Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just When...

Just when you feel like it's time to give up on humanity (or maybe just Americans), along comes a story like this.

I feel better now...

Beautiful Nature Photos...

Via my mom (one sample below, see the rest here):

KFPS Royal Friesian Horses...

Via my mom, the KFPS Royal Friesian Horse:


The little people in California are being screwed again.  No surprise there, really, though this is a little more blatant than usual.  Consider:

– California, under Jerry Brown's “leadership,” decides to build a high-speed railroad.  Not between two cities that could conceivably need such a thing, as California has no such pair of cities.  Not even between two large cities, as we can't possibly raise the gargantuan sums required to do this.  No, instead we're building a high-speed “demonstration” railroad that has no intent of actually making sense.  It's just a way to muster the political will to get this turkey started.

– The job is put out for bid under a set of rules designed to balance technical merit and price.  Fair enough.  But the initial set of rules would have eliminated the California-based firm Tutor Perini, along with a Swedish firm.  So the California High-Speed Rail Authority quietly, secretly changed the rules in mid-process, to allow Tutor Perini's bid to be considered.

– Tutor Perini was declared the winner.  Their bid was the lowest price (by a wide margin), and also scored the lowest on technical merit (also by a wide margin).  Something to note: Tutor Perini has been frequently accused of “lowballing” their bids – deliberately submitting unreasonably low bids to win, then finding ways to jack up the price as the job proceeds.  In fact, they have been remarkably successful at doing so.

Now the part where we get screwed: the principal owner of Tutor Perini is Richard Blum.  If you don't know that name, you will most likely recognized the name of his wife: Diane Feinstein, one of our California Senators.  The political operators would say here that the optics look bad.  I say something else: there's no way this happened without corruption, however subtle and soft.

A whole bunch of politicians.
Some assembly required.


Try to picture this: a woman is being mugged on the front porch of her house.  She hollers for help, and the help comes running.  A 47 year old man whips out his 29 inch long Samauri sword and comes after the mugger – who hightails it out of there, eyes big and round, and later turns himself into police.  Probably afraid for his life!

Now who would you expect that savior to be?  Perhaps a truck driver?  A construction guy?  Some salt-of-the-earth type, right?

How about a Mormon bishop?  Yup, for real.

I know several Mormons, and count several of them amongst my friends.  I cannot imagine any of them behaving like this, so I suspect this isn't some pattern, some result of their awesome religious training.  But still...I can't help but think that someone who would run into battle with a sword would find tough going in most other religious hierarchies :)

Perception of Motion...

Here's some interesting new science results investigating how we perceive motion.  As is often the case, the research leans on optical illusions (new to me) for the investigation.

The more I learn about how our visual perception, the more amazed I am at our brain's ability to derive vast amounts of information from relatively crappy sensors (our eyeballs).  None of us would be happy with a camera that performed as badly as our eyeballs do – and yet, our overall visual perception (brain included) is better than anything we know how to make...

Oh, Nooz!

Via reader and (former) colleague Doug S., this disappointing news: a major retailer (Williams-Sonoma) has decided all on their own to stop selling pressure cookers.  But only in Massachusetts.  And only in brick-and-mortar stores.  An employee says “It's a temporary thing out of respect.”

Well, I have some self-respect, too.  And it tells me that I won't be buying anything at Williams-Sonoma anytime soon, as I'm not interested in lending even the slightest support to such craven posturing...