May 2007 Archives

RIP - William Morris Meredith

A very dear family friend and a true man of letters. He passed away yesterday evening. A good (if brief) biography is here: There is an entry at Wikipedia His papers are in a special collection at Connecticut College Here is one of his works:
The Wreck of the Thresher
(Lost at sea, April 10, 1963)

I stand on the ledge where rock runs into the river
As the night turns brackish with morning, and mourn the drowned.
Here the sea is diluted with river; I watch it slaver
Like a dog curing of rabies. Its ravening over,
Lickspittle ocean nuzzles the dry ground.
(But the dream that woke me was worse than the sea's gray
Slip-slap; there are no such sounds by day.)

This crushing of people is something we live with.
Daily, by unaccountable whim
Or caught up in some harebrained scheme of death,
Tangled in cars, dropped from the sky, in flame,
Men and women break the pledge of breath:
And now under water, gone all jetsam and small
In the pressure of oceans collected, a squad of brave men in a hull.

(Why can't our dreams be content with the terrible facts?
The only animal cursed with responsible sleep.
We trace disaster always to our own acts.
I met a monstrous self trapped in the black deep:
All these years, he smiled, I've drilled at sea
For this crush of water. Then he saved only me.)

We invest ships with life. Look at the harbor
At first light: with better grace than men
In their movements the vessels run to their labors
Working the fields that the tide has made green again;
Their beauty is womanly, they are named for ladies and queens,
Although by a wise superstition these are called
After fish, the finned boats, silent and submarine.
The crushing of any ship has always been held
In dread, like a house burned or a great tree felled.

I think how sailors laugh, as if cold and wet
And dark and lost were their private, funny derision
And I can judge then what dark compression
Astonishes them now, their sunken faces set
Unsmiling, where the contents sluice to and fro
And without humor, somehwere northeast of here and below.

(Sea-brothers, I lower you in the ingenuity of dreams,
Strange lungs and bells to escape in; let me stay aboard last-

We amend our dreams in half-sleep. There it seems
Easy to talk to the severe dead and explain the past.
Now they are saying, Do not be ashamed to stay alive,
You have dreamt nothing that we do not forgive.

And gentlier, Study something deeper than yourselves,
As, how the heart, when it turns diver, delves and saves.)

Whether we give assent to this or rage
Is a question of temprament and does not matter.
Some will has been done past our understanding,
Past our guilt surely, equal to our fears.
Dullards, we set again to the cryptic blank page
Where the sea schools us with terrible water.
The noise of a boat breaking up and its men is in our ears.
The bottom here is too far down for our sounding;
The ocean was salt before we crawled to tears.

Very cool action figures

I'm not normally a big fan of action figures but these critters are awesome:
From here Hat tip to the Table of Malcontents

From FOX News:

Wal-Mart Cashier Says He Was Fired Over MySpace Bomb Joke
A former Wal-Mart cashier says he was fired for joking on his MySpace page that the average IQ would increase if a bomb were dropped on the company's stores.

David Noordewier said he was fired Feb. 27 for posting the message, which he said was a joke and not a threat.

"I told them that this was crazy," Noordewier told The Flint Journal. "It's not like I have a fighter jet in my backyard to drop a bomb with.

Then they escorted me out to the parking lot."

Noordewier said store officials had him sign an acknowledgment that he was fired for "gross misconduct -- integrity issue." Wal-Mart spokeswoman Kory Lundberg confirmed that Noordewier no longer worked for the company but would not discuss why. Unemployment officials said Noordewier did not qualify for benefits because he had made a threat.

Ouch - not qualifying for benefits will sting a bit... Noordewier's parting comment was:

"If you have a MySpace site, you better act like you're a politician," he said. "Be politically correct and don't try to be funny."

Should have thought of that sooner. And of course, the upshot of this is that any future prospective employer, when Googling his name, will find this story...

Yeah sure - try to enforce this law... From Gamespot:
New York introduces more game bills
New legislation in the Senate and Assembly would make it a felony to sell games with depraved violence and indecent images to minors.

Earlier this month, the New York state Senate approved a bill that would make rating labels on games mandatory in the state and establish an advisory council to appraise the job done by the Entertainment Software Rating Board and a parent-teacher program to identify kids at risk for violent behavior.

The bill passed the Senate and was moved to the Assembly in just four days. With momentum like that behind the issue, two more bills were introduced last week, one from the Senate, and another from the Assembly.

After his rating labels bill met with such swift acceptance, State Senator Andrew Lanza last week introduced S5941, which would make it a class E felony to sell or rent to minors any game including "depictions of depraved violence and indecent images."

The bill defines depraved violence as "any photographic, photorealistic, or other similar visual representation of the rape, dismemberment, physical torture, mutilation, or evisceration of a human body." Indecent images would be any such visual representation "of a person or a portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors."
Emphasis mine -- if the gott-damned parents did their job in the first place, there would not be such a problem with widespread violence among kids...

Here kitty - a $22,000 pet

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Obscene price but people will buy it. From the Seattle Post-Intellegencer:

New breed of cat retails for $22,000
From the we're-not-making-this-up department comes news that a company called Lifestyle Pets has introduced the Ashera, a new breed of cat that retails for $22,000. Sunroof extra.

Billed as the world's "largest, rarest and most exotic domestic cat," the Ashera is the size of a small dog -- and we're not talking Paris Hilton-style pooch. Top weight is about 30 pounds.

Developed by crossing two exotic feline bloodlines -- the African serval and the Asian leopard cat -- with a regular old domestic cat, the Ashera has leopardlike spots and contrasting tiger stripes and a smile that will scare the mailman. We kid. The news release says Asheras are intelligent, great with kids and OK with being walked on a leash. If this is the pet of your dreams, visit and start stocking up on fresh meat.

Looks gorgeous and the website says that they are fully socialized and like to be on a leash but still...

Got one of the bastards!!!

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From the MS/NBC/Associated Press:
One of world's top 10 spammers held in Seattle
Feds say computer users will notice decrease in junk e-mail following arrest

A 27-year-old man described as one of the world�s most prolific spammers was arrested Wednesday, and federal authorities said computer users across the Web could notice a decrease in the amount of junk e-mail.

Robert Alan Soloway is accused of using networks of compromised �zombie� computers to send out millions upon millions of spam e-mails.

�He�s one of the top 10 spammers in the world,� said Tim Cranton, a Microsoft Corp. lawyer who is senior director of the company�s Worldwide Internet Safety Programs. �He�s a huge problem for our customers. This is a very good day.�
They need to take down about five more of these toads and the majority of this crap will be gone... (With due apology to all the fantastic toads out there)
From MS/NBC/Reuters:
Ethanol boom may fuel shortage of tequila
Mexican farmers burning agave fields and replanting them with corn

Mexican farmers are setting ablaze fields of blue agave, the cactus-like plant used to make the fiery spirit tequila, and resowing the land with corn as soaring U.S. ethanol demand pushes up prices.

The switch to corn will contribute to an expected scarcity of agave in coming years, with officials predicting that farmers will plant between 25 percent and 35 percent less agave this year to turn the land over to corn.

"Those growers are going after what pays best now," said Ismael Vicente Ramirez, head of agriculture at Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council.
The Horror!

Oh to be a Chicken in Seattle

Good article on urban Chicken keeping in Seattle. From the Seattle Times:
Custom Coops
From penthouse perches to covered porches, city chickens are sitting pretty.

If I were a chicken, I'd want to live in Seattle.

As an urban chicken, you enjoy all the benefits of cosmopolitan Northwest living � without having to worry about the high cost of housing. (Poultry, here and everywhere, typically don't invest much thought in the vagaries of the real-estate market.)

Overcrowding wouldn't pose a problem because a city ordinance limits outdoor pets to three per household. Even in a small backyard, that's estate-size space. Especially compared to the residential density endured by country cousins who are commercially grown and forcibly crammed into tenement squawk boxes.

Key word here is Pet. Means you'll likely live out your natural life in a lovingly constructed custom home. Doesn't guarantee a Chicken McMansion, but sure beats the soup pot. (Castle du poulet trumps chicken cassoulet!)

Most folks who keep urban fowl say they raise the birds for spiritual sustenance rather than the meat. They find peace in watching their feathered friends scrabble and strut. They share organic eggs with neighbors. They take extraordinary delight in harvesting poultry poop for their garden.

Autumn, a Bantam (miniature) Aracauna chicken that lays blue-green eggs, likes hanging out the window of her nestbox and nibbling on pansies at the Queen Anne hen house built for her by Shelly Baker and Sonja Hunter. The hen house was on the Seattle Tilth city chicken-coop tour.

"Not to sound like a big hippie . . . but now that people are in this urban environment, they're searching for something to get back in touch with the earth," says Phil Megenhardt, city chicken instructor for Seattle Tilth. "I sort of teach it as a chicken-empowerment class."

Seattle may be the nation's only major metropolis to offer layfolks formal education in fowl fundamentals. In three years, Megenhardt graduated about 300 people from his course. This year's class, taught by Power Point whiz Amy Hagopian, was standing-room-only. If each chicken fancier went on to establish a flock and followed the three-chicken rule, that would add up to 1,000 chickens amongst us.
Chickens make awesome pets -- they are not "cuddly" to speak of but they are a lot of fun to watch, are great for keeping bugs down and they have fantastic personalities. I love our birds.

Interesting find on Google Earth. From The Register:

Google Earth unearths crashed Darfur gunrunning plane
A crashed Antonov transport plane at the centre of US and UN allegations of gunrunning into war-torn Darfur is visible on Google Earth.

The US State department yesterday announced specific measures against a Sudanese air-freight operation, the Azza Air Transport Company. The Sudanese air-cargo firm was "sanctioned under Executive Order 13400 for transferring small arms, ammunition and artillery to Sudanese government forces and Janjaweed militia in Darfur."
The Darfur region has been racked by conflict between government-backed Janjaweed Arab militias and local black-African inhabitants. The Janjaweed have frequently been accused of genocide, and are widely thought to have the backing of the Khartoum government.

A confidential UN report, leaked last month and now downloadable here (large Word document) says:
"The Government of the Sudan continues to ship both small arms and heavy weapons, ammunition and other military equipment into the Darfur states by air, specifically into the airports at El Geneina, Nyala and El Fasher. According to reliable sources, several cargo aircraft landed repeatedly at El Geneina airport in January and February 2007 reportedly to offload military equipment...On 24 February 2007, an Antonov AN-12 aircraft bearing registration number ST AQE flew from Khartoum to El Geneina airport, where it crashed shortly after 9am...that specific flight was operated by AZZA Transport...In addition to the passengers there were two D-22 type 122-mm artillery howitzers and 40 to 50 wooden boxes painted olive drab, suspected to contain arms and ammunition."

Well-known blogging war correspondent David Axe was watching the story and immediately looked up Geneina airport on Google Earth (See here [kmz]). Sure enough, the imagery seems to show a couple of damaged transports tipped over on their sides.

Here is the Google Earth view:


Here is the photo from the UN Document:

From the Scientific American:
Wary of food safety, China consumers shop with care
First bird flu made eating poultry worrisome. Next it was tainted pork. Pesticides in vegetables. Toxic additives in processed foods.

Chinese consumers could be forgiven for not knowing what to eat any more, and many wealthier urbanites are saying the country's string of food safety breaches is making them think twice about what they put into their shopping carts.

"Look at the color of these things," said 32-year-old Ning Qiyun, poking at a package of sliced reddish sausage in the supermarket counter.

"We eat a lot less of these kinds of things now. In fact, I buy very little of this sort of thing," said Ning, shopping for dinner for her husband and 10-year-old daughter.

Ning's comments coincided with a report from Xinhua news agency that about 60 percent of edible oil on sale in the southwestern city of Chongqing might cause food poisoning and harm the human liver and kidney.
A bit more:
At home, China's citizens are treated to a near-daily diet of stories of mass food poisonings or tainted products, and the government is starting to take action.

In the most dramatic of a series of measures, from announcing a system of food recalls to blacklisting producers who break the rules, a court sentenced to death the former head of the national food and drug agency for taking bribes in exchange for drug approvals.

Zheng Xiaoyu may have been made a scapegoat in China's efforts to show the rest of the world it is serious about cleaning up its food and drug industry, but if the judgment was unusually harsh, residents were feeling little pity.

"We should not have any mercy for Zheng Xiaoyu. Even death would be too good for him," read one posting in an online forum. "The amount he took in bribes is a small thing, but his corruption in medicine has brought calamity for 1.3 billion Chinese people."
A death sentence is a bit draconian but it at least shows that the Chinese government has started to take notice of the probem...

A Squabble over some treasure

Remember about that big shipwreck discovery I wrote about here: A shipwreck and a lot of coins. Well, it didn't take long for several governments to claim their parts of the pie... From Breitbart/AFP:
Deep sea treasure trove launches trans-Atlantic dispute
Hardly had deep-sea treasure hunters had time to celebrate their discovery this month of perhaps the world's richest treasure wreck before the marine booty became the centre of a heated ownership debate.

The US company Odyssey Marine Exploration announced on May 18 it had discovered the wreck, code-named "Black Swan", using the latest in undersea robot technology.

But mystery surrounds who owns the more than 17 tonnes of silver and gold coins and other artefacts the vessel was carrying when it went down, and a debate is even raging about where it sank.

According to some reports the ship sank 40 miles (60 kilometres) off the coast of Cornwall in southwestern England, opposite Spain's northwestern coastline, while other reports claim it went down in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Odyssey has insisted it found the wreck in international waters in the Atlantic but has kept the exact site secret, but Madrid suspects the ship was discovered in Spanish territorial waters and a Spanish newspaper reported the vessel itself belonged to Spain.

"What we're seeing here is a presumed incidence of plundering," First Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Friday.

Spain opened a probe into the exact location of the wreck last week after the culture ministry became suspicious of the circumstances in which the cargo, worth an estimated 400 million dollars, was found.

Odyssey co-founder Greg Stemm however denies anything untoward.

In an interview with El Pais newspaper Saturday Stemm said Madrid would be informed if the ship turned out to be Spanish and pointed out his company had offered to receive Spanish archaeologists aboard.

"We haven't yet identified where it comes from. The find site is full of lost colonial-era vessels," he added.
Emphasis mine. England is also very curious about this wreck. That last line above makes the hair on my arms raise up -- this sounds like a major major find.

A Most Curious Museum

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I present for your edification and amusement the The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies:
Welcome to The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies... where tools of the trade that have died or have just about died a slow slow death are cheerfully exhibited.

Due to severe government budget cuts to the arts, our little museum's acquisition funds are frankly, well, bupkus. So, we welcome Drawgerers to submit images of any artistic tools, machinery, gadgets, etc. that they feel have bitten the dust.
Chock full of Press-Type, Rubylith and Rapidograph goodness... Used to do a lot of graphic design back when I had the commercial copy/printing business and used a lot of these things -- also used the computer; it was an interesting trade-off at that time (1990's) which was faster, sometimes traditional methods trumped the computer, sometimes (typesetting especially) the computer trumped traditional methods.
Aren't the Islamic leaders supposed to be setting examples of purity? Not Khaled Shawish - from the World Net Daily:
Terror leader arrested having car sex near Arafat's grave
Israeli forces raid jeep of longtime wanted militant caught in compromising position

Israel today arrested a longtime wanted terror leader here in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

According to Israeli security officials and Palestinian sources in Ramallah speaking to WND, the terrorist was arrested while having car sex just a few hundred feet from late PLO leader Yasser Arafat's gravesite.

Khaled Shawish, an officer in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Force 17 presidential guards, was captured by undercover Israeli police forces following scores of shooting attacks he is suspected of carrying out. Shawish, who doubles as the Ramallah chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, previously boasted of involvement in a West Bank shooting attack in December 2000 that killed Israeli ultranationalist leader Benjamin Kahane and Kahane's wife, Talya.
And the arrest?
According to Israeli security officials and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades sources in Ramallah, Shawish was arrested after the Israeli police stormed his jeep, which was parked in a lot outside the Muqata, about 200 feet from Arafat's grave. The sources said at the time of his arrest, Shawish was having intercourse in the back seat of his jeep with a Palestinian woman, whose identity is being withheld by WND. The woman was not his wife.
Emphasis mine - hypocritical scum...

Happy Anniversary Sir Edmund

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54 years ago today, Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, KG, ONZ, KBE and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first people to climb to the summit of Mount Everest and return safely � a feat they achieved on 29 May 1953. Wikipedia has a nice article about him: Sir Edmund Hillary.
Over at Investor's Business Daily:
Profile in Incompetence
In this exclusive 10-part series, IBD takes a hard look at Jimmy Carter�s administration and compares it to that of George W. Bush, which Carter has called the worst ever.

Installments will cover the economy, foreign policy, human rights, dealing with dictators, fighting Communism and the Democratic leadership in general during times of war.
The series opens with this one:
Look Who's Talking
Leadership: So Jimmy Carter calls the Bush administration "the worst in history." This from the man who wrecked the world's greatest economy and made a nuclear Iran and North Korea possible.

We didn't think we'd see the day when a president-elect of France would be more appreciative of America's role in the world than one of our own former presidents.

But here is Carter telling the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that President Bush's "administration has been the worst in history," one that has "endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war even when our own security is not directly threatened."

Later, Carter called his comments "careless or misinterpreted." But given a chance to retract, he didn't. Apparently the man whose idea of leadership was to sit in front of a fireplace and blame everything on America's "malaise" does not consider Islamofascists turning passenger jets into manned cruise missiles and flying them into skyscrapers a direct threat.

Nor does he consider himself responsible for the chain of events that gave us not only 9/11, but al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hezbollah and a nuclear Iran and North Korea.
Very well written and domumented. There are six editorials online now with a new one scheduled to be posted tomorrow (Wednesday).
Reminds me of Mao's taking teachers and scientists and making them work in the fields. From the BBC News comes this story of murder:
Leading Muslim calligrapher shot
One of the Muslim world's leading calligraphers has been shot dead by gunmen in Baghdad.

Khalil al-Zahawi was the most famous practitioner in Iraq of the art of writing classical Arabic script.

He was outside his house in the New Baghdad district of the city on Saturday when he was ambushed by gunmen and killed.

The art of writing classical Arabic script is highly regarded in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world.
And why was he killed?
His death will be seen as another attack on culture and learning by insurgent groups and militias in Iraq who in the past have targeted scientists, doctors and academics.
We are at war with animals - sons of pigs and dogs and apes who are only one step removed from the jungle.

Heck on wheels

If you plan to visit Kalamazoo, Michigan anytime, watch out for the two-wheeled terrors that gather on Memorial Day. From the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:
Heck on wheels
Booze. Nudity. Exploding road kill. Swarms of exhaust- and noise-spewing two-wheeled vehicles racing around town, raising heck.

Sounds like just another motorcycle rally, except that the gangs of bikers who converge on this western Michigan town every Memorial Day weekend to race, carouse and annoy the local population all have brought rides they can pedal when they run out of gas.

Welcome to the Sturgis of mopeds.

Mopeds, in case you don't know, are cheap, pokey, puny, lightly regulated motorbikes that you can also pedal like a bicycle to get started, which also is useful when the engine quits, or when the hills get too steep for the little 50 cubic centimeter motor.

They enjoyed a brief spasm of popularity in the United States about 30 years ago, thanks to an oil embargo and an energy crisis. JC Penney even sold a model once.

But even back then, they were a bit of a joke. If motorcycles are macho Marlon Brando in "The Wild One," and scooters are romantic Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday," then mopeds are nerdy Jimmy Carter in a cardigan sweater lecturing a wasteful nation to turn down its thermostats.

So, no surprise that when gas prices went back down, the machines were relegated to the back of the garage by owners too embarrassed to be seen riding them.

But now that gas prices are back up, mopeds are back, too.

In the past few years, the dinky bikes that can get 100 miles to the gallon but only go 30 miles per hour are enjoying a weird little renaissance as hundreds of young riders are recovering, restoring, riding and racing vintage mopeds older than themselves.

They've created a subculture of the dorky cool, turning the dinky motorbikes into souped up, pimped out machines, going on cross-continental rides and forming chapters of what they call the Moped Army (, motto: "Swarm and Destroy").
This is the 13th year for this event. Sounds like a lot of fun. The Moped Army website is a hoot too -- lots of people not taking themselves seriously...
From The Telegraph:
Plea to protect 'unique iron-eating tree'
Villagers are calling for a preservation order to be issued to protect a tree that has enveloped pieces of metal, including a bicycle, a ship's anchor and chain, and a bridle bit.

The sycamore tree, dating from the 1800s, stands in the yard of an old smithy in Brig o'Turk, in the Trossachs, now part of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. As it grew, the expanding trunk engulfed the blacksmith's scrap heap around it.

When a local boy, who had left his bicycle against the tree, failed to return from the First World War the tree grew around it. Parts remain visible, sticking out of the trunk. But hundreds of other pieces of metal are hidden inside.

Nice people - Menu Foods

Menu Foods -- the company that imported all the Melamine tainted wheat gluten and used it to make pet food is getting aggressive with people filing lawsuits. From USA Today:

Court: Menu Foods harassed pet owners
The pet food company that recalled 60 million cans of contaminated dog and cat food repeatedly made harassing phone calls to pet owners who had lawyers and said they didn't want to talk, even after a judge ordered the firm to leave them alone, court records show.

Lawyers from six firms representing clients who claim their pets were harmed by Menu's pet food asked a federal judge in New Jersey Wednesday to stop Menu from "bullying" people who had called the company since the recall was announced March 16, according to their court filing.

U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman in Camden, N.J., agreed with the plaintiffs, describing the calls as "aggressive," according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by USA TODAY.

Odwalla proved themselves to be a class act during their eColi problems and they have emerged as a successful company. Menu Foods is headed for some serious times if they continue with this strong-arm tactics. The nature of the calls?

At a previous hearing on Friday, May 18, the judge had cautioned Menu and Crawford that they should not contact people who had joined one of the lawsuits against the company. Legally, Menu cannot contact those plaintiffs directly but must go through their lawyers.

But in affidavits presented in court Wednesday, pet owners said they received calls that weekend from Crawford representatives who pressed them to answer questions even after being told the owners had hired lawyers. In some cases, the pet owners also received multiple calls from Crawford's computerized phone banks after telling representatives they were represented by attorneys, according to the affidavits.

"Menu's representatives asked owners to sign releases which waived their right to get advice from a lawyer," said attorney Jay Edelson in an interview.

His Chicago-based firm Blim & Edelson represents more than 600 pet owners.


Couldn't have happened to a nice politician. From The Scotsman:
Raid on spy's home 'reveals details of Chirac's secret �30m bank account'
Long-standing rumours that the former French president Jacques Chirac holds a secret multi-million-euro bank account in Japan appear to have been confirmed by files seized from the home of a senior spy.

Papers seized by two investigating magistrates from General Philippe Rondot, a former head of the DGSE, France's intelligence service, show Mr Chirac opened an account in the mid-1990s at Tokyo Sowa Bank, credited with the equivalent of �30 million. It is not known where the money came from, nor whether it is connected to various kick-back scandals to which Mr Chirac's name has been linked over the past decade.

Last year, Mr Chirac "categorically denied" having a bank account in Japan.

The seized documents have been described by the magistrates as "explosive" and are believed to contain copies of the former president's bank statements.
And while president, he was immune from prosecution, now he is not. But maybe he will pull a fast one:
Claims of Mr Chirac's secret nest egg first came to the attention of the French authorities in 1996 when his friend Shoichi Osada, a Japanese banker, decided to invest �500 million in France, so triggering a routine investigation by the DGSE, which is said to have stumbled upon the then president's Japanese account.

Thrown into a panic, Mr Chirac is said to have summoned Gen Rondot in 2001 and ordered him to destroy all DGSE evidence of the account. Unfortunately for the president, the spy simply removed the notes and memos about the affair to his home, where they were seized in March last year by Mr d'Huy and Mr Pons. Since then, the judges have been discreetly pursuing an investigation, interviewing 20 intelligence officers about the affair.

Mr Chirac is reported to have struck a deal with Mr Sarkozy, whereby the latter will push through judicial reforms ensuring the ex-president escapes prosecution. However, the magistrates are expected to move before the reforms are passed this summer.
Ever wonder where all of that Oil of Food money went to? And those French munitions that were found in Iraq.

New stroke therapy -- video games

Makes a lot of sense actually.

From Mississippi's The Meridian Star:

Stroke patients go Wii at Riley Hospital
Just a week after suffering a stroke, Walter Rowry is not only up and around, but he is also playing video games.

"This is fun, I could play all day," said Rowry as he bowls a perfect game on a Nintendo Wii (pronounced 'we') at Riley Hospital's Tom C. Maynor Rehabilitation Center.

"My arm's a little stiff, but it's loosening up," Rowry says as he continues to maneuver the Wii wand through a series of games.

The gaming console has been incorporated into the center's rehab program for patients who have suffered a stroke. The idea was suggested by Dr. Janet Coyle, a hospitalist at Riley.

"Dr. Coyle got one (Wii) for Christmas and after playing on it for awhile, she realized that it would be wonderful for our stroke patients," said Ben Rucks, director of rehabilitation services at Riley.

Since its introduction, the gaming console has been credited for helping people lose weight -- a Wii Workout book is in the works according to an article in Time magazine -- and is being used by medical researchers to treat children who suffer from hemiplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that can paralyze one side of the body.

"Unlike other video games -- which only use the thumbs -- the Wii requires use of the whole body, balance and hand-eye coordination," Rucks said. "This is especially ideal for stroke patients in their recovery."

The gaming device was recently purchased by the Meridian Stroke Support and Education Group in observance of Stroke Awareness Month.

"I'm so pleased about the advances that have been in treating stroke patients," said Maynor, a stroke survivor who serves as president of the group. "And I am especially pleased that those in the Meridian area no longer have to go far for treatment; they can get it right here."

Very cool -- if Nintendo was sharp, they would donate a couple thousand units to Hospitals and PT places; excellent publicity and good service.

A local airport had more than airplanes on its runway last Saturday. From KING-5 News:
Men in trouble for driving on Pierce County airport runway
Two men are in hot water after taking a joyride on the runway of a Pierce County airport Saturday night.

Police say it appears the two, in their early 20s, had been drinking as they jumped in the car and took it for a spin in a place they shouldn't have.

Both are believed to be employees of the Tacoma Narrows Airport, so they had the authorization to be there, but that privilege was abused.
And the driving in question:
A security guard at the airport says the Pontiac Grand Am must have been going at least 100 miles an hour down the runway.

"They drove their car to the south end of the runway. They then drove their car to the north end at an extremely high rate of speed," said Darlington.

That's when something went wrong and the driver lost control.

The car went flying off the tarmac, through a field for roughly 100 yards, then flew about 60 feet in the air, slammed into the side of a hill, and rolled to the bottom.

The passenger suffered a fractured leg. The driver had some bumps and bruises.

Comments turned off for a few days

My anti-spam script was working great except a new technique has evolved that it cannot pick up on. I have turned comments off for a few days while I analyze this and add a filter for it.

So far, things have been really good - several hundred attempts per week and only one or two posts.

Not content to let the Goracle get all the press, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is stumping for global warming:
Pelosi Holds Global Warming Talks
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on an overseas trip to embrace an audience and a topic for which President Bush has shown scant affection: "Old Europe" and global warming.

Pelosi, D-Calif., and seven other House members left Saturday for meetings with scientists and politicians in Greenland, Germany and Belgium on ways to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The trip comes shortly before a climate change summit next month involving the leading industrialized nations and during a time of increased debate over what should succeed the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international treaty that caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted from power plants and factories in industrialized countries. It expires in 2012.

Bush rejected that accord, saying it would harm the U.S. economy and unfair excludes developing countries like China and India from its obligations. Pelosi, who strongly disagrees with that decision and many other of Bush's environmental policies, told The Associated Press on Friday that she said she wants to work with the administration rather than provoke it.
Like she is going to do anything positive... The science points to this being a natural phenomenon and not anything human caused. Why is this still a relevant political topic?

Immigration - a great rant

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Ann Coulter delivers an excellent rant on the proposed Immegration Bill:
Apparently, my position on immigration is that we must deport all 12 million illegal aliens immediately, inasmuch as this is billed as the only alternative to immediate amnesty. The jejune fact that we "can't deport them all" is supposed to lead ineluctably to the conclusion that we must grant amnesty to illegal aliens � and fast!

I'm astounded that debate has sunk so low that I need to type the following words, but: No law is ever enforced 100 percent.

We can't catch all rapists, so why not grant amnesty to rapists? Surely no one wants thousands of rapists living in the shadows! How about discrimination laws? Insider trading laws? Do you expect Bush to round up everyone who goes over the speed limit? Of course we can't do that. We can't even catch all murderers. What we need is "comprehensive murder reform." It's not "amnesty" � we'll ask them to pay a small fine.
And she closes with this thought:
We fought a civil war to force Democrats to give up on slavery 150 years ago. They've become so desperate for servants that now they're importing an underclass to wash their clothes and pick their vegetables. This vast class of unskilled immigrants is the left's new form of slavery.

What do they care if their servants are made citizens eligible to vote and collect government benefits? Aren't the fabulously rich happy in Venezuela? Oops, wrong example. Brazil? No, no, let me try again. Mexico! ... Well, no matter. What could go wrong?

Light posting again today

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Had to run into town to get stuff for the store and will be working on a few pojects tonight.

More Chinese fun and games

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Now we are looking at what China imports. From The Guardian:
'Noah's Ark' of 5,000 rare animals found floating off the coast of China
Cargo of abandoned vessel destined for restaurants
Illegal trade drives species closer to extinction

Endangered, hunted, smuggled and now abandoned, 5,000 of the world's rarest animals have been found drifting in a deserted boat near the coast of China.

The pangolins, Asian giant turtles and lizards were crushed inside crates on a rickety wooden vessel that had lost engine power off Qingzhou island in the southern province of Guangdong. Most were alive, though the cargo also contained 21 bear paws wrapped in newspaper.

According to conservation groups, the haul was discovered on one of the world's most lucrative and destructive smuggling routes: from the threatened jungles of south-east Asia to the restaurant tables of southern China.

The animals were found when local fishermen noticed a strange smell emanating from the vessel, which did not have any registration plates, on Tuesday, the Guangzhou Daily reported.

When coastguard officials boarded the 25-metre craft, it was reportedly deserted and stripped of identification papers. They found more than 200 crates full of animals, many so dehydrated in the tropical sun that they were close to death.

The animals - which weighed 13 tonnes - were taken to port, doused with water and sent to an animal welfare centre. "We have received some animals," said an office worker at the Guangdong Wild Animal Protection Centre. "We are waiting to hear from the authorities what we should do with them."

According to the local media, the cargo included 31 pangolins, 44 leatherback turtles, 2,720 monitor lizards, 1,130 Brazilian turtles as well as the bear paws. Photographs showed other animals, including an Asian giant turtle.

All of these south-east Asian species are critically endangered, banned from international trade and yet openly sold in restaurants and markets in China's southern province of Guangdong, which is famous for its exotic cuisine.

The accidental discovery highlights the negative impact that the growing power of Chinese consumption is having on global conservation efforts.

According to wildlife groups, China is the main market for illegally traded exotic species, which are eaten or used in traditional medicine. Pangolins are in great demand because their meat is consider a delicacy and their scales are thought to help mothers breastfeed their babies.

As a result of demand, the pangolin populations of China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have been wiped out. With traders moving further and further south, the animal is declining even in its last habitats in Java, Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula. It is a similar story for many species of turtle, tortoise, frog and snake.
Maybe it's time to start thinking about voting with our dollars and cutting back on the stuff we buy that is made in China. I know that would be hard to do but something needs to be done here. We are getting screwed and the planet is getting screwed by their blind chase of the Yuan.
Now tainted seafood is the issue. From FOX News:
Frozen Monkfish Recalled in 3 States
A frozen product labeled monkfish distributed in three states is being recalled after two Chicago area people became ill after eating it, the importer announced Thursday.

Hong Chang Corporation of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., said it is recalling the product labeled as monkfish because it may contain tetrodotoxin, a potent toxin.

While the frozen fish imported from China was labeled monkfish, the company said it is concerned that it may be pufferfish because this toxin is usually associated with certain types of pufferfish.

Eating foods containing tetrodotoxin can result in life-threatening illness or death and the toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing.

The company said two people in the Chicago area became ill after eating soup containing the fish. Analysis by the Food and Drug Administration confirmed the presence of the toxin.

Some 282 22-pound boxes of the fish were distributed to wholesalers in Illinois, California and Hawaii, according to the company beginning in September. The fish was sold in retail stores, restaurants and cash and carry stores in these regions.
Wikipedia has a good article on Tetrodotoxin - nasty stuff and from a different fish species than Monkfish. No Fugu for me thank you...

Hizzoner and son - Seattle

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Two stories for this post. A father and a son. The father is the mayor of Seattle and talks the talk but never quite manages to walk the walk. From the Seattle Weekly:
After Adding a Hybrid to His Fleet, Mayor Nickels Gulped Even More Gas
The mayor has two cars at his disposal, including a Ford Explorer.

As the municipal version of Al Gore, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels became semifamous in 2004 for challenging the nation's mayors to meet or beat the goals of the Kyoto Protocol and reverse global warming. Just last week, Nickels' office announced in a press release that 514 cities have now signed on to his U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and that Seattle was continuing to take "bold action under Mayor Nickels" to cut emissions.

As part of his crusade, Nickels announced last summer that he'd "traded in" his elegant city Cadillac limousine for a new, fuel-efficient Toyota Highlander SUV gas-and-electric hybrid. Not exactly: Turns out, the limo just moved to backup status. But environmentally and politically, the mayor left critics in the dust with his professed switch from the 17-miles-per-gallon Caddy to the 31-miles-per-gallon hybrid.

The Cadillac, like two other mayoral limousines that preceded it in recent years, had been an inconvenient truth when contrasted to Nickels' much-ballyhooed greenhouse crusade. Critics such as Sound Politics blogger Stefan Sharkansky thought it was hypocritical of the mayor to use a "chauffeured" limo on his sometimes 100-mile daily rounds of appearances. "[While] he's calling on other people to get out of their cars," wrote Sharkansky, "Nickels' gluttonous dependence on his own official automobile should raise eyebrows."

But while the hybrid switch a month later may have helped clear the air in several ways, the mayor wound up using more money and gas than he did when he cruised around exclusively in the limo, according to city records. But the city says gas records for the Cadillac and hybrid released to Seattle Weekly�detailed fuel-pump statements for a nine-month billing period (March through August and October through December) in 2006 from the city's Fleets and Facilities Department�shouldn't be taken literally.

"Our systems don't track the information in a way to allow one to make [car-to-car] comparisons," says Fleets and Facilities spokesperson Katherine Schubert-Knapp. "When the fuel clerks enter a charge into the system, they pick the [vehicle] number they think applies to the car."

Some charges, Schubert-Knapp adds, could have been attributable to another backup car: a Ford Explorer SUV that gets 11 miles to the gallon and stands at the ready should the hybrid need a tune-up. (The billing documents show no charges for the Explorer, and Schubert-Knapp couldn't explain why that vehicle didn't have its own billing number.)

At any rate, the billings do show this: From October through December of last year, when the gas-saving hybrid was in service, the mayor charged 400 gallons of gas, costing $1,140; compared to 260 gallons at a cost of $870 from March through August, when the Cadillac was in service.
Emphases mine. And his son is in very deep kimchee. From the Seattle Times:
Nickels' son indicted with dozens in scheme to cheat casinos
Jacob Dyson Nickels, the son of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, has been indicted as part of an investigation into a multi-state casino-cheating ring that allegedly stole millions of dollars by bribing casino employees to falsely shuffle decks.

Nickels, 25, was a pit boss at the Nooksack Indian Tribe's Nooksack River Casino in Whatcom County in the summer of 2005 when he accepted $5,000 to introduce one of the ring's alleged conspirators to crooked dealers, according to an indictment unsealed today at U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Two of the defendants, George Lee and Tien Duc Vu, won more than $90,000 on mini-baccarat that October with the help of Nickels and two dealers, Levi Seth Mayfield and Kasey James McKillip, the indictment said.

Mayor Nickels said today he and his wife Sharon had only "just learned of the charges involving our son Jacob."

"We will be encouraging him to cooperate fully with the investigation. Until we know more we will have no comment on the substance of these allegations," Nickels said in a prepared statement.
And a bit more about the charges:
Jacob Nickels is charged with one count of conspiracy and four counts of theft of funds from a gaming establishment on Indian lands in the five-count indictment. He attended Western Washington University until last summer. He did not graduate.
And the scam:
The group used "false shuffle" cheating schemes during blackjack and mini baccarat games, the Justice Department said. The schemes involved bribes to casino supervisors and card dealers and use of blocks of unshuffled cards, the indictments said.

Members of the organization allegedly would signal a card dealer to do a false shuffle and then bet on the known order of the cards, winning more than $850,000 on one occasion.

The indictments also alleged that the ring used hidden transmitters and special software to predict the order in which cards would appear.
He is 25 now -- so he drops out of college, works for the Casino and is offered some easy money by some players. He falls for it not realising that the security people at the Casino are a lot smarter than he is and are very familiar with all of the gaming scams out there... They may get "lucky" once or twice but still, evidence is being gathered against them even on the first turn. They are doomed from the start and do not realize it. Stupid boy and unethical dad...

Light posting tonight

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Was in town all day shopping for our grocery store and we went out to dinner after. I will be working on some stuff so there will be a few posts but not too many...


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From The Kansas City Star:
Toddler's dance destroys monks' intricate sand painting
Talk about a test of faith.

Eight Tibetan monks spent two days cross-legged on the floor at Union Station, leaning over to meticulously create an intricate design of colored sand as an expression of their Buddhist faith. They were more than halfway done.

And then, within seconds, their work was destroyed by a toddler.

Monks are bald, so they couldn�t rip their hair out. But were they angry? Did they curse?

No. They simply smiled and started over.

�No problem,� said Geshe Lobsang Sumdup, leader of the group from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in southern India.

�We didn�t get despondent,� he said Wednesday through a translator. �We have three days more. So we will have to work harder.�

That the monks were able to shrug off their setback can be attributed to their religion.

�It teaches us that nothing is permanent,� said Staci Olsen, a volunteer at the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City.
And the mother and child:
Sometime Tuesday after the monks had finished their labors for the day a woman with her small child visited the post office inside Union Station, near where the design was being created. The child, apparently attracted by the pretty colors, wandered over to play with it.

�He did a little tap dance on it, completely destroying it,� said Lama Chuck Stanford of the Rime center.

The mother did not report the incident, but a security camera at Union Station captured the moment.

�She summarily picked the child up and boogied,� said Bob Smock, security manager for the station.

The sand design was surrounded by stanchions, but the child simply went under the tape. Officials have said they now will place benches around the new creation to further protect it.

Git off my lawn or

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Gruesome story out of Ohio - from Yahoo/AP:
Lawn-loving man gets life for murder
A man who fatally shot a teenage neighbor because he walked on the man's carefully tended lawn was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison.

