August 2007 Archives


Wearing a sweater for the first time this Fall. Was at Costco earlier today and they have Christmas decorations out already -- six-foot tall Snowmen. It is already full dark at 9:00PM Where did the Summer go???

From CNN/AP:

Carter embraces Edwards on poverty, environment
Former President Jimmy Carter welcomed Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards to South Georgia on Wednesday, embracing the fellow Southerner as a kindred spirit on poverty and the environment.

Carter and Edwards shared the stage at Carter's alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University. Carter stopped short of endorsing the former U.S. senator from North Carolina but called him "a candidate whom I really admire."

"I can say without equivocation that no one who is running for president has presented anywhere near as comprehensive and accurate a prediction of what our country ought to do in the field of environmental quality, in the field of healthcare for those who are not presently insured, for those who struggle with poverty," Carter said.

He predicted that Edwards "has a very good chance to do well" in the presidential race.

One has to wonder if Carter is really that much of a naif or is he pushing an Anti-American agenda.

If he is a naif, he is showing a stunning lack of understanding of world politics...

No wonder 14 top people at the Carter Center quit when his last book came out.

Looks like the Breck Girl will be back ambulance chasing in a year or so...

Site them in windy areas... From the London Daily Mail:

Blowing in the wind: Millions wasted on wind farms without a breeze
For anyone building a wind farm, it might seem an unnecessary piece of advice - put it somewhere windy.

Astonishingly, however, many turbines are going up on sites which are simply not breezy enough, energy consultants have claimed.

They say farms are being built in the "wrong places" because of the pressure to hit Government targets in the race to produce green energy.

But the "badly sited and underperforming" turbines are not reliable enough to keep the nation's television sets, toasters and lights switched on.

Michael Jefferson, an independent engineering consultant and former economist for Shell, said the industry often exaggerated the amount of energy each farm would supply.

New sites are assessed on the basis of average wind speeds over a year - a measure called the "load factor".

The industry recommends an average load factor of 30 per cent for a turbine to operate efficiently.

Yet although the load factor can be as high as 45 per cent in parts of Scotland and Wales, some farms achieve less than 20 per cent, he said.

Only five wind farms in the east of England achieve load factors of 30 per cent or more: "That's just five out of 25," he said.

"We should be putting our money where the wind is and that is quite often not where the development pressure is.

"Even in a high average-wind-speed area you really have to be absolutely precise as to where you site them.

"In Cumbria, for instance, you've got two - one which achieves a load factor of about 36 per cent and the other a mere 2.3km away which achieves just 20 to 21 per cent."

The Government wants 15 per cent of Britain's electricity to be generated by wind farms and other renewable energy sources by 2014.

Jim Oswald, an engineering consultant, said wind speeds were too unreliable and variable to meet that target. "It's the power swings that worry us," he said. "Over a 20-hour period you can go from almost 100 per cent wind output to 20 per cent.

"When you have a very large number of wind farms on the grid and that happens, you are talking about massive power swings on the system."

To cope with the variation in wind energy over a normal day, gas and coal generators would need to be turned on and off continually.

"They are not designed for that, and the net effect is to put them under mechanical strain and also increase their carbon dioxide," said Mr Oswald.

The simple act of erecting a tower with measurement equipment (anemometer) and taking readings for one year would be a cheap way to determine the site's load factor. Siting these things based on development pressure is ludicrous...

Go Rocky!

From the Belfast Telegraph:

Prison inmates take out contract on sniffer dog's life
Criminals in Limerick Prison have reportedly taken out a contract on the life of a sniffer dog who has almost cleared the prison of drugs.

Reports this morning say inmates are so frustrated with the dog's success that they have ordered their associates to have him killed.

The two-year-old black-and-white spaniel called Rocky is reportedly making an average of 10 drug finds every day in the prison's visiting area.

Visits are down by more than 30% since he began his work.

Heh... I don't think that prison time is supposed to be comfortable.

I hope the lil' guy lives to be an old and cherished dog...

And in other drug-sniffing-dog news. From The Vancouver Sun:

Drug-sniffing dog kidnapped from airplane, replaced with small puppy
A top police sniffer dog working for an elite Mexican anti-drug squad was stolen during an airport transfer by thieves who left a mixed-breed puppy in its place, the attorney general's office said.

Rex IV, a highly trained Belgian Malinois sheepdog with a string of drug hauls behind him, was checked on to a flight from Mexico City this week with seven other police dogs bound for an operation in the state of Sinaloa.
But when the dogs arrived at Mazatlan airport, Sinaloa, their police handlers discovered a small black mongrel puppy inside Rex IV's cage, with the sniffer dog nowhere to be seen.

And one of the concerns:

"In 17 years I've never seen anything like this. It's rather delicate," a Public Security Ministry spokesman said Sunday, adding that the worry was the dog could help smugglers find new ways to conceal drugs.
"It's like kidnapping an intelligence agent," he said.

I have to say that replacing it with the puppy was a wonderful F*** Y** to the police force.

I don't think the Malinois will be very cooperative with the druggies -- they are very much one-person dogs and will only really work with their person.

I love German Shepherds but the Malinois is a very close second; I have had the wonderful opportunity to know a couple of them and they are amazing. Jen and I go in for acupuncture once/week (the stuff really works!) and our practitioner also does search and rescue. She is getting a Malinois puppy in a few days. We are seriously considering dognapping... (grin)

RIP - Michael Jackson

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Alas, not the one you were thinking of. This one:
Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter, dies
Michael Jackson, whose writing about beer literally changed what is in the glasses of beer drinkers around the world, has died. He was 65.

Jackson, universally known as The Beer Hunter, recently revealed that he suffered from Parkinson�s disease and was battling other health problems. He remained active, speaking at beer and whisky events around the world and most recently addressing British beer writers before the Great British Beer Festival. He wrote about the past year in his last column for All About Beer Magazine, now available online.

Jackson began working for a local Yorkshire newspaper in 1958, when he was 16, having even earlier submitted news stories and jazz reviews. Working as both a writer and editor during the next 20 years he contributed to dozens of publications and also made documentary films. In his frequent travels he became deeply interested not only in drinking a wider range of beers, but how they were made and their origins.

Shortly after the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) rekindled interest in traditional beers in Great Britain in the 1970s, Jackson began to write more about beer.
One of the luminaries -- he did a lot to publicize the early microbrew business and to get it out into the general public. He will be missed!
The Chinese are putting an interesting spin on the whole tainted product problem... From Reuters:
China says toy recall scare shows protectionist agenda
Mattel has only itself to blame for a huge toy recall that has stoked global alarm about Chinese-made goods, state media said on Thursday, charging that a slew of foreign safety scares had exposed a protectionist agenda.

Mattel Inc, the world's largest toymaker, recalled over 18 million Chinese-made toys this month because of risks from small magnets that can injure children if swallowed, just two weeks after it recalled 1.5 million toys due to fears over lead paint.

Coming in the wake of warnings over Chinese-made toothpaste, pet food, tires, eels and seafood, and lethal chemicals that had found their way into medicine, the toy recall has magnified calls in Washington for much tougher scrutiny of such imports.
And a bit more:
A China-based company that let lead in the toy paint would be punished, but even here Mattel must share blame, the paper said, noting that the U.S. firm had worked with it for over a decade.

The paper said foreign media reports about unsafe Chinese food and products were exaggerated and ignored the good record of nearly all the country's exporters.
And a bit more:
Over half of China's exports were produced by foreign investors and joint ventures, the paper said.

"If product quality is sub-standard, foreign businesses and joint ventures cannot shirk their blame", it said.
The problem lies with the US Companies wanting to get a lower price, moving the manufacturing process overseas and then not supervising it. Given the chance, a Chinese factory owner will do anything to boost their profits including compromising the quality of the manufactured object. I buy a lot of tools from Grizzly and given the choice, I will get something manufactured in India or in Taiwan. The Chinese machine tools may look nice but they will generally have bad castings, be put together sloppily and will need several days of "tune-up" to hold tolerences... The last Chinese tool I bought was a 4" by 6" metal cutting bandsaw and I was pulling teeth to get it to square up. Finally had to rebuild the entire stand as part of it was a warped casting. It works now but the $199 purchase price failed to include about 15 hours of my labor.

Five Miles Deep

The Malthusians are always screaming that "we gonna run out of everything soon". Tain't so buddy and Petroleum is one of the things that we just keep seeming to find more and more and more in some of the most unusual places. From Wired Magazine:

Pumped Up: Chevron Drills Down 30,000 Feet to Tap Oil-Rich Gulf of Mexico
"Isn't this transcendent?" Paul Siegele shouts as he presses his nose to the window of a Bell 430 chopper hurtling through a sky thick with rain and pitchfork lightning. We're flying over the Gulf of Mexico, above some 3,500 oil production platforms, and Siegele is pointing them out with the verve of a birder - here a miniature oil rig known as a monopod; over there a drill ship almost as big as the Titanic; still farther out, platforms looking like huge steel chandeliers that dropped out of the storm-shaken clouds.

Siegele has reason to be giddy. He works for Chevron, and his team is sitting on several new record-breaking discoveries in the Gulf, a region that many geologists believe may have more untapped oil reserves than any other part of the world. On this trip, the 48-year-old vice president for deepwater exploration has come to a rig called the Cajun Express to oversee final preparations before drilling begins on the company's 30-square-mile Tahiti field.

Looming like an Erector set version of Hellboy - with cranes for arms, a hydraulic drill for its head, and a 200-foot derrick for a body - the rig appears at once menacing and toylike. But the real spectacle is below the surface: A drill is plunging down through 4,000 feet of ocean and more than 22,000 feet of shale and sediment - a syringe prodding Earth's innermost veins. That 5-mile shaft will soon give Chevron the deepest active offshore well in the Gulf. Some land drills have gone deeper, but extracting oil from below miles of freezing salt water and unyielding sediment creates a set of technical problems that far exceed those faced on terra firma.

They don't exactly say what the capacity of the Tahiti field is but the article talks about another, deeper one called Jack that is anywhere from 3 billion to 15 billion barrels of Crude Oil. This will not entirely replace our dependence on foreign oil but it will sure cut things back to a dull roar...

BioFuels causing a Food Crisis

Nice overview of the problems that Government subsidized biofuels are causing with overall food prices.

Corn is a lot more central to our entire food production than you might think at first glance...

From The Guardian Unlimited:

The looming food crisis
Land that was once used to grow food is increasingly being turned over to biofuels. This may help us to fight global warming - but it is driving up food prices throughout the world and making life increasingly hard in developing countries. Add in water shortages, natural disasters and an ever-rising population, and what you have is a recipe for disaster. John Vidal reports.

The mile upon mile of tall maize waving to the horizon around the small Nebraskan town of Carleton looks perfect to farmers such as Mark Jagels. He and his father farm 2,500 acres (10m sq km), the price of maize - what the Americans call corn - has never been higher, and the future has seldom seemed rosier. Carleton (town motto: "The center of it all") is booming, with $200m of Californian money put up for a new biofuel factory and, after years in the doldrums, there is new full-time, well-paid work for 50 people.

But there is a catch. The same fields that surround Jagels' house on the great plains may be bringing new money to rural America, but they are also helping to push up the price of bread in Manchester, tortillas in Mexico City and beer in Madrid. As a direct result of what is happening in places like Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana and Oklahoma, food aid for the poorest people in southern Africa, pork in China and beef in Britain are all more expensive.

Challenged by President George Bush to produce 35bn gallons of non-fossil transport fuels by 2017 to reduce US dependency on imported oil, the Jagels family and thousands of farmers like them are patriotically turning the corn belt of America from the bread basket of the world into an enormous fuel tank. Only a year ago, their maize mostly went to cattle feed or was exported as food aid. Come harvest time in September, almost all will end up at the new plant at Carleton, where it will be fermented to make ethanol, a clear, colourless alcohol consumed, not by people, but by cars.

The era of "agrofuels" has arrived, and the scale of the changes it is already forcing on farming and markets around the world is immense. In Nebraska alone, an extra million acres of maize have been planted this year, and the state boasts it will produce 1bn gallons of ethanol. Across the US, 20% of the whole maize crop went to ethanol last year. How much is that? Just 2% of US automobile use.

Note the numbers in the last two sentences - 20% of the US Corn crop being used to fuel 2% of the US automobiles. Meanwhile causing world-wide hardship (Mexico imports our Corn). And it's not just in the USA:

As the US, Europe, China, Japan and other countries commit themselves to using 10% or more alternative automobile fuels, farmers everywhere are rushing to grow maize, sugar cane, palm oil and oil seed rape, all of which can be turned into ethanol or other biofuels for automobiles. But that means getting out of other crops.

The scale of the change is boggling. The Indian government says it wants to plant 35m acres (140,000 sq km) of biofuel crops, Brazil as much as 300m acres (1.2m sq km). Southern Africa is being touted as the future Middle East of biofuels, with as much as 1bn acres (4m sq km) of land ready to be converted to crops such as Jatropha curcas (physic nut), a tough shrub that can be grown on poor land. Indonesia has said it intends to overtake Malaysia and increase its palm oil production from 16m acres (64,000 sq km) now to 65m acres (260,000 sq km) in 2025.

While this may be marginally better for carbon emissions and energy security, it is proving horrendous for food prices and anyone who stands in the way of a rampant new industry. A year or two ago, almost all the land where maize is now being grown to make ethanol in the US was being farmed for human or animal food. And because America exports most of the world's maize, its price has doubled in 10 months, and wheat has risen about 50%.

One last bit -- hammering home the seriousness of the issue:

In the US, where nearly 40 million people are below the official poverty line, the Department of Agriculture recently predicted a 10% rise in the price of chicken. The prices of bread, beef, eggs and milk rose 7.5 % in July, the highest monthly rise in 25 years.

"The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its two billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue," says Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute thinktank, and author of the book Who Will Feed China?

And we continue to burn high-value natural gas and petroleum in our power generating plants when Nuclear would provide much cheaper cost to run, safer operation and zero greenhouse gas emission. The technology to deal with the waste has been worked out and it is good.

Gorgeous bladesmithing and CNC work

As readers may know, I have been studying Blacksmithing and am fascinated by making knives. I am also looking at using CNC (Computerized Numerical Control -- of a milling machine or lathe) to facilitate this.

Here is a site that has has me drooling: Rainnea Ltd.

Check out these gorgeous creations:


These knives are all Sgian Dubhs - Gaelic for Black Knife (pronounced Skeen Doo).

Rab & Tanya Gordon have also created a line of Sgian Brews -- here is an example:


As Bob and Doug McKenzie would say: Beauty, Eh?

From BetaNews:
Sony USB Drives Pack Rootkit Surprise
Finnish security company F-Secure has reported on new rootkit-like software discovered on USB thumb drives manufactured by Sony. Although the software doesn't appear to cause damage to a user's system, it does create a hidden directory that is inaccessible via the Windows API and some virus scanners.

The product in question is Sony's MicroVault USM-F fingerprint reader software, included with the company's USB drives. Sony was widely derided in 2005 for bundling copy-protection software on its music CDs that utilized rootkit-like functionality. "It is our belief that the MicroVault software hides this folder to somehow protect the fingerprint authentication from tampering and bypass," says F-Secure. "However, we feel that rootkit-like cloaking techniques are not the right way to go here." The company contacted Sony about the issue, but received no response.
Rootkits can be used for good and for evil. In this case, the people at Sony thought that it would add a layer of security. The issue is that now that people are clued into Rootkits, there are now some very good tools to find them including Rootkit Revealer written by Bryce Cogswell and Mark Russinovich who are currently on Microsoft's payroll... Rootkits seriously jumped the shark about two years ago and any attempt to use them now, for a new product from a big corporation are FUCKING LAME! Shame on you Sony!

Whoops! - Sen. Larry Craig edition

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The folks at Talking Points Memo point to a profoundly Gay Unfriendly website that seems to idolize a certain Senator:
No Joke
The Idaho Values Alliance -- "Making Idaho the Friendliest Place in the World to Raise a Family"--is going to have a hard time swallowing the latest news about its beloved Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for lewd conduct in an airport restroom.

Here's one page of the group's site, a news update where it praises Craig for his "pro-life" vote on stem cell research, followed by a "Bonus Byte" on the perils of homosexuality and airport restrooms:
One of the tragic characteristics of the homosexual lifestyle is its emphasis on anonymous sex and multiple sexual partners. It is a little-acknowledged secret that many active homosexuals will have more than 1,000 sex partners over the course of a lifetime (the average among heterosexuals is seven � still six more than we were designed for). This sordid fact of homosexual life surfaced yesterday in an AP article yesterday that reports on the number of arrests police have made for indecent exposure and public sex acts in the restrooms at Atlanta�s airport, the busiest in the world. The increased restroom patrols, begun to apprehend luggage thieves, instead uncovered a rash of sex crimes. Airport restrooms have become so popular that men looking for anonymous sexual trysts with other men have advertised their airport availability on Craigslist. One such ad was from a man saying he was stuck at the airport for three hours and was looking for �discreet, quick action.�
What are the odds of a piece on airport restroom trysts appearing below a picture of Larry Craig in a conservative group's newsletter, not to mention the reference to Craigslist? It's all too much.
Heh... Hoist by one's own petard.

Pizza for Pesos

Last January, Pizza Patr�n, a southwest pizza restaurant chain with 59 stores started taking Mexican Pesos as payment for Pizzas as well as USD. Needless to say, there was a big hue and cry over this with all sorts of letters and death threats being sent in to the company headquarters. Turns out it was a very savvy business move -- Reuters has the story:
Pizza for pesos marks decline of dollar
When Pizza Patr�n announced plans to accept Mexican pesos in its 59 Southwestern stores, the Dallas-based fast food chain was besieged by anti-illegal immigrant hate mail and even death threats.

But rather than fear for its life, the company used the Mexican currency to make a killing.

"From the new business perspective, it has been phenomenally successful," said Andrew Gamm, director of brand development for Pizza Patr�n.

Once it started selling pizza for pesos in January, the company's same-store-sales rose by almost a third from the previous year. Pizza Patr�n has now opened six new stores, with plans for 15 more throughout Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, California and Florida by the end of the year, and 40 more in 2008.
After all, that is what doing business in America is all about. Take a risk, see if you can fill a niche and then make money. As we are only a few miles from the Canadian border and about fifteen miles from a major border crossing, we get a lot of Canadian tourists. A few months ago, our store started accepting Canadian money at par (equal value) as the USD and the $CDN was so close in value. Business has shot up in terms of Canadian dollar intake. People are happy, they are buying more stuff... Because the Canadian dollar is trading at about 0.8 USD, this costs us a hundred bucks or so each week but the increase in business is worth every penny.

Space Shuttle and Foam

Great article at New Scientist about the problems that NASA is having with the foam insulation on the space shuttle and what they are doing about it:
More foam problems plague the shuttle
The foam on the space shuttle's external fuel tank is in the news again, and that's almost inevitably bad news. The moderately good news is that NASA has figured out why a chunk of foam fell from Endeavour's external tank earlier this month, gouging the thermal protective tiles on the shuttle's underside.

The defect wasn't in the foam itself; it was in a thin layer of cork-like material called "super lightweight ablator" deposited on five metal brackets carrying the liquid oxygen feed line. The cork-like material was in turn covered by insulating foam to prevent ice from forming on the supercooled tank.

The good news is that NASA knows how to fix it � by removing the corky stuff, which is not needed with current launch profiles, and coating the brackets with insulating foam. The bad news is that X-ray scans of the external tank set to fly on the shuttle Discovery in October have revealed cracks in the corky layers on four of its five brackets.
So basically, they have a fix for the problems but this pushes the launch dates back quite a bit.

John Kerry avoiding a day in court?

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A very interesting twist in thought regarding John F. Kerry's military 'service' and the claims of the SwiftBoat Veterans. From BeldarBlog:
Sen. Kerry permits last statute of limitations for defamation to lapse, forever barring any defamation claim against SwiftVet authors O'Neill and Corsi
When I first brought it to his attention in September 2005, I reminded Sen. John F. Kerry that � based on the publication date on or about August 25, 2004, of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi � Sen. Kerry had already allowed the one-year statutes of limitations for defamation to expire in Texas (where Mr. O'Neill resides), New Jersey (where Dr. Corsi resides), and the District of Columbia (where their publisher Regnery Publishing, Inc. has its principal place of business and Sen. Kerry has his own regular place of business).

But as I noted then, Sen. Kerry's home state of Massachusetts has a very unusual, extremely generous and pro-plaintiff three-year limitations period for defamation claims. Massachusetts' three-year statute of limitations for defamation claims made it the very last feasible venue in which Sen. Kerry conceivably could file suit and gain his public vindication, if the SwiftVets' allegations about him were false. Those claims were certainly, indeed deliberately, injurious to his reputation; his damages arguably include the loss of the 2004 presidential election, however that might be valued in dollars and cents; and if John Kerry could hope to find a home-town advantage anywhere, surely it would be there. But now he's let the incredibly generous Massachusetts statute of limitations run out, too.
Curious -- Kerry was foaming at the mouth when the book first came out but he did nothing. He has yet to fill out Form 180 to release his military records including discharge papers. What is he hiding... A big tip of the hat to Irons in the Fire for the link. The author of BeldarBlog is William J. Dyer - a trial lawyer - so he has some passing knowledge of what he talks about.

Cute photo of the day - baby hedgehogs

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These four baby hedgehogs lost their mom to an accident but they have found a perfect surrogate that they snuggle right up to...
From The Daily Mail:
Orphaned hedgehogs adopt cleaning brush as their mother
Four tiny orphaned hedgehogs are snuggling up to the bristles of a cleaning brush - because they think it's their mother.

The four inch long creatures are being hand-reared by staff at the New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park in Ashurst, Hants.

Workers say Mary, Mungo, Midge and Slappy get comfort from playing with the centre's cleaning brush and enjoy rubbing against it.

The smells on the brush, which is used to sweep a yard, remind the hedgehogs of their natural habitat while the texture reminds them of their mother.

Manager John Crooks, 41, said: "They are a bit like human babies - they need activities to keep them busy.

"Because they have very poor eyesight you have to appeal to their sense of smell and touch by giving them different scents and textures.

"They like natural scents and have enjoyed playing with our cleaning brushes, soil, leaves, flower pots and the like.

"They particularly seem to enjoy rubbing against the brush.

"It may sound odd but I imagine the bristles feel a bit like their mum."
Cute little guys... Would not mind having some of these at the farm.

Meet Lurch - holder of a Guinness World Record

You are looking at a horn circumference of 37.5 inches. Here is his official website The notes on the webpage say that he is a "very sweet animal and was easy to train to give rides and later to pose for the camera" Makes me want to visit him just to give him a scritch between the ears... Sweetheart.


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Jen and I went to see Stardust tonight and it was fantastic! This one deserves to be seen on the large screen - they cleaned up the story a little bit but the overall film is very faithful to the plot and a rollicking great story.

Light posting tonight

Not too much happening on the 'ole intarweb...

Spent the day in town on a fruitless mission and had a wonderful evening at a neighbors housewarming party.

Gonna check the email, surf a little more and then head up to bed.

Quote of the day

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"Link sites like Reddit and Digg tend to suffer a kind of democratic degringolade, in which they start out cool and gradually transition to a point of total lameness. That this is the obvious consequence of universal suffrage on the Web should go without saying, at least to anyone who remembers Usenet in 1992."
From a much larger and worth reading essay/rant at Unqualified Reservations A big tip of the hat to Gerard at American Digest for catching this and posting it... Oh yes: degringolade
From the Honolulu Star Bulletin:
Group wants trees moved for festival
A new environmental nonprofit group in Hawaii is talking with the city about possibly uprooting and relocating several trees on Magic Island to accommodate its first-ever summit and concert, planned for next year.

Organizers of Blue Planet Festival said putting on a grand four-day event in April, with environmentalists from around the world talking about policies promoting clean and alternative energy, could require several trees to be moved.

The Outdoor Circle objects to relocating these trees because it would create a barren area in Magic Island.

The Outdoor Circle is fighting against another tree project, urging the city not to uproot any trees on Magic Island for a new local environmental group wanting to put on a four-day event next year.
An environmental group that wants to remove some pesky trees because they block the view of their stage for their show for their important event... Why don't they just re-jigger the seating to work around the trees. Sheesh!

Government money -=- well spent

In other words, an Oxymoron -- this time it is in Australia. The Australian Government spent a total of $189M AU to develop the NetAlert program including $84 Million for a porn filter that parents can download onto their kids computers to 'keep them safe'. Meet 16 year old Tom Wood:
Guess how long it took him to completely bypass the filter and make it look like the filter is still running? If you guess was 30 minutes, you would be correct. From
Student cracks $84m porn filter
A Melbourne schoolboy has cracked the Federal Government's new $84 million internet porn filter in minutes.

Tom Wood, 16, said it took him just over 30 minutes to bypass the Government's filter, released on Tuesday.

Tom, a year 10 student at a southeast Melbourne private school, showed the Herald Sun how to deactivate the filter in a handful of clicks.

Parents easily fooled

His technique ensures the software's toolbar icon is not deleted, leaving parents under the impression the filter is still working.

A former cyber bullying victim, Tom feared a computer-savvy child could work out the bypass and put it on the Internet for others to use.

Tom, who spoke to Communications Minister Helen Coonan about cyber safety during a forum in May, said the Federal Government should have developed a better Australian made filter.

"It's a horrible waste of money," he said.
And Tom is no slouch when it comes to hacking websites either:
In response to the Herald Sun's inquiries, the Government added an Australian designed filter, Integard, to the website yesterday, which Tom cracked within 40 minutes.
Methinks that when Mr. Wood decides to enter the workforce, he will have no problem finding a job...

Well that will change a few theories

It seems the universe just got a little bit stranger... From

Huge Hole Found in the Universe
The universe has a huge hole in it that dwarfs anything else of its kind. The discovery caught astronomers by surprise.

The hole is nearly a billion light-years across. It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale.

Astronomers don't know why the hole is there.

"Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size," said researcher Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota.

Rudnick's colleague Liliya R. Williams also had not anticipated this finding.

"What we've found is not normal, based on either observational studies or on computer simulations of the large-scale evolution of the universe," said Williams, also of the University of Minnesota.

The finding will be detailed in the Astrophysical Journal.

The universe is populated with visible stars, gas and dust, but most of the matter in the universe is invisible. Scientists know something is there, because they can measure the gravitational effects of the so-called dark matter. Voids exist, but they are typically relatively small.

The gargantuan hole was found by examining observations made using the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, funded by the National Science Foundation.

There is a "remarkable drop in the number of galaxies" in a region of sky in the constellation Eridanus, Rudnick said.

The region had been previously been dubbed the "WMAP Cold Spot," because it stood out in a map of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation made by NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotopy Probe (WMAP) satellite. The CMB is an imprint of radiation left from the Big Bang, the theoretical beginning of the universe.

Just when you start to get a handle on the really weird stuff, it gets even weirder.

Quote of the day - CNC machining

From one of the email lists I subscribe to. A newbie was looking at rolling their own 3D CAD/CAM/CNC system. A list member pointed out that:
Going from nothing to full 3D machining is like strapping a rocket motor to a beach chair......rough on the passenger.
And yes, I DO have that tee-shirt...


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Been getting more and more into Country Music -- songs about people and life. One thing that I noticed is that there are a lot of really humorous CW songs out there. Much more so than any other genre I can think of... One of my favorite artists for this is Brad Paisley -- you may know him from his song Ticks (a fan video but it has the best sound). I'm Gonna Miss Her is another good one. He has a new one: Online A little too close to home for a lot of people I know. And on a personal note, I am six foot five and I look damn good. The Maserati badly needs a tune-up though...

Out-of-Body Experiences

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What goes around, comes around Some people are using virtual reality to provoke a sense of out-of-body in people and then measuring the reaction. This is not new, I participated in a similar experiment about twenty years ago and it still raises the hair on my arms... Today's story is from Time/CNN:
The Science of Out-of-Body Experiences
Get ready to see yourself in a new light. Two papers released this week by the journal Science describe what seem to be the first lab-induced out-of-body experiences in healthy people. Using goggles hooked up to video cameras, and sticks to poke and stroke, researchers subjected study participants to a variety of visual and physical cues to confuse their brain about their body's location. Sound a bit impractical? Consider, then, how the studies relate to humankind's most enduring question: what makes us ourselves in the first place? "I'm not really interested in out-of-body experiences," says Henrik Ehrsson, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "I'm really interested in in-body experiences: how the brain keeps and updates a model of the world and the body. To have a perception of your own body is the foundation of self-consciousness."
A bit more:
In both studies, participants wore goggles hooked up to cameras planted in the corner of the room behind them, so that participants had a view of their own backs. Then they were physically stimulated in ways that would enhance or reduce the feeling that their selves were located outside their bodies. For his paper, Ehrsson used a stick to poke the chest of each participant (out of view of the person being poked) while also poking the area below the camera where a chest would have been (which the person could see through the goggles). Sure enough, the participants reported that it felt like their vantage point was exactly the same as that of the camera. "You feel quite clearly that you are sitting in the corner of the room, and you see yourself sitting elsewhere. But it's not you," Ehrsson says. To be certain � and to get some harder data � he hooked up his participants to stress-monitoring devices, and then swung a hammer at the space where the illusory chest would have been. The readings showed signs of stress all right. Many participants also visibly flinched.
The experiment I participated in back in the 1980's involved sitting in a chair wearing a pair of eyepiece B/W video monitors. My head was attached to a frame that was connected to a position measuring device and the signal from that device was sent to a pair of video cameras about 15 feet away. These cameras were mounted on a motor that would follow the movement of my head. It started with the video feed being blank -- the people presenting this were talking to me and walking around the room (a fairly large room). I was then asked to turn my head to the left and they turned the video feed on. I could see the people involved and they showed me some stuff and had me follow them as they walked around. NOTE: With the camera/monitor setup, I had about a 30-degree field of vision with zero peripheral vision. After five minutes or so, they then walked around to my right and I could see someone sitting in a chair with some hardware on their head. They asked me to raise my right arm and the figure in the chair raised theirs. It had only taken me about five minutes to "forget" that I was sitting in a chair viewing the world through video monitors -- due in part to the constant interaction with the presenters. Realizing that that was me sitting in the chair over there was one of the more eerie experiences I have ever had.


When I was in College, I hated the statistics classes #1) - because the teacher was dreadfully dull (obviously not wanting to teach an entry-level class) and #2) - I couldn't see a real practical application for this. My major was Physical Oceanography with a minor in Biology and although there is an obvious need for statistics in a lot of Biological research, my focus was more on the instrumentation and measurement, not the actual squishy bits. Along came W. Edwards Deming (here and here) whose books on business statistics I devoured (I had a business at the time and suddenly saw a lot of value in statistics -- plus, Deming was a great writer). I was following a statical byway last night and ran into this online book that referenced this online statistical application. Many Statistical Applications sell for huge amounts of cash (they are not as popular as word processors so there is no economy of scale in their creation) but The R Project looks really good at first glance.
Introduction to R
R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. It is a GNU project which is similar to the S language and environment which was developed at Bell Laboratories (formerly AT&T, now Lucent Technologies) by John Chambers and colleagues. R can be considered as a different implementation of S. There are some important differences, but much code written for S runs unaltered under R.

R provides a wide variety of statistical (linear and nonlinear modeling, classical statistical tests, time-series analysis, classification, clustering, ...) and graphical techniques, and is highly extensible. The S language is often the vehicle of choice for research in statistical methodology, and R provides an Open Source route to participation in that activity.

One of R's strengths is the ease with which well-designed publication-quality plots can be produced, including mathematical symbols and formulae where needed. Great care has been taken over the defaults for the minor design choices in graphics, but the user retains full control.

R is available as Free Software under the terms of the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License in source code form. It compiles and runs on a wide variety of UNIX platforms and similar systems (including FreeBSD and Linux), Windows and MacOS.
Looks good!

Light posting tonight

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Not much going on and I need to do some stuff online.
Driving the once great nation of Venezuela further into the crapper. Ahhhh... The benefits of socialism... From the Caribbean Net News:
Chavez puts Venezuela's clock ahead 1/2 hour
President Hugo Chavez Sunday announced that Venezuela's official time will be put ahead by half an hour starting January 1, and its first-ever offshore oil rig will start pumping before the year is out.

"Its about the metabolic effect, where the human brain is conditioned by sunlight," Chavez said in a rambling, seven hour discussion on his radio show "Alo, Presidente" with Science and Technology Minister Hector Navarro.

Specifically, Chavez said the Law of Metereology will be changed to reflect Venezuela's new time grid on the map showing it to be three-and-a-half hours behind GMT instead of the current four hours.

Minister Navarro said the longer day would benefit "all Venezuelans in their jobs and studies."

Chavez also announced Sunday that before 2007 runs out, Venezuela will begin pumping oil from its first offshore rig near the coast of Delta Amacuro state.

He said the the rig will mark Venezuela's first exploitation of crude from the ocean bottom in its 100 years of oil-pumping history.

Chavez also announced an ambitious plan to build several artificial islands off the coast of Venezuela to harbor cities, submarine bases, scientific research centers, as well as oil and mining facilities.

"There's 760,000 square kilometers (294,000 square miles) that no other country but Venezuela has a right to," he said referring to Venezuela's continental platform.
And I would love to know where he plans to get the money for this: "Chavez also announced an ambitious plan to build several artificial islands off the coast of Venezuela to harbor cities, submarine bases, scientific research centers, as well as oil and mining facilities." President-For-Life Chavez already nationalized the power infrastructure, the telephone infrastructure and most of the refineries. Tell me what sane nation or corporation would be willing to invest money in Venezuela right now. They come in on their own dime with a contract that says that they have the rights to extract a decent profit down the road. They build up the infrastructure to the point where it is an operating business and then, whammo!, that business is now the sole property of the Venezuelan 'people' with little or no recompense to the outside parties involved.

Right Place? Check! Right Time? Check!

Talk about luck... From an Associated Press report on KCAU Television in Sioux City, Iowa:
Woman walks away from home wrecked by explosion
Dropping something may have saved Joy Horton's life.

The 73-year-old woman says she was preparing some food in her western New York home yesterday when she dropped a spoon on the floor of her kitchen. When she bent down, her house exploded.

The explosion leveled her home in the town of Sodus (SOH'-dus), east of Rochester.

Horton wasn't seriously injured. She crawled out from underneath the rubble and walked to her daughter's home nearby to get help.

Fire officials say because Horton was bending down when the explosion occurred, the kitchen sink and counter top helped keep debris from hitting her.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.
Wow... Odd that she didn't smell anything as gas of some sort would be the only reason I can think of. Maybe methane from a backed-up septic system? I bet she keeps that spoon for a long long time.
Pakistan is a strongly Muslim nation 97% to be precise. Now what the hell is a Brewery and Distillery doing there... From Der Spiegel Online:
Distilling the Muslim World's First 20-Year-Old Whisky
An almost 150-year-old brewery in Pakistan is preparing to bring the Muslim world's first 20-year-old single malt whisky to the market. Murree Brewery, however, can only sell to non-Muslims, who comprise 3 percent of Pakistan's population.

The heart of the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi is dotted with paradoxes.

Amidst the foliage of the Jinnah National Park, an expansive garden that houses the prison where former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bhutto was hanged in 1979, the giant "M" of an American fast food chain rises like a monolith.

Behind it runs the National Park Road, a leafy, residential avenue replete with road blocks and bearded men carrying submachine guns. Hanging over it all is the distinct and unmistakable smell of fermenting alcohol.

What, in Allah's name, is going on here?

The 150-year-old Murree Brewery is teeming with activity. One of the Islamic world's most successful breweries will soon launch a rare, one-off product of its distillery: a 20-year-old single malt whisky that is the first of its kind in the Muslim world.

But the armed police are not here to guard the amber fluid. They're here to protect the brewery's equally famous neighbor on National Park Road and currently the man most wanted by Islamic terrorists in the region: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, the country's leader and teetotaller-in-chief.

"The irony is lost on nobody," chuckles brewery owner Minoo Bhandara, peering through his glasses at the tall gates of Musharaff's house across the street as he takes a sip of a beer brewed from Bavarian hops. But he insists that the existence of a brewery in a country where the 97-percent Muslim majority is barred from drinking alcohol is not some freak occurrence: "It merely reflects an age-old tolerance which the West is ignorant about."
The brewery has quite a pedigree:
Murree Brewery was founded in 1860 by relatives of the British mountaineer Edward Whymper, who, five years later, became the first man to scale the Matterhorn. It is named after the misty, western Himalayan town of Murree, located some 50 kilometers away from Rawalpindi and the city in which the brewery was originally founded to quench the thirst of British troops in colonial India.
And the brewers are not slouches:
International recognition is nothing new for the company. Murree Beer was awarded a medal for product excellence at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876, and various other international awards over the past 140 years. The company's 8-year-old single malt whisky has already received lavish praise from none less than three-time Glenfiddich Whisky Writer of the Year Jim Murray.

"Not only does (Murree whisky) compare favorably, it is much better than a number of less-known Scotch malts," Murray writes in his Complete Book of Whisky. "Crisp and delicate ... so good is this whisky that ... (you) smell a drained glass in the morning and you are swamped by its fabulously honeyed riches."
And it sounds like a great place to work:
Murree will launch its real jewel, its 20-year-old single malt, as part of a one-time limited edition offer next year. There will be 200 cases of 12 bottles each, priced modestly at 2,500 Pakistan rupees (around $40) a bottle. The brewery is also thinking of selling posters and souvenirs of the original, lithographic calendars and paintings of the Murree hills made by the Whympers family.

In the dark, cool cellars of the Murree distillery, many of the employees handling the huge oak casks wear Muslim prayer-caps. Murree can even boast a female bookkeeper. Of course, not all employees drink, but those who do are not afraid to admit it. Perhaps most importantly, none are ashamed of their job, no matter what their conservative neighbors might mumble.

"Most people don't really care where we work, but some do," says US-trained brewer and technical manager Mohammed Javed. "There are lots of other, more serious evils which the Koran forbids, like hurt and torture -- why don't they focus on eliminating those?"
Hmmmm... Wonder if any of this nectar will reach the states. Their website is here: Murree Bewery Corp.

Be very careful when opening emails especially if it requires you to install an applet to ensure 'security'. From The Register:

Storm Worm of a thousand faces
Authors of a particularly nasty piece of malware known as Storm Worm have yet again shifted their tactics. They are creating a flood of email hoaxes that try to install a bogus "applet" so victims can redeem membership benefits to clubs related to music, online dating and other interests.

The new emails bear subject headings such as "User info," "Membership support" and "Login information," and contain purported login credentials for sites that offer the gamut of services tailored to online music aficionados, cat lovers and poker players, according to this post by F-Secure.

Just as genetic mutations allow a particular type of caterpillar or breed of dog to better withstand virulent disease, the frequent changes in Storm improve its resiliency against attacks from rival criminal gangs and security providers. The tactical shifts are crucial since the success of Storm relies on the ability to dupe recipients into clicking on links and installing programs.

The most recent strain of Storm lures victims to sites that claim an "applet" needs to be installed so the user can login securely, according to this post by Johannes Ullrich, CTO for SANS Internet Storm Center.

The resulting applet.exe - which installs a backdoor on the user's machine - represents a case study in the benefits of adaptation. The binary morphs about every 30 minutes, making it particularly hard for antivirus programs to identify it as malware. Indeed, earlier on Tuesday, only 14 of 32 anti-virus programs detected a version of the applet Ullrich had downloaded. Later in the day, many of those laggards added definitions to flag the applet, but its ability to change so frequently means it may still be hard to detect.

"A lot of commonly used antivirus tools don't detect" Storm, Ulrich told The Reg. "The traditional signature approach that some of the antivirus vendors use really isn't all that useful anymore."

Programs that have the best chance of identifying the malware are those that use heuristics, or algorithmic rules of thumb, for identifying software that has a high likelihood of containing malware.

Like other Storm-related malware, applet.exe excels at cloaking itself from security researchers. The program actively monitors its host machine for VMware and will refuse to execute correctly if the virtualization software is detected. It also wraps itself in a packing container that makes it difficult to prevent outsiders from peering into the inner workings of the binary.

Very nasty stuff... The malware allows your system to be used for sending out other viruses and spam emails -- these applications run undetected in the background and are a royal pain to remove -- generally requiring a re-format of the hard disk and a re-installation of all software and data files. The best bet?

  • If you don't recognize the sender, don't open it.
  • Turn off the preview pane in Outlook
  • If you do recognize the sender and you were not expecting the email, call them first to see that it was legitimate -- their system might be infected and the malware trying to infect your system...


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Fascinating website -- Gapminder:
Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations. Gapminder is a Foundation registered at Stockholm county administration board (L�nstyrelsen) (reg. nr. 802424-7721). It was founded by Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling R�nnlund and Hans Rosling on 25 February 2005, in Stockholm. Gapminder Foundation will advance software development that have been done earlier by the non-profit company Gapminder Ltd. Funding has been and is mainly by grants from Sida for the Trendalyzer project. Being a producer of global public goods Gapminder benefit from free and creative inputs from pilot-testers and other end-users in many institutions and organisations.
Perhaps your best place to start is Hans Roslings presentation at the 2006 TED conference. Amazing work -- a deep site.

Content-Aware Image Sizing

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Very cool SigGraph2007 presentation: Content-Aware Image Sizing Four minutes and twenty-seven seconds of very cool YouTube goodness. I do a lot of photography and this would be incredibly handy!

A bit of misdirected symbolism

An organization is redacting a symbol they have used for 317 years because some people say it looks like a symbol used 60 years ago.

From the London Daily Mail:

Barclays removes 'Nazi' eagle from headquarters
Barclays' iconic eagle emblem that has stood on top of one of its major buildings for 30 years has been removed - after reports that it looked like a Nazi symbol.

The three-and-a-half tonne eagle was taken down from its 117ft perch on the top of Barclays House in Poole, Dorset.

The bankers said that the decision to remove the logo, which is 317-years-old, was because it was out-of-date branding.

But there have been reports that the company's new Dutch partner, ABN Amro, does not like the emblem because it has Nazi connotations.

Barclays House was built in 1976 when the enormous eagle was perched on top - yet it could easily be mistaken for a 1930s Berlin building.

One Barclays insider said: "It is rather a Teutonic looking eagle and has unfortunate connotations."

The 14ft wide aluminium bird had become a defining sight in the centre of Poole on top of the building where over 2,500 people work.

A poll in the town showed that 93 per cent of people wanted it kept.

The Barclays eagle predates the Nazi era by about 230 years, dating back to 1690 when its predecessor bank set up in Lombard Street in the City of London.

Over the years the image has been modified many times, the last being in 2004.

An eagle has featured in the German coat of arms for 800 years and was modified by the Nazis and put on a swastika in 1935.

A spokesman for Barclays said: "It's nothing sinister. The eagle is coming down purely because it is out of date branding.

Christ on a corn-dog -- there is no similarity at all.


Damn political-correctness weenies should be taken out back of the barn and soundly thrashed -- mucking up the world for everyone. After all, 93% of the people wanted to keep it.

Steve Wozniak busted for speeding

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Doing 104MPH! In a Prius!!! From NBC:
Woz Admits To Speeding Ticket For 104 MPH In Prius
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak admits that he was speeding in his Prius-hybrid.

Wozniak said he got a ticket for going 104 miles per hour on Interstate 5 earlier this year, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

A judge did not buy his excuse that he was used to the kilometer speeds used overseas, and fined him about $700.

Wozniak said he was surprised by how smooth the car sailed at high speeds.

He does he not recommend those speeds -- his 55 miles per gallon dropped to between 31 and 37 miles per gallon at 104 miles per hour.

Endeavour back home again safely

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Very cool - from CNN:
Shuttle lands safely in Florida
The space shuttle Endeavour came home a day early on Tuesday after NASA decided to cut short its mission in case Hurricane Dean shut down Johnson Space Center, which directs the shuttle's re-entry and landing.

The shuttle touched down at Kennedy Space Center at 12:32 p.m. ET, 13 days after its departure on a mission to help assemble parts of the international space station.
I was worried about the deep gash on its belly. The insulating foam used to be very strong and reliable but NASA was forced to switch to another formula because the old one used Freon. The new formula is not as strong...

A blast from the past - VW Microbus

From AutoBlog:

Magic Bus: Project VW reveals hidden surprise
Back in the 60s and 70s, the VW Micro-bus had quite the hippie reputation, with flower power and home-grown pharmaceuticals being part of the mystique that helped make the real original minivan a 1960s icon. For the owner of a 1958 double panel restoration project, the drug connection hit a little close to home. When checking out the undercarriage of his new purchase, TheSamba forum member Joshua B. found 14 LBS of marijuana stashed away. While we can't provide an exact street value of such a find (if you can, let us know in the comments) we can assume that it's a hell of a lot more than the value of this rusted out old groove-mobile. If you plan on trying to contact Joshua about his find, don't bother, he already disposed of it. If anything, we can say that marijuana definitely kills enough brain cells to forget all about storing 14 LBS of chronic under a VW, which doesn't seem like something someone would ordinarily forget about. It doesn't take Fred, Velma, and Shaggy to figure out that these forgetful smugglers are total rejects.

The very idea that someone could 'forget' fourteen pounds of pot staggers the imagination... That had to be a serious chunk of change back then, even wholesale.

Good article at the New York Times about DDT's rehabilitation and use, not only as an insecticide but also as a repellant:
A New Home for DDT
DDT, the miracle insecticide turned environmental bogeyman, is once again playing an important role in public health. In the malaria-plagued regions of Africa, where mosquitoes are becoming resistant to other chemicals, DDT is now being used as an indoor repellent. Research that I and my colleagues recently conducted shows that DDT is the most effective pesticide for spraying on walls, because it can keep mosquitoes from even entering the room.

The news may seem surprising, as some mosquitoes worldwide are already resistant to DDT. But we've learned that even mosquitoes that have developed an immunity to being directly poisoned by DDT are still repelled by it.

Malaria accounts for nearly 90 percent of all deaths from vector-borne disease globally. And it is surging in Africa, surpassing AIDS as the biggest killer of African children under age 5.
A bit more:
In our studies, in which we sprayed DDT on the walls of huts in Thailand, three out of every five test mosquitoes sensed the presence of DDT molecules and would not enter the huts. Many of those that did enter and made contact with DDT became irritated and quickly flew out.

The mosquitoes we used were the kind that carry dengue and yellow fever, not malaria. But there is ample evidence that malaria-carrying mosquitoes respond similarly to DDT. Several malaria-carrying species are even more sensitive to DDT's repellent effects.

When we sprayed the huts with either dieldrin or alphacypermethrin, in contrast, all the test mosquitoes entered. Alphacypermethrin acted as a contact irritant, and it killed others that lingered on a treated surface. Dieldrin worked only as a poison -- a powerful one, killing 92 percent of mosquitoes that made contact with it, far more than alphacypermethrin or DDT.

But dieldrin's strong toxicity means that mosquitoes quickly develop resistance to it. Its use against malaria was short-lived, ending in the 1950s, because it so quickly became powerless.
I didn't know about the repellant properties. And again, when it was used earlier, we were marinating in it. Intelligent use of DDT would prevent millions of deaths each year.

The case against Michael Vick

A very nice one-page pr�cis of the case against NFL Star Michael Vick written by a sports lawyer:
Details of Vick plea agreement will impact NFL future

Why did Michael Vick enter into an agreement to plead guilty?
In strictly legal terms, this is an agreement by Vick. In the bigger picture, it's a surrender. Vick is admitting his guilt because he and his legal team realized that there is no escape from the charges related to the federal dogfighting case. They wanted to negotiate with federal prosecutors, and they wanted to negotiate with the NFL. Instead of a negotiation from the prosecutors, Vick and his lawyers kept receiving bad news from them. That trend would have continued with additional charges being filed if Vick's legal team had not given up the fight on Monday afternoon. Instead of a negotiation with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the manner in which the league intended to punish Vick, Vick and his legal team received a cold shoulder. When they could not negotiate, they had no alternative. They had to surrender.

If the federal case against Vick is so overwhelming, why would the federal prosecutors agree to accept Vick's plea of guilty?
The job of a federal prosecutor is to seek justice, not to seek revenge or punishment. Whenever an accused individual is willing to admit guilt and accept the consequences, federal prosecutors are interested. A guilty plea brings the case to a final conclusion. It saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in trial preparation, and it avoids any chance something could go wrong in the trial that would allow a guilty defendant to go free. In the dogfighting case, it was important to the prosecution team that Vick admit he was doing wrong. It is a major step forward in a national effort to eliminate dogfighting.
These and five more -- sums it up very nicely. Vick is looking at a year or two in the slammer...

RIP - the Queen of Mean

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"We Don't Pay Taxes. Only The Little People Pay Taxes." The author of that wonderful utterance passed away today. Leona Helmsley, otherwise known as the Queen of Mean Forbes has a brief profile here: Leona Helmsley Whizbang Pop has an entry here: 'Queen of Mean' Hotelier Helmsley Dies

Awww crap. Joybubbles - R.I.P.

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The pre-internet online culture has some amazing luminaries. Tom Jennings is still with us. So is Captain Crunch Unfortunately, Joybubbles is not. High High Geekdom -- Joybubbles was one of the first phonefreakers. The New York Times has a nice obituary:
Joybubbles, 58, Peter Pan of Phone Hackers, Dies
Joybubbles (the legal name of the former Joe Engressia since 1991), a blind genius with perfect pitch who accidentally found he could make free phone calls by whistling tones and went on to play a pivotal role in the 1970s subculture of �phone phreaks,� died on Aug. 8 in Minneapolis.

He was 58, though he had chosen in 1988 to remain 5 forever, and had the toys and teddy bears to prove it. The cause of death has not been determined, said Steven Gibb, a friend and the executor of the Joybubbles estate.

Joybubbles, who was blind at birth, was a famous part of what began as a scattered, socially awkward group of precocious teens and post-teens fascinated with exploring the phone system. It could then be seen as the world�s biggest, most complex, most interesting computer, and foiling the phone system passed for high-tech high jinks in the �70s.

�It was the only game in town if you wanted to play with a computer,� said Phil Lapsley, who is writing a book on the phone phreaks. Later, other blind whistlers appeared, but in 1957, Joybubbles may have been the first person to whistle his way into the heart of Ma Bell.

Phreaks were precursors of today�s computer hackers, and, like some of them, Joybubbles ran afoul of the law. Not a few phreaks were computer pioneers, including Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple.

Joybubbles felt that being abused at a school for the blind and being pushed by his mother to live up to his 172 I.Q. had robbed him of childhood. So he amassed piles of toys, Jack and Jill magazines and imaginary friends, and he took a name he said made people smile.

But he never lost his ardor for phones, and old phone phreaks and younger would-have-beens kept calling. Joybubbles loved the phone company, reported problems he had illegally discovered and even said he had planned his own arrest on fraud charges to get a phone job. And so he did, twice.

Well before the mid-1970s, when digitalization ended the tone-based system, Joybubbles had stopped stealing calls. But he was already a legend: he had phoned around the world, talking into one phone and listening to himself on another.

In an article in Esquire in 1971, the writer Ron Rosenbaum called Joybubbles the catalyst uniting disparate phreaks. Particularly after news accounts of his suspension from college in 1968 and conviction in 1971 for phone violations, he became a nerve center of the movement.

�Every night he sits like a sightless spider in his little apartment receiving messages from every tendril of its web,� Mr. Rosenbaum wrote.
Crap - 58 is too young. He will be missed.

MIT Professor gone wild

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My reaction to this story was a giant W.T.F. From the Boston Globe:
Ex-professor found guilty of staging own shooting
A former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor yesterday was convicted of staging an elaborate hoax -- which included shooting himself in the stomach -- as part of a bizarre attempt to implicate his oldest son in a murder plot against him.

The state's top prosecutor called the actions of John Donovan Sr. on Dec. 16, 2005, a "corruption" of the criminal justice system, while the judge who presided at his trial called the millionaire "bizarre."

The 65-year-old Donovan was convicted of filing a false police report by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman, who sentenced him to two years' probation following a jury-waived trial. "Mr. Donovan's behavior . . . can be described as nothing short of bizarre and premeditated," Fishman said of the Hamilton resident who has been feuding with his adult children for the past several years.

"I had nothing to do with the shooting," Donovan told the Globe after the verdict. He said his conviction "was a complete surprise. An absolute surprise."

Donovan asserted he was targeted by Russian hit men as he sat in the Vassar Street parking lot of his Cambridge business office.

Sitting in the front seat of his minivan, Donovan said, he called police on his cellphone and accused his son James of laundering $180 million, of hiring two Russians to murder him, and of launching a simultaneous attack on his wife, Linda, at their home in Hamilton.

But, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley and testimony at Donovan's trial, Donovan shot himself in the abdomen, shot up his own minivan, kept a spent bullet in his mouth, rearranged a surveillance camera to prevent the taping of his hoax, and laid out the entire plan in a form of shorthand on the dinner menu of the Algonquin Club to which he belonged. Police found the "to-do" list in his pocket.

"He used this false allegation for his own personal agenda against family members . . . in a way that is a total corruption, really, of the way the system should work," Coakley said following the verdict.
Emphasis mine -- what a maroon... Ex-MIT professor trying to frame someone and then leaving his to-do list in his own pocket!?!?! Judge Fishman's decision:
Fishman said because Donovan had no prior convictions and due to his age, he was not going to imprison him. Besides putting Donovan on probation, the judge fined him $625, ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service, and insisted he undergo a psychiatric examination.

At the request of prosecutors, Fishman also ordered Donovan to stay away from his son James and his three daughters and their spouses. The fifth child, John Donovan Jr., is not covered by the stay away order and is not currently aligned with his siblings.

In a joint statement, James and his sisters applauded Fishman's verdict. "His bizarre allegations, including that this case involved "hundreds of millions of dollars," are as fictitious and phony as the one about Russians with rifles," the siblings said. "We are grateful that John Donovan, Sr. has been found guilty of the crime of knowingly filing a false police report."

Through his attorney, John Donovan Jr. declined comment.
"psychiatric examination" indeed -- candidate for the loony-bin if you ask me. Donovan certainly is not an intellectual slouch according to Wikipedia:
John J Donovan (1942 - present) is a former professor of Electrical Engineering and Management at MIT and a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University. Since retiring from academia, he has been a successful serial entrepreneur, founding nearly a dozen technology companies and amassing an estimated fortune of $100 Million. He is currently the CEO of Cambridge Executive Enterprises.
If you want to have some fun, try to find the website of Cambridge Executive Enterprises. I just spent five minutes and have not been able to turn up one link. Lots of links talking about it but nothing direct. A big hat tip to VikingPundit for the link!

Legal resource

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Check out the Internet Legal Research Group I have not had any dealings with these people and cannot speak for the accuracy of their information but this seems like an amazing legal resource. I had Googled looking for some specific information regarding formation of a WA State Limited Liability Company and the link to these people came up and it was exactly what I was looking for. The forms are displayed in the browser window but you can purchase them as an MS Word formatted file for under ten bucks. They are also advertising supported so you can do them a favor by clicking on a few links...

Worse than Democrats and Republicans

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Sheesh - give someone a new shiny toy and everybody wants one. From London's Financial Times:
US military in dogfight over drones
While Predator and Global Hawk drones cross the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan looking for insurgents or hunting for Osama bin Laden, thousands of kilometres away in Washington they have been dragged into a vicious turf battle.

Resurrecting tensions over US airpower that have lingered since the Korean war, the air force is pushing to become �executive agent� for drones � unmanned aircraft � that fly above 3,500 feet. The army, navy and marines oppose the move, which would make the air force responsible for the acquisition and development of unmanned aerial vehicles such as the army�s Sky Warrior.

As Gordon England, the deputy defence secretary, prepares to make a decision, air force and army officers are furiously lobbying Congress in preparation for a possible legislative battle. The stakes have risen dramatically as the use of drones has ballooned. Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now operates about 1,000 UAVs.
A bit more:
Air force officers add that a compromise joint approach reached several years ago when it unsuccessfully pushed for executive agency has hurt UAV development.

�We can�t afford to compromise any longer, particularly when �compromise� comes at the cost of inefficiencies and with no benefit beyond assuaging ruffled parochial egos,� says Lieutenant General David Deptula, deputy air force chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

But the army counters by questioning the air force�s record on acquisitions, stressing that Global Hawk and Predator have seen cost overruns, while other programmes such as refuelling tankers and search and rescue helicopter have been embroiled in controversy. It points out that its Sky Warrior programme has so far met cost and schedule goals.

�The ruffled feathers and parochial egos belong to the air force ... the marine corps, navy, special forces and army are co-operating across acquisition programmes, common ground stations and future programme development,� says a senior army officer.

�It is the air force that refuses to join the joint team, preferring to criticise others, disseminate misleading statements and independently lobby Congress for support they do not have in the Pentagon.�
And two more paragraphs:
Peter Singer, an expert on contemporary warfare at the Brookings Institution, says the military is just starting to grapple with some of the key questions surrounding UAVs, including whether they should be operated by pilots as the air force does, or by trained specialists in the army.

�The people who really need to be making the decisions ... are the very senior leadership in both the civilian and the military world, and yet you are talking about people who needed their grandkids to programme their VCRs,� says Mr Singer.
The old "But it has wings and flies so I must control it" bullshit. With the advances of technology, these things can be piloted by a trained technician and they do not need a pilot. Air Force Pilot training is long, thorough and expensive -- better to use these assets in real airplanes and let the simple and cost-effective drones be used by the people that need them. The article mentioned that there was often a 24 to 48 hour lead-time between requesting a drone and actually getting it up in the air and on a mission. This is inexcusable -- if people have intel, they need to get a drone in the air as soon as possible.

A case of curious crochet...

Meet Patricia Waller - crochet artist with a wonderful taste for the macabre.

Here are four exmples:


Wonderful stuff...

Awwwww - Cute!

Swiped from The Military Motivator:


A new look at Biofuels - a more efficient idea

Nice article at New Scientist:

Forget biofuels - burn oil and plant forests instead
It sounds counterintuitive, but burning oil and planting forests to compensate is more environmentally friendly than burning biofuel. So say scientists who have calculated the difference in net emissions between using land to produce biofuel and the alternative: fuelling cars with gasoline and replanting forests on the land instead.

They recommend governments steer away from biofuel and focus on reforestation and maximising the efficiency of fossil fuels instead.

The reason is that producing biofuel is not a "green process". It requires tractors and fertilisers and land, all of which means burning fossil fuels to make "green" fuel. In the case of bioethanol produced from corn - an alternative to oil - "it's essentially a zero-sums game," says Ghislaine Kieffer, programme manager for Latin America at the International Energy Agency in Paris, France (see Complete carbon footprint of biofuel - or is it?).

What is more, environmentalists have expressed concerns that the growing political backing that biofuel is enjoying will mean forests will be chopped down to make room for biofuel crops such as maize and sugarcane. "When you do this, you immediately release between 100 and 200 tonnes of carbon [per hectare]," says Renton Righelato of the World Land Trust, UK, a conservation agency that seeks to preserve rainforests.

A bit more:

They found that reforestation would sequester between two and nine times as much carbon over 30 years than would be saved by burning biofuels instead of gasoline (see bar chart, right). "You get far more carbon sequestered by planting forests than you avoid emissions by producing biofuels on the same land," says Righelato.

I know that a lot of the Amazon rainforest is being hacked down for crops for biofuels as well as for grazing land for cattle. Moving the emphasis over to reforestation and intelligent use of petroleum products makes a lot of sense...

Prayers for Jamaica - Hurricane Dean

Crap. A gorgeous place, wonderful people and it's all about to get pasted in a few hours. Dean is CAT4 but the central pressure is down 10 millibars from the last reading so it is getting stronger.

Alan Sullivan at Seablogger is doing an awesome job reporting.

So is Brendan Loy at The Irish Trojan's Blog

The infamous puppy-blender has a nice collection of links: Instapundit

Keep these poor souls in your prayers for the next few days...

The folly of Light Rail

One of the favorite hobby-horses of the liberals is public transportation.

Lately, Light Rail has been getting a big push as the next big thing since sliced bread.

Portland, Oregon got all kitted out starting in the 1980's and is sort of a poster child for Light Rail what with planners from other cities visiting to see just how much of a 'good thing' it is. It is a pity that they don't scratch the surface and look at some of the pesky statistics -- inconvenient truths indeed! From Moonbattery:

Emulating Portland's Mistakes
One distinguishing feature of liberals is that instead of learning from other's mistakes, they emulate them. The most obvious example is socialism, which has been tried many times with invariably disastrous consequences, but which never goes out of style among moonbats. A more specific example is light rail transit. Tom Barrett, the Mayor of Milwaukee, actually traveled to Portland, Oregon recently so as to study that city's financially disastrous light rail system, the better to impose a similar debacle on his own town.

Van Helsing continues with a heads up from someone who actually lives in Portland:

Randal O'Toole has spent most of his life in Portland. As he reports:
Portland's public transit has done nothing to relieve the region's growing congestion; its high cost has sparked a taxpayer revolt; the developments along the rail lines were themselves heavily subsidized; and those subsidies led a crafty cabal of ex-politicians and developers to milk the system for their own gain.
Portland residents have repeatedly voted against the light rail boondoggle, but bureaucrats always find a way to expropriate the cash they covet. Their friends are getting rich on rail construction contracts and developer subsidies:
Meanwhile, budgets for schools, fire, police, and public health have all been cut, as property taxes that would normally go to those services have been diverted to subsidies for rail transit and high-density developments.
Since Portland began building rail transit in the 1980s, public transit's share of commuter traffic has actually declined from 9.8% to 7.6%, because bus service has been reduced to help pay for the poky and largely useless light rail.

Supposedly the light rail has spurred high-density development. This development was actually impelled by over $1.5 billion in handouts at taxpayers' expense. The term for perverting the market by coercively financing projects that only bureaucrats want is socialism.

Seattle recently got out from underneath a monorail project that hoovered over $120 million from King County taxpayers wallets with zero to show for it.

King County is also building a light rail system to connect downtown to the airport -- a possibly good idea but who leaves for a flight directly from work? Getting from one's home to the downtown terminal takes longer via public transportation than getting from one's home directly to the airport using one of the cheap Shuttle Express busses.

I tried public transportation when I lived in Seattle and gave it a good eight or nine months before I threw in the towel and started driving again. I lived about two blocks from a bus stop that went directly to a stop three blocks from my work. Perfect. There was an express bus that left in the mornings and evenings that suited my schedule. My problem was that even though this was the express bus, with limited stops and fast service, it still took me 90 minutes to travel the route. That was three hours/day spent riding a bus.

Driving the same route took about twenty minutes so I could save two hours per day. This was so much worth the seven dollars it cost me for daily parking. Public transportation is a great idea but it needs to be small and nimble. Smaller busses (forty riders), electric or diesel/hybrid and just have a gazillion of them out there. Much cheaper than light rail and infinitely more flexible.

Why am I not surprised - John Edwards

Vice Presidential runningmate to J.F. Kerry, John (The Breck Girl) Edwards may talk a nice story about being there for the common man but it seems that his cash tells a different story. From CNN/Money:
Edwards linked to subprime foreclosures
Presidential candidate's holdings in Fortress are invested in subprime lenders foreclosing on Katrina victims - report.

Democratic presidential contender John Edwards has investing ties to subprime lenders who are foreclosing on victims of Katrina, according to a report published Friday.

The Wall Street Journal said there are 34 homes in New Orleans that face foreclosure from the subprime unit of Fortress Investment Group. Edwards has about $16 million in Fortress (Charts), a hedge fund and private equity manager, the newspaper said.

Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, has been a vocal critic of subprime lenders and told the Journal that he would assist homeowners in New Orleans who face foreclosure from businesses linked to Fortress or who have already lost their homes.
Another perfect example of the leftie "Do as I say, not as I do". Fucktards...

Light posting today

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We kidnapped my Dad and hauled him of to the Northwest Washington Fair about 12 miles north of where he lives. This is the big Ag exposition for the area and is a lot of fun -- Jen and I have been going to it for the last five or so years and it is always something that regardless of how busy we are, we make time for a full day there...

A twofer from The Telegraph

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Was reading the British newspaper The Telegraph and spotted these two articles about some fine upstanding citizens that the liberals in the USA seem to admire for some strange reason... Article One: Hugo Chavez to make himself president for life
The Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has anointed himself president for life by proposing sweeping changes to the country's constitution.

Setting out his plans for completing his socialist revolution in the oil-rich Latin American nation, he proposing radical constitutional reform which has at its centre indefinite re-election for himself.

In a rambling televised speech reminiscent of his close ally and friend Fidel Castro, Mr Chavez told the national assembly of 33 changes he plans to make to the constitution he introduced in 1999 which will cement his grip on power.

"We have broken the chains of the old, exploitative capitalist system," said Mr Chavez. "The state now has the obligation to build the model of a socialist economy."

The proposals will be debated by the 167-seat assembly, which is unlikely to be particularly heated or drawn out as it is 100 per cent "Chavista" after the opposition boycotted the 2005 elections. Once the assembly has rubber stamped the proposals, they will be put to a referendum.

Mr Chavez is unlikely to struggle in is bid to win the referendum as he has spent millions of dollars in oil revenue in enlarging his power base by bolstering the ranks of state employees and introducing cheap imported goods into shops.
And this little item: Robert Mugabe given a hero's welcome
President Robert Mugabe has received a hero's welcome at the opening of an African summit, despite the turmoil at home in Zimbabwe.

As he was introduced to the Southern African Development Community gathering in the Zambian capital Lusaka, dignitaries gave him thunderous applause in contrast to polite claps for other leaders.

Mr Mugabe stood and smiled in acknowledgement before sitting down next to South Africa's Thabo Mbeki.

Patrick Chinamasa, Zimbabwe's justice minister, said: "Political reform is not necessary in my country because we are a democracy like any other democracy in the world."

Zimbabwe's last election in 2004 was widely regarded as stolen. Hundreds of thousands of people have left the country, which is also suffering serious food shortages.

Yesterday, a 15-year-old boy and a security guard died in a stampede by shoppers desperate to buy sugar in Bulawayo.
Inflation is around 13,000 percent, Zimbabwe used to be a major food exporter but now imports almost all of its food. The place is a third-world hell run by a corrupt tyrant who doesn't care for his people, only caring for power.

10... 9... 8... 7...

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I'd hate to be living downwind of Mt. Pavlof for the next couple of months. It is erupting. More data at the Alaska Volcano Observatory

Happy 25th birthday - Compact Disk

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On August 17th, 1982, the first mass-produced compact disk was pressed. From The Register:
Compact Disc: 25 years old today
The Compact Disc is 25 years old. Though the digital audio format's development stretches back many years before 17 August 1982, that was the date on which the world's first CD pressing plant punched out its very first disc.

According to Philips - with Sony, the format's co-developer - the first disc off the Hanover, Germany production line was Abba's The Visitors.

While CD production commenced in August 1982, the format wasn't formally brought to market until November, and then only in Japan. US and European music lovers had to wait until March 1983 for the first discs specifically tailored for them.
According to the article:
The development of the CD stretches back to 1979 when Sony and Philips established an engineering team to create a disc capable of storing music in digital form. According to Philips, the original design spec called for a 11.5cm-diameter disc capable of holding an hour's music, but this was later extended to 12cm and 74m minutes - sufficient to accomodate the whole of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Some writers claim this was driven by Sony co-founder Akio Morita, in order to ensure his favourite symphony could be stored on a single disc.
The first players were in the $500 range (and we are talking 1982 dollars here!) so I waited until the players dropped to under $100. Still kept the vinyl for a while but gradually sold that off as my collection grew. last year, I spent several weeks transferring all of the CDs to MP3 and iTunes and have a living room media machine -with about 30 days of non-stop music... One of these technologies that breaks the mold.

Kofi Annan - non-stop corruption

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Even after he left the United Nations, Mr. Annan is up to his old tricks. From The Rosett Report:
Kofi Annan's Money and Mystery Digs
Kofi Annan�s post-UN publicity shop bestirred itself this week to deny a report by the New York Sun that Annan had bought a multi-million dollar home in Morocco.

That�s helpful of Kofi Annan to be so forthcoming, at last, with information pertaining to his personal finances and real estate arrangements. But it would look a lot better if Annan were at least as helpful about telling us not only what he doesn�t own, but what he does � and how and when he got it.

This is the Kofi Annan who as Secretary-General set up a financial �disclosure� policy for UN senior staff which did not actually entail disclosing anything to the public � and even under those conditions, he refused for months to file any �disclosure� form himself, finally doing so only confidentially, in-house, and only after many queries from the press.

This is the Kofi Annan who while still serving as Secretary-General of the UN apparently saw no problem with pocketing a $500,000 environmental prize from the ruler of Dubai, and gave it up only after running into the embarrassment of press reports that he had subsequently appointed as head of the UN Environment Program a member of the prize jury. Annan never did admit that taking the money was a conflict of interest in the first place.

This is the Kofi Annan who never did answer questions about what finally became of any UN documentation pertaining to the Mercedes shipped duty-free by his son, Kojo Annan, into Ghana under false use of Kofi Annan�s name and UN perquisites.

This is the same Kofi Annan who never did explain why, before he became Secretary-General, he and his Swedish wife felt justified occupying a spacious NY State taxpayer-subsidized apartment while drawing a high-level tax-exempt UN salary. This is the same Kofi Annan who managed to depart the UN without ever giving a straight answer to the question of how that NY State taxpayer-subsidized apartment, on Roosevelt Island, somehow ended up in the hands of the family of his brother, Kobina Annan � who for part of that time has been serving as Ghana�s ambassador to Morocco.

Had Kofi Annan served for years as CEO of a private company, it might be expected that he limit his disclosures to denials and statements about what he doesn�t own. But Annan worked until last December in a position involving public trust at a public institution, where everything from his jet travel to his self-glorifying speech-writing shop was funded by public money. He has spent years trotting around the world lecturing us all on how to behave. If Anann wants to do more of that, it would be a lot more seemly for Annan to produce that financial disclosure form he refused last year to disclose, and tell us not only what he doesn�t own by now, but what he does.
The absolute venality of this man is beyond belief. And the liberals still think that the United Nations is the future of world government... They tried it with the League of Nations and it didn't work. Time to disband the UN or at least get it moved out of New York City -- let some other nation deal with it.

The right place - The right time

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An unnamed man from New Zealand is very happy that Mr. Gavin MacDonell happened to be in the same hardware store as he... From the Australian Daily Telegraph:

Heart attack victim saved by sales pitch
An elderly New Zealand man who suffered a heart attack at a hardware store was revived by a salesman who just happened to be demonstrating a defibrillator to store staff.

The man, who was in his 80s, collapsed in an aisle of the Placemakers store in Albany, near Auckland, and his heart was not beating when salesman Gavin MacDonell attached the machine to his chest.

It was the ultimate sales pitch demonstration for Mr MacDonell, who has been a St John Ambulance volunteer paramedic for 20 years.

"Once we got a shock into him he started to gag, and we thought 'this bloke's coming back'," he told the New Zealand Herald newspaper.

"The people in the shop that were working there were just blown away."

The victim was expected to recover, the paper said.

Very wonderful story! I am seeing more automatic defib units in public places and they are getting cheaper and cheaper. Might be something for the store to look into having around...

Suicide rate in Army at a 26-year high

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So reads the headline on this Yahoo/AP "news" story:
Suicide rate in Army at a 26-year high
Ninety-nine U.S. soldiers on active duty killed themselves last year, the highest rate of suicide in the Army in 26 years, a military report said.

One out of four soldiers who committed suicide did so while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to a report scheduled to be released Thursday. Iraq was the most common deployment location for U.S. soldiers who either attempted suicide or committed suicide.

The report, which The Associated Press obtained ahead of its public release, cited 88 suicides in 2005. The 99 recorded in 2006 was the highest raw number since the 102 suicides reported in 1991, the year of the Persian Gulf War when there were more soldiers on active duty.

The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 26 years, from last year's high of 17.3 per 100,000 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.
What the article does not do is any kind of statistical analysis of the numbers. Fortunately, Sean Aqui at Donklephant does and the data turns out to be interesting, very interesting indeed:
Misleading with statistics
The headline on the AP story is breathless. �Army suicides highest in 26 years!�

That basic fact is true; Army suicides are up sharply, just like they spiked during the first Gulf War. The 2006 rate was 17.3 suicides per 100,000, a near doubling of the low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.

But a closer look at the numbers is in order before we start jumping to conclusions.

The 17.3 rate translates into 99 suicides out of a population of about 500,000 soldiers. So it�s hardly an epidemic.

And if you compare it to civilian suicide rates, it�s even less of an issue. A pair of pdfs here produce the following table:
2004 CIVILIAN SUICIDE RATES (per 100,000 population)
Overall: 11.1
Ages 15-24: 10.4
Males: 17.7
Wait a second, you say. Other than that �males� category, the military suicide rate is clearly much higher than the civilian rates.

But look what happens when we break down the �age� category even further and combine it with gender:
Males, age 15-19: 12.65
Males, age 20-24: 20.84
You can see where I�m going here. Soldiers are mostly males in their early 20s. So a proper comparison of apples to apples shows that the military suicide rate, despite being at a 26-year high, is still lower than the comparable civilian rate. All that in spite of combat stress, the stress of being part of a �stretched� military, and access to all sorts of military-grade weaponry.

People are right to be concerned. The rate has doubled, after all. It�s clearly a symptom of strain and each one is a personal tragedy besides. The military should do what it can to reduce those numbers.

But let�s not overreact. The problem is small, and soldiers are still less likely to kill themselves than civilians are. This is more an example of shallow and innumerate reporting than it is a sign of serious problems in the military.
It is very easy to cherry-pick a piece of data and use it to support your thesis -- the less-than-honest climatologists are doing it all the time these days. The crime is reporting this to an uneducated general public as truth when with a little bit more work and some simple presentation of the background, the real story could be told...

But I really really want that Meth...

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Another day / another really stupid Meth user. From the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard:
Determined buyer tries to score meth from police detective
A man hoping to score some meth ended up getting himself arrested Monday when he allegedly tried to buy drugs from a Eugene police detective who was in the process of arresting the man's usual source.

The Eugene police vice narcotics unit had searched an apartment at 1055 W. Seventh Ave. on Monday night and were questioning the tenant inside when a man came up to the door and asked to buy drugs, Sgt. Jerry Webber said.

As detectives stood around with their badges hanging from their necks and latex gloves on their hands, the man asked the tenant, "Can you hook me up?" Webber said.

"I really need a 30," the man said, meaning a $30 bag of methamphetamine, or about 1/4 gram, Webber said.

The tenant was seated on the couch with handcuffs around his wrists. A detective was writing him a citation. The tenant said, "I don't think I can help you," Webber recalled, but the visitor persisted, and turned to the detective for help.

That's when detective Jeff Drullinger pointed at his police badge and said, "How does that shard look?" (A "shard" is a small chunk of crystal meth.)

He told the visitor he was under arrest for attempted possession of methamphetamine. "The guy says, `No, I'm not. I'm leaving,' and tries to run," Webber said.

Three or four officers grabbed him before he could flee. They found a small amount of marijuana in his possession, Webber said.

The officers arrested the man, identified as James Lewis Wilkinson, 34, of Eugene, on charges of attempted possession and sale of meth, delivery of marijuana and resisting arrest.

They cited the tenant, Gary Puckett, 58, for possessing meth and for endangering the welfare of a 15-year-old girl who was in the apartment.

They also arrested Luis Sanchez-Flores, 21, of Eugene, who walked into the apartment carrying seven baggies of meth, which he stuffed into his mouth when he saw the officers, Webber said. He ended up spitting them out and was booked into the Lane County Jail on a warrant and on new charges of meth possession and delivery.

A fourth man, Edgar Daniel Figueroa, 18, of Eugene, showed up at the apartment carrying an illegal butterfly knife, Webber said. He told police he had come to tell Puckett not to sell drugs to his girlfriend. He left with a citation for carrying a concealed weapon.

After that, police stopped answering the door, Webber said.
Just how wasted do you have to be to participate in this trainwreck. The cops probably stopped answering the door because they were laughing too hard...

Quote of the Day

hell - quote of the week or month if not year. Swiped from Kim DuToit:

In the 18th century, a revolution in thought, known as the Enlightenment, dragged us away from the superstition and brutality of the Middle Ages toward a modern age of science, reason and democracy. It changed everything. If it wasn't for the Enlightenment, you wouldn't be reading this right now. You'd be standing in a smock throwing turnips at a witch. Yes, the Enlightenment was one of the most significant developments since the wheel. Which is why we're trying to bollocks it all up.

Welcome to a dangerous new era - the Unlightenment - in which centuries of rational thought are overturned by idiots. Superstitious idiots. They're everywhere - reading horoscopes, buying homeopathic remedies, consulting psychics, babbling about 'chakras' and 'healing energies', praying to imaginary gods, and rejecting science in favour of soft-headed bunkum. But instead of slapping these people round the face till they behave like adults, we encourage them. We've got to respect their beliefs, apparently.

Well I don't. 'Spirituality' is what cretins have in place of imagination. If you've ever described yourself as 'quite spiritual', do civilisation a favour and punch yourself in the throat until you're incapable of speaking aloud ever again. Why should your outmoded codswallop be treated with anything other than the contemptuous mockery it deserves?

Maybe you've put your faith in spiritual claptrap because our random, narrative-free universe terrifies you. But that's no solution. If you want comforting, suck your thumb. Buy a pillow. Don't make up a load of floaty blah about energy or destiny. This is the real world, stupid. We should be solving problems, not sticking our fingers in our ears and singing about fairies.
--Charles Brooker

What he said...

Thunderwood College

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Need a College Degree? Don't want to spend the time, effort or money to actually earn one? Visit Thunderwood College where you can get a degree in seconds. Hint: Buy some nice certificate paper from an Office Supply store and use it for the printout.
due to high winds... From station WOOD.TV:
High winds prevent debut of wind turbine in Michigan
The first of hundreds of new wind turbines planned for Michigan's Thumb region was being erected, when something caused a delay.


It was just a little too windy on Tuesday to put up the turbine on farmland between Pigeon and Elkton.

The winds picked up as the nacelle, which is where electricity will be produced, was put on top of the tower, creating a risk situation for the blade installation.
Heh... Wind power is a good idea but it will never replace baseline generation -- we need nuclear power for that if we want to improve the pollution from Coal and cut our dependence on fossil fuels.

You have to love a culture than can get so bizarre as a part of their normal day-to-day living. On weekends, they really go overboard. Like with mayonnaise -- in everything, including drinks... From

Mayo margarita anyone?
When Koji Nakamura mixes up a margarita cocktail, he adds a special ingredient - mayonnaise.

"Mayogarita", a white drink with a hint of the creamy dressing, is one of several cocktails Nakamura serves in his "Mayonnaise Kitchen" restaurant in suburban Tokyo, which features mayonnaise on everything from toast and spaghetti to fondue.

Despite its Western heritage, mayonnaise has become the condiment of choice for many young Japanese, who add it to everything from sushi, noodles and tempura.

While older Japanese might gag at the thought of mayonnaise on rice or savory pancakes, the young are slathering it on.

They even have a name for mayo fanatics: "mayolers".

"People keep discovering various ways to cook food with mayonnaise," Nakamura said.

"If you put it on raw tuna fish with red flesh, it tastes like medium-fatty tuna fish. That kind of unpredictability makes it interesting and popular."

In 2006, Japanese consumed 1.65 kg of mayonnaise per person, down from a peak of 1.90 kg in 2000, according to the Japan Mayonnaise and Dressing Makers' Association.

Nakamura's tiny restaurant, with fewer than a dozen tables and decorated with cut-outs shaped like mayonnaise bottles, also offers "Mayoty Dog", which tastes like the vodka-based cocktail Salty Dog but is served in a glass with mayonnaise on its rim instead of salt.

Patrons of the seven-year-old restaurant can buy their own bottle of mayonnaise for 300 yen ($2.53) - similar to bars that keep regular customers' bottles of whisky or sake.

Makes me want to reach for that jar of Best Foods (or Hellmans east of the Mississippi)

RIP - Irene Morgan Kirkaldy

May not be a household name but she did what Rosa Parks did only eleven years earlier. From Yahoo/AP:
Desegregation pioneer dies at 90
Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, a black woman whose refusal to give up her bus seat to white passengers led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision more than a decade before Rosa Parks gained recognition for doing the same, has died at 90.

Kirkaldy died Friday at her daughter's home, said Fred Carter, director of Carter Funeral Home in Newport News.

Kirkaldy, born Irene Morgan in Baltimore in 1917, was arrested in 1944 for refusing to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus heading from Gloucester to Baltimore, and for resisting arrest.

Her case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by an NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black justice on the high court.

The Supreme Court held in June 1946 that Virginia law requiring the races to be separated on interstate buses � even making passengers change seats during their journey to maintain separation if the number of passengers changed � was an invalid interference in interstate commerce.

At the time, the case received little attention, and not all bus companies complied with the ruling at first, but it paved the way for civil rights victories to come, including Parks' famous stand on a local bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.
A bit more about this amazing lady, Rosa parks and the incident:
Asked where her courage came from that day, Kirkaldy said simply: "I can't understand how anyone would have done otherwise."

She was not part of any organized movement, unlike Parks, who was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when she challenged segregation.

Kirkaldy, then a young mother, boarded the Greyhound bus in Hayes Store, Va., and took a seat toward the back for her ride home. She was recovering from surgery and had taken her two children to stay temporarily with her mother in Gloucester.

A few miles down the road, the driver told her to move because a white couple wanted to occupy her row.

"I said 'Well, no,'" she recalled. "That was a seat I had paid for."

Kirkaldy said she willingly paid a $100 fine for resisting arrest because she did kick the officer who tried to remove her from the bus.

"Sometimes, you are so enraged, you don't have time to be afraid," she remarked in 2000.
Not to denigrate Ms. Parks' work but Irene Morgan Kirkaldy is the real deal. Not working within the subtext of a political agenda, just standing up for her own rights and damn the poor S.O.B. to tries to get in her way... She would have been a great person to know.

Very cool development in Kashmir

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This is going to make a bunch of heads explode, both literally and figuratively and this is a very very good thing. From Snapped Shot:
This is a Beautiful Thing
Indian women in Kashmir are arming themselves against Muslim militants. I'm betting that this move will be highly effective, and is bound to get certain elements wound up into a certifiable rage...
A woman Village Defense Committee (VDC) member takes aim during a training session by the Indian Army at THE village OF Sariya, in Naushera sector, about 140 kilometers (88 miles) northwest of Jammu, India, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007. VDCs are local self-defense groups set up in Jammu and Kashmir in mid-nineties following a number of massacres of innocent villagers, and are officially equipped with weapons to help guard remote mountain hamlets against terrorist attacks and intimidation. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Heh - enjoy your 72 white raisins of incredible purity guys -- you sure earned them...

Letting the smoke out

When something goes horribly wrong with electronics, there is usually a small (or spectacular) puff of smoke associated with the event. It has been determined that there is a bit of smoke in each electronic component and letting the smoke out will result in that component's failure. Mostly Cajun had a big example for today:

Hot!, Da*ned hot!
Yesterday was 102 freakin' degrees in southwest Louisiana, with a heat index of 118. I don't care where you're from, that's pretty darned hot.

That old quote about "only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun"? I am neither mad dog nor English, and I know better than to try anything outside between 10 AM and 5 PM. People die from this stuff, especially overweight, under climatized Cajuns. I have often speculated that I was kidnapped from Wisconsin as a happy infant by a roving band of itinerant Cajuns. It's one way to explain my misery in this heat.

Today I am at our station northwest of Houston. Our little 7000-horsepower electric motor's controller suffered an intermediate level of electron leakage, resulting in "motor no run". Here's a picture:

The good news is that the equipment is under warranty and yes:

Fortunately, this equipment resides in an air-conditioned building.

That is some serious smoke!

Well Crap - another bridge down

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This one is in China and it sounds like a big one. From Reuters:
China bridge collapse kills 20, toll set to rise
At least 20 people were killed when a road bridge being built across a river in southern China collapsed on to another highway, state media and a witness said on Tuesday.

At least 39 people were missing and witnesses said the death toll was likely to rise.

Twenty-two people were injured when the 320-metre (1,000-foot) concrete arc bridge spanning the Jiantuo river in Fenghuang county, Hunan province, collapsed on Monday during the evening rush hour, Xinhua news agency said.

Some 400 police had been sent to the scene to keep order, Xinhua said.

Pictures showed bulldozers and rescue workers picking through a massive pile of debris stretching between two hills at the banks of the river.

"I saw a lot of bodies lying on the road, some of them were construction workers, and some were passers-by ... blood was everywhere," Yang Shunzhong, a witness, told Reuters.

"A car was crushed flat under the bridge, it was so ruined that I could not even tell the size of the car," he said by telephone.

Police told Yang that they had found about 60 bodies, and more rescue workers were searching for the missing buried amid the ruins and in the river below.
Damn. My prayers to the families involved. A bit more:
It was scheduled for completion at the end of this month.
If the bridge was scheduled for completion in 15 days, there were either some serious flaws with the design (not bloody likely - Chinese engineers are as good as any other engineers on this planet) or there was corruption leading to the use of sub-standard materials. Somebody accepted a load of sub-standard steel or concrete and pocketed a wad of cash. One more:
The bridge's collapse came as state media reported that China would fix more than 6,000 damaged or dangerous bridges across the country. A bridge collapse in June in the southern province of Guangdong killed nine people.

An editorial in the China Daily warned that thousands of the country's bridges had been categorized as "unsafe."
And the death toll on the 35W/Minneapolis collapse is only eight (so far).

Not quite rite in the haid

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Nothing to add to this -- it tells itself... From Yahoo/AP:
Woman calls police about 'fake' cocaine
A woman was arrested after she called police to help "get her money back" after she was unhappy with the crack cocaine she purchased.

Juanita Marie Jones, 53, called Rochelle Police late Thursday night after she purchased what she thought was a $20 piece of crack cocaine, according to police reports.

She told officers she broke the rock into three pieces and smoked one, only to discover the drugs were "fake."

She took Officer Joel Quinn and Deputy John Shedd of the Wilcox County Sheriff's Office into her kitchen and showed them the drugs, police said.

She was promptly arrested on charges of possession of cocaine.
I bet the cops were laughing over their donuts later that day. Sheesh. And some people still think that these drugs are 'enhancers' To trot out that old line: Why do you think they call it Dope? Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

Some words

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Harvey at IMAO noticed some things about the words that people use:
Just Something I've Noticed
There are certain words that are dead giveaways for liberal propaganda organizations:


But the biggest red flag?


Liberals are always VERY concerned with making sure all "voices" are heard.

You'll note that Conservatives NEVER use the word "voices". They'll say "opinions".

Other people concerned about hearing voices:

* Bag ladies
* Lunatics
* Serial killers

Not saying there's a connection, just noting the similarity.

Although it wouldn't hurt to cross the street if approached by a journalist, just to be on the safe side.
Heh... Good catch Harvey.
From My Way News/AP:
Italy Probe Unearths Huge Iraq Arms Deal
In a hidden corner of Rome's busy Fiumicino Airport, police dug quietly through a traveler's checked baggage, looking for smuggled drugs. What they found instead was a catalog of weapons, a clue to something bigger.

Their discovery led anti-Mafia investigators down a monthslong trail of telephone and e-mail intercepts, into the midst of a huge black-market transaction, as Iraqi and Italian partners haggled over shipping more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons into the bloodbath of Iraq.

As the secretive, $40 million deal neared completion, Italian authorities moved in, making arrests and breaking it up. But key questions remain unanswered.

For one thing, The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command - a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases.
Emphasis mine -- the USA has always granted the Iraqi people a high level of autonomy -- hell, the elections put some nasty people into office and we are working with them because we have to. Also nepotism and corruption are considered legitimate business tools in that culture. This deal still sucks big-time though... A bit more:
Operation Parabellum, the investigation led by Dario Razzi, anti-Mafia prosecutor in this central Italian city, began in 2005 as a routine investigation into drug trafficking by organized-crime figures, branched out into an inquiry into arms dealing with Libya, and then widened to Iraq.

Court documents obtained by the AP show that Razzi's break came early last year when police monitoring one of the drug suspects covertly opened his luggage as he left on a flight to Libya. Instead of the expected drugs, they found helmets, bulletproof vests and the weapons catalog.

Tapping telephones, monitoring e-mails, Razzi's investigators followed the trail to a group of Italian businessmen, otherwise unrelated to the drug probe, who were working to sell arms to Libya and, by late 2006, to Iraq as well, through offshore companies they set up in Malta and Cyprus.
One last little bit:
Investigators say the prospect of an Iraq deal was raised last November, when an Iraqi-owned trading firm e-mailed Massimo Bettinotti, 39, owner of the Malta-based MIR Ltd., about whether MIR could supply 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 10,000 machine guns "to the Iraqi Interior Ministry," adding that "this deal is approved by America and Iraq."

The go-between - the Al-Handal General Trading Co. in Dubai - apparently had communicated with Bettinotti earlier about buying night visors and had been told MIR could also procure weapons.
And Dubai was supposed to be fairly neutral. Trust but verify. And watch your back.

Great joke

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Swiped shamelessly from Friction and Harmony:
Four men got together to play golf one sunny morning. As they were heading out to the course, one of them was detained by a phone call.

The other three were discussing their children while walking to the first tee.

�My son,� said one proudly, �has made quite a name for himself in the home building industry. He began as a carpenter, but now owns his own design and construction firm. He�s so successful, in fact in the last year he was able to give a good friend a brand new home as a gift.�

The second man, not to be outdone, boasts how his son began his career as a car salesman, but now owns a multi-line dealership. �He�s so successful, in fact, in the last six months he gave a friend two brand new cars as a gift.�

The third man brags that his son has worked his way up through a stock brokerage firm, and has become so successful that in the last few weeks has given a good friend a large stock portfolio as a gift.

As the fourth man arrives at the tee box, the three smugly tell him that they have been discussing how successful their progeny are, and ask what line of work his son is in.

�To tell the truth, I�m not very pleased how my son has turned out,� he replies. �For fifteen years, he�s been a hairdresser, and I�ve just recently discovered he�s gay.�

As the other three recoil in horror, he continues, �but on the bright side, he must be good at what he does, because his last three boyfriends have given him a brand new house, two new cars, and a big stock portfolio.�
King-TV has a report on some sheriffs deputies removing a marijuana growing operation and having a few problems...
Deputies working pot bust rescued from SW Washington wilderness
Search and Rescue crews in Skamania County rescued 10 stranded sheriff's deputies who were forced to spend the night in the wilderness.

High winds prevented an airlift by a Seattle-based helicopter.

Skamania County Sheriff Dave Brown said six Skamania County Sheriff's deputies and four members of the Clark-Skamania Task force spent Saturday removing thousands of marijuana plants from a large grow in the Dog Creek area just North of SR 14.

Brown said the grow was in extremely rugged terrain. He said the team became disoriented on Saturday as daylight started to run out.

Three of the deputies were apparently so dehydrated and exhausted they could not move on their own. Brown said the crew did not have lights or supplies to move in the dark so they all stayed overnight with the injured members.

Rescue crews reached the stranded deputies early Sunday morning.
Let's see now -- dry mouth, disorientation. And the deputies went through 27 bags of Doritos after their rescue. Classic case of the munchies?

Karma - proper treatment of animals

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Some moke left a Rottweiler in a locked car with the windows rolled up. The poor dog was obviously dying so animal control was called. What happened next is a great example of karma... From The Toronto Star:
Pet saver defends his actions
A pet detective who is temporarily suspended after rescuing a dog from a locked and overheated car says he was just doing what his mandate asks him to do � save animals' lives.

Tre Smith, an animal cruelty investigator for the Toronto Humane Society and former mall security guard, is not allowed to investigate animal cruelty complaints pending an investigation in which he handcuffed the owner of the dog to a car.

But the highly publicized pet saving incident has ignited emotion and feedback from hundreds of pet owners and swamped the Toronto Humane Society with letters and emails calling for his reinstatement.

On July 31, Smith responded to a call that Cyrus, a 50-kg Rottweiler, was locked in an overheated car. The Toronto Humane Society investigator smashed through the car window, rescued the dying dog, who was slumped and foaming at the mouth, and handcuffed the irate owner to the car. He then rushed the dog to a hospital, leaving the man there handcuffed until police arrived on the scene.

"I was trying to perform my job to the best of my abilities given a very difficult, threatening and abusive situation," said Smith.

But reports soon followed that the handcuffed dog owner was beaten by the crowd and was bleeding when police arrived, so the Ontario SPCA has hired a retired Ontario Provincial Police officer to probe the incident and determine whether Smith had followed proper protocol or overstepped his limits.
Emphasis mine -- payback is a bitch. The guy deserved worse.


Very cute - a plush pillow in the shape of a real sized cow. Cuddle up on the floor.

From Helga's Cowches:

Cows and Cowches
by Helga Tacreiter

I LOVE COWS. Big, beautiful, breathing cows. I grew to love them when I worked on farms, milking and feeding these peaceful creatures and getting to know their distinct individual personalities. My heart broke each time one of my friends was sent to slaughter, which is the sad reality of farm life. But what could I do? I made their lives as decent as possible while they were in my care, then I had to kiss them goodbye.

Until the storm: a huge spring storm that lasted most of the night, with roaring thunder and lightning bolts hurtling down with deafening cracks.

In the morning, when I went out to feed the cows, I found them beneath a split and blackened tree, all dead. Six little calves huddled together a few feet away. As I led the orphans back to the barn, something inside me changed. The years of accepting sad reality were over. If these little guys had survived an act of God as powerful as that storm, they sure weren't going to be killed by an act of man, not if I could help it!

That's how the cow sanctuary began.

Trouble was, I wasn't a rich heiress. I was a farm worker making minimum wage. These calves weren't even mine. They belonged to the man who owned the farm. How was I going to save the calves?

I exchanged six months' wages for the lives of those calves. Never was money better spent, I thought as I hugged them. But what next? They were growing fast and would soon weigh at least half a ton each. No matter how hard I worked, farm wages weren't going to be enough to feed them. "How? How? How?" filled my thoughts.

The answer came to me as I lay in the straw snuggling with my cow family: I'd make life-size stuffed cows for others to snuggle the way I snuggled with my real cows.


As a monk from THE Shaolin Temple. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
China: Bogus martial arts masters nabbed
A dozen Chinese teenagers have been caught in a failed plot to sneak into Canada by masquerading as kung fu masters from the famous Shaolin Temple, state media reported Friday.

The 12 had no martial arts experience but joined a team of genuine kung fu performers from a school in Henan province, also home to the 1,500-year-old temple, that was leaving for a tour of Canada, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

They had paid up to $90,000 each to a human smuggler, or "snakehead," and two coaches from the martial arts school who often accompany students on trips abroad, Xinhua said.

The teenagers, ages 17 to 19, had a one-day training session at a hotel on June 24 to learn the basics of the art of Chinese lion dancing, Xinhua said.

The group was stopped less than a week later while trying to enter Hong Kong after border guards' suspicions were aroused, but the report did not give any details.
Heh... One day of training isn't going to give you any of the sense of balance and poise that several years of training 24/7 does. The Shaolin Temple turns out some amazing people, these mokes were not fit to empty its outhouses... The snakehead was arrested -- good news there.

Back in the news again

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I figured that when she said that she was retiring from public life that Cindy Sheehan was going to come back again. She is a complete media whore and cannot be without the public spotlight. Now she is announcing a campaign to run against Nancy Pelosi. From the Seattle Times:
Sheehan announces run against Pelosi
A tearful Cindy Sheehan cited her son, killed in Iraq, as her inspiration as she announced her candidacy Thursday for the U.S. House against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Sheehan said last month she intended to run against Pelosi, D-Calif., if the San Francisco congresswoman didn't move to impeach President Bush by July 23.

Sheehan said Thursday that Pelosi had "protected the status quo" of the corporate elite and had lost touch with people in her district, most of whom, she asserted, want American troops out of Iraq.
I am sorry Cindy but Casey was over there doing what he thought was good work. He volunteered to go over there and then volunteered for a second tour when his first was over. You never bought a headstone for his grave so how can you continue to use his name with a clear conscience. Cindy -- your husband divorced you, your parents disowned you; just how far do you have to sink in your own little drama before you realize that you have no right to be dragging Casey's honorable name through the media like this and using his honorable service and memory for your personal glory.

A bit of an insurance claim to our south

This happened yesterday in the town of Vancouver, WA located on the Washington/Oregon border just across from Portland. From KATU-TV in Portland:
15-ton steel silo falls off truck, lands on car
A steel silo weighing about 15 tons rolled off a flatbed truck in the Vancouver area and landed on top of a parked car.

The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. Friday along the Interstate 205 off-ramp from eastbound SR 14. The steel silo somehow got loose from the semi, rolled down an embankment and then landed on a parked car, crushing it.

No one was inside the car, a white Subaru that was sitting on a side street. As it turned out, the owner had parked there to go on a bike ride and when she returned, she could not believe what had happened.

"I was pretty upset when I first saw it," said Cindy Werner. "I lost another Subaru about six months ago. Somebody stole it and set it on fire. So it's not been a good year for me and Subarus."
And of course, the obligatory pictures:


Yikes! That would be a bit of a surprise...

When you buy a computer from someone like Dell or HP, it is going to come with the operating system pre-installed. Unfortunatly, there will be a lot of other crapthings pre-installed -- 30 day demos of various software, sample versions of audio and video tools. Most of these are so limited in scope as to be useless and they are often second tier appications where you want the industry leader. HP, Dell and the others get money from these various companies to install their craplets on your system so they are not going to pass up this revinue stream. You have to spend the better part of a day uninstalling each and every one.


Meet The PC Decrapifier:

So, you're the proud owner of a new PC. You anxiously open the box, dumping out the contents, casting the instructions aside. You feverishly push your old PC off the desk and get the new one set up. On the floor lies a pile of plastic wrap and twist ties. Your brand spanking new PC boots up only to greet you with a plethora of pop up advertisements pestering you to pay for anti-virus software or sign up for a music service. Your desktop is littered with website links for 'special offers.' The system tray is already full of programs that continuously use your internet connection to make sure that you're 'up to date.'

"When did I ask for this?" you ask. Well, you didn't and that's where the PC Decrapifier comes in. The PC Decrapifier attempts to remove all of the crap on your PC that you never asked for or wanted. To manually remove all of this stuff by hand can take at least an hour (depending on the severity of the infestation.) The PC Decrapifier will detect the 'crap' on your system, you choose what to uninstall, then sit back and let the PC Decrapifier work its magic.

All of this stuff is placed on your new PC because the big companies like Dell, HP and others sell advertising space on your PC to put more money in their pockets at the expense of your time and frustration.

The PC Decrapifier is a program free for personal use to help the average computer user combat this problem. It is also available for PC technicians at a small fee to use as a tool in their everyday business to save a tremendous amount of time.

An excellent idea and a perfect tool against all the crap that comes 'free' with your new computer...

Reuters stepped on their dicks big-time. The joke is that they were found out by a 13-year-old movie buff... From The Guardian:
Reuters gets that sinking feeling
News agency Reuters has been forced to admit that footage it released last week purportedly showing Russian submersibles on the seabed of the North Pole actually came from the movie Titanic.

The images were reproduced around the world - including by the Guardian and Guardian Unlimited - alongside the story of Russia planting its flag below the North Pole on Thursday last week.

But it has now emerged that the footage actually showed two Finnish-made Mir submersibles that were employed on location filming at the scene of the wreck of the RMS Titanic ship in the north Atlantic some 10 years ago.

This footage was used in sequences in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster about the 1912 disaster.

The mistake was only revealed after a 13-year-old Finnish schoolboy contacted a local newspaper to tell them the images looked identical to those used in the movie.
Reuters lifted the photos from the Russian State television Channel RTR. RTR was using them to illustrate the story; RTR said that this was library footage and was not the actual flag planting. Additionally, the footage was aired when the Russians were still several hours away from the pole. Reuters did come clean and altered the captions to reflect the actual origin of the images. Seems like they have had problems like this in the past:
The incident is doubly embarrassing for the agency since it follows a case in August last year in which it published an image by a freelancer of Israeli bombings in Lebanon that had been dramatised using photo manipulation, with the addition of smoke rising from allegedly burning buildings.
Let me introduce you to two concepts:


Google Earth - online forum

Google Earth has a fun online forum for people to post links and talk about their finds. One great thread is Huge and Unique, specifically the Extreme Series. There, you will find photos of the tallest radio antenna (2,063 feet), the Deepest Canyon on the Earth (Colca Canyon, Peru -- Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA) and the Snowiest Place On The Earth (our own Mt. Baker -- looking out our kitchen window at it right now). Lots of fun!

Kim Du Toit read the excellent Rolling Stone article on the scam that is Ethanol and had a few things to say about it himself...

Pure Corn
Howard points me to this artice in, of all places, Rolling Stone magazine, which eviscerates the "ethanol is good" line once and for all.

Because RS is mostly a magazine written by Manhattan pinkos, the main thrust of the article is not one I'd have chosen:
Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World.

Frankly, I'm not concerned about feeding the Third World, because well-fed Third-World children grow up and go on to have even more Third World children requiring feeding.

I am more concerned about this foolishness causing ripple effects in other markets, as I've noted before on these pages. To whit:

1.) Expensive corn means expensive food products right here in the U.S. of A. (Never mind the Starving Third World, because they're not paying for it anyway.) Expensive food means serious inflation -- the kind which bites people more than inflation of, oh, T-shirt prices. This should be a major concern to anyone not named John Edwards (who can afford to eat cake to escape high bread prices).

2. Expensive corn also means expensive cattle feed -- necessary during our snowy and frigid winters -- which means, of course, more expensive meat and dairy products later. (Meat is less expensive now, of course, because canny farmers are slaughtering cattle to escape high feed prices later in the year, which is also why dairy prices are high right now and will go higher still later in the year.)

He talks about some of the consequences and then closes with this observation:

I've never been a worry-wart about the economy. But I see some extremely troubling signs on the horizon, and they're being caused by these frigging eco-loons. The "credit crunch" is small potatoes�it�s likely to be of short duration and can be addressed by fiscal policy, at least somewhat.

But if all our corn is going to be forced into cars' gas tanks, we are facing a shit-storm of monumental precautions. Because as much as I say "let the Third-World Pore & Starvin Chilluns starve", the plain fact of the matter is: we won't -- which means that corn prices here will be forced even higher.

I know that all this has a Chicken Little sound to it, and it's not my style, generally. The fact that I am so worried about this should make people at least think about the coming situation.


Global Warming proponents happily point to the fact that 1998 was the warmest year on record. Unfortunately, it seems there was a bit of a bug in the data and 1998 is now the second warmest year on record and five of the ten warmest years fell before World War Two. From Daily Tech:
Blogger Finds Y2K Bug in NASA Climate Data
My earlier column this week detailed the work of a volunteer team to assess problems with US temperature data used for climate modeling. One of these people is Steve McIntyre, who operates the site While inspecting historical temperature graphs, he noticed a strange discontinuity, or "jump" in many locations, all occurring around the time of January, 2000.

These graphs were created by NASA's Reto Ruedy and James Hansen (who shot to fame when he accused the administration of trying to censor his views on climate change). Hansen refused to provide McKintyre with the algorithm used to generate graph data, so McKintyre reverse-engineered it. The result appeared to be a Y2K bug in the handling of the raw data.

McKintyre notified the pair of the bug; Ruedy replied and acknowledged the problem as an "oversight" that would be fixed in the next data refresh.

NASA has now silently released corrected figures, and the changes are truly astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as record-breaking) moves to second place. 1921 takes third. In fact, 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II. Anthony Watts has put the new data in chart form, along with a more detailed summary of the events.
Here is one example of the bad data:
And of course, the hue and cry from the mainstream media? *** *** *** *** *** crickets

From the Archaeological Institute of America:

Major Find at Sagalassos August 2, 2007
Colossal statue of the emperor Hadrian discovered

A huge, exquisitely carved marble statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian is the latest find from Sagalassos, an ancient Greco-Roman city in south-central Turkey. Archaeologists estimate that the figure was originally between 13 and 16 feet in height (four to five meters). It is, says excavation director Marc Waelkens, one of the most beautiful portraits of Hadrian ever found.

The discovery was made by archaeologists from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), who, under Waelkens' direction, have been investigating the site since 1990. Last month a new excavation campaign started, and the Belgians resumed work at the Roman Bath, focusing on the southeastern corner of the complex.

On Sunday the first fragments of a over life-size statue, a foot and part of a leg, were unearthed. The foot is 31.5 inches (0.80 meters) long; the leg, from just above the knee to the ankle, is nearly five feet (1.5 meters). The elaborate sandal depicted on the footed indicated to the archaeologists that the fragments were from the statue of an emperor. On Monday, the almost intact head of the statue was discovered, revealing that the statue was of Hadrian, who ruled from A.D. 117 to 138. The head measures more than 27 inches (0.70 meters).

Construction of the bath complex in Sagalassos was started during Hadrian's reign, though the building was finished only several decades later. The bath complex is one of several major building projects at Sagalassos that can be dated to the time of Hadrian and the city had a sanctuary of the imperial cult dedicated to Hadrian and his successor Antoninus Pius.

The city of Sagalassos is a huge site -- the main webpage for the dig can be found here: City in the Clouds. Excavation started in 1985 and is continuing to this day.

Back in June, I wrote about how many of the weather stations used to compile historical data are now being encroached by 'civilization' and as such, they are encountering an urban 'heat-island' effect. The post is here: How not to measure temperature and the link in the post is not only still there but it has been continually updated since my June visit. Last post there was August 4, 2007. Check out: Watts Up With That? Anyway, it seems that NOAA didn't like the publicity so they pulled the information about these sites from their website. From DailyTech:
New Scandal Erupts over NOAA Climate Data
The theory of global warming began to explain one simple set of facts-- surface temperature monitoring stations have shown a roughly one degree rise over the past century. But just where does these temperature readings come from? Most are reported by volunteer stations, usually no more than a thermometer inside a small wooden hut or below a roof overhang. In the US, 1,221 such stations exist, all administered by the National Climatic Data Center, a branch of the NOAA.

Two months ago, I reported on an effort to validate this network. A volunteer group headed by meteorologist Anthony Watts had found serious problems. Not only did sites fail to meet the NCDC's requirements, but encroaching development had put many in ridiculously unsuitable locations -- on hot black asphalt, next to trash burn barrels, beside heat exhaust vents, even attached to hot chimneys and above outdoor grills.

Soon thereafter, a Seattle radio station interviewed the head of the NCDC, Dr. Thomas Peterson, informed him of the effort and quizzed him about the problems. Three days later, the NCDC removed all website access to station site locations, citing "privacy concerns." Without this data (which had been public for years), the validation effort was blocked. No more stations could be located.

Scientists were quick to respond. Climatologist Roger Pielke from the University of Colorado called the act a "coverup" and said it was designed to prevent public scrutiny. More shockingly, he revealed that researchers had been for years pressuring the government to validate the network themselves, and that the NCDC had begun to do j so, but cancelled the project and refused to make the data public, presumably to avoid this sort of scandal. Joined by Watts and others, Pielke called upon the government to recant.

The resulting furor forced the NCDC to again made site locations public. But so far, they've failed to address to root of the problem, which is the wholly unsatisfactory locations of many of their recording sites, locations which make the resulting data unreliable, and compromise a dataset upon which much of US energy and environmental policy is based.
Indeed -- if this is something that we really want to track, it is really bad to have poor and biased data at the outset. I can see wanting to keep the same stations for continuity of record but you either need to offer a fudge-factor for the data or relocate the sensors to somewhere where they have a chance of yielding accurate data. And definitely, check out: Watts Up With That?

Kyoto unable to meet Kyoto

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Department of Irony - japan is having to increase their emissions and will not be able to meet the levels set by the Kyoto Protocol... From Reuters:
Japan's emissions to rise: report
Japan's greenhouse gas emissions will rise by 0.9 percent in the fiscal year ending in March 2011 from levels in 1990, clouding its prospects of meeting its Kyoto Protocol target, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

While emissions from industry are expected to fall by 9 percent, those from households are likely to rise 13-16 percent and from offices by 29-31 percent, the Nikkei business daily said, citing a government report due out this week.

The figures mean Japan's emissions are likely to rise 0.9-2.1 percent from 1990, requiring it to cut emissions by more than an additional 20 million tons to meet its Kyoto Protocol target, the newspaper said.

Japan has a target under the Kyoto Protocol to cut its emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 period.

A trade ministry official could not comment on the figures, but said a government report would be released on Friday.

Japan has vowed to meet its Kyoto targets, although its emissions were 14 percent above the goal as of March 2006.

The government has floated the idea of industry energy-saving benchmarks, but business groups have dragged their feet on previous energy proposals, such as a carbon tax, out of concern for their economic impact.
Kyoto is junk science -- it ignores the most major greenhouse gas (water vapor) as well as a bunch of other metrics. It hampers development and commerce and the science doesn't even prove that it will have any effect on climate change.

Two heros in Iraq

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Meet Cpl. Kory D. Wiens and Cooper:
Killed in Iraq, dog team buried together
The first military working dog team killed in action together since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were laid to rest together July 18.

Cpl. Kory D. Wiens, 20, of the 94th Mine Dog Detachment, 5th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and his partner, Cooper, were killed July 6 by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Muhammad Sath, Iraq. They had been in Iraq since January.

The cremated remains of Wiens and Cooper, a Labrador retriever, were buried together at Salt Creek Cemetery in Wiens� hometown of Dallas, Ore., at the request of his family, said Master Sgt. Matt McHugh, the family�s casualty assistance officer.

�Kory referred to Cooper as his son, that�s now much of a team they were,� McHugh said.
Tragic but sweet story. A good dog is priceless.

All the liberals I know about have this knee-jerk belief system that it is a Good Thing to foster diversity in our communities. A bit of a shame then that they don't stick around to observe the outcome... From the Boston Globe:

The downside of diversity
A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?

It has become increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

Perfect example of what happens when ivory-tower intellectual ideas meet the real world. Trying to encourage something that is a detriment to healthy communities.

The outright gall of China never ceases to amaze me. From The Times:
China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate
Tibet�s living Buddhas have been banned from reincarnation without permission from China�s atheist leaders. The ban is included in new rules intended to assert Beijing�s authority over Tibet�s restive and deeply Buddhist people.

�The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid,� according to the order, which comes into effect on September 1.

The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet�s exiled god-king, the Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk without approval from Beijing.

It is the latest in a series of measures by the Communist authorities to tighten their grip over Tibet. Reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in the Himalayan region. Anyone outside China is banned from taking part in the process of seeking and recognising a living Buddha, effectively excluding the Dalai Lama, who traditionally can play an important role in giving recognition to candidate reincarnates.

For the first time China has given the Government the power to ensure that no new living Buddha can be identified, sounding a possible death knell to a mystical system that dates back at least as far as the 12th century.

China already insists that only the Government can approve the appointments of Tibet�s two most important monks, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama�s announcement in May 1995 that a search inside Tibet � and with the co- operation of a prominent abbot � had identified the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, who died in 1989, enraged Beijing. That prompted the Communist authorities to restart the search and to send a senior Politburo member to Lhasa to oversee the final choice. This resulted in top Communist officials presiding over a ceremony at the main Jokhang temple in Lhasa in which names of three boys inscribed on ivory sticks were placed inside a golden urn and a lot was then drawn to find the true reincarnation.

The boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has disappeared. The abbot who worked with the Dalai Lama was jailed and has since vanished. Several sets of rules on seeking out �soul boys� were promulgated in 1995, but were effectively in abeyance and hundreds of living Buddhas are now believed to live inside and outside China.
This is seriously fucked. Management from afar with no thought given to the immense benefits of having a happy population. It's not as though Tibet has a huge tax base or large agricultural output for China to take...
A lot of people like the Baby Einstein (and the Brainy Baby) series as they can plop their tyke down in front of the television set and relax in the knowledge that their little spud is being edjamacated. Not so fast -- it seems that simply sitting with them and telling them stories or reading to them or watching a television show together results in a much higher vocabulary (depends on the show of course...) From the LA Times:
'Baby Einstein': a bright idea?
Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons, according to a new study released today.

For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," they knew six to eight fewer words than other children, the study found.

Parents aiming to put their babies on the fast track, even if they are still working on walking, each year buy hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of the videos.

Unfortunately it's all money down the tubes, according to Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Christakis and his colleagues surveyed 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota and determined their babies' vocabularies using a set of 90 common baby words, including mommy, nose and choo-choo.

The researchers found that 32% of the babies were shown the videos, and 17% of those were shown them for more than an hour a day, according to the study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The videos, which are designed to engage a baby's attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerizing images, like a lava lamp.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 24 months.
Dr. Christakis' web page is here: Dimitri Christakis

Great commercial

Awesome commercial - perfect idea, perfect execution. More YouTube goodness:
As evidenced by this Australian YouTube clip: Sandy

Homemade Submarine

Very cool - a NYC artist made a partial replica of David Bushnell's Turtle submarine and sailed it a little bit too close to the Oceanliner Queen Mary 2. From The New York Times City Room blog:
One Man�s Art (a Submarine?) Runs Into Trouble
What began as an unorthodox art project has become a law-enforcement headache today and the talk of the New York blogosphere.

Duke Riley, a heavily tattooed Brooklyn artist whose waterborne performance projects around the city have frequently landed him in trouble with authorities, spent the last five months building a makeshift submarine � a partial replica of what may be America�s earliest submarine, an oak sphere called the Turtle, which saw action (not particularly successful action) in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War.

The wood and fiberglass submarine, which was launched into the New York Harbor, made its way toward a far larger vessel � the Queen Mary 2, one of the largest ocean liners in the world, which was docked at the cruise ship terminal in the Buttermilk Channel off Red Hook, Brooklyn.

What happened next was a delicate mixture of performance art and domestic security.
Heh... Hat tip to the fine folks at Telstar Logistics for the link. Wikipedia has a short article about: The Turtle
From the New York Post:
A major hurricane hasn't hit New York City in nearly 70 years, but the city has pumped at least $15 million into stockpiling supplies for hundreds of hurricane shelters for the upcoming storm season.

Between $8 million and $9 million has been spent on 4,400 pallets of supplies set aside in a New Jersey warehouse, including bottled water, blankets, baby formula, pet-care items and food.

Recent purchases include $1 million on 36,000 cots and $375,000 on 575 nursing kits.

"We can care for people up to seven days," said Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno.

An estimated 3 million New Yorkers would evacuate in a Katrina-like hurricane, with 600,000 going to more than 500 shelters and 65 evacuation centers.

The National Hurricane Center originally predicted an above average storm season, with more than a dozen named storms and three to five major hurricanes. A revised forecast is due Thursday.
I'll be looking at that revised forecast with interest as it's been -- what -- three months into the storm season (May through November) and how many storms have we had? Two minor storms and one even smaller...

The news from Iraq

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From Theo Spark:
Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?

Did you know that the Iraqi government currently employs 1.2 million Iraqi people?

Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under renovation, 263 new schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been completed in Iraq?

Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20 Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4 research centers, all currently operating?

Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January 2005 For the reestablished Fulbright program?

Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational? They have 5 - 100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a naval infantry regiment.

Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operational squadrons, which includes 9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport aircraft (under Iraqi operational control) Which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4 Bell Jet Rangers?

Did you know that Iraq Has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?

Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 Fully trained and equipped police officers?

Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks?

Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq? They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities.

Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the first 2 series of polio vaccinations?

Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October?

Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%?

Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consists of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?

Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004?

Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a televised debate recently?




Instead of reflecting our love for our country, We get photos of flag burning incidents at Abu Ghraib and people throwing snowballs at the presidential motorcades.

Tragically, the lack of accentuating the positive in Iraq Serves two purposes:
It is intended to undermine the world's perception of the United Statesa and Britain thus minimizing consequent support,

And it is intended to discourage American and British citizens.
What he said.

A Gentlemen's Duel

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Wonderful steampunk animation from Blur: A Gentlemen's Duel


I don't even want to think about this but I just had to share.

From The Washington Post:

Woman Arrested in Fudge Robbery After Assault Claim
A sweet tooth proved to be the undoing of a Greenbelt woman visiting Annapolis this week.

Shortly after midnight, Thursday morning, the Annapolis Police Department received a call from a clerk at the downtown Maryland House Hotel, who reported that a woman had come into the lobby and said she had been the victim of a sexual assault.

Officers met with Greenbelt resident Catherine Anne Delgado, 35, and determined that her assault claim was unfounded. During the course of their conversation in the lobby, the officers noticed that Delgado, wearing slacks and a sleeveless white blouse, had large slabs of fudge bulging out of her pockets.

"Smudges of fudge showed up very well on her hands and white blouse," Officer Hal Dalton said. "You don't see something like that every day."

On a hunch, an officer walked over to the nearby Fudge Kitchen on Main Street and found that the front door was unsecured. The Fudge Kitchen owner told police that since closing time a large amount of fudge had disappeared from the store's window display. He did not know why the door was unlocked.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Delgado had used the restroom during her interview with police. When a female officer checked the facility, she found that Delgado had tried to flush a large amount of fudge down the toilet, so much, in fact, that the candy clogged the toilet.

Delgado was arrested and charged with burglary. She was being held on $100,000 bond.

Hometown Annapolis has a bit more detail and mugshot goodness:

Ms. Delgado was charged with second-degree burglary and theft of property under $500. If guilty, she could face as much as 15 years in prison for the burglary charge. The theft charge carries a penalty of 18 months in jail and or a $500 fine.

When owner Bob Lawinger entered the store the next morning, he said he was shocked and a bit concerned that his kitchen had been ransacked. But concern soon turned to laughter when he watched the surveillance tape.

"She was just falling all over herself," he said of the video. "She loved the Rocky Road though, she took about 10 pounds of it and ate about a half-pound in the store."

Mr. Lawinger said there was also partially eaten S'mores and nut clusters littering the floor. The 10 bricks of fudge and five M&M pretzel sticks were valued at approximately $89.45. But Mr. Lawinger said she wasted about $500 worth of cookies and candies, tasting everything and dumping out what she didn't like. In addition, he estimates she caused about $1,500 worth of damage to display cases, counters and machinery.

The poor girl just likes her fudge. (wishing that Clorox made brain-bleach)

Apollo Online

From SpaceRef:

Digitized Apollo Flight Films Available Online
Nearly 40 years after man first walked on the Moon, the complete lunar photographic record from the Apollo project will be accessible to both researchers and the general public on the Internet. A new digital archive - created through a collaboration between Arizona State University and NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston - is making available high-resolution scans of original Apollo flight films. They are available to browse or download at:

The digital scans are detailed enough to reveal photographic grain. Created from original flight films transported back to Earth from the Moon, the archive includes photos taken from lunar orbit as well as from the lunar surface. This is the first project to make digital scans of all the original lunar photographs from NASA's Apollo missions.

"This project fulfills a long-held wish of mine. It'll give everyone a chance to see this unique collection of images as clearly as when they were taken," says Mark Robinson, professor of geological sciences in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Some good stuff there now but it will be fun to watch as the archive develops. The Hasselblad photos thay have are amazing. It will be fun to see that one first step again...

Major archaeological find in Mexico

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From Physorg:
Aztec Leader's Tomb Found
Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar have detected underground chambers they believe contain the remains of Emperor Ahuizotl, who ruled the Aztecs when Columbus landed in the New World. It would be the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever found.

The find could provide an extraordinary window into Aztec civilization at its apogee. Ahuizotl (ah-WEE-zoh-tuhl), an empire-builder who extended the Aztecs' reach as far as Guatemala, was the last emperor to complete his rule before the Spanish Conquest.

Accounts written by Spanish priests suggest the area was used by the Aztecs to cremate and bury their rulers. But no tomb of an Aztec ruler has ever been found, in part because the Spanish conquerors built their own city atop the Aztec's ceremonial center, leaving behind colonial structures too historically valuable to remove for excavations.
Very cool!

The Philbrick Archive

Very cool resource: GAP/R -- George A. Philbrick Researches
This site is a free non-profit repository of materials from GAP/R George A Philbrick Researches, the company that launched the commercial use of the Operational Amplifier in 1952.

I dedicate this site to the many engineers that gave the Analog industry its great start with their state-of-the-art Philbrick products, and by setting new professional standards, and creating new ways to solve engineering problems with the application of analog elements. After Philbrick, these engineers went on to lay the foundations of the analog industry in new companies like Linear Technology, Analog Devices and National Semiconductor, among many others.

The first commercial Operational amplifier was the K2-W op-amp. It was based on the amplifier used in the Philbrick modular Analog-Computor "black boxes". That amplifier's basic circuit architecture, in turn, was probably inspired by an earlier amplifier designed by Loebe Julie (Dan Sheingold and Bob Pease, thanks for helping me with this information). The K2-W Operational Amplifier entered the commercial market in 1952. It performed mathematical Operations in analog computers. Soon after, the K2-W and its successors saw wide application in industry. The Analog Computer was one educational vehicle to familiarize the engineer and the engineering student, with Operational Amplifier techniques. GAP/R also took on a crucial educational leadership role with application guides and tutorials.
The design of the Operational Amplifier was one of those watershed moments in electrical engineering. Here was a circuit that could be made to do a lot of different functions, the selection of which was determined by only a handful of external components. A true "magic box". Growing up, I was aware of Philbrick during his Teledyne Philbrick incarnation and when I became interested in electronic music and sound effects, the op-amp was a key component in virtually any circuit you could build -- oscillator, filter, mixer, envelope generator, sequencer -- you name it and it had op-amps in it. A very cool resource...

Hay Hay!

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Just got our second batch of hay in for the season so we are dog tired. Ninety bales this time (110 a week ago). 200 bales will last the sheep, goats and llamas about one year so we are set. Did payroll for the store this morning so the day has been a busy one. We are showering and will be heading off to a friend's house for a glass or two of wine and then dinner at a local Italian place and then home and crash to bed...
Ran into this on the support forum for MACH3 - an incredible CNC controller program. Some people were kvetching that MACH3 didn't have a Linux or Unix release and Art Fenerty (the author) had this to say about Unix:
To run it at work on a server or to run a hardware item that doesnt do anything else is brilliant. Its the motorcycle of OS's, very fast and convenient, just dont have too many friends that need a lift. Most who ask for Unix variants of any program, know not for what they ask. Sometimes its a good thing they wont get it.
Heh... Art is a real programmer.
Talk about circling the drain. On May 11th, I posted this comment from an article in the Houston Chronicle:
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.
Then on June 20th:
New Gallup data show confidence in Congress at all time low
Just 14% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.

This 14% Congressional confidence rating is the all-time low for this measure, which Gallup initiated in 1973. The previous low point for Congress was 18% at several points in the period of time 1991 to 1994.
Well, we can all see where this is going. From Zogby International:
Survey shows just 3% of Americans approve of how Congress is handling the war in Iraq; 24% say the same for the President.
And a bit more:
Just 24% give the president favorable ratings of his performance in handling the war in Iraq, but confidence in Congress is significantly worse � only 3% give Congress positive marks for how it has handled the war. This lack of confidence in Congress cuts across all ideologies. Democrats � some of whom had hoped the now Democrat-led Congress would bring an end to the war in Iraq � expressed overwhelming displeasure with how Congress has handled the war, with 94% giving Congress a negative rating in its handling specifically of that issue.
Granted, this is a much narrower scope than the "overall satisfaction" of the previous two polls but the numbers are still damning. Looking forward to the next election...
Do you use GMail, Yahoo! Mail, MySpace, Hotmail or any of the other online services via a public WiFi connection? Guess what? Your online accounts can be hacked in a matter of minutes. Read more at The Register:
Flash: Public Wi-Fi even more insecure than previously thought
How to gain permanent access to Gmail accounts

Users of Yahoo! Mail, MySpace and just about every Web 2.0 service take note: If you access those services using public Wi-Fi, Rob Graham can probably gain unlimited access to your account - even if you logged in using the secure sockets layer protocol.

Graham, who is CEO at Errata Security, demonstrated the hack to attendees of the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. The technique uses a plain-vanilla network sniffer to read the cookies returned by Google Mail, Hotmail and scores of other sites after a user has entered login credentials.

The websites rely on the cookie as a session ID to validate the browser as belonging to the person who just logged in. By copying the cookie and attaching it to a completely different browser Errata Security researchers showed it was easy to gain unfettered access to the accounts of others.

"If I sniff your Gmail connection and get all your cookies and attach them to my Gmail, I now become you, I clone you," Graham said during a presentation on Thursday. "Web 2.0 is now fundamentally broken."

The technique allowed Graham to open the Gmail account of an unsuspecting Black Hat attendee who had used the conference access point to get his email. Although the Errata Security chief closed the window several seconds after accessing it, nothing short of good manners prevented him from reading the person's messages, or, for that matter, accessing maps, calendar or other Google properties used by that person.

The hack caught our attention because it shatters a common assumption concerning secure surfing on public access points. Up until now, we felt relatively safe using hotspots to access email as long as we logged in with an SSL session. Yes, we knew that any subsequent pages that were not appended by "https" in the address bar were were susceptible to snooping, but intruders still had no way to access the account itself.

Now we know better. Any session that isn't protected from start to finish by SSL is vulnerable to the hack. And because session IDs generated by most sites are valid for an indefinite period, that means intruders could silently access our accounts for years - even if we regularly change our passwords.
Very elegant hack and very bad news for the uninitiated...
Fisher-Price recalling almost a million toys
Chinese vendor used paint with lead on items meant for preschoolers

Toy-maker Fisher-Price is recalling 83 types of toys � including the popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and Diego characters � because their paint contains excessive amounts of lead.

The worldwide recall being announced Thursday involves 967,000 plastic preschool toys made by a Chinese vendor and sold in the United States between May and August. It is the latest in a wave of recalls that has heightened global concern about the safety of Chinese-made products.
Hello over there in China -- could you just get it the fuck together. Something that is obviously a child's toy should not be painted with a lead-based paint.
A Doctoral Thesis "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud" is being submitted to the supervisors at Imperial College in London. The petitioner is someone named Brian May. You may know him from his other career - the lead guitarist for the band Queen... From
Rocker Sees Real Stars: Queen's Guitarist to Become Astrophysicist
Brian May is completing his doctorate in astrophysics, more than 30 years after he abandoned his studies to form the rock group Queen.

The 60-year-old guitarist and songwriter said he plans to submit his thesis, "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud," to supervisors at Imperial College London within the next two weeks.

May was an astrophysics student at Imperial College when Queen, which included Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor, was formed in 1970. He dropped his doctorate as the glam rock band became successful.

Queen were one of Britain's biggest music groups in the 1970s, with hits including "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You."

After Mercury's death in 1991, May recorded several solo albums, including 1998's "Another World." But his interest in astronomy continued, and he co-wrote "Bang! The Complete History of the Universe," which was published last year.

He was due to finish carrying out astronomical observations at an observatory on the island of La Palma, in Spain's Canary Islands, on Tuesday, the observatory said.

May told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he had always wanted to complete his degree.

"It was unfinished business," he said. "I didn't want an honorary Ph.D. I wanted the real thing that I worked for."
Good on him -- nice to see him finish with something he was in love with at the start. I majored in Physical Oceanography and Marine Biology at Boston University and dropped out when I got a job at the local Aquarium. My interests have diverged a lot and although I love boats and oceanic hardware, I don't have the desire to get a doctorate. Still, I wonder what it would have been like had I stayed on. If you are interested in Oceanography and have not seen the movie: "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou", you really need to. It is a loving portrayal of a Jacques Cousteau figure played by Bill Murray. Although set in 'current times', it really captures the feel of Oceanography back in the 60's and the set for the ship is a dead replica of Cousteau's first Calypso, right down to the labs and the equipment. Wonderful dry humor.
From Yahoo/Live Science:
Study: Renewable Energy Not Green
Renewable energy could wreck the environment, according to a study that examined how much land it would take to generate the renewable resources that would make a difference in the global energy system.

Building enough wind farms, damming adequate number of rivers and growing sufficient biomass to produce ample kilowatts to make a difference in meeting global energy demands would involve a huge invasion of nature, according to Jesse Ausubel, a researcher at the Rockefeller University in New York.

Ausubel came to this conclusion by calculating the amount of energy that each renewable source can produce in terms of area of land disturbed.

�We looked at the different major alternatives for renewable energies and we measured [the power output] for each of them and how much land it will rape,� Ausubel told LiveScience.
Ausubel is wisely promoting Nuclear power and the article quotes a few people who don't like Nuke power (despite the fact that the majority of France and Japan's power is from nukes and they don't have problems -- the problem reactors are the first-generation ones, the ones that were designed on a cocktail napkin in the 1950's) Fun (and frustrating) to see the different voices. One sound-bite:
�I think the characterizations made that �renewables are not green� and �nuclear is green� sound provocative, but they do not accurately represent these technologies with respect to a comprehensive set of sustainability criteria and analysis,� Keoleian told LiveScience. �The treatment of renewable technologies [in this study] is shallow and the coverage of the nuclear fuel cycle is incomplete."
Read the article for more... Good stuff.

Food contamination - not just China

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This time it's a Georgia company called Castleberry�s (owned by Bumble Bee). From the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website:
Georgia Firm Expands Recall of Canned Meat Products That May Contain Clostridium botulinum
Castleberry�s Food Company, an Augusta, Ga., establishment owned by Bumble Bee Foods, LLC, is voluntarily expanding its July 19 recall of canned meat products that may contain Clostridium botulinum, the U.S. Department of Agriculture�s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today.

The recall is being expanded after information gathered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and FSIS indicated that processing malfunctions at the establishment have existed longer than initially estimated. For that reason, Castelberry�s has agreed to recall all of the following products that may still be in commerce, regardless of the �best buy� date stamped on the bottom of the can. Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should throw them away immediately. Double bag the cans in plastic bags that are tightly closed then place in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash outside of the home.
What follows in the announcement is a list of probably 50 items made by Castleberry but labeled and marketed under a bunch of different 'house' brands -- Cattle Drive, Morton House, Kroger, Food Club, Cattle Drive, etc... Makes things hard to trace. In the short time that Jen and I have been managing our store, we have had two product recalls which for our limited stock (about 5,000 SKUs) is a lot.

No Genies for you!

A Fatwa on the supernatural has been issued in Malaysia. From Al Jazeera:

Malaysia issues fatwa on ghosts
A Malaysian museum has closed an exhibition on supernatural beings after Islamic religious authorities issued a fatwa, or decree, against it, state media have reported.

The National Fatwa Council had ruled on Thursday that exhibitions on ghosts, ghouls and supernatural beings were forbidden, as they could undermine the faith of Muslims.

Abdul Shukor Husin, the council's chair, was quoted as saying that "supernatural beings are beyond the comprehension of the human mind."

"We don't want to expose Muslims to supernatural and superstitious beliefs," the Berita Harian newspaper quoted him as saying.

Well DUHHH!!! The Mullah is the only one with a direct communication to God, the average Islamist doesn't have this link (which the average Christian does -- big difference here) They are not going to allow something that might cause their followers to start thinking about this little discrepancy now will they -- might loose some of their power...

Some largish (M6.1) temblors at Sakhalin Island -- key issue is that this is a major area for Russian oil extraction plus a whale sanctuary. A company I used to work for in Seattle did a project for this which I was involved in. Can't talk about it much but it was a very fun couple of days with some cool toys. And the Russians involved were incredibly concerned for the environment -- motivated in part by the public visibility of the project but there was a major concern for the place that was palpable. They are doing good work...

A neighbor to the north

Nice long article on Canadian environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki from the Orato Website:
The Sad Legacy Of David Suzuki
A religious fervor for protecting nature has transformed Canada's leading environmentalist into an emotional bully intolerant of scientists who don't see things his way. Over the years I've heard and read statements by David Suzuki that are too often misleading or incorrect, especially about climate. He, and many like him, claim natural events are unnatural thus guaranteeing that they appear right. What he conveniently overlooks, and may have learned had he remained a scientist rather than becoming an activist, is that nature and climate frequently change dramatically and in very short time periods.

Suzuki gets away with this misinterpretation by fully exploiting the false authority of his claimed and cultivated position as a scientist and environmentalist. He does this despite the fact that he deliberately abandoned his university research position in the 1980s and has no more qualifications as an environmentalist than many of us.

Indeed, it is arrogant for people such as Suzuki to claim that they are environmentalists as if it were some sort of exclusive club, inferring they care and the rest of us don't. It is more likely he, and those who work with him, are pushing a political agenda to create the world they want. H. L. Mencken, one of the most influential American writers of the early 20th century, said, "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."

Suzuki's image is being increasingly tarnished as evidence accumulates against his positions and statements. This was bound to happen with climate because he ignores the standard scientific method, which tries to disprove hypotheses. As Richard Lindzen said about the hypothesis that human addition of CO2 would cause significant global warming; the consensus was reached before the research had even begun.
A bit more (on stability and spin):
In February Suzuki stormed out of an AM640 Toronto radio interview when interviewer, John Oakley, made the accurate observation that global warming science is not a "totally settled issue." Besides Suzuki's aggressive behavior, his promotion of certainty in a field scientists understand to be immature, is counterproductive to climate research. If the science is settled then why is there literally a deluge of scientific papers coming out on the topic? If the science is settled, then this all must be an enormous waste of money.

Suzuki raised the spin to a professional level when he teamed up with James Hoggan of Hoggan and Associates, one of Canada's largest public relations firms. According to Hoggan's Web site, "Hoggan has provided strategic communications services to the DSF [David Suzuki Foundation] for more than 15 years, providing communications advice on salmon farming, climate change, forest preservation and international conservation projects."
Seven pages (short pages) but well worth reading if you are concerned about the environment. Suzuki is a fraud, a showman and an entertainer. He is not a scientist despite having done this once earlier in his life. Hat tip to Junk Science for the link (August 1st entry -- they don't support permalinks)

The Australian Lyrebird - incredible mimic

An oldie but goodie -- I had seen it once before but forgot about it. Ran into it today and it is just too good not to post. A three-minute YouTube clip of David Attenborough and an Australian Lyrebird.

Yikes - from Reuters:

Allo Paris, we have a problem
I have just returned from a trip to Toulouse in southern France. The main reason for the trip was to drive down from Paris with a replacement people carrier for our 7-man Reuters pictures team covering the month-long Tour de France cycle race. I was also somewhat concerned about the state of the team's morale after the latest in a series of setbacks that has plagued our crew since the Tour's unusual departure from London.

The Tour de France is a logistical nightmare. We start preparations the best part of a year in advance due to its unique continually-moving nature. Hotel accommodation, communications and transport are hard to assure when some 4000 people descend on the tiny towns in deep rural France.

Our crew is made up of two mobile photographers , Eric Gaillard and Stephano Rellandini each with our regular professional motorcyclists Jacques Clawey and Michel Vatel driving them. A large camping car, used as our mobile bureau, is driven overnight to the following day's arrival site by team leader Jacky Naegelen. This assures us a good position in the Technical zone close to the arrival line. Lastly our Renault Espace mobile transmission vehicle driven by a third photographer, Vincent Kessler and manned by journalism student Ian Langsdon who sits in the back to edit and transmit pictures by GPRS or 3G. This vehicle drives a few kilometres ahead of the race and picks up discs from the two shooters on motorcycles throughout each stage. It also carries all the extra equipment too cumbersome for a motorcycle and the personal bags (packed for a month away from home) of our motorcyclists, photographers and editor. So, all in all, we strive to leave as little to chance as possible. But sometimes, I guess, chance just insists on working against us.

Despite immaculate preparation by team leader Jacky Naegelen, a veteran of some 20 TDF's, our own mobile transmission vehicle, a 1-year-old Renault Espace turbo, still under guarantee, was not released from its pre-Tour checkup at Renault because of a consistent problem of the battery discharging. Renault was unable to pinpoint the problem and by the time we were ready to leave for the Tour, our car was still in a thousand pieces in the shop. So Renault, after much insistence, loaned us a similar vehicle for the duration of the Tour. Then we had re-kit this vehicle at the last minute with the special aluminium rear editing desk, radio communications and antennas. We also had to change all the paperwork with the Tour organisers, so the mood took a downturn. But the crew took off that afternoon and headed for London.

The trip started in London with parking tickets and a camera theft and proceeded downhill from there leading up to this:


Nobody was injured but the race had to be re-routed to a different road. They were driving and their car (a Renault) burst into flames. The opened the back hatch door and started tossing their camera and computer bags out of the vehicle but the flames got too intense and they bailed. The car started sparking and throwing burning bits of itself all over the bags causing them to burn. The second picture is several tens of thousands of dollars of camera bodies, lenses and one laptop. Ouch!

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