March 2008 Archives

Zimbabwe by the numbers

Reuters has an excellent breakdown of conditions in Zimbabwe:
FACTBOX-Zimbabwe's meltdown in figures
Zimbabwe's economy lies in ruins with the world's highest inflation, chronic food shortages and queues for bread as long as those of people voting in the country's crucial election on Saturday.

Below are some figures showing how the economy has declined and the difficulties suffered by ordinary Zimbabweans.

In 1987 inflation averaged 11.9 percent. It surged to an official record of 100,586 percent in January 2008, but economic experts say the real rate is much higher.

Average life expectancy dropped from 63 years in 1990 to 37.3 years in 2005, according to World Bank and U.N. figures.
Lots more at the site. Mugabe needs to go now and Marxists everywhere need to wake up and realize that Marxism does not work.

John McCain - unclear on Global Warming

From this article in the November 16, 2004 New York Times:
Election Over, McCain Criticizes Bush on Climate Change
Wasting no time distancing himself from President Bush on an issue that has long divided them, Senator John McCain yesterday called the White House stance on climate change "terribly disappointing" and said inaction in the face of mounting scientific data was unjustified.

Two weeks after the end of a campaign in which he stumped for Mr. Bush's re-election, Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, is convening a Senate hearing today on the human effect on climate and what to do about it.

Mr. Bush, citing the cost to the economy and what the administration describes as the uncertainty of the science, has opposed restrictions on carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases since early 2001, when he abandoned a pledge he made in his first presidential campaign to restrict carbon dioxide from power plants.
And some more:
After a McCain climate hearing in September, for example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian group opposed to regulations as a solution to most environmental problems, described the gathering as "another pep rally to build support for his energy rationing legislation" and said it had "focused on junk science."

But Mr. McCain said yesterday that the evidence, which he called alarming, was clearer than ever.

With several other senators, he visited the Arctic fringe in Norway and Iceland in late summer.

"It was remarkable," he said, "going up on a small ship next to this glacier and seeing where it had been just 10 short years ago and how quickly it's receded."

Particularly disturbing, he went on, is the rapid pace of warming.

"The Inuit language for 10,000 years never had a word for robin," he said, "and now there are robins all over their villages."
Emphasis mine. Now, let's swing over to this post at World Climate Report:
The red, red Koyapigaktoruk comes bob, bob, bobbin� along
One of the most well-known and beloved harbingers of spring is the appearance of our feathered friend, the red-breasted robin. And as is the case with virtually every other cute species, it is the subject of climate change speculation from time to time. But in the robin�s case, it doesn�t surround global warming pushing the robin to extinction. Quite the contrary, global warming is expanding the robin�s range into never-before-seen-territory.

How is this bad news, you may wonder? Well the creative minds behind the global-warming-makes-all-things-worse mantra must have been working overtime, but finally, they did manage to come with a good one�the appearance of robins in high northerly latitudes is a sign the global warming is impinging upon the Earth�s sacred Arctic regions, and robbing them of their uniqueness. Case and point, there is no Eskimo word for �robin.�
And this little tidbit:
The article that caught our eye was titled �The Naming of Birds by Nunamiut Eskimo� by Laurence Irving of the Arctic Health Research Center of the U.S. Public Health Service in Anchorage, Alaska. It appeared in the March 1953 (Vol. 6, pp. 35-43) issue of the aptly-named journal Arctic (available as a pdf here). In the article, Irving describes his time spent among the Nunamiut Eskimo living in the Brooks Range of northern Alaska comparing English names for birds with the Nunamiut Eskimo names of the birds they encountered. Irving believes that the Eskimo names were from usage of older Nunamiut people and not recent additions. In Irving�s article, he provides the complete list of some 103 bird species.

And, what will obviously come as a surprise to some including Sen. McCain and the BBC producers (not to mention New York Times� readers and BBC viewers), included among Irving�s list is the Nunamiut Eskimo word for �robin.� For those interested it is �Koyapigaktoruk��apparently a derivative of the sound of the robin�s song. Irving designates the robin�s status in the region as �NM� for �nesting� and �migrant.�

Further, in his article Irving refers to an earlier compilation of Eskimo names for birds, �The most complete list of Eskimo bird names for this part of Alaska so far published� that can be found in the book My Life with the Eskimo by V. Stefansson published in 1913. As it so happens, the contents of this book are accessible through If you visit the link , and enter the search term �robin� and read the contents of page 493, you will see a description of where robins have been sighted in the Canadian Arctic prior (obviously) to 1913, including along the far northern coast. Accompanying these location descriptions are the word for �robin� in several other Eskimo tongues, including (phonetically) �Kre-ku-ak�tu-yok� (Mackenzie Eskimo) and �Shab�wak� (Alaskan Eskimo).
Makes you wonder who McCain's Science advisers were on that trip. They should have spent a few more minutes clicking and a few less minutes proselytizing a flawed political construct.

A ray of light in Islam

Very nice essay at the Asia Times Online:
The mustard seed in global strategy
A self-described revolution in world affairs has begun in the heart of one man. He is the Italian journalist and author Magdi Cristiano Allam, whom Pope Benedict XVI baptized during the Easter Vigil at St Peter's. Allam's renunciation of Islam as a religion of violence and his embrace of Christianity denotes the point at which the so-called global "war on terror" becomes a divergence of two irreconcilable modes of life: the Western way of faith supported by reason, against the Muslim world of fatalism and submission.

As Magdi Allam recounted , on his road to conversion the challenge that Pope Benedict XVI offered to Islam in his September 2006 address at Regensburg was "undoubtedly the most extraordinary and important encounter in my decision to convert". Osama bin Laden recently accused Benedict of plotting a new crusade against Islam, and instead finds something far more threatening: faith the size of a mustard seed that can move mountains. Before Benedict's election, I summarized his position as "I have a mustard seed and I'm not afraid to use it." Now the mustard seed has earned pride of place in global affairs.

Magdi Allam tells us that he has found the true God and forsaken an Islam that he regards as inherently violent. Magdi Allam has a powerful voice as deputy editor of Italy's newspaper of record, Corriere della Sera, and a bestselling author. For years he was the exemplar of "moderate Islam" in Europe, and now he has decided that Islam cannot be "moderate".
And the money shot:
Magdi Allam presents an existential threat to Muslim life, whereas other prominent dissidents, for example Ayaan Hirsi Ali, offer only an annoyance. Much as I admire Hirsi Ali, she will persuade few Muslims to reconsider their religion. She came to the world's attention in 2004 after a Muslim terrorist murdered Theo van Gogh, with whom she had produced a brief film protesting the treatment of women under Islam. As an outspoken critic of Islam, Hirsi Ali has lived under constant threat, and I have deplored the failure of Western governments to accord her adequate protection. Yet the spiritual emptiness of a libertine and cynic like Theo van Gogh can only repel Muslims. Muslims suffer from a stultifying spiritual emptiness, depicted most poignantly by the Syrian Arab poet Adonis (see Are the Arabs already extinct?, Asia Times Online, May 8, 2007). Muslim traditional society cannot withstand the depredations of globalized culture, and radical Islam arises from a despairing nostalgia for the disappearing past. Why would Muslims trade the spiritual vacuum of Islam for the spiritual sewer of Dutch hedonism? The souls of Muslims are in agony. The blandishments of the decadent West offer them nothing but shame and deracination. Magdi Allam agrees with his former co-religionists in repudiating the degraded culture of the modern West, and offers them something quite different: a religion founded upon love.
Very interesting ideas -- read the whole essay.

An interesting essay on food prices

From Linda Chavez writing at Town Hall magazine
A Government Engineered Food Crisis
As if a housing crisis, rising energy costs and a soft labor market weren't enough to cause economic anxiety for the average American, now consumers are feeling the pinch of rapidly escalating food costs. The United States has long prided itself in being the breadbasket of the world, and Americans have traditionally paid a smaller share of their income on food than citizens of other developed countries. But the days of cheap milk, bread, beef and poultry may well be over -- and Uncle Sam is partly to blame.

In 2007, the cost of a gallon of milk increased 26 percent; eggs went up 40 percent; and a loaf of white bread went from $1.05 to $1.28 from 2006 to 2008. Steep increases in the price of oil have contributed to these higher costs, but the federal government has played a pernicious role as well. By mandating that oil companies increase the amount of ethanol they blend with gasoline, the government has not only artificially increased the cost of corn, which is what most U.S. ethanol is made of, but has driven up the cost of other grains as well.
And a bit more:
But what is most galling about the impact of government mandated ethanol production is that it does little or nothing to solve our energy problems. Ethanol proponents argue that it is cleaner than petroleum -- which improves air quality -- and that it and other alternative fuels will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Both claims are dubious.

Corn-based ethanol is inefficient as a fuel for automobiles, reducing vehicle gas mileage by 20-30 percent in vehicles using E85, the highest ethanol content fuel. Fewer miles-per-gallon of gas essentially eliminates any savings achieved, even by mixing ethanol with gasoline in the lower 9 percent ethanol blends required in all U.S. gasoline today. And of course, it also takes energy to produce ethanol -- for farming and distilling the corn and transporting the final product to the pump -- and much of that energy will come from carbon-based fuels.
And finally:
If ethanol really were the miracle fuel its proponents claim, you'd think there would be huge profits in producing it in the free market. But that's not the case. Consumers not only pay for ethanol at the pump, they're paying taxes as well to subsidize ethanol production in the U.S. -- and they're paying a hidden tax to keep cheaper, foreign sugar cane ethanol from competing with the domestic corn-based product. Subsidies to gasoline blenders amount to about 51 cents per gallon, and the government imposes a 54-cent tariff on foreign ethanol so that it can't provide a cheaper alternative for U.S. consumers.

And matters will only get worse as government mandates higher bio-fuel content in U.S. gasoline from the current 9 percent to 15 percent by 2015. Ethanol won't solve the energy crisis, but it may well lead to a food crisis in the U.S. and elsewhere. The U.S. Agency for International Development reports that the cost of providing wheat, corn, cereal and other foodstuffs to poor nations has gone up 41 percent since October 2007, which will mean we can provide less assistance to starving people around the world. Federal policy is literally diverting food from the table to the gas tank -- and it's time we stopped it.
Pretty much hits it on the head. A powerful lobby promoting something falsely and causing a massive rise in food prices. Ain't politics grand... And this little item came up on another forum -- Indiana is one of the prime corn producing states and the Indiana Sierra Club is not thrilled. Here is their manifesto:
The Problems With Ethanol
When it comes to corn-based ethanol, what seems good for farmers may not be so good for everyone else. In the past year, the global price of corn has doubled. Because corn is the most common animal feed, the price of milk also has nearly doubled, with the price of butter in Europe increasing by 40%. Pork prices in China are up about 20%. And in Mexico, a 60% rise in the cost of tortillas has led to riots. Global grain consumption has exceeded production in the last six years, resulting in the world grain reserve dwindling to about 60 days, the lowest level in 34 years.

Adding insult to injury, corn is not even an efficient source of ethanol. Each unit of energy put into corn-based ethanol production produces only 1.3 to 2 units of energy in return. On the other hand, cellulosic plants (corn stalks, straw, biomass) produce 4 to 6 units of energy. Sugar cane produces up to 8 units. This is all good food for thought as we consider how to use our resources. Perhaps we should ask more insistently whether we can afford to give tax subsidies to the corn-based ethanol industry.
Glad to see that they are seeing the consequences of this.
From Science Daily:
Could Volcanic Activity In West Antarctic Rift Destabilize Ice Sheet?
The West Antarctic rift is a region of volcanic activity and crustal stretching that is roughly the size of the western United States (from Salt Lake City to the Pacific Ocean).

About 98 percent of it is buried beneath glacial ice, up to 2.5 miles thick, and bedrock beneath the ice is 2000--3000 feet below sea level over large areas. All of this makes it a difficult region to study.

It is interesting nevertheless, because volcanic eruptions beneath the ice could destabilize the ice sheet, leading to as much as 25 feet of sea-level rise. How likely is it that this could happen is a question scientists have debated for over a decade. LeMasurier addresses the question by comparing the West Antarctic rift with similar areas of crustal stretching elsewhere in the world.
Looking at Dr. LeMasurier's web page at UC-Denver, he has his cred. The Paper is only available to subscribers but the abstract is here. Even a few degrees in water temperature makes a big big difference.

Emperor Palpatine gets out of politics

And interviews for a temp agency. Check out this four minutes of YouTube goodness. Hat tip to Neptunus Lex for the link.
FINALLY! The main-stream media is starting to see the ethanol/fuel scam for what it is... From Time Magazine:
The Clean Energy Scam
From his Cessna a mile above the southern Amazon, John Carter looks down on the destruction of the world's greatest ecological jewel. He watches men converting rain forest into cattle pastures and soybean fields with bulldozers and chains. He sees fires wiping out such gigantic swaths of jungle that scientists now debate the "savannization" of the Amazon. Brazil just announced that deforestation is on track to double this year; Carter, a Texas cowboy with all the subtlety of a chainsaw, says it's going to get worse fast. "It gives me goose bumps," says Carter, who founded a nonprofit to promote sustainable ranching on the Amazon frontier. "It's like witnessing a rape."
And getting to the heart of the matter:
The U.S. quintupled its production of ethanol--ethyl alcohol, a fuel distilled from plant matter--in the past decade, and Washington has just mandated another fivefold increase in renewable fuels over the next decade. Europe has similarly aggressive biofuel mandates and subsidies, and Brazil's filling stations no longer even offer plain gasoline. Worldwide investment in biofuels rose from $5 billion in 1995 to $38 billion in 2005 and is expected to top $100 billion by 2010, thanks to investors like Richard Branson and George Soros, GE and BP, Ford and Shell, Cargill and the Carlyle Group. Renewable fuels has become one of those motherhood-and-apple-pie catchphrases, as unobjectionable as the troops or the middle class.

But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline.

Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Harvests are being plucked to fuel our cars instead of ourselves.
And some of the players:
But on Nov. 6, at a biodiesel plant in Newton, Iowa, Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled an eye-popping plan that would require all stations to offer ethanol by 2017 while mandating 60 billion gal. (227 billion L) by 2030. "This is the fuel for a much brighter future!" she declared.
What with large oil reserves being found on a regular basis and with the current highly reliable nuclear technology, there was never any reason to go this route. Nice to see some people waking up... A big hat tip to Reason Magazine for the link to this article.

Turning the lights on for Earth Hour

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What a bunch of feel-good accomplish-nothing bullcrap. Earth Hour indeed... Put all that effort towards getting more nuclear power plants online and we will actually be doing something productive. And global warming? Tell me about that while I point at the two inches of snow that fell last night and our local ski area has had more than 50 inches of new snow since last Sunday.

Meet the Bum Bot

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Rufus Terrill, owner of the Atlanta bar O'Terrill's grew frustrated with the number of homeless, drug addicted people hanging out near his establishment so Terrill, an engineer, cobbled together this little creation:


CNN has the story and a video:

BBQ-smoker-turned-'Robocop' chases off drug dealers
It's midnight on the streets of Atlanta, and bar owner Rufus Terrill patrols his neighborhood with a rolling crime fighter of his own creation. Meet "Bum-bot," as Terrill describes it; others in his neighborhood call it simply, "Robocop."

It's a barbecue smoker mounted on a three-wheeled scooter, and armed with an infrared camera, spotlight, loudspeaker and aluminum water cannon that shoots a stream of icy water about 20 feet.

Operated by remote control, the robot spotlights trespassers on property down the street from his bar, O'Terrill's. Using a walkie-talkie, Terrill belts out through the robot's loudspeaker, "That's private property. You guys need to get out of here."

Terrill is chasing out unsavory-looking characters from a street corner that resembles a drug dealer's dream at night. More than 20 suspicious people were seen huddling in the dark in the front driveway and side parking lot on this night. Some were seen openly making drug deals.

But during the day, it's where young children frolic on a nearby playground at a the Beacon of Light Daycare Center in downtown Atlanta. It has become a nightmare for day care operator Lydia Meredith.

"This whole square is enveloped with homeless people and drug dealers, defecating, urinating, prostituting -- the whole nine yards. And the overflow of that behavior, we get to cleanup every morning," she says.

Meredith says people often toss used syringes and condoms onto the playground.

Terrill, an engineer by trade, is also a board member at the day care center. Tired of cleaning up after the shady characters, he decided to take action. That's when he built his downtown Darth Vader of sorts.

Cool idea and good on Rufus for taking on this problem...

Amazon not playing fair

Shame on Jeff Bezos for this bit of crappy business dealings:

Will Amazon Hurt Small Pagan Publishers?
In the past few days news has emerged that Internet book-selling giant has been pressuring small publishing houses who use print-on-demand services like Lightning Source (owned by Ingram), Lulu, and PublishAmerica to switch to Amazon's own in-house POD service or have their "buy" button removed.
"Reports have been trickling in from the POD underground that Amazon/BookSurge representatives have been approaching some Lightning Source customers, first by email introduction and then by phone (nobody at BookSurge seems to want to put anything in writing). When Lightning Source customers speak with the BookSurge representative, the reports say, they are basically told they can either have BookSurge start printing their books or the "buy" button on their book pages will be "turned off." The book information would remain on Amazon, and people could still order the book from resellers (companies that list new and used books in Amazon's Marketplace section), but customers would not be able to buy the book from Amazon directly, nor qualify for the coveted "free shipping" that Amazon offers."

And of course, the Amazon POD service is more expensive and as it is limited to only Amazon, it has fewer options for distribution through other channels. If Amazon continues with this foolishness, it will hurt not only Amazon but the writing community. It is a lose / lose scenario... You might consider switching to Powell's for online book ordering. One of the Pacific Northwest's treasures.

Haulin' Freight

Wonderful article at Men's Vogue about Freight Dogs:

Frequent Fliers
Let's say you're the captain of a Boeing 747 freighter - a "whale" in cargo-pilot patois - out of Anchorage for Chicago. Except no self-respecting cargo pilot calls himself - or, rarely, herself - anything so leaden, so utterly earthbound. You are instead, proudly and defiantly, a "freight dog," a nom de guerre freighted, so to speak, with many connotations, not all of them positive.

As you pull onto Runway 6 Right at Anchorage and advance the four throttles to maximum power, air traffic control advises there's a welter of severe turbulence on your climbout. A passenger airliner might give it a wide berth, but you, with a load of time-sensitive cargo, barge right on through. Then the turbulence hits and all hell breaks loose. The whale is batted about the sky like a shuttlecock. "Shit, hang on guys," your flight engineer says. Then: "Whoa...We lost something." The radio crackles, "Ah, four-six-echo-heavy, Elmendorf tower said something large just fell off your airplane."

Something large? The National Transportation Safety Board later determines that your 747 experienced "an uncommanded left bank of approximately 50 degrees" along with amusement-park pitches, rolls, and yaws that ripped the Number 2 engine clean off the wing. While all of this is happening, perhaps you, the captain, flash to Ernest K. Gann's classic Fate Is the Hunter, beloved among freight dogs for its vainglorious pilot prose: "We have merely nodded to fear. Now we must shake its filthy hand."

A bit more:

It's a culture that represents the last gasp of the ass-kicking, globe-trotting, hell-for-leather pilot worldview. Brutal labor relations, increasingly automated aircraft, and the dispiriting post-9/11 environment have torched whatever adventure and romance remain in aviation. But freight dogs never got that memo. Yes, they bitch endlessly about the hours, the food, the lack of sleep, the death-trap airports of Asia Minor and West Africa.

But talk to true dogs for more than five minutes and they betray themselves as hopelessly, permanently, passionately in love with flying and the particular esprit that hauling cargo allows. "All I ever wanted to do is fly," says Tom Satterfield, an MD-11 freighter pilot. How much? Satterfield worked as a successful chemical engineer for 20 years before chucking it to become a freight dog when he was 41. Who among us can declare without a trace of irony that we absolutely love our work? I wanted to know why freight dogs did. So I flew to Florida and hung around Miami Springs, the honky-tonk 'hood near the Miami airport that has been a freight-dog stronghold for more than 50 years.

And some more:

The cargo itself is comprised of incomprehensible quantities of the mundane - 160,000 pounds of roses, 25,000 wiring harnesses for Chevy Malibus, 5,000 pounds of Grand Theft Auto video games - but also a full-size armored truck filled with four tons of Euro banknotes; a pair of experimental Lamborghini Countachs; a Sikorsky 76 helicopter for the Sultan of Brunei's nephew; Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 Ferrari; 120 tons of Beaujolais Nouveau; enough condoms to choke a specially chartered 747 to Rio for Carnival; an MD-11 filled to the gunwales with Victoria's Secret lingerie; crates of red party balloons stamped I VOTED NEW LABOUR; a U.N. airlift of 186,000 pounds of blankets for earthquake survivors in Islamabad; a mysterious ice chest, insured for $2 million, that turned out to contain the first HIV drug cocktail.

Then there is the livestock: whales; thoroughbred racehorses; rhinos; dairy cattle; giraffes; elephants; crocodiles; piglets (which escaped and got behind the captain's rudder pedals); ducklings (ditto); a daily shipment out of Brisbane of live crickets destined as feed for the world's zoos; an RAF police dog en route to Singapore for treatment of an abscessed molar - he tore apart his crate and went after his handler, who barricaded himself in the cockpit while the crew donned oxygen masks, depressurized the plane, and waited for the dog to pass out from hypoxia. Or the luckier dog, the only cargo on a 747 freighter from Chicago to Tokyo, that was released from his cage to play Frisbee catch with the pilot in the cavernous, empty cargo hold and was later photographed, in an homage to freight dogdom, sitting at the captain's station, paws on the control yoke.

A great read and it sounds like these people would be a lot of fun to have a beer with...

Boycotting the Olympics

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German chancellor, Angela Merkel certainly has a pair. From the UK Guardian:
Merkel says she will not attend opening of Beijing Olympics
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics.

The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games' opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown's determination to attend the Olympics.

Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, became the first EU head of government to announce a boycott on Thursday and he was promptly joined by President V�clav Klaus of the Czech Republic, who had previously promised to travel to Beijing.

"The presence of politicians at the inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate," Tusk said. "I do not intend to take part."
Good on her -- Tibet is an autonomous nation and China should stop trying to absorb it and modernize it.
A nice find and it's right in the US of A -- from Next Energy News:
Massive Oil Deposit Could Increase US reserves by 10x
America is sitting on top of a super massive 200 billion barrel Oil Field that could potentially make America Energy Independent and until now has largely gone unnoticed. Thanks to new technology the Bakken Formation in North Dakota could boost America�s Oil reserves by an incredible 10 times, giving western economies the trump card against OPEC�s short squeeze on oil supply and making Iranian and Venezuelan threats of disrupted supply irrelevant.

In the next 30 days the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) will release a new report giving an accurate resource assessment of the Bakken Oil Formation that covers North Dakota and portions of South Dakota and Montana. With new horizontal drilling technology it is believed that from 175 to 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil are held in this 200,000 square mile reserve that was initially discovered in 1951. The USGS did an initial study back in 1999 that estimated 400 billion recoverable barrels were present but with prices bottoming out at $10 a barrel back then the report was dismissed because of the higher cost of horizontal drilling techniques that would be needed, estimated at $20-$40 a barrel.

It was not until 2007, when EOG Resources of Texas started a frenzy when they drilled a single well in Parshal N.D. that is expected to yield 700,000 barrels of oil that real excitement and money started to flow in North Dakota. Marathon Oil is investing $1.5 billion and drilling 300 new wells in what is expected to be one of the greatest booms in Oil discovery since Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938.
Given that the US imported 14 Million barrels/Day in 2007, this find of 200 Billion barrels should keep us in energy for a long long time... (a bit more than 39 years at current levels) Wikipedia has a nice short description: Bakken Formation Hat tip to Gerard Vanderleun at American Digest. I wonder how many "endangered species" will be found there in the next year or two. Can't sink that well here -- this is the only habitat of the Polka Dot Side-Jumping Jackalope.
From BoingBoing:
British Airways loses 15-20,000 bags since Thursday at supremely b0rked Heathrow Terminal 5
The much-ballyhooed opening of Heathrow's �4 billion Terminal 5 has been a debacle. British Airways has canceled 208 flights since Thursday, and has "stranded" between 15,000 and 20,000 bags. Area hotels are crammed with stuck BA passengers and are gouging on pricing, prompting BA to lift its stingy (and possibly illegal) �100 limit on hotels for stuck passengers. This is the terminal with the crackpot fingerprinting procedure -- passengers are fingerprinted at check-in and at boarding.

And lest you think you might try to get there with a change of underwear by going hand-baggage only, think again. BA's baggage-checkers are being serious rules-lawyers about hand-luggage limits, forcing passengers to check hand-bags that are less than an inch oversize, dooming the luggage to the nonfunctional baggage system at T5.
Makes the TSA look positivly benign...

Superman never made any money

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For saving the world from Solomon Grundy... A nice legal ruling over at Comicbook Resources:
In a possibly historic ruling, a federal judge Wednesday determined that the heirs of Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel, are now the rightful owners of one-half of the copyright of Superman, and have been since 1999. The New York Times reported today that Judge Stephen Larson of the Central District of California had delivered a whopping 72 page ruling on the matter of who owns the copyright of Superman, establishing that "Action Comics" #1, the first appearance of Superman, was not considered to be a product of work-for-hire, making the copyright for that issue (and, naturally, the character of Superman) eligible for termination by Siegel�s heirs. What that means in simpler terms -- the Siegel's now own half of the Superman copyright.

The ruling was based upon changes made in 1976 to the Copyright Act, extending the total length of copyright protection for a character like Superman from 56 years to 75 years since creation. This change also allowed any copyright transfers to be terminated so that the original copyright owner (or his/her heirs) could gain the benefit of those extra 19 years of protection (with the presumption being that it would be unfair to the original copyright owners, as any deals they made before the change in law were based upon the 56 year duration, not 75).

DC has an array of defenses, but their best one was that "Action Comics" #1 was a work-for-hire, which means that DC would be considered the creator of the copyright. Larson ruled against DC on this point, stating that Siegel and Shuster sold their property (and the copyrights therein) to DC for $130, in a standard copyright transfer. It is this transfer that Siegel�s heirs filed for termination, which would have become effective in 1999, which Larson confirmed Wednesday.
Sucks that it took so long and that Jerry was not alive to hear the ruling but still. Nice to see credit where credit is due... Opening words from the ever wonderful Crash Test Dummies
Almost missed this anniversary. Fortunately, Matt G at Better and Better did not:
97 years ago today.
On this date, the United States Army Ordinance adopted Colt's .45 acp semi-automatic pistol as the official service pistol. This was after beating out Savage in 4 years of trials, culminating in a 6000 round endurance test in late 1910, in which Colt's pistol reportedly demonstrated zero malfunctions to Savage's thirty seven. Designer John Moses Browning was in attendance at the proving grounds for the trials, which ranks in my top 20 of places I'd go to visit if I had a time machine.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps followed suit two years later. For 74 years, the Model 1911 remained the main service pistol for the U.S. Military, before a movement for standardization to a NATO cartridge saw the adoption of the M9 (Beretta M92F) in 9mm, an older cartridge that the US military had rejected in 1903.

Currently, there is a resurgence of demand within our military for the 1911s, and several units are receiving them, though the main service pistol remains the M9.

It is good and proper that we celebrate this anniversary, even though it is yet 3 years shy of its century mark. For there are still people living who were alive then. A few might even remember back to that time, when a peacetime military made a good decision.
One of those designs that is a perfect classic. It works. If I had a spare $800 to spend on a handgun, one of these would be my first purchase. I was at a local gun show a few weeks ago and there was a local collector of Browning Guns. Spent a bit of time drooling...
Hat tip to Slashdot for a link to this article in Nature:
Laptops track Earth's shakes, rattles and rolls
A geoscientist devises a way to boost computing power.
A seismologist at Stanford University in California has developed a computer program for tracking earthquakes in real time. It uses thousands of volunteers' computers and may someday be fast enough to issue warnings just before an earthquake strikes.

Quake-Catcher Network, as it's called, uses the accelerometers built into many new computers, which sense when a computer is dropped so that the hard drive can be shut down. But seismologist Jesse Lawrence found that the sensors could also pick up on more subtle movement. Thus was born the latest iteration in distributed computing, which turns the unused computing power of thousands of home computers into a giant supercomputer.

The most popular distributed computing program, SETI@home, searches for signals from extraterrestrial intelligence. Quake-Catcher looks instead at the inner workings of earthquakes. Little is known about how seismic waves travel and refract deep in Earth's crust, and modelling this movement accurately takes enormous computing power, which can be generated by combining many different users on the network.

But another of Quake-Catcher's jobs is to wait for an earthquake to happen. When a computer signed up to the program senses shaking, it calculates the intensity and pings the information back to the servers at Stanford in less than a second. If enough computers detect ground shaking in the same area, the system could send out a warning to users who haven't felt it yet that an earthquake is on its way, Lawrence says.
The home page is here: Quake-Catcher Network It looks like they are close to launching but not quite there yet. I would love to participate -- when I managed the test labs at MSFT, I had SETI@home running on a lot of the machines when they weren't being used. Very clever idea!

Light posting tonight

Did my Friday buying run into town and then worked at the store until almost nine.

Kind of tired so there will not be too much posting tonight -- if at all...

From The LawDog Files comes this very fine rant:
"She was doing everything she was supposed to do to stay alive"
The sickening details of the murder of Meredith Emerson have been published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

One of the telling quotes to that sad tale is found about half-way down the article. It is from a Georgia Bureau of Investigation officer in response to the discovery that Meredith had not only struggled with her murderer, but when he asked for her ATM PIN number, she repeatedly gave him wrong numbers -- the quote is:
"That's one thing that broke my heart in this case," Bridges said. "She was doing everything she was supposed to do to stay alive, and we didn't get there in time."
Allow me to repeat the salient point: "She was doing everything she was supposed to do to stay alive"

That is incorrect.

Meredith Emerson did not do "everything she was supposed to do"

What she did was what forty years of liberal doublethink, forty years of pansy-arsed hippie empathy and guilt; and several decades of deliberate victim mentality systematically foisted onto the population in general and women in particular by the government and ivory-tower feel-good "intellectual" panty-waists have unilaterally decided that women are supposed to do.
Her murderer and rapist is a classic psychopath. LawDog closes with these fine words:
The State and Federal Governments who consistently pass stupid and illogical firearms laws; the Brady Bunch who continue to parrot the foul and malicious lie that "Only the military and police need guns"; Hollywood's sanctimonious assertation that "Violence is never the answer", "Guns are a red-neck thing", and "Women will only get hurt by guns"; not to mention societies acceptance of the Cult of Victimhood to the point where said Cult is a gods-be-damned State Religion -- each and every one of these is an unindicted co-conspirator to the crimes that took this young ladies life.

And I hope the lot of you roast in hell for it.
I only excerpted two parts -- the entire post and comments are worth reading regardless of which side of the "firearms for self-defense" issue you are on. I feel sorry for all the Libtards who think that they can just 'wish away' truly evil people; negotiate with them somehow.
From Voice of America:
Zimbabwe�s President to Dissolve Parliament Ahead of Elections
Zimbabwe�s incumbent President Robert Mugabe is expected to dissolve parliament today (Friday) ahead of tomorrows general elections. This comes after Mugabe dissolved his cabinet yesterday in readiness to the elections. The move is reportedly in accordance with the country�s constitution, which stipulates that the cabinet should be dissolved two days before elections and parliament a day before the elections. The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claim it has uncovered a government plot to rig Saturday�s elections.

But President Mugabe rejected the allegation warning the opposition not to engage in any mass protests if they fail to win the elections. He warned that security forces are under orders to snuff any opposition protests after the elections. John Makumbe is a political science professor of the University of Zimbabwe. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that all seem to be set for tomorrow�s elections.
Mugabe. Rope. Tree. Some assembly required.

Events in Iraq - Basra and Sadr City

The MSM is touting this as an increase in violence and proof positive that the war is going badly for us. An alternative view can be found over at Neptunus Lex:
Magic Mirror
Depending on who you trust, everything is all going to hell in Iraq because of the fighting in Basra and the strike/rioting in Sadr City, or everything is unfolding as it must in order for the Iraqi state to own a monopoly on organized violence - a principal characteristic of national sovereignty. Basra has become the latest magic mirror: People see in the current violence what they want to see.

Jules has the roundup, as well as this comment from Major John in situ:
Without going into too much detail - I am close to some of the ops ongoing� This is not a sleazy political move (on the part of Iraqi president al Maliki), this was brought on, in part, by the fed up residents of Basrah who want an end to the militia crap - kidnappings, violence, etc. Since the IA and the Coalition are pushing AQI further up North and out, the Iraqis figure it is better to confront the problem now, rather than wait for it to get worse.

