Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tractor and Attachments for sale!

Tractor and Attachments for sale!  We are placing our gently-used Kubota B21 diesel tractor with all the trimmings up for sale.  It's not going to Utah with us.

The complete set originally cost me over $44,000 about ten years ago.  The first offer over $20,000 takes the whole thing immediately; otherwise the highest offer we receive before June 30 gets it.  American cash only, please, unless we already know you.  Note: we are not selling individual components from this set!

The main event is the Kubota B21 tractor – 21 horsepower (13.5 HP on the PTO) diesel “construction-grade” frame, hydraulic loader and backhoe, 4WD, standard 3 point hitch, high clearance, and integral ROPS.  It has just over 200 hours on it.  RitchieSpecs, 4.8/5.0 rating from TractorByNet.



The implements and accessories:
  • Mill Creek utility trailer with hydraulic dump
  • Gearmore 60" rotary mower (PTO)
  • Bearcat chipper/shredder (PTO)
  • Farmi winch intended for stump pulling and log skidding (PTO)
  • Log splitter, a real beast (hydraulic)
  • Small Gearmore cement mixer (PTO)
  • Gearmore subsoiler
  • Danuser auger post hole drill (PTO)
  • Gearmore 1-ton removable loader tines
  • Larger backhoe bucket
  • Various parts, accessories, and 3 point hitch components
  • Hydraulic tilt kit for 3 point hitch
  • Gearmore blade scraper

















Io in true color...

Io in true color...  Jupiter's strange and sulfurous moon in all it's glory.  Via APOD, of course.  Full resolution image here...


IT's come to this...

IT's come to this...  You thought you only had to worry about security on your computer, tablet, and smart phone?  Wrong answer, vulnerability-breath!  You also have to worry about your car...

A sure sign of oppression...

A sure sign of oppression...  In the age of the Internet, one thing you can count on from every thug-run government: they're going to clamp down on free speech on the Internet.  I'm looking at you, Turkey!  Here's one of the ways they do it.

Duncan Lou Who goes to the beach...

Duncan Lou Who goes to the beach...  This boxer was born with deformed rear legs that had to be amputated.  The result isn't a crippled and handicapped dog – it's a dog that runs and plays like any other dog.  But he does it with just two legs.

It's astounding and inspiring; makes you want to stand up and yell for joy.  Debbie and I have been amazed many time at the adaptability of animals, including that of our sweet little kitty Maka Lea.  But Duncan Lou Who is a standout amongst them...

Software patents being revisited by the Supreme Court...

Software patents being revisited by the Supreme Court...  Arguments before the Supreme Court tomorrow in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank.  The outcome could be anything from a yawner to industry-shaking.  More from SCOTUSblog, Fortune, Wikipedia...

Reversible aging?

Reversible aging?  Hurry, please...

U.S. and Russia: “resolving” Ukraine crisis?

U.S. and Russia: “resolving” Ukraine crisis?  This article's headline is US and Russia ‘Closer’ to Resolving Ukraine Crisis, and when you read the content you'll find that's a fair characterization.

What I find remarkable here is that the U.S. is the main party to the negotiations for a resolution.  The Ukrainians are almost an afterthought, and the European Union is basically excluded.  The superpowers (or superpower wannabes) are dividing up the world again.  This kind of meddling in another country's destiny always seems to lead, eventually, to war.

I just saw a tweet from Estonia's president Ilves expressing similar concerns.

Apparently it is impossible for politicians to learn from history...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I only know a few people I'd call “racist” ...

I only know a few people I'd call “racist” ... and every last one of them is a self-identified liberal.  Most of them are the kind of liberal who wears their progressivism on their sleeve.

This video shows Juan Williams (a prominent liberal) expressing his support for his son Raffi (a prominent conservative) in the aftermath of an ugly racist incident.  Juan does a great job here, speaking out about the racist underbelly of the liberal movement...

In the part of the country where I live (or anywhere I'd want to live), the social stigma of being overtly racist is quite high.  I've noted, though, that when some liberals believe they are in a place where only other liberals can hear them, they're rather more willing to express their racist beliefs.  The hypocrisy is strong there...

Philae is awake!

Philae is awake!  The Philae comet lander was awakened from its long hibernation and was thoroughly checked out this week.  It's all good news.  The lander is currently attached to the Rosetta comet explorer, but will detach and land on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko later this summer.

It's another robotic space explorer doing real science on a budget.  Unlike, say, the manned ISS, which does little useful science while spending huge amounts of tax dollars and risking lives.  So, of course, the government says “Let’s do less robotic exploration and more manned space missions!”

Our tax dollars, hard at work.  They're just not working for us.

Things I didn't know...

Things I didn't know...  I do know about the secret “no-fly” list, which keeps over 20,000 people from flying in the U.S.  It seems obvious that (a) there aren't really 20,000 people in the world who are trying to hijack or blow up an airliner, and (b) that many of the people on that list are there in error.

What I didn't know is this: in the entire history of this secret list, only one person has ever succeeded in getting his name removed.

That is the kind of statistic you might expect to come out of the old Soviet Union, or North Korea, or Bangladesh.  Not out of the United States.

Reading this story made me think, for the umpteenth time, that the 9/11 terrorists really have won.  If there's an afterlife, Bin Laden and his buddies are laughing – at us.  The America they hated – that land of freedom and opportunity – is being eaten away by a burgeoning security apparatus and by a progressive-pushed journey toward socialism.

Is 10 AM too early for a drink?  Ah, well, it's the right time for a drink somewhere...

The progressive narrative, part 34,813...

The progressive narrative, part 34,813...  Do you know about Oculus being acquired by Facebook?  Click on that link for a detailed story.  Here are the basics:

Oculus was a startup company whose goal was to develop a new and better virtual reality (VR) headset, named Rift.  VR headsets present a 3D image to your eyes, tricking your brain into believing that you are in a different world – one that is completely generated in the computer, and can be anything at all.  The main use today for VR headsets is with 3D games, but there are all sorts of other possible uses as well.

