Thursday, August 30, 2012

The GIMP Goes Native...

If you're an amateur photographer who likes to edit your photos, but you don't want to pay for PhotoShop, then you may already be familiar with the GIMP – a capable photo editor that is free, open source software.  It's available for many platforms, including the Mac – but until now it has always required the X11 system to be running on the Mac.

Well, now the GIMP has gone native – you can download a .dmg file that installs a version of GIMP that runs natively on OS/X.  Yes, it includes both single- and multi-window views.  No more X11 and it's associated oddnesses.  Just native OS/X application goodness!

Quite a Night...

It was quite a night at the Republican National Convention – a whole series of speakers with only one sour note (McCain) amongst them.  Several of the speeches were excellent: Condoleeza Rice, Susana Martinez, Mike Huckabee, and (most especially) Paul Ryan. 

At this point in my life, political speeches rarely arouse emotions in me – I'm too busy thinking about what was just said, or (more commonly) not said.  I watch out for weasel words and empty, unfulfillable promises.  Ryan's speech got to me; somewhere along the line I lost my detatchment and got immersed in the speech, transfixed.  This man is giving me hope that real policy change might be possible...

Ryan's speech had many great moments. One of my favorite was this one:
College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.
That's just perfect. A not-so-subtle jab at Obama and an invitation to young voters, all in single, memorable sentence. “...fading Obama posters” instantly brought an image to mind that will endure.

Then there was this:
None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.

Listen to the way we’re spoken to already, as if everyone is stuck in some class or station in life, victims of circumstances beyond our control, with government there to help us cope with our fate.

It’s the exact opposite of everything I learned growing up in Wisconsin, or at college in Ohio. When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.
That's an articulation of a big idea – freedom – into a political fight where the conventional wisdom is that big ideas don't play, don't work.  Well, this one works for me, and I hope it works well in this campaign.  If the Romney/Ryan campaign uses big ideas to win the White House, that's got the potential to change the way future presidents campaign.  In a good way, a very good way.

Ann Althouse summed up her reaction to Ryan's speech this way:
Ryan did a brilliant job. It was much more than a fine speech and an excellent delivery. He embodied that speech. We saw a brilliant candidate.
I agree completely.  Neo-neocon, writing about Ryan's speech, said this:
If I were Obama, I’d be feeling just a litle bit shaky now—even if I were a narcissist. Or maybe especially if I were a narcissist.
You'd think. But I'd bet not.

In general, both news and blogs sites are reacting very positively to Ryan's speech – even in some quarters where you'd expect reflexive critique (like, say, MSNBC).  It's hard to imagine how Ryan could have done any better...

If you're one of the majority who didn't watch Paul Ryan's speech, you can find both video and transcript here.

Obama Sends Us Another Message...

...by the way he “honors” fallen soldiers.  A form letter signed by a robo-pen.  Shameful...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nurses Aren't Supposed to Laugh...

Via reader George P.:
"Of course I won't laugh," said the nurse. "I'm a professional. In over twenty years I've never laughed at a patient."

"Okay then," said Fred, and he proceeded to drop his trousers, revealing the tiniest 'man thingy' the nurse had ever seen.

Length and width, it couldn't have been bigger than a AAA battery. Unable to control herself, the nurse started giggling, then fell to the floor laughing.

Five minutes later she was able to struggle to her feet and regain her composure.

"I am so sorry," she said. "I don't know what came over me. On my honor as a nurse and a lady, I promise it won't happen again. Now, tell me, what seems to be the problem?"

"It's swollen," Fred replied.

She ran out of the room.

Just When I Feel a Glimmer of Hope...

...a news story like this one comes along, and crushes that hope like an elephant stomping on an ant.

I don't want to believe that any public official could be that stupid – but this story is multiply-sourced and appears to be completely accurate.  This does not bode well for my country's future...

Stargazer-in-Chief...

When Neil Armstrong passed away, the Obama administration noted the event by issuing a press release with the photo at right – a photo of Obama.  Many, myself included, noted the all-too-typical narcissistic move as yet another in a long series of such self-centered and off-putting moves.

Iowahawk went further.  He snagged a special guest commentary by our stargazer-in-chief.  It's full of classic lines like this one:
But in our shared moment of grief, let us also celebrate his historic accomplishment in becoming the first astronaut eulogized by me, Barack Obama, our nation's historic first African-American president.
It's by Iowahawk, so you know it's satire...and yet, it sounds so real!

Go read the whole thing (it's short), but put down your hot morning beverage first...

Mr. Scam Man...


Interesting Speeches at the RNC Convention...

Artur Davis, Ann Romney, and Chris Christie all gave excellent speeches at the first night of the RNC convention last night.  Artur Davis' speech wasn't carried on most TV channels, so I've posted it below.

I thought all three of them were very effective, each in their own way.  Ann Romney's speech was notable for simultaneously being a very effective political speech, but not sounding like a political speech.  Chris Christie's “hard truths” and “second American century” were but just a couple of the excellent rhetorical devices he deployed.  Another was “Leaders don't read polls – leaders change polls!” – that's one that could be used to describe him.  Artur Davis provided a compelling example of someone who was hoodwinked by Obama in 2008 and is now searching for an alternative.  I sure hope his estimate that there are 6 million more like him proves to be accurate!

A good starting night for the RNC convention, I think.  To the extent that Democrats or Independents were watching, there's a chance it might have triggered some interest in the Republican candidate.  And tonight is Paul Ryan night...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Curiosity: Layers on Mars...

These layered rocks are why Curiosity landed where it did.  They are the prime target of its scientific investigations over the next couple of years...

Popcorn Time!

James Delingpole on Michael Mann vs. Mark Steyn.  What a combination!  How could this get any better?  Here's a little taste, but you really, really need to go read the whole thing:
From obscure beginnings and with little discernible talent, Michael Mann has risen to become arguably the best loved comedy figure in the entire field of climate science, like Fatty Arbuckle, Pee Wee Herman and Coco the Clown rolled into one.

He singlehandedly invented Mann-made global warming using his amazing Hockey Stick curve – the one programmed using the ingenious algorithm whereby, whatever information you fed into it – fudged paleoclimatological reconstructions, the latest football scores, tofu futures – it always came out in the same, scary-looking This Is The End Of The World And We've Got To Act Now By Pumping Gazillions More Money Into Climate Research shape.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cat Humor...

Via my lovely bride:


A Good Time at Walmart...

Via my lovely bride:
A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a 'Viet Nam Veteran' cap. I never had one of these before and I was pretty hyped about it, especially because my friend was considerate enough to take the time to give it to me.

Yesterday, I wore it when I went to Wal-Mart. There was nothing in particular that I needed at the world's largest retailer but, since I retired, trips to Wally World to look at the Walmartians is always good for some comic relief. Besides, I always feel pretty normal after seeing some of the people that frequent the establishment. But, enough of my psychological fixes.

While standing in line to check out, the guy in front of me, probably in his early thirties, asked, "Are you a Viet Nam Vet?"

"No" I replied.

"Then why are you wearing that cap?"

"Because I couldn't find my cap from the War of 1812." I thought it was a snappy retort.

"The War of 1812 huh." the Walmartian queried, "When was that?"

God forgive me but, I couldn't pass up such an opportunity, "1936."

