July 2008 Archives

From MedGadget comes this story of something very cool that could be a potential major fustercluck:
Practice Fusion Wants to Disrupt EMR Market
Practice Fusion is a new web-based electronic medical records and practice management software available to all US physicians. Unlike other EMR solutions that often cost thousands of dollars to install and maintain (on top of being proprietary and bulky), Practice Fusion is free, thanks to its ad-supported business model.

Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, explains to Medgadget:
The offering is unique in the marketplace, because it is completely free and web-based, eliminating all of the risks for physicians, making Practice Fusion one of the fastest growing medical professional communities in the country.

We generate revenue by embedding advertising, including pharmaceutical products, into our physician tools.
And then Ron drops this little bomb into the picture:
We also incur revenue through the sale of anonymized patient data to research groups, pharmaceuticals, and health plans.
So yes, MDs get a comprehensive package for free comparable to dedicated software that could cost several thousands in licensing and maintenance fees; and yes, Medical companies get the inside track to pushed advertising; and yes, the research groups and pharma and health plans have access to up to the second data (and not some survey conducted three years ago that everyone else has data-mined to oblivion)... But... The potential for abuse is incredible. A software glitch, an employee susceptible to bribery, a set of backup tapes left on the seat of a car and whammo -- you have a huge opportunity for breach of confidence. Clever idea on one hand but rather not on the other. Plus, if a construction excavator severs the fiber optic line for your area, you are down for the count. For days. This happened earlier this year in parts of Bellingham. At the store, I have Comcast Business Service (premium broadband Terms Of Service) and we are still down for a couple hours, couple times/year. With installed software, you can continue working with a battery backup.
From the excellent Watts Up With That?:
A encouraging response on satellite CO2 measurement from the AIRS Team
Recently we�ve been discussing products from the AIRS satellite instrument (Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder) onboard the Aqua satellite. There has been quite a bit of interest in this because unlike the satellite temperature record that goes back to 1979, until now we have not had a complementary satellite derived CO2 record. We are about to have one, and much more.

I wrote to the AIRS team to inquire about when the satellite data on CO2, and other relevant products might be made public. All that has been released so far are occasional snippets of data and imagery, such as the short slide show above.

Here is the response I got from them:
And the interesting paragraph in this response -- the money quote:
Since our results are at variance with what is commonly accepted by the scientific community, we must work especially hard to validate them. We have just had a paper accepted by Geophysical Research Letters that will be published in 6-8 weeks, and are preparing a validation paper.
Anthony shows some of the raw data and provides correlation with other similar data sources and they track very nicely. This should be an interesting paper to read as it shows quite a different atmospheric CO2 model as is presented by the AGW advocates...

Added to the Blogroll

Cartoonist Ces Marciuliano writes the strip Sally Forth as a day job. He does Medium Large for fun. A sample:
Click to embiggen.
Great stuff! Hat tip to Movin' Meat for the link.

Welcome to the Nanny State - tobacco

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This is going to go over well. From the New York Times:
House Votes to Let FDA Regulate Tobacco
Decades after the surgeon general first warned that cigarettes were a health hazard, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Wednesday that would for the first time give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products.
And of course, it's all about compromise and public show; not about actually doing something with teeth:
The bill specifically states that the F.D.A.�s new powers would stop short of the ability to order the elimination of nicotine from tobacco products or place an outright ban on all tobacco products.

But the agency could reduce nicotine to nonaddictive levels if it determined that doing so would benefit public health. The F.D.A. could also require changes in tobacco products, like the reduction or elimination of other harmful ingredients.
So you do a big feel-good spectacle, spin some cycles legislating, create a new set of laws that cause the FDA to get even more bureaucratic and bloated (your tax dollars at work here...) and at the end of the day, all it does is change the printed warning on the box and tweak the makeup of the tobacco (using more chemicals). Typical government stupidity.

Yikes - big rock slide up north

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The primary road connecting Vancouver, B.C. with the Whistler Resort is closed for a few days due to a slide. From Canada.com:
B.C. rock slide closes Olympic highway
2 narrowly escape rock slide across Sea-to-Sky highway, 10,000 tourists stuck in Whistler side

A 24-passenger bus drove out from under a massive rock slide that spilled car-sized boulders across the Sea-to-Sky Highway - the road connecting 2010 Olympic sites Whistler and Vancouver.

Driver Peter Skeels said he heard a "loud and unnerving sound" while driving Tuesday night, but didn't recognize it as the sound of tumbling rocks slamming into the side of the bus.

Operating on instinct, the Perimeter Transportation driver didn't stop to investigate. He just floored the gas pedal. And that may well have saved the 38-year-old and his only passenger.

All but one of the windows on the right side of the 24-seat vehicle were shattered by rocks as the bus sped out from under the slide. The only pane left intact was next to the sole passenger.

"We were chatting, and suddenly there was this catastrophic sound, like a ton of rocks pouring onto a tin box," Skeels said.

It will be at least five days before the Sea-to-Sky Highway reopens, said B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon.
John Lehmann from The Globe and Mail has some amazing photographs. Here is a thumbnail of one, the others are here.
A sobering story from the Wall Street Journal:
Fannie Mae's Political Immunity
President Bush is poised to sign the housing and Fannie Mae bailout bill, after the Senate passed it with 72 votes on the weekend. But an underreported part of this story is that Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow a vote on Republican Jim DeMint's amendment to bar political donations and lobbying by Fannie and its sibling, Freddie Mac.

This is a rare parliamentary move for a body in which even Senators in the minority party have long been able to force votes. The strong-arm play illustrates how politically powerful these government-sponsored enterprises remain even after going hat in hand to taxpayers. This has implications in the days ahead, because the Beltway battle now shifts to who will be the new regulator for the mortgage giants and how much political insulation he'll have from Fannie and Freddie pressure.

We believe in the right of individuals and businesses to lobby Congress. But with Fan and Fred now explicitly guaranteed by taxpayers, letting them ladle cash all over Washington amounts to using government-guaranteed profits to lobby for continued government protection. Congress sets the rules in favor of Fan and Fred, which then repay the Members with cash from their rigged profit stream. This is the government lobbying itself for more government.

And, oh, what a stream of political cash it is. First, there are Fannie and Freddie's political action committees, which have already distributed roughly $800,000 to U.S. House and Senate Members this election cycle. Nearly half of the Senators have received funds and almost all of the money is directed to incumbents. Fannie gave $10,000 to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, $10,000 to third-ranking House Democrat Rahm Emanuel, $5,000 to Barney Frank, $10,000 to Republican House whip Roy Blunt, $8,500 to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and $7,500 to Minority Leader John Boehner and . . . you get the picture.
And it gets worse -- a related article at the Washington Business Journal

A solution to Obesity

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I know, let's declare a moratorium on new Fast Food Restaurants. The city of Las Angeles is trying this very thing - from MS/NBC / AP:
L.A. OKs moratorium on fast-food restaurants
In bid to fight obesity, city imposes one-year ban in poor neighborhoods

City officials are putting South Los Angeles on a diet.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a moratorium on new fast food restaurants in an impoverished swath of the city with a proliferation of such eateries and above average rates of obesity.

The yearlong moratorium is intended to give the city time to attract restaurants that serve healthier food. The action, which the mayor must still sign into law, is believed to be the first of its kind by a major city to protect public health.
Of course:
The California Restaurant Association and its members will consider a legal challenge to the ordinance, spokesman Andrew Casana said.
And some statistics:
Thirty percent of adults in South Los Angeles area are obese, compared to 19.1 percent for the metropolitan area and 14.1 percent for the affluent Westside, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
It will be interesting to see what pans out...
...and making conjectures on what it might do in the future. From Newsmax:
U.S. Intel: Iran Plans Nuclear Strike on U.S.
Iran has carried out missile tests for what could be a plan for a nuclear strike on the United States, the head of a national security panel has warned.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and in remarks to a private conference on missile defense over the weekend hosted by the Claremont Institute, Dr. William Graham warned that the U.S. intelligence community �doesn�t have a story� to explain the recent Iranian tests.

One group of tests that troubled Graham, the former White House science adviser under President Ronald Reagan, were successful efforts to launch a Scud missile from a platform in the Caspian Sea.

�They�ve got [test] ranges in Iran which are more than long enough to handle Scud launches and even Shahab-3 launches,� Dr. Graham said. �Why would they be launching from the surface of the Caspian Sea? They obviously have not explained that to us.�

Another troubling group of tests involved Shahab-3 launches where the Iranians "detonated the warhead near apogee, not over the target area where the thing would eventually land, but at altitude,� Graham said. �Why would they do that?�

Graham chairs the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, a blue-ribbon panel established by Congress in 2001.

The commission examined the Iranian tests �and without too much effort connected the dots,� even though the U.S. intelligence community previously had failed to do so, Graham said.

�The only plausible explanation we can find is that the Iranians are figuring out how to launch a missile from a ship and get it up to altitude and then detonate it,� he said. �And that�s exactly what you would do if you had a nuclear weapon on a Scud or a Shahab-3 or other missile, and you wanted to explode it over the United States.�
A largish (20MT) bomb exploded at 300 miles over Kansas would affect the entire continental US. I don't think that is within Iran's capability and if they did launch and if the bomb misfired (remembering North Korea's almost-dud), the reprisal would be swift and brutal. A blast over NYC down to D.C. would be a delightful realignment of the United States would seriously cripple our economy and the point of the article is that the Iranians do have this capability. You cannot reason with a madman who knows that the end time is near and that allah will sort everything out afterwards...

A Maggie's Farm trifecta

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Three excellent links at Maggie's Farm today: On the ten Capitalist things all economists believe -- from City Journal:
Economics Does Not Lie
The dismal science is at last a science�and the world is the beneficiary.

Though economics as a discipline arose in Great Britain and France at the end of the eighteenth century, it has taken two centuries to reach the threshold of scientific rationality. Previously, intuition, opinion, and conviction enjoyed equal status in economic thought; theories were vague, often unverifiable. Not so long ago, one could teach economics at prestigious universities without using equations and certainly without the complex algorithms, precise (though not infallible) mathematical models, and computers integral to the field today.

No wonder bad economic policies ravaged entire nations during the twentieth century, producing more victims than any epidemic did. The collectivization of land in Russia during the twenties, in China during the fifties, and in Tanzania during the sixties starved hundreds of millions of peasants. The uncontrolled printing of currency destabilized Weimar Germany, facilitating the rise of Nazism. The nationalization of enterprises and the expulsion of entrepreneurs ruined Argentina during the forties and Egypt a decade later. India�s License Raj�requiring businesses to obtain a host of permits before opening their doors�froze the country�s economic development for decades, keeping millions impoverished.
What follows is a fascinating read on the history and present science of economics and a list of ten items that are true. The first is this:
1. The market economy is the most efficient of all economic systems.
Love or hate the idea, it is the truth. The second from Maggie's Farm is this rant on Nancy Pelosi by Don Surber:
Pelosi: �I�m trying to save the planet�
Who asked her to?

I finally figured out why liberals turn me off. It�s their egos. They think they know everything and must save the rest of us mouth-breathers from ourselves.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco was elevated to House Speaker in January 2007 on a promise of doing a lot of junk within her first 100 hours of taking office.

Thank God, she broke that promise.

But now she is on a mission to save the planet.
Read on -- it will be good when she has her final day in office. I am getting very tired of her delusional views and ineffective (thank God!) micromanagement. The final link at Maggie's Farm regards Carbon. From Classical Values:
The Globe Reverberates With Laughter

Peter Huber in Forbes takes a look at the reality of carbon hysteria.
A number of influential people in Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam say the planet is now entering a 30-year cooling period, the second half of a normal cycle driven by cyclical changes in the sun's output and currents in the Pacific Ocean. Their theory leaves true believers in carbon catastrophe livid.

To judge by actions, not words, the carbon-warming view hasn't come close to persuading a political majority even in nations considered far more environmentally enlightened than China and India. Europe's coal consumption is rising, not falling, and the Continent won't come close to meeting the Kyoto targets for carbon reduction. Australia is selling coal to all comers.
We used to have a saying in my day: "actions speak louder than words". Today it is "Pay no attention to the fat man, who used to be Vice President, behind the curtain."
No serious student of global politics can accept the notion that the world will soon join ranks behind Brussels, Washington and the gloomy computer and its minders. Dar is surely right when he says, "The U.S. and Japan will not tell Asia and Africa to choose poverty, disease, hunger and illiteracy over electricity." Europe might, but nobody will listen. It won't have moral authority until its own citizens are emitting less carbon than Bangladeshis. That won't happen soon.
What is happening all over Europe? They have plans to build a lot of coal fired power plants. Yep. Coal fired power plants. That would be plants that use (for practical purposes) 100% carbon. Not oil. Not natural gas. Both of which are a lot more expensive than coal. So they are buying based on price not catastrophe.
So does the climate computer have a real audience, or is it really just another bag lady muttering away to herself in a lonely corner of the intellectual park? That the computer is heard in Hollywood, Stockholm, Brussels and even some parts of Washington is quite beside the point--they have far less global power and influence than they vainly imagine. Vinod Dar is right: "Contingency planning should entail strategic responses to a warming globe, a cooling globe and a globe whose climate reverberates with laughter at human hubris."
Freeman Dyson says the cheapest way to deal with our carbon "problem" is plant trees. If we are in a hurry we should genetically modify the trees to absorb the carbon faster than our current stock of trees does. We do need to be careful. Below 200 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere some types of plants do not do well. So we might want to set the minimum of CO2 in the atmosphere at 300 ppm to give us a margin for error.

Of course if CO2 is not really a problem, the cheapest thing to do and the best for plants is to do nothing. Plants just love CO2 and for most of them the optimum CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is around 5,000 ppm. We have a long way to go to get there. Many centuries worth of burning carbon based fuels. In any case we are not going to be burning much fossil fuel in 2100 due to the advance of solar and wind technologies, not to mention the definite possibility of fusion power.
Fusion is starting to look very interesting. The Bussard Polywell fusor project has been given a grant from the US Navy. Tabletop fusion has never been an issue -- Philo T. Farnsworth (who invented Television as we know it back in the early 1930's (the first part of his system back in 1927). He developed a successful tabletop fusion reactor in the 1960's. No known as the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor, these units provide isotopes and neutrons for hospitals and make excellent science projects for the advanced home experiment. The one crucial thing is that they will always take more energy in than they will put out. The people carrying on Bussard's designs are very close to unity and the machine is working well. -- "The machine runs like a top" was the money quote...
Hat tip to Pejman Yousefzadeh for the link to this story at The Hill:
Reid plan splits Dems
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has split the Democratic front opposed to drilling with a plan that would open new areas for exploration.

