April 2007 Archives

Company for dinner

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It's dusk and the dogs were raising a bit of a fuss. Jen looked and saw that the Llamas were all staring in one direction. She called to me and we both saw a fairly large black bear just loafing where our pasture turns into woodlands. This is about 1,200 feet from the porch so we went out with binoculars and watched as it foraged around, it looked at us a few times but went back to foraging -- not a care in the world that we could see. I love living here...

Yikes - a new eating experience

If you have any fear of heights, don't go to this restaurant.

From the UK Daily Mail:

Pie in the sky: The 150ft-high restaurant
A shrill scream pierces the afternoon air. Gingerly, I prise my sweaty hands away from my eyes to find all of my dinner companions staring at me in shock. It's then that I realise the noise is coming from me.

"Are you OK?" asks the young man to my left. "That was some scream." Paralysed by fear, I am physically unable to reply or even to blush. Instead, I screw my eyes shut and emit a long, low moan.

The reason for my distress is simple: I have foolishly accepted the worst dinner party invitation of my life. But it's not the other guests that are so unbearable, it's the location.

Instead of a sitting round a cosy kitchen table, we are dangling from a crane 150ft in the sky, complete with dining chairs, table, crockery and even a slick-suited waiter who pours us a glass of wine as we swing gently in the breeze.

Dinner In The Sky is for people who expect more from their restaurants than four concrete walls and a solid floor. Instead, diners perch around a massive table, which is suspended from a crane high up in the air.

It sounds completely insane, but as the most unusual - and entirely legal - way of getting high over dinner, it is the new must-do experience for the super-rich and adventure-hungry who yearn for something a little more extreme at mealtimes.

Although based in Belgium, the "restaurant" can be driven to any destination in the world.

There have already been dining events in Paris and Brussels, while New York and Niagara Falls are on the agenda.

Their website is here: Dinner in the Sky Sounds like fun but I wouldn't want to pay much more than $30 for the meal and the experience. Especially at $10,790 for just the eight hour use of the 'table' not counting the catering fees (and this is in Belgium so there is an additional 21% VAT tax added...) Given that it seats 22 people, you are looking at $593 per seat (including the VAT) for just the ride up and back down again. I'll pass...

The fact that other planets are also showing signs of warming is starting to percolate out into the mainstream media. From the UK Times Online:
Climate change hits Mars
Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake.

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

Between a rock and a hard place

I would hate to be living in England right now. From the BBC News:

Eviction threat over razor wire
A family has been threatened with eviction after they put up razor wire to stop vandals breaking into their property.

Judith Partridge, of West Bromwich, said she took the measure following weeks of harassment.

She said intruders had destroyed plants and pots and a bench had been dumped in a pond.

But Sandwell Council, which owns the house, has said the wire is dangerous and has to be taken down.

'Last resort'
It has written to Mrs Partridge and her disabled mother, telling them the wire must come down or they will lose their home.

It followed a complaint from a neighbour.

Mrs Partridge said: "I appreciate it isn't very nice to look at but it's a very, very last desperate resort to try and say 'keep away'.

"Everything else we've tried has failed."

Peter John, of Sandwell Homes, said that, while he was sympathetic, the wire was dangerous and would have to come down.

So the socialist government has fostered a generation of youths on the dole who like nothing more than to go around vandalizing people's things, the nanny state has outlawed personal gun ownership and left its citizens defenseless and when one citizen acts to defend their property, they are told that they cannot do this because it doesn't look good and it might be 'dangerous'. Bullshit. This would never happen in America (most parts anyway -- Berkeley, CA and Cambridge, MA definitely.)

A loophole for an English Pub

People living in England are finding laws to "protect others" are impacting their lives more and more. Smoking in public places is now illegal. One pub has an idea...

From AFP:

English pub wants Peru's help to beat smoking ban
An English pub is trying to beat the imminent ban on smoking in public places by asking for consulate status from the Peruvian embassy in London, the landlady said Friday.

Debbie Trevithick, from the Peruvian Arms in Penzance, Cornwall, south-west England, said the pub has close ties with the South American country and she has written to Peru's ambassador in London to ask for consulate status.

Lighting up in public places is due to be outlawed in England on July 1. Scotland and Wales have already done so and smokers will have to stub out their cigarettes in Northern Ireland on April 30.

"About 95 percent of our customers smoke and it would be wonderful to be the only pub in England where you could have a cigarette," Trevithick said.

"Obviously it is a bit of fun so we are not holding out too much hope. But you never know what might happen."

The pub was built by an 18th century Cornish engineer for his daughter with money from silver mines in Peru. Trevithick said the pub has maintained close links with the Peruvian embassy in London ever since.

She pledged that staff would learn Spanish, celebrate Peru's national holiday and may even get a pet llama if they secure consulate status.

Perks of that could include free parking, diplomatic immunity -- and being allowed to smoke on the premises.

That would be a lot of fun if they succeeded with this... In WA State, the same law has been enacted and the local Indian Casinos have been raking in the bucks from smokers coming in to enjoy their bar and restaurant. They have a non-smoking section and they have taken care with the HVAC to make sure that the smoke doesn't drift over so a good (and cheap) time is had by all...

Dumb criminal #4,712

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From the Tampa Tribune:
Prisoners Caught After Work Camp Escape
Two state prison escapees stole a Florida Division of Forestry truck from a work camp in Sumter County on Thursday morning and drove it to Tampa, where they were chased by authorities before crashing into a utility pole on the east side of town.

Both were injured, although not seriously, and were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital.
And just how were these two fine citizens found?
Their destination was Tampa, and they made it to the home of a relative of one of the men. There, they lounged around the back yard in their prison uniforms, drinking beer and chatting up a neighbor.

The neighbor went inside and called deputies
, while the inmates changed clothes and burned their jumpsuits, Callaway said. Deputies later found the prison outfits smoldering in a hole.

When deputies arrived at the relative's home, at 7212 E. 21st Ave., they saw the inmates heading out in the stolen truck, Callaway said.

Deputies gave chase and 11 minutes later, after a 2-mile chase that hit 50 mph, the forestry truck struck a utility pole at 52nd Street and Broadway Avenue.
Emphasis mine -- christ on a corn dog, when you are escaping from jail, contact your relatives sure but do not contact their neighbors, especially when you are dressed in prison garb... Sheesh...
From National Geographic comes this story:
New Layer of Ancient Greek Writings Detected in Medieval Book
At first glance, the manuscript appears to be a medieval Christian prayer book.

But on the same pages as the prayers, experts using a high-tech imaging system have discovered commentary likely written in the third century A.D. on a work written around 350 B.C. by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

The discovery is the third ancient text to emerge from the layers of writing on the much reused pages. In 2002 researchers had uncovered writings by the mathematician Archimedes and the fourth-century B.C. politician Hyperides.

Last year one of the pages was found to contain a famous work by Archimedes about buoyancy that had previously been known only from an incomplete Latin translation.

Project director William Noel, curator of manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, called the latest discovery a "sensational find."

The findings were presented today at a general meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Reuse, Recycle
The book, known as the Archimedes Palimpsest, was first analyzed in 1906, when a Danish researcher recognized that it contained works by the ancient mathematician.

In the 10th century a scribe had copied the ancient Greek manuscripts from papyrus scrolls onto parchment�thin leaves of treated animal skin.

Later the writing was washed out using a solvent such as orange juice and overwritten with new text�a process known as palimpsesting.

"In those days, parchment writing materials were so valuable that they were commonly reused when the book was considered out of date or if the subject was judged inappropriate or less valuable," Roger L. Easton, of the Rochester Institute of Technology, wrote in an email.
And a bit more, starting with the comment by the person who discovered the writing:
"Even though I couldn't read ancient Greek, just the fact that I could see the words gave me shivers," Easton told BBC News.

Experts on ancient Greek texts are currently scouring the newfound work.

Clues, such as a name in the margin, indicate that the writings are an early commentary on Aristotle's Categories, one of the foundations of Western studies of logic.

"If this is the case, then it is an immensely significant find and very exciting," said David Evans, professor of logic and metaphysics at Queens University Belfast in Ireland.
Very cool discovery. The technique used is non-destructive so any text can be examined. What other secrets are out there...

Bees not doing too badly in Oregon

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From the Eugene Oregon Register-Guard comes an encourging story about bees.
Buzz on bees: not so bad
Beekeepers' profits stand out among a swarm of dire reports

You might have heard: Something spooky is happening to the honeybees.

Whole hives are dying of the mysterious "colony collapse disorder," according to a succession of recent news reports.

It's a "Silent Spring" and - without the buzz of honeybees pollinating crops - there'll soon be nothing to eat except maybe the Soylent Green of B-grade science fiction fame. Right?

But wait: Oregon honeybees, it turns out, are more robust this year than they have been in years or even decades, local beekeepers say.

Generous spring rains in California brought brimming almond blossoms, and Oregon honeybees that were trucked there in February to pollinate the nut trees grew stout and plentiful.

Honeybees brought to California from across the nation to service the Golden State's 580,000 acres of almond crops also commanded record fees for their services.

Oregon's 35 to 40 migrant commercial beekeepers brought home about $5.6 million for almond pollination alone - and that doesn't count the Northwest pear, cherry, apple and blueberry pollination still to come.

"To tell you the truth, our bees look absolutely fabulous right now. This has been a really good year for us," said Chuck Sowers, president of the Oregon State Beekeepers Association.

So what happened to the "Silent Spring," the colony collapse and the tragedy of the disappearing honeybees?

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture conducted hearings last month on the subject. Alarmed bee tenders have appeared in national news stories warning of doom.

The stakes are high. As expert pollinators, honeybees increase the value of U.S. crops by $15 billion a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About one-third of commercial food crops rely on honeybees for pollination.

So it was disconcerting when beekeepers in Florida in November began discovering eerily empty hives. Adult bees simply vanished, sometimes leaving the queen and often leaving the honey. Unlike other causes of hive death, there were no bee bodies in or near the hive.

"It was like the bees absconded, like they had all gone out," Eugene beekeeper Judy Scher said.

Farmers in 21 states reported similar instances - catching the attention of university researchers and the concern of Congress.

Many beekeepers are skeptical of the reports or at least how they're adding up. For 100 years, beekeepers have logged periodic reports of sudden and inexplicable bee die-offs.

People refer the latest die-off by its initials "CCD," but one Georgia beekeeper instead calls it the "SSDD" crisis for "Same Stuff, Different Day."

"People have lost bees from the beginning of time," Sowers said.
We tend not to take an historical long-view of events and see each crisis as something that is unique to our times. And yes, Bees are that important to our food crops. Crucial.

An ethical bag

From the UK This Is Money:

Exposed: 'I'm not an ethical bag'
The 'I'm not a plastic bag' bag is a must-have fashion item and 20,000 sold out within an hour at Sainsbury's. Women queued from 3am to get one of the £5 cotton bags made by leading designer Anya Hindmarch and they are changing hands on eBay for £225.

Today Sainsbury's was accused of hypocrisy after it admitted the bag was made in China and was neither organic nor fair trade.

The chairman of an influential Commons committee said Sainsbury's had 'tarnished' its image as a promoter of fair trade products.

A campaign group which highlights the exploitation of workers in the fashion industry said making the bag in China dented the bag's ethical claims.

And the fact that the bags have been sent thousands of miles from China raised questions about whether its carbon footprint is threatening to offset its environmental benefits. A spokeswoman for the supermarket chain conceded the bag, billed as 'making a difference to the world', was 'not perfect' while refusing to say in which factory the bag is made.

A bit of egg-on-face for Sainsbury's -- memo to self, it is always best to walk the walk when taking the moral high ground. Something The Goracle, Cheryl Crowe and others would benefit by learning...

Opening a time capsule

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Fun happenings at the University of Washington last Thursday. From the Seattle Times:
Timeless prank: UW time capsule from '50s reveals porn from '70s
Here's something you wouldn't expect to find inside a time capsule from the 1950s: pornography from the 1970s.

But faculty members at the University of Washington Department of Communications found just that when they opened a half-century-old time capsule Thursday and saw a centerfold and copies of Playboy and Hustler.

Atop the 50-year-old memorabilia were items from the late '70s and early '80s: adult magazines, an April Fools' edition of The Daily, UW's student newspaper, clip-on ties, women's underwear, and nearly petrified Twinkies, among other things.

"I just think this is a great college prank," department chair Gerald Baldasty said Thursday night after an event at which alumni from the classes that sponsored the time capsule got to look at what was inside. "We're not upset at all; we're just having a good chuckle over it."

It didn't appear that any of the original items placed in the capsule 50 years ago � reel-to-reel films and copies of local publications � were missing, Baldasty said.

The time capsule was locked away, implanted in the wall of the Communications Building, with an inscription that said it should be opened on the 100th anniversary of the first journalism classes at the university, which is this year.

The department is planning an event for Saturday to reveal to the general public what was inside its capsule, which sits outside The Daily's offices. The more recent additions to the capsule will be part of that display, Baldasty said.

"We're not hiding it," he said. "We'll have that out so people can see that, too."

There aren't any suspects in the case � though the general assumption is that someone from The Daily opened it one or more times between 1976-80, said communication alumni and development manager Victoria Sprang.

Opening it would have been no easy task, Sprang said. The capsule was sealed by 36 bolts that require a special tool to remove � it is also in a well-traveled hallway, so it would have been difficult to break in without drawing attention.

"I am so impressed that whoever did that kept quiet for so many years," Sprang said.

Both Sprang and Baldasty wonder if the prankster or pranksters will reveal themselves.

All of the content will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Room 104 of the Communications Building.
Heh... Excellent old-school hack! I love it!

Their own best friends -- the French

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It seems that they are not immune from everyone else's favorite sport. From Reuters/UK:
French said to outpace Americans in French-bashing
The French dislike themselves even more than the Americans dislike them, according to an opinion poll published on Friday.

The survey of six nations, carried out for the International Herald Tribune daily and France 24 TV station, said 44 percent of French people thought badly of themselves against 38 percent of U.S. respondents who had a negative view of the French.

Only 14 percent of Germans, 25 percent of Italians, 29 percent of Spaniards and 33 percent of Britons had a negative view of the French, according to the Harris/Novatris poll, which questioned more than 1,000 people in each country.
And why are they not popular in the US?
Relations between France and the United States plunged following Paris's fierce opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Thursday's poll said 74 percent of Americans said whoever wins the second round of France's presidential election on May 6 should try to improve relations with the United States.
Wonder if that had something to do with the French selling Iraq their Sparrow anti-tank rockets well after the United Nations put an embargo on weapons sales to Iraq. That and the large French oil company Total Fina Elf being one of the major exporters of Iraqi oil...

Stephen Hawking on the Vomit Comet

Stephen Hawking got to experience zero-gravity a few days ago.
From the Washington Post:
A Long-Awaited Taste of Outer Space
Stephen Hawking Takes a Buoyant Ride on a Zero-Gravity Flight

It might not seem like a brilliant idea, allowing a frail 65-year-old paralytic to float free from gravity aboard a rising and plunging roller-coaster stunt flight.