He pondered my response for a moment and responded, "Why do they call it the War of 1812 if it was in 1936?" "It was a Black Op. No one is supposed to know about it." This was beginning to be way too fun.

"Dude! Really!" he exclaimed. "How did you get to do something that COOOOL?"

I glanced furtively around me for effect, leaned toward the guy and in a low voice said, "I'm not sure. I was the only Caucasian on the mission."

"Dude!", he was really getting excited about what he was hearing. "That is seriously awesome! But, didn't you kind of stand out?" "Not really. The other guys were wearing white camouflage."

The moron nodded knowingly.

"Listen man," I said in a very serious tone, "You can't tell anyone about this. It's still Top Secret and I shouldn't have said anything." "Oh yeah." he gave me the "don't threaten me look. "Like, what's gonna happen if I do?"

With a really hard look I said, "You have a family don't you? We wouldn't want anything to happen to them would we?"

The guy gulped, left his basket where it was and fled through the door.

By this time the lady behind me was about to have a heart attack she was laughing so hard. I just grinned at her.

After checking out and going to the parking lot I saw dimwit leaning in a car window talking to a young woman. Upon catching sight of me he started pointing excitedly in my direction.

Giving him another 'deadly' serious look, I made the "I see you" gesture. He turned kind of pale, jumped in the car and sped out of the parking lot.

What a great time! Tomorrow I'm going back with a Homeland Security cap. Whoever said retirement is boring just needs the right kind of cap...

Dark Matter Directly Detected...

By scientists at the University of Michigan...

Curiosity: ChemCam Data...

At right is the first spectrograph made by Curiosity's ChemCam, when it zapped “Coronation Rock” with its megawatt laser.  From this, geologists can read a detailed description of Coronation Rock's mineral make up. 

With this first test run of ChemCam, Curiosity has already returned more hard science data than the ISS has done in its entire existence.  I sure wish we'd concentrate our government spending on space on this sort of mission, and stop wasting it with purposeless manned missions...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Saint...

Via my mom:
Last Saturday afternoon, in Washington, D.C., an aide to Nancy Pelosi visited the Bishop of the Catholic cathedral in D.C. He told the Cardinal that Nancy Pelosi would be attending the next day's Mass, and he asked if the Cardinal would kindly point out Pelosi to the congregation and say a few words that would include calling Pelosi a "saint".

The Cardinal replied, "No. I don't really like the woman, and there are her issues of conflict with the Catholic Church over certain of Pelosi's views."

Pelosi's aide said, "Look, I'll write a check here and now for a donation of $100,000 to your church if you'll just tell the congregation you see Pelosi as a saint."

The Cardinal then thought about it and said, "Well, the church can use the money, so I'll work your request into tomorrow's sermon."

As Pelosi's aide promised, Nancy Pelosi appeared for the Sunday worship and seated herself prominently at the forward left side of the center aisle.

As promised, and at the start of his sermon, the Cardinal pointed out that Ms. Pelosi was present. The Cardinal then went on to explain to the congregation,

"While Ms. Pelosi's presence is probably an honor to some, the woman is not numbered among my personal favorite personages. Some of her most egregious views are contrary to tenets of the Church, and she tends to flip- flop on many other issues. Nancy Pelosi is a petty, self -absorbed hypocrite, a thumb sucker, and a nit-wit. Nancy Pelosi is also a serial liar, a cheat, and a thief. I must also say Nancy Pelosi is the worst example of a Catholic I have ever personally witnessed.

She married for money and is using her wealth to lie to the American people. She also has a well known reputation for shirking her Representative obligations both in Washington, and in California. The woman is simply NOT to be trusted."

The Cardinal concluded, "But, when compared with President Obama, Ms. Pelosi is a saint."

Flat Lens...

Scientists at Harvard have created a lens that focuses light “perfectly” – no aberrations, phase delays, chromatic effects, etc.  If I'm understanding the article correctly, though, it won't be transforming our cameras anytime soon: the new lenses work only at a single wavelength (color) of light.  For color photos, that makes them useless.  For many kinds of industrial optical systems, though, that makes them extremely useful.  These systems would include just about anything using a laser, most especially fiber optics communications systems...

Curiosity: a Panorama...

Here's a stitched-together mosaic of high-resolution photos, showing the area around Curiosity after its first drive.  Look closely, and you can see the four areas that were scoured by the sky crane's rocket exhaust (Curiosity drove out from between them, where the sky crane set it down).  Awesome!


Wednesday Nght is Pot Pie Night...

... at the Descanso Junction Restaurant.  This week it was turkey pot pie.  Yum!  My lovely bride is wondering why I'm delaying her pot pie consumption by taking this dumb picture...


Note the sign behind her: Enter as strangers, leave as friends.  Yup, that about sums “The Junction” up...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oh, It's An Acronym!

Via reader Jim M., seen in Texas:


Listen Up, “Birthers”!


I'm Going to Use This Tip...

Separating egg yolks and whites is a pain in the butt.  But check out this ridiculously easy way to do it!  Via my mom:

New Commemorative Pistol from Ruger...

It's called the “Congressman”.

It doesn't work and you can't fire it.

Via Jim M...

Three Blondes Apply to be Detectives...

Via reader Jim M.:
Three blondes were all applying for the last available position on the Texas Highway Patrol.

The detective conducting the interview looked at the three of them and said, "So y'all want to be cops, huh?"

The blondes all nodded.

The detective got up, opened a file drawer, and pulled out a folder. Sitting back down, he opened it, pulled out a picture, and said, "To be a detective, you have to be able to detect. You must be able to notice things such as distinguishing features and oddities like scars and so forth."

So saying, he stuck the photo in the face of the first blonde and withdrew it after about two seconds. "Now," he said, "did you notice any distinguishing features about this man?"

The blonde immediately said, "Yes, I did. He has only one eye!"

The detective shook his head and said, "Of course he has only one eye in this picture!  It's a profile of his face! You're dismissed!"

The first blonde hung her head and walked out of the office.

The detective then turned to the second blonde, stuck the photo in her face for two seconds, pulled it back, and said, "What about you? Notice anything unusual or Outstanding about this man?"

"Yes! He only has one ear!"

The detective put his head in his hands and exclaimed, "Didn't you hear what I just told the other lady? This is a profile of the man's face! Of course you can only see one ear! You're excused too!"

The second blonde sheepishly walked out of the office.

The detective turned his attention to the third and last blonde and said, "This is probably a waste of time, but..." He flashed the photo in her face for a couple of seconds and withdrew it, saying, "All right, did you notice anything distinguishing or Unusual about this man?"

The blonde said, "I sure did. This man wears contact lenses."

The detective frowned, took another look at the picture, and began looking at some of the papers in the folder. He looked up at the blonde with a puzzled expression and said, "You're absolutely right! His bio says he wears contacts! How in the world could you tell that by looking at his picture?"

The blonde rolled her eyes and said, "Well, Hellooooooooooooo! With only one eye and one ear, he certainly can't wear glasses."

Cheap Bastards...

Via reader Jim M.:
A couple were celebrating 50 years together. Their three kids, all very successful, agreed to a Sunday dinner in their honor.

"Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad," gushed son number one , now renowned orthopedist, "Sorry I'm running late. I had an emergency at the hospital with a patient, you know how it is, and I didn't have time to get you a gift.""Not to worry," said the father. "The important thing is that we're all together today."

