December 2010 Archives

That is it for the evening

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Happy 1/1/11 in two hours. Best wishes for a wonderful and prosperous New Year. We can certainly use a change from this last one - it was brutal. Actually, the last four or five have been a pretty rough -- some turn-around would be nice. My short list:
  • A more representational Government.
  • The stones to recognize terrorism for what it is and to take the fight to their home ground.
  • More time for blacksmithing, growing food and taking care of the apple orchard.
  • A strong economic recovery for all people and all nations.
  • The recognition that we are all one family and divisiveness is not the way to go through life.
  • Finally, the de-politicization of Climate and Environmental science. Science, not Agenda...

A new band

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Jen just found and subsequently turned me on to the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Eclectic to say the least -- some wonderful music. Here are three videos:

No tour dates on the West coast otherwise tickets would be in hand at this moment.

Inflation in Venezuela

I figured that with Chavez's moronic handling of Venezuela's economy that there would be some inflation. I didn't know that they are having to devalue their currency and that the published inflation number is 26.9% From Reuters:

Venezuelans fret over prices after devaluation
Venezuelans worried on Friday that a second devaluation of their currency in 12 months would make life even harder as the socialist government of President Hugo Chavez struggled to turn the economy around.

Already suffering one of the world's highest inflation rates and the only major Latin American economy still in recession after the global financial crisis, they fear the New Year devaluation could hit their livelihoods more.

"It is a blow against the pockets of the workers, against the poorest people," said Robinson Calua, a 50-year-old security guard in downtown Caracas.

Officials say the devaluation announced on Thursday will increase spending and boost growth in South America's biggest oil producer, while easing the pressure on foreign reserves and freeing up dollars for imports.

I feel sorry for his citizens. Venezuela is sitting on one of the largest oil reserves in the Western hemisphere and the nation is coming apart at the seams. Chavez is an ideologue without any grasp of reality. He is not a leader, he is taking Venezuela down a path that will take decades to recover after he is ousted.

Obama's priorities for 2011

From FOX News:
What Obama Faces in 2011
President Obama has vowed to make jobs and the economy his top priority in 2011, and while that will probably dominate his agenda, there are a whole host of other issues that will be in the mix.

Obama is taking time on his Hawaiian vacation to work on his State of the Union speech, which will formally set the agenda for the year, but he already hinted at his focus before he left he'll hone in turning around the economy.

He's hoping it will get a boost from his tax deal with Republicans. "It's led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year," Obama said at year-end press conference.

The president will have to make decisions on how to deal with the ballooning deficit and one thing that makes this year different than his first two, is that he'll have to deal with the 112th Congress which is far more red.

"I think that we're still going to have disagreements in terms of spending priorities," Obama said before leaving on vacation.
The two main priorities in my mind are this and this:

Bucking the trend

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Everyone is asking what I am planning to do for New Years tonight. Answer? Nothing. Probably be in bed before midnight as I have been needing more sleep than usual (kicking a cold or something). Sitting in the Bakery office catching up on bookwork and getting ready to close out 2010. As for the rest of the world -- it looks like quite the party. From FOX News:
Millions gather worldwide to ring in new year
Dazzling fireworks lit up Australia's Sydney Harbor, communist Vietnam held a rare, Western-style countdown to the new year, and Japanese revelers released balloons carrying notes with people's hopes and dreams as the world ushered in 2011.

In Europe, Greeks, Irish and Spaniards began partying through the night to help put a year of economic woe behind them. And in New York, nearly a million New Year's Eve revelers were expected to cram into Times Square to watch the midnight ball drop, just days after the city got clobbered by a blizzard.

As rainclouds cleared, around 50,000 people, many sporting large, brightly colored wigs this year, gathered in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square to take part in "Las Uvas," or "The Grapes," a tradition in which people eat a grape for each of the 12 chimes of midnight.

Chewing and swallowing the grapes to each tolling of the bell is supposed to bring good luck, while cheating is frowned on and revelers believe it brings misfortune.

Police had painstakingly screened all those arriving to make sure drinks and bottles were left behind to avoid injury in the crowded square, so many quickly downed their sparkling cava wine before joining the animated party.
Me, I'll be in the DaveCave(tm) finishing off the backlog of email and heading up to bed a bit early. Boring I know but that is what sounds best to me...

Fresno farming

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From the Investors Business Daily:
Fresno, Zimbabwe
Fresno, Calif., stands as the de facto capital of California's mighty Central Valley, the breadbasket of America. So why is that city preoccupied with winning a $1 million prize to stave off hunger?

Local newspapers and Fresno County officials are trying to rally Facebook users to vote for Fresno in a corporate contest sponsored by Wal-Mart for $1 million in charity food donations for the hungry. Fresno, a city of 505,000, has taken the national lead because 24.1% of Fresno's families are going hungry.

Civic spirit is good, but something big is wrong here. Fresno is the agricultural capital of America. More food per acre in more variety can be grown in the fertile Central Valley surrounding this community than on any other land in America � perhaps in the world.

Yet far from being a paradise, Fresno is starting to resemble Zimbabwe or 1930s Ukraine, a victim of a famine machine that is entirely man-made, not by red communists this time, but by greens.

State and federal officials, driven by the agenda of environmental extremists, have made it extremely difficult for the valley's farms, introducing costly environmental regulations and cutting off critical water supplies to save the Delta smelt, a bait fish. It's all driving the economy to collapse.

In the southwest part of the Central Valley, water allotments as low as 10% of normal have created a visible dust bowl. The knock-on effect can be seen in cities like Fresno, where November's unemployment among the packers, cannery workers and professional fields that make agriculture productive stands at 16.9%.

Other Central Valley cities such as Hanford-Corcoran, Merced, Modesto, Stockton and Visalia-Porterville have similar jobless numbers, the highest in the country. The Wal-Mart Foundation notes that "24.1% of families in this community (Fresno) cannot afford regular meals compared to a national average of 9.2%."

That's right � a community that supplies a quarter of America's fruit and vegetables is begging for food. City officials and the media seem oblivious to this irony. "Even if Fresno doesn't finish first (in WalMart's Facebook contest) the fight against hunger will still come out a winner," the Fresno Bee crowed, citing publicity.
Jen's Mom and Dad pump from an aquifer for their water but there are a lot of farms that have just dried up because they cannot afford to pump and relied on their water shares. The Delta Smelt is at best a bait fish. The enviros have not really thought through the consequences of their actions here...

Wind power

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A simple question with a curious answer. From the London Daily Mail:
You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows
This is the season for quizzes. So �fingers on buzzers, here�s your starter for ten. In percentage terms, how much electricity do Britain�s 3,150 wind �turbines supply to the �National Grid?

Is it: a) five per cent; b) ten per cent; or c) 20 per cent? Come on, I�m going to have to hurry you. No conferring.

Time�s up. The correct answer is: none of the above. Yesterday afternoon, the figure was just 1.6 per cent, according to the official website of the wholesale electricity market.

Over the past three weeks, with demand for power at record levels because of the freezing weather, there have been days when the contribution of our forests of wind turbines has been precisely nothing.

It gets better. As the temperature has plummeted, the turbines have had to be heated to prevent them seizing up. Consequently, they have been consuming more electricity than they generate.

Even on a good day they rarely work above a quarter of their theoretical capacity. And in high winds they have to be switched off altogether to prevent damage.

At best, the combined output of these monstrosities is equal only to that of a single, medium-sized, gas-fired power station.

To make matters worse, there is no way of storing the electricity generated on the rare occasions when they are working.
The joke of it is in the fact that there is no practical way to store the electricity. If you have a windmill farm with 10MW of capacity, you need to allow for the fact that at any given time, your output will be somewhat less than 10MW and many times it will be zero. You need to have an alternate form of electrical generating capacity running on hot standby so it can be switched in at a moments notice. This means that not only are you spending large sums of money for an unreliable source of electricity, you are still building and maintaining more new fossil fuel power plants to take over the load when the wind stops blowing. And this does what for the environment???

Our wonderful labor unions

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Talk about being a flaming asshat -- from the New York Post:

Sanitation Department's slow snow cleanup was a budget protest
These garbage men really stink.

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

"They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important," said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department -- and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan -- at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.

The snitches "didn't want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation," Halloran said. "They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file."

New York's Strongest used a variety of tactics to drag out the plowing process -- and pad overtime checks -- which included keeping plows slightly higher than the roadways and skipping over streets along their routes, the sources said.

The snow-removal snitches said they were told to keep their plows off most streets and to wait for orders before attacking the accumulating piles of snow.

Color me surprised... I do not know if this is Union malfeasance or just garden variety incompetence but this video really brings home what we are dealing with:

It's all about Meeeeee!!!

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You would think that in this day of financial turbulence, college administrators would be intelligent enough to see the writing on the wall and not push too hard for higher wages and benefits. After all, it is their job to see that the lil' snowflakes under their care get the bestest edumacation possible. Wait a minute here; this is California... From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Highest-paid UC execs demand millions in benefits
Three dozen of the University of California's highest-paid executives are threatening to sue unless UC agrees to spend tens of millions of dollars to dramatically increase retirement benefits for employees earning more than $245,000.

"We believe it is the University's legal, moral and ethical obligation" to increase the benefits, the executives wrote the Board of Regents in a Dec. 9 letter and position paper obtained by The Chronicle.

"Failure to do so will likely result in a costly and unsuccessful legal confrontation," they wrote, using capital letters to emphasize that they were writing "URGENTLY."

Their demand comes as UC is trying to eliminate a vast, $21.6 billion unfunded pension obligation by reducing benefits for future employees, raising the retirement age, requiring employees to pay more into UC's pension fund and boosting tuition.

The fatter executive retirement benefits the employees are seeking would add $5.5 million a year to the pension liability, UC has estimated, plus $51 million more to make the changes retroactive to 2007, as the executives are demanding.
But at least the University of California President is pushing back:
The executives fashioned their demand as a direct challenge to UC President Mark Yudof, who opposes the increase.

"Forcing resolution in the courts will put 200 of the University's most senior, most visible current and former executives and faculty leaders in public contention with the President and the Board," they wrote.
This is actually a complex issue with valid arguments on both sides -- read the article for the full story. Still, seeking increased retirement benefits when you are making a quarter million/year is a serious case of "gimme mine NOW", especially when the whole Californian government is in such severe financial straits. Maybe the whole place should just go bankrupt and rebuild. Serve as a lesson to others...

Long day, short night

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Ran into town for some errands, heading in again tomorrow. The bakery numbers are looking really good -- frankly better than expected. I ran a P&L statement and there are some numbers that do not show up (their debt to L&I, Department of Revenue, various vendors, etc...) but from the raw numbers from November 1st through December 29th, it actually made a profit of a bit under $500. Much better than the minus $3K and minus $7K of previous months. Surf for a bit and then head out to the DaveCave(tm) to take care of more of the 1,200 emails that piled up during my away time..

Some typeface humor

Fun stuff at BuzzFeed One example:

Born in California on Christmas Day. Son of Sir Elton John and longtime partner David Furnish. Surrogate mom but that's biology for you. Congratulations and this is going to be one interesting childhood...

Waking up to white stuff

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Got a couple inches on the ground this morning. Thursday and Friday are supposed to be mostly sunny with cold temperatures. Ski area is forecasting another couple inches with powder conditions. Some serious moisture is moving in at the beginning of next week. Heading off to the Bakery to see what is up and then into town to pick up a few things including a couple of rotisserie chickens from Costco to make two gallons of homemade chicken noodle soup for tomorrow. Need to get an oil change for the truck too -- it is a thousand miles overdue and I do not like to do that... Planning some additions to the menu so the next week or so will be fun.

Home sweet home

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Just got in. Check the web, surf a bit and then to bed tossing the alarm clock out the window metaphorically speaking. Head into the bakery (and grocery store) tomorrow sometime. There is a cold snap moving in with some precip -- one to three inches of snow tonight with more coming in the next few days. The critters went ballistic when we came in -- dogpile and cats all over the place. Nice to be loved!!!

Home stretch

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Hitting the road after breakfast this morning and should be home tonight sometime. Nice trip but good to get home...


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Do not know the cartoonist -- found this on Theo's website and swiped it:

Roosting for the evening

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Went to ground in Ashland, Oregon. I wanted to get over the passes as there is a very large winter front moving in. Caught the beginning of it heading over Siskyou Pass -- a bit of sleet with air temp at 34F. Tonight will be miserable but we are past all of that and tomorrow should be smooth sailing as we will get in before the front that is due to hit our bucolic little township on Thursday or Friday (one to three feet). One bummer. For the last six years or so, I had always enjoyed eating at the Standing Stone Brewery. Great beer and great food. For the last two years, the food has been a bit meh... (I go through there couple times/year) Last spring I had their black bean hummus and it wasn't anything to write home about. Tonight, I saw on the menu "Hummus with Chili Oil, Feta Cheese and Vegetables" so I figured, COOL!, a classic hummus. I also ordered their house-fermented Kimchee. The hummus I was served was purple. I motioned the bartender over and asked what this was and he said it was 'our' Hummus. I had previously hopped off the barstool and taken a second look at the menu: "Hummus with Chili Oil, Feta Cheese and Vegetables" I mentioned to the bartender that Hummus is made with Garbanzo Beans, Lemon Juice and sometimes Sesame Tahini. I also mentioned that there are some classical culinary delights -- a dry martini, a shrimp cocktail and these are things that you simply do not fuck with. He immediately told me that he did not like my swearing at him. (it was not busy that that time so he was under minimal pressure) With my usual 50/50 hindsight I should have apologized for using a swear word in his presence but remind him that I did not swear at him and if he thought I did, he needs some remedial English lessons (Ashland is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare festival and seven out of ten people you meet are aspiring actors). The guy comped me for the $9 non-Hummus plate but still, I am tired of places that do not represent their foods accurately on the menu. If they had said: "Standing Stone 'special' Hummus, I would have known to ask and would have ordered something else. Their entire menu is like that. Maybe it works for their local client�le -- the Shakespeare Festival only occupies a few months and Ashland is pretty isolated for the rest of the year. It does not work for me... The Kimchee rocked and the beer was OK (oatmeal stout) Still, there are a lot of other restaurants in Ashland to explore the next time I travel through and stop for the evening. Been reading Bobby Jindal's new book -- I like the cut of his jib...

Two Urrrp...'s in two days

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Had a small dinner (15 people) with another branch of the family out in Pacific Grove. Stuffed... P.G. is home to the Naval Academy and close to Monterey and the Monterey Bay Research Institute. Both institutions are places I would really love to just hang out for three months or so wandering around seeing what people are doing. My only regret is that we are not down here the extra day needed to drive up the coast to Half Moon Bay and eat at Pasta Moon. It is rare for a restaurant to make such an impression on me that, a year and a half later, I still crave it. Such is the case here...

On the road again

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Heading over to the coast. A few hours drive over the mountains and then to the town of Pacific Grove. Two days there and then the drive up to home. Been a fun time down here but I miss the chaos and the people of the bakery and the store. Good to be here but good to be back...

Merry Christmas to all

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and to all, a Good Night Long day tomorrow.

On the wings of angels

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Seem to be in a bit of an environmental mood tonight -- something about good will and actually doing good work and saving the planet the right way and all that... There was this little blip on Monday, December 13th that I saw but didn't really note. From the Los Angeles Times:
Fewer cancers found in Hinkley than expected
A state survey has not found a disproportionately high number of cancers in Hinkley, a high-desert community that has become the symbol of public fears about exposure to groundwater tainted with carcinogenic chromium 6.

From 1996 to 2008, 196 cancers were identified among residents of the census tract that includes Hinkley � a slightly lower number than the 224 cancers that would have been expected given its demographic characteristics, said epidemiologist John Morgan, who conducted the California Cancer Registry survey.

The survey did not attempt to explain why any individual in Hinkley contracted cancer, nor did it diminish the importance of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cleaning up a plume of groundwater with elevated levels of chromium 6, Morgan said.

"In this preliminary assessment we only looked at cancer outcomes, not specific types of cancer," Morgan said. "However, we did look at a dozen cancer types in earlier surveys of the same census tract for the years between 1988 and 1998. Overall, the results of those surveys were almost identical to the new findings, and none of the cancers represented a statistical excess."

The findings come as some residents are pushing PG&E to purchase their properties, after tests showed that chromium-tainted groundwater was migrating toward them. That miles-long plume, the result of decades of dumping water tainted with chromium compounds into local waste ponds, was at the center of a $333-million settlement over illnesses and cancers made famous by the movie "Erin Brockovich."
What is interesting is that now, Brockovich is back in Hinkley cranking up the shake-down machine and reports of "elevated values" of hexavalent chromium. From National Public Radio:
Erin Brockovich II? Activist Returns To Aid Town
Erin Brockovich is back.

Brockovich famously took on utility Pacific Gas & Electric over contamination of drinking water in Hinkley, Calif., a saga chronicled in a movie that won actress Julia Roberts an Oscar in 2001. Thanks to Brockovich's efforts, in the 1990s PG&E settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit with hundreds of residents and pledged to clean up the contamination.

But it appears the plume of contaminated groundwater is spreading. And Brockovich finds herself again in Hinkley, fighting for residents who say the toxic chemical chromium 6 is still in their water supply.

Roberta Walker is one of Hinkley's concerned residents. She used to live about 4 miles away from where she lives now. Back in 1993, PG&E bought her old house after discovering high levels of chromium 6 contamination in the water wells. PG&E used the toxic chemical in the 1950s and '60s to clean equipment at its local station.

Walker wanted to stay in Hinkley, so she picked a 7-acre lot of dry brushland to build a home for herself and one for her daughter's family. She says she was told the plume of contaminated groundwater would never migrate this far.

"They were taking care of it, they were containing it," she says. "I thought I was safe. Why would I think differently? Why would I bring my kids here if I was not safe?"

But this summer, tests on Walker's wells showed they were contaminated with chromium 6. Walker, who has had numerous tumors and cysts removed, as well as a hysterectomy, said she was stunned.
With all due respect to the Walkers, how do you know that your problems come from exposure to Hexavalent Chromium? Look at Hinkley on the map and you will see that it is surrounded by military bases. Edwards about 20 miles to the West, China Lake about 80 to the N.N.W., Fort Irwin about 30 miles to the North and Twenty Nine Palms about 80 miles to the South East. What if something is leaking from there? What if there was a spill from an experimental aircraft. What if someone got a bad batch of insecticide -- something 1,000 times more concentrated than what they were expecting or applying for. A single chemical generally causes a single set of pathologies -- in Hinkley, we are seeing all sorts of pathologies, very few of them related. As for the reports of "elevated values" of hexavalent chromium", check out this from the Environmental Working Group:
Chromium-6 Is Widespread in US Tap Water
Laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) have detected hexavalent chromium, the carcinogenic �Erin Brockovich chemical,� in tap water from 31 of 35 American cities. The highest levels were in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Riverside, Calif. In all, water samples from 25 cities contained the toxic metal at concentrations above the safe maximum recently proposed by California regulators.

The National Toxicology Program has concluded that hexavalent chromium (also called chromium-6) in drinking water shows �clear evidence of carcinogenic activity� in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal tumors. In September 2010, a draft toxicological review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) similarly found that hexavalent chromium in tap water is �likely to be carcinogenic to humans.�

In 2009, California officials proposed setting a �public health goal� for hexavalent chromium in drinking water of 0.06 parts per billion (ppb) to reduce cancer risk. This was the first step toward establishing a statewide enforceable limit. Despite mounting evidence of its toxic effects, the EPA has not set a legal limit for hexavalent chromium in tap water nationally and does not require water utilities to test for it. In 25 cities where EWG�s testing detected chromium-6 � in the first publicly available national survey for the contaminant � it was found in concentrations exceeding California�s proposed maximum, in one case at a level more than 200 times higher.

At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it likely in the cancer-causing hexavalent form. Given the scope of exposure and the magnitude of the potential risk, EWG believes the EPA should move expeditiously to establish a legal limit for chromium-6 and require public water suppliers to test for it.
These nanny staters want to control everything for our own good of course. Only problem is that 0.06 parts per billion is vanishingly small. If I was in the business of providing purified and distilled water, I would find it hard to eliminate 0,06 ppb of anything let alone one common ore. Yes, Chromium ore is found in many forms and I am willing to bet that the minuscule contamination is from groundwater acting on natural ore deposits. One of the really significant problems is that sure, Chrome-6 can cause stomach cancer but only above a certain exposure level. Below this, the incidence of cancer drops off significantly. Our problem is that to test for parts per thousand used to be an arduous few days in a chem lab. To test for parts per million was bordering on impossibility except for a few chemicals. Now, parts per billion is a matter of $70 worth of reagents and a few hours time -- we are now finding all sorts of crap in water we once thought was pristine. The hordes of zombie rent-seeking lawyers are shuffling forward with each advance in analytical science and extending their palms to be covered in gold. The EPA was a big assed mistake. Giving Governmental powers (making laws is the most egregious) to an unelected non-Governmental body so violates the Constitution that our Founding Fathers could be hooked to dynamos and our energy problems would be solved, they are spinning so fast... I used to be an environmentalist. I still am but I focus on the real science and not the politics. Again, the current group of environmentalists in power are actually causing great damage to this Earth and to our livelihoods -- it is possible for these two to be complimentary. The idiots in power (and power is the key word here) are so tone deaf to reality it makes my head spin. 0.06ppb? Let's leave this post with a look at 0.06 Parts Per Billion. Imagine that the National Debt is Ten Trillion Dollars (oh wait... crap...) 0.06ppb of that would give you $60 -- a nice dinner for two. Imagine one Century -- 100 years, 36,525 days, 876,600 hours, 52,596,000 minutes and 3,155,760,000 seconds. 1.0ppb would represent 3.155 seconds and 0.06ppb would represent 0.189 seconds. So these political hacks are taking our tax dollars and ruining our economy over something that trivial? Morons...

The Integral Fast Reactor

I am a big fan of the Liquid Fluorine / Thorium reactor design but had totally forgotten about one of its predecessors, the Integral Fast Reactor. Both have the advantage of running "hot" enough that the dangerous and long-lived actinide waste is burned up so your worst-case scenario for spent fuel storage is about 200 years. There is some high-level waste but it is 1/20th the volume of an equivalent water reactor, emits Protons instead of Gamma Rays (can be 100% shielded with one half of an inch of cement or steel plate -- Gamma takes yards of lead) and it takes 400 years to die down. The kicker is that the current water reactors only burn about 5% of the usable Uranium in a fuel rod before it becomes 'contaminated' with the actinides and is unusable and has to be replaced. This technology is literally sixty years old. These fuel rods can have another 90% of remaining capacity burned off in an IFR -- this means that we have several hundred years of operation before we need to mine any more Uranium. It is that efficient. Some more information can be found here: The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project We almost had these -- research began in 1984 and a test unit was being built. Sadly, the project was killed by Bill Clinton's Sec. Energy Hazel O'Leary (a Lawyer) and Sen. John F. Kerry. My big hope is that some day, the "greens" will wake up and see the damage they are doing to this planet with their petulant "my way or the highway" mewling. A bunch of self-centered onanistic asshats who do not have the mental power to find their way out of a paper bag.


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Just got back from an extended family Christmas Dinner. About 30 people crowded into an Aunt's house and proceeded to chow down on Roast Beef, Ham and a whole bunch of wonderful side dishes. The Aunt had a really cute dog -- cross between a Lab and Beagle. The height, rear carriage and body length of the Beagle with this huge Lab head sitting on top -- a fluke of nature but a very well-tempered fluke and a real sweetheart. Stuffed to the gills and feeling tired -- long day tomorrow (driving over to the Coast) so will surf a bit and then off to an early bedtime...

Those green jobs

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From the Poughkeepsie Journal (NY State):
Solar cell maker SpectraWatt plans shutdown
In a stunning reversal, the frequently lauded and taxpayer-funded SpectraWatt Inc. has told the state it will close its solar cell plant starting in March and lay off 117 workers.

The announcement was startling because in the past two months, the company, which had been promised about $8 million in tax dollars, planned to train more workers and changed its work shifts to enable a 24-hour operation.

In a news release, the company said it hopes to reverse the situation that led to the decision, but SpectraWatt officials did not respond to requests for details.

Created with nearly $100 million in private and public investments and announced in April 2009, SpectraWatt ramped up quickly, creating jobs in the midst of high unemployment. It began production by March this year and became one of the brightest new lights in the Hudson Valley economy. Now it has blinked, and may well go out.

"You could have knocked me over," said John MacEnroe, president of the Dutchess County Economic Development Corp., which less than seven weeks ago hailed the company with a Business Excellence Award.

Charles North, president of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, said, "I'm certainly disappointed, and, actually, I'm shocked."

SpectraWatt was offered about $8 million in government subsidies to help get it started, along with at least $91.4 million in private investor support from Intel Capital and others. It could not be determined Tuesday how much of the public subsidy has been given so far to SpectraWatt and what liabilities, if any, were attached to the money. State officials and elected representatives could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The company said, "This action is undertaken in response to deteriorating market conditions resulting from a harsher-than-usual European winter causing a large drop-off in demand for solar cells.
Of course when you start digging, you will find that one of the primary investors was Cogentrix Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group. Can you say scam and write-off? I knew you could...

Plan B

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From Watts Up With That:
T. Boone Pickens Abandons U.S. wind power
From Slashdot:
In 2008, billionaire T. Boone Pickens unveiled his �Pickens Plan� on national TV, which calls for America to end its dependence on foreign oil by increasing use of wind power and natural gas. Over the next two years, he spent $80 million on TV commercials and $2 billion on General Electric wind turbines.

Unfortunately market forces were not favorable to Mr. Pickens, and in December 2010 he announced that he is getting out of the wind power business. What does he plan to do with his $2 billion worth of idle wind turbines? He is trying to sell them to Canada, because of Canadian law that mandates consumers to buy more renewable electricity regardless of cost.
And it turns out that there was an ulterior motive. From The Washington Examiner of August 21, 2008:
T.Boone Pickens wants your water
Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens is about to make a killing by selling water he doesn�t own. As he does it, it will be praised as a planet-friendly wind project. After he pulls it off, the media will deride it as craven capitalism. In truth, it is one the most audacious examples of politics for profit, showing how big government helps the biggest business steal from the rest of us. The plotline behind Pickens� water-and-wind scheme is almost too rich to believe. If it were a movie script, reviewers would dismiss it as over-the-top.

The basic story amounts to this: Pickens, thanks to favors from state lawmakers whose campaigns he funded, has created a new government whose only voters are two of his employers; this has empowered Pickens to more cheaply pump water from an aquifer and, by use of eminent domain, seize land across 11 counties in order to pipe the water to Dallas. To win environmentalist approval of this hardly �sustainable� practice, he has piggybacked this water project onto a windmill project pitched as an alternative to oil.

Pickens� scheme is a perfect demonstration of why it�s worth asking cui bono � who benefits � from regulatory and environmental initiatives. Last week, this column pointed out that Pickens, before his current lobbying blitz for increased federal support of wind power, built the largest wind farm in the world.
Location, location, location:
Roberts County, Texas, sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, a huge underground reservoir that stretches all the way to South Dakota. It�s in Roberts County that T. Boone Pickens set aside eight acres from his ranch for drilling deep into the aquifer.

Then he turned this parcel into a town, basically, with only two eligible voters � both of whom were his employees. (This required a change in Texas law in 2007 � a change facilitated no doubt by his $1.2 million in campaign contributions to Texas legislators in 2006).

Then there was an election in this district, in which both voters voted to make this 8-acre municipality a special fresh-water district.

Pickens� wholly owned government entity now can issue tax-free bonds (meaning he can borrow at a serious discount) and use the power of eminent domain to pressure landowners to sell � or to take their land if they hold out. The eminent domain power is key to building the pipeline that will run this water down to the Dallas area, where Pickens hopes to sell the water. If your land lies in the path of his proposed pipeline, you got a letter explaining that T. Boone wants to buy a stretch of your land � and explaining that he can use eminent domain if you resist. If this begins to sound too cutthroat to the public, Pickens just reminds journalists and politicians that following this water pipeline will be the transmission cables for Pickens� mammoth wind farm.
So he installs the wind turbines with federal subsidy (our tax dollars), gets the right of way to run the towers to bring the minimal energy to Dallas and then runs water lines under the towers. The water was his main profit. The guy is not stupid and none of this is really illegal, more in the "I drink your milkshake" category. Good that it comes out now rather than after the infrastructure has been put in place and the land has been taken.

Off to a good start

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From The Washington Times:
'We the people' to open next Congress
The Constitution frequently gets lip service in Congress, but House Republicans next year will make sure it gets a lot more than that - the new rules the incoming majority party proposed this week call for a full reading of the country's founding document on the floor of the House on Jan. 6.

The goal, backers said, is to underscore the limited-government rules the Founders imposed on Congress - and to try to bring some of those principles back into everyday legislating.

"It stems from the debate that we've had for the last two years about things like the exercise of authority in a whole host of different areas by the EPA, we've had this debate in relation to the health care bill, the cap-and-trade legislation," said Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, who proposed the reading. "This Congress has been very aggressive in expanding the power of the federal government, and there's been a big backlash to that."
Let's hope that #112 can reign in some of the more egregious misuses of power that the previous couple sessions have engaged in.
An analysis of the current conditions in the United States and the conditions that led up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
From Global Guerrillas:
JOURNAL: Dmitry Orlov on Collapse
Had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Dmitry Orlov (author of the excellent book Reinventing Collapse) last night, with my friend Steve Wardell. Dmitry makes a compelling case that the US empire will suffer the same fate as its most hated rival, the Soviet empire, for many of the same reasons:

Extreme dependence on the price of oil. The Soviet's over reliance on oil was as a source of income (which collapsed in the early 80's due to a confluence of factors, hence the bankruptcy). The US depends on it due our profligacy in its use. As oil availability dries up (export land model, peak oil production, etc.) the US will suffer disproportionately.
Extreme levels of spending on national security. The paranoia that led the Soviets to overspend on national security was legendary. The same is true with the US. The US now spends more than the rest of the world combined on national security. In a hyper competitive global economy it isn't absolute or historical levels of spending that matter - it's relative spending levels.
A runaway foreign trade deficit and ballooning debt.
Extreme levels of corruption and a gross misallocation of economic resources. The Soviets had insular bureaucrats and the US has bankers and financiers.
A ballooning welfare state that it can't support (in the US's case, it's mostly ballooning health care costs -- the US's crony capitalist health care system costs 2-4x per unit of health care as compared to the rest of the developed world, while delivering health stats only rivaled by the developing world).
Some of these are to be taken with a grain of salt -- witness last November, the citizens to watch what the government does and take action at the ballot box while no such option was available to the Russian citizens. Still...

The gift that keeps on giving

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The new temporary repeal of the Bush tax cuts was just that -- right? Not really... From Yahoo/Associated Press:
New tax law packed with obscure business tax cuts
The massive new tax bill signed into law by President Barack Obama is filled with all kinds of holiday stocking stuffers for businesses: tax breaks for producing TV shows, grants for putting up windmills, rum subsidies for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

There is even a tax break for people who buy race horses.

Millions of homeowners, however, might feel like they got a lump of coal. Homeowners who don't itemize their deductions will lose a tax break for paying local property taxes.

The business tax breaks are part of sweeping legislation that extends Bush era tax cuts for families at every income level through 2012. Obama signed the $858 billion measure a week ago. It also provides a new payroll tax cut for wage earners and extends jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed.

Most of the business tax breaks � about 50 in all � are part of a package that expires each year, creating uncertainty for tax planners but lots of business for lobbyists. Many of these tax breaks have been around for years but expired at the end of 2009 because lawmakers couldn't agree how to pay for them.

The new law extends most of them through 2011, some through 2012. They will be paid for with borrowed money.
Just wonderful -- the business that can afford to hire lobbyists get the breaks and us working schlubs who cut 24 paychecks twice/month get nada. Representational government my ass...

Unnh Yeah... Thanks Santa

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How to tell if you have been naughty:
Swiped from The Blogmocracy


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Went to see the new Tron with two of the kids today. Kid approved and Adult approved. Very well done -- kept the visual theme of Syd Mead's original work, just updated the quality of the graphics. Since the shopping malls were so crowded, we saw it at a minor theater (still in 3D) and will go back to an IMAX theater sometime mid-January to see it again. A caught a couple visual easter eggs and would like to see it again to watch for any more. An afternoon well spent. And the trailers for the Green Hornet and the Green Lantern looked amazing and true to their origins. We will be having the extended family at an aunt's house for Christmas Day dinner tomorrow then over to the coast for a few days and then back up to home. Good to be here but it will be wonderful to get home again. The store and the bakery are in great hands so no worries there...

What he said...

From the Association of Computing Machinery:

A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins - 10 Do's and Don'ts
A friend of mine is a grease monkey: the kind of auto enthusiast who rebuilds engines for fun on a Saturday night. He explained to me that certain brands of automobiles were designed in ways to make the mechanic's job easier. Others, however, were designed as if the company had a pact with the aspirin industry to make sure there are plenty of mechanics with headaches. He said those car companies hate mechanics. I understood completely because, as a system administrator, I can tell when software vendors hate me. It shows in their products.

A panel discussion at CHIMIT (Computer-Human Interaction for Management of Information Technology) 2009 discussed a number of do's and don'ts for software vendors looking to make software that is easy to install, maintain, and upgrade. This article highlights some of the issues uncovered. CHIMIT is a conference that focuses on computer-human interaction for IT workers�the opposite of most CHI research, which is about the users of the systems that IT workers maintain. This panel turned the microscope around and gave system administrators a forum to share how they felt about the speakers who were analyzing them.

Here are some highlights:
1. DO have a "silent install" option. One panelist recounted automating the installation of a software package on 2,000 desktop PCs, except for one point in the installation when a window popped up and the user had to click OK. All other interactions could be programmatically eliminated through a "defaults file." Linux/Unix tools such as Puppet and Cfengine should be able to automate not just installation, but also configuration. Deinstallation procedures should not delete configuration data, but there should be a "leave no trace" option that removes everything except user data.

Nine more just as good. Thinking about it, I have probably spent five or six months waiting for software to install. A lot of times I find something else to do but still, the constant prompts get to me. I used to manage a software test lab with 1,100 client computers -- there, we used a disk imaging system that worked pretty well but when dealing with 12 laptops, it was a toss-up as to what was more efficient, developing a disk image and then going around and re-personalizing each system or just setting them up on a couple folding tables and walking around and around and around hitting the fscking Enter key fifty-gazillion times... I would love to see a software package that came with an install.txt with commented examples that I could edit. Fire it up with a command line like: nameless_ap_setup -R install.txt -L c:\foobar\nameless_ap -P T (or -P R) This would be: Setup the "nameless application" -R = Read the file "install.txt" for the install parameters, -L install the application to the Location c:\foobar\namele... -P Place the application Parameters in a Text file or in the Registry. Something like this would be ignored by 95% of the in-duh-vidual customers out there but would make or break a corporate purchase.

A slightly different view of START

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This one is from Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret). From the U.S. Naval Institute:
Vice Admiral: Obama was outmaneuvered by Russians on START
President Barack Obama was outmaneuvered by the Russians and should have abandoned the New START negotiations instead of seeking a political victory, says former nuclear plans monitor Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret).

�The Obama administration is continuing a dated policy in which we cannot even unilaterally reduce our own inventory of weapons and delivery systems without being on parity with the Russians,� Miller told the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md. �We could give up plenty of deployed delivery systems and not adversely affect our national security one bit, but New START prohibits such action - so we are now stuck with some outmoded and useless elements in our nuke force.�

After meeting resistance from several Republicans, the U.S. Senate ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia by a vote of 71-26 on Wednesday.

�The Soviets/Russians were done in by Reagan and our missile defense program because they cannot afford to build such a system,� said Miller. �They instead try to counter our program with rhetoric at the bargaining table. And they won by outmaneuvering Obama. START plays right into their hands.�
Compare and contrast:

Nice place - wanna sell it?

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Looks like the the EU has a buyer -- from the London Daily Mail:
Fresh humiliation for eurozone as China says it will bail out debt-ridden nations
China has said it is willing to bail out debt-ridden countries in the euro zone using its $2.7trillion overseas investment fund.

In a fresh humiliation for Europe, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said it was one of the most important areas for China's foreign exchange investments.

The country has already approached struggling European countries with financial aid, including offering to buy Greece's debt in October and promising to buy $4billion of Portuguese government debt.

'To have any discernible effect China will have to buy a lot more than 5billion euros if they expect to have any impact on the negative sentiment surrounding Europe,' said Michael Hewson, currency analyst at CMC Markets.

China's astonishing economic growth has put it on track to overtake America as the world's economic powerhouse within two years, a recent report claimed.

But experts believed still be some years before America's leadership role is really challenged - largely because Beijing has given no indication it is ready to take on the responsibility of shepherding the world' economy.

This foray into the future of the euro could be a signal from Beijing that it is ready to change that perception.
Even though China is still nominally a Communist government, they too recognized the value of Capitalism -- that it is the only successful form of economic and governmental structure.

Comedy in three steps

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Step one: Run a We Won�t Fly Blog in protest of the TSA's draconian tactics. Step two: recieve over 19 comments including this one:
Funny site you have going on here, looking forward to the guest comic postings.. what a bunch of rubes you all are.. BTW TSA officers make on avg $14.50 per hour to start. Much more than your bottle collecting jobs you have.
And there are some others that have very foul language. Step three: Run a whois on and find:
NetRange: �
NetHandle: NET-216-81-80-0-1
Parent: NET-216-0-0-0-0
NetType: Direct Assignment
NameServer: NS5.DHS.GOV
NameServer: NS6.DHS.GOV
NameServer: NS3.DHS.GOV
NameServer: NS4.DHS.GOV
RegDate: 2008-05-07
Updated: 2009-09-01
OrgId: DHS-37
Address: 7681 BOSTON BLVD
Address: NDC I
StateProv: VA
PostalCode: 22153
Country: US
The WeWontFly website has been overloaded but Google Cache has the text.

What a difference a year or two make

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From USA Today - December 4th, 2009:
Obama puts renewed focus on job creation
Even before Barack Obama took the oath of office, his economic advisers projected that without hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending, the U.S. economy could lose another 3 million to 4 million jobs on top of the 3.1 million lost in 2008.

It turns out they were optimistic. Even with the $787 billion stimulus package that Obama signed in February, more than 4 million jobs have been lost in 2009, the worst year for job losses since World War II. The jobless rate that advisers projected would peak at 8% has topped 10%.
From CNN - January 21st, 2010:
Obama to focus hard on economy after Democratic loss
President Obama already was planning to put a heavy focus on jobs and the economy in next week's State of the Union address, but his top aides are signaling that pivot is going to be even sharper in the wake of the Democrats' stunning election defeat in Massachusetts.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs noted the president has been dealing with the financial crisis long before Tuesday's Senate race, but he acknowledged the administration could have done a better job of conveying that message to the public and will now redouble its efforts.
And from Yahoo/Associated Press, December 22nd, 2010:
President Barack Obama says the economy will be his "singular focus" over the next two years.
He says the nation is past the "crisis point" in the economy, and that he'll now be working to bring down the jobless rate and equip the nation to compete with the rest of the world.

Obama told reporters at a Wednesday news conference that the government needs to be a "good partner" with the private sector, in getting rid of regulations that stand in the way of innovation. But he says the government also needs to make sure consumers, workers and the environment are protected.

Obama says the American people will hold both parties accountable for the impact of their policies on the economy.
Strong words are good -- makes it sound as though you are in charge, eventually though, people are going to want to see some results. Six months would be fine but two years is a little long to be waiting...

Lazy day

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Slept in (almost forgot what that was like) and then we went into Fresno for some shopping. There is a small family dinner tonight (20 people or so) and then the whole family is doing a big Christmas day potluck at another relatives house. It was strange in the stores today -- jammed on a Wednesday mid-afternoon. Don't people work? Back to Jen's parents house and taking it easy until dinner at 6PM

Eagle has landed -- arrived in California

#We got in a few hours ago -- 18 hours driving over two days. The weather was a bit dicey in Northern CA but great everywhere else.

We stopped for dinner at a Basque restaurant in Los Banos -- about an hour from Jen's parents. OMFG! Good!

The place was called The Wool Growers and when I heard the name in the car, I thought of Thomas Keller's place The French Laundry. Amazing food but you are out $200/person for a full meal and you are spending a couple hours there.

Jen assured me that this was not the case. We find the place -- it's in a kind-of dingy ex hotel, we walk past the bar at the front and I am thinking great: Bar Food...

We keep walking past the bar room, past the bathrooms and through a single wooden door.

And into this big hall with six loong sets of tables -- family style seating and the aroma that hit me was amazing. Someone at the other end of the room flags us and holds up two fingers -- we hold up two; yes, we are a party of two. She motions us to two seats at the end of a long table and we sit down.

No menus. Our waitress comes over and says that we have lamb, prime rib, tri-tip and a few other things. Jen orders the lamb and since the prime rib is only medium rare, I go for the tri-tip. Bread is set out and a small bottle of a decent red table wine. Soup comes out. Homemade beans come out. Salad comes out. Potato salad comes out. A lamb stew comes out. Then, plates of lamb and tri-tip come out. We have a second bottle of wine (these are 375ml) and then some ice cream.

Then the bill comes out. On it is written "2X dinners - $40"

We are stuffed with hearty home cooking (plus wine) and the tab is only $20 each.

When I lived in Boston back in the late 1970's, I used to work for a local public Aquarium and went to Durgin-Park restaurant several times/week for lunch. That place had been there forever and had family style seating and was very informal. The Wool Growers struck me as being a lot like Durgin-Park was back then. I revisited a few years ago and it had gentrified a lot.

More on The Wool Growers here, here and more on Basque cuisine and tradition here and here.

Wonderful stuff -- my only regret is that Googling Whatcom County Basque doesn't really turn up any usable restaurant hits...

A two-fer from Anthony Watts. First, snow is falling, some buildings are having icing problems and a local ski resort has four inches. Sounds like a crappy SUMMER! Anthony #1) here:
Australia swaps summer for Christmas snow
Snow and ice covering buildings and cars on December 19, 2010 at Mount Hotham,Victoria, as snow fell in Australia. The usual hot and summery December weather was replaced in parts by icy gusts sweeping up from the Southern Ocean, giving the country a taste of a white Christmas. Snow has fallen in parts of east coast states New South Wales and Victoria.

Snow fell in Australia on Monday, as the usual hot and summery December weather was replaced in parts by icy gusts sweeping up from the Southern Ocean, giving the country a taste of a white Christmas.

Snow has fallen in parts of east coast states New South Wales and Victoria, leaving ski resorts � some of which are usually snow-free at this time of year � with dumps of up to 10 centimetres (four inches).

�It�s white, everything is white,� Michelle Lovius, the general manager of the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel at Charlotte Pass told AFP.
And Anthony #2) here:
Department of Homeland Security goes off the deep end � now plans to battle �climate change� in addition to terrorists
Not content to keep to the terrorism prevention mission for which they were founded, DHS�s Janet Napolitano now plans to battle a religious war of �climatic jihad�. Here�s what happened the last time Washington DC took on weather in February 2010 (but not climate). The capital was shut down of course. Now that�s �environmental justice�. Look for pat downs at airports soon for those carrying concealed carbonated beverages.
I hate to use the word 'naked' and Janet Napolitano in the same sentence (really sorry...) but this is just a naked grab for power.

Don't forget to look up

Full eclipse tonight -- Monday the 20th. On the West coast, it will start at 10:33PM and continue with totality at 12:13AM of the 21st.

Enjoy the last free night

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Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality; Tuesday Betrayal Assured
Late Monday, a majority of the FCC's commissioners indicated that they're going to vote with Chairman Julius Genachowski for a toothless Net Neutrality rule.

According to all reports, the rule, which will be voted on during tomorrow's FCC meeting, falls drastically short of earlier pledges by President Obama and the FCC Chairman to protect the free and open Internet.

The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it's become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users.
Like I said yesterday, when Chavez signed his own "Net Neutrality" law, in the stroke of his pen, he created a new hacker elite. If this goes through in the USA, we will see a huge return of the original hacker culture. Not the stupid script kiddies living in their mom's basement but the real hackers. Time to make some popcorn and sit back and watch the FCC try to regulate something as complex and devious as Stuxnet but targeting the Internet -- the goal? Make it open. Routers have exploits too... More at Yahoo/Associated Press:
FCC poised to adopt network neutrality rules
New rules aimed at prohibiting broadband providers from becoming gatekeepers of Internet traffic now have just enough votes to pass the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday.
And from The Hill:
Democrats put heat on FCC commissioner on net-neutrality vote
The Democrats have a message for FCC Commissioner Michael Copps: Don't screw things up on net neutrality.

Democrats allied with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski are working to put public pressure on Copps � also a Democrat � as the net-neutrality vote draws near.

Genachowski needs Copps to vote for his plan during a commission meeting on Tuesday if the rules are to pass.
With the money quote:
"Voting no�would be snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory and would be giving the Republicans a huge win," the source said.
Fscking partisan politics -- these morons are supposed to be representing US but they are playing little games of "hi hit me first" on our dime. I seriously do not give a shit what party is in office -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy was an awesome president. People forget that Dr. Martin Luther King was a staunch Republican and that the people that protested the end of slavery and were involved in groups like KKK were generally Democrats. There are pond scum and diamonds on both sides of the aisle. We need to return to a representative government with none of the gimme mine! bullshit that pervades Washington these days.

On the road again

Settled into a motel in Roseburg Oregon. Made pretty decent time today. Had a wonderful dinner at the Roseburg McMenamins -- been to a number of the other sites and always had a good time. This place was no different. It was sited in an old railroad train station and wonderfully decorated. Food was excellent. If you are in Oregon or Washington, McMenamins always delivers! Was listing to talk radio a bit during the drive and a lot of the conservative hosts were complaining about the repeal of D.A.D.T. in the Military. I do not see all the concern. I think that this could be turned around to our advantage. Knowing what we do about the radical Islamist terrorist culture, could you imagine what would be going through their little minds if they saw a Squad or Platoon of ten to fifty very highly trained and supported mincing drag queens coming to kick their buts? Those poor sods would think that the gates of Gehenna had burst open and that Malik himself was sending out ifritts coming to drag them down to Zaqqum and a cauldron of boiling pitch. They would soil themselves...

The Census data is in

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And the Democrats are not happy. Lots of blue states have lost people who voted with their feet and moved to red states. From Breitbart/Associated Press:
New population count may complicate Obama 2012 bid
The 2010 census report coming out Tuesday will include a boatload of good political news for Republicans and grim data for Democrats hoping to re-elect President Barack Obama and rebound from last month's devastating elections.

The population continues to shift from Democratic-leaning Rust Belt states to Republican-leaning Sun Belt states, a trend the Census Bureau will detail in its once-a-decade report to the president. Political clout shifts, too, because the nation must reapportion the 435 House districts to make them roughly equal in population, based on the latest census figures.

The biggest gainer will be Texas, a GOP-dominated state expected to gain up to four new House seats, for a total of 36. The chief losers�New York and Ohio, each projected by nongovernment analysts to lose two seats�were carried by Obama in 2008 and are typical of states in the Northeast and Midwest that are declining in political influence.

Democrats' problems don't end there.

November's elections put Republicans in control of dozens of state legislatures and governorships, just as states prepare to redraw their congressional and legislative district maps. It's often a brutally partisan process, and Republicans' control in those states will enable them to create new districts to their liking.
Heh... It pays to remember that you were elected to office and you can just as easily be de-elected and someone else put in your place. We the voters are your employers and your job is to do what we want.

Seriously WTF???

From the Macedonian International News Agency:

Sharks Wary of Drunk Serbs
Dragan Stevic of Serbia is the new Egyptian hero who killed a large shark which had previously terrorized numerous tourists (injured 4 and killed 1) at the famous Egyptian resort Sarm El Sheikh.

The Serbian hero was too drunk to remember what had happened, though one of his friends who witnessed the incident explained it all for the Belgrade based media.

Dragan Stevic was dubbed by the Egyptian media as "Shark El Sheikh" and thanked him for saving their tourist season.

Milovan Ubirapa, one of Stevic's friend who witnessed the incident explained that Dragan had decided to go to the beach for a swim after a long night of drinking. As Dragan and his friends approached the beach, he saw a fairly high positioned jumping board utilized earlier in the day by divers.

Dragan climbed on the jumping board, told me to hold his beer and simply ran to jump. There was no time for me to react or to try to stop him, he just went for it. says Milovan.

Dragan jumped high and plunged down to the sea, but didn't make as much splash as we thought he would, explained Milovan.

The reason could be because Dragan Stevic ended up jumping straight on the shark which was lurking near the beach, probably looking for its next victim. Dragan had nailed it right in the head, killing it instantly. The Egyptian police found the shark washed out on the beach that morning.

Dragan was able to swim to the shore and told his friends he had twisted his ankle, telling them the water was not that soft.

The water is soft buddy, you just landed on a shark. At the moment, the fearless hero is in a hospital recovering from alcohol poisoning. After Dragan gets well, he will get a chance to have some more drinks as the resort had awarded the Serb tourist with a free vacation for his heroic deed.

Sometimes these posts just write themselves...

Needing a little bit of assistance

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What a crock... There are some genuinely poor people out there who need help with their heating bills. The photo accompanying this article shows some asshat who does not fit this description. From Macon, GA The Telegraph:
Funding cuts leave many without home heating assistance in Macon
When Eugene Jenkins showed up at St. Paul AME Church at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, he didn�t know he would be one of the last people to get a ticket for assistance with his heating bill.

He waited in line until 7 a.m., when officials started to hand out the tickets, then went home for a few hours before returning at 10 a.m. By the time he had finished up his paperwork, it was 1:15 p.m., making for a long day.

Jenkins was one of the lucky ones in Macon, though. Other people were turned away because the Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council, which distributes the federal money, had its share of funding for the program cut by 44 percent this year.

�I don�t know what I was going to do without it,� Jenkins said. �It�s something that needs to get taken care of.�

Jimmie Samuel, executive director of the agency, said the need for assistance in Bibb County has spiked, while the available funds to fill those needs have been slashed.

�We�re close to being out of money,� Samuel said. �We�re going to assess to see what we can do, to see if we can do any more.�

That�s left people such as Raymeica Kelley frustrated. Kelley said she, her mother and her sister arrived at the church about 3 a.m. Wednesday, only to get turned away.
Here is Raymeica Kelley's photo:
Let's see now -- Raymeica can afford a whopping big-screen television and an XBox with a couple of controllers but she can't afford money for heating. I would bet that her family members each have cell phones, I would bet there is a microwave in the kitchen and at least one computer and one stereo, probably an iPod or two. Ms. Kelley is not poor, she is just addicted to the government cheese and wants her share. To add insult to injury, any entitlements she gets is just taking it out of the mouths of the people who genuinely need it. Talk about being a total asshat...

Change in plans

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We were planning to leave this afternoon but Jen was not able to get a prescription refilled so we are heading out tomorrow morning. Should be a fun road-trip as some weather is moving into Oregon and Northern California.
Just wonderful -- now that he has dictatorial powers, he is not hesitating to use them. From the Washington Post:
Chavez defends plan for Internet regulations
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez defended plans for a law that would impose broadcast-type regulations on the Internet, saying Sunday that his government should protect citizens against online crimes.

Chavez's congressional allies are considering extending the "Social Responsibility Law" for broadcast media to the Internet, banning messages that "disrespect public authorities," "incite or promote hatred" or crimes, or are aimed at creating "anxiety" in the population.

Government opponents and press freedom groups have been critical of the plan, saying it is one of several measures being considered that could restrict freedoms in Venezuela.

"We aren't eliminating the Internet here ... nor censoring the Internet," Chavez said during his weekly television and radio program, "Hello, President." "What we're doing is protecting ourselves against crimes, cybercrimes, through a law."

As examples, Chavez mentioned messages promoting drug use, prostitution and other crimes, and said his government has an obligation to take a stand. Questions remain about how the measures would be enforced.
And with the stroke of a pen, Chavez has created a hacker elite. This should be fun to watch...
From Canadian Energy Issues:
Wind power is gas power, and comes with pollution
According to Ontario�s long term energy plan, in 2030 the province will get 26.3 billion kilowatt-hours from wind, solar, and bio-energy. Most of that will be from wind, which according to historical statistics produces electricity 33 percent of the time. To get 26.3 billionn kWh, then, Ontario will need around 10,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity.

If you think this seems an odd way to plan a power system, you are right. Wind is not dispatchable; the electricity system operator cannot call the operator of a wind turbine and say �I�ll need 50 MW of power in five minutes, so start ramping up.� Well, he actually can call and request exactly that, but there is a 67 percent chance the wind operator will say �sorry, the wind conditions are such that I cannot fulfill your request.� i.e., the wind isn�t blowing.

This points up a central reality of power systems whose planners want to add a lot of wind capacity. In the words of Dr. Ulrich Decher, a nuclear engineer with Westinghouse, wind turbines �do not replace the need for any other generators. All the generators that are needed without windmills are needed with windmills.�
Comparisons are often made of how many windmills it would take to eliminate the need for a conventional power plant. These comparisons are totally meaningless because windmills do not add any megawatts to the grid when the wind is not blowing. Windmills must be paired with some other power plant or energy storage device (such as pumped hydro storage) to add capacity to the grid.�Dr. Ulrich Decher (source: ANS Nuclear Caf�)
This means that when the Ontario system operator is forced to turn to another power generator to meet the provincial demand�not if, but when�it is almost certain that that other generator will run on natural gas.

This is because the province plans to phase out coal-fired generation by 2014. Which raises a critical issue that is directly related to the reason for the coal phase-out. The coal plants are being phased out because of their heavy carbon and pollution emissions. That is why coal is being replaced by wind and gas: wind turbines ostensibly put no emissions into the air, and gas puts less emissions than coal.

But because of the reality that Dr. Decher describes, those 10,000 MW of wind must be matched with 10,000 MW of gas. Let�s also be clear that gas will actually be the main energy source in that pairing, producing those 10,000 MW of energy 67 percent of the time. Depending on the type of gas generator, each kWh of gas power can dump 330 to 550 grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In view of this, it is reasonable to consider what the emissions implications of the wind/gas pairing will be.
If I was king it would be nuclear all the way with Thorium / molten Fluorine salt reactor cores.

Sorry about that 14.5% price spike

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Oregon is investing in renewable energy and it's ratepayers are feeling the pain. From The Oregonian:
Rates set to jump for Pacific Power, PGE customers in January.
Come New Year's, better strip the lights off the house and the Christmas tree ASAP.

Customers of Pacific Power will see their electric rates spike 14.5 percent in January. The increase comes in a one-two punch: an 8.4 percent general rate increase state utility regulators approved Friday, and a 6.1 percent increase for increased power costs they are expected to approve Dec. 28. Both take effect Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, customers of the state's largest electric utility, Portland General Electric Co., will see a lesser, but still significant, rate increase of about 3.9 percent. A few mandatory cost adjustments in the works will bump that overall increase to 4.2 percent, effective Jan. 1.

The biggest factor driving the increases: renewable power.
Hat tip to Anthony for the link. Oregon gets 26.6% of its energy from hydro and 1.8% from wind. They import 30.2%. No nukes. Pity as nukes are cheap in the long run... Lots of interesting comments to the post. This one from Bob Horning speaks volumes:
You can thank the extreme environmentalists for this one, and the ones to follow. And to top it off all of this expensive wind power is as dirty as anything else. For every KW of wind power you have to have a KW of another reliable source of power ready for when the wind dies. That power is gas or coal, and the dirty secret is that they have to run at a hot idle to be ready to go at a moments notice, not producing power, just burning energy to stay hot.

Wind power and the rest of the renewables is a joke, it's only competitive because of the tax credits, YOUR TAX dollars supplementing it. So you are not only paying your power bill in the mail, you are also paying your power bill through your taxes, a hidden bill.

America was built with cheap power, we can still have it, but the eviro wackos will not go for nuclear (which now through fast reactors have a half life of only 400 years instead of thousands) and are trying to stop natural gas and coal power even though they have scrubbers.

So next time you pay your bill, just remember you have an extremist to thank for it. And please, don't tell me that I need to thank them for a clean environment, We're all for a good environment, they carry it way too far, to a point that it's not helping but hurting. After all, a clean environment costs money, and if we're broke, who's going to pay for it? Broke countries around the world are some of the most polluted.
What he said...

Julian Assange - narcissist

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This would go a long way to explain his behavior. From The Other McCain:
Assange: �The Worst Sex Ever�
The Guardian publishes an extensive account of the two Swedish women�s sexual assault accusations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange:
That evening, Miss A held a party at her flat. One of her friends, �Monica�, later told police that during the party Miss A had told her about the ripped condom and unprotected sex. Another friend told police that during the evening Miss A told her she had had �the worst sex ever� with Assange: �Not only had it been the world�s worst screw, it had also been violent.�
Read the whole thing. BTW, despite the Guardian�s use of the pseudonyms �Miss A� and �Miss W,� published accounts have previously identified the women as Anna Ardin, 31, and Sofia Wilen, 26.

Just asking questions: Is there some kind of connection between Assange�s WikiLeaks activity and his (allegedly) predatory sexual habits? I mean, wouldn�t both fit rather neatly into the personality type of a sociopathic narcissist?
Ouch -- sucks to be you...

Heh - Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past

A blast from the past - some hyperbolic writing from ten years ago back when Anthropogenic Global Warming was actually taken seriously by some people.

From the UK Independent dated Monday, 20 March 2000:

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London's last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.

Oh, I think that the kids have a very good idea of what snow is:


More here and here

This is awesome. From the Prometheus Project:

WE WON! Senate Joins House in Passing the Local Community Radio Act!
Today a bill to expand community radio nationwide -- the Local Community Radio Act -- passed the U.S. Senate, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ). This follows Friday afternoon's passage of the bill in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE). The bill now awaits the President's signature.

These Congressional champions for community radio joined with the thousands of grassroots advocates and dozens of public interest groups who have fought for ten years to secure this victory for local media. In response to overwhelming grassroots pressure, Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a mandate to license thousands, of new community stations nationwide. This bill marks the first major legislative success for the growing movement for a more democratic media system in the U.S.

"A town without a community radio station is like a town without a library," said Pete Tridish of the Prometheus Radio Project, the group which has led the fight to expand community radio for ten years. "Many a small town dreamer -- starting with a few friends and bake sale cash -- has successfully launched a low power station, and built these tiny channels into vibrant town institutions that spotlight school board elections, breathe life into the local music scene, allow people to communicate in their native languages, and give youth an outlet to speak."

The Local Community Radio Act will expand the low power FM (LPFM) service created by the FCC in 2000 -- a service the FCC created to address the shrinking diversity of voices on the radio dial. Over 800 LPFM stations, all locally owned and non-commercial, are already on the air. The stations are run by non-profit organizations, local governments, churches, schools, and emergency responders.

This is a shoe-in for our little community. We can receive a few MSM stations but not much else. Been a long long time coming -- the licensing was last open in 2003

A cautionary note

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Want to ruin a country -- read on. From Gonzalo Lira:
Want To Ruin Your Own Country? Assume Your Banks� Liabilities
Recently, I read up on how Iceland is doing�surprisingly well, actually. Unemployment is down, the Krona is going back up. Good balance of trade, good fiscal balance sheet. Quite the turnaround, after its troubles over the last couple of years�

�so then if Iceland is doing OK, why then are we in the hole that we�re in?

Why is the American economy slogging along? Why is Europe circling the drain? Why are the bond markets queasy as a patient with a low-grade malarial fever? Why is Ben Bernanke�s chin quivering and his voice quaking on 60 Minutes? (And by the way: Was that a terrifying spectacle or what?) Why has the conversation turned from bond market risk to sovereign debt risk? Why are commodities rising, equities moving jagged and irrational, and all of a sudden silver is now the new darling of the retail investor?

What the hell is going on? Why are things getting worse, instead of better?

The answer is so simple, it hurts:

When the Global Financial Crisis hit in late 2008, the governments took over the liabilities of the financial sector�and in the two years since that terrible, terrible decision, that single move has turned what was once a problem of financial sector insolvency into a problem of sovereign nation insolvency:

Europe and America are insolvent�they�re broke. They cannot pay the liabilities they have assumed.

That�s why we�re in the trouble we�re in. That�s why Ben Bernanke is crying himself to sleep every night. That�s why the world�s economies are slowly circling the drain�
He offers the examples of Iceland and Ireland -- small Nations to be sure but Nations none the less. One went through a currency devaluation and high interest rates but it turned around and is now thriving. The other is circling the drain. We are following Ireland down the drain if we do not cut spending and simply wake up...

Road Trip!!!

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Honey, we are visiting an historic town. Bring my Geiger Counter (I actually own three of them)

From the Washington Post:

Ukraine to open Chernobyl area to tourists in 2011
Want a better understanding of the world's worst nuclear disaster? Come tour the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.

Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of northern Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were resettled from areas contaminated with radiation fallout in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Related health problems still persist.

The so-called exclusion zone, a highly contaminated area within a 30-mile (48-kilometer) radius of the exploded reactor, was evacuated and sealed off in the aftermath of the explosion. All visits were prohibited.

Today, about 2,500 employees maintain the remains of the now-closed nuclear plant, working in shifts to minimize their exposure to radiation. Several hundred evacuees have returned to their villages in the area despite a government ban. A few firms now offer tours to the restricted area, but the government says those tours are illegal and their safety is not guaranteed.

Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Yershova said experts are developing travel routes that will be both medically safe and informative for Ukrainians as well as foreign visitors. She did not give an exact date when the tours were expected to begin.

"There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group," Yershova told The Associated Press. "Though it is a very sad story."

The United Nations Development Program chief Helen Clark toured the Chernobyl plant together with Baloha on Sunday and said she supported the plan because it could help raise money and tell an important lesson about nuclear safety.

"Personally I think there is an opportunity to tell a story here and of course the process of telling a story, even a sad story, is something that is positive in economic terms and positive in conveying very important messages," said Clark, according to her office.

This sounds awesome -- there are a lot of photographs of Pripyat and surrounding locations as well as the plant itself and it would be a blast to actually go and visit. My only concern is with that UN flack who says:

"Personally I think there is an opportunity to tell a story here and of course the process of telling a story, even a sad story, is something that is positive in economic terms and positive in conveying very important messages"

Given that this is the United Nations we are talking about here, they are probably going to spin it that Nuclear is horrible and that is the only way to go.

Pity as nuke power is very safe and growing safer still now that we are moving away from 60 year old designs of which Chernobyl was a classic example.

The moron that decided to do an un-authorised SCRAM test paid the price with his idiocy. There were specific directives to not do a test like that and he ignored them.

Hubris and atomic power do not play well together...

Sometimes, the posts just write themselves

From the Spokane, WA Spokesman Review The lead story:
Man shoots self in buttocks after threat
BILLINGS, Mont. � Billings police say a man accused of sticking a pistol in his girlfriend�s mouth accidentally shot himself in the buttocks after he shoved the gun down the back of his pants. Court records allege 27-year-old Johnathan William Hartman and his girlfriend had been arguing Tuesday about a pending prison sentence for Hartman. The woman told authorities that Hartman stuck the gun in her mouth and threatened to kill her before firing a shot next to her ear. Authorities say Hartman apparently placed the pistol into the back of his waistband and the gun discharged into his buttocks while he was driving erratically.
Karma is a bitch. Good that he is going to prison anyway -- hopefully for a long long time. I can just imagine the argument too:
HER: Hell no, I'm not waiting around for five years. I'm finding someone who doesn't stick guns in my mouth. A better man if you will...

Moore presents the Cuban medical care system as being a superior model to what we have in the USA despite all the first-hand reports to the contrary. Now, Castro is banning the film in Cuba so that the Cuban Citizens don't start asking questions... From the UK Guardian:

WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting 'mythical' healthcare system
Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash", according to US diplomats in Havana.

The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.

But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".

Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."

'Nuff said...

On the road again

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Jen and I are heading down to her parents starting tomorrow. I'll bring the laptop along but blogging will be a bit sporadic. We will be driving as the cost is about the same as flying but the hassle will be a lot less. I like the I-5 route -- really pretty scenery and driving the new truck (Ford E-350) is a lot of fun.

Well crap - there goes Venezuela

From Reuters:

Venezuela assembly gives Chavez decree powers
Venezuela's parliament gave President Hugo Chavez decree powers for 18 months on Friday, outraging opposition parties that accused him of turning South America's biggest oil producer into a dictatorship.

The move consolidated the firebrand socialist leader's hold on power after nearly 12 years in office, and raised the prospect of a fresh wave of nationalizations as the former paratrooper seeks to entrench his self-styled "revolution."

Chavez had asked for the fast-track powers for one year, saying he needed them to deal with a national emergency caused by floods that drove nearly 140,000 people from their homes.

But the Assembly, which is dominated by loyalists from his Socialist Party, decided to extend them for a year and a half.

That means the president can rule by decree until mid-2012, and can keep opposition parties out of the legislative process until his re-election campaign is well under way for Venezuela's next presidential vote in December of that year.

Sad -- the guy has no clue on how to run a Nation -- he is giving the poor bread and circuses but not building infrastructure. I feel sorry for his Citizens who will have a very deep hole to dig themselves out of when he goes away...

Crap - RIP Don Van Vliet

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Rolling Stone has an obituary:
Captain Beefheart Dead At Age 69
Don Van Vliet, who became a rock legend as Captain Beefheart, died today from complications from multiple sclerosis in California. His passing was announced by the New York-based Michael Werner Gallery, which represented his work as a painter.

His Trout Mask Replica was Number 58 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In a 1969 review, Lester Bangs called Trout "a total success, a brilliant, stunning enlargement and clarification of his art."

"Don Van Vliet was a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts," the gallery said in a statement. "He is perhaps best known as the incomparable Captain Beefheart who, together with his Magic Band, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a totally unique style of blues-inspired, experimental rock & roll. This would ultimately secure Van Vliet's place in music history as one of the most original recording artists of his time. After two decades in the spotlight as an avant-garde composer and performer, Van Vliet retired from performing to devote himself wholeheartedly to painting and drawing. Like his music, Van Vliet's lush paintings are the product of a truly rare and unique vision."
One of the geniuses that so infrequently grace this planet.

Two celestial events at the same time

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From PhysOrg: The article says the event is on the 21st. It is in the very early hours of the 21st if you live on the East Coast. It starts around 10PM on the 20th if you live on the West Coast.
Solstice lunar eclipse set for December 21st
Everyone knows that "the moon on the breast of new-fallen snow gives the luster of mid-day to objects below." That is, except during a lunar eclipse.

See for yourself on Dec. 21st, the first day of northern winter, when the full Moon passes almost dead-center through Earth's shadow. For 72 minutes of eerie totality, an amber light will play across the snows of North America, throwing landscapes into an unusual state of ruddy shadow.

The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST). At that time, Earth's shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the "bite" to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.

If you're planning to dash out for only one quick look -� it is December, after all -� choose this moment: 03:17 am EST (17 minutes past midnight PST). That's when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red.
The two have not happened together since about 600 years ago. Quite the rare event...

Curious - predicting earthquakes

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Awesome if it pans out -- from Technology Review:
Spacecraft Saw ULF Radio Emissions over Haiti before January Quake
Back in 2004, the French space agency CNES launched a small satellite called DEMETER into polar orbit some 700 km above the Earth's surface.

DEMETER's is an unusual mission. Its job is to monitor low frequency radio waves generated by earthquakes.

Today, a group of geoscientists release the data associated with the M 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti in January. They say that DEMETER saw a clear increase in ultralow frequency radio waves being emitted from the Earth's the crust in that region in the build up to the quake.

The anecdotal evidence of electromagnetic effects associated with earthquakes is legion. Various accounts link earthquakes with mysterious light and heating effects. Then there is the widespread evidence that certain animals can sense impending quake, possibly because of a sensitivity to low frequency electric fields.

But good data is hard to come by. Geoscientists have been measuring the currents that flow through Earth beneath our feet for over 100 years. These so-called telluric currents are thought to be generated by friction and piezoelectric effects within rock. And the flow of electrons they cause has been linked to various atmospheric phenomena such as thunderstorms.

But the role these currents play in earthquake physics is unknown. It makes sense that any currents generated by friction and piezoelectric effects should be dramatically influenced by the relative movement of different parts of the crust.

But these effects occur over vast distances and at frequencies that are hard to measure and difficult to separate from background noise. Which is why DEMETER was launched , (DEMETER stands for Detection of Electro-Magnetic Emissions Transmitted from Earthquake Regions).
Very cool!

A royal invitation

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Maybe not so much -- from the London Daily Mail:
Snub for Obamas as Royal sources reveal they will not be invited to Prince William's wedding
President Obama and his wife Michelle will not be invited to Prince William's wedding next year.

Because Prince William is not yet heir to the throne, his wedding to Kate Middleton is not classed as a �state occasion� � and the couple feel under no pressure to fill the 2,000-strong guest list with heads of state, the Mail understands.

They are more eager to ask ordinary citizens and charity workers than foreign dignitaries and VIPs to what will be the first royal �people�s wedding�, courtiers suggested.

A handful of heads of state are likely to be invited in line with previous royal weddings, possibly including France�s President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni.
Well, considering that Obama gave the Queen an iPod loaded with pictures of her state visit to the USA and audio of Obama's speeches and he gave Prime Minister Gordon Brown 25 DVDs of classic American movies that will not play on UK DVD machines, it is no wonder. I guess that, like the rest of the world, the British are just waiting until we get a real President back in office again...

Odd spam

Over the last three weeks, about 80% of the incoming comment spam attempts have been for a specific industry:
Odd in that these are coming in from all over and each one is for a different business name and URL. WTF? Is this a practice run for a new network? If it is, they are doing a piss-poor job of planning as each IP address is being logged and blocked. Eating their own seed-corn...

Yikes - Electric Eel v/s river alligator

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Back in the late 70's / early 80's, I used to work for a large public aquarium in Boston. I also used to install Disco sound and lighting equipment but that is another story entirely... One of my tasks was to maintain the electronic equipment that was used to monitor a tank with eels in it. It would make a noise every time the eel discharged which was fairly frequent. Here is an Amazonian fisherman who has caught an eel, who doesn't know what to do with it and a small river alligator comes along looking for a snack. Bad career move...
The job at the aquarium was a lot of fun. I am very much into photography and one of the eels went pining for the fjords and I got to shoot the necropsy. The eel has a line of structures along its length which can trigger in unison. Only a volt or two for each structure (about the size of a dime) but the critter can deliver a healthy jolt when pissed. The 'gator is probably just badly stunned and should recover in a day or two.

Word Lens

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Incredibly high geekdom:
The app is free. Dictionaries cost $5 each. Just seems to be Spanish<-->English at this time but now that the engine is built, should be relatively easy to add more. Parent site is here: Word Lens

A little warming might be a good thing -- lots of tundra in Siberia and Fuel oil is expensive. From The Moscow Times:

For Russia, Global Warming Benefits 'Outweigh' Negatives
Global warming in the next 40 years will allow Russian authorities to save on central heating, increase agricultural production and extend sea navigation in the north, a leading Russian climatologist told a Russian-German conference Wednesday.

But authorities will have to fork out money to reconstruct several big Siberian and Far Eastern cities to prevent them from collapsing as a result of a warmer climate, Vladimir Klimenko, head of Laboratory of Global Power Engineering Problems at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute told the conference co-organized by Alexander von Humbolt Foundation.

However, "the reduction of heating alone outweighs all the negative results [of the global warming] by many times," Klimenko said. If the money saved through reducing heating "is spent sensibly, then something can be achieved," he said.

Klimenko based his English-language report on the findings of his laboratory.

Climate was discussed elsewhere Tuesday. The World Meteorological Organization said during the annual UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, that scorching heat waves that killed thousands of people in Europe in 2003 and that choked Russia earlier this year were set to appear like an average summer in the future as the Earth continued to warm.

The last 'graph regarding the World Meteorological Organization is just pure political rent-seeking. This organization makes its money issuing doom and gloom predictions and offering ways out. For a fee. Al Gore was quoted once about a 30' rise in the level of the Ocean but he bought a waterfront condo in San Francisco. I like the Russian perspective -- practical and not hyperbolic. Major hat tip to The Blogmocracy for the link.

A joke

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One in very bad taste Click on the Continue Reading link below


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Ran payroll for the bakery and for the store today. It occurred to me that there are two sibling pairs employed at the bakery. Out of fourteen employees, I have a brother/sister pair and a two sisters pair. This is 28.5% of my employees. Wonder what the odds are of that...

Cool news

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Every August there is an Agricultural Fair in Lynden -- a big event spanning a week. In 2005, they had Creedence Clearwater Revisited with the Bass Player and Drummer from the original band. It wasn't the "original sound" but it was really good and their singer was a lot of fun -- he loved being on stage. Just found out that they are signed up to play this coming August 2011. Preferred seating is already sold out... I am stoked!

John F. Kerry - asshat

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A few minutes of him on C-SPAN (cannot embed the video) Money quote:
"Lets just chew up the time of the United States Senate keeping everybody up all night reading a bill rather than working on it..."
"working on it" -- doublespeak for inserting pork. No Senator, you are supposed to understand what it is you are voting on. This is what we elected you to do for us...

An interesting spreadsheet

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From Dr. Tom Coburn's Senate website:
Working Database of All Earmarks Included in the Omnibus Spending Bill
The end-of-the-year Omnibus Appropriations bill includes approximately $8.3 billion and 6,714 earmarks.

Click here for a working database of all the earmarks included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill. It's important to note that the database only refers to disclosed earmarks, not the billions in undisclosed earmarks.
Link to downloadable file here With the caveat:
It's important to note that the database only refers to disclosed earmarks, not the billions in undisclosed earmarks.
Opens up just fine with Open Office. Our own Senators and Congressmen have been busy...

Awesome news

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Michael Steele is the current head of the Republican National Committee and is a perfect example of a RINO -- Republican In Name Only. Fortunately, someone has stepped up to fill his shoes. Meet Ann Wagner:
A New Agenda
If we are to win in 2012, changes must be implemented by the Republican National Committee. My commitment is to aggressively implement the program below from Day One as your chairman. Anything less is a disservice to our nation that so desperately needs an invigorated, effective and thriving Republican Party. I consider this the start of a conversation with you to improve our party. I look forward to incorporating your thoughts and insights as we build a brighter future. Together, we can accomplish great things for America and together we will get this job done!
She has the creds and has been effectively involved in Conservative politics for a number of years.

Bringing home the bacon

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The new Omnibus spending bill is absurd and it will really hurt the Dems if it passes -- you thought 2010 was a wake-up call, just wait another two years... From the Southeast Missourian:
Redistribution on steroids
Rep. Cleaver has proposed a $48 billion earmark.

When absurdity gives way to hilarity, you must be talking about politics.

In the midst of a colossal global concern for the economic stability of our great nation, Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri's 5th Congressional District representative, has one small earmark on his wish list that deserves some attention.

Cleaver has listed a new earmark -- one of several -- and he promises to "fight for every one." But this is a whopping $48 billion package that must go down as the grandaddy of all earmarks.

Proposed by a gentleman named Lamar Mickens, president of the not-for-profit Quality Day Campus, the $48 billion earmark would funnel money into the inner cities to give money to the poor and thereby produce a much larger consumer class to buy the goods and services produced in this country.

Just call this redistribution on steroids.
That $48Bn will do nothing to alleviate poverty. It will sustain the conditions that contribute to the poverty. If Rep. Cleaver actually did something to lift his constituents out of poverty, he would have no more power over them and he would be booted out of office. This is just paying off some cronies and keeping the people down under the man. They have become caricatures of their own history...

Buh Bye to the Euro?

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Might be... From the UK Guardian:
Year of bullying, bluff and bailouts leaves euro fighting for its life
Inside a freezing, derelict military barracks on the crest of a hill in the middle of Germany, Bernd Niesel single-handedly carries on with his labour of love.

The 67-year-old retired serviceman oversees a shrine to the Deutsche Mark, the symbol of postwar German success, running a small museum devoted to the remarkable birth and lamented death of the currency. The mark was born behind barbed wire in total secrecy in this barracks in 1948 in what became known as the "conclave of Rothwesten". The currency met an early death at the age of 50 in 1998 (though notes and coins were in circulation until 2001). But as the German opinion polls show every week at the moment, 30%-40% are hoping for a resurrection.

"Certainly for the older generation," said Niesel, "the feeling is very much one of nostalgia � 'if only we had the D-mark again'." The sentiment is hardly surprising given the turmoil besetting the D-mark's successor, the euro.

Only 12 years after it was launched to great fanfare and after early success, the euro is fighting for its short life. Two of the 16 countries using the currency have had to be bailed out, despite the ban on such rescues in 1992's Maastricht treaty that created Europe's monetary union.

Following the traumas of Greece and Ireland, Portugal may be next in line. There are worries about Spain.

In Brussels tomorrow the leaders of 27 countries, as well as the heads of the European commission and the European Central Bank, gather for their seventh EU summit this year, all consumed by the crisis surrounding the single currency.
Transnationalism was such a brilliant failure on so many levels. I am amazed that they haven't stuck a fork in it and called it done years ago. The idea that a group of sovereign nations would share a common currency is idiotic. Why. You are as strong as your weakest link and if one goes down, you either bail them out or the whole network goes down. Europe is especially vulnerable now that the 30 years of socialist policies are bearing fruit and there is no more "other people's money" to spend.

Cue the Exodus

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From Dan Mitchell at Breitbart's Big Government:
America�s Number One! America�s Number One!�Oops, Never Mind
Sometimes it�s not a good idea to be at the top of a list. And now that Japan has announced a five-percentage point reduction in its corporate tax rate, the United States will have the dubious honor of imposing the developed world�s highest corporate tax rate.
Makes you wonder just how long it will take for General Electric to move their corporate office to Beijing. They make a lot of their stuff over there so it would make sense...

This is going to turn out well

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Chavez just keeps grabbing power. From Yahoo/Associated Press:
Chavez seeks power to rule by decree for 1 year
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday asked congress to grant him special powers to enact laws by decree for one year, just before a new legislature takes office with a larger contingent of opposition lawmakers.

The measure would give the president the ability to bypass the National Assembly for the fourth time since he was first elected almost 12 years ago.

Vice President Elias Jaua made the request on Chavez's behalf, saying the president will use the authorization to ensure fast-track approval of laws aimed at helping the nation recover from severe flooding and mudslides that left thousands homeless and in government shelters.

"The measures we have to take are deep. Almost 40 percent of the country was affected" by the heavy rains, Jaua said.

It is expected to win easy approval in the outgoing legislature dominated by Chavez allies.

Chavez's opponents accuse him of using the natural disaster to impose socialist-inspired measures and undermine the power of newly elected opposition lawmakers.

Hundreds of Chavez opponents protested outside the legislature Tuesday, saying Chavez is violating democratic principles and objecting to other planned laws that could impose regulations on the Internet and endanger Globovision, the country's last stridently anti-Chavez television channel.
The guy is an moron. A Marxist. But I repeat myself. This was posted today at 5PM Eastern and already has over 2,100 comments. A real Mr. Popularity...

That's one way to cure an upset stomach

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A gruesome story about someone who suffered from ulcerative colitis and found an unusual cure. From CNN/Health:
Man finds extreme healing eating parasitic worms
One day in 2004, a 29-year-old man with a terrible stomach problem stepped off a plane from the United States in Thailand. He wasn't there for the sights, or the food, or the beaches. He had traveled thousands of miles for worms -- parasitic worms whose eggs he intended to swallow by the thousands.

His doctor back home had told him his idea was crazy, that infesting himself with parasitic worms wouldn't do anything to help his ulcerative colitis, and in fact could make him very sick. The gastroenterologist had told the man if he pursued this course of treatment, he would refuse to be his doctor anymore.

"You'll be on your own," the man remembers the doctor telling him.

Indeed, he was on his own, standing in the office of a Thai doctor, asking her to pick the worm eggs out of an 11-year-old girl's stool.
It does make sense on a certain level -- the worms irritate part of the bodies defenses and the heightened defense minimizes the colitis. Of course, now all sorts of health ninnies are going to get infected even though their ailments are not what this guy had. They will feel funny and think that they are cured. The placebo effect is strong with some people...

That's it for the night

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Not to much happening on the web and feeling a bit tired.

A very cool evening's entertainment

Sometimes I wish I lived a bit closer to the Bay area.

From the fine folks at Telstar Logistics:

A Box Truck Is Just a Room on Wheels: Scenes from San Francisco's (Secret) Lost Horizon Night Market
Here's an unusual formula for a very unique night in the Big City:
25 Cargo Trucks + 200 Amateur Artists + (Burning Man - RV Park) + Foggy Darkness + An Industrial Part of Town = Box Truck Night Market
Got that?

If math class is too hard, here's the version for poets: Last weekend in San Francisco, an unusual event took place. On the city's southern waterfront, a colorful collective of interactive artists amassed a fleet of 25+ box trucks, ranging from small step vans, to medium-duty rental trucks, to a 53' freight trailer. For four hours on a misty winter night, each box truck was transformed into an elaborate event space.

Here are three of them:

A slotcar race track

A speakeasy

A bowling alley

Congress in action

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Typical... Congress was passing a bill to see if the Bush tax cuts would be extended or made permanent. This simple vote has turned into a free-for-all and the bill is now 1,900+ pages in length. From the Washington Times:
Reid threatens to keep Congress into next year
Forget about going quietly into the night.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a broad agenda for an end-of-session sprint that, in other years, could be a whole year's worth of activity � ranging from an arms-reduction treaty with Russia to a major immigration bill to overturning the ban on gay troops.

And that's not to mention the nearly 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion massive spending bill Senate Democrats said they'll try to push through. The bill contains hundreds of pork-barrel spending projects and new rules governing everything from airport baggage to detainees at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We're not through. Congress ends on Jan. 4," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

The omnibus spending bill is likely to get the most attention, spanning 1,924 pages and spending an average of $575.13 million per page.

It stands in contrast to the House, which last week passed a streamlined bill freezing fiscal 2011 government spending at 2010's level. The Senate bill, though, boosts spending by $16 billion � a tough sell at a time when deficits and debt already are dominating the policy debate in Washington.
Let's hope that the citizens remember and that this kind of action comes back and bites them in 2012. These people are supposed to be representing us not playing with our money.

Long day

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Ran into town -- over the weekend we completely ran out of flour. Cannot have that for a bakery... Just got home and going to fix some BBQ -- had to run down south the other day and there is an awesome pit in Mt. Vernon so I pick up a couple day's worth whenever I pass by. The ski area is getting some nice snow and the freezing level is expected to drop to 1,000' tonight or tomorrow morning. Just in time for school to let out and for this area to make some money.

Interesting news on the Obamacare front

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The first of many legal cases was found in favor of the State of Virginia where Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General won his case. From Ken Cuccinelli:
VICTORY - Follow up and Discussion of Ruling
As I told you earlier today, Virginia won the first round of the constitutional fight over the federal health care law. I also told you I'd get back to you with more details later in the day, and I'm keeping my promise.

I will tell you up front that I will also go into still more detail later this week - when time allows.

Arguments and Outcomes
There were two basic arguments in this case.

First, Virginia argued that the individual mandate was beyond the power of Congress and the President to impose under the Constitution. Specifically, Congress claimed that their regulatory power under the Commerce Clause allowed them to order you to buy their government-approved health insurance, even if you decide not to buy health insurance.

The judge ruled that the federal government does not have the power to compel you to buy health insurance as part of its attempt to regulate the entire field of health care and health insurance. Thus, Virginia won this argument.

Second, the federal government advanced a 'fallback' argument in case it lost on its commerce clause argument. The feds' fallback argument was that the financial penalty you have to pay if you don't buy the government mandated health insurance is a tax.

This may sound like an odd argument from a political standpoint - usually they say everything is NOT a tax (in fact, they argued the penalty was not a tax while they were trying to get the bill passed); however, they changed position after the bill became law to try and save the bill. What they were trying to do was to get the courts to agree that because the penalty would presumably raise some revenue, it was therefore a 'tax' under the taxing and spending for the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution.

No judge in the country has bought this argument, and Judge Hudson was no exception. He ruled that the taxing power of Congress does not save the bill, because the penalty for not buying the mandated health insurance is not a tax.

The federal government only had to win on either of these two arguments, while Virginia needed to win both to prevail, and we won both!

What's Next?
Certainly the federal government will appeal their loss in the district court to the 4th circuit court of appeals within the next 30 days. And whichever side loses in the 4th circuit will certainly appeal to the Supreme Court. And no one has any serious doubts that ultimately the constitutionality of the individual mandate will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

That could take approximately (very rough approximation) two years. We are discussing with the Department of Justice accelerating the case, and those discussions have been very cordial thus far. More on that later.

Today is a great day for the Constitution. Today the Constitution has been protected from the federal government, and remember, an important reason for the constitution in the first place was to limit the power of the federal government.

Today is also a day of a small degree of vindication. When we first filed suit, the screeching of the liberals was deafening. Everything from accusing us of playing politics instead of practicing law, to filing what they called a 'frivolous' lawsuit.

I want you to know, that our team makes decisions based on the Constitution and the laws. Period. We deal with the consequences of our decisions separately, but first and foremost we have been and will continue to be true to the Constitution and laws of the United States and Virginia, regardless of whether it's easy or hard in any particular case.

Thank you for your continuing support!

Ken Cuccinelli, II
Attorney General of Virginia
Very cool news and there are at least 57 20 other also filing this claim. Enumerated powers and all that good stuff...

What he says - America's energy policy

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America's energy policy? China. Here is Rep. Ted Poe of Texas:
Money quote starts at four minutes in...

Bee here now

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Since around 2006, there has been concern over the loss of Bees in North America. Colony Collapse Disorder meet Smoking Gun. From the Pesticide Action Network of North America:
Beekeepers call for immediate ban on CCD-linked pesticide
On December 8, Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers from around the country in calling on EPA to pull a neonicotinoid pesticide linked with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) off the market immediately. Our call is based on a leaked EPA memo that discloses a critically flawed scientific study, thus suggesting there may be imminent hazards to honeybees posed by continued use of clothianidin, the pesticide in question.

CCD is the name given to the mysterious decline of honeybee populations across the world beginning around 2006. Each winter since, one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has died off or disappeared. CCD is likely caused by a combination of pathogens, the stresses of industrial beekeeping, loss of habitat and more. But many scientists believe that sublethal pesticide exposures are a critical co-factor potentiating this mix. In the U.S., agencies are focused on research, trying to quantify these risks. In Germany, Italy and France, they decided they knew enough to take action years ago, banning suspect neonicotinoid pesticides. Bee colonies there are recovering and beekeepers here are outraged.

Several issues are at play: poorly conducted science, a broken regulatory system that puts chemicals on the market before testing them, lack of transparency and, most critically, the survival of honeybees and commercial beekeepers.
From Page 2 of the 101 page report(PDF):
Clothianidin�s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis.
It is good to remember that the EPA is a political organization and not a scientific one. It masquerades as a scientific organization but job #1 is the preservation of the EPA and job #2 is the consolidation of power of the EPA. They were bought off by Bayer. Tom Philpott has an excellent article at Grist Magazine

Looks like a cool company

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Someone turned me on to Combustion Depot today. There are two very large HVAC wholesalers in Bellingham but they sell to the trade only -- very restrictive. I can see the point in that they are trying to protect the businesses that buy from them and a lot of the technology is very simple so someone could just buy the part and fix it themselves. That being said, a lot of what I do with blacksmithing involves combustion and monitoring of propane. It would be nice to find a place that sold ignition units, nozzles, etc... This place looks to be just that and their prices do not seem to be out of line. Sweet!

What a wonderful idea!!!

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Moonbeams and Unicorn farts on this one from TJICistan:
what if�

Law lab

A radical new idea: what if we tested laws before passing them?
You mean like trying out Romney Care in Massachusetts, finding that it was a dismal failure.

�and then passing an amped-up-on-steroids-and-Meth version under the Obama administration?

OK, what if we did that.

Then what?
That is the beauty of what our Founding Fathers did when they set up this Republic. For example, Texas has some of the lowest cost medical care of any state. They passed Tort Reform, allowed its citizens to purchase insurance across state lines and generally lowered the 'hassle-factor' for Doctors wanting to practice. The West coast states and the Northern East coast states are very much the exceptions to the rule...

Stormy weather

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The brunt of the Pineapple Express passed by last evening. The rivers are a few feet below what is considered flood stage but still very high and Highway 9 is closed to our south. Temps should be dropping by Tuesday with more precip on the way so good for the mountain people. Lots of snow. There is a lot of cold weather around -- the politicians visiting Cancun enjoyed the coldest temperatures in 100 years. Now the Eastern US is about to get pasted -- from Accuweather:
New Cold Blast Invading Eastern U.S. Even More Brutal
While not everyone across the eastern half of the country is dealing with snow or a blizzard this weekend, they will all be facing brutal cold soon if not already.

The coldest air of the season yet is headed for these regions and could end up being the coldest of the entire winter. Many records, especially nighttime lows across the Southeast, will be broken early this week.

Painfully cold, arctic air sweeping across the Midwest has already been driving temperatures well-below zero. Temperatures will remain or plunge back below zero in the Upper Midwest with lows between 10 and 20 below zero across much of Iowa, Minnesota, western Wisconsin and the eastern Dakotas tonight.

Tonight into Monday, the bitter cold will overspread the rest of the eastern half of the country, creating a flash freeze in many places where a storm has made roads wet or slushy. While actual temperatures may not fall below zero, horrendous winds will make it feel that way for millions.
More people die from the cold than from the heat. A little warming would be a wonderful thing...

Just beautiful

Some amazing BASE jumping video:

Last Walk Around Mirror Lake - Boom Bip (Boards of Canada Remix) from FroschYankee on Vimeo.

Last Walk Around Mirror Lake - Boom Bip (Boards of Canada Remix) More here: Blue Sky

The Pigford Scam from start to finish

Abraxis writing at Uncoverage outlines the Pigford scam from the beginning to present.

A long read but an excellent one and well documented. Be sure to remove breakable objects from your immediate vicinity -- this is RCOB material...

The Pigford Fraud on the American Taxpayer
On December 12, 1996, a handful of black farmers, led by John Boyd (founder of the National Black Farmers Association) gathered on the frozen grass of Lafayette Park across from the White House to protest what they claimed was widespread racial discrimination by the USDA against black farmers. This protest prompted President Clinton to pressure then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to investigate if these claims were true.

Glickman promptly suspended all government farm foreclosures pending the outcome of a "listening tour" the following month (January 1997) in which Civil Rights Actions Teams (CRAT) traveled across the country gathering information on whether the black farmers' claims were true. While the investigation discovered that only 205 claims (two-tenths of one percent) out of a total of 116,261 loans and crop payments issued by the USDA's Farm Service Agency had triggered complaints by black farmers, the 120-page report (Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture) stated there was widespread discrimination against black farmers.

In August 1997, black farmer Timothy Pigford of North Carolina filed Pigford v. Glickman in the U.S. District Court.[1] (A second lawsuit was filed by another black farmer from North Carolina named Cecil Brewington. Both cases were subsequently joined together as simply Pigford.) The suit initially listed 400 black farmers but the number quickly grew to more than 2,000.

In response to the lawsuit, the Department of Justice requested a stay (halt of the proceedings) in order to investigate each claim individually. But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman (a Clinton appointee) put a stop to the DOJ's investigation by certifying Pigford as a class action lawsuit on October 9, 1998. The judge then set a trial date of February 1, 1999.

The certification of Pigford as a class action case made the USDA vulnerable to huge monetary payouts; however, the USDA had two means of preventing this: sovereign immunity and the statute of limitations.

Of course, the "sovereign immunity" and the "statute of limitations" were circumvented. A large payout wound up not in September of 2004 but in August 2007, (from the article):

Senator Barack Obama introduced S.1989, a resolution demanding the Pigford consent decree be overturned and the case reopened to allow more black farmers to apply. Considering that Obama's state of Illinois only had 171 black farmers at the time of his filing, Obama's championing of Pigford would appear to be a little curious. But the curiosity lessens when one realizes that at that moment he filed this resolution, Obama was trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls as both vied for the Democratic nomination for President. At that time in late 2007, the polls showed that more than half of the black voters favored Hillary Clinton over Obama. But then Obama introduced S.1989.

This opened the floodgates to an additional $1.25 Billion in 80,000 claims. The 2007 US Census of Agriculture showed 32,938 black owned farms. Shirley Sherrod makes an appearance and indeed, her 15 minutes of fame were what brought the Pigford story to light. The Sherrod family won a claim of $13 Million. Incredible stuff -- a scandal and shakedown of unreal scope.

Not much to write about

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Still at the bakery working on some stuff (transferring sales data from the cash register to the computer upstairs -- you use an SD card). Planning to do the ham and navy bean soup tomorrow -- that went over well and the weather is great for a hearty soup like this. Head home in an hour or so -- bought some pre-roasted sliced turkey with all the fixin's for dinner. Jen brought a sinus infection back from her trip so I am avoiding catching that one. Toe is feeling a lot better...

That is it

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Just got home after a very long day. Big toe is throbbing but not painful. DaveCave(tm) and then to bed -- got to run into town tomorrow for some shopping.

Just wonderful

From CNS News:

FCC Commissioner Wants to Test the 'Public Value' of Every Broadcast Station
American journalism is in "grave peril," FCC Commissioner Michael Copps says, and to bolster "traditional media," he said the Federal Communications Commission should conduct a "public value test" of every commercial broadcast station at relicensing time.

In a speech at the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York on Thursday, Copps also said station relicensing should happen every four years instead of the current eight.

"If a station passes the Public Value Test, it of course keeps the license it has earned to use the people's airwaves," Copps said. "If not, it goes on probation for a year, renewable for an additional year if it demonstrates measurable progress. If the station fails again, give the license to someone who will use it to serve the public interest."

Ever since Barack Obama became president, prominent conservatives have warned about liberal efforts to squelch conservative and Christian talk-radio.

Although Copps has said the FCC will not reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, his prescription for "testing" commercial broadcast stations will alarm defenders of free speech and free enterprise.

As an example of the bias, check this out:

Cable Network Rankings - Week of 03-8-10

Note the presence of Fox News Channel at #2 in prime time and #4 for overall viewing.

Note the complete absence of NBC as well as CBS and ABC. From the Huffington Post:

Evening News Ratings: ABC, CBS See Worst Quarters Ever While NBC Thrives
The "CBS Evening News" and ABC's "World News" have just closed their worst quarter on record.

The New York Times' Bill Carter takes a look at the first quarter ratings numbers for the network evening news broadcasts, and reports that both Katie Couric's and Diane Sawyer's broadcasts have "sunk to the lowest numbers the [programs have had] in a first quarter since the People Meter was introduced by Nielsen in 1987."

On the other end of the spectrum is NBC, where "Nightly News with Brian Williams" averaged 9.92 million total viewers for its best first quarter average in five years. ABC's "World News with Diane Sawyer" came in second with 8.27 million total viewers, while "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" placed third with 6.45 million total viewers.

Note the complete absence of any mention of FOX News. Sure, NBC might be trumping ABC and CBS but they are in a deep hole compared to FOX. Maybe if we don't acknowledge it, it will just go away...

Where it came from

Laughable security really -- from the BBC:
Siprnet: Where the leaked cables came from
Most of the diplomatic messages released by Wikileaks have been traced to a US defense department network, known as Siprnet, used for the exchange of classified information, media reports say.

Ironically, Siprnet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network), which was set up in the 1990s, was expanded as part of moves after 9/11 to allow classified information to be shared more easily and prevent failures of communication between different intelligence agencies.

It is designed for exchange of information up to "secret" level - the level for information that would cause "serious damage" to national security.

It is thought about 2.5 million US military and civilian personnel have access to the network.

However, Siprnet is not recommended for distribution of top-secret information.

Only 6% (more than 15,000) of the documents have been classified as secret. Another 40% were "confidential", while the rest were unclassified.
Their security protocols were a joke:
The system is protected by a series of security measures, the guide adds:
  • All users must be approved and registered
  • Passwords are complex, and must be changed every 150 days
  • Only accessible from specially enabled computers in secure location
  • Computers must not be left unattended
  • No linking to civilian internet without prior approval
  • Media storage devices become classified at secret level once connected to Siprnet-enabled computers
  • Audit trail of all users, including identity of all persons accessing Siprnet
However, the guide says that technological advances in storage devices have made it easier to remove classified information from secure areas.
This is more lax than some of the lab security I implemented while working at MSFT. Any time someone has physical access to data and has a means to write to a storage device, that data will be compromised. The simple expediency of having a dumb terminal with no input or output devices would have eliminated this from the outset. The fact that the security officers saw Manning with recordable CD disks ("with his own music") should have raised a big red flag and placed the little bugger under observation. The other thing to watch for is general traffic. If someone is downloading huge swathes of data from various locations, that might warrant a closer look.

Pineapple Express

This time of year, we can get warm fronts passing through that originate a long way away -- generally over Hawai'i -- hence the name. We are staring down the barrel of this one:
From the Cliff Mass Weather blog: Atmospheric River on the Way
We have had quite a bit of heavy shower activity over the lowlands as well as snow in the mountains, but a period of heavier rain, particularly in the mountains, is on tap for later this weekend.

The first part of Saturday will actually be quite decent, but the action starts later that day as an unusually strong and well formed warm front pushes north across the region (see graphic).

Behind the warm front there will be a shift to strong, warm ,moist southwesterly flow that is connected to the subtropics -- known as an atmospheric river -- or as we call it here, a pineapple express. It's Wellie time!

The land of Spamalot

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Had a slow few weeks with just a few spam attempts/day. Went into town to have an ingrown toenail removed and came back to find over 20 of them. Each and every one of them had a distinguishing characteristic. They were all composed of fail.

Absolutely nails it

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TJIC has some comments to a letter and this is one of the best fiskings I have seen. Ever.
I am firmly of the opinion that if Cary Tennis and everyone who wrote in to him were all put into a Thunderdome elimination event, the world would be a better place.

Let me translate a recent letter.�

Dear Cary,

I�m a worldly, well-traveled, experienced and vibrant woman, still young (age 55), I have a wide network of interesting friends, a talented, caring and loving husband and a young adult daughter � who is holding her own and doing well.
I have an utterly inflated opinion of myself.
I was blessed (I guess) with physical beauty and I have a strong and elegant personal style. I was fortunate to retire with a full pension almost two years ago and set upon a life of leisure while pursuing my art as an avocation, have held two successful gallery exhibits and produced a book as well, which has been very well received in my Rust Belt American city. I am an INFJ, if that tells you anything. The most marked characteristic to me is that we are only 3 percent of the population.
I have an utterly inflated opinion of myself.
I consider myself to be very strong and am a survivor. I won�t go into my past except to say�

I am firmly on the path of being the woman I would have wanted to be when I was younger and full of doubt, avoidance, fear and uncertainty.
I have an utterly inflated opinion of myself.
I recently began working again, part-time, at a small retail establishment that is a corporate entity of her sister stores.
I was lying previously when I said that I retired with a pension. In fact, my career was a mess, and now I�m working retail at the age of 55 because I need the money.
It�s located in an affluent suburb in a pretty little shopping district that was built for just this purpose: retail. A pretty, little fake town with nice shops selling expensive goods: This is how the shopping district is set up. It�s pleasant and pretty and in my view it�s all pretend. Or it�s not. It�s all about marketing and spending money and capitalism.
I believe that I�m an artist and a genius, and it is intolerable to me that business majors and engineering majors build shopping centers that attracts lots of customers, and merely hire architects and graphic designers to do work for hire � in a better world, we artists and dilettantes would be rewarded by society for our supposed genius. Not those grubby little logic-based business guys.
Heh... The other half at the TJIC site. Pitch Perfect...

Christmas Cheer

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Had the annual staff Christmas Party for the grocery store and the bakery. 22 staff (out of 25) with significant others and kids showed up and we had a wonderful time. Got a very good crew of people -- I keep them happy, they keep the customers happy and it all works out... I was talking with one person and we agreed that managing a business does not have to be an adversarial task. I do not veer off into la-la land and if one of the employees does, I will work to correct the behavior but when things are running correctly, I am happy. No micromanagement allowed...

Heads up - December 20th

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There will be a total Lunar Eclipse on the night of the 21st visible from all of the US. Begins at 9:29PM Pacific Standard Time December's Geminid meteor shower (Dec 14th) is supposed to be better than usual this year.
The occasional good bit happens. #1) - from the Washington Times:
House acts to block closing of Gitmo
Congress on Wednesday signaled it won't close the prison at Guantanamo Bay or allow any of its suspected terrorist detainees to be transferred to the U.S., dealing what is likely the final blow to President Obama's campaign pledge to shutter the facility in Cuba.

The move to block the prison's closure was written into a massive year-end spending bill that passed the House on Wednesday evening on a vote of 212-206, part of a last-minute legislative rush by Democrats to push through their priorities before ceding the House to Republican control in January.
and #2) - from Yahoo News/Associated Press:
Democrats delay action on young immigrants bill
Democrats have delayed a showdown vote on legislation carving out a path to legal status for foreign-born youngsters brought to this country illegally.

Facing GOP objections, Democrats are putting aside the so-called Dream Act. They're short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure.

Democratic officials say they'll try to move a House-passed version after the Senate acts on funding the government and extending tax cuts. Republicans have said they won't agree to consider anything else until those issues are addressed.

The bill grants hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children a chance to gain legal status if they enroll in college or join the military.
Good to see these two items happening. Gitmo needs to stay open. Sure, there were abuses there but considering the nature of the inmates, these were a necessity. Knowledge needs to be extracted in a timely manner.
From the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Just a few from the 200+ and growing list:
Bricklayers Local 1 of MD, VA and DC
International Brotherhood of Trade Unions Health and Welfare Fund
Local 1102 Amalgamated Welfare Fund
Local 1102 Health & Benefit Fund
Local 338 Affiliated Benefit Funds
Operating Engineers Local 835 Health and Welfare Fund
Retail, Wholesale & Dept. Store Union Local 1034 Welfare Fund
Service Employees International Union Local 1 Cleveland Welfare Fund
Teamsters Local 522 Welfare Fund Roofers Division
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 New Hampshire
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local No. 630 Welfare Fund
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1000
1199SEIU Greater New York Benefit Fund
Cleveland Bakers Teamsters
DC Cement Masons Welfare Fund
Laundry and Dry Cleaning Workers Local No. 52
Social Service Employees Union Local 371
United Food and Commercial Workers Union
Laborers' International Union of North America Local Union No. 616
Local 25 SEIU
These organizations are exepmt from Obamacare. By permission of the US Government.

More Pigford

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I love it -- Breitbart is on a roll with this one. An excerpt from this post by Gary Hewson -- The Pigford Killings: Double-Murder, Double-Cross, and Decapitation in the Delta. An excerpt:
�Yes, I agreed to it,� Edmond said of having Reed killed. �I know it�s wrong for wanting her dead, but I was p�� off with her because she put the police on me.�

She said Collins and Walker killed Reed to prevent Reed from testifying against Edmond and her sister. The women were accused of embezzling Reed�s $50,000 black farmers� settlement check in 2001.

But Edmond said both she and her sister and Reed were part of a scam to defraud the federal government of the money from a settlement between black farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Edmond said for every person she brought into the scam, she was scheduled to receive $2,000. The person getting the check would get $16,000, and the rest of the money would be split among others. She brought Reed into the scam, she said.
And as usual with any Breitbart post, links to source materials so you can check it out for yourself...

All Pigford, all the time

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Breitbart's Big Government is covering the Pigford corruption A few links: Publius -- The Pigford President: Obama Signs Black Farmers Settlement Dan Riehl -- Obama Using Pigford Cash to Pay Campaign Debts? Publius -- Pigford Witness Report: 700 Claims Filed with My Name on Them, Many From Hundreds of Miles Away Publius -- Pigileaks: We Helped Get You Elected, Now Give Us Our Money: NBFA President John Boyd Letter to President Obama The above story is particularly damning -- Publius shows the actual letter. More at Big Government. That this is flying under the mainstream media radar shows how much they are in the pocket of the current administration...

Strange event today

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I had mentioned that one of our Llamas passed away a week ago. This was during an intense cold snap and the ground was too frozen for burial. It warmed up enough today so I borrowed a neighbors backhoe and dug the trench. We have three remaining Llamas and they are usually pretty curious -- they were hanging around as I was operating the backhoe. What was really strange is that when I uncovered Willie's body (I had him covered with a tarp and boards holding the tarp down) and carried him in the excavator bucket, our other three Llamas recognized that this was their buddy and that something was very very wrong. They greet people and other critters by putting their nose very close to yours and smelling your breath. As I was driving Willie to his grave, Pancho, Lefty and Waylon took turns going nose to nose with Willie's corpse. We had quite the touching and tragic funeral cort�ge. I dropped him into the pit and arranged his body -- he is looking east -- and then started shoveling the soil on top of him. The other Llamas then dispersed and I saw them at the other end of the property when I drove back to work. You always wonder what is going on in animals minds. Today was quite the insight into Llamas'...

Too little, too late

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Ahhnold finally cries uncle. From Los Angeles station KNX:
Schwarzenegger Proposes $9.9B In Cuts
Schwarzenegger on Monday unveiled a plan that relies largely on cuts to health care and social services for the poor.

About $7.4 billion of his proposal would come from cuts, include reducing cash assistance to needy families by 15.7 percent in April, then eliminating the entire welfare-to-work program in July.

He is proposing to eliminate vision coverage and increasing monthly premiums for Healthy Families, a program that provides health coverage for children of low-income families.

The governor also is asking the state to limit prescriptions and cap physician visits to 10 a year for Medi-Cal recipients.
You see this kind of crap all the time. There is a budget crisis and programs must be cut. What to they cut? Publicly visible and popular programs. The welfare-to-work program is designed to get people off the public dole and trained for employment. Getting rid of that will have the consequence of prolonging welfare payments. No mention of cutting public-sector union salaries or pension plans. Can't do that. It is telling that 30% of government workers are unionized while 7% of private sector workers are represented. The private sector (capitalist) sees unions for what they are and refuses them.

A week of long days

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Had to run down to the Costco "Business Center" in Lynwood to get some kitchen fixtures and some stuff for the grocery store. The business centers carry a lot more than the usual Costco so I go down about once/month. The trip takes about five hours to drive but it is worth it for the prices. Had dinner on the way back, went to the Bakery and counted out the tills. I am switching the way I handle the two shifts so need to get it down to a system before I want the cashiers to learn the new system. No sense changing things in mid-stream. Just sat down. Jen is back from her Mexican trip.

Another long day

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Had to run into town to do some banking and get some stuff for the kitchen. I'll be doing the first of the take-out dinners this weekend. Meatloaf. Next up are Lentil Loaf, Chicken Pot Pie, Colcannon, Regular Mashed Spuds, Lasagne and Pot Roast. Should be interesting to see if they sell. Working on the layout for a new menu too. Go find dinner somewhere and call it a night...

Seriously WTF - mortgage rates

Swiped in toto from Coyote Blog:
Hair of the Dog
This is pretty incredible. It�s like the last two years didn�t even happen.
A national consumer coalition plans to file a series of landmark federal fair housing complaints beginning Dec. 6, challenging a widespread practice by banks and mortgage lenders: requiring borrowers who apply for FHA loans to have FICO credit scores well above the 580 minimum set by the FHA for qualified applicants with 3.5 percent down payments�.

Because FHA insures lenders against losses from serious delinquency or foreclosure, there is �no legitimate business justification� for rejecting applicants solely on the basis of FICO scores that are acceptable to FHA, the complaints contend.
Subprime mortgage customers are generally defined as those under a credit score of 620. I am surprised that anyone in this environment is offering 3.5% down to any buyer (though here is the government actually advertising the fact). But giving 3.5% down to subprime borrowers?

Even with the FHA guarantee, banks have learned that the cost of default for them is not zero. Only someone who has been in a cave for two years could somehow ascribe this action to discrimination rather than an obvious reaction to the ongoing mortgage crisis. The government is still out acting irresponsibly, and when private institutions (who actually have to live with the cost of their decisions) try to behave like adults, they get hauled into court.

By the way, this sure does seem to bolster the argument that community banking standards and the pressure from the government and community groups to drop lending standards played a large role in the housing crisis. If we are seeing this kind of pressure even after the housing disaster, what kind of pressure was at work, say, in 2005?

Via Mark Calabria, who has more
What cloud cuckoo land do these people live in?

Early Bill Watterson

Those of you not living under a rock cherish the legacy Bill Watterson left us with his Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

Just ran into a stash of his earlier 'toons. From the Derkins Library for Calvin and Hobbes Research

Specifically, the Rare Bill Watterson Art page:

Bill Watterson In College:
While a student at Ohio's Kenyon College, Bill drew cartoons for the school newspaper The Kenyon Collegian and for the yearbook. Thanks to the generosity of Nat D., a schoolmate of Bill, here are scans of Bill's work from that era.

The first image is a 1979 cartoon from the Collegian and the rest are pictures from the 1980 yearbook.

Two examples:



Oh Crap - I'm f*cked

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I went out for Chinese food at one of my two favorite places in Bellingham: Xing's Panda Palace (the other fave Chinese place is Oriento's) Xing's is in an older and moderately large shopping mall and with today's economy, there has been some shuffling of retail spaces. I noticed that two storefronts ( a used sporting vendor and something else -- so memorable a shopping experience I forgot what was there six months ago) had been combined and were being remodeled. And then I saw the sign. Opening Soon.
(Coming Soon!)
Crap - Harbor Freight is opening a very large store in Bellingham. I am sooo f*cked... Their closest store was in Lynwood -- a two hour drive away. Yes, it is cheap Chinese crap and if you use something on a daily basis, you would be a lot better served by getting something made in India or Taiwan at an ISO9000 factory and paying the extra bucks for something that will last 30 years before needing to be rebuilt. That being said, if you figure that you will only give very light-duty use to a tool and really need that tool, HF is your way to go. My socket wrenches are either Craftsman or Snap-On, Screwdrivers? Enderes or Klein, Lathe? old-skool South Bend, Mill? a Taiwanese Grizzly. You get the picture. For incidental spray painting? Harbor Freight. Dent puller? HF, Come Along? HF, etc...

Light posting tonight

Long day today sitting in front of the keyboard at the Bakery. Did a good chunk of the data entry needed and am ready to reconcile the first month of Quickbooks data. Do that (and pay bills) tomorrow. Heading out for dinner somewhere and an early evening.

Dull day at the Bakery

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Spending the time needed to get all of the data into Quickbooks and CostGuard. The darned Data Entry faeries are taking the month off. At least I am able to maintain a decent level of caffination...

A Southern Poverty Law Center two-fer

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Talk about liberal elites getting wealthy off the backs of the very underclass they claim to represent. First is from the Center for Immigration Studies:
Immigration and the SPLC: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Invented a Smear, Served La Raza, Manipulated the Press, and Duped its Donors
This report examines the efforts by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to smear the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and, by extension, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA.

With no serious analysis, the SPLC in late 2007 unilaterally labeled FAIR a �hate group.� That poisonous designation became the centerpiece of a �Stop the Hate� campaign launched by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), also known as La Raza, to call on Congress and the media to exclude FAIR from the national debate on immigration.

The campaign gathered strength as newspapers across the country reported that FAIR had been �designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.� While the news stories generally included FAIR�s denial of the charge, thereby providing a semblance of balance, the designation�s taint lingered. The SPLC, presenting itself as a non-partisan, public-interest watchdog, never acknowledged � and no reporter ever disclosed � that the center was an active ally of the NCLR in the campaign.

The evidence presented here demonstrates that the SPLC became a propaganda arm of the NCLR. The SPLC�s decision to smear FAIR was the work of a kangaroo court, one convened to reach a pre-determined verdict by inventing or distorting evidence. The �Stop the Hate� campaign would more accurately be labeled as a campaign to �Stop the Debate.�

As this report notes, FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA have raised questions about the social, economic, and fiscal costs of the �comprehensive immigration reform� sought by La Raza and such allies as the National Immigration Forum and America�s Voice. Rather than engage in a debate, La Raza and its allies have waged a campaign to have the other side shunned by the press, civil society, and elected officials. It is an effort to destroy the reputations of its targets. It also seeks to intimidate and coerce others into silence. It undermines basic principles of civil society and democratic discussion.

We examine the SPLC�s work in the campaign against the background of the law center�s history, acknowledging that the SPLC has done admirable work in attacking the Ku Klux Klan and in representing immigrant workers who have been exploited by employers.

But we also review two decades of work by investigative reporters that has exposed SPLC hate-mongering and deception of the donors on whom it depends. Indeed, the SPLC�s hometown paper, the Montgomery Advertiser, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for its nine-day expos� of the SPLC and its founder, Morris Dees, in 1994. The current attack on FAIR is consistent with the duplicity documented by that series and by other journalists who have investigated the SPLC.

Finally, we examine the SPLC attack on John Tanton, the Michigan environmental activist who founded FAIR in 1979. We document repeated distortion and exaggeration and show that many of Tanton�s concerns about immigration, though cited by the SPLC as proof of bigotry and intolerance, also have been raised by respected scholars and journalists.

But we also discuss how Tanton has undermined the movement by adhering to a big-tent philosophy that embraces some figures who do not play a constructive role in the immigration debate.

In a civil society, proven racists, bigots, and hate mongers deserve rejection. This report shows that the SPLC, while claiming to hold high the banner of tolerance, failed to observe basic standards of responsible judgment, honest reporting, and simple human decency. It preferred to engage in character assassination.

The SPLC is entitled to its opinion. But it cannot pose as a non-partisan watchdog when it fabricates and distorts evidence to delegitimize one side of the immigration debate while it is actually working as an ally of the opposing side. Claiming to act in the name of tolerance, the SPLC has tried to destroy it.

Tom Barry, director of the TransBorder Project at the liberal Center for International Policy in Washington, DC, noted that the SPLC�s �hate group� designation of FAIR �provided highly explosive ammunition for the character assassination campaign.�

Barry, who supports �comprehensive� reform, offered this assessment of the �Stop the Hate� campaign: �Trying to stick a label of �extremist� on institutes that have massive memberships, good relations with the media, and good standing on the Hill is a measure of how desperate and isolated the pro-immigration forces that have embraced this strategy really are.�
Much more at the site -- this is a well written and detailed report. Next up is this post from the Petrelis Files:
Southern 'Poverty' Law Center's Cayman Island's Bank Account
As if an unquestionable and unblemished deity was handing down tablets of absolute truth, many gay bloggers and community leaders including Dan Savage wholly embraced the release earlier this week of a new list on 18 of the menacing antigay groups stirring up trouble from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

No doubt, the groups fingered by the SPLC don't like us and contribute greatly to our political setbacks, but it's not big news to me that the groups have been corralled on to an SPLC list - one of obvious extremist enemies. The gays have more to worry about with the very mainstream Democratic Party and its affiliated gay front group, the Human Rights Campaign. Let's look beyond the scary report and peek at larger SPLC issues.

The SPLC's new 2009 IRS 990 filing shows they have a bank account in the Cayman Islands. Now, stop for a good long minute and ask yourself what the hell is a supposed poverty-fighting Alabama-based tax exempt organization doing with such an account. Then ponder this: how much money is in it.

Unfortunately, the IRS does not require SPLC or any tax exempt charity with an account in a foreign country to disclose additional details, such as the amount, and the SPLC's current 990 filing merely notes the existence of an account in a foreign country. The center's site reveals neither the existence of the off-shore account nor the total it contains.

Assets for the organization are listed at $190 million, a nice chunk of change in these economic hard times. When was the last time this group, with almost $190 million in assets, did a damn worthwhile thing about, um, poverty?

The latest 990 additionally shows founder and chief trial counsel Morris Dees had his salary raised to $350,000, and his CEO, Richard Cohen, is close behind at $345,000.

The tax filing also shows Dees traveled by air charter, and that his spouse, artist and businesswoman Susan Starr, accompanies her husband on the business trips.
A lot more at this second article -- lots of links to check the facts. What is interesting is that they have some photos of the Dees house courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser who published a photo shoot back in May 2010:


Not too shabby for someone dedicated to public service and to the care and management of the institutionalized "poor".

The great Gold Rush

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Like any other bubble, Gold is now being touted as the only hedge against inflation and where to put 10% of your money. Prices are at an all-time high -- much more than the metal is actually worth. Brokers are advertising heavily when the smart way to buy is through a spot-metals dealer like Kitco (and the better investment is in a bag of Junk Silver coins from pre-1965, you can make change from a pile of quarters -- how do you buy a loaf of bread and make change from a bar of gold). From John F. Wasik writing at Reuters:
Coming soon: the loud thud of a gold bust
Some time in the future the price of gold will crash and it won�t have a fairy-tale ending for the millions of investors who piled on in recent months.

If I could tell you when gold was going to bust, I�d likely be wrong or bigger than Warren Buffett, so I won�t even try. Just be incredibly cautious now. There are too many signs that gold is frothier than a Starbucks cappuccino.

It�s not that I don�t nod in agreement when gold bugs rant about why their metal holds a special value now. The dollar is in deep trouble as the U.S. sinks deeper into debt. Will Portugal and Spain be the next Ireland on the bailout boulevard? Ben Bernanke may not be able to put a dent in U.S. unemployment or the intractable housing crisis.

And yes, I also know the argument on how gold is nowhere near its inflation-adjusted equivalent of its high in January, 1980. According to the Leuthold Group, gold will have to hit $2,400 an ounce to match the $850 high mark it hit in 1980 in real terms. That doesn�t mean it will, of course.

Yet the back story of the world�s financial insecurity isn�t necessarily about gold being the last or only store of value. It just may be the most popular red herring at the moment.
Much more at the site. That is not to say that you should not keep an ounce or two as a SHTF safeguard but to consider it to be an "investment" along with the rest of your portfolio is pure marketing and not rational investing.

Curious news

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From CBS News:
Hillary Clinton: Secretary of State is "My Last Public Position"
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has once more reiterated that she will not run for president in 2012, going so far as to refer to her current role in government as "my last public position."

At a town hall meeting appearance in Manama, Bahrain on Friday, Clinton denied intentions to run for either president or vice president on the ticket with President Obama, who defeated her in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. Some experts have also speculated that she could replace Robert Gates next year when he retires as secretary of defense.

"I think I will serve as secretary of state as my last public position," she said. Clinton's career has included not only her current position as secretary of state, but also eight years in the Senate representing New York.

Clinton has repeatedly laughed off rumors that she may seek the highest office in the country, and she was notably out of the country during the midterm elections when Democrats lost control of the House.

When her current position is over, Clinton "would like to continue working to improve lives for others," she said, adding that she will "probably go back to advocacy work, particularly on women and children and probably around the world." This marks the first time Clinton has publicly discussed alternatives to political office in her future.
I would have thought that she would make a run in 2012...

Tax cuts likely to stay in effect

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From the New York Times:
Senate Rejects Obama�s Tax Plan, Setting Stage for Deal
The Senate on Saturday rejected President Obama�s proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for all but the wealthiest taxpayers, a triumph for Republicans who have long called for continuing the income tax cuts for everyone.

The Senate�s verdict set the stage for a possible deal in the coming days to extend the reduced tax rates even on high incomes temporarily, perhaps for up to two years. But with Senate Democrats and the White House badly splintered, and some lawmakers increasingly angry at the idea of sustaining President George W. Bush�s economic policies, the prospects of a compromise remain uncertain.

If Congress does not act, the tax rates expire for everyone on Dec. 31, meaning an increase across the board. The rate in the lowest bracket would rise to 15 percent from 10 percent and in the highest bracket to 39.6 percent from 35 percent.
Something buried in the article but veeeery interesting:
Republicans voted unanimously against the House-passed bill, and they were joined by four Democrats � Senators Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Jim Webb of Virginia � as well as by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.
These Democrats are not newbie lightweights. If the like of Feingold and Nelson come over to the other side, that means the Democrats are not a monolithic bloc and that there is some serious dissent in the ranks. Obama really has lost his halo...

Well crap - the FCC takes over the Internet

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Net Neutrality my great hairy ass... From The Washington Times:
Wave goodbye to Internet freedom
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to add the Internet to its portfolio of regulated industries. The agency's chairman, Julius Genachowski, announced Wednesday that he circulated draft rules he says will "preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet." No statement could better reflect the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality of Obama administration policies.

With a straight face, Mr. Genachowski suggested that government red tape will increase the "freedom" of online services that have flourished because bureaucratic busybodies have been blocked from tinkering with the Web. Ordinarily, it would be appropriate at this point to supply an example from the proposed regulations illustrating the problem. Mr. Genachowski's draft document has over 550 footnotes and is stamped "non-public, for internal use only" to ensure nobody outside the agency sees it until the rules are approved in a scheduled Dec. 21 vote. So much for "openness."
The time for smaller government is now. The Federal Communications Commission has no business here. This is a power grab and nothing good will come of it.

More please

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Talk about balls...
What he said -- the guy is an Austrian MP and is talking to the Turkish ambassador and calling him on the corruption that is Islam. Europe is backing away from the abyss while the current regime is plunging head on...

Poor widdle snowflake - Alkis Gerd'son

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From the Vancouver, CA Sun:
19-year stay at UVic residence to end today
Alkis Gerd'son is expected to move today out of University of Victoria residence, a place he has called home for nearly 20 years.

"He has found some off-campus housing and he's agreed he'll vacate the university residence by noon," said Kim Hart Wensley, UVic associate vice-president of faculty relations and academic administration.

UVic has been trying to get Gerd'son to move out for years. The matter has been the focus of hearings in B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Gerd'son moved into residence in 1991 and obtained his degree but never left. He has not taken classes since 1997.

The human rights tribunal has not made a decision, but Gerd'son appears to be complying with the court-ordered eviction. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Probably votes liberal. Dude needs to man up and get on with his life and not be trying to spend it with people 20 years younger than himself. PTSD and OCD are just made-up "complications" for most people. I know people with PTSD and this doesn't sound like PTSD to me -- sounds like lazy.

News from the Global Warming front:

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From the Beeb:
Lethal cold weather grips northern Europe
Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures have been causing another day of disruption to northern Europe and its transport network.

Thousands of railway passengers had to spend the night in trains in Germany as snow paralysed many high-speed inter-city routes.

Flights were disrupted in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany.

In Poland, 18 people have died from exposure over the past two days.
Humans do better in warm temperatures than we do in cold. A little bit of global warming would be a good thing...
From Anthony at Watts Up With That:
Breaking: Japan refuses to extend Kyoto treaty at Cancun
Talks threatened with breakdown after forthright Japanese refusal to extend Kyoto emissions commitments
* John Vidal, Wednesday 1 December 2010 18.16 GMT

Japan refuses to extend Kyoto protocol. �The forthrightness of the statement took people by surprise,� said one British official

The delicately balanced global climate talks in Canc�n suffered a serious setback last night when Japan categorically stated its opposition to extending the Kyoto protocol � the binding international treaty that commits most of the world�s richest countries to making emission cuts.

The Kyoto protocol was adopted in Japan in 1997 by major emitting countries, who committed themselves to cut emissions by an average 5% on 1990 figures by 2012.

However the US congress refused to ratify it and remains outside the protocol.

The brief statement, made by Jun Arima, an official in the government�s economics trade and industry department, in an open session, was the strongest yet made against the protocol by one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

He said: �Japan will not inscribe its target under the Kyoto protocol on any conditions or under any circumstances.�
Heh... Glad to see some clear heads prevailing. As Anthony said at the end:
Reality bites, when Japan says something so blunt, you know they mean it � Anthony
One of Anthony's readers -- Daniel M had this to say:
What sound does the first domino make?
Well put!


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Swipped from Denny.
Here are the before and the after photos:

There is a video at the site that is amazing. I was not able to embed it but found a version on YouTube:
The guy was in critical condition, no update as yet. Hat tip to reader Geran Imo for the link.

Now this is good for security

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From The Blaze:
State-�Controlled� Russian Company Set to Take Over Wyoming Uranium Mines
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the license transfer of two Wyoming mines to a Russian company, despite concerns over national security raised by local and national government officials including senior House Republicans.

From the Telegram:
Two uranium mines in Wyoming are on their way to control by a Russian company now that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved transferring the mines� licenses.

The NRC last week approved the license transfer to a Russian company known as ARMZ which expects to obtain a controlling interest in Canadian-owned Uranium One by year�s end. Uranium One holds the licenses for a proposed uranium mine and an existing uranium mine in northeast Wyoming.
The approval comes despite concerns from local and national lawmakers. Bother groups worry that Wyoming�s uranium could in theory go overseas and serve against U.S. interests.

�The administration must maintain rigorous oversight of this project and ensure this transaction does not undercut America�s national or energy security,� Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said through a spokeswoman Tuesday.

In October, four U.S. House members sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to block the sale of the two Wyoming mines, citing national security concerns. According to the Wyoming Business Journal, �the sale would give the Russians control of up to 20 percent of the U.S. national uranium extraction capability along with a controlling interest in one of the nation�s largest uranium mining sites.�
Are people in Washington just that stupid? Sure seems like it. Out of touch with reality...

All wired up

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Just spent the last 90 minutes training with the manager of Tony's Coffee (our vendor). Made (and consumed) a bunch of different drinks -- learned a lot. I have been into coffee for the last thirty years and thought that I knew about making espresso. Learned a couple things so it was really good. Don't know how well I will sleep tonight but it sure was tasty...

Political maneuvering at its finest

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A poster child for why progressive government needs to be limited. From The Anti-Planner:
Fast Train to Nowhere
The federal government�s most recent $900 million grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority came with a string attached: most of the money had to be spent, not in Los Angeles or San Francisco where most potential rail patrons are located, but in the central valley. Handed out just before the election, the grant was a blatant attempt to help the re-election effort of U.S. Representative Jim Costa. It might have made a difference, for despite the fact that Costa�s district leans heavily Democrat, he won over an unknown Republican candidate by a mere 3,000 votes.

But now California has to deal with the fact that it only has enough funds to build a high-speed train to nowhere. The authority expects to vote tomorrow on whether to start construction from Borden to Corcoran. To be fair, the route would go through Fresno, but it wouldn�t take anyone in Fresno to anywhere they might want to go at a high speed: Borden is barely a dot on the map, while Corcoran is the home of Charles Manson and his fellow prisoners.
And of course, it is well known that, given the initial cost of a light rail system, you would be better off by buying each of the commuters a Prius and that for the operating costs of a light rail system, you could buy each commuter enough gasoline for 10,000 miles of driving. These numbers have proven themselves in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Albuquerque. In addition, it steals money away from successful alternative means of public transportation -- busses, etc...
A beautiful commercial for Capitalism. Note that the age axis is linear while the wealth axis is logarithmic and so distorts the huge movement along that axis.

Heh - environmentalism in the news

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From the Toronto, CA Globe and Mail:
Can environmentalism be saved from itself?
Maybe it was just a bad dream.

Just a year ago, 15,000 of the world�s leaders, diplomats, and UN officials were gearing up to descend on Copenhagen to forge a global treaty that would save the planet. The world�s media delivered massive coverage. Important newspapers printed urgent front-page calls for action, and a popular new U.S. President waded in to put his reputation on the line. The climate talks opened with a video showing a little girl�s nightmare encounter with drought, storms, eruptions, floods and other man-made climate disasters. �Please help the world,� she pleads.

After two weeks of chaos, the talks collapsed in a smouldering heap of wreckage. The only surprise was that this outcome should have come as a surprise to so many intelligent people. These people actually seemed to believe that experts and politicians have supernatural powers to predict the future and control the climate. They believed that experts know how fast temperatures will rise by when, and what the consequences will be, and that we know what to do about it. They believed that despite the recent abject failure of Kyoto (to say nothing of other well-intentioned international treaties), the nations of the world would willingly join hands and sacrifice their sovereignty in order to sign on to a vast scheme of unimaginable scope, untold cost and certain damage to their own interests.

Copenhagen was not a political breakdown. It was an intellectual breakdown so astonishing that future generations will marvel at our blind credulity. Copenhagen was a classic case of the emperor with no clothes.
Leviathan is becoming self aware and realizing that the environmental movement is a political one and not a scientific one. It is all about power and control. Always has been, always will be. The 600+ comments are worth reading...

An interesting bit of architecture

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Notice the shape at the center of the three-lobed building. Looks like the Star of David. The building was constructed by Israeli engineers over thirty years ago. The building houses the national airline for... Iran.
For what it's worth, having Infidels come into an Arab nation to do construction is not unheard of. After all, it was the US Company Bechtel partnering with a very new Bin Laden Construction Company that teamed up to build the Ka'baa -- the little black cube at Mecca. Same kind of technology transfer that has the Saudi King coming to the USA for medical treatment. There is much seething in the Arab world. Hat tip to Peter at Bayou Renaissance Man and the Jerusalem Post.
There is always Photoshop: From the website:
So you want to take some fun photos with your best-buddy celebrity friends - but there's one big problem - you're a nobody and have absolutely no connection with these stars...

No sweat! We've got the solution for you. Just Photoshop them in!

This hilarious set, titled "My Holiday Party," was created by ingenious man of the year, Everett Hiller. "Every year my wife and I throw a party and when I send out the photos I add famous people," he says.
Here they are with Bill:
Bunch more at the site -- cute idea
And we have been propping them up since 2008. From the Financial Times:
Fed reveals global extent of its backing
Rivers of ink have been spilt on the crisis that gripped the world�s financial system between 2007 and 2009.

Yesterday�s huge release of data by the US Federal Reserve chronicles a similar story, but in numbers. A lot of numbers.

The Fed�s release, prompted by an order from Congress, details more than 21,000 transactions that enabled US authorities to dole out $3,300bn to banks and companies in the worst downturn since the Great Depression. The picture is one of a global financial system in desperate need of short-term funding.

In the credit boom that preceded the crisis, short-term debt and loans became the lifeblood of modern finance. When they dried up in 2007 after the collapse of the US housing market, banks and hedge funds were left gasping for air.

From huge multinationals such as Citigroup and General Electric to small funds and Germany�s Landesbanken, the list of participants to the six Fed programmes is a who�s who of modern finance.
The United States Federal Reserve is a private bank and needs to be operated as one. The call to Audit the Fed is now louder than ever. From CNBC - tossing away good money after bad:
US Ready to Back Bigger EU Stability Fund: Official
The United States would be ready to support the extension of the European Financial Stability Facility via an extra commitment of money from the International Monetary Fund, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of people talking about that. I think the European Commission has talked about that," said the U.S. official, commenting on enlarging the 750 billion euro ($980 billion) EU/IMF European stability fund. "It is up to the Europeans. We will certainly support using the IMF in these circumstances."
But we want the Europeans to liiiike us... What a fscking crock. The EUs economy is failing and with us guaranteeing them more operating capital, they will continue to fail and drag us down with them. If you give a junkie $1,000 he will be very happy. Will he go straight? No. No incentive and he will hit you up for another $1,000 when the first one is all gone. A bunch of morons are running once-great nations into the ground and the damn fools keep pushing on.


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I run payroll on the 16th and the 1st of the month - biweekly pay periods. A lot of the people at the bakery and the store are just working 10-20 hours/week but between the bakery and the grocery store, I am cutting 23 checks today. This level of responsibility kinda creeps up on you...

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Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

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

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2010 is the previous archive.

January 2011 is the next archive.

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