March 2009 Archives

The size of the bailout in comparison

A good metric for just how much of our tax dollars are being spent by the government. From Bloomberg:
Financial Rescue Nears GDP as Pledges Top $12.8 Trillion
The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or committed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s.

New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation�s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.
Counting down the days until 2010 and 2012...

Magenta and other optical illusions

Fun post over at Forgetomori:
Magenta and all the colors of the grey matter
Above you can see the visible light spectrum, which can be understood as electromagnetic waves with different frequencies, going from the longer ones on the right to the shorter ones to the left. Go even lower and you enter the infrared, microwave and radio waves, go higher and you advance over the ultraviolet, X and gamma rays.

We see the visible light spectrum everywhere, and in a specially beautiful form in the rainbow. It�s common to think that the rainbow contains all the colors, so much so that the expression "all the colors of the rainbow" has 134,000 hits on Google, almost all of them referring to all the colors in the world.

Now, find magenta in the spectrum. It�s simply not there. All the colors of the rainbow do not contain the magenta. How can we see it then? Is it a �magical color frequency� that don�t actually exist?

An article from Liz Elliot suggested last month by the folks of BoingBoing provoked a lot of discussion by claiming quite simply that �magenta ain�t a color�. It sounds unbelievable and yet�

And yet, well, it�s not actually true. Keep reading because the amazing thing is, the truth is even stranger.
A couple other optical illusions including my favorite:
Print out two copies and cut one of them in half with the cut line running down the middle of Square A. Move the cut piece of paper over to that the half of Square A overlaps about half of Square B. Heh...

The Corn Lobby reads blogs

Interesting... Wilton Alston posts over at Lew Rockwell's blog and yesterday (March 29th), he posted this:
Another bit of HFCS Truth
Every time I see one of those commercials about how high-fructose corn syrup is "made from corn and fine in moderation" I get a little upset. I'm not upset because what the commercial claims is untrue, although it is misleading. I'm not upset at the moxie of the corn lobby. People selling stuff are supposed to, well, try to sell their stuff.

I get upset because the only reason HFCS is so prevalent in the U.S. diet is because sugar tariffs and taxes make it cost effective. Put HFCS, or any other pseudo-natural sweetener on equal market footing with sugar and guess what? No one would buy the stuff. The fact that it might be okay in moderation--and I agree with Dr. Oz that it's not--is therefore a secondary issue at best.

From whence do these tariffs arise and who do they benefit? The tariffs benefit companies that make HFCS, companies like ADM. It works like this: ADM lobbies Congress. Congress places tariffs on sugar. ADM sells HFCS to Coca Cola. ADM and Coke get fat, owing directly to corporate welfare. Everybody else gets fat on the made-from-corn sweetener that no one would otherwise use.

Nice racket.
It is a nice racket -- the Federal (ie: our dollars) subsidy for corn-based alcohol for automotive fuel is another perfect example of a "nice racket". Well, Mr. Alton's post raised some eyebrows somewhere as he got a rather prompt reply:
re: "Another bit of HFCS Truth"
Apparently, the corn lobby reads the LRCBlog! After the publishing of my blog post on HFCS, I got a nice letter from the president of the Corn Refiners Association in D.C.

The note I received opened with:
We read the March 29 article �Another bit of HFCS Truth,� with interest. Unfortunately, the suggestion that �the only reason HFCS is so prevalent in the U.S. diet is because sugar tariffs and taxes make it cost effective,� is misleading. We would like to provide you with science-based information on this safe sweetener and be a reference for you for future articles.
The letter points to some published research 'proving' that there is no link between HFCS and obesity. Wilton replies in part:
With my tongue not that far into my cheek, let me say this. When the tariffs are removed and HFCS still dominates the market, let's return to this debate. Or, alternatively, when the Corn Refiner's Association suggests that the tariffs are unnecessary, due to their product's clear [superiority], I'll change my tune.
Indeed. Given the options of Passover Coke made with sugar and the usual Coke made with HFCS, it's sugar every time for me. Pepsi just came out with a new Cola made with Sugar and they are releasing versions of their regular Cola and Mountain Dew with Sugar instead of HFCS. The Dew is one of my favorites so this will be a wonderful thing. Corn is fine and it's the job of a businessman to sell 'product' but to create an artificial advantage is not right -- start with a level playing field; if people prefer Sugar, start growing cane, don't try to tariff it out of existence.

Feedback governing climate change

A very interesting and well-written article on one aspect of our climate -- feedback. The Anthropogenic Global Warming folks consider that there is positive feedback. The Earth warms, more water vapor comes into the atmosphere trapping more infrared radiation causing the Earth to warm even more. This idea has their panties in a bunch and is the cause for the hoopla and sub-prime science. Today, at Watts Up With That, Anthony has a guest post from professor Richard Lindzen, PhD (Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, MIT) with observational data that implies the positive feedback model is a false one and that there is a very large and very observable negative feedback driving our climate:
Lindzen on negative climate feedback

Simplified Greenhouse Theory
The wavelength of visible light corresponds to the temperature of the sun�s surface (ca 6000oK). The wavelength of the heat radiation corresponds to the temperature of the earth�s atmosphere at the level from which the radiation is emitted (ca 255oK). When the earth is in equilibrium with the sun, the absorbed visible light is balanced by the emitted heat radiation.

The basic idea is that the atmosphere is roughly transparent to visible light, but, due to the presence of greenhouse substances like water vapor, clouds, and (to a much lesser extent) CO2 (which all absorb heat radiation, and hence inhibit the cooling emission), the earth is warmer than it would be in the absence of such gases.

The Perturbed Greenhouse
If one adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, one is adding to the �blanket� that is inhibiting the emission of heat radiation (also commonly referred to as infrared radiation or long wave radiation). This causes the temperature of the earth to increase until equilibrium with the sun is reestablished.

For example, if one simply doubles the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature increase is about 1�C.

If, however, water vapor and clouds respond to the increase in temperature in such a manner as to further enhance the �blanketing,� then we have what is called a positive feedback, and the temperature needed to reestablish equilibrium will be increased. In the climate GCMs (General Circulation Models) referred to by the IPCC (the UN�s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), this new temperature ranges from roughly 1.5�C to 5�C. The equilibrium response to a doubling of CO2 (including the effects of feedbacks) is commonly referred to as the climate sensitivity.
Dr. Lindzen delivers the money quote:
From 1985 until 1989 the models and observations are more or less the same � they have, in fact, been tuned to be so. However, with the warming after 1989, the observations characteristically exceed 7 times the model values. Recall that if the observations were only 2-3 times what the models produce, it would correspond to no feedback. What we see is much more than this � implying strong negative feedback. Note that the ups and downs of both the observations and the model (forced by observed sea surface temperature) follow the ups and downs of temperature (not shown).
The 200+ comments are well worth reading as well...

Life Magazine

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Last November, Life Magazine and Google partnered to make available about ten million photos from the magazine's archive. Now, they are continuing to do an amazing job of contemporary photojournalism as well as hosting the archives. Check out Beta version for now but it looks really good and a nice clean user interface.
No reason given but YouTube seems to have pulled the plug on all of the videos that James Randi had uploaded. A shame as they are thought-provoking and help to show the pseudo-scientists and psychics out there for the frauds they are. James' initial career was as a stage magician and he brings his 'box of tricks' to bear and can duplicate any psychic phenomenon using basic magic techniques. His foundation has a standing offer of One Million Dollars to anyone who can prove psychic activity in a controlled situation. Been on the books since 1964 (Thousand bucks back then) with zero takers...

Government run amok

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Sadly, I can see this happening in the USA as well: From The Telegraph:
Woman who plays classical music to soothe horses told to get licence
Rosemary Greenway has been playing passages of opera and orchestral symphonies on the radio to the animals at her stables for more than 20 years, convinced that it helps soothe them.

While not all of her staff are quite as fond of the output of Classic FM as she is, Mrs Greenway, 62, kept the radio tuned to the station religiously while mucking out because of the apparent benefits.

But she has dropped the practice after being told that she must pay a �99 annual licence fee as it constitutes a "performance".

Because her stables, the Malthouse Equestrian Centre in Bushton, Wilts, employs more than two people it is treated in the same way as shops, bars and caf�s which have to apply for a licence to play the radio.

She received a telephone call from the Performing Right Society � now officially known as PRS for Music � which was targeting stables as part of a drive to get commercial premises to pay for licences.

Rather than pay the fee, she now leaves the radio off except on Sundays when she is alone at the stable yard.

"I actually use my radio for the benefit of the horses as Classic FM helps them relax," she said.
I used to know someone who has an Inn on a nearby island and ASCAP and BMI would come around regularly checking to see if he was playing music and to shake him down if he was. He got around it by playing performances from Eastern Europe -- at that time, there was no reciprocal copyright agreement so these could be played without penalty. I am all for artists getting payed for their work but these agencies fall under Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

The Wizard of Id on the Bailout

Swiped from Denny:


So true...

That's it for the night - busy day

Won another of the BC auctions so went up to Canada to retrieve my precccccioussssss.

Check out a photo:


This puppy will take either one or two stacks of paper on the right plus a stack of envelopes. It will fold the paper and stuff it in the envelope. You also have several fold-only options without using any envelopes (for brochures, etc...) Very sweet and under $50...

Spent some time at IKEA -- they introduced a nice cable management system for desks and got some for the DaveCave(tm) (doing a bit of a technology refresh and tired of the cable clutter) and spent the rest of the day driving around Surrey trying to find Highway 1.

I was a little bit too far to the West and didn't have a map with me so it was an interesting time -- rush hour traffic didn't help. This evening was a Water Board meeting so there went my day.

Heading off to the DaveCave(tm) and an early bedtime.

Bad career move - Somali pirates

Heh... From the UK Guardian:

Blundering Somali pirates arrested after attack on anti-piracy ship
Attackers mistook naval vessel for a merchant ship off the Somalia coast, Nato says

Pirates who attacked a ship off the coast of Somalia got more than they bargained for when it turned out to be a naval vessel - from an international force against piracy, Nato said today.

The pirates apparently mistook the FGS Spessart for a commercial merchant ship when they targeted it in the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen, yesterday afternoon.

The German supply ship pursued the pirate boat, joined by two other ships, a frigate, a helicopter and a plane.

A Nato spokesman said: "Poor judgment by the pirates turned out to be a real opportunity for seven nations representing three taskforces to work together and strike a momentous blow for maritime safety and security."

As for their fate:

Nato said the detained suspects will remain on board until a decision is made as to where they will be prosecuted.

Me? I would take them up in a helicopter, fly over some costal village and drop them off several hundred feet in the air. Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres...

Adding Hydrogen to your car engine

I have a friend who has drunk this kool aid and I don't have the heart to tell him just how wrong he is.

It is nice to see Popular Mechanics tie up with Dateline NBC to debunk this horrid example of bad engineering:

Why Water Won't Improve Your MPG: A PM and Dateline NBC Investigation
I get mail. Hundreds of pieces of mail every month, and that includes e-mail, paper mail, the occasional voice mail and even a smattering of faxes. For the last two years, an unhealthy proportion of that correspondence has been about the same thing - making your car run on water instead of gasoline. With fuel escalating to historically high prices, followed by the global collapse of virtually every market, people are inclined to search for a way to reduce their monthly expenditures for gasoline or diesel. Which, of course, is perfectly understandable.

Over the years, I've tested plenty of gadgets that purport to reduce fuel consumption. None of them worked. None. Lately, I've tinkered with a number of them that rely on the same principle: using electricity from the car's battery to electrolyze water in an onboard cell and burning the resultant hydrogen-oxygen mix in the engine. In theory, the burning hydrogen will provide extra energy, reducing the amount of gasoline you need to move on down the road. There are dozens of websites, and dozens of people on Ebay touting these devices, guaranteeing, depending on their level of chutzpah, anywhere from 15 percent to 300 percent improvement in fuel economy by simply bolting on one of their devices.

This doesn't exactly rival string theory in it's complexity. You can build a serviceable hydrogen generator from an old peanut-butter jar and some leftover copper pipe or roof flashing. There are plans to construct this device that you can get online, too. Just use some aquarium tubing to duct the hydrogen-oxygen mix (usually abbreviated as HHO) into the intake manifold, and you'll see the gas gauge stay at "Full" a bit longer - or so they say.

When these devices first hit the Net, I had an immediate opinion: Rubbish. I discussed the theoretical science a while ago. It's bad science. This malarkey boiled down to perpetual motion: something for nothing. Essentially, it takes more energy - in the form of the chemical energy in the gasoline you're burning in the engine, to spin the alternator to make the electricity and generate the HHO - than you get back. In fact, it's not even close: Multiply all the inefficiencies in that system and you only get a few percent back, certainly not in excess of 100 percent.

A bit more:

I've been tinkering with a couple of homemade and commercial HHO generators. I have instrumented several cars with HHO generators I can switch on and off, flow meters, scan tools and instantaneous mileage displays. I've tested them on the road and on chassis dynamometers, and have never seen any improvement. None.

They take it to a professional installer and have the deluxe system installed and then return to the dynomometer with the following results:

In fact, if you look at the EPA tests with the system switched on and then off, there's a tiny increase in fuel consumption when the system is turned on. I attribute this to the 15 amps or so of current the electrolysis cell consumes to produce hydrogen. That current uses horsepower to spin the generator, and that consumes gasoline. The hydrogen "boost" couldn't even compensate for its own losses.

TANSTAAFL writ large for all to see. And the ironic thing is that the very electrochemical property that makes stainless steel stainless also makes it the absolute worst choice for electrode material if you are trying to do electrolysis. Platinum or Palladium is far far better.

Gold for bread - Zimbabwe

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Drives home what is happening there: Gold For Bread - Zimbabwe (Embedding was disabled) Hat tip to Two-Four Mugabe and his cronies need to be taken out A.S.A.P.

Waterboarding -- its justification

A good hard-hitting article about the use of waterboarding and what it bought us. From the National Review:
The Post and Abu Zubaydah
The Left�s assault on the CIA program continues with today�s front-page story about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah: �Detainees Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots.� The story, like so many on this program, is rife with errors and misinformation.

For example, the Post states:
�Abu Zubaida quickly told U.S. interrogators of [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed and of others he knew to be in al-Qaeda, and he revealed the plans of the low-level operatives who fled Afghanistan with him. Some were intent on returning to target American forces with bombs; others wanted to strike on American soil again, according to military documents and law enforcement sources. Such intelligence was significant but not blockbuster material. Frustrated, the Bush administration ratcheted up the pressure � for the first time approving the use of increasingly harsh interrogations, including waterboarding.�
This is either uninformed or intentionally misleading.

In fact, what Abu Zubaydah disclosed to the CIA during this period was that the fact that KSM was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and that his code name was �Muktar� � something Zubaydah thought we already knew, but in fact we did not. Intelligence officials had been trying for months to figure out who �Muktar� was. This information provided by Zubaydah was a critical piece of the puzzle that allowed them to pursue and eventually capture KSM. This fact, in and of itself, discredits the premise of the Post story � to suggest that the capture of KSM was not information that �foiled plots� to attack America is absurd on the face of it.

The Post also acknowledges that Zubaydah�s �interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla� but dismisses Padilla as the man behind a fanciful �dirty bomb� plot and notes that Padilla was never charged in any such plot. In fact, Padilla was a hardened terrorist who had trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, and was a prot�g� of al Qaeda�s third in command, Mohammed Atef. And when he was captured, Padilla was being prepared for a much more sinister and realistic attack on America.
What follows is an in depth analysis of what Padilla was actually planning to do, his rank in the organization (hint: very high) and how this information has helped to take several other key operatives out of circulation.

She blinded me with Science

Interesting use for stem cells -- from the London Times:
Stem cells to grow bigger breasts
A stem cell therapy offering "natural" breast enlargement is to be made available to British women for the first time.

The treatment could boost cup size while reducing stomach fat. It involves extracting stem cells from spare fat on the stomach or thighs and growing them in a woman's breasts. An increase of one cup size is likely, with the potential for larger gains as the technique improves.

A trial has already started in Britain to use stem cells to repair the breasts of women who have had cancerous lumps removed. A separate project is understood to be the first in Britain to use the new technique on healthy women seeking breast enlargement.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, a consultant breast surgeon at the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace hospital, who is in charge of the project, will treat 10 patients from May. He predicts private patients will be able to pay for the procedure within six months at a cost of about €6,500.
Interesting... The use for reconstruction after cancer surgeries is awesome.

Simon Jester

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Any R. A. Heinlein fans out there? From here: A Heinlein Concordance
Simon Jester
Mike's pen name for subversive doggerel, caricatured as a little horned devil with pitchfork and tail, sometimes stabbing a fat man. He was quickly adopted by Loonies in general, and cartoons and verses that Mike had not produced appeared everywhere, becoming the Revolutionary equivalent of "Kilroy Was Here".
(The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress)
In the spirit of Simon Jester:
I am Simon Jester
And so are you

Who We Are

We are Simon Jester.

We are not anarchists.

We are not Far-Right or Far-Left. We are the seventy percent in the middle.

We are not Capital �L� libertarians, although we do have sympathies with their platform.

We are neither bitter clingers nor conspiracy nuts.

What we are is a group of folks that think we see liberty and freedom eroding in our beloved United States. We see the policies and agendas of the hirelings in Washington D.C. heading toward an abbreviation if not outright abrogation of the Bill of Rights.

We think that the Federal government is grasping to consolidate power using the current crisis, since as Rahm Emmanuel said, it�s a terrible thing to waste. We think the Federal government, not just this administration, is more interested in self-serving personal, political, and party power than it is in actually doing its best to do the least.

This President didn�t make it this way. It has been heading along this path since Woodrow Wilson held political prisoners and FDR held four terms as president; since Johnson�s Great Society and Nixon took us off the gold standard; since Bush Sr. lied about no new taxes, Clinton desecrated the Oval Office, Bush Jr. rammed through the Patriot Act, and Obama wanted every high school kid to �volunteer.�

For almost a hundred years, our country has been heading towards becoming a Socialist, centrally planned, Nanny State where the Federal Government tells it citizens how to conduct business, what they could grow in their own gardens or on their own farms, and now even how much a private citizen is allowed to earn before punitive and illegal taxation takes it away.

Now is the time to make it stop.
A big hat tip to The Smallest Minority for the link.

In the hinterlands, something is brewing...

An interesting essay by Jeff Warren:
No one could write dialogue like Paddy Chayefsky. Who can forget, Howard Beale (the Anchorman in �Network�) galvanizing a generation with, �I�m mad as Hell and I�m not going to take it anymore.�

Who amongst us didn�t want to throw open our windows and shout that we weren�t going to put up with it anymore?

America is no stranger to rebellion. We were ripped from the womb of tyranny in 1773 by some angry folks who felt his majesty�s tea was better suited for the bottom of Boston Harbor than the top of certain East India Company�s sailing vessels.

Of course, it didn�t begin with those intrepid souls protesting a series of �Intolerable Acts� being levied against them from afar.

It began in 1215 when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta which guaranteed �No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized,�..or anyways destroyed�.unless by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.� We recognize this more readily in our 5th amendment, �no person shall be....deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.�

John Locke articulated this in his Second Treatise on Government. Locke wrote that in a natural state all people, are born free and equal, and possess certain rights. He said that these �natural rights� were life, liberty, and property.

As prelude to the Revolution, Thomas Paine (in Common Sense) expanded �property� to the phrase �pursuit of Happiness,� which Thomas Jefferson ripped off and declared it an unalienable right which he placed at the top of our Declaration of Independence.

�Property� has only recently become a dirty word. Until the 60�s �Private property� was not considered obscene.
What follows is a meditation on the differences between urban and rural life and the impact (for the greater good of course...) that a few people in the cities are having on those of us who practice a greater degree of self reliance.
What sort of crazy world do these people live in. From the Scientific American (who really should know better):
Obama cites North Dakota floods in call for climate change action
President Obama says potentially historic flood levels in North Dakota are a clear example of why steps need to be taken to stop global warming. Heavy rain and blizzards have caused eight rivers in the state to swell to flood levels and emergency management officials are warily watching the Red River, which could surpass record levels late this week.

"If you look at the flooding that's going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, 'If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?'" Obama told reporters at the White House Monday. "That indicates the degree to which we have to take this seriously."

Waters in the Red River were 33 feet this morning, according to CNN. That�s 15 feet above flood stage, and close to the record 41.1 feet set in April 1897, according to the network. The river could exceed those levels by Friday or Saturday, officials say.
So, was there Anthropogenic Global Warming back in 1897? The coldest and the hottest records were set in 1936 -60 on Feb. 15 in Parshall and 121 on July 6 in Steele. I cannot find data for 1897 although there are weather stations that have records back to 1859. This is just weather, not global warming. Remember back around Christmas time of last year over 59% of the USA was covered in snow? It has been a long cold winter and North Dakota got hit with a hard thaw much like what happened here last January. And as for the flood waters continuing to rise (going into full panic mode here). From CNN:
Red River receding; 2 dead in North Dakota flooding
The Red River began to recede Sunday after rising to record levels, but officials cautioned residents not to let their guard down, especially in the face of an approaching snowstorm.

"We are very confident now that [the] river is in a slow decline," National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Gust said. "Hopefully, it will be at about 38 feet by next Sunday."

A winter storm warning was issued Sunday for the Red River Valley area between North Dakota and Minnesota, from midday Monday through Tuesday evening. Forecasters expected as many as 10 inches of snow in the area and wind gusts up to 35 mph.
And of course, they are staring right down the barrel of another snowstorm. Jus' wonnerful...

The shining light of the criminal mind

From Snohomish, WA -- about 60 miles south of here. The Seattle Times:
America's Dumbest Criminals -- Snohomish edition
Just after 3 p.m. Thursday, a man grabbed a ring from the hand of the owner of Johanna's Fine Jewelry Design, 1403 Ave. D, in Snohomish, and ranout of the store.

The owner later remembered that before the robbery he overheard the same man saying that he needed money to bail his girlfriend out of jail. The owner even heard the first name of the girlfriend.

Once police learned this information, they checked records at the Snohomish County Jail. Sure enough, a woman by the same name had just been bailed out of jail. Police contacted the bail bonds company that had arranged for the release and learned the man who paid the bond has used a ring for collateral.

Police were able to identify the robber and arrest him.
Stupid -- bad. Stupid with a big mouth -- even worse...

Quote of the day

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The difference between art and craft is that one is signed on the front, the other, on the back.
--English Blacksmith Richard Quinnell
From the Q1 2009 issue of Hot Iron News
You would be too if it made you this much money. From here (PDF):
That pencils out to a gain in net worth of over $12,000,000.00 per year. Hat tip to The Daily Bayonet for the link.

And it's not just Mt. Redoubt

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A bunch of volcanoes on the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula are gearing up as well as Mt. Cleveland at the end of the Aleutians. From the Alaska Volcano Observatory:

Photos from the Mt. Redoubt eruption

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Bretwood Higman was in the position to take some excellent photos of the recent Mt. Redoubt eruption. There is also a 30 second time-lapse (every fifteen seconds) that is worth watching. Here is just one photo from the series:
Senator (and MD) Tom Coburn R-OK:
Hat tip to the E3 Gazette.

Our small town

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Saw a bunch of cop cars zooming around a few days ago and wondered what all the fuss was about. From Seattle station KOMO-4:
Border Patrol seizes more than $3M in Ecstasy, pot
Border Patrol agents say they foiled an effort to smuggle more than $3.2 million worth of Ecstasy and marijuana into the U.S. near the Whatcom County town of Maple Falls.

The Border Patrol says Sumas agents responding to suspicious activity Friday found an abandoned backpack with 200,000 Ecstasy tablets with an estimated street value of nearly $2.5 million. Three hockey-style duffel bags contained more than 140 pounds of B.C. Bud marijuana valued at $720,000.

Agents found some footprints leading away from the stash into Canada. And on the Canadian side, Royal Canadian Mounted Police found footprints and vehicle tracks thought to be related to the failed smuggling effort. No one was arrested.
We are running low on our tub of Costco dishwasher detergent. I remember a few years ago, Consumers Reports gave it a high rating and it works well for us -- we have very hard water so the choice of detergent is important. Anyway, I was in Costco and noticed that that particular detergent was no longer being sold. Didn't bother to ask why though. Well, now I know. From Florida's Tampa Bay Online/Associated Press:
Spokane residents smuggle suds over green brands
The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers. They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don't work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation's strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states.

But it's not easy to get sparkling dishes when you go green.

Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand. The culprit was hard water, which is mineral-rich and resistant to soap.

As a result, there has been a quiet rush of Spokane-area shoppers heading east on Interstate 90 into Idaho in search of old-school suds.

Real estate agent Patti Marcotte of Spokane stocks up on detergent at a Costco in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and doesn't care who knows it.

"Yes, I am a smuggler," she said. "I'm taking my chances because dirty dishes I cannot live with."

(In truth, the ban applies to the sale of phosphate detergent - not its use or possession - so Marcotte is not in any legal trouble.)

Marcotte said she tried every green brand in her dishwasher and found none would remove grease and pieces of food. Everybody she knows buys dishwasher detergent in Idaho, she said.

Supporters of the ban acknowledge it is not very popular.

"I'm not hearing a lot of positive feedback," conceded Shannon Brattebo of the Washington Lake Protection Association, a prime mover of the ban. "I think people are driving to Idaho."
This is a perfect example of the same sort of nanny-statism that caused the ban on DDT. Sure, in the 1960's we were marinating in it. It was cheap, effective and safe to mammals. We just didn't know the relationship with it and bird eggshells and the concept of beneficial insects. Same with Phosphates -- people used to buy pure TriSodium Phosphate for trivial cleaning operations -- driveway a bit dirty, patio furniture have a spot of grunge? Put a pound or two of TSP in a bucket of hot water and get to work. All of that went into a storm drain and into a lake or groundwater. Use less and use effectively. DDT could prevent over a million deaths each year from malaria if used with an education program and used sparingly. Phosphates can be used effectively for a trivial task of washing dishes and other, safer cleaners can be used for outdoors and bulk use. (The Oxygen cleaners are a perfect, albeit more expensive replacement.) I sometimes go up to the Abbotsford, BC Costco -- I'll have to see if they carry the good old kind...

Happy birthday Three Mile Island

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Thirty years ago this day at 4:00AM, the reactor vessel at Three Mile Island suffered a coolant leak and subsequent partial core meltdown. The thing to remember is that the safety system worked perfectly (the scram rods deployed and the reactor core was shut down, what happened was that the residual heat caused the low coolant level to react with the cladding on the fuel rods and there was an explosion of gas. Although the inside of the containment vessel is still very hot, it is a "containment vessel" after all and it did its job perfectly. There was a minimal release of radioactivity -- people in the surrounding area got less of an exposure than they routinely get when flying in a jet airplane. One last thing to consider it that the accident happened thirty years ago. The reactor had been in operation for five years. At that time it took about ten years between the time that a reactor was planned and when it came online. That means that TMI was based on a design from around 1960. Our engineering and technology has come a long way. At that time, each reactor was a brand new design. Many companies now build standardized systems -- want 2,000MW? Use two of our 1,000MW cores. If something goes wrong with one of those standard designs, say a bearing on a pump fails earlier than predicted; you go through and overhaul those bearings on every single reactor out there. This allows you to isolate and eliminate potential failure modes on the other units. Nuclear is the way to go -- tons of fuel out there, it is mature technology and a lot less polluting than coal.
I had written about Nancy Evans' work in restoring the classic images taken by the Lunar Orbiter. Here is a wonderful 6-minute podcast from the George Eastman house where they have one of the backup cameras. An amazing bit of technology for the times:
An interesting commentary on the last days of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and how the Hearst corporation handled the shut-down. From paidContent:
An Insider�s View: The Strange Final Days Of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
On Jan. 9, Hearst Newspapers President Steve Swartz flew into Seattle and told the staff of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that if Hearst could not find a buyer for the 146-year-old paper within 60 days, publication would cease.

So, on March 10, the 60th day, we expected an announcement. The final commemorative edition was ready to go to press. An all-staff picture had been taken. Last-minute visits to the globe that spun on our roof were arranged. News budgets lay mostly bare.

The newsroom wisdom: Why would Hearst want to keep our paper in business for a single extra day and have to deal with the additional expense? I thought the announcement would come around noon.

But when our reporter called a Hearst spokesman asking what was new that morning, the spokesman said the company was still evaluating its options. Rumors quickly circulated that perhaps the incredible had happened�someone actually wanted to buy us. That had to be why our demise was being delayed. Word spread that an �Asian investor� was interested. And that a lawyer linked to Bill Gates himself was taking a look.

Then, shredding bins, recycling containers and empty boxes arrived. Ominous signs.

But still no word from on high.

The newsroom collectively screamed�via a chain of famous quotes with not too subtle undertones that staffers e-mailed out to the all-staff list. (Samples: �I wear black on the outside �cause black is how I feel on the inside� �Morrissey; �Nothing so focuses a man�s attention as the prospect of being hanged��Samuel Johnson.) We designated a dog as the employee of the month.

Still no word.
That must have been a very odd situation -- I really hope that someone documented it -- a situation like that would make a fascinating documentary.

Light posting tonight - working on stuff

Been finishing off taxes plus dealing with some cash register software. This is one of the things that really bugs me -- Casio makes really nice Cash Registers. I just received their TE-300S, a nice mid-range unit with support for two cash drawers so we can keep US and Canadian banks. The thing that attracted me to it was that you could download all of the programming into a CF card and upload it into the register so that any changes can be made on the office computer -- we don't have to spend time programming the register while the store is in use. That and the computer adds a nice User Interface instead of having to use cryptic keystrokes and displays. You need a password to be able to open the software. You think that it would be in a readme file somewhere? Noooooooo... A label on the disk? Nooooooo... To top it off, the whole program was written back in 2004, is not Vista compatible (but none of our mission critical systems run Vista) and looks to have been written in Access or some database language (I can use Access to open the MDB file and no, the password is not embedded there either.) Casio spent so much time developing the register, you think they could have spent some more effort on the support program, especially since I had to pay $150 for it. Talk about crapware...
From the Baltimore Sun:
'Dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania' arrested after allegedly trying robbery at police convention
A retired police chief said he was robbed by "probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania," at a police officers' convention on Friday morning. John Comparetto said as he came out of a stall in the men's room, a man pointed a gun in his face and demanded money. There were 300 narcotics officers from Pennsylvania and Ohio at the gathering.

Comparetto gave up his money and cell phone. But when the man fled, Comparetto and some colleagues chased him. They arrested a 19-year-old man as he was trying to leave in a taxi.

The suspect is also awaiting trial on four previous robbery charges.

The suspect was arraigned and taken to Dauphin County Prison. When a reporter asked the suspect for comment as he was led out of court, he said, "I'm smooth."
Good lord -- if you are going to rob someone, at least case the venue first...

Bad news indeed (set irony=on)

From Wired comes this ironic little story (hat tip Insty)
Bad News: Scientists Make Cheap Gas From Coal
Electric cars have been getting a lot of buzz lately, but a more immediately viable transportation fuel of the future could be liquid derived from coal. Scientists have devised a new way to transform coal into gas for your car using far less energy than the current process. The advance makes scaling up the environmentally unfriendly fuel more economical than greener alternatives.

If oil prices rise again, adoption of the new coal-to-liquid technology, reported this week in Science, could undercut adoption of electric vehicles or next-generation biofuels. And that's bad news for the fight against climate change.

The new process could cut the energy cost of producing the fuel by 20 percent just by rejiggering the intermediate chemical steps, said co-author Ben Glasser of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. But coal-derived fuel could produce as much as twice as much CO2 as traditional petroleum fuels and at best will emit at least as much of the greenhouse gas.

"The bottom line is that there's one fatal flaw in their proposed process from a climate protection standpoint," Pushker Karecha of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies wrote in an e-mail to "It would allow liquid fuel CO2 emissions to continue increasing indefinitely."

The race for alternative fuels kicked into high gear last year, with the price of oil reaching $150 a barrel before plummeting down below $40 this year. Still, though experts disagree on the specifics of timing, it's clear that conventional oil sources will eventually run out. The list of contenders to replace oil is long and diverse. Alternative fuels could include next-gen ethanol, algal biofuel, hydrogen and natural gas, or cars could go largely electric.

But the problem with all the new fuels is that they have to scale up � and that's harder than it sounds. Plus, many fear that biofuels could cause massive, negative land-use changes.

The process of cooking coal into liquid fuel, on the other hand, has already proven itself on a massive scale. Take coal, add some water, cook it, and you've got a liquid fuel for your car. The hydrogen in the water bonds to the carbon and voila: hydrocarbons, such as octane. It's the very fact that coal-to-liquids could work that make them such a scary idea for people devoted to fighting climate change.
If I were King: #1) - massive rollout of Nuclear Power #2) - dump a couple hundred million on these people: EMC2 #3) - massive coal to fuel conversion This would eliminate our dependence of foreign oil, provide our electrical needs for well over 500 years, provide industrial feedstocks for plastics and other manufacturing (waste from the coal conversion) and if #2) pans out, we can roll-back #1) The environmentalists are not about being green, they are about control. Here they are staring at the best possible solutions for our world's problems and they are shooting them down because of Carbon Dioxide when the majority of the CO2 will be produced at the plant and can be remediated. Instead, we go on burning Coal and pissing and moaning about it...
Heh... From Sound Politics:
Global Warming Update (L)
Seattle weather --

Last March: 5 record lows, 0 record highs

This March: 7 record lows, 0 record highs (so far)

I'm just saying.

What started the landslide

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Flashback to 1999 - Bill Clinton in power and Congress does this. From the New York Times:
Published: Friday, November 5, 1999

Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street in which commercial banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another's businesses.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress.

"Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century," Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. "This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy."

The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation's financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression.
Emphasis mine -- yup -- now are they going to reinstate it?
Excuse me but I am a bit confused -- is California a Nanny State or is it a Ninny State -- sometimes it's a bit hard to identify. From the AutoBlog:
California to reduce carbon emissions by... banning black cars?!
In a move that will likely get California's consumers in a huff, impending legislation may soon restrict the paint color options for Golden State residents looking for their next new vehicle. The specific colors that are currently on the chopping block are all dark hues, with the worst offender seemingly the most innocuous color you could think of: Black. What could California possibly have against these colors, you ask? Apparently, the California Air Resources Board figures that the climate control systems of dark colored cars need to work harder than their lighter siblings � especially after sitting in the sun for a few hours. Anyone living in a hot, sunny climate will tell you that this assumption is accurate, of course. In fact, legislation already exists for buildings that has proven successful at reducing the energy consumption of skyscrapers.

So, what's the crux of the problem... can't paint suppliers just come up with new, less heat-absorbent dark paints? According to Ward's, suppliers have reportedly been testing their pigments and processes to see if it's possible to meet CARB's proposed mandate of 20% solar reflectivity by 2016 with a phase-in period starting in 2012, and things aren't looking good. Apparently, when the proper pigments and chemicals are added to black paint, the resulting color is currently being referred to as "mud-puddle brown." That doesn't sound very attractive, now does it? Windshields, backlights and sunroofs are also slated to get reflective coatings starting in 2012.

When we first heard of this issue, an internal debate immediately began as to whether this might be an elaborate early April Fool's joke, but it isn't. Read through CARB's complete Cool Cars Standards and Test Procedures here (PDF link) for more.
Why don't they raise the reflectivity of the pavement -- this would serve to cool a much larger area and with the overall temperatures on the roadway reduced, there would be a resultant lessening of the cooling needed for the vehicle. How about requiring a meter-square white panel on the top of the vehicle -- something with 95% reflectivity -- that would have a greater overall effect and not ruin the look of the car unless it was a low-slung sports car where the top of the roof would be highly visible. How about convertibles? Hearses? These micro-cephalics in office have a brain-fart and do not have the mental toolbox to parse the ramifications and to consider any alternatives.
From the Los Angeles Times:
NASA's early lunar images, in a new light
Rising over the battered surface of the moon, Earth loomed in a shimmering arc covered in a swirling skin of clouds.

The image, taken in 1966 by NASA's robotic probe Lunar Orbiter 1, presented a stunning juxtaposition of planet and moon that no earthling had ever seen before.

It was dubbed the Picture of the Century. "The most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," remembered Keith Cowing, who saw it as an 11-year-old and credited it with eventually luring him to work for NASA.

But in the mad rush of discovery, even the breathtaking can get mislaid.

NASA was so preoccupied with getting an astronaut to the moon ahead of the Soviets that little attention was paid to the mountains of scientific data that flowed back to Earth from its early space missions. The data, stored on miles of fragile tapes, grew into mountains that were packed up and sent to a government warehouse with crates of other stuff.

And so they eventually came to the attention of Nancy Evans, a no-nonsense woman with flaming red hair that fit her sometimes-impatient nature. She had been trained as a biologist, but within the sprawling space agency she had found her niche as an archivist.

Evans was at her desk in the 1970s when a clerk walked into her office, asking what he should do with a truck-sized heap of data tapes that had been released from storage.

"What do you usually do with things like that?" she asked.

"We usually destroy them," he replied.
What follows is an amazing odyssey -- Nancy had the tapes but no way to read them. She finally found three readers and then another but none of them worked. Needless to say, the original Earthrise is back and since the original was scanned from 70mm film and the images distributed to the public were from a 35mm film photograph of the computer monitor, the new images are supposed to be amazing. The MoonViews blog has some wonderful photos of the drives, the tapes, the reconstruction (yes, they are working in what used to be a McDonald's restaurant) but they request that the images not be reproduced without permission.

A cold trail of DNA - bad labwork

Talk about stunningly bad lab technique. From German newspaper Bild:
Police track DNA of a cotton bud maker for two years
Police in Germany hunted a sinister phantom killer for two years after finding the same DNA at 39 different crime scenes - only to discover that the source was a woman who made the cotton buds used to collect the sample!

The case was one of the most puzzling in recent times. Hundreds of detectives in six specialist committees were set to work hunting the ominous female serial killer.

But there was no progress, despite investigators finding her DNA at so many crime scenes.

The police were stumped. They eventually offered a 300,000 euro reward to find the killer.

It's no surprise the money was never claimed, however, because the so-called �phantom killer� was a complete myth!

Detectives had apparently been tracking the DNA of a factory worker who packaged cotton buds used by the police to collect samples, according to ��.
Why a person was even allowed to touch the buds with their bare hands, let alone using commercial machine-packaged ones (sterile and contaminant-free) boggles the mind. A perfect case for the application of Occam's Razor

Pulp Artwork

No idea where this stuff came from -- a lot of the images are obviously scanned from a printed page but there is no attribution given.

That being said, this is a wonderful collection of pulp illustration collected into galleries.

One taste:

Came into work today to find that the defrost timer on our Ice Cream freezer defrost timer had failed yesterday and stuck in the defrost cycle for a few hours. The Ice Cream never completely melted but it did get soft so it now has ice crystals. About 40 1/2 gallons of it. I had to run into town anyway as I was the winning bider for a bunch of explosion-proof light fixtures. These are really nice in sort of a steam-punk fashion and I was not disappointed. SCORE! for $20+. After picking up the fixtures and getting lunch, I went about 20 miles North to a local dairy and picked up 36 1/2 gallons of assorted ice cream and ten pounds of dry ice. After unloading at the store, I called the local Indian tribe's Social Services department -- they run a food bank. The didn't have room for the ice cream in their freezer but they were more than happy to get a couple of turkeys and a ham that had gone out of date. These were frozen and as such, were fine for consumption, we just couldn't sell them. Went out for dinner and a couple stiff mixed drinks and just now sitting down to read the internet. Predicting an early bedtime...
Meet Mr. Daniel Hannan:
We need more people like him. He also writes at the UK Telegraph Hat tip to Chris Byrne at The AnarchAngel.

Mike Rowe on Work

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20 minutes of TED awesomeness:
From the London Daily Mail:
Man wrongly jailed for 27 years walks free ... and is hit by a taxi
The man released after spending 27 years in jail for a murder he did not commit has spent his first weekend of freedom in hospital after being hit by a taxi.

Sean Hodgson needed stitches in his face after being struck by the cab as he was about to cross a busy road in London.

Land use gone wrong

Sometimes I wonder what they are smoking when the land use people determine what needs to be done regarding building permits. I want to stay away from that crap as it obviously clouds their judgment.

Today's example comes from the Seattle Times:

Janitor's path to a dream: Pave it, Seattle says
Jesus Barajas wanted granite countertops and hardwood floors but is settling for Formica and carpet. Instead of hiring professional house painters and landscapers, he now plans to do the work himself.

The soured economy is part of the reason Barajas is downsizing his dreams for the new, 2,400-square-foot home he's building on property he's owned for nearly 30 years. Mostly, though, he's cutting back on amenities to pay for construction of a sidewalk outside his front door.

The price tag: nearly $15,000 for a 60-foot strip of asphalt.

Seattle officials admit Barajas is an unintended target of a year-old city ordinance meant to force developers to provide infrastructure improvements in the city's 22 designated urban villages. Although the ordinance was directed at developers and not a private homeowner tearing down an existing house to build anew -- and the sidewalk likely will be the only one on Barajas' street for years, if not decades -- they say there's nothing they can do to waive the requirement.
A bit more:

Barajas, a janitor for King County Metro since 1990, and his wife, Maria, a housekeeper at a downtown hotel, have saved for 12 years to afford the down payment on their $250,000 construction loan.

"I just want something to live comfortable after I retire," said Barajas, 61, adding that the new house will be his teenage daughter's inheritance.

The financial sting of building a sidewalk is all the more painful because Barajas wouldn't need one if he lived on the west side of 32nd Avenue South, instead of the east side. That's because the western boundary of the MLK at Holly Street urban village is the center line of Barajas' narrow residential street.
Typical planning bullshit...

Jimmy says it best

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From E3 Gazette

Heh - Cold Fusion not quite dead yet

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The US Navy is funding several unconventional fusion reactors, chiefly the Electrostatic Containment (Polywell) being researched by the fine folks at EMC2. These machines work just fine producing a solid stream of neutrons, they just don't make enough to go over unity. Now it seems that the Navy is also looking into the classical Cold Fusion that was so roundly debunked in the early 90's and they are getting results. From the Electronics Engineering Times:
Cold fusion experimentally confirmed
U.S. Navy researchers claimed to have experimentally confirmed cold fusion in a presentation at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting.

"We have compelling evidence that fusion reactions are occurring" at room temperature, said Pamela Mosier-Boss, a scientist with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (San Diego). The results are "the first scientific report of highly energetic neutrons from low-energy nuclear reactions," she added.
Some more:
Now, the Naval researchers claim that the problem was instrumentation, which was not up to the task of detecting such small numbers of neutrons. To sense such small quantities, Mosier-Boss used a special plastic detector called CR-39. Using co-deposition with nickel and gold wire electrodes, which were inserted into a mixture of palladium chloride and deutrium, the detector was able to capture and track the high-energy neutrons.
The plastic detector captured a pattern of tiny clusters of adjacent pits, called triple tracks, which the researchers claim is evidence of the telltale neutrons.

Other presenters at the conference also presented evidence supporting cold fusion, including Antonella De Ninno, a scientist with New Technologies Energy and Environment (Rome), who reported both excess heat and helium gas.

"We now have very convincing experimental evidence," De Ninno claimed.

Tadahiko Mizuno of Japan's Hokkaido University also reported excess heat generation and gamma-ray emissions.
It would be a lot of fun if Pons and Fleischmann got the Nobel for their work...
From The Barrister at Maggie's Farm:
If we had had this congress in 1920, we'd still have buggy-whip factories all over the place, feeding off the public trough. Just like GM.
Meet Mike Nash -- Mike's company makes a product called Online Armor which was voted Best Firewall in 2008 by Computerworld. Meet Mr. Robert Dutu -- an online entrepreneur from somewhere in Africa. Here is what happened:
Phishing Scammer tries it on with CEO of an Anti-phishing software product �Online Armor�
So, I'm sitting there today working on something for a client when I received an unsolicted Skype Message with an "Important Business Proposal".

I normally mess with these guys a little, just to waste their time , but as I was on the phone to a client I just decided to get rid of him quickly.
And a bit more -- this is just starting and is a fun read:
It was a Friday afternoon, and about an hour since my chat with "Mr Dutu" - too early to go for a beer, too late to do much work. I could see he was still online.

So I thought I'd ask him a few questions...

[3:56:08 PM] Mike Nash says: Any luck yet ?
[3:56:48 PM] Mr. Robert Dutu says: just 1
[3:56:54 PM] Mr. Robert Dutu says: for over three hours
[3:57:07 PM] Mike Nash says: :( Business getting slow for you?
[3:57:13 PM] Mike Nash says: May I ask, how much you make doing this ?
[3:57:47 PM] Mr. Robert Dutu says: be my victim and you will get to know how much i can make from you
[3:58:05 PM] Mike Nash says: (rofl) Very good :)
[3:58:10 PM] Mike Nash says: You're a funny guy
[3:58:20 PM] Mr. Robert Dutu says: thanks (handshake)
From Sacramento, CA station News10:
Windows Broken; Glass Company Owner Busted
The owner of a glass company has been arrested following a stakeout at a martial arts school plagued for months by broken windows.

Andrew Krogh, 47, who owns AA Glass and Mirror, was arrested early Tuesday morning with a slingshot and ball bearings in his possession. Krogh was driving a white van that appeared to be identical to the one caught several times on surveillance video on nights that windows were shattered.

The building's landlord said he had spent at least $12,000 since last fall to repair 13 broken windows and that he had hired Krogh to do the work on at least one occasion.

As many as eight students of the Cassio Werneck Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school were hiding in the area immediately surrounding the business complex at 3732 Auburn Boulevard late Monday night when they saw Krogh's van stop and make a U-turn in front.

They alerted sheriff's deputy Jack Noble, another student of the school, who made the arrest.
Talk about giving your business a boost -- right into the dumpster. What an idiot, especially in front of surveillance cameras...

Our horrible medical system

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The Medical system in the US is horrible. From the National Center for Policy Analysis:
10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care
Medical care in the United States is derided as miserable compared to health care systems in the rest of the developed world. Economists, government officials, insurers and academics alike are beating the drum for a far larger government r�le in health care. Much of the public assumes their arguments are sound because the calls for change are so ubiquitous and the topic so complex. However, before turning to government as the solution, some unheralded facts about America's health care system should be considered.

Fact No. 1: Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.

Fact No. 2: Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.

Fact No. 3: Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.

Fact No. 4: Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.

Fact No. 5: Lower income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians.
Complete with lots of links and references to the facts. Hat tip to Mark Perry at Carpe Diem for the link.

Cool Tool - You Send It

I had to email 70 photo files from Jen's recent trip. Not wanting to clog D's mailbox, I zipped them up into clumps under 100MB and used You Send It. They have a free version that is limited in size of file and storage duration but their commercial accounts look perfect for any company that needs to move large volumes of data. Business accounts start at $9.99/mo per account and go up to $30 with a web hosted drop box available for another $30. Perfect for any Engineering, Graphics or Architectural company. Clever idea nicely implemented...

Definitly not Sullenberger

The difference between an American pilot and a Middle Eastern pilot. From BBC News:
Pilot jailed for Sicily air crash
An Italian court has jailed a Tunisian pilot who paused to pray instead of taking emergency measures before ditching his plane, killing 16 people.

A fuel gauge fault was partly to blame for the crash off Sicily in 2005 but judges convicted Chafik Garbi of manslaughter, jailing him for 10 years.

Six others, including the co-pilot and head of the airline Tuninter, were jailed for between eight and 10 years.
A bit more:
The twin-engined Tuninter ATR-72 turboprop airplane was flying from the Italian city of Bari to the Tunisian island of Djerba on 6 August 2005, when it ran out of fuel and came down in the sea some 13km (eight miles) off the northern coast of Sicily.

Out of the total of 34 passengers and five crew on board, 23 survived. Many had to swim for their lives, while others clung on to floating pieces of the fuselage.

The Italian National Air Safety Board (ANSV) found in 2007 that the plane had run out of fuel because it had failed to take on enough before leaving Bari.

It said this was the result of a faulty fuel gauge, which had been installed the previous day by the maintenance arm of Tunisair, owner of Tuninter.

Ground crew had installed a fuel designed for the ATR-42, which is similar to the ATR-72 but has smaller fuel tanks, the ANSV found. The same conclusions were reached by the manufacturer.

Prosecutors say that after both the plane's engines cut out, the pilot succumbed to panic, praying out loud instead of following emergency procedures and then opting to crash-land in the Mediterranean instead of trying to reach the nearest airport.
10 years is not enough. And with that kind of maintenence training and crew, I am not flying TunisAir at any time.

A modest proposal - stimulus

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Ran into this at the St. Petersburg Times, Sunday February eighth edition:
Fixes for the economic fix we're in
We asked for your ideas to fix the economy. You sent back far more than we could print. Some of you were serious. Some of you were kidding (we think). As Congress sends President Obama a stimulus package nearing $1-trillion, you have plans of your own: Raise taxes! Slash taxes! Make China pay! Make athletes pay! Invest in bullet trains, nuclear reactors and missions to space! Or, marijuana could save us. See what you think.
Put America first
Patriotic retirement: There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force � pay them $1 million apiece severance with stipulations. They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings � unemployment fixed. They buy new American cars. Forty million cars ordered � auto industry fixed. They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage � housing crisis fixed.
David Otterson, Largo
David Otterson for president in 2012. Seriously...
From Time Magazine:
A Quiet Revolution Grows in the Muslim World
Three decades after Iran's upheaval established Islamic clerical rule for the first time in 14 centuries, a quieter and more profound revolution is transforming the Muslim world. Dalia Ziada is a part of it.

When Ziada was 8, her mother told her to don a white party dress for a surprise celebration. It turned out to be a painful circumcision. But Ziada decided to fight back. The young Egyptian spent years arguing with her father and uncles against the genital mutilation of her sister and cousins, a campaign she eventually developed into a wider movement. She now champions everything from freedom of speech to women's rights and political prisoners. To promote civil disobedience, Ziada last year translated into Arabic a comic-book history about Martin Luther King Jr. and distributed 2,000 copies from Morocco to Yemen.
A bit more:
Today's revolution is more vibrantly Islamic than ever. Yet it is also decidedly antijihadist and ambivalent about Islamist political parties. Culturally, it is deeply conservative, but its goal is to adapt to the 21st century. Politically, it rejects secularism and Westernization but craves changes compatible with modern global trends. The soft revolution is more about groping for identity and direction than expressing piety. The new revolutionaries are synthesizing Koranic values with the ways of life spawned by the Internet, satellite television and Facebook. For them, Islam, you might say, is the path to change rather than the goal itself. "It's a nonviolent revolution trying to mix modernity and religion," Ziada says, honking as she makes her way through Cairo's horrendous traffic for a meeting of one of the rights groups she works with.

The new Muslim activists, who take on diverse causes from one country to another, have emerged in reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks and all that has happened since. Navtej Dhillon, director of the Brookings Institution's Middle East Youth Initiative, says, "There's a generation between the ages of 15 and 35 driving this soft revolution--like the baby boomers in the U.S.--who are defined by a common experience. It should have been a generation outward looking in a positive way, with more education, access to technology and aspirations for economic mobility." Instead, he says, "it's become hostage to post-9/11 politics." Disillusioned with extremists who can destroy but who fail to construct alternatives that improve daily life, members of the post-9/11 generation are increasingly relying on Islamic values rather than on a religion-based ideology to advance their aims. And importantly, the soft revolution has generated a new self-confidence among Muslims and a sense that the answers to their problems lie within their own faith and community rather than in the outside world. The revolution is about reform in a conservative package.
Emphasis mine - Faster! Please!
Heading out to the DaveCave(tm) to catch up on email. I also plan to watch a couple disks of the Canadian television series Trailer Park Boys. It had been highly recommended and as we get a lot of Canadians at the store, we have had a number of requests for it. I ordered seasons One through Seven plus the Movie. Season Three came in a few days ago and I was watching it after Jen went to bed trying to stifle my laughter. One and Two and the Movie came in this morning so I know what I will be doing for the next couple of evenings. To get an idea, think of a very low-rent Sopranos, set almost entirely in a trailer park in New Brunswick, CA. About ten main protagonists with a bunch of ancillary characters (and I do mean characters). A lot of fun.

On Writing Well

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I had read this book about fifteen years ago and it is excellent. Just ran into a nice essay from its author; William Zinsser at The American Scholar. I am not even going to try to excerpt it as other matters call but check it out. It is a wonderful read. Major hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link.

China being China

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Interesting if they can pull this off -- their finances are not that stable these days either. Very overextended. From the Wall Street Journal:
China Takes Aim at Dollar
China called for the creation of a new currency to eventually replace the dollar as the world's standard, proposing a sweeping overhaul of global finance that reflects developing nations' growing unhappiness with the U.S. role in the world economy.

The unusual proposal, made by central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan in an essay released Monday in Beijing, is part of China's increasingly assertive approach to shaping the global response to the financial crisis.

Mr. Zhou's proposal comes amid preparations for a summit of the world's industrial and developing nations, the Group of 20, in London next week. At past meetings, developed nations have criticized China's economic and currency policies. This time, China is on the offensive, backed by other emerging economies such as Russia in making clear they want a global economic order less dominated by the U.S. and other wealthy nations.

However, the technical and political hurdles to implementing China's recommendation are enormous, so even if backed by other nations, the proposal is unlikely to change the dollar's role in the short term. Central banks around the world hold more U.S. dollars and dollar securities than they do assets denominated in any other individual foreign currency. Such reserves can be used to stabilize the value of the central banks' domestic currencies.
-- oink -- flap -- oink -- flap -- Remember when the EUnuchs tried to switch the price of crude from the Dollar to the EU last June 2008 without really thinking through the implications and got their pee-pee's slapped by OPEC?

The Peaceful Palestinians

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Like this is going to end well. From Monsters and Critics:
Half ton of explosives found near Egyptian border with Gaza
Al-Arish, Egypt - Egyptian security forces discovered half a ton of explosives not far from Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, police said Monday.

Police found more than 500 kilos of TNT, along with light weapons and remnants from the peninsula's past wars in the dunes less than 40 kilometres from Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip at Rafah, a source in Egypt's security forces told German Press Agency dpa on condition of anonymity.

He said the weapons and explosives were packed into plastic bags, apparently ready for smuggling into the Gaza Strip.

Police said they had also found six new smuggling tunnels near the Salah al-Din gate between Egypt and the Gaza Strip at the divided town of Rafah.
And you know that this is a fraction of what actually made it through. And we give Egypt Two Billion/year in foreign aid...
Sounds like someone that we need today. From the St. Petersburg Times:
This Florida senator took hard line on bad bankers during the Depression
Some of the best known names on Wall Street are hauled before a congressional committee and their testimony yields stunning accounts of a financial system out of control.

One of the wealthiest men in America paid no income tax for three straight years. Others manipulated stock sales with family members to avoid paying taxes.

Outraged committee members hear testimony about banks engaging in rampant stock speculation. Even credit markets were looted in pursuit of profit.

Sound familiar?

Such testimony didn't come from executives of Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley when they were recently hauled before a House committee plumbing the depths of the nation's financial crisis. Neither was it part of AIG's defense last week for paying millions of dollars in executive bonuses despite needing a $170 billion government bailout.

Instead, the Wall Street revelations date to the 1930s, when lawmakers similarly sought answers to an economic disaster � the 1929 stock market crash.

Chairing the investigation was a Floridian, Jacksonville Sen. Duncan Fletcher, whose name today is largely lost in history. But his probe of the freewheeling financial era that crashed with the Great Depression spanned two years, filled 11,000 pages of testimony and spawned many of the nation's banking regulations still in place.

The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 grew out of Fletcher's hearings, separating commercial banks from investment houses. Bank deposits became federally insured, protecting Americans' nest eggs, while the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 also tightened Wall Street regulation.

Glass-Steagall endured until Congress in 1999 bowed to pressure from the banking industry and repealed the measure. Many critics now blame the repeal for sparking the current global crisis, since risky investments and subprime lending flourished in the newly deregulated climate.
We have many examples of people like that in our history but not too many today. I wish that this was not the case... And let's see: Glass-Steagall endured until Congress in 1999 bowed to pressure from the banking industry and repealed the measure. That would put it firmly in Bill Clinton's watch. Republican Congress though.
I love looking at radiographs (X-Rays) of common objects, flowers, etc... Check out Radiology Art - from the About page:
In the summer of 2007, artist and medical student Satre Stuelke started the Radiology Art project. Dedicated to the deeper visualization of various objects that hold unique cultural importance in modern society, this project intends to plant a seed of scientific creativity in the minds of all those inclined to participate.
One example -- A Big Mac:

The State of the Music Business

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Excellent essay/rant by John Mellencamp:
On My Mind: The State of the Music Business by John Mellencamp
Over the last few years, we have all witnessed the decline of the music business, highlighted by finger-pointing and blame directed against record companies, artists, internet file sharing and any other theories for which a case could be made. We've read and heard about the "good old days" and how things used to be. People remember when music existed as an art that motivated social movements. Artists and their music flourished in back alleys, taverns and barns until, in some cases, a popular groundswell propelled it far and wide. These days, that possibility no longer seems to exist. After 35 years as an artist in the recording business, I feel somehow compelled, not inspired, to stand up for our fellow artists and tell that side of the story as I perceive it. Had the industry not been decimated by a lack of vision caused by corporate bean counters obsessed with the bottom line, musicians would have been able to stick with creating music rather than trying to market it as well.

During the late 80s and early 90s the industry underwent a transformation and restructured, catalyzed by three distinct factors. Record companies no longer viewed themselves as conduits for music, but as functions of the manipulations of Wall Street. Companies were acquired, conglomerated, bought and sold; public stock offerings ensued, shareholders met. At this very same time, new Nielsen monitoring systems -- BDS (Broadcast Data Systems) and SoundScan were employed to document record sales and radio airplay. Prior to 1991, the Billboard charts were done by manual research; radio stations and record stores across the country were polled to determine what was on their playlists and what the big sellers were. Thus, giving Oklahoma City, for example, an equivalent voice to Chicago's in terms of potential impact on the music scene. BDS keeps track of gross impressions through an encoded system that counts the number of plays or "spins" that a song receives. That number is, thereafter, multiplied by the number of potential listeners. SoundScan was put in place at retail centers to track sales by monitoring scanned barcodes of units crossing the counter. A formula was devised whereby the charts were based 20% on the SoundScan number and 80% on BDS results. The system had changed from one that measured popularity to one that was driven by population.
Read the whole thing -- support independent music!!! The truly sad thing is that if artists like The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, etc... were just starting out, nobody would sign them and the world would be that much poorer.
I have noticed that local Shell Oil stations are touting a new fuel additive. They have signs up all over the place talking about their New Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines:
Shell Launches New Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines

Today at Shell stations across the U.S., consumers will fill-up with a new product at the pumps. Shell is introducing the all-new Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines, containing a unique, patented cleaning system designed to seek and destroy engine �gunk� (carbon deposits) in all three grades of gasoline. The new Nitrogen Enriched cleaning system protects and cleans up gunky build-up on intake valves and fuel injectors left by lower quality gasolines.

Nitrogen is a key element of the active cleaning molecule in the new fuel, making it significantly more stable at higher temperatures common in modern engines, such as direct fuel-injection gasoline engines. The increased stability ensures that the molecule can work under much tougher engine conditions by resisting thermal breakdown better than conventional cleaning additives.
So these are for cleaning and not preventing buildup in the first place. That means that the combustion byproducts will join all the rest of the stuff in the exhaust. What got me thinking is that various Nitrogen Oxides are a prime constituent in Smog. I'm sure the chemistry is well worked out but still...

Go and read

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At Velociworld -- Repulsion
We could learn a lot from the way Brazil is governing itself. The President came up from poverty and instead of doing the usual socialism/Marxism two-step, he embraces capitalism. He is taking the oil revenues and using them to build infrastructure rather than spending it on bread and circuses like Chavez. They are dealing with urban problems very well too. Today I ran into this article by Frances Moore Lapp� at Yes magazine:
The City that Ended Hunger
In writing Diet for a Small Planet, I learned one simple truth: Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy. But that realization was only the beginning, for then I had to ask: What does a democracy look like that enables citizens to have a real voice in securing life�s essentials? Does it exist anywhere? Is it possible or a pipe dream? With hunger on the rise here in the United States�one in 10 of us is now turning to food stamps�these questions take on new urgency.

To begin to conceive of the possibility of a culture of empowered citizens making democracy work for them, real-life stories help�not models to adopt wholesale, but examples that capture key lessons. For me, the story of Brazil�s fourth largest city, Belo Horizonte, is a rich trove of such lessons. Belo, a city of 2.5 million people, once had 11 percent of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The officials said, in effect: If you are too poor to buy food in the market�you are no less a citizen. I am still accountable to you.

The new mayor, Patrus Ananias�now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort�began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources�the �participatory budgeting� that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. During the first six years of Belo�s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city�s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000.

The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce�which often reached 100 percent�to consumers and the farmers. Farmers� profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food.
And the results:
In just a decade Belo Horizonte cut its infant death rate�widely used as evidence of hunger�by more than half, and today these initiatives benefit almost 40 percent of the city�s 2.5 million population. One six-month period in 1999 saw infant malnutrition in a sample group reduced by 50 percent. And between 1993 and 2002 Belo Horizonte was the only locality in which consumption of fruits and vegetables went up.

The cost of these efforts?

Around $10 million annually, or less than 2 percent of the city budget. That�s about a penny a day per Belo resident.
It is shameful that we can have such well run programs there and such poorly run obese governmental entitlement programs here. We set ourselves up as the standard by which other nations should be judged and fail so spectacularly. Congress needs to be cleaned out with a scrub-brush and hot bleach.

Like husband, like wife - the Mugabes

Robert Mugabe's wife is a piece of work as well - figures... From the London Times:

Grace Mugabe is immune from prosecution in Hong Kong
Zimbabwe's first lady, Grace Mugabe, is entitled to diplomatic status in Hong Kong, making her immune from prosecution for an alleged attack on a photographer for the Sunday Times.

And more:

Hong Kong-based British photographer Richard Jones encountered the 43-year-old wife of Robert Mugabe as she walked down a street near her luxury hotel in the heart of the city to go shopping.

She punched him in the face when he tried to take pictures of her on January 15, leaving Mr Jones with bruises and cuts where her diamond-encrusted ring had smashed into his face.


He described her at the time as "completely deranged" as she struck him in the face repeatedly while her bodyguard grabbed him as she was leaving the five-star Kowloon Shangri-la Hotel.

He was working for The Sunday Times on a report about Mrs Mugabe's extravagant holiday in the Far East that was in stark contrast to the lifestyle of the people of Zimbabwe. Nearly half the population is dependent on food aid and a cholera epidemic has claimed more than 4,000 lives.

How can these people live with themselves...

Make sure there aren't four off-duty police officers eating there. From Boston, MA station WCVB:
Man Charged With Robbing Eatery As Cops Dine
A Massachusetts man had some misfortune when he allegedly tried to rob a Chinese restaurant.

Four plainclothes police officers were enjoying their dinner at the time.

Anthony Whitcomb of Methuen was arraigned Thursday in Lawrence District Court on charges of unarmed robbery, larceny, assault and battery on a police officer, and resisting arrest.

Authorities say he went into the Golden House Restaurant in Lawrence on Wednesday night and asked the cashier to change a quarter. When she opened the register, Whitcomb allegedly grabbed $150.

The Eagle-Tribune reports that the owner yelled "Robbery, police." Sgt. Robert Michaud, officers Ivan Resto, Marco Ayala and Jaime Adames chased Whitcomb out of the restaurant and captured him after a brief foot chase.
Not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed...

A smoke problem

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From Theo

He's got a little list

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From Family Guy -- the scene that was banned:

Now this is gonna be fun!

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From Seattle newspaper The Stranger:
Hey, Ethics and Elections Commission: I Fucking Intend to Run for Mayor, All Right?
Posted by Dan Savage on Fri, Mar 20, 2009

I tried to call Ethics and Elections Commission Chairman Wayne Barnett just now�the dude who told the Seattle Times that he "wants to know [my] intentions," and that it's his job to "to figure out whether [I'm] serious or not"�to tell him that I'm serious and I intend to run and that I'm really totally intentionally serious here. But Wayne is out of the office. At 2:30 on a weekday. And so is everybody else at Ethics and Elections. All of 'em, out of the office, according to the brusque and unhelpful person who answered the phone there. At 2:30 PM on a weekday.

Maybe they're all off plowing the snow from the streets in Greg Nickels' neighborhood.

Um, Wayne? If the gang down at Ethics and Elections is curious about my intentions, if you're dying to figure out whether I'm serious or not, why not call me? I take calls, you know. Failing that, why don't you guys keep regular office hours? That way when I call you there'll be someone in the office to take my call, someone I could inform about my deadly serious intentions.

I'm running for mayor�and my reasons for running are laid out here. But Zoroastronomer sums up my reasons for running pretty well in this comment thread:
[Dan's] just getting public attention to a sad-sack mayoral race where no one has the balls to run against a sad-sack incumbent, in the hopes of shaming a qualified candidate to run. If no qualified candidates run, then it doesn't really matter who declares, now does it. And at least Dan is honest about his intentions. Actually, I hope he truly declares, wins, goes back on his promise to resign and becomes Seattle's Big Gay Mayor....
Can't stand the incumbent Mayor -- this will be an interesting race to be sure... Hat tip to Eric Earling at Sound Politics for the link.

An analysis of the financial melt-down

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Rolling Stone magazine does an excellent analysis of what just happened:
The Big Takeover
The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution

It's over � we're officially, royally fucked. no empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline � a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history � some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That's $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG's 2008 losses).

So it's time to admit it: We're fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we're still in denial � we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream. When Geithner announced the new $30 billion bailout, the party line was that poor AIG was just a victim of a lot of shitty luck � bad year for business, you know, what with the financial crisis and all. Edward Liddy, the company's CEO, actually compared it to catching a cold: "The marketplace is a pretty crummy place to be right now," he said. "When the world catches pneumonia, we get it too." In a pathetic attempt at name-dropping, he even whined that AIG was being "consumed by the same issues that are driving house prices down and 401K statements down and Warren Buffet's investment portfolio down."
A sobering read...

Stereo system - slightly used

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Talk about being off the mark in pricing. Some moke has a really nice stereo setup built out of top of the line audio components and is selling it on eBay. Catch #1) - the system is 30 years old. Catch #2) - the Buy It Now price is $129,900 Who knows, there may be some collector out there who will pay that price but to me, this is worth $5K at most. Audio electronics have made continual improvements over the last 30 years and no way does this system represent the "ultimate". Same thing for speaker technologies. On top of this, there is no mention of restoration. Thirty year old speaker surrounds will not be in good condition -- they need to be reconed. The power amplifiers will need to have their capacitors replaced as the lifetime for components of that age are at best ten to fifteen years. The best I can say is Good Luck!

Self Sufficiency at the home

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Swiped from Steve at Green Trust

Fortune Cookie

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We were at an Asian restaurant last Wednesday and my fortune cookie said the following:

Everything will now
come your way.

Is it just me or doesn't that sound a little ominous...

We The People

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A bit of a theatrical rant but the guy raises some good issues... It will be interesting to see what changes the elections in 2010 will bring. Hat tip to Dick at Big Dicks Place. UPDATE: The guy has another one:
You have to admit, he does know his history.

Extreme Herding

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Saw this around the web but only now clicked to see what it was:
Caution - multiple-mega-drink-alert. Absolutly Brilliant!

Milking Time

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Swiped from Denny

Red George banned from Canada

Very good news from our friends to the North. From the UK Guardian:
George Galloway banned from Canada
Anti-war MP George Galloway has been banned from Canada, it emerged today.

A Canadian spokesman confirmed that the Respect MP had been deemed inadmissible on national security grounds and would not be allowed into the country.

Galloway today branded the ban "idiotic" and vowed to fight the ruling with "all means" at his disposal. He is due to give a speech in Toronto on 30 March.
A bit more:
A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the decision had been taken by border security officials "based on a number of factors" in accordance with section 34(1) of the country's immigration act.
Nice to see that someone somewhere has a pair and is not letting this useful idiot spread his brand of untruth and distortion. Here is a photo of him:
I have posted about him before, specifically his taking money from Saddam Hussein during the corrupt Oil for Food fiasco: here and here

Heh... A memo

Leaked from AIG to Gawker:

Click to embiggen...

Heh - a kind of religious conversion

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From World Nuclear News:
U-turn for nuclear opponents
In a landmark article for the left-leaning Independent newspaper, a former head of Greenpeace, a Green Party activist, the chair of the Environment Agency and a leading green journalist all discussed their 'religious conversion' to support nuclear power.

"What's happened is that we've woken up to the very serious climate-change problem, the essential task of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and the need to decarbonise electricity over the next 20 to 30 years," said Lord Smith, who chairs the Environment Agency.

New Statesman writer Mark Lynas, who published a 'coming out' piece on his new views on nuclear power last year, said the anti-nuclear campaigns of the past "will come to be seen as an enormous mistake for which the Earth's climate is now paying the price." He cited the case of Austria where coal-fired capacity was brought online after the Zwentendorf nuclear power plant was stopped from ever operating, despite being fully constructed.

In a comment piece, Chris Goodall of the Green Party called for a realistic debate on energy policy, even describing certain drawbacks of renewable sources and the "cautionary tale" of Germany, where coal power is also likely to replace nuclear plants closed early after the policies of that country's Green Party.
Here is the article in The Independent Here is the inevitable stupid followup:
Pro-nuclear Green candidate faces axe
A Green Party parliamentary candidate is facing disciplinary action after calling for the reintroduction of nuclear power, which is strictly against party policy.

Chris Goodall, prospective parliamentary candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, upset many party members with his assertion in yesterday�s Independent that atomic energy has a role to play in the fight against climate change. Mr Goodall was one of four prominent environmentalists disclosed as having had a change of heart about the nuclear issue, having moved from an anti-nuclear stance to believing that atomic power is a necessary part of the energy mix in the struggle to cut carbon emissions and halt global warming.

The others are Lord Smith of Finsbury, the former Labour cabinet minister who now chairs the Environment Agency; Stephen Tindale, a former executive director of Greenpeace, and Mark Lynas, the author of two studies of climate change. But while the others are in essence free agents, Mr Good-all�s case is distinctive in that his views are now formally at odds with one of his own party�s key policy positions.

Resolute opposition to nuclear power has been a cornerstone of Green party policy for years, as is made clear in the party�s principal policy document, Manifesto for a Sustainable Society, which states unambiguously that a Green government, on taking office, would set a deadline for phasing out all nuclear power.
And here is Tinsdale's follow-up article in The Sun. Be sure to read some of the comments in the two Independent articles, a wonderful blend of three views: More Nuclear Faster, the regressive Watermelon No Nukes and the conspiracy theorists -- it's all a dark nefarious plot by big business... Let's see -- the known fuel reserves are good for well over 500 years, essentially zero emissions, much smaller volume of waste (although parts of the waste are highly radioactive, there are possible ways to deal with it if we are allowed to reprocess the spent fuel (thanks Jimmy Carter!)) Nuclear Power is the best ONLY option.
Doing what she does best:
It is one thing to be an idiot in private but to come out on national television and show it to everybody...

My usual Breakfast

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When I sit down to breakfast, this is usually what greets me:
Swiped from Maggie's Farm.

R.I.P. - Marvin �Popcorn� Sutton

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I first heard about Popcorn Sutton while researching the art of Distillation. I homebrew and although the Federal Government does not make home distillation legal as it does beer and wine making, there are a lot of people out there with an illegal "crab cooker" in their garages. Popcorn was 62 and had been busted for shine many times but this time, they were going to put him in jail for 18 months. He couldn't abide by this, sat in his favorite car and proceeded to kill himself with carbon monoxide. From the Asheville, NC Citizen-Times:
'Popcorn' Sutton dies
Legendary Haywood County moonshiner Marvin �Popcorn� Sutton took his own life because he couldn�t stand the thought of going to prison, his wife said today.

Pam Sutton said she found her husband Monday afternoon dead of carbon monoxide poisoning outside their home in Cocke County, Tenn.

�He got his letter to report Friday, and he just couldn�t handle it,� she said. �We tried everything we could to leave him on house arrest, and they wouldn�t do it. So I thank the federal court for this.
A bit more:
Sutton, 62, spent much of his life making moonshine, a craft that brought him fame and a string of criminal convictions dating back to the 1970s. He was facing 18 months in federal prison on moonshining and weapons charges and had told a judge at his sentencing he was in poor health and would rather die at home than in jail.

Pam Sutton said she went into town to run errands and couldn�t find her husband at their house when she returned. She found him at the rear of their property inside his beloved old Ford Fairlane, which was running, she said.

�He called it his three-jug car because he gave three jugs of liquor for it,� she said. �He had painted it John Deere green and it had yellow wheels. He had drove it to California and back.

�He was a good man, he really was."
Sucker Punch Pictures did a nice documentary a few minutes of which are here:
There is also a book available: "Me and My Likker" Purchasing info is at the Sucker Punch website. A true American -- Popcorn Sutton will be missed...

MIT goes Open Access

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Very cool -- MIT is setting an incredible precedent for other institutions to follow. From Open Access News:
MIT adopts a university-wide OA mandate
This afternoon, the MIT faculty unanimously adopted a university-wide OA mandate. Here's the resolution the faculty approved (thanks to Hal Abelson, MIT professor of computer science and engineering, who chaired the committee to formulate it):
MIT Faculty Open-Access Policy

Passed by Unanimous of the Faculty, March 18, 2009

The Faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination. In legal terms, each Faculty member grants to MIT a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Provost or Provost's designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written notification by the author, who informs MIT of the reason.
Very cool -- the materials are still under copyright but now anyone can look at them without having to buy into the whole Professional Journal $$$ scam; just download the PDFs.
Setting a very good example given the current woes. From the New York Times:
Obamas to Plant White House Vegetable Garden
On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt�s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn�t like them) but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family�s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.

In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, �My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.�

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It�s just below the Obama girls� swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, �whether they like it or not,� Mrs. Obama said laughing. �Now Grandma, my mom, I don�t know.� Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: �Isn�t that lovely. You missed a spot.�
We are doing a community garden in our town this year as there are lots of people living in the woods who would love to grow their own but do not have the space or the sunlight. Planting a garden and maintaining it is not rocket science. The initial investment of time and effort is a bit steep but the ability to walk out and in a few minutes harvest a wonderful fresh salad or some vegetables for a stir-fry make it all worthwhile. And the next season, you just have some minimal preparation and away you go...
A major undersea eruption off the coastline of Tonga. More at the Volcanism Blog:
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha�apai erupts
And what, precisely (you ask), is Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha�apai? It is, or rather, they are, two islands that cap a large seamount in the Tonga Islands. Passengers and crew on a flight over the area witnessed a fresh eruption there yesterday, the first since 1988.

Blog post and pictures can be found here, and Eruptions has all the facts and background here.
The Boston Globe's Big Picture has some excellent photographs of the eruption. Here is one:

The Tax problem

A lot of Obama's choices for Cabinet positions have been skewered by irregularities in their Income Taxes.

Now it seems some of the bail-out companies have Tax problems as well. From Yahoo News/Associated Press:

13 firms receiving federal bailout owe back taxes
At least 13 firms receiving billions of dollars in bailout money owe a total of more than $220 million in unpaid federal taxes, a key lawmaker said Thursday.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., chairman of a House subcommittee overseeing the federal bailout, said two firms owe more than $100 million apiece.

"This is shameful. It is a disgrace," said Lewis. "We are going to get to the bottom of what is going on here."

The House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight discovered the unpaid taxes in a review of tax records from 23 of the firms receiving the most money, Lewis said as he opened a hearing on the issue.

The committee said it could not legally release the names of the companies owing taxes. It said one recipient had almost $113 million in unpaid federal income taxes from 2005 and 2006. A second recipient owed almost $102 million dating to before 2004. Another was behind $1.1 million in federal income taxes and $223,000 in federal employment taxes.

"If we looked at all 470 recipients, how much would they owe?" Lewis asked.

I almost feel sorry for Obama -- all of these tax problems happened way before his watch but he is the one who is having to deal with them... These companies know to the dime what their books are, to ignore Federal taxes can in no way be considered a slip or a mistake.

I realize that this post will not be relevant to 99.99% of my loyal and wonderful readers but I am at heart an Analog Electronics Geek and RAP is the guy who sits on the summit of my personal Mt. Olympus for Analog Electronics. From Paul Rako's blog at Electronics Design News:
National Semiconductor lays off Bob Pease
Sorry it is not a joke. I just got an email from Bob.
I bet you thought that RAP was immune to layoffs. So did I. But the Turk knows where to find me: �The Coach wants to see you; bring your Playbook�. My Playbook weighs several thousand pounds. I wonder how much fun it will be to clean up my Office. Most of the stuff in my office is stuff that I bought and paid for�. Books, instruments�.
I will see how this plays out before I write a rant that I will regret. I assume National did not really fire Bob, they probably gave him an incredibly generous retirement package like they have with others nearing retirement. All I will say for now is that as far as systems engineering, knowing not just how to design what goes inside a chip but also how to design discrete parts on a circuit board, Bob is probably the best analog engineer alive today. I said as much in my blog about the greatest analog engineers. And the pathos to all this is that National Semi�s new focus is on systems like Solarmagic and hybrid cars. Lets hope that Mr. Halla realizes that the value of his 74 million dollars of exercisable and unexercisable stock options will be far greater if Bob stays on the payroll. Please comment below if you are as outraged as I am and feel free to call or write National directly. I suspect he will stay on in some capacity. Bob is a tremendously loyal person and I am sure he would rather stay at National answering those 200 emails a day rather than go work for a competitor. The louder you howl the more likely National will bring Bob back. They really are a decent company. I saw Dennis Monticelli at the electronic flea market Saturday and you could really see the pain in his eyes when I mentioned the layoffs. And I should also mention that I found out that National really helped my buddy Saurabh get his immigration papers in order. They may have laid him off, but they spent a lot of money helping him out so he could get another job, which he has.
End times?
Feast your eyes on this little bit of legislative idiocy: Sure, it sounds like a fantastic idea:
Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009
To establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.
Until you start reading the actual body of the bill. Sean Shepard has an excellent analysis over at Shepard on Politics and Policy:
HR 875 Would Essentially Outlaw Family Farms In The United States
I get a lot of e-mails each day and one today (hi Cheryl!) pointed my attention to HR 875, a bill introduced into the 111th Congress. SO, I went and did something that members of Congress rarely do and actually read the bill.More accurately, I glanced through it which is still more than they ever do. It was introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd) and, as of this writing, has around 36 co-sponsors including my Congressman, Andre Carson (D-IN 7th). It immediately strikes me as being terribly bad legislation.

Under a heading described as protecting the public health and ensuring the safety of food it creates a "Food Safety Administration" within Health and Human Services. Oddly, it doesn't just add regulations to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which is also under HHS. And don't we have the USDA as well? The bill applies to all manner of "Food Establishments" and "Food Production Facilities" (note the following excerpt).
(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term �food production facility� means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.
The bill would appear to even cover some fishing boats and potentially your downtown hot dog street vendors. "Transportion" of food also could be covered. In fact, the bill probably would also apply to your family garden since no exemption is apparent.

What it essentially does is place a tremendous regulatory burden on all of these organizations and individuals by requiring them to have "food safety plans", consider all relevant hazards [note: I wish Congress would consider all "relevant hazards" or unintended consequences of everything THEY did], testing, sample keeping and to maintain all kinds of records. The bill also allows the government to dictate all manner of standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, packaging, temperature controls and other items.
It is before committee now and just in the very early stages but still, something needs to be done about this. And of course, the Bill's sponsor: Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT] is married to Stanley Greenburg who works for Monsanto. Nope -- no conflict of public interest there... Move along folks, nothing to see...
From Google/Associated Press:
Brazil leader takes regional clout to White House
His meet and greet with the U.S. president was bumped to Saturday, and when the White House announced his official visit, they misspelled his name.

But when Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva becomes the first Latin American leader to sit down with President Barack Obama this weekend, he brings undisputed clout.

Silva runs the world's fifth-most-populous nation and ninth-largest economy and has close ties with leaders across the political spectrum. He's been asked to lobby Obama for free trade on behalf of conservatives in Colombia and for dropping the U.S. embargo against communist Cuba. Even Hugo Chavez has asked Silva to carry an olive branch to the new administration.

"I'm going to ask that the U.S. take a different view of Latin America," Silva said before leaving for Washington. "We're a democratic, peaceful continent, and the U.S. has to look at the region in a productive, developmental way, and not just think about drug trafficking or organized crime."

In fact, it's what Silva won't bring that shows how the global financial crisis has changed the geopolitical order.

"He will not have his hat in his hand or an outstretched palm saying 'I need money,'" said David Fleischer, a University of Brasilia political scientist. "But he will 'have his heels on' � a Brazilian way of saying he is in the favorable position."
Chavez may be a total moron for thinking that socialism is a good form of government but he is politically astute enough to know that Lula is 'da Man when it comes to South American Politics. The White House's changing the date of his reception and getting his name misspelled is just yet another of their low-level political gaffes. The Russian Button Gordon Brown's gifts. I'm amazed that they have not been able to find better people to handle these kinds of things. Such simple errors and such bad places to make them...

Cute idea / bad scam

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Ran into these last night and thought they were cute:
And the price sure was right:
So, I figure that for $0.05 each plus $4.99 shipping, I'll buy a hundred and hand them out at the store. A fun gag for ten bucks or so. I put 100 into the shopping cart and went to check out only to find this:
Talk about running a blatant scam -- the $4.99 shipping is for each bill...

The Mouse and the Engineer

A great story -- a mouse moves into someone's house for the winter. They don't realize that it's the house of a nocturnal engineer who designs and builds accessories for cameras.

Check out the whole story at Strobist. It ends very well for the mouse but its capture is funny as can be:



Two wonderful snippets of thought from BoingBoing:
Sen. Grassley to AIG execs: quit or commit ritual suicide
Sen. Charles Grassley (R. Iowa) thinks AIG execs shouldn't be taking bonuses. Instead, they should resign or kill themselves. He said:
...the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology.
Lisa Katayama of Tokyo Mango's response:
There's a major distinction that Grassley should be aware of here -- Japanese execs who fuck up kill themselves when they feel that their shame is too heavy for them to carry on living; in the AIG case, clearly the execs are acting completely shameless even after all the screwing up they did.

Two memos to myself

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Memo number one -- when running a phone scam, make sure I have the pronunciation correct. From the North Andover, MA Eagle-Tribune:
Phone scammers mispronounce name of city
HAVERHILL � Hundreds of people called police last night complaining about a phone scam in which a recorded voice claimed to be from Haverhill Bank and asked for account and PIN numbers, Detective Sgt. John Arahovites said last night.

The incorrect pronunciation of Haverhill was a dead giveaway that the phone calls are part of a scam, Arahovites said.
The second 'H' is quite silent... Memo #2 -- when running a grow-op, make sure the burglar alarm doesn't give false triggers. From the South New Jersey Courier-Post:
Dentist charged with possession, operating marijuana grow house
Police seized more than 40 marijuana plants, two pounds of cultivated marijuana, $10,000 in cash, handguns and rifles when they responded to a burglar alarm at the waterfront home of a local dentist.

Dr. Raymond Pacholec, 61, was charged with possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute and operating a marijuana growing facility, police said. Pacholec was released after posting $50,000 bail.

According to Detective Sgt. James J. Smith, at 8:27 a.m. police responded a burglar alarm at Pacholec's home at Bayview Avenue and Magnolia Drive. Officers John Sperber and Don Rowley walked through the house with Pacholec, but did not find a burglar. They did, however, notice a strong odor of raw marijuana, Smith said.
Dumb and Dumber...

Very cool use of COTS and brains

Very high geekdom indeed -- from the UK Telegraph:

Teens capture images of space with ­£56 camera and balloon
Proving that you don't need Google's billions or the BBC weather centre's resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year.

Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta� Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.

1.5kG payload -- onboard GPS and radio system so they could track it in flight and recover the camera after it landed.

I bet those kids will have their pick of nice job offers down the road. There are a lot more photographs over at Make Magazine.

Here is the groups blog and their Flickr page both in Catlan. Their Blog has a direct link to Google Translate.

And yes: #1) - £56 is about 80 bucks. #2) - COTS is the way to do good and cheap science. You use Commercially Off The Shelf components. Nothing that needs to be engineered or is otherwise comprised of unobtanium.

Whole Foods - kerfuffle over a tuna sandwich

Not cool at all -- from the New York Times:

Fired Over a Tuna Sandwich, and Fighting Back
Whole Foods fired Ralph Reese for taking a tuna fish sandwich. But was it misconduct? It is a question that matters. Anyone fired for misconduct is denied unemployment benefits.

Whole Foods argued that Mr. Reese, 57, of Queens, tried to steal a sandwich by taking it from the trash at the end of his shift as a deli clerk at the Union Square Whole Foods on Nov. 9. The company's policy is that food cannot be taken without being paid for, though employees receive a 20 percent discount.

And Mr. Reese's side of the story:

His version of the story: He was throwing out 30 sandwiches at the end of the shift, and he put the tuna sandwich aside on the counter in plain view. When the supervisor confronted him about it, he said it was going to be thrown out and he was going to eat it.

The supervisor then threw the sandwich out.

Two days later, Mr. Reese was fired.

Mr. Reese had worked at Whole Foods for two years. He had transferred to the deli department from the grocery department, where his previous supervisor had allowed employees to take damaged food. "They can't sell them," Mr. Reese said. "They can only write them off as a loss. That is why they throw them out. That is why they don't mind giving it to us."

It's one thing to fire someone but to do so in a way that blocks them from getting unemployment insurance is downright vindictive, especially in today's job market. It is not as though Reese was a flake either -- he had been employed by them for two years.

Heh - Europe, always classy

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It seems that the 'new' European government is not quite as tolerant as they claim to be. From the International Herald Tribune:
Europe hedges on Guant�namo detainees
European countries that have offered to help the Obama administration close the detention center at Guant�namo Bay, Cuba, by resettling detainees have begun raising questions about the security risks and requirements if they accept prisoners described by the Bush administration as "the worst of the worst," according to diplomats and other officials on both sides of the Atlantic.
And these are the all-soo-politically-correct people who were screaming for us to close Guant�namo. Now, when it comes down to put up or shut up we just get more political blather... And Obama wants us to be more like them???
Heading off to the DaveCave(tm) to check email and then off to bed. Got a good bit of stuff I need to take care of tomorrow both at the house and the store.

Busy day today - more auction stuff

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I spent today getting two items I won at an online auction. This one is kind of fun as it is all of the surplus items and customs seizures from British Columbia. I used to have a print/copy business and I got a platemaker and also a really nice pen plotter. The platemaker is a bit of a bust as I was expecting it to be a different kind and this kind is not usable to me. It was only $21 so it's not like I'm out any money. Craigslist here we come... The pen plotter was a real find, a Mutoh XP501 in great shape. These have been superseded by wide carriage ink-jet printers but they still do excellent work if a bit slow. Having this will allow me to print out drawings as well as hire it out to local builders and architects. A unit like this cost about $4K new and I got it for $63. A welcome addition to the DaveCave(tm). It was interesting being in a large city again after being up here for six years -- I was planning to drive further into Coquitlam and go to the Ikea store there but I was so burned out after finally finding the surplus place that i just got back on route 1 and headed home... The surplus place is fun in that it also has retail sales (I can see Jen now slowly shaking her head) -- there was a place south of Seattle where Boeing used to sell off their surplus but it closed a year or so ago. This place is very similar -- really nice office chairs, file cabinets, high-end big Mayline drafting tables selling for $25 when they sold new for $2K. Fun stuff and now I know where to come (or where to send people) when I need anything like this.

Good luck and Godspeed - STS-119

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Space Shuttle Discovery launched successfully tonight. It will be rendezvousing with the International Space Station to perform some maintenance and to install some equipment. Here is the link to the NASA Shuttle page.

There is a great story to this picture

The gentleman in this picture is Nobel Prize winning Economist Friederich von Hayek, the Bull in question is owned by Australian Rancher and Economist Ron Kitching and is named Inflation due to his large stature.


So this is literally Hayak grabbing Inflation by the balls... The backstory is a cute one -- read it here at Brooke's News:

The untold story of how Friederich von Hayek caught inflation by the balls
The great Nobel Prize winning economist/social scientist F. A. Hayek made a month long lecture tour of Australia in October 1976. There is a bit of an inside story to this tour which so far few know about. Hayek was invited to Australia for a lecture tour by economist Mark Tier. However, Hayek, at that time, had to decline, but as circumstances changed and as he did not know anybody else in Australia, he wrote a note to Sydney Economist/Barrister Roger Randerson, whom he once tutored at The London School of Economics, saying that he could squeeze in a month before going on previously scheduled visits to new Zealand and Japan.

Roger and I were good mates so he rang me with the good news. I then suggested to Roger that he immediately write back to Hayek and ask what his fee would be.

What follows is a wonderful, funny story. Hat tip to the ever wonderful Maggie's Farm


AIG just keeps staying as classy as ever. From Politico:
AIG ships billions in bailout abroad
Billions of American taxpayer dollars used to bailout insurance giant AIG are flowing to some of the largest foreign banks in the world, according to new documents released by beleaguered company Sunday.

The revelation seemed sure to cause political complications for President Barack Obama and his economic team, already on the defensive Sunday over why they couldn�t stop AIG from doling out $165 million in bonuses to some of its top corporate officials � even as the company was receiving a massive infusion of taxpayer funds.

The documents AIG released account for some of the more than $180 billion in aid that AIG has received, and they detailed for the first time which financial firms are benefitting from the federal handout. In all, AIG disclosed payments of $105.3 billion between September and December 2008. And some of the biggest recipients were European banks. Societe Generale, based in France, was the top foreign recipient at $11.9 billion, Deutsche Bank of Germany got $11.8 billion and Barclays, based in England, was paid $8.5 billion.

Here in the U.S. , Goldman Sachs received $12.9 billion. Edward Liddy, the government-installed CEO of AIG, sat on the board of directors of Goldman Sachs until he joined AIG.

He took the position while President Bush's Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson�who until joining the administration had served as Goldman's Chairman and CEO�arranged the insurance company's initial government bailout.
This is getting downright unreal. What sense of entitlement do these managers have that allows them to take a bailout and then to turn around and run the business as usual. If a little guy -- person or small business -- takes any money, they have to seriously change their way of doing business (ie: bankruptcy, business loan, etc...). Not so much for the big swinging dicks in the banking industry.

The State of Puget Sound

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Excellent multi-part investigation by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Too big to try to excerpt (and I'm only part-way through reading it) Some sample chapter titles:
Marine life is disappearing from Puget Sound, and fast

A rising tide of chemicals and sewage

Toxic stormwater is one of the Sound's biggest threats

Major oil spill presents greatest short-term threat to orcas' survival

Puget Sound is in trouble, but many still don't get it
Excellent in-depth reporting. Just because I think that the 'science' behind Anthropogenic Global Warming is a bunch of horses poop doesn't mean that I am not a strong proponent of environmentalism. I prefer that the science and the $$$ be put to use where it really matters and not into the already fat wallets of people like Al Gore.
MIT's Richard Lindzen on global warming alarmists and the politicization of science. Hat tip Maggie's Farm
An interesting post over at Dr. Sanity regarding the compartmentalization of their thoughts regarding anyone who sugests that Global Warming is a hoax:
A reader pointed me to this post which discusses how the eco-fascists of our planet would like to label "denial" about global warming a mental illness.
The idea that �climate change denial� is a psychological disorder � the product of a spiteful, wilful or simply in-built neural inability to face up to the catastrophe of global warming � is becoming more and more popular amongst green-leaning activists and academics. And nothing better sums up the elitism and authoritarianism of the environmentalist lobby than its psychologisation of dissent. The labelling of any criticism of the politics of global warming, first as �denial�, and now as evidence of mass psychological instability, is an attempt to write off all critics and sceptics as deranged, and to lay the ground for inevitable authoritarian solutions to the problem of climate change. Historically, only the most illiberal and misanthropic regimes have treated disagreement and debate as signs of mental ill-health.
Before I discuss such tactics (which many on the left accuse me of using), I think some background ideas need to be reviewed.

I frequently use psychiatric and psychological concepts to describe behavior in this blog, and because of that, many people accuse me of labeling anyone who disagrees with me politically as having a mental illness.

This is not true; and it suggests that most of these critics know little about psychiatry, psychiatric diagnoses, or psychological defenses.

While I do believe that some of the people I describe might indeed have a mental illness; and that some are, in fact, perfectly healthy but simply malevolent or evil; it is simply not the case that by exposing certain psychological defense mechanisms that explain their behavior, I am giving the political opposition a medical/psychiatric diagnosis. Nevertheless, if a particular diagnosis fits, I am perfectly content to let them wear it.
Wonderful essay. Well worth reading regardless of what side you are on for the AGW debate.

Why didn't I think of that?

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A cool new product at the store:
Hoping that they come out with a hot water version for the times when you want a spot of tea or coffee...

Ayn Rand in the news

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From the Wall Street Journal:
Is Rand Relevant?
Ayn Rand died more than a quarter of a century ago, yet her name appears regularly in discussions of our current economic turmoil. Pundits including Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli urge listeners to read her books, and her magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged," is selling at a faster rate today than at any time during its 51-year history.

There's a reason. In "Atlas," Rand tells the story of the U.S. economy crumbling under the weight of crushing government interventions and regulations. Meanwhile, blaming greed and the free market, Washington responds with more controls that only deepen the crisis. Sound familiar?

The novel's eerily prophetic nature is no coincidence. "If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society," Rand wrote elsewhere in "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal," "you can predict its course." Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don't just happen by themselves; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society -- particularly its dominant moral ideas.
Interesting to note that Atlas Shrugged is now the 30th best selling book at Amazon:

Make it stop!!!

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This has been one of the coldest winters ever - we talk with people who lived here all their lives and this is the coldest in their memories since the 1960's. Snowing again. Usually we get one or two really good accumulations but it has been pretty constant all winter. (800 feet elevation) Brrrrrr...

Go Here: The Periodic Table of Awesoments

Go here: The Periodic Table of Awesoments I'll wait - it's going to be a while as you need to check out the comments too. Honey Badgers rock. And this comment:
If one ninja got on a pirate ship at 10 a.m. it would be a ninja ship by lunch and no one would even know where all of the pirates went.
Hat tip to Shadowfax at Movin' Meat

A fine rant by Lord Monkton

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Lord Monkton delivers a verbal bitch-slap to those promoting the cause of Anthropogenic Global Warming. I would have loved to hear him give this speech. From the Heartland Institute:
Great Is Truth, and Mighty Above All Things
Where are they all today, those bed-wetting moaning Minnies of the Apocalyptic Traffic-Light Tendency--those Greens too yellow to admit they�re really Reds?

The main message of this conference to the bed-wetters is this. Stop telling lies. You are fooling fewer and fewer of us. However many lies are uttered, the scientific truth remains unalterable.

The Forces of Darkness, with their �global warming� chimera, came perilously close to ending the Age of Enlightenment and Reason. They almost ushered in a new Dark Age. Yet they have failed. Why? They have failed because you, here, have had the courage to face them down, to confront their falsehoods, and to nail their lies.

The Age of Light and Reason shall not die. Dylan Thomas wrote, �Do not go gentle to that last goodnight: Rage, rage against the dying of the light.� You have not raged in vain. The world is not cooking: It is cooling. Every opinion poll--even those conducted by the bed-wetters themselves--shows that global public opinion is cooling as fast as the global climate.

In one recent survey, �global warming� came at the very bottom of a list of political and environmental concerns, immediately behind the need to clean up dog-poop on the streets. Why? Because dog-poop is a real environmental problem. �Global warming� is not. The correct policy response to the non-problem of climate change is to have the courage to do nothing.

We, the people, are no longer afraid of �global warming.� We are fed up to the back teeth of hearing about it. We are bored by it. And the bed-wetters know it. Their ever-more-outlandish predictions are a measure of their blind panic. The Dr. Strangelove of NASA, in the latest of a series of ever-more-desperate attempts to flog the dead horse of climatic apocalypse, recently wrote that sea level is about to rise by 246 feet, �und anyvun zat disagrees viz me vill be arrested und put on trial for high crimes against humanidy und nature.�
And he is just getting started. A great read by someone who knows his stuff...


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Hat tip Vanderleun

I want more:


Found here.

Hat tip to Neatorama

A fine rant about five programs that take up way to much space and resources for what they do. Adobe Acrobat is #1 From the Download Squad:
The 5 most annoying programs on your PC
Elephantware. That is what we are talking about. Bloated programs that make brand new PCs boot like Pentium 2s with 64 MBs of RAM.

This is software that causes your screen to freeze while it works, consumes enough system resources to display a reminder box letting you know there is a new, even bigger, version available for download. Software we've been forced to install so we can read some special document format, enjoy some DRM infected piece of media, or communicate with others who also live with the same brand of behemoth riding on their backs.

We all have it. We are all stuck with it. And, aside from a glimmer or two of hope, we can't expect to escape their boot screens, quick launch icons, or update reminders anytime soon.
They missed Office 2008 -- in my opinion, Office hit its stride with 2003 and everything before and after is much worse... I used to work for Microsoft and when they announced that they were discontinuing 2003, I bought a bunch of copies so that I could install it on new machines that I build. Same thing for WindowsXP. Enough is enough...
From the Dallas Morning News:
Bailed-out AIG to pay $100 million in executive bonuses
Despite being bailed out with more than $170 billion from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, American International Group is preparing to pay about $100 million in bonuses to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.

An official in the Obama administration said Saturday that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had called AIG's government-appointed chairman, Edward Liddy, on Wednesday and asked that the company renegotiate the bonuses.

Administration officials said they had managed to reduce some of the bonuses but had allowed most of them to go forward after the company's chief executive said AIG was contractually obligated to pay them.

In a letter to Geithner, Liddy wrote: "Needless to say, in the current circumstances, I do not like these arrangements and find it distasteful and difficult to recommend to you that we must proceed with them."

The bonuses will be paid to executives at American International Group's Financial Products division, which wrote trillions of dollars' worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed by subprime mortgages.
Rope. Tree. Some assembly required...

Hah! I knew it!

Always thought there was something going on. Now I find out just when they are disbanding. From Forward:
Elders of Zion to Retire
The Elders of Zion, the venerable and shadowy Jewish organization that controls the international banking industry, news media and Hollywood, has announced that it is disbanding so that members can retire to Florida and live out their golden years on the golf course.

�We had a good run,� said one senior Elder, reminiscing over old photographs of world leaders in his musty, wood-paneled office at an undisclosed location. �Maybe we ran the world for just a little too long. Anyway, now it�s Obama�s problem.�

After a humiliating year left most of its financial holdings, as well as the entire civilized world, on the verge of collapse, the organization has re-defined its mission in terms of bridge games and making it to restaurants for the Early Bird Special.
A long time ago, back in September of 2007, I read a curious article in the New York Sun where Pete Seeger recanted his love of Communism. In January of 2009, a Mr. Anthony Cristofani posted this comment:
By your definition, the U.S. must be communist: brute thuggery and corruption. And I guess Venezuela, then, is NOT communist. Have you actually read any Marx, Lukacs, Marcuse, Jameson? No? Don't write, then.
Needless to say, I did not agree with Mr. Cristofani's assessment of the USA or of Venezuela. As for his reading list -- I in fact have read Marx, clawing my way through the turgid writing of Capital and the Manifesto. I spent a little time on the web, came up with some interesting history of Mr. Cristofani and posted my reply on January 24th, 2009. A few days ago, he visited again and posted this rebuttal to that post.
Bravo. Excellent demonstration of American hypocrisy and repression. Couldn't have demonstrated it better. Bring up irrelevant personal history of the author (just like Mao's China), and bad fact-checking. More human beings have been killed by the U.S. and the TYRANTS it puts in power (Chile, Indonesia, South Korea--the list is endless) than by communist regimes. BY FAR.

I'd write longer, but unlike you, I have more important venues for publication than a blog for failed writers.
Mr. Cristofani chooses to not debate with logic but to fling a few handfuls of poo and then shamble away into the darkness again. You say "irrelevant personal history of the author" -- I say it is very relevant as it shows the true nature of your character that you would ever consider such an action, let alone carry it out. You are a typical trust-fund baby who grew up not really having to think critically and you believe that slogging through post-modernism is valid academic work. Like I said in my previous post (accompanied with very clear documentation), your zenith was fifteen years ago, get over it. The fact that at age 33, you are still a student speaks volumes.
Anthony Cristofani -- Research Interests: 20th Century French and German Philosophy, Italian, Critical Theory, The Frankfurt School, Prison Studies, Memoir and Metafiction
Talk about being fit for the workplace. You are useless for anywhere --but-- academia. As for the trust-fund baby comment, your Grandmother's estate was "interesting" enough to be cited in the following casebook: Wills, Trusts, and Estates (Casebook) by Jesse Dukeminier, Robert H. Sitkoff, James M. Lindgren, and Stanley M. Johanson From page 862:
The citation also references your armed robbery and jail time, quoting from this L.A. Times article. Again, character. Martin Luther King was very much into the Content of a Man's Character. You do not have very much. You say:
More human beings have been killed by the U.S. and the TYRANTS it puts in power (Chile, Indonesia, South Korea--the list is endless) than by communist regimes. BY FAR.
My reply -- Bullshit. Show your work. Document your numbers and cite references and they had better be valid verifiable sources, not some weekly newspaper catering to some special wing of the intellectually bereft. I am not saying that the U.S.A. didn't fuck up big in a number of foreign policy maneuvers -- look at the help Robert Mugabe got from Jimmy Carter and also Carter's promotion of Arafat all the while Arafat was looting the Palestinian people but to say that we are worse is inane. At our darkest, we do not begin to approach the 100,000,000 deaths that can be directly traced to Communist control. Even poor old Pete Seeger sees this now. Your closing comment was priceless:
I'd write longer, but unlike you, I have more important venues for publication than a blog for failed writers.
First of all, I have publicly stated that I am not a writer. The two main camps of blogging are the Linkers and the Thinkers. Back in December of 2006 I identified myself as being firmly in the Linker camp. That being said, where are your writings Anthony? Hmmmm??? The North Coast Journal article on your conviction for armed robbery and your three years in prison said that you spent your time:
Anthony ended up doing three years in prison for the crime, spending his time writing a novel, learning French and studying poetry.
So where is your novel Anthony? It isn't at Amazon. Not at Lulu. I googled your name (only 99 hits) and got a lot of references to your MySpace page and your Band as well as your LinkedIn entry and your FaceBook entry. Even a couple references to this blog (heh!). I did find a few poems -- here, here and here, a short story and a comment to another story. But no novel and certainly not a prodigious output for someone who presents themself as a writer. The writer Robert Anson Heinlein once said the following:
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects"
I have personally done sixteen of the twenty one, not just know how to do it but I have done it. How about you? Mr. Cristofani, you are a pale maquette of a human being.

Global Warming - the new Prohibition

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Great presentation by Princeton physics professor William Happer to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (PDF). He starts off with the basic facts:
Let me state clearly where I probably agree with the other witnesses. We have been in a period of global warming over the past 200 years, but there have been several periods, like the last ten years, when the warming has ceased, and there have even been periods of substantial cooling, as from 1940 to 1970. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased from about 280 to 380 parts per million over past 100 years. The combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, has contributed to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. And finally, increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause the earth's surface to warm. The key question is: will the net effect of the warming, and any other effects of the CO2, be good or bad for humanity?
And continues:
I believe that the increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind. I predict that future historians will look back on this period much as we now view the period just before the passage of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution to prohibit �the manufacturing, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors.� At the time, the 18th amendment seemed to be exactly the right thing to do � who wanted to be in league with demon rum? It was the 1917 version of saving the planet. More than half the states enacted prohibition laws before the 18th amendment was ratified. Only one state, Rhode Island, voted against the 18th amendment.
A wonderful 12 page dismantling of all of the Anthropogenic Global Warming talking points... Hat tip to E3 Gazette for the link.

Is there a Malthusian in the house?

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Typical -- from the Toronto, CA Globe and Mail:
'There will be blood'
Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson predicts prolonged financial hardship, even civil war, before the �Great Recession' ends

Harvard author and financial crisis guru Niall Ferguson has landed with a thud in Ottawa, spreading messages that could make even the most confident policy makers squirm.

The global crisis is far from over, has only just begun, and Canada is no exception, Mr. Ferguson said in an interview before delivering a presentation to public-policy think tank, Canada 2020.

Policy makers and forecasters who see a recovery next year are probably lying to boost public confidence, he said. And the crisis will eventually provoke political conflict, albeit not on the scale of a world war, but violent all the same.

�There will be blood.�
Oh Bollocks. This self-centered media whore is enjoying his 15 minutes without considering the unintended consequences of his 'proclamations'. To Dr. Ferguson -- can you tell me when a Malthusian prediction was ever right? . . . . crickets . . .

Goin' down - Bernie Madoff

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Good riddance -- the complete text of Madoff's plea can be found at The Smoking Gun. "Deeply Sorry And Ashamed" my ass -- he knew what he was getting into and deserves to live a very long life - in prison...
From the Associated Press/Knoxville, TN News:
Feds spending millions on Kennedy legacy in Mass.
More than one out of every five dollars of the $126 million Massachusetts is receiving in earmarks from a $410 billion federal spending package is going to help preserve the legacy of the Kennedy's.

The bill includes $5.8 million for the planning and design of a building to house a new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate. The funding may also help support an endowment for the institute.

The bill also includes $22 million to expand facilities at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum and $5 million more for a new gateway to the Boston Harbor Islands on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a park system in downtown Boston named after Kennedy's mother and built on land opened up by the Big Dig highway project.
Chris Muir already nailed it with Al Gore but the Kennedy's are cut from the same cloth. And swimmer is looking at an interesting afterlife...

I love it - check out Paris

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Very cute art project. Done back in 2007 by Tim Schwartz:
Paris � Physical, 2007
The piece is attached via a network cable to the internet where it monitors news and search results for �paris hilton� and �paris france� and displays an average result in real-time.
Because we need to know this data -- we need to stay informed... Glad to see P. F. pulling ahead. Paris F. is Paris Dammit! and P. H. is Nyekulturny.

Congress - an interesting metric

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From Politico:
Congress at work: '$1 billion an hour'
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come up with a vivid new way to express his contention that the nation is spending way too much money it doesn�t have.

McConnell includes the tweaks in his opening remarks on the Senate floor on the 51st day that President Obama has been in office.

�In just 50 days, Congress has voted to spend about $1.2 trillion between the Stimulus and the Omnibus,� McConnell says. �To put that in perspective, that�s about $24 billion a day, or about $1 billion an hour�most of it borrowed. There�s simply no question: government spending has spun out of control.�
2010 is close at hand. 2012 is not that far away either...

Capitalism - two views

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Two views on Capitalism First from The Financial Times:
The future of human beings is what matters
For me, capitalism has never been an abstract concept. It is a real, concrete part of everyday life. When I was a boy, my family left the rural misery of Brazil�s north-east and set off for S�o Paulo. My mother, an extraordinary woman of great courage, uprooted herself and her children and moved to the industrial centre of Brazil in search of a better life. My childhood was no different from that of many boys from poor families: informal jobs; very little formal education. My only diploma was as a machine lathe operator, from a course at the National Service for Industry.

I began to experience the reality of factory life, which awoke in me my vocation as a union leader. I became a member of the Metalworkers� Union of S�o Bernardo, in the outskirts of S�o Paulo. I became the union�s president and, as such, led the strikes of 1978-1980 that changed the face of the Brazilian labour movement and played a big role in returning democracy to the country, then under military dictatorship.

The impact of the union movement on Brazilian society led us to create the Workers� party, which brought together urban and rural workers, intellectuals and militants from civil society. Brazilian capitalism, at that time, was not only a matter of low salaries, insalubrious working conditions and repression of the union movement. It was also expressed in economic policy and in the whole set of the government�s public policies, as well as in the restrictions it placed on civil liberties. Together with millions of other workers, I discovered it was not enough merely to demand better salaries and working conditions. It was fundamental that we should fight for citizenship and for a profound reorganisation of economic and social life.
The author? Brazilian President Luiz In�cio Lula da Silva One of the good guys. The other view -- from Reuters:
Iran says capitalism on verge of collapse
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told regional leaders on Wednesday that the capitalist system was close to collapse.

Opening a one-day summit of the 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) including Turkey, Pakistan and other neighbors, he also suggested a single currency should be used in trade between members.

"After the collapse of the closed socialist economy, the capitalist economy is also on the verge of collapse," Ahmadinejad said in a speech.
And the back story:
Like other big oil producers, Iran is facing falling revenue after crude prices plunged about $100 a barrel from a peak of $147 in July, hurting its main source of income. It is also struggling with double-digit inflation.
Dare I say it that Capitalism has not failed, what has failed is Mr. Ahmadinejad's rule... To consider that the $147bbl price would stay a constant is idiocy. He should have been pumping extra money into infrastructure and growing businesses, not using the oil revenues as a cash cow.

It's the Economy

Click to embiggen...

Heh... Swiped from Denny.

Light posting again today

Still working on stuff and had to go into town for a little while. Going to get a bite to eat and head home -- I will probably post some when I get back.

Kevin Lin's demo reel

Oh yeah -- Kevin is 12! Pretty amazing stuff - thanks to BoingBoing for the link.

All is not doom and gloom

From Yahoo/Associated Press:
Even in a recession, some companies are hiring
Help wanted: pharmacists, engineers and nurses. Believe it or not, even some banks are hiring, at least for their technology teams. While the recession has claimed 4.4 million jobs, the economy has created others, many of them for highly trained and specialized professionals. More than 2 million jobs openings now exist across a range of industries, according to government data.
A bit more:
Human resources executives say companies that are hiring are benefiting from a top-notch talent pool as applications pour in from a larger base of job seekers. The number of unemployed Americans has soared, to 12.5 million last month, from 7 million when the recession began. professionals.
Hat tip to Mark at Carpe Diem. A lot of people with minimal skills (would you like fries with that) are out of work but anyone with a trade or a skill is busy. Time to separate the motivated from the slacker...

Lust in my heart - Shenzhen

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OMFG -- this is highest pure distilled geekdom... Check out Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories recent visit to Shenzhen. I've been to Akihabara and was blown away by the scope and variety. This place makes Akihabara look like a corner five and dime.

A fair and open election

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From AlJazeera:
Kim 're-elected' in N Korea vote
Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, has been re-elected to the country's parliament in elections that have been closely watched for hints as to his possible successor.

In an unsurprising result Kim was re-elected by voters in Constituency 333 with 100 per cent support, the official KCNA news agency said on Monday.

The report said voters renewed their "unshakable determination to devotedly safeguard" the North Korean leader.

The national elections, which took place on Sunday, have been closely watched by outside observers amid speculation it may provide some indications as to Kim's potential successor.
And a bit more:
Kim, 67, is believed to have suffered a stroke last August and South Korean reports have said Sunday's election may be a prelude to an announcement on who will take over the leadership.

Some reports have named the North Korean leader's third son, 26-year-old Kim Jong-un, as a possible successor.
That is one seriously whacked-out nation to put up with that kind of leadership. When that family falls from power, it will be fast, bloody and very interesting to watch. This is not a workers paradise by any stretch of the imagination...

A nice day on the water

From the Northwest Florida Daily News:

Fishermen keep fishing as boat slowly sinks
After receiving reports that a 20-foot pontoon boat was possibly sinking at the Three Mile Bridge, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers took a boat out to investigate.

They found four adults fishing with water washing over the pontoons, according to FWC's weekly report.

When they questioned the operator about the boat's condition, the individual replied, "The boat was dragging a bit on the way out."

Officers escorted the boat back to shore. There, it was discovered that the owner had drilled holes below the waterline to drain water from the pontoons. The screws he used to plug the hole were apparently not water-tight, the report said.

Whoops -- at least he has a way to drain the water back out again... Before drilling the holes, they should have figured out where the water was coming in from in the first place. Sheesh...

Light posting today - bookwork

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Working on revamping some of the daily bookkeeping tasks at the store and need to focus on this so I will not be doing my usual reading of the complete internet.

The Wheathur

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A bad spell of weather indeed... A few days ago, I woke up to four inches of snow on the ground. That afternoon, wind and temperatures in the 50's made it go away. This morning? Another couple inches and temps in the low 20's Our area normally gets a foot or so of snow maybe twice each winter. This has been a winter that was slow to start (we had a gorgeous cool Indian Summer) but once started, much colder and long-lasting than normal. Could use some of the Goracle's glow-ball warmening about now...

Put your money where your mouth is

I had seen this on the web before and really liked it but there was no attribution so I didn't feel comfortable in posting it. Thanks to Mr. Completely, I find that it is the work of Andy Thomas. Here is what I am talking about and I would almost give up my soul to be in that game -- especially to hear T.R. reaming R.M.N. a new one for getting caught.
Click to embiggen...
The curious thing is that Mr. Thomas is almost entirely sold out of this print. The only thing available is a 20X30 paper print, signed and numbered for $350. I do not know Mr. Thomas' politics but he also did an excellent painting of some Democrats playing poker and every edition of these is for sale. The 20X30 paper, signed and numbered is $225. Politicians can come and go but the marketplace will show where the real value is. Now about those tulip futures...
We are getting hammered from both ends. From the L.A. Times:
Grocers, name-brand food producers at odds over prices
There's a tug-of-war underway over food prices between the nation's supermarkets and giant food manufacturers including Nestle, Unilever and Kellogg.

The nation's big grocery chains contend that food manufacturers have raised prices too fast and too far, considering large drops in prices for fuel, corn, wheat and other important commodities in recent months.

The food companies disagree and say they are still coping with many rising prices themselves.

At issue are surging wholesale prices for products such as Nestle's Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, which rose 14% last April. Since then, the price that farmers get for milk -- the main ingredient -- has dropped 36%.

Kraft raised the wholesale price of a box of its staple macaroni and cheese an average of 9% in the last year, according to several supermarket chains, despite 38% to 68% plunges in cheese and wheat prices. These increases factor in the growing practice by the manufacturers of shrinking the weight of the contents without reducing wholesale prices.

The grocers are fuming. One large grocery company operating in Southern California has seen the wholesale price for a carton of Kellogg's Corn Pops rise about 17% since June -- despite a 52% plunge in corn prices from their peak that month.
What is happening is that a lot of third-party manufacturers are making their own brands and reflecting the true costs of materials. From the article:
Dills recently took advantage of a Stater Bros. special on two house-brand 30-ounce, self-rising pizzas for $7.

"They are the same quality as the Freschetta or DiGiorno brands that sell for $5.99 each," Dills said.
Kroger, the nation's largest grocer, operates 41 manufacturing plants, including 16 dairies, seven bakeries, five grocery plants, three beverage plants, three ice cream plants, three meat plants, two cheese plants and two frozen dough plants.

Corporate, or house, brands now account for 27% of Kroger's grocery sales and 34% of the units, or individual items, sold, said Dave Dillon, the company's chief executive.
Our own store is getting hit with not only price increases but our wholesalers are charging a blanket fuel surcharge on each delivery.

The Goreacle wins a prize

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Al Gore is being awarded the first-evah Roger Revelle prize by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. From San Diego's station KFMB-TV:
Former VP Gore In San Diego To Receive Scripps Prize
Scripps Institution of Oceanography is awarding its first-even Roger Revelle Prize to former Vice President Al Gore.

Gore will be in La Jolla Friday evening to receive the award.

The award will be given out during a dinner marking the 100th birthday of the institution's late former director.
The comments to this news item are wonderful - here is a sampling of the three pages:
Something tells me Scripps is sacrificing its prior World Class reputation to jockey for political climate funding. It is truly sad to see so many noble institutions succumb to debasing scientific ethics, and even more saddening to have to stomach the indoctrination of innocent schoolchildren with junk agenda-driven climate propaganda before they are old and savvy enough to recognise it for what it is.

Absolutely disgusting. A total disgrace and slur on the good name of Roger Revelle and the once great scientific institute of Scripps. How dare they award this dogmatic and foolish clown such an award.

Al Gore received a "D" grade from Roger Revelle at Harvard U. After Revelle died, Gore claimed that Revelle was senile when he claimed in a paper co-authored by S. Fred Singer that CO2 was not a major heat-absorbing gas and was not responsible for global warming.
This man is scum.

It's time to scrap Scripps

This is simply AMAZING--As a former NOAA Officer, it should be obvious if anyone would take the time to do a cursory reveiw, that Global Warming is a FARCE. I did work with Scripps during my service and held the highest regard for them, until this....Now I'm speechless, but this is just another indication of the state of our Nation. May God Bless....
Hat tip to Anthony Watts for the link.


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Looks interesting -- from Steven Wolfram's blog:
Wolfram|Alpha is coming!
Some might say that Mathematica and A New Kind of Science are ambitious projects.

But in recent years I�ve been hard at work on a still more ambitious project�called Wolfram|Alpha.

And I�m excited to say that in just two months it�s going to be going live.

Mathematica has been a great success in very broadly handling all kinds of formal technical systems and knowledge.

But what about everything else? What about all other systematic knowledge? All the methods and models, and data, that exists?

Fifty years ago, when computers were young, people assumed that they�d quickly be able to handle all these kinds of things.

And that one would be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have it compute the answer.

But it didn�t work out that way. Computers have been able to do many remarkable and unexpected things. But not that.

I�d always thought, though, that eventually it should be possible. And a few years ago, I realized that I was finally in a position to try to do it.
This will be interesting...
Hat tip to Watts Up With That for the link to this column by Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe:
Where's global warming?
SUPPOSE the climate landscape in recent weeks looked something like this:

Half the country was experiencing its mildest winter in years, with no sign of snow in many Northern states. Most of the Great Lakes were ice-free. Not a single Canadian province had had a white Christmas. There was a new study discussing a mysterious surge in global temperatures - a warming trend more intense than computer models had predicted. Other scientists admitted that, because of a bug in satellite sensors, they had been vastly overestimating the extent of Arctic sea ice.

If all that were happening on the climate-change front, do you think you'd be hearing about it on the news? Seeing it on Page 1 of your daily paper? Would politicians be exclaiming that global warming was even more of a crisis than they'd thought? Would environmentalists be skewering global-warming "deniers" for clinging to their skepticism despite the growing case against it?

No doubt.

But it isn't such hints of a planetary warming trend that have been piling up in profusion lately. Just the opposite.

The United States has shivered through an unusually severe winter, with snow falling in such unlikely destinations as New Orleans, Las Vegas, Alabama, and Georgia. On Dec. 25, every Canadian province woke up to a white Christmas, something that hadn't happened in 37 years. Earlier this year, Europe was gripped by such a killing cold wave that trains were shut down in the French Riviera and chimpanzees in the Rome Zoo had to be plied with hot tea. Last week, satellite data showed three of the Great Lakes - Erie, Superior, and Huron - almost completely frozen over. In Washington, D.C., what was supposed to be a massive rally against global warming was upstaged by the heaviest snowfall of the season, which paralyzed the capital.

Meanwhile, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has acknowledged that due to a satellite sensor malfunction, it had been underestimating the extent of Arctic sea ice by 193,000 square miles - an area the size of Spain. In a new study, University of Wisconsin researchers Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis conclude that global warming could be going into a decades-long remission. The current global cooling "is nothing like anything we've seen since 1950," Swanson told Discovery News. Yes, global cooling: 2008 was the coolest year of the past decade - global temperatures have not exceeded the record high measured in 1998, notwithstanding the carbon-dioxide that human beings continue to pump into the atmosphere.
The rhetoric has changed from Anthropogenic Global Warming to Global Warming and is now Climate Change. Why not tell the truth and call it by its real name -- a foetid blend of cultural marxism, sub-prime science and political activism. The 50+ user comments are well worth reading -- about 90% "It's done folks -- time to stick a fork in it" and 10% "We're all gonna die if we don't prostrate ourselves at the feet of teh Goracle and the sacred church of AGW".

Allahpundit may be gone

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But his spirit lives on in Twitter. As well as HotAir
When stealing a credit card, take care as to what you buy. From the Sarasota, Florida Herald Tribune:
Police: Woman stole ID for new tooth, tattoo, bail
Police say a 27-year-old woman stole a man�s credit card number and used it to buy a crown for her tooth, a tattoo, a motorcycle and a jail bond.

Sarasota police charged Alicia K. Borgeson, 27, with ID theft and credit card fraud after she charged $5,600 to a Visa account last month, according to an arrest report.

A detective says Borgeson was organizing files and running errands for a Sarasota company when she lifted the credit card number of a customer.

She used the card, an arrest document says, to buy a Yamaha motorbike ($3,100), visit the dentist ($1,500), get a tattoo ($300) and bond herself out of jail on an unrelated charge ($200).

Police caught her when they spotted the Yamaha outside a restaurant, where she reportedly used the card to buy a Dr. Pepper.
Heh... You will always get caught -- what is it that makes people think otherwise.

And the other shoe drops to the floor

From CNN/World:

Official: Tsvangirai believes fatal crash was deliberate
Zimbabwe's prime minister believes the truck driver that struck his car, killing his wife, deliberately drove toward them, his party told CNN.

Morgan Tsvangirai leaves the hospital Saturday after being treated for injuries from a car crash.

The couple, who were married in 1978, have six children.

The crash, on a two-lane highway between Tsvangirai's hometown Buhera and the capital Harare, comes only weeks after the start of a power-sharing agreement between Tsvangirai and his political rival, President Robert Mugabe.

Rope Tree Some assembly required...

A wonderful gaffe by Hillary Clinton and her support team. From FOX News:
Clinton Goofs on Russian Translation, Tells Diplomat She Wants to 'Overcharge' Ties
Note to self: When trying to improve ties with a former Cold War-era foe, check a dictionary.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton learned that lesson the hard way Friday when she presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift bearing an incorrect translation -- one that implied hostility, rather than peacemaking.

Clinton presented Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said "Reset" in English and "Peregruzka" in Russian. The problem was, "peregruzka" doesn't mean reset. It means overcharged, or overloaded.

And Lavrov called her out on it.

"We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?" Clinton asked Lavrov.

"You got it wrong," Lavrov said. "This says 'peregruzka,' which means overcharged."

The two top diplomats, who met in Geneva, laughed and Clinton explained: "We won't let you do that to us, I promise."
And to add insult to injury, that isn't even any kind of special button. You can buy one just like that over the internet for about $60:
A few minutes work with a P-Touch label maker and bingo -- one gift suitable to present to the Russian Foreign Minister on your first State Visit as the United States Secretary of State. I mention the P-Touch label as it says later in the Fox News report:
Clinton adviser Philippe Reines said the typo would be fixed
and you can see the square corners of the tape in the original FOX photograph (what I posted here is a reduced bandwidth thumbnail).

Just Wow!

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Beautiful and tragic all at once. An amazing nine minutes from digital artist Bruce Branit
Hat tip to Vanderleun at American Digest. Shot in one day, two years in post production. Just Wow!

A traffic accident - yeah, rigghhttt...

From Google/Associated Press:

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Tsvangirai hurt in crash
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was injured in a car crash on the outskirts of the capital Friday and his wife was killed, officials said.

Tsvangirai had been traveling to a weekend rally in the prime minister's home region, south of Harare, when their car sideswiped a truck, his spokesman James Maridadi said. No other details on the crash were immediately available.

Maridadi initially said the injuries to the Tsvangirais and an aide who also was in the car were not life-threatening. Later, two officials from the Movement for Democratic Change party told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that 50-year-old Susan Tsvangirai was dead and that an official statement would come later from the family.

And this is the guy who is trying to wrest power from Mugabe? Methinks the word Accident is a bit inappropriate in this case...

From Ed Morrissey at Hot Air comes this wonderful story about gift giving between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Gordon Brown. Mr. Brown visited Washington earlier this week -- Ed notes:
Obama the Cheapskate: 25 DVDs for Gordon Brown?
The British have begun to worry about the �special relationship� in the Anglosphere since the election of Barack Obama. First, the visit from Gordon Brown failed to get the usual Rose Garden joint-presser treatment from the White House this week. Now the Daily Mail reports that Obama cheaped out on the traditional gift exchange, rustling up some DVDs in exchange for a thoughtful gift from Brown:
Gordon Brown has been given a collection of 25 classic American films on DVD as his official gift from Barack Obama.

The Prime Minister flew home from his successful trip to Washington this morning with the �special collector�s box� of films hidden in his luggage.

No 10 had tried to keep the present a secret, refusing to answer reporters who asked what President Obama had given to mark the reaffirmation of the special relationship.
And Mr. Brown's gift to Obama (from the Daily Mail article linked to above):
Mr Brown�s gifts included an ornamental desk pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slaver HMS Gannet, once named HMS President.

Mr Obama was so delighted he has already put it in pride of place in the Oval Office on the Resolute desk which was carved from timbers of Gannet�s sister ship, HMS Resolute.

Another treasure given to the U.S. President was the framed commission for HMS Resolute, a vessel that came to symbolise Anglo-US peace when it was saved from ice packs by Americans and given to Queen Victoria.

Finally, Mr Brown gave a first edition set of the seven-volume classic biography of Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert.
Ed notes that Gordon Brown also brought gifts for Obama's daughters. Talk about having a deaf ear when it comes to politics and relations with allies. It's like Barry sent a Secret Service agent to Costco with the instructions to spend no more than $200...

Two presidents and the Marines

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Interesting comparison between George W. and Barry
Hat tip to Dear President Obama for the link.

The Flip Ship

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An email was talking about the Flip Ship - built in the 60's, it is still doing valuable research today. I had the privilege to work for one of the original designers for a couple years before moving up to the farm. I was searching for more information and ran into this delightful 37 minute presentation by Fred Fisher, one of the other designers. Check it out:

Another cool crime

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I'm not turning criminal here but I do like a clever idea that is well thought out and implemented. Just like the almost bank job from yesterday, here is a clever smuggling job that worked for a while:
Smugglers built vodka pipeline
The accused built a 2-kilometre pipeline through a reservoir that marks the Russian-Estonian border, and managed to pump 6,200 litres of spirits across before getting caught.

"It might sound weird and unbelievable but it's a very real criminal case," Mari Luuk, a spokesman for Estonian prosecutors, told AFP.

The smugglers � 11 Russians and Estonians � face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Vodka is vastly cheaper in Russia than in its ex-Soviet neighbour Estonia, which joined the EU in May 2004. Top of the line vodka can run to hundreds of pounds in Russia, but the man on the street often satisfies himself with bottles costing as little as �2.

The men were caught after Estonian tax officials found 1,159 litres of untaxed alcohol hidden in a truck in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.

The find led them to the pipeline, submerged in a reservoir near the Estonian border town of Narva, which the Russian-led smuggling ring used between August and November 2004.

Prosecutors said the untraditional � and illegal � route allowed the men to avoid paying �57,000 in taxes.
The idea of running two kilometers of pipe under the lake is genius. You initially fill it with water, start running a pig and the stuff after the pig is your vodka. Minimal loss and the only avenue for detection is human. The mokes in the truck probably squealed to get a lighter sentence.

The etiology of a spamming attempt

Been getting a few comment spam attempts in the last six months that use a somewhat clever way to become "invisible" to both the admin and to the viewer but will show up on search engines. These attempts put an innocuous line or two of comment to the post and then have the following HTML code embedded in the comment:
font style="font-size:6px;color:#ffffff;visibility:hidden"
This makes whatever follows to be very tiny (only six pixels tall), white in color (invisible against a white background) and hidden. What follows is the inevitable PPC (Pills, Pron and Casino ads). I had been getting a couple of these per day -- my filter caught the first one and held it for my review. Their problem is that I view comments as plain text so the HTML skill of these "133T haxors" was all for nothing and I highlighted the offending text, clicked on a button and now any attempt at this never sees the light of day. I would not be commenting on this as it has never been a big issue, like I said, a couple/day if that. Last night, I had 23 of them all within a 10 minute span, all from different IP addresses -- and five of these were either European or African in origin. All of these IP addresses are now in the bit bucket -- suckers, you just fed me your seed corn. Idiots. Fscking script kiddies. Making the big bucks, yeah right...

Rush Limbaugh at the CPAC

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I put Limbaugh in the same mental 'pocket' as people like Ann Coulter. Intelligent, articulate, accurate but a bit shrill for my taste - fun but not that much substance. Through a personal email, someone suggested that I might want to watch Limbaugh's speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting a few weeks ago. Roy, I thank you! This is something that is very much worth watching -- ten segments each about seven to ten minutes long so you will be investing about one hour/thirty. The guy was on fire and completely nails the Liberal back-story. I grew up in a Liberal Democrat Academic household and saw this stuff from the inside. I remained a Liberal until 9/11 happened and I started asking questions and did not like the answers I was receiving. What is interesting is that this speech has shown up on Obama's RADAR and the Democrats are spinning Rush as being the face of the Republican party. Limbaugh has since countered with an offer:
But I have an idea. If these guys are so impressed with themselves, and if they are so sure of their correctness, why doesn't President Obama come on my show? We will do a one-on-one debate of ideas and policies. Now, his people in this Politico story, it's on the record. They're claiming they wanted me all along. They wanted me to be the focus of attention. So let's have the debate! I am offering President Obama to come on this program -- without staffers, without a TelePrompTer, without note cards -- to debate me on the issues.

I may not turn into a ditto-head overnight but I am giving this guy a second look. And, BTW, his brother is just as smart -- a Sherlock/Mycroft sorta thing...

Lightning Bill Austin

Ran into his website -- an interesting character: Lightning Bill Austin. From the site:

Hello and Welcome; I'm Lightning Bill Austin. It took a while but we are finally here. Hope you enjoy your visit to our new site. With time you will see my art, poetry and photography and all the information you need for your 1st time or repeat visit to Goat Peak.

Here's just a brief look at my lookout and firefighting experience. This will be my 15th season on Goat Peak Lookout in 2009. I spent the summer of 1978 on Chelan Butte Lookout on the Chelan Ranger District on the Wenatchee National Forest. In 1982 I also was a mobile lookout when needed at Chelan. I spent two summers, 1986-1987 on Bonaparte Lookout on the Tonasket Ranger District on the Okanogan National Forest. I've also been a relief lookout on Lookout Mountain, Leecher Mountain, and First Butte, all located on the Methow Valley Ranger District on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

I have numerous seasons since 1973 working on fire crews, helicopter crews, and in reforestation. I plan to continue working summers on Goat Peak as long as possible. I am definitely a lookout nut. We would love to see you pay us a visit at Goat Peak Lookout. Do keep in touch for updates and Changes.

Some really nice photos and good stories.

The Stimulous explained

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Hat tip to Vanderleun for the link to this 2:09 YouTube explanation:

The Bank Job - meet Lord Rodley

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As much as I despise thuggery and consider it to be a proof of devolution, a well executed bank job or jewel heist can be a thing of beauty. The intelligence required to research and plan something this complex as well as the logistical chops needed to pull it off are a testament to clever people everywhere. Besides, most jewelry and cash are insured so it is not a crime where someone is physically injured. One of these bank jobs almost happened in England -- they were tripped up by some wrong numbers. From the London Times:
Bogus peer Hugh Rodley tried to pull off world�s biggest bank raid
A fake British aristocrat was convicted yesterday of playing a leading role in an audacious attempt to carry out the world�s biggest bank raid.

The gang of international criminals came close to stealing �229 million from a City bank by exploiting the high-tech security measures designed to protect money transfers. But the plot failed when a hacker into the system missed one set of numbers from an electronic form.

Hugh Rodley � who insisted on being addressed as �Lord� despite having bought his manorial title � was the front man for the group, setting up companies and bank accounts to receive and launder the money.

Details of the �bold and sophisticated� attack were untangled by the Serious Organised Crime Agency during a four-year investigation.
And a bit more:
Other members of the plot have not been caught and are known to have carried out similar attacks abroad. Among those who are suspected of being involved are the Eastern European mafia and a Middle Eastern sheikh.

Rodley was the perfect front man for the plot. He enjoyed all the trappings of the rural aristocracy, with a �2 million Gloucestershire home surrounded by five acres of gardens, riding stables, a Rolls-Royce and an office in Mayfair.

Rodley, his wife, known as �Lady� Pamela, and their daughters, Natasha and Natalie, are prominent figures in the British Morgan Horse Society and frequently take part in riding competitions. Even Rodley�s 15-year dispute with neighbours over a leylandii hedge is quintessentially Middle England.

But behind the respectability was a lifetime of fraud. Born Brian McGough in Ireland in 1947, he is a bankrupt with a long criminal record for offences including forgery and obtaining property by deception.
And I am assuming that book and movie rights are being hashed out right now... A great story!

Irony - to thine own self be true

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From Seattle's Post-Intelligencer:
Rapist asks for death, fears rape in prison
A Seattle man who'd admitted to raping two women at Myrtle Edwards Park was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday.

Earlier this year, Angel Galvan-Hernandez pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree rape in the separate August 2007 attacks at the waterfront park.

In both attacks, Galvan-Hernandez, 26, was accused of beating and choking his victims as he forced himself on them.

Speaking in King County Superior Court, Galvan-Hernandez pleaded with Judge Julie Spector to have him executed rather than send him to prison.

In a turn characterized by Spector, without humor, as "ironic," Galvan-Hernandez begged not to be sent to prison where he believes he will be raped.

"I prefer death a thousand times over being raped," said Galvan-Hernandez.
Sometimes these stories just write themselves. Talk about not thinking through the consequences of ones actions...

A story involving big electricity

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Mostly Cajun works with big electricity. This is power scaled up way beyond what is found in your house or most common businesses. It's a different world at times. Check out this story:
How to become famous
In the little world in which I used to work, it was not uncommon to know the majority of the other players up and down the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. There were at most a hundred or so senior technicians working for the few major companies in the business, and many of us had jumped from one employer or another from time to time. Add to that the fact that on large projects it wasn�t unusual for several competing companies to have technicians on various phase of the project, and you can see that we tended to know each other quite well.

Those that were good, everybody KNEW who was good.

Those who screwed up, well, let�s just say the grapevine is a very fast form of communication, although the final story may be somewhat embellished from the original occurance.
Caution -- multiple drink alert...

Saskatchewan - doing it right

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With all the financial gloom and doom around the world, there is one bright island. From CNN/World:
Saskatchewan a jobs 'hot spot' in Canada
Normally, "hot spot" isn't the first phrase that comes to mind when talking about Saskatchewan, Canada.

But with most of Canada suffering from devastating job losses, this cold province is becoming exactly that.

It's an asterisk to the entire country when it comes to the economic climate, and Premier Brad Wall is shouting it as loud as he can.

"It's a great time to come to Saskatchewan," said Wall, who even called the Toronto Star newspaper to tout his province's economic success and let Ontarians know there were jobs for the taking.

"For those who are losing their jobs, we need them to know we have thousands of jobs open right now in both the private and public sector," Wall said. "We have a powerful story to tell, a story of success and that's something we want to share with those who are struggling."

Wall's province is one of the exceptions to the unemployment increases battering provinces across Canada. Saskatchewan's unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in January from 4.2 percent in December, making it the only province recording a decline. In Ontario and the city of Toronto, unemployment rates rose to 7.2 percent and 8.5 percent respectively. To the west, British Columbia shed 68,000 full-time jobs in January.
And the reason:
On Tuesday, the Conference Board of Canada released a report that said Saskatchewan will likely continue to lead the nation in economic growth in 2009 because of the infrastructure investment and tax reductions.
That one sentence speaks volumes. Infrastructure Investment and Tax Reductions. Not Pork and Poverty.

OK - just this one...

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Hat tip to Meneltarma for these wonderful captures of a WA State brochure:
efficiency1.jpg efficiency2.jpg

Nothing for tonight

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Was doing paperwork at the store and then went in for my Dad's 93rd birthday. Had some wonderful Chinese food and I gave him a copy of David Grann's latest book: "The Lost City of Z". I'm about a third of the way into it and it is a truly wonderful read. Came back, went out for a few margaritas at our local quasi-Mexi restaurant. Found out that Hank3 is doing a show in Seattle tomorrow and about 20 people from town are carpooling down for it. The show sold out a couple weeks ago dangit!@#$ Off to bed -- have a lot to do tomorrow and want to get up a bit early -- still kicking the last of this cold...

That's it for the night

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Still recovering from the crud that has been going around and need to get a fairly early start on tomorrow. Heading upstairs to bed...

Happy Square Root Day tomorrow

Only happens nine times each century - tomorrow is 03/03/09 and 3*3=9 From the San Francisco Chronic(le):

3/3/09: Math fans to celebrate Square Root Day
Dust off the slide rules and recharge the calculators. Square Root Day is upon us.

The math-buffs' holiday, which only occurs nine times each century, falls on Tuesday � 3/3/09 (for the mathematically challenged, three is the square root of nine).

"These days are like calendar comets, you wait and wait and wait for them, then they brighten up your day � and poof � they're gone," said Ron Gordon, a Redwood City teacher who started a contest meant to get people excited about the event.

The winner gets, of course, $339 for having the biggest Square Root Day event.

Tomorrow is also my Dad's birthday, born March 3rd, 1916, he will be 93 tomorrow. If you have taken any college level Physics classes, you probably recognize the names of Halliday and Resnick. He is the Halliday.

We rag on China a lot for their melamine tainted foods and tainted Heparin but this crap also happens in the USA. From ProPublica:
Could FDA Have Prevented Syringe Deaths?
After news broke this week about a North Carolina factory tied to bacteria-tainted syringes that killed five patients, criminal investigators revealed a telling fact: The company�s "chief microbiologist" was a teenage high school dropout.

This week, two former employees of the AM2PAT manufacturing center in Angier, N.C., pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to falsifying documents and shipping bacteria-tainted syringes full of blood thinners meant for patients receiving intravenous fluids.

Authorities are still seeking the company�s owner, who will face a 10-count indictment. In addition to the deaths, more than 200 people were sickened by contaminated syringes.

The case raises a glaring question: As this biological tragedy was taking shape, where was the agency charged with standing between Americans and deadly medicine?

The Food and Drug Administration, it turns out, was aware of problems at the 40-employee lab as early as 2005.
I hope that these people spend a lot of time in jail contemplating their decisions. This is unconscionable. Why is it that we can have a bazillion dollar Porkulus inflation of the government and agencies like the FDA are allowed to keep on doing a crappy job. And I realize that there are exceptional FDA agents out there, still, allowing a company to manufacture tainted goods for more than three years beggars the imagination.

Irony - a fine appreciation

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I wonder if the people participating at this event will recognize the fine irony of having several inches of snow being dumped on their heads as they march around looking silly. Especially since Hanson is putting his career on the line by calling for civil disobedience at this event:
NASA's Chief Climate Scientist Stirs Controversy With Call for Civil Disobedience
NASA's chief climate scientist is in hot water with colleagues and at least one lawmaker after calling on citizens to engage in civil disobedience at what is being billed as the largest public protest of global warming ever in the United States.
Weather forecast calls temps around 29 and 70% chance of snow and now:
Winter Storm Warning in effect until 2 PM Monday... Light to moderate snow will continue to overspread the Washington DC and Baltimore Metro well as northern Virginia during the evening. This area of precipitation will increase in intensity over the next few hours. The heaviest activity will impact the immediate I-95 corridor where snowfall rates up to 1 inch per hour is possible through 9 PM. Further west...snowfall accumulation over the next few hours will be less than a half inch..mainly on grassy surfaces. As the heavier snow comes down...roadways will become snow covered. Please use extra caution if you have to travel this evening.


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From Sky and Telescope:
Space Rock 2009 DD45 Buzzes Earth
Late word out of the IAU's Minor Planet Center: a small asteroid will pass close to Earth tomorrow (March 2nd) at 13:44 Universal Time. How close? The MPC's Timothy Spahr calculates that it'll be 0.00047 astronomical unit from Earth's center. That's only about 40,000 miles (63,500 km) up � well inside the Moon's orbit and roughly twice the altitude of most communications satellites!

This little cosmic surprise, designated 2009 DD45, turned up two days ago as a 19th-magnitude blip in images taken by Rob McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. It was already within 1� million miles of Earth and closing fast.

Thankfully, the news media have become less sensationalistic when it comes to these asteroidal close calls � especially since one actually struck our planet last October 7th, at night, and the impact went virtually unnoticed.
The asteroid that did hit Earth on October 7th, 2008 burned up in the atmosphere. More at the New Scientist.

Global warming in the news

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From the Associated Press comes this shocking news about Global Warming:
Rare snow blankets South as East braces for storm
A potent March snowstorm blanketed much of Alabama with up to 4 inches of snow Sunday, covering Civil War statues and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of church services.

The storm headed toward the Northeast and threatened to drop up to a foot of snow in the Philadelphia area, 13 inches in New York and 15 inches across southern New England late Sunday.

In Georgia, the snowfall made roads treacherous and delayed flights, while in Alabama, more than 210 churches in the central part of the Bible Belt state had to cancel morning services.

Vonda Braswell was throwing snowballs in her front yard instead of putting on her Sunday best. "I think you can worship in this it's so rare," she said.

Up to 7 inches of snow was expected through Monday morning in areas of Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., where Mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency.

John Bolton - nuke Chicago

I wish John Bolton would run for president - makes Teddy Roosevelt look like a mamas boy. From MS/NBC:
Crowd Laughs at Nuclear Threat to Chicago
Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday, had the audience in stitches with his comments about nuking Chicago.

Referencing remarks made by Barack Obama on the campaign trail, Bolton claimed the then-candidate said he thought "Iran was a tiny threat." reported that Bolton tried to up the fear quotient in the room by raising the prospect of an Iranian-sent nuclear attack on an American city."

�It�s [a] tiny [threat] compared to the Soviet Union,� Bolton said to the group, �but is the loss of one American city � pick one at random: Chicago � is that a tiny threat?�

The audience erupted in cheers and laughter at the idea of Obama�s home city being obliterated.
Given the choice between practicing incorrect politics and being politically incorrect, I'll choose the latter any day...

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