June 30, 2007

A list of quotes from two sources

A verbal case of pin the tail on one of two donkeys.

Check it out here:

Did Al Gore say it? Or was it the Unabomber?
Each quote below is either from Al Gore's Book Earth in the Balance or from the Unabomber's Manifesto.

Here are two samples — one is Gore, one is Kaczynski:

“Again, we must not forget the lessons of World War II. The Resistance slowed the advance of fascism and scored important victories, but fascism continued its relentless march to domination until the rest of the world finally awoke and made the difference and made the defeat of fascism its central organizing principle from 1941 through 1945.”

“It is not necessary for the sake of nature to set up some chimerical utopia or any new kind of social order. Nature takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries, many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did the effect of human society on nature become really devastating.”

So close it's an interesting insight — 12 quotes and I defy anyone to get them all identified correctly on the first go…

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Diabetic Man Found

This story is unbelievable and will probably result in a huge and justifyable lawsuit. I ran into it the first time around and didn't blog it (too busy) but am very happy that the guy has been found.

From CBS News in Atlanta:

Deputies Find Diabetic Man Kicked Off Train
Passenger Barefoot, Dehydrated, Disoriented, Deputies Say

A 65-year-old St. Louis man who went missing Sunday night after Amtrak personnel, mistaking his diabetic shock for drunk and disorderly behavior, kicked him off a train in the middle of a national forest, has been found two miles from where he was dropped off, according to police in Williams.

Police said Roosevelt Sims, a factory worker who had just retired last week, was discovered Thursday night walking along the railroad tracks barefoot by Coconino County sheriff's deputies.

Deputies said he was dehydrated and disoriented.

He was rushed to a Flagstaff hospital for emergency treatment, deputies said.

Sims headed to Los Angeles but was asked to leave the train shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday at a railroad crossing five miles outside Williams.

Amtrak personnel told police dispatchers that Sims was drunk and unruly.

The Sims family said Sims is diabetic and was going into shock.

“He was let off in the middle of a national forest, which is about 800,000 acres of beautiful pine trees,” Lt. Mike Graham said.

Police said there is no train station or running water at the crossing, which is about two miles from the nearest road, at an elevation of about 8,000 feet.

Amtrak, in a statement released late Thursday, said it followed company policy. “The conductor and the passenger waited on the platform with the passenger's luggage,” the statement said. “Upon arrival of authorities, the passenger fled into nearby woods.”

When officers arrived at the crossing, police said, they found Sims had left his luggage and medication behind.

Sims' brother, Brian Mason, said his family tried to call Sims on his cell phone that night, but he was incoherent.

Cell phone records show that Sims' phone was last used in Litchfield Park, Ariz., 180 miles from Williams.

Williams police told Phoenix television station KPHO that Amtrak has used the abandoned crossing as a drop-off site in the past. Graham said that whether drunk or not, no one should be dropped off there.

“You don't put anyone off in an area like that,” Graham said.

Words Fail…

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How not to shoplift - guns and more guns department

From the Calgary Sun:

Guns seized after shoplifting arrest
Thwarting a shoplifter ultimately led to police seizing a huge cache of firearms, including three loaded guns from a vehicle.

About 9 p.m. Monday, cops took a man into custody for shoplifting at a store in the 1800 block of 16 Ave. N.W.

The suspect directed them to a vehicle in the adjacent parking lot for his personal documentation, where police found a man and a woman with open liquor and a loaded handgun.

A further search of the vehicle unearthed another loaded handgun in the glove compartment, a loaded shotgun in the trunk and several boxes of ammunition.

The owner of the vehicle, 33-year-old David Silliker, has been charged with several weapons offences.

And because Canada is a bit of a nanny state:

Cops also seized a collection of more than 50 firearms from his Deer Run home in the city's southeast.

Staff Sgt. Kathy Grant said the latter cache was taken in the interest of public safety.

“Because he had the loaded handguns and the loaded shotguns in his vehicle, that raises suspicion, so that's why we took the extra step to seize the other ones,” she said.

“The firearms that were seized from the residence were registered, so there were no charges laid from the seizure of those.”

Fifty Firearms is not a cheap collection even if these were Saturday night specials. The cops should have known about the registered firearms as soon as they busted the guy for shoplifting, they probably went on a fishing expedition when they found out the number — “the extra step to seize the other ones” my ass…

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Busy day today

Spent the day working for the store (I did sleep in a bit after the late night). Did a cement threshold for the front door — we got some new coolers from a store nearby and the 3-door cooler was a bit under 2” too tall for the entry so I had to take the doors off and remove the casing and some framing.

Spent yesterday finishing up the framing and today doing the threshold — the original one was pretty trashed with all the delivery hand-trucks over the years and broke when I removed it. The new one is cement with rebar and should hold up just fine.

Also ran into town for some things and moved a 2-door freezer into place.

Had dinner out at a nice Italian restaurant about seven miles away.

Like I said — busy day!

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Willie Nelson blogging

Just got back from the show and it was an incredible four hours of music.

It started at 7:30 with a couple youngsters that started off with some funky folk music (acoustic except for a subdued electric bass) and box drums for percussion. The name of the band was 40 Points They played three songs and then switched to an electric format and the guitar player proceeded to shred the heavens — amazing. When he sang, the tone of his voice wasn't all that good but it did sound very reminiscent of Willies voice — same reedy Texas twang. Amazing electric guitar player though.

They announce who they are and the guitar player is Lukas Nelson. The drummer (also good) is Micah Nelson. Yup — his kids. I googled a bit when I started to write and it turns out that Lucas is all of 14 years old which explains the lack of depth in his voice…

A three-woman Canadian band then took the stage - shaye (see here and here)
The first link is to their official website where they have streaming complete tracks of their two albums — think the Dixie Chicks but not Country — sort of indie folk. Think Indigo Girls with a lot more vocal power and quality. Not to disparage Indigo Girls but the three women in shaye are classically trained and fantastic vocalists both solo and ensemble.

Finally, the stage was prepped and the lights went dark. About five minutes passed and a small electric cart with blinking lights drove over to the back of the stage and Willie and company took over for the remaining three hours.

OMFG — they were in top form. Lucas was back on stage as the electric counterbalance to Willies acoustic. I can't find a list of who was on stage with him although it was his kid sister playing piano and the harmonica was Mickey Raphael.

All in all, a wonderful evening (except for the concession food at the venue but then again, why do they call it a concession…)

Off to bed…

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June 29, 2007

On the road again...

Heading up to Canada for a Willie Nelson concert this evening.

Posting will be light if non-existent.

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June 28, 2007

A dress-code gone awry

It seems that the Federal Aviation Administration tried to instill a fairly rigid dress code for their air traffic controllers and said controllers fought back in an interesting manner…

From the Cleveland NewsNet 5:

Miffed By Dress Code, Male Air Controllers Wear Dresses
Air Controllers, FAA Joust Over Dress Code

Air-traffic controllers locked in a labor dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration are upset over a dress code and have shown their displeasure in colorful fashion.

Their union said there have a been a few occasions where male controllers complied with the letter of the guidelines by wearing dresses to work.

At the Cleveland-area air-traffic control center in Oberlin, a controller was told his aquamarine pants were, quoting now, “not gender appropriate” for a man.

The FAA said the dress code is meant to create a professional atmosphere.

When reading this article, I thought of an interesting parallel. These people's jobs are a lot like high-end software developers… Multi-variant problem solving, high stress, high precision needed.

At Microsoft, people were encouraged to outfit their office in whatever style they wanted, to dress however they wanted, to act however they wanted, just so they kept their code output to standards in quality and quantity. It works — people are happiest working in an environment of their own making and happy people are productive and accurate people.

I bet that giving controllers a bit more autonomy over their workplace decorations and dress would go a long long way to relieve some of their stress and would result in a much happier workforce. A few nerf-ball fights after a particularly bad rush would be a great tension reliever.

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A modest solution for the immigration issue

Denny at grouchy Old Cripple found a wonderful solution to the immigration problem — Mexinol

mexinol.jpg
Click for full-size Image

Heh…

Posted by DaveH at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Warning: email from Microsoft

From The Register:

Don't touch that Microsoft Security Bulletin email
Do not be tempted into opening an email with the subject line: “Microsoft Security Bulletin MS07-0065” because it is no such thing.

The email is not from Microsoft and contains a link to a webpage containing a trojan (disguised malware). The emails contain real people's names and the company they work for and looks like a genuine Microsoft email.

The mail looks pretty convincing and includes Microsoft and Windows logos. It claims that a zero-day vulnerability has been found that would allow hackers to get into machines running Outlook. The mail claims 100,000 machines have already fallen foul of the vulnerability.

There's more from Sophos here.

Nasty stuff…

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June 27, 2007

Light posting tonight

Narked out with hay fever medicine and a bit tired.

Tomorrow should be a fun day — we are visiting one of our milk producers in the afternoon and taking photos. I'll be posting them on the Crossroads Grocery website. I am planning to do a series of these on 'where our food comes from'.

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June 26, 2007

Explanation of the Recent "Strange Craft" Sightings

Someone has spent a lot of time on this web page.

Check out: Explanation of the Recent “Strange Craft” Sightings

My Experience with the CARET Program and Extra-terrestrial Technology
Isaac, June 2007

This letter is part of a package I've assembled for Coast to Coast AM to distribute to its audience. It is a companion to numerous document and photo scans and should not be separated from them.

You can call me Isaac, an alias I've chosen as a simple measure of protection while I release what would be called tremendously sensitive information even by todays standards. “Sensitive” is not necessarily synonymous with “dangerous”, though, which is why my conscience is clear as I offer this material up for the public. My government has its reasons for its continual secrecy, and I sympathize with many of them, but the truth is that I'm getting old and I'm not interested in meeting my maker one day with any more baggage than necessary!

Furthermore, I put a little more faith in humanity than my former bosses do, and I think that a release of at least some of this info could help a lot more than it could hurt, especially in today's world.

I should be clear before I begin, as a final note: I am not interested in making myself vulnerable to the consequences of betraying the trust of my superiors and will not divulge any personal information that could determine my identity. However my intent is not to deceive, so information that I think is too risky to share will be simply left out rather than obfuscated in some way (aside from my alias, which I freely admit is not my real name). I would estimate that with the information contained in this letter, I could be narrowed down to one of maybe 30-50 people at best, so I feel reasonably secure.

Some Explanation for the Recent Sightings

For many years I've occasionally considered the release of at least some of the material I possess, but the recent wave of photos and sightings has prompted me to cut to the chase and do so now.

I should first be clear that I'm not directly familiar with any of the crafts seen in the photos in their entirety. I've never seen them in a hangar or worked on them myself or seen aliens zipping around in them. However, I have worked with and seen many of the parts visible in these crafts, some of which can be seen in the Q3-85 Inventory Review scan found at the top of this page. More importantly though, I'm very familiar with the “language” on their undersides seen clearly in photos by Chad and Rajman, and in another form in the Big Basin photos.

One question I can answer for sure is why they're suddenly here. These crafts have probably existed in their current form for decades, and I can say for sure that the technology behind them has existed for decades before that. The “language”, in fact, (I'll explain shortly why I keep putting that in quotes) was the subject of my work in years past. I'll cover that as well.

The reason they're suddenly visible, however, is another matter entirely. These crafts, assuming they're anything like the hardware I worked with in the 80's (assuming they're better, in fact), are equipped with technology that enables invisibility. That ability can be controlled both on board the craft, and remotely. However, what's important in this case is that this invisibility can also be disrupted by other technology. Think of it like radar jamming. I would bet my life savings (since I know this has happened before) that these craft are becoming visible and then returning to invisibility arbitrarily, probably unintentionally, and undoubtedly for only short periods, due to the activity of a kind of disrupting technology being set off elsewhere, but nearby. I'm especially sure of this in the case of the Big Basin sightings, were the witnesses themselves reported seeing the craft just appear and disappear. This is especially likely because of the way the witness described one of the appearances being only a momentary flicker, which is consistent with the unintentional, intermittent triggering of such a device.

Check out the rest of the back-story and the “reports”
The level of detail on the models and the reports is wonderful.

pacl-q486-photo-1-fullsize.jpg

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One year ago today - RIP Rob 'Acidman' Smith

The Blogging world lost one of its luminaries a year ago today.

Check out Gutrumbles

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Nice people - University of Washington and the RIAA

From the Tacoma,WA News-Tribune:

UW will abet file-sharing lawsuits, it says
The University of Washington announced Monday a new policy about illegal music file-sharing on campus: Not only will the school not shield students from lawsuits from the recording industry, it will track them down and serve them the legal papers.

UW said it will forward notices of pending lawsuits from the Recording Industry Association of America to students who engage in illegal downloading on the university’s computer network.

The notices say offending students have 20 days to settle with the association by paying it about $3,000 to $5,000 or be taken to court without possibility of a settlement.

Eric Godfrey, vice provost for student life at the UW Seattle campus, informed students of the policy Monday through a campuswide e-mail. It said some students have letters on the way, but he was unable in a later phone interview to say how many.

The university will not pass the students’ names to the association, but it will use its server to identify them and inform them of their settlement options before they get stuck with a lawsuit, Godfrey said.

How about showing a little backbone and standing up to these thugs…

Sheesh — talk about lame

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An American Psychopath and an American Hero

Meet Curtis Allgier and an unnamed Hero. From CNN News/AP:

Arby's patron wrestles slain officer's gun from prisoner
orities said a prison inmate out for a medical appointment wrested a gun from a corrections officer and killed him Monday, then led police on a high-speed chase in a stolen sport utility vehicle before his capture at a fast-food restaurant.

Curtis Allgier, who wears a swastika and the words “skin head” on his heavily tattooed face, fired a shot in the Arby's that hit no one before a customer at the restaurant grabbed the gun, Salt Lake City police Sgt. Rich Brede said.

“It sounds like he was heroic, even though he's being humble about it,” he said of the 59-year-old customer.

Allgier, 27, was captured in an office and taken to jail to await charges.

The hero in question:

Police did not identify the customer who wrested the gun from Allgier, saying he did not want to be identified.

“Everybody's calling me a hero. I'm not a hero,” he told the TV station. “I just did what I had to do.”

And the Cop murderer:

curtis_allgier_skinhead_cop_murderer.jpg

Piece of scum…

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Big iron - logging equipment and the machines to maintain them

Ran into a wonderful website yesterday while looking for info on large machine tools. The VanNatta family has been practicing forestry for five generations and has a very broad and deep website here: VanNatta Forestry

To get some idea of their shop, check these pages out.
Serious machine-tool lust — I'm drooling…

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Interesting list of nations from Samsung

Check out the home page for finding Samsung Worldwide Service
Check out the list of countries where service is available.

Note the absense of one Nation.
Note the presence of a Nation that actually does not exist.

Samsung_no_israel_yes_pales.jpg
Click for full-size image

What you are looking for but not finding is Israel.
What you are finding but diesn't exist is Palestine.

Hat tip to Charles at LGF

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June 25, 2007

Einstein was right

A science test of perfect simplicity and amazing precision has shown that Einstein was 100% correct about the relativistic effets of Gravity on a physical object.

From Discover Magazine:

Relativity Passes Absolute Test
Exacting research finds Einstein was exactly right.

According to Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, a massive body like Earth should bend the space-time fabric of the universe, causing it to curve and flex like a trampoline supporting a bowling ball.

Nearly three years ago, NASA’s oft-canceled $750 million Gravity Probe B Relativity Mission finally shot into space with one goal—to quantify Einstein’s predictions from Earth’s orbit. Earlier this year, at the meeting of the American Physics Society, principal investigator Francis Everitt delivered the first results: Gravity Probe B has verified Einstein’s theory to within 1 percent.

Four gyroscopes, each the size of a Ping-Pong ball, form the heart of the experiment. The gyroscopes are the most perfectly spherical man-made objects in existence; if inflated to the size of Earth, they would have mountains no more than eight feet high. (Their near-faultless roundness has landed the spheres in the Guinness World Records.) At the beginning of the experiment, the gyroscopes’ axes pointed to a distant star; as the spacecraft moved around Earth for nearly a year, the researchers carefully monitored the position of the axes.

Einstein’s theory predicts that the axes should shift by a tiny amount—0.0018 degree—under the influence of Earth’s pull on space-time. After 18 months of data analysis, Everitt and his team measured the axial shift to within 1 percent of Einstein’s prediction. Everitt, a Stanford physicist who has spent more than 40 years on the project, says the results are sweet indeed. “It’s really extraordinary to look at the output and see Einstein looking back, without any calculations or corrections,” he says. “This measurement is unprecedented in any test of general relativity.”

Emphasis mine. I had originally written about this back in April 2004
The website for the project can be found here: Gravity Probe B

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A small garden in New York -- meet Harri Ramlakhan

Great profile of a fascinating person at the New York Times:

(use Bug-Me-Not to bypass registration if needed)

The Greenest Thumb
It is late April, and the days are slow for Harri Ramlakhan. He rises early, around 5 or 6 in the morning, and starts to pace around the living room of the apartment in Stapleton, Staten Island, where he lives with one of his five sons. For most of the day, Mr. Ramlakhan wears sweat pants and rubber sandals. Sometimes he wanders into the kitchen to chomp on handfuls of dried chilies and fenugreek seeds.

In the afternoon, maybe earlier if the sun is shining especially bright, he ducks out into the front yard to check on his plants. There, in rows of white plastic pots, are small green buds of vegetables in every variety: hot peppers, long beans, string beans, two kinds of squash.

If, as its practitioners are fond of claiming, gardening is the slowest-moving fine art, Mr. Ramlakhan is its Jackson Pollock, grumbly and cocksure, producing brilliant work while alienating many of those who could appreciate it. At age 68, he is perhaps New York’s most talented urban gardener, consistently dominating annual city-sponsored competitions in categories like longest squash and best-tasting tomato.

He joined his first community garden in New York four years ago and quickly developed a reputation as something of a gruff and self-aggrandizing character, the kind of gardener who is liable to chase you out of his plot with a machete if he sees you nosing around.

Mr. Ramlakhan dismisses much of this talk as merely the signs of jealousy.

He has bounced from garden to garden in recent years — he lasted two seasons at his first garden, in Far Rockaway not far from Kennedy Airport, and he spent last year at a small plot in a garden on Lakeview Boulevard in South Jamaica, Queens. But during these slow days of April, as he awaits word from the city’s community garden officials on his request to plant in a larger space than he had last year, he is a gardener without a home.

A bit more:

On a September afternoon three years ago, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Harvest Fair, an urban homage to the county fair held at the end of every summer, was in full swing. It was Mr. Ramlakhan’s first year with a plot in a Green Thumb garden, and he brought so much produce that one of his sons had to give him a ride. By the end of the day, he had amassed 12 first-prize ribbons, and in doing so, he established his reputation within New York’s close-knit world of community gardening.

“There’s something sort of mystical about him,” says Cara Monaco, the outreach coordinator for Green Thumb. “It’s like he’s a vegetable guru.”

The following year, 2005, Mr. Ramlakhan had nine first-place winners. Last year, he entered six vegetables in the contest and took home six first prizes: longest squash, longest bean, largest okra, largest eggplant, heaviest tomato and best-tasting tomato.

Looks to be quite the character:

Harri_Ramlakhan_01.jpg

Harri_Ramlakhan_02.jpg

It's a three page story worth reading for a fascinating character study.

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A bit of cool discovery near the house...

You may know that I am having a lot of fun learning blacksmithing. Being able to make something nice from just a chunk of raw metal is pure magic to me still and looking at photos of some of the masters, I realize that as much as I am “getting there” I still have a long long long way to go…

I use a propane forge that I built myself (the other cool thing is that you start with an anvil and a few tools and you then proceed to make any other tool you need — customized to fit you and your work habits.) but I want to build a coal forge as there are things that coal can do that propane cannot.

The only problem is the source of good coal. There is a farrier's shop in Everett about an hour or so drive to my south (a very fun place to visit) but they only have the very soft eastern Washington Bituminous — OK but not optimal. I knew that there was coal mining near where we live as well as the huge mine in Bellingham and a friend of mine turned me on to the fact that there was a large tailings pile accessible to my 4X4 truck. I revisited it today and spent some time wandering around — there is more coal than I will ever use in several lifetimes and it is a very nice hard shiny Anthracite!!!

Some interesting development has been going on at the site too:

coal_mine_near_house.jpg

coal_mine_near_house_sk8_park.jpg

Some people have been grading it, bringing in a few traffic barriers and building quite the nice skate park! Cool! The coal tailings extend for quite a ways into the brush so I can continue to harvest without disturbing their space.

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Driving through a cornfield

driving_through_a_cornfield.jpg

Crop circle done by a drunken alien?

No — from the UK Metro:

Driver comes a cropper in police chase
May look like the latest aliens to land on our planet have been drinking and driving, but these bizarre patterns, discovered in a corn field in Holland, have a much more mundane explanation.

They were made by a drug user who was attempting to escape from police in his father's car. The man had been using cocaine.

Four police cars were damaged in a desperate attempt to prevent the crazed driver from reaching public roads, but they could not save the crop from irrepairable damage.

In the end, the man was captured when he crashed the car into a ditch.

Some nasty fines for that — corn is quite the pricey crop these days…

Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

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June 24, 2007

Minimal posting last few days

Reality has intruded — in a very pleasant manner…

Yesterday, we had about ten people over for our annual Solstice party. Fed them a couple tri-tip roasts and some sweet corn and some of the guests brought the side dishes so the food was really good.

Had a large bonfire after that so everyone sat around the fire drinking cider and shooting the shit.

I got up this morning and set up our booth at the Farmer's Market, Jen came by for lunch and I got home around 3:30. It was sprinkling lightly at the market and then the heavens opened up around 4:30 with hail and then thunder and lightning. A great show! Snow level is around 4,000 so the tips of our valley have a nice dusting of white stuff…

I am needing to work on some web design for a local non-profit and answer several days worth of emails (been ignoring that as well).

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June 23, 2007

Now it's Chinese Cars

China is not having a very good year — first it's contaminated food, then it's toy recalls. Now it's their cars. From the AutoBlog:

In German crash test, China's Brilliance BS6 sedan fails miserably
China's Brilliance BS6 is a recent entry into the European market, positioned as a premium-style import sedan at a budget price. Well, after seeing the videos of the car undergoing crash testing using Euro NCAP guidelines at the ADAC (Germany's AAA, essentially) test center, one thing's certain: buyers get what they pay for. The BS6, as currently constructed, appears to a complete piece of crap. The horrifying 40 mph offset frontal crash test video shows damage that can be described as catastrophic at best. The A-pillar collapses and folds up like a cheap suitcase, forcing the driver's door to pop largely out of its frame, while the lower portion of the car buckles like it's made of recycled pop cans. We wouldn't want to be the driver's legs…or any other part of him for that matter. To open the mangled door afterwards, the ADAC techs needed to use a huge crowbar to get it to budge. ADAC notes that the pedals intruded a foot and a half (32 cm) into the driver's space, while the IP moved in almost 8 inches (20 cm). Needless to say, the BS6 failed the test, garnering just 1 star.

And it's not just this brand:

Jiangling Motors' Landwind SUV failed the same test in even more spectacular fashion

The above two links are to YouTube videos of the crash test. Pretty amazingly bad…

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June 22, 2007

Dumb Criminal -- cellphone answering

If you steal a car that has a cell phone in it, don't answer it if it rings.
Even more, don't think that it's a buddy of yours and talk about what you are doing…
From icLiverpool comes the sad story of Christopher Croston — a moke with a little brain:

Exposed: Merseyside's stupidest criminal
A quick-thinking policeman caught a stupid robber – by calling him on the mobile he had just stolen.

Detective Sergeant Dave Keegan pretended to be a friend of dozy Christopher Croston and talked him into the arms of waiting officers with a series of calls.

Det Sgt Keegan knew he had got his man when Croston started their final conversation: “Hiya mate. I can’t talk right now. I’m with the bizzies.”

The 24-year-old had smashed his way into the security booth at Bootle’s Rolls- Royce complex in January, attacked a guard and stole his phone and car.

It was the second time Croston, of Chester Avenue, Netherton, had raided the site that month.

He is now serving six-and-a-half years in jail for robbery, while Det Sgt Keegan has been given a commendation by his chief constable.

When the detective of 26 years’ experience arrived at the robbery scene he tried the guard’s mobile and it was answered.

He said: “I knew who it was and pretended to be the victim and said I was from the same estate as him.

Estate is neighborhood.

“I threw in a few local landmarks and soon he was telling me he knew me under my false name and he was sorry because he would never rob from one of his own.

“He and his accomplice were so drunk they crashed the guard’s car and decided to get a train to Liverpool. They got the wrong train and ended up heading to Southport.”

Det Sgt Keegan kept up with the progress of his new “friend” in more conversations before directing colleagues to arrest him at Hillside station in the town.

“Using what he told me, I directed the officers to him and when they had him I was asked to ring the phone one last time.

“Croston picked up and said ‘Hiya mate. I can’t talk right now. I’m with the bizzies.’ We knew then we had the right man.”

Bizzies are the police.

Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “This was a fantastic piece of work.”

