Monday, August 31, 2009

Fires Near Los Angeles...

Looking at the fire maps (from two different tools below; click to enlarge) reminds us of the fires here in San Diego County in October 2007. Sends shivers down our spines.

Both of these maps are derived from satellite-based thermal imagery.

The good news is that so far the fires haven't massively invaded areas with homes, as they did here. And we are not having a Santa Ana wind storm, so there's some hope that the firefighters can get it under control.

We send our best wishes and hopes their way...

Oh, Jeez...

There's something particularly disgusting and disturbing about a government that trades its first responsibility – protecting its citizens – for money. It appears that this is exactly what the British government has done (via the London Times):
The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.
I first heard rumors about this a few days ago, but dismissed them...saying to myself “Nah – the Brits would never do that!”

Evidence suggests that I was wrong, dang it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


My wife and I both grew up on a farm – she in Indiana, me in New Jersey. We've been entertained over the years by running into people – mainly younger people growing up in California cities – who amaze and amuse us by what they don't know.

Just to cite a few recent examples: someone who didn't know that peanuts grow underground, another who thought that cheese was manufactured from man-made materials, a girl who believed that onions grew on trees (like apples), a guy who simply had no idea where honey came from, and another girl who thought yoghurt was somehow directly emitted by goats.

Los Angeles is talking to these people:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fire in Lawson Valley!


A neighbor with police connections got some more information about the perpetrator. The word is that the driver of the truck was a young, blond woman – very drunk. She was arrested at the scene and taken away in handcuffs.

Original Post:

But everything is fine – nobody was hurt by the fire, and no buildings were burned.

The sign at right went up as the firefighters were working, at a home just west of the fire (which was at the intersection of Lawson Valley Road and Sloane Canyon Road). This homeowner's feelings are shared by everyone in the area – because the firefighters were Johnny-on-the-spot, present very quickly, in force and with plenty of equipment.

This fire started about two miles from our home, right along the road we drive several times a day. The cause of the fire was downed high-voltage power wires, brought down by a vehicle striking a utility pole (the replacement pole is in a photo below). This occurred at around 2:30 pm yesterday afternoon.

I talked with two people who live in the area; they both said that the pole was struck by a drunk male driver in a large white Ford pickup. They had no idea whether the driver was injured, or who he was.

One result of the pole being struck was that a number of homes in the immediate area lost power right away. A short time later, a much larger number of people lost power – because SDG&E had to shut off the power to the area to allow the firefighters to spray water on the flames (this would be dangerous for the firefighters if the power were still on).

East County Magazine has a short report about the fire:
A brush fire in Jamul has caused a power outage in the vicinity. The fire, caused by a traffic accident, has been contained at ¾ an acre, CAL-FIRE spokesperson Roxanne Provaznik reports.

SDG&E is on the scene working to repair downed power lines and restore power to area residents. Nine engines, three fire crews, a bulldozer, two water tenders, two helicopters, and two air tankers battled the fire, with 75 firefighters dispatched. The fire burned along both sides of Lawson Valley Road and Sloane Canyon Road. Firefighters will remain on the scene for several hours due to heavy fuels along the creekbed location.
That's a substantial firefighting response for such a small blaze.

We were very lucky on two counts: first, that there was almost no wind yesterday (so the fire spread very slowly); second, that there were no other major fires yesterday (so almost unlimited firefighting resources were available).

Yesterday was very hot, as all my local readers will know. It was 106°F in Lawson Valley at the time we lost power. Those of us with no emergency generators were without either air conditioning or fans until 1:30 am this morning, when the SDG&E teams finished their repair work.

It was just plain miserable.

But it was just as wonderful when the power finally came back on, and our fans blew that lovely cool chaparral air over us – and we could take a shower!

I took the photos below at the scene this morning. Click to enlarge any of them. Two of them are marked up with red lines to show the rough area of the fire.

Liberal Reaction to Ted Kennedy's Death...

Sayeth the oracle sometimes called Mark Steyn:
You can't make an omelet without breaking chicks, right? I don't know how many lives the senator changed – he certainly changed Mary Jo's – but you're struck less by the precise arithmetic than by the basic equation: How many changed lives justify leaving a human being struggling for breath for up to five hours pressed up against the window in a small, shrinking air pocket in Teddy's Oldsmobile? If the senator had managed to change the lives of even more Americans, would it have been OK to leave a couple more broads down there? Hey, why not? At the Huffington Post, Melissa Lafsky mused on what Mary Jo "would have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history … Who knows – maybe she'd feel it was worth it." What true-believing liberal lass wouldn't be honored to be dispatched by that death panel?
Honored? Ugh.

Botany Photo of the Day...

Every day, I get a link to a photo like this sent to me in an email. For free.

If you're interested in things botanical, or things beautiful, then signing up for this is a no-brainer. Do it here, do it now. Just put your email address in the upper-right corner.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What IS That Thing?

It's an image of a pentacene molecule.

More on Auschwitz...

More than 60 years after the fact, detailed plans for the Auschwitz concentration camp have been found. Story here.

Just Awful...

The story of Jaycee Lee Dugard is all over the news right now. She was kidnapped as a little girl (just 11 years old) and held captive for 18 years by the two mouth-breathers at right. The man is 58 year old Phillip Garrido, and he's a convicted rapist.

This is yet another example of our government failing to protect us from criminals – arguably the primary purpose of state and local governments in the first place. In this case, it's a known sexual predator released back into society with no practical constraints on his behavior. Examples like this, unfortunately, abound – and not just in California. This is a national problem.

It's hard for me to imagine anyone defending the current state of affairs with respect to how we deal with the Phillip Garridos of the world – but, in fact, there are many defenders of the status quo. Primarily these defenders can be found in two populations: politicians and academics, two groups notable for the isolation from the rest of us.

Personally I think that society's main tool for handling the Philip Garridos should be something like penal colonies, with hard work and short lifetimes the expected outcome. I'd love to see a never-ending stream of news stories emerging from such colonies about the horrors of incarceration therein – sounds like a great deterrent to me!

But I'd be accepting of nearly any change, as I can think of very few possibilities worse than what we do today (we could give them cash prizes, perhaps?)...

Excellent Rant on Customer Service...

Sent to me by Isaac P., and found so many places on the web that I'm unsure where to attribute it:

Dear Cretins;

I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up for your 3-in-one deal for cable TV, cable modem, and telephone.

During this three-month period I have encountered inadequacy of service which I had not previously considered possible, as well as ignorance and stupidity of monolithic proportions.

Please allow me to provide specific details, so that you can either pursue your professional prerogative, and seek to rectify these difficulties – or more likely (I suspect) so that you can have some entertaining reading material as you while away the working day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your office:

My initial installation was cancelled without warning or notice, resulting in my spending an entire Saturday sitting on my behind waiting for your technician to arrive.

When he did not arrive at all, I spent a further 57 minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more annoying Scottish robot woman telling me to look at your helpful website…. how?

I alleviated the boredom to some small degree by playing solitaire for a few minutes – an activity at which you are no-doubt both familiar and highly adept.

The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later, although the technician did forget to bring a number of vital tools – such as a drill-bit, and his cerebrum.

Two weeks later, my cable modem had still not arrived. After several further telephone calls (actually 15 telephone calls over 4 weeks) my modem arrived…

A total of six weeks after I had requested it, and begun to pay for it.

I estimate that the downtime of your internet servers is roughly 35%… these are usually the hours between about 6pm and midnight, Monday to Friday, and most of the useful periods over the weekend.

I am still waiting for my telephone connection. I have made 9 telephone calls on my mobile to your no-help line this week, and have been unhelpfully transferred to a variety of disinterested individuals, who are it seems also highly skilled malarky jugglers.

I have been informed that a telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that no telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been cut off); that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been redirected to an answer machine informing me that your office is closed); that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been redirected to the irritating Scottish robot woman), and several other variations on this theme.

Doubtless you are no-longer reading this letter, as you have at least a thousand other dissatisfied customers to ignore, and also another one of those crucially important solitaire to attend to. Frankly I don’t care, it’s far more satisfying as a customer to voice my frustrations in print than to shout them at your unending hold music.

Forgive me, therefore, if I continue.

I thought BT were horrible, that they had attained the holy pot of god-awful customer relations, that no-one, anywhere, ever, could be more disinterested, less helpful or more obstructive to delivering service to their customers. That’s why I chose NTL, and because, well, there isn’t anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was, when I discovered to my considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment what a useless shower of jerks you truly are. You are sputum-filled pieces of distended intestine – incompetents of the highest order. British Telecom – jerks though they are – shine like brilliant beacons of success, in the filthy puss-filled mire of your seemingly limitless inadequacy.

Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile and foolhardy quest to receive any kind of service from you. I suggest that you do likewise, and cease any potential future attempts to extort payment from me for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically failed to deliver – any such activity will be greeted initially with hilarity and disbelief – although these feelings will quickly be replaced by derision, and even perhaps a small measure of bemused rage.

I enclose two small deposits, selected with great care from my cats litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete contempt for both you and your pointless company. I sincerely hope that they have not become desiccated during transit – they were satisfyingly moist at the time of posting, and I would feel considerable disappointment if you did not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider them the very embodiment of my feelings towards NTL, and it’s worthless employees.

Have a nice day – may it be the last in you miserable short life, you irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of jerks.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things...


My friend Doug W. found this on Snopes. It's provably fake, for the sad reason that Julie Andrews has been unable to sing since 1997. Oh, well, it's still funny as hell...

Original Post:

Via my cousin Mike D. I have no idea if this is true or not, but who cares?

40 Yrs Later: The 7 Children In 'The Sound of Music'

'The Sound of Music' won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1965 and is one of the most popular musicals ever produced.

Remember the 7 children of the Trapp family? They were having a reunion after 40 years and all were looking healthy and amazingly well...

It wouldn't be funny if it weren't so true... Julie Andrews turned 69 and to commemorate her 69th birthday on October 1, actress/vocalist she made a special appearance at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP. One of the musical numbers she performed was "My Favourite Things" from the legendary movie "The Sound Of Music."

Here are the actual lyrics she used:
Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favourite things.

Cadillac's and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favourite things..

When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favourite things.

Back pains, confused brains, and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',

And we won't mention our short, shrunken frames,
When we remember our favourite things.

When the joints ache, When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,

Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.
Ms. Andrews received a standing ovation from the crowd that lasted over four minutes and repeated encores.

Well, You Could See This Coming...

Obama's narcissism and arrogance make this an entirely predictable development. But the predictability doesn't make it any less horrifying.

The Obama administration has proposed using the National Endowment for the Arts (the NEA) to further their political goals.

No, I'm not joking.

Details here. Via Darleen Click at Protein Wisdom, who had the evocative picture at right (it's a lovely photoshop of the famous painting “Roses for Stalin”, by Boris Vladimirski).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Rachel Lucas is one of my favorite bloggers, notable for her wit and humor.

Yesterday she posted on a much more serious topic: her recent visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland.

Don't miss it.

Uh Oh...

Just in (via my wife):
Democrats, realizing the success of the President's "Cash For Clunkers" rebate program, have revamped a major portion of their National Health Care Plan.

President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Sen. Reed are expected to make this major announcement at a joint news conference later this week. I have obtained an advanced copy of the proposal which is named....

"CASH FOR CODGERS" and it works like this... Couples wishing to access health care funds in order to pay for the delivery of a child will be required to turn in one old person. The amount the government grants them will be fixed according to a sliding scale. Older and more prescription dependent codgers will garner the highest amounts.

Special "Bonuses" will be paid for those submitting codgers in targeted groups, such as smokers, alcohol drinkers, persons 10 pounds over their government prescribed weight, and any member of the Republican Party.

Smaller bonuses will be given for codgers who consume beef, soda, fried foods, potato chips, lattes, whole milk, dairy products, bacon, Brussel sprouts, or Girl Scout Cookies.

All codgers will be rendered totally useless via toxic injection. This will insure that they are not secretly resold or their body parts harvested to keep other codgers in repair.

The Bailout, Explained...

Via my cousin Mike D.:
The Economic smoke-and-mirrors explained:

Young Chuck in Montana bought a horse from a farmer for $100.

The farmer agreed to deliver the horse the next day.

The next day the farmer drove up and said, "Sorry son, but I have some bad news... the horse died."

Chuck replied, "Well, then just give me my money back."

The farmer said, "Can't do that. I went and spent it already."

Chuck said, "Ok, then, just bring me the dead horse."

The farmer asked, "What ya gonna do with him?"

Chuck said, "I'm going to raffle him off."

The farmer said, "You can't raffle off a dead horse!"

Chuck said, "Sure I can, Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead."

A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, "What happened with that dead horse?"

Chuck said, "I raffled him off.

I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $998."

The farmer said, "Didn't anyone complain?"

Chuck said, "Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back."

Chuck grew up and now works for the government.

He's the one who figured out how this "bail-out" is going to work.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mounting Evidence for an Impending Cooling Trend...

I've been reporting little tidbits here and there about the surprising lack of sunspots at the beginning of the current solar cycle. The low numbers of sunspots continues to the present time.

A paper just published (PDF) adds another dimension: not only are there fewer sunspots, but the ones that we have are weaker. Both factors contribute to lower solar irradiance – which means the sun is delivering less heat to the Earth.

I like this passage, from a web site that has a history of being completely credulous of anthropogenic global warming:
All of these numbers indicate that a return to Maunder-Minimum-like conditions could take us back to the conditions of the first half of last century, which would be a significant change in the climate. That would certainly take a bit of the time pressure off our attempts to limit our use of fossil fuels. But the impact would be less than we'd expect from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, meaning it would only delay some of the more significant climate changes.
It's very nice to see some actual climate science being widely published (instead of climate modeling)...

I Get No Respect...

A collection of classic Rodney Dangerfield one-liners:

I tell ya I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, 'There goes the neighborhood!'

When I was born, I was so ugly that the doctor slapped my mother.

When I started in show business, I played one club that was so far out, my act was reviewed in Field and Stream.

Every time I get in an elevator, the operator says the same thing to me: `Basement?'

When my parents got divorced, there was a custody fight over me. ... and no one showed up.

I never got girls when I was a kid. One girl told me, `Come on over, there's nobody home.' I went over. There was nobody home.

When I was 3 years old, my parents got a dog. I was jealous of the dog, so they got rid of me.

When we got married, the first thing my wife did was put everything under both names — hers and her mother's.

With my wife, I don't get no respect. The other night there was a knock on the front door. My wife told me to hide in the closet.

With my wife, I get no respect. I fell asleep with a cigarette in my hand. She lit it.

A Bridge of a Different Kind...

Made out of living roots! These bridges are grown in northeastern India...

Monday, August 24, 2009


More here.

Kitty Story...

Via my mom:
A teacher is explaining biology to her 4th grade students. "Human Beings are
the only animals that stutter," she said.

A little girl raises her hand. "I had a kitty-cat who stuttered."

The teacher, knowing how precious some of these stories could become, asked
the girl to describe the incident.

"Well," she began, "I was in the backyard with my kitty and the Rottweiler
that lives next door got a running start and before we knew it, he jumped over
the fence into our yard!"

"That must've been scary," said the teacher.

"It sure was," said the little girl. "My kitty raised his back, went Sssss,
Sssss, Sssss" and before he could say "Shit," the Rottweiler ate him!

The teacher wet her pants laughing.

WTF of the Day...

Jumpin' Jehosephat on a deep-fried carrot! Is this wrong or what?

The average salary of a civilian employed by the Federal government is more than double that of a worker in private industry.

That's just wrong, dag nab it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

If a deaf person swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

Is there another word for synonym?

Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?"

What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?

Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?

If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

Why do they put Braille on the drive-through bank machines?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.

Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

How is it possible to have a civil war?

If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown, too?

If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "lisp" to have an "s" in it?

Why are hemorrhoids called "hemorrhoids" instead of "assteroids"?

Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?

Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Excellent Rant on a Congresscritter...

I Love My ISP...

Earlier this year I switched from WildBlue (a satellite ISP) to SDWISP, a small terrestrial wireless network serving the valleys of Eastern San Diego County. This is a network based on point-to-point high-bandwidth radio links that connect a point-of-presence in each valley served with the wired Internet infrastructure. In our case, that means a point-to-point that connects a wired Internet connection in Alpine to a hill in Lawson Valley that's only a hundred yards or so from our home. Very nice!

But even better than the technology is the service we get from Eric Williams, the entrepreneur who founded and runs SDWISP. Unlike any other ISP I've ever dealt with (and that's a long list, both personally and professionally), Eric always responds positively and effectively. In the end, the problem always gets solved, and expeditiously, too. And there are always smiles and handshakes involved.

Today we had yet another example of his superb service. For several days we've been having intermittent trouble accessing the Internet. Today I spent some time troubleshooting it, and I discovered that problem was occuring somewhere outside my little network – either on SDWISP's network or on their Internet provider's network. I couldn't tell which. The symptom I got was a "destination unreachable" message from SDWISP's router, but that could mean lots of different things.

So I sent Eric an email describing the situation, and in a short while I got a call back from him. We talked about it briefly, and then he remembered a tweak he'd made just a week ago to the router that was sending me those messages. This tweak was an effort to tighten up security on his router (a good thing!), made at the recommendation of the router vendor. But when he and I realized what that setting was doing, we realized it might well be the source of my problem. Right then and there, Eric turned off that setting. I tested it, and sure enough, that was the source of the trouble. Problem solved!

With most ISPs I'd have spent weeks convincing them that there was an issue that they were causing, then I'd wait more weeks for them to figure out what they were going to do about it. If anything.

I just love having a little local ISP...

The Talibani and the Jew...

Via my mom:
A fleeing Taliban, desperate for water, was plodding through the Afghanistan desert when he saw something far off in the distance.

Hoping to find water, he hurried toward the object, only to find a little old Jewish man at a small stand selling ties.

The Taliban asked: 'Do you have water?'

The Jewish man replied: 'I have no water. Would you like to buy a tie? They are only US$5 ....'

The Taliban shouted: 'Idiot! I do not need an over-priced tie. I need water! I should kill you, but I must find water first!'

'OK,' said the old Jewish man, 'it does not matter that you do not want to buy a tie and that you hate me.

'I will show you that I am bigger than that. If you continue over that hill to the east for about two miles, you will find a lovely restaurant.

'It has all the ice cold water you need. Shalom.'

Muttering, the Taliban staggered away over the hill. Several hours later he staggered back, almost dead.

'Your damn brother won't let me in without a tie!'

A Small Victory...

Seven or eight years ago, we bought a large-screen HDTV. After doing quite a bit of research on the various technologies and models, we eventually settled on a rear-projection triple-CRT model: the Pioneer Elite Pro-620HD.

It's a monster of a TV. If the inside of the cabinet were hollow, you could use it as a residence for 3 or 4 families in some parts of the world.

We've really enjoyed this television. The picture is superb, and the user-tweakable digital color convergence has allowed us to keep it that way for all these years (I adjust it every 18 months or so).

But a couple of days ago it just quit working. The symptoms were not at all encouraging: when you tried to turn it on, the green power light would come on for a fraction of a second, you could hear some relays clicking, and then it just shut down again.

A few minutes on the web and I learned several depressing things: (1) Pioneer no longer supported this prehistoric model in any shape, way, or form (including at their authorized service centers); (2) nobody has any spare parts for it; and (3) there apparently is no longer any such thing as a television repair shop.

I was on my own.

A few more minutes of searching for our TV's symptoms led me to several articles and forum posts. There I learned that this model had a history of exactly this failure – and that at least for one person, re-soldering some “cold” solder joints on the low-voltage power supply circuit board fixed the problem. I also knew from long past experience as an electronics tech that cleaning dirt (especially away from high-voltage components) and cleaning/reseating connectors could often cure a problem.

So I decided to take the back off the beast and see what I could do. The thing was quite expensive, and I didn't want to just throw it away without even trying.

First came the easy part: cleaning off the accumulated dust of years, and reseating the connections. As I was doing this, I could observe (for the first time, actually) all the electronics in this TV. A couple of impressions: it was very nicely made (trust me, not all electronic equipment is!), and there was an awful lot of electronics. I counted 9 circuit boards in the area I could see, and I don't doubt there were more tucked away in parts of the cabinet I couldn't see.

After the cleaning/reseating, we tested. No joy. The symptoms were identical. So I decided to go for the more difficult task of removing, cleaning, examining, resoldering, and replacing the power supply board.

There are actually two power supply boards in this TV: a low-voltage and a high-voltage board. The low-voltage board was the culprit in the article I'd read online, and fortunately it was the easier of the two to get out. The board is mounted vertically at the extreme right side of the cabinet, as you're looking in from the back. There were 17 screws and 11 connectors to remove, and then out it popped. Took only a few minutes to get it out.

Then I took it to our kitchen table, and carefully examined it in the bright sunlight. It was a largish (about 12 x 18 inches) single-sided circuit board with dozens of large, high-power components on it (all of this is typical for a power supply). Right away it was obvious that someone had worked on this board since it was manufactured. The giveaway was that 30 or so solder joints had brown rosin residue remaining – something you don't see on boards that were soldered by machine (the rosin all gets cleaned off with solvents). A little more examination and I saw a pattern: the resoldered joints were larger than the majority of the joints. That led to a theory on my part: that Pioneer had a manufacturing problem that caused cold solder joints on the larger joints on the board (and being a power supply board, it had quite a few of these). Larger solder joints do require more heat, and they are tricky to get right in an automated soldering machine, so this was at least plausible.

So I resoldered every one of the large solder joints on the board – something like 175 of them. The hardest part of this chore was spotting them – my eyes don't seem to work quite as well as they used to. I've done a lot of soldering in my day, and apparently I didn't forget how (it's like riding a bicycle, you know). In the course of carefully looking for each of those large joints, I spotted 3 that looked like they might be cold solder joints, and one definite bad joint, complete with cracks.

When I finished all the soldering, we put everything back together and tried it out. Much celebrating ensued – the danged thing worked, and it has kept on working. Debbie (the primary consumer of TV around here) was very happy to have her TV back, and we were both very happy that we didn't need to go out and buy another TV.

A small victory, to be sure...but it really does feel very good to have had it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Culture of Corruption...

It's 2004; George Bush and John Kerry are locked in an incredibly close battle for the U.S. presidency. There's a very real possibility that John Kerry would win. If he did, he'd give up his Senate seat and the Governor of Massachusetts would appoint someone to finish out his term. The Democrats controlled the state legislature, but the Governor was Republican Mitt Romney.

The other Democratic Senator from Massachusetts was Ted Kennedy. He spearheaded a successful effort to have the legislature pass a modification of the law. With the change, a special election would have to be held to choose the replacement for John Kerry, and any future replacement Senators.

In other words, we don't like the law, so we'll just change it.

Bad. But now it gets worse.

Fast forward to 2009. Ted Kennedy is dying of a brain tumor. He's not likely to live long enough to serve out his term. A special election would then have to be held to replace him, thanks to the law he fought for just 5 years ago. Now Massachusetts has a Democratic governor. Now Ted Kennedy is worried about not having a replacement for himself rapidly, as the Democrats in the Senate have only the thinnest of a majority. So what does Ted Kennedy do? You guessed it: he's agitating for a quick return to the old method of letting the Governor appoint a Senatorial replacement.

Rope (great hanks of it).
Trees (lots of them).
Some assembly required.

Funny Graphics...

My favorite:

Go see the rest.

Al Megrahi...

Well, the expected actually happened: the Scots, in a self-congratulatory fit of compassion, have released the Libyan terrorist. He flew home on Ghadaffi's private jet, and was given a hero's welcome when he got home.

Today's Wall Street Journal has an excellent editorial. It's conclusion:
More significantly, Megrahi's release is a reminder of what happens when terrorism is treated as a problem for the criminal justice system. Mr. MacAskill did not stint in congratulating Scotland (and himself) on the superior virtue his decision supposedly evinces. Terrorists will surely draw a different lesson about the will of the West to confront and punish them. And the compassion that is still owed those made bereft by the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 has now been tainted by a second Lockerbie outrage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Private Plane for al-Megrahi?

Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi (at right) is the Libyan terrorist bomber convicted of bringing down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988. He's been serving a life sentence in a Scottish prison ever since his conviction in 2001. Recently he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, and under Scottish law this entitles him to compassionate early release. A decision about his release is expected today, and all signs are that it will be granted.

That's bad enough. The whole idea of compassionate anything for someone like him is disgusting.

But what's even worse is this: Mohammar Ghadafi, Libya's despotic leader, is sending his private $130m jet to pick up al-Megrahi and take him home to Libya.


The world really needs to be rid of some people, don't you think?

Sign of the Times...

Seen near Durham, North Carolina...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Great Unraveling?

There is now a steady stream of dyed-in-the-wool liberals who are opposing Obama's healthcare initiatives. Nat Hentoff is the latest, with a piece that starts out like this:
I was not intimidated during J. Edgar Hoover's FBI hunt for reporters like me who criticized him. I railed against the Bush-Cheney war on the Bill of Rights without blinking. But now I am finally scared of a White House administration. President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive.
It's tempting to think that the liberal juggernaut is coming apart at the seams. When even leading liberal lights, the in-the-tank-for-Obama press, and the few liberal talk shows still on the air all making news by their opposition to Obamacare, it looks like things are coming apart for the liberals.

But they're not. From everything I've been able to read on the subject, this is all single-issue opposition. There have not been massive numbers of people changing their world-views from liberal to libertarian or conservative. This is simply a single issue that's not resonating with liberal base.

I'm glad it's not resonating. But when this issue is behind us, I'm sure the next one will see the liberal juggernaut back in place, just as before...

Soldier's Angels, and More...

Michael Yon (now in the thick of combat in Afghanistan) has a dispatch posted that's moving on several levels. Pay particular attention to the (completely normal) lengths that Americans went to save a wounded British soldier – and to the reason why the American's help was needed...

Yon's reporting is some of the very best you'll find from Afghanistan, just as he did from Iraq. Please consider supporting him – as an independent journalist our contributions are the only way he has to fund his very expensive trips...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jamul Casino Update...

The latest report for Lakes Entertainment shows their investment in the Jamul Casino project continuing to look bad, at least on paper. The money quote from the report:
The net unrealized gains for the six months ended June 28, 2009 consisted of $2.2 million related to the Jamul Casino project with the Jamul Tribe and $0.1 million related to the Iowa Tribe’s Ioway Casino project due primarily to improvement in the credit markets, which resulted in lower required rates of return.
Essentially this says that Lakes' accounts believe they'd have been better off (by $2.2 million!) putting the money in the bank than investing it in the Jamul Casino project.

Also in the news is the JAC (Jamulians Against the Casino) lawsuit aiming to overturn Caltran's recent settlement with the Jamul Indian Tribe on environmental grounds. I'm no lawyer, but this sounds like pretty shaky grounds to me...

Car vs. Hydrant...

In Jamul! According to the (very short) story, this happened at around 5 pm last night, near the intersection of 94 (Campo Road) and Steele Canyon Road (i.e., near Ranch Feed, the 7-11, and the Greek Sombrero).

I'd like to have seen that!

There's a short video at the link.

An Open Letter to Obama...

Lou Pritchett is a former Vice President of Proctor & Gamble. I'd never heard of him until I read this letter that he wrote (below), which nicely summarizes many of my thoughts about Obama. Snopes has verified its authenticity. Mr. Pritchett submitted the letter to the New York Times, and says that they never even acknowledged his submission, much less published it.

Dear President Obama:

You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core.

You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America ' crowd and deliver this message abroad.

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.

You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world.

You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations.

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years.

Lou Pritchett

Carter Says "Finally!"...

From my mom. Perfect.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Obama = Socialism...

This has gone completely viral over the past few days. The lefties are screaming bloody murder about it.


I note how they didn't scream bloody murder when far worse depictions of Bush were gleefully distributed by the same lefties who are screaming now.

I'm putting this in my sidebar until The One is gone...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

One of the Many Reasons...

This is one of the many reasons why we need a revolution at the polls. We need to throw all of these bums out on the street – Democrats and Republicans alike – and replace them with a new crew that's less fiscally insane.

Take a look at what the past few administrations and Congresses have done to our tax system. Even while the lefties are fostering the meme that the “wealthy” (a very, er, flexible term that is, in progressive hands) aren't paying enough taxes, here are the actual facts: the U.S. now has the most progressive federal taxes amongst all developed nations.

“Progressive” in this context means that the more money you make, the higher the percentage of your income you pay in taxes. For the last couple of decades, it has also meant something else in the U.S.: if your income is below a given amount, you “pay” negative taxes – you get a check from the government instead of the other way around. This welfare is euphemistically called the Earned Income Credit, and of course the money for it comes from taxpayers with higher incomes – the money is being taken from them and given to the “poor” (many of whom make over $40,000 per year).

Scott Hodge has a short post over at the Tax Foundation's blog. He notes:

To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined.

Some in Washington say the tax system is still not progressive enough. However, the recent IRS data bolsters the findings of an OECD study released last year showing that the U.S.—not France or Sweden—has the most progressive income tax system among OECD nations. We rely more heavily on the top 10 percent of taxpayers than does any nation and our poor people have the lowest tax burden of those in any nation.

Many states (including California, where I live – currently) have progressive income taxes as well, making this situation even worse.

It's not free money, folks. Those people paying the higher tax burdens are not going to do nothing while their hard-earned incomes are stolen. The easiest thing for an oppressed minority to do is to simply leave – and that's a lot easier when you have financial resources. It's happened before (think Sweden and England in the 20th century) and it's already happening now – the “wealthy” are leaving the states with the worst most progressive taxation policies (Maryland, Michigan, etc.) and headed for the states with the best most regressive tax policies (Florida, Nevada, etc). The internal immigration figures for the past few years demonstrate this rather clearly. And, though my wife and I are far from “wealthy” even by the Obamanation's flexible definition, we're starting to think about such a move ourselves – in no small part to escape the stifling total tax burden in California (said burden here comes complete with unrivaled fiscal irresponsibility and insanity as well)...