Reid�s proposal was meant to insulate Senate Democratic candidates from public anger over gas prices. Instead, it has created a divide with liberal colleagues and drawn fire from senior House Democrats.

A group of influential Senate and House Democrats has sided with environmental groups against Reid to call exploration in new areas unnecessary.

The legislation, drafted by Reid and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), would open nearly a billion new acres off the coast of Alaska to study for drilling. It would also dramatically accelerate oil leases in the western and central Gulf of Mexico.
Heh -- as Pejman says:
This is a win-win situation for Republicans. If a package passes, Republicans--who have been most associated with offshore exploration for oil--will easily take the credit since they worked the hardest to push for new exploration to take place. If a package does not pass, Republicans will be able to continue the pressure on Democrats throughout the election cycle.
What is the public approval rating for the Senate these days?

A little smog problem - Beijing

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With the opening of the Summer Olympics just a few weeks away, Beijing has been scrambling to reduce the pervasive smog that shrouds the city. Banning people from driving, shutting down polluting factories, they have been trying everything. To no avail it seems -- from The Telegraph:
Beijing shrouded in smog two weeks before China's Olympic Games
China is considering even more stringent measures to control pollution as Beijing continues to be shrouded in smog less than two weeks before the Olympics.
The area where the games will take place failed the government's own smog targets, even as officials opened the Olympic Village with great fanfare.

The air was "unhealthy for sensitive groups," the city's environmental protection bureau said.

The official targets are themselves much looser than those considered "safe" by the World Health Organisation.

"It doesn't really look so good," said Gunilla Lindberg, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee.
The cost of economic growth -- still, they should have realized that July in Beijing is smoggy when they lobbied to host the games...

Nice OP-ED from John Voight

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Nice to know that not everyone in Hollywood is a flaming liberal. From the The Washington Times:
VOIGHT: My concerns for America
Obama sowing socialist seeds in young people

We, as parents, are well aware of the importance of our teachers who teach and program our children. We also know how important it is for our children to play with good-thinking children growing up.

Sen. Barack Obama has grown up with the teaching of very angry, militant white and black people: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan, William Ayers and Rev. Michael Pfleger. We cannot say we are not affected by teachers who are militant and angry. We know too well that we become like them, and Mr. Obama will run this country in their mindset.

The Democratic Party, in its quest for power, has managed a propaganda campaign with subliminal messages, creating a God-like figure in a man who falls short in every way. It seems to me that if Mr. Obama wins the presidential election, then Messrs. Farrakhan, Wright, Ayers and Pfleger will gain power for their need to demoralize this country and help create a socialist America.

The Democrats have targeted young people, knowing how easy it is to bring forth whatever is needed to program their minds. I know this process well. I was caught up in the hysteria during the Vietnam era, which was brought about through Marxist propaganda underlying the so-called peace movement. The radicals of that era were successful in giving the communists power to bring forth the killing fields and slaughter 2.5 million people in Cambodia and South Vietnam. Did they stop the war, or did they bring the war to those innocent people? In the end, they turned their backs on all the horror and suffering they helped create and walked away.

Those same leaders who were in the streets in the '60s are very powerful today in their work to bring down the Iraq war and to attack our president, and they have found their way into our schools. William Ayers is a good example of that.
That is only about half of what he wrote -- visit the link for the whole thing as well as some excellent comments. The comments range from knee-jerk to well thought out.

Light posting tonight

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Moved a three-door cooler today, then ran into town to return the rental piano jacks. I'm tired...
I have written before (start here and follow the links at the bottom of the post) about growing up in a traditional Anglican Church and being dismayed as it started to morph into an entity more like the United Churches in Christ. Here are two websites that explain what is happening and why there is a strong resistance to the current trend (the split is about 50/50). Check out The Midwest Conservative Journal and Stand Firm. Both sites are very deep (as is the subject matter).

The hot new outdoor sport - Muni

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Behold the Mountain Unicycle or Muni From the New York Times:
Down the Mountain on a Wheel and a Prayer
In the sandstone mountains overlooking Santa Barbara, Calif., Hans Van Koppen hoisted himself onto a beat-up unicycle and gained his balance with a few tentative rolls. He wore padded gloves, and plastic arm and leg guards, and he perspired profusely from beneath a bicycle helmet.

After a few deep breaths, Van Koppen, 52, tilted his unicycle forward, began pedaling and was soon speeding down a steep hill, his arms outstretched. As the trail leveled off, Van Koppen rolled up a large rock, paused at the top, then hopped off, his landing kicking up a cloud of dust.

This was no circus, and Van Koppen is no clown. He is a mountain unicyclist, or muni rider, a member of a small but growing community that is putting an extreme twist on the most whimsical of devices.

Mountain unicycling, pioneered during the 1990s on the West Coast, has won fans around the globe. Regional muni events draw hundreds of riders to California and Utah. The North American Unicycle Championships and Convention took place this month in Rapid City, S.D. Similar events have been held in England and Australia.

�People like the novelty of it,� said Wendy Grzych, the president of the Unicycling Society of America, which has 865 members. �It�s a whole subculture, and a different makeup than your church friends or work buddies.�
Looks like a lot of fun -- wish I had better balance and mobility!
What a wonderful way to promote peace and light -- threaten to blow up the 2008 Olympics. From MS/NBC / AFP:
Chinese group vows Olympic Games attacks
Muslim separatists also claim responsibility for recent bus bombings

A group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party has released a video asserting responsibility for deadly bus bombings last week in China's western Yunnan province and other recent incidents, and threatening attacks during the Olympic Games.

The Chinese government, which has warned that terrorism is the biggest threat to the Olympics and has mounted a massive security effort, played down the group's claims, some of which were inconsistent with details of the incidents.
Mentally ill people everywhere. These idiots are not rational.

Chlorine in the news

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It seems that the pseudo-scientists masquerading as environmentalists are at it again. This time they are going after Chlorine. From The Register:
The return of Killer Chlorine
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

After many mind-sapping years of trawling through the morass of health scare stories, I formulated a number of laws, one of which was the Law of Beneficial Developments:
The intensity of the scaremongering attack on any new development is proportional to the level of benefit that it endows.
Unbelievably, the Chlorine Scare has returned. According to the science editor of the Daily Telegraph, Babies exposed to chlorinated water are at risk of heart problems.

The first chestnut here is the appearance of a Trojan Number, so called because it is the stratagem by which authors infiltrate their findings into the columns of the media. In this case it is an impressive 400,000, which is the number of babies said to be involved in the study. In fact, almost all of them have no part in the study at all, as they are normal, healthy births.

As I wrote in a book called Sorry, Wrong Number! in 2000, chlorine is essential to life on earth, not only in the form of its sodium salt, but as a constituent of more than more than 1500 vital compounds in plants and animals, including our digestive juices. The chlorination of drinking water has saved more human lives than any other hygienic measure.

However in 1991, Greenpeace activist Christine Houghton said: "Since its creation, chlorine has been a chemical catastrophe. It is either chlorine or us." Even by Greenpeace standards this was a pretty remarkable piece of ignorant, hysterical nonsense. When chlorination was stopped in Peru in 1991 as a result of pressure from the EPA and Greenpeace, an epidemic broke out that spread through Latin America. Some 800,000 people became ill with cholera and 6,000 people died. Millions of people are still dying all over the world because of dirty water.

The anti-chlorine movement was one of the many legacies of Rachel Carson. It was intensified by an EPA study in the mid 1980s that purported to show that one of the by-products of chlorination (trihalomethanes) was carcinogenic. This involved subjecting hapless rodents to very high concentrations.

That was a classical piece of junk epidemiology, based on accidental correlation, of the sort that editors cannot resist...
And when you ask them for raw data, they accuse you of trying to change the subject.

Penn and Teller

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Charles at Little Green Footballs has a great three-part Penn and Teller Bullshit episode on the Environment. YouTube Part one, Part two, Part three The intense politicization of the "environmental" movement demonstrates that it's a political movement and not a scientific movement. A good idea to begin with but hijacked and not doing the right thing now...

The Dems go green - NOT

Fun story over at Face the State:
DNC Boondoggle: Carbon Credits Fund Broken Turbine
The eastern Colorado wind turbine tapped for the Democratic National Convention's carbon-offset program has one problem: It doesn't generate any electricity. Convention organizers are now being questioned for their eagerness to market those credits to delegates.

The DNC has contracted with Vermont-based NativeEnergy to offer delegates "Green challenge" carbon offsets to soften the environmental impact of convention travel. That money is then invested in carbon-free "green" energy sources around the country, including a wind turbine installed this year by the Wray School District RD-2. But a Face The State investigation reveals the district's turbine has never produced marketable energy due to massive equipment malfunctions.

The school district held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the wind turbine February 15th. Officials soon discovered, however, that the turbine was incapable of producing its intended output. "We flipped it back off and on about 10 times since then," said Superintendent Ron Howard. "It has run, it will run, but it won't ramp itself up to full capacity."

In the meantime, the project has been touted by Gov. Bill Ritter's administration as an example of government innovation in clean energy, with district officials still attempting to reassure residents of the technology's long-term potential. Area residents tell Face The State the blades do turn some days, even though the turbine is not producing electricity. The district Web site reads, "As you note the blades turning evenly in the wind...this 'dream turned into reality' is providing an environmentally safe source of power to our community."
And we hear about this from the mainstream media? . . . . . . crickets

A nice place to live -- Iran

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A little news item at CNN:
29 convicts executed in Iran
Twenty-nine people convicted of various crimes, ranging from murder to being a public nuisance while drunk, were hanged in Iran, state TV said.

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reported earlier that 30 people would be put to death. It was not immediately clear if the last person's life was spared.

The Iranian judiciary's statement said that all 30 were convicted of various crimes, which included: murder, murder in commission of a crime, disturbing public safety and security, being a public nuisance while drunk and being involved in illegal relationships -- relationships between men and women who are not married to each other.
I'm all for the death penalty where murder is involved and an airtight conviction for serious drug dealing wouldn't raise my hackles either but killing someone for being a public nuisance? From the article:
According to Amnesty International, Iran executed 317 people last year, second only to China's 470.
Let's see -- China has a population of 1,330,044,605 whereas Iran has a population of 65,875,223. Hey, Amnesty International, do your math -- killing 0.000035 percent of your population (China) is a lot better than killing 0.00048 percent (Iran) Order of magnitude better. As for the record -- the USA has a population of 303,824,646 and in 2007, we executed 42 people. That puts us at 0.0000138 percent. 3X better than China.

No posting tonight

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Working on the anti-spam scripts and was in town earlier today buying stuff for the store and for home. Add to that an early morning tomorrow and I'm not spending that much time surfing this evening... As for the anti-spam stuff -- about 300 attempts over the last seven days and only two partial successes -- they got posted but the posts were moderated which means that they were not visible to readers or to a search engine unless I approved them. EPIC FAIL!

A great photo

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From a news item at station WRAL:
And the story in question?
Angry man shoots lawn mower for not starting
MILWAUKEE � A Milwaukee man was accused of shooting his lawn mower because it wouldn't start. Keith Walendowski, 56, was charged with felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle and misdemeanor disorderly conduct while armed.

According to the criminal complaint, Walendowski said he was angry because his Lawn Boy wouldn't start Wednesday morning. He told police quote, "I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want."
A classic: "Hey Bubba -- hold my beer and watch this!" moment...
Your wallet. Michelle Malkin has the story:
The only place Democrats want to drill
Not in ANWR.

Not offshore.


Yep: Your wallet.

Gotta get me one of those bumper stickers.

Meantime, another failure from the Nancy Pelosi and the 14 percenters:
The House of Representatives on Thursday failed to pass legislation intended to cool off gasoline prices by requiring the government to sell 70 million barrels of light sweet crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the national stockpile.

Democrats had pushed the legislation, hoping to lower surging oil prices by putting more of the reserve�s light sweet crude, sought by refiners, on the market. Sweet crude is desirable because it has less sulphur and is more easily refined into gasoline, diesel fuel and other petroleum products.
Remember this was a suggestion that Newt Gingrich made earlier (my post with link to YouTube three-minute commentary.) Nukes now please...
Neil Young has some choice words about the sound quality of todays popular music devices. From The Register:
Apple is Fisher-Price of sound quality, says Neil Young
Over five decades Neil Young has played a variety of roles including sixties protester, folk singer, Ronald Reagan supporter, grunge rocker and film maker. Now he's donning a new hat: Apple basher.

Young says Apple, with its ubiquitous iPod and iTunes, has dumbed down sound quality to "Fisher-Price toy" levels that place convenience ahead of high fidelity.

"We have beautiful computers now but high-resolution music is one of the missing elements," he told attendees of the Brainstorm Tech conference. "The ears are the windows to the soul."

Fortune's article reporting Young's comments didn't detail exactly what his criticisms were, but we're guessing they boil down to the widespread use of dynamic range compression, which reduces the difference between the loudest and softest parts of a song. Producers use it to get listeners' attention by making songs sound louder. In addition, many digital formats, including MP3 and Apple's AAC, strip out much of the signal from the original CD file, leaving the songs sounding tinny.
So true -- people either need to rip their MP3s at a very high bitrate (still getting good compression) or use a better algorithim like Ogg Vorbis.
This is some incredible news for space buffs. The people at the Internet Wayback Machine (archive.org) are working with NASA to put all of the 21 major collections of imagery online at NASA Images. Here is the announcement from archive.org:
WASHINGTON -- NASA and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco, made available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA's vast collection of photographs, historic film and video Thursday. Located at www.nasaimages.org, the Internet site combines for the first time 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource. A link to the Web site will appear on the www.nasa.gov home page.

The Web site launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities, and new user features on a continuing basis. Over time, integration of www.nasaimages.org with www.nasa.gov will become more seamless and comprehensive.

"This partnership with Internet Archive enables NASA to provide the American public with access to its vast collection of imagery from one searchable source, unlocking a new treasure trove of discoveries for students, historians, enthusiasts and researchers," said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. "This new resource also will enable the agency to digitize and preserve historical content now not available on the Internet for future generations."

Through a competitive process, NASA selected Internet Archive to manage the NASA Images Web site under a non-exclusive Space Act agreement, signed in July 2007. The five-year project is at no cost to the taxpayer and the images are free to the public.

"NASA's media is an incredibly important and valuable national asset. It is a tremendous honor for the Internet Archive to be NASA's partner in this project," says Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive. "We are excited to mark this first step in a long-term collaboration to create a rich and growing public resource."
Wonderful news -- there is nothing at the NASA images website as yet but I will be looking forward to spending a lot of time there once it's up. Maybe it will spur people to return...

Two views on climate change

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Paul Rako is the Technical Editor of EDN Magazine (Electronic Design News -- one of the leading industry monthly magazines) In today's post, he comments on an editorial in a competing magazine and proceeds to tear it apart:
Politics, faith, and the engineer
Our esteemed competitor EETimes has an editorial about intelligent design and global warming. Kenton Williston points out that Darwin and the theory of evolution is settled science and so is global warming theory. By this he must mean anthropogenic global warming (AGW) because he says we have to do something and do it good and hard or disaster awaits. He points out that some engineers have the temerity to doubt AGW and he condescendingly feels sorry for them, since they are obviously being as unscientific as the people that peddle creationism and intelligent design.

Before I add my two cents, I would like to point out a little foible in his strawman. Now, I am a Darwin guy 100%, but lets� face it, if you push and push and push on science you go to physics and then past relativity and quantum mechanics to get to--- superstring theory. Nice theory, actually it is hypothesis. A lot of nice math. A lot of idea people. But there can be no possible testing of the hypothesis and therefore no science. Sorry, it bothers me too, but since we can�t test superstring theory it is indistinguishable from the religions that say God snapped her fingers 10,000 years ago and everything came into being just as it is today.

Funny thing is that, faced with the same facts as Kenton Williston, I draw the exact opposite conclusion. In fact AGW is far more a religious movement that a scientific one. Now please, before you greenies start foaming at the mouth and bite out chunks of the carpet, I am not saying climate theory is religious, or disputing the fact that the world certainly seems to be warming. There are tons of good science going on that examines the relationships of CO2, water vapor, cosmic rays, volcanic activity, asteroid impact and sunspot activity on global climate. But there are two religious wings. One is the global warming skeptics that think that absolutely nothing is going on and that we should not even care about these issues. The other religious wing is the global warming alarmists, who make a very tortured leaps of faith to come to the conclusion that not only should we do something, we should do just what they want us to do and do it right away.
Paul then proceeds to carefully examine what is being said by the AGWers and then to dismantle each point one by one, all the while providing links to the original source materials. A good read...

Meet Spencer Elden

Spencer who?


Oh... Nevermind... NPR has a nice article on him and a current photo age 17:



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Very clever idea -- from the waterBOB website:
Never be without water in an emergency
The waterBOB� is a water containment system that holds up to 100 gallons of fresh drinking water in any standard bathtub in the event of an emergency. Constructed of heavy duty food grade plastic, the waterBOB� keeps water fresh and clean for drinking, cooking, washing and flushing. Water stored in an open bathtub, with dirt, soap film and exposure to debris will spoil and become useless.

During a hurricane or tropical storm, water main breaks and storm surges can interrupt or even contaminate your water supply. It is during these conditions the waterBOB� may be used for temporary water storage. Constructed of heavy duty plastic that is FDA compliant for food storage, the waterBOB� keeps water fresh and clean for up to 4 weeks.

The waterBOB� is very easy to use. Simply lay the liner in any standard bathtub, attach the fill sock to the faucet and fill the bladder to capacity, which takes approximately 20 minutes. A siphon pump is included to easily dispense the water into jugs or pitchers. Never wait in line again to buy expensive bottled water! Be prepared with the waterBOB�.
$30 -- you can order at the waterBOB website.

Career change - how not to do it

From the Las Vegas Sun:

Would-be Vegas hitman's story ends in Irish jail
Card dealer's strategy: Double-cross clients
We all nurse private ambitions. Essam Ahmed Eid, a 53-year-old Egyptian man living in Vegas and dealing poker at the Bellagio, dreamed of becoming a hit man. He longed to take off the casino clown suit, the Nehru shirt and simpering smile - and replace them with a gun and a grimace.

So Eid did what any enterprising 21st century contract killer would: He created a Web site - www.hitmanforhire.net - and waited for the clients to come.

They did. And what happened next went so wrong, backfired so badly, that it was the subject of almost every cover article in every newspaper in the country - Ireland, that is. That's where Eid's final contract to kill flopped fantastically.

The story is straight supermarket thriller, full of half-predictable twists, jealous girlfriends, wealthy businessmen and Eid armed with not a gun, but poison. While several Irish newspapers have spent the past year digesting every angle of the story, the American press has largely ignored it. And so Eid is infamous in another country but has been anonymous here - until now.

What follows has been combed from Irish and U.S. court documents, as well as a mountain of international newspaper articles and correspondence with foreign reporters covering the case. Despite the mountain of papers, the rationale behind Eid's hit man ambitions is hardly clarified by the reading. What unfolds, however, should intrigue anyone who likes to read paperback mysteries or watch people fall on their faces, because this story is a bit of both.

What follows is something out of the X Files mashed up with the Keystone Cops...

Finally, more and more people are actually clueing into the facts and seeing that we have been in a cooling trend for the last ten years. There are a lot of things that influence our Climate and CO2 is a very minor component. From Marc Morano writing at the Inhofe Environment & Public Works blog:
Gore�s (Really) Inconvenient Timing � �Consensus� On Man-Made Global Warming Collapses in 2008
U.N. Warning of 10-Year 'Climate Tipping Point' Began in 1989

Former Vice-President Al Gore came to Washington on July 17, 2008, to deliver yet another speech warning of the �climate crisis.�

�The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis,� Gore stated. But the former Vice President, who has been warning of a 10-year �tipping point� for several years now, appears to be unaware that the United Nations already started the 10-year countdown -- in 1989!

According to July 5, 1989, article in the Miami Herald, the then-director of the New York office of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Noel Brown, warned of a �10-year window of opportunity to solve� global warming. According to the 1989 article, �A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of �eco-refugees,� threatening political chaos.� (LINK) & (LINK)

While Gore repeats his standard stump speech promoting man-made climate fears, much of the international science community is now openly dissenting from human caused global warming fears.
What follows is a two-page list with excerpts and links of over 90 separate reports claiming that the present Global Warming hysteria is just that, that the arctic ice (and polar bears) are fine, that there was once a lot more CO2 than there is now, that water vapor is much more of a greenhouse gas than CO2, that the Sun is the major driver of our Climate, yadda, yadda, yadda... The Goreacle needs to wake up and smell the cappuccino. It just ain't happening. The idea that humans. through their activity, could have a major effect on the climate of this planet is pure fucking hubris...
Wonderful and prophetic flashback from Stewart Brand written in 1972:
Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums
by Stewart Brand

Ready or not, computers are coming to the people.

That's good news, maybe the best since psychedelics. It's way off the track of the "Computers - Threat or menace? school of liberal criticism but surprisingly in line with the romantic fantasies of the forefathers of the science such as Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, J.C.R. Licklider, John von Neumann and Vannevar Bush.

The trend owes its health to an odd array of influences: The youthful fervor and firm dis-Establishmentarianism of the freaks who design computer science; an astonishingly enlightened research program from the very top of the Defense Department; an unexpected market-Banking movement by the manufacturers of small calculating machines, and an irrepressible midnight phenomenon known as Spacewar.

Reliably, at any nighttime moment (i.e. non-business hours) in North America hundreds of computer technicians are effectively out of their bodies, locked in life-or-Death space combat computer-projected onto cathode ray tube display screens, for hours at a time, ruining their eyes, numbing their fingers in frenzied mashing of control buttons, joyously slaying their friend and wasting their employers' valuable computer time. Something basic is going on.
An observation on Hackers (the good kind):
The Hackers
I'm guessing that Alan Kay at Xerox Research Center (more on them shortly) has a line on it, defining the standard Computer Bum: "About as straight as you'd expect hotrodders to look. It's that kind of fanaticism. A true hacker is not a group person. He's a person who loves to stay up all night, he and the machine in a love-hate relationship... They're kids who tended to be brilliant but not very interested in conventional goals. And computing is just a fabulous place for that, because it's a place where you don't have to be a Ph.D. or anything else. It's a place where you can still be an artisan. People are willing to pay you if you're any good at all, and you have plenty of time for screwing around."

The hackers are the technicians of this science - "It's a term of derision and also the ultimate compliment." They are the ones who translate human demands into code that the machines can understand and act on. They are legion. Fanatics with a potent new toy. A mobile new-found elite, with its own apparat, language and character, its own legends and humor. Those magnificent men with their flying machines, scouting a leading edge of technology which has an odd softness to it; outlaw country, where rules are not decree or routine so much as the starker demands of what's possible.
A good insight into the culture of the time. A fun time -- I was in Boston working several jobs, one of which was with a company called American Used Computers run by Sonny Monnison and Bill Grinker. They originally purchased out-of-lease IBM big iron and then turned around and sold them to companies that needed to expand their mainframe systems but who were abandoned by IBM who wanted them to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Great business plan and it made them a lot of money. They bought into the whole Microprocessor thing big-time and opened one of the first large personal computer stores int he Boston area. I worked there couple evenings/week (I was also working for a large public aquarium at the time). Like I said, a fun time!

Light posting tonight

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An online music store had a blow-out sale of an older but excellent music workstation. Mine arrived this morning. I have a few entries in the queue but that will be it for today...

Go and read

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Great post over at the Reality Ranch: Something to lighten the mood
See it on the big screen - it was amazing... It runs about 2.5 hours so there is time to get deep into each of the characters. Excellent, dark story and the CG and SFX are drop-dead gorgeous. While watching the movie, I was impressed by the soundtrack and it turns out that two of my favorite composers collaborated -- Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard...

Minimal posting tonight

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Working on the proverbial "other stuff"

The Chinese involvement in Africa

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Let me give you a hint -- it is not good for Africa From the New York Times:
China�s Trade in Africa Carries a Price Tag
The courtyard in front of the Zambia China Mulungushi Textiles factory is so quiet, even at midday, that the fluttering of the ragged Chinese and Zambian flags is the only sound hanging in the air.

The factory used to roar. From the day it opened more than 20 years ago, the vast compound had shuddered to the whir of rollers and the clatter of mechanical weaving machines spooling out millions of yards of brightly colored African cloth.

Today, only the cotton gin still runs, with the company�s Chinese managers buying raw cotton for export to China�s humming textile industry. Nobody can say when or even if the factory here will reopen.

�We are back where we started,� said Wilfred Collins Wonani, who leads the Chamber of Commerce here, sighing at the loss of one of the city�s biggest employers. �Sending raw materials out, bringing cheap manufactured goods in. This isn�t progress. It is colonialism.�
Another article from the London Daily Mail:
How China's taking over Africa, and why the West should be VERY worried
On June 5, 1873, in a letter to The Times, Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin and a distinguished African explorer in his own right, outlined a daring (if by today's standards utterly offensive) new method to 'tame' and colonise what was then known as the Dark Continent.

'My proposal is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race,' wrote Galton.

'I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semidetached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law.'
And more:
Yet Sir Francis Galton, it now appears, was ahead of his time. His vision is coming true - if not in the way he imagined. An astonishing invasion of Africa is now under way.

In the greatest movement of people the world has ever seen, China is secretly working to turn the entire continent into a new colony.

Reminiscent of the West's imperial push in the 18th and 19th centuries - but on a much more dramatic, determined scale - China's rulers believe Africa can become a 'satellite' state, solving its own problems of over-population and shortage of natural resources at a stroke.

With little fanfare, a staggering 750,000 Chinese have settled in Africa over the past decade. More are on the way.

The strategy has been carefully devised by officials in Beijing, where one expert has estimated that China will eventually need to send 300 million people to Africa to solve the problems of over-population and pollution.

The plans appear on track. Across Africa, the red flag of China is flying. Lucrative deals are being struck to buy its commodities - oil, platinum, gold and minerals. New embassies and air routes are opening up. The continent's new Chinese elite can be seen everywhere, shopping at their own expensive boutiques, driving Mercedes and BMW limousines, sending their children to exclusive private schools.

The pot-holed roads are cluttered with Chinese buses, taking people to markets filled with cheap Chinese goods. More than a thousand miles of new Chinese railroads are crisscrossing the continent, carrying billions of tons of illegally-logged timber, diamonds and gold.
Zimbabwe is at the heart of this:
Take, for example, Zimbabwe. Recently, a giant container ship from China was due to deliver its cargo of three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 3,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 1,500 mortars to President Robert Mugabe's regime.

After an international outcry, the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, was forced to return to China, despite Beijing's insistence that the arms consignment was a 'normal commercial deal'.

Indeed, the 77-ton arms shipment would have been small beer - a fraction of China's help to Mugabe. He already has high-tech, Chinese-built helicopter gunships and fighter jets to use against his people.
Fortunately, this is drawing some high-profile attention in the USA. From the New York Times:
Spielberg Drops Out as Adviser to Beijing Olympics in Dispute Over Darfur Conflict
Steven Spielberg said Tuesday that he was withdrawing as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, after almost a year of trying unsuccessfully to prod President Hu Jintao of China to do more to try to end Sudan�s attacks in the Darfur region.

Mr. Spielberg�s decision, and the public way he announced it, is a blow to China, which has said that its relationship with Sudan should not be linked to the Olympics, which have become a source of national pride.

In a statement sent to the Chinese ambassador and the Beijing Olympic committee on Tuesday, Mr. Spielberg said that his �conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual.�

�Sudan�s government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there,� the statement said. �China�s economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change.�
Good on Mr. Spielberg for standing up and saying what needs to be said...
Wonderful commentary in the Wall Street Journal regarding the lawyer who argued for Dick Heller in the Supreme Court case:
How a Young Lawyer Saved the Second Amendment
For decades the Second Amendment might as well have been called the Second-Class Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court spent the late 20th century expansively interpreting the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth amendments, not to mention unenumerated rights ranging from travel to sexual privacy. But not until last month did the court hold that the Second Amendment means what it says: that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

What took so long? I put the question to Alan Gura, the 37-year-old wunderkind lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller.
A fascinating read on many levels...
How a piss-poor beer grew to be #1 in America solely on marketing and underselling the local craft competition and how it has finally sold out to the Belgians. A nice writeup at Salon:
The rise and fall of an American beer
Before it was bought by Belgium's InBev, Budweiser trampled local breweries across this land. Who's crying in their (piss) beer now?