But who's to argue with Stephen Hawking?

The celebrated British astrophysicist and black-hole theorist, author of "A Brief History of Time," paralyzed by Lou Gehrig's disease and communicating largely through eye movements, has long wanted to visit outer space. Human survival depends on getting there, he says. An event here Thursday was described as his first improbable step.

Dressed in dark blue flight suits, Hawking and an entourage of caretakers boarded a Boeing 727 that roared out over the ocean and carved huge parabolic arcs in the sky, creating for passengers the "zero-gravity" effect of being in space.

While floating, Hawking, who has been in a wheelchair for nearly four decades, was spun twice -- pirouetting like a "gold-medal gymnast," a crew member said. Someone floated an apple in the air alongside him in an allusion to Isaac Newton, whose esteemed chair Hawking now holds at Cambridge.

As each of the 25-second spells of weightlessness ended -- as the plane headed to the bottom of each arc -- assistants ensured that Hawking was lowered to a mattress on the plane's floor as gravity kicked back in.

"It was amazing. . . . I could have gone on and on. Space, here I come," Hawking said afterward, once again sitting in his wheelchair, his "voice" the product of a computerized synthesizer to which he dictates using eye movements.

Hawking, considered one of the giants among physicists pondering the beginnings of the universe, said he hopes to take a greater leap into the heavens in 2009 on a space plane being developed by Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic. Flights like the one here Thursday -- once known at NASA as "vomit comets" -- have been used to accustom astronauts to space travel.
And did Stephen enjoy his ride?
"He was grinning the entire time," Diamandis said.
He hasn't rapped about this yet but his new album is due to be released this summer so there should be something on it.

How not to collect Mangos

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If you want to get some ripe mangos off a tree, do not use a metal pole to knock them down... From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Man electrocuted after touching power line while picking mangos
A 35-year-old man, trying to get fruit from a tree, was electrocuted Thursday afternoon in Pompano Beach, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Jose Angel Mejia-Pinto and three other men were gathering mangos from a tree in the yard at 116 NW 12th St. Mejia-Pinto was using a 21-foot long metal pole to knock the mangos from the tree.

At about 3:27 p.m., the pole touched an overhead power line, sending 7,000 volts into Mejia-Pinto and knocking him to the ground.

Paramedics and BSO deputies responded to the scene where they pronounced Mejia-Pinto dead.
I really feel sorry for this guys friends and family but sheesh -- how stupid do you have to be to use a metal pole near a power line...

RIP - Bobby Pickett

From WTOP:
'Monster Mash' Singer Pickett Dies at 69
He does the "Monster Mash" no more. Bobby "Boris" Pickett, whose dead-on Boris Karloff impression propelled the Halloween anthem to the top of the charts in 1962, making him one of pop music's most enduring one-hit wonders, has died of leukemia. He was 69.

Pickett, dubbed "The Guy Lombardo of Halloween," died Wednesday night at the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital, said his longtime manager, Stuart Hersh. His daughter, Nancy, and his sister, Lynda, were at Pickett's bedside.

"Monster Mash" hit the Billboard chart three times: when it debuted in 1962, reaching No. 1 the week before Halloween; again in August 1970, and for a third time in May 1973. The resurrections were appropriate for a song where Pickett gravely intoned the forever-stuck-in-your-head chorus: "He did the monster mash. ... It was a graveyard smash."

The novelty hit's fans included Bob Dylan, who played the single on his XM Satellite Radio program last October. "Our next artist is considered a one-hit wonder, but his one hit comes back year after year," Dylan noted.

The hit single ensured Pickett's place in the pantheon of pop music obscurities, said syndicated radio host Dr. Demento, whose long-running program celebrates offbeat tunes.
An American classic...
Not too much info but Crave has this report of a Honda Accord with a new diesel engine that averages 62.8 MPG. From Crave:
A diesel Honda? That gets 62.8 miles a gallon?
Feast your eyes on this, car technology and high-mileage nuts. It's a Honda Accord that runs on diesel.

Honda expects to bring the clean-diesel car to the U.S. by 2010. It gets 62.8 miles a gallon on the highway, but otherwise looks and feels like a regular Accord. At that mileage level, the car is about as "clean" as a new Toyota Prius. But if you run it on biodiesel, a form of diesel made from vegetable oil or animal fat, it would be even cleaner than a Prius (Priuses get 60 in the city).

The advantage of diesel cars, however, is that they pack a lot of power.

The car was shown off with a number of other cars in Sacramento, Calif., earlier this month as a way to promote clean diesel cars and technology. In the '90s, California passed strict emission controls that restricted the amount of sulfur a car could emit. As a result, diesel manufacturers curbed sales to California and the U.S. in general.

Since then, petroleum manufacturers have devised cleaner diesels that only emit about 15 parts per million of diesel, down from hundreds of parts per million. That satisfies the California law. Manufacturers, meanwhile, have come out with more efficient and powerful diesel engines that get 20 to 40 percent better mileage than their older cars.

"A lot of changes have taken place in the engine, all thanks to electronics," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, which helped organize the Clean Diesel Technology Tour. (Cars from Audi and a tractor trailer rig from Caterpillar were also shown). "Half the cars in Europe are diesel."

Thus, diesels, usually thought of as smelly, are now environmentally somewhat sound.
Very cool -- I don't know if the engine is a Turbo Diesel Injection (like Volkswagen's TDI) but the technology is out there for more efficient use of fuels and we will start seeing it when gasoline prices float to their proper level.
From the Charlotte Observer:
Aroma of pot leads to man's arrest
A Granite Falls man applying for a gun permit at the Sheriff's Office last week was charged with drug possession after authorities smelled marijuana wafting from his body.

Dennis Lee Vines Jr., 25, was visiting the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office Thursday morning when a administrative assistant smelled marijuana, authorities said.

"The odor was so overpowering that it soon filled hallways," according to a press release from the Sheriff's Office.

The canine team was called, and a German shepherd named Kilo sniffed the outside of Vines' 2001 Dodge Dakota pickup, which was parked in the Sheriff Office parking lot. Kilo found two small bags of marijuana, two marijuana cigarettes and two packs of rolling papers, authorities said.

"We see it all in this business," Sheriff Alan Jones said.

Vines was charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, both misdemeanors. He was released on a $850 bond and is scheduled to make his first court appearance May 7.
DOH! Applying for a gun permit? Don't think so...

Light posting for tonight

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Spent this morning at the sooper seekret thing-that-is-happening and then went into town to run some errands. We each had an acupuncture session this evening, had dinner at an excellent seafood restaurant and just got home. The acupuncturist did some Moxa work and that always wipes me out (in a very good way!) I'm having a glass or two of red wine and crawling up to bed to sleep for 12 hours. I was always curious about acupuncture -- I am skeptical about nonscientific things but enough people were swearing by it that I couldn't rule it out. After the first session a couple months ago, I realized that this stuff really works and it has lasting effect. If you have any pain or stiffness or tension, check it out as relief is only a few sessions away...

Happy Birthday DNA

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April 25th, 1953 was the date that Doctors James D. Watson and Francis Crick published their landmark paper on the chemistry and structure of DNA. Wikipedia has a nice writeup:
Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids
The Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid was an article published by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in the scientific journal Nature in its 171th volume on page 737-738 (dated April 25, 1953). It was the first publication which described the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. This discovery had a major impact on genetics in particular and biology in general.

This article is often termed a "pearl" of science because it is short and contains the answer to a fundamental mystery about living organisms. This mystery involved the question concerning how it was possible that genetic instructions were held inside organisms and how they were passed from generation to generation.

The article had extra impact because it surprised many biologists who did not suspect that this answer would be as easy to obtain as it was. The structure itself explains why the discovery was easy; the structure is simple and consequently, how the structure produces its function is easy to understand. That Watson and Crick were able to solve this mystery as quickly as they did is an example of prepared investigators being in the right place at the right time and working tirelessly to find the answer. The article is also symbolic of a transition between two ages of what might be called the "classical age" of biology and a second "age" of molecular biology.

Some consequences for humanity due to the dominance of molecular biology arise out of the revolution in biology that can be traced back to Watson and Crick�s 1953 article: pre-natal screening for disease genes, identification of the remains of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks by DNA testing, genetically engineered foods, the rational design of treatments for diseases like AIDS, releasing wrongly-convicted people from death row by DNA testing of physical evidence.
Lots more double-goodness at the Wikipedia article...

Ancient forest found in coal mine

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From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Geologists discover world's largest fossil forest in the ceiling of an Illinois coal mine
Illinois geologists have discovered the remains of one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests, preserved in the ceiling of a coal mine 250 feet below the surface.

The four-square-mile fossil forest - the largest find ever - is just south of Danville in Vermilion County, Ill., in the 300-million-year-old Herrin coal bed, a 6-foot-thick strip mined by a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Peabody Coal.

Plant fossils are common in coal beds. Coal, after all, is the compacted result of peaty plant material. But scientists are surprised by the size of this fossil bed, which they suspect came about because of a freak, fortuitous event: an earthquake that flooded and buried the forest. The vast extent of the fossil forest, which existed in a swampy time of giant dragonflies and tree ferns, has allowed the scientists to infer subtle ecological changes across the ancient landscape.

"This is almost as good as insects in amber," said Scott Elrick of the Illinois State Geological Survey and one of the authors of the study, which was published in the May issue of the journal Geology.

Black Beauty Coal, the Peabody subsidiary, operates two mines in Vermilion County, where the Herrin coal bed is thickest. The Riola mine opened in 1996, and the Vermilion Grove mine was developed in 2001. In the past decade, as miners excavated room after room, they began to notice the imprints of leaves, logs and stumps in the ceiling. Some stumps were 5 feet in diameter, and one log was more than 100 feet long.

These are the remnants of extinct plants from a geological period 300 million years ago, called the Carboniferous, when the world was covered in a riot of green. Illinois was near the equator and much warmer and wetter.

It was also a time before flowering plants had evolved, and so the plants would seem bizarre to modern eyes, said study co-author Howard Falcon-Lang, a geologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

"These are some of the earliest known rainforests to evolve on our planet," he said. "It was like something out of Jules Verne."

Giant tree ferns would have formed a lower canopy 30 feet high. Poking up through the ferns would have been 100-foot-tall clubmosses - asparagus-like poles that sprouted crowns full of spores. It was the age of insects, with 6-foot-long millipedes and dragonflies with yard-long wingspans.

"Imagine these forests alive with chirping and all these creepy crawlers," Falcon-Lang said.

An earthquake preserved all this for posterity. Elrick says it was akin to the 1811-12 earthquakes near New Madrid, Mo., which dropped a block of earth containing the Mississippi River, creating a natural dam that made Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee.

When the ancient earthquake hit, a sudden flooding in the submerged block killed the rainforest. Mud and silt rushed into the depression, preserving the stumps and logs in a layer that eventually became shale.

And that was the state of things until, 300 million years later, miners noticed shiny, funnel-shaped concretions that occasionally fell from the shale layer above them. They called them "kettlebottoms." But they were really fossilized stumps, whose roots fingered the peaty layer that ultimately became the coal seam the miners were working in.

"What's extraordinary about this discovery is that this forest has been preserved in its growth position," said Falcon-Lang. "It's an upright forest with trees still standing upright."

Lead study author Bill DiMichele, a paleobotanist at the Smithsonian Institution, said the lateral extent of the fossils allowed him to notice subtle changes in species diversity as he did surveys. As mining continues, the size of the exposed fossil forest grows by the day.

DiMichele is now doing inventories of ancient plants in two other actively mined Illinois coal seams, the Danville and the Springfield, which sit above and below the Herrin, respectively, and are separated by about a half-million years of geological time. Where most botanists do their work by walking through a forest, DiMichele takes elevators down mine shafts - to get beneath the forest.

"We get to walk under it and look up at it," he said. "It's the earthworm's view."

Very cool discovery -- I can imagine that insurance reasons would prohibit tourists from visiting the forest in situ but I hope that specimens are being removed for display in a local museum. A wonderful snapshot of our past...

From the BBC News:
Lost world warning from North Sea
Archaeologists are uncovering a huge prehistoric "lost country" hidden below the North Sea.

This lost landscape, where hunter-gatherer communities once lived, was swallowed by rising water levels at the end of the last ice age.

University of Birmingham researchers are heralding "stunning" findings as they map the "best-preserved prehistoric landscape in Europe".

This large plain disappeared below the water more than 8,000 years ago.

The Birmingham researchers have been using oil exploration technology to build a map of the once-inhabited area that now lies below the North Sea - stretching from the east coast of Britain up to the Shetland Islands and across to Scandinavia.
This fits in nicely with Dr. Bob Ballard's work in the Black Sea at the site of Noah's Flood.

A black rain fell today

An interesting bit of history has come to light. After the reactor at Chernobyl blew up 20 years ago, the Russian government decided to seed the clouds so the fallout would hit Belarus and not Moscow. From the UK Telegraph:
How we made the Chernobyl rain
Russian military pilots have described how they created rain clouds to protect Moscow from radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Major Aleksei Grushin repeatedly took to the skies above Chernobyl and Belarus and used artillery shells filled with silver iodide to make rain clouds that would "wash out" radioactive particles drifting towards densely populated cities.

More than 4,000 square miles of Belarus were sacrificed to save the Russian capital from the toxic radioactive material.

"The wind direction was moving from west to east and the radioactive clouds were threatening to reach the highly populated areas of Moscow, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl," he told Science of Superstorms, a BBC2 documentary to be broadcast today.

"If the rain had fallen on those cities it would've been a catastrophe for millions. The area where my crew was actively influencing the clouds was near Chernobyl, not only in the 30km zone, but out to a distance of 50, 70 and even 100 km."

In the wake of the catastrophic meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, people in Belarus reported heavy, black-coloured rain around the city of Gomel. Shortly beforehand, aircraft had been spotted circling in the sky ejecting coloured material behind them.

Moscow has always denied that cloud seeding took place after the accident, but last year on the 20th anniversary of the disaster, Major Grushin was among those honoured for bravery. He claims he received the award for flying cloud seeding missions during the Chernobyl clean-up.

A second Soviet pilot, who asked not to be named, also confirmed to the programme makers that cloud seeding operations took place as early as two days after the explosion.
A true catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of people but not for millions of people. I would agree with the decision -- a very hard one but a necessary one. My heart goes to the people who had to make the decision and to put it into motion -- must have sucked...
Disturbing report from the BBC News:
Pollution 'hits China's farmland'
More than 10% of China's farm land is polluted, posing a "severe threat" to the nation's food production, state media reports.

Arable land shrank by nearly 307,000 hectares (760,000 acres) in the first 10 months of 2006, government officials were quoted as saying.

Excessive fertiliser use, polluted water, heavy metals and solid wastes are to blame, the reports said.

