September 30, 2004

Pitcairn Island

Strange happenings on a remote island… As reported by the Globe and Mail:

Rape trial grips Pitcairn Island
Half the adult male population of Pitcairn Island goes on trial today, the seven men facing prison sentences in a jail that they helped build.

The sex-related charges have torn apart a community that is almost inconceivably small and isolated. Four families, or 47 people, share an island that is one-third the size of Washington, D.C., and has no hospital, cars, air strip or navigable harbour. The easiest way to get there is a 36-hour boat trip from French Polynesia.

The families bear one of four surnames — Christian, Young, Warren and Brown — handed down by the mutineers of HMS Bounty, from whom the islanders are descended.

And more:

Yesterday, a group of 13 Pitcairn women called a press conference to support the accused and to suggest that sex with adolescents is part of Pitcairn's history, and that such consensual acts were common. They sought to refute the idea that islanders preyed on young women and girls over a period of decades.

Carol Warren said during the press conference on the island that she had had sex with Pitcairn men from the age of 12. “I was a wild one, then, and I wanted it. You can't blame the men. We know better now, and I would never recommend that for girls now, but it was the way then.”

Yet another woman expressed a commonly held island view that the British are using the trial as a way to shut down the costly colony for good. “They would love us to just go away because we are asking for more things and costing more,” Tania Christian said.

The women worry that if the seven accused are locked up, life on Pitcairn would become impossible: The island has no harbour, so the men are required to sail longboats through treacherous waters to receive supplies from, and trade with, passing ships. Pitcairn is often called the world's most remote inhabited place.

I remember growing up and reading articles about Pitcairn Island in National Geographic — always seemed like a fascinating place to visit. I guess that social pressures made it more like the island in Lord of the Flies.

To quote Piggy: “We did everything the way grown ups would've. Why didn't it work?”

Posted by DaveH at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

Noted Blogger to do weekly column for British newspaper

Now this is interesting… Roger L. Simon is reporting:

Britain's Guardian has asked Glenn Reynolds to do a weekly column in the run-up to the election. Is this an inoculation against blog attacks? Given what's recently happened to CBS, you couldn't blame them. And maybe there's a little of that in this case. Cooptation, after all, is one of the oldest and most successful strategies. Still, it's great to see Glenn giving a lesson in Jacksonianism to the smart set in Chelsea. They need it. I'll be watching these columns as they go along. And the reaction to them, particularly across The Pond. Maybe our frequent commenter PeterUK can keep us apprised.

This is a very good thing to happen. Reynolds' Blog is Instapundit - one of the top ones. His first article at the Guardian is great — he starts by talking about the South and their current antipathy to any Democrat who is not from the South:

In my lifetime, only one Democrat who was not from the American south has won the presidency. And the Democrat who did so, John F Kennedy, accomplished this feat when I was two months old.

Since then, many have concluded that it's impossible for a Democrat to win the south unless - like Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter - he has southern roots. (Al Gore, who hails from Carthage, Tennessee but who spent much of his childhood in a posh Washington hotel, apparently wasn't southern enough.)

He continues:

So what is it about the south? I think it's defence. Some time between the election of John F Kennedy, and the ignominious defeat of 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern, the Democrats lost credibility on national defence. From Kennedy's stirring “bear any burden, pay any price” language, to the “peace at any price” slogans of the anti-war left in 1972, the Democrats lost their traditional stature as the internationalist and interventionist war party. Instead, they became identified with the welfare-state liberalism of the north-east and west coast, and with the anti-military sentiments of the anti-Vietnam war movement.

Southern candidates offer a presumption of manliness that offsets these problems, at least somewhat. (Having worked for Al Gore in 1988, and a bit for Clinton in 1992, I remember a phone call in which I told Clinton strategist Bruce Reed that they needed to push Clinton's masculinity in that campaign. Show him lifting weights, or something. Don't worry, responded Reed, a shortage of testosterone isn't his problem. Truer than I realised, at the time.)

And then introduces:

To understand the American south's role on defence, it's helpful to look at what political scientist Walter Russell Mead calls the “Jacksonian tradition” in foreign affairs. Because when Zell Miller - a Democrat from Georgia who is deeply unhappy with his party on matters of national defence - delivered the keynote address at the Republican national convention, he spoke in the purest tones of Jacksonian America.

Jacksonians (as Mead explains in this interview) aren't very interested in foreign affairs, but respond vigorously to threats:

“[The idea is]: Don't bother with people abroad, unless they bother you. But if they attack you, then do everything you can … When somebody attacks the hive, you come swarming out of the hive and you sting them to death. And Jacksonians, when it comes to war, don't believe in limited wars. They don't believe, particularly, in the laws of war. War is about fighting, killing, and winning with as few casualties as possible on your side. But you don't worry about casualties on the other side. That's their problem. They shouldn't have started the war if they didn't want casualties.”

The whole article is a really good read. It will be interesting to see if more Bloggers get invited to write columns in mainstream media — they must be seeing the writing on the wall by now.

Posted by DaveH at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

Satellite Dish

Here are a couple photos of the satellite dish which is now providing broadband services for our farm. I am actually regretting not using this when we lived in Seattle. In Seattle, I was too far from the phone company CO for standard DSL and was not a cable subscriber (got the local broadcast channels just fine) so we used IDSL which is based on the older ISDN technologies but using DSL signaling. I was opting for a few extras (eight static IP addresses, web hosting, etc…) but the monthly bill in Seattle was around $180 and the performance wasn't especially great - 144 up and down. (a bit more than twice as fast as the optimal dialup and about half the speed of a basic DSL connection) Oh yes, there was a $200 up-front fee for the equipment.

With Starband, we paid about $700 up-front fee and $200 for the install ( the dish contains a transmitter so it has to be done by an FCC licensed tech) The monthly fee is about $80. The service so far is fantastic - uploads regularly clock in around 100 - less than IDSL but not by much. Downloads run 400 to 600, very very nice! There is a large latency problem - it takes the signal just under a second to travel up 23,000 miles to the satellite and then 23,000 miles back to the Starband earth station but this is acceptable for casual browsing.

Here is the dish:

sat-dish.jpg

And here is a closeup of the head:

close-up.jpg

The pod underneath the arm contains the transmitter, the receiver is on top toward the back. The 'plumbing' is the waveguide which maintains the proper signal polarization and directs the transmitted signal toward the dish and not into the receiver where it would swamp it. The system runs at 12 GHz.

Very cool stuff…

Posted by DaveH at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

Mount St. Helens - Alert Level Two

From the The Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network:

Increased seismicity overnight prompted raising the alert level to Volcano Advisory (Alert Level 2) at 10:40 A.M., PDT, this morning. Throughout the day the seismic energy level has remained at an elevated with a rate of 3-4 events per minute including an increase in the number of events between Magnitude 2 and 3. All earthquake locations are still shallow and in or below the lava dome. In addition, initial data from the GPS instrument on the lava dome that was repaired Monday morning suggest that the site moved a few inches northward Monday and Tuesday, but has since been stable. Such movement is not surprising in light of the high seismicity levels. A USGS field crew continued their deployment of GPS equipment today in order to monitor any ground movement on the lava dome, crater floor, or lower slopes of the volcano. Another gas flight this morning produced a result of no significant volcanic gas detected, as was the case on Monday. Two press conferences were held at CVO to update the media. Tomorrow's field work includes continued GPS deployments.

The weather is much clearer today so the VolcanoCam is worth checking out.

Stand back boys, she's a-gonna blow!

Posted by DaveH at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2004

Babs gets Fisked

Denny at Grouchy Old Cripple takes apart a posting from Ms. Streisand line by line and demolishes her credibility:

A couple choice examples:

Speaking of that shining intellectual, Babs has weighed in on the fake but accurate memos. David sent me the link and asked me to comment.

If you cross this administration you get your head handed to you. If you open your mouth and tell the truth like former White House Economic Advisor Lawrence Lindsay did when he told the Administration that the Iraqi war was going to cost between $100-$200 billion dollars, you get fired.

Babs, you ignorant slut! He got fired first!

If you disagree with the President, like Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill did one too many times regarding the President's policy on tax cuts, you get canned.

Babs let's just put this down to a level that even a nitwit like you can understand. If your maid Consuela does not clean the toilet to your specifications and put the right amount of rose petals in it what do you do? You fire her ass. That's the way the world works.

If you claim that the Administration is misrepresenting the facts and misleading the public, like Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson did, your wife's career gets ruined when she gets outed as a CIA operative in the national media.

It turns out that good ol' Joe was lying and has since been discredited. And Valerie was no longer an active undercover operative. She's was a desk jockey fer chrissakes!

These people are really living in cloud cookoo land…

Posted by DaveH at 09:03 PM | Comments (0)

Energy Policy

Some interesting thoughts from Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem regarding the USA's energy use and sources of energy in general:

Jeff Jarvis is writing a series called Issues 2004, and his post on energy policy from Monday tackles a lot of important questions and offers some recommendations. In addition, the comments on his post include a lot of good insights and thoughts.

Here are my thoughts. Jeff starts with his memories of the 73-74 oil crisis in the US, of which I largely remember sitting in line at gas stations with my mother, waiting to fuel up her 1971 Camaro and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books (I was eight at the time). Perhaps it was a bit of a coincidence, but I do recall my father buying a Toyota in 1974 … and taking apart and rebuilding its catalytic converter several years later.

Jeff is correct that we have not reduced our dependence on foreign oil in the intervening 30 years. What is remarkable, though, is how much more economic activity we are able to create and enjoy with that level of oil dependence. In other words, we create more GDP per barrel of oil than we did 30 years ago. Still, we do consume a lot of oil, even if at the margin it takes less oil to produce an additional dollar's worth of goods and services than it did then.

Lynne also cites Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye:

So what should the federal government do about energy independence in general and dependence on oil in particular? In my opinion, the federal government should get the hell out of the way. This is a problem that the market is absolutely able to address. Government should stop providing false incentives and let the market operate. Don't provide incentives for solar cells that take more energy to produce than they'll produce in their productive lives. Don't subsidize the production of ethanol that's more costly in energy terms than the gasoline it displaces.

And, of course, the largest single subsidy that the federal government provides on the consumption of gasoline is called the Interstate Highway System. If the people in Massachusetts, or Wyoming, or Texas, or California want more highways, I believe that they absolutely have the right to build them. But they shouldn't build them with money from Illinois or New York. And while we're on the subject why is there an Interestate Highway in Hawaii?

Lynne's comments to this:

I think that's right; we do subsidize the use of technologies that are thought to have environmental benefits (such as solar and ethanol) that are less intense energy production technologies, which means that we use more resources to get the same number of BTUs of energy. The purported tradeoff is that we get less pollution in return for the increased use of resources to produce energy. That is a contentious topic — KP readers know that there's a lot of research showing that ethanol production both is fossil-fuel energy intensive and produces emissions, while ethanol's use contributes to ozone formation according to a new study that I linked to in this post. Solar panel production is prey to many of the same criticisms. Plus I think Dave's right to point out that the Interstate Highway System is one of the biggest subsidies to energy use that we have, and that stopping that subsidy and pricing the use of the highway system would send accurate signals to drivers of the cost of their driving choices.

Finally, Lynne looks at the Wired article on the new breed of Nuclear Reactors:

This September 2004 Wired magazine article looks at the academic research and the construction of nuclear power plants in China. China's economic growth (which contributes to the currently high oil prices) is already straining their power supplies, so China plans to build 30 new nuclear power plants in the next 16 years, all using pebble-bed technology. Pebble-bed nuclear has been around since the 1930s. Instead of fuel rods, the uranium/carbon blend is encased in baseball-sized graphite/ceramic balls, and the reactor core is cooled with helium gas. No radioactive water, no spent fuel rods to make dirty bombs. And the scale of the plant is about one-third of the big ones that we are used to here. This is the nuclear technology of the future because it's safer, cleaner and more secure. My hope is that this technology moves us away from our knee-jerk rejection of nuclear as an option, and that its different risk profile undermines the now-successful arguments for federal insurance subsidies (Price-Anderson).

Thoughtful stuff — Lynne has some more links to peruse, I just cherry picked a couple good ones.

Posted by DaveH at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

More on CBS and the Draft

The Commissar has some interesting points about CBSs making a news story out of a well-known internet hoax and a misrepresented source and offers a scoop with the interview between Document Dan and his next story source:

Rather: Mr. Enobakhare, where are you from?
Enobakhare: From Sierra, Leone, which is right next to the Kingdom of Zamunda.
Rather: And your family has fallen on some hard times?
Enobakhare: Yes, Before the death of my father, he deposited the sum of Twelve Million United States Dollars in a Finance and Security Company.
Rather: I see.
Enobakhare: Due the Raging war in our country Sierra-Leone, He declared it as family treasure , according to him for Security Reasons.
Rather: Sounds as smart as a whip cracking over the head of a trader's stubborn mule.
Enobakhare: I have been able to re-establish the ownership of this Funds as a result of the fact that the documents bear my name as the next of kin.
Rather: I would be very interested in those documents, provided of course, that they meet our rigorous standards of authentication here at CBS News.
Enobakhare: How do you do that?
Rather: Hold 'em up, over my head, in the Texas sun. If I don't get sunburned, they're good.
Enobakhare: You are a very rigorous and objective newsman. I believe we can do business together. …At this point, I wish to move this ( funds ) out of Finance and Security Company to your country for investment and personal relocation purpose as soon as you indicate your interest to help me out.

Caution — multiple drink alert…

Posted by DaveH at 06:37 PM | Comments (0)

Fighting in Iran

Interesting reports from Project: 'Free Iran':

VERGE OF REVOLUTION: Intense Fighting Throughout Iran!
Reports over the past 24 - 48 hours via several important information services such as SMCCDI, Peykeiran, Zagros and direct email reports and phone calls from Iranian citizens is beginning to shine light on what at this time looks to be country-wide fighting and quickly escalating into what could potentially become a freedom revolution.

Several independent citizen sources have reported the formation of significant crowds throughout the country, and have heard many loud explosions and gun shots, including in the cities of Tehran, Esfahan, and Shiraz.

SMCCDI and Peykeiran have both reported intense battles between freedom-loving Iranian citizens and the regime's fanatical militias in the village of Meeyan Do Ab. Both sources are reporting many deaths and injuries both to the villagers and regime's forces.

In the past week and recent days, many regional commanders and leaders of the regime's militias have been targeted and killed along with many of their militiamen.

Initial reports from Iranian online news sources as well as from western satellite news media are reporting intense fighting throughout Iran, and report that such fighting is increasing at a constant rate.

On September 28th, SMCCDI reported that in Iran's main southern port of Bandar-Abbas located by the Hormoz Strait on the Persian Gulf, heavy fighting between Elite commandos of the Pasdaran Corp and Iranian residents who were protesting the regime's murder of three fishermen broke out. Angry residents attacked several public buildings as well as regime vehicles with incendiary devices.

Reports also indicate that Bandar Abbas is the main commercial entry to Iran and its paralysis could help spark unprecedented chaos that would severely threaten and likely cause the fall of the Islamic Regime.

Regime forces are also acknowledging the discovery of several ammunition depots used by Iranian citizens against the Mullah's militias.

At this time and for several months now, regime security forces have remained heavily deployed in the most strategic areas of Iranian cities in an effort to prevent the spread and growth of any major uprising.