I did my heaviest drinking before I turned 21. I had the motivation: I was spinning my wheels in community college. I had the opportunity: My best friend was already losing his hair, so he never got carded. And the gas station in my neighborhood sold a beer I could afford on my $3.35-an-hour video clerk's salary: Falstaff. Twelve stubby brown torpedoes of Fort Wayne water, subtly flavored with hops and barley, packaged in a plastic yellow tray. Under every bottle cap was a rebus ("It's [heart] 2 [bell] [leaf]") that was fun to solve before the first beer, but not worth the trouble by the fifth or sixth.

Falstaff was once the third biggest brewery in America. George Will drank it when he was a teenager, as hard as it is to imagine George Will as a teenager. It even outsold Budweiser in St. Louis. But Falstaff no longer exists. The last bottle was capped in 2005. The only remnant I know of is a faded mural on the East Side of Chicago.

Ever since Budweiser was sold to Belgian brewing monster InBev on Sunday, beer drinkers have been sighing that a piece of Americana has been lost. They've got it all wrong. During its rise to President for Life of Beers, Budweiser ended up crushing dozens of local brands that formed part of this country's colorful drinking heritage.
A fun bit of history... I am more on the side of craft beers, Budweiser has always been crap. I was out for Chinese food about a year ago and Bud was the only option for draft beer. It was still crap. OK but not good. Definitely not a great craft beer.

Drilling for oil in Los Angeles

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Interesting story -- as the price of Oil rises, it becomes economical to reopen wells that were closed earlier. A lot of these are in urbanized areas of California. From MS NBC:
Los Angeles is home to new rush of oil drilling
As energy prices surge, hidden rigs trap fertile fields under city

Remember how Jed Clampett and his family struck "black gold" and moved to Beverly Hills? Today the black gold is IN Beverly Hills.

Beverly Hills is one of the most fertile oil fields in Los Angeles, producing nearly a million barrels a year. Many wells are camouflaged or hidden inside buildings. One on the property of Beverly Hills High School is covered in quilt-like floral blankets.

Not far from here, in Wilmington, they churn out far more oil � in fact, the Department of Energy calls Wilmington the third largest oil field in the 48 contiguous states. Who knew?

Most of California's oil comes from the central part of the state (think Daniel Day Lewis in "There Will Be Blood"), but with oil prices so high, all over Los Angeles people are digging, or restarting, wells � even ones that only turn out 10 barrels a day. The state turns out 660,000 barrels a day, but that's down nearly half from the peak in 1985.
We have a lot of oil and there is a lot more under the ocean. Why we are not drilling for it beggars the imagination...

Two cool moves by Pope Benedict XVI

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I like this guy -- he has stones. From CNN/Associated Press:
Pope says sorry for 'evil' of clergy sex abuse
Pope Benedict XVI apologized Saturday to victims of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, describing their acts as "evil" and a grave betrayal of trust.

"I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country," Benedict said during an address at a Mass in Australia.

"I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured," the pope said. "I assure them as their pastor that I too share in their suffering."

He said those responsible for these "evils must be brought to justice."
There have been lots of apologies (justifiably so) at the Diocese level but to have an apology from the top guy speaks volumes, especially his comment about those responsible for these evils. At that level of openness and trust between clergy and parishioner, it's not a lifestyle choice, it's a betrayal. And it is a Papal twofer with this other story from CNN/Associated Press:
Pope Benedict: I'm praying for Anglican church
Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that he is praying there will not be any more rifts in the Anglican community following the recent Church of England decision on women bishops.

Answering questions from journalists aboard his flight to Australia, Benedict touched briefly on the turmoil in the Anglican church.

"I am praying so that there are no more schisms and fractures" within the Anglican community, Benedict said.

On Monday, the Church of England's ruling body voted its support for women to become bishops. That stance risks causing further division among Anglicans, since traditionalists are opposed to that idea.

The Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the U.S., is led by a woman, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member family of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England, is also wrestling with other contentious issues -- gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex marriages.

Benedict said he did not want to "interfere" in the debate.
Readers of this blog should be aware of my feelings towards what the Anglican Church has turned into: here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Being forced to scrimp on food

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link to this story of institutionalized poverty in Ohio. From Gateway Pundit:
Poor Ohio Family Forced to Scrimp On Food

Angelica Hernandez (left) and her mother, Gloria Nunez, struggle to make ends meet on a very limited budget. (NPR)

NPR aired a sad piece on the Nunez family in Ohio who can no longer afford meat.
It's a good thing they're a radio channel.

Gloria Nunez has never worked. She says that since her car broke down (imagine that?) her daughter can't look for a job either.
And, they're scrimping on food:
The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries � $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it's more like seven or eight.
They could probably do just fine with a few bags less of groceries, but that's just me.
A little walking probably wouldn't hurt either.
And we wonder what is wrong with America these days. Get fit, get an education (high-school GED at least), turn off the TV and get interested in something (reading, a hobby or craft). Stretch your brain and you will find lots of people wanting to hire you. Live an institutionalized indulgent life and you get what you pay for -- nothing.

We have a comment - 'Devices'

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I posted about a recent letter to the Journal of the American Physical Society from Christopher Monckton of Brenchley. Please note that a Letter is not subject to the same peer-review process as a Paper. Not every letter gets published though, there is a review process -- just not as stringent. Anyway, reader 'Devices' replied:
That is a "smackdown"? Its dribble. I really wish there was more scientifically credible people objecting to the global warming crowed and not clowns like Monckton. He does more harm then good with his antics.
One of the things that I like about Monckton is that he backs up his dribble with citations to published Papers -- articles that have been subjected to the scrutiny of peer-review. He is more of a synthesist -- someone who spends way too much time in the library (lucky bastard) and is able to see the "Big Picture" as it were... It seems that other people are seeing the same Big Picture...
Comments on the recent statement by the Climate Committee of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Dr Vincent Gray


As an Expert Reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for eighteen years, that is to say, from the very beginning. I have submitted thousands of comments to all of the Reports. My comments on the Fourth IPCC Report, all 1,898 of them, are to be found at IPCC (2007) and my opinions of the IPCC are in Gray (2008b)

I am therefore very familiar with the arguments presented by the IPCC, many of which have now been copied by the Royal Society of New Zealand, and the responses to them.

I will first comment on the Introduction to make absolutely clear what the evidence is for climate change and anthropogenic (human-induced) causes.

The climate has always changed and always will. No evidence whatsoever for a human contribution to the climate is given in their following statement.

Their Summary is as follows:

The globe is warming.

This statement is a lie. The globe is currently cooling. According to the CSSP Report (Karl et al 2007), there are currently nine authorities currently involved in providing a dataset of monthly global temperature anomalies. They are:
  • NOAA�s National Climate Data Center (NCDC, GHCN-COADS)

  • NASA�s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)

  • Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (HadCRUT2v)

  • NOAA radiosonde network, (RATPAC)

  • Hadley Centre Radiosonde Network (HadAT2)

  • University of Alabama Lower Troposphere TLT MSU (UAH)

  • Remote Sensing Systems Lower Troposphere TLT MSU (RSS)

  • National Center for Environmental Protection Reanalysis (NCEP50)

  • European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts Reanalysis (ERA40)

Eight of these authorities agree that the globe is currently cooling. Only GISS disagrees.
Hat tip to A Western Heart for the link to this post at the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. See also this editorial at The Australian:
No smoking hot spot
I devoted six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector.

FullCAM models carbon flows in plants, mulch, debris, soils and agricultural products, using inputs such as climate data, plant physiology and satellite data. I've been following the global warming debate closely for years.

When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects.

The evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we were certain when it appeared we needed to act quickly? Soon government and the scientific community were working together and lots of science research jobs were created. We scientists had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet.

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
What follows is a wonderful read and Dr. Evans closes with this trenchant comment:
The world has spent $50 billion on global warming since 1990, and we have not found any actual evidence that carbon emissions cause global warming. Evidence consists of observations made by someone at some time that supports the idea that carbon emissions cause global warming. Computer models and theoretical calculations are not evidence, they are just theory.

What is going to happen over the next decade as global temperatures continue not to rise? The Labor Government is about to deliberately wreck the economy in order to reduce carbon emissions. If the reasons later turn out to be bogus, the electorate is not going to re-elect a Labor government for a long time. When it comes to light that the carbon scare was known to be bogus in 2008, the ALP is going to be regarded as criminally negligent or ideologically stupid for not having seen through it. And if the Liberals support the general thrust of their actions, they will be seen likewise.

The onus should be on those who want to change things to provide evidence for why the changes are necessary. The Australian public is eventually going to have to be told the evidence anyway, so it might as well be told before wrecking the economy.
Exactly. So -- Devices -- if you are still with us and have not stomped off to your enviro support group for a nice re-assuring hug, why don't you step up to the plate and offer some scientific facts that differ with what is being said...

What the %@^!

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It seems that using characters like %@^! to represent swearwords has a formal name. This: %@^! is a grawlix. From Hoefler and Frere-Jones writing at Typography.com:
A Word For That

Is that the sound of a designer waiting for Adobe Updater to complete? No, just a brief response to a question on Docs Populi, via Coudal Partners:
�What does one call the use of random non-alphabet characters to indicate cursing? It�s a universally understood device, and is applied in both graphic and textual settings. It is such a commonly accepted staple that I assumed it must already be defined and described � but apparently it�s not.�

But it is! The term is grawlix, and it looks to have been coined by Beetle Bailey cartoonist Mort Walker around 1964. Though it�s yet to gain admission to the Oxford English Dictionary, OED Editor-at-Large Jesse Sheidlower describes it as �undeniably useful, certainly a word, and one that I�d love to see used more.� As the author of the grawlixy compendium The F-Word, Sheidlower�s perspective is unique � and unassailable, if you�re wise, since he and his cronies have the power to immortalize naysayers as expletives themselves. (Don�t laugh: such was the fate of philistine Thomas Bowdler, miser Charles Boycott, and jingoist Nicolas Chauvin, to say nothing of famous typeface designer James W. Scumbag.)
Heh... A big hat-tip to the excellent John Nack on Adobe

Light posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff...

Self Reliance - Walton Feed

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Back in the run-up to the Y2K scare, a lot of people were into buying several years of food and gasoline. One of the places that got a lot of good reviews was Walton Feed in South-East (Montpelier) Idaho. Turns out they are still very much around. Check out their Self Reliance page. A lot of their off-site links (in the Links to other sites: section) have rotted away -- the Internet Way-back Machine may be of help there. The articles that they have at their own website are still excellent. Their shopping cart is a bit old-skool -- it's an HTML form that you fill out and they then get back to you with the final price for shipping, etc. Their prices are reasonable and they have a lot of great stuff. A good resource to have for now or to bookmark for later...
You can always count on Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley for a good intelligent rant on any given subject. I don't know what the guy's IQ is but Monckton is one of the more intelligent people out there. His latest is this letter (ie: not peer reviewed; more an informal communication) to the Journal of the American Physical Society:
Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered
By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions probably caused more than half of the �global warming� of the past 50 years and would cause further rapid warming. However, global mean surface temperature has not risen since 1998 and may have fallen since late 2001. The present analysis suggests that the failure of the IPCC�s models to predict this and many other climatic phenomena arises from defects in its evaluation of the three factors whose product is climate sensitivity:
  1. Radiative forcing ΔF;

  2. The no-feedbacks climate sensitivity parameter κ; and

  3. The feedback multiplier �.

Some reasons why the IPCC�s estimates may be excessive and unsafe are explained. More importantly, the conclusion is that, perhaps, there is no �climate crisis�, and that currently-fashionable efforts by governments to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions are pointless, may be ill-conceived, and could even be harmful.
What follows is a point by point examination of the predictions of the IPCC and the reality as observed through various methods for the last twenty (or so) years. There are about forty citations so you are more then welcome to check the numbers for yourself. And James Hansen gets a new one reamed out at no charge...

Happy Birthday - The Atomic Age

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From Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer:
If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.
From Trinity site director Dr. Kenneth Bainbridge:
Now we are all sons-of-bitches.
Sixty Three years ago today, the first atomic bomb was exploded at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico. What a long strange trip it's been...

Sporting my new Tee Shirt

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My Heller Kitty tee shirts arrived yesterday and I wore one today to the store. A couple people got it, more people got it when I explained about the District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court ruling. That Second Amendment is such a pesky thing -- let's just get rid of it. After all, the Constitution is a "living document" and we can change it whenever it doesn't suit our immediate agendas -- right? Photos in a day or two -- the camera is at the store for a few days.

Coming home to roost - bank bubbles

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The problems with the banking system are manifesting in a lot of different places these days. I am not an economist (nor do I play one on TV) but the signs are strong that we are in for a bumpy ride. The news about IndyMac (and FannieMae and FreddieMac) is widely circulated but other establishments are in trouble as well including common "big" banks. My Dad has a lot of his money at Washington Mutual and after hearing that they were in a spot of trouble with some bad loans, I checked their stock prices and was surprised at what I saw. Here is the five year chart:
(ed. note: I a shrinking the charts to cut filesize. Full charts and additional data can be found at BigCharts WM is the stock code for Washington Mutual and BAC is the code for Bank of America)
Moribund performance until a sharp downward plunge. Here is the six months ago to present version:
Note that in the last 2 1/2 months, the stock price lost 300% from $12 to under $4. Jen and I bank at Bank of America and we were thinking that since WaMu did a lot of home and construction loans, they were especially vulnerable and that our bank, big old BofA would not be in such bad shape. Hooo Boy! BofA five year:
BofA didn't do as badly as WaMu in the earliest years -- they showed a nice deliberate rise from $40 in 2004 to $55 in 2007 but they started declining then and the pitch towards the bottom happened right at the beginning of 2008 with the same shaped curve as WaMu -- a nice spike in the first few weeks and then down, down, down... The six-month chart is almost as bad with a 200% loss for the last 2 1/2 months:
And of course, everyone was so pleased to get the risky loans but now they want the Federal government to bail them out... Like I said, we are going to be in for an interesting ride. Stock up on non-perishable foods, close out any high-yield investments as these have the highest risks involved and prepare for an interesting ride.

Global Warming causes...

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A list of the current hyperbolic scary stories about what Global Warming will do if we don't do something RIGHT NOW... From Lubo� Motl's The Reference Frame:
Today, global warming causes...
Global warming hasn't been seen for ten years but despite the absence, it causes a lot of things. According to the mainstream media, during the last day, global warming caused:
And this is a bit less than half of his list. And the Sun has not had a sunspot for over a month now -- very quiet and cool.

Earthworms and Compost

An excellent essay on true sustainable farming as it was done back in the mid-1800's:
My Grandfather's Earthworm Farm
by George Sheffield Oliver

When, as a small boy, I went to live with my grandfather, George Sheffield, in northern Ohio, I found him living on a model farm of 160 acres, which he had farmed continuously for more than sixty years. He was a. man who loved the soil and took pride in every detail of his farm. I remember him as a tall, striking figure, of the type of Edwin Markham. In fact, in later years, when I came across a picture of the poet Markham, I was struck by the close resemblance of the two men -- their features were almost identical and they could have easily been taken for twins.

Some of my pleasantest memories from the period of several years which I spent on this farm are the daily horseback rides I took with my grandfather. After all these years I can still see him, at the age of seventy-five, riding with the ease and grace of the practised horseman, swinging into the saddle with the facility of a man in his prime. At that age he still took delight in riding the young three-year-olds. He lived to the ripe old age of ninety-three.

Originally, this farm-holding had been 1,800 acres, but it had been sold off in forty-acre tracts to former tenants until there remained only the farmstead of 160 acres. It had been my grandfather's practice to select young single men as farm help. As these men reached maturity and married and wanted to establish homes of their own, my grandfather would set each of them up on a tract of forty acres or more, assist them in getting started, and accept a payment contract over a period of forty years. Thus, his close neighbours were men who, like himself, loved the soil and could co-operate in all community work. My grandfather often remarked that he was making more profit from his remaining 160 acres than he ever made on the original 1,800 acres, due to his lifetime experience, improved methods, and the intensive utilization of earthworms.

The homestead was located at the centre the farm. Four acres of orchard and garden furnished an abundance of fruits and vegetables the year round. Root cellars, vegetable banks, canned and dried fruits and vegetables provided for the winter months. The house and orchard were backed by forty acres of timbered land -- maple, hickory, black walnut, burr oak, and many other trees native to Ohio. Incidentally, the farm was fenced with black walnut rails -- beautiful timber which would be almost priceless at this time. My grandfather called this timbered tract his park. It was, indeed, a wonderful park, abounding in small game and bird life to delight the soul of a small boy with his first gun. The park was well watered with living springs and a quite generous-sized creek ran through it, large enough to furnish all the fish the family needed. I was designated as the official fish-catcher, a task which I dearly loved.
A wonderful story and an absolutely pitch-perfect operation for composting with the earthworms. The grandfather knew what he was doing more than most of the environmentalists today and the quality of his crops spoke volumes. Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link.
From Theo Spark comes this story:
Man found in WI basement covered in BBQ sauce
A couple in Wisconsin telephoned police in the middle of the night after finding a man in their basement covered head to toe in barbecue sauce.

"He told the officers that it was urban camouflage," said the homeowner.

The homeowners say they woke up to whistling sounds. The husband grabbed his shotgun and headed toward the basement where he found the sauced-up intruder. He held him at gunpoint until police arrived.

The guy told officers he had covered himself in barbecue sauce because he wanted to hide from the government.
Well dang -- barbecue sauce didn't work. I'll try Tabasco next...
Curious bit of statistical analysis here. From Yahoo/Associated Press:
Study: As gas prices go up, auto deaths drop
High gas prices could turn out to be a lifesaver for some drivers. The authors of a new study say gas prices are causing driving declines that could result in a third fewer auto deaths annually, with the most dramatic drop likely to be among teen drivers.

Professors Michael Morrisey of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and David Grabowski of Harvard Medical School said they found that for every 10 percent increase in gas prices there was a 2.3 percent decline in auto deaths. For drivers ages 15 to 17, the decline was 6 percent, and for ages 18 to 21, it was 3.2 percent.

Their study looked at fatalities from 1985 to 2006, when gas prices reached about $2.50 a gallon. With gas now averaging more than $4 a gallon, Morrisey said he expects to see much greater drop � about 1,000 deaths a month.

With annual auto deaths typically ranging from about 38,000 to 40,000 a year, a drop of 12,000 deaths would cut the total by nearly a third, Morrisey said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"I think there is some silver lining here in higher gas prices in that we will see a public health gain," Grabowski said. But he cautioned that their estimate of a decline of 1,000 deaths a month could be offset somewhat by the shift under way to smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and the increase in motorcycle and scooter driving.
Not that I am asking for gas prices to continue rising -- the US's energy policy is clearly flawed and needs a dramatic makeover. We need a minimum of 80% nuclear for baseload electrical generation, stop using coal for electrical generation -- use natural gas instead, invest heavily in coal to oil conversion plants for vehicle fuel and use the surplus energy to bootstrap the development of real alternative fuels, not ethanol -- ethanol is a horribly expensive joke, even worse in that the people who can least afford its costs are the ones that bear the burden through higher food costs...

It's just a cup of coffee people

Talk about needing to get a life... From Jeff Simmermon writing at And I Am Not Lying comes this story of an iced espresso:
Murky Coffee, Arlington: Hold That Espresso Between Your Knees
Maybe condescending service from a patronizing millenial at a DC coffee shop isn�t news to anyone else. But the only way I�m ever coming back to Murky Coffee in Arlington is if I�m carrying matches and a can of kerosene.

I just ordered my usual summertime pick-me-up: a triple shot of espresso dumped over ice. And the guy at the counter looked me in the eye with a straight face and said �I�m sorry, we can�t serve iced espresso here. It�s against our policy.�

The whole world turned brown and chunky for a second. Flecks of corn floated past my pupils, and it took me a second to blink it all away.

�Okay,� I said, �I�ll have a triple espresso and a cup of ice, please.�

He rolled his eyes and rang it up, took my money, gave me change. I stood there and waited. Then the barista called me over to the bar. I reached for it, and he leaned over and locked his eyes with mine, saying �Hey man. What you�re about to do � that�s really, really Not Okay.�

I could hear the capital letters in his voice, could see the gravity of the situation in his eyes.

He continued: �This is our store policy, to preserve the integrity of the coffee. It�s about the quality of the drink, and diluting the espresso is really not cool with us. So I mean, you�re going to do what you�re going to do, and I can�t stop you, but�

I interrupted. �You�re goddamned right you can�t stop me,� I said. �I happen to have a personal policy that prohibits me from indulging stupid bullshit like this � and another personal policy of doing what I want with the products I pay for.� Then I looked him right in his big wide eyes and poured the espresso onto the ice.

The whole thing was so Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces.
And of course, Jeff left a tip:
To their credit, murky coffee responded wonderfully and their Open Letter to Jeff Simmermon lists a few of their policies, gives props to the barista on duty and closes with these words:
To Mr. Simmermon, you overplayed your hand with your vulgar tip-schtick. While I certainly won't bemoan you your right to free-speech, I have to respond to you in your own dialect: Fuck you, Jeff Simmermon. Considering your public threat of arson, you'll understand when I say that if you ever show your face at my shop, I'll punch you in your dick.

Owner, murky coffee
Right back at'cha...

Yikes - a rave gone wrong in Russia

Makes me cringe to think about it... From Reuters/UK:

Ravers lose sight at Russian laser show
Dozens of partygoers at an outdoor rave near Moscow last week have lost partial vision after a laser light show burned their retinas, Russian health officials said on Monday.

Moscow city health department officials confirmed 12 cases of laser-blindness at the Central Ophthalmological Clinic, and daily newspaper Kommersant said another 17 were registered at City Hospital 32 in the centre of the capital.

Attendees at the July 5 Aquamarine Open Air Festival in Kirzhach, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Moscow, began seeking medical help days after the show, complaining of eye and vision problems, health officials told Reuters.

"They all have retinal burns, scarring is visible on them. Loss of vision in individual cases is as high as 80 percent, and regaining it is already impossible," Kommersant quoted a treating ophthalmologist as saying.

Attendees said heavy rains forced organisers to erect massive tents for the all-night dance party, and lasers that normally illuminate upwards into the sky were instead partially refracted into the ravers' eyes.

And the excuse:

The owner of a Moscow laser rental company told Reuters the accidental blindings were due to "illiteracy on the part of technicians".

What idiots -- the beam itself may only be 20 or 30 watts but focus that on a spot less than a millimeter in diameter and you are going to be doing some serious damage. I hope they have a deep insurance policy.

The state of Africa

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Kim DuToit is originally from South Africa and has written about the great continent quite a bit. His best essay is Let Africa Sink. A sobering read but an honest one. Now comes this from Kevin Myers writing at the Dublin Independent:
Africa is giving nothing to anyone -- apart from AIDS
No. It will not do. Even as we see African states refusing to take action to restore something resembling civilisation in Zimbabwe, the begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us, yet again. It is nearly 25 years since Ethiopia's (and Bob Geldof's) famous Feed The World campaign, and in that time Ethiopia's population has grown from 33.5 million to 78 million today.

So why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country? Where is the logic? There is none. To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn't count.

One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the camera, which yet again, captures the tragedy of . . .

Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially. Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there. The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring children whenever the whim takes him.
This is not going to be a popular column for Mr. Myers as it exposes the cognitive dissonance in the liberal mind when it comes to giving charitable aid to nations governed by dictators who loot the very aid being distributed to "the people". It is an accurate column though and one that should be widely distributed...

A couple days ago, Iran announced that it had successfully test-fired a couple of ballistic missiles with range to reach Europe and the USA.

The Iranians offered a photograph of four missiles as proof and immediately, it was pointed out that it was a photoshop job -- a very bad photoshop job. Clone tool exclusively with no editing.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs was one of the first people to point out the obvious work:


Thanks tonight to Neptunus Lex for this photoshop update from Noah Shachtman at Wired:



Let them eat Yellowcake

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I had posted about Saddam's little yellow-cake stash earlier here: Saddam's Nuclear Program Christopher Merola has a nice article at Town Hall:
Have Your Yellowcake and Eat It Too
On July 5, 2008, the Associated Press (AP) released a story titled: Secret U.S. mission hauls uranium from Iraq. The opening paragraph is as follows:
The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein�s nuclear program � a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium � reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.

See anything wrong with this picture? We have been hearing from the far-left for more than five years how, �Bush lied.� Somehow, that slogan loses its credibility now that 550 metric tons of Saddam�s yellowcake, used for nuclear weapon enrichment, has been discovered and shipped to Canada for its new use as nuclear energy.

It appears that American troops found the 550 metric tons of uranium in 2003 after invading Iraq. They had to sit on this information and the uranium itself, for fear of terrorists attempting to steal it. It was guarded and kept safe by our military in a 23,000-acre site with large sand beams surrounding the site.

This is vindication for the Bush administration, having been attacked mercilessly by the liberal media and the far-left pundits on the blogosphere. Now that it is proven that President Bush did not lie about Saddam�s nuclear ambitions, one would think the mainstream media would report the story? Once the AP released the story, the mainstream media should have picked it up and broadcast it worldwide.
And why the mainstream media is strangely quiet is covered in the rest of this wonderful article. And, Joe Wilson to the courtesy phone; paging Mr. Joe Wilson or Ms. Valerie Plame to the white courtesy phone please. Bush lied indeed...

Eating healthy on the cheap

A good list of cheap nutritious foods, each under $1.

A lot of people already know this but I am amazed at our Grocery Store just how many people seem to subsist on pre-manufactured foods and who do no cooking for themselves...

Check out Divine Caroline's: The 20 Healthiest Foods for Under $1

The 20 Healthiest Foods for Under $1
Food prices are climbing, and some might be looking to fast foods and packaged foods for their cheap bites. But low cost doesn't have to mean low quality. In fact, some of the most inexpensive things you can buy are the best things for you. At the grocery store, getting the most nutrition for the least amount of money means hanging out on the peripheries - near the fruits and veggies, the meat and dairy, and the bulk grains - while avoiding the expensive packaged interior. By doing so, not only will your kitchen be stocked with excellent foods, your wallet won't be empty.

1. Oats
High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, oats have also been shown to lower cholesterol. And they sure are cheap - a dollar will buy you more than a week's worth of hearty breakfasts.

Serving suggestions: Sprinkle with nuts and fruit in the morning, make oatmeal cookies for dessert.

2. Eggs
You can get about a half dozen of eggs for a dollar, making them one of the cheapest and most versatile sources of protein. They are also a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may ward off age-related eye problems.

Serving suggestions: Huevos rancheros for breakfast, egg salad sandwiches for lunch, and frittatas for dinner.

3. Kale
This dark, leafy green is loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, and calcium. Like most greens, it is usually a dollar a bunch.

Serving suggestions: Chop up some kale and add to your favorite stir-fry; try German-Style Kale or traditional Irish Colcannon.

Kale and Chard are two of my favorite greens. Like I said, most people should know this stuff but it's a good list for those who are looking to start cooking.

What shar...

Kind of creepy -- from FOX News:

Great White Shark Reported at 'Jaws' Filming Site
EDGARTOWN, Mass. - The island where "Jaws" was filmed had a real-life shark scare Thursday, when an unconfirmed sighting of a great white forced the closure of two beaches.

South Beach on Martha's Vineyard was closed for a short time, and swimmers were kept out of the water at State Beach in Edgartown, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation said.

A plane was dispatched to try to confirm the sighting, but no shark was spotted, said Lisa Capone, a spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

In 1974, Steven Spielberg chose Martha's Vineyard for filming the movie "Jaws," depicting a series of deadly great white attacks in the fictional community of Amity.

Very rare to have them that far north...

Nothing like mixing up a little spray for your greens and then finding out later -- much later that you were off a bit... From the UK Telegraph:

Groundsman destroys golf course fairways with weedkiller
A golf club's fairways were turned brown after the groundsman accidentally watered the course with industrial strength weedkiller.

The normally lush fairways have been scorched away after the groundsman sprayed them with a chemical usually used to destroy grass growing through pavements and roads.

A total of 11 holes have been ruined at Haywards Heath Golf Club in West Sussex, and will remain rusty brown for months to come.

The stuff in question:

Fairways are usually sprayed with a light weed killer, but last month the turf was thoroughly watered with a solution of industrial-strength Gallup 360 - a systemic herbicide designed for the drying out or "desiccation" of grassland.