The fight up North is the fight to run AQI out of Iraq. The fight down South is the fight to see which way Iraq will go once AQI is beaten. I rather like a direction where the elected government of the people is the one with the guns, and the police are on the street - not the Jaish al Mahdi goons.
And meanwhile, al-Sadr is still in Iran sulking... At least he is able to comfort his Mother:
Interesting turn of events -- from The Associated Press:
Court: Abu-Jamal Deserves New Hearing
An appeals court Thursday upheld Mumia Abu-Jamal's conviction for murdering a police officer 27 years ago but rejected prosecutors' request to reinstate the death penalty for the former Black Panther.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that because the jury that sentenced Abu-Jamal to die was given flawed instructions in the penalty phase, he must either get a new sentencing hearing or be sentenced to life in prison.
I'm glad that the conviction was upheld. He was caught red-handed and should fry for this. Daniel Faulkner's website (he is the LEO that was murdered) has a lot of articles debunking the mythos that has sprung up around Mumia.

A curious gardening tool

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Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link to this bit of gardening equipment:
High Tech Plant Examining Glasses

How They Work:
The specially designed lenses block out green color reflected from chlorophyll in healthy turf and greenery, causing it to look black or gray.

Since the human eye is extremely sensitive to light in the green color range, any off-green colors that might be caused by disease, water, or pests will stand out against the black background as glowing red, coral, pink or other hues. This allows problem turf and plants to be quickly identified, much earlier than you would be able to see it with the naked eye.
Looks interesting but I don't think I want to spend $50 to see how well it works...

Some interesting numbers

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Will Franklin at Willisms looked at some numbers and came up with a great little chart:
Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 481 - Energy Intensity.
America Is Actually Pretty Energy Efficient

People tend to complain about America's environmental record, but few of those same people are willing to acknowledge that America is actually quite a bit more energy efficient than it was many years ago. Instead, we hear that the environment is constantly getting worse in every way, that we are consuming perpetually more energy with no end in sight, and that we ought to be ashamed for civilization itself.

Relative to 1910, though, the picture gives us reason for optimism:

Click to embiggen...
Will then goes on to link to this article at the American Enterprise Institute:
...the United States is currently outperforming Europe in reducing energy intensity (the amount of energy used per unit of economic output) and greenhouse gases. According to the Department of Energy's latest annual report on the subject, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.5 percent in 2006, the first time they have fallen in a nonrecessionary year. It is likely that the United States is the only industrialized nation whose greenhouse gas emissions fell in 2006.
How about that! And the article goes into a lot more detail with links to sources. A longish read but an interesting one.
And it was not Edison reciting "Mary had a little Lamb" From the New York Times:
Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison
For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words �Mary had a little lamb� on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison�s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.

The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song �Au Clair de la Lune� was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable � converted from squiggles on paper to sound � by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.
And a bit more about the recording process:
The audio excavation could give a new primacy to the phonautograph, once considered a curio, and its inventor, �douard-L�on Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer who went to his grave convinced that credit for his breakthroughs had been improperly bestowed on Edison.

Scott�s device had a barrel-shaped horn attached to a stylus, which etched sound waves onto sheets of paper blackened by smoke from an oil lamp. The recordings were not intended for listening; the idea of audio playback had not been conceived. Rather, Scott sought to create a paper record of human speech that could later be deciphered.

But the Lawrence Berkeley scientists used optical imaging and a �virtual stylus� on high-resolution scans of the phonautogram, deploying modern technology to extract sound from patterns inscribed on the soot-blackened paper almost a century and a half ago. The scientists belong to an informal collaborative called First Sounds that also includes audio historians and sound engineers.

David Giovannoni, an American audio historian who led the research effort, will present the findings and play the recording in public on Friday at the annual conference of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
The First Sounds website is here and it features an MP3 of the recording. Very cool!
Interesting happenings on the Sun the last few days. We are between the two sunspot cycles, we had seen a few spots from Cycle 24 but we are now seeing a burst of sunspots from Cycle 23. More at Space Weather
This week, three big sunspots are crossing the face of the sun and on March 25th one of them (989) produced a strong M-class solar flare. Many readers have asked, is this the new solar cycle? No, it's the old one. Although Solar Cycle 24 has begun, these are not Cycle 24 spots. Their magnetic polarity associates them with old Cycle 23.
Meanwhile Wired magazine is going all doom and gloom:
Prepare for the Worst, Because Solar Storms Are About to Get Ugly
Every 11 years or so, the sun gets a little pissy. It breaks out in a rash of planet-sized sunspots that spew superhot gas, hurling clouds of electrons, protons, and heavier ions toward Earth at nearly the speed of light. These solar windstorms have been known to knock out power grids and TV broadcasts, and our growing reliance on space-based technology makes us more vulnerable than ever to their effects. On January 3, scientists discovered a reverse-polarity sunspot, signaling the start of a new cycle � and some are predicting that at its peak (in about four years) things are gonna get nasty. Here's a forecast for 2012.
And this article from a 2003 post on points to some interesting data:
Sun's Output Increasing in Possible Trend Fueling Global Warming
In what could be the simplest explanation for one component of global warming, a new study shows the Sun's radiation has increased by .05 percent per decade since the late 1970s.

The increase would only be significant to Earth's climate if it has been going on for a century or more, said study leader Richard Willson, a Columbia University researcher also affiliated with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The Sun's increasing output has only been monitored with precision since satellite technology allowed necessary observations. Willson is not sure if the trend extends further back in time, but other studies suggest it does.

"This trend is important because, if sustained over many decades, it could cause significant climate change," Willson said.

In a NASA-funded study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, Willson and his colleagues speculate on the possible history of the trend based on data collected in the pre-satellite era.
They show a graph that explores historical temperature from tree rings with observed sunspots. A very strong correlation...
From Chicago station WBBM:
Chicago's Dumbest Thief
Chicago Police say no one could make this story up...

18-year-old Ruben Zarate, entered a muffler shop in the 2600 block of North Laramie Avenue yesterday and declared a robbery. He allegedly waved a gun around and demanded money, according to police.

When he was told the money was in a safe and that the manager who knew how to open it was not there, the suspect had a brilliant idea; at least he thought it was brilliant.

He gave the shop employees his cell phone number and asked them to call him when the manager arrived so he could open the safe for him.

He left and the employees opted to call 911. Authorities stationed plain clothes officers in the shop and called the would-be robber back.

Zarate, showed up again, and waved his gun around again, but this time was shot in the leg by an officer.

The price of gas these days

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An in depth look at the price of gas and why it is where it is. From The Consumerist:
Why Is Gas So Freakin' Expensive?
Did you know that gas price gouging almost never occurs as prices rise? Rather, it's most often when dealers keep prices artificially high even as their costs fall.

As gas costs rise to $4 a gallon and oil companies earn around $100 billion each year, it's a good time to question what really goes into the price of gas.

The numbers on the gas station sign hide a complex set of transactions. Before gas can power your car, it must be discovered as crude oil, traverse three markets, and be refined from crude into gas.

Inside, we'll explain the three markets, walk you through the role of refineries, and show how oil companies use creative tactics to manipulate gas prices...
One brief excerpt:
Refineries are the temples where crude oil gets Bar Mitzvah'd into gas. Shifts in the refining world over the past two decades have helped ratchet up the price of gas. In the early 80's, there were over 350 refineries, mostly owned by the oil companies. The oil companies didn't see refining as a place to generate profit, but as an integral part of a larger operation.

By 2002, there were only 153 refineries, and most of them were no longer controlled by the oil companies. Refineries are now held privately and independently, and as with any independent businesses, profit is key. It is in the refiner's interests to supply only as much gas as is absolutely needed to stay on the profitable side of the supply and demand curve.
And the point of interest is that there has not been a new refinery built in the last thirty years thanks, in no small part, to the enviros...

Another auction on the horizon

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And this one is a doozy. Check out Global Online Direct I am going just for the warehouse shelving. Our barn is 40 by 100 feet (with 20 feet walled off and insulated for my shop). I had been thinking about building some shelves for storage but these industrial units would be perfect. Same kind of shelving as you see in Costco. Good stuff and it generally sells for pretty cheap. The rest of the auction will be fun just to walk through -- Global Online Direct was actually a major ($15M) Ponzi scam. SEC v. Global Online Direct, Inc. The Grassmueck Group (they are the receivers coordinating the auction with Murphy) From the photos it looks like a lot of cheap Chinese crap but the shelving looks good and there may be a choice toy or two buried in the piles...
Fun article at the New York Times about how Mainframes are not going the way of the Dodo.
Why Old Technologies Are Still Kicking
In 1991, Stewart Alsop, the editor of InfoWorld and a thoughtful observer of industry trends, predicted that the last mainframe computer would be unplugged by 1996. Last month, I.B.M. introduced the latest version of its mainframe, the aged yet remarkably resilient warhorse of computing.

Today, mainframe sales are a tiny fraction of the personal computer market. But with the mainframe facing extinction, I.B.M. retooled the technology, cut prices and revamped its strategy. A result is that mainframe technology � hardware, software and services � remains a large and lucrative business for I.B.M., and mainframes are still the back-office engines behind the world�s financial markets and much of global commerce.
And a bit about how the technology has changed.
The mainframe is the classic survivor technology, and it owes its longevity to sound business decisions. I.B.M. overhauled the insides of the mainframe, using low-cost microprocessors as the computing engine. The company invested and updated the mainframe software, so that banks, corporations and government agencies could still rely on the mainframe as the rock-solid reliable and secure computer for vital transactions and data, while allowing it to take on new chores like running Web-based programs.

�The mainframe survived its near-death experience and continues to thrive because customers didn�t care about the underlying technology,� said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who led the technical transformation of the mainframe in the early 1990s and is now a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. �Customers just wanted the mainframe to do its job at a lower cost, and I.B.M. made the investments to make that happen.�
When I was at Microsoft, I worked with the Unisys ES7000 mainframe and that was a real experience. I thought I had seen some fault tolerant systems before but this machine took it to a new level while absolutely shredding any and all performance stats. The design was very clever too as you could replace any of the processor "cells" with another cell containing a completely different processor and still share the memory and peripherals. The thinking behind this was that organizations that had earlier Unisys and IBM mainframes could continue to use their legacy software on those cells and they could gradually transition over to a Unix, Linux or MS Windows base by swapping out the cells with Intel processors. A lot of very clever engineering went into that system and it was a real treat to be involved in that project.

D. B. Cooper parachute found?

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From The Oregonian:
Feds check parachute for D.B. Cooper link
There could be a major break in the biggest crime mystery in Northwest history.

According to the KOIN (6) website: The FBI in Seattle has begun analysis of a long-buried parachute - the same type used by skyjacker D.B. Cooper when he jumped from an Northwest Orient Airlines 727 with a 25 pound money bag containing $200,000 dollars ransom on Thanksgiving eve 1971.

The children of a Clark County contractor found the parachute buried in a field that their father has recently plowed for a road. The chute is white and conical shaped, dirty and deteriorated. Seattle Agent Larry Carr will clean it and search for a label, which could match the chute to a companion reserve chute left behind by Cooper in the plane.

Carr, who's now in charge of the Cooper case, says the parachute was found near the center of the original jump zone identified by searchers in November 1971, between the towns of Ariel and Amboy, Washington. In 1980, a family on a picnic found $5,800 dollars of the loot on a Columbia River beach, near Vancouver. How it got there is another mystery. Some scientists believed the money bag traveled down the Washougal River, which is upstream from the beach, miles from where this parachute was recently found.
I would love to know what happened to him -- an American folk-hero in sort of a 'Robbin Hood' fashion. Take from the rich and give to himself. Hey D. B. -- if you are out there, please write your autobiography and see that it gets published when you pass away -- your story is too good to be left to the shadows of history...

Criminal Stupidity - a classic case

From Florida's Sun Sentinel comes this story of Frank Singleton -- a stupid criminal.

Just released from lockup, man tries carjacking
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office called him stupid Tuesday. But Frank Singleton could almost write the book on how to turn a misdemeanor into a felony without ever leaving the jail's parking lot.

"This is one of the stupid criminals," Sheriff's Office spokesman Paul Miller said.

Singleton, 21, of West Palm Beach, got released from the county lockup Tuesday after being arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

He immediately ran out into the visitor's parking lot and, in an apparent effort to get away as quickly as possible, tried to carjack a 2006 Nissan 350Z, Miller said.

And the upshot?

But it was a manual transmission and Singleton couldn't operate it, Miller said.

Hearing the commotion, Sheriff's Office Pastor Leo Krug walked up and, holding his handgun by his side, ordered the barely free Singleton to the ground so a deputy could handcuff him.

Singleton was booked on a carjacking charge.

"I don't think he wanted to go back to jail," Miller said. "I think he really wanted to get away and was looking for a car." When the detective was making the arrest, he asked Singleton why he did this.

"I didn't feel like walking," Singleton said.

Couldn't drive a manual transmission -- heh... Time for a little more Clorox in the gene pool.

Subliminal advertising

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Wonderful 'gaming' of two advertising wonks. Six minutes, forty seconds of YouTube Goodness. Thanks to Dark Roasted Blend for the link. Be sure to watch it to the very very end...
CNN News is going hyperbolic over this story:
Massive ice shelf on verge of breakup
Some 220 square miles of ice has collapsed in Antarctica and an ice shelf about the size of Connecticut is "hanging by a thread," the British Antarctic Survey said Tuesday, blaming global warming.

"We are in for a lot more events like this," said professor Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Scambos alerted the British Antarctic Survey after he noticed part of the Wilkins ice shelf disintegrating on February 28, when he was looking at NASA satellite images.
And a bit more:
Scientists say the western Antarctic peninsula -- the piece of the continent that stretches toward South America -- has warmed more than any other place on Earth over the past 50 years, rising by 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.

Scambos said the poles will be the leading edge of what's happening in the rest of the world as global warming continues.

"Even though they seem far away, changes in the polar regions could have an impact on both hemispheres, with sea level rise and changes in climate patterns," he said.

News of the Wilkins ice shelf's impending breakup came less than two weeks after the United Nations Environment Program reported that the world's glaciers are melting away and that they show "record" losses.

"Data from close to 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges indicate that between the years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 the average rate of melting and thinning more than doubled," the UNEP said March 16.

The most severe glacial shrinking occurred in Europe, with Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier, UNEP said. That glacier thinned by about 10 feet in 2006, compared with less than a foot the year before, it said.
Ice shelves have always calved off at this time of the year. It is late fall in the Southern Hemisphere and they have had a full summer to warm up. Notice that the focus is on Western Antarctica. That is because W. Antarctica is indeed undergoing some warming while East Antarctica is undergoing a pronounced cooling -- the glaciers there are growing. You don't hear anything about that on the mainstream media. NY Times, Nature news, Heritage Expeditions and Financial Post. It is fun that the cooling and increased snowmass is credited to warming instead of being dismissed as a local event. Bad model! And TEOTWAWKI?
The end of the world as we know it

Very cool collection of images

I read Marco Folio's website every couple days and for the last while, he has been doing two large image dumps every month.

The second one for March is a lot of fun. Here are two that caught my eye:

Now that is going to be one
very awkward call to the insurance agent...

Incredibly cool -- not so cool that
I am going to re-stack our woodpile but still...
Derek Lowe is a Pharmaceutical Chemist and has wonderful blog called In the Pipeline. Today's story is about drugs that the companies left for dead that later turn out to be huge successes. Check out That's Never Gonna Work
A colleague and I were talking the other day about the (long) list of drugs that have been left for dead at some point during their development. There are some famous cases � Lipitor, for example, which wasn�t thought by many at Warner-Lambert to have a business case worth even taking into the clinic. But these things are all over the place.

One that I know about was Claritin (loratadine). Schering-Plough worked on nonsedating antihistamines for a while, without too much success, and the whole program was eventually killed. The head of research at the time stated flatly: �There are no nonsedating antihistamines�. Of course, when the first one (Seldane) came on the market, that made everyone rethink a bit. In the interim, one of the chemists had continued making compounds, despite several (increasingly testy) warnings to stop.

As it turned out, he (Frank Villani) and one of his associates (Charlie Magatti) had made loratadine itself, the nonsedating antihistamine which helped to pay everyone�s salary at Schering-Plough through the 1990s. But by the time that was worked out, Villani himself had been eased out the door (or not eased while on his way out, depending on who you talk to), in good part due to his continued work on the compounds. That head of research, to his credit, actually referred ruefully later on to his own �no nonsedating antihistamines� comment � there are plenty of other people who would have just Never Said Such a Thing At All in that position.
Sheesh -- Jen and I both have allergies and we gobble that stuff down by the handfull. We bought it back when Schering-Plough had the lock on the patents and we now get the Costco generic version. Good stuff and to think that it might not have seen the light of day. Derek's blog is well worth checking out every couple of days -- some of the posts are of interest more for pharma industry people but there are a lot of general chemistry and business posts that are a lot of fun to read. My favorites are his How Not to Do It. A lot of vicarious fun...