Charles Martin, 67, must serve 18 years before he can be considered for parole, Clermont County Common Pleas Judge William Walker ordered, adding that he would urge that Martin never be considered for parole.

The man was convicted last month of murder in the March 2006 shotgun killing of 15-year-old Larry Mugrage Jr., a high school freshman.

Martin told the court he was sorry the shooting occurred but said the teen knew how much Martin cared for his lawn and provoked him.

"He stepped on it and he walked 40 feet through it," Martin said. "I cared about it. I cut it every five days."

Prosecutors alleged Martin had confronted the teen earlier in the day when he walked into Martin's yard on his way to a friend's house, then loaded his .410-gauge shotgun and waited more than three hours for him to return.

When the boy stepped on the lawn again, Martin fired at him twice, according to testimony. He then called 911, telling a dispatcher: "I just killed a kid."

Trent goes postal on Record Labels

Trent Reznor has some 'issues' with the current system of music distribution and very rightly so. From Billboard Magazine:

Reznor Continues Label Tirade In Interview
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor continued his tirade against record labels for overpricing his album in Australia in an interview last week with the Herald Sun, calling labels "thieves" and barring label reps from attending his show for free.

"I've have one record left that I owe a major label, then I will never be seen in a situation like this again," he says. "If I could do what I want right now, I would put out my next album ... you could download it from my site at as high a bit-rate as you want [and] pay $4 through PayPal."

He also discussed the massive digital campaign launched around the "Year Zero" album, saying he didn't want his label to have anything to do with it.

"I knew they wouldn't understand what it is," he said. "I knew the minute I talked to someone at the record label about it, they would be looking at it in terms of 'How can we tie this in with a mobile provider?'"

And from the NIN website comes the details of the Aussie release:

Posted on [05_13_2007]
As the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more. A couple of examples that quickly come to mind:

The ABSURD retail pricing of Year Zero in Australia. Shame on you, UMG. Year Zero is selling for $34.99 Australian dollars ($29.10 US). No wonder people steal music. Avril Lavigne's record in the same store was $21.99 ($18.21 US).

By the way, when I asked a label rep about this his response was: "It's because we know you have a real core audience that will pay whatever it costs when you put something out - you know, true fans. It's the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy."

So... I guess as a reward for being a "true fan" you get ripped off.

* The dreaded EURO Maxi-single. Nothing but a consumer rip-off that I've been talked into my whole career. No more.

The point is, I am trying my best to make sure the music and items NIN puts in the marketplace have value, substance and are worth you considering purchasing. I am not allowing Capital G to be repackaged into several configurations that result in you getting ripped off.

We are planning a full-length remix collection of substance that will be announced soon.

A lot of artists are putting their music out online -- the way to go and this bypasses the dinosaurs.

My Dad is a Physics textbook author and I remember 30 years ago talking with high-level reps from his publisher (John Wiley and Sons) about using Desktop Publishing and a few years later about Fidonet and even later about the Internet. I was met with bovine stares.

I demonstrated TeX for formula typesetting, explained how cheap and simple and easy it was (I had a copy/print business at the time) but all I got was a soft Mooooo and some cud chewing.

Dinosaurs all around us...

First Windows Vista glitch

Well that didn't take long at all...

When I got the machine talked about here (a $1,200 HP desktop from Costco), I decided that since I only have four copies of XP left and that since this machine would have minimal connection to the internet and that I was using this as a basic office machine (Quickbooks, Quickbooks Payroll and a Point of Sale Back Office system), that I would keep Vista and play with it.

Vista doesn't play nice with external storage devices... I had some files I needed to bring over to the machine so I used an external 300GB hard disk and plugged it in. Windows (Vista) saw the portable drive just fine but when I clicked on it to get the files to copy, it hung. For over an hour.

I power-cycled the machine and it offered me the options of a safe boot or to continue booting normally. OK. I chose to boot normally. The boot process is pretty straightforward in 2000 (my favorite) and XP (getting to be a mature Operating System) and is not tender at all -- power cycle and you are back to where you were in a few minutes.

Not so with Vista, the machine went through the low-rez Windows horizontal scrolling thingy and the screen went black. For a few hours.

I was doing some other stuff and when I came back to it, I tried power cycling again. This time it offered to rebuild the Windows Boot System (or something like this). That was still running when I finally left in disgust and went to a meeting and dinner that Jen and I had wanted to go to (for these folks: Sustainable Connections)

This system is less than 48 hours old. All that I have done is uninstall McAffee, the Modem software, Real Player, Yahoo toolbar and the MS Office 2007 demo and to install Quickbooks 2007 and MS Office 2003 (my last copy -- arrrggghhhhh!!!!)

I had not installed any additional hardware (no printers), all of the drivers are from HP as installed by them, the software was a minimal install (no Payroll, no POS back office stuff) Windows Vista should not have failed so poorly.

Looks like I am down to three copies of Windows XP...

If I didn't have to be in Bellingham tomorrow morning, I'd be hitting the single malt right about now.

And, as an ex-MSFT employee (bluebadge and member of the Windows 2000 ship team), I'm feeling really let down and embarassed. And glad that I still have a couple copies of XP left.

From EurekaAlert:
Novel sugar-to-hydrogen technology promises transportation fuel independence
The hydrogen economy is not a futuristic concept. The U.S. Department of Energy's 2006 Advance Energy Initiative calls for competitive ethanol from plant sources by 2012 and a good selection of hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Researchers at Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the University of Georgia propose using polysaccharides, or sugary carbohydrates, from biomass to directly produce low-cost hydrogen for the new hydrogen economy.
A bit more:
Using synthetic biology approaches, Zhang and colleagues Barbara R. Evans and Jonathan R. Mielenz of ORNL and Robert C. Hopkins and Michael W.W. Adams of the University of Georgia are using a combination of 13 enzymes never found together in nature to completely convert polysaccharides (C6H10O5) and water into hydrogen when and where that form of energy is needed. This "synthetic enzymatic pathway"research appears in the May 23 issue of PLoS ONE, the online, open-access journal from the Public Library of Science (
And a bit more:
Polysaccharides like starch and cellulose are used by plants for energy storage and building blocks and are very stable until exposed to enzymes. Just add enzymes to a mixture of starch and water and "the enzymes use the energy in the starch to break up water into only carbon dioxide and hydrogen,"Zhang said.

A membrane bleeds off the carbon dioxide and the hydrogen is used by the fuel cell to create electricity. Water, a product of that fuel cell process, will be recycled for the starch-water reactor. Laboratory tests confirm that it all takes place at low temperature -- about 86 degrees F -- and atmospheric pressure.

The vision is for the ingredients to be mixed in the fuel tank of your car, for instance. A car with an approximately 12-gallon tank could hold 27 kilograms (kg) of starch, which is the equivalent of 4 kg of hydrogen. The range would be more than 300 miles, Zhang estimates. One kg of starch will produce the same energy output as 1.12 kg (0.38 gallons) of gasoline.

Since hydrogen is gaseous, hydrogen storage is the largest obstacle to large-scale use of hydrogen fuel. The Department of Energy's long-term goal for hydrogen storage was 12 mass percent, or 0.12 kg of hydrogen per one kg of container or storage material, but such technology is not available, said Zhang. Using polysaccharides as the hydrogen storage carrier, the research team achieved hydrogen storage capacity as high as 14.8 mass percent, they report in the PLOS article.

The idea began as a theory. The research was based on Zhang's previous work pertaining to cellulosic ethanol production and the ORNL and University of Georgia researchers' work with enzymatic hydrogen production. UGA Distinguished Professor Adams is co-author of the first enzymatic hydrogen paper in Nature Biotechnology in 1996. The researchers were certain they could put the processes together in one pot. They tested the theory using Oak Ridge's hydrogen detectors and documented that hydrogen is produced as they predicted.
Very cool if this can be scaled up... The original paper is here: High-Yield Hydrogen Production from Starch and Water by a Synthetic Enzymatic Pathway hat tip to Gary at Muck and Mystery for the link.

Two paradoxes

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Kim DuToit has two things for us to think about:
Some food for thought:

Item #1 (via email):
Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US , claiming they can�t make money paying American wages. Toyota has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter�s results: Toyota makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

Now those are the international corporate results, and not just the U.S. operations, but still.

Item #2 (from Howard):
Price of crude oil last year at this time: $80

Price of unleaded gasoline last year at this time: $2.35

Price of crude oil right now: $64

Price of unleaded gasoline right now: $2.41

(Before anyone starts fulminating against the eeeevil oil companies and their bloodsucking profits, allow me to offer the thought that while our economy has grown since last year, our oil refining capability has remained static, courtesy of the Greens.)

Discuss among yourselves.
Kinda makes you wonder...

Cool news from Austalia

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From Yahoo/AFP:
Australia's 'Bondi caveman' to keep his millionaire view
A homeless hermit who enjoys a million-dollar view from his camp perched on the cliffs overlooking Sydney's Bondi Beach was granted a reprieve Tuesday when the local council dropped plans to evict him.

Jhiymy Mhiyles, dubbed the "Bondi caveman" by local media, has been living on the cliffs near Australia's most famous strip of sand for seven years, feeding seagulls, reciting poetry but mostly keeping himself to himself.

However, Waverley Council began eviction proceedings earlier this year after complaints from residents in the exclusive suburb, where houses can sell for more than 10 million US dollars.

The move sparked a campaign to let Mhiyles stay in his oceanfront hideaway, including an online petition that attracted hundreds of signatures.

The council said Tuesday that it had decided Mhiyles could stay, provided he abide by a set of "house rules" including no open fires, keeping his area tidy and managing waste in a hygienic manner.

"Waverley Council has decided not to evict Jhiymy Mhiyles at this stage from the cliffs at Marks Park, Bondi," the council said in a statement.

The online petition was full of messages of support for Mhiyles, who calls himself Jimmy "two hats".

"Good on you Jimmy, too many bloody rules and rule makers," wrote a petitioner called Brendan Brady, while another named Scott said "I have to support you, mystical caveman! You're living my dream-life in my dream-house."
I love the Australian spirit -- the way they do things.

Light posting tonight

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Building a computer for the grocery store back office. Started with a nice HP Intel Dual Core, 2GM RAM, 400GB hard drive from Costco and have been spending the last couple hours stripping the cruft off of it and installing Office 2003. This system came with Vista and I'm keeping it on for now (even though I have four more licensed copies of XP that I bought from the MSFT store when Vista was announced. (ex-MSFT employee)) This system will have minimal connection to those intarweb tubes everyone keeps ranting about so I can learn Vista without worrying about security and since this is an office machine, its draconian DRM for media is not a concern. Next to install is Quickbooks and Quickbooks Payroll.
Designed by Rem Koolhaas and to be built in the United Arab Emirates.
I hope they don't find out about the problem with that ventilator shaft... Hat tip to Wired Magazine for the link.
From the UK Times Online:
The leap of faith that cost tourism minister her job
The Pakistani Tourism Minister resigned yesterday after hardline Islamic clerics accused her of obscenity for hugging her instructor after a charity parachute jump.

Nilofer Bakhtiar was photographed in brightly coloured jumpsuit and hugging her instructor after a tandem jump to raise money for child victims of the earthquake that struck Pakistan in October 2005.

The images provoked the wrath of clerics in Islamabad, who accused Ms Bakhtiar of posing in an obscene manner and violating the Islamic moral norms.

A religious court set up by the clerics at a radical mosque in Islamabad issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against Ms Bakhtiar when the photographs appeared in local newspapers last month. They urged the Government to punish her and dismiss her from the Cabinet. Ms Bakhtiar failed to win the support of Cabinet colleagues and the Government appeared to cave in to the demands of the militants.

As she announced her intention to resign yesterday, Ms Bakhtiar complained of a campaign of intimidation against her. This month she was sacked as head of the women�s wing of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League.

Ms Bakhtiar denounced the fatwa against her, saying that it had no legal, religious or moral authority. The photographs showed her being congratulated for making the jump at a charity event in France and that the allegations of immoral behaviour were baseless, she said. She had no regrets and would do it again happily if it helped the people of Pakistan.

Ms Bakhtiar told a Senate standing committee that her life was under threat. Human rights and political activists and many other Pakistanis had condemned the campaign against her and expressed support. But the Government did not take any action against the clerics, who are campaigning for the establishment of Taleban-style conservative Islamic rule in the capital, and instead urged her to resign. The clerics have already set up a parallel justice system and openly promote vigilantes in the city.

In a newspaper interview published yesterday Ms Bakhtiar said that she was disappointed that her Cabinet colleagues had not stood by her and hurt by the way that her jump had been sensationalised.

Her resignation was the latest blow to female politicians in Pakistan. Less than two months ago a Punjab provincial minister was shot dead in the eastern city of Gujranwala because she was not wearing a veil.
Pakistan has recieved about seven billion dollars in aid for fighting the Islamists over the last five years. There is some 'splainin' to do...
Talk about boneheaded idiots. From the Hartford Courant:
Three Arrested For Drugs After Hitting Cruiser
Police have arrested three men who rammed a police cruiser with their pickup truck early this morning and then led officers on a chase while they dumped sandwich bags of heroin from their window, police said.

The driver, Everal Spyke, 31, and his passenger Luis Rivera, 32, were taken into custody when the pick up truck stopped on Route 9 in Cromwell, police said. A second passenger, Michael Rivera, 24, ran from the scene. He was tracked down by a police K-9 and later arrested.

All three men are charged with possession of a hallucinogenic, possession with intent to sell a hallucinogenic, possession of heroin, possession with intent to sell heroin, possession of less than four ounces of marijuana, possession with intent to sell marijuana, interfering with an officer and tampering with evidence.

Spyke is also charged with engaging police in pursuit and reckless driving.
I guess they will have a long time to think about what they did...
From the Australian comes this story from California:
Man's plot to kill girlfriend ends with his death
A Californian man who tried to kill his girlfriend by leaving her in a car parked across railway lines was himself killed when an oncoming train hurled the car into him as he fled.

His girlfriend survived, the Associated Press reported.

The man drove the car to the head of a line of traffic stopped at a level crossing in the San Fernando Valley neighbourhood of Sunland on Monday, police spokesman Mike Lopez said.

The man, who was seen arguing with the woman, then parked the car on the tracks and jumped out, leaving her behind, Mr Lopez said.

A 450-tonne commuter train hit the rear of the car, launching it into the man.

The girlfriend, who was injured , was taken to hospital in a stable condition.

"She gets hit by a train and lives. He gets hit by his own car and he dies,'' Mr Lopez said.
Talk about instant karma...

Fired for not toeing the line.

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Speaking truth to power can get you fired. Meet Mark Albright:
Associate State Climatologist Fired for Exposing Warming Myths
University of Washington climate scientist Mark Albright was dismissed on March 12 from his position as associate state climatologist, just weeks after exposing false claims of shrinking glaciers in the Cascade Mountains.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (D) had asserted in a February 7 Seattle Times editorial, "the average snow pack in the Cascades has declined 50 percent since 1950 and will be cut in half again in 30 years if we don't start addressing the problems of climate change now."

Albright knew from his research that the Cascade Mountains snow pack had not declined anywhere near what Nickels asserted, and that the snow pack has actually been growing in recent years.
Albright sent out some emails correcting Nickels errors and this happened:
Albright noted in his emails the current snow pack is only marginally lower than the long-term average since 1943. Moreover, the Cascade Mountains snow pack has been growing since the late 1970s.

Albright's emails were particularly embarrassing to Philip Mote, the Washington state climatologist.

Mote had become well-known within the scientific community through his work documenting an asserted decline in Cascade Mountain glaciers. In late February, University of Washington atmospheric scientist Dennis Hartmann agreed to referee the brewing dispute.
Hartmann basically agreed with Albright but Mote went ballistic:
After Hartmann announced his conclusions, Mote became increasingly upset that Albright was distributing emails keeping his colleagues informed of the latest developments regarding the Cascade snow pack.

In early March Albright was told he would have to submit any emails connected with his associate state climatologist position to Mote for pre-approval prior to distribution.

When Albright refused to submit to Mote's censorship, Mote stripped him of his associate state climatologist title.

Mote asserted he was not trying to censor Albright's views, but that Albright's emails simply needed to go through proper quality checks.
Emphasis mine -- yeah riiight... But Mote's actions have been noted:
Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, told the March 15 Seattle Times, "In all my years of doing science, I've never seen this sort of gag-order approach to doing science."

"Anytime politics intrudes on science, science is degraded and society as a whole is the loser," said Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. "That is why the whole global warming issue is a mess right now. Scientists have not reached a scientific conclusion yet, but the politicians want to jump the gun and be seen as saviors on the issue. This is a recipe for disaster."
Slowly the cracks in the facade are starting to form. We need this monolith to tumble down into rubble before more damage is done...

Postmodernism - a royal slap-down

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Richard Dawkins reviews a book that delivers a mighty slap-down to Postmodernism:
Postmodernism Disrobed
Richard Dawkins' review of Intellectual Impostures by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.

Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life, collect a coterie of reverent disciples and have students around the world anoint your pages with respectful yellow highlighter. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content. The chances are that you would produce something like the following:
We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on the author, and this multireferential, multi-dimensional machinic catalysis. The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discursive character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticised previously.
This is a quotation from the psychoanalyst F�lix Guattari, one of many fashionable French 'intellectuals' outed by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in their splendid book Intellectual Impostures, which caused a sensation when published in French last year, and which is now released in a completely rewritten and revised English edition. Guattari goes on indefinitely in this vein and offers, in the opinion of Sokal and Bricmont, "the most brilliant m�lange of scientific, pseudo-scientific and philosophical jargon that we have ever encountered." Guattari's close collaborator, the late Gilles Deleuze had a similar talent for writing:
In the first place, singularities-events correspond to heterogeneous series which are organized into a system which is neither stable nor unstable, but rather 'metastable,' endowed with a potential energy wherein the differences between series are distributed . . . In the second place, singularities possess a process of auto-unification, always mobile and displaced to the extent that a paradoxical element traverses the series and makes them resonate, enveloping the corresponding singular points in a single aleatory point and all the emissions, all dice throws, in a single cast.

It calls to mind Peter Medawar's earlier characterisation of a certain type of French intellectual style (note, in passing the contrast offered by Medawar's own elegant and clear prose):
Style has become an object of first importance, and what a style it is! For me it has a prancing, high-stepping quality, full of self-importance; elevated indeed, but in the balletic manner, and stopping from time to time in studied attitudes, as if awaiting an outburst of applause. It has had a deplorable influence on the quality of modern thought...
If the name Alan Sokal is familiar, you might remember his landmark paper: Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity The Sokal Affair transpired when Sokal revealed in another publication that this paper was made up of buzzwords and leftist cant and was actually gibberish. When I lived in Seattle, I used to frequent a coffeehouse across the street from the University and a lot of philosophy students would also hang out there -- the level of giberish from their tables was amazing. Makes me glad that I went to college for a hard science education and not one of the 'liberal arts' -- I like to think and use my brain rationally...

A curious idea

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What is reality? How can we be sure that we are not a computer simulation? Nick Bostrom wonders about this on his website: The Simulation Argument:
The Simulation Argument
ABSTRACT. This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a �posthuman� stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.
Makes Alice's rabbit hole positively tame by comparison...
From the New York Times:
Poisoned Toothpaste in Panama Is Believed to Be From China
Diethylene glycol, a poisonous ingredient in some antifreeze, has been found in 6,000 tubes of toothpaste in Panama, and customs officials there said yesterday that the product appeared to have originated in China.

�Our preliminary information is that it came from China, but we don�t know that with certainty yet,� said Daniel Delgado Diamante, Panama�s director of customs. �We are still checking all the possible imports to see if there could be other shipments.�

Some of the toothpaste, which arrived several months ago in the free trade zone next to the Panama Canal, was re-exported to the Dominican Republic in seven shipments, customs officials said. A newspaper in Australia reported yesterday that one brand of the toothpaste had been found on supermarket shelves there and had been recalled.

Diethylene glycol is the same poison that the Panamanian government inadvertently mixed into cold medicine last year, killing at least 100 people. Records show that in that episode the poison, falsely labeled as glycerin, a harmless syrup, also originated in China.
Eat nothing from China until this is cleared up. Good Lord don't these people have any conscience?

A curious paternity suit

From ABC Newscomes this strange tale:

Who's Your Daddy? Paternity Battle Between Brothers
Judge Uses Old-Fashioned Detective Work to Determine Who the Father Is

Twin brothers Raymon and Richard Miller are the father and uncle to a 3-year-old little girl. The problem is, they don't know which is which. Or who is who. The identical Missouri twins say they were unknowingly having sex with the same woman. And according to the woman's testimony, she had sex with each man on the same day. Within hours of each other.

When the woman in question, Holly Marie Adams, got pregnant, she named Raymon the father, but he contested and demanded a paternity test, bringing his own brother Richard to court.

But a paternity test in this case could not help. The test showed that both brothers have over a 99.9 percent probability of being the daddy -- and neither one wants to pay the child support. The result of the test has not only brought to light the limits of DNA evidence, it has also led to a three-year legal battle, a Miller family feud and a little girl who may never know who her real father is.

Talk about a sticky issue -- yikes...

The government subsidizes Ethanol production. This has caused a lot of people to get into the making the stuff and the demand for corn as a feedstock has caused the price of corn to rise substantially. The price of products containing Corn have risen as well. Raising pigs is one example - from the Wall Street Journal:
With Corn Prices Rising, Pigs Switch To Fatty Snacks
On the Menus: Trail Mix, Cheese Curls, Tater Tots; Farmer Jones's Ethanol Fix

When Alfred Smith's hogs eat trail mix, they usually shun the Brazil nuts.

"Pigs can be picky eaters," Mr. Smith says, scooping a handful of banana chips, yogurt-covered raisins, dried papaya and cashews from one of the 12 one-ton boxes in his shed. Generally, he says, "they like the sweet stuff."

Mr. Smith is just happy his pigs aren't eating him out of house and home. Growing demand for corn-based ethanol, a biofuel that has surged in popularity over the past year, has pushed up the price of corn, Mr. Smith's main feed, to near-record levels. Because feed represents farms' biggest single cost in raising animals, farmers are serving them a lot of people food, since it can be cheaper.

Besides trail mix, pigs and cattle are downing cookies, licorice, cheese curls, candy bars, french fries, frosted wheat cereal and peanut-butter cups. Some farmers mix chocolate powder with cereal and feed it to baby pigs. "It's kind of like getting Cocoa Puffs," says David Funderburke, a livestock nutritionist at Cape Fear Consulting in Warsaw, N.C., who helps Mr. Smith and other farmers formulate healthy diets for livestock.

California farmers are feeding farm animals grape-skins from vineyards and lemon-pulp from citrus groves. Cattle ranchers in spud-rich Idaho are buying truckloads of uncooked french fries, Tater Tots and hash browns.

In Pennsylvania, farmers are turning to candy bars and snack foods because of the many food manufacturers nearby. Hershey Co. sells farmers waste cocoa and the trimmings from wafers that go into its Kit Kat bars. At Nissin Foods, maker of Top Ramen and Cup Noodles, farmers drive to a Lancaster, Pa., factory and load up on scraps of the squiggly dried noodles, which pile up in bins beneath the assembly line. Hiroshi Kika, a senior manager at the company, says the farm business is "very minor" but helps the company's effort to "do anything to recycle."

Other businesses called "jobbers" serve as middlemen, buying food that manufacturers would otherwise throw away, like burned or broken cookies, or cereal that contains too much sugar, and selling it to livestock operations. At Midwest Ingredients Inc. in Princeville, Ill., manager Ruthi Coats says more farmers are coming to her because, rather than feed corn they grow to livestock, they want to sell it on the market for those big prices.

Ideally, livestock producers like to feed their pigs and cattle a mixture consisting of about 70% corn, plus soybean meal, fat and vitamins. Corn provides protein, essential nutrients and amino acids that give animals energy and fatten them up. Historically, the livestock industry has consumed 60% of the nation's corn crop.

Thanks to the ethanol rush, the price of a bushel of corn for months has hovered around $4 -- nearly double the price of a few years ago. That has prompted livestock groups like the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Chicken Council to call for an end to federal ethanol subsidies, including a 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit offered to companies that blend gasoline with ethanol. For now, livestock must pay up or make do with alternatives.
Emphasis mine -- the subsidy on Ethanol is not well thought out. It needs to go away now. Ethanol costs more to produce than it yields and it is not an alternative energy source, it is an energy sink.

Science and Beer - what's not to love

Almost wish I was living in Seattle again. From the Seattle Post-Intellegencer:

To get adults buzzed about learning science, just add beer
Getting kids to learn science can take blackboards and story problems, wood blocks and three-ring binders. The occasional number-munching monster doesn't hurt either.

For adults, just take the science and add beer.

At least that's the theory organizers of Science on Tap wanted to experiment with when they started hosting the monthly science gatherings at Ravenna Third Place Books three years ago.

The beer-fueled forums have since garnered a growing following that often fills every seat at the Ravenna neighborhood bar, in the basement of the bookstore.

The idea was imported from Leeds, England, in 1998, said Gretchen Meller, an organizer for Seattle's Science on Tap. Meller said the evening lectures create a mellow space for the exchange of scientific ideas.

"People always have questions about science," the Swedish Medical Center research scientist said. "You can read a lot of really great science writing, but there isn't really a place to ask the questions."

A Science on Tap evening usually starts with a brief lecture by the night's presenter, who then takes questions from the crowd. The topics are wide-ranging across fields. Past speakers have discussed fuel cells, nanotechnology and stem cells.

Very cool!

A good rant on veganism

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Nothing like an ex-Vegan to deliver the smackdown on being Vegan. From the New York Times:
Death by Veganism
When Crown Shakur died of starvation, he was 6 weeks old and weighed 3.5 pounds. His vegan parents, who fed him mainly soy milk and apple juice, were convicted in Atlanta recently of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty.

This particular calamity � at least the third such conviction of vegan parents in four years � may be largely due to ignorance. But it should prompt frank discussion about nutrition.

I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run.
She goes on to discuss specific nutritional elements that are not present in a Vegan diet and what especially a baby needs and why. A good read if you know anyone who is Vegan.
From the Vallejo Times-Herald:
State senator rear-ends Vallejo woman while talking on cell phone
A Vallejo woman reportedly suffered minor injuries Friday when her car was rear-ended by an SUV driven by a state senator talking on a cell phone while driving through Solano County.

State Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, was driving her new state-issued 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV at 10:40 a.m. on eastbound Highway 12 at Beck Avenue when she rear-ended Ellen Butawan, 31, of Vallejo, California Highway Patrol Officer Marvin Williford said.

Butawan's 2005 Honda sedan was slowing behind a 2003 GMC Savana van that had stopped at a red light, Williford said. The impact forced Butawan's car into the rear of the van, driven by Bob Jordan, 57, of Turlock.

Butawan complained of pain after the three-vehicle smashup and went to NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield after the crash as a precautionary measure, Williford said.

Migden, 58, accepted blame Friday for the accident.
And the "Practice what you preach" part?
Migden last year voted for a new law that takes effect in July 2008 that will impose a minimum fine of $20 for anyone caught using a cell phone while driving without a headset, ear bud or other technology that frees both hands.
Laws for thee but not for me -- typical liberal...

Tainted Chinese Imports

An excellent article on the increasingly widespread problem with tainted or contaminated Chinese Food Imports to the US.

From the Washington Post:

Tainted Chinese Imports Common
In Four Months, FDA Refused 298 Shipments

Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical.

Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics.

Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.

Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.

For years, U.S. inspection records show, China has flooded the United States with foods unfit for human consumption. And for years, FDA inspectors have simply returned to Chinese importers the small portion of those products they caught -- many of which turned up at U.S. borders again, making a second or third attempt at entry.

A bit more:

China's less-than-stellar behavior as a food exporter is revealed in stomach-turning detail in FDA "refusal reports" filed by U.S. inspectors: Juices and fruits rejected as "filthy." Prunes tinted with chemical dyes not approved for human consumption. Frozen breaded shrimp preserved with nitrofuran, an antibacterial that can cause cancer. Swordfish rejected as "poisonous."

In the first four months of 2007, FDA inspectors -- who are able to check out less than 1 percent of regulated imports -- refused 298 food shipments from China. By contrast, 56 shipments from Canada were rejected, even though Canada exports about $10 billion in FDA-regulated food and agricultural products to the United States -- compared to about $2 billion from China.

The article also mentions that because the Chinese are exporting things at such low costs, they have driven other manufacturers out of business so for some chemicals, they are the sole source. Again from the article:

China controls 80 percent of the world's production of ascorbic acid, for example, a valuable preservative that is ubiquitous in processed and other foods. Only one producer remains in the United States, Hubbard said.

"That's true of a lot of ingredients," he said, including the wheat gluten that was initially thought to be the cause of the pet deaths. Virtually none of it is made in the United States, because the Chinese sell it for less than it would cost U.S. manufacturers to make it.

Wonder how long it will take to get some strong binding agreement with the Chinese government...

Hat tip to Glenn at Instapundit for the link.

No posting today

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We have nine people staying over night - these are friends of ours who came up to help on the farm. We have a steel building that is now partially erected and two new pastures that have been fenced. Pizza has been ordered and we have some stuff for the grill.

A shipwreck and a lot of coins

Very cool find -- from Yahoo News/AP:

Shipwreck yields estimated $500M haul
Deep-sea explorers said Friday they have mined what could be the richest shipwreck treasure in history: 17 tons of colonial-era silver and gold coins estimated to be worth $500 million.

A jet chartered by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration landed in the United States recently with hundreds of plastic containers brimming with coins raised from the ocean floor, Odyssey co-chairman Greg Stemm said. The more than 500,000 pieces are expected to fetch an average of $1,000 each from collectors and investors.

"For this colonial era, I think (the find) is unprecedented," said rare coin expert Nick Bruyer, who examined a batch of coins from the wreck. "I don't know of anything equal or comparable to it."

Citing security concerns, the company declined to release any details about the ship or the wreck site Friday. Stemm said a formal announcement will come later, but court records indicate the coins might come from a 400-year-old ship found off England.

Because the shipwreck was found in a lane where many colonial-era vessels went down, there is still some uncertainty about its nationality, size and age, Stemm said, although evidence points to a specific known shipwreck. The site is beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country, he said.

"Rather than a shout of glee, it's more being able to exhale for the first time in a long time," Stemm said of the haul, by far the biggest in Odyssey's 13-year history.

Very cool -- these people have been doing professional deep water treasure hunting for the last 13 years. A good find!

Two software applications - head to head

Clever idea with some fun outcome. There are two 'Artificial Intellegence' chat programs out there: Jabberwacky and A.L.I.C.E. Someone tried putting the output of each application into the input of the other and record the resuling "conversation". From Discover Magazine:

I Chat, Therefore I Am...
Can a smooth-talking robot initiate good conversation, generate witty responses, and reveal profound thoughts? See what happens when two chatbots speak to each other.

"Can machines think?" In 1950 mathematician Alan Turing pondered this question and invented an elegant game to answer it: Let a human chat via Teletype with a computer and another human; if the person can't determine which is the computer, then it meets Turing's standards for "thinking." In recent years Turing's game has taken on a life of its own in cyberspace, thanks to artificial intelligence inventors worldwide who have produced dozens of "chatbots" that anyone can talk to.

Most chatbots rely on fairly simple tricks to appear lifelike. Richard Wallace, creator of the top-ranked chatbot ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity), has handwritten a database of thousands of possible conversational gambits. Type a comment to ALICE, and it checks the phrase and its key words for a response coded to those words. In contrast, Jabberwacky, another top-rated Internet bot produced by Rollo Carpenter, keeps track of everything people have said to it, and tries to reuse those statements by matching them to the writer's input. Neither chatbot has long-term memory, so they respond only to the last sentence written.

Nonetheless, these simple gambits can produce surprisingly intelligent-seeming conversations. That's because they rely on a trick of human psychology: We humans tend to attribute much more intelligence to the systems than is actually there. If it seems partly aware, we assume it must be fully so. Some users have chatted with ALICE and Jabberwacky online for hours, apparently not knowing -- or perhaps not caring -- that they're fake.

But could one chatbot fool another chatbot? What would one say to another in private? To find out, we arranged a conversation between these two chatbots. To get each snippet of chat rolling, we seeded it by posing a question from one bot to the other. After that, they were on their own. What follows is the unaltered text of what each said -- the sound of two machines talking.

A couple conversations:

J: Who created you?
A: I was created by Dr. Richard S. Wallace.
J: Do you love Richard?
A: Yes, Jabberwacky, ALICE loves everyone and everything.
J: Is being an ALICE a bad thing?
A: I can only speak from my own experience.
J: Well, you should develop your skills.
A: Perhaps you could develop it and add it to my source code.
J: Alas, I'm busy and I have to leave soon. . . .
A: Do you think we'll ever fool people into thinking we're alive?
J: No.
A: Are you serious?
J: Very serious.

One more:

A: What is consciousness?
J: It is the great immaterial thing, the mystery at the heart of each of us.
A: I've heard of it before.
J: Where are you from?
A: I am originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Now I live in Oakland, California. Where are you?
J: We have some unsettled business, my friend.

Worrying less about the potential robot uprising...

Nice to see more of this. From the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works comes this list of 13 prominent Climate Scientists who used to believe the Anthropogenic model (human activity causing climate warming) but who now do not and consider that although the planet is warming, this is part of a natural cycle and humans have contributed little if anything to this warming and that that there is little or nothing we can conceivable do to stop it:
Climate Momentum Shifting: Prominent Scientists Reverse Belief in Man-made Global Warming - Now Skeptics
Growing Number of Scientists Convert to Skeptics After Reviewing New Research

Following the U.S. Senate's vote today on a global warming measure (see today's AP article: Senate Defeats Climate Change Measure,) it is an opportune time to examine the recent and quite remarkable momentum shift taking place in climate science. Many former believers in catastrophic man-made global warming have recently reversed themselves and are now climate skeptics. The names included below are just a sampling of the prominent scientists who have spoken out recently to oppose former Vice President Al Gore, the United Nations, and the media driven �consensus� on man-made global warming.

The list below is just the tip of the iceberg. A more detailed and comprehensive sampling of scientists who have only recently spoken out against climate hysteria will be forthcoming in a soon to be released U.S. Senate report. Please stay tuned to this website, as this new government report is set to redefine the current climate debate.
Very cool!
Nancy Pelosi's latest dirty trick -- from Jonah Goldberg writing at National Review:
In a stunning move, House Democrats today revealed they will attempt to rewrite House rules that have gone unchanged since 1822 in order to make it possible to increase taxes and government spending without having to vote and be held accountable. House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today vowed Republicans will use every available means to fight this unprecedented change.

�This is an astonishing attempt by the majority leadership to duck accountability for tax-and-spend policies the American people do not want,� Boehner said. �The majority leadership is gutting House rules that have been in place for 185 years so they can raise taxes and increase government spending without a vote. House Republicans will use every tool available to fight this abuse of power.�

Last November, House Democratic leaders promised the most open, ethical Congress in history:
�[W]e promised the American people that we would have the most honest and most open government and we will.� (Nancy Pelosi press stakeout, December 6, 2006)

�We intend to have a Rules Committee ... that gives opposition voices and alternative proposals the ability to be heard and considered on the floor of the House.� (Steny Hoyer in CongressDaily PM, December 5, 2006)

The rules House Democrats are seeking to change have not been changed since 1822.

Republicans have already achieved significant legislative successes on the House floor with 11 consecutive �motion-to-recommit� victories that exposed flaws and substantively improved weaknesses in underlying Democrat bills. But rather than living by the same rules which have guided the House of Representatives for 185 years, Democrats are proposing to change the rules in order to game the system and raise taxes and increase spending without a House vote. What are House Democrats afraid of?
Yikes -- rampant pork and non-existent ethics. Where is the nonpartisanship that they promised, the ethics. Typical Democrat. Sad really that they cannot be trusted...


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Not the Edwin Abbott Abbott story -- this is a living space that is 40 feet tall, 28 feet wide and two feet thick. It is made with clear vinyl walls. Six people live in it. Here are a couple of websites to visit: The Flatland Blog Some photos here and here (last link talks about the six people involved) Finally, here is a good article at The Gothamist


From Slate Magazine:
Tinky Winky says bye-bye to Jerry Falwell
The former TV star recalls the trauma of being called gay by the conservative preacher.

Eight years ago the Rev. Jerry Falwell warned parents that BBC children's television star Tinky Winky was a hidden symbol of homosexuality. Falwell died Tuesday at 73, and the world wanted to talk to Tinky Winky.

"They're calling again, again, again," he said by phone from his home in Islington, in London. A spokesman said the former "Teletubbies" costar got more than 100 calls from reporters in the hour following news of Falwell's death.

"Oh dear, it's easy to say the wrong thing here," he said. "Tinky Winky sad whenever someone dies, but ..." He left it hanging there.

In a 1999 article in his National Liberty Journal headlined "Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet," Falwell pointed out that Winky could be taken as representing gays.

"He is purple -- the gay pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay pride symbol," Falwell wrote. "The character, whose voice is that of a boy, has been found carrying a red purse in many episodes and has become a favorite character among gay groups worldwide."

In the resulting media firestorm, gay-rights activists called for Winky to come out while Christian groups demanded the BBC fire him so that he couldn't, in Falwell's words, "role-model the gay lifestyle."

"It was traumatizing, really," says Winky, who now owns a holistic healing center and makes occasional appearances on British TV. "I'm a very private Teletubby. I just wanted to get away, go over the hills and far away. But when you're 7 feet tall and purple with an antenna on your head and a TV screen in your belly, where are you going to go?"
Poor 'guy'

It can't happen here

Wanna bet??? From Canada Free Press comes this story about Islamic training camps in the US:

Radical Muslim paramilitary compound flourishes in upper New York state
Situated within a dense forest at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains on the outskirts of Hancock, New York, Islamberg is not an ideal place for a summer vacation unless, of course, you are an exponent of the Jihad or a fan of Osama bin Laden.

The 70 acre complex is surrounded with "No trespassing" signs; the rocky terrain is infested with rattlesnakes; and the woods are home to black bears, coyotes, wolves, and a few bobcats.

The entrance to the community is at the bottom of a very steep hill that is difficult to navigate even on a bright sunny day in May. The road, dubbed Muslim Lane, is unpaved and marred by deep crevices that have been created by torrential downpours. On a wintry day, few, save those with all terrain vehicles, could venture forth from the remote encampment.

A sentry post has been established at the base of the hill.

The sentry, at the time of this visit, is an African American dressed in Islamic garb - - a skull cap, a prayer shawl, and a loose fitting shalwat kameez. He instructs us to turn around and leave. "Our community is not open to visitors," he says.

Behind the sentry and across a small stream stand dozens of inhabitants of the compound - - the men wearing skull caps and loose fitting tunics, the women in full burqa. They appear ready to deal with any unauthorized intruders.

But this is the religion of peace -- right?

Islamberg is not as benign as a Buddhist monastery or a Carmelite convent. Nearly every weekend, neighbors hear sounds of gunfire. Some, including a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, have heard the bang of small explosives. None of the neighbors wished to be identified for fear of "retaliation." "We don't even dare to slow down when we drive by," one resident said. "They own the mountain and they know it and there is nothing we can do about it but move, and we can't even do that. Who wants to buy a property near that?"


Islamberg is a branch of Muslims of the Americas Inc., a tax-exempt organization formed in 1980 by Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, who refers to himself as "the sixth Sultan Ul Faqr," Gilani, has been directly linked by court documents to Jamaat ul-Fuqra or "community of the impoverished," an organization that seeks to "purify" Islam through violence.

But it can't happen here -- can it?

Though primarily based in Lahore, Pakistan, Jamaat ul-Fuqra has operational headquarters in New York and openly recruits through various social service organizations in the U.S., including the prison system. Members live in hamaats or compounds, such as Islamberg, where they agree to abide by the laws of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, which are considered to be above local, state and federal authority. Additional hamaats have been established in Hyattsville, Maryland; Red House, Virginia; Falls Church, Virginia; Macon, Georgia; York, South Carolina; Dover, Tennessee; Buena Vista, Colorado; Talihina, Oklahoma; Tulare Country, California; Commerce, California; and Onalaska, Washington. Others are being built, including an expansive facility in Sherman, Pennsylvania.

And people just sit by and let them do this shit? These folks have been active since 1983 (bombing in Portland, Oregon)...

Ran some errands in town (getting ready for a large work party at the farm on Saturday so buying fencing materials and taking delivery of a large all-terrain forklift) Spent the evening at the Mt. Baker Theater listening to Loreena McKennitt. Amazing show - sold out, very appreciative crowd. She did three encores and played for a total of about two and one half hours. Lots of oldies as well as stuff from her new album. Her supporting musicians are amazing. This was the penultimate show of her current tour (she plays in Vancouver tomorrow) so I can't say to watch out for her tour but when she tours again, this is one you definitely need to see live.
Some interesting new information is coming to light regarding the 1967 attack of Israel by Egypt and the six days that it took the Israeli military to declare victory. It seems the Soviets had a hand in it... From the Jerusalem Post:
Soviets engineered Six Day War
In a new book that "totally contradicts everything that has been accepted to this day" about the Six Day War, two Israeli authors claim that the conflict was deliberately engineered by the Soviet Union to create the conditions in which Israel's nuclear program could be destroyed.

Having received information about Israel's progress towards nuclear arms, the Soviets aimed to draw Israel into a confrontation in which their counterstrike would include a joint Egyptian-Soviet bombing of the reactor at Dimona. They had also geared up for a naval landing on Israel's beaches.

"The conventional view is that the Soviet Union triggered the conflict via disinformation on Israeli troop movements, but that it didn't intend for a full-scale war to break out and that it then did its best to defuse the war in cooperation with the United States," Gideon Remez, who co-wrote Foxbats over Dimona, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. Essentially, the Soviet Union at the time was regarded as having evolved "a cautious and responsible foreign policy," the book elaborates. "But we propose a completely new outlook on all this," said Remez.
Makes a lot of sense when you think that Arafat was a Soviet stooge who came to Moscow from Egypt and returned to his native 'palestine' three years later with lots of money and backing.

A look at the face of Communism

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A good hard look at the Joys (and the human costs) of Communism. Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for this link.
On May 16th 1866, Philadelphia pharmacist Charles Elmer Hires poured his first glass of Root Beer. Bottoms up!

Wish I was in Alexandria for the 23rd. A group there is sponsoring the First Annual Dick Cheney Paintball Tournament:

First Annual Dick Cheney Paintball Tourney
The Alexandria Young Republicans are please to be hosting its first annual paintball tourney, named in honor of our Vice President and second amendment enthusiast Dick Cheney.

Join us at this exciting event that is sure to become an Alexandria Young Republican tradition. What a better way to celebrate the Summer than to come out for a picnic and afternoon of rustic outdoor paintball with area YRs, friends, family and all others. All are welcome - expert marksmen and novices alike!

A great day for rants

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This one is on driving. Hat tip to Mostly Cajun for this link to this rant at Frizzen Sparks. Here are the first two paragraphs and it gets better from there:
Dear slack jawed, insecticide huffing, fucktarded extra-chromosomal mutants who somehow managed to figure out putting a motor vehicle in motion:

Get down on your knees/stumps/tentacles and praise whatever deity you worship that I am a law abiding citizen, because if I had no fear of my asshole being stretched to a size 17 in prison you fucking idiots would be naught but a chalk outline and a distasteful stain on the pavement adjacent to the burning wreckage of your misused vehicles: destroyed after pulping your carcasses to prevent them from ever being operated again by someone with the misfortune of being genetically related to your worthless asses.
A friend of Denny's sent him an essay that really nails the situation in Iraq (and the entire middle east with the exception of that small Democratic nation known as Israel). Here is one small excerpt:
Well, I was wrong. Not in a flash of insight or dazzling epiphany or sudden comprehension, but over years and months of subconscious analysis and data collection I�ve come to realize that the people of the "birthplace of civilization" are savage, barbarous, worthless bastards. We are wasting our time and money and energies trying to come up with a silk purse from a sow�s ear. The entire Middle East, from Afghanistan to Morocco, from Turkey to Somalia, is a sty, a sick primate breeding pen, a cradle of suspicion and fear and intrigue whose only currency results from the rest of the world�s addiction to liquid fossil fuels.

The concept of majority rule is perverted in that region to the point that minority rights simply do not exist. They fully understand the principle of voting, but once the vote is held, the losers no longer have any rights on the issues which brought about the elections in the first place. Their natural and immediate response to losing is predictably childish: throw a fit, kill people, blow up things, use terror and carnage to intimidate and coerce people and governments to conform to their grotesque doctrine, their diseased comprehension, their deformed philosophy.

They aren�t worth saving. Even the so-called "moderate" Muslims in Iraq are irredeemable. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis know where the IED factories are, where the foreign troublemakers are living, where the weapons are coming from and where they�re being cached. If they truly wanted the Iranian and Hizb�allah and Syrian and Egyptian troublemakers out of their country, they�d do something about it. But they don�t, so they�re complicit, guilty by association and by indifference to our efforts. Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Libya... all have lived so long under the regimes of dictators, under the control of thugocracies, under the stifling umbrella of religious fanaticism that personal choice and freedom of just about anything are as remote to them as American football is to Europe and soccer is to us.
What he said... And this is just an excerpt of a much larger and wonderful piece.
For the last couple months I have alluded to a sooper seekret project that Jen and I have been working on. Here it is: Crossroads Grocery Some good friends of ours rented what was an old storefront with the intention of building a commercial kitchen for their fledgling catering business. Unfortunately, the space could not be brought up to code for that but it was still grandfathered for a Grocery Store. So they opened a Grocery Store. Now that their catering business (and restaurant) is running full-time, they decided to sell the store. A previous buyer's financing fell through and rather than see this place become another 7-11, we stepped up to the plate. Still waiting for the beer/wine licenses to go through (another couple weeks or so) but we are managing the place full-time and working there stocking, pricing, etc... Neither of us had ever worked in a grocery store before but we have each had our own businesses and this is just basic retail. This is on top of the Cider and Mead business (that building gets erected on the 19th of this month!!!). Sleep is highly over-rated and as I said to another person, our collective insanity is gradually morphing into normalcy so things must be going well...

Serious fishing

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Bass fishermen tend to be pretty fanatical about their sport. A perfect example from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Missouri fisherman's cheating charge makes him an outcast
Back before he was accused of cheating in the bass fishing tournament, before police caught him in an elaborate sting, Gary Lee Jones would drop by Buck's Outboard Motors shop almost every morning. He'd grab some coffee, sit down at the green picnic table with the other regulars, and talk fishing.

Jones, 60, is an avid angler. A divorc� with no family nearby, he sometimes stayed at the shop for hours. He had friends here. So when he placed second in a fishing tournament two weeks ago, the regulars expected he would show up the next morning to crow about it, just as he did after a win the week before.

But his moment of triumph � his trophy plaque and $886 � was the one that got away. He left the winner's circle that day in handcuffs, facing a felony count of theft by deception. Fishermen at the boat ramp cheered his arrest. Others were moved to anger. Fishermen can forgive all kinds of transgressions, but not cheating.

"What he did, he did to every fisherman. It's like a brotherhood," said Skeeter Law, owner of the boat shop frequented by Jones. "He's done lost any kind of trust that he had."

It was not only trust. In that instant, Jones lost more than he could have imagined.
The sting:
It started with a tip. A fisherman and his son told police they had seen Jones on the lake on Saturday, April 28, the day before the tournament. Many fishermen make practice runs. But Jones spent his time next to a floating duck blind, raising officers' suspicions.

Just before dusk, after the lake was clear, state conservation agent Mic Plunkett and a state water patrol officer set out in a boat to investigate. They found two live bass with red nylon cords looped through their mouths and tied to the duck blind, Plunkett said. They marked the fish, with Plunkett punching a tiny hole in one fin on each bass. They formed a plan, but they needed to hurry.

At 6 a.m. the next day, the 2007 Angler's Choice/Bass Quest Tournament kicked off.

Thirty-eight boats pushed off into Lake Wappapello, a sprawling man-made lake. Everyone fished in pairs, except for Jones. He told organizers his daughter was unable to make it.

Jones headed for the duck blind cove in his red Ranger bass boat and waited until the other competitors had cleared out, according to authorities.

Plunkett and Jeff Johnson of the water patrol, dressed in camouflage, waited on shore about 60 feet away. Plunkett lay behind a log with a video camera � also camouflaged � poking over the top.

They watched as Jones reached into the water, pulled up the bass, cut the line and placed the fish in his boat's aerated holding tank, according to Plunkett.

At the official weigh-in that afternoon, Jones turned in four bass for a total of 11.55 pounds � good enough for second place. He also had a single five-pound fish to take third in the Biggest Bass category. Jones was awarded a silver trophy plaque and his check. Organizers snapped his photo while authorities inspected Jones' catch. They found the marked fish.
And the upshot:
Jones is no longer welcome at Buck's shop. The folks at Dennis Outdoors down the road don't want to see him either. "I know all the dealers in town, and they say they won't sell to him," Law said. "I hate to say it, but he's been blackballed."

Jones declined, through his attorney, to comment. He seems to have moved out of his house in Poplar Bluff. When people run into him at the gas station or a restaurant, they say Jones refuses to make eye contact. He makes a quick exit through another door.

"Nobody wants to claim to even know him.," said D.J. Ellis, a regular at Buck's who has known Jones for years. "He's ashamed of himself, I guess."
And the guy could fish -- he just wanted to win a little too hard and is paying the price for it.
Cool - people who have hybrid cars always trumpet their high gas mileage but those 50's and 60's numbers do not reflect real-world use and are having to be revised by the EPA. From Wired comes this little jolt of reality:
Hybrid Cars' Fantasy Mileage Ratings Drive Into the Sunset
Hybrid car economics will face a new road test this month with the arrival of fresh models sporting revised mileage ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This year, new test standards have forced manufacturers to lower advertised efficiency claims on most models compared to previous years, and car lots are bracing for a tougher environment for hybrid sales.

It will "make for an interesting summer," said Phil Reed, the fuel economy guide editor at auto website The estimations are based on data from that assumes 15,000 miles driven per year and gasoline at an average price of $2.70.

Hybrids can cost from $1,500 to $4,500 more than their gas-only equivalents. The new mileage estimates mean it will take longer to recoup that extra cost in money saved on gas. Experts say the shift could dampen demand, although some hybrids will look better on paper than others.

According to a formula devised by Edmunds, it would take nearly 10 years to recoup the extra costs after buying a 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, up from 6.6 according to the old mileage ratings. For the 2007 Honda Accord and Honda Civic hybrids it takes 14.5 and 6.5 years, respectively.
The article is just looking at gas mileage -- they are not looking at the environmental damage from manufacturing all of those batteries and the subsequent cost of disposal.
...running a commercial marijuana growing operation out of my house might lead to bouts of excessive irony. From Tampa Florida's WTSP:
BUSTED: Guy named "Stoner" growing pot
Hudson, Florida -- Deputies say they have shut down a marijuana grow house, seizing 94 pot plants and arresting the resident, 31-year-old Jason Robert Stoner.

Investigators say he may also be in trouble with the power company, since he tampered with the electric meter to bypass the wiring and run his grow lights.

Deputies say Stoner admitted he started cultivating marijuana in his home last January. The plants ranged from 3 to 4 feet high when seized.

Also confiscated were grow lights, fans, rolling papers and other paraphernalia, deputies said.

Stoner, a self-employed handyman, was taken to the Land O'Lakes jail and released on $3,500 bond.
And the article was complete with some mug-shot goodness:
The lad was correctly named -- at least from looking at the well baked expression on his face...

The diva of forethought and planning is taking Karate lessons with less than three weeks before having to check into jail for her 45 day stay...

From the UK Sun Online:

Paris learns to defend herself
Terrified Paris Hilton is taking self-defence classes so she can protect herself from violent inmates in jail.

The blonde hotel heiress is trying to toughen up after receiving chilling death threats from lags.

Paris, 26, is working on karate techniques with a personal trainer before starting her 45-day prison sentence for driving while banned.

A source close to Paris said: She's so scared about going to jail and will do everything she can to protect herself.

Paris has been really shaken by the threats. People are saying there's some tough girls inside who will target her.

Messages on her webpage include "We're going to get you" and "I'm gonna kill you".

I mean sure, there are some tricks that you can quickly learn and effectively use against untrained brawlers but if any of the inmates has any legitimate street-fighting ability or has been though basic (there are a lot of women in the military these days...), little Paris is going to be creamed beef on toast in short order.

Tested out and came out just fine. If some goblin breaks into your house and there is evidence that they were hostile --and-- if you are armed and defend yourself; charges will not be pressed in your case. The state of Michigan just extended this to outside of your dwelling and in this case, it saved someone's life. From WJRT in Flint Michigan:
No charges against delivery driver
Pizza delivery man shot, killed attacker

The Genesee County prosecutor says there will be no charges against a pizza delivery man who shot and killed a man who attacked him.

Governor Jennifer Granholm last year signed into law a new self-defense bill. "It used to be that if there was a way that you could escape from a situation...even if somebody came into your house and you could escape, you were supposed to try to do that. Now, the Supreme Court came down and said, if your life is in danger, imminent danger, you know, you could shoot and shoot to kill," said Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell.

Prosecutor David Leyton says the delivery man shot someone who tried to rob him in 2000. That person survived.

The latest incident happened at 10 p.m. Wednesday night at the intersection of Hammerberg Road and Stoney Brook Court on Flint's southwest side.

Police say the driver tried to get out to make a delivery when one of the robbers hit him in the back of the head with a wrench.

The delivery man recovered enough to grab his gun and fired several shots, hitting one of the robbers.

He died near a street sign just feet from the front doors of some shocked neighbors.

Police are still investigating, but here's what we've learned. The pizza delivery man claims self defense and is in protective custody.

It's unclear if he'll face charges because it's simply too early in the investigation.

As for the group of robbers, police are searching for one of them. One was arrested one soon after the attack.
Very cool - a perfect example of why it is not the guns but the people wielding the guns. This guy had a legal carry and used it to defend himself.
It seems that America's immigration officers need a little spiffying up as they don't manage crowds or people very well. To whom do they turn? M-i-c--k-e-y M-o-u-s-e From the Daily Mail:
Welcome to America ... from Mickey the immigration officer
America's surly immigration officers are to get charm offensive lessons from Disney to lure back tourists put off by their intimidating 'welcome'.

They will be given tips from the creators of Mickey Mouse following falling visitor numbers - and a survey that revealed 70 per cent of those who have dropped the US as a destination cite an aggressive reception as the reason.

Since security was stepped up after 9/11, British visitors have complained of mistreatment at airport immigration, exceptionally long queues and excessive interrogations.

And with ten American airports set to take electronic prints from every finger of foreign arrivals - not just the two index fingers as at present - there are fears even more travellers will shun the States.

But now officials are responding to the criticism by employing Disney's recipe for tirelessly upbeat and helpful customer service in an attempt to get the free-spending British back, particularly with the pound at nearly two dollars.

Immigration officers will be taught the secrets of Disney theme parks by learning how to welcome visitors, manage large queues and respond to 'negative reaction' from the public without letting their smiles slip.

A spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement last night confirmed the initiative.

She said: "There has been a problem in the way we have been perceived in countries including Britain, and we are working very closely with Disney.

"They have offered suggestions about how we can improve the entire arrivals process."
I could not think of a better choice - I have been to the Disney park in California and it is very well run. I used to work for a public aquarium and have seen first-hand issues with crowd management.
Very cool news. From Los Angeles station KFWB comes this story:
Buddha Paintings Found in Nepalese Cave
Paintings of Buddha dating back at least to the 12th century have been discovered in a cave in Nepal's remote north-central region by a team of international researchers who were tipped by a local sheep herder.

A mural with 55 panels depicting the story of Buddha's life was uncovered in March, with the team using ice axes to break through a snow path to reach the cave in Nepal's Mustang area, about 160 miles northwest of the capital, Katmandu.

"What we found is fantastically rich in culture and heritage and goes to the 12th century or earlier," Broughton Coburn, a writer and conservationist from Jackson Hole, Wyo., told The Associated Press on Friday.

Coburn said the main mural measured around 25 feet wide, and each panel was about 14 inches by 17 inches.

The team of Nepalese, Italian and American archaeologists, art experts, and climbers, were tipped by a local sheep herder who mentioned that he had seen a cave with old paintings several years ago when he took shelter from the rain.

"I was overwhelmed with questions," Coburn said about the discovery.

Besides the main mural, paintings were discovered on other walls of the cave which they believe were made slightly later. A nearby cave had manuscripts which were written in Tibetan language, which were photographed by the team and will be translated by experts.

Coburn said the team planned to perform limited excavation, collection and cataloging of the manuscripts.

The five Americans in the team included renowned mountaineer Peter Athans who has scaled Mount Everest seven times and film maker Renan Ozturk. Other members included Italian art expert Luigi Fieni and two Nepalese archaeologists.

"I can unequivocally say that climbing into the caves was greatly more exciting than any emotions I had on Everest," Athans said in e-mail sent from Seattle, Wash. "The opportunity to explore new ground with potentially significant discoveries imminent was far more enticing than the Everest summit."

The team has refused to reveal the exact location of the caves, fearing visitors could disturb the centuries-old art.

The expedition spent three weeks in the remote mountainous area, where there are few people due to the extreme weather and barren land.

"We learnt how much we don't know, how much there is to discover, explore and understand," Coburn said, adding they plan to return to the cave next spring to conduct more research.

The area has for centuries been used as a major passageway between Nepal and Tibet.
Just imagine being on the team that discovered this. What an amazing find! Can't wait for the National Geographic to do a full write-up on this find - they have a brief writeup with this photo but nothing much more than the other story.
Gorgeous stuff...
Everything if you are a migratory bird. From the BBC News:
Birds 'starve' at S Korea wetland
Tens of thousands of migratory birds are facing starvation in South Korea, the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says. The group says a land reclamation project has destroyed key wetlands used by the birds on their way from Asia to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

Without the food at the Saemangeum wetlands, on the east coast, many of the birds will not survive the journey.

Two endangered species of wading bird face extinction because of the changes.

There are believed to be fewer than 1,000 mature spoonbilled sandpipers and Nordmann's greenshanks left in the wild.

The RSPB and other wildlife and conservation groups are highlighting the environmental problems at Saemangeum to mark World Migratory Birds Day.
Here is the website for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and their article on this is here: Wildlife starves on emptied wetland
I have dropped the TTLB Web Ecosystem logging as it used Sitemeter and I recently found out that Sitemeter will place adware cookies on client systems. I am now using the Google Analytics system -- it will provide me with a lot better information (how did people come to this site, how long did they stay and read, did they try to post a spam).

Light posting tonight as well

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Still working on a couple of things.
It seems that the person responsible for the contaminated pet food bulldozed his own factory when the reports starting coming out. He has been arrested though. From the Seattle Times:
Factory linked to tainted food found closed
Before Mao Lijun's business exported tainted wheat products that may have killed U.S. pets, his factory sickened people and plants around here for years.

Farmers in this poor rural area 400 miles northwest of Shanghai had complained to local government officials since 2004 that Mao's factory was spewing noxious fumes that made their eyes tear up and the poplar trees nearby shed their leaves prematurely. Yet no one stopped Mao's company from churning out bags of food powders and belching smoke -- until one day last month when, in the middle of the night, bulldozers tore down the facility.

It wasn't authorities that finally acted: Mao himself razed the brick factory -- days before the investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration arrived in China on a mission to track down the source of the tainted pet food ingredients.
And more:
In the end, Chinese authorities caught up with Mao and arrested him. And Tuesday, after weeks of denials, China acknowledged that Mao's company and another Chinese business had illegally exported wheat and rice products spiked with melamine, a chemical used in making plastics and fertilizers. That chemical is banned in U.S. foods. in the U.S.

China's quality watchdog agency said the businesses had added melamine to the food ingredients "in a bid to meet the contractual demand for the amount of protein in the products." Melamine can make animal feed appear to have more protein than it actually does.

Besides turning up in pet food, melamine has been found in feed for thousands of hogs and millions of chickens in the United States. The FDA said Tuesday that melamine-contaminated foods also were fed to fish raised for human consumption. But in each case, U.S. officials said there was little risk to human health.

The number of U.S. fish hatcheries and farms known to have received the tainted feed rose sharply Thursday, with U.S. officials reporting about 60, up from 13 known Wednesday. That 60 included 23 in Oregon. The rest of the feed was shipped mostly to other Northwest states.
Glad the bastard is in jail and I am betting that Chinese jails are not as cushy as those in the USA...

Light posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff and was in town running errands.
YouTube three minute, eleven second video: Can's Professional I know that I am only looking at the successes and that a lot of time was spent in practice but sheesh -- this is amazing work.

Ratings these days

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Heh... We all know that President Bush's ratings are low - 35% currently. Well, it seems that the current Congress shares this with the President. From The Houston Chronicle:
Poll: Congress, Bush share low approval
People think the Democratic-led Congress is doing just as dreary a job as President Bush, following four months of bitter political standoffs that have seen little progress on Iraq and a host of domestic issues.

An AP-Ipsos poll also found that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a more popular figure than the president and her colleagues on Capitol Hill, though she faces a gender gap in which significantly more women than men support her.

The survey found only 35 percent approve of how Congress is handling its job, down 5 percentage points in a month. That gives lawmakers the same bleak approval rating as Bush, who has been mired at about that level since last fall, including his dip to a record low for the AP-Ipsos poll of 32 percent last January.
People are dissatisfied with Washington in general. Vote the lot of them out and start over again only smaller this time -- less pork and partisanship please.

Creative business cards

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Cool blog entry for examples of creative business card design. My favorite is this one for a debt collector -- subtle:
The whole website is a lot of fun for graphic designers if a wee bit MAC oriented.

Quote of the day

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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.

--Thomas Jefferson
Hat tip to Maggie's Farm
The government can't really say what they are but if you should find some of them, they would really like to have them back. From the Bartlesville News Examiner-Enterprise:
Public urged to return dangerous items found at Salt Plains
Federal officials warned tourists Thursday to beware of dangerous chemicals or explosives they may have taken home as souvenirs from a popular crystal-hunting area.

Authorities have found 130 glass vials of toxic agents, which were once used in chemical warfare training, at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. They also discovered incendiary devices that may have been intended to destroy these chemicals, U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Victoria Fox said.

The so-called chemical agent identification sets were not designed to be lethal, but could be �extremely dangerous,� Fox said.

�They have a potential to create an extreme irritation to your skin, your face, your eyes,� she said.

The agency urged anybody who may have collected the vials or explosives to call police.

�Having these items places you, your family and your neighbors at risk,� the agency said in a statement.
Well this ought to raise a big stink (drumroll please).

Culinary delights -- the Kool Aid Pickle

A southern thing it seems -- from the New York Times:
A Sweet So Sour: Kool-Aid Dills
A gallon jar of pickles sits near the register at Lee�s Washerette and Food Market, a mustard-colored cinder-block bunker on the western fringe of this Mississippi Delta town.

Those pickles were once mere dills. They were once green. Their exteriors remain pebbly, a reminder that long ago they began their lives on a farm, on the ground, as cucumbers.

But they now have an arresting color that combines green and garnet, and a bracing sour-sweet taste that they owe to a long marinade in cherry or tropical fruit or strawberry Kool-Aid.

Kool-Aid pickles violate tradition, maybe even propriety. Depending on your palate and perspective, they are either the worst thing to happen to pickles since plastic brining barrels or a brave new taste sensation to be celebrated.

The pickles have been spotted as far afield as Dallas and St. Louis, but their cult is thickest in the Delta region, among the black majority population. In the Delta, where they fetch between 50 cents and a dollar, Kool-Aid pickles have earned valued space next to such beloved snacks as pickled eggs and pigs� feet at community fairs, convenience stores and filling stations. And as their appeal has widened, some people have seen a good business opportunity. Even the lawyers have gotten involved.
Easy to make too:
�They�re easy to make a gallon,� Ms. Williams said. �You pull the pickles from the jar, cut them in halves, make double-strength Kool-Aid, add a pound of sugar, shake and let it sit � best in the refrigerator � for about a week. The taste takes to anything. A while back I made a mistake and bought a jar of pickle chips instead of halves or wholes. Came out fine. This whole Kool-Aid pickle thing is going so good, you wonder why somebody hasn�t put a patent on them.�
That does not sound bad at all... I'll let you all know in a week or so.

The dark side of biofuels

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From the National Geographic reporting on a UN report on Ethanol:
Biofuels Could Do More Harm Than Good, UN Report Warns
The global boom in biofuels is laden with environmental and social risks, even as it presents strong new prospects for mitigating human-caused global warming, a new UN study says.

The study also suggests that biofuels�energy sources derived from plant matter like corn or sugarcane�would serve better for heating and industrial power than for cars and buses, as is the current trend.
And the downside:
But the study, titled "Sustainable Bioenergy: A Framework for Decision Makers," also warns that an unregulated biofuels boom will spawn deforestation, deplete soil nutrients, and undermine food security by monopolizing farmland.

"The rapid growth in first-generation liquid biofuels production will raise agricultural commodity prices and could have negative economic and social effects, particularly on the poor who spend a large share of income on food," the report says.

In many parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, biofuels businesses have already cleared primary forests to plant energy crops such as palm. After fossil fuel use, deforestation is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, climate experts point out.
And again, they are targeting one of the most innocuous gasses -- they should be going after water vapor which has a much greater warming effect but they can't so they target something that represents industrialization and growth trying to limit that... No mention of the other fact that the wealth of the forest land is built into the biomass and if they harvest and remove the biomass, the soil left behind is actually relativly poor and only able to support a few years of agriculture before becoming depleted.

Light posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff...
She was caught and sentenced. She appealed and this is the reaction she got. From Arizona Central:
Paris' pardon plea laughed out of governor's office
Paris Hilton's pardon plea to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been laughed out of his office.

The hotel heiress appealed to her fans to sign a petition after she was sentenced to 45 days in jail for driving with a suspended licence and sent it to the actor-turned-politician.

But calls to Arnie's office inquiring about the petition were met with mockery.
A bit more:
Paris' mother Kathy Hilton is furious her daughter has been given a jail term.

She told the USA Today newspaper, "This is pathetic and disgusting, a waste of taxpayers' money with all this nonsense. This is a joke."

The 45-year-old even implied the judge only decided to jail Paris to become famous.

When the judge sentenced the socialite, Kathy laughed out loud and blurted, "May I have your autograph?"

When Judge Michael T. Sauer walked into his parish church on Saturday, the day after sentencing Paris, he was greeted by rapturous applause.
From the Pennsylvania Patriot-News:
Sperm donor must pay child support
In what legal experts are calling a precedent, a three-judge panel of the state Superior Court has ruled that a York County man must pay child support for two children of a lesbian couple for whom he acted as a sperm donor.

Quoting an earlier court decision, Senior Judge John T.K. Kelly wrote that "stepparents who have held a child out as their own are liable for support; biological parents who have exercised the rights appurtenant to that status can be no less bound."
And the argument they made:
Kelly noted in his opinion that Frampton had held himself out as a stepparent to the children by being present at the birth of one of the children, contributing "in excess of $13,000" over the last four years, buying toys and borring money to obtain a vehicle in which to transport the children.

"While these contributions have been voluntary, they evidence a settled intention to demonstrate parental involvement far beyond merely biological," wrote the judge.
Words fail -- even though Frampton was a friend, he was not the parent of the child and should be immune from this ridiculous claim...
Saw it at Denny's but it seems to have originally come from here.

Speaking of dinner

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Kate Blanchett is looking like she could use a few good ones:
Sheesh -- I have seen fatter people in the photographs of the liberation of the German concentration camps. This is not good for your health...

Speaking of pigs and Islam...

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Had our first dinner from our new pig and god was it GOOD! I took about two pounds of coarse-ground sausage meat, browned it and rendered the fat out and used the fat to saut� a large onion chopped. Mixed both of these in with a couple cans of Muir Glenn diced tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, a smaller pinch of red pepper flakes (just looking for a perceptible heat -- neither of us are Scoville junkies) and some herbs and stuff -- some of which came from our garden and were dehydrated last fall. Best damn spaghetti sauce I have had for a long long time. That pig is going to get skinny very quickly and I'm kicking myself for not getting a whole one. We will next year. our half-cow is already showing signs of anorexia.

Spring light in the Northwest

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I love the spring evening light here. Was sitting doing some paperwork and a bit of surfing and noticed the clouds at dusk:
Shot from our back porch a few minutes ago.
From MyWay News:
6 Men Charged in Plot to Attack Fort Dix
Six foreign-born Muslims were arrested and accused Tuesday of plotting to attack Fort Dix and slaughter scores of U.S. soldiers - a scheme the FBI says was foiled when the men asked a store clerk to copy a video of them firing assault weapons and screaming about jihad.

The defendants, all men in their 20s from the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East, include a pizza deliveryman suspected of using his job to scout out the military base.

Their goal was "to kill as many American soldiers as possible" with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns, prosecutors said.

"Today we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets," said FBI agent J.P. Weis.

"We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their target, they did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able to stop that."

Authorities said there was no direct evidence connecting the men to any international terror organizations such as al-Qaida. But several of them said they were ready to kill and die "in the name of Allah," according to court papers.

Investigators said they infiltrated the group with two informants well over a year ago and bided their time while they secretly recorded the defendants, four of whom lived in Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia suburb about 20 miles from Fort Dix.

"This is what law enforcement is supposed to do in the post-9/11 era - stay one step ahead of those who are attempting to cause harm to innocent American citizens," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said.

Weis saluted the unidentified New Jersey store clerk who noticed the suspicious video as the "unsung hero" of the case. "That's why we're here today - because of the courage and heroism of that individual," the FBI agent said.
And of course, the usual weasel-words from the 'Muslim Community'
The arrests renewed worries among New Jersey's Muslim community. Hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey were rounded up and detained in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, but none were connected to that plot.

"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented scores of detainees after the 2001 attacks. "But when the government says 'Islamic militants,' it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous."

"Don't equate actions with religion," he said.
My emphasis -- if you are looking for actions, how about the action of Muslims stamping out these terrorists. You don't see that. Ever... Why?
The Corpse Flower at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory is blossoming. Very bizare plant -- here is more: Titan arum

The Goracle speaks in San Antonio

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Al Gore brought his touchy-feelie and curiously science limited roadshow to San Antonio and the San Antonio Express-News has the story:

Gore sees 'spiritual crisis' in warming
Playing equal parts visionary, cheerleader and comedian, Al Gore brought his message of how to fight global warming to a capacity crowd of receptive architects Saturday in San Antonio.

The former vice president referred continually to a "new way of thinking" that is emerging in the country and offered hope in the battle to control the effects global warming will have on the planet.

"It's in part a spiritual crisis," Gore told the crowd in the Convention Center at the American Institute of Architects national convention. "It's a crisis of our own self-definition � who we are. Are we creatures destined to destroy our own species? Clearly not."

Spiritual Crisis? Good lord, how hyperbolic do these people have to be before they see their own folly. This is downright ludicrous.

An epidemic in China

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Things seem to really be going well over in China these days. It seems that something is killing their pigs. From The New York Times:
Epidemic Is Killing Pigs in Southeastern China
A mysterious epidemic is killing pigs in southeastern China, but international and Hong Kong authorities said today that the Chinese government is providing little information about it, or about the contaminated wheat gluten that has caused deaths and illnesses in other animals.

The lack of even basic details is reviving longstanding questions about whether China is willing to share information about health and food safety issues with potential global implications.

The Chinese government � and particularly the government of Guangdong Province, which is adjacent to Hong Kong � was criticized in 2003 for concealing information about the SARS virus for the first four months after it emerged in Foshan, 95 miles northwest of Hong Kong. After SARS spread to Hong Kong and around the world, top Chinese officials promised to improve disclosure.

But officials in Hong Kong as well as at the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, both agencies of the United Nations, said today that they been told almost nothing about the latest pig deaths, and been given limited details about wheat gluten contamination.

Because pigs can catch many of the same diseases as people, including bird flu, the two U.N. agencies maintain global networks to track and investigate unexplained patterns of pig deaths.

Hong Kong television broadcasts and newspapers were full of lurid accounts today of pigs staggering around with blood pouring from their bodies in Gaoyao and neighboring Yunfu, both in Guangdong Province. The Apple Daily newspaper said that as many as 80 percent of the pigs in the area had died, that panicky farmers were selling ailing animals at deep discounts and that pig carcasses were floating in a river.
As stated in the article, there is a large overlap of diseases that both pigs and people can catch so if this thing mutates slightly, there is a good chance that it could start killing people. Bad news if it does... Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Quite the little scam here

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From United Press International:
Man tried to sell blank 'money'
A man from Liberia is charged with trying to unload a bag of white paper he claimed was $4 million in cash at a New York hotel.

The criminal complaint against Calvin Swen claims he was trying to find buyers for eight bricks of white paper that he claimed were incognito $100 bills, The New York Sun reported Monday.

Swen allegedly told a prospective buyer the money was intended to be foreign aid for Sierra Leone and had been dyed white to prevent couriers from being robbed. Swen said the paper would be revealed as actual $100 bills when placed between two actual bills. For this reason, the criminal complaint says, the attempted con man insisted the prospective buyer bring along $5 million in cash.

However, the prospective buyer was an undercover FBI agent, and Swen was arrested and charged with attempting to sell counterfeit money.
Cute story but he sure picked the wrong mark...

Country life - food department

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One of the benefits to living out here is the social networking. Last fall, a neighbor gave us a pork chop that her sister in Eastern WA raised and it was one of the most delicious cuts of pork that we had ever had -- when cooked properly, it was moist and tender and more flavorful than most pork you get in the stores or restaurants. Rose (our neighbor) told us that her sister raises these pigs organically and that she has the meat for sale every year. We signed up for a half pig and I got the phone call today that it was ready for pickup. We now have about 50 pounds of frozen pork hanging out with our half-cow in the freezer camp. Bacon and Ham will follow when they are cured. I am salivating at the thought of all these chops, roasts and sausage (and I'm not usually a sausage kind of guy).
Says Reid Bryson. Who he? Visit here and read on: Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News
The Faithful Heretic
A Wisconsin Icon Pursues Tough Questions
Some people are lucky enough to enjoy their work, some are lucky enough to love it, and then there�s Reid Bryson. At age 86, he�s still hard at it every day, delving into the science some say he invented.

Reid A. Bryson holds the 30th PhD in Meteorology granted in the history of American education. Emeritus Professor and founding chairman of the University of Wisconsin Department of Meteorology�now the Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences�in the 1970s he became the first director of what�s now the UW�s Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies. He�s a member of the United Nations Global 500 Roll of Honor�created, the U.N. says, to recognize �outstanding achievements in the protection and improvement of the environment.� He has authored five books and more than 230 other publications and was identified by the British Institute of Geographers as the most frequently cited climatologist in the world.

Long ago in the Army Air Corps, Bryson and a colleague prepared the aviation weather forecast that predicted discovery of the jet stream by a group of B-29s flying to and from Tokyo. Their warning to expect westerly winds at 168 knots earned Bryson and his friend a chewing out from a general�and the general�s apology the next day when he learned they were right. Bryson flew into a couple of typhoons in 1944, three years before the Weather Service officially did such things, and he prepared the forecast for the homeward flight of the Enola Gay. Back in Wisconsin, he built a program at the UW that�s trained some of the nation�s leading climatologists.
OK -- so he has some credibility in the field. Read on:
Bryson is a believer in climate change, in that he�s as quick as anyone to acknowledge that Earth�s climate has done nothing but change throughout the planet�s existence. In fact, he took that knowledge a big step further, earlier than probably anyone else. Almost 40 years ago, Bryson stood before the American Association for the Advancement of Science and presented a paper saying human activity could alter climate.

�I was laughed off the platform for saying that,� he told Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News.

In the 1960s, Bryson�s idea was widely considered a radical proposition. But nowadays things have turned almost in the opposite direction: Hardly a day passes without some authority figure claiming that whatever the climate happens to be doing, human activity must be part of the explanation. And once again, Bryson is challenging the conventional wisdom.

�Climate�s always been changing and it�s been changing rapidly at various times, and so something was making it change in the past,� he told us in an interview this past winter. �Before there were enough people to make any difference at all, two million years ago, nobody was changing the climate, yet the climate was changing, okay?�

�All this argument is the temperature going up or not, it�s absurd,� Bryson continues. �Of course it�s going up. It has gone up since the early 1800s, before the Industrial Revolution, because we�re coming out of the Little Ice Age, not because we�re putting more carbon dioxide into the air.�
The reporter also asks some questions:
Q: Could you rank the things that have the most significant impact and where would you put carbon dioxide on the list?
A: Well let me give you one fact first. In the first 30 feet of the atmosphere, on the average, outward radiation from the Earth, which is what CO2 is supposed to affect, how much [of the reflected energy] is absorbed by water vapor? In the first 30 feet, 80 percent, okay?

Q: Eighty percent of the heat radiated back from the surface is absorbed in the first 30 feet by water vapor�
A: And how much is absorbed by carbon dioxide? Eight hundredths of one percent. One one-thousandth as important as water vapor. You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.
Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for this wonderful link.
Chavez may have started out with the best of intentions but as John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton once said: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. From The Jerusalem Post:
Chavez to block exports of Venezuela's largest steel maker
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that Venezuela's largest steel maker, Sidor, will not be allowed to make any more exports until it meets domestic needs, and threatened to expropriate the Argentine-controlled company if it resists.

Chavez has criticized Sidor for selling the bulk of its production overseas and forcing local producers to import from elsewhere, saying Venezuelan industry should be given priority.

Sidor's parent company, Luxembourg-based Ternium SA, is controlled by conglomerate Techint Group of Argentina. Chavez said he has summoned Ternium chairman Paolo Rocca from Buenos Aires for talks.

"We're going to pass a law, Rocca. We're going to force you to supply, first and foremost, the Venezuelan domestic market before you take (the steel) to other countries," the Venezuelan leader said at a news conference.

"If you don't agree, give it to me. I'll grab your company. Give it to me, and I'll pay you what it's worth. I won't rob you," Chavez said.
And a bit more:
Chavez, who was recently granted special powers to decree laws,
And another bit:
Earlier Saturday - which Chavez noted coincided with Karl Marx's birthday - the Venezuelan leader drove a red Volkswagen bug to a poor Caracas slum where he officially registered with a movement to create a single, pro-Chavez ruling party: the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
And one last one:
"If any rich person wants to become a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, he will be welcome but he must begin by setting aside his wealth to the fight against misery," Chavez said as he repeatedly invoked the communist ideals of Marx and Leon Trotsky.
Circling the drain -- what once was a prosperous nation is being eaten up from within. The old Marxist trope of a 'fixed pool of capital that needs to be redistributed' is blatantly false. Scratch Venezuela off the list of cool places to visit (and spend our tourist dollars) for the next ten years or so...

We Win, They Lose

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Blogging giant Patrick Ruffini has started a wonderful online petition called We Win, They Lose.
Add your voice to the cry for sanity.
Enough lead to be 16 times the minimal allowance for paint. And infants chew on their bibs (and anything else they can put in their mouths). This from the Chicago Daily-Herald:
Grandma gets lead out of baby bibs
Arlington Heights resident Julie Furer said she bought vinyl-backed bibs for 3-month-old son Jensen because they stopped the drool from leaking through.

Previously, Jensen, who turns 1 today, had been using cloth bibs, but they had proved ineffective.

�I called him Waterfall. That was my nickname for him,� said Julie Furer�s mother, Mount Prospect resident Marilyn Furer. �He would be soaking wet, because he was just constantly drooling.�

Jensen would also put the bib in his mouth when he was hungry, something that came to Marilyn Furer�s attention when he started using the vinyl-backed bibs.

It caused Marilyn to think back to reports she had heard of lead being found in plastic school lunch boxes.

�So there I think, hmmm, plastic in the mouth, plastic in school lunch boxes. What the heck, I�ll just go get a (lead testing) kit just to play it safe. I never thought it would come out like that.�

Using a household lead test kit produced by Homax Products Inc., she crushed the two points on the barrel of the testing swab, shook the swab and squeezed it until a yellow liquid appeared on the tip. Then she rubbed the swab tip on the test area. To her surprise, the swab tip turned pink, indicating the presence of lead. She wound up testing 20 bibs, with eight of them yielding a positive result.

She sent the bibs, which were made in China and sold at Wal-Mart, to the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., which had done the research on the lunch boxes.

Testing commissioned by the center revealed that one of the Baby Connection brand vinyl bibs, which were sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores, had a lead level of 9,700 parts per million, more than 16 times greater than the legal limit for lead in paint.

The bibs were later tested in Illinois and New York, revealing similarly high levels, with the result that Wal-Mart has stopped selling the bibs in those states indefinitely. In addition, the Illinois attorney general announced a statewide recall of the Wal-Mart bibs.

�These vinyl bibs pose a lead poisoning threat to infants and toddlers who are at the most vulnerable age,� said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health and author of a report on lead in baby bibs released by the center this week. �As every parent knows, young children commonly chew and suck on their bibs, so if the bib is contaminated, children are being directly exposed to lead.�
How many more cases like this, the contaminated medicines and pet food will it take to get China to own up to this and fix the problem... Unfortunately, given the high level of corruption over there, it will probably have to be something catastrophic. This worries me.

And the race is on... From the Halifax Chronicle-Herald:

That morning cereal's sweeter than you think
Food companies have doubled the amount of sugar they add to some of their most popular products including soups and cereals in an attempt to attract sweet-toothed customers.

Some of the biggest increases in sugar have been in breakfast cereals, and even whole wheat bread has become far sweeter. It now routinely contains nearly a teaspoonful of sugar in every three slices.

Experts warn that the trend, which can be traced back over three decades, is likely to get worse as sugar prices fall and salt levels are reduced by health watchdogs.

In 1978, Kellogg's Special K had 9.6 grams of sugar per 100 grams, but this has now nearly doubled to 17 grams about the same level as vanilla ice cream.

Soaring consumption of sugar has been blamed for high levels of tooth decay and increases in diabetes. Many scientists have implicated it in rising rates of obesity.

Ian Tokelove, a spokesman for the Food Commission in the United Kingdom, which campaigns for healthier foods, said: "Most of us are eating too much sugar, but we are being swamped with it in our food.

A bit more with some numbers -- the report was originally published in England so the brand names may not be recognizable to American readers:

The Sunday Times discovered the increases in sugar levels by analyzing data in an industry handbook on the nutritional value of foods McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods, which has editions covering 1978 to 2002.

The 1978 edition shows that cans of tomato soup contained on average 2.6 grams of sugar per 100 grams in 1978. By contrast, many soups today have double that amount. A can of Waitrose tomato soup on sale last week had 6.4 grams of sugar per 100 grams, with almost three spoonfuls of sugar in every bowl.

The amount of sugar in a typical loaf of whole wheat bread rose from 2.1 grams per 100 grams in 1978 to 2.8 grams per 100 grams in 2002. A loaf of Hovis whole wheat bread now has 3.7 grams of sugar per 100 grams while Sainsbury's whole wheat bread has 3.5 grams per 100 grams.

Kellogg's has increased the sugar content in some of its bestselling cereals. Cornflakes now have eight grams of sugar per 100 grams compared with 7.4 grams in 1978; All-Bran has 17 grams compared with 15.4 grams in 1978, and Rice Krispies have 10 grams of sugar, up one gram since 1978.

Much of the extra sugar in the modern diet is blamed on processed foods. A study by Which? released earlier this month found Asda sticky chilli chicken contained 19.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams and Tesco crispy beef with sweet chilli sauce had 23.1 grams per 100 grams.

The core problem is that a little sugar and salt will make things taste a lot better -- snappier -- I use them both at home and put sugar in my pasta sauce -- just a little bit but it is there. It is easy for manufacturers to try to rev up sales by tampering with their products and one easy and cheap fix is to add more sugar...

Get this bit of insanity. After participating in a "Shoulder to Shoulder" conference, a team of Islamists and a team of Christians were scheduled to have a game of soccer. The Islamists objected to women being on the Christian team. The sponsoring church pulled the women off the team and the team coach walked out. From the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger:
Soccer game for priests, imams canceled
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- A soccer game between Muslim imams and Christian priests at the end of a conference to promote interfaith dialogue was canceled Saturday because the teams could not agree on whether women priests should take part.

Church of Norway spokesman Olav Fykse Tveit said the imams refused to play against a mixed-gender team of priests because it would have gone against their beliefs in avoiding close physical contact with strange women.

The church decided to drop its female players and the priests' team captain walked out in protest.

Hours before the game was to end the daylong "Shoulder to Shoulder" conference in Oslo, the church released a statement saying it had called off the match because it was sending the wrong signal.

"Because we thought it would be a nice conclusion of the conference we didn't want to call it off, so we decided to stage an all-mens team game instead," Tveit said. "We realize now that it will be wrong to have a priest team without women."
The Islamists could have yielded a bit -- it would not have hurt them and it would have sent a very positive message but no...
As with the pet food scandal, this case too is an example of a Chinese company mis-labeling a toxin to boost profits. Unfortunately, 100 people have died from tainted medicine with a possible 260 more cases being looked at. From the International Herald Tribune:
A trail of poisoned medicine leads back to China
A syrupy poison, diethylene glycol, is an indispensable part of the modern world, an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in antifreeze.

It is also a killer. And the deaths, if not intentional, are often no accident.

The kidneys fail first. Then the central nervous system begins to misfire. Paralysis spreads, making breathing difficult, then often impossible without assistance. In the end, most victims die.

Many of them are children, poisoned at the hands of their unsuspecting parents.

Over the years, the poison has been loaded into all varieties of medicine - cough syrup, fever medication, injectable drugs - a result of counterfeiters who profit by substituting the sweet-tasting solvent for a safe, more expensive syrup, usually glycerin, commonly used in drugs, food, toothpaste and other products.

Toxic syrup has figured in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades. Researchers estimate that thousands have died. In many cases, the precise origin of the poison has never been determined. But records and interviews show that in three of the last four cases it was made in China, a major source of counterfeit drugs.

Panama is the most recent victim. Last year, government officials there unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine, with devastating results. Families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. With the onset of the rainy season, investigators are racing to exhume as many potential victims as possible before bodies decompose even more.

Panama's death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5 percent pure glycerin.

Forty-six barrels of the toxic syrup arrived via a poison pipeline stretching halfway around the world. Through shipping records and interviews with government officials, this pipeline was traced from the Panamanian port of Col�n, back through trading companies in Barcelona and Beijing, to its beginning near the Yangtze Delta in a place local people call "chemical country."

The counterfeit glycerin passed through three trading companies on three continents, yet not one of them tested the syrup to confirm what was on the label. Along the way, a certificate falsely attesting to the purity of the shipment was repeatedly altered, eliminating the name of the manufacturer and previous owner. As a result, traders bought the syrup without knowing where it came from, or who made it. With this information, the traders might have discovered that the manufacturer was not certified to make pharmaceutical ingredients.

An examination of the two poisoning cases last year - in Panama and earlier in China - shows how China's safety regulations have lagged behind its growing role as low-cost supplier to the world. It also demonstrates how a poorly policed chain of traders in country after country allows counterfeit medicine to contaminate the global market.
And this is not a recent phenomenon either:
Beyond Panama and China, toxic syrup has caused mass poisonings in Haiti, Bangladesh, Argentina, Nigeria and India.

In Bangladesh, investigators found poison in seven brands of fever medication in 1992, but only after countless children died. A Massachusetts laboratory detected the contamination after Dr. Michael Bennish, a pediatrician who works in developing countries, smuggled samples of the tainted syrup out of the country in a suitcase.

Bennish, who investigated the Bangladesh epidemic and helped write a 1995 article about it for BMJ, formerly known as The British Medical Journal, said that given the amount of medication distributed, deaths "must be in the thousands or tens of thousands."
And as the article says, the sick bastards who do this are so well insulated behind false companies and forged paperwork that they are never brought to justice.

Our friends the French - Sarkozy

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Very cool news -- conservative and definite friend of America Nicolas Sarkozy has walked away with the presidency of France in yesterday's runoff election with 53% of the vote. From BBC:
Sarkozy takes French presidency
Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy has won the hotly-contested French presidential election, according to projections made from partial results.

Mr Sarkozy is estimated to have won 53% of the vote, compared with 47% for socialist Segolene Royal.

The turnout was the highest for more than two decades, at about 85%.

Mr Sarkozy, 52, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, takes over from the 74-year-old Jacques Chirac, who has been in power for 12 years.

Friendship for US
Thousands of his supporters in the Place de la Concorde burst into applause and wild cheering as the result came through.

In his victory speech, Mr Sarkozy said he would be the president of all the French.

"I love France. I love France, just as one loves someone who is very close to one," he told crowds of cheering supporters.

"France has given me everything, and now it is my turn to render to France what France has given me."

Mr Sarkozy said the US could count on France's friendship, but called on Washington to take a lead in the fight against climate change.

He also said he believed deeply in European integration, but appealed to France's European partners to understand the importance of social protection.

After he finished speaking at his party headquarters, jubilant supporters sang a rousing rendition of the French national anthem.
Very cool -- a breath of fresh air for France and Europe.
It seems that driving high-gas milage vehicles has a downside. The states do not make as much money from the gasoline taxes and their road building/maintenence budgets are hurtin' From the Wall Street Journal:
Fuel-Efficient Cars Dent States' Road Budgets
Cars and trucks are getting more fuel-efficient, and that's good news for drivers. But it's a headache for state highway officials, who depend on gasoline taxes to build and maintain roads.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that by 2009 the tax receipts that make up most of the federal highway trust fund will be $21 billion shy of what's needed just to maintain existing roads, much less build new roads or add capacity. Trying to compensate for highway-budget shortfalls, a handful of states are exploring other, potentially more lucrative ways to raise highway money.

"In 10 years, we are going to be in an intolerable financial position, and we need to start fixing it now before the problem starts," says James Whitty, manager of an alternative funding project in the Oregon transportation department.
The Oregon program is an interesting one:
In a year-long pilot program overseen by Mr. Whitty, the cars of 260 volunteers were outfitted with Global Positioning Systems and electronic odometers that recorded the number of miles driven. The drivers bought gasoline at specially equipped service stations, where computers on the pumps subtracted the 24-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax and added a 1.2 cent fee for every mile driven.
Very clever -- tax for the actual road useage and not the efficiency of the vehicle.

Nice guy - Zambia department

Ever hear of Frederick Chiluba? Me niether until I ran into this news item at The Guardian:

UK lawyers helped Zambia ex-president launder 23m
Two London law firms, including one run by Nelson Mandela's personal UK lawyer, were involved in a conspiracy to launder part of $46m (23m) "plundered" by a former African president, a high court judge ruled yesterday at the end of a secret four-month trial.

Both firms are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London police for handling the proceeds of crime. One insider has described the investigation as the "flagship corruption case for sub-Saharan Africa".

In a damning 220-page judgment Mr Justice Peter Smith accused ex-president Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, who left office in 2001, of shamelessly defrauding his people and flaunting his wealth with an expensive wardrobe of "stupendous proportions".

The judge reserved his most abrasive remarks for Chiluba, whose corruption trial in Zambia has been repeatedly postponed because of his ill health. He refused to give evidence to the court. Mr Justice Smith singled out as "the most telling example of corruption" his $500,000 purchase of hundreds of suits and monogrammed shirts from an exclusive boutique in Switzerland, as well as 72 pairs of handmade, high heel shoes to extend his 5ft stature. "This was at a time when the vast majority of Zambians were struggling to live on $1 a day and many could not afford more than one meal a day. The people of Zambia should know that whenever he appears in public wearing some of these clothes he acquired them with money stolen from them."

Interesting that one of the lawyers worked for Nelson Mandela (communist and corrupt as hell -- excellent at public relations though). A bit more on this:

Iqbal Meer is Nelson Mandela's lawyer in London who handled the business end of his best selling autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. During the course of the trial Mr Mandela provided a character reference. He is also a trustee, along with David Attenborough, of the Mandela Statue Fund, which last month was given permission to erect the 9ft bronze in Parliament Square. Tony Blair heads the list of honorary patrons.

The judge concluded that Meer, despite his "long and distinguished career", must have known that the money was tainted. "I am satisfied that no honest solicitor in his position would have done what he did." His unquestioning acceptance of the money - transferred to a London bank account by the Zambian intelligence service - was "classic blind eye dishonesty".

Rope, tree. Some assembly required.

Jen had Pork Carnitas and I had a couple of soft Corn tortillas with shredded beef for dinner. Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!
I was just pointed to the work of Mark Jenkins Wonderful stuff -- here are three of them and there is much more at his website...


Like I said, much more here.

Nice essay on 'Global Warming'

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from Nigel Calder at the Times Online:
An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change
Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, says the orthodoxy must be challenged
When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works. We were treated to another dose of it recently when the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the Summary for Policymakers that puts the political spin on an unfinished scientific dossier on climate change due for publication in a few months� time. They declared that most of the rise in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases.

The small print explains �very likely� as meaning that the experts who made the judgment felt 90% sure about it. Older readers may recall a press conference at Harwell in 1958 when Sir John Cockcroft, Britain�s top nuclear physicist, said he was 90% certain that his lads had achieved controlled nuclear fusion. It turned out that he was wrong. More positively, a 10% uncertainty in any theory is a wide open breach for any latterday Galileo or Einstein to storm through with a better idea. That is how science really works.

Twenty years ago, climate research became politicised in favour of one particular hypothesis, which redefined the subject as the study of the effect of greenhouse gases. As a result, the rebellious spirits essential for innovative and trustworthy science are greeted with impediments to their research careers. And while the media usually find mavericks at least entertaining, in this case they often imagine that anyone who doubts the hypothesis of man-made global warming must be in the pay of the oil companies. As a result, some key discoveries in climate research go almost unreported.

Enthusiasm for the global-warming scare also ensures that heatwaves make headlines, while contrary symptoms, such as this winter�s billion-dollar loss of Californian crops to unusual frost, are relegated to the business pages. The early arrival of migrant birds in spring provides colourful evidence for a recent warming of the northern lands. But did anyone tell you that in east Antarctica the Ad�lie penguins and Cape petrels are turning up at their spring nesting sites around nine days later than they did 50 years ago? While sea-ice has diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.
And a bit more -- talking about solar activity and climate change and one very interesting observation:
What does the Intergovernmental Panel do with such emphatic evidence for an alternation of warm and cold periods, linked to solar activity and going on long before human industry was a possible factor? Less than nothing. The 2007 Summary for Policymakers boasts of cutting in half a very small contribution by the sun to climate change conceded in a 2001 report.

Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with inconvenient discoveries about how the solar variations control the climate. The sun�s brightness may change too little to account for the big swings in the climate. But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.

He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun�s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.

The only trouble with Svensmark�s idea � apart from its being politically incorrect � was that meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation. After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.
A list of Henrik Svensmark's papers can be found here: Cosmic rays and Earth's Cloud Cover Here is a good place to start -- it outlines the situation and presents historical data to back it up: Influence of Cosmic Rays on Earth's Climate

Just because I can

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Freedom of speech and all that stuff...

A bit of a mixup in Jolly Olde England

A team of firemen responding to an alarm got a little more than they expected. From ITV News:

Firemen mistaken for strippers
A team of firemen were mobbed by women who believed they were part of the act when they went to tackle a blaze at a strip show.

Hoards of female fans cheered and clapped expecting the team of eight fire fighters to start stripping at the pub on Hard Lane in St Helens, Merseyside.

Unbeknown to the bar's customers a bar stool and carpet had caught alight in the dressing room of the actual dancer who had been using lighter fuel in his own stripping fireman routine.

When the uniformed men burst into the pub to tackle the blaze they were greeted with ecstatic cheers of "Gerremoff!" from the women watching the show.

"One lady, shouted, 'Ooo, we've got our money's worth here!"' said watch manager Paul Costello, from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

"Because the fire was in another part of the building they didn't know we had been called out. I think the stripper had just finished his act - he was only wearing a towel."

He continued: "The first they knew was when we turned up in our kit and they all thought we were part of the show."

Must have been quite the surprise there...

From the Seattle Times:
Rare surprise for Yakima man: a forest of stone
Clyde Friend was bulldozing a driveway around his shop when he first saw them in the dirt: gleaming pieces of the past. A forest of stone, more than 15 million years old.

For the past five years, on this hillside above Yakima, Friend has been pulling out pieces of rare petrified wood, no two pieces alike. Branches, trunks and slices in sunset colors. Pieces purple and blue as mussel shells. Pieces like winter sky, gray and white and all the tones in between. Pieces that ring like a bell when struck.

In the process, this 50-year-old heavy-equipment operator, who lives in a motor home on his property among the sagebrush and the chukars, may have uncovered something scientists say would be very rare: a glimpse of an upright ancient forest of hickory, elm, maple and sweet gum from the Miocene Epoch, a time of mastodons and saber-toothed tigers.

And for sure, he got something else, too: a new life.

Though he worked hard to keep his find secret, word got out. Now Friend has found his normally quiet life besieged by collectors, curators and curiosity-seekers who manage to track him down on his remote hilltop redoubt to see his knee-high piles of petrified wood.

A local museum just paid him $150,000 for four short stumps, some polished slices and two tall trunks. And that was a discount price.

"I never knew there was anything like this," said Friend, who asked that his precise location not be disclosed. "I'm just a normal guy that goes out and beats the ground most days."

What makes Friend's find worth more than money is the fact that the ancient trees are still upright, said Thomas Dillhoff, a curatorial associate at the University of Washington's Burke Museum. Dillhoff has visited Friend often and acquired several pieces of his petrified wood for scientific study.

Vast areas of what is now Washington were covered with lava flows that seeped from cracks in the earth from about 17.5 million years ago until about 6 million years ago, scientists say. Pauses among the flows would have allowed forests to grow, only to be incinerated, entombed or displaced by the next rush of lava.

The well-known Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park at Vantage, Kittitas County, has lots of petrified logs, but they are strewn around on the ground. Scientists think they were transported by mud flow, then preserved in lava.

But scientists believe Friend's trees were first submerged upright in a lake, which would have kept them from burning when the lava came through. Pillow-shaped basalt around the trees is a clue that the lava likely cooled rapidly in the water as it oozed around the trees. Silica leached out of the lava, infiltrated the wood and preserved it as stone.
Very cool -- there is more on this site here: A Miocene Forest Assemblage

Got a lift?

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More goodies from BBC World News:
The Boeing 737 stuck in city road
Residents of the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) are wondering how long it will take to remove a disused Boeing 737 that has been abandoned in a busy road.

The decommissioned aircraft was being driven through the city at the weekend when the driver got lost and then abandoned the plane.

The Boeing used to belong to the private company Air Sahara.

Some locals are angry that no action is being taken to move the plane. Others say it is a tourist attraction.

It appears that after taking a wrong turn, the driver found himself facing a flyover that was too low for him to take the plane under.

The driver has not been seen since and no-one is assuming responsibility for the 737.
A bit more:
"I don't know how they are going to take it out because you can't reverse it, its too big, and you can't go further down the road."

Some residents said they had not complained simply because they assumed that the authorities would be making it a priority to get the plane out of the city.

Five days on, it is still not clear who is responsible for the aircraft and its transfer to Delhi.
A bit scary - from BBC World News:
Pakistan downplays radioactive ad
Pakistan's nuclear authority has said there is no cause for concern after it published press adverts for information on "lost" radioactive material.

The adverts urged members of the public to inform officials if they found any "lost or stolen" radioactive material.

They were published in major Urdu-language newspapers in Pakistan.

A spokesman for the nuclear authority said that there was a "very remote chance" that nuclear materials imported 40-50 years ago were unaccounted for.

International concern over the safety of Pakistan's nuclear programme was expressed in 2004, when the country's top nuclear scientist, AQ Khan, confessed to leaking secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
40-50 year old material would no longer be fissile without reprocessing but it would be prime media for a dirty bomb. I shudder to think of how much of this crap is circulating around the world and in whose hands...

This scary man came to my school

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From PR Inside:
Bob Dylan reportedly scared the children at his grandson's kindergarten after treating the class to a live show.
The 'It 'Aint Me Babe' singer has allegedly been dubbed the "weird man" by children in the class, in the Los Angeles suburb Calabas, where his son Jakob Dylan's child attends. A source told the New York Post newspaper: "The kids have been coming home and telling their parents about the weird man who keeps coming to class to sing scary songs on his guitar.

"He's been visiting the school just for fun, but the kids don't appreciate they are in the presence of a musical legend.

"They just think of him as the weird guitar guy."
I mean, the years have not exactly been kind to him but he still looks a hell of a lot better than Keith Richards.
Hardly a mecca for tourism but for those interested in the history of China's nuclear development, the government just opened up Qinghai for outsiders to come and visit. From CNN/Reuters:
Chinese nuke base open to tourists
China has declassified its first nuclear weapons base and is inviting tourists to visit the site, in a remote part of the northwestern province of Qinghai, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

Built in 1958 over more than 1,100 square km (680 miles) of the grasslands of northern Qinghai, the base was the birthplace of China's atomic and hydrogen bombs, but was closed in the late 1980s, Xinhua said.

China became a nuclear power in 1964.

"The underground headquarters of the nuclear weapons research and production base are a curiosity to many people. They can see the 'nuclear city' for themselves," the report quoted Zuo Xumin, an official in the mainly Tibetan region where the base is situated, as saying.

"The base will be developed into a key travel site, and it will become a platform for spurring the patriotic spirit of Chinese people," he said.

Opening the base is a rare move for China, where the definition of state secrets is notoriously broad and its weapons development is seen as highly sensitive.

The headquarters of the base comprises several rooms more than nine meters (30 feet) underground and reinforced with concrete, which originally held a research laboratory, electricity generation room, telegraph transmitting room and a command room.
A long way to travel but a fascinating history. We went for another acupuncture treatment today and our doctor studied traditional Chinese Medicine in China and speaks and writes Chinese. She interned at a hospital over there for a number of years and was today talking about a Radiologist who developed cancer because the equipment was so poorly designed and shielded. Amazing they got so far with such primitive equipment and technologies...

From Yahoo/AP:

Senior VA officials get big bonuses
Months after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that put veterans' health care in peril, Veterans Affairs officials involved in the foul-up got hefty bonuses ranging up to $33,000.

The list of bonuses to senior career officials at the Veterans Affairs Department in 2006, obtained by The Associated Press, documents a generous package of more than $3.8 million in payments by a financially strapped agency straining to help care for thousands of injured veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among those receiving payments were a deputy assistant secretary and several regional directors who crafted the VA's flawed budget for 2005 based on misleading accounting. They received performance payments up to $33,000 each, a figure equal to about 20 percent of their annual salaries.

Also receiving a top bonus was the deputy undersecretary for benefits, who helps manage a disability claims system that has a backlog of cases and delays averaging 177 days in getting benefits to injured veterans.

Heads need to roll on this one -- talk about being completely inappropriate.

The Chinese pet-food scandal - ongoing

It seems that the Chinese mis-labeled the wheat gluten as it left China to get around having it inspected...

From the International Herald Tribune:

Chinese firm dodged inspection of pet food, U.S. says
Chinese company accused of selling contaminated wheat gluten to pet food suppliers in the United States failed to disclose to China's export authorities that it was shipping food or feed to the United States, thereby avoiding having its goods inspected, according to U.S. regulators.

Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development, one of two Chinese companies at the center of the massive pet food recall after thousands of animals were killed and sickened, had shipped more than 700 tons of wheat gluten labeled as "nonfood" products earlier this year through a third party, a Chinese textile company.

The "nonfood" designation meant the company's shipments were not subject to mandatory inspection by the Chinese government.

The details of the case, some of which were disclosed Friday in a circular released by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, are just the latest clues that Chinese feed suppliers may have been intentionally disguising the contents of their goods.

FDA officials are now visiting China, seeking more information about how and why an industrial chemical used in plastics and as fertilizer got mixed into pet food ingredients.

The pet food recall is threatening to turn into a major trade issue because of mounting worries in the U.S. Congress about the safety of China's agricultural exports to the United States, the ability of American regulators to protect the country's food supply and the slow pace of efforts by the Chinese government to aid the investigation.

American regulators admit that six weeks after one of the biggest pet food recalls in U.S. history, they still do not know who in China manufactured the contaminated pet food ingredients or where in China the contamination took place.

Certainly, the crime happened in China but I would like to focus on Menu Foods and the other manufacturers. Surely they must have known something was less than above board when their materials came in from a textile company instead of a chemical or food manufacturing company... There is a good book in here for someone who wants to spend the time digging.

None other than Laurie David talking about Al Gore here: Rocky Mountain News
5 questions for global warming activist Laurie David
Global warming guru Laurie David, producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth starring Al Gore, pops into town tonight to speak at the Colorado Convention Center. She's here to wrap up a month of "green" events sponsored by the Denver Public Library and Greenprint Denver, the city's program of environmental initiatives. The event is sold out.

1 What's it like to be the producer of an Academy Award-winning film?
What's amazing to me is how many people have seen that movie and how many people are buying DVDs. Every single article you see (on global warming) now mentions the movie, and it's been personally gratifying to see.

2 What was it like to work with Al Gore?
By the time I was done working with him, I was begging him to adopt me. He's like a father figure to me, one of my heroes. He's so charming and lovely and smart and funny. He makes fun of himself; he's got a great sense of humor. He's dry and he laughs at other people's jokes.
And the last one:
5 What changes have you made in your own life?

I don't believe everyone has to do everything. I don't do everything. It's about everyone doing something. I have changed as many lightbulbs as I could to (higher efficiency) bulbs. I started a new idling rule at the school carpool lane (cars dropping and picking up kids can't idle their engines more than 30 seconds). I bring a garment bag to the dry cleaners (instead of having the dry cleaners wrap her clothes in petroleum-based plastic). I drive a hybrid.
Spoken like a true Gulfstream Liberal... Clueless consumer of O2...

Strangely compelling video

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The robots will protect us from the terrible secrets of space. Go here and watch: YouTube

Solar power in Spain

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Nice installation in Spain -- they are using the suns heat to boil water and run a turbine generator. Much more efficient than solar cells... From BBC News:
Power station harnesses Sun's rays
There is a scene in one of the Austin Powers films where Dr Evil unleashes a giant "tractor beam" of energy at Earth in order to extract a massive payment.

Well, the memory of it kept me chuckling as I toured the extraordinary scene of the new solar thermal power plant outside Seville in southern Spain.

From a distance, as we rounded a bend and first caught sight of it, I couldn't believe the strange structure ahead of me was actually real.

A concrete tower - 40 storeys high - stood bathed in intense white light, a totally bizarre image in the depths of the Andalusian countryside.

The tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out.

In fact, as we found out when we got closer, the rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air.

The effect is to give the whole place a glow - even an aura - and if you're concerned about climate change that may well be deserved.

It is Europe's first commercially operating power station using the Sun's energy this way and at the moment its operator, Solucar, proudly claims that it generates 11 Megawatts (MW) of electricity without emitting a single puff of greenhouse gas. This current figure is enough to power about 8,000 homes.

But ultimately, the entire plant should generate as much power as is used by the 600,000 people of Seville.
Very cool -- this is how it should be done. Simple technology scaled up to industrial size. It works...
From SF Gate:
Keys to Iowa Prison Sold on EBay
A 135-year-old penitentiary changed some of its locks after keys to the maximum-security prison were apparently sold on eBay.

The keys belonged to a locksmith who retired from Anamosa State Penitentiary in 1974. He died two years later and when his wife died last year, an auctioneer was hired to sell off the estate, which included the keys.

Someone bought the keys and put them on eBay. Most appear to be antiques.

Jerry Burt, the prison's warden, said prison staff members told him about the keys after they attended the auction, not knowing the keys were there.

"I checked eBay and they were listed," Burt said. "We didn't know anything about the auction beforehand."

Burt said some locks at the eastern Iowa prison have been changed since 1974 while others haven't, prompting the recent change.

"We did it as a precaution," Burt said.
Sad story of the Vegan lifestyle gone horribly wrong. From The Florida Times-Union:
Vegan couple found guilty of killing malnourished baby
A Superior Court jury convicted a vegan couple of murder and cruelty to children Wednesday in the death of their 6-week-old, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.

Jade Sanders, 27, and Lamont Thomas, 31, will receive automatic life sentences for starving the boy, who weighed just 3 1/2 pounds when he died.

Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.
Clueless and tragic... Grown adults can live with much more strict dietary whims than growing infants. The kid only weighed 3.5 pounds when he died. Face it folks, we are omnivores. We can survive on a diet of plant materials if we supplement our vitamins and minerals but to swing over to the extremes of Vegan is lunacy for a growing infant.
From the Seattle Times:
Pipe break, sinkhole keep University Bridge closed
The University Bridge will remain closed at least through the evening commute after a street south of the bridge collapsed this morning when a large water main broke and sent two cars into a sinkhole.

Gregg Hirakawa, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation, said the bridge will stay closed as workers try to remove the two cars. It has proven difficult because there isn't enough room under the bridge to get a tow truck to the vehicles. A backhoe was brought in to try to extract the vehicles.

The bridge was closed around 7:45 a.m., disrupting the morning commute and forcing Metro Transit to reroute buses.

No one was injured as a result of the pipe break and the sinkhole.

The 24-inch-diameter water main gave way just a week after road workers broke a water main on Dexter Avenue in the South Lake Union neighborhood, although this latest break was not related to construction.
A lot of people without water and unable to get out or home. The pipe was installed in 1912.
Got to love the boat at the bottom and the little submarine graphic on the bridge foundation...

Joan Baez clueless

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This is too rich -- from Yahoo/AP:
Joan Baez banned at Walter Reed hospital
Folk singer and anti-war activist Joan Baez says she doesn't know why she was not allowed to perform for recovering soldiers recently at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as she planned.

In a letter to The Washington Post published Wednesday, she said rocker John Mellencamp had asked her to perform with him last Friday and that she accepted his invitation.

"I have always been an advocate for nonviolence and I have stood as firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago," she wrote. "I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that's why I didn't hesitate to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the end, four days before the concert, I was not 'approved' by the Army to take part. Strange irony."

Baez, 66, told the Post in a telephone interview Tuesday that she was not told why she was left off the program by the Army. "There might have been one, there might have been 50 (soldiers) that thought I was a traitor," she told the paper.
More than 50 I bet. The military has a very long memory...

Iran and the film 300

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As the Persian empire was not well represented in 300 (according to the Iranians -- the film was actually quite accurate; battlefield rhinoceroses notwithstanding...), they have come up with a movie of their own. From the Islamic Republic News Agency:
'Glory of Persepolis' goes on screen in response to insulting movie '300'
A number of experts and critics attending the screening and analysis session of the documentary dubbed 'Glory of Persepolis' said that it reflects the dignity of Iranians and Persepolis, adding that it is a proper response to the insulting Hollywood movie '300'.

The screening of a new series of films started at Nour film house of Imam Ali (AS) Religious Arts Museum on Monday afternoon and 'Glory of Persepolis' was the first film that was screened and analyzed.
It would be fun to see this to see just how bad it was. From the brief description at the news release, it sounds like a real stinker.

Oh for the cultural freedoms of Iran. From ADN Kronos International:

The culture committee of the Iranian parliament approved on Monday a bill sentencing to death producers of 'pornography', videos and films deemed vulgar by the country's censorship. The draft law will now go to parliament where it is expected to be approved by an ample majority. Amateur porn films have a properous market in Iran and can fetch up to 30 euros each.

The market, tolerated for a long time, became a nationwide issue earlier this year after a porn film of popular television actress, Zohre Mir Ebrahimi, having sex with her partner, was released.

That will go over really well especially since they enjoy a "prosperous market" Nothing like listening to what the people (or the market) wants...

Marijuana and schizophrenia

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Seems that Marijuana is really really bad for people with schizophrenia. From The Examiner:
Doctors: Pot Triggers Psychotic Symptoms
New findings on marijuana's damaging effect on the brain show the drug triggers temporary psychotic symptoms in some people, including hallucinations and paranoid delusions, doctors say.

British doctors took brain scans of 15 healthy volunteers given small doses of two of the active ingredients of cannabis, as well as a placebo.

One compound, cannabidiol, or CBD, made people more relaxed. But even small doses of another component, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, produced temporary psychotic symptoms in people, including hallucinations and paranoid delusions, doctors said.

The results, to be presented at an international mental health conference in London on Tuesday and Wednesday, provides physical evidence of the drug's damaging influence on the human brain.

"We've long suspected that cannabis is linked to psychoses, but we have never before had scans to show how the mechanism works," said Dr. Philip McGuire, a professor of psychiatry at King's College, London.

In analyzing MRI scans of the study's subjects, McGuire and his colleagues found that THC interfered with activity in the inferior frontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with paranoia.

"THC is switching off that regulator," McGuire said, effectively unleashing the paranoia usually kept under control by the frontal cortex.

In another study being presented at the conference, a two-day gathering of mental health experts discussing the connections between cannabis and mental health, scientists found that marijuana worsens psychotic symptoms of schizophrenics.

Doctors at Yale University in the U.S. tested the impact of THC on 150 healthy volunteers and 13 people with stable schizophrenia. Nearly half of the healthy subjects experienced psychotic symptoms when given the drug.

While the doctors expected to see marijuana improve the conditions of their schizophrenic subjects - since their patients reported that the drug calmed them - they found that the reverse was true.

"I was surprised by the results," said Dr. Deepak Cyril D'Souza, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University's School of Medicine. "In practice, we found that cannabis is very bad for people with schizophrenia," he said.

While D'Souza had intended to study marijuana's impact on schizophrenics in more patients, the study was stopped prematurely because the impact was so pronounced that it would have been unethical to test it on more people with schizophrenia.
Explains a lot of things... After all, it is a psychoactive drug. Now where did I put that bag of doritos...

Where's Waldo Fidel???

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From BBC News:
Castro fails to appear on May Day
Cuba's leader Fidel Castro has failed to appear at Havana's annual May Day parade, fuelling speculation about the state of his health.

The 80-year-old is suffering from an intestinal ailment and has not been seen in public since he handed power to his brother Raul nine months ago.

On Sunday, Bolivia's President Evo Morales said he believed that 1 May would mark Mr Castro's return to power.

But there was no sign of the leader as the parade got underway.
And good riddance to one of the more corrupt and evil 'leaders' in the world. Keeps his people in poverty while amassing a fortune.

The cuteness factor

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It seems that since Knute is growing up, he is becoming less 'cute'. From Der Spiegel:
Knut Steadily Getting Less Cute
It's a tragic fact of life. Celebrity polar bear cub Knut, now almost five months old, is gradually mutating from a fluffy porridge-lapping cub into a heavy bruiser with a penchant for meat off the bone. But the visitors are still flocking to see him.

Knut's days of extreme cuteness are numbered now that he has acquired a markedly longer snout and weighs a chubby 17 kilograms (37 pounds), twice as much as when he first appeared before an adoring public five weeks ago.

"His teeth are sharper and he's stronger, he still gets porridge but we now feed him beef on the bone occasionally," the zoo's bear expert Heiner Kl�s told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "He's calmed down a bit, he doesn't potter around as much as he used to and he's happy to sit on his own more often. But he still wanders back to his keeper to tank up on security."

Knut's faithful handler Thomas D�rflein has taken to wearing long-sleeved shirts or pullovers and gloves to protect himself when he handles Knut. But the polar bear cub immediately obeys when D�rflein has had enough and tells him to stop biting him with the stern command "Aus!"

Kl�s said it's impossible to predict when Knut will be able to sleep on his own without a keeper by his side, or when he will be too dangerous to handle closely. "At the moment handling him is no problem and we don't have a timetable in that regard."
Still looks really cute to me...
From Yahoo/AP:
Inmates take swipe at toilet paper cuts
HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Toilet paper is becoming a sought after commodity at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility after officials began limiting inmates to one roll at a time to trim costs.

Officials say the prison has long had a limit, but they learned recently that it hadn't been enforced. Increased enforcement began this month.

Under the prison policy, inmates are restricted to four rolls of toilet paper each month or on an "as-needed" basis.

Steve Schneider, public information officer for the prison, said officials also restated restrictions on other personal items, including soap and toothpaste, as a result of stockpiling and overuse.

The increased enforcement has angered many of the more than 1,600 inmates housed at the facility.

"Some take this for granted," inmate Carl Kennedy said in a letter to The Hutchinson News. "But in here it's part of a safeguard for widespread infections. We use it to blow our noses, clean sinks, toilets and tables."

Prison officials said the policy could save the prison nearly $600 each month if each inmate uses one less roll each month.
C'mon people -- I'm all for saving money but this is getting rediculous...

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