Rapid economic growth has had a damaging impact on China's environment.

Its cities, countryside, waterways and coastlines are among the most polluted in the world.

The Ministry of Land and Resources said agricultural land in China fell to 121.8 million hectares (30 million acres) by the end of October 2006 - a loss of 306,800 hectares since the start of the year.

Heavy metals alone contaminate 12m tonnes of grain each year, causing annual losses of 20bn yuan ($2.6bn), China's Xinhua news agency quoted the ministry as saying.

Land and Resources Minister Sun Wensheng said agricultural land in China must not be allowed to fall below 120 million hectares.

"This is not only related to social and economic development, but is also vital to the long-term interests of the country," he was quoted as saying.

China's government has promised to spend heavily to clean up the country's heavily polluted environment.

But clean-up efforts are often thwarted by lax enforcement of laws and administrative activity at a local level, correspondents say.
Local corruption and a government that doesn't care -- formula for sucess in my book... Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link.
The US Coast Guard made a big bust last March. From Reuters UK:
U.S. unloads record bust of 20 tons of cocaine
The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded nearly 20 tons of cocaine with a retail street value of $600 million (300 million pounds) into a California port on Monday following what they called the largest drug bust ever at sea.

The armed Coast Guard cutter Sherman stopped the Panamanian cargo ship Gatun about 20 miles off a Panamanian island on March 17. On Monday dozens of Coast Guard officials under heavy armed protection hauled bales of tightly wrapped packs of cocaine onto a pier at the service's West Coast command centre near Oakland, California.

"It was the largest bust in U.S. history. It's the largest interdiction on the ocean," Lt. Brock Eckel, one of the officers from the Sherman who discovered the illegal drugs, said in an interview. "It was very exciting, of course. Fifteen guys moved 20 tons of contraband in five hours, so it was very exhausting."

The find aboard the Gatun, which was heading from Panama to Mexico in the Pacific Ocean, came late at night following a tip from an intelligence source, officials said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Keith Alholm estimated the U.S. street value of the record bust at $300 million wholesale, $600 million retail.

The cargo ship's 14 crew members were Panamanians and Mexicans, who acted nervously but were not armed and offered no resistance when stopped, Coast Guard officials present during the inspection said. The cargo ship also carried tiles and sand.
Very cool news!

A little dab 'l do you

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Sheryl Crow pontificates on toilet paper -- but it's OK, it's for the environment. From her website:

I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming. Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. One of my favorites is in the area of conserving trees which we heavily rely on for oxygen. I propose a limitation be put on how many sqares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required. When presenting this idea to my younger brother, who's judgement I trust implicitly, he proposed taking it one step further. I believe his quote was, "how bout just washing the one square out."

I also like the idea of not using paper napkins, which happen to be made from virgin wood and represent the heighth of wastefullness. I have designed a clothing line that has what's called a "dining sleeve". The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another "dining sleeve," after usage. The design will offer the "diner" the convenience of wiping his mouth on his sleeve rather than throwing out yet another barely used paper product.. I think this idea could also translate quite well to those suffering with an annoying head cold.

Emphases mine -- holy crap Sheryl... What planet did you come from. First of all, the use of virgin wood is inappropriate, the trees for paper products are expressly planted for that purpose in tree farms. Standard timber woods are not good for making paper while farmed pulp woods (poplar, larch, etc...) are fast growing and provide an excellent paper product. All the while removing CO2 from our atmosphere. Again, we are not clear-cutting virgin timber lands for pulp production, we are setting aside farmlands for tree farms. There are lots of them around where we live here. Second of all -- proposing a limitation on how many squares of paper I can use at a session simply will not fly. Have you given any thought to how to enforce a law like this. Where are you getting off dictating how I conduct my personal hygene... The BBC has picked up on this story:

Crow calls for limit on loo paper
Singer Sheryl Crow has said a ban on using too much toilet paper should be introduced to help the environment.

Crow has suggested using "only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required".

The 45-year-old, who made the comments on her website, has just toured the US on a biodiesel-powered bus to raise awareness about climate change.

She teamed up with environmental activist Laurie David for the shows.

The pair targeted 11 university campuses to persuade students to help combat the world's environmental problems.

Target the young impressionable minds and get them to emote rather than use logic. Way to go Einstein... And by the way Sheryl, the words:

heighth and

Should be spelled

Height and

On the road again

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From the Chicago Sun Times comes this story about people and driving:
Why are they still driving?
Nery E. Morales knew he was catching a break. With two DUI arrests last year and a suspended driver's license, the Northwest Side man faced jail time after getting pulled over by the Illinois State Police for doing 90 mph on the Northwest Tollway near Rolling Meadows in November, records show.

But in exchange for pleading guilty to driving on a suspended license, Morales, 24, avoided being sent to jail.

"I understand the seriousness," Morales told Judge Pamela Karahalios on March 16. "I'm getting some slack, and I'm thankful I'm getting a second chance."

Then he walked out of the Cook County branch courthouse in Rolling Meadows, got into a white Mitsubishi and drove away -- even though his driver's license is suspended until 2013.

A man who twice answered "This is Nery" on a phone listed to Morales told a reporter asking about the courthouse drive-off that it was a wrong number.

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter and photographer saw Morales drive away from the courthouse. The newspaper is watching local courthouses for drivers with invalid licenses thumbing their noses at judges -- often despite warnings not to drive.

They're not hard to find.
The article then goes on to profile a couple examples including this one:
Latisha C. Fisher, 31, of Bolingbrook had her license suspended in 2003 after racking up too many moving violations, according to the secretary of state's office.

She kept driving, though, and got into an accident last September, records show. On March 21, she pleaded guilty in Maywood to driving on a suspended license.

"Ma'am you understand you cannot drive," Judge James A. Zafiratos said to her.

"Yes, sir," she replied, looking straight at him.

But after signing up for community service, Fisher got into a black car in the courthouse parking lot and drove away.

When reached later, she wouldn't say why she was still driving.

"I don't want to explain," Fisher said. "I don't feel I need to explain."
Talk about a grossly inflated sense of entitlement. Sheesh...
The NY Times has a great chart that shows firearms fatalities grouped by type for a given age of victim. Some interesting bits pop up:
Click for full-size Image
I knew that the majority of the "Children's Deaths" were due to gang activity (as the proponents of Gun Control use the age of 21 as a cut-off point for their "Children's" definition. Didn't realize that 25 old white farts were eating a pistol every day.

The Jamesburg Earth Station

Very high geekdom -- from their website:
The Jamesburg Earth Station in Cachagua Valley, California ( about 20 miles S.E of Monterey )

This facility went into service in 1969, just in time to carry the Moon landing live to the world. COMSAT owned and operated this high-capacity earth station, and provided all forms of overseas communications via satellite between the U.S. and points all around the Pacific Rim. This antenna, taller than a 10-story building, is located in the Upper Carmel Valley.

This facility was closed in 2002, and sold to a private investor. The new owner is cooperating with a group of Ham Radio operators to find a new use for the antenna, which may include Radio Astronomy, educational or Deep Space applications.
Very cool -- they were able to get the pointing computers back online with the original software and have bounced signals off the moon. Very cool use of technology.
Hat tip to BoingBoing

Happy 25th Birthday Conch Republic

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From the St. Petersburg Florida Times:
Key West celebrates quarter century of secession after "rebellion"
Residents and visitors are celebrating the 25th anniversary of this island city's mock secession from America.

Monday marks a quarter-century since the U.S. Border Patrol established a checkpoint at the top of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, touching off cries for rebellion. The republic's original founders will re-enact their secession Monday.

The Border Patrol was ostensibly searching for drugs and illegal immigrants when it set up the roadblock on U.S. 1 in Florida City in 1982. A resulting a traffic jam stretched for miles on the road, the only one that connects the island chain to mainland Florida. The roadblock infuriated local officials as well as residents, many who were dependent on the area's tourism industry.

"It definitely made us feel like foreigners," recalled Dennis Wardlow, the mayor of Key West in 1982 and the first prime minister of the new republic. Recalling the decision to secede he added: "If they're (the federal government) going to treat us like a foreign country, we'll become a foreign country."

With tongues firmly planted in cheeks, Key Westers protested by hoisting a Conch Republic banner in Mallory Square April 23, 1982. They declared war on the United States by ceremoniously bopping a Navy sailor on his head with a loaf of stale Cuban bread, and then promptly surrendering and applying for $1 billion in foreign aid. The fiscal assistance never came.

The roadblock eventually ended, but the popularity of the Conch Republic evolved with passports, ambassadors and "embassies" around the world.

The Conch Republic Independence Celebration started Friday with a flag raising. Saturday was the Great Conch Republic Drag Race, a charity event featuring female impersonators in high heels who sprinted down Duval Street. Celebrations will continue through April 29 and include events like a bed race and a sea battle with vegetables and water cannons as weapons.
The Conch Republic has their own website but they are having bandwidth problems. Very cool!

Time for a management change

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From the CBC comes this story of a prisoner set free with a Fax:
Prisoner wrongly freed after officials get phony, typo-filled fax
Officials mistakenly released a prisoner from a Kentucky facility after receiving a phony fax that ordered him freed, and it took them nearly two weeks to realize it.

The fax contained grammatical errors, was not typed on letterhead and was sent from a local grocery store. The fax falsely claimed that the Kentucky Supreme Court "demanded" Timothy Rouse be released.

Rouse, 19, is charged with beating an elderly man and was at the Kentucky Correctional & Psychiatric Center in La Grange for a mental evaluation. He was released April 6 after officials received the fake court order.

Lexington police arrested Rouse at his mother's home Thursday evening.

The Genesis of psy-Cho

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Very interesting observations by James Lewis about who taught Cho to hate so much:
Was Cho taught to hate?
Yes, I know. Tens of thousands of ordinary college students are lonely, full of rage, lost and frustrated. A few percent are psychotically disturbed, and some of them can kill. Our big factory colleges are alienating. Take millions of adolescents, and at any time there are bound to be quite a few confused and seething souls walking loose. Just visit downtown in any American or European city, and you can see all the lost and disturbed living in their private hells. And no, that doesn't excuse executing thirty-two innocents.

Still, I wonder --- was Cho taught to hate? Whatever he learned in his classes --- did it enable him to rage at his host country, to hate the students he envied so murderously? Was he subtly encouraged to aggrandize himself by destroying others? Was his pathology enabled by the PC university? Or to ask the question differently --- was Cho ever taught to respect others, to admire the good things about his host country, and to discipline himself to build a positive life?

And that answer is readily available on the websites of Cho's English Department at Virginia Tech. This is a wonder world of PC weirdness. English studies at VT are a post-modern Disney World in which nihilism, moral and sexual boundary breaking, and fantasies of Marxist revolutionary violence are celebrated. They show up in a lot of faculty writing. Not by all the faculty, but probably by more than half.

Just check out their websites.
James then links to about a dozen very eye-opening websites. I knew that academia was somewhat removed from the real world but this is rediculous...

Worlds Largest Pizza in the making

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From WLS-TV in Chicago:
Truck accident covers Chicago Skyway with mozzarella
The eastbound lanes of the Chicago Skyway were closed near the toll plaza Sunday morning because of a truck accident which has spilled a large quantity of cheese across the roadway.

Police say the accident split open the trailer of a semi hauling mozzarella and caused the cheese to spill out across the pavement. No one was reported injured in the crash, but emergency workers had to close off the lanes to clean up the mozzarella.
All they need now is a collision between a bread truck and a tomato hauler and they will be set for Pizza for some time...

A story about a Honda Civic

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No photos but a classic story from CraigsList:
Honda wigger clown car story.
This is a true story. I swear Im not making any of this up ... and you may very well see the car and laugh your ass off as well.

So Im a car enthusiast, and part time auto mechjanic who helps the neighbors out with thier cars. Hey, ive got a little knowledge, been doing this for a few years, and Ive got a great set of tools. I have a rather fast and rare early 70s hobby car that i take out on weekends, an oldsmobile 442.

So anyway. My neighbors kid turns 17, and the mother gives him her honda civic.

Say it out loud now with me. Honda civic.

Plastic and aluminum, 75 horsepower, basic commuter car, honda civic.

"perfect for a new driver, economical, easy to maintain and dependable a good basic car for junior," i thought to myself.

The first week was fine, he bought spinning hubcaps and a set of dragon seat covers for it. That should have been it. He should have left it alone.

The week after that, I walk out to my mailbox, and I almost called the cops. I thought I had just seen a UFO. as it slowly approached...i could see it was a HONDA CIVIC...with four different blinking colors of neon underneath it. Holy shit. I almost had a fucking siezure looking at this thing. Even the shifter knob was blinking.

...Then about 48 hours later, Im laying in bed, about ready to fuck my girlfriend when I hear BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ-owwww. BZZZZ-owww. over and over in the neighbors garage.

"Well this is an odd time of night for Mr. Richardson to be fucking around with his chainsaw." I thought out loud. After forty five minutes of this irritating buzzing, I thought Id go over and ask the neighbor to play with his chainsaw in the morning.

Here is the junior richardson boy, proudly revving his engine up and down. 4 more wannabe fake gangsta kids were standing around "tuning" his new exhaust.....which consisted of a rather small header and 4 coffee cans spray painted silver and the words "TYPE-R" stenciled on it.

Holy shit. I told him to pleae quit fucking with the car so I could sleep.

Wait, that is BY FAR not all.
Great story -- he winds up doing a little old-school street racing and blowing the Honda away. Classic 17-year-old grasp of physics... Caution -- drink alert.

A collection of Quotations

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On Freedom and Liberty from Martial Arts expert Don Rearic Here are three of them:
"I have found a certain type calls himself a Liberal... Now I always thought I was a Liberal. I came up terribly surprised one time when I found out that I was a Right-Wing Conservative Extremist, when I listened to everybody's point of view that I ever met, and then decided how I should feel. But this so-called new Liberal group, Jesus, they never listen to your point of view..."
--John Wayne

"The laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity...will respect the less important and arbitrary ones... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants, they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
--Thomas Jefferson, quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in "On Crimes and Punishment."

"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
--Samuel Adams, 1776
As thoughtful today as they were two hundred years ago...

Quote of the day

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When was the last time you heard a liberal talk about liberty?
--Mark Levin
Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for this one.

Saddam's WMD bunkers

Interesting article at The Spectator about the WMDs in Iraq and what happened to them.

I found Saddam's WMD bunkers
It's a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It's also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam;s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam's use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Dave Gaubatz, however, says that you could not be more wrong. Saddam's WMD did exist. He should know, because he found the sites where he is certain they were stored. And the reason you don�t know about this is that the American administration failed to act on his information, "lost" his classified reports and is now doing everything it can to prevent disclosure of the terrible fact that, through its own incompetence, it allowed Saddam's WMD to end up in the hands of the very terrorist states against whom it is so controversially at war.