Some more missing warming

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Seattelite Jim Miller was visiting the Mt. Ranier National Park and had this to say:
Global Warming On Mt. Rainier
Last Saturday, I drove down to Mt. Rainier to look at the effects of global warming on the snow pack (and, incidentally, to do a little cross country skiing). Global warming theorists generally agree that one effect will be less snow on Rainier and, eventually, shrinking glaciers.
And he offers this image:
Glowball Warmening indeed...

Some missing warming on this planet

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link to this wonderful news item at the Canadian National Post:

Perhaps The Climate Change Models Are Wrong
They drift along in the worlds' oceans at a depth of 2,000 metres -- more than a mile deep -- constantly monitoring the temperature, salinity, pressure and velocity of the upper oceans.

Then, about once every 10 days, a bladder on the outside of these buoys inflates and raises them slowly to the surface gathering data about each strata of seawater they pass through. After an upward journey of nearly six hours, the Argo monitors bob on the waves while an onboard transmitter sends their information to a satellite that in turn retransmits it to several land-based research computers where it may be accessed by anyone who wishes to see it.

These 3,000 yellow sentinels --about the size and shape of a large fence post -- free-float the world's oceans, season in and season out, surfacing between 30 and 40 times a year, disgorging their findings, then submerging again for another fact-finding voyage.

A bit more:

When they were first deployed in 2003, the Argos were hailed for their ability to collect information on ocean conditions more precisely, at more places and greater depths and in more conditions than ever before. No longer would scientists have to rely on measurements mostly at the surface from older scientific buoys or inconsistent shipboard monitors.

So why are some scientists now beginning to question the buoys' findings? Because in five years, the little blighters have failed to detect any global warming. They are not reinforcing the scientific orthodoxy of the day, namely that man is causing the planet to warm dangerously. They are not proving the predetermined conclusions of their human masters. Therefore they, and not their masters' hypotheses, must be wrong.

And one more bit:

The big problem with the Argo findings is that all the major climate computer models postulate that as much as 80-90% of global warming will result from the oceans warming rapidly then releasing their heat into the atmosphere.

But if the oceans aren't warming, then (please whisper) perhaps the models are wrong.


An interesting story in the Seattle Times this morning.
Watch out, you're being watched
The unsettling thing about living in a surveillance society isn't just that you're being watched. It's that you have no idea.

That's what struck me about a story told last week by a border agent at a meeting of 200 San Juan Islanders. He was there to explain why the federal government is doing citizenship checks on domestic ferry runs.But near the end, while trying to convince the skeptical audience that the point is to root out terrorists, not fish for wrongdoing among the citizenry, deputy chief Joe Giuliano let loose with a tale straight out of "Dr. Strangelove."

It turns out the feds have been monitoring Interstate 5 for nuclear "dirty bombs." They do it with radiation detectors so sensitive it led to the following incident.

"Vehicle goes by at 70 miles per hour," Giuliano told the crowd. "Agent is in the median, a good 80 feet away from the traffic. Signal went off and identified an isotope [in the passing car]."

The agent raced after the car, pulling it over not far from the monitoring spot (near the Bow-Edison exit, 18 miles south of Bellingham). The agent questioned the driver, then did a cursory search of the car, Giuliano said.

Did he find a nuke?

"Turned out to be a cat with cancer that had undergone a radiological treatment three days earlier," Giuliano said.
Still, this is not a bad thing:
Giuliano says the point really is to catch terrorists. He says it's true that the odds of catching one here may be "a billion to one. But despite that, we have caught two." (Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, who tried to sneak in at Blaine in 1997 to blow up the New York subway; and Millennium Bomber Ahmed Ressam, nabbed at Port Angeles in 1999.)

"There's your one or two in a billion, looking right at you."
I'll definitely be slowing down when I go through that stretch of road. Be curious to see if I can spot it. My Mom used to work with Uranium -- maybe I should take some of her old ore samples along for a ride next time I head down to Seattle...
James Lovelock had some fantastic ideas 30 years ago with his Gaia theories -- the various systems on this planet are heavily interlinked. Unfortunately, he is still clinging to the limelight and is currently espousing a very Malthusian doom and gloom while promoting his new book. From the UK Daily Mail:
We're all doomed! 40 years from global catastrophe - and there's NOTHING we can do about it, says climate change expert
The weather forecast for this holiday weekend is wildly unsettled. We had better get used to it.

According to the climate change scientist James Lovelock, this is the beginning of the end of a peaceful phase in evolution.

By 2040, the world population of more than six billion will have been culled by floods, drought and famine.

The people of Southern Europe, as well as South-East Asia, will be fighting their way into countries such as Canada, Australia and Britain.

We will, he says, have to set up encampments in this country, like those established for the hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by the conflict in East Africa.

Lovelock believes the subsequent ethnic tensions could lead to civil war.
For those unfamiliar with Thomas Malthus, Wikipedia has a nice article A perfect example of modern Malthusian thought can be found in the Club of Rome's 1972 book: Limits to Growth. It was a bombshell when it hit but evolved into more of a damp thud as people started looking at the models used and as time started revealing that their dire predictions were just plain wrong. There will always be people predicting doom and gloom. It's one of the best ways to get attention and nobody really remembers, twenty years later, what all the big fuss was all about.
A post at Maggie's Farm has triggered an interesting series of comment. The post was regarding:
Maggie's Investment Advice
Oh man, do I love getting my investment advice in the comments section of Maggie's Farm. It's Bretton Woods crossed with the Algonquin Roundtable around here.

If you huddle around our investment topic entries, a virtual hobo campfire, burning hyperinflated banknotes, appears in the comments. Everybody's nervously fingering their Mauser triggers and wondering what will happen if they're the first guy to fall asleep with a pocket full of Spanish Main money in their raggedy (but thank god, not leveraged or made in China) clothing. It's great fun.
And the comment that caught my eye was this:
Buy when the thought of buying makes you feel like throwing up and sell when everyone else is euphoric.
Sounds good to me...

A quiet Easter Sunday

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Drove my Dad out from Bellingham. We did a small ham and had some fresh strawberries and angelfood cake topped with fresh-made whipped cream. Yummy!

Some knickers in a bunch

Cool item at CNN/AP:

Prominent Muslim becomes Catholic on Easter
Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator converted to Roman Catholicism on Saturday during the Vatican's Easter vigil service presided over by the pope.

An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim, Magdi Allam has infuriated some fellow Muslims with his criticism of extremism and support for Israel.

The deputy editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Allam often writes on Muslim and Arab affairs.

He told the Il Giornale newspaper in a December interview that his criticism of Palestinian suicide bombings generated threats on his life in 2003, prompting the Italian government to provide him with a sizeable security detail.

That should provoke an interesting reaction... He may have been non-practicing but Islam says that once you join or are born into Islam, you can never leave and many people have been killed when they converted to Christianity -- you hear a couple stories/year coming out from Syria and Iran and there is no telling how many more don't make it over to the Western media... Here are two from these last two months thanks to the revealing Religion of Peace website -- they keep a running tally on Islamofascist attacks and have just logged their 10,000th since their start post 9/11.

3/22/2006 Ethiopia, Arisi Negellie -- Muslims gun down a father of seven in front of a Lutheran church. The victim was a convert from Islam.

2/5/2008 Bangladesh, Rangpur -- A convert to Christianity dies from burns suffered when a Muslim mob set fire to her house four weeks earlier.
Rick Falkvinge is a blogger from Sweden who has an in depth and detailed look at the US financial problems and some fascinating analysis. The rest of his website (at least his recent posts) are in Swedish so I can't tell what his other ideas are but this one is a doozy... He is the leader of the Pirate Party in Sweden.
Why the US is collapsing
Last summer, I wrote (in Swedish) about how the US is in grave danger of becoming the Fourth Reich. I also said that such a state would not last for more than 15 years, because of a number of factors I would elaborate on later.

I was right about the sequence of events, but horribly off on the timing. Where I had expected them to happen gradually in about ten or 15 years, instead they are unfolding before my eyes at an accelerating pace.

Some people believe that pirate politics is somehow about the right to obtain music and movies without paying. Some, a bit more initiated, believe it is for fight for civil liberties. In that, they are correct. But few understand the scope of this fight. It is not against the music industry. It is not against entertainment cartels.

The pirate fight is against corrupt governments that systematically curtail civil liberties as the primary and only defense of a gigantic and growing financial bubble, built over four decades. A fight against a small elite that are literally killing people to be able to keep living in luxury without paying the bills for it. Some bloggers have called this Fascism 2.0. The entertainment cartels are just a small part of this bubble, and fascism is used here in its most lexical sense.
What follows is a walk through history starting with the Bretton Woods Accord, our war in Vietnam and President Nixon's decision to go off the Gold Standard, our Fractional Reserve banking system making loans based on a percentage of their holdings and the growing use of the Euro for international trade. A lot of this I had heard before from various sources but Rick does a nice job of tying everything together.

Back home from Bellevue, WA

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Back home again after a long day. The auction was a lot of fun but it veered off the rails into amateur hour on some of the items. The power hammer I was looking at needed a full rebuild (bearings were shot, clutch was Bubba'd badly and stuck) and someone had tried running it with cold metal (this can dent the dies and a dented die will transfer its dent to any hot object you are working with -- dies are available but a set of two costs a couple hundred bucks.) There were a couple other blacksmiths and a knifemaker that were bidding on it with me; I dropped out at $800 and some poor moke got it for $2,600. You can buy a fully reconditioned one put back to as--new specs for about $3,500 so this was way too much money. The motor mount had also been Bubba'd -- the dies are rotated at a 15 degree angle so you can work standing to one side of the machine and you can have as long a work-piece as you want. The people who had mounted the new motor on the hammer had mounted it on the same side that your workpiece would stick out so you would always have to watch what you were doing. The original (and correct) mounting is to have the motor on the right side or at the base of the hammer... Arrrggghhh.... A couple of other pieces also went for way to much $$$. I did manage to score some nice storage bins and the hardware that went into them, a very good machining right-angle for milling, and some other stuff. All in all, a good day!

Another Olympic problem in China

People are realizing that going to the toilet in China will be an "interesting" experience. From Yahoo/AP:
Another Olympic problem � squat toilets
Among all the protests, pollution concerns and talk of boycotts surrounding the Beijing Olympics, a more basic problem has arisen for organizers: the toilets.

At the more than 30 test events held by organizers, the presence of squat toilets at many of the new and renovated venues has drawn frequent complaints.

"We have asked the venues to improve on this, to increase the number to sit-down toilets," Yao Hui, deputy director of venue management for the Beijing organizers, said Wednesday. "Many people have raised the question of toilets."
A bit more:
Yao suggested it would be difficult to change every permanent toilet in the 37 venues, 31 of which are in Beijing. So he said the focus would be on satisfying three groups of visitors: athletes, journalists and the Olympic family, meaning primarily VIPs.

He said renovation was underway at the three most striking venues for the Olympics, the 91,000-seat "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, the "Water Cube" and the National Indoor Stadium. He said most of the toilets there "should be" the sit-down style.
Jeez -- they are spending $40 Billion on the renovations with the intent of drawing 500,000 foreigners to the games and they don't think about the kinds of toilets to use?

Posts from a forum

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Jen and I participate in many online forums. I just ran into an interesting one tonight from the International Association of Time Travelers. Here are a few posts from their Members' Forum Subforum: Europe � Twentieth Century � Second World War -- Page 263:
At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl's cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

At 18:06:59, BigChill wrote:
Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what's the harm?

At 18:33:10, SilverFox316 wrote:
Easy for you to say, BigChill, since to my recollection you've never volunteered to go back and fix it. You think I've got nothing better to do?

At 10:15:44, JudgeDoom wrote:
Good news! I just left a French battlefield in October 1916, where I shot dead a young Bavarian Army messenger named Adolf Hitler! Not bad for my first time, no? Sic semper tyrannis!

At 10:22:53, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1916 France I come, having at the last possible second prevented Hitler's early demise at the hands of JudgeDoom and, incredibly, restrained myself from shooting JudgeDoom and sparing us all years of correcting his misguided antics. READ BULLETIN 1147, PEOPLE!

At 15:41:18, BarracksRoomLawyer wrote:
Point of order: issues related to Hitler's service in the Bavarian Army ought to go in the World War I forum.
Heh. Looks like some things will never change...

Light posting today and tomorrow

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Working on some other stuff and tomorrow, I'm heading down to Bellevue, WA, spending the night and attending this auction bright and early (previewing is at 8:00am). There is a Little Giant Power Hammer that, if it is in decent shape, would be a nice addition to the shop. There are also some bending tools and a Scotchman ironworker as well as tons (literally) of iron rod, bar and angle stock. Hope there aren't any other blacksmiths attending...
A great review at the New York Times:
Queenfish: A Cold War Tale
Atop the globe, the icy surface of the Arctic Ocean has remained relatively peaceful. But its depths have boiled with intrigue, no more so than in the cold war.

Although the superpowers planned to turn those depths into an inferno of exploding torpedoes and rising missiles, the brotherhood of submariners � the silent service, both Russian and American � has worked hard over the decades to keep the particulars of those plans hush-hush.

Now, a few secrets are spilling through a crack in the wall of silence, revealing some of the science and spying that went into the doomsday preparations.

A new book, �Unknown Waters,� recounts the 1970 voyage of a submarine, the Queenfish, on a pioneering dive beneath the ice pack to map the Siberian continental shelf. The United States did so as part of a clandestine effort to prepare for Arctic submarine operations and to win any military showdown with the Soviet Union.

In great secrecy, moving as quietly as possible below treacherous ice, the Queenfish, under the command of Captain Alfred S. McLaren, mapped thousands of miles of previously uncharted seabed in search of safe submarine routes. It often had to maneuver between shallow bottoms and ice keels extending down from the surface more than 100 feet, threatening the sub and the crew of 117 men with ruin.
I'm always a sucker for stories about submarines or anything underwater or arctic. The University of Alabama Press looks like a very dangerous place to browse... Fortunately, Amazon has it for about ten bucks cheaper: Unknown Waters Now did I just click that button???

Arthur C. Clarke

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Just sitting down to dinner and had a thought... Arthur C. Clarke has been called to supervise the other half of CERN's Large Hadron Collider project. YouTube has a nice piece on it: Large Hadron Collider Hat tip to Dark Roasted Blend for the link.

RIP - Arthur C. Clarke

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From the LA Times:
Arthur C. Clarke, 90; scientific visionary, acclaimed writer of '2001: A Space Odyssey'
Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who peered into the heavens with a homemade telescope as a boy and grew up to become a visionary titan of science fiction best-known for collaborating with director Stanley Kubrick in writing the landmark film "2001: A Space Odyssey," has died. He was 90.

The British-born Clarke, who lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for decades, died early today after experiencing breathing problems, an aide, Rohan De Silva, told the Associated Press.

Clarke, a former farm boy who was knighted for his contributions to literature, wrote more than 80 fiction and nonfiction books (some in collaboration) and more than 100 short stories -- as well as hundreds of articles and essays.
A bit more:
A radar pioneer in the Royal Air Force during World War II, Clarke wrote a 1945 article in Wireless World magazine in which he outlined a worldwide communications network based on fixed satellites orbiting Earth at an altitude of 22,300 miles -- an orbital area now often referred to as the Clarke Orbit.

Clarke's seminal article, for which he received $40, was published two decades before Syncom II became the world's first communications satellite put into geosynchronous orbit in 1963.

For pioneering the concept of communications satellites, Clarke received a number of honors, including the 1982 Marconi International Fellowship and the Charles A. Lindbergh Award.
He was a true giant. He will be missed.

Word of an interesting new Prize for literature comes from George Walden writing at the Jerusalem Press:

Arab 'Booker' stirs up passion
Arabs have translated about 100,000 books over the past millennium; that's almost the average that Spain translates in a year, according to one UN report by Arab scholars.

The number of non-religious works issued in Arabic remains tragically low, the study adds, noting a lack of reliable data.

Perhaps the International Prize for Arabic Fiction could help change this sad record. The contest's first winner, Egyptian Baha Taher, was selected in Abu Dhabi today.

One aim of the $50,000 award, modeled on Britain's Man Booker Prize, is to stimulate interchange between Arab countries, where mutual suspicions can be endemic. In this it has already succeeded, judging from the London news conference where the six finalists were announced in January.

As the chairman of the Russian Booker Prize for Fiction, I'm inured to passionate debates about literature. Yet this was the liveliest exchange between journalists and a book-judging panel that I've ever witnessed.

And a bit more:

Arab reluctance to translate Western works is reciprocated: Western publishers hesitate to issue novels from the Mideast. So an added bonus to this new prize is that Tetra Pak heiress Sigrid Rausing, who owns U.K. publishers Granta and Portobello, has pledged to fund an English translation of the winner.

