will join for smaller portions. The group hopes to have more than 1,000 gather in Boston for a final rally.
And a bit more about the group:
The religious walkers are part of Religious Witness for the Earth, a 6-year-old national interfaith environmental organization. Supporters include clergy from the Catholic, Unitarian, Jewish, Episcopalian, and Muslim faiths.

The leaders are calling for individuals, businesses and government entities to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

With most of its members based in the Northeast, it made sense for the group to walk in Massachusetts. The multiday event includes prayer and information sessions along the way before ending with a rally on March 24.
Many members of Religious Witness for the Earth have used their position from the pulpit to make their congregations aware of climate change.

"The interfaith aspect of what we're doing heightens awareness among everyone," said Rabbi Justin David of Congregation B'Nai Israel in Northampton. "Climate change is a moral issue and it's a collective issue. It transcends the differences of faith and politics and generations. This is something everyone needs to pay attention to."
So you are branching out and instead of just using the pulpit to deal with spiritual matters, you are now extending your reach to governmental matters -- the seperation of church and state works both ways... "Climate change is a moral issue and it's a collective issue." -- spoken like a true cultural Marxist. How about introducing some hard science into your world view for a change. But thinking makes your head hurt...

Ohhh Nooooooo!!!!

| No Comments
Some things are icons and should not be fucked with. HP Sauce is one of these and it seems that Heinz (their current owners) are doing just that. From the Washington Post:
Britain's HP sauce leaves bad taste
More than 100 years of British tradition came to an end yesterday as the final bottle of HP brown sauce -- a popular alternative to ketchup -- rolled off a production line at a factory in central England.

HP's U.S. owner, H.J. Heinz, stuck by plans to switch production of the sauce to the Netherlands to save money, despite a high-profile campaign to keep it in Britain that saw protests outside the U.S. Embassy and lawmakers brandishing bottles of the condiment in the House of Commons.

A staple that is smothered over everything from fish and chips to the traditional English fry-up breakfast of sausages, bacon, baked beans and eggs, its advertising slogan proudly proclaims it is "The Official Sauce of Great Britain."

Its distinctive tall bottle carries a picture of the Houses of Parliament on a blue and red label -- an image that some protesters say is no longer appropriate.

The decision to close the Aston, Birmingham, plant in favor of a new factory in Elst, in the Netherlands, will also cost 120 jobs.

"The plant has been a landmark for 108 years. You could always smell it from miles away," said Joe Clarke, a spokesman for the Transport and General Workers' Union.

"The implications for the workers are terrible," Mr. Clarke added. "Most of them were looking to spend the rest of their working lives at HP."

The sauce, a tangy mix of malt vinegar, dates, sugar, apples, tomato and spices, was invented by a Nottingham grocer and the recipe was sold to the Midland Vinegar Co. in the late 1800s.

In the 1960s, it became known as "Wilson's Gravy" after the wife of Prime Minister Harold Wilson let slip that his one weakness was that "he will drown everything in HP."

There was immediate and strong opposition when Heinz announced its plan last August.

Local businesses started a "save our sauce campaign" and lawmakers tried to get the condiment banned from food outlets in the House of Commons, with some waving bottles around during a session of the prime minister's question time.
And Heinz, just like any multinational clueless dinosaur:
The HP sauce currently holds 71 percent of the $82 million brown sauce market and Heinz is starting a $3.1 million marketing campaign this month to keep consumers.

The campaign will include nationwide TV spots, door drops of samples and coupons as the company invests around $8 million into the iconic brand.

But the advertising campaign has only increased the anger of opponents to the factory move.

"It is ironic that they couldn't afford to invest to keep the plant open," said John Jordan, a Transport and General Workers' Union official for the local area. "Now they are pouring millions into promoting the product because of damage to the brand."
They could have built awesome cred by re-investing in the plant and keeping it open -- that plant has 71% of the market that also includes A-1 and other steak sauces. If it is available, I prefer it to A-1. Part of what makes a brand a brand is the corporate history and culture -- Heinz is pissing on this.

Food System Factoids

An interesting, relativly new blog about how we get our food commercially. Check out: Food System Factoids Part of a sample post:
Did you know dinosaurs are in your food?
What do calories measure? Energy! Doesn't (directly) matter if it is energy to feed a car or feed your soul; we can use calories for both. In 1940 the average farm in the U.S. produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil energy it used. By 1974 that ratio was 1:1. Today that ratio is on average 10 calories of fossil energy for every one calorie of food.
The posts are complete with footnotes and links to the original data. Good stuff!

Ben Stein on Business

| No Comments
Fun essay from Ben at The American Spectator:
Terribly Exciting
A few days ago, a man from a slick new magazine about business sent me an e-mail. He wanted me to do a column for him about what was "new, hot and exciting -- or terrible -- in business today." The only catch was that he did not want me to complain about the rich. This is what I sent him:
Here is what's new and hot and exciting (or terrible) in the world of money today:

The average wage of the American worker adjusted for inflation is lower than it was in 1973. The only way that Americans have been able to maintain their standard of living at the middle and lower ends has been to send more family members to work and to draw down savings or go into debt or both.

The most sought after jobs in the United States now are jobs in finance in which basically almost no money is raised for new steel mills or coal mines, but immense sums are raised to buy companies, recapitalize them -- which means pay the new owners immense special dividends and other payments for going to the trouble of taking over the company. This process results in fantastically well-paid investment bankers and private equity "financial engineers" and has no measurably beneficial effect on the economy generally. It does facilitate the making of ever younger millionaires and an ever more leveraged American corporate structure.

An entire new class of financial entity has been created called "the hedge fund." It is new not in the sense that there were not always funds that hedged by selling short or buying assets uncorrelated with other assets. The new part of this phenomenon is that it is based on a demonstrably false premise: that these entities can consistently outperform wide stock indexes. They have not and cannot, and yet their managers and employees for a time are paid stupendously well.

As with the private equity function, the main effect is to siphon money from productive enterprise into financial manipulation. Or, to put it another way, to siphon money from Main Street to Greenwich or Wall Street.

Starting MBA's at hedge funds, which are basically gaming enterprises, get paid multi-six figure sums. Starting teachers in the state of Florida get paid $28,000 a year.

Here's what else is new and exciting (or terrible) in money: there is real poverty among the soldiers who fight our wars. There are fist fights to get children into $30,000 a year kindergartens and pre-schools in the right neighborhoods in Manhattan. There are 40 million Americans without health care insurance. There are almost 40 million baby boomers with no savings for retirement. There is a long waiting list for Bentleys at the dealership in Beverly Hills.

There are soldiers' wives selling blood to buy toys for their kids. There is a man selling non-functioning body armor who threw a $10 million Bat Mitzvah for his daughter.

In Brentwood, where the houses start at $3 million, the housewives complain about what a terrible country America is. In Clinton, South Carolina, where the textile mill closed fifteen years ago and there is real hardship, the young men still believe in America and their fiancees at Presbyterian College wait for them while they fight in Iraq.

This is a small part of what's new and exciting (or terrible) in America in the world of money right now.

I never heard back from the man at the slick new business magazine.
What he said...

World's oldest blog

Well not exactly, other people have blogged from an earlier time but still, this is pretty interesting. Check out Shorpy: From their website:

About This Site is a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating. We're starting with a collection of photographs taken in the early 1900s by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of a decade-long field survey for the National Child Labor Committee, which lobbied Congress to end the practice. One of his subjects, a young coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham, is the site's namesake.

And who was Shorpy -- check out his page: Shorpy Higginbotham Some wonderful old photographs -- I went to school in Boston and spent a lot of time in New England. A lot of the photos are from that region and are places that I am familiar with. Cool to see the changes over time.

And another one bites the dust.

| No Comments
Another scientist comes to their senses about Global Warming... From the United Press International:
Danish scientist: Global warming is a myth
University of Copenhagen Professor Bjarne Andresen has analyzed the topic in collaboration with Canadian Professors Christopher Essex from the University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph.

It is generally assumed the Earth's atmosphere and oceans have grown warmer during the recent 50 years because of an upward trend in the so-called global temperature, which is the result of complex calculations and averaging of air temperature measurements taken around the world.

"It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth," said Andresen, an expert on thermodynamics. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate".

He says the currently used method of determining the global temperature -- and any conclusion drawn from it -- is more political than scientific.

The argument is presented in the Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics.
Here is the website for the Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics but their publisher, DeGruyter, is still stuck in the old-school publishing model and charges 200 Euros for a single paper issue and offering nothing online without a fee. Nice to see more and more cracks appearing in the AGW facade.

The Shadow Wolves

| No Comments
Fascinating look at a group of Indian trackers who are employed by the US Customs office. The article first came out in 2003 but it is timely and interesting reading. From the Smithsonian Magazine:
Shadow Wolves
An all-Indian Customs unit�possibly the world's best trackers�uses time-honored techniques to pursue smugglers along a remote stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border

On a brickoven hot morning somewhere southwest of Tucson, Arizona, U.S. Customs patrol officer Bryan Nez holds up a hand in caution. Dead ahead lies a heavy thicket, an ideal spot for an ambush by drug smugglers. Something has rousted a coyote, which lopes away. Nez keeps his M16 trained on the bushes.

�Down, now,� he whispers. We crouch on the hot, sandy desert floor. My heart is pounding, and I fully expect smugglers to step out of the bushes with guns drawn. Instead, Nez whispers, �Hear it?� I can�t at first, but then I detect a faint buzzing. In seconds, a dark cloud of insects swarms by not a dozen feet from us. �Probably killer bees,� says Nez, getting up and moseying on. False alarm.

Nasty insects seem the least of our problems. The temperature will soon top 107 degrees. We�ve been out on foot for an hour tracking drug smugglers, and large moon-shaped sweat stains form under the arms of Nez�s camouflage fatigues. He carries a Glock 9-millimeter pistol in a vest along with a radio, a GPS receiver and extra ammunition clips. On his back is a camel pack, or canteen, containing water; Nez will wrestle with heat cramps all day.

But the 50-year-old patrol officer doesn�t have time to think about that. We�re following the fresh tracks of a group of suspected smugglers he believes have brought bales of marijuana from Mexico into Arizona�s Tohono O�odham Nation reservation.

A full-blooded Navajo, Nez belongs to an all-Indian Customs unit, nicknamed the Shadow Wolves, that patrols the reservation.The unit, which numbers 21 agents, was established in 1972 by an act of Congress. (It has recently become part of the Department of Homeland Security.) �The name Shadow Wolves refers to the way we hunt, like a wolf pack,� says Nez, a 14-year veteran who joined the U.S. Customs Patrol Office of Investigation in 1988 after a stint as an officer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Navajo Police Department. �If one wolf finds prey, it will call in the rest of the pack.� What makes the Shadow Wolves unique is its modus operandi. Rather than relying solely on high-tech gadgetry� night-vision goggles or motion sensors buried in the ground�members of this unit �cut for sign.� �Sign� is physical evidence�footprints, a dangling thread, a broken twig, a discarded piece of clothing, or tire tracks. �Cutting� is searching for sign or analyzing it once it�s found.

Nez relies on skills he learned growing up on the Navajo Nation reservation in northern Arizona, and he cuts sign like other people read paperbacks. Between October 2001 and October 2002, the Shadow Wolves seized 108,000 pounds of illegal drugs, nearly half of all the drugs intercepted by Customs in Arizona. The group has also been invited to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan to help train border guards, customs officials and police in tracking would-be smugglers of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
What makes this article especially interesting and timely is that members of this group are over in Afghanistan right now tracking terrorists. From the Sunday Times Online:
Sioux trackers to hunt Taliban
An elite group of native American trackers is joining the hunt for terrorists crossing Afghanistan�s borders.

The unit, the Shadow Wolves, was recruited from several tribes, including the Navajo, Sioux, Lakota and Apache. It is being sent to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to pass on ancestral sign-reading skills to local border units.

In recent years, members of the Shadow Wolves have mainly tracked drug and people smugglers along the US border with Mexico.

But the Taliban�s resurgence in Afghanistan and the American military�s failure to hunt down Osama Bin Laden - still at large on his 50th birthday yesterday - has prompted the Pentagon to requisition them.

Robert M Gates, the US defence secretary, said last month: �If I were Osama Bin Laden, I�d keep looking over my shoulder.�

The Pentagon has been alarmed at the ease with which Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters have been slipping in and out of Afghanistan. Defence officials are convinced their movements can be curtailed by the Shadow Wolves.

The unit has earned international respect for its tracking skills in the harsh Arizona desert.
Very cool! I have read stories about people who track and their abilities are downright spooky. Here is the website for The Shadow Wolves.

Renaming streets - the down side

| No Comments
Fun article at the Florida Times-Union
Naming places after living politicians can be embarrassing
As Rep. Cynthia McKinney was preparing to leave office after being ousted by voters in her own party, a state lawmaker proposed striking her name from a major thoroughfare that runs through her former district.

"The reason is her track record, the fact that she has done things that are embarrassing," said state Rep. Len Walker, whose district borders the Atlanta-area district once represented by McKinney, the state's first black congresswoman.

McKinney has long been controversial. She once suggested the Bush administration had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks but kept quiet to allow defense contractors to profit from the aftermath. More recently she scuffled with a U.S. Capitol Police officer. Still, the Cynthia McKinney Parkway in DeKalb County, just east of Atlanta, remains named after her.

As the parkway illustrates, naming public infrastructures and buildings after living politicians, particularly those still in office, can be fraught with the potential for embarrassment, and a lot of costly changes.

"Their legacy isn't even established yet," said Derek Alderman, a cultural geographer at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. "They are more susceptible to the politics of the day."
A couple more examples at the article including this winner:
Ohio University recently was in a similar quandary. In December, its Board of Trustees scratched the name of former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney from an athletic facility on its St. Clairsville, Ohio, campus, a month after Ney resigned from Congress and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. The former Robert W. Ney Center for Health and Physical Education is now the Ohio University Eastern Campus Health and Education Center.
DOH! Not just Ney but his aide as well.

A little car problem

| 1 Comment
A woman has too much to drink and starts driving anyway. What makes the cops suspicious and pull her over? From KMIZ-TV in Missouri:
Police Pursuit Leads to Arrest
A Boone County woman sits in jail Thursday morning, after her driving drove officers into persuit.

Donna Davenport was travelling westbound on St. Charles near Clark Lane Wednesday night when a Boone County deputy attempted to pull her over.
Her car had no front tires and was only moving on the metal rims, throwing sparks along the roadway.

The officer followed the vehicle for several blocks before Davenport finally stopped in a parking lot off St. Charles Road.

Davenport was tasered when she resisted arrest.

She was arrested for several charges including driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest and felony leaving the scene of an accident.

Davenport was transported to the hospital, but was later released and transported to the Boone County Jail.
Emphasis mine -- just how blotto do you have to be to drive a car with no front wheels -- and then to resist arrest to the point where she had to be tasered...

A bit of a stomach ache

13 year old Acumen Johnson was sleeping and woke up with a stomach ache. Turns out he had been shot.

From WFTV in Florida:

Teen's Stomach Ache Turns Out To Be Gunshot Wound
A 13-year-old boy woke up with a stomach ache, only to discover he'd been shot. Despite taking a bullet to the stomach, the teenager was doing okay at Orlando Regional Medical Center after undergoing surgery early Wednesday morning.

Police said the teen was an innocent victim in a drive-by shooting that could have cost him his life.

The 13-year-old, Acumen Johnson, was asleep in his room inside a house on Polk Street, off Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, and didn't even realize he'd been shot until he walked out of his room just after one Wednesday morning.