Oculus chose to fund its startup through a Kickstarter campaign.  They were massively over-funded, meaning that they succeeded in raising far more money than they were asking for.  People contributing small amounts of money got nothing but a sincere “thank you” for their money.  If you contributed more, you might get a T-shirt, an early version of the Rift, or (for lots of money contributed) various other perks.  What you didn't get was any stock in the company – so you weren't investing in the usual sense.  The only rewards you got were the pleasure of funding something successful, and possibly (depending on how much you contributed) a copy of the product – if the development was successful.

As it happened, the Rift development every was successful – very much so.  Facebook, last week, acquired Oculus in a $2B deal, making the founders fabulously wealthy.  The people who funded Oculus – those Kickstarter contributors – make nothing at all on the deal.

The progressives were quick to respond to this.  This article, on Bloomberg View, is entirely typical.  It takes the view that those Kickstarter contributors are blooming idiots, and they were screwed by Obama's unwise decision to deregulate crowdsourcing – thus allowing the “sheep” (stupid Kickstarter contributors) to be “shorn” (cheated of the investment returns they should have received).  The culprit is that perpetual Progressive punching bag: deregulation.

But, as usual, the Progressives have got it all wrong – exactly backwards, actually.  This wasn't deregulation at all.  Kickstarter (and the similar crowdfunding sites) would like nothing better than to sell stock shares to funding contributors – but existing investment regulations forbid it.  Those regulations are the direct result of Progressives meddling with capitalism.  The “screwing” that the Progressives are screaming about happened not because of deregulation, but because there wasn't any deregulation.  The Progressive regulations that prohibit ordinary Americans (those with a net worth less than a million dollars) from making speculative investments is what “screwed” the Kickstarter funders.

Progressives: destroying freedom and opportunity everywhere they go...

California leads the way!

California leads the way!  Few other states would keep paying state politicians accused of gun-running...

I guess I should be grateful that they even suspended him...

Justice is for the little people!

The EU provoked the Ukraine crisis?

The EU provoked the Ukraine crisis?  Interesting alternative narrative by two people I admire: Delingpole quoting Nigel Farage.  Hmmm...

We never felt a thing!

We never felt a thing!  But then again, we were sound asleep... 

Last night at 9:09:42 PM, there was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake whose epicenter was near La Hambra, California (21 miles ESE of Los Angeles).  About 28 seconds later, at 9:10:10 PM, the shock waves reached our seismometer, which recorded the results shown at right (click to embiggen).  Here's the shakemap...

Friday, March 28, 2014

I've been in this meeting!

I've been in this meeting!  Friend, former colleague, and Idaho mogul-of-everything Doug S. passed this little gem along.  It's a perfect characterization of innumerable meetings I've participated in, wherein I was the only person present with any technical expertise, and all the other participants were trying to design a product.  It's entirely typical of these meetings that an apparently endless of unutterably stupid ideas are proposed.  They only stop when the engineer agrees to anything in order to make the pain of the meeting stop, or until the engineer runs screaming for the room to look for some alcohol or psychological therapy.

Whoever made this captured the essence of those meetings from the engineer's perspective absolutely perfectly.  Awesome!

A clever ad for Taco Bell...

A clever ad for Taco Bell...  It contains a cultural reference so pervasive that even I understood it :)

So God made a ... lawyer?

So God made a ... lawyer?  Great ad!

I've known some lawyers I thought were good people.  Both of them are retired now.  The other bazillion lawyers I met in my career were putzes, suited-up criminals, or worse.  Most non-lawyers have a similar experience.  And yet the majority of our elected officials are lawyers.  What's wrong with this picture?

Old age is hell!

Old age is hell!  Via my mom...
The doctor gave the man a jar and said, “Take this jar home and bring back a semen sample tomorrow.”

The next day the 85-year-old man reappeared at the doctor's office and gave him the jar, which was as clean and empty as on the previous day.

The doctor asked what happened and the man explained, “Well, doc, it's like this – first I tried with my right hand, but nothing. Then I tried with my left hand, but still nothing.”

“Then I asked my wife for help. She tried with her right hand, then with her left, still nothing. She tried with her mouth, first with the teeth in, then with her teeth out, still nothing.”

“We even called up Arleen, the lady next door, and she tried too, first with both hands, then an armpit, and she even tried squeezin' it between her knees, but still nothing...”

The doctor was shocked! “You asked your neighbor?”

The old man replied, “Yep, and none of us could get that damned jar open.”

How to get along well with your neighbors...

How to get along well with your neighbors...  From a collection of such gems, via my lovely bride.  Click to embiggen...

The stuff of Cold War nightmares...

The stuff of Cold War nightmares...  Russian fighter jets at the January 2014 air show in Paris.  Impressive, they are...

I have vomited three times in protest...

I have vomited three times in protest...  Sad cat diary, via my mom...

What would light do?

What would light do?  That's the question you need to ask yourself when you're trying to save a drowning person.  Because, Feynman.  And ants on green felt...

Beautiful photos of an older America...

Beautiful photos of an older America...  Except that this town never existed.  It's an amazing story...

Next IPCC report to be much less alarmist...

Next IPCC report to be much less alarmist...  Matt Ridley, in the Wall Street Journal, notes that the next IPCC report has drastically toned down it's alarmist rhetoric.  His conclusion:
Indeed, a small amount of warming spread over a long period will, most experts think, bring net improvements to human welfare. Studies such as by the IPCC author and economist Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University in Britain show that global warming has probably done so already. People can adapt to such change—which essentially means capture the benefits but minimize the harm. Satellites have recorded a roughly 14% increase in greenery on the planet over the past 30 years, in all types of ecosystems, partly as a result of man-made CO2 emissions, which enable plants to grow faster and use less water.

There remains a risk that the latest science is wrong and rapid warming will occur with disastrous consequences. And if renewable energy had proved by now to be cheap, clean and thrifty in its use of land, then we would be right to address that small risk of a large catastrophe by rushing to replace fossil fuels with first-generation wind, solar and bioenergy. But since these forms of energy have proved expensive, environmentally damaging and land-hungry, it appears that in our efforts to combat warming we may have been taking the economic equivalent of chemotherapy for a cold.

