Tuesday, June 30, 2009
But during all the messing about trying to get unstuck, Spirit is still doing science. At the moment, it's taking advantage of the fact that its wheels are digging through the loose, sandy soil to study what's been exposed. And it's interesting stuff!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
However...that is not to say that the RTV strategy is without value. Quite the contrary. Before about a year ago, our routine reaction to discovering ants was to break out the weapons of mass ant destruction (chemical weapons, that is) and madly spray them over anything that crawled within a 150 foot (or so) radius of our home. Most commonly this approach would immediately reduce the ant numbers, but not drive them completely away.
The new strategy, now being employed for about a year, is much different. No weapons of mass ant destruction are involved – just some ordinary RTV (self-curing silicone rubber, commonly sold in caulking tubes). I simply follow the ants (generally in the kitchen) back to whatever hole they're entering from, and caulk it. After that, for somewhere between 10 minutes and 2 weeks, we are ant-free – completely, totally, and utterly ant-free. And this despite the lack of chemical warfare on the ant nests outside.
This morning was quite typical. We noticed a few ants running around on our kitchen island – these were “explorers”, looking for some tasty treat. I gave them one – a dish of sugar water. Three hours later, there was a well-defined ant trail between the dish of sugar water and their entry point, which was a crack between the baseboard and the wall. I caulked the crack and cleaned up all the ants I could see with a paper towel. I knew from experience what would happen next – you can see it in the photo above.
First, the RTV caulking acts like some kind of repulsion shield to the ants – they won't touch it. That's the blue-circled area in the photo. Second, they'd start congregating in total confusion nearby the old entry point. I think what's going on there is that more and more ants show up, each laying down a pheremone trail, and that just attracts other ants all the more. About an hour after I caulked the crack, I took the photo above. In another couple hours, there will be another congregation – the more far-ranging explorers trying to get back to the nest.
So now we're ant-free once more. But I have no idea how long it will be until they pop up somewhere else...
These two photos aren't the best – I took them with my cell phone. But you'll get the idea...
The photo at left is looking to the south from my vantage point. The mountain in the distance on the left is Otay Mountain; to the right is San Miguel. The small peak just below Otay is Jamul Butte.
The photo above right is toward the west. San Miguel is in the center, with a couple of smaller, much closer hilltops jutting out of the mist like little islands...
Ulysses is yet another JPL/ESA project that far exceeded its original expectations, sending home years more science data than was originally planned. Last year the Ulysses team was almost ready to end the mission due to some failures – but some very clever engineering eked out yet another year of successful operation.
But now a combination of circumstances has brought a decision to shut down Ulysses. The biggest factor appears to be this: it's low-powered radio transmitter and great distance means that Ulysses can only be heard on JPL's 70 meter antenna network. This network has great demands upon it, so its time is valuable. Ulysses has been getting by with “spare time” use of the antenna network, meaning that it took whatever dregs other missions made available through last-minute scheduling changes, etc. Ulysses is getting further and further from earth, so its signal is weaker and weaker – which means a lower and lower bitrate on the data even when it can get antenna time. Simultaneously the demands on the 70 meter antenna network are getting even more intense. So the mission controllers decided that Ulysses had finally reached the point where the science value of its data was no longer worth the cost, both in terms of antenna time and in terms of maintaining the mission team.
So on June 30 (this coming Tuesday), the mission controllers will send a signal to Ulysses to tell it to turn itself off. It will remain permanently in orbit around the sun, a monument to mankind's achievments that will remain no matter what we manage to do to ourselves...
More information here, here, and here.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Image via WikipediaAs I've noted in previous posts, skepticism about anthropomorphic (human-caused) global warming is on the rise. Here's yet another piece of evidence for that: a nice piece in the WSJ by Kimberly Strassel, a well-known political columnist. She writes:
Some of this skepticism, I'm sure, is the natural result of the political machinery absorbing the enormous cost of global warming “mitigation”, and wondering whether this cost made sense politically. A few politicians may even be wondering if the cost makes sense in ordinary terms (e.g., the benefit is greater than the cost). But mostly, I suspect, the new skepticism is derived from the politician's hyper-sensitivity to issues that might stand between them and re-election – and they're hearing from the electorate that global warming mitigation is most definitely one of those issues. I know my congress-critters have heard from me on that point, loud and clear – and two of them have responded by indicating that they're hearing such resistance a lot.