"We just heard gunshots. He came out of his room saying his stomach was hurting and we saw that he was shot," said Latisha Wilson, Johnson's cousin.

A bit more:

Police think the shooting was gang-related and that the suspect, possibly looking to take out a rival gang member, hit the wrong house. The family had only lived in the home three days.

"It's a bunch of idiots driving down the street shooting up a house," Wilson said.

While a couple of casings were found on the street, detectives discovered as many as seven bullets penetrated the house. And, with several people asleep inside, the family was incredibly grateful no one else was hurt and that Johnson is doing so well, physically. But, they can't help but think how it will affect him emotionally.


From Yahoo News/AP:

Woman pleads guilty to beheading girl
A mentally troubled woman accused of drowning her 6-year-old daughter, cutting off her head and throwing the remains off a bridge has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

Under a plea agreement accepted Wednesday, prosecutors will recommend a 23-year prison term for Samara Laverne Spann, 32. Sentencing was set for May 18.

Spann has undergone several mental evaluations since she was charged in June 2005 with killing her daughter, Kyeimah, whose remains were never found.

Spann told investigators she was using drugs heavily at the time of the killing, officials have said.

Spann's father, Gary Spann, told The Sacramento Bee in 2005 his daughter routinely called the girl a "devil child," and she belonged to a cult that worshipped the late rapper Tupac Shakur as the reincarnation of the 16th century political philosopher Machiavelli.

She also was upset because her daughter kept getting out of bed and interrupting a telephone conversation, according to the court filings.

Spann told investigators she drowned the girl in the bathtub of their home south of Seattle on Dec. 31, 2004, or Jan. 1, 2005, after seeking advice from someone who was interested in the occult, prosecutors said in court papers.

Words fail me...

Very clever hack on the classical Double-Slit Experiment. From PhysOrg:
Physicists Modify Double-Slit Experiment to Confirm Einstein's Belief
Work completed by physics professors at Rowan University shows that light is made of particles and waves, a finding that refutes a common belief held for about 80 years.

Shahriar S. Afshar, the visiting professor who is currently at Boston's Institute for Radiation-Induced Mass Studies (IRIMS), led a team, including Rowan physics professors Drs. Eduardo Flores and Ernst Knoesel and student Keith McDonald, that proved Afshar�s original claims, which were based on a series of experiments he had conducted several years ago.

An article on the work titled "Paradox in Wave-Particle Duality" recently published in Foundations of Physics, a prestigious, refereed academic journal, supports Albert Einstein�s long-debated belief that quantum physics is incomplete. For eight decades the scientific community generally had supported Niels Bohr�s ideas commonly known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. In 1927, in his �Principle of Complementarity,� he asserted that in any experiment light shows only one aspect at a time, either it behaves as a wave or as a particle. Einstein was deeply troubled by that principle, since he could not accept that any external measurement would prevent light to reveal its full dual nature, according to Afshar. The fundamental problem, however, seemed to be that one has to destroy the photon in order to measure either aspects of it. Then, once destroyed, there is no light left to measure the other aspect.
And what did Afshar do:
In this modified double-slit experiment, a laser beam hits a screen with two small pinholes. As a particle, light goes through one of the pinholes. Through a lens system, the light is then imaged onto two detectors, where a certain detector measures only the photons, which went through a particular pinhole. In this way, Afshar verified the particle nature of light. As a wave, light goes through both pinholes and forms a so-called interference pattern of bright and dark fringes.

�Afshar�s experiment consists of the clever idea of putting small absorbing wires at the exact position of the dark interference fringes, where you expect no light,� Knoesel said. �He then observed that the wires do not change the total light intensity, so there are really dark fringes at the position of the wires. That proves that light also behaves as a wave in the same experiment in which it behaves as a particle.�
Very clever! They have done the double-slit experiment with single photons so it is definitely a particle and a wave simultaneously.
Meet Sally Snowman -- from the Christian Science Monitor:
Backstory: She keeps the lighthouse fantastic
On the outer rim of Boston Harbor atop a rocky three-acre island sits a tall, whitewashed beacon � the Boston Light. For 224 years it has flashed a warning to everyone from captains of tall ships to modern sailors of war, commerce, and leisure.

As a frosty winter wind whips whitecaps around the island, Sally Snowman, bundled in heavy jacket, hat, gloves, and boots, climbs the metal spiral of 76 steps in the lighthouse, maintaining the daily ritual of generations of Boston Light keepers before her.

She is the last Coast Guard lighthouse keeper in the US � at the oldest lighthouse site in the nation. And she's on her way to inspect the lens, polish the heavy glass prisms, and grease the wheels that rotate the five-ton mechanism � the very same equipment installed in 1859.

"I've had many jobs over the years, but this is absolutely the best one," says Ms. Snowman who, from here inside the lighthouse's 360-degrees of windows, can see the Weymouth shore where she grew up dreaming of working in the historic Boston Light.

As a walking encyclopedia of Boston Light trivia and the author of the book "Boston Light: A Historical Perspective," Snowman considers her job an honor. "I know the position is special, I'm not special."
A wonderful profile of a very lucky woman.

Pumps in New Orleans

| No Comments
As if their Murder Rate wasn't bad enough, it seems that the pumps installed to prevent flooding aren't quite up to snuff... From KOMO-TV News:
Corps knew pumps installed in New Orleans after Katrina were defective
The Army Corps of Engineers, rushing to meet President Bush's promise to protect New Orleans by the start of the 2006 hurricane season, installed defective flood-control pumps last year despite warnings from its own expert that the equipment would fail during a storm, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The 2006 hurricane season turned out to be mild, and the new pumps were never pressed into action. But the Corps and the politically connected manufacturer of the equipment are still struggling to get the 34 heavy-duty pumps working properly.

The pumps are now being pulled out and overhauled because of excessive vibration, Corps officials said. Other problems have included overheated engines, broken hoses and blown gaskets, according to the documents obtained by the AP.
Whoops! The Corps reply:
The Corps said it decided to press ahead with installation, and then fix the machinery while it was in place, on the theory that some pumping capacity was better than none. And it defended the manufacturer, which was under time pressure.

"Let me give you the scenario: You have four months to build something that nobody has ever built before, and if you don't, the city floods and the Corps, which already has a black eye, could basically be dissolved. How many people would put up with a second flooding?" said Randy Persica, the Corps' resident engineer for New Orleans' three major drainage canals.
But the company involved seems to have had other 'issues':
The drainage-canal pumps were custom-designed and built under a $26.6 million contract awarded after competitive bidding to Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla. It was founded in 1926 and supplies flood-control and irrigation pumps all over the world.

MWI is owned by J. David Eller and his sons. Eller was once a business partner of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a venture called Bush-El that marketed MWI pumps. And Eller has donated about $128,000 to politicians, the vast majority of it to the Republican Party, since 1996, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

MWI has run into trouble before. The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2002, accusing it of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary water-pump equipment. The case has yet to be resolved.

Because of the trouble with the New Orleans pumps, the Corps has withheld 20 percent of the MWI contract, including an incentive of up to $4 million that the company could have collected if it delivered the equipment in time for the 2006 hurricane season.

Misgivings about the pumps were chronicled in a May 2006 memo provided to the AP by Matt McBride, a mechanical engineer and flooded-out Katrina victim who, like many in New Orleans, has been closely watching the rebuilding of the city's flood defenses.

The memo was written by Maria Garzino, a Corps mechanical engineer overseeing quality assurance at an MWI test site in Florida. The Corps confirmed the authenticity of the 72-page memo, which details many of the mechanical problems and criticizes the testing procedures used.

About a dozen of the 34 pumps on order were already in place in New Orleans when Garzino wrote her report, according to Bedey.

In her memo, Garzino told corps officials that the equipment being installed was defective. She warned that the pumps would break down "should they be tasked to run, under normal use, as would be required in the event of a hurricane."

The pumps failed less-strenuous testing than the original contract called for, according to the memo. Originally, each of the 34 pumps was to be "load tested" - made to pump water - but that requirement for all the pumps was dropped, the memo said.

Of eight pumps that were load tested, one was turned on for a few minutes and another was run at one-third of operating pressure, the memo said. Three of the other load-tested pumps "experienced catastrophic failure," Garzino wrote.
Just wunnerful... Here is a perfect example of the government running a large engineering project. We have seen with Walter Reed hospital a perfect example of the government running a medical facility. And some nutters want the government to run our health care? Not bloody likeley...

Murder in New Orleans

| No Comments
The Murder rate in New Orleans isn't what people think -- it well may be higher... From the Times-Picayune:
Study: Murder rate is even higher
Figures make N.O. the deadliest city

A new study by a Tulane University professor puts New Orleans' murder rate as the highest in the country.

The study estimates the city's 2006 murder rate at 96 per every 100,000 people.

Determining the exact per capita murder rate, the most popular measuring stick for overall violent crime, has largely been up for debate, falling victim to slippery estimates of the city's post-Katrina population.

The new study, by demographer Mark VanLandingham, aims to fix the main flaw in previous per capita murder estimates for 2006: It takes into account the large change in New Orleans' population during the year, with far fewer people in the city at the beginning of 2006 than at the end. That change raises the murder rate substantially.

For instance, using the highest static population estimate VanLandingham found in his research, 201,000, would produce a murder rate of about 80 per 100,000 people, still significantly lower than the new study's conclusion. Using the figure New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley has offered -- 275,000, based on an estimate rather than research -- the murder rate would fall to just 58 per 100,000 people.

VanLandingham, a professor in the international health and development department of Tulane's School of Public Health, sought to bring hard fact to a debate between the Police Department and critics who say the it has downplayed the crime problem.
Other cities?
The 2006 murder rates of other cities were exponentially lower than New Orleans' rate. Houston had a rate of about 20 per 100,000 residents, according to statistics for the first half of 2006, the most recent released by the FBI. Detroit had a rate of 41; Baltimore, 42; St. Louis, 32; Philadelphia, 25; and Newark, N.J., 36.
And the police department's comments:
New Orleans Police Department spokesman Sgt. Joe Narcisse said police officials look at the murder rate but question whether any true rate can be established. "The change in our population makes it hard to quantify with any degree of certainty," he said.

Narcisse added that holding the title of the country's most murderous city damages New Orleans' reputation. "It hurts the city, and it hurts us all, when we look at murder rates with those per capita numbers," he said.
Of course, it's not that the numbers make the police department look ineffective is it? No, these just aren't nice numbers, we want to use some nicer ones. And the word of independent demographers and criminologists?
In his study, VanLandingham used a group of the most widely accepted population estimates to estimate a month-by-month breakdown of the number of people in the city.

Other demographers and criminologists called the research the most accurate -- and frightening -- estimate of the murder rate to date.

"What the police have done is use year-end stats and year-end population to push the rate down," said Peter Scharf, a criminologist at the University of New Orleans. "This study makes the rate more precise."

Scharf said New Orleans' rate far exceeds that of other large cities. However, he sees a more worrisome sign in the study. "Now matter how your parse it, we are murder city, murder capital," he said. "But forget it, let's move on. The second issue is that we have an ascending murder rate. It's going up. That's more worrisome."
Decades of cronyism, corruption, poor education and excessive government handouts -- this is what you get...
From LiveScience:
Surprising Activity Discovered at Yellowstone Supervolcano
Supervolcanoes can sleep for centuries or millennia before producing incredibly massive eruptions that can drop ash across an entire continent. One of the largest supervolcanoes in the world lies beneath Yellowstone National Park, which spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

Though the Yellowstone system is active and expected to eventually blow its top, scientists don�t think it will erupt any time soon.

Yet significant activity continues beneath the surface. And the activity has been increasing lately, scientists have discovered. In addition, the nearby Teton Range, in a total surprise, is getting shorter.

The findings, reported this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research�Solid Earth, suggest that a slow and gradual movement of a volcano over time can shape a landscape more than a violent eruption.
Interesting article -- they start looking for one thing and discover a host of interrelated activity.
It seems that the movie 300 is giving Iran a little bit of an issue. From the BBC:
Iran condemns Hollywood war epic
The Hollywood film, which has broken US box office records, is an effects-laden retelling of a battle in which a small Greek army resisted a Persian invasion.

Javad Shamqadri, a cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said it was "plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization".

He branded the film "psychological warfare" against Tehran and its people.

But Iranian culture was strong enough to withstand the assault, Mr Shamqadri said.

"American cultural officials thought they could get mental satisfaction by plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization," he said.

"Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Hollywood and cultural authorities in the US initiated studies to figure out how to attack Iranian culture.

"Certainly, the recent movie is a product of such studies."

Daily newspaper Ayandeh-No carried the headline "Hollywood declares war on Iranians".

The paper said: "It seeks to tell people that Iran, which is in the Axis of Evil now, has for long been the source of evil and modern Iranians' ancestors are the ugly murderous dumb savages you see in 300."

Three MPs in the Iranian parliament have also written to the foreign ministry to protest against the production and screening of this "anti-Iranian Hollywood film".

The film has already proved a major box office hit in the US where it earned almost $71m (�36.8m) in its first weekend, making it the best ever March opening in North American cinemas.

This is not the first time Iran has protested over its portrayal in films made in the West.

There was outrage over the 2004 epic Alexander which showed the Macedonian general easily conquering the Persian Empire.
My reaction to this protest:
Jen and I finally got to see it today and it is incredible. I'll be writing more in a bit but this is a definitely must-see film. The cinematography was gorgeous, the casting and acting was spot-on, the Persians were nice and slimy and the battle scenes were amazingly well choreographed. We will be seeing this a few more times on the big screen.
Sculptor Tom Kuebler does life-size pieces of some rather interesting people. Gallery page here: Tom Kuebler Three examples:
There is a place beyond Razorback Hollow where the deep woods dirt roads lead to an isolated community of characters. One such fellow... er, fellows are Cletus and Shorty Greeley. It was believed that the brothers would not survive infancy, yet they grew to be quite powerful. Although intelligence is not among their assets, they seem to be quite self-sufficient and get along fine in the small community that has known and accepted them since birth.
The athletic tape incident in the men�s locker room was the last straw for Myron. It was time to defend himself against these thugs. It was time for revenge. Myron was a teen genius, but his physical appearance and speech impediment made him a target... until his part-time job at the county morgue provided the opportunity that Myron had been waiting for (and, of course, a project for the science fair). When Mad Dog Mulligan was finally executed for his seven victim killing spree, his cadaver provided the perfect venue for Myron�s technological masterpiece... the state of the art, electro conductor, neuro-communicator, positronic brain! Once the glitches were ironed out, Myron had a full service, radio controlled, zombie-bot bodyguard that would defend him and administer the dire consequences of angering this young, peculiar, prodigy of science.
Liquid courage he calls it, the power to do the things you�re afraid to try and to say the things you�ve been wanting to say. And, when you sing you sound like an angel to your own ears. Let the warmth rush in and slowly turn control of your will over to him. Enjoy it, because tomorrow you�ll need him again. In fact, you may find that once you�ve swallowed him, your courage turns to fear and you can�t live without him.