Almost every global environmental scare of the past half century proved exaggerated including the population "bomb," pesticides, acid rain, the ozone hole, falling sperm counts, genetically engineered crops and killer bees. In every case, institutional scientists gained a lot of funding from the scare and then quietly converged on the view that the problem was much more moderate than the extreme voices had argued. Global warming is no different.
The warmists are being beaten down!

Putin's world view...

Putin's world view...  Peggy Noonan dissects his recent speech.  It's not comforting.  Her conclusion:
What does this remarkable speech tell us? It presents a rationale for moving further. Ukraine, for instance, is a government full of schemers controlled by others—it may require further attention. It expresses a stark sense of historical grievance and assumes it is shared by its immediate audience. It makes clear a formal animus toward the U.S. It shows he has grown comfortable in confrontation. It posits the presence of a new Russia, one that is "an independent, active participant in international affairs." It suggests a new era, one that doesn't have a name yet. But the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union were one thing, and this is something else—something rougher, darker and more aggressive.

It tells us this isn't about Crimea.

It tells us this isn't over.

Rat invade Swedish home...

Rat invade Swedish home ... and one of the kids names him “Putin Rat” because it invaded their home.

Awesome.  That kid has a future in politics!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dog snouts...

Dog snouts...  The definitive collection, by Elke Vogelsang...

Anecdata...

Anecdata...  I'd never seen this word before reading this article.  It's formed from “anecdotal data,” one of the major sources of skepticism about science.  Google has over 36,000 hits for it.  Who knew?

Curiosity is exploring...

Curiosity is exploring...  Last week I called out some interesting looking rocks that Curiosity had espied on Mars.  This week, its moved right up to them and is photographing a montage of the entire formation.  I'm guessing that it's getting ready for some more detailed studies...

What's wrong with this sentence?

What's wrong with this sentence?  “Young men often have to deal with unwanted sexual attention from women.”  Really?  I was a young man once, though that was quite a few years ago.  I cannot imagine any “sexual attention” from a woman that I'd have called unwanted.  The world is apparently changing in ways that I'd never have anticipated...

Beautiful science images...

Beautiful science images...  A nice collection.

29th delay...

29th delay...  for the ObamaCare individual mandate.

Can we just repeal this pile of crap, please?  Any Congressional candidate who wants my vote, listen up: promise publicly that you'll immediately move to repeal ObamaCare, and you've got my vote.  This year, I'm a one-issue voter.  I don't care if you support mandatory union membership for retirees, a 10 hour work week, censorship of non-progressives, doubling the income tax rate, and federal welfare for same-sex gopher marriages – if you promise to repeal ObamaCare, I'll vote for you!

IPCC admits...

IPCC admits ... that the economic costs of global warming have been grossly overestimated.  Reality is biting them.  Hard.

California leads the way!

California leads the way!  In gun-running government officials who strongly advocate gun control.  Wait - what?

The eastern U.S. is tired of snow...

The eastern U.S. is tired of snow...  My mom sent along this photo (click to embiggen), part of a collection of snow-related visual humor.  Everyone I know who lives more than a few hundred miles north or east of San Diego is very, very tired of cold and snow.  This global-warming-induced extended cold snap is getting old!

Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...  From an interview with Freeman Dyson:
Interviewer: You became a professor at Cornell without ever having received a Ph.D. You seem almost proud of that fact.

Dyson: Oh, yes. I’m very proud of not having a Ph.D. I think the Ph.D. system is an abomination. It was invented as a system for educating German professors in the 19th century, and it works well under those conditions. It’s good for a very small number of people who are going to spend their lives being professors. But it has become now a kind of union card that you have to have in order to have a job, whether it’s being a professor or other things, and it’s quite inappropriate for that. It forces people to waste years and years of their lives sort of pretending to do research for which they’re not at all well-suited. In the end, they have this piece of paper which says they’re qualified, but it really doesn’t mean anything. The Ph.D. takes far too long and discourages women from becoming scientists, which I consider a great tragedy. So I have opposed it all my life without any success at all.
I've been a Freeman Dyson fan for years.  He's full of interesting ideas, a clear thinker, and he writes prolifically in a style that's easy for non-scientists to understand. In all those years, somehow I never knew that he didn't have the standard credential of a scientist: the Ph.D.  Awesome!

The executive branch is too powerful...

The executive branch is too powerful...  G. W. Bush and B. H. Obama have expanded the power of the executive branch to the point where it spends as it pleases, obeys (or disobeys) laws at its whim, and routinely exercises powers that the Constitution never gave it.  Here's the latest example.

This has happened twice before in American history: with Abraham Lincoln and with Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In both cases, subsequent administrations managed to significantly reign in the executive branch's powers, assumed during wartime or economic crisis.  Let's hope the next U.S. administration can start that process again... 

This is...

This is ... strange.  But also compelling.  If you've been a credulous consumer of advertising, this may contain some surprises for you...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ship warping in the waves...

Ship warping in the waves...  More here...

About a zillion years ago, I was in the U.S. Navy, one of the crew on the USS Long Beach (CGN-9), a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser.  I worked in the bowels of the ship, in a set of compartments known collectively as the Combat Information Center (CIC).  Those compartments were well below water level.  Only one thing was even further down: the “shaft alley” which contained the huge, solid metal shaft that connected the forward reactor (with it's turbine and reduction gears) to one of the propellers at the stern of the ship.  This shaft transmitted 40,000 horsepower from the output of the reduction gears back to the propeller.  It was solid steel, roughly 24" in diameter, and about 300' long.  It ran through enormous sleeve bearings in pillow blocks roughly 30' apart, so most of the shaft was in open air.

When the ship was running at high speed, occasionally someone on the bridge would ask for the “twist” to be inspected.  What they meant by this was the degree to which the torque on the shaft caused it to twist.  When I first heard this request, I thought they were nuts – what on earth could twist a piece of steel that big?  But I wandered down into the shaft alley along with the sailor assigned to the job, and I got to see it for myself.  The shaft had a straight line scribed all the way down its length – well, straight when the shaft was standing still, anyway.  The shaft alley had a set of strobe lights, all rigged to go off when the shaft turned to top-dead-center at the reduction gear output.  When the ship was running at high speed, if you stood near the reduction gears you could directly see that twist as you looked down the shaft.  It twisted over 90° at peak load.  I'm still amazed that an engine could be so powerful as to twist a huge piece of steel like that!

