September 2007 Archives

Memo from Obvious-land - data backups

A sad story but one that could have been prevented with a grain of thought. From BBC News:

Coppola plea after computer theft
Film director Francis Ford Coppola has appealed for the return of his computer backup device following a robbery at his house in Argentina on Wednesday.

He told Argentine broadcaster Todo Noticias he had lost 15 years' worth of data, including writing and photographs of his family.

A script for his latest film Tetro was on one of the computers taken, along with camera equipment.

But his publicist said copies of the script were saved elsewhere.

"They stole our computers; they got all our data, many years of work, said Coppola, 68.

He said the backup that rested on the floor in the Zoetrope Argentina studio, based in his home, was just "a little thing but the information is (worth) much time".

"If I could get the backup back, it would save me years [of] all the photographs of my family, all my writing," he added.

It's not IF you backup, it's WHEN you backup, you move that stored data off-site. If you use a hard disk (actually one of the best ways to go), get two units and swap them back and forth.

A Saudi man divorced his wife. The reason? Check it out at Breitbart/AFP:
Saudi divorces wife for watching male TV host: report
A Saudi man divorced his wife for watching alone a television programme presented by a male, an act he deemed immoral, the Al Shams newspaper reported on Saturday.

The man, whom the paper did not identify, ended his marriage on the grounds his wife was effectively alone with an unrelated man, which is forbidden under the strict Islamic law enforced in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the paper said.
Hey Jen -- pack your bags, we're moving. NOT! Talk about ninth century barbarianism. The next thing you know they will be stoning people to death and cutting off hands and feet and heads for minor infractions. Oh wait... The sooner we wean ourselves off their Oil, the better -- let them sink back into the cess-pit of their own making.

A brilliant bit of advertising

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Hat tip to Wizbang Media for the link to this advertisement on YouTube. Whoever did this isn't earning nearly what they are worth. A perfect setup and a wonderful delivery of a very strong message.
From The Economist:
Ethanol, schmethanol
Everyone seems to think that ethanol is a good way to make cars greener.
Everyone is wrong

Sometimes you do things simply because you know how to. People have known how to make ethanol since the dawn of civilisation, if not before. Take some sugary liquid. Add yeast. Wait. They have also known for a thousand years how to get that ethanol out of the formerly sugary liquid and into a more or less pure form. You heat it up, catch the vapour that emanates, and cool that vapour down until it liquefies.

The result burns. And when Henry Ford was experimenting with car engines a century ago, he tried ethanol out as a fuel. But he rejected it�and for good reason. The amount of heat you get from burning a litre of ethanol is a third less than that from a litre of petrol. What is more, it absorbs water from the atmosphere. Unless it is mixed with some other fuel, such as petrol, the result is corrosion that can wreck an engine's seals in a couple of years. So why is ethanol suddenly back in fashion? That is the question many biotechnologists in America have recently asked themselves.

The obvious answer is that, being derived from plants, ethanol is �green�. The carbon dioxide produced by burning it was recently in the atmosphere. Putting that CO2 back into the air can therefore have no adverse effect on the climate. But although that is true, the real reason ethanol has become the preferred green substitute for petrol is that people know how to make it�that, and the subsidies now available to America's maize farmers to produce the necessary feedstock. Yet such things do not stop ethanol from being a lousy fuel. To solve that, the biotechnologists argue, you need to make a better fuel that is equally green. Which is what they are trying to do.
The article then goes on to talk about a couple other alternatives to Ethanol which might yield better quality fuel.
The first step on the road has been butanol. This is also a type of alcohol that can be made by fermenting sugar (though the fermentation is done by a species of bacterium rather than by yeast), and it has some advantages over ethanol. It has more carbon atoms in its molecules (four, instead of two), which means more energy per litre�though it is still only 85% as rich as petrol. It also has a lower tendency to absorb water from the atmosphere.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg -- check out the article for a fascinating ramble through some really interesting chemistry spinoffs and pure research...

A truly sad day - Cox and Forkum

One of my favorite editorial cartoon sites is Cox and Forkum. Today they posted this:
With mixed emotions I announce: John and I will no longer be producing editorial cartoons. John will continue posting his work at his blog, John Cox Art, and he and I will continue working together on various projects, but there will be no more regularly scheduled editorial cartoons. The Web site will remain running indefinitely, as a means to market our books and as an archive of our work.
I understand that people move on to different things but Crap... They will be missed.

Crappy Corporate Website - Kraft Foods

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We have a rural grocery store 27 miles from the nearest city. Because of this, we try to stock what our customers want, rather than having just the basic 'convenience store' selection of overly salted, fatty crap. A number of people asked for Knox Unflavored Gelatin but none of the distributors that we use carries it. It is a product licensed under Kraft Foods so I go to look at their website for Knox products. Lots of recipe ideas, there is an online retail store, a place to sign in and 'join' the website (makes me think of joining a Borg Collective). There is a place labeled 'Contact Us' but it connects me to a FAQ list. Item #1 will yield an email address but not what I was looking for. My request is which of the national food distributors carries this product on a wholesale basis. Most companies have this - the absence of it on the Kraft site is a glaring omissions. The web designer made a very "pretty" site but for a store with money to spend, wanting to buy case-lots of their product, we are left high and dry. I will follow up on this as I will be emailing them -- see what the turnaround time is and if they are able to help me...
Corn prices have shot up because the US Government is subsidizing corn-based ethanol production for use as a fuel even though the process is barely break-even if that. Now, from the NY Times (use bugmenot for registration), the high price of corn means that the US entities that provide food to poor people are buying and giving out less. Here is the article:
As Prices Soar, U.S. Food Aid Buys Less
Soaring food prices, driven in part by demand for ethanol made from corn, have helped slash the amount of food aid the government buys to its lowest level in a decade, possibly resulting in more hungry people around the world this year.

The United States, the world�s dominant donor, has purchased less than half the amount of food aid this year that it did in 2000, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture.

�The people who are starving and have to rely on food aid, they will suffer,� Jean Ziegler, who reports to the United Nations on hunger and food issues, said in an interview this week.

Corn prices have fallen in recent months, but are still far higher than they were a year ago. Demand for ethanol has also indirectly driven the rising price of soybeans, as land that had been planted with soybeans shifted to corn. And wheat prices have skyrocketed, in large part because drought hurt production in Australia, a major producer, economists say.

The higher food prices have not only reduced the amount of American food aid for the hungry, but are also making it harder for the poorest people to buy food for themselves, economists and advocates for the hungry say.

�We fear the steady rise of food prices will hit those on the front lines of hunger the hardest,� said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program. The United States is the biggest contributor to the agency.
And to those fine folks at Archer Daniels Midland, a hearty fuck you for lobbying for this subsidy. Hat tip to Glenn at Instapundit for the link.

Ouch! 3Com to be sold off

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One of the biggies isn't doing that well anymore. From the NY Times: (use bugmenot for registration)
Bain and Chinese Company to Acquire 3Com
3Com, an unprofitable computer networking company, said yesterday that it had agreed to be acquired by Bain Capital Partners for $2.2 billion in cash in an arrangement that also gives a Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, a minority stake in the company.

The deal means the end of an era for a storied Silicon Valley company that has stumbled in recent years in the face of more nimble competitors like Cisco and Nortel.

It also provides yet another test case for Washington lawmakers wary of high-technology deals with Chinese companies that they think could compromise American security.

Edgar Masri, 3Com�s president and chief executive, said the buyout would help make 3Com more competitive. �Going private will give us more flexibility,� he said. �We will be able to focus on our long-term strategic objectives.�
China is certainly a strong trading partner but are they our friends? The Clinton love affair with China caused a number of security breaches at Los Alamos and other places. Hsu has questionable sources of funds. The Times looks at this:
The proposed sale is almost certain to attract close scrutiny in Washington, where Huawei has long attracted suspicions over supposed links to China�s military and intelligence agencies. The company�s reclusive founder and president, Ren Zhengfei, is a former Chinese army engineer.

Michael R. Wessel, a commissioner of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was created by Congress to monitor bilateral relations, said that the federal government�s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States �should take a hard look at this transaction� before allowing Huawei to buy part of 3Com.

Mr. Wessel, who also criticized the Chinese company Lenovo�s acquisition of I.B.M.�s personal computer business three years ago, pointed to reports this month that Chinese hackers had tried to penetrate military computer systems at the Pentagon and in Britain. He said that Huawei�s control of an important network security provider like 3Com would raise national security issues.
Let's see -- we are offering the Chinese access to devices that have CPUs in them, run code that is encrypted, and pass all of the internet traffic for personal, corporate and military computers... Sound like a good idea to you? Not to me...
The most recent software update from Apple fixes a couple of bad security holes but it also does something else. A number of hackers (in the good sense) have been finding ways to get the iPhone to run without having to sign up with AT&T's very expensive two year contract. Now, these phones have been bricked and will not even work with the authentic AT&T SIM card... PC World has the full gory details.
Hat tip to Charles at LGF:
Illinois Schools Canceling Christmas and Halloween to Avoid Offending Muslims

Another absolutely disgusting example of pre-emptive dhimmitude, in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, right here in the US: First Jell-O, now Santa.
So long, Halloween parade. Farewell, Santa's gift shop.

The holiday traditions are facing elimination in some Oak Lawn schools this year after complaints that the activities are offensive, particularly to Muslim students.

Final decisions on which of the festivities will be axed will fall to the principals at each of Ridgeland School District 122's five schools, Supt. Tom Smyth said.

Parents expect that the announcement is going to add to the tension that has been building since officials agreed earlier this month to change the lunch menu to exclude items containing pork to accommodate Muslim students. News that Jell-O was struck from the menu caused such a stir that officials have agreed to bring it back. Gelatin is often made with tissue or bones of pigs or other animals.

That controversy now appears to have been been dwarfed by the holiday debate, which became so acrimonious Wednesday that police were called to Columbus Manor School to intervene in a shouting match among parents.

"It's difficult when you change the school's culture," said Columbus Manor Principal Sandy Robertson.
Ye Gods! What a bunch of idiots and cowards and to think that these are the people that many parents rely on to teach their children right and wrong and the thin shades of gray in-between...

Wishes sometimes come true - in spades!

David St.Lawrence writes at Making Ripples and is a retired computer executive who has moved to a small town and is setting up a business (or two or three).

I find a lot of resonance in his writings because his story is very similar to mine.

Today he writes about something that Jen and I are very much experiencing:

Be very careful what you wish for...
Once upon a time, I had this dream of a home in the country with a bright, spacious, workshop with all of the tools I would need to design and produce wonderful things that clients might need. I would spend my days working on new designs for clients and would enjoy country life to the fullest.

In this dream, I envisioned that Gretchen would have her own studio where she could paint and she would spend her days creating art and working with other artists on group projects.

While I fully expected this to happen, I didn't take into account the multiplier effect that occurs when other people think you have a reasonably good idea and helpfully pile on by sending you business and getting you involved in all sorts of other activities.

I am working seven days a week to keep up with demand in my new custom framing business and Gretchen is driving to and fro like a soccer mom to exhibit her work and to staff the gallery she created with 5 other artists.

We smile wistfully at each other over breakfast and promise to get together real soon for a glass of wine on the back deck...when things slow down a bit. Then a hug, a quick smooch, and tires are spinning on the gravel driveway as we sprint off in separate directions to keep our new enterprises and our new commitments from toppling over on us.

We are happy with what we have created. It is just that thanks to our many friends, we have more on our plates at this moment than we planned for.

We will prevail and may even get organized.

A special thanks to all who have helped.

Tune in later for more posts on this subject.

Heh... Been there, done that and have several of the tee-shirts.

Boston, now and then

Planning our trip to new England and I ran across this excellent rant/essay about old Boston and today's socalist workers paradise. Check it out at the always excellent Sippican Cottage:
The Government Got Big. People Got Small



These are the same building. Let me explain.

The first is the old Boston City Hall. It's still standing, on School Street in Boston. It's in a pleasant little courtyard, across from the venerable Parker House Hotel. It doesn't have any civic function any more. It's filled with restaurants and offices now. It's a handsome building.

The second picture is what's called by real locals as the "New City Hall." It's almost forty years old, but Boston is a provincial place. They'll call it that forever. I'm from Boston. Let me assure you all: The New City Hall and environs is the ugliest place in our solar system. They should read Vogon poetry from a balcony there every day, all day.

I've been in the New City Hall. I've talked to lots of people that have been in it, and plenty more that have worked in it. And it's been unanimous. It's the most hateful, anti-human, drafty, cold, forbidding dungeon in the world.

They should demolish it. But that's not enough. They should exhume the corpses of the architects, and the politicians that hired them, and shoot them into the sun. If they're not dead, all the better. They constructed the worst place on earth. Expiation of that kind of guilt requires a substantial gesture. Not the sun though, now that I think of it. It's too warm there. The sun never shines in that building. Pluto.

