Friday, December 31, 2010
I took the dogs out into the dim light for their walk, with Race off-leash. Our yard looked almost like it had snowed, but it was just frost. According to our thermometer (which is 15 feet in the air), we got down to 32°F; it was probably a few degrees colder right on the ground. Say, 28°F – enough to make a fine coating of frost, given the humid air.
In the course of his usual pine-cone chasing, Race discovered that this morning he could skid on the frosty grass. He started zooming around the yard, then holding all four feet stock-still so he'd skid. He had a couple of really good skid runs, over 10 feet long. For whatever reason, it was obvious that Race was really enjoying this; he kept right on doing it. In fact, I had a great deal of trouble getting him back into the house, as he'd discovered that going down a hill while skidding was even better than the relatively flat parts of our yard! That border collie is one smart puppy...
The three field spaniels, meanwhile, completely ignored the skidding opportunities. Instead, they were completely absorbed by the new smells they were finding. The three short tails were all wagging like made, and all three noses were snuffling about in the frosty grass. They didn't want to come back in, either – but in their cases, I could drag them back in by the leash!
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Our ground is saturated, there's standing water all over the place, and our temperatures are down near the freezing mark. Meanwhile, all the plants have decided it's spring, and they're growing like mad – we have hundreds of bulbs growing in our yard, and the thickest blanket of actual grass (instead of weeds) that we've seen in ten years or so. If we get a hard frost (quite possible in the next few days), some of these plants are going to suffer...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
He grasped me firmly, but gently, just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the door and we were alone. He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in a low, reassuring voice, close to my ear.What is she trying to tell me?
"Just relax..." Without warning, he reached down and I felt his strong, calloused hands start at my ankles, gently probing and moving upward along my calves, slowly, but steadily. My breath caught in my throat. I knew I should be afraid, but somehow I didn't care. His touch was so experienced, so sure. When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and I partly closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my abdomen, my ribcage. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands, I inhaled sharply. Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my panties. Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant. This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge. A man not used to taking "no" for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted. A man who would look into my soul and say...
"Okay, ma'am," said a voice. "All done." My eyes snapped open and he was standing in front of me, smiling, holding out my purse. "You can board your flight now."
There's much more to Fred's story, of course. I recommend his book The School That Fell From the Sky; read it and you'll see why I call Fred one of my heroes.
Fred Hargesheimer died on December 23.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Just in time for the holidays, Cassini snapped this closeup of little Rhea, looking a bit like a Christmas tree ornament...
I removed my Congressional experience from my resume. How do I explain the 28-year gap?
Claim you were in prison.
Out with the dogs at 3:20 am, and my old friend Orion hangs just above the southwestern horizon. Another week or two and he'll disappear. The moon was high overhead and very bright, even though it's less than half lit. I could see colors in the yard, and the distant mountains were clearly visible.
The three field spaniels focused on one particular spot alongside our driveway, doing their usual intense olfactory absorption. Today I got down on the ground with them and smelled the same patch of ground. I could only smell the earth and the grass, nothing else. The dogs were fascinated by my joining them; didn't quite know what to make of it.
Race, the border collie, did something quite unusual for him. A neighbor's dog was barking, objecting to our presence. Race got his hackles up, and took off out the gate (unlike the field spaniels, he was off-leash). He ran up the patch of ground between my neighbor's fence and our fence, and headed over to the neighbor's fence to get in his dog's face. Much growling and posturing ensued. With some difficulty I managed to call Race back. Next time, he's going out on the leash.
As we walked back toward the house, I heard the low call of an owl nearby. With some effort (as the calls were very intermittent), I located it – high in one of our eucalyptus trees. I could just barely make out his silhouette against the bright sky; from the size and shape and call, it had to be a barn owl. Be afraid, little mice...
Friday, December 24, 2010
Today, our creeks are running strongly, the moss on all the rocks is bright green, the seeps on the hills are starting to flow (making bright shiny spots on the rocks), the sky is blue and clear, it's cold, the birds are chirping...life is good in Lawson Valley!
And more rain is forecast for this weekend...
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71 and rollin in dough.
Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.
Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Born and bread in Minnesota, Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers.. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half- baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.
Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, three children: John Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.
The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.
Monday, December 20, 2010
If I didn't have dogs and cats, I could walk around the yard barefoot in safety.
My house could be carpeted instead of tiled and laminated.
All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of hair.
When the doorbell rings, it wouldn't sound like a kennel.
When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading through fuzzy bodies who beat me there.
I could sit on the couch and my bed the way I wanted, without taking into consideration how much space several fur bodies would need to get comfortable.
I would have money, and no guilt to go on a real vacation.
I would not be on a first-name basis with 6 veterinarians, as I put their yet unborn grandkids through college.
The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: out, sit, down, come, no, stay, and leave it ALONE.
My house would not be cordoned off into zones with baby gates or barriers.
I would not talk 'baby talk.' 'Eat your din din.' 'Yummy yummy for the tummy'...
My house would not look like a day care center, toys everywhere.
My pockets would not contain things like poop bags, treats and an extra leash.
I would no longer have to spell the words B-A-L-L, W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, O-U-T, G-O, R-I-D-E, C-O-O-K-I-E.
I would not have as many leaves INSIDE my house as outside.
I would not look strangely at people who think having ONE dog/cat ties them down too much.
I'd look forward to Spring and the rainy season instead of dreading 'mud' season.
I would not have to answer the question, 'Why do you have so many animals?', from people who will never have the joy in their lives of knowing they are loved unconditionally by someone as close to an ANGEL as they will ever get.
How EMPTY my life would be!
Some of you will recall that on July 8, 1947, a little over 62 years ago, witnesses claim that an unidentified flying object (UFO) with five aliens aboard crashed onto a sheep and mule ranch just outside Roswell, New Mexico.
This is a well known incident that many say has long been covered up by the U.S. Air Force and other federal agencies and organizations.
However, what you may NOT know is that in the month of April 1948, nine months after that historic day, the following people were born:
Albert A. Gore, Jr.
John F. Kerry
William J. Clinton
Charles E. Schumer
See what happens when aliens breed with sheep and jackasses? I certainly hope this bit of information clears up a lot of things for you.. It did for me.
No wonder they support the bill to help illegal aliens!
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and Maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
This is a common wildflower around these parts, and one of our favorites for its exquisite blue hues. The photo is courtesy of Botany Photo of the Day, which I continue to highly recommend to anyone interested in botany or wildflowers (which are the subject of many of their photos)...
...the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".I suspect Moore is just out to make a buck, and couldn't give a hoot about the truth of his assertions, or consequences of them...
Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."
Sicko investigated healthcare in the US by comparing the for-profit, non-universal US system with the non-profit universal health care systems of other countries, including Cuba, France and the UK.
We need some help catching a red tail fox that has a plastic jar stuck on its head. We found the fox Tuesday night on Lyons Valley Rd by Luck Kid Ranch. He was wondering along the side of the road trying to at a road kill rabbit. On Wednesday, Animal Control came out and found the fox in the canyon just out of reach. They gave us a net catch him and set up a trap but with a jar on its head I don't think it can smell the bait. Animal control called Thursday that the fox was by the Arco on 94 in town. He was reported heading east. Possible back to our original location. If anyone has seen him today or sees him in the next few days please let us know asap. Its going on at least 5 days without water. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Rusty at 619-920-7773Can you help this fox in need? If so, please contact Rusty!
Friday, December 17, 2010
Now the police are saying it looks like homicide.
On Jamul Drive, not far from where Brenden Dallo was killed just a few days ago. I don't know anything more than this news story...
I think I could be forgiven for thinking I'm having some kind of a dream. I'm not sure if it's a nightmare or a good dream, but it surely doesn't seem like something that could happen in the real world!
Some interesting commentary here and here...
Thursday, December 16, 2010
There's a further step I'd love to take. It's been on my “to do” list ever since Don Tarbell showed me his home-brew 8 bit computer back in the late '70s. He didn't start with a microprocessor chip – he started with a blank sheet of paper and a TTL parts catalog. He designed the instruction set, the CPU architecture, and every logic gate in the entire thing. The result was something that would (barely) fit on a table-top, and operated at a speed that would be most unimpressive today – but it was all his design, from the instruction set on up.
I want to do that. And someday, I will.
The 111th Congress began with an $814 billion stimulus that blew out the federal balance sheet, so we suppose it's only fitting that the Members want to exit by passing a 1,924-page, $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill. The worst Congress in modern history is true to its essence to the bitter end.Disgusting, ain't it? Read the whole thing; I promise, you'll be even more disgusted...
Think of this as a political version of the final scene in "Animal House," when the boys from the Delta frat react to their expulsion by busting up the local town parade for the sheer mayhem of it. Bluto Blutarsky (John Belushi) did go on to be a U.S. Senator in the film, and a man of his vision must have earned a seat on Appropriations.
Democrats have had 11 months to write a budget for fiscal 2011, which began on October 1. But Majority Leader Harry Reid and Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye have dumped this trillion-dollar baby on Senators at the very last minute, when everyone is busy and wants to go home for the holidays. No doubt that was the plan. The continuing resolution to fund the government expires on Saturday, so Mr. Reid wants to squeeze Senators against the deadline. And with the press corps preoccupied by the tax debate, the spending bill is greased to slide through with little or no public scrutiny.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes.'
– Mark Twain
I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me.
– General George S. Patton
Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion.
– Norman Schwartzkopf
We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it.
– Marge Simpson
The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee.
– Regis Philbin
The last time the French asked for 'more proof' it came marching into Paris under a German flag.
– David Letterman
War without France would be like ... World War II.
The favorite bumper sticker in Washington D.C.right now is one that says 'First Iraq , then France .'
– Tom Brokaw
What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against Disney World and Big Macs than the Nazis?
– Dennis Miller
It is important to remember that the French have always been there when they needed us.
– Alan Kent
Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day – the description was, 'Never fired. Dropped once.'
– Rep. Roy Blunt, MO
The French will only agree to go to war when we've proven we've found truffles in Iraq.
– Dennis Miller
Q. What did the mayor of Paris say to the German Army as they entered the city in WWII?
A. Table for 100,000 m'sieur?
Do you know how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris ? It's not known, it's never been tried.
– Rep. R. Blount, MO
Do you know it only took Germany three days to conquer France in WWII? And that's because it was raining.
– John Xereas, Manager, DC Improv
French Ban Fireworks at Euro Disney
(AP), Paris , March 5, 2003 The French Government announced today that it is imposing a ban on the use of fireworks at Euro Disney. The decision comes the day after a nightly fireworks display at the park, located just 30 miles outside of Paris, caused the soldiers at a nearby French Army garrison to surrender to a group of Czech tourists.
The French Army's brand new tank has 15 gears in reverse (including overdrive) - and one forward gear (just in case they're attacked from the rear).
If you're interested, the real deal is on sale here, in both paper and electronic form...
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.
A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.
No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'
I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'
The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
A backward poet writes inverse.
In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.
When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
If you jumped off the bridge in Paris , you'd be in Seine .
Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'
Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, 'I've lost my electron.' The other says 'Are you sure?' The first replies,'Yes, I'm positive.'
Judge Hudson's opinion is particularly valuable because it dispatches the White House's carousel of rationalizations for its unprecedented intrusions. The Justice Department argued that the mandate is justified by the Commerce Clause because the decision not to purchase insurance has a substantial effect on interstate commerce because everybody needs medical care eventually. And if not that, then it's permissible under the broader taxing power for the general welfare; and if not that, then it's viable under the Necessary and Proper clause; and if not that, well, it's needed to make the overall regulatory scheme function.The best part so far as I can see is that this ruling is a necessary first step in the inevitable appeals process, so the (first) journey of this legislation to the Supreme Court has begun...
But as Judge Hudson argues, the nut of the case is the Commerce Clause. Justice can't now claim that the mandate is "really" a tax when the bill itself imposes what it calls a "penalty" for failing to buy insurance and says the power to impose the mandate is vested in interstate commerce. Recall that President Obama went on national television during the ObamaCare debate to angrily assert that the mandate "is absolutely not a tax increase."
Moreover, Judge Hudson says that no court has ever "extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market."
Monday, December 13, 2010
Tomorrow morning we should see the peak of this year's Geminid meteor shower. The viewing around here should be close to ideal at my normal morning walk time. The Geminid shower gets its name from the fact that it appears to emerge from the constellation Gemini, above and to the left of Orion as you view the night sky. This morning, Castor and Pollux (the two brightest stars in Gemini) were almost straight overhead at 2:30 am – it doesn't get any better than that for viewing a meteor shower! For any astronomy buffs out there, Castor is a very interesting star system: an optical binary system (easily seen even in binoculars), each member of which is itself spectroscopic binary – and this quadruple star system has a orbiting companion binary system!
This morning, staring at Gemini for a couple of minutes (I didn't time it, so that's approximate), I saw 12 meteors. That works out to a rate of about 360/hour. Some sources are predicting rates tomorrow morning of around 1,000/hour. I hope you have a chance to see this...
Saturday, December 11, 2010
There will be no Nativity Scene in Washington this year!
The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in the United States' Capital this Christmas season.
This isn't for any religious reason. They simply have not been able to find Three Wise Men in the Nation's Capitol.
The search for a Virgin continues.
There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.
Friday, December 10, 2010
A 21-year-old man was killed and his passenger was injured early Friday when their car went off a winding, rural road in Jamul, authorities said.One small consolation: Ms. Hillman is ok.
Branden Dallo was driving a Porsche south on Jamul Drive when he lost control of the car and veered off the shoulder east of Tuk-A-Wile Drive about 2:15 a.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Brian Pennings said.
The Porsche went down a grassy slope and hit several trees and a boulder, Pennings said.
Dallo died in the wreck. His passenger, McKenzie Hillman, 18, was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, Pennings said.
Pennings said there was evidence that Dallo may have been under the influence of alcohol.
Many readers have written to let me know that Branden was the younger brother of Johnny Dallo.
Our sympathy to the family and friends of Branden.
Finally, I hate the catchphrase: “Objects are not enough. We need …” Over the years we have needed frameworks, components, aspects, services (which, curiously, seems to bring us back to procedural programming!).Read the whole thing (and don't miss the comments!)...
Given the fact that objects clearly never were enough, isn’t it odd that they have served us so well over all these years?
It goes without saying that conservatives and liberals don't see the world in the same way. Now, research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests that is exactly, and quite literally, the case.The reason for this hypothesized by the researchers is that conservatives are less likely to be influenced by what other people say or do.
In a new study, UNL researchers measured both liberals' and conservatives' reaction to "gaze cues" -- a person's tendency to shift attention in a direction consistent with another person's eye movements, even if it's irrelevant to their current task -- and found big differences between the two groups.
Liberals responded strongly to the prompts, consistently moving their attention in the direction suggested to them by a face on a computer screen. Conservatives, on the other hand, did not.
Read the whole thing...
Thursday, December 9, 2010
When I was a kid, the best image you could hope for of M81 was a black-and-white smear about the size of a penny. Click to enlarge this beauty, and marvel at what modern technology allows us to see...
Serves 'em right for using Windows.I had no idea that Dunn is a geek.
This is right in the middle of an excellent article about the Stuxnet worm and the WikiLeaks cable dumps as examples of modern warfare. Well worth reading the whole thing...
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
On the one hand the compromise is very good for me personally; my taxes would be thousands of dollars lower next year if it passes. On the other hand, continuing the deficit spending is clearly a bad thing for the country, and will come back to bite us one of these days – in ways that will probably be bad for me personally.
This tax compromise is really just more politics-as-usual. While it solves a problem about to smack us all upside the head in a few weeks, it does absolutely nothing to address the fundamental problem (federal spending exceeding federal taxes), and in fact makes it worse (reducing taxes while not changing spending). So I'm having a hard time getting excited by this.
It sure would be nice to have a problem-solver go to work over there in D.C...
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I don't miss the paper format at all. The convenience and portability of the Kindle far outweigh any aesthetic loss.
Having an entire library (over 300 books now) that I can carry around means that I now find myself much more easily jumping around from book-to-book, reading what suits my mood and mental state.
The dictionary and word look-up facility built into the Kindle has me now doing something I did decades ago, but stopped: looking up every word I don't know. The only ways Amazon could make this feature any better would be to (a) speed it up (it now takes 10 seconds or so to look up a word) and to (b) switch to the O.E.D. as the dictionary (“antique” words are often not in the Merriam dictionary included, and I read enough older literature for this to be annoying).
The fact that I can download and read copyright-free books at no cost has me exploring all sorts of books that I'd probably never buy. For example, I've just finished rereading Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift), which I last read in my twenties. I've also reread all of Jules Vernes' works that were translated to English, and I'm starting on Charles Dickens (many of which I've never read).
I'm also buying books that I might not have purchased on paper, because of the cost differential. For example, I recently purchased Decision Points (George W. Bush), and read it. I'm glad I did – I rather liked the book (something I didn't expect), and it clarified something for me: that the essential thing I liked about Bush as President had nothing to do with his competence, but rather his decency and humility. In this respect, the contrast with the current President couldn't be more stark...
There is little evidence to suggest that the newest TSA procedures will be effective at reducing terrorism. Indeed, security expert Bruce Schneier stated unequivocally that nothing that can conceivably be done to stop a well-financed al-Qaeda-like plot from materializing — once terrorist plotters have made it to the airport, it’s already too late to stop them. Against “lone-wolf” amateur forms of terrorism, upper-level intelligence agencies and pre-Sept. 11 technologies has consistently proven effective at neutralizing the threat.Read the whole thing...
Nevertheless, the TSA continues to advocate a model of security based upon overreaction. Ineffectual peripheral threats relating to liquid explosives, shoe bombs or printer cartridges coincide with rapid changes to the terrorist alert level (as if the risk of terrorism increases after a failed plot!) and reactionary modifications to security protocol, resulting in the loss of millions in governmental revenue, inconvenience for passengers and the abatement of fundamental liberty.
The fundamental problem is that terrorism is innovative while TSA policy is reactive. The TSA modifies its protocol on the basis of terrorist plots that have already happened, while an intelligent terrorist knows not to duplicate the failed efforts of past terrorists.
Security expert, Bruce Schneier, noted that international terrorists have already started smuggling weapons through body cavities, which can’t be detected through either x-rays or pat-downs, instantly rendering both our new procedures useless.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Does anyone really believe that Americans, if given a choice between intimate patdowns and Israel-style interviews, would choose being groped?Go read the whole thing.
The bottom line is that Israel’s methods work. Instead of having ill-trained TSA agents search for bad things, have well-trained agents search for bad people. Profile by behavior and circumstance (cash ticket, one-way trip, etc.), and leave most of us alone. Compile accurate no-fly lists. Heed credible warnings. Ignore political correctness.
Instead, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano reportedly has two more Bright Ideas: unionizing TSA employees and special reduced screening for Muslims in traditional garb. The former, rejected when the Department of Homeland Security was established, would make it harder to fire incompetent employees. The latter would have the unintended impact of so enraging most Americans that they will insist lawmakers make TSA apply uniform rules.
Israel’s skies have been friendly for 42 years. Not a bad record. We should learn from it.
Friday, December 3, 2010
If you've been following the fascinating discoveries Cassini has been making about Enceladus, then you know that this moon is one of the most fascinating and surprising objects in our solar system. The jets visible so clearly in this photo are primarily composed of water – and the simple existence of that water is perhaps the most surprising finding of all the many surprises from Enceladus.
Cassini has now been making steady, amazing contributions to science for over five years. It's still going strong, though getting closer and closer to its end of life. The scientists are directing it now to missions that would have been deemed too risky earlier in its mission, such as this very close pass to Enceladus.
More Cassinis, please, NASA.
U.S. Marines – Travel Agents To Allah
When In Doubt, Empty The Magazine
The Marine Corps – When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be Destroyed Overnight
Death Smiles At Everyone – Marines Smile Back
Marine Sniper – You can run, but you'll just die tired!
What Do I Feel When I Kill A Terrorist? Just a little recoil..."
Marines – Providing Enemies of America an Opportunity To Die For their Country Since 1775
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Anyone Who Threatens It
Happiness Is A Belt-Fed Weapon
It's God's Job to Forgive Bin Laden – It's Our Job To Arrange The Meeting
Artillery Brings Dignity to What Would Otherwise Be Just A Brawl
Machine Gunners – Accuracy by Volume
A Dead Enemy Is A Peaceful Enemy – Blessed Be The Peacemakers
Except For Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, WAR has Never Solved Anything.
The Four CatsI hope my mom thought of us because of the cat theme, and not because she thinks we want to be government employees!
Four men were bragging about how smart their cats were. The first man was an engineer, the second man was an accountant, the third man was a chemist, and the fourth man was a government employee.
To show off, the engineer called to his cat, "T-square, do your stuff."
T-square pranced over to the desk, took out some paper and pen and promptly drew a circle, a square, and a triangle.
Everyone agreed that was pretty smart.
But the accountant said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, "Spreadsheet, do your stuff."
Spreadsheet went out to the kitchen and returned with a dozen cookies. He divided them into 4 equal piles of 3 cookies.
Everyone agreed that was good.
But the chemist said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, "Measure, do your stuff."
Measure got up, walked to the fridge, took out a quart of milk, got a 10 ounce glass from the cupboard and poured exactly 8 ounces, without spilling a drop, into the glass.
Everyone agreed that was pretty good.
Then the three men turned to the government employee and said, "What can your cat do?" The government employee called his cat and said, "Coffee Break, do your stuff."
Coffee Break jumped to his feet...
Ate the cookies...
Drank the milk...
Crapped on the paper...
Screwed the other three cats...
Claimed he injured his back while doing so.
Filed a grievance report for unsafe working conditions...
Put in for Worker's Compensation...and went home for the rest of the day on sick leave.
AND THAT, MY FRIEND, IS WHY EVERYONE WANTS TO WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT!
Though the article focuses on medical science, Doug points out that what it says is obviously applicable far more broadly – such as to climate research. I read the article with that thought in mind, and this passage jumped out at me:
Though scientists and science journalists are constantly talking up the value of the peer-review process, researchers admit among themselves that biased, erroneous, and even blatantly fraudulent studies easily slip through it. Nature, the grande dame of science journals, stated in a 2006 editorial, “Scientists understand that peer review per se provides only a minimal assurance of quality, and that the public conception of peer review as a stamp of authentication is far from the truth.” What’s more, the peer-review process often pressures researchers to shy away from striking out in genuinely new directions, and instead to build on the findings of their colleagues (that is, their potential reviewers) in ways that only seem like breakthroughs—as with the exciting-sounding gene linkages (autism genes identified!) and nutritional findings (olive oil lowers blood pressure!) that are really just dubious and conflicting variations on a theme.These are exactly the points that many AGW skeptics make about the IPCC reports and much of the “settled science” of climatology, and the reaction (both by the scientists and the press) is exactly as described.
Most journal editors don’t even claim to protect against the problems that plague these studies. University and government research overseers rarely step in to directly enforce research quality, and when they do, the science community goes ballistic over the outside interference. The ultimate protection against research error and bias is supposed to come from the way scientists constantly retest each other’s results—except they don’t. Only the most prominent findings are likely to be put to the test, because there’s likely to be publication payoff in firming up the proof, or contradicting it.
The overall conclusion is that science is a messy, error-filled process that nonetheless drifts in the general direction of increasing truth and knowledge. I'd argue that skepticism is an essential part of the scientific process, in particular helping with the direction of the drift...
I have never claimed to be perfect. If that makes me the "worst person in the world" to Mr. Olbermann, then I must apologize for not being absolutely faultless like he undoubtedly must be.Definitely read the whole (short) thing.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
New York Times editors, as cited in James Taranto's Best of the Web Today column at WSJ.com, Nov. 29:The original Best of the Web Today article.
"The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."—New York Times, on the Climategate emails, Nov. 20, 2009.
"The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. . . . The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."—New York Times, on the WikiLeaks documents, Nov. 29, 2010.
It's been over 20 years since I last read the New York Times regularly. This is a good example of why.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
In the grand scheme of prayer requests, theirs seemed fairly simple.The rest of the story...
Dave and Melanie Stieglitz were asking for friends at their church to pray for the youngest of their three daughters, the one who was born with Down syndrome. Not that they wanted God to change anything about her. To the contrary, they were hoping, praying, to change those around her. Specifically to change her classmates at Fletcher High School. Not all 2,000 of them. Just one.
God, they asked, send a friend to Cara.
Someone to sit with her at lunch.
At the time, Cara Stieglitz was 14 years old, a Fletcher freshman. And if you had wandered into the school and, just at a glance, tried to pick who was least likely to be named homecoming queen, you might have pointed at the girl who was eating by herself.
"As a parent, that pulls at your heart," Melanie Stieglitz said of picturing her daughter sitting alone.
So every Tuesday, she went to school and ate lunch with Cara. And on Sundays, they prayed that someone else would join her.
They never imagined that four years later Cara would be standing on a football field, wearing a purple dress that she and her mother picked out for homecoming. The court already had been narrowed from more than 80 nominees to 10 boys and 10 girls. One by one, the runners-up were announced. Then the king.
Jesse Hughes fits the traditional mold of a homecoming king. Star basketball player, 4.2 grade point average, good-looking, popular. He was the nominee of the senior class.
But the queen ...
Several television stations were there that night, so you may have seen video of the moment. The queen leaping up and down, her grin making the king's grin grow even bigger. Everyone in the stands on their feet. Parents dabbing their eyes. And not just Cara's parents.
The king said his mom was crying.
"And not for me," he said with a laugh.
So beyond prayer, how did this happen? How did Fletcher High become the scene of a story that feels almost too good to be true, like something straight out of a movie script? How did Cara go from sitting by herself in the lunchroom to standing by herself on the football field, the crowd cheering as the time-honored symbol of high school popularity was placed onto her head?
This is Cara's story. But it is also her classmates' story.
Original post: Reader Kathy reports that they have found a dog wandering about. From her email to me:
We found a dog tonight about 4 PM wandering on Lyons Valley Rd near Jamul Intermediate. He was scared and was almost hit several times. He looks like a young Rotweiler. He has a collar, but no tags. He is a sweet dog, but really wants to go home. Our phone number is 669-2923.Does this sound like any dog you know? If so, please give Kathy a call. Meanwhile, I'll see if she can supply a photo...
I remember vividly the science fiction stories of my youth, wherein the authors could plausibly posit that the two satellites of Mars were not of natural origin, but were (depending on the story) either remnants of Martian civilizations, remnants of prior Earth civilizations, or artifacts of alien civilizations. They could do this because we knew so little about these tiny little moons. Now all those lovely story lines are destroyed because of sharp photos like this – but now we've got an even more intriguing series of questions and mysteries!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
We walked out into a clear, cold night. The stars were bright overhead, with Orion high in the southern sky and the waning moon hanging low in the east. Despite the moonshine (bright enough to walk in, and to leave shadows), the Milky Way was clearly visible.
Also visible were some meteors, “shooting stars”. There's no predicted meteor shower on this date, so these were just randomly occurring – probably the remnants of a small comet or asteriod collision debris. Over the course of around five minutes I counted 14 meteors; one of them a very bright one with a visible smoky trail in the moonlight.
Just as we turned around to head back into the house, a pack of coyotes starting their eerie howling on the hill opposite us, roughly 400 yards (meters) from where we stood. The three field spaniels took little notice – just a couple glances toward the hill, and then they went back to their important work of snuffling up every wisp of odor along our track. Race, the border collie, went on full alert. He stood up straight and tall, hackles up, directly facing that distant hill and his distant relatives making such a racket. For 30 seconds or so I couldn't budge him – it was as if he had turned to stone and I was trying to move a ten ton sculpture. But then with no warning he decided that there was no immediate danger, and went back to playing with a pine cone – dropping it on the ground in front of me so I would kick it for him to chase.
When I'm playing with the dogs like this, I often wish it was as easy to motivate and lead people as it is to lead my dogs. I can easily get Race to go anywhere I want him to go – I just have to throw a pine cone in that general direction. The field spaniels would follow me into the fires of hell if I promised them a dog biscuit. Employees are ever so much more difficult...
Monday, November 29, 2010
This was the setup when the fun began.
It started with Miki at about 1 am, who decided to crawl up the length of my body, snuffling right into my face, his tail wagging like mad. You could almost hear him saying “Get up! Get up! It's time to play!” Then Race decided he was jealous of the attention Miki was getting, and he started nipping playfully at Miki, and generally getting rowdy. This was more than Maka Lea could take, so he started acting all grumpy – whacking away at any passing limb.
Debbie and I gave up any hope of sleeping until some reasonable hour (like 3 am). We turned on the light and saw Maka Lea blinking furiously, and still grumpy. We hissed at Race, which always gets him frantically playful, trying to kiss our faces to make us stop hissing (we have no idea why he does this!). Miki left in disgust, then came back because he was jealous of the attention being paid to Race.
Mo'i just slept through it all, even when Miki and Race stepped on him. That's our Mo'i...
We got up.
Combat trials of this weapon system have begun, and the initial reports are very positive. The weapon is at least as effective as advertised, and is unexpectedly easy for our troops to pick up and use.
The Taliban just got some bad news.
The video below explains how the XM25 works, and here's more information.
...Stanford University’s William (Bill) Sharpe, 1990 Nobel Laureate economist and professor emeritus of finance at the Graduate School of Business. Sharpe drew a large and enthusiastic audience, which he could have wowed with a PowerPoint presentation on his “gradient method for asset allocation optimization” or his “returns-based style analysis for evaluating the performance of investment funds.” But he spared the young geniuses all that complexity and offered a simple formula instead. “Don’t try to beat the market,” he said. Put your savings into some indexed mutual funds, which will make you just as much money (if not more) at much less cost by following the market’s natural ebb and flow...The same advice was delivered by multiple investment experts. For about ten years now, it's what I've been doing (though I'm using ETFs instead of mutual funds, but same idea). I'm happy with the results. I know lots of people who are not happy with the results of their attempts to beat the market...
...But if you think TSA is dysfunctional and unpopular now, wait until it unionizes. This month, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that 50,000 TSA personnel will be allowed to vote on whether or not to join a union with full collective bargaining rights. The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union are already gearing up their campaigns to win over the screeners.Read the whole thing...
After 9/11, Congress wisely decided to forbid TSA employees from coming under union work rules out of fear that it could compromise security. Imagine if every change in procedures had to be cleared with union shop stewards. While it is not easy to fire TSA personnel now, just think how difficult it will be to remove bad employees if they are covered by union job protection agreements...
Sunday, November 28, 2010
A burglar broke into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables when a voice in the dark said "Jesus knows you're here."Parrot 1.
He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze. When he heard nothing more, after a bit, he shook his head and continued. Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard "Jesus is watching you"'
Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot.
"Did you say that?" he hissed at the parrot.
"Yep", the parrot confessed, then squawked, "I'm just trying to warn you that he is watching you."
The burglar relaxed. "Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you?"
"Moses," replied the bird.
"Moses?" the burglar laughed. "What kind of people would name a bird Moses?"
"The kind of people that would name a Rottweiler Jesus."
So it was the perfect day for soup. Debbie and I made tlapeno, a clear-broth Mexican chicken soup with garbanzo beans, carrots, potatoes, and rice. The broth is flavored with smoked chipotle peppers, and we serve it with a topping of cubed avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, and thinly sliced green onions. For ours, we substituted turkey meat and homemade turkey stock. Wonderful stuff!
We had fun making it, too – not least because of the assistance of our four-strong canine cleanup crew. For example, as I was preparing the carrots, the dogs ate the carrot ends I cut off before they could hit the floor. They didn't like the potato peels very well, but just about everything else was a hit – even the cilantro!
Yesterday the day was so lovely that we changed our plans and headed up for one of our favorite drives: forest road 14S05 from Pine Valley to Laguna Mountain. This one-lane paved road starts off in some of the prettiest sagebrush country around, and wends up over a few miles through various chaparral and riparian scenes, including a square mile or so of ground-cover manzanita that are only a couple of feet tall. Eventually it ends up in the pine forests of Laguna's heights.
Before we turned onto 14S05, though, we checked to see if Frosty Burger in Pine Valley was open. And it was! That meant we could enjoy a treat: the best fish sandwiches we've ever found in San Diego, along with the best french fries. Frosty Burger is a little mom-and-pop shop that makes great old-fashioned fast food: burgers, shakes (including malts), french fries – and an unreasonably good fish sandwich made with cod. Yum!
By the time we got home, we weren't hungry enough to make a meal. But we had previously purchased a pint of beautiful blackberries. So I whipped up a zabaglione sauce (about 5 minutes work if you've never done it, and a first-class dessert) and we had zabaglione sauce over those luscious blackberries. Good enough to make your brains fall out!
The zabaglione recipe calls for four egg yolks, which meant we had four leftover egg whites. What to do with them? Why, whip them together with a little heavy cream and some nutmeg, and you've got the best dog treat ever invented! I did that, poured it into the dog dishes, and stood back to watch four dogs try to inhale their treat. Happy dogs!
Friday, November 26, 2010
Later we drove up to Laguna Mountain. There we saw something quite unexpected, and very difficult to capture in a photograph – the trees and bushes were covered in a thin layer (about 1/8", or 3mm) of ice that was as transparent as lead crystal glass. What really made this stand out is that the northern flanks of Laguna Mountain all burned three years ago, and there are vast stands of the trunks and branches of burnt, dead trees and shrubs. These were all coated with ice – and they were backlit by the early morning sun as we drove south on the Sunrise Highway. The result was large shiny patches and stripes all over the mountains and hills.
We finished our drive by about 10 am, and now we were hungry. Debbie made some delicious buckwheat pancakes (from 100% buckwheat flour, easy to buy on the Internet these days). We slopped some excellent maple syrup on them and had ourselves a grand breakfast. Later in the day, when we once again got hungry, we made ourselves a real treat: pan-fried eastern scallops (just butter and garlic – yum!), a casserole-like accompaniment made with bell peppers, mushrooms, sharp cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, and milk, and rice.
The rest of the day we just relaxed, had a little wine, and were generally lazy and useless. A wonderful day!
A few more photos from our drive: