January 2014 Archives

Good news - Keystone pipeline

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From the Associated Press:
Keystone XL oil pipeline clears significant hurdle
The long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline cleared a major hurdle toward approval Friday, a serious blow to environmentalists' hopes that President Barack Obama will block the controversial project running more than 1,000 miles from Canada through the heart of the U.S.

The State Department reported no major environmental objections to the proposed $7 billion pipeline, which has become a symbol of the political debate over climate change. Republicans and some oil- and gas-producing states in the U.S. - as well as Canada's minister of natural resources - cheered the report, but it further rankled environmentalists already at odds with Obama and his energy policy.

The report stops short of recommending approval of the pipeline, but the review gives Obama new support if he chooses to endorse it in spite of opposition from many Democrats and environmental groups. Foes say the pipeline would carry "dirty oil" that contributes to global warming, and they also express concern about possible spills.
Only question is what the hell is State doing ruling on environmental and internal development issues? Do we even have one governmental agency that is staying within its scope of creation?

A bit of a climactic comeuppance

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We have been having a relatively dry and mild winter -- there was a week of arctic temperatures (my pipes froze) but that has been it for the last couple months. Looks like we will be getting slammed with the same cold temperature that the rest of the US are enjoying. From today's Special Weather Statement:
A marked cooling trend is expected from Monday through Wednesday of next week, as an air mass with origins in the Yukon spreads into Western Washington Via the Fraser River Canyon.

The more notable temperature drop will begin on Monday and continue through Wednesday, with the coldest weather expected around the middle of next week by Wednesday.

Temperatures will run about 15 degrees under normal readings for early February over the lowlands, this means that morning lows around Wednesday and Thursday should range from the mid teens to lower 20s, While high temperatures in the 30s should be common.

Windy Fraser outflow conditions will also develop late Sunday and continue for much of next week. This pattern results in brisk Northeast winds from Sumas and Bellingham out past the San Juan Islands, with wind gusts in excess of 40 MPH common.

Wind and cold temperatures could result in wind chill values in the single digits.
Just wonderful -- I was planning to start pruning the fruit trees this weekend or next but it may be put off for another week or two. Need to get started on this -- they have been untouched for two years and need serious attention. The valley we live in runs straight North/South so we catch the brunt of the Fraser River fronts.

The real public opinion on Guns

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From author John Lott:
So much for the claim that Americans want stricter gun control, 56% of Americans are against making gun laws stricter
The headline for Gallup was that "Americans' Dissatisfaction With Gun Laws Highest Since 2001." While dissatisfaction is up, what is interesting to note is that most of the increase is from people who want the laws less strict. Since 2012 the percent who want less strict laws has increased from 8 to 16 percent. The percent who wanted looser gun laws actually tripled over the last year.
Lott is a bit of a pariah to the gun grabbers as he has written extensivly (with links to corroborating data) that private gun ownership lowers crime significantly.

Brilliant marketing idea

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From FOX News:
Planning a night out? Olive Garden will pay your baby-sitting tab
Either Olive Garden really loves parents or really hates kids, because on Feb. 7 the casual Italian dining chain will be dishing out free baby-sitting for any parents who dine at one of its participating locations across the country.

In an interesting promotional pairing, the chain, owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, has teamed up with My Gym, a chain of children's activity centers.

Before dining at Olive Garden, parents can drop off their kids at any one of 145 participating My Gym locations and return with their Olive Garden receipt to have their baby-sitting tab covered.

The one-night only special, called Parents� Night Out, will run from 6 to 9 p.m. but could vary by location, and will promote the chain�s two-for $25 dinner menu. Although, a spokeswoman told the Orlando Sentinel that diners are welcome to try out other menu items also.

"With busy family schedules and everyone always on the go, it's challenging for parents to find time for a date night out," Jay Spenchian, executive vice president of marketing for Olive Garden said in a release.
Very clever idea -- they probably negotiated a killer price from My Gym because dinner time would normally be slow for them. Win/win...

Disk 1 of 1713

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Installing Win8 the old school way:

From Popular Mechanics:

Ambulance Drones are Almost Here

Urban warfare demands close-quarters combat, which often begs for a more subtle approach to military machinery. Medevac helicopters, a soldier's lifeline on the battlefield, are but hindrances in an urban setting. Narrow alleyways and wide rotors don't mix.

AirMule, an unmanned flying ambulance capable of vertical takeoff and landing in extremely close quarters, has been in development for a few years. When the Israeli firm Urban Aeronautics released its initial concept art in 2008, it was easy to dismiss those futuristic, colorful pods out of hand. But last month, Urban Aeronautics announced that AirMule had successfully completed a series of fully automatic test flights.

The current incarnation of AirMule is drab and car-shaped, with enclosed rotors that keep the hovercraft aloft. These recent test flights revealed that AirMule is significantly quieter�and stealthier�than a helicopter, and capable of landing in tight spaces with ease.

More faster! This would be amazing for back-country search and rescue.

Prince Charles in the news

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I had posted before about how Queen Elizabeth is handing over the reigns to Prince Charles. Here and here. Here is a perfect example of why this is a bad idea -- from the BEEB:
Prince rebukes 'headless chicken' climate change deniers
Prince Charles has dismissed climate change "deniers" as the "headless chicken brigade".

Campaigners who share his long-held green stance faced a "barrage of sheer intimidation" from the powerful anti-climate change lobby, the prince said.

He made the remarks at an awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Thursday evening.

The heir to the throne has previously called on politicians to face down "sceptics and... corporate lobbyists".

Presenting Gamal Albinsaid with the Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize, Charles said it was "baffling" that people's "blind trust in science and technology" did not extent to climate science.

"All of a sudden, and with a barrage of sheer intimidation, we are told by powerful groups of deniers that the scientists are wrong and we must abandon all our faith in so much overwhelming scientific evidence."
The Prince would not recognize scientific evidence if it rose up and bit his head off...

A liberal meltdown

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Braying ninny -- wanting to meddle in other people's lives
Ideas so good they have to be mandatory...
From the Washington Examiner:
Federal consumer bureau data-mining hundreds of millions of consumer credit card accounts, mortgages
Officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are conducting a massive, NSA-esque data-mining project collecting account information on an estimated 991 million American credit card accounts.

It was also learned at a Congressional hearing Tuesday that CFPB officials are working with the Federal Housing Finance Agency on a second data-mining effort, this one focused on the 53 million residential mortgages taken out by Americans since 1998.
Just wonderful... The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created by Obama in 2011 as a byproduct of the Dodd-Frank bill. Their appearance of careful management is just a careful management of appearances.

Tractor fails

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Six minutes of various tractor fails -- mostly hold my beer and watch this with some basic incompetence thrown in for good measure.
From Izismile


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From Day by Day

Major news if this is for real

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From PhysOrg:
Physicists create synthetic magnetic monopole predicted more than 80 years ago
Nearly 85 years after pioneering theoretical physicist Paul Dirac predicted the possibility of their existence, an international collaboration led by Amherst College Physics Professor David S. Hall '91 and Aalto University (Finland) Academy Research Fellow Mikko M�tt�nen has created, identified and photographed synthetic magnetic monopoles in Hall's laboratory on the Amherst campus. The groundbreaking accomplishment paves the way for the detection of the particles in nature, which would be a revolutionary development comparable to the discovery of the electron.

A paper about this work co-authored by Hall, M�tt�nen, Amherst postdoctoral research associate Michael Ray, Saugat Kandel '12 and Finnish graduate student Emmi Ruokokski was published today in the journal Nature.

"The creation of a synthetic magnetic monopole should provide us with unprecedented insight into aspects of the natural magnetic monopole�if indeed it exists," said Hall, explaining the implications of his work.

Ray, the paper's lead author and first to sight the monopoles in the laboratory, agreed, noting: "This is an incredible discovery. To be able to confirm the work of one of the most famous physicists is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am proud and honored to have been part of this great collaborative effort."

Ordinarily, magnetic poles come in pairs: they have both a north pole and a south pole. As the name suggests, however, a magnetic monopole is a magnetic particle possessing only a single, isolated pole�a north pole without a south pole, or vice versa. In 1931, Dirac published a paper that explored the nature of these monopoles in the context of quantum mechanics. Despite extensive experimental searches since then, in everything from lunar samples�moon rock�to ancient fossilized minerals, no observation of a naturally-occurring magnetic monopole has yet been confirmed.
Like I said, this is major if it is real. Nobel prize material.
Back in August of 2012, I posted that Enderes Tool was going out of business. A sad day because their build quality was well above average -- really good stuff. Found out today that they have been bought out and the new owner is equally concerned about quality and building the reputation. From the new Enderes Tool website:

My name is Steven Overgaard the new owner of ENDERES TOOLS, now known as Northbridge Tool LLC. While the name of the company has changed, rest assured the ENDERES TOOL name, which is stamped on every tool, and the quality associated with it never will.

As the owner of Vasco Inc, a family owned machine shop, metalworking and fabrication facility located in Albert Lea. I have had a 30 year relationship with Enderes Tool, repairing and rebuilding their manufacturing equipment. This put me in a unique position to step in and rescue a valuable company in difficult financial trouble. We purchased all assets of Enderes Tool and hired most of the former employees. Unfortunately this process could not be completed before the company had to close it's doors. Enderes Tools reopened in November 2012 and is now running full speed and expanding daily.

We are forging ahead with plans to move into a new facility, which we already own, enabling us to double the size of our current operation. We believe that our "commitment to quality" offers the greatest possible value to our customers and will provide the best opportunity for continued success. To this end we dedicate our entire effort.

Please join us in the rebirth of this company and pass the word that ENDERES TOOL is still here and the best made tools in the world are still available.
I will be ordering some stuff from them -- I do blacksmithing and their punches were made of excellent quality high-carbon steel. Great for modifying and knifemaking. See if the quality is still there...
From the New York Times:
Henry Waxman, 20-Term Democrat, Leaving House
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, a diminutive Democratic giant whose 40 years in the House produced some of the most important legislation of the era, will announce on Thursday that he is retiring at the end of the year.

Mr. Waxman, 74, joins the growing list of House members who are calling it quits, many in disappointment over the partisanship and ineffectiveness of a Congress that may end up as the least productive in history.

�It�s been frustrating because of the extremism of Tea Party Republicans,� Mr. Waxman said in an interview on Wednesday. �Nothing seems to be happening.�
I love that quote: Nothing seems to be happening. That is correct because you are trying to implement overreaching government programs that are funded by our future generations -- kicking the can down the road and letting our children pay for our excesses. Enough people are seeing through this Utopian fever-dream and trying to stop its implementation. Good riddance Mr. Waxman -- don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you...

Who ordered snow?

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Wheeled the trash and recycling out to the curb just now and it is snowing lightly! Air temp is 39.6�F so it is not sticking but still -- snow? The forecast was for a 3,000 foot snow level and I'm at about 750.

Nothing like coming home to a warm house

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No day five of furnace problems -- nipped it in the bud this morning. Bad transformer and gas valve. Left for work and came home to a nice warm house. I also arranged for an estimator to come out to look at putting in a heat pump. Propane prices are pretty steep and this will cut a lot of the winter heating cost plus getting air conditioning for the two weeks in summer when we really need it. Lulu is coming back out tomorrow so the timing is perfect.

Another Super Bowl advertisement

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The greening of Vancouver, BC

Environmentalism simply does not pay -- from the Vancouver Sun:

Brian Hutchinson: Vancouver's salad days die with bankrupt rooftop garden
Vancouver-based Alterrus Systems Inc. was just another penny stock outfit with an ugly bottom line. After years of losses, reorganizations, new directions and name changes, the company's principals - including former Lululemon yoga wear executives settled on a new line of business: Rooftop lettuce production.

Naturally, they turned to the urban farming enthusiasts at Vancouver City Hall, led by Gregor Robertson, perennial contender for World's Greenest Mayor. Alterrus obtained necessary permits and a cheap 10-year lease agreement, allowing it to operate a 6,000- square-foot hydroponic green leaf vegetable garden and packaging facility on top of a city-owned parking garage, for $2,400 per month.

The lease was signed in April 2012, when Alterrus was already stumbling towards insolvency. Last week, it filed for bankruptcy protection. So much for that idea.

One needed only to glance at financial documents it had previously filed with securities regulators in the U.S. and Canada to know this was a dog. The documents contained enough warnings and caveats to give the most reckless gambler pause. But not Vancouver officials; they were either unfazed or caught unawares.

Of course, everyone took voluntary pay cuts to help the company:

Its three top executives were well-compensated: The company's chief executive and chief operating officer were each paid salaries of $201,400 in fiscal 2012; not including bonuses and other considerations, including stock options. Both executives were paid $201,400 again the following fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, according to company filings. Their chief financial officer earned $120,000 before quitting in August, 2012. His replacement bailed out after just three months on the job.

But all of the other green programs are working out just fine:

The City of Vancouver wasn't badly exposed, financially. Its wholly-owned parking lot subsidiary is owed around $13,104 in unpaid rent. The real damage is to its reputation and its credibility. Alterrus was yet another in a string of goofy green initiatives embraced by Mayor Robertson and his Vision party.

There was the great downtown bike lane experiment, launched in in 2010, which went from 'temporary' to permanent boondoggle, with $3.2 million wasted on infrastructure. In 2011, the city estimated the new bike lanes had already cost local businesses $2.4 million, thanks to the removal of parking spaces and so on. City Hall's response? Pshaw. The hit to businesses was manageable.

Additional bike lanes were built, without consensus, for millions more tax dollars. And still more bike lanes are coming. In the most recent example, an entire city street has been closed to all but local traffic, so that bicyclists can be more generously accommodated by the mayor and council.

The city administration has also insisted on pursuing a public bicycle-sharing initiative, despite less-than-stellar experiences in other cities. Vancouver has committed $6 million to get the program moving, to the chagrin of local, unsubsidized bike rental companies. Last week, just as Alterrus the greenery supplier went under, Vancouver's putative bike-share infrastructure provider, PublicBike System Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection.

This is also the city of lane-way housing, street thinning, and a ludicrous cigarette butt recycling effort, which city smokers seem to have all but ignored. Vancouver has become a giant petri-dish; we're living in a state of perpetual experiment here. Its salad days are over, but with Mayor Robertson and his visionaries still in charge, there'll be more green gambits soon.

No mention of what the rest of British Columbia is saying about Vancouver's capricious spending habits -- after all, this is their tax dollars that are being squandered...

A Pete Seeger retrospective

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I noted Seeger's death the other day but didn't post anything more about it. I found this which expresses my thoughts -- from Lauren Weiner writing at First Things:
Pete Seeger: The Communist Consumers Loved
During the 1950s and 1960s, when Pete Seeger and Malvina Reynolds coaxed classrooms full of kids to join them in the singing of folk songs, no one paid much attention, not even those who, in the middle of the Cold War, saw America�s �singing left� as a threat to the republic. �They never thought there would be a problem with Pete Seeger singing to six-year-olds,� Seeger�s biographer, David King Dunaway, wrote. But considering the baby boom those six-year-olds turned out to be, Dunaway�s later observation made sense: What was in the offing was �an American folk music revival that I think we have to give the FBI credit for helping to establish.�

The law of unintended consequences gave a quirky twist to the relation between the Old and New Left and, in the process, lent peculiar accents to America�s musical and political culture that we can�t seem to get rid of even today. The folk revival, �a fad sandwiched between the beatniks and the hippies,� may have been brief, but it was also the baby boomers� coming of age, and its echoes have been lasting. Bruce Springsteen made a splash in 2006 with his Seeger Sessions. Ry Cooder paid homage to Woody Guthrie in the 2007 release My Name Is Buddy. Sheryl Crow told Billboard magazine that her song, �Shine Over Babylon,� is �very environmentally conscious, in the tradition of Bob Dylan.�

It�s curious how much the postwar children of prosperity enjoyed hearkening back to hard times. Dylan�s early compositions were full of Dust Bowl references. Odetta was on television rendering the sounds of the chain gang while bathed in a glamorous cabaret spotlight. The Gordon Lightfoot song �Early Morning Rain� (1964) complained that �you can�t jump a jet plane� as easily as you hopped a freight train back in the good old, bad old days. �Green, Green,� Barry McGuire�s 1963 top ten hit, had the perky coeds of the New Christy Minstrels belting out the plea of the Great Depression: �Buddy, can you spare me a dime?�

The Appalachian murder ballads, convict songs, and Dust Bowl laments of the 1960s did prompt some debate about authenticity, but the rescuers of old-time music cheerfully exposed themselves to the charge of dilettantism. �Some of my favorite songs I�ve learned from camp counselors,� admitted Pete Seeger. Dave Van Ronk�whose disarming memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, was published posthumously in 2005�recounts that many years after he had helped popularize �House of the Rising Sun,� he actually went to New Orleans, only to learn that the original establishment was not a bordello, as he had supposed, but a women�s prison. Another staple of Van Ronk�s repertoire, �Candy Man,� had been taught to him by a master of ragtime guitar finger-picking, the Reverend Gary Davis. The straight-laced Davis was loath to join him on �Candy Man� before an audience�eventually Van Ronk caught on that the song he�d been performing was about a pimp.
Much more at the site -- this is an excellent essay and shows the damage at the heart of our generation.
From the New Republic:
The Post Office Should Just Become a Bank -- How Obama can save USPS and ding check-cashing joints
One of the key messages of tonight�s State of the Union address will be President Obama�s willingness to bypass Congress to create jobs and reduce inequality. As luck would have it, yesterday a new government report detailed an innovation that would preserve one of the largest job creators in the country, save billions of dollars specifically for the poor, and develop the very ladders of opportunity that Obama has championed as of late. What�s more, this could apparently be accomplished without Congressional action, but merely through existing executive prerogatives.

What�s the policy? Letting the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offer basic banking services to customers, like savings accounts, debit cards and even simple loans. The idea has been kicked around policy circles for years, but now it has a crucial new adherent: the USPS Inspector General, who endorsed the initiative in a comprehensive white paper.

The Inspector General, who conducted the study with the help of a team of experts in international postal banking as well as a former executive from Merrill Lynch, correctly frames the proposal not as a challenge to mega-banks, but as a way to deliver needed amenities to the nearly 68 million Americans � over one - quarter of U.S. households�who have limited or no access to financial services. Instead of banks, these mostly low-income individuals use check-cashing stores, pawnshops, payday lenders, and other unscrupulous financial services providers who gouged their customers to the tune of $89 billion in interest and fees in 2012, according to the IG report. Post offices could deliver the same services at a 90 percent discount, saving the average underserved household over $2,000 a year and still providing the USPS with $8.9 billion in new annual profits, significantly improving its troubled balance sheet. The report calls simple financial services �the single best new opportunity for the posts to earn additional revenue.�
Makes a lot of sense -- much of the needed infrastructure is already in place, just needs to be re-tasked.

The new normal - California drought

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Some sobering news from the San Jose Mercury News:
California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say
California's current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state's recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West's long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began.

And they worry that the "megadroughts" typical of California's earlier history could come again.

Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years -- compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.

"We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years," said Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. "We're living in a dream world."
Going to be rough on farmers. The problem lies in the Pacific Ocean with the stalled Pacific Decadal Oscillation. No El Ni�o, no La Ni�a, this year has been La Nada. From the San Francisco CBS affiliate:
Report: Some Bay Area Communities Could Run Out Of Water Within 4 Months
As the drought in California continues, 17 communities throughout the state could run out of water within 60 to 120 days, state officials said.

In some districts, the wells are running dry while other reservoirs are nearly empty. The state Health Department compiled a list after surveying the more than 3,000 water agencies in California last week.

The water systems are in all in rural areas that serve from 39 to 11,000 residents. They range from tiny Lompico County Water District in Santa Cruz County to districts that serve the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale in Sonoma County.

Jade Rabbit not doing to well

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Sad news from our Moon - from China's national news service Xinhua:
China Exclusive: China's moon rover experiences abnormality
China's moon rover, Yutu (Jade Rabbit), has experienced a mechanical control abnormality, and scientists are organizing repairs.

The abnormality occurred due to "complicated lunar surface environment," the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) said on Saturday, without giving further details.

The abnormality emerged before the rover entered its second dormancy at dawn on Saturday as the lunar night fell, according to SASTIND.
Sad news but still, China is a member of a very small group of nations. Kudos on their achievement!
Counting the torpedoes on Voyager:
Replicator? Quote? Here

A bit nippy - day four

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Furnace tech is coming out tomorrow morning so we should have heat then. I was disappointed with the people I had been using but I got a referral to another company and looking forward to doing business with them. This company also does financing so I can put the heat pump in now and just be done with things for another 20 years or so...

Markets for everything - pot domains

From Seattle station KIRO:

Seattle businessmen buy up 'pot' domain names
Daniel Brooks describes his longtime friend, Wayne Dixon as the "Marijuana Domain Name King," who came to him a year and a half ago with an offer he couldn't refuse: To help buy up Internet domain names for the burgeoning -- legal -- marijuana business.

"It just means we invest in digital and on line real estate which is another name for domain names," said Dixon.

"We look at it," added Brooks, "as like a virtual real estate where a domain name is an address, basically an address for a particular website."