Let's say you'd never seen that building before. The monstrosity, not the pleasant one. I could tell you it was a prison, and you'd not only believe me, you'd write your congressman to complain about how poorly treated prison inmates must be to be housed in such a place. If I told you secret police in East Germany tortured people in there, what visual clue could you glean from the photo that would give away the misattribution? No one would enter an upside-down abattoir looking place like that unless they were handcuffed and screaming, would they? If it said Arbeit Macht Frei over the door, would it surprise you?
They also voice their opinion of Boston's current mayor:
The current Mayor of Boston might be the least attractive example of a public official I can imagine. If he didn't exude a sort of lumpen aura of venality and corruption, like a dim plumber who cheats on his bills, he'd have no interesting attributes at all.
A good read... Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link.

Aaaaiiiiii!!! - my eyes! my eyes! - part deux

Back in August of 2005, I posted a photo of 'comedian' Carrot Top Today, via an online forum, we can see that he has gotten a lot worse. I could see from the first photo that he liked to body build but what's with the makeup and nail polish and geeeez, he looks really strung out. Click here: Carrot Top Need a couple gallons of eye bleach - full strength please!

Applying for work at Google?

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When you apply for work at any high-tech company, it is part of the hiring process for you to be given some very odd questions. The idea is that although you may not get the right answer, your trying to solve these shows how you think and solve problems. The London Times has a few of the questions that Google asks and the comments section has some serious and not so serious attempts at answering. Here are three of them:
If you look at a clock and the time is 3:15, what is the angle between the hour and the minute hands?

How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?

You have eight balls all of the same size. 7 of them weigh the same, and one of them weighs slightly more. How can you find the ball that is heavier by using a balance and only two weighings?
Fun stuff! My favorite from when I worked at Microsoft was:
You have a room with three light bulbs in it.
Outside of the room are three switches.
The switches are not labeled as to which light bulb they control.
You cannot see the individual light bulbs from where the switches are.

You have access to the switches and then you walk into the room and from that, tell me which switch goes to which lightbulb.
Answer is actually pretty easy.

Quote of the day from Robert Laird

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A journalist who 'gets it'
"Resisting the rolling vote of the Internet as if it were some negligible troublemaker rather than a tsunami is suicidal. Its armies of fact-checkers and near eternal memory mean that print journalists must change. Their business has stopped being a private club. They must read their critics, do more follow-ups, cite more and better identified sources, admit mistakes fully and prominently, and undertake to criticize themselves as conscientiously as if they understood there was more than one legitimate perspective on their work.

Above all, they have to accept that there will never be a last page."
Hat tip to Newsbeat Robert's web page is here: Instapunk He is the author of The Boomer Bible

Light posting tonight

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We finally close on Crossroads Grocery this coming Friday (took a while to get the Beer/Wine permits) so I have been really busy - that and closing out Probate on my Mom's estate. Been spending six to ten hours in Bellingham running around getting the last little details taken care of while Jen has been working with our vendors to facilitate the changeover (we have a LOT of vendors!) We are also planning a nice trip next week -- a long-time friend of the family passed away earlier this year and the memorial service is on October 5th in Connecticut. Jen, my Dad and i are flying out for this but we are spending another ten days driving through New England. I went to school at Boston University and spent quite a bit of time in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont so we will be revisiting a lot of old haunts right in the middle of prime fall foliage season. My Mom and Dad also spent a lot of time there during WW-II and vacationed there back in the 60's and 70's so he is looking forward to this trip as well. Jen has never been out there so this will be new for her. Anyway, we met in town for our weekly acupuncture treatments, had a nice dinner and I am looking at surfing a little bit, having a glass or two of some nice wine, checking email and heading off to bed for an early morning tomorrow -- the Llamas need to be fed (two person operation), the Goats will probably need feed and water as well -- we are still running a farm as well as all the rest... Sleep is highly overrated.

Hey Michael Vick - Karma's a bitch isn't she

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Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. From the Canadian Press:
Piling on: Royal Bank demands US$2M in lawsuit against Michael Vick
Royal Bank of Canada is suing suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for more than US$2.3 million.

The Toronto-based bank argues that his guilty plea to federal dogfighting charges and the resulting impact on his career have prevented him from repaying a loan.

Vick borrowed $2.5 million in January with plans to use the money for real estate investments, Royal Bank said in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Newport News.

The loan's terms specify that any employment change reducing Vick's income constitutes a default on the loan, according to the lawsuit.

Last month, Vick pleaded guilty to bankrolling a dogfighting ring at a property he owned in Surry County, near his hometown of Newport News.

Vick faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in December, has been indefinitely suspended without pay and has lost all his major sponsors, including Nike. On Tuesday, he was indicted on state charges related to dogfighting.

"The criminal charges, and resulting impact on the defendant's employment ... materially affect his ability to repay the term note," the bank said in the lawsuit.

The bank is demanding $2,313,694.37, plus $499 in interest per day, starting Sept. 19, as well as lawyer's fees.
Wince! Still, he knowingly broke the law and was financially overextended. Payback time...

Buy a Nerd auction

Cute idea -- shoulda had this when I was a student at Boston Univeristy back a few (cough) years ago...

From the Seattle Times:

'Nerd auction' seeks publicity, dates
Looking to recruit more women, and perhaps date some sorority women, the largest computer club at Washington State University hopes to hold a "nerd auction."

The idea is to trade their computer skills to sorority girls in exchange for a makeover and, possibly, a date.

"You can buy a nerd and he'll fix your computer, help you with stats homework, or if you're really adventurous, take you to dinner!" Ben Ford, president of the Linux Users Group, said on its Web site.

Ford acknowledged that some of the group's 213 registered members may not be ready for the auction block.

"The problem is that we're all still nerds. Let's face it, guys. If anyone's going to bid on us, we'll need some spicing up," he wrote. "And who better to help with that than sorority girls who like nothing better than a makeover?"

This all began as an effort to recruit more women into computer science programs and a public relations class decided to help.

"Our conclusion was that they need to promote themselves better, then specific ideas were presented to them," said professor Moon Lee, who taught the public relations class. "They made suggestions to work with specific groups such as sororities. Sorority groups tend to have a very good social network."


Quote of the day - the English Language

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From an email, no author attribution:
"The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant. If omitted in one place, they turn up in another. When a Bostonian "pahks" his "cah," the lost r's migrate southwest, causing a Texan to "warsh" his car and invest in "erl wells." ~ Unknown
So true... While trying to find the author for that quote, I ran into this one:
If an infinite number of rednecks riding in an infinite number of pickup trucks fire an infinite number of shotgun rounds at an infinite number of highway signs, they will eventually produce all the world's great literary works in Braille.
From here.
There are a number of contenders in the world of downloadable songs. just stepped up to the plate with a massive entry. From Business Wire: Launches Public Beta of Amazon MP3, a Digital Music Store Offering Customers Earth's Biggest Selection of a la Carte DRM-Free MP3 Music Downloads
Amazon MP3 Offers Over 2 Million Songs From More Than 180,000 Artists and Over 20,000 Labels, Including EMI Music and Universal Music Group, Inc. today launched a public beta of "Amazon MP3", a new digital music download store with Earth"s biggest selection of a la carte DRM-free MP3 music downloads. Amazon MP3 has over 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists represented by over 20,000 major and independent labels. Amazon MP3 complements's existing selection of over 1 million CDs to now offer customers more selection of physical and digital music than any other retailer.

"Amazon MP3 is an all-MP3, DRM-free catalog of a la carte music from major labels and independent labels, playable on any device, in high-quality audio, at low prices," said Bill Carr, Vice President for Digital Music. "This new digital music service has already been through an extensive private beta, and today we're excited to offer it to our customers as a fully functional public beta. We look forward to receiving feedback from our customers and using their input to refine the service."

Every song and album on Amazon MP3 is available exclusively in the MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM) software. This means that Amazon MP3 customers are free to enjoy their music downloads using any hardware device, including PCs, Macs, iPods, Zunes, Zens, iPhones, RAZRs, and BlackBerrys; organize their music using any music management application such as iTunes or Windows Media Player; and burn songs to CDs.

Most songs are priced from 89 cents to 99 cents, with more than 1 million of the 2 million songs priced at 89 cents. The top 100 best-selling songs are 89 cents, unless marked otherwise. Most albums are priced from $5.99 to $9.99. The top 100 best-selling albums are $8.99 or less, unless marked otherwise.

Every song on Amazon MP3 is encoded at 256 kilobits per second, which gives customers high audio quality at a manageable file size.

Buying and downloading MP3s from Amazon MP3 is easy. Customers can purchase downloads using Amazon 1-Click shopping, and with the Amazon MP3 Downloader, seamlessly add their MP3s to their iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries.

Amazon MP3 has over 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists spanning every genre of music, including 50 Cent, Alison Krauss, Amy Winehouse, Ani DiFranco, Arcade Fire, Beastie Boys, Coldplay, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, John Coltrane, KT Tunstall, Keith Urban, Koko Taylor, Lily Allen, Madeleine Peyroux, Maroon 5, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Morrissey, Nelly, Nickel Creek, Nirvana, Norah Jones, Paul McCartney, Philip Glass, Pink Floyd, Pixies, Radiohead, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Spoon, Stevie Wonder, The Chemical Brothers, The Decemberists, and The Rolling Stones.

"Well done Amazon for making so much music available to so many people," said KT Tunstall. "It's good to know, in the words of The King, you're taking care of business!"

Leading independent labels offering their catalog of music for the first time as DRM-free MP3s include Alligator Records, HighTone Records, Madacy Entertainment, Sanctuary Records, Rounder Records, Righteous Babe Records, Sugar Hill Records, and Trojan Records.
Quite the library, decent encoding and pricing and DRM-free. What's not to love... I would love to be a fly on the wall at Zune or iTunes right now. Heh...

A royal smackdown

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As you may well know, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in NYC to deliver a speech at the United Nations (spit). He was also invited to speak at Columbia University as part of their Columbia University World Leaders Forum. The President of Columbia University -- Doctor Lee C. Bollinger -- got a lot of grief for allowing this terrorist supporter and despot to speak at a major University but I don't think that anyone was prepared for Dr. Bollinger's opening introduction. The full transcript is here: President Lee C. Bollinger's Introductory Remarks at SIPA-World Leaders Forum with President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- Sept. 24, 2007 Here are a few bon mots:
Lastly, in universities, we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power. We cannot make war or peace. We can only make minds. And to do this we must have the most full freedom of inquiry.

Let me now turn to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
And turn to him he does...
The arrest and imprisonment of these Iranian Americans for no good reason is not only unjustified, it runs completely counter to the very values that allow today�s speaker to even appear on this campus.

But at least they are alive.

According to Amnesty International, 210 people have been executed in Iran so far this year � 21 of them on the morning of September 5th alone. This annual total includes at least two children � further proof, as Human Rights Watch puts it, that Iran leads the world in executing minors.

There is more.
Oh indeed there is...
We at this university have not been shy to protest and challenge the failures of our own government to live by these values; and we won�t be shy in criticizing yours.

Let�s, then, be clear at the beginning, Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

And so I ask you:

Why have women, members of the Baha�i faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?

Why in a letter last week to the Secretary General of the UN did Akbar Gangi, Iran�s leading political dissident, and over 300 public intellectuals, writers and Nobel Laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the West is distracting the world�s attention from the intolerable conditions your regime has created within Iran? In particular, the use of the Press Law to ban writers for criticizing the ruling system.

Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?
And more:
In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as a �fabricated� �legend.� One year later, you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers.

For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda. When you come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.

You should know that Columbia is a world center of Jewish studies and now, in partnership with the YIVO Institute, of Holocaust studies. Since the 1930s, we�ve provided an intellectual home for countless Holocaust refugees and survivors and their children and grandchildren. The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history. Because of this, and for many other reasons, your absurd comments about the �debate� over the Holocaust both defy historical truth and make all of us who continue to fear humanity�s capacity for evil shudder at this closure of memory, which is always virtue�s first line of defense.

Will you cease this outrage?
There is just too much stuff to even begin to excerpt. Destruction of Israel, Proxy war in Iraq, Support for organized terrorism, Nuclear development. Dr. Bollinger closes with these words:
Let me close with this comment. Frankly, and in all candor, Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately, I am told by experts on your country, that this only further undermines your position in Iran with all the many good-hearted, intelligent citizens there. A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country (as in your meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations) so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party�s defeat in the December mayoral elections. May this do that and more.

I am only a professor, who is also a university president, and today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.
Wow! Just Wow!

Protesting against a corrupt government.

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Major protests in the US run anywhere from a few dozen up to a few thousand these days. This is even though people like George Soros are doing heavy funding of any anti-American group. Some Buddhist monks in Burma are protesting their government and getting a bit higher turnout.
From ABC News/AP:
100,000 Turn Out for Myanmar Protest
Government Warns Monks After 100,000 Take Part in Myanmar Protest March

Myanmar's military government issued a threat Monday to the barefoot Buddhist monks who led 100,000 people marching through a major city in the strongest protests against the repressive regime for two decades.

The warning shows the increasing pressure the junta is under to either crack down on or compromise with a reinvigorated democracy movement. The monks have taken their traditional role as the conscience of society, backing the military into a corner from which it may lash out again.

The authorities did not stop the protests Monday, even as they built to a scale and fervor that rivaled the pro-democracy uprising of 1988 when the military fired on peaceful crowds and killed thousands, terrorizing the country. The government has been handling the monks gingerly, wary of raising the ire of ordinary citizens in this devout, predominantly Buddhist nation.

However, on Monday night the country's religious affairs minister appeared on state television to accuse the monks of being manipulated by the regime's domestic and foreign enemies. Meeting with senior monks at Yangon's Kaba Aye Pagoda, Brig. Gen. Thura Myint Maung said the protesting monks represented just 2 percent of the country's population. He suggested that if senior monks did not restrain them, the government would act according to its own regulations, which he did not detail.

Also on Monday, the White House weighed in with the threat of additional sanctions against the Myanmar regime and those who provide it with financial aid. President Bush is expected to announce the sanctions Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly. The United States restricts imports and exports and financial transactions with Myanmar, also known as Burma.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged authorities in Myanmar to exercise restraint in the face of the protests and expressed hope the military-led government would "seize this opportunity" to include all opposition groups in the political process.

The current protests began on Aug. 19 after the government sharply raised fuel prices in what is one of Asia's poorest countries. But they are based in deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the repressive military government that has ruled the country in one form or another since 1962.
This is not getting very wide coverage by the left-leaning MSM for one very simple reason. The liberals in the United States of America like to think that they are speaking troof-to-power against a repressive regime. Hence the piss-poor turnouts at their protests. What you are seeing in Burma is, in reality, a repressive regime and also, in reality, a people dedicated to peace and democratic representation. The citizens voice is being raised and it is, indeed truth being spoken to power. A perfect case of Reality v/s Delusion... For more on the protests, check out the Democratic Voice of Burma Some of the photos of the demonstrations from their web site.

More on Hsu and the Democratic party

The more you read about the guy, the more of an odious little twat he seems to be... From the New York Post:


Norman Hsu had an ugly secret, and was desperate for sympathy.

He phoned a woman he had briefly dated - after duping her in an investment scam - picked her up in his car, and peeled off his shirt.

"It was horrible," she recalled. "There were bubbling, yellow acid burns from his shoulder down his arm to his elbow."

Hsu told her Chinese gangsters had kidnapped and tortured him, angrily demanding, "Where's the money?"

More than 17 years later, she and many other furious people are asking the same question.

In the past month, Hsu's checkered past and murky business practices have come under increasing scrutiny.

He not only swindled investors but strong-armed them into donating thousands of dollars to Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign and to other Democratic candidates, authorities and lawsuits say.

He wowed one investor in Orange County, Calif., during a meeting in which he had Clinton join them "live" via videoconference. From a huge screen, the New York senator greeted Hsu warmly, and called him a "good friend and trusted associate."

Trying to impress would-be investors, he also dropped names like supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, "Spider-Man" star Toby Maguire and movie director Steven Spielberg.

Last week, federal prosecutors charged the 56-year-old Hsu with stealing $60 million from unwitting investors nationwide in various Ponzi schemes.

He's being held without bail in California on a 1992 arrest warrant. The FBI caught him on a train in Grand Junction, Colo., after he sent out a suicide note and took an overdose of sleeping pills, according to his lawyer.

The trail of deceit and greed reaches back to the 1980s, when the then-young entrepreneur, who boasted a master's degree from the elite Wharton School of Business, dabbled in various businesses, including a Chinese restaurant, a real-estate partnership, and apparel.

By the end of 1990, Hsu filed for bankruptcy, claiming little more than a $250 wedding ring from his failed marriage. He owed 52 creditors - including his ex-wife, father-in-law and friends - more than $1.6 million, records show.

Meanwhile, Hsu dreamed up his first business scam, raking in more than $1 million from 18 associates in a purported venture to sell latex gloves.

In classic Ponzi style, he paid a handsome return to the first investors, convincing others to jump in. But no latex was ever sold.

And coming up to the present Democratic party "issues"

So Hsu went on to pull off bigger and bigger Ponzi schemes.

A group of New York-area investors lost $40 million in Hsu's fake venture to sell designer menswear made in China. They now accuse Hsu of blowing the money on politics and his "extravagant international lifestyle."

Hsu rented a luxury SoHo apartment and hosted parties at posh restaurants.

Besides giving campaign cash in his own name - using addresses including the Mid-Manhattan Public Library - he hit on possible investors.

Hsu fooled the most sophisticated business people by boasting of his involvement with powerful Democratic politicians, says a suit filed Friday in Orange County, accusing Hsu of ripping off more than $28 million from 50 investors in a phantom venture to sell short-term loans.

"Hsu maintained the appearance of a reputation beyond reproach," the suit says.

Take scam victim Marty Waters, who was hooked in by Hsu "in a careful and calculating fashion," the suit says.

Hsu invited Waters to take part in 40 small investment deals. Each time, Hsu gave Waters a promissory note agreement and a post-dated check for the full principal and interest promised as a return. The bank always honored the checks.

Because of the success of the small deals, word spread and Waters recruited family and friends to also invest.

Eventually, the big deal came around. In May, Hsu announced a major venture to sell short-term "bridge" loans to businesses for a high rate of return. Investors poured in $28 million.

But the first payoff never came - and Hsu's check to Waters bounced.

The duped investors now say Hsu gained their confidence in his business acumen by bragging that Hillary Clinton "carefully screened" her fund-raisers to ensure their integrity and credibility, the suit says.

However, they say Hsu further exploited that trust starting in 2006, when he "imposed a condition" that future investors had to donate cash to specific campaigns, including Clinton's presidential run.

"He would say, 'You had a great investment with me before. If you want another, I want you to contribute the maximum under federal election law to Hillary Clinton,' " said lawyer William Bollard, who represents the investors.

One victim hand-delivered to Hsu nearly $30,000 in checks from investors made payable to the Clinton campaign, the suit says.

Elected officials lapped up his cash, but some admit they had no idea why Hsu was so involved.

He projected credibility and his victims 'wanted to believe' so they glossed over all of the little irregularities. Funny that the Democratic party would get so deeply enmeshed without checking his creds...

A curious business deal

From FOX News/AP:

Arabs to Buy 20 Percent of Nasdaq, Politicians Question Deal
Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. struck a complex deal to sell a 20 percent stake to the state-owned Borse Dubai in return for control of Sweden's leading stock market, but the plan met with some questions from U.S. politicians concerned it would raise security issues.

The sale of the Nasdaq stake is part of a flurry of cross-border handshaking unveiled Thursday that holds potential to remake the already shifting landscape of global stock exchanges.

If enacted, the Nasdaq deal would let the exchange meet a long-held goal of planting a flag overseas as its larger rival, the New York Stock Exchange, did this year with the acquisition of Paris-based Euronext.

Nasdaq's plan would allow it to sidestep a further bidding war with cash-rich Borse Dubai for Sweden's OMX while Dubai gains footholds in both Nasdaq and the London Stock Exchange. Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. would pay Dubai 11.4 billion kronor ($1.72 billion) in cash. Borse Dubai would get a 19.99 percent stake in Nasdaq and two of 16 board seats in combined Nasdaq-OMX. Borse Dubai's voting rights would be limited to 5 percent, however, perhaps to help assuage concerns that a Middle Eastern government would for the first time own a sizable chunk of a U.S. exchange.

Well, Dubai is nominally friendly to the West - it is concentrating on building up wealth to sustain it through its post-petroleum days so there is hope that this isn't as bad an idea as it sounds initially. But still, the whole camel's nose under the tent story comes to mind...

But they did not give up

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A very nice collection of stories about peoples' trials and tribulations on the way to their eventual fame. A few examples:
As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. At about that time, he wrote in a letter to a friend, "I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth."

When Bell telephone was struggling to get started, its owners offered all their rights to Western Union for $100,000. The offer was disdainfully rejected with the pronouncement, "What use could this company make of an electrical toy."

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas." He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.

22 publishers rejected James Joyce's The Dubliners.
Lots more of these at the site.

Oops - biofuels and greenhouse gasses

From the London Times:

Rapeseed biofuel 'produces more greenhouse gas than oil or petrol'
A renewable energy source designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is contributing more to global warming than fossil fuels, a study suggests.

Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from rapeseed and maize have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save.

Other biofuels, especially those likely to see greater use over the next decade, performed better than fossil fuels but the study raises serious questions about some of the most commonly produced varieties.

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution.

Nitrous oxides do eventually break down (into smog of all things) but still, this is another interesting 'unintended consequence' of the whole alt-fuel bandwagon...

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???

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Remember Israel's somewhat sooper seekret incursion into Syria where some stuff might have been kinda blown up a bit? (Written about here.) It turns out this was their second visit -- their first was pretty productive too. This time, from the London Times:
Israelis seized nuclear material in Syrian raid
Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.

They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Israeli special forces had been gathering intelligence for several months in Syria, according to Israeli sources. They located the nuclear material at a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in the north.

Evidence that North Korean personnel were at the site is said to have been shared with President George W Bush over the summer. A senior American source said the administration sought proof of nuclear-related activities before giving the attack its blessing.

Diplomats in North Korea and China believe a number of North Koreans were killed in the strike, based on reports reaching Asian governments about conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials.

Syrian officials flew to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last week, reinforcing the view that the two nations were coordinating their response.
How much further do these sons of pigs and monkeys have to go before we re-educate them about living in a polite, modern and stable society. Do we need to reduce the Kaaba to a glassy crater?

Be sure to renew before June 2008

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Renew what? Your entry in the Federal Trade Commission Do Not Call list. From ABC News:
Do Not Call Listings Aren't Forever
Ring, Ring: Telemarketers Could Start Calling When Numbers on Do Not Call List Expire

The cherished dinner hour void of telemarketers could vanish next year for millions of people when phone numbers begin dropping off the national Do Not Call list.

The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the list, says there is a simple fix. But some lawmakers think it is a hassle to expect people to re-register their phone numbers every five years.

Numbers placed on the registry, begun in June 2003, are valid for five years. For the millions of people who signed onto the list in its early days, their numbers will automatically drop off beginning next June if they do not enroll again.

"It is incredibly quick and easy to do," Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "It was so easy for people to sign up in the first instance. It will be just as easy for them to re-up."
Here is the link to use:
New Orleans -- the gift that just keeps on giving.
Houston crime shows U.N. refugees the sinister side of America
When they came to America, some of them just a few weeks ago, they couldn�t wait to begin their quest for the American dream.

�We are refugees. We are from our country. We are suffering here,� Morisho Saleh said.

Saleh is a refugee from Africa. He�s just one of dozens of Africans brought to the states by a United Nations program that enables the persecuted to get out of harm�s way.

These victims of many wars were literally dropped off in southwest Houston at an apartment complex where there�s a brewing clash of cultures.

�I don�t know why people think we stink. We�re this � We�re that,� Saleh said.

While they thought their hardest obstacles would be learning English and having enough food to eat, in reality trying to survive the crime has moved to the top of the list.

Many claim they�re being assaulted. The latest such attack occurred Friday morning.

The refugee that was assaulted had to be taken to a local hospital. The attack was reportedly over a cell phone.

Over the last few weeks, at least six refugees have been assaulted.

The victims describe their attackers as black Americans, some of them allegedly evacuees from Louisiana.

One young victim says he and his sister were attacked.

�We don�t know how to protect ourselves. Some of us are newcomers. We are new to America,� he said.

Even though they�re learning firsthand about an America that has a dark underbelly, it�s not dark enough to extinguish their hopes.

Managers at the complex said they spend thousands of dollars on security, but the refugees say more needs to be done.
A truly sad story -- the article doesn't quite come out and say it but the attackers are most likely black, single-parent, drug using thugs who moved to Houston after Katrina and liked the opportunities for crime in their newly adopted city. Crime statistics prove this out. From the always excellent City Journal:
Houston�s Noble Experiment
Can good government uplift the New Orleans evacuees whom bad government harmed?

From the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina emerges a historic natural experiment: Can one city�s good governance help undo what another city�s bad governance helped create?
(An excellent article -- well worth the five minutes or so to read.) From the Houston Chronicle:
Homicide rate on track to be worst in a decade
Evacuees play large role in the rise, police say

With more than 300 homicides since January, Houston is on pace to record nearly 400 slayings for the year - which would be the highest number of killings the city has seen in more than a decade.

As of Oct. 16, the city had recorded 316 homicides, up 25 percent from the 252 slayings at this time last year. The Houston Police Department said an uptick in homicides by Hurricane Katrina evacuees has contributed to that increase.

"We recognize that the homicide rate is up as far as raw numbers and as well as percentages relative to the population," said Capt. Dwayne Ready. "We also recognize that Katrina evacuees continue to have an impact on the murder rate."
And from the Washington Post:
After Welcoming Evacuees, Houston Handles Spike in Crime
Population Swell Fills Apartments and Strains Police Force

The southwest corner of this city is one sprawling low-rise apartment complex after the next, a once-hot real estate area that died with the 1980s oil bust only to be reborn in the '90s as a low-income, high-crime neighborhood. Now it's Katrina turf.

New Tony's Express, a neighborhood convenience store, is sold out of T-shirts and caps stenciled with the numbers 504, 985 and 337 -- the area codes for New Orleans and southern Louisiana. The emergency room of West Houston Medical Center is so busy treating Hurricane Katrina evacuees the staff jokingly calls itself "Charity West," a reference to New Orleans's venerable Charity Hospital.

And now, police say that southwest Houston, long recognized as a problem area, is facing another manifestation of the Louisiana exodus: Katrina crime.

Since Sept. 1, when an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Louisianans resettled in Houston after Hurricane Katrina, evacuees are believed to have been involved in 26 slayings, or nearly 17 percent of all homicides. The cases, according to Houston police, involved 34 evacuees -- 19 of them victims and 15 of them suspects.

Late last month, investigators in the Houston Police Department's Gang Murder Squad announced the arrests of eight of 11 suspects believed linked to nine homicides in the city's southwest side and two others in nearby Pasadena, Tex. The slayings occurred since November, and all the suspects are displaced New Orleanians who landed in Houston after the hurricane.

"We did not initiate this effort with the intention of singling out New Orleans or Louisiana people," said Lt. Robert Manza, a police department spokesman. "It just so happens that every single one we arrested and three we're looking for are New Orleans residents."

"The message is clear: We're going to relocate these men from apartments in Houston to a prison in Texas," Manza said. "That's going to be their next home."
Heh -- welcome to Texas where the LEOs mean what they say and have the will to back it up with action. The "culture" of the urban black reminds me a lot of Golding's Lord of the Flies.

Cool Astronomy technology

Often the simplest ideas are the best ones... From MS/NBC:
A Heavenly View
New and relatively cheap telescope technology is putting the universe into incredibly sharp focus. Is the Hubble being rendered obsolete?

Can a $20,000 camera coupled to a 60-year-old telescope shoot sharper images than the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope? Absolutely, say astronomers from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology.

To prove their point they suggest looking at the top of the Mount Palomar Observatory near San Diego. This summer a team from both universities grafted their �Lucky imaging� system onto the observatory�s Hale Telescope and aimed it at M13, a star cluster that�s 25,000 light years away. The results were much better than they expected. �What we�ve done for the first time is produce the highest-resolution [images] ever taken--and we took them from the ground,� says Craig Mackay of Cambridge�s Institute of Astronomy, who led the team. �We are getting twice the resolution of Hubble.�

That�s no small task. While the heat and water vapor in the Earth�s atmosphere make stars seem to sparkle, their blurring effect also severely limits the image clarity of ground-based telescopes. Eliminate the atmosphere, and the view from an observatory would be 20 times clearer.

Getting past the atmosphere was the reason space-based telescopes like the Hubble were created. And for the past 17 years, the images it has produced have dropped jaws and raised the standard in astronomical imaging.

But then astronomers at Cambridge and Caltech got �Lucky.� To create their system they made the most of an existing technology, adaptive optics, and enhanced it with a super-high-speed digital camera that�s capable of shooting 20 images every second, says Nicholas Law, a Caltech postdoctoral scholar who worked on the Lucky project.

Adaptive optics is a way of correcting the atmosphere�s distortion of light as it enters the telescope. A sensor measures the distortion and corrects most of it using a flexible mirror that shifts the light back into straight lines. Then the Lucky camera shoots in rapid-fire fashion, and astronomers select the images that capture moments when atmospheric distortion is minimal.
The reporting is a bit hyperbolic as although it does offer an amazing increase in ground-based resolution, it doesn't begin to compete with what Hubble does best which is far dim objects. Taking rapid-fire exposures limits you to short exposure times and bright objects. Hubble (and other ground-based scope exposures) deal with exposure times upwards of hours - they capture a lot of the fine dim details that this system simply cannot. That being said, the results are pretty spiffy:
Wikipedia has a good explanation: Lucky imaging And backyard astronomers can do it with cheap webcams and free software (because you are stacking multiple exposures, the overall resolution becomes much higher than the cheap webcam). Check out here, here, here and here Here is an image of the Moon perfect subject for this technology)taken with a 0.8M Pixel webcam:
Cool stuff!!!

Baby John

A rather sweet but macabre story with a stupidly unfortunate decision by a Judge.

From Boston television station WHDH-TV:

Judge orders Concord man to have mummified baby buried
A judge has ordered a Concord man to lay an unusual family heirloom to rest.

Probate Judge Richard Hampe said the mummified baby known as "Baby John" passed down for generations through Charles Peavey's family must be buried because there is no DNA evidence proving kinship.

Peavey said Wednesday his family is disappointed, but will not appeal the decision.

"I'm just washing my hands of it," said Peavey. "I'm disappointed it came to this."

Until police confiscated Baby John last year, the mummy had been on display on a bureau in Peavey's home. Relatives and friends treated the desiccated infant as a family member, giving it cards during holidays and even a dried fish as a pet. Authorities learned of the mummy's existence after Peavey's niece mentioned to day care staffers that her uncle kept a dead baby at his house.

Peavey said his family believes the mummy is the stillborn child of a great-great uncle.

Testing by the state concluded the baby died of natural causes shortly after its birth and confirmed the remains were decades old, but did not determine the mummy's age or origin. Peavey said he can't afford DNA testing, and the state won't release the remains unless there is proof of a family relationship.

"It's one of the few things from our family past that we have left," Peavey had written in a petition to the court. "And when I pass on, I was looking forward to passing it on to another family member, to keep some of the history for future family members."

It should have been obvious to the Judge that this was a loved member of the family and not some disrespectful use of a human body. The dried fish for a pet was genius!!!

Like the energizer bunny, the Chinese Lead Paint stories just keep coming and coming and coming. This time it's from the San Jose Mercury News:
Lead concerns prompt warning to consumers about lunch boxes
State officials on Thursday urged consumers not to use some 56,000 potentially lead-tainted lunch boxes from China that were distributed through the Department of Public Health in an effort to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Tests found elevated levels of lead in three of the boxes, officials said.

The boxes were given out at health fairs and other events and carried a logo saying "eat fruits and vegetables and be active."

"Certainly it's unfortunate that an item we're using to hopefully promote healthy behavior is then discovered to be a potential health hazard," the department's director, Mark Horton, said in a conference call with reporters.

He said a swab test conducted by the Sacramento County Health Department in July indicated that the boxes contained lead.

Several weeks of more sophisticated testing done through the state Department of Toxic Substance Control confirmed the presence of lead "in multiple parts of the box," including the logo, he added.
How many times does China need to be told -- No Lead in the Paint...
Thanks to Maggie's Farm, we bring you this fine rant from The Guy from Boston YouTube goodness...

A vote of support from the Senate

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Why does this not surprise me... From the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler:
True Colors
The Senate voted on an amendment expressing their support for GEN Petraeus and condemning sewer-dwelling bottom-feeders (that would be, to those of you who have spent the last decade on Neptune) slandering a highly decorated member of the Armed Forces, and the result of the vote was very� informative.

Please keep in mind that this is the same general who was confirmed unanimously by the same backstabbing lunatics voting against today�s amendment.

Also keep in mind that one of the 25 NAYs belongs to the Hildevermin, the beast from the darkest corners of Hell who wants to be Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces that she obviously has no problem with impugning the honor and integrity of at every turn.

No surprise, really, after all she already called GEN Petraeus a liar to his face, but certainly something that needs to be repeated again and again.

As to the other 24 NAYs?

We�ll remember you as well.

We�ll remember you very well indeed.
Curious? You needn't be:
Statement of Purpose: To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.
The NAY voters:
Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
Like I said, no surprise at all...
August 3rd, Zogby Polls found that the approval rate for Congress performance regarding Iraq was 3%. They did another poll for general overall performance and guess what:
Zogby: Congress Gets Just 11% Approval, Lowest Ever
President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress registered record-low approval ratings in a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday, and a new monthly index measuring the mood of Americans dipped slightly on deepening worries about the economy.

Only 29 percent of Americans gave Bush a positive grade for his job performance, below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March. A paltry 11 percent rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in July.
Heh -- it will be interesting to see what happens in the next election... Hat tip to Never Yet Melted for the link.
Two months ago, at the end of July, there was a big flap over an article by a "Scott Thomas" describing military atrocities in Iraq published in the The New Republic. Here was my take on it. Now, two months later, the editor of The New Republic has yet to follow up on his promise to investigate and fact check. Bob Owens at Media Mythbusters Blog has the story:
A Journalistic Farce
Today is the two-month anniversary of Franklin Foer claiming that he and The New Republic would run an honest investigation into the claims made in a story written by Scott Thomas Beauchamp:
Several conservative blogs have raised questions about the Diarist �Shock Troops,� written by a soldier in Iraq using the pseudonym Scott Thomas. Whenever anybody levels serious accusations against a piece published in our magazine, we take those charges seriously. Indeed, we�re in the process of investigating them. I�ve spoken extensively with the author of the piece and have communicated with other soldiers who witnessed the events described in the diarist. Thus far, these conversations have done nothing to undermine�and much to corroborate�the author�s descriptions. I will let you know more after we complete our investigation.

�Franklin Foer

Editor Foer has also argued on July 26 that the article �was rigorously edited and fact-checked before it was published.�

Since that time, a few things have happened:
Bob then goes on to list item by item all of the flaws in Thomas' story and all of the promisses made by TNR's staff and editor that remain today, unfulfilled. He then closes with these thoughts:
They attempted to cover up the fact that they did not fact check Beuchamp�s articles prior to publication, and even attempted to cover up the fact that the author was married to a TNR fact-checker. Faced with legitimate questions about the veracity of claims made by their author, the editors instead attacked those raising these questions, while at the same time running a whitewash of an investigation designed to give them rhetorical cover instead of uncovering the facts.

Ultimately, it seems that even the author won�t support the articles, and The New Republic is left twisting in the wind, hoping that noone will notice just how naked, exposed, and yes, corrupt they have been over the course of this sordid story.

The editorial staff of The New Republic, led for the last time by Franklin Foer, should retract all three stories penned by Scott Thomas Beauchamp, apologize profusely to the readership of The New Republic for deceiving them for over two months, and resign.

It remains to be seen if they retain that much integrity.

Meet "The Elders"

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Christ on a Corn Dog -- what a load of solipsistic crap... From the website: The Elders
"This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken. Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair"
The speaker is Nelson Mandela - here is a brief commentary about Mr. Mandela:
"Nelson Mandela is a symbol, an icon, one of the world's most famous statesmen, recognised and revered by all. He dines with royalty, associates with the world's great leaders and his opinion is sought and valued on all weighty matters. He has achieved an almost divine status in the world, equal to that of the Pope or the late Princess Diana."

Most people on the left of the political spectrum would agree wholeheartedly with the above quote. But they run into an unexpected problem when someone asks "why is he considered such a great statesman?"

The problem is that Mandela, apart from having a likeable personality, has achieved next to nothing in his relatively short political career which saw South Africa rapidly decline to the status of the world's most violent and crime-ridden country, and, to add to the confusion, his greatest friends are communists and dictators like Fidel Castro, Moammar Qaddafi, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein. His ex-wife Winnie Mandela, whom he quickly jettisoned when it became clear she was a considerable embarassment to his political career, is a self-confessed advocate of terrorism and violence and has even committed murder.

In his public statements and speeches Mandela is always critical of the democratic countries of the west, but has nothing but praise for the remaining communist dictatorships of the world. He condemns mistakes and controversial policies of the west, but refuses to publicly condemn the genocides and brutal repression of current or former communist countries; he is supposedly a "champion of freedom and democracy", the "hero of oppressed people everywhere" but considers dictatorships like Cuba and Libya shining beacons of freedom and justice...

Perhaps this is what makes Mandela such a revered statesman - chameleon-like he can advocate democracy and freedom as the highest ideals one day and hold up Cuba or Libya as shining examples for the world to follow the next day. And his admirers do not even notice the contradiction, or worse, they agree with him...
Other luminaries on this collection of pandering idiots include Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and eight other similar luminaries. What a bunch of self-serving little ponces. Do you know what I would call one of their face-to-face meetings? A target-rich environment...

Light posting tonight again (Tuesday)

Long day -- we close on the store on the 28th so while Jen is doing the daily stuff at the store, I'm calling all of the primary vendors to let them know that the date for the changeover has been set and is coming in two weeks (yikes!). Was up around 6:30AM, at the store at 8:00AM and came back home around 7:00PM. The good news is that even though this is one of the "slow" seasons, we are still fairly busy (Summer was a blur) and we are getting a lot of referrals and local regular customers. Ski season starts up in a few months and the really good backpacking starts once we have had a few frosts (kills off the @#$% bugs). Going to head out to the DaveCave(tm) and see what the email faeries brought in...

A question for parents

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Do you have a problem child or a rambunctious infant? Check out this website: Babycage These people sell the finest in Infant Confinement Systems. From their website:
In early 2000, 51-year old John Willis conceptualized his magnificent vision while working in the Alabama Coca-Cola bottling factory where he had been working for the past thirty years. He is a father of three children, all of which were grown up with their own kids. His grandchildren ranged from their infancy to teenage years. The busy children of John were overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping their children safe. They had to have watching eyes in the back of their heads at all times to protect them. It reached the point that they couldn't live this way any longer. A prime example of the breaking down of American society. A time when a woman wishes to claim her "independence" by going to work, instead of being at home to take care of the children. This is what is making each generation successively worse. Women in the work place may seem as a victory to the sex, but they aren't thinking of what's best for their children.

John came up with the concept of caged confinement that can safely and efficiently teach your child discipline, but most importantly to keep them safe from what harms that may come their way. In this day and age of global terrorism, and dirty bombs, anything can happen. John locked himself in his workshop for three months until he finally finished the first prototype of his creation. The project was made of hundreds of little metal bars in a cubical shape now known as the Baby Cage. He made seven for his grandchildren to test the usefulness in real world application. John's Children had enormous success. This is when he realized an untapped market for his new invention, the Baby Cage. His work would not end there. He went on to design the Child Cage, the Teenage Cage and still works on new designs such as the newly released Baby Escort. Most recently, John along with his engineers created new solutions such as the anti-crying mechanism, the electronic baby cage, and the liquid absorption system.

The Baby Cage company opened its doors late 2001 in Sulcrate, Alabama with a small product line of containment and security products for infants and children. The company quickly saw overwhelming demand, as phone calls across the nation poured in asking for his cage. In 2003, BabyCage expanding its operations to the internet. To this day, each of our products are hand-made by one of our certified engineers, then tested personally by John before being sold. will never let you down. If you have a child from infancy through their teenage years, you can benefit from a baby cage.
Here is their basic infant model:
The original infant confinement system. Suitable for infants ages 0 to 2 years old. -- Price: $499.99

Light posting tonight

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I was working on typesetting a book for a friend of the family so a bit burned out on computers tonight... If you are looking at self-publishing, Lulu is the way to go. Excellent tech support, very nice user interface and very reasonable prices. Part of the deal is that you can use a corner of their webspace as your own store with secure shopping. If you pay an additional $100 or so (one-time fee per publication), you get your own independent ISBN and access to a lot more features for promoting your work. They have ties with Amazon so you can market your books through them too.

A list of natural disasters

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Wikipedia has an interestingly (if morbidly so) list of natural disasters ranked by death toll. Some major ones I had never heard of; the worst being the 1931 Yellow River Flood with 1 to 2 million souls. The biggies are Smallpox and the Bubonic Plague with 300 Million each. A close winner is the 20 to 43 Million fatalities which resulted from Mao's incompetent rule - the so-called Period of Three Difficult Years. Goes to show just how good a form of government Communism is...

Seeing the light

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It seems that the sub-$20 stock price jolted the NY Times out of their self-absorbed navel gazing. From the NY Time:
Times to End Charges on Web Site
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night, reflecting a growing view in the industry that subscription fees cannot outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site.

The move comes two years to the day after The Times began the subscription program, TimesSelect, which has charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to its columnists� work and to the newspaper�s archives. TimesSelect has been free to print subscribers to The Times, and to some students and educators.

In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain.

The newspaper said the TimesSelect project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers � out of 787,000 over all � and generating about $10 million a year in revenue.

�But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,� said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site,
Very smart move... Closed today at $19.65 but it will be interesting to track over the next few days.

Excellent YouTube goodness

Nice video at YouTube -- starts off in one direction and shifts.

Well worth sharing -- hat tip to The Braden Files.

Awww Crap - R.I.P. James Oliver Rigney Jr.

Otherwise known by his pen name -- Robert Jordan.

Chris Byrne at The AnarchAngel has a wonderful rememberence:

Robert Jordan Passes
James Oliver Rigney Jr., who wrote under the name Robert Jordan, passed on today, at age 59; from complications arising from a congenital disease, cardiac amyloidosis.

Rigney was a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam; earning the DFC and Bronze star for valor (with repeat awards for each). After returning from 'Nam in 1970, he attended the Citadel (the military college of South Carolina, his home state) earning a degree in nuclear engineering. He was employed in this capacity by the U.S. Navy, until he became a full time author (some time between 1977 and 1980).

In the 27 years since selling his first book, he wrote 24 novels; the most famous being the "Wheel Of Time" series, which has stretched over 12 volumes (the final volume is incomplete at this time)and 17 years.

I was deeply involved in the early years of the Dragonmount online role playing community.

Although we initially had some problems with Jordans attorneys and publisher; he stepped in personally and not only stopped the trouble, but (with significant efforts on the parts of site management) enthusiastically embraced the community, and made us an official part of "the empire" as it were.

Soon after, I moved out of the country and lost track of what happened with the community.

Hard to believe that was almost 10 years ago.

Yaknow, I've been making jokes for years about him finishing the damn series before he died...

Now I feel like an asshole.

An incredible writer -- he will be missed...

22 years ago

The company called Symbolics registered their domain name The business has since been sold to another company that is developing and perpetuating the product line but Symbolics has a unique distinction. They were the first domain to ever have registered. Here is a list of the first one hundred domain name registries. Here are the first fourteen:
1. 15-Mar-1985 SYMBOLICS.COM
2. 24-Apr-1985 BBN.COM
3. 24-May-1985 THINK.COM
4. 11-Jul-1985 MCC.COM
5. 30-Sep-1985 DEC.COM
6. 07-Nov-1985 NORTHROP.COM
7. 09-Jan-1986 XEROX.COM
8. 17-Jan-1986 SRI.COM
9. 03-Mar-1986 HP.COM
10. 05-Mar-1986 BELLCORE.COM
11. 19-Mar-1986 IBM.COM
12. 19-Mar-1986 SUN.COM
13. 25-Mar-1986 INTEL.COM
14. 25-Mar-1986 TI.COM
Boeing is #26, Fluke #32, Alcoa #40. A cool corporate legacy. Hat tip to Jottings.

A little flight over Syria

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September 7th, there were Israeli airstrikes inside Syria. Fast, precise -- they got in, did something and then got out again. Neither Israel nor Syria are talking. A Washington Post article made mention of this (as reported at Pajamas Media):
A prominent U.S. expert on the Middle East, who has interviewed Israeli participants in a mysterious raid over Syria last week, reported that the attack appears to have been linked to the arrival three days earlier of a ship carrying material from North Korea labeled as cement.

The expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid compromising his sources, said the target of the attack appears to have been a northern Syrian facility that was labeled an agricultural research center on the Euphrates River, close to the Turkish border. Israel has kept a close eye on the facility, believing that Syria was using it to extract uranium from phosphates.
Now today, the London Times Online has a story:
Israelis �blew apart Syrian nuclear cache�
Secret raid on Korean shipment

It was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria�s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.

At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.

Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

The Israeli government was not saying. �The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,� said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. �We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.�
The Syrians were also keeping mum. �I cannot reveal the details,� said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. �All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.� The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi�ite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.
And a raised eyebrow:
This weekend President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent Ali Akbar Mehrabian, his nephew, to Syria to assess the damage. The new �axis of evil� may have lost one of its spokes.
Good on Israel for this -- they should not have to wait on agencies like the United Nations. They are the one bright spot of democracy in that part of the world despite all the Islamists trying to wipe them out.

The New York Times stock prices

Their stock just passed below the $20 dollar mark.

Here is their five year performance:


Go to BigCharts for the full version.

Ouch -- I guess that all of their bad management and little scandals are adding up.

Couldn't happen to a nicer MSM... Hat tip to American Thinker for the heads up.

The Ben Meadows Company

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Ran into this company this afternoon and their catalog looks really really good. Stuff for surveyors, arborists, scientists, weather and animal observation, soil and water sampling. Good stuff and reasonable prices. Check them out at: Ben Meadows

Building a model boat

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Now this is geekdom of the highest order.

Some people build model boats for enjoyment. Maine resident William Terra built a 1:20th scale replica of the German Warship Admiral Graf Spee This model is about 30 feet long and seats two people. Check out the photos:




Wow! Lots more photos and description at the site.

Ahhhh -- the joys of the corrupt socialist state. We all know about Cuba's medical care being soooo good for the foreigners with cash and sooooo shitty for the Cuban residents. Nice to see that Fidel's buddy Hugo is perpetuating the same scam.

From Reuters:

"Dead" man wakes up under autopsy knife
A Venezuelan man who had been declared dead woke up in the morgue in excruciating pain after medical examiners began their autopsy.

Carlos Camejo, 33, was declared dead after a highway accident and taken to the morgue, where examiners began an autopsy only to realize something was amiss when he started bleeding. They quickly sought to stitch up the incision on his face.

"I woke up because the pain was unbearable," Camejo said, according to a report on Friday in leading local newspaper El Universal.

His grieving wife turned up at the morgue to identify her husband's body only to find him moved into a corridor -- and alive.

Reuters could not immediately reach hospital officials to confirm the events. But Camejo showed the newspaper his facial scar and a document ordering the autopsy.

What kind of untrained idiot ordered the autopsy without checking the patient's heartbeat with a stethascope...

Back in town today

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Had a wonderful day off... We took the WA State ferry over to Lopez Island and drove around. I visited a local blacksmith and spent some time talking with him about stuff and we then took the ferry again over to Orcas Island where we had dinner. OMFG! If you are ever on Orcas Island and looking for dinner, check out the Inn at Ship Bay. We were looking for some fresh seafood and a nice dinner but we were completely blown away by the place. They have a large greenhouse and garden so their vegetables are as fresh as you can get. The meal was memorable -- we will be back again! The prices were very reasonable too -- we did splurge on an exceptional bottle of wine but the cost of our appetizers and our entr�es was about $70 (not counting the wine). We have easily spent this in a mediocre restaurant in Seattle or Bellingham.

No posts today

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Fifth wedding aniversary for Jen and me. How I put up with her she puts up with me I'll never know...

Seeing the man behind the curtain

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From Reuters:
Biofuels may harm more than help
Biofuels, championed for reducing energy reliance, boosting farm revenues and helping fight climate change, may in fact hurt the environment and push up food prices, a study suggested on Tuesday.

In a report on the impact of biofuels, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said biofuels may "offer a cure that is worse than the disease they seek to heal".

"The current push to expand the use of biofuels is creating unsustainable tensions that will disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits," the OECD said.

"When acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel," it added.

The OECD therefore called on governments to cut their subsidies for the sector and instead encourage research into technologies that would avoid competing for land use with food production.

"Governments should cease to create new mandates for biofuels and investigate ways to phase them out," it said.
One only has to follow the money to see that companies like Archer Daniel Midland are the ones benefiting by this artificial "environmentally friendly" fuel...

I love it! England and the USA are the last bastions of the "Imperial" measurement system. The other idiots use something called the 'metric' system (Systeme International)

From the BBC News:

EU gives up on 'metric Britain'
European Union commissioners have ruled that Britain can carry on using imperial measurements such as pints, pounds and miles.

Europe's Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugenas said: "There is not now and never will be any requirement to drop imperial measurements."

The decision will not affect current law on metric measurements, but means imperial equivalents can be used too.

It follows years of wrangling between London and Brussels over metrication.

And now we come to the key issue:

Pint saved
The commission has kept extending the deadline for the UK to complete the full transition to the metric system, with the most recent deadline being 2010.

This would have meant setting a deadline for ending the traditional delivery of pints of milk - and the sale of pints of beer in the UK's pubs.

One point that the metric people don't always grasp is that the Imperial system allows for very easy math and conversion of numbers.

The metric people say that being Base10 is superior but that is only divisible evenly by one (of course), two and five. Having 12 inches to the foot allows for even division by one, two, three, four and six.

Boat-builders use a system of measurement based on feet/inches/eighths and it allows for really easy mental calculation. When I got into that, I started using it for any woodworking and metalworking and it rocks. For metalworking (welding or blacksmithing), I'll use plus 8th or minus 8th (eg: 2/3/-4 = two feet, three inches and 7/16ths of an inch) which is as close as I need to be. With the lathe and the mill I am back to 'thous' and trying to keep it at one or two for accuracies sake...

And not one bit less pissed off... Gerard has an amazing essay on his experiences (he was living in Brooklyn Heights at the time) Impossible to excerpt, just go and read. And one more -- from the satire site The Onion: Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell
JAHANNEM, OUTER DARKNESS�The hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon expressed confusion and surprise Monday to find themselves in the lowest plane of Na'ar, Islam's Hell.

"I was promised I would spend eternity in Paradise, being fed honeyed cakes by 67 virgins in a tree-lined garden, if only I would fly the airplane into one of the Twin Towers," said Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, between attempts to vomit up the wasps, hornets, and live coals infesting his stomach. "But instead, I am fed the boiling feces of traitors by malicious, laughing Ifrit. Is this to be my reward for destroying the enemies of my faith?"

The rest of Atta's words turned to raw-throated shrieks, as a tusked, asp-tongued demon burst his eyeballs and drank the fluid that ran down his face.
And it gets better and better and better -- whomever wrote this knows the Koran very well. One can only hope...

Spidey to the rescue

My favorite superhero is Spiderman and I was pleased to see that he was able to foil a stick-up in England.

From the Manchester Evening News:

Spiderman to the rescue
A violent thug attacking a shopkeeper never expected to come face-to-face with a superhero.

But as Gerard Smith went `berserk' in a Manchester newsagents, passer-by Kevin Godin-Prior lifted his jumper to reveal a Spiderman costume and told him: "You don't know who you're dealing with."

Have-a-go-hero Kevin was on his way to a charity fundraiser dressed as the cult comic character when he called at the shop in Gorton.

As he walked in, he saw Smith lashing out and abusing the shopkeeper.

Kevin, 53, revealed his secret identity, fought off a series of attacks and then forced Smith outside, refusing to let go until the police arrived.

"He was threatening the shopkeeper and abusing him," said mortgage consultant Kevin. "He was being a drunken yob. I tried to cajole him out of the shop, but he rushed me and banged my head against a display cabinet.

A bit more:

He added: "I just happened to be going out to a charity event - which I do quite a lot - and I had on my Spiderman costume.

"I just managed to get free from his grip because he had been trying to throttle me.

"I said to him: `You've made a big mistake here, mate. You don't know who you are dealing with'.

"Then I lifted the jumper. His jaw just dropped when he saw the Spiderman outfit. But he still decided to come at me. It was quite a sustained attack."

Heh... Kevin will not have to buy a pint for himself for a long long time. Great story!

The attention whore in the news again

None other than Cindy Sheehan was arrested in Washington outside of General Petraeus's hearing. From The Hill:

Cindy Sheehan arrested at Petraeus hearing
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday in or near the hearing room where Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are testifying on the situation in Iraq, according to the U.S. Capitol Police.

Four anti-war protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct. One of them, who was not named, is being taken to George Washington Hospital "due to complaint of injury" and is also charged with assault on a police officer.

According to the information from the Capitol Police, Sheehan and the other three were shouting in a hallway.

She really needs to get back on her medications -- talk about a clueless walking train-wreck...

A question of liability - Houston, TX

A strange ruling... From Austin News 8:

Houston not liable for falling traffic light
A family who was the unlucky victim of a falling traffic signal won't get any car repair help from the city of Houston.

That's because state law exempts traffic signals and lights from liability.

The city rejected a claim for reimbursement submitted by Lei Zheng and his wife, Hua Yang, stemming from last year's freak accident.

Yang and her four-year-old son were on a shopping trip when the signal fell through the windshield of their Volkswagen Passat. Neither was seriously hurt.

The couple's insurance company paid their claim and they had the car fixed.

But the couple wanted the city to reimburse their insurance deductible and some out-of-pocket medical expenses, totaling less than $2,000.

The city notified Zheng that it was immune from such claims.

Zheng says it's unfair, but the city says it's just following state law.

Christ on a corn-dog -- they were asking for less than $2K. If I were him, I'd spend a couple hundred on a lawyer just to shake the city down a little bit -- Houston should have paid their request without blinking. Surprised that their insurance company isn't also going after the city -- after all, it was city property that malfunctioned and caused the damage.

How not to do a tribal whale hunt

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I'm embarrassed that this is a WA State tribe... From MS/NBC:
Gray whale shot with machine gun off Wash
Members of Makah Tribe detained after animal hit by .50-caliber gun

An injured California gray whale was swimming out to sea Saturday after being shot with a machine gun off the western tip of Washington state, officials said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Kelly Parker said five people believed to be members of the Makah Tribe shot and harpooned the whale Saturday morning. The extent of the whale�s injuries were not immediately known.

Tribe members were being held by the Coast Guard but had not been charged, said Mark Oswell, a spokesman for the law enforcement arm of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
And a bit more:
Although the tribe has subsistence fishing rights to kill whales, Oswell said preliminary information indicates the whale may have been shot illegally.

�We allow native hunts for cultural purposes. However, this does not appear to be of that nature so far,� he said.
I'd hate to be the people involved right now. Tribal justice can be brutal and long-lived and the whale is sacred to the Makah...

When cops go bad - New Zealand

Hard not to laugh. From

Police busted after tracking device found on car
A police operation to covertly follow a Central Otago man came to an abrupt halt this week when the man found tracking devices planted in his car, ripped them out and listed them for sale on Trade Me.

Ralph Williams, of Cromwell, said he found the devices last week in his daughter's car, which he uses, and in his flatmate's car after the cars were seized by police and taken away for investigation.

Police have neither confirmed nor denied they placed the devices.

Williams said a cellphone sim card in one of the devices appeared to transmit messages to the mobile phone of Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw, of the Central Otago CIB.

Williams provided The Press with emails from Shaw saying: "If you have got something of ours it would be good to get it back. You can call me and I can come meet you."

Williams said he found the devices concealed behind panels in the passenger-side footwells of the cars. They were marked with the name Trimble, an international company that produces GPS location devices.

Williams took apart one of the devices and found a sim card, which he put into a cellphone. He found the device was sending location text messages to Shaw's mobile number.

Williams placed one of the devices on Trade Me with a price of $250.

The ad read: "Used government covert surveillance tracking. No police to bid on this."

Heh -- the article then goes on to quote some of the emails back and forth. It closes with these two paragraphs:

Williams said the devices were not hard to find and he described the operation as "a bumbling attempt" by "weirdos".

New Zealand Civil Liberties Council chairman Michael Bott said the affair had "shades of (George Orwell's) Nineteen Eighty-four", as well as "shades of the Keystone Kops".

No donuts for you!

Arecibo Observatory in trouble

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Very bad news for the worlds largest telescope... From MS/NBC:
World's largest radio telescope in peril
Budget for Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory hangs in the balance

In the tangled forests of Puerto Rico's steamy interior, suspended by steel cables strung from 300-foot towers, an array of antennas hangs above an aluminum bowl 1,000 feet in diameter that gazes into space.

Arecibo Observatory, the largest and most sensitive radio telescope on Earth, looks like a secret outpost built by aliens. In fact, one of its missions is to search the galactic frontier for signs of intelligent life -- a sci-fi goal that landed it a leading role in the Jodie Foster movie "Contact" and cameos in a James Bond flick.

But among astronomers, Arecibo is an icon of hard science. Its instruments have netted a decades-long string of discoveries about the structure and evolution of the universe. Its high-powered radar has mapped in exquisite detail the surfaces and interiors of neighboring planets.

And it is the only facility on the planet able to track asteroids with enough precision to tell which ones might plow into Earth -- a disaster that could cause as many as a billion deaths and that experts say is preventable with enough warning.

Yet, for want of a few million dollars, the future for Arecibo appears grim.

The National Science Foundation, which has long funded the dish, has told the Cornell University-operated facility that it will have to close if it cannot find outside sources for half of its already reduced $8 million budget in the next three years -- an ultimatum that has sent ripples of despair through the scientific community.
And of course, the reason is political:
They note that states with major observatories, such as New Mexico and West Virginia, have senators famous for their power over purse strings, some of whom are already gearing up to fight proposed cuts. By contrast, Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, has no senators. And its representative in the House, Resident Commissioner Luis G. Fortu�o (R), does not have a vote.

"That makes a big difference," Fortu�o said, adding that recent pleas by the observatory's director for financial help from Puerto Rico's government struck him as paradoxical, given the island's budget woes. Last summer, the government shut down temporarily for lack of funds. The average income in Puerto Rico is half that in the poorest American state.

Astronomers from around the country are meeting in Washington this week to highlight the many scientific mysteries that Arecibo is in a unique position to plumb, but the effort may be "too little, too late," said Daniel Altschuler, a professor of physics at the University of Puerto Rico who was Arecibo's director for 12 years.
This really sucks - Arecibo is a major instrument and is still doing great work. It would be criminal to let this get shut down.

Cool It

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Just finished reading Bjorn Lomberg's newest book: Cool It This is his answer to those people who think that the Kyoto Protocol is the way we should go. basically, Kyoto, if implemented, would cost a lot and accomplish very little -- a reduction of less than one degree of temperature in 2015. The experts all agree on this (from the IPCC) but everyone seems to be focused on that big climate change knob that we really need to be turning. What is not talked about is: #1) - Global Warming might not be a bad thing after all. More people die from excessive cold than from excessive heat (poor people who cannot afford fuel during winter, etc...). #2) - the actual state of the planet is pretty good, it is people that are the problem. People didn't build on floodplains until only recently. People dredged canals and filled wetlands around New Orleans and this contributed to the damage of Katrina. It would be substantially cheaper and more effective to change this behavior than to toss money down the Kyoto hole. #3) - There are very simple and cheap things than can be done that would greatly extend and improve the lives of people in the third world. Once their lives are improved to the point where they do not spend 6-8 hours/day providing for basic sustenance, they can then start to earn money. Earning money allows them to protect themselves against any problems brought about by global warming. I will be writing more on this in a few days. The book is an amazing read and needs to be widely distributed. Very well researched with as many pages of links and citations as there are of text.

Get the lead out - Nissan version

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Hate to bash China again on their lead-based paints but these stories keep coming out again and again and again... This one is from the UK branch of Reuters:
Test-drive a Nissan and win a lead-laced mug
TOKYO (Reuters) - Chinese merchandise took a fresh knock on Friday when car maker Nissan said it was recalling tens of thousands of mugs it gave away in Japan because the paint contains excessive lead.

It said it took the action after a hapless car-shopper fell ill after drinking from one of the mugs and complained.

Nissan Motor said the cups, which it was giving to anyone who test-drove one of its cars in Japan during a sales initiative that started on August 16, had a lead content that was more than 30 percent above the permissible level.

Japan's third-biggest carmaker said it would recall the mugs, which it said could have reached as many as 87,000 potential customers. It did not know the identity of the manufacturer in China.
If the poor sod was drinking something acidic, that would have leached a lot of the lead out into solution. Yikes! You would think that something as simple as "Don't Use Lead for Export Items" would be easy enough to follow. (Lead was added to paint to make it flow better and it also makes the surface a lot more durable. Same sort of thing as PCBs and Asbestos, perfect for their job except for that little toxicity detail...)

The Half-Wit

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Swiped from the always excellent Maggie's Farm:
A man owned a small farm in Maine. The IRS claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him.

"I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent.

"Well", replied the farmer, "There's my farm hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $600 a week plus free room and board. The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $500 per week plus free room and board.

Then there's the half-wit who works here about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes $10 per week, and I buy him a bottle of whiskey every Saturday night."

"That's the guy I want to talk to - the half-wit," says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the farmer.
So true... (grin)

DIY Film School

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Nice collection of links on how to build (DIY = Do It Yourself) accessories that will greatly improve your home videos. Includes a $14 SteadyCam, Camera Jib, Fig Rig, Exterior Car mount and even how to make your own underwater camera housing. Good stuff from: DIY Life

Shadow Puppetry

This guy is a master at it. From Australia comes the story of Raymond Crowe who for years has been playing with shadow puppetry, got a low-rez film on YouTube and is now searching for an American agent. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Show me the bunny, but don't shoot
The irony has not been lost on Raymond Crowe. After years performing his homespun, low-tech shadow puppetry, he has suddenly become an international star via the internet.

"Twenty-six years in the business and all it takes is one week on YouTube," he said yesterday.

Crowe's fame has come after his show-stopping shadow play at last month's Helpmann Awards at the State Theatre made it onto YouTube and into email inboxes around the world. The Adelaide-based unusualist, as he calls himself, is now juggling his Australian bookings with overseas requests, is looking for a manager in the United States and is in the early stages of negotiating to appear on David Letterman's show.

It's all a bit bemusing for a man who has no business card, leaves all bookings to his agent and has happily spent the past six years performing his magic tricks, ventriloquism and shadow work at corporate gigs.

To call his lyrical, touching routine shadow puppetry doesn't do it justice. Set to Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World, it features Crowe's spotlit hands depicting a singing Louis Armstrong morphing into a horse, a preening swan, a hopping rabbit, a baby's hand clutching an adult's finger and an elderly man.

Crowe got serious about his shadow work about 1995, devising a routine set to the song Paper Moon. He had avoided What A Wonderful World because at the time it featured in everything from ads to film soundtracks, but a friend lent him the Armstrong CD and he developed his now-famous routine. His new-found fame has been a blessing and a curse. "I spent a few days trying to get it pulled because it was my work and plagiarism is rife," he said. "But I realised I needed to figure out how to best capitalise on the fame. I'm in that wacky moment of life where suddenly I'm famous. Next week it might be the guy blowing up balloons with his toes that's the big thing."

The YouTube video is here: What a wonderfull world shadow puppets amazing must see !! Looks like it was shot with a cell-phone (video has a lot of artifacts) but the performance is amazing.

Cute set of photos from Mostly Cajun

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A cute set of before and after photos here: The power of makeup... Heh...
from a company that manufactures high-resolution video surveillance equipment. From the Tri-Valley Herald:
Burglars nabbed after stealing from video surveillance firm
Three in custody, one sought after burglaries at Pleasanton businesses

Three of four men accused of stealing more than $50,000 in video equipment from two companies were arrested after they were caught by security cameras at one of the businesses -- a video surveillance company, police said.

I dont think there was any indication that they knew (what business they were burglarizing), Pleasanton police Sgt. Jim Knox said.

Two businesses at 4511 Willow Road reported break-ins Aug. 25 and 26 � Vigilant Video, a video surveillance company, and Darim Vision, a video and software company.

The two businesses share a common building, Knox said.

Police determined that the burglars broke a window to gain access, loaded computer and electronic equipment into a vehicle and left.

The break in the investigation came from the Vigilant Video surveillance tape, Knox said. The high-definition video captured four men carrying arm-loads of property out of the two businesses.

The video showed an initial burglary at 10:45 p.m. on Aug. 25. Then the men came back at 5:45 a.m. the next day for more.

A detective immediately recognized one of the four as 27-year-old Jason McHugh of Alamo.

Video stills of the other three were circulated among area law enforcement agencies and authorities identified them as Thomas Daly, 29, of Concord and Tracy Martin, 48, and Ronald Alvarez, 46, both of Alamo.

"The video camera that caught them was sitting in plain view," Knox said. "They all had criminal records."

Seen on a bumper sticker today...

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The Second Amendment is Homeland Security
Tried Googling it to find the printer but no luck. Dang.

Awww crap - RIP - Luciano Pavarotti

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I knew that he had been close to death but this evening, he slipped over at age 71. Wikipedia has news and a biography: Luciano Pavarotti Here he is doing the Schubert Ave Maria: YouTube The heavenly choir just got an incredible tenor...

Some more YouTube brilliance

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More on Morgan Meis

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Yesterday, I had posted about the absolutely disconnected "essay" Mr. Meis wrote about farmers; telling the people who grow his food:
My general feeling about farmers is that they can go fuck themselves.
He never backed up anything he said, quoted Nietzsche (and spelling it 'Nietszche') and generally rambled. Considering that this was a Drexel University publication, I assumed that Mr. Meis was a freshman student there. Imagine my surprise to find out that he is a 'respected member' of the New York Art Scene and one of the founders of the 'flux factory'. (I thought that 'whatever' factories were Warhol's shtick and died out when he did.) Anyway, here is a photo of the ever so lucid Morgan Meis from the flux factory web page:
(Sorry for image quality but this is what they had on the About page for him.) A man of great cultural sensitivity -- from 3Quarks Daily:
Morgan Meis forcibly ejected from Vietnam
And the heart of the matter:
Recently, Morgan and Tom Bissell were commissioned by the Virginia Quarterly Review to travel to Vietnam to cover the celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the reunification of North and South Vietnam (the fall of Saigon), along with a photographer. They left a week ago, and Morgan posted this at The Old Town Review Chronicles four days ago:
I spoke with the young Vietnamese about the American War. "I've heard about this war," a young woman said, "it seems like it was very terrible." "Yes," said another, "there was a documentary about it a few days ago. Those must have been difficult times."

So much for presuppositions. Perhaps the final and sweetest revenge is that they've moved on more than we have.
The next thing I heard was a hair-raising email that Stefany forwarded, in which he says:
It's a long story but we made it out of Vietnam. Because they were going to potentially detain us indefinitely and God knows what if we didn't get out right away we were forced to fly to Singapore under constant guard from the secret police. I am very mentally exhausted and was very scared for awhile. Now I'm in Singapore with no way to get home. I'm trying to figure things out from here.
The Vietnamese people want dearly to forget the stupidity of their involvement with the Communists and the eventual war first with France and then with the United States. They are not denying that it happened but they are not emphasizing it either so that the current generation of young people will not suffer under the stigmata of their parent's stupidity. And along comes Morgan and his merry band asking pointed questions -- the Vietnamese do not tolerate fools (which is why their economy is booming so greatly) so they shuffled his privileged ass out of the country. First rule of traveling Morgan -- you are a guest in that country; act accordingly... Finally Morgan's quote of Nietzsche was in the context of Musical Philosophy and Musicology. He said:
These are plodding thoughts at best. When I read them I think of Nietszche and his abandonment of Wagner in the name of Bizet. Nietszche said, �What is good is light; whatever is godly moves on tender feet.� The farmer crowd lumbers around on feet of clay. They make me want to spend a day with Andy Warhol drinking Coca-Cola and dreaming of a future when we�ll get all the sustenance we need from a small pill we swallow on the subway heading to a rendezvous with people beautiful and famous.
So he is a closet Warholite... Anyway, here is post that shows the weaknesses of Meis' position. It starts of with this and then proceeds along a wonderful and well documented ride -- worth reading if you are into classical Music at all...
Popular Bifurcation

"We like music that kicks butt!" - Beavis and Butthead.
ridendo dicere severum - Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche may not, on the basis of a first reading, be the most obvious philosopher to bring into the field of a discussion on popular music. After all, he is most closely associated with the debates surrounding the High Romantic music of Richard Wagner - notoriously and problematically shifting from a pro-Wagnerian position in his early work to an anti-Wagnerian position later on. Indeed, it will be this later writing which occupies most of our time here.

Moreover, Nietzsche's politics are often taken to be more than a touch anti-popular, couched as they are in assaults on what he was pleased to call das Gesindel - the `riffraff', or `rabble'. For example, in Der Fall Wagner (1888), Nietzsche repeatedly denigrates Wagner by associating him with the ostensibly non-musical art of drama on the one hand and `the rabble' on the other...
(ed. note: ridendo dicere severum = through what is laughable say what is somber) All in all, a what a self-centered self-indulgent maroon... I personally welcome the existence of New York City if only to keep these idiots away from being able to do anything real. A nice play-pen as it were...

The current Hurricane season

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I had written on Sept. 3rd about how a company called Risk Management Solutions was screaming that the current season was:
Second category five hurricane Felix heralds unprecedented season - RMS
Hurricane Felix is the second storm to reach category five status in an unprecedented season in which the first two hurricanes both reached maximum intensity, according to Risk Management Solutions.
In my post I stressed that although Felix may be a CAT5 at sea, the issue is the strength at landfall. Well, two days later, meet Tropical Depression Felix. And the next killer storm -- Hurricane Henriette is stalled in the Baja at a barely CAT1 with winds of about 70MPH...

A pastoral life - farming

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Morgan Meis writing at Drexel University's online publication: "The Smart Set" offers these words:
The Trouble With Farmers
Where do they get off being so self-righteous?

Michael Pollan's bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma, has gotten people all riled up about farmers again. The last time this happened was when the first Farm Aid concerts reminded America that we have strong feelings about the family farm and its economic viability. The new round of farmer feelings is more directly related to issues of trade and the impact of globalization. As Pollan writes:
"I�m thinking of the sense of security that comes from knowing your community, or country, can feed itself; the beauty of an agricultural landscape; the outlook and kinds of local knowledge the presence of farmers brings to a community; the satisfactions of buying food from a farmer you know rather than the supermarket; the locally inflected flavor of a raw-milk cheese or honey. All those things�all those pastoral values�free trade proposes to sacrifice in the name of efficiency and economic growth."
My general feeling about farmers is that they can go fuck themselves. Perhaps this is strong. But farmers also come on strong in their own sort of farmer way. They take a homespun approach but they often wrap themselves up in a hell of a lot of self-righteousness. It all has to do with the land, I suppose, the importance and simplicity of the land. Americans love the simple even if we've been destroying it for generations. A few pithy sayings and we�re eating out of their hands. The farmers.
Emphasis mine -- hey Morgan, think about this for a little while. Where does your food come from? You are in fact "eating out of our hands". Without someone to maintain the soil, work with varying weather conditions and still be able to produce crops to feed your skanky butt, you would be joining your brethren in Zimbabwe. A bit more of this drivel:
What do the farmers really believe, anyway? Have they found something real and timeless as they tarried out in the fields under a summer sun that bronzed their skin and baked their skulls just right? Don't they know that the mute indifference of nature is as terrifying and empty as the noisy scrambling of the metropolis? Surely they know. They just don't want to let on that it is all the same because it would lessen their one advantage to power in the universal will. The one play for the farmer, the one card up his sleeve, is in the mysterious promise that there is something more out there in the rows of growing things, in the peculiar rhythm of the hearth and the harvest. "We�ve got it right," they are saying. But what they are really saying is, �We too will defend our ways, if for no other reason than that they are ours.� City dwellers are rarely so sure of ourselves. We don�t really know what our ways are and we keep changing them before we have the chance to decide. Somewhere, deep down, we realize that it is precisely that changeful not-knowing that we want to defend but we are seduced by the laconic self-assurance of farmer talk.
Heh... "the mute indifference of nature" indeed. I would like to take this little twerp and drop him into any of the wilderness areas I know with sufficient supplies to live for a week and see how he does in three days. I'll even do it in temperate weather. But Master Meis goes on (does he realize that his name is very close to the Arawak name for Corn?), and on, and on in the same heavy turgid thought processes that he dismays the farmer of having, he displays none of the "lightness" that he ascribes to the city dweller. One more quote:
These are plodding thoughts at best. When I read them I think of Nietszche and his abandonment of Wagner in the name of Bizet. Nietszche said, �What is good is light; whatever is godly moves on tender feet.� The farmer crowd lumbers around on feet of clay. They make me want to spend a day with Andy Warhol drinking Coca-Cola and dreaming of a future when we�ll get all the sustenance we need from a small pill we swallow on the subway heading to a rendezvous with people beautiful and famous.
Morgan Meis, if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, check out two farmers I know online: Gary Jones at Muck and Mystery Victor Davis Hanson (5th generation grape farmer in the San Joaquin valley of California. Drink a glass of wine? Thank Victor and his neighbors!) I see by your biography that you do a bit of Greek and Latin. Vic Hanson has you over in spades buddy... Oh, and by the way, that's spelled Nietzsche -- not 'Nietszche'
When our power goes out, we lug a big Kubota gasoline generator outside of the garage, hook up the cable and enjoy lights, refrigeration (and freezing) of our food, media and internet. Our well is over 200 feet deep so running water is not on the agenda... Meet Floridian Christopher Swinney who had a better idea - from the NY Times:
Power to the People: Run Your House on a Prius
When Hurricane Frances ripped through Gainesville, Fla., in 2004, Christopher Swinney, an anesthesiologist, was without electricity for a week. A few weeks ago, Dr. Swinney lost power again, but this time he was ready.

He plugged his Toyota Prius into the backup uninterruptible power supply unit in his house and soon the refrigerator was humming and the lights were back on. �It was running everything in the house except the central air-conditioning,� Dr. Swinney said.

Without the Prius, the batteries in the U.P.S. unit would have run out of power in about an hour. The battery pack in the car kept the U.P.S. online and was itself recharged by the gasoline engine, which cycled on and off as needed. The U.P.S. has an inverter, which converts the direct current electricity from the batteries to household alternating current and regulates the voltage. As long as it has fuel, the Prius can produce at least three kilowatts of continuous power, which is adequate to maintain a home�s basic functions.

This form of vehicle-to-grid technology, often called V2G, has attracted hobbyists, university researchers and companies like Pacific Gas & Electric and Google. Although there is some skepticism among experts about the feasibility of V2G, the big players see a future in which fleets of hybrid cars, recharged at night when demand is lower, can relieve the grid and help avert serious blackouts.
Very cool -- we loose power a few times/year in Winter. Drinking water is not actually a problem as there is a very nice artesian spring about a mile down from where we live. I do miss the hot showers though... Using a Hybrid makes a lot of sense as it will have a large energy reserve in the batteries and the engine is very efficient and cleaner (more so than the Kubota which is a simple one with no catalytic converter). I wonder what the overall cost is though with the extra expense of the Prius and the Inverter and additional circuitry as opposed to a much larger stand-alone generator with all the nice efficiencies and cleanness -- these puppies are in the $10K range and might be a cheaper alternative.

A wonderful smack-down

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There was this blog that had an entry on Hurricane Katrina and there was an entry from a few days ago that revisited a lot of the data that showed that the Levees were not overtopped, that they failed; and that although Katrina was fairly small, she had a lot of storm surge built up and this basically undermined the foundations of the Levees. Naturally, Troothers are out there surfing around and one of them showed up. This one was classic (read the comments and you can FIGURE OUT WHO THEY ARE). Here was the smack-down:
You might be taken more seriously if you:
a) Knew how to spell the big words
b) Provided any form of linkage or citation to back up your assertions.
c) Understood how the shift and caps lock keys worked. Cummings was the exception that proves rule.

Press One for...

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From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Man smashes Home Depot checkout stand with pry bar he was trying to buy
Well, let's look at it this way: At least, this guy wasn't buying a blowtorch.

But that age-old adage -- that patience is a virtue -- somehow slipped the mind of a man shopping at Home Depot on Utah Avenue South in Seattle on Thursday.

Around 9 p.m., the man was in line at a self-service checkout stand, ready to buy a pry bar and hacksaw, according to a Seattle police report.

But as a manager told an officer, the man accidentally hit the button for Spanish on the computer screen.

And that was the tipping point for this consumer.

He became "frustrated that the machine was speaking Spanish," the police report says.

So, instead of asking for customer service help, he let loose a blow with the pry bar and shattered the computer. He ran from the store and made a beeline to some nearby railroad tracks, the report said.

A Seattle police officer searched for the customer. But he had vanished.
I keep wondering why we have made Spanish the "second language" of the USA. It would help people to learn English if we immerse them in it instead of tacitly accepting the fact that they are not making too great an attempt to learn the language of the nation that they have immigrated to. The issue of Illegal Immigration is a sticky one with so many people already across the border but I don't see this as a need to coddle them. Especially the kids in the schools -- let the Parents and Grandparents speak it at home and among their friends but there should be English only in the schools... Education is key to success.

Pete Seeger recants on Communism

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Wow! From the New York Sun:
Seeger Speaks � and Sings � Against Stalin
Pete Seeger, America's best-known and most influential folksinger, wrote me a letter a few days ago. I did not expect to hear from him. Last June, I wrote in these pages about the new documentary on his life. The article ran under the headline "Time for Pete Seeger To Repent."

My complaint was that the film, good as it is, did not give a completely honest account of Mr. Seeger's politics. The filmmaker, Jim Brown, interviewed me on camera, but he did not include any of my critical remarks in the final version. In my interview, I pointed out that Mr. Seeger had been a lifelong follower of the Communist Party, changing his songs and his positions to be in accord with the ever-changing party line. He attacked the blacklist of the 1950s, which kept him off the air, but never seems to have said anything about Stalin's death list. As Martin Edlund has written in The New York Sun, Mr. Seeger has always been inseparable from his social mission. Much of it deserves praise - he was at the forefront of the struggle for civil rights - but much of it must be condemned and not hidden from sight.

In particular, I said that Mr. Seeger had supported Stalin's tyranny for so many years yet had never written a song about the Gulag. Yet some acknowledgment of his former support would have been appropriate, especially considering the songs he has sung about the Nazi death camps, which he often introduces by saying, "We must never forget."

So I felt some trepidation when I got Mr. Seeger's letter. Surely he was angry, or at the least peeved, by my article. I had been a banjo student of his in the 1950s and regarded Mr. Seeger as my childhood hero and mentor. But for decades since then, I have been publicly identified as an opponent of much of what he has believed -- that the Rosenbergs were innocent, for example, or that Fidel Castro was a friend of the poor.

I almost fell off the chair when I read Mr. Seeger's words: "I think you're right - I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in [the] USSR." For years, Mr. Seeger continued, he had been trying to get people to realize that any social change had to be nonviolent, in the fashion sought by Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Seeger had hoped, he explained, that both Khrushchev and later Gorbachev would "open things up." He acknowledged that he underestimated, and perhaps still does, "how the majority of the human race has faith in violence."

More importantly, Mr. Seeger attached the words and music for a song he had written, "thinking what Woody [Guthrie] might have written had he been around" to see the death of his old Communist dream. Called "The Big Joe Blues," it's a yodeling Jimmie Rodgers-type song, he said. It not only makes the point that Joe Stalin was far more dangerous and a threat than Joe McCarthy - a man Mr. Seeger and the old left view as the quintessential American demagogue - but emphasizes the horrors that Stalin brought.

"I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe," the lyrics read. "He ruled with an iron hand / He put an end to the dreams / Of so many in every land / He had a chance to make / A brand new start for the human race / Instead he set it back / Right in the same nasty place / I got the Big Joe Blues / (Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast) / I got the Big Joe Blues / (Do this job, no questions asked) / I got the Big Joe Blues."
It never ceases to amaze me how otherwise intelligent people could get brainwashed into thinking that Communism was really about equality for all. It is not, has never been and any society set up under these ideas quickly devolves into brute thuggery and corruption.

Reporting on Hurricane Felix

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Definitely not science -- someone needs to check their facts first. From Forbes/AFX:
Second category five hurricane Felix heralds unprecedented season - RMS
Yeah - unprecedented in quietness - the hurricane season lasts from May through November and we haven't had a real hurricane until August -- more than half through the 'season'
Hurricane Felix is the second storm to reach category five status in an unprecedented season in which the first two hurricanes both reached maximum intensity, according to Risk Management Solutions.
'This is only the fourth year since 1950 that we've had more than one category five storm and it is unprecedented for the first two hurricanes of the season to reach this level of intensity,' said Dr Claire Souch, senior director of model management at a US-based risk modelling company.

The hurricane is expected to make landfall in Belize on Wednesday, and is following a southerly path parallel to Hurricane Dean which hit Jamaica and Mexico last week.
What counts is CAT5 at landfall. Looking at that we see only four CAT5 hurricanes to make landfall. Katrina, for all of the damage was CAT3 at landfall. FL (Keys) -- 1935 CAMILLE (MS/SE LA/VA) -- 1969 ANDREW (SE FL/SE LA) -- 1992 San Felipe (PR) -- 1928
Robert Muir Wood, chief research officer at RMS, commented: 'The location of the high pressure system is currently protecting the US, as storm tracks are being kept further south. However, we are not yet halfway through the hurricane season and stable weather tends to break down during September, so there is no guarantee that the protection will remain in place.'
Emphasis mine -- according to the National Hurricane Center, the season lasts from May through November. August is the fourth month of a seven month season. NOAA does consider August to October to be prime months and is forecasting an above-normal season. Sure -- two storms that reach CAT5 in rapid order is unusual but consider also that we have had several months of substantially lower than normal activity and the key thing when planning for a Hurricane strike is the strength at landfall, not the maximum strength over the water.

Segway in the news

Traffic cop riding a Segway ran down a shooter in Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times has the story:
Cop riding Segway runs down shooting suspect
Chicago Police Officer Thaddeus Martyka was riding his Segway Human Transporter looking for parking violations when he heard the shot ring out.

Martyka, traveling north on State Street on Sunday, saw two young men sprint west on 21st Street -- and the chase was on.

The Segway, a scooter that looks like an old-fashioned push lawn mower with big rubber wheels, hit its top speed of 12.5 mph.

One suspect broke away on Wabash, but Martyka kept tailing the other man until he tired out on the sidewalk.

Martyka set down the Segway and handcuffed the man about 4:27 p.m. at 23rd and State. He radioed fellow officers to pick up a .25-caliber pistol the man allegedly tossed in an alley during the chase.

It was the first arrest the 17-year veteran has made on a Segway. He has been riding the scooters since he arrived in the Central District about a month ago. Martyka also patrolled on them when he was assigned to O'Hare Airport.

"This is the first time I can recall that the officer used it to chase somebody down," Central District Cmdr. Kevin Ryan said.
Very cool -- normal untrained people can sprint faster than 12MPH for a short while but you cannot sustain that level of speed. Patiently, the dude on the Segway will catch you. You need to be able to do 15MPH to do a four-minute mile and look how many people can do that...

Interesting developments with North Korea

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This would be great if the Norks plan to keep their end of the deal. From Reuters:
N.Korea agrees to disable nuclear program in 2007
North Korea agreed in weekend talks with the United States to fully account for and disable its nuclear programs by the end of this year, negotiators said on Sunday.

"We had very good, very substantive talks," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told reporters. "One thing that we agreed on is that (North Korea) will provide a full declaration of all of their nuclear programs and will disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year, 2007."

North Korea's top nuclear envoy said separately his delegation was pleased with the outcome of the talks, held to hasten the end of Pyongyang's nuclear programme, a target agreed to in principle in 2005 in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits.
Emphasis mine -- I wonder what we offered them. I know that they have had severe crop failures this year so food is a priority. Maybe this will be an opening into further relations with them. Another failed Communist state down the tubes...

Biofuels causing problems everywhere - Italy

It seems that the government subsidized pressure for biofuels is causing problems in Italy -- enough to cause a one day strike on Pasta!

From Blue Crab Boulevard:

(Don't) Let Them Eat Pasta
Organizers are trying to set up a one-day pasta strike in Italy to protest the sharp increase in the cost of the staple food of that nation. It seems that the price of spaghetti has jumped by some 30% recently. Why? Well, manufacturers are blaming a wheat shortage caused by farmers switching production to corn and other crops - to produce biofuels.
On the 13 September, there will be no spaghetti, fettucine, farfalle or rigatoni in Italy, as the country goes on its first-ever pasta strike.

Angry Italians are downing their forks in response to a 30 per cent price rise in the nation's favourite food, along with steep rises in the price of coffee, mozzarella, bread, biscuits and schoolbooks.

A second strike over the increase in the price of a cup of coffee in a cafe, from 70 euro cents (50p) to one euro, has also been threatened.

According to Italy's four largest consumer groups, the average household in the Bel Paese will be stung for an extra �700 this year on their shopping.

"Giving up pasta for the day will be a symbolic gesture," said a spokesman for the consumer groups. "Italians should not buy any pasta that day, and try their best not to eat it at home."

Most Italians eat pasta at least once a day, and consume around 54 kilograms over the course of the year...

...The pasta-makers said the reason for the 30 per cent price rise was a shortage of wheat because farmers were switching to produce crops for the biofuel industry. Currently, a half-kilogram (1.1lb) pack of pasta costs around 70 euro cents (50p) in Italy and 70p to �1.10 in the UK.
The consumer groups behind the national pasta-out say that it is just the manufacturers speculating. Then cheerily note that the price of bread - made from wheat - is also rising but see no connection. Er, ok. That makes sense. Not. I've noted on several occasions that biofuels are causing severe upward pressure on food prices - and will continue to do so. It will get much worse very soon.

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link.

Nice signature line

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Ran into this on an online forum I participate in:
Some people are like a Slinky... Not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

The current Hurricane season

Steve H. has some thoughts on the current Hurricane seasonand Global Warming in general...

What a Disappointing Hurricane Season
For Imbeciles

I am loving the collapse of global warming. Aren't you?

The whole thing was a pack of lies intended to give the left a political edge, give Asian economies an advantage over the US, and make money for huge companies that have backroom government contracts to produce worthless ethanol. It was a dangerous assault on the economy as well as our common sense. And it looks like it's finally falling apart.

This week Drudgebart linked to a story about a new survey proving that the weak consensus among published scientists is that "anthropogenic climate change" hasn't been proven to exist. And hey, where are those killer hurricanes I ordered? Hell, I'm still waiting for last year's shipment.

In 2005, we had a hurricane season the likes of which Florida has never experienced. And the green wienies were thrilled to death. Katrina was a month-long orgasm for them; every new piece of bad news restarted the party. And they said more was on the way! We were going to PAY for not sitting around in huts, eating twigs and trying not to fart. And we braced for the wave of storms, and people bought $25,000 generators, and...nothing happened. Not only were there no killer storms; it was one of the weakest seasons in history. Not just quiet, but truly pathetic by meteorological standards.

So far this year, we've had one hurricane. Go root through the archives at NOAA or Weather Underground to get an idea what that means. No, don't. I'll tell you what it means. It means the season is a dud.

The other day I saw a graph of historical hurricane activity, showing the likelihood that hurricanes would land on certain dates. It turns out the nearly exact middle of the season is September 10, which is almost here. We're already seeing the weather that will affect us by that date. Around half of the storms hit before the tenth, and the rest after. September 10 is less than two weeks away, and we've had one measly storm. Which did only a modest amount of damage, in spite of all the "CATEGORY 5!" pants-wetting.

Heh... He goes on to quote the NOAA prediction for this year and then explains what it means:

Here's a snippet from Weather Underground:
NOAA's season hurricane forecast issued May 22 predicts a very high (75% chance) of an above-normal hurricane season, a 20% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 5% chance of a below-normal season. They expect 13-17 named storms, 7-10 hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes (a normal season has 10-11 named storm, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes). Most of these storms are expected during the usual August-October peak of hurricane season.

So in order to make NOAA's forecast even minimally relevant, we have to have 10 named storms (not hurricanes, just storms) between now and December 1. Okay, 9 if you count "subtropical storm" Andrea, which I don't, because Andrea wasn't a real tropical storm, and it was extremely wimpy. That's three and one third per month. Who seriously expects that to happen? It could. And fish could fall from the sky. That happens, too, from time to time. But you don't plan your life around it.

We also have to have five hurricanes, or 1.67 per month. Do you see that happening? I don't.

I just realized something. Comparing 2006--a very, very quiet year--to 2007, I see that 2007 is on track to be even weaker! By this time in 2006, we had had one hurricane and five real (non-Andrea) tropical storms. How about that? Hey...maybe we had it backward! Maybe global warming is making hurricanes crap out!

How many times do we have to be hit in the face with the same two-by-four before we get it? WE CAN'T PREDICT THE WEATHER IN THE LONG TERM. As one of the leading climatologists in the world said, five days is too much to ask. NOAA's forecasts are utterly worthless. A joke. Two years running, and probably before that, if anyone bothers to check.

So anyway, I am really hoping we'll give up on ethanol, which is going to starve lower-income Americans at the expense of Archer Daniels Midland. And I'm hoping we'll start building the nuclear reactors and refineries we need so badly. What the public doesn't realize yet is that there are traditional fat cats and green fat cats, and on the whole, the traditional fat cats are much less dangerous, because we understand them, and they already live under a microscope, and their game is based on the free market and common sense (as well as greed). The green fat cats...their game is based on greed and a faulty religion. Because like I always say, "Global warming is real" is the premise, not the conclusion. These people start with "Global warming is real" and then gather or manufacture facts to prove it, and if you disagree, Heidi Cullen from The Weather Channel tries to ruin your credentials and make you the focus of a Nuremberg trial.

He kind of sums it up nicely with the "WE CAN'T PREDICT THE WEATHER IN THE LONG TERM" line.

RIP - Paul MacCready

MacCready was the genius who designed the Gossamer Condor and the Gossamer Albatross. His company -- AeroVironment Inc. -- has a nice memorial page

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