The current situation appears to be quite explosive at this time.

A related story is from SwissInfo news service:

Iran's clerical leadership will fall on Friday, if Iranian self-styled prophet Ahura Pirouz Khaleghi Yazdi — whose broadcasts on a U.S.-based satellite channel have become hot gossip in Iran — is to be believed.

Khaleghi's Web site (www.ahura.info), based in California, says he will return to Iran on Friday to remove the “Terrorist Regime” using good thoughts, good words and good deeds, the central tenets of Zoroastrianism, Iran's pre-Islamic religion.

Very interesting - there have been other demonstrations in recent past. The one on March 16th of this year was especially interesting since it was on a major Zoroastrian festival. I blogged about it and CNN's media coverage here.

From a comment by Reader Ric:

Before it was Iran it was Persia, and Persians worshipped, or more accurately venerated, Zoroaster. Zoroastrians don’t worship fire, but they use it a lot in religious ceremonies.

Muhammad had a special place in his heart for the “fire worshippers.” Those parts of the Koran are fun to read, in a gruesome sort of way. You can imagine him speaking, occasionally stopping to suavely wipe the spittle from his lips. Zoroastrians aren’t People of the Book, just misguided; they aren’t even Pagans, who only need to be enslaved. They are defiant opponents of God and the Good. We’re the Great Satan. Zoroastrians are about two cuts below that. Evil incarnate.

And the Mad Mullahs, the most intolerant Islamists available until you find al Qutb and Waha’ab, are “tolerating” the “ancient religious festival” of the Zoroastrian New Year? Buuuwahaha! Put it this way: would you, or CNN, smell a rat if somebody gave you a tip that the B’nai B’rith was organizing a pig roast?

Hat tip: LGF

Posted by DaveH at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

New Graphics display

I want one of these…

From IO2Technology

The Heliodisplay ™ projects TV, streaming video and computer images into free space (i.e. mid-air). It is plug-and-play compatible with most video sources (TV, DVD, computer, videogame, etc.). The Heliodisplay is interactive — a “floating touch screen” — allowing a hand or finger to navigate and select.

Downside — 15” diagonal image size and a price of $18K — still, considering that this is version 1.0, this will be interesting to watch.

Posted by DaveH at 05:25 PM | Comments (0)

CBS does it again - part two

In reference to an earlier blog entry regarding CBS's news report on the draft.

It seems now that CBS has altered their printed transcript of the show.
Charles at Little Green Footballs:

CBS News is now trying to cover up their failure to identify Beverly Cocco as a chapter president of “People Against the Draft.”

The transcript of their broadcast from last night is here: CBS News - The Issues: Reviving The Draft.

The following line has been added to the “transcript,” since I first read it and linked to it earlier today:

The line in question:

Beverly Cocco is so concerned she is involved with the organization “People Against the Draft.”

However, if you go to Rathergate (now back online), you will find a video of the interview — looking at the interview, Richard Schlesinger does not say this.

The Rathergate link has a lot of additional information, links history and general good-ole fact checking. Bunch of lying asshats!

Posted by DaveH at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

Fox News

Interesting report in from Yahoo/Variety:

Fox News beats all rivals
For the first time in its history, Fox News Channel beat the combined competition in primetime during the third quarter of 2004, with major headlines of the summer including the national political conventions and a brutal string of hurricanes.

According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News averaged 1.8 million viewers, while CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Headline News averaged a combined total of 1.7 million. The quarter ended Sunday.

CNN came in a distant second, averaging 882,000 viewers, while MSNBC drew 421,000. Headline News averaged 226,000 in primetime, and CNBC attracted a paltry 133,000.

This is for cable news services only — not broadcast networks although:

Fox News' third-quarter performance further solidified its dominance in the field of cable news, as well as its increasing strength against even the broadcast nets. During the Republican National Convention in late August, Fox News won out over ABC News, CBS News and NBC News, also a first for a cable news net.

Interesting… Nielsen is not exactly a fly-by-night polling company.

Posted by DaveH at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

Mount St. Helens

More news today.
From KIRO TV:

'Volcano Advisory' Issued for Mount Saint Helens
Geologists have raised the alert level at Mount Saint Helens to a “volcano advisory,” the second highest warning of a possible eruption.

Geologists said activity at Mount Saint Helens is “ramping up” and they are more convinced now that magma is moving under the volcano. They expected an eruption would be limited to within three miles of the volcano.

From Yahoo/AP

The lava dome in Mount St. Helens' crater apparently is growing, possibly a new sign of an impending eruption, but a major explosion doesn't seem likely, a top volcano scientist said Wednesday.

“There seems to be some movement in the lava dome,” said Jeff Wynn, chief scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey (news - web sites)'s Cascade Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., about 50 miles south of the mountain.

The pressure could come either from a buildup of gases within the 8,364-foot volcano, which erupted with devastating force in 1980, or from molten rock moving into the dome, Wynn said. The volcano began stirring again last week.

And more:

Scientists are trying to determine if the quakes are caused by steam from water seeping into the dome or by magma moving beneath the crater.

Early tests of gas samples collected above the volcano by helicopter Monday did not show unusually high levels of carbon dioxide or sulfur, which could indicate the movement of magma.

And don't forget the VolcanoCam - the weather up there is pretty crappy now - clouds - so visibility is limited.

And for the Earthquake activity in Central California, here is the link to real-time quake data. Most of these are very low intensity — the Richter Scale is logarithmic so a Magnitude 3 quake is ten times more powerful than a Mag 2 and 100 times more powerful than a Mag 1. Most of these quakes will only be 'felt' by the instrumentation.

Posted by DaveH at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

CBS does it again

This time was last nights 'report' on the upcoming draft.
As reported on Powerline:

Ratherbiased.com (whose site is down now) and Little Green Footballs detail how CBS News last night used discredited documents to attack President Bush:

In a story that was a textbook example of slipshod reporting, CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger used debunked internet hoax emails and an unlabeled interest group member to scare viewers into believing that the U.S. government is poised to resume the draft. At the center of Schlesinger’s piece was a woman named Beverly Cocco, a Philadelphia woman who is 'sick to my stomach' that her two sons might be drafted. In his report, Schlesinger claimed that Cocco was a Republican and portrayed her as an apolitical (even Republican) mom worried about the future. Schlesinger did not disclose that Cocco is a chapter president of an advocacy group called People Against the Draft (PAD) which, in addition to opposing any federal conscription, seeks to establish a 'peaceful, rational foreign policy' by bringing all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Like Schlesinger’s Cocco, the group portrays itself as 'nonpartisan' although its leadership seems to be entirely bereft of any Republicans. The group’s domain is registered to a man named Jacob Levich, a left-wing activist who in a 2001 essay compared the Bush Administration to the totalitarian government portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984. CBS News also reported that there are two bills in Congress to reinstate the draft, but failed to mention that they were both introduced by Democrats.

Charles at Little Green Footballs weighs in with this:

Here’s the transcript of last night’s CBS Evening News fear-mongering report about reinstating the draft, in which they cite hoax emails (without noting they had been debunked) and the testimony of a woman who is a chapter president of People Against the Draft (without identifying her as an advocate): CBS News - The Issues: Reviving The Draft.

For more lunacy, the revival of the draft is being promoted as a current administration project but if you look at the two people who filed the bills in the house and the senate, you will see that they are both Democrat.
From the FactCheck website cited above:

One bill is HR 163 , whose principal sponsor is Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. It has 14 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats in a Congress controlled by Republicans.

And the Senate:

The identical Senate bill, S. 89 , introduced by Democratic Sen. Ernest Hollings…

CBS needs to learn that people out there have access to a lot of information and can fact-check their asses.

UPDATE: Cox and Forkum's cartoon today deals with this same issue. They also post some additional links to other people using this story to promote Kerry.

From the Michigan Daily:

Talk of draft factors into race
Some of Kerry’s surrogates have been more explicit [than Kerry] in using the [draft] issue against Bush. Earlier this month, according to the Associated Press, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean told students at Brown University in Providence, R.I. that they would be in danger of being drafted in the event of Bush’s re-election. […]

Cox and Forkum also cite the link to RatherBiased but that site is still down. Overloaded.

Posted by DaveH at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

Transportation Futuristics

A very nicely done website with images and info about proposed transportation designs. Flying saucers, subterranian mag-lev trains, flying cars…

From their introduction:

What is “transportation futuristics”? Many of us are familiar with covers from Popular Science that depict commuters buzzing around in tiny aircraft and landing on rooftops, or fanciful drawings of vehicles that run on roads, float on water and also take to the air. The basic problem many of us face each day— how to get from Point A to Point B in the least amount of time with the least amount of trouble— has inspired many to dream of marvelous ways to solve that problem.

When we see a drawing of a transportation futuristic, we instinctively know that’s what it is. But what do jetpacks, rolling boats and these other endeavors have in common? With few exceptions, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s visions of helicopters and airplanes, the futuristics are the product of the Industrial and post-Industrial Age, a time when the pace of technological change rapidly accelerated and people began dreaming about the future in new ways.

The futuristics also all involve fairly radical ideas, from new propulsion systems to novel use of materials to extreme hybrids of existing forms. The designs seen in this exhibit have not been commercial successes. Some fail on the technical side (some spectacularly so), while others never achieve economic viability.

odd_saucerbus.jpg

A proposed “flying saucer bus' would alleviate traffic congestion, according to an article in Science and Mechanics, December 1950.

Posted by DaveH at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

X Prize

Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, had a successful launch and landing of their X Prize contender SpaceShip One. The X Prize is a $10M prize available to the first entirely privately funded organization that creates a vehicle that travels to 100km above the earth's surface (low earth orbit) twice within 2 weeks.

Here is the press release from the Scaled Composites site:

Under the command of test pilot Mike Melvill, SpaceShipOne reached a record breaking altitude of 328,491 feet (approximately 62 miles or 100 km), making Melvill the first civilian to fly a spaceship out of the atmosphere and the first private pilot to earn astronaut wings.

This flight begins an exciting new era in space travel,” said Paul G. Allen, sole sponsor in the SpaceShipOne program. “Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites are part of a new generation of explorers who are sparking the imagination of a huge number of people worldwide and ushering in the birth of a new industry of privately funded manned space flight.”

The historic flight also marks the first time an aerospace program has successfully completed a manned mission without government sponsorship. “Today’s flight marks a critical turning point in the history of aerospace,” said Scaled Composites founder and CEO Burt Rutan. “ We have redefined space travel as we know it.”

They are planning to make two more flights within the two-week time period.

UPDATE: Fox News has a nice article

Posted by DaveH at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2004

Good movie

Jen and I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this afternoon.

The plot was a little thin but the movie is beautiful in every sense. The sense of space, mass and ambiance is very well done. It was interesting, watching the credits, to see how many different CGI companies worked on the project but the overall effect is seamless and unified. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

UPDATE: So I will not risk the wrath of the commisar, I will say that the airplane used by Sky Captain was the glorious Curtiss P-40 Warhawk with a few aftermarket add-ons, most likely from Whitney and Grainger's

Posted by DaveH at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

Kerry - color in / botox out

The first of the Presidential debates are this week and one candidate is cribbing for the test.

John F. Kerry is sporting a new hue as reported by the Harvard Crimson. Paragraph three, emphasis mine:

The College Dems who met Kerry were surprised by his tan skin and tall stature. They were energized for the campaign’s final push before the Nov. 2 election.

Here is the photo:

kerry-tan.jpg

According to Drudge Report:

Kerry advisers defend the sudden deep tan transition, noting how it simply was from a game of flag football last Friday in Bedford, Mass. Looking at the Weather Underground archive website, we can see that it was overcast until just before 11:00am — wonder when the game was…

Here is Kerry catching a football so we can see how his face is turned towards that bright yellow tanning thing in the sky:

kerry-fball.jpg

More can be seen at the excellent Football Fans for Truth website.

Posted by DaveH at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

Interesting Film Festival

If you are in Los Angeles, check this out: Liberty Film Festival

The 2004 Liberty Film Festival is Hollywood's first major event showcasing films that celebrate the traditional American values of free speech, patriotism, and religious freedom. The festival welcomes participation by open-minded people of all political persuasions. The festival will be held Oct. 1st - 3rd at the SilverScreen Theatre at the Pacific Design Center…

Screenwriter and mystery novelist Roger L. Simon has this wonderful comment:

I have mixed feelings about that event because, much as the likes of Sundance are liberal-infested ad nauseum, I'd like to see film festivals in general be more balanced and devoted to the art of film. Maybe I'm dreaming.

I don't know that this festival will be in my area anytime soon but it would be nice to be able to rent these DVD's — sounds like some interesting filmmaking…

Posted by DaveH at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

Heh...

Shamelessly stolen from The Misanthropyst:

will code for food.jpg

Posted by DaveH at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

Mount St Helens is at it again

I had blogged about it a few days ago but Mt. St. Helens is ramping up for some fun… (For non-GeoJunkies out there, it had a major eruption May 18th, 1980 and has been relatively quiet since then. The eruption was enough that the formerly 9,677 high summit is currently at 8,364 feet.)

Here are two links for up-to-date info:

Mt. St. Helens Volcano Cam
Several NOAA links to Ash Forecasts and Volcano Updates

As they say in the media — developing…

Posted by DaveH at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2004

You're All Morons

A fine rant from someone who can't take it any more.
I present for your edification Mr. Jeff Woods, a maintenance programmer for Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided:

Greetings and suck me. I'm Jeff Woods, maintenance programmer for Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided. As a maintenance programmer it is my responsibility to manage existing code, write bug fixes, integrate new code while analyzing its impact on existing functionality and be the brunt of your jokes and flames on the forums. Suck me. I'm writing this Friday Feature because I'm about sick of your, the valued customer's, torrent of never ending sass-mouth and ill-informed crap. I repeat, suck me. Suck me long. Suck me hard.

Being a maintenance programmer is such a privileged joy and honor. I get to spend anywhere from eight to twelve, sometimes as many as sixteen straight hours a day locked in an eight by eight cube grinding my ass out writing code that you freaks don't appreciate. Did I mention you can suck me? What I love best is you forum jockeys lamenting the game code while you most likely work in a porn theater as a janitor or mooch off my tax dollars as an unemployed turd, sitting on a couch with no cushion with Chef Boyardee stains all over your wife beater. If you think you can write better netcode I invite you to come down and have a go, after you suck me of course….freak.

Does the game have bugs? Yeah, it has a helluva lot of bugs. What the fuck you think I'm doing here cock gobbler? I'm trying to fix the god damn game but you little whiney bitches want new shit too. New shit equals more bugs. IT NEVER ENDS! WHEN I GET ON TOP OF THE HILL I GET BURIED IN A BIGGER PILE OF DUNG! I HATE YOU ALL! DIE! Plus I don't make the decisions, I just code. I wish I did. I'd put a god damn virus in each and every one of your machines and blow up your shit!

Got the tee-shirt. Never did games but worked on a few other projects where care and feeding of the programmers was not high on the priority list…

Posted by DaveH at 09:50 PM | Comments (1)

Serious drool

I have been a happy owner of the Nikon D1X for about two years and I love it. I am a long-time (30 year) Nikon user, have a bunch of bodies (F-2's) and lenses (fisheye through 500) and tried a couple of the smaller digital cameras before springing for the D1X.

About a year ago, Nikon announced the D2H - the “H” models are lower resolution and faster (less data to move) models primarily oriented toward the sports and action photography markets. They are excellent cameras, just don't expect poster-sized images from them. The D1H was announced about a year before the D1X and now, Nikon has announced that they will begin shipping the D2X early next year.

From Rob Galbraith's Digital Photography Insights website:

Nikon today has unveiled the D2X, a higher-resolution sibling to the D2H and replacement for the 3-year-old D1X.

And more:

The big news is the CMOS sensor at the heart of the D2X. At 12.21 million pixels, D2X photos have roughly double the number of pixels of any current Nikon digital SLR.

Some nice features - I'll wait for a year to let the firmware settle out a bit (think Kodak DCS-14) but this will definitely be the upgrade platform of choice.

Posted by DaveH at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

Hostage Negotiation - Chinese Style

A picture essay on The Braden Files shows how some nations 'do' hostage negotiations.

Exit one hostage taker and everyone gets home in time for dinner.

As they said:

Can't say I agree with all of China's policies, but the Chinese know how to handle criminals and save the taxpayers a bundle to keep the prisoner on death row 15, 20, 30 years, at taxpayer expense, while the wheels of justice grind, oh, so slowly.

Call me politically incorrect but…

Posted by DaveH at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

Broadband up and running

This is very cool… After many months of 28.8K dial-up, we now have broadband.

The satellite system is slow on uploading stuff - about the same as dialup but it is lightning quick with downloads. I did a MSFT Windows Update on Jen's machine and got about 30K of service packs inside of five minutes.

I'll post pics tomorrow.

Posted by DaveH at 06:04 PM | Comments (1)

Broadband

The installer is here setting up the satellite dish for our broadband service.

Very cool - finally an end to the 28-dialup purgatory we have been living in for the last couple of months…

I looked at a couple of services and chose Starband.

Posted by DaveH at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

Volume Controls

I know that some people are passionate about High Fidelity but this is taking matters to a bit of an extreme…

From Reference Audio Mods comes this:

Us audiophiles (passionate? or maybe deranged!!) are on a relentless search for audio nirvana. A fundamental yet complex stop in one's journey always includes the preamp or volume control dilemma. The solutions that are available-tube/solid state preamps, passive attenuators, and digital volume control all provide varying degrees of performance some better than others. Our passion has led us to try all 3 solutions with none approaching the clarity and directness of “nothing at all” In short, connecting directly into an amplifier allowed us to hear far more,..Period. Unfortunately, having no control of the volume is not practical by any means and simply is not an option.

They go on with more advertising copy and have some photos of the volume controls with pricing at the bottom of the page.

Price you ask? The cheapest unit starts at $3,780 and the 'Signature Edition' sells for $6,820. These are real prices in US Dollars. If you want to really fine-tune your system, you can buy the special knobs for $485 each. Here is what they say about the knobs:

Good vibrations, Bad vibrations it’s all about vibrations!! RAM would like to introduce a new signature level knob developed for the mighty Silver Rock potentiometer. The standard bakelite knob is certainly the best sounding compromise… but now Audio Consulting has taken this aspect of the Silver Rock much further. The new knobs are custom made with beech wood and bronze where the bronze is used as the insert to mount to the stem of the volume pot. The beech wood is coated several times with C37 lacquer for best sound as pointed out by Dieter Ennemoser. How can this make a difference??? Well, hearing is believing as we always say. The sound becomes much more open and free flowing with a nice improvement in resolution. Dynamics are better and overall naturalness is improved.

The thing that gets me is that this could possibly be an issue if and only if the same level of fanaticism was taken in the recording process but it generally is not. The signal passes from the microphone, through a five-dollar connector, into a couple bucks worth of cable, through plain copper wire and cheap circuitry and onto the computers hard disk (or wax master or whatever…). Applying this level of engineering to try to reconstitute the sound is throwing your money away.

Something that the high-end-audio people don't ever do is a true double-blind listening test. This is because the few of them that have been performed showed no real difference between the high-end equipment and well designed commercial stuff…

A fool and his money as they say.

Posted by DaveH at 10:16 AM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2004

Mean Mr. Mustard is back blogging

Russel Wardlow ran a fun blog called Mean Mr. Mustard but had to give it up to concentrate on his schoolwork. Well, he is back with MMM 2.0
(Addid a link to the blogroll for good measure)

Posted by DaveH at 06:59 PM | Comments (0)

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens could be warming up for another blow. As reported by KOMO-TV:

Seismologists believe there's an increased likelihood of a “hazardous event” at Mount St. Helens due to recent changes in the mountain's seismic activity.

A notice of volcanic unrest was issued this afternoon by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington.

Hundreds of tiny earthquakes began late last week and slowly declined through yesterday morning. However, the swarm has since changed to include more than 10 larger earthquakes of magnitude 2 to 2.8.

That's the most in a 24-hour period since an eruption on October 1986, which was the last dome-building eruption, in which magma reached the surface and added to the pile of lava on the crater floor.

I'm glad that we live several hundred miles to the north… Mt. Baker is dormant.
(and will stay that way I hope)

Posted by DaveH at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

Climbing to the 10,000 mark

I have been noticing the page view numbers and they are climbing steadily towards the 10,000 mark.

I know that I'm not Instapundit or Little Green Footballs — they get 10K viewers per day — but still, it's fun to keep track of…

Posted by DaveH at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2004

Strange liquid -- er -- solid

From PhysicsWeb:

Physicists in France have discovered a liquid that “freezes” when it is heated. Marie Plazanet and colleagues at the Université Joseph Fourier and the Institut Laue-Langevin, both in Grenoble, found that a simple solution composed of two organic compounds becomes a solid when it is heated to temperatures between 45 and 75°C, and becomes a liquid when cooled again. The team says that hydrogen bonds are responsible for this novel behaviour (M Plazanet et al. 2004 J. Chem. Phys 121 5031).

Solids usually melt when they are heated, and liquids turn into gas, although exceptions do exist when heating leads to chemical changes that cannot be reversed, such as polymerisation. However, a reversible transition in which a liquid becomes a solid when heated has never been observed until now.

Plazanet and colleagues prepared a liquid solution containing α-cyclodextrine (αCD), water and 4-methylpyridine (4MP). Cyclodextrines are cyclic structures containing hydroxyl end groups that can form hydrogen bonds with either the 4MP or water molecules.

At room temperature, up to 300 grams of αCD can be dissolved in a litre of 4MP. The resulting solution is homogenous and transparent, but it becomes a milky-white solid when heated. The temperature at which it becomes a solid falls as the concentration of αCD increases.

Very cool stuff. This is like the laser when it was first invented - a device in search of an application. I bet that this will open up a new field of products and applications, this is just the first one that was found…

Posted by DaveH at 04:52 PM | Comments (1)

September 24, 2004

History of the Republican Party -- Christopher Cox

Ran into a tasty bit of speechmaking at Countertop Chronicles and started digging. Christopher Cox (R-CA) is the House Policy Chairman and he recently announced the 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar.
His description is worth noting:

In 1854, anti-slavery activists organized themselves into a new political party, the Republican Party, which would eventually become the mightiest force for individual liberty in the history of the world. Within just a few years, Republicans would control both Houses of Congress, a majority of U.S. state governorships and legislatures, and the White House.

The history of our party is as remarkable as it is untold. And it is under-appreciated for that reason. The Republican Policy Committee in the House of Representatives has produced the 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar to put some of the many important Republican achievements in advancing civil rights before today’s students, families, and citizens from all walks of life who wish to be better informed about our national heritage.

The Republican Party became the most effective political organization in the history of the world in advancing the cause of freedom by staying true to its founding principles. The mission that President Lincoln described for our party, “to lift the artificial weights from all shoulders and clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all,” remains our central focus today.

We started our party with the express intent of protecting the American people from the Democrats’ pro-slavery policies that expressly made people inferior to the state. Today, the animating spirit of the Republican Party is exactly the same as it was then: free people, free minds, free markets, free expression, and unlimited individual opportunity.

Leading the organized opposition to these ideas 150 years ago, just as today, was the Democratic Party. Then, just as now, their hallmarks were politically correct speech; a preference for government control over individual initiative (and of course slavery was the most extreme form of government control over the individual); and an insistence on seeing people as members of groups rather than as individuals.

Republicans will continue to work to spread what is now truly the American message of freedom, equality, and limited government as the best hope for our country and our world. The United States of America, as Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, is the only country on Earth to be based not on race or nationality, but on an ideal. Republicans, for our entire 150-year history, have been carrying forward that ideal: the vision of our Founding Fathers for a republican form of government in which the individual is master and the government is servant.

The calendar is available for download here
(caution — over 100MB in size)

Posted by DaveH at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

Update on global warming

A few days ago, I ran into a story on Kim DuToit's website and did a little digging and posted it on this site (here)

Today, Kim has a happy ending:

Just so you guys know, you can make a difference.

A couple of days ago, I posted this piece which shone a light on the efforts of some enviroweasel to exempt the poxy NOAA from the Data Quality Act (because they work so much on “climate change”, of course).

Kim goes on to quote from an email he got from Countertop:

Thanks for the link and I have some great news for you.

Your web page mention has proven VERY helpful as we managed to innundate Gregg's office (before industry could even get its ass off its chair in my not so humble opinion) with enough phone calls that he's pulled the provision (I was actually at a meeting late yesterday afternoon about it and it was like the blind leading the blind with no one wanting to trigger grass roots or raise the volume of debate).

Very cool!

Posted by DaveH at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2004

Comment Spam - again...

This is cute… Blogs have an ongoing problem with comment spam — people will post comments to older blog entries with the hope that the websites they link to will be picked up by search engines and given a higher “page rank”.

Many times, they try to disguise their content with some text (since it is really obvious to the blogger when a comment has been posted — I get email as well as an indication on my editing screen).

Tonight brought a wonderful wonderful entry:

Severe Acronym Shortage Cripples Computer Industry
SILICON VALLEY, CALIFORNIA (SVC) — According to a recent study by the Blartner Group, 99.5% of all possible five letter combinations have already been appropriated for computer industry acronyms. The impending shortage of 5LC's is casting a dark shadow over the industry, which relies heavily on short, easy-to-remember acronyms for everything.

“Acronym namespace collisions (ANCs) are increasing at a fantastic rate and threaten the very fabric of the computing world,” explained one ZD pundit. “For example, when somebody talks about XP, I don't know whether they mean eXtreme Programming or Microsoft's eXceptionally Pathetic operating system. We need to find a solution now or chaos will result.”

Leaders of several SVC companies have floated the idea of an “industry-wide acronym conservation protocol” (IWACP — one of the few 5LCs not already appropriated). Explained Bob Smith, CTO of IBM, “If companies would voluntarily limit the creation of new acronyms while recycling outdated names, we could reduce much of the pollution within the acronym namespace ourselves. The last thing we want is for Congress to get involved and try to impose a solution for this SAS (Severe Acronym Shortage) that would likely only create many new acronyms in the process.”

Heh… The other five were banal — quotes from historical and political figures.
This one was cute.

They are all gone gone gone…

Posted by DaveH at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2004

The U.N.? Who cares?

Victor Davis Hanson has a wonderful editorial in today's WSJ Online:

The U.N.? Who Cares?
Kofi Annan & Co. might as well move to Brussels or Geneva.

These are surreal times. Americans in Iraq are beheaded on videotape. Russian children are machine-gunned in their schools. The elderly in Israel continue to be blown apart on buses. No one—whether in Madrid, Istanbul, Riyadh, Bali, Tel Aviv or New York—is safe from the Islamic fascist, whose real enemy is modernism and Western-inspired freedom of the individual.

Despite the seemingly disparate geography of these continued attacks, we are always familiar with the similar spooky signature: civilians dismembered by the suicide belt, car bomb, improvised explosive device and executioner's blade. Then follows the characteristically pathetic communiqué or loopy fatwa aired on al-Jazeera, evoking everything from the injustice of the Reconquista to some mythical grievance about Crusaders in the holy shrines. Gender equity in the radical Islamic world is now defined by the expendable female suicide bomber's slaughter of Westerners.

In response to such international lawlessness, our global watchdog, the United Nations, had been largely silent. It abdicates its responsibility of ostracizing those states that harbor such mass murderers, much less organizes a multilateral posse to bring them to justice. And yet under this apparent state of siege, President Bush in his recent address to the U.N. offered not blood and iron—other than an obligatory “the proper response is not to retreat but to prevail”—but Wilsonian idealism, concrete help for the dispossessed, and candor about past sins. The president wished to convey a new multilateralist creed that would have made a John Kerry or Madeleine Albright proud, without the Churchillian “victory at any cost” rhetoric. Good luck.

Click on the link below to continue reading… Excellent stuff!

For years, gay-rights activists and relief workers in Africa have complained that the U.S. did not take the lead in combating the world-wide spread of AIDS. President Bush now offers to spearhead the rescue of the world's infected, with $15 billion in American help in hopes that the world's financial powers—perhaps Japan, China and the European Union—might match or trump that commitment.

Nongovernmental organizations clamor about the unfairness of world trade that left the former Third World with massive debts run up by crooked dictators and complicit Western profiteers. President Bush now talks not of extending further loans to service their spiraling interest payments, but rather of outright grants to clean the slate and thus offer the impoverished a new start.

International women's rights groups vie for the world's attention to stop the shameful international trafficking in women and children, whether as chattel or sexual slaves. The president now pledges to organize enforcement to stop both the smugglers and the predators on the innocent.

For a half century, liberals rightly deplored the old realpolitik in the Middle East, as America and Europe supported autocratic right-wing governments on the cynical premises that they at least promised to keep pumping oil and kept out communists. Now President Bush not only renounces such past opportunism, but also confesses that “for too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability.” He promises not complacency that ensures continual oppression, but radical changes that lead to freedom.

The Taliban and Saddam Hussein were once the United Nations' twin embarrassments, rogue regimes that thumbed their noses at weak U.N. protestations, slaughtered their own, invaded their neighbors, and turned their outlands into terrorist sanctuaries. Now they are gone, despite either U.N. indifference or veritable opposition to their removal. The United States sought not dictators in their place, but consensual government where it had never existed.

What was the response to Mr. Bush's new multifaceted vision? He was met with stony silence, followed by about seven seconds of embarrassed applause, capped off by smug sneers in the global media. Why so?

First, the U.N. is not the idealistic postwar organization of our collective Unicef and Unesco nostalgia, the old perpetual force for good that we once associated with hunger relief and peacekeeping. Its membership is instead rife with tyrannies, theocracies and Stalinist regimes. Many of them, like Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, have served on the U.N.'s 53-member Commission on Human Rights. The Libyan lunocracy—infamous for its dirty war with Chad and cash bounties to mass murderers—chaired the 2003 session. For Mr. Bush to talk to such folk about the need to spread liberty means removing from power, or indeed jailing, many of the oppressors sitting in his audience.