They researched what names will be in demand.

"Not just here in the state of Washington, the state of Colorado for the medical and recreational aspect," said Brooks. "But the world."

And, they say, the world is already calling.

"We are now in negotiations from California, Switzerland, Australia, New York on some of our names," said Dixon.

Indeed, they have bought up more than 200 marijuana domain names. Names like "Hindu Kush marijuana, Hip Hop marijuana, Jamaica marijuana."

Some went for as little as 11 bucks. They expect they'll fetch much more than that on the open market.

"As a matter of fact," said Dixon, "The latest appraisal on just 'marijuana.com,' just the name, is worth a million bucks. Oh, yes, oh yes!"

"Do you have marijuana.com?" I asked.

"No. No. No. No," he said, laughing.

And the two men haven't quit their day jobs yet.

Dang! I should have seen that opportunity coming from a mile away. Clever foresight for those two entrepreneurs -- I hope that they make a bundle!

Some quotations

Compiled by Andrew Thomas at American Thinker. See if you can guess who said what -- answers at the end and many more at the site...

  • Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.
  • Democracy is indispensable to socialism.
  • It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.
  • If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.
  • Generally, the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties.
  • We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.
  • We are going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.
  • I certainly think the free market has failed.

The first two - V.I. Lenin The second two - J. Stalin The third two - B.H. Obama The fourth two - H.R. Clinton

A debate on climate change

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Mark Morano debates Bill Nye on John Stossel's show:
Who are we to meddle -- the data simply does not back up the theory of Global Warming. As Morano says, the key driver is the United Nations.

A Super Bowl commercial - the Doberhauhua

Love it.

Water in the news - E. Coli and New York City

From the New York Times:

Inside City's Water Tanks, Layers of Neglect
With their quaint barrel-like contours and weathered cedar-plank sides, rooftop water towers are a constant on the New York City skyline. And though they may look like relics of a past age, millions of residents get their drinking water from the tanks every day.

But inside these rustic-looking vessels, there are often thick layers of muddy sediment. Many have not been cleaned or inspected in years. And regulations governing water tanks are rarely enforced, an examination by The New York Times shows.

Even some that are routinely maintained contain E. coli, a bacterium that is used by public health officials to predict the presence of viruses, bacteria and parasites that can cause disease.

When found in drinking water, E. coli, a microbe carried in the feces of mammals and birds, requires the issuance of a boil-water order, according to federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Samplings taken by The New York Times from water towers at 12 buildings in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn found E. coli in five tanks, and coliform in those tanks and three more. Coliform by itself is not harmful, but does indicate that conditions are ripe for the growth of potentially dangerous microorganisms. The positive results all came from the bottoms of the tanks, below the pipe that feeds the buildings' taps, though public health experts say the contamination is still a concern because the water circulates throughout the inside of the tanks.

Our water is pretty decent - it won the title of best-tasting water in Washington state. Page eight of this PDF. Includes a photo of yours truly...

From ABC News/Associated Press:
Mexico Legalizes Vigilantes, Nabs Cartel Leader
Mexico essentially legalized the country's growing "self-defense" groups Monday, while also announcing that security forces had captured one of the four top leaders of the Knights Templar drug cartel, which the vigilante groups have been fighting for the last year.

The government said it had reached an agreement with vigilante leaders to incorporate the armed civilian groups into old and largely forgotten quasi-military units called the Rural Defense Corps. Vigilante groups estimate their numbers at 20,000 men under arms.
Makes a lot of sense -- this is an organization that already has infrastructure and chain of command, the Mexican government just needs to modernize it and bring it back online.

Ethanol - the true cost

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From Modern Farmer:
Ethanol: The Farmers� Frenemy
In the summer of 2007, I spent several days in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the state�s rural southwestern corner, working on a series of newspaper stories.

A company called Green Plains was putting the finishing touches on its first ethanol plant on the outskirts of town; bumper stickers and pamphlets lauding the benefits of ethanol featured prominently in the stack of promotional literature the folks at city hall handed me.

Today, that plant in Shenandoah is turning 23 million bushels of corn into 65 million gallons of ethanol per year, and Green Plains now has 12 plants collectively putting out more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol annually. Across the country, more than 200 ethanol plants produced 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol in 2013 � up from 3.9 billion gallons produced in about 90 plants in 2005, when the first federal Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, was adopted. That law, updated in 2007, set minimums on the amount of renewable fuels sold annually in the United States, starting at 9 billion gallons in 2008 and increasing each year to 36 billion gallons in 2022. While the law mandated increasing use of ethanol made from cellulose and biodiesel, corn-based ethanol has and continues to account for the vast majority of renewable fuel produced to satisfy these requirements (cost-effective manufacturing of ethanol from other feedstocks remains an elusive goal).

When the RFS was enacted, a bushel of corn cost roughly $2. It has risen dramatically since, hovering for most of the past five years above $5 per bushel and spiking over $8 per bushel in 2012 (when a severe drought crimped the country�s supply).
Yikes -- from $2 to $8 -- don't forget that this also influences the export prices and those nations who buy our corn see a corresponding increase in their food prices. These are people who can barely afford the food in the first place. A bit more:
But in Virginia, where I live, farmers raise a lot of cattle and chickens and have been singing a very different tune. Those corn price spikes that are a welcome development in Iowa have driven the cost of feed through the roof, much to the dismay of the livestock industry.

Pointing out that ethanol production now consumes more than 40 percent of the American corn crop (up from less than 15 percent in 2005), livestock groups like the National Turkey Federation and the National Beef Cattlemen�s Association directly blame federal ethanol policy for a host of problems and have called for an RFS repeal.
Say hello to high meat prices. We buy a half-cow at a time and pay about $3/pound. Shopping in the grocery store is a different story -- did a beef brisket last week and paid almost $6/pound for brisket! Time to get another half-cow...
Much more here: Laughing at Liberals
94 is a good run. From the New York Times:
Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94
Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94.

His death, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, was confirmed by his grandson Kitama Cahill Jackson.

Mr. Seeger�s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

New at the Denver County Fair

But they don't inhale -- from FOX News:

Marijuana contests joining Denver County Fair
Pot at the county fair? Why not?

Colorado's Denver County is adding cannabis-themed contests to its 2014 summer fair. It's the first time pot plants will stand alongside tomato plants and homemade jam in competition for a blue ribbon.

There won't actually be any marijuana at the fairgrounds. The judging will be done off-site, with photos showing the winning entries. And a live joint-rolling contest will be done with oregano, not pot.

But county fair organizers say the marijuana categories will add a fun twist on Denver's already-quirky county fair, which includes a drag queen pageant, tattoo competitions and a contest for homemade robots.


Do you use FileZilla?

I do -- this is an excellent program for moving files via FTP (File Transport Protocol). A major heads up - from Slashdot:

FileZilla Has an Evil Twin that Steals FTP Logins
On the same day the world discovered Western intelligence agencies were siphoning user information from Angry Birds and other popular smartphone apps, a leading antivirus developer revealed hackers are doing the same thing with one of the most popular open-source applications on the Internet.

Maliciously modified versions of the popular file-transfer protocol (FTP) application FileZilla look and act just like the real thing, but include extra code that steals the login data typed in by users and sends it to an unauthorized server using the same FTP operation launched by the user without going through a firewall that might spot what it's doing, according to an alert posted this afternoon by antivirus developer Avast Software.

FileZilla is the ninth most-downloaded application from the open-source site SourceForge, with 256.8 million downloads over its lifetime and almost 600,000 this week alone.

The malicious version is fully functional, uses the same graphical interface and component file names as the original, and masks itself further by avoiding any suspicious entries in the system registry, overt attempts to communicate with outside servers or other changes, according to the Jan. 27 alert from Avast.

Sigh -- Russians again... Be sure to get your files from the authorized distribution sites.

Now this is not good - Winter Olympics

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How not to roll out the red carpet and how to leave a lasting bad taste in people's mouths.

From the British Columbian newspaper The Province:

Vancouver man appalled at Sochi conditions after working on ski, snowboarding courses
A Vancouver man may be on his way back home from a work assignment at the Sochi Olympics, days after blogging about Russian red tape, $75 for a couple of small pizzas, a filthy hotel room with muddy water and no hot showers and a two-hour commute.

But the biggest concern for Johnnie Balfour is that he worried he wasn't going to get paid.

Balfour, who was part of the construction crew for the courses at Cypress Mountain for the 2010 Winter Olympics, blogged earlier this month that he had been invited to help build the Sochi tracks for the 2014 Winter Games that start next month.

"So I'm off to Russia!" he wrote.

The next entry on his Tumblr blog, dated Jan. 21, from Balfour, an ex-Australian soldier who now lives with his wife and baby in Vancouver, is much less enthusiastic. It included a video of his accommodations, "which really doesn't show how bad this place is," he wrote.

"The toilet flushes muddy water, there is no hot water, the shower floor is covered in dirt and mud, there was p--- all over the toilet, the water is undrinkable (it's brown), it's even sketchy to brush your teeth in it, and the idea of having internet in this place is a joke."

But the post, that went on to describe troubles with getting his accreditation, negative descriptions of the resort and worrying disputes over payment for the work he and five others were flown to Sochi to do, disappeared from his blog the next day.

"I've been told to shut up," Balfour was quoted as saying in The Australian newspaper on Friday.

The blog was captured before it was deleted and posted to the alpinezone.com online forum.

Alas, the great and powerful Internet Wayback Machine only has two archives for his Tumblr site, 01/24/2014 (last Friday) and the 25th but some of the deletia are there and will remain there for posterity. Talk about heavy-handed treatment.

A bit nippy

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Day three without forced air heating at the house. Got a tech coming out tomorrow to look at the furnace. The last tech did such a hard sale on Lulu that I am going with another company.

Lulu is nice and toasty in her Bellingham house. Will see what happens tomorrow. Got a fire going so the house is about 55°F - comfortable but wearing a sweater. Much warmer upstairs in the bedroom and got a nice down comforter so I'll be toasty until morning. Halfway tempted to bring the laptop upstairs...

Been trashing out the kitchen playing around with tinctures. Did a couple pounds of Elderberries in everclear and vodka and also doing some garlic in corn and olive oil -- heat the canning jars in the oven at 260°F for two hours -- gives a nice roasted flavor to the garlic and infuses the oil to use later for salad dressings, etc...

Make several quarts of this with different combinations -- added red pepper flakes and black peppercorns to three batches. Sit in a cool dark place for two months and then filter and rebottle.

Great for when the power goes out (it does here couple times/year) From the Oil Lamp Man This link will bring you to the bottom of their page -- they stock a lot of stuff, here is the link to the top of their page. Here is a link to their home page -- like I said, they sell a lot of things. Pricing is reasonable.

Time management simplified

From Instapundit:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles roll ed into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.
They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full..
The students responded with a unanimous yes.
The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..
Now, said the professor as the laughter subsided, I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions - and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else - the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, he continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, I'm glad you asked. The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

Good stuff!

Traditional values in Education

What with the stupidity of the proposed Common Core curriculum for kids along with the forced unionization of the teachers and the push against charter schools, our next generation is going to be useless.

Here is one wonderful experiment going very right in New Zealand -- from TV-NZ:

School ditches rules and loses bullies
Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don't cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

"We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over."

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

"When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult's perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don't."

The bully knows that they are in the grade-school equivalent of a gun-free zone. They can keep escalating and the worse punishment they get is a stern tut-tut from the administrator. If said bully were to get a pop on the nose and a little blood spilled from the bullied, that would put an immediate end to their career.

Kids were meant to run free at least part of the day -- it is their DNA and if you stifle it, this force will be repressed leading to all kinds of later problems.

Typical stupid progressive codswallop -- that kids can be "managed" just like adults. They can be "nudged" into the proper social behaviors.

What an abject crock of bullshit.

From the folks at AccuWeather:
Next Polar Plunge Could Be Winter's Coldest
The next blast of brutal cold will grip most of the eastern two-thirds of the United States early this week and could yield the lowest temperatures so far this winter in many communities.

While harsh cold is returning to the Midwest and Northeast this weekend, it will pale in comparison to what will follow for Monday through Wednesday.
Some more:
The magnitude of this cold blast will be enough to produce a far-reaching threat of frostbite, hypothermia, frozen pipes and water main breaks.

Care should also be taken to ensure that livestock and other animals housed outdoors have adequate shelter.

Especially across the Midwest and Northeast, officials may decide to cancel or delay school due to the extreme cold. Some vehicles may struggle or fail to start for motorists.
More deaths result from extreme cold than extreme heat. Now that the "carbon neutral" alt.energy scam has made energy prices skyrocket, the elderly and frail people who are normally at an economic disadvantage are now forced to choose between running their heater and buying food. I would love to tar and feather Al Gore, Michael Mann and their like and run them out of town on a rail. Their heartless (and clueless) agenda of chasing after political power has unintended consequences that they do not comprehend -- how many deaths are on their souls all because they wanted to bask in the political limelight...

It's not just New York City and Pittsburgh.

From Shrimp News:

Thailand: Cold Spell Exacerbates EMS Epidemic
Daniel Gruenberg reports: Record cold temperatures in Thailand have exacerbated the EMS epidemic, resulting in widespread emergency harvests (including a significant one at my farm).

I did a quick survey of hatchery managers, feed suppliers and processors that confirmed continued significant mortalities due to both EMS and WSSV in southern and eastern Thailand. A major feed mill reports that it's only operating its mill two days a week, and processors report that they are operating at less than 20% of capacity.

Interestingly, I have heard countless reports of "cures" or fixes for EMS, and yet I have not been able to confirm that even one of them works. There still remains a paucity of good research on management strategies for EMS that's based on good scientific methods, not just pseudo-science and rumors.
EMS is early mortality syndrome, WSSV is White spot syndrome A bit more from the article:

A Thai newspaper reports: On Thursday, January 23, 2014, "Bangkok hit its coldest record in 30 years when the temperature fell to 15.6° Celsius (60°F)," said Songkram Aksorn, Deputy Director General of the Thai Meteorological Department. This year's cool season has been the longest for a decade, lasting for almost three months, Songkram said.
Boots on the ground measurement instead of reading the results of a computer model run. Big big difference.

Not just Pittsburgh - New York City too

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Last evening I wrote about how Pittsburgh's rivers were freezing over. Now, from Business Insider:
New York's East River Is Freezing Over
Extreme cold temperatures in New York City are taking their toll on transportation. Earlier this week, snow cancelled flights and slowed down the subway network. Now some ferry service is being suspended � because the East River is freezing over.
One thing to consider is that the East River is not actually a river -- it is a tidal strait and the water in it is seawater. Salt Water has a much lower freezing point (28�F) than Fresh Water (like the Hudson or Harlem rivers).

Sweet score - buffer

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Just got back from picking up a sweet buffer off Craigslist. $50 for a hand made unit -- built like a tank and it came with two motors - each motor is worth $50 by itself. Finishing lunch and then moving it out to the forge in the grinding area. This will be a welcome addition to my knife line...

Global Warming in Pittsburgh, PA

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Grew up in Pittsburgh. Many is the time that I have wanted to fly there just to eat at Primanti Bros. again. Anyway, it seems that they have been having a bit of a warming problem - from local station KDKA:
Ice Jam Flooding Could Be Worst Area Has Seen In 2 Decades
Our three rivers are quickly becoming less flowing and more rock solid on the surface.

�We are seeing ice thickening of two to four inches overnight, and there are some places that have as much a six to eight inches of ice that has formed over the past several days,� said Joe Palko, a National Weather Service hydrologist meteorologist.

And despite a glint of sun Friday, there is no temperature change on the horizon significant enough to stop the growing miles of river from doing their glacial impression.
The concern is that when things warm up a bit and the ice starts breaking up, floes are going to go downriver and they will find places to jam and pile up creating ice dams and flooding the areas upriver. Pittsburgh has flooded before, I remember shopping with my Mom at the downtown Joseph Horne department store and seeing the bronze plaque on the outside of the building showing the height of the big flood of 1936.

Heh - Millennials in the office

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People out here have a good work ethic (or they just default entirely and live on the dole) but I keep hearing stories from friends in Seattle that curl my hair.

A fun and busy day

Went to the Gun Show -- Lulu got a nice small lady's knife, I got a magnesium fire-starting rod and a small laser pointer for one of my guns.

Ran into a couple people we knew -- small community. Did a quick run through Costco and came home and fixed hamburgers for dinner. Lulu made a Sriracha mayonnaise and it went really well with the burger -- add this to our recipe collection...

Turner Movie Chanel is doing a Science Friday series for the next couple weeks. Last Friday, they had one of my favorites so I DVR'd it and we watched it with dinner -- 1951 Alec Guinness in The Man in the White Suit (here and here) Lulu loved it -- it was one of my favorites too.

Built a big fire -- our furnace started making a bad noise last week and stopped working entirely two days ago. I have a couple cords of wood stacked and ready so we have been enjoying wood heat. A tech came out to look at it and we can spend $500 to get it going again but the unit is 18 years old and well beyond end-of-life for the model. Looking at installing a heat pump but money is really tight right now.

The parts to fix the noise are $250 so will probably do that and start saving the $10K for the full heat-pump system for summer. It will also add air conditioning and will be a major plus...

Light posting today - Fun show

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Slept in this morning and Lulu and I are headed out to town to run some errands and to visit this Fun Gun Show. Should be fun -- not actively shopping but it is good to get to know the local community and maybe a chance to invest in some precious metals -- brass and lead... Don't know if we will get a bite to eat in town or not -- I'll be posting some later tonight.

Heh - 16th Amendment

A good bit of basic history:


We do not need a large government to take care of us -- we did amazingly well on our own for the first 137 years. The image does forget the Municipal, County and State taxes that were legal as well as the prominence of charitable organizations. People back then did tithe to help people but it was local and personal and not institutionalized. The text of the 16th:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Only 30 words bringing so much pain.

50 machines - jumpstarting civilization

Marcin's home page is here: Marcin Jakubowski This stuff is the new Whole Earth Catalog. Very good and very powerful.

A murmuration of Starlings

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Their website is here: Islands and Rivers Gorgeous work. And oh yes, the bird flight is a perfectly natural phenomenon. Wired has a nice write-up. You see the same thing with schooling fish.

Over the transom - the Constitution

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From an email:
Maybe we should start emailing each other copies of the Constitution, so we can know that the government has read it.


Was looking for information on Bald Eagles and ran into this fantastic website: eBird It is a repository for people's sightings -- here is the data for Washington State. From their About page:

Global tools for birders, critical data for science
A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

eBird�s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. For example, in March 2012, participants reported more than 3.1 million bird observations across North America!

The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network of eBird users. eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. In time these data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.

Cool tool...

A bit of bias on display here - from the Washington Post:
Conservative author and pundit Dinesh D�Souza charged in campaign finance case
Conservative author Dinesh D�Souza was indicted Thursday on federal charges of violating campaign finance laws by using straw donors to funnel money to a U.S. Senate candidate.

The U.S. Attorney�s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the grand jury charges in a statement Thursday. D�Souza is expected to be arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
A bit more:
The criminal charges, filed in U.S. District Court, allege that D�Souza in 2012 illegally reimbursed associates whom he asked to make donations valued at $20,000 to an unnamed Senate campaign. At the time, primary and general election campaign contributions to federal candidates were limited to $2,500 each from any individual to any single candidate.
And the last paragraph of this article:
Straw-donor cases have been brought against prominent individuals from time to time. For example, in 2011, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, Pierce O�Donnell, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of making $20,000 in donations to the presidential campaign of former Sen. John Edwards and reimbursing straw donors.
A misdemeanor as opposed to a Grand Jury Indictment That's a double standard in my book...

Bad timing - Google and gMail

From TechCrunch:

Talk About Timing: Google's Reliability Team Sat Down For An AMA Right Before Gmail Exploded
Heh. Worst. timing. ever.

About an hour ago, a bunch of the engineers responsible for keeping Google alive sat down to answer questions on reddit.

Know what else happened about an hour ago? Gmail and Google+ went down around the world.

According to their previous AMA from a year ago, the team (which Google calls the 'Site Reliability' team, or SRE) is 'responsible for the 24/7 operation of Google.com, as well as the technical infrastructure behind many other Google products such as GMail, Maps, G+ and other stuff you know and love.'

A coincidence, almost certainly. But a pretty damn funny one. Only four members of the reliability team took place in the AMA, and you can be damned sure that Google employs more than four people to keep their many millions of servers from catching on fire. As you might expect, the very top comment in the post (and dozens of others down the page) pokes fun over the unfortunate timing.

DERP! The irony is strong here... AMA is a TLA for Ask Me Anything -- Reddit's interview application.

TLA? Three Letter Acronym.

Fiskar moving off-shore

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Our tax dollars paid for the development of the Fiskar plug-in hybrid automobile. Now, it looks like it will be taken over by the Chinese. From Car and Driver:
Fisker�s Remains May Be Scattered Across the Ocean, U.S. Jobs Not Guaranteed
As two Chinese buyers fight over the remains of Fisker Automotive, the U.S. government�s blueprint for a new American-built plug-in hybrid is fading fast. Despite a Bloomberg report claiming the two bidders, Hybrid Tech Holdings and Wanxiang America, would be required to �keep manufacturing and research in the U.S.,� the Department of Energy confirmed to Car and Driver that it has no control over what the winning company does with Fisker�s assets.