On the label, the product is advertised as "suitable for use on industrial sites, paths, roadways and in amenity and forest areas".

A large warning notice adds: "DO NOT spray on windy days or near desirable species."

Ouch! Talk about a bad mistake...

What a nice guy - NOT!

A good look at the face of hate from the London Daily Mail:

Pictured: Smiling preacher of hate Abu Qatada enjoying an £800,000 home and a life of benefits
The picture is an affront to all victims of terrorism and their families.


Abu Qatada, Al Qaeda's ambassador in Europe, strolls along a busy London street fondling his prayer beads.

This is the first photograph of the greying 47-year-old - said to be one of the world's most dangerous terrorist suspects - since he was released on bail from a high-security prison after the courts ordered that he could not be sent home to Jordan because his human rights would have been breached.

It was taken on July 7, hours after the families and friends of the 52 innocent people killed in the London transport suicide bombings three years ago remembered their loved ones at a memorial service.

The radical cleric was freed three weeks ago when a judge ruled that there were no grounds to detain him after previous attempts to deport him to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror attacks and bomb plots, were defeated in the courts.

A bit more:

Neighbours who came forward soon after Qatada was freed spoke of their outrage over having such a man in the area while British soldiers are being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The decision to free Qatada has left Britain's anti-terror laws in tatters and the taxpayer facing a bill of tens of thousands of pounds to keep the preacher under surveillance by the security services.

Then there are the handouts - he receives an estimated £150 a week in incapacity benefit while his 45-year-old wife is said to be entitled to child benefits, income support, housing and council tax credits which exceed £800 each week.

According to experts, the benefits are broken down into £499.62 in housing and £81.55 for four of the family's children who are under 18.

The family is also said to pick up around £210 in income support - a slightly lower figure than usual because of Qatada's incapacity benefit payment.

Of the five children, only those aged 17,14, nine and six are eligible for the child benefit payments. Their oldest, who is 19, is not entitled to a handout.

The couple are exempt from paying the £2,283 yearly council tax bill on their home - it is picked up by the authorities. Currently, similar properties in the same road as Qatada are being leased for £620 a week.

Rope, Tree, Some assembly required...

Goes to show just how small a change can make such a bit effect on an historical record. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
150 years of Sydney's weather observations
Ninety years ago Sydney's temperature took a leap. However, it had more to do with rising political, rather than global, heat.

The instant climate change was remembered yesterday as Bureau of Meteorology staff, and astronomers, gathered on Observatory Hill to mark 150 years of Sydney's weather observations.

On July 1, 1858, NSW's government astronomer, Reverend William Scott, noted 12.7 millimetres of rain had fallen in the previous 24 hours. "He was the astronomer, the timekeeper and the meteorologist," the current astronomer, Nick Lomb, recalled yesterday.

In 1908 the role of recording rainfall and temperatures was taken over by the Commonwealth's new Bureau of Meteorology, which was allowed to share accommodation in the observatory's grounds.

However, Dr Lomb said, it was a tense relationship. William Cooke, appointed in 1912 as the new astronomer, wanted the bureau out so he could move his family into the observatory's occupied residence. "A battle between the two sides" ensued.

The astronomer triumphed and in 1917 the bureau was moved 150 metres south, to an old cottage across the hill.

The seemingly insignificant shift triggered a sudden spike in Sydney's temperature records.
A fun story. This problem also shows up in the USA with remote weather stations getting encroached by civilization and asphalt and HVAC equipment. An excellent resource for this is SurfaceStations.org. Another is WattsUpWithThat.

All Aboard!

A sobering look at our national train system and why it's where it is. (In the pits) From Good Magazine:
Train in Vain
Europe and Asia have figured it out, so why is the American rail system still so unspeakably awful? GOOD hops aboard a transcontinental train to find out.

Ask around onboard almost any Amtrak train, and you�ll get a pretty short list of reasons why people ride the rails. In the caf� car, chugging along one of the country�s oldest routes, I counted four types of passengers. There are thrifty ones looking to save a few bucks on plane tickets. There are those who are scared of flying, a group that has no doubt grown in recent years. There are the zealots�without exception, older men�who describe themselves with charming lack of inhibition as �rail junkies,� �railroad nuts,� �train buffs,� or, my personal favorite, �railfans.� The rest�indeed the majority�say they�re here for �the experience.� Good thing for Amtrak, that romantic notion of the rails is alive and well. Naturally, it�s something the beleaguered rail company promotes to death. The experience is an important sell; nobody ever mentions reliability or practicality.
A bit more:
The American passenger rail�once a model around the globe�is now something of an oddball novelty, a political boondoggle to some, a colossal transit failure to others. The author James Howard Kunstler likes to say that American trains �would be the laughing stock of Bulgaria.� The numbers show just how far this once-great system has fallen. In 1960, U.S. rail travelers logged 17.1 billion passenger miles (the movement of one passenger one mile), the standard measure of a system�s reach; by 2000, that number had fallen to 5.5 billion, just one percent of the total travel between U.S. cities that year. (Of course, over this same period, airlines� passenger miles increased 16 times; even intercity buses� service nearly doubled.) Most of this decrease was seen in the 1960s, as highways and air travel took precedent both in travel plans and in government subsidies. Since its ill-fated formation as a quasi-public, for-profit corporation in 1971, Amtrak has seen only meager growth and loses billions of dollars annually.
Goes to show what government control results in. The trains, when privately owned, were on time and the accommodations were wonderful. Good rooms and the food was quite nice. I rode a lot while growing up as my Mom and Dad went to a lot of meetings and I got to come along many times. Pittsburgh to Chicago was a nice run, same thing for Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. Everytime I think it might be fun to do a trans-continental run, I read stories like this and put it back on the back burner...

Typographers and their handwriting

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An interesting look at ten modern typographers with a sample of some of their typefaces and a sample of their handwriting. Some handwriting is beautiful, some is strange and ugly. From The Man in Blue - check out Handwritten Typographers

An interesting item on the menu -- from Yahoo/AFP:

London restaurant blast at world's hottest curry title
A London restaurant was serving up Thursday what it hopes will be confirmed as the world's hottest curry, with even the chef admitting it is "too extreme" to keep on the menu.

Vivek Singh at The Cinnamon Club grabbed some of the hottest chilli peppers known to man to create the Bollywood Burner, a lamb-based dish with a fierce kick.

The curry is so hot that diners are asked to sign a disclaimer confirming they are aware of the risks involved before daring to eat it.

The Bollywood Burner is being submitted to Guinness World Records for verification of its status as the planet's hottest curry. The verdict should be announced within three weeks.

Student Toby Steele, 19, from Brighton on the southern English coast, was the first to taste the Bollywood Burner.

"I'm usually a korma man and I suspect this is the hottest thing I've ever tasted," he said.

"It was nice actually, you could really taste the spices.

"The initial taste isn't that hot but now, a couple of minutes later, I feel a bit floaty and light-headed."

The dish, inspired by cuisine from Hyderabad in southern India, includes the Naga and its seeds -- confirmed by Guinness World Records as the hottest chilli pepper in the world.

On the Scoville scale of piquancy, the Naga scores 855,000 -- more than 100 times hotter than the jalapeno, which measures 8,000 on the scale.

Reminds me of a meal I once had in Hong Kong. I found a restaurant that I really liked and ate there quite a few times -- got so I was recognized by the staff. It took a few times for them to realize that I liked my hot foods hot. My last day in H.K., I told them that I was heading back to the US -- they said that they were sorry to see me go and that the chef would do a special dish for me. My meal came out with a small plate of shrimp. I had not ordered shrimp so I assumed this was the special dish. Good lord -- it was the hottest thing I have to this day ever tasted! The sauce was carmine red in color and each mouthful was like a blast furnace. It was really delicious and it was fun in that every few minutes, a face would pop into the window of the doors leading into the kitchen -- I can imagine the conversation back there: Yep -- that crazy guailo is still eating it.

File under: whatever

From ArsTechnica:

Breaking the law: one-third of US residents rip DVDs
One-third of consumers in the US and UK have made a copy of a DVD within the last six months, according to a report from Futuresource Consulting. The firm surveyed 3,613 people in the US and 1,718 in the UK to discover their "home piracy" habits, and attempts to paint a somewhat ugly picture of casual copyright infringement even though a majority of users who make copies are doing so "legitimately" (for personal use).

36 percent of UK respondents and 32 percent of US respondents have made a copy of a DVD within the last six months, which Futuresource says is an increase from only a quarter of survey respondents in 2007. Respondents in the UK who copied DVDs primarily made copies of movies and TV shows, although movie copying dropped between 2007 and 2008 while TV copying went up.

Unsurprisingly, the preferred method of copying DVDs were some of the simplest. Roughly a quarter of both UK and US consumers who made copies of DVDs connected a DVD player to a DVD recorder using a composite/S-Video cable, while roughly another quarter of the two groups preferred using a single PC application for burning DVD copies.

Where is Jack Valenti when we need him? My favorite:

"We are facing a very new and a very troubling assault ... and we are facing it from a thing called the video cassette recorder and its necessary companion called the blank tape. We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry ... whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine [the VCR]."

"[Some say] that the VCR is the greatest friend that the American film producer ever had. I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

The idea that the morons in the film studios think that they can implement an unbreakable encryption is fallacious at best.

Whatever scheme they come up with is a direct challenge to thousands of hackers and is totally defeated in under a month (complete with disassembled source code).

Global Warming in India

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Reason Magazine takes a look at India's reaction to the whole Global Warming scare:
Starving Indians Not Impressed by Global Warming Plan
How do you say "screw you" in Hindi?

The plan's authors, the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change, said India would rather save its people from poverty than global warming, and would not cut growth to cut gases.

"It is obvious that India needs to substantially increase its per capita energy consumption to provide a minimally acceptable level of wellbeing to its people."

The plan's only real promise was in fact a threat: "India is determined that its per capita greenhouse gas emissions will at no point exceed that of developed countries."
Good on them! An amazing nation able to function well with so many different groups. Their exports are quite good -- I have some machine tools that were made in India and their build quality is a lot better than the average Chinese junk...

Our intellectual betters

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Excellent rant by Ralph Peters at the New York Post:
THE greatest lie intellectuals tell us is that "the pen is mightier than the sword." That's what cowards claim when they want to preen as heroes.

Billions of words have been hurled at Sudan's government. The misery in Darfur not only continues but deepens. While intellectuals wrestled with compound sentences, Darfur degenerated from selective oppression to savage anarchy.

Legions of columnists and commentators have deplored Robert Mugabe's monstrous rule in Zimbabwe. But none of the hand-wringing by American, European or even African intellectuals restrained one fist or stopped one club in midair. Guess who "won" that election.

Regiments of professors and pundits have bemoaned China's gobbling of Tibet for half a century. The result? Beijing cracked down even harder.

"Brave" columnists wrote countless columns bemoaning the suffering of the Kurds and the Shia under Saddam Hussein. Their earnest paragraphs didn't save a single life.

Only when better men acted did the surviving victims of one of the world's worst dictatorships glimpse freedom - an imperfect freedom but better than a mass grave.
Points which are not addressed by the left for some strange reason... Peters closes with these three excellent paragraphs:
Pacifists mean well. But they're a dictator's best friends. The man who won't fight for justice abets the terrorist, the tyrant and the concentration-camp guard.

All decent men want peace. But wise men know that not all men are decent.

The use of the pen is an indulgence we can afford only because better men and women grip the sword on our behalf.
Sums it up quite nicely...
A curious case from Australia - from the Melbourne Herald Sun:
Doomed to a fatal delusion over climate change
Psychiatrists have detected the first case of "climate change delusion" - and they haven't even yet got to Kevin Rudd and his global warming guru.

Writing in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Joshua Wolf and Robert Salo of our Royal Children's Hospital say this delusion was a "previously unreported phenomenon".

"A 17-year-old man was referred to the inpatient psychiatric unit at Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne with an eight-month history of depressed mood . . . He also . . . had visions of apocalyptic events."

(So have Alarmist of the Year Tim Flannery, Profit of Doom Al Gore and Sir Richard Brazen, but I digress.)

"The patient had also developed the belief that, due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of millions of people through exhaustion of water supplies."

But never mind the poor boy, who became too terrified even to drink. What's scarier is that people in charge of our Government seem to suffer from this "climate change delusion", too.
The article is a bit tongue in cheek lampooning a lot of the Australian attempts at curbing global warming. The story about the kid is real though and I am surprised that more people aren't suffering the same condition given the quasi-religious status given this theory by the scientific uninitiated...

Not much for today...

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Finished working outside and then went to this months Chamber of Commerce meeting. I was elected to the board last December and enjoy the work. Sitting down to dinner at 10:30 so I don't think I will be posting very much tonight...

Light posting today

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The weather turned gorgeous today so I'm working outside cleaning up a bit, mowing, etc...

The USA Olympic Diving Trials

Some amazing photography at Boston.com:

USA Olympic Diving Trials
Indiana University recently hosted the 2008 USA Diving Olympic Team Trials, and the process of selecting the diving team to represent the United States is underway.

Here is just one of them -- diver Terry Horner enters the water:


The facial expressions are great. Gorgeous photography.

Fermented Foods

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Looks like an interesting online store -- they specialize in kits for making your own fermented foods. They have the usual Beer and Wine kits but they also have kits for Cider, Mead, Sourdough, Cheese, Pickling, Hot Sauce, Mustard, etc... I'll have to try some of these -- check out Leeners

Welcome back DeLorean DMC-12

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Very high geekdom indeed -- from Mr. Jalopnik:
The Future Is Back: Jalopnik Tours New DeLorean HQ
Owners of the ultimate geek car, the DeLorean, are no strangers to modifying their McFly rides, including hovercraft and electric conversions of the iconic silver-skinned sports car. Now, thanks to the new DeLorean Motor Company, buyers of new DeLoreans and owners of the classic ones can outfit them with everything but a Mr. Fusion. We stopped by the new DMC's headquarters in Houston, where we got the scoop on the new DeLorean and more importantly, what you can now do with the old one.
Very cool -- I wouldn't mind owning one of these especially with the upgrades. Prices start at $57K but we are looking at a new engine and power train with upgraded interior. Nice to see them being built again even if it's only a labor of love.

A guest in our orchard

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We had two unwelcome guests in our orchard today. Here is one of them:
Click for full size.
We had one of our dogs chase them off as they were munching on our apple trees bark, tasty for them but fatal to the tree... And yes, our other dog was in the orchard blissfully digging his way to China and oblivious to the incoming marauders.

The Taliban has a PLAN!

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Only problem is that it sucks strategically... From Strategy Page:
The Taliban Have A Plan That Sucks
While the Taliban get all the headlines, the main source of the violence in Afghanistan is the money from the heroin trade. This is what pays to arm and encourage (with payments to the gunmen, or to their families after their sons die in action) young men to get involved. The Taliban also take advantage of the ancient Pushtun tradition of fighting outsiders. The result of all this has been a few thousand Taliban and al Qaeda fighting wandering around southern Afghanistan, terrorizing locals into supporting them (with food, and no cell phone calls to the police). Because most of the Pushtuns want nothing to do with more violence, more and more of the gunmen are foreigners. Most are from Pakistan, but hundreds are from outside the region, mostly Arabs.

The majority of Afghans have nothing to do with all this. Partly this is because about 60 percent of the population are not Pushtuns, and consider the Taliban another example of Pushtun madness they want no part of. The rest of the country still has the usual problems of corruption, banditry and tribal politics, but nothing as nasty as the Taliban and their murderous religious fanaticism.
And a bit more:
Getting those additional troops will be difficult, largely because of domestic politics in the West. Europeans, in particular, are eager to find a way to not get involved. The Europeans have allowed their armed forces to waste away since the end of the Cold War in 1991, and the general attitude is more receptive to making some kind of deal with the Islamic radicals, rather than hunting down and killing them. The Islamic radicals know this, and are willing to say whatever the Europeans want to hear in order to get Western troops out of Afghanistan. To help that process, al Qaeda is concentrating suicide and roadside bombing attacks on European troops, because of the potential political payoff back in Europe.
The article cites a couple examples of poor management by Taliban including this gem from June 27, 2008:
Increased Taliban attacks on trucks that move most imports to land-locked Afghanistan, has caused Pakistan to go after Taliban fighters who have set up shop along the highways into Afghanistan. It's Pakistani trucking and trading companies that are losing money, trucks and drivers from the Taliban attacks. Religion is one thing, losing your livelihood is an even greater motivator.
These scum will be sent back into the sewers from whence they crawled forth but it will take time and will.
The Church of England hits bottom, starts digging. From the UK Daily Mail:
Church of England plans male 'superbishops' for rebel clergy who refuse to be led by women
The Church of England today launched a plan for a new class of �superbishops� to try to keep its rebel clergy within the fold.

The superbishops were the key to a rescue package to keep the CofE from breaking apart as its leaders move towards the consecration of the first women bishops.

Under the last-minute deal put forward to the Church�s parliament, the General Synod, superbishops would be given authority over traditionalist clergy and parishes which refuse to accept the leadership of a woman bishop.
Emphasis mine -- let's go over that last bit one more time:
superbishops would be given authority over traditionalist clergy
It is the abject failure of the leadership of the Church of England to show any kind of moral backbone that is causing the traditionalists to become 'uppity' in the first place. I was brought up in this Church and I am dismayed at how much of a wishy-washy feel-good love-fest it has become. I am not advocating hair shirts, scourging and bread and water -- not by any means. There was a lot of spirituality and beauty in the music when I grew up, there was a lot of pageantry, a lot of wonderful times but you also had to toe the line at some things. You could not take communion unless you had been confirmed and to be confirmed meant several months of study. The current management of the Church is trying to be everything to everyone -- if that is the case, if you want your Church to be more like the U.C.C. for instance, for Christ's Sake, quit the CofE and go and join the United Churches in Christ, I am sure they would love to have you as a parishioner. Do not wreck the Church you are in and cause it to become a bare shade of what it once was. But I digress... The rest of the article is just as bad:
They would be picked from the ranks of Anglo-Catholic traditionalists to provide alternative leadership for those who will not obey women bishops and who still do not accept the idea that women can be ordained as priests.

The superbishops plan was unveiled amid allegations that senior conservative bishops in the CofE have held a meeting at the Vatican to discuss �closer ties� with the Roman Catholic Church.

News of the meeting sparked speculation in the CofE that traditionalists are considering a mass defection to Rome because of the row over women bishops and the worldwide Anglican headache over homosexuality.

One possibility is that parishes and entire dioceses might transfer their allegiance to Rome and move towards conversion to Catholicism.
No shit Sherlock -- I have been thinking about checking out a local Catholic Church. Jeb Bush converted and George W. has been spending time at the Vatican whenever he travels to Europe leading to speculations there. I think that the issue here is that the Church of England is a very wealthy Church and if a Parrish becomes independent or (shudder) goes to the dark side (Catholicism), the Archbishop would lose that income. Look at this bunch of smug idiots:
False Pride was a sin when I was growing up...

Couture - now and then - Givenchy

I am not a follower of fashion but when you see something, there is an immediate visceral reaction that this is a classic or that this is crap. This is the case in automobiles, boats, machinery, mathematics, programming. Anything that is spare and elegant will stand the test of time and when someone starts throwing junk after more junk, it winds up looking like a clown suit. Hat tip to Ayyyy! for this comparison of classic Givenchy and present Givenchy:

To quote Spirit Fingers at Ayyyy!:
I think I liked it better when the House of Givenchy was synonymous with classic elegance instead of the end result of slipping on an oil spill and dislocating a shoulder.
He is not dead but this will have Hubert de Givenchy spinning in his grave when he gets there...
Newt Gingrich gives a three-minute talk and outlines a very feasible way to bootstrap ourselves into energy independence. YouTube: Newt: 3 Ways to Lower Gas Prices His first one is something I never thought about. Much of the high price is due to speculation. His solution is to dump one third of the USA Strategic Petroleum Reserve onto the open market. This would artificially lower the price of oil by about $50/barrel and really punish the speculators. Heh... A big hat tip to our brother across the pond - Theo Spark - for the link.

Saddam's Nuclear Program

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One of the reasons the United Nations asked Iraq to surrender was their increasing militarization. In the windup prior to the UN Coalition's invading of Iraq, conveys were seen heading north into Syria -- one captured after the invasion held a lot of gold bars. Because the media told us that the Coalition forces didn't find any Nuclear facilities, we were led to believe that Saddam wasn't looking at developing a bomb. Explain to me then this article at the Las Vegas Sun/Associated Press:
AP Exclusive: US removes uranium from Iraq
The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program _ a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium _ reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.

The removal of 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" _ the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment _ was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam's nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

What's now left is the final and complicated push to clean up the remaining radioactive debris at the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 12 miles south of Baghdad _ using teams that include Iraqi experts recently trained in the Chernobyl fallout zone in Ukraine.

"Everyone is very happy to have this safely out of Iraq," said a senior U.S. official who outlined the nearly three-month operation to The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The article has a lot of detail about Hussein's program and what has been discovered so far. Good to see this stuff come out after so long...

Kent Couch makes it to Idaho

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That's Cambridge, Idaho From Bend, Oregon Averaging 20MPH in a Lawn Chair. From CNN/Associated Press:
Lawn-chair balloonist drifts from Oregon to Idaho
A man flying across Oregon in a lawn chair rigged with helium-filled balloons has reached his destination in Idaho.

A reporter tracking Kent Couch for the Oregonian newspaper says he landed safely near Cambridge, Idaho, on Saturday afternoon.

The 48-year-old lifted off at dawn from his gas station in Bend, Oregon, and flew with the wind at about 20 mph.

It was Couch's third try at the journey.

Couch took off Saturday morning, riding a green lawn chair supported by a rainbow array of more than 150 helium-filled party balloons.

He kissed his wife and kids goodbye, and patted their shivering Chihuahua, Isabella, before his ground crew gave him a push so he could clear surrounding light poles and a coffee cart.

Then, clutching a big mug of coffee, Couch rose out of the parking lot of his gas station into the bright blue morning sky, cheered by a crowd of spectators.

"If I had the time and money and people, I'd do this every weekend," Couch said before getting into the chair. "Things just look different from up there. You're moving so slowly. The best thing is the peace, the serenity.

"You can hear a dog bark at 15,000 feet."
If this sort of flight sounds somewhat familiar, it is:
Couch was inspired by a TV show about the 1982 lawn chair flight over Los Angeles, California, by truck driver Larry Walters, who gained folk hero fame but was fined $1,500 for violating air traffic rules.
I have been hot air ballooning a few times and it is wonderful for the 30% of the time that the burners are shut off. The other 70% there is this this roaring furnace belching two feet above your head. The party balloons sound like a great idea...
From Captain Capitalism comes this chart of gas prices. With everyone pissing and moaning about high prices these days, it isn't quite what you would expect:
An Astute Adjustment
Dr. Mark Perry over at U of Michigan Flint has made an interesting adjustment to put the price of gas into perspective.

Not only did he adjust for the percent of our income we spend on fuel, but also incorporated increases in mileage/efficiency.
There are a couple of quibbles -- SUVs and trucks are not included but Dr. Perry points out the fact that adjusted for inflation, gas is about 50% of what it was at the worst of the 1980's In 1980, the average efficiency of a passenger car was 16MPG. Today, 22MPG is common if not low. Something to keep in mind as the gas pump starts climbing over $70 for the weekly fill-up.
Talk about poor prior planning -- from the Santa Ana, CA Orange County Register:
Carjackers' nightmare: intended victims are two cops
A 22-year-old man is in custody after police said he and another man unwittingly tried to carjack an unmarked police car with two uniformed officers inside.

At 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the officers were investigating illegal fireworks activity in the 2200 block of Eastwood Avenue when a sports utility vehicle pulled up in front of their unmarked police sedan, said Santa Ana Police Department Comm. Steve Colon.

The two men got out of the SUV and took "an aggressive approach toward the officers," Colon said. The driver acted as if he had a weapon in his waistband, police said.

At that point, the officers got out of the car; the two suspects ran back into their SUV and attempted to get away, Colon said. Police suspect the two men didn't realize there were officers in the vehicle.
Talk about stupid...
Go to this website, fill in your name and address and it will automatically generate letters to your Senators and Congressman. Sign, mail and hope that it gets funding. What am I talking about? Check out Save the Arecibo Telescope: Write to Congress Sure, you can call or email but a written letter sent with a 42 cent stamp carries a lot more weight. Just printed mine out a few minutes ago...
From the UK Guardian:
Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis
Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.
There are a lot of factors affecting the current spike in food prices: drought, excessive precipitation, global warming, the marked cooling trend of the last ten-fifteen years and the re-allocation of crop-land to Corn in order to get the US Government subsidies. At our Grocery Store, we have seen a spike in our costs but a lot of those are due to the current fuel bubble as much as the rising price of corn. While I think the US figures of 3% are a tad low -- I would put it (as a wild-assed-guess) closer to 10%; 75% is ludicrous. A number picked out of some politicians hat, not the result of a scientific analysis. I wonder who spiked their coffee -- and then I read the next two graphs:
Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

"It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House," said one yesterday.
Ahhh -- yet another cheap shot at Chimpy McGeorge Bushhhhitler... And of course, since this 'report' has been leaked, there is no publication of any of their citations so we peons cannot fact check it ourselves, we just have to trust that our social betters have our poor best interests at heart and we should just do whatever they say. I found about this through a link on Gary Jones' site -- Muck and Mystery: Liberty Feast -- where he concludes his excellent post with these words:
The next time you hear some outraged fool screeching that we must do something, take action about some issue that obsesses them, bear in mind that this is nearly always destructive. Useless flailing about poorly understood problems is wasteful and worse.
Truer words have never been spoken!

When SPF-30 does not mean SPF-30

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An interesting look at Sunscreens from Newsweek:
Sizing Up Sunscreen
A new study finds that most sunscreens don't offer sufficient protection.

Sunscreens were seriously burned this month, when a new ranking of more than 700 sunscreen products found that 84 percent did not provide adequate sun protection. The study, conducted by Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington-based nonprofit, looked at over 400 peer-reviewed articles on sunscreen ingredients. It found that many of the most popular sunscreens break down quickly in the sun or are not blocking many harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Rankings in the July 2007 issue of Consumer Reports revealed a similar problem: not all sunscreens are created equal. Rather, they found that sunscreens with the same sun protection factor (SPF) ran the gamut from "excellent" to "poor" in their overall ability to block ultraviolet rays.

While many people rely solely on SPF when selecting a sunscreen, these rankings show that the single number only tells half the story. SPF measures a sunscreen's ability to block UVB rays. But it says nothing about its strength against UVA rays, an equally damaging form of radiation that causes wrinkles and, more seriously, skin cancer. And unlike UVB rays that cause sunburns, UVA rays do not leave an immediate mark.

"We don't have a physical, visible way to know if we're protected against UVA radiation," says Jane Houlihan, vice president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Your skin looks fine, you're not burnt, and you could have a massive dose of UV radiation."
The article goes on for three pages and is fairly involved. The key issues is to look for either of these ingredients: aveobenzone or parsol 1789 -- these are best for blocking UVA. Also, the links in the article aren't good -- the Consumers Report link points to a subscribers-only article and the link to EVA only points to other Newsweek articles about the EVA. The EVAs website is here: Environmental Working Group The Sunscreen report is here: Does your sunscreen work? Some sobering reading...

Minimal posting tonight

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Had to go into town for the usual Friday shopping run -- made a bit more intense by everyone else in the stores buying supplies for the long weekend. We are planning to head back into town tonight for the Fireworks off of Bellingham Bay. Considering the traffic jam after the display, we will be back home around 1:00AM. More tomorrow...
An exchange between two members on a Forum I participate in: #1) - Also, in high humidity conditions, molecular level moisture adhesion is a problem. #2) - Is that another way of saying that it gets damp? The Forum is for high-voltage electronics and Tesla Coils in particular so high-humidity conditions are a concern as they affect total spark length. There is also a fine point being made here about the difference between Absorption and Adsorption but still... "It got damp" is a lot clearer than "The device-under-test suffered molecular level moisture adhesion due to the prevailing high-humidity conditions." I know that this is not the case but it sure sounds like #1) works for the US Government in some capacity.

R U Outraged?