No doubt squalls lie ahead, as this or that mullah or authoritarian regime proscribes this or that winning novel. Yet if stable and open societies are ever to emerge in the Middle East, the key battles must be fought with ideas, and by Arabs themselves. If ever there were a role for the right kind of socially engaged novel, it is here.

Very cool -- the war of cultures is at heart, a war of ideas and if we can open up the Islamist culture and let it examine itself as well as examine Western culture, we will see some wonderful changes. Get them out from under the yoke of the corrupt mullahs...

BOHICA -- nice sort of Caribbean sound to it. It's an acronym standing for Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. Eliot Spitzer had to retire due to his taste for overpriced 22 year olds (and his wife is not a bad looking woman...) His replacement just dropped a bomb. From the New York Daily News:
Gov. Paterson admits to sex with other woman for years
The thunderous applause was still ringing in his ears when the state's new governor, David Paterson, told the Daily News that he and his wife had extramarital affairs.

In a stunning revelation, both Paterson, 53, and his wife, Michelle, 46, acknowledged in a joint interview they each had intimate relationships with others during a rocky period in their marriage several years ago.

In the course of several interviews in the past few days, Paterson said he maintained a relationship for two or three years with "a woman other than my wife," beginning in 1999.
In his favor, they are volunteering the information. This takes guts especially considering how his boss left office. Also, it was not a whore, it was a relationship for two or three years but still -- Christ on a Corn Dog -- if you want to be a politician, you need to be cleaner than this...

The common knowledge is that for older people, taking a small dose (81mG/day) of Aspirin will greatly reduce the chance of your having either a full-on stroke or a Transient Ischemic Attack.

This information is very near and dear to my heart as I had a TIA a year ago last February, 2007.

Found this little gem while reading the intarwebs -- from Science Daily:

Ibuprofen Destroys Aspirin's Positive Effect On Stroke Risk, Study Shows
Stroke patients who use ibuprofen for arthritis pain or other conditions while taking aspirin to reduce the risk of a second stroke undermine aspirin's ability to act as an anti-platelet agent, researchers at the University at Buffalo have shown.

In a cohort of patients seen by physicians at two offices of the Dent Neurologic Institute, 28 patients were identified as taking both aspirin and ibuprofen (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID) daily and all were found to have no anti-platelet effect from their daily aspirin.

Thirteen of these patients were being seen because they had a second stroke/TIA while taking aspirin and a NSAID, and were platelet non-responsive to aspirin (aspirin resistant) at the time of that stroke.

The researchers found that when 18 of the 28 patients returned for a second neurological visit after discontinuing NSAID use and were tested again, all had regained their aspirin sensitivity and its ability to prevent blood platelets from aggregating and blocking arteries.

And it seems to not be new knowledge -- unfortunately, it seems to have been swept under the covers:

"This interaction between aspirin and ibuprofen or prescription NSAID's is one of the best-known, but well-kept secrets in stroke medicine," said Francis M. Gengo, Pharm.D., lead researcher on the study.

"It's unfortunate that clinicians and patients often are unaware of this interaction. Whatever number of patients who have had strokes because of the interaction between aspirin and NSAIDs, those strokes were preventable."

Well crap -- it would have been good to know about this as I have a problem with my hip that is causing some pain and I have been using Ibuprofen to control it.

Time to go back to the Tramadol. It has been such a fun year or two...

Grrrrrr... I had to go into town this afternoon to take my Dad to the eye doctor. It's always a fun visit since my Dad is a retired Physicist and the Eye Doc's husband teaches Physics at the local university. I was in a grocery store in town picking up a roast chicken for tonight's dinner (a deli and fresh (not frozen) meats are the only services that we do not offer at our store). Since it was late and since I hadn't eaten a big lunch (a Costco hot-dog) I wanted to get a pint of Chocolate Milk to cover me until I got home. The brand I always shop for is Wilcox -- they are local, organic and do a great product. Went into the store today and there was no Wilcox. No tags on the shelf for them either. All of the flavored milks were Darigold. I talked to the Dairy manager and it turns out that Darigold has purchased Wilcox and is phasing out a lot of the competing brands. They are just keeping the Organic milk and Eggs. To illustrate just why I was so pissed at this, here is the list of ingredients for the Wilcox Chocolate Milk:
Ingredients: Grade A Milk, Cream, Sugar, Cocoa
And here is the list of ingredients for the Darigold Chocolate Milk:
Nonfat Milk, Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk Solids, Cocoa Processed w/ Alkali, Salt, Carrageenan, Vanillin, Vit. A palmitate, Vit. D3.
Needless to say, I walked out of the store with the roti chicken, some waldorf salad and a small thing of Orange Juice. Like I said: Grrrrrr...

Overdue with interest

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Great story out of Florida -- from FOX News:
Florida Woman Sues to Collect on 147-Year-Old Promissory Note - With Interest

The great-granddaughter of a Civil War-era storekeeper in Tampa, Fla. is suing the city for a 147-year-old unpaid promissory note. With interest, the note is now worth over $22 million.

The financially-strapped city of Tampa, in need of ammunition during the Civil War, issued the note to Thomas Pugh Kennedy on June 21, 1861, the St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday. Kennedy's great-granddaughter, Joan Kennedy Biddle and her family are suing to collect the payment, plus 8 percent annual interest.

"This thing has been in the family since the date on the note, and it has never been repaid," Biddle, 77, told the Times. "My daddy told me, and I certainly believe him."

Tampa City Attorney David Smith told the Times that he doesn't consider the claim valid.

In legal documents, Biddle's attorney argues that the statute of limitations doesn't apply, for at the time the note was issued, the state had no such statute on such documents.
The St. Petersburg Times has more details as well as this photo of the note in question:
The City of Tampa is caught in that proverbial spot between rock and a hard place. If they do the right thing, they are out $22 large, if they try to skip out, they take a publicity hit. An interesting problem to be sure...
Neither the time nor the place to be taking a nap. From the UK Daily Mail:
Dozy pilots sacked after falling asleep and overshooting airport by 15 miles - despite panicked calls from controllers
It's one thing for passengers on a short flight to grab 40 winks.

But it's quite another for both the captain and his co-pilot to take a power nap at 21,000 feet.

Last night, two pilots were accused of falling asleep at the controls of a passenger jet and overshooting the airport by 15 miles.

The aircraft was left on auto-pilot as the crew went off the radar and the jet drifted off course over the Pacific.

The captain and his co-pilot have been grounded and are under investigation for allegedly snoozing through 11 calls from air traffic controllers desperate to reach them.

When the skipper finally picked up a call and was asked by a panicked controller if there was anything wrong, he responded: "Uh, no emergency situation."
Talk about a career-limiting move... Part of me wonders if there could be an exhaust leak somewhere but the chances of this are vanishingly small.
NOT... From jolly olde England and the Daily Mail:
Soldier fury as MoD civil servant paid �202,000 compensation for office injury
A ministry of Defence civil servant who developed back problems after lifting a printer has been paid an astonishing �202,000 compensation.

In contrast, soldier Jamie Cooper, 19, who lost the use of a leg and a hand in a mortar attack in Basra, has only received a lump sum of �57,000.

The disparity in compensation payouts is the latest indication that troops who risk their lives in wars for Britain are not being treated fairly.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said some payments made to injured veterans were "completely heartless".
Sad to see a once-great nation fail from within. Socialism has never worked. The government will always suffer from corruption so the less of it, the better.
Two top officials of the Transportation Security Administration are finding that they overstepped their bounds a little bit and are in some hot water. From Annie Jacobsen writing at Pajamas Media:
Top TSA Officials in Cheating Scandal Also Ran Private Consulting Firm
Most top-salaried government officials remain anonymous suits behind the scenes � unless they get caught in a scandal. The name Mike Restovich became public last fall when the security operations assistant administrator for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was caught encouraging colleagues to cheat on covert bomb detection tests being performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Congress ordered hearings. TSA chief Kip Hawley and Mike Restovich were both ordered to testify, but only Hawley showed up. Restovich was removed from his position and sent overseas to work as �DHS attach� to the United Kingdom.�

�When we have TSA management tipping off airport security officials about covert testing, we have a credibility and accountability problem,� Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson told fellow members of Congress.

But that�s not all.

Pajamas Media has learned that Michael �Mike� Restovich and fellow TSA senior executive Morris �Mo� McGowan ran a private security consulting company while working as high-ranking officials with TSA. Their company, Group 2M Consulting, LLC, was filed with the office of the secretary of state of Texas on April 15, 2004, a copy of which can be downloaded here.

At the time, Mike Restovich was the federal security director of Dallas Love Field Airport. Morris �Mo� McGowan was the assistant federal security director.

Both men held then, and apparently continue to hold now, top secret security clearances with the U.S. government. Consulting in the private sector simultaneously is in direct conflict with federal policy and specifically prohibited by two statutes of Department of Homeland Security employment contracts, a copy of which was obtained by Pajamas Media (available here, with the relevant paragraphs highlighted in yellow)
And of course, their bosses are stonewalling:
Pajamas Media contacted DHS to see if Secretary Chertoff was aware of Mike Restovich�s private security consulting business, Group 2M Consulting, when he awarded him the Silver Medal. DHS spokesperson Laura Keehner declined to provide any further information on the matter.

TSA deputy chief counsel Elizabeth Buchanan initially agreed to be interviewed for this report but later canceled that interview. TSA�s Office of Public Affairs declined to provide further information on Mike Restovich, Morris �Mo� McGowen, or the security consulting company the two men formed while working as TSA officials.
These people should not serve prison time, they should be condemned to stand, barefoot, in an endless airport "security" line for a year or two...

Two more from China

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First, from CNN/Asia:
Dalai Lama: China causing 'cultural genocide'
The Dalai Lama on Sunday called for an international probe of China's treatment of Tibet, which he said is causing "cultural genocide" of his people.

The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet spoke at a news conference Sunday in Dharamsala, India, two days after violent clashes between pro-autonomy demonstrators and Chinese security forces in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

A spokesman for the self-declared Tibetan exile government said it has confirmed at least 80 deaths in Friday's violence and that protests were continuing outside the capital Sunday, further undermining China's hopes of a smooth run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Secondly, from the BBC:
Tibet unrest spreads beyond Lhasa
Tibetan protests against Chinese rule have spread to another part of China, after days of demonstrations and violence in Tibet's main city, Lhasa.

Clashes between Tibetan protesters and police in Aba, Sichuan province, saw a police station and cars attacked.

Rights groups said several people had been killed in the clashes, though this could not be verified.
And more about the demonstrations in Sichuan:
The clashes in Aba, known as Ngawa in Tibetan, happened around 1200 local time on Sunday, according to Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet.

"The lay people and monks seem to have joined together in a protest... which was focused around the police presence in the town," she told the BBC.

She said that more than 1,000 monks had been on the streets of the town, which is home to a large monastery.

"According to reliable reports the police opened fire," said Ms Saunders, who is in London but said she had indirect phone and web access to eyewitness accounts. "We know there have been deaths."
The Sichuan province shares a border with Tibet and there are a lot of ethnic Tibetans living there, speaking the language and keeping the culture alive. It is odd how the liberals are so vocal against the USA claiming that it is engaging in colonialist empire building but when they see a nation that is actually doing this, they are silent. For all the "Free Tibet" bumper stickers out there, if the US sent armed forces into Tibet and freed it, they would be apoplectic saying that we just went in there for the oil Yak Butter...

Iran celebrates its recent election

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by suspending "negotiations" over its Nuclear program... From the UK Telegraph:
Iran celebrates election by ending nuclear talks
Hardliners in the Iranian regime celebrated victory in parliamentary elections by toughening their stance against the West, firmly rejecting any possibility of talks over the country�s controversial nuclear programme.

Buoyed by the early results from Friday�s parliamentary elections, the government said talks with the group of five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany were at an end.
They are saying whatever they think we want them to say meanwhile, continuing to build a bomb. We know this, they know that we know and there is nothing conventional that we can do about it. Their stated goal is to wipe Israel off the map -- why don't we show some stones and call them on it...

Chinese suppression of Tibet

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BoingBoing has an excellent collection of links to articles about the Chinese suppression of the demonstrations in Tibet. This includes China blocking YouTube as well as links to stories from bloggers in China.
A bunch of Tibetans have been demonstrating against the Chinese occupation. The Chinese media have been studiously ignoring this but cell-phone camera video's smuggled out show the repression that the Tibetan's are suffering. Now China is doing what they do very well -- playing the bully. From the Washington Post:
China sets deadline for Tibet rioters to surrender
China set a "surrender deadline," announced deaths and showed the first extensive television footage of rioting in Lhasa on Saturday, launching a crackdown after the worst unrest in Tibet for two decades.

The response came following torrid protests on Friday which flew in the face of official claims the region was immune from unrest as Beijing readies to hold the Olympic Games in August.

Xinhua news agency said 10 "innocent civilians" burnt to death in fires that accompanied bitter street clashes in the remote, mountain capital on Friday. It said no foreigners died but gave few other details, and the report could not be verified.

Tibetan law-and-order departments offered leniency for participants who turn themselves in by Monday midnight.

"Criminals who do not surrender themselves by the deadline will be sternly punished according to the law," stated the notice on the Tibetan government Web site ( It added that those who "harbor or hide" them also face harsh treatment.

The government offered rewards and protection for informers.
A bit more:
But a source close to the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile suggested China's death toll of 10 was not the full story. He said at least five Tibetan protesters were shot dead by troops. Other groups supporting Tibetan independence have claimed many more may have died.

The Olympic torch arrives in Lhasa in a matter of weeks.

China has accused followers of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of masterminding the rioting, which has scarred its image of national harmony in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics.
What better time to renew the push for autonomy than when the world is watching. Tibet was historically an independent nation and was never a part of China. China is trying to do a land grab on an area that doesn't have much commercial value but what has tremendous historical value. It is trying to buy legitimacy for its corrupt communist government and in so doing, showing the world its true nature. China was very quiet for years after Tiananmen Square. Are we in line for another one?


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I'm still getting a lot of attempts at comment spam and my script is blocking 99.999% of them. Was reviewing the logs a few minutes ago and one IP address stood out:
Parsun Network Solutions, No5, Baharan 2, Farahzad Ave.
Shahrak-e-Gharb, Tehran Iran
Heh... I'm just going to leave that netblock open so they can see what freedom is all about...
NOAA's National Weather Service has some nice satellite photos of the icebergs on Lake Michigan.
These are not the kinds of bergs that you find in arctic regions, this is surface ice that has become detached from the shoreline during a recent spell of warm weather; but still...

On this day in 1973

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Hat tip to Gateway Pundit for reminding us that there is one true hero in the upcoming election.
On This Day in 1973... John McCain Freed As Prisoner of War
On this day in 1973, Lt. Commander John McCain was released from a North Vietnamese prison after spending five plus years as a prisoner of war.

It ain't easy being Rainbow GREEN

Don't quite know what to make of this -- they are very much playing the race-card here but they are also promoting kids to get to trade school and learn to work with Green Technology. From the Seattle Times:

Overwhelmingly white, the green movement is reaching for the rainbow
"What's a nice black guy like me doing in a movement like this?"

Van Jones strides the stage at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, a charismatic lawyer who grew up in rural Tennessee, graduated from Yale Law, and founded the Ella Baker Center for jobs and justice in Oakland.

Tall, 39, his pate shaved, he cuts a striking silhouette in a black turtleneck and blazer, but it's his daring message that electrifies the crowd. He's in Seattle to talk about "The Unbearable Whiteness of Green" and how the environmental movement needs to include people of color and the poor if there's any hope of slowing global warming.

Hmmm... "people of color" and "THE POOR(tm)" in the same sentence. Sounds like the race-card to me. Poverty doesn't come from race, it comes from sitting on your butt not doing anything. Lack of education and a lack of motivation are the two culprits. Sure, times can deal you a hard blow but when that happens, you hunker down, live as cheaply as possible (no cell phone, no cable TV, etc...) and dig yourself out. Jen and I have both done this at points in our lives. When I first moved to Seattle, I didn't budget carefully and was not able to find a decent job. I worked in a restaurant and lived in an unheated garage for six months ($25/mo rent and it had electricity. Was able to use the bathroom and kitchen of the house.) I got enough to move into shared housing, bought a fixer-upper that the previous owner had botched and sold it five years later for enough money to buy the house I lived in for 15 years before moving up here. Poverty is not an institution, it is something you do and get out of as soon as possible. But back to the story:

In Jones' eyes, the first wave of environmentalism, led by Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, focused on preserving the nation's natural beauty in parks. The second wave, led by Rachel Carson of "Silent Spring," concentrated on federal regulation of toxics. The third wave, he says, is about investment. Initially, that meant individual consumer choice: hybrid cars, organic food, energy-efficient light bulbs. Now, it's evolved into major public spending and community-wide action.