�We are out of it,� a DOE spokesperson said, referring to Fisker�s management. �We�re keeping an eye on things.�
Over $200 million of our tax dollars wasted and the bones of the company are being sold off for about $0.12 on the dollar...

Some interesting developments at the EPA

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This agency needs to be taken down -- it has grown way past its founding intent. From FOX News:
Top Republican says EPA fraudster revelations 'first layer of a very big onion'
The top Republican on the Senate environment committee said Thursday that newly released transcripts showing an ex-EPA official discussing his widespread fraud against the government -- as well as a pet "project" to "modify" capitalism -- are likely "the first layer of a very big onion" at the EPA.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is continuing to call for a hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee on the case of John Beale. The former EPA official was sentenced in December to 32 months in prison for bilking taxpayers out of nearly $1 million by pretending to be a CIA agent.

The plot thickened, though, after a House committee this week released hundreds of pages of transcripts from a deposition he gave to congressional lawmakers in December. In it, Beale freely discussed the lies he told his colleagues, but also claimed he had been working on a "project" examining ways to "modify the DNA of the capitalist system."
Emphasis mine -- this is exactly what they are trying to do -- demonizing energy use to hamstring production. Here are the ten goals of the progressives in our government:
  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form and combination of education with industrial production.
Sound familiar -- these are the ten planks of Communism as outlined by that idiot Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto. More here and here.

Well crap - here come the Californians

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From our local fishwrap -- the Bellingham Herald:
Sunset magazine picks Bellingham among the West's best places to live
Bellingham has been scoring some high-profile nods from Sunset magazine, where it's listed among the West's 24 Best Places to Live in the February 2014 issue.

The City of Subdued Excitement joined Bozeman, Mont.; Bend, Ore.; and Chico, Calif., as the Best Places to Reboot Your Life, with the magazine citing the area's tech startups and farm-to-table restaurants. The magazine's travel section highlighted the Mount Baker Wilderness and its Love Letters section included a funky homage to the mountain village of Glacier penned by Paellaworks catering in Maple Falls.
Don't believe the article -- it rains a lot here...
From Bloomberg:
U.S. Mid-Atlantic Cleans Up From Snow; More Coming
Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia began digging out today from a blizzard that dumped as much as three feet of snow on parts of the mid-Atlantic region and left thousands without power.

Elkridge, Maryland, just south of Baltimore, recorded the region�s most snowfall with 38.3 inches (97 centimeters), the National Weather Service said. Baltimore�s airport had 24.8 inches, while Washington�s Reagan National had 17.8 inches, its second-biggest snowfall total. Philadelphia registered 28.5 inches, its second-biggest snowfall also. In the Virginia town of Howellsville, west of Washington, 37 inches fell.
Sounds familiar? You first read it here on February 07, 2010...

A revolution in Maple Syrup production

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Interesting - from the University of Vermont:
Remaking Maple
Four years ago, Tim Perkins and Abby van den Berg cut the top off a maple tree. As researchers at the University of Vermont�s Proctor Maple Research Center, they wanted to learn more about sap flow.

Instead, they discovered an entirely new way to make maple syrup. �It�s revolutionary in some ways,� says Perkins.

Their new technique uses tightly spaced plantations of chest-high sugar-maple saplings. These could be single stems with a portion � or all � of the crown removed. Or they could be multiple-stemmed maples, where one stem per tree can be cut each year. Either way, the cut stem is covered with a sealed plastic bag. Under the bag, the sap flows out of the stump under vacuum pressure and into a tube. Voil�, huge quantities of sap.

In short, these plantations can allow maple syrup production in a farm field.

Typically, a traditional sugarbush produces about 40 gallons of maple syrup per acre of forest by tapping, perhaps, 80 mature trees. With this new method, the UVM researchers estimate that producers could get more than 400 gallons of syrup per acre drawing from about 6,000 saplings.
I wonder if the end users will see a corresponding drop in the price of maple syrup. My bet is no.

Pssst - wanna buy a boat?

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From the UK Independent:
Mystery of the Lyubov Orlova: Ghost ship full of cannibal rats �could be heading for Britain�
A ghost ship carrying nothing but disease-ridden rats could be about to make land on Britain�s shore, experts have warned.

The Lyubov Orlova cruise liner has been drifting across the north Atlantic for the better part of a year, and salvage hunters say there is a strong chance it is heading this way.

Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, the unlucky vessel was abandoned in a Canadian harbour after its owners were embroiled in a debt scandal and failed to pay the crew.

The authorities in Newfoundland tried to sell the hull for scrap � valued at �600,000 � to the Dominican Republic, but cut their losses when it came loose in a storm on the way.
A good case for a small nuclear bomb. Sanitize and sink.

A new clock

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I am fascinated with time-keeping. I operate a GPS disciplined crystal oscillator that is accurate to within 1.2 X 10-12 and subscribe to an email list for people of similar interest. Ran into this bit of information today -- from the University of Colorado at Boulder:
JILA strontium atomic clock sets new records in both precision and stability
Heralding a new age of terrific timekeeping, a research group at JILA�a joint institute of the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology�has unveiled an experimental strontium atomic clock that has set new world records for both precision and stability.

The clock is in a laboratory at JILA, located on the CU-Boulder campus.

Described in a new paper in Nature, the JILA strontium lattice clock is about 50 percent more precise than the record holder of the past few years, NIST�s quantum logic clock. Precision refers to how closely the clock approaches the true resonant frequency at which its reference atoms oscillate between two electronic energy levels. The new strontium clock is so precise it would neither gain nor lose one second in about 5 billion years, if it could operate that long. (This time period is longer than the age of the Earth, an estimated 4.5 billion years old.)

Give them ten years and this will be on people's wrists...

Oops - a little problem with some cement

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From the Beeb:
Victoria Line suspended after wet concrete floods Tube controls
Part of the Victoria London Underground line has been suspended after wet concrete flooded a control room.

Transport for London said the mixture of concrete and water was being used to "fill voids" while upgrade work was being carried out.

Nigel Holness from London Underground said: "We've isolated the cause of it and we're hoping to get the service up and running as quickly as possible."
Some pix:



Wheathur - a bad spell of weather

Arrgghh... Bad pun - sorry.
The winter this year is unusual over a very large area - the CONUS (COntinental United States)
Why? La Nada. A three-fer:

First - from Seattle station KING-5 (October 2013):

'La Nada' could mean big Northwest storms - or not
The weather in the Northwest this winter could be very bad - or not so much - because once again we're in a neutral pattern - not an El Nino or La Nina.

The neutral, or "La Nada" event, has persisted since the spring of 2012 and models suggest this pattern will continue into the spring of 2014, according to scientists with the National Weather Service�s Climate Prediction Center.

"Without an El Nino or La Nina signal present, other, less predictable, climatic factors will govern fall, winter and spring weather conditions," said climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Long-range forecasts are most successful during El Nino and La Nina episodes. The 'in between' ocean state, La Nada, is the dominant condition, and is frustrating for long-range forecasters. It's like driving without a decent road map -- it makes forecasting difficult."

Second - from NASA (June 2011):

What's to Blame for Wild Weather? "La Nada"
Record snowfall, killer tornadoes, devastating floods: There's no doubt about it. Since Dec. 2010, the weather in the USA has been positively wild. But why?

Some recent news reports have attributed the phenomenon to an extreme "La Nina," a band of cold water stretching across the Pacific Ocean with global repercussions for climate and weather. But NASA climatologist Bill Patzert names a different suspect: "La Nada."

"La Nina was strong in December," he says. "But back in January it pulled a disappearing act and left us with nothing - La Nada - to constrain the jet stream. Like an unruly teenager, the jet stream took advantage of the newfound freedom--and the results were disastrous."

La Nina and El Nino are opposite extremes of a great Pacific oscillation. Every 2 to 7 years, surface waters across the equatorial Pacific warm up (El Nino) and then they cool down again (La Nina). Each condition has its own distinct effects on weather.

The winter of 2010 began with La Nina conditions taking hold. A "normal" La Nina would have pushed the jet stream northward, pushing cold arctic air (one of the ingredients of severe weather) away from the lower US. But this La Nina petered out quickly, and no El Nino rose up to replace it. The jet stream was free to misbehave.

"By mid-January 2011, La Nina weakened rapidly and by mid-February it was 'adios La Nina,' allowing the jet stream to meander wildly around the US. Consequently the weather pattern became dominated by strong outbreaks of frigid polar air, producing blizzards across the West, Upper Midwest, and northeast US."

Nothing that we did. No CO2 emissions. Just the weather on a variable planet orbiting a variable star...

Third - from The Oregonian  (October 2013):

What will Oregon's winter be like? It's a La Nada year, forecasters say
Want to know what the coming winter will be like?

You could get in a boat and travel thousands of miles west into the Pacific Ocean and take the ocean's temperature. Turns out, sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have a huge impact on not only weather in the Pacific Northwest, but across the U.S. and even globally.

Or you could go to the 21st annual Winter Weather Conference Saturday at OMSI, where three forecasters will make their three-month predictions for the upcoming winter.

So the boffins knew about this about six months ago -- the indicators were there and now, people are surprised at the wandering jet stream, the polar vortices and are blaming all of this on Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming and not the weather.

The political force on this issue is still strong enough to override the actual boots-on-the-ground measurement and scientific force. Time will tell though and people with a good memory will remember who voted to support the theory and who voted to support the facts.

The East Coast - a three-fer

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First - from Accuweather:
Deep Freeze in Midwest, Northeast to Be Prolonged
Bitterly cold air is again settling southward from the Arctic into a large part of the Eastern states. Unlike the outbreak from early January, this time the cold will have more staying power.

Into the first part of next week, the polar vortex will hover just north of the United States border causing waves of frigid air to blast into the Midwest and much of the East.
Second - from the Hartford, Connecticut CBS affiliate:
Winter Storm That Hammers Northeast Cancels 4,400 Flights
Northeasterners scraped and shoveled Wednesday after a snowstorm grounded flights, shuttered schools and buried roads with a surprising amount of snow, leaving biting cold in its wake. The atmosphere was particularly frosty in New York, where some residents complained that plowing was spotty and schools were open while children elsewhere in the region stayed home.
Third - from the New York Post:
De Blasio �getting back at us� by not plowing: UES residents
It really is a tale of two cities � this time with the tony Upper East Side getting the shaft!

Huge swaths of the city�s wealthiest neighborhood had been not been plowed by early Tuesday evening, leaving 1-percenters out in the cold, according to the city�s own map of snow-plower activity.

�He is trying to get us back. He is very divisive and political,� said writer and Life-long Upper East Sider and mom Molly Jong Fast of Mayor de Blasio.

�By not plowing the Upper East Side, he is saying, �I�m not one of them.�
I do not doubt that in the least - de Blasio has quite the reputation for being a petty tyrant. Not into big cities but I feel sorry for those people living in New York city...

A market for everything.

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Last night, we were watching two television shows based in Las Vegas. Lulu and I were thinking that it would almost be worth a road trip to go there to hang out with Rick Harrison, Rick Dale and Danny Koker. Now there's this place: The Gun Store From their website:

About that Target credit card data breach

From Yahoo/Associated Press:
2 nabbed at Texas border in credit card fraud case
Two Mexican citizens who were arrested at the border used account information stolen during the Target security breach to buy tens of thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise, according to a South Texas police chief.

But a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service said Tuesday that an investigation is ongoing into the possibility of a link between the Target data breach and the arrests in Texas.

One day earlier, McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said Mary Carmen Garcia, 27, and Daniel Guardiola Dominguez, 28, both of Monterrey, Mexico, had used cards containing the account information of South Texas residents stolen from Target. Rodriguez said they were used to purchase numerous items at national retailers in the area including Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us.

"They're obviously selling the data sets by region," Rodriguez said.
Just wonderful -- stores are also asking for drivers licenses and telephone numbers. This is for marketing but in when the next data breech happens, this will make identity theft a lot easier.

30 years ago today

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Much more at Mental Floss including the story of how the ad was almost canceled.

Bankrupt - the Movie

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Looks like a good one -- from their website:
Bankrupt: How Cronyism & Corruption Took Down Detroit
Detroit U.S.A.: Once the most prosperous city in America. With a booming manufacturing sector and cultural magnetism, the city had bright horizons after World War II. But as the 1960′s rolled in, the marriage of Big Business and Big Government overtook Detroit. The central planners in government needed the powerful corporations, and the powerful corporations came to depend on the bureaucracy, too. The marriage worked well for the politicians and for their corporate cronies, but Detroit itself entered a decades-long decline. America watched as Detroit slowly bled people, jobs and revenue. Politicians tried spending money. They tried raising taxes. The more they taxed and spent, the faster the city declined.

Detroit still had its �Big Three� auto manufacturers, until two of its crown jewels, General Motors and Chrysler, imploded in 2008 under the weight of reckless and subsidized mismanagement.

Instead of allowing market forces to rebuild Detroit and the auto industry, the United States handed billions of dollars to General Motors and Chrysler.

Five years later, the city of Detroit is bankrupt and almost $20 billion dollars in debt. Meanwhile, General Motors has a cash balance of over $20 billion, still owes the taxpayers over $10 billion dollars that outgoing CEO Dan Akerson said will not be paid, and the company continues to benefit from an unprecedented $18 billion tax gift from the bankruptcy.
And Detroit is just a microcosm for what the progressives are doing to our entire nation. Socialism always fails. Here's the trailer:

The Ship of Fools

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The fiasco in the Antarctic a couple weeks ago is still evolving. Andrew Bolt writing at the Victoria, AU Herald Sun has been keeping on top of the story:
Warmists cut Turney adrift. And don�t mention he�s a professor of climate change, either
Sydney Morning Herald reporter Nicky Phillips is a warmist whose past reports on the Ship of Fools, which got stuck in Antarctic ice, failed to mention those on board had actually claimed to be studying global warming.

Today she and co-reporter Colin Cosier play the same trick again.

They have written a long report essentially blaming expedition leader Chris Turney for the expensive disaster, but once again fail to note the people trapped in ice were warmists out to prove man was melting it.

Phillips and Cosier fail to even report Turney�s academic title � Professor of Climate Change � or that he is an adjunct at the University of New South Wales� Climate Change Research Centre. What makes this omission even stranger is that the Climate Change Research Centre, home of prominent climate alarmists such as professors Andy Pitman, Matthew England and Steve Sherwood, is listed as an official supporter of the expedition.

Get the impression that warmists are trying to distance themselves from this propaganda disaster, that has had sceptics around the world laughing?
Heh -- this is going to continue for another couple years at least. The cost of the expedition was the cheapest thing -- the rescue, and who pays for it, will be settled in litigation...

From The People's Cube:

Low Information Voters: adding faces to the voices
You may have already seen these LIV thoughts here and here. But what a difference does putting a face to a voice make! The success of the Obamacare graphic (the first one below) made me want to do more with this concept.

Here are three of them:




Many more at the site -- nails it...

Hard drive life - some statistics

Storage vendor Backblaze uses tens of thousands of consumer-grade hard drives for their cloud backup product. From their blog:

What Hard Drive Should I Buy?
My last two blog posts were about expected drive lifetimes and drive reliability. These posts were an outgrowth of the careful work that we've done at Backblaze to find the most cost-effective disk drives. Running a truly unlimited online backup service for only $5 per month means our cloud storage needs to be very efficient and we need to quickly figure out which drives work.

Because Backblaze has a history of openness, many readers expected more details in my previous posts. They asked what drive models work best and which last the longest. Given our experience with over 25,000 drives, they asked which ones are good enough that we would buy them again. In this post, I'll answer those questions.

There are a lot of metrics, charts and graphs but the upshot is this one:


I have always preferred Hitachi drives for my own systems. I have a few Seagate drives -- primarily their backup in a box systems so I will be rotating these out over the next year or two.

Lost in translation

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From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Bay Bridge bolt problem keeps soaking up money
Caltrans will be spending a whopping $10 million this year to keep an eye on those questionable bolts holding together the new $6.4 billion eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

And transportation insiders tell us that $10 million could just be the start.

"We will have to get into the spring to determine if there's enough (money) to do the tests we want to do, but there is always the possibility we will need additional testing," said bridge project spokesman Andrew Gordon.

The bolt problem first surfaced in March when a third of the 96 rods used to secure seismic braces - known as shear keys - to one section of the bridge cracked when they were tightened down.

The problem was traced to the galvanizing process that caused the rods to become overly brittle when they were left standing in rainwater.

It wound up costing about $25 million - more than double the original estimate - to fix the problem and get the bridge opened by Labor Day.

Caltrans is still trying to assess the likelihood that some of the thousands of other high-strength rods and bolts - including more than 400 used to anchor the base of the tower - could be defective and eventually fail as well.
Rainwater? Who specced the materials? How was the bidding process run?

Rex Murphy on Neil Young

Recently, Neil Young did a concert where he trashed the energy development going on in Canada. Canadian comentator Rex Murphy tears him a new one -- an epic put-down:
More of Mr. Murphy's writing can be found at the National Post. Adding him to my list of must-reads -- excellent writer!

From xkcd

Amazon lists it here (five left in stock). Manufactured by these people: Caldwell Shooting Supplies

Obama on pot

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From Scott Ott's Scrappleface:
Obama�s Marijuana �Less Dangerous� Remark Clarified
A recent New Yorker interview with President Obama has left parents struggling to explain to their children why they should not smoke marijuana, as it becomes legal in more and more states.

In the interview, Obama said marijuana use was �less dangerous� than alcohol �in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.�

In an effort to clarify, the White House this morning released a list of potentially-negative side effects of the drug Obama admits he used in his youth.

�The president doesn�t want to give the impression that his historic experimentation with marijuana implies he condones it for young people,� said White House press secretary Jay Carney. �He has told his own daughters he thinks it�s a �bad habit,� and has said that if he had a son who looked like Trayvon Martin, he would counsel his boy that pot smoking is �a waste of time,� and �not very healthy.��

Critics suggested the president was less than clear and forceful, so this morning the White House released the following list of potentially harmful long-term side-effects of recreational marijuana usage.

�President Obama wants American kids to know that frequent marijuana usage can lead to�
  • Lethargic reactions to dangerous situations behind the wheel or when your consulate is attacked.
  • Feelings of immortality, omniscience and omnipotence, leading to attempts to �do the impossible,� or take over entire economic sectors.
  • Cravings for foods that are on the First Lady�s �no-no list�
  • �Running with the wrong crowd,� including petty law-breakers, communist dictators, Islamist warlords and even political consultants.
  • Irresistible urges to flee responsibility, and spend countless hours at places where there�s �lots of grass�.
  • Inattention to detail in written instructions, like laws or the U.S. Constitution.�
The White House retracted the list later in the morning, noting that the president didn�t recall approving its release.
Sounds about right to me.
From the MIT Technology Review:
Chasing the Dream of Half-Price Gasoline from Natural Gas
At a pilot plant in Menlo Park, California, a technician pours white pellets into a steel tube and then taps it with a wrench to make sure they settle together. He closes the tube, and oxygen and methane�the main ingredient of natural gas�flow in. Seconds later, water and ethylene, the world�s largest commodity chemical, flow out. Another simple step converts the ethylene into gasoline.

The white pellets are a catalyst developed by the Silicon Valley startup Siluria, which has raised $63.5 million in venture capital. If the catalysts work as well in a large, commercial scale plant as they do in tests, Siluria says, the company could produce gasoline from natural gas at about half the cost of making it from crude oil�at least at today�s cheap natural-gas prices.
There have been a lot of flash-in-the-pan stories like this but again, if it pans out, the effects will be far reaching. More. Faster.

Skier meet avalanche

From the Denver, CO CBS affiliate:

Skier Captures Himself Surviving Avalanche On Video

A backcountry skier survived an avalanche that he triggered Saturday morning on Berthoud Pass and it was all caught on video.

Lance Light said he was prepared but says things could have ended differently for anyone who doesn't know the risks.

The video came from a camera mounted on Light's helmet. It captures every moment before, during and after his ride through the avalanche.

"It was just over so quick, it was crazy," Light said.

Despite reports of dangerous avalanche conditions, Light and a friend decided to go backcountry skiing on Berthoud Pass. They had the gear and the knowledge to know what to watch for but decided to take a risk on a more questionable run.

Glad that he had the good luck to get through this -- could have gone horribly wrong in a heartbeat...

Heh - Prince Charles in the news

I wrote about him yesterday when Queen Elizabeth started transferring royal authority to him. The guy is a moron.

I was in town doing the shopping run for the store today and saw this while standing in line at the supermarket:


From the Globe Magazine:

Following a heated showdown with Prince William's wife Kate, furious, booze-fueled Camilla stormed out of the palace screeching at her husband Prince Charles, "I'll destroy you and the rest of your family." ONLY this week's GLOBE reveals what Kate said to trigger Camilla's rage and more about the ugly, $350 million divorce facing Charles and the Royal Family.

Sure, the Globe is a tabloid but do not forget that it was the National Enquirer that broke the Monica Lewinsky story...

Congratulations Seahawks!

Not personally into commercial athletics but a big shout out to the Seahawks.

They beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17.

Glad I am not still working near Pioneer Square -- bet that is a madhouse right now...

I disagree with the transcript regarding the Ghost Gun -- I am thinking that California State Senator Kevin de Leon is saying Gauss Gun. No way in hell is that AR platform a Gauss Gun -- size and configuration are all wrong. Everything else is spot on. This is a Gauss Gun:
Projectile hits with about 3% of the power of a .22 so they still have quite a way to go. I wonder what it is with California politicians -- something in the water? Hat tip to Firehand at Irons in the Fire for the link to the first video.

Ahhhh crap

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I knew it had to happen sometime but there was always hope that Chuckles would off himself in some way and let Prince William take the throne. From the UK Mirror:
Queen hands over the reigns to Prince Charles - historic step closer to a new king
It is being dubbed the �gentle succession� � as the Queen gradually begins to relinquish some of her traditional duties as monarch.

As she approaches her 88th birthday in April after almost 62 years on the throne, she has agreed to hand over part of her workload in a historic �job-share� arrangement with Prince Charles.

In a royal first, he will be taking on more head of state-style responsibilities as the Palace starts to make tentative plans for his eventual succession.

Courtiers yesterday described the softly-softly move as �wise� � and �just plain common sense�.

The first sign of the partial power transfer will be the merging this week of the Queen and Charles�s press offices.

In future any announcements concerning the monarch and her 65-year-old eldest son will now come from the same source. Palace sources insist the switch will be entirely seamless.

Princes William and Harry will also play their part in the new set-up, with both assuming far more responsibility since they relinquished their military roles.
At my most charitable, Prince Charles is a braying ninny. A swivel-headed loon. Fifteen ounces short of a pint. The thought of him being on the Throne gives me the blue-blind paralytic willies. Court Jester maybe but most certainly not King. Charles is a guy who makes John Forbes Kerry look competent.

Not much today - working in the shop

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Gorgeous day but cool -- working in the shop today. Got the forge going so the shop is nice and toasty. Heading out to get some more grain for the Llamas. I had tried a different feed and they turned up their noses at it so it's back to the rolled ration (corn, oats and barley steamed and then mechanically rolled to crack the grain and then moistened with molasses -- you could almost eat it for breakfast if it wasn't for all the wheat husks. Early night tonight -- shopping run tomorrow and then another early day for Tuesday.
From The Hill:
McConnell to force vote on EPA carbon regs
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday said he plans to force a vote to stop new Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at cutting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

McConnell said he, along with 40 other Republicans, will file a resolution of disapproval against the proposed EPA rule the Congressional Review Act.

EPA published its rule on the new performance standards for power plants � pushing for the facilities to be built with carbon capture technology � last week in the Federal Register. It came out nearly four months after EPA chief Gina McCarthy announced it would be a core element of President Obama's second-term climate change agenda.

Now, as a piece in the GOP's fight against what they call Obama's "war on coal," McConnell will seek to stop the regulations through the Review Act � a rarely used legislative tool that allows Congress to block regulations from the executive branch.
Good -- shut the bastards down. Cut their funding by 90% and force them to focus on real problems, not political machinations...

Probing our infrastructure

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From the New York City CBS affiliate:
Trespasser Freed From Pipe At United Water Plant In New Jersey, Faces Criminal Charges
Rescuers have freed a man who had been stuck for hours in a pipe at a water treatment plant in New Jersey.

Officials told CBS 2 around 11:30 a.m. that 26-year-old Asef Mohamed, of Manalapan, had been freed and airlifted to an area hospital. He was 10 to 12 feet down the pipe, which was not in use, WCBS 880′s Levon Putney reported.

United Water spokesman Rich Henning said Mohamed broke into the plant that treats and pumps water for the township of Manalapan. Workers heard cries for help coming from the pipe around 7 a.m. Friday.

�This was a person that purposely climbed a six-foot fence with three or four layers of barbed wire on top,� Henning said.
We are being probed all the time -- it just does not gain traction in the mainstream media. Read more here, here, here, here and here for starters. These children of apes and pigs have declared war on us and we are too stupid to grasp this simple fact.

An epic keyboard rant

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From Peter Bright writing at Ars Technica:
Stop trying to innovate keyboards. You�re just making them worse
I've written about my struggles to find a good PC laptop before. After literally years of searching, it looks like Lenovo has stepped up to the plate and finally created the machine I crave. The new ThinkPad X1 Carbon, a high-resolution, Haswell-equipped update to 2012's Ivy Bridge-based model looked just about perfect.

The machine looks glorious in just about every regard. Fully decked out, it has a 2.1-3.3 GHz two core, four thread Core i7-4600U processor, 8GB RAM, a 14-inch 2560�1440 multitouch screen, 801.11ac, 9 hours of battery life, and a fingerprint reader. It all weighs in at under 3 lbs. It's a sleek, good-looking machine, and I'd buy one in an instant...

... if it weren't for one thing. The new X1 Carbon has what Lenovo is calling an "Adaptive Keyboard."
Peter then goes on to enumerate the problems with the keyboard. They buggered up the function keys, removed the CAPS LOCK key and moved the Home and End keys there in its place and they broke up the Delete, Insert, Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down block and scattered them around. The Escape key was moved to where the (~`) key is. For a touch typist, it is unusable. The 200+ comments are a fun read.

An Abandonware library

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Software removed from the marketplace and no longer supported by its manufacturer (or the manufacturer has closed) is called Abandonware. Juliano Vetus & partners maintain an excellent library of Abandonware. A great resource.

Desktop publishing in the early 1990's

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Quark XPress all the way. 95% market share. And then, Adobe InDesign came out. A fun walk down memory lane from Dave Girard writing at Ars Technica:
How QuarkXPress became a mere afterthought in publishing
As the big dog of desktop publishing in the '80s and '90s, QuarkXPress was synonymous with professional publishing. In fact, it was publishing. But its hurried and steady decline is one of the greatest business failures in modern tech.

Quark's demise is truly the stuff of legend. In fact, the story reads like the fall of any empire: failed battles, growing discontent among the overtaxed masses, hungry and energized foes, hubris, greed, and... uh, CMYK PDFs. What did QuarkXPress do�or fail to do�that saw its complete dominance of desktop publishing wither in less than a decade? In short, it didn�t listen.
A great story with visual examples of the two programs. There is also a cautionary note at the end -- Adobe is sitting high on the mountaintop and is jacking the prices and not listening to customers. Who is out there writing the new Adobe-killer? I used to do a lot of desktop publishing -- had a small print shop with copiers and two offset presses for six years and had a lot of fun. Me? I was in the 5% running Ventura Desktop Publisher running on MS-DOS with the GEM graphics extension. More here. Ventura had some serious advantages over both Quark and InDesign but with only a few percent market share, a lot of people overlooked it. Stupid. It was a fun time. Be sure to read the 250+ comments for some great reminiscences.

Seeing eye critters

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Norwegian advertisement for seeing eye dogs. I love donkeys...

Nothing much tonight - time lapse

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Been playing with time lapse photography recently. The moon is just a day past full and there is some nice mist as it is rising over the ridgeline. Spending some time installing a copy of Lightroom and playing with several hundred photos. There is a $30 piece of software that allows me to control my Nikon camera through its USB port. I can expose for HDR as well as doing timelapse so the possibilities are quite exciting...
From Wired:
Target Got Hacked Hard in 2005. Here�s Why They Let It Happen Again
A gang of shadowy hackers tears through the systems of big-box retailers, making off with millions of credit and debit card numbers in a matter of weeks and generating headlines around the country.

Target and Neiman Marcus last week? Nope. This oh-so-familiar attack occurred in 2005.

That�s when Albert Gonzalez and cohorts � including two Russian accomplices � launched a three-year digital rampage through the networks of Target, TJ Maxx, and about half a dozen other companies, absconding with data for more than 120 million credit and debit card accounts. Gonzalez and other members of his team eventually were caught; he�s serving two concurrent sentences for his role, amounting to 20 years and a day in prison, but the big-box breaches go on.

The latest string of hacks attacking Target, Neiman Marcus, and others raise an obvious question: How is it that nearly a decade after the Gonzalez gang pulled off its heists, little has changed in the protection of bank card data?
More at the site.

Whoops -- a small error in print

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Carried over for over 100 years. From The Atlantic:
The New York Times Had a Mistake on Its Front Page Every Day for More Than a Century
Nobody knows exactly how it happened, but somehow, between February 6, 1898, and February 7, 1898, the issue numbering for The New York Times got a little ... off.

It's easy enough to imagine the scene: A worker, late at night, setting the paper's front-page type. He takes out the type from the preceding day's paper. He looks at the issue number�14,499�and adds one. He gets 15,000.

Perhaps he misread the number, and thought he saw 14,999 in its place. Or perhaps he'd had a long night, and just wasn't thinking straight. Who knows? What we know is that he put 15,000 as the issue number for the next day, and nobody noticed.

And nobody noticed the next day, nor the next day, nor the next.

In fact, nobody noticed until 1999, when a news assistant at the Times, Aaron Donovan got suspicious. On the first day of 2000, the Times issued a correction with an explanatory note.

PWNED - Zombie department

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Hat tip to Miss Cellania at Neatorama.

Now this is cool - the Pocket Drone

From their Kickstarter page:

The Pocket Drone - Your personal flying robot
The Pocket Drone is the personal flying robot that enables anyone to capture amazing video and photos from the sky. The year 2014 is going to be the "Year of the Drone" Personal and professional photography is literally beginning to take off. Everybody can already take great looking photos and videos with their camera phones and share them online, but they have been limited to what could seen from the ground. Now with the Pocket Drone, it's never been easier to capture spectacular aerial images that open up a whole new perspective and insight that had previously been unseen.

50 days to go with a goal of raising $35,000 So far, 640 backers with 281,372 raised! Longest flight time for an under $500 drone. Able to lift a GoPro camera. Nice video at the site but cannot embed it.

A Detroit Family

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Al Qaeda is on the run

From what Obama says, terrorism is on the decline -- just a few remaining splinter cells in rural Afghanistan. From writer Vox Day:
Bomb-makers in Minneapolis
What used to be known as the Ghettos in the Sky are now the center of Mogadishu on the Mississippi. And the Somali population in Minneapolis has already contributed suicide bombers to Al-Shabab in Somalia as well as mall attackers to the same group in Kenya. So, the mysterious recent explosion in the heart of Somali Minneapolis should be a matter of more than a little concern to Minnesotans, as it indicates that the Somalis are likely to bring their jihad to the Mall of America or some other local target sooner or later.

A big explosion occurs next door to a mosque that has an unabashed affection for the Muslim Brotherhood, in a Somali neighborhood where terrorists are known to hang out -- what could possibly be amiss with that? Nothing, except possibly an Islamophobic hate crime, according to CAIR.

Zuhur Ahmed, a board member of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the group was monitoring the situation closely. "So far we don't have any details," she said. "But whenever there's an explosion, fire or anything of that sort by a mosque, there's a little bit of concern if the motive is a hate crime. We're just concerned and watching out for that."
Some more and a bit of a chilling conclusion:
The explosion was subsequently blamed on a gas leak, which is interesting because the Star Tribune has been caught lying about its conversation with the gas company responsible.

I contacted CenterPoint and spoke with Rebecca Virden. I'm glad I did because as you'll see in a moment, there's some very bad reporting going on with this story.

"Our distribution system after we checked it -- which runs up to the meter, which is the distribution system's responsibility, to the meter -- has no leak on it at all. We tested that system and it holds its test. We even took it apart and tested it to make sure because it had no leakage. It's fully sound. As for our system, we had no leakage, no leak history, no leak calls into our call centers prior to the incident before, during or after."
Throw in the fact that Homeland Security was spotted on the scene and it points to the probability that the police and media are covering up the explosion of a Somali bomb-making factory in Minneapolis.
And this is not an isolated incident -- we are being probed continually.

Our future workers

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Excellent essay from Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club:
The Fearful Future
An advertisement for Momentum machines is likely to strike fear among those who are enrolled in the 10 most worthless college majors. Momentum has a machine designed to replace fast food workers capable of serving 360 hamburgers per hour. The sandwiches emerge fully assembled, with bun, relish, sauce and patty at �gourmet quality�. For it can grind and chop its ingredients fresh. It never forgets to wash up. Always adds the right amount of seasoning � or perhaps the customer would like to adjust it himself. It is designed to replace the armies of low paid workers, for whom a fast food job is an entry level position and � for some � a career. Founded by engineers from Berkeley, Stanford, UCSB, and USC, Momentum is looking to hire a few good people, namely: a mechatronics engineer and a machine vision specialist.

Thousands displaced. Two hired.
Richard's essay is excellent - he closes with this thought:
The Left is and has always been a regressive ideology which relies in �progressive taxation� to pursue a 19th century dream. Marx couldn�t even imagine that dream. He lived a world where have two or three suits of clothes was a big deal. If you look about your home and consider which of the plethora of consumer items was invented under socialism it would be a very short list. In product innovation, America produced Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and thousands of others. Socialism brought forth Mikhail Kalashnikov.
So true and the proles are clueless as usual. This is the first drop of the tidal wave that is going to sweep over them.

Celebrating his 85th Birthday - Popeye

From Mental Floss:

15 Things to Know About Popeye on His 85th Anniversary
On January 17, 1929, Popeye made his first appearance in E.C. Segar's comic strip Thimble Theatre, and the spinach-eating sailor with the oversized forearms and corncob pipe would not only go on to become the strip's most popular character, but also see his star rise to the uppermost levels of comics royalty in the years that followed. Considered by many to be one of the greatest comics and cartoon characters of all time, Popeye was an unexpected success for Segar and the publishers of Thimble Theatre, and he went on to spawn a wildly popular animated series, multiple iterations of comic strips, and even a live-action film.

In honor of Popeye's 85th anniversary, we've compiled a list of 15 things that you might not know about the famous sailor:
1. Thimble Theatre was already 10 years old when the famous sailor made his debut. Popeye quickly became so popular among readers that he was brought back in a recurring role, and eventually became the main character of the strip, which was subsequently renamed Popeye in the 1970s.

Fourteen more at the site.

An Earth Shattering Kaboom - natural gas leaks

Sounds like people didn't bother to maintain their infrastructure - a two-fer: First - from USA Today:

Study finds 5,893 natural gas leaks in Washington, D.C.
New research today says the nation's capital, notorious for leaking state secrets, has thousands of leaks of another sort: methane from natural gas pipelines.

More than 5,800 leaks from aging pipelines were found under Washington, D.C.'s streets by scientists from Duke University and Boston University, who dispatched a car equipped with measuring instruments across the city last January and February. Their findings appear in this week's peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

A bit more:

In February, they reported the leaks to Washington Gas, the local utility, but upon follow-up testing four months later, found nine of them were still emitting dangerous levels of methane.

"If you dropped a cigarette down a manhole ... it could have blown up," says Robert Jackson, professor of environmental sciences at Duke who led the study. "I was shocked," he says, adding gas companies usually respond quickly to leaks for fear of negative publicity.

Well, good that it's just D.C. -- Oh... Wait Second - from Medium:

The environmental scandal that's happening right beneath your feet
By the time Bob Ackley crossed the Harlem River into Manhattan he'd been up for nearly four hours. It was still dark, not yet seven on a Sunday morning: the best time of the week to go sniffing for gas.

The back seat of his hatchback was littered with hi-tech equipment. Plastic hoses and cables connected a web of instruments: a laser spectrometer, a computer, GPS equipment, a pump, and a fan. The jumble of gadgets purred reassuringly as he drove.

Few people understand the streets of America's cities the way Ackley does. He's spent almost three decades documenting leaky gas pipelines and alerting utility companies to potential danger. Now he can read the street like a hunter reads animal tracks; some academics call him the "urban naturalist".

As he drove through New York, Ackley looked for the signs that could point to possible gas leaks. Wearing a tattered winter jacket and peering out from beneath a baseball cap that proclaimed "Life is Simple, Eat, Sleep, Fish", he searched for spray-painted signs that mark underground pipes and wires.

He watched the weather, knowing storms bring low-pressure systems that draw gas up from underground. Small holes drilled into the pavement; long narrow patches of asphalt; dead grass on the side of a street: these are all good indicators of past  -  and perhaps ongoing  -  leaks.

This is a long and wonderful read. Written by Phil McKenna, it was awarded the 2013 AAAS Kavli award for science journalism. Phil spends too much time drinking the anthropogenic global warming kool-aid but otherwise, an excellent article.

Earth Shattering Kaboom? Marvin the Martian

Boeing Aircraft Corporation has been going through a bit of union troubles. Boeing has been moving parts of its manufacturing to states with Right To Work laws where union membership is optional. In WA State (not RTW), the machinists union has been ratcheting up their demands for higher wages and bigger pensions. Boeing has been saying no and moving jobs out of state. Stalemate -- so what does the head of the WA State Machinists union do? From the Seattle Times:
Machinists leader Wroblewski says he�ll retire
Tom Wroblewski, local leader of the Machinists union at Boeing, announced Tuesday night that he�ll retire effective Jan. 31 for health reasons.

His stepping down comes at a tumultuous moment for the union, whose 32,000 members are badly split. An election for Wroblewski�s replacement will be organized in the coming days, and the next leader will then face a massive task to create unity within the union.

The recent vote that passed a contract extension to secure the building of the 777X jet in Washington state split the membership bitterly and almost down the middle.
A bit more:
Since November, he�s been under pressure not only from the company but also from his own members, from local politicians, and from the union�s International leadership in D.C.
Emphasis mine -- What The Fsck do "international leaders" have to do with business in America? More:
In early November, he acquiesced to the will of the International, overruling his own local leadership team and staff who opposed an initial vote on the Boeing offer. In the days before that vote, Wroblewski steadfastly refused to offer his own opinion on the Boeing offer in public.
He failed to listen to his constituency. If he really is ill, I offer my condolences but from where I stand, this looks like incompetent "leadership" listening to the yes-men at the top and not those people he was supposed to lead. Hey Tom -- don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you...

Crap - R.I.P. Russell Johnson

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Russell Johnson? The Professor on Gilligan's Island. From the New York Times:
Russell Johnson, the Professor on �Gilligan�s Island,� Dies at 89
Russell Johnson, an actor who made a living by mostly playing villains in westerns until he was cast as the Professor, the brains of a bunch of sweetly clueless, self-involved, hopelessly na�ve island castaways, on the hit sitcom �Gilligan�s Island,� died on Thursday at his home in Bainbridge Island, Wash. He was 89.
He lived quite the life offstage too - from Together We Served:
After high school, in the midst of World War II, Johnson joined the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet; upon commissioning as a Second Lieutenant, Johnson was assigned the service number 0 765 497. He flew 44 combat missions as a bombardier in B-25 Mitchell bombers. His plane was shot down in the Philippines in March 1945, during a bombing run against Japanese targets. The plane had to crash land at the port of Zamboanga. In this mission, he broke both his ankles and earned his Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Air Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged with the rank of first Lieutenant on November 22, 1945. He then joined the Army Reserves and used the GI Bill to fund his acting studies.

Building a Locomotive

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Filmed in 1928 -- shows the building of the most powerful steam locomotive in the British Empire - 3,685 Horsepower. Filmed at the Angus Shops of the Canadian Pacific Railway in Montreal. Gorgeous big iron.

The EPA in the news

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Talk about operating outside the bounds of the law -- from National Review Online:
The EPA�s Privacy Problem
The fire at San Joaquin Valley�s Harris Farms burst out suddenly and rapidly, consuming 14 trailer trucks in the dawn of January 8, 2012. Wreaking more than $2 million in damage, it constituted one of the biggest acts of agro-terrorism in American history.

An anonymous news release issued by the Animal Liberation Front, a radical animal-rights group, explained that unnamed activists had placed containers of kerosene and digital timers beneath the trucks, linking them with kerosene-soaked rope to carry the fire down the row, �a tactic adapted from Home Alone 2.� The statement concludes threateningly: �until next time.� The perpetrators remain uncaught.

Two years later, farmers and ranchers in 29 states worry they�ll be similarly attacked; last year, the Environmental Protection Agency released to environmental groups extensive personal information about 80,000 to 100,000 agricultural operations.

The data released included names of owners, addresses, global-positioning-system coordinates, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and, in some instances, notes on medical conditions and inheritances. Though environmental groups had requested information about �concentrated animal feeding operations� � �CAFOs� in the bureaucratic lingo, and �feedlots� in the vernacular � some of the information released clumped in data about crop farms, too.
They pull crap like this and still get funding? Unreal... There is a lot more at the site -- the article goes into quite a good bit of detail.

News from the SHOT Show

One of these years, I'll wangle an invite and attend the annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show).

This just in -- from Call the Cops:

Las Vegas 911 center overwhelmed with 'Person with Gun' calls due to Shot Show
The 2014 Shot Show kicked off yesterday. This year the show featured the debut of a multiple new firearms, and tons of firearms industry celebrities. This year has also been a bane for Las Vegas dispatchers. Civilians all around the Sands Expo center keep calling 911 to report people with guns.