Dark Roasted Blend

| No Comments
Ran into this website earlier today and it's good -- big collection of ephemera, odd stuff and general weird and funny sh*t. Check out: Dark Roasted Blend

A Spartan Workout

Jen and I are really looking forward to seeing 300 -- the story is one both of us are familiar with and the Battle of Thermopylae was a key turning point in the still-ongoing war between the forces of dark and the forces of light; the false prophet and the true prophet. It seems that Gerard Butler (who played King Leonidas) went through quite the regimen to get himself into shape for the movie. Here is a sample of his baseline daily exercises:
Without resting between exercises, Butler performs 25 pullups, 50 deadlifts with 135 pounds, 50 pushups, 50 jumps on a 24-inch box, 50 floor wipers, 50 single-arm clean-and-presses using a 36-pound kettle bell, and 25 more pullups. All this, in addition to utilizing other unconventional yet equally taxing training methods, such as tire flipping and gymnastics-style ring training. Sound like hell? It is. In fact, upon receiving his marching orders for a Spartan workout, one of Butler's costars told Twight, "It feels like you just killed my dog."
The magazine Men's Health has a wonderful long interview with Butler and goes into a lot more detail. Did this work? Here is Gerard from the article:
"You know that every bead of sweat falling off your head, every weight you've pumped -- the history of that is all in your eyes," says Butler of his dedication. "That was a great thing, to put on that cape and put on that helmet, and not have to think, Shit, I should have trained more. Instead, I was standing there feeling like a lion."
Very cool -- don't know if we will be seeing this movie tomorrow or not but definitely in the next few days. Looking forward to it.

Don't tick off the tax collector.

| No Comments
It seems that some Australian imams are suggesting to the faithful that they renege on their Income taxes as these are supposed to violate Sharia. Should be fun to see the fallout in a couple months. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Muslim leaders warn of tax cheats
Muslim leaders have warned that hardline clerics are encouraging their followers to cheat the tax system because they consider paying income tax contrary to Sharia law.

Sydney-based Islamic leader Fadi Rahman says extremist Muslim clerics who were preaching messages against paying income taxes were also staunchly opposed to western ideologies, The Australian reports.

Mr Rahman said he had heard Friday sermons delivered by hardline clerics in Sydney which highlighted the importance of cheating the tax system.

"I mean, just like how you've got clerics (with) extreme views who are telling the Muslims in the western world to declare war against the very country that they live in and the very country that is paying for their day to day life, you'll find that these are the clerics that are telling them to dodge the tax system," Mr Rahman told News Limited.

The youth leader and president of the Independent Centre for Research Australia said tax itself was not allowed in Islam.

"So they (clerics) encourage them that if there's any way that you can dodge paying the tax, then you should do it."

Clerics pushing for the tax evasion espoused a fundamentalist form of Islam called Wahabbism, News Ltd reported.
Ahhh - our old friend Wahabbism again -- exported from Saudi Arabia, the most virulent fundamentalist version of Islam there is... And these people are supposed to be our allies??? And I don't know about the folks at Australia's tax system but if they are anything like our Internal Revenue System, those muslims are in for a bit of a culture clash.

In the USA, we think of domestic terrorism as a recent phenomenon but the Islamists were practicing this thirty years ago -- March 9th, 1977 to be exact.

From the Washington Post:

'Some Things You Never Forget'
The small scar above Marion Barry's heart has had three decades to fade, but it's still noticeable -- evidence that some things don't disappear with time.

For 39 hours in March 1977 -- before the word "terrorism" entered our daily vocabulary -- 12 gunmen paralyzed the District in a three-point siege. The group of Hanafi Muslims held about 150 people hostage in three buildings, and before they surrendered, a young reporter was killed and dozens were injured, including D.C. Council member Barry. A shotgun pellet pierced his chest, right above his heart, nearly killing him.

"It's been a long time, but some things you never forget. And that's one of them," Barry said in an interview Friday.

This morning, many who remember those three days and others who simply recognize their significance will gather in the Wilson Building's fifth-floor press room. They will unveil two plaques and dedicate the room to Maurice Williams, the WHUR-FM radio reporter who was shot as he stepped off an elevator in the District Building, the name of the city government's headquarters at the time.

The building was one of the three places targeted in the siege, along with the B'nai B'rith International Center, at the time on Rhode Island Avenue NW, and the Islamic Center, on Massachusetts Avenue NW.

"I believe this incident was one of the more traumatic incidents in the history of this city, and the fact that he was the only African American journalist ever killed in the line of duty . . . makes it a very special occasion," Paul Brock, who was WHUR's news director when Williams was a student intern, said yesterday.

Brock will be among those gathered. "It's an incident that everyone should know about," he said. "It was a hint of things to come."

The siege started March 9, 1977, at a time when security was still relaxed in government buildings and hostage videos weren't a few clicks away on the Internet. It was before people searched mail for white powder or suicide bombings claimed regular headlines.

"This was an early wake-up call about violence and terrorism and the extent to which groups will go to engage in violence either for the sake of violence or to make a point," Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International, said yesterday. "Little did we know 30 years ago that this kind of issue would be a daily concern for all of us, not only here in Washington but abroad as well." He will speak at today's event.

And the terrorists demands?

The 12 gunmen had several demands. They wanted the government to hand over a group of men who had been convicted of killing seven relatives -- mostly children -- of takeover leader Hamaas Abdul Khaalis. They also demanded that the movie "Mohammad, Messenger of God" be destroyed because they considered it sacrilegious.

Like you can simple contravene the US justice system and 'destroy' a film. Just looked it up on IMDB and the review of it sounds like it was sensitively done and big Mo never shows up so there cannot be any complaint about graven images (although many islamic artists have depicted the prophet of darkness with nary a peep).

Interesting to note that the title of the movie has been changed to The Message...

Looks like there has been no cultural improvement in these people over the last thirty years -- there hasn't been over the last 1,200 either so I'm not surprised...

Victor Davis Hanson on the film 300

| No Comments
Classicist and historian Victor Davis Hanson has written a nice essay on the history behind the film 300:
History and the Movie �300�
The phrase �300 Spartans� evokes not only the ancient battle of Thermopylae, but also the larger idea of fighting for freedom against all odds � a notion subsequently to be enshrined through some 2500 years of Western civilization.

Even today we remember the power of the Spartans� defiance. �Come and take them,� they tell the Persian emissaries who demand their arms. �Then we will fight in the shade,� the Spartans boast when warned that the horde of Persian arrows will soon blot out the very sunlight. �Go tell the Spartans that here we lie obedient to their commands� the tombstone of their dead reads.

In 480, an enormous force of more than a quarter-million Persians under their King Xerxes invaded Greece, both to enslave the free city-states, and to avenge the Persian defeat a decade earlier at Marathon. The huge force of ships and soldiers proved unstoppable on its way west and southward until it reached the narrow pass at Thermopylae (�The Warm Gates�) in northern Greece. There a collection of 7,000 Greeks had blocked the way. They hoped to stop Xerxes� horde outright � or at least allow enough time for their fellow countrymen to their rear to mobilize a sufficient defense of the homeland.

Among the many Greek contingents was a special elite force of 300 Spartans under their King Leonidas � a spearhead that offered the other Greeks at Thermopylae some promise that they could still bar the advance of the vastly superior invader. And that hope proved real for two days of hard fighting. The vastly outnumbered, but heavily-armed Greek infantrymen in their phalanx � taking advantage of the narrow terrain and their massed tactics � savagely beat back wave after wave of advancing Persian foot soldiers and cavalry.
A lot more at his site. Jen and I are soooo looking forward to this movie. Hanson's closing paragraphs strongly echoes the task we face today:
If critics think that 300 reduces and simplifies the meaning of Thermopylae into freedom versus tyranny, they should reread carefully ancient accounts and then blame Herodotus, Plutarch, and Diodorus � who long ago boasted that Greek freedom was on trial against Persian autocracy, free men in superior fashion dying for their liberty, their enslaved enemies being whipped to enslave others.
Indeed -- the word 'islam' means submission.

A bit of a workout

Jen and I are planning to see 300 in the next day or so -- very much looking forward to it as the Battle of Thermopylae was a key turning point in the development of democracy and indeed, the Western Civilization. The Persian infidels seem to have stayed "stuck" in that era and have not evolved with the times. Gerard Butler is the actor who plays King Leonidas and to prepare for the role, he undertook a massive workout regime. Here is just a sample of his primary daily routine:
Without resting between exercises, Butler performs 25 pullups, 50 deadlifts with 135 pounds, 50 pushups, 50 jumps on a 24-inch box, 50 floor wipers, 50 single-arm clean-and-presses using a 36-pound kettle bell, and 25 more pullups. All this, in addition to utilizing other unconventional yet equally taxing training methods, such as tire flipping and gymnastics-style ring training. Sound like hell? It is. In fact, upon receiving his marching orders for a Spartan workout, one of Butler's costars told Twight, "It feels like you just killed my dog."
Men's Health magazine has the full story -- a great read. And did it work?
"You know that every bead of sweat falling off your head, every weight you've pumped -- the history of that is all in your eyes," says Butler of his dedication. "That was a great thing, to put on that cape and put on that helmet, and not have to think, Shit, I should have trained more. Instead, I was standing there feeling like a lion."
I would say that it worked... We will see in a day or so.

Light posting tonight

| No Comments
Been working on some stuff today so posting has been non-existent.

Climate change - a random event?

| No Comments
Some interesting news from the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University. From Science Daily:
Climate Change: Could It Be Random?
Severe climate changes during the last ice-age could have been caused by random chaotic variations on Earth and not governed by external periodic influences from the Sun. This has been shown in new calculations by a researcher at the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University.

Several large international projects have succeeded in drilling ice-cores from the top of the Greenland inland ice through the more than 3 km thick ice sheet. The ice is a frozen archive of the climate of the past, which has been dated back all the way to the previous interglacial Eem-period more than 120.000 years ago.

The ice archive shows that the climate has experienced very severe changes during the glacial period. During the glacial period there were 26 abrupt temperature increases of about 7-10 degrees. These glacial warm periods are named Dansgaard-Oeschger events after the two scientists first observing them.

The global warming we experience presently will cause a temperature increase of perhaps 2-5 degrees in the next century if greenhouse gas emissions continue, researchers claim. This will lead to increased sea levels and more severe weather with terrible consequences. The temperature rise during the glacial period were much larger and happened much faster.

Temperature increased by 10 degrees in less than 50 years with changes to the ocean currents and the whole ecosystem. These changes have caused sea level rises up to perhaps as much as 8 meters and large changes to the vegetation.
There is no one factor at work here but a complex network. Reading stuff like this makes me realize just how crude the climate models are -- how many variables are, purposely or not, left out or minimized.

About time - first nuke in 30 years

| No Comments
Hats off to Exelon corporation for getting the first permit to build a new nuclear reactor in the 30 years since TMI. From the Chicago Tribune:
Exelon gets reactor site OK
Exelon Corp. cleared a significant regulatory hurdle Thursday in the potential construction of a second reactor at its nuclear plant in Clinton, Ill., although the company has not committed to ever doing so.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the Clinton location, in central Illinois, as a potential site for a new nuclear reactor. Known as an early site permit, it means the property has no physical barriers, such as an earthquake hazard, to serving as the location of a new nuclear reactor.

Exelon is the first company to win an early site permit under a new approval system intended by the government to quicken the pace of nuclear development.

"The early site permit is not permission to building anything," said NRC spokesman Scott Burnell. That would require a construction and operating license, which could take several years or longer to obtain.

Burnell said the permit would speed up the process of building a new nuclear reactor, however. Exelon operates a single reactor at the Clinton plant.
Very cool - plenty of fuel, the waste, although radioactive is not impossible to treat and deal with and the environmental impact of mining Uranium ore is a lot less than mining Coal due to the much smaller volumes involved. No greenhouse gasses either...

Polar Bear deaths in the news

| No Comments
One of the minor memes propagated by the Global Warming crowd is that due to reduced ice cover, Polar Bears are dying off at a phenomenal rate. Woooaaahhhh nellie -- not so fast. Here is The Telegraph's take on things:
Polar bears 'thriving as the Arctic warms up'
Pictures of a polar bear floating precariously on a tiny iceberg have become the defining image of global warming but may be misleading, according to a new study.

A survey of the animals' numbers in Canada's eastern Arctic has revealed that they are thriving, not declining, because of mankind's interference in the environment.

In the Davis Strait area, a 140,000-square kilometre region, the polar bear population has grown from 850 in the mid-1980s to 2,100 today.

"There aren't just a few more bears. There are a hell of a lot more bears," said Mitch Taylor, a polar bear biologist who has spent 20 years studying the animals.

His findings back the claims of Inuit hunters who have long claimed that they were seeing more bears.

"Scientific knowledge has demonstrated that Inuit knowledge was right," said Mr Taylor.
He must not know what he is talking about -- after all, he only has 20 years field experience. And of course, the Inuit are just simple people, they can't know what is happening in their environment. Bzzzzzttttt! Wrong. Wake up and smell the cappuccino.
Seems that Ms. Brockovich was not as correct with the facts as she could have been. From the Sydney Morning Herald comes this story of a new look at the old data:
With friends like Erin...
This week the legendary anti-chemical campaigner Erin Brockovich was paraded before Sydney by a new political group seeking our votes. The Climate Change Coalition thinks Brockovich's views on the environment are worth our attention. But once you know the facts about Brockovich and the movie that was made about her, you might wonder.

As anyone who's seen the film starring Julia Roberts knows, Brockovich was a legal file clerk who helped persuade about 650 residents of Hinkley, California, to sue the power company Pacific Gas and Electric. A rust inhibitor named chromium 6 had leaked from one of PG&E's facilities into the town's water supply. Brockovich and her bosses claimed drinking this had caused a wide variety of illnesses in residents, from nosebleeds to cancer. In 1996 PG&E paid $US333 million. The lawyers pocketed 40 per cent of this and paid Brockovich some $US2 million for her sterling efforts.

Brockovich, an attractive single parent, became a heroine. Julia Roberts was paid $US20 million to don the high heels and push-up bra again and play her in the film. Roberts won an Oscar and the movie grossed more than $US125 million in its first six months.

So far, so familiar. But then an investigative journalist named Michael Fumento started to look at the facts behind the case. He found that cancer rates in Hinkley were no higher than the Californian averages. He found chromium 6 causes cancer if breathed in large quantities, but there is no evidence it causes cancer if swallowed. (Information on the websites of the US Environment Protection Agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and Australia's Department of Environment and Water Resources suggests he's right.) And he found that no known agent can cause more than a handful of the symptoms attributed by Brockovich and her colleagues to chromium 6.

In other words, the case was a crock.

So why did PG&E pay up? We don't know, but Fumento believes it was because it was being commercially damaged by the wave of bad publicity. During the case, Brockovich's company formed an alliance with two of California's largest legal firms, and between them they used the media brilliantly. The ABC television network was just one major media outlet that pushed the Brockovich line. PG&E, a retail company in a competitive market, was suffering (so Fumento's argument goes) and decided to pay for the problem to go away. The costs could, after all, be passed on to consumers.
Michael Fumento's story on this (published in the Wall Street Journal) can be found here: 'Erin Brockovich,' exposed. His home site is here: Michael Fumento He is not resting on his Brockovich laurels either, he is a prolific writer and a good one too -- very careful with his facts. Check it out...

RIP - Brad Delp

| No Comments | 1 TrackBack
Lead singer for Boston -- he passed away today. From
Boston lead singer Brad Delp dies at 55
Brad Delp, the lead singer for the band Boston, was found dead Friday in his home in southern New Hampshire. He was 55. Atkinson police responded to a call for help at 1:20 p.m. and found Delp dead. Police Lt. William Baldwin said in a statement the death was "untimely" and that there was no indication of foul play.

Delp apparently was alone at the time of his death, Baldwin said.

The cause of his death remained under investigation by the Atkinson police and the New Hampshire Medical Examiner's office. Police said an incident report would not be available until Monday.

Delp sang vocals on Boston's 1976 hits "More than a Feeling" and "Longtime." He also sang on Boston's most recent album, "Corporate America," released in 2002.

He joined the band in the early 1970s after meeting Tom Scholz, an MIT student interested in experimental methods of recording music, according to the group's official Web site. The band enjoyed its greatest success and influence during its first decade.

The band's last appearance was in November 2006 at Boston's Symphony Hall.
The band's website is here: I never met Brad but I did meet Tom Scholz a number of times and was over to his home studio before he moved to a larger facility. I went to school at Boston University and lived in the Cleavelend Circle area, Tom also lived there and we first met at a local cafe, I was reading an Electronotes issue and he noticed that and one thing led to another. Good people.

Sir Henry Bessemer, F.R.S

| No Comments
Growing up in Pittsburgh, PA in the 1950's, I was very aware of the steelmaking going on there and Bessemer Converters were in constant use. I never really thought about who Bessemer was or what else he did until today when a link to his autobiography came up at Neanderpundit's excellent blog (where he dismembered a commenter and delivered an excellent screed on what describes an Engineer). Reading page after page, I am fascinated by this guy's history -- he was a real polymath, inventing things for all sorts of industries. A good writer and businessman too. Check out: Sir Henry Bessemer, F.R.S, an autobiography

All work and no play

Very cool -- from PhysOrg:
Engineer Creates First Academic Playstation 3 Computing Cluster
The Sony Playstation 3, Xbox and Nintendo Wii have captivated a generation of computer gamers with bold graphics and rapid-fire animation. But these high-tech toys can do a lot more than just play games. At North Carolina State University, Dr. Frank Mueller imagined using the power of the new PS3 to create a high-powered computing environment for a fraction of the cost of the supercomputers on the market.

Mueller, an associate professor of computer science, has built a supercomputing cluster capable of both high-performance computing and running the latest in computer gaming. His cluster of eight PS3 machines � the first such academic cluster in the world � packs the power of a small supercomputer, but at a total cost of about $5,000, it costs less than some desktop computers that have only a fraction of the computing power.

�Clusters are not new to the computing world,� Mueller says. �Google, the stock market, automotive design companies and scientists use clusters, but this is the first academic computing cluster built from Playstation 3s.
And what makes the Playstation3 so good as a scientific computer?
�Scientific computing is just number crunching, which the PS3s are very good at given the Cell processor and deploying them in a cluster,� Mueller says. �Right now one limitation is the 512 megabyte RAM memory constraint, but it might be possible to retrofit more RAM. We just haven�t cracked the case and explored that option yet.� Another problem lies in limited speed for double-precision calculations required by scientific applications, but announcements for the next-generation Cell processor address this issue.
The PS3 allows the Linux operating system to be installed, and IBM designed the programming environment for programming the Cell processor (including eight vectorization units), which combined tremendous computing power within a single PS3. According to Mueller, each PS3 unit contains six operational special-purpose cores for number crunching and one general-purpose core that is two-way multithreaded in his configuration, so the eight machines clustered have 64 logical processors, providing plenty of number-crunching ability in addition to running the latest games.
Clever solution to a big problem. Lots of uses outside of academia as well...

How not to do it -- Ether bunny

Hat tip to chemist Derek Lowe for this link to a Seattle chemist who had an odd way of disposing of some chemicals. From the Seattle Times:
UW professor pleads guilty in waste case
A respected University of Washington pharmacology professor became a felon Wednesday when he acknowledged dumping a flammable substance down a laboratory sink and then trying to conceal his actions.

Daniel Storm, 62, pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by flushing about four liters of the solvent ethyl ether. He faces a maximum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced June 18, although prosecutors have recommended probation under the terms of a plea agreement.

Storm, who continues to work at the university, has been there nearly 30 years and has enjoyed a "very productive" career, said Tina Mankowski, a spokeswoman for the UW School of Medicine.

"It was just a stupid mistake," Storm said Wednesday. "I've had a perfect record here. I've admitted this and said, 'I'm sorry.' "

"The University of Washington views this as a serious event, and accordingly, a faculty disciplinary process is under way," Mankowski said. "A range of remedial and/or disciplinary actions is under consideration."

The plea agreement states that in June 2006, UW health and safety inspectors found three metal and two glass containers of ether in Storm's lab which, because of the age of the substance, required disposal.

But Storm balked at the estimated $15,000 cost, which would have come out of a lab operations fund. So later that month he took an ax to some of the containers and flushed the contents down the sink, according to the agreement. He kept one container intact.
$15,000 to remove four liters of Ether? I am definitely in the wrong business... But wait -- there's more:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Oesterle said Storm then tried to cover himself by preparing a false voucher from a fictitious company indicating he'd properly disposed of the substance. UW inspectors discovered the voucher was fake and alerted authorities; when confronted, Oesterle said, Storm admitted his actions.

Oesterle said there is no misdemeanor charge for this particular type of crime. It's unusual to charge someone who has dumped such a small volume, Oesterle said, but he found Storm's actions particularly appalling.

Using the ax was particularly dangerous, Oesterle added, because a spark could easily have ignited the ether.

"Someone in that position ought to know better and appreciate the risks of improper disposal, and follow the correct procedures regardless of expense," Oesterle said.

"He also took steps to cover it up, which we consider egregious."

Storm said he used the ax "just because it was handy" and because the lids on some containers were stuck tight.

"I knew what I'd done was probably wrong, but I didn't realize the penalties," Storm said. "This is a totally strange thing for me."
Must be an outbreak of stupidity in Seattle -- neither the professor nor the U.S. attorney are firing on all cylinders.

Got two of them!!!

| No Comments
Looks like two top terrorists are now in custody. From Charles at LGF:
Big Al Qaeda Fish Hooked in Iraq
The replacement for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Insurgent leader nabbed in Iraq raid.
The leader of the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq was captured Friday in a raid west of Baghdad � his identity revealed by a fellow insurgent detained with him, an Iraqi military spokesman said.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was captured in a raid in Abu Ghraib on the western outskirts of Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman of the Baghdad security operation. U.S. officials had no confirmation of the capture. �One of the terrorists who was arrested with him confessed that the one in our hands is al-Baghdadi,� al-Moussawi said.
One of the terrorists who was arrested with him confessed that the one in our hands is al-Baghdadi Heh - I love the way these mongrel pigs rat each other out... And in Africa; from the International Herald Tribune:
Kenyan police arrest key Al Qaeda suspect
He is tied to '02 attacks in Mombasa

The Kenyan police have arrested a man they believe to be a key Al Qaeda suspect who tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner and helped plan the simultaneous bombing of a hotel in 2002 that killed 15 people, officials said.

The man's identity was not immediately confirmed, but investigators said they believe he is Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior official in Kenya's security services told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the matter was classified.

Nabhan is wanted for questioning by the FBI and the Kenyan police for the 2002 attacks and the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people. Nabhan fled to Somalia after the attacks near Mombasa. Last year the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Frazer, accused Islamic radicals in Somalia of sheltering him and demanded they hand him over.
Good job -- two less of the scum floating around and who knows how much these two will talk once a few carrots are dangled in front of them...
From the Boston Herald:
Mo. man shares golf cart with bobcat
It�s best not to get between a predator and its prey - especially when they�re in the passenger seat of your golf cart.

Water plant worker Mitch Walter would offer that bit of advice and bears the scratches of one who speaks from experience.

As Walter was inspecting the Cape Rock Water Treatment Plant property Tuesday night, a rabbit leaped into his golf cart - followed by a 25-pound bobcat. The rabbit then jumped back out, leaving Walter alone with a large, frightened feline.

"The cat went from a sleek predator after fast food to a ball of fur trying to jump through the windshield of the golf cart," Walter said.

Walter received scratches on his neck while shoving the bobcat out, necessitating a round of rabies shots, but was otherwise unhurt.
That would leave me a bit rattled -- imagine thirty pounds of pissed-off cat in your lap...

How not to be a thief

| No Comments
From KOMO-4 News:
Want to be a thief? Here's how not to do it
So, you want to be a thief? Here's how not to do it.

Two teenage boys in Kitsap County showed us that the Internet, and an angry victim, are two very powerful crime fighting tools.

MySpace and Craigslist have become very useful tools for everyone, and a burglary victim used them to catch her crook.

Gregory Packer appeared in Kitsap County Superior Court on Thursday, and he's had a pretty bad week.

He's been caught twice - the second time by a deputy, and the first time by the woman he robbed.

Deputies say Packer and a friend robbed a house off Mullinex road in Port Orchard, and took electronic items from the home, including a PDA.

The victim had a wild idea. She put an ad on the Craigslist Web site looking to buy a PDA in Port Orchard. Two boys answered the ad and agreed to meet her at an AM-PM convenience store in Bremerton.

It was her PDA. She confronted the boys and demanded the rest of the stuff that they took.

The boys ran off, but they couldn't outrun their electronic trail.

The Craigslist posting led to MySpace, where the victim found Greg Packer's personal page - and an unflattering photo. That gave sheriff's deputies enough info to find Packer and his accomplice, and they both confessed.

"By their own admittance, they said they were stupid for doing this -- they were bored," said sheriff spokesman Scott Wilson.

Packer's parents bailed him out of jail, but then he did something else stupid.

Which brings us to a dark road just outside Port Orchard where sheriff's deputies say Greg Packer made his last mistake. They caught him trying to unload the rest of the stuff he'd stolen, only he picked bad location to do it.

Wilson said the location "was in fact the entrance to the police firing range."

The 18 year old confessed again, which is what brought him to jail in handcuffs Thursday for the second time.
DOH - outside the police firing range, how stupid can you be...

Interesting article at the LA Times about how companies loose their edge as they expand:

Starbucks' 'venti' problem
Expanding too far too fast can turn companies from offbeat to bland.

Coffee addicts were shaken, and stirred, recently when a memo written by Starbucks Corp. founder and Chairman Howard Schultz was posted on the Internet. Noting with a mixture of pride and horror that Starbucks has gone from 1,000 to 13,000 stores in 10 years, Schultz expressed regret over a "series of decisions that, in retrospect, have led to the watering down of the Starbucks experience and what some might call the commoditization of our brand."

"Some people," Schultz wrote, "even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee."

The memo was seen as a rare example of brutal executive candor. Of course, to this Starbuck's habitue (doppio espresso, no sugar) it would have been more timely, say, five years ago, back when there was still a block in midtown Manhattan that didn't have a Starbucks.

But the Schultz memo is interesting and useful nonetheless, because it shows that even an iconic company that serves a highly addictive product can water down the immense value of its brand by expanding too far and too fast and in too many directions at once. Sadly, this is a fate that befalls many American companies. Time and again in recent years, we've seen small, cutting-edge and quirky brands gain critical mass - only to lose their charm and customer appeal after they engage in breakneck expansion.

A bit more:

Consider the sad case of Krispy Kreme. A beloved icon of the South, Krispy Kreme's chief selling point was a limited selection of sickly sweet doughnuts, made fresh on the premises. When the chain began to expand along the East Coast in the 1990s, exiled Southerners and salivating locals queued on the chilly sidewalks, waiting for the red light to signal fresh glazed gut-bombs.

But after Krispy Kreme went public in 2000, the company, eager to supercharge sales, started making doughnuts in central locations and distributing them, hours or even days later, for sale in convenience and grocery stores. Feh! The store-bought sugar rings quickly got stale. And so did Krispy Kreme. Soon after it was flogged on the cover of Fortune as "America's hottest brand" in July 2003, the stock collapsed.

And one more example:

Snapple, for instance, rode from obscurity to household name in the early 1990s based on its funky flavors and offbeat advertising campaign, which featured Wendy Kaufman, a heavyset employee of the company with a thick Long Island accent. The company's impressive growth attracted the attention of the conglomerate Quaker Oats Co., which paid a whopping $1.7 billion to buy Snapple in 1994.

Of course, the Quaker Oats crowd decided the suddenly big brand needed advertising that was more professional and high-concept. In 1996, when the company unceremoniously canned the Snapple Lady, the backlash in the marketplace was almost instantaneous. Sales plummeted, and in May 1997, Quaker Oats sold Snapple at a fire sale price of $300 million. One of the first acts of the acquirer, Triarc Companies, was to bring back Kaufman as a spokesperson.

There are a couple more examples in the article. It may be hard to preserve the corporate culture as you grow but it can be (and has been) done. The corporate culture is what first brought customers in through the door and if it changes, they may go somewhere else.

They stole my plants

| No Comments
What plants? These plants. From the New Zealand Herald:
Woman's 111 call: They've stolen my marijuana plants
A woman who called Napier police this morning to report a burglary became so upset she broke down in tears - although the police communications officer who took the initial call couldn't stop smiling.

The call left senior sergeant Mal Lochrie shaking his head as he explained that the woman had called to report the theft of three marijuana plants which she had growing in pots outside.

She also bitterly complained that it was the fourth year in a row someone had sneaked on to her Ahuriri property and made off with her marijuana plants.

Mr Lochrie said the woman told the communications operator she was a good person and was sick and tired of "low-lifes" stealing her things.

"The community constable is going around to see her later to have a bit of a chat," Mr Lochrie said.
A bit of a chat indeed...

Wanna buy a trailer

| 1 Comment
All those trailers that FEMA provided after Katrina are now being auctioned off. From ABC News:
FEMA Is Selling Off Used Trailers
FEMA Is Selling Off Used Trailers; Mobile-Home Dealers Fear a Drop in Prices

A year and a half after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA is auctioning off at fire-sale prices thousands of trailers used by storm victims, raising fears among mobile-home dealers that the government will flood the market and depress prices.

Mobile home dealers are finding that some potential customers would rather wait to make a deal on a used FEMA trailer than drop $25,000 to $40,000 for a brand-new one.

"People think they're just going to get to buy them for nothing," said Gale Crews, owner of Diamond State Mobile Home Sales in Hope, where FEMA is storing 20,000 trailers at the city's airport. Some of the FEMA trailers will sell for less than half of what they cost new.

Some critics of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the sale of emblematic of the way FEMA botched its handling of Katrina: FEMA ordered more trailers than it needed, it let many of them sit out in the open, exposed to the elements, and now, some fear, it is about to double-cross the trailer dealers.

FEMA spokeswoman Debbie Wing defended the agency, saying it "wanted to be prepared to house as many victims as possible" when it bought the trailers. She said the agency is now trying to lower its storage costs by reducing the number it is holding in reserve for the next disaster.

"We're being cautious not to flood the market," she said. "We appreciate the fact that these manufacturers sold us these units during the height of it."
The dealers already made their money when they sold these units to FEMA in the first place and now they are griping about loosing money when FEMA puts them back on the market. I can see their point about poisoning potential sales but it doesn't sound like the gubbermint is going to flood the market.

Light posting today

| No Comments
Heading into town to hang out with my Dad and to get some shopping done. More later this evening...

A little bird tells me

| No Comments
Last month, a top Iranian disappeared while on a trip to Turkey. Rumors flew but no concrete facts. Today's Washington Post fleshes out the story a little bit...
Former Iranian Defense Official Talks to Western Intelligence
A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.

Ali Rez Asgari disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey. Iranian officials suggested yesterday that he may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States. The U.S. official said Asgari is willingly cooperating. He did not divulge Asgari's whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence.

Asgari served in the Iranian government until early 2005 under then-President Mohammad Khatami. Asgari's background suggests that he would have deep knowledge of Iran's national security infrastructure, conventional weapons arsenal and ties to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Iranian officials said he was not involved in the country's nuclear program, and the senior U.S. official said Asgari is not being questioned about it. Former officers with Israel's Mossad spy agency said yesterday that Asgari had been instrumental in the founding of Hezbollah in the 1980s, around the time of the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, quoted the country's top police chief, Brig. Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam, as saying that Asgari was probably kidnapped by agents working for Western intelligence agencies. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Asgari was in the United States. Another U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, denied that report and suggested that Asgari's disappearance was voluntary and orchestrated by the Israelis. A spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council did not return a call for comment.
Heh -- mullah's not gonna be liking this... Hat tip to the Puppy Blender for the link.

A simple list of nine items

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for their link to this essay. They say: Candidate for Best Essay of the Year: Nine Facts about Climate Change and I agree with them completely. The author Ray Evans lists the nine facts and then proceeds fact by fact to document his findings. Read: Nine Facts about Climate Change
In January 2006 I wrote a pamphlet entitled Nine Lies about Global Warming in which I sought to summarise for the lay reader the state of the debate about increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and the widespread predictions of catastrophic global warming which would ensue as a consequence of man's use of fossil fuels. Despite the inherent scientific implausibility of these predictions, and the complete lack of empirical evidence to support them, a number of current political leaders and former leaders, notably UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, former US Vice President Al Gore and Australian Labor Leader Kim Beazley, have embraced these predictions. The Environmentalist movement throughout the West has united behind global warming as its primary campaign ambition, and the political power of the Environmentalist movement has generated very large expenditures as a consequence. The most bizarre manifestation of what Cardinal George Pell has described as 'pagan emptiness' is the despoliation of coastlines and mountain ridges with thousands of wind turbines in the UK, in Germany, Denmark, and now increasingly in Australia.

The science debate is at the heart of the global warming campaign. On one side of that debate we have those prominent scientists who preach the gospel of anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide-generated global warming. Without exception, their careers have been made in the shadowy world where science and politics intersect; a world described by the once celebrated but now forgotten novelist of the 1950s, CP Snow. Lord May and Sir David King in the UK, and James Hansen in the US, are outstanding examples of the genre. On the other side of the debate is a long and growing list of scientists whose careers have been built on successful research into the extraordinarily complex physics and chemistry of the earth's atmosphere and oceans, and the influence which the Sun has on the earth's climate. The most recent example of devastating critique of the anthropogenist carbon dioxide school comes from William Gray, the doyen of American hurricane scientists.
A bit more:
Those who have seen Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, and who are acquainted with American history, will have recognised the religious tradition of millenarian preaching to which it conforms. The end of the world is nigh! Judgment Day is at hand! Repent you of your sins and resolve to lead a better life! Missing from the Gore version is God's participation in these climactic events. Nature has taken God's place, but otherwise the script is unchanged. Man's sin is responsible for the coming catastrophe, and unless we repent of our sins and give up our use of fossil fuels, then catastrophe will surely bring the world to an end.
And the list of Nine Facts? Here are the first four:
Fact 1. Climate change is a constant. The Vostok Ice Cores show five brief interglacial periods from 415,000 years ago to the present. The Greenland Ice Cores reveal a Minoan Warm Period 1450-1300 BC, a Roman Warm Period 250-0 BC, the Mediaeval Warm Period 800-1100AD, the Little Ice Age and the late 20th Century Warm Period 1900-2010 AD.

Fact 2. Carbon dioxide is necessary for all life on earth and increasing atmospheric concentrations are beneficial to plant growth, particularly in arid conditions. Because the radiation properties of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are already saturated, increasing atmospheric concentrations beyond current levels will have no discernible effect on global temperatures.

Fact 3. The twentieth century was almost as warm as the centuries of the Mediaeval Warm Period, an era of great achievement in European civilisation. The recent warm period, 1976-2000, appears to have come to an end and astro-physicists who study sunspot behaviour predict that the next 25-50 years could be a cool period similar to the Dalton Minimum of the 1790s-1820s.

Fact 4. The evidence linking anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide emissions and current warming is limited to a correlation which holds only for the period 1976 to 2000. Attempts to construct an holistic theory in which atmospheric carbon dioxide controls the radiation balance of the earth, and thus determines average global temperatures, have failed.
Ray Evans also takes on the Mann hockey-stick chart and provides proof (links) as to its innumeracy.

A certain Little Black Book

This is precious... From The Smoking Gun:
Feds Seek To Gag D.C. Madam
Prosecutors fear leak of sensitive client, escort information

Federal prosecutors want to gag an indicted former Washington, D.C. madam who has recently threatened to go public with details about her former customers. In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court, investigators are seeking a protective order covering discovery material to be provided to Deborah Palfrey and her lawyers. Palfrey, 50, was indicted last week on racketeering and money laundering charges stemming from her operation of the Pamela Martin & Associates escort service, which closed last summer after 13 years in business. In their motion, a copy of which you'll find below, government lawyers claim that some discovery documents contain "personal information" about Palfrey's former johns and prostitutes that is "sensitive."
I wonder how many people are sweating right now -- how many Judges are thinking about recusing themselves from anything to do with this case. Bet it will get buried very quickly...

Long and thoughtful story at the LA Timesregarding the city of Las Vegas and its impact on the surrounding land.

Las Vegas looks north to slake its thirst
Vegas' drinking problem is Nevada ranchers' headache as officials look to tap groundwater in rural counties to slake a thirst for growth.

When rancher Dean Baker and his three grown sons gathered for their regular 6:30 a.m. coffee klatch a few years ago, the topic went beyond the usual cow-calf talk. Should they fight or sell out?

Three hundred miles to the south, Las Vegas' determined water czar, Pat Mulroy, was laying ambitious plans to pump rural Nevada groundwater to her booming city of dancing casino fountains and new housing tracts.

One branch of the $2-billion-plus pipeline project would reach into the high desert valley straddling the Utah border where the Baker family has ranched for half a century.

As Baker remembers the family meeting, it didn't last long. "It was unanimous, without any question." They would fight.

Battles over water in the West are always about something more. At their most elemental, they are about survival. As Baker sees it, the Nevada water war threatens to reprise the unhappy scene in California's Owens Valley, which dried up decades ago after Los Angeles drained it.

And, like L.A.'s legendary water engineer, William Mulholland, Mulroy sees the distant water as the key to her city's future. The struggle pits a neon-lighted big city against scrub-crusted cattle country, a tart-tongued immigrant against a slow-talking third-generation rancher, a vision of the New West against the values of the old.

Mulroy is one of Nevada's most powerful public officials, a Democrat who is periodically mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate.

She is on a mission to make up for the historic slight her adopted state suffered when Colorado River flows were split among the seven basin states in the 1920s. At the time, Las Vegas was little more than a dusty railroad stop, so Nevada received the smallest river share in the lower basin. It is on that comparatively meager portion that the Las Vegas Valley relies for 90% of its water.

"The Nevada state engineer had no vision," Mulroy says, bristling at the long-ago snub. "And we're just going to accept that as our manifest destiny in a state where we're the economic hub?"

Population in Clark County (LV's home) has risen from under 797,142 in 1990 to around 2 Million and is projected to continue to rise. These people all need water and the proposal to pump it from an underground aquifer could potentially suck it dry for all the ranchers and the other towns in the valleys.

Don't complain about speeding

| No Comments
If you don't want to get a ticket yourself. From The Tacoma, WA News Tribune:
Turns out complainers do their share of speeding
Some Auburn neighbors complaining of speeders in their quiet neighborhoods streets have met the enemy and discovered it is themselves.

With help from a toaster-sized box called the Stealth Stat Machine, police are responding to complaints and catching speeders.

And the lead-foots aren�t from out of town.

Take Evergreen Way Southeast near Lakeland Hills Elementary School in the Lakeland Hills neighborhood. Auburn police set up shop there a few weeks ago, and 21 of the 24 violators ticketed were residents of that neighborhood.
And this little gem:
In another area, police reportedly ticketed a woman who had called them about the speeding on her street.

Her reaction, according to police? �But I was the one who complained!�

Anal Probe - airport edition

From Reuters:
Wired Iraqi man triggers scare at L.A. airport
An Iraqi national wearing wires and concealing a magnet inside his rectum triggered a security scare at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday but officials said he posed no apparent threat.

The man, identified by law enforcement officials as Fadhel al-Maliki, 35, set off an alarm during passenger screening at the airport early on Tuesday morning.

A police bomb squad was called to examine what was deemed a suspicious item found during a body cavity search of the man. Local media reports said a magnet was found in his rectum.

"He was secreting these items in a body cavity and that was a great concern because there were also some electric wires associated with that body cavity," Larry Fetters, security director for the Transportation Security Administration at the airport, told reporters.

The flight left without Maliki but with his luggage aboard. It made an unscheduled landing in Las Vegas, where the plane was thoroughly searched but nothing was found, officials said.

Passengers were not evacuated and no flights were disrupted by the incident at Terminal One at Los Angeles airport.

"There never was a threat," Fetter said.

He said police and the FBI were called in from "an abundance of caution" because Maliki was "so bizarre in his behavior."

Maliki, who had a U.S. green card, was being questioned by immigration officials about his immigration status.
This is so wrong on several different levels. They let the guy's luggage remain on the airplane. There have been several recent probes of airline security by Islamic people and no effort has been made to stamp them out with increased security. The most recent one before this was American Airlines Flight 62. Here is another from Czech Republic. With Mr. al-Maliki, the magnet could have easily been a blasting cap and there could have been a pound or two of C4 rolled into a cylinder and pushed up his anus. These people are not stopping.
From Investor's Business Daily:
Bush's Message, Chavez's Noise
President Bush will encounter loud leftist protests in the region this week, organized by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. He's desperate to mess up Bush's visit, but he won't succeed.

As Bush prepares a milestone visit to five Latin American democracies, expected to draw a warm welcome from their leaders, a left-wing clown show is getting ready in the wings, courtesy of the regional bully.

In Argentina, for example, Chavez is organizing a big, noisy counterprotest in collaboration with that country's reluctant president, Nestor Kirchner. The March 9 event will be a blatantly propagandistic bid to demonstrate that anti-Bush sentiment is alive and well south of our border.

But there are signs it might not go as well as the last trash-drenched, anti-Bush gathering two years ago, during an Organization of American States meeting in Mar del Plata.

For one thing, Kirchner didn't particularly want to host Chavez's new rally, and when Chavez prevailed on him, he made it clear he didn't want it big. He wanted to move the event from a 40,000-seat stadium to one that seats just 6,000. He also presented Chavez with a $192,000 bill.

Chavez has invited two other anti-U.S. presidents to thumb their noses at Bush at this event, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Bolivia's Evo Morales, neither of whom is on the president's itinerary.

Morales, whose nation relies on $120 million in U.S. aid, has made some curiously hesitant statements about needing to sort out his schedule before knowing whether he can attend. So it's possible he might not show up if Chavez doesn't push him.

Note that the Chavez rally will not be held in any of the five countries that are hosting the president � Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico � but in probably the only country whose state-paid protesters, known as piqueteros, can fill a stadium with anti-Bush protesters.
Bush will be offering some interesting plans for the places he visits, ways to offset narcoterrorism, college training and medical care. From the article:
Bush will also bring along other goodies. The USMS Comfort will make calls through several Latin American and Caribbean ports, providing free medical care for 85,000 poor people, and 1,500 free surgeries. This will dwarf any of Fidel Castro's efforts to send his paramedic-grade doctors to propagandize for the Cuban regime.

There's also a new initiative to help Latin Americans study in the U.S. through the community colleges. This is particularly promising because a comparable program in the 1980s for 2,000 Chinese students has since reaped the U.S. decades of good will.

The handouts may look like Santa Bush, but that's all right. The important thing is that Bush will get a chance to get word out about U.S. involvement in Latin America through direct assistance, trade pacts and other cooperative ventures for which it's never received credit.

Bush has authorized $1.5 billion in U.S. assistance to the region since he's taken office � doubling what the Clinton administration approved and dwarfing the highly politicized but ineffective handouts that the Chavez regime gets so much credit for dishing out. It's also not very well known that the U.S. also has been helping poor countries with with free medical care.

"When President Bush goes, he's taking a positive message � cooperation and collaboration," a senior state department official told IBD, emphasizing that all the measures are meant to engage the private sectors of these countries. "If Chavez wants to send conflict, that's his position, and that's not on our agenda."
Bush acts while Chavez bloviates and runs his country even more into debt and corruption.

Coldest day since 1950

| No Comments
In Taunton, MA -- from the Worcester, MA Telegram & Gazette:
Brrrrr! Coldest March day since 1950
A meteorologist in the Taunton office of the National Weather Service today confirmed what anybody walking outside quicky realizes, which is, it is about as cold as it can be for the month of March.

At 11 a.m. it was 3 degrees above zero with a wind child of about 20 degrees below zero, Meteorologist William Simpson said.

The temperature at midnight was 16 degrees which is the March 6 record for the lowest maximum temperature for the date, according to Mr. Simpson.

The record low maximum temerature for the month of March is 10 degrees, set on March 3, 1950. With a high temperature of 9 degrees predicted for the rest of the day, today will rival that record even though it won't show in the record book because the high temperature was recorded at midnight.

"Certainly, today is the coldest March day since 1950," Mr. Simpson said.
Tell me again how warm it's supposed to be getting?


From the Seattle PI comes another story of the rampant nannyism and P/Cism in the Soviet of Washington.

Booing at games may be banned
Will decision make you cheer or jeer?

The organization that oversees high school sports in Washington is considering rules for fans that could ban booing and offensive chants.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has not made an official ruling, but has discussed guidelines to crack down on negative conduct, a spokesman said.

Some of the state's top coaches believe a boo ban is extreme.

"They're kidding, right?" asked Rainier Beach High School boys basketball coach Mike Bethea, who played as a student at Franklin High School. "I can see stopping someone if they're saying derogatory remarks, but not letting people boo? Come on."

The sportsmanship guidelines are meant to address the dwindling number of people who want to be coaches and officials. Association officials also say they remind fans to cheer for their team, and not against the other.

"I don't know why people think it's acceptable to boo in the first place," WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said. "It's a pretty novel concept to me."

Specific rules on booing are "all in draft stages," Colbrese said. The ideas came from a 15-person committee of school administrators that met last fall to discuss sportsmanship, he said.

Here is the website for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association

China pollution

| No Comments
Curious news from Wretchard at The Belmont Club regarding China's emissions and Kyoto:
Global Warming
Data from the Paris-based International Energy Agency indicates China's greenhouse gas emissions have been growing by an amount much greater than that of all industrialized nations put together and will pass the US in 2007 or 2008 as the world's biggest source of Greenhouse Gases, according to the SF Chronicle.

I'm not sure this is true, but if it were isn't this what the Kyoto Protocol was aiming to achieve? By imposing crippling penalties on energy use in the First World, where production technology is relatively efficient and exempting countries like China and India, where production is relatively dirty, their policies had at least two forseeable consequences. First, it would export pollution to the Third World; and second, it would ensure that the marginal unit of production would occur where it would produce the most pollution.

I have argued that the Kyoto Protocol never fully accounted for the negative environmental effects of throwing Workers out of jobs in unindustrialized Third World countries due to cutbacks in imports from the developed countries. I've reasoned the unemployed would revert to destructive subsistence farming in the absence of alternative employment. Maybe one day the Greenies will bury their Kyoto Protocol t-shirts the way Leftists now shun their Mao hats and pins, after he was revealed as a monster rather than a savior. You don't think so? Well neither do I.
Exactly... Unintended consequences of bad science and even worse politics.