A sweet time-lapse...

A sweet time-lapse...  With a song.  Just watch...

Let's make 'em squeal!

Let's make 'em squeal!  I wish I could vote for her...

Your bones are gooey...

Your bones are gooey...  Really!

Beautiful landscape photos...

Beautiful landscape photos...  By Kilian Sch├Ânberger – who, amazingly, is color-blind...

The Huygens mission's near-death experience...

The Huygens mission's near-death experience ...  and the stubborn Swedish geek who saved it...

California leads the way!

California leads the way!  ...in chicken protection and raising the cost of basic food items.  I sure am glad my state legislators have their priorities in order.

We are counting the days, folks.  Counting the days...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...  From C. Edmund Wright, writing at American Thinker:
But forget low-information voters for just a minute; the malignancy that is really destroying this country is low-information people with high-profile power and/or influence. You know, people who would lobby for, comment on, advocate for, or vote on laws like ObamaCare without any understanding of its real-world impact. Such felonies are then carried out by low-information bureaucratic microbes with the power to destroy lives and businesses with impunity, and a political and talking-head class with the access and sway to codify these common malfeasances. Destruction of private property and liberty – and these two concepts are not divisible – takes place in government cubicles every minute of every day across the country. And why not?
Read the whole thing...

Anything for love...

Anything for love...  Just watch it...

Social justice...

Social justice...  Jonah Goldberg explains the left's favorite hobby horse.  It's really all about stealing money from some people and handing it to others (with the government taking their percentage, of course)...

U.S. tornadoes, 1980 - 2012...

U.S. tornadoes, 1980 - 2012...  A nice interactive map.  No tornadoes where we're going!

Geek: binary floating point kills...

Geek: binary floating point kills...  The infamous Patriot missile failure to knock down a Scud that struck a barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia (in 1991, during the first Gulf war), was caused by the failure of a binary floating point number to exactly represent the value 0.1

I once interviewed a software engineer who had quit his previous job, writing firmware for an insulin pump.  I asked why he had quit, and he relayed a story that is the stuff of nightmares for any software engineer: the first time his code was used on an actual patient, in trials for the insulin pump, the patient died of an insulin overdose.  The overdose was tracked down to a software bug caused by a floating point problem very similar to the one described above.  It was in code that my candidate had written, and he quit that same day.  This explained why one of his first questions for me was whether our software was ever used in a way that could hurt or kill someone...

NIST Randomness Beacon...

NIST Randomness Beacon...  It uses quantum effects, but the bandwidth is quite low...

How do we know that Flight MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean?

How do we know that Flight MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean?  Easy to understand explanation...

Something is badly wrong when...

Something is badly wrong when ... a one day visit to Brussels by our president requires an entourage of 900 people, 45 vehicles, 3 planes, and 9 helicopters

It sounds like something out of an implausible Hollywood political comedy.

I don't even want to think about what that's costing us.

I want a new administration, please.  Now!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Science GIFs...

Science GIFs...  A small collection of science demonstrations in animated GIF form...

Notable boomers...

Notable boomers...  The premise of this New York Times article is to wonder where prominent baby boomers come from.  The graphic at right (click to embiggen), from the article, shows the “notable” baby boomers as a per capita fraction of that state's baby boomer population (defined by the state they were born in).

At first glance, breadth of the distribution (nearly 4 to 1) and the locations of the highs and lows reflect what you might expect: highs near population centers and universities, lows in rural areas. 

If you look a little closer, there are some major anomalies.  Why are Utah and Wyoming (with mostly rural populations) higher than average?  Why are Colorado and Virginia (with mostly urban populations) lower than average?

So I dug into it a little deeper.  The first thing that jumped out at me: the definition of “notable” and the distribution of why they are notable.  Someone is considered notable for this article's purposes if they have a page in Wikipedia.  Well, that's an interesting definition – and subject to all sorts of bias.  Then when you look at the notable persons' occupations (conveniently listed at the top of that graphic) you see that more than three quarters of them are “notable” for their participation in the arts, entertainment, sports, or politics.

Now I'm not sure who you would consider notable, but for me that list would not include any sports figures, nor the vast majority of politicians, nor any entertainers, nor any but a tiny number of artists.  The people whom I would consider “notable” would be scientists, business people, politicians, and artists who made significant contributions – something quite hard to define – of one kind or another.  I'd be quite interested to see a distribution like that...

Feynman on computer heuristics...

Feynman on computer heuristics...

California leads the way...

California leads the way ... in government squashing the citizenry...

Is Putin repeating the self-defeating behaviors of the Soviet Union?

Is Putin repeating the self-defeating behaviors of the Soviet Union?  Some interesting thoughts in here...

Animal vision...

Animal vision...  Our vision is so integral to our perception of the world that it's a bit jolting to realize that most animals see the world much differently than we do.  In some cases, they see fewer colors than we do, and this isn't so hard to imagine.  But some animals see with much greater clarity than we do (for instance, raptors at the center of their visual field), or they see different wavelengths (colors) than we do.  These differences are much harder to wrap our brains around.

This article has several human vs. animal images, like the flower at right which shows (on the left) what a bee sees versus (on the right) what a human sees.  The green is a false color, as the bee is actually perceiving ultraviolet light directly and presumably sees it as a completely new color that we can't see at all.  In the image's simulation that ultraviolet area is painted as green so that we can try to imagine it, and it does help.  One thing that image doesn't show, however, is how the bee's segmented eye affects its perception – and partly that's because we really don't know.

Still, just the idea that animal vision is so different than human vision is kind of weird, isn't it?

Greatest things since the wheel...

Greatest things since the wheel...  This is a self-styled list of the 50 greatest innovations since the wheel.  It's a collection of opinions from a panel of 12 experts, so it reflects their knowledge and biases – but it's an interesting and plausible list.  I'm no expert on any of this, but I'd have chosen a few others myself (for instance, the development of pesticides).  I'd also love to see similar lists with specific criteria – such as the 50 innovations that saved the most lives, or that created the most wealth.

Speechless, I am...

Speechless, I am...  This is occasionally quite pretty to watch, but it's rather terrifying the entire time she's not in the harness.

There seems to be no end to the variations on human crazy...

The making of a police state...

The making of a police state...  Kevin at The Smallest Minority wants to know...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Isn't it ironic?

Isn't it ironic?  Government surveillance edition.  Remy does it again...

Sea levels and satellites...

Sea levels and satellites...  If you're an anthropogenic global warming skeptic, one of the most frustrating discussions you can have with warmists is about rising sea levels.  They are typically absolutely convinced that sea levels are rising swiftly, and that large chunks of the planet's land will soon be underwater.

The truth is just a tad more complicated.  The evidence about sea level changes isn't even close to being rock solid.  There are so many complicating factors when it comes to simply measuring sea level that nobody really knows for sure whether sea levels are even changing, much less whether they're going up or down!

An especially frustrating facet of this debate comes from satellite-based sea level measurements.  The assumption that most people make is that satellite-based sea level measurements are direct and unambiguous – but in fact they are not, for many reasons.  Most of the articles I've read about sea level measurement challenges are highly technical.  Here's one that anybody at all can understand – not just about the satellite measurement challenges, but all of them.  Good stuff, by a clan of Irish scientists.

This article is a great illustration of the enormous uncertainties that afflict just about every aspect of climatology.  Even measurement is hard in climatology, unlike in must other branches of science!

Here's another great article from the same folks about problems with the U.S. temperature data from surface weather stations...

Oops...

Oops...  Via reader and friend Simon M.:


Snowden and the press...

Snowden and the press...  An interesting piece by Glenn Greenwald that reveals some of the ways that professional journalists distort the stories they report...

ROFL!

ROFL!  Scott Adams cracked me up this morning with his Sunday cartoon:


What makes Dilbert so great for me is that I can always reach into my own past to find an actual person exhibiting the behavior he illustrates.  Today's cartoon instantly reminded me of a mid-level manager who worked for me (and who shall remain unnamed) in the '90s – a guy who could have replaced the pointy-haired boss in this cartoon...

Hmmm...

Hmmm...  Debbie spotted a news report this morning that warns of a large increase in the number of rabid skunks near Sacramento, California.

That's the state capital, where the legislature and governor work – but the news report was talking about actual skunks (Mephitis mephitis), not politicians (Homo despicabalus).

The news report presents this as a bad, scary thing.

We're not so sure about that.  In fact, it seems to us that those rabid skunks might well be able to perform a much-needed public service.  I wonder how we could encourage them?

An interesting artifact...

An interesting artifact...  Photography buffs of a certain age (like me!) will immediately recognize the object in the photo: it's a Hasselblad 500 EL “system camera”, widely acknowledged as one of the finest SLR film cameras ever made.  Every serious photographer of the '60s and '70s lusted for one of these, but very few could actually afford one. 

This particular one is rather special: it was modified by NASA for use on the Apollo lunar missions.  It's the only one that was actually returned from the moon (the other six are still there!), and it still has some moon dust on it.  It sold at auction recently for $760,000...

A moral right...

A moral right...  That's what Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young, of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) said she has.  A moral right, that is, to assault a pro-life protestor and steal her sign.  The video at right is from a cell phone that captured the incident.

It would be easy to hype the physical specifics of this incident far beyond what actually happened.  The young woman who was assaulted did suffer some injury, but very minor.  Her property was stolen, but it was a homemade sign of negligible value.

None of that matters.

What matters is this: an adult professor, allegedly a role model for her students, took these actions and then subsequently defended them as appropriate.  Indeed, she claims to be setting a good example!

Now I'm not actually surprised by this.  It's par for the course amongst entitled progressives.  After all, they don't actually believe that everyone has equal rights, no matter how much they preach it.  They relentlessly seek to repress anti-progressive speech and activity at every opportunity.  That's exactly what Miller-Young did here – and she thinks she was in the right!

California is saturated with people holding this mindset, most especially in the larger cities and university towns.  They are bastions of progressivism in its most virulent forms.

As I read this story, I imagined what would happen to this professor were she to behave this way in Logan, Utah, near where we are shortly moving.  I suspect it would be mere minutes until she was run out of town and replaced by someone with a tighter grip on sanity.  But this is California.  Despite the fact that she's being criminally charged, my bet would be that she not only retains her position at UCSB, but is promoted as soon as the hubbub dies down.

I can't wait to escape this loony bin of a state!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shazzam!

Shazzam!  While cleaning my office today, I stumbled across a fun piece of memorabilia...

About four years ago, when I was still working for ServiceNow, I wrote a piece of software that I called “Shazzam” as a sort of code name while I was developing it.   Shazzam turned out to be one of the more successful improvements I made to the Discovery product, making one particular aspect significantly faster and more reliable than it was (technical details below for the 3.5 readers who might care).  When the time came to actually ship Shazzam, we never changed the name – so Shazzam became part of the released product.  And I became known throughout the company (and many of its customers) as the guy who wrote Shazzam.

When I retired last year, someone photoshopped my head onto the graphic below, and used it for the cover of a card my colleagues signed (the “good riddance!” card):


So what does Shazzam do?  Its job is to probe a range of IP addresses to see which ones have a device active on it.  The result of running Shazzam is a list of active IP addresses that need to be investigated more deeply.

Prior to Shazzam, the Discovery product accomplished this by “pinging” each IP address.  In order to keep the code as pure Java, it did this by invoking the “ping” utility for the particular platform it was running on.  Using ping has several disadvantages, not least of which is that some devices have ICMP (which ping runs on) disabled.  It's also outrageously slow, because a separate process has to be started for the ping of each address being scanned.

Shazzam takes a completely different approach: it checks to see if each IP address responds to any of the TCP or UDP ports used for the deeper investigation.  For example, it checks for SSH ports being listened on (because that's how a UNIX server would be investigated) and for SNMP ports responding (because that's how a piece of network gear would be investigated).  It makes all those tests using Java's NIO package, which is designed for high-speed I/O while consuming just one thread.  All of this worked very well, even for customers with very large scale deployments (many thousands of devices).