Son number two, trial lawyer, arrived and announced, "You and Mom look great, Dad. I just flew in from Los Angeles between depositions and didn't have time to shop for you.""It's nothing," said the father. "We're glad you were able to come."

Just then the daughter, a Wall Streeter, arrived. "Hello and Happy Anniversary! I'm sorry, but my boss is sending me out of town and I was really busy packing so I didn't have time to get you anything."

After they had finished dessert, the father said, "There's something your mother and I have wanted to tell you for a long time. You see, we were very poor. Despite this, we were able to send each of you to college."
Throughout the years your mother and I knew that we loved each other very much, but we just never found the time to get married."

The three children gasped and all said, "You mean we're bastards?"

"Yep," said the father. "And cheap ones too."

A Real Waterbed...

Via my mom:

Homemade Lava...

Your awesome for the day!

Curiosity: ChemCam is Returning Great Data...

Meanwhile, back on Mars the Curiosity rover has gone to work.  ChemCam is already returning great science results, starting while the rover was still parked right where the sky crane sat it down.  But now Curiosity has started driving – and the word is that the “mobility system” is functioning perfectly.  In fact, the only problem reported so far is that one (of two) wind speed sensors isn't working, possibly because it's got pebbles on it.  That's a relatively minor issue that shouldn't affect science data gathering at all...

Anti-Obama Ad...

Oh, it's going to be such an interesting election season!

A Taxing Situation...

Recently I consulted with a tax professional about the consequences of changing the state I reside in.  Most likely we will be moving to Idaho when I retire, but we have to build a home there so the residency situation was murky to me.  We'll probably have a home in California for a while, but at the same time have a rented home in Idaho while we're building our “real” home.  For tax purposes, I wondered, which state do I reside in?  Idaho taxes are lower, so it would be better for me to be an Idaho resident.

The tax professional told me something about the stock obtained through exercising my Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) that surprised me: California would claim the proceeds as taxable income no matter what state I lived in, no matter when I sold them.  Furthermore, the state I moved to (she didn't know for sure about Idaho) might also claim the proceeds as taxable income.  I could be taxed on the same income by two different states!  WTF?

Here's the explanation, but the really interesting part is what that explanation implies.  California claims the right to tax the proceeds of stock obtained through ISOs based on when those ISOs vested.  For me, and for virtually everybody else with ISOs, that means the first “n” years of their employment (four years, for me).  In those years I was clearly a California resident, ergo, California claims those proceeds as taxable income.  California is the only state to make this claim, and they only started doing this in the past few years.  All other states claim the proceeds as taxable income based on what state you reside in when the stock was sold.  So someone like me could be taxed by California (because my ISOs vested while I lived here) and again by Idaho (if I lived there when I sold the stock) – for the same income.

Think about what California's behavior implies.  They would only be pursuing such a path if the situation were a common one.  California's high tax rates make moving out-of-state attractive to people who suddenly make a lot of money through ISOs – so California comes up with a way to ensure they collect those taxes anyway!  When this becomes broadly known (it doesn't seem to be as yet), you can bet your sweet bippie that startups are going to think twice about establishing themselves in California – because for a startup, it's all about those ISOs.

What a frickin' stupid government California has! 

Introverts vs. Extroverts...

The differences between working introverts and extroverts is popping up much more frequently in the news, as in this article from Forbes.  I'm not sure exactly why this is, though I have a suspicion: the past few years has seen a distinct trend toward work environments that are very friendly to extroverts, and actually hostile for introverts.  Being a fairly extreme introvert myself, I live this every day at the office.  This paragraph from the article resonated with me:
Make the office space and work day right for everyone – Allow for a mix of introverted and extroverted spaces when shaping an office space. It is important to have areas where employees can interact and communicate. It is equally important however to have space where employees can be alone and work undisturbed. Current offices have moved towards a more open area concept where all employees work in sight of each other and are able to communicate freely, always. To many this might seem like the ideal work environment especially when compared to the stereotypical cubicle farm that characterized previous office designs. For more introverted workers this type of environment can represent serious problems. Introverts tend to recharge their batteries alone, while extroverts tend to gain energy from participating in group situations. Firms need to make sure that they are allowing for both sides of the spectrum and everything in between to get the opportunity to recharge. Creating open office spaces does not allow for areas for introverts to work alone and really center themselves for the day. Work days are now so often characterized by group collaboration and meeting that some employees can often feel overwhelmed with all the interaction. There have also been studies conducted that suggest that these types of open office space can actually prove distracting to many employees and lead to lower productivity. In the end it is important that office space and work schedules offer time for both interaction as well as solitude.
My company's office environment, from my perspective, might have been designed to zero out my productivity.  I do nearly all creative work on the days when I work from home, or in the first couple of hours I'm at the office (before anyone else gets there).  What's the environment?  Well, my cubicle is in a partitioned-off area which seats 8 people.  One of these people sits right next to me.  I can hear all eight of them when they talk (which, of course, is often!).  To my left is a corridor down which many people walk every day; it's openly visible to me.  And of course anyone who walks in or out of our little areas (inhabitants or visitors) is visible to me.  Each of these things is a distraction that is impossible for me to ignore (this comes along with being introverted).  I can help with the voices by wearing headphones and listening to music – but I get interrupted so frequently that by 10 or 11 am this is no longer practicable.  Some people (the extroverts!) absolutely thrive in this environment; I can observe them myself and see the truth of that.  But for me, it's a productivity killer...

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Site for Dog Lovers...

But put your hot morning beverage down before clicking...

No Comment Required...


A Unique Clock...

Very cleverly done.  Via my mom...

A Modern Parable...

Via my mom:
John G. Is 73 years old and owns a small business. He's a life-long Republican and sees his dream of retiring next year has all but evaporated. With the stock market crashing and new taxes coming his way, John assumes now that he will work to his dying day

John has a granddaughter. Ashley is a recent college grad. She drives a flashy hybrid car, wears all the latest fashions, and loves to go out to nightclubs and restaurants. Ashley campaigned hard for Barack Obama. After the election she made sure her grandfather (and all other Republican family members) received a big I told-you-so earful on how the world is going to be a much better place now that her party is taking over.

Having lost both roommates, Ashley recently ran short of cash and cannot pay the rent (again) on her 3 bedroom townhouse... Like she has done many times in the past, she e-mailed her grandfather asking for some financial help


Here is his reply:

Sweetheart, I received your request for assistance. Ashley, you know I love you dearly and I'm sympathetic to your financial plight. Unfortunately, times have changed. With the election of President Obama, your grandmother and I have had to set forth a bold new economic plan of our own...."The Ashley Economic Empowerment Plan." Let me explain.

Your grandmother and I are life-long, wage-earning tax payers. We have lived a comfortable life, as you know, but we have never had the fancier things like European vacations, luxury cars, etc... We have worked hard and were looking forward to retiring soon. But the plan has changed. Your president is raising our personal and business taxes significantly. He says it is so he can give our hard earned money to other people... Do you know what this means, Ashley? It means less for us, and we must cut back on many business and personal expenses.

You know the wonderful receptionist who worked in my office for more than 23 years? The one who always gave you candy when you came over to visit? I had to let her go last week. I can't afford to pay her salary and all of the government mandated taxes that go with having employees.... Your grandmother will now work 4 days a week to answer phones, take orders and handle the books. We will be closed on Fridays and will lose even more income.

I'm also very sorry to report that your cousin Frank will no longer be working summers in the warehouse. I called him at school this morning. He already knows about it and he's upset because he will have to give up skydiving and his yearly trip to Greenland to survey the polar bears.

That's just the business side of things. Some personal economic effects of Obama's new taxation policies include none other than you. You know very well that over the years your grandmother and I have given you thousands of dollars in cash, tuition assistance, food, housing, clothing, gifts, etc., etc. But by your vote, you have chosen to help others -- not at your expense -- but at our expense.


If you need money now sweetheart, I recommend you call 202-456-1111, That is the direct phone number for the White House.. You can also contact the White House here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/%C2%A0> ;...

You yourself told me how foolish it is to vote Republican... You said Mr. Obama is going to be the People's President, and is going to help every American live a better life. Based on everything you've told me, along with all the promises we heard during the campaign, I'm sure Mr. Obama will be happy to transfer some stimulus money into your bank account. Have him call me for the account number which I memorized years ago.

Perhaps you can now understand what I've been saying all my life: Those who vote for a president should consider the impact on the nation as a whole, and not be just concerned with what they can get for themselves. What Obama supporters don't seem to realize is all of the money he is redistributing to illegal aliens and non-taxpaying Americans (the so-called "less fortunate") comes from tax-paying families.

Remember how you told me, "Only the richest of the rich will be affected"? Well guess what, honey? Because we own a business, your grandmother and I are now considered to be the richest of the rich. On paper, it might look that way, but in the real world, we are far from it..

As you said while campaigning for Obama, some people will have to carry more of the burden so all of America can prosper... You understand what that means, right? It means that raising taxes on productive people results in them having less money; less money for everything, including granddaughters.

I'm sorry, Ashley, but the well has run dry. The free lunches are over... I have no money to give you now. So, congratulations on your choice for "change." For future reference, I encourage you to try and add up the total value of the gifts and cash you have received from us, just since you went off to college, and compare it to what you expect to get from Mr. Obama over the next 4 (or 8) years. I have not kept track of it, Ashley. It has all truly been the gift of our hearts.

Remember, we love you dearly.... but from now on you'll need to call the number mentioned above. Your "Savior" has the money we would have given to you. Just try and get it from him.

Good luck, sweetheart.

Love, Grandpa

Blonde Joke...

Via reader Jim M.:
A blonde goes to the vet with her goldfish.

"I think it's got epilepsy," she tells the vet.

The vet takes a look and says, "It seems calm enough to me."

The blonde says, "I haven't taken it out of the bowl yet!"

Worrisome Statistic...

Via reader Jim M.:
25% of women in this country are on medication for mental illness!

That's scary as hell.

It means 75% of the crazy bitches are running around with no medication at all.

Voting in Chicago...

Reader Dr. Simi L. sends along this oldie-but-goodie:
My friend was a staunch conservative and voted straight line Republican until the day he died.

Now, he votes Democrat.

Curiosity: The Photos...

Curiosity has already sent back over 4,000 photos from Mars.  They're all available in this archive...

The Smoothest Con Man Ever?

Well, consider this: he once sold the Eiffel Tower to a scrap metal dealer.  Really!

Financial Impact of Photovoltaic Solar Power...

Mike Sandiford has a very nice analysis of the impact that photovoltaic solar power (i.e., solar panels) has had on Australia's power markets.  The answer was unexpected for me, for reasons that Mr. Sandiford explains well: solar has had a large impact, completely out of proportion to the small percentage of the overall power that it supplies.  The key to understanding why is all about the timing: solar panels supply power during the peak sunlight hours, which happen to coincide with the most expensive electricity on the spot market.  Mr. Sandiford thinks that power operators have very good reason to be afraid of the impact of solar panels...

It's Here!

Oh, I've been waiting for this – the high-resolution video of Curiosity's descent and landing, imaged through the MARDI camera.  And now it's here:

A Strange Feeling...

Way back in 1972, your bloviating blogger had just recently enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  I'd been ordered to the base at Mare Island (on the eastern San Francisco Bay, near Vallejo), to attend schools on digital computer repair.  Later I also attended cryptographic system repair schools as well, on the same base.  On one of the very first days of computer repair school, they sat my class down in a small theater and showed us a film.  This film:


What a strange feeling to see this film again after 40 years!  On certain scenes (like the Oriental lady with the abacus) I could even remember what came next...

Quote of the Day...

Mitt Romney says he'd approach this nation's problems using a lesson he learned while running businesses:
...when you see a problem, run toward it or it will only get worse.
I don't know about you, but I find that a refreshing bit of rhetoric.  The idea of a political leader running toward a problem like tax reform is intoxicating.  Read the whole thing...

Light This Candle...

I remember Alan Shepard saying that.  I listened to that launch on the radio, way back on May 5, 1961.  The mission was called Freedom 7, and it was America's first manned space flight (sub-orbital, but into space).  It was a very exciting and scary event for those of us listening, as in the prior few years there had been a string of spectacular rocket failures.  I remember thinking that Alan Shepard must be borderline crazy to be strapped and bolted into that Mercury capsule.  At one point in the countdown, he got impatient with the delays and implored flight control to “light this candle”...

Peggy Noonan has recycled that remark, in the context of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ryan Poster of the Day...


Get Lost!

Not long ago, the inimitable Mark Steyn published a piece in National Review Online (NRO) in which he ripped apart Michael Mann (the originator of the infamous “hockey stick” graph that effectively started the global warming wackiness).  Dr. Mann didn't like being ripped apart, so he's now threatened to sue NRO and Mr. Steyn.  Rich Lowry (editor of NRO) responded publicly today.  The best part of his response?  The headline: Get Lost.  The whole piece is great, though.  An excerpt:
So why threaten to sue us? I rather suspect it is because the Steyn post was savagely witty and stung poor Michael.

Possessing not an ounce of Steyn’s wit or eloquence, poor Michael didn’t try to engage him in a debate. He sent a laughably threatening letter and proceeded to write pathetically lame chest-thumping posts on his Facebook page. (Is it too much to ask that world-renowned climate scientists spend less time on Facebook?)
Mr. Lowry goes on to say that this lawsuit (should it actually materialize) isn't the nuisance such lawsuits normally are.  In fact, because of one little word this lawsuit is a golden opportunity.  That word: “discovery”.

Read the whole thing!

Pro-Romney/Ryan Ad, Targeting Catholics...

Impressive production work...

TeleHash...

A new wire protocol with some interesting attributes...

More Climate Nonsense...

...but with a refreshing twist: mainstream media coverage!  Here's the data showing that the earlier reported “unprecedented” ice melt in Antarctica was, in fact, quite precedented.  And here's an article in the mainstream media (British, but still mainstream!) that actually discusses it on a recognizably factual basis.  A true flying pig moment...

Clouds...

The photo below was taken a few minutes ago from Lyon's Peak, a few hundred feet higher than our home.  The layer of clouds you see is currently enveloping our house...


A Telling Remark...

Obama made a joking remark at an event yesterday.  Despite it being intended as a joke, the exact wording he chose is very telling:
It is very rare I come to an event where I’m like the fifth or sixth most interesting person. Usually the folks want to take a picture with me, sit next to me, talk to me. That has not been the case at this event and I completely understand.
Most people would make that joking remark something like this:
Usually when the President is in the room, he's the focus of attention. Folks want to take a picture with him, sit next to him, talk with him. Understandably, that's not the case at this event.
Obama's use of the first person and the phrase “most interesting person” speak volumes about him.  He is a man very full of himself...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top TED...

The top 20 most-watched TED talks.  I've only seen five of them.  I'm very curious to see what other people find interesting...

Ghosts in the ROM...

The photo at right was found in the system ROM of an ancient Macintosh SE.  It's part of an “Easter Egg” left in the ROM by the system's developers, some of whom are in this photo.

Geeks of a certain age will recognize a now almost-forgotten technique in this photo: dithering to get gray scale.  The photo actually contains nothing other than black or white pixels – the appearance of various gray levels is created by varying the relative prevalence of either white or black pixels over a given area of the photo.  Dithering is a bit harder than it might appear to be at first glance; the obvious approaches lead to grid patterns showing up as artifacts in the photo.  To make it look “natural”, the dithered pixels have to be randomized, as they are in this photo.  Pure black and white photos can be stored very efficiently, one bit per pixel, which I'm sure is why this technique was chosen here.

Read the whole story...

The Sages of Sacremento...

Unbelievable, it is – the idea that there are sages (of the human kind, not the botanical kind) in Sacremento.  The dominant human species in Sacremento is homo bozocus, as this article amply demonstrates.  The “logic” of the Sacremento Sages appears to be something like this: (a) social security isn't adequate to pay for a decent retirement in California, (b) companies have lots of money and nothing worthwhile to spend it on, and (c) therefore, let's make companies pay for retirement!  Then there's the added bonus of a cornicopia of corruption opportunities opened up by the possibility of handing out exemptions to favored industries (e.g., those that send money to the politicians).

This bill has already passed the Senate, is almost certain to pass the Assembly, and then it heads to Governor Moonbeam.  I have no intuition at all about his reaction, other than to forecast that his statements about his decision (whichever way he goes) won't make any sense.

It doesn't matter to me whether this bill turns into law or not.  The very fact that it passed even one half of our legislature is more than sufficient information for me.  California has gone off the cliff; it's heading the way of Greece, Detroit, and other such socialist/corruptocratic regimes.  Recovery to anything resembling the country I was born into seems like a vanishingly small possibility.  Time for us to get out, just as soon as we can arrange it...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Last Bomb...

The Last Bomb is a Technicolor documentary from the War Department and the Army Air Forces Combat Camera Units, filmed in the last days of the war with Japan.  It's online in its entirety...

Typing Through Tears...

Your fearless blogger has tears streaming down his face right now.  Not because of anything I've read this morning.  No, these tears are caused by one of my dogs.  I blog from a tiny little space, about 8' by 10'.  Two of my dogs are often sleeping behind me.  One of them just farted, hence the tears...

Curiosity: A Perfect Moment...

Yesterday Curiosity stretched its articulated arm for the first time since before it was launched toward Mars.  There are five separate joints on the arm, and all of them were “exercised”.  Curiosity's numerous cameras watched every motion to verify that it worked correctly – and it did!

Curiosity's first days remind me a little bit of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis – various parts are being pulled out, stretched, tried out, checked out, and calibrated.

And they're all working perfectly so far!

Believe You Can Change...

When I read that title, my reaction was “Well, of course you can change!”  I dug into the article to find out what point the author was trying to make, and got to this passage – which I found a bit shocking:
The difference, Dweck discovered, was one of mindset. Dweck had always thought “human qualities were carved in stone. You were smart or you weren’t, and failure meant you weren’t.” That was why the helpless kids couldn’t take it when they started failing. It just reminded them they sucked (they easily got confused, they had “a bad rememory”). Of course it wasn’t fun anymore — why would it be fun to get constantly reminded you’re a failure? No wonder they tried to change the subject. Dweck called this the “fixed mindset” — the belief that your abilities are fixed and that the world is just a series of tests that show you how good you are.

The successful kids believed precisely the opposite: that everything came through effort and that the world was full of interesting challenges that could help you learn and grow. (Dweck called this the “growth mindset.”) That’s why they were so thrilled by the harder puzzles — the easier ones weren’t any sort of challenge, there was nothing you could learn from them. But the really tough ones? Those were fascinating — a new skill to develop, a new problem to conquer. In later experiments, kids even asked to take puzzles home so they could work on them some more.

It took a seventh-grader to explain it to her: “I think intelligence is something you have to work for…it isn’t just given to you… Most kids, if they’re not sure of an answer, will not raise their hand… But what I usually do is raise my hand, because if I’m wrong, then my mistake will be corrected. Or I will raise my hand and say… ‘I don’t get this. Can you help me?’ Just by doing that I’m increasing my intelligence.”5

In the fixed mindset, success comes from proving how great you are. Effort is a bad thing — if you have to try hard and ask questions, you obviously can’t be very good. When you find something you can do well, you want to do it over and over, to show how good you are at it.

In the growth mindset, success comes from growing. Effort is what it’s all about — it’s what makes you grow. When you get good at something, you put it aside and look for something harder so that you can keep growing.

Fixed-mindset people feel smart when they don’t make mistakes, growth-mindset people feel smart when they struggle with something for a long time and then finally figure it out. Fixies try to blame the world when things go bad, growthers look to see what they can change about themselves. Fixies are afraid to try hard — because if they fail, it means they’re a failure. Growthers are afraid of not trying.
Well, I'm a “growther” (and didn't even know it). I have to say that it never occurred to me that there might be this “fixed mindset”.  The last two paragraphs above resonated very strongly with me; it's a good description of how I approach my craft. The preceding paragraph sounded alien to me ... and yet I recognized it as a pattern I see often in people I've worked with.  I just never realized there was another way people felt about such situations...

The Bozo Event Horizon...

Fascinating article about one way tech companies die.  Any author who can weave “bozo” and “event horizon” together in a convincing way has my approval :-)

Is There Nothing That Amazon Can't Do?

Amazon Glacier: archival storage at about a penny per gigabyte per month, with a stated 11 9s durability/year.  Awesome.  I gotta get me some of that!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Do Things That Have Never Been Done Before...

A modern geek encounters Russell Kirsch, one of the creators of SEAC (an early programmable computer) and creator of the first computerized photo.  It's a fun read..

Paul Ryan: Viral Images...

Oh, this is going to be an interesting election season!


Curiosity: the Laser Zapping Has Begun...

The Curiosity rover carries a megawatt laser on board.  This isn't just for fun, or for playing with Martian cats.  It's part of an instrument system (known as “ChemCam”) that lets scientists analyze the nature of rocks near Curiosity. 

Huh?  How can a laser help analyze rocks, you ask?

Well, it's like this.  First the scientists pick a rock.  Then they aim the laser and a telescopic spectroscope at the rock.  Then they zap the rock with the megawatt laser while capturing data with the spectroscope.  The laser heats a tiny bit of the rock to very high temperatures, creating a glowing plasma.  The spectroscope records the intensity of over 6,000 different wavelengths (colors) of light.  The pattern of these intensities lets scientists infer what elements and compounds the rock is made of.

Reports back from the first use were all positive.  The lead scientist said that (unexpectedly) the data they were receiving from Mars was actually better than that collected in experiment on Earth – the signal-to-noise ratio was superior.  The scientists have no idea why, but they aren't complaining!

“Clouds” on the Sun...

APOD brings us this fantastical photo of the Sun, showing a filament (the “cloud”) as if in relief.  The article doesn't say how the photo was taken, but it's clarity suggests that it was taken from one of several solar investigation satellites currently operating.  Almost certainly this was taken through a narrow-band filter such as a hydrogen alpha filter...

Derailing A Train...

...it's harder than you might think!

Moon Flowers in My Parents' Yard...

Slide show by my sister:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hey Girl, It's Joe Biden!

The Hey Girl, It's Paul Ryan site has gone viral since Ryan was named to the Romney/Ryan ticket.  It's chock-a-block full of images and comments like the one at right.  It's very clearly pro-Ryan.

Now there's a parody site called Hey Girl, It's Joe Biden.  It's full of images of Joe Biden like the one below, not quite so laudatory as the ones for Paul Ryan.  But funny.  Oh, so funny! 

It's going to be an interesting election year...


That's Our President!

Andrew Malcom, writing over at Investor's Business Daily, has a story that tells as a lot about Barack Hussein Obama: both on a personal level and on a political level:
As the president's big black armored bus began to waddle its way out of town along one of the leafy streets, a little girl was standing, up ahead. She'd set up a sidewalk lemonade stand, like thousands of kids across the heartland on hot summer days.

Many strangers, even non-parents, find it hard to drive by such genuinely small businesses without stopping to feign an immense thirst that can only be quenched by a 50-cent cup of tepid lemonade. And then, claiming a lack of change, they suggest the youngster just keep a dollar bill. It's the way American adults encourage enterprise and independence in the next generation--and feel good about it.

Presidents don't normally do genuinely spontaneous stops. They're important people, with a large entourage that knows important. Modern presidents' spontaneous stops are as spontaneous now as D-Day. They're carefully arranged, precisely-secured photo ops for ice cream or such, with adjacent streets closed and any other customers wanded by Secret Service in serious sunglasses.

Can you imagine the media coverage if a president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, actually stopped his important, snaking motorcade on the spur of the moment to buy out a little girl's pitcher of homemade lemonade? And perhaps demonstrate that one government official at least cares about helping a small business. Think that touching scene might make the news? Over and over and over?

Mitt Romney did just that during last fall's New Hampshire primary campaign. And you should have seen the TV crews falling over each other for the shot.

As Obama's huge ominous vehicle neared the little girl's lemonade stand in Marshalltown, she fell to her knees. Perhaps in awe. More likely pleading.

But the president's big black bus rolled right on by.

He waved through the tinted windows.
Yup. That's our President...

Word of the Day...

Yup, also via my mom – a new one on me:


Good Advice...

Via my mom, who is definitely my blog source of the day:


Tell Me More...

Amongst a collection of posters on the recent Chick-fil-A brouhaha that my mom sent me was this gem:

And the Winners Are...

National Geographic's 2012 photography contest winners are posted.  My favorite is at right...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cartoon of the Day...


Essence of Cat, Part II...

Via my mom, who implores us not to miss the fish:


Lumber Car...

An email is circulating these days:
My friends, I give you . .
THE DUMBEST GUY ON EARTH!?

This picture is real and was taken by a Transportation Supervisor for a company that delivers building materials for 84 Lumber. When he saw it in the parking lot of IHOP,
he went to buy a camera to take pictures.

The car is still running, as can be witnessed by the exhaust.

The driver finally came back after the police were called, and was found crouched behind the rear of the car, attempting to cut the twine around the load! Luckily, the police stopped him and had the load removed.

The materials were loaded at Home Depot. Their store manager said they made the customer sign a waiver.

While the plywood and 2X4s are fairly obvious, what you can't see is the back seat, which contains -- are you ready for this? -- 10 bags of concrete @ 80 lbs. each!

They estimated the load weight at 3000 lbs. Both back tires exploded, the wheels bent and the rear shocks were driven through the floorboard. And to top it off, He had an Obama/ Biden bumper sticker.

And these people VOTE & REPRODUCE!

The materials were probably for a "shovel ready project."
As is very common with such things, this is very misleading. The photo was actually taken in 2000, long before Barack Obama was running for president – no Obama/Biden bumper stickers.  However, the actual event is true, and Snopes has done their usual great job getting at the truth.

I am mystified by what motivates people to fabricate things like this.  It would be more understandable if there were a shortage of real reasons to detest Obama – but of course there is no such shortage.  Rather the opposite.  I sure wish these folks would put the same energy into publicizing the real reasons!

Synchronized Swimming as You've Never Seen It Before...

Via my mom:

People Are Awesome...

Curiosity: Video of Its Heat Shield Impacting Mars...

For some reason, I can't make the embedded video work.  Here's a low resolution (fast) video, and here's an HD version...

Special Operations for America...

More on Special Operations for America, the new Super PAC founded by ex-SEAL Ryan Zinke.  It's going to be an interesting election season...

It Wasn't in the Forecast...

...but we got it anyway.  Rain.  Six tenths of an inch of lovely, wet rain.  The soil around our house is now wet down to 4 or 5 inches, the mosses have all turned green, the summer's obscuring dust has all been washed off the chaparral.  For the past couple of days, especially right after a shower, it's actually been muggy outside – something rarely felt out here in the high desert.

Three times yesterday we had storm cells move from east to west right over us.  In addition to a downpour, each of them brought lightning and thunder as well (though mostly this happened before the storm actually reached us).

Of course, not only does this rain leave our chaparral clean and green – it also leaves it damp, and that means a greatly reduced fire danger.  How long this protection lasts is very dependent on the future weather, but probably at least a few weeks.  I'll take whatever damper I can get on the fire danger...

Friday, August 17, 2012

FalconCam!

Not a camera watching a falcon, but a camera on a flying, hunting falcon.  Via friend, colleague, and reader (triply crazy!) Doug S.:

Organic Airframes...

Airbus is working on incorporating lessons learned from the skeletons of bird into airframe design.  The concept at right is one such effort.  Manufacturing methods currently in use couldn't build such an airframe with any reasonable amount of money – but new techniques, based on 3D printing, could do so. 

This technology (3D printing) is developing very fast, with many different materials and on many different scales.  I've blogged before about large-scale printers using concrete as their media being used to construct buildings and bridges.  The Airbus concept would use composite materials (fiberglass, possibly with carbon fibers).  The most common 3D printers today work in plastic on relatively small scales (a cubic foot or less), but I've read about 3D printers using various metals (both molten and sintered powders), composites, engineered wood products, and glass. 

It can't be too long now before these printers are widely used in manufacturing – and that's going to change a lot of our long-held perceptions about buying things.  Here's one example: tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and hammers could be made to fit your hand, and yet cost no more than they do today.  Another: if you want a lamp for your den, you could order one in the exact size and style you want – and the manufacturer will build it to your specification for the same cost as a mass-manufactured model.  I'm sure there are many more uses I can't even imagine!

Organic Data Storage...

Researchers at Harvard University have stored an entire book (more than 5 megabits of data) in artificial DNA – and read the book back out.  This storage technique has very high density, and (at least theoretically) archival storage time measured in centuries or even millenia.  There is one small drawback at the moment: read/write times are on the order of days.  They'll need to speed that up by a few orders of magnitude before we can write off rotating magnetic storage and flash memory storage...

You Can Win Prisoner's Dilemma?

More from the world of game theory: a newly-discovered strategy for one player in Prisoner's Dilemma to get an advantage over the other.  That's not supposed to be possible.  Bonus: it involves one of my favorite characters in science: Freeman Dyson...

Parrando's Paradox...

Parrando's Paradox comes out of game theory, an area of math that's always fascinated me even though I really know very little about it.  I've run across Parrando's Paradox before, always together with dense math that I didn't understand.  The idea of Parrando's Paradox is simple enough: in certain circumstances two games that are individually losing games can become a winning game if played together.  Not all losing games, mind you, and certainly not all losing games played together – just under certain circumstances.

For example, playing the slots is a losing game: if you play the slots long enough, you'll have less money than you started with.  Similarly, roulette is a losing game.  If it were true that you could make money by playing one round of slots, followed by one round of roulette, and continuing in that pattern, that would be an example of Parrando's Paradox.  In the example I gave, even the two games in combination are a losing game, so it's not an example.

There's a post on Data Genetics that explains Parrando's Paradox, complete with an actual example, in terms I could wrap my addled brain around (even some of the math!).  It leads off with “How two ugly parents can make a beautiful baby”...

Obama: Liar or Bozo?

You've seen this chart before, and perhaps you think this schtick is getting old. I think we all need reminding of this sleight-of-hand the chosen one pulled on us.  So here's your reminder: Obama sold his ginormous “recovery plan” with the promise that it would result in the unemployment rates shown in the dark blue (bottom-most) line below.  If that had actually been acheived, we'd have 5.6% unemployment right now.  Oh, if only that were true!  Note that the Obama team's own prediction was that without the stimulus plan, we'd be at 6.0% unemployment right now.  Wouldn't that be nice?  What actually happened is shown in the red dotted line.  Our unemployment rate (even after the weasely adjustments) is higher than their prediction of unemployment without the stimulus.  Substantially higher: 8.3% right now, or 48% higher than predicted.

What does that tell you?  It tells me that one of two things must be true.  Either the Obama team knew the truth and lied to us, or they're so hopelessly incompetent that they missed by almost 50%.  Either way, I certainly don't want them around for another try!

Remember this when you vote in November, please...



Depressed, Hopeless Caveats of Despair...

My blog girl Rachel echos my fears, and cracks me up:
Like I said, I personally know enough voters who are so thoroughly uninterested in knowing anything more than what Jon Stewart tells them, and only even interested in that because it makes them go hahahaha (otherwise they wouldn’t actually know anything about politics), that it’s hard for me to stay optimistic.

But it’s not impossible because last week, days before the Ryan announcement was made, I was optimistic enough (with depressed, hopeless caveats of despair) to predict in public that he’d be the guy. I even stuck with it the next day. And for once, my unfounded hopes were realized.

So I’m sticking with that coping technique for now; it’s the only way to get through this. Join me. Let’s all spend the next 82 days pretending we believe that an electorally-significant number of voters understand and care about the math-induced armageddon that’s coming, okay? Maybe our wishful thinking will not be finally annihilated in crushing disappointment.
That's exactly right. I'm hoping not to have my wishful thinking annihilated in crushing disappointment.  Go read the whole thing, and while you're at it, add her blog to your reading list.  When she can be bothered to post, it's guaranteed to be worth your time to read...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bureaucrats...

Via my mom, this letter to the U.S. Passport Office:
Dear Mrs. Ms. Or Sir:

I'm in the process of renewing my passport and still cannot believe this.

How is it that Radio Shack has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a cable TV from them in 1987 (23 years ago), and yet, the Federal Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date.

For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand? Ever heard of computers?

My birth date you have in my social security file. It's on EVERY income tax form I've filed for the past 30 years. It's on my Medicare health insurance card and my driver's license, it's on the last eight damn passports I've had, it's on every stupid customs declaration form I've had to fill out before being allowed off the plane for the last 30 years. And it's on all those census forms that we have to do at election times.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother's name is Maryanne, my father's name is Robert and I'm reasonably confident that neither name is likely to change between now and when I die.

Between you an' me, I've had enough of this bureaucratic bulls…!

You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my #*&#%*& address.

What is going on? You must have a gang of bureaucratic Neanderthal morons working there!

Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? And "No," I don't want to dig up Yasser Arafat, for s… sakes. I just want to go and park my a.. on a sandy beach. And would someone please tell me, why you would give a damn whether I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days?

If I ever got the urge to do something weird to a chicken or a goat, believe you me, I'd sure as hell not want to tell anyone!

Well, I have to go now because I have to go to the other end of the city and get another #*@&#^@*@ & copy of my birth certificate to the tune of $100.

Would it be so difficult to have all the services in the same area so I could get a new passport the same day? Nooooo, that would require planning and organization. And it would be too logical for the @&^*^%@% government.

You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off. Then, we have to find some a..hole to confirm that it's really me in the damn picture - you know, the one where we're not allowed to smile... Hey, you know why we can't smile?

We're totally pissed off!

Signed

- An Irate Citizen.

P.S. Remember what I wrote about getting someone to confirm that the picture is me? Well, my family has been in the United States of America since 1776. I have served in the military for something over 35 years and have had security clearances up the ying yang. However, I have to get someone important to verify who I am - you know, someone like my doctor....... WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN INDIA !

And you assholes want to run our health care system?????
Yes, they do want to run our health care system...

The Country Has Gone to Hell, So...

Via my mom:

George Bush, Queen Elizabeth, and Vladimir Putin all die and go to hell. While there, they spy a red phone and ask what the phone is for. The devil tells them it is for calling back to Earth.

Putin asks to call Russia and talks for 5 minutes. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is a million dollars, so Putin writes him a cheque.

Next Queen Elizabeth calls England and talks for 30 minutes. When she is finished the devil informs her that the cost is 6 million dollars, so she writes him a cheque.

Finally George Bush gets his turn and talks for 4 hours. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is $5.00.

When Putin hears this he goes ballistic and asks the devil why Bush got to call the USA so cheaply.

The devil smiles and replies, "Since Obama took over, the country has gone to hell, so it's a local call."

Yes, Please...

Via reader Jim M.:


Obama Administration's Intelligence Leaks...

No, I'm not talking about Joe Biden.  I'm talking about the numerous leaks of operational intelligence, the pattern of which strongly suggests that the leaks are intentional and have the objective of enhancing the Obama administration's prestige with the U.S. public.

Some of our retired U.S. Navy SEALs, other special forces, and CIA folks are unhappy enough about this that they're doing some thing quite uncharacteristic of that crowd: they're complaining, publicly and loudly:

Essence of Cat...

Anyone who owns a cat will instantly recognize this behavior.  Anyone who doesn't own a cat will add one more item to their list of reasons to continue not owning a cat :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hieroglyphics...

Via my mom:
Written across the wall of the cave were the symbols at right. It was considered a unique find and the writings were said to be at least 3,000 years old.

The piece of stone was removed, brought to the museum, and archaeologists from around the world came to study the ancient symbols. They held a huge meeting after months of conferences to discuss the meaning of the markings.

The President of the society pointed to first drawing and said: "This is a woman. We can see these people held women in high esteem. You can also tell they were intelligent, as the next symbol is a donkey, so they were smart enough to have animals help them till the soil. The next drawing is a shovel, which means they had tools to help them. Even further proof of their high intelligence is the fish which means that if a famine hit the earth and food didn't grow, they seek food from the sea. The last symbol appears to be the Star of David which means they were evidently Hebrews."

