Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bollywood Speaks Out about Mumbai...

Do you remember, right after 9/11, the parade of Hollywood “stars” speaking out about that awful attack? There were a few who responded in ways that we can respect, but the majority of that collection of cuckoos responded with disgusting displays of blame-Americanism and even admiration or support for the terrorists.

It was just awful, and to this day there are certain “stars” whom I refuse to watch because of this.

Contrast this with the reaction of the stars of Bollywood (India's equivalent of Hollywood). They sound to me like normal, patriotic folks – outraged by the attack on their country, and 100% behind their country.

I may have to try watching a couple of Indian movies...

Glaciers Growing?

I first started reading reports of growing glaciers a few months ago, in Alaska. Now reports are coming in from all over the world: for the first time in over 250 years, glaciers in Alaska, Canada, New Zealand, Greenland, and now Norway are growing. From the latest report:
After years of decline, glaciers in Norway are again growing, reports the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE). The actual magnitude of the growth, which appears to have begun over the last two years, has not yet been quantified, says NVE Senior Engineer Hallgeir Elvehøy.

The flow rate of many glaciers has also declined. Glacier flow ultimately acts to reduce accumulation, as the ice moves to lower, warmer elevations.

I wonder why the warmies aren't reporting on this latest exciting development? Why isn't the Goreacle all atwitter with indignation? And Jim Hansen – shouldn't he be agitating for global action to warm up the environment?

Oh, that's right, now I remember – according to their “models” we're right in the midst of a calamitous warming trend!

Just like this news about glaciers, you probably also haven't read about the latest events in the world of science. One of them: a petition, signed by 30,000 scientists, calling for an end to the dogmatic advocacy of global warming and a return to normal, skeptical science. Increasing evidence for the non-existence of global warming was one of the primary motivations for this petition – after, of course, the shame and misgivings most professional scientists experience upon examining the “science” of global warming. Dr. Freeman Dyson is an eloquent spokesman for these scientists...

Oh, My...

One hardly knows what to say.

Repressing the gag reflex is my challenge of the moment.

This is apparently not a joke – the ad is all over the airwaves and the Internet. The site is here, but I warn you: an automatic video ad will play – you can't stop it, and it is nauseating.

Pardon me while I go clean up a bit...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day...

Our friends and neighbors, Jim and Michelle, invited us to join them and some family members for Thanksgiving dinner – tempting us with tales of table-bending quantities of traditional Thanksgiving fare. And so it was! From memory, there was a grand roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet corn, string beans, homemade cranberry sauce, pasta salad, macaroni-and-cheese, and a lovely butternut squash soup. Oh, and unlimited quantities of a very nice local cabernet.

After an appropriate period of stomach-resting and pleasant conversation, then there was dessert. The traditional pumpkin pie was there, along with an apple pie, a sweet potato pie, and a delectable concoction of chocolate and caramel whose name I don't know. The sweet potato pie (with real, homemade, unsweetened whipped cream) was my hands-down favorite – the cloves and cinnamon that permeated it tickled my fancy.

Today we are promised a fine turkey soup, to be ready around noon. Even our weather is perfect for such a feast: it's misty, cool, crisp, and partly cloudy. A perfect turkey soup day!

Mumbai Attacks Are Something Different...

Bill Roggio is one of the finest analysts reporting on the war on terror; his work shows up in numerous online and print outlets. Whenever I see his byline, I take a little extra time to read and understand it – he's been right far more often than not.

So this morning when I visited the Long War Journal (an online publication that Mr. Roggio both edits and contributes to), I paid special attention to this article on the Mumbai attacks. In it, Bill paints a vivid picture of the attacks, full of information I've read nowhere else. It's clear the Mumbai attacks represent a ratcheting up of the enemy's capabilities, a sobering thought indeed. The attackers apparently arrived in the area of Mumbai on ocean-going ships, then disembarked and landed using inflatable (Zodiak-style) boats. Here's an excerpt from the middle of Bill's piece:

While the exact size of the assault force and the support cells is still not known, police estimate about 25 gunmen were involved in the attack. The number of members of the supporting cells that provide financing, training, transportation, and other services could be two to four times this number. Operational security for such a large unit, or grouping of cells, is difficult to maintain and requires organization and discipline.

To pull off an attack of this magnitude, it requires months of training, planning, and on-site reconnaissance. Indian officials have stated that the terrorists set up "advance control rooms" at the Taj Mahal and Trident (Oberoi) hotels, and conducted a significant amount of reconnaissance prior to executing the attack. If the news about the "control rooms" is accurate, these rooms may also have served as weapons and ammunition caches for the assault teams to replenish after conducting the first half of the operation.

The planners of the Mumbai attack appear to have chosen able military-aged males. Witnesses have described the men as young and fit. Some of the gunmen appear to have been well trained; some have been credited with having good marksmanship and other military skills.

A witness who saw one of the teams land by sea adescribed the gunmen as "in their 20s, fair-skinned and tall, clad in jeans and jackets." He saw "eight young men stepping out of the raft, two at a time. They jumped into the waters, and picked up a haversack. They bent down again, and came up carrying two more haversacks, one in each hand."

Now go read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Baptizing the Bear...

From my cousin Mike:
Baptizing the Bear

A priest, a Pentecostal preacher and a Rabbi all served as chaplains to the students of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa . They would get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk shop. One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn't really all that hard. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another and they decided to do an experiment. They would all go up to the Smokies, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it.

Seven days later, they're all together to discuss the experience.

Father Flannery, who has his arm in a sling, is on crutches, and has various bandages on his body and limbs, went first. 'Well,' he said, 'I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him I began to read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do with me and began to slap me around. So, I quickly grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle as a lamb. The bishop is coming out next week to give him first communion and confirmation.'

Reverend Billy Bob spoke next. He was in a wheelchair, with an arm and both legs in casts, and an IV drip. In his best fire and brimstone oratory he claimed, 'WELL brothers, you KNOW that WE don't sprinkle! I went out and I FOUND me a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from God's HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do with me. So I took HOLD of him and we began to wrestle. We wrestled down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So right quick-like, I DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb. We spent the rest of the day praising Jesus.'

They both looked down at the rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IV's and monitors running in and out of him. He was in bad shape. The rabbi looks up and says, 'Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start.'

Housing Bubble...

I've been looking for this data for months, and finally found a good source: the Bubble Meter blog, whose author also created and publishes this graph on his web site.

The red line (inflation-adjusted home prices) is the one to pay attention to. That line clearly shows the onset of the housing bubble around 2001. This happens to be exactly when the financial industry (urged by Congress) figured out how to package dog turds (the high-risk home loans to unqualified buyers) as gold-plated AA-rated securities. These securities were then purchased by normally-sane investors, who were for some reason willing to believe the computer models rather than their own sense of smell.

Kinda like the anthropomorphic global warming folks. Hmmm...

Anyway, there are a couple of things I take away from this chart. First one: here in San Diego County, we wish those were the averag home prices! Ours are roughly double what this chart shows. Second, the long-term inflation-adjusted home price seems to waver right around $150,000 with a slight increasing trend. If you imagine the housing bubble never happened, and you extrapolate that trend, then home prices right now “should” be around $175,000, plus or minus $25,000 or so. This suggests there's still some more price decline to go.

Oh, and one more thing: if you bought your home more than about 10 years ago, your home's value still has gained more than the historical average. Even if you purchased as recently as 5 years ago, most likely you're still breaking even. The sky hasn't fallen just yet...

Storm Total: 1.4 Inches...

The rainfall yesterday was one inch, and we got four tenths of an inch today. It's not raining now, but it's still stormy looking outside. The forecast calls for slight chance of rain through 1 PM today, then clear for at least five days.

I took a little “inspection tour” of our yard this morning – the wet soil goes down at least six inches even in the hard-packed areas, and over a foot where it's softer.

No more fires, it's delightfully cool, and the dust will be greatly reduced for a while.

I love this time of year!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rain, Oh Lovely Rain!

Have you ever seen anything as cheerful looking as that graph? Almost an inch of rain so far in this storm...

The fire season is over!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cross Your Fingers...

The forecast calls for rain tonight – beautiful, abundant rain. Perhaps as much as three inches.

It could mean the end of our fire season.

Cross those fingers!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Translation of a post by a French soldier serving in Afghanistan (via Serindipitous altruism):

“We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing “ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events”. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day ? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors ! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the ennemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers”.

I've read a lot about the general ineffectiveness of the French and German NATO contingents in Afghanistan, for many reasons. The main surprise for me in this post is the honest and clear-headed appraisal by the French soldier – it must be quite sobering for he and his comrades to fight alongside the American units...

Here's hoping that Obama shares my pride in these men, and my belief in the need for their mission...

Saturday, November 22, 2008


A little post-election poetry, courtesy of reader Simi L.:
The election day is over,
The talking is done.
My party lost, your party won.
So let us be friends,
Let arguments pass.
I'll hug my elephant,
You kiss your ass.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jumbo Mizzenmasts...

Iowahawk has a scoop: an article from our future, about the automobiles we're all going to be driving if the Democrat's agenda is implemented. Here's how it starts:

It's in the way you dress. The way you boogie down. The way you sign your unemployment check. You're a man who likes to do things your own way. And on those special odd-numbered Saturdays when driving is permitted, you want it in your car. It's that special feeling of a zero-emissions wind at your back and a road ahead meandering with possibilities. The kind of feeling you get behind the wheel of the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition from Congressional Motors.

All new for 2012, the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition is the mandatory American car so advanced it took $100 billion and an entire Congress to design it. We started with same reliable 7-way hybrid ethanol-biodeisel-electric-clean coal-wind-solar-pedal power plant behind the base model Pelosi, but packed it with extra oomph and the sassy styling pizazz that tells the world that 1974 Detroit is back again -- with a vengeance.

We've subsidized the features you want and taxed away the rest. With its advanced Al Gore-designed V-3 under the hood pumping out 22.5 thumping, carbon-neutral ponies of Detroit muscle, you'll never be late for the Disco or the Day Labor Shelter. Engage the pedal drive or strap on the optional jumbo mizzenmast, and the GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition easily exceeds 2016 CAFE mileage standards. At an estimated 268 MPG, that's a savings of nearly $1800 per week in fuel cost over the 2011 Pelosi.

Now go read the whole thing!

Friday Morning Global Warming Smile...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rachel and the Traffic Delay...

If you don't visit Rachael Lucas' place frequently, you're missing out on some good stuff. From a post she wrote today about a traffic problem she encountered:

And lo, what was the cause? The author of this trouble? The root/source/wellspring of this most infuriating pickle?

Why, of course. It was a young man “driving” along in a nondescript sedan while wearing his baseball cap backward on his head and…wait for it…TEXT MESSAGING ON HIS CELL PHONE.

I pulled up alongside him and glanced over to observe his complete and total tool-ness, and I will admit to the entire internet that I had hateful, violent thoughts of inflicting pain and suffering upon this jackass. For a brief moment, I fantasized about jerking my steering wheel to the left to run him off the road so that I could then get out of my car and kill him with my bare hands. Then I realized how much that scene would suck for me, what with the jail and the wrecked car and all.

Instead, I “calmly” motored past him, yelled the dirtiest curse words I know, and consoled myself with the thought of writing about this assplow on my blog.

The girl can rant, can't she?

Good word, “assplow”...

Email from My Mother...

Just received:


My own mother. Sniff.


Barrel of Bricks...

This is an oldie-but-goodie, well-documented by Snopes as a joke, not reality. But it's still funny as hell:

Possibly the funniest story in a long while. This is a bricklayer's accident report, which was printed in the newsletter of the Australian equivalent of the Workers' Compensation board.

This is a true story. Had this guy died, he'd have received a Darwin Award for sure...

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 3 of the accident report form. I put "poor planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found that I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later were found to be slightly in excess of 500 lbs.

Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks.

You will note in Block 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explained the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collar bone, as listed in section 3 of the accident report form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley.

Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of beginning to experience pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, that barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight.

As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent, down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and several lacerations of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked.

I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back down onto me. This explains the two broken legs. I hope this answers your inquiry.

Kevin Roben
Wagga Glass & Aluminium Pty Ltd
PO Box 5004 ( 11 Dobney Ave )
Wagga Wagga NSW 2650

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hillary for SecState!

From Richard Miller, on the notion of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in the Obama administration (this possibility is the subject of many current rumors):
She’s not too bothered by morals, and assuming at least some devotion to U.S. interests, she might combine a pinch of Machiavelli, two shakes of Tallyrand, perhaps and a maybe even a quarter cup of Henry the K. If Hillary’s moral-free, say-do-and-cry-for-anything standards could be put at the service of U.S. diplomacy (instead of her overweening ambition), the country just might benefit.
Doesn't really sound like a ringing endorsement – at least, not until you consider the alternatives that have been swirling in the rumors. I mean, really, wouldn't you rather have Hillary Clinton than John Kerry as your Secretary of State – no matter what your personal politics? I know I would, though that's a bit like choosing between death by ingestion of used motor oil or death by drowning under an outhouse...

Geekly Humor...

Of the mathematical variety, though for most of them you really don't have to know much about math. There are some on here I didn't “get”, presumably because they're about areas of math I don't know. My favorites were the ones involving statistics. For instance:
Statistics Canada is hiring mathematicians. Three recent graduates are invited for an interview: one has a degree in pure mathematics, another one in applied math, and the third one obtained his B.Sc. in statistics.

All three are asked the same question: "What is one third plus two thirds?"

The pure mathematician: "It's one."

The applied mathematician takes out his pocket calculator, punches in the numbers, and replies: "It's 0.999999999."

The statistician: "What do you want it to be?"

Or this one:
"Isn't statistics wonderful?"

"How so?"

"Well, according to statistics, there are 42 million alligator eggs laid every year. Of those, only about half get hatched. Of those that hatch, three fourths of them get eaten by predators in the first 36 days. And of the rest, only 5 percent get to be a year old for one reason or another. Isn't statistics wonderful?"

"What's so wonderful about all that?"

"If it weren't for statistics, we'd be up to our asses in alligators!"
Ha again! Enjoy...

Obsessed Engineer...

Simply amazing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Memo from the Queen...

Forwarded by Simi L.:
To: the citizens of the United States of America

From: Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy). Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,' 'favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.' Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up 'vocabulary').

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as 'like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U. S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the elimination of 'ize.'

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler, although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. Australian beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body amour like a bunch of nannies).

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the Australians first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Morning Laugh...

From my cousin Mike:
Two blind pilots were both wearing dark glasses. One is using a guide dog and the other is tapping his way along the aisle with a cane.

Nervous laughter spreads through the cabin, but the men enter the cockpit, the door closes and the engines start up. The passengers begin glancing nervously around, searching for some sign that this is just a little practical joke. None is forthcoming.

The plane moves faster and faster down the runway and the people sitting in the window seats realize they're headed straight for the water at the edge of the airport. As it begins to look as though the plane will plow into the water, panicked screams fill the cabin. At that moment, the plane lifts smoothly into the air. The passengers relax and laugh a little sheepishly and soon all retreat into their magazines, secure in the knowledge that the plane is in good hands.

In the cockpit, one of the blind pilots turns to the other and says, "Ya know, Bob, one of these days, they're gonna scream too late and we're all gonna die."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let the Car Makers Fail...

The chart at right captures very nicely one of the major reasons that U.S. car makers are failing: the legacy labor agreements they're saddled with. The average employee at the Big 3 makes $73/hour (that's $146,000 per year!) – versus less than half that for Toyota's vastly more productive employees.

The right thing to do is to allow the U.S. auto makers to fail. They'll go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and either shed all the baggage (like these labor agreements) that keep them from being successful, or their assets will be sold off to successful companies. Consumers will win in the long run.

Another reason U.S. car makers are failing is so obvious you'd think someone in government would figure it out: they are not building the cars that U.S. buyers want. Sales of cars built by U.S. makers have fallen dramatically more than sales of cars made by Toyota have fallen. Now legislators, surely you can imagine what the actual reason for that might be? Hint: consumers are willing to pay more for a Toyota Camry (made in the U.S., by the way) than they are for a similar car from a U.S. auto maker. Now why would that be? Could it be...that the Toyota is a better car?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spreading the Health...

Via Jim M.

At least someone has kept their sense of humor!

Sarah and the Pope...

From my mom:
Sarah Palin is invited to meet with the Pope while he is vacationing south
of Rome in Venice.

The liberal press reluctantly watches the semi-private audience, hoping they
will be able to allot minimal coverage, if any.

The Pope asks Governor Palin to join him on a Gondola ride through the
canals of Venice.

They're admiring the sights and agreeing on moral issues when, all of a
sudden, the Pope's hat (zucchetto) blows off his head and out into the water.

The gondolier starts to reach for the Pontiff's cap with his pole, but this
move threatens to overturn the floating craft.

Sarah waves the tour guide off, saying, "Wait, wait. I'll take care of this.
Don't worry."

She steps off the gondola onto the surface of the water and walks out to the
Pope's hat, bends over and picks it up. She walks back across the water to
the gondola and steps aboard.

She hands the hat to the Pope amid stunned silence.

The next morning the topic of conversation among Democrats in Congress, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News, CNN, the New York Times, Hollywood celebrities, and in France and Germany is:

"Palin Can't Swim."
Heh! But the sad part is that this story seems entirely plausible...

Photo of the Day...

An erupting volcano in Alaska.

Visualizing the Election...

The image at right is a map, drawn in such a way as to represent the results of the last election.

There's an interesting article about this, along with several other variations of such maps – all representing different ways to visualize the election results.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mark Steyn, who's sounding quite pessimistic about the election results, writes today about this country's lurch to the left. Here's his conclusion:

I disagree with my fellow conservatives who think the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Frank liberal behemoth will so obviously screw up that they'll be routed in two or four years' time. The president-elect's so-called "tax cut" will absolve 48 percent of Americans from paying any federal income tax at all, while those who are left will pay more. Just under half the population will be, as Daniel Henninger pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, on the dole.

By 2012, it will be more than half on the dole, and this will be an electorate where the majority of the electorate will be able to vote itself more lollipops from the minority of their compatriots still dumb enough to prioritize self-reliance, dynamism and innovation over the sedating cocoon of the Nanny State. That is the death of the American idea – which, after all, began as an economic argument: "No taxation without representation" is a great rallying cry. "No representation without taxation" has less mass appeal. For how do you tell an electorate living high off the entitlement hog that it's unsustainable, and you've got to give some of it back?

At that point, America might as well apply for honorary membership in the European Union. It will be a nation at odds with the spirit of its founding, and embarking on decline from which there are few escape routes. In 2012, the least we deserve is a choice between the collectivist assumptions of the Democrats, and a candidate who stands for individual liberty – for economic dynamism not the sclerotic "managed capitalism" of Germany; for the First Amendment, not Canadian-style government regulation of approved opinion; for self-reliance and the Second Amendment, not the security state in which Britons are second only to North Koreans in the number of times they're photographed by government cameras in the course of going about their daily business.

In Forbes last week, Claudia Rosett issued a stirring defense of individual liberty. That it should require a stirring defense at all is a melancholy reflection on this election season. Live free – or die from a thousand beguiling caresses of Nanny State sirens.

Don't miss the whole thing “ it's Mr. Steyn at his best...

But somehow the phrase “Nanny State sirens” and the reality of Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, etc. seem a bit, er, at odds...

What Am I?

From my mom:
One morning a blind bunny was hopping down the bunny trail and tripped over a large snake and fell, kerplop right on his twitchy little nose.

“Oh please excuse me,” said the bunny. “I didn't mean to trip over you, but I'm blind and can't see.”

“That's perfectly all right,” replied the snake. “To be sure, it was my fault. I didn't mean to trip you, but I'm blind too, and I didn't see you coming. By the way, what kind of animal are you?”

“Well, I really don't know,” said the bunny. “I'm blind, and I've never seen myself. Maybe you could examine me and find out.”

So the snake felt the bunny all over, and he said, “Well, you're soft, and cuddly, and you have long silky ears, and a little fluffy tail and a dear twitchy little nose. You must be a bunny rabbit!”

The bunny said, “I can't thank you enough. But by the way, what kind of animal are you?”

The snake replied that he didn't know either, and the bunny agreed to examine him, and when the bunny was finished, the snake asked, “Well, what kind of an animal am I?”

The bunny had felt the snake all over, and he replied, “You're cold, you're slippery, and you haven't got any balls... You must be a politician!”
As the Instapundit would say: Heh!

The Pigs Are Lining Up...

The pigs being large corporations, and they're lining up at the Congressional trough to get the “free money” that the government is pouring out of the sky. Scott Adams has it exactly right:

Sigh. What else did we think was going to happen when we started bailing out large companies with incompetent management, who knowingly took and lost big bets?

It took the Democrats about two seconds to realize that this was the best opportunity they've ever had to force their agendas down the throats of American corporations. Pelosi and company are greeting the industrial beggars (like GM, Ford, and Chrysler) with big smiles and open arms. Why? Because they know that if they can cut a deal with those corporations to suck at the teat of the American taxpayer, they will be running those corporations.

Which means that they will be able to manipulate those corporations for their own, personal benefit. For example, imagine that the environmentalist wackos start agitating in Pelosi's district. Whattya wanna bet that within a few days GM will announce a “major initiative” to build solar-powered cars, thanks to the “visionary leadership” of Pelosi? Buried in a footnote somewhere will be the hundred-billion-dollar development subsidy and the fifty-thousand-dollar per car production subsidy.

I can hardly wait...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Singing the Blues...

Oh, how blue we got this time, folks... The graphic at right (click to expand) is courtesy of the New York Times. It shows the election results, county-by-county – but not in terms of the vote this year, but rather in terms of the change in the vote since the 2004 election (in percentages). The blue counties are those that voted more Democratic than in 2004; the red counties more Republican.


I think the Republican leadership better pay attention – the electorate just sent them a message of the spanking kind...

Quote of the Day...

From the Lakes Entertainment announcment of 2008Q3 results (my emphasis):
...partially offset by unrealized losses associated with a decrease in probability of opening the casino project for the Jamul Indian Village due to issues associated with site access.
That's the most pessimistic thing I've seen yet in their financial reports. The next step would be for them to write the whole investment down...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning After...

Some quick post-election thoughts...
  • President Obama. Those two words fill me with both fear and amazement. Fear...that Obama will not defend my country against fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, that instead he will accommodate them. Fear...of the Supreme Court judges that we're likely to see him nominate. Fear...of what his socialist inclinations will do the U.S. economy in general, and to my family's fortunes in particular. Amazement...primarily that within the span of my life, America went from segregation and overt discrimination against blacks to the point where we have elected a black man to be President.

  • Senate races. The Democrats did not get their 60-vote filibuster-busting super-majority. Under current Senate rules, this means that the Republican minority can (with a concerted, near-unanimous action) block any bill or appointment. The possibility remains that they will repeal the filibuster rule, so that their simple majority can run over the Republican minority. I suspect Obama will ask the Senate to do exactly this – but I hope not.

  • Proposition 8 (ban on gay marriage): as I write, it is leading – but just barely. 9% of the vote remains to be counted, and it has a 1.5% lead. If it wins, it seems like an out-of-context victory for sanity in California.

  • Wacky state-wide propositions: alternative fuels, high-speed trains, free electric cars for everyone, etc., etc. These propositions all look like they're failing.

  • San Diego City Attorney: this race doesn't affect me personally, but still I was interested to see that the man I'll call the “candidate of rationality” has handily beat Mike Aguirre – the incumbent who seems more like a circus clown and posturing mayoral wannabe than an attorney (much less the City's attorney!).
Somehow this morning I am not all filled with hopeyness and changitude. Rather the opposite.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Morning...

Some random Monday morning thoughts...

The photo at right is not mine. It's in this post only because it made me laugh...

Yesterday I answered emails from several friends in Europe, and prepared a package to mail to one of them. This was unreasonably pleasurable, taking a couple of hours to enjoy “talking” with my friends. All but one of my European friends has expressed a preference for Obama to be elected. I'm not surprised by this, actually – Obama would fit into European politics quite easily, while McCain looks (to them) like a typical American cowboy. Of course, my European friends don't have personal consequences (like higher taxes) to worry about if Obama is elected. The one exception? An Estonian friend who is afraid that Putin has a goal of reincorporating the Baltics into Russia – and who is convinced that Obama would just let it happen, while McCain would honor our treaty obligations (Estonia is a NATO member).

Our body clocks don't know about Daylight Saving time, so we woke up at our usual hour – which is now 2 am. The dogs don't know about Daylight Saving time, so they thought we went for our morning walk at the usual time. The stars don't know about Daylight Saving time, so they were in their usual, familiar places. Orion, Castor, Pollux, and the Pleiadies are now all high overhead at that early hour, and Sirius is well above the horizon.

This morning is cold and humid – 46°F (8°C) and 100% relative humidity. The humidity brings up the intensity of the piney smell from our trees to the point where we can smell it intensely...ahhhh... The forecast calls for “likely rain showers”. From our point of view out here in the fire-prone chaparral, there is no better forecast than that!

In 48 hours we'll know the result of the election. Maybe – or maybe we'll all be learning about hanging chads again. Our local (and very liberal) TV station is reporting a last-minute McCain surge – is this on the level, or are they trying to scare more liberal-leaning folks into voting?

Now it's 4 am, and I'm headed into work.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Obama Needs Joe...

Jim M. passes along this parable:
Barack Obama discovers a leak under his sink, so he calls Joe the Plumber to
come and fix it.

Joe drives to Obama's house, which is located in a very nice neighborhood
and where it's clear that all the residents make more than $250,000 per

Joe arrives and takes his tools into the house. Joe is led to the room that
contains the leaky pipe under a sink. Joe assesses the problem and tells
Obama, who is standing near the door, that it's an easy repair that will
take less than 10 minutes.

Obama asks Joe how much it will cost.

Joe immediately says, "$9,500."

"$9,500?" Obama asks, stunned. "But you said it's an easy repair!"

"Yes, but what I do is charge a lot more to my clients who make more than
$250,000 per year so I can fix the plumbing of everybody who makes less than
that for free," explains Joe. "It's always been my philosophy. As a matter
of fact, I lobbied government to pass this philosophy as law, and it did
pass earlier this year, so now *all* plumbers have to do business this way.
It's known as 'Joe's Fair Plumbing Act of 2008.' Surprised you haven't heard
of it, senator."

In spite of that, Obama tells Joe there's no way he's paying that much for a
small plumbing repair, so Joe leaves.

Obama spends the next hour flipping through the phone book looking for
another plumber, but he finds that all other plumbing businesses listed have
gone out of business. Not wanting to pay Joe's price, Obama does nothing.

The leak under Obama's sink goes unrepaired for the next several days.

A week later the leak is so bad that Obama has had to put a bucket under the
sink. The bucket fills up quickly and has to be emptied every hour, and
there's a risk that the room will flood, so Obama calls Joe and pleads with
him to return.

Joe goes back to Obama's house, looks at the leaky pipe, and says "Let's see
– this will cost you about $21,000."

"A few days ago you told me it would cost $9,500!" Obama quickly fires back.

Joe explains the reason for the dramatic increase. "Well, because of the
'Joe's Fair Plumbing Act,' a lot of rich people are learning how to fix
their own plumbing, so there are fewer of you paying for all the free
plumbing I'm doing for the people who make less than $250,000. As a result,
the rate I have to charge my wealthy paying customers rises every day.

"Not only that, but for some reason the demand for plumbing work from the
group of people who get it for free has skyrocketed, and there's a long
waiting list of those who need repairs. This has put a lot of my fellow
plumbers out of business, and they're not being replaced – nobody is going
into the plumbing business because they know they won't make any money. I'm
hurting now too – all thanks to greedy rich people like you who won't pay
their fair share."

Obama tries to straighten out the plumber: "Of course you're hurting, Joe!
Don't you get it? If all the rich people learn how to fix their own plumbing
and you refuse to charge the poorer people for your services, you'll be
broke, and then what will you do?"

Joe immediately replies, "Run for president, apparently."

Obama Meets Joe (the Plumber)...

Ego and Mouth...

Thomas Sowell (who is black) is not an Obama fan:

After the big gamble on subprime mortgages that led to the current financial crisis, is there going to be an even bigger gamble, by putting the fate of a nation in the hands of a man whose only qualifications are ego and mouth?

Barack Obama has the kind of cocksure confidence that can only be achieved by not achieving anything else.

Anyone who has actually had to take responsibility for consequences by running any kind of enterprise-- whether economic or academic, or even just managing a sports team-- is likely at some point to be chastened by either the setbacks brought on by his own mistakes or by seeing his successes followed by negative consequences that he never anticipated.

The kind of self-righteous self-confidence that has become Obama's trademark is usually found in sophomores in Ivy League colleges-- very bright and articulate students, utterly untempered by experience in real world.

Read Ego and Mouth.

Obama Concedes...

Have heard that Obama's concession speech (drafted ahead of time just in case he loses next Tuesday) has leaked? Here's the conclusion:

“In closing, I just want to thank all of the little people, and their imaginary friends, for the $600 million in contributions. You can be sure that every penny went to a good cause. Thanks to your generosity hundreds of oppressed, downtrodden and needy political operatives are able to keep a roof over their heads that they can retract in warm weather.”

“Traditionally, politicians end their speeches by saying, ‘God bless you, and God bless the United States of America’. But since you’ve probably heard that recording of my pastor, let me just say, in the words of Scripture, that I will always remember you as ‘the least of these‘, and feel confident in knowing that I have done it unto you.”

Via ScrappleFace.

Warfare's Evolution...

Reading this article by Bill Roggio (who is one of the very best sources of information on the War on Terror) got me to pondering on the evolution of warfare. There's nothing new about that, of course – the way that wars are fought has never been a static thing. Roggio's story linked above is about a Predator attack on a compound in Warzistan.

The combination of modern technology and quality intelligence is turning out to be a very effective tool for us. It seems to me that it is restoring some of the symmetry to what would otherwise be called asymmetrical warfare (or guerilla warfare).

Prior to the last few years, an enemy's leadership in a guerilla war would be relatively invulnerable to direct, personal attack. Even if we had intelligence on the location of someone in a leadership role, the only means we had for attacking that person would involve boots-on-the-ground Special Forces. Such a mission would be risky, costly, and would take precious time to organize and execute. Thus they didn't happen very often, and when they succeeded were occasion for much celebration. Some of the most memorable stories from earlier wars are exactly of that nature – Yamamoto in WWII, the several failed attempts on Hitler, the failed rescues of POWs in Viet Nam, etc.

Fast forward to today. I read stories like the one linked above every day or two. The common thread on all of them: actionable intelligence about the location of someone in the chain of command for Al Qaeda (etc.), and a missile delivered by a remote-controlled aircraft (usually a Hellfire missile delivered by a Predator). The location isn't necessarily in (or even near) a place where we have boots on the ground. The remote-controlled aircraft was generally on station nearby, ready to be used for such an occasion – this is possible because of the long “hover times” these aircraft have, and the fact that the “crew” (who are generally in the U.S.) can be switched out in seconds, so missions can last for days.

Think what this combination must be like for the Al Qaeda leadership. It's pretty much impossible for any effective leader to be invisible to his troops. Therefore lots of people have some idea where any given leader is. If you're the leader, you know that any one of those people could rat you out – and if they do, no matter where you are, no matter what time of day it is, no matter how many of your guys you're protected by, and no matter how fervently you pray as you kneel on your mat, a Hellfire missile might be the last thing you ever see.

That can't be good for morale.

Quote of the Day...

From Tim Blair:
The biggest story of the past few weeks: Sarah Palin’s massive CLOTHES budget. I join with political observers of all persuasions in demanding that the attractive Alaska governor wear far fewer clothes.
Read the whole thing.

The Three Stooges...

Consequences of Obama...

Instapundit is running one of my favorite quotes from Robert Heinlein:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck."

Glenn didn't say this, but I'll observe that taking outrageously high taxes from those who had the gumption and creativity to improve the lot of their fellow man (and thereby make a profit) is one of the most certain ways to drive those same people away...