Friday, October 31, 2008

You Know This Is Real, Don't You?

OMG!!!

Your Morning Groans...

Don't blame me, blame Simi L. for sending these along:
The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, 'You stay here, I'll go on a head.'

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'

A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, 'No change yet.'

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

It's not that the man did not know how to juggle, he just didn't have the balls to do it.

The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

A backward poet writes inverse.

In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

Don't join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

Inside Leak?

A fascinating post by someone who claims to be a former Hillary staffer, now transplanted into the Obama campaign. You really need to read the whole thing to get the full effect, but here's a little teaser:
Being in a position to know these things, I will rate what the Obama campaign already knows are their weak links from the most important on down.

1 – Hillary voters. [...]

2 – Sarah Palin. [...]

3 – Obama’s radical connections. [...]

4 – The Bradley Effect. [...]
I said “claims” above because the author could be anyone at all – you just can't tell with an anonymous blog post. But I must say that it reads like something real...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Learned Something About My Readers...

...but I'm not sure what it is.

The post “Motivational (?) Posters” below broke all my blog's records for page views, in just 24 hours. Each time someone clicks on a picture to get a larger version, that counts as a page view.

Care to guess which poster got the most clicks? Hint: it wins by a factor of five.

Now the important question: what did I just learn about my readers?

Another Blog...

For the past week or so I've been posting on another blog, one of several work-related blogs Service-now (my employer) hosts. My posts there are all about the Discovery product that I work on, and to most of my readers on this blog they are likely to be, er, mind-numbingly boring.

But if you're a closet masochist, stop on over there and learn about our products. At least until management realizes they've let a nutcase publish stuff under their name...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Motivational (?) Posters...

Jim M. sends along this politically-incorrect collection.

As always, click to enlarge...


Huh?

What in the world is that photograph showing?

You'll have to go over here to find out...

A Few Questions...

George Newman, writing over at the WSJ, asks a few questions about how the stock market would (and has already) respond to the initiatives of an Obama administration:

- Have you thought of what a gradual doubling (and indexation) of the minimum wage, sailing through a veto-proof and filibuster-proof Congress, would do to inflation, unemployment and corporate profits? The market now has.

- Have you thought of how easily a Labor Department headed by a militant union boss would push through a "Transparency in Labor Relations" law that does away with secret ballots in strike votes, and what this would do to industrial peace? The market now has.

- Have you thought of how a Treasury Secretary George Soros would engineer the double taxation of the multinationals' world-wide profits, and what this would mean for investors (to say nothing of full-scale industrial flight from the U.S.)? The market now has.

- Have you thought of how an Attorney General Charles J. Ogletree would champion a trillion-dollar reparations-for-slavery project (whittled down, to be fair, to a mere $800-billion, over-10-years compromise), and what this would do to the economy? The market now has.

- Have you thought of what the virtual outlawing of arbitration -- exposing all industries to the fate of asbestos producers -- would do to corporate liability and legal bills? The market now has.

- Have you thought of how a Health and Human Services Secretary Hillary Clinton would fix drug prices (generously allowing 10% over the cost of raw materials), and what this would do to the financial health of the pharmaceutical industry (not to mention the nondiscovery of lifesaving drugs)? The market now has.

- Have you thought of a Secretary of the newly established Department of Equal Opportunity for Women mandating "comparable worth" pay practices for every company doing any business with government at any level -- where any residual gap between the average pay of men and women is an eo ipso violation? Have you thought about what this would do to administrative and legal costs, hiring practices, productivity and wage bills? The market now has.

- Have you thought of what confiscatory "windfall profits" taxes on oil companies would do to exploration, supply and prices? The market now has.

- Have you thought of how the nationalization of health insurance, the mandated coverage of ever more -- and more exotic -- risks, the forced reimbursement for excluded events, and the diminished freedom to match premium to risk would affect the insurance industry? The market now has.

- Have you thought of Energy Czar Al Gore's five million new green jobs -- high-paying, unionized and subsidized -- to replace, at five times the cost, what we are now producing without those five million workers, and what this will do to our productivity, deficit and competitiveness? The market now has.

Read the whole thing, and ponder before you vote next Tuesday...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Truth Leaks Out...

...if only ever-so-slightly. The lamestream media does one thing very, very well: it “shapes” the news by withholding some information and accenting others. The media's treatment of Sarah Palin is a textbook example of this – the distorted picture they present doesn't even resemble the real person.

Don't take my word for it – here's Elaine Lafferty, the former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine and a lifelong Democrat, who recently worked with Sarah Palin and got to know her a bit:

It's difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin's “intelligence,” coming especially from women such as PBS's Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of Journalism moniker. As Fred Barnes—God help me, I'm agreeing with Fred Barnes—suggests in the Weekly Standard, these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

I'm a Democrat, but I've worked as a consultant with the McCain campaign since shortly after Palin's nomination. Last week, there was the thought that as a former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine as well as a feminist activist in my pre-journalism days, I might be helpful in contributing to a speech that Palin had long wanted to give on women's rights.

Now by “smart,” I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

Froth away, Ms. Lafferty! This little leak in the lamestream media container is quite refreshing...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wealth Redistribution in Practice...

Reader Gina P. passes this little story along:
Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read “Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on an Obama 08 tie, again I laughed - just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need - the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept
than in practical application.
I am so looking forward to Obama's wealth redistribution plans...

Your Morning Ponders...

Sent along by Simi L., who obviously has an inquiring mind:
  1. If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times,does he become disoriented?

  2. If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?

  3. Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

  4. If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

  5. If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

  6. Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

  7. When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?

  8. Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist but a person who drives a racing car not called a racist?

  9. Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?

  10. Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

  11. Why isn't the number 11 pronounced onety one?

  12. 'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that 'I do' is the longest sentence?

  13. If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

  14. What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?

  15. I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks so I wondered what do Chinese mothers use? Toothpicks?

  16. Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do, write to them? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the postmen can look for them while they deliver the mail?

  17. You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

  18. No one ever says, 'It's only a game' when their team is winning.

  19. Ever wonder about those people who spend $2.00 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backwards: NAIVE

  20. Isn't making a smoking section in a restaurant like making a peeing section in a swimming pool?

  21. OK ... so if the Jacksonville Jaguars are known as the 'Jags' and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are known as the ' Bucs,' what does that make the Tennessee Titans?

  22. If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea, does that mean that one enjoys it?

  23. Why if you send something by road it is called a shipment, but when you send it by sea it is called cargo?

  24. If a convenience store is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, why are there locks on the door?

Your Morning SIgh...

And one more, again sent along by Jim M.:
Doctors opinions on the Democrat's Universal Health Plan:

When a panel of doctors was asked their opinion on the proposed Universal
Health Care program, here's what they had to say:

The Allergists voted to scratch it, and the Dermatologists advised not to
make any rash moves.

The Gastroenterologists had sort of a gut feeling about it, but the
Neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve, and the
Obstetricians felt they were all laboring under a misconception.

The Ophthalmologists considered the idea shortsighted; the Pathologists
yelled, 'Over my dead body!' while the Pediatricians said, 'Oh, grow up!'

The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, the Radiologists could
see right through it, and the Surgeons decided to wash their hands of the
whole thing.

The Internists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the Plastic
Surgeons said, 'This puts a whole new face on the matter.'

The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists felt the
scheme wouldn't hold water. The Anesthesiologists thought the whole idea was
a gas, and the Cardiologists didn't have the heart to say anything.

In the end, the Proctologists left the decision up to some ass in the
Administration.
Heh!

Obanomics Illustrated...

Sent along by several readers, but Jim M. was first:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wow! An Exciting Moment...

I just took Race (our border collie puppy) out for a walk down our driveway. We walked down to within 25 feet or so of our gate, when all of a sudden Race started acting very afraid – whimpering, and doing his very best to hide behind my legs. He kept looking over to my left, so I looked over there – and saw a beautiful adult mountain lion, about 25 or 30 feet away from me, just on the other side of our fence.

Wow!

The photo at right is not mine (I wish it was!), but it's the closest one I could find on Google to the one I saw. I was at almost exactly the same level as the mountain lion, so my perspective was a little different than this photo...

We have never seen a mountain lion so near our home before. I've seen them just twice (in nearly ten years) along the private dirt road above our home, perhaps a half mile away from our house. Both of those sightings were mere glimpses. This time I watched the mountain lion for about 60 seconds or so before I dared move – though the mountain lion was not acting aggressive at all. In fact, it didn't like it was paying any attention to Race and I at all.

I didn't have my camera with me (damn it!), but I did have our cordless telephone – so I called Debbie, who was out shopping with her mom and a neighbor. She was very jealous of my sighting, but also concerned that I get back in the house. Race and I sidled up the driveway, back toward the house. I picked up a big stone; I'm not sure what I was thinking I'd do with that, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. We'd moved perhaps 25 feet further from the mountain lion when it started moving, slowly, away from us down the fence line. I stopped to watch. After it moved 50 feet or so, the mountain lion moved out onto the road and then took off at a lope, up the hill and away from our house.

Race and I went back inside. I was still on the phone with Debbie (I'd given her a blow-by-blow through the whole thing). In a minute or two, I started to come down from the adrenaline rush, and felt a little shaky – it's kind of scary having a close enounter with such a beast!

A beautiful beast, though...

Interesting Datapoint...

I ran across this article measuring preference in the upcoming Presidential election for an interesting group: Russian immigrants. It's short, so I've reprinted the entire thing:
U.S. Russian community will vote for John McCain - poll

MOSCOW. Oct 24 (Interfax) - The majority among the Russian community in the United States are going to vote for Republican John McCain at the U.S. presidential election, the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights (MBHR) told Interfax on Friday, after conducting a survey among the Russian community in the U.S.

MBHR experts are monitoring the U.S. elections and are planning to be in the U.S. on election day on November 4, human rights activists said in a statement.

MBHR cited figures provided by the institute for studies of new Americans, which conducted a social poll among Russian immigrants in New York, California, Georgia, New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts between August 30 and October 10 in cooperation with the American Jewish Congress.

"Of the total number of respondents 79% (80 % New Yorkers) are certain to go to the polls. Fifty-six percent (65% New Yorkers) are going to vote for John McCain, 10% - for Barack Obama. Twenty-eight percent (19% New Yorkers) are still undecided. Of those who are likely to go to the polls 63% will vote for McCain, 11% for Obama, and 25% are still undecided," MBHR said in the statement.

Four percent of respondents made donations to the Obama campaign, MBHR said in the statement.

During the U.S. census in 2000 almost 2 million Americans claimed their Russian roots and approximately the same number said the USSR was their country of origin. After Poles (over 6 million) the Russian-speaking community is the biggest group speaking one of the Slavic languages in the United States.

New York has the greatest number of Russian-speaking American residents.
These are people with experience living under a socialist government (the Soviet Union after about 1955 was really governed more as an extreme socialist country than as a Communist one). Interesting that people with this experience reject Obama so overwhelmingly...

Sarah Palin Says...

Simon M. passes this cute little palindrome along:
Wasilla's all I saw!
(a palindrome is a word or phrase that's spelled the same left-to-right and right-to-left)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hope and Change, Oh My!

Reader Jim M. passes along this little gem:
Notice to All Employees

As of November 5, 2008, if Obama is officially elected into office, our company will instill a few new policies which are in keeping with his new, inspiring issues of change and fairness.

1. All salespeople will be pooling their sales commissions into a common pool that will be divided equally between all of you. This will serve to give those of you who are under achieving a 'fair shake.'

2. All hourly employees will be pooling their wages, including overtime, into a common pool, dividing it equally amongst yourselves. This will help those who are 'too busy for overtime' to reap the rewards from those who have more spare time and can work extra hours.

3. All top management will now be referred to as 'the government.' We will not participate in this 'pooling' experience because the law doesn't apply to us.

4. The 'government' will give eloquent speeches to all employees every week, encouraging its workers to continue to work hard 'for the good of all.'

5. The employees will be thrilled with these new policies because it's 'good to spread the wealth.' Those of you who have underachieved will finally get an opportunity; those of you who have worked hard and had success will feel more 'patriotic.'