The audience applauded enthusiastically.

Then a little old Jewish man stood up in the back of the room and said, "Idiots! Hebrew is read from right to left. It says: 'Holy Mackerel, Dig The Ass On That Chick'"

Faster Than C, Safer Than Java, Simpler Than *sh...

Even the title of this post raises all sorts of questions and red flags!  What on earth are they talking about?  A programming language I'd never heard of before: ANI...

How Did Harry Reid Get Rich?

That's a damned fine question, as he's been a “public servant” nearly all his life – and the sum of all his salaries are far smaller than his net worth today.  How'd he do it?

Curiosity: Where It Is...

The photo at right (or here in even larger form) shows a simulated 3D view of Gale Crater on Mars, using photos taken from orbit.

If you look at the enlarged photograph, you can see a faint blue ellipse (just below the center of the photo) with a green dot in it.  The ellipse shows the targeted landing area, and the green dot is where Curiosity actually is – very close to the center of the ellipse.

To anyone familiar with the history of robotic spacecraft, this is stunningly accurate placement.  The first such spacecraft in my own memory (in the '60s) were aimed at our moon – and not infrequently, they completely missed it!  There's been steady improvement in the 50 years since then, to the point now where we're plopping a car-sized rover down on Mars just a few meters off its bull's-eye.  Awesome!

National Wall of Shame...

I kind of like this idea!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Making Change...

I've blogged (months ago) about an experience much like this one.  Scary...

Investors Prepare for Euro Collapse...

It seems unlikely that this is a good omen...

The Pigs Are Flying!

Wolf Blitzer is the flying pig in this story.  Wolf's efforts at political reporting are noteworthy in the main only for their rigorous hewing to the progressive political narrative.  He must have skipped a day on his meds for this one, as he executes a very nice takedown of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic Party's National Chairman and acolyte of Nancy Pelosi.  In this segment, she wriggles very hard, trying to misportray Paul Ryan's proposed Medicare reform – and she appears to be very surprised that Wolf is not being the lapdog he usually is:


Wolf, you should try this more often.  After a few dozen such efforts, you might just be able to regain a little respect from your fellow citizens...

By the way, the comments on the YouTube site are quite funny.  The first one:
About effin' time a journalist kept the light on the cockroach.

Periodic Table of the Elements, Reimagined...

And awesome.

Ryan...

I'm not sure I've ever heard a politician's speech that I liked more:


This caught me completely by surprise.  I've never actually seen Paul Ryan deliver a political speech before; I've only seen him in action on the floor of the House, or in committee hearings. 

I'm surprised by how completely natural he sounds (and appears) while in front of a crowd.  I had the sense that I was hearing and seeing the real Paul Ryan, not his political persona.  It wasn't a performance, it was him.  Even Governor Awesome can't pull that off; when he's working a crowd, you know he's performing.  And Romney?  I've never seen him not performing.  I don't know about you, but I find the idea of meeting the person (vs. the performer) quite ... refreshing.

His spontaneous and natural interactions with the audience were particularly telling.  He reminds me of the very best teachers I ever had (those were, unfortunately, very few and far between).  He wasn't just giving a speech, he was actually listening and reacting with his audience.  He was having a conversation.  An adult conversation.

His ability to reduce some of the complex ideas around the financial condition of the country to short, easy-to-digest sentences, things that anyone could understand.  In that ability, he reminds me a bit of Ronald Reagan.  There's another Reaganesque quality about Ryan as well: the cheerful, optimisitic disposition, and his civility.  Even when he's ripping someone's argument to shreds (like the famous clip with Obama), he's smiling and friendly.  Yup, Reaganesque.

Really I can't find anything to criticize about this speech.  At least for this audience of one, it was everything I always hoped for in a political speech, but so seldom find: humor, drama, ideas, belief, commitment, and fire in the belly.

My estimation of Ryan as a political force is rising, and quickly.  I'm starting to feel optimistic despite my best efforts to remain depressed about our future.  I haven't quite risen to the heights that Rachel has obtained, though...

Watch This!

You'll feel smarter.  Unless you're one of the people in the video, that is...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Simple Home Remedies...

Via my mom and some additional sources on the web:
  1. If you are choking on an ice cube, don't panic. Simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat and presto. The blockage will be almost instantly removed.
  2. Clumsy? Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.
  3. Avoid arguments with the little woman about lifting the toilet seat by simply using the sink.
  4. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.
  5. A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.
  6. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives, then you will be afraid to cough.
  7. Have a bad toothache? Smash your thumb with a hammer and you will forget about the toothache.
  8. You only need two tools: WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.
  9. If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.
  10. Some people are like slinkies: not really good for anything, but they bring a smile to your face when they're pushed down the stairs.
  11. Never, under any circumstances, take a laxative and sleeping pills on the same night.

100,000 DPI...

I used to think that 600 dots-per-inch (DPI) color laser printers were fantastical, futuristic devices, printing 360,000 dots in every square inch.  Researchers at IMRE have completely blown that resolution away by inventing a technique for printing at 100,000 DPI (that's a trillion dots per square inch!).  Awesome!

Sloan Digital Sky Survey...

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has cataloged some 400,000 galaxies (each with billions of stars), including their locations in the universe.  Below is a video made by “flying” through a simulation created from this data.  It's the best 3D visualization of our universe that I've ever seen...

Notice...


Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Dog Named Beau...

Two of our field spaniels (Mo'i and Lea) are getting to be ancient in dog years.  They're still healthy, but old enough that each day could be their last.  We give them lots of special attention these days, as you might imagine.  Recently I've often thought of Jimmy Stewart's famous poem about his dog Beau, which I'd only seen in writing before.  I just ran across his recital of it on (of all places) the Johnny Carson show:

Ryan...

Several readers inquired about my thoughts on Romney choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate.  Overall, I'm positive about it.  One article I read summed up my feelings pretty well with a single short phrase: “A grownup has shown up.”  That's what I like about the choice of Ryan – it signals Romney's intent to have an adult conversation with the voters about actual solutions to vexing, politically intractable problems like the ballooning costs of retirement and healthcare entitlements.  Ryan is a “wonk” who gives evidence of actually understanding how capitalism works, a rare trait in a national-level politician, and one to be cherished.  I also like the intellectual contrast between the Romney-Ryan ticket and the Obama-Biden ticket.  I think Obama's intellectual powers are vastly overrated, and Biden, of course, can just barely remember to breathe.  Romney and Ryan, on the other hand, are actual thinking, sentient beings. 

There is one big concern that the Romney-Ryan ticket poses for me, however.  It seems clear that the only way they can win is if they have the adult conversation...and the voters respond like adults.  With over half of all Americans now on the dole to one degree or another, I'm not so sure that's going to happen.  I console myself with this thought: better to find out now if America is doomed, rather than a few elections down the pike.  Given the choice of Obama-Biden or Romney-Ryan, if the voters choose the former, I'll know there is no hope at all for our future.  Knowing that this November will give me more time to figure out where else I would rather live...

Now, my blog girl Rachel has a bit more enthusiasm for Ryan's selection – so much so that it took her three posts to get it all out of her system.  Put down your coffee first, and then read this in order: one, two, and three.  She shows several Iowahawk tweets, including the one at right which had me rolling on the floor and clutching my belly...