The Shot Show is the nations largest Trade Show and Conference for the firearms industry. It supports civilian hunters, outdoors people, military, and law enforcement. According to their media kit Shot Show has over 1,600 vendor booths that will be visited by over 63,000 industry professionals. Admission to the Shot Show is restricted people who work in the industry or are directly affiliated to the industry. The general public and general firearms enthusiasts are not admitted.

With gun control being a hot button topic for much of 2013 citizens seem to be very uncomfortable around guns. Vegas vacationers appear to be completely on edge due to the 630,000 square feet of firearms sitting on the Vegas strip.

A source in the dispatch center told us this.

"It has been non-stop. We actually have had to bring in extra call takes just to deal with the 'person with a gun' calls. Obviously we need to take each call seriously but for the next few days we will be asking qualifying questions."

According to our source if a 911-call taker is told there is someone with a gun, they ask, "Are you at or close to the Sands". If the answer is yes then the caller is placed on hold and transferred to secondary call takers. It is then the job of the secondary call takers to get as much information as possible.

"We are finding that with in about three questions we are able to identify that our caller is outside the Shot Show. There are signs everywhere advertising this event yet it seems no one is paying attention. The see guns at a distance and vapor lock kicks in. Out comes the cell phone and 911 is being dialed."

Our source tells us one caller was not happy to hear there was a large firearms trade show going on.

"This one lady was adamant we send officers down to identify everyone at this event. She said she could in her words see thousands of guns a whole bunch of very sketchy looking psychopaths holding these guns. She was demanding that our officer run background checks on everyone in the exhibition hall. We hung up on her. She called back five more times. Eventually we did send an officer, to arrest her for abuse of 911."

Needless to say, the website: Call the Cops is a parody site. The post is a work of humorous fiction.

The Best and Worst of 2013

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A great list of media errors and corrections -- from Craig Silverman writing at Poynter:
The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013
Error of the Year: �60 Minutes� Benghazi report

As is often the case with Error of the Year, the award is given partly because of the mistake itself, and partly because of the mistake�s fallout.

In late October �60 Minutes� aired a report that called into question the official version of what happened when the U.S. diplomatic compound was attacked in Benghazi, Libya. At the core of the story was a source, Dylan Davies, who worked as a security contractor for the State Department. Davies had a book coming out that purported to share new facts about what happened that night, and what he did.

Problem one: he lied to the show about what he did and saw, thereby making a core piece of evidence in the �60 Minutes� counter-narrative false and undercutting the entire segment.

Problem two: it only took days for other news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, to reveal significant flaws with the story, and with Davies. The Times in particular received details from an important FBI interview with Davies that CBS News somehow never managed to get or check prior to airing the story.
A lot more at the site -- some are simple typos (including a newspaper misspelling its own name when announcing a Journalism Award.) Others are really egregious examples of poor fact checking and media bias. Of course, they had to include this howler from Oakland, CA station KTVU-TV regarding the Asiana flight 214 in July:

The National Security Agency (otherwise known as No Such) is very much oversteping its bounds.

From The Guardian:

NSA collects millions of text messages daily in 'untargeted' global sweep
The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages - including their contacts - is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK's Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Out tax dollars at work.

Crap - R.I.P. John Dobson

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From Sky and Telescope:
John Dobson, 1915�2014
A simple notice appeared yesterday on the website of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers: "It is with heavy hearts that we must report the passing of John Dobson. He died peacefully this morning, Wednesday, January 15th, in Burbank, California. He was 98 years old. He leaves behind a son, numerous close friends, and fans and admirers worldwide."

Ever since emerging from obscurity in 1968, when he left his order of Vedantan monks and founded the SFSA with students Bruce Sams and Jeff Roloff, Dobson has been a force of nature in amateur astronomy. He'll be remembered most for his novel approaches to making low-cost, large-aperture reflectors. The key was a simple, alt-azimuth wooden mount that anyone could build. Today millions of stargazers worldwide use these Dobsonian telescopes to sweep the nighttime sky.
98 is a good run! His telescope design is pure genius -- it is for observational use only, there is no built-in tracking so photography is out. That being said, this allows you to use a much larger aperture than could be done economically with a conventional mount. This gives a lot more light gathering so your seeing is better. Here is the Wikipedia entry for Dobsonian Telescope.
What a putz. From Emily Miller writing at The Washington Times:
MILLER: Harvey Weinstein and Meryl Streep new movie to make NRA �wish they weren�t alive�
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein announced for the first time on Howard Stern�s radio show that he is making a full feature drama to try to destroy the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Stern asked Mr. Weinstein on Wednesday whether he owned a gun. The Hollywood heavyweight replied that he did not and never would. �I don�t think we need guns in this country. And I hate it,� the producer said. �I think the NRA is a disaster area.�

Mr. Weinstein then revealed his secret project about the gun rights group. �I shouldn�t say this, but I�ll tell it to you, Howard,� he said. �I�m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we�re going to take this head-on. And they�re going to wish they weren�t alive after I�m done with them.�

The shock jock asked whether the film was going to be a documentary. Mr. Weinstein said no, that it would be a �big movie like a �Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.��
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Ditto for beliefs but there is a big difference between the two when it comes to fact-checking. Beliefs need to be backed up with facts and a lot of the gun grabbers fall seriously short in this department. On May 2013, the NRA membership passed the five million mark -- I bet that Mr. Weinstein's little movie will be seen by maybe a million people at most and I sincerely doubt that. Polemics do not sell. The irony is that he produced these movies: Django Unchained, Sin City, Grindhouse, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, and Rambo to name a few. Emily Miller is well versed on firearms and the law. She is the author of Emily Gets Her Gun: ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours

A righteous smackdown

Dr. Helen Smith (wife of the Instapundit) received a book for review and delivered a wonderful smackdown to the publicist:

Please Take Me off Your List of Hate.
So I received this press release about a newly released book by psychologist Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D:

Lorna Garano

A Psychologist Diagnoses the Tea Party-and other extremists threatening our world. In "The Polarized Mind: Why It's Killing Us and What We Can Do about It," Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D., calls for a new and deeper psychological understanding of our greatest political and social conflicts and those who drive them.

It's easy for liberals to snicker at the misspelled signs and misplaced anger of the Tea Party, but psychologist Kirk J. Schneider says that we dismiss or diminish groups like this at our own peril. Schneider, the author of THE POLARIZED MIND: WHY IT'S KILLING US AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT (University Professor Press, 2013, paperback), has done an exhaustive study of extremist movements throughout history and he says it's time for us to look more seriously at what he calls "the polarized mind." In "The Polarized Mind: Why It's Killing Us and What We Can Do about It," Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D., calls for a new and deeper psychological understanding of our greatest political and social conflicts and those who drive them.

Dr. Smith replied with this:

Here is the reply I sent back to Lorna Garano:

How DARE YOU send me this trash associating law abiding American citizens with Nazi Germany and Maoist China. I am a psychologist who has sympathy for my fellow Americans who are so "extremist" that they believe in lower taxes and the Second Amendment. Horrors!

What is "killing us" are polarized minds like Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D who is so narrow-minded that he thinks those who have different political beliefs than himself are the enemy and seeks to assign them with a "diagnosis." What is truly extremist and scary to those of a more conservative or libertarian persuasion is that so many psychologists such as the one below are such political hacks for the Democratic Party. Please take me off your list of hate.

Helen Smith, PhD

Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D sounds like an odious little toad.

What difference does it make - Benghazi

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From The Washington Post:
Senate report: Attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi could have been prevented
A long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee report released Wednesday faulted both the State Department and the intelligence community for not preventing attacks on two outposts in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, about 16 months ago.

The bipartisan report laid out more than a dozen findings regarding the assaults on a diplomatic compound and a CIA annex in the city. It said the State Department failed to increase security at its mission despite warnings, and blamed intelligence agencies for not sharing information about the existence of the CIA outpost with the U.S. military.
Much more at the site. People are hyperventilating over Chris Christie's "bridgegate" scandal while crap like this gets a pass from the media. There is a lot more at the site plus over 3,100 comments. The full report can be downloaded from here. (PDF)

Jimmy Kimmel talks about Obamacare

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Classic stuff... Hat tip to Gerard for the link.

From CNS News:

Anti-Gun Mayor Goes to Prison for Gun-Related Crime
A member of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been sentenced to up to 20 months for discharging his firearms to intimidate a man to whom he had an attraction. It seems that he took Vice President Joe Biden's advice, which is also a violation of gun laws. Although, I think we can all agree that we shouldn't take advice from folks who don't know gun laws. Yes, we're looking at your Mr. Vice President.

So, in all, you can go to prison for firing your weapon into the air to warn of would-be attackers - even in a state like Florida that has a "stand your ground" law.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that James Schiliro, the mayor of Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, took 20-year-old Nicholas Dorsam to his home for a few glasses of wine. When Dorsam tried to leave, Schiliro went into a craze, firing his gun into a stack of papers, and threatening to commit suicide. This episode reportedly lasted for 3.5 hours. So, it seems this was the rendezvous from hell.

Ironically, Schiliro was one of 600 mayors who signed a letter urging Obama to support needless gun restrictions on law-abiding Americans.

Rules for thee, not for me. Hypocrite...

From Chicago's DNAinfo:
VIDEO: Wicker Park Bar Break-In Thwarted When Man Pulls Door Marked 'Push'
The owner of a Division Street bar got an unpleasant but slightly comical surprise when an apparent burglar managed to remove a lock on the bar's front door � but couldn't get in because he was pulling the unlocked door instead of pushing it.

Surveillance video from the bar shows a man twisting and prying a lock at The Shambles and dislodging a safety guard doorstop after seven minutes of work early Friday. Nonetheless, he failed to get in after aggressively pulling the door repeatedly. A sticker on the outside of the door reads "PUSH."

"It's much funnier on the video, but the still shots show him pulling on the door. He could have pushed it," said Joe Lin, owner of The Shambles at 2050 W. Division St. in Wicker Park.
That is weapons-grade stupidity...

There has been a wonderful resurgence of analog music synthesizers in the last 20 years. All of the old circuit design patents are now public domain meanwhile, the quality and stability of the components has continuously improved.

You can get the gorgeous sound of a Moog synthesizer but without the tuning issues -- the pitch will not drift when the air conditioner comes on.

Forbes has a nice general write-up:

Small Firms Are Making Big Bucks In The Analog Economy
Imagine if Tim Cook fired up the production lines and started churning out the Apple II instead of the latest Macbook Pro. The world would think he had gone barking mad. After all, what company in its right mind would decide to start rebuilding technology last manufactured in the 1970s?

But in 2013, that was exactly the business decision made by the bosses at Korg, a Japanese multinational corporation that is one of the world's biggest musical instrument manufacturers. Rather than spend their R&D cash on developing a digital instrument of the future, they decided to start once again building an analog synthesizer called the MS-20, which was considered cutting edge when it was released in 1978 before being dismissed as worthless trash less than a decade later. Their gamble clearly worked, because the instrument sold out across the world. Now its competitors are widely tipped to be considering making the same move, with synth fans hoping that other Japanese giants like Yamaha and Roland will bring much-loved designs back from the pre-digital past.

It is a fun time to be alive. The other area that was not mentioned is that with the advent of very high-speed and very cheap Digital signal processing chips, it is possible to model the characteristics of a specific circuit -- say a Moog low-pass ladder filter and recreate the sound with the push of a few buttons. The wonderful thing here is that you can change that filter to an A.R.P. bandpass filter with the push of a few buttons.

Comparing the two side by side, there is a noticeable difference but when the audio is blended into the mix and when it has any post-processing effects added, these differences disappear.

Quote of the day - George Bernard Shaw

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The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
--George Bernard Shaw
Wikiquote: George Bernard Shaw And Wikipedia. Quite the character - pity that he was such a ninny when it came to politics.

Rules to live by

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From Senator Mike Lee's Facebook page:
Behold my display of the 2013 Federal Register. It contains over 80,000 pages of new rules, regulations, and notices all written and passed by unelected bureaucrats. The small stack of papers on top of the display are the laws passed by elected members of Congress and signed into law by the president.
From the UK Telegraph:
Israeli defence minister says John Kerry should 'take Nobel prize and leave us be' - reports
Israeli defence minister Moshe Yaalon has scathingly attacked US Secretary of State John Kerry and the US-led peace process in private conversations, according to reports.

�Secretary of State John Kerry�who arrived here determined, and who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism�can�t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians�, Mr Yaalon is reported as saying.

Mr Yaalon reportedly made his statements in the course of a number of conversations held with American and Israeli officials, according to Israeli daily Yediot Ahranot.

�The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be�, said the Defence Minister.
A bit more:
�The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us isn�t worth the paper it was written on�, he is quoted as saying.
And that did leave a mark -- from Yahoo/AFP:
US: Israeli minister's attack on Kerry is 'offensive'
The White House reacted angrily Tuesday after Israel's defense minister attacked what he called US Secretary of State John Kerry's "obsession" with Middle East peace.

President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney said Moshe Yaalon's remarks "if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially in the light of everything Secretary Kerry is doing to support Israel's security needs."
That's funny -- I thought that progressives liked speaking truth to power. I guess that if the truth is actually -- true -- they don't like it so much... In other news, from The Wall Street Journal:
America's Dwindling Economic Freedom
World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.

For 20 years, the index has measured a nation's commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil's economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

It's not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.
Not surprizing...

Account suspended?

It helps to stay on top of the invoices -- fixed now... DERP!

Two years ago today - the Costa Concordia

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An act of Maritime stupidity that cost 32 lives and an insurance loss of over $1 Billion USD. It is now two years to the day, the ship has been righted (parbuckled -- there was an amazing television show on this) and is due to be refloated and brought to a salvage yard. Not to be salvaged are the careers of the captain and bridge officers. gCaptain has a nice timeline of events with links to media.
From Top Right News:
John McCain Censured by Arizona Republicans in Landslide Vote
The Maricopa County Republican Committee, the state�s largest Republican group, censured Senator John McCain for �a long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats.�

This official censuring of McCain happened during the annual mandatory meeting of the Maricopa County Republican Committee. Nearly 1,500 precinct committeemen (PCs) were in attendance. The vote to censure McCain passed overwhelmingly � 1,150 in support with only 351 opposed.

The censure concluded that �until he consistently champions our Party�s Platform and values, we, the Republican leadership in Arizona will no longer support, campaign for or endorse John McCain as our U.S. Senator.�
That is quite the margin - 76.61% versus 23.38%. People are finding their voices and those voices are growing louder day by day -- speaking with more conviction and strength. We put you there to do a job and it is time you listened to us and started to work for us. No wonder the Tea Party is being demonized -- hacks like McConnell and Boehner are running scared and lashing out.
From Canada's National Post:
How the discovery of a 460-year-old English shilling in B.C. could help rewrite the early history of Canada
The discovery of a 16th-century coin buried in clay on a Vancouver Island shoreline is rekindling interest in a controversial theory that English explorer Sir Francis Drake made a secret voyage to Canada�s Pacific Coast in 1579 � two centuries before Spanish sailors and the legendary British navigator Capt. James Cook made their famous �first� European visits to the future British Columbia in the 1770s.

Former B.C. cabinet minister Samuel Bawlf, the leading proponent of the Drake theory and author of a 2003 book on the subject, says the discovery of the coin by a Victoria metal-detector hobbyist adds to the substantial documentary evidence that Drake � well known to have reached California during his 1579 expedition � actually sailed to Vancouver Island and well beyond, but was ordered by Queen Elizabeth I to hide the true extent of his northward travels to protect England�s strategic interests in the New World.

And one of the province�s top archeologists, Royal B.C. Museum curator Grant Keddie, told Postmedia News that he�s made plans to examine the 460-year-old shilling, noting that �this now makes three coins from the 1500s� that have been found along the B.C. coast.

�I am encouraging [relic hunters] to take another look at things they may have found here that are not identified � such as ceramics or glassware � that might date to the same time period as the coin,� added Keddie, who has described Bawlf�s theory as compelling and worth continued investigation by scholars.
Now that would cause a major re-write of history. More at the site. Oh to be renting metal detectors on Vancouver Island this summer...

Awww crap - RIP Nando

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Never met him in person but he was active on a number of fora I frequent and he was very knowledgeable in a wide arena of disciplines. alt.energy, electronics, hydro power, etc... Back on December 13th, he posted this:
On Thu, 12 Dec 2013 19:05:38 -0600
Nando wrote:

To those interested I would like to inform that this 18 of Dec, 2013 I
will have a triple heart bypass if everything goes right /should be back
4 weeks or so later./

Early this morning, I got this:
I have just been informed of the very sad news that our groupmember Nando has passed away on the 31st of December.

I have only known Nando from his contributions to a number of shared yahoo groups (microhydro,small-wind-home,12VDC_Power), but I always looked forward to his valuable input in all of these areas.

May his soul rest in peace.

An obituary can be found at

I hope that he will live on in his contributions to the archives of these groups...

He will be sadly missed.
The obituary is a nice one -- Nando led an amazing life, one that he never talked about. Never blowing his own horn -- just like him. Raising a glass in toast.

Heh -- food as it once was cooked

A fun list by Arianna Rebolini at BuzzFeed: Here is a screen-cap of the first entry:


Yum! 20 more at the site complete with links to recipes...

Windows 9 already in the pipeline

From Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows:

"Threshold" to be Called Windows 9, Ship in April 2015
At the BUILD developer conference in April 2014, Microsoft will discuss its vision for the future of Windows, including a year-off release codenamed "Threshold" that will most likely be called Windows 9. Here's what I know about the next major release of Windows.

As a kind of recap, we know that Microsoft will update Windows 8.1 in 2014, first with a service pack/feature pack-type update called Update 1 (or GDR1 internally). I wrote a bit about this update recently in Windows 8.1 Update 1 (Very Early) Preview but the expectation is that it will ship in April 2014 alongside Windows Phone 8.1, the development of which Microsoft will soon complete.

Also in April, of course, is BUILD 2014. That show will hit just weeks after Microsoft completes its corporate reorganization and will surprisingly be very much focused on Windows Phone and Xbox, according to my sources. But I think Windows watchers will agree that the biggest news from the show will be an announcement about Microsoft's plans for the next major Windows version, codenamed "Threshold."

Paul offers this reason for the stepped-up timetable:

Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public, and the latest release, Windows 8.1, which is a substantial and free upgrade with major improvements over the original release, is in use on less than 25 million PCs at the moment.

Still running Win7 on all of my systems except for three boxes running XP (software specific requirements). Took one look at 8 and said NO!

Back from town

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Long buying run today -- lots of stuff needed at the store and stopped at a couple places for myself. Having some left-over chix soup and will surf later...

Preliminary news - hope not

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I subscribe to the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center email list. Just got this notification:
6.5 Mag is a sharp shake, the 28km depth will mitigate that a lot but it still offers a lot of surface movement. That it is 59km from Arecibo really really sucks. That dish is fragile but it is still doing amazing work for all the funding it is getting (read: zilch). I had posted a few times before about its funding problems here, here, here and here.
Not a household name but if anyone out there was interested in making their own shop equipment or getting reprints of older machine shop manuals, there was one primary go-to source -- Lindsay's Technical Books. Visiting the site now brings this message:
We have shut down for retirement.
We no longer fill orders.
You may be able to acquire a few of the books you missed from these internet dealers.

I do not begrudge their retirement -- they ran an amazing business/resource for a very long time. I have a large collection of their books. With these books you can literally start from a pile of scrap metal and scavenged parts; from this pile you can fabricate the parts to build a milling machine, a lathe, a welder, a forge and from then, pretty much anything else you want to make. Thank God that one of the links is to this place: Your Old Time Book Store I think that civilization as we know it just dodged a big bullet. If you live in a place with few manufacturing resources or want to learn how to do this stuff yourself, this is the knowledge that you need...

Heh - checking out a website

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So true even now, more than three months after the rollout with the prior three years spent on development...

Fun times for climate change - the BBC

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From the London Daily Mail:
BBC's six-year cover-up of secret 'green propaganda' training for top executives
  • Pensioner forces BBC to lift veil on 2006 eco-seminar to top executives
  • Papers reveal influence of top green campaigners including Greenpeace
  • Then-head of news Helen Boaden said it impacted a 'broad range of output'
  • Yet BBC has spent more than �20,000 in legal fees trying to keep it secret
The BBC has spent tens of thousands of pounds over six years trying to keep secret an extraordinary �eco� conference which has shaped its coverage of global warming, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The controversial seminar was run by a body set up by the BBC�s own environment analyst Roger Harrabin and funded via a �67,000 grant from the then Labour government, which hoped to see its �line� on climate change and other Third World issues promoted in BBC reporting.

At the event, in 2006, green activists and scientists � one of whom believes climate change is a bigger danger than global nuclear war � lectured 28 of the Corporation�s most senior executives.
And the cracks in the facade?
The BBC began its long legal battle to keep details of the conference secret after an amateur climate blogger spotted a passing reference to it in an official report.

Tony Newbery, 69, from North Wales, asked for further disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The BBC�s resistance to revealing anything about its funding and the names of those present led to a protracted struggle in the Information Tribunal. The BBC has admitted it has spent more than �20,000 on barristers� fees. However, the full cost of their legal battle is understood to be much higher.
The BBC is a State-funded entity as is our own National Public Radio. They publish what the State tells them to publish. The State drives the agenda on these networks -- they are not independent. Thank God for the Internet!

Fun times for industry - SCADA

I am fascinated by SCADA systems. Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition -- these are the computers, programs and hardware that control major industrial entities; steel mills, petroleum refineries, manufacturing lines, power generation and transmission. The backbone of industry. There has been a long history of them being horribly unsecure from outside hacking. Wen the first IBM PCs were integrated into these systems, there was never any intention to connected them to the outside world so security was never an issue. During this time, the core protocols and libraries were developed and all of a sudden, when these systems were connected to the internet, security holes were discovered allowing outside hackers to alter or completely shut down these factories. Not good. (here and here) Needless to say, there has been a major push over the last twenty years but things still come back to bite us. From Australian IT News:
Hackers gain 'full control' of critical SCADA systems
Researchers have found vulnerabilities in industrial control systems that they say grant full control of systems running energy, chemical and transportation systems.

The vulnerabilities were discovered by Russian researchers who over the last year probed popular and high-end ICS and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems used to control everything from home solar panel installations to critical national infrastructure.
Some details:
The researchers published an updated version of a password-cracking tool that targeted the vulnerability in Siemens PLC S-300 devices as part of the SCADA Strangelove project at the Chaos Communications Conference in Berlin.

They also published a cheat sheet to help researchers identify nearly 600 ICS, PLC and SCADA systems.

SCADA Strangelove had identified more than 150 zero day vulnerabilities of varying degrees of severity affecting ICSes, PLCs and SCADA systems. Of those, 31 percent were less severe cross site scripting vulnerabilities and five percent were dangerous remote code execution holes.
And it's not just the big guys:
But it wasn't just industrial systems that were affected; the researchers found some 60,000 ICS devices -- many which were home systems -- exposed to the public internet and at risk of attack.
Is everybody happy happy happy?

So much for the day of rest

Fabricating a part in the shop this morning and then meeting with someone at 2PM for a business arrangement.

Did a nice ham and bean soup last night so Lulu and I will have that for dinner tonight -- quick and easy.

Surfing a bit now over lunch and will surf some more later tonight.

Heh - 420 in Colorado

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From the twitter feed for Stuff Journalists Like:

A curious case in Bellingham

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Events led to quite the comedy of errors -- from The Bellingham Herald:

Charges: Backpack mix-up at hospital leads to drug deal, armed robbery at Bellingham motel
A backpack loaded with cash got delivered into the hands of a violent criminal because of a mix-up at a Bellingham hospital. That set off a chain of events that led to a botched drug deal, an armed robbery at a Samish Way motel and felony charges for four people, according to charges filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Staff at St. Joseph hospital gave a black North Face backpack, containing a silver Macbook Pro and $1,700 stashed in an envelope, to Timothy Blair Drafs, 48, of Bellingham, when he was released from emergency care in late December, according to charging papers.

Drafs had come in to the hospital with a black backpack. But the one he left with belonged to another man in the ER, said Bev Mayhew, the hospital's director of Communications and Marketing.

"Clearly," Mayhew said, "we made a mistake."

Over the past three decades, Drafs has racked up seven felonies, for assault, harassment, burglary, theft and kidnapping.

On Dec. 28, he didn't ask questions: He took the cash and splurged on a room for a month at the Aloha Motel, according to the charges.

He spent much of Dec. 28 with Madison Patricia Crabtree, 21. Prosecutors allege he told her he wanted to buy some drugs, so she placed a phone call.

Two men rolled up in a silver Oldsmobile Alero. Police believe they went to Drafs' room, where he offered $20 for drugs.

"Didn't drive over here," one of the men said, "to sell only $20 worth of dope," according to the charges.

One of the men whipped out a knife and blocked the door, while the other reached into the back of his pants for a black handgun. According to the charges, Crabtree, who apparently was working with the men, grabbed Drafs' wallet, stuffed full with $1,000, but tripped and dropped it as the three robbers made for the Oldsmobile.

By tracing the car's plates, officers tracked down the suspected gunman, Dustin Wilson, 27, that evening hiding in his girlfriend's closet at a home on St. Clair Street. A green hat and a green, black and white sweatshirt - worn during the robbery - were still in the Oldsmobile, according to the charges. Wilson has 11 past felony convictions.

Detectives watched security footage and recognized the man with a knife: Christopher Allen Watson, 39, according to the charges. Watson had been convicted of possessing heroin in summer 2011. He came to the attention of police that day when, according to charging documents, he threw his girlfriend to the ground at the Home Depot store in Bellingham. Officers noted he wore a clip-on knife.

Crabtree was arrested Sunday evening a few blocks from the Aloha, and officers found Watson on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at a Chevron station on Lakeway Drive.

Watson, Wilson and Crabtree were charged with first-degree robbery.

Meanwhile, Drafs turned over the backpack and cash he hadn't spent to police - "reluctantly," wrote Deputy Prosecutor James Hulbert. He wasn't arrested at the time. But Hulbert later filed a charge of second-degree theft against Drafs. He remained at large Friday.

Need a couple gallons of Clorox in that gene pool. I cannot imagine being 27 years old and already having 11 prior felony convictions. And he was carrying a gun -- good thing the gun laws prevented that. Imagine, a convicted felon being able to get access to a gun...

A canonical list of Windows utilities

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Scott has compiled a list of some really great utilities for the Windows operating system. Some are specific to Win8 but most of them will work just fine on earlier versions (run Win7 on all of my machines).
Scott Hanselman's 2014 Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows
Everyone collects utilities, and most folks have a list of a few that they feel are indispensable. Here's mine. Each has a distinct purpose, and I probably touch each at least a few times a week. For me, "util" means utilitarian and it means don't clutter my tray. If it saves me time, and seamlessly integrates with my life, it's the bomb. Many/most are free some aren't. Those that aren't free are very likely worth your 30-day trial, and very likely worth your money.

This is the Updated for 2014 Version of my 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 List, and currently subsumes all my other lists. I�ve been doing this for a decade!

These are all well loved and oft-used utilities. I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't use them constantly. Things on this list are here because I dig them. No one paid money to be on this list and no money is accepted to be on this list.
Well worth checking out -- I was already familiar (and using) a bunch of his suggestions but there are a couple ones that are new to me that I will be checking out this afternoon. Good stuff!

Crap - RIP Ariel Sharon

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From Haaretz:
Israel mourns Sharon's passing; Netanyahu: He was a 'brave warrior'
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon died on Saturday at Sheba Medical Center, his son Gilad Sharon said at a press conference outside the hospital. �He passed when he decided it was time to go,� said Gilad Sharon said about his father, adding, �We are grateful to all the many people in Israel and around the world who worried and prayed for him.�

Sharon's death was officially announced by hospital director Prof. Shlomo Noy at 3 P.M. after what he described as a peaceful passing, following a stubborn week-long struggle for life. The official time of Sharon's death was declared at 2 P.M, Noy said. The former prime minister died surrounded by his family, he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed deep sorrow after he heard the news. "The State of Israel lowers its head following the departure of Ariel Sharon,� he said. �He played a major part in the struggle for the country's security throughout all of its years. He was first and foremost a brave warrior and a great general, one of the greatest commanders the IDF has seen.

�As a youth he reported for duty on the battlefield on behalf of the people of Israel. He did so as a soldier in the War of Independence, and as a commander in the Sinai Campaign, the Six Day War and up to the Yom Kippur War. In between, he founded Unit 101 and promoted the concept of taking the initiative and payback in the war against terror that became part and parcel of Israeli policy. When he stepped out of uniform he continued to serve the people of Israel in the many posts he served in Israeli governments and, of course, as Israel's 11th prime minister. His memory will be kept forever in the nation's heart."
Will Obama go to that funeral? I doubt it. Sharon was as much a fighter for truth and liberty as Mandela.

Big wind and rain last night

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Sustained 45-50 with gusts up to 62MPH Rain came in at 1.3" in 24 hours. Neither of us slept very well with all the noise...

We are at panel #4

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Yup - panel #4 is about right. Can't say I like #5 or #6 very much either but this is where we are headed if we do not get some adults in the room. Barry (and his handlers) are running straight from the 1966 Cloward-Piven handbook. Absolutely the wrong thing for this Nation...
ILM did an awesome job here:

A two-fer. First, from Yahoo/AFP:

Target says data breach up to 110 mn customers
Giant US retailer Target said Friday that up to 110 million customers have had their personal data stolen in a data breach, sharply raising its initial estimate.

The number of people affected represented one in three Americans, and the scope of the information stolen was much broader than originally thought, Target admitted.

Target initially reported on December 19 that payment card data of some 40 million customers had been obtained by hackers during the year-end holiday shopping season.

The stolen information included credit and debit card data, customer names and PIN (personal identification data) numbers.

Second - from Brian Krebs:

Hackers Steal Card Data from Neiman Marcus
Responding to inquiries about a possible data breach involving customer credit and debit card information, upscale retailer Neiman Marcus acknowledged today that it is working with the U.S. Secret Service to investigate a hacker break-in that has exposed an unknown number of customer cards.

Earlier this week, I began hearing from sources in the financial industry about an increasing number of fraudulent credit and debit card charges that were being traced to cards that had been very recently used at brick-and-mortar stores run by the Dallas, Texas based high-end retail chain. Sources said that while it appears the fraud on those stolen cards was perpetrated at a variety of other stores, the common point of purchase among the compromised cards was Neiman Marcus.

Today, I reached out to Neiman Marcus and received confirmation that the company is in fact investigating a breach that was uncovered in mid-December.

No numbers announced as yet. Yikes! Here is a Wikipedia article on Security breach notification laws in the USA and here is a state by state listing of what the laws are (PDF).

Danger: Humans
Later this evening...

Quote of the day - C.S. Lewis

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Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C. S. Lewis

Ho Li Crap - TONTO lands in Canada

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TONTO is short for The Original New Timbral Orchestra - the world's largest analog music synthesizer. It was built in 1968 by Malcom Cecil and Robert Margouleff. The National Music Center of Calgary, Alberta just got it and has it on display where people can use it. Here is a photo:
Here is Aurora from their album Zero Time:
Time for a road trip -- Calgary is only 575 miles away and the route goes through Banff National Park -- gorgeous country... More here, here and here.

Bullets dot com

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I do a lot of metalwork and blacksmithing. One of my favorite vendors is Grizzly Tools. They are located in Bellingham and if you avoid the Chinese stuff and buy their tools manufactured in Taiwan, you get really good value for the money. They recently purchased the assets of the South Bend company -- a venerable (founded in 1906) manufacturer of lathes and other large machining tools. Now, they have a website for firearms! Check out Bullets.

Heh - team building

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There are a lot of "management" techniques for team building and management. 98% of them are crap. Found this over at Mostly Cajun and swiped it:

Well that was a bust - Solar Flare

The CME hit Earth around noon today, more of a duck fart than an earth-shattering Ka-Boom. From Anthony:
The Solar storm has arrived � initial impact weaker than expected
From NASA: Spaceweather: As expected, a CME hit Earth�s magnetic field on Jan. 9th (around 20:00 UTC or 3 p.m. EST). Although the initial impact was weaker than expected, geomagnetic storms could still develop as Earth passes through the CME�s wake. NOAA forecasters are sticking by their prediction of a G3-class event on Jan. 9-10, which means high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.

From the New Jersey Institute of Technology
With instruments in space and on earth, NJIT solar experts monitor the massive solar storm

The first powerful �X-class� solar flare of 2014, in association with another solar phenomenon, a giant cloud of solar particles known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), erupted from the sun on Tuesday, sending radiation and particles speeding toward Earth and disrupting operations on the ground.
I was hoping for some Northern lights but it is very cloudy with some stiff weather moving in.

Unintended consequences - duck deaths

A utility places a new transmission line between a large lake on a duck migratory path and fields of grain that they eat. You can guess what happens next -- from the Calgary Sun:

Dozens of dismembered ducks believed to have been killed by transmission lines near Pincher Creek
Eagles and ravens don't eat wings, apparently - and that's made counting the carnage in Alberta's latest duck disaster all too easy.

Dozens of dismembered mallard wings are all that greeted retired forest scientist David McIntyre as he investigated reports of a mass bird kill just north of Pincher Creek.

There, beside a newly-built power transmission line, McIntyre found an ongoing banquet for local avian scavengers, including seven eagles, a dozen ravens and a hawk - all of them gorging on dead ducks, scattered beneath the wires.

They eat the duck, and leave the wings behind.

"It appears obvious that the line's placement, directly between a key waterfowl staging area and adjacent grain fields, couldn't have been planned more effectively if killing waterfowl had been its primary objective," said McIntyre, a well-known environmentalist in the area.

"the biggest thing to me in all of this, is how in the world was such an obvious threat allowed to take place?"

Like they said, this is something that could have been prevented had due diligence been done. I hope the utility is forced to relocate the lines...

How cold is it?

It is warming up nicely here -- low 40's but it is still bitterly cold in most of the United States.

Here is Niagara Falls:


Brrrrrrrrr... But it could be worse -- here is a clip of Condition One weather at the US base at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica:

50 years ago today

Lyndon Baines (Lyin' Bastard) Johnson signed the bill that started the supposed War on Poverty. $20,000,000,000,000 later, there are only a few percent fewer 'poor' and the poor under Obama have suffered. From The Washington Times:
That�s rich: Poverty level under Obama breaks 50-year record
Fifty years after President Johnson started a $20 trillion taxpayer-funded war on poverty, the overall percentage of impoverished people in the U.S. has declined only slightly and the poor have lost ground under President Obama.

Aides said Mr. Obama doesn�t plan to commemorate the anniversary Wednesday of Johnson�s speech in 1964, which gave rise to Medicaid, Head Start and a broad range of other federal anti-poverty programs. The president�s only public event Tuesday was a plea for Congress to approve extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, another reminder of the persistent economic troubles during Mr. Obama�s five years in office.
A lot more at the site including this little gem:
Mr. Rector said too many government anti-poverty programs still discourage marriage, factoring into statistics that show more than four in 10 children are born to unmarried parents.

�When the war on poverty started, about 6 percent of children were born outside of marriage,� he said. �Today that�s 42 percent � catastrophe.�
Just think of what we could have done with the money and resources instead of instituting a top-down government solution. Wasteful!
Surely, the extreme cold weather caused lots of problems with the nuke plants? That would be a big NO! -- from World Nuclear News:
Nuclear power fleets in North America have run at high capacity through the recent period of extreme cold.
People in a wide area across the USA and Canada have been hit by temperatures much lower than usual during a weather phenomenon where fluctuations in the polar vortex have seen dense cold air move south from the Arctic. Demand for electricity and heating fuels has surged, prompting requests for conservation of energy by people and businesses. Throughout this, nuclear reactors in the USA and Canada have maintained a high level of performance.

Having completed readiness checks and maintenance outages before the season of high demand, 97 of the USA's 100 reactors were in operation yesterday - all but three of them generating at over 90% of rated capacity.
Good job!

Our tax dollars at work. From the New York Times:

Charges for 106 in Huge Fraud Over Disability
The retired New York City police officers and firefighters showed up for their psychiatric exams disheveled and disoriented, most following a nearly identical script.

They had been coached on how to fail memory tests, feign panic attacks and, if they had worked during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to talk about their fear of airplanes and entering skyscrapers, prosecutors said. And they were told to make it clear they could not leave the house, much less find a job.

But their Facebook pages told investigators a starkly different story, according to an indictment and other court papers.

Former police officers who had told government doctors they were too mentally scarred to leave home had posted photographs of themselves fishing, riding motorcycles, driving water scooters, flying helicopters and playing basketball.
"The brazenness is shocking," Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said on Tuesday.

A bit more:

The online photos, along with intercepted phone calls and the testimony of undercover officers, were evidence of what officials said was the largest fraud ever perpetrated against the Social Security disability system, a scheme stretching back to 1988 in which as many as 1,000 people - many of them officers and firefighters already collecting pensions from the city - were suspected to have bilked the federal government out of an estimated $400 million.

And you know, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Wonder what is happening in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, etc. These operations do not arise from a vacuum...

From Medical Daily:
Unpopular Healthy School Lunch Rules Loosened Permanently
In a reversal, the Obama administration on Thursday announced they would permanently relax unpopular nutrition rules for the federal school lunch program. The rules were intended to fight childhood obesity by lowering calories and portion sizes, but proved wildly unpopular with students and parents throughout the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initially loosened the regulations in late 2012 by suspending daily and weekly portion limits for grains, meat, and meat alternatives � permitting school districts to rejigger portion sizes without federal overrule.
A bit more:
The regulatory scheme had drawn protest from not only political conservatives wary of federal oversight but parents and children alike, who complained the lower-calorie meals left children hungry and unsatisfied. In many school across the country, lunches deemed unpalatable by children were thrown uneaten into the trash.
Nice to see Michelle's master plan being shot down. Another perfect example of being out of touch with reality.


The CME is due to hit Earth's atmosphere tomorrow. Look up -- there should be a good Northern Lights display. Of course, the forecast is for rain...

Just ran into this website -- looks good: OVATION Aurora From their Description page:

The Space Weather Prediction Center and the Space Weather Prediction Testbed have introduced a new Auroral Forecast test product in an effort to improve services to current customers and expand our customer base with new products.
The Auroral Forecast product is based on the OVATION Prime model which provides a 30-40 minute forecast on the location and probability of auroral displays for both the northern and southern polar regions.
The development and implementation of this model has been a joint effort. The model itself was developed by P. Newell at the Johns Hopkins, Applied Physics Lab. Scientists at the NESDIS National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) added further refinements to make the model run in real time.
Researchers at the Space Weather Prediction Testbed validated the model and developed graphical displays. This model is driven by real-time solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field information from the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite.
The model is based on more than 11 years of data from the Defense Meteorlogical Satellite Program (DMSP) from which an empirical relationship between the solar wind conditions and the aurora location and intensity was developed.

Some fun in New Jersy

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From The Washington Post:
E-mails suggest Christie aides jammed traffic for political revenge
A series of newly disclosed e-mails and text messages suggesting a senior aide and appointees of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) forced a major traffic jam as political retribution against a Democratic mayor has brought a cloud of scandal over the Republican Party�s leading 2016 presidential hopeful.

The communications suggest that Christie�s deputy chief of staff and two of his top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed a pair of access lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., onto the George Washington Bridge into New York, causing days of gridlock in Fort Lee last September.

Christie had flatly denied that his office had any role in shutting down the access lanes, but the e-mails show otherwise, illustrating for the first time the lengths to which Christie�s lieutenants went to bully a local politician who turned against the governor during a campaign that was never particularly close.
From Breitbart:
According to documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal, a senior staffer for Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) sent an email to a Port Authority official that seems to direct the official to jack up traffic in an area run by a Christie political opponent.

In September, two of three local access lanes from Fort Lee were closed on the George Washington Bridge, stymying commuters from the city. The mayor of Fort Lee had refused to endorse Christie�s re-election effort. For two months, the Port Authority was silent on why the lanes were closed.

Two agency officials supported by Christie, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, resigned during a probe of the issue, after testifying that the lanes were closed for a traffic study. Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), testified that he didn�t know of any traffic study.

Now, that question about the origins of the lane closures appears to have been answered, at least in part � and in a way that will have significant negative ramifications for Christie�s presidential run. The August emails published by the Journal show Christie�s deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, Bridget Anne Kelly, telling Wildstein, �Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.� Wildstein�s response: �Got it.�
Busted! Crap like this will always leak out. Wonder why he stooped to such a childish move in the first place.

People unclear on the topic

From The Oregonian:
Oregon couple's meth tip at Seaside steakhouse lands them behind bars, police say
They remembered to tip their waitress � in crystal meth, police said.

Police busted two suspected methamphetamine dealers at a Seaside restaurant after they slipped their server an envelope stuffed with the psychoactive drug, authorities said.

Ryan Bensen, 40, and Erica Manley, 37, spent Thursday night having dinner and drinks at the Twisted Fish Steakhouse, said Seaside Police Chief Robert Gross.

When it came time to settle their tab, the cash-strapped couple first plunked down a gift card to pay their bill, Gross said. Later, they offered their waitress an envelope with a question mark scribbled on it.

Inside the envelope the waitress found a stash of crystal meth, authorities said.

�She was like �Whoa -- what the �?�� said Steve Keszler, a manager at the downtown steakhouse. �We�re not a little dive bar or hole in the wall. We�re a classy place.�
But wait -- there's more:
Bensen and Manley were still at the restaurant when authorities arrived and found more than 17 ounces of meth in Manley�s purse, Gross said.

�While I should be shocked and surprised, it�s just another example of how dumb these users and dealers are,� Gross said. �The whole thing almost made me chuckle.�

Police later obtained a search warrant to comb through a room at the nearby Holiday Inn Express, where both suspects had been staying, Gross said. There, police uncovered a meth lab comprising a small torch, batteries and other items, police said.
Over a pound of meth in her purse with a lab at their hotel. Hope they enjoy their long vacation away from society...

Cheating and government work

This is delightful -- from Anthony Watts:
Could this study on honesty and government service explain the EPA climateer fraud and �Climategate�?
A new paper published the National Bureau of Economic Research has given an insight that may explain some of the personal decisions that led to the recent EPA corruption fiasco Massive fraud at the EPA from agency�s top paid climate official (where a top climate specialist defrauded the taxpayers out of millions of dollars and made wild claims about being on CIA missions) and to Climategate, since I see some significant parallels between the two and this study. Links to a story about the paper and the paper itself follow.
Anthony spends a lot of time talking about Climategate and citing links to various damning emails. He then concludes talking about the paper itself and offers this selection from the paper:
In this paper, we offer evidence that the college students who cheat on a simple task are more likely to prefer to enter government service after graduation. This relationship does not appear to vary by ability, suggesting that screening on ability does not change the level of honesty of those chosen for government service among the pool of applicants. Importantly, we show that cheating on this task is also predictive of fraudulent behaviors by real government officials, which implies that the measure captures a meaningful propensity towards corruption. Given that the existing methods of measuring corruption only apply for those who are already entrenched in the bureaucracy, our validation of a measure of cheating against real-world corruption outcomes offers an important tool for future research on selection and corruption.

These findings are important because they demonstrate that the variation in the levels of observed corruption may, in part, be driven by who selects into government service. In addition, they offer two key policy insights. First, the recruitment and screening process for bureaucrats may be improved by increasing the emphasis on characteristics other than ability. It is important to note that individuals may not want to reveal their characteristics, especially their propensity for dishonesty, so the method of measurement matters. The simple, experimental measure we employed predicted the corrupt behaviors of the government employees, but the game in which corruption was explicitly framed and the fairly standard attitudinal questions had little predictive value. Second, while recent empirical papers have shown that reducing the returns to corrupt behavior decreases the probability that bureaucrats engage in corruption, our work suggests that these interventions may have had even broader effects by changing the composition of who might apply.
You can read the full paper here (PDF).

A life well lived

RIP Sir Run Run Shaw

CNS News has a nice obituary:

Hong Kong Movie Mogul Run Run Shaw Dies
Run Run Shaw built a Hong Kong movie and TV empire that nurtured rising talents like actor Chow Yun-fat and director John Woo, inspired Hollywood filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and produced the 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner."

Shaw's prolific studio helped bring kung fu films to the world but he also passed on the chance to sign one of the biggest names in that genre: the young Bruce Lee.

The missed opportunity was a rare misstep for Shaw, who died Tuesday, according to a statement from Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which he helped found in 1967. No cause of death was given.

His studio gave his age as 107, but his age according to the Western counting method may have been 106 because Chinese traditionally consider a child to be 1 at birth. TVB said he was born in 1907, but would not provide his birth date.

A bit more:

His path to Asian moviemaking dominance began in earnest in 1961 when he opened Movie Town, a vast, state-of-the-art studio in Hong Kong's rural Clearwater Bay. With 1,500 staff working on 10 soundstages, Movie Town was reputed to be the most productive studio in the world. At its busiest, actors and directors churned out 40 movies a year, most of them featuring kung fu, sword fighting or Asian gangsters known as triads.

The result was a library of nearly 1,000 movies such as "The One Armed Swordsman" and "The Five Fingers of Death," the latter being one of Shaw's most successful in the United States.

During the early to mid 1980's, I had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong a few times as well as travelling into China. The studio offered tours so we spent a fun afternoon watching some filming and touring the sets.

Ouch - Robert Gates

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By Bob Woodward writing at The Washington Post:
Robert Gates, former defense secretary, offers harsh critique of Obama�s leadership in �Duty�
In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama�s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president �doesn�t believe in his own strategy, and doesn�t consider the war to be his. For him, it�s all about getting out.�

Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was �skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,� Gates writes in �Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.�
Another book to check out. A bit more:
Gates writes about Obama with an ambivalence that he does not resolve, praising him as �a man of personal integrity� even as he faults his leadership. Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Biden and many of Obama�s top aides.

Biden is accused of �poisoning the well� against the military leadership. Thomas Donilon, initially Obama�s deputy national security adviser, and then-Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the White House coordinator for the wars, are described as regularly engaged in �aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.�
Woodward's bias is evident in the article but it looks like a really interesting book. Looks like another addition to my reading pile...

Sun flare video

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Courtesy of SolarHAM

A burglary solved

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A fascinating bit of history from the New York Times:
Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows
The perfect crime is far easier to pull off when nobody is watching.

So on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover�s lengthy tenure as director.

�When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,� said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. �There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.�
One of the reporters covering the initial break-in and document release was Betty Medsger at the Washington Post. Now that the perpetrators have surfaced, she interviewed them and has come out with this book: The Burglary I'll have to see if our local library is getting a copy -- sounds interesting...

An earth shattering KaBoom!

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There is a very large sunspot and it just erupted in an X1.2 class flare.
Photo by Rocky Raybell, Keller, Washington
The CME is headed right for us. Update in a day or two. Should be some nice aurora...



From Minnesotans For Global Warming Shades of Sharknado

Putin v/s Obama

Great set of photos over at 90 Miles From Tyranny Here are the first three:

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin Vs. Barack Hussein Obama...



Many more at the site. Putin is an adult. Obama is infantile.

Mount Sinabung

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Warming up a bit. From The Diplomat:
Indonesian Authorities Prepare for Disaster After Mount Sinabung Eruptions
More than 20,000 villagers have been evacuated from areas surrounding Mount Sinabung, a volcano on Indonesia�s western island of Sumatra, after dozens of eruptions over the New Year weekend. As many as 50 eruptions on Saturday alone rained black ash and molten rocks as lava trickled down the mountainside. A deadly release of superheated gas forced disaster mitigation authorities to extend an evacuation zone from five to seven kilometers from the volcano�s mouth.

Indonesia�s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) stated that the volcano had erupted at least 77 times in a 24 hour timeframe, with the subsequent plume of smoke reaching 4,000 meters into the sky at its peak.

According to Sutopo Purwo, a BNPB spokesperson, there are about 60 pyroclastic flows (fast-moving, fluidized mixtures of rock fragments and hot gas that occur after a volcanic eruption) pouring out of Mount Sinabung�s crater. He added that the flows currently reach as far as five kilometers downhill, with the volume �increasing every day.�
Things like this affect the weather much more than anything us monkeys can do. Look for an even cooler summer this year...
Swiped from Paul Caron from Tax Prof Blog.
The Democratic state government voted in some draconian gun restriction laws. One large manufacturer moved out of state. People are ticked. From The Washington Times:
Colo. Democrats blamed for $80M hit to economy by pushing out gun firm Magpul
Democrats came under heavy criticism Friday for driving Magpul Industries out of Colorado by pushing an aggressive gun-control agenda, a move that could cost the state more than $80 million annually.

Republican state Rep. Lori Saine said she was �saddened to see this completely partisan law, widely considered unenforceable by sheriffs across Colorado, cause Magpul to leave our state.�

�The magazine ban did not garner one Republican vote in the House or Senate, and now as a result of this one-sided, Democrat-sponsored law, more than 200 people will lose their jobs and their ability to provide for their families,� said Ms. Saine in a statement. �[T]his move will cost the state of Colorado over $80 million a year in revenue.�
And of course, there is this paper at Applied Economics Letters that looks at thirty years of gun records and comes up with an inconvenient truth for progressive gun grabbers. From MEDIAite:
New Study Demolishes Almost Every Gun Control Myth
A study published in the latest issue of the academic journal Applied Economics Letters took on many of the claims made regularly by advocates of stricter gun laws. The study determined that nearly every claim made in support of stronger restrictions on gun ownership is not supported by an exhaustive analysis of crime statistics.
From the paper's abstract:
The purpose of the present study is to determine the effects of state-level assault weapons bans and concealed weapons laws on state-level murder rates. Using data for the period 1980 to 2009 and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area, most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).
Full paper available for download here (PDF).

The Copenhagen Wheel

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Very clever design:
Pre-ordering for $799. Worth it if I lived in a dense city and used a bicycle for 90% of my traveling. From Super Pedestrian - an MIT design.

Gordon, Andy and Sean - a complicated tale

From Celebrity Net Worth comes this cautionary tale of licensing and income:

Imagine Making $2000 A Day From Something You Did 30 Years Ago - That's What Sting Did
It's probably safe to bet that the average person reading this article earns a living by working a job that requires 8-10 hours of effort a day, five days a week, all year round. You might love your job. You may hate your job. You might not care about your job at all. Either way, it's probably another safe bet that your money comes in the form of a paycheck twice a month that somehow always feels too small. There's nothing wrong with this system, but imagine an alternate world where a ton of money magically appears in your bank account every day before you even get out of bed. Sounds amazing right? Well it gets better. Imagine not only did you earn this fortune in the last year, you've earned it every year for the last 30 years and will likely earn the same amount or more for the next several decades. If you want this dream scenario to be reality, there's a simple way to make it happen: All you gotta do is compose one of the most lucratively sampled pop songs in history. This is exactly what Sting did with the hit 1983 song "Every Breath You Take".

A bit more:

Songwriting for "Every Breath You Take" is credited 100% to Sting (credit by his birth name, Gordon Sumner). Sting took all the credit despite the fact that both fellow Police members Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers contributed to the song (drums and guitar riff, respectively). Andy Summers came up with the song's guitar riff after a particularly bitter argument with Sting. Sting eventually conceded and told Andy "go and make it your own". When Andy came back with an early formation of the now-famous guitar lick, the band knew they had a hit on their hands. Unfortunately, Andy Summers never pushed for his share of the song's credit.

And Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs enters the scene:

In 1997, "Every Breath You Take" received a huge re-boot in popularity when Puff Daddy released his cover tribute to the late rapper Notorious BIG. Puff Daddy's version, "I'll Be Missing You", would go on to win a Grammy and be certified as one of the bestselling singles of all time with more 7 million copies sold worldwide.

Unfortunately for Diddy, no one from Bad Boy Records (Diddy's label) thought to secure Sting's permission to sample the 1983 pop song for the updated 1997 remix. Had Diddy asked permission first, he likely would have been required to hand over 25% of I'll Be Missing You's publishing royalties to Sting. By forgetting to ask permission before the song was released, Sting was able to demand and receive 100% of the remix's publishing royalties.

Here's where it gets really interesting: Think about Puff Daddy's version of the song. Do you hear Sting's voice at all? Nope. Do you hear Steward Copeland's drums? Nope. The only part of the original Police song that Diddy actually sampled turned out to be Andy Summer's guitar riff. And as crazy as it sounds, because Sting is listed as the sole composer, Andy Summers does not receive a dime in royalties from Diddy's smash hit version.

Ouch - more at the site.

The Arapahoe school shooting

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I know that this horrific event happened about a month ago. I just ran into this excellent five-minute deconstruction by Glen Beck. Glen explains why the media has black-holed the shooting -- seems it didn't fit several of their talking points...
Note: Glen recorded this a few days after the shooting -- one of the victims, Claire Davis, subsequently died from her wounds.
Just got back from Bellingham and working on the store getting ready for opening tomorrow. Still quite a way to go but coming along. Heading home at 6:00PM -- more then...

How soon they forget

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Obama signed this Executive Order in November of 2013:
Executive Order -- Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change by undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The impacts of climate change -- including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise -- are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation.
Emphases mine. Ummmmm... That would be a big NO!. Any extreme weather event can be matched by one from our history. High temps, rain, lack of rain, storms, etc... We have a long record of these events throughout the world going back several hundred years. There is nothing new and to base a multi-trillion grab of our tax dollars on such shoddy science is reprehensible.

Cool technology - Facerig

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Check out Facerig:
Crowdfunded on Indiegogo -- $205,383 raised out of a $120,000 goal with 31 days remaining. Sending them some bucks -- looks like a fun toy to play with.

Long day today

After the water was taken care of, I took care of the critters, did some work in the shop and then did a quick run into town for some groceries and such. Early day tomorrow with the store buying run and working on the new business. Surf for a bit and then to bed. Got two taps running downstairs - 27.1°F and dropping. A little bit overcast so should not be quite as cold as yesterday. It could be a lot worse - a two-fer: First - from the London Daily Mail:

Canada is so cold residents are experiencing loud booms caused by 'frost quakes'
While America collectively freaks out over their impending 'polar vortex', Canada is changing the game when it comes to cold weather phenomenon as reports of 'frost quakes' emerge from around Toronto and across Ontario.

Indeed, as temperatures drop overnight to around -4°F around the city hundreds of people are being startled by hearing large booms - causing them to think their homes are being broken into or gunshots are being fired.

In fact, they are merely hearing the after-effects of the frost quakes - or cryoseism - which are more commonly found on a glacier in the polar regions.

The phenomenon is caused when rain and ice seep down into the soil and then freeze when the temperature drops.

Makes sense -- the loam and sand form a variation on Pykrete. Stuff is really strong with high tensile strength and when it goes, it goes big. More here and here (last link to a MythBusters show on the stuff -- it is that strong!) Second - from The Florida Times-Union:

Rare snowy owl snowbird graces Little Talbot Island
Florida is known for its �snowbirds,� people who migrate here for the warm weather during winter months.

But another snowbird of the authentic nature has been sighted on Duval County�s Little Talbot Island, far from its usual Arctic haunts.

The snowy owl (bubo scandiacus) has been seen on the island�s eastern beach since Friday. This is only the third sighting ever in Florida, according to state officials. So this �very impressive� bird with big talons is drawing lots of people, Little Talbot park services specialist Peter Maholland said.

�Typically its range is Canada and the Arctic, and this is a rare sighting,� he said. �One of our local birders saw it and word got out, and people from all over the region and different states are coming out to see this.�

And you are still trying to run with that whole Global Warming meme? Bad scientist -- no biscuit!


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UPDATE at the end of this post It got up to 31.1�F and is now 30.9�F -- moving in the wrong direction.
I have heat in the pump house and nice flow and pressure there. I think I will be re-doing the pipe from the pump house to the rest of the property this summer. A little bit of midnight backhoe work... UPDATE: Just stepped out of a nice long hot shower. Heard the sink start to flow so the water woes are over for this time. Have a downstairs tap running as a preventative measure. The outside temperature is still going down -- 30.6�F down from 30.9�F an hour ago.

Heh - kitchen drones

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Doing business in Ventura County, California

Warren Meyer writes about celebrating a New Year milestone at Coyote Blog:

A Milestone to Celebrate: I Have Closed All My Businesses in Ventura County, California
Normally, the closure of a business operation or division is not grounds for a celebration, but in this case I am going to make an exception. At midnight on December 31, I not only drank a toast to the new year, but also to finally getting all my business operations out of Ventura County, California.

Never have I operated in a more difficult environment. Ventura County combines a difficult government environment with a difficult employee base with a difficult customer base.
  • It took years in Ventura County to make even the simplest modifications to the campground we ran. For example, it took 7 separate permits from the County (each requiring a substantial payment) just to remove a wooden deck that the County inspector had condemned. In order to allow us to temporarily park a small concession trailer in the parking lot, we had to (among other steps) take a soil sample of the dirt under the asphalt of the parking lot. It took 3 years to permit a simply 500 gallon fuel tank with CARB and the County equivalent. The entire campground desperately needed a major renovation but the smallest change would have triggered millions of dollars of new facility requirements from the County that we simply could not afford.
  • In most states we pay a percent or two of wages for unemployment insurance. In California we pay almost 7%. Our summer seasonal employees often take the winter off, working only in the summer, but claim unemployment insurance anyway. They are supposed to be looking for work, but they seldom are and California refuses to police the matter. Several couples spend the whole winter in Mexico, collecting unemployment all the while. So I have to pay a fortune to support these folks' winter vacations.
  • California is raising minimum wages over the next 2 years by $2. Many of our prices are frozen by our landlord based on past agreements they have entered into, so we had no way to offset these extra costs. At some point, Obamacare will stop waiving its employer mandate and we will owe $2000-$3000 extra additional for each employee. There was simply no way to support these costs without expanding to increase our size, which is impossible (see above) due to County regulations.

More at the site -- a couple more bullet points and an observation on the habits of Los Angelenos in general. The comments are worth reading -- one person in particular has drunk too much Kool-Aid and gets called on it.

It was down to 19.6�F last night - pipes still frozen. It is doing a slow but steady rise and is now 26.1�F

Into the River!

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A great one from Bill Whittle:

Scrubbing our Scientific History

Yesterday, I had written about the massive Canadian science library deletion. Today I wake to see that the go-to historical record for web sites has been doing a bit of purging of its own. The Internet Wayback Machine running at Archive.org has this to say about itself:
The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public.
In the last couple of days, they have purged links to NASA's Climate Data at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Links that once worked now present blank pages. From Steven Goddard (no relation) at Real Science:
History Is A Thing Of The Past In The US
On January 1, I made a post showing the 1997 version of GISS global temperatures:

The archived link now leads to a blank page, as does all other GISS captures from 1997. All of these links worked four days ago, all now lead to blank pages.
Many other archived GISS temperatures from other years also lead to blank pages now.
One of Steven's readers had this to say:
And these same people want to convince you and I to put big gov in charge of our medical history.
I do hope that someone, somewhere is carefully backing this data up and will let us have a copy when we get some adults back in the room again. What is really sad is that the Internet Archive has a set of published standards for Managing requests for information removal. NASA is firmly in the DOT.GOV category and here is their entry:
Type of removal request
Requests by governments.

Archivists will exercise best-efforts compliance with applicable court orders.
Beyond that, as noted in the Library Bill of Rights,
'Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.'
All of this data belongs to us as the research that produced it was funded with our tax dollars. They have no right to hide it from us even though it (the raw data) doesn't align with their opinion regarding Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Well DANG! - water at the farm again

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Woke up this morning to find the pipes frozen again. I had left a water tap running in the upstairs bathroom sink but one of us shut it off last night. We both get up in the middle of the night and when not fully awake, shutting off a running tap is a matter of reflex. Should have left the first floor sink running instead. Supposed to get up to 45�F this afternoon so this should only be a temporary hassle. Still... Where I live is in a valley that runs North/South so we get a lot of the arctic air that comes down from our neighbors to the North.

The Stupid - it burns

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Take a look at this from Domino Sugar:
Domino Sugar is Certified Carbon Free
Sugar is a naturally sweet product from our earth, so it's natural for us to want to be good stewards of our environment. We have a head start at this, in fact, because the sugar cane plant converts sunlight to energy more efficiently than any other major crop.

As a result of this, and the various earth friendly farming techniques and energy producing efforts at our Florida facility, specially marked packages of Domino� Sugar have been certified CarbonFree� by Carbonfund.org, a non-profit organization that certifies products with carbon neutral footprints.
Talk about an Indulgence. From the Capital Research Center:
Carbonfund.org: Carbon Scheming Gone Wild
The Carbonfund.org Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to reduce global warming by having government require people and industries to cut their production and use of fossil fuels (i.e. coal, oil and natural gas). Established in 2003, Carbonfund.org, claims to help individuals and organizations become �carbon neutral� by showing them how to reduce or �offset� their carbon dioxide emissions. The group claims to have worked with over 600,000 individuals and 1,800 organizations�businesses, nonprofits, and religious and academic groups�to fight climate change and be �part of the solution toward a clean energy, low carbon future.� A polar bear stranded on a tiny piece of ice greets visitors to the group�s website. The caption says, �Fight global warming today! For him � and us.�
And the core of their "business":
Say again? Lost in the public relations whirlwind is this core truth: Carbonfund.org�s mission depends on acquiring something that doesn�t exist�yet. There are no pollution �rights� for businesses, nonprofits and individuals to sell or offset.
Besides, a molecule of common Sucrose (Table Sugar) is C12H22O11 Take away the C and you are left with eleven molecules of plain water (H2O)

Canadian Science Libraries

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Ho. Li. Crap. Someone needs to put a stop to this. From The Tyee:
What's Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada's Science Libraries?
Scientists say the closure of some of the world's finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.

Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Quebec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg's historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.

Furthermore, the government is falsely claiming that vital content is being retained by extensively digitizing material from nine regional libraries that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) whittled down to two.

"The Department has claimed that all useful information from the closed libraries is available in digital form. This is simply not true. Much of the material is lost forever," reports one DFO scientist who requested not to be named.
This is material dating back over a hundred years -- measurements, data. To lose this is beyond comprehension -- what happens when big government tries to manage big science. Much more at the site -- I feel physically ill reading this.

Remember the battles for Fallujah?

All for naught - from CNS News:

Al-Qaida Largely Takes Over Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq
Two Iraqi cities that were strongholds of Sunni insurgents during the U.S. war in the country are battlegrounds once more after al-Qaida militants largely took them over, fending off government forces that have been besieging them for days.

The overrunning of the cities this week by al-Qaida's Iraqi branch in the Sunni heartland of western Anbar provinces is a blow to the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik. His government has been struggling to contain discontent among the Sunni minority over Shiite political domination that has flared into increased violence for the past year.

On Friday, al-Qaida gunmen sought to win over the population in Fallujah, one of the cities they swept into on Wednesday. A militant commander appeared among worshipers holding Friday prayers in the main city street, proclaiming that his fighters were there to defend Sunnis from the government, one resident said.

"We are your brothers from the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant," militants circulating through the city in a stolen police car proclaimed through a loudspeaker, using the name of the al-Qaida branch. "We are here to protect you from the government. We call on you to cooperate with us."

Government troops, backed by Sunni tribesmen who oppose al-Qaida, have encircled Fallujah for several days, and have entered parts of the provincial capital Ramadi, also overrun by militants. On Friday, troops bombarded militant positions outside Fallujah with artillery, a military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release information.

Our work in 2004 here and here. Freedom won under George Bush and pissed away under Obama. al Qaida is on the run -- yeah, right.

See here, here and here for starters...

A word to the wise - TimberSIL wood

It may well be fireproof but rot resistance does not seem to be a strong suit. From Bulldog writing at Maggie's Farm:

Rotting Promise
Many stars took it upon themselves to head to New Orleans post-Katrina. They hoped to provide comfort and assistance to the unfortunate people impacted by the storm. As I've noted here, I have no quarrel with people giving their time and effort to a worthy cause. I respect those who put their time and money on the line.

I also respect trying to be 'green', if that's what you're into. I'm 'green', though not in a manner Ed Begley, Jr. would approve.

However sanctimonious some Hollywood stars may be, it's disturbing to see well-meaning organizations get swindled.

Going overboard on the green express will undoubtedly lead to more problems such as those Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation has experienced. A new, but untested, method of treating wood which avoids toxic chemicals was used on portions of New Orleans homes. The wood is now rotting.

Some claim the problems were due to New Orleans' humidity. I have to wonder, since they ran into issues up north.

One of the comments really nails it:

It seems that everything the Left does in a environmental "sustainable" effort turns out to be folly. From corn to ethanol to wind power. I think the problem is that the end justifies the means and it really doesn't matter to those pushing the folly if it is successful because all that matters is that they mean well. To a great extent that is what our war on poverty has become as well. Now pushing out a few babies guarantees you welfare at rates that equal a middle class income while requiring ever increasing taxes which reduce a working middle class income to a level approaching poverty.

So true...

Curious new development

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From Phys-Org:
Telecommunications expert suggests Earth may have dark matter disc
Ben Harris, a telecommunications and GPS satellite expert with the University of Texas has made a surprising announcement during his presentation at this year's gathering for the American Geophysical Union. He reported that using GPS data to calculate the mass of the Earth, gives a slightly bigger number than is accepted by the International Astronomical Union. The difference, he suggests, may be due to a disc of dark matter that exists over the equator.

Dark matter is of course the mysterious stuff that physicists have come to believe exists all throughout the universe. We can't see it, but researchers have managed to sense its presence in a variety of ways (such as measuring its gravitational impact on stars, other planets, etc.). In so doing, most in the field have come to believe that it makes up approximately 80 percent of all matter. Unfortunately (mainly because it doesn't appear to absorb or emit light or electromagnetic radiation) none of the studies done so far have been able to prove that dark matter truly exists�thus, the search goes on for some new kind of method to prove that dark matter isn't just a theory, or alternatively, for some other explanation of what has been observed.

Among other studies, back in 2009, it was noted that space probes passing by Earth experienced unexplainable slight changes in velocity, which some have attributed to them encountering dark matter. It could not be proven of course, but then there weren't any other explanations for it either.

In this new effort, Harris collected data from several satellite groups (European Galileo, U.S., GPS, GLONASS and Russian), which he then used to measure the mass of the Earth�a process which he describes as calculating by "feeling" the pull on each satellite. In so doing, he reports that his calculations were between 0.005 and 0.008 percent greater than that described by the IAU. The difference, he said, could be explained by a very large disc of dark matter over the equator.
I think that the astronomers would have noticed an anisotropic refraction if this really is the case but it is an interesting speculation and very cool to see just how precise the GPS satellites really are...

Herp Derp - the tunnel in Seattle

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The new tunnel to replace Seattle's old Alaskan Way Viaduct is being drilled and the drill ran into something that stopped it in its tracks last December 6th. They now know what it is -- from The Seattle Times:
What�s blocking Bertha: a long steel pipe
A buried steel pipe is mostly to blame for stopping the giant tunnel-boring machine Bertha, which has been stuck since Dec. 6 along the Seattle waterfront near South Main Street.

The long pipe was an 8-inch diameter, 115-foot-long �well casing,� used to measure groundwater during studies in 2002 on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project, project officials said.

Matt Preedy, the deputy project administrator for the state Department of Transportation, said he had no estimates about how much time and money it will take to remove the rest of the pipe and to repair damaged cutting tools on the face of the machine.

Nor does the team have a strategy yet for how removal should take place. One possible method is to send tunnel-trained divers to work near the cutter face, under extreme pressures that are exerted by groundwater.

The well site was listed in reference materials provided to bidders as part of the contract specifications, DOT says. �I don�t want people to say WSDOT didn�t know where its own pipe was, because it did,� said DOT spokesman Lars Erickson. However, Chris Dixon, project director for contractor group Seattle Tunnel Partners, said the builders presumed there would be no pipe in the way, because casings are customarily removed after use.
Wonder how much that is going to cost. Glad I don't live in Seattle any more - I was down through there last November and even though it was far from rush hour, the freeway was clogged.

Who's on first - our allies

We need to just pull back and nuke the place. From Jihad Watch:

Afghanistan's Karzai frees from prison 88 jihadists who killed and maimed Western forces
Showing yet again which side he is on. "Afghan president to free scores of Taliban fighters: Karzai condemned over betrayal of British war dead," by Tamara Cohen for the Daily Mail, January 1 (thanks to Blazing Cat Fur):
Britain has condemned the release of Taliban prisoners accused of killing and maiming Western forces in Afghanistan.

To the fury of the UK, the US and victims' families, president Hamid Karzai has freed 88 dangerous militants from a jail at Bagram, the former US air base run by the Afghan government.

The US wants them to be prosecuted and says 30 per cent carried out direct attacks that killed or wounded 60 coalition troops, and 40 per cent killed 57 Afghans, including police and security forces.

If Hillary, Kerry and Obama had shown any strength, it would be a Yes Sir!, No Sir! from Karzai. Instead, Karzai sees the USA for what it is, run by ineffectual posturing delusional children so he does whatever he wants to do. Karzai's big mistake is that after they are done with us, the Taliban will start coming after him -- there is no appeasement.

from CNS News:
Americans Spent $7.45B in 3 Years Helping Other Countries Deal With �Climate Change�
American taxpayers spent $7.45 billion to help developing countries cope with climate change in fiscal years 2010 through 2012, according to a federal government report submitted to the United Nations on a subject that Secretary of State John Kerry described as �a truly life-and-death challenge.�

That sum of $7.45 billion, which reached more than 120 countries through bilateral and multilateral channels, met President Obama�s �commitment to provide our fair share� of a collective pledge by developed nations to provide a total of nearly $30 billion in �fast start finance� (FSF), the report stated.
And the mechanism for accountability is where? Can I see what measurable effect this money had on overall global temperatures -- boots on the ground and not the projection of some computer model. Thought not...

A night at the movies

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Turner Classic Movies is doing Science Fridays for this month. Tonight, they had Madame Curie -- a great biography of Marie and Pierre Curie and then the story of John Nash -- A Beautiful Mind. For some reason, I had never seen A Beautiful Mind and it was a stunning movie. Both of my parents were academic, my Dad was a University Professor (Physics) and also in the Administration where he taught so I know that environment very well. On the 24th, they are showing The Man in the White Suit, one of my favorites. It is showing late so I will DVR it.
The Russian ship stuck in the ice in Antarctica was on a 'mission' to show the world how little ice there was in the Antarctic and how evil and nasty Anthropogenic Global Warming was the root cause. The passengers were helicoptered off to another ship. The helo was from the Chinese ship (Xue Long) and they were deposited on the Australian research ship the Aurora Australis. From Anthony at Watts Up With That:
Rescue ship Aurora Australis slowed to a crawl � fighting heavy sea ice to reach open water

Australian Maritime Safety Authority Press release: 8.00am AEDT: 3rd January 2014
Antarctica rescue operation now complete
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority�s (AMSA) Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Australia) can confirm that the rescue operation from the Akademik Shokalskiy in Antarctica has been completed.

RCC Australia was notified at 6.15pm AEDT yesterday evening that the first group of 12 passengers had boarded the helicopter from the Xue Long at around 6pm AEDT. RCC Australia was then notified at 7.30pm AEST that the first 12 passengers had arrived at the Aurora Australis.

Five flights were conducted to take the passengers to the Aurora Australis over a distance of about 14 nautical miles. Four flights were undertaken with 12 people each flight, and the fifth flight rescued four passengers. The helicopter landed on an ice floe adjacent to the Aurora Australis.

At 10.05pm AEDT, AMSA was advised that all 52 passengers had been safely rescued and were on board the Aurora Australis.

Aurora Australis advised AMSA that helicopter operations had been completed at about 10.45pm AEDT and all passengers, luggage and equipment had been transferred.

The Aurora Australis will now start heading towards open water. The ship is currently traveling at a quarter knot in heavy ice towards open water. It will take until late evening to reach open water.

The Aurora Australis will then head towards the Casey base to complete a resupply before heading to Australia. The Aurora Australis is not expected to arrive in Australia until mid-January.

All 22 crew members of the Akademik Shokalskiy remain with the vessel.
Here is a webcam shot of the bow:
Some people had a few questions:
From Andrew Bolt at the Melbourne Herald Sun:
1.Who paid for this expedition?
2.How did the expedition team come to include Turney�s wife and two young children?
3.How serious was this scientific endeavor?
4.Was the choice of ship wise, given it is not an icebreaker?
5.How did the ship, in these days of satellite imaging, high quality weather forecasts and radar, come to get stuck in ice?
6.How much did the rescue cost?
7.Who pays for this rescue?
8.Why have the ABC and Fairfax media, so keen at first to announce this expedition was to measure the extent and effects of global warming, since omitted that fact from their reports after the expedition became ice-bound?
9.Why have all those reports � and the expedition leader himself � neglected to mention that sea ice around Antarctica has increased over the past three decades � and is greater than the ice cover Douglas Mawson found a century ago?

And from Anthony:

I have these questions:
1.Who pays for the trip back to Australia once they get let off at Casey Station?
2.How much damage has this fiasco done to real science expeditions in Antarctica, not only from a delayed logistics standpoint, but also from PR standpoint?
3.Why did the stranded ship reach out for weather forecasts and data when they should have been equipped for this in the first place?
4.Who will be responsible if the ship ends up being stuck in ice permanently or gets its hull crushed and sinks?
5.What will be the duties and fate of the crew left behind? 6.Who funded the ARGO ATV�s after Turney�s Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign failed miserably? Do those people get a refund?
7.Why would Turney book this ship when it has only the barest of ratings for sea ice?
Some good questions which require some good (and honest) answers.

Lecture cancelled

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Heh - from Aislin who works at the Montreal Gazette Montreal is currently enjoying -24�C temperatures (-11.2�F)

A curious metric

From the Washington Examiner:

Jail survey: 7 in 10 felons register as Democrats
A new study of how criminals vote found that most convicts register Democratic, a key reason in why liberal lawmakers and governors are eager for them to get back into the voting booth after their release.

"Democrats would benefit from additional ex-felon participation," said the authoritative study in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

The authors, professors from the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University, found that in some states, felons register Democratic by more than six-to-one. In New York, for example, 61.5 percent of convicts are Democrats, just 9 percent Republican. They also cited a study that found 73 percent of convicts who turn out for presidential elections would vote Democrat.

Makes a lot of sense -- the current Democrats make a big show of giving "free" stuff to anyone who asks. Someone committing a robbery wants free stuff without having to work for it. A match made in heaven.

I knew I was getting close so I checked:
That makes this post number 17,000 -- over ten years of posting -- an average of four posts each day. A lot of fun and no inclination to stop...
January 2nd is National Science Fiction Day Chosen because today is Isaac Asimov's birthday.

Stick a fork in it - it is done

From Andrew Thomas writing at American Thinker:

The Global Warming Tipping Point is Near
Malcolm Gladwell's great book The Tipping Point presents the case that sudden seismic shifts in society can result from small events, if the right factors are present. Tipping points happen when momentum toward an idea builds and finally crosses a threshold where it is evident that a major cultural change has occurred. The global warming tipping point is coming, but not the one anticipated by climate change "experts."

Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory has been dominant for the past three decades as absolute fact in the public mind. In the last several years, however, cracks in the fortress of "settled science" have appeared, and public opinion has begun to shift. Increasingly, alarmist predictions have failed to come to fruition.

In 2004, NASA's chief scientist James Hansen authoritatively announced that there is only a ten-year window to act on AGW (presumably by transferring mass quantities of taxpayer funds to global warmist causes) before climate Armageddon destroys humanity. Well, that window has now shut tight, and AGW is AWOL.

Al Gore, the high priest of AGW theory, has closed all of his Alliance for Climate Protection field offices, and laid off 90% of his staff. Contributions have all but dried up since 2008.

Australia's conservative government has severely curtailed the country's climate change initiatives and is in the process of repealing its business-killing carbon tax. A group of German scientists predicts dramatic global cooling over the next 90 years toward a new "little ice age."

Of course, even many "low information" folks have an awareness of the record increase in Arctic sea ice, as well as the current highly-publicized predicament of the cadre of wealthy global warmists stuck in record-high sea ice while on a cruise to the Antarctic to prove the absence of sea ice.

Now the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has quietly downgraded their prediction for global warming for the next 30 years in the final draft of their landmark "Fifth Assessment Report." The effect of this is that they are tacitly admitting that the computer models they have religiously relied-upon for decades as "proof" of AGW theory are dead wrong.
The tipping point is near. I can smell it.

The scam is over -- the real science was known over ten years ago; the sun controls our climate and our sun is a variable star.

Talk about an executive fiat -- from Open Market:

The Great Italian Auto Bailout - Courtesy of U.S. Taxpayers
At the beginning of 2014, Detroit may be bankrupt, but they're cheering the five-year-old U.S. auto bailout in Italy. That's because after being the beneficiary of billions in U.S. taxpayer largess, Fiat, the leading Italian auto company, is going to buy its final stake in Chrysler from that other big bailout recipient, the United Auto Workers (UAW).

"Chrysler's Now Fully an Italian Auto Company," reads the Time magazine online headline. But wait a minute! Wasn't the bailout supposed to be about saving the American auto industry?

As John Berlau and Mark Beatty wrote in The Daily Caller in November 2012, after presidential candidate Mitt Romney made the controversial claim that Fiat would be expanding production of Chrysler's Jeep in China (a claim that turned out to be correct):
The real outrage arising from the 2009 Chrysler bailout is not that its parent company, Fiat, is planning to build plants in China. It's that the politicized bankruptcy process limited Chrysler's growth potential by tying it to an Italian dinosaur in the midst of the European fiscal crisis. The Obama administration literally gave away ownership of one of the Big Three American auto manufacturers to an Italian car maker struggling with labor and productivity issues worse than those that drove Chrysler to near-liquidation.
As we noted in the piece, much of Chrysler's profits from its overhauled line are going to prop up Fiat's failing, money-losing Italian business, rather than to expanding production and jobs in the U.S. Moody's had downgraded Fiat's credit rating to "junk" even before the Obama administration arranged for it to acquire a Chrysler stake, and in Autumn 2012, Moody's gave Fiat another downgrade that the Financial Times described as even "further into "junk" territory."

Around this time, Barron's put it like this in a headline, "This time, Chrysler could bail out Fiat." Actually, the Barron's headline is slightly misleading in one respect - Fiat didn't contribute much of anything to the Chrysler's bailout.

All this on our dime -- making sure the 30,000 union members get their fat pensions and insuring a solid bloc of Democrat voters. No concerns for what this actually does for the financial health of America or the majority of Americans.

Great story about a robbery gone wrong (for the robber) from Tulsa, Oklahoma station KRMG:
Christmas Eve robber beaten and stripped of clothes by would-be victims
Oklahoma City Police responded to an armed robbery call at Head Honchos hair salon around midnight on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Police arrested 23-year-old Corneilyus Howeth for robbery with a firearm. Howeth also had a prior felony arrest.

Howeth forced the employees of the salon inside, telling them to empty their pockets. But when another employee distracted him, the owner of the salon tackled Howeth.

The two fought for the gun for a short time before other employees stepped in and helped take the gun from Howeth.

The employees then stripped Howeth of his clothes to make sure he wasn�t hiding more weapons and threw him outside.

Police showed up shortly thereafter to take Howeth into custody.
And you know that the story is going to follow him into jail. You used a gun to rob a hair salon and you got beat up and striped naked by the hairdressers? Only problem is that this is only going to make him regress, become more stupid, more "tough" and more feral.

The late great George Carlin

I need to start going back through some of his stuff -- the guy was a true genius:

Not exactly a household name but the guy is an amazing flautist. What's more, he makes all his instruments. From The Boston Globe: (Look for the "Collapse" button if you get the annoying sign-in popup)
Virtuoso�s flutes destroyed by US Customs
Before you whine about an airline temporarily losing your luggage, think of poor Boujemaa Razgui. The flute virtuoso who performs regularly with The Boston Camerata lost 13 handmade flutes over the holidays when a US Customs official at New York�s JFK Airport mistook the instruments for pieces of bamboo and destroyed them. Razgui, a Canadian citizen who lives some of the time in Brockton, had flown last week from Morocco to Boston, with stops in Madrid and New York. In New York, he says, an official opened his luggage and found the 13 flutelike instruments � 11 nays and two kawalas. Razgui says he had made all of the instruments using hard-to-find reeds. �They said this is an agriculture item,� said Razgui, who was not present when his bag was opened. �I fly with them in and out all the time and this is the first time there has been a problem. This is my life.� When his baggage arrived in Boston, the instruments were gone. He was instead given a number to call. �They told me they were destroyed,� he says. �Nobody talked to me. They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. This is horrible. I don�t know what to do. I�ve never written letters to people.� Our calls to US Customs and Border Protection were not returned Tuesday. Razgui, who�s been performing with The Boston Camerata since 2002 and is scheduled to play with Camerata Mediterranea in February, says there are perhaps 15 people in the United States who play these sorts of instruments. �And now they�re gone,� he said. �I�m not sure what to do.�
I hope that there is a very good lawyer willing to do some pro-bono work. The fact that this could happen indicates that the process is faulty and needs to be fixed -- it is not just a matter of sacking some miscreant and paying restitution, the entire organization needs to be re-orged. I looked around for a video of Boujemaa Razgui playing and have not found anything representative. The Boston Camerata is an incredible ensemble -- I used to go hear them when I lived in Boston 30 years ago.

Just wow - The Hobbit

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Fully enjoyed The Hobbit - definitely one to see on the silver screen even if you catch it at the local second-run cheap theater. The rendition of Smaug was spot on and there were some nice 'photographic' touches -- the scenes are mostly CGI but it was fun to see some water drops on the lens and some lens flare looking into the sunset. Someone had turned me on to the Dragon River restaurant and we had a late lunch there before the movie. Excellent food -- mostly Northern Chinese/Sichuan cuisine but we all love this so we ordered a couple different plates and chowed down.
Sometimes a simple question can land in the most unusual place. From Watts Up With That:
WUWT and WeatherBell help KUSI-TV with a weather forecasting request from ice-trapped ship in Antarctica Akademik Shokalskiy
Today, while shopping at lunchtime for some last minute year end supplies, I got one of the strangest cell-phone calls ever. It was from my friend John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel and Chief meteorologist at KUSI-TV in San Diego. He was calling via cell phone from his car, and he was on his way into the TV station early.

He started off by saying, �Anthony, we have a really strange situation here�.

Then to my surprise, he relayed a conversation he had just had; a person on the Akademik Shokalskiy had reached out, because they didn�t have adequate weather data on-board. At first, I thought John was pulling my leg, but then as he gave more details, I realized he was serious.

What had happened was that the US Coast Guard had received a message from the ship, requesting weather and wind information for Antarctica. That got relayed to someone at the Scripps oceanographic Institute in San Diego, and it went to John�s weekend KUSI meteorologist Dave Scott. Dave had worked with a scientist who is now on the US Coast Guard IceBreaker Polar Star, and they had logged the request for weather for forecast data from Akademik Shokalskiy. That�s how all this got started.
The wind is pushing the sea ice into the ship and they wanted to see when the wind would shift and open up a lead for them. Anthony also made this comment:
I also pointed out that the Australian scientists on-board were climatologists, and not operational weather forecasters, and finding this sort of weather data probably wasn�t in their skill set.
Very charitable -- the passengers were all of a similar mindset and were looking for proof of global warming and would not report anything else. Greater ice than in recent history? Global Warming! No ice in 1912? Global Warming!

A day at the movies

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Heading into Bellingham to see the new Hobbit movie in about an hour. I love dragons so this should be fun.

A day at the movies

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Heading into Bellingham to see the new Hobbit movie in about an hour. I love dragons so this should be fun.

Hello to 2014

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Lulu and I watched the broadcast from the Seattle Space Needle and heading upstairs to sleep in. Looking forward to the new year -- out with the old and time to get moving on some new stuff...

January 2021

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