Jones' grand vision? Think New Deal and civil-rights movement combined with a clean-green industrial revolution. The nation needs to train masses of "green-collar" workers to conduct energy audits, weatherize and retrofit buildings, install solar panels and maintain hybrid vehicles, wind farms and bio-fuel factories. The icing? Wiring buildings and installing solar panels can't be outsourced.

"Brother," Jones says, "put down that hand gun and pick up this caulk gun."

I agree with him here -- we had an energy audit at the store. it was free and there were some specific suggestions and there were rebates available to implement those suggestions. We did these, it cost us about $3,000 but our electric bill went from close to $1K/month down to about $700/month. We run some large coolers and freezers and our primary HVAC is an electric heat pump which is a lot more efficient than either the Propane or Electric Heat that present themselves as our other options. It generally takes a couple days to a week or two to get our "energy people" (Whatcom Refrigeration - awesome people) out to do non-critical work -- they are swamped. More qualified people in the field would help a lot. One last excerpt from the article:

SOUNDS GOOD, in theory.

In reality, once you step outside the middle-class mainstream, the meaning of "environment" shape-shifts as much as water morphing from ice to gas. The natural-fibers crowd may think of Earth as a blue-green orb with a capital E. Immigrants and the poor struggle with more down-to-earth issues: toxics at work and home, safety on the streets. Sometimes it seems like we're living on different planets.

For us, says director Ticiang Diangson of Seattle Public Utilities' environmental-justice/service-equity division, the environment "is really about our daily lives, here and now, whether my kid is sick because he's breathing something that's not agreeing with him, whether we have a roof over our heads that's not infested with mold, how we can get to our two or three jobs to hopefully make ends meet."

To pull a quote out of context: "my kid is sick because he's breathing something that's not agreeing with him" What are you feeding the kid, does the kid get out and play and exercise? There are a lot of environmental factors in play here and to single out "breathing something" is to ignore a lot of other things that contribute... I agree with the overall ideas in the article -- there are a lot of people who are looking for work in the wrong places and training should be made available. Training in HVAC, construction, welding, mechanics and machining; these will guarantee high-paying jobs that last a lifetime. American corporations need people. I took some welding and some CNC machining classes at our local trade school and there are recruiters there all the time. An interesting read to say the least.

An interesting look at LED Lighting

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The author is Paul Rako who is the technical Editor of Electronic Design News so he probably knows a thing or two about them... From EDN:
LED lighting� yet more green BS
I haven�t done any green-baiting lately and I really miss reading the hundreds of comments from people that call me an idiot or a shill for the oil companies. Last week I was with my buddy Paul Tuttle at his monthly HP alumni gathering. One of the HP retirees bragged about how he was using LED bulbs in his house and how they lasted longer and saved energy. Now I try to keep up on LED lighting� it is a promising technology, but in 2008, the situation is this: Cree, a great outfit has managed to exceed the luminous efficiency of cold-cathode fluorescent but only in a tiny 20 mA LED. It puts out way less light than a CCF. OK, what Cree has done in their big lamps is to match the efficiency of halogen, at least in the lab. They are still a ways off from getting the same luminous efficiency as a fluorescent bulb. Now there are great applications for LED lighting. One is inside food coolers it the grocery store. Since fluorescents don�t work very well when it is cold they cannot be used. And the incandescent halogen lights might use the same power, but they also reject more heat into the cooler, and it takes refrigeration energy to make up for that. On top of that you don�t have to replace the LED lights as often and that is always good in a business situation.

Another great application for LED lights might be way up on a high ceiling where it is a real pain to get up there to replace the lamp. But be careful about lifetime claims for LEDs. First off, bear in mind that heat degrades an LED. The end-of-life may not be a failure, but rather, a reduction to 50% output. Also lets not forget you need a power supply to feed the LEDs. If you want any kind of efficiency, that has to be a switching supply with an IC and worse yet, electrolytic capacitors. You are not going to get 60,000 hours out of that in all cases. We all know that the early CFL lamps would die early if you switched them on and off a lot. That was not the phosphor or the bulb failing, it was the little power supply in the base. In addition to the lifetime issues of a power supply realize that the power supply is a big hit on efficiency. Yeah, you may run an LED string on AC with a resistor, but you will get really lousy efficiency. The same goes for making it dimmable, it will work but you will take an efficiency hit.

What really irks me is the plain old marketing BS surrounding LED lamps. Paul Tuttle told me about this great site, C Crane. We all gotta love a site that has short-wave radios and scanners on the home page. The problem is on the LED light page. There they have a little chart to show what a great deal LED lights are and how one bulb can save you 353 dollars and 25 cents. But it is a bald-faced lie and all it takes is a few minutes on the Internet to prove it. It took a few seconds to find this page with a halogen lamp that makes 840 lumens, uses 60 watts and lasts 3000 hours. When you plug this into the little chart at the bottom of the C Crane page you no longer get a $353.25 savings, you get a $217.50 penalty.
The Chart that Paul mentions in his last sentence is very simple, fact checkable and makes his point very eloquently. Nice to see a balanced analysis of the costs and the benefits. Our living room has a cathedral ceiling and there are three lights that 'wash' the fireplace and chimney. A bear to replace the bulbs and when I saw the cost of equivalent LED luminaries, I am now planning to buy that 30' extension ladder that I had been meaning to get for the last couple years. The hassle-factor is a bit higher but the overall cost is lower and the end result is better (the circuit is on a dimmer).

Long day today

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Put in about twelve hours at the store doing the Friday buying run and then working. Fixing dinner, having a glass of wine and then I'll see if there is anything that catches my eye on the net. Was at Costco and picked up a Canon PowerShot A650IS to play with. I had written earlier about the software that allows you to hack certain models of Canon Cameras and this particular model was one that people liked. The unit came bundled with a nice photo printer that I have no use for (I have an Epson 2200 that I love) so I'll be selling that on Craigslist. I'm busy at the store setting up a video rental system (the previous owners had been using little slips of paper and we inherited their 'system') but after that gets up and running, I'll be playing with the camera. Gotta go -- dinners ready (spaghetti)
Interesting report from NOAA:
NOAA: Coolest Winter Since 2001 for U.S., Globe
The average temperature across both the contiguous U.S. and the globe during climatological winter (December 2007-February 2008) was the coolest since 2001, according to scientists at NOAA�s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. In terms of winter precipitation, Pacific storms, bringing heavy precipitation to large parts of the West, produced high snowpack that will provide welcome runoff this spring.

A complete analysis is available online.
In similar news - from Reuters:
Guns and fists as "snow rage" erupts
QUEBEC CITY, Quebec (Reuters) - Although Canada is one of the snowiest countries in the world, a series of violent "snow rage" incidents reveal that even the locals have their limits.

Police in the French-speaking province of Quebec said on Wednesday that people were fighting over snow clearing and even parking spaces.

Recent Canadian winters have been mild but this one looks set to break all-time records for snow. One storm last weekend dumped 23 inches on the capital Ottawa and 19 inches on Quebec City, which has already received 210 inches this year.
The sun has been very quiet recently, long periods with no sunspots at all. I know that we are in a lull in the solar cycle but it should not take this long to get started again. Low sunspot activity correlates to low solar output which seems to correlate with cooler weather on earth. Where is the AGW when you need it -- start buying Hummers people!

Oops - how not to propose

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DOH! From the UK Sun:
Balloon seen in the sky with diamond
A hopeless romantic saw his engagement plans vanish into thin air � after a balloon containing a �6,000 diamond ring was blown away.

Luckless Lefkos Hajji wanted to surprise girlfriend Leanne, 26 � so he told a florist to put the sparkler inside a helium balloon.

But as he left the shop a gust pulled it from his hand and the balloon soared into the sky.

Lefkos, 28, said: �I couldn�t believe it.

�I just watched as it went further and further into the air. I felt like such a plonker. It cost a fortune and I knew my girlfriend would kill me.�
But maybe it revealed something about his girlfriend that he should listen to:
�Now she�s refusing to speak to me until I get her a new ring.�
The relationship is not about the ring -- maybe Lefkos should reconsider his choice...

Light posting tonight

Tired and working on some other stuff...

This time it's consumer electronics that is infected with malware. From CNN/Technology:

Electronic gadgets latest sources of computer viruses
From iPods to navigation systems, some of today's hottest gadgets are landing on store shelves with some unwanted extras from the factory: pre-installed viruses that steal passwords, open doors for hackers and make computers spew spam.

Computer users have been warned for years about virus threats from downloading Internet porn and opening suspicious e-mail attachments. Now they run the risk of picking up a digital infection just by plugging a new gizmo into their PCs.

Recent cases reviewed by The Associated Press include some of the most widely used tech devices: Apple iPods, digital picture frames sold by Target and Best Buy stores, and TomTom navigation gear.

In most cases, Chinese factories -- where many companies have turned to keep prices low -- are the source.

I know that buying a repackaged gadget can be problematic -- if the previous owner connected it to a buggy system, the gadget could have been infected. I didn't know that the problem was for brand new gadgets as well. Yikes!

From The Associated Press:
Senate Blocks Moratorium on Earmarks
Even with the backing of all three presidential candidates, Senate old-timers in both parties decisively killed a proposed one-year ban on lawmakers' home-state pet projects.

The 71-29 vote Thursday night against the earmark moratorium came as Congress pressed ahead with a budget plan that would saddle millions of Americans with higher tax bills in three years by allowing some of President Bush's tax cuts to die after he leaves office.
Thanks for listening to us guys... Pork is not what we need to be doing now.
Very cool stuff - some people have discovered that the low-end Canon Cameras lend themselves very nicely to firmware hacking. Your code is loaded into the root directory of your memory card and the camera can read it when it powers up. The website for this project is here: CHDK Wiki From the About page:
The CHDK is a firmware add-on for Canon's compact digital cameras, based on DIGIC II and DIGIC III processors.

The CHDK implements new features like RAW, battery indicator, live histogram (RGB/luminance), zebra mode (blinking areas of over-/underexposure), DOF calculator, scripts (intervalometer, exposure/focus/... bracketing etc.), text reader, file browser, calendar, games and much more. There are now several different builds, implementing features assisting taking 3D-Stereo photos, motion detection etc.

The CHDK firmware add-on does not touch the original firmware of camera. It is an additional program which gets loaded into the memory of the cam.

I subscribe to a number of email lists and on one of them, a participant uses the following signature line:

Any day you get to play with nuclear warheads, is a good day!

OK - so they probably know a thing or two about these puppies. Someone asked them about the status of our weapons today and they replied with the following excellent rant:

Easy enough. The second you put a nuclear device together, it starts to deteriorate. Chemical changes in explosives and electronics, metal gets brittle from neutron bombardment, etc. As time goes on, reliability declines.

In the old days, the AEC would do constant monitoring of the stockpile and they'd do what were called "Stockpile validation shots", a test firing of a nuke to see if it would work or not and what changes in reliability and yield would occur over the period of storage. They also came up with repair and upgrade kits and these would be tested by live fire too.

Then Bush I, decided to supplant testing by substituting use of computer models. This is nice if you know what is going on inside a bomb during storage. They did test shots of bombs of various ages and used those to calibrate the models. But there's this catch. When the bomb becomes older than the oldest bomb used to calibrate the model, the model doesn't work anymore. And you can't learn anything new from a model. It just extrapolates what you already know.

We were going to get around that, by replacing bombs that reached a certain age. The Chinese, for example, do this every seven years. Build a bomb, store it, and then decommission and scrap it and build another bomb.

That would have worked for us too, but Clinton closed the production lines at PANTEX. Now we build no new bombs and the newest bombs we've got, are older than the oldest ones that we used to calibrate the models.

And a lot of what you see in the deterioration of a nuclear warhead isn't exactly what you'd call predictable either. Look at a list of the bombs that we've built and the service dates and the dates that they were declared obsolete and withdrawn, and you find that some bombs didn't last longer than two years in our inventory. And many of the problems that resulted in their being withdrawn, were never solved.

And the punchline here is that bombs are not as simple as that little diagram you see in an encyclopedia someplace. Your typical modern bomb, say the W-80, which can be considered to be a modernised B-61, has over three thousand parts in it. That's a lot of complexity there and a lot to go wrong. And losing any one of em turns our nukes into an expensive piece of nuclear junk. And that's everything from the inflight pit insertion mechanism, to the Tritium Booster to the Permissive Action Links and the Strike Enable Plug. More stuff to go wrong than you can name, especially when most of those parts have numbers but no other nomenclature. (Remember the story of the Mk14 Torpedo? That was a whole lot less complicated than a nuke and you didn't have to deal with changes due to neutron bombardment, but it was still remarkably difficult to debug.)

And reliability in general is a contra-intuitive deal. For example, suppose you have a device consisting of five parts that are each ninety percent reliable. Most people would assume that the gadget itself is ninety percent reliable as a result, right? Nope-- dead wrong. Fifty Nine Percent. (.5 X .5 X .5. X .5= 0.59 or 59% where 1.0=100%.) So you can imagine how complex that calculation would be for something like a B-61 or a W-80.

The net result is that our deterrence doesn't rest on assured destruction if we use the bombs, but uncertainty as to what will happen. You can deal with a certainty. Uncertainties on the other hand, generally make politicians risk averse, and often the technicians that advise them, even more so.

In short, Clinton's decision amounted to a slow process of unilateral disarmament. And he did this at the same time that he let the Chinese take whatever they wanted of what should have remained, highly classified nuclear secrets. A paper on nuclear metallurgy might be boring to you, but it made for some rather exciting reading for the guys at Lop Nor and the various institutes that support it.

That's why Bush wanted to manufacture the B-61-11 as new production and why they were pushing for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Not only do our enemies not know what our bombs will do, but we don't know ourselves! The Chinese do, however, know what theirs will do because we let them steal the designs and the statistical performance models and they replace every seven years. That should scare somebody. It does me.

Awhile back, in another discussion elsewhere, my opposite number was demanding that Washington secure Israel's future by nuking Iran. I pointed out that we couldn't do this. I also, just to give him an idea of how iffy the whole thing was, came up with a thumbnail sketch of a plan that would have to be followed if we wanted to use our bombs while still managing the risks involved. (Besides, they've got their own copy of our B-61 which Kissenger gifted them with in order to bribe them into not testing their own. And that didn't work completely, given the South African shot over the South Atlantic.)

Here's the catch. There would have to be a stockpile validation shot for the bombs, probably B-61s since they're our most numerous and reliable type, and we would have to do that during the mission in order to avoid telegraphing to the world that we intended to use them.

If you do an atmospheric detonation, VELA type sensors in orbit will detect the EMP from the detonation. If you do an underground shot, a nuclear test has a seismic signiature that is unique. Nobody's going to mistake it for anything else.

So what would have to happen, is that after we've launched the planes, we'd have to fire a stockpile validation shot with multiple bombs for a statistically valid sample and if enough of the bombs worked, we'd have to give the final release to the bombers at the failsafe point. So you're talking about an incredibly complex operation several hours in length where we bomb up the planes, send them with tankers to the failsafe point, detonate a bunch of bombs, analyze some complex data from sensors attached to light pipes and the like, decide whether the bombs will work, and then give permission for the crews to actually fly their penetration routes, deliver their bombs and in some cases fly to a recovery area inside enemy lines to bail out and wait for the Air Force to send modified C-130s in to get them. (During the Cold War, the Brits had a different idea. They were going to send in the RAF Regiment to the recovery areas and the downed aircrew would augment the RAF Regiment and fight on the ground. The assumption was that there wasn't going to be enough of Jolly old Englande to come back to! A close friend of mine was the Bombadier on a Handley Page Victor after being posted from Canberras, and that would have been his fate if the ball had dropped.)

Anyway, that's the thumbnail view. Hope it helps.

Shame on Clinton (as well as Carter who shut down the nuclear fuels reprocessing plants) The Mark XIV had stunning reliability problems at the outset of WWII although these were eventually ironed out and it served our Navy for 40 years.

Check out Brian Rodgers' Outfit New Mexico Brian is doing a lot of cool stuff -- the website is deep. Very high geekdom (and a drop-dead beautiful site...)

David Mamet sees the light

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Wonderful essay at Village Voice:
David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'
John Maynard Keynes was twitted with changing his mind. He replied, "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?"

My favorite example of a change of mind was Norman Mailer at The Village Voice.

Norman took on the role of drama critic, weighing in on the New York premiere of Waiting for Godot.

Twentieth century's greatest play. Without bothering to go, Mailer called it a piece of garbage.

When he did get around to seeing it, he realized his mistake. He was no longer a Voice columnist, however, so he bought a page in the paper and wrote a retraction, praising the play as the masterpiece it is.

Every playwright's dream.
A bit more:
As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. "?" she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been�rather charmingly, I thought�referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."
And a bit more:
I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances�that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired�in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
A bit more (it's a five page essay and well worth the time to read):
And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations�they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.
Well worth the fifteen minutes or so to read. It is nice that Mamet had this change of heart, had the courage to speak up and kudos to the Village Voice for printing his essay. The 300+ comments are well worth checking out only to see the wide range of beliefs, reading comprehension and critical thinking that are out there.

An interesting look at Casino Security

From Computerworld:

Casino insider tells (almost) all about security
Engineer built systems used by up to half the world's casinos

Jeff Jonas knows the Las Vegas gambling industry inside and out. As the founder and chief scientist of Systems Research & Development (SRD), Jonas helped build numerous casino systems before 2005 when his company was purchased by IBM. Big Blue was intrigued by SRD's NORA system (Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness), a technology that uncovers relationships that can be exploited fraudulently for profit, such as connections between dealers and gamblers. Now a distinguished engineer and chief scientist for IBM's Entity Analytic Solutions, Jonas is still based in Las Vegas but is focused more on applying his technology to national security and the banking industry.

Speaking at the O'Reilly ETech conference on emerging technology in the US on Thursday, Jonas promised to reveal some, if not all, of the secrets he learned about the casino industry. Before the talk, he called some of his former clients to make sure certain details could be revealed.

That would have been a fun talk to attend. The ETech listing for his talk (with PowerPoint slides) is here: Las Vegas: Behind the Scenes. What Sensors? What Privacy? What Anonymity? The Whole Story We have a local Indian Casino that has done very well for the tribe. (Talking with a Tribal Elder last year, he mentioned that we took their land, now they take our money.) Jen and I go there for dinner occasionally (great food!) and walking through to the dining room, the place has a lot of cameras and security features and this is just what I am able to see...

Minimal posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff tonight.
Talk about raining on someone's parade From the UK Telegraph:
Bulldozers tear down giant religious teapot
A religious commune in Malaysia's Muslim heartland that worshiped a bizarre collection of structures including a giant teapot, vase and umbrella was being torn down yesterday.

About 40 workers with bulldozers and lorries destroyed the "subversive" teapot and other symbols of the pan-religious Sky Kingdom, in Terengannu state. An assembly hall, a concrete boat and a temple-like structure that was under construction were also demolished. About 30 members of the commune watched but did not intervene.
And the cause:
The main problem for the authorities was that, as a Muslim, Ayah Pin committed the heresy of claiming to have a direct link to the Almighty, bypassing the Prophet Mohamed.
And the problem:
Malaysia is traditionally a liberal Islamic state and the commune has been sanctioned for 30 years. But in recent years Islamic parties have grown in strength and the government has bowed to the wishes of the activists among them.
For a so-called "religion of peace", these idiots are causing a lot of problems for themselves and the rest of the world.

Damien Hields - Hero

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From the UK Times Online comes this amazing story:
British soldier awarded the Military Cross for fighting off 150 Taliban
A British soldier who almost single-handedly took on 150 Taliban after he and his 50-man convoy were ambushed in Afghanistan has been awarded the Military Cross.

Fusilier Damien Hields used his grenade machinegun to destroy seven Taliban positions before his ambushers realised he was their main threat. After peppering his vehicle with bullets, they hit the 24-year-old soldier. He had to be dragged off for treatment by his driver after he tried to continue fighting.

�Fusilier Hields showed extraordinary courage under intense fire,� said Lieutenant-Colonel Huw James, his commanding officer. �I was astonished at the state of his vehicle. There were so many holes in it, it was like a teabag. The Taliban did everything in their power to neutralise [him] and Fusilier Hields was having none of it. His actions allowed his patrol to come out of the ambush in which they were outnumbered by three or four to one and probably saved a lot of lives.�
And the engagement:
They were on their way back to Kandahar on June 3, driving south in a valley, when the Taliban attacked. One of the Land Rovers hit a landmine and was flipped upside down by the blast. �There were Taliban dug in all around and they started hitting us with AK47s and mortars. We could not see where they were at first.�

Hields followed the trail of RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades coming towards him and started firing grenades one at a time, trying to home in. �Then I switched to automatic fire,� he said. A grenade machine gun has a box with 32 grenade rounds. �I emptied a box onto that position and you could see all the dust and smoke flying about where they hit.

�After that no fire came back from that position and I moved on to the next one. One or two rounds until I got onto the target, and switch to automatic and empty the box.�
His comment:
"I got through six boxes in about 15 minutes and we were winning the fight,� he said. �They started it. We were going to finish it.�
He was wounded but not seriously and was back in action about a month later. Like I said -- Hero.

Instant Carma in Salt Lake City

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Guy tries to stiff a cab driver for the fare. Jumps out of the cab and runs. Let's let the Salt Lake Tribune tell the story:
Man stiffs cabbie, is hit by oncoming car
A man was in critical condition after he tried to flee a cab without paying his fare and stepped in the path of an oncoming car Saturday in Salt Lake City.

The man, 31, was belligerent and apparently drunk during a ride in a City Cab taxi, said Salt Lake City police Lt. Dave Hoffman. He threatened not to pay the driver before jumping out of the cab while it was still rolling east on 1300 South near 800 East. He ran into the westbound lane, where he was hit by an oncoming car, Hoffman said. He was in "extremely critical condition," Hoffman said.

File backup - one nifty solution

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I have been looking at ways to back up the various files in the store. I need to have reliable automated copies of the Point of Sale system as well as of QuickBooks. Both allow for manual copy to another disk or thumb-drive but I want something automated. I had been looking around and since I have used rsync and cron a lot on Linux platforms, I first looked at implementing it on Windows. Tonight, I found out about a free PowerToy from Microsoft called SyncToy and it looks like it will be perfect. Check out SyncToy I tried it on the trip photos stored on this laptop and with a portable USB hard drive that I have been using for backing them up and it worked great -- finding new photos and copying them over to the backup drive. It does slow the system down quite a bit while copying but if you do it when the system is not otherwise being used (use MSFT's Task Scheduler) Very cool! I will be using a couple portable hard drives (I can build them for under $100 each) and rotating these home every few days. Problem solved...

The curious cow in Scotland

From the BBC:

Flatulent cow puts wind up locals
A mechanical cow that breaks wind on the hour has become Edinburgh's latest tourist attraction.

The bovine backside has been attached to the side of the Rowan Tree pub in the city's historic Old Town.

It lifts its tail and shoots out a cloud of white smoke at passers-by throughout the day.

Pub landlord Norrie Rowan, a former Scotland international rugby star, said the cow was becoming as popular with tourists as nearby Greyfriars Bobby.

It was installed on the side of the pub earlier this year, but the mechanics that allow it to break wind at 1100 GMT, noon and 1300 GMT are a new addition.

Heh... Should get one of these for the store.

Not a good time to be living in Japan or Korea. From Reuters:
China's killer "yellow dust" hits Korea, Japan
South Korea closed schools on Monday and its factories producing memory chips stepped up safeguards, as a choking pall of sand mixed with toxic dust from China covered most of the country and other parts of Asia.

The annual "yellow dust" spring storms, which originate in China's Gobi Desert before sweeping south to envelop the Korean peninsula and parts of Japan, are blamed for scores of deaths and billions of dollars in damage every year in South Korea.
Some of the specific problems:
The sand storms have been increasing in frequency and toxicity over the years because of China's rapid economic growth and have added to increased tensions with neighbours South Korea and Japan over recent years.

The dust picks up heavy metals and carcinogens such as dioxin as it passes over Chinese industrial regions, before hitting North and South Korea and Japan, meteorologists say.
The state-sponsored Korea Environment Institute said the dust kills up to 165 South Koreans a year, mostly the elderly or those with respiratory ailments, and makes as many as 1.8 million ill.

Annual economic damage to South Korea from the storms is estimated at up to 5.5 trillion won ($5.82 billion), according to the institute.

Hynix Semiconductor Inc, the world's second-biggest maker of memory chips, said it has had to step up its filtration systems and make employees take longer air showers to make sure the dust does not contaminate its production lines and damage chips, made using technology that operates on a microscopic level.
It's not just Japan and Korea though. Here is a 2001 NOAA story:
A dust storm that began two weeks ago on the Mongolian-China border reached the U.S. this week, blanketing areas from Canada to Arizona with a layer of dust. In Denver and along the foothills of the Rockies, the mountains were obscured by the haze.
Here is a photo from National Geographic of a 2006 storm in the Gansu Province of China:
And all news accounts say that the problem is getting bigger...

Fun times in the Falkland Islands

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From the UK Telegraph:
Drilling for oil to start in Falkland Islands
The inhabitants of the Falkland Islands are preparing for a South Atlantic oil rush which they hope will make them among the richest people in the world.

After 10 years of frustrating delays since oil fields containing up to 60 billion barrels of "black gold" were discovered off the islands, oil companies are planning to start drilling within the next 12 months.

The move follows the conclusion of lengthy, but successful, tests by geologists and significant cash injections by two major oil companies which plan to bring rigs to the islands by as early as autumn.

The companies with licences to drill in the area met in Edinburgh on Friday to brief officials from the Falklands' government on their progress, and preparations are under way in the South Atlantic to ensure that the islands can cope with sudden wealth.
What is a gazillion dollars divided by 3,105... Not too shabby, especially considering that the oil lies under ground that has never been exposed to the air. Kind of puts a crimp into the whole "vegetative origin of oil" theory...
From the UK Guardian:
Outsider wins battle of the anti-heroes
Two of Britain's most respected thespians went head to head - Ian McKellen as King Lear, and Patrick Stewart as Macbeth. But neither won: they were pipped by Othello in the shape of an actor half their age, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Heh... McKellen as Magneto Stewart as Picard Ejiofor as The Operative

Back in town

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Just got in the door a few minutes ago -- 1:30AM and it has been a long day. The spew will resume tomorrow...

Heading North

Leaving today to head back to Bellingham and points East. Wonderful visit but it will be very good to get back home...

Sugar, sugar and more sugar...

A number of the grand-kids and nephews share birthdays in March so there is a big party held for all of them.

Jen and I were "invited" to attend and help keep an eye on them. This year it was held at John's Incredible Pizza Company We were worried that it might be a Chucky Cheeze clone but it was actually pretty good. Lots of great games, bumper cars, laser tag, twitch arcade games and an awesome VR roller-coaster from MaxFlight (link - product info, link - MaxFlight website with embedded video)

It was loud, an open buffet line with lots of ice cream and birthday cake was served. Needless to say, herding around a dozen over-stimulated little rug-rats took its toll on Jen and me and we went back to her parents house and collapsed for a nap.

We head back to Bellingham tomorrow evening. Otherwise, the trip has been really nice -- did a bunch of HDR photography and will post some of them when I get back. Looking forward to getting home...

Landed in Fresno

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Got into our hotel Wednesday night, woke up at 4:00AM to catch a 5:45 flight to Sea-Tack and then on to Fresno. Jen's Mom picked us up at the airport and drove us out to their farm. Dinner tonight was an award ceremony for Jen's Dad - about 150 people and really nice. A State Senator was there, a US Representative had placed an item in the Congressional Record honoring the work of the family in Agriculture. I am very lucky to be a part of this wonderful family! I am also dead tired -- sleep very well tonight...

An excellent rant - Iraq, the Surge,

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From LC 0311 crunchie I.M.H. over at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler writes:
We Can, Are, and Will Win This Yet
If you�re a screeching Lunar Chiroptera the only reason we went to war in Iraq was for the oil, or to kill brown people, or yada yada. But anyone who paid attention and had an IQ above explosive diarrhea, knew that Iraq was the first step in the long marathon of actually winning the strategic war against Islamofascism. You see, we had two choices. We could play whack a mole from now until doomsday, killing terrorists wherever we could find them, taking out one cell at a time, at a huge long term cost in lives, or we could go after their �hearts and minds� and eventually kill the ideology that spawns them.
Link to the definition of Lunar Chiroptera mine... This person has a penchant for clear speech: "anyone who paid attention and had an IQ above explosive diarrhea" paints a wonderful mental picture for me. Read the rest - it's very short and very very good!

Light posting today

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Have a meeting tonight plus had to run into town for some errands. That and we are flying down to Jen's family very early Thursday AM so we head out and crash at a motel tomorrow. I'll have access down there but I'm not taking the laptop.
I love it -- earlier, the Clinton campaign found a photo of Barack Obama dressed in native Kenyan/Somali garb while visiting his father's village. Since it looks about the same as some middle-eastern garb, this was maybe an attempt to say that Obama is Islamic or something... Anyway, it backfired on the Clintons and now, Shrillary may be the subject of an unusual lawsuit. From Reuters:
Clinton faces Kenya cattle fine over Obama photo
Kenyan elders may impose a fine on U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, payable in livestock, after a photo of her rival Barack Obama in robes dragged their people into the race for the White House.

The picture, which appeared on a U.S. Web site, showed the Illinois senator in a white headdress and traditional Somali attire during a 2006 visit to Wajir in Kenya's remote northeast.

Obama has battled a whispering campaign by fringe elements who wrongly say he is Muslim and his aides accused Clinton's campaign of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering" after the photograph was published.

Wajir elders resolved to file an official complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, dropping earlier plans to hold a protest after Friday prayers.

They said they would also convene a traditional Somali court to investigate the matter. It can impose fines that are payable in cattle, goats or camels.

"We will go ahead with this case whether Senator Clinton or Democratic party leaders turn up or not," said Mohamed Ibrahim, a member of the clan that hosted Obama during his trip. "But this whole thing can be avoided if only an apology is made."

The late father of the Democratic frontrunner was from western Kenya.
Heh... It will be interesting to see the results of the Texas and Ohio primaries tomorrow.

True Colors - Hugo Chavez and FARC

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Colombian soldiers nailed one of FARCs top leaders a week ago. The also got his laptop... From Bloomberg:
Colombia Files Show Chavez Funded FARC, Rebels Sought Uranium
Colombia's police chief Oscar Naranjo said documents from the computer of a guerrilla leader killed last weekend in Ecuador show links to Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

The documents on the computer of Raul Reyes, the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, indicate that Venezuela provided the guerrillas with at least $300 million and would help Chavez in the event of a U.S. attack on Venezuela.

Naranjo said the FARC, as the group is known, was seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium for bomb making with aim of getting involved in international terrorism.
Marxist scum -- both Chavez and FARC
From Sound Politics:
Terrorists Strike in Woodinville
As reported by KING5, terrorists claiming to be from the Earth Liberation Front have burned down empty homes in Woodinville.

I have nothing much to say about this, because the criticism is obvious. I would like to point out that, apart from the obvious fact that this creates pollution and causes even more trees to be cut down, that using trees for houses is actually a good thing for the environment, provided they are older trees: they are mostly full of CO2 and we can cut them down and replace them with new trees that can suck up more CO2. But when you burn down a home, that releases the stored CO2.

Burning down homes is one of the worst things you can do for the environment: far worse than building them in the first place. But terrorists don't really care much for facts.
ELF is a bunch of stupid, willfully ignorant idiots and needs to be rooted out and destroyed. Grandstanding acts like this do more harm to the environmental movement than good and gives environmentalists a bad name. I am still pissed as hell at them for burning the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture destroying numerous valuable and rare books in the library and burning endangered plants that were being preserved at the center.

Circling the drain - New York Times

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People aren't advertising in the New York Times as much any more. Forbes has an artcle on the result of this:
New York Times Ad Decline Spurs S&P Warning
The New York Times Co.'s continued struggles with declining advertising revenue prompted Standard & Poor's to caution Friday that it is inching closer to cutting the company's debt ratings.

S&P said it placed all of the Times' ratings, including its key long-term corporate credit rating, on CreditWatch with negative implications. In plain English, that means the rating agency is leaning heavily toward a downgrade unless current financial trends at the company improve.

S&P currently assigns the Times a long-term corporate credit rating of BBB. A one-notch downgrade would bring the rating down to BBB-. But in a research note Friday, S&P credit analyst Emile Courtney warned that a possible downgrade "may not be limited to one notch."

That would drop the Times' long-term rating to BB+ or worse, which would leave it at sub-investment grade, or junk. And that, in turn, could increase borrowing costs for the Times.
Let's see: Evident bias to the left? Check. Reporters fabricate stories? Check. Reprinting bogus stories from other sources without fact checking? Check. Ignoring stories that aren't in line with its bias? Check. Hell of a way to run a newspaper...

Two states - a contrast

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An interesting look at Texas and Ohio from the Wall Street Journal:
Texas v. Ohio
As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton race around Ohio and Texas for tomorrow's primaries, they are telling a tale of economic woe. Yet the real story isn't how similar the two states are economically but how different. Texas has been prospering while Ohio lags, and the reasons are instructive about what works and what doesn't in economic policy.

There's no doubt times are tough in Ohio. The state has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, home foreclosures are soaring, and real family income is lower now than in 2000. Meanwhile, the Texas economy has boomed since 2004, with nearly twice the rate of new job creation as the rest of the nation. The nearby table compares the states over a decade or so.

Let's start with the fact that Texas's growth puts the lie to the myth that free trade costs American jobs. Anti-Nafta rhetoric doesn't play well in El Paso, San Antonio and Houston, which have become gateway cities for commerce with Latin America and have flourished since the North American Free Trade Agreement passed Congress in 1993. Mr. Obama's claim of one million lost jobs due to trade deals is laughable in Texas, the state most affected by Nafta. Texas has gained 36,000 manufacturing jobs since 2004 and has ranked as the nation's top exporting state for six years in a row. Its $168 billion of exports in 2007 translate into tens of thousands of jobs.

Ohio, Indiana and Michigan are losing auto jobs, but many of these "runaway plants" are not fleeing to China, Mexico or India. They've moved to more business-friendly U.S. states, including Texas. GM recently announced plans for a new plant to build hybrid cars. Guess where? Near Dallas. In 2006 the Lone Star State exported $5.5 billion of cars and trucks to Mexico and $2.4 billion worth to Canada.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat who supports Mrs. Clinton, blames his state's problems on President Bush. But Ohio's economy has been struggling for years, and most of its wounds are self-inflicted. Ohio now ranks 47th out of 50 in economic competitiveness, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Ohio politicians deplore plant closings even as they impose the third highest corporate income tax in the country (10.5%) and the sixth highest personal income tax (8.87%). A common joke is that Ohio lays out the red carpet for companies -- when they leave the state. By contrast, Texas has no income tax, a huge competitive advantage.
Ohio is also very much a union state - a hold-over from the years of Big Steel. Getting rid of this entrenched entitlement would be an interesting struggle to say the least.

Remembering the Exxon Valdez

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Interesting article at EnviroWonk reminding us of how bad the oil spill was.
10 Largest Oil Spills (The Valdez Doesn't Make the List)
The Exxon Valdez, the tanker responsible for the worst oil spill in American history, has come back into the news this week, as the Supreme Court finally decides the price that Exxon will pay for ruining the fishing industry in Alaska. But it will likely surprise you to know that the Valdez spill was actually only the 34th largest oil spill in history.

These ten oil spills, all massively larger than the Exxon Valdez, were all smaller new stories, either because the ships were offshore, or dropped their toxic loads in less developed parts of the world. The Valdez spilled 10 million gallons off the coast of Alaska, the smallest spill in the top ten was four times larger.
1) - Kuwait - 1991 - 520 million gallons
Iraqi forces opened the valves of several oil tankers in order to slow the invasion of American troops. The oil slick was four inches thick and covered 4000 square miles of ocean.
Kind of puts everything into perspective.

Mugabe's Money

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Ever wonder why Zimbabwe has such a high level of inflation (100,000%)? The Times Online has part of the story:
Planeloads of cash prop up Mugabe
Money that is being used to prop up President Robert Mugabe�s brutal regime, keep his military onside and win over voters in the run-up to Zimbabwe�s elections this month is being printed by a German company.

With inflation topping 100,000% and the highest value 10m Zimbabwe dollar note worth just 20p, heavily guarded planeloads of banknotes are flying into Harare almost every day to keep up with the demand.

Documents obtained by The Sunday Times show the Munich company Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) is receiving more than �500,000 (�382,000) a week for delivering bank notes at the astonishing rate of Z$170 trillion a week.

�The regime is surviving by printing money,� said Martin Rupiya, professor of war and security studies at the University of Zimbabwe. �At this stage there is no other way.�

According to a source at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, G&D delivers 432,000 sheets of banknotes every week to Fidelity printers in Harare, where they are stamped with the denomination. Each sheet contains 40 notes and the current production is entirely in Z$10m notes.
Zimbabwe didn't have this problem before Mugabe. He needs to go away now for the sake of the nation and its people...

Rejected Star Wars ideas

Designer Jason Geyer writes about some Star Wars promotional ideas he had that never made it to the market. Here is one - the Death Star Grill:
What a moron. From the BBC:
Venezuela 'sends tanks to border'
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is sending thousands of troops and tanks to the border with Colombia, marking a sharp escalation in regional tensions.

Speaking on his weekly television show, President Chavez also said Venezuela's embassy in Colombia would close.

Mr Chavez said Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was a "criminal".

He said the killing of Raul Reyes, a top commander of the left-wing Farc rebels, just inside Ecuador on Saturday was a "cowardly murder".

Mr Chavez has been mediating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - or Farc - to secure the release of hostages the rebels hold, and six have so far been freed under this initiative.

But he lamented the killing of Reyes - whom he called a "good revolutionary" - and at least 16 other Farc rebels when he spoke on his show, "Alo, President".
I don't know about you but the last I heard, FARC was a hardline Marxist Communist terror organization that got it's money from Cocaine sales. Not exactly the kind of people you want to support...

Good news for Afghanistan's future

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If they can kick the opium profiteering funding terrorism cycle. From Yahoo News/AFP:
Afghanistan sitting on a gold mine
Afghanistan is sitting on a wealth of mineral reserves -- perhaps the richest in the region -- that offer hope for a country mired in poverty after decades of war, the mining minister says.

Significant deposits of copper, iron, gold, oil and gas, and coal -- as well as precious gems such as emeralds and rubies -- are largely untapped and still being mapped, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel told AFP.

And they promise prosperity for one of the world's poorest countries, the minister said, dismissing concerns that a Taliban-led insurgency may thwart efforts to unearth this treasure.

Already in the pipeline is the exploitation of a massive copper deposit -- one of the biggest in the world -- about 30 kilometres (20 miles) east of Kabul.

"There has not been such a big project in the history of Afghanistan," Adel said.

A 30-year lease for the Aynak copper mine was in November offered to the China Metallurgical Group Corporation and the contract is being finalised.
And it gets better:
Studies of only 10 percent of the country have discovered abundant deposits of copper, iron, zinc, lead, gold, silver, gems, salt, marble and coal, the ministry says.

The USGS estimates there are about 700 billion cubic metres of gas and 300 million tonnes of oil across several northern provinces.

A Soviet survey estimated there are more than two billion tonnes of iron reserves, the ministry says.
I bet that once the Afghani people see that there is cash for them if they develop these resources and that it is the Taliban who wants to keep these resources for themselves, that the Taliban will find themselves less and less welcome. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of 9th century sons of pigs and apes... (who happen to worship a False Prophet by the way)
Nice to see political leverage in its raw state. Hat tip to Coyote Blog for this link to a story about Soybeans and Global Warming.
Soybean growers hold up University of Minnesota funds to protest biofuels paper
Call it a soybean spat. The University of Minnesota isn't going to receive any research funding from the state's soybean growers council until the two parties have a heart-to-heart talk next week.

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council voted to temporarily suspend its financial support after a study co-authored by U researchers in the journal Science said increased use of biofuel crops like corn and soybeans could worsen global warming, not lessen it.

The council typically picks up the tab for $1 million to $2 million a year for research on such things as how to increase soybean yields and how to improve marketing, said Jim Palmer, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

The funding relationship has gone on for decades and was good until now, both the growers and the university said.

The study, published Feb. 7 by the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group, warned that converting prairie or peatland to cropland for corn and soybeans would release more carbon stored in plants and the ground as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

But the soybean-farmers groups, corn growers and some other scientists say the study made faulty assumptions about the amount of land that would be converted to biofuel crops and used obsolete data, said Rob Hanks, chairman of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.
Despite the fact that the University report is biased towards AGW and that CO2 is not a major greenhouse gas (Water vapor is much worse), this is still a blatant case of political leverage by the Soybean Council and it should not have happened. Shame on both parties...

Urban Heat Islands

Wonderful science fair project over at Climate Skeptic:
Measuring the Phoenix Urban Heat Island
This is a project my son did for Science Fair to measure the urban heat island effect in Phoenix. The project could also be called "Disproving the IPCC is so easy, a child could do it." The IPCC claims that the urban heat island effect has a negligible impact, even on surface temperature stations located within urban areas. After seeing our data, this claim will be very hard to believe.

In doing the test, we tried to follow as closely as possible the process used in the Nyuk Hien Wong and Chen Yu study of Singapore as published in Habitat International, Volume 29, Issue 3 , September 2005, Pages 547-558. We used a LogTag temperature data logger. My son used a map and a watch to mark our times, after synchronizing clocks with the data logger, so he could match times to get temperature at each location. I called out intersections as we passed them and he wrote down the times. At the same time, I actually had a GPS data logger where I gathered GPS data for location vs. time, but I did not share this with him because he wanted to track locations himself on the map. My data below uses the GPS data, which was matched with the temperature data in an Excel spreadsheet using simple Vlookup calls.
An excellent idea for a project and the results are very evident.
In the interest if server space and transfer speeds, I have converted the GIF file into a JPG and shrunk it from 500px wide to 300px. The X axis is the Miles from City Center with zero being at the left and thirty at the right. The Y axis is the temperature with 45 at the bottom and 54 at the top. The two sets of dots are from each trip, out of town and back in. How much longer do we have to suffer this foolishness - AGW is bad science and even worse politics.

Looking for a gift for a kid?

Check out the two items that Bruce Schneier ran into:

Toy X-Ray Machine for Kids
I suppose it was inevitable. As was the Playmobil Security Check Point.

Pics here:



Dang -- these would be fun cubicle toys!

Some more sad news about food and farming. From the Washington Post (use BugMeNot for registration):
Soaring Food Prices Putting U.S. Emergency Aid in Peril
Supplies and Recipients Likely to Be Reduced

The U.S. government's humanitarian relief agency will significantly scale back emergency food aid to some of the world's poorest countries this year because of soaring global food prices, and the U.S. Agency for International Development is drafting plans to reduce the number of recipient nations, the amount of food provided to them, or both, officials at the agency said.

USAID officials said that a 41 percent surge in prices for wheat, corn, rice and other cereals over the past six months has generated a $120 million budget shortfall that will force the agency to reduce emergency operations. That deficit is projected to rise to $200 million by year's end. Prices have skyrocketed as more grains go to biofuel production or are consumed by such fast-emerging markets as China and India.

Officials said they were reviewing all of the agency's emergency programs -- which target almost 40 countries and zones including Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Honduras and Sudan's Darfur region -- to decide how and where the cuts will be made.
We need to stop biofuel subsidies and production yesterday. This only benefits big agribusiness (thanks Archer Daniels Midland) with 52 cents per gallon subsidy (out of our tax dollars) and it only raises our food prices as more land gets planted in corn and the other crops become scarce. And don't get me started about palm-oil production in the rainforests (oops - make that EX-Rainforests)... Nuclear for baseload generation, use the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert our vast coal resources into gasoline and diesel. Use any of the sources (geothermal, wind, solar) for peak or intermittent loads. There is no other way that makes any economic sense...
Hat tip to Tim Blair for these links to two stories set four months apart: Story one: Here
Fire, Water, and Global Warming: It's All One Crisis
There were hurricanes before Katrina, and Southern California wildfires before Witch Creek, Santiago Canyon, and Running Springs. As those of us who have ever lived in SoCal know, the fall winds can easily turn the brown hillsides into menacing flame.

But like the hurricanes spawned by the Atlantic Ocean, the fires spawned by the Santa Ana winds are growing worse. Even though the current danger has not yet passed in SoCal, it is worth examining the links between global warming and wildfire. We've known for some time that the two were linked. Perhaps now it is time to finally get serious and do something about it.
And it goes on to say:
Republicans, insisting that new dams be part of any water solution, torpedoed Democratic plans to both restore the delta and provide funds to localities to develop sustainable water supplies and, more importantly, stronger conservation measures. The California Republican Party has now apparently decided that the concept of global warming and any effort to do anything about it are their primary targets, and they will do anything to prevent action on global warming or the water crisis. Nevermind the fact that dams are pointless if less rain and snow are falling. Republicans appear quite happy to leave Californians at further risk of catastrophic water shortfalls. In their inaction, California's future hangs in the balance.
And Story Two: Here
Above-normal snowpack has officials optimistic about state water supply
We all know it's been wet this winter. But has it been wet enough?

As state snow surveyors measured the snowpack at a meadow along Highway 50 in the Sierra Nevada today, the answer - for the first time this year - was yes.

The snowfall season should end above-average - and that means Californians, warned to brace themselves after an exceptionally dry 2007, almost certainly won't face water shortages this summer.

That's right. No dirty cars. No brown lawns. And no saving the bath water.

"Fears should be put to rest," said snow surveyor Dave Hart of the state Department of Water Resources. "There's no way you could say we're in any kind of drought."
It's amazing what a little bit of Global Cooling can do...
Sad editorial at the New York Times regarding the control that our government has over what a farmer can grow. And it is going to get worse with the new Farm Bill.
My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables)
If you�ve stood in line at a farmers� market recently, you know that the local food movement is thriving, to the point that small farmers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.

But consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmers� markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding. And the barriers that the United States Department of Agriculture has put in place will be extended when the farm bill that House and Senate negotiators are working on now goes into effect.

As a small organic vegetable producer in southern Minnesota, I know this because my efforts to expand production to meet regional demand have been severely hampered by the Agriculture Department�s commodity farm program. As I�ve looked into the politics behind those restrictions, I�ve come to understand that this is precisely the outcome that the program�s backers in California and Florida have in mind: they want to snuff out the local competition before it even gets started.

Last year, knowing that my own 100 acres wouldn�t be enough to meet demand, I rented 25 acres on two nearby corn farms. I plowed under the alfalfa hay that was established there, and planted watermelons, tomatoes and vegetables for natural-food stores and a community-supported agriculture program.

All went well until early July. That�s when the two landowners discovered that there was a problem with the local office of the Farm Service Administration, the Agriculture Department branch that runs the commodity farm program, and it was going to be expensive to fix.

The commodity farm program effectively forbids farmers who usually grow corn or the other four federally subsidized commodity crops (soybeans, rice, wheat and cotton) from trying fruit and vegetables. Because my watermelons and tomatoes had been planted on �corn base� acres, the Farm Service said, my landlords were out of compliance with the commodity program.
And the reason:
In addition, the bureaucratic entanglements that these two farmers faced at the Farm Service office were substantial. The federal farm program is making it next to impossible for farmers to rent land to me to grow fresh organic vegetables.

Why? Because national fruit and vegetable growers based in California, Florida and Texas fear competition from regional producers like myself. Through their control of Congressional delegations from those states, they have been able to virtually monopolize the country�s fresh produce markets.

That�s unfortunate, because small producers will have to expand on a significant scale across the nation if local foods are to continue to enter the mainstream as the public demands. My problems are just the tip of the iceberg.
This is typical top-down governmental management. There is an incredible market growing for local foods -- with the mess that the whole "Organic" certification has gotten to be (again, thanks Big Agriculture), people are looking for local sustainably grown instead of big-farm organic and having this sort of regulation of land use severely limits the ability of farmers to provide what people are asking for. The editorial goes on to say that a bill to allow variances for small farmers (called FarmFlex) was essentially squashed by big agribusinesses in CA and FL. Sad news...
Talk about being enthusiastic at your workplace. From Detroit, MI station WXYZ:
Cop Writes 2,400 Traffic Tickets, Scores OT




And a bit more (sorry about the ALL CAPS - this is how the station posted this story):

Bad cop - no donut!

Memo to self - when carjacking

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Always make sure the hood is down. From Dallas/Fort Worth station WFAA:
Car's raised hood complicates East Oak Cliff getaway
A robbery suspect gave a whole new meaning to driving blind Friday evening. According to Dallas police, a woman had pulled over her overheating car about 6:20 p.m. at Elisha Pease Elementary School in the 2900 block of Cummings Street, near East Ledbetter Drive and Bonnie View Road.

The car's hood was up, and the woman was going into the school to ask for help when a man approached her. He threatened to harm the woman, then drove away in her car � with the hood still up.

A police officer who was in the area saw the car and pursued it. The man hit two vehicles before crashing into a tree. He fled on foot before he was captured. No one was seriously injured in the incident.

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