I don't mind being known as the Shazzam guy :)

Dogs meet magician...

Dogs meet magician...  Hilarity ensues!

These Russians are completely insane...

These Russians are completely insane...

What's this?

What's this?  Why, it's one page from a notebook used by Isaac Newton while he was studying at Trinity College, Cambridge University in 1664 and 1665.  The entire notebook has been scanned at high resolution and is available online.

Geek: an interview with Donald Knuth...

Geek: an interview with Donald Knuth...  I'd not seen this interview from 2008 before.  The interviewer is Andrew Binstock, and it's full of interesting stuff.  Here's one sample:
To me, it looks more or less like the hardware designers have run out of ideas, and that they’re trying to pass the blame for the future demise of Moore’s Law to the software writers by giving us machines that work faster only on a few key benchmarks! I won’t be surprised at all if the whole multithreading idea turns out to be a flop, worse than the "Itanium" approach that was supposed to be so terrific—until it turned out that the wished-for compilers were basically impossible to write.
To programmers of a certain age (that would include me!), Donald Knuth has a status approaching that of a living god.  His monograph The Art of Computer Programming was recommended to me by Don Tarbell in 1976.  I bought the three volumes that were then available, and practically wore them out as I studied them from front to back.  Prior to reading these volumes, I had absolutely no idea that algorithms and data structures had been so well studied and understood; in that sense Knuth's volumes were revelatory for me, as well as providing a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding for me to build a career on...

California leads the way!

California leads the way!  In government-sponsored credit card information breaches.  I guess we really shouldn't be surprised that an agency staffed primarily by union members, whose contracts are overseen by all-too-corruptible professional bureaucrats, and whose IT department must surely be the least desirable entry on the resume of every geek whose ever worked there, would have IT security issues...

Every day I find reasons to be glad that we're escaping this lunatic asylum...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Our story...

Our story...  In a two minute YouTube video...

Steel building (20' x 60') kit for sale...

Steel building (20' x 60') kit for sale...  This kit was made by U.S. Buildings about 10 years ago, and has never been assembled.  It's in excellent condition, almost like new.  Once assembled, my kit would look much like the building in the photo at right, except that my kit includes two solid steel end-walls and an extra-large hinged steel door (not a roll-up) for one end.  These end-walls can be easily modified for whatever kind of openings you want.  My kit also includes three fiberglass skylights that replace three of the steel roof panels.

The kit is currently sitting in my yard (see photos below), in Lawson Valley (about 5 miles east of Jamul town).  The manufacturer is still in business, and still offers the same model (so support and parts are readily available).  My kit is for a model “A”, and it is 20' wide and 12'3" high in the center.  The building comes in any length that's an increment of 2', and my kit is for a 60' length.  You could purchase more sections from the manufacturer to make it even longer.

The building is designed to be mounted on a concrete pad, and California-approved engineering drawings and a construction manual are included.  There's also several buckets of special neoprene-gasketed nuts and bolts (more than should be needed).  The photos below show all the parts stacked on two racks I built for the purpose (they're included if you buy the kit from me).

The kit originally cost me just over $12,000 ten years ago.  The first offer over $8,000 takes the kit immediately; otherwise the highest offer we receive before June 30 gets it.  American cash only, please, unless we already know you.

If you're interested, contact me by email: tom-at-dilatush-dot-com.



Layered rocks on Mars...

Layered rocks on Mars...  The Curiosity rover recently sent back the photo at right (click to embiggen), showing clearly layered rocks.  These look to me like shale (or possibly slate, which is a metamorphic rock derived from shale), a rock typically formed at the bottom of bodies of still water, like lakes or lagoons.  I haven't seen any commentary on the Curiosity site about this yet, but if I'm right, it's even more evidence that Mars was once a watery body...

The Glassmaker Who Sparked Astrophysics...

The Glassmaker Who Sparked Astrophysics...  A great article on another fascinating bit of science history.  It's features characters (especially Joseph Fraunhofer) whom I thought I knew well, but about whom I clearly have much to learn (that's a frequently repeated theme in my life :). 

Wherein I rant about the decline of writing skills...

Wherein I rant about the decline of writing skills...  Here's a headline I happened upon this morning:
Assassin bug uses a 'slight of leg' to deceive and subdue physically superior prey
I'm sure the clever headline writer actually meant to say “sleight of leg” – but just wasn't clever enough to spell it correctly.

As recently as 10 or 15 years ago, finding such an obvious error on the pages of a commercial publication was a rare event.  Today it seems to happen nearly every day.  It may simply be that the failures of American public education are now making it into the “professional” workplace.  Whatever the cause, it makes me crazy – my eyes jump right to the error, and my brain has to worker harder (and I'm lazy, dammit!) to understand it.

Like so many times before, I fired off a complaining email.  Only rarely have these complaints been answered by an actual human.  Once (with Scientific American) my complaint netted me a free one year extension on the magazine – which was nice, but then the magazine turned into a lefty mouthpiece and I dropped my subscription, free or not.  So really all my ranting and complaining has achieved nothing at all.

Maybe I should just give up :(

Geek: Cryptographic “right answers”...

Geek: Cryptographic “right answers”...  This is a series of common questions about using cryptography with direct answers that are briefly explained.  Though it was written (by Colin Percival, a well-known guy in the security world) over four years ago, it still looks like good advice to me, jibing with more modern advice I've read.  This post is referenced from hundreds of web sites, but somehow I've never stumbled across it before...

America has a corruption problem...

America has a corruption problem...  It's not as blatant as the corruption in Russia, China, India, or even Italy.  But it's there, it's insidious, and it's affecting American innovation.

Corruption:  Perversion or destruction of integrity in the discharge of public duties by bribery or favour; the use or existence of corrupt practices, especially in a state, public corporation, etc.
For quite a few years now, I've been paying more attention to historians, economists, and political scientists who theorize that systems of government inevitably accumulate the elements of corruption over time, eventually becoming so dysfunctional, evil, or sclerotic that they are conquered or overthrown.  I am becoming increasingly convinced that they are correct about inevitability, and that even the grand experiment that is America will eventually succumb.  The only thing that gives me hope of escaping this fate is that it is at least theoretically possible for Americans to have a peaceful revolution through the ballot box.  The 2012 election cycle just about wiped out that hope for me.  The 2014 cycle is looking a bit better, but then the 2012 cycle looked pretty good 9 months before the election, too.  If the 2016 election cycle fails to look even remotely like a revolution, then I think the last vestiges of my hope will have been stomped into the ground.

And if the American experiment is doomed to fail, what then for someone living in these times?

Stagnant toilet of pseudo-justice...

Stagnant toilet of pseudo-justice...  Ah, that Mark Steyn certainly has a gift for a turn of phrase.  In a single post, he lampoons the American systems of criminal and civil justice, and the “over-lawyerization” of foreign policy and national security.  And somehow makes you grin while he delivers the bitter verdict!

If you'd like to support Mark Steyn's one man war on the Mann, he's got some ways to do it that are more amusing than simply dropping a few bills on him (though I'm sure he wouldn't mind that, either!)...

Obamacare bites prominent leftie...

Obamacare bites prominent leftie...  Will Pitt is a notorious flaming liberal of the activist variety.  His resume includes such things as a stint as Press Secretary for perennial presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich, membership in Progressive Democrats of America, and columnist at TruthOut.  In other words, he's a certifiable loony leftist.  Here's what he has to say about Obamacare, in a post on Democratic Underground:
What I've learned after a three-month war with these fiends: the ACA says the insurance companies cannot deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, which is true as far as it goes. But they can deny coverage for the life-saving medications necessary to treat those conditions. The insurance company I signed up with through the ACA exchange just denied coverage of my wife's multiple sclerosis medication. We're "covered," to the tune of $700 a month...just not for what she really needs.

A cozy loophole, that.

Fuck you, insurance industry.

Fuck you, Mr. President, you piece of shit used-car salesman.

From my heart and soul, fuck you.
Then in the comments to that post, he says:
I helped, in my own small way, to promote this thing, because of the pre-existing conditions aspect that would benefit my wife. I feel like a fucking dupe.

On edit: I AM a fucking dupe. Last time that happens.
On the whole, that doesn't sound like someone still enchanted with his former hero, Barack Hussein Obama.  Much more from Mr. Pitt here.

Being a dyed-in-the-wool leftie, his solution of choice is a government-run single-payer system.  Like his fellow lefties, he completely ignores the conspicuous lack of a successful example of such a system anywhere in the world, at any time in history.  It will be right when we do it, they say.  But at least he's woken up to the disaster otherwise known as Obamacare...

The race to absolute zero...

The race to absolute zero...  A fascinating tale of science history in Victorian times...

A crack in the hockey stick?

A crack in the hockey stick?  All over the warmist world, heads are exploding because of the news that the American Physical Society has decided to conduct a high-level review of its position on anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) – and the six member committee appointed to do the review includes three prominent AGW skeptics (including a favorite scientist of mine, Judith Curry).

For some reason, the mainstream media isn't trumpeting this story.  But you can read all about it here, there, and (with actually exploding heads) over here.

Russia and Estonia...

Russia and Estonia...  Estonian President Toomas Hendrick Ilves: “Era of peace is over.”  The article makes it clear that he and other Eastern European leaders are deeply worried about the wimpy NATO and EU response to Putin's Ukraine incursion...


Obama & Putin phone call...

Obama & Putin phone call...  “In Russia, we have word for this...”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Erythronium revolutum...

Erythronium revolutum...  Also known as the pink fawn-lily.  We've seen these growing in small meadows within a forest, in very dense groups.  At a distance they can look like small ponds nestled in the lowest part of a meadow.  Via BPOD, of course...

Chicken from hell...

Chicken from hell...
Scientists have discovered a freakish, birdlike species of dinosaur — 11 feet long, 500 pounds, with a beak, no teeth, a bony crest atop its head, murderous claws, prize-fighter arms, spindly legs, a thin tail and feathers sprouting all over the place. Officially, it’s a member of a group of dinosaurs called oviraptorosaurs.

Unofficially, it’s the Chicken From Hell.
Wouldn't want to meet that thing in a dark alley!

What languages fix...

What languages fix...  Paul Graham on a different way to describe various programming languages:
Kevin Kelleher suggested an interesting way to compare programming languages: to describe each in terms of the problem it fixes. The surprising thing is how many, and how well, languages can be described this way.
Then he posts a bunch of examples. Here's just one:
Java: C++ is a kludge. And Microsoft is going to crush us.
Hah! And he's right – these make surprisingly good descriptions for quite a number of programming languages...

Russia and Estonia...

Russia and Estonia...  Longtime readers know that I have visited the little country of Estonia many times, and know it well.  So yesterday when I read this article, I was quite worried.  The gist of the article:
Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia's treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of Russian.

Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian-speakers outside its borders, so the reference to linguistic tensions in another former Soviet republic comes at a highly sensitive moment.
This prompted me to write an old friend in Estonia, to see what his take on the situation was.  He told me:
In short – yes, the majority of people are worried (polls say 70% or so) but that applies to Estonians. I am ashamed to say that many local Russians think that Putin does the right thing :(  What is the proportion of pro-Putin and anti-Putin local Russians nobody knows for sure and this understandingly just increases the anxiety among the Estonians. In Russia itself the support for Crimea annexation is overwhelming, even many Putin critics now support him. And that is I think one of the root causes for his actions -- earlier many people we're increasingly dissatisfied with his reign but now everyone who is unhappy about corruption or economy decline will be considered a traitor of the nation by the majority of the society. There is not even need for repressions for such protests (but rest assured we will see repressions anyway).
That doesn't sound good at all! He went on:
I'd say we are looking at something resembling Nazi Germany A.D. 1938. There is good news too, however -- unlike Germany, Russia is very ineffective and depends on outside world economically very much. For example, as much as 60% of beef and pork consumed are imports, majority of civil aircraft are Boeings and Airbuses, etc. Thus well targeted economic sanctions would quickly make Russians think again is Putin such a good ruler indeed. I would start with banning luxury cars and their spares export to Russia. The Russian officials may damn the West day in and day out but their rides are exclusively Mercedes, BMW and Audi. For them having to ride in anything else will be deeply humiliating :) And of course visa bans have to be widespread. I would cancel US and Schengen visas for everyone who works for the Russian govt. These people can be very patriotic in their speeches but are very used to their skiing vacations in the Alps, shopping tours to NYC and London, etc. Explaining to your wife why she will from now on only shop in extremely overpriced Moscow shops which often sell you Chinese replicas instead of originals is slightly more challenging than explaining to the masses why everything Western is evil :)

So if you want to help us and the Russians in Russia to get over it with the least possible damage, write to your congressman an demand swift and well targeted action. Trying to calm down a dictator with strong worded condemnations never works. If the Western democracies acted resolutely about Hitler's annexation of the Sudet region of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (also carried out to 'protect' the German minority), the WWII would probably not even started.
The Nazi comparisons he cites have been widely echoed.  His belief in the effectiveness of sanctions exceed mine – but here's one case where I sincerely hope that I am wrong, and that Obama wakes up from his Progressive reverie quickly and takes strong action on them.  I've already written my Senators (worthless weasels they are) and Congressman (a member of a more hopeful species).  

His name is Brad...

His name is Brad...  And he's an addict.  And a toaster...

Some day, I will be proud of my kitchen appliances.  But today is not that day...

Aurora borealis...

Aurora borealis...  Via reader Simi L.  You'll want to make this one full screen...

The Republican Advantage, 2014...

The Republican Advantage, 2014...  Via friend and reader Simon M.:


That isn't quite what you'd hear from me, but the attitude is certainly right: anything but a Democrat!

The Confession...

The Confession...  Via my lovely bride:
A man walked into a Washington D.C. Catholic Church Confessional.  He tells the priest: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Last night, I killed a Congressman."

The Priest responds: "My son, I'm here to forgive your sins, not discuss your community service!"

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”  So said my hero Richard Feynman, in a delicious quote I'd not heard before.  Now a group of scientists, including several Nobel laureates, have written a letter in which they invoked Feynman as an example of the kind of scientific maverick they'd like to see more of.

For some reason, climatology came right to mind – with a little fantasy of Richard Feynman meeting Michael Mann.  I'm pretty sure that only Feynman would leave that meeting with his ego intact :)

Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...  Goes to Mark Steyn, writing about his legal battle with Mr.-Aren't-I-Wonderful? Michael Mann:
After a year and a half ensnared by poisonous fecal tendrils in the unpumped toxic septic tank of DC "justice", I don't think "broken" quite covers it. To any non-American, this system is utterly repulsive. In England, trial by jury replaced trial by ordeal. Somehow America has managed to turn trial by jury into a mere postscript to trial by ordeal. I think it ought to be possible to litigate a 270-word blog post in under 270 weeks. So let's get on with it.
The wonderfully descriptive phrase “poisonous fecal tendrils” appears to be Mr. Steyn's unique invention.  Google found only four references to it just now, and all four are derived from Steyn's post...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

By brotherly demand...

By brotherly demand...  My brother saw this Bill Whittle Afterburner video, apparently for the first time, and said:
You MUST put this on your blog, bro!
Yeah, he really talks like that.  He's never left New Jersey, and the place has apparently soaked his neurons in what passes for the “culture” in that sad and intellectually desolate place.  But he did pick one of Bill Whittle's best, so despite the fact that I posted this just a few months ago, here's a replay to make my brother happy.

At the end, Bill says “Don’t mess with Texas!”  I'd like to add to that: “Don’t mess with Utah!”  If Utah gets Californicated, I'm not sure where we could run to.

Oh, and a note to my brother: you live in one of the few places on earth that can make California look well-managed.  Escape while you can!

Dog Goldberg machine...

Dog Goldberg machine...  You'll want full screen for this one...

Only in England...

Only in England...  Can you imagine the feminista uproar were this to play on U.S. television?

Our narcissist-in-chief...

Our narcissist-in-chief...  Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom is not amused:
And he wants you – and Ryan Seacrest — to know that, in point of fact, he looks really sharp in jeans, particularly when he’s not dressing in loose jeans on one specific occasion so that he can show off his canon while throwing out a first pitch without, you know, getting his giant balls all bound up and what not.

Good lord. What a fucking narcissist.

Does no one around this guy have the guts to tell him he looks ridiculous trying to fake the trappings of what society has come to look on (and Obama, as an academic, would vehemently reject, even as he so strives for it) as comfortable masculinity?
RTWT...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

People are awesome 2013...

People are awesome 2013...  Or, as reader Simi L. said when he passed this along:
PEOPLE ARE INSANE 2013 strikes me as a better title. I wonder how many of these people are no longer with us in 2014?
Indeed...

If those two are my choices on the ballot, I’m writing in Nachos Supreme With Extra Cheese...

If those two are my choices on the ballot, I’m writing in Nachos Supreme With Extra Cheese...  Ah, Rachel, my morning isn't complete without your trenchant commentary.   I have to steal the whole thing because it's so short:
I can’t find the link now but this morning I was reading another (allegedly) serious news article which predicted that, in this (allegedly) advanced civilization that is supposed to contain a certain number of rational adults, the two main contenders for the (allegedly) most important job on Planet Earth in 2016 will likely be Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. So either another Bush or another Clinton president.

That’s all. I’m just amazed we pretend to be a serious country anymore.

If those two are my choices on the ballot, I’m writing in Nachos Supreme With Extra Cheese.

Obama is not her hero any more...

Obama is not her hero any more...  This girl was a moony Obama hope 'n changer.  The past five years have brought her much disillusionment.  Now she pretty much loathes all politicians, of any stripe.  Her political philosophy is right out of the '60s flower children playbook, though that is obviously long before her time.  Still, it's nice to see that That One doesn't hold all the younger progressives in his thrall...

120 year old color photos of Ireland...

120 year old color photos of Ireland...  Many more like the one at right!

Hawk v. Squirrel...

Hawk v. Squirrel...  Nobody gets eaten, but there is some truly amazing cinematography on display here.  You'll want full screen on this one!  Via my mom...