Absolutely! And one less bit of genetic pond-scum on the streets — for a few years anyway…

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Light posting tonight as well

Friday is when I go into town for the “big” buying run for Crossroads Grocery (there is a smaller Tuesday run that our manager does.) Got back to the store, unloaded, dropped some folding tables off for a local garage sale tomorrow and then went to dinner. It's 10:18PM and I can finally kick back and surf a bit. Long day but a fun one — I love shopping and love food; running the grocery store is a real treat.

The upshot is that I am going to surf a bit, post anything interesting I find and then toddle off to bed — tomorrow is just as full if not fuller — Solstice party (expecting 20-30 people), bonfire and campout at our farm.

Posted by DaveH at 10:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

An incredible driving record

Meet Australian Luke Dodd — holder of one of the more auspicious driving records. NOT

From the AU Herald-Sun:

Is he our worst P-plate driver?
P-PLATER Luke Dodd has one of the worst driving records in Victoria's history.

But that did not stop the 24-year-old, who has 61 convictions for driving while disqualified and 71 for stealing cars, getting behind the wheel after drinking and smashing head-on into a car driven by a mother with four children.

A court heard Dodd had a blood-alcohol reading of .066 when he lost control of his Ford ute and crashed into an oncoming Mazda MPV, which was a write-off.

The mother and her children, who were on their way to Salvation Army band practice, escaped unhurt.

Despite his shocking history — committed before he had a licence — Dodd was fined just $500 yesterday and his licence was cancelled for a minimum of six months.

A P plate is a license plate with a large red letter P which is issued to new drivers over 18 years (under 18 you get an L plate for Learner). It is also issued to people who have been convicted of certain traffic violations. More at The Daily Telegraph.

I am amazed that this moke is still on the road, let alone not doing some hard prison time. Talk about psychopath.

Posted by DaveH at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Minimal posting tonight

Was in town today and working on some other stuff this evening.

I'll post a bit, just not as much…

Posted by DaveH at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

Reading the mud

An interesting thought regarding Global Warming
Maybe we should move back to that Global Cooling trope of the 1970's

From the Canadian Financial Post:

Read the sunspots
The mud at the bottom of B.C. fjords reveals that solar output drives climate change - and that we should prepare now for dangerous global cooling

Politicians and environmentalists these days convey the impression that climate-change research is an exceptionally dull field with little left to discover. We are assured by everyone from David Suzuki to Al Gore to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that “the science is settled.” At the recent G8 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel even attempted to convince world leaders to play God by restricting carbon-dioxide emissions to a level that would magically limit the rise in world temperatures to 2C.

The fact that science is many years away from properly understanding global climate doesn't seem to bother our leaders at all. Inviting testimony only from those who don't question political orthodoxy on the issue, parliamentarians are charging ahead with the impossible and expensive goal of “stopping global climate change.” Liberal MP Ralph Goodale's June 11 House of Commons assertion that Parliament should have “a real good discussion about the potential for carbon capture and sequestration in dealing with carbon dioxide, which has tremendous potential for improving the climate, not only here in Canada but around the world,” would be humorous were he, and even the current government, not deadly serious about devoting vast resources to this hopeless crusade.

Climate stability has never been a feature of planet Earth. The only constant about climate is change; it changes continually and, at times, quite rapidly. Many times in the past, temperatures were far higher than today, and occasionally, temperatures were colder. As recently as 6,000 years ago, it was about 3C warmer than now. Ten thousand years ago, while the world was coming out of the thousand year long “Younger Dryas” cold episode, temperatures rose as much as 6C in a decade — 100 times faster than the past century's 0.6C warming that has so upset environmentalists.

Now that this has been set up, here is the scientific technique:

My research team began to collect and analyze core samples from the bottom of deep Western Canadian fjords. The regions in which we chose to conduct our research, Effingham Inlet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and in 2001, sounds in the Belize-Seymour Inlet complex on the mainland coast of British Columbia, were perfect for this sort of work. The topography of these fjords is such that they contain deep basins that are subject to little water transfer from the open ocean and so water near the bottom is relatively stagnant and very low in oxygen content. As a consequence, the floors of these basins are mostly lifeless and sediment layers build up year after year, undisturbed over millennia.

Using various coring technologies, we have been able to collect more than 5,000 years' worth of mud in these basins, with the oldest layers coming from a depth of about 11 metres below the fjord floor. Clearly visible in our mud cores are annual changes that record the different seasons: corresponding to the cool, rainy winter seasons, we see dark layers composed mostly of dirt washed into the fjord from the land; in the warm summer months we see abundant fossilized fish scales and diatoms (the most common form of phytoplankton, or single-celled ocean plants) that have fallen to the fjord floor from nutrient-rich surface waters. In years when warm summers dominated climate in the region, we clearly see far thicker layers of diatoms and fish scales than we do in cooler years. Ours is one of the highest-quality climate records available anywhere today and in it we see obvious confirmation that natural climate change can be dramatic. For example, in the middle of a 62-year slice of the record at about 4,400 years ago, there was a shift in climate in only a couple of seasons from warm, dry and sunny conditions to one that was mostly cold and rainy for several decades.

Using computers to conduct what is referred to as a “time series analysis” on the colouration and thickness of the annual layers, we have discovered repeated cycles in marine productivity in this, a region larger than Europe. Specifically, we find a very strong and consistent 11-year cycle throughout the whole record in the sediments and diatom remains. This correlates closely to the well-known 11-year “Schwabe” sunspot cycle, during which the output of the sun varies by about 0.1%. Sunspots, violent storms on the surface of the sun, have the effect of increasing solar output, so, by counting the spots visible on the surface of our star, we have an indirect measure of its varying brightness. Such records have been kept for many centuries and match very well with the changes in marine productivity we are observing.

And a bit more — proxy corroboration:

Our finding of a direct correlation between variations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate indicators (called “proxies”) is not unique. Hundreds of other studies, using proxies from tree rings in Russia's Kola Peninsula to water levels of the Nile, show exactly the same thing: The sun appears to drive climate change.

However, there was a problem. Despite this clear and repeated correlation, the measured variations in incoming solar energy were, on their own, not sufficient to cause the climate changes we have observed in our proxies. In addition, even though the sun is brighter now than at any time in the past 8,000 years, the increase in direct solar input is not calculated to be sufficient to cause the past century's modest warming on its own. There had to be an amplifier of some sort for the sun to be a primary driver of climate change.

Indeed, that is precisely what has been discovered. In a series of groundbreaking scientific papers starting in 2002, Veizer, Shaviv, Carslaw, and most recently Svensmark et al., have collectively demonstrated that as the output of the sun varies, and with it, our star's protective solar wind, varying amounts of galactic cosmic rays from deep space are able to enter our solar system and penetrate the Earth's atmosphere. These cosmic rays enhance cloud formation which, overall, has a cooling effect on the planet. When the sun's energy output is greater, not only does the Earth warm slightly due to direct solar heating, but the stronger solar wind generated during these “high sun” periods blocks many of the cosmic rays from entering our atmosphere. Cloud cover decreases and the Earth warms still more.

The opposite occurs when the sun is less bright. More cosmic rays are able to get through to Earth's atmosphere, more clouds form, and the planet cools more than would otherwise be the case due to direct solar effects alone. This is precisely what happened from the middle of the 17th century into the early 18th century, when the solar energy input to our atmosphere, as indicated by the number of sunspots, was at a minimum and the planet was stuck in the Little Ice Age. These new findings suggest that changes in the output of the sun caused the most recent climate change. By comparison, CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet's climate on long, medium and even short time scales.

And one last excerpt:

Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada. As a country at the northern limit to agriculture in the world, it would take very little cooling to destroy much of our food crops, while a warming would only require that we adopt farming techniques practiced to the south of us.

Meantime, we need to continue research into this, the most complex field of science ever tackled, and immediately halt wasted expenditures on the King Canute-like task of “stopping climate change.”

Hey — remember Dr. Chad Dick? He was the guy I wrote about in this post in March 09, 2005

His thoughts are in this article in The Scotsman basically:

Polar history shows melting ice-cap may be a natural cycle
The melting of sea ice at the North Pole may be the result of a centuries-old natural cycle and not an indicator of man-made global warming, Scottish scientists have found.

After researching the log-books of Arctic explorers spanning the past 300 years, scientists believe that the outer edge of sea ice may expand and contract over regular periods of 60 to 80 years. This change corresponds roughly with known cyclical changes in atmospheric temperature.

The finding opens the possibility that the recent worrying changes in Arctic sea ice are simply the result of standard cyclical movements, and not a harbinger of major climate change.

The amount of sea ice is currently near its lowest point in the cycle and should begin to increase within about five years.

As a result, Dr Chad Dick, a Scottish scientist working at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso, believes the next five to ten years will be a critical period in our understanding of sea ice and the impact, if any, of long-term global warming.

The next few years should be really interesting — I just hope that the USA and Canada don't paint themselves into too much of a legislative and taxation corner over something that is a matter of opinion but not of quantitative scientific proof.

Posted by DaveH at 11:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An SR-72 in the works?

Jen and I both love the SR-71 Blackbird. It is a perfect airplane for the job. I remember seeing an interview of one of it's engineers after the plane was retired from service and he said that 30 years later, if they had to design an airplane to match the SR-71, it would look exactly like the SR-71; even with the 30 years advancement in technology.

Well, it looks like Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works may be tooling up for it's replacement — the SR-72. From AirForce Times:

An SR-72 in the works?
years after the Air Force retired the SR-71 spy plane, Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works appears to be back at work developing a new Mach-6 reconnaissance plane, sources said.

The Air Force has awarded Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects arm a top-secret contract to develop a stealthy 4,000-mph plane capable of flying to altitudes of about 100,000 feet, with transcontinental range. The plan is to debut the craft around 2020.

The new jet — being referred to by some as the SR-72 — is likely to be unmanned and, while intended for reconnaissance, could eventually trade its sensors for weapons.

The new aircraft would offer a combination of speed, altitude and stealth that could make it virtually impervious to ground-based missiles, sources said. Even the SR-71 is said to have evaded hundreds of missiles fired at it during its long career, although some aircraft sustained minor damage.

But experts say enormous challenges remain. First, the SR-71’s top speed was about 2,200 mph. Pushing a plane at twice that speed in the thin air of the upper stratosphere would require exceptionally powerful engines. Second, friction at high speeds could reduce stealth.

“An aircraft with these characteristics could prove a potent response to anti-satellite weapons,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. “If U.S. reconnaissance satellites were lost, an SR-72 could get to areas of interest quickly and provide persistent surveillance in place of the satellite.”

And don’t bother asking the Air Force or Skunk Works executives about their work. None is commenting.

“As a matter of policy, we don’t talk about classified programs — whether or not they exist,” Lockheed’s Tom Jurkowsky said.

Nope — nuttin' to see here folks, just keep movin' along…

I love it! Can't wait for the first 'leaked' pictures.
I love that they are considering unmanned — it would be incredible to be a pilot on something this hot but the trade-offs are much better. You can fly closer to a point of interest without worrying about protecting the pilot. If the plane gets hit, it can self-destruct, pilots can be captured and held for political gain.

Posted by DaveH at 11:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Grail?

It was a known artifact (although not known if it actually was Christ's cup) and it disappeared 258AD. An archaeologist has traced it to a Church in Rome built in the 6th Century.

From The Telegraph:

Archaeologist sparks hunt for Holy Grail
An archaeologist has sparked a Da Vinci Code-style hunt for the Holy Grail after claiming ancient records show it is buried under a 6th century church in Rome.

The cup - said to have been used by Christ at the Last Supper - is the focus of countless legends and has been sought for centuries.

Alfredo Barbagallo, an Italian archaeologist, claims that it is buried in a chapel-like room underneath the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, one of the seven churches which Christian pilgrims used to visit when they came to Rome.

Mr Barbagallo based his claim on two years spent studying mediaeval iconography inside the basilica and a description of a particular chamber, in a guide to the catacombs written in 1938 by a Capuchin friar named Giuseppe Da Bra.

The friar describes a room of about 20 square metres with a vaulted roof ceiling. “In the corner of a wall-seat there can be seen a terracotta funnel whose lower part opens out over the face of a skeleton,” he wrote.

Da Bra then explains that giving liquid refreshment (refrigerium) to the dead was part of ancient funeral rites.

According to Mr Barbagallo, who heads an association called Arte e Mistero [Art and Mystery], this funnel is the Grail.

He also points out to several beautiful mosaics and frescos in the basilica which feature images of the sacred cup.

The article also has a 'graph about the last known history:

In 258 AD, during a phase of Christian persecution, Pope Sixtus V reportedly entrusted the treasures of the early Church to a deacon called Lawrence, Lorenzo in Italian. This deacon was martyred four days later and since then no one has ever seen the Grail.

Opening the catacombs should be a fairly simple task with today's technologies — autonomous robots, ground penetrating radar, etc…

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

Chinese progress

Guess who is the #1 CO2 emitter.
From The Guardian:

China overtakes US as world's biggest CO2 emitter
China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, figures released today show.

The surprising announcement will increase anxiety about China's growing role in driving man-made global warming and will pile pressure onto world politicians to agree a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy. China's emissions had not been expected to overtake those from the US, formerly the world's biggest polluter, for several years, although some reports predicted it could happen as early as next year.

But according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, soaring demand for coal to generate electricity and a surge in cement production have helped to push China's recorded emissions for 2006 beyond those from the US already. It says China produced 6,200m tonnes of CO2 last year, compared with 5,800m tonnes from the US. Britain produced about 600m tonnes.

And I bet this number is even higher. They are tracking commercial power plants and large factories — many people still heat and cook with coal and there are a lot of small “cottage industries” that have high energy consumption — foundries and forges, etc…

Posted by DaveH at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Congressional ratings sink to the bottom.

On May 11th, 2007 I posted that the Congress and the President shared the same level of voter approval - 35%

Today, a Gallup Poll came out that has Congress at a 14% Voter Approval. From USA Today:

New Gallup data show confidence in Congress at all time low
Just 14% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.

This 14% Congressional confidence rating is the all-time low for this measure, which Gallup initiated in 1973. The previous low point for Congress was 18% at several points in the period of time 1991 to 1994.

Congress is now nestled at the bottom of the list of Gallup's annual Confidence in Institutions rankings, along with HMOs. Just 15% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in HMOs. (By way of contrast, 69% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military, which tops the list. More on this at galluppoll.com on Thursday).

Where is that transparency and non-partisanship that we were promised…

Posted by DaveH at 09:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And you thought you had problems at work

Go to Mostly Cajun and read this story

Ouch!

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

What a way to go - Jörg Immendorff

My sinuses bleed just thinking about it.
From the UK Telegraph:

Jörg Immendorff
Jörg Immendorff, who died on Monday aged 61, was Germany's best-known and most provocative artist, a close friend of the former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and, in 2003, the central figure in a sex scandal involving prostitutes and cocaine-fuelled orgies at a luxury hotel.

In what became known as the Orgy of the Year, Immendorff was discovered naked having his nipples licked by a retinue of seven young filles de joie, while 11 grams of cocaine lay ready for consumption on a Versace ashtray nearby.
Posted by DaveH at 01:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2007

Fucking Brilliant!

My geek-o-meter just pegged and bent the needle.

Do you want to derive a 3D model of an object?
Do you want to do this cheaply?

If yes — check this out — take one webcam, an open source software plugin for a cheap gaming engine, a pan and some milk and a teaspoon.

Here is the video from YouTube: milkscanner-3d
Here is the website: Hack A Day
Here is the software used: Movie Sand Box
The Game Engine: Unreal Technology

Couple of nits — it can't do undercuts, surface tension, Z Axis linearity but still, what I said — Fucking Brilliant!

Posted by DaveH at 10:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dad of the year - 9/11 edition

An amazing story — from the NY Daily News:

Get yer hands off 9/11 victim cash, she tells deadbeat ex
The mother of a Sept. 11 victim is trying to prevent her son's absentee father from trying to collect half of the $2.9 million awarded by the Victim Compensation Fund, the Daily News has learned.

Elsie Goss-Caldwell will be petitioning a Brooklyn Surrogate's Court judge tomorrow to keep her ex-husband from financially benefiting from the death of a son that she said he had little contact with for 28 years.

“This is not about money, this is about respect for my son,” said Goss-Caldwell. “How dare you try to profit from this? How dare you disrespect him?”

Kenneth Caldwell, 30, had been living in Brooklyn and worked as a technology representative for Alliance Consulting, whose offices were on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center's north tower.

After the first plane struck his building, he managed a quick call to his mother before the phone line went dead.

“He said, 'Mom, I just want to let you know that I love you, but I've got to get of here,'” said Goss-Caldwell, who owns a small notary business in Philadelphia. “He was such a nice young man, very funny, and very well-loved.”

Kenneth Caldwell's remains were never found. He was single at the time of his death and left no will, so his mother was appointed the administrator of his estate, according to her lawyer, Paul Bschorr.

But Kenneth's death prompted his father, Leon Caldwell, to try to reenter the life of his ex-wife, whom he had divorced in 1979 and not seen since 1984.

“This is a craven and disgraceful attempt to profit from the death of his son whom he abandoned at age 2,” said Bschorr. “This woman raised her sons by herself and she deserves the full award.”

Leon Caldwell received half of his son's $50,000 workers' compensation payment but immediately had to use $12,000 of it for child support because he had not been sending $30-a-week payments to his former spouse, Bschorr said.

“He was never there for my boys, physically, emotionally or financially,” said Goss-Caldwell. “And it's so hurtful that he's trying to come back now just for the money.”

Leon Campbell did not return calls for comment.

Hey Leon — there is a special place in hell waiting for you.

Posted by DaveH at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fun and games - carjacking edition

What a maroon… Couple mokes try to carjack but find they cannot drive a stickshift.

From WXIA-TV Atlanta:

Carjackers Unable To Swipe Stick Shift
Remember the movie “The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight?” Now, meet “The Carjacking Crew That Couldn't Drive.” A couple of teens jumped a person leaving work at an east Cobb pizzeria. They tried to steal his car, but couldn't.

Bellacino's Pizzeria closes at 9 p.m. That's when one of the employees left work out a back door, where his car was parked. He was approached by two teens armed with a gun, who demanded his wallet and his car keys.

The employee wisely gave both up.

The suspect jumped into the victim's car, but he couldn't get it started, because it didn't have an automatic transmission. It was a standard shift with a clutch pedal.

The victim ran back into the pizzeria and called police. After a few minutes, other employees opened the back door expecting the criminals to be gone.

“And I look out, and the guy's still in his car, trying to start the car, but all he has is the radio on, 'cause you have to keep the clutch down to start the engine,” said pizzeria employee J.J. Williamson.

Frustration turned to resignation, and the suspects left the scene in a more conventional way — they ran. But not fast enough before Cobb police arrested Joshua Johnson, 18, and a juvenile.

Such nice people…

Posted by DaveH at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dispatches from the front

Michael Yon is an embedded journalist working independently and he is providing some of the best feet-on-the-ground reporting on events in Iraq.

Things are building up to one of the major attacks in iraq since the conflict began. Michael is there.

Read: Be not afraid

Be Not Afraid
Thoughts flow on the eve of a great battle. By the time these words are released, we will be in combat. Few ears have heard even rumors of this battle, and fewer still are the eyes that will see its full scope. Even now—the battle has already begun for some—practically no news about it is flowing home. I’ve known of the secret plans for about a month, but have remained silent.

This campaign is actually a series of carefully orchestrated battalion and brigade sized battles. Collectively, it is probably the largest battle since “major hostilities” ended more than four years ago. Even the media here on the ground do not seem to have sensed its scale.

Al Qaeda and associates had little or no presence in Iraq before the current war. But we made huge mistakes early on and are pumping blood and gold into the region to pay for those blunders. When we failed to secure the streets and to restore the stability needed to get Iraq on its feet, we sowed doubt and mistrust. When we disbanded the government and the army, and tolerated corruption and ineptitude in reconstruction, we created a vacuum and filled the ranks of an insurgency-hydra with mostly local talent. But when we flattened parts of Fallujah not once, but twice, primarily in response to the murders of four of our people, we helped create a spectacle of injustice and chaos, the very conditions in which Al Qaeda thrives.

There is no particular spark, no single bolt of lightning, errant campfire or careless cigarette flicked out a window that caused this conflagration. We walked into a dry, cracked land, where the two arteries of Mesopotamia have long pulsed water and blood through scorched lands into the sea. In a place where everything that is not already desert is tinder, sparks tend to catch fire.

When we eviscerated Fallujah, Al Qaeda, who had not been here before, swarmed in and grew like a tumor. There were many insurgent groups already infecting Iraq with many conflicting ideologies and goals, and just as many opportunistic thugs, and some that only needed the band aids and aspirin of open markets and electricity and a feeling of normality. But Al Qaeda has been trying to start a civil war here for several years; chaos speeds the decay they feed on.

During about the first three months of 2005, when I was in Diyala Province (whose capital is Baquba) I first wrote that Iraq was in Civil War. I felt the backlash from that throughout 2005-2006, and worse, we all watched the sad unfolding of greater and greater lies until now, in 2007, when the civil war is systemically toxic.

Today Al Qaeda (AQ) is strong, but their welcome is tenuous in some regions as many Iraqis grow weary enough of the violence that trails them to forcibly evict AQ from some areas they’d begun to feel at home in. Meanwhile, our military, having adapted from eager fire-starting to more measured firefighting, after coming in so ham-fisted early on, has found agility in the new face of this war. Not lost on the locals was the fact that the Coalition wasn’t alone in failing to keep the faith of its promises to Iraqis.

Whereas we failed with the restoration of services and government, AQ has raped too many women and boys in Anbar Province, and cut-off too many heads everywhere else for anyone here to believe their claims of moral superiority. And they don’t even try to get the power going or keep the markets open or build schools, playgrounds and clinics for the children. In addition to destroying all of these resources, and murdering the Iraqis who work at or patronize them, AQ attacks people in mosques and churches, too. Thus, to those listening into the wind, an otherwise imperceptible tang in the atmosphere signals the time for change is at hand.

We can dissect our Civil War, or World War II or Vietnam, but there is no way to dissect the current war. Only the residue of those prior wars remains with us today—the scars and headstones, memorial statues, history books, and national boundaries. We only dissect that which is dead. Pathologists who autopsy those wars can no longer affect the outcomes. There is little left to the corpse of a war, but the sculptors of history take the clay and give it shape and substance. But even the most masterful among the artisans—Michelangelo himself—chipping and slicing at marble from Carrara, could not breathe life into the statue of David. Twice I stood in Florence, staring up at David, clad only in his slingshot, the rock with which he would change history cupped in his hand.

This is only a fraction of the article — excellent excellent writing…

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for the link.

Posted by DaveH at 09:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Now, *that's* a margarita maker...

Definitely high high geekdom on this project.
From BoingBoing comes this Magnificent Margarita Maker:

Now, that's a margarita maker…
sarapooh's uncle Don is a bit of a tinkerer.

So, when you've got a small-block 400, a trailer, assorted parts and the ability to custom fabricate a 6-inch tall replica of a blender blade out of stainless steel, what do you do with your spare time?

Make the world's fastest margarita machine.

Add: 6 bags of ice, and 18 bottles of ready-to-drink margarita mix. Turn ignition, and rev engine for 10 to 20 seconds. Open valve and enjoy.

magnificent_margarita_maker.jpg

A true thing of beauty…

Posted by DaveH at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

great rant on Bossy Britain

It must be utter hell living in a large city over there.
From The Guardian:

The sheer hell of bossy Britain
Last month, the public address system at Earl's Court tube station in London was served with a noise abatement order. Passengers, it seems, had had enough of being told the blindingly obvious. “They come over with these bizarre messages that you would know already unless you were simple,” says Peter Wakeham, director of the Noise Abatement Society. “'Stand back or the train will run you over.' 'Don't lean on the doors.' 'Stand back from the opening doors.' 'Mind the gap.' 'Do this.' 'Don't do that.' We don't need to be told so many obvious things in these deafening ways. It's not rocket science.”

There are reports that some London Underground staff have sensibly decided to satirise the bossy pointlessness of their colleagues' PA announcements. According to passenger website Going Underground, commuters at Holborn station waiting to board a train were recently told: “This is a train. Get on it. Go home. See you Monday.”

Very funny. But don't any of these people realise that I can't savour the cadences of Milton's Paradise Lost on public transport any more because of the wittering of bossyboots and their satirists? If only the station staff, guards, drivers, buffet stewards, airline pilots, cabin crew and every other blowhard wo uld stop grabbing the intercom and telling me about every little thing going on in their lives, not to mention every little thing they think I should be doing, then perhaps I might find out what Satan whispered to Eve that blighted human life subsequently. Please be quiet!

Bossiness is not just aural. It is also written. As a straphanging commuter, I'm continually bombarded by notices on carriage walls. Please take your feet off the seat. Please move inside the carriage. Please turn down your personal stereo. And when I drive past my local primary, a sign flashes: “School. Slow down!” A few years ago, that sign would have consisted of a warning triangle featuring skipping children and one word: “School”. The presumption was that once you were informed that you were nearing a high concentration of small humans in a machine of motorised death, you would need no more information before slowing down.

Now the presumption from our sign tsars is that Britons must have every last thing spelled out because we are uncivilised scum who were raised by wolves. No doubt, some of us were. After all, some of us had to be told not to urinate or wash our dogs in Diana's memorial fountain. As a result, our streets teem with fatuous, ugly signage and counterproductive verbosity. If you need to be told what should be evident, no amount of flashing signs and noisy injunctions will help you.

And Stuart Jeffries is just getting started… Heh…

Posted by DaveH at 08:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Now it's toys from China - will this not stop?

It's not just food anymore, now we have to worry about kids toys made in China.
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Chinese toys: A recall scare
Popular train sets are the latest target of safety action by U.S.

Every one of the 24 toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas and Friends wooden train sets, was manufactured in China, a record that is increasingly causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.

The latest recall, announced last week, involves 1.5 million Thomas and Friends trains and rail sets — or about 4 percent of all those sold in the United States over the past two years — that were coated at a factory in China with potentially poisonous lead paint.

In just last past month, a so-called Floating Eyeballs toy made in China was recalled after it was found to be filled with kerosene, sets of toy drums and a toy bear were recalled because of lead paint and an infant wrist rattle was recalled because of a choking hazard.

Combined with the recent scares related to Chinese-made pet food, and globally about Chinese-made pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, the string of toy recalls is inspiring demands for stepped-up enforcement of toy safety by U.S. regulators and importers, as well as the government and industry in China.

24 toy recalls and each and every one of them was for a toy manufactured in China. It's not just toys either:

The number of products made in China that are being recalled in the United States by the Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled in the last five years, driving the overall number of recalls in the country to a record level.

It has meant that China today is responsible for about 60 percent of the overall product recalls, compared with 36 percent in 2000.

That's overall products, not just toys. Makes you want to look very closely at the nation of origin label on anything you buy or own…

Posted by DaveH at 07:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Percy Spencer's Brother - also an inventor

I had written about the father of the Microwave Oven earlier today. Turns out his brother invented something that is in most home appliances and on most motors.

Meet John Alby Spencer — inventor of theSpencer Disk:

The Spencer Disc is a unique thermal element.
It is different from all other thermal elements in that it is inherently snap-acting.

It has been used for over thirty years in KLIXON Thermostats, which are manufactured by Spencer Thermostat Division of Metals & Controls Corporation, located in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

To date millions of KLIXON Thermostats have been manufactured and successfully used in all manner of temperature control applications.

Inevitably, people everywhere ask, “What is the Spencer Disc? How was it invented? How is it used?”

It is the purpose of this booklet to provide the answers to these questions.

This is a typically American success story that begins with a door in a furnace and an alert boy.

The story opens many years ago in a clothespin mill in northern Maine. The boy was fifteen. His job was a tough one - fireman for a wood-burning steam boiler that powered the machinery.

Clothespin machinery requires a lot of steady power and because the boiler was fired with waste chips and wood shavings from the manufacturing operations, the young fellow had to move fast to maintain a sufficient head of steam pressure in the boiler.

One day he began to puzzle over something he had noticed. Why was it, he wondered, that when the fire was well up, the round clean-out door in the top of the boiler would belly out with a loud report?

Why was it when he added more fuel and the fire cooled down temporarily, the door would snap back into its original shape?

He got an idea. He realized that the boiler was practically telling him when it needed more fuel. When the door bulged out, it meant that the last charge of fuel was burning well and the fire was hot. That was when he could put on more shavings and chips without smothering the fire. After that, the boy didn't have to run back and forth looking into the fire box to see if more fuel was needed. Instead, he waited until the door signaled. When it popped out, he knew the furnace was ready for another charge.

And a bit more about the actual operation of the Spencer Disc:

Like the common bimetallic strip type of thermal element, the Spencer Disc is made of two different metals bonded together permanently. When such material is heated, the metal on one side expands more than the metal on the other, and this tends to bend the material. Unlike a thermal element made from strip, however, the Spencer Disc is round and is dished into a concave shape. It resists being bent into the opposite direction, just as the curved bottom of an oil can resists being pushed in. As the disc gets hotter, one side expands more than the other, but the disc cannot bend slowly like a strip because it is arched.

Suddenly, the forces which have built up in the high expansion side overpower the structural resistance of the arch, and the whole disc snaps. When it is allowed to cool, it snaps right back into its original position by the reverse process. These changes of shape take place in approximately 16/100,000 of a second, and both can be preset with lasting temperature calibrations.

Very cool - these are used on coffeemakers to control temperature, on most ovens of any kind to prevent overtemperature problems, on motors to cut them out if there is an overload. Simple, cheap and bombproof.

Posted by DaveH at 07:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

How not to measure temperature

A lot of the temperature data that the “Global Warming” people are using comes from weather stations scattered around the USA. The trouble is that these were once in remote areas but conurbation has happened and these stations are now surrounded by parking lots, air conditioners, etc…

An excellent post at NorCalBlogs discusses this and shows examples:

Watts Up With That?
How not to measure temperature, part 10

Russ Steele, a blogger in Nevada County at NCWatch is volunteering to do weather station site surveys as I've been doing. Yesterday Russ visited Petaluma California to see the USHCN climate station of record there. It used to be at the city fire station but has been moved to the airport, but apparently the NASA climate database hasn't yet caught up with that as it still shows “fire station” as the place.

Ok we have a temperature sensor strapped to a wooden deck, near a sea of tarmac.

And not only that, the building with the deck is only six feet away, and has air conditioners exhausting hot air on the south side. Prevailing wind direction in that are is from the south, so that means when wind hits that wall, it will spread out the hot a/c exhaust east and west.

weather_station_petaluma_east.jpg

Many more examples on the website including historical temperature charts from these stations showing a progressive upward creep in readings.

Posted by DaveH at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A non politically-correct joke.

Swiped from Denny:

Jose and Carlos who are illegally here, are panhandling at the freeway offramp each holding a sign.

Jose drives a Mercedes, lives in a mortgage free house and has a lot of money to spend.

Carlos only brings in 2 to 3 dollars a day.

Carlos asks Jose how he can bring home a suitcase full of $10 bills every day.

Jose says, “Look at your sign.” It reads: “I have no work, a wife & 6 kids to support”

Carlos looks at Jose's sign.

It reads: “I only need another $10.00 to move back to Mexico”
Posted by DaveH at 03:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Percy Spencer and the Microwave Oven

Nice article about Percy Spencer - the man who recognised the microwaves can heat objects and who perfected the Microwave Oven.

From SoftSlide:

Percy Spencer and His Itch to Know
Percy Spencer is the nosiest man I have ever known. Now 63, he still has an intense, small boy's compulsion to explore every wonder in the world around him. The results of his relentless curiosity have touched the lives of each of us.

Recently I walked into his office at the Raytheon Manufacturing Co. in Waltham, Mass. - an office befitting the senior vice-president of one of the nation's largest electronic' manufacturers. “Hi, Don,” the stocky, shirt-sleeved Down-Easter shouted from behind his desk. “Where'd you get the shoes?”

The moccasin-type shoes weren't that different, but I knew Percy. Were the shoes comfortable, he asked. Would they wear? Why were they stitched like that? In a minute I had one shoe off, so that he could examine it. He wanted to know just how it was made.

The story is typical of Percy Spencer's direct, homey approach, which he brings even to the miracle world of modern electronics. One day a dozen years ago he was visiting a lab where magnetrons, the power tubes of radar sets, were being tested. Suddenly, he felt a peanut bar start to cook in his pocket. Other scientists had noticed this phenomenon, but Spencer itched to know more about it.

He sent a boy out for a package of popcorn. When he held it near a magnetron, popcorn exploded all over the lab. Next morning he brought in a kettle, cut a hole in the side and put an uncooked egg (in its shell) into the pot. Then he moved a magnetron against the hole and turned on the juice. A skeptical engineer peeked over the top of the pot just in time to catch a faceful of cooked egg. The reason? The yolk cooked faster than the outside, causing the egg to burst.

Spencer had discovered that you could cook with high-frequency radio waves. He got a patent on the “radar range,” one of the 225 he holds. The new device will cook a sirloin steak in one minute, a plump Thanksgiving turkey in little more than half an hour. Used for some time in restaurants, Pullman diners and ocean liners, radar ranges are now being produced for the home.

This constant curiosity helped Percy Spencer turn an underprivileged childhood into an especially privileged one. Born in Howland, Maine, a remote rural community, he was twice orphaned when a child. His father died when he was 18 months old, and soon his mother left home, turning Percy over to an aunt and uncle. The uncle was like a father to him, but when Percy was only seven, this second father died.

Percy didn't waste time feeling sorry for himself. He was too busy learning a country boy's chores - how to chop wood, hoe, saddle a horse, help with the preserving, skin a deer, saw a straight line and improvise solutions to the problems of survival, a skill famous as “Yankee ingenuity.”

When he was 12 he trudged off to the spool mill in the cold, gray Maine dawn and worked till after sundown. Four years later his curiosity led him into something new. The local paper mill was to be electrified. Although he had no formal knowledge of electricity (in 1910 few people knew much about it), Percy signed on as one of three men to install the system. Learning entirely by trial and error, he emerged a competent electrician.

When, in 1912, the Titanic sank, the heroism of the wireless operators sparked the boy's imagination. He joined the Navy to learn wireless telegraphy. He did not mention his limited education when. The Navy sent him to its radio school. “I just got hold of a lot of textbooks and taught myself while I was standing watch at night,” he explains.

He has kept up this practice of self-education all his life-“solving my own situation,” he calls it. There is no count of the hundreds of nights he has spent painfully working out problems in trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, physics, metallurgy and other areas of learning.

People like this make America what it is — somehow i cannot imagine an Islamist being like this…

Posted by DaveH at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

RIP - Colin Fletcher

From the NY Times:

Colin Fletcher, 85, a Trailblazer of Modern Backpacking, Dies
Colin Fletcher, whose ornate prose and prosaic tips on subjects like choosing the right hiking boots helped start the modern backpacking movement, died June 12 in Monterey, Calif. He was 85.

Mr. Fletcher died as a result of complications of head injuries he sustained in 2001 when he was struck by a car while walking near his home in Carmel Valley, Calif., said Chip Rawlins, who helped Mr. Fletcher write the fourth edition of “The Complete Walker” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002). Many wilderness enthusiasts consider the work to be the hiker’s bible.

First published in 1968, the book has sold more than 500,000 copies and remains in print. So, too, have two of the seven other books that Mr. Fletcher offered as paeans to soul-restoring and solitary strolls through the hinterlands. Hiking, he wrote in “The Complete Walker III,” is a “simple, delightful, intended-to-be-liberating-from-the-straight-line-coordinates-of-civilization pastime.”

An American original — he will be missed.

Posted by DaveH at 03:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Too much fun - dead refrigerator department

Chris Byrne writes at The Anarchangel and he had a refrigerator that was dieing a slow and painful death. He put it out of its misery and documented it with this most excellent post:

Ding Dong the Fridge is Dead
Our fridge died a few weeks ago; after having given us months of trouble and irritation; spoiled food and melted ice etc… etc…

At any rate, we'd suffered far more than our share of aggravation from the fridge; and this weekend, it was time for payback.

We began with some detailed research into the effect of large projectiles on the structural integrity of refrigerators.

Images and an impressive video are posted. Fun was had…

Posted by DaveH at 03:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2007

Not quite on the menu -- E. coli outbreak shuts restaurant

Odd vector though — from WCNC-TV:

Restaurant linked to E. coli shut down
CHINA GROVE, N.C. – Captain’s Galley, the Rowan County restaurant linked to an E. coli outbreak, has been shut down after health officials confirmed that a goat was slaughtered in the restaurant kitchen.

The Rowan County Health Department announced today they learned of the slaughter from an anonymous tip by a former employee, which was confirmed by management and ownership.

They’re not saying the slaughter is the exact cause of the E. coli outbreak, which sickened 20 people and killed one woman.

Rowan County Health Director Leonard Wood isn't sure what happened to the goat, if it was cooked or taken away. It was not served to customers.

It also is not the confirmed cause of the E. coli outbreak because there's no meat sample to test, he said.

A bit more:

Officials say it happened in the kitchen sometime between May 11 and May 20, after the restaurant was closed for the night.

It is possible that kitchen utensils used to slaughter the goat may have been used later on in other food preparation, but that has not been confirmed.

One last bit:

Wood says the cook staff is Latino. A local goat farmer says they're a popular food source because one goat can feed a family for a month.

I can see wanting to use a commercial kitchen to prep a large animal but to do the actual slaughter and butchering there is unthinkable. The sanitation needs are so much higher for a slaughterhouse than for a restaurant and conflating the two is bound to cause problems (which it did). The people who did this should have had some inkling (after all, it was done there and not in their own kitchens.)

Posted by DaveH at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A birthday party being held all over the world this coming weekend

This one is for Joss Whedon.
From Can't Stop The Serenity:

“Last year, we did the impossible.
This year, we top it.”


We've been planning, plotting, and pulling our hair out for the last nine months, and all of the hard work is about to come to fruition. The 2007 Can't Stop The Serenity screening events are just a few days away, and you need to be there.

You need to be there because it's a rare opportunity to see 'Serenity' on the big screen one more time (or for the first time). I don't care how good your home theatre set-up is at your house — a theatrical 35mm exhibition trumps a 60” plasma with 8.1 surround sound any day of the week.

You need to be there because you'll have an excellent opportunity to walk away with great Verse merchandise, like the Serenity: Special Edition DVD* from Universal Home Entertainment, an autographed copy of Finding Serenity from BenBella Books, an autographed CD from the Bedlam Bards, and so much more. (Check with your local organizer for the rundown of giveaways in your area.)

You need to be there because the proceeds go to a great cause. Equality Now is doing amazing work around the globe, bringing the vision of gender equality closer to reality every day through campaigns against issues such as rape, female genital mutilation, spousal abuse.

You need to be there because this will be the event Browncoats worldwide will be talking about this event for a long time to come, and regret doesn't sit well with your complexion.

You need to be there because the shindig won't be the same without you.

Very cool — Equality Now is doing great work.

Last year, Joss raised almost $66K

Posted by DaveH at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A two-month long birthday party

Very cool — it's in Mexico City and is celebrating the 100th birthday of Frida Kahlo.
From Yahoo/Reuters:

Mexico City hosts largest ever Frida Kahlo exhibit
The Mexican capital will host the largest ever exhibition of Frida Kahlo's works this week to mark 100 years since the birth of the artist, who has become a feminist icon in the past decade as her fame blooms.

More than 300,000 people are expected to attend the two-month show starting on Wednesday at the Museo de Bellas Artes museum.

“I don't think anyone, after seeing this, will have any questions about Frida's artistic journey,” said Teresa Franco, head of the institute that runs the museum.

About 350 pieces will go on display, including some on loan from collections in the United States, as well as 50 of Kahlo's personal letters and 100 photographs.

Amazing artist. The 2002 movie on her life Frida is worth renting.

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

A drought in Tennessee causes some problems

From WBKO-TV in Bowling Green, Kentucky comes this story of deprivation and tragedy:

Is Jack Daniels Drying Up?
Jack Daniels water supply is running low and putting the century-plus whiskey business in jeopardy.

Jerry Hamilton is the distillery plant manager for Jack Daniels. He checks the progress of the whiskey being made at the Lynchburg distillery. While doing so he finds a small problem - wasting water.

The water here has become a precious commodity. The water source for the whiskey is a spring flowing through the Jack Daniels property. For more than 140 years this spring, known as Cave Spring, has been the water supply for Jack Daniels. It is one of the most essential parts of the whiskey’s recipe.

“Cave Spring as most people know is iron free and because it is iron free, it tends to skew the fermentation just a little bit and allows us to produce Jack Daniels as we know Jack Daniels,” Hamilton explained.

But this year there is a problem - that water supply is starting to flow less and less. Hamilton said the drought Tennessee is in is taking a toll on Cave Spring.

“Water flow is down substantially. I would say at least one third to half of what we normally see,” Hamilton said.

To the people who make Jack Daniels, all water is not created equal. It takes a special kind to make this whiskey and they say it’s only here in this cave. For that reason they have started conserving as much as they can. Using the water only for the whiskey and nothing else and even finding ways to cut back on the amount used in the process.

What will happen if the spring goes dry?

“If we can’t use what it takes to make Jack Daniels I suspect we won’t make Jack Daniels until we get all the ingredients we need,” Hamilton said.

Moore County ironically it is a dry county. You can’t buy a drink here, but if this drought continues that term “dry” could take on a whole new meaning.

Iron causes major off-tastes in any fermented product so Iron-free water is crucial. Tennesee has a lot of limestone (same as our area) and the hard water is also very very beneficial for fermentation, it adds a depth of flavor to the finished product and serves as an excellent yeast nutrient. The folks at Jack Daniels are not just blowing smoke when they tout their water — good water is crucial.

NPR has a good article on the drought here: Tennessee Drought Stunts Growth of Local Crops

Posted by DaveH at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Say it isn't so - please

Tragic news from The Irish Times:

Diageo mulls options for Guinness brewery
Diageo Plc said today it was reviewing brewing operations in Ireland after media reported the drinks giant may quit the Dublin city centre site where Guinness has been brewed for almost 250 years.

“The Diageo brewing business is considering a number of important investment decisions on upgrading and renewing its brewing facilities in Ireland in the coming years,” the company said in a statement.

The review was at a “very early stage” and a report in the Sunday Independent newspaper that the company was preparing to move from its landmark St James's Gate site on the banks of Dublin's River Liffey was “speculation”, Diageo added.

A bit about the history of the site:

The site, where Arthur Guinness took out a 9,000 year lease on a disused brewery in 1759, has grown into what the brewer now describes as “a prime 64 acre (25 hectare) slice of Dublin”.

The Sunday Independent reported the land could fetch as much as €3 billion if Diageo implements plans to move production to a greenfield site on the outskirts of the capital.

There's your answer right there…

Posted by DaveH at 07:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Top ten weird Japanese soft drinks

The Japanese culture is at the same time fascinating and just downright strange.
Take this list of soft drinks for example - from Inventorspot:

The Top Ten Weird and Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks
Japan has a drinking problem… but if you've got a thirst for adventure, it's where you want to be.

In honor (or in horror) of these bizarre beverages seemingly not fit to rinse your septic tank, raise a cracked glass to the Top Ten Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks, our first ten inductees into the Soft Drink Hell of Fame…

10) Pepsi Ice Cucumber:
It's lean, green and sounds obscene

When American companies introduce products tailored for foreign tastes, we often experience discomfiting culture shock. Sort of like when Homer Simpson uses his toaster time machine to go back 10 million years, steps on a slug, and then comes back to an oddly different world. Maybe that really did happen, and Springfield is now Tokyo! Exhibit A: Pepsi Ice Cucumber, introduced to the Japanese soft drinks market June 12th and to our Top Ten Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks listing immediately thereafter. Pepsi? Good… Cucumbers? Great! Cucumber-flavored Pepsi? DOH!!

weird_japanese_soft_drinks_cucumber.jpg

That actually doesn't sound that bad — would be nice and refreshing on a hot day. Some of the others would be a bit of a stretch.

Posted by DaveH at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The ten worst used vehicles

A good list of used vehicles to avoid and why.
From Consumer Affairs:

Ten Ten Worst Used Cars and Trucks
Most of us don't like to shell out $20,000 or more for a new car or truck, and it's tempting to believe that we can buy a model that's a few years old and get something that's almost as good as new, for a lot less money.

There's no doubt this can happen, but it's by no means a sure thing. A crafty consumer who sets out to buy a used vehicle knows that the first thing to do is to check out the best-known foibles of the models he's likely to come across in his search.

You won't find this information in the reviews that were published when the car or truck was introduced, and it's not likely you'll find it in auto magazines. You most certainly won't find it out from the dealer. So, where can you find it? On the Internet, of course, where consumers go to vent, probe and share information.

And the list (drumroll please):

1. Ford Expedition
2. Ford F-150
3. Auto-trans BMW
4. Toyota Prius
5. Ford Focus
6. Dodge Durango
7. Ford Taurus
8. Mercury Sable
9. Older Toyotas
10. GM Dex-Cool

Good information to have…

Posted by DaveH at 07:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Donald Trump and the proposed United Nations building remodel

Say what you like about Donald Trump but the guy knows large buildings inside and out. he got to where he is today with this knowledge and here, in a rather lengthy speech, he lays out what he thinks about the proposed United Nations building remodel in NYC.

From the Democracy Project:

Rebuilding the U.N.: “You’re Fired!”
Law professor Maimon Schwarzschild and I were email reminiscing this morning about our 1950’s and 1960’s idealism of the United Nations’ mission and impressive building in New York.

I told Maimon that I was listening on the car radio to a speech by Donald Trump a few years ago, about the U.N.’s ripoff plans for reconstructing the U.N. building, and laughed so hard I almost crashed. It seems that Maimon wrote about the Trump speech and linked to its text and tape.

The Washington Times this month updated us on the U.N.’s building renovation. As Donald Trump would say, “You’re Fired!” Or, should be, and would be, if anyone else but at the U.N.
The proposed $2 billion renovation of the United Nations headquarters building in New York is proceeding with little outside oversight or control…

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, said cost estimates for the proposed five-year project have ballooned, while U.N. officials have yet to release basic audit, contracting and procurement data….

“If they don't want transparency, then they have something to hide,” he said.

The entry then goes on to post the entire transcript of Mr. Trump's speech — here are a few choice nuggets:

My involvement with the United Nations began with a letter, which I will give to the committee, from the Ambassador to the United Nations from Sweden. And it's a long letter, and a very beautifully written letter, and essentially, he read an article about the success of Trump World Tower, which is the building that I can show you, right here, which is, as you can see, very, very substantially taller than the United Nations, bigger than the United Nations. And he read an article in the New York Times, saying that the building cost approximately $300 million dollars to build. So, he wrote me a letter, and ultimately called me, and said is it possible that that building cost $300 million dollars, because it just seems so much bigger, and so much better, and so much more expensive, and so much more luxurious. And how could you have done that for $300 million dollars, when, at that time, Senator, they were talking about $1.5 billion dollars to renovate the United Nations. And this was around December of 2000. And I said well, there's only two reasons. Either gross incompetence, or something far worse than that. And you know what the something is, and that's corruption. Because there's absolutely no way that that building could have cost $1.5 billion dollars to build.

And:

So, I looked at it, and I added up some of my costs, and for Trump World Tower, across the street, built not long ago, I spent approximately $258 a foot. It's the tallest building, tallest residential building in the world. $258.32 a foot. I have 871 thousand feet. It cost $225 million dollars to build. Now, anybody that says a building of renovation is more expensive than building a new building, doesn't know the business. Because you have a frame built. You have your foundations built. You have, in many cases, elevators that could be re-utilized in their entirety, but fixed. You have many, many components that can be used. And only a fool…it only costs a fool more money. I did the Grand Hyatt hotel from the old Commodore Hotel. I did Trump International Hotel and Tower from the old Gulf and Western building at 1 Central Park West, if you remember. I did the Trump Park Avenue Building from the Delmonico Hotel. I love doing renovation, because it costs you half. It doesn't cost you more.

Trump met with Kofi Annan and was connected with the UN's Project Manager for the remodel - a Mr. Conners:

I met with Mr. Conners. Mr. Conners didn't know the first thing about what he was doing. He didn't know whether or not the curtain wall was going to be new, old, and didn't even know what a curtain wall was. I said, “What are you going to be doing with the curtain wall?”

He said, “What is a curtain wall?” Now, he was in charge of the project. The curtain wall is the skin of the building.

I said, “Will it be new or old?”

He said, “I don't know.”

I said, “Are you using New York Steam? Or are you using a new boiler system?”

He said, “I don't know what New York Steam is.” It's a very common form of heating in the building. He had no clue. And the price, at that time, was $1.5 billion dollars. I mean, I don't know why it came down, because the world has gone up. But it came down. That was in the year, approximately 2000-2001. So he didn't have a clue. I don't know if he's still there. Perhaps he is. The one thing I found him very, very good at, is that he didn't want to lose control of this project. He was a man that absolutely wanted to keep control of the project, but he didn't have even the slightest inkling of what it was all about. Knew nothing about it. He then told me that he may move people out. He may not move people out. He didn't know. He thought he might. He wasn't sure. He had no…he just didn't know.

Two more:

But the fact is that the United Nations building, with all of its buildings, with its parking, should be completed, and I mean completed at a cost of $700 million dollars. And it's my opinion that it will not be completed for less than three to three and a half billion dollars. They don't know what they're getting into. And please remember this, as somebody that's probably built as much as anybody my age anywhere. I don't know of anybody that's built more. If you don't have a complete set of plans and specifications, there is no way you can build. And from what I understand, they don't even have an architect.

And he concludes with:

So, that's it. Congratulations. You've got yourself a mess on your hands.

It is well worth reading the entire thing — Trump knows what he is talking about and he is smelling the strong stench of corruption and incompetence. For the United Nations, this does not surprise me at all…

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

The United Nations - same crap, different Secretary General

I had hopes that incoming Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would be more enlightened than outgoing Koffi Annan. Unfortunately, he is showing some serious moonbat colors…

From Breitbart/AFP:

Climate change behind Darfur killing: UN's Ban
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the slaughter in Darfur was triggered by global climate change and that more such conflicts may be on the horizon, in an article published Saturday.

“The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change,” Ban said in a Washington Post opinion column.

UN statistics showed that rainfall declined some 40 percent over the past two decades, he said, as a rise in Indian Ocean temperatures disrupted monsoons.

“This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming,” the South Korean diplomat wrote.

“It is no accident that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought,” Ban said in the Washington daily.

When Darfur's land was rich, he said, black farmers welcomed Arab herders and shared their water, he said.

With the drought, however, farmers fenced in their land to prevent overgrazing.

“For the first time in memory, there was no longer enough food and water for all. Fighting broke out,” he said.

Overgrazing happened a long long time before this century. The Sahara desert used to be a forest.

What is happening in Darfur is a Muslim tribe trying to enslave a Christian one and succeeding while the world is watching and while nobody is lifting a finger.

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

June 17, 2007

The E.U. moving toward being one state

Some nasty politics going on over there.
From the Daily Express:

SECRET NEW PLAN FOR EU SUPERSTATE
Tony Blair wants to hand the European Union radical new powers in his last act as Prime Minister, it emerged today.

The Prime Minister has welcomed controversial plans to bring back the troubled EU constitution by the back door - totally bypassing the need for public referendums on sweeping new powers for Brussels.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested ditching the name “constitution” from the title and instead calling it an “amending treaty” - to avoid having to seek the approval of voters.

French and Dutch voters rejected the original plan - which would hand Brussels the power to represent individual countries at the UN and change national laws - two years ago.

Britain's voting rights would be reduced by a third under the scheme and our hard-won veto on European directives would be torn up. Britain could also lose the right to impose quotas on immigration.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “If Tony Blair thinks he can hoodwink the British people by smuggling in the rejected EU consitution under another name, he had better think again.

“He underestimates the British people. They will see right through any shabby stitch-up.

“If the Labour Government sign up to a new treaty that takes powers from Britain and hands them over to the EU, the British people must have the final say in a referendum.”

The Germans believe “as much of the substance of the constitution as possible” should be kept, renamed and put into law.

Don't they remember 60 years ago when the Germans again tried to found a European superstate. Didn't work very well then and I hope it doesn't get traction now. Recipe for civil war.

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

The Smart car is coming to America in 2008

Very cool - built by Mercedes and already sold in more than 30 countries. Projected US price is from $12K to $17K. it is touted as being very safe (lots of air-bags, strong construction) and gets around 40 miles to the gallon.

Looks very cool too — here is the $17K model:

smart_fortwo_cabrio_head.jpg

Just the thing for quick trips into town. Smart Car.

Posted by DaveH at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Health care in Cuba

We all hear how great medical care is available for anyone for free in Cuba but this is not true by any means. People like Micheal Moore who visit Cuba and are shown the hospitals are not shown the ones that the real Cuban people have access to, they are shown the ones that the party elites and tourists with money have access to.

Check out the photo essay at The Real Cuba:

Here is just one photo — this is the sink where Orthopedic Surgeons wash up before working on their patience.

cuba_bad_medicine_OR_sink.jpg

The photos are sickening - people lying in their beds with excrement, flies and roaches in the Operating Rooms, electrical wiring hanging loose, very few medical instruments (despite Cuba being a major exporter of Medical eaquipment).

Posted by DaveH at 07:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Great short YouTube clip

Check out the Cookie Blues

Swiped from Denny Wilson

Posted by DaveH at 07:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cool medical technology

Hat tip to Wretchard at The Belmont Club for the link to this: The Java 3D-enabled CAVE at the Sun Center of Excellence for Visual Genomics

There really isn't a good description on their site — it is a 3D imersive room — a holodeck if you will. They loaded a human model with detail down to the cellular level and visitors can wander through the 3D projection. Looks like a lot of fun!

cave_medical_holodeck.jpg

Posted by DaveH at 06:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 16, 2007

Cool story - Cream of Wheat chef finally gets recognition

From CBS2/Associated Press:

'Cream Of Wheat' Man Gets Grave Marker
A man widely believed to be the model for the smiling chef on Cream of Wheat boxes finally has a grave marker bearing his name.

Frank L. White died in 1938, and until this week, his grave in Woodlawn Cemetery bore only a tiny concrete marker with no name.

On Wednesday, a granite gravestone was placed at his burial site. It bears his name and an etching taken from the man depicted on the Cream of Wheat box.

Jesse Lasorda, a family researcher from Lansing, started the campaign to put the marker and etching on White's grave.

“Everybody deserves a headstone,” Lasorda told the Lansing State Journal. He discovered that White was born about 1867 in Barbados, came to the U.S. in 1875 and became a citizen in 1890.

When White died Feb. 15, 1938, the Leslie Local-Republican described him as a “famous chef” who “posed for an advertisement of a well-known breakfast food.”

White lived in Leslie for about the last 20 years of his life, and the story of his posing for the Cream of Wheat picture was known in the city of 2,000 located between Jackson and Lansing and about 70 miles west of Detroit.

The chef was photographed about 1900 while working in a Chicago restaurant. His name was not recorded. White was a chef, traveled a lot, was about the right age and told neighbors that he was the Cream of Wheat model, the Jackson Citizen Patriot said.

Nice that he is finally getting the recognition.

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The End of an Era - Ronco Corp. files for Chapter 11

A sad day for television shoppers everywhere. But wait, there's no more…
From the Charleston Daily Mail:

Maker of Pocket Fisherman, spray-on hair files for bankruptcy
Veg-O-Matic king Ron Popeil used to love to say, “But wait, there's more!”

But only barely, it turns out, at least in regard to the company he founded.

Ronco Corp., based in Simi Valley, Calif., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, declaring it has $32.7 million in debts and $13.9 million in assets.

Popeil, 72, an irrepressible pitchman who used infomercials to sell products such as the Pocket Fisherman, Showtime Rotisserie and GLH spray-on hair, is the largest creditor.

Two years ago, he sold Ronco, the company he founded in 1958. The price was about $55 million — in what was supposed to be two easy payments.

Popeil is still owed $11.8 million, according to Thursday's filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles. Other creditors include the Food Network, Court TV and the QVC home shopping network.

A spokeswoman for Popeil, who lives in Beverly Hills, said he had no comment on the bankruptcy filing.

Part of the deal when Popeil sold the company was that it could continue to use his image, which is still on the company Web site. Anyone calling Ronco's headquarters will hear Popeil's voice — familiar to those who've heard some of his late-night pitches — saying, “If you know the extension of the person you're calling. . . .”

Ronco Chief Executive John Reiland said the company would continue its operations uninterrupted and that none of its 95 employees would be laid off. Chapter 11 allows a business to keep running while it works out a plan to pay its debts.

Ronco has sold $1.4 billion of and-if-you-act-now gadgets, court documents show. It had a previous tour through bankruptcy in the 1980s.

Reiland wouldn't discuss how the company got into its current financial state. But court documents said an initial $40 million payment to Popeil sliced and diced the company's finances, leaving it severely short of cash.

The company has reached a nonbinding agreement with a new buyer, but Reiland wouldn't say who that is.

It's not Popeil, the spokeswoman said. The man considered to be the father of the infomercial is too busy working on his latest invention — a home turkey fryer.

Well crap — looks like John Reiland is a corporate raider who had no interests in running Ronco Corp. in the long-term. Declare bankruptcy to get out of the payments to Ron and then sell off the company to someone else. Not my way to do business…

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Things Look Like Things

Hard to describe, just go here: Things Look Like Things

Collections of related images.
Wonderful.

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Store blogging...

I was working in the store's upstairs office this afternoon and noticed a smell on the air. Sort of a hot asphalt / superheated oil / petroleum scent — just a whiff. I walked outside and checked all of the five upstairs apartments - nothing, walked around the outside grounds of the building, nothing.

Since people burn trash out here, I figured that someone was getting rid of some old roofing or railroad ties.

About twenty minutes later, one of the upstairs tenants knocked on the office door and asked if there was a fire. We looked at the back of the building and light smoke was coming from under the stairs.

Unfortunately, this is where the compressors for the stores refrigerators and freezers are located. As fate would have it, the cooling fans for our big five-door freezer had failed and the compressor overheated and shut down.

Fortunately, this area has a LOT of dairy farms (none of the milk we sell in the store comes from more than twenty miles away and this includes the very cheap milk gallons as well as the incredible un-Homogenized glass bottled whole and 2% Jersey milk.) Because of this, 24/7 refrigeration service is available so Dean from Whatcom Refrigeration was able to come out and get us patched together and will return Monday with some new fan motors.

Our store's website is here: Crossroads Grocery
This is our sooper seekret project that I had alluded to in some earlier posts…

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Department of Irony - Immigration into America

It seems that some Hispanics got their knickers into a bunch over Arnold Schwarzenegger's comments on TV recently.

From FOX News:

Hispanic Leaders Blast Schwarzenegger's Advice to Turn Off Spanish TV
Some Hispanic leaders lashed out Friday at California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's advice that immigrants should “turn off the Spanish television set” to better learn how to speak English.

Schwarzenegger, who immigrated to the U.S. from Austria, recently told a group of Hispanic journalists that immigrants should stay away from Spanish-language television, books and newspapers.

“You've got to turn off the Spanish television set,” Schwarzenegger said Wednesday night at the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in San Jose, Calif. “You're just forced to speak English, and that just makes you learn the language faster.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., called the governor's advice a “typical sound bite solution to an important issue,” said Jim Dau, a spokesman for Sanchez.

Sanchez said immigrants face the challenge of taking an ESL course because of long lines and up to a three-year wait to get into a class.

A Hispanic advocacy group said Schwarzenegger's comments show his “ignorance on immigration issues.”

Emphasis mine. It's not like Arnold didn't immigrate into this Nation, learn English, assimilate into this Culture and make something of himself…

Hat tip to Glen at Instapundit for the link.

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A sobering look at discount stores and counterfeit articles

IN light of the crap coming in from China, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a good look at what is found at “discount” stores:

Discount counterfeits can be dangerous
Discount stores that scour the world for deals sometimes give shoppers something they didn't bargain for: bogus products of uncertain origin that may even be dangerous.

A prime example: this week's recall of toothpaste believed to be both counterfeit and toxic.

Government tests on the toothpaste, bought by federal investigators at a discount store in Maryland, revealed it contained diethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze, a Food and Drug Administration spokesman said Thursday. Although the toothpaste was labeled as “Colgate,” Colgate-Palmolive Co. said the imported 5-ounce tubes were falsely packaged counterfeits.

Foes of counterfeiting said it was an example of how it's more than CDs, DVDs, handbags and sunglasses that are getting faked these days.

“This has really become an issue where every industry is affected,” said Caroline Joiner, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiative. The Chamber unveiled a lobbying effort Thursday to step up federal efforts in combatting a problem it estimates costs U.S. companies $250 billion a year in lost sales.

Lately, counterfeit drugs have repeatedly made headlines, even though the FDA concedes they are quite rare in the U.S. drug distribution system. Worries about fake drugs recently helped sink legislation in the Senate that would have permitted the importation of prescription drugs. When fake drugs do crop up, it's typically after they've been purchased over the Internet.

In May, the FDA relayed reports from three consumers who had purchased bogus Xenical, a weight-loss drug, from a pair of Web sites. Testing revealed that none of the capsules contained the active ingredient in Xenical - though one did include a drug found in Meridia, a competing medication, the FDA said. Other capsules contained nothing more than talc and starch.

Meanwhile, the galaxy of counterfeits continues to expand to include an ever-broader range of consumer products.

“It's to a point where we see fake auto parts -fake brake pads. We see toothpaste tainted with antifreeze and Underwriters Laboratories tags on electric cords that are fake and catch on fire,” Joiner said.

In 2006, U.S. agents increased their seizures of counterfeit goods by 83 percent, making more than 14,000 seizures worth at least $155 million, the Homeland Security Department said earlier this year.

Even though many bogus goods, including the toothpaste, have murky origins, signs point to overseas - and China in particular. That country was the source of 81 percent of all phony goods seized in 2006, according to federal statistics.

The recalled toothpaste was labeled as made in South Africa but its toxic ingredient previously has been found in Chinese-made toothpastes. Colgate-Palmolive pointed out the packages it had examined bore several misspellings, including “SOUTH AFRLCA.” That suggests even the bogus product's true origin may have been faked.

Its distributor could do little to explain the ultimate source of the toothpaste, which it sold at 60 cents to 70 cents a tube to discount stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“We do not make it, we don't import it, we just buy it from a guy,” said Chris Kim, manager of MS USA Trading Inc., the North Bergen, N.J., company that recalled the 100 cases of suspect toothpaste. A telephone message left for the source identified by Kim - a man he knows only as “Dialo” - was not immediately returned Thursday.

Buying a 'Rolex' or a Louis Vuitton bag for $20 may be fun but it changes when it comes to food and cosmetic items — just because it looks like a Colgate product doesn't necessarily mean that that great deal really IS a Colgate product.

That American truism comes into play here — You Get What You Pay For

Posted by DaveH at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An amazing office

Check out this office space — done for a gaming company by Because We Can:

Recent Work
An 3,000 sq. ft. office interior designed and built for Three Rings Design, Inc. based upon The Nautilus from the novel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

There are several work areas, with complex screens separating them and plenty of Victorian submarine trappings. Each work area has between 5 and 7 desks in it, depending on the area's size. Each desk is unique, and was actually either drawn or chosen by the employee who sits there. Everyone got to make their own desk!

Once the space was designed and modeled in Autodesk Revit, we took the 3D models for the simple desk you see below, and broke it down into Adobe Illustrator “templates”. These templates were flat outlines of the customizable parts of the desk. Three Ring's team of talented artists imported the Illustrator templates we made into Flash, and drew what they wanted their desk to look like over the top of our outlines. We then took those vector drawings, cleaned them up, tweaked them to make them work as desks, and fed them to the CNC to produce the actual final custom desk.

It was a great collaborative process, and made the totally custom desks inexpensive enough to be affordable. They cost a little more than a nice desk from Ikea, and way less then office cubes.

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Wouldn't mind coming to this office every day…
(as I look around the 8' by 10' office of the store crammed full of stuff)

Posted by DaveH at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2007

Frank Zappa soundtrack, Surrealist claymation video

What could be finer.

Check out this entry at YouTube

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Picking the wrong house to rob

From Playstation Universe:

Teen defends PS3 with samurai sword
Damian and Deanne Fernandez were at home on an uneventful day in their northwest Miami-Dade County home, with their parents at work, when two men decided to break into their home. After the men went to the mother's room and grabbed several pieces of jewelry, they went to Damian's room to grab what they were truly after - a PlayStation 3.

Damain, a brown belt in Karate, was apparently more prepared than the burglar.

“Once I saw him take off running back, I jumped off my (bunk) bed and I grabbed my sword… and I just waited for him,” he said.

After supposedly striking him in the chest with the sword the burglar “freaked out,” according to Damian.

Damian proceeded to chase him down the street with his samurai sword until the police arrived. A K-9 officer found the burglar located behind a neighbor's palm tree, while the second burglar got away.

Javier Cotera, 21, was arrested and is now due to appear in court next week facing three felony charges.

Heh… Not just a samurai sword, a samurai sword in trained hands.

That's teach you to be messing with Ninjas.

Posted by DaveH at 09:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Greek treasure found

A story of an amazing treasure found in an abandoned mansion outside of Athens. The backstory of the mansion is pretty curious as well.

From France24/AFP:

Treasure hunt strikes gold at Greek ex-royal estate
Archaeologists searching the former royal estate outside Athens have discovered a treasure trove of art and antiquities, whose fate was unknown since ex-king Constantine fled Greece four decades ago.

More than 200 ancient items and 300 paintings were found inside sealed containers in a royal stable and in the basement of the main residence at Tatoi, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) northwest of the Greek capital, culture ministry officials said during a media tour of the site on Tuesday.

“It's a real treasure hunt, we are in the process of removing these marvellous items from boxes stacked in disorderly heaps,” restoration supervisor Nikos Minos told AFP.

A team of 21 archaeologists and restorers started work at the crumbling, 19th-century estate three months ago as part of a bid to catalogue its contents before restoration work starts to find a new role for the site.

The collection includes the bronze helmet of an ancient Greek soldier, ancient glasswork including a perfume vial from Roman times, idols and clay vessels — among them a 2,700-year-old painted jug bearing the form of a horseman, found intact to the amazement of archaeologists.

And the mansion:

Home to the Greek royal family for decades, Tatoi in its heyday welcomed the cream of European royalty, from Kaiser William II of Germany and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia to King Edward VII of England and Empress Elisabeth (Sissy) of Austria-Hungary.

Originally purchased in 1872 by King George I of Greece, a scion of Denmark's ruling house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg, Tatoi fell onto hard times when its last owners abandoned it in 1967 shortly after a group of army putschists took control of government.

The estate was seized by the junta in 1973 along with other properties, sparking a legal grudge that was only resolved in 2002 when the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Greek state to pay 13.2 million euros (17.6 million dollars) to the former royal family.

Today, the rustic 4,700-hectare (11,610-acre) estate lies largely abandoned, its 37 romantic-style buildings in various degrees of disrepair and some barely standing.

They are planning to restore parts of it as a museum but work has not begun and they are saying that it will be five years out before it will be opened again.

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If these walls could talk, what stories would they have to tell…

Posted by DaveH at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2007

A perfect pair of balls

Well, what did you think I meant?
From Yahoo/Reuters:

The grind's almost over to forge two perfect balls
They will be the earth's roundest spheres, crafted by Australian scientists as part of an international hunt to find a new global standard kilogram.

Ever since scientists discovered that the current standard — a bar of platinum and iridium held in a French vault since 1889 — was slowly deteriorating, the search has been on for a replacement.

Using a single crystal of silicon-28 grown by Russian and German scientists over three years, a team of Sydney scientists and engineers will grind and polish two silvery balls, each weighing precisely one kilogram, with imperfections of less than 35 millionths of a millimeter.

“We are doing everything to really create a perfect object. It's not only near-perfect in roundness, but also the crystal purity, the atomic species and so on,” project leader Walter Giardini told Reuters on Friday.

“Silicon is a very nice material to use that we understand well, makes good crystals and can be worked,” said Giardini, from Australia's National Measurement Institute.

The two balls will take 12 weeks to create and, because they are made from a stable element, they will not fall victim to moisture, corrosion and contamination like the current kilogram standard, known as the International Prototype.

The spheres will be a step along the perfect kilogram road, with the project's ultimate aim to re-define the kilogram in terms of numbers of atoms, rather than an object open to damage from earthquake or environmental changes.

“The aim is not to change the value of the kilogram, but to ensure its stability for all future times,” Giardini said. “It will no longer depend on an actual physical object and this is going to allow us to relate the mass to the individual atoms.”

The project is a collaboration involving scientists from Russia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Japan, the United States and Australia, in cooperation with the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.

On completion, the spheres will be measured for volume in Australia, Germany and Japan, then measured for mass. Belgian scientists will look at the molar mass of the crystal used to calculate the number of molecules in each sphere.

Very cool — the Kilogram is the only standard that has to be represented by a physical object. Good to see some thought being put into its replacement.

Here is the website for the Australian National Measurement Institute

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The Six Thousand

A fun list of interesting people compiled by Cliff Pickover (who should be on this list himself…)

Makes me want to have them all over for a glass of Cider or two.

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

Zimbabwe continues to circle the drain

From BBC News:

Zimbabwe 'collapse in six months'
Zimbabwe will collapse within six months, possibly leading to a state of emergency, says a leaked briefing report for aid workers in the country.

Rampant inflation will mean shops and services can no longer function and people would resort to barter, it said.

“The memorandum is talking about a situation where there is no functioning government or a total breakdown,” an unnamed aid worker told the UK Times.

Zimbabwe's inflation is already 3,714% - the highest rate in the world.

Business quotes were now valid for just one day or even one hour, said the report written by consultants and sent to workers at the United Nations and other aid agencies.

Several organisations contacted by the BBC News website denied commissioning the report.

Some firms were already partly paying their workers in food, rather than money, it said.

Shops were doubling their prices twice a month, so they could purchase replacement goods.

If this continues, “doubling the current inflation for each of the seven remaining months of 2007 gives 512,000% thus the economic collapse is expected before the end of 2007,” said the report, according to the AP news agency.

The security forces who have remained loyal to President Robert Mugabe were also feeling the effects.

The report said an ordinary police officer earned less than aid workers paid their domestic staff.

It said power and water suppliers were already near collapse. Electricity was last month rationed to just four hours a day to save power for farmers.

Just one adult in five is believed to have a regular job.

Some 4m Zimbabweans - a third of the population - will need food aid this year, according to the UN World Food Programme.

Mr Mugabe denies responsibility for Zimbabwe's economic problems, blaming a western plot to bring down his government because of his policy of seizing white-owned land.

Emphasis mine — what a fucking case of denial and corruption. And he will never own up to the fact that he is killing his nation. Just look at the numbers pre-Mugabe and now.

I can only hope that after the fall, things might reach a more reasonable state of affairs and someone who can actually govern comes into office.

Posted by DaveH at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What goes through a goat's mind...

We have four goats and just love them. The best description I have heard is to take the intelligence of a good German Shepherd and mix that with the personality of a Cat. They are, however, ruled by their stomachs as this essay from a Goat at The Onion shows:

Hey, You Got Something To Eat?
Say, I'd like to eat a little something. You got something? What you got? Any kind of food is good. I just want something to eat. You must got something. I ain't desperate or nothing like that. Don't think I'm begging. I'm just asking here. No pressure. I just want to eat something. Wondering if you had something maybe. No big deal.

You gotta have something. Please. What is that? A thing to eat? I think it might be.

I'm not that hungry. I just ate. I could take or leave it. Got a handful of hard seeds? I'll take them. Pour them on the ground or just hold them out. You kidding? That would be great. Sure would. Whatever you got, really. It don't even have to be seeds. I'll take anything. Don't worry about me. I'm easy. Hey, anything you got. I'll try it. I got a open mind.

You gonna eat that shoe? I'll eat that shoe if you're not gonna eat it.

Come on, what you got? I just want to know. I don't have to eat it. I'm just curious. In truth, there's a good possibility I'll eat it. But still. I want to know. If you got just a morsel of anything, I'd be obliged. If I knew you were good for a scrap once in a while, I'd probably come back to you for more food sometimes. You wouldn't mind that. Of course not. You're my buddy. The food-giver. That's what I'd call ya.

I bet you got a nice pant leg. Lemme chew a hole in it. I could chew it until you yanked it out of my mouth. If you don't mind. I'm telling you, I could use a little something to chomp on. I could wait, but what have you got? I don't care very much one way or the other. Come on, give me a break over here. I just want something to nibble on.

Hey! What's down there? A piece of bread? Let's see what we got. No… No, this is a rock. I'm not going to eat a rock. What do you think, I'm crazy?

Heh… Spot on.

Posted by DaveH at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Colgate warns about counterfeit toothpaste

Figured it was counterfeit — Colgate is now distancing themselves from the toothpaste made with Chinese diethylene glycol.

From Yahoo/Reuters:

Colgate warns of fake toothpaste in U.S.
Colgate-Palmolive Co. (NYSE:CL - news) on Thursday warned counterfeit “Colgate” toothpaste that may contain a toxic chemical had been found in discount stores in four U.S. states.

“There are indications that this product does not contain fluoride and may contain diethylene glycol,” the company said of the toothpaste found in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Colgate-Palmolive said it does not use, nor has ever used, diethylene glycol as an ingredient in its toothpaste anywhere in the world. The chemical, also known as DEG and sometimes illegally used as an inexpensive sweetener and thickening agent, is commonly found in solvents and antifreeze.

The counterfeit toothpaste is labeled as being manufactured in South Africa but Colgate-Palmolive said it does not import toothpaste to the United States from South Africa. The packaging also contains several misspellings.

Colgate did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking details of which stores the counterfeit toothpaste was found in, or how it may have found its way into the United States.

The Colgate announcement comes almost two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to avoid any toothpaste made in China after inspectors found DEG in tubes sold at two stores.

And a bit more:

When the FDA issued its warning early this month, Crest said its toothpaste sold in the United States is all manufactured in North America. It also said Crest toothpaste sold in China is not manufactured by the companies under investigation.

A spokeswoman for Crest said on Thursday that counterfeit toothpaste is currently not an issue for the company.

The FDA issued its warning about Chinese toothpaste after seizing a batch found to contain 3 percent DEG. It said inspectors found DEG-containing toothpaste at a Dollar Plus store in Miami and at a store called Todo a Peso in Puerto Rico.

The FDA has identified products by Goldcredit International Enterprises Ltd., Goldcredit International Trading Co. Ltd., and Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals Co. Ltd as containing DEG under brands such as Cooldent, Clean Rite and ShiR Fresh.

DEG-contaminated toothpaste has also been seized in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Nicaragua. The sweet substance, sometimes used as a substitute for glycerin, was found in cough syrup in Panama that led to the deaths of at least 100 people last year.

I can't imagine the mental process behind willfully mis-labeling a product for human consumption…

Posted by DaveH at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nice rant about America's Left

From Adbusters of all places:

The American Left's Silly Victim Complex
The biggest problem with modern American liberalism may be the word itself. There’s just something about the word, liberal, something about the way it sounds – it just hits the ear wrong. If it were an animal it would be something squirming and hairless, something that burrows maybe, with no eyes and too many legs. No child would bring home a wounded liberal and ask to keep it as a pet. More likely he would step on it, or maybe tie it to a bottle-rocket and shoot it over the railroad tracks.

The word has a chilling effect even on the people who basically agree with most of what it stands for. I myself cringe, involuntarily as it were, every time someone calls me a liberal in public. And I’m not the only one. When I called around for this article about the problems of American liberalism to various colleagues who inhabit the same world that I do – iconoclastic columnists and journalists who’ve had bylines in places like The Nation – they almost universally recoiled in horror from the topic, not wanting to be explicitly linked in public with the idea of the American left.

“Fuck that,” responded one, when I asked if he wanted to be quoted in this piece. “I’d rather talk about my genital warts. I’d rather show you pictures of my genital warts, as a matter of fact.”

“Ugh. Not sure I want to go there,” read one e-mail.

“I really wish I wasn’t associated with the left,” sighed a third.

When the people who are the public voice of a political class are afraid to even wear the party colors in public, that’s a bad sign, and it’s worth asking what the reasons are.

A bit more:

At a time when someone should be organizing forcefully against the war in Iraq and engaging middle America on the alarming issue of big-business occupation of the Washington power process, the American left has turned into a skittish, hysterical old lady, one who defiantly insists on living in the past, is easily mesmerized by half-baked pseudo-intellectual nonsense, and quick to run from anything like real conflict or responsibility.

It shies away from hardcore economic issues but howls endlessly about anything that sounds like a free-speech controversy, shrieking about the notorious bugbears of the post-9/11 “police state” (the Patriot Act, Total Information Awareness, CARNIVORE, etc.) in a way that reveals unmistakably, to those who are paying close attention, a not-so-secret desire to be relevant and threatening enough to warrant the extralegal attention of the FBI. It sells scads of Che t-shirts ($20 at the International ANSWER online store) and has a perfected a high-handed tone of moralistic finger-wagging, but its organizational capacity is almost nil. It says a lot, but does very little.

I may have to start reading Adbusters again. After 9/11 and my conversion to Libertarianism, I stopped as they are a forum for many of the left's talking points. This rant is spot on — the comments at the end are great too. Must have hit a nerve or somthing…

Posted by DaveH at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

A nice archaeological find in China

From the New Zealand Stuff website:

Chinese find shipwreck laden with Ming porcelain
Chinese archaeologists have found an ancient sunken ship in the South China Sea laden with Ming Dynasty porcelain, the Xinhua news agency said.

Divers used satellite navigation equipment to find the vessel, dubbed South China Sea II, which is about 17 to 18 metres long and lying at a depth of 20 metres.

“A preliminary study of the sunken ship shows it may have sunk 400 years ago after striking a reef,” archaeologist Dr Wei Jun was quoted as saying.

The ship came to light when local police got wind of illegal salvage operations going on off the coast of Guangdong province.

“On May 25, police learnt that some fishermen had been recovering ancient porcelain objects from the sea,” Xinhua said.

Police confiscated 21 pieces of porcelain from a fishing boat whose owner claimed that divers he had hired for deep-sea fishing had recovered the porcelain by accident.

On May 26, another 117 pieces of porcelain were confiscated from two fishing boats carrying out illegal salvage work.

“Police stepped up monitoring of the area and warned local people not to loot the cultural relics. On June 1, two local residents handed over 124 porcelain items to police.”

The sunken ship was found just a few days after China began salvage operations at another wreck site dating back to the days of the Song emperors, who ruled between AD 960 and 1279.

It will be interesting to see if China allows any other people (Bob Ballard???) in to look in waters that are deeper. There was a lot of sea-going trade and many ships were simply never heard from, whether from piracy or storm or structural failure, nobody knows.

Posted by DaveH at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Massive wind farm planned in Texas

Cool — wind is not good for baseload but for supplemental generation, it is fine.

From Austin's News-8:

Billionaire plans nation's largest wind farm in Panhandle
Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is planning a wind energy production project for the Panhandle that his people say would be the nation's largest.

KVII TV in Amarillo reports Pickens outlined his plans to an invitation-only audience at a close-door meeting Tuesday in Pampa.

Mike Boswell is a spokesman for Pickens' Dallas-based Mesa Group. He tells the station that Pickens told the select audience about the water rights Mesa owns in the Panhandle and the amount of wind that blows across the land.

He says early plans are to develop most of the generator complex east and northeast of Amarillo in Gray and Roberts counties, with a little lapping into adjoining Hemphill and Wheeler counties. The wind-driven turbines would generate two to four thousand megawatts and cost $3-6 billion to build.

Boswell says the four-county complex might be four times the AES wind farm in Abilene, which is now the nation's biggest.

Boswell says construction is now planned to start in 2010, with construction to take six and a half years to complete.

Very cool — Pickens is not an idiot and even if this takes ten years to pay for itself, the minimal cost of operation will make this a real moneymaker. Probably some nice government subsidies too…

Posted by DaveH at 08:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I predict - on June 26...

…that the Microsoft Campus will be very empty — very empty indeed…

Check out this auction being held less than ten miles away: James G. Murphy

Murphy is one of the best auction houses I have worked with. When I told Jen about this, she wondered why I wasn't going down there as well…

Posted by DaveH at 08:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Well Dang!

There was a time capsule buried in Tulsa Oklahoma 50 years ago and it was opened recently. One of the entries was a brand-new Plymouth Belvedere — chrome, fins, tonnage. A classic American Roadster from the days of 30 cent gasoline.

Unfortunately, when the vault was opened, there was two feet of water and evidence that the vault had been full at times. No word on the condition of the car yet.

The Tulsa World has more:

Buried Belvedere vault full of water
The vault in which Tulsa buried a Plymouth Belvedere 50 years ago was built to withstand a nuclear attack.

Water, apparently, not so much.

Workers lifted the vault's lid Wednesday morning to find about two feet of standing water and indications the vault may have been filled to the rim sometime during the past half-century.

That is a shame — I know from other stories that the car was coated with grease so the metalwork may be OK. There is hope about the accompanying Time Capsule though:

The condition of the time capsule, which in appearance resembles a small propane tank, was not clear.

The discovery of water in the vault was particularly difficult for the scores of volunteers who have worked for more than 18 months on the car's excavation. Their chairwoman, Sharon King Davis, wiped away a tear as she surveyed the vault.

She brightened a few minutes later, though, and said, “The party goes on!”

In addition to Friday's unearthing and unveiling activities, two Tulsarama car shows featuring 500 classic automobiles and a Saturday night sock hop are scheduled for the weekend.

Such a shame but Engineering in the 50's was a lot different than it is now. Materials science has progressed a lot…

Posted by DaveH at 08:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The International Olympic Committee needs to lighten up a bit...

Wonderful column rant by Joel Connelly in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Olympics bosses need to take a time out
In a delicious, likely deliberate, gaffe, Sen. Warren Magnuson of Washington once addressed imperious International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage at a hearing as “Mr. Average Brundy.”

The Olympic movement of 40 years later has gained massive corporate sponsorship. But it has not lost its haughty self- importance: Witness the legal water torture to which the U.S. Olympic Committee has recently subjected a young Olympic National Park seasonal ranger.

Jason Bausher spent the winter compiling a 56-page guide to the U.S. 101 loop around the peninsula. Using little Olympic Peninsula maps — at first I thought they were a whale's tail — he marks out “Best of” places to eat and stay.

The Lake Crescent Lodge, which played host to first lady Laura Bush, has two little whale's tails beside it. The Lake Quinault Lodge, where Franklin D. Roosevelt marveled at the Olympic Rain Forest, gets one.

In January, however, Bausher received a letter from an assistant general counsel at the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“Congress has granted the USOC the exclusive right to use and control the commercial use of the word 'OLYMPIC' and any simulation or combination thereof in the United States. See the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act,” wrote Kelly Maser, the USOC's assistant general counsel.

Yep, it's the same Ted Stevens — the tantrum-prone, self-enriching, pork barreling senator-for-life from Alaska.

“Uncle Ted” did include the narrowest of exemptions. He lets businesses use the word Olympic if it “refers to the naturally occurring mountains or geographical region of the same name.”

However, such businesses are required to keep their operations, sales and marketing to “the State of Washington West of the Cascade Mountain Range.”


In this age of the Internet — which Stevens called a “series of tubes” — such a marketing restriction is akin to requiring that all promotion of Mount McKinley and Denali National Park take place in the state of Alaska west of the Parks Highway (it provides access to the park).

The U.S. Olympic Committee confronted Bausher with five conditions. Some were reasonable. He had to disclaim any affiliation with the USOC, and not use “any torches, wreaths, medals or athletes” in its advertising.

But then came the corker: “You and/or your company agree to limit your use of the 'Best of the Olympic Peninsula' trademark (“the Mark”) to the geographic area outlined above.”

Talk about heavy handed behavior. I can understand wanting to protect your franchise and name but a little examination before blindly jumping in might serve you well; if only for the negative publicity an act like this will generate…

Posted by DaveH at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Toothpaste recalled in USA - Chinese food contamination

Yikes — from MS/NBC/AP:

Toothpaste labeled Colgate recalled in 4 states
FDA tests found antifreeze chemical; agency unsure if items are counterfeit

Five-ounce tubes of toothpaste labeled Colgate and sold in discount stores in four states are being recalled because they may contain a poisonous chemical, according to the importer.

A Food and Drug Administration official, Doug Arbesfeld, confirmed that testing had found the chemical in a product with the Colgate label. But he said the agency is unsure if it is really Colgate or a counterfeit.

“We are aware that toothpaste is something that’s been counterfeited in the past,” he said. “We don’t want to alarm people unnecessarily.”

There was no immediate reply to an e-mail message left with a Colgate-Palmolive spokesman Wednesday evening.

MS USA Trading, Inc. of North Bergen, N.J., said the toothpaste may contain diethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze.

The company said the toothpaste, imported from South Africa, was sold in discount stores in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“Made in South Africa” is printed on the box and includes Regular, Gel, Triple and Herbal versions.

Fortunately,no one has been injured. It sounds like a counterfeit product.

Posted by DaveH at 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nasty politics at a radio station

Florida radio station WIOD (610 AM) was offered the chance to become the official hurricane radio station by Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter. Only Ms. Ritter requested a change in proogramming…

Fromm the Miami Herald:

Want storm info? Fire gasbag Limbaugh, WIOD told
If it truly wants to be Broward County's official hurricane radio station, here's what WIOD (610 AM) needs to do:

Fire Rush Limbaugh.

At least that's the stand taken by Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who was able to prevent the county from renewing its hurricane information partnership with WIOD because the station carries the conservative icon's syndicated show.

Ritter pointed out that the majority of the nine county commissioners — all of whom are Democrats — are at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Limbaugh and other conservative hosts carried by WIOD.

With Ritter in opposition and four commissioners absent, there were insufficient votes to renew the deal.

“We don't have to do business with them,” Ritter declared.

Responding to Tuesday's tempest, Limbaugh told his legions of “dittohead” listeners on Wednesday: “They are politicizing the delivery of emergency news…I guess these people are making the weather a partisan issue.”

Fortunately, their are cooler heads in Broward County:

Commissioner John Rodstrom said he's against censorship and that he will vote for WIOD.

“When we start censoring what people write on radio, TV or newspapers, that is a slippery slope,” he said.

WIOD Program Manager Ken Charles was backing Rodstrom's view all the way.

“It's a shame people would let politics get in the way of saving lives during a hurricane or other emergency,” he said.

But for listeners who really can't stomach a right-wing hurricane report, Charles said the county's emergency hurricane information would simultaneously broadcast on its other station, WINZ, 940 AM. That station is affiliated with the liberal Air America.

“If politics really is going to play into this, we have both sides of the aisle,” Charles said.

No money changes hands under the hurricane deal. The station agrees to run Broward County's press conferences in their entirety, and in exchange, the county lists the station on its hurricane emergency preparedness materials.

WIOD was Broward's official station last year, and is the state's designated station for emergency alerts. But this year, the county decided to use a competitive process.

County officials recommended WIOD because it had the broadest reach.

Christ on a corn dog — this stations has the largest reach (coverage area), so what if you don't agree with their politics. Typical two-faced Democrat - do as I say, not as I do…

Posted by DaveH at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ethanol is not that green - pollution and waste

Interesting report from Cybercast News:

'Green' Energy Source a Major Polluter
Call it green pollution. The ethanol industry, which is marketed as environmentally friendly and has been called a “cornerstone of America's energy policy,” is dirtying air and water supplies across the heartland, according to a Cybercast News Service investigation.

And industry watchers said pollution is going to get worse.

“There seems to be this mad rush toward expansion of the alternative fuels industry without sufficient due diligence,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA).

The Renewable Fuels Association, a major industry lobbying group, lists 119 working ethanol refineries in the United States, with another 77 refineries being built as of June 1.

Federal and state environmental agencies are responsible for monitoring the plants and making sure they follow local and national clean air and water guidelines. Those agencies have been busy.

A Cybercast News Service analysis of EPA records found 73 biorefineries - more than 60 percent of those operating - were cited by state or federal agencies for environmental violations in the last three years. The vast majority involve state or federal clean air laws.

Heh… Unintended consequences coming around to bite the enviros in the ass again…

Posted by DaveH at 03:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Big earthquake in Guatemala

From CNN:

6.8 magnitude earthquake strikes off Guatemalan coast
A 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Wednesday just off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Early reports indicated some homes were damaged and people may be missing, journalist Patzy Vazquez told CNN en Español.

Hugo Hernandez, the executive director of the National Coordination for Disaster, said there were no immediate reports of injuries, but all phone lines were down.

Officials were using radios to communicate, according to Benedicto Giron, a spokesman for the disaster coordination agency.

Authorities were evacuating high-rise buildings and homes that might be vulnerable to damage if there were aftershocks, but none had been reported to the USGS so far, the agency's Rafael Abreu told CNN.

The quake struck at 1:29 p.m. (3:29 p.m. ET), about 70 miles from the capital, Guatemala City.

The quake's intensity, according to the USGS, was such that it was also felt in El Salvador.

The quake's epicenter was about 40 miles below the Earth's surface, the USGS said. Earthquakes centered closer to the surface generally can cause more damage.

In this case, the quake's depth and distance from shore are likely to limit the extent of the damage, Abreu said. “Had it been closer to the surface, then you would expect, certainly, more critical effects,” he said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a Pacific-wide tsunami was not expected.

Fortunate that it was so deep. Not as much surface movement when it is 40 miles down.

Posted by DaveH at 03:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Re-working the map of the United States

A clever way to look at Gross Domestic Product.
From the Strange Maps blog:

US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a convenient way of measuring and comparing the size of national economies. Annual GDP represents the market value of all goods and services produced within a country in a year. Put differently:

GDP = consumption + investment + government spending + (exports – imports)


Although the economies of countries like China and India are growing at an incredible rate, the US remains the nation with the highest GDP in the world – and by far: US GDP is projected to be $13,22 trillion (or $13.220 billion) in 2007, according to this source. That’s almost as much as the economies of the next four (Japan, Germany, China, UK) combined.

The creator of this map has had the interesting idea to break down that gigantic US GDP into the GDPs of individual states, and compare those to other countries’ GDP. What follows, is this slightly misleading map – misleading, because the economies both of the US states and of the countries they are compared with are not weighted for their respective populations.

Pakistan, for example, has a GDP that’s slightly higher than Israel’s – but Pakistan has a population of about 170 million, while Israel is only 7 million people strong. The US states those economies are compared with (Arkansas and Oregon, respectively) are much closer to each other in population: 2,7 million and 3,4 million.

And yet, wile a per capita GDP might give a good indication of the average wealth of citizens, a ranking of the economies on this map does serve two interesting purposes: it shows the size of US states’ economies relative to each other (California is the biggest, Wyoming the smallest), and it links those sizes with foreign economies (which are therefore also ranked: Mexico’s and Russia’s economies are about equal size, Ireland’s is twice as big as New Zealand’s). Here’s a run-down of the 50 states, plus DC.

GDP_map_of_USA.jpg
Click for full-size Image.

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

Funding an unusual science experiment

John Cramer is a Physicist at the University of Washington as well as a well-known Science Fiction writer. He had an idea for an unusual little experiment but couldn't get funding for it. A cheap experiment too — lasers, fiber optics; the whole thing fits on a tabletop and costs under $100,000 - a pittance in today's Scientific budgets.

What did he do? He went public and so far has raised over $35K
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Public donates to UW scientist to fund backward-in-time research
It can take a village to save science — a village that so far includes a Las Vegas music mogul, Kirkland rocket scientist, Port Townsend artist, Bothell chemist, Louisiana gas-and-oil man with a place in Port Angeles and a Savannah, Ga., computer programmer.

The public has stepped forward with cash to boldly go where nobody in the mainstream scientific establishment wants to go — or, at least, to have to pay for the attempt to go.

Backward. In time, that is.

A University of Washington scientist who could not obtain funding from traditional research agencies to test his idea that light particles act in reverse time has received more than $35,000 from folks nationwide who didn't want to see this admittedly far-fetched idea go unexplored.

“This country puts a lot more money into things that seem to me much crazier than this,” said Mitch Rudman, a music industry executive in Las Vegas whose family foundation donated $20,000 to the experiment. “It's outrageous to me that talented scientists have to go looking for a few bucks to do anything slightly outside the box.”

What John Cramer is proposing to do is certainly outside the box. It's about quantum retrocausality.

A bit more about the experiment:

Cramer, a physicist, for decades has been interested in resolving a fundamental paradox of quantum mechanics, the theory that accounts for the behavior of matter and energy at subatomic levels. It's called the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox.

It was set up by Albert Einstein (and two other guys named Rosen and Podolsky) in the 1930s to try to prove the absurdity of quantum theory. Einstein didn't like quantum theory, especially one aspect of it he ridiculed as “spooky action at a distance” because it seemed to require subatomic particles interacting faster than the speed of light.

However, experimental evidence has continued to pile up demonstrating the spooky action. Two subatomic particles split from a single particle do somehow instantaneously communicate no matter how far apart they get in space and time. The phenomenon is described as “entanglement” and “non-local communication.”

For example, one high-energy photon split by a prism into two lower-energy photons could travel into space and separate by many light years. If one of the photons is somehow forced up, the other photon — even if impossibly distant — will instantly tilt down to compensate and balance out both trajectories.

As the evidence for this has accumulated, several fairly contorted and unsatisfying efforts have been aimed at solving the puzzle. Cramer has proposed an explanation that doesn't violate the speed of light but does kind of mess with the traditional concept of time.

“It could involve signaling, or communication, in reverse time,” he said. Physicists John Wheeler and Richard Feynman years ago promoted this idea of “retrocausality” as worth considering. Cramer's version aimed at using retrocausality to resolve the EPR paradox is dubbed (by him) the “transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics.”

Most physicists, such as the celebrated cosmologist Stephen Hawking, still believe time can move only in one direction — forward. Cramer contends there is no hard and fast reason why.

He has proposed a relatively simple bench-top experiment using lasers, prisms, splitters, fiber-optic cables and other gizmos to first see if he can detect “non-local” signaling between entangled photons. He hopes to get it going in July. If this succeeds, he hopes to get support from “traditional funding sources” to really scale up and test for photons communicating in reverse time.

It may be important to note, at this point, that Cramer is not crazy.

Very cool! Garage science at its best…

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

RIP - Don Herbert

Otherwise known to millions as Mr. Wizard.

From his website:

It is with deep sadness that we regret to announce the passing of Don Herbert - the one and only “Mr. Wizard”. Don lost his battle with cancer today, June 12, 2007, at 9 AM Pacific Daylight Time - slightly more than one month shy of his 90th birthday. He was lovingly surrounded by his family, who are at once, saddened by his passing, and relieved that he is no longer suffering.

We all feel extremely lucky to have had him in our lives and to have known and worked with Don over the years. We have also been tremendously honored to carry on his legacy as an original and truly legendary figure in the worlds of both Television and Science Education. He has been inspirational and influential in so many ways and on so many lives and we are comforted in the fact that his ground breaking work and legacy will continue to inspire many more people for years to come.

Thank you so much to all of you for your support and sympathy.

Sincerely, The Family

He was an excellent educator who made many people interested in Science.

Posted by DaveH at 04:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Global Warming as a Religion

Nice essay on Number Watch about Global Warming and its practitioners:

Global Warming as Religion and not Science
It was Michael Crichton who first prominently identified environmentalism as a religion. That was in a speech in 2003, but the world has moved on apace since then and adherents of the creed now have a firm grip on the world at large.

Global Warming has become the core belief in a new eco-theology. The term is used as shorthand for anthropogenic (or man made) global warming. It is closely related to other modern belief systems, such as political correctness, chemophobia and various other forms of scaremongering, but it represents the vanguard in the assault on scientific man.

The activists now prefer to call it “climate change”. This gives them two advantages:
It allows them to seize as “evidence” the inevitable occurrences of unusually cold weather as well as warm ones.
The climate is always changing, so they must be right.
Only the relatively elderly can remember the cynical haste with which the scaremongers dropped the “coming ice age” and embraced exactly the opposite prediction, but aimed at the same culprit – industry. This was in Britain, which was the cradle of the new belief and was a response to the derision resulting from the searing summer of 1976. The father of the new religion was Sir Crispin Tickell, and because he had the ear of Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was engaged in a battle with the coal miners and the oil sheiks, it was introduced into international politics with the authority of the only major political leader holding a qualification in science. The introduction was timely yet ironic since, in the wake of the world’s political upheavals, a powerful new grouping of left-wing interests was coalescing around environmental issues. The result was a new form of godless religion. The global warming cult has the characteristics of religion and not science for the following reasons.

A longish essay but a very good one. Well worth the five minutes or so of your time to read it…

Posted by DaveH at 04:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The last white rhino left alive

Tragic news from Africa - from Yahoo/AFP:

Poachers kill one of last two white rhinos in Zambia
Poachers have shot the last two white rhinos in Zambia, killing one and wounding the other, in a night operation at the Mosi-Oa-Tunya national park in Livingstone, an official said Tuesday.

The shooting of the two endangered animals in a heavily-guarded zoological park near Victoria Falls in Zambia's tourist resort town of Livingstone took place last week.

“I can confirm that one of the white rhinos was shot dead by suspected poachers. The other one was wounded and is undergoing treatment,” said Maureen Mwape, spokesperson of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), which would be investigating the shooting.

The dead female rhino's horn was apparently removed.

Zambia's white rhinos were all killed by poachers but the government managed to acquire six from South Africa in 1993, of which the injured male is the last to survive.

There is a special place in hell for that poacher.

Posted by DaveH at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Microsoft makes a very clever move for game developers

Traditionally, the bar to entry for games development has been high. You needed to buy a special version of the game box plus proprietary development software.

Microsoft just lowered the bar significantly. From Ars Technica comes news of the The XNA Game Development Studio for Xbox 360 and PC:

Lowering the bar for entry
On Monday, Microsoft celebrated the official full release of Microsoft's XNA Game Studio for both Windows and the Xbox 360. The beta program started in March of this year, and allowed developers a sneak peek at these technologies.

XNA Game Studio is a collection of game development technologies that Microsoft believes will make it easier than ever for independent developers to write and publish new titles. A basic version of the software package is a free download on Windows, but for $99 a year, or $49 for a four-month trial, developers gain access to a host of extra features, including access to sample art assets, technical support, source code, and the ability to compile and run their games on both Windows and the Xbox 360 platform.

Much has been written about the runaway cost of video game development in recent years. Keeping up with the ever-expanding laundry list of new graphics features and the demand for high-resolution content has caused the number of employees required to produce a new game to skyrocket. Smaller game companies have either folded or been bought out by larger publishers with the financial resources to pay for such large teams. In this environment, what chance is there for the independent developer?

Microsoft's hope is that the XNA Game Studio will help level the playing field and allow these small developers to produce games that can stand up with the “big boys” without requiring an enormous amount of resources. The company wants XNA Studio to become a kind of “YouTube for game developers,” allowing many more people to express themselves in the form of video games and share their work with the world.

To achieve these goals, Microsoft is using a three-pronged strategy: technology, content, and community. The idea is to provide independent game developers with assistance at every stage of the game development process, and thus make it easier for small teams and even individuals to make their own games.

Very cool move and a guarantee that the XBox will continue to be a major player in the Game business…

Posted by DaveH at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The vanishing snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Global Warming purveyors have pointed to the vanishing snow cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro is proof-positive that the climate is warming.

Bzzzzzttttt - not so fast says University of Washington climate scientist Dr. Philip Mote. From the Seattle Times:

Kilimanjaro not a victim of climate change, UW scientist says
The shrinking snowcap atop Mount Kilimanjaro has become an icon of global warming.

Pictures of the African peak, which has lost 90 percent of its ice cover, were featured in Al Gore's documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Greenpeace activists once held a satellite news conference on the summit to sway participants in an international climate conference.

But most scientists who study Kilimanjaro's glaciers have long been uneasy with the volcano's poster-child status.

Yes, ice cover has shrunk by 90 percent, they say.

But no, the buildup of greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and factories is not to blame.

“Kilimanjaro is a grossly overused mis-example of the effects of climate change,” said University of Washington climate scientist Philip Mote, co-author of an article in the July/August issue of American Scientist magazine.

And a bit more:

Researchers believe Kilimanjaro's glaciers formed about 11,000 years ago, when the region was undergoing a period of wet weather that allowed snow to accumulate. But even before the first Europeans reached the summit in 1889, the weather has been dry in Eastern Africa. There simply hasn't been enough snowfall to keep up with the loss of ice due to sublimation, Kaser explained.

Sublimation, caused by exposure to sunlight and dry air, occurs when ice essentially skips the melting step and evaporates.

Kaser, who climbs Kilimanjaro twice a year to gather data, says the ice topography shows little evidence that melting is anything but a minor force. Jagged spires and cliffs made of ice up to 120 feet tall are not softened around the edges.

Another contributing factor is the illegal logging on the slopes of the mountain. This allows the warm air to rise without the natural cooling generated by the forest. The global warming pople are cherry picking bits and pieces that advance their ideas nad not looking at the overall big picture.

Posted by DaveH at 11:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Building bridges in China

A curious case of mismanagement in China from Yahoo/Reuters:

Two jailed after bridge built by blind man collapses
A Chinese court has jailed two officials after they let a blind contractor build a bridge which collapsed during construction and injured 12 people, the official Xinhua news agency said Monday.

Huang Wenge, township head of Bujia in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, and colleague Xia Jianzhong were sentenced to 18 months and one year in jail, respectively, for not stopping the project, Xinhua said.

“Huang Wenge and Xia Jianzhong, who were in charge of road management and supervision, did not ask the contractors to provide certificates guaranteeing their proficiency,” it said, citing the court ruling.

“When they knew the bridge was being built by a blind contractor, they did not stop it,” it said, adding the contractor had changed the blueprint without getting a professional to look at the design.

“After the blind contractor changed the blueprint, he carried out the work only using a roughly drawn draft of the plan, which caused the bridge to collapse,” the report said.

Xinhua did not explain how the contractor was able to run the project considering his inability to see.

Stories like this just write themselves… Talk about mismanagement.

Posted by DaveH at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

Here Kitty redux - the $22K cat is not that special

Earlier, I had writing about the new breed of cat being developed by a company called Lifestyle Pets: Here kitty - a $22,000 pet.

Reader Mike Toreno commented that this cat looked a lot like a Savannah cat, a registered breed. Same overall size, disposition and coloring.

I googled a bit and found this web page: Ashera vs. Savannah Cat

Lifestyle Pets Introduces the $22,000 Ashera™, the World's Largest, Rarest and Most Exotic Domestic Cat
In my opinion, reading this press release simply shouted “There's one born every minute” and “A fool and his money are readily parted”. A special kitty descended from the African Serval and Asian Leopard cat and the domestic cat and they want to charge folk $22,000? This cat already exists, it is called the Savannah cat and was first accepted for registration by The International Cat Association (TICA), the world's largest genetic registry of pedigreed cats, way back in the year 2000. So to me, Lifestyle Pets seem a little behind the eight-ball.

From the looks of the pictures attached to this press release, the Ashera they are peddling for $22,000 appears to be an F2 generation Savannah cat (two generations removed from the Serval) which would normally cost $3,500 to ~$5,000 from a reputable cat breeder, depending on quality.

Since the original launching of the Ashera cat, the story has changed a little. This current idea is that this cat melds domestic cat with both African Serval and Asian Leopard Cat lineage. ANY cat with African Serval heritage and domestic cat heritage is a Savannah cat. Period. Asian Leopard Cat heritage is a fancy way of saying that they used Bengal cats (the domestic hybrid descended from Asian Leopard Cats, registered for over 20 years with TICA) to cross to the African Serval, something that has already occurred in the Savannah breed, and the vast majority of Savannahs registered have some Asian Leopard Cat in their heritage.

By keeping all information about the Ashera cat confidential, this means that the purchaser of an Ashera cat is buying a cat lacking a pedigree, which is the thing that normally means a cat is worth more money than a shelter kitty. The pictures supplied of the Ashera cat appear to show an inferior-quality Savannah, and the lack of a pedigree or registration papers backs up that impression.

So as far as I can see, buying an Ashera cat is buying an unregistered inferior Savannah cat and paying five times as much for the privilege?

Kinda sums things up nicely doesn't it…

The home page for the breed is here: Savannah Cat
Gorgeous creatures — if we weren't already really busy with our critters, I'd seriously look into getting one or two. Beautiful.

savannah_cat_standingx.jpg

Posted by DaveH at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2007

Usury - short-term loans specifically CashCall

The idea sounds great — get a thousand bucks or so from the bank and it's only a small payment every month. Until you do the math simple arithmetic.

Check out the First Bank of Delaware's interest rates for small “hassle free” loans:

cashcall_usury.png
Click on image for full-size)

So let's see — you borrow $5,075.00 and pay $21,338.52 over the next seven years for the privilege? Naaaa…

How about borrowing $2,600 and paying $9,095.10 over the next three and a half years. Nope either…

Well, my last and final offer is borrowing $1,075.00 for three and a half years and paying $3,523.38 for that august pleasure.

These people don't even allow you to grease up before they bend you over and have their way. I would rather deal with a local loan shark — they may have a high vig but they aren't out to ream you; they want the repeat business…

Posted by DaveH at 08:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iran and ex-Russian nuclear materials - a link through England

Wonderful, just fucking wonderful…
From The Guardian:

MI6 probes UK link to nuclear trade with Iran
A British company has been closed down after being caught in an apparent attempt to sell black-market weapons-grade uranium to Iran and Sudan, The Observer can reveal.

Anti-terrorist officers and MI6 are now investigating a wider British-based plot allegedly to supply Iran with material for use in a nuclear weapons programme. One person has already been charged with attempting to proliferate 'weapons of mass destruction'.

During the 20-month investigation, which also involved MI5 and Customs and Excise, a group of Britons was tracked as they obtained weapons-grade uranium from the black market in Russia. Investigators believe it was intended for export to Sudan and on to Iran.

A number of Britons, who are understood to have links with Islamic terrorists abroad, remain under surveillance. Investigators believe they have uncovered the first proof that al-Qaeda supporters have been actively engaged in developing an atomic capability. The British company, whose identity is known to The Observer but cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, has been wound up.

A Customs and Excise spokesman said: 'We continue to investigate allegations related to the supply of components for nuclear programmes including related activities of British nationals.'

And the… er… 'fallout' from this:

Politically, the allegations hold potentially huge ramifications for diplomatic relations between the West and Tehran. Already, tensions are running high between Iran, the US and the European Union over the true extent of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran refuses to suspend its nuclear programme in the face of mounting pressure, arguing its intent is entirely peaceful and solely aimed at producing power for civilian use.

Investigators are understood to have evidence that Iran was to receive the uranium to help develop a nuclear weapons capability. 'They may argue that the material is for civilian use but it does seem an extremely odd way to procure uranium,' said Berry.

Alleged evidence of Sudan's role will concern British security services. The East African state has long been suspected of offering a haven for Islamist terrorists and has been accused of harbouring figures including Osama bin Laden who, during the mid-Nineties, set up a number of al-Qaeda training camps in the country.

I know that Iran is trying to build a bomb and that it's intentions are to wipe Israel off the map. Most other people know the same thing but we still continue along as though that 1,200 pound elephant was not in our living rooms. These people are out to kill us and our friends and the majority of the US media keeps going along with their PR blitz and the vast majority of the citizens are mis-informed. Sheep.

The Islamist mind-set is very simple to understand and we could shut the terrorist operations down in very short order if we had the will to do so and if our media would just STFU for a while.

Posted by DaveH at 07:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How not to organize a public network - Marriott Hotels

From Network World:

Marriott exec shares converged network “horror story”
Hotel chain wants each property to have one network for guests, staff

Neil Schubert is only partly kidding when he calls Marriott International’s move toward a converged network a “horror story.”

“I’m here to tell you a terrifying tale of network design, support and administration,” he said to an audience Thursday at the IDC IT Forum & Expo in Boston. Marriott International runs a variety of hotel chains from the Ramada to the Ritz-Carlton, supporting more than 3,200 properties, 580,000 rooms and 2 million nodes. The so-called horror story began about 10 years ago when the organization began offering broadband access to guests, Schubert said. Things really got bad during an 18-month period in 2005 and 2006 after a TV commercial showed a guest of Marriott’s Courtyard hotels using free high-speed Internet access and video telephone technology.

And the problems:

“This ad came out before we knew about it,” Schubert said. “This brand typically had one DSL circuit into every hotel for 160 customers. It didn’t work real well at first.”

The problem was exacerbated by guests using Slingbox, a device allowing cable customers to view television on their laptops live over the Internet. “It’s a great product as a consumer but terrifying as a network administrator,” Schubert said. “The good news is bandwidth will never be more expensive and it will never be slower than it is today.”

Ouch! Perfect example of some marketing idiot not talking with the IT department. Makes the Hotel look very bad.

Posted by DaveH at 06:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A curious archeological find

From the UK website 24 Hour Museum

ARCHAEOLOGISTS FIND EARLY EXECUTIVE TOILET IN SHEFFIELD WORKS
The Victorians were great inventors, and their progress in the field of sewage disposal was not one of their least achievements. Thomas Crapper is famed for popularising the flush lavatory in the 19th century, but not many examples of his early ‘work’ survive.

So archaeologists from the University of Sheffield got quite excited when they found a toilet dating back around 150 years in an old cutlery and grinding works, believing it to be an original Crapper.

Further research revealed that the design of this particular Bramah pan closet toilet was a little more unusual, not a Crapper, but definitely a high class throne that would have been used by the company directors.

The archaeology team have spent the last two years surveying, investigating and unravelling the history of the Grade II* listed Butcher Works in Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter, prior to its redevelopment.

sheffield_archeologist_toilet.jpg

People had to take bio-breaks back then too…

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Bobby Mugabe advised not to run for resident again

About time - from the UK Telegraph:

Mugabe told: stand again and you will lose
Robert Mugabe has been told by his own intelligence chiefs that he will lose if he sticks to his insistence on standing again in Zimbabwe's presidential elections next year.

The 83-year-old, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, was given the warning last month. He is said to have been livid.

Emphasis mine — couldn't happen to a nicer person.

What is it like to live in Zimbabwe these days:

It said support for the president was at rock bottom because of severe economic crisis, with ordinary Zimbabweans struggling to survive in the face of inflation of more than 3,700 per cent, unemployment at 80 per cent and shortages of basic foodstuffs and fuel.

Mugabe is said to have sat through the presentation with a “frowning, cold face”. Yet he seems to be stepping up measures to secure victory for his party.

Last week, he ordered its youth militia, the “green bombers”, to turn villages into no-go areas for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

“Mugabe said he was not giving up on next year's polls as this would be a victory to our colonisers [Britain], who want to rule us using their puppets in the MDC,” said one of those who attended the meeting.

Zimbabwe used to be the “breadbasket” of Africa - exporting a large variety of food. Now it has to import its food and the economy is in shambles. All of this is Mugabe's fault. He and his corrupt cronies have ruined a Jewel of Africa.

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

Yet another reason to love the Islamists

Not content with fucking over their own people, one family from the United Arab Emirates is fucking over one of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers on the planet.

From the Washington Post:

50,000 Years of Resilience May Not Save Tribe
Tanzania Safari Deal Lets Arab Royalty Use Lands

One of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers on the planet is on the verge of vanishing into the modern world.

The transition has been long underway, but members of the dwindling Hadzabe tribe, who now number fewer than 1,500, say it is being unduly hastened by a United Arab Emirates royal family, which plans to use the tribal hunting land as a personal safari playground.

The deal between the Tanzanian government and Tanzania UAE Safaris Ltd. leases nearly 2,500 square miles of this sprawling, yellow-green valley near the storied Serengeti Plain to members of the royal family, who chose it after a helicopter tour.

A Tanzanian official said that a nearby hunting area the family shared with relatives had become “too crowded” and that a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family “indicated that it was inconvenient” and requested his own parcel.

The official, Philip Marmo, called the Hadzabe “backwards” and said they would benefit from the school, roads and other projects the UAE company has offered as compensation.

But dozens of Hadzabe interviewed deep in the scruffy hills surrounding this valley said that while they are ready to modernize, slowly, they were not consulted on the deal, which is a direct threat to their way of life because it involves hunting.

While they have through 50,000 years survived the coming of agriculture, metal, guns, diseases, missionaries, poachers, anthropologists, students, gawking journalists, corrugated steel houses and encroaching pastoral tribes who often impersonate them for tourist money, the resilient Hadzabe, who still make fire with sticks, fear that the safari deal will be their undoing.

“If they are going to come here, we definitely will all perish,” said Kaunda, a Hadzabe man who prefers khakis but still hunts with hand-hewn poison arrows. “Our history will die, and the Hadzabe will be swept off the face of the world. We are very much afraid.”

Their fear is based on a similar agreement the government struck years ago with another company that resulted in dozens of Hadzabe men being arrested for hunting on tribal land. Three of the men died of illness in the bewildering environment of prison, cut off from the open world, their daily hunting and their diet of herbs, roots and honey. Three others died soon after being released.

“We're not used to that kind of life in jail,” said Gudo, an elderly Hadzabe whose best friend, Sumuni, was among those who perished. “Sumuni was my age. Our fathers were friends. We played together, learned how to hunt together,” he said, looking away. “I don't want to talk anymore.”

Sad. The ego of these people who think that they know what is best for someone. A long and very lovingly written article. I hope that this 'royal family' comes to their senses (or submits to public pressure).

Posted by DaveH at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A bit of a problem - the Greenpoint spill

Ten millions of toxic gunk are hiding in the aquifer under Brooklyn, NY.
From New York Magazine:

The Ooze
Ten million gallons of toxic gunk trapped in the Brooklyn aquifer is starting to creep toward the surface. How scary is that?

On a foggy October day in 2002, Basil Seggos first saw the sheen on the surface of the water. He and his colleagues had launched an old wooden-hulled oyster boat from the Dyckman marina in Inwood, and headed south, down the Harlem and East rivers. They were on a mission to document fishing and crabbing spots on the riverfront so that local anglers could be warned not to eat their catch. When Seggos’s boat reached the mouth of Newtown Creek, the finger of water that separates Brooklyn from Queens, they decided to sail into the creek to check out its unnatural landscape—miles of waste-processing plants, gasoline-storage facilities, and abandoned refineries. The boat passed floating auto parts, crumbling bulkheads, and rusting pipes spewing filthy-looking water. Then, about a mile in, Seggos saw it: oil coating the surface of the water from shore to shore and extending upstream for another half-mile or so. “It was everywhere, all over the shoreline.” Officially, Seggos was running an outreach program for Riverkeeper, RFK Jr.’s environmental organization, and the organization’s protocol in situations like these is to stop and call the state Department of Environmental Conservation hotline. The call is supposed to provoke an immediate reaction, but no one showed up. The next day, Seggos called again. “We’d never even heard of a spill there before,” says Seggos. “But they told me they already had an open case on it and they were handling it.”

What Seggos discovered—or rediscovered—wasn’t an oil spill, exactly. Rather, it was a mix of gasoline, solvents, and associated poisons bubbling up from the very ground: a thin dribble that betrays the presence of a supertanker’s worth of the stuff submerged in the age-old geology of Greenpoint. It’s actually more than a century’s worth of spills, leaks, and waste dumped by oil companies that has pooled into a vast underground lake, more than 55 acres wide and up to 25 feet thick. First discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1978, the Greenpoint spill has been estimated at anywhere between 17 million and 30 million gallons—three times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spill. That makes it the largest known oil spill in American history.

Seggos had stumbled upon a long-forgotten industrial accident, decades in the making. It soon became an obsession. Over the next thirteen months, he dug through old news clippings and contacted state and local officials. He attended community meetings and organized local activists into the Newtown Creek Alliance. And he tried to understand how it was that a giant oil spill remained so little known in the thriving neighborhood right above it. What he learned, mostly through Freedom of Information Act requests, was that Mobil—the company that had likely spilled most of the oil—had quietly agreed with state officials to assume responsibility for the necessary cleanup. In return, the state wouldn’t make any more demands: no timetables, no fines, no set outcomes. Both sides could avoid a bitter, costly, and potentially embarrassing court battle. And by keeping it quiet, there would be no public panic—or costly liability.

Going into the history of the area and how the 'blob' came into being:

During the industrial boom of the 1890s, local activists calling themselves the Fifteenth Ward Smelling Committee paddled up the creek seeking the polluters responsible for the foul stenches wafting from the once-pristine waterway. They had plenty to choose from: glue-makers and fertilizer processors produced plenty of noxious by-product. But the oil refineries were the worst offenders: Workers transferring oil and solvents from one part of the plant to another inevitably spilled; storage tanks leaked; and the process of distilling oil to make kerosene, paraffin wax, naphtha, gasoline, and fuel oil left all sorts of junk. “If roughly 5 percent of the initial crude petroleum consumed by the refineries ended up as coke residue, gas, or other loss, as the contemporary literature suggested,” writes historian Andrew Hurley, “each of New York’s petroleum districts would have produced the equivalent of 300,000 gallons of waste material each week during the 1880s.” What couldn’t be resold or burned up was simply dumped on the ground or into the water. There were more than 50 refineries in Greenpoint in 1870, and by 1892, Standard Oil owned most of them.

At the time, Newtown Creek was one of the busiest waterways in the country, and the most hazardous: Fires routinely broke out at the refineries, sometimes burning down entire factories and leaving the chemical remains to soak into the soil. In 1919, twenty acres of the Standard Oil refinery, storing 110 million gallons of oil, went up in smoke. The oil that didn’t burn sunk into the ground. Given the natural order of things, one would expect this oil eventually to drain into the creek and escape into the ocean—but it didn’t. Instead, it slowly moved away from the creek and backed up into Brooklyn. That’s because until about 60 years ago, Brooklyn relied on its own wells for drinking water. And the borough pumped so much of its groundwater to the surface that it reversed the natural slope of its underground water table, tilting it away from the creek and toward the Brooklyn Navy Yard, near where the municipal water pumps were diligently sucking. And so the oil, slinking above the water table, flowed with it, filling the interstitial spaces where the groundwater had once been. By the forties, the aquifer was so depleted that seawater had begun to infiltrate it, making it useless. So in 1949 Brooklyn switched to water piped down from the Catskills.

One year later, on October 5, a vast underground explosion centered at Huron Street and Manhattan Avenue sent 25 manhole covers shooting into the Greenpoint sky, where they reached elevations as high as three stories. This was the first clue that anything was amiss. An investigation revealed that gasoline was leaking into the neighborhood’s sewer system, but at the time no one thought to measure the amount of manhole propellant that had not ignited. Meanwhile, with the municipal water pumps in mothballs, Brooklyn’s aquifer slowly started filling back up. By the late seventies, the water table had rebounded to its natural level. And the oil that floated on top of it reversed its flow. It now moved toward what was once again the lowest point: Newtown Creek.

Then, in September 1978, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter noticed an iridescent glaze spreading out over the narrow waterway. The oil under Greenpoint had reemerged. That sparked the first investigation into how much oil from the refineries had leaked into the ground over the years. The Coast Guard’s 1979 study is the source of the 17 million–gallon, 55-acre estimate. From the condition of the oil, the Coast Guard also figured that most of it dated to around 1948, and its high concentration of naphtha, a solvent used at the Mobil refinery until it closed in 1965 but not used by other oil companies in the area, suggested that the primary source of the spill was Mobil Oil. Mobil is a direct descendent of Standard.

Yikes — no wonder Mobil is keeping quiet on this…

Posted by DaveH at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2007

Mickey Mouse found in 900AD Swedish archeological dig

NEWS FLASH: Walt Disney didn't invent Mickey Mouse — there is a case of prior art.
From Sweden's The Local:

Archaeologists discover Iron Age Mickey Mouse
Swedish archaeologists have uncovered signs of a Viking precursor to Mickey Mouse. Among the objects found during excavations at Uppåkra in southern Sweden is an iron age figure bearing a strong resemblance to the classic cartoon character.

But archaeologist Jerry Rosenberg from Lund University is confident that the bronze brooch - used as a clasp to fasten women's clothing - was in fact intended to represent a Lion King rather than a mere mouse.

“The find is from around 900 AD. It was probably a lion's head that originally came from France. It was however more than likely designed by somebody who had never actually seen a lion.

“Instead it turned into this sort of strange, fantasy animal,” he told The Local.

Despite the cartoon coincidence, Rosenberg insists there are no plans to open a Viking equivalent to Disneyland.

“No, I don't think so. But we do have a big exhibition at the Lund Historical Museum, which includes two to three thousand objects,” he said.

Archaeologists have recovered a total of over 20,000 Iron Age items since digging began at Uppåkra in 1996. The town functioned as a major cultic and political centre from the first to the tenth century, at which point it was replaced by the strategically better placed city of Lund just five kilometres away.

So it's The Lion King and not Mickey — well, judge for yourself:

mickey_mouse_sweden.jpg

M - I - C

K - E - Y

M - O - U - S - E

Posted by DaveH at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2007

Where your food comes from (the supermarket?)

Unreal but believable. From BBC News:

Public 'unaware' of food origins
Many British people are unaware that the ingredients for produce such as bacon, porridge, bread and beer come from farms, a survey suggests.

The Linking Environment And Farming organisation found that 22% of 1,073 adults questioned did not know bacon and sausages originate from farms.

Some 47% of people did not know farms produced porridge's main ingredient.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is organising Open Farms Sunday on 10 June to promote awareness of British farms.

The day will see farms around the country opening to the public for events such as nature trails, talks, tastings and demonstrations.

People who work in the food and farming industry say the survey confirms what, anecdotally, they have been hearing for years - that people are becoming disconnected from the food they eat and where it comes from.

A few more numbers:

The survey also found four in 10 people did not know yoghurt is made using farm produce, nearly half were unaware the raw ingredients for beer start off in farmers' fields and 23% did not know bread's main ingredients came from the farm.

For dinner tonight, we had some pork chops raised by the sister of a neighbor of ours. Local organic salad greens and for desert, we had the first strawberries of the season from a farm about 10 miles away from us and fresh homemade whipped cream — the cream came from a local dairy.

The difference in taste is staggering and the cost is a lot less than you would expect. We have to have freezer space for a hundred pounds of meat for our pig but we paid less than $3/pound for some amazing food. The berries are local and we are selling quart containers of them at our store for under $4.00 — picked that morning.

The cream for the whipped cream sells at our store for under $3/pint and this makes about two pints of some of the most delicious whipped cream you ever tasted. Ever read the label on even some of the organic whipping creams and you see things like Carrageen (a gelatinous seaweed extract) — that company took out the butterfat from their cream and need to add this so it can whip. Problem is that butterfat tastes really good and you are robbing this whipping cream of flavor.

Eating organic is good but eating local is even better — for the farmers, for the overall economy and for your own health and taste buds…

Posted by DaveH at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I sure hope he didn't have a spot of tea with Vladimir Putin

Bush is not having a fun time at the G-8 summit — he seems to have a touch of the marthambles or something…
From Yahoo/Associated Press:

Illness sidelines Bush at G-8 summit
Stricken with a stomach ailment that confined him to his hotel room, President Bush still met Friday with France's new president and prepared for talks in Poland on a new missile defense system.

The president was already dressed when he began feeling ill in the morning, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said. He said doctors are keeping an eye on him but that Bush's illness — whether a stomach virus, a light touch of food poisoning or something else — is “not serious.”

He stayed in bed to try to rest and recuperate, missing the morning session of the summit being held here of eight industrialized democracies.

President Bush did manage to have one very important meeting:

The first sign that something was amiss came when Sarkozy appeared alone before reporters after their meeting. Speaking in French, he said only that Bush was in his bedroom and that Bush's spokesmen would have to explain further.

Bartlett said the two leaders discussed a myriad of issues, including Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, trade and missile defense. It was their first meeting since Sarkozy took office less than a month ago and only their second overall; the first was September in Washington.

Sarkozy said Bush had invited him to come to the United States.

“The president felt that they established a real personal rapport,” Bartlett said.

The new French president, seen as friendly to the United States, will likely be a welcome change from the merciless tormenting Bush received from Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac.

To be sure, Sarkozy does not fall in lockstep with U.S. policies.

For instance, he, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit host, had pushed for hard greenhouse gas emission reduction targets out of the week's gathering.

Nicolas Sarkozy sounds like a very good friend of the United States. Definitely his own man and leader of a separate and sovereign nation with its own agenda but still, Sarkozy seems to realize what we are up against with Wahabism and Islamofascism and sees that this little corner of darkness needs to be nipped in the bud now.

Posted by DaveH at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Art and the Web

Why is it that so many accomplished artists fancy themselves web designers as well…

A wonderful rant from someone who is both — writing at lines and colors:

How Not to Display Your Artwork on the Web
In the thirteen years I’ve been on the web, twelve of which I’ve spent doing professional web site design, and the last two of which have sent me to hundreds of artists’ web sites, I’ve come to the inevitable conclusion that the thing artists want most when placing their art on the web is for it not to be seen.

There are millions upon millions of bad sites on the web, but artists really work at it. Never have I seen such an array of sites in which artsy designs, misplaced cleverness, highbrow concepts, amateur clumsiness, arrogance and ignorance have been painstakingly employed to drive visitors away.

As a result of this obvious desire of illustrators, painters, comics artists, concept designers and other artists not to be seen, I’ve created a collection of handy tips for how to send editors, art directors, gallery owners, prospective buyers, webcomics readers and casual users hastily clicking away in search of some portfolio site other than yours.

Got your note pads ready?

Charley Parker is the author of this website and he absolutely nails it.
The rest of his blog is excellent and will be a frequent read for me.

Check out lines and colors

Posted by DaveH at 09:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oceanography and little rubber duckies

Wonderful use of an accident to perform some good science.
From the Christian Science Monitor:

Drifting rubber duckies chart oceans of plastic
Theirs is an epic tale of resilience and pluck, a seafarer's yarn of high-seas adventure that has seen them brave some of the world's wildest waters in their 11-year odyssey from the Pacific Ocean toward landfall in Europe.

They have bobbed through storms that would have wrecked larger vessels, to drift deliberately down the Bering Strait. They have patiently borne a four-year spell trapped in Arctic ice packs, to float freely into the Atlantic.

And now, buoyed perhaps by the prospect of an end to their pelagic paddling, a flotilla of yellow bathtub rubber ducks, lost at sea when they fell off a container ship in the North Pacific in 1992, is about to wash up on Europe's western shores, according to an oceanographer who has been tracking them for years.

More of the much-traveled toys are thought to be heading down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where their arrival would offer new data on ocean currents and wind patterns. And the US company that made the ducks is offering $100 in savings bonds to anyone who finds one.

Nobody has actually seen one of these ducks in the Atlantic yet, says Curt Ebbesmeyer, a retired oceanographer and the international dean of beachcombers, who has put out a global call for sightings. But their presence there “is a prediction based on the drifts of thousands of other objects in my files,” he says.

The plastic ducks were part of a consignment of 29,000 bathtub toys, including beavers, turtles, and frogs, that ended up in the Pacific when a container ship en route from China to the United States lost some of its deck cargo in heavy seas.

A wonderful example of serendipity — cargo lost but scientific knowledge gained with some clever thinking…

Posted by DaveH at 09:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2007

Light posting tonight

Working on the website for the Grocery Store

Fun stuff - starting to get the hang of everything. It helps a lot that we have nine excellent people working for us.

Posted by DaveH at 06:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 06, 2007

Making money in New York City

Interesting article in New York Magazine profiling various businesses and seeing what their cash flow is like — the article covers Coke dealers through Investment Bankers (probably a lot of overlap there), high end restaurants and diners. Fascinating read…

The Profit Calculator
The wild risks, unexpected niches, and day-in-day-out grind behind making a dollar in New York…for everyone from a drug dealer to Goldman Sachs.

You can’t live in New York—arguably, you can’t spend an hour in New York—and remain oblivious to the machinery of profit pumping away under every surface. This city makes money, loses money, houses money; lately, with luxe condos stacking up like casino chips along the waterfront, the city looks like money. What’s amazing, then, is how little we truly know about the inner workings of this beast we feed, and milk, daily: How does New York make its money?

Every company setting up in the city finds itself plugged into its myriad historical, cultural, and regulatory quirks. The biggest one, of course, concerns our island’s most precious commodity and its most enduring obsession: real estate. New York businesses live and die by the rent; if you’re a retailer leasing here, “making the rent” becomes the yardstick of solvency. The unofficial golden rule of restaurants dictates that the rent be made in a week and take up no more than a quarter of revenue. The bar version of the rule is even simpler: The rent should equal your Friday-night take. With each year, another company succumbs to the strange realization that where it sits may be more valuable than what it does. Even Macy’s, that icon of consumerism, may be worth more as a building than as a store. We’ve picked a disparate cross section of New York institutions and examined their inner workings. Some are nonprofits (a soup kitchen, a private school), some are not profitable (a fledgling yoga studio, the Yankees—at least on an annual basis), and at least one, Goldman Sachs, is stratospherically lucrative (though a lazy meth dealer ekes out a higher margin). A note: Where companies wouldn’t provide figures, our estimates are based on analyst reports, tax filings, and interviews with former and current employees.

We also asked Edward Glaeser, a pioneering urban economist at Harvard, to analyze the New Yorkonomics of the businesses we profile. His insights are in italic. Glaeser is an expert in how New York’s great density makes our lives—and livelihoods—hugely dependent on one another. We’re all plugged, at different entry points, into the same awesome web. A failing restaurant keeps a printer in the black with its incessant flyering. The sex-toy market rises and falls with the consumer-confidence index. An eight o’clock Nobu reservation provides a cabdriver with his golden hour. And everyone—everyone—is cursing the rent. Except the landlords.
Posted by DaveH at 09:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Everything you wanted to know about the Electromagnetic Spectrum

From here: XKCD

Posted by DaveH at 09:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Needs a little nuance but...

The Guy from Boston on Global Warming (YouTube)

(NSFW)

Posted by DaveH at 08:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A letter from Israel on the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War

Gerard Vanderleun has an excellent Memo from Israel to the Palestinian “people”:

Memo from Israel to Palestine
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. The Six Day War was, as it turns out, only one of the high points in the struggle of Israel to secure its very existence and to find a just and lasting peace with neighbors who would incinerate that state if they had the slightest opportunity. This brute fact, despite continued examples of its reality, is still avoided and temporized by Israel's leaders today. On this day, the current Prime Minister of Israel, the enfeebled Olmert promised, “We will not hesitate to take bold initiatives to advance peace, even if they require heavy concessions,” and “Israel is prepared to make painful concessions to pay the price for a lasting and just peace.”

Given the “heavy” and “painful” concessions already made by Israel over the last 40 years, one shudders to think what else Olmert is prepared to give up. At some point, there will be nothing left to cede.

All of which, to my mind, leads directly to some fast approaching fateful day when the weak men such as Olmert are pushed aside by history and Israel is, finally, prepared to issue a document such as the one that follows and is, finally, prepared to act upon it.

To: The Palestinian People
From: The People of Israel
Re: Final Notice Before the Termination of Our Relationship
Date: “To Be Determined
(To be filed in your “Permanent Conduct Record”)

AS YOU KNOW from our repeated meetings over many years, we have repeatedly done our best to accommodate your incessant demands regarding employment, compensation, housing allowances, health benefits, and other items of mutual interest as we have endeavored to work together on “Project Peace in the Middle East.”

We have, with your agreement and assurances of a better performance, given you time, money, professional help, medication and a more than reasonable offer of land for you to live in while you work out “your issues.” In the course of these meetings we feel we have been more than forthcoming in our attendance to your “special needs.”

From time to time we have accepted your written word that, given adequate resources, you would be working internally to resolve “your issues.” We note, for the record, that at no time has your word proven to be worth the paper which we both so ceremoniously signed. Indeed, it has been our bitter experience that the working out of “your issues” most often involves explosive episodes on the streets of our country.

It has come to our attention, through a continuing rain of the body parts of our citizens onto our streets, that “your issues” do not seem to be resolvable through considered and mutually agreeable negotiations. The outcome of these 'negotiations' in the recent past seems to us to be one of we give and you take and then you kill us. We have decided that this is not a peace project that we wish to continue.

Indeed, it would seem to be the case that your “central issue,” although internally generated within your institutions and religion, seems to be the eradication of the state of Israel and the extermination of the Jewish people here and abroad.

We mention 'abroad' since it would seem to us that your goal is to first create a base that includes the entire state of Israel, kill the Jews within those borders, and then use that land as a base to kill Jews throughout the world. Perhaps we are wrong in this but we find that a people is best known by the company they keep.

As Jews we have had a similar experience with this “central issue” as a “final solution” towards the middle of the last century. We discovered, after millions of us had been slaughtered, that mollification, negotiation, and submission was not a successful policy. Indeed, we created the state of Israel around the central concept of 'Never again.'

Please note that after no little reflection and soul searching, we have decided to return Israel to this concept as the foundation of our internal and international policy from this moment forward.

Because we are a reasonable people we have decided to issue this memorandum in order to give you one chance to reform yourselves and become fit to be included in the human race. Should you choose not to pursue this path, we will at least have a record that you were notified in a fair and timely manner before termination.

Never Again” was our first principle and is now our final position. This memo serves to note the end of all negotiations with the Palestinian People.

Your problems and your issues as of this date are yours and yours alone. You must solve whatever bipolar instability and manic-depressive disappointment and psychotic tendencies towards homicidal violence plague your society among yourselves. You will not, from this date forward, use the People of Israel as targets for your own internal demons.

Your “issues” will no longer be allowed to become our “episodes.”

And Gerard is just starting to warm to the task. An excellent piece of writing…

Posted by DaveH at 08:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We just need a little more diplomacy

Caught red-handed.
Iran has been shipping ordnance to the Taliban.

From ABCs The Blotter:

Document: Iran Caught Red-Handed Shipping Arms to Taliban
NATO officials say they have caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces, in what the officials say is a dramatic escalation of Iran's proxy war against the United States and Great Britain.

“It is inconceivable that it is anyone other than the Iranian government that's doing it,” said former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stopped short earlier this week of blaming Iran, saying the U.S. did not have evidence “of the involvement of the Iranian government in support of the Taliban.”

But an analysis by a senior coalition official, obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com, concludes there is clear evidence of Iran's involvement.

“This is part of a considered policy,” says the analysis, “rather than the result of low-level corruption and weapons smuggling.”

Iran and the Taliban had been fierce enemies when the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan, and their apparent collaboration came as a surprise to some in the intelligence community.

“I think their goal is to make it very clear that Iran has the capability to make life worse for the United States on a variety of fronts,” said Seth Jones of the Rand Institute, “even if they have to do some business with a group that has historically been their enemy.”

The coalition analysis says munitions recovered in two Iranian convoys, on April 11 and May 3, had “clear indications that they originated in Iran. Some were identical to Iranian supplied goods previously discovered in Iraq.”

The April convoy was tracked from Iran into Helmand province and led a fierce firefight that destroyed one vehicle, according to the official analysis. A second vehicle was reportedly found to contain small arms ammunition, mortar rounds and more than 650 pounds of C4 demolition charges.

A second convoy of two vehicles was spotted on May 3 and led to the capture of five occupants and the seizure of RPG-7mm rockets and more than 1,000 pounds of C4, the analysis says.

Also among the munitions are components for the lethal EFPs, or explosive formed projectiles, the roadside bombs that U.S. officials say Iran has provided to Iraqi insurgents with deadly results.

“These clearly have the hallmarks of the Iranian Revolution Guards' Quds force,” said Jones.

Color me surprised…

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

SteamTrek

Wonderful short film parodying StarTrek but done in SteamPunk style.
Lovingly shot in Super Eight film and transfered to video.

Check it out at YouTube: Steam Trek: The Moving Picture (Star Trek Parody)

The SteamTrek home page

Posted by DaveH at 08:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Well golly - the first time it went off without a hitch.

An armored truck robbery went so well the first time that the trucks driver staged another one.

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Armored-truck driver and cohorts find second robbery is no charm
<Talk about fringe benefits.

Last month, Nichole Nelson stole two bags filled with $34,000 from the truck she drove for Garda United Armored Services and hid them under a tree for safe keeping, police said. Although she knew police were investigating her, authorities say she planned a new way to rob the truck last week.

As she drove her route, Nelson text messaged three men with the final details. When she stopped at the TCF Bank in Robbinsdale, they would throw smoke bombs into the truck and hit the guard over the head with a CO2 container.

But as the men covered their license plates with duct tape and donned masks and face paint in the bank parking lot, an alert citizen called 911 and foiled the heist.

“If not for that call, it's unlikely they would have been discovered,” said Robbinsdale police Capt. Steve Smith.

Talk about stupidity…

Posted by DaveH at 07:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 05, 2007

Interesting surgical option for Macular Degeneration

Yet another use for Stem Cells.
From the UK Daily Mail:

45-minute operation to restore sight to millions
A revolutionary technique being developed by British scientists could cure blindness in millions of people around the world.

The first 45-minute operations could take place within five years and could be as commonplace as cataract surgery in a decade.

The improvement is likely to be great enough to transform lives, allowing the blind to regain the ability to carry out everyday tasks such as reading or driving.

The pioneering stem cell surgery tackles age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in the elderly. There are about 300,000 sufferers in this country and the number is expected to treble in the next 25 years to around one million as the population ages.

AMD, which affects a quarter of over-60s in the UK and more than half of over-75s to some degree, occurs in two forms. While the “wet” form can be combated with drugs, there is no treatment for the “dry” form which accounts for 90 per cent of cases.

The treatment centres on human embryonic stem cells grown in a laboratory. These are “blank” cells with the power to turn into different cell types and are used to create small patches identical to the cells damaged in the eyes of AMD sufferers.

Packaged into a syringe, the patch is injected into the back of the eye where it replaces damaged cells and restores sight.

The technique is being developed by scientists and doctors from University College London, Moorfields Eye Hospital, also in London, and Sheffield University, working together in the London Project to Cure Blindness.

Their work has been boosted by a £4million donation from an anonymous American benefactor.

Very cool if this works out.

Posted by DaveH at 08:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How not to go through life - sleeping by the side of the road

Tragic accident last Saturday. From KOMO-TV:

Sleeping man killed by highway brush cutter
A transient in a sleeping bag was accidentally run over and killed by a brush-cutter clearing blackberry bushes at a highway project in south Seattle.

The Transportation Department said it happened Saturday under Interstate 5 near Massachusetts Street where a subcontractor was preparing the site for an expansion joint replacement.

The King County medical examiner's office said Isaac Palmer, 62, died of head trauma.

Transportation Secretary Doug McDonald said it was a tragic accident and that the department is checking to make sure all steps were taken to clear the area of transients.

Police had told transients last Tuesday about the work and told them to leave area, which is posted no trespassing.

Then a special subcontracting crew had worked last week to remove human waste, needles and other drug paraphernalia from a mile long section under the freeway.

My sympathies however are for the driver of the brush clearing tractor. It must have been horrible to all of a sudden realize what that was that you hit — not just a bag of trash but a human being.

It may sound harsh but I have no sympathy for Mr. Palmer. He literally made his own bed — the transients were warned, they were trashing the area (making no attempt to keep it clean) and Mr. Palmer could have chosen a safer distance from the roadbed to sleep…

We are free to make our own decisions in life.

Posted by DaveH at 07:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When you gotta go - Google Maps

Google Maps now shows street-level images of selected areas.

Here is one where a guy is taking a pee by the side of a busy highway.

Smile for the camera! Heh…

Posted by DaveH at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

American Heroes - two guys on an airplane

An airline passenger was running amok acting very strange and generally frightening the passengers with proclamations like: “Your lives are going to change today forever”. His behavior was definitely strange as well: at one point the man lay on his back and was screaming, moaning, and thrashing on the floor

The Boston Globe has a nice article on the two guys who managed to restrain this space cadet and keep him under control until the airplane landed safely:

Graying duo keep passenger in check
Shortly before landing, Bob Hayden and a flight attendant had agreed on a signal: When she waved the plastic handcuffs, he would discreetly leave his seat and restrain an unruly passenger who had frightened some of the 150 people on board a Minneapolis-to-Boston flight Saturday night with erratic behavior.

Hayden, a 65-year-old former police commander, had enlisted a gray-haired gentleman sitting next to him to assist. The man turned out to be a former US Marine.

“I had looked around the plane for help, and all the younger guys had averted their eyes. When I asked the guy next to me if he was up to it, all he said was, 'Retired captain. USMC.' I said, 'You'll do,' ” Hayden recalled. “So, basically, a couple of grandfathers took care of the situation.”

A couple of cool things in the aftermath of the event:

Hayden said he and the retired Marine, whose name he never got, received an ovation from fellow passengers, and “some free air miles.”

Hayden's wife of 42 years, Katie, who was also on the flight, was less impressed. Even as her husband struggled with the agitated passenger, she barely looked up from “The Richest Man in Babylon,” the book she was reading.

“The woman sitting in front of us was very upset and asked me how I could just sit there reading,” Katie Hayden said. “Bob's been shot at. He's been stabbed. He's taken knives away. He knows how to handle those situations. I figured he would go up there and step on somebody's neck, and that would be the end of it. I knew how that situation would end. I didn't know how the book would end.”

I knew how that situation would end. I didn't know how the book would end.” I love it!

Posted by DaveH at 07:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Freeman Dyson on Global Warming parts 1 and 2

I had written earlier about Physicist Freeman Dyson (his son lives in Bellingham and Freeman gave a talk here last December 2006. In it, he said:

He also cautioned that people may be kidding themselves if they imagine it is possible to stabilize the Earth’s climate.

“The biosphere was constantly changing in the past and it will be constantly changing in the future,” Dyson said. “The idea that we can put a stop to change is a dangerous illusion.”

He also contended that with proper management, the United States alone could create enough “biomass” — mainly carbon dioxide-absorbing plants — to absorb all the troublesome gas generated worldwide.

Here are two YouTube videos of him talking about this very subject.

YouTube: Freeman Dyson on Global Warming 1 of 2: Bogus Climate Models

YouTube: Freeman Dyson on Global Warming 2 of 2: Stratospheric Cooling

Good stuff! Should be required viewing for everyone who rants about the documentary 'Inconvenient Truth' — you want an inconvenient truth — here are some ones you don't want to think about…

Hat tip to Classical Values for the link.

Posted by DaveH at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A quantum morning - Higgs found?

Some interesting news on the quantum front - the next big thing in trying to figure out the stuff we are made of is the Higgs boson.

The E.U. has been spending over 8Bn Euros building the Hadron Collider specifically to look for the Higgs. It is a huge and expensive machine but the team that finds the Higgs will be awarded the Nobel prize — this is that important.

Well, according to this article at Slate, someone in the USA may already have found it…

Quantum Scoop
The Holy Grail of particle physics may already have been found.

Some call the Higgs boson the Holy Grail of particle physics. As the only undetected element of the field's theoretical masterpiece—the “standard model”—the Higgs guarantees a Nobel Prize for the experimenters who find it first. Now the European Union has spent an estimated $8 billion to build the world's largest particle accelerator, the large hadron collider, to finally track it down.

So goes the reasoning, at least, of popular science writers. In the last month, The New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe, among others, have run articles on the LHC, which will be capable of reaching energies seven times greater than any comparable device ever created. All of this coverage has focused on the Higgs.

But what if someone else has already found it?

The article talks about the Tevatron (located outside of Chicago) and a curious finding there — a ghost in the machine if you will…

This time it's from New Scientist:

Higgs boson: Glimpses of the God particle
On 9 December last year, as John Conway looked at the results of his experiment, a chill ran down his neck. For 20 years he has been searching for one of the most elusive things in the universe, the Higgs boson - aka the God particle - which gives everything in the cosmos its mass. And here, buried in the debris generated by the world's largest particle smasher, were a few tantalising hints of its existence.

Conway first revealed the news of his experiment earlier this year in a blog. Experimental particle physicists are sceptics by nature, loath to claim the discovery of any new particle, let alone a particle of the Higgs's stature, and in his blog Conway dismissed hints of its existence as an aberration, just as many other supposed signs of the elusive particle have proved to be after closer examination. The tiny blips in Conway's data have so far simply refused to go away.

What's more, using data made public last week in a second blog, another team of researchers has independently seen hints of a new particle with similar mass. Both results may yet be dismissed, but the coincidence is striking, and is one that is getting physicists excited. If they have found evidence of a Higgs particle, then it points towards the existence of a universe in which each and every particle we know of has a heavier “super-partner”, an arrangement of the cosmos known as supersymmetry.

The New Scientist article goes into some detail about the Higgs and about supersymmetry and the evidence for each theory. Fascinating stuff. The Large Hadron Collider is supposed to go online sometime later this year. Fun time to be alive!

Rounding out the quantum morning is this LOL CAT:

schrodingers_LOL_CAT.jpg

Hat tip to BoingBoing

Posted by DaveH at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2007

Light posting tonight

The new (to us) store is turning into actual work — a JOB (shudder…)

Today was our first payroll — everything went just fine (using QuickBooks with their manual payroll plugin) except for my defining the pay periods. People are paid twice/month - got that right. Overtime is at 40 hours - OK. Cut the checks and everyone including the part-timers got substantial quantities of OT. Should have set it to 80 hours for the two week pay period.

OK so go back and manually re-enter the correct data and reprint the checks only to find that the new checks show the previous check amounts in the Year-To-Date column for taxes and withholdings.

Can't delete the old checks, can't purge the account and start over so I have to sit through and VOID out about 20 checks and re-enter from scratch. I can see why it is done this way, after all, I did print out all checks twice and if they were deposited, they would be valid but still, a minor user annoyance — it would have been nice to have SU or root access to the chart of accounts and just fix it without the program trying to save me from myself…

So anyway, I'm doing some surfing and having a nice glass of Cabernet and will head up to bed in an hour or so.

Posted by DaveH at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

France grows a pair

Nice!!!
From the Boston Herald:

France gets tough on illegal immigration, setting quotas for arrests, expulsions
France set tough new quotas for the number of illegal immigrants authorities should arrest and expel each month, the new immigration minister said Monday.

Brice Hortefeux, who heads the newly created Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development, said a monthly quota also would be set for ferreting out those employed in France illegally.

In a meeting with security officials, Hortefeux reiterated President Nicolas Sarkozy’s goal of 25,000 expulsions by the end of 2007 - compared with 24,000 in 2006 - and set a year-end goal of 125,000 arrests for alleged illegal entry or illegal residence, a ministry statement said. The number of those already arrested was not immediately clear.

Sarkozy, who was elected May 6, pledged during his campaign to create a ministry of immigration and national identity to rein in the flow of migrants and ensure they are integrated into French society. Riots in French housing projects in 2005 were largely driven by anger among children of immigrants at persistent discrimination and a feeling of alienation from mainstream society.

Hortefeux said the new measures were aimed at “dismantling networks that exploit the misery of illegal immigrants,” the statement said.

Painful at first but things will be a lot better in a year or so.

Posted by DaveH at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Interesting times ahead for the Gulf Coast

May Allah smite thee - weather department.
From the Seattle Post-Intellegencer:

Cyclone forces Oman to evacuate 7,000
A powerful cyclone approaching the oil-rich Persian Gulf area forced the evacuation Monday of nearly 7,000 people from an Omani island, a government official said.

Cyclone Gonu, with winds of 160 miles per hour and gusts of 195 miles per hour, was headed northwest through the Indian Ocean toward Oman's east coast, said Weather Underground meteorologist Tim Roche.

Government authorities started the evacuations from Masira, an island off the east coast of Oman, said General Malik bin Suleiman al-Muamri, head of the country's civil defense.

Oil prices edged upward, though the cyclone was not necessarily the reason, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. Oman's oil reserves and production are small compared to some of its Middle Eastern neighbors.

“I don't know if you can really attribute any of the gain to the cyclone,” he said.

The government in neighboring Saudi Arabia issued a statement reassuring its people and the oil markets that it would not be seriously affected by the storm.

The storm was expected to weaken before starting to lash Oman on Tuesday, with winds of 115 mph. The most powerful part of the storm was expected to hit Oman on Thursday before moving north into southern Iran.

Even with the weaker wind speeds, Gonu would be the strongest cyclone to hit the Arabian Peninsula since record keeping started in 1945, Roche said.

Current forecast puts landfall in Iran somewhere around June 7th.

Posted by DaveH at 09:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2007

The achievements of the 110th Congress

A good (and well documented) writeup of the achievements of the 110th Congress — the one that saw Nancy Pelosi being appointed as House Speaker and Harry Reid being appointed U.S. Senate Majority Leader.

From The New Media Journal:

Living In a Box with Two Left Sides
Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are praising themselves on the accomplishments of their Congress after the first 5 months in charge. The fact is that the only significant legislation they have accomplished is the Emergency War Funding Bill that had to be amended 5 times before it passed and the President would sign it.

So what are all these accomplishments they are talking about? Well, they followed the inspirational leadership of Mrs. Clinton and renamed a park and some buildings. Then they renewed some older legislation that was due to expire, and not much else. I wonder if they will be as diligent in renewing the Bush tax cuts when they come due for expiration.

The complete list of the stunning accomplishments of this 110th Congress appears at the end of this article. Brace yourself!

Our country is in a tug of war. Liberals are pulling harder to the left while conservatives are simply trying to hold their American ground. The two sides are so far apart now that congressional compromises between the left and the right will no longer satisfy anyone. Both sides feel cheated and betrayed by Congress.

Conservatives have a perfect right to feel betrayed because every compromise with the liberals is a move to the left for the country and away from Conservative American values. On the other hand, for the liberals every compromise is a gain and a move closer to their goals of socialism and destruction of American values as we have known them for over 200 years. Frankly, conservatives don't think it's a good idea to make America more like Europe and Russia with all of their problems.

Do Americans want socialism and a government controlled society where everyone is the same and equal? Or do we want capitalism and free enterprise with minimal government interference where people are free to be all they can be? Do Americans want to live with the freedoms guaranteed by Constitution, or discard them by rewriting and misinterpreting our basic laws to provide a society ruled by lawmakers solely for “the common good”?

These are the questions that those on the left really need to think about and consider when choosing their party leaders. When they realize that what the electorate wants is really irrelevant to whom the party bosses select, then it may be time to abandon that party. The same thing applies to the Republican Party electorate, which is clearly unhappy with the current candidates being promoted as “top tier.” Since the McCain/Feingold 2002 Campaign Reform Act was passed, “top tier” candidates are chosen based on wealth, not principle. The Whitehouse is sold to the highest bidder.

Our Constitution guarantees our rights to capitalism and our freedom to create, develop, and reap the rewards of our efforts as individuals. Nowhere in the Constitution does it guarantee a right of anyone to receive entitlements from the taxpayers, or the federal government to redistribute the wealth. Nor does it authorize the federal government to dictate social policy or interfere with normal societal development of the people. The job of our government is to represent the people, not dictate to them. The Democrat leadership wants just the opposite.

Why do Democrats keep claiming that they represent the middle class, when everything they campaign on is aimed at minorities, illegal aliens, the ignorant, and the poor? What have they done for middle class Americans other than to raise their taxes, lower their self-esteem, and attempt to destroy their national pride? What have they done for the country other than to divide it, criticize it, regulate it and tax it?

Yes, it is a bit of a rant and yes, I can see the author's politics shining through but if you check the facts, you will see that they are writing from a position of truth and the facts bear witness to their outrage.

I could go on and excerpt from the list but here are the two links to Thomas.gov and you can see for yourself.

Check out the House of Representatives
Check out the United States Senate

A total of 26 successful bills and exactly one half of them are to name public facilities after people.

Posted by DaveH at 10:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DOH! - truck driving department

From MS/NBC/AP:

Height restriction signs aren’t just a suggestion
Trucker sheers off roof driving too-big-rig length of Lincoln Tunnel

A truck driver whose rig was 6 inches too tall for the Lincoln Tunnel drove its entire 1.5-mile length, peeling the trailer’s roof completely and ripping off decorative ceiling tiles.

Flashing signs and officers using a loudspeaker had warned the driver, and it was unclear why he didn’t heed them, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the tunnel.

“He misjudged the height of the tunnel, and once he was inside it he didn’t realize the damage he was doing,” said Roy Guzman, the safety director of the trucker’s employer, U.S.A. Logistics Carriers of McAllen, Texas.

NY_truck_Lincoln_Tunnel_lost_roof.jpg

Can you say “Job Opening”? I knew you could…

Posted by DaveH at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Five minutes of cool from YouTube

Go here and meet Mr. Woo

Posted by DaveH at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

gameing the System - FICO ratings

Very clever loophole… From Yahoo/AP:

'Piggybacking' roils credit industry
Only a low credit score stood between Alipio Estruch and a mortgage to buy a $449,000 Spanish-style house in Weston, Fla., a few miles west of Fort Lauderdale.

Instead of spending several years repairing his credit rating, which he said was marred by two forgotten cell phone bills and identity theft, the 37-year-old real estate agent paid $1,800 to an Internet-based company to bump up his score almost overnight.

The result was a happy ending for Estruch, but the growing practice is sending shivers through the mortgage industry. Federal regulators are also reviewing the practice. And after being contacted by The Associated Press for this story, Fair Isaac Corp., the developer of the widely used FICO score, said it will change its credit scoring system beginning later this year in a way it contends will end this little-known but potentially high-impact mortgage loan loophole.

Instantcreditbuilders.com, or ICB, helped Estruch boost his score by arranging for him to be added as an authorized user on several credit cards of people with stellar credit who were paid to allow this coattailing. Parents also use this practice when they add their children to their credit cards to help them build solid credit.

Here is an example of one of the people who “loan” their FICO ratings:

Brian Kinney, 44, a retired Army officer in Glendale, Calif., pulls in more than $2,500 a month by lending out 19 credit card spots on two old Citibank cards with strong payment histories. Kinney, whose FICO score is above 800 on the scale of 300 to 850, quit his job working at a Farmers Insurance agency and uses the ICB income to tide him over until he starts his own insurance agency.

Very clever way to exploit a rather large loophole. I like it!

Posted by DaveH at 07:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

P. Hilton's time at the greybar hotel

It seems that Ms. Hilton is already causing ill feelings at the Century Regional Detention Facility where she is due to show up sometime before Tuesday.

From Brietbart/Associated Press:


Some LA Inmates Already Angry at Hilton
Many women at the Los Angeles County jail where Paris Hilton is expected to arrive any day are already angry at the socialite, a former inmate said.

Susannah Johnson, who was released Saturday after a one-day stay at the jail, said inmates were angry at Hilton, believing officials were making room for the starlet at the expense of other inmates already coping with crowded conditions in the 2,200-bed jail.

“The only advice I could give her when she comes is to shut her mouth and do the time,” said Johnson, 35, of Claremont.

Hilton has been ordered to turn herself in by Tuesday to begin her sentence for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

Wonder what her spin machines will do after she gets out of the slammer… Famous for being famous. Useless otherwise.

Posted by DaveH at 07:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Maybe not a wise proposition - Iran and Israel

it seems that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is stepping up the rhetoric when speaking in public. From Reuters:

Iran president sees “countdown” to Israel's end
Iran's president said on Sunday the Lebanese and the Palestinians had pressed a “countdown button” to bring an end to Israel.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who triggered outrage in the West two years ago when he said Israel should be “wiped off the map”, has often referred to the destruction of the Jewish state but says Iran is not a threat.

“With God's help, the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech.

“By God's will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future,” he said. He did not elaborate.

Iran often praises the Palestinians for what it says is their resistance against Israeli occupation. Tehran also described the war last summer between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel as a victory for the Iranian-backed group.

“If you make a mistake and create another war against the oppressed Lebanese nation, this time the angry ocean of the nations of the region will remove your rotten … roots from the region,” the president said in another speech on Sunday night.

Ahmadinejad is trying to fight a proxy war — maybe a nuke will be smuggled into Israel, maybe just more munitions to the terrorist scum. I do not think that if Israel were to be attacked on a grand scale that they would hesitate to retaliate. Maybe taking out Iran's nuclear program and a few key people… The islamists are great for building each others egos up and talking big but when push comes to shove, their only victories are when they play dirty or when they manipulate the Western media. They have neither the strength, will or spiritual purity to fight fairly.

Posted by DaveH at 06:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flamingos get a new lease on life

Whew! Last October, I wrote about how the venerable plastic lawn flamingo was no longer going to be manufactured in the USA (The End of an Era).

Well, the little pink guys just got a reprieve. From Florida's TBO Online:

Pink Flamingo To Spread Its Wings Again
The original pink flamingo lawn ornament, the symbol of kitsch whose obituary nearly was written after its central Massachusetts manufacturer went out of business, is rising phoenixlike from the ashes and taking wing to upstate New York.

A manufacturer that bought the copyright and plastic molds for the original version plans to resume production in Westmoreland, N.Y.

HMC International LLC will pick up where Union Products Inc. left off last year when it shuttered its Leominster, Mass., plastics factory after 50 years of flamingo making.

J.C. Waszkiewicz, head of family-owned HMC, said Thursday he expects retailers who buy his firm's flamingos wholesale will appreciate subtle design differences between knockoff versions and the original by Don Featherstone, who studied art before Union Products hired him in 1956 to expand its lawn ornament lineup.

“Once I began discussions about buying Union Products, I started examining the different products on the market, and I realized Mr. Featherstone created a great-looking flamingo,” said Waszkiewicz, whose company closed on its purchase of Union Products in April for an undisclosed price. “There are other people who have tried to capitalize on his design, but none that I've seen hold a candle to the quality and detail he created.”

Waszkiewicz's firm expects to resume Featherstone flamingo production by Labor Day.

Very cool!

Posted by DaveH at 05:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Agenda-driven Environmentalism

A different way to look at the environmental issue — from The Sunday Times:

Save the planet, eat a vegan
Good news. It seems that your car and your fondness for sunken light bulbs in every alcove are not warming up the planet after all.

In fact, according to new research, power stations and transport produce lots of carbon dioxide, but in addition they also produce lots of aerosols that, in the short term at least, help keep the planet as cool as a deodorant model’s armpits.

So who has come up with this new theory? Some half-crazed nitwit with a motoring show to protect? George Bush? A bloke in the pub? No. In fact it comes from an organisation called EarthSave, which is run and funded, so far as I can tell, by the usual array of free-range communists and fair trade hippies.

The facts it produces, however, are intriguing. Methane, which pours from a cow’s bottom on an industrial scale every few minutes, is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And as a result, farmed animals are doing more damage to the climate than all the world’s transport and power stations put together.

What’s more, demand for beef means more and more of the world’s forests are being chopped down, and more and more pressure is being put on our water supplies.

Plainly, then, EarthSave is encouraging us to go into the countryside at the first possible opportunity and lay waste to anything with more than one stomach. Maybe it wants me to shoot my donkeys. Happily what it’s actually saying is that you can keep your car and your walk-in fridge, but you’ve got to stop eating meat.

In fact you’ve got to stop eating all forms of animal products. No more milk. No more cheese. And if it can be proven that bees fart, then no more honey either. You’ve got to become a vegan.

Visit the site for the rest of this very fine rant…

Posted by DaveH at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

First day of Farmer's Market today

Today was the first day of our Farmer's Market.

We now have a website and I'll have the story and photos tomorrow.

We are both wiped (up early and up late last night packaging) so posting will be a bit light today.

Posted by DaveH at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 02, 2007

It's for your own good - really. Another 'Nanny State' action

This time it's park benches and it is For Your Own Good ™ dammit so accept it…
From the Daily Mail:

Health and safety purge of the park benches that are 3 inches too low
Park benches across the country will have to be replaced at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds - because they are too low.

Under new health and safety laws, benches must be more than 17.75in high so the elderly and disabled can get off them easily.

The new rules came to light after Bramcote Crematorium in Nottinghamshire was told by officials from the local Broxtowe council to replace 40 memorial benches costing £400 each.

An inspector found that the benches were 14.75in high - 3in lower than the “allowed minimum” height and 5in lower than the “optimum” height.

The crematorium has also been ordered to pay a further £200,000 for lighting, because, under the same legislation, the new benches must be lit at night.

Kevin Browne, the crematorium's manager, said: “The inspector went around with a tape measure measuring everything for compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.

“Apparently, it means that the buttocks of infirm people are below the point at which they can easily return to a standing position, and 72 per cent of our visitors are elderly.

“But we also have to pay to put the new benches on an elevated slab, clear enough space at the side to give wheelchair access and make sure all the benches across our 18-acre site are properly lit.

“This will have staggering financial implications for us - about £200,000 - and we have to carry it out within two years.

“It is very difficult to strike a balance between our responsibility to the bereaved and the other obligations placed on us.”

The order has led to the benches - many of which were paid for by bereaved families in memory of their loved ones - being removed.

What kind of idiot would enforce something like this. Talk about cognative dissonance…

Posted by DaveH at 06:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An all around nice guy - Hector Marroquin

From the LA Weekly:

Did City Hall Fund a Gun-Runner?
Feds arrest Hector Marroquin, of the purported “No Guns” anti-gang program

FEDERAL ALCOHOL, TOBACCO AND FIREARMS AGENTS knocked first, then entered the Downey home of purported anti-gang activist Hector Marroquin on Wednesday, arresting him for selling silencers and weapons — including three assault rifles and a machine gun — to an undercover ATF agent.

The gun sales, some of which Marroquin, the founder of the gang-intervention group No Guns, transacted at his bar in the city of Cudahy, were captured on videotape and audiotape, said police officers present at his arrest.

Inside the house, the 51-year-old veteran of the 18th Street Gang surrendered as his daughter’s boyfriend, David Jimenez, a parolee at large, jumped out a window, tossed a gun into the backyard pool and climbed on the roof, authorities said. Officials said ATF agents then confronted him, he climbed back inside and was arrested and charged as a felon in possession of a gun.

Marroquin, an alleged associate of the prison-based Mexican Mafia, has grown accustomed to such intrusions, having been arrested many times over the years while at the same time being the founder and CEO of No Guns, which has received $1.5 million from Los Angeles City Hall via the much-criticized L.A. Bridges program designed by the Los Angeles City Council to keep youth out of gangs.

Last December, the L.A. Weekly exposed Marroquin’s allegedly persistent gang ties and suspected mafia association, in its “Broken Bridges” article, based on federal Drug Enforcement Agency memos, classified L.A. County Sheriff’s Department documents, wiretap transcripts and interviews with current and former law enforcers.

Since then, John Chavez, the head of L.A. Bridges, which funded No Guns through the Community Development Department, has lost his job.

On Wednesday, the L.A. District Attorney’s Office filed five charges related to Marroquin’s sale of automatic weapons and silencers to the undercover ATF agent, according to a criminal complaint filed in L.A. Superior Court. Also charged was Marroquin’s girlfriend, Sylvia Arellano, who police arrested the same day in Cudahy. Police searched Marroquin’s bar on Atlantic Avenue in Cudahy, as well as an auto yard in South Gate, where they recovered gang photos and journals.

The criminal charges against Marroquin are elevated by his gang membership, according to the complaint. If convicted on all counts, he and Arellano face up to 50 years in prison.

And in the “fruit not falling far from the tree” department:

Meanwhile, his son, Hector Marroquin Jr., a former No Guns officer who police say is an admitted 18th Street Gang member, has been indicted on charges of home invasion robbery and faces up to 40 years in prison.

Nice little family there — something to be real proud of Hector…

Posted by DaveH at 05:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Preaching to the masses - career limiting move

Sometimes these things just write themselves…
From the London Daily Mail:

Unmarried priest quits top job after becoming pregnant
One of the Church of England's most senior women clerics has quit her job after becoming pregnant while unmarried.

The Rev Dr Emma Loveridge stepped down as principal adviser to the Archbishop of York after only 13 months in the post.

The 42-year-old cited “personal and family reasons” for leaving the staff of Dr John Sentamu, who ranks second in the Church's hierarchy.

He is regarded as conservative in matters of sexual morality.

She is also understood to have resigned her licence to practise as a priest and to have effectively stepped down from the clergy.

The baby is believed to be Dr Loveridge's first and her growing bump was obvious as she strolled near her home this week.

Her pregnancy comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has spoken out strongly in favour of marriage and married families in recent months.

Along with Dr Sentamu, he has been trying to deal with the worldwide Anglican split over sexual morality.

On one side, they face US Anglican leaders who embrace gay rights and whose ranks include a gay bishop. But in the developing world, prelates reject any concession over traditional Biblical morality.

And of course, a US church has stepped up and offered support:

Since Dr Loveridge left on March 31 after working her three-month notice, she has received support from a prominent and wealthy U.S. church.

Friends at All Saints in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, have posted her name as among expectant parents to be remembered in their prayers.

The church has an “inclusive” policy and is “dedicated to the spiritual and social growth of lesbians and gay men”.

I was brought up under the “Old School” form of Episcopalianism and am really sad to see what it has morphed into. If you wanted that sort of a Church to begin with, go over to the United Churches of Christ and leave us alone — don't weaken and dilute our faith and practices…

Posted by DaveH at 03:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Taliban Navy sinks

Couldn't have happened to a nicer group of people.
From FOX News:

60 Dead After Boat Full of Taliban Militants Sinks in Southern Afghanistan
A boat crossing a river in Afghanistan's most dangerous province sank on Saturday, and at least 60 people were killed, including Taliban militants, the Defense Ministry said.

The boat sank while crossing the Helmand River, which snakes through Helmand province, the world's leading opium poppy region and site of fierce battles the last several months. Hundreds of Taliban insurgents are believed to be in Helmand.

The Afghan army was investigating to see how many Taliban insurgents and how many civilians were on board, the ministry said. The brief statement did not say what caused the boat to sink or why officials believed militants were on board.

Enjoy those raisins guys — couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of people…

Posted by DaveH at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How not to sing in a Karaoke Bar

From Yahoo/AFP:

Man shot dead for bad singing in Philippine karaoke bar
A jobless man was shot dead by a security guard for singing out of tune in a Philippine karaoke bar, police said Thursday.

Romy Baligula, 29, was halfway through his song on Tuesday night in a bar in San Mateo town, east of Manila, when 43-year-old security guard Robilito Ortega yelled that he was out of tune.

As Baligula ignored his comments and continued singing, Ortega pulled out his revolver and shot him in the chest.

Senior Superintendent Felipe Rojas said Baligula died instantly.

The security guard was detained by an off-duty policeman shortly after the shooting.

Deaths and violence are not uncommon in Philippine karaoke bars.

The popular Frank Sinatra song “My Way” has been taken off many karaoke bars in Manila after it was found to be the cause of fights and even deaths when patrons sang out of tune.

Yikes — I can understand being passionate about music but this is taking things to an extreme…

Posted by DaveH at 02:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How not to hide from your investors

Gary Milby is a nashville “oilman” who was running an investment scam on people. He dropped from sight only to resurface on a TV show.

From The Tennessean:

Angry investors find elusive oilman on MTV
Suit here follows 'Sweet 16' show

Not long after entrusting millions of dollars to a former Nashville-area oilman with wells in Kentucky, the investors started asking questions: Where was the oil? Where was their money? And where was the oilman?

The investors think they got some answers on an episode of My Super Sweet 16, an MTV reality show about spoiled rich kids and their outrageously opulent birthday parties.

They saw Gary Milby, who once lived in Gallatin and had his business headquarters in nearby Mt. Juliet, giving his daughter a private helicopter ride, a new BMW and a shopping spree.

Cameras followed Milby to his Kentucky oil fields, where his daughter, Ariel, exclaimed, “I love oil! Oil means shoes and cars and purses!” Pointing to a drill, Milby told her, “This one here will make over 20 barrels a day.”

About 60 investors who say they heard similar promises from Milby are suing him in federal court in Nashville, accusing Milby of defrauding them of at least $4.5 million. None of the investors listed in court records is from Tennessee.

All told, Milby raised $20 million to $25 million from investors over nearly two years, the investors' lawyer estimates — even though officials in several states had demanded Milby stop selling securities in his Tennessee oil and gas companies. It appears no criminal charges have been filed against him.

milby_oil_scam_daughter.jpg

What a daughter: “I love oil! Oil means shoes and cars and purses!”

She will be in for some interesting times when daddy goes to jail…

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

June 01, 2007

That's one way to get around a toll booth

Chinese Coal miners devised a way to get their trucks around a toll booth.
They chopped a hole in the Great Wall…

From the UK Guardian:

Toll dodgers tear road through Great Wall
Not much has been allowed to get in the way of China's spectacular economic development. But when a mining company knocked down part of the Great Wall so its trucks could deliver coal more efficiently, it was a step too far, even for the pro-business government in Beijing.

The state media said yesterday that the authorities have launched an inquiry into the destruction of a 400-year-old section of the world heritage site near Hujiayao village, on the border between the northern province of Shanxi and inner Mongolia.

Local coal firms were accused of removing soil and bricks from the ancient monument to build workers' houses. They are also said to have piled heaps of coal against the rampart and opened up a “big gap” in the wall to make a new road, so their trucks could avoid motorway tolls.

Two-thirds of the Great Wall has been destroyed by sightseers, developers and erosion. Survey teams are said to have found large new breaches in the ramparts, which are believed to have once stretched almost 4,000 miles. Other sections are said to have been vandalised, covered in graffiti and ripped up for use in pigsties.
Posted by DaveH at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flip This House

A semi-popular television show on A&E and now it seems, completely bogus — a scam.
From Fox News:

'Flip This House' Star Accused of Faking Work on Popular Cable Television Show
On an episode of A&E's popular reality series “Flip This House,” Atlanta businessman Sam Leccima sits in front of a run-down house and calls buying and selling real estate his passion.

Now authorities and legal filings claim that Leccima's true passion was a series of scams that included faking the home renovations shown on the cable TV show and claiming to have sold houses he never owned.

“This is, indeed, a con artist,” said Sonya McGee, an Atlanta pharmaceutical representative who says Leccima took $4,000 from her in an investment scheme.

McGee and others say Leccima's episodes of “Flip This House,” A&E's most popular show, were elaborate hoaxes. His friends and family were presented as potential homebuyers and “sold” signs were slapped in front of unsold houses. They say the home repairs — the lynchpin of the show — were actually quick or temporary patch jobs designed to look good on camera.

Leccima says he never claimed to own the homes. While not acknowledging his televised renovations were staged, he didn't deny it and suggested that A&E and Departure Films, the production company that makes the show, knew exactly what he was doing.

A bit more:

Leccima, 36, presented himself as a successful real estate investor during the 2006 season of the cable show, which depicted him buying, refurbishing and reselling Atlanta-area homes for profits of $77,000 and more. But Leccima doesn't have a real estate license — it was revoked by the Georgia Real Estate Commission in 2005, with the panel ruling he “does not bear a good reputation for honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, and competence.” Now he's under investigation by the Georgia Secretary of State's office for securities fraud.

And some more:

The Better Business Bureau gives Leccima's company, Leccima Capital Partners, LLP, an “unsatisfactory” rating, saying four complaints have been filed against it in three years.

Good riddance — I hope he spends a lot of time in Jail…

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

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Not the 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne but someone is trying this for real. From the Canadian National Post:

Trip proposed to centre of Earth via Arctic hole
HOLLOW PLANET THEORY; U.S. scientist, believers to sail on icebreaker

A U.S. scientist and a small band of believers are planning a journey to the Canadian Arctic for what they call “the greatest geological expedition in history.”

Are they searching for Arctic oil reserves? Documenting evidence of climate change?

Not quite. They're looking for a fog-shrouded hole in the Arctic Ocean that leads — they say — to the centre of the Earth, where an unknown civilization is lurking inside the hollow core of the planet.

This time next year, Kentucky based physicist and futurist Brooks Agnew hopes to board the commercially owned Russian icebreaker Yamal in the port of Murmansk, and to sail into the polar sea just beyond Canada's Arctic islands.

“Everest has been climbed a hundred times,” Mr. Agnew says. “The Titanic has been scanned from stem to stern. [But] this is the first and only expedition to the North Pole opening ever attempted.”

Mr. Agnew is the latest in a long line of people to peddle the nutty, yet persistent, theory that humans live on the surface of a hollow planet, in which two undiscovered openings, near the North and South poles, connect the outer Earth with an interior realm.

In the 17th century, English astronomer and mathematician Sir Edmond Halley, who calculated the orbit of Halley's Comet, advanced hollow-Earth theories, as did German scientist Athanasius Kircher.

More recently the myth has experienced a slight revival, thanks in part to a 2006 book, by American author David Standish, titled Hollow Earth: The long and curious history of imagining strange lands, fantastical creatures, advanced civilizations, and marvellous machines below the Earth's surface.

A year before the book was published, a Utah adventure guide named Steve Currey also tried to cash in on the hollow- Earth legend, by organizing an expedition to locate the North polar opening.

Mr. Currey made a living organizing rafting trips to the world's wildest rivers. He knew how to hype exotic destinations and recruit would-be explorers on trips of a lifetime.

It's not clear whether Mr. Currey was a true hollow-Earth believer, or if he could simply see a good business opportunity. Whatever his beliefs, Mr. Currey somehow pinpointed the Arctic portal at 84.4 degrees north and 41 degrees east, roughly 400 kilometres northwest of Ellesmere Island.

The North Pole inner Earth expedition was scheduled for the summer of 2006, with spaces offered to anyone with US$20,000 to spare.

“There are no guarantees that this expedition will reach inner Earth,” Mr. Currey cautioned on his Web site.

“The expedition will make a good-faith effort to locate the North Polar opening and enter therein, but worst-case scenario is that we visit the geographic North Pole, explore the region, and continue on…”

When Mr. Currey died suddenly of brain cancer last summer, Mr. Agnew stepped in to take his place. The trip was postponed to 2008.

While he insists the journey has a genuine scientific purpose, Mr. Agnew also says the expedition will include several experts in meditation, mythology and UFOs, as well as a team of documentary filmmakers.

One local writer had the trip in proper perspective:

Randy Freeman, a Yellowknife writer commenting in the current issue of Up Here magazine, warns that “besides heaps of throwaway cash, prospective cruisers should bring along enough gullibility to swallow an outlandish theory that, despite centuries of scorn, refuses to die.”
Posted by DaveH at 08:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack