Thursday, February 28, 2008

Poetic Truth...


Before I lay me down to sleep,
I pray for a man, who's not a creep,
One who's handsome, smart and strong,
One who loves to listen long.
One who thinks before he speaks,
One who'll call, not wait for weeks.
I pray he's gainfully employed,
When I spend his cash, won't be annoyed.
Pulls out my chair and opens my door,
Massages my back and begs to do more.
Oh! Send me a man who'll make love to my mind,
Knows what to answer to "how big is my behind?"
I pray that this man will love me to no end,
And always be my very best friend.


I pray for a deaf-mute nymphomaniac with
Huge boobs who owns a bar on a golf course,
And loves to send me fishing and hunting. This
Doesn't rhyme and I don't give a shit

Definition of the Day...

Electile Dysfunction: the inability to become aroused over any of the choices for president.

I have this condition.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Global Cooling...

Over the past few months, evidence has been accumulating that temperatures declined sharply this past year (especially in the last four months), over the entire globe. Several readers sent me this link to a very recent report, with evidence that January 2008 was the coldest since 1966; however, when I went there this morning, the web site wasn't working properly.

Do you remember just a few months ago (last fall), when the news was full of dire predictions from climatologists? They predicted (amongst other things): low snowfall in the northern hemisphere, the warmest winter on record, further receding of the Arctic ice pack, and further retreat of glaciers in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. They warned us that we were about to be shown the awful consequences of anthropmorphic global warming.

How are those predictions holding up? Well, lets see. Low snowfall? Nope. The western U.S. has unusually high snow accumulations this year, in some places (especially Colorado) the highest on record
, and the area covered with snow in North America is the highest since satellites first starting tracking this in the 1960s. I haven't read about Scandanavia. Warmest winter on record? Uh, nope. Not even in the top 10. Or top 50. Or top 100. In fact, this winter is already distinctly colder than the average winter for the past 400 years – and February is shaping up to be even colder. Further Arctic ice pack recession? Nope. The ice pack is expanding, and in many places has already expanded beyond the average winter extents. Polar bear habitat has expanded uncomfortably close to some inhabited areas, and some biologists are alarmed now about how far south polar bears are roaming. Glaciers retreating further in norther areas? Oops -- the darned things are expanding again. Some research outposts in Greenland have been greatly inconvenienced as the roads to their shelters have been overrun by the “shrinking” glaciers.

My readers know that I've long been convinced that the climatologists' models, full of fudge-factors and hand-fitting to back-testing data, are unreliable as predictors of anything other than winning grants. This year's cooling trend just confirms the notion. Just a few months ago, confident climatologists told us how their models were predicting an unusually warm winter (and active hurricane season, but that's another story). Their predictions were wrong – not just in degree, but in direction. In nearly any other branch of science, such results would immediately lead to (a) caution about further predictions based on those models, and (b) active and contentious debates amongst the scientists about the basis of those models. In climatology, sadly, neither seems to be occurring with much vigor. I blame corruption – corruption in the form of scientists suckling from the teat of
public funding awarded on a political basis.

I wouldn't be very concerned about this phenomenon if it weren't for the vast sums of public money (read: my tax dollars) politicians of almost every stripe are proposing to spend on global warming mitigation. In addition to my skepticism about the need for such mitigation, the schemes being proposed range from merely ineffective to totally hare-brained. About the only thing we can say for sure about any of them is that they would be incredibly expensive – so expensive that they risk economic development all around the world...

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Posting for the next couple of days will be light-to-non-existent, as your humble blogger will be traveling on business. I'm headed up to Santa Monica with several of my co-workers, to visit with a couple of our customers who are going to use the part of our products that I've been working on for the past five months.

To answer some questions from my readers, here's where I work. And yes, they actually let me write code. And no, I don't think my boss suffers from some serious mental deficiency (one working hypothesis for the preceding statement)...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Some Local Notes...

Yesterday (Sunday), Debbie and I took a drive through our local mountains – a drive that turned out to be full of surprises. Most of the surprises involved water. We knew, of course, that we've had good rainfall this year – and normally, the mountains get even more rainfall than we do. But the difference between how the Cuyamaca Lake area looked two weeks ago and how it looks now is simply stunning. The lake itself has expanded so that its northern and eastern extents nearly meet the Sunrise Highway. We haven't seen this for years and years. My guess is that it's just 4 to 6 feet below the spillway.

Furthermore, everywhere we went (which included the entire length of Boulder Creek Road), we saw every stream running, most ponds full or nearly full, and standing water in places that we don't remember ever seeing standing water before. We could be in for a beautiful wildflower season this year, even if we don't get any more rain – and we're almost certain to get more!

This evening, in the dwindling light as I write this, our hummingbird feeders are chock-full-of-hummers – about 20 in all right now. It won't be long now until we are back to our 20+ pounds of sugar per month!

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Well, not very many people attempted to answer last week's puzzler – but everyone who did got it right. What is the middle name of a former U.S. Senator who started his career as a gambling judge, and ended it as a shamed, alcoholic Senator? The answer is Raymond, as in Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy.

This week's puzzler is back to science. In the chaparral where I live, it's very common – normal, in fact – to find large areas where most of the commonest plants (manzanita, ceonothus, etc.) have a very narrow distribution of size. For instance, where I live nearly all of the manzanita specimens are between 4 and 8 feet high. In most other plant communities, you'll find a much broader distribution of sizes. Why are chaparral plants so uniform in size?

In The Clouds...

That's where we are this morning – and no, we haven't gone on a trip. The latest rain storm has apparently arrived, and our house is now in the clouds. We can just barely see across the valley, and a heavy mist is wetting everything in sight. Sometimes it's drizzling very softly. Every leaf is covered with droplets; very beautiful.

Chaparral in the mist...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spring Birds...

Walking into our driveway this morning (after a delightful walk into our local hills) we spotted two pairs of bluebirds. They're here two or three weeks early this year; I've no idea why. Just a couple of weeks ago I hung six new bluebird houses up on our pine trees. With any luck at all, we'll have a few families this year (had two last year).

Over the past few days, we've spotted both male and female Anna's hummingbirds at our feeders. That's also a few weeks earlier than usual...

Rain Report...

The storm that ended yesterday dropped a total of 1.6 inches of rain on us – just as the spring growth is starting to push up in cleared areas. Another storm – possibly even larger – is due in tonight and tomorrow. I just checked the desert wildflower reports, and they are reporting that green shoots of wildflower plants are up to 5 inches tall. Very few flowers yet, but it looks like we could have an unusually prolific show this year...

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Parable...

Via my mom:
The Haircut

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked about his bill and the barber replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The cop is happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Later that day, a college professor comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The professor is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber opens his shop, there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen different books, such as 'How to Improve Your Business' and 'Becoming More Successful'.

Then, a Congressman comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Congressman is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the members of our Congress.

Vote carefully this year.
As the Instapundit would say: heh.


Our unusually wet rainy season continues. In the past few hours, we've had nearly another half inch of rain, and it's still raining now. I just took a short drive to see what the condition of the roads and the creeks is. The creeks are already rising, just a few hours after the rain commenced – this tells us that our ground is quite saturated, and even a small amount of rain immediately runs off. The road edges are full of running water, and in several places we have mud and gravel deposits. When we first moved out here, nearly ten years ago, such events were quite routine. Now they seem novel...but very welcome...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where Obama Would Take Us...

My readers know well how I detest the thought of a government-run healthcare system. So, in the interest of balance, I bring you an article from a news organization with the opposite view (the New York Times):

Although the government is reluctant to discuss the issue, hopscotching back and forth between private and public care has long been standard here for those who can afford it. But a few recent cases have exposed fundamental contradictions between policy and practice in the system, and tested its founding philosophy to its very limits.

One such case was Debbie Hirst’s. Her breast cancer had metastasized, and the health service would not provide her with Avastin, a drug that is widely used in the United States and Europe to keep such cancers at bay. So, with her oncologist’s support, she decided last year to try to pay the $120,000 cost herself, while continuing with the rest of her publicly financed treatment.

By December, she had raised $20,000 and was preparing to sell her house to raise more. But then the government, which had tacitly allowed such arrangements before, put its foot down. Mrs. Hirst heard the news from her doctor.

“He looked at me and said: ‘I’m so sorry, Debbie. I’ve had my wrists slapped from the people upstairs, and I can no longer offer you that service,’ ” Mrs. Hirst said in an interview.

This describes one of the many inevitable problems with a non-competitive healthcare system. In short, in England you have a choice: you can either have free government-supplied healthcare (but you have to live – or die – with their restrictions and limitations), or you can pay for all of your healthcare yourself. You can't participate in the national healthcare system, but pay for your own extras. Oh, no. That would be so unfair – to have better healthcare simply because you can afford it!

The commonly-held notion that healthcare would be better if the government ran it is so risible on its face that I stumble trying to rebut it. Can you think of anything that the government runs better than private industry? Let's see...

Post Office? I don't think so!

Education? Gimmee a break!

Street repair? Surely you jest...

(add your own 35 examples – it isn't hard to do!)

So why does anyone believe that government-run healthcare would be better? I just don't get it...

The End Days...

I never thought of this as a consquence of Hillary losing the Democratic nomination:

How does Supreme Court Justice Hillary Clinton sound?

It sounds superb to us. Freed of the constraints of "triangulating" political considerations that have hobbled and severely compromised her progressive values, a seat on the Supreme Court would be an ideal way for Clinton to help steer our Constitution back to its original moorings. Without having to worry about voting based on future campaign strategy, she would be liberated to impact America in a profoundly positive way.

Via BuzzFlash (a prominent liberal news/opinion site).

This is profoundly disturbing on way too many levels. The worst part is that as a Supreme Court Justice, she would actually have real power to influence this nation's future. I can't believe I'm saying this, but...if I had to choose between President Hillary and Justice Hillary, the former sounds ever so much safer.

Sheesh. I need a drink!


Via the WSJ:
A Navy missile soaring 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean smashed a dying U.S. spy satellite late Wednesday night and appears to have destroyed a tank carrying 1,000 pounds of potentially lethal rocket fuel, bringing a dramatic end to a weeks-long controversy over the military's unusual decision to shoot down one of its own satellites.

Pentagon officials said they were optimistic that the missile had struck the satellite, which had stopped working almost immediately after entering earth orbit in December 2006. But they said that U.S. officials needed time to assess whether the strike had also destroyed the satellite's supply of hydrazine, a toxic fuel that causes lung damage and can be lethal if inhaled in large enough quantities.

"A network of land-, air-, sea- and spaced-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the earth's atmosphere," the Pentagon said in a written statement. "Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours."

The technology involved in this shootdown is really quite amazing. The “warhead” on this missile was a “kinetic interceptor” – a fancy term that just means that a small, heavy object rammed into the target at a very high relative speed. All the energy needed to destroy the target came from the impact of the kinetic interceptor – no explosives or shrapnel was invovled. To pull this off, the intercepting missile had to steer its warhead with astonishing accuracy directly into the refrigerator-sized target at a closing speed of many thousands of feet per second.

The Russians have accused the U.S. of using this event as a way to conduct a veiled test of the missile system. It would be absurd to think that we wasted a satellite worth hundreds of millions of dollars simply to provide a test target. But if the Russians are accusing us of taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself, well, they're probably right. But so what? Do they expect us to believe that they would refrain from taking advantage of a similar opportunity? Hah!

The only thing going on here is that Putin's beligerent Russia is taking advantage of a propaganda opportunity, with the willing assistance of the despicable Western lamestream media...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama versus McCain...

The 2008 Presidential race is starting to firm up as being a Obama versus McCain faceoff. Early in the race (I'm talking about, oh, four whole months ago!), I'd have estimated the probability of this particular ballot as vanishingly small. Now it appears to be our reality.

From where I sit, that looks like a race with little to recommend either candidate. The overriding issue for me remains the war on terror (meaning, more precisely, the worldwide struggle between secular free democracies and radical fundamentalist Islamists). On this issue there is a clear difference in the candidates' articulated positions, though I'm not so sure they'd be much different in practice.

McCain has consistently advocated a robust reaction to any affront by the terrorists, and has shown zero inclination to appease them. The only concern I have about him is his apparent squeamishness about aggressive interrogations, but this is a small nit in the grand scheme.

Obama, on the other hand, has consistently advocated withdrawal from any foreign entanglements, the use of international organizations (especially the U.N.) in consensus actions, the treatment of terrorism as a police problem, and appeasement on nearly all fronts.

From my perspective, Obama's stated positions are, in effect, a set of blueprints for moving the United States from a superpower and a force for good in the world to a second-rate, overwhelmed power and a beggar for the world's help. But would Obama actually behave the way he talks? First of all, his ability to actually effect the positions he espouses are constrained rather tightly by this document we have called the Constitution. All Presidents have, actually, very limited power. President Bush didn't go into Iraq on his own -- people forget, but he actually had the backing of an overwhelming majority of Congress. Then, perhaps even more importantly, once a President Obama was in office, his political calculus (and I'm certain that's what drives both he and McCain) would change dramatically. Now he's trying to get himself selected as the Democratic candidate, so his rhetoric is tuned to that left-leaning group. Once he was in office, his actions are more important than his rhetoric, and he'll be trying to gain the approval of the entire United States electorate, not just the Democrats. It seems unlikely that he would even want to match his future actions to his current rhetoric, even if he was permitted that luxury by Congress.

Once I get past the war on terror, the articulated positions (and track record, in the case of McCain) would have me lean toward McCain -- if it wasn't for my impression of the man's personality and power hunger. He strikes me as borderline insane and profoundly corrupt in the normal political sense (that is, his positions are held less from an actual belief in something than from a belief they'd get him votes). Obama, on the other hand, seems to be practically all talk and almost no substance. And what little “substance” we've been allowed to see is of a socialist nature, somewhere off to the left of Teddy Kennedy. I suspect it's entirely insincere and almost entirely impossible to pay for. In other words, it's the same profound corruption in the normal political sense: he says whatever he thinks he needs to say in order to get elected.

So what will I do when faced with a choice between McCain and Obama? I'm not 100% sure yet, but my inclination at the moment is to stay home and play my favorite music as my country takes a step off the path of greatness...

Anyone Still Having Blog Problem?

It's been working reliably for me now, for about four days straight. I haven't had any reports of problems since Monday. My reader statistics are back up to normal (they were almost zero for two weeks). If anybody has had problems since Monday, please let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro Resigns...

Here's an excerpt from his letter to the people:
To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept — I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept — the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.
You can read the whole thing here.

He'll still be a looming presence over the Cuban body politic, and it's almost certain that his younger brother Raul will be selected to replace him. I'm not expecting any dramatic changes, unless somehow Castro's resignation motivates the Cuban people to revolt. At this point, after over fifty years of heavy-handed Communist rule, the state's instruments of power are stable institutions – and therefore very difficult to remove. Without external help, it would take something of a miracle for a democratic state to emerge...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wartime Letters...

Not from the Iraq War – but from World War II. This is a fascinating series of letters written by Edward Ryan, who was an engineer in Patton's Third Army. They make very interesting reading for anyone curious about those times...

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I hesitate to even say this out loud, but…I haven't had a problem accessing my blog for 48 hours now. I've still had no feedback from Google, so I can't be certain that a problem was actually found and fixed. However, this is the first time in two weeks that I've gone two entire days without having trouble accessing the blog, so I'm hopeful that something has actually changed for the better…

Americans On The Move...

Every year, United Van Lines publishes a study of internal American migration patterns, using the data from their own moving jobs. The map at right is their own cut at analysis for 2007, showing states with the high inbound moves and high outbound moves, by percentage. This is an interesting view, but not the only one.

So I grabbed the raw data (which United Van Lines makes available at the link above) and did a slightly different analysis, based on absolute numbers. Here's the result:

The top five states that people are moving into (by the actual number of people), in order: North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, South Carolina.

The top five states that people are moving out of (by the actual number of people), in order: Michigan, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio.

These data are biased in a couple of known ways: it excludes all immigration, and it excludes many people who can't afford to move via moving companies (especially younger people). Until the last few years, illegal immigration (which is far larger than legal immigration) was predominantly into the southern border states; that has changed, as many illegal immigrants are now heading to the midwest and the east coast.

Nevertheless, these data show an interesting cut at American migration patterns. If what you really want to see is where Americans go to live when they have a choice (that is, when they can afford it), there's probably no better set of data to look at.

And if you look at these data through a political prism, there's an interesting trend: people are moving out of areas dominated by liberals, and into areas dominated by conservatives (with the single exception of Oregon).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Valentine's Day to Remember...

Debbie and I have been married for almost 27 years. At this point, I'm a fairly well-trained husband when it comes to Valentine's Day – I know that if I don't come up with some hugs, kisses, whispered sweet nothings, a nice box of candy and some flowers, I'm a dead man (or will wish I was). I've also learned that I should expect the day to be all about the woman in my life, and not about me. And that's ok with me, because I've never had any particular expectations of the day.

So I was very surprised when I arrived home on Valentine's Day. First of all, the day was dramatic: it was snowing as I pulled into the driveway, and a blanket of white covered our house and yard. But when I walked in the door, I saw a spectacularly set table, with a bottle of champagne icing, rose petals strewn over the table cloth (I'm serious!), and a beautiful appetizer of fresh mozzerella, basil, and tomatoes – and a loaf of potato rosemary bread, with olive oil and basalmic vinegar. On our woodstove was a gigantic bouquet of fresh flowers, with some especially beautiful red gladiolas. Wow!

And it got even better. I had stopped at a fish market to get some fresh scallops, and Debbie made her signature broiled scallop appetizer, which we ate along with steamed young asparagus. And as if that wasn't enough, she made a spectacular bread pudding, all custardy on the inside and covered with a crust of pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Double wow!

I suspect this may be a once-in-twenty-years sort of event, but if not I might learn to actually look forward to Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quote of the Day...

In referece to Hillary Clinton:
At a minimum, a head of state should have a head.
So says Vladimir Putin.

Well. You can't really disagree with him, can you?

All the same, that's a little more crude and direct than heads of state usually are...


Circulating via email right now:
Last night I had the strangest dream. It was so real, so life-like and so vivid I woke up in a cold sweat and said "Not On Sunday".

Let me describe it to you briefly...

1. Hillary wins the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States

2. Naturally, she wants to choose as her running mate someone with a lot of knowledge and experience in government and foreign affairs, someone who is a seasoned campaigner who could bring a lot of strength to the ticket. Who better than Bill, her husband?!!?