France and the palestinians

| No Comments
While fact-checking the next story about the draconian clamp-down on civilian reporting of violence, I also ran into this little jem from the Romanian Playfuls news site:
France Urges EU-Palestinian Ties
France urged the European Union to create deeper ties with a Palestinian national unity government.

Catherine Colonna, France's Europe minister, said at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels that the EU should make preparations for close ties with the new Palestinian government, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

"We have thought about what the EU's attitude should be toward this new government once it is formed," Colonna said. "From the start we should take account of elements such as contacts and funding ... We should be prepared to fine-tune this position depending on the acts of the government."
Talk about two groups of people that deserve each other...

From Macworld of all sources:

France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence
The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists. The law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned on Tuesday.

The council chose an unfortunate anniversary to publish its decision approving the law, which came exactly 16 years after Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King were filmed by amateur videographer George Holliday on the night of March 3, 1991. The officers' acquittal at the end on April 29, 1992 sparked riots in Los Angeles.

If Holliday were to film a similar scene of violence in France today, he could end up in prison as a result of the new law, said Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi. And anyone publishing such images could face up to five years in prison and a fine of £75,000 (US$98,537), potentially a harsher sentence than that for committing the violent act.

Senators and members of the National Assembly had asked the council to rule on the constitutionality of six articles of the Law relating to the prevention of delinquency. The articles dealt with information sharing by social workers, and reduced sentences for minors. The council recommended one minor change, to reconcile conflicting amendments voted in parliament. The law, proposed by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, is intended to clamp down on a wide range of public order offenses. During parliamentary debate of the law, government representatives said the offense of filming or distributing films of acts of violence targets the practice of 'happy slapping,' in which a violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically with a camera phone, for the amusement of the attacker's friends.

The broad drafting of the law so as to criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts is no accident, but rather a deliberate decision by the authorities, said Cohet. He is concerned that the law, and others still being debated, will lead to the creation of a parallel judicial system controlling the publication of information on the Internet.

The government has also proposed a certification system for Web sites, blog hosters, mobile-phone operators and Internet service providers, identifying them as government-approved sources of information if they adhere to certain rules. The journalists' organization Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for a free press, has warned that such a system could lead to excessive self censorship as organizations worried about losing their certification suppress certain stories.

This is going to go over well -- how about just handing over their nation to the violent youths that are causing so much trouble. You know, the one's that immigrated from the mid-east and that refuse to assimilate.

Global Warming -- Chinese edition

| No Comments
From the Shanghai Daily:
Strongest snowstorm in half century
The strongest March snowstorm to hit northeast China's Liaoning Province in 56 years has left at least one person dead and seven injured after the roof of an agricultural trade building collapsed under the weight of the snow, local sources said.

Three arched ceilings of the Minglian Agricultural Trade Building in Huanggu District, in the provincial capital of Shenyang, collapsed at noon yesterday, burying about 20 stall owners and customers, said a witness.

Beginning Saturday night, rain and snow has fallen continually in most parts of Liaoning, with reported precipitations of 36 millimeters in Shenyang, 56mm in Dalian and 68mm in Dandong, the Shenyang Meteorological Observatory reported.

Snow piled up two meters high in some areas, it said.

The snowstorm forced Taoxian International Airport in Shenyang to close at 8am yesterday.
Just as a reality check, Shanghai (31deg. 10min. Latitude) is further South than Tijuana, Mexico (32deg. 65min. Latitude). Snow is a very rare phenomenon.
And takes a five-story dive out of his window. From SF Gate:
Russia Journalist Worked on Weapons Story
A journalist who fell to his death from a fifth-story window had received threats while gathering material for a report claiming Russia planned to provide sophisticated weapons to Syria and Iran, his newspaper said Tuesday.

Prosecutors have opened an inquest into the death of Ivan Safronov, a military affairs writer for the daily Kommersant who died Friday in what some media said could have been murder.

Kommersant reported that Safronov told his editors he would write a story about Russian plans to sell weapons to Iran and Syria via Belarus, but they said he had not yet submitted the article.

Kommersant said Safronov recently told colleagues that he had been warned he would face a criminal investigation on charges of revealing state secrets if he reported allegations that Russia had struck a deal to supply highly advanced Iskander missiles to Syria. If confirmed, such a contract would upset the balance of forces in the Mideast and likely anger Israel and the United States.

Safronov did not say where the warning came from, according to Kommersant, but he had repeatedly been questioned in the past by the Federal Security Service or FSB, which suspected him of divulging state secrets in his reports. The FSB is the main successor agency to the KGB.

"Ivan Safronov said he was not going to write about it for a while because he was warned that it would create a huge international scandal and the FSB would launch a criminal case on charges of breaching state secrets," it said.
A bit more:
A spokeswoman for the Rosoboronexport state arms trading monopoly refused to comment on Kommersant's report on the alleged weapons deals.

Russia has been plagued by attacks on reporters who seek to expose official corruption and other abuses. The problem was highlighted by the October killing of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter and a harsh critic of human rights abuses in Chechnya.

A report Tuesday from the Brussels-based International News Safety Institute listed Iraq, Russia and Colombia as the deadliest countries for journalists and their support staff. There were 138 deaths in Iraq over the past decade, 88 in Russia and 72 in Colombia, the report said.
Seems like the old Russia is coming back into power. Looks like Pootie--Poot isn't a solid friend of the US any more.

Proof of Alien Intelligence

From the ever so reliable Weekly World Inquisitor:

Aliens refuse to make circles in GM crops
Health-conscious ETs steer clear of genetically modified plants

Alien visitors to planet Earth are boycotting genetically modified (GM) crops, claims a leading scientist.

Buck Uranus, chief astronomer for the William H Carpenter Foundation in Nevada, believes the extraterrestrials are refusing to create crop circles in GM maize, wheat and other cereals because of fears of possible side-effects.

The scientist has conducted a major survey of crop circles created over the past five years and says he has not found a single example left in fields containing GM crops.

"In my spare time, I channel messages from alien beings," said Uranus, "and from what I've been hearing, these guys have got some serious reservations about what we're doing down here. One of them told me he's even thinking of using another planet for his artwork."

According to Uranus, one shape-shifting lizard said: "The long-term effects of these 'frankenstein crops' are just so uncertain. Let's face it, it's not natural. And after the rigours of crossing many light years of space in order to leave some pretty patterns in your fields, we'd rather not take that extra risk."

The visitors from outer space also have fears about contamination of plants on their own worlds, says Uranus. He claims that one Gray told him: "Just imagine � we accidentally pick up a few seeds on our undercarriage and take them home without knowing. They could spread like wildfire then and we'd end up paying Monsanto an annual fee just to grow flooble beans on our own planet. Madness."

Monsanto has not commented on these allegations.

Well there we have it -- this madness must stop!

It seems that Kazakhstan is having quite the tourist boom. From The UK Sun:
Borat causes tourism boom
It�s been dubbed the Borat Bounce.

Kazakhstan � ridiculed in the smash hit movie featuring Sacha Baron Cohen�s outrageous TV reporter � is having the last laugh as tourists flock there to see what all the fuss is about.

The central Asian republic, the ninth largest country in the world, was virtually a tourist-free zone until the film�s success.

National leaders had been concerned the mickey-taking movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, would damage the country�s reputation.

Erlan Idrissov, Kazakhstan�s ambassador to Britain, had said: �Many Kazakhs who have seen Borat on television have been offended.�

But now the reverse is happening. Since the film premiered last year, a new poll has found that thousands of travellers worldwide have nominated Kazakhstan as their No1 MUST-SEE destination for 2007.

As a result, the national airline, Air Astana, has added a third weekly flight from the UK. Major international chains have opened plush new hotels in the big cities of Almaty and Astana.
Heh... Very cool -- probably a fascinating place to visit, interesting history and geology.

Like we didn't already know this.

| No Comments
From The Telegraph:
Rats stalk UN corridors of power
The United Nations headquarters in New York is infested with rats, mice, worms and even salt-water eels, according to staff members.

The crumbling 40-acre complex on Manhattan's East River, built in the 1950s, is due to undergo a $1 billion five-year refurbishment starting next year � a renovation, it seems, that cannot come soon enough. Staff have complained to Aramark, which provides food to the thousands of delegates and assistants who work there, that some lunches served in the canteen have been nibbled by rodents.

An insider told the New York Post: "In some instances the rats have beaten the UN staffers and delegates to the daily buffet. All of this has been reported to Aramark, which has done nothing."

The source said that infestations of mice and worms had been found throughout the UN campus, in offices and restaurants.

Security officers told the newspaper that leaks have developed in the subterranean levels that allowed river eels to wriggle through.
Like propagates like.

A scientist sees the light

| No Comments
Three cheers for Dr. Claude Allegre. From the Canadian National Post:
Allegre's second thoughts
Claude Allegre, one of France's leading socialists and among her most celebrated scientists, was among the first to sound the alarm about the dangers of global warming.

"By burning fossil fuels, man increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which, for example, has raised the global mean temperature by half a degree in the last century," Dr. Allegre, a renowned geochemist, wrote 20 years ago in Cles pour la geologie.." Fifteen years ago, Dr. Allegre was among the 1500 prominent scientists who signed "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity," a highly publicized letter stressing that global warming's "potential risks are very great" and demanding a new caring ethic that recognizes the globe's fragility in order to stave off "spirals of environmental decline, poverty, and unrest, leading to social, economic and environmental collapse."

In the 1980s and early 1990s, when concern about global warming was in its infancy, little was known about the mechanics of how it could occur, or the consequences that could befall us. Since then, governments throughout the western world and bodies such as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have commissioned billions of dollars worth of research by thousands of scientists. With a wealth of data now in, Dr. Allegre has recanted his views. To his surprise, the many climate models and studies failed dismally in establishing a man-made cause of catastrophic global warming. Meanwhile, increasing evidence indicates that most of the warming comes of natural phenomena. Dr. Allegre now sees global warming as over-hyped and an environmental concern of second rank.

His break with what he now sees as environmental cant on climate change came in September, in an article entitled "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in l' Express, the French weekly. His article cited evidence that Antarctica is gaining ice and that Kilimanjaro's retreating snow caps, among other global-warming concerns, come from natural causes. "The cause of this climate change is unknown," he states matter of factly. There is no basis for saying, as most do, that the "science is settled."

Dr. Allegre's skepticism is noteworthy in several respects. For one, he is an exalted member of France's political establishment, a friend of former Socialist president Lionel Jospin, and, from 1997 to 2000, his minister of education, research and technology, charged with improving the quality of government research through closer co-operation with France's educational institutions. For another, Dr. Allegre has the highest environmental credentials. The author of early environmental books, he fought successful battles to protect the ozone layer from CFCs and public health from lead pollution. His break with scientific dogma over global warming came at a personal cost: Colleagues in both the governmental and environmental spheres were aghast that he could publicly question the science behind climate change.
Welcome back to reality Dr. Allegre -- there is warming but the idea that we are the primary cause and can reverse this trend is hubris.
From All Africa comes this curious story of a person elected as the Trade Minister of Congo and who has a slight identity problem:
Congo-Kinshasa: Odd Case of Phantom Minister
As ministers in the Democratic Republic of Congo's first democratic government in four decades settled into their new offices last week, there was one notable absentee.

In a very brief political career, Trade Minister Andre Kasongo Ilunga has become the country's most notorious cabinet member, thanks to a controversy stemming not from corruption, but from whether he actually exists.

When the supposed member of the Unafec party allied to President Joseph Kabila failed to claim his post last month, the press began asking questions. No one had heard of him.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga later admitted Ilunga had missed meetings. In his absence, at least three other Ilungas stepped forward to claim the post. Few in the Congo believe Ilunga ever existed, and newspapers in the capital Kinshasa have dubbed him the "phantom minister".

Senior Unafec officials have accused party president Honorius Kisimba Ngoyof of inventing a ministerial candidate in an elaborate scheme to win the job himself. Kisimba denies this.

The scandal has tarnished the image of Gizenga's new government, which Congolese hope will help rebuild their country after a 1998-2003 war that killed 4-million people.

The cabinet -- at 60 members one of the world's largest -- was named on February 5. Members began moving into their offices on Wednesday -- except for Ilunga. Hoping to uncover his whereabouts, the prime minister phoned Unafec president Kisimba, to be told Ilunga had resigned and that his reasons for not claiming his post were "secret" and were contained in a letter to the prime minister, Kasimba said.

"He wrote it himself. He signed it," Kisimba said. "Could an imaginary man do that?"
Sigh -- it's a democracy now but it's still the same players doing the same shite and nobody's calling them on it...
And his hair was perfect. From the UK Metro:
Ineffective werewolf faces drug charges
A Wisconsin man who is facing drugs and property charges after being arrested while claiming that he was a werewolf and speaking what reportedly sounded like a medieval language.

39-year-old Robert Marsh was arrested after trying to break into a woman's apartment on March 1, breaking the deadbolt on her door and grabbing her arm in the process, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

He had been staying with the woman for a few days after getting out of jail, reports the Fond du Lac Reporter. During that time, he had not slept, but had drunk quite a lot and had become incoherent.

He had also mentioned frequently that he was a werewolf. In addition, he noted that was involved in witchcraft, and 'had powers'.

When confronted by police, he helpfully warned them that he was able to change form, although he politely refrained from shape-shifting whilst being arrested. He was found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana.

In court, he gave his address as the Fond du Lac County Jail.

Police are not yet believed to have investigated the possibility that he actually is a werewolf.
But I'd like to meet his tailor...
Interesting if potentially scary developments in Bio-Engineering. From The Washington Post:
USDA Backs Production of Rice With Human Genes
The Agriculture Department has given a preliminary green light for the first commercial production of a food crop engineered to contain human genes, reigniting fears that biomedically potent substances in high-tech plants could escape and turn up in other foods.

The plan, confirmed yesterday by the California biotechnology company leading the effort, calls for large-scale cultivation in Kansas of rice that produces human immune system proteins in its seeds.

"We can really help children with diarrhea get better faster. That is the idea," said Scott E. Deeter, president and chief executive of Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience, emphasizing that a host of protections should keep the engineered plants and their seeds from escaping into surrounding fields.

But critics are assailing the effort, saying gene-altered plants inevitably migrate out of their home plots. In this case, they said, that could result in pharmacologically active proteins showing up in the food of unsuspecting consumers.

Although the proteins are not inherently dangerous, there would be little control over the doses people might get exposed to, and some might be allergic to the proteins, said Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science policy advocacy group.
I can see the concern and certainly, there is the possibility of drift of pollen into other rice fields -- but -- Ventria Bioscience was able to get this approved and as one of the first projects like this, I am betting that the hurdle was fairly high. Pollen drift is a concern, in our area, at the local ag research center, there are maps of who is growing what variety of plant so that people can coordinate their plans for this years crop. And for the enviro-ninnies who say that any kind of plant modification is just plain wrong, I would like to see them break their teeth on the original corn or try to get a nutritious meal from the original wheat... Here is Ventria's website: Ventria Bioscience
From Science Daily comes this story of an anomoly at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Earth's Crust Missing In Mid-Atlantic
Scientists have discovered a large area thousands of square kilometres in extent in the middle of the Atlantic where the Earth�s crust appears to be missing. Instead, the mantle - the deep interior of the Earth, normally covered by crust many kilometres thick - is exposed on the seafloor, 3000m below the surface.

Marine geologist Dr Chris MacLeod, School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences said: "This discovery is like an open wound on the surface of the Earth. Was the crust never there? Was it once there but then torn away on huge geological faults? If so, then how and why?"

To answer some of these questions Dr MacLeod with a team of scientists, led by marine geophysicist Professor Roger Searle, Durham University, will travel to the area which lies mid-way between the Cape Verde Islands and the Caribbean.

The expedition will be the inaugural research cruise of a new UK research ship RRS James Cook. The team intends to use sonars to image the seafloor and then take rock cores using a robotic seabed drill. The samples will provide a rare opportunity to gain insights into the workings of the mantle deep below the surface of the Earth.
The webpage for the Ship and its progress is here: Classroom@Sea They plan to depart March 5th.

Arrrrr Matey

An interesting find off the coast of North Carolina. From CNN/AP:

Is it Blackbeard's ship? Archaeological booty says aye
A shipwreck off the North Carolina coast believed to be that of notorious pirate Blackbeard could be fully excavated in three years, officials working on the project said.

"That's really our target," Steve Claggett, the state archaeologist, said Friday while discussing 10 years of research that has been conducted since the shipwreck was found just off Atlantic Beach.

Archaeologists and historians planned Friday to review 10 years of research on the shipwreck. It is the oldest shipwreck discovered off the North Carolina coast.

The ship ran aground in 1718, and some researchers believe it was a French slave ship Blackbeard captured in 1717 and renamed Queen Anne's Revenge.

Several officials said historical data and coral-covered artifacts recovered from the site -- including 25 cannons, which experts said was an uncommonly large number to find on a ship in the region in the early 18th century -- remove any doubt the wreckage belonged to Blackbeard.

Three university professors, including two from East Carolina University, have challenged the findings. But officials working on the excavation said Friday that the more they find, the stronger their case becomes.

"Historians have really looked at it thoroughly and don't feel that there's any possibility anything else is in there that was not recorded," said Mark Wilde-Ramsing, director of the Queen Anne's Revenge Project. "And the artifacts continue to support it."

Must be a fun thing to be working on. The history from that era is fascinating with the expansion of trade and the growth of the pirates to harvest the ships coming back to Europe. The growth of the Privateers to deal with this as well as to wage war between nations...

Big Screen Alert - Pan's Labyrinth

Go see this movie on the big screen. It is very dark (most definitely NOT for children or the overly squeamish) but it is an incredible film.

In Spanish with subtitles but after about five minutes, you don't realize that you are reading them -- the actors are so good at playing the story that the screenplay is universal.

This one is going to be in my thoughts for a long time.

Definitely one to catch on the big screen too -- lots of little subtle details that would be missed on a box. The CG was excellent -- subtle effects and the creatures were very lifelike.

and the six Sunni men are killed later. From USA Today:
6 Sunnis slain for talking with Shiites
Six Sunni men who had received death threats for meeting with local Shiites were killed Saturday in execution-style slayings, police said.

Gunmen stormed a house in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of the Iraqi capital at dawn, police said. Inside, the men � all relatives from the Mashhada tribe � were separated from women and children and then shot to death.

The motive of the attack could not be independently verified. But police, citing information from surviving relatives, said the victims had received threats from Sunni insurgents after participating in a reconciliation conference with Shiites last month.

The conference was held in the neighboring town of Mahmoudiyah in late February.
Sheesh -- these swine are getting as bad as the various factions of palestinians and that is saying a lot...

Agriculture is bad for the environment

Wish I had a nickel for each time I have heard this in some form or another. How about agriculture being an anodyne against the warming trend we are currently experiencing. That get your attention? From Science Now:
Cultivating a Defense Against Global Warming
California agriculture may provide more than just avocados, artichokes, and grapes. Crops could also be keeping the state cooler, according to a new climate modeling study. Most discussion to date about how land use can influence climate has focused on urban heat islands. Pavement and buildings trap the sun's warmth and block evaporation, raising the local temperature. But other land uses may also have an impact. California is by far the U.S.'s largest agricultural producer: 13.5% of the state, or more than 34,000 square kilometers, is agricultural land, and the majority of that land is irrigated. A team of climate scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, led by ecosystems scientist Lara Kueppers, now at the University of California, Merced, wondered if all this water being sprayed around could have a measurable effect on climate.

The team used a regional climate model to compare temperatures in the state with and without agriculture between 1980 and 2000. For the agricultural scenario, the researchers plugged in urban and agricultural land use data from about 1990 and kept it constant for 20 years. For the nonirrigated scenario, they replaced urban and agricultural land with natural vegetation similar to neighboring areas. Kueppers found that irrigation can indeed have a significant cooling effect, particularly during the summer months. On average, the mean temperature during August was 3.7�C lower in areas with irrigated crops, and the maximum temperature dropped an average of 7.5�C. For California as a whole, irrigation swamped the urban heat island effect, and the mean August temperature was on average 0.38�C lower than it would have been without farms. The same effect is likely to occur in any arid region where crops are irrigated, the researchers report in this month's issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

The findings indicate that agriculture may have partially shielded California from global warming over the past 150 years, a period that coincides with the expansion of agriculture in the state. "Maybe things would have warmed much more if there hadn't been irrigation," says climate scientist David Lobell of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. Kueppers' modeling results match Lobell's own observations, which have shown warming for most of the state during the summer, except for areas with irrigated agriculture. This effect could explain why climate models get it wrong in those areas, he says. But in the future, agriculture won't be expanding in California's expensive real estate market. So, the irrigation effect will likely flatten out while the greenhouse effect continues to intensify.
The agriculture is in the Central Valley and that is where the cooling is. Enough; according to the report; to offset the Urban Heat island effects of the coastal cities leaving CA a few tenths of a degree cooler overall. Plus, we get to eat all the tasty produce. What's not to love...
Old news I know -- this happened on February 12th. The fact that the teen was from Bosnia was known but nothing more was released of his ethnicity. From Serbianna comes this interesting article:
Utah killer rewarded with Islamic burial in native Bosnia
The teenager who killed five people in a U.S. shopping mall and died in a police shootout was buried Saturday in his native village in eastern Bosnia.

The father of Sulejman Talovic said his son "wounded the hearts of all our family" when he opened fire on Feb. 12 at the mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, killing five people and wounding four.

"I feel sorry for my child, but I also feel sorry for all the innocent people he has killed," the 18-year-old's father, Suljo Talovic, told The Associated Press.
Not saying that his being Muslim precipitated the shooting but these people seem to have been in the forefront of the news these last ten years or so. And it's not just westerners -- check out The Religion of Peace -- they maintain a list of attacks (scroll down to the bottom of the page) and in just the last three days, there have been seventeen attacks by Islamists resulting in about 75 deaths and about 120 injuries. Places like Thailand, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, India and yes, Iraq. These idiots are worshiping the false prophet -- Mohammed is the prophet of Satan, not God. Shows by the way these people act...

CO2 emissions from freighters

UPDATE COMING SOON -- 03-03-2007 I was not thinking clearly -- actually, if shipping 90% of the worlds goods only emits twice the CO2 then the 10% that are shipped on airplanes, this is a very good number. I will be taking a second look at the numbers and reporting back in a day or two...

Think that airplanes are a primary contributer of CO2? Think again, their output is dwarfed by the worlds fleet of ocean-going freighters and tankers. From The Guardian:

CO2 output from shipping twice as much as airlines
Carbon dioxide emissions from shipping are double those of aviation and increasing at an alarming rate which will have a serious impact on global warming, according to research by the industry and European academics.

Separate studies suggest that maritime carbon dioxide emissions are not only higher than previously thought, but could rise by as much as 75% in the next 15 to 20 years if world trade continues to grow and no action is taken. The figures from the oil giant BP, which owns 50 tankers, and researchers at the Institute for Physics and Atmosphere in Wessling, Germany reveal that annual emissions from shipping range between 600 and 800m tonnes of carbon dioxide, or up to 5% of the global total. This is nearly double Britain's total emissions and more than all African countries combined.

And this little tidbit:

Carbon dioxide emissions from ships do not come under the Kyoto agreement or any proposed European legislation and few studies have been made of them, even though they are set to increase.

Aviation carbon dioxide emissions, estimated to be about 2% of the global total, have been at the forefront of the climate change debate because of the sharp increase in cheap flights, whereas shipping emissions have risen nearly as fast in the past 20 years but have been ignored by governments and environmental groups. Shipping is responsible for transporting 90% of world trade which has doubled in 25 years.

Emphasis mine. The proposed legislations for warming are specifically targeted at the nations with successful dynamic economies. This is counter-intuitive as the majority of the problem will be arising from the third-world nations as they develop without the available money to do so in an environmentally effective way. We could do a lot more REAL work by sponsoring micro-level projects like solar cookers for tropics, good kitchen stoves for areas that use wood or dung fires for cooking, the widespread intelligent use of DDT against Malaria which is still killing two million people per year. This would not impact the CO2 emissions as much as killing the top 10% of the worlds economies but it would make the world a lot better place to live for everyone concerned.

Where are you George W. Bush

| No Comments
Hat tip to Junk Science for this link to a wonderfully snarky essay. A brief excerpt:
Oh George, what will we do when you�re gone?
Our columnist on an easy target for America-bashers

Somewhere, deep down, tucked away underneath their loathing for George Bush, in a secret place where the lights of smart dinner-party conversation and clever debating-society repartee never shine, the growing hordes of America-bashers must dread the moment he leaves office.

When President Bush goes into the Texas sunset, and especially if he is replaced by an enlightened, world-embracing Democrat, their one excuse, their sole explanation for all human suffering in the world will disappear too. And they may just find that the world is not as simple as they thought it was.

It�s been a great ride for the past six years, hasn�t it? George Bush and Dick Cheney and all those pantomime villains that succour him � the gay-bashing foot soldiers of the religious Right, the forktailed neoconservatives with their devotion to Israel, the dark titans of American corporate boardrooms spewing their carbon emissions above the pristine European skies. Having those guys around for so long provided a comfortable substitute for thinking hard about global challenges, a kind of intellectual escapism.

When one group of Muslims explodes bombs underneath the school buses of another group of Muslims in Baghdad or cuts the heads off humanitarian workers in Anbar, blame George Bush. When Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, denounces an imbalanced world and growls about the unpleasantness of democracy in eastern Europe, blame George Bush. When the Earth�s atmosphere gets a little more clogged with the output of power plants in China, India and elsewhere, blame George Bush.

Some day soon, though, this escapism will run into the dead end of reality. In fact, the most compelling case for the American people to elect a Democrat as president next year is that, in the US, leadership in a time of war requires the inclusion of both political parties, and in the rest of the world, people will have to start thinking about what is really the cause of all our woes.

Glow Ball Warming -- but which ball?

| No Comments
There have been previous reports of warming on Mars, Pluto and Jupiter. Here, warming on Mars is in the news again with a different report. From National Geographic News:
Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says
Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet's recent climate changes have a natural�and not a human- induced�cause, according to one scientist's controversial theory.

Earth is currently experiencing rapid warming, which the vast majority of climate scientists says is due to humans pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.

In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

"The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars," he said.

Solar Cycles
Abdussamatov believes that changes in the sun's heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets.

Mars and Earth, for instance, have experienced periodic ice ages throughout their histories.

"Man-made greenhouse warming has made a small contribution to the warming seen on Earth in recent years, but it cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance," Abdussamatov said.

By studying fluctuations in the warmth of the sun, Abdussamatov believes he can see a pattern that fits with the ups and downs in climate we see on Earth and Mars.

Abdussamatov's work, however, has not been well received by other climate scientists.
"has not been well received by other climate scientists" -- gee, wonder why... Maybe it would be that these other climate scientists would be out of a job if they turned out to be barking up the wrong tree. Nope, no peer pressure at all...

Promoting BioFuels

| No Comments
Way to go Illinois Department of Revenue... From the Decatur, Illinois Herald - Review:
State makes big fuss over local couple's vegetable oil car fuel
David and Eileen Wetzel don't get going in the morning quite as early as they used to.

So David Wetzel, 79, was surprised to hear a knock on the door at their eastside home while he was still getting dressed.

Two men in suits were standing on his porch.

"They showed me their badges and said they were from the Illinois Department of Revenue," Wetzel said. "I said, 'Come in.' Maybe I shouldn't have."

Gary May introduced himself as a special agent. The other man, John Egan, was introduced as his colleague. May gave the Wetzels his card, stating that he is the senior agent in the bureau of criminal investigations.

"I was afraid," Eileen Wetzel said. "I came out of the bathroom. I thought: Good God, we paid our taxes. The check didn't bounce."

The agents informed the Wetzels that they were interested in their car, a 1986 Volkswagen Golf, that David Wetzel converted to run primarily from vegetable oil but also partly on diesel.

Wetzel uses recycled vegetable oil, which he picks up weekly from an organization that uses it for frying food at its dining facility.

"They told me I am required to have a license and am obligated to pay a motor fuel tax," David Wetzel recalled. "Mr. May also told me the tax would be retroactive."

Since the initial visit by the agents on Jan. 4, the Wetzels have been involved in a struggle with the Illinois Department of Revenue. The couple, who live on a fixed budget, have been asked to post a $2,500 bond and threatened with felony charges.
Fortunately, some people are rallying to their defense but still, talk about egregious misuse of government authority.

Remember the flap when it was shown that Strom Thurmond's family once owned a member of Rev. Al Sharpton's? Here it comes again -- from South Carolina's The State:

Genealogist finds Obama's ancestors owned slaves
Barack Obama has been criticized for not being "black enough" because he isn't descended from slaves.

Now it turns out the Illinois senator is actually descended from slaveowners. In the campaign trail's latest side trip into ancestry, genealogist William Reitwiesner compiled a family tree and found that a great-great-great-grandfather of Obama's white mother owned slaves.

Kentucky records from 1850 show that George Washington Overall - Obama's great-great-great-great grandfather - owned two slaves.

So did one of his great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers, according to the Baltimore Sun, which confirmed Reitwiesner's work.

The Baltimore Sun also has the story:

A new twist to an intriguing family history
Census records, genealogical research show forebears of Obama's mother had slaves

Many people know that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas.

But an intriguing sliver of his family history has received almost no attention until now: It appears that forebears of his white mother owned slaves, according to genealogical research and census records.

The records - which had never been addressed publicly by the Illinois senator or his relatives - were first noted in an ancestry report compiled by William Addams Reitwiesner, who works at the Library of Congress and practices genealogy in his spare time. The report, on Reitwiesner's Web site, carries a disclaimer that it is a "first draft" - one likely to be examined more closely if Obama is nominated.

According to the research, one of Obama's great-great-great-great grandfathers, George Washington Overall, owned two slaves who were recorded in the 1850 census in Nelson County, Ky. The same records show that one of Obama's great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers, Mary Duvall, also owned two slaves.

The Sun retraced much of Reitwiesner's work, using census information available on the Web site and documents retrieved by the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, among other sources. The records show that Overall, then 30, owned a 15-year-old black female and a 25-year-old black male, while Mary Duvall, his mother-in-law, owned a 60-year-old black man and a 58-year-old black woman. (Slaves are listed in the 1850 census by owner, age, "sex," and "colour," not by name.)

An Obama spokesman did not dispute the information and said that the senator's ancestors "are representative of America."

The home page for William Addams Reitwiesner can be found here -- he has a lot more data as well as Genealogical studies of other people.

