February 2008 Archives

Both Clinton and Obama have made speeches recently saying that they plan to withdraw from our NAFTA agreements with Mexico and Canada. Canada just replied and the Gateway Pundit has the story:
More NAFTA backlash...
Canada Plays the Oil Card.

Canada threatened to disrupt America's priveleged access to Canada's massive oil and gas reserves after Hillary and Obama vowed to withdraw the US from NAFTA.

The Globe and Mail reported:
Americans' privileged access to Canada's massive oil and gas reserves could be disrupted if Washington cancels the NAFTA accord as Democratic presidential candidates threaten, Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson warned yesterday.

"There's no doubt if NAFTA were to be reopened we would want to have our list of priorities," he said.

"Knowledgeable observers would have to take note of the fact that we are the largest supplier of energy to the United States, and NAFTA has been kind of a foundation of integrating the North American energy market," Mr. Emerson said.
And that flipping sound emanating from Washington DC? Two politicians backpeadling...

Very cool technology

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Hat tip to Robert Scoble for this heads-up on something that Microsoft will be releasing soon:
What made me cry: Microsoft�s World Wide Telescope
Lots of people are asking me questions about what made me cry at Microsoft a few weeks ago.

If I told you �a telescope� you�d make fun of me, right? Tell me I�m lame and that I don�t deserve to be a geek and that I should run away and join the circus, right?

Well, that�s what I saw.

Or, more accurately, the WorldWide Telescope.

UPDATE: the official site is now up.

Like I said, sounds lame. How could that possibly be the most fabulous thing I�ve seen Microsoft do in years? And that�s not just me talking. My friends who�ve seen it say that I actually underhyped it. That�s the first time anyone has said I underhyped something when I was trying to be so over-the-top with hype.

Like I said, it isn�t the product that�s impressive. You�ve gotta see this thing to really understand. My video will be up on Monday.

But, I�ll try to give you an idea of what made me so impressed.

Think of Google Maps or Microsoft�s Live Maps. How dragging a map around lets you see the world in a new way. Zoom in. Zoom out. You have the whole world in a window on your screen.

Now, think of the sky.
The site doesn't have the actual app up as yet but I'm looking forward to it very much. Think of what MSFT did with the Terraserver ten years ago. Fast forward to today and all the work MSFT is putting into visual processing and you begin to get an idea of why a lot of people are really hyped about this project. As a heads up, if you are looking for more of a traditional astronomy 'planetarium' application, there are two very good ones out there. Check out Celestia and Stellarium

New software for the store website

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I have been learning Joomla over the course of the last month trying to get a usable website for our store: Crossroads Grocery Joomla is very powerful but with that power comes a great complexity and it is too much for what I want to do. I ran into another website and really liked the clean design. Emailed the author and found that it was Textpattern Really nice software -- incredibly easy to install and configure and out of the box, I will be able to get things the way I want them with a minimal pulling of hair. If you are looking for a simple but well thought out Content Management System with Blog overtones, check out Textpattern.

When releasing a bear

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A cautionary tale in photos over at Maggie's Farm:
When releasing a bear from a trap...
...always make sure the trap is secured to the truck. These Fish and Game guys are releasing an ungrateful bear:
Watch the rest of the events at Maggie's Farm.

Tools - a good definition

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Mostly Cajun offers a list of tools and their uses. Here are just a few examples:
A Man�s Tools - defined
I have more than a passing familiarity with common tools. When I got the information below, I immediately recognized it as being amazingly truthful�

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted vertical stabilizer which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, �Oh sh��.�

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age.

SKILL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.
Didn't know Cajun ever visited my shop...

Craig Venter latest project

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Very cool and this is the guy who could pull it off... Announced at this years TED - from AFP:
Famed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel
A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially world-changing "fourth-generation fuel" project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California.

"We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy," Venter told an audience that included global warming fighter Al Gore and Google co-founder Larry Page.

"We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock."

Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter.

Biofuel alternatives to oil are third-generation. The next step is life forms that feed on CO2 and give off fuel such as methane gas as waste, according to Venter.

"We have 20 million genes which I call the design components of the future," Venter said. "We are limited here only by our imagination."
18 months to start making it -- probably another year or two to scale it up to global quantities. Very cool hack if he pulls it off...

Awwww Cute

Newborn goat gets abandoned by its Mom, gets adopted by a Boxer Dog. From the UK Daily Mail:

Paternal dog Billy takes on an unusual kid
A paternal dog has adopted an abandoned baby goat as his surrogate child.

Billy the boxer has become the constant companion of the 12-day old kid called Lilly. He sleeps with the goat, licks her clean, and protects her from any dangers at Pennywell Farm wildlife centre at Buckfastleigh, near Totnes, Devon.

The kid was abandoned by her mother when she was only a few hours old and adopted by paternal Billy when his owner Elizabeth Tozer began hand rearing the goat.

The unusual bond has developed over the last month and the pair are now inseparable.

Just too cute! There are two more pictures at the website.

The King and Queen of Pork Earmarks

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A nice article at The Examiner about a dinner that John and Joyce Murtha are holding in Washington:
Editorial: Oink! Oink! Murtha�s porkfest
Rep. John Murtha is hosting a gala dinner tonight at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City for defense industry lobbyists who have received and who hope to receive millions of tax dollars via earmarks sponsored by the Pennsylvania Democrat.

Murtha is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi�s closest allies and one of the leading earmarkers in Congress. Tickets for the �Evening with Jack and Joyce Murtha� dinner cost $1,500 per person. Murtha and cohorts like Rep. James Moran, D-Va., and Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., have refined the earmark-for-a-contribution process to a fine art. A Roll Call investigation last year found, with assistance from Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Sunlight Foundation, that the three Democrats funneled millions of dollars in earmarks for firms whose executives then contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to their re-election campaigns.

But Murtha�s porkfest is not going unnoticed. Three conservative citizen activist groups and a conservative blog that are active in the anti-earmark Porkbusters movement are gathering protesters, posters and pigs and plan to crash the Murtha pork bash.

RedState.com is the blog that put out the original call for protests. The responding groups are Americans for Prosperity, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union.
Cool that there is a demonstration. I hope that someone is taking photos of the people attending this "gala" -- I love the line:
the three Democrats funneled millions of dollars in earmarks for firms whose executives then contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to their re-election campaigns
I recently read a book about a proposed FairTax which replaces the IRS and the Employment tax with a flat 23% tax on goods and services sold in the USA. If you buy a house that has been built for you, you will be paying that tax. If you buy a used house, you will not. Same thing with cars and other durable goods. The authors of the book pointed out that one side-effect of this would be to open up the earmarking process and shine some light on it since Congress and the House would not be able to have direct control over the funds generated by the FairTax. The 23% was chosen as it is the embedded tax in anything sold in the USA these days. If you buy a loaf of bread, the tractor maker paid tax on the steel they bought and passed it on to the farmer who paid taxes and passed them on to the miller who passed them on to the baker, the distributor, the store and finally to you. All of these add up to about 23%.
How about this German book, published in 1934 called... (drum-roll please) SCIENTOLOGIE Comes complete with some page scans of the original English translation... Hat tip to the ever wonderful Dark Roasted Blend for the link.

A history lesson - please read!

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Mostly Cajun had this emailed to him and he posted it in full. I am swiping it from his site and posting it in full as well. The message here voices what I feel and what a lot of people feel: WAKE THE FUCK UP! I know that some of you will read a few lines or paragraphs and then either close this window for good or move on to another post. Please do me the courtesy of reading this through to the end. It may not be what you want to hear but some people out there consider this to be the truth and Raymond S. Kraft has done an incredible job of articulating this truth... Please read: History Lesson
History Lesson
By Raymond S. Kraft


Sixty-four years ago, Nazi Germany had overrun almost all of Europe and hammered England to the verge of bankruptcy and defeat. The Nazis had sunk more than 400 British ships in their convoys between England and America taking food and war materials.

At that time the US was in an isolationist, pacifist mood, and most Americans wanted nothing to do with the European or the Asian war.

Then along came Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in outrage Congress unanimously declared war on Japan, and the following day on Germany, who had not yet attacked us. It was a dicey thing; we had few allies.

France was not an ally, as the Vichy government of France quickly aligned itself with its German occupiers, Germany was certainly not an ally, as Hitler was intent on setting up a Thousand Year Reich in Europe. Japan was not an ally, as it was well on its way to owning and controlling all of Asia.

Together, Japan and Germany had long-range plans of invading Canada and Mexico, as launching pads to get into the United States over our northern and southern borders, after they finished gaining control of Asia and Europe.

America's only allies then were England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Australia, and Russia. That was about it. All of Europe, from Norway to Italy (except Russia in the East) was already under the Nazi heel.

The US was certainly not prepared for war. The U.S. had drastically downgraded most of its military forces after WWI because of the depression, so that at the outbreak of WWII, Army units were training with broomsticks because they didn't have guns, and cars with "tank" painted on the doors because they didn't have real tanks. A huge chunk of our Navy had just been sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor. Britain had already gone bankrupt, saved only by the donation of $600 million in gold bullion in the Bank of England (that was actually the property of Belgium) given by Belgium to England to carry on the war when Belgium was overrun by Hitler (a little known fact).

Actually, Belgium surrendered after one day, because it was unable to oppose the German invasion, and the Germans bombed Brussels into rubble the next day just to prove they could. Britain had already been holding out for two years in the face of staggering losses and the near decimation of its Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain, and was saved from being overrun by Germany only because Hitler made the mistake of thinking the Brits were a relatively minor threat that could be dealt with later. Hitler first turned his attention to Russia in the late summer of 1940, at a time when England was on the verge of collapse.

Ironically, Russia saved American's butt by putting up a desperate fight for two years, until the US got geared up to begin hammering away at Germany.

Russia lost something like 24,000,000 people in the sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad alone . . . 99% of them from cold and starvation, mostly civilians, but also more than 1,000,000 soldiers.

Had Russia surrendered, Hitler would have been able to focus his entire war effort against the Brits, then America. If that had happened, the Nazis could have won the war.

All of this has been brought out to illustrate that turning points in history are often dicey things. Now, we find ourselves at another one of those key moments in history.

There is a very dangerous minority in Islam that either has, or wants, and may soon have, the ability to deliver small nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, almost anywhere in the world.

The Jihadis, the militant Muslims, are basically Nazis in kaffiyehs - they believe that Islam, a radically conservative form of Wahhabi Islam, should own and control the Middle East first, then Europe, then the world. All who do not bow to their will of thinking should be killed, enslaved, or subjugated. They want to finish the Holocaust, destroy Israel, and purge the world of Jews. This is their mantra and their goal. There is also a civil war raging in the Middle East - for the most part not a hot war, but a war of ideas. Islam is having its Inquisition and its Reformation, but it is not yet known which side will win, - the Inquisitors, or the Reformationists.

If the Inquisition wins, then the Wahhabis, the Jihadis, will control the Middle East, the OPEC oil, and the US, European, and Asian economies.

The techno-industrial economies will be at the mercy of OPEC - not an OPEC dominated by the educated, more rational Saudis of today, but an OPEC dominated by the Jihadis. Do you want gas in your car? Do you want heating oil next winter? Do you want the dollar to be worth anything? You had better hope the Jihad, the Muslim Inquisition loses, and the Islamic Reformation wins.

If the Reformation movement wins, that is, the moderate Muslims who believe that Islam can respect and tolerate other religions, live in peace with the rest of the world, and move out of the 10th century into the 21st, then the troubles in the Middle East will eventually fade away. A moderate and prosperous Middle East will emerge.

We have to help the Reformation win, and to do that we have to fight the Inquisition, i.e., the Wahhabi movement, the Jihad, Al Qaeda and the Islamic terrorist movements. We have to do it somewhere. We can't do it everywhere at once. We have created a focal point for the battle at a time and place of our choosing . . . in Iraq, not in New York, not in London, or Paris or Berlin, but in Iraq, where we have done two important things:

First we deposed Saddam Hussein. Whether Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack or not, it is undisputed that Saddam has been actively supporting the terrorist movement for decades. Saddam was a terrorist! Saddam was a weapon of mass destruction, responsible for the deaths of probably more than 1,000,000 Iraqis and 2,000,000 Iranians.

Second we created a battle, a confrontation, a flash point, with Islamic terrorism in Iraq. We have focused the battle. We are killing bad people, and the ones we get there we won't have to get here. We also have a good shot at creating a democratic, peaceful Iraq, which will be a catalyst for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East, and an outpost for a stabilizing American military presence in the Middle East for as long as it is needed.

WWII, the war with the Japanese and German Nazis, really began with a "whimper" in 1928. It did not begin with Pearl Harbor. It began with the Japanese invasion of China. It was a war for 14 years before the U.S. joined it. It officially ended in 1945 - a 17-year war - and was followed by another decade of U.S. occupation in Germany and Japan to get those countries reconstructed and running on their own again . . . a 27-year war.

WW II cost the United States an amount equal to approximately a full year's GDP - adjusted for inflation, equal to about $12 trillion dollars. WW II cost America more than 400,000 soldiers killed in action, and nearly 100,000 still missing in action.

The cost of not fighting and winning WW II would have been unimaginably greater - a world dominated by Japanese Imperialism and German Nazism.

The Iraq war has, so far, cost the United States about $160,000,000,000, which is roughly what the 9/11 terrorist attack cost New York. It has also cost about 3,000 American lives, which is roughly equivalent to lives that the Jihad killed (within the United States) in the 9/11 terrorist attack.

This is not a 60 Minutes TV show, or a two-hour movie in which everything comes out okay. The real world is not like that. It is messy, uncertain, and sometimes bloody and ugly. It always has been, and probably always will be.

The bottom line is that we will have to deal with Islamic terrorism until we defeat it, whenever that is. It will not go away if we ignore it.

If the U.S. can create a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq, then we have an ally, like England, in the Middle East, a platform from which we can work to help modernize and moderate the Middle East. The history of the world is the clash between the forces of relative civility and civilization, and the barbarians clamoring at the gates to conquer the world.

The Iraq War is merely another battle in this ancient and never-ending war. Now, for the first time ever, the barbarians are about to get nuclear weapons . . . unless somebody prevents them from getting them.

We have four options:

1. We can defeat the Jihad now, before it gets nuclear weapons.
2. We can fight the Jihad later, after it gets nuclear weapons (which may be as early as next year, if Iran's progress on nuclear weapons is what Iran claims it is).
3. We can surrender to the Jihad and accept its dominance in the Middle East now, in Europe in the next few years or decades, and ultimately in America.
4. Or, we can stand down now, and pick up the fight later when the Jihad is more widespread and better armed, perhaps after the Jihad has dominated France and Germany and possibly most of the rest of Europe. It will, of course, be more dangerous, more expensive, and much bloodier.

If you oppose this war, I hope you like the idea that your children, or grandchildren, may live in an Islamic America under the Mullahs and the Sharia, an America that resembles Iran today.

The history of the world is the history of civilization clashes, cultural clashes. All wars are about ideas, ideas about what society and civilizations should be like, and the most determined always win.

Those who are willing to be the most ruthless always win. The pacifists always lose, because the anti-peace militants kill them.

Remember, perspective is everything, and America's schools teach too little history for perspective to be clear, especially in the young American mind.

The Cold War lasted from about 1947 at least until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989; 42 years!

Europe spent the first half of the 19th century fighting Napoleon, and from 1870 to 1945 fighting Germany!

World War II began in 1928, lasted 17 years, plus a ten- year occupation, and the U.S. still has troops in Germany and Japan. World War II resulted in the death of more than 50,000,000 people, maybe more than 100,000,000 people, depending on which estimates you accept.

The U.S. has taken more than 3,000 killed in action in Iraq. The U.S. took more than 4,000 killed in action on the morning of June 6, 1944, the first day of the Normandy invasion to rid Europe of Nazi Imperialism.

In WWII the U.S. averaged 2,000 KIA a week - for four years. Most of the individual battles of WW II lost more Americans than the entire Iraq war has done so far.

The stakes are at least as high. . . a world dominated by representative governments with civil rights, human rights, and personal freedoms or a world dominated by a radical Islamic Wahhabi movement, by the Jihad, under the Mullahs and the Sharia (Islamic law).

It's difficult to understand why the average American does not grasp this. They favor human rights, civil rights, liberty and freedom, but evidently not for Iraqis.

"Peace activists" always seem to demonstrate here in America, where it's safe. Why don't we see peace activists demonstrating in Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, in the places that really need peace activism the most? I'll tell you why! They would be killed!

The liberal mentality is supposed to favor human rights, civil rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc., but if the Jihad wins, wherever the Jihad wins, it is the end of civil rights, human rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity.

Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down on the side of their own worst enemy!

Please consider passing along copies of this to students in high school, college and university as it contains information about the American past that is very meaningful TODAY - history about America that very likely is completely unknown by them (and their instructors, too). By being denied the facts and truth of our history, they are at a decided disadvantage when it comes to reasoning and thinking through the issues of today. They are prime targets for misinformation campaigns beamed at enlisting them in causes and beliefs that are special-interest agenda driven.

Raymond S. Kraft is a writer and lawyer living in Northern California.
Very high geekdom with this product. BoingBoing writes about the Laken ISO 70 water bottle:
Laken ISO 70 Aerogel-Insulated Water Bottle
The "Laken ISO 70" water bottle's outside shell is made of aluminum, but its filled�partially, of course�with aerogel, that wonderfully lightweight and low density material that weighs just three times more than air. It's a great insulator, helping in making a water bottle that's half the weight of a traditional all-metal vacuum thermos.
It ain't cheap at $60 but Aerogels are cutting edge technology that hasn't really filtered down to mass production very much yet. Wikipedia has an article here: Aerogel Here is a photo showing its incredible insulation properties:
The Laken website is here: Laken

Busy few days

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Sorry for the lesser than normal spew but things have been busy at home and at work. Spent today running errands and Jen and I went out for a wonderful Filet Mignion dinner at a local restaurant that cuts and ages its own meat - awesome!
BoingBoing has a link to a wonderful rant from Science Fiction writer John Scalzi about a self-styled SF writer (who self-published his only novel) who has been VP of this organization before and who now wants to be the President. Scalzi's rant is here: A Gut Check Moment for SFWA Two excerpts:
As for Andrew Burt, I think he would be a fine president too, as long as what SFWA members want to do is publicly and enthusiastically cut the organization�s throat.
The fact Burt wants to be president of SFWA after jamming the organization into a wall twice in the last year suggests to my mind either an Aspergian lack of cluefulness, or a grim, committed drive to prove that the Peter Principle is wrong, and that, indeed, one can rise beyond one�s level of incompetence, perchance to explore heretofore unknown, virgin realms of incompetence none have ever seen before. Alas toward the latter, SFWA would be chained to him and dragged along as he frisked about these new lands.
Whatever you do, do not get a writer pissed off at you -- especially a writer of Scalzi's caliber...
Lorne Gunter writes about the coming Ice Age in the National Post:
Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age
Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average."

China is surviving its most brutal winter in a century. Temperatures in the normally balmy south were so low for so long that some middle-sized cities went days and even weeks without electricity because once power lines had toppled it was too cold or too icy to repair them.

There have been so many snow and ice storms in Ontario and Quebec in the past two months that the real estate market has felt the pinch as home buyers have stayed home rather than venturing out looking for new houses.

In just the first two weeks of February, Toronto received 70 cm of snow, smashing the record of 66.6 cm for the entire month set back in the pre-SUV, pre-Kyoto, pre-carbon footprint days of 1950.

And remember the Arctic Sea ice? The ice we were told so hysterically last fall had melted to its "lowest levels on record? Never mind that those records only date back as far as 1972 and that there is anthropological and geological evidence of much greater melts in the past.

The ice is back.

Gilles Langis, a senior forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa, says the Arctic winter has been so severe the ice has not only recovered, it is actually 10 to 20 cm thicker in many places than at this time last year.
Our climate is driven by many things but the key engine is our sun which happens to be a variable star. High solar flux goes hand-in-hand with high sunspot numbers and we have been having a long spell of unseasonably low sunspot numbers. Anthropogenic warming my ass...

Kimchi in Space

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A South Korean scientist is headed for the International Space Station and he is bringing Kimchi with him. The New York Times has the story:
Starship Kimchi: A Bold Taste Goes Where It Has Never Gone Before
After South Korea began sending soldiers to fight beside American forces in Vietnam, President Park Chung-hee made an unusual plea. He wrote to President Lyndon Johnson to say that his troops were miserable, desperate for kimchi, the fermented cabbage dish that Koreans savor with almost every meal.

Chung Il-kwon, then the prime minister, delivered the letter to Washington. When he traveled overseas, he told Johnson, he longed for kimchi more than for his wife. The president acquiesced, financing the delivery of canned kimchi to the battlefield.

Now kimchi is set to conquer the final frontier: space.

When South Korea�s first astronaut, Ko San, blasts off April 8 aboard a Russian spaceship bound for the International Space Station, the beloved national dish will be on board.

Three top government research institutes spent millions of dollars and several years perfecting a version of kimchi that would not turn dangerous when exposed to cosmic rays or other forms of radiation and would not put off non-Korean astronauts with its pungency.

Their so-called space kimchi won approval this month from Russian authorities.

�This will greatly help my mission,� Mr. Ko, who is training in Russia, said in a statement transmitted through the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. �When you�re working in spacelike conditions and aren�t feeling too well, you miss Korean food.�
Cool idea - real Kimchi is in a state of continuous active fermentation. A bit more from the article:
Ordinary kimchi is teeming with microbes, like lactic acid bacteria, which help fermentation. On Earth they are harmless, but scientists feared they could turn dangerous in space if cosmic rays and other radiation cause them to mutate.

Another problem was that kimchi has a short shelf life, especially when temperatures fluctuate rapidly, as they sometimes do in space.

�Imagine if a bag of kimchi starts fermenting and bubbling out of control and bursts all over the sensitive equipment of the spaceship,� Mr. Lee said.
What a story that would make -- mutated Kimchi bacteria taking over the astronauts brains and turning them into space zombies... Hell, I'd watch it if it was on the TV.

An awesome gesture to other brewers

Major props to Jim Koch and the folks at Samuel Adams brewery.

There is a global hops shortage caused by a severe warehouse fire and less fields being planted. Hops that normally cost a few dollars/pound are now retailing for five dollars for two ounces!

Jim came up with The Samuel Adams Hop Sharing Program:

Samuel Adams Hop Sharing Program
For a couple of months now, we've all been facing the unprecedented hops shortage and it's affected all craft brewers in various ways. The impact is even worse on the small craft brewers--openings delayed, recipes changed, astronomical hops prices being paid and brewers who couldn't make beer.