3. Hill and Bill go on to win the election in November and the Democrats maintain control of the House and the Senate.

4. Hillary is sworn in as President on January 20, 2009. The next day, after all the inauguration parties are over, she calls a press conference to make an announcement: she is resigning as President!!! Bill, as the Vice President, immediately becomes President!!! This is all perfectly legal under the 22nd Amendment the Constitution, for it states that no person "may be elected as President more than twice". Bill is not being elected for a third term but is merely serving out the remainder of Hillary's term --- all 4 years of it.

5. But wait! There's more! The following day Bill calls a press conference to make an announcement. He has chosen someone to fill the now vacant Vice President Position. Guess who he picks? Why, Hillary, of course!!!

Now you stay awake and let me get some sleep !!!!!!!
As best I can tell, the scenario described above is, in fact, completely legal. There's a good discussion of the issues on Snopes; it looks to me as though Bill as VP is technically legal but quite likely to be unacceptable to the electorate (I hope!), Hillary resigning is certainly legal, but unlikely if my perceptions about her desire for power are correct, and the notion of Hillary being appointed VP is legal but exceedingly unlikely.

But all of this is probably moot, given the current political winds – Obama looks like he's going to win the Democratic nomination in a landslide. You might think I'd be happy about that, but Obama's apparent emptiness scares me. I'm afraid he's all show and no substance – and he's unabashedly a proponent of pulling out of Iraq unconditionally and immediately, and of treating the war on terror as a “police operation”. These are not comforting or hopeful positions to me, and the change they represent is not a positive one...

Rain and Snow...

Yesterday a storm hit the San Diego area, dropping 3/4" of rain on us, along with some sleet and even snow. As I arrived home from work, big sloppy-wet snowflakes were falling, and our yard was covered in a thin sheet of white. This morning the temperature is hovering around the freezing point, and much of the thin snow blanket is still there.

The most interesting thing about this storm was how it caught the weather forecasters completely by surprise. Even 24 hours before the storm hit, there was no hint of precipitation at all in the forecast.

If the weather forecasters can't even get tomorrow's forecast right, how much confidence should I have in those who forecast global warming over the next few decades?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blogger Problems -- NOT Getting Better!

For just a couple of days, it seemed like Blogger was working better, and that you could usually get to my blog. Then for the past couple of days, it's been almost always failing.

I have posted my problem at the Blogger help forum, but I haven't gotten any response yet from Google's folks. It's a free service, so it's pretty hard to make demands for better service levels. But...if it keeps up much longer, I'll be forced to transition to another service, which I really, really don't want to do.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


So often we hear, from the opponents of the war on terror, that somehow we are at fault – that if only we were more understanding, or appeasing, or multi-culturally aware, then the radical Islamists would no longer hate us and attack us. Their contention is that we could live our own lives in peace, just don't offend (whatever that actually means) the Muslims, and we can all just get along.


In Denmark, they just arrested some folks who were trying to kill a cartoonist. His capital crime? He drew a cartoon of Mohammed – the same sort of thing that somehow every other religion on earth manages to tolerate. How can we possibly just “get along” with people like this:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Danish police said Tuesday they have arrested three people suspected of plotting to kill one of the 12 cartoonists behind the Prophet Muhammad drawings that sparked a deadly uproar in the Muslim world two years ago.

Two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin were arrested in pre-dawn raids in western Denmark, the police intelligence agency said.

The Dane was suspected of violating Danish terror laws but likely would be released after questioning as the investigation continues, said Jakob Scharf, the head of the PET intelligence service. The two Tunisians would be expelled from Denmark, he said.

The agency did it mention which cartoonist was targeted. However, according to Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the drawings on Sept. 30, 2005, the suspects were planning to kill its cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

"There were very concrete murder plans against Kurt Westergaard," said Carsten Juste, the paper's editor-in-chief.

You can see these “offensive” cartoons right here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Night Sounds...

Miki, our youngest field spaniel, is two years old today. I took him out for an evening stroll around our yard, at about 7 pm. We got down to the end of our driveway, and he suddenly went into an alert posture, staring down the hill intently, trying to figure out what that loud and persistent noise was. The sound was coming from a broad swath of land below us, basically the whole bottom of the valley.

Miki had never heard this sound before.


By the thousands, freshly-minted frogs were singing their hearts out, trying to find a mate. Tonight must mark the interval between the first rains intense enough to get the steam flowing and the age of tadpoles when they first crawl out of the water.

We haven't heard more than a few frogs for something like four or five years.

Welcome back, frogs...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Progress In Iraq...

The military command in Iraq released a diary captured recently – the diary of an Al Qaeda leader (“emir”). Though heavily redacted, it still contains some remarkable information:
In the Name of Allah the Most Merciful the Most CompassionateDate: Third of Shawaal of 1428 Hijri (H) [ 15 OCT 2007]Islamic GreetingsThis is My Will:

I am Abu-Tariq, Emir of Al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector.

There were almost 600 fighters in our Sector before the Tribes changed course 360 degrees under the influence of the so-called Islamic Army (Deserter of Jihad) and other known believer groups. Many of our fighters quit and some of them joined the deserters, and later on I will mention the names of Fighters who stood by us (faithful fighters), but things started getting worse ever since, and as a result of that the number of fighters dropped down to 20 or less which led us to move some of our vehicles to another location (Al-Muthanna Establishment Area) for security reasons where our brother [REDACTED] is stationed at (I will also mention the type vehicles at the end.)

There are many details known by brothers [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] regarding the spoils, buying and selling vehicles such as:

1-Lorry (6-wheeled) in Mosul sold later and we received some of the money for it.

2-[REDACTED] still owes us [$10,000] which is the remainder of the money that is still with them after they sold two Lorries for us at the car dealerships in the al-Saqlawiyah area which we have not received yet. We gave him our business and received [$10,000] from him as a down-payment but he still owes us another [$10,000], and late we gave him [$28,000] to get the Lorry back but he did not return it yet (the actual owner of the dealership is [REDACTED]

3-The value of another Lorry which is [$25,000] is still in the possession of a person in Tikrit known by brother [REDACTED]

4-We bought a Pick-up model 2000 from a person called [REDACTED] (his phone number is [REDACTED]) of which we did not pay its value yet, and the deal was to trade in this vehicle with a truck or pay its value in al-Shirqat at al-Nahar dealership close to the house of brother [REDACTED] (Killed) and in the price of the pick-up is [$7,500]

Date: 9-10 of Shawaal of 1428 H [21-22 OCT 2007]

A BKC, ammunition and other light weapons are still in the posession of [REDACTED] and his brother [REDACTED] which belong to us and Brother [REDACTED] knows about that, and the weapons that are in the possession of [REDACTED] are 2000 C5 Rockets plus an RPG-9 but he refuses to give us any of it lately and we do not know what his intention is in that regard, therefore we have to keep truing with him to get our weapons and ammunition back due to the present condition and especially since the al-Sahwah groups started opposing us.

Weapons and ammunition such as 30 containers of bullets and four BKC's in the possession of bother [REDACTED] also belong to us.

Brothers, I want you to know that i will only mention the names of fighters who were faithful to our cause and stood by us when we needed them and later I will mention the names of the traitors so that they may be punished when time comes.

Date: 12 of Shawaal of 1428 H [24 OCT 2007]

There are very few tribe members who stood by us and supported us, such as members of [REDACTED] Tribe that were surrounded by al-Sawah fighters and even though they did not quit plus members of [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] sub-tribe members. After the raid that we did against the houses and safe heavens of the deserters which led to killing a lot of them, burning some of their vehicles and spoiling some of their vehicles and weapons which affected their morale and resources tremendously, knowing that the number of fighters who did the raid were 16 and not 150 fighters as they claimed after that.

Date: 16 of Shawaal of 1428 H [28 OCT 2007]

My request to you is not to be negligent with the deserters/traitors at all, because those kinds of people look like the cancer that grew up in the body of al-Jihad Movement, therefore we should have no mercy on them even if joined the Iraqi Government security forces and do not let them have any sense of relief despite the fact that some of them ran away from ur strong hand to unknown locations with their families. Even though our Jihadi Movement goals at the early stages were to recruit as many supporters among them in order to gain more information about the Government security forces and the infidels' military and tactical movements in order to ease our movements and missions against them despite the fact that i was against such goals for security reasons. Dear brothers, I would like you to know that even though the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) acheived a lot of projects for the benefit of the people of Iraq such as bringing water, electricity and agricultural help to a lot of areas such as [REDACTED] we were mistreated, cheated, and betrayed by some of our brothers who used to be part of the Jihadi Movement, therefore we must not have mercy on those traitors until they come back to the right side--The ISI side--or get eliminated completely in order to achieve victory at the end, and I would like to mention here the name of one of families who betrayed us and lost our trust is the [REDACTED] family who were very good, faithful Jihadi Fighters, but later on we found out that those people wer nothing but hypocrites, liars, and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most and at the end they fought against us and they tried to prevent us from attacking the al-Sawah groups in [REDACTED] area by blocking our entrance to that area.

Information about the Old Battalions of fighters im my Sector:

1 - Battalion of Laylat al-Qadr Martyrs: Its group Emir [REDACTED] (Detained), and the number of fighters in this Battalion were 200. All of them were very well-eqipped with weapons and 37 vehicles and they did a lot of good activities against the invaders and its followers, but in the meantimes there are a few fighters left who are actually fighting and some were killed and some arrested but the majority betrayed us and joined al-Sawah. This battalion was one of the first battalions whose number of fighters was tarnished after Abu-Haydar al-Ansari Battalion, and the number of fighters is now only ten. [Was 200. Now 10. 5% survival/retention rate--C#4]

2- Battalion of Abu-Haydar al-Ansari: The Emir of this battalion [REDACTED] was the first renegade in this group. He ran away one month before the al-Sawah movement started in our sector and we still do not know where he is hiding. It is no wonder that most of the information we got from him was deception and lies. There were 300 fighters in the battaslion equipped with good weapons and 17 vehicles, and since deserted us the number of fighters dropped to 16 and then to two; one of whom was arrested [REDACTED] and the second one was injured [REDACTED] and the rest joined al-Sahwah groups. [Was 300. Now down to 1 and he's injured.]

3- Battalion of Hudhayfah Ibin al-Yaman: The emir of this battalion is [REDACTED] and the number of fighters are almost 60. They are very well equipped with weapons and other supplies. All of them are true and good believers plus their activities against the invaders and their followers were very good, but for the present time their activities are frozen due to their present conditions plus their families' conditions.

4- Battalion of al-Ahwal: Most of its members are scoundrels, Sectarians, non-believers and the worst one of them was [REDACTED] and he was the first one to desert his battalion and ran away to Syria then later on came back from Syria and joined the traitors while the rest of the battalion was gone except for [REDACTED] and his sons, and the military person who was in charge of the battalion his name is [REDACTED] (bad not good) and he still has in his possession 3 BKCs and 2 sniper rifles and he claims that one of those rifles was given back to its original owner [REDACTED] (I will try to take back the rest of the weapons from him soon and I will mention that later.)

5- Battalion of Muhammad Bin Muslimah: The leader of this battalion was the Martyr [REDACTED] who was killed by the traitors of the Islamic Army with help of the invader's helicopters, which also led to the destruction of some of our vehicles and weapons. Some of the fightres of this battalion deserted and especially the ones who came from [REDACTED] tribe like the traitor [REDACTED] who became an officer with the al-Sahwah group plus others who ran away with their weapons to Diyala and then disappeared like [REDACTED] who has in his possession a sniper rifle and his brothers except for one [REDACTED] who was injured with [REDACTED] who possesses a BKC.

Technical Department:

Members of this department are [REDACTED] and his sons who are still working with us plus [REDACTED] who was injured recently.

Air Defense:

One person is left in this department who is still working with us[REDACTED] who is willing to work with us to the end and he has in his possession three operative batteries (one inoperative) plus five C5 launchers and one 23mm gun.

Names of People who are still working with al-Qaeda:


2-[REDACTED] and his brothers

3- [REDACTED] and His brothers














17- [REDACTED] the Sniper/Now he is injured


19- [REDACTED] /Detained


21- [REDACTED]/left us a week ago

22- [REDACTED] and his Sons/[REDACTED]

23- [REDACTED] and his sons








em>31- [REDACTED]

32- [REDACTED]/there are so many negative remarks against him

33- [REDACTED]/We have not seen him for more than 20 days so far

34- [REDACTED]/We have not seen him for more than 10 days so far

[REDACTED] showed up with their group Emir [REDACTED] and they are:



37- [REDACTED]/Left three days ago

38- [REDACTED]/came back to work with us recently after his wounds healed up

And that is the number of fighters left in my sector


[REDACTED] and their fighters are good and faithful and they lost one of their fighters (his name Martyr [REDACTED]) fighting against al-Sawah fighters, and in addition to that the tribe area is surrounded with al-Sawah fighters who are preventing them from leaving their area. So far we have no further information about the situation over there.

I was especially struck by the way that this emir's force was clobbered by the surge strategy: from 600 fighters to a mere 20 just before he was killed and his diary captured.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Well, nobody got the right answer to last week's puzzler: how did the vacuum tube manufacturers get the high quality vacuum in such an inexpensive, mass-produced item? The correct answer is the inductively heated barium reactor, known colloquially as a “getter”. These were very simple and cheap: just a piece of sheet metal coated with a barium compound. The barium, when heated, absorbed any gas remaining inside the tube. Typically the manufacturers heated this little piece of sheet metal inductively (meaning by placing the tube in a powerful, rapidly changing magnetic field). This caused currents (“eddy currents” to flow in the sheet metal, and that caused it to get very hot. So hot, in fact, that the barium coating would flash-vaporize (absorbing gas as it did so). This vapor would then cool and adhere to the inside of the glass envelope of the vacuum tube, causing the silvery coating familiar to anyone who has handled vacuum tubes.

This week's puzzler is back to history – in this case, 20th century U.S. history. What was the middle name of a former U.S. Senator who was a judge early in his career (and was a notorious gambler while on the bench), enlisted in the Marines in 1942 to fight (despite his exclusion from obligatory service because he was a judge), came back from the war and successfully ran for the U.S. Senate (despite well-documented lies and self-serving distortions about his military service record), became a highly polarizing figure in the Senate and finally died in office, a bitter and often inebriated man? The clincher is that modern historians are starting to look at his Senate record a little more positively; in fact, some have posited him as one of the early victims of wrongful media demonization.

Quote of the Day...

By James Taranto, in Best of the Web Today:
It's remarkable how many on the left think their free speech rights are violated when they are criticized--that is, when others exercise their free speech rights.
A pattern I've oft noted. Here's the context for the quote above:

Shut Up and Respect My Freedom of Speech
San Jose's KNTV reports that the City Council of Berkeley, Calif., at its Tuesday meeting will consider backing down from its resolution denouncing the U.S. Marines, which have a recruiting center in Berkeley, as "uninvited and unwelcome intruders." This comes in the face of an effort by Republican senators to cut off $2.3 million in federal money for Berkeley. On this question, Sen. Barbara Boxer is siding against the Marines.

The station reports that one left-wing activist doesn't quite understand the concept of free speech:

Code Pink announced they would have what they called a "24-hour peace-in" leading up to Tuesday's city council meeting. They will be camping out but will have a lot of company. A group of pro-troop protesters will also be there.

"I was under the impression that we have the right of free speech," said Xanne Joi of Code Pink. "To me, I thought free speech meant you get to say what you want without recrimination."

In fact, free speech is reciprocal. Xanne Joi has the right to criminate, but the rest of us have a right to recriminate. It's remarkable how many on the left think their free speech rights are violated when they are criticized--that is, when others exercise their free speech rights.

Best of the Web Today is one of my favorite newsletters – and it's free. You can view it on the web, or you can have it automatically emailed to you each weekday. I highly recommend it.

Lamm's Plan...

Richard D. Lamm has a plan:

I have a secret plan to destroy America. ... Here is my plan:

1. We must first make America a bilingual-bicultural country. ...

2. I would then invent “multiculturalism” and encourage immigrants to maintain their own culture. ...

3. We can make the United States a “Hispanic Quebec” without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity. ...

4. Having done all this, I would make our fastest-growing demographic group the least educated. ...

5. I would then get the big foundations and big business to give these efforts lots of money. ...

6. I would establish dual citizenship and promote divided loyalties. ...

7. Then I would place all these subjects off-limits–make it taboo to talk about. ...

8. Lastly, I would censor Victor Davis Hanson’s book “Mexifornia” –this book is dangerous; it exposes my plan to destroy America. ...

Go read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Blogger Problems -- Getting Better?

Starting last night, I have been able to get into the blog most of the times that I've tried. This is still bad, but an improvement over the situation from Sunday through Wednesday, when I could rarely even get the page up. If you succeed in reading this, I'd appreciate your leaving a comment just to let me know it worked...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Blogger Problems...

We've been having major problems with Google Blogger (the hosting service for this blog) for the past week. We don't know what the problem is, or when it will be resolved...

Friday, February 1, 2008


Most of you got the right answer to last week's puzzler: the orange and yellow flames in a wood fire are caused by particles (mainly carbon) heated to incandescance. The physics of burning wood is far more complex than you might think at first glance. The actual combustion that takes place happens between gases, including ordinarily solid materials that are heated to the point where they change state into a gas. If you see blue flames, that's actually a direct result of combustion – but much of the combustion takes place without emitting any light at all in the visible spectrum. Where things get really complicated is the conversion of the cold, solid wood into superheated gases ready to combust. The simplistic picture is a combination of radiant head and convective heat (from the gas combustion) heats the wood to the point where it decomposes to simpler compounds or elements, in gaseous form. The details are far more complex, and still not completely understood...

This week's puzzler is technological:

Up until the late 1960s, most electronic devices employed vacuum tube amplifiers as their fundamental component. These vacuum tubes were one of the first “high-tech” devices manufactured in very high volumes. There were several challenges in their manufacture, but one of the big ones was how to produce the extremely high-quality vacuum inside the tubes. How did they actually accomplish this?

As usual, no fair googling until after you've answered...

Voting Guide...

Simple, short one-page guide to the candidates and their positions.

Quote of the Day...

Peggy Noonan, in today's Wall Street Journal:
As a conservative I would say Ted Kennedy has spent much of his career being not just wrong about the issues but so deeply wrong, so consistently and reliably wrong that it had a kind of grandeur to it. So wrong that I cannot actually think of a single serious policy question on which I agreed with him.
Grandiose wrongness. Perfect.