December 2008 Archives

Happy New Year

We made it through another year -- hope that 2009 will be a little less hectic. We didn't have time to do a garden in 2008 and that was something that Jen and I both really missed -- the farm and the garden will be a top priority in 2009. Best wishes to everyone out there -- I'm headed out to the DaveCave(tm) and will probably call it a fairly early night so this is it for this little corner of the universe. And of course, it's snowing again. Arrrrgggghhhhhh...

And that's Sir Terry to you

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Very cool news -- from the BBC:
Profile: Terry Pratchett
The author Terry Pratchett - whose novels have sold millions of copies worldwide - has been made a knight in the New Year Honours list.

The writer, 60, who is best known for his hugely popular Discworld series of comic fantasy novels, received the honour for services to literature.
Very cool news -- his only regret is that he didn't get a sword. Hat tip to Neatorama for the link.

Israel Started It

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Heh -- some of the cartoons are absolutely nailing the Israel/Palestine conflict:


Hat tip Theo - to our brother on the other side of the pond.

Wanna see something cool?

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Check out the Yoshimoto Cube:
Hat tip to Gizmodo The engineering on this would be something to see -- how they did the hinges... Already checked Amazon and ThinkGeek -- don't carry it. MoMA does but too expensive for a plastic toy.

Banks and the Texas Ratio

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Given the current economic crunch, the quality of your bank is important. Unfortunately, banks aren't exactly forthcoming with useful numbers. Chris Brunner writing at the Lew Rockwell Blog has compiled a list of most of the US Banks (not Credit Unions) with their Total Assets and their Texas Ratio. WTF Texas Ratio? Chris explains it here:
List of Troubled Banks
Ready to see where your bank stands?

A few days ago, a friend of mine called me to ask if I had any idea how to figure out which banks would be the next to fail. Some extensive googling revealed that while lists of troubled banks obviously exist, none of them seem to be readily available to the public. Why? Because the bankers do not want you to have this. Just watch the president of the American Bankers Association in this interview talk about how important it is to keep this private.

This is a list of all of the banks in the United States and the corresponding Texas Ratio for each one. Developed by Gerard Cassidy, the Texas ratio is a measure of a bank's credit troubles. Basically, the higher the ratio, the worse the situation is for that particular bank. Banks with a ratio of 100 and higher are in very serious danger of collapse, and banks with a ratio of 50 or higher are vulnerable.

This is the formula I used:

100 * ((Non-performing Assets - U.S guaranteed loans) + Other REO) / (Equity + Loss Reserves)

All of this information is available on the FDIC website, but it's extremely difficult to gather in a meaningful way. In fact, I don't think you'll find a list like this anywhere else on the internet.
A bank needs to be at 50 and below, there are a lot of banks at over 100 and I pity the fools at Suburban Federal Savings Bank in Crofton, MD as their Texas Ratio is 495. I'm surprised that they aren't imploding at this very second...

Hey -- be glad we don't live in France

Rennes for instance. From The Distributed Republic:

Think things are bad in the US?
Economically they may be... the market is tanking, the FED is printing like crazy, entire parts of the country are being nationalized. I do however remain optimistic because the people are still not totally corrupt, they still have a decent moral compass and some remain of respect for property rights. The following story happened in Rennes, in the Bretagne region of France. Should the following happen in the US, I think hardly anyone would support it, and emphatically not the democratic party. In France, this was quite popular...

A few days ago, the AFP published this (my crappy translation cannot even begin to describe the socialist newspeak used here. The substantive "precaires" essentially means someone who can be fired).
According to the police, around 25 people, belonging to a collective of "chemeurs et precaires" - unemployed and people with short-term jobs - grabbed food today, and left without paying for it at the Galeries Lafayette, a French department store, in Rennes.

The activists stuffed their carts with food around noon then blocked the checkout counters, unfurling a banner: "chemeurs et precaires en lutte", indicating their social struggle. After negotiating with the management of the store, which was crowded with Christmas shoppers, they managed to leave with their provisions without paying. No complaint was filed with the police, who went on site but did not arrest anyone.

The AFP contacted the store management who declined to comment.

A bit more -- from the 'groups' website:

After 40 minutes, a member of our collective takes his walky-talky to discuss with the manager. He becomes more reasonable and agrees to come down, but he does not seem ready yet to give in to our demands. He comes down and gives conditions which we seem unacceptable to us : for example, he wants us to take a value brand foie-gras instead of Fauchon foie-gras (N.B one of the most expensive brand), that we free the counters and go settle this discretely in a small room, away from the clients. We jettison ballast by offering to take only 10 baskets out of twenty. The talks are moving fast, we feel the situation is going to unlock.

In this country (in our store) -- lock the doors, get the security people to guard them and call 911 to report a robbery in progress.

Same thing as in Somalia with the ocean-going pirates. You give in to them one time and it's all over. There is zero negotiation with idiots like this -- they have no moral ground, no cultural equivalence, no repressed voice. These stupid children are not speaking truth to power, they are acting very self-centered and very spoiled and very out-of-touch with reality.

Europe used to be a gorgeous place. I traveled there 40 years ago with my parents and have been back about ten times. The last was ten years ago and that was to Ireland, England and Switzerland.

I would visit the British Isles and Ireland again -- maybe Italy for the food and definitely Turkey, Iceland and Greece (skipping the big cities as much as possible) but have zero desire to visit any part of mainland EU. They are mired in their own sepsis and demonstrate no desire to reclaim their cultural heritage.

And as one commenter noted, it's the Treasury and not the FED who print money.

An observation on Government

From Gary Jones over at Muck and Mystery:

Just Because
Government policy is not just a blunt instrument, it's a toy instrument, a nerf bat, a ceremonial symbol of no value if it has to actually be used. I don't mean that it can't do great harm - we have all of history to provide examples of that - I mean that it can't do good, can't deal with real problems.

But, in a bureaucratic world the response to every serious issue is to kick it upstairs. Not my yob, every underling says, and we are all underlings. The problem is that the penthouse is occupied by sociopaths who don't give a crap about anything but their own well being. It could not be otherwise since any honest and caring person would soon be destroyed by the realization of their inadequacy to the task, their inability to deal with the problems kicked upstairs to them.

I think that this may be why actors and confidence men do well in politics. They are comfortable playing a part. They can be the doctor or super hero or whatever since they don't ever have to actually do anything, they just have to play the role. Give them a script and they can sell it.

We all know this, so how do we reconcile the failure to deal with problems with our continued support for politicians? We have the astounding ability to reshape reality to fit our expectations. With hammer and tongs we torture the facts and with scalpels and dynamite we cut and explode past events until they support the script well enough for us to suspend disbelief. We want to believe and that's enough. Remarkable.

Unfortunately, we currently have two good examples of this: financial problems and environmental problems. Various cures are offered though none of them can work even in theory unless a host of other fortuitous events occur in future, and it may be that such a fortuitous alignment of the planets would work as well without the policy placebos.

What he said...

There was a big solar wind a few days ago and we have all the conditions for a large display of aurora borealis tonight and tomorrow. From SpaceWeather:
AURORA ALERT: "The Northern Lights are coming," says Rob Stammes of the Polar Light Center in Lofoten, Norway. He bases his prediction on what is happening right now in the ground outside his magnetic observatory. "Electrical currents are surging through the Earth. Here is the recording from my ground current instrument."


The cause of this activity is a solar wind stream hitting Earth. The impact of the solar wind rattles Earth's magnetic field which, in turn, induces electrical currents in the ground. "This kind of ground current surge normally precedes beautiful Northern Lights," notes Stammes. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras tonight.
The Polar Light Center can be found here: Polar Light Center Looks like a fun setup:
This is their dining room -- well, everyone should have a hobby or two? Right?

Producing - one hamster at a time

Check this out (from the UK Telegraph):

Hamster powers environmentally friendly paper shredder
A design consultant has constructed an environmentally friendly paper shredder powered by a hamster running on its wheel.

The hamster has to run flat out for 45 minutes to shred one sheet of A4 paper.

The paper then falls on to the base of the hamster cage, providing fresh bedding for the furry pet.

Tom Ballhatchet, 29, developed the product using a friend's hamster for his masters degree in industrial design.

The London-based design consultant said: "I wanted to come up with a product that would capture people's imagination while addressing issues of topical concern such as climate change, recycling and identity fraud.

"The hamster shredder provides a solution to all of these things because it relies on the hamster to generate power, destroys confidential documents and turns paper into bedding.

"Owners can put their paper in the top before they go to bed and wake up to find the hamster has been on its wheel and shredded the paper in the process.

"The hamster just has to go about its normal life."

Several companies have expressed an interest in turning the working prototype into a fullscale production.

Downright cute!


A bit more about the Yellowstone Volcano

Went looking and found this article which describes what MIGHT happen and the timeline:
Is the Super Volcano Beneath Yellowstone Ready to Blow?
About 4 miles beneath Yellowstone National Park's beautiful scenery is a forty-mile-wide chamber full of molten rock under incredibly high pressure. This magma is what powers Yellowstone's fantastic geysers and hot springs, but is it about to erupt in a cataclysmic explosion that will decimate the western United States and push mankind to the brink of extinction?

Yellowstone is the crown jewel of the United States national park system. Its mountain vistas, wildlife and geographic features are visited and admired by people from around the world. More than any of those, however, it's the park's thermo-geological features that make it unlike any other part of the globe. No place on earth has as many steam vents, hot springs and active geysers as Yellowstone.

To create these features requires two elements in abundance: lots of water and lots of heat. The water is provided by the generous rain and snow the region gets. The heat comes from deep inside the earth: volcanic heat. Though you might not be able to tell from just looking at it, Yellowstone National Park is built on an ancient volcano. Not just a regular volcano, either. It lays on top of what some people have started to call a "super volcano."
The last eruption:
Yellowstone's Catastrophic Eruption
This last happened at the Yellowstone volcano approximately 650,000 years ago. The caldera that it left is 53 miles long and 28 miles wide. In the area surrounding Yellowstone, 3000 square miles were subjected to a flow of pyroclastic material composed of 240 cubic miles of hot ash and pumice. Ash was also thrown into the atmosphere and blanketed much of North America. It can still be identified in core samples from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.
And some hand-wringing and speculation:
Some amateur geologists connected these events with the history of the Yellowstone volcano and came to some troubling conclusions: The catastrophic caldera making eruptions have occurred. at 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 650,000 years ago. Was another one about to happen? Was the next explosion overdue?
It all depends on the chemistry of the magma. Mt. St. Helens had a lot of gases dissolved so when it went, it was like a bottle of soda that was shaken and suddenly opened. Volcanoes in Hawaii are quite different -- they have very slow and long-lasting lava flows. Four miles is a little far to drill down and see just what kind of chocolate we got with this particular box. Our town is in the blast zone of an active volcano (Mt. Baker) so this is not uncommon. Before St. Helens kicked off, scientists were assuming that Baker would be the next one to blow. There are active fumaroles at the summit.

Yellowstone National Park getting a bit busy

Earthquakes -- small ones but lots of them. From Bloomberg:

Yellowstone National Park Hit by Hundreds of Small Earthquakes
Hundreds of small earthquakes have struck Yellowstone National Park in the western U.S. during the past four days, the most intense series of tremors in the area in some years, the University of Utah reported.

Earthquakes are common in Yellowstone, which averages 1,000 to 2,000 tremors a year, and its 10,000 geysers and hot springs are the result of geologic activity, the university said in a statement on its Web site. The park covers sections of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

The university's network of 28 seismographs in the area started picking up the tremors on Dec. 26, and more than 250 quakes have been recorded since then -- including nine greater than magnitude 3.0 and about 24 between magnitude 2.0 and 3.0. Some visitors have reported feeling the quakes.

Seismologists are trying to determine if the tremors are being caused by fault movements, the university said. The biggest quake was a magnitude 3.9 recorded at 10:15 p.m. local time on Dec. 27, when the largest number of tremors of magnitude 3.0 or more was recorded.

The park maintains two websites for Earthquakes and Volcanos

The University of Utah also monitors Earthquakes and Volcanos

There is a lot of careful observation going on as Yellowstone was once a huge volcano and if it decides to go again, it has the potential to take out a large area of land.

Heh - perfect justice

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From Atlanta Georga television station 11Alive:
McKinney's Boat Collides With Israeli Vessel
Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was aboard a boat called the Dignity that CNN said was rammed by an Israeli boat.

The boat was carrying volunteers and medical supplies to Gaza when it was intercepted. It left Cyprus Monday.

"Our mission was a peaceful mission, to deliver medical supplies," McKinney said. "Our mission was thwarted by aggressiveness of Israeli military. Now one of the things I would like to ask President-elect Obama is to say something, please, about humanitarian crisis that is being experienced right now by the people of Gaza."
Reading between the lines a bit:
CNN reporter Karl Penhaul, who was on board the Dignity, said part of the boat's motor was damaged. Penhaul called the collision intentional, saying the Israeli boat pursued the Dignity for half an hour before the ramming occured.
Probably all the while telling them to turn around, that they were in violation of coastal laws and trying to enter a war zone. I'm surprized at Israel's restraint -- I would have fired a 30mm round into their engine room after having to listen to that moonbat bray. Here are the remains of the SS Dignity -- looks like the Israeli's tried to minimize the damage.
And here is the Honorable Ms. McKinney when she tried out a new hairdoo, refused to carry her Congresssional Identification tag and was stopped by a security guard when she tried to enter Congressional Hall. She punched the guard.
Seattle recently took a beating for making the decision not to use salt on their roads and instead, use a small amount of sand. The result is about what you would expect with people housebound, lots of accidents and a general slowdown of the city. The anonymous snow bard had this to say at the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
Twas the night before Christmas, and next to the Sound, not a creature was stirring for all were snowbound.
Greyhound buses quit running, no matter the fare, and mailmen and garbage said they just couldn't get there!
The children were sliding Queen Anne Hill on their sleds.
While roofs were collapsing on old peoples' heads.
And Mama in her boots and I in my cap, were stuck in the snow and ice and such crap.
When at the Home Depot there arose such a clatter, I trudged from my car to see what was the matter.
A group of sad souls were waving their cash. They couldn't buy shovels, they sold in a flash.
Tires were spinning and just wouldn't go, and chains lay broken in the dirty old snow.
Then, what to my surprise did my eyes look over and see?
Eight representatives of SDOT.
With a politician so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it was Mayor "Salt Nick."
More rapid than gun bans, his excuses they came, "To save our environment the roads stay the same!"
On Broadway! On Boren! On Yesler and Denny!
To clear off these roads would cost such a penny!
Sliding down Thomas and onto a wall.
The buses hung over I-5, read to fall.
Still, he insisted it wasn't his fault, as the world's greenest mayor he wouldn't use salt.
That stuff's corrosive, could hurt the fish.
But Puget Sound is salt water, you ignorant kish! So snowy Seattle continued to stew, but Mayor "Salt Nick" just hadn't a clue.
While I stood there astonished, on nearby TV sets, I saw the airport was packed, no de-icer for jets.
Since others could get down the roads to the ferry, the city decided to close Denny and Cherry.
An accident closed the I-90 bridge.
And people couldn't drive down Phinney Ridge.
Shovels, and salt had just flown off the shelf. And I laughed when I heard Mayor "Salt Nick" in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head. He tried to convey we had nothing to dread.
Then thumbing his nose at his citizens' plight, he turned to the crowd and exclaimed, "We've done right."
And then to his SUV refusing to yield, he left to get solar panels installed on Qwest Field.
But I heard him exclaim, as he skidded past me, "Happy Christmas to all. Heck, I give myself a 'B.'

Elektro - the 1938 robot

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I had posted about the New Scientist article yesterday. Found a YouTube of his demonstration:
Amazing technology for the time.

Now we have our answer

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An insight into the crazy world of the last decade of banking. From Megan McArdle writing at Asymmetrical Information:
That explains a lot
Washington Mutual's innovative new lending style:
"I'd lie if I said every piece of documentation was properly signed and dated," said Mr. Parsons, speaking through wire-reinforced glass at a California prison near here, where he is serving 16 months for theft after his fourth arrest -- all involving drugs.

While Mr. Parsons, whose incarceration is not related to his work for WaMu, oversaw a team screening mortgage applications, he was snorting methamphetamine daily, he said.

"In our world, it was tolerated," said Sherri Zaback, who worked for Mr. Parsons and recalls seeing drug paraphernalia on his desk. "Everybody said, 'He gets the job done.' "
Two years ago, like many somewhat financially literate readers, I was perusing newspapers stories about crazy negative amortization mortgages and exclaiming, "What are they, on crack?" Now we have our answer.
The article that Megan is quoting is from the NY Times Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Celebrities and Science Review 2008

From the wonderful Sense about Science

From their website:

Celebrities and Science Review 2008
It's that time of the year when Sense About Science asks scientists to review what celebrities have said about science and medicine, from detox and special diets to chemicals, MMR and radiation.

Scientists have responded to celebrities including: Kelly Osbourne on avoiding cancer risks, Tom Cruise on psychiatry, Demi Moore's promotion of detoxing with leeches, Ivanka Trump and 'spit' parties, Amanda Peet defending MMR, Mariah Carey's use of Einstein's equation, Jenny McCarthy misunderstanding MMR, Nigella Lawson on special diets, Delia Smith on sugar addiction, Carole Caplin on food supplements and more! Scientists also couldn't resist a response to US presidential candidates on the subjects of the MMR vaccine and fruit fly research.

While UK celebs have improved and are taking more care when discussing science and medicine, their international counterparts haven't done so well. Sense About Science's files are still too full of examples of pseudo-scientific claims.

We've also discovered this year that the subjects have changed: the most common misconception of the last couple of years was how products or food can be 'chemical free', something which doesn't appear this year. References to the effectiveness of detox have however remained steady. New topics appear too, including genetic testing, psychiatry, maths and international celebrities have resurrected inaccurate claims about the MMR vaccine. There have been big improvements amongst the UK celebs in medicine and health and nutrition and food production.

"We don't expect people to know everything about science; the problem comes when they don't consider checking it or asking a few questions before they speak out. With the internet, and 24-hour news media, celebrities' misleading claims travel widely. They add disproportionately to the stock of misinformation that we all then have to wade through to make sense of a subject. A little checking goes a long way."

The full report is available here (PDF) and is a fun read -- they quote a celeb and then have a couple scientists gently debunk the statement.

Accounting (non)standards

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If the rules are inconvenient, change them. From Washington Post:
Accounting Standards Wilt Under Pressure
World leaders have vowed to help prevent future financial meltdowns by creating international accounting standards so all companies would play by the same rules, but the effort has instead been mired in loopholes and political pressures.

In October, largely hidden from public view, the International Accounting Standards Board changed the rules so European banks could make their balance sheets look better. The action let the banks rewrite history, picking and choosing among their problem investments to essentially claim that some had been on a different set of books before the financial crisis started.

The results were dramatic. Deutsche Bank shifted $32 billion of troubled assets, turning a $970 million quarterly pretax loss into $120 million profit. And the securities markets were fooled, bidding Deutsche Bank's shares up nearly 19 percent on Oct. 30, the day it made the startling announcement that it had turned an unexpected profit.

The change has had dramatic consequences within the cloistered world of accounting, shattering the credibility of the IASB -- the very body whose rules have been adopted by 113 countries and is supposed to become the global standard-setter, including for the United States, within a few years.
And a bit more:
U.S. standards have been set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board since 1973. "Right now, there is no credibility," said Robert Denham, chairman of the Financial Accounting Foundation, which oversees the FASB. "If we are going to have global accounting standards, my view is that is not going to work if the IASB is going to be jerked around by the European Commission. That is the very real risk that is posed by the EC coercion and the IASB's response."

The episode exposes how small, incremental changes in arcane accounting rules can affect billions of dollars in market value and corporate profitability. In turn, the money at risk raises the political stakes, as desperate companies begin to lobby political leaders to insist on changes that normally would come about only after a careful discussion and evaluation by experts.

For years, there has been a disconnect between U.S. and international accounting rules. With the history of corporate litigation in the United States, U.S. standards tend to be exact and explicit, making it easier for companies to defend themselves in court.

International rules rely on broad principles, giving companies greater leeway to make their own judgments. An extensive review of international accounting standards published last month by Moody's Investors Service found significant differences between two French companies on one key issue -- even though they used the same accounting firm.

Nevertheless, more than 110 countries have already adopted international rules since the IASB was established in 2001, with Japan, South Korea, India and Canada soon to make the switch. Tweedie expects that 150 countries will have adopted IASB rules within the next three years. The Securities and Exchange Commission on Nov. 14 adopted a plan to have all U.S. companies prepare their statements using international standards for fiscal years ending after Dec. 15, 2016. More than 100 of the largest companies would be permitted to adopt the rules as soon as next year.
This probably represents the next big bubble forming. And the lawyers and accountants will get very very rich. Welcome to the new aristocracy -- lawyers and politicians this time, not Kings and Queens.

Fun fun fun...

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Back on the 27th, I posted about going out to the DaveCave(tm) to do some work. What happened then was not what I intended. I was carrying some equipment, tripped and reached out with my right hand to a table stay my fall. Unfortunately, I missed the table and the edge of it pulled up a flap of skin. One trip to the ER, four stitches and a bruised knee later...
Outside of that, the last couple days have been fantastic. It warmed up to above freezing only to dip down to 27F this morning. Snowing hard with a solid layer of nice smooth ice underneath. Just wonderful...

A new Bible

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Talk about carrying an agenda a little too far. From the Arizona Republic:
Green Bible creates controversy
Critics: Message distracts from focus on God

In this day and age, you can buy a Bible aimed at almost any demographic imaginable.>

There are Bibles for everyone from toddlers to teenage girls to recovering addicts. There are even Bibles on disc, narrated by James Earl Jones and Johnny Cash.>

But it's the recently published Green Bible that is causing a stir in the religious community.>

Supporters of the book, which highlights verses related to what believers call "God's creation" and his desire for humans to protect it, say they hope it will encourage more Christians, particularly evangelicals, to embrace environmentalism.>

"In every book of the Bible, there are references to the world and how we should take care of it," said Rusty Pritchard, editor of Creation Care Magazine, an eco-friendly publication for evangelicals. "When you look at it through that lens, it really jumps out at you . . . that God is calling us to care for the world around us.">

But others fear the new Bible, which has been endorsed by secular groups such as the Sierra Club and the Humane Society, will mislead Christians.
Being aware of the environment and practicing stewardship of the Earth's resources is one thing. Rampant sub-prime science and political agenda masquerading as 'environmentalism' is entirely another. Not a good trend to see... >

Hat tip to Theo for this perfect illustration regarding the two sides of this war:
About sums it up perfectly... Swine.

A thought from Victor Davis Hanson

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Kinda makes you go Hmmmm...
It Doesn't Compute...
I'm very puzzled by the nexus between the current downturn and concern about global warming. Given that we were told we had to immediately cut back on carbon emissions (even before sustainable alternative energies are in place), largely by curbing our lavish energy-dependent lifestyles, why then all the concern about stimuli and global depression? Surely, the world right now is sort of what the radical Gorists wanted to see, since the current cutback in gasoline usage, and general economic slowdown are radically restricting the burning of fossil fuels in a manner that even the most optimistic green utopian could hardly have envisioned just few years ago? In other words, in the booming 2004-6 years, radical suggested scale-backs would have probably led to something akin to what we are experiencing now? So why the gloom instead of headlines blaring�"The Planet Continues to Green�as Archaic Consumption Practices Erode Further!"
Good point -- from National Review Online Hat tip -- Instapundit

An environmental disaster in Tennessee

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The TVA Kingston Fossil Power Plant stored its fly ash mixed with water in a pond and on Monday the 22nd at 1:00AM, one of those ponds broke and spilled 5.4 million cubic yards of material over several hundred acres of land. Pictures are just starting to hit the net.



Jack Lail writing at Knoxville News has an excellent list of links to the story. People have this image of Nuclear as being dirty with horrible 'scary' wastes that need to be secured for tens of thousands of years. The reality is that only a small percent of the nuke waste is that bad and overall, because the fuel has so much energy per cubic foot, the total volume of all waste is a minute fraction of what is produced by a coal plant of the same capacity. The overall impact of mining is that much smaller as well. Nukes Now! It's working for Japan and France and most other civilized nations, why not here.
More wonderful news from the cess-pit of the Islamic mind. From the London Times:
Taleban threaten to blow up girls� schools if they refuse to close
The Taleban have ordered the closure of all girls� schools in the war-ravaged Swat district and warned parents and teachers of dire consequences if the ban is flouted.

In an announcement made in mosques and broadcast on radio, the militant group set a deadline of January 15 for its order to be obeyed or it would blow up school buildings and attack schoolgirls. It also told women not to set foot outside their homes without being fully covered.

�Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society,� Shah Dauran, leader of a group that has established control over a large part of Swat district in the North West Frontier Province, declared this week.

Teachers said that they had little choice but to comply. The Taleban have destroyed more than 125 girls� schools in the area in the past year. Swat, once a relatively liberal area and a popular tourist destination, has in the past few years become a heartland for Pakistan�s Islamic militancy, which fashions itself on the conservative Taleban movement in Afghanistan.
And a bit more:
The militants have also prohibited immunisation for children against polio � claiming that the UN-sponsored vaccination drive is aimed at causing sexual impotence � causing a sharp rise in cases of the disease.
Looks like Satan's work is being done well by his minions. The False Prophet Mohamed and all that good stuff...

2008 Passages

We lost some amazing people in 2008 -- Arthur C. Clarke, George Carlin... Cracked has a list of 15 people who passed away in 2008 that you might not have heard of:
Where Aren't They Now?: 15 Overlooked Deaths of 2008
How many greats have we lost this year? Heath Ledger. Bernie Mac. George Carlin. Charlton Heston. Arthur C Clarke. Michael Crichton. Jenny, the world�s oldest Gorilla. When these luminaries pass, the media stops and heaps on praise.

But then there are the unsung deaths, the people whose passing went largely unnoticed, but deserved better.
And starting the list at #15
January 7: The Greatest Competitive Eater of All Time

Edward Abraham �Bozo� Miller, Gastronomical Champion of competitive eating

"Natural causes"

The Legacy:
This is a man who weighed 300 pounds, ate up to 25,000 calories per day, once ate 1000 packets of potato chips (flavor unspecified) and one time drank a lion under the table. Yet he lived until the age of 89 and married a former Princess of the Pasadena Rose Bowl (basically, a beauty queen). He was what all of America aspires to be.
Some Classic American Characters in this list. They will be missed.

Fancy a round of Golf?

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This is a perfect example of the problems with the United Auto Workers. From Fox News:
Autoworkers Union Keeps $6 Million Golf Course for Members at $33 Million Lakeside Retreat
The United Auto Workers may be out of the hole now that President Bush has approved a $17 billion bailout of the U.S. auto industry, but the union isn't out of the bunker just yet.

Even as the industry struggles with massive losses, the UAW brass continue to own and operate a $33 million lakeside retreat in Michigan, complete with a $6.4 million designer golf course. And it's costing them millions each year.

The UAW, known more for its strikes than its slices, hosts seminars and junkets at the Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center in Onaway, Mich., which is nestled on "1,000 heavily forested acres" on Michigan's Black Lake, according to its Web site.

But the Black Lake club and retreat, which are among the union's biggest fixed assets, have lost $23 million in the past five years alone, a heavy albatross around the union's neck as it tries to manage a multibillion-dollar pension plan crisis.
Makes you wonder -- out of $100 in Union dues, just how much is returned to the worker in Benefits... Fox News has a couple photos of the place here And the Resort'sTraining Center's website is here

Cool news US and Britain support Israel

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Finally -- Israel has had enough with Hamas and has started fighting back big-time. Hamas would declare a truce only until they re-armed sufficiently (this deception is called "hudna" in Arabic) and then they start launching rocket grenades over the border. Over 3,000 in 2008. A few days ago, Israel sent jets over to destroy the smuggling tunnels, training camps, arms depots and killed over 200 of the terrorists. Needless to say, the voices from the left are outraged... Outraged I tell you! that Israel would continue to defend itself against an enemy whose sole wish is to wipe Israel off the map. From the London Times:
Britain and US refuse to demand end to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza
Britain and the United States were on a collision course with their European allies last night after refusing to call for an end to Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.

The wave of attacks marked a violent end to President George W Bush�s sporadic Middle East peace efforts. The White House put the blame squarely on Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organisation, for provoking the Israeli blitz.

Britain echoed the call for �militants� to stop firing rockets into Israel while calling for �maximum restraint� to avoid casualties.

The response was in sharp contrast to demands by the European Union for an �immediate ceasefire� and criticism by France of the use of �disproportionate force�.

�Hamas�s continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop,� said Gordon Johndroe, the White House spokesman, in Texas where Bush is spending the holidays at his Crawford ranch.

Britain declined to condemn Israel for the onslaught and called for an end to rocket attacks by militants.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, blamed Hamas for the raid. �The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza,� she said.
Good to see both nations sticking to their principles.

An insight into the Arab mind

Interesting article at Strategy Page:

Why Arabs Believe In Force Fields
Many Pakistanis now believe that the recent Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, was the work of the Israeli Mossad, or the American CIA. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when women and children, and Moslems, are among the victims, other Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

Conspiracies are not unique to the Moslem world, but they are much more common there. After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, many Moslems again blamed Israel. A favorite variation of this is that, before the attacks on the World Trade Center, a secret message went out to all Jews in the area to stay away. Another variation has it that the 19 attackers (all of them Arab, 15 from Saudi Arabia) were really not Arabs, but falsely identified as part of the Israeli deception. In the United States, some Americans insist that the attack was the work of the U.S. government, complete with the World Trade Center towers being brought down by prepositioned explosive charges. While few Americans accept this, the Moslem fantasies are widely accepted in the Moslem world. Even Western educated Arabs, speaking good English, will casually express, and accept, these tales of the Israeli Mossad staging the attacks, to trick the U.S. into attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are shocked at this, but the Moslems expressing these beliefs just shrug.

American troops arriving in Iraq go through a real culture shock as they encounter these cultural difference. They also discover that the cause of this, and many other Arab problems, is the concept of "inshallah" ("If God wills it.") This is a basic tenet of Islam, although some scholars believe the attitude preceded that religion. In any event, "inshallah" is deadly when combined with modern technology. For this reason, Arab countries either have poorly maintained infrastructure and equipment (including military stuff), or import a lot of foreigners, possessing the right attitudes, to maintain everything. That minority of Arabs who do have the right attitude towards maintenance and personal responsibility are considered odd, but useful.

I love the line: "tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems)" How can any culture accept this as a strength and not a weakness to be rooted out? One more quote: "When they first encounter these beliefs, U.S. troops thought the Arabs are putting them on. Then it sinks in that Arabs really believe this stuff. It's a scary moment." Yikes -- of course, we are exploiting this to the hilt but still...

Ready for Hard Times

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Say what you will about their beliefs and practices, Mormons have the right idea when it comes to self-reliance. From MS/NBC and Associated Press:
Mormons prepared for hard times
Church's doctrine of self-reliance, service keeps storehouses stocked

Bishop's Storehouse looks like any other grocery store at first glance: The shelves are neatly lined with canned goods and the smell of fresh bread wafts through the aisles.

But there are no cash registers. The fruits and vegetables, just-made cheeses and milk are free � a safety net for those in need provided by the 13 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We like to call it the best food money can't buy," said Jim Goodrich, who oversees the storehouse and other facilities on the church's 13-plus-acre Welfare Square.
A bit more:
Members are encouraged to squirrel away a few months' worth of living expenses and stock a one-year supply of emergency food. Church handouts, classes and a Web site describe how to prepare, store and cook with emergency food supplies so nothing goes to waste.

Each month, members skip two meals and give the money they would have spent on food to church welfare programs, paying for the commodities, clothing, job training and other services made available to the needy.
And one last bit:
Assistance comes with the expectation of reciprocal service, whether it's a few hours of volunteer work on the square stocking shelves or some other form of service.
It sure beats the: "You've got a mouth full of gimme, a hand full of much obliged." that is what passes for public welfare these days.

Personal Ads on Craigslist

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A friend of mine offers a few sugestions for those placing a personal advertisement on Craigslist:
Rules for photos in the Craigslist personals
Yes a set of rules that seem to apply to almost everyone who posts personal images on Craigslist. Forgetting for the moment that anyone who posts to Craigslist personals must, axiomatically, have something deeply wrong with them psychologically, let alone the people who read them, like me, we all need to think that posting to a personals is like looking for a dream job.

If you post your resume to a job site you want to look your best. But it seems if you post your picture to Craigslist you want to look your worst.

Apparently the following photographic rules apply to Craigslist personal photos :
1) Make sure the image is nearly in focus. Not always but usually almost.
2) Make sure that the image appears to be composed of large film grains, even though it is a digital image. Make it appear fuzzy and lunky as if the viewer needed glasses, or perhaps was in a fog of wet sand.
3) Make sure the image of yourself is so small we cant' make out any of your physical details. Why not?
4) Make sure that the image appears to have another person in it with their arm around you, but they are cut off. Ex-boyfriend? Ex-lover? Someone who embarrasses you?
5) Make sure the image is very dark and details are hard to make out. Shoot in low level light conditions on manual with the wrong f-stop.
6) Make sure that what you are wearing makes you look like a slob. Hair messy and windblown or uncombed, stained tee-shirt, baggy pants, bulky pull over, gang banger clothes, head covered by hood, no make-up, etc.
7) Take a vary small image and blow it up till we can see each pixel.
8) Make sure the color is unfiltered and your portrait is shot in bright florescent light so the colors are shoved into the green. Here I come, ready to throw up ready ot not!
9) Do not have your picture taken by anyone who knows how to use a camera or who is a professional photographer. Oh Hell no!
10) Make sure you look dumpy.
11) make sure you appear bored and uninterested.
12) Make sure you look depressed.
13) If you do smile, make sure it looks forced and your body language is uncomfortable.
14) Make sure you look embarrassed.
15) Never, ever use Photoshop to correct any image defect.

These are helpful hints only and are not to be taken as recommendations. Many of these hints should not be attempted without professional supervision. Please see a therapist if conditions persist.
Great exchange between Ingrid Newkirk and Bill McAllister -- Governor Palin's Director of Communications/Press Secretary:
PETA at war with Palin's office
PETA v. Palin: Drop the video game or we'll sue!

PETA received a call from governor Sarah Palin's office this week and Palin's spokeman Bill McAllister wasn't in the mood for laughs.
The little issue is that PETA has refused to give the name of the person who called. Here are four emails from the exchange:
From: Ingrid Newkirk []
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 11:52 AM
To: McAllister, William D (GOV)
Subject: To answer your enquiry:
Importance: High
Dear Mr. McAllister,
We base this on a phone call. Why don�t you ask in your office and be specific as to on what grounds you can sue us? We know that we can use the game as it�s pure parody. I thought people in Alaska had a sense of humor? Ingrid Newkirk

From: McAllister, William D (GOV)
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:54 PM
To: Ingrid Newkirk
Subject: RE: To answer your enquiry:
That�s not very specific. Who called? Name and title given? Did you even attempt to verify it was genuine? Or are facts just cumbersome?

From: Ingrid Newkirk []
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 11:56 AM
To: McAllister, William D (GOV)
Subject: RE: To answer your enquiry:
Do they train you to be rude?

From: McAllister, William D (GOV)
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:58 PM
To: Ingrid Newkirk
Subject: RE: To answer your enquiry:
OK, so the bottom line is, you have attitude, but no facts. Sounds about right.

Heh... The entire exchange is a great read -- McAllister asking for verification and Newkirk blustering but not offering anything of substance. Alaska - 1 PETA - 0
Great story about a technological wonder from the 1930's From New Scientist:
The return of Elektro, the first celebrity robot
When Jack Weeks first saw the racy comedy Sex Kittens Go To College in the 1960s, he was taken aback to see his childhood friend in a leading role. More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that his buddy was actually a golden 2.5-metre-tall humanoid robot called Elektro.

Elektro was one of the world's first celebrity robots. Built by electrical manufacturer Westinghouse, and with electrical controls that were remarkably advanced for the time, he drew huge crowds at the 1939 New York World's Fair. During the second world war, the robot was stored in the basement of the Weeks's family home in Ohio, where he became 8-year-old Jack's playmate. After the war, Elektro went back on the road, touring the US to adoring crowds, but his star soon began to wane. Shortly after 1960 and the release of Sex Kittens - in which Elektro starred alongside blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren and a chimp called Voltaire - the robot's career hit a low. Not long after that, Elektro disappeared entirely.

But Weeks never forgot his golden friend and thanks to a series of lucky breaks, he eventually managed to track down and acquire Elektro's head, torso and limbs. Now in his seventies, Weeks sees the robot as a monument to Westinghouse's pioneering work, and is close to returning his long-lost playmate to full working order. This is their unlikely tale.
A very wonderful story -- hat tip to Neatorama for the link.

Short blogging day today

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Heading out to the DaveCave(tm) to work on some projects. Calling it an early night for blogging...


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From the London Times:
Disco fever is back
This year will be remembered as the point when it all went a bit wrong, frankly. So it�s odd that for most of the year, the club scene has been dominated by the fingers-in-the-ears, hands-in-the-air decadence of disco.

After years of being relegated to the office party and hen nights, disco has shimmied her way back up to the top of the cool kids� party playlist. Blanketed in glitzy memories of Studio 54, disco provides the perfect antidote to the all-pervading grimness of the life ahead. �When times are good, you could argue that people get turned on by darker, edgier music, such as drum�n�bass or electro,� says Jim Stanton, who started the iconic Horse Meat Disco in Vauxhall, south London. �As soon as life gets harder, people look for something more uplifting, which is where disco comes in � it�s an escape. The first big-haired disco moments happened in America during the 1970s, when there was a depression caused by an oil crisis.�
I didn't like it the first time around.
Don't run into a real one. From the Boston Globe:
Lynn man accused of stealing donations
As an Army Ranger who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, Nick Ford thought there was something suspicious about the man seeking holiday donations for military families at Ford's local Stop & Shop.

Paul K. Guilmain Jr. told shoppers that he was an Iraq veteran and National Guard member, but to Ford he didn't look like anyone who'd seen duty in years. The paunchy 44-year-old slouched, went hatless, and wore outdated woodland camouflage fatigues - the kind with the green, black, brown, and beige pattern, not the more modern design. The rank on his sleeve, corporal, didn't fit with his age.

"It took every ounce of restraint not to rip this guy's face off," said Ford, who opted instead for friendliness and a discreet investigation. His sleuthing led to Guilmain's arrest on Christmas Eve at the Woburn Super Stop & Shop, near Ford's home.
And this wasn't this P.O.S.'s first brush with the law:
With Guilmain still in handcuffs and camouflage cargo pants, a prosecutor in Woburn District Court yesterday cited his criminal history - which she said includes 22 convictions, including several on larceny and stolen-property charges, and the use of multiple aliases - in asking for bail to be set at $1,000.
A nice bit of careful detective work and one moke nailed in the act.

How secure are you?

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From Whatsmypass comes this canonical list of the top 500 bad passwords. Top offender is: "123456" Back when I was doing computer consulting, I had one client that ran a financial services business. His first name was George and he had a large framed print of the animated George of the Jungle film hanging in back of his desk. His username and password: george/jungle Needless to say, we had a little chat...


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Temps are right at freezing so the roads are simply wonderful... The warm snap is due to hold for a day or two and then it's back to the ice chest.

That's it for the night...

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Got the new 2009 Grizzly Tools catalog which is a major event in this household. The other event that approaches it is the Cabela's catalog. Also working on stuff out in the DaveCave(t) -- built a fire there around 4:00PM so it should be nice and toasty by now...

Not quite what i would have expected but I am not surprised. Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

Check out Computer ownership

Computer ownership
This ranking is taken from the 2009 edition of The Economist's "Pocket World in Figures". This hardback book contains rankings on over 200 topics that take into account over 180 countries. It also has statistical profiles of more than 65 of the world's major economies, together with profiles of the world and the euro area.
computer_ownership copy.gif
Click for full-size

I would have thought that the USA would rank a bit higher but on reflection, I am not surprised that Israel tops the list by such a wide margin and that there are only three Islamic nations on the list with the most wealthy (UAE) coming in at #28.

Also, Canada is not spelled "Canda" -- a minor nit...

About time someone grew a pair. From ABC News/Associated Press:
China Targets Pirates in Groundbreaking Mission
Chinese warships headed toward Somali waters Friday to combat piracy, the first time the communist country has sent ships on a mission that could involve fighting so far beyond its territorial waters.

The deployment to the Gulf of Aden, which has been plagued by increasingly bold pirate attacks in recent months, marks a major step in the navy's evolution from mostly guarding China's coasts to patrolling waters far from home.

The move was welcomed by the U.S. military, which has been escorting cargo ships in the region along with India, Russia and the European Union. But analysts predicted the Chinese intervention could be troubling to some Asian nations who might see it as a sign of the Chinese military becoming more aggressive.
Somehow I don't see the Chinese as being so hesitant to blow a couple pigs out of the water as other nations have been. Good news! A bit more outlining the scope of the attacks:
Pirates working out of Somalia have made an estimated $30 million this year, seizing more than 40 vessels off the country's 1,880-mile (3,000-kilometer) coastline. Most of the attacks have occurred in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
China's military has not said how long the mission would last, but the state-run China Daily newspaper recently reported the ships would be gone for about three months. The paper said about 20 percent of the 1,265 Chinese ships passing through the Somali area have come under attack this year.
Finally! This has grown into a 'problem' because nobody nipped it in the bud when they first started. The terrorists became bolder and that $30 million is just what the shippers are admitting to -- the real number is probably a lot higher. All of this money is going to fund Islamist terrorism throughout the world. There are a lot of attacks that don't make it to the media. I refer again to The Religion of Peace website -- scroll down about halfway until you get to "List of Islamic Terror Attacks For the Past 2 Months"

A new meaning to "poop deck"

An interesting idea -- from the UK Telegraph:
Mystery naval explosion may have stinky solution
HMS London sank in 1685 after exploding without warning in the Thames Estuary near Chatham Docks in a blast which killed 300 people and was recorded by diarist Samuel Pepys.

Naval historians have long argued about the cause, suggesting a build-up of chemicals could have ignited the ship's supply of gunpowder.

But now one researcher believes the blast may have been triggered by the noxious accumulation of methane from the scores of sailors who relieved themselves in the bowels of the ship.

The theory suggests that rotting faeces in the bilges led to a build up of gas which was ignited by a candle below deck.

Richard Ender, an engineer and naval historian, came across the solution while researching an incident on the 17th century warship Lennox.

Records show that a lieutenant accidentally fell into the bottom of the hold and when crew members climbed down to rescue him "they were rendered in a manner dead by the stench".

Mr Ender said: "They were unconscious. Of course, it is not the smell that makes you unconscious, it's the methane.

"When you have that concentration of methane, all it would take is someone being send down here with a lantern to set it off. The powder room is in the hold as well."
And you wonder why people started dying off in their 50's and 60's if that old. We take it for granted today but the idea of basic sanitation is a relatively new idea and probably the key factor in our ever increasing longevity.

27F and snowing

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It was forecast to be 40F and raining but it is 27F outside and we are now getting a slow steady snowfall... At least it is not Condition One:
And here are some of the entries from the Antarctic 48-hour film festivals:
Bowl on the run
Desert of the Real
Complete 2008 set can be found here: Antarctic Movies

A wonderful quote

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Greg Mankiw is talking about the study of Economics but this applies anywhere:
In my view, it is best to consider all knowledge as tentative. The best scholars maintain an open-mindedness and humility about even their own core beliefs.
Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link.

Over half of the USA is covered in snow

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59% to be exact. From Watts Up With That:
Half of the USA is covered in snow
This is something you don�t see every day. We recently heard that Canada had a white Christmas EVERYWHERE, the first time in four decades. Here we see that the USA has an increased albedo (surface reflectivity) for about 1/2 of it�s land area. The increased albedo combined with low sun angle this time of year conspires to keep ice and snow unmelted.

Look for a long and extended winter weather pattern as we head towards the spring equinox, which can�t get here fast enough.
We were supposed to get rain tomorrow but the sky is dead clear tonight and the snow temp is 1.5F with the air temp at 6F -- the difference is the effect of radiation cooling. This year had an unusually long spring -- very few farms were able to harvest corn as it simply did not get warm enough to be knee high by the 4th of July (a traditional Farming metric). A local winery has a small vineyard (they buy most of their grapes from producers in Eastern Washington) and that vineyard hardly produced anything. Sunspot activity is still at a very low level. What will it take for the Anthropogenic Global Warming morons to wake up -- the people like Danny the Red in my earlier post tonight.

A fixer-upper - just needs a little work

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Might be a fun project if you had a couple spare million bucks lying around. From Pennsylvania's Philly.COM:
Sunken Soviet sub needs buyer _ or it's scrapped
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A former Soviet cruise missile submarine that was once featured in a Hollywood film and sank in the Providence River during a storm last year will be converted to scrap metal if no one agrees to buy it, the president of the foundation that owns it said Wednesday.

The 282-foot submarine, also known as Juliett 484, began serving as a floating educational museum in 2002, until it went down during a powerful nor'easter in April 2007.

Army and Navy dive crews raised the sub in a training exercise last July, and inspections showed the vessel had deteriorated and corroded during its 15 months underwater.

Restoring it to an operational museum would have cost more than $1 million, said Frank Lennon, director of the Russian Sub Museum and president of the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, a private, nonprofit group.

"Based on the input we received from experts, the cost of restoring it was beyond our capabilities," Lennon said.
Somehow I don't think that Jen would let me park it behind the barn. Got too many other projects going... I had the pleasure of touring another Russian sub that is on the Seattle waterfront as a tourist attraction. What made this enjoyable was that I went with two other people from the Ocean Engineering company that I was working for at the time and one of these people was a retired Navy Nuke Submarine Captain. We got a lot of wonderful running commentary from Gerry. One of the guides in the sub asked Gerry if he had ever seen one of these submarines before and he just smiled and said: "No, but I've listened to a lot of them."

�Santa� Klaus and the enviros

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Great article by James Lewis at Pajamas Media:
�Santa� Klaus Takes on Global Warming
Good King Wenceslas walked barefoot �midst snow and ice, to bring food and kindling to starving peasants on the second day of Christmas � and lo! � a miracle preserved him and his faithful servant from the bitter cold. Wenceslas � Saint Vaclav in the original Czech � was a legendary Santa Claus figure, a holy bringer of hope and cheer in the darkness of the European winter.

Well, we have our own Vaclav to cheer us up this holiday season; but this one is Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, and a dangerous skeptic on the crusading faith of global warming. In his new book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles, President Klaus writes that:
The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy, and prosperity at the end of the 20th and at the beginning of the 21st century is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.

Vaclav Klaus is an honest man, but that doesn�t count for much in the boiling cauldron that is socialist Europe today. Just recently, President Klaus was verbally mobbed by the other presidents of the European Parliament, including �Danny the Red� � Daniel Cohn-Bendit, former anarchist street fighter during the infamous �68 riots � who is now a big Green honcho in European politics. Said Danny the Red to Vaclav Klaus:
You can believe what you want, I don�t believe, I know that global warming is a reality. (italics added)

And there you have it, folks, the voice of skeptical reason assaulted by militant dogma, ready to burn as many witches as may be needed to defend the One True Faith. If this sounds familiar, just think of Galileo and Pope Innocent III, who did not want to peer through Galileo�s telescope at the night sky, having a rock-hard faith that made evidence unnecessary. Danny the Red, shake hands with the Renaissance Pope. Two peas in pod.
We need more people like him. He also brings up Freeman Dyson's wonderful quote:
When science gets rich it becomes political.
Sure has in this case...

Hat tip to Slashdot for the link to this story at the LA Times:

VHS era is winding down
Pop culture is finally hitting the eject button on the VHS tape, the once-ubiquitous home-video format that will finish this month as a creaky ghost of Christmas past.

After three decades of steady if unspectacular service, the spinning wheels of the home-entertainment stalwart are slowing to a halt at retail outlets. On a crisp Friday morning in October, the final truckload of VHS tapes rolled out of a Palm Harbor, Fla., warehouse run by Ryan J. Kugler, the last major supplier of the tapes.

"It's dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt," said Kugler, 34, a Burbank businessman. "I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I'm done. Anything left in warehouse we'll just give away or throw away."

And a bit more:

The last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS was "A History of Violence" in 2006. By that point major retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart were already well on their way to evicting all the VHS tapes from their shelves so the valuable real estate could go to the sleeker and smaller DVDs and, in more recent seasons, the latest upstart, Blu-ray discs. Kugler ended up buying back as much VHS inventory as he could from retailers, distributors and studios; he then sold more than 4 million VHS videotapes over the last two years.

Those tapes went to bargain-basement chains such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar, and Kugler's network of mom-and-pop clients and regional outlets, such as the Gabriel Bros. Stores in West Virginia or the Five Below chain in Pennsylvania. If you bought a Clint Eastwood movie at the Flying J Truck Stop in Saginaw, Mich., or a "Care Bears" tape at one of the H.E. Butts Grocery stores in Texas, Kugler's company probably put it there. He also sells to public libraries, military bases and cruise ships, although those clients now all pretty much want DVDs.

I have two high-end Panasonic VHS players and I am holding on to them. Too often, a new technology eliminates an older one and it becomes impossible to play media in the old format. I still have a bunch of 8" floppy disks and regret selling my drives.

Why Santa was a bit late last night

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Didn't that grey know that you are not allowed to use cloaking devices in this system. It messes up people's heads... Swiped from Dark Roasted Blend

Now this is just WRONG!

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This is just getting stupid... We have a White Christmas already -- we do not need any more:


Bundling up and firing up Buttercup (the tractor) to do some serious grading of the driveway...

That's it for the night

Got a busy day tomorrow. I am driving into Bellingham to pick up my 92 year old Dad who is starting to really suffer from Dementia. Jen has to open the store, she gets off at 2:00PM -- we have Christmas Dinner and then I get to drive my Dad back to his condo and at 6:00PM, Jen has to go back to the store to run it until our standard 10:00PM closing time. We had someone scheduled for that shift but he bugged out yesterday so we have to fill in as no one else was available. Wishing each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful New Year. We are hoping that 2009 will be less stressful. It was so busy for us this summer that we never got the garden planted. We both really missed that...

Supply and Demand

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From Bloomberg:
Oil Touches $37 a Barrel on Forecasts U.S. Supplies Increased
Crude oil fell, dropping briefly below $37 a barrel in New York, before a report forecast to show that U.S. inventories rose for a third week on ebbing demand.

Crude stockpiles probably increased 500,000 barrels in the week ended Dec. 19 from 321.3 million the week before, the 12th gain in 13 weeks, according to a Bloomberg survey before today�s Energy Department report. Idemitsu Kosan Co., Japan�s second- biggest refiner, will cut crude processing next quarter because of weak demand in the third-largest oil-consuming nation. Last week, OPEC announced a record production cut to counter declining consumption.

�With more stock builds expected this afternoon, oil is on course for $35,� said Robert Montefusco, a broker with Sucden Financial Ltd. in London. �What we�re seeing today is the general picture of weak demand being exaggerated by the lack of volume in the market.�
Supply meet demand... One nice side effect is that it is putting the squeeze on Venezuela. Maybe Chavez will be a little more careful about how he governs and his nasty little habit of nationalizing privately owned businesses.
Concurrent with running a website like this, there are people out there who try to use the site for their own advertising. On a blog, this comes in the form of irrelevant comments. These are usually advertising for PPC -- Pills, Pron or Casinos. Naturally, the sysops will use scripts to look for this activity and nip it in the bud. My own net caught a machine at trying to post two comments for two separate websites. Since the IP address ended in a six, I took a closer look as whenever an IT Geek sets up a network, the first 20-50 addresses are generally reserved for IT usage (servers, switches, routers, NAS, etc...) Low and behold, it turned out to be from a company called MarkMonitor From their website:
Headquartered in San Francisco, with regional offices and operations centers in London, Boise, Washington, D.C., and the New York metro area, MarkMonitor is the global leader in enterprise brand protection. More than half the Fortune 100 depend on MarkMonitor to help safeguard their brands online.
So basically, a machine at MarkMonitor is hosting a spam bot and this bots output is passing through the MarkMonitor firewall undetected. Not exactly the caliber of talent that they claim to be...
Looks like NPR is trying to ignore some basic facts about the Rathergate scandal. Since Charles at Little Green Footballs was the one to break it, he is the best person to remind people just what happened and to offer this stunning proof:
What you are seeing is the copy of the memo alternating with the text of the memo typed into Microsoft Word (for a MAC) using the default settings. From Charles:
NPR Rewrites Rathergate History to Cover Up Fraud
National Public Radio does their best to rewrite history in this shockingly disingenuous piece on the Rathergate affair, told from Dan Rather�s perspective as he openly states (and NPR doesn�t challenge) that the memos in his infamous 60 Minutes II piece were never proven to be fakes: Dan Rather Hopes To Tell His Bush Story In Court.
Yeah right...

More fun from China - drywall this time

From the Florida Treasure Coast Palm:

Chinese drywall causes problems on the Treasure Coast
Martin and St. Lucie counties are two of nearly a dozen counties where complaints of possible exposure to the contaminated drywall in new homes have arisen.

The problem may have been sparked by drywall imported during the local construction boom of 2004 and 2005.

Some common symptoms are irritated eyes, coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and symptoms similar to bronchitis and asthma.

The contaminated Chinese drywall may be emitting one of several sulfur compounds including sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide. While exposure to fumes from sulfur dioxide can create irritation and breathing disorders, exposure to hydrogen sulfide can be deadly.

And of course, enough time has elapsed that the trail is cold. As much as I am in favor of small government, some regulatory bodies are a good thing to have...

White Stuff

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We are getting hit with a major snowfall. Accumulation is about ten inches here -- warming up a bit with air and snow temps at 25F. Due to change to rain on Friday -- that will be lovely...

Talk about bad management

Fry's had a very bad Vice President. From San Francisco's KPIX:
Fry's Exec Accused In $65M Embezzlement Scheme
A Ferrari-driving vice president of Fry's Electronics Inc. who was allegedly such a heavyweight gambler that casinos chartered private planes to fly him to Las Vegas has been arrested on charges he embezzled more than $65 million from the retailer to fuel his lavish lifestyle and pay off debts.

Ausaf Umar Siddiqui is accused by the IRS of concocting an incredibly profitable scheme in which he cut side deals with some of Fry's suppliers, buying their goods at higher prices than they would normally get, and buying more of them than he normally would, in exchange for kickbacks of up to 31 percent of the total sales price.

The IRS alleges in a criminal complaint filed against Siddiqui that he set up a shell company that hid $65.6 million in kickback payments from five Fry's vendors from January 2005 to November 2008. Of that amount, $17.9 million was paid to subsidiaries of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates the Venetian Casino Resort, according to the criminal complaint and regulatory filings. Authorities confirmed the payments went to the casino.
Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

An alternative path to Fusion

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Cool information -- a couple of guys up north in Canada (Burnaby, BC) are working on a Fusion Reactor that might actually scale up to usable size. The company website is: General Fusion Popular Science has a really nice in-depth article on it. More. Faster. Now. There are people doing science in the backwaters of our civilization, removed from the "standard routes" of academia, big corporate and the military. These people need to be funded as well -- even if 99% of the funding went down a rathole, the remaining one percent would deliver the goods with a lot less cost than the average "big science" project.

Light posting tonight

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Still working on some other stuff...

From the Seattle Times:

Seattle refuses to use salt; roads "snow packed" by design
To hear the city's spin, Seattle's road crews are making "great progress" in clearing the ice-caked streets.

But it turns out "plowed streets" in Seattle actually means "snow-packed," as in there's snow and ice left on major arterials by design.

"We're trying to create a hard-packed surface," said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. "It doesn't look like anything you'd find in Chicago or New York."

The city's approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said.

The icy streets are the result of Seattle's refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

"If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."

And of course, Alex didn't bother to check with other cities:

Many cities are moving away from sand because it clogs the sewers, runs into waterways, creates air pollution and costs more to clean up.

Its main attraction is that it typically costs less than one-fifth the price of salt, according to Spector.

"We never use sand," said Ann Williams, spokeswoman for Denver's Department of Public Works. "Sand causes dust, and there's also water-quality issues where it goes into streets and into our rivers."

And the Times fact-check's Alex's math:

Between Thursday and Monday, the city spread about 6,000 tons of sand on 1,531 miles of streets it considers major arterials.

The tonnage, sprinkled atop the packed snow, amounts to 1.4 pounds of sand per linear foot of roadway, an amount one expert said might be too little to provide effective traction.

"Hmmm. Six thousand tons of sand for that length of road doesn't seem like it's enough," said Diane Spector, a water-resources planner for Wenck Associates, which evaluated snow and ice clearance for nine cities in the Midwest.

Typical Seattle tax and spend. No thinking involved.

That's it for today

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Working on some other stuff...

Odd Icicle in Lake Stevens, WA

Check this out:


Don't know if this is real or photoshopped or carved or molded but it sure is cool. From Seattle station KOMO:

Old man winter pays Northwest a visit -- literally!
Just looking outside and you can tell Old Man Winter paid us a visit, but in Lake Stevens, it looks like he put in a personal appearance! This icicle was found hanging from Jeremy Olden's home.

There is another wider angle shot at the KOMO website.

Talk about irony -- from the Associated Press:
Ill. health dept. throws one sick Christmas party
Some health department workers in southern Illinois think they may have discovered some contaminated food - at their own office Christmas gathering.

After the Lawrence County Health Department had a buffet for 72 people at a restaurant last week, 42 of the attendees suffered stomach problems, including the head of the department, Phyllis Wells.

"I'm telling you, it got me down. I about passed out and everything else," Wells said Monday. "It's not been funny. It's taken the punch out of my whole Christmas."

Wells says the cause of the outbreak hasn't been pinpointed. But she suspects the culprit was a norovirus - something people get from contact with those infected, ingesting contaminated food or drink, or by touching contaminated items and then their mouths.

For now, Wells says the common denominator appears to be cold diced ham served in the salad bar.

"It may be that just a food handler was sick at the time and handled some of the food they prepped for the meal," she said. "Or maybe it was somebody who was sick who came to it and touched the handle and contaminated it."

Wells says it isn't lost on her that state health officials are now investigating a restaurant where food-inspection and other public health workers got sick.

"It's just my luck," she said, mustering a laugh. "Usually, it's our job to investigate other things. But us getting sick is ironic."

You could already be a winner ...

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Heh... From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Winners take big prize -- a trip straight to jail
You could already be a winner -- if you weren't going to jail.

That's the bad news 61 fugitives got after being lured to a suburban hotel with news they had won a $1,000 gift card and the chance to take home a big-screen TV.

Earlier this month, people wanted on outstanding warrants got a letter in the mail from "Shoptastic Solutions" -- Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's fictitious marketing outfit -- promising prizes and no gimmicks.

All they had to do was check the enclosed scratch-off ticket to see if they had won -- which, of course, they all did. The "winners" were told to call in their shopper number -- which actually was their warrant number -- to schedule an appointment to complete a shopping survey and pick up their prize.

At a hotel near Midway Airport, an undercover officer in a funny hat shot off streamers as the winners walked in. While they filled out the survey, sheriff's police -- hiding in closets -- popped out with zip-tie handcuffs and the big surprise.

Dart said he got a kick out of the bust.

"We tried to tap in to the Christmas spirit and throw a big dose of the Grinch on top of it," Dart said. "The Grinch definitely struck here, and the Grinch had a lot of fun. The Grinch will return, probably in a different way."
Clever idea!

Ho Ho Hooooooooo

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Been There, Done That and have the @#$% Tee-Shirt From the ever wonderful Miss Cellania:
So true... (But they can fix it in the mix!)

'Where is my robot?' - maybe here

From the Denver, CO Westworld comes this long and wonderful story of Jim and Louise Gunderson and their robot Basil:

The Gundersons get us ready for Basil, the robot of our dreams
When people ask Jim and Louise Gunderson if they have kids, they reply, "No, we have robots." But right now, Louise feels like any other harried mother carrying a kilo of toys and bottles and diapers wherever she goes. Today is the first big day out for her little one, and she's brought along everything Basil the robot may need. That includes a laptop in case they have to mess with his code, an impressively large wrench and a couple of screwdrivers if they have to tinker with his hardware, an extension cord for when he gets hungry, and super glue - lots and lots of super glue.

The adhesive's already proven vital: A little while ago, one of Basil's wheels fell off and they had to glue the sucker back on. "I sympathize with people with kids," says Louise. "We're going to have to make custom carriers for all this gear."

They can't bother with that now, though. They're in the back meeting room of the Wynkoop Brewing Company downtown, and in just over an hour they'll be surrounded by the legion of science and technology buffs that get together here ten times a year for Cafe Scientifique, a wildly popular beer- and curiosity-fueled colloquium on far-ranging science topics. The Gundersons will have the spotlight, detailing their work at Gamma Two Inc., the tiny Denver-based robotics research and design company they started in 2003.

Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. These people are building amazing stuff for cheap while the "research labs" are blotting up money like mad and producing crap. The motivation for their work (and it sounds really awesome!):

"Our motivation is, 'Where is my robot?" explains Jim. "For fifty years, sixty years, they've been promising us our robots. The personal servants who are going to clean our house, walk the dog, do all that kind of stuff. We want Rosie from the Jetsons."

The Gundersons aren't the only ones who dream of a servicebot. As the baby boomers shuffle into their golden years, helpful automatons that allow the elderly to live at home longer could prove to be hugely cost-effective, given the price of nursing homes.

But until now, no one's figured out how to make such robots work, despite the fact that the world already has the hardware to do it. On one side are the amazing bots that stick to simple tasks. An automated car built at Stanford University made headlines in 2005, for instance, by winning a driverless-car competition, successfully navigating a 132-mile off-road course in under seven hours. Then there are the 2.5 million Roombas, the robotic vacuum cleaners that scurry about floors all over the world.

On the other side are the computers with robust artificial intelligence. In 1997, Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer, beat world champion Garry Kasparov and became the best player in the world. And Jim, for his dissertation, developed a computer program that could deliberate. When given a task, the software cycled through every action it knew how to do, picked the most suitable ones and figured out in what order to do them.

But when such AI is installed on robots tasked with getting stuff done in the real world, things get messy. Deep Blue, for example, knows how to move a knight piece on a chess board better than any human, but it doesn't actually know what a knight is - or, for that matter, where to find such a piece in a cluttered cabinet full of board games.

"We want robots that we can tell what to do and they'll figure out how do to it, and if something goes wrong, they'll figure out how to fix it or come back and ask for help," says Jim. "Complications, no problem. Changes with the world, no problem."

More and faster please!

And Cafe Scientifique -- a wonderful idea. When I lived in Seattle, there were a few Scientific Salons that happened monthly or at irregular times. There is the Dorkbot collective that is growing. Bellingham has several annual events that I always attend. The fact that there is a resurgence of this -- the very idea that people could gather in an amenable location (ie: where good food and alcohol are served) and talk about Science and explore the nether ends of interesting ideas -- makes my little hacker heart go pitty-pat...

A nice link from Maggie's Farm to this post by Dr. Tim Ball at the Canada Free Press:
Pre-industrial CO2 levels were about the same as today. How and why we are told otherwise?
How many failed predictions, discredited assumptions and evidence of incorrect data are required before an idea loses credibility? CO2 is not causing warming or climate change. It is not a toxic substance or a pollutant. Despite this President Elect Obama met with Al Gore on December 9 no doubt to plan a climate change strategy based on these problems. They make any plan to reduce of CO2 completely unnecessary.