6. The last few people who were hired should clean out their desks. Don't feel bad though, because President Obama will give you free healthcare, free handouts, free oil for heating your home, free food stamps, and he'll let you stay in your home for as long as you want even if you can't pay your mortgage. If you appeal directly to our democratic congress, you might even get a free flat screen TV and a coupon for free haircuts (shouldn't all Americans be entitled to nice looking hair?) !!!

If for any reason you are not happy with the new policies, you may want to think hard about your vote on November 4th.

Declaration of Dependence...

Mark Steyn contemplates an Obama win. His conclusion:

Nobody denies that, in promoting himself from "community organizer" to the world's president-designate in nothing flat, he has shown an amazing and impressively ruthless single-mindedness. But the path of personal glory has been, in terms of policy and philosophy, the path of least resistance.

Peggy Noonan thinks a President Obama will be like the dog who chases the car and finally catches it: Now what? I think Obama will be content to be King Barack the Benign, Spreader of Wealth and Healer of Planets. His rise is, in many ways, testament to the persistence of the monarchical urge even in a two-century old republic. So the "Now what?" questions will be answered by others, beginning with the liberal supermajority in Congress. And as he has done all his life he will take the path of least resistance. An Obama administration will pitch America toward EU domestic policy and U.N. foreign policy.

Thomas Sowell is right: It would be a "point of no return," the most explicit repudiation of the animating principles of America. For a vigilant republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens, it would be a Declaration of Dependence.

If a majority of Americans want that, we holdouts must respect their choice. But, if you don't want it, vote accordingly.

A Spooky Email...

About a week ago, I received a very spooky email – but it led to joy and celebration. You'll need some background to understand...

Over 30 years ago, I was in the U.S. Navy, on board the USS Long Beach (CGN-9). I was a Data Systems Technician, responsible for maintaining and repairing various components of the Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS) on board. Another guy on board (he shall remain unnamed to protect his privacy) was an Electronic Warfare technician. The two of us had a shared interest – microcomputers, the forerunners of today's PCs – and we became close friends, working together on many projects.

As the years passed, we both left the Navy, we started a business together, then went our separate ways. Through it all we remained friends and in contact, though sometimes it was many months between contacts. Then, about five years ago, my friend moved out of Southern California, to North Carolina – and after a couple of contacts I never heard from him again. My friend was a regular poster on several forums on the web, so googling his name got lots of hits – but after early 2003, no more forum posts. I got a bad feeling from this.

For several years, I'd occasionally undertake a fairly serious search. I've also had a “Google Alert” running on his name for years. One day about two years ago, I got a hit on the Google Alert – not a pleasant one, either, as it was an obituary in a Raleigh, North Carolina newspaper. The obituary didn't have enough information for me to be sure it was my friend. He has an unusual, but not unique, name. So I called the obituary editor (a very nice woman named Maryanne), and told her my story. She went out of her way to help me, including calling and interviewing the family of the dead man's wife. The details she got back matched – the man who had died was about the right age, had served in the Navy for almost 20 years, was an electronics tech of some kind, and had served on a ship based in San Diego.

I concluded the obvious. My friend had died. For the past two years I've lived with this conclusion, and have been sad about it on many an occasion.

Then last week I got my spooky email: someone with the name (or claiming the name) of my friend sent me an email inviting me to be a friend on his Facebook page. My first reaction was suspicion – that someone was playing a sick trick on me. So I wrote back, asking a question that only my friend could answer.

And he did. Since then, we've exchanged several emails and photos. It's definitely my friend, alive and well in North Carolina, married to his high school sweetheart, and sounding quite happy!

Joy and celebration followed, as you might imagine...

Obama on Firearms...

For anyone who (like me) cherishes the right of individual Americans to own firearms, granted by the second amendment to our Constitution, this is a sobering view of what might happen if Obama is elected with both houses solidly Democratic. There's still the Supreme Court to stop any such moves, but they've shown themselves to be less-than-reliable defenders of the Constitution in the past 20 years. Even more worrisome: a President Obama might well have a chance to appoint as many as 3 Supreme Court Justices, thus completing a leftist sweep of all three branches of our government.

The gun agenda Obama might have in that context is easily imaginable from the fact sheet at right. Much more detail (with lots of backing links) here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What He Said...

What He Said...

From the good Dr. Krauthammer:

The case for McCain is straightforward. The financial crisis has made us forget, or just blindly deny, how dangerous the world out there is. We have a generations-long struggle with Islamic jihadism. An apocalyptic soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. A nuclear-armed Pakistan in danger of fragmentation. A rising Russia pushing the limits of revanchism. Plus the sure-to-come Falklands-like surprise popping out of nowhere.

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who’s been cramming on these issues for the past year, who’s never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of “a world that stands as one”), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as “the tragedy of 9/11,” a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

Or do you want a man who is the most prepared, most knowledgeable, most serious foreign policy thinker in the United States Senate? A man who not only has the best instincts but has the honor and the courage to, yes, put country first, as when he carried the lonely fight for the surge that turned Iraq from catastrophic defeat into achievable strategic victory?

There’s just no comparison. Obama’s own running mate warned this week that Obama’s youth and inexperience will invite a crisis — indeed a crisis “generated” precisely to test him. Can you be serious about national security and vote on Nov. 4 to invite that test?

Why I've Been Busy...

Something you probably didn't know about me:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rumors of My Death...

...have been greatly exaggerated.

I'm just busy.

I'll be back soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Satisfaction...

I can't help but take some satisfaction in this chart:


It shows the price of a share of the New York Times company. It has dropped from a high of over $51 to around $12. Their subscription numbers have similarly declined.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving “newspaper”.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Am Joe...

The other day, Joe the Plumber asked Obama a perfectly reasonable question – and Obama answered it with his now-infamous lecture Spread The Wealth. Of course, the left (and their lapdog, the lamestream media) immediately knew who to blame for this public relations disaster: Joe! So ever since, the media has been full of awful (or purportedly awful) stories about Joe. We know more about Joe and his problems than we do about Obama and his questionable associations and beliefs. That's our lamestream media at work!

The reaction on the right has mostly been to show solidarity with Joe. Someone coined the phrase “I am Joe” – and that's a good one. I am Joe, in the sense that Obama's tax policies will hurt me and my family. The graphic at right is part of the campaign to show solidarity with Joe.