Such as that three-day continuous convoy of trucks from Iraq into Syria in the days before the invasion. A bit more:

You may be tempted to dismiss this as yet another dodgy claim from a warmongering lackey of the world Zionist neocon conspiracy giving credence to yet another crank pushing US propaganda. If so, perhaps you might pause before throwing this article at the cat. Mr Gaubatz is not some marginal figure. He's pretty well as near to the horse's mouth as you can get.

Having served for 12 years as an agent in the US Air Force's Office of Special Investigations, Mr Gaubatz, a trained Arabic speaker, was hand-picked for postings in 2003, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Nasariyah in Iraq. His mission was to locate suspect WMD sites, discover threats against US forces in the area and find Saddam loyalists, and then send such intelligence to the Iraq Survey Group and other agencies.

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq - two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra - which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.

This was, in the first place, because of the massive size of these sites and the extreme lengths to which the Iraqis had gone to conceal them. Three of them were bunkers buried 20 to 30 feet beneath the Euphrates. They had been constructed through building dams which were removed after the huge subterranean vaults had been excavated so that these were concealed beneath the river bed. The bunker walls were made of reinforced concrete five feet thick.

A bit more:

That, he says, is precisely what happened. He subsequently learnt from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies. The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam's nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state - and one with close links to Iran.

When Mr Gaubatz returned to the US, he tried to bring all this to light. Two congressmen, Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Curt Weldon, were keen to follow up his account. To his horror, however, when they tried to access his classified intelligence reports, they were told that all 60 of them - which, in the routine way, he had sent in 2003 to the computer clearing-house at a US airbase in Saudi Arabia � had mysteriously gone missing. These written reports had never even been seen by the ISG.

And one last bit:

The Republicans won't touch this because it would reveal the incompetence of the Bush administration in failing to neutralise the danger of Iraqi WMD. The Democrats won't touch it because it would show President Bush was right to invade Iraq in the first place. It is an axis of embarrassment.

Mr Loftus goes further. Saddam's nuclear research, scientists and equipment, he says, have all been relocated to Syria, where US satellite intelligence confirms that uranium centrifuges are now operating � in a country which is not supposed to have any nuclear programme. There is now a nuclear axis, he says, between Iran, Syria and North Korea - with Russia and China helping to build an Islamic bomb against the West. And of course, with assistance from American negligence.

"Apparently Saddam had the last laugh and donated his secret stockpile to benefit Iran's nuclear weapons programme. With a little technical advice from Beijing, Syria is now enriching the uranium, Iran is making the missiles, North Korea is testing the warheads, and the White House is hiding its head in the sand."

Some lengthy excerpts from a much longer (3-page) article. Good stuff and it backs up a lot of what I had heard...

From this article at The UK Telegraph:
I loathe America, and what it has done to the rest of the world
I knew that the wave of anti-Americanism that would swell up after the Iraq war would make me feel ill. And it has. It has made me much, much more ill than I had expected.

My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness. I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world.

I can hardly bear to see the faces of Bush and Rumsfeld, or to watch their posturing body language, or to hear their self-satisfied and incoherent platitudes. The liberal press here has done its best to make them appear ridiculous, but these two men are not funny.
A bit off your meds are you today???

Meet the reaper

Very high tech -- the Air Force just announced the largest Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) ever -- The Reaper.


To give you a sense of scale, here are some of the specs compared to the current big boy, the Predator:

A 900 hp turbo-prop engine, compared to the 119 hp Predator MQ-1 engine, powers the aircraft. It has a 64-foot wingspan and carries more than 15 times the ordnance of the Predator, flying almost three times the Predator's cruise speed.

That thing can open a serious can of whoop-ass -- glad these people are on our side...

Another day at work...

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Shocking what some people do for a living. Check out this YouTube video of some high-tension power transmission line inspectors.

A big project

The scope of this thing is astounding. From the Seattle Times:
Russia plans world's longest undersea tunnel to Alaska
Russia plans to build the world's longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.

The project, which Russia is coordinating with the U.S. and Canada, would take 10 to 15 years to complete, Viktor Razbegin, deputy head of industrial research at the Russian Economy Ministry, told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. State organizations and private companies in partnership would build and control the route, known as TKM-World Link, he said.

A 3,700-mile transport corridor from Siberia into the U.S. will feed into the tunnel, which at 64 miles will be more than twice as long as the underwater section of the Channel Tunnel between the U.K. and France, according to the plan. The tunnel would run in three sections to link the two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the U.S.

"This will be a business project, not a political one," Maxim Bystrov, deputy head of Russia's agency for special economic zones, said at the media briefing. Russian officials will formally present the plan to the U.S. and Canadian governments next week, Razbegin said.

The Bering Strait tunnel will cost $10 billion to $12 billion and the rest of the investment will be spent on the entire transport corridor, the plan estimates.
That will be very cool if they are able to get this built -- imagine being able to drive to Russia...

Fun and games with UPS

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Received a postcard in the mail today from UPS saying that someone at my Dad's publisher (John Wiley and Sons) had sent him a package and it had been addressed to his old Seattle house.

They attempted to deliver this package on April 11th and they spit out a postcard to the old address on April 11th.

The US Post Office has the correct address and routed the postcard to my PO box where I received it today -- April 19th. I called UPS only to find out that since they had not received a reply in five business days, they returned the package to Wiley yesterday. John Wiley and Sons is a large multi-national corporation with several hundred offices and about 20,000 employees. I have no idea who would have sent the package, what the package is (probably the current issues of his Physics textbook), or who to contact to correct the address.

The joke of the matter is that although UPS has the package in their hot little hands, they refuse to re-direct it back to my correct address, instead, it is being sent back to New Jersey. I can call the tracking number up on the web and see that the package left Kentucky this afternoon (4:34PM their time) and they admit that they have the package under their control but they say that it is their policy to not redirect the package to the proper recipient.

When I tell them that their system for dealing with bad addresses is broken -- that they do not allow for the time it takes for the UP Post Office to forward the postcard -- they do not comment and they say that it is simply their policy. Whomever made that policy should be condemned to a life of ineffectual middle management and desperate futility. Wait, they already work for UPS... Yet another reason to use FedEx

Light blogging again today

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Working on some stuff... I'll be posting a bit but not too much.

The end of Kongo Gumi

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The Japanese company Kongo Gumi had been in business for 1,400 continuous years but it failed in 2006 due to some bad investment decisions. Interesting article at Business Week:
The End of a 1,400-Year-Old Business
What entrepreneurs starting family businesses can learn from the demise of Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi

The world's oldest continuously operating family business ended its impressive run last year. Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, in operation under the founders' descendants since 578, succumbed to excess debt and an unfavorable business climate in 2006.

How do you make a family business last for 14 centuries? Kongo Gumi's case suggests that it's a good idea to operate in a stable industry. Few industries could be less flighty than Buddhist temple construction. The belief system has survived for thousands of years and has many millions of adherents. With this firm foundation, Kongo had survived some tumultuous times, notably the 19th century Meiji restoration when it lost government subsidies and began building commercial buildings for the first time. But temple construction had until recently been a reliable mainstay, contributing 80% of Kongo Gumi's $67.6 million in 2004 revenues.

Keys to Success
Kongo Gumi also boasted some internal positives that enabled it to survive for centuries. Its last president, Masakazu Kongo, was the 40th member of the family to lead the company. He has cited the company's flexibility in selecting leaders as a key factor in its longevity. Specifically, rather than always handing reins to the oldest son, Kongo Gumi chose the son who best exhibited the health, responsibility, and talent for the job. Furthermore, it wasn't always a son. The 38th Kongo to lead the company was Masakazu's grandmother.

Another factor that contributed to Kongo Gumi's extended existence was the practice of sons-in-law taking the family name when they joined the family firm. This common Japanese practice allowed the company to continue under the same name, even when there were no sons in a given generation.

So if you want your family business to last a long time, the story of Kongo Gumi says you should mingle elements of conservatism and flexibility�stay in the same business for more than a millennium and vary from the principle of primogeniture as needed to preserve the company. The combination allowed Kongo Gumi to survive some notable hard times, such as when it switched temporarily to crafting coffins during World War II.
Much more at the Business Week article -- fascinating look at Japanese culture and business practices...

Yuri's Night - missed it this year

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Dang -- I had remembered but it fell on one of the days we were away so I missed posting about it. April 12th is Yuri's Night -- dedicated to the memory of Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space and the first orbit of the Earth by a human. Their home page is here: Yuri's Night

Cool technology - robot surgeons

I for one welcome our new ROBOT overlords. These are built with zero electronics or ferrous metals so they can be used inside an operating MRI machine so the controlling Surgeon can operate on tumors that cannot otherwise be seen. From the University of Calgary:
U of Calgary surgical robot brings new meaning to 'picking your brain'
It's not rocket science - but it is brain surgery.

Wait a minute, it's a bit of both.

On Tuesday researchers at the University of Calgary unveiled the NeuroArm - a new surgical robot they developed with help from the people who built the Canadarm for NASA's space shuttles.

This robot bears little resemblance to R2-D2 from Star Wars fame but it does come with high-definition cameras and bright lights. It also has two arms that wield operating tools with the skill of a surgeon.

In a demonstration for journalists, a white Styrofoam head was placed on the operating table to simulate a patient. In the room next door, an operator, peering into what appeared to be a microscope, operated the robot's controls. The tiny tools on its hands began busily tying rubber bands into knots.

Dr. Garnette Sutherland worked for six years to create the robot to aid in complex neurosurgery. The device is controlled from a computer workstation and provides real-time magnetic resonance imaging, giving the surgeon a ready view of how the brain is reacting.

"The robot can pick up a micro-scissors or other tools that neurosurgery uses and actually open and close them in much the same way that surgeons use their hands," said Sutherland, a professor of neurosurgery.

"Sensory feedback is a very important component of NeuroArm, and it has a sense of touch."

It could also result in safer surgery for patients.

"The feedback provides the surgeon the ability to quantify the forces involved in handling delicate tissue," Sutherland explained. "It would be wonderful to know the pressure that one is exerting on a blood vessel before it breaks."

Advanced surgical testing of NeuroArm is currently underway, and with the blessing of Health Canada it could be used on its first patient this summer.
The arm currently costs $27M CDN -- a bit steep but this is the first of many so the price should plummet. Very cool technology.

Light posting tonight

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Working on paying some bills (filed for an extension so that is deferred for a month or two). Part of the plans for the Cider and Mead business is to put a tasting room on the Mt. Baker Highway -- we just bought that property today so things are going well. We will be having a local company put up a log building for the tasting room and it will have a large porch with propane heaters so people can come and hang out in early spring and late fall and be comfortable. We will not be offering any food but there is an excellent deli, two restaurants and a convenience store within very easy walking distance plus some friends on the adjacent property are opening a bakery. This is not the sooper seekret project though -- more on that later. We have a lot of irons in the fire so mundane stuff like paying bills had been deferred a bit too long...

Yikes -- wheat fungus in Yemen

From the Yemen Times:

UN confirms Wheat Killer in Yemen but Agriculture Ministry denies findings
Abdullah Al-Siani, director of plant quarantine in the Ministry of Agriculture expressed his surprise at the press release that the UN food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued on Thursday, in which it warned of the spread of 'new and virulent fungus' that can attack many varieties of wheat in Yemen. He insisted that there is no official warning, statement, or survey revealing such a wheat infection.

"The Ministry of Agriculture is the only official authority in Yemen that can confirm such diseases, and as we haven't yet registered any case of wheat stem rust, we can not confirm this information" he stated, adding that the Ministry is now carrying out a survey to record any plant infection.

The Rome based agency warned of the outbreak of wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis), also known as wheat black rust, which is capable of causing severe crop losses. It said that the infection has spread from East Africa to Yemen. The agency also said that a new pathogen, which first emerged in Uganda in 1999 and is therefore called Ug99, has been found in Yemen. The FAO pointed out that Ug99 strain is more virulent than the one found in East Africa.

It is estimated that as much as 80 percent of all wheat varieties planted in Asia and Africa are susceptible to this new strain. The spores of wheat rust are mostly carried by wind over long distances and across continents, according to the agency.

"Global wheat yields could be at risk if the stem rust spreads to major wheat producing countries," said FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf.

Of course the Ministry of Agriculture denies its existence. People will not tell them as they fear loosing their jobs.

Corruption is a very bad thing and it can cause untold problems as it stifles the natural flow of data. Nothing like fine islamic science and administration at work in this so-called "moderate" nation.

50% literacy rate (30% for women), GDP per capita of $900

99% for both men and women and GDP per capita of $43,500 (this is the USA)

Taxing your imagination

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That day of the year again and Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple has a parable that makes the tax system perfectly clear:
Tax Code Simplified
Since today is Wealth Confiscation Tax Day in the United States, I thought I would post this explanation of our tax code that has been sent to me by many readers.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay $1.

The sixth would pay $3.

The seventh would pay $7.

The eighth would pay $12.

The ninth would pay $18.

The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until on day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men --- the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).

The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).

The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).

The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).

The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
And things get really interesting from there -- visit Denny's site for the rest of the story and the reality that many people fail to grasp...

Back home again

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Feels good to be back again... Just got in, checking spam and heading upstairs to bed.

Perfect Headline

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Check this out -- this is the actual headline. From the Reno Gazette-Journal:
Global warming rally cut short by cold weather
More than two dozen demonstrators braved cold, wet weather Saturday in Reno to attend a rally designed to draw attention to global warming.

The event was cut short by heavy rain and sleet, said organizer Lisa Stiller of the Northern Nevada Coalition for Climate Change.

"It's kind of disappointing that the weather kept people away," Stiller said. "But, we still think it (climate change) is something that people should talk about."

The storm prevented the use of solar ovens for a potluck picnic, Stiller said, and caused the planned two-hour demonstration to break up after about an hour.
And for the instant replay: "Global warming rally cut short by cold weather" Sometimes these things just write themselves... One highlight from the article:
More than two dozen demonstrators
This in a city with over 200,000 citizens. And these people were dragging out the same old "solutions" with no mention of nuclear power or of redirecting their efforts to something that would actually make a difference like clean water, good cooking stoves and education for people in Third World nations as well as the use of DDT for eliminating Malaria.

Very spooky and cool tool

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Have an IP Address and curious about where it is? Click here and find out: ip-adress.com (note the spelling of adress) It ties netlookup with Google Maps. Very cool...

Hotel Blogging - still in Madera

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Still in Madera -- we took the family photograph today which was a lot of fun. Every few years, Jen's extended family gets together and hires a profesional photographer and we take group and individual photographs. Due to a scheduling mix-up, we missed the last session so it was important that we attend this one. There was a buffet lunch after and things rolled up around 4:00. This is our last full day in town -- fly back to Seattle tomorrow evening and drive home ariving around midnight. It will be fun to get back to the Llamas and Dogs and other critters and to continue on our sooper seekrit project.