The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)
The collapse of the "consensus" has been driven by reality. The inconvenient truth is that the earth's temperatures have flat-lined since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Your eyes are lying.
Both of those spirals are exactly the same color.
I didn't believe it either, so I enlarged the picture in GIMP and examined it under extreme magnification. Those colors really are the same!
All is explained here and here.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The speech was an eye-opener. He referred to no principles, offered no promises, spoke of no future. All he did was say he planned to loot the taxpayers and give the swag to St. Mary's County if elected.Read the whole post.
It was like listening to a psychopath. With such innocent charm and cold realism he talked about robbing others and splitting the take with us in the room. There was no sugar coating or double-talk: he nakedly said he meant to take and take and take, and if we voted for him, we would get a cut. He didn't even try to hide his meaning.
The US carried out its second Predator airstrike inside South Waziristan today. Unmanned Predator aircraft killed more than 65 Taliban fighters in a follow-on attack near the headquarters for Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
The Predator strike aircraft fired three Hellfire missiles as Taliban fighters gathered for a funeral of Khog Wali, a leader in Baitullah's army in South Waziristan who was among six Taliban fighters killed in the first US airstrike earlier today.
Commander Sangeen, a Taliban commander from Afghanistan, was reported to be among those killed in the strike at the funeral. Predators are said to have fired on Taliban vehicles as they attempted to leave the scene of the attack, Dawn reported.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
A young guy from Wisconsin moves to Florida ang goes to a big everything-under-one-roof department store looking for a job.
The Manager says, "Do you have any sales experience?"
The kid says "Yeah. I was a salesman back in Wisconsin."
Well, the boss liked the kid and gave him the job. "You Start tomorrow. I'll come down after we close and see how you did."
His first day on the job was rough, but he got through it..
After the store was locked up , the boss came down. "How many customers bought something from you today?"
The kid says, "One."
The boss says, "Just one? Our sales people average 20 to 30 customers a day. How much was the sale for?"
The kid says, "$101,237.65."
The boss says, "$101,237.65? What the heck did you sale?"
The kid says, First, I sold him a small fishhook. Then I sold him a medium fishhook. Then I sold him a larger fishhook. Then I sold him a fishing rod. Then I asked him where he was going fishing, and he said down the coast, so I told him he was going to need a boat, so we went down to the boat department, so I sold him a twin engine Chris Craft. Then he said he didn't think his Honda Civic would pull it, so I took him down to the automotive department and sold him that 4+4 Expedition."
The boss said "A guy came here to buy a fish hook and you sold him a BOAT and a TRUCK?"
The kid said "No, the guy came here to by Tampons for his wife, and I said, Dude, your weekend's shot, you should go fishing."
Bob, a handsome dude, walked into a sports bar around 9:58 PM. He sat down next to a blonde at the bar and stared up at the TV.
The 10 PM news was coming on. The news crew was covering the story of a man on the ledge of a large building preparing to jump.
The blonde looked at Bob and said, "Do you think he'll jump?"
Bob said, "You know, I bet he'll jump."
The blonde replied, "Well, I bet he won't."
Bob placed a $20 bill on the bar and said, "You're on!"
Just as the blonde placed her money on the bar, the guy on the ledge did a swan dive off the building, falling to his death.
The blonde was very upset, but willingly handed her $20 to Bob, saying, "Fair's fair. Here's your money."
Bob replied, "I can't take your money. I saw this earlier on the 5 PM news, and so I knew he would jump."
The blonde replied, "I did too, but didn't think he'd do it again."
Bob took the money...
Saturday, June 20, 2009
So my reaction is a little out of step with the rap he's getting from most blogs. From my perspective, this is one of the most admirable things I've seen him do – taking a few minutes away from what must feel like an all-consuming responsibility to spend some quality time with his kids. Kudos, Mr. President.
Now...please get the rest of your act a little bit together. Someday, your little girls will be grown up – and they'll read the judgments of history about your actions as POTUS. Make your actions the right ones for our country, not just for your party...
Coming home last night, the best part (as always) was the greetings from my honey, my dogs, and Maka Lea (our little challenged kitty).
While I was away, poor Debbie was suffering through two challenges of her own. I really hated being away while this was going on...
The first one was her recovering broken arm. The cast came off two weeks ago, but she's been in awful pain ever since. This week she finally reached the point where she couldn't stand it any more and started making insistent calls both to the doctor caring for her arm and to our GP. In the end, they diagnosed her as having reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RDS) – basically some nerve damage, most likely caused either by the injury itself, the setting of the bones, or possibly by the initial cast being too tight. The good news is that both the pain and the underlying cause of the pain are eminently treatable. She's now taking neurontin (aka gabapentin), which I picked up on the way back from the airport last night. This drug, originally used as an anti-epileptic, has recently been found to be useful for people suffering from RDS. The prognosis is that in about three weeks she'll start seeing improvement (and the pain should disappear immediately). Fingers crossed on this one...
The second challenge involved Aka, our oldest cat. We've had Aka a long, long time – our best guess is that we adopted him in 1988, 21 years ago. He was a feral kitty in our (then) Chula Vista neighborhood, about six months old, when Debbie captured and tamed him. He's always been aggressive (typical of a feral cat), so he's always lived in our outdoor cattery. For the last years his companion has been Koa, our psychotic kitty. Somehow the two of them became best buddies, inseperable. Aka's been going downhill for months, losing weight and slowly but inexorably getting weaker and weaker. At this point in our lives we've lived through the loss of many of our furry companions, and we've become quite sensitized to the challenges of deciding exactly when the time has come to say goodbye to one of them. Our hearts always tell us to do more and more to try to restore them to health, but our heads tell us that sometimes that's for our benefit and not our friend's. On Wednesday this week, Debbie was very worried about Aka's condition, and took him down to Dr. Christine Wilson, our wonderful vet in Jamul. The folks there got some fluids into him, but couldn't get him to eat (this is quite typical for old or sick cats – they just stop eating). Blood tests brought bad news – Aka was suffering from massive systemic, most likely from a metastasizing cancer or some equally disastrous organ failure. He wasn't suffering, just fading away. Usually Debbie and I face these decisions together, but this time I wasn't home and Debbie made the call on her own (but it's certainly one I agreed with). One of our friends and neighbors (Paula C.) went down to Dr. Wilson's with her, and Debbie held Aka as slipped away...
On a completely different note, each of my three flights on this trip had an interesting component.
On my first flight (San Diego to Newark), I sat next to a fellow who's family (wife and four kids) was scattered around us, all in middle seats (they were on standby, and so got the worst seats). They were all from Tijuana, Mexico (a large city just across the border from San Diego), en route to Madrid, Spain where he had just gotten a new (and good) job. I had an interesting conversation with him during the trip, but the best part happened just before we landed in Newark. During our final approach, we had an excellent view of New York City and the Hudson Bay area. Two of his sons were in the rows immediately behind us, and we heard them shouting “estatua de la libertad!” – Statue of Liberty. In fact, we had a great view of Lady Liberty. Isn't it interesting that some young (around 8 or 9 years old) Mexican kids recognized it immediately, and were excited to see it? I can't help but wonder how many American kids of the same age would react like that...
My second flight (Newark to Houston) started off about as unexciting as it could – we just sat on the tarmac for almost two hours waiting to take off. Storms were causing traffic delays throughout the east coast, and planes were stacking up at all the major airports, Newark included. Finally we took off, and the pilots managed to make up all but 45 minutes of the delay. The flight to Houston was bumpy, but not exceptionally slow. The landing was something else altogether! We came in steep and fast, and slammed into the ground more forcefully than any other landing I can remember. From my seat I could see the wingtips, and it looked like they bent to within a foot or two of the ground as we hit, then oscillated five or six times before they started looking solid again. Nearly all of the overhead luggage bins sprang open, and quite a bit of luggage spilled out. The plane was a Boeing 767, and the arrangement of the luggage bins was such that most of the luggage spilled into the aisles. So far as I know, nobody was hurt by the hundreds of pieces of luggage that fell out. I ended up with a small suitcase in my lap – it sort of rolled onto me after falling down onto a big suitcase that had already fallen into the aisle. My laptop was in its case in the overhead, and it fell out but was caught by the shoulder strap tangling with the hinge – so no damage was done to my stuff. I'm pretty sure not everybody with a laptop was so lucky. There were some shouts and screams at the moment the luggage fell out, but no panic – and once we figured out that nobody had been hurt, there was much relieved laughter. Everybody helped scoop the luggage back up when the pilot paused on the taxiway and asked us to clear the aisles. By the time we got to the gate, the mood was downright jovial...
On my final flight (Houston to San Diego), the young lady sitting next to me was the most interesting element. She was about my height, extremely thin, with the kind of breathtakingly beautiful face that just stops you in your tracks. She was also one of the blackest people I have ever seen, ebony in the truest sense. The poor girl was terrified – after a while I was able to figure out that this was her first trip by air. She's from Ethiopia, and en route to San Diego to go to school at USD, where she had a full scholarship. She spoke only a kind of broken, pidgin English, but it was fascinating to hear her speak her native language (Amharic) on the cell phone; it sounded quite beautiful to my ears, melodic and lilting. We conversed (or tried to) for the entire trip – she was full of questions about San Diego and the environs, which I tried to answer as best I could. Some of her questions I had no clue about – such as whether there were any Ethiopian groceries or restaurants. Others I could help a bit more on, such as where were good communities to live, what kind of transportation was available, etc. She had absolutely no idea about any of these things, she was simply traveling into something completely unknown to her. If I understood her correctly, her scholarship was related somehow to a modeling contest, something she had won first in Ethiopia, then in Johannesburg, South Africa. The prize was a four year full scholarship (including living expenses) at her choice of four universities: USD, one in England, one in France, and one in South Africa. She said it has always been her dream to one day see America, so given this opportunity to actually live in America for four years, she snatched it instantly. She was the first person in her family (from some remote place in Ethiopia) to ever leave Ethiopia, when she traveled to Johannesburg. Her entire community is all excited about her opportunity in America, and her cell phone calls at every stop along the way were to various relatives and friends back home. She doesn't know anybody in San Diego, but did manage to find a church in San Diego that had some kind of a connection (I never did understand what she was telling me about that) to her church back home, so she's got some people to lean on for help. She's staying with a pastor and his wife for the first few weeks after she arrives, but she's got to find a place to live fairly quickly. Her reaction to all this seemed to be a mixture of excitement and terror, which is easy enough to understand. What a grand adventure, to be sure – but also what a wrenching and uncomfortable thing it must be to be torn from your community and sent halfway around the world to live with total strangers. I came away with a feeling that this very sensible young lady would do just fine. I also had the pleasure of hearing her say something very nice to hear: that she has been overwhelmed by how friendly and helpful the American strangers she's run into have been. She said that Ethiopians could learn a lot about human kindness from Americans...
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Why, you'd take cool movies of bullets striking targets, of course!
But now a scientist has shown, through calculations, that variations in the observed magnetic field could, theortetically, be explained by electric currents flowing in our salt oceans (which are conductive). Fascinating stuff, and an interesting view of science being made...
Until now, that is. Cassini took pictures!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
We discussed the need to prepare appropriate strategies for unwinding the extraordinary policy measures taken to respond to the crisis once the recovery is assured. These “exit strategies”, which may vary from country to country, are essential to promote a sustainable recovery over the long term. We asked the IMF to undertake the necessary analytical work to assist us with this process.Whoa! The finance ministers want the G8 countries to unwind the remaining portions of the bailout programs once “recovery is assured” (a phrase that could be interpreted in all too many ways).
Unwinding is accounting-speak for "undo". In the U.S., the vast majority of the money from all the bailout programs has yet to be spent – and in some cases, it has yet to be borrowed. Unwinding these programs would mean repaying the borrowed money that has not yet been spent, and abandoning any future borrowing under these programs. In addition, unwinding would include converting any options, warrant, stock, etc. acquired by the government as part of the bailout (for example, the government's majority position in AIG) to cash, to repay the money borrowed to acquire them.
Dare we hope? Would the Obama administration have the good common sense to follow the G8's recommendations? Would they give back the money that they and the Bush administration stole from us?
My bet would be “No way, Jose!” But I would surely love to be wrong on this one...
Thursday, June 11, 2009
My read of his piece is that he fully expects Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, and sooner rather than later. He sees the Obama administration's stance as accelerating this possibility, rather than delaying it (as Israel must be less certain of U.S. support now than at any time since at least the Carter era, and probably back to the time of Israel's founding). The longer Israel waits, the worse the tactical situation. Mr. Bolton also believes that the inevitable Iranian retaliation for such an Israeli attack will most likely take the form of “unleashing” Hezbollah and Hamas for terror attacks inside Israel.
This brief survey demonstrates why Israel's military option against Iran's nuclear program is so unattractive, but also why failing to act is even worse. All these scenarios become infinitely more dangerous once Iran has deliverable nuclear weapons. So does daily life in Israel, elsewhere in the region and globally.
Many argue that Israeli military action will cause Iranians to rally in support of the mullahs' regime and plunge the region into political chaos. To the contrary, a strike accompanied by effective public diplomacy could well turn Iran's diverse population against an oppressive regime. Most of the Arab world's leaders would welcome Israel solving the Iran nuclear problem, although they certainly won't say so publicly and will rhetorically embrace Iran if Israel strikes. But rhetoric from its Arab neighbors is the only quantum of solace Iran will get.
On the other hand, the Obama administration's increased pressure on Israel concerning the "two-state solution" and West Bank settlements demonstrates Israel's growing distance from Washington. Although there is no profit now in complaining that Israel should have struck during the Bush years, the missed opportunity is palpable. For the remainder of Mr. Obama's term, uncertainty about his administration's support for Israel will continue to dog Israeli governments and complicate their calculations. Iran will see that as well, and play it for all it's worth. This is yet another reason why Israel's risks and dilemmas, difficult as they are, only increase with time.
I'd sure feel better about the Obama administration's foreign policy if we got this kind of analysis, supporting their positions, from someone on the team...
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Read more about the program here.
But I can't help thinking that … if they were going to complete the lesson, they'd flash the cash, then deduct the government's share and hand over the remainder. That lesson would do more for the education of these future voters than anything else I can think of...
Sunday, June 7, 2009
This is so sad for those of us who love California...
California's government is the problem. The state is business-hostile. It is merit-hostile. It has the highest tax rates and returns less in services to its average citizens. Massive pension abuses are not dealt with.
Worst of all, the state's crazy regulation structure creates uncertainty, cost, and risk in doing business here. The system is chilling to investment and innovation. This is true for businesses of all types, from technology companies to basic franchises.Many businesses founded elsewhere now try to avoid for as long as possible doing business in California. Meanwhile, I have watched company after company leave the state. And, as you might imagine, it is much harder to get businesses back than to keep them from leaving.
I'm lucky enough to work for one of the very few entrepreneurial efforts that's doing so well it still works in California, despite the government's best efforts to prevent it. But there aren't many software startups like this one, and California is going to pay for this foray into brain-dead liberalism. It's not hard to see that the startups are going to go elsewhere – and with them will go the best engine for economic growth that the world has ever seen. A few years from now, the name “Silicon Valley” may refer instead to someplace in Montana, Nevada, or some other business-friendly state. Or worse, in some other country.