Shark, pre-jumped for your convenience

Ever see the Geico television ads: "So easy a caveman could do it"

Jen and I always thought they were cute -- but not this cute... From Variety:

ABC developing 'Cavemen'
Comedy pilot based on Geico ads

Winner for most unusual piece of development this pilot season goes to ABC, which has turned a series of quirky Geico commercials into an actual half-hour comedy project.

"Cavemen" will revolve around three pre-historic men who must battle prejudice as they attempt to live as normal thirtysomethings in modern Atlanta.

Project, from ABC TV Studio, is penned by Joe Lawson, an advertising copywriter who was behind the "Caveman" ads -- as well as other Geico commercials (think the cockney-speaking Geico gecko, and the reality TV spoof "Tiny House").

Daniel Rappaport, Guymon Cassady, Will Speck and Josh Gordon are exec producers. Speck and Gordon, commercial directors who recently helmed the Will Farrell feature "Blades of Glory," are on board to also direct.

The single-camera laffer pilot is based on the Geico ads that promote the insurance company's Web site as so user-friendly that even "a caveman could do it." The spots follow cavemen in modern settings, reacting with offense to the derogatory slogan. In one, a Geico spokesman apologizes and takes the Neanderthals out to dinner.

Other blurbs include the sensitive, modern cavemen peeved at the offending slogan while encountering Geico ads in everyday life, including the airport.

The caveman commercials were created through the Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency. Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ben Weber play the cavemen in the Geico spots; no word if they'll make the transformation to the TV project.

I want to know what these people were smoking -- not so that I can find some but so that I can seriously avoid it if it comes my way. Talk about stupid ideas...

Total Lunar Eclipse on Saturday

| No Comments
Very cool but unfortunately not for here (Western USA) From NASA:
The next eclipse is right around the corner: Saturday, March 3, 2007. The phenomenon will be visible from parts of all seven continents including the eastern half of North America.

In the USA, the eclipse will already be underway when the moon rises on Saturday evening. Observing tip: Find a place with a clear view of the eastern horizon and station yourself there at sunset. As the sun goes down behind you, a red moon will rise before your eyes.
Here is the map of totality -- a larger version is available from the NASA link above.

A journey interrupted

Profiling or a good call. From the St. Petersburg Times:

Man's vacation takes a detour
A Palestinian raises suspicion on an arriving plane. Police are called. He is jailed on a separate warrant.
Maybe it was his desire to stand and stretch in the airplane.
Maybe it was the gruesome images of torture he watched on his laptop that caught attention.
Something about Iyad Abuhajjaj's behavior on a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to Tampa on Wednesday afternoon concerned airline officials enough to call police.
Police have not accused Abuhajjaj, 36, of any wrongdoing on the plane, but a search of his name revealed an Okaloosa County warrant for his arrest.
On Thursday, the Palestinian health care worker and actor who lives in California was held without bail in the Hillsborough County jail. Deputies say Abuhajjaj met a Florida woman online in 2002, threatened her and used her AOL account without permission.
In a jail interview, he told a reporter he suspected he was singled out on the plane because of his thick accent, dark hair and olive skin.
"I felt like it was because of my ethnic background," he said. "The accent, that's probably it. It could be my look, my accent, I can't say for sure."

A Southwest Airlines spokeswoman said a report on the incident was not finished. She said the airline does not discriminate or single anyone out for their race or ethnic background.

Showing a video of torture on a laptop. Was he just watching it or did he have some video editing software open and he was actually working on it. And have they confirmed the film project. A bit more:

When a computer search showed the warrant, Abuhajjaj was taken to jail on charges stemming from accusations made against him in 2002 by a woman in Fort Walton Beach.
Kimberly M. Mathis, a 29-year-old teacher at Rocky Bayou Christian School, accused him of threatening to kill her and misusing her family's Internet account.

Sounds like a good case for someone to be sent packing. People who threaten other people's lives should not be welcome in this country.

Finding Nemo 2

Hat tip to BoingBoing for this link to Flikr

I have never been a fan of Best Buy -- their prices are not as good as other places, their service is bad and the store environment is a major turn-off. Here is yet another reason why you should not shop there -- if you find a great deal on their website, you come into the store and the sales people will point you to the same website which doesn't have that deal available -- they maintain a separate intranet with different prices and deals. From Connecticut's Hartford Courant:

Best Buy Confirms It Has Secret Website
Under pressure from state investigators, Best Buy is now confirming my reporting that its stores have a secret intranet site that has been used to block some consumers from getting cheaper prices advertised on

Company spokesman Justin Barber, who in early February denied the existence of the internal website that could be accessed only by employees, says his company is "cooperating fully" with the state attorney general's investigation.

Barber insists that the company never intended to mislead customers.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ordered the investigation into Best Buy's practices on Feb. 9 after my column disclosed the website and showed how employees at two Connecticut stores used it to deny customers a $150 discount on a computer advertised on

Blumenthal said Wednesday that Best Buy has also confirmed to his office the existence of the intranet site, but has so far failed to give clear answers about its purpose and use.

"Their responses seem to raise as many questions as they answer," Blumenthal said in an interview. "Their answers are less than crystal clear."

Based on what his office has learned, Blumenthal said, it appears the consumer has the burden of informing Best Buy sales people of the cheaper price listed on its Internet site, which he said "is troubling."

What is more troubling to me, and to some Best Buy customers, is that even when one informs a salesperson of the Internet price, customers have been shown the intranet site, which looks identical to the Internet site, but does not always show the lowest price.

Blumenthal said that because of the fuzzy responses from Best Buy, he has yet to figure out the real motivation behind the intranet site and whether sales people are encouraged to use it to cheat customers.

Scum-sucking leeches -- if you advertise a price, you need to stick to it.

My kind of Tnow

| No Comments
Man gets Tattoo. Tattoo has bad spelling error. From Chicago Business:
Tattoo typo? Man sues over alleged misspelling
Error has caused him 'emotional distress from public ridicule,' complaint says

Maybe Chicago really isn�t Michael Duplessis� kind of town � or �TONW� for that matter.

Mr. Duplessis is suing a Northwest Side tattoo parlor in connection with a tattoo he received that he alleges mistakenly read �CHI-TONW� above a rendering of a John Hancock Center-like skyscraper.

The misspelled tattoo, which Mr. Duplessis received at Jade Dragon Tattoo Inc. at 5331 W. Belmont Ave., has caused the Chicago man �emotional distress from public ridicule� and �loss of self-esteem and psychological pain and suffering,� according to a complaint filed Feb. 13 in Cook County Circuit Court.

The complaint alleges that workers at the tattoo parlor �fraudulently induced� Mr. Duplessis to sign a form that waived them of any liability for work performed on the tattoo.
Maybe someone should invent a spell-check for tattoo needles...

Tagging the wrong bus...

DOH! When spending a pleasant afternoon in downtown LA spray-painting your logo onto public transportation, it's a good thing if your bus doesn't have the Mayor, your own school principal and a film crew.

From Topix/LA Times:

Student arrested in bus tagging
He goes by the nickname 'Zoner' and he apparently tagged the wrong bus in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A 15-year-old sophomore at the Santee Education Complex in South L.A. was arrested late Tuesday on suspicion of being the student who scrawled his nickname on the outside window of a city bus carrying Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Schools Supt. David L. Brewer, among others. Santee Principal Vince Carbino, who was also on the bus Monday, said he believed the youth had no idea that dignitaries were aboard - but looked stunned, hid his face and stopped his tagging when he saw a photographer on the bus taking his picture.

Carbino said Tuesday that school officials had identified the youth, spoken to a parent and agreed to meet with them. He described the boy only as 'having achievement issues in school.'

Achievement issues my big fat hairy ass. I got just the thing for your achievement issues and it's called proper parenting. From the article:

One boy who said he was Zoner's friend insisted the student wasn't violent or malicious, but liked 'messing around a lot.' The tagging had nothing to do with gangs, said Julio Osorio, 15. 'They do it for fun, to vandalize,' he said.

I hope Zoner spends several hundred hours scrubbing busses this summer. Give him some time to think about things...


Soooo busted. Heh...

Light posting today

| No Comments
Just had a massage and feeling very napish. Back in a few hours...

Overdrawn at the bank

| No Comments
Check out the hutzpa of this guy (or profound lack of medication) From My Way News/AP:
Man Tries to Cash $50K Check From God
Kevin Russell found out it's not easy trying to cash a check from God. The 21-year-old man was arrested Monday after he tried to cash a check for $50,000 at the Chase Bank in Hobart that was signed "King Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Servant," Hobart police Detective Jeff White said.

Russell was charged with one count attempted check fraud and one count intimidation, both felonies, and one count resisting law enforcement, a misdemeanor. He could face prison time.

Police were called to the bank after Russell tried to cash the check, which was written on an invalid Bank One check with no imprint, White said. Russell had several other checks with him that were signed the same way but made out in different dollar amounts, including one for $100,000.

Russell struggled with police as they tried to detain him, White said, and then threatened police as they transported him to the Hobart Police Department.

"I've heard about God giving out eternal life, but this is the first time I've heard of him giving out cash," White said.

No court date has been set for Russell. He was being held Wednesday at the Lake County Jail on a $1,000 bond.
Well you have to give the guy some points for imagination...

Fascinating story in the LA Times about a guy who repossess large vessels -- freighters, cargo ships, etc...

This repo man drives off with ocean freighters
It's a rare specialty that can be dangerous, given parts of the world in which he must operate.

If repossessing a used Chevrolet can be tricky, consider retrieving the Aztec Express, a 700-foot cargo ship under guard in Haiti as civil unrest spread through the country.

Only a few repo men possess the guile and resourcefulness for such a job. One of them is F. Max Hardberger, of Lacombe, La. Since 1991, the 58-year-old attorney and ship captain has surreptitiously sailed away about a dozen freighters from ports around the world.

"I'm sure there are those who would like to add me to a list of modern pirates of the Caribbean, but I do whatever I can to protect the legal rights of my clients," said Hardberger, whose company, Vessel Extractions in New Orleans, has negotiated the releases of another dozen cargo ships and prevented the seizures of many others.

His line of work regularly takes him to a corner of the maritime industry still plagued by pirates, underhanded business practices and corrupt government officials, waters the Aztec Express sailed right into.v
The saga began in 2003 when the vessel's Greek owner died and his company did not keep up payments on a $3.3-million mortgage.

Bahamian court records show that an American businessman who had used the vessel to haul 235 used cars from the northeastern United States to Haiti did not pay the charter fee, contributing to the loan default.

Once the ship arrived in the Haitian port of Miragoane, the businessman bribed judicial officials to seize the vessel and sell it to him in a rigged auction, according to court records.

Meanwhile, a violent rebellion threatened to topple President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, making it impossible for the lender or the owner's relatives to contest the sale.

The condition of the Aztec Express further complicated matters. Its main engines were out of commission, having been idle and untended for months.

Hardberger was hired by the New Jersey-based mortgage holder. He flew to Haiti and drove with an armed bodyguard to Miragoane.

It is a long (3 pages) and fun to read adventure. Here's a little bit about how the Hatian repo went down:

Second, port authorities had a cellphone, but they could use it only at the harbor's soccer field, where cellular service was reliable.


In case harbor officials noticed and tried to call for help on their cellphone, Hardberger had paid a witch doctor $100 to cast spells on the port's soccer field. The witch doctor marked the field with gray powder, a clear warning to believers in voodoo, the nation's dominant religion. No call ever went out.

Very cool example of culture jamming... Sounds like a fun person to meet for a beer or two, probably has lots of great stories.


Insider Trading

| No Comments
Looks like a big bust by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. From MS/NBC/Reuters:
SEC charges 13 for insider trading
Agency says millions in illegal profits netted in scheme

U.S. prosecutors on Thursday charged 13 people, including a UBS Securities research executive and a Morgan Stanley attorney, in an insider trading scheme that the government contends netted millions in illegal profits.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought separate charges in a civil lawsuit.

The case involves �one of the most pervasive Wall Street insider trading rings since the days of Ivan Boesky and Dennis Levine,� according to a statement from Linda Chatman Thomsen, director of the SEC Division of Enforcement.

The SEC said that the group of Wall Street insiders used clandestine meetings, disposable cell phones, secret codes and cash kickbacks to conceal their conduct, which involved trading ahead of upgrades and downgrades by UBS research analysts and corporate acquisition announcements by Morgan Stanley clients.

According to a media advisory from the U.S. Attorney�s Office in Manhattan announcing the case, 13 people face criminal charges in connection with the alleged scheme. The scheme netted more than $8 million in illegal profits, according to prosecutors.
Heh... You can get away for a while but the numbers don't lie and the SEC is very good at looking at numbers.

The universe becomes unhinged...

Dogs mate with cats, blood runs from the skies... Uber liberal and sworn enemy of President George W. Bush, George Soros buys a large chunk of Haliburton stock. From the Foreign Policy blog:
Soros buys Halliburton
Normally, I'm willing to overlook the hypocrisy of the liberal elite. If Al Gore and his Hollywood cronies want to fly around on gas-guzzling, atmosphere-polluting private jets while railing against global climate change, I'm willing to overlook it.

But the latest move by globe trotting, hyper-liberal billionaire George Soros borders on being too much. According to papers filed with the SEC, in the fourth quarter of 2006 Soros purchased nearly 2 million shares of ... hold your breath ... Halliburton. The Halliburton shares reportedly went for an average purchase price of $31.30 a share. That puts Soros' total investment in Halliburton at around $62.6 million, or about 2 percent of his total portfolio.

Soros, of course, is the dean of Democratic money giving. And Halliburton, of course, is the company that embodies everything the Democrats see as evil. Dick Cheney is its former chief, for goodness' sake. But Soros is also a man of contradictions. He supported campaign finance reform for years, only to declare that defeating President George W. Bush was the "central focus" of his life. To prove it, he sunk $24 million of his own "soft" money into the 2004 campaign, helping make that election one of the most divisive in modern history.

Soros' position in Halliburton is reported to be his first, which means he bought it with a full understanding of Halliburton's reputation. Soros may not see a problem with profiting from a company that has been accused of everything from sweetheart deals to cooking the books to serving U.S. troops lousy food in Iraq. The real question, however, is whether, the Center for American Progress, and other organizations that have benefited from Soros' charity will see a problem with accepting money earned off Halliburton shares?
The soft popping sounds are the little moonbat brains exploding. My guess is that the people behind MoveOn, etc... will have no problem continuing to accept the money -- deception and hypocrisy is something they do very well.

From the Guardian comes this story of domain fun and games:

Domain pain for film website
The UK Film Council-backed social networking and community website, myfilms, has run into a hitch after it emerged it cannot use the .com version of its web address - despite using the name in publicity material.

Myfilms, which is backed by £3m of National Lottery funding, aims to be a "film-centric social network" that will boost the range of films cinemagoers decide to watch.

The website, which is to launch in mid-March, has been dubbed in press material. But is registered and hosted in Washington, in the US and cannot be used until it is moved to the UK. The site is currently using as its web address.

Wonder who the genius was that thought they could use the domain without bothering to check its availability... is owned by Bellevue, WA namesquaters eNom who currently have ownership of over 8 million registered domain names. It would be fun to see how much they want for it, get and turn a bit of a profit by selling it to the Brits...

January 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Environment and Climate
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Depot
Ice Age Now
Jennifer Marohasy
Solar Cycle 24
Space Weather
Watts Up With That?

Science and Medicine
Junk Science
Life in the Fast Lane
Luboš Motl
Next Big Future

Geek Stuff
Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF

The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
User Friendly
What The Duck

Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?

Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog

Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
The Online Photographer

A Western Heart
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2007 is the previous archive.

April 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9