November 2007 Archives

Please note -- this is from a Canadian news source and refers to a Canadian version of this product. The USA version may be different. Did you buy the C.S.I. Fingerprint Examination Kit? Be aware that the dusting powder used contains contains five per cent tremolite asbestos, a particularly virulent form of the mineral. From The Canadian Press:
NDP issues Christmas toy asbestos warning
The NDP is calling on the federal government to shut down Canada's asbestos industry and scrap "horrifying" regulations that allow the use of the cancer-causing mineral in children's toys and other products.

New Democrat MPs Pat Martin and Libby Davies released test results Friday showing that asbestos is present in CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit - a popular new children's toy made in China.
And the dusting powder in question:
The NDP produced test results from three different U.S. laboratories showing that dusting powder in the popular CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit - labelled for use by children aged 10 and up - contains five per cent tremolite asbestos, a particularly virulent form of the mineral.

Symptoms of exposure to tremolite asbestos dust can show up anytime from a couple years up to 40 years after first exposure. No safe exposure threshold for any of the asbestos minerals has been established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The $20-$30 CSI kit is made in China and licensed by CBS, which produces the popular crime-science television show. CBS Consumer Products said this week that it has asked its licensee to commission an independent asbestos test.

"If the toy is determined to be unsafe, then we will insist that the licensee remove it from the market," a CBS spokesman said in a statement.
Which begs the question, does real dusting powder contain tremolite? The toy may have just been an authentic copy... Still, not a good thing to hand to kids who will not use it in the manner intended.

Amazing Exoskeleton

Very very high geekdom here. A lot of people have been playing around with and researching/developing Powered Exoskeletons but these people seem to have done it successfully. Check out this unit developed by Sarcos Video hosted by LiveLeak: Exoskeleton Turns Humans Into Terminators. A big tip of the Bowler to our English friend Theo Spark for the link...

Fabio Lanzoni interview

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If the name doesn't ring a bell, just think of the first name and picture the cover of a romance novel. Yes, that Fabio. Turns out he sounds like a fun person to have a beer with. His views on the Middle East are spot on (at least I agree with them). The interview is in Reason Online:
Fabio Rides Again
The Italian mega-hunk who lent his physique to more than 2,000 romance novels has a new hobby, an energy drink, and a few important things to get off his impressively chiseled chest.

It has been about 10 years since Fabio Lanzoni, now 48, posed for the cover of a romance novel. His hair is still long and flowing; his pecs still resemble a pair of perfectly bronzed cinder blocks. But he's older now, a bit wrinkled�no longer the caricature we knew, or thought we knew. It seems the man who was, arguably, the greatest sex symbol since the V-2 rocket is ready for his second act�not just as an empty vessel for the fantasies of flyover state housewives or a tireless pitchman for everything from Miller Lite, Cheerios, and the Gillette Oral-B Sensitive Toothbrush to Versace's fragrance Mediterraneum, but also as a producer of content in his own right.
His thoughts on Israel, energy independence and the Middle East in general:
"The Israeli people have been the sacrificial lamb of history," Fabio declares. It's mid-August, and the bombs are dropping in Lebanon as we stand in the kitchen of his sprawling Spanish-style mansion in Los Angeles (his publicist asked that we keep the neighborhood a secret to deter stalkers). The so-called Harlequin heartthrob, a diehard news junkie, has had a lot on his mind lately, particularly when it comes to Middle East policy and the Iraq war.

"It's about fucking time," he says, as Fox News reports on Israel's attempt to push Hezbollah out of Southern Lebanon. "[The Jews] have been getting killed for 5,000 years. Enough is enough. The rest of the world does not give a shit, except America, because the Israelis have no oil. Everyone sticks with those Arabs�because they have the oil."

Oil is a big issue for Fabio. Despite being an avid dirt-bike aficionado, he'd like to see America wean itself off fossil fuels. "We should fucking get alternative energy and tell all the Arabs and the rest of the world to stick it up their ass," he says. "Fuck them and the oil!"
And the Iraqi war, war in general and the Islamist mindset:
"I'll tell you my policy," he says confidently. "Invading Iraq was a total fuck-up because you have Muslims�Shi'ite, Sunni, and Kurds�who hate and would like to kill each other to the end of time. Listen, it took a bastard like Saddam Hussein, because he was a fanatic, killing hundreds of thousands, to keep those people quiet. We get there and are like, 'Oh!' Now what you've got is a civil war and we're stuck in the middle. It's like when you step on a nest of rattlesnakes. What are you gonna do? Of course, if we have to go to war with Iran, we are right there. That's the only good side."

He's also critical of how the war has been waged. "We went in too fast," he says. "To me, shock and awe should not be a light touch. Where's the shock, you know?" The model, who served the once-mandatory 18 months in the Italian military after high school, nods a lot when he speaks. He's so damn friendly, even when calling for mass carnage, that I find myself nodding along with him.

"Bomb them for a few years," he suggests, "And when they start coming out with the white flag ... bomb them a little bit more. Then you go in with our soldiers."

"Let me give you an example in life," he says, by which he means a example in fantasy. Fabio is big on outrageous hypotheticals. "You can't go into the ring with Mike Tyson and say, 'You know, Mike, you can't punch me in the face because I have a pretty face, okay? And of course you can't punch me under the belt, and not too hard.' He wants to rip you apart! He wants to bite your ear off, he wants to kill you. You see, it's war. This is what people don't understand."

"Think about it," he goes on. "On one hand, they show Abu Ghraib and Americans are like, 'What's the world coming to?' On the other hand, they chop off your head on TV. And you know, they're watching us and laughing. Because to them we are pussies. It's like they look at us and they're like, 'Oh, look at those wimpy little pussies.'"
There is a brain behind that face. A fun read.
This will work out just fine... From the Times Online:
African states rally behind Robert Mugabe
A group of 14 African nations raised the stakes yesterday before next week�s EU-Africa summit by threatening to pull out unless European leaders agreed not to single out Zimbabwe for criticism. Officials in Brussels, however, said there was no way that President Mugabe could escape a lecture on the dire straits of his countrymen if he turned up to the meeting in Lisbon.

The threat from the Southern African Development Community was seen last night in Brussels as a provocative attempt to influence the agenda being drawn up by the Portuguese hosts and certain to put Africa at loggerheads with the EU.

The SADC threat heightened the pre-summit row over Mr Mugabe�s attendance which has already meant Gordon Brown confirming his own boycott of the summit, a move followed by Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Prime Minister. Tomaz Salom�o, executive secretary of the SADC, said that its 14 members including South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania as well as Zimbabwe, would pull out if Zimbabwe was on the agenda.
He may be a stupid thug but he's OUR stupid thug... Reminds me of Kim Du Toit's excellent essay: Let Africa Sink He was born in South Africa and sees the problems there very clearly. A great insightful read...

Meet Tanja Nijmeijer -- a 29 year old Dutch woman who rebelled against her well-off parents and decided to join Colombia's FARC.

From the New London, CT The Day/AP:

Dutch Woman Who Joined Guerrillas In Colombia Disillusioned
The army stumbled on the handwritten diary during a raid on a guerrilla camp. It lay near the embers of a communal kitchen where fleeing rebels left their breakfast untouched.

"I'm tired, tired of the FARC, tired of the people, tired of communal living. Tired of never having anything for myself," wrote the author, a 29-year-old Dutch woman.

Colombia's government couldn't have hoped for better propaganda against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. It leaked excerpts from the diary found last June to the media, even making available an English translation of the Dutch entries.

The first known person from outside Latin America to join the region's largest rebel army wasn't just disillusioned. Like most FARC foot soldiers, Tanja Nijmeijer apparently wasn't permitted to leave.

"This would be worth it if I knew I was fighting for something. But I don't really believe that anymore," she wrote on Nov. 24, 2006, according to the excerpts released by the government.

What is that quote: "A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged." NEXT!

Like this is good news - oil department

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From Yahoo/Reuters:
Fire shuts key Canada-U.S. pipeline
An explosion crippled the main pipeline supplying Canadian crude to U.S. Midwest refineries on Wednesday, forcing operator Enbridge to halt nearly a fifth of U.S. imports and sending crude prices as much as $4 higher.

One of the set of four lines will require repairs and regulator inspections, while the largest is "not likely" to start up any time soon, Larry Springer, a spokesman for Calgary, Alberta-based operator Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO), said on Thursday.

The smaller two lines were several hundred feet from the fire and appear to be undamaged, but will be inspected soon before they are restarted, Springer said by phone. He was not able to give a specific time frame for restarting any of the network.

Two employees were killed in the blast and fire on the 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) Line 3, which had been shut earlier to inspect a leak, Springer added. Enbridge said in statement that the cause of the explosion had not yet been determined.

The explosion about 3.0 miles southeast of its Clearbrook, Minnesota, terminal, shut down a line that carries an estimated 1.9 million bpd of Canadian crude, equivalent to about 9 percent of total U.S. oil demand.
9% is not chump change. And the winter price bump was just starting to settle out too... Each winter, prices go up as refineries gear up to produce more fuel oil for heating. Not having been able to build any additional refineries for the last thirty years (thanks environmentalists!) has exacerbated this problem. The most recent sharp spike was traceable to speculation. Crap -- now they aren't even letting us grease up before we have to bend over...

Great line from an interview

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From The Lone Voice:
Frying tonight...Well said TB Bechtel
T. B. Bechtel, a part-time City Councilman from Midland, TX was asked on a local live radio talk show, just what he thought of the allegations of torture of the Iraqi prisoners. His reply prompted his ejection from the studio, but to thunderous applause from the audience.
"If hooking up an Iraqi prisoner's private parts to a car's battery cables will save one Texas GI's life, then I have just two things to say:"

"Red is positive"
"Black is negative"
What he said! Torture is inhumane but so is suicide bombing, hiding military forces in civilian clothing, hiding them in mosques and ambulances, using human shields, etc. etc. etc. etc. and the sooner we stop these pig-fuckers, the sooner the Iraqis can get on with their lives.
Remember Katrina - the CAT3 hurricane that emphasized the poor government of New Orleans and Louisiana, the ineptness of the American Red Cross and FEMA and the culture of corruption that allowed moneys earmarked for levy upgrades to be used for dredging shipping channels (more money in shipping). Well, one of FEMA's solutions was to import thousands of trailers and set them up for people to live in until such time as they could find permanent housing. These were rented by FEMA and the program had a specific lifespan. That time is coming near and some people still haven't gotten the clue... From Yahoo/AP:
FEMA to close post-Katrina trailer parks
Dozens of Hurricane Katrina victims still living in FEMA trailer parks will have to find new housing by Friday, as the agency works to shutter the temporary facilities it set up after the 2005 storm.

The move is intended to help the hurricane victims move into more stable, permanent housing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. But advocates worry that a housing shortage in the still-recovering area could leave some struggling to find a place to live.

It wasn't clear how many residents remained in the parks � as many as 13 � slated for closure Friday, though Ronnie Simpson, a FEMA spokesman, estimated there were dozens. Residents were given at least 60 days' notice, and FEMA is offering rental assistance to those living in the trailers, he said.

"People act like we're doing a disservice for moving people from a little trailer to an apartment or a house," he said Thursday. "I'm not sure that anyone really thought of these trailers as being their permanent home; I hope not. They were meant for temporary housing."

FEMA plans to close all its trailer sites set up specifically for residents affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita within the next six months and end leases within existing commercial trailer parks for other hurricane victims in the state by late 2008. The next wave of closures is set for New Year's Eve.

More than 6,400 households will be affected, FEMA says. The areas slated for closure Friday are mostly in the New Orleans area.

Davida Finger, a staff attorney with the Loyola University New Orleans Law Clinic who handles hurricane-related cases, said she was "deeply concerned," particularly when considering the current housing shortage. Katrina severely damaged or destroyed much of the housing stock in New Orleans, and affordable rents have been a big concern for residents and housing advocates, though prices have eased somewhat.
Emphasis mine... The other parks around the Gulf of Mexico have emptied out and been closed without a peep a year or two ago. People there shrugged, cleaned up, rebuilt and got on with their lives. What is so 'special' about New Orleans that gives it that air of self-indulgence. It's almost as if the very thought of self-reliance was beneath their contempt.

Two ways to do it - Russian and American

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Very interesting read over at The Belmont Club. It's a long one so I am just going to excerpt the first paragraph or so and let you wander over there and read the rest. I'll be here when you return and it is a fascinating read...
Brand A and Brand B
How well would a country with no almost no accountability to the public, able to apply unrestricted amounts of brutality and firepower and unconstrained by legal or humanitarian rights fare against a Jihadi foe? While those who believe that President Bush actually is Hitler may think the foregoing is a reference to the US campaign in Iraq, it is more accurately a reference to the Russian campaign in Chechnya.

The Russian campaign in Chechnya is interesting as a control case to Iraq not only because it lets the historian examine a counterinsurgency waged without American political constraints but also provides a real-world benchmark for what constitutes a truly brutal campaign as opposed to one only imagined that way by Hollywood directors like Brian de Palma. The Chechen campaign provides an an actual example of a counterinsurgency waged by an ex-socialist country compared to the actions of what has been described as a bestial colonial power, the United States of America. It's a contemporaneous side-by-side comparison by two different systems waged against a similar foe. And how have the two fared?
The answer will not be surprising to people who have been following the actual news from Iraq (as opposed to the MSM). Check out the rest of this essay.

A little poem for...

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...the upcoming Christmas Holiday Season. Swiped from The Braden Files:
'Twas the Month Before Christmas

Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
See the PC Police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a 'Holiday'.

Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.

Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace

The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.

Choose your words carefully, choose what you say.

not Happy Holiday!

A twisted online world

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This is one of the strangest stories about online life I have run across... From The Register:
Man sentenced to 20 years in murder of online rival
A 48-year-old man caught up in an internet love triangle was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing his rival after being dumped by the woman they both competed for.

Thomas Montgomery of Cheektowaga, New York, pleaded guilty in August to the shooting death of 22-year-old Brian Barrett while he sat in a pickup truck shortly after work ended.

Montgomery had passed himself off as an 18-year-old Marine in online chats with a middle-aged West Virginia mother, identified as Mary Sheiler. Never mind that the woman herself posed as an 18-year-old student by using photos of her daughter. When she learned the truth about Montgomery, their online romance cooled and she turned her attention to Barrett.

�When he could no longer get the Sheiler girl, the chats reveal an obsessive desire to make Brian Barrett suffer and to make her suffer,� prosecuting attorney Frank Sedita said.
So let's get this straight: Thomas Montgomery was 48 and passed himself off as 18 Brian Barrett was 22 when he was murdered -- Brian was pursuing Mary Sheiler who is 'middle-aged' but was posing as 18 by using her daughters' photographs. And the last bit:
Montgomery and Sheiler began chatting in 2005. The woman learned the truth about her online lover after mailing him a package. It was intercepted by the man's wife, who contacted Sheiler to tell her his age and marital status. The couple never met face to face.
Whatever happened to Boy Meets Girl -- Face to Face... Sanctity of Wedding Vows notwithstanding. Sheesh!
Two airplane 'incidents' most definitely not in the news these days. The first is an Airbus A340 scheduled for delivery to Etihad Airways (United Arab Emirates) It was undergoing some engine tests and jumped the wheel chocks. Fortunately for everyone else, the blast shield prevented further damage. The plane is a write-off. From Airline Empires:
Airbus A340 Meets Wall. Airbus Loses.
Etihad was to receive their next A340 this week, but it seems that delivery may be delayed. While running an engine test at the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, the A340-600 jumped the chocks and headed for the blast wall. The good news is the blast wall held up remarkably well. The bad news is the Airbus did not.
Some obligatory crash photos:


More pictures at the website. Can you say Fired? I thought you could... The second item is from Flight Story and is about an Engine Failure on a Southwest Airlines flight out of Dallas.
Follow-up - Southwest Engine Failure
Some days ago I posted information about a Southwest Airlines engine failure at Dallas. The FAA reported the Boeing 737 returned because of some vibration in the number 2 engine.

Apparently those information was wrong. Just a few days after posting I received a few comments of people who have been on this flight (#438). They stated it was no vibration, but a fatal engine failure.

What is scary is that the FAA and Southwest Airlines reported it as a case of engine vibration and not catastrophic failure. I know that the 737 can easily fly on one engine but why not state that and let people know that the airplane although grievously injured, was in no danger of crashing. News like this always leaks out in the end so it's better to spin it first and look like a hero.

More PC 'holiday' madness

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This time it's the Saginaw, Mich. Dickens Christmas Festival. From Saginaw TV Station WNEM:
'Christ' Taken Out Of Christmas Festival
Tightening budgets have forced Mt. Pleasant to take Christ out of their Christmas.

The traditional Dickens Christmas Festival has been re-named the Dickens Holiday Festival so the city can advertise in local schools.

In order to get more bang for their buck out of a thinning advertisement budget, the organization wants to put fliers in schools. For that to happen, the word �Christmas� had to be removed.
And the public reaction?
Downtown Development Coordinator Michelle Sponseller said many people are unhappy with the change.

�We changed the name this year for the schools because we wanted to advertise in the school brochures and the schools have a list of words you can�t use like Santa, Christmas and Nativity. So did a brochure for the schools and we took those words out.�

Sponseller said they made a brochure for the public with word Christmas is still in it.
I just hope these people remember the next time the school board comes up for election. Idiocy!

Dumb Criminal - a Doctor this time

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From United Press International:
Police: Suspected thief locked herself out
Police in Orland Park, Ill., said a woman apparently locked her purse inside a former employer's office after allegedly breaking into the room.

Officers alleged that Silva Schleiter-Doede, a doctor who formerly subcontracted for the optical department at a department store before April of this year, entered an office Sunday at the store during business hours using a hidden key she discovered, the Chicago Daily Southtown reported Tuesday.

Authorities claimed that security tapes showed Schleiter-Doede going between the office and her car during the next two hours, carrying items out of the building.

However, she then apparently accidentally locked herself out of the office -- with her purse and other belongings inside. She allegedly tried to enter the office through the ceiling, only to crush ceiling tiles and a metal pipe when she fell through the ceiling into the office.
What a maroon! If you are using a key, keep it with you at all times. And don't forget about the security cameras -- they are everywhere.

Three chocolate bunnies - dead

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Wonderful and strange little film on YouTube.

A wasted life - Piers Crombleholme

Piers Crombleholme is not exactly a household name but he is the great-grandson of J. R. R. Tolkien. From the UK Sun:
Tolkien�s relative bad Hobbit
The great-grandson of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien was ordered to pay more than �3,000 yesterday for possession of cannabis.

Piers Crombleholme, 27, was said to be �steeped in the drug culture�.

He admitted growing 39 cannabis plants at his shop selling knives and guns in Dudley, West Midlands, but said it was for his personal use.

Crombleholme was also given an 18-month community order and told to attend rehab.

Judge Michael Challinor told him: �You are steeped in the drug culture and need help to be brought away from it.

�You were in receipt of a trust fund from your relative�s literary career and have been given a golden opportunity to run your own business.
A rake and a wastrel.
There is a saying about going from shirtsleeve to shirtsleeve in three generations. Crombleholme's offspring (if any) will be penniless if they don't stumble onto something big as Piers seems destined to spend it all on Piers. John Ronald Reuel must be spinning in his grave...
A gorgeous collection of antique medical instruments. Hat tip to Medgadget

New stuffed toy for Christmas

Meet Twitch, the Roadkill Teddy:
Road kill for Christmas?
Animal and cute toy lovers look away now.

First came the toys which turned venereal diseases and parasites into the cutest of soft toys, now prepare for road kill toys.

A toy designer has come up with a gory end for teddy bears and other cuddly animal toys.

The first to be launched is Twitch, the Roadkill Teddy, which comes complete with opaque plastic body bag to keep the maggots out and attached to its twitching toe is an identity bag giving details of its demise.

According to its tag it was run over over by a milk float last Thursday, near the Hangar Lane Giratory system in London.

The toy's innards and blood can be stuffed in and out of his body. A zip on each side contains the blood and guts.

Its eyes are goggling, tongue is lolling around and a tyre print runs across its back.

The toys' creators, Compost Communications, have styled themselves 'toy terrorists' and according to their website: 'We squash and burn and bludgeon and maim. But we're also toy fanatics like you. We love toys.'

Toy creator Adam Arber, 33, from London, said: 'I got the idea from looking at my mother-in-law's dog which is quite ugly and I thought it would make a great toy. A friend of mine had taken some pictures of road kill and the two things gelled into one idea.'

Mr Arber, who works in advertising and who has been creating the toys in his spare time, said: 'I asked my mother-in-law and wife what they thought. I thought they might be upset but they just laughed.'

He said he thought the toys, which cost �25, would appeal to people with a sense of humour and 'probably not anyone easily upset'.
The manufacturers cna be found at Roadkill Toys

Statehood For Puerto Rico

An interesting set of arguments pro and con. There is bill in Congress to make Puerto Rico the 51st State. From station WESH in Orlando Florida:
Bill Could Lead To Statehood For Puerto Rico
A bill has been introduced to the U.S. Congress that could make Puerto Rico the 51st state.

For almost 50 years, the U.S. has been made up of 50 states. In 1959, Hawaii was the last state added to the Union, but that could change.

Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States for more than a century, and some people think it's time for the commonwealth to become a state. The topic has sparked a heated debate.

"Statehood would go against that sense of uniqueness, culture, identity that we do have under commonwealth," Puerto Rican Gov. Anibal Acevedo-Vila said.

"As a U.S. citizen, if you live in Puerto Rico, you are stripped of your rights," Luis Fortuno, Puerto Rico's only non-voting congressman, said.

Acevedo-Vila believes his people are better off the way they are now.

"We are U.S. citizens, we are a commonwealth of the U.S., but we are a nation sociologically. We call ourselves Puerto Ricans. We don't call ourselves Puerto Rican-Americans," Acevedo-Vila said.
I have been there twice and loved it each time - the last time was on the trip that Jen and my Dad took earlier this year.

Interesting find by Highway Cleanup Crew

From the Tampa Fl. Tribune:
Interstate 4 Cleanup Crew Finds 60 Pounds Of Pot
Members of a highway cleanup crew collected some intriguing litter along Interstate 4 this morning, the Florida Highway Patrol says.

At 7:30 a.m., the crewmen were near McIntosh Road when they spotted two large, plastic trash bags on the side of the highway that were filled with approximately 60 pounds of marijuana, Trooper Larry Coggins said.

Coggins says the plants, valued at more than $54,000, apparently fell out or were thrown out of a passing vehicle. They appeared freshly cut and some had intact root balls. Investigators suspect the plants were harvested within the last 24 hours from a grow-house operation, he said.
And I love the last line:
Anyone missing their bags of marijuana or knows how these bags made their way onto the roadside is asked to contact the Florida Highway Patrol at (813) 631-4020.
The sad thing is that there are people out there who are dumb enough to call the number... Not exactly Darwin at work but maybe a second cousin.

No Country for Old Men

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Jen and I saw this in the theater tonight and it is jaw-droppingly awesome. If you have ever liked any of the prior Coehn Brothers films (The Ladykillers, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink, Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, etc...), this one is probably their best work to date. There is a good bit of violence but it ties in with the story. The casting is incredible and the story of good v/s evil is very well told. Worth seeing on the big screen: No Country for Old Men

Old tech bad / New Tech Good

Riiiiight... Here is a story to illustrate this fallacy. From the Canadian Broadcasting Company:
Frost knocks out high-tech trolley buses in Vancouver
Hundreds of commuters in Vancouver shared taxis, walked or even thumbed rides Thursday morning after the city's new trolley buses were out of service because overhead lines were coated with frost.

The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority said drivers were forced to park their buses all over the city as moist air and cold temperatures overnight left the trolley lines frozen.

Although equipped with ice cutters like the old buses, the new trolleys are so technologically advanced and sensitive that the thin coat of ice on the overhead lines tricked the onboard computers into thinking the lines were dead, said TransLink spokesman Drew Snider.

"They assume that the poles have lost contact with the wires and they retract the poles � this is designed to keep the poles from failing above and bringing down trolley overheads," he said.

The new bus fleet has 188 high-tech trolleys, which rolled out in the summer of 2006, and almost all of them were grounded when the German-made system couldn't detect electricity, TransLink said.
Here is the obligatory picture:
No word on cost yet. Fine German Engineering indeed... And for the record, here is one of the trolleys I grew up riding on in Pittsburgh, PA. This one is from November 25th, 1950 -- I was 22 days old when the picture was taken.
Fast (for its day), cheap and efficient.

Adolf Hitler gets banned from an online forum

The footage is taken from a German film Der Untergang. (The Downfall) 17 year old Eric from Pof'tun (Pfafftown), North Carolina runs an online forum and decided to drum up some business by adding some subtitles to a clip from Der Untergang where Adolf Hitler gets his ass banned from Eric's forum complete with deleting accounts and banning IP addresses. The result is hilarious! Jen and I have both worked as admins on various fora and the characterization is spot-on perfect. A few people come to mind immediatly... Anyway, check it out here: Hitler Gets Banned From Silentwulf (YouTube)

Por Que no te callas?

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Translated: Why don't you shut up? Video with subtitles here. what Spain's King Juan Carlos said to Venezuela's 'President' Hugo Chavez. Seems he has a problem with running at the mouth. From New Zealand Stuff/Reuters:
Chavez's loose talk ruffles feathers again
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez exhausted his Colombian counterpart's patience by speaking out of turn once too often, prompting President Alvaro Uribe to end his neighbour's mediation with rebels on freeing hostages.

With less than two weeks before Chavez faces a close referendum on scrapping his term limits, the break-off delivered a diplomatic defeat to the Cuba ally and highlighted what many voters dislike about him � he cannot stop talking.

Accused of breaking a protocol accord by bypassing Uribe and contacting a Colombian general about the hostages, his ejection as mediator comes just weeks after the outspoken Chavez also provoked Spain's king to tell him to "shut up."

Chavez's mediation failure robs him of an opportunity to burnish his credentials as a statesman and hurts his image as he seeks to convince sceptical voters they should pass a December 2 referendum to expand the former coup leader's powers.

"The Venezuelan president exaggerated and abused the role of a mediator," said Felix Gerardo Arellano, an international relations academic at the Central University of Venezuela.

"It seemed more like a media show than a negotiation."
Talk about being one's own worst enemy... Keep on keepin' on Hugo
By none other than Victor Davis Hanson:
Why You Can Believe all Those Warnings About The Death of the West
I suggest that the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams read a little history about the British experience in India before he offers politically-correct but historically laughable sermons like the one he gave to a Muslim "lifestyle" magazine:
It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did - in India, for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together - Iraq, for example.
ONE, who is clearing the decks and moving on? And who are the "other people" putting Iraq back together? Iran? Saudi Arabia? China? The British in Basra? First, we read from the anti-war Left that the US is wasting a trillion dollars and thousands of its lives in Iraq, and yet now that we are clearing the decks and not putting it back together? Which is it?
Dr. Hanson then delivers five more points concluding with this one:
SIX, all Williams will accomplish is to convince Episcopalians in the U.S. not to follow the Anglican Church, and most Americans in general that, if they need any reminders, many of the loud left-wing British elite, nursed on envy of the US, still petulant over lost power and influence, and scared stiff of the demographic and immigration trends in its own country, are well, unhinged.
Short, 100% true and to the point. What's not to love!

The declining Dollar

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A well reasoned article on the US's declining Dollar and how this is going to spell doom and gloom for us... NOT! Check out: Good News on the Declining Dollar, Savings & More There is too much to really excerpt, it's worth the ten minutes to go there and read. Here are a few tid-bits:
�For the historically short-sighted, let�s remember we have been here before. Between 1985 and 1995, the dollar declined by 43 per cent against the world�s big currencies � somewhat more than it has in the past six years. That period was also marked by dire proclamations of the end of US economic power. But it turned out that in those years the foundations were laid for the strongest period of US economic growth in the past 35 years�
Not only is our Federal budget deficit a very manageable 1.2% of GDP (which is half of the average rate for the past 40 years), but our national debt is modest as well. For more on this topic, see National Debt at $9 Trillion
And one last one:
Many people who denounce our national savings rate do not realize that the savings rate statistic does not include most investments nor does it include assets in retirement plans or even home equity. For more on this, see $57.9 Trillion � American Net Worth
These last to excerpts contain links to other entries at Fundmastery Blog Some good and interesting reading over there -- definitely one for the blogroll...

Keeping schoolchildren warm - with Whiskey

This is actually legit. From
Whisky to keep school warm
The comforting power of whisky may be well known, but using Scotland's national drink to keep schoolchildren warm may seem a little controversial.

Fortunately, Edinburgh City Council is not suggesting Tynecastle High pupils drink the spirit to benefit from its heat.

But, from 2010, the replacement building for the existing high school will use waste heat from the North British Distillery next door.

The new school, to be built on McLeod Street in the capital, will use an innovative system to cut its energy bill dramatically.

Water supplied from the school will pass through a heat exchanger to be warmed up by the waste heat produced by the distillery.

The scheme will cost �200,000 but is expected to have paid for itself in energy savings within four years.
And this is not a new idea:
A similar project at the Bowmore distillery in Islay heats an adjacent swimming pool.
Very clever problem solving on the part of the distillery and the community government. You need 'X' amounts of heat energy to distill a given volume of whiskey and the process is not 100% efficient by a long shot. Why not recycle this for other uses.

A two-fer regarding Venezuela

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Yesterday from the Associated Press:
Chavez: Only a 'Traitor' Will Vote No
President Hugo Chavez warned his supporters on Friday that anyone voting against his proposed constitutional changes would be a "traitor," rallying his political base before a referendum that would let him seek unlimited re-election in 2012 and beyond.

Brandishing a little red book listing his desired 69 revisions to Venezuela's charter, Chavez exhorted his backers to redouble their efforts toward a victorious "yes" vote in the Dec. 2 ballot.

"He who says he supports Chavez but votes 'no' is a traitor, a true traitor," the president told an arena packed with red-clad supporters. "He's against me, against the revolution and against the people."

His speech followed the recent high-profile defection of his former Defense Minister Gen. Raul Baduel, a longtime ally who called the president's proposed reforms a "coup." Others have also broken with the Chavista movement in recent months, including politicians of the small left-leaning party Podemos.

Chavez's opponents accuse him of concentrating power and seeking to be president-for-life like his close friend Fidel Castro of Cuba. Chavez insists he will only stay on as long as Venezuelans continue to vote for him.
Emphasis mine -- reminds me of another little red book. Kinda makes the blood run cold... But good news today comes from Reuters:
Poll says Chavez loses Venezuela referendum lead
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lost his lead eight days before a referendum on ending his term limit, an independent pollster said on Saturday, in a swing in voter sentiment against the Cuba ally.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters oppose Chavez's proposed raft of constitutional changes to expand his powers, compared with 39 percent in favor, a survey by respected pollster Datanalisis showed.

Just weeks ago, Chavez had a 10-point lead for his proposed changes in the OPEC nation that must be approved in a referendum, the polling company said.
I hope that this last item is what happens in December. He may have been popular at the outset of his career but he is setting himself up as a hardline dictator and "President for life"

A royal twit

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There is a great schism forming in the Episcopal Church. Part of it wants to disappear down the multi-culti is great, accept everything rat hole and part of it wants to return to the original old-school spiritual practices. Unfortunately, the titular head of the Church is one of the more rabid moonbats out there. From the Times Online:
US is�worst� imperialist: archbishop
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday.

Rowan Williams claimed that America�s attempt to intervene overseas by �clearing the decks� with a �quick burst of violent action� had led to �the worst of all worlds�.

In a wide-ranging interview with a British Muslim magazine, the Anglican leader linked criticism of the United States to one of his most pessimistic declarations about the state of western civilisation.

He said the crisis was caused not just by America�s actions but also by its misguided sense of its own mission. He poured scorn on the �chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God�s purpose for humanity�.

Williams went beyond his previous critique of the conduct of the war on terror, saying the United States had lost the moral high ground since September 11. He urged it to launch a �generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence�.
First of all, there is a little issue of someone from one nation telling someone from another nation how to conduct business. Both Britain and the United States of America are sovereign nations and the idea that we allow a non-national to direct our operations is anathema. I'm not going to get into the whole separation of Church and State issue, something that Rev. Williams as a primate should be more than adequately aware of. The idea that this condemnation of the US would be published in a Muslim lifestyle magazine is beneath contempt for both the man and for the office. For more info on the Episcopal Schism, here is a Google Search, you can also go here, here and here. Editors note: I was brought up in an old-school Episcopal church and although not a regular attendee these days, I still feel closely aligned with the moral values and practices that I learned as a kid. I have zero problems with gay people but there is a certain don't ask/don't tell that should be upheld when one is in a position of having moral authority over a congregation. My Dad gravitated from the Episcopal church to the United Churches in Christ. I do not agree with them but I support his decision to do so. I consider groups like the UCC to lack a sense of moral definition. The idea that everyone can be accepted is a mental dishonesty and a spiritual weakness. There is evil out there and to try to "accept it" and hope that it will turn out good is at best, ineffective and at worst, only serves to encourage that very evil that you are trying to turn good. It is nothing more than mental masturbation.

How to repair a DVD or CD disk

Sooper seekret trick - Brasso From McGee Flutes:
Fixing Scratched CDs
A simple and safe-to-do-at-home repair for scratched and scuffed CDs

When CDs first came out, there was a remarkable amount of sales hype about how indestructible they were. Those of us who work in radio stations soon found out! CDs are easily rendered unplayable by a small scuff or scratch to the playing surface. Fortunately, these minor abrasions can be easily fixed.
Also, Burning Issues had an excellent comparison of several commercial fluids complete with graphic analysis of how well they worked. Their conclusion? Brasso and Crystal-Disk. Considering that Brasso sold for (these are 2000 prices) $4.69 for 235ml and Crystal Disc sold for $7.99 for 20ml, the choice is pretty much a no-brainer... The McGee Flutes link has detailed directions for use including how you should move the polishing cloth -- good stuff to know.

Proof once again that anyone can have a website

Check out Tampon Crafts. Here is their toupee:
Tampon Toupee
OK, this is really more like a tampon wig, but let's not split hairs. Either way, it will cover up Dad's receding hairline or bald spot. Incidentally, we tried using Just for Men hair coloring for an authentic shade of chestnut brown, but it didn't take on the tampons. Use fabric dye for the best results. A styrofoam wig stand makes this project easier, but you could probably use a melon in a pinch.

About 40 Tampax tampons
RIT fabric dye (brown or whatever hair color you need to match)
One thigh-high nylon stocking
Hot glue gun
Styrofoam wig stand
Lot's more including an awesome Viagra cuff links, some cute earrings and a fantastic Thanksgiving table centerpiece The mind... The mind boggles at this persons creativity...

The Grateful Dead's touring sound system

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As well as being a wonderful band, the Grateful Dead gained quite a few geek props for their sound system - one of the largest and best ever put together for a touring act. Audiojunkies has a nice (but short) look at it from an Insider's point of view:
An Insider's Look at the Grateful Dead's Wall of Sound
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Richard Pechner about the Grateful Dead's Wall of Sound and his role in creating what is considered to be one of the largest sound systems of all time. The Wall of Sound was built exclusively for the Grateful Dead and it was used on their tours from 1974 to 1976.
AJ: What is your background in pro-audio and how did you get involved with the design and creation of the Wall of Sound?
Richard Pechner: I had no formal training in pro-audio. I learned from Dan Healy, Bear and Ron Wickersham. I had toured with the Band in the late '60's & early 70's as a roadie. As the Band became more popular we were playing in bigger venues and always having to deal with the inadequacies of house pa systems or lack of. Necessity being the mother of invention the Wall of Sound was born to serve the Band and it's desire to provide the best, consistent, mind blowing concert sound experience money and genius could buy. My carpentry background steered me into setting up and running the cabinet shop which prototyped and then manufactured all the cabinets in the Wall.

AJ: Was there any inspiration for the original idea or was it something that you guys wanted to do that was completely awe inspiring for the crowd? How long did it take to assemble and what sort of problems did you guys encounter in the assembly process at venues?
Richard Pechner: The design/build took months to complete. (I am not quite sure the exact time frame.) The problems we faced were numerous. One of the biggest issues was "stacking" the speaker columns and positioning of the center cluster. As the speaker columns grew in height the logistics of hand stacking them become dangerous. Those 15" bass cabinets of Phil's were no picnic to move around let alone lift and stack. We quickly figured out we needed a mechanical system. We wound up flying 1/2 ton electrical Coffing Winches (9 from Graingers) above each bay and employed a steel platform to raise the columns in place. We adapted 3 winches to lift the much heavier Center Cluster into place. The first time Billy saw the Center Cluster in place he refused to play under it so we had to move his drum platform stage front a bit for him. We also reinforced the Cluster once it was rotated to the proper angle. (We did this by attaching 2 winches to the back and one to the front.)
The basic specs:
Grateful Dead Wall of Sound Specs
26,400 watts of continuous power via 44 amplifiers
586 JBL loudspeakers (15", 12" and 5")
54 Electrovoice tweeters
75 tons in weight (approximately)
And picture from 1974, Vancouver, BC:
Amazing technology for the time.

Shipwreck in Antarctica

A supposedly polar-rated cruise ship hit some ice, sustained a "fist-sized hole" took on water and sank. No fatalities but how this could happen is beyond imagination. From This Is London:

'Titanic' terror of Britons saved in Antarctic rescue after cruise ship struck iceberg
Scores of frightened passengers shivered in lifeboats for two hours yesterday after their cruise ship was holed by ice off the Antarctic and started sinking.

Twenty-four Britons were among those forced to abandon ship in temperatures of -5c.

Surrounded by Titanic-style images - jagged blocks of ice lapped by icy waters and the listing vessel containing their belongings - they huddled together for warmth.

The 85 passengers were halfway through a $5,600 19-day Antarctic holiday on the 2,400-ton Explorer when it was hit by a block of ice, believed to have broken from an iceberg.

The vessel is built to withstand the impact of floating ice but somehow a fist-sized hole opened up and at 5.24am an emergency call was put out and the captain decided to abandon her.

Leaving all belongings behind, the passengers put on lifejackets and windcheaters and were directed into eight lifeboats and four liferafts which were then lowered slowly over the sides.

Everyone survived but still... My Mom, Dad and I were on this same ship about fifteen years ago. It was being run by Lindblad at the time and the cruise was near the American and French stations. A wonderful time and an amazing part of this planet. Here is Gap Adventure's page for their ship - a sad end to a wonderful vessel.

Mole man in Fresno

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From Florida's Local 6
Homeless Man Found Living In Elaborate Underground Home
State Says Home Is Danger To Residents

A homeless contractor known as the "mole man" dug a multi-room 200-square foot home underground in Fresno that surprised police when they recently stumbled upon a hidden entrance.

Police said Bruce Tracy dug the underground home in an area near Roeding Park in Fresno.

The home had a bed, a leak-proof roof, a kitchen and escape hatch, Local 6 reported.

Tracy said it took him about 2 months with a shovel and other tools to carve out the underground rooms.

The state said it is a danger to people living nearby and plan to demolish it.

Tracy said it is no big deal and he is already looking for a new location for his next underground home.

Tracy said he has built several underground homes.
Got to give him points for ingenuity. Fresno summers are brutal and there already is a history of underground dwelling there. Here and Here

Light posting tonight - post turkey laziness

Sitting here suffering Tryptophan overload. Posting will be minimal if at all tonight...

Well Dang!

From the UK Telegraph:

Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'
Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our activities may be shortening the life of the universe too.

The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that we change things simply by looking at them and theorists have puzzled over the implications for years.

They often illustrate their concerns about what the theory means with mind-boggling experiments, notably Schrodinger's cat in which, thanks to a fancy experimental set up, the moggy is both alive and dead until someone decides to look, when it either carries on living, or dies. That is, by one interpretation (by another, the universe splits into two, one with a live cat and one with a dead one.)

New Scientist reports a worrying new variant as the cosmologists claim that astronomers may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, a mysterious anti gravity force which is thought to be speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.

The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end. "Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe," Prof Krauss tells New Scientist.

What was that? Did you hear something? Is it getting dark in here?

Apropos for tomorrow - Moooooooo

Swiped from Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple:
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'll be heading into town to pick up my Dad and bringing him back out here and then we are heading off to a neighbors house. I'm bringing a squash recipe that I like. Take a Delicatta squash, cut and scrape out the seeds. Cook some rice (I'm using a wild and basmati blend) until it's almost done (not crunchy but sticks to your teeth. Take about 10-15 minutes off the cooking time.) Drain the rice, mix in some dried unsweetened cranberries and stuff the squash with it. Put this in the oven face up covered with a bit of tin foil and bake for about 30-45 minutes at 350 until the squash is fork tender. A little bit of butter and brown sugar on the top before baking makes it nicer...

Two stories about Zimbabwe

Two stories about Zimbabwe were in the news today. First from London Daily Mail:
Ian Smith, the defiant leader of Rhodesia for 15 turbulent years, dies aged 88
His last years were spent in exile, watching with a mixture of sadness and self-regard as his home country slid deeper into despotism and utter ruin.

"I told you so," would serve well as an epitaph for Ian Smith, the colonialist who defied black African nationalism, the British Commonwealth and the UN to unilaterally declare Rhodesia independent under white rule.

The tough former RAF fighter pilot died, aged 88, with his black Marxist nemesis Robert Mugabe still in power in what is now Zimbabwe.
When I visited his home, on his 88th birthday last Easter Sunday, I was told emphatically: "Mr Smith does not speak to anyone, any more."

What was happening in next door Zimbabwe spoke for itself.
Second from The Times Online
Mugabe grabs platinum and diamonds
President Mugabe unleashed a devastating new blow to Zimbabwe�s mortally wounded economy yesterday, announcing a new law giving the state a controlling stake in mines operating in the country.

Under the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, the Government can take over 51 per cent of companies mining strategic fuels and minerals, taking 25 per cent without paying.

The balance of 26 per cent it needs for a majority shareholding will be paid for, it said. However, the Bill brazenly asserts that payment will come from dividends earned from the state�s shares in the companies it takes without having to pay. It gives the state seven years in which to do it.

The Bill justifies its seizure �in virtue (sic) of its original ownership of all useful minerals in its subsoil�. Companies mining other minerals will be taken over by indigenous Zimbabweans. The method of payment is not specified.

Much of Zimbabwe�s mining industry has been wrecked by Government interference but the ripe plum remaining is the fast-growing multibillion-dollar platinum industry. The largest company with such interests is Zimplats, the local subsidiary of South Africa�s Impala Platinum, which is the world�s second-biggest producer of the precious metal.

Already producing $10 billion (�5 billion) of platinum a year, Zimplats is carrying out a billion-dollar expansion programme to double its output and make the mine one of the world�s biggest. It is by far the biggest foreign investment in Zimbabwe since the country�s independence in 1980. Also in the Government�s sights is the London-based Rio Tinto�s Murowa diamond mine, which has cost $78 million to set up and is on the verge of starting a $270 million expansion.

No comment was available from either of the two companies. The Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines said that it was studying the Bill. Doug Ver-den, a spokesman, said: �It doesn�t look good.�
Let's see now, with inflation scheduled to hit a whopping 100,000 percent by the end of this year and with outside investments in telecom, electrical and wireless services already 'Nationalized' what business will look to invest in Zimbabwe. Mugabe needs to go now... Smith on the other hand was made of some strong stuff. The Daily Mail obit has quite a few stories -- would have been a fascinating person to have a few beers with...

An SR-71 Blackbird story

Hat tip to BoingBoing Gadgets for this story:
Story: SR-71 Pilots Show Off
One day, high above Arizona, we were monitoring the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers to check his ground speed. �Ninety knots,� ATC replied. A twin Bonanza soon made the same request. �One-twenty on the ground,� was the reply. To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a ground speed check. I knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, he had a ground speed indicator in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the bug-smashers in the valley know what real speed was. �Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,� ATC responded.

The situation was too ripe. I heard the click of Walter�s mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter startled the controller by asking for a ground speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace. In a cool, professional voice, the controller replied, �Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.� We did not hear another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.
Heh... My favorite airplane. I remember seeing a thing on them on TV and they asked one of the people who designed it if there was anything that they would change if they had to re-design it today. The reply was 'No'.

A very happy Brazilian

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ON November 9th, I wrote about the deep oil field discovered off the coast of Brazil. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is happy, very very happy. From Breitbart/AFP:
'God is Brazilian,' Lula says after oil find
God is Brazilian," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Tuesday in relation to his government's announcement earlier this month that massive new oil reserves had been discovered offshore.

"This discovery... proves that God is Brazilian," he said during a speech at his presidential palace in the capital Brasilia.

His theological assertion is not original: Brazilians have long claimed that God shares their nationality on the basis of the natural resources at their disposal.

The British magazine The Economist also already made reference to that saying in its take on the oil find in an article last week titled "God may indeed be Brazilian after all."

Brazil's government and the state-run oil company Petrobras announced two weeks ago that exploration of its Tupi offshore field showed it had enough to increase national oil reserves by 50 percent.

A new discovery nearby still being explored also appeared to contain enough petroleum to propel Brazil among the top 10 oil producers in the world, they said.
He certainly looks happy! I would not mind visiting Brazil sometime -- looks like a fascinating place.

A journey interrupted

A tragic occurrence at the Vancouver International Airport about a month ago. Robert Dziekanski was emigrating from Poland to Canada. He didn't speak a word of English, his Mother was there at the airport to meet him. And things went to hell with Mr. Dziekanski being tasered by the RCMP and dying from this treatment. In the days following this tragedy, what happened wasn't clear. Now it is and it is not good. Canada's National Post has a good writeup of the story:
A dream of a new life gone horribly wrong
Robert Dziekanski was born an only child in Bielawa, a small town of 30,000 in the southwestern corner of Poland that is within sight of the Sowie Mountains, which divide his home country from the Czech Republic.

He would never cross that border, or any other, until he was 40 and left Poland to join his mother in distant Canada, his bags packed with geography books that had long sustained his unfulfilled world fascination, his pockets empty of the cigarettes he had discarded in favour of healthier beginnings.

His baggage is today all that remains of his immigration to Canada and it, almost more than anything else, speaks to the dreams that brought him to what was to be his new country.
And then things went south:
A day later Mr. Dziekanski landed in Vancouver and walked up to the primary inspection row of customs agents, showing no signs of anything abnormal, according to officials at the Vancouver Airport Authority who have reviewed surveillance videos. He did not speak any English but by about 4 p.m. had cleared customs and entered the baggage hall.
All that is known is that Mr. Dziekanski was there for a very long time. Less than 100 metres away, his mother was waiting, too. She was, in the words of her lawyer Walter Kosteckyj, "just basically hyper-excited to see her son."

As her son was clearing primary inspection, the anxious mother made her first trip to an arrivals-level information desk to inquire about her son. She was told the immigration process often caused delays, and that she needn't worry yet. So she waited.

As the hours passed, she returned to the information desk at least twice more and, finally, asked to speak with a supervisor. She was told to go up an escalator to a departures-level info desk.

Somewhere between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., she convinced one of the information officers to page her son, but the officer mispronounced his name so poorly she worried he would not understand his own name. Despite asking, she was not allowed to speak over the PA system herself. Even had she been given the microphone, however, her words would not have reached his ears, because the public address system did not broadcast into the customs hall where he was waiting.

As she sought help at the information desks, the man who drove her to Vancouver -- who spoke fluent English -- walked into a customs and immigration area to ask whether anyone there could help. He learned nothing.

Two hours later, at 9:30 p.m., he returned, picked up a phone and again spoke to an official. It is unclear who he spoke to, but according to Mr. Kosteckyj, the lawyer, he was told: "I can tell you that there's no Polish immigrant here tonight."
It was becoming clear to Ms. Cisowski that her son was not there. At 10 p.m., she approached an information desk for at least the sixth time. With no new information, and with the signal from an official that her son was not there, she decided he must have somehow missed his flight. She left the airport, and set out for her four-hour drive home.

She could not have known that minutes after she left, her son's wait finally ended when he presented himself to secondary inspection officials, who helped him with his luggage. Two hours later, according to the official account, he cleared immigration.

Someone had communicated with him well enough to process him as a new immigrant. Yet as he left the secure area more than nine hours after touching down in Vancouver, he remained alone and helpless.

At about 1:15 a.m., he began to grow erratic--opening and closing the automatic door that divides the two areas. He was sweating. He threw a folding table, then a computer.

At 1:20 a.m., airport operations received two reports about his behaviour. Five minutes later, security officials arrived. The four RCMP officers came shortly after. The video of their arrival shows them walking past the airport's Clayoquot carved wooden figures, whose outstretched arms of welcome Mr. Dziekanski never reached.

He calls for police and, according to Polish speakers who have seen the video, threatens to sue.

About twenty-five seconds after one of the officers asks, "How are you doing, sir?" Mr. Dziekanski is hit with the first 50,000-volt jolt from the Taser. He screams. Less than a minute after RCMP first approach him, he grows silent. Not long after, he is pronounced dead.

A subsequent toxicology report found no drugs or alcohol in his system. So what triggered his bizarre conduct? Ms. Krupak, the Polish-Canadian reporter, suggests it may have been an attempt to get a response from the police he believed would help him. Ludwik Tokarczuk, president of the Canadian Polish Conference, says any normal person in his condition would have reacted the same way.

"He was without sleep, without food because he couldn't probably ask for any food. He was without cigarettes, and in withdrawal from nicotine," he said.

In an especially cruel twist, Ms. Cisowski herself would not find out about any of her son's actions that night until many hours later. She arrived home at 2 a.m. to find a message waiting: "It's Canada Immigration calling, Vancouver International Airport for Zofia. Well, we're expecting her to be here, I guess, picking up her relative. If she is not, you can return this call."

She did, and half an hour later reached someone who told her that her son was waiting for her. Mr. Dziekanski had at this time already been dead for an hour. But that is not what Ms. Cisowski was told. She took a bus and arrived in the afternoon, and it was not until then that she was confronted with the horrible news.

In his eulogy at a memorial service today, Jurek Baltakis, a leader in the Kamloops Polish community, will remember that act as a mother's heart-wrenching bid to leave her only son--a man whose death seems so remarkably stupid -- with a gift so "he can make his last trip to eternity and remember that he was a Polish- Canadian."
Good Lord -- I hope that some very highly placed heads roll on this one. It would have been obvious that this person did not speak English and they should have had an interpreter available -- even on the telephone -- to help him along and to find out that his mother was waiting for him. I can understand the need for security but there is good unobtrusive security and there is ham-handed stupidity. This tragedy is a perfect example of the latter...

Morton Thompson's Turkey

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God but this sounds awesomely good! Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link to: Morton Thompson's Turkey
Morton Thompson's Turkey
Time to see who has the guts to try this at Thanksgiving.

There is only one way to stuff and roast a turkey. I make this statement boldly and without fear of successful contradiction, knowing that I am asking for the indignant protests of countless housewives who have been cooking turkey superbly for years, by recipes handed down from the time of the Pilgrims. Nevertheless, there is only one way to cook a turkey, and I am confident that I will be backed in this claim by anyone who has ever eaten turkey cooked according to the recipe devised by the late Morton Thompson. In the minds of most people, Thompson is remembered chiefly as the author of a best seller, Not as a Stranger, which later became a motion picture. Around my house, he is remembered � and revered � for his turkey recipe, which gives him hall-of-fame status and puts him in the same class as the man who invented the wheel, Plato, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Eli Whitney, Flaubert, Babe Ruth, and Santa Claus.

Merely sitting here and thinking about Thompson's turkey makes me wish I were cooking one now � and if I know me, I will be cooking one sometime within the next few days. The thought of this wondrous culinary creation is not merely maddening, it is compelling. It is also tiring. Thompson's turkey demands hard work, which ought to be divided among a number of people. But it is worth it. I have been cooking turkey Thompson's way for about a dozen years. Every one of the vast collection of acquaintances to whom I have served it has gasped, raved, and wound up pronouncing it the best ever. There is no other turkey recipe that comes close to it � and this is odd, in a way, for the ordinary Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, cooked according to any number of old reliable recipes, is a handsome sight at the table, and Thompson's turkey is an absolute horror. Even a poached turkey, removed white and dripping from a steaming pot looks better than Thompson's.

This turkey comes out of the oven looking as though someone had made a fearful mistake. It is covered with a hard jet-black crust that seems to be a combination of coal and ashes. When they first catch sight of it, guests wish they had gone elsewhere for dinner. When they begin to eat it, they realize they never before have known turkey. They refuse to leave until they have eaten every scrap of it. Some ask to take the bones home to boil them up into a heartening soup. Others stuff bits into pockets, handbags, or paper napkins. The only trouble with Thompson's turkey, from the cook's point of view, is that there is seldom any left over.

The truth is that Thompson's turkey is to turkey as Miss Monroe is to women, as Jones was to golf, as � well the reader may choose his own champions. Thompson's turkey, beneath that hard black shell, is browned in a variety of tones ranging from light tan to mahogany, and has a variety of tastes stretching from marvelous to unbelievable. Now these are all strong claims. But here is what one Thompson's-turkey admirer said about it: "Several years ago I ate a turkey prepared and roasted by Morton Thompson. I didn't eat the whole turkey, but that wasn't my fault. There were outsiders present who ganged up on me.
The recipe is complex, requiring about 30 different ingredients but I am sitting here salivating... Damn that sounds delicious! We are having Thanksgiving at a friends house (along with my Dad) but maybe I'll do this for Christmas.

Dick Wilson - R.I.P.

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Not exactly a household name but try this: Please don't squeeze the Charmin. That Dick Wilson. Passed away today at age 91. Fox News has the story:
'Mr. Whipple' of Charmin Fame Dies at 91
Dick Wilson, the actor and pitchman who played the uptight grocer begging customers "Please, don't squeeze the Charmin," died Monday. He was 91.

The man famous as TV's "Mr. Whipple" died of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, said his daughter Melanie Wilson, who is known for her role as a flight attendant on the ABC sitcom "Perfect Strangers."

Over 21 years, Wilson made more than 500 commercials as Mr. George Whipple, a man consumed with keeping bubbly housewives from fondling the soft toilet paper. The punch line of most spots was that Whipple himself was a closeted Charmin-squeezer.
He also acted a lot of television shows but never was attracted to the cinema. His comment:
"The kind of pictures they're making today, I'll stick with toilet paper," he told The Associated Press in 1985.
A bit of history:
He was born in England in 1916, the son of a vaudeville entertainer and a singer. He moved to Canada as a child, serving in the Canadian Air Force during World War II, and became a U.S. citizen in 1954, he told the AP.

Cool Astronomical photo

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The sun has been very quiet for the last couple of months so the observers at the French Pic du Midi de Bigorre Solar Observatory have just been hanging out taking cool photographs. Thanks to SpaceWeather for the link to this one:
Click for larger image
This is a composite shot. With the second image, the jet is off-screen to the right and the thing that looks like a a solar prominence is actually an artifact from the turbulence of the jet's contrail.

A strong sense of identity

A mental basket case more likely. From the Florida Sun-Herald:

Born a man, he became a woman, then a man again - what's next?
High on prescription painkillers and four days without sleep, Michael Berke raced his Harley to the megachurch where he'd found a home.

He barged into the church office, cursing loudly and wearing a mesh shirt printed with profanity. In his hands he held a picture of a woman with long, red hair and pouty lips.

"This is who I used to be," he said.

"And this"  he gestured to his breastless chest, bald head and red goatee  "is who I'�ve become."

He was born a man. After a lifetime as a social misfit, he had transformed himself into Michelle, a saucy redhead. Then, three months ago, he had become Michael again - with the financial aid and spiritual encouragement of Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale.

Now, he wanted to be Michelle again, and he blamed Calvary for making him the man he had become.

And the reason for this behavior:

It has never been about sex. And the new clothes and 45 pairs of shoes were fun, but not fulfilling.

Berke wanted friendship - the kind women have.

He dreamed of shopping together and gossiping in the bathroom. "I always admired how girls can hold hands, girls can hug, cuddle, and there's nothing abnormal about it. It'�s not sexual," he says. "The whole girl lifestyle is just so much more social and caring and loving and understanding."

OK then -- now just try to look at it from the viewpoint of a potential friend:

He spent about $80,000, maxing out his credit cards on surgery and provocative women's clothes. He got a nose job, brow lift and fat injections in his cheeks. His primary-care physician gave him hormones, and after a year he got breast implants..

Michael kept his penis; that surgery cost too much, and he still identified himself as a heterosexual. (He's had relationships with women and says he's still hoping to meet one with whom he could spend his life.)


He doesn't work, relying on money from his father and disability checks from knee injury.

Let's see -- No job, Maxed out Credit (but still drives a Harley), Mooches off a Church, No sense of self identity. A perfect candidate for a torrid romance if you ask me... Makes me wanna move to Florida just to be with him. Now I need to find the brain bleach. Oh yes, there are before and after photos at the Sun-Herald website.


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It's a bit warm for it to be sticking but snow is falling outside the window right now. Good candidate for a very lazy day...

On November 10th, I wrote about Spain's King Juan Carlos telling Venezuela's Chavez to "shut up".

Well, it turns out that quite the cottage industry has grown up out of those wonderful words. From the UK Guardian:

King's outburst generates £1m-worth of ringtones
When the Spanish king Juan Carlos turned to Hugo Chavez and said to him, a touch irritably, "Why don't you shut up?", little did he know that his breach of diplomatic protocol would become a smash hit across the country.

Were the king to claim image rights over his less-than-diplomatic outburst, he could find himself a nice little earner, as those five famous words have become a multi-million euro business, selling ringtones, mugs, T-shirts and websites.

According to David Bravo, a lawyer specialising in IT law and intellectual property, "the use of the sentence 'why don't you shut up?' in ringtones ... is a violation of his image rights".

An estimated 500,000 people have already downloaded the ringtone, generating around £1.5m ($1m), but many companies have circumvented any potential problems over rights by using an actor's voice instead of the king's.

Over 700 videos have appeared on YouTube, with parodies ranging from a Benny Hill sketch to a Nike advert featuring the Brazilian star Ronaldinho, which ends: "Juan do it. Just shut up."

Meanwhile, the Pena brothers, who run a small T-shirt company, have found themselves overwhelmed with orders for their design inspired by the king. They normally expect to sell 800 T-shirts in a year, but in the week of the king's outburst their orders reached over 1,000.

Heh... I'd get a Tee Shirt

Warning!!! There are Eggs in Egg Nog!!!

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I would file this under General Silliness except that it is our government who stepped in and caused the 'issue'. From the Portland Press Herald:
Egg in nog? No joke, says Smiling Hill
When your family owns and operates a place called Smiling Hill Farm, you tend to go through life with a grin. But last week, the best Warren Knight could manage was a grimace.

It started with a spot inspection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- it happens every year or two at the Westbrook dairy farm and has never been a big deal.

But this time was different. Looking over a fresh batch of the Smiling Hill egg nog, the inspector did a double take: The bottle cap -- the only place on the otherwise all-glass container with any printing -- was out of federal compliance.

How so?

"Eggs were not listed as an ingredient," Knight recalled.

Egg, you see, is an allergen. As such, the inspector told Knight, it must be explicitly listed as an ingredient somewhere on the one-and-three-eighths-inch-wide cap.

"But the cap says 'Egg Nog!' " protested Knight.

Didn't matter.

"But we're limited by cap space," Knight persisted. What's more, they can't start slapping warning labels onto their reusable bottles without gumming up the bottle washer.

Not the feds' problem.
Yet another instance of the willful dumbing-down of this Nation. Expect people to know that there are eggs in Egg-Nog. Yeah, I know... The solution:
Knight headed for Staples Thursday and bought a bunch of red, one-inch-round labels. Then he fired up his computer and printed "WARNING Contains EGGS" twice on each one.

Then he and the rest of the family spent the day cutting each label in half and affixing the semi-circular warnings to the cap on each bottle -- being careful not to encroach on the bar code.

"Someday we're going to look back at this and laugh," chortled one of the workers.

Replied Knight, "Yeah, but it won't be tomorrow."

It's not that Knight has anything against enforcing food safety regulations.

"The health and safety of our customers is foremost," he said. "Since without them, we cease to exist."

But Knight checked with the National Institutes of Health and found that .05 percent of the U.S. population is allergic to eggs. And he has a strong hunch that every last one of those poor folks already knows that egg nog contains eggs.

So go ahead and chuckle. But if you're within earshot of Smiling Hill Farm, please do it quietly.

"Sometime after applying sticker number 783," said Knight, "this theater of the absurd stopped being funny."
At the store, we sell a lot of milk produced by a local dairy and sold in glass bottles. Wonderful stuff as it comes from Jersey cows instead of Holstein. More complete proteins, grass fed and not homogenized.

Christmas Creep - one voice in opposition

I for one am getting tired of seeing Christmas stuff weeks before Thanksgiving. Seattle based department store Nordstrom's is too. From The Consumerist comes this breath of fresh air:
Nordstrom Opposes Christmas Creep


Nordstrom has conquered the urge to celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving. The retailer announced its decision to respect the calendar and common sense by hanging signs declaring that they will wait until the day after Thanksgiving, the earliest acceptable moment, to display their Christmas decorations. The vainglorious announcement is an important indicator that Nordstrom's competitors have overdone the unseasonable cheerfulness schtick.
Very cool! At the store, we have a few Thanksgiving decorations up. After Thanksgiving, we will be getting some garland and a small tree. As they say, one holiday at a time please... A bit of history - when I lived in Boston, one of the places I lived was a warehouse loft. The store on the ground floor sold window decorations to other stores and they always had displays in their windows. Since there was a certain amount of lead time involved, the displays were always several months out of sync. A strange thing to be stumbling home after a night on the town and walk past a window full of Christmas decorations when it was still July or August...

Sesame Street today - not for kids


Now this is sick -- a perfect example of how PC today's society has gotten and how wrong it is...

From Slashdot comes this story: Sesame Street DVD Deemed Adult-Only Entertainment

"The earliest episodes of Sesame Street are being made available on DVD, but the NYT notes Volumes 1 and 2 carry a rather strange warning: 'These early 'Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child.' So why are they unsuitable for toddlers in 2007? Well, in the parody 'Monsterpiece Theater,' Alistair Cookie - played by Cookie Monster - used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. 'That modeled the wrong behavior,' explained a Sesame Street executive producer, adding that 'we might not be able to create a character like Oscar [the Grouch] now.'"

The link at the Slashdot story goes to this article by Virginia Heffernan at the NY Times:

Sweeping the Clouds Away
Sunny days! The earliest episodes of Sesame Street are available on digital video! Break out some Keebler products, fire up the DVD player and prepare for the exquisite pleasure-pain of top-shelf nostalgia.

Just don't bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, Sesame Street: Old School is adults-only: "These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child."

Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the room. "What did they do to us?" asked one Gen-X mother of two, finally. The show rolled, and the sweet trauma came flooding back. What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar's depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn't exist.

Nothing in the children's entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then - as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 - a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.

Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen - cows eating common grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a time. Elsewhere, two brothers risk concussion while whaling on each other with allergenic feather pillows. Overweight layabouts, lacking touch-screen iPods and headphones, jockey for airtime with their deafening transistor radios. And one of those radios plays a late-'60s news report - something about a senior American official and two billion in credit over the next five years that conjures a bleak economic climate, with war debt and stagflation in the offing.

They even redacted and altered some episodes:

I asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of Sesame Street, how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the parody Monsterpiece Theater. Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, "That modeled the wrong behavior" - smoking, eating pipes - so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether."

Which brought Parente to a feature of Sesame Street that had not been reconstructed: the chronically mood-disordered Oscar the Grouch. On the first episode, Oscar seems irredeemably miserable - hypersensitive, sarcastic, misanthropic. (Bert, too, is described as grouchy; none of the characters, in fact, is especially sunshiney except maybe Ernie, who also seems slow.) "We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now," she said.

Kids are not that dumb - they don't need the protection of the helicopter parents. Read the original Grimm's Fairy Tales - that was meant for kids to read and is really deep and scary.

One of the commenters at Slashdot summed it up nicely:

This castration is why my children were never able to become interested in Sesame Street - while as a 5-year-old in the late-sixties, I loved it.

In subtle ways, it began to condescend and pander. The muppets, in particular, suffered from the loss of Kermit and Henson.

The Soviet of Seattle

Seattle continues to be a liberal cess-pit. A gorgeous city and I really loved living there but some of the decisions from the government go beyond words.

Take this example from the WorldNetDaily:

School says Thanksgiving is for 'mourning'
Holiday called 'bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal'

Seattle school officials are telling teachers that Thanksgiving actually is a time of "mourning" since it represents "500 years of betrayal."

The message to all "staff" in the Seattle Public Schools comes from Caprice D. Hollins, the director of "Equity, Race & Learning Support," and other officials including Willard Bill Jr. of the "Office of Native American Education."

"With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students," the letter said.

The school letter refers educators to a website, Oyate, run by an outside organization that promotes Indian culture, and recommends teachers explore it.

"Here you will discover ways to help you and your students think critically, and find resources where you can learn about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective," the letter said. "Eleven myths are identified about Thanksgiving, take a look at No. 11 and begin your own deconstruction."

The website's "Myth No. 11" is that "Thanksgiving is a happy time."

"Fact: For many Indian people, 'Thanksgiving' is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, 'Thanksgiving' is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship," the website describes.

The website posting called "Deconstructing the Myths of 'The First Thanksgiving," goes further. The writing by Judy Dow and Beverly Slapin also speculates on the psychology of Thanksgiving.

A bit too much time wasted in sheltered Academia and way to much time spent self-loathing and navel-gazing... The idea that a school department would need a: director of Equity, Race & Learning Support beggars the imagination. What happened to basic education...

The actual letter in question can be found at Orbusmax: Letter

Orbusmax looks like a great site for Pacific Northwest news. Added to my favorites...

Wonderful people these Muslims

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Check out the website of Washington D.C. based As-Sabiqun:
As-Sabiqun is an Islamic movement that believes in the Islamic State of North America no later than 2050. Those who engage in this great effort require a high level of commitment and determination. We are sending out a call to the believers: Join with us in this great struggle to change the world!
I mean WTF??? How delusional and ninth century are these people.

Very very smart...

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Neptunus Lex links to a very interesting news item at the Washington Post:
Success has many fathers
And as it turns out, it can be a fecund mother, too:
The Army has summoned the top U.S. commander in Iraq back to Washington to preside over a board that will pick some of the next generation of Army leaders, an unusual decision that officials say represents a vote of confidence in Gen. David H. Petraeus�s conduct of the war, as well as the Army counterinsurgency doctrine he helped rewrite.

The Army has long been criticized for rewarding conventional military thinking and experience in traditional combat operations, and current and former defense officials have pointed to Petraeus�s involvement in the promotion board process this month as a sign of the Army�s commitment to encouraging innovation and rewarding skills beyond the battlefield.
Make sense -- Iraq wasn't doing well. We put General Petraeus in, he changed the operating strategy and things turned around. Violence is way down, Sunni and Shia are talking with each other, Al Queada is basically kaput in Iraq and the "man on the street" are now very happy with the coalition presence. All of this reported with great huzzahs and flag waving by the MSM...
From the Daily Mail:
PC publishers ban dragon from breathing fire in children's book... because it's too dangerous
A leading children's author was told to drop a fire-breathing dragon shown in a new book - because the publishers feared they could be sued under health and safety regulations.

It is just one of the politically correct cuts Lindsey Gardiner says she has been told to make in case youngsters act out the stories.

As well as the scene showing her dragon toasting marshmallows with his breath, illustrations of an electric cooker with one element glowing red and of a boy on a ladder have had to go.

Ms Gardiner, 36, who has written and illustrated 15 internationally successful children's books, featuring her popular characters Lola, Poppy and Max, says such editing decisions are now common.

In Who Wants A Dragon? - published by Orchard Books last year - Ms Gardiner says: "I was told, 'You can't have the dragon breathing fire because it goes against health and safety.'

"It doesn't really make any sense.

"Sales and marketing departments are worried something might offend somebody, or that a child might copy something in a book and their parents will sue the publisher."

Pointing out that classic fairy tales such as Hansel And Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood would not get published today, Ms Gardiner said: 'It's a sad reflection of modern society."
And a bit more:
"I've had books published in Japan, France, Spain and Holland and they don't ask for the same changes.

"It seems to be in Britain and the U.S. that there are problems."
These idiots need to wake up to reality. Sheesh!

Very cool little laptop from Asus

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Asus builds good stuff and this little laptop looks really intriguing.
Here is an in-depth (four pages) review of the unit at The Register. Here is the Asus page: Eee PC And it's only $399 at either Amazon or NewEgg Cool idea for design -- it uses a 4GB flash drive instead of a physical hard disk. It comes preloaded with Linux and about 40 utilities (word processing, surfing, email, etc...) Battery life is a couple hours and the thing is tiny. Very sweet!

A tragedy - Jack Daniels division

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From the Associated Press:
Historic Whiskey Could Go Down Drain
Here's a sobering thought: Hundreds of bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey, some of it almost 100 years old, may be unceremoniously poured down a drain because authorities suspect it was being sold by someone without a license.

Officials seized 2,400 bottles late last month during warehouse raids in Nashville and Lynchburg, the southern Tennessee town where the whiskey is distilled.

"Punish the person, not the whiskey," said an outraged Kyle MacDonald, 28, a Jack Daniel's drinker from British Columbia who promotes the whiskey on his blog. "Jack never did anything wrong, and the whiskey itself is innocent."

Investigators are also looking into whether some of the bottles had been stolen from the distillery. No one has been arrested.

Authorities are still determining how much of the liquor will be disposed of, and how much can be sold at auction.

Tennessee law requires officials to destroy whiskey that cannot be sold legally in the state, such as bottles designed for sale overseas and those with broken seals.

"We'd pour it out," said Danielle Elks, executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Heartless bureaucrat. What a waste... I'm more into the Scottish single malts but Jack is very good stuff. Last couple of months, I have been partial to JD Whiskey Sours when we eat out -- a nice libation. Kyle MacDonald's blog is here: My name is Kyle MacDonald . You may remember him as the Red Paperclip guy - he started with a red paperclip and started trading for better and better things, eventually winding up with a house.

About to get a traffic ticket?

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Consider buying one of these for defense. Check out the: AntiTicket Donut
Introducing the: Anti-Ticket Donut!


There is no feeling that compares to having a Police Officer approaching your vehicle.

Now you can be ready for that officer with this clever device.

Simply deploy the anti-ticket donut and let the donut do its work. No police officer can resist a yummy donut! Hello donut, good bye ticket!
About ten bucks each and they are artificial donuts but a great idea for a novelty...

Large in New Zealand

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From the UK Independent:
'Obese' migrant told to lose weight before making move
With years of experience as a submarine cable specialist behind him, Richie Trezise was looking forward to emigrating from Britain and using his skills to help New Zealand beat its brain drain. He had been headhunted by one of the country's biggest companies and was all set to begin a new life with his wife, Rowan.

There was a slight hitch, however. After Mr Trezise went to his GP for a medical, immigration officials told him he did not meet New Zealand's health requirements because he was too fat. The 35-year-old Welshman failed its body mass index (BMI) test, which measures the proportion of body fat to a person's height and weight. Mr Trezise's BMI was 42, classifying him as morbidly obese under immigration guidelines.

He was told he would have to slim before he was allowed in on an employer-backed skilled migrant visa.

"My doctor laughed at me. He said he'd never seen anything more ridiculous in his whole life. He said not every overweight person is unhealthy or unfit," said Mr Trezise, who plays rugby and used to be in the Army.
And the reason:
Robyn Toomath, an endocrinologist, of the New Zealand campaign group Fight the Obesity Epidemic, said the country could not afford to admit migrants who would be a drain on health services. "You can see the logic in assessing if there is a significant health cost associated with this individual, and that would be a reason for them not coming," she said.
Now this is a bit ridiculous. Some petty bureaucrat with too much time on their hands devises this utopian granfaloon and manages to get it implemented. Now, New Zealand cannot get critical people because they might be a bit larger than your average Kiwi. NZ's problem isn't the morbid obesity of its immigrants, it is the morbid obesity of their government...

The $1,000 Sundae - a second look

Check out Serendipity3 a New York Ice Cream parlor and restaurant. Most of their menu is fairly mainstream but their signature desert is this little item:

Golden Opulence Sundae $1,000.00
reservation required 48 hours in advance

Now, let's take a look at conditions in the Kitchen. From the New York Post:

Serendipity 3 was shut down yesterday after city health inspectors found mouse droppings and cockroaches at the landmark Upper East Side ice-cream shop.

It was the second failed inspection in less than a month for the dessert emporium on East 60th Street, which was found to be in violation of numerous health codes, the Health Department said.

Inspectors discovered a live mouse running around, mouse droppings throughout the restaurant, and more than 100 live cockroaches, the city said in a statement.

Tourists hoping to visit one of New York's most popular sites were frustrated to hear the store had been closed.

"Every time I come to New York, I come to Serendipity," said Carlos Forbes of Brazil. "It's a pity. It's really a pity."

Forbes, who brought along his daughters, Julia, 13, and Laura, 9, for their first trip to the Big Apple, was hoping they could share in his fond memories of the home of the $1,000 Grand Opulance Sundae and $25,000 Frrrozen Haute Chocolate.

The restaurant, which will have to fix the problems and then pass another Health Department check to ensure that it is safe to reopen, declined to elaborate on the cleanup process or say when it planned to be back in business.

Sheesh - TWO filed inspections in one month? I can see a stiff warning and a clean bill on the second go-around but to fail twice is really bad...

Dang - light posting again tonight

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A really busy few days with another couple in the stack. This is starting to look like work! :-) The Physics claim I posted about earlier seems to have some detractors. I'll post more info in a few days once people have had a really close look.

'Holy crap, that's it!'

Interesting development on the Science front. From the UK Telegraph:
Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything
An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which as received rave reviews from scientists.

Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate but no university affiliation and spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii, where he has also been a hiking guide and bridge builder (when he slept in a jungle yurt).

In winter, he heads to the mountains near Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where he snowboards. "Being poor sucks," Lisi says. "It's hard to figure out the secrets of the universe when you're trying to figure out where you and your girlfriend are going to sleep next month."

Despite this unusual career path, his proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics.

Even better, it does not require more than one dimension of time and three of space, when some rival theories need ten or even more spatial dimensions and other bizarre concepts. And it may even be possible to test his theory, which predicts a host of new particles, perhaps even using the new Large Hadron Collider atom smasher that will go into action near Geneva next year.
Other Physicists thoughts:
Now Lisi, currently in Nevada, has come up with a proposal to do this. Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, describes Lisi's work as "fabulous". "It is one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years," he says.
"Some incredibly beautiful stuff falls out of Lisi's theory," adds David Ritz Finkelstein at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. "This must be more than coincidence and he really is touching on something profound."
A bit more including the title for this post:
Lisi's inspiration lies in the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematics, called E8 - a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."

What makes E8 so exciting is that Nature also seems to have embedded it at the heart of many bits of physics. One interpretation of why we have such a quirky list of fundamental particles is because they all result from different facets of the strange symmetries of E8.

Lisi's breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own. "My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing," he tells New Scientist. "I thought: 'Holy crap, that's it!'"
And it's testable:
The crucial test of Lisi's work will come only when he has made testable predictions. Lisi is now calculating the masses that the 20 new particles should have, in the hope that they may be spotted when the Large Hadron Collider starts up.
The New Scientist also has an article for subscribers only: Is mathematical pattern the theory of everything? And you can download the full 31 page Paper from arXiv: An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything Very cool -- an nothing wrong with being a surf bum either; Kary Mullis took time off from surfing to develop Polymerase Chain Reaction and win the Nobel prize. More on E8 can be found here and here.

Off the grid in NYC

Tesla finally wins!!!

Consolidated Edison pulled the plug on its last Direct Current customers today. From SFGate:

NYC Pulls Plug on Direct Current
The city that Thomas Edison electrified 125 years ago has completed the transition from direct to alternating current, helping to erase the vestiges of a feud between giants of invention.

The Consolidated Edison utility on Wednesday pulled the plug on direct current service with electric operations manager Fred Simms, a Con Ed employee for 52 years, cutting a ceremonial cable on a Manhattan street.

The change means that Con Ed now exclusively uses the alternating current system invented by Nikola Tesla. The utility is named for Edison, whose Pearl Street Station in Manhattan was the nation's first central electrical power plant, serving 59 customers with direct current beginning in 1882.

In the so-called "war of currents," Edison feuded with Tesla and George Westinghouse over which transmission method to adopt � even going so far as to publicly electrocute animals in the hopes of showing AC was too dangerous.

Alternating current proved superior as transformers allowed electricity to travel over long-distance wires. As AC gained prevalence over DC worldwide, Con Ed froze the development of the DC system in 1928 but continued to supply New York's major DC customers with the existing system.

In January 1998, Con Ed began to eliminate DC service. At that time, there were more than 4,600 DC customers. By last year, there were only 60.

Back then, DC was superior for Theater Arc Lights and some motor applications (elevators) because of the smoothness. This was before Power Electronics came into widespread use.

In the 1970's I was living in a loft in a warehouse and that building was supplied with DC as well as the standard AC utilities.

It is a bit ironic that today, there are some major DC power transmission lines -- when you stay at one voltage all the time instead of zooming up, sliding down through zero and zooming down and back again, you can pack more Coulombs into your conductor. Modern power electronics are able to change from AC to DC and back again with high (over 95% efficiency).

The New York Times also has a bit on the story:

Off Goes the Power Current Started by Thomas Edison
Today, Con Edison will end 125 years of direct current electricity service that began when Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street power station on Sept. 4, 1882. Con Ed will now only provide alternating current, in a final, vestigial triumph by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Mr. Edison's rivals who were the main proponents of alternating current in the AC/DC debates of the turn of the 20th century.

The last snip of Con Ed�s direct current system will take place at 10 East 40th Street, near the Mid-Manhattan Library. That building, like the thousands of other direct current users that have been transitioned over the last several years, now has a converter installed on the premises that can take alternating electricity from the Con Ed power grid and adapt it on premises. Until now, Con Edison had been converting alternating to direct current for the customers who needed it -- old buildings on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side that used direct current for their elevators for example. The subway, which has its own converters, also provides direct current through its third rail, in large part because direct current electricity was the dominant system in New York City when the subway first developed out of the early trolley cars.

Despite the clear advantage of alternating current -- it can be transmitted long distances far more economically than direct current -- direct current has taken decades to faze out of Manhattan because the early backbone of New York's electricity grid was built by Mr. Edison's company, which had a running head start in the first decade before Mr. Tesla and Mr. Westinghouse demonstrated the potential of alternating current with the Niagara Falls power project. (Among the customers of Thomas Edison's Pearl Street power plant on that first day was The New York Times, which observed that to turn on its lights in the building, no matches were needed.)

Tesla was flamboyant and very much a showman but you need to remember, that he was a genius Electrical Engineer first and foremost. After all, Tesla invented Radio...

Even stranger than Sprites and Elves

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In the upper atmosphere. Sprites and Jets have been known about and visually observed since the early 1990's. Now, something even stranger is coming to light. From the NASA Science page:
Strange Space Weather over Africa
Something strange is happening in the atmosphere above Africa and researchers have converged on Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the phenomenon. The Africa Space Weather Workshop kicked off Nov. 12th with nearly 100 scientists and students in attendance.

The strange phenomenon that brings all these people together is the ion plume�"a newly discovered form of space weather," says University of Colorado atmospheric scientist and Workshop co-organizer Tim Fuller-Rowell.

Researchers liken the plumes to smoke billowing out of a factory smokestack�except instead of ordinary ash and dust, ion plumes are made of electrified gas floating so high above ground they come in contact with space itself. "The plumes appear during geomagnetic storms and they can interfere with satellite transmissions, airline navigation and radio communications," says Fuller-Rowell. Indeed, it is their effect on GPS signals that led to the discovery of plumes over North America just a few years ago.
Heh... Just when we get a grasp, something else new and different pops over the horizon. This is a wonderful time to be alive!

Light posting yesterday and today

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A crew from the store, Jen and I moved all of the shelving at the store to a different configuration that allows for a better flow. Talk about stiff and sore. Had our first meeting at our office with our bookkeeper this morning and I went into town to do some banking. (a real business tycoon I tell 'ya) Met with Jen for acupuncture and had a nice Mexican dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Feeling very mellow, going to have a glass or two of wine, surf a bit and then head to bed...

Go around twice if you're happy

Written and directed by Vincent Fichard and Matthew Jones in Dubai October '07 Sweet YouTube goodness: Go around twice if you're happy Tried Googling them but nothing substantive came up save for this entry in Computerlove(TM)

Can you say Lawsuit? I thought you could.

From Fort Myers, FL's WINK News:
Tipster fired from job
Fired for doing the right thing, that's what a Lee County man says happened to him after he turned in one of the county's most wanted fugitives.

"I thought I did the right thing," said Kirk Zahradka.

Newspaper photographs of Crimestoppers most wanted tipped Kirk Zahradka off. "Bunch of us seen the electricians name on it, picture on it," says Zahradka. The man in one of the pictures, Stanley Forcier, was his co-worker. "I called Crimestoppers reported him, got the case number," said Kirk Zahradka. That phone call did them both in. "He got arrested," said Kirk Zahradka. Zahradka got fired the same day. "She (his boss) handed me my paycheck said I was detrimental to the company and I shouldn't have done it like that. Her son said that I just should have keep my nose out of other people's business," said Kirk Zahradka.
The article goes on to mention that:
He claims his boss knew about his co-workers trouble with the law...
Maybe they were paying this guy sub-par wages telling him that they wouldn't turn him in if he kept working there. Pure speculation on my part... Still, I would get a good lawyer if I was Kirk.
Yikes -- you can't just make this up. From Short News:
Colorado Town Wants To Ban Red And Green Lights
The town of Fort Collins, Colorado, and its Holiday Display Task Force are in the process of making their Christmas decorations more politically correct.

The task force plans to recommend that the city displays only include white lights, winter symbols that aren't linked with any particular holiday and other non-secular items.

Additionally, Christmas trees will no longer be permitted to be put up outside of public buildings or on public property. The city plans on voting on the recommendations on November 20th.
One of the comments to this post was spot-on:
The term "politically correct" has way too many syllables.
"Major jerks" reduces it down to only three. Same description, less syllables. Better.
The original story can be found here at the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Curious report -- to be taken with a grain of salt as many of these "initial findings" turn out to be bad lab work or wishful thinking but still; from Yahoo/AFP:
New technique creates cheap, abundant hydrogen: report
US researchers have developed a method of producing hydrogen gas from biodegradable organic material, potentially providing an abundant source of this clean-burning fuel, according to a study released Monday.

The technology offers a way to cheaply and efficiently generate hydrogen gas from readily available and renewable biomass such as cellulose or glucose, and could be used for powering vehicles, making fertilizer and treating drinking water.

Numerous public transportation systems are moving toward hydrogen-powered engines as an alternative to gasoline, but most hydrogen today is generated from nonrenewable fossil fuels such as natural gas.

The method used by engineers at Pennsylvania State University however combines electron-generating bacteria and a small electrical charge in a microbial fuel cell to produce hydrogen gas.

Microbial fuel cells work through the action of bacteria which can pass electrons to an anode. The electrons flow from the anode through a wire to the cathode producing an electric current. In the process, the bacteria consume organic matter in the biomass material.

An external jolt of electricity helps generate hydrogen gas at the cathode.
So the heavy lifting here is done by bacteria, not by electricity. The electricity is just being used to extract the H2. Still:
"This process produces 288 percent more energy in hydrogen than the electrical energy that is added in the process," said Bruce Logan, a professor of environmental engineering at Penn State.
If this is able to scale up to industrial size, it will be a great source of hydrogen. Wonder how much more efficient it is than the current methane reformation process.

How not to take a day off from work

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Guy emails boss saying: "Something came up at home and I had to go to New York for the next couple days." The guy then goes to a Halloween party and proceeds to post his picture (in costume) to his personal Facebook account. The guy's boss stumbles on the account, takes said photo, attaches it to an email back to the guy and then CC's it to the entire company... From ValleyWag:
Bank intern busted by Facebook
Who says Facebook is the province of the young? Increasingly, the 30something bosses of naive recent college grads are proving adept at turning the social network against its earliest adopters. Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank's North American arm, was busted when he told his manager, Paul Davis, that he'd miss work due to a "family emergency". Davis turned up the photo above, freshly posted to Facebook from the Halloween party Colvin apparently missed work to attend, and attached it to his reply, copying the rest of the office as he did it. The email thread is now spreading around the net. After the jump, the entire exchange, and the incriminating photo.
The emails and photo are at the ValleyWag website. Soooooo BUSTED! That is going to be one very awkward conversation.

Quite the lucky day!

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Anthony and Antonietta Marrocco must be doing something right... From Canadian news service CANOE:
Couple wins casino jackpot and lottery in same night
Luck struck twice for a couple from Caledon, Ont., in just one hour after they won a casino jackpot then a lottery jackpot.

Anthony and Antonietta Marrocco won $13,000 at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont., Saturday night.

After that, Antonietta Marrocco predicted their luck would continue and told her husband they would win the lottery.

An hour later, the winning numbers for the $37-million Lotto 6/49 jackpot were drawn - and the Marroccos held one of two winning tickets.

That's more than $18.5 million in winnings for the couple, who own a construction company.

The Marroccos say with the money they will pay off debts, take care of their four children and three grandchildren and consider taking a holiday.
Heh -- good for them! Canadian lotteries work a bit different than the ones in the States. Ticket prices can be $50 and above but the actual number of tickets sold is a lot smaller and the prizes are spectacular. Many of them are for charitable organizations -- Here is one, Here is another.

May I have some more Poo on my burger?

Yikes! From the Seattle Times:

Beef with E. coli slips through "loophole"
One federal inspector calls it the "E. coli loophole." Another says, "Nobody would buy it if they knew."

The officials are referring to the little-discussed fact that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has deemed it acceptable for meat companies to cook and sell meat on which E. coli, a bacteria that can sicken and even kill humans, is found during processing.

The "E. coli loophole" affects millions of pounds of beef each year that test positive for the presence of E. coli O157:H7, a virulent strain of the bacteria.

The agency allows companies to put this E. coli-positive meat in a special category: "cook only." Cooking the meat, the USDA and producers say, destroys the bacteria and makes it safe to eat as precooked hamburgers, meat loaf, crumbled taco meat and other products.

Some USDA inspectors say the "cook-only" practice means higher-than-appropriate levels of E. coli are tolerated in packing plants, raising the chance that clean meat will become contaminated. They say the "cook-only" practice is part of the reason for this year's sudden rise in incidents of E. coli contamination.

"All the product that is E. coli positive, they put a 'cooking-only' tag on it," said one inspector, who like other federal inspectors interviewed, asked to remain anonymous for fear they would lose their jobs. "They [companies] will test, and everything that's positive, they slap that label on."

There is no evidence "cook-only" meat has directly sickened consumers. But some inspectors said the practice conceals significantly higher levels of E. coli in packing plants than the companies admit. That's because companies that find E. coli are allowed to shift that meat immediately into "cook-only" lines, without reporting it to the USDA.

The USDA regularly conducts tests for E. coli in slaughtering plants but only on meat that packing companies have deemed free of E. coli, the agency inspectors said. USDA officials said they do not track how much meat is put into "cook-only" categories, but interviews with a half-dozen inspectors suggested it is a significant amount.

"The government keeps putting out that we've reduced E. coli by 50 percent," an inspector said. "And we haven't done nothing. We've just covered it up."

A bit more:

Meat companies rejected the charges that corners are being cut. Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods, one of the nation's largest beef producers, said his company has developed a special testing program, Tyson Total N60, to detect E. coli. The program is so effective, Mickelson said, that other companies use it.

Cargill declined to comment; meatpacking firm Swift Foods did not return phone calls.

Inspectors interviewed for this story challenged the suggestion that E. coli is a small problem. One said a large meatpacking plant where he worked produced 50,000 pounds a week of E. coli-positive beef that was tagged "cook only."

"It's a smoke screen," the inspector said. "They [the meat companies] are still producing a half-million pounds a week of E. coli product, and we're patting them on their back."

Sure, E. coli can be denatured by heat but what about all of the other viruses and prions out there. Dirty meat is dirty meat. My other thought is that if this meat is contaminated with shit, what chemicals are used (heavy-duty sanitizers and cleaning agents) that might also splash up and contaminate the meat.

This is what happens when the drive for profit takes a wrong turn and quality of the product suffers. You are what you eat after all...

Please note: This article was written by Stephen J. Hedges at the Washington desk of the Chicago Times. His report can be found here: E. coli loophole cited in recalls

The Seattle Times version had been edited down a bit...

Told you it was windy

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From Wunderground: Statement as of 2:48 PM PST on November 12, 2007
...Summary of winds reported around western Washington today...
97 mph peak gust 5 miles east of I-5 on Mt Baker Highway ( 900 am )
92 mph peak gust Sekiu ( 730 am )
84 mph peak Gust Lake Lawrence ( 930 am )
74 mph peak gust Bellingham Airport ( 809 am )
That first entry (97 mph) is about 15 miles from where we live... The good news is from the Mt. Baker Ski Area:
There is a significant storm sitting off the coast of Washington right nowwhich is expected to move ashore on Monday pointed right at Mt. Baker.

With gale wind warnings currently issued for the Coast of Washington in anticipation of this next system moving in, it certainly seems to be packing a punch and it is very possible that the North Cascades (ie Mt. Baker only) could end up with 30 INCHES OF SNOW BY TUESDAY NIGHT.

After Monday�s weather event, we will assess the next series of forecasts before we make a determination about opening day so be looking for update late Monday or Tuesday morning.
A lot of people are waiting for it to open!

Major archeological find in Peru

Very cool -- from PhysOrg:
Ancient Peru Temple, Mural Excavated
Carbon dating tests and excavation of a colorful pre-Incan temple indicate that it was built thousands of years ago by an advanced civilization, a prominent archaeologist said in comments published Sunday by a Peruvian newspaper.

Unearthed in Peru's archeologically rich northern coastal desert, the temple has a staircase leading to an altar that was used for worshipping fire and making offerings to deities, Walter Alva, who headed the three-month excavation, told El Comercio.

Some of the walls of the 27,000-square-foot site - almost half the size of a football field - were painted, and a white and red mural depicts a deer being hunted with a net.

Alva said the temple was apparently constructed by an "advanced civilization" because it was built with mud bricks made from sediment found in local rivers, instead of rocks.
How old?
The carbon dating tests, conducted in the United States, indicate that the site is 4,000 years old, he claimed.

The oldest known city in the Americas is Caral, also near the Peruvian coast, which researchers dated to 2627 B.C.
To think that the pigment of the paint would survive for so long.

Memo to self...

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When installing a bathroom sink faucet, make sure that the new one came with all of its parts before hacking the old one out in such a way that it is not reusable... Not saying that I did this mind you; but it struck me as a good thing to do if I was going to do this...

Blown over

The storm blew itself out a few hours ago and now the sky is patchy clouds and sunshine. Some areas are still without power -- I had to go into my favorite hardware store (Hardware Sales in Bellingham -- it seriously rocks!) earlier today and they were operating on a small backup generator. They had enough power to run the cash registers and some lights over the registers. For everything else, they had a pool of sales people with flashlights who would go back into the shelves with you and help you get what you needed (plumbers putty and a basin wrench). We get a couple of these storms each year around this time so nothing big -- Jen brought the generator out of storage at the store and we fired it up and showed people how to run it (in case power goes out while we are not there). That was the excitement for this week...

Some good weather news from England

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That big storm surge I wrote about on the 8th turned out to be less than they had forecast. From the BBC:
Thousands go home after tide fear
Thousands of people who left their homes amid fears of flooding are returning after the biggest tidal surge for half a century.

Fears of widespread flooding in eastern England have diminished as tides peaked without major breaches of sea defences.

The waters were nearly 8in (20cm) lower than originally feared and passed without causing major damage.
Some minor issues:
Norfolk police said water had breached flood defences in the centre of Great Yarmouth but there was "no risk to persons or property".
Good news! Shows what proper forecasting and well maintained levees and storm gates can do.

A bit of a breeze this morning

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We knew it was coming but still, there is quite the wind storm in our area. From the National Weather Service:

Only minor damage here -- the barbeque sailed off the end of the portch, an Adirondak chair took flight and landed in the driveway. My concern is that the power keeps flickering -- at the store we have a generator but it's not enough wattage for our big freezer. Keeping fingers crossed...

Something missing in Tibet - Google maps

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A dashed line separating this sovereign nation from its neighbor, China. Go to Google Maps and type in Tibet. You will see this. Notice no boundary lines, nothing to separate the sovereign nation of Tibet from that of China. Just how much has Google sold out to China? What else will we see from them? Editing data doesn't really build confidence -- is this where Google has jumped the shark?

Memorial and Veterans day

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Today is the time that we honor the fallen and give thanks to those still living. There is a great song by Canadian Terry Kelly called A Pittance of Time. From Terry's website:
On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly was in a drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the store�s PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.

Terry was impressed with the store�s leadership role in adopting the Legion�s �two minutes of silence� initiative. He felt that the store�s contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.

When eleven o�clock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the �two minutes of silence� to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.

Terry�s anger towards the father for trying to engage the store�s clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was channeled into a beautiful piece of work called, �A Pittance of Time�. Terry later recorded �A Pittance of Time� and included it on his full-length music CD, �The Power of the Dream�.
YouTube video here: A Pittance of Time

Like this is going to work out well...

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From the Long War Journal:
Pakistan frees Mullah Obaidullah, other senior Taliban leaders
President Pervez Musharraf's promise to hunt the Taliban as part of its suspension of the constitution and a virtual state of emergency rings hollow as the Taliban's grip on the northwest Frontier Province tightens. Newsweek reported the Pakistani government has released several senior Taliban commanders captured inside Pakistani territory over the past year. The leaders were among 25 Taliban exchanged for over 200 Pakistani soldiers captured by South Waziristan commander Baitullah Mehsud in late August.

Among those freed from Pakistani jails are Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, Amir Khan Haqqani, two brothers of slain Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Usmani, and Baitullah Mehsud's cousin.

Mullah Obaidullah was the Taliban Defense Minister under during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 until the US toppled the government in the fall of 2001. He was the most senior Taliban figure captured to date and "is considered by American intelligence officials to have been one of the Taliban leaders closest to Osama bin Laden," as well as part of the "inner core of the Taliban leadership around the Mullah Muhammad Omar who are believed to operate from the relative safety of Quetta." Obaidullah was a member of the Taliban's Shura Majlis, or executive council, and was thought to be third in command.
And Musharraf probably thinks that they will leave Pakistan alone if he gives in to their demands... Here are just a few of the wonders of Islam as taken from The Religion of Peace website:
11/9/2007 Pakistan Peshawar -- Four people are killed when a suicide bomber on foot darts into their home. Three are injured.

11/8/2007 Pakistan Tank -- A Shiite cleric is gunned down by Sunni radicals.

11/8/2007 Pakistan Bannu -- The Mujahideen shoot a man to death inside his home.

11/7/2007 Pakistan Razmak -- Three local soldiers are abducted and killed for 'resisting Islam.' One is injured.

11/5/2007 Pakistan Kharqamar -- A local soldier is killed in a roadside bombing attack by Taliban militants. One is injured.
And the list just goes on and on and on. Religion of Peace my ass...

Fraud, Phishing and Financial Misdeeds

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Ran into this blog today - looks excellent! Check out: Fraud, Phishing and Financial Misdeeds

Karl Rove's thoughts on Congress

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Not flattering. From Opinion Journal:
A Failure to Lead
The Democratic Congress is more interested in acting out than in taking positive action.

This week is the one-year anniversary of Democrats winning Congress. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid probably aren't in a celebrating mood. The goodwill they enjoyed after their victory is gone. Their bright campaign promises are unfulfilled. Democratic leadership is in disarray. And Congress's approval rating has fallen to its lowest point in history.

The problems the Democrats are now experiencing begin with the federal budget. Or rather, the lack of one. In 2006, Democrats criticized Congress for dragging its feet on the budget and pledged that they would do better. Instead, they did worse. The new fiscal year started Oct. 1--five weeks ago--but Democrats have yet to send the president a single annual appropriations bill. It's been at least 20 years since Congress has gone this late in passing any appropriation bills, an indication of the mess the Pelosi-Reid Congress is now in.

Even worse, the Democrats have made clear all their talk about "fiscal discipline" is just that--talk. They're proposing to spend $205 billion more than the president has proposed over the next five years. And the opening wedge of this binge is $22 billion more in spending proposed for the coming year. Only in Washington could someone in public life be so clueless to say, as Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi have, that $22 billion is a "relatively small" difference.

Let's also be clear about what it means to roll back the president's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as the Democrats want to do. Every income-tax payer will pay more as all tax rates rise. Families will pay $500 more per child as they lose the child tax credit. Taxes on small businesses would go up by an average of about $4,000. Retirees will pay higher taxes on investment retirement income. And now we have the $1 trillion tax increase proposed as "tax reform" by the Democrats' chief tax writer last month.
Karl then goes on about Congress' support of the military, Intelligence operations, SCHIP, lack of action on the Energy bill, lack of action on Health Care and Trade Barriers... C'mon Karl, tell us what you really think. (grin) Well written and to the point.

Red faces in the US navy

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I bet some people are being chewed out over this. From the UK Daily Mail:
The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced

When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed.

At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.

And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.

According to the Nato source, the encounter has forced a serious re-think of American and Nato naval strategy as commanders reconsider the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines.

It also led to tense diplomatic exchanges, with shaken American diplomats demanding to know why the submarine was "shadowing" the U.S. fleet while Beijing pleaded ignorance and dismissed the affair as coincidence.

Analysts believe Beijing was sending a message to America and the West demonstrating its rapidly-growing military capability to threaten foreign powers which try to interfere in its "backyard".

The People's Liberation Army Navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-missile launching vessels.

Its 13 Song Class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.
Diesel/Electric subs can be incredibly quiet and stealthy. A bit surprised that the US Navy wasn't running active sonar - that would have found it without question...

A curious musical instrument

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Play a tune with your car. From deputydog by way of Dark Roasted Blend:
the most bizarre musical instrument on earth
a few years ago in japan, members of the hokkaido industrial research institute started carving thousands of very precise grooves into nearby roads. the slightly loopy brainwave belonged to a mr. shinoda, a guy who accidentally cut a road in several places with a digger and then later drove over the damage in his car.

he realised that with some planning and time to kill he could create rows of grooves which, when driven over at a certain speed, would �play a tune�.

the results, the �melody road�, can be seen above and the grooves are between 6 and 12mm apart: the narrower the interval, the higher the pitch. these stretches of road, each playing a different tune, can currently be found in 3 places in japan - hokkaido, wakayama and gunma - with the optimum musical speed being a depressingly slow 28mph.

don�t expect a virtual orchestra - from what i�ve heard, it�s not exactly beautiful music, but it�s unique and it�s mental. a winning combination.
Cool idea - Bill Beatey had the same idea (scroll down to item number two).

The origins of Slang - the Irish

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Very cool - meet Daniel Cassidy who researched and wrote the book: How the Irish Invented Slang From the NY Times:
Humdinger of a Project: Tracing Slang to Ireland
Growing up Irish in Queens and on Long Island, Daniel Cassidy was nicknamed Glom.

�I used to ask my mother, �Why Glom?� and she�d say, �Because you�re always grabbing, always taking things,�� he said, imitating his mother�s accent and limited patience, shaped by a lifetime in Irish neighborhoods in New York City.

It was not exactly an etymological explanation, and Mr. Cassidy�s curiosity about the working-class Irish vernacular he grew up with kept growing. Some years back, leafing through a pocket Gaelic dictionary, he began looking for phonetic equivalents of the terms, which English dictionaries described as having �unknown origin.�

�Glom� seemed to come from the Irish word �glam,� meaning to grab or to snatch. He found the word �balbh�n,� meaning a silent person, and he surmised that it was why his quiet grandfather was called the similarly pronounced Boliver.

He began finding one word after another that seemed to derive from the strain of Gaelic spoken in Ireland, known as Irish. The word �gimmick� seemed to come from �camag,� meaning trick or deceit, or a hook or crooked stick.

Could �scam� have derived from the expression ��S cam �,� meaning a trick or a deception? Similarly, �slum� seemed similar to an expression meaning �It is poverty.� �Dork� resembled �dorc,� which Mr. Cassidy�s dictionary called �a small lumpish person.� As for �twerp,� the Irish word for dwarf is �duirb.�
A few more from the article:
�Snazzy� comes from �snasach,� which means polished, glossy or elegant. The word �scram� comes from �scaraim,� meaning �I get away.� The word �swell� comes from �s��il,� meaning luxurious, rich and prosperous, and �sucker� comes from �s�ch �r,� or, loosely, fat cat.

There is �Say uncle!� (�anacal� means mercy), �razzmatazz,� and �malarkey,� and even expressions like �gee whiz� and �holy cow� and �holy mackerel� are Anglicized versions of Irish expressions, he said. So are �doozy,� �hokum,� �humdinger,� �jerk,� �punk,� �swanky,� �grifter,� �bailiwick,� �sap,� �mug,� �wallop,� �helter-skelter,� �shack,� �shanty,� �slob,� �slacker� and �knack.�
Cool! Hat tip to dispatches from TJICistan for the link.

Getting nasty in Pakistan

Just a few weeks after former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's triumphant return from exile, Pakistan is under Martial law and Bhutto is under what amounts to house arrest.

From the LA Times:

Bhutto kept from rally
Pakistan opposition leader is held under virtual house arrest by police.

President Pervez Musharraf successfully thwarted a demonstration Friday by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, encircling her home for hours with riot police, barbed wire and metal barricades, but U.S. officials still held out hope the two could strike a power-sharing agreement.

The latest turn of events appear to have put Bhutto and her Pakistan People's Party on a collision course with Musharraf, who suspended the constitution and imposed emergency rule a week ago, about two weeks after Bhutto returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile.

But many here and in Washington believe that she hasn't completely abandoned the notion of some form of political partnership with the military leader.

Bhutto's confinement order was lifted shortly before midnight and today she left her house at midday to meet with party leaders. She had spent Friday behind barricades and before cameras, pleading with police to let her out so she could lead the demonstration against emergency rule. Surrounded by female lawmakers and party members, she appealed to black- bereted police blocking her white Land Cruiser: "Get out of the way. We are your sisters."

Some commentators said the temporary confinement worked in Bhutto's favor, boosting her credibility as an opposition figure, yet burning no real bridges with the general.

"I don't think she lost anything by what happened; in a sense she gained because it enhanced her defiant image," said Arif Rafiq, a U.S.-based policy consultant and editor of the Pakistan Policy Blog.

The White House, which counts Pakistan as a crucial ally in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, gingerly sought to keep up pressure on Musharraf. The Bush administration called for the release of political figures and "peaceful protesters who have been detained."

And Musharraf's actions:

The government's harsh actions came a day after Musharraf, apparently bowing to pressure from the United States and other Western governments, said he would hold parliamentary elections by mid-February, a month later than scheduled. Bhutto called his promise "vague" and demanded that Musharraf relinquish his post as head of the military in the coming week, as he had previously promised to do.

And once again, I am reminded of those words of Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Musharraf needs a new hobby -- his political one isn't turning out so well...

A case of wine

The New Yorker is a bit too liberal for my tastes but they do publish some amazing stuff at times. Check out this article by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Jefferson Bottles
How could one collector find so much rare fine wine?

The most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction was offered at Christie�s in London, on December 5, 1985. The bottle was handblown dark-green glass and capped with a nubby seal of thick black wax. It had no label, but etched into the glass in a spindly hand was the year 1787, the word �Lafitte,� and the letters �Th.J.�

The bottle came from a collection of wine that had reportedly been discovered behind a bricked-up cellar wall in an old building in Paris. The wines bore the names of top vineyards�along with Lafitte (which is now spelled �Lafite�), there were bottles from Ch�teaux d�Yquem, Mouton, and Margaux�and those initials, �Th.J.� According to the catalogue, evidence suggested that the wine had belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and that the bottle at auction could �rightly be considered one of the world�s greatest rarities.� The level of the wine was �exceptionally high� for such an old bottle�just half an inch below the cork�and the color �remarkably deep for its age.� The wine�s value was listed as �inestimable.�

Before auctioning the wine, Michael Broadbent, the head of Christie�s wine department, consulted with the auction house�s glass experts, who confirmed that both the bottle and the engraving were in the eighteenth-century French style. Jefferson had served as America�s Minister to France between 1785 and the outbreak of the French Revolution, and had developed a fascination with French wine. Upon his return to America, he continued to order large quantities of Bordeaux for himself and for George Washington, and stipulated in one 1790 letter that their respective shipments should be marked with their initials. During his first term as President, Jefferson spent seventy-five hundred dollars�roughly a hundred and twenty thousand dollars in today�s currency�on wine, and he is generally regarded as America�s first great wine connoisseur. (He may also have been America�s first great wine bore. �There was, as usual, a dissertation upon wines,� John Quincy Adams noted in his diary after dining with Jefferson in 1807. �Not very edifying.�)

In addition to surveying the relevant historical material, Broadbent had sampled two other bottles from the collection. Some nineteenth-century vintages still taste delicious, provided they have been properly stored. But eighteenth-century wine is extremely rare, and it was not clear whether the Th.J. bottles would hold up. Broadbent is a Master of Wine, a professional certification for wine writers, dealers, and sommeliers, which connotes extensive experience with fine wine, and discriminating judgment. He pronounced a 1784 Th.J. Yquem �perfect in every sense: colour, bouquet, taste.�

At two-thirty that December afternoon, Broadbent opened the bidding, at ten thousand pounds. Less than two minutes later, his gavel fell. The winning bidder was Christopher Forbes, the son of Malcolm Forbes and a vice-president of the magazine Forbes. The final price was a hundred and five thousand pounds�about a hundred and fifty-seven thousand dollars. �It�s more fun than the opera glasses Lincoln was holding when he was shot,� Forbes declared, adding, �And we have those, too.�
A fascinating romp through wine's history, a forger who almost got away and wine in general.

Telling someone off - Spain and Argentina

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Most excellent! From Reuters:
Spain's king tells Venezuela's Chavez to "shut up"
Spain's King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday to "shut up" during closing speeches by leaders from the Latin world that brought the Ibero-American summit to an acrimonious end.

"Why don't you shut up?" the king shouted at Chavez, pointing a finger at the president when he tried to interrupt a speech by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Zapatero was in the middle of a speech at the summit of mostly leftist leaders from Latin America, Portugal, Spain and Andorra, and was criticizing Chavez for calling former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a fascist.

Chavez, a leading leftist foe of Washington, also attacked Spanish businessman Gerardo Diaz Ferran earlier in the week after he questioned the safety of foreign investments in Venezuela.

"I want to express to you President Hugo Chavez that in a forum where there are democratic governments ... one of the essential principles is respect," Zapatero told the leaders gathered in the Chilean capital, Santiago.

"You can disagree radically, without being disrespectful," Zapatero, a socialist, said sternly, drawing applause from some of the other heads of state.
Well spoken King Carlos! Zapatero's remark is also spot on. Chavez is little more than a power-grabbing thug. It is a shame because Argentina is such a beautiful country. That the land of the Tango should be smothered by such a stupid iron fist is a shame...

Curious blog - Indexed

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The fine folks at Maggie's Farm turned me on to this unusual weblog. Pop over to Indexed and check it out for yourself.

Oh to be living in Atlanta

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Then I could meet these eleven people. From Creative Loafing comes this list:
Atlanta's 11 Least Influential People
To be included in Creative Loafing's 2007 list of Atlanta's 11 Least Influential People isn't an insult, or even a backhanded compliment. It's a tribute to women and men everywhere who struggle � often in vain, often just with agonizingly slow results � to meet the essential challenges of life in a modern American city. Our 11 Least Influential want to earn a decent living. They want to be loved, accepted and free. They want to live in peace. What follows is our top (or bottom) least influential Atlantans. Six of the 11 on our list are, in fact, so un-influential, they didn't even get in the print edition of Creative Loafing.
Some interesting people, some downright strange people and a nut case or two (a few personality 'issues')

Two videos

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The first is a short one - pallet truck drifting I hate to think of the hours spent practicing that maneuver. If I were them, I would really hope their managers don't see it. (grin) Thanks to Dark Roasted Blend for this link. The second one I found at BoingBoing and is an amazing new advertisement for Guinness. Link from here: The Telegraph Opens in a popup. Both are amazing...

Regional accents

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What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


You're not Northern, Southern, or Western, you're just plain -American-. Your national identity is more important than your local identity, because you don't really have a local identity. You might be from the region in that map, which is defined by this kind of accent, but you could easily not be. Or maybe you just moved around a lot growing up.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.
Heh... Nailed it, born in Pittsburgh, PA A fun test.

Deep Oil found off coast of Brazil

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I had written about deep oil before here and here. This is oil found several miles under the ocean and curiously enough, where there was never any vegetation - these locations have never been above sea level so the current thoughts on oil being a byproduct of rotting vegetation needs to be seriously reexamined... Anyway, Brazil's oil reserves just increased by 40% with a new discovery. From CNN/World/AP:
Oil discovery rocks Brazil
A huge offshore oil discovery could raise Brazil's petroleum reserves by a whopping 40 percent and boost this country into the ranks of the world's major exporters, officials said.

The government-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, said the new "ultra-deep" Tupi field could hold as much as 8 billion barrels of recoverable light crude, sending Petrobras shares soaring and prompting predictions that Brazil could join the world's "top 10" oil producers.

Petrobras President Sergio Gabrielli said Thursday the oil from ultradeep areas, including the Tupi field, would give Brazil the world's eighth-largest oil and gas reserves.

"Brazil's reserves will lie somewhere between those of Nigeria and those of Venezuela," Gabrielli said at a news conference.

Petrobras says the Tupi field, off Brazil's southeastern Atlantic coast, has between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels -- equivalent to 40 percent of all the oil ever discovered in Brazil.
A bit about the field's location:
The Tupi field lies under 2,140 meters (7,060 feet) of water, more than 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet) of sand and rocks, and then another 2,000-meter (6,600-foot) thick layer of salt. The company drilled test wells that lie under 2,166 meters (7,100 feet) of water, 286 kilometers (177 miles) south of Rio de Janeiro.

Getting that oil out of the Earth's crust is a formidable challenge, but most of Brazil's oil lies off its Atlantic coast, and Petrobras has become a global leader in ultradeep offshore oil extraction.
I'm glad that this is Brazilian and not Argentinian. Not liking Chavez' politics very much these days - his nation is settling down into thuggery.

Bunker of Doom

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Very high retro-tech geekdom: Bunker of Doom I just stumbled upon this site written by Patrick Jankowiak while looking for references to the Open VMS operating system. Scroll down from the opening image for more links to cool and obscure stuff than you can shake a stick at. Definitely bookmarked!

Jimmy Carter - a letter.

Here is a letter that Jimmy Carter wrote to Sybil Carter, his brother's widow:
A transcript:

To Sybil,

Lamentably, I killed your cat while trying just to sting it. It was crouched, as usual, under one of our bird feeders & I fired from some distance with bird shot. It may ease your grief somewhat to know that the cat was buried properly with a prayer & that I�ll be glad to get you another of your choice.

I called & came by your house several times. We will be in the Dominican Republic until Thursday. I�ll see you then.

Love, Jimmy
What kind of moron would point a firearm at someone's pet with the intention of just trying to 'sting' it. This letter was viewed and photographed by Mat Honan writing at emptyage Here is Mat:
I saw this letter yesterday in the Athenaeum, a private library and document collection in Eufaula, Alabama�just over the river and around the way from Jimmy�s home in Plains, Georgia. It�s addressed to his sister-in-law Sybil Carter, Billy�s widow.
Hat tip to Irons in the Fire for the link!

Two simple tests - wine department

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Two interesting sensory evaluation tests are described at The Frontal Cortex:
I've blogged about this before, but it's such a cool experiment that it's worth repeating. In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.
The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was "agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded," while the vin du table was "weak, short, light, flat and faulty". Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.
The entire article is well worth reading. Good writing on a fascinating subject.

Funny thing about the rising price of oil, it makes Coal look better and better.

From Bloomberg:

Gore Nightmare Wins as Europe Pays to Ship U.S. Coal
Now that the price of coal is at a historic low relative to oil, there's no stopping consumers and producers alike from embracing Al Gore's nightmare.

A ton of U.S. coal is so cheap at about $47 that European utilities will pay $50 to ship it across the Atlantic, according to Galbraith's Ltd., a 263-year-old London shipbroker. While oil and coal cost the same as recently as 1998, West Texas Intermediate crude is five times more expensive after climbing to a record $96.24 on Nov. 1.

Peabody Energy Corp., Consol Energy Inc. and Arch Coal Inc., the three biggest U.S. coal companies, forecast the largest increase in exports in 20 years, degrading the call for a moratorium on coal plants by former U.S. Vice President and this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore. Coal use worldwide has grown 27 percent since 2002, three times faster than crude, said BP Plc. U.S. East Coast coal has risen 71 percent, while oil tripled on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

And a bit more:

U.S. coal prices are equal to $1.98 for each million British thermal units of energy, compared with $12.51 for fuel oil and $6.91 for natural gas, data compiled by Bloomberg show. A million British thermal units is the equivalent of eight gallons of gasoline.

So if Eight Gallons of Gasoline contains 1M BTUs of energy, at $3.00/gallon Gas is the most expensive of the others at $24. Same energy at just under Two Bucks makes it a really good deal. So I guess we will start seeing the giant papier-mache heads, Che teeshirts and smelly hippies at coal mines and power plants... Hat tip to Tim Blair for the link to Bloomberg.

Heavy Weather - England and Tidal Surge

England seems to be in for a bit of battering tonight. From The Daily Mail

Tidal wave heading for England's east coast 'threatens homes and lives'
Tens of thousands of householders are today preparing for some of the worst coastal floods in decades.

Sea levels could rise up to 9ft this morning along part of the East Coast, putting lives at risk.

Sea defences in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft could be breached around 7am, sending a torrent of salt water into the towns.

Police and fire services were last night preparing to evacuate thousands of homes. Householders were stocking up on sandbags and emergency provisions.

The Norfolk Broads, Essex and northern Kent could also be hit, and the entire coast from Immingham in Humberside to Margate in Kent has been told to be on alert.

The Environment Agency, which issued eight severe flood warnings, last night said it was "gravely concerned" about the threat.

And this is not the first time something like this has happened:

England suffered one of its worst peacetime disasters in 1953 when floods battered the east coast, claiming hundreds of lives.

On the night of January 31, the sea swept up to two miles inland, with huge tides surging down the coast between the Tees and the Thames.

By the morning, 307 people in coastal towns and villages had lost their lives. Around 24,000 homes were damaged and more than 30,000 people had been moved to safety.

On one hand, we have much better weather forecasting and communications but on the other hand, we have more people building their 'little cottage by the sea' on areas prone (and well known to be prone) to flooding. Holland is also in line to be hit. From Reuters/UK:

UPDATE 3-Dutch, British coasts face serious flood threat
The North Sea coasts of the Netherlands and Britain faced their worst flood threat for decades on Thursday from a storm-driven tidal surge.

Authorities compared the approaching conditions to those in 1953 when floods killed more than 2,000 people in both countries.

The flood defences of the entire Dutch coast were put on alert and three surge barriers are expected to be closed as the storm approaches. The transport ministry said it was the first time since 1976 that the whole coast had been put on alert.

Shipping traffic to and from Rotterdam harbour is due to be suspended from 2000 GMT, a port spokesman said. The suspension is expected to remain in place until 1700 GMT on Friday.

For the first time since its construction in the 1990s, a storm surge barrier protecting Rotterdam and its harbour is expected to be closed due to the approaching storm.

A crude map illustrates the problem -- wind is driving the water south through a place where the North Sea narrows considerably. The water level is pushed up:


Good luck and God Speed to our friends over there...

Two days ago, I had written about the heinous assault on two unsuspecting hikers by a Kamikaze Cow. Well, good news. It seems that our alien overlords are aware of this menace and are looking out for us. Check out Cow Abductions. Over 400,000 abductions so far...

Great quote

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Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards.
--Fred Hoyle
And there is work being done on how to do this: Space Elevator This guy was the first person to come up with the idea: Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky He was eminently quotable as well:
The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.

A bit of corruption in the body

I don't talk about it much but I am having a problem with my hip and am looking at getting a replacement sometime next year.

I had bad skin as a child (still do but it was a lot worse then), the standard course of treatment was a couple weeks on Prednisone or some other steroid and then topical treatment with a steroid cream.

Turns out that this can cause Avascular Necrosis at a later date... Bummer... So anyway, I'm on a few email lists for AVN and Hip replacement technologies and I run into this little nugget:

Hub surgeons got millions from implant firms
Two Boston orthopedic surgeons each received $6.75 million this year from a maker of joint replacement implants, the largest among hundreds of payments revealed in a $311 million settlement of a federal criminal case that alleged five companies paid doctors to use their products.

Dr. Richard Scott and Dr. Thomas Thornhill of Brigham and Women's Hospital were paid royalties and consulting fees this year by the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics, according to documents made public by the company last week. DePuy makes implants used in hip and knee replacements.

Four other companies - Zimmer Inc., Biomet Orthopedics Inc., Smith & Nephew Inc., and Stryker Orthopaedics - were also part of an agreement with the US Department of Justice. The five companies, which together share 95 percent of the market for hip and knee implants, were being investigated for using consulting agreements with orthopedic surgeons to influence their choice of implants. Making payments was a common practice from 2002 through 2006, according to the US attorney's office in New Jersey.

In the Doctors defence:

Scott and Thornhill said in a statement supplied by Brigham and Women's that the royalties come from their design of a knee replacement implant licensed to J&J in 1986 and a hip replacement implant licensed in 1991. They said they donate their fees from consulting to charity.

Emphasis mine. And people wonder why medical insurance is so #@!$ expensive...

The greatest scam in history

It is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create in allusion of rapid global warming. Other scientists of the same environmental whacko type jumped into the circle to support and broaden the �research� to further enhance the totally slanted, bogus global warming claims. Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going. Soon they claimed to be a consensus.
Curious who wrote this? None other than professional meteorologist and founder of The Weather Channel, Dr. John Coleman. There is more to read over at IceCap Good stuff...

Thanks and Praise

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Instead of sitting in a hotel room in Bagdhad, journalist Michael Yon is actually out there traveling around with the Iraqi people, not just coalition forces. Today he posted this amazing photograph and story:
Thanks and Praise: I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John�s Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome.
Thanks and Praise
A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from �Chosen� Company 2-12 Cavalry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John�s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope.

The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. �Thank you, thank you,� the people were saying. One man said, �Thank you for peace.� Another man, a Muslim, said �All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.� The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.
And reports of this from our biased main-stream media? . . . . . . -- crickets --

Cool story: Puppies Behind Bars

Great idea - take people with a lot of time on their hands and who aren't going anywhere soon (prisoners) and give them the labor intensive task of training service and guide dogs. They also train for explosives detecting. From Puppies Behind Bars:
A New Leash on Life
How We Got Started

In 1990, my husband and I adopted a Labrador Retriever from one of North America's most prestigious guide-dog schools, Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York. 'Arrow' had been on his way to becoming a guide dog but was released from the program for medical reasons. Upon adopting Arrow, I began reading about the special breeding and training that had gone into him and was amazed to discover how much time, effort, love, and money ($25,000) is behind each guide dog.

A large part of the extraordinary effort that goes into these special dogs comes from 'puppy raisers' -- individuals or families who take specially bred puppies into their homes when the pups are just eight weeks old and who spend the next sixteen months teaching them basic obedience skills and socializing them to enter the world at large. Socializing the dogs is actually the main component of a puppy raiser's task, for socialization is what helps these dogs become confident. Confidence is the most important trait for a guide dog to have, but as it is not hereditary, it is the one trait which cannot be bred into dogs. Dogs become confident by being around human beings and by being introduced to a variety of situations at a measured pace. After sixteen months, the dogs leave their puppy raisers, return to the guide-dog school from which they came, and are given a series of tests to determine their level of confidence. If they pass the tests, they go on to five or six months of professional guide-dog training.

Dr. Thomas Lane, a vet in Florida, thought that prison inmates would make excellent puppy raisers, and started the first guide-dog/prison program. Not only do inmates have unlimited time to spend with the puppies, but they benefit from the responsibility of being puppy raisers in ways that are especially important to their rehabilitation: they learn patience, what it is like to be completely responsible for a living being, how to give and receive unconditional love, and -- since puppy raisers take classes and train the dogs together -- how to work as a team.
What a wonderful program with a wonderful result.
There was a very impassioned letter posted to the No Quarter website regarding the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to the position of Attorney General:
Urgent: Letter from Intelligence, Military, Diplomatic, and Law Enforcement Professionals
A group of distinguished intelligence and military officers, diplomats, and law enforcement professionals delivered an urgent message this morning to the chairman and the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, calling on them to hold the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey until he takes a clear position on the legality of waterboarding.

Their message strongly endorses the view of former judge advocates general that waterboarding �is inhumane, is torture, is illegal.� The intelligence veterans added it is also a notoriously unreliable way to acquire accurate information.

They noted that the factors cited by the president and Mukasey as obstacles to his giving an opinion on waterboarding can be easily solved by briefing Mukasey on waterboarding and on C.I.A. interrogation methods.

The intelligence veterans noted that during their careers they frequently had to walk a thin line between morality and expediency, all the while doing their best to abide by the values the majority of Americans have held in common over the years. They appealed to Senators Pat Leahy and Arlen Specter to rise to the occasion and discharge their responsibility to defend those same values.
And it has your usual signatories, Joe and Valerie Plame, Coleen Rowley who spent a lot of time with Cindy Sheehan plus other double-good citizens. Thanks to A Confederate Yankee, we learn a little bit about Constitutional Law and the powers available to the Attorney General:
Some of the names you know well, such as Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Some are minor luminaries such as Johnson and Rowley, a famed FBI whistleblower who later sat ditchside with Cindy Sheehan and ran for Congress as a Democrat. The rest my be outstanding in their field, but are not household names.

They signed on to a letter confronting Senators Specter and Leahy over the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to be the next Attorney General, because these intelligence operatives did not like Mukasey's refusal to comment on the legality of waterboarding.

They do not seem to grasp the basic fact that the Attorney General has no dictatorial powers, and does not make laws.

I have a further newsflash for Mr. Johnson and the rest of his ill-informed posse: waterboarding is not illegal.

The United States Congress (both houses Democrat-led) has not passed a law outlawing the waterboarding of terror suspects. Despite any personal feelings Mukasey may have that waterboarding is torture (and indeed, I think most of us agree it is), it would be irresponsible for a candidate for Attorney General to declare this or any other action illegal that Congress has not made illegal.

If Johnson, et al do not think the practice of waterboarding is justifiable even in extreme circumstances to save thousands of American lives, then that is their issue to take to their fellow Democrats in Congress, but it is not an issue on which Mukasey should comment, at least not until he has clear legal authority to act upon it.
My thoughts -- waterboarding is heinous. It tricks the body into thinking that it is drowning and can be very disorienting (Google if you want some more -- there is a lot of fact, there is a lot of fiction. I was trained as a biologist and know some of this stuff...) Still, as he said, it is not illegal, it is not fatal, it is not painful, it is only disorienting and you throw up a lot and I could see its use if there was someone who we knew had information that could be used to save lives.
Dennis Kucinich is revered by some people but he has some strange ideas at times -- UFO's not withstanding. From Neptunus Lex comes this hoist by one's own petard moment:
In a party line vote, congressional Democrats have barely averted having to debate the merits of presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich�s resolution to impeach the Vice President:
House Democrats on Tuesday narrowly managed to avert a bruising debate on a proposal to impeach Dick Cheney after Republicans, in a surprise maneuver, voted in favor of taking up the measure.

Republicans, changing course midway through a vote, tried to force Democrats into a debate on the resolution sponsored by longshot presidential candidate. The anti-war Ohio Democrat, in his resolution, accused Cheney of purposely leading the country into war against Iraq and manipulating intelligence about Iraq�s ties with Al-Qaida.

The GOP tactics reversed what had been expected to be an overwhelming vote to table, or kill, the resolution.

Midway through the vote, with instructions from the GOP leadership, Republicans one by one changed their votes from yes _ to kill the resolution _ to no, trying to force the chamber into a debate and an up-or-down vote on the proposal.

At one point there were 290 votes to table. After the turnaround, the final vote was 251-162 against tabling, with 165 Republicans voting against it.

�We�re going to help them out, to explain themselves,� said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. �We�re going to give them their day in court.�
Well, they wanted to 'play big' and they did. And in this wonderful game of liar's poker, the other side called them on it and they had to fold. Big hat, no cattle. Game. Set. Match.

The assault has begun - COWS

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Jen and I have a riff going where we see that cows are actually very intelligent, very pissed off at humans for eating them and are plotting our demise. They are everywhere. Well, it has started -- from The Oregonian:
Cow falls from sky, barely misses couple
A Chelan County fire chief says a couple were lucky they weren't killed by a cow that fell off a 200-foot cliff and smashed their minivan. District 5 Chief Arnold Baker says they missed being killed by a matter of inches Sunday as they drove on Highway 150 near Manson.

The 600-pound cow fell about 200 feet and landed on the hood of the minivan carrying Charles Everson Jr. and his wife Linda of Westland, Mich., who were in the area celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary. They were checked at Lake Chelan Community Hospital as a precaution.

The van was heavily damaged, including a broken windshield. Charles Everson says he kept repeating, "I don't believe this. I don't believe this." The year-old cow had been reported missing by a breeder. It was euthanized at the scene.
OMFG -- they have developed stealth flight technology and are using Kamikaze tactics. Who knows when they will get the methane bomb! We must all act now and have steak for dinner tonight. And tomorrow. Mmmmmm Steak...

A spitting headache

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When vomiting near a train track, leaning over the rails might not be the best way to do it. From the UK Sun:
Vomit girl survives train strike
A woman who leant over a station platform to be sick was hit in the head by a 65mph train � and SURVIVED.

Amazingly, the 28-year-old wasn�t knocked on to the tracks and suffered only a fractured skull and cut face.

The driver of the Watford to Gatwick express blew his horn and hit the brakes when he spotted the woman at Purley Oaks station in Croydon, South London.

But he was unable to prevent the accident at 7.20pm on Thursday � which resulted in severe delays for hundreds of commuters.

A spokeswoman for the London Ambulance Service said: �A woman was taken to St George�s Hospital in Tooting with head injuries but was fully conscious.�
Talk about good luck - sheesh!

Lake + Sodium update

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Very cool -- I had written earlier (Nov. 1st) about this film clip of people dumping 20,000 pounds of Sodium metal into an Alkali lake in Western Washington state. Bird Dog writing at Maggie's Farm found a link to the lake today and it has been rehabilitated and now looks like a wonderful place to go fishing. Check out Lenore Lake

Good police work - child porn ring busted

There is a special place in hell for child pornographers and 92 fine upstanding citizens just got front-row reservations.

From The Register:

Police dismantle global child porn network
Police have dismantled an international child pornography ring that used the internet to produce and distribute tailor-made videos to some 2,500 customers in 19 countries. In all, 92 arrests have been made and 23 victims aged 9 to 16 have been identified.

The videos allegedly contained heinous content, including one in which a father raped his young daughters, according to news reports. Police say most customers paid for and accessed the content using websites, although those from countries with slow internet connections could send cash and have DVDs mailed to them.

Some customers allegedly sent requests that the children appear in particular poses or hold slips of paper bearing the customers' names. Customers could pay extra to be present while the films were shot. Others sent gifts to their favorite 'models.'

I know it's just a drop in the bucket and someone else will spring up where these mokes left off but still, it's good that 92 of them will not be doing this. I hope they meet a lot of nice new friends in prison...

Wilhelm Reich - 50 years ago today

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Very interesting anniversary. Medical explorer/visionary/quack Wilhelm Reich died in prison with the stipulation that his papers be kept secret for 50 years. His death was 50 years ago on this date. Medgaget has an overview:
Wilhelm Reich and Orgone Accumulators
One of the more controversial figures in medical science, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich has become a sort of Che Guevara of the industry. Claiming to have discovered a force that permeates all life, Reich went on to build and promote orgone accumulators, devices he designed to capture the so called "orgone energy" (a weather machine followed, based on the same concepts).

Undoubtedly this drew protests and controversy from the medical community, while the 1950's FBI investigated him as a possible communist attempting to subvert American society. The FBI cleared him of suspicion, while the FDA turned its attention on the orgone accumulators as an unapproved medical device Reich was inappropriately advocating the use of. This led to court, which Reich decided not to visit, and that led him to receive a contempt charge and a prison sentence.

Reich died in prison 50 years ago to date while serving a two year sentence, requesting in his will that his private scientific writings and diaries be released only 50 years after his death. Now that the papers are coming out, some of the mystery surrounding the man may be revealed, perhaps even the motivation that guided his later life.
Whether visionary or crackpot he was an interesting character and a lot of people are still curious about his work. The Medgaget article also links to this page at Reason Magazine which has some links to further reading.

DOH! - faking a hate crime

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Talk about a stupid idea. If you want to call attention to yourself, there are lots of better ways to do it. From Washington, DC NBC4:
Police: Jewish GW Student Admits Putting Swastikas On Her Door
George Washington University officials said a Jewish student who complained about swastikas showing up on her door put them there herself.

The student lives in Mitchell Hall, where half a dozen swastikas had shown up on her dorm room door in the past several weeks.

University police set up a hidden camera. They said the girl admitted responsibility Monday.
A good candidate for a whack upside the head...
There are some things that you simply do not mess with and Santa Claus is one of them. From This Is London:
Santa told to slim down for Christmas to 'set a good example'
Santa is being told to shift the pounds before Christmas - because the obese saint is failing to set a "good example" for children.

The traditional children's hero, best known for feasting on mince pies left out on Christmas eve, has always sported a bulging midriff.

But shopping centre bosses are giving the well-wisher his marching orders - to the nearest gym - to tackle the increasing problem of obesity.

The revelation comes after a medical report earlier this month stated that by 2050 more than 50 per cent of Brits will be obese.

Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe, Kent, has even gone one step further and set-up a Santa boot camp.

Fiona Campbell-Reilly, spokeswoman at the shopping centre, said: "Santa has been around for years, but society has changed and our Santa needs to reflect this.

"Bluewater's Santa Boot Camp is getting Santa in shape and setting a good example to children who idolise him.

"He will still be the same lovable jolly man, but will be fitter and healthier."
Yikes! First our local airport (SeaTac) ditches the Christmas and Chanukah decorations and installs instead some bits of winter trees and stuff and now this travesty...
Whoops... From Portland TV Station KPTV:
Search For Hikers Leads To $25,000 In Marijuana
Missing Pair Located And In Good Condition

While searching for two missing hikers in the Columbia River Gorge, deputies stumbled upon $25,000 in marijuana, officials said.

Multnomah County deputies said the pair called for help around 7 p.m. Saturday from the Angel rest area near Bridal Veil in the Columbia River Gorge. The hikers, who have not been identified, apparently had fallen into a creek and were wet and tired.

The county's search and rescue team responded and brought along some of the group's teenage volunteers.

As the teens were searching the area, deputies said they discovered three men and a woman with duffle bags.

The four people dropped their bags and ran, according to police. When the teen volunteers investigated the bags, deputies said they found $25,000 worth of marijuana.

The discovery forced the deputies to temporarily suspend the search for the missing hikers and begin looking for the men.

When the men could not be immediately located, deputies resumed the search for the missing hikers.

The two hikers were located shortly at about 10 a.m. Sunday. Officials said the pair appear to be in good condition.
Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time...

Sad news from a nearby Island

I was reading Mr. Completely and see that Nichol's Brother's Boat Builders on Whidbey Island, Washington is having to shut down. There is an article at the Everett Herald. My Mom and Dad used to have property on Whidbey and one of their favorite things was to drive past the shipyard and see what they were working on. The yard specialized in innovative one-off designs for ferries, yachts, tugs and everything in between. The yard itself was fairly small so some boats had to be built in two sections and then welded together. Very high quality work -- the third largest employer on Whidbey (250 people). In business for 43 years. Sad... Also at Mr. Completely was an amazing set of photographs taken of one of the WA State ferry systems bigger boats hitting a patch of rough water. Here is one of the photographs:
Visit the website for the full-size images. Glad I wasn't on that run!

Comfortably stuffed

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Just had a really excellent dinner at the Black Forest Steakhouse about 12 miles away. We go there for special treats. They butcher, age and cut their own meats so the fillets and steaks are incredible. I'm stuffed (and grinning).

Happy b'day to me

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Taking the day off...

Light posting tonight

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Busy day today and we went out to a local alt.Mex restaurant to have a few Margaritas and some dinner. The dinner was good and the Margs were flowing a little too freely. Mmmmmm but a little bit sleepy. Just North of the border on the overserved line...

Work related injury in Sri Lanka

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The Associated press has some good news from Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan Airstrike Kills Tamil Leader

Sri Lankan fighter jets bombed a secret rebel communications center early Friday, killing the Tamil Tigers' political chief and five others in a strike certain to deal a sharp blow to the guerrillas' morale.

The killing of S.P. Tamilselvan, who acted as the public face of the rebels, was widely seen as a public relations coup for the government. But analysts feared it would further escalate the more than two-decade-old civil war and spark a cycle of political assassinations across this Indian Ocean island nation.

"This is a message that we know their leaders' location," Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Associated Press. "This confirms that our information is very accurate."

Heh...  Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. They preach peace but are just terrorists at heart.

Dancin' and Drillin' - oops department

From the Canadian CNews website comes this story of NY State dentist Dr. George Trusty and one of his patients:

N.Y. dentist sued for dancing and drilling

A dentist was dancing to a song on the radio while drilling on a woman's tooth, and she wound up in the hospital when the drill bit snapped off and lodged near her eye, a lawsuit alleges.

Brandy Fanning, 31, said she had to undergo emergency surgery and spent three days in the hospital because of the October 2004 mishap.

The federal lawsuit filed last month against Dr. George Trusty seeks US$600,000 for her medical expenses, pain and suffering.

And a bit more:

Fanning said she went to the centre' s emergency dental clinic after pain in a left molar started getting worse. With a root canal ruled out as an option, Trusty gave her some Novocain and began drilling to break up the tooth before extracting it, she said.

As Trusty drilled, he was "performing rhythmical steps and movements to the song 'Car Wash',"' which was on the radio, according to the lawsuit. Then, Fanning heard a snap.

Trusty tried to use a metal hook to pull the bit out, but that only pushed it farther up, driving it through the sinus and bone near her eye socket, the lawsuit alleged.

After first minimizing the problem, Trusty talked to an oral surgeon to set up an appointment, and then told Fanning she needed to get to an emergency room immediately, according to the lawsuit.

She claimed he had initially told she would likely sneeze the drill bit out, but doctors said later that if she really had sneezed, the drill bit could have blinded her left eye.

Fanning said she sued because Trusty failed on a promise to pay her medical bills. She said she still suffers facial swelling, nerve damage and chronic infections.

The suit is in federal court because the health centre operates under federal law.

Wow... The drill bits are high-speed steel which means that they are brittle. Busting some moves while having one of these deep in a patient's mouth is such a bad idea...

Trying some new software

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Been working on updating this and some of my other websites to a newer version of Movable Type.

Cleaning up some of the debris and trying out some third-party editing software.

Four years ago, a few days ago, it was Hello World

Hello World all over again...

And you want to get rid of it? And there is an alkali lake handy? (no fish 'cause of the whacked out pH) Check out the video at Fully Geek. DANG! That would have been fun to see...

Joss Whedon's new series!!!

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Kristen Dos Santos interviews Joss Whedon and talks about his new series at E Online. Here is the plot synopsis:
Echo (Eliza Dushku) [is] a young woman who is literally everybody's fantasy. She is one of a group of men and women who can be imprinted with personality packages, including memories, skills, language�even muscle memory�for different assignments. The assignments can be romantic, adventurous, outlandish, uplifting, sexual and/or very illegal. When not imprinted with a personality package, Echo and the others are basically mind-wiped, living like children in a futuristic dorm/lab dubbed the Dollhouse, with no memory of their assignments�or of much else. The show revolves around the childlike Echo's burgeoning self-awareness, and her desire to know who she was before, a desire that begins to seep into her various imprinted personalities and puts her in danger both in the field and in the closely monitored confines of the Dollhouse.
Sounds cool and Joss is committed to seven shows to start. Good to see him back on the small screen -- Jen and I were big Serenity Firefly (ed. - Jen) fans.

Our wonderful friends in Dubai

We realize that there are good and bad in every culture so while we have the terrorists and 9th century Mullah-crats repressing their subjects, we also have glittering examples of culture and progress like the tiny nation of Dubai. Well, Dubai seems to have some problems of its own. From the New York Times: (use bug-me-not for registration)

In Rape Case, a French Youth Takes On Dubai
Alexandre Robert, a French 15-year-old, was having a fine summer in this tourist paradise on the Persian Gulf. It was Bastille Day and he and a classmate had escaped the July heat at the beach for an air-conditioned arcade.

Just after sunset, Alex says he was rushing to meet his father for dinner when he bumped into an acquaintance, a 17-year-old native-born student at the American school, who said he and his cousin could drop Alex off at home.

There were, in fact, three Emirati men in the car, including a pair of former convicts ages 35 and 18, according to Alex. He says they drove him past his house and into a dark patch of desert, between a row of new villas and a power plant, took away his cellphone, threatened him with a knife and a club, and told him they would kill his family if he ever reported them.

Then they stripped off his pants and one by one sodomized him in the back seat of the car. They dumped Alex across from one of Dubai’s luxury hotel towers.

Alex and his family were about to learn that despite Dubai’'s status as the Arab world’s paragon of modernity and wealth, and its well-earned reputation for protecting foreign investors, its criminal legal system remains a perilous gantlet when it comes to homosexuality and protection of foreigners.

The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier.

Good lord -- a bit more:

United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called “forced homosexuality.” The two adult men charged with sexually assaulting Alex have pleaded not guilty, although sperm from all three were found in Alex. The two adults appeared in court on Wednesday and were appointed a lawyer. They face trial before a three-judge panel on Nov. 7. The third, a minor, will be tried in juvenile court. Legal experts here say that men convicted of sexually assaulting other men usually serve sentences ranging from a few months to two years.

One more bit:

Most infuriating to Alex and his mother, Véronique Robert, is that police inaccurately informed French diplomats on Aug. 15, a month after the assault, that the three attackers were disease-free, the diplomats say. Only at the end of August did the family learn that that the 36-year-old assailant was H.I.V. positive. The case file contains a positive H.I.V. test for the convict dated March 26, 2003.

Alexandre Robert's Mom has started the Boycott Dubai website. One of the comments really spells out the power of such sites -- From Robert Shaw, 41, Senior Vice President (company unnamed):

My wife and I have the financial means to travel anywhere is the world we choose. Recently we discussed visiting Dubai because in light of the current stuggles in the middle east, we viewed Dubai as a progressive arab state. Not any more. We will never travel there and will make sure to influence all friends and family to do the same and tell their respective friends. Dubai is a pathetic, backwards country not worthy of the world's tourism money.

And you bet that Robert and his wife will be talking to other people of similar social status and telling them this story...

An extraordinary life - Tippi

Meet Tippi. From the website:
Tippi is a tiny blonde girl who lives in Africa. She has a brother by the name of Abu who weighs five tons, and her cats are huge and much stronger than her daddy. This may sound like surrealistic fiction, but it is the true story of Tippi, daughter of two French filmmakers and wildlife photographers, working in southern Africa. Their life in the bush, dunes and swamps, and about Tippi's endearing kinship with wild animals, particularly Abu, a five-ton elephant...
Check out the extraordinary photographs -- this is truly a magical childhood.

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