Recently they completely redid their menu, with lots of new dishes we haven't had time to try yet. The first few things we've tried have been really good, and sometimes even surprising. For example, who would have expected top-notch crème brûlée way out in the sticks? Even better, they've been doing very well (despite the recession), and they've gone back to a 7-day-a-week schedule. Woo hoo!
Well, Friday night Debbie and I were up there for dinner. We sat at a booth, and the table (like all the others) was covered with a glass top that has lots of photos, clippings, cards, etc. underneath it. As is my habit, I started reading the pieces – some of them were new to me (the staff there changes them frequently). One review was upside-down from where I sat, so I struggled to read it, very slowly. The review seemed vaguely familiar – and that's when I noticed that it was from this very blog, almost three years ago. What a hoot! And what an odd feeling to see that clipping of my article there.
After thinking about it a bit, I decided not to let the crew know who I was. I really don't want any special treatment, so if I'm still unknown to them, I'd rather keep it that way...
No doubt that warming is happening. I don’t think it is correct to say “global,” but certainly warming is happening. I have been to Greenland a year ago and saw it for myself. And that’s where the warming is most extreme. And it’s spectacular, no doubt about it. And glaciers are shrinking and so on.Read the whole thing.
But, there are all sorts of things that are not said, which decreases my feeling of alarm. First of all, the people in Greenland love it. They tell you it’s made their lives a lot easier. They hope it continues. I am not saying none of these consequences are happening. I am just questioning whether they are harmful.
There’s a lot made out of the people who died in heat waves. And there is no doubt that we have heat waves and people die. What they don’t say is actually five times as many people die of cold in winters as die of heat in summer. And it is also true that more of the warming happens in winter than in summer. So, if anything, it’s heavily favorable as far as that goes. It certainly saves more lives in winter than it costs in summer.
So that kind of argument is never made. And I see a systematic bias in the way things are reported. Anything that looks bad is reported, and anything that looks good is not reported.
A lot of these things are not anything to do with human activities. Take the shrinking of glaciers, which certainly has been going on for 300 years and has been well documented. So it certainly wasn’t due to human activities, most of the time. There’s been a very strong warming, in fact, ever since the Little Ice Age, which was most intense in the 17th century. That certainly was not due to human activity.
And the most serious of almost all the problems is the rising sea level. But there again, we have no evidence that this is due to climate change. A good deal of evidence says it’s not. I mean, we know that that’s been going on for 12,000 years, and there’s very doubtful arguments as to what’s been happening in the last 50 years and (whether) human activities have been important. It’s not clear whether it’s been accelerating or not. But certainly, most of it is not due to human activities. So it would be a shame if we’ve made huge efforts to stop global warming and the sea continued to rise. That would be a tragedy. Sea level is a real problem, but we should be attacking it directly and not attacking the wrong problem.
I got hungry around 10 am, so I went scrounging in the refrigerator to see what goodies we might have available. Found some leftover roast chicken: a leg and thigh. Skinned it, and fed the pieces of skin to three very appreciative dogs. De-boned it and diced the meat. Let the dogs clean my fingers and the chopping board (and yes, then I washed them!). In a bowl, combined the diced chicken, a half-cup or so of frozen corn kernels, a can of chick peas (garbanzo beans), a teaspoon or so of mayonnaise, about the same amount of “juice” from the beans, and a generous sprinkle of dried tarragon. Let the tarragon soak up the bean juice, then mixed up the bowls contents until everything was coated and the corn had thawed.
Then I ate it all, while the dogs watched forlornly. Yum.
I did let them clean the bowl and spoon, though, and I was quickly forgiven...
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
Just what we need. More nanny statism, more expenses.
Assemblyman Joel Anderson (Republican from El Cajon) is coauthor of a bill that would repeal this absurd regulation. He needs our support. You can reach him in several ways:
mail: State Capitol, Room 2130, Sacremento, CA 95184