We keep hearing about such and so group being "outraged' at some minor slight. Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for this very revealing look at Being Outraged:

The 'Outraged' tally
Neal Boortz and his crew did an interesting news search the other day:
We started talking about all of the "Muslims Outraged" newspaper headlines we had seen over the years. Using the Yahoo search engine I looked for the number of hits on various versions of "Muslims Outraged." We put the phrase into quotation marks so that it would only show a hit where those words appear together. That particular grammatical usage would more often appear in headlines than in the body of a story where the phrase would more likely be "Muslims were outraged." So .. here are your results:

Democrats Outraged

45,600 hits
Muslims Outraged 35,600 hits
Republicans Outraged 13,800 hits
Catholics Outraged 11,500 hits
Christians Outraged 2,990 hits
Jews Outraged 2,060 hits
Libertarians Outraged 57 hits
Buddhists Outraged 24 hits


From The Register:
Are the ice caps melting?
The headlines last week brought us terrifying news: The North Pole will be ice-free this summer "for the first time in human history," wrote Steve Connor in The Independent. Or so the experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado predict. This sounds very frightening, so let's look at the facts about polar sea ice.

As usual, there are a couple of huge problems with the reports.
The author (Steven Goddard) then quotes from this article in the New York Times where the same NSIDC expert, Mark Serreze, said:
"There's nothing to be necessarily alarmed about. There's been open water at the pole before. We have no clear evidence at this point that this is related to global climate change."
A bit of a long read (three pages) but very well researched and worth checking out if only to quiet some of the hysteria being drummed up by non-scientists.

The Ugly Liberal

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An interesting look at today's politics and a comparison between John McCain and Khalid Sheik Mohammed:
Ugly Liberals: Only Care If Terrorists Are Tortured, Not If Americans Are
The �Ugly Liberal� is coming out in the Democrat Party. A close cousin to the Ugly American - who would go to Europe and other places and display such arrogance and snobbery that it gave all America a bad reputation - this is the election for the Ugly Liberal. It is their hate of Americans, conservatives, life, etc that drives them. They are a constant insult machine, tearing down others to prop up their insecurity. They run their little fantasies about how only they can save humanity from itself.

Today�s target for these insecure, small people is John McCain and his military record and his years in captivity. What is so pathetic about this brand of Ugly Liberal is their duplicity on the subject of torture. They rant and rave about impeaching Bush and others for �torturing� the likes of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of 9-11:
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was subjected to the CIA�s harshest interrogation methods while he was held in secret prisons around the world for more than three years, part of an interrogation regimen that the International Committee of the Red Cross has called �tantamount to torture,� according to a New Yorker article to be published on the magazine�s Web site today.

In reality, what we did to KLM is we induced the fear of drowning. We did not physically torture the man. There were no scars, bruises or cuts. We just used a cloth and ran water over it to trigger the body�s natural response to fight off drowning. We use the same process on our own soldiers to prepare them for real thugs who use real torture - like al-Qaeda, and the North Vietnamese. Let�s be clear here, the Ugly Liberals want to Impeach and Arrest Americans who simply invoked one of our body�s natural response mechanisms. They no more �tortured� anyone than a doctor tapping the knee to check the leg�s reflexes is the same as knee-capping their patients.
An excellent takedown of the claims being made against Senator McCain.

My new(est) toy - a Sine Bar

Not a strange drinking establishment - a device for accurately measuring angles. Distance and length can be measured easily to several tens of a thousandth of an inch. Angles, not so. With length, you can use a micrometer screw to get a fine division but for angles, you are basically looking at a pointer and an engraved scale and the best you can do is about a quarter of a degree accuracy. Unfortunately, this is not enough for some instances. Enter a bit of geometry, a splash of trig and precise angle measurement is yours... Wikipedia has an excellent short article explaining the process. Here is the catalog photo of mine -- a brown & sharpe:
Cool stuff and amazing accuracy for such a simple technique.
Quite an accomplishment -- we think the USA is hot stuff for being in operation for 232 years. Quebec City is celebrating its 400th anniversary today. From The Canadian Press:
Canadian cities join Quebec City's 400th birthday celebrations
Belfries across Canada shook in unison Thursday as hundreds of churches helped ring in the 400th birthday of historic Quebec City.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the provincial capital as the country's most beautiful city as he and a slew of other dignitaries celebrated the anniversary.

Harper, Premier Jean Charest, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon were just some of the politicians to give brief speeches at a ceremony marking the day 400 years ago that Samuel de Champlain dropped anchor below the bluffs of what was to become Old Quebec.

"1608 is a historical date for you, for the province of Quebec and for all of Canada because July 3, 1608 - exactly 400 years ago today - really marks the beginning of what we have become today," Harper told those assembled at the foot of an imposing statue of the famed French explorer.

"Fellow Canadians, I may have grown up in Toronto, I may have decided to live in Calgary with my family, and I may work in Ottawa, but they say all Canadians must have two cities in his or her heart: their own and Quebec City.

"Because it is the most beautiful city in Canada, the most charming - a city that radiates 'joie de vivre'."
There is a nice entry in WikiPedia on Quebec. A gorgeous city -- visited there several times when I was living on the East Coast. Montreal is nice but Quebec is a gemstone.
The lightning and thunder that were playing around the mountains are getting serious -- going outside to hang out and watch the light-show... I love a good ripping-the-vault-of-heaven thunderstorm -- one of the very few things I miss living here...

Light posting tonight

Working on other stuff. Was in town today for an acupuncture session, visited the farmer's market and tried to pick up a lawn mower that was supposed to be waiting for me. Turns out it will be in Saturday... Doing some web stuff for the store tonight as well as chillin' a little bit. It has been nice and warm for the last couple of weeks (finally) but the weather has shifted and now lightning and thunder are playing in the mountains near our house and a cool rain is starting to drift down.

One of the classic older films and one of the first science fiction films is Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The only problem is that no remaining complete copy is available. Until now... From the Zeit Online:

Key scenes from Fritz Lang's Metropolis have been rediscovered
Last Tuesday Paula Felix-Didier travelled on a secret mission to Berlin in order to meet with three film experts and editors from ZEITmagazin. The museum director from Buenos Aires had something special in her luggage: a copy of a long version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, including scenes believed lost for almost 80 years. After examining the film the three experts are certain: The find from Buenos Aires is a real treasure, a worldwide sensation. Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can from this day on be considered to have been rediscovered.

Fritz Lang presented the original version of Metropolis in Berlin in January 1927. The film is set in the futuristic city of Metropolis, ruled by Joh Fredersen, whose workers live underground. His son falls in love with a young woman from the worker's underworld - the conflict takes its course. At the time it was the most expensive German film ever made. It was intended to be a major offensive against Hollywood. However the film flopped with critics and audiences alike. Representatives of the American firm Paramount considerably shortened and re-edited the film. They oversimplified the plot, even cutting key scenes. The original version could only be seen in Berlin until May 1927 - from then on it was considered to have been lost forever. Those recently viewing a restored version of the film first read the following insert: "More than a quarter of the film is believed to be lost forever."

ZEITmagazin has now reconstructed the story of how the film nevertheless managed to survive. Adolfo Z. Wilson, a man from Buenos Aires and head of the Terra film distribution company, arranged for a copy of the long version of Metropolis to be sent to Argentina in 1928 to show it in cinemas there. Shortly afterwards a film critic called Manuel Pena Rodreguez came into possession of the reels and added them to his private collection. In the 1960s Pena Rodreguez sold the film reels to Argentina's National Art Fund - clearly nobody had yet realised the value of the reels. A copy of these reels passed into the collection of the Museo del Cine (Cinema Museum) in Buenos Aires in 1992, the curatorship of which was taken over by Paula Felix-Didier in January this year. Her ex-husband, director of the film department of the Museum of Latin American Art, first entertained the decisive suspicion: He had heard from the manager of a cinema club, who years before had been surprised by how long a screening of this film had taken. Together, Paula Felix-Didier and her ex-husband took a look at the film in her archive - and discovered the missing scenes.

A very long article and a fascinating story but the gist is that it looks like there is a copy of the original uncut Metropolis that should be coming out for release at some point in the future. Let's hope it makes it to DVD sometime soon!

A morning two-fer... From ABC Action News - Ocala, Florida:
Man sells stolen items at neighborhood yard sale
Police say an Ocala man was selling stolen property at a yard sale in the same neighborhood as the home he robbed.

Fred and Betty McAteers, who live in Ocklawaha, arrived at a home they own in Ocala on Monday to find that it had been burglarized. They returned Tuesday and walked around the neighborhood to see if anyone knew anything about the theft. During their walk, they saw their dresser sitting on the front lawn of an apartment building.
And this sad story of corporate stupidity and lack of simple compassion from the Bangor, Maine Bangor Daily News:
Airline denies dying Florida man boarding at BIA
Dennis Hill�s dying wish was to visit family in Maine and then return to his Lakeland, Fla., home that overlooked the water.

Hill arrived in Etna two weeks ago to say his final farewell to his brother and two sons, but he never made it back to his Florida house, where he loved to drink a cup of coffee in the morning and watch the neighborhood alligator.
And the reason:
Allegiant refused to fly Hill home.

"The pilot said he would not allow him to fly on the plane, and the reason he gave � if the plane crashed, nobody would be able to help him," said Richard Brackett, Hill�s brother.
What a putz...

Google is at it again...

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Curiouser and curiouser...
I have knocked down the image quality but it shows the gist of what is happening here. I have posted #)7741 (Clever Idea - the Gamma Seal) and #)7742 (Light posting tonight -- stuff to do and a fire to go and watch) and all the while, Google was hitting me with specific word searches... I will be checking soon to see if there are any repetitions. I suspect not. It feels like I have encountered an alien intelligence. I do not understand what it is doing but it is very methodical and it doesn't seem to repeat itself... UPDATE: Have not posted yet but I realized that I could do a very quick bodge-up look with MS Excel using their Data Filter tool. Out of 623 blog searches so far, they searched for " op " twice.
Working on getting a truck ready to move out. It is a 20' Chevy C-30 with a rebuilt engine and it was a good stout-hearted beast and served us well for moving up to the farm but it had been languishing for a few years. The brakes were failing and I could not find the leak so a few days ago, I posted an advertisement on a local barter forum and got a call from someone who will be picking it up at the end of this week. Spending the next day or two getting it cleaned out and ready to be towed. Also, while I was working at home today, I saw a huge gout of smoke coming from South East of the farm. I didn't get a handle on the distance as it was so big so I drove in and found it. This was an active logging site, it seems that they had felled and bucked the wood and were hauling it out when the fire started. Later today, there were "water bottles" flying overhead dropping fire retardant. I already shot some distance photos this afternoon and am planning to go out when it gets dark with the good camera (Nikon D1X) and telephoto and shoot some fire shots. See what I can get...

Clever Idea - the Gamma Seal

Hat tip to Kevin Kelley's Cool Tools (a daily read for me) for the link. The five-gallon white poly bucket is ubiquitous and cheap. They make great storage bins but they are not air or water tight. The Gamma Seal addresses this and fixes it perfectly. From Kevin's article:
Gamma Seal Lid
Converts buckets to air-tight containers

This product turns an empty pail into a more useful item: a resealable pail that's strong enough for stacking and sitting. I started using the lids because I just wanted a seat for my fishing pail. It does more than that, though. Keeps everything inside nice and dry (like my camera). And when I'm done, it will seal up the fish I bring home with no fishy water getting out in my car. The lid has two parts: one snaps onto your pail and a gasket seals it tight. The second part is a removable screw in/out center piece also with a gasket for an air- and watertight seal. They fit 3.5 - 7-gallon pails. I happened upon them in the in the livestock section of my local Farm and Fleet store. So far, I have only used mine for fishing. However, I have purchased several more to use for storage around the house. Just need to get the pails. A local pool company sometimes throws out larger buckets, which I'm hoping to reuse.
Vendor link here: Gamma Seal 6 Color Pack On sale now for $6.49 each in the pack of six. Color coded too which would come in handy. Looks good for long-term backup food storage...
Over the past two days, I have noticed some odd activity being recorded. I am getting directed searches being done to this blog looking for specific words. It has to be automated as a search is being run every 30 seconds or so non-stop for an hour or two. So far I have logged over 580 of these starting Saturday with 50 searches, skipping Sunday and hitting me Monday with 104 searches and then Tuesday (today) with 431 searches. Here is a snippet of the log on my side of things:
Time is GMT. Click to enlarge. These searches are all coming from one IP Address: Taking a look, I see that it is Google:
Don't see anything on their website indicating a new search algorithm. Curious...

When you reach a limit in technology, you can either re-tool and develop a new system or you can think smart.

Some researchers at Japan's Tohoku University are thinking very smart these days. From The Register:

Boffins invent 42GB DVD
Blank DVDs are a cheaper storage option than Blu-ray, but the HD format has greater capacity. However, Japanese storage scientists claim to have invented a method for storing up to 42GB onto a single DVD.

Researchers from the Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials, based in Japan's Tohoku University, have - according to Google's translation of a document released by the university department - discovered a way to multiply the amount of data stored on a DVD. The group also claims to be able to replicate the method for CDs.

Essentially, the team states that by changing the shape of the data-storage pits from having a flat bottom to one that's a V shape, each pit will be able to hold more data. Changing the horizontal orientation of the tip of the valley, alters the way light is reflected by the pit. As a result, pits no longer represent binary 1s and 0s, but a range of values, effectively allowing each to record a byte rather than a bit.

I don't know if this will ever see the light of day as this would require all new readers and writers but it is definitely an interesting development that could just as well be applied to the next generation of optical disks -- a great hack!

Want to see a perfect example of what happens when a government steps into the private sector and starts providing socialized health care? Check out Barbara Wagner�s story at the Oregon Statesman Journal:
Drug company supplies cancer drug Oregon Health Plan won't
After weeks of bad news, things turned Barbara Wagner�s way this week.

Last month her lung cancer, in remission for about two years, was back. After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that could slow the cancer growth and extend her life, Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn�t cover it.

It would cover comfort and care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide.
Good lord! What part of "First, Do No Harm" do these bureaucrats fail to grasp... There is good news though:
Then on Monday a representative of the pharmaceutical company Genentech called Wagner and offered the medicine for free.
The decision to implement government sponsored health care is a difficult one to make. Sure, it ensures that people have a basic level of service but at the same time, it adds another layer of cost and bureaucracy to what is already an expensive and bureaucratic process and this can only decrease the efficiency. We need to strip out a lot of the malpractice insurance, reduce the system down to 50% of its size and see what happens. Streamline the process just like an auto or a microchip manufacturer would do.

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