Meanwhile, the irrepressible Mark Steyn has some of his trademark humor to share with us:

Give a man enough rope line, and he'll hang himself. There was His Serene Majesty President-designate Barack the Healer, working the crowd at some or other hick burg, and halfway down the rope up pops a plumber to express misgivings about the incoming regime's tax plans.

Supposedly, under the Obama tax plan, 95 percent of the American people will get a tax cut. You'd think that at this point the natural skepticism of any sentient being other than 6-week-old puppies might kick in, but apparently not. If you're wondering why Obama didn't simply announce that under his plan 112 percent of the American people will get a tax cut, well, they ran it past the focus groups who said that that was all very generous but they'd really like it if he could find a way to stick it to Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove and whatnot. So 95 percent it is.

Go read the whole thing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oops...

This must be really dismaying to the warmies:
High snowfall and cold weather to blame.

A bitterly cold Alaskan summer has had surprising results. For the first time in the area's recorded history, area glaciers have begun to expand, rather than shrink. Summer temperatures, which were some 3 degrees below average, allowed record levels of winter snow to remain much longer, leading to the increase in glacial mass.

"In mid-June, I was surprised to see snow still at sea level in Prince William Sound", said glaciologist Bruce Molnia. "In general, the weather this summer was the worst I have seen in at least 20 years".

"On the Juneau Icefield, there was still 20 feet of new snow on the surface [in] late July. At Bering Glacier, a landslide I am studying [did] not become snow free until early August."

Molnia, who works for the US Geological Survey, said it's been a "long time" since area glaciers have seen a positive mass balance -- an increase in the total amount of ice they contain.

Since 1946, the USGS has maintained a research project measuring the state of Alaskan glaciers. This year saw records broken for most snow buildup. It was also the first time since any records began being that the glaciers did not shrink during the summer months.

Those records date from the mid 1700s, when the region was first visited by Russian explorers. Molnia estimates that Alaskan glaciers have lost about 15% of their total area since that time -- an area the size of Connecticut.

One of the largest areas of shrinkage has been at the national park of Glacier Bay. When Alexei Ilich Chirikof first arrived in 1741, the bay didn't exist at all -- only a solid wall of ice. From that time until the early 1900s, the ice retreated some 50 miles, to form the bay and surrounding area.

Accordingly to Molnia, a difference of just 3 or 4 degrees is enough to shift the mass balance of glaciers from rapid shrinkage to rapid growth. From the 1600s to the 1900s, that’s just the amount of warming that was seen, as the planet exited the Little Ice Age.

Molnia says one cold summer doesn't mean the start of a new climatic trend. At least years like this, however, might mark the beginning of another Little Ice Age.

Remember just a couple of months ago, the warmies were in full throat predicting that the Arctic Sea would be completely clear of ice, and that this was the year in which the Alaskan glaciers would finally disappear?

Oops!

Sol, as You've Never Seen It...

The photo at right is a close-up view of our sun's surface. I've long been fascinated by the unexpected structure within the sun – it seems so at odds with our everyday experience of the sun as a bright, featureless disk. Sunspots are just the beginning – at every scale, and at just about every part of the spectrum, the sun is surprisingly complex.

I've never seen this visualized as well as in this collection of photos...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crazy PIlls...

Over at Politico, Ben Smith talks about an email he received from a Republican consultant. This fellow was conducting a focus group to test a new no-holds-barred attack ad on Obama. Listen to what he says about the comments from the focus group after seeing the ad:
Reagan Dems and Independents. Call them blue-collar plus. Slightly more Target than Walmart.

Yes, the spot worked. Yes, they believed the charges against Obama. Yes, they actually think he's too liberal, consorts with bad people and WON'T BE A GOOD PRESIDENT...but they STILL don't give a f***. They said right out, "He won't do anything better than McCain" but they're STILL voting for Obama.

The two most unreal moments of my professional life of watching focus groups:

54 year-old white male, voted Kerry '04, Bush '00, Dole '96, hunter, NASCAR fan...hard for Obama said: "I'm gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He's gonna be a bad president. But I won't ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President."

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."

I felt like I was taking crazy pills. I sat on the other side of the glass and realized...this really is the Apocalypse. The Seventh Seal is broken and its time for eight years of pure, delicious crazy....
This jibes very well with what I've seen in some people I know. There seem to be five general categories of those old enough to vote:
  1. They don't care at all (and likely won't vote).
  2. They're in love with Obama, and are definitely voting for him.
  3. They see McCain as shaky, but better than the only realistic alternative (that's me).
  4. They think both candidates are awful, and won't vote.
  5. They think both candidates are equally incompetent, but they're voting for Obama for no reason they can articulate (that's the group the consultant is describing).
Add all that up, and it doesn't look good for McCain...

Obama's Tax Plan...

A simple, but effective presentation by Penn & Teller:


Chili Cook-Off...

Reader Jim M. sent me this little comedy essay. I had tears running down my face by the time I finished it...
Chili Cook-Off

If you can read this whole story without laughing, then there's no hope for you. I was crying by the end. This is an actual account as relayed to paramedics at a chili cook-off in Oklahoma.

Note: Please take time to read this slowly. If you pay attention to the first two judges, the reaction of the third judge is even better. For those of you who have lived in Texas or Oklahoma , you know how true this is. They actually have a Chili Cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the Oklahoma City Park

Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield , IL

Frank: 'Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table, asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy; and, besides, they told me I could have free beer! during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge 3.'

Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

CHILI # 1 - MIKE'S MANIAC MONSTER CHILI
Judge # 1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge # 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
Judge # 3 (Frank) -- Holy crap, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that's the worst one. These Texans are crazy.

CHILI # 2 - AUSTIN 'S AFTERBURNER CHILI
Judge # 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
Judge # 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge # 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

CHILI # 3 - FRED'S FAMOUS BURN DOWN THE BARN CHILI
Judge # 1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick.
Judge # 2 -- A bit salty, good use of peppers.
Judge # 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting sh*t-faced from all of the beer.

CHILI # 4 - BUBBA'S BLACK MAGIC
Judge # 1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge # 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
Judge # 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the beer maid was standing behind me with fresh refills. This 300 lb. woman is starting to look HOT... just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

CHILI # 5 - LISA'S LEGAL LIP REMOVER
Judge # 1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge # 2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
Judge # 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted, and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by
pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw them.

CHILI # 6 - VERA'S VERY VEGETARIAN VARIETY
Judge # 1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
Judge # 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
Judge # 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I crapped on myself when I farted, and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

CHILI # 7 - SUSAN'S SCREAMING SENSATION CHILI
Judge # 1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge # 2 -- Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about judge number 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
Judge # 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing. It's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

CHILI # 8 - BIG TOM'S TOENAIL CURLING CHILI
Judge # 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge # 2 -- This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor feller, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chili?

Judge # 3 - No Report

Socialized Medicine...

The National Health Service (NHS) in England is often held up as an example of how to do it right by the proponents of socialized health care in the U.S. My friends in England are quite puzzled by this, as they would trade our health care for theirs in an instant. This morning I read an article that tells you how the NHS itself views it; the subhead says it all.
An NHS trust has spent more than £12,000 on private treatment for hospital staff because its own waiting times are too long.
Go read the whole thing...and remember this (and your post office) the next time someone tells you that we should have the federal government running our health care system...

Voters...

Normally I don't pay any attention at all to the likes of Howard Stern – but somehow I surfed to the audio clip below, and I was dumbstruck. In it, Howard Stern is asking questions of voters in Harlem. He asks questions that, in each case, ask them if they support some policy or personnel selection of Obama – but in each case he substitutes the actual policy or personnel selection of McCain. Not one voter detects the substitution.

God help us all – these people are going to elect the next President of the U.S...


Uighurs...

Here's the lead of an excellent editorial over at the National Review:

Last June, five Supreme Court justices dreamed up a constitutional right for aliens held as enemy combatants to challenge their wartime detention in court. Now the bitter fruits of the Boumediene decision are plain to see: In Washington, a federal judge has ordered the release — into the United States — of 17 men captured near Tora Bora after the American invasion of Afghanistan.

The men are Uighur Muslims from China. And therein lies the key to this convoluted tale. The outpouring of media sympathy for the Uighurs suggests that they were on holiday when they were mistakenly swept up by invading Americans. In point of fact, they had trained at jihadist paramilitary camps, where they were schooled in bomb construction, close combat, assassinations, and the like. Specifically, the Uighurs are tied to an al-Qaeda affiliate, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a designated terrorist organization. As terrorism researcher Thomas Joscelyn has documented, several of them were fighting against our troops. Their capture was entirely proper. And predictably, many of them have joined forces with other jihadists held in Guantánamo Bay to riot and assault American guards.
This is a wonderfully clear example of the consequences of a court that has no problem distorting the Constitution into something it was never meant to be. It is impossible for any rational thinker even to imagine that the Founding Fathers would have agreed with this Supreme Court decision – much less the consequences of it in this case.

In recent years my view of the Supreme Court has completely flip-flopped. I used to think of them as sort of the safety net – the restraint that would keep the elected politicians from doing something really outrageous or stupid. Now I think of them as the enablers, and in some cases the leaders, of this country's stampede toward socialism. If The One is elected, and manages to pack the court with more justices of the Ruth Ginsberg ilk, this is only going to get much worse...

The Banking Crisis, Explained...

Don't understand the recent banking crisis? Here it is, explained in a single, very easy-to-understand graphic.

Book of Obama...

Jeff Goldstein is feeling his oats; there's all kinds of tasty treats on Protein Wisdom these past few days. For example, he's rewritten the old parable about the ant and the grasshopper, as one chapter in the “Book of Obama”. I'll tease you with one passage, but then you'll need to go read the rest:
No worries, though, the grasshopper decided. For he was entitled to some of that corn, being hungry and all, and to deny him food was a moral failing on the part of the Ants, whose greed was so loathsome that it should be punished by those who respected social justice. So the grasshopper complained loudly to his leaders about this terrible inequity in food distribution.
And you won't regret just starting at the top and reading down...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shockey Fire Update...

The fire down near Campo has been officially dubbed the “Shockey Fire”, presumably for its proximity to Shockey Truck Trail.

I just heard a report on the radio that's all good news: 70% containment, no movement, no growth, and the evacuation orders have been lifted. I don't think the fire fighters would have done that unless they were quite confident that they had the beast under control.

I think we all dodged a bullet on this one. But at the same time we got all this good news in East County, I heard about a new fire near I-5 and Las Pulgas Road, and another one near Rancho Bernardo.

I hates fire season and Santa Anas...

Update on Campo Fire...

Latest report is all good news: 50% containment, lots of air and ground crews working on it, confidence from the fire chief on continuing containment progress this morning, and still no injuries and no structures lost.

That is simply wonderful news!

Campo is still under evacuation orders, but this is now partly because of concerns about safety of basic services (power, etc.). SDG&E crews are already on the scene.

Update on Campo Fire...

The sun is just rising now, and at right is the view looking east from the Lyons Peak camera. The smoke from the Campo fire should be near the right side of the photo, on the horizon – but I can't see any yet. This might be because of the early morning lighting, or (hopefully) because the fire is still small.

I just heard an “eyeballs” report from Cal Walker on KOGO. He's their traffic reporter, but he just flew over the scene of the fire to get a first-hand report. He said that it was in very rocky terrain, quite different than the Harris Fire last year, and he was hopeful that the fire crews could quickly contain it. He also said that it was relatively small, and that if we hadn't all be so sensitized by the awful fires last year, this fire most likely would not be a major news event.

Thanks, Cal, for that level-headed report. Here's hoping that you're right about the fire crews getting a quick handle on it...

Dang - East County Fire...

It seems like we're not even allowed one Santa Ana without a fire in the East County...

This fire is out near Campo, just north of the U.S./Mexico border. It's not an immediate threat to us in the Jamul area, but that could change if the winds shift.

On the map at right, the orange shaded area is my estimate of where the fire is. I say “estimate” because the news reports are very sketchy, just saying that the fire started near the intersection of State 94 and Shockey Truck Trail, north of 94. The latest reports are that the fire has jumped 94 and is now mainly south of it (this makes sense, as the winds are from the northeast).

The latest report I heard on the radio is that there are no injuries, and no structures have been burned yet. However, over 300 homes have been evacuated and there are most definitely structures threatened. Also 94 has been closed between 188 (the road to Tecate) and Buckman Springs Road (just north of Campo). Owners of horses and other livestock are reportedly NOT being allowed in to get their animals.

If anyone reading this has personal knowledge of the fire, please drop me a line with any information you have...

Swinging...

Watch it to the end:


It took me a moment to realize that the swing seat is not connected with rope, but with solid (presumably wooden) poles. Otherwise this swinger's moves would not be possible...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh, the Hypocrisy!

We Americans get a lot of guff from certain European countries about the various and sundry evil ways we have, our miserable political system, our non-socialized health care, and so on. So it was with some bemusement that I read this, from the highlights of a Reader's Digest global poll on the U.S. Presidential race:
The majority in India (73%), South Africa (65%), the Netherlands (55%) and France (52%) would be interested in moving to the U.S. while about 70% of respondents in Poland, Russia, Indonesia, and Australia expressed a lack of interest in moving to the U.S.
The longer comment by the Reader's Digest on the topic:
Speaking of which, a majority of the French—the French!—express an interest in relocating to the United States. To some, this number might seem like a typographical error. Philippe Labro, a well-known French writer and filmmaker, told Reader's Digest that to the French, "the reality of the American Dream" is embedded in the life stories of both presidential candidates. "America is still that land of the second chance, of multiple opportunities, where anyone can succeed," he attests.
Well, what do you know about that? A majority of the insufferable French would rather live in the U.S. if they could. After all the grief they give us, this is just mind-bogglingly hypocritical!

The rest of the poll is very interesting as well...

Weather, and Other Things...

The graph at right shows the wind speeds at our home, in MPH (multiply by 1.6 to get KPH). The green line shows the running 5-minute average; the red line the peak gusts. Note that my wind sensor is a conventional rotating-cup anemometer, and is therefore not very responsive to very short gusts – something we seem to have a lot of in a Santa Ana wind condition.

You can see that the average wind today is much higher than normal (as was Saturday, though not quite as high as today). Still, compared to a “normal”, this is very mild. It's also a very cool Santa Ana – instead of temperatures in the 90°F (32°C), our high today was just 74°F (23°C). And that's just fine with me! About
the most dangerous part of this Santa Ana is the very low relative humidity (as low as 2.1%RH today).

At right is the view from the Lyons Peak camera looking north (a view that includes our home). Those clear blue skies are what we want to see on a Santa Ana day – no nearby smoke plumes. However, toward the left side of the photo, just above the horizon, you can see an ugly gray smudge – this must be the fires on Camp Pendleton or in Los Angeles, far to the north of us.

As always, click on a photo to get a larger view...

Krugman Gets the Nobel...

From the news wire:
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Monday that Paul Krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, is the 2008 winner of The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The academy cited his work in analyzing "trade patterns and location of economic activity" and integrating "the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography."
I am speechless. Google “Paul Krugman” and read some of his prolific ranting (I refuse to link to any of them). This proves the utter bankruptcy of the Nobel selection process. It has become an almost pure act of political correctness...

Amazing High-Speed Photography...

Here's collection of the work of some of the best and brightest photographers specializing in high-speed photography.

The example at right is by Jasper Nance. She likes to shoot bullets at various targets, in this case an orange.

The work of these photographers is a fascinating blend of art, science, and technology. Some combination of high shutter speeds and ultra-short burst flashes is required to capture these moments. Many of the photographers are (or have become) engineers skilled in the art of building this equipment. Ms. Nance, for example, designed and built her own flash system.

There are many more photos at the link above...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fuel Moisture...

A couple of people wrote today to ask what I was talking about when I said “fuel moisture” in an earlier post.

First, there's a graph of the past week's fuel moisture on Lyons Peak at right. Click to enlarge it. On the sidebar at right, in the local information, is a link that will get you the most current graph.

The “fuel moisture” measurement being made here is the percentage of water (by weight) in dry, dead wood. The chaparral brush has a high percentage of such materials – I've pruned as much as 100 pounds of it out of a single manzanita tree. The water content is one of the primary determinants of fire danger. Wet or moist wood is harder to ignite, and burns cooler and slower. Extremely dry wood (less than 5% or 6% water) is more like gasoline in combustability – especially for the small diameter twigs that dominate the chaparral.

In the October 2007 fires, the fuel moistures were less than 3%. Combine that with hot, dry Santa Ana winds and you've got a recipe for disaster – as we all saw.

Incidentally (for you geeks out there), the sensor for fuel moisture is kind of interesting. You might expect it to be some kind of exotic semiconductor, or rare earth ceramic, or some such thing. Nope. It's a stick of wood, of standardized species, with no knots or flaws, attached to a sensitive electronic scale. As the wood absorbs moisture, it gets heavier, and vice versa. A somewhat fancier version measures the speed of sound through the wood (it gets faster as the moisture content goes up). In both cases, the stick must be replaced every year or two – apparently it wears out somehow!

Brrrr...

Now all you folks from chillier climes can start laughing right now. But by our Southern California standards, it's starting to get cold!

You can see from the chart at right that just four days ago we had very warm daytime high temperatures – the actual high was 97°F (36°C). Last night we got down to 41°F (5°C) – that's a pretty big swing in just a few days!

I've walked the dogs a couple times this morning, and I'm still shivering from the experience. We're actually having a Santa Ana wind right now, though it's a very mild and cold one. The winds haven't gotten over 25 MPH (40 KPH), so the fire danger hasn't been extreme. It is very dry, though – just 3% RH – but our fuel moistures are still above the extreme danger level.

But it's just the start of fire season...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Obama Could Still Lose...

...even though the polls have him all but annointed. In these times of financial turmoil, a bold idea that was good for the economy and that resonated with the public would let McCain snatch the lead back.

And I have just such a bold idea: McCain should announce that if elected, he will press Congress to pass a flat income tax at a 12% to 15% rate, with all income under (say) $25,000 excluded. The exact numbers aren't as important as the basic idea: a fair and balanced income tax constructed in a way that demonstrably stimulates business (the eastern European states provide the instance proof).

This idea has been polled very positively already, back when Steve Forbes was running. The positives on the flat tax were in the 80% range, much to the chagrin of the Democrats, for whom such a fair tax is anathema. The most fundamental premise underlying all of the Democratic ideology is the notion of wealth reddistribution – which our current progressive tax system does well, and which a flat tax does very poorly (though the excluded income does provide a degree of progressiveness).

I know several people who are on the fence between Obama and McCain, and I'd be willing to bet you that every one of them would flip to solidly in the McCain camp if he made such an announcement.

Ahhh, it will never happen, I know. But I can dream, can't I?

Good To Hear...

My parents are going through some very tough times right now, affecting both of them deeply, each in their own way. It's hard to be far away at a time like this, when what you really want is to be there with them, to lend a hand and a hug...

Nobody would expect someone in their current situation to do anything but worry about themselves – they've got plenty on their own plate to deal with. But tonight I got an email out of the blue from my mom, ending with this:
“In case I haven't said it lately, I love you.”
Isn't a mom's love a wonderful thing?

I love you too, mom...

Reverse Viagra...

From Mark Steyn (who else?):
The day after the debate I bumped into two Obama supporters in St Johnsbury, Vermont who said isn’t it great that he's on course to win. Well, they were cute chicks, and I know an obvious pick-up line when I hear one, so I stopped to chat. God Almighty, it was like reverse Viagra: After ten minutes of Babes For Barack, I never want to meet a female woman of the opposite sex for the rest of my life. Their basic pitch was:

How do you solve a problem? Like, Obama!

How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

You really should read the whole thing...

Rachel Lucas...

I added Rachel Lucas to my daily blog reading a few weeks ago, after linking to her from someone else's post. Her humor isn't for everybody, but I have to say that she's had me laughing out loud over the past couple of weeks more than any other blog I read. But even better are her rants – I haven't seen anyone so good at articulating being royally pissed off.

One of the regular features on her site are “Demotivational Posters”. These are a parody of a line of well-known motivational posters that appear in many American company's offices (though not in Service-now's!). Today's post has several of these, two of which you see at right. When I click onto her site and see the familiar black background of a new Demotivational Poster, I start smiling immediately.

She also frequently features her dogs in photos on her blog, and any dog-lover will enjoy those...

Highly recommended. Stop by her place once in a while...you'll be informed and entertained!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Heavenly Portrait...

Imagery from several telescopes, combined, forms the image at right. It's not just beautiful – it's full of information, too. From the NASA press release:
This painterly portrait of a star-forming cloud, called NGC 346, is a combination of multiwavelength light from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared), the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (visible), and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton space telescope (X-ray).

The infrared observations highlight cold dust in red, visible data show glowing gas in green, and X-rays show very warm gas in blue. Ordinary stars appear as blue spots with white centers, while young stars enshrouded in dust appear as red spots with white centers.

The colorful picture demonstrates that stars in this region are being created by two different types of triggered star formation -- one involving wind, and the other, radiation. Triggered star formation occurs when massive stars spur new, smaller stars into existence. The first radiation-based mechanism is demonstrated near the center of the cloud. There, radiation from the massive stars is eating away at the surrounding dust cloud, creating shock waves that compress gas and dust into new stars. This compressed material appears as an arc-shaped orange-red filament, while the new stars within this filament are still blanketed with dust and cannot be seen.

The second wind-based mechanism is at play higher up in the cloud. The isolated, pinkish blob of stars at the upper left was triggered by winds from a massive star located to the left of it. This massive star blew up in a supernova explosion 50,000 years ago, but before it died, its winds pushed gas and dust together into new stars. While this massive star cannot be seen in the image, a bubble created when it exploded can be seen near the large, white spot with a blue halo at the upper left (this white spot is actually a collection of three stars).

NGC 346 is the brightest star-forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud, an irregular dwarf galaxy that orbits our Milky Way galaxy, 210,000 light-years away.
As usual, click on the image for a larger view...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jamul Indian Tribe Sues Caltrans...

An interesting development in the Jamul Indian Casino battle...

Assuming this San Diego Union-Tribune report is accurate, it appears the Jamul Indian Tribe is suing Caltrans. The theory of the lawsuit appears to be that Caltrans has no right to bar access to the reservation, no matter what impact that access has on the rest of the world (in this case, specifically to State 94). Their basis for this assertion is the sovereignty of Indian reservations. From the article:

The tribe says the state agency doesn't have the right to ask about the casino plans and how they might affect state Route 94.

“(Caltrans') repeated attempts to apply and enforce state land use and environmental laws on the tribe's on-reservation activities and . . . decision to restrict access to the reservation are impermissible, invalid and patently unlawful,” the tribe says in the lawsuit.

Interesting theory. I don't know enough about the law regarding Indian reservations to know whether they've got solid grounds there. Even if they don't, the lawsuit is going to take time and money for Caltrans to fight it – and there's always the risk that Caltrans will decide the battle isn't worth the cost (and this really may be the main objective of the lawsuit – it often is the main objective of lawsuits). There's also the opportunity here for political pressure to be brought to bear on Caltrans to get them to abandon the battle. If the tribe loses this suit, however, it makes funding for the casino much more difficult – and maybe even impossible – to obtain.

Let's hope Caltrans engages on this battle...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Classified Ads...

According to my cousin Mike, these ads actually ran in various newspapers' classified sections:
FREE PUPPIES:
1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor's dog.

FREE PUPPIES..
Mother , AKC German Shepherd.
Father, Super Dog...able to leap tall fences in a single bound.

FOUND DIRTY WHITE DOG.
Looks like a rat. Been out a while. Better be a big reward.

COWS, CALVES: NEVER BRED.
Also 1 gay bull for sale.

NORDIC TRACK
$300 Hardly used, call Chubby.

GEORGIA PEACHES
California grown - 89 cents/lb.

JOINING NUDIST COLONY!
Must sell washer and dryer $300.

WEDDING DRESS FOR SALE
Worn once by mistake. Call Stephanie.

FOR SALE BY OWNER:
Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, 45 volumes. Excellent condition. $1,000 or best offer. No longer needed, got married last month. Wife already knows everything.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Always Remember...

Reader Simi L. – a frequent source of humor for this blog – passes this gem along:
When you have an “I Hate My Job” day, try this:

On your way home from work, stop at your pharmacy, go to the thermometer section, and purchase a rectal thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson. Be very sure you get this brand.

When you get home, lock your doors, draw the curtains and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed. Change into very comfortable clothing and sit in your favorite chair. Open the package and remove the thermometer. Now, carefully place it on a table or a surface so that it will not become chipped or broken.

Now the fun part begins.

Take out the literature from the box and read it carefully. You will notice that in small print there is a statement: “Every Rectal Thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson is personally tested and then sanitized.”

Now, close your eyes and repeat out loud five times: “I am so glad I do not work in the thermometer quality control department at Johnson & Johnson.”

Have a nice day, and try to remember: there is always someone else with a job that is more of a pain in the butt than yours!

Mercury!

Yesterday the Messenger spacecraft made its second fly-by of the planet Mercury, and early this morning it started returning science data from the encounter – including the three photos shown here.

This is another of NASA's robotic explorers that's doing incredible science at a bargain-basement price (especially compared to the International Space Station).

NASA's press release starts:
MESSENGER Reveals Mercury as Never Seen Before

When Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975, the probe imaged less than half the planet. In January, during MESSENGER’s first flyby, its cameras returned images of about 20 percent of the planet’s surface missed by Mariner 10. Yesterday, at 4:40 am EDT, MESSENGER successfully completed its second flyby of Mercury, and its cameras captured more than 1,200 high-resolution and color images of the planet – unveiling another 30 percent of Mercury’s surface that had never before been seen by spacecraft.

“The MESSENGER team is extremely pleased by the superb performance of the spacecraft and the payload,” said MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “We are now on the correct trajectory for eventual insertion into orbit around Mercury, and all of our instruments returned data as planned from the side of the planet opposite to the one we viewed during our first flyby. When these data have been digested and compared, we will have a global perspective of Mercury for the first time.”
I'd say they sound a little excited. As well they should be.

As usual, click on any of the photos for a larger view...


SDGE Proposal...

Recently SDG&E proposed to start making preemptive power cuts during especially high Santa Ana winds (estimated to be a once-in-three-years sort of event). The idea is to reduce the probability of downed power lines starting a fire. The map at right shows the areas where these cuts would take place. Jamul and Lawson Valley are well within the affected areas.

Those of us who live in the affected areas tend to have an immediate reaction of alarm. They're proposing to cut off our power at the very moment when we need it the most – while we're trying to protect our property from a rapidly advancing firestorm. If this proposal becomes actual policy, those of us who can afford it will most likely buy backup generators. Those of us who can't afford it will suddenly be at greater risk.

I don't have any personal knowledge of the probability that a downed power line could start a fire. I do recall that not so many years ago, a helicopter downed a power line near Julian and started the Pines fire. And during our most recent fires – just a year ago – several allegations of wind-blown power lines starting fires were made (these are the subject of the lawsuit mentioned above). What I don't know is the truth of the matter. If in fact there is substantial risk of wind-blown power lines starting fires, then the SDG&E proposal may in fact be worth considering. During one of our hellacious Santa Anas, anything that reduces fire risk is worth considering. I know that during those storms I get very upset when I see smokers outside, or a neighbor burning some brush...

The timing of SDG&E's proposal lends credence to the notion that their real goal is legislative relief from liability for powerline-caused fires. The lawsuit currently wending its way through the court system is exactly on this point.

On the other hand, as a business they have an obligation to their shareholders to mitigate risks. Certainly both the lawsuit (whether based on reality or not) and the possibility of wind-blown power lines starting fires are risks to their shareholders. So from their point of view, this proposal makes perfect sense.

So what's the right thing to do here? For me, the answer depends on a piece of information I don't have: whether strong Santa Ana winds really do have some real chance of causing fires by blowing down power lines. If the answer to that is “yes”, then I think they've got the right idea – and I'll start looking at backup generators. If the answer is “no”, then I think we should oppose this proposal – but give SDG&E that legislative relief from liability.

Do any of my readers know where I can find the answer to that question?

Worldometers...

Interesting set of realtime statistics at Worldometers...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lamestream Media Parable...

My mom sent this along...
The Biker and the Lion

A biker is riding by the zoo, when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion's cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the very eyes of her screaming parents.

The biker jumps off his bike, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch. Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly.

A New York Times reporter has watched the whole event. The reporter says, 'Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I ever saw a man do in my whole life.'

The biker replies, 'Why, it was nothing, really, the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger, and acted as I felt was right.'

The reporter says, 'Well, I'm a journalist from the New York Times, and tomorrow's paper will have this story on the front page... So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?'

The biker replies, 'I'm a U.S. Marine and a Republican.'

The following morning the biker buys the New York Times to see if it indeed brings news of his actions, and reads, on front page:

U.S. MARINE ASSAULTS AFRICAN IMMIGRANT AND STEALS HIS LUNCH!
With respect to political bias, the Grey Lady has gotten so bad in the last few years that I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see something much like this actually happen.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Trip Home...

Our route home yesterday included the segment of U.S. 395 that stretches from the town of John Day to the Oregon/California border. All of these photos were taken along that stretch, which includes some tremendously varied flora, fauna, and geology. As always, click on a thumbnail to get a larger version. Counting from left-to-right and top-to-bottom, here are a few comments on the photos:

1. Between John Day and Burns, storm clouds over fields of grass...

2, 3, 4. Between John Day and Burns, white birch in their fall colors...

5. Stretch of U.S. 395 south of Burns, looking south down the rift-made steppes and into the storm...

6. South of Burns, looking north along U.S. 395, with a shadowed rift escarpment visible under the brooding storm clouds...

7. Lake Abert, a mineral-laden alkalai lake under the Abert Rift escarpment. The lake is home to many migratory and resident birds, including geese, phalaropes, and avocets. The plains are home to prong-horn antelope, deer, and elk. The escarpment is home to a large population of bighorn sheep. There is much more life here than one might imagine when zipping by this high desert community of sage, pinyon pine, and desert cedar...

8. Prong-horn antelope, grazing without apparent concern in a farmer's field...

9, 10. Migratory cranes, which gathered by the hundreds in many different places along our route...