RIP - Don Ho

Hawai'ian entertainer Do Ho passed away this morning. From the The Honolulu Advertiser:
King of Waikiki entertainment dies
World-renowned entertainer Don Ho died this morning, officials have confirmed.

He was 76.

Ho suffered a heart attack about 10:15 a.m. at his Waikiki area home, and was transported in critical condition to The Queen's Medical Center,officials said. He died at the medical center, officials said.

In late 2005, Ho underwent an experimental stem cell procedure in Bangkok to strengthen his heart.

Ho's health improved after the surgery and in October, 2006 was able to return to the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, where he performed twice a week.

Ho, a 1949 Kamehameha Schools graduate, got his start at Honey's restaurant in the 1960s to attract customers to his mother's waning Kane'ohe business.

He gained prominence while singing at the now-defunct Duke Kahanamoku's in Waikiki from 1964 to 1970. The lounge was a hot spot for local and visiting entertainers, who would stop in to watch Ho perform or join him on stage.

His fame spread to the Mainland after he appeared at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles in 1966.

His sold-out shows led to appearances at the Sands in Las Vegas, Harrah's at Lake Tahoe and at hot spots in New York and Chicago. He also made guest appearances with Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop and Art Linkletter.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said this afternoon, "Don was a personal friend of my family because I come from a family of musicians," Hannemann said. "He was definitely an icon. He will be sorely missed."
One of the great ones...

Clean Slate - the Internet revisited

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Interesting project from Stanford University. If you were planning to scrap the current internet and replace it with something that incorporated what we know today and plan more for the future, what would it be like... Check out: Clean Slate
We believe that the current Internet has significant deficiencies that need to be solved before it can become a unified global communication infrastructure. Further, we believe the Internet's shortcomings will not be resolved by the conventional incremental and 'backward-compatible' style of academic and industrial networking research. The proposed program will focus on unconventional, bold, and long-term research that tries to break the network's ossification. To this end, the research program can be characterized by two research questions: "With what we know today, if we were to start again with a clean slate, how would we design a global communications infrastructure?", and "How should the Internet look in 15 years?" We will measure our success in the long-term: We intend to look back in 15 years time and see significant impact from our program.

In the spirit of past successful inter-disciplinary research programs at Stanford, the program will be driven by research projects 'from the ground up'. Rather than build a grand infrastructure and tightly coordinated research agenda, we will create a loosely-coupled breeding ground for new ideas. Some projects will be very small, while others will involve multiple researchers; our goal is to be flexible, creating the structure and identifying and focusing funds to support the best research in clean-slate design.

The program will collaborate with, and be funded by, approximately seven industrial partners with interests in networking services, equipment, semiconductors and applications.
Some interesting thoughts in the Whitepaper (PDF)

Hotel Blogging - Madera edition

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Staying at the Madera Valey Inn -- an older hotel but recently remodeled and really nice. Just got back from "Easter" picnic -- it is usually held at the ranch of one of Jen's "Uncles" but the weather was threatening so it was held at his house. A small (40 acre) spread near Fresno. Mass consumption was enjoyed by all...
How about celebrating this mokes 100th conviction. From The BBC:
'Dumb' criminal caught by police
A man branded the dumbest criminal in Scotland by police has been jailed for 16 months for another botched burglary.

Perth Sheriff Court heard David McGregor's latest conviction for breaking into an 80-year-old woman's home was his 100th conviction.

McGregor, wearing distinctive white gloves, was easily spotted as he climbed through a window at the pensioner's home in broad daylight.

Neighbours gave police a running commentary as he ransacked the home.

The court heard the elderly woman was in her house at the time of the burglary and McGregor, 35, got no more than 100 metres before he was rounded up by the police.
A bit more:
Solicitor Paul Ralph, defending, said McGregor had spoiled his son at Christmas and was needing to find a way to pay for the cost of his toys.

He told the court that McGregor's efforts at theft had not been helped by the fact he had down nearly a full bottle of whisky beforehand.
Not 100 arrests but 100 convictions and the guy is only 35 years old. Wonder what Dr. Oliver Sacks would have to say...

Hotel blogging

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We are flying down to Fresno tomorrow morning at 8:30AM so rather than have to get up at 3:00AM at our house, we drove down to Seattle and are staying at a hotel near the airport. This hotel caters to a lot of corporate events and conventions. The one at the hotel this weekend is the National Tattoo Association Some really fascinating people wandering the halls. I'm just hanging out in the lounge people-watching and sipping a Rum and Coke or two.

On the road again

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Heading down to Fresno area for an extended family photo and picnic. Jen's extended family gets together every two years for this and it should be a lot of fun. Taking my Dad down too so he can get to meet everyone. I'll still be posting but it will not be as often.

Parking in England

Bloody horror-show. From This Is London comes this story of governmental stupidity and bull-headedness:

Crushed by the council: the £30,000 classic car that was parked legally
It was Mendoza Stewart's pride and joy. A 1972 hand-crafted Bristol 411 - one of only 287 ever made and worth £30,000.

But the vehicle's status as a classic car was apparently lost on parking officials at Lambeth Council in South London.

Despite it being legally parked, they towed it away and crushed it.

Mr Stewart, a 51-year-old music producer, is devastated by the loss of his rare car and has not yet received any compensation despite the council admitting it was in the wrong.

"It was a very special car that I bought in 1984 after a long search,' he said. 'I found it with a dealer in Wimbledon. It is unlikely I shall find another."

Mr Stewart, who lives in Kennington, South London, parked the car in a council-run car park near his son's flat in nearby Camberwell. But when he returned it was missing.

"I was horrified," he said. "I thought it had been stolen and went to the police. They were unable to find it but after investigating discovered that Lambeth had taken it away.

"Someone who spotted my car arriving at the pound said that within minutes they had used a mechanical grab to pick it up by the roof instead of carefully lifting it down.

"By then it was all over. It was utterly wrecked before I had a chance to retrieve it. I have not seen it since. They cannot explain why they took away what is obviously a special, rare car."

The aluminium-bodied vehicle, built by British manufacturer Bristol Cars, was in good condition and was exempt from road tax because of its status as a classic car.

Mr Stewart, who insists a special "nil payment" disc was clearly displayed in the windscreen, took legal action against the council after the incident in December 2004.

But more than two years on, despite the council admitting liability, he has still not received a penny - and he has been reduced to driving an ageing van instead of his treasured Bristol.

"I cannot believe it has taken so long," said Mr Stewart. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency confirmed Mr Stewart's Bristol would have been a classic car because of its age and not subject to road tax.

A Lambeth spokesman said: "Solicitors acting for Lambeth council have accepted breach of duty on behalf of their client. The council apologises to Mr Stewart.

"As the matter is currently being litigated, we cannot comment further at this time but we are working hard to resolve this case as soon as possible."

The council admits guilt but they are still taking more than two years to make amends? Thank God I don't live in England...

Who invented the LED

Not who you think... From New Scientist comes an unusual story:

The LED - older than we thought
If you look in an encyclopaedia, the LED was invented by four independent American research groups in 1962. But the latest edition of Nature photonics reveals that it was actually discovered by a little-known Russian genius around 40 years earlier.

Oleg Vladimirovich Losev was a radio technician with a fierce talent. In the mid 1920s he noticed that diodes used in radio receivers emitted light when current was passed through them. Then, in 1927, he published details in a Russian journal of the first ever LED. Nikolay Zheludev, at the University of Southampton, has dug up Losev's story.

Losev also published on his discoveries in German and British journals. In sixteen papers between 1924 and 1930 he comprehensively detailed the function of his LED. He used Einstein's then new quantum theory to explain the way electrons dropping in energy produced the light without releasing heat. But a letter he wrote to Einstein asking for help developing the theory of LEDs received no reply.

Most significantly, in 1927 Losev filed a patent for a 'light relay' that used his devices 'for fast telegraphic and telephone communication, transmission of images and other applications...' He therefore foreshadowed the development of opto-electronics, which is fundamental to the fibreoptic links that make modern communcations possible.

Impressive stuff. But sadly not work that anyone picked up to take further. And Losev died of hunger in 1942 during the blockade of Leningrad, at the age of 39. In November 1941, he tried in vain to get a paper based on his discovery that "using semiconductors, a three-terminal system may be constructed analogous to a [vacuum] triode" out of Leningrad. It didn't make it. Zheludev asks: "Was it a paper on what we now know as a transistor? We shall never know for certain unless his manuscript is found."

Very cool -- many things were around a lot earlier than the general public realizes. FAX machines, color television, etc...

RIP - Kurt Vonnegut

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The NY Times has a nice obituary:
Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84
Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like �Slaughterhouse-Five,� �Cat�s Cradle� and �God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater� caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died Wednesday night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.

His death was reported by Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Mr. Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.

Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and �70s. Dog-eared paperback copies of his books could be found in the back pockets of blue jeans and in dorm rooms on campuses throughout the United States.

Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?
A wonderful talent -- he will be missed.

Pet Food recall -- developing story

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An interesting sense of timing on the part of Menu Foods president. From The Consumerist:
Menu Foods Exec Sold Half His Shares 3 Weeks Before Recall
The CFO of Menu Foods, Mark Wiens, sold about half of his shares in the company three weeks before the poisoned pet food recall was announced, Canadian insider trading reports show.

In Canada's Globe and Mail, Wiens called it a "horrible coincidence."

Here's another horrible coincidence: Menu Foods also waited three weeks after discovering the kitty and doggy deaths before announcing the recall.

Wow, so that means Wiens sold his stocks at the same time the contamination was discovered, but before anyone else knew about it.
Tar and Feathers -- some assembly required.

Awwww Cute

Hat tip to BoingBoing for this link to a hamster powered paper shredder: Artist Tom Ballhatchet's "Hamster Shredder" is an ingenious hack -- the hamster-powered paper-shredder fills the cage with shredded paper bits that the rodent can use to line its nest.


The Cumbrian Curse

A major case of whoopass laid down in 1525 by Archbishop of Glasgow, Gavin Dunbar. From The BBC:

"I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without."

"I curse them going and I curse them riding; I curse them standing and I curse them sitting; I curse them eating and I curse them drinking; I curse them rising, and I curse them lying; I curse them at home, I curse them away from home; I curse them within the house, I curse them outside of the house; I curse their wives, their children, and their servants who participate in their deeds. I (bring ill wishes upon) their crops, their cattle, their wool, their sheep, their horses, their swine, their geese, their hens, and all their livestock. I (bring ill wishes upon) their halls, their chambers, their kitchens, their stanchions, their barns, their cowsheds, their barnyards, their cabbage patches, their plows, their harrows, and the goods and houses that are necessary for their sustenance and welfare."

"May all the malevolent wishes and curses ever known, since the beginning of the world, to this hour, light on them. May the malediction of God, that fell upon Lucifer and all his fellows, that cast them from the high Heaven to the deep hell, light upon them."

And that is about the first 25% of the curse. OMFG I would most definitely NOT want to get on this guys bad side...

The "World Bank" inaction

Another sterling example of the World bank at work. From The Guardian:
Vast forests with trees each worth €4,000 sold for a few bags of sugar
Congo village chiefs not told value of concessions
World Bank blamed over deals causing 'catastrophe'

Lamoko, 150 miles down the Maringa river, sits on the edge of a massive stretch of virgin rainforest in central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On February 8 2005, representatives of a major timber firm arrived to negotiate a contract with the traditional landowners.

Few in the village realised that the talks would transform all their lives, but in just a few hours, the chief, who had received no legal advice and did not realize that just one tree might be worth more than €4,000 in Europe, had signed away his community's rights in the forest for 25 years.

In return for his signed permission to log thousands of hectares for exotic woods such as Afromosia (African teak) and sapele, the company promised to build Lamoko and other communities in the area three simple village schools and pharmacies. In addition, the firm said it would give the chief 20 sacks of sugar, 200 bags of salt, some machetes and a few hoes. In all, it was estimated that the gifts would cost the company €10,000.

It was the kind of "social responsibility" agreement that is encouraged by the World Bank, but when the villagers found out that their forest had been "sold" so cheaply, they were furious.
And the World Bank's involvement:
It is believed that 20 foreign-owned forestry companies are active in the DRC, and that Chinese and other logging groups are also seeking to gain concessions. The companies should be prevented from doing so by a moratorium negotiated by the World Bank in 2002 as part of an initiative to control the forestry industry.

Most of the major logging companies, including Danzer, Trans-M, TB, NST, Olan, and Sicobois, have concession contracts signed after the World bank moratorium, but although there is an investigation into their legality the majority are expected to be rubber stamped this year.

"Most of the companies have benefited from the World Bank's failure to ensure that the moratorium it negotiated with the transitional Congo DRC government has been enforced," said Greenpeace's Africa forests campaigner, Stephan van Praet.
Yet another example of the wisdom of a world governing body. The United Nations and it's offshoots really need to be disbanded. The really effective people like John Bolton are quietly moved out while the corrupt plutocrats are honored. Sickening...

No posting tonight

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Well, just this one... Spent today in town working for the sooper seekret project (more about this in a few days). Jen and I then met up for our weekly acupuncture treatments (these are working incredibly well!) and then had dinner at a new local restaurant. The restaurant is one of a Pacific Northwest chain of about eight and they are generally regarded as being very very good. Jen's was fantastic but I ordered a prawn cocktail and a (US Grown) Kobe Beef ribeye steak and was disapointed... The prawn cocktail was some weird mash-up between a chunky salsa and thick Ceviche with Cilantro, Bell Peppers, Avocado, Onion, etc... and although it was tasty, it was not what I was expecting when I ordered a Prawn Cocktail. There are some things that you just simply do not fuck with. A classic Martini, a Bach Fugue, a Miles Davis trumpet riff. And a Prawn Cocktail. You do not fuck with a Prawn Cocktail. Fresh Prawns, some chopped Celery and some Cocktail sauce with loads of Horseradish -- fresh Horseradish. Make the membranes on the inside of your sinuses bleed fresh Horseradish. That is it. Garnish with a lemon wedge, serve in a chilled glass and Bob's your Uncle. As for the steak, I have spent time in Japan and have eaten beef in Kobe, Japan. That stuff is ambrosia. Think Fillet Minion and make it even more tender but it still retains its integrity -- it doesn't turn to mush in your mouth. This was good beef but it did not have the fine, almost invisible marbling that Kobe has and although the taste was great, the texture was very grainy and I ran into a few pieces of gristle and membrane. Maybe their meat supplier is still getting the chain of supply worked out, maybe the new kitchen staff grabbed the wrong cut of meat but for $34, this should have been a better experience... set rant=off

Our unusually more than active Sun

There is a direct link between historical records of high sunspot activity and planetary warming. It seems that the sun is being a bit more active than usual these days -- from the BBC News:
Sunspots reaching 1,000-year high
A new analysis shows that the Sun is more active now than it has been at anytime in the previous 1,000 years.

Scientists based at the Institute for Astronomy in Zurich used ice cores from Greenland to construct a picture of our star's activity in the past.

They say that over the last century the number of sunspots rose at the same time that the Earth's climate became steadily warmer.

This trend is being amplified by gases from fossil fuel burning, they argue.

'Little Ice Age'
Sunspots have been monitored on the Sun since 1610, shortly after the invention of the telescope. They provide the longest-running direct measurement of our star's activity.

The variation in sunspot numbers has revealed the Sun's 11-year cycle of activity as well as other, longer-term changes.

In particular, it has been noted that between about 1645 and 1715, few sunspots were seen on the Sun's surface.

This period is called the Maunder Minimum after the English astronomer who studied it.

It coincided with a spell of prolonged cold weather often referred to as the "Little Ice Age". Solar scientists strongly suspect there is a link between the two events - but the exact mechanism remains elusive.

Over the past few thousand years there is evidence of earlier Maunder-like coolings in the Earth's climate - indicated by tree-ring measurements that show slow growth due to prolonged cold.
And the Goreacle is going to listen to this data and respond in a rational fashion. His minions as well. Once again folks, this planet (and Mars and Jupiter) are warming and to think that Humans are having a measurable effect on this and that they can reverse this is pure fucking hubris. All of this energy and time could be much better spent getting clean water to people, sewage systems, cheap minimally-polluting cooking stoves, vaccines and DDT for malaria (still killing two million people each and every year). But these liberals do not think -- they mouth the platitudes issued by their fearless leaders who speak truth to power while willfully ignoring those who just speak the truth.
Jeezzzz! Talk about living in your own little world -- perfect that he was a respected academic. From Inside Higher Ed:
Honey, I Lost the Endowment
Al Parish has been known for his flashy wardrobe and big spending ways in Charleston, S.C. His collection of fancy pens was believed to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the Web site of one of his investment companies featured a cartoon superhero version of Parish, dubbed �Economan.�

An economics professor at Charleston Southern University, Parish was the go-to guy for business leaders, local reporters, and people with a little money to invest. He provided advice, analysis and � through several investment companies � a great way to get rich. Except for one problem: According to a suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission last week, the reports that investors received were false and the money invested � about $134 million � is almost all gone. As SEC investigators attempted to question Parish, he claimed to be suffering from amnesia and checked himself into a hospital, so he has not commented on the mess, leaving investors and investigators very much in the dark.

One of those investors is Charleston Southern, where the board thought so highly of the university�s star professor that it gave his various funds $10 million from the endowment to invest. The university is now suing to recover the funds, but the board chair acknowledged in an interview Saturday that it �doesn�t look good� for there to be any money left to recover.
And of course, in this articles comments section, there are a smattering of moonbat comments like this one:
The amnesia mentioned in the above article can be scary and should not be taken lightly. I know because of an aunt who had it. It is my sincere dream that he receives the treatment he needs and can be made whole again one day. Forgetting something like this must be terrible and all the other bits that go with it. God bless.
Hello... Anyone in there??? Parish is lying through his teeth trying to figure some way to get out of it. He does not have amnesia. Fortunately, the majority of the comments are like these two:
Tar & feathers...
This is criminal and should be made an example of the worst kind. Life in prison and he will have a long time to recover from his amnesia problem! Case CLOSED!

Now not to end a picnic

From the Richmond Times Dispatch:

Man burned when hot grill explodes in pickup truck
A man suffered serious burns when his pickup exploded after a hot grill in the truck bed ignited a propane tank, authorities said.

John Ferrell, 22, of Clarksville was injured Sunday afternoon and taken by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for burn treatment, Montgomery County Sheriff's office spokesman Ted Denny said.

Here's the good part:

"Apparently, when (Ferrell) loaded up the grill he still had hot charcoals, which somehow got too close to the propane tank, and it exploded," Denny said.

"Obviously, we would urge people not to drive with burning grills in their vehicles."

The 1978 Chevrolet pickup was engulfed in flames when rescue crews arrived.

Hospital officials said Ferrell was in stable condition Monday.

Sounds like a candidate for the Darwin Awards if he keeps practicing a bit more...

Speed up Windows XP

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Some nice tips for speeding up the performance of Windows XP.

Light posting this evening

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Working on a few projects and also getting back to work on the anti-comment-spam script. Things have been going very well so far with about 500 blockages for every successful post but people keep trying new ways and I'm wanting to automate this to force the new ones into moderation (invisible to the search engines) without my intervention.

The Gun Myth

Wonderful story.
A prominent Illinois gun control advocate found himself tongue-tied after he was caught telling something other than the truth about a popular brand of target rifles. The gaffe came during a Wednesday press conference hosted by Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-33) in support of several gun control bills.

In his address, Kotowski pointed to a rifle staged as a prop for the event and described it as being a "military" weapon. What Kotowski did not know was that Mr. Mark Westrom, President of Armalite, Incorporated, was in the audience. Mr. Westrom rose to inform the attendees that his company manufactured the rifle in question, and that his company has never sold the rifle to the military. Westrom continued by pointing out that the rifle is purchased primarily by civilian target shooters. Westrom's revelation changed the course of the press conference, to say the least.
Oopsie... Here is one more paragraph:
"I understand Dan's reluctance to stick to the truth," continued Pearson. "It sure would be tough for Kotowski to stand there and tell the taxpayers that he wants to spend $300 million to register guns owned by law-abiding citizens while ignoring notorious gun runners like Carail Weeks. It would be tough for Kotowski to stand in front of the state's hunters and tell them that he wants to take their guns away, despite the fact that 88% of murderers have previous criminal records and cannot even legally possess a firearm. It would be tough for Kotowski to stand there and tell law-abiding target shooters that their target rifles are a 'problem' even though he knows darn well almost half the murders committed in Chicago arise out of drug and/or gang activity. Indeed, the truth would be painful for Kotowski to tell. That's why he makes stuff up to tell folks who don't know any better."
Kind of sums it up nicely doesn't it. The Illinois State Rifle Association website is here. Hat tip to Sharp as a Marble for the link.
Warren Lewis is a Memphis barber who specializes in flame cutting hair. He just had a fire at his barber shop -- the Memphis Flyer is there:
Shop of Fire Barber Catches Fire
The North Memphis barbershop of Warren Lewis caught fire on Wednesday. Lewis pioneered the technique of trimming hair with fire and discussed this and other chapters of his colorful life in a Flyer story last year.

No one was injured, and the property suffered minor damage. Lewis was back up and burning hair yesterday. He was quick to point out that the structure fire had nothing to do with his unusual technique. He said that air conditioning repairmen were �sweating the pipes� with butane torches when the fire occurred.

The Norilsk Nickel Company

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Sounds like a wonderful place to spend some time. From the BBC News:
Toxic truth of secretive Siberian city
A BBC team has entered a remote region of Russia normally closed to foreigners that produces almost half the world's supply of palladium - a precious metal vital for making catalytic converters. But, as the BBC's Richard Galpin reports, it is accused of being the world's largest producer of acid rain.

It took more than two months for the Russian authorities to grant us permission to travel to the secretive Siberian city of Norilsk.

For decades it has been closed to foreigners (only briefly opening up in the late 1990s) because it is deemed to be a strategic region.

It was once ringed by silos containing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But nowadays it has something else it wants to hide from the rest of the world - chronic pollution.

Toxic cocktail
From a distance it looks like a front of bad weather moving in and obscuring the otherwise pristine Arctic sky.

But drive closer and the source of the long streams of "cloud" flowing over the city and far beyond becomes clear.

To blame are the clusters of huge chimneys at three smelting plants which surround Norilsk.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the chimneys pump out a toxic cocktail of pollutants which the company responsible openly admits is mostly sulphur dioxide.

Once in the atmosphere this gas turns into acid rain.

The company Norilsk Nickel - currently worth about $34bn (�17bn) - also admits that other pollutants including heavy metals are being pumped out, though in far smaller quantities.
Lots more info and pictures at the BBC article. They say that they are making efforts to reduce pollution but I am betting that this is just lip service with no real action. The article says that the company made $2Billion NET profit in the first six months of last year and there are 30 more years worth of ore at the mine.

An example of New Orlean's Finest

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From The Times-Picayune:
N.O. cop is booked in bridge chase case
Open bottles of beer reported in his SUV

A New Orleans police officer was arrested Thursday on charges that he led police on a chase across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway at speeds above 100 mph and blew past a roadblock last month after he was spotted with two open beers in his brand-new Porsche.

Sgt. Gary Calico, who has been suspended without pay, allegedly sped away when a Causeway police officer told him to pour out the beers at a north shore toll booth March 15 at 10:30 p.m., Causeway Police Chief Felix Loicano said.

Several Causeway police officers pursued the black 2007 Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle, which was clocked at 112 mph, more than double the 55-mph nighttime speed limit on the southbound span, Loicano said.

The high speeds prompted police to call off the pursuit as the Porsche zipped around a police roadblock and ran a red light at the foot of the 24-mile bridge in Metairie, the chief said.

Police got the license plate number from a temporary tag on the $65,000 Porsche and traced it to Calico, who was identified as the driver from a photo lineup.

After consulting with prosecutors, police on Tuesday obtained an arrest warrant for Calico, who was booked Thursday with speeding, reckless driving, flight from an officer and aggravated obstruction of a highway, a felony.

Calico, 36, who lives near Covington, was released from the St. Tammany Parish jail later that day after posting $10,000 bond. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Emphasis mine -- excuse me but this guy is a cop and they do not pay cops very well anywhere. How was Calico able to afford a $65,000 Porche? No mention of that in the news report.

The Great Burrito Tunnel

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Do you live on the East Coast? Do you eat Burritos? Ever wonder where they came from? Check out: The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel
Who can imagine New York City without the Mission burrito? Like the Yankees, the Brooklyn Bridge or the bagel, the oversize burritos have become a New York institution. And yet it wasn�t long ago that it was impossible to find a good burrito of any kind in the city. As the 30th anniversary of the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel approaches, it�s worth taking a look at the remarkable sequence of events that takes place between the time we click �deliver� on the burrito.nyc.us.gov website and the moment that our hot El Farolito burrito arrives in the lunchroom with its satisfying pneumatic hiss.

The story begins in any of the three dozen taquerias supplying the Bay Area Feeder Network, an expansive spiderweb of tubes running through San Francisco�s Mission district as far south as the �Burrito Bordeaux� region of Palo Alto and Mountain View. Electronic displays in each taqueria light up in real time with orders placed on the East Coast, and within minutes a fresh burrito has been assembled, rolled in foil, marked and dropped down one of the small vertical tubes that rise like organ pipes in restaurant kitchens throughout the city.

Once in the tubes, it�s a quick dash for the burritos across San Francisco Bay. Propelled by powerful bursts of compressed air, the burritos speed along the same tunnel as the BART commuter train, whose passengers remain oblivious to the hundreds of delicious cylinders whizzing along overhead. Within twelve minutes, even the remotest burrito has arrived at its final destination, the Alameda Transfer Station, where it will be prepared for its transcontinental journey.

Ever since Isaac Newton first described the laws of gravity in 1687, scientists have known that the quickest route between two points is along a straight line through the Earth�s interior. Through the magic of gravity, any object dropped into such a �chord tunnel� at one end will emerge exactly 42 minutes later at the other end, no matter the distance. But for hundreds of years, the technical challenges of building such a tunnel were so daunting that it remained a theoretical curiosity. Only at the start of the 20th century did the idea become technically feasible, and to this day the tunnel linking the East Bay with New Jersey remains the only structure of its kind in the world.

From the outside, the Alameda facility looks like any other industrial building. Behind a chain link razor wire fence sits a windowless white hangar some three stories tall, surrounded by a strip of green lawn. If you could see underground, however, you�d see that the building sits at the center of a converging nexus of burrito pipes. High pressure pneumatic tubes from all over the Bay Area emerge in the center of the facility, spilling silvery burritos onto a high-speed sorting line. The metal-jacketed burritos look like oversize bullets, and the conveyor belts that move them through the facility resemble giant belts of delicious ammunition. Within a few seconds of arrival the burritos have been bar coded, checked for balance and round on a precision lathe, and then flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen.

The mouth of the tunnel is a small concrete arch in the side of a nearby hill, about as glamorous as an abandoned railway tunnel. Yet if you could open the airlocks and stare down its length with a telescope, you would see airplanes on final approach to Newark Airport, three thousand miles away! To reduce drag on the burritos to a minimum, the tunnel must be kept in near-vacuum with powerful pumps. At the tunnel�s deepest point the burritos will be traveling nearly two kilometers a second - even the faintest whiff of air would quickly drag them to a stop.

The launch tube for the burritos lies just under the tunnel mouth and looks like what it is: an enormous gun. Every four seconds a �slug� of ten burritos, white with frost, ratchets into the breech. A moment later it flies into the tunnel with a loud hiss of compressed gas, and the lights dim briefly as banks of powerful electromagnets accelerate the burritos to over two hundred miles an hour. By the time they pass Stockton three minutes later the burritos will be traveling faster than the Concorde, floating on an invisible magnetic cushion as they plunge into the lithosphere.
I had no idea... Much more at the website.

Non-existant posting tonight

Jen and I had to meet with two friends this afternoon. We are forming a Farmer's Market and looking to incorporate this as a stand-alone entity. Last Thursday, we got the opertunity to use a large school parking lot with excellent visibility for our booths so we are stoked. This evening, Jen and I drove in to see Grindhouse. This film is a classic. Wonderful. Go see it. The second part takes a little time to get moving but once it does, it will leave you on the edge of your seat.
From the Seattle Post-Intellegencer:
Police bust tomato grow operation in Pullman apartment
A Pullman landlord notified police about a grow lamp in a closet, and police got a search warrant for a drug raid.

Eight officers with guns drawn surprised three roommates in the apartment last weekend and discovered they were growing tomatoes.

Commander Chris Tennant says it's the department's duty to investigate all credible complaints regarding marijuana growing operations in Pullman.
Hey -- nothing wrong with wanting fresh 'maters...

Pet Food and Melamine

The Melamine contaminated Wheat Gluten came from China.

And in due course, China is denying any involvement.

From Yahoo/AP:

China Denies Role in U.S. Pet Deaths
China Denies Exporting Tainted Wheat Gluten Blamed for U.S. Pet Deaths

China has denied responsibility for several pet deaths in the United States which U.S. authorities blame on a batch of chemically contaminated wheat gluten from China, state media reported.

"China has nothing to do with the pet poisoning in the United States," said a report in the official newspaper of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which monitors the export of food, animals and farm products.

The China Inspection and Quarantine Times said in a report on its Web site dated Tuesday that as of March 29, 2007 China had "never exported wheat or wheat gluten to ... the United States."

This contradicted comments by two employees at the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., this week who said the company had shipped wheat gluten to the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has identified Xuzhou Anying as the supplier of the tainted gluten.

On Thursday, the Chinese company accused of selling chemical-tainted wheat gluten linked to the pet food deaths said that most of its sales were domestic, raising the possibility that people or animals in China might have been exposed to the chemical.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week blocked wheat gluten imports from the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou, saying they contained melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides.

Anying produces and exports more than 10,000 tons of wheat gluten a year, according to its Web site, but only 873 tons were linked to tainted U.S. pet food, raising the possibility that more of the contaminated product could still be on the market in China, or abroad.

Li Cui, director of Anying's foreign exports, told The Associated Press on Thursday the United States is the company's only overseas market for wheat gluten, although it wasn't clear if the company had more than one customer in the U.S.

Most of the company's wheat gluten is sold to domestic Chinese buyers, Li said, refusing to say whether the allegedly contaminated batches were sold in China.

There has been no reaction among the Chinese public to the tainted wheat gluten, and Beijing authorities have not said whether they are investigating the matter.

I know that CYA is very tempting but they should really be a lot more transparent as this stuff turns up in people food as well. Not that China has a stellar human rights reputation though...

Hawai�i Superferry

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Very cool and about time -- some people are planning to use a large catamaran fast ferry to move people between O'ahu, Kaua'i, Maui and in 2009, Big Island. This boat will take vehicles and a passanger trip will cost around $40 to $70 depending on route and time of week. From the Hawai�i Superferry website:
Interisland travel, the way it was meant to be.
Picture this: You and your family are headed to a neighboring island. As your ferry embarks on its short voyage, you find yourself gathered around a table in a comfortable lounge, enjoying a light lunch and watching the sunny shoreline recede. You have never seen the islands from quite this vantage; it's beyond beautiful.

After lunch, while the kids play games in the keiki area, you wander to the foredeck to keep an eye out for land. When you see your destination rise over the horizon, your heart swells a little. Now this is interisland travel.

Safely docked in the harbor, there's no waiting for bags, queuing up for a rental car, fiddling to find the parking brake or making sure the AC works. Instead, you hop into your vehicle�trunk packed with suitcases, snorkel gear, and everything you need to have a great time�and drive off, invigorated by your brief voyage at sea.

Hawai�i interisland travel aboard the Hawaii Superferry begins July 2007*, with daily service from Honolulu to Kahului, Maui and Nāwiliwili, Kaua�i. Service to the Island of Hawai�i begins in 2009.
Jen and I try to get to Hawai'i once/year during winter -- have a few places there that are magic to us and we love the people. This sounds like a lot better way to get inter-island than cramming yourself into a little tube and spending over $100...

Downsize DC

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Nice idea -- from the DownsizeDC website:
Help us pass the �Read the Bills Act� (RTBA)
You can read the text of RTBA by clicking the Draft Legislation tab above, or you can start by reading a summary of the legislation below. Following that summary is a description of our strategy for passing RTBA, and then a call to action.

Part 1: What RTBA does and why:
Most Congressmen are lawyers, and many others are businessmen. They know what �fiduciary responsibility� is. For Members of Congress, fiduciary responsibility means reading each word of every bill before they vote.

But Congress has not met this duty for a long time. Instead...
  • They carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote!

  • Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will really cost.

  • Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, in secrecy.

  • They combine unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose. (This practice is called �log-rolling.�)

  • And votes are held with little debate or public notice.

  • Oh, and once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, they pretend to be shocked. �How did that get in there?� they say.

There's a basic principle at stake here. America was founded on the slogan, �No taxation without representation.� A similar slogan applies to this situation:

�No LEGISLATION without representation.�
Interesting idea -- rabbit's chance in hell that it will actually pass in an effective form but it would be nice... I have run into a lot of cases where someone asks their congresscritter about something and they get a form letter back saying that the politician in question "will look into it".

Talk about a whiney star. From The Tennessean:

Keith Urban countersues Keith Urban
Keith D. Urban, the painter, has filed court documents claiming that the lawsuit filed by the famous singer Keith Urban about the painter's Web site is baseless and a tool to intimidate him.

In February, country musician Keith L. Urban filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nashville accusing the Wayne, N.J., painter, who owns www.keithurban.com, of federal trademark infringement and violation of the anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, among other things. The suit didn't specify monetary damages, but wants the site address transferred to the singer and an injunction barring the painter from operating a site that suggests any relationship between the two.

The February lawsuit claimed the painter is purposely trying to mislead Internet users into thinking that the Web site and the paintings for sale belong to the singer. At the top are Google ads for the musician's concert tickets and videos. "It has become apparent that he is attempting to capitalize on Keith's success," Paul Freundlich, the musician's publicist, said shortly after the original filing.

Not so, said the painter's attorney.

"This is an odd fact pattern in the sense that you have a situation where you have two individuals with the same name," said the painter's Nashville-based attorney, Paul Kruse. Kruse said it is a not a situation of a person of another name masquerading as Urban. "One of the pieces of evidence we made of record is his birth certificate."

"Of course, this is the thing that makes this case a little different than garden-variety, trademark infringement cyber-squatting kinds of cases that the musician's lawyers are painting in his proceedings," Kruse said. "Our guy is a painter. He freely admits that he isn't as famous as the musician, but it is his name.

"It seems like the musician is being very strong-armed in his tactics, when in fact, our guy has had this name since he was born."

The painter got the website a couple months befor the singer so I do not see any problems. Sour grapes on the part of the singer...

Cool image - optical illusion

Take a look at this picture of Albert Einstein.

Now get up and step back a few feet and look again, who is it now. Walk closer to the screen and sit down.


Swiped from Maggie's Farm

I had written about another one back in October 2005. Check out Mr. Angry and Mrs. Calm

A minor case of on-job theft

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From Yahoo/AP comes this story:
Intern admits thefts from U.S. archives
A 40-year-old intern with the National Archives pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing 164 Civil War documents, including an official announcement of President Lincoln's death, and putting most of them up for sale on eBay.

Prosecutors said Denning McTague, who has master's degrees in history and library science, put about 150 of the documents online and had shipped about half of them.

All but three of the items, worth an estimated $30,000 in all, have since been recovered.

McTague told investigators that he used a yellow legal pad to sneak the documents out while working at the National Archives and Records Administration last summer. As an unpaid intern, he had been responsible for arranging and organizing documents in preparation for the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

A Gettysburg company that publishes books on the Civil War spotted some of the items on eBay and alerted authorities last fall, officials said.
What was that idiots motivation here... And to sell them on eBay of all places.

A little too natural

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From the Kansas City Star:
Wild Oats closes for cleanup
The Wild Oats Natural Marketplace in Mission has voluntarily closed after a television news report found mice droppings in the grocery.

A spokeswoman for Wild Oats confirmed that the store at 5101 Johnson Drive temporarily closed Tuesday to make some �small renovations.�

�There�s just been some information out there that we needed to do some cleaning up,� said Krista Coleman, spokeswoman for the Boulder, Colo.-based chain.

She said the store would reopen as soon as it could make sure �things are safe and clean.�

Coleman acknowledged that there were claims about a rodent problem but declined to comment on their veracity.

Tipped off by a Wild Oats shopper, KCTV, Channel 5, took a hidden camera into the store and found mouse droppings in the baby food aisle.

Jay and Deena Malone of Mission alerted the television station after going to Wild Oats to shop for dog food on Saturday. They notified a store manager and later the television station, Jay Malone said.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture, which inspects grocery stores, responded to the television news report by sending an inspector to Wild Oats on Tuesday, said Lisa Taylor, the agency�s spokeswoman.

Taylor said she could not reveal the results of the latest inspection report because the matter is pending.

This week�s complaint about rodent droppings at the Wild Oats store in Mission wasn�t the first one, according to Agriculture Department records.

In September, the state inspected Wild Oats in response to a complaint about rodent droppings, records show.

At that time, inspectors found that the �rodent challenge� was being �dealt with professionally.�
Those aren't raisins in your bulk cerial...

Using Craigslist to get at someone

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This is sickening. Tacoma, WA resident evicts a tenant from a house that used to belong to her mother, cleaned it up and then someone "with a grudge" posted an ad on Craigslist. From Seattle's KING-5:
Cruel Craigslist ad trashes Tacoma home
Someone with cruel intentions placed a fake ad on Craigslist, inviting people to take whatever they wanted for free from a Tacoma home.

Homeowner Laurie Raye says there's little left now of the house. The outside of the home is trashed, the inside is nearly gutted and covered in graffiti. Raye says she is devastated.

"I was attached to this home because it used to be my mom's," says Raye.

The homeowner says from the light fixtures to the hot water heater, everything is gone - including the kitchen sink.

Raye recently evicted the tenant and cleaned out the rental, but she would soon be the one taken to the cleaners. A phone caller alerted Raye to the destruction. She walked through her garbage strewn front yard to find her house dismantled.

"Including the front door," said Raye. "This used to be a very nice vinyl window here."

From the light fixtures to the hot water heater, everything is gone - including the kitchen sink.

Her neighbors later reported seeing strangers hauling stuff away from her home, seemingly looking for salvage material.

The "ad" was posted on Craigslist last weekend.

"In the ad, it said come and take what you want. Everything is free," said Raye. "Please help yourself to anything on the property."

An off-duty Tacoma police officer noticed the Craigslist ad last week, inviting people to enter the unlocked house and take whatever they wanted. Later, that same officer noticed the ad was flagged and canceled after a reported burglary at the house.

"We've had a lot of scams off of Craigslist," said Detective Gretchen Ellis, Tacoma Police Department. "We've had prostitution things happen, rental scams, fraudulent activity. In this case, it appeared the items were going to be given away, but they were not."

"This can happen to anybody, but look what happened to me," said Raye.

Raye believes the unknown person who posted the ad carries a personal grudge against her, but that person also conned unsuspecting people into taking part.

"The instigator who published this ad invited the public to come in and vandalize me," said Raye.

When Raye contacted Craigslist, she received an email back saying they can't release information about who posted the ad without a subpoena or search warrant.

KING 5 was unable to get anyone from Craigslist to personally respond to this story, but the web site has a long list of rules that clearly prohibit people from posting material that is illegal, harmful, threatening or harassing.
The illness of some people continues to amaze me. So self centered, just thinking about "getting back at her" and not realizing the damage that they are doing with this. I hope that Craigslist opens up their database and that the police are able to nail the bastard...

So true -- What We Call The News

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Check out this from JibJab: What We Call The News Swiped from Mostly Cajun who swiped it from Decrepit Old Fool

Fun website focusing on new slang words entering the English language.

Check out: Double-Tongued Word Wrester Dictionary

The Double-Tongued Dictionary records undocumented or under-documented words from the fringes of English. It focuses upon slang, jargon, and other niche categories which include new, foreign, hybrid, archaic, obsolete, and rare words.

A couple definitions:

seagull v. to hang back and await an opportunity to benefit from desirable circumstances found or created by other people.

shut up and color v. phr. mind one's own business, keep one's head down, do as one is told.

pig in a python n. especially in demographics, a spike or surge in a statistic measured over time.

The distinguished Senator from NY

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Swiped from PinkDome Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link

Hitting the fan

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Another reason to stop the subsidies for corn-based ethanol. From the Canadian Broadcasting Company:
Fertilizer shortage will hit farmers this spring
A Saskatoon commodity analyst says a large number of farmers planting corn for the ethanol market could put a strain on the fertilizer supply for Prairie farmers this spring.

Larry Weber says farmers are planting record amounts of corn, which has created an unprecedented demand for fertilizer.

That could result in a shortage in Western Canada, he said.

"It's going to be very difficult, if you haven't already purchased fertilizer yet, going forward, to buy fertilizer," Weber said.

Even if farmers bought fertilizer months ago, they might be out of luck if it's not in their possession right now, Weber said.

Some farmers bought in the fall, but they may not be able to pick it up this spring if dealers can't get the supplies.
And to make things even more cheery:
Supplies could get even tighter if there are any labour disputes with either of the railways, said Weber.

Canadian Pacific Railway could be facing a strike later this month, and there's still a chance that workers won't ratify the agreement with CN Rail, he said.

If the trains aren't running, farmers won't get their fertilizer, Weber said.
Say hello to higher food prices all around...

A small pot growing operation

OMFG - check out this pot growing setup in Tennessee:
The Great Tennessee Marijuana Cave
Law enforcement officers in Tennessee make the greatest underground discovery since Tutankhamen�s tomb was unearthed in the Valley of the Kings.

Under this ordinary house is a marijuana grow-op unlike any you have ever seen. Within the caves of middle Tennessee, growers constructed a complex of offices, living quarters, restroom facilities, and a climate-controlled forest of over one thousand cannabis plants.
Lots of photos -- this was a major installation. I wonder how long this had been going on...

Basketball player does good

Really nice move by New York Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury. From the LA Times:
Parents stand up and cheer as a $15 sneaker enters the game
An NBA star knows many families can't foot a $200 bill for high-end shoes, so he's created his own signature line.

Waiting in a winding line for autographs from his favorite NBA player, 15-year-old Brian Cox lifted the lid of a shoebox to show off his synthetic leather high-top sneakers with black sides and blue-and-orange soles.

At a price his mother doesn't mind � $14.98 � he got his fourth pair of Starburys this week, a sneaker created by New York Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury. Joanne Cox brought her two teenage sons to Steve & Barry's University Sportswear after church Sunday for the launch of Marbury's spring line.

The NBA star "grew up in a poor neighborhood just like we did," said Cox, who is raising the boys on her own. She says it is not easy on the wages she earns as a city traffic officer, and she has spent thousands on her sons' shoes over the years. "Now that we got a price of $15, we're not going higher than that."

This is the world the 10-year NBA veteran is trying to change with his $15 shoes � a world where parents are pressured to shell out money for expensive sneakers while struggling to pay rent and buy groceries; a world where kids get robbed, shot and strangled over the latest styles. (In January, 10 Detroit middle school students were robbed of their Nike boots and Air Force One sneakers at gunpoint.)
Very nice -- the article also mentioned that Eminem has his 'brand' out there and they sell for $800. Talk about keeping close to your roots...

Aiieeeeee!!! Grab the brain bleach.

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Music videos from David Hasselhoff Jump In My Car Hooked on a Feeling These are just... wrong...

Honk if you love...

Heh -- two stores share a common parking lot and one of them put up a sign so the other store owner retaliated.

From the Virtual Quote Wall Blog:

This is where I come from, people
It's Jesus vs. Satan on Rubber Avenue

Copyright - 2007 Republican-American

A battle between good and evil is brewing on Rubber Avenue.

Workers at two neighboring businesses in a small shopping plaza at 195 Rubber Ave. have differing opinions about whether or not people should show support for Jesus. An owner of a shop that puts photos onto DVDs placed a sign in front of a parking lot, which is used by both businesses, that says, "Easter: Beep for Christ."

A tattoo artist next door countered Friday with a sign that says, "Honk twice for..." and shows a caricature of a red devil underneath the text.

And so the battle began.

"Beep! Honk, honk!" Those were the sounds that blared all day from the cars of hundreds of commuters who traveled on Rubber Avenue, one of the busiest streets in the borough. Some beeped twice, while others gave just one toot on their car horns.

Claudette Soden, a devout Christian and owner of Photos Onto DVD, fired the first shot last week when she put up her Easter sign. Phil Young, who works at No Regrets next door to Soden's business, countered on Friday morning with his satanic sign. Soden says Jesus is her "partner in business," and she wants everyone to know it.

"His sign is not bothering me, but I know it's bothering Jesus," she said. . "And children are going to pass by that sign and say, 'What is that? It looks like a devil.' And what are parents going to say to that?"

Young said his clients come from a range of religious backgrounds and cultures, and he doesn't want them to feel alienated from his business.

"My main point is that we share a parking lot, and what goes on in this parking lot represents not only hers, but both shops," he said. "What she does inside her business is her business. I would not tell her to get rid of the sign."

He said he is not a satanist, and respects every religion, adding that he has friends who follow several different religions.

"More people have been killed in the name of God than over anything else, and so I don't think people should fight about religion," he said. "Satan is part of the same religion as Christ, so it's a contrast, not a competing religion."

Both signmakers say they simply have a difference of opinion, and respect each other's right to freedom of speech. They just want commuters to know what they're honking for because neither wants to take down their respective sign.


Some amazing crystals

These are some selenite crystals -- a form of gypsum.

Look at the picture and see the man at the left for a sense of the scale.


Saw this at Maggie's Farm

More images here: The Cellar

Parent site of the Naica cave system with video and galleries: Naica Caves

Conditions in there are a wee bit harsh -- from 125 to 150 degrees F (50-65 degrees C) and stays at 100% humidity. You can stay in there for about eight minutes without protective gear.

Argentina's actions come clear

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I never really understood why Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands until I read one sentence in this longish article by Yahoo/AFP:
Argentina determined to get Britain's Falklands 25 years after war
Argentina clung to its claim of sovereignty over Britain's Falkland Islands Monday as the two countries marked the 25th anniversary of their war over the small Atlantic islands.

Vice President Daniel Scioli reaffirmed the government's goal of winning control of the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, in a speech before war veterans in Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city.

"The war has not changed the reality: the Malvinas are Argentine, they have always been and they always will be," Scioli said in the capital of Tierra del Fuego province, which would oversee the Malvinas.

"We will recover what is ours," he said at the main ceremony marking the anniversary, attended by hundreds of people. Scioli also urged Britain to sit down for negotiations on the islands.

Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said Argentina would continue pressing its case before international bodies.

"We will do so firmly," Taiana said in the southern city of Rio Grande, where thousands of people attended a vigil honoring fallen Argentine soldiers.
The one sentence comes a bit later in the article:
As much as 60 billion barrels of crude lie in ocean-bed structures around the archipelago, which has been British since 1833.
Emphasis mine -- I can see why Argentina is lusting after this bit of British Territory. It's not patriotism, it's geld-lust.

Jesus Christ - really...

#1) - It is coming up on Easter.
#2) - I was brought up as an Episcopalian with an Anglican minister.
#3) - There is a brewing Schism in the Episcopal Church over people who are doing the current politically correct, "everything is groovy", multi-culti, toss our values and discernment over the railing and people who want to bring the Church back to its original focus.

I consider Faith to be a very personal matter, so does Jen so we do not speak publicly about it much but we are both comfortable in our spirituality and with God. This news item from The Telegraph illustrates my feelings about #3:

Easter message: Christ did not die for sin
The Church's traditional teaching of Christ's crucifixion is "repulsive" and "insane", a controversial cleric will claim on the BBC this week.

The Very Rev Jeffrey John, who had to withdraw before taking up an appointment as bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a long-term homosexual relationship, is set to ignite a row over one of the most fundamental tenets of Christian belief.

Clergy who preach this Easter that Christ was sent to earth to die in atonement for the sins of mankind are "making God sound like a psychopath", he will say.

In a BBC Radio 4 show, Mr John, who is now Dean of St Albans, urges a revision of the traditional explanation, known as "penal substitution".

Christian theology has taught that because humans have sinned, God sent Christ as a substitute to suffer and die in our place.

"In other words, Jesus took the rap and we got forgiven as long as we said we believed in him," says Mr John. "This is repulsive as well as nonsensical. It makes God sound like a psychopath. If a human behaved like this we'd say that they were a monster."

Mr John argues that too many Christians go through their lives failing to realise that God is about "love and truth", not "wrath and punishment". He offers an alternative interpretation, suggesting that Christ was crucified so he could "share in the worst of grief and suffering that life can throw at us".

Church figures have expressed dismay at his comments, which they condemn as a "deliberate perversion of the Bible". The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, accused Mr John of attacking the fundamental message of the Gospel.

"He is denying the way in which we understand Christ's sacrifice. It is right to stress that he is a God of love but he is ignoring that this means he must also be angry at everything that distorts human life," he said.

Emphasis mine. No. I am sorry Dean John but you simply do not "get it" Christ was selfless -- you are not. As for distorting human life -- take a good close look at the Middle East. Discuss...

Del Monte, Ol' Roy, Dollar General or Happy Tails also were made from the Melamine contaminated wheat gluten from China.

From Del Monte Pet Products:

Del Monte Pet Products Voluntarily Withdraws Specific Product Codes of Pet Treats and Wet Dog Food Products in the United States
SAN FRANCISCO, March 31, 2007 - As a precautionary measure, Del Monte Pet Products is voluntarily recalling select product codes of its pet treat products sold under the Jerky Treats, Gravy Train, Beef Sticks and Pounce Meaty Morsels brands as well as select dog snack and wet dog food products sold under private label brands. A complete list of affected brands and products is below.

The Company took this voluntary recall action immediately after learning this morning from the FDA that wheat gluten supplied to Del Monte Pet Products from a specific manufacturing facility in China contained melamine. Melamine is a substance not approved for use in food. The FDA made this finding as part of its ongoing investigation into the recent pet food recall.

The adulteration occurred in a limited production quantity on select product codes of the brands below. This recall removes all Del Monte pet products with wheat gluten procured from this manufacturing facility from retail shelves.

No other Del Monte Pet Products treats, biscuits or wet dog food products are impacted by this recall, and no Del Monte dry cat food, dry dog food, wet cat food or pouched pet foods are subject to this voluntary recall. The affected products comprise less than one-tenth of one percent of Del Monte Pet Products' annual pet food and pet treat production.

Del Monte Pet Products has proactively engaged and fully cooperated with the FDA since the start of its investigation. The adulterated ingredients were used in limited production over the last three months for those items identified by specific product codes. Del Monte Pet Products has not used wheat gluten from this manufacturing facility in China in any other pet products except those described below.

Full list of recall items at the website. Makes me wonder what other food product we import from China -- these people are not known for environmental well-being...

Extreme Instability

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Extreme Instability is the website of a Storm Chaser and amazing photographer. Check out: Extreme Instability And be prepared to spend quite a bit of time browsing through some wonderful photographs.

Technology Guru Don Lancaster points out a new articleabout an old energy scam and writes this. Please note -- Don's website doesn't support permalinking; the article you want is dated April 2nd, 2007 Anyway:

The monumental cluelessness of the media on all matters scientific or energetic continues to astound me. As in this latest fiasco where energy and power are clearly confused.

We looked at the crucial differences in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial. Briefly, energy is "how much" and power is "how fast".

I'll gladly sell you a device that gives you a thousand watts back for every watt you put in. But so will Radio Shack.

It is called a "capacitor".

At any rate, we have this stupendous super wonderful 10 kilowatt power generator. All you do is drive your car over it. Golly Gee Mister Science! If the car is over the device for two seconds, this revolutionary energy breakthrough generates a staggering 20 kilowatt-seconds of energy.

Wow! This is 0.00555 of a kilowatt hour! Or just over 500 microcents worth of electricity! Needless to say, this neglects the loss of momentum of the car which will be significantly higher.

And, of course, the amortization, which clearly will be ludicrous.

Yup -- one born every minute and ten born to take them.

Keep the Peace Tonight

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Odd little music video from the National Reconnaissance Office recently declassified and posted at the Memory Hole. Check out: Keep the Peace Tonight Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link. From BoingBoing:
This is one of those cases where reality is far weirder than anything a parodist could imagine: "NRO: Forty Years of Reconnaissance."

It's a now-declassified, um, music video by and in praise of the National Reconnaissance Office, the once super-secret spy agency responsible for the U.S.'s satellite and aerial reconnaissance missions. (Established in 1960, the NRO's very existence was classified until 1992. This was timely, as a couple of years later the agency built itself a $300 million headquarters -- the existence of which it also tried to keep classified, until someone thought to check the local planning office -- using part of the $1.5 billion or so in unspent funding it had socked away in a "rainy day fund.")

The video is a hoot: Over a montage of satellite launches, dial-twiddling technicians, and military hardware, intercut with historical footage from the past 40 years, an overly earnest rock balladeer sings of "Keep[ing] the Peace Alive."
An odd bit of ephemera from our past but I cannot fault the sentiment or the achievements.

Light posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff for the "sooper seekrit" project. I'll be surfing and will post anything that catches my eye but it will not be too much.

Niven's Laws

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The Maximum Leader at Naked Villainy made reference to Niven's Laws. I had forgotten about them and how good they were. Wikipedia has the list:
Niven's laws
Niven's laws were named after science fiction author Larry Niven, who has periodically published them as "how the Universe works" as far as he can tell. Most recently rewritten on January 29, 2002 (and published in Astounding Magazine in the November 2002 issue), the rules are:
1. Never throw shit at an armed man.
2. Never stand next to someone who is throwing shit at an armed man.
3. Never fire a laser at a mirror.
4. Mother Nature doesn't care if you're having fun.
Over 20 more at the Wikipedia site. Good stuff!

Equipment Resale Inc.

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These people are a reseller of large industrial stuff. Seriously droolworthy, even if you aren't considering putting together a factory somewhere. Check out: Equipment Resale Inc.

Nipper is being replaced

Nipper, the little RCA mascot is being replaced. This is a bit of a cultural travesty but I'm not to heartbroken considering that his replacement is none other than Gromet From the Times Online:
Listen Gromit, you�re top dog now
The little dog listening to an old gramophone has been one of the world�s most instantly recognisable images for 100 years.

Until now. Nipper the terrier is being replaced this week by Gromit, the Plasticine dog from the Wallace and Gromit animated series.

The original image is based on a 19th century painting by Francis Barraud. Nipper was supposed to be listening to a recording of his dead owner. Hence the name given to the picture: His Master�s Voice.

Over the past century it has been adopted as a logo by different record companies in Britain, the United States and Japan, and by HMV, the world�s biggest chain of record stores.

This week the HMV group is switching to Gromit. The only master�s voice he is used to is Wallace saying: �Nice cheese, Gromit.�
Got to say that Gromit is an awesome character -- if you haven't seen any of the Wallace and Gromit series, you are very much missing out on something wonderful.

Hurricane Katrina fraud

People are still scamming the system -- from WFRV/AP:
Katrina Fraud Stretches Far Beyond Gulf
An Illinois woman mourns her two young daughters, swept to their deaths in Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters. It's a tragic and terrifying story. It's also a lie.

An Alabama woman applies for disaster aid for hurricane damage. She files 28 claims for addresses in four states. It's all a sham.

Two California men help stage Internet auctions designed to help Katrina relief organizations. Those, too, are bogus.

More than 18 months after Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast, authorities are chipping away at a mountain of fraud cases that, by some estimates, involve thousands of people who bilked the federal government and charities out of hundreds of millions of dollars intended to aid storm victims.

The full scope of Katrina fraud may never be known, but this much is clear: It stretches far beyond the Gulf Coast, like the hurricane evacuees themselves. So far, more than 600 people have been charged in federal cases in 22 states � from Florida to Oregon -- and the District of Columbia.

The frauds range in value from a few thousand dollars to more than $700,000. Complaints are still pouring in and several thousand possible cases are in the pipeline -- enough work to keep authorities busy for five to eight years, maybe more.
A bit more:
While many people filed bogus claims, the growing roster of the accused goes beyond the usual con artists. It includes employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, other public officials, business owners, even temporary workers for the Red Cross.
I hope they nail these people's asses to a tree for all to see -- this sort of activity -- preying on people's generosity and grief -- is despicable.

Magnitude 8.0 quake in the Soloman Islands Lots of Tsunami warnings. The Solomon Islands are northwast of Australia. Population is about 500,000 Bloomberg has a news writeup:

Earthquake Near Solomon Islands Sparks Tsunami Alert (Update3)
An earthquake of magnitude 8 struck near the Solomon Islands, causing a tsunami wave to crash into the coast and prompting an alert for Australia and South Pacific island nations.

Residents of the coastal settlement of Gizo retreated to high ground as waves damaged buildings, including a hotel, Robert Iroge, editor of the Solomons Star newspaper said by telephone from the capital, Honiara, today. Julian McLeod of the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office said there were unconfirmed reports of two villages in the west being flooded, with four people missing, the Associated Press reported.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology advised people to avoid beaches in the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales. "It is quite a dangerous situation," spokesman Rob Webb told Sky Television News. "We are concerned about the entire east coast of Australia for the next two to three hours."

The quake occurred at 7:39 a.m. Solomon Islands time, 41 kilometers (25 miles) south southeast of Gizo in the New Georgia archipelago and 348 kilometers west northwest of Honiara, at a depth of 10 kilometers, the U.S. Geological Survey said in an e- mailed alert. The USGS initially reported a magnitude 7.6 quake and later revised it to magnitude 8.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami alert was in effect for the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji and northeastern Australia. The center said it received reports of a 15-centimeter high wave at Honiara. According to Webb, that could prove destructive, depending on the depth of the water.

The magnitude system is logrithmic -- an eight is ten times greater than a seven which is ten times greater than a six. I hate to think of the damage there. Like I said, keep these people in your prayers.

Googles latest service - TiSP

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Cool -- Google has launched a new broadband service. Check out TiSP From their How TiSP Works page:
TiSP: Going with the flow
Google TiSP (BETA) is a fully functional, end-to-end system that provides in-home wireless access by connecting your commode-based TiSP wireless router to one of thousands of TiSP Access Nodes via fiber-optic cable strung through your local municipal sewage lines.

Installing a typical home TiSP system is a quick, easy and largely sanitary process -- provided you follow these step-by-step instructions very, very carefully.

Installing TiSP
#1 Remove the spindle of fiber-optic cable from your TiSP installation kit.

#2 Attach the sinker to the loose end of the cable, take one safe step backward and drop this weighted end into your toilet.

#3 Grasp both ends of the spindle firmly while a friend or loved one flushes, thus activating the patented GFlush� system, which sends the weighted cable surfing through the plumbing system to one of the thousands of TiSP Access Nodes.
Lots more at the website. We have a septic system so I'll have to see if it works with that.

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