Proponents of human induced warming and climate change told us that an increase in CO2 precedes and causes temperature increases. They were wrong. They told us the late 20th century was the warmest on record. They were wrong. They told us, using the infamous �hockey stick� graph, the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) did not exist. They were wrong. They told us global temperatures would increase through 2008 as CO2 increased. They were wrong. They told us Arctic ice would continue to decrease in area through 2008. They were wrong. They told us October 2008 was the second warmest on record. They were wrong. They told us 1998 was the warmest year on record in the US. They were wrong it was 1934. They told us current atmospheric levels of CO2 are the highest on record. They are wrong. They told us pre-industrial atmospheric levels of CO2 were approximately 100 parts per million (ppm) lower than the present 385 ppm. They are wrong. This last is critical because the claim is basic to the argument that humans are causing warming and climate change by increasing the levels of atmospheric CO2 and have throughout the Industrial era. In fact, pre-industrial CO2 levels were about the same as today, but how did they conclude they were lower?
Dr. Ball takes a nice walk through historical weather measurement and shows how the Global Warming ninnies are cherry-picking the data from these records and that the overall truth paints quite the different picture. Cherry-picking is toxic to Science and the people who are doing it are following a political agenda rather than a Scientific one. A little bit about Dr. Ball:
Dr. Tim Ball is a renowned environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg.
Hat tip to Firehand for finding the link to this article at the UK Telegraph:
General George S. Patton was assassinated to silence his criticism of allied war leaders claims new book
The newly unearthed diaries of a colourful assassin for the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, reveal that American spy chiefs wanted Patton dead because he was threatening to expose allied collusion with the Russians that cost American lives.

The death of General Patton in December 1945, is one of the enduring mysteries of the war era. Although he had suffered serious injuries in a car crash in Manheim, he was thought to be recovering and was on the verge of flying home.

But after a decade-long investigation, military historian Robert Wilcox claims that OSS head General "Wild Bill" Donovan ordered a highly decorated marksman called Douglas Bazata to silence Patton, who gloried in the nickname "Old Blood and Guts".

His book, "Target Patton", contains interviews with Mr Bazata, who died in 1999, and extracts from his diaries, detailing how he staged the car crash by getting a troop truck to plough into Patton's Cadillac and then shot the general with a low-velocity projectile, which broke his neck while his fellow passengers escaped without a scratch.

Mr Bazata also suggested that when Patton began to recover from his injuries, US officials turned a blind eye as agents of the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, poisoned the general.
That should be an interesting read. The book is titled Target Patton and is available at Amazon (although I'll probably borrow a copy from our County Library). Consistently great customer reviews at Amazon -- looking forward to reading this.

Nice guys - a divorce settlement

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From the London Daily Mail:
Saudi court rejects divorce plea from EIGHT-year-old girl married to 58-year-old man
A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

Lawyer Abdullar Jtili said:"The judge has dismissed the plea, filed by the mother, because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty."
A bit more:
The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of �5,000, as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said.
Words fail.

Now this is wonderful - another bubble?

From the Seattle Times:
Dreamliner is key for Boeing as industry faces possible downturn
While the year ahead for the broad economy looks frightening, the aerospace sector should fare better than most in 2009.

Savor the good news while it lasts. After next year, the industry could slide into a trough.

There will be bright spots in 2009: The 787 Dreamliner should finally fly by next summer.

Despite a steep decline in air travel, U.S. airlines forecast a modest 2009 profit after years of losses.

And though Boeing won't deliver any Dreamliners in 2009, it should roll out about 480 other airplanes for the year.

However, as airlines line up to defer or cancel orders, an aviation bust further out is now clearly on the radar.

Aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, of the Teal Group, expects the downturn to hit Boeing in 2010 and last at least three years � and that's his optimistic forecast.
Just what we need -- another drain on the economy...

The Winter Solstice

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The beginning of the rebirth. First day of Winter. Shortest day of the year. Photo is of the beam of morning sunlight at Newgrange, Ireland. The shaft is aligned such that the light shines only on the morning of the solstice. Newgrange was built 5,000 years ago. Photograph is by Cyril Byrne and can be found at the excellent Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Driving around Japan

Just wow! Three guys graduate from High School in Japan and decide to take a trip. When they look at campers, they realize that they don't have enough space so they take two years to build one that extends to a second story! The pictures from the trip are gorgeous. Check out Two Story Camping Car and Round The Japan Trip

Oh Snap!

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I have been a supporter of the War on Terror since its inception. I studied enough world history to know that what we are going through has been repeated time and again and it will not stop until we put a stake through the heart of darkness that is false Islam. That being said, sometimes, the events of war have unfortunate repercussions. From Yahoo/AFP:
Troops find 2.5 tons of marijuana in Afghan school
US and Afghan troops destroyed 2.5 tons of marijuana they found in an abandoned school in volatile southern Afghanistan, the US military said Sunday.

The massive drugs stash was uncovered on Saturday during a joint US-Afghan operation against Taliban rebels in the Arghistan district of Kandahar province, spokesman US Colonel Greg Julian told AFP.

"Afghan and coalition troops found and destroyed two-and-a-half tons of marijuana in a school in southern Afghanistan," Julian said.
I believe the President-Elect and I both give a little 'sigh' when we read this news...

Well so much for the Great Storm of 2008

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We got about eight inches of new snow and the wind never went over 20MPH. Temps have moderated a bit with the air and the snow surface both at 20F. This is not to say that there haven't been problems. Diesel engines have had the fuel in their tanks gel and be unable to start. Pipes have frozen. Side roads are 'interesting' at best and the constant cold is starting to get a bit old. If I wanted this sort of weather I would have moved to Montana...

Generation Gap - Life Magazine and Musicians

Now that the Life Magazine Photographs are being shown on Google, there are some great ones coming to light. Check out this set of three of musicians taken in 1970 by John Olson:
Singer David Crosby standing with
father Floyd in father's house.
Click for full size.
Rock musician Eric Clapton with his grandmother Rose
in the house he bought her in Surrey.
Click for full size.

Musician Frank Zappa with parents
Francis and Rosemary in Frank's home.
Click for full size.
One of the wonderful things about the Life/Google partnership is that you can order large prints of these photos for a very reasonable cost.


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Coming down softly. The winds are still in the 10MPH range, actually quieted down a bit. I am reminded of that line in Poltergeist: "They're here..."

Light posting tonight

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Working on some stuff out in the DaveCave(tm) Wind is picking up 10MPH solid gusting to 15. Air temp 12F In the Bleak Midwinter:
Thanks to Vanderleun for the link to this transcendent Christmas Classic.

The new Illinois License Plate

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Swiped it from Denny who swiped it from Don
Illinois: Where Governors Make Our License Plates�

Interesting note from Washington radio station WTOP:

1 toilet for every 6,849 people on Inauguration Day
When you gotta go, you gotta go.

But will there be enough places to "go" on Inauguration Day?

Crowd estimates for Jan. 20 range between 1 and 5 million people.

Metro is planning to carry upwards of 1 million riders itself on Inauguration Day, but the transit agency says it will shut down all of its public restrooms due to security concerns.

Instead, 146 portable restrooms will be set up outside of selected rail stations.

Even if the transit agency carries 1 million people on Jan. 20 -- and that could be a conservative estimate -- that means there would be one bathroom for every 6,849 customers.

And it's not just the Metro transit that is running a bit short. From the Washington Post:

No. 1 Priority: Porta-Potties on Mall
5,000 Toilets Will Be Available for Inaugural Crowds

Here's the number everyone has been waiting for: There will be 5,000 porta-potties available on the Mall and along the parade route on Inauguration Day.

If officials ordered the portable restrooms based on how many people they expect that day, then figure on crowds of 500,000 to 1.5 million people. That's a wide range based on whose toilet-to-bladder recommendation is used. Don's Johns recommends one unit for every 100 people. The National Park Service recommends one toilet for every 300, according to spokesman Bill Line, who points out that each event is different because of weather and time of year.

Officials with the Presidential Inaugural Committee aren't saying how many people they expect.

The model that Don's Johns provided for the Fourth of July celebration on the Mall this year has a 70-gallon holding tank and capacity for 125 to 150 uses between cleanings. Each unit comes with deluxe hand sanitizer and at least four rolls of toilet paper. That comes to 20,000 rolls of toilet paper, according to Bernadette Felice, sales manager for the Chantilly-based company, which is seeking to win the inaugural toilet contract.

5000*300=1.5M so they should be covered if they use the National Park number. A while ago I was involved with a large group and these kinds of logistical problems are crucial to an events success. Fun that the major media would be picking up on a story like this.

Sitting here twiddling my thumbs

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The storm is moving up from the coast. The weather in Burlington, WA (about 40 miles to the south) is overcast with winds of 20MPH gusting to 23. Overcast here to but still air. Very cold. Got fires going in both the main house and the DaveCave(tm) so things should be fine. I went into town today to get Kerosene for the portable heater and received a bit of sticker shock. The place I get it sells it in bulk and charges a lot less than the standard pre-packaged jugs you get at the home warehouse stores. It was over $6/gallon. Needless to say, that heater will be used sparingly...

Like duuuhhhhh.

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A great quote from Condoleezza Rice over at Reuters:
Rice says only an idiot would trust North Korea
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview released on Friday only an "idiot" would trust North Korea, which is why the United States is insisting on a way to check its nuclear claims.

A 2005 multilateral deal under which Pyongyang would abandon its nuclear programs has become snagged on Pyongyang's refusal to spell out a protocol on how to verify its disclosures about its nuclear programs.

The sticking point appears to be North Korea's reluctance to allow inspectors to take samples to test a declaration of its atomic program that it submitted this year as part of the aid-for-disarmament agreement.
NoKo did detonate a nuke last year although it was more of a dud than anything. They are actively seeking to build more and their technology will only get better as they continue. They have already shown that they have no problems dealing with terrorists (witness their counterfeit $100 USD bills they are selling to the palestinians) and their missile program. This regime needs to change for the good of its own people.

Waiting for the blow

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Things are quiet here -- cloudless sky, gorgeous day and cold cold cold. Snow surface is minus nine F. Air temp is plus six F. Forecast is still on for the storm so I'm just sitting here waiting. Got food and water out to the critters, I'll be firing up the generator to test it and hunkering in for the next couple of days.

Perfect Storm?

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Came in from the DaveCave(tm) to head up to bed and checked the temperature. Surface of the snow is minus ten F. (Radiation cooling from a perfectly clear sky.) Air temp is six F. Add an aggressive low pressure zone and a slug of warm moist air and we are going to see some rocking and some rolling happening tomorrow. Critters are safe in the barn and the coop. Wood and Gasoline are laid in. Lots of food in the pantry and the good part of a cow and a pig in the deep freezer in our garage. We are going to sit this one out...

Geeks Rule - outsmarting a keycard entry system

Very cute hack. From The Daily WTF:

Open Sesame
Emmanuel Florac and the rest of his officemates had a bit of a problem: while they could freely leave the office as they pleased, none of them could get back in. Undoubtedly, it had something to do with the new ironclad door and accompanying electronic locking mechanism that was recently installed. Try as they might, no one's keycard would open the door.

Throughout the day, the office manager could not get a hold of the locksmith. Call after call after call ended with a simple, "we're sorry, this voicemail box is full; please try your call again later!" As afternoon grew shorter and the evening approached, the jokingly-proposed "someone's going to have to sleep at the office tonight" became more and more a reality.

Fortunately, Emmanuel had a better idea. All it took to open the door from the inside was a light tap on the switch, so all he'd need to do is find something that could lightly touch the door switch. Unable to find any robot-building components in the office, he sprung for the best alternative: a few cardboard boxes and an unused office PC. This is what he came up with:
The following morning at 8:00AM, one of his coworkers called him up to open the door. Emmanuel put down his cup of coffee, went upstairs to his computer, and then

1) VPN to the office
2) SSH to the machine in the hall
3) Ran ~# eject /dev/scd0

And, click, the door was opened.

The locksmith did end up fixing the door later that day, putting the door-opening robot out of service just as quickly as it came in.

Cute and elegant hack -- very clever solution.

Behaviour unbecoming of an Officer

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Unreal. From the Washington Post:
Police: Md. Officer Fled Crash, Resisted Arrest During DUI's
A Prince George's County police lieutenant charged four times this year with driving under the influence was at fault in a hit-and-run crash in one of the incidents and was pepper-sprayed and Tasered after resisting arrest in another, Laurel police said today.

In February, an officer found Lt. Kenneth W. Parrish passed out in an unmarked police cruiser, its emergency lights on, in front of Laurel High School shortly after noon on a school day, a spokesman for the Laurel police said. Parrish's cruiser was in the road, running and in drive, his foot resting on the brake pedal and his body slumped over the steering wheel, spokesman Jimmy Collins said.
Good Lord! Talk about being overdue for a major career change.
Unh. Yeah. From Associated Press:
Lawyer arrested for giving client a piece of candy
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) -- A lawyer has been arrested after he reportedly ignored orders not to give his shackled client a piece of candy in court, a Yavapai County sheriff's official said. Damon Rossi, 38, was arrested at his home on Thursday, a day after he asked two detention officers if he could feed his client a piece of candy, sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said on Friday. Rossi went ahead and gave the inmate the food despite being warned against it, reportedly asking the officers "what are you going to do, arrest me?"
And in defense, the lawyer did violate a court rule:
"The concern we have is that no contraband should be passed to an inmate," D'Evelyn said. "That's the rule. We don't know what's in it. If we allow attorneys to feed our inmates it would be a security issue - they get fed three squares a day and we don't feed them in court."
Still, this is a bit over the top...
From the National Weather Service:
Significant Winter Weather Storm Expected for Western Washington this Weekend (December 20-21)!
An 18 minute presentation is here: National Weather Service Storm Briefing (Flash with audio) A big low pressure system is going to start rolling in tomorrow and it will collide with the arctic air mass that has been sitting here for the last week. Winds of 50, gusts to 75, temps in the 20's and a couple feet of snow. Great for the ski area but 'interesting' for the people who live and work here. We have a couple cords of wood and a generator so things will be OK here.

An unusual tactic in Afghanistan

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Cool to see this happening. The US Army is using statistical analyses to find out where IEDs might be and to capture the mokes who set them. From Strategy Page:
Afghanistan Attacked By The Math Machine
The U.S. Army is deploying the same kind of "math and missiles" unit that defeated roadside bombs in Iraq, to Afghanistan. For the last two years, "Task Force Odin" has used of manned and UAV aerial reconnaissance aircraft, along with pattern analysis and data mining, to find IEDs (roadside bombs), and the people who plant them in Iraq.

Task Force Odin was reported in the media mainly as aircraft and UAVs watching the roads for signs of IEDs, and UAVs, while helicopters and gunships opened fire on terrorists trying to set up roadside bombs. Explosions and dead bodies are more of mass media staple than massive use of math, no matter how critical the number crunching was to the undertaking.

Task Force Odin is really about two very different technologies. On the one hand there was the effort to provide Internet like access to live video feeds from aircraft and UAVs. The U.S. Air Force and SOCOM (Special Operations Command) have been particularly keen on this, and has shared the technology with the other services, and friendly nations. The less publicized effort was Constant Hawk. This was a U.S. Army image analysis system that's basically just another pattern analysis system. However, it's been a very successful system when it comes to finding newly planted IEDs. Last year, the U.S. Army named Constant Hawk one of the top ten inventions of the year. The army does this to give some of the more obscure, yet very valuable, developments some well deserved recognition.

Pattern analysis is one of the fundamental tools Operations Research (OR) practitioners have been using since World War II (when the newly developed field of OR got its first big workout). Pattern analysis is widely used on Wall Street, by engineers, law enforcement, marketing specialists, and now, the military. Constant Hawk uses a special video camera system to observe a locality and find useful patterns of behavior. Some of the Constant Hawk systems are mounted on light (C-12s, mainly) aircraft, others are mounted on ground structures. Special software compares photos from different times. When changes are noted, they are checked more closely, which has resulted in the early detection of thousands of roadside bombs and terrorist ambushes. This has largely eliminated roadside bomb attacks on supply convoys, which travel the same routes all the time. But those routes are also watched by Constant Hawk. No matter what the enemy does, the Hawk will notice. Eventually, the Hawk, and several other efforts, morphed into Task Force Odin. The Task Force Odin led to the death of over 3,000 terrorists caught in the act of setting up roadside bombs, or lying in wait to set them off and attack their victims with gunfire. Hundreds more terrorists were captured, and many thousands of roadside bombs were avoided or destroyed before they could go off.
Very cool -- weapons are not just things that go boom, they are also brains.

Fun flash site - selfcontrolfreak

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Check out selfcontrolfreak Fun stuff to do with mouse pointers. Nine interactive videos.

A bit of a scare in Seattle

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Not a good day to be riding a bus. From Seattle station KOMO:
Charter bus dangles over I-5 after icy accident
Two charter buses packed with passengers collided while sliding down a slippery hill in Seattle, and one is now hanging precariously over a 30-foot wall beside Interstate 5.

About 60 passengers were aboard the two buses, which crashed through a metal railing and screeched to a stop seconds before toppling onto the freeway below.

The bizarre accident happened at about 12:30 p.m. as the buses nosed down a hill on East Thomas Street approaching Melrose Avenue East in central Seattle.

Witnesses said the rear bus was heading down the hill too fast for the slippery conditions, and slammed into the back of the front bus.

Both buses slid across Melrose Avenue, which borders a wall above northbound I-5, and kept going through a metal barrier at the top of the wall.

By the time the first bus stopped, its front end and front wheels were dangling suspended about 30 feet above the freeway.
I bet the commute home is going to be wonderful, what with all the gapers slowing down to look. I-5 already is the pits during rush hour, this will just make it a lot worse. Reading the comments left by KOMO viewers, I came across this one which indicates that it could have been much much worse:
The real heroes are the witnesses who stopped the third bus from going down the same hill. They saved countless lives if it too slid down and rammed the back of the first bus as that would have likely sent it over the edge onto the freeway.

"A third charter bus with the group did not go down the hill after witnesses at the scene ran out and warned the driver to stop, and its passengers were all safe.

Witnesses said the third bus probably would have pushed the first one over the wall if it had come down the hill and lost control, as the first two did."

Malthusians at work in Australia

The Victoria, AU Herald Sun has a nice writeup on ten climate predictions that have failed grandly:
Top 10 dud predictions
Global warming preachers have had a shocking 2008. So many of their predictions this year went splat.

Here's their problem: they've been scaring us for so long that it's now possible to check if things are turning out as hot as they warned.

And good news! I bring you Christmas cheer - the top 10 warming predictions to hit the wall this year.

Read, so you can end 2008 with optimism, knowing this Christmas won't be the last for you, the planet or even the polar bears.

Tim Flannery, an expert in bones, has made a fortune from books and lectures warning that we face global warming doom. He scared us so well that we last year made him Australian of the Year.

In March, Flannery said: "The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009."

In fact, Adelaide's reservoirs are now 75 per cent full, just weeks from 2009.

In June last year, Flannery warned Brisbane's "water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months".

In fact, 18 months later, its dams are 46 per cent full after Brisbane's wettest spring in 27 years.

In 2005, Flannery predicted Sydney's dams could be dry in just two years.

In fact, three years later its dams are 63 per cent full, not least because June last year was its wettest since 1951.

In 2004, Flannery said global warming would cause such droughts that "there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century's first ghost metropolis".

In fact, Perth now has the lowest water restrictions of any state capital, thanks to its desalination plant and dams that are 40 per cent full after the city's wettest November in 17 years.
And nine more, just as good. I have written before about Malthusians. (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). They make for great and catchy headlines: "OMFG We're all gonna die!!!" but when you sit down and wait for these things to transpire, the never do. Mankind is resourceful and new technologies are always evolving, new resources are being found and the result is that the doom and gloom Cassandras are never, ever right in their predictions. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop them and in the computer age, they say that their model was off but it's been tweaked and, yep, disaster is looming.

Somali pirates boarding a Chinese ship

Some photos of a Chinese ship being boarded by Somali Islamist pirates. From the UK Daily Mail:
Pictured: Desperate Chinese sailors fight off Somali pirates with beer bottles and Molotov cocktails
Bent down low to avoid being shot, this Chinese sailor lights a Molotov cocktail before throwing it overboard at Somali pirates.

Lined up before him are dozens of others he and his shipmates prepared in order to fight off the attackers as they boarded their ship in the Gulf of Aden.

The Zhenhua 4 cargo ship had earlier sent out a distress call as it realised it was being chased by pirates in speedboats armed with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

The article then goes on to paint the pirates in a soft light saying that they were just reacting to the poverty in Somalia which hasn't had a stable government for two years. This is bullshit. There may not be a stable national government but the individual tribes are very tightly run and this kind of shit does not happen without approval from the top. The pirates are very well funded and have been a real pain for many years. They hold the ship for ransom, the owners quietly pay and everyone goes about their work. These people are using the ransom money to fund terrorism and to buy arms. Thank God people are starting to grow a pair and return fire on these sons of apes and pigs...
I was getting pretty happy with Obama's appointments but this one I simply cannot agree with. Hat tip to Luboš Motl for this bit of news and an excellent explanation:
Crackpot John Holdren will become Obama's science adviser
Science magazine reports that John Holdren, a professional environmental judgment day doomsayer, is going to become Barack Obama's top science adviser.

John Holdren is the ultimate example of the pseudointellectual impurities that have recently flooded universities and academies throughout the Western world.

Population growth means death
Do you want to know what is his specialization? Well, look at his publication list at No, he hasn't found anything about laser cooling, like Steven Chu, despite his PhD in plasma physics. Instead, he has only written 3 very well-known texts - with at least 100 citations - and all of them are about the "catastrophic" population growth. A few additional, newer articles with 50 citations or so are about the "catastrophic" climate change.

The most famous article, by far (400+ cits), is his and Paul Ehrlich's 1971 text in Science magazine: Impact of Population Growth.

The subtitle says that "complacency concerning this component of man's predicament is unjustified and counterproductive". In other words, it is an unforgivable crime not to be hysterical about the population growth. Wow. They study the "interlocking crises" in population, resources, and environment that have been the "focus of countless papers, dozens of prestigious symposia, and a growing avalanche of books".

Recall that the second author, Paul Ehrlich, predicted that 4 billions of people (90% of the 1980 total), including 65 million Americans (28% of the 1980 figure), would perish of hunger in "Great Die-Off" in the 1980s. Well, Holdren and Ehrlich may have narcissistically talked about "prestigious symposia" but it's hard to change the fact that events where people compete who is going to propose a more absurd die-off scenario are just gatherings of pompous loons.

Do I really have to argue that their forecasts have been proven remarkably wrong? Do I have to argue that all similar papers are likely to be wrong because the "arguments" in them are simply not rational? It's no science.
Basically put, Holden is a Malthusian and Malthusians are invariably wrong. They are great for doom and gloom hypotheses but ten years later, their disasters have never materialized and our standard of living is higher than before. To have President Obama receiving Scientific concealing from such a ninny is a great disservice to this Nation. John Tierney also weighs in at the New York Times:
Flawed Science Advice for Obama?
Does being spectacularly wrong about a major issue in your field of expertise hurt your chances of becoming the presidential science adviser? Apparently not, judging by reports from DotEarth and ScienceInsider that Barack Obama will name John P. Holdren as his science adviser on Saturday.
What he said...


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This also happened in January 2008 (here, here and here) and it turned out to be a coincidence but still... From the SANS Internet Storm Center:
Undersea cables out
We have received reports about 3 Undersea cables being cut in the Mediterranean Sea.

Internet Traffic Report is noting some significant problems in Asia. Look here.
Bloomberg has some more information:
Severed Cables in Mediterranean Disrupt Communication (Update3)
Internet and telephone communications between the Middle East and Europe were disrupted after three submarine cables between Italy and Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea were damaged.

The failures cut the flow of "data of various kinds" between Europe and the Middle East, and there's no timeframe for when communications will be restored, said Sanjeev Gaur, director of assurance at Reliance Globalcom Ltd. in India. France Telecom SA, which plans to send a maintenance boat to fix the problem, said the situation should be back to normal by Dec. 31.

Three cable systems carrying more than 75 percent of traffic between the Middle East, Europe and America have been damaged, according to the U.K.'s Interoute Plc, which operates a fiber- optic data network connecting 92 cities. The cables run from Alexandria in northern Egypt to Sicily in southern Italy.

Our Congress - hard at work

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Guess what -- they just voted themselves a pay raise. From The Hill:
With economy in shambles, Congress gets a raise
A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

�As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,� said Daniel O�Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan group. �This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter.�
All the while their public approval rating is about 15% or so. They wish. From The Rasmussen Reports:
Congressional Performance
Approval of Congress Drops to Single Digits Again

Approval of Congress' job performance is down to single digits again for the first time since early September.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely voters found that only nine percent (9%) give Congress good or excellent ratings, while 54% give the legislature poor marks. Just one-out-of-50 voters (2%) think Congress is doing an excellent job.

The last time the ratings were this low was on September 9. In late November, 12% gave Congress good or excellent ratings. This is now the fifth time congressional ratings have fallen below 10% since June 1.
Next election should be interesting...

Always classy - Robert Mugabe

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From AFP:
'Zimbabwe is mine' says Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe declared Friday that "Zimbabwe is mine" and vowed never to surrender to calls to step down, as his political rival threatened to quit stalled unity government talks.

Addressing his ZANU-PF party's annual conference amid a ruinous political crisis and a deadly cholera epidemic , Mugabe returned to the kind of defiance he has often shown in the face of mounting criticism.

"I will never, never, never, never surrender. Zimbabwe is mine, I am a Zimbabwean. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe never for the British, Britain for the British," Mugabe told his party's annual conference.

The veteran leader in the former British colony said he would remain until "his people decided to change him."
I can't tell if the guy is just plain stupid or mentally ill. Another example of Jimmy Carter's fine hand on Foreign Affairs...

Part of the vetting process for the Hildebeast becoming SecState is that Bill has to release his financial information including his donor list - names and numbers.

The Washington Post took a look at it and found some interesting entries:

Clinton Donor List Includes Familiar Names
The 2,922-page list of donors to former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation is chock full of friends, foreign leaders and, most notably, several questionable characters from the president's past.

We have published a partial list of donors on our Web site so you can browse or search it, and post a comment if you have a pertinent link or bit of information about any of the names.

Clinton agreed to release the list of big-name donors as part of his wife's new job as incoming Secretary of State in President-elect Barack Obama's administration. Donors that are getting particular attention early on include:

-- Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining financier who gave an estimated $31.3 million to Clinton after he traveled with the ex-president in 2005 to secure a uranium-mining contract in Kazakhstan (Giustra personally gave between $10 million and $25 million and his joint sustainable growth initiative with the president gave another $1 million to $5 million); [Addendum: Matt McKenna, a spokesman for Clinton, said that the former president did not in fact fly with Giustra on the same plane in September 2005.]

-- William S. Lerach, the former American lawyer who is serving a two-year prison term for his involvement in a lucrative kickback scheme involving class-action lawsuits (Conde Nast dubbed him the "scourge of corporate America");

-- Alfonso Fanjul Jr., the Cuban emigre and sugar mogul who has heavily lobbied Washington and Clinton about his business interests. His family fled Castro's Cuba and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted in 2002 that the Fanjul has been faulted "for making big contributions to politicians and using their clout to get favorable treatment for the sugar industry";

The Washington Post website only has 721 of the donors so far - lots of recognizable names on there and some very large numbers...

R.I.P. - W. Mark Felt

From the New York Times:

W. Mark Felt, Watergate Deep Throat, Dies at 95
W. Mark Felt, who was the No. 2 official at the F.B.I. when he helped bring down President Richard M. Nixon by resisting the Watergate cover-up and becoming Deep Throat, the most famous anonymous source in American history, died Thursday. He was 95 and lived in Santa Rosa, Calif.

His death was confirmed by Rob Jones, his grandson.

In 2005, Mr. Felt revealed that he was the one who had secretly supplied Bob Woodward of The Washington Post with crucial leads in the Watergate affair in the early 1970s. His decision to unmask himself, in an article in Vanity Fair, ended a guessing game that had gone on for more than 30 years.

The disclosure even surprised Mr. Woodward and his partner on the Watergate story, Carl Bernstein. They had kept their promise not to reveal his identity until after his death. Indeed, Mr. Woodward was so scrupulous about shielding Mr. Felt that he did not introduce him to Mr. Bernstein until this year, 36 years after they cracked the scandal. The three met for two hours one afternoon last month in Santa Rosa, where Mr. Felt had retired. The reporters likened it to a family reunion.

The obituary goes into a bit of his life -- sounds like an interesting person. He was involved in quite the bit of American history...

Amazing story from Ask The Photographer:
A photographer, the White House, and a smashed SD card: A data-salvaging saga
What do you do when an SD card containing shots of President George W. Bush and your client in the White House breaks into pieces, leaving you holding one of the tiny microchips you know full well should be inside?

The answer probably won�t surprise you one bit: Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. This will provide you with no practical benefit. It will, however, afford you just enough time to really mull over how completely screwed you might be.

This is precisely the situation photographer Justin Kase Conder found himself in last month.

After an epic effort to gain access to the White House and nab a camera that would actually be allowed inside, he was able to take hundreds of photos and a few hi-res video clips of his clients and G.W. at the White House, only to see the SD card that contained all the data snap to pieces in his hands like a cracker. A really small, really important, $30 cracker.
Justin actually was able to find someone who could read the bare chip and recover a bunch of the files. Here is what he had to work with:
Don't know what the brand was and cannot recognize the packaging. I prefer to stick with the major players (SanDisk or Lexar) and have never had any problems in six years of shooting digital.

President-Elect Obama gettin' down with it

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I had run into these pictures a few days ago but Vanderleun took them and wrote the perfect post.

Check out: "I'm a Midnight Toker" -- Getting Stoned with Barry O

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for a little toke every now and then. Somewhere legal, like, man, say in Amsterdam. Not that I see, smell, or smoke the "Devil's weed wherein lurks murder, insanity, death" frequently, if at all, any more. I don't look for it, but if some smouldering spliff comes my way, well....

All the same as a (reformed) card-carrying member of the original Berkeley/Haight Hippies, I have had my share of smoke so powerful it could, as we once said, cause "the baby Jesus to open your mind and shut your mouth." I have been in rooms in Paris where the leaders of the Columbia student protests of 1968 stuffed up all the windows and doors of a cheap hotel room and lit an entire kilo on fire. And then we all stood in the smoke until it drove us out of the room. I've known people who smuggled 5 keys of Afghan hash into the country disguised as a carved wooden table. We worked on that one with a cabinet-maker's plane for about six months. I've done radio shows where the fans would mail us joints to make the music that much more interesting. I've sat on a floor with a man so stoned and yet so adept that he took about twenty papers and rolled, perfectly, an entire orange right down to the twisted ends. I've been to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Twice. I can't even talk about the entire front garden of weed that we accidently planted in Venice, California. It grew to about six feet tall before anybody got straight enough to notice it wasn't "calendula." We hung the plants head down in the garage for a month waiting for them to dry. We spent a lot of time in that garage. We wired it for sound.

Much more follows - go and read the whole post.

Shocking media bias

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From the Onion News Network:

Weather Channel Accused of Pro-Weather Bias
Something must be done!
From the Associated Press comes this wonderful tale of recantation:
Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush asks for pardon
The jailed journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush has asked for a pardon for what he described as "an ugly act," a spokesman for Iraq's prime minister said Thursday.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for an Iraqi-owned television station based in Cairo, Egypt, could face two years imprisonment for insulting a foreign leader. He remained in custody Thursday night.

"It is too late to reverse the big and ugly act that I perpetrated," al-Zeidi wrote in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to the prime minister's spokesman.

The spokesman, Yassin Majid, told The Associated Press that al-Zeidi went on in the letter to recall an interview he conducted with the prime minister in 2005 when al-Maliki invited him into his home, saying: "Come in, it is your home too."

"So I ask for your pardon," al-Zeidi wrote, Majid said.
That moke should have thought about their actions before he threw the shoes. That was a major insult in their culture -- he fully well knew what he was doing and to ask for a pardon now is stupid.

A great resource

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Was looking at something else and found a link to Ver Sales, Inc. Lots of rigging, theatrical set supplies, bungee cords and accessories, winches and materials handling stuff. All of it looks industrial strength and absolute top quality. Prices probably match this but if I was hanging anything over my head, I would want to feel comfortable about it and not use some pot-metal chinese crap from Lowes...

Heh - Understanding Flow Charts

From xkcd

Click for full-size.


Hat tip to Firehand for the link to this story:

Chicago Tribune Stopped Working With Prosecutors, Forced Arrest of Ill. Gov. Too Early
Looks like we can possibly thank our meddling media for another possibly bungled investigation, this time over the selling of Barack Obama's Senate seat by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojavich. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune was working with Fitzgerald's office on the investigation but decided to stop doing so in favor of printing the sensational story they were sitting on. This forced the arrest early so that the paper wouldn't blow the whole investigation.

The story everyone thought they knew was that Fitzgerald moved when he did to stop a crime about to be committed. But, the WSJ reports that this isn't the case. Apparently the WSJ found that members of Fitzgerald's team wanted to let things roll for a little while longer so that they could catch the actual selling of the Senate seat with Governor Blagojevich, his facilitators and who ever was going to try to buy the seat all on the tape at once. But, the Chicago Tribune informed the prosecutors that they wouldn't wait any longer to put off publishing their story on the investigation. Once the Trib reported on the investigation, it was over for Fitzgerald and his folks for the investigative phase of the case.

What idiots! For the newspaper to go with the story even though it was an ongoing investigation. Sounds like the newsies are just as corrupt as the politicians. Makes me wonder just who they were protecting...

A bit of excitement up north

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Skiers at Whistler had a bit of a scare yesterday when a lift tower collapsed. From CBC:
Whistler reopens as officials blame ice damage for collapsed tower
The Whistler Blackcomb ski resort reopened Wednesday morning, with officials saying they've determined that ice caused a gondola tower to collapse the day before.

Doug Forseth, the senior vice-president of operations at Whistler Blackcomb, said experts inspected the damaged tower overnight and determined the damage was likely caused by what he called "ice jacking."

The damaged tower was constructed from two large pieces of metal tubing that were welded and bolted together, but somehow water managed to get inside the joint, Forseth said.

When the water froze, it expanded and caused the tower splice to rupture, a situation referred to as ice jacking, he said.
No fatalities, 13 minor injuries and some people were stranded on the lift for three hours. Not what you want to have happen...

The best of 2008 - Mugshots

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The Smoking Gun has a collection of the years best Mugshots. Starts here:
and just gets very strange...

Alternative Energy - the real deal

Very cool news from Dr. Richard Nebel at Next Big Future:

Verdict Positive for Inertial Electrostatic Fusion
Information on the Inertial Electrostatic Fusion project by EMC2 Fusion Inc which is carrying on the work of the late Robert Bussard

Alan Boyle reports that the review of the WB7 experiment is done and the verdict is positive.
The team has turned in its final report, and it's been double-checked by a peer-review panel, Dr Nebel [research team lead] told me today. Although he couldn't go into the details, he said the verdict was positive.

"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."

By and large, the EMC2 results fit Bussard's theoretical predictions [this also should mean a replication of the 100,000 times better result that Bussard had with the WB6 prototype], Nebel said. That could mean Polywell fusion would actually lead to a power-generating reaction. But based on the 10-month, shoestring-budget experiment, the team can't rule out the possibility that a different phenomenon is causing the observed effects.

"If you want to say something absolutely, you have to say there's no other explanation," Nebel said. The review board agreed with that conservative assessment, he said.

The good news, from Nebel's standpoint, is that the WB-7 experiment hasn't ruled out the possibility that Polywell fusion could actually serve as a low-cost, long-term energy solution. "If this thing was absolutely dead in the water, we would have found out," he said.

If Polywell pans out, nuclear fusion could be done more cheaply and more safely than it could ever be done in a tokamak or a laser blaster.

This is awesome news as Fusion has been the holy grail of alternative energy. There is a lot of big money being dumped into devices which never really pan out and here, we have this scientific outlier that is performing really well.

Here is the website for EMC2Fusion
Here is the website for the article that was quoted -- a great read.

There is quite an active group of fusioneers and they hang out here: Talk Polywell
M. Simon keeps track of developments over at the IEC Fusion Technology blog.


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Had quite a bit of snow today and a couple more fronts are poised to move through. One is starting up now as I type. This truck caught my eye while I was in Bellingham:
Click for full-size.
As of 2:00PM today, the Mt. Baker ski area had six inches of new powder. Yippiieeee!!!

An actual use for Kudzu

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Hat tip to Jennifer at Invasive Species Weblog for the link. Excerpted from Chemically Green:
Kudzu Ethanol Plant Startup in Tennessee, Cows Will Love It
Kudzu was introduced from Japan into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant. From 1935 to the early 1950s the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers in the southeastern United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion as above, and the Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years.

However, it would soon be discovered that the southeastern US has near-perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control � hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, temperate winters with few hard freezes (kudzu cannot tolerate low freezing temperatures that bring the frost line down through its entire root system, a rare occurrence in this region), and no natural predators. As such, the once-promoted plant was named a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1953.

So what does Kudzu have to do with ethanol? Simply, due to the starch (sugar) content, kudzu can be used to replace corn to make ethanol. Will kudzu take the place of food ingredients being used to make ethanol? A resounding �Yes!� is stated by Mr. Doug Mizell, co-founder of Agro*Gas Industries in Cleveland, Tennessee. Mizell and company co-founder, Tom Monahan, have dubbed the kudzu-based-ethanol, �Kudzunol.� Kudzu is an obvious resource: �There�s 7.2 million acres of kudzu in the south that�s absolutely good to no one,� said Mizell. �It grows a foot a day, 60 feet a season and can be harvested twice a year and not even hurt the stand.�

All the kudzu plant is used after harvesting, no part goes wasted.
Whats even more cool is that this operation is running subsidy-free and with private funding. The marketplace works when you give it a chance. Should see a drop in corn prices too - paging Archer Daniels Midland, A.D.M. to the white courtesy phone please. ... ... ... crickets ... ... ...

Wall Street fallout

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New York State derived a lot of tax money from Wall Street when things were good. Now that the bubble has burst, finances get a bit tighter. From the New York Daily News:
Gov. David Paterson unveils dire New York State budget that includes new taxes, layoffs and cuts
Gov. Paterson released a $121 billion slash-and-burn budget Tuesday morning that slams New Yorkers with 88 new fees and taxes - even on their iPods.

Calling the budget the "greatest economic and fiscal challenge of our lifetimes," Paterson acknowledged his spending plan cuts deep.

But he said the pain must be shared to deal with the fallout from the Wall Street collapse.
When the money was flowing in, it was spend, spend, spend with zero thought toward how unnatural the bubble was and the fact that all bubbles burst painfully at some unpredictable point. Idiots!

'Tis the season

Christmas Greetings from AKQA:
Hat tip to Miss Cellania

Climate Skeptics gaining traction

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Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link to this Neoneo Climate Post:
Mind change on climate change?
This is interesting.

And here�s something related. It�s from a year ago, when a number of previously convinced scientists were having doubts about the proof that global warming is generated by human activity. That number seems to have increased since�and in my opinion a scientist who once believed and now does not is of even more significance that one who was always a doubter.

One recanter, Dr. David Evans of Australia, said:
�As Lord Keynes famously said, �When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?��
This is right up my alley, being a specialist of sorts in what it takes to change a person�s mind in the face of a strongly entrenched belief system. Answer: a great many facts, forming a pattern strong enough to mount a powerful challenge. And even then, only some minds will change.
The links that Neoneo points to (here and here) are wonderful. The first is from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and it leads off with the following:
U. S. Senate Minority Report: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims
Scientists Continue to Debunk �Consensus� in 2008

Over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe challenged man-made global warming claims made by the United Nations Intergovernemntal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former Vice President Al Gore. This new 231-page U.S. Senate Minority Report report -- updated from 2007�s groundbreaking report of over 400 scientists who voiced skepticism about the so-called global warming �consensus� -- features the skeptical voices of over 650 prominent international scientists, including many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN IPCC. This updated report includes an additional 250 (and growing) scientists and climate researchers since the initial release in December 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.
The full report (PDF file) can be downloaded from here. The second item Neoneo links to is from the same Committee, published one year earlier (May 17, 2007) and has statements from key scientists who have woken up to the sub-prime science that is AGW:
Climate Momentum Shifting: Prominent Scientists Reverse Belief in Man-made Global Warming - Now Skeptics
Growing Number of Scientists Convert to Skeptics After Reviewing New Research

Following the U.S. Senate's vote today on a global warming measure (see today's AP article: Senate Defeats Climate Change Measure,) it is an opportune time to examine the recent and quite remarkable momentum shift taking place in climate science. Many former believers in catastrophic man-made global warming have recently reversed themselves and are now climate skeptics. The names included below are just a sampling of the prominent scientists who have spoken out recently to oppose former Vice President Al Gore, the United Nations, and the media driven �consensus� on man-made global warming.

The list below is just the tip of the iceberg. A more detailed and comprehensive sampling of scientists who have only recently spoken out against climate hysteria will be forthcoming in a soon to be released U.S. Senate report. Please stay tuned to this website, as this new government report is set to redefine the current climate debate.

In the meantime, please review the list of scientists below and ask yourself why the media is missing one of the biggest stories in climate of 2007. Feel free to distribute the partial list of scientists who recently converted to skeptics to your local schools and universities. The voices of rank and file scientists opposing climate doomsayers can serve as a counter to the alarmism that children are being exposed to on a daily basis. (See Washington Post April 16, 2007 article about kids fearing of a �climactic Armageddon�)

The media's climate fear factor seemingly grows louder even as the latest science grows less and less alarming by the day. (See Der Spiegel May 7, 2007 article: Not the End of the World as We Know It ) It is also worth noting that the proponents of climate fears are increasingly attempting to suppress dissent by skeptics. (See UPI May 10, 2007 article: U.N. official says it's 'completely immoral' to doubt global warming fears).
This last item suffers from a bit of link rot at the Forbes and UPI sites. More, faster, please! This expensive idiocy needs to be stopped now.

Our Sun drives our Atmosphere

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Interesting post at Science Daily:
Boundary Between Earth's Upper Atmosphere And Space Has Moved To Extraordinarily Low Altitudes, NASA Instruments Document
Observations made by NASA instruments onboard an Air Force satellite have shown that the boundary between the Earth's upper atmosphere and space has moved to extraordinarily low altitudes. These observations were made by the Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamics Investigation (CINDI) instrument suite, which was launched aboard the U.S. Air Force's Communication/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite on April 16, 2008.
A bit more:
CINDI's first discovery was, however, that the ionosphere was not where it had been expected to be. During the first months of CINDI operations the transition between the ionosphere and space was found to be at about 260 miles (420 km) altitude during the nighttime, barely rising above 500 miles (800 km) during the day. These altitudes were extraordinarily low compared with the more typical values of 400 miles (640 km) during the nighttime and 600 miles (960 km) during the day.

The height of the ionosphere/space transition is controlled in part by the amount of extreme ultraviolet energy emitted by the Sun and a somewhat contracted ionosphere could have been expected because C/NOFS was launched during a minimum in the 11-year cycle of solar activity. However, the size of the actual contraction caught investigators by surprise. In fact, when they looked back over records of solar activity, they found that C/NOFS had been launched during the quietest solar minimum since the space age began.
Emphasis mine and the Solar Minimum is staying minimum, there are no changes. We get the occasional Cycle 24 spot lasting for a few days but the Sun has been very quiet recently.

The balmy weather in Siberia

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It's supposed to hit -60. From Watts Up With That:
Northeast Siberia braces for extreme cold of -60C
Can you imagine going out to this Stevenson Screen in Verkhojansk and taking a reading in - 60C cold? Let�s count our blessing here in the USA and Canada that we don�t have to deal with these kinds of temperatures, yet.
Anthony then quotes the Russian News and Information Agency:
Northeast Siberia braces for extreme cold of -60C
15/12/2008 12:45 YAKUTSK, December 15 (RIA Novosti) - Temperatures in the northeast Siberian republic of Yakutia could fall to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit) in the next few days, the local meteorological service said Monday.

With average low temperatures in Yakutia dropping below minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight, weather in the town of Verkhoyansk dropped overnight to minus 53 degrees Celsius (minus 63.4 degrees Fahrenheit), while in Oymyakon it reached minus 57 degrees Celsius (minus 70.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

�However, this is not the limit - in the next few days weather in the town of Krestyakh could drop below minus 58 degrees Celsius (minus 72.4 degrees Fahrenheit),� the meteorological service spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the current spell of extremely cold weather was due to an influx of cold polar air masses.
That Anthropogenic Global Warming is really starting to harsh my mellow...

Velociman on Caroline Kennedy

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Wonderful rant on Kennedy and a possible alternative for the Senate seat:
Distaff Politics: The Harkening
I, for one, am not in the least shocked by the revelation that Caroline Kennedy is "interested" in being anointed with her Uncle Bobby's Senate seat. The seat currently being snailtrailed by Hillary Clinton. Although oft-lauded as one of the very few non-retarded members of her generation of the Kennedy Klan, I find her tethered senses of noblesse oblige, hubris, and condescension simultaneously predictable and disheartening.
And off he goes!

Interesting YouTube talk on Nikola Tesla

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A talk by Hans Camenzind on Nikola Tesla - 7:48 minutes.
I would quibble with Dr. Camenzind on a few items. Tesla was certainly "interesting" in his older age but the sheer number of patents he won contradicts Camenzind's thought that Tesla had two major ideas in his life. Tesla was awarded Patent # 645,576 for Radio Transmission -- the US Supreme Court upheld it deciding that Tesla demonstrated a workable system years before Marconi sent the three dots from Newfoundland (1891 v/s 1895). (When backpacking there 25 years ago, I spent a night at that site - it was then a parking lot.) Dr. Camenzind is noted for developing the 555 IC Timer chip back in 1970. This chip is still in production, still used a lot and is one of the more hackable devices out there.

Pizza Delivery FAIL

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From the ever wonderful FAIL Blog:

Fun animal website

Check out: Fuck You, Penguin A sample post:

Swans are nature's Porsche drivers

You know, there was once an ugly duckling who got picked on all of the time by the other ducks, who couldn't understand why the duckling was so ugly. But then it turned out that duckling wasn't really a duck at all, but was in fact a TOTAL FUCKING DICK.

Take this world-class douche, for example. Everyone is just hanging out, having a good time, and Mr. "My wingspan is bigger than yours" decides to unload on the scene. Even his swan friend is embarrassed. He probably does it all the fucking time because let's be honest: that's just what swans do. Me personally, I wouldn't be caught dead with a fucking swan.

Definite drink alert...

Global Warming up front and personal

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Air temperature is three degrees, ground temp is zero. My Dad's attendant is from Minnesota and her Mom said it was minus ten there. Canada is getting hammered and the East Coast is still digging out. Siberia is getting hit as well with -51F at Polyarni. It's even snowing in Greece! Got a nice fire going so the house is warm -- our fireplace chimney has a huge thermal mass so once it's up to temp, we can let the fire go out over night and still be perfectly warm the next day. Only problem is that our water heater is in the garage. There is a man door to a fenced area outside that we keep open so the critters can go without wandering off. The door from the house to the garage has a pet door so we don't loose any heat there. Went to wash my hands before dinner and no hot water! I have a heater on the frozen section so it should resolve itself quickly but still, it's an anoyance... We have the cold water tap running -- even though the pipe from our well to the house is buried, it is not buried deep enough and will freeze on days like this. The joys of pastoral living.


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1. You refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to beer.

2. You own a $3,000 machine gun and a $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can�t afford shoes.

3. You have more wives than teeth.

4. You wipe your butt with your bare left hand, but consider bacon �unclean�.
The whole list can be found at Mostly Cajun - Heh...

What if the big three go out of business?

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They will join the ranks of these 549 Defunct motor vehicle manufacturers of the United States A fun list from Wikipedia - entries include Duesenberg, Indian, REO Motor Car Company, the Tucker and Willys-Knight. Some great history and some gorgeous cars.

Talk about excessive consumption -- from the London Times:

Chill out, you beautiful people, the Versace beach is refrigerated
Versace, the renowned fashion house, is to create the world's first refrigerated beach so that hotel guests can walk comfortably across the sand on scorching days.

The beach will be next to the the new Palazzo Versace hotel which is being built in Dubai where summer temperatures average 40C and can reach 50C.

The beach will have a network of pipes beneath the sand containing a coolant that will absorb heat from the surface.

The swimming pool will be refrigerated and there are also proposals to install giant blowers to waft a gentle breeze over the beach.

This is obscene. You can say that you are only moving the heat from one spot to another but the Carnot Cycle is not efficient and a lot of waste heat will be generated not to mention the power requirements for such a fiasco. Chilling the sand isn't going to help these poor idiots when they get sunburned. Solar Flux is going to roast them alive and they (like the proverbial lobster) will not feel the effects as they have been kept artificially cool. Wonder what the lawsuits will be like...

A sweet ride

Wonderful story from the Washington Post:

Fantasy Flight at Dulles Delivers Holiday Magic
Sick Children and Their Families Visit Santa

Andrew Luckabaugh could hardly contain himself. The Fairfax County 9-year-old was aboard a Boeing 777 at Dulles International Airport, bound for the North Pole. Soon, he would be meeting Santa Claus and telling the big guy what he wants for Christmas this year.

"A Wii," Luckabaugh said with a smile yesterday, referring to the video game system.

Luckabaugh, who is in remission from Hodgkin's disease, was one of about 150 children who headed to the North Pole yesterday, along with their families, as part of United Airlines' annual Fantasy Flight. The program, started in 1990, takes children with life-threatening conditions and terminal illnesses from hospitals and hospices across the region on a make-believe flight to visit Santa on his home turf. United employees, along with other sponsors, volunteer time and services each year to make it an extra special Christmas for such children.

"It was an emotional day," said Chazz Banks, manager of international operations for United Airlines and this year's Fantasy Flight chair. "Just to see the smiles on the faces of the children who are suffering, the parents -- we give them a day off."

The interior of the plane was decorated with tinsel, red ribbons, wreaths and Christmas ornaments. Flight attendants wore bells and blew cinnamon-scented bubbles. Some wore antlers. Others wore elf ears and jester hats. There were candy canes for everyone.

For Linda Cassell, 38, of Purcellville, the flight was a way to honor her son, Christopher, who died of a metabolic brain disorder in August, a week after his first birthday. She hoped to inspire others who might be going through similar hardships. She and her husband brought their daughter, Allyson, 4, on the trip.

"I'm just blown away by the happiness that surrounds these kids and their families . . . for what they have to go through," she said.

An announcement came over the intercom: "Ladies and gentlemen . . . we are United Sleigh Ride One with nonstop service to the North Pole."

The aircraft shook as it sped down the runway. Just as the plane was about to lift off, its engines were put in reverse and the intercom announced that the plane had reached its destination. Passengers erupted with applause and cheers. They disembarked to several gates that had been transformed into a winter wonderland: There were Christmas trees, arts and crafts, face painting, music and food. Clowns and other characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants and Ronald McDonald, greeted the youngsters and posed for photos.

And then came the big guy himself, Santa, with Mrs. Claus. They handed out presents to the children and their siblings based on the kids' wish lists. Children's Hospice International, an Alexandria-based nonprofit organization that partnered with United on the flight, had forwarded the lists to Santa.

Awesome -- kudos to United for doing this!

The Roots of Environmentalism

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Fascinating walk through the origins of the environmental movement. From Lubo� Motl at The Reference Frame:
The roots of environmentalism
Many environmentalists seem to think that their movement is cool, new, original, and thought-provoking. They think that their "modern" ideas were invented by their widely promoted icons. It is hard to believe that they think so but some of them probably do. Well, the reality is very different. Similar ideas have been around for centuries and their incorporation within the modern industrial society began roughly seven decades ago.

Let me begin with the following quote:
"We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind's own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age. Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole... This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of ******** ********* thought."
Beautiful, isn't it? You may ask who wrote these sentences. Was it Jared Diamond in 2005? Or was it Al Gore in 1992? Or Rachel Carson in 1962? Or Alexander Ač in 2007? No, someone else was the author. It was Prof Ernst Lehmann, a leading German biologist.

You may also want to know that he was the leading biologist of the Nazi regime and the asterisks above replaced the words "National Socialist". The words were written as early as in 1934 and I borrowed them from Peter Staudenmaier's insightful essay, Fascist Ecology: The "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents. In Staudenmaier's text, you will see that the Nazis were centuries ahead of the contemporary environmentalists in their own discipline.
Some fascinating observations and a chilling conclusion -- go and read it for yourself. Makes a lot of things quite clear.

Chrysler in the news

A curious case of mismanagement - Robert Nardelli. From CNN, January 3rd, 2007:

Nardelli out at Home Depot
Robert Nardelli, the CEO of Home Depot who came under fire for the size of his pay package as well as his management style, stepped down and will leave the No. 1 home improvement retailer with a $210 million severance package, the company said Wednesday.

Home Depot said Nardelli resigned effective Tuesday and that vice chairman Frank Blake would succeed him. In a statement, Home Depot said the board and Nardelli had "mutually agreed on the decision."

From CNN, August 6th, 2007:

Robert Nardelli named CEO of Chrysler
As the deal to sell Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management finally came to a close on Friday, there was one rather salient fact that slipped under the radar. Robert Nardelli was appointed Chrysler's chairman and chief executive officer upon the deal's completion.

That's right. Ceberus has confirmed that the disgraced former CEO of Home Depot (Charts, Fortune 500), who became the poster child for excessive CEO compensation, has taken the reigns at Chrysler. On the day the deal was finalized, August 3, Nardelli was elected to the Chrysler board. Soon after, the directors appointed him chairman and chief executive.

And how is he running Chrysler? Into the ground... From AutoBlog:

Bob Nardelli to Employees: We're cutting 25% of remaining white-collar jobs
"These are truly unimaginable times for our industry." That's how Chrysler CEO, Bob Nardelli, starts off a recent email to employees, just before dropping the bomb that the automaker intends to cut 25% of its salaried workforce beginning next month and continuing through the end of the year.

According to reports, Chrysler currently has 17,332 salaried workers, so 4,333 workers will be offered "voluntary" retirements and buyouts, while those who don't accept the automaker's offer, which includes "enhanced benefits" of cash and new vehicle vouchers, will be laid off. This is in addition to the 1,000 white-collar jobs Chrysler cut at the end of September.

And from CNN:

Chrysler CEO Urges Employees To Cut Costs After Loan Defeat
Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli Friday implored employees to do all they can to save money to keep the company afloat while it lobbies the Bush Administration for emergency loans.

In an e-mail to workers, Nardelli expressed disappointment that a measure to extend $14 billion in low-interest loans to Chrysler and General Motors Corp. ( GM) was blocked by the Senate Thursday. He said the company is in talks with the White House and U.S. Treasury over giving the auto makers access to funds allocated under the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program for financial institutions.

How do people like him ever get hired? Sheesh -- talk about bad management! I have never run a large business but I have managed large projects and have run several successful small businesses. It cannot be that difficult to competently run a large business.

Ebola in the news

Now this is just wonderful -- from Pig Progress:

Ebola detected in Philippine pigs
Ebola, one of the most feared infectious diseases, were discovered during tests at a USDA laboratory. The World Health Organization, said it is looking into whether the infection in pigs poses any threat to humans.

"While it's believed that Ebola-Reston is primarily a disease of animals, we are working with the Philippines government to see if there are any potential risks to humans," said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO in Geneva. "At the moment, we believe the risks are quite low."

Swine outbreak
The pigs, which came from four farms north of Manila, were also infected with at least two more-common diseases, stated Davinio P. Catbagan, the Philippines' chief veterinary officer. An outbreak of diseases which begun late last year wiped out entire herds in some cases.

Planned shipments to Singapore have now been suspended. "We are suspending pork exports until we're sure there's no risk to humans", Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap told reporters in Manila.

Hat tip to Tara C. Smith at Aetiology for the link. Ebola Reston is a lot less dangerous to humans than Ebola Zaire but we know a lot less about it. Not good news by any means...

These stories write themselves... From Above the Law:
Rod Blagojevich: Bills, Bills, Bills
Some have wondered: Where was star litigator Dan Webb at Governor Rod Blagojevich's bond hearing?
High-powered Winston & Strawn litigators Dan Webb and Bradley Lerman were not at Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's side when he appeared at a bond hearing on Tuesday. Blagojevich instead tapped Sheldon Sorosky, a lawyer from two-partner Chicago litigation shop Kaplan & Sorosky. Whither Winston & Strawn?
Here's a possible answer, from the Wall Street Journal (subscription):
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich owes more than $500,000 in unpaid bills to the law firm Winston & Strawn, his primary counsel since federal investigators began looking into various allegations of corruption five years ago. It is unclear whether the legal bills are for personal or campaign work, or for both. Campaign filings show Winston & Strawn had charged the governor's campaign fund, Friends of Blagojevich, nearly $2 million in legal fees through the end of 2007.
"Friends of Blagojevich": probably in short supply right now.
Update: As noted in the comments, if Winston & Strawn isn't eager to rep Rod, it's understandable. Recall how the firm blew $20 million defending Illinois's last corrupt governor, George Ryan. It lost the trial, lost the appeal, and couldn't even get pro bono credit for the thousands of hours spent on the case.
Chicago - the city that corruption built...

Poor Trevor

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Swiped from Rachel Lucas

Global Warming is a big fat bunch of hooey

Some of these links are a month or two old but worth checking out as end-of-year stats for 2008 are starting to be published.

One of the key climate drivers is the Ocean. Periodic cycles cause warming and cooling and seasons of higher and lower precipitation.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is one of the biggies for this neck of the woods and it is firmly in a cooling trend. This report (PDF format) outlines what is up and what we can expect:

Alaskan Cold and Glacial Advance Due to PDO
The PDO not Greenhouse Gasses are responsible for changes in Alaska

The money quote (a chart):


Moving on, we have this article in the Christian Science Monitor regarding Polar Bear population:

Canadian controversy: How do polar bears fare?
Despite global warming, an ongoing study says polar bear populations are rising in the country's eastern Arctic region.

And the money quote:

"There aren't just a few more bears. There are a ... lot more bears," biologist Mitchell Taylor told the Nunatsiaq News of Iqaluit in the Arctic territory of Nunavut. Earlier, in a long telephone conversation, Dr. Taylor explained his conviction that threats to polar bears from global warming are exaggerated and that their numbers are increasing. He has studied the animals for the Nunavut government for two decades.

There is a bit of information that not many people talk about:

Of the 13 polar bear populations in Canada, at least two are in decline, Derocher says. The number of polar bears along the western edge of Hudson Bay, for example, has fallen by 22 percent over the last decade.

And a bit more from Small Dead Animals:

It also turns out that most of the alarm over the polar bear's future stems from a single, peer-reviewed study, which found that the bear population had declined by some 250, or 25%, in Western Hudson Bay in the last decade. But the polar bear's range is far more extensive than Hudson Bay. A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey of wildlife in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain concluded that the ice bear populations "may now be near historic highs." One of the leading experts on the polar bear, Mitchell Taylor, the manager of wildlife resources for the Nunavut territory in Canada, has found that the Canadian polar bear population has actually increased by 25% -- to 15,000 from 12,000 over the past decade.

How about Overall Global Ocean Temperatures? #From a 2006 article at NASA:

Short-Term Ocean Cooling Suggests Global Warming 'Speed Bump'
The average temperature of the water near the top of the Earth's oceans has significantly cooled since 2003. New research suggests global warming trends are not always steady in their effects on ocean temperatures.

And finally, in related news (about the vanishing arctic sea ice) From DailyTech:

Sea Ice Growing at Fastest Pace on Record
An abnormally cool Arctic is seeing dramatic changes to ice levels. In sharp contrast to the rapid melting seen last year, the amount of global sea ice has rebounded sharply and is now growing rapidly. The total amount of ice, which set a record low value last year, grew in October at the fastest pace since record-keeping began in 1979.

The longer the politicians keep up with the Global Warming hooey as a form of economic crowd-control, the bigger their fall. I am 100% an environmentalist; I just like to put my efforts where they will do real work and not some sub-prime political-masquerading-as-scientific posturing.


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An amazing website for snowflakes. Physics, photography, growing them in a lab, F.A.Q., where are the best ones to be found... A lot of info on how to build a snowflake camera and growing unusual ones in electric fields. Check out SnowCrystals.COM
Interesting article from Bloomberg:
Fed Refuses to Disclose Recipients of $2 Trillion (Update2)
The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

Bloomberg filed suit Nov. 7 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act requesting details about the terms of 11 Fed lending programs, most created during the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The Fed responded Dec. 8, saying it�s allowed to withhold internal memos as well as information about trade secrets and commercial information. The institution confirmed that a records search found 231 pages of documents pertaining to some of the requests.
And we elected the fools in Congress that let this happen in the first place and then handed out money hand over fist when the bubble collapsed. I'm hoping for a very interesting election in two years...

What's an SEIU?

With the Blagojevich story, the acronym SEIU has been cropping up a lot.

Turns out it's a union -- a very large union with political clout.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Blagojevich and Union Have Longstanding Ties
Allegations that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich approached the nation's largest union seeking help in a complex pay-for-play scheme involving an open Senate seat are the latest episode in a long, mutually beneficial relationship between the governor and the powerful Service Employees International Union.

The two-million member union had long been a big political backer of Mr. Blagojevich, who helped it organize workers throughout the state, sometimes over the objections of competing unions.

The relationship, while not illegal or even unusual for the SEIU, may help explain why the union finds itself involved with a federal criminal investigation against Mr. Blagojevich. The governor was arrested this week after federal authorities issued a complaint against him which, among other things, said his office suggested a deal might be worked out in which he would be given a union job in exchange for naming a labor-friendly senator to fill the vacancy left by President-elect Barack Obama.

Well, it seems that another branch of this union is finding itself in curious straits.

From the L.A. Times:

Union-founded nonprofit spent zero on its charitable purpose in two years
A nonprofit organization founded by California's largest union local reported spending nothing on its charitable purpose -- to develop housing for low-income workers -- during at least two of the four years it has been operating, federal records show.

The charity, launched by a scandal-ridden Los Angeles chapter of the Service Employees International Union, had total expenses of about $165,000 for 2005 and 2006, and all of the money went to consulting fees, insurance costs and other overhead, according to its Internal Revenue Service filings.

Charity watchdogs say that nonprofits should never have zero program expenses in two successive years and that well-performing charities direct at least 70% of their annual spending to their charitable purpose.

"Of the 5,000-plus charities we've looked at, I don't think we've ever seen one that didn't spend anything on its charitable programs," said Sandra Miniutti, vice president of Charity Navigator, an online rating service.

Charity Navigator is a good site if you are interested in contributing or if you have been solicited. Check it out here: Charity Navigator

If you can't stand the heat, don't come into the kitchen. From CNN:
Jesse Jackson Jr.: 'I want my name back'
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said Friday that he was fighting to get "my name back" after he was identified as "Senate Candidate 5" in a criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Jackson, the son of famed civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and a six-term Democratic congressman from Chicago, had publicly sought to succeed President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

Jackson had talked to Blagojevich, the person with the sole power to make the appointment, on Monday, just one day before federal agents arrested the Illinois governor. Jackson said he only presented his credentials and polling information that suggests he could win re-election in 2010.

Jackson said he had fought corruption "since day one" but said he could not serve as Illinois senator until his name was cleared in the public eye.
"son of famed civil rights leader Jesse Jackson"
More like race hustler and shakedown 'artist'. Jackson Sr.'s history is well known and out and out dirty. I cannot help but think that his kid is just as bad. (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here)

Dangerous place - LabX

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Was looking up something different (current status on polywell fusion) and ran into this place: LabX Sort of a cross between eBay (live auctions), Craigslist Classifieds and an aggregation of online retailers for new and used scientific equipment. Just WOW! (Jen -- hide the credit cards for a few months OK?)
The current spate of ship piracy is all coming from Islamists in Somalia. They have found out that very few nations actually have the stones to open fire on their attack boats and are holding the ships for ransom which is inevitably and quietly paid. More productive than holding a bake sale that's for sure... Neptunus Lex has an outline of what it is like in Somalia these days and a suggestion:
Reports out of Somalia say that 80% of the soldiers and police of the Transitional National Government have deserted their posts, giving their weapons over to militant Islamists. The same report says that most of the UN security aide to the �country� - 70% of the �government�s� budget - has disappeared through corruption.

The Ethiopian army, which swept the armed forces of the Islamic Courts Union aside two years ago, grows weary of the struggle to maintain order. Mogadishu, the Somali �capital� that in 1993 played host to the Blackhawk Down incident, is a ghost town, with half the �pre-war� population having fled to the countryside.

The UN is begging African Union �peacekeepers� from Burundi and Uganda to stay on after the Ethiopian army withdraws.

With appropriate deference to the UN, I humbly offer a counter-proposal:
  1. Build a wall around the place.
  2. Come back after 50 years and build a door.
  3. Wait another 50 years and open the door. Carefully.
  4. Re-assess.
Short of taking off and nuking the site from orbit - the only way to be sure - I believe my plan offers the world the best chance for success.
I think that wall can be put around a lot of the middle east to the great benefit of the rest of the world...
Hat tip to Charles at LGF for this link to ZooBorns
Awwww the cuteness!

Financial fun in Zimbabwe

What a wonderful place to live -- in Mugabe's socialist paradise, everyone is a millionaire.

From United Press International:

New higher limit Zimbabwe currency issued
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced new $200 million and $500 million notes in Harare on Friday.

The RBZ says the new notes should pave way for the increase in withdrawal limits to $500 million a week.

A week ago, the RBZ unveiled $10 million, $50 million and $100 million notes.

Officials say the 500 million Zimbabwean dollar note is worth about $8 in U.S. currency, enough to buy eight loaves of bread, in the southern African country's latest sign of spiraling hyperinflation.

But cut the guy some slack -- he blinked his eyes and got rid of the Cholera Epidemic that is raging there. And to think that Mugabe's rise to power was brokered by non other than Jimmy Carter who never met a dictator he didn't like.

Winter everywhere

Major ice storm in the Northeast -- from the Raleigh, NC News-Observer:
Northeast ice storm leaves 1.25M without power
An ice storm to compare with some of the Northeast's worst made a mess of the region Friday, leaving 1.25 million homes and businesses in seven states without power as it forced schools to close and toppled ice-laden trees and power lines onto slippery roads.

More than half of New Hampshire's homes and businesses lost power, and it was expected to take several days to completely restore electricity there and in other states. The storm wreaked havoc from Maine to Pennsylvania, leaving a sparkling, ice-covered landscape that was too destructive for many to find beautiful.

"This is pathetic," said Bob Cott of Portland, Maine, who lost power. "I'm already sick of winter and we have nine days to go before it officially begins."
We got a couple inches of snow here this morning and at 800 feet elevation, that is uncommon. Cold everywhere. Glaciers are growing.
Available in low-rez and high-rez versions. Some years are missing, some years are available but not posted yet. An amazing resource -- Radio Shack Catalogs The 1963 edition is bringing back some amazing memories. I was 13 then and reading this catalog opened up a lot of new vistas. Included were the beginnings of home tape recording (Magnecord and Ampex) home high-fidelity (Acoustic Research, Macintosh and KLH), lots of listings for shop equipment -- power tools, jointers, a Toolkraft 12" drill press which I still have in my shop (cost a whopping $52.47 without the motor), the beginnings of transistorized home televisions and radios. Super eight movie equipment, microscopes and telescopes, cameras and home darkroom equipment, RC airplanes and toys, office machines, pre-recorded music (disks and reel to reel tapes). It also featured the Minivac 601 Digital Computer of which I still have mine. I unfortunately lost the programming guide and jumper wire kit a number of years ago but the console has an honored spot in the DaveCave(tm). An amazing trek through the time when modern electronics was just hitting the consumer marketplace. Fun stuff...

A comment deleted.

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Dexter Morgan -- I deleted your comment as it was inappropriate to this blog. My blog and my rules.

Cool news - car bailout stymied for now

We had our annual Christmas party of store employees this evening. Lots of great food and we opened a number of the higher-end beers and wines so the employees could get a bit of on-the-job training. (grin)

Turned on Google News to find this bit of joy from Fox News:

Auto Bailout Bill Collapses in Senate Despite Intense Negotiations
Democratic leaders and the White House made final pleas for the bill's passage on Thursday, but the two sides in the Senate failed to forge a compromise.

A deal on $14 billion in aid to Detroit's Big Three automakers fell apart Thursday night in the Senate despite intense negotiations on Capitol Hill between lawmakers, union officials and representatives from the three companies.

Earlier in the evening, the talks appeared to have produced a breakthrough, with Democratic leaders "hopeful" that an agreement had been reached that would be acceptable to Senate Republicans, who have resisted the aid package. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came back later to report the effort had failed, adding he was "terribly disappointed."

Republicans, after reviewing the latest version of the proposal in a closed-door meeting, balked at giving automaker federal aid unless their powerful union agreed to slash wages next year to bring them into line with those of Japanese carmakers.

Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, a strong bailout supporter, said the United Auto Workers was willing to make the cuts, but not until 2011.

The collapse of the latest negotiations came as the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday evening that General Motors had hired lawyers and bankers to consider whether to file for bankruptcy, a prospect made more likely by the outcome of Thursday's talks.

A procedural vote is scheduled Thursday night but it is expected to be little more than a formality.

"We just don't have the votes," Reid said. "I dread looking at Wall Street in the morning."

I love this bit: Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, a strong bailout supporter, said the United Auto Workers was willing to make the cuts, but not until 2011. Guess who lost in that poker game.

The Unions thought they could stall for a couple of years and their hand got called. Now the workers have to start from scratch. Nice way to protect your constituent's jobs guys... Good to see some people are listening to the street. Reid needs to go though. Two years and hopefully he is out.

Pouring money into Detroit

A nice editorial by Thomas Friedman at the N.Y. Times:
While Detroit Slept
As I think about our bailing out Detroit, I can't help but reflect on what, in my view, is the most important rule of business in today's integrated and digitized global market, where knowledge and innovation tools are so widely distributed. It's this: Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is will it be done by you or to you. Just don't think it won't be done. If you have an idea in Detroit or Tennessee, promise me that you'll pursue it, because someone in Denmark or Tel Aviv will do so a second later.

Why do I bring this up? Because someone in the mobility business in Denmark and Tel Aviv is already developing a real-world alternative to Detroit's business model. I don't know if this alternative to gasoline-powered cars will work, but I do know that it can be done - and Detroit isn't doing it. And therefore it will be done, and eventually, I bet, it will be done profitably.
And the money quote:
...our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay...
And it looks like the bailout is going to pass. Idiots!

Church and State - a similarity

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Major Combs writes at Strong As An Ox And Nearly As Smart and was reading the Letters to the Editor recently:
Liberal Gets Instant Wish Fulfillment
The San Francisco Chronicle is a constant source of blogging inspiration, especially the Letters to the Editor page. Case in point: a recent letter inspired my response below.

�Churches that act like political parties should be taxed like political parties,� wrote Arthur Evans of San Francisco (Chronicle letters, Nov 12, 200). Heavens, Mr. Evans, from your lips to God�s ear! Churches are in essence taxed like political parties. Neither pays taxes on their �exempt function income,� but both pay taxes on income unrelated to their exempt functions.

For many years Black pastors have preached support for Democrat politicians from their pulpits without Liberal criticism that it violated their tax-exempt status. Alice and I attended a service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem where the minister directed his congregation to get everyone, including �your crack-head cousin,� out to vote for Obama. Only now after these same ministers urged support of Proposition 8 are Liberals incensed. I�ll bet they won�t be during the next election when the same ministers instruct their congregants to �vote for the Democrat.�

Roughly ninety percent do, almost as high a percentage as journalists.
Heh. Some people stop to think and then forget to start again...

Tony Rezko in the news

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Interesting fallout in the whole Blagojevich case from the Washington Post:
Case Confirms Rezko Is Talking With Prosecutors
A footnote to the 76-page criminal complaint and affidavit charging Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) with soliciting bribes confirms what has long been rumored -- that a former longtime friend and fundraiser for President-elect Barack Obama is talking to federal prosecutors in hopes of a reduced sentence.

Antoin "Tony" Rezko's offer to provide authorities with evidence of others' wrongdoing is "not complete," and prosecutors are working to corroborate the claims he has made so far, the footnote said.

Rezko, a 53-year-old developer, was convicted in June of 16 criminal counts, including fraud, money laundering and abetting bribery. He is in custody awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors depicted Rezko at trial as a fixer for Blagojevich and the man to see to secure a high-level appointment with the governor's administration. Rezko had been a longtime fundraiser for Blagojevich and other Illinois politicians, including Obama.
Some interesting comments to this article -- here is one:
When You Lay Down with Chicago Politicians, You Wake Up with Crooks

"When you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas."

This old saying isn't true anymore. Dogs are so well groomed and protected from fleas and ticks, that if you lay down with them they'll probably get something from you.

Which brings us to Obama and the many years he spent swimming through the Chicago political cesspool. Maybe he will come out smelling like a rose, but I think he will need a very powerful deodorant. If Obama was a Republican, guilt by association would already have his political career on life support. Fortunately for Obama, Democrats expect Democrats to be corrupt- they don't trust them if they're not.

Democrats think: "Man, I'm not voting for anyone who is too stupid to take advantage of their golden opportunities."
An interesting case to follow for sure...
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Sleet, snow tail off in New Orleans
For the first time in nearly four years, snow fell across the New Orleans region this morning, with flurries reported on the north shore and in the city, Metairie, Kenner, LaPlace and other parts of the south shore. By around 10 a.m., the snow had mostly stopped, replaced by freezing rain in many places, making driving treacherous. By noon, the precipitation had mostly ceased altogether.
And the historical record for snowfall?
Snow in New Orleans is a rarity. The last time it snowed was Christmas 2004; before that, the last snow recorded was in 1989, according to Jim Vasilj, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Since 1850, snow had fallen in "measurable amounts" rather than traces in the city just 17 times, Vasilj said. Of the 17, today's snowfall was the earliest in the season recorded.
Here is a look down Canal Street:
Worried about the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe? Don't be -- from Reuters:
Mugabe says Zimbabwe cholera outbreak stopped
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe announced on Thursday his government had stopped a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 800 people, but the United Nations said the death toll was rising.

The United States, which has called on Mugabe to step down, said the outbreak was worsening and South African officials declared a stretch of the border with Zimbabwe a disaster zone because of Zimbabweans fleeing in search of treatment.

"I am happy we are being assisted by others and we have arrested cholera," Mugabe said in a speech in which he also attacked what he described as Western plans to invade Zimbabwe and topple his government.

"Now that there is no cholera there is no case for war."
Rope. Tree. Some assembly required.

News from Chicago - BREAKING

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From Iowahawk:
BREAKING: Feds Seize Blagojevich eBay Account
CHICAGO - The ongoing corruption probe into Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich took a dramatic turn this evening, as federal agents working for US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced that they had seized the governor's eBay account. It is as yet unknown how the latest seizure will effect the outcome of the case.


Leaked documents from latest sealed federal indictment.
Visit the link for screen captures of what the FBI was able to seize.
Memo to self; when choosing an example of Chinese Calligraphy to illustrate the front cover of a major peer-reviewed Scientific Journal, take extra care to get an exact translation before going to press. From the UK Independent:
Chinese 'classical poem' was brothel ad
Science journal mistakenly uses flyer for Macau brothel to illustrate report on China

A respected research institute wanted Chinese classical texts to adorn its journal, something beautiful and elegant, to illustrate a special report on China. Instead, it got a racy flyer extolling the lusty details of stripping housewives in a brothel.

Chinese characters look dramatic and beautiful, and have a powerful visual impact, but make sure you get the meaning of the characters straight before jumping right in.

There were red faces on the editorial board of one of Germany's top scientific institutions, the Max Planck Institute, after it ran the text of a handbill for a Macau strip club on the front page of its latest journal. Editors had hoped to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover of a special issue, focusing on China, of the MaxPlanckForschung journal, but instead of poetry they ran a text effectively proclaiming "Hot Housewives in action!" on the front of the third-quarter edition. Their "enchanting and coquettish performance" was highly recommended.

The use of traditional Chinese characters and references to "the northern mainland" seem to indicate the text comes from Hong Kong or Macau, and it promises burlesque acts by pretty-as-jade housewives with hot bodies for the daytime visitor.

The Max Planck Institute was quick to acknowledge its error explaining that it had consulted a German sinologist prior to publication of the text. "To our sincere regret ... it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker," the institute said in an apology. "By publishing this text we did in no way intend to cause any offence or embarrassment to our Chinese readers."

Bjorn Lomberg & Global Warming

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Excellent speech - worth the 20 minutes or so:
What Algore is not telling you...

No posting tonight - busy day tomorrow

Have the annual staff Christmas party tomorrow and busy cleaning out the dining area. With the recovery from my hip surgery, I had made that my default office so it needs to be reverted to its original design goal. I'll may post a bit later but don't wait up...

The big-three bailout illustrated

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Mostly Cajun has an illustration that perfectly illustrates the big-three bailout:
Click for full-size.
A wonderful screed by Dick writing at Neanderpundit:
Well boys and girls, it�s that special time of year when I need to wish a�
�Merry Christmas to every last one of you politically correct, worthless cocksuckers out there who have nothing better to do other than to waste perfectly good oxygen and bitch about phrases like, �Merry Christmas, God Loves you, and Napalm Sticks to Kids.�
It keeps getting better and better. Heh...

Happy 40th Birthday - The Mouse

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On December 9th, 1968, Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart did a live presentation of a real-time online system he and his team had been working on. Here it is at the Stanford Research Institute Mouse Site
make sure they aren't running first. From Iowa's Quad-City Times:
Police search for suspects in theft of skybridge cameras
Davenport police are asking for help in identifying the person or people they believe stole seven cameras from the skybridge.

And they have photos � taken by the cameras as they were being stolen.

The cameras, installed to monitor activity on the bridge � including criminal activity, were stolen between 12:30 and 1 a.m. Dec. 1, officials said.

�We�re distributing the pictures to all the schools,� Capt. David Struckman said.

The replacement cost is more than $6,500. The people who stole the cameras face possible felony theft charges.
The very picture of stupidity...

Illinois - politics as usual

From the Chicago Tribune:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrested on federal charges
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a "staggering" level of corruption involving pay-to-play politics in Illinois' top office.

Blagojevich is accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, including alleged attempts by the governor to try to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. Blagojevich also is accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.
And it's not just Obama's senate seat that was up for grabs:
Prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services, secretary of the Energy Department or gain an ambassadorship in the new Obama administration, or get a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate. An Obama spokesman had no immediate comment.

Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year's end when a new tougher law on campaign donations, prompted by the governor's voracious fundraising, would take effect.

Even Blagojevich's recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and "green lanes" on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged. The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. "If they don't perform, (expletive) 'em," Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.

Blagojevich and Harris also allegedly conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

In addition, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts.

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Slate Magazine has an excellent writeup as well:
No Change for Sale
Obama looks great in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's indictment.

The federal indictment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a many-splendored thing. Each act it describes is more outrageous than the last. For the moment, my favorite quote is the governor's maxim that a Senate seat "is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing." So true. Michael Huffington spent $30 million, John Corzine $60 million. Perhaps the devaluation of a Senate seat, like that of a governorship, only happens once you're in office.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement this morning that the breadth of corruption "would make (Abraham) Lincoln roll over in his grave." Blagojevich's phones were bugged for more than a month, which captured a lot of rich material and dark psychological terrain. While Blagojevich contemplated the string of difficulties and liabilities stemming from a three-year investigation into his administration, he was still confident enough to muse about a 2016 presidential campaign. He tried to leverage the power to appoint the next senator to replace President-elect Barack Obama into a job as Obama's secretary of health and human services. If that didn't work, he wanted Obama to name him an ambassador or help his wife get on some corporate boards in exchange for naming his preferred candidate to the post. (I called Obama's office to see what it makes of all of this but haven't heard back.)
The Feds take down this moke and five more will rise up to take his place. Chicago is a corrupt city.

Fun animation software

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Check out Animata Downside - 2D and limited shading/lighting/camera angles, etc... This isn't SoftImage or 3D Studio. That being said, it's a very cool, real-time (no rendering) quick to use animation package that accepts input from sensors so you can have an actor move and your animation will move right along with. You can build your characters out of graphics files and Animata will warp them based on the kinematics you define. Slick User Interface from first observations. I'll be playing some more with this one in my copious spare time...

The state of the English Language

A bit of disheartening but not unexpected news from Archbishop Cranmer:
Oxford dictionary eradicates words associated with Christianity and British history
Cranmer is having one of his incandescent moments, which are rare, but quite vehement when they occur. It transpires that Oxford University Press has decided to eradicate from its Junior Dictionary words associated with Christianity, the monarchy and British traditions and history.

Thus words like �bishop�, �abbey�, �chapel, �saint�, �empire� and �coronation� have been expunged along with many which related to the countryside, like �moss�, �willow�, �fern�, �buttercup�, �heather�, �sycamore� and �mistletoe�.

In order to make the dictionary �more relevant� to the town-dwelling, multi-faith, multi-cultural internet-dominated, celebrity-obsessed, and ADD-afflicted generation, words like �blog�, �broadband�, �MP3 player�, �voicemail� and �celebrity� are supplanting those which may explain and educate them on their country�s Christian heritage and cultural traditions.

And with supreme irony yet of immense political significance, �monarch� has been erased while �EU� enters for the first time.
Granted, this is the Junior Edition and not the full monster but still -- camel's nose under the tent flap and all that...

Just wonderful - Vanilla crops at risk

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From Yahoo/Associated Press:
Deadly vanilla fungus hits Madagascar
An incurable crop disease has spread widely in Madagascar's vanilla-producing region, government scientists said Monday.

The scientists' initial assessment released Monday said the world's main vanilla exporter needs to radically change farming methods to fight the disease, carried by an underground fungus.

Most of Madagascar's vanilla is exported to the United States, where it is used in candy, soft drinks and ice cream.

"The situation is critical," Malagasy agronomic research chief Simeon Rakotomamonjy told The Associated Press. "The disease now affects 80 percent of plantations around Sambava and Andapa," two of Madagascar's three main centers of vanilla production.

Surveys in the more isolated Antalaha region so far reveal only a trace of the fungus.

Fungus spores attack a vanilla plant at the root, and a black rot spreads upward, often killing pods before they reach maturity. The disease is known for the moment only by its local name, bekorontsana, which means "falls to the ground often," said plant specialist Alain Paul Andrianaivo.

Researchers propose a wholesale replanting of disease-prone species with a vanilla hybrid that, laboratory tests suggest, is fungus-resistant.

If new plants are the answer, the government will have to help, said Charles Gabriel, a farmer in the affected region.

"For the moment I have not got the money to buy new plants," said Gabriel, who farms two fields he inherited from his parents. "I would also need to see that it works before I begin planting."
The article goes on to state that because of recent high prices, farmers had planted a lot more plants spacing them much closer than before. This has facilitated the spread of the fungus. The history of Vanilla is fascinating and prone to major fluctuations. Madagascar accounts for about 50% of pods sold. The price was $20 per Kilo back in the mid-1980's up to $500 per Kilo due to a typhoon, political instability, and poor weather and it dropped to $40/Kilo back in 2005. We are seeing the same sort of problem with the Banana. The original cultivar was the Gros Michel but it fell to a fungal epidemic (Panama Disease) back in the 1950's and we are now exclusively growing the Cavendish. A mutation of Panama Disease is now causing problems.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Woman arrested after ill-timed smoke break
Police say a Muncie woman was arrested after asking a state trooper whether she could smoke -- and then trying to light up a marijuana joint.

Thirty-two-year-old Honesty Knight was a passenger in a vehicle that Trooper Eric Perkins pulled over for a traffic violation early Friday. While the trooper was talking to the driver, Knight obtained the trooper's permission to smoke.

Police say Perkins then asked to see the cigarette, which contained marijuana, not tobacco.
DOH! Of all the stupid things to do...

Indian food resource

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Great resource for those interested in learning how to cook Indian food. Check out Manjula's Kitchen Not only the recipes but short videos showing preparation and technique.

Crossword puzzles

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Comprehensive site for people who follow the NY Times crossword puzzle. Check out XWord Info:
New York Times Crossword Stats and Observations
XWord Info contains data about NYT puzzles dating back to November, 1993, covering the entire time that Will Shortz has been Puzzle Editor. The links below will be of most interest to constructors and serious solvers but occasional dabblers will be entertained too. Explore around and you'll no doubt see crosswords in a whole new light.
A fun site.

Slow day today

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Slept in until quite late and not feeling very productive today. Not much happening in the world or on the net so I probably will not post too much tonight. Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
A perfect choice. I was casting about trying to express why I thought so when I read this post from Obsidian Wings: Two brief excerpts and you should really go and read the whole thing.
Obama is clearly courting the military, not by giving into their every whim, or by ceding to them on matters of policy, but by appointing people whom they trust, and who are very, very good.
They have already experienced life under George W. Bush, and by all accounts, they did not care for it. But their distrust of Democrats might easily have prevented them from seriously considering drawing the obvious conclusion from Bush and Rumsfeld's trashing of the armed forces. If Obama can get past that hurdle, he could, just possibly, cause a very significant change.
The next four years are going to be fascinating and pivotal to the USA. A fun time to be alive!

Light posting today - parade and stuff

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Was out at a local Christmas parade -- pictures will be posted tomorrow. Got some other stuff to take care of in the DaveCave(tm)
January 17 and 18 2009 will see a major auction (over 800 lots) of major and minor artifacts from the recent Battlestar Galactica television show. Everything from concept sketches to uniforms to foam models to major props used in the series. Included are ships, people's desks, steering stations, ships computers, etc. This is major and it is the real deal. I am not a sci-fi collector by any means and 4E just passed away but geez, I bet a bunch of MSFT execs are pissing their pants with anticipation. Going to be a very nice Christmas for some little boys.
Cylon Raider (expected to go for $40K to $60K)

Starbucks Cigar Box (expected to go for $200 to $400)
Very cool stuff but I do not have that kind of disposable income at this time...

An amazing find in Rhode Island

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From Mr. Jalopy:
Massive Secret Mustang Junkyard Found In Rhode Island Forest
Imagine a secret junkyard frozen in time somewhere around the 70's with every bit of vintage hardware stretching for hundreds of acres. Classic Mustangs, Camaros, Cadillacs, Hemis; you name it, it's here. But not for long: The law man's saying to crush 'em. Massive mega-gallery below along with the location and what you can do to save them.
This one is for real and it is huge. Anyone on the east coast (or fanatics with large trailers and time to spend) interested in these cars should move now. Lots of work to restore them but opportunities like this don't come along very often. Here is a Google satellite image of the collection.

Another reason to love coffee

From gas 2.0:
America�s Addiction Fuels Desire For Coffee Ground Biodiesel
Researchers are reporting they have successfully made a high quality biodiesel from spent coffee grounds. They estimate that the coffee ground biodiesel industry could generate as much as $8,000,000 in profits annually using waste from US Starbucks stores alone.

One of the main limits to the acceptance of biodiesel as an alternative fuel is its price premium above regular diesel. To bring the price of biodiesel down, the industry uses as much waste material from other industries as possible to make it � such as used fryer oil and animal fats from poultry processing.

In holding with the idea of cheap biodiesel feedstocks, a team of researchers in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at the University of Nevada figured that maybe spent coffee grounds would fit the bill too.

And boy do they ever. Not only do spent coffee grounds have a relatively large amount of oil (about 15% � almost all of which can be converted into biodiesel using standard methods), biodiesel made from the grounds has a long shelf life due to the large amount of antioxidants in coffee. Antioxidants slow the process of rancidification.

There�s a bonus too: at the end of the biodiesel extraction and conversion process, the leftover grounds can be turned into fuel pellets for wood stoves and boilers, closing the waste loop (or at least putting most of the carbon and nutrients that had recently been used by the plant to grow back into the atmosphere where they can again be used by plants to grow).
Perfect example of thinking outside the box...
From USA Today:
Congress, White House talking $15B auto bailout
Stunned by the loss of 500,000 jobs, congressional Democrats and the White House reached for agreement Friday on about $15 billion in bailout loans for the beleaguered auto industry. President George W. Bush warned that at least one of the Big Three carmakers might not survive the current economic crisis.

Several officials in both parties said a key breakthrough on the long-stalled bailout came when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bowed to Bush's demand that the aid come from a fund set aside for the production of environmentally friendlier cars. The California Democrat spoke to White House chief of staff Josh Bolten during the day to signal her change in position, they added.
Overwhelming public opinion is against the bailout. If the companies go though bankruptcy, they will not cease operation, they will continue operation while reorganizing and negotiating with their creditors. Giving them a bailout only serves to reinforce their stupid behavior and incompetent management. We bought a Subaru outback a few years ago and looked at a lot of cars before deciding on it. Our next car will most likely be another Subaru as they are bringing their turbo-Diesel engines to the states soon. If the big-three made a passenger car that fit our needs, we would certainly take a look at it but they do not -- and there are a lot of Subarus out on the roads these days...

Awww Crap - R.I.P. Forrest J Ackerman

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Not that well known outside of Science Fiction circles, he passed away yesterday From the L.A. Times From Fangoria A true one-of-a-kind -- he will be missed.
75 years ago today, on December 5th, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified ending Prohibition. Let's raise a glass of our favorite and drink a toast!

Not even a nice place to visit - Iran

From Yahoo/Reuters:

Police detain 49 for "satanic" clothes
Police have arrested 49 people this week in a northern Iranian city during a crackdown on "satanic" clothes, IRNA news agency reported Thursday.

The measures are the latest in a country-wide campaign against Western cultural influence in the Islamic Republic, where strict dress codes are enforced.

"Police confronted rascals and thugs who appeared in public wearing satanic fashions and unsuitable clothing," Qaemshahr city police commander Mahmoud Rahmani told IRNA.

Rahmani also said that five barber shops were shut and 20 more warned for "promoting Western hairstyles."

In the past, such crackdowns have lasted a few weeks or months, but the current campaign was launched in 2007 and has not let up.

It includes measures against men sporting spiky "Western" hairstyles or women wearing tight trousers and high boots.

If they want to live like 9th century primitives, fine. Just don't impose your will on someone who would rather live in modern times.

All things Vinegar

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Great website for information on Vinegar, making, uses and history. Check out Vinegarman Includes this great page:
Notice to Extraterrestrial Aliens
Welcome to the International Vinegar Museum

Dear Aliens,

Many of you have confused us with Roswell, New Mexico. While this is a perfectly easy mistake for non native speakers, The International Vinegar Museum is in Roslyn, South Dakota, Latitude 45�22'30", Longitude 97�22'30".

This little confusion being cleared up we would like to invite and welcome you to The International Vinegar Museum. You should fit right in here. With the exception of extraterrestrial renegades from the fourth quadrant masquerading as earthlings, the inhabitants here are quite friendly. We are sure you will find some interesting vinegars to take to your planet back as unique souvenirs. The quality of vinegar here is much better than that found in the outer perimeter of the asteroid belt.

Since we are a small town however, we will ask your cooperation in making your visit a pleasant one.

1. Please park your spaceships on the football field. It should be easy to find from the air. You will see a large field with some benches and a goal post on each end of the field. It is a pretty safe town, so you don't really have to lock it.

2. We do not charge interstellar aliens for parking here. In fact we don't charge anyone.

3. Though we get a lot of earthlings from various place on our planet and are used to various manifestations, the extraterrestrial visitors who live and visit here all cloak themselves as earthlings. If you do not have such cloaking devices and you have a slightly different appearance, for example three heads with green scaly skin or extremely long tail with eyes on the end, some of our kids may point and/or stare. Small kids may even scream or run away. We hope you will forgive their impoliteness and ignore them. They will get over it and get used to you as more of you visit us.

Planning to fly sometime this winter?

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Just wonderful -- from USA Today:
De-icer shortage threatens flights
The federal government is warning airlines that flights could face disruptions this winter because of a severe shortage of a chemical used to keep runways free from snow and ice.

A 99-day strike by Canadian potash mine workers forced companies to halt production of runway de-icing fluid. Potash is a form of potassium, a primary de-icing ingredient.

Spokesmen at large airports that frequently become snowbound vowed to keep flights moving by using alternate chemicals. Even if air travel does not face interruptions, the shortage will cost cash-strapped airports millions of dollars in higher costs and the alternative chemicals cause greater environmental problems, according to the Airports Council International and the American Association of Airport Executives.
The article mentions that one company produced nine million gallons of de-icer last year but only has materials for two to three million this year.

An observation re: The Economy

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Fred Thompson nails the cause (and the cure) of the current recession:

An observation re: Health Care

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From Mark Perry at Carpe Diem:
Affordable Health Plans Available From $37/Mo.
According to the Census Bureau, there are 47 million Americans without health insurance (link). NPR had a segment today about getting insurance quotes through a website called

For a 36-year old male living in my area, there were 119 quotes through eHealthInsurance with monthly premiums ranging from a low of $37 per month ($10,000 deductible, co-insurance of 20%) to a high of $232 per month ($0 deductible, 0% coinsurance), and there were 62 different plans with premiums of $100 per month of less. For a 36-year old female, the premiums are slightly higher, ranging from $47 to $307 per month.

Bottom Line: At a monthly cost comparable to a typical monthly cable TV plan, and maybe even about the same cost as a monthly cell phone plan, isn't it true that an individual can easily purchase relatively affordable health insurance in the private market? I wonder how many of the 47 million have cable TV and cell phones, and voluntarily chose not to buy health insurance, even though they obviously can afford it?
A very good observation. A lot of the people living below the "poverty line" have cable TV, cell phones, cars, etc. but are somehow unable to live without government handouts. Maybe the concept of poverty needs to be rethought...
Hat tip to Blue Crab Boulevard for this link to The Daily Bayonet:
Global Warming Hoax Weekly Round-Up, Dec. 5 2008
The GWHWRU returns to its regularly programmed time, my apologies for last week's unexpected hiatus and profound thanks and kudos to Skeptics Global Warming for jumping fearlessly into the breach to keep the denier hounds fed.

Some of these stories and links are a week old as they were intended for the round-up that wasn't. I've only kept the best of these, the rest are full of freshness and will provide all the skeptic vitamins you need for today. One change in format, I've reduced the number of parts to five from six; the old 'Real Science' links will appear throughout the post where they fit best.

That's the humdrum stuff done, so, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
Part One: Al Gore and Friends

Let's start on a fun note, check out Gored But Not Forgotten, giggle and return promptly before going over here to have another chortle.

Al Gore is a man that would have the world believe that he not only understands what's wrong with our planet, but how we can fix it. Odd then, that the man doesn't know enough to place his own personal Stevenson Screen correctly.

Al Gore's TV network, Current TV, is apparently peddling soft-porn type shows. It seems that Al treats all kinds of hot the same way, by getting it some exposure. Don't tell Tipper.

I often refer to the Goreacle as the 'Profit', a pun on Prophet, for this reason. I received an email from a dirty hippy in San Francisco (really!) that didn't get the joke. While I usually could care less what dirty hippies think between bong hits, I will now use the Al pun nomenclature only in the following format: Prophet Profit Al. Because I think dirty hippy emails might have cooties and I don't want to get any more than I have to.
What follows is a wonderful skewering of the AGW promoters, cracks in the facade of and 'Media Personalities' making scientific claims about which they know nothing. Definitely one to add to the blogroll...

Interesting times in Europe

When things seem the darkest, sometimes a light shines through. What with the EU becoming under the thrall of Socialism, Cultural Marxism, Islamism and the sub-prime science of Anthropogenic Global Warming, people like Vaclav Klaus pop up into the limelight. From the New York Times:

A Fiery Czech Is Poised to Be the Face of Europe
In the 1980s, a Communist secret police agent infiltrated clandestine economics seminars hosted by Vaclav Klaus, a fiery future leader of the Czech Republic, who had come under suspicion for extolling free market virtues. Rather than reporting on Marxist heresy, the agent was most struck by Mr. Klaus's now famous arrogance.

"His behavior and attitudes reveal that he feels like a rejected genius," the agent noted in his report, which has since been made public. "He shows that whoever does not agree with his views is stupid and incompetent."

Decades later, Mr. Klaus, the 67-year-old president of the Czech Republic -- an iconoclast with a perfectly clipped mustache -- continues to provoke strong reactions. He has blamed what he calls the misguided fight against global warming for contributing to the international financial crisis, branded Al Gore an "apostle of arrogance" for his role in that fight, and accused the European Union of acting like a Communist state.

Now the Czech Republic is about to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union and there is palpable fear that Mr. Klaus will embarrass the world's biggest trading bloc and complicate its efforts to address the economic crisis and expand its powers. His role in the Czech Republic is largely ceremonial, but he remains a powerful force here, has devotees throughout Europe and delights in basking in the spotlight.

"Oh God, Vaclav Klaus will come next," read a recent headline in the Austrian daily Die Presse, in an article anticipating the havoc he could wreak in a union of 495 million people already divided over its future direction.

An economist by training and a free marketeer by ideology, Mr. Klaus has criticized the course set by the union's departing leader, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The ambitious Mr. Sarkozy has used France's European Union presidency to push an agenda that includes broader and more coordinated regulation by the largest economies to tame the worst of the market's excesses.

Heh... We need more people like him, John Bolton, Fred Dalton Thompson, and such. Zero bullshit and a clear view of what is actually happening.

Another night of light posting

Working on some other stuff...

Downwind faster than the wind

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A curious experiment proves counter-intuitive.
Hat tip to BoingBoing and it has hit the hot-button with BoingBoing readers as there are over 400 comments. An interesting experiment...

Idiots in the wilderness

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From the Fairbanks, AK News-Miner
Brooks Range hiker rebuked for rescue
Even though she was paid $210, the idea of renting a room and feeding a meal to Dave Roberts didn�t sit well with Jamie Klaes, manager of the Bettles Lodge.

It would have been different had Roberts paid the bill, but the fact that the Alaska Air National Guard paid for his room and board rubbed Klaes the wrong way.

�It felt like he was being rewarded for stupidity,� Klaes said on Monday, three days after Roberts was rescued by helicopter from an isolated area in the Brooks Range by the Alaska Air National Guard. �He got a free hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub, free meals, a free rescue.

�Then he had the audacity to complain that we didn�t have the Internet here,� she said.

The fact that Roberts, an Australian who was trying to walk almost 100 miles across the Brooks Range wilderness when he set off a long-distance distress call on Friday, didn�t appear to be hurt or sick made Klaes question why the federal government would spend thousands of dollars to rescue him and then set him up with free and room and board.

�He didn�t seem injured in any way,� Klaes said. �In my own opinion, he should have had to fly out in a chartered plane by himself.�
Read on for the whole story and especially check out the comments for some wonderful language. Into the Wild II...

Financial woes hit Harvard

The economic downturn hits both high and low. From the Huffington Post:
Harvard's Endowment Loses $8 Billion
Harvard officials say the university's largest-in-the-nation endowment lost about 22 percent of its value, or $8 billion, in the four months since the end of the last fiscal year.

The endowment was worth $36.9 billion as of June 30.

Harvard will have to take a "hard look at hiring, staffing levels, and compensation," university President Drew Faust and Executive Vice President Edward Forst wrote in a letter informing deans of the losses.

They say the university should plan for a 30 percent drop in endowment value by the end of next June.

Forst tells The Harvard Crimson student newspaper that the 22 percent estimate may be conservative because some university money is handled by external managers that have yet to report figures.
It's not like they are going to host a bake sale or anything but this will make a profound dent in their operations for the next ten years or so. Yikes!

Light posting tonight

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Working on some other stuff...
And this one is big -- up to 12 Acres. From PhysOrg:
Expedition uncovers ancient citadel in Peruvian jungle
A team of archaeologists on Tuesday announced they had discovered a fortified citadel in the remote Amazonian rainforest of northeast Peru that appears to be from the pre-Inca era.

The main encampment comprises circular stone houses overgrown by lush jungle over an area of five hectares (12 acres), said archaeologist Benedict Goicochea Perez, quoted by the official Andina news agency.

The citadel sits atop a chasm that the former inhabitants may have used as a lookout to spy on approaching enemies, said Goicochea Perez.

Rock paintings cover some of the fortifications, and next to the dwellings are large platforms believed to have been used to grind seeds and wild plants for food and medicine, he said.
Always something new to find -- a great time to be alive!

Circle your calendars - December 23rd

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Don't forget, Festivus is this December 23rd. You can get your Festivus Poles here: Festivus Poles From the website:
The Festivus Pole
The tradition begins with a bare aluminum pole, which Frank praises for its "very high strength-to-weight ratio." During Festivus, an unadorned aluminum pole is displayed, apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, and because the holiday's creator, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting." Local customs vary and you may be able to decorate your pole with non-threatening plain decorations, or ordinary green garland.

The Airing of Grievances
At the Festivus dinner -- a meal featuring non-holiday comfort food -- each participant tells friends and family all of the instances where they disappointed him or her that year.

The Feats of Strength
The head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead.

Amazing underwater photography

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Not only macro but time lapse as well. Check out Champ William's Attack of the Sea Slugs
2,000 miles and six days might be a bit excessive. From Reuters:
Man takes car on 2,000 mile test drive
An Australian who took a new car on a 3,200 km (1,988 mile) six-day test drive from the city to the outback has been arrested, police said on Thursday.

The 30-year-old convinced a car dealer in the southeastern city of Melbourne to lend him a A$40,000 ($37,000) Honda Accord sedan last Friday and drove the equivalent of London to Istanbul before he was arrested near the town of Tennant Creek, deep in the outback of the Northern Territory.

"He drove from Melbourne to Adelaide to Alice Springs," Tennant Creek police Constable James Gray-Spence told Reuters.

He said the man was arrested without incident at a road block on his way north to Darwin after he failed to pay for fuel at a hamlet.
I'll be right back! Yeah...

The Chainsaw Bayonet

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Very high geekdom -- on the AR15 forum, member SOC added a nice touch to his AR15 rifle. The red links at the top of the page go to YouTube clips of it in action. Talk about being prepared for the upcoming Zombie invasion... More at the Firearm Blog.

The United Nations Climate Talks

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From Breitbart/AFP:
UN climate talks to create 13,000 tonnes of carbon
Staging a global forum on climate change is a dilemma, as it adds to the very problem it is trying to solve.

Around 13,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be added to the Earth's greenhouse effect from the December 1-12 meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC said.

That estimate is based on a turnout of 8,000 people, but as of Sunday 10,657 people had registered for the talks.
Talk about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. When will these fools wake up.

Depak Chopra says that this was America's Fault.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Deepak Blames America
The media look within to explain the sick delusions of the Mumbai killers.

If the Mumbai terror assault seemed exceptional, and shocking in its targets, it was clear from the Thanksgiving Day reports that we weren't going to be deprived of the familiar, either. Namely, ruminations, hints, charges of American culpability that regularly accompany catastrophes of this kind.

Soon enough, there was Deepak Chopra, healer, New Age philosopher and digestion guru, advocate of aromatherapy and regular enemas, holding forth on CNN on the meaning of the attacks.

How the ebullient Dr. Chopra had come to be chosen as an authority on terror remains something of a mystery, though the answer may have something to do with his emergence in the recent presidential campaign as a thinker of advanced political views. Also commending him, perhaps, is his well known capacity to cut through all sorts of complexities to make matters simple. No one can fail to grasp the wisdom of a man who has informed us that "If you have happy thoughts, then you make happy molecules."

In his CNN interview, he was no less clear. What happened in Mumbai, he told the interviewer, was a product of the U.S. war on terrorism, that "our policies, our foreign policies" had alienated the Muslim population, that we had "gone after the wrong people" and inflamed moderates. And "that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster in Bombay."

Jumped the shark... From Wales Online comes this story of a Welsh couple and CNNs 'help':

We thought we were safe... then CNN stepped in!
A South Wales couple caught in the Mumbai terror attacks claimed last night that CNN put their lives at risk by broadcasting where they were.

Lynne and Kenneth Shaw, of Penarth, warned that terrorists were listening in to the media to pinpoint Western victims.

Mrs Shaw claimed the American cable TV channel had broadcast details of where they were at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

She has appealed to the media to be careful with the information it broadcasts because safety could be compromised and lives lost.

And finally, the Muslim world starts spinning. It's not us, it's this small splinter faction. From MS/NBC / Associated Press reporting in Ramallah:

Muslims worry about image after Mumbai
Many on the defensive again after bloodshed linked to their religion

Muslims from the Middle East to Britain and Austria condemned Sunday the Mumbai shooting rampage by suspected Islamic militants as senseless terrorism, but also found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion.

Intellectuals and community leaders called for greater efforts to combat religious fanaticism.

And let us not forget that Ramallah is occupied by those scum calling themselves Palestinians. If the majority of Muslims are opposed to terrorism, why are they tacitly supporting it with their silence. Duplicitous scum...

DOH! - car chase ends at county line

Talk about dumb. From Portland Maine station WMTW:

County Line No Obstacle To Police In Car Chase
A New Gloucester man is in jail on accusations of leading police on a short car chase.

Brian Russell, 31, is charged with being a habitual offender operating after suspension and violating his bail conditions.

Police said they tried to pull Russell over in New Gloucester, but he did not stop until entering the neighboring city of Auburn.

Police said Russell told them he took off because he did not think a Cumberland County sheriff's deputy could arrest him if he crossed into Androscoggin County.

Russell is being held without bail and is expected in court on Tuesday.

That gene pool needs a splash of clorox...

A great decision by Mumbai Muslims

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From the Associated Press:
Mumbai cemetery won't bury gunmen
A Muslim graveyard has refused to bury nine gunmen who terrorized Mumbai over three days last week, leaving at least 172 people dead and wreaking havoc at some of its most famous landmarks.

The men are not true followers of the Islamic faith, according to the influential Muslim Jama Masjid Trust, which runs the 7.5-acre (three-hectare) Badakabrastan graveyard in downtown Mumbai.

"People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim," said Hanif Nalkhande, a trustee. "Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime."
Good move -- these people follow a set of ritual laws (sharia) and one of the requirements is that they be buried ASAP in sacred ground (muslim cemetery). Not doing this sends a very strong message to the terrorists. Even in death, their kind are not at all welcome.

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