So we looked at our own hops supplies at Boston Beer and decided we could share some of our hops with other craft brewers who are struggling to get hops this year. We're offering 20,000 pounds at our cost to brewers who need them. Specifically, we are able to spare 10,000 pounds of East Kent Goldings from Tony Redsell, a top English grower featured by Michael Jackson in Michael Jackson's Beer Companion (page 75 has a picture) and 10,000 pounds of the German Noble hop Tettnang Tettnanger from small farms in the Tettnang region in Germany. These are both type 90 pellets from the 2007 crop and are the exact same hops we brew our own beers with. We're not looking to make money on this so we're selling them at our cost of $5.72 a pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Goldings and $5.42 per pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Tetts. They're packed in 22# foil bags, boxed four bags to a box in 88 lb. boxes and will be shipped from cold storage.

The purpose of doing this is to get some hops to the brewers who really need them. So if you don't really need them, please don't order them. And don't order them just because we're making them available at a price way below market. Order them because you need these hops to make your beer. We're not asking questions, so let your conscience be your guide.

A few mechanics--until we know how much need there is, we've put a maximum out there of 6 boxes per brewer, which is 528 pounds. You can order less in 88 pound increments. You pay shipping. If we get more orders than the 20,000 pounds, we'll have a lottery.

We hope this makes brewing a little easier for those hardest hit by the hop shortage.

Very cool!

Now that is a Whopper!

Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar is vying for a spot in the Guiness Book of Records today. From the Detroit Free Press:

Southgate grill aims for Guinness with 150-pound sandwich
Impressed by a giant 1-pound burger?

Hah! That's just an hors d'oeuvre compared with the monster burger they're cooking up at Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar in Southgate today.

At 150 pounds, including its specially made bun and multiple toppings, it's designed to put Mallie's in the Guinness World Records book for the largest commercially available hamburger; right now that's a measly 123-pounder at a bar in Pennsylvania.

"We've actually done this in-house several times, so it's not a matter of whether we can do it," says owner Steve Mallie, 39. It's being able to make the sandwich publicly at an announced time, so all the necessary people will be on hand to record and verify the feat for Guinness.

Completed, the burger will be 26 inches across and about 2 feet tall, he says.

And if you and several dozen of your hungriest friends would like one of your own, that can be arranged. It's being added to the menu, "and with 24 hours' notice, we'll make it for you," Mallie says. The price is $350, which includes fries and pop.

From the website:


Manager Aaron Lyczynski, left, and Stephen Mallie, owner of Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar, hold a bun like the one that will dress the 150-pound Absolutely Ridiculous Burger. Assimacopoulos Supreme Bakery Distributors in Romulus baked it.

Sounds like a fun place: Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar

More of Mugabe

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Since he is doing so well at ruling Zimbabwe, the citizens are going to elect him for yet another term in office... Believe that and I have some ocean-front property in Nevada to sell you. From the BBC:
Mugabe 'confident' of sixth term
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe says he is confident his ruling Zanu-PF party will win next month's elections.

He was speaking at a rally to launch his campaign for a sixth term in power and celebrate his 84th birthday.

Thousands gathered at the rally in the town of Beitbridge on the border with South Africa.
And just how good a leader is Mugabe:
Zimbabwe is suffering an economic crisis, with annual inflation of 100,000%, and unemployment at 80%. There are also severe food and fuel shortages.

Many of Zimbabwe's problems have been blamed by the opposition and Western countries on the policies of President Mugabe.
And it used to export food -- Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of Africa.

Fun with Hippies

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Og at Neanderpundit has a great story:
Fun with Fucktards
So I go into Wild Oats Market tonight, in search of steel cut oats.

And I find them, very quickly, and am ready to leave. The macrobiotic patchouli scented crap was making me crazy, and the hippies were making me sick. One couple, in particular, were particularly annoying. As I reached for my can of Irish steel cut oats, I noticed him making hand gestures toward his ear (He didn�t have a bluetooth headset in, I did) and overheard him saying �ooh, I�m so cool, I have bluetooth�.

Actually, it�s nothing of the sort, I frankly forgot I had it in, and I do hate looking like the Borg.

But hey, I thought, why not have some fun with it.

So i walked a bit further down the aisle. Now, I�m out of range- the phone itself is out in the car. This headset, when it goes out of range of the phone, the blue light goes on, and the headset beeps.

So I put my hand to my ear.

The hippie couple look up from their macrobiotic organically grown fuckstick sprouts.

�Yeah, it�s me. How can I help you?�

Of course, there�s nobody there, the headset is disconnected but the light is on, and THEY don�t know it�s out of range.

�Oh, sure. yeah? Take the shot.�

Hippies look up

�Yeah, take the shot. it�s fine.�

a pause. I nod my head.

�Third and fourth Thoracic Vertebra. Really.�

Hippies beginning to look startled

�Draw an imaginary line from the top of the left to the top of the right shoulder, and about four inches below the center.�

�No, nobody will ever know. Nobody living, anyway.�

�Don�t jerk the trigger. You remember the training.�

�Yes, each one is a little easier than the last. This is what, five?�

�Nine? Wow, time flies. Is that the siencer? You should have put that on earlier.�
Read the rest -- wish I could have been there to see this...

Another reason to support Hillary-Care

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What would happen if the government implemented mandatory DNA testing as a cost-cutting measure? From the New York Times:
Fear of Insurance Trouble Leads Many to Shun or Hide DNA Tests
Victoria Grove wanted to find out if she was destined to develop the form of emphysema that ran in her family, but she did not want to ask her doctor for the DNA test that would tell her.

She worried that she might not be able to get health insurance, or even a job, if a genetic predisposition showed up in her medical records, especially since treatment for the condition, Alpha-1, could cost over $100,000 a year. Instead, Ms. Grove sought out a service that sent a test kit to her home and returned the results directly to her.

Nor did she tell her doctor when the test revealed that she was virtually certain to get it. Knowing that she could sustain permanent lung damage without immediate treatment for her bouts of pneumonia, she made sure to visit her clinic at the first sign of infection.

But then came the day when the nurse who listened to her lungs decided she just had a cold. Ms. Grove begged for a chest X-ray. The nurse did not think it was necessary.

�It was just an ongoing battle with myself,� recalled Ms. Grove, of Woodbury, Minn. �Should I tell them now or wait till I�m sicker?�
A perfect example of something that could be used for good being used by the suits at the top to cut costs -- it is a pre-existing condition after all... The results of a Georgetown University study:
In 7 of 92 underwriting decisions, insurance providers evaluating hypothetical applicants said they would deny coverage, charge more for premiums or exclude certain conditions from coverage based on genetic test results.

The business of War

Not nice people -- from the Chicago Tribune:

Inside the world of war profiteers
From prostitutes to Super bowl tickets, a federal probe reveals how contractors in Iraq cheated the U.S.

Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.

Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war's largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.

The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors' pockets, records show.

Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East. Those defendants, along with two other KBR employees who have pleaded guilty in Virginia, account for a third of the 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes, Justice Department records show.

And what sorts of dealings are we talking about:

In one case, a freight-shipping subcontractor confessed to giving $25,000 in illegal gratuities to five unnamed KBR employees "to build relationships to get additional business," according to the man's December 2007 statement to a federal judge in the Rock Island court. Separately, Peleti named five military colleagues who allegedly accepted bribes. Prosecutors also have identified three senior KBR executives who allegedly approved inflated bids. None of those 13 people has been charged.

A common thread runs through these cases and other KBR scandals in Iraq, from allegations the firm failed to protect employees sexually assaulted by co-workers to findings that it charged $45 per can of soda: The Pentagon has outsourced crucial troop support jobs while slashing the number of government contract watchdogs.

The dollar value of Army contracts quadrupled from $23.3 billion in 1992 to $100.6 billion in 2006, according to a recent report by a Pentagon panel. But the number of Army contract supervisors was cut from 10,000 in 1990 to 5,500 currently.

The article is three pages long and the above is just the tip of the iceberg. It is not just US contractors either, the Saudi firm Tamimi Global Co was operating as a sub-contractor to KBR but started blackmailing KBR people with bribes and threatening to report the bribes if the KBR staff didn't give the Tamimi what they wanted. There was also this issue:

The Army LOGCAP contract required KBR to medically screen the thousands of kitchen workers that subcontractors like Tamimi imported from impoverished villages in Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

But when Pentagon officials asked for medical records in March 2004, Khan presented "bogus" files for 550 Tamimi workers, Assistant U.S. Atty. Jeffrey Lang said in a court hearing last year.

KBR retested those 550 workers at a Kuwait City clinic and found 172 positive for exposure to hepatitis A, Lang told the judge. Khan tried to suppress those findings, warning the clinic director that Tamimi would do no more business with his medical office if he "told KBR about these results," Lang said in court. The infectious virus can cause fatigue and other symptoms that arise weeks after contact.

And one person's comment on this:

"I think we downsized past the point of general competency," said subcontractor Christopher Cahill, who for a decade prepared military supply depots under LOGCAP. Now serving 30 months in federal prison for fraud, Cahill added: "The point of a standing army is to have them equipped."

It goes to show that corruption is not a product of backward nations but that so-called advanced nations have raised it to a fine art. Look at France and Russia during the Oil for Food scandal...

A concert to remember - Corb Lund

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Yesterday, Jen and I went up to Vancouver, BC to hear Corb Lund He does Country music but not the 'Garth Brooks' style -- think Hank3 without all the drugs and cussing or Buck Owens. Writes most of the songs he performs and is downright amazing. His song "Truck got Stuck" has received wide airplay but his other work is well worth listening to. The website has four songs in a 'jukebox' so you can get an idea of his music. He is a trouper -- the show went to several encores and finally let out well after midnight. His opening band was just as good in their own right. If you like Country with a Townes Van Zandt turn to the lyrics and a deep southern Texas barroom funk to the music, check out Hayes Carll The venue was The Commodore Ballroom, a little gem of a performance space built in the 1930's as a dance hall (complete with a sprung floor) and it possesses excellent acoustics -- the House of Blues company has taken over management and has installed a fine lighting and sound system making it an excellent venue for music of any kind. All in all, a wonderful evening!

Chillin' and Data Encryption

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Very cool hack from Freedom to Tinker:
New Research Result: Cold Boot Attacks on Disk Encryption
Today eight colleagues and I are releasing a significant new research result. We show that disk encryption, the standard approach to protecting sensitive data on laptops, can be defeated by relatively simple methods. We demonstrate our methods by using them to defeat three popular disk encryption products: BitLocker, which comes with Windows Vista; FileVault, which comes with MacOS X; and dm-crypt, which is used with Linux. The research team includes J. Alex Halderman, Seth D. Schoen, Nadia Heninger, William Clarkson, William Paul, Joseph A. Calandrino, Ariel J. Feldman, Jacob Appelbaum, and Edward W. Felten.

Our site has links to the paper, an explanatory video, and other materials.

The root of the problem lies in an unexpected property of today�s DRAM memories. DRAMs are the main memory chips used to store data while the system is running. Virtually everybody, including experts, will tell you that DRAM contents are lost when you turn off the power. But this isn�t so. Our research shows that data in DRAM actually fades out gradually over a period of seconds to minutes, enabling an attacker to read the full contents of memory by cutting power and then rebooting into a malicious operating system.

Interestingly, if you cool the DRAM chips, for example by spraying inverted cans of �canned air� dusting spray on them, the chips will retain their contents for much longer. At these temperatures (around -50 �C) you can remove the chips from the computer and let them sit on the table for ten minutes or more, without appreciable loss of data. Cool the chips in liquid nitrogen (-196 �C) and they hold their state for hours at least, without any power. Just put the chips back into a machine and you can read out their contents.

This is deadly for disk encryption products because they rely on keeping master decryption keys in DRAM. This was thought to be safe because the operating system would keep any malicious programs from accessing the keys in memory, and there was no way to get rid of the operating system without cutting power to the machine, which �everybody knew� would cause the keys to be erased.

Our results show that an attacker can cut power to the computer, then power it back up and boot a malicious operating system (from, say, a thumb drive) that copies the contents of memory. Having done that, the attacker can search through the captured memory contents, find any crypto keys that might be there, and use them to start decrypting hard disk contents. We show very effective methods for finding and extracting keys from memory, even if the contents of memory have faded somewhat (i.e., even if some bits of memory were flipped during the power-off interval). If the attacker is worried that memory will fade too quickly, he can chill the DRAM chips before cutting power.
Very clever idea and execution... Of course, this assumes that the hacker has physical access to the machine in question and when that happens, all bets are off.

A quick game of Whack-A-Mole

That satellite that was in the decaying orbit with the half-ton of uber-deadly Hydrazine on board. Blammo. Orbital Decay and gone from Space in a few days. From the NY Times:

Missile Strikes a Spy Satellite Falling From Its Orbit
A missile interceptor launched from a Navy warship has struck a dying American spy satellite orbiting 130 miles over the Pacific Ocean, the Pentagon announced late Wednesday.

Officials cautioned that while early information indicated that the interceptor's "kill vehicle" had hit the satellite, it would be 24 hours before it could be determined whether the fuel tank with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine had been destroyed as planned.

Even so, one official who received a late-night briefing on the mission expressed confidence that the impact had been so powerful that the fuel tank probably had been ruptured.

Completing a mission in which an interceptor designed for missile defense was used for the first time to attack a satellite, the Lake Erie, an Aegis-class cruiser, fired a single missile just before 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, and the missile hit the satellite as it traveled at more than 17,000 miles per hour, the Pentagon said in its official announcement.

The folks at CNN/Technology also have a report:

Defense Department: Navy missile hits dying spy satellite
The U.S. Navy succeeded in its effort to shoot down an inoperable spy satellite before it could crash to Earth and potentially release a cloud of toxic gas, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

The first opportunity for the Navy to shoot down the satellite came about 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. The plan included firing a missile from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii to destroy the satellite.

"A network of land-, air-, sea- and space-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the Earth's atmosphere," a Department of Defense statement said.

"At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie, fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3, hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph."

And the results of the mission:

"Debris will begin to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere immediately," the department said. "Nearly all of the debris will burn up on re-entry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days."


The missile didn't carry a warhead, with authorities saying the impact was expected to be sufficient to destroy the fuel tank.

Good work; crew of the USS Lake Erie! And, still from CNN, how NOT to do this:

In January 2007, China used a land-based missile to destroy a 2,200-pound satellite that was orbiting 528 miles above the Earth. The impact left more than 100,000 pieces of debris orbiting the planet, NASA estimated -- 2,600 of them more than 4 inches across. The U.S. agency called the breakup of the Fengyun-C satellite the worst in history.

The Chinese crap is still up there after one year. Ours will be 99.999% gone in 40 days.

Calling it a night

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Still tired and lagged from the traveling. Going to head out to the Dave Cave(tm) to start weeding through my 2,500+ email backlog (I subscribe to a few high-volume lists) and then up to bed...

Sharper Image files for Chapter Eleven

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people. I remember back when they were good -- they sold hard-to-find tools for reasonable prices and their catalogs were an education. Gradually, they morphed into cheap plastic crap sold in malls. One of their 'flagship' products -- the Ionic Breeze air purifier got taken to task by Consumer Reports which called it useless; a lawsuit was filed and Consumer Reports was vindicated. Hat tip to BoingBoing for this link to the Reuters article:

Sharper Image files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Retailer Sharper Image Corp has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing declining sales, three straight years of losses and litigation involving its Ionic Breeze air purifiers.

The San Francisco-based company filed for protection late Tuesday in U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. Sharper Image said it had $251.5 million in assets and $199 million in debt as of January 31, according to the filing. Cash on hand totaled about $700,000.

Its shares plunged 92 cents, or 64 percent, to 52 cents on Nasdaq.

"Sharper Image is in a severe liquidity crisis," Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Roedell said in a separate filing.

I had blogged about the Ionic Breeze 'issue' quite a bit when it was happening. Read here, here, here and here. Same sort of thing has been happening to Brookstone to a lesser extent -- hope they manage to avoid the bad management that S.I. had been shackled with...

Lunar Eclipse blogging

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If you are reading this, go outside and look East -- it just entered totality and the moon is a deep dark red. Gorgeous!

Back in town again

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Landed this AM at Bellingham International Airport after a long flight from Lihue to Seattle. Tired. Going home for a couple hours shut-eye and will probably post something tonight.

Last post from paradise

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Sitting in Shaka Taco working with some photos and getting ready to head back tomorrow. Leave Lihui tomorrow night for an overnight flight to Seattle, getting into Bellingham around noon. Damn...

Kauai target practice

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Hunting is done a lot on this island -- pig is a staple food and wild pigs abound. Another favorite target (universally) is the common highway sign. Here is a front and back example of one such sign peppered liberally with small-arms fire:

As I was driving along today, I spotted this one:

Seriously WTF?�?�?� What size of cannon did that one shot? Sheesh -- the hole is about an inch in diameter!
From the Seattle Times:
UW study: Rules add $200,000 to Seattle house price
Backed by studies showing that middle-class Seattle residents can no longer afford the city's middle-class homes, consensus is growing that prices are too darned high. But why are they so high?

An intriguing new analysis by a University of Washington economics professor argues that home prices have, perhaps inadvertently, been driven up $200,000 by good intentions.

Between 1989 and 2006, the median inflation-adjusted price of a Seattle house rose from $221,000 to $447,800. Fully $200,000 of that increase was the result of land-use regulations, says Theo Eicher � twice the financial impact that regulation has had on other major U.S. cities.

"In a nationwide study, it can be shown that Seattle is one of the most regulated cities and a city whose housing prices are profoundly influenced by regulations," he says.
The article then goes on to cite sources. A major culprit is the State's Growth Management Act. Our own County is dealing with similar issues and the rules and regulations are getting more and more complex and binding yet developers are being given access to large tracts of land. Time to shake things up a bit next election...

Paris-Dakar rally to move

I had written about this earlier here: Now this is going to get a lot of people pissed

...Danger and the Dakar Rally have long been synonymous: Dozens have died racing from Europe across some of the world's most inhospitable terrain to the western tip of Africa.

But the threat of an al-Qaida-linked attack pushed the element of risk to levels organizers deemed unacceptable. They canceled the epic race on Friday, meaning terrorists have ensured there will be no spectacular images this year of dune buggies throwing up clouds of dust and lone motorcycle riders spinning their wheels in Saharan sands...

Well, in 2009 it will be in a new home -- South America.

From the BBC Sport:

Dakar Rally set for South America
Organisers of the 2009 Dakar Rally have confirmed plans for the new-look event, which will take place in South America for the first time next January.

The 9,000km loop course will start and finish in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Starting on 3 January, competitors will race south to Patagonia, into the Andes mountains and then Chile's Atacama desert, before the finale on the 18th.

This year's rally did not take place after four French tourists were murdered in Mauritania in December.

The exact route of the 2009 event has not been finalised.

Very cool! I feel sorry about the people who live in Africa -- there were a lot of people who showed up for the rally and who infused a lot of hard cash into the local economy.

Now, because of the acts of a few corrupt power-grubbing theocratic rag-heads, this cash is gone.

At least, this will help to lessen the hold that al-Qaida has on these people...

Happy Valentine's Day

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The BBC has a nice writeup on who exactly Saint Valentine was: Saint Valentine

Back at Shaka Taco - Valentine's Day

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While driving around, I saw another place advertising Free WiFi and although I am really happy with the people at Shaka Taco, I thought I would check this new place out as it seemed to be a very nice funky sort of place. Sort of like our store but scaled back and run entirely by hippies. (Not that our's isn't already...) The first clue was the calendar with this coming Monday's Movie being some "documentary" about the Zionist occupation of "palestinian" lands. The filmmaker was coming to present the film and was going to lead a discussion after. I am halfway tempted to attend and ask a few questions about Yasser Arafat's origins (he was a KGB plant trying to destabilize the new Israel). I would also be curious to see if a palestinian can purchase land in Jordan or anywhere else in the Middle East (they cannot -- they are universally reviled). I would also be curious to know about the tens of thousands of palestinians who are living and working in Israel (the people staging the marches and protests are a tiny minority). The other thing that really got me about that place is that they only served "alternative" food items. I wasn't in the mood for a sandwich or baked good although they looked good. I wanted something cold and wet. They were out of all of their fruit juices, the only thing they had was some brand of canned soda. I got a peach one and my first sip filled my palate with a blast of tannins. Turns out the thing was based on Green Tea. If I wanted to have a Green Tea, I would have ordered it hot and without sugar and peach nectar. Reminds me of that "Carob" fetish that the health ninnys were on a few years ago -- Carob this and Carob that never admitting that Carob has the taste of wet moldy cardboard and that it is not by any stretch Chocolate. And then they find that Chocolate has positive health benefits... Ha. Ha. Ha. Oh yeah, their WiFi was so bad as to be unusable. I got dropped a couple of times -- I was getting a strong signal, their network was at fault. Anyway, back "home", sitting by the sidewalk with the Trade Winds blowing a warm 78 degrees and sipping my Coke.

Quote of the day - Don Lancaster

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From Don Lancasters website: Tinaja
February 12, 2008

Many of the recent newsgroup posts make it obvious that there are lots of individuals out there who will do anything to save the environment.

Except taking a science course.

The sound of quiet popping in California

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As the enviro's brains implode from the strain of thinking... From the Inside Bay Area:
Green battle pits redwoods against solar panels
Sunnyvale couple first in state convicted under Solar Shade Control Act

Talk about a clash of cherished green values.

In a case with statewide significance, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office cited a Sunnyvale couple under a little-known California law because redwood trees in their backyard cast a shadow over their neighbor's solar panels.

Richard Treanor and Carolynn Bissett own a Prius and consider themselves environmentalists. But they refuse to cut down any of the trees behind their house on Benton Street, saying they've done nothing wrong.

"We're just living here in peace. We want to be left alone," said Bissett, who with her husband has spent $25,000 defending themselves against criminal charges. "We support solar power, but we thought common sense would prevail."

Their neighbor Mark Vargas considers himself an environmentalist too. His 10-kilowatt solar system that he installed in 2001 is so big he pays only about $60 a year in electrical bills. He drives an electric car.

Vargas said he first asked Treanor and Bissett to chop down the eight redwoods, which the couple had planted between 1997 and 1999 along the fence separating their yards. Later he asked them to trim the trees to about 15 feet.

"I offered to pay for the removal of the trees. I said 'let's try to work something out,'" Vargas said. "They said no to everything."

He installed the panels.

After several years of squabbling and failed mediation, Vargas filed a complaint with the Santa Clara County district attorney arguing that the trees reduce the amount of electricity he can generate. In 2005, prosecutors agreed.

They sent Treanor and Bissett a letter informing them that they were in violation of California's "Solar Shade Control Act" and that if they didn't "abate the violation" within 30 days, they would face fines of up to $1,000 a day.
You cannot make stuff up that's this good. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

Kauai blogging - part two

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Back at Shaka Tacos for a Coke and a seat on the sidewalk (they have a power outlet handy for laptop users). Spent the day exploring via automobile the Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State park. Had gorgeous weather, temps in the high 70's, fluffy clouds everywhere to give some nice contrast to the photographs and since this was Tuesday, very few tourists. A bunch of busses but they went to the usual spots and were gone in 15 minutes. Too many people, sit and rest for a bit and they will all go away. My Mom and Dad had been here before but he had no recollection of this -- I suspect that I could keep taking him to the same place day after day and he would treat each visit as a new thing to be enjoyed. Took a bunch of images -- playing with High Dynamic Range photography and getting some good results. Using a combination of the Photomatix software with a copy of Photoshop that I had on another machine. Adobe allows you to "unlicense" it on one system and license it on another -- very thoughtful for someone traveling with a laptop but doing the grunt-work on a desktop... I'll be posting some of these when I get home -- for now, just a note or two every few days. Signing off for now...

Kauai blogging

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Internet access is not as available as I was hoping. Our hotel was built in the 1970's and although it is well maintained and clean and a gorgeous example of that style (which I much prefer to the overblown 'resorts' of this era), it has not modernized its infrastructure so connectivity is non-existent. Fortunately, a few miles north is this haven for the broadband deprived: Shaka Tacos Good lattes, excellent tasty tacos and a nice ambiance, right in the middle of Old Kapaa Town. I am taking a lot of photos but will upload them when I get back -- traveling with my Father at 91 years presents a set of challenges so my time is not entirely my own. He is enjoying himself though so it's good. I'll post more in a few days -- back on the 20th.

Voted today

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People in our county are all required to do mail-in ballots. Ours came a few days ago and I spent today filling out mine. Fortunately, Fred Thompson's name was still on it so I happily made my choice. I don't agree with any of the other Republicans and this way, at least it sends some message to the RINO party that I am looking for a real candidate. If Barack Obama gets the Democratic nod, I am seriously thinking about voting for him. Worst case scenario, he will be another Jimmaeah Carter and will be out again in four years. The guy is sharp and articulate though, if he wins and if he surrounds himself with smart people and actually frickn' LISTENS to them (one of Bush's biggest faults in my NSHO), he could be a good President.

Minimal posting tonight

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and probably nothing tomorrow. Leaving at 8:00AM to pick up my Dad, drive to the airport and fly to Seattle. We sit there for a few hours (and have breakfast) and catch a 4:00PM flight to Lihui, Kauai, Hawaii. I don't know if our hotel has broadband so it will probably be a day or so before I get back online. Spending tonight packing and getting photo gear and laptop together...

WTF - Undersea Internet Cables

Number five just went down today. Read here: Khaleej Times
Cable damage hits 1.7m Internet users in UAE
An estimated 1.7 million Internet users in the UAE have been affected by the recent undersea cable damage, an expert said yesterday, quoting recent figures published by TeleGeography, an international research Web site.

Internet data was majorly affected as it is the biggest capacity carried by the undersea cables.

However, all voice calls, corporate data and video traffic were also affected.
And here: Schneier on Security
Fourth Undersea Cable Failure in Middle East
The first two affected India, Pakistan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain. The third one is between the UAE and Oman. The fourth one connected Qatar and the UAE. This one may not have been cut, but taken offline due to power issues.

The first three have been blamed on ships' anchors, but there is some dispute about that. And that's two in the Mediterranean and two in the Persian Gulf.

There have been no official reports of malice to me, but it's an awfully big coincidence. The fact that Iran has lost Internet connectivity only makes this weirder.

EDITED TO ADD (2/5): The International Herald Tribune has more. And a comment below questions whether Iran being offline has anything to do with this.

EDITED TO ADD (2/5): A fifth cut? What the hell is going on out there?
It will be interesting to see if the real story ever percolates to the surface. Almost time to start wearing an AFDB

No posting tonight

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Getting photo stuff ready for Thursdays departure to Hawai'i I will be bringing the laptop so blogging (with photos) will continue. Had an early doctors appointment today (ingrown toenail) and a Chamber of Commerce meeting this evening so I am about ready for bed.

Citadel - the energizer bunny of BBS systems

I ran a BBS system for ten years, quitting in 1993 when that Internet thingy became available for me. I was running Wildcat (which is still available and now fully internet savvy). Another big system was Citadel. Guess what. It is also still available and now a very mature Web 2.0 Groupware application. Check out Citadel\\ And here is a nice article in the Linux Journal.

Counting down the days

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Flying out of here on the morning of February 7th, landing in Lihui, Kauai, Hawaii for 13 days of sun and Mai-Tai's. My Dad expressed a desire to get the h*** away from this cold weather and since he cannot travel by himself, I stepped up to the plate and offered my services to accompany him... Dirty job but someone had to do it. I'll be bringing camera and laptop so blogging will continue. Been doing a lot more HDR photography so some of the photos should be interesting. Here is one of a local mountain range - The Sisters:
Click to embiggen

A Hillary joke

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From Theo:
The Ghost's of Presidents Past.....
Hillary Clinton has disposed of Bill and is spending her first night alone in the White House.

The ghost of George Washington appears to her, and Hillary says, �How can I best serve my country?
Washington says, �Never tell a lie.�
Ouch!� Says Hillary, �I don�t know about that.

The next night, the ghost of Thomas Jefferson appears�
Hillary says, �How can I best serve my country?
Jefferson says, �Listen to the people.
Ohhh! I really really don�t want to do that.

On the third night, the ghost of Abe Lincoln appears�
Hillary says, �How can I best serve my country?
Lincoln says,
Go to the theater.

Another problem with Global Warming

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Braaaaaiiiinnnssss... Yes, Global Warming will lead to an increase in Zombie Attacks. From Transterrestrial Musings:
As If It Weren't Bad Enough
Global warming will lead to an increase in zombie attacks.

I blame George Bush.

Fortunately, some of us have been prepared for a while.
Fortunately, Rand continues with an update:
[Mid-afternoon update]

Saved by the sun:
The Canadian Space Agency's radio telescope has been reporting Flux Density Values so low they will mean a mini ice age if they continue.

Like the number of sunspots, the Flux Density Values reflect the Sun's magnetic activity, which affects the rate at which the Sun radiates energy and warmth. CSA project director Ken Tapping calls the radio telescope that supplies NASA and the rest of the world with daily values of the Sun's magnetic activity a "stethoscope on the Sun." In this case, however, it is the "doctor" whose health is directly affected by the readings.

This is because when the magnetic activity is low, the Sun is dimmer, and puts out less radiant warmth. If the Sun goes into dim mode, as it has in the past, the Earth gets much colder.
Take that, undead!
The Canadian Space Agency's Flux Density Values page is here: Flux Density Values The value for today is 71.8 and the lowest recorded was from 64 to 68 The home page for their Flux observations is here: SOLAR RADIO MONITORING PROGRAMME And they have archival data going back to 1947

Boors on the Slopes

Some people... From The Denver Post:

Shrediquette: Skiing manners
As bad behavior seems to mount on the slopes, ski areas teach some manners and punish offenders to make sure snow sports stay civil.

Snowboarders plopped across the middle of runs chatting on cellphones. Gondola cars reeking of smoke. Red Bull cans littering the snow under lifts. Shredders turning black runs blue with their "F-bombs."

Powder hounds are decrying conduct more expected in malls and high school hallways than on the snowy slopes where controlled schussing used to be the norm but shredding � today's term for tearing up the slopes � is now customary.

In some cases, boorish behavior is simply annoying. In others, it can snowball into court battles.

That happened recently at Beaver Creek resort when a 7-year-old skied over the backs of a 60-year-old man's skis, purportedly injuring him. The man screamed at the boy and later filed a personal-injury lawsuit.

"That takes rudeness to a whole other level," said Vail skier Jim Farrell, who admits he can get a little testy when someone slams the chairlift safety bar down on his head.

Colorado's 26 ski areas are stepping up with both proactive and punitive measures designed to ensure civility stays as much a part of the snow experience as face plants.

One area's solution:

Winter Park is the first ski area in Colorado to add a tangible incentive for good behavior - an advanced terrain park that only those who toe the line on rules can use..

Shredders and freeriders - skiers who do tricks - must watch a 15-minute video on safety and civility before they earn the privilege of using the top-shelf-cool jumps and rails in the park called Dark Territory. If they don't follow the rules, the special passes for this area are pulled..

"Our message is, 'This is a cool and mellow place. Keep it that way,' " Holme said.

Mt. Baker specifically promotes a very mellow vibe so we don't have as much of this problem. You would think that people would not be so frikken' self centered.

The state of history lessons in England

Downright sad. From the Daily Mail:

Challenge Churchill! One in four think Winnie didn't exist (but Sherlock Holmes did)
Never, in the field of human ignorance, have so many known so little about famous Britons.

A quarter of the population think that Winston Churchill never actually existed, a survey suggests.

While a poll recently named him the greatest Briton of all time, the wartime prime minister is seen by many as a mythical figure along with the likes of Florence Nightingale and Sir Walter Raleigh.

This could well have something to do with the TV insurance adverts inviting viewers to "challenge Churchill" and featuring a lugubrious talking dog.

According to the survey of 3,000 respondents, many believe the inspirational Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, Cleopatra and the Duke of Wellington are also characters dreamed up for films and books.

Some think Charles Dickens was himself a character in fiction rather than the creator of David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit.

And it gets worse. The article closes with these words:

Historian Correlli Barnett said: "This suggests a complete lack of common sense and respect for our greatest heroes of the past."

"Churchill and Wellington were great men, but this suggests we no longer value people of great achievement.

"It's all about celebrities and popular culture. What it also tells us is what is going wrong in our school curriculums.

"Something must be completely lacking in our national education that people could be so ignorant as to think these people never actually existed.

"No doubt these other ones like Robin Hood, people mistake as being real because they have recently been featured on the TV."

I forget who said it but there was a discussion recently about "political geniuses" and how that term has been so horribly overused. The quote was something like: "We have had only two political geniuses in recent times. They were Adolph Hitler and Winston Churchill -- thank God they happened at the same time"

Curious happenings in Middle Eastern waters...

Cable number four has now been damaged. For the first three, read here (or just scroll down four posts). From Yahoo/AFP:
Another undersea Internet cable damaged in Mideast: Indian firm
Another Middle East undersea Internet cable has been damaged, adding to disruption in Indian online services caused when several lines were cut earlier this week, a cable operating firm said Saturday.

The Falcon cable was cut 56 kilometres (35 miles) from Dubai, between Oman and the United Arab Emirates, according to its owner FLAG Telecom, part of India's Reliance Communications.

The company said on its website that a repair ship had been notified and was expected to arrive at the site in the next few days.

The cause of the latest cable damage was not immediately known.

Flag Telecom owns another undersea cable which was damaged off Egypt on Wednesday in the Mediterranean. Indian media reports have attributed that damage to a ship's anchor which dropped on the cable.

On the same day in Kuwait, the government reported two cables damaged by "weather conditions and maritime traffic."

The cable damage has left India's vital outsourcing industry grappling with major communications disruptions and businesses saying they could take up to two weeks to return to normal.

It has also disrupted Internet service across the Middle East and other parts of South Asia.
Emphasis mine -- and if you believe that, you will think that Anthropogenic Global Warming actually exists... I wonder where the NR-1 is right now. Or one of these Dolphins... Something is going on here and I really wanna know, dammit!

Back from town

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The party lasted until about 12:30 and that would have gotten us up here around 3:00AM. Not good. Rented a hotel room, had a great (late) breakfast and just got into town an hour or so ago. Have to do some paperwork at the store but will probably dig something up to post later tonight...

No posting today

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Heading down to Seattle for a friend's birthday. Don't know if we will catch a room down there or drive up late tonight but regardless, I will be away from the computer...

That's it for tonight

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One of our evening people was out with a bad back. Friday is when I go into town for the big weekend buying run for the store so when I came back, I had to price and stock everything myself. Not a big deal, just very time consuming. I usually finish around 7:30 or so and tonight, I got done at 9:45. Didn't want to leave the Saturday AM crew scambling... Anyway, it's late and I am headed upstairs to a nice warm bed...

Curiouser and curiouser

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The internet connections to the Middle East are going dark one by one... From CNN:
Third undersea Internet cable cut in Mideast
An undersea cable carrying Internet traffic was cut off the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, officials said Friday, the third loss of a line carrying Internet and telephone traffic in three days.

Ships have been dispatched to repair two undersea cables damaged on Wednesday off Egypt.

The ships were expected to reach the site of the break on Tuesday with repairs completed by February 12, according to a press release from FLAG Telecom, which owns one of the cables.

Stephan Beckert, an analyst with TeleGeography, a research company that consults on global Internet issues, said those cables were likely damaged by ships' anchors.

The loss of the two Mediterranean cables -- FLAG Telecom's FLAG Europe-Asia cable and SeaMeWe-4, a cable owned by a consortium of more than a dozen telecommunications companies -- has snarled Internet and phone traffic from Egypt to India.
Emphasis mine -- yeah righhht "ship's anchors" and where was the damage:
Officials said Friday it was unclear what caused the damage to FLAG's FALCON cable about 50 kilometers off Dubai. A repair ship was en route, FLAG said.
Like a ship is going to anchor 30 miles offshore. Something big is happening and they want the Intar-tubes shut down for a while...

When truth is stranger than satire

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Last January 10th, I posted A modest proposal for Gitmo which linked to a post by Nigel on his blog This Goes to 11. There he gave a brilliant solution to the whole Guantanamo Bay Detainment Facility problem. Close it and move everyone out of the sunny Caribbean to this place 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle. A wonderful bit of satire... Now today, I read at CNN/AP:
CIA flights to Greenland investigated
Denmark will investigate claims that the CIA secretly used an airport on the Nordic country's remote Arctic territory of Greenland to transport prisoners in the U.S. war on terror, the prime minister said Thursday.

Denmark, like many other European countries, began investigating reports in 2005 that the U.S. intelligence agency quietly touched down on their territory as part of the CIA's so-called "extraordinary rendition" program.

Human rights groups have criticized the practice, in which suspects are transported for interrogation to countries outside the U.S. for interrogation.

A Danish TV documentary broadcast Wednesday by the DR1 TV network claimed that prisoner flights not only used mainland Denmark's airports and airspace but also touched down on Greenland, a semiautonomous Danish territory between Europe and North America.

"In the light of the new information, we will be looking into what happened and if need be, we will ask the Americans for explanations," Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
Brings to mind Hunter S. Thompson's great line: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

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