April 2008 Archives

A life well lived - Edward James Corbett

Sadly, people like this are far and few between. Read the story of this extraordinary (and I mean this in the classical sense) person. Damn Interesting - Edward James Corbett:
A Large-Hearted Gentleman
A cool breeze blew over the lush Indian forest. Jim Corbett was being hunted. The tigress that stalked him was already credited with at least sixty-four human kills, and Corbett hoped that he was targeted to be next. Jim leaned against the rocky slope of a nearby hill and lit a cigarette. The Chowgrath Tigress had already sneaked up on him once in this grove, and he tried to give her the chance to do so again. As the afternoon waned, however, Corbett decided that she was too canny to try the same trick twice.

He opted to lay one last trap for his adversary before the sunlight failed. He led a buffalo into the grove, and tied it up securely as it grazed. If the tigress took the bait she would be able to kill the animal, but would be unable to drag it off. His intent was to circle behind the nearby hill, climb to the top, and give watch to the grove below. It would be a shot of over two hundred yards, but over the years he had felled many a beast from such distances. Even if his long-range shot only managed to wound the man-eating tigress, he would at least be left with a blood-trail to track, and therefore end his months-long hunt.

He set off at a quick pace, anticipating that the tigress would observe his departure and take the opportunity to prey upon the buffalo. As he rounded the hill in a dry riverbed his pace wasn't so hard as to shut out all distraction: in a shallow depression there rested a pair of Rock-jay eggs. As an amateur o�logist, or egg collector, Corbett could not pass up these unusual specimens. He used some moss to wrap them up, and carried the eggs delicately against his belly with his rifle crossed over his chest. He continued briskly along the sand, hoping to make it to the hilltop before the tigress finished her buffalo feast. As he squeezed past a large boulder which blocked most of the riverbed, something in his peripheral vision gave him pause: something orange and black, with a predator's eyes, poised behind the boulder and ready to pounce. In that instant he knew he had been outmaneuvered. With his hands full of Rock-jay eggs, and his rifle hugged against his body, there wasn't much he could do to deflect the imminent attack. He turned his step into an anti-clockwise spin, set the rifle butt against his hip, and managed to fire a single shot.

For a moment the tiger was unaffected, and stayed coiled on the verge of springing out. Then her muscles slacked and her head came down to rest on her forepaws. The bullet had entered the back of her neck, and plunged through to her heart. After ensuring that the Chowgrath Tigress was indeed dead, he returned the way he'd come, and believing he couldn't have made that improbable shot without the eggs in hand, he returned them to the nest. It was the least he could do.
And this is only the beginning of a long and amazing story. (And the author Jason Bellows uses the word Penultimate correctly...) Wikipedia has a nice biography: Jim Corbett

Color me surprised. NOT!

| No Comments
In the back of my mind was the thought that the whole grain/fertilizer shortage was a result of predatory speculation and price fixing but this article in today's Wall Street Journal makes a few things very clear:
Grain Companies' Profits Soar As Global Food Crisis Mounts
At a time when parts of the world are facing food riots, Big Agriculture is dealing with a different sort of challenge: huge profits.

On Tuesday, grain-processing giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. said its fiscal third-quarter profits jumped 42%, including a sevenfold increase in net income in its unit that stores, transports and trades grains such as wheat and corn, as well as soybeans.

Monsanto Co., maker of seeds and herbicides, Deere & Co., which builds tractors, combines and sprayers, and fertilizer maker Mosaic Co. all reported similar windfalls in their latest quarters.

The robust profits are emerging against the backdrop of a food crisis some experts say is the worst in three decades. The secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, on Tuesday called for the creation of a high-level global task force to deal with the cascading impact of high grain prices and oil prices. He said that countries must do more to avert "social unrest on an unprecedented scale" and should contribute money to make up for the $755 million shortfall in funding for the World Food Program, which feeds the world's hungry.
On one hand, research into hybridization and better crop yields takes money but still, the amount of money these people are making is really (and I really want to insert a string of expletives here) egregious. Some of the United Nations agencies actually do good solid work and the World Food Program is one of them. For them to be $755 Mill. short when these corporations that serve as middlemen are seeing huge jumps in their profits is so unethical as to be damning their souls and to the souls of their shareholders. If these corporations wanted to be ethical (as well as do some really good damage control), they would each sign over $60Mill per year for five years to the World Food Program. And have some of their top lawyers go in and make darn sure that that cash actually went to the World Food Program -- that would be a keystone of the deal as I do not trust the General Assembly, the Security Council or any of the central plenary bodies at all...
I forgot to take a picture of the truck fully loaded but here are some photos of my booty sitting in our barn. Three friends of ours helped me unload so it went really well. Here is the paper cutter sitting in its temporary location. I will be using the forklift attachment of our tractor to move it into our garage which is used for storage. The barn can get a bit damp in winter.
Here are some shots of the shelving units -- this stuff is heavy duty.


And here is a deal of the century -- we are still planning to do a commercial hard cider in the next year or so. one thing that we will need are cartridge filters in the 10 micron size. This will filter out most of the haze but still leave the flavor. Here is a 10 micron cartridge:
At $10 to $15 each, these puppies are not cheap and once you use it, it cannot be stored and re-used -- too many chances for infection. I said Hard Cider and not Cider Vinegar. Here are all of the cartons of these filters that I got for $30 for all...
Now the real fun begins, setting up the shelves and organizing the barn...

Light posting tonight as well

Still working on the new Crossroads website. Textpattern rocks!
From the NY Times (use Bug Me Not for registration):
Shortages Threaten Farmers� Key Tool: Fertilizer
XUAN CANH, Vietnam � Truong Thi Nha stands just four and a half feet tall. Her three grown children tower over her, just as many young people in this village outside Hanoi dwarf their parents.

The biggest reason the children are so robust: fertilizer.
A bit more:
Some kinds of fertilizer have nearly tripled in price in the last year, keeping farmers from buying all they need. That is one of many factors contributing to a rise in food prices that, according to the United Nations� World Food Program, threatens to push tens of millions of poor people into malnutrition.
And this bit about the scope of the shortages:
In the United States, farmers in Iowa eager to replenish nutrients in the soil have increased the age-old practice of spreading hog manure on fields. In India, the cost of subsidizing fertilizer for farmers has soared, leading to political dispute. And in Africa, plans to stave off hunger by increasing crop yields are suddenly in jeopardy.

The squeeze on the supply of fertilizer has been building for roughly five years. Rising demand for food and biofuels prompted farmers everywhere to plant more crops. As demand grew, the fertilizer mines and factories of the world proved unable to keep up.

Some dealers in the Midwest ran out of fertilizer last fall, and they continue to restrict sales this spring because of a limited supply.
It is a long (two pages) and sobering article. We are in for some years of pain before the global economy realigns itself and things get better. Sometimes market forces are not a good thing... The article ends with this quote from Dr. Norman Borlaug:
�This is a basic problem, to feed 6.6 billion people,� said Norman Borlaug, an American scientist who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his role in spreading intensive agricultural practices to poor countries. �Without chemical fertilizer, forget it. The game is over.�

Coding HTML with Textpattern

| No Comments
Been working on the website for Crossroads Grocery (our store) and was wanting to do it with a Content Management System and not blogging software. I ran into Textpattern and I have to say that after a bit of a learning curve, it is a wonderful piece of software. Support-wise, it is very good with an active user base, lots of plug-ins and mods and a User Forum If you are looking at putting up a website, check out Textpattern. It rocks. The book also rocks: Textpattern Solutions Off to the DaveCave(tm) to check email...

Charles Darwin is blogging!

| No Comments
Check out these posts at Nature:
More than a marble Darwin could stand.
Well there I was minding my own business in the Cafe of the Natural History Museum when I overheard that some American has had the nerve to make a film called Expelled traducing natural selection and championing something called �intelligent design�. I thought we had settled Mr Paley�s watchmaker nonsense in 1859.

I am used to bad reviews: I was much savaged in the press when I published The Origin of Species, but Expelled holds me responsible for a particularly vile chapter of genocide which occurred in the 1930s and 40s. I do not recall advocating genocide, indeed distinctly remember writing with anguish about the massacres of the Indians in South America during my voyage on HMS Beagle. Could it be that my critics have formed opinions about my work without actually reading it? Surely not.
Only a few posts so far but it was only started on April 25th. Looking forward to some wonderful reading.

Minimal posting tonight

| No Comments
I am working on a website so will probably not post anything more today...
Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for these two links: From Dust My Broom comes this bit of Malthusian cheerfulness: The science of gloom
A list of past Earth Day predictions from the Washington Policy Center (h/t Tim Blair):
�...civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,� biologist George Wald, Harvard University, April 19, 1970.

� By 1995, �...somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.� Sen. Gaylord Nelson, quoting Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, Look magazine, April 1970.

� Because of increased dust, cloud cover and water vapor �...the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born,� Newsweek magazine, January 26, 1970.

� The world will be �...eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age,� Kenneth Watt, speaking at Swarthmore University, April 19, 1970.

� �We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,� biologist Barry Commoner, University of Washington, writing in the journal Environment, April 1970.

� �Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from the intolerable deteriorations and possible extinction,� The New York Times editorial, April 20, 1970.

� �By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half...� Life magazine, January 1970.
And that was only about half of the list... Brings to mind the old truism that there is more money to be made fixing imaginary problems than there is fixing real ones. Item two is from The Daily Standard:
Peak Oil Panic
There's plenty of oil for everybody.

There are more misunderstandings about the oil market than perhaps any other. In America, drivers are fuming and politicians are demanding explanations because gasoline has hit about $3.50 per gallon. That's less than half the price being paid by motorists in most industrialized countries. High to us is low to them. Then there are the oil refiners. Relative to the $120 price of crude, $3.50 for gasoline is so cheap that their margins have virtually disappeared. So "high" in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Oxford, Mississippi is "low" in similarly named cities in the UK, and "high" for motorists is "low" for refiners. It depends where you live, and at which point in the supply chain you find yourself.

But assume that prices are "high", which indeed they are by historic standards. We are mistaken when we think these "high" prices are causing inflation. High oil prices can force consumers to spend more on gasoline and heating oil, at the expense of other purchases. Ask any suffering restaurateur or clothes retailer if you doubt that. But high oil prices can't trigger a rise in the general price level--inflation--unless someone pumps money into the economy so that, to use an oldie but goodie from the economists' lexicon, there is more money chasing the same amount of goods. If you want something to blame for inflation, don't look at oil prices, look at the billions the Federal Reserve Board's monetary policy gurus and their confederates at the U.S. Treasury are pouring into the economic system.

The cost to taxpayers of saving the financial services sector from ruin is not only making good any collateral the Fed has accepted that might prove worthless, but the run-up in the rate of inflation.

Another myth: we are running out of oil. According to WorldPublicOpinion.org "majorities in 15 of the 16 nations surveyed around the world think that oil is running out. . . . Only 22 percent on average believe that 'enough oil will be found so that it can remain a primary source of energy for the foreseeable future'." Those majorities who think we are running out of oil include 76 percent of the American citizens polled. Luckily, they are wrong.
Good stuff...
Cool idea -- turning over a rock and looking at the evil there. From the Fort Collins Coloradoan's 9NEWS:
Former terrorists to explain 'why we want to kill you'
Two self-proclaimed former terrorists are scheduled to speak at the University of Colorado on Tuesday in a speech called "Why We Want to Kill You."

CU's College Republicans group made the request to bring in the two former Islamic terrorists, Walid Shoebat and Kamal Saleem, at a price tag of $10,000. The university has footed the bill for the 7 p.m. lecture out of the mandatory $670 per student activity fee, of which they say about $20 is used to bring in speakers annually.
And of course, the 'politically correct' are hyperventilating:
CU student-diversity groups and the Muslim Student Association are calling the event entirely anti-Muslim and are encouraging people to research the speakers.
Isn't this just a perfect example of the left's version of "Freedom of Speech" Shoebat is an interesting character -- from his website
Walid Shoebat Foundation.
An organization that cries out for the Justice of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Holocaust never ended but the victims have decided to defend themselves.

The occupation is in the minds of Children who are taught hatred.

Israel was the solution for the world�s greatest refugee problem that went on for two thousand years.

Why is it that on June 4th 1967 I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a Palestinian?

When I finally realized the lies and myths I was taught, it is my duty as a righteous person to speak out.

The Israeli Arab Conflict is not about geography but about Jew hatred; Throughout the Islamic as well as Christendom's history Jews have been persecuted, the persecution of Israel is just the same as the old antisemitism.

The Arab refugees are being used as pawns' to create a terror breeding ground, as a form of aggression against Israel.

The Arab refugee problem was caused by Arab aggression and not Israel. Why should Israel be responsible for their fate?
Kamal Saleem's story is just as good:
Kamal Saleem was born to a large Sunni Muslim family in the heart of the Middle East. Kamal was recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood at a very early age and completed his first mission to Israel at the age of seven. After several years, in his late teems, Kamal was also recruited by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (The PLO) and other radical Muslim groups. The many years of his terrorist training, resulted in Kamal mastering every form of offensive and defensive terrorist tactics.

Kamal left his family and home in the Middle East as a young man to enter his mission field: the United States. He brought with him a tremendous passion to convert as many Christians and Jews as possible for the glory of Allah. He implemented his plan, and converted many people to Islam.

In 1985, Kamal's world turned upside down when he was seriously injured in an automobile accident. A Christian man tended to Kamal at the accident scene, making sure he got the medical treatment he needed. Kamal's orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist were also Christian men whom over a period of several months ministered the unconditional love of Jesus Christ to him as he recovered. The love and sacrificial giving of these men caused Kamal to cry out to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob acknowledging his need for the Savior. Kamal has since become a man on a new mission, as an ambassador for the one true and living God, the great I Am, Jehovah God of the Bible.

Kamal has tremendous insight into today's world situation and a wealth of knowledge concerning the true culture and agenda of Islam. He is well versed in both the Koran and the Holy Bible. He believes radical Islam is the most clear and present danger to both Christians and Jews in the world, as we know it today. Kamal carries a message from God to awaken the church through the truth, education, and relationships.
Heh -- no wonder the moonbats and islamofascists are so up in arms. Boulder is a lot like Cambridge, MA and San Francisco/Berkeley in political climate.
From the BBC:
UN troops 'armed DR Congo rebels'
The UN has covered up claims that its troops in Democratic Republic of Congo gave arms to militias and smuggled gold and ivory, the BBC has learned.

The allegations, based on confidential UN sources, involve Pakistani and Indian troops working as peacekeepers.

The UN investigated some of the claims in 2007, but said it could not substantiate claims of arms dealing.
So they investigated themselves and found nothing bad. How strange... Some more:
But an 18-month BBC investigation for Panorama has found evidence that:

- Pakistani peacekeepers in the eastern town of Mongbwalu were involved in the illegal trade in gold with the FNI militia, providing them with weapons to guard the perimeter of the mines

- Indian peacekeepers operating around the town of Goma had direct dealings with the militia responsible for the Rwandan genocide, now living in eastern DR Congo

- The Indians traded gold, bought drugs from the militias and flew a UN helicopter into the Virunga National Park, where they exchanged ammunition for ivory
Nope - nothing happening here, everything is just peachy.
Two FNI leaders known as "Kung-fu" and "Dragon", who have been jailed in the capital, Kinshasa, have stated publicly that they received help from the UN.

The BBC managed to get into the maximum security jail and both confirmed this.

Kung Fu, whose real name is General Mateso Ninga, said: "Yes, it's true, they did give us arms. They said it was for the security of the country. So they said to us that we would help them take care of the zone."

The FNI has been described by Human Rights Watch as "some of the most murderous individuals that operate in eastern Congo".
Just wanna sit down and have a beer with these nice gentlemen.
UN insiders close to the investigation told the BBC they had been prevented from pursuing their inquiries for political reasons.

Our correspondent says that in short, the Pakistanis, who are the largest troop contributors to the UN in the world, were too valuable to alienate.

Pakistan has said it has no means of influencing the UN and that there is no evidence that its troops were involved in an illegal gold trade or re-armed militia, describing the allegations as baseless.
Hmmm... Pakistan. From this information, we see that they share a border with Afghanistan and Iran, they are 97% muslim, 49% of the total population over 15 years old can read and write. Sounds like a nice place to visit. A bit of terror anyone? The United Nations is a corrupt body, it is acting for its own benefit as a political organization and is operating as though it was beyond the control of any nation. United Nations delenda est

It is hard to tell the size of something from an aerial photograph without some reference point. Looking at the before and after images of the Syrian reactor it was not clear what its capacity was.

Hat tip to Charles at LGF for the link to this startling story at Yahoo/Associated Press:

Hayden: Syrian site could have produced fuel for 2 weapons
CIA Director Michael Hayden said Monday that the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in September would have produced enough plutonium for one or two bombs within a year of becoming operational.

U.S. intelligence and administration officials publicly disclosed last week their assessment that Syria was building a covert nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance. They said it was modeled on the shuttered North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, which produced a small amount of plutonium. The Syrian site, they said, was within weeks or months of being operational.

"In the course of a year after they got full up they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons," Hayden told reporters after a speech at Georgetown University.

Crikey! The No. Ko's could only do a small fraction of that -- they took six years. Obviously, there will be estimating and measurement errors on both sides but this puppy looks to be big.

And the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency?

Neither the United States nor Israel told the International Atomic Energy Agency about the Syrian site until last week, about a year after they obtained what they considered to be decisive intelligence: dozens of photographs from a handheld camera that showed both the interior and exterior of the mysterious compound in Syria's eastern desert.

From the CIA's perspective, that intelligence was not the United States' to share with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Hayden said.

"We've made it clear we did not have complete control over the totality of the information because obviously it was the result of a team effort," he said. "One has to respect the origin of the information in terms of how it is used."

Like Duuhhhhh...

Mohamed ElBaradei is a joke -- he is a lawyer not a scientist and he never met a dictator he didn't like. Iran, North Korea. And now Syria.

Muammar al-Gaddafi played it smart and was rewarded.

ED: - I would like to have a beer (or sorbet) with Muammar. He is strange but he is a consistent and artistic strange. Kinda like Prince

For more on the IAEA, read this and this. The last link has this sobering paragraph:

Mr. ElBaradei has coasted on the IAEA's reputation as the authoritative source of information on the world's nuclear secrets. Yet this is the same agency that was taken by surprise by nuclear projects in Libya, North Korea and Iraq in the 1980s. And now in Syria, which in September was voted co-chair of the IAEA's General Conference.

For more on ElBaradei, read this and this.

Hat tip to Henry Louis Gomez writing at Babalu Blog for this link to this story in the Houston Chronicle:
Hurricane forecaster's dispute with school focuses on global warming debate
By pioneering the science of seasonal hurricane forecasting and teaching 70 graduate students who now populate the National Hurricane Center and other research outposts, William Gray turned a city far from the stormy seas into a hurricane research mecca.

But now the institution in Fort Collins, Colo., where he has worked for nearly half a century, has told Gray it may end its support of his seasonal forecasting.

As he enters his 25th year of predicting hurricane season activity, Colorado State University officials say handling media inquiries related to Gray's forecasting requires too much time and detracts from efforts to promote other professors' work.

But Gray, a highly visible and sometimes acerbic skeptic of climate change, says that's a "flimsy excuse" for the real motivation � a desire to push him aside because of his global warming criticism.

Among other comments, Gray has said global warming scientists are "brainwashing our children."
A bit more:
Not only does this internal dispute reveal a bit of acrimony at the end of Gray's long career at CSU; it highlights the politically charged atmosphere that surrounds global warming in the United States.

"Bill Gray has come under a lot of fire for his views," said Channel 11 meteorologist Neil Frank, a former director of the National Hurricane Center and a friend of Gray's. "If, indeed, this is happening, it would be really sad that Colorado State is trying to rein in Bill Gray."
Yikes -- Dr. Gray has the best track-record for hurricane prediction. He is also a world renowned Climate Scientist. Al Gore is not. If Bill says something and the Goracle says something opposite, I would put my money on Dr. Gray...
One of the more interesting structures in this part of the woods was in Concrete, WA. It started life as a large school building, was purchased by a developer who, over the course of 20 years, was converting it into his idea of a castle, complete with three turrets. It burned to the ground yesterday. From Go Skagit:
Fire destroys old schoolhouse building
Valerie Stafford watched as fire crews tried to douse the last remnants of the fire that gutted her old schoolhouse Sunday. Concrete�s fire chief called the blaze �suspicious.�

�I went to first grade there,� said Stafford, who is president of the Concrete Chamber of Commerce and public relations director for United General Hospital.

For many, the old three-story schoolhouse on Main Street represented memories of childhood. For others, it was an eyesore.

The building had stood empty for much of the past two decades except for occasional efforts by its most recent owner to recreate it as a medieval castle � a project that was all but abandoned several years ago.

One by one, as the fire grew in intensity through the afternoon, each of the three uncompleted castle �turrets� fell in flames to the ground.

Five fire departments, including Concrete, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley and two rural fire districts, responded to the blaze, which was reported about 1:45 p.m.
The Skagit River Journal has more plus some photos of the building as it was (scroll down about half way). A sad day -- this was a piece of Americana that will be missed... The history of Concrete is interesting -- an excerpt of one event from Wikipedia:
On October 30, 1938, Seattle's CBS affiliate radio stations KIRO and KVI broadcast Orson Welles' now famous War of the Worlds radio drama. While this was a broadcast heard around the country, some of the most terrified listeners were in Concrete. At the point of the drama where the Martian invaders were invading towns and the countryside with flashes of light and poison gases, a power failure suddenly plunged almost the entire town of 1,000 into darkness. Some listeners fainted while others grabbed their families to head up into the mountains. Other more enterprising locals headed for the surrounding hills to guard their moonshine stills. One man was said to have jumped up out of his chair and, in bare feet, ran the two miles from his home to the center of town. Some of the men grabbed their guns, and one particular businessman - a devout Catholic - got his wife into the family car, drove to the nearest service station and demanded gasoline. Without paying the attendant, he rushed off to Bellingham (some forty-miles away) in order to see his priest for a last-minute absolution of sins. He reportedly told the gas-station attendant that paying for the gas "[wouldn't] make any difference, everyone is going to die!".
There are also a bunch of reader-submitted photos at Go Skagit: Concrete Schoolhouse Fire

High Tech Noon

| No Comments
Wonderful reworking of High Noon with a few updates. Four minutes five seconds of YouTube wonderfulness: High Tech Noon
With my hip acting up, I needed to get a crew to help with moving the heavy shelving into the truck. I looked around and this company had a lot of positive reviews on the emove website:
The four people that showed up (on time) this morning worked quickly, properly (didn't take chances), safely and were a lot of fun to work with, good senses of humor. Again, if you are in the greater Seattle area (Main office in Arlington, branches in Lake Stevens, Puyallup and Lynnwood) and need workers, SkillTemps seriously rocks...

Back in town

| No Comments
with an incredibly full truck. I'll be posting pictures later as I unload. My feet hurt...

Minimal posting today and tomorrow

| No Comments
All of that swag I picked up at the auction isn't going to shift itself from Seattle to our farm... I am renting a truck later today, driving down, spending the night and hiring four laborers tomorrow to help me dismantle the shelving and load it into the truck. I'll get a crew up here to help me unload and assemble it in our barn. It will be nice to have some organized (relatively) storage space...
The chicks and ducks had their first big adventure this morning. We used some chicken-wire panels to form a coop and let the chickens and the ducks roam around for a bit. Their first outing!!!

Dear little things!

More good news from Iraq - Basra

A city relaxes. Hat tip to Wretchard at The Belmont Club for the link to this item at The London Times:

The men in black vanish and Basra comes to life
Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again.

All across Iraq's second city life is improving, a month after Iraqi troops began a surprise crackdown on the black-clad gangs who were allowed to flourish under the British military. The gunmen's reign had enforced a strict set of religious codes.

Yet after three years of being terrified of kidnap, rape and murder - a fate that befell scores of other women - Nadyia Ahmed, 22, is among those enjoying a sense of normality, happy for the first time to attend her science course at Basra University. "I now have the university life that I heard of at high school before the war and always dreamt about," she told The Times. "It was a nightmare because of these militiamen. I only attended class three days a week but now I look forward to going every day."

She also no longer has to wear a headscarf. Under the strict Islamic rules imposed by the militias, women had to cover their hair, could not wear jeans or bright clothes and were strictly forbidden from sitting next to male colleagues on pain of death.

"All these men in black [who imposed the laws] just vanished from the university after this operation," said Ms Ahmed. "Things have completely changed over the past week."

Wonderful -- More! Faster!

From the Kirksville, MO Kirksville Daily Express:
Kirksville man accused of switching water bottle's UPC_code with $500 TV
A Kirksville man faces a felony indictment after trying to purchase a LCD television for less than $3 by allegedly replacing its UPC code with that of a water bottle.

Reginald Newman, 44, was indicted Monday by the Adair County Grand Jury and has been charged with attempted stealing by deceit.

According to documents filed in Adair County Circuit Court, Newman allegedly tried to purchase a 26-inch Viore LCD television from Wal-Mart, claiming the UPC code valued at $3.16 was the proper code the television, which normally sells for more than $517.
What a total moron. If he was going to try something like that, a UPC from a $180 article would be a lot more believable. $3 is unreal...

A great comparison - Vista

| No Comments
Paul Rako at EDN Magazine had this comparison to Vista:
Windows Vista 2008 = New Coke 1985
A nice article in Christian Science Monitor about how XP is going to get its last service pack next week and be discontinued in July. I expect Microsoft to back off this policy. I still run Windows 2000 on one of my machines and it works pretty well. I guess I will buy another copy of XP for that machine in case I decide to upgrade. Oh, and word of the day: Schadenfreude. And here is all about New Coke.

Food shortages and Biofuels

An interesting article at the New York Sun about the current food shortages.

Food Crisis Starts Eclipsing Climate Change Worries
Gore Ducks, as a Backlash Builds Against Biofuels

The campaign against climate change could be set back by the global food crisis, as foreign populations turn against measures to use foodstuffs as substitutes for fossil fuels.

With prices for rice, wheat, and corn soaring, food-related unrest has broken out in places such as Haiti, Indonesia, and Afghanistan. Several countries have blocked the export of grain. There is even talk that governments could fall if they cannot bring food costs down.

One factor being blamed for the price hikes is the use of government subsidies to promote the use of corn for ethanol production. An estimated 30% of America�s corn crop now goes to fuel, not food.

It is hitting us locally as well. A Mexican restaurant near our house has a sign up that rice may not be available next week.

One of our food wholesalers was out of rice last Friday.

Jen was in picking up our order for the store and overheard the owner of a Chinese restaurant asking that two bags of rice be set aside for them next week.

Some Costcos and Sams Clubs are limiting the number of bags that people can buy at a time. Hey thanks Archer Daniels Midland! See here and here for more.

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link to the New York Sun article.

The once-great nation of England

| No Comments
A bunch of pencil-headed pin-dicks in Brussels are dismembering the nation of England with a few strokes of a pen. A big hat tip to Kate at small dead animals for the link to this article in the UK Telegraph:
On St George's Day, EU wipes England off map
England has been wiped off a map of Europe drawn up by Brussels bureaucrats as part of a scheme that the Tories claim threatens to undermine the country's national identity.

The new European plan splits England into three zones that are joined with areas in other countries.

The "Manche" region covers part of southern England and northern France while the Atlantic region includes western parts of England, Portugal, Spain and Wales.

The North Sea region includes eastern England, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and parts of Germany.

A copy of the map, which makes no reference to England or Britain, has even renamed the English Channel the "Channel Sea".

Each zone will have a "transnational regional assembly", although they will not have extensive powers. However, the zones are regarded as symbolically important by other countries.
I hope that someone over there shows some bloody backbone and tells those effing twits in Belgium where to get off. This is absolute lunacy...

Opening Season for Fishing

| No Comments
Today was the first day for fishing this year and our local park was quite busy. Here are some photos I took at 3:00PM -- a lot of people had already left.



Looks like fun - the weather was cooperative although winter was still very much in evidence:
Black Mountain is usually snow-free by the end of April. We are having a nice few days of normal weather and it's supposed to get crappy and cold again at the beginning of this week...

Enough posting for tonight.

Got up at 6:00am and been on my feet for the majority of today. Going out to the DaveCave(tm) to check email and then upstairs to crash.
Woo Hoo! We finally had a sunspot -- 992 (Cycle 23) popped up late last week and has completely faded as of today. Here it is from yesterday:
And here it is today - quiet again; nothing on the front, nothing on the back and nothing looking like it might form. It shows April 26 as this site uses Greenwich Mean Time and right now, it's the 26th in Jolly Olde England.
At this stage in Solar Cycle 24 we should be seeing a consistent five or more sunspots in the Sun's higher latitudes.

Cute story - Pierre the Jackass Penguin

From the wonderful Neatorama:

Bald Penguin Got Himself a Wetsuit!
Meet Pierre, a 25-year-old Jackass penguin (because they bray like donkeys) who got too cold to swim because he was going bald. So, the biologists at the California Academy of Sciences made him a penguin wetsuit!

Visit Neatorama for the whole story including a great photo.

Picked up a bunch of really good stuff today -- very happy with the results. The auction was well attended - about 150 people wandered through. It was fun too in that a bunch of these were 20 to 30 year old 'hipsters' who all knew each other. Old ProLab employees there to buy their desk or their workstation or other memorabilia. From what I gather overhearing their conversations, it was a really fun place to work. Here is a crowd shot - over on the right with his head above everyone (he is standing on a cart) is Tim Murphy, son of James G. the founder. I was at another Murphy auction where Tim's son was working -- a three-generation business.
I bought two paper cutters -- an 18" RotaTrim for $60 -- they sell for $250 at B&H. Built like a tank and impossible to kill... I also got this paper cutter for larger jobs:
A cute little Challenge 'arm-strong' unit. Back when I had my copy/print business, I had a 34 inch version that stood on the floor with a six-foot lever arm. When cutting a ream of full size paper, you had to hang your weight on that arm. These kinds of cutters are very precise and built like a tank and impossible to kill... I also got some shelving. Our farm has a 40' by 100' hay barn and the storage inside is very chaotic and haphazard -- there is no structured shelving so I bought enough to run shelving eight feet tall and sixty feet long. This is a smaller version of the stuff that Costco uses -- it's built like a tank and impossible to kill... (Do you see a certain trend developing here?)
ProLab used to do very large enlargements (60" wide roll film) and they went directly from digital to film. Here is one of their enlargers:
Being in the room with this beast gives you the same sense as being in a room with an MRI or CAT Scanner. A very large and expensive machine (about the size of an SUV), almost no markings or control surfaces (all driven by a remote computer), in a dark and climate controlled room (positive pressure with rapid air change) and the thing is sitting there ticking, grunting and hissing to itself while deep inside, some motors spin up from time to time. They had it powered up as it was being made ready to move and it seemed almost alive. A certain palpable entity. I was in the presence of an artifact of high geekdom but I had neither the money (a surprising $3K) nor the space nor the S.A.F. (Spousal Approval Factor) to take it home with me... DANG! The lab itself was large - one city block in length:
This is not the full extent of the building -- there was an entry/reception/office in back of me and a layer of rooms at the end of this one. All in all, it was a good time. Now I have to go back Monday with a truck, hire four people to help me and load the shelving and that cutter...
Taken with a grain of salt but still... From the UK Telegraph:
Saddam Hussein's ally Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri 'captured' in Iraq
Iraqi security forces claim that they have captured the Saddam Hussein's most senior regime ally.

A man resembling Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the vice-chairman of Saddam's Ba'ath party and the King of Clubs on America's "deck of cards" most-wanted list, was said to have been taken into custody by Iraqi forces.

Al-Arabiya television said that the man was caught in Hamrin between the provinces of Salaheddin and Kirkuk and was moved to Baghdad where he was said to have been handed over to US forces. DNA tests are being conducted to confirm his identity, the report added.
A bit more:
Abu Mohammed, who was described as Duri's representative in Syria, told Al-Arabiya that the report was fabricated.

Duri is free and secure and "leading the resistance and jihad in Iraq," he claimed.
The DNA test results should only take a day or two. Another one bites the dust...

Heh - Windows XP and Microsoft

| 1 Comment
I used to work for Microsoft and as an alumni, I have access to their Company Store. I saw a news item today that they were still planning to discontinue the sales of Windows XP soon so I thought I would order a couple more copies for future use. So I log into the store website and see this:
The list was a top-ten and Vista was not on it; neither was Office 2007...

No posting for a day or so...

| No Comments
I am headed down to Seattle today to attend this auction: ProLab I am not planning to bring my laptop so posting resume Saturday.

Justified - N Korea and Syria

| No Comments
In September of last year, Israeli airforce flew into Syria and reduced a remote compound to rubble. We are now finding out the details -- from the Washington Post:
N. Koreans Taped At Syrian Reactor
Video Played a Role in Israeli Raid

A video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea's nuclear arsenal, according to senior U.S. officials who said it would be shared with lawmakers today.

The officials said the video of the remote site, code-named Al Kibar by the Syrians, shows North Koreans inside. It played a pivotal role in Israel's decision to bomb the facility late at night last Sept. 6, a move that was publicly denounced by Damascus but not by Washington.

Sources familiar with the video say it also shows that the Syrian reactor core's design is the same as that of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, including a virtually identical configuration and number of holes for fuel rods. It shows "remarkable resemblances inside and out to Yongbyon," a U.S. intelligence official said. A nuclear weapons specialist called the video "very, very damning."

The Museum of Unworkable Devices

Hat tip to Neatorama for the link to this fun site: The Museum of Unworkable Devices:
This museum is a celebration of fascinating devices that don't work. It houses diverse examples of the perverse genius of inventors who refused to let their thinking be intimidated by the laws of nature, remaining optimistic in the face of repeated failures. Watch and be amazed as we bring to life eccentric and even intricate perpetual motion machines that have remained steadfastly unmoving since their inception. Marvel at the ingenuity of the human mind, as it reinvents the square wheel in all of its possible variations. Exercise your mind to puzzle out exactly why they don't work as the inventors intended.

This, like many pages at this site, is a work in progress. Expect revisions and addition of new material. Since these pages are written in bits and pieces over a long period of time, there's bound to be some repetition of ideas. This may be annoying to those who read from beginning to end, and may be just fine for those who read these pages in bits and pieces.
A wonderful ramble of perpetual machines and over-unity devices.

Any 9/11 conspiricists in the house?

Anyone out there saying that the jet fuel did not burn hot enough to melt the girders needs to watch this short video from Purgatory Ironworks where they specifically address this question and give a great demonstration.

And remember that the airplanes came into the buildings with 30 stories of the building above them. That is a lot of weight. 'Nuff said...

Blacksmithing resource

Some of you may know that I have been learning blacksmithing. This has been put on hold a bit the last year while we were buying the store but I am planning to get started again this summer.

I ran into an awesome online resource this morning. The people from Purgatory Ironworks have put together fifteen wonderful instructional videos on YouTube. Wonderful stuff.

I have written before about my feelings on the liberalization of the Episcopal Church here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The Midwest Conservative Journal has a wonderful post involving those Mac and PC guys on television. Impossible to excerpt, just go and read: THE KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI RELEVANCE TOUR Good stuff...

Another comment - Cynthia Sommer

Back in January of 2006, I posted an entry regarding the -- at that time -- suspicious death of Sgt. Todd Sommer from arsenic poisoning. His widow, Cynthia, acted very strangely after Todd's death, getting breast implants and being quite the life of the party so it seemed to me that she was guilty. lookyhere posted this comment yesterday:
Good to know that your judgement on someones personal life of which you clearly no nothing of other than news reports is so correct.

You have heard the news that she has been wrongly convicted? I am sure you will post a comment on your blog that clears up and professes how your judgmental accusations of which your were so certain of were, in fact, absolutely wrong.

I moderated the comment until such time as I could check it out and now I really need to apologize to Ms. Sommer for my words. It seems that she was innocent after all and has recently been released from jail after spending two years and four months in captivity. I have zero problem with lookyhere's language as I am guessing that this person is close to Ms. Sommer and when something this huge happens, emotions can get a bit raw. Read these news stories: From the Chicago Tribune:
Cynthia Sommer murder charges dismissed
A woman once convicted of killing her Marine husband with arsenic to pay for breast implants was cleared Thursday after new tests showed no traces of poison.

Prosecutors who were preparing for Cynthia Sommer's second trial found that previously untested samples of Marine Sgt. Todd Sommer's tissue showed no arsenic. Earlier tests of his liver, presented at the woman's first trial, found levels 1,020 times above normal.

A recently retained government expert speculated that the earlier samples were contaminated, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in San Diego Superior Court. The expert said he found the initial results "very puzzling" and "physiologically improbable."
From the Los Angeles Times
Newly freed widow of Marine may sue D.A. in San Diego
After 876 days in jail for a murder that prosecutors now say did not happen, Cynthia Sommer knew what she wanted: a fancy coffee drink at Starbucks, followed by a coconut-shrimp dinner at Bully's restaurant.

In the next few days, Sommer, 34, said at a Friday news conference, she plans to go shopping and spend time with her children. Her 16-year-old daughter was to reunite with her Friday night. She plans to travel to Michigan to see her three sons -- ages 8, 12 and 13.

Later, she said, she will decide how to pay her legal bills and whether to sue the district attorney for prosecuting her and overlooking evidence that ultimately cleared her of poisoning her Marine husband.
From the San Jose Mercury
Judge dismisses charges against Marine widow
A judge dismissed charges Thursday against a woman accused of killing her Marine husband with arsenic to pay for breast implants after new tests showed no traces of poison.

Prosecutors who were preparing for a second trial of Cynthia Sommer found that previously untested samples of Marine Sgt. Todd Sommer's tissue showed no arsenic.
And the list goes on and on... It seems that her actions after Todd's death were how she personally dealt with grief and that our Western view of this activity served to convict her instead of console her. So Cynthia - my apologies. With over 7,000 posts on this blog I do not usually follow every story arc but if someone like lookyhere gives me a heads up, I will certainly check their facts and act accordingly.

The quiet small-town life

| No Comments
David St.Lawrence nails it with this post at Ripples. He retired from being a Computer company Executive in California and moved to a small town in Virginia. He writes:
Life in the slow lane is a mirage...
This is a cautionary tale for those seeking rest and quiet after "retirement".

You are feeling burnt out by years on the road or in meetings and you want to settle down.

You find a suitably remote village with enough modern conveniences to make life comfortable, a mix of interesting people who treat strangers kindly, and enough community spirit to show that life is good and can get better and you think you have found heaven on earth...

Hah! You have no idea what is waiting for you!
Read the whole post -- he has small-town America to a tee... And I wouldn't have it any other way. (Except I gotta have time for my coffee in the morning -- not giving that up.)

The election simplified

| No Comments
Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple posted the perfect description of the Presidential Candidates:
"We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an election.

On one side, you have a bitch who is a lawyer, married to a lawyer, and a lawyer who is married to a bitch who is a lawyer.

On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a woman with a huge chest who owns a beer distributorship.

Is there a contest here?"
Jen said: "I like the way he thinks" So do I...
Yesterday, I posted this entry: Two good articles on Nuclear Power and reader Dick had this comment:
Regarding nuclear waste - how is it we never hear about glass-passivating the waste? Mixing it with molten glass renders the waste immobile, impervious to loss, too heavy to steal by any ordinary means, too dilute to go critical, and allows recovery of precious molecules at some time in the future when we may need to recover them for reprocessing. Safer and easier to store in some mountain instead of in drums as we do it now. I first heard about this technology years ago - what's the problem telling folks? Science remains largely silent while the muckrakers and fearmongers run around agitating, some of them making a damn good living at it. Disfuckingusting.
Unfortunately, the effects of the radiation on the glass made it unsuitable -- the glass turned into a form that was much less durable and would fracture if you looked at it funny. I cannot find anything on line -- there is this paper in Nature from about a year ago -- here is the abstract:
Canned nuclear waste cooks its container
Estimates of radiation damage to materials have been too low.

Storing high-level nuclear waste without any leakage over thousands of years may be harder than experts have thought, research published in Nature today shows.

Ian Farnan of Cambridge University, UK, and his co-workers have found that the radiation emitted from such waste could transform one candidate storage material into less durable glass after just 1,400 years � much more quickly than thought.
Unfortunately, you have to be a subscriber to view anything more than the abstract... I remember hearing about this problem back in the late 90's. The current system of Nuclear Casks has been developed for quite some time and they are pretty much bulletproof. Here is a YouTube Video of some European and USA casks being tested. Nuclear Flask Endurance Testing in USA Pretty dramatic stuff...

Very light posting today

| No Comments
Spent the day working with an electrician at the store getting a few things taken care of and went out for dinner. Tired and still have some other computer stuff to so. Posting will be light tonight.

A bit of a scam - Photography

| 1 Comment
From a Photography email list I found that Crossroads Trading Co. (a New and Used Clothing Store based in CA and Seattle) is offering this wonderful 15th Annual Photo Contest. From their website Contest Announcement:
All amateur and professional photographers are invited to enter Crossroads' 15th Annual Fashion Photo Contest now through June 8, 2008. Winning photos will show the most attractive presentation of currently fashionable clothing. Photographs will also be evaluated on the basis of originality, creativity, composition and overall quality.

It's easier than ever to share your fashion vision with the world! To enter, read the official rules, create your account, and upload your photos. Check the tips and guidelines page for details on how to prepare your photos. You'll need to create 2 files from your original: a Thumbnail which must be no longer than 120 pixels on its longest side, and a Fullsize which must be no longer than 800 pixels on its longest side. Make those in JPG format, in RGB mode, 72dpi.
Sounds like fun and a good way for a beginning pro to get some exposure. But... Excerpted from the Photographers Agreement: (PDF File)
I hereby transfer all ownership and copyright of the photograph(s) to CROSSROADS TRADING CO., INC. I understand that this means that Crossroads Trading Co., Inc. will have the sole right to publish such photograph(s) in any manner they chose.
And the prizes:
1st Place: $1000.00 Cash + Publication of Photograph with credits as part of a CTC ad campaign + 24� x 36" poster of your winning entry, on archival paper.

2nd Place: $300.00 Cash + Likely publication of photograph with credits as part of a CTC ad campaign + 24� x 36" poster of your winning entry, on archival paper.

3rd Place: $150.00 Cash + Possible publication of photograph with credits as part of a CTC ad campaign + 11� x 17" poster of your winning entry, on archival paper.

Honorable Mentions: $50.00 Cash + Possible publication of photograph with credits as part of a CTC ad campaign.
I bet they have maybe two or three Honorable Mentions so for a grand total of $1,500 plus the cost of a couple large prints ($300 tops - an operation that size will have in-house large format printers), they get a virtually unlimited stream of glamour photographs of models wearing cool clothes. The photographers don't have to use any particular line of clothing because this is a new and used clothing store. And for the poor schlub that thinks they will be getting exposure? Only the five or six cash prize winners will get any kind of credit for their work. It's all legal and above board but I pity the poor fool who works for free. Been there, done that...

A fatal case of localization

| No Comments
From Gizmodo:
A Cellphone's Missing Dot Kills Two People, Puts Three More in Jail
The life of 20-year-old Emine, and her 24-year-old husband Ramazan �al�oban was pretty much the normal life of any couple in a separation process. After deciding to split up, the two kept having bitter arguments over the cellphone, sending text messages to each other until one day Ramazan wrote "you change the topic every time you run out of arguments." That day, the lack of a single dot over a letter�product of a faulty localization of the cellphone's typing system�caused a chain of events that ended in a violent blood bath (Warning: offensive language ahead.)

The surreal mistake happened because Ramazan's sent a message and Emine's cellphone didn't have an specific character from the Turkish alphabet: the letter "ı" or closed i. While "i" is available in all phones in Turkey�where this happened�the closed i apparently doesn't exist in most of the terminals in that country.

The use of "i" resulted in an SMS with a completely twisted meaning: instead of writing the word "sıkısınca" it looked like he wrote "sikisince." Ramazan wanted to write "You change the topic every time you run out of arguments" (sounds familiar enough) but what Emine read was, "You change the topic every time they are fucking you" (sounds familiar too.)

Emine then showed the message to her father, who�enraged�called Ramazan, accusing him of treating his daughter as a prostitute. Ramazan went to the family's home to apologize, only to be greeted by the father, Emine, two sisters and a lot of very sharp knives.
Unreal. The ex-Husband bled out before the ambulance could get there and the Dad killed himself in jail -- he realized the mistake in text.

We have a comment!

Must be my lucky week for comment trolls. First, the all-powerful ruler of the universe and �ber ninja Mr. Lance Winslow -- here was my reply to that: Lance Winslow deigns to visit our little corner and illuminate it with the greatness that is Lance Winslow Last July, I posted this: Awww - a bit of blood on a Koran and today Lee (writing from the University of London wrote this perfect example of argumentum ad hominem:
daveH your an idiot! comments made by you just go to show that there is still a majority of low class, uneducated and umpty headed twats like you still in this world.

Grow up if you havent grown up and start using your brain. That is why it is there.

Good luck with trying to figure out how to use it...
I will come right out and say upfront that that post was INTENDED to be inflammatory. I copied two of the photos from this blog as they were too good not to be spread around a bit. Click the link and check it out for yourself. I will say too that I was making a point. Lee -- if you sit down and read the post, you will see that I said:
You know, people like Andres Serrano piss off some Christians with his work but nobody goes fatwa on his ass.
It's about being mature and tolerant -- the latter is something that liberals are all for as long as it is people being tolerant of them; this never seems to work the other way around. Lee, grow the fuck up and open your eyes -- there is evil out there disguised in very attractive ways... Oh, and Lee:
daveH your an idiot!
That is either you're or you are an idiot!
comments made by you just go to show that there is still a majority of low class, uneducated and umpty headed twats like you still in this world.
Capital C on Comments there are still I am letting umpty go as it may be a British neologism instead of the word empty. The word still should only be used once in that sentence -- the second instance is redundant. I am a twit, not a twat. If you do not comprehend the difference, that would go a long way to explain your attitude...
Grow up if you havent grown up and start using your brain. That is why it is there.
haven't or have not not havent (twisted syntax of first sentence ignored...)
Good luck with trying to figure out how to use it...
Same with you Lee. I see this is something that the United States of America shares with England -- University-level students who need remedial English lessons.
This is an unusual Winter with record cold temperatures and record precipitation levels (both high and low). I know that I keep harping on "Sun as climate driver" and I know that we are also experiencing La Ni�a which began in mid-2007. Curiously, we had a small El Ni�o (hot) running from early Fall 2006 through March-April of 2007. This is odd as they are usually spaced a year or two apart. This table shows the seawater temperatures since 1950 -- red numbers are El Ni�o, blue numbers are La Ni�a. (Each cell is a running three-month average so the leftmost one is December, January, February or DJF; the next cell is Jan. Feb. Mar. or JFM; etc...) The generalized effect of La Ni�a in the United States can be found here: La Ni�a FAQ
Answers to La Ni�a frequently asked questions

What are the U.S. impacts of La Ni�a?
La Ni�a often features drier than normal conditions in the Southwest in late summer through the subsequent winter. Drier than normal conditions also typically occur in the Central Plains in the fall and in the Southeast in the winter. In contrast, the Pacific Northwest is more likely to be wetter than normal in the late fall and early winter with the presence of a well-established La Ni�a. Additionally, on average La Ni�a winters are warmer than normal in the Southeast and colder than normal in the Northwest.
Emphases mine -- OK. Check and Check. But let's look at the first statement: Pacific Northwest is more likely to be wetter than normal in the late fall and early winter It is now full-on spring and it is still much wetter and colder than normal. As for the second statement, let's look at some previous La Ni�a's. Refer back to this table again and look at the time from mid 1998 through early 2001. That was a monster La Ni�a. The Pacific Northwest had huge precipitation and cold winters but we also had normal springs and hot summers. The La Ni�a event we are going through is somewhat weaker and is expected to peter out in another three months according to the latest prediction of April 10th, 2008:
The recent dynamical and statistical SST forecasts for the Ni�o 3.4 region indicate La Ni�a will become weak and persist through May-June-July 2008 (Fig. 5). Thereafter, there is considerable spread in the forecasts, with nearly one-half indicating La Ni�a could continue well into the second half of the year. Based on current atmospheric and oceanic conditions and recent trends, La Ni�a is expected to continue for the next 3 months.
Now what is the difference between the two events, the first being the strong and long-lasting La Ni�a of 1998--2001 with mild effects and the current La Ni�a of mid-007--mid-2008 with strong effects? The Sun. The solar output during the first event was high and the output these days is low. A table of Sunspot numbers averaged by month can be found at the National Geophysical Data Center (main page, the table) Look at the numbers for the first event - 1998 started off slow with monthly numbers in the 30's and 40's; 1999 had no months under 50 and two over 140; 2000 only had one month under 100; 2001 had two months under 100. What is significant about this La Ni�a event is that it happened at the peak of Solar Cycle 23 when the sun's activity was at its highest. Now look at 2007 -- July had ten sunspots. The rest of 2007 had less than ten per month with October having 0.9 and November with one. December's data is not present. 2008 is quiet as well -- January with 2.3 and February with 1.6. What is significant about this La Ni�a event is that it is happening at a time between Solar Cycle's 23 and 24 and that the sun is unusually quiet. We are seeing much lower temperatures over the entire planet. The primary influence on our climate is the sun -- its variations drive our climate much more than CO2 or any other greenhouse gas. Until the sun's output kicks back up again, we need to keep driving those hummers and burning that fossil fuel. My concern is that the sun has had several periods of long-term quietness in past times (the Maunder, Sporer and Dalton Minima comes to mind, also the Modern Maximum) and if we are entering a phase like this, we need to seriously re-think our priorities regarding our money being spent on AGW and the squandering of our food (and I am thinking Globally!) for expensive and Government subsidized fuel...

This winter's snowpack

| No Comments
Two articles about the amount of snow out there. From Northwest Cable News:
Huge snow pack could impact summer recreation
This winter's snowfall is going down as one of the deepest on record.

Officially, the state has almost 50 percent more snow than in a normal season, but many places have two, three, and even ten times the normal amount of snow.

Scott Pattee works for a federal agency you may never have heard of: the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

But you have heard of one thing his agency does � it keeps tabs on the depth of the snow and, more importantly, how much water that snow will leave behind when it melts.

"It's going to be year number 2 or year number 3 pretty much overall in the record books," he said.

The snow at Stevens Pass is above normal, but not by much. At a site at 4,000 feet, the snow depth is nearly 10.5 feet deep. But south of Stevens Pass and below, it's a lot deeper than normal.

"We're seeing 10 feet of snow at sites that either would have no snow or have only a foot or two of snow this time of year," he said.
And from the Medford, OR Mail Tribune:
Good news for summer
Mid-elevation snow levels in Southern Oregon are well above normal, with the Siskiyou Summit breaking a 56-year-old record, promising a good water year

After some 20 winters of taking precise snow measurements, Steve Johnson is an old hand at using a snow measurement tube.

But the snow ranger for the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest couldn't believe the reading he took Monday morning.

"I took a couple of extra measurements to see if I read it right," he said after plumbing the snow depths at the Siskiyou Summit site, near where Interstate 5 crests the Siskiyous.

"Then, when I came back down from higher on the mountain, I took two more measurements," he said. "They all came out the same."

The snow-water content at the summit was an astounding 559 percent of normal at 17.9 inches, which broke a 56-year-old record of 17.4 inches for the end of March set in 1952.

Records have been kept of the snow survey site at 4,600-feet elevation since 1935. The average water content is 3.2 inches.
Good news for farmers and river rafters (when it finally starts melting)... Bad news for farmers as many crops are flowering and even if the flower isn't damaged by the cold, bees don't fly in cold weather so those flowers will not be pollinated. Watch for the price of fruit, nuts and berries to spike this summer...

Hugh and Richard's Trebuchet

| No Comments
Wonderful stuff -- a Trebuchet large enough to launch a car. One minute 23 seconds of YouTube goodness...
From the Bellingham Herald:
Weekend snowfall sets new record
Sunday marked a record for the latest spring snowfall in Bellingham, according to the National Weather Service.

Snow fell at Bellingham International Airport from midnight to 5 a.m. Sunday, said NWS meteorologist Dennis D�Amico. Airport Manager Daniel Zenk said ground temperatures were too high for the snow to stick.

The previous late snowfall record was April 15, set in 1976, according to NWS, which has records dating back to 1949.
It's snowing lightly here...
Wow! The Wall Street Journal publishing an Opinion piece doubting Anthropogenic Global Warming. How cool is that?
Our Climate Numbers Are a Big Old Mess
President George W. Bush has just announced his goal to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025. To get there, he proposes new fuel-economy standards for autos, and lower emissions from power plants built in the next 10 to 15 years.

Pending legislation in the Senate from Joe Lieberman and John Warner would cut emissions even further � by 66% by 2050. No one has a clue how to do this. Because there is no substitute technology to achieve these massive reductions, we'll just have to get by with less energy.

Compared to a year ago, gasoline consumption has dropped only 0.5% at current prices. So imagine how expensive it would be to reduce overall emissions by 66%.

The earth's paltry warming trend, 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the mid-1970s, isn't enough to scare people into poverty. And even that 0.31 degree figure is suspect.

For years, records from surface thermometers showed a global warming trend beginning in the late 1970s. But temperatures sensed by satellites and weather balloons displayed no concurrent warming.

These records have been revised a number of times, and I examined the two major revisions of these three records. They are the surface record from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the satellite-sensed temperatures originally published by University of Alabama's John Christy, and the weather-balloon records originally published by James Angell of the U.S. Commerce Department.

The two revisions of the IPCC surface record each successively lowered temperatures in the 1950s and the 1960s. The result? Obviously more warming � from largely the same data.

The balloon temperatures got a similar treatment. While these originally showed no warming since the late 1970s, inclusion of all the data beginning in 1958 resulted in a slight warming trend. In 2003, some tropical balloon data, largely from poor countries, were removed because their records seemed to vary too much from year to year. This change also resulted in an increased warming trend. Another check for quality control in 2005 created further warming, doubling the initial overall rate.

Then it was discovered that our orbiting satellites have a few faults. The sensors don't last very long and are continually being supplanted by replacement orbiters. The instruments are calibrated against each other, so if one is off, so is the whole record. Frank Wentz, a consulting atmospheric scientist from California, discovered that the satellites also drift a bit in their orbits, which induces additional bias in their readings. The net result? A warming trend appears where before there was none.

There have been six major revisions in the warming figures in recent years, all in the same direction. So it's like flipping a coin six times and getting tails each time. The chance of that occurring is 0.016, or less than one in 50. That doesn't mean that these revisions are all hooey, but the probability that they would all go in one direction on the merits is pretty darned small.
IPCC is cherry-picking the data they want to use. The author, Dr. Patrick Michaels, is professor of environmental sciences at University of Virginia. The Wall Street Journal is one of the most level-headed of the MSM's -- good on them for publishing this.
From the National Geographic -- originally published in 1955 and reprinted in the May issue:
My Life in Forbidden Lhasa
The rocky trail led into the broad valley of the Kyi River. Exhausted, our shoes in tatters and our feet bleeding and blistered, we rounded a little hill. Before us lay the Potala, winter palace of Tibet's Dalai Lama, its golden roofs ablaze in the January sun.

Lhasa was only eight miles away!

I felt a sudden compulsion to sink to my knees and offer a prayer of thanksgiving, even as did the Buddhist pilgrims who were our companions. It seemed impossible that we had reached safety, that our agony of cold and hunger and danger lay behind us. We had walked more than 1,500 miles across the most forbidding terrain in the world and had climbed 62 mountain passes, some as high as 20,000 feet.

It is just as well, I have since felt, that no man can foretell the future. What would Peter Aufschnaiter and I have thought, when we left our native Austria in 1939 as members of the German Nanga Parbat Expedition, had we known we faced long imprisonment and a desperate escape into Tibet, where we were to roam fabled Lhasa with a color camera?

War had trapped our expedition in Karachi. Enemy aliens, we were interned in a British prisoner-of-war camp in India. We mountaineers decided to attempt an escape over the towering Himalayas.
It's 17 pages long and it is impossible to excerpt -- the story flows from one amazing event to another. The two soldiers get accepted into Tibetan society, become friends with the Dali Lama, witness the Chinese invasion. These are the two people that inspired the 1997 movie Seven Years in Tibet.

Yeah Riiggghhhhtttt...

| No Comments
Like this is ever going to see the light of day. From the BBC:
Muslim call to adopt Mecca time
Muslim scientists and clerics have called for the adoption of Mecca time to replace GMT, arguing that the Saudi city is the true centre of the Earth.

Mecca is the direction all Muslims face when they perform their daily prayers.

The call was issued at a conference held in the Gulf state of Qatar under the title: Mecca, the Centre of the Earth, Theory and Practice.

One geologist argued that unlike other longitudes, Mecca's was in perfect alignment to magnetic north.

He said the English had imposed GMT on the rest of the world by force when Britain was a big colonial power, and it was about time that changed.

Mecca watch

A prominent cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth; proof, he said, of the greatness of the Muslim "qibla" - the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray.
Modern science my ass -- these people are delusional...

Happy Birthday

| No Comments
From The Sun:
Queen's quiet 82nd birthday
The Queen is marking her 82nd birthday today with a private celebration at Windsor Castle.

It is believed she will spend the evening enjoying a quiet dinner at the royal residence in Berkshire.

This year�s birthday celebration contrasts with events two years ago when the monarch�s 80th anniversary saw national events staged to mark the milestone.
A class act. It must be heartrending to see what England is turning into...

We have a sunspot!!!

| No Comments
The sun has been waaay to quiet this last couple of months. I know that Solar Cycle 23 is winding down and we have had two spots from Cycle 24 but it generally takes a few months to switch from one to the next. This has been six months and Cycle 24 is a slow-starter. We do have one spot today (with 11 other spots that require a scope to view):

Two good articles on Nuclear Power

| 1 Comment
Gwyneth Cravens started out in life as an environmentalist and was anti-nuclear. She opened her eyes to the features and benefits of both Coal and Nuclear and is now very pro-nuclear power. The first article is at The Huffington Post:
The Truth About Nuclear Energy
Last week at an Arizona nuclear plant, guards, who are required to search every vehicle that enters the grounds, detained an employee at a checkpoint 1.5 miles from the plant when a five-inch long improvised pipe bomb was found in his truck. The news media kept referring to the pipe bomb as a scary threat and speculating on various deadly but impossible scenarios. But did this incident reveal how vulnerable our nuclear plants are? And if a pipe bomb were detonated at the plant, would a dangerous release of radioactive pollution occur? And what source of electricity generation poses the greatest risk to public health?

As an opponent of nuclear plants who believed them to pose a great risk, I went on a nuclear tour of America with a scientist, Dr. D. Richard ("Rip") Anderson. Among other things, he's an expert in risk assessment, environmental health, and nuclear safety. Having led several big programs at Sandia National Laboratories, he has a high-level security clearance. Even with his credentials we couldn't just drop in at a nuclear power plant. To arrange visits took months. We had to provide all our data to a liaison and to wait for approval. We were given a date and time to appear at the gate. We had to have a guide who worked for the company with us at all times. On the road to the plant, our escort pointed out security cameras. We were already being watched. We had to pass various checkpoints guarded by burly men with AK-47s. They wore bullet-proof vests hung with electronic communications equipment. Even though we rode in a company car, the squad checked its underside and trunk, and had us get out and walk about half a block away from it so that some other, unexplained search could occur. Meanwhile, inside a guard booth our IDs were being checked by an official who made phone calls. After what seemed a rather long time, we were permitted to continue. We passed a plant fire department and a clinic. The administration building that stood between us and the heart of the plant was protected by big concrete jersey barriers. Later we were to see hydraulic pop-up barriers that can stop a speeding tractor-trailer truck cold. Once inside that building we had to be approved by another armed squad, pass through metal detectors, and have our belongings X-rayed while being scrutinized by even bigger, burlier, and more heavily beweaponed guards on the other side.
She goes on to talk about security and the benefits of nuclear power and closes with this observation:
Nuclear power, while providing one-fifth of our electricity and three-quarters of our emissions-free electricity, has never caused a single death to a member of the American public.
Unlike the 24,000 deaths/year directly attributable to Coal generation. The second is an interview in Wired magazine:
Former 'No Nukes' Protester: Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Power
The only way to rescue our plug-hungry planet from catastrophic global warming is to embrace nuclear power, and fast.

That's the argument of Gwyneth Cravens, a novelist, journalist and former nuke protester. Her new book, Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, is a passionate plea to understand, instead of fear, atomic power. In her book, Cravens is guided Dante-like through the entire life cycle of nuclear power -- from mining to production to waste disposal -- by one of the world's foremost experts on risk assessment and nuclear waste.

Her conclusion? Every day spent burning coal for power translates into damaged lungs and ecosystem destruction. If the world wants to keep plugging in big-screen TVs and iPods, it needs a steady source of power. Wind and solar can't produce the "base-load" (or everyday) steady supply needed, and the only realistic -- and safe -- alternative is nuclear.
And some more:
Wired News: You don't argue that nuclear power is entirely safe, but that it's vastly better than coal and fossil fuels. Do we have to choose between them?

Gwyneth Cravens: I used to think we surely could do better. We could have more wind farms and solar. But I then learned about base-load energy, and that there are three forms of it: fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear. In the United States, we're maxed out on hydro. That leaves fossil fuels and nuclear power, and most of the fossil fuel burned is coal.

In the U.S., 24,000 people a year die from coal pollution. Hundreds of thousands more people suffer from lung and heart disease directly attributable to coal pollution.

WN: That's opposed to a minuscule number of people who have been directly harmed by nuclear power?

Cravens: It's zero in the United States. Of course there is the occasional industrial accident amongst the workers. But over the lifetime cycle of nuclear power, if you go cradle-to-grave with uranium, the total carbon emissions are about those of wind power.
Nuclear waste:
WN: You have an interesting statistic comparing the waste levels produced by individuals over a lifetime.

Cravens: A family in four in France, where they reprocess nuclear fuel, would produce only enough waste to fit in a coffee cup over a whole lifetime. A lifetime of getting all your electricity from coal-fired plants would make a single person's share of solid waste (in the United States) 68 tons, which would require six 12-ton railroad cars to haul away. Your share of CO2 would be 77 tons.
Good stuff. Nuclear is the best source of cheap baseline electricity. Nothing else comes close...

Good news from Iraq

| No Comments
Hat tip to Instapundit for the link to this story at AFP:
Iraq: After the bombs, the tomatoes
ARAB JUBUR, Iraq (AFP) � Three months after US forces dropped tonnes of bombs on Arab Jubur and put Al-Qaeda to flight, farmers are everywhere out in their fields tending their tomatoes.

Homes in the Sunni Arab rural patch about 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Baghdad, meanwhile, are being rebuilt, schools reopened, roads repaired and irrigation pumps renewed, even as shopkeepers happily dust off their shelves.

"It's the first time in three years I am able to work in my lands," said Ammar Wadi, a 30-year-old vegetable farmer who also runs a small dairy herd.
And a bit more:
"When Al-Qaeda was here it was impossible to farm," said the jolly-faced farmer from under an orange cap while taking time out from his labours to visit his cousin's newly-reopened grocery store on a dusty rural road.

"They cut the power so we couldn't pump water," said Wadi. "We couldn't buy fuel. They would shoot at anyone they saw in the fields. They kidnapped and murdered many people. They destroyed life here."

The last crops he planted -- in 2005 -- withered and died because he couldn't irrigate them after Al-Qaeda arrived in force.
We messed up when we first went in there but General Petraeus has turned the situation around completely and things are getting a lot better in Iraq than they were under Saddam's reign.

The Consequences of Denial

| No Comments
An excellent analysis of the liberal's mindset from Dr. Sanity:
The Consequences of Denial
The consequences of psychological denial can be seen every day in today's world; and particularly in the Democratically controlled United States Congress. All you have to do is watch these intellectual and moral giants in action (e.g., as in the recent hearings on Iraq) for even a brief moment and you likely will come away with the sense that something is terribly wrong with them. These posturing peacocks strut around acting like they are little gods and goddesses, oblivious to the fact that others perceive them as fools and clowns.

But that is one of the incredibly wonderful aspects of psychological denial.

In the vacuous recesses of their own minds, those who deny reality manage to convince themselves that they are "reality-based". One might justifiably ask them why they have an almost obsessive need to so aggressively tout their connection to reality, like some sort of celebrity name-dropper expecting to increase his stature in the eyes of the world: "Oh, by the way, did you know that I'm reality-based?"
And the money quote:
As the real world presses in on them, their voices have become more shrill and hysterical; their rage is escalating out of control. No longer do most of them even bother to argue their points logically; they simply loudly denounce any idea or person who threatens their ideology; or deliberately and with the ruthless finesse of all tyrants and thugs, simply attempt to silence all dissenting opinions. (See the style of one of their heroes for an example of this)

9/11 did not wake them up; rather it forced them to openly move toward what they have supported surreptitiously all along--the elimination of free speech in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism; a dictatorship where the pseudo-intellectual, politically correct priesthood rule; and complete control over the lives of others (for their own good, of course!).

Since their objectives happen to parallel those of the Islamic terrorists, they care not that their behavior enables and encourages the terrorist's agenda. They blithely denounce America and the principles of freedom and democracy out of one side of their mouth, while remaining convinced that their actions are patriotic and are representative of "true" American values.
Could not have said it better myself...

In honor of yesterday's Earth Day

| No Comments
Check out George Carlin: The Planet is Fine Eight minutes of truth...

France and England deal with Piracy

| No Comments
Found this on The Belmont Club: (Use BugMeNot for the NY Times registration)
Yo Ho Ho
I wish this story was from the Onion, but it's from the New York Times.
On April 11, French commandos went in with guns blazing and captured a gang of pirates who days earlier had hijacked a luxury cruise ship, the Ponant, and held the crew for ransom. This was the French solution to a crime wave that has threatened international shipping off Somalia; those of us who have been on the business end of a pirate�s gun can only applaud their action.

The British government on the other hand, to the incredulity of many in the maritime industry, has taken a curiously pathetic approach to piracy. While the French were flying six of the captured pirates to Paris to face trial, the British Foreign Office issued a directive to the once vaunted Royal Navy not to detain any pirates, because doing so could violate their human rights. British warships patrolling the pirate-infested waters off Somalia were advised that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain and that those who were returned to Somalia faced beheading for murder or a hand chopped off for theft under Islamic law.
When we use the expression 'the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath;, or when we say "the Constitution is not a death pact" it is convey the idea that laws and customs are meant for substantive ends, not merely procedural ones. Cures which kill the patient and laws which empower criminals are alike in that sight of the ultimate object of the exercise has been lost.
A bit more from the Times:
The British fear of breaching the human rights of pirates has not gone down well in the maritime community. Andrew Linington, the spokesman for Nautilus, a British-Dutch seafarers trade union, has called the Foreign Office�s policy �a get out of jail card� for pirates.

�We despair,� Mr. Linington told me. �We are meant to be a major maritime country. The U.K. is heavily dependent on maritime trade � 95 percent of trade comes and goes by sea. Yet the Foreign Office has its head in the sand. It is just wishing the problem would go away.�
That noise you hear is the sound of Horatio Nelson, Winston Churchill, and Francis Drake spinning in their graves... UPDATE: Marine Buzz has a lot of info on the French rescue.

Holy Shit - a narrow stroke of luck

18 year old Ryan Schallenberger was a model student who secretly idolized the Columbine attackers and who for a year, planned a similar event at his high school. What tipped people off? From the Associated Press:

18-year-old SC student accused of plotting to bomb school
A high school senior collected enough supplies to carry out a bomb attack on his school and detailed the plot in a hate-filled diary that included maps of the building and admiring notations about the Columbine killers, authorities said Sunday.

Ryan Schallenberger, 18, was arrested Saturday after his parents called police when 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate was delivered to their home in Chesterfield and they discovered the journal, said the town's police chief, Randall Lear.

The teen planned to make several bombs and had all the supplies needed to kill dozens at Chesterfield High School, depending on where the devices were placed and whether they included shrapnel, Lear said. Ammonium nitrate was used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people.

"The only thing left was delivering the bombs," the police chief said.

Schallenberger kept a journal for more than a year that detailed his plans for a suicide attack and included maps of the school, police said. The writings did not include a specific time for the attack or the intended targets.

He also left an audio tape to be played after he died explaining why he wanted to bomb his school. Lear wouldn't detail what was on the tape except to say Schallenberger was an angry young man.

A bit more:

Schallenberger was one of the top students at the high school of about 580 students and had not caused any serious problems before his arrest, principal Scott Radkin said.

Good Lord -- what a shock this must have been to the parents to find the journals...

A case of road rage in Arizona

| No Comments
Talk about carma - from the Arizona Daily Star:
Tempe man with road rage accidentally shoots self
A man accidentally shot himself after he waved a gun in anger at a fellow driver in Tempe, police said. The man tried to evade police by driving into a nearby neighborhood after the Friday night road-rage incident, but he crashed his car into a canal embankment, according to a police report.

The man then got out of the car and ran away, but police soon caught up to him. He was taken to a hospital and was in serious condition.
Almost a Darwin Award. What an idiot...
It is trying to be spring (we had a dusting of snow again this morning) and one harbinger of spring is baby Chicks and Ducks. Jen brought home some the other day so the downstairs bath is now the critter house for a month or two...
Buff Orpingtons for the Chickens and the Ducks are anybody's guess...

Too much of a good thing - Photoshop

| No Comments
I check out the Photoshop Disasters website every few days. This entry for Gwyneth Paltrow is amazing. I'm amazed that this kind of work would get published...
A bit before 9:ooPM yesterday, I posted an entry regarding a Mr. Lance Winslow. I had run into a reference to him over at Ace of Spades and was so totally bemused by this moke's over the top self-inflation that I thought it was worth sharing. Shortly after Midnight, this comment was posted to that article:
You know what is completely amazing? It's that you have clearly misrepresented what I am all about. In fact, taking 4-sentences out of a 300 word article, that was most likely written sometime in 2007, and is one of 13,000 online articles as an example is really stretching it. Indeed, you have an axe to grind, not sure what it is Dave H. or even who on Earth you are to judge me, but have fun, and how many hits do you think you get on your blog anyway? Nice Cheap Shot, proud of yourself?
OK - sentence by sentence:
You know what is completely amazing?
I don't know Lance. Your self-absorption? Inflated sense of worth? Misleading promotions?
It's that you have clearly misrepresented what I am all about.
I did not change anything you wrote. This is my blog and the opinions are all mine. For me to mis-represent, I would have to be quoting you out of context.
In fact, taking 4-sentences out of a 300 word article, that was most likely written sometime in 2007, and is one of 13,000 online articles as an example is really stretching it.
I quoted the article in its entirety. It was written on April 1, 2008 at 8:30 pm and you can view it here: How to Legally Sell a Used Car By Yourself Here is a screen-capture in the event that it gets changed or edited. Click the thumbnail to see the full-sized version.
Indeed, you have an axe to grind, not sure what it is Dave H. or even who on Earth you are to judge me, but have fun, and how many hits do you think you get on your blog anyway?
Ahhh -- dragging out the argumentum ad hominem are you? I do not have an axe to grind. The reason I made this post is that reading through your website, I was struck by how over the top you are in your sense of self-worth. Humility is a virtue and those people who continually trumpet their virtues find themselves not being taken seriously. I do not take you seriously. I put you right up there with Aleksey Vayner or any of the other Internet Poseurs. As for the "how many hits do you think you get on your blog anyway" comment. I don't give a shit. I ran a computer bulletin board for ten years and now I have been blogging since 2003. I did have a hit tracker and was doing well but removed it as I simply do not care how many hits I get. I am doing this for fun -- because I like it.
Nice Cheap Shot, proud of yourself?
Pride never entered into the equation. As I said earlier, humility is the way to go. As for Cheap Shot, all I did was quote your writings. Enjoy your life Lance...

Milliways - the game

| No Comments
Amazing story. If you ever played any of the early text games like Zork, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, etc... you will know the name Infocom. I'll let Andy Baio take it from here:
Milliways: Infocom's Unreleased Sequel to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
From an anonymous source close to the company, I've found myself in possession of the "Infocom Drive" � a complete backup of Infocom's shared network drive from 1989. This is one of the most amazing archives I've ever seen, a treasure chest documenting the rise and fall of the legendary interactive fiction game company. Among the assets included: design documents, email archives, employee phone numbers, sales figures, internal meeting notes, corporate newsletters, and the source code and game files for every released and unreleased game Infocom made.

For obvious reasons, I can't share the whole Infocom Drive. But I have to share some of the best parts. It's just too good.
What follows is an amazing story. The 300+ comments are great too as many of the original people involved have found this post and are putting up their own reminiscences as well.

Balmer on Vista

| No Comments
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Ballmer: Vista a 'work in progress'
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer called Windows Vista "a work in progress" on Thursday, but he stopped short of committing to extend the life of its predecessor, Windows XP.

"I think we did a lot of things right, and I think we have a lot of things we need to learn from," Ballmer told a crowd of independent technology experts attending the company's Most Valuable Professionals Summit in Seattle.

Ballmer's comments come at a pivotal time in Windows Vista's life, as the company tries to get more businesses and consumers to upgrade. The PC operating system was released in stores in January 2007, and the company last month issued Vista's first big "service pack" update -- a large bundle of fixes and updates meant to address many of the problems experienced in its first year on the market.

In the modern era of regular online updates, most pieces of software are effectively works in progress, even after their release. But Ballmer's use of the phrase is surprising, because to most people it would tend to connote "something unfinished," said Michael Gartenberg, a Jupiter Research analyst.
Vista is unfinished. I have it on one system and XP on all of my others. Maybe in a few years it might be worth checking out but not now...

Hey Sadr - yo momma wears army boots

| No Comments
Heh. Condi Rice gets it perfect! From FOX News:
Secretary of State Rice Mocks Muslim Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a Coward
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a coward on Sunday, hours after the radical leader threatened to declare war unless U.S. and Iraqi forces end a military crackdown on his followers.

Rice, in the Iraqi capital to tout security gains and what she calls an emerging political consensus, said al-Sadr is content to issue threats and edicts from the safety of Iran, where he is studying. Al-Sadr heads an unruly militia that was the main target of an Iraqi government assault in the oil-rich city of Basra last month, and his future role as a spoiler is an open question.

"I know he's sitting in Iran," Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr's latest threat to lift a self-imposed cease-fire with government and U.S. forces. "I guess it's all-out war for anybody but him," Rice said. "I guess that's the message; his followers can go too their deaths and he's in Iran."
Μολὼν λαβέ motherfucker -- bring it on...

Lucky Ghost

| No Comments
Federal Way is between Tacoma and Seattle. It is home to some interesting characters including these two. From the Federal Way Mirror:
Two women report ghost has been having sex with them
Apr 19 2008

The following is a sample from the Federal Way police public information log:

� At 4:02 p.m. April 10, two women went into the Federal Way police station claiming that over the past two years, a paranormal person has been placing sensors on their bodies and visiting them in their house at 28600 block of 25th Place South. They said that the ghost has been having sexual intercourse with them. One woman said that these incidents started in Kent and continued when she moved here. The other woman said that this just started now.
Methinks two people need to have their meds adjusted...

Where not to hide your pot stash

| No Comments
Memo to self... The air intake of your car engine is not a good place to hide a baggie. From Bismarck, ND station KXMB:
Marijuana bag causes car to overheat
Burleigh County authorities made a drug arrest after stopping a car on Interstate 94 because it had steam rolling out from under the hood.

Sheriff's Lieutenant Nick Sevart says a deputy discovered a bag of marijuana shoved against the vehicle's air intake, which was causing the car to overheat.

Thirty-seven-year old Johnny Lerma, of Mandan, was charged Friday with felony possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and misdemeanor driving under suspension.
But dude -- it seemed like such a cool idea. Bummer...

Nancy Pelosi takes Communion

| 1 Comment
Effin' hypocrite! From Q and O:
Pelosi takes communion at Papal mass
Wow - what a surprise:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she felt very comfortable taking Communion during the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, who has said supporters of abortion rights should not receive Communion.

�Communion is the body of the people of the church coming together,� Pelosi said at her weekly news conference after returning from the Mass. �I feel very much a part of that.�
Of course with all the pretending any Democrat has to do, it's certainly no surprise that Pelosi felt comfortable with defying the church because she felt entitled too.

And if there is any question as to the Pope's position:
Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, later said the pope was not setting a new policy and did not intend to formally excommunicate anyone. But Lombardi added that politicians who vote in favor of abortion should refrain from receiving Holy Communion.
So, as most expected, Ms. Self-absorbed defied the Pope and the church, had her way and feels very good about it.

How does she think that she could slip under the radar on this. Catholicism is not a Democracy and you cannot violate the laws if they don't suit your widdle feewings. The way around this is to switch spiritual practices -- I bet the United Churches in Christ would welcome Ms. Pelosi with open arms. I am wondering #1) if she is an actual practicing Catholic and #2) if so, will her own minister have a few words with her over this.
It's a good thing that Zimbabwe is landlocked and that some longshoremen in Durban, South Africa have a pair. From the UK Daily Mail:
Mugabe orders partial recount as boat containing regime's 77 tonnes of Chinese arms is marooned off South African coast
A huge cargo of Chinese guns and ammunition sits marooned aboard a ship off South Africa.

It would have been used to arm the tyrant Robert Mugabe's thugs in Zimbabwe.

But dockers in South African port of Durban won't unload the 77 tons of mortars, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

The cargo revelation comes as Zimbabwe began a partial recount of votes from the March 29 elections, despite opposition efforts to block it and widespread fears political stalemate could erupt into violence.
Good on them for not unloading this ship. Bad on China for sending the arms. The sooner Mugabe is out of there (preferably at room temperature), the better off for everyone.
From the Moodie Report:
'Phantom cask' of malt whisky worth US$240,000 disappears onboard Delta Airlines
US. Beverly Hills-based spirits company Saybrex International has lost 186 bottles of a rare cask of Highland Park that it claimed had been delivered to Delta Airlines en route to the US.

The 31 cartons, said to be worth approximately US$240,000, disappeared in transit from Scotland to Los Angeles, where the company was expecting delivery.

The 32yo whisky, ranked one of the top single malt whiskies in the world, was picked up at the distillery in Scotland, delivered to Glasgow Airport but never arrived at its destination in Los Angeles.

�HM Revenue & Customs are aware of the situation and are satisfied that the goods have left the UK,� said Saybrex. The whereabouts of the shipment after it left Glasgow Airport is unknown.

�We are shocked and outraged that 31 cases of alcohol weighing some 800 pounds can just disappear while in the care of Delta and various governmental agencies,� said Saybrex International Vice President Operations Ari Bussel.

Different governmental agencies are currently investigating the incident.
This is just wrong. Criminal.
From the New York Times:
Why Bother?
Why bother? That really is the big question facing us as individuals hoping to do something about climate change, and it�s not an easy one to answer. I don�t know about you, but for me the most upsetting moment in �An Inconvenient Truth� came long after Al Gore scared the hell out of me, constructing an utterly convincing case that the very survival of life on earth as we know it is threatened by climate change. No, the really dark moment came during the closing credits, when we are asked to . . . change our light bulbs. That�s when it got really depressing. The immense disproportion between the magnitude of the problem Gore had described and the puniness of what he was asking us to do about it was enough to sink your heart.

But the drop-in-the-bucket issue is not the only problem lurking behind the �why bother� question. Let�s say I do bother, big time. I turn my life upside-down, start biking to work, plant a big garden, turn down the thermostat so low I need the Jimmy Carter signature cardigan, forsake the clothes dryer for a laundry line across the yard, trade in the station wagon for a hybrid, get off the beef, go completely local. I could theoretically do all that, but what would be the point when I know full well that halfway around the world there lives my evil twin, some carbon-footprint doppelg�nger in Shanghai or Chongqing who has just bought his first car (Chinese car ownership is where ours was back in 1918), is eager to swallow every bite of meat I forswear and who�s positively itching to replace every last pound of CO2 I�m struggling no longer to emit. So what exactly would I have to show for all my trouble?
Excellent and longish essay -- well worth reading.

A wonderful rant - political correctness

Check out Fenris Badwulf's rant on Political Correctness over at Dust My Broom:
Which came first ... the gangbanger or the racist?
I have never been so upset as I am now. As I eat my breakfast, my spoon is shaking. Mister Whiskers, my cute house cat, has left the room and taken to sleeping on top of the window sill in the sun light. But I am left with my outrage over injustice, inadequate social spending to address injustice, and resistance to more taxes to pay for more social spending to address injustice. It fills me like oatmeal fills a bowl, with only a few prunes floating on top of my steaming bowl of anger as beacons of hope, of a better world of tomorrow, and of confidence that immediate relief is on the way.

This week, a valiant comrade has slipped away from political correctness into the clear-cut strip mine where baby seals are made into high cholesterol, high trans fat, shoes and leather accessories. Indeed, those of you who are members of the same secret society as me know all the details. But for those of you who are not yet brothers and sisters in Set, the Snake God, here are the politically correct details ...

Comrade X used to work happily at a medium sized high school here in the city of Earth Hour Darkness, Toronto. He attends to all the outward rituals of political correctness: he hand washes his garbage before he sorts it into the green bin where it is taken to a landfill in Michigan; he supports the approved left of center or center-left party that his union tells him to support; he happily encourages people without ability to take jobs from people with ability. And political correctness has been good to Comrade X. For his abilityless and non heteronormative stands, he was promoted in the lesser ranks of the administration, which rewarded him with a bigger pension, more weeks of paid vacation, and a free subscription to the Toronto Star, the mouthpiece of Earth Hour Darkness.

Sadly, the last time I met Comrade X he was bubbling over with rage, not love. His car had been vandalized in the staff parking lot. This was the fifth time. Comrade X was not satisfied with being given the standard school board Vandalized Car claim form; he was not satisfied with knowing from four previous occasions that payout would be fast and generous; he was not complacent knowing that the gangbangers who chiselled their scrawl into his door, fender, and left side passengers window, did so because of outrage over poverty, injustice, and inadequate social spending.
Keep reading -- Fenris gets worked up into a fine lather... Remember kiddies -- a conservative is a liberal who was mugged by reality.
Thanks to Ace at Ace of Spades we get to share in the life of a Mr. Lance Winslow:
Lance Winslow: Washing Cars, Kicking Ass
In one of the longest "About Us" sections of a website ever, an owner of several professional "mobile washing" companies informs us of his Warrior Genes and Patrician Extraction from the Mayflower crowd as well as his all-around athleticism, noting, for example, he played soccer in youth leagues for seven years.

This goes on for, just guessing here, around 2 or 3,000 words. Several of these accomplishments are actually notable. Others are... sort of notable, kinda, but we usually don't talk about them past age 20 (like being voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school). Some are just... him telling us what he did at his various jobs and are entirely unremarkable.

Lance Winslow's relentless enthusiasm for the myriad accomplishments of Lance Winslow just isn't as infectious as he might hope.
The page in question can be found here: Lance Winslow A taste of the greatness of Lance Winslow:
Recently Lance's genealogy and ancestry was traced all the way back to the Mayflower Voyage. Both Edward Winslow, later a Governor and Governor Bradford of the Mayflower are ancestors to Mr. Winslow.
Mr. Winslow constantly stays abreast of information in all of WashGuy's 22 industry market sectors and reads over 160 paper periodicals per month, views 75 online newspapers, newsletters, & e-zines daily. Lance after leaving college has been self-educated taking his 3000 plus title business library with him on the road. He usually reads three books per week in his quest for knowledge & 10-12 white papers per day. Lance is the only franchisor in the history of franchising to have a corporate office on wheels. Lance has been literally living in the Blitz Mobile Command Center for the past 6 years.
Lance is also a writer and has written over 12,000 online articles, which are posted at;

A chink in the awesomeness that is Lance Winslow is that these articles are often just replies to internet posts -- hell, I have over 7,000 published "articles" on this blog alone let alone all the email I have sent over the last twenty years (starting pre-public internet days with FIDO and social networks like ILink and others). His latest article consists of the following:
How to Legally Sell a Used Car By Yourself
Posted by lancewinslow under Legal | Tags: bill of sale, car, vehicle | No Comments

The first thing you need before selling a used car is a used car bill of sale. This will transfer ownership of an item (the car) to another owner legally. It will include things like the odometer reading, the VIN number, and other details about the vehicle.

In all selling your own car is not very difficult. All you need is a bill of sale and to transfer the title.
I'm glad you told em that Lance -- I would have never known otherwise... Talk about being a legend in your own mind. The guy does spend a lot of time working but this level of self-glorification is a bit extreme.

Quite the day - April 18th

Lots of stuff happened on this day in history, 1775 - Paul Revere began his famous ride from Charlestown to Lexington, Mass., warning American colonists that the British were coming. 1906 - San Francisco Earthquake 1946 - The League of Nations is dissolved 1955 - physicist Albert Einstein died in Princeton, N.J.; he was 76. 1978 - the U.S. Senate voted 68-32 to turn the Panama Canal over to Panamanian control on Dec. 31, 1999. 1980 - The Republic of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) comes into being, with Canaan Banana as the country's first President. More here
A nice post by Paul at Celestial Junk:
The Conversion of a Warm-Monger
Of all the things that disturb me about Global Warming, the fact that some very smart, very esteemed, and very capable scientists are "deniers" is number one. What this means, is that there is no consensus. And, without consensus, there are no grounds ... that'd be ZERO ... for charging the developed world and its citizens trillions of dollars. No drug would find its way to market today, with the same level of proof that AGW science provides.

The second most disturbing fact is that politics, not science, has been and remains the driving force behind Warm-mongering. The behavior of AGW scientists, activists, and bureaucrats is appalling. The language they use to defend their theory is unscientific, condescending, and even threatening.
Good observation on the driving force being political and not scientific and also on the language being used. I grew up in a science-filled house and that is not the language of science, that is the language of cultural Marxism: power and control...

Great tattoos - science theme

| 1 Comment
A wonderful collection of science-themed tattoos over at Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium Here is an example:
Maureen writes: "I am a PhD student in Ecology. I have toiled away the years of my dissertation working in wetlands across Ohio. The extended exposure to methane gases and gallons of blood donated to mosquitoes, ticks and leeches inspired my tattoo. In addition to the clear inspiration from my habitat of choice, each item in the tattoo symbolizes a very personal analogy in my own life - past, present and future. I'm pretty sure only nerds among wetland nerds can figure it out. Anyway, as you can see it's still a work in progress. I have 18 hours in so far and have been working on it for two years. Only a wetland ecologist with a penchant for entomology would sit for such a tedious process, right?"
Some gorgeous stuff...

Two links on Climate - it's the sun

| No Comments
Hat tip to Rivrdog for these two links and this post:
Two assignments today
We're returning to mid-winter in the Pacific Northwest. Russia's Chief Climatologist, Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, is proving more and more accurate every day. Last fall, he predicted that a severe "cool cycle" in the sun's warmth would make this year memorable for a lack of summer in northern climates. BTW, the same savant also predicted the end of the recent global warming cycle and a return to a cooling cycle.

So, in the Northwest, we're having an unheard-of Spring arctic outbreak for the next four days. It will probably snow at my house near Portland this weekend (438 feet of elevtion), and the Northwest's second most important crop, but the one it is best known for, fruit, is about to be severely damaged. Temperatures in the fruit-growing regions definitely will fall to the crop-damage level of 25-28 degrees, and in some of the higher pockets of those regions, will probably fall to the tree-damage level of 21-23 degrees.
The first link is to this article in The Oregonian:
Columbia Gorge farms fear weekend spring freeze
Growers will crank the heat and cross their fingers as they try to shield millions in fruit crops

Massive frost fans and giant propane heaters will be churning and burning in the Columbia River Gorge this weekend as growers try to protect their tender budding and blooming fruit trees from a winterlike cold snap.

At stake are 300 tons of cherries, apples and pears worth $110 million to growers in five counties: Hood River, Wasco and Sherman in Oregon and Klickitat and Skamania in Washington.
The second item is Rivrdog's mention of Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin. Here is one of his online articles describing what he thinks is going on:
A cold spell soon to replace global warming
Stock up on fur coats and felt boots! This is my paradoxical advice to the warm world.

Earth is now at the peak of one of its passing warm spells. It started in the 17th century when there was no industrial influence on the climate to speak of and no such thing as the hothouse effect. The current warming is evidently a natural process and utterly independent of hothouse gases.

The real reasons for climate changes are uneven solar radiation, terrestrial precession (that is, axis gyration), instability of oceanic currents, regular salinity fluctuations of the Arctic Ocean surface waters, etc. There is another, principal reason�solar activity and luminosity. The greater they are the warmer is our climate.

Astrophysics knows two solar activity cycles, of 11 and 200 years. Both are caused by changes in the radius and area of the irradiating solar surface. The latest data, obtained by Habibullah Abdusamatov, head of the Pulkovo Observatory space research laboratory, say that Earth has passed the peak of its warmer period, and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012. Real cold will come when solar activity reaches its minimum, by 2041, and will last for 50-60 years or even longer.

This is my point, which environmentalists hotly dispute as they cling to the hothouse theory. As we know, hothouse gases, in particular, nitrogen peroxide, warm up the atmosphere by keeping heat close to the ground. Advanced in the late 19th century by Svante A. Arrhenius, a Swedish physical chemist and Nobel Prize winner, this theory is taken for granted to this day and has not undergone any serious check.

It determines decisions and instruments of major international organizations�in particular, the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Signed by 150 countries, it exemplifies the impact of scientific delusion on big politics and economics. The authors and enthusiasts of the Kyoto Protocol based their assumptions on an erroneous idea. As a result, developed countries waste huge amounts of money to fight industrial pollution of the atmosphere. What if it is a Don Quixote�s duel with the windmill?
More at the site. It will be interesting to see when the thinking shifts. CO2's relationship with warming is minimal at best - a few tenths of a percent. Getting back to the farming, it's not just the cold weather damaging the fruit trees. Bees and other pollinating insects to not fly when it is chilly -- they stay in the hive and work to maintain the temperature. If the blossoms on the trees are not pollinated, they will not bear fruit. Here is an article in the Vancouver Sun about the problems they are having:
Cold weather hurts fruit, vegetable crops
Colder than usual weather could mean a drop in Lower Mainland's fruit production and a late harvest of the region's potatoes and other vegetable crops.

That's the word from local farmers and growers' organizations who say much depends on weather patterns for the rest of April.

"If the temperatures stay cold, we'll lose a lot of blueberry production," Surrey Farms owner Sukhi Rai said in an interview. "Last year we only had 35 tons. It's getting tougher to grow them."
A quiet sun is a cold sun and today's sun was quiet -- very very quiet:

Global Warming - April 18th edition

| No Comments
Sitting here, finishing my breakfast and looking out the window at the snow coming down. And it is sticking...

Sun and suckage - MySQL

This sucks big-time -- from The Register:

Sun may shut off high-end MySQL features
Pay-to-play fires up grassroots hoots

Less than two months into Sun Microsystems' MySQL acquisition, Sun has succeeded in upsetting the grassroots types with plans to close off features to the community.

It's emerged Sun may release extra data back-up features in the Enterprise Edition of the next version of MySQL, due in Q4, to paying enterprise subscribers only.

The news slipped out at a partner meeting during the MySQL Conference in Santa Clara, California, and was flagged on former MySQL employee Jeremy Cole's blog. There'd been no hint of the change during earlier conference sessions on the MySQL roadmap.

This paragraph sums it up about right:

The move is seen by some as a betrayal of MySQL's open source roots and, by others, as part of an evil master plan by Sun to commercialize open source development. Mickos strongly denied both accusations and claimed the decision was made before the Sun takeover.

MySQL powers this website and a couple others that I maintain. I love it. I once worked for Microsoft and was in their SQL Server department for two years. I like working with databases and MySQL is an awesome SQL database -- rock solid, nice feature set and fast as the dickens. I was happy when Sun bought them out as this would mean that they would sponsor and continue to develop this awesome product (sort of like IBM's relationship with Wietse Venema's excellent Postfix mail processor) but no -- only two months into the game and the suckage starts...

Interesting article at Physorg:
Researchers stumped by drug addiction paradox
From chocolate and caffeine to nicotine and cocaine, many of our most addictive foods and drugs come from plant toxins. Considering that plants originally developed these toxins to deter herbivorous predators, it�s ironic that humans and other mammals don�t merely tolerate the toxins, but can crave them and even develop dependencies on them.

This paradox, presented by researchers in a new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, works both ways: supposedly, the plants should never have developed toxins that reward animals for eating them, and humans should never have developed a reward mechanism for toxic plants.
Curious -- the full paper is here: Revealing the paradox of drug reward in human evolution (11 page PDF)

A bit of a surprise in Seattle

| No Comments
From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
Bus hits low overpass, shearing off its roof
Five students injured by accident in Arboretum

A charter bus carrying the Garfield High School girls' softball team smashed into a pedestrian overpass in the Washington Park Arboretum on Wednesday evening, destroying the roof and injuring at least five students.
But it could have been an even bigger surprise. A friend of us works for Seattle utilities and the reason that bridge is so massive and so low is that built into the structure is a very large sewer line. That part of the system is gravity fed so it has to be where it is. Now if the bus had hit just a little harder...

Wrestling with software

| No Comments
Arrrrggghhhhh... 'Nuff said
As you know, we bought the local grocery store last year and have been having a lot of fun running it. Our vendors are wonderful to work with. Coca Cola, up until this year would send out a sales person every other week to check stock, rotate the various items, accept returns and give credit for items that had expired, etc... Sometime in January, they bought another drink business (Vitamin Water) and as part of their cost cutting measures, they dropped their sales staff. Now we have to phone our orders in to some central number. A few weeks ago, our driver (Steve - a great guy) dropped our order off and told us that we had ordered nine cases and they had a ten case minimum. He just happened to have a case of Vitamin Water along in the truck. Unfortunately, we had signed an agreement with Pepsi so that we could carry their Vitamin Water product and we agreed not to carry Coca Cola's version. We got a case of product that we could not sell... Today, he came with the seventeen cases that we had ordered. Three of those cases had pull-dates that were thirty days away from today so we didn't accept them. (Products usually have about five months of shelf life.) We also had a number of cases of expired product but Steve could not take all of them as they count product returns against the number of cases we order so taking all of the expired product would put us below our ten case minimum. So I get the regional manager on the phone this morning and it seems that he has been getting a lot of other calls from small stores and restaurants and he said that he will "look into it". I am going to give him a week to get back to me. The way it works in stores is that Coke or Pepsi will loan us the cooler as long as we keep it stocked with their products. I have a spare cooler and if we do not get satisfaction from Coke, I am having them come out and pull their coolers. The final nail in the coffin is that they raised out prices by about ten percent. A case of a given product is $26 and our regular grocery distributor has the same case of the same product for about $20. A package of 12 cans of soda costs more from them than it costs at a local grocery wholesaler. Individual cans of soda cost about half at Costco as they do from Coke. It is curious that in this area, more and more coffee shops and restaurants are moving to Pepsi products -- wonder why. The Coke management needs to put down their collective crack pipes and get back to business. This is reflected in the stock prices of the two companies. Coke:
Click to embiggen
Click to embiggen
Charts sources: Coke, Pepsi
Life Magazine has a critical write-up on Scientology back in 1968. Modern Mechanix has a reprint.
Scientology: A growing cult reaches dangerously into the mind
The lights in the hall go dim, leaving the bronzed bust of the Founder (spotlighted) at center stage. From the loudspeakers comes L. Ron Hubbard�s voice, deep and professorial. It is a tape called �Some Aspects of Help, Part I,� a basic lecture in Scientology that Hubbard recorded nearly 10 years ago.

No one in the intensely respectful Los Angeles audience of 500�some of whom paid as much as $16 to get in�thought it odd to be sitting there listening to the disembodied voice. Among believers, Scientology and its Founder are beyond frivolous question: Scientology is the Truth, it is the path to �a civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war . . .� and �for the first time in all ages there is something that . . . delivers the answers to the eternal questions and delivers immortality as well.�

So much of a credo might be regarded as harmless� practically indistinguishable from any number of minority schemes for the improvement of Man. But Scientology is scary�because of its size and growth, and because of the potentially disastrous techniques it so casually makes use of. To attain the Truth, a surrenders himself to �auditing,� a crude form of psychoanalysis. In the best medical circumstances this is a delicate procedure, but in Scientology it is undertaken by an �auditor� who is simply another Scientologist in training, who uses an �E-meter,� which resembles a lie detector. A government report, made to the parliament of the state of Victoria in Australia three years ago, called Scientology �the world�s largest organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy.� As author Alan Levy found out by personal experience (pages 100B-114), the auditing experience can be shattering.
For more information on Scientology, check out Operation Clambake. Talk about bad science fiction...

This years Flu

| No Comments
Scientific American has a writeup on another wonderful Chinese product -- the flu.
That Flu You Caught? It Came from East and Southeast Asia
Scientists figure out the yearly travel plans for seasonal flu, which could lead to better vaccines

An international team of scientists has determined the itinerary of the seasonal flu, paving the way for better monitoring and more effective vaccines.

The researchers report in Science that they sussed out the bug's travel plans by studying 13,000 samples of the virus collected from every continent (except Antarctica) over the past five years. Among their findings: seasonal flu originates in eastern and Southeast Asia. The result broadens previous hypotheses that such viruses emerged in China or exclusively in tropical regions.
Something a lot of people suspected but it's interesting that they have been able to nail it down.
Strange story out of Phoenix that has lawsuit written all over it. From the Phoenix, AZ New Times:
It took less than one drink to get Shannon Wilcutt busted for felony DUI
The businessman was meeting with clients for lunch at Mimi's Caf� when he noticed the woman. Sitting a few tables over with her 4-year-old boy, she seemed groggy � yet she was drinking a mimosa.

It got worse. The woman ordered a glass of white wine, then another. She was so out of it, the businessman would later write in a statement to police, that she looked ready to fall asleep at the table.

When the woman paid her bill and left the restaurant, the businessman was right behind her, cell phone in hand. When she ran a stop sign in the parking lot, he called the police.

By the time the cops showed up a few minutes later, the woman already had parked at the Chandler Mall, less than a mile from Mimi's. She was buying bath salts when the businessman pointed her out to the cops.

Thanks to the businessman's intervention, Shannon Wilcutt was eventually charged with three felony counts: a DUI above 0.08, a DUI with a child under 15 in the car, and drug possession.

Justice served, right?
And then the fun begins:
Turns out, those glasses of white wine were actually water. Wilcutt was groggy because she'd just had dental surgery. She'd thought a mimosa might be soothing, but when it stung her sutures, she pushed it away half-finished.

The proof is in the police report: Wilcutt's blood alcohol content was only 0.02, the equivalent of one drink. She wasn't even close to the legal limit.

No matter. Shannon Wilcutt was busted anyway. Her little boy was taken from her as she was handcuffed, arrested, and entered into the justice system. That meant weekly random alcohol tests, weekly phone calls to a court-appointed "counselor," and the looming possibility of heavy fines and a three-year license revocation, not to mention jail time.
The article then goes on to talk about Diana Sifford (similar case) and how there is a big business in Arizona busting people Driving under the Influence. So much of a big business that cops are busting for the slightest infraction, calling it DUI and it's a $3K minimum ticket if you aren't able to get off. That is one part of the nation that I am not planning to visit. Talk about friendly servants of the people...

OMG - we're all gonna die!!!

| No Comments
Breaking news from AFP (the French news source):
German schoolboy, 13, corrects NASA's asteroid figures: paper
A 13-year-old German schoolboy corrected NASA's estimates on the chances of an asteroid colliding with Earth, a German newspaper reported Tuesday, after spotting the boffins had miscalculated.

Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.

NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.
But wait -- there's more -- from The Register:
Schoolboy's asteroid-strike sums are wrong
German kid saw 1 in 450 chance of Apophis apocalypse

Widespread media reports claim that a German schoolboy has recalculated the likelihood of a deadly planet-smasher asteroid hitting the Earth, and found the catastrophe is enormously more likely than NASA thought. The boy's sums were said to have been checked by both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), and found to be correct.

There's only one problem with the story: the kid's sums are in fact wrong, NASA's are right, and the ESA swear blind they never said any different. An ESA spokesman in Germany told the Reg this morning: "A small boy did do these calculations, but he made a mistake... NASA's figures are correct."

It would appear that the intial article in the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, which says that NASA and the ESA endorsed Nico Marquardt's calculations, was incorrect. The story was picked up by German tabloids and the AFP news wire, and is now all over the internet.

Marquardt apparently reckoned that the odds of the well-known Apophis asteroid hitting Earth were not one in 45,000 as assessed by NASA, but rather one in 450. Apophis will pass close by Earth in 2029 and 2036, so close that it will come nearer than satellites in geostationary orbit.

It seems that Marquardt's calculations included the possibility of collision with a satellite in some way not thought to have been covered by NASA, which bumped up the odds of a subsequent Earth strike. But NASA says:
[The asteroid will pass] within the distance of Earth's geosynchronous satellites. However, because Apophis will pass interior to the positions of these satellites at closest approach, in a plane inclined at 40 degrees to the Earth's equator and passing outside the equatorial geosynchronous zone when crossing the equatorial plane, it does not threaten the satellites in that heavily populated region.
Well Dang! I was hoping that they would dust off those planet-busting nukes and put on a real light-show... Sucks to be you AFP

Wonderful news from Italy

They had an election recently and not only did conservative Silvio Berlusconi come back for a third term, the two Houses of Parliament also had good news. Every single Leftist and Communist candidate was defeated, both incumbents and wanna-be's...

From Reuters:

No future for radical Italian left?
The Rainbow Left alliance, which includes remnants of Italy's once-mighty communist party, somewhat surprisingly decided to hold what was meant to be its election night celebration at Rome's Hard Rock cafe.

An apt choice for the DJ might have been "God Save The Queen" by the Sex Pistols, with its refrain of "There's no future, no future, no future for you".

The alliance failed to win seats in either house of parliament, a performance which provoked the headline "It's a Waterloo" in the moderate daily Il Riformista and prompted the resignation of alliance leader Fausto Bertinotti, speaker of the lower house during the last parliament.

It appears Silvio Berlusconi has won his long-term battle against the political opponents he lambasts as communist liars and accuses of eating children and priests.

Leading the hand-wringing, communist daily Il Manifesto ran the headline "Extra-parliamentary Left" and said the Rainbow Left had paid a very high price for not giving its supporters what they wanted during two years in the coalition government of former Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

Gennaro Migliore, a hard left lawmaker, told L'Unita (the newspaper founded by leading Italian communist Antonio Gramsci in 1924) that the election debacle constituted a "Ground Zero".

Il Manifesto columnist Valentino Parlato said the Left had failed to convince Italians worried about job security, who had instead voted in droves for Berlusconi and his anti-immigrant and protectionist Northern League allies.

Good news indeed! Italian politics have not been that stable in the last hundred years or so -- good to see the citizens coming to their senses and electing some conservatives. Build up the nations economy for a bit.

Gramsci was a singularly odious bit of work and his effects are still causing problems world-wide today.

Interesting article at Newsweek regarding some potential serious problems with heavy Botox users.

A New Reason to Frown
Does Botox get into the brain? Troubling research contradicts earlier findings about the treatment

The way it usually works is, the rats and mice die first. Or at least get sick first. Or at the very least, show some adverse effect first - as in, before people do. The reason countless lab animals have given their lives during the testing of experimental drugs is to allow manufacturers and regulators to see that a compound might be toxic, even deadly, before millions of people use it. And if the compound does look a little dodgy, the lab-animal tests uncover the reason - how the compound affects the liver, say, or reaches the brain. Not surprisingly, these "preclinical tests" (that is, those performed before testing on humans) were especially rigorous for botulinum. One of the deadliest poisons in nature and a possible bioterrorism agent, this neurotoxin reached the market, in very dilute doses, starting in 1989 as Botox. A big reason Botox and its cousins, such as Myobloc, were OK'd was that preclinical testing showed that after being injected, they did not travel along the body's highways 'nerve cells' to the brain and spinal cord. Yes, there was some evidence the toxin slipped into the bloodstream or the lymph system, but Botox in the bloodstream cannot enter the brain, says its manufacturer.

Oops. In a reversal of the usual sequence in science, researchers have discovered, after millions of people have received the drug, something fundamental about how Botox can act. Contrary to what turned up in preclinical testing, botulinum toxin can travel along neurons from the injection site into the brain, at least in lab animals. Researchers at Italy's Institute of Neuroscience injected rats and mice with botulinum neurotoxin A in doses comparable to those used in people. (Strains are named A, B and E, depending on where the common soil bacteria that produce them live; A is Botox, B is Myobloc, which is used for severe back pain.) Neurons at the injection site the whisker muscles absorbed some of the toxin and passed it along to other neurons they connected to, the researchers report this month in The Journal of Neuroscience. Within three days, the toxin had migrated from the whisker muscles to the brainstem, where it disrupted neuronal activity. "The discovery was quite serendipitous ... and surprising," Matteo Caleo, who led the study, told the journal Science. "A significant portion of the toxin is active where it's not intended to be."

"migrated from the whisker muscles to the brainstem, where it disrupted neuronal activity" Just wonderful -- maybe this explains why there are so many "troofers" and political loonies out in Hollywood...

Wonderful story by Mostly Cajun:
Something I saw once�
If it�s spring, this must be Baumholder. During my tour in Germany as a young tank commander, springtime was the �tactical� part of our training cycle. One necessary part of this rotation was a trip to Baumholder, Germany. This was a nice trip. We�d get up early one morning, load our tanks and flatcars behind a very businesslike German locomotive, load our own carcasses in passenger cars of the same train, and off we�d go across the countryside, leaving our normal digs in Germany�s wine-producing region, headed for the hills southwest of Mainz, our home base.

Somewhere along the trip we�d swap our nice electric locomotive for something that I hadn�t seen in the States since I was a kid, a real working steam locomotive, and we�d chug on in to Baumholder, where we�d offload our tanks and do a short road march to the motor pool at the training area. Then we�d drag our gear to the transient barracks, put things up, and scurry to one of my all-time favorite places, Kanteen Hoffman, an eatery put there near the transient barracks for our use.

There I�d get the first of many beers and the real treat, eine jagerschnitzel mit frites, or in English, a breaded cutlet slathered with mushroom gravy and a side order of french fries. I and my cohorts would eat and then sit around talking and drinking beer for a while before returning to the barracks preparatory to the training exercises the next day.

Early in morning, in the still darkness we�d break the silence as 17 M60A1 tanks cranked off their 750-horsepower diesel engines. To this day the smell of a cold diesel evokes powerful memories. Anyway, shortly thereafter, we�d head for the hills and valleys of the training area and run simulated exercises.
Caution -- be sure not to have any liquids in your mouth while reading the end of this story. You have been warned...
Back in November, I had written about the discovery of the Tupi Oil Field off the coast of Brazil. Five to Eight Billion barrels. Well guess what -- they found another field five times bigger. From New Zealand's OneNews:
New joint oil find in Brazil
An offshore find by Brazilian state oil company Petrobras in partnership with BG Group and Repsol-YPF may be the world's biggest discovery in 30 years, the head of the National Petroleum Agency said.

Haroldo Lima told reporters the find, known as Carioca, could contain 33 billion barrels of oil equivalent, five times the recent giant Tupi discovery. That would further boost Brazil's prospects as an important world oil province and the source of new crude in the Americas.

Shares in Petrobras, which said studies on the find continued and would not comment on the figure, soared on the news. They were trading 5.7% higher at 83 reais in the late afternoon, after retreating somewhat from gains of more than 7%.

"It could be the world's biggest discovery in the past 30 years, and the world's third-biggest currently active field," Lima, head of the government's oil and fuel market regulator, told reporters at an industry event in Rio de Janeiro.
This is also a deep oil deposit that has never seen dry land (and correspondingly no vegetative mass to turn into petroleum) -- if you want to stretch your mind a bit, check out Thomas Gold and his paper on The Deep Hot Biosphere Wikipedia has a good article on Abiogenic petroleum origin On hearing of the first deposit back in November, Brazil's President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said:
'God is Brazilian,' Lula says after oil find
God is Brazilian,� Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Tuesday in relation to his government's announcement earlier this month that massive new oil reserves had been discovered offshore.
This was the photo from then. He must be beaming now.
Glad it's not Argentina -- Chavez is a socalist moron who is ruining a great nation.

96 Years ago today - The Titanic

| No Comments
The wreck of the Titanic happened 96 years ago this day. The Encyclopedia-Titanica is a good resource.

Heh - Jimmy Carter visits Israel

| No Comments
But there is a little issue with security -- from Reuters News:
Israel snubs Carter and declines security help
Israel's secret service declined to assist U.S. agents guarding former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during a visit in which Israeli leaders shunned him over his plans to meet Hamas, U.S. sources said on Monday.

"They're not getting support from local security," one of the sources said, on condition of anonymity.

An Israeli security source said the Shin Bet security service provided no protection to Carter during his visit to the Jewish state because no request was made.

Asked about the Israeli account, Carter's delegation, which had previously declined to comment, told Reuters in a statement: "The Carter delegation inquired with both the lead agent of the Secret Service detail (protecting Carter) and the State Department Regional Security Officer and were told unequivocally that an official request for assistance had been made."

American sources close to the matter said the Shin Bet, which helps protect visiting dignitaries and is overseen by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, declined to meet the head of Carter's Secret Service detail or provide his team with assistance as is customary during such visits.

Carter, who brokered Israel's first peace treaty with an Arab neighbor, Egypt, signed in 1979, met Israel's largely ceremonial president, Shimon Peres, on Sunday. But Israel's political leadership, including Olmert, steered clear of the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The former U.S. leader has angered the Israeli government with plans to meet Hamas's top leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Syria, and for describing Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories as "a system of apartheid" in a 2006 book.
This guy is delusional. No wonder he was a one-term president -- he was a lousy leader then and he is a willful idiot now.

RIP - John A. Wheeler

Well Crap -- one of the biggies in Physics. From the New York Times:
John A. Wheeler, Physicist Who Coined the Term �Black Hole,� Is Dead at 96
John A. Wheeler, a visionary physicist and teacher who helped invent the theory of nuclear fission, gave black holes their name and argued about the nature of reality with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, died Sunday morning at his home in Hightstown, N.J. He was 96.

Skip to next paragraph The cause was pneumonia, said his daughter Alison Wheeler Lahnston.

Dr. Wheeler was a young, impressionable professor in 1939 when Bohr, the Danish physicist and his mentor, arrived in the United States aboard a ship from Denmark and confided to him that German scientists had succeeded in splitting uranium atoms. Within a few weeks, he and Bohr had sketched out a theory of how nuclear fission worked. Bohr had intended to spend the time arguing with Einstein about quantum theory, but �he spent more time talking to me than to Einstein,� Dr. Wheeler later recalled.

As a professor at Princeton and then at the University of Texas in Austin, Dr. Wheeler set the agenda for generations of theoretical physicists, using metaphor as effectively as calculus to capture the imaginations of his students and colleagues and to pose questions that would send them, minds blazing, to the barricades to confront nature.

Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said of Dr. Wheeler, �For me, he was the last Titan, the only physics superhero still standing.�

Under his leadership, Princeton became the leading American center of research into Einsteinian gravity, known as the general theory of relativity � a field that had been moribund because of its remoteness from laboratory experiment.

�He rejuvenated general relativity; he made it an experimental subject and took it away from the mathematicians,� said Freeman Dyson, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study across town in Princeton.
These people are few and far between. He will be missed.
Not yet but soon hopefully -- from the Christian Science Monitor:
Zimbabwean officials fear prosecution if Mugabe loses
Top ruling party members are jittery about being tried in international courts.

Defeat is never easy in politics, but it seems especially hard for Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, which has steered Zimbabwe through 28 years of ruinous and often brutal rule.

Harsh crackdowns against dissent, starting with the "Gukurahundi" massacres that left more than 20,000 people dead in the early 1980s to the crackdown against university students in 1988 to the land invasions against white commercial farmers in the late 1990s have created a long list of potential human rights violations by senior members of ZANU-PF.

Prosecution for involvement in these alleged crimes � and for rampant corruption � has given many top ZANU-PF leaders another compelling reason to hang on to power in the wake of Zimbabwe's disputed March 29 elections.
Don't even bother with the trial -- everyone knows they are guilty as sin. Rope. Tree. Politician. Some assembly required.

A Country Boy Can Survive

Ran into this wonderful bit of YouTube goodness courtesy of the puppy blender. Hank Williams, Jr. - A Country Boy Can Survive
Even if Country Music is not your 'thing' this is worth checking out. Powerful song and fantastic video -- Hank Jr. at the top of his form...

Minimal posting tonight

| No Comments
Busy day and working on some other stuff tonight.
Clever hack and simple to do. From PC Magazine:
Emergency Alerts Via Cell Phones Move Ahead
Cell phone alerts during emergencies came one step closer to reality Thursday when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a framework for a national, mobile alert system.

The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is a voluntary system available to wireless providers that will send text out message blasts in the event of a national disaster like Hurricane Katrina, or the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Alerts will be available in three forms: presidential alerts; imminent threat alerts and child abduction emergency or Amber alerts.
Especially handy in tornado country or during times of forest fire. Sure beats the old Conalrad system I had growing up...
From Voice of America:
Maoists Head to Victory in Nepal's National Assembly Election
Maoists have taken to the streets of Nepal's capital to celebrate although election results will not be finalized for days, if not weeks. The former rebels have reason to be jubilant as officials say the Maoist party has won more than half of the constituencies declared so far.

Although unlikely to secure an outright majority under the complex electoral system, the Maoists could be in a position to lead a coalition government. And the first official duty of the elected special assembly will be to declare the country a republic, ending Nepal's two-and-a-half century old royal dynasty.
And guess who was in Kathmandu helping them celebrate:
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, speaking in Kathmandu on Saturday, said he hopes the election results would lead Washington to accept the former rebels as legitimate political players in Nepal. "If the Maoists do continue to gain substantial status among the candidates, which we don't yet know, then my hope is that the United States will recognize and begin to do business with the Maoists."
And of course:
...United States which still considers Nepal's Maoists a terrorist organization.
Good old Jimmy -- never met a terrorist he didn't like. And isn't aiding and abetting terrorist activity considered treason? Sure is in my book.
Christ on a Corn Dog -- now it's medicines... From the International Herald Tribune:
What went wrong? Heparin probe highlights challenges of regulating global drugs market
On a dusty lane in east China, a small factory sitting amid strawberry and vegetable fields processes chemicals from pig guts into heparin, a commonly used blood thinner linked to 62 deaths and hundreds of allergic reactions in the U.S. and Germany.

The mysterious problems with heparin from the factory and others like it � China's deadliest product quality scandal since Chinese cough syrup killed 93 people in Central America a year ago � dramatically illustrate the perils of shifting drug production offshore.
And the problem:
The U.S. FDA announced Tuesday it had found 62 deaths and nearly 800 severe allergic reactions associated with heparin.
And the contaminant:
The FDA says a contaminant, identified as "oversulfated chondroitin sulfate," accounted for up to half of the active ingredient in some batches of heparin from the factory, known as Changzhou SPL.
Emphasis mine -- over half of the batch is not a trivial trace contamination, this is major contamination. The Washington Post has some more:
Rise in Price Was a Sign of Trouble
Supply Problems Caused Spike That Some Say Should Have Prompted Scrutiny

The price of the Chinese-produced main ingredient used to make the blood thinner heparin doubled last year, just four months before hundreds of American patients began having severe and sometimes fatal allergic reactions to the medication, according to a report from an authoritative drug information company in China.
And it offers this little bit of information:
Chondroitin sulfate does not occur naturally but can be made from pig cartilage.
Heparin is extracted from pig intestines so this is not a simple matter of cross contamination or insufficient processing, the Chondroitin sulfate was willfully added to the raw Heparin. Sickening. Literally.

Rachel Lucas on Taxes and the IRS

| No Comments
Rachel is figuring out her taxes and not liking it one bit:
Today I know the meaning of �butthurt.�
If it were later than 12:16 p.m. and if I had eaten anything yet today, I would take a double shot of whiskey right now. I might do it anyway because any negative repercussions from that would have to be better than feeling every ounce of pain I�m enduring today.

I am doing my taxes.

And you know what, right this second, I�m NOT proud to be an American. I�m not even proud to be a human being today. I am certainly not enjoying the fact that I share air and a planet with whatever assholes invented and maintain the IRS.
And then she offers these words:
So in honor of this day of misery and brimstone, I would like to offer some heartfelt sentiments to certain people.

Are you on welfare? FUCK YOU.

Do you have children you can�t provide everything for all by your widdle self? FUCK YOU.

Are you on unemployment because you just can�t find a job that�s good enough for ya? You don�t want to work at McDonald�s temporarily because you have a college degree? FUCK YOU.

Are you hoping for a bail-out because you�re too stupid to buy a house you can afford? FUCK YOU.

Are you a federal employee who has anything to do with making the government inefficient, bloated, and more costly than necessary? FUCK YOU.

Let�s cut the crap: Do you take any money from the federal government for any purpose due to your own poor decision-making? FUH-HUH-HUCK YOU STRAIGHT TO HELL.
Words to live by. She supports the money being used on infrastructure and the military but considering that she is having to cut a check for about $10K, she is a little bit annoyed today. Be sure to read the comments -- some good ones there...

A new sunspot - Cycle 24

| No Comments
We have a potential for the second sunspot of Solar Cycle 24. From today's Space Weather:
A new sunspot is trying to emerge in the sun's northern hemisphere. It's not a big one, but it may be significant as only the second sunspot of new Solar Cycle 24. Follow the arrow in this ultraviolet image taken earlier today by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory:


The first sunspot of Solar Cycle 24 was observed on Jan. 4, 2008. More than three months have gone by without a second, but this could be it. The emerging active region is located at high solar latitude and has the correct magnetic polarity for a new cycle spot.

All that remains is for it to coalesce into a genuine sunspot. At the moment the active region lacks a sunspot's dark core. Readers, if you have a solar telescope, monitoring is encouraged.
Very quiet and cool... And the enviros think that CO2 is the big driver on global warming.
Sickening story from Bossip:
Jesus Take The Wheel
Two parents were fighting over which GANG their 4 year old should belong to:
�On Saturday, Joseph Manzanares stormed into the Hollywood Video store where his girlfriend worked, threatened to kill her and knocked over several video displays and even a computer, Commerce City police Sgt. Joe Sandoval said. After he ran out of the store, police were called and the 19-year-old was arrested at his home.

His girlfriend told police that they had been arguing about the upbringing of their son and which gang he should belong to. The teen mother, who is black, is a member of the Crips. Manzanares is Hispanic and belongs to the Westside Ballers gang, [a source] said.

�They have different ideas on how the baby should be raised. Basically, [the mother] said they cannot agree on which gang the baby would �claim,��

We couldn�t make this sh*t up folks. Child Protective Services should swoop down and rescue that child from those fools. SMH.
Back to the post on Bill Cosby -- this is what happens when people run feral and it ain't pretty...
Bill Cosby has been saying some very astute and important things about culture, race and bias in America. His views tend to rankle people like Sharpton, Jackson and all the other Race Warlords and Poverty Pimps who want things to stay as they are. I have written about him before here, here and here. The Atlantic has a nice long article on Bill Cosby and it's worth reading and thinking about the next time you read about gangs and the high percentage of blacks in the prison system...
�This Is How We Lost to the White Man�
The audacity of Bill Cosby�s black conservatism

Last summer, in Detroit�s St. Paul Church of God in Christ, I watched Bill Cosby summon his inner Malcolm X. It was a hot July evening. Cosby was speaking to an audience of black men dressed in everything from Enyce T-shirts or polos to blazers and ties. Some were there with their sons. Some were there in wheelchairs. The audience was packed tight, rows of folding chairs extended beyond the wooden pews to capture the overflow. But the chairs were not enough, and late arrivals stood against the long shotgun walls, or out in the small lobby, where they hoped to catch a snatch of Cosby�s oratory. Clutching a cordless mic, Cosby paced the front of the church, shifting between prepared remarks and comic ad-libs. A row of old black men, community elders, sat behind him, nodding and grunting throaty affirmations. The rest of the church was in full call-and-response mode, punctuating Cosby�s punch lines with laughter, applause, or cries of �Teach, black man! Teach!�

He began with the story of a black girl who�d risen to become valedictorian of his old high school, despite having been abandoned by her father. �She spoke to the graduating class and her speech started like this,� Cosby said. ��I was 5 years old. It was Saturday and I stood looking out the window, waiting for him.� She never said what helped turn her around. She never mentioned her mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother.�
And to the meat of the matter:
From Birmingham to Cleveland and Baltimore, at churches and colleges, Cosby has been telling thousands of black Americans that racism in America is omnipresent but that it can�t be an excuse to stop striving. As Cosby sees it, the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities. Instead of focusing on some abstract notion of equality, he argues, blacks need to cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past. Driving Cosby�s tough talk about values and responsibility is a vision starkly different from Martin Luther King�s gauzy, all-inclusive dream: it�s an America of competing powers, and a black America that is no longer content to be the weakest of the lot.
The article is so long and so detailed that it is hard to excerpt. Wonderful stuff and it would be great to see more people coming to Cosby's views. Talk about a good candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize -- a lot better than the current crop of Lauriates...

Borrowers keep on borrowing

| No Comments
This is unreal. From the Wall Street Journal:
Habit-Forming: Borrowers Keep Piling On Debt
As Lenders' Tighter Standards Cut Off Some Avenues, People Tap Credit Cards, Equity Lines

The credit crunch has made it harder for Americans to indulge in their love affair with debt. So what are they doing?

Borrowing more.

While tighter lending standards have cut off all but the most credit-worthy borrowers from auto loans and home loans, many people are turning to credit cards and tapping more of their home-equity lines of credit to dig themselves in deeper. And lenders, once eager to lend to those with even spotty credit records, are trying to rein in borrowing by cutting consumers' available credit lines.
Hard to argue the numbers -- you can see the run-up in 2004 and things start to taper off in 2006 but not by much. This is insanity...

Government subsidies harming solar power

An interesting look at things. Just as Government subsidies for Ethanol are causing a shift in agriculture that is driving food prices up worldwide, the same thing is happening on the Solar arena. From The Economist:
More light than heat
Bureaucratic meddling has harmed solar power

Last week, EDF, one of the world's biggest energy firms, announced it would invest $50m in a firm called Nanosolar, which aims to produce cheap solar panels. Nanosolar believes it can sell panels for a little as $1 for each watt of capacity�less than one-third of the best deals currently on offer. If true, that�s great news, especially since it would reverse a worrying trend.

It used to be an axiom that solar power grew steadily cheaper as time passed. Solar panels were once too expensive to install on anything but satellites. But as the technology improved, they became cost-effective, first in isolated spots such as weather stations and oilrigs, and later on lonely farms and houses far from the grid.
And what happened?
But in 2004, everything changed. Prices of fossil fuels began to climb, and worries over global warming and security of supply intensified. Those factors might have been enough to boost investment in solar by themselves. At any rate, the riches that undoubtedly await the first firm to create cheap solar power were already luring venture capital.

But governments such as Germany�s, who wanted to give solar and other forms of renewable power an extra boost, began subsidising wind turbines and solar panels in order to speed their adoption. This was supposed to have three benefits: it would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, spawn a fast-growing and lucrative domestic industry, and help to lower the unit costs of solar panels, thanks to the bigger volumes. Indeed, the three goals are interdependent: solar power will have to be deployed on a massive scale if it is to make much of a dent in emissions, which will only be affordable if it becomes much cheaper.

But Germany�s subsidy, which takes the form of a generous tariff for solar power, has had the opposite effect. So many firms rushed to install solar panels in such profusion that the world ran short of the type of silicon used to make them. The price of silicon�and thus of solar panels�rose. Many firms began to pursue radical new panel designs, simply to reduce their silicon consumption.

Meanwhile, Germany has wound up with more solar panels than any other country in the world�a perverse result for such a cloudy place. It also has fewer wind turbines than it might otherwise�again, an odd outcome for a blustery country. The German government has decided that the subsidy is too expensive, and wants to revise it�just the sort of unpredictable behaviour that tends to alarm rather than entice investors.
The worlds biggest lie: "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help you." Subsidies create problems in other channels and they seldom help what they are applied to.

If you were gaming in 1979, you were playing interactive "adventure" style games where you enter a room, look around and find objects such as lights, treasure and weapons. The biggest at that time was a game originally written at MIT called Zork. It was ported to most systems, even the IBM PC - you can play it online here: Zork The chief threat in Zork was a Grue - it was afraid of light and so was never seen. Whenever you entered a dark room or corridor, you were in danger of being eaten by a Grue. Someone took the recent LOLCATS thread and ran with it. Check out LOLGRUES Heh...
Well isn't this just a wonderful development... From the New York Times comes this little story about the next "big thing" in housing.
New Era Foreseen for Smalltown, U.S.A.
The next wave of development beyond suburbia will focus on small towns whose residents will live more modestly and perceive themselves as the protectors, rather than the exploiters, of their environment, according to an economic and urban development scholar.

The scholar, Dr. Jack Lessinger, has forecast this new era of development and named it "penturbia," to reflect that it would be the fifth stage development in the grouping of the nation's population - marking a resurgence of the rural renaissance that started a decade ago then stalled.

Dr. Lessinger, professor emeritus of real-estate and urban development at the University of Washington in Seattle, said two areas of New York State - Greene and Sullivan Counties in the Catskills - are among those on the verge of this new development.

"The country is now entering a population migration that will bring a new period of prosperity to small towns and their surrounding areas," he said. "Look for penturbia beyond the normal commuting range of the nation's central cities. It is small cities and towns, new subdivisions, homesteads, industrial and commercial districts interspersed with farms, forests, rivers and lakes."
Just what we need -- a bunch of clueless ninnies buying up land and raising the prices so much that the children of the people who have lived here cannot afford places of their own. They move in and then try to change the laws to suit their lifestyle. Preservation? Excuse me but logging is a big business out here and it is a renewable resource. Don't like that tractor running at 6:00AM? Excuse me but it's harvest time, the crops need to get in before it rains. If you didn't like the noise and the smells, you should not have moved in next to a farm... Sheesh...

Shipping containers and the economy

| 1 Comment
An interesting story -- as the economy goes through a periodic adjustment, industrial practices have to compensate. From Telstar Logistics comes this story of shipping containers:
Shipping Container Shortage Plagues American Exports
As every wannabe titan of global industry knows, the value of the US dollar has fallen precipitously in recent months relative to other benchmark currencies like the British Pound, the European Euro and the Japanese Yen. That's bad news if you're an American planning a vacation in London, Paris, or Tokyo. But if you happen to be in the export business, it's a huge opportunity. The dollar's decline makes American-made products significantly cheaper � and more competitive � on international markets, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, a shortage of shipping containers has created big headaches for US exporters. In order to sell the goods, you need to be able to move the goods, but you can't move the goods if you can't find enough shipping containers. The WSJ says:
Finding enough of the big metal boxes used to be a cinch, because the nation's massive hunger for imports meant they were constantly arriving and stacking up from Long Beach, Calif., to Long Island, N.Y. Shipping companies typically scoured the country for anyone willing to fill outgoing boxes. But with the slump in the value of the dollar making U.S. goods more attractive to foreign buyers and many overseas economies continuing to hum, the tide has shifted in recent months. Trade figures being released Thursday are expected by many economists to show further growth in exports.

Shipping containers -- and the way they're handled -- reflect how the U.S. interacts with the global economy, which is one reason the problem has emerged now. For years, the U.S. crafted a trading system that was designed to pull in masses of imported consumers goods such as sneakers and VCRs as efficiently as possible from countries like China. Far less was expected to flow the other way.
A fascinating story -- other uses for shipping containers are as temporary buildings. I have one at the farm for the DaveCave(tm) annex. Works great.
From Weasel Zippers:
Yemen: 8 Year-old Girl Seeks Divorce From Husband...
Absolutely fucking disgusting, this is tough to read. Imagine, 700 years ago the "prophet" Mohammed was doing the exact same thing as this little girl's husband.....
SANA�A, April 9 - An eight-year-old girl decided last week to go the Sana�a West Court to prosecute her father, who forced her to marry a 30-year-old man.

Nojoud Muhammed Nasser arrived at court by herself on Wednesday, April 2, looking for a judge to handle her case against her father, Muhammed Nasser, who forced her two months ago to marry Faez Ali Thamer, a man 22 years her senior. The child also asked for a divorce, accusing her husband of sexual and domestic abuse.

According to Yemeni law, Nojoud cannot prosecute, as she is underage. However, court judge Muhammed Al-Qathi heard her complaint and subsequently ordered the arrests of both her father and husband.

�My father beat me and told me that I must marry this man, and if I did not, I would be raped and no law and no sheikh in this country would help me. I refused but I couldn�t stop the marriage,� Nojoud Nasser told the Yemen Times. �I asked and begged my mother, father, and aunt to help me to get divorced. They answered, �We can do nothing. If you want you can go to court by yourself.� So this is what I have done,� she said.
The full story can be read here if you have the stomach for it. Nice civilization there -- right out of the 9th century.
From the Jerusalem Post:
'20 Hizbullah men die in Iran training'
At least 20 Hizbullah fighters have been killed during military training in Iran, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan reported Thursday evening, quoting the Director General of the Islamic Union in Lebanon, Muhammad Ali Husseini.

The Lebanese official did not say exactly how the fighters were killed, but he made clear that "Hizbullah regards those killed while training in Iran as holy ones who died fulfilling their duties, and this concerns not only Shi'ites, but also Sunnis who are loyal to Hizbullah."
But these are just the odd 'freedom fighter' or two -- it's not like there is any sort of active program:
This week, the British newspaper The Independent, reported that since November 2006, 4,500 Hizbullah fighters have been sent to Iran for training, with each round of training lasting three months. Every month, 300 Hizbullah fighters fly from Beirut to Teheran, with many of them coming from the villages south of the Litani River, said the report.

According to the newspaper, the fighters are being trained in live munitions and rocket-launchers in preparation for the coming war with Israel. Hizbullah has focused on the most up-to-date weapons in order to prevent Israel from launching another action against Lebanon.
Just a nice happy bunch of people slime.
From CNN:
Bush administration urges Carter not to meet with Hamas
The Bush administration has urged former President Jimmy Carter not to go forward with plans to meet with the leader of Hamas, the State Department said Thursday.

Carter may meet next week in Damascus, Syria, with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, as part of a trip to the Middle East.

Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo told CNN she could not confirm or deny whether any specific meeting might take place during Carter's trip.

However, a Hamas official told CNN that Carter plans to meet with Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus to avoid being arrested or killed by Israel.

The meeting with him had been announced as including members of a council of world leaders, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela, but the group issued a statement Wednesday saying they were postponing the trip.
It would be nice to get Carter, Annan and Mandela together into one room. A grenade would remove a lot of foolishness from this world. Annan's corruption, Mandela's insufferable Marxism and Carter's myopic stance on terror. I had written about this bunch back in September 2007. Sad to see they are still around causing problems...

A few days to go until Yuri's Night

| No Comments
People celebrate April 12th as Yuri's Night -- dedicated to Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's pioneering spaceflight. From the website:
Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space on April 12th, 1961. The US Space Shuttle first launched on April 12th, 1981. Yuri's Night is like the St Patricks Day or Cinco de Mayo for space. It is one day when all the world can come together and celebrate the power and beauty of space and what it means for each of us. Join us!
Major parties in the larger cities -- I'll be raising a glass out here.

Light posting tonight

| No Comments
Working on some other stuff...
This is classic. For thirty years Wal-Mart executives had Flagler Communications tape all of their board meetings, corporate sales meetings and other company events. Recently they told Flagler that their services were no longer needed. Flagler has responded in a singularly delightful way. From ABC News:
Wal-Mart Exposed: Videos You Were Never Meant To See
Videos From Inside Wal-Mart's Corporate Meetings Are For Sale To Willing Buyers

From the tough anti-union talk to the wilder side of men in drag, videos of Wal-Mart corporate meetings are being sold to willing buyers, and the corporate behemoth is not happy about it.

The videos, thousands of them spanning three decades, are in the library of a production company in Lenexa, Kan. Flagler Productions Inc. was hired on a handshake deal by Wal-Mart in the 1970s to produce and film corporate sales meetings and other company events.

After receiving a verbal commitment that Flagler would be used for meetings in the future, Wal-Mart abruptly ended its deal with Flagler in 2006 causing the company to lay off most of their employees, according to Flagler. Representatives from Wal-Mart tried to buy the library in 2007, but Flagler and Wal-Mart could not agree on a price so the sale never happened.

Now, Flagler is offering the tapes to anyone else who might be interested, including the media and plaintiffs' attorneys.
And Wal-Mart's response to this?
Wal-Mart released this statement to ABCNews.com today. "Needless to say, we did not pay Flagler Productions to tape internal meetings with this aftermarket in mind. It's definitely an unusual business model on their end, and we can't imagine too many other clients will be eager to pay for this service."
From Larry Correia's blog Monster Hunter Nation:
TALES OF THE GUNSTORE! Darwin Awards in the making.
So yesterday we�re working at the gunshop when a couple of gentlemen come into the shop, wanting to buy some blackpowder. I tell them that we don�t sell reloading supplies (yet). I then start telling them where they can get some locally, or the best places to buy it online.

They say that they�re going to need hundreds of pounds of it, and they need it today. I tell them that most places don�t stock that much on hand, and I then asked what they were doing.

Well� it turns out that they just built a cannon. It had a 2″ bore. They told me that they were going to go shoot it today, and that since they needed 1/2 pound of blackpowder, PER SHOT, that it would add up pretty quick.

You know that sound that a record makes when it skips. Yeah, I heard that noise in my brain.

�1/2 pound, per shot?�

�Yeah, that�s what somebody told us.�

�Are you sure you�re not mixing up pounds and ounces? Or maybe some other unit of measurement?�

�Nope. This guy we saw at the range told us that�s what he loads his with.�

Okay, let me break this down for the non-physicists in the audience. That�s enough powder to blow their cannon, and whoever�s setting it off, into smoking fragments of steel and meat. I suggest that their measurement might be mistaken. But nope, that�s what some guy at the range told them, so that�s what they were going to do. Today. As soon as they found some powder.
Played with homemade gunpowder as a kid and the crap I was making was strong enough. A half-pound of commercial black powder would make a sizable crater as well as giving everything in a fifty-foot radius an extremely bad day. Going to be Googling for +explosion +Utah tomorrow to see if anything shows up. Just Wow...

Free Tibet China

| 1 Comment
Excellent post by Jay Tea at Wizbang:
Screw Tibet
I was halfway through a piece mocking those who are protesting the travels of the Olympic torch on its way around the world to Beijing, but I had to trash it. I was going to lambaste them for raising their concerns now, and not back when it was still possible to deny the Games to China in the first place. I even was comparing it to the "concerns" people have about the Democratic presidential primary, when they've suddenly discovered the role of the superdelegates (so secretly that the system has been in place for decades) now that it finally matters.

Then it struck me: this isn't about the Olympics, and keeping them safe from China. This is about sticking it to China. The Olympics are merely the excuse to do so now, and so publicly.

And it is so well deserved.

But to expand on my title, let's not make this about "Free Tibet!" That's too small, too penny-ante.

Why not "Free China?"

The most populous nation on earth is a brutally oppressive dictatorship. Roughly one out of every six human beings alive today lives at the whim of the tyrants of Beijing.

And their callous disregard for the lives of their own slaves is matched by their contempt for the lives of those who they don't own. How many Chinese-made products have been recalled in the last couple of years when it turned out that they were dangerous -- if not lethal -- to us? To our pets? To our children?
A good call... Why stop with just Tibet. Let's see Democracy come to Communist China.

Oil from Coal

I'm of the opinion that this is the way we should be going to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. A nice writeup at the New York Times:
$100 Oil = Liquid Coal = ?
The notion of turning coal into liquid fuels on a big scale has simmered for decades, but only the trade sanctions against apartheid in South Africa resulted in anyone reviving the Nazi-era technology � until now.

David Adam of The Guardian reported over the weekend on the first international conference on �coal to liquids,� in Paris, at which a host of officials from around the world excitedly described a host of new coal-to-liquids initiatives aimed at securing flows of transportation fuel in a world facing high oil prices for a long time to come.

Environmental groups are horrified at the prospect, which could easily overwhelm efforts to cut energy waste in buildings, vehicles, and the like (and resulting carbon dioxide emissions).
The article also links to this NYT article:
Search for New Oil Sources Leads to Processed Coal
The coal in the ground in Illinois alone has more energy than all the oil in Saudi Arabia. The technology to turn that coal into fuel for cars, homes and factories is proven. And at current prices, that process could be at the vanguard of a big, new industry.

Such promise has attracted entrepreneurs and government officials, including the Secretary of Energy, who want domestic substitutes for foreign oil.

But there is a big catch. Producing fuels from coal generates far more carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, than producing vehicle fuel from oil or using ordinary natural gas. And the projects now moving forward have no incentive to capture carbon dioxide beyond the limited amount that they can sell for industrial use.

Here in East Dubuque, Rentech Inc., a research-and-development company based in Denver, recently bought a plant that has been turning natural gas into fertilizer for forty years. Rentech sees a clear opportunity to do something different because natural gas prices have risen so high. In an important test case for those in the industry, it will take a plunge and revive a technology that exploits America's cheap, abundant coal and converts it to expensive truck fuel.
Good news! Of course, the enviros are complaining about CO2 emissions but this is not a concern - water vapor is by far the worse of the greenhouse gas. Use nuclear for electrical power generation and coil for fuel. Oil then becomes a non-issue for us.
From Wisconsin station 620WTMJ:
Misunderstanding Leads to Nuclear Plant Evacuation
Parts of the Point Beach nuclear power plant in Manitowoc County were briefly evacuated after a nearby convenience-store clerk misunderstood a comment of a new employee.

The clerk told Two Rivers police that a man entered her store Tuesday about 7:15 a.m. and asked for directions to the power plant. As the man was leaving, the clerk heard him say he "came to blow up the place."

Police tracked down his rental car at the power plant and detained the man, a 23-year-old from Hull, Mass.

He told FBI agents he was a contractor who arrived for his first day, and what he told the clerk was that he "hoped he wouldn't blow up the place."
No charges were filed. What a way to start your day...
I had posted this cartoon the other day:
Click to embiggen...
The artist -- Michael Ramirez -- works for the Investor's Business Daily and just won his second Pulitzer Prize. Way to go Michael! His cartoons can be found here.

Our quiet sun

| No Comments
Spaceweather is showing yet another day without sunspots -- we had a few old-cycle weak ones a couple days ago but the sun is now back to being very quiet and very cool.
Might this be a cause of that pesky cooling? Might the sun be the overwhelming driver of our climate and our CO2 peccadilloes are so minor as to be insignificant? Inconvenient questions indeed...
From Scientific American magazine:
U.S. Will Approve New Nuclear Reactors
British official says she's been informed the U.S. will approve at least three new nuclear power plants

One of the U.K.'s top nuclear officials said today that she was told the U.S. will okay plans to build the first nuclear power plants since the accident at Three Mile Island nearly three decades ago. Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, chair of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, said that the chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission informed her that the NRC will approve three applications for new nuclear reactors that it's currently considering.

"Dale Klein told me that those three nuclear applications will be approved," she told the State of the Planet conference at Columbia University today, the 29th anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island in Middletown, Pa. (Subsequently, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the then Ukrainian Soviet Republic melted down in April 1986 in what would become the worst nuclear power accident in history, spreading radiation as far away as North America and leading to the evacuation and resettlement of more than 336,000 people).

"The politics is changing," she added, noting growing enthusiasm for nuclear power as the clean alternative to coal-burning plants. Even some environmentalists have begun to embrace nuclear power, because of its potential to reduce the greenhouse emissions that are blamed for global warming.
The article goes on to talk about people's concerns over the safety issues but it doesn't address the fact that the first reactors (TMI and Chernobyl) were designed in the 1950's and the technology has gotten a lot better today. It also doesn't address the number of people who die each year as a direct result of coal power plants (respiratory illness, train collisions, mining fatalities, etc...) There is also the waste issue but there are some reactor designs that burn the waste and turn it into relatively short-lived nucleotides. The key reason for getting a permanent waste storage facility is to deal with the witches brew that was left over from the initial development and first decade of production of the bombs. That hellish cocktail is still sitting at Hanford waiting for a final resting place.

Food costs - rice

| No Comments
Two articles caught my eye today. This one from the UK Guardian:
Food riots fear after rice price hits a high
A global rice shortage that has seen prices of one of the world's most important staple foods increase by 50 per cent in the past two weeks alone is triggering an international crisis, with countries banning export and threatening serious punishment for hoarders.

With rice stocks at their lowest for 30 years, prices of the grain rose more than 10 per cent on Friday to record highs and are expected to soar further in the coming months. Already China, India, Egypt, Vietnam and Cambodia have imposed tariffs or export bans, as it has become clear that world production of rice this year will decline in real terms by 3.5 per cent. The impact will be felt most keenly by the world's poorest populations, who have become increasingly dependent on the crop as the prices of other grains have become too costly.

Rice is the staple food for more than half the world's population. This is the second year running in which production - which increased in real terms last year - has failed to keep pace with population growth. The harvest has also been hit by drought, particularly in China and Australia, forcing producers to hoard their crops to satisfy local markets.

The increase in rice prices - which some believe could increase by a further 40 per cent in coming months - has matched sharp inflation in other key food products. But with rice relied on by some eight billion people, the impact of a prolonged rice crisis for the world's poor - a large part of whose available income is spent on food - threatens to be devastating.
And this one from the UK Telegraph:
Soaring price of food 'leads to riots'
Rising food prices threaten economic stability and could trigger riots, Gordon Brown has been warned.

The World Bank said this week that the price of staple foods has risen by 80 per cent in the past three years. For consumers in wealthy nations such as Britain soaring prices are squeezing household finances and keeping inflation up. But for developing nations they can lead to malnutrition and social disruption.

Food prices are being driven up by shortages of supply - often caused by bad weather - and by rising demand.
And this little gem:
But Mr Clinton said: "What's really hurting the food markets is America moving into ethanol. People there are moving into corn and you have pasta riots in Italy related to what some people are doing in farming in America."
Hey Mr. President -- a big thank you for being so supportive of the United States of America and a quick question -- who was it that pushed for the huge subsidies for ethanol in the first place. Money coming out of our wallets for something that takes more energy to produce than it yields in the tank. A hearty thanks Mr. Bill; and tell your lovely wife that she will not be getting my vote this year...

John Fogerty is back!

Very nice article about John Fogerty and his return to music. Check it out at Newsweek:
Reclaiming My Voice
My new album, "Revival,"comes by its title naturally�a return to making the kind of music I became known for early in my career. I get a real feeling of being back where I belong. But I didn't just decide to do that. I was in need of another kind of revival before that music could be created.

Twenty-one years ago I was a castaway�a drifter, floating along with the stream. Not plotting a course or even aiming for a destination point. I was filled with anger and hurt and at the same time, weirdly subdued; depressed. Just a year earlier I'd released a No. 1 solo album to wildly enthusiastic acclaim. How did things get so bad?
A really heartwarming story.

There are a few people who would like to have a word with a Mr. Mike Duve. From the Columbus Ohio Dispatch:

Promoter accused of theft, fleeing
More than 200 people were turned away from Veterans Memorial yesterday after a gun show was canceled and the promoter accused of running off with the money.

The show's sponsor, the Columbus-based Peoples Rights Organization, said in a statement that the promoter, Mike Duve, took money that belonged to the group and left behind unpaid bills related to this show and others he promoted.

Neither Duve nor the Peoples Rights Organization could be reached for comment yesterday. The statement the group posted on its Web site March 30 said Duve has "fled the state."

"The gentleman decided to leave town rather quickly," is what Veterans Memorial General Manager John Loree said he was told.

DOH! If you are going to embezzle, don't do it to a bunch of gun owners... The People's Rights Organization website is here and their account of things is here:

Message From Peoples Rights Board of Trustees
Last week the Board of Trustees of Peoples Rights Organization (PRO) was alerted that Mr. Mike Duve, who promoted and operated various gun and recreational shows, including the PRO Gun Shows under a sponsorship agreement with Peoples Rights Organization for more than 15 years, has fled the state, leaving behind a dizzying trail of debts, many improperly incurred in the name of this organization.

Thousands of dollars and other property belonging to Peoples Rights Organization is missing. Additionally, he has communicated to several people that he is leaving behind numerous highly indebted business and family obligations. He stated that he intends to default on all of his debts.

He has not paid numerous financial obligations related to gun shows that he has operated as "Shirt Pocket Inc," "PRO Gun Shows," "P.R.O.," and other names we have learned he was using in his business via several different post office boxes and addresses in Columbus. A search of his residence reveals that he shredded any and all documentation relating to gun shows, other business interests, and personal financing. Furthermore, he has indicated that he believes the authorities will not be able to find him.

Hey Mike -- it's "when" not "if" -- hope you like what's coming to you...

Another Clinton lie

| No Comments
Why politicians lie about things that can be so trivially checked out is beyond me. Hillary's Bosnian sniper fire was bad enough. Now there is this little gem from the New York Times:
Ohio Hospital Contests a Story Clinton Tells
Over the last five weeks, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has featured in her campaign stump speeches the story of a health care horror: an uninsured pregnant woman who lost her baby and died herself after being denied care by an Ohio hospital because she could not come up with a $100 fee.

The woman, Trina Bachtel, did die last August, two weeks after her baby boy was stillborn at O�Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio. But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured.

�We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,� said Rick Castrop, chief executive officer of the O�Bleness Health System.

Linda M. Weiss, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit hospital, said the Clinton campaign had never contacted the hospital to check the accuracy of the story, which Mrs. Clinton had first heard from a Meigs County, Ohio, sheriff�s deputy in late February.
So she hears this story, makes it part of her speech and doesn't bother to check the facts? And she wants to run this nation? Sheesh...

Reading The Daily Mail, I ran into these two articles concerning the current global warming political hysteria. Number one:

The REAL inconvenient truth: Zealotry over global warming could damage our Earth far more than climate change
Over the past half-century, we have become used to planetary scares. In the late Sixties, we were told of a population explosion that would lead to global starvation.

Then, a little later, we were warned the world was running out of natural resources. By the Seventies, when global temperatures began to dip, many eminent scientists warned us that we faced a new Ice Age.

But the latest scare, global warming, has engaged the political and opinion-forming classes to a greater extent than any of these.

And a bit more:

Now, I readily admit that I am not a scientist; but then neither are the vast majority of those who espouse the currently fashionable madness. Moreover, most of those scientists who speak with such certainty about global warming and climate change are not climate scientists, or Earth scientists of any kind, and thus have no special knowledge to contribute.

Those who have to make the key decisions aren't scientists either. They are politicians who, having listened to the opinions of relevant scientists and having studied the evidence, must reach the best decisions they can - just as I did when I was Energy Secretary in Margaret Thatcher's first government in the early Eighties.

A long and well thought out essay. The author, Nigel Lawson, has written a book on his thoughts: An Appeal to Reason Number two is a bit of a lighter story but it too concerns Global Warming

Wonderful pictures: The day April showers turned Britain white
It ruined many a game of golf, as the little white balls would have been rather difficult to spot.

But the snow that blanketed Britain on Sunday probably provoked the most cursing at Heathrow's Terminal 5.

They have a dozen or so photos of the current snowfall. Here are four:





If only...

| No Comments
Perfectly stated:
Click to embiggen...
Hat tip to Theo Spark

Hydrogen is not a fuel

| No Comments
A great essay on why Hydrogen is an absolutely wrong choice for the environment:
Why the Pure Hydrogen Economy Is Dying
Man has been moving to carbon enriched with hydrogen for a couple of centuries now. One could say we�re decarbonizing, because since the dawn of the fire until the discovery of coal we burned primarily wood. Wood has a carbon to hydrogen (C:H) ratio of 10 to 1 or wood has 10 carbon atoms for each hydrogen atom. Coal boosted the C:H ratio way up to 2 to 1. Even that isn�t really enough and coal has failed to gain market share because oil is more superior � running at 1 to 2 for a C:H. When we look at natural gas or methane the ratio gain is 1 to 4 C:H. We been moving to a hydrogen enriched economy for a long time.

Pure hydrogen is the optimal choice for many as the ratio is 0:1. However, when you get there you get a volatile low-density fuel source. Hydrogen just bedevils all attempts to handle it over time and to store it. It is truly destined to be freed for use and used quickly in close proximity to the source.
This is only a fraction of the essay -- it is long and deep and thoughtful. Well worth the time to read. Plus, it references the wonderful Jevons Paradox. Anything that makes a conservationist clap their hands to their ears and start going I Can't Hear You over and over is a good thing in my book...

Remember to remove the tape -- especially if it might have something incriminating on it. From Dayton, Ohio's radio station WHIO:

Teen Gives Infant Marijuana
A Columbus teenager is accused of giving a toddler marijuana.

Police say 16-year-old Angel Dailey was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to charges of corrupting and endangering the child.

Prosecutors say they were tipped after a video tape was found in recorder traded in at a Columbus pawn shop.

A juvenile complaint says Dailey "participated in the administration and holding the child while causing her to ingest marijuana and/or illegal drugs."

Looks like that gene pool is overdue for a little Chlorox...

Food crisis and long-range planning

| No Comments
Talk about short-sightedness. From The UK Guardian:
Crop switch worsens global food price crisis
Two years ago the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation expected biofuels to help eradicate hunger and poverty for up to two billion people. Yesterday the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon raised real doubt over that policy amid signs that the world was facing its worst food crisis in a generation.

Since the FAO's report in April 2006 tens of thousands of farmers have switched from food to fuel production to reduce US dependence on foreign oil. Spurred by generous subsidies and an EU commitment to increase the use of biofuels to counter climate change, at least 8m hectares (20m acres) of maize, wheat, soya and other crops which once provided animal feed and food have been taken out of production in the US.

In addition, large areas of Brazil, Argentina, Canada and eastern Europe are diverting sugar cane, palm oil and soybean crops to biofuels. The result, exacerbated by energy price rises, speculation and shortages because of severe weather, has been big increases of all global food commodity prices.

Lester Brown, director of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, said yesterday that land turned to biofuels in the US alone in the last two years would have fed nearly 250 million people with average grain needs. "This year 18% of all US grain production will go to biofuels. In the last two years the US has diverted 60m tonnes of food to fuel. On the heels of seven years of consumption of world grains exceeding supply, this has put a great strain on the world's grain supplies," he said.
Emphasis mine. I cannot believe that first paragraph. To actually think that by growing and processing some crops, two billion people would be lifted out of hunger and poverty. What the fuck are these wonks smoking and keep it the hell away from me. That is some serious grade stupid we are dealing with here. Sometimes some of the UN groups do good work but overall, they should be disbanded as a failed experiment.

Slipped right past me...

| No Comments
This is post 7,100 Saw the number coming up on the 7,000 mark and was going to say something but I spaced out on it. 7,100 posts since October 23rd, 2003 Still a lot of fun so I'm going to go for another 7,000 at least...

Not going without a fuss

Can't say that I am not surprised. Robert Mugabe seems to be putting up quite a struggle to remain in power after hist party lost in the recent election... From the Voice of America:

Morgan Tsvangirai Accuses Zimbabwe Government of Seeking War to Reverse Election Losses
Zimababwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai Saturday accused the government of President Robert Mugabe of preparing a war against Zimbabwe's people in order to reverse what Tsvangirai called the people's will.

"We know that thousands of army recruits are being recruited," he said. "Militants are being rehabilitated. And some few claiming to be war veterans are already on the warpath."

He also accused the government of adding to Zimbabwe's hyperinflation by printing money to win any runoff vote.

"The reserve bank printing presses are in overdrive to print more money for further bribery activities, financing of violence and creation of no-go areas for the MDC," he adeed. "ZANU-PF is thus preparing a war on the people such as we have witnessed in 2000 and 2002."

Mugabe needs to leave politics the same way that Benito Mussolini left politics. Rope. Tree. Some assembly required.


Jesse Ventura - turned 'troofer'

| 1 Comment
When people deny the truth about the Islamic attack on the World Trade Center, they are branded with the term 'troofer'. Unfortunately, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has joined the ranks of the 'troofers'. From California Newswire:
On The Alex Jones Show, Former Governor Jesse Ventura Says WTC Collapse a Controlled Demolition
According to an appearance on the Alex Jones Show, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura blasted the official 9/11 story - citing that evidence disproves the government�s claims that jet fuel melted the Twin Towers� steel girders. �How could those buildings fall at the speed of gravity - if you put a stopwatch on them both of those World Trade Center buildings were on the ground in ten seconds - how can that be?� asked Ventura. �Never before in the annals of history has a fire caused a steel structure building to fall to the ground like these two did.�

Ventura said he was convinced the collapses of the towers and WTC Building 7 were too similar to the controlled demolition of Las Vegas hotels. Ventura has experience with explosives from Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training and believes unequivocally the buildings were deliberately imploded.
Well crap Jesse -- I used to have a lot of respect for you. You were a good Governor. I heard you speak once in Seattle and liked your presentation. As a point of fact; there are two groups of people who you will never ever hear subscribing to the 'troofer' (inside job) school of thought. These are blacksmiths and structural engineers. The steel used in the construction of the World Trade Center did not have to melt -- the 'troofers' big claim is that the combustion of the jet fuel was not hot enough to melt the steel so therefore it was a controlled demolition. Steel starts to loose a lot of its strength after being heated to a few hundred degrees. When it hits about 400 Fahrenheit, serious annealing starts to take place and a lot of the strength is lost. The fire started about 30 floors down from the top. Once temperatures got to around 400F or so, the framework for those floors buckled, the upper 30 stories fell down and pancaked the remaining building. And you know, if I came to work for a place, say, on 9/10 and saw a fifty or sixty workers running wires everywhere and not talking about what they were doing, I would be inclined to take the next couple of days off. Sorry Jesse -- I once respected you...

The Price of Food - ten questions

| No Comments
Ten questions and answers from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization:
1. Why are food prices rising?
Prices of most agricultural food commodities have risen sharply during the past two years. Several factors have contributed to this development: (1) low levels of world stocks (especially for wheat and maize) following two years of below-average harvests in Europe in 2006 and 2007; (2) crop failures in major producing countries like Australia in 2006 and 2007; (3) rapidly growing demand for grain-based biofuel production supported by subsidies; (4) gradual changes in agricultural policies of the OECD countries, where reduced levels of subsidies have led to lower surplus production; (5) strong economic growth in developing countries and expanding world population. In addition, agricultural markets are becoming increasingly intertwined with non-agricultural markets (energy, manufacturing, finance, etc.). Climate change and resource constraints (water supply in particular) are also influencing overall food supply and demand.
Good stuff...
Interesting story about the parallels between Hops and Marijuana and the latters' use in brewing:
Marijuana In Beer

It was called Brain Death, and it was a high�gravity brew in more than one sense of the word.

Brain Death was the creation of two homebrewers and certified beer judges, both brewers of whom are highly respected in their hobby. (For reasons that will become apparent, they wish to remain anonymous.) A potent barleywine (OG 1,100), Brain Death contained an extra ingredient that one of the euphemistically calls "special hops".

In fact, the beer was "dry�hemped" with flowers of the female marijuana plant, homegrown by an acquaintance in Texas. The alcohol and tetrahydrocannibanol (THC) made a mind�rattling combination.

The creators of Brain Death brought some samples to the 1988 American Homebrewers Association convention in Denver, CO. There, the brewers were approached by Michael Jackson. Recalled one of them: "We told him what was in it, and poured him a pint. Forty�five minutes later, he came back and asked, 'Is there any chance there would be some Brain Death left?' We gave him our last bottle."
Fun story and some interesting history. A couple of brewers are using Hemp seeds for flavor and mouthfeel.

No posting tonight

| No Comments
Working on some other stuff...

A few memorable quotes

| No Comments
From Theo Spark:
Eco-loonies: A Redux...

'In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. Population control is the only answer' � Paul Ehrlich - The Population Bomb (1968)

'I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000' � Paul Ehrlich (1969)

'In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.' � Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day (1970)

'Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity � in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion' � Paul Ehrlich (1976)

'This [cooling] trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century' � Peter Gwynne, Newsweek 1976

'There are ominous signs that the earth�s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food production could begin quite soon� The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologist are hard-pressed to keep up with it.' � Newsweek, April 28, (1975)

'This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000.' � Lowell Ponte �The Cooling�, 1976

'If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder by the year 2000�This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age.' � Kenneth E.F. Watt on air pollution and global cooling, Earth Day (1970)

'The continued rapid cooling of the earth since WWII is in accord with the increase in global air pollution associated with industrialization, mechanization, urbanization and exploding population.' � Reid Bryson, �Global Ecology; Readings towards a rational strategy for Man�, (1971)
'Nuff said...
The Three Gorges Dam in China makes my earlier post about Staufen's problems look minuscule. From the Scientific American comes this long article about the Dam and its problems:
China's Three Gorges Dam: An Environmental Catastrophe?
Even the Chinese government suspects the massive dam may cause significant environmental damage

For over three decades the Chinese government dismissed warnings from scientists and environmentalists that its Three Gorges Dam -� the world's largest�had the potential of becoming one of China's biggest environmental nightmares. But last fall, denial suddenly gave way to reluctant acceptance that the naysayers were right. Chinese officials staged a sudden about-face, acknowledging for the first time that the massive hydroelectric dam, sandwiched between breathtaking cliffs on the Yangtze River in central China, may be triggering landslides, altering entire ecosystems and causing other serious environmental problems�and, by extension, endangering the millions who live in its shadow.

Government officials have long defended the $24-billion project as a major source of renewable power for an energy-hungry nation and as a way to prevent floods downstream. When complete, the dam will generate 18,000 megawatts of power�eight times that of the U.S.'s Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. But in September, the government official in charge of the project admitted that Three Gorges held "hidden dangers" that could breed disaster. "We can't lower our guard," Wang Xiaofeng, who oversees the project for China's State Council, said during a meeting of Chinese scientists and government reps in Chongqing, an independent municipality of around 31 million abutting the dam. "We simply cannot sacrifice the environment in exchange for temporary economic gain."
Some more:
Harnessing the power of the Yangtze has been a goal since Nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen first proposed the idea in 1919. Mao Zedong, the father of China's communist revolution, rhapsodized the dam in a poem. The mega- project could not be realized in his lifetime, however, because the country's resources were exhausted by the economic failures of the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and then the social upheaval of the Cultural Revolution from the mid-1960s a to the early 1970s. Four decades later, the government resuscitated Mao's plans. The first of the Yangtze's famed gorges�a collection of steep bluffs at a bend in the river�was determined to be the perfect site.
Hmmm... Site chosen by a failed politician, child molester and murderer (60 Million). And some of the problems with the Dam?
In June 2003, nine years after construction began, the state-owned China Yangtze Three Gorges Development Corporation (CTGPC) filled the reservoir with 445 feet (135 meters) of water, the first of three increments in achieving the eventual depth of 575 feet (175 meters). The result is a narrow lake 410 miles (660 kilometers) long�60 miles (97 kilometers) longer than Lake Superior�and 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) wide, twice the width of the natural river channel. Scientists' early warnings came true just a month later, when around 700 million cubic feet (20 million cubic meters) of rock slid into the Qinggan River, just two miles (three kilometers) from where it flows into the Yangtze, spawning 65-foot (20-meter) waves that claimed the lives of 14 people. Despite the devastating results, the corporation three years later (in September 2006) raised the water level further�to 512 feet (156 meters). Since then, the area has experienced a series of problems, including dozens of landslides along one 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch of riverbank. This past November, the ground gave out near the entrance to a railway tunnel in Badong County, near a tributary to the Three Gorges reservoir; 4,000 cubic yards (3,050 cubic meters) of earth and rock tumbled onto a highway. The landslide buried a bus, killing at least 30 people.
One of the greatest fears is that the dam may trigger severe earthquakes, because the reservoir sits on two major faults: the Jiuwanxi and the Zigui�Badong. According to Fan, changing the water level strains them. "When you alter the fault line's mechanical state," he says, "it can cause fault activity to intensify and induce earthquakes."
A complex issue -- they need the power but the environmental issues of this project are huge. At the mouth of the Yangtze, salt water is moving upriver because of the reduced flow causing problems with fish farms. Diseases are spreading, the river flow is down enough to strand ships, it's shifting the weather patterns enough to cause drought. I have been to China three times and love it, love the people but their government has to reform... Too top-heavy and dare I say it: Communist.
An interesting question and it's not who you would think. From The Business and Media Institute comes this report by Nathan Burchfiel:
Crude Coverage
Media ignore OPEC�s control of oil market when covering America�s pain at the pump.

The media are awash with historical flashbacks. Is this the worst economy since the Great Depression? Or is it a repeat of �70s-era financial woes? For the most part, the comparisons have been less than accurate. But there�s one the media have missed: an old villain from the �70s causing Americans grief over oil and gas.

Oil prices have soared to more than $100 a barrel and journalists are looking for someone to blame for Americans� �pain at the pump.� They call �Big Oil� �thieves� and accuse them of reaping �excessive profits� driven by �greed.� But the networks ignore one of the big causes of high gas prices � the hostile leaders of the world oil cartel � the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
A bit about OPEC:
OPEC was created in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. It now includes nine other oil-producing nations � Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Its stated goal is �to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers.�

But in reality, its effect is less than �fair� and �stable,� said Cato Institute Senior Fellow Jerry Taylor. He wrote in March 2004 that OPEC contributes to the instability of oil prices.

�In the period between World War II and the formation of OPEC, the inflation-adjusted price of oil fluctuated little,� he wrote. �From 1970-1980, however, the real price of oil rose by about 1,300 percent. Between 1980 and 1986, it dropped by about two-thirds. It was fairly steady between 1986-1997, fell farther in 1997-1998, and then nearly quadrupled after February 1999. This is stability?�

Taylor predicted in 2004 � when oil was around $31.50 a barrel � that �if OPEC disappeared tomorrow, oil prices would drop to somewhere around $8 a barrel and gasoline prices would almost certainly be south of $1 a gallon. A price collapse of that magnitude would do more for consumer welfare and the overall health of the American economy than almost anything that�s been put on the table by President Bush or his Democratic Party rivals.�
And those huge profits that the greedy Capitalist Oil Companies are making?
ExxonMobil�s profit was about 10 percent of revenues. Chevron and ConocoPhillips had profits below 10 percent of revenue. Those percentages aren�t high when compared to other industries. Bank of America operates with an 18-percent profit margin, according to Forbes.com. Berkshire Hathaway has profit margin of 11 percent. AT&t: 11.8 percent. Proctor & Gamble: 13.1 percent.
And it is not as though we do not have the tools to wean ourselves from Oil. Nuclear power for electrical generation, increased drilling for oil and using Nuclear power to drive the conversion of Coal into Gasoline and Diesel. For more on the last item, read here. Algae fuel is also promising. Fusion is perhaps (finally), on the horizon. Read here, here, here and here.
Hat tip to Grouchy Old Cripple for this link. From the UK Telegraph:
Geothermal probe sinks German city
A German town is subsiding after authorities drilled underground in order to harness green energy.

Staufen, in the Black Forest, was proud of its innovative geothermal power plan that was supposed to provide environmentally-friendly heating.

But only two weeks after contractors drilled down 460ft to extract heat from below the earth, large cracks have appeared in buildings as the town centre subsided about a third of an inch (8mm).

The baroque Town Hall, the main church, two schools and over 64 other buildings in the historic centre were severely affected. Experts said buildings in the outer part of the town had risen by a similar amount.

According to Robert Breder, an engineer, the problems began when geothermal probes penetrated an underground reservoir. As the water seeped out and the pressure fell, upper layers of earth started to collapse, causing the surface - and the town - to sink.

Staufen's 8,000 residents are increasingly worried because repair work on the buildings cannot start until the town stops sinking.
Sheesh - you think they could have hired a few geologists before starting to drill. It's not without precedence either:
A similar experiment triggered a series of earthquakes near Basel in Switzerland last year.
Not nice to fool Mother Nature...

And he is gone!!!

| No Comments
Robert Mugabe is stepping down as President of Zimbabwe. Gateway Pundit has a good roundup of news and links. Thanks to Maggie's Farm for the heads up...

Hillary's credibility

Remember Hillary's recent "landing in Bosnia under Sniper Fire" thing that turns out to be a story she told for the last couple of years? Turns out she was once fired for lying -- from Ed Morrissey at HotAir:
Hillary fired for lies, unethical behavior from Congressional job: former boss
Dan Calabrese�s new column on Hillary Clinton�s past may bring the curtain down on her political future. Calabrese interviewed Jerry Zeifman, the man who served as chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings, has tried to tell the story of his former staffer�s behavior during those proceedings for years. Zeifman claims he fired Hillary for unethical behavior and that she conspired to deny Richard Nixon counsel during the hearings:
As Hillary Clinton came under increasing scrutiny for her story about facing sniper fire in Bosnia, one question that arose was whether she has engaged in a pattern of lying.

The now-retired general counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee, who supervised Hillary when she worked on the Watergate investigation, says Hillary�s history of lies and unethical behavior goes back farther � and goes much deeper � than anyone realizes.

Jerry Zeifman, a lifelong Democrat, supervised the work of 27-year-old Hillary Rodham on the committee. Hillary got a job working on the investigation at the behest of her former law professor, Burke Marshall, who was also Sen. Ted Kennedy�s chief counsel in the Chappaquiddick affair. When the investigation was over, Zeifman fired Hillary from the committee staff and refused to give her a letter of recommendation � one of only three people who earned that dubious distinction in Zeifman�s 17-year career.


�Because she was a liar,� Zeifman said in an interview last week. �She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.�
Veeery interesting - wonder if the MSM will pick up on this.

A different take on "food miles"

It is hip these days to be a locavore but this, like everything else, needs to be understood and taken with some moderation. An interesting article by Dominic Lawson at UK's The Independent
Dominic Lawson: Food miles are just a form of protectionism
Middle-class neurosis is being exploited to protect an archaic form of agriculture

Was Prince Charles' chum Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, expecting the Kenyan High Commissioner to fall to his knees in gratitude? It rather sounded like it yesterday morning, when the two of them met in a BBC radio studio.

They were there to discuss the Soil Association's proposals to discriminate against the "organic food" which is air freighted into this country, mostly from East Africa. "One option was to ban it altogether," declared Mr Holden, but instead he and his colleagues had decided that such food would only be banned if it was "not produced ethically" -- whatever that means.

Of course, this is folie de grandeur on the part of the Soil Association. It cannot, fortunately, "ban" us from buying whatever food we wish to eat. All that Mr Holden really meant was that his organisation would withdraw its certification from foreign farmers whom it deemed to be "unethical". Needless to say, British organic farmers (like Mr Holden CBE) will be subject to no such extra conditions, over and above the standard requirement of not using pesticides or other man-made aids to enhance production.
And a bit more:
As the Kenyan High Commissioner, Joseph Muchemi, patiently tried to explain, the carbon emissions from his country's food producers are much less per vegetable than those of British "organic" farmers, even if you factor in the CO2 generated by flying the stuff halfway across the world. "Our farmers use manual labour, not tractors; we use compost rather than organic fertilisers," he said.

For some reason, Mr Holden did not want to address this powerful point; instead he asserted that there was really no case at all for "global trade in food", although he allowed that an exception could be made for "things like tea, coffee and bananas -- things we can't produce ourselves".

This is the classic argument put by British landowners for the extortion of a monopoly rent from captive local consumers. The great Scottish economist Adam Smith delivered a withering retort to such selfish domestic agricultural interests over two centuries ago: "By means of glasses, hotbeds and hotwalls very good grapes can be raised in Scotland ... would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of Claret and Burgundy in Scotland?"

This sort of thinking lay behind the recent creation of the Icelandic banana industry: the Icelandic government banned banana imports, as a result of which local landowners began to produce them in gigantic greenhouses. They were fabulously expensive, of course, which was not such good news for families who wished to feed their children healthily at a reasonable cost.
And it's a swift kick in the 'nads for the farmers in these nations. Having their food decertified means that it will sell for less despite the fact that organic is more expensive to grow. Less incentive for the overall promotion of organic growing and Integrated Pest Management. Talk about unintended consequences...

Sorting the unsortable - Heathrow

| No Comments
A few days ago, I had written about problems at London's Heathrow airport stranding passengers and loosing 15,000 to 20,000 bags. It seems they have worked out a solution for the misplaced bags. From the UK Daily Mail
BA bags are flown to America by FedEx for sorting after Terminal 5 chaos
British Airways is flying lost luggage from Heathrow's Terminal 5 to the U.S. for sorting.

It had already emerged that the airline is trucking bags to a warehouse in Italy to reduce the backlog after thousands of cases were not put on their owners' flights.

And on Tuesday, the first transatlantic flight took place, with the aim of reuniting passengers who gave their last known address in the U.S, with their bags. More flights, with the courier FedEx, may follow.

BA said problems with the baggage system at the � 4.3billion terminal, which opened on Thursday, had meant that it could not process delayed bags quickly.

Passengers have also complained that lifts and phones at the new terminal building do not work, signs are poor and there are not enough seats.

BA said: "We will be using FedEx for some baggage. One flight went yesterday. There may be more if we feel it is necessary.

"It is quicker for bags with European mainland addresses to go to Milan for sorting and onward transport than waiting for space to appear on flights leaving Heathrow."

The company which is sorting cases in Milan said that the luggage should be back with customers "within five days".
Every. Single. Time. That I have flown through Heathrow, it's been a horrible experience. When my first wife and I were planning our honeymoon, I tried all sorts of ways to get out of landing in Heathrow. She thought it strange but after we got to our flight to Ireland, she completely understood my concern. The place should be razed and the ground salted and they should start over again from scratch.

A Schism brewing in England

| No Comments
Veeery interesting... I have written before about how I was raised in an Anglican (Church of England) Episcopal Church while growing up in Pittsburgh and how much I decry the state that the current Church has gotten itself into. Moral laxness, no sense of good or strength of will and an anything-goes multiculturalism; try to please everyone sort of childlike (not in the good sense) mindless blather. It has grown foul and base. A number of parishes have broken from the Church of England and gone back to the original teachings but the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is a blithering sycophant who has publicly said that he thought that sharia law to be given full legal status. Hat tip to Jammie Wearing Fool for the link to this article at the UK Daily Mail:
Church leader calls for building of mosques to be banned because of risk 'Britain will become an 'Islamic state'
A senior Church of England member called yesterday for the building of mosques to be banned.

Alison Ruoff said more construction would lead to Islamic no go areas dominated by exclusively Muslim populations living under sharia law.

Mrs Ruoff, a member of the General Synod, the Church's parliament, added: "If we don't watch out we will become an Islamic state. It's that serious."

Leading clerics have been divided over how the Church should respond to Islam. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams caused controversy by calling for sharia law to be given full legal status.
And some more:
But Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Pakistani-born Bishop of Rochester, has warned against the spread of Islamic no-go areas and said amplified calls to prayer at mosques impose an Islamic character on nearby areas.

Mrs Ruoff, a former nurse and magistrate, is a conservative evangelical regarded as one of the more outspoken Synod members. She responded to Dr William's sharia lecture by calling for the Archbishop's resignation.

Speaking on Premier Christian Radio, she said: "We are constantly building new mosques, which are paid for by the oil states.

"There are enough mosques for Muslims in this country.

"You build a mosque and then what happens? You have Muslim people moving into that area, all the shops become Islamic, all the housing will become Islamic and that will be a no-go area for anyone else.

"They will bring in Islamic law. We cannot allow that to happen.

"We are still a Christian country, we need to hold on to that."
Nice to see that some Britons still have a pair...
Check out The Polar Bear Conservancy:
McCain Expresses Support for Antarctic Polar Bear Relocation
Republican presidential candidate John McCain voiced support on March 31 for the Polar Bear Conservancy's Antarctic Relocation Program.

"This is exactly the kind of creative public-private partnership we ought to be exploring. I support the basic concepts of this program," McCain said.

Conservancy biologists and engineers will begin moving the first polar bears to Antarctica on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2008.
So they move them down in what is late Fall for Antarctica after they have emerged from the Arctic winter and are low on food. Looking at their website, I see that they were founded back in 2006. Looking at their domain registration, the date is March 30th, 2008. Happy April Fools -- a very nicely done site, great prank!

Embedded in Amber - a new look

| No Comments
Clever combination of high-tech synchrotron X-ray radiation and chunks of opaque Amber. We all know about insects trapped in Amber (fossilized plant sap) however there are a lot more pieces of opaque Amber than there are clear Amber. Some scientists in France are doing some amazing work -- from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility:
ESRF X-rays reveal clues about life 100 million years ago trapped in opaque amber
Opaque amber accounts for up to 80% of the amber found in Cretaceous sites like those in Charentes. From the outside, it is impossible to tell whether something may be contained inside. Malvina Lak and her colleagues from the University of Rennes and Paul Tafforeau of the ESRF, together with the National Museum of Natural History of Paris, have applied a synchrotron X-ray imaging technique known as propagation phase contrast microradiography to the investigation of opaque amber. This technique permits light to reach the interior of this dark amber, which resembles a stone to the human eye. �Researchers have tried to study this kind of amber for many years with little or no success. This is the first time that we can actually discover and study the fossils contained within�, says Paul Tafforeau.

The scientists imaged 640 pieces of amber from the Charentes region in south-western France. They discovered 356 fossil animals, ranging from wasps and flies, to ants and even spiders and acarians. The team was able to identify the family for 53% of the inclusions.
Here is an example of the image quality and the size of the stuff we are dealing with:
Click to embiggen
Examples of virtual 3D extraction of organisms embedded in opaque amber: a) Gastropod Ellobiidae; b) Myriapod Polyxenidae; c) Arachnid; d) Conifer branch (Glenrosa); e) Isopod crustacean Ligia; f) Insect hymenopteran Falciformicidae. Credits: M. Lak, P. Tafforeau, D. N�raudeau (ESRF Grenoble and UMR CNRS 6118 Rennes).
For more information about this facility, here is their Virtual Tour To give you an idea of the size of this machine, the ring is over 800 feet in diameter. Big Science is cool -- very very very cool!

Yikes - a day in school

| No Comments
From the Associated Press comes this story of some little darlings:
Cops: 3rd-Graders Aimed to Hurt Teacher
A group of third-graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job and assigning children tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward, police said Tuesday.

The plot by as many as nine boys and girls at Center Elementary School in south Georgia was a serious threat, Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said.

"We did not hear anybody say they intended to kill her, but could they have accidentally killed her? Absolutely," Tanner said. "We feel like if they weren't interrupted, there would have been an attempt. Would they have been successful? We don't know."

The children, ages 8 and 9, were apparently mad at the teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, Tanner said. A prosecutor said they are too young to be charged with a crime under Georgia law.

School officials alerted police Friday after a pupil tipped off a teacher that a girl had brought a weapon to school, Tanner said.

Police seized a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape, electrical and transparent tape, ribbons and a crystal paperweight from the students, who apparently intended to use them against the teacher, Tanner said.
I know that this is horribly "incorrect" these days but if one of those miscreants was a kid of mine, I would be pounding the crap out of them right now. Their bottom would be so sore they would be eating standing up for weeks. Goes to show what passes for parenting these days...
Roger de Hauteville delivers this fine smackdown at Maggie's Farm:
Isn't That Cute. The Snaggle-Toothed Blood Pudding Eaters Feel Sorry For Us
I'm being silly, of course. The feckless Stilton scarfers are actually looking down their aquiline bluenoses at us. The Independent, which is a sort of digital newspaper for wrapping your crappy online fish and chips, says in the Headline: USA 2008 The Great Depression. They've even got the requisite breadline picture.
Roger then quotes from the article in question and has these thoughts:
But your point is made, even if fraudulently. Very truthy, Cedric. People are lining up virtually, if not physically, for free food coupons, which you inartfully mention later in your article can be illegally sold to unscrupulous people for seventy cents on the dollar to buy drugs and booze and... well... I don't know, maybe MP3 players.

I might mention that this isn't much of a line in a big, strapping adult country like the United States. It might impress you over there in that little dollop of dirt you live on, the remaining wreckage of your "Empire." Do you guys even get to lord it over Scotland anymore? You guys shed power and influence like dandruff, I can't keep up. But let me assure you that if that was a line to get free Hannah Montana tickets, that line would reach to New Jersey. You remember New Jersey, don't you? We beat your inbred monarch-ass-kissing fruity wig-wearing generals like a drum there in the 1700s. With guns we used to shoot squirrels with.

But I digress. After all, it's not fair to compare Hannah Montana tickets to Food Stamps, as Hannah Montana is more important than food to a teenage girl. And Hannah Montana is bigger than the Gross Domestic Product of Great Britain. But then again, what isn't around here?
Heh... Visit the site for the full rant -- it's great (and spot on).

This is very cool! From the Google Website:

The Adventure of Many Lifetimes

For thousands of years,
the human race has spread out across the Earth, scaling mountains and plying the oceans, planting crops and building highways, raising skyscrapers and atmospheric CO2 levels, and observing, with tremendous and unflagging enthusiasm, the Biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply across our world's every last nook, cranny and subdivision.

An invitation.
Earth has issues, and it's time humanity got started on a Plan B. So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars.

The question is, do you want to join us?
Ever yearned to journey to the stars? You can learn how to become a Virgle Pioneer, test your Pioneering potential, or join the Mission Control community that will help develop the 100 Year Plan we've outlined here.

It's a great time to be alive -- cool stuff indeed!

Neptunus Lex ran into this little story and had the following comment:
The sound you just heard was the sound of worldwide irony meters pegging out
The story is here at Politico:
Clinton didn't pay health insurance bills
Among the debts reported this month by Hillary Rodham Clinton�s struggling presidential campaign, the $292,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums for her campaign staff stands out.

Clinton, who is being pressured to end her campaign against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, has made her plan for universal health care a centerpiece of her agenda.
Heh... Sorry that Fred Thompson dropped out of the race -- he was a Federalist and understood the Constitution but it's now a race between Obama and McCain and I don't really know which way to vote here. I know I am actively voting against Clinton just as I actively voted against Kerry last time around.
From the UK Telegraph:
Flying penguins found by BBC programme
The BBC will today screen remarkable footage of penguins flying as part of its new natural history series, Miracles of Evolution.

Watch footage of the flying penguins

Camera crews discovered a colony of Ad�lie penguins while filming on King George Island, some 750 miles south of the Falkland Islands.

The programme is being presented by ex-Monty Python star Terry Jones, who said: "We'd been watching the penguins and filming them for days, without a hint of what was to come.

"But then the weather took a turn for the worse. It was quite amazing. Rather than getting together in a huddle to protect themselves from the cold, they did something quite unexpected, that no other penguins can do."

BBC1 viewers will see the penguins not only take flight from the Antarctic wastes, but fly thousands of miles to the Amazonian rainforest to find winter sun.
Two screencaps from the video:

Amazing -- just when you think you have a handle on nature, something like this comes along...

January 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Environment and Climate
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Depot
Ice Age Now
Jennifer Marohasy
Solar Cycle 24
Space Weather
Watts Up With That?

Science and Medicine
Junk Science
Life in the Fast Lane
Luboš Motl
Next Big Future

Geek Stuff
Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF

The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
User Friendly
What The Duck

Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?

Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog

Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
The Online Photographer

A Western Heart
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2008 is the previous archive.

May 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9