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:
Many folks are skeptical of the benefits of all-electric vehicles. In fact, there are very good reasons to wonder about the wisdom of producing them at all. This debate is completely overshadowed, however, by the loud support that all-electric vehicles get from the usual suspects in the environmental wacko world, and from the Obama adminstration and their lapdog lamestream media.
So what's the actual truth here? Warren Meyer, of Coyoteblog fame, has an excellent analysis in the current issue of Forbes. If you're curious (and you should be, as your tax dollars are subsidizing GM's Volt), read it and understand...
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The “movie” below shows graphically which parts of the country voted for Republicans (red) and for Democrats (blue). The saturation of the color represents the degree of dominance. The movie starts around 1920 and ends in 2008. It would be interesting indeed to see this movie extended to include the 2010 elections!
Well, anyone even modestly acquainted with the history of science knows that there are many, many examples of “settled science” (using the notion described above to define the term) that turned out later to be bogus. One of my favorite examples is from geology, where in my lifetime the theory of plate tectonics completely overturned the “settled science” of stationary continents.
This morning I came across a delightful list of such examples. Many of the entries were reminders for me, such as the relatively recent discovery that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria (but the previous “settled science” attributed them to stress). Many other entries were entirely new to me. The simple existence of this (eminently verifiable) list is a wonderful refutation of the AGW proponents notion of “settled science” – and a reminder of the permanent importance of skepticism to science...
It is amazing just how wet a dog can get on a five minute walk! You'd think our mutts had been swimming...
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
If you listen to the Arabs and Iranians today, you can't help but realize that 62 years later, this could happen again...
Monday, November 22, 2010
So she gets a little special treatment now and then, and I make sure to pay attention to her each morning. Over the weekend, Debbie had the other three dogs at an agility meet (where they took 3 first places and 1 second place) – so Lea was home with me with no dogly companions. I made her a treat that she really enjoyed: I broke up a couple pieces of bread into small pieces, soaked them in milk, and warmed up the resulting concoction. Dog heaven! She dug into that with much more gusto than she normally expends on her food. It was obvious how much she enjoyed that treat. Sure felt good to make our old girl so happy...
Sunday, November 21, 2010
While traveling home from Houston on Friday night, I witnessed some of the TSA behavior that so many Americans find objectionable. As I was waiting in the security line, I watched a female TSA agent “pat down” a sweet little old lady (Caucasian, appearing to be in her 70s, speaking with a pronounced Texas drawl) who was absolutely mortified. “Pat down” is in quotes because you and I would have called it groping and fondling. At precisely the same time, a group of four men in their 20s and 30s, dressed in Arab garb, walked through the adjacent metal detector. They gawked at the little old lady being groped while they walked out of security with no other checks. I discovered later that the four young men were Yemeni – and if you're paying attention to the news, you know that Yemen is a hot spot of terrorist activity.
On what planet does this behavior make sense? Only on Planet Progressive, where political correctness trumps security every time...
By the way... Do you know how many terrorists the TSA has caught in their airport screening, in all they years they've been irritating us? Zero. That's right – zero. Not one. Nada. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent, and the only success they've had is in cowing the American public.
Time for them to go. Let's subcontract our airport security to the Israelis!
This is liberalism's real strength. It is no longer susceptible to reductio ad absurdium arguments. Before you can come up with a comical take on their worldview, some college professor has already written an article advancing the idea.She's the very definition of “pithy conservative”...
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
This led me to thinking about Israeli airport security, which I've experienced first hand. They manage to accomplish two things that the TSA fails miserably at: (1) they actually add real security to their airports, and (2) they minimally inconvenience the innocent travelers. How do they do this? Well, here's a good summary. Why don't we do the same thing here? Damn good question. Our progressive ninnies would have some problems with the overt profiling, but surely that can't be the entire explanation. Another such factor must be the general ignorance of the American public with respect to the efficacy of the current security measures (many people believe they actually do something useful). My instinct is to follow the money. Where's teh money? It's in the inspection machines and in the TSA infrastructure. I'd be willing to bet that there's a money trail between those two things and the politicians who put it all in motion.
A housecleaning is in order, I think. Probably something drastic is required, like disbanding the TSA entirely, and putting the entire effort back into the airlines' hands, like it used to be...
Monday, November 15, 2010
Her political clarity and ever-present common sense are a wonderful tonic for the politically disenchanted. In that sense, the Palin phenomena reminds me of another in my lifetime: Ronald Reagan's rise to the national political stage.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The subject came up about a recent, horrendous crime where a bunch of hooligans in a middle school classroom literally stoned and beat up their teacher during class. Then those same thugs went outside and destroyed her car.This is a great example of the stark cognitive disjoint between progressives and non-progressives. I don't know anyone who would respond to this story in a non-polarized way; you either think like a progressive (like Robin's colleague) or you don't...
My colleague insisted that the youth beat their teacher to a bloody pulp because they were victims of racism. I said that they were a bunch of sociopaths who should be punished to the full extent of the law. We never spoke again, and I dropped out of the group. Since then I’ve realized it’s better if I keep my unpopular views to myself (or just share them with readers like you!). It’s a waste of time and energy to educate people who are that deluded (which is pretty much everyone in Berkeley, Oakland, etc.).
So I do my own thing and spend a lot of time chatting online with new conservative friends. It can be hard for me at times. But I try to remember what the Buddha said, “Loneliness is better than the company of fools.”
Here's a new approach to the problem, from MIT labs...
Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.
The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups:
Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.
Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to BBQ at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement...
Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly BBQ's and doing the sewing, fetching, and making art. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement.
Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. They became known as girlie-men. Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.
Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass for obvious reasons.
Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare..
Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.
Conservatives drink domestic beer, mostly Bud or Miller. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, engineers, corporate executives, athletes, members of the military, airline pilots and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.
Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America . They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves.That was said by Calvin Coolidge in 1924. Where's Cal when we need him?
I want them to have the rewards of their own industry - this is the chief meaning of freedom.
Until we can reestablish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtailment of our liberty.
These results are not fanciful, they are not imaginary, they are grimly actual, and real, reaching into every household in the land. They take from each home annually an average of over $300.00, and taxes must be paid. They are not a voluntary contribution to be met out of surplus earnings. They are a stern necessity. They come first.
It is only out of what is left, after they are paid, that the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter can be provided and the comforts of home secured, or the yearnings of the soul for a broader and more abundant life gratified.
When the government affects a new economy, it grants everybody a life pension with which to raise the standards of existence. It increases the value of everybody's property, raises the scale of everybody's wages.
One of the greatest favors that can be bestowed on the American people is economy in government.
Well, apparently not!
Very, very cool, guys...
We've tried to help you, California. Some spent millions on campaigns to entice you to change your reckless behavior. And you told them to kick rocks.Is it time to leave, before the place turns into another Detroit?
So here's our final warning: When you inevitably crash and burn, don't count on us to bail you out.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
As you may know, Mr. Hitchens was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He's fighting it with every means at his disposal, but nonetheless his prognosis is not good; esophageal cancer is a nasty one. But he's still writing, perhaps even more than usual – and he's writing (and talking) prolifically about what it's like to have terminal cancer. I've read every one of these I ran across, and each time came away impressed by both Hitchens' insight and the strength of his character. Here's a typical example: a compelling piece in Vanity Fair on what it's like for a cancer victim to deal with other people who know about his illness.
I hope that fate deals Mr. Hitchens the hand of a winner, and that he survives his battle against the Big C. The world could use a bit more of his forthright and blunt style, whatever side of whatever point he may be arguing. And we could certainly use more such admirable public figures...
Saturday, November 6, 2010
The meaning of the 2010 election was rebuke, reject, and repeal. We rebuked Washington’s power grab, rejected this unwanted “fundamental transformation of America,” and began the process to repeal the dangerous policies inflicted on us. But this theme will only complement the theme of 2012, which is renew, revive, and restore. In 2012, we need to renew our optimistic, pioneering spirit, revive our free-market system, and restore constitutional limits and our standing in the world as the abiding beacon of freedom.Written by Sarah Palin in the National Review. You know Sarah – she's that woman whose intellect the left (and half the right) loves to despise.
That ability to communicate a conservative message so clearly...does that remind you of anyone???
The dark blue line represents the unemployment levels then-candidate Obama confidently predicted would result from his stimulus plan. The light-blue line is what he predicted would result if his stimulus plan wasn't passed.
His plan was passed and is now being played out.
The red dotted line are the “actual” unemployment numbers. Note that they are worse than what he said would have happened if we didn't pass his plan. So if we buy his own logic, his plan made the unemployment worse, not better.
The teal dotted line is Timmy Geithner's current forecast for unemployment – still at 8% for the 2012 campaign. That can't make his boss too happy.
And naturally, since these numbers are provided by the government, they are significantly “cooked” through many “adjustments” (this is not an Obama innovation; this has been going on for decades). The worst of these is simply leaving out all those people who have been unemployed longer than six months (and that's a lot of people!). The convenient, but clearly incorrect, assumption is that these people have given up looking for work. Depending on which source you choose to believe, including these people would add between 8 and 12 percentage points to the government-published numbers, making the real unemployment rate somewhere between 17% to 21%.
The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a long-standing joke paid for largely by U.S. taxpayers. Current members include such exemplary human rights examples as Iran, Cuba, Libya, and North Korea. Until Obama's administration, basically the U.S. held its nose, forked over its share of the payment, and studiously ignored the UNHRC.
But the Obama administration decided to be more participatory, sending three State Department representatives to be grilled by the UNHRC on questions about the U.S.'s human rights performance. Naturally, the UNHRC members gleefully took the opportunity so stupidly provided, lecturing the U.S. representatives. For example, the North Korean representative told the U.S. “to address inequalities in housing, employment and education”, and to “prohibit brutality…by law enforcement officials.”
But it got worse. After three hours of such treatment, Michael Posner (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor) said “thanks to very many of the delegations for thoughtful comments and suggestions”.
I'm sure the UNHRC members have greatly increased respect for the U.S. after this experience...
Friday, November 5, 2010
Just talked to like the hundredth Service-Now customer gushing about how awesome that company is. It's freaky. Need to find some angry ones.Our customers love our product and they love our company. Both of those things are conscious objectives, and striving for them is deeply engrained in the company's culture. We worked hard, in effect, to get that tweet!
Here is an old tradition badly in need of return: You have to earn your way into politics. You should go have a life, build a string of accomplishments, then enter public service. And you need actual talent: You have to be able to bring people in and along. You can't just bully them, you can't just assert and taunt, you have to be able to persuade.
Americans don't want, as their representatives, people who seem empty or crazy. They'll vote no on that.
It's not just the message, it's the messenger.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
But wait...it gets even better. The Democrats lost big time in state races: governorships and legislatures. This bodes well for the 2012 election, and has a long-term impact for a reason many people don't know about: the redistricting that will happen over the next two years because of the 2010 census. In most states, some combination of the governor and the state legislature control redistricting (aka gerrymandering). Many fewer such redistrictings will be controlled by Democrats, thanks to this election.
So then why am I not feeling terminally cheerful this morning?
Well, for starters, there were some big disappointments from across the country, Democrats who kept or won their seats even in this year of the rebellious electorate: Reid, Boxer, Frank, Dingell, Coons, Blumenthal, Manchin, Hanabusa, Brown, and so on. Some of these were wins against the, er, less plausible opposition (Angle, O'Donnell, etc.), but still...big disappointments. For example, I don't understand how Frank could win if he were running against Attila the Hun, resurrected by genetic engineering miracles...and yet he did.
Another source of disappointment: even though I knew the odds were agin me, I still held out hope for a Democrat trouncing of epic proportions. Specifically, an even bigger loss in the House, and loss of the Senate as well. And most especially, the loss of those safely ensconced Democrat “icons” that so visibly represented the Obama agenda (Reid, Pelosi, Frank, etc.). We didn't get that epic trouncing.
But the major cause for my disappointment is closer to home. California appears to have mostly opted out of the anti-Democrat electoral rebellion. Boxer beat Fiorina. Brown (Governor Moonbeam, for god's sake, folks!) beat Whitman. Pelosi won her seat with 80% of the vote. In any just world, surely there are only two votes Pelosi should have been able to count on: hers and her husband's. And I'm not too sure about his. The proposition to defer our state cap-and-trade system went down in flames. Bottom line, the wackos overwhelmingly won here in California.
So, a mixed reaction to the election, though logically I should be turning cartwheels. Debbie and I will continue carefully reading the tea leaves to see if we will end up staying in California, or leaving for less demented territory. We're not considering leaving anytime soon, mind you; this is more a long-range planning exercise. One thing that occurred to me as I mulled over the impact of this election on California: the results make it substantially more likely that California will need a federal bailout of some kind – and at the same time make it less likely that the U.S. Congress will be receptive to the idea. This is a recipe for Golden State fiscal disaster, and in the not-too-distant future, too...
The wind was shrieking through the trees, warm and dry. The forecast is for a mild Santa Ana wind today, with temperatures approaching 100°F. Somehow it seems fitting for this wind to appear right after the election, given the results from California...
But I digress. The sky was clear and moonless, and the Milky Way was the most prominent feature. I feasted my eyes on it. The dogs didn't like the dry wind at all; they were all eager to get back into the house. No crickets or frogs were in evidence; I imagine them all cowering in the deepest recesses of their burrow-bunkers, fearing what the wind might turn into. This year, given the earlier rains, the risk of wildfire is very low. Not non-existant, but low.
I'm in a funny mood, simultaneously cheered by the repudiation of the Democrats, but profoundly disappointed by some of the individual results...
Tuesday, November 2, 2010