Second, urging democratic reforms in Palestine, as Mr. Bush also outlined, is antithetical to the very stuff of the U.N., an embarrassing reminder that nearly half of its resolutions in the past half-century have been aimed at punishing tiny democratic Israel at the behest of its larger,more populous—and dictatorial—Arab neighbors. The contemporary U.N., then, has become not only hypocritical, but also a bully that hectors Israel about the West Bank while it gives a pass to a nuclear, billion-person China after swallowing Tibet; wants nothing to do with the two present dangers to world peace, a nuclear North Korea and soon to follow theocratic Iran; and idles while thousands die in the Sudan.

Third, the present secretary-general, Kofi Annan, is himself a symbol of all that is wrong with the U.N. A multibillion dollar oil-for-food fraud, replete with kickbacks (perhaps involving a company that his own son worked for), grew unchecked on his watch, as a sordid array of Baathist killers, international hustlers and even terrorists milked the national petroleum treasure of Iraq while its own people went hungry. In response, Mr. Annan stonewalls, counting on exemption from the New York press on grounds of his unimpeachable liberal credentials. Meanwhile, he prefers to denigrate the toppling of Saddam Hussein as “illegal,” but neither advocates reinstitution of a “legal” Saddam nor offers any concrete help to Iraqis crafting consensual society. Like the U.N. membership itself, he enjoys the freedom, affluence and security of a New York, but never stops to ask why that is so or how it might be extended to others less fortunate.

Our own problems with the U.N. should now be viewed in a context of ongoing radical change here in the United States, as all the previous liberal assumptions of the past decades undergo scrutiny in our post 9/11 world. There are no longer any sacred cows in the eyes of the American public. Ask Germany and South Korea as American troops depart, Saudi Arabia where bases are closed, and the once beaming Yasser Arafat, erstwhile denizen of the Lincoln Bedroom, as he now broods in his solitary rubble bunker.

Deeds, not rhetoric, are all that matter, as the once unthinkable is now the possible. There is no intrinsic reason why the U.N. should be based in New York rather than in its more logical utopian home in Brussels or Geneva. There is no law chiseled in stone that says any fascist or dictatorial state deserves authorized membership by virtue of its hijacking of a government. There is no logic to why a France is on the Security Council, but a Japan or India is not. And there is no reason why a group of democratic nations, unapologetic about their values and resolute to protect freedom, cannot act collectively for the common good, entirely indifferent to Syria's censure or a Chinese veto.

So Americans' once gushy support for the U.N. during its adolescence is gone. By the 1970s we accepted at best that it had devolved into a neutral organization in its approach to the West, and by the 1980s sighed that it was now unabashedly hostile to freedom. But in our odyssey from encouragement, to skepticism, and then to hostility, we have now reached the final stage—of indifference. Americans do not get riled easily, so the U.N. will go out with a whimper rather than a bang. Indeed, millions have already shrugged, tuned out, and turned the channel on it.

Posted by DaveH at 09:25 PM | Comments (0)

MY TELEPROMPTER IS DEADLY

Iowahawk has some excerpts from the new novel by David Burge:

MY TELEPROMPTER IS DEADLY
It was a slow September night in Manhattan. The kind of sweaty summer night where the mean streets of Gotham run wild with the shadowy scum of the Republican National Convention. The kind of night where mysteries are born. The kind of night I live for.

My name is Rather. And I’m a dick.

I stabbed out a Lucky into my Watergate Hotel ashtray, a sentimental little souvenir I picked up after my first big scoop (Dan Rather #1 - the Case of the Phantom CREEPs), and peered through the Venetian blinds of my 53rd Street office. I polished the lens on my camera.

It had been over a year since my last big investigation, a nasty little blackmail plot against an eccentric Baghdad Hills tycoon (Dan Rather #24: The Tikrit Orchid), and rent was overdue. I needed a scoop, and I needed one fast. My rabbit foot was working, because a scoop soon came waltzing through the door. In silk stockings.

“Gotta light, handsome?” asked the 32-30-41 silhoutte leaning on the frame.

Mapes. I hadn’t seen her since Dan Rather #27 - The Secret of Abu Ghraib. She was a dangerous dame with dangerous gams – and a nose for Republican plots.

“Hello, Mary,” I sneered, pushing back the rim of my fedora with a Sony microphone.

“’Smatter, Daniel? I thought you’d happy to see me,” she purred, filing her nails.

“Happy ain’t the word, doll. You’re lucky I didn’t drop you like a bad habit after you burned me on the Lynndie England caper. You gotta case for me, or is this strictly a…. social call?”

“All of the above, Danny Boy. Got time for a little gossip?”

“Depends on the gossip-ee, I suppose.”

“Suppose I told you it concerned a little mumble-mouth guy from Texas.”

“I’m all ears.”

“Do the words ‘Texas Air National Guard’ ring a bell?”

“You know my fee, doll. Twenty-five grand a broadcast, plus expenses.”

I poured a hot cup of muddy joe into my CBS News logo cup. It was going to be a long night.

It gets better

Heh…

Posted by DaveH at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

Ahhhh rats...

As reported in the Korea Times:

Young Chang Files for Bankruptcy
Young Chang, the nation¡'s leading piano maker, filed for bankruptcy Tuesday as the company failed to honor 300 million won in maturing bills.

The company said that it could not honor the bills due to a worsened business environment and lack of extra cash flow.

However, some market watchers speculated that the piano manufacturer may have intentionally filed for bankruptcy to protest against the Fair Trade Commission¡'s (FTC) decision earlier this month, ordering Samick Musical Instruments to sell its stake in Young Chang.

Last March, Samick, the nation¡'s second largest piano maker, acquired 48.6 percent in Young Chang to become the largest shareholder, thus creating a dominant domestic piano manufacturer.

The issue here is that Samick is a junk piano maker (their high-end lines are OK) and the Young Chang line is pretty much cheap synthesizers. Their product line strives for low development costs, low BOM (bill of materials in manufacturing — ie: low parts count), minimal after-the-sale support, minimal updates (ie: future software developments).

All this would be fine — there is a lot of market 'churn' among musical instrument makers, companies come and go — BUT — Young Chang also happens to own a crown jewel — Kurzweil.

There is a fascinating story about it's development. Ray Kurzweil got his start building reading machines for the blind in the 1970's. He developed a very powerful speech synthesizer (this at the time when most speech syntheses needed a mini-computer or sounded like a robot with a head cold). One of his clients for this machine was Stevie Wonder and as Ray was describing the new speech synth features, Stevie asked him if it could also do music. The rest, as they say, is history… (I lived in Boston when these systems were initially being developed and knew one of the engineers well.)

Kurzweil synthesizers have a steep learning curve but they are incredibly deep. They are basically a music computer and Young Chang has been wonderful about coming out with updates that not only add new sounds but add new synthesis features. The original hardware architecture is about 15-18 years old but it is modern with the updates.

I own several of these machines and am deeply saddened by this news. The majority of companies these days are moving away from hardware synthesis and towards a Windows box with a sound card and their synthesis software.

You can tell the difference… Sigh…

Posted by DaveH at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2004

Global Warming

A couple of items regarding Global Warming…

First (hat tip to Kim DuToit) comes a link to an entry at Coutertop Chronicle.
Unfortunately, the author has done a major site revision so the original link no longer points to anything. They promise to get this fixed and I will update this entry when they do.

UPDATE - beginning: Countertop wrote back with the correct URL.
The article also has a bunch of links that are important:
CJS Approipriations Bill — Thomas indexed HTML and Thomas PDF text

The text of the rider in question is found on page 52 of the Thomas PDF version:

Provided further, That section 515 of Public Law 106-554 and any regulations and guidelines promulgated under such authority shall not apply on or after the date of enactment to research and data collection, or information analysis conducted by or for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

More info on the Federal Data Quality Act

And finally, how to contact your Senator and Congresscritter

UPDATE - end:

Here is an excerpt from the article (emphasis mine):

Well, Republican New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg seems intent on eliminating science from the climate change debate.

Gregg, the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, slipped in a last minute rider to the just passed CJS Appropriations bill that exempts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from complying with the mandates of the Data Quality Act. The DQA guarantees the use of sound science in policy making by ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of scientific information federal agencies use. If approved, NOAA would be the only agency exempt from sound science. NOAA's DQA regulations are available here.

NOAA, of course, oversees the National Climatic Data Center and is the lead agency in conducting research into the existence and effects of climate change. By exempting NOAA, this provision will prevent an honest evaluation of the science of climate change from occurring and ensure that future policy decisions are based not on sound science but rather on junk science.

As Kim says:

The Federal Data Quality Act was designed to force organizations to use good data when trying to formulate, or influence public policy. I can see no reason why any organization should be exempt from its restrictions, because otherwise we could just make up the fucking data as we went along, without fear of having to actually, well, substantiate it.

Well, the Left has been trundling along, doing just that — and most especially in the field of global warming / global cooling / “climate change”, where Luddite environmentalists have tried to halt industrialization using, to be kind, specious data.

Second item today are two articles in Tech Central Station regarding Global Warming — the first one deals with Global Warming Models and their accuracy and track record. The second one deals with reporting and accuracy.

The first article:

What Exactly Are the Global Warming Models Saying?
It's fright month for adherents of global warming who, following upon Russia's failure to meet the Sept. 6 deadline for signing a global treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions, apparently want to scare the public at large to pressure the Bush administration to support such measures.

And more — talking about Global Circulation Models (GCM's):

More important, though, is that any application of GCM output to regions as small as California is not good scientific practice. Schemes are being developed currently by the scientific community to interpolate, reliably and soundly, GCM output down to regional scales. But logically, using GCM output to infer climate change for your state is like using a chain saw to do delicate wood carving. Additionally, the scenarios that would create such drastic climate change in the heartland of the USA in general necessarily must involve a drier climate as the UCS report does.

For every model simulation that shows California drying up, there are those that show increases in precipitation amounts for the same region under climate warming scenarios2. There is still a great degree of uncertainty about what the models are telling us, how to interpret what they tell us, and how they fit with current observations. To make matters even more complicated, some scientists have shown that even establishing the observational record can, in some cases, be a difficult task3.

As for Byers' contention that a warmer world would cause more violent weather, any student who takes General Circulation Theory 101 would know that an increase in global temperatures, primarily at higher latitudes and altitudes, as most assessments show, would lead to a more placid climate.

Why? Because such a scenario would lead to weaker equator-to-pole temperature gradients, decreasing the strength of the poleward transport of energy in the atmosphere and oceans, and resulting in basically less vigorous clashes between air masses. There are abundant studies available in the literature to show there are no general trends toward increases in severe weather occurrences such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

The second article:

Journalistic Balancing Act?
A new study published in the journal Global Environmental Change (see here for a press report) argues that, by adhering to the journalistic standard of balance when reporting on global warming, prestigious American newspapers have introduced an “informational bias” into public discussion of the issue. The trouble is that the analysis fails to take into account why we have newspapers in the first place. The authors are essentially making a case for censorship in favor of special interests.

The author (Iain Murray)then cites a couple of examples and closes with the following:

So when the authors argue that newspapers are failing the public when they fail to reflect the supposed views of the scientific community about action, then the authors are failing to see the big picture. One of the roles of a free press in a democracy is to inform the public about policy options on which they have a voice. Restricting coverage of options based on the say so of any one group — whether it is scientists, industry or a church — is to sacrifice a free press on the altar of special interests. Journalistic standards are designed to protect us from that danger. Scientists, concerned or otherwise, are not aristocrats. They should be wary of those who treat them as such.

Good stuff… We are at the beginning of a 400-year warming trend. Several hundred years ago, people could ice-skate on the Themes River. Nine hundred years ago, they were growing wine grapes in Greenland.

Posted by DaveH at 09:27 PM | Comments (2)

Speaking Truth to Power

Wonderful speech at the United Nations today — let me quote a few lines:

Every nation that wants peace will share the benefits of a freer world. And every nation that seeks peace has an obligation to help build that world. Eventually, there is no safe isolation from terror networks, or failed states that shelter them, or outlaw regimes, or weapons of mass destruction. Eventually, there is no safety in looking away, seeking the quiet life by ignoring the struggles and oppression of others.

In this young century, our world needs a new definition of security. Our security is not merely found in spheres of influence, or some balance of power. The security of our world is found in the advancing rights of mankind.

And more:

The dictator agreed in 1991, as a condition of a cease-fire, to fully comply with all Security Council resolutions — then ignored more than a decade of those resolutions. Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say “serious consequences,” for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences. And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world.

There is much much more here: President Bush Speaks to the United Nations General Assembly. It's worth spending the five minutes to read. He suffers from not being able to speak well extemporaneously but give him a well crafted speech and he delivers the goods…

Posted by DaveH at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2004

HAL9000 for sale

This looks authentic — from eBay:

HAL 9000 from the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey” is available. HAL 9000 is the Cinerama 160 degree Fairchild-Curtis lens used to film the actual scenes from HAL's point of view for “2001”. It also doubled as the prop, the eye of HAL 9000. HAL is one of the few artifacts left from the movie “2001”. Most other models, and set, were destroyed according to American Cinematographer Magazine, 1985. HAL is currently in a reproduction of the pod bay unit. Included is four(4) letters of Authenticity,(Two owners, Builder, and Techinal Animation Specialist for the movie), an original “2001” movie program, a copy of the original script, two issues of American Cinematographer Magazines on the production of “2001” published in1968, and the movie “2010” published in 1985. Also included is videotape showing how HAL 9000 originated and was used by Stanley Kubrick.

Opening bid is $150,000 — worth it to someone.
I would love to have that mounted on the wall of my studio… heh…

Posted by DaveH at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2004

Oil for Food and Al Qaeda

Wretchard (UPDATE - spelling correction - thanks Al!) at the Belmont Club has been on a roll this last week regarding the situation in Iraq. Very interesting reading.

Today though, he links to an article by Claudia Rossett who has been doing an excellent job of ferreting out the corruption behind the UN Oil-For-Food program. (Read more here, here, here, here, here and here)

In her current article, Ms. Rossett talks about:

As the Oil-for-Food program actually worked, however, the United Nations let Saddam choose his own business partners. The world body also kept secret the details of those contracts and the identities of the contractors, and it let Saddam graft at least $4.4 billion out of the program through manipulated contract prices, by estimates of the U.S. General Accountability Office.

Saddam's standard scam was to underprice oil sales and overpay for relief supplies, thus generating fat profits for his business partners. Many of those contractors would kick back part of the take to Saddam's regime — or divert it to whatever uses Saddam might fancy. By various accounts, those uses ranged from building palaces to buying arms to supplying Saddam's sadistic son Uday with equipment for torturing Iraqi athletes.

One of the big questions is whether any of the money skimmed from Oil-for-Food also slopped into terrorist-financing ventures such as MIGA.

Wretchard then goes on with:

The circumstantial evidence is pretty damning. Rossett describes MIGA as a “terrorist chamber of commerce”. Its founder and president, Ahmed Idris Nasreddin was on a watchlist of suspected Al-Qaeda financiers, as was his business partner Youssef Nada. Another MIGA founder, who remains unindicted still runs the far-flung Hayel Saeed Anam Group of Companies (HSA) which continues to operate worldwide. The HSA was also a large player in the Oil for Food Program and handled at least $400 million in transactions for the former dictator.

He then proceeds to do an excellent country by country analysis of the mess.
Read it and get that nice fuzzy warm feeling about the United Nations and all the good they do in the world. Arrrrggghhhhh…

Posted by DaveH at 07:31 PM | Comments (6)

Magazine for DIY-ing debuts

I have been quietly lamenting the demise of many of the great DIY (do it yourself) technology magazines. Computer magazines used to have articles on building and optimizing systems, camera magazines used to have interesting projects for technical photography (panorama heads, closeup and macro lighting, darkroom electronics), there were several electronics magazines that used to carry extensive DIY projects but now, if they are around at all, they talk about gadgets you buy not build. We have become a nation of comsumers…

One of my favorite book publishers — O'Reilly — is coming out with a periodical called Make.
More info here:

Make brings the do-it-yourself mindset to all the technology in your life. Make is loaded with exciting projects that help you make the most of your technology at home and away from home. This is a magazine that celebrates your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your own will.

Coming early in 2005, Make is a hybrid magazine/book (known as a mook in Japan). Make comes from O'Reilly, the Publisher of Record for geeks and tech enthusiasts everywhere. It follows in line with the Hacks books and Hardware Hacking Projects, but it takes a highly visual and personal approach.

Our premier issue will show you how to get involved in Kite Aerial Photography — taking pictures with a camera suspended from a kite. We'll show you how to build an inexpensive rig to hold your camera.

We'll also show you how to make a video camera stabilizer, a do-it-yourself alternative to an expensive Steadicam. And we'll show you how to create a five-in-one cable adapter for connecting to networks. Some projects are strictly for fun, others are very practical, and still others are absolutely astounding.

Make's promise is: If it can be done, we will help you do it. We'll help you make sense of all the technology that's in your life. Make will have a Mobile section providing tips and advice on cell phones, PDAs, and GPS technology; a Home Entertainment section, including managing your digital music and installing home theater equipment; a Cars section looking at the intersection of computers and automobiles; an Online section looking at how power users are using Amazon, eBay, and Google, plus other services; an Imaging section, featuring digital cameras, Photoshop, and managing your photo; and a Computers section that looks at custom hardware as well as wireless and home networking.

Very very cool! You can join their online newsletter to get more info.
See you there!

Posted by DaveH at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2004

Squeaking in under the wire...

It's around 11:30PM my time and I only have 30 minutes to prepare for September 19th! The second annual Talk Like A Pirate Day:

More info here:

Welcome to the one and only, official, accept-no-substitutes Talk Like A Pirate Day Web site.

You've read about it in Dave Barry's column. Maybe you caught one of our radio or TV interviews. Or maybe you just stumbled on to our site while googling around for sites your mother probably wouldn't approve of. Perhaps you were one of the millions of people from South Africa to Australia, from New York to the Pacific Northwest, who partied like pirates on September 19th, 2003.

However you got here, stick around an' learn all about September 19 - International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Are ye ready for Talk Like A Pirate Day 2004?

Arrgh matey - we are sure as we shivver our timbers! Avast 'ye scurvy dogs! 'ye poltroons!!!

Heh!

Dave who is clutching his dirk in his teeth while climbing the ratlines…

Posted by DaveH at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2004

As strong as Kryptonite

Turns out the Kryptonite bike lock is not as bomb-proof as it seems… KOMO TV has the story:

You don't have to be the Man of Steel to open a Kryptonite bike lock.

Faster than a speeding bullet, word is spreading across the Internet, through cyclist hangouts and into bike shops that all it takes to open a circular-key lock, like the one on the famous U-shaped Kryptonite-brand lock, is a ballpoint pen.

Can you say “product redesign”? It will be interesting to see if the company offers a deal on upgrades, these locks are not cheap (I use one).

Posted by DaveH at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

Pajamagate

During the outbreak of Rathergate, Jonathan Klein, a former senior executive at “60 Minutes,” said on Fox News last week that “Bloggers have no checks and balances. … (It's) a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas.”

This is not true. I am sitting here at the computer wearing clothes.
Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities interviewed a number of major bloggers and posted what they wear complete with pictures…

Check them out.

Posted by DaveH at 12:06 PM | Comments (1)

terrorist / shmerrorist

Reuters News Service is hacked at a Canadian newspaper for calling a spade a spade.
The story is in CBC News:

Canada's largest newspaper chain, CanWest Global, is being criticized over its use of the word “terrorist” in stories about the Middle East.

And more:

One of the world's leading news agencies, Reuters, said CanWest newspapers has been altering words and phrases in its stories dealing with the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reuters told CBC News it would complain to CanWest about the issue.

An example:

As an example, Schlesinger cited a recent Reuters story, in which the original copy read: “…the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.”

In the National Post version of the story, printed Tuesday, it became: “…the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.”

I don't know but the second graf reads a lot truer than the first. Less waffling.

Posted by DaveH at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2004

Borders Book - not quite what it seems...

Charles at Little Green Footballs uncovers a particularly nasty bit of misrepresentation if not outright lying from the corporate management at Borders Books… There is an Employee Union bulletin board for internal use. This is accessible from the internet .

There was a recent thread regarding the book “Unfit for Command” which is highly critical of J.F. Kerry's political stance and actions in Vietnam.

The thread discussed Borders employees who would damage copies of the book (for return to publisher), hide them, tell customers they were out of stock, etc… All this was visible until today and when you go there today, you will see this message:

Dear visitors from land of blog:

Thank you for your interest in the Borders Union web site. Please be aware that it is not the policy of Borders Books, or of any of the Unions that represent its employees, to “hide” or refuse to sell a book based on political content. Borders management can be expected to take appropriate disciplinary measures if they catch employees interfering with sales.

Some people who post on our bulletin board do not work at Borders. We do not verify employment. According to IP Address records, the person who posted the “let's hide the book” message was also posting under another name, responding to the messages he posted under his first name. Under his second ID, he claimed to be a conservative who was shocked that Borders employees would not tolerate diversity of opinion. This suggests to us that this was a troll who was trying to manufacture controversy. His account(s) have been deleted. He was a new user. Other, long time users told him his ideas were bad. We are temporarily ending user registration to prevent further incidents of trolling. Accounts created on September 15th have been deactivated.

We have temporarily blocked access to a portion of the site in order to protect our webserver from crashing due to high traffic. Please be patient. The site will return in full when traffic levels ebb.

Since Borders, like many corporations, refuses to pay a Living Wage, Borders local customers have the option of speaking to an underpaid manager if they feel an underpaid floor employee is pursuing an agenda different from the sales agenda of the corporation.

Have a nice day.

Gee, from this message it sounds like it was just one person using two accounts and coming in to troll…

However, if you look at Google's cache of this thread, an entirely different picture shows up…

Veeeery interesting…

Posted by DaveH at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)

Motherboard Design

Long but detailed and very interesting article on designing a current technology motherboard at MBReview:

Have you ever just looked at a motherboard and wondered how it was designed? How did the design engineers decide where to place certain chips, or components? What are these strange components placed all over the board? Why do motherboard manufacturers make a big deal out of multi-layer PCB’s? Today we’ll be taking a good look at what exactly goes into the process of a motherboard’s design, from the planning stages to the finished product.

Fascinating stuff! We use them daily but never give much thought to how they are put together…

Posted by DaveH at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

Bad dog! Bad driving!

From CBC News:

A pedestrian in a Whitehorse suburb was taken aback Tuesday night when a black dog drove by in a red pickup truck.

Police said a resident was out for a walk when a truck with a Labrador retriever at the wheel passed by.

When RCMP arrived, the truck was in the middle of Thompson Road in Granger, blocking traffic. The dog was still behind the wheel.

“Our subsequent investigation indicates that the dog was possibly celebrating the Canadian victory in the hockey game, knocked the truck into gear, and it rolled down the hill,” said RCMP Sgt. John Sutherland.

Heh…

Posted by DaveH at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2004

Iraq war was illegal

More from the United Nations from Ananova

Iraq war was illegal, claims Annan
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has revealed that he believes the war on Iraq was “illegal”.

As if the U.N has any Sovereign Rights over the Governments of any World Nation. As far as I can see, they do not. They are without power.

Mr Annan said the war was “not in conformity” with the UN Security Council or with the UN Charter.

They passed Resolution 1441 which had no uncertain language.
Saddam violated the Resolution
The United Nation's response was to waffle.

He also said there could not be credible elections in Iraq next January if the current unrest continues.

The “current unrest” is the action of some old Baathist-Party members and a bunch of non-Iraqi thugs who do not want to see their gravy-train go away. With any one you ask, the majority of the Iraqi people want democracy and totally support the actions of the Coalition Forces.

Asked if there was legal authority for the war on Iraq, Mr Annan told the BBC World Service: “I have stated clearly that it was not in conformity with the security council, with the UN charter.”

Resolution 1441 anyone???

He said there should have been a second UN resolution before the war on Iraq.

And if that one failed, a third.

Put a fscking sock in it Kofi. How about your son Kojo profiting from the Oil for Food scandal at the United Nations.
Read about it here and here.

Posted by DaveH at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

More on Darfur...

Our friend China…

The USA was urging the United Nations to pass a resolution that would consider U.N. sanctions against Sudan’s oil industry if Khartoum does not stop atrocities in its Darfur region.

China is threatening to Veto this. As the article says:

A resolution in the 15-member council needs a minimum of nine votes in favor and no veto. A “no” vote from a permanent members — China, Russia, Britain, France or the United States — is tantamount to a veto.

The money — follow the money:

Sudan began exporting oil in 1999 and China is a key buyer.

And what is happening again?

U.N. officials estimate 50,000 civilians have died and more than a million uprooted from their homes.

“It is a true tragedy, and all the more urgent the need for getting the African Union place, which is the most immediate thing that can be done to help the people of Darfur,” said U.S. Ambassador John Danforth.

Rebels began an uprising in Darfur in February 2003 after years of skirmishes between mainly African farmers and Arab nomads over land and water in the arid area the size of France.

The Islamic government turned to militia, called Janjaweed and drawn chiefly from the nomadic Arab population, to help suppress the rebels. The Janjaweed are accused of killing, raping and driving African villagers from their homes.

Christian and Animist farmers and Arab thugs who want the land and the supposed riches but have zero interest in farming.

Let's take a look at Zimbabwe again — only thing there was that it was a corrupt despot grabbing the power and not a bunch of thugs. There is a big difference — humanitarian aid needed, one million displaced, etc…

Religion of Peace My Ass

Posted by DaveH at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

Darfur tragedy

There is not much to go on now but what is available is tragic.
Charles at Little Green Footballs reports that a German newspaper is preparing to release a story claiming that Syria recently tested chemical weapons on civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan.

BERLIN : Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people.

The German daily Die Welt newspaper, in an advance release of its Wednesday edition, citing unnamed western security sources, said that injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims.

It said that witnesses quoted by an Arabic news website called ILAF in an article on August 2 had said that several frozen bodies arrived suddenly at the “Al-Fashr Hospital” in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in June.

Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan.

Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies.

According to Die Welt, the Syrians had suggested close cooperation on developing chemical weapons, and it was proposed that the arms be tested on the rebel SPLA, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, in the south.

But given that the rebels were involved in peace talks, the newspaper continued, the Sudanese government proposed testing the arms on people in Darfur.

The thing that worries me is that Syria has been claimed to be the current repository of Saddam's WMDs. It is not contested that conveys of trucks were seen heading from Iraq into Syria in the days before the coalition troops began their efforts and it has been reported from several sources that their cargo was gold and weapons.

A reader on Charles' board posts this link to this story:

Sudan has ordered the removal of Syrian missiles and weapons of mass destruction out of the African country.

Arab diplomatic and Sudanese government sources said the regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir has ordered that Syria remove its Scud C and Scud D medium-range ballistic missiles as well as components for chemical weapons stored in warehouses in Khartoum. The sources said the Sudanese demand was issued after the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry confirmed a report published earlier this month that Syria has been secretly flying Scud-class missiles and WMD components to Khartoum.

The sources said the Bashir regime has been alarmed over the prospect that the United States would discover the Syrian arsenal and conclude that Damascus and Khartoum were cooperating in the area of missiles and WMD. They said this would have delayed or dashed U.S. plans to lift sanctions from Sudan.

The World Health Organization released a report yesterday:

Survey concludes deaths in Darfur exceed the emergency threshold
Humanitarian efforts in Darfur to date have prevented even higher death rates.

A mortality survey has just been conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Sudan's Ministry of Health in two of the States in Sudan's Darfur region. It concludes that death rates amongst internally displaced people still surpass the threshold for a humanitarian emergency, underscoring the need for urgent increases in, and focus on, assistance to displaced people in the region.

Emphasis mine - these “internally displaced people” don't need refugee assistance. They need to go back to their homes and live their lives. What they DO need is someone strong to come over and drop a big fucking clue-bat on the Arab aggressor swine who are stealing their homes and land…

More:

The survey found that diarrhoea in particular is linked to the deaths of half to three-quarters of the children under five. Diarrhoea is often caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. The combination of crowded conditions in the settlements, shortage of clean water, inadequate latrines, insufficient soap, and the mire caused by rain-soaked mud mingling with excreta, have combined to make hygiene an impossible goal for people living in small, tarpaulin-covered huts.

The 'world community' is going over there with band-aids when they should be going over there with cans of Whoop-Ass and Bitch-Slaps. This is a tragedy but the real real tragedy is that the world community let a group of Arab thugs do this with no fear of reprisals.

Multi-culturalism is one of the greatest failed philosophies.
It Does Not Work.
It Never Did.
It Never Will.
It has killed almost as many people as Communism.
(100,00,00 is a hard number to beat…)

Drop It Now and get a Clue… Please…

Posted by DaveH at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

Woohoo!!!

Just got Satellite television after a long summer without. Our farm is in a valley a few miles from the Canadian border and the only signal I was able to get was a very scratchy hockey game.

Neither of us watch TV much but there are a couple of shows that we both like and now we can get 'em…

Don't know if I would go so far as to call it civilization but it's a start (at something)

heh…

Next on the list (on order and due in a week or two) is high-speed Satellite internet. Right now we have dial-up and the usual connection we get is at 28.8 with an occasional foray into the nose-bleed realm of 31.1

Uploading will be slow with the satellite but downloads are fast and this is the way that most people surf - request a link / download same so it will work out OK except for the occasional photo I post to this or my business web site.

I remember when 2,400 ruled and now 28.8 sucks and is soon to be gone gone gone!!!

Posted by DaveH at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2004

SPAM turns 100 today

Interesting article at Slashdot:

…100 years ago, Cunard sent out telegrams to selected (rich) members of the British social elite, advertising tickets on a new liner, and becoming the first spammer. Let us all take out a moment to consider how to best 'repay' the spammers who followed for the 100 years of 'joy' they have given us.

Posted by DaveH at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

Hero

Jen and I saw the movie “Hero” today.

Very very nice - gorgeous cinematography, fascinating plot line and development. The martial arts scenes were amazing - it was real steel being wielded by people who knew their art. I am personally getting a bit tired of flying - it's cool the first couple of times but it doesn't add that much to the fight scene.

Check it out if you are interested in this sort of film. Miramax apparently chopped a bunch of it so it might be worth seeing it on DVD extended version…

Posted by DaveH at 07:09 PM | Comments (0)

Zell Miller editorial

Zell Miller penned a nice explanation for his Republican National Convention speech in the Opinion Journal today (simple registration required)

Telling It Like It Is
I will never trust John Kerry with my family's safety.

My critics in the national media are working overtime trying to paint me as an angry nut who got the facts all wrong in my speech to the Republican National Convention. Since there's not enough time to challenge all of these critics to a duel, let me set the record straight here and now.

First, the anger. A lot has been said about my angry demeanor. I've made enough speeches to know that you're supposed to connect with the audience by telling a joke or a humorous anecdote or some amusing tale. It's a tried-and-true formula that I've used for most of my life. But this was not a normal speech in a normal time.

And some more:

Now, about those facts. I charged that John Kerry is weak on national security, and I listed some of the many weapons systems he has opposed over the years. My critics tripped over themselves to point out that Dick Cheney opposed some of the same weapons systems when he was defense secretary.

But, like with so many things in life, timing is everything. Mr. Kerry was proposing the cancellation of many of these weapons systems at the height of the Cold War—the worst possible time to weaken our military strength. It would be comparable to a senator in 1943 proposing to scrap the B-29 Bomber or Sherman tank or Higgins landing craft. By contrast, Mr. Cheney waited until after we had won the Cold War to propose modernizing our forces and replacing older weapons systems. There's a huge difference. Whether it's the Cold War of yesterday or the war on terror today, Mr. Kerry has sought time and time again to weaken our military at the exact moment we need to show our strength.

Read the whole thing - he makes a lot of sense…

Posted by DaveH at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

Apple v/s Apple suit

Interesting lawsuit developing between Apple Computer and the Beatles Apple Corps… Forbes has details:

Beatles fan Steve Jobs could lose a large bite of his Apple to his idols.

The Beatles' company, Apple Corps., is involved in a legal battle with Jobs' Apple Computer, claiming the hardware manufacturer is in breach of a 1991 agreement that that forbids it from using the trademark for any application “whose principle content is music.” The two companies have been involved in a number of court battles over the years involving the use of the Apple trademark.

Word among the legal community is that an out of court settlement could be imminent and that it will massively dwarf the $26.5 million paid to the Fab Four's company in 1991 in a row over trademark use.

Emphasis mine. The 1991 agreement is pretty clear and plain language… You think they could have formed a spin-off company to market the iPod.

Posted by DaveH at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2004

C-3PO exits stage left

From Yahoo/Reuters:

Bidding goodbye to the gold robot after almost 30 years, Anthony Daniels shed a nostalgic tear for the mechanical manservant who changed his life.

“Oh yes, it was with moisture. This was very much a fond farewell,” Daniels said of his last scene as C-3PO, the android who became an icon in the “Star Wars” movies.

His last scene in the sixth and final film was hardly the heady stuff of magic for Daniels. Digital effects saw to that.

“I finished filming on the last film last week. For the final shot I walked along a blue corridor with a blue background behind me talking to someone who wasn't there.” he said.

“Revenge of the Sith” is due out next May and completes a trilogy of pre-quels, which tell the back story of the original movie about a battle between good and evil in a distant galaxy.

Daniels makes no secret about his favorite of the six.

“The first film spoke to everyone on the planet. It still works as a funny, bright movie. It still has legs,” he said of the films by U.S. director George Lucas.

When Lucas returned to the pre-quels, Daniels was not so sure.

“George's devotion to digital effects over-balanced the films. Too many digital funky characters become a little bit wearing. The storytelling always gets subsumed.”

Unnhhhh.. Jar Jar, call your publicist… And George, get a dialogue coach please.

Posted by DaveH at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

Minicows

Very interesting development from Cuba as reported in the Billings Gazette:

Rancher Raul Hernandez's cows look just like other breeds - only they are no larger than big dogs. They're a perfect source of milk for Cuban families, he says.

Standing about 23 to 28 inches tall, the minicows can be kept in a small area and they feed on simple grasses, Hernandez says.

“They give up less meat, but they can deliver four or five liters (quarts) of top quality milk to a family,” he says.

Hernandez acquired the Santa Isabel Farm in the tobacco-growing region of western Pinar del Rio province, about 125 miles west of Havana. He started out with a tiny bull, which neighbors had ridiculed because of its small size, and began breeding it with the smallest cows he could find. Five years and several generations later, he had a herd of cows that reach no higher than his waist.

He says his success has ranchers throughout the area pursuing breeding experiments of their own to come up with their own tiny cows.

This is cool - any dairy animal is high maintenence but for people who prefer the taste of bovine milk over caprine, this will be an excellent source for small holdings.

Posted by DaveH at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

Gorebot unleashes fury...

Al Gore is starting to seriously loose it… The latest from Yahoo/Asia News:

Al Gore's stiff jokes are gone now, replaced by recount jokes. The cautious campaigner of 2000 is gone, too, replaced by a fire-breathing Bush basher.

When Gore delivered his latest-in-a-series slam at the Republicans last week, faulting Vice President Dick Cheney for “sleazy and despicable” criticism of the Democrats, a White House spokesman dismissively responded: “Consider the source.”

Well, Gore used to be the vice president. And, as he likes to say, he used to be the next president of the United States.

Now, he is Al Gore, private citizen _ unleashed.

Excerpting from the same article:

…Keith Appell likens him to “some kind of cheerleader on acid.”

“Some of the things he has said have been outrageous and he says them in this high-pitched scream,” Appell said. “I really don't know what to call that.”

Posted by DaveH at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

Rathergate

Some new articles on the big Rathergate scandal. Allah links to an entry at Shiny Happy Gulag. The blog's author worked extensively with typesetting equipment and explains the reasons why this is a forgery.

Meanwhile, at Ace of Spades, a possible source for the documents is discussed.

Bill Burkett has previously been eager to spin wild tales to anyone willing to give him the time of day. If he is the source of the forged documents, then it seems unlikely that he didn't want to be named as the source.

It seems rather more likely that Dan Rather didn't want to name him as the source, given his “political partisan” background, his strongly anti-Bush animus, his ever-shifting stories, and his history of “nervous breakdowns,” never regarded as indica of credibility.

Not 110% ironclad but definitely of interest…

Posted by DaveH at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2004

Blast, Mushroom Cloud Reported in N. Korea

From Yahoo/AP News:

A large explosion occurred in the northern part of North Korea (news - web sites), sending a huge mushroom cloud into the air on an important anniversary of the communist regime, a South Korean news agency reported Sunday.

The South Korean government said it was trying to confirm the report.

The Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified diplomatic source in Seoul, said the explosion happened at 11 a.m. local time Thursday in Yanggang province near the border with China. The blast in Kim Hyong Jik county left a crater big enough to be noticed by a satellite, the source said.

“We understand that a mushroom-shaped cloud about 2.2 miles to 2.5 miles in diameter was monitored during the explosion,” the source said. Yonhap described the source as “reliable.”

Thursday was the anniversary of the 1948 foundation of the communist regime. Leader Kim Jong Il uses the occasion to stage performances and other events to bolster loyalty among the impoverished North Korean population.

Yeah - make it go boom really loud to show your power and don't do anything for your citizens. Another stellar example of why communism works so well. Leftists take note please…

Posted by DaveH at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

Update on Rathergate

More and more info is coming out to support the thought that the documents produced by Dan Rather on 60 minutes yesterday were incompetent forgeries designed to put President Bush in a bad light.

PowerLine, The Command Post, Little Green Footballs and Roger L. Simon are all doing excellent jobs of covering this meltdown…

More data is surfacing about the technology available in 1973 for doing true-proportional typing and it doesn't look good for CBS/60 Minutes. They saw what they wanted to see and did not bother to investigate. Their main claim to authenticity never reviewed the source documents (here (scroll down to Game Over) and here)

Buh-bye Dan…

UPDATE:

Forgot to mention Bill at INDC Journal — he is one of the people who did the original digging and is very much in the pantheon.

Posted by DaveH at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

Bush's National Guard records...

Some interesting things are happening online these days…
The Boston Globe ran the following article in today's online edition:

Bid cited to boost Bush in Guard
'73 memo tells of request to 'sugar-coat' report

In August 1973, President Bush's superior officer in the Texas Air National Guard wrote a memorandum complaining that the commanding general wanted him to ''sugar coat” an annual officer evaluation for First Lieutenant Bush, even though Bush had not been at the base for the year in question, according to new documents obtained and broadcast last night by CBS News.

The commander, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, wrote that he turned aside the suggestion from Brigadier General Walter B. Staudt, Bush's political mentor in the Guard. But he and another officer agreed to ''backdate” a report — evidently the evaluation — in which they did not rate him at all. There is such a report in Bush's file, dated May 2, 1973.

CBS News also reported on this in their program 60 Minutes - the news item with partial transcripts of the show is here: New Questions On Bush Guard Duty. I'll cut to an excerpt:

Mr. Bush had signed a six-year commitment to fly for the Air Guard, and early on, the young pilot got glowing evaluations from his squadron commander, Col. Jerry Killian.

Killian called Lt. Bush “an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot” who “performed in an outstanding manner.” That is part of the public record.

But 60 Minutes has obtained a number of documents we are told were taken from Col. Killian's personal file. Among them, a never-before-seen memorandum from May 1972, where Killian writes that Lt. Bush called him to talk about “how he can get out of coming to drill from now through November.”

Lt. Bush tells his commander “he is working on a campaign in Alabama…. and may not have time to take his physical.” Killian adds that he thinks Lt. Bush has gone over his head, and is “talking to someone upstairs.”

Col. Killian died in 1984. 60 Minutes consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic.

Robert Strong was a friend and colleague of Col. Killian who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office in the Vietnam era. Strong, now a college professor, believes these documents are genuine.

“They are compatible with the way business was done at the time. They are compatible with the man that I remember Jerry Killian being,” says Strong. “I don’t see anything in the documents that is discordant with what were the times, what was the situation and what were the people involved.”

“He [Killian] was a straight-arrow guy,” adds Strong. “He really was. I was very fond of him, liked him personally. Very professional man, a career pilot. He took his responsibilities very, very seriously.”

In a memo from Aug. 18, 1973, Col. Killian says Col. Buck Staudt, the man in charge of the Texas Air National Guard, is putting on pressure to “sugar coat” the evaluation of Lt. Bush. Staudt, a longtime supporter of the Bush family, would not do an interview for this broadcast.

The memo continues, with Killian saying, “I’m having trouble running interference and doing my job.”

Emphasis mine. CBS News also provides links to PDF files of the memos in question. Here, here, here and here.

What has the internet in such a tizzy is that there is an excellent chance that these memos are total forgeries and very stupid forgeries at that. Incredibly stupid forgeries…

If you look at the PDF files, you will see that they are in a true proportional typeface. There were only ten or so models of typewriters in 1973 that could even attempt true proportional typefaces (the IBMs had several variations of their Selectric line that allowed for three different letterspacings, the Varityper could do true proportional but its output was to film and was used for typesetting only, never a casual memo. It was also incredibly finicky to use and you never saw the output until you printed it and developed the film — the operators display was very much not WYSIWYG).

Several blogs are doing an excellent job of covering this - The Command Post and Power Line.

It will be interesting to see how CBS weasels itself out of this one…

UPDATE:

Charles at Little Green Footballs has the goods…
And Allah is not far behind..

Posted by DaveH at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

Great Big Elephants in the living room

Kim DuToit has a wonderful writeup of some of the political issues that are very critical but which neither side seems to be addressing:

The economy. Yes, I know that everyone's talking about jobsjobsjobs like that's all there is to the economy, but that's not the point. Fuckface babbles on about how he'll lift the economy by creating a trillion new jobs in the first ten seconds as President, and GWB talks about the Dow and also jobsjobsjobs, but both of them ignore the first of the Elephants In The Living Room: the price of oil.

Here's the bottom line: if the price of gasoline was about $1.10 a gallon (instead of the $1.76 I paid yesterday), this economy would be going to the Moon, Alice. It is, in fact, the only thing which is preventing a 1990s-style boom from taking place. Why, then, are neither GWB nor Fuckface talking about it?

Because they both know that no matter who, the U.S. President can't do a damn thing about it.

All the other parts of a robust economy are in place: new housing starts, factory orders, retail sales, a stable and effective work force — all are slightly positive (in terms of trend — I'm not interested in monthly hiccups). What's holding everything up is the brake on personal consumption which a high oil price creates. When it costs $50 to fill up the SUV, and your electricity bill is $1,000 instead of $350, people don't have much spare change to fling around — and for producers, who also have to bear those high costs, the answer is to increase prices, which further dampens demand. Note too that the airlines (another economic belwether) are struggling; when the price of oil goes up by $1 a barrel, it can add $5 million a month to a typical airline fleet's overhead. You have to sell a lot of $400 tickets to earn sufficient profit just to break even on the $5 million. And business travelers, on the advice of the accountants, are video- or teleconferencing rather than pay the $1,400 business fares.

I am just excerpting some paragraphs - it's quite the screed. Kim then goes on with item two:

Our trade imbalance with China. Never mind that China is, at the end, the real enemy. The fact of the matter is that instead of dealing with other (and non-Communist) countries like India, Pakistan or Taiwan, all of whom have large (and cheap) labor forces who would be able to produce all the cheap crap our society demands, the stupid fucking Commerce Department continues to support Most Favored Nation status for China, even as the fucking Chinese threaten to invade Taiwan, test nukes which could reach the U.S., and with their outmoded industries pollute the atmosphere in a manner which makes 1960s Pittsburgh look like Lake Tahoe on a winter's morning.

I'm not arguing about the pros and cons of “outsourcing jobs”, which is how the lying bastard politicians prefer to frame the exercise. The plain fact is that Hanes can't make $2 T-shirts in the United States because of (union-inspired) high labor costs, (Green-inspired) environmental regulation, and (greedy government-inspired) high taxation. Of course Hanes is going to look elsewhere to have those T-shirts made, when Wal-Mart insists on paying no more than a dollar per.

Again, there is more. Kim then addresses the big issue — what is the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats and what are the key issues at stake here:

The chasm. I keep reading articles about the growing divide which separates the Democrats from the Republicans, and the anger and intransigence which characterizes it.

Here's the third Great Big Elephant In The Living Room: it's not about Democrats and Republicans; it's about socialism and republicanism. While the Democrats could continue along their merry little way, planting socialist seeds with gay abandon, everyone was happy. Liberal judges were appointed, state schools become models of socialist / collectivist indoctrination, industry became subservient to environmentalism, and so on. Everyone was happy, of course, except conservatives, but as the Left controlled the media, only we conservatives knew about it.

Then four things happened which finally broke the peace.

Firstly, Ronald Reagan (a conservative) became President, and his policies led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its Commie satellites. As the shortcomings of communism became more and more apparent, the Left discovered that their “shining city on a hill” was instead a dark, mean and grubby place. When a religion is comprehensively proven to be a pack of lies and nonsense, you can expect its acolytes to feel angry.

Second came the Republican Revolution of 1994, where conservative Republicans were finally able to win control of Congress, and start a program of rolling back government. To the people for whom government is the sine qua non of an orderly society, this was anathema — but it was tempered by the fact that the Executive Branch was headed by one of their own: a charming, amoral collectivist who worshiped power for its own sake, and was ready to deal away some of their cherished principles (eg. unlimited welfare) to hold onto that power.

Third was the blow which set the Left stove temperature to “broil”: the impeachment of Clinton as a liar and molester, and the subsequent election result which delivered Executive power to a [gasp!] conservative Republican.

Remember, however, that conservatives had been feeling their own anger towards the Left: Clinton's horrible collectivist agenda (eg. national health care under his wife — another collectivist, and unthinking obeisance to environmentalists and the gun control lobby, to name but three).

The fourth event was the loosening of the stranglehold of “mainstream media” over the issues of the day: first by the growth of conservative talk radio (thank you, Rush) and then the Internet, which drove a stake through the heart of the media monopoly. For the first time, the Left realized that not everyone felt the same way about the world as the editorial committee of the New York Times (and they were terrified by the extent of the opposition); and conservatives realized that they were not alone, and that there were millions of others to whom the word “progressive” was NOT a Good Thing.

Very astute observations. Visit his website for the full article.

Posted by DaveH at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

Light blogging today and tomorrow

Lots of stuff to do on the farm so blogging will be minimal for the next day or so…

The good news is that I just signed up for broadband using these people: Starband so I will be able to wander near and far around the web looking for interesting things to post…

Installation should be in about two weeks. it will be wonderful to drop the 28.8 dial-up connection (this is what we generally connect at - phone lines are long)

Back out to the barn to finish off the feeding stalls.

Posted by DaveH at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2004

The European vacation from history

Very interesting writing from Wretchard at The Belmont Club today:

Little public analysis has been devoted to options realistically available to Vladimir Putin in response to the massacre of schoolchildren in Ossetia. The fact is that the world has been spoiled by looking at the world through the prism of the American media. When President Bush stopped to consider his response to September 11, he had a range of options available only to a nation as unimaginably powerful as the United States of America. Japanese newspapers reported that President Bush was offered the nuclear option immediately after the attack, probably as an extreme in a range that included filing a diplomatic protest on the opposite end of the spectrum, which he rejected, choosing instead to do what no other country could do: take down the state sponsors of terrorism and pursue the terrorists to the four corners of the earth. America's unmatched power allowed President Bush to select the most humane course of war available. No European power, nor all of them put together, could have embarked on such a precise campaign for lack of means. It was a rich man's strategy, a guerre de luxe.

But no one who has seen the rags and hodgepodge of equipment issued to the Russian Special Forces can entertain any illusion that Vladimir Putin can go around launching raids with hi-tech helicopters, or follow around perps with robotic drones before firing, or use satellite-guided bombs to wipe out enemy safe houses that have been seeded with RFID chips. Nor will those detained by Russia gain weight the way detainees have done at the “inhuman” Gitmo prison. That's an American way of war which even Europeans can only regard with envy. The poor must respond with less. When the Nepalese saw the video of their 12 compatriots executed by terrorists in Iraq, they did what you could do with a box of matches: they burned the mosque in Kathmandu. To paraphrase Crosby, Stills and Nash, 'if you can't hit the one you should then hit the one you're with'.

While Russia can do better than a box of matches, the reality is that its poverty and low-tech force structure will make any response that Putin may choose a brutal and largely indiscriminate affair unless it is subsumed into the larger American-led Global War on Terror. The real price of the European vacation from history is its abandonment of the first principle of civilization. Unless there is common justice, there will be vigilante justice.

Too true…

Posted by DaveH at 11:15 PM | Comments (1)

The Poincaré Conjecture

An odd topic to say the least but it is actually one of the seven or so major 'unsolved' mathematics problems in the world.

It seems to have been solved about a year ago and other mathematicians are starting to agree. Yahoo/UK/Reuters:

A reclusive Russian may have solved one of the world's toughest mathematics problems and stands to win $1 million (560 million pounds) — but he doesn't appear to care.

Grigori Perelman from St. Petersburg claims to have solved the horrendously complicated Poincaré Conjecture that tries to explain the behavior of multi-dimensional shapes in space, thereby making himself eligible for the prize offered by the Massachusetts-based Clay Mathematics Institute.

But there's a snag. He has simply posted his results on the Internet and left his peers to work out for themselves whether he is right — something they are still struggling to do.

“There is good reason to believe that Perelman's approach is correct. But the trouble is, he won't talk to anybody about it and has shown no interest in the money,” said Keith Devlin, Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University in California.

“There won't be a golden moment when he is suddenly accepted as being right. There will just be a drift in that direction,” he told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science

People skilled in abstruse math problems are an interesting lot of very very strange people. I have had the pleasure (I think) of knowing a few of them.

More on The Poincaré Conjecture

Posted by DaveH at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

Mythical Moderate Muslims

Interesting writing from Bloodletting:

An excerpt:

The mythical moderate muslim (MMM) despite their protestations that “this is not true Islam”, and that “This is just a small minority”, and that “we are not all like that”, has done nothing nothing in the form of action to stop what is going on by those of their faith in the name of their faith. This makes them guilty of colaboration by omission. The lack of concrete action against such atrocities makes them alll guilty. When wayward miscreants, in the name of Jesus, bomb abortion clinics, there are no excuses made by other christians for the aberrant behavior. We treat them as any other criminal and demand the maximum punishment. We sit on their juries and we convist them.

As each echoing silence where there should be banshee screams of outrage against the “hijackers of Islam” by the MMM, I am more and more convinced that we should not sacrifice all of civilization for the benefit of saving a particular, and particularly flawed, belief system. In other words, perhaps we should make an exception, and destroy all of Islam in order to weed out this cancer of terrorism. Maybe, protecting the inactive MMM, who will take no steps to protect us, should be sacrificed in order that we may save everything else. After all, if a cancer has begun in the uterus, do we not hesitate to remove the whole organ, diseased tissue as well as healthy in order to protect the whole organism? More healthy, but less than perfect. Is that such a bad outcome? Is it not better than the alternative, if the alternative is to allow the cancer to take over because we were unwilling to give up on the ideal of a perfect outcome?

Tossing the gauntlet:

In light of the recent use of terrorism in your name, considering thew long standing, and exclusive use by others in your name; stop this evil congregation in England from coming to order. Seek out and destroy those who would attend, those who you claim to be blasphemers. You need to take back your religion. Not the british government, not the infidel, not the US Marines; YOU. I do not imagine that it will be easy. I do not imagine that it will be without sacrfice or cost. Nor do I know how dear or precious that cost will be. What I do know is that if you are not willing to assume risk, or bear the cost of saving your religion, than I see no reason why American infidels should, either.

Good stuff…

Posted by DaveH at 12:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2004

Crusades?

Excellent analysis and writing at Smoke on the Water.

They are talking about a word that needs to re-enter our vocabulary again, soon, now, or maybe four years ago…

The New Crusade
The word we're not supposed to say. Crusade! What, we're afraid of offending the murdering jihadist scum who just killed over three hundred people in Beslan, all in the name of Islam?

Let me get this out of the way right up front. Islam is not a religion of peace. Since Mohammed returned from Medina to take Mecca under the sword, Islam has always been spread by force, and rejected on pain of death.

They also link to a good writeup on the Crusades here:

Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far. See, for example, Steven Runciman’s famous three-volume epic, History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones. Both are terrible history yet wonderfully entertaining.

And more:

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity—and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion—has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt—once the most heavily Christian areas in the world—quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

To quote Willy the Shake: “What is past is prologue” (also quoted on the plinth of a statue at the US Library of Congress)

Posted by DaveH at 11:53 PM | Comments (1)

September 04, 2004

Iran's sponsorship of terrorism

Interesting article at MS/NBC regarding the opinion of the Iraqi people that Iran is solidly in back of that swine Moqtada al-Sadr.

Six months ago, Abu Sajjad was rolling in cash. His cloth shop is right in front of the Imam Ali shrine, a great location to attract pilgrims visiting this holiest of Shiite sanctuaries. The faithful who flocked into Najaf from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan bought hundreds of yards of fabric to take home as souvenirs. Now Abu Sajjad looks at his storefront, riddled with bullets and shrapnel, and shakes his head. “Why did this happen?” he asks. The area surrounding the shrine is a burned-out shell. Entire buildings look like they've been sliced in half. Broken telephone poles lean awkwardly across narrow streets, and tangled electrical wires droop down like old tinsel. Mosaics on the outer walls of the gold-domed shrine have been stripped away by shrapnel and stained with black soot. And still the young toughs loyal to rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are nearby, manning a barricade behind a shot-up ambulance.

“We prayed for God to come and strike down these gangsters,” says Abu Sajjad. But neither the U.S. Marines nor troops of the U.S.-approved Iraqi government finished the job. And many Iraqis are asking: Why? How is it that al-Sadr could lead two insurrections in five months and still be alive, much less negotiating a new truce through Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani? Who is backing the round-faced young mullah? Who is protecting him? The most common answer—at once the simplest and the most complicated—is “Iran.”

“Everyone is telling us that Iran is everywhere,” says a senior Western diplomat in Baghdad. “It has become an obsession with Iraqis.” And with Washington, too. U.S. intelligence and defense officials tell NEWSWEEK they have ample information pointing to Iranian support for al-Sadr. “He's clearly their guy,” says one. But hedging their bets, “the Iranians are putting their chips down on red and black, even and odds,” says another official in Washington. “At some point a winner will emerge on the political scene, and they just want to be sure they have leverage.”

And more on Iran in particular:

Some U.S. officials argue that Iran was always a bigger threat than Iraq. Former terrorism adviser Richard Clarke notes that Iran “funded and directed” Hizbullah organizations that blew up 242 American Marines in Beirut in 1983, and 19 U.S. military personnel at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996. “Al Qaeda regularly used Iranian territory for transit and sanctuary prior to September 11,” as Clarke wrote and the 9/11 Commission confirmed, and many of Al Qaeda's top leaders “moved across the border into Iran after U.S. forces finally invaded Afghanistan.” Iran's nuclear program, meanwhile, continues on-again-off-again progress toward development of atomic weapons.

All the Baath party members didn't just fade away, they moved and are still trying to restore their totalitarian power elite to Iraq. The sooner we come to grips with this and deal with it, the better for everyone…

Posted by DaveH at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

Timeline at the Belsan school

The Command Post has an excellent event-by-event timeline of the major events in the hostage taking at Belsan school by Islamofascist terrorists.

There were over 1,000 hostages:

One of the released hostages, Adel Itskayeva, told a Gazeta correspondent there were 1,020 hostages in the seized school. When the woman was told the official data - 354 hostages, she was more than just surprised: “Are you crazy? There are 1,020 people in there!” the woman said. [Pravda]

And more:

“They shot at our backs as we were running out of the school. I heard the whine of the bullets. One of the girls who was running close to me was wounded. Two of my friends picked her up and carried her. There were about 50 of us, boys and girls, all senior pupils. Only the older kids could run away. As for the younger pupils, they just couldn’t get out of that hell because the terrorists had blocked all the ways out for them. So they could only stay there and watch us running away.”

And surely these terrorists were nationals with grievances:

Later in the evening, it’s announced that at least 10 of 20 dead terrorists were Arab mercenaries. Officials are putting the death at more than 150. At this point, 60 hostages have been confirmed dead and identified.

Religion of peace my ass…

Posted by DaveH at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

The Gimli Glider (or why units matter...)

The Braden Files links to an aviation story with an amazing outcome:

If a Boeing 767 runs out of fuel at 41,000 feet what do you have? Answer: A 132 ton glider with a sink rate of over 2000 feet-per-minute and marginally enough hydraulic pressure to control the ailerons, elevator, and rudder. Put veteran pilots Bob Pearson and cool-as-a-cucumber Maurice Quintal in the cockpit and you've got the unbelievable but true story of Air Canada Flight 143, known ever since as the Gimli Glider.

Flight 143's problems began on the ground in Montreal. A computer known as the Fuel Quantity Information System Processor manages the entire 767 fuel loading process. The FQIS controls the fuel pumps and drives all of the 767's fuel gauges. Little is left for crew and refuelers to do but hook up the hoses and dial in the desired fuel load. But the FQIS was not working properly on Flight 143. The fault was later discovered to be a poorly soldered sensor. An improbable sequence of circuit-breaking mistakes made by an Air Canada technician independently investigating the problem defeated several layers of redundancy built into the system. This left Aircraft #604 without working fuel gauges.

And the units in question:

The flight crew had never been trained how to perform the calculations. To be safe they re-ran the numbers three times to be absolutely, positively sure the refuelers hadn't made any mistakes; each time using 1.77 pounds/liter as the specific gravity factor. This was the factor written on the refueler's slip and used on all of the other planes in Air Canada's fleet. The factor the refuelers and the crew should have used on the brand new, all-metric 767 was .8 kg/liter of kerosene.

No fatailities — the photo of the 767 sitting nose-down on the race car track is quite a starteling one…

Posted by DaveH at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

Events in Russia

Charles at Little Green Footballs links to an excellent article by Ralph Peters on the Islamofascists (some of them Arab) holding the Russian school-children hostage:

Ralph Peters: When the Killers Come for the Kids.

The mass murder of children revolts the human psyche. Herod sending his henchmen to massacre the infants of Bethlehem haunts the Gospels. Nothing in our time was crueler than what the Germans did to children during the Holocaust. Slaughtering the innocents violates a universal human taboo.

Or a nearly universal one. Those Muslims who preach Jihad against the West decided years ago that killing Jewish or Christian children is not only acceptable, but pleasing to their god when done by “martyrs.”

It isn’t politically correct to say this, of course. We’re supposed to pretend that Islam is a “religion of peace.” All right, then: It’s time for Muslims to stand up for the once-noble, nearly lost traditions of their faith and condemn what Arab and Chechen terrorists and blasphemers did in the Russian town of Beslan.

If Muslim religious leaders around the world will not publicly condemn the taking of children as hostages and their subsequent slaughter — if those “men of faith” will not issue a condemnation without reservations or caveats — then no one need pretend any longer that all religions are equally sound and moral.

This last paragraph got me to thinking… Why have we not seen the 'moderate' imams and leaders vilifying and condemning those who commit terrorist acts.

If Islam really is the so-called 'religion of peace' why haven't more of its practitioners come out directly and forcefully to the media saying that the terrorists represent the minority and that they are an anathema to the faith.

The silence from these people is deafining…

Mecca delenda est

Posted by DaveH at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

Making Money

Interesting profile of Wesley Weber on the Canadian Business website.

Weber is (or was) a major counterfeiter who used social engineering and a bunch of ink-jet printers to duplicate large quantities of Canadian $100 bills.

The article goes into how he circumvented the security features of the currency and how he got caught…

Counterfeiting is on the rise in Canada. And nobody did it better—or did more damage—than Wesley Weber, the man who crippled the $100 bill

And more:

Approximately $40 billion worth of bills now circulates in the Canadian economy. It's changing hands at any given moment. For cups of Tim Hortons coffee. For T-shirts at the Gap. Cafeteria food. Diapers and cigarettes at the corner store. Marijuana from the pimply teenager with the rusty bicycle. Canadians put it in their wallets and fork it over with confidence, secure in the knowledge that it's the most liquid asset going. Some people rarely look at receipts or count their change, let alone examine the Queen's mug to see if anything's amiss.

But that confidence is quickly becoming a hazardous oversight. Last year, the Bank of Canada reported a record $12.7 million in counterfeit currency in circulation, up from $4.9 million in 2002. Most of it was imitation $10s and $20s. “A large part of the increase in overall crime [last year] was the result of the more than 138,000 counterfeiting incidents reported by police,” noted Statistics Canada in July. “Counterfeiting incidents now represent 5% of all Criminal Code offences, making it the sixth-largest crime category in Canada.”

Interesting stuff. Canada has since released a new $100 with even more security features…

Posted by DaveH at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2004

Cool reactor technology

From Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory comes the SSTAR — Small, Sealed, Transportable, Autonomous Reactor:

Nuclear energy supplies 20 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. and 16 percent of that used throughout the world. But as the global use of nuclear energy grows, so do concerns about the vulnerability of nuclear plants and fuel materials to misuse or attacks by terrorists. A Livermore team is part of a Department of Energy (DOE) collaboration that is addressing both the growing need for nuclear energy and the concern over nuclear proliferation by pursuing a concept called SSTAR, a small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor.

SSTAR is designed to be a self-contained reactor in a tamper-resistant container. The goal is to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity, heat, and freshwater. The design could also be adapted to produce hydrogen for use as an alternative fuel for passenger cars.

The New Scientist also has a writeup:

A nuclear reactor that can meet the energy needs of developing countries without the risk that they will use the by-products to make weapons is being developed by the US Department of Energy.

The aim is to create a sealed reactor that can be delivered to a site, left to generate power for up to 30 years, and retrieved when its fuel is spent. The developers claim that no one would be able to remove the fissile material from the reactor because its core would be inside a tamper-proof cask protected by a thicket of alarms.

And as always, the nay-sayers have their opinion:

The project faces strong political obstacles. Michael Levi of the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington DC, questions whether developing countries will be prepared to leave the keys to their electricity supply in the hands of the US.

He also doubts that SSTAR will be as proliferation-proof as the DoE hopes. While the design makes it hard for countries hosting the reactors to cheat without getting caught, “what happens if they don't care about what we think?” he asks. It would then be possible to break into the reactor and reprocess the plutonium-rich fuel to make weapons, he says.


I think this is very cool technology and it would be a godsend for developing nations. A source of energy for lighting, clean water and sewage treatment, radio and internet for villages, refrigeration — what's not to like…

Posted by DaveH at 01:36 PM | Comments (1)

Brace Yourself

Victor Davis Hanson writes a column each Friday.
Todays is very much worth reading:

Brace Yourself
The months ahead will be momentous.

The summer and fall have been and will be momentous: national political conventions, elections slated in Afghanistan and here at home, the Olympics, high gas prices, and near cultural hysteria, whether measured by Fahrenheit 9/11 or the Swift-boat ads. But brace yourself — this is only the beginning. We should expect not only the dirtiest election in years, but also some real challenges the United States has not experienced since 1941.

He then covers the following topics - I'll excerpt a paragraph r two from each one:

HYSTERIA
Almost every day, al Qaeda suspects or affiliated terrorists are arrested somewhere in the world. Islamic fascists blow up Israelis, behead Nepalese, murder Russians children in schools and on the street, and kidnap French journalists (so much for appeasement). They want to destroy trains in New York as they did in Madrid. They seek to ruin democracy in Kabul and Baghdad and take down Russian airliners. Nearly each week they are caught forming cells in Europe and the United States — all akin in their desire for theocracy, incoherent demands, partiality for barbarous methods of killing civilians, and hatred of Western-style liberalism and freedom.

OIL
We should also accept that the terrorists have finally caught on to just how fragile the world’s oil supply is. The global economy is recovering. India and China are becoming voracious energy importers. The United States will neither tap all of its own ample reserves nor embark on a new round of fuel-efficiency standards. Global speculators and investors are hypersensitive to even the slightest disruption in supply.

Thus we see daily attacks on facilities near Basra and in Kurdistan. The point of these bombings is not to shut down oil exportation altogether, but to make it clear that petroleum demand and supply is a fragile equation, requiring countries to pay exorbitant prices to unsavory regimes and causes, and to embrace political concessions.

NUCLEAR IRAN
Get ready for a nuclear Iran — and perhaps sooner than we think. Oil exporters don’t burn off their natural gas and then complain that they need reactors to light their streets. Only Jimmy Carter believes that. Indeed, an ideal storm has arisen that has given the Tehran theocracy unforeseen opportunities to press ahead.

The ongoing fighting in southern Iraq — astutely aided and abetted by the mullahs — gives the impression that the United States is not ready or willing to pressure the Iranians to desist. Anti-war hysteria in the United States, they assume, assures them of a temporary pass: A fragile petroleum market cannot take another Middle East war. “Preemption” and “unilateralism” are now no longer doctrines but caricatured profanities. And a Europe that appeased Saddam for cash will be outright fawning when faced with three-stage, nuclear-tipped rockets pointed at Brussels.

HE’S BACK
Michael Moore is only temporarily dormant, and, as we just saw, he is starting to froth and rumble. It has been a little while since he was in the spotlight with Fahrenheit 9/11 — a near-fatal quiet for an egomaniac of his caliber. He inaugurated the present cycle of American viciousness right after 9/11 (lamenting that Republicans were not more in evidence at the 9/11 World Trade Center) and never really stopped — calling Americans “stupid,” praising the beheaders in Iraq as “Minutemen,” and slurring Bush as a “a drunk, a thief, a possible felon, an unconvicted deserter, and a crybaby.” For the moment his presence has been trumped by the Swift-boat veterans, whose mainstream third-party ads have done more harm to Kerry than Moore’s creative slumming ever did to Bush.

But it is worse than that. Michael Moore is a greater albatross around John Kerry than any Republican ever could have wished — providing tit-for-tat exemption for outside groups on the right to emulate his methodology, but without his counterproductive, buffoonish, and repulsive antics. Moore is the Abbie Hoffman or Jerry Rubin of our times, and thus might do for John Kerry what the latter two and their followers did for Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern.

He then closes with this observation:

If Bush wins in November, and I think he will, then there will be recriminations and fury of the like we have not seen since the Right imploded after 1964. For many of us lifelong Democrats, the very sight of Michael Moore perched next to Jimmy Carter at the convention in Boston says it all — the sorry coming together of conspiratorial anti-Americanism and self-righteous appeasement.

We are not at the end of history, but rather at its new beginning. All the old truths — conventional warfare, the Atlantic alliance, petroleum-based affluence, conventional political debate, etiquette, principled disagreement, and the old populist Democratic party are coming under question. And the only thing that is clear from what will follow is that it will all be loud, messy, full of surprises — and occasionally quite scary.

Great stuff…

Posted by DaveH at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

Audio processing technology...

Very cool “out of the box” thinking on audio signal processing technology.

From an article at Tom's Hardware comes this story:

Nvidia's graphic cards may have much more to offer than simply drawing pixels on the screen: A startup company has found a way to translate audio signals into graphics, run them through the graphics card and overcome a common issue of limited audio effect processing performance in computers.

It is not unusual that professional music artists run into performance barriers even with the most powerful computers today. Multi-track recording still is a challenging and sometimes frustrating task. James Cann from BionicFX in Massachusetts however noticed that audio processing task does not have to happen just in the CPU. His Audio Video Exchange technology (AVEX) converts digital audio in graphics data and then performs effect calculations using the 3D architecture of Nvidia GPUs. Compared to the capability of just six GFlops of a typical CPU, Nvidia's chips can reach more than 40 GFlops, according to Cann.

Very cool - when using the computer for recording, you don't need to refer to the video very much and offloading the audio signal processing to the video CPU speeds up the process a lot allowing for more complex processing algorithms.

The company's website has more info and samples: BionicFX

Posted by DaveH at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2004

Zell Miller

A good commentary on Zell Miller's speech at the R.N.C. can be found on Gut Rumbles site.

Rob starts off:

Zell Miller
I didn't like Zell when he was governor of Georgia. I never voted for him and I agreed with the people who called him “Pell-Mell Zell” and “Zig-Zag Zell.” I thought he was a typical, ass-kissing politician who would do anything for a vote.

When Paul Coverdale died and that carpetbagger, Roy Barnes, appointed Zell Miller to take Paul's seat in the Senate, I was appalled. I liked Paul Coverdale a lot and I truly believed that Zell would go to Washington and become a Democrat hand-puppet the way Max Cleland did.

I was wrong.

He then quotes a short excerpt from Zell's speech:

What has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?

I can remember when Democrats believed that it was the duty of America to fight for freedom over tyranny.

It was Democratic President Harry Truman who pushed the Red Army out of Iran, who came to the aid of Greece when Communists threatened to overthrow it, who stared down the Soviet blockade of West Berlin by flying in supplies and saving the city.

Time after time in our history, in the face of great danger, Democrats and Republicans worked together to ensure that freedom would not falter. But not today.

Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.

Rob's closing comment nails it on the head:

Zell sees the seamy underbelly of the Democrat party. Democrats would rather rule a nation of slaves than be the minority party in the land of the free. I believe that such an attitude should frighten people today.

That's what the next election is all about.

Some of the comments people have left are well worth checking out too.

Good stuff…

Posted by DaveH at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2004

Fireworks Technology

There is a new technology in fireworks and this article at Disney talks about it:

These people are setting up Disneyland's “Disney's Imagine … A Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks extravaganza, and they go through the same drill more than 200 nights a year. Imagineer Mark Hollingsworth kindly allowed the Insider to view the prep for a fireworks launch, and took time out on the hot tarmac to answer our questions. That afternoon pre-launch drill has taken a change this summer, and the results are cleaner, safer … and utterly spectacular.

What's different now? The fireworks shells for Disneyland's pyrotechnics spectaculars are no longer launched by the traditional black-powder ignition, but by compressed air. Although it's a revolution in pyrotechnic technology, the air launch system is deceptively simple. The shells are loaded into long metal tubes – a whopping 330 of them – then launched by powerful blasts of air precisely timed by computer.

Neat stuff - makes a lot of sense. Higher cost in the infrastructure but the overall cost of operation is less and you get better displays. I can see mobile companies doing trucks and barges with these launcher/control systems in a few years — anyone want to start a business?

Posted by DaveH at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

Aliens?

Interesting article in The New Scientist regarding some signals from the SETI project.

Their website is being hit with a lot of traffic so I copied the entire text to the “Continue Reading - Aliens?” link below.

This would be really cool. Of course, it's a scam by Bush and all the other NeoCons to steal the election again. No war for oiiiiilllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In February 2003, astronomers involved in the search for
extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) pointed the massive radio
telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, at around 200 sections of the sky.

The same telescope had previously detected unexplained radio signals at
least twice from each of these regions, and the astronomers were trying
to reconfirm the findings. The team has now finished analysing the
data, and all the signals seem to have disappeared. Except one, which
has got stronger.

This radio signal, now seen on three separate occasions, is an enigma.
It could be generated by a previously unknown astronomical phenomenon.
Or it could be something much more mundane, maybe an artefact of the
telescope itself.

But it also happens to be the best candidate yet for a contact by
intelligent aliens in the nearly six-year history of the SETI@home
project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of
personal computers worldwide to sift through signals picked up by the
Arecibo telescope.

Absorb and emit

“It’s the most interesting signal from SETI@home,” says Dan Werthimer,
a radio astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and
the chief scientist for SETI@home. “We’re not jumping up and down, but
we are continuing to observe it.”

Named SHGb02+14a, the signal has a frequency of about 1420 megahertz.
This happens to be one of the main frequencies at which hydrogen, the
most common element in the universe, readily absorbs and emits energy.

Some astronomers have argued that extraterrestrials trying to advertise
their presence would be likely to transmit at this frequency, and SETI
researchers conventionally scan this part of the radio spectrum.

SHGb02+14a seems to be coming from a point between the constellations
Pisces and Aries, where there is no obvious star or planetary system
within 1000 light years. And the transmission is very weak.

“We are looking for something that screams out ‘artificial’,” says UCB
researcher Eric Korpela, who completed the analysis of the signal in
April. “This just doesn’t do that, but it could be because it is
distant.”

Unknown signature

The telescope has only observed the signal for about a minute in total,
which is not long enough for astronomers to analyse it thoroughly. But,
Korpela thinks it unlikely SHGb02+14a is the result of any obvious
radio interference or noise, and it does not bear the signature of any
known astronomical object.

That does not mean that only aliens could have produced it. “It may be
a natural phenomenon of a previously undreamed-of kind like I stumbled
over,” says Jocelyn Bell Burnell of the University of Bath, UK.

It was Bell Burnell who in 1967 noticed a pulsed radio signal which the
research team at the time thought was from extraterrestrials but which
turned out to be the first ever sighting of a pulsar.

There are other oddities. For instance, the signal’s frequency is
drifting by between eight to 37 hertz per second. “The signal is moving
rapidly in frequency and you would expect that to happen if you are
looking at a transmitter on a planet that’s rotating very rapidly and
where the civilisation is not correcting the transmission for the
motion of the planet,” Korpela says.

This does not, however, convince Paul Horowitz, a Harvard University
astronomer who looks for alien signals using optical telescopes. He
points out that the SETI@home software corrects for any drift in
frequency.

Fishy and puzzling

The fact that the signal continues to drift after this correction is
“fishy”, he says. “If [the aliens] are so smart, they’ll adjust their
signal for their planet’s motion.”

The relatively rapid drift of the signal is also puzzling for other
reasons. A planet would have to be rotating nearly 40 times faster than
Earth to have produced the observed drift; a transmitter on Earth would
produce a signal with a drift of about 1.5 hertz per second.

What is more, if telescopes are observing a signal that is drifting in
frequency, then each time they look for it they should most likely
encounter it at a slightly different frequency. But in the case of
SHGb02+14a, every observation has first been made at 1420 megahertz,
before it starts drifting. “It just boggles my mind,” Korpela says.

The signal could be an artefact that, for some reason, always appears
to be coming from the same point in the sky. The Arecibo telescope has
a fixed dish reflector and scans the skies by changing the position of
its receiver relative to the dish.

When the receiver reaches a certain position, it might just be able to
reflect waves from the ground onto the dish and then back to itself,
making it seem as if the signal was coming from space.

“Perhaps there is an object on the ground near the telescope emitting
at about this frequency,” Korpela says. This could be confirmed by
using a different telescope to listen for SHGb02+14a.

Possible fraud

There is also the possibility of fraud by someone hacking the SETI@home
software to make it return evidence for an extraterrestrial
transmission. However, SHGb02+14a was seen on two different occasions
by different SETI@home users, and those calculations were confirmed by
others.

Then the signal was seen a third time by the SETI@home researchers. The
unusual characteristics of the signal also make it unlikely that
someone is playing a prank, Korpela says. “As I can’t think of any way
to make a signal like this, I can’t think of any way to fake it.”

David Anderson, director of SETI@home, remains sceptical but curious
about the signal. ”It’s unlikely to be real but we will definitely be
re-observing it.” Bell Burnell agrees that it is worth persisting with.
“If they can see it four, five or six times it really begins to get
exciting,” she says.

It is already exciting for IT engineers Oliver Voelker of Logpoint in
Nuremberg, Germany and Nate Collins of Farin and Associates in Madison,
Wisconsin, who found the signal.

Collins wonders how his bosses will react to company computers finding
aliens. “I might have to explain a little further about just how much I
was using [the computers],” he says.

Posted by DaveH at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)