Saturday, June 28, 2014

Just made it into Paradise...

Just made it into Paradise...  And it's way past our bedtime!

It's o'dark thirty on Saturday morning...

It's o'dark thirty on Saturday morning...  Our FJ Cruiser is loaded and ready, as is the trailer attached to its rear.  We're off for Utah today!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Be careful around nurses...

Be careful around nurses...  Via my CCPOAA mom:
A policeman was rushed to the hospital with an inflamed appendix.  After his operation the doctors advised him that all was well.  However, the patrolman kept feeling something pulling at the hairs in his crotch.

Worried that it might be another surgery needed that the doctors hadn't told him about yet, he finally got enough energy to pull his hospital gown up sufficiently, that he could look at what was making him so uncomfortable.  Taped firmly across his pubic hair and private parts were three wide strips of adhesive tape, the kind that doesn't come off easily – if at all!

Written on the tape in large black letters was the sentence, "Get well soon, from the nurse in the Ford Explorer you pulled over last week and gave a ticket to!"
Ouch!

Congress to sue Obama for executive branch overreach?

Congress to sue Obama for executive branch overreach?  Boehner announced his intent to pursue this yesterday.  I have some insta-reactions:
  • Well, it's about frickin' time!  What the heck took you so long, beltway-breath?
  • Boehner did this?  There must be some reason, other than the obvious...
  • Jonathan Turley thinks the suit may prevail, causing progressive heads to explode.  More popcorn, please!
  • Why didn't Pelosi do this with George W. Bush, who was nearly as bad as Obama in this regard?
  • The safe bet would be that this is pure political posturing, and Boehner has no intent to see the lawsuit actually make it through the courts until a judgment is reached.  I feel so (justifiably) cynical saying this, but I will be completely unsurprised when some reason to drop the suit magically arises...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Adjusted temperature data...

Adjusted temperature data...  Warren Meyer (aka “Coyote”) has a balanced recap of the adjusted temperature data used by the NOAA that forms the basis of many “hockey stick” like graphs.

Learning about this adjusted data was the first thing I ran into, five years ago or so, that set off all my bullshit detectors regarding anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  Specifically, it was the combination of the fact that the reported global warming was nearly identical to the adjustments made in the temperature data, and that the adjustments were never explained, justified, or even revealed.  That was just way too convenient for the AGW proponents – much like the oh-so-convenient “hard drive failures” that wiped out the emails of seven IRS employees.  Just those seven – and just for the time period the investigators need the emails.  Yeah, right.  I felt (and still feel) the same way about those opaque temperature adjustments.

The second thing that I ran into – which amplified my already turned up bullshit detectors – was my discovery that every single model used by both the NOAA and the IPCC used positive feedback loop assumptions for carbon dioxide's effects on global warming.  As Warren Myer has pointed out many times, positive feedback loops are exceedingly rare in natural systems – so much so that when someone claims to have discovered one, the universal assumption amongst scientists is that there's an error in the observations, and everybody piles on to figure out what it is.  Nearly all feedback loops in nature are strongly negative.  What does that mean?  It means that as carbon dioxide levels go up, it is much more likely that its effect on global temperatures will decrease (that is, the CO2 sensitivity will decrease).  The models all assume that CO2 sensitivity will increase as levels go up. 

Mechanical energy storage...

Mechanical energy storage ... is getting a lot of attention right now.  All of these are less efficient than electrochemical systems (aka “batteries”), but have other advantages (most especially, cost at scale) that outweigh the efficiency differences.  I know of one other mechanical storage technique being actively pursued: inertial storage.  In an inertial storage system, a large and heavy flywheel is spun up to store energy and down to recover it.  To my knowledge, the largest inertial storage system is in Israel, where a small town uses one to store solar energy during the day and recover it at night...

Ten small cats...

Ten small cats...  Like the sand cat at right.  Pictured in the series: a serval (sometimes cervil) which, when crossbred with a common housecat, produces a “Savannah” cat like our Jahar...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Did you know that Wal-Mart...

Did you know that Wal-Mart ... has a sense of humor?

Being green?

Being green?  That's for the little people...

Music video with optical illusions...

Music video with optical illusions...  Now there's a combination I don't recall seeing before :)  Some of the illusions are pretty darned good!

Kenzie's Dance...

Kenzie's Dance...  Have a box of Kleenex handy, and watch for her smile near the end.  Via my mom...

Light blogging alert!

Light blogging alert!  I've got a busy few days here...  Today I'm mostly catching up with some of my San Diego-based friends (including a lunch at the Fish Market in Del Mar, where I know what I'm having - scallops!).  Tomorrow I'm picking up our new trailer, and I'll start packing it for our Colorado trip.  Thursday and Friday is for packing and catching up with a few more friends.  And Saturday morning, at o'dark thirty, we're heading out!

Woodpile art...

Woodpile art...  When I stack wood, it doesn't look like these – my piles make a forest snag look neat :)  Via my CCPOAA mom...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Made it to Jamul...

Made it to Jamul...  Got a hug and a kiss from my wife, and the dogs all remembered me :)  The cats all acted like they'd rather I never come back again.

I'm stiff and tired after 14 and a half hours driving.  I wonder why? :)

After spending three months up in the greenery of northern Utah, Jamul looks remarkably ... dead.

Best audio illusion evah!

Best audio illusion evah!  It can't be unheard...

Representative Steve Stockman (R, Texas) submitted this bill...

Representative Steve Stockman (R, Texas) submitted this bill...  And, HA!

Light blogging today, because I'm on the road...

Light blogging today, because I'm on the road...  Jamul, here I come!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Conundrum...

Conundrum...  Via reader Simi L.:
The definition of the word “conundrum” is: something that is puzzling or confusing.

Here are six conundrums of socialism in the United States of America:

1. America is capitalist and greedy - yet half of the population is subsidized.

2. Half of the population is subsidized - yet they think they are victims.

3. They think they are victims - yet their representatives run the government.

4. Their representatives run the government - yet the poor keep getting poorer.

5. The poor keep getting poorer - yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.

6. They have things that people in other countries only dream about - yet they want America to be more like those other countries.

Think about it! And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the USA in the 21st Century.

Makes you wonder who is doing the math.

These three, short sentences tell you a lot about the direction of our current government and cultural environment:

1. We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.  Funny how that works.

And here's another one worth considering...

2. Seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money. How come we never hear about welfare or food stamps running out of money? What's interesting is the first group “worked for” their money, but the second didn't. Think about it...

and last but not least,

3. Why are we cutting benefits for our veterans, no pay raises for our military and cutting our army to a level lower than before WWII, but we are not stopping the payments or benefits to illegal aliens.

Am I missing something?

Yacht goes up in flames...

Yacht goes up in flames ... in San Diego harbor, and a guy with a drone just happened to be in the area and filmed it.  Spectacular footage!

On an entirely different note, the comments on the YouTube video are full of people wishing the worst on that yacht's owner.  Sometimes I don't care for my fellow humans very much.  No, that's not right.  Most of the time, I don't care for my fellow humans very much...

Stork baby cam...

Stork baby cam ... live streaming video of a stork's nest in Estonia...

Now that I've seen it...

Now that I've seen it ... I'm pretty sure I simply cannot live without this tube bender! 

I once needed to bend four lengths of copper tubing identically, with three bends each, none of which were coplanar.  That was hard with the conventional “jig” approach.  I ended up with imperfect results, and that only after several false starts and much frustration.  This little gem would have spit them out lickety-split.  Must have tube bender – even though I can't think of a single use I could make of it...

An owl for my mom...

An owl for my mom...  Drawn by a Slovakian girl, just 15 years old.  Oh, and she's also a falconer!  See the video at left for more about her, or visit this site...


Tomorrow morning...


Tomorrow morning ... at o'dark thirty, I'm headed “down” to Jamul to see my wife and dogs.  I haven't been back to Jamul, or seen my dogs, for over three months!  Debbie came up to visit about six weeks ago, which is the last time I saw her.  I can hardly wait!

The plan is to spend about a week in Jamul, packing the FJ Cruiser and otherwise getting ready for our vacation to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado (see map at right).  Then we'll head up here to Paradise: Debbie, Miki, Race, and I.  We'll stay here for a day or two, then head out to Colorado for three glorious weeks in a remote cabin, at 11,000' way up a 4WD road.  Then it's back here to Paradise for a day or two, then back to Jamul, then I'm heading back up here to finish off all the remodeling so we can move in...

Woo hoo!

Programmers and software users...

Programmers and software users...  Via friend, reader, and former colleague Simon M.:


I think most programmers would agree that bottom pane is unrealistically positive about users :)

The real Hillary?

The real Hillary?  This article gives the background, and provides a link to an audio recording of her being interviewed about a rape case in which she defended the accused perpetrator (this was in 1975; the interview was in the '80s).  To me she sounded quite natural and frank, unlike her public appearances these days.  That adds to the plausibility of her behavior, which is disgusting ... and affirming of the mental model I've built up about her.

Just the possibility that she could be elected president in 2016 gives me the willies...

Naturally hydrophobic (water-repelling) surfaces...

Naturally hydrophobic (water-repelling) surfaces...  A nice explanation and exploration of the science...

This is simply amazing...

This is simply amazing...  Perhaps especially so if you happen to be a worker of wood.  I've seen these boxes before, but I had absolutely no idea how they were made...

Love you Riley!

Love you Riley!  I had not seen (or even heard of) this story of Riley's rescue.  It had me in tears (but it has a happy ending, never fear)...

Friday, June 20, 2014

House update, updated...

House update, updated...  Lots more progress today, and one casualty.

The progress: J.D., Cody, and Neil have several long runs now, all the way across four rooms on the second floor.  These runs are critical to get absolutely straight, both for aesthetic reasons and so that the rest of the rooms install correctly.  They've got it, as you can see in these photos:


The casualty: Craig, who was working with the crew in the beginning of the day, was injured (not seriously) when a piece of wood kicked back out of the table saw.  One of his fingers was split open at the nail, and he was in some pain when Cody ran him up to the clinic.  I hear he's ok now, and back home...

The history of the middle finger...

The history of the middle finger...  Via reader Jerry F., who sent it to me accidentally:
Well, now ... here's something I never knew before, and now that I know it, I feel compelled to send it on to my more intelligent friends in the hope that they, too, will feel edified.  Isn't history more fun when you know something about it?

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew" (or "pluck yew").

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, See, we can still pluck yew! Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative F', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute! It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird."

In Canada it is still an appropriate salute to the French today!

And yew thought yew knew every plucking thing.

Go ahead, punch Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the throat...

Go ahead, punch Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the throat...  Delingpole says it's ok, and backs up his assertion in his trademark style...

Why people in California appear to be confused...

Why people in California appear to be confused...  Via reader Jim M.  Note that I have not verified the accuracy of the claims – though having visited San Francisco in recent years, I find it entirely plausible :)
Well, this may explain it !!

Chief Heather Fong (left), is the first SFPD female, lesbian chief of police.

Theresa Sparks (center), a former male, is president of the San Francisco Police Commission, CEO of a multi-million dollar sex toy retailer, and a transgender woman.

Sgt. Stephan Thorne (right), a former female, is the first transgender male SFPD police officer.

Their Representative in Congress is Nancy Pelosi.

ANY QUESTIONS ?

American fighters intercepting Soviet spy planes...

American fighters intercepting Soviet spy planes...  I witnessed a scene very much like the one at right.  This occurred in 1974 (or maybe 1975) in the Indian Ocean, when the Soviet's “Bear” was circling around a U.S. Navy task force of nuclear-powered ships: the USS Enterprise, USS Truxton, USS Bainbridge, and USS Long Beach (which I was aboard).  The Bear circling low and slow around the task force, with two Tomcats flying in formation with it.  One of the Tomcats was directly behind the Bear, the other was flying very close to the Bear, trying to block its camera ports.  Both Tomcats had their swing wings fully extended, flaps down, and landing gear extended – getting as “dirty” as possible to fly as slow as that Bear.  This went on for 45 minutes or so until the Bear decided to leave the area...

More photos of these interceptions here...

The unbearable arrogance of the IRS...

The unbearable arrogance of the IRS...  Hold your head still, so the IRS commissioner can stomp on your face more easily...

You know, there are days when I think a revolution is exactly what we need...

Well played, sir...

Well played, sir...  Well played!

House update...

House update...  The second floor TV room is now completely floored in the solid oak wood that will be the flooring on most of the first and second floors (there will be tile in the kitchen, laundry, and entrance-way).  The surface of this oak is reflective, which makes it a challenge to photograph in a poorly lit room (which our TV room is, on purpose) – but here are my two attempts:


Note that the baseboard has not yet been installed, so where you're now seeing the green walls and a gap, there will eventually be a white baseboard installed.

A cat sneaks into the lynx enclosure at the St. Petersburg zoo (in Russia)...

A cat sneaks into the lynx enclosure at the St. Petersburg zoo (in Russia)...  Feline happiness ensues...

What America thinks about Iraq...

What America thinks about Iraq...  That's the title of Peggy Noonan's piece, up today in the Wall Street Journal.  Basically, she concludes that we don't like incompetence – either the incompetence of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, or the incompetence of the Obama administration's withdrawal from Iraq.

I don't think it's quite so simple.

An equally supportable explanation is that general American ignorance of the Iraq (and larger Middle East) situation – both then (2003) and now – means that the only metric most Americans have is the success or failure of any American action there.  Both the invasion and the withdrawal were clear failures, so (generalizing very broadly) we Americans don't like it.

If the circumstances were otherwise identical, and Bush's invasion did produce a working, viable, strong representative democracy, I have no doubt that Americans would see the invasion positively – simply because it was successful, independent of the competence of the action.  Likewise, if Obama's withdrawal had left a viable state (even if it was a sectarian thugocracy) behind, we Americans would be positive about it as well.

The reality of both adventures is a complex mixture of success and failure, and the wisdom of both the invasion and the withdrawal really must be evaluated in the context of what was known at the time – not with the advantage of hindsight we have today.  The failure of the Iraq invasion wasn't entirely due to incompetence (though that certainly played a part), nor was the failure of the withdrawal caused entirely by incompetence (though one could plausibly argue it played a large role in it).

Where Noonan gets it right, I think (though she doesn't say this straight out), is that such simplistic explanations (like blaming it all on incompetence) is about as much as we can expect as analysis by the average American.

And that I find quite sad...

Whoa!

Whoa!  30 photos of people doing crazy things.  Some are crazier than others!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

His daughter graduated from Columbia ...

His daughter graduated from Columbia ... and this American officer surprised her by making it home from Afghanistan to see it...

These look like something my brother Scott might do ...

These look like something my brother Scott might do ... except I don't think he'd make them out of used tires!  Via my card-carrying, pissed-off, ancient-American mom...

My twilight years...

My twilight years...  A message from Clint Eastwood:
As I enjoy my twilight years, I am often struck by the inevitability that the party must end. There will be a clear, cold morning when there isn't any "more." No more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat.

It seems to me that one of the important things to do before that morning comes, is to let every one of your family and friends know that you care for them by finding simple ways to let them know your heartfelt beliefs and the guiding principles of your life so they can always say, "He was my friend, and I know where he stood."

So, just in case I'm gone tomorrow, please know this: I voted against that incompetent, lying, flip-flopping, insincere, double-talking, radical socialist, terrorist excusing, bleeding heart, and narcissistic, scientific and economic moron currently in the White House!

Participating in a gun buy-back program because you think that criminals have too many guns is like having yourself castrated because you think your neighbors have too many kids.

Regards,
Clint
Via friend, reader, and former colleague Simon M...

IRS emails “gone forever”...

IRS emails “gone forever”...  The story gets more and more unbelievable.  I thought the initial reports that just Lois Lerner's emails were missing was hard to swallow.  Now the IRS is saying that six other employee's emails are also missing – just coincidentally, six other employees involved with the targeting of conservative non-profits – and the IRS destroyed the hard drives, so no further recovery attempts can be made, and any criminal evidence is oh-so-conveniently missing.

Mark Steyn says the IRS is now “openly sneering” at us.  I think that captures it just about exactly right.  They're practically daring us to do something about their coverup.  I'm also in agreement with numerous other commentators who note that a coverup this obvious, this blatant, this sneering ... can only mean that what's being covered up is even worse.  In the context of this scandal, the obvious possibility is that the IRS targeting of conservative groups was directed by someone at the White House.  At this point, I think the safest assumption is that that is what happened.

It's tempting to agitate for impeaching Obama – but that would leave us with President Biden, and I'm not at all sure that's any better.  At this point it's probably more prudent to hang on for 30 more months of Obama's gross incompetence and corruption, and hope that Americans don't do something stupid (like vote in Hillary) and that the Republicans nominate someone more credible than McCain Perry Christie Huntsman a putrefying marmot carcass...

Why skydiving is safer than many other sports...

Why skydiving is safer than many other sports...  Every skydiver (in the U.S. and many other countries, by law) carries a reserve (spare) parachute.  The main parachute can completely malfunction (like in the video), and the skydiver is still safe...

The koa tree of Hawai'i, an acacia...

The koa tree of Hawai'i, an acacia ... is one of my favorite trees.  The forests on the upper slopes of the north side of Mauna Kea include many examples like the one at right, especially just west of the memorial marking the spot where botanist David Douglas died.  I find these riparian koa examples to be hauntingly beautiful.

I was very surprised to read this morning that a strikingly similar tree grows on a remote island (RĂ©union) in the southern Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar – 11,000 miles from Hawai'i.  Then I read something even more surprising: by means unknown, the trees on RĂ©union are descended from a single individual (presumably a seed) from Hawai'i.  The most likely mechanism that anyone's thought of is a seed somehow hitching a ride on a bird, but that's speculation.  You might think of a seed floating there, but koa seeds soaked in salt water won't germinate, so that's not likely to have been the mechanism.

The linked article calls it a “giant fluke”.  I'll call it another fine example of the power of time – even a very low-probability event becomes likely if enough time passes...

Al Douche!

Al Douche! Click to embiggen the image at right.  Europeans, American readers of a certain age (ancient), and the half-dozen or so Americans interested in history will understand this poster immediately. The rest of you, look here for the context...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A beautiful morning in Paradise...

A beautiful morning in Paradise...  Paradise, Utah, that is.  The photos below (click to embiggen) are from around our yard, looking south, southwest, and west, respectively.  Yesterday and today we're having a bit of a cold snap.  We had rain from yesterday afternoon through this morning (about 3/4" all totaled), and then it abruptly cleared and the sun broke through.  Looking west we can see the Wellsville Mountains, which got a fresh coat of snow during the night.  By eyeball it looks like the snow line is down to about 6,000'.  The Wasatch Mountains to our east are also dusted with new snow, but they're in shadow this morning and I couldn't take a decent photo of them.

I've had our home's heater shut off for over a month now, as the weather has been pleasant to a little warm (though the house stayed nice and cool). This morning when I woke up, though, the house was 46 °F – brrrrr! So I lit off the heaters to get it up to 65 °F, where it is right now.  Running the heater in late June is rather a new experience for me :)

The flooring guys have been working in the house for a week now.  The basement rooms (other than the cattery) are now floored in a beautiful hickory; they're all done down there.  They've now started on the most challenging room on the second floor: the TV room.  It's challenging for several reasons, but there are two particularly odd things.  First, there's a “ramp” about 3 feet long that rises about 2 inches over that length.  This ramp connects the main part of the second floor to the large TV room, whose floor is 2 inches higher than the rest of the second floor.  Wood floor systems are designed to be laid on flat surfaces, so this requires some ingenuity and cleverness.  The top transition is done and looks great!  The second odd thing is that we have a steel brace (for the end of a stair railing) that is about 3/16 of an inch thick, and has four lag bolt heads protruding about the same amount further.  The wood is 3/4 of an inch thick, which means that a carefully routed out matching hole in the wood should leave plenty of wood above it (especially if we fill the cavity with glue).  But this calls for some tricky hand routing.  They should be attempting this today...

A broccoli stand in a candy shop...

A broccoli stand in a candy shop...  This conclusion seems obvious, given the pap published by the lamestream media.  What I'd really like to understand is why.  Why do the majority of Americans find it preferable to read about (say) the latest hair fashion in Hollywood than (say) the underlying causes of the Middle East conflict?  It seems pretty clear to me that the former will have exactly zero effect on my life, while the latter has quite a large one.  Is that not clear to most Americans?  Or do they just not care enough to study and think about the “hard” news?  This has puzzled me for a very long time and I've never come across an answer that I find satisfying; it remains a puzzle...

A Tale of Two Scandals...

A Tale of Two Scandals...  That's the title of Peggy Noonan's piece in the Wall Street Journal today, and it's a good read.  She's doing something many others have done: comparing the “lost” emails of the current IRS scandal to the 18 1/2 minute gaps in the Watergate tapes.  What really caught my attention, though, was her close:
She was one of those usually unknown people who populate government, who come from throughout the country drawn to Washington and wanting to help, wanting the sense of consequence and drama and meaning it can impart, who do their jobs well for many decades, who know what they know and then, eventually, go home. Those were good days, when everybody went home.
That's Rosemary Woods she's talking about, but the important point is that last sentence.  That's a good encapsulation of the Founders' notion of a citizen government – where ordinary citizens would temporarily interrupt their life for a few years of government service, and then they would return back to their previous ordinary citizen life.  Implicit in that vision is that notion that there would not be a “permanent government class” – a set of “elites” who ruled over the country as their career.  In the very beginning of the Constitutional U.S., that citizen government actually was what we had.  The erosion started almost immediately, though, and now we've evolved (or devolved, maybe) into almost the opposite – a government where every elected official tries to remain in office as long as possible, where it's possible to get rich in office, and where the actual objectives of those officials is self-enrichment or self-aggrandizement of some other kind.

If George Washington could see what's happening in his namesake city, he'd be very sad indeed.  Angry, too, I suspect.  He might even start thinking about leading another revolution...

Oh, taxes are for the little people!

Oh, taxes are for the little people!  And not for the Clintons, that's for sure...

The F-35 kluge...

The F-35 kluge...  It's a wonderful, frank, and straightforward description of how the government (in this case, the military) can totally screw up almost any procurement.

I was particularly interested in his explanation of why, as he puts it, “stealth is a scam”.  It boils down to this: all the stealth technology does is to “hide” high frequency radars, the kind that most Western countries have been building since WWII.  High frequency radars have many, many advantages – from higher resolution to smaller, lighter components (especially antennae).  The lower frequency radars are actually simpler technology, but they are bigger and have lower resolution.  Stealth technology, though, hardly affects their operation.  I first ran into this phenomenon when reading about the Bosnian war (where the rebels successfully shot down an F-117A, a stealth plane).  They detected the plane with a WWII-era Soviet radar, just as this fellow talks about.  Later I read about a hobbyist in Nevada operating a U.S.-made WWII radar, along with more modern radars – and reporting that the older radar was seeing planes that were invisible on the modern radars.  This video is now the third time I've heard references to that stealth vulnerability – which I find completely plausible, and utterly devastating to the whole idea of aircraft stealthiness...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

V838 light echo...

V838 light echo...  You'll want to watch this full screen, and you might want to lower your volume before playing it.  Via APOD (where there are details), of course...

Flight from taxes...

Flight from taxes...  This morning's Wall Street Journal has a good piece on one of the presumably unintended consequences of American corporate tax policy: the rather large incentive it creates for successful (that is, profitable) American-based corporations to leave the U.S.  Here's a couple of key paragraphs:
But shareholders of all companies—including employees who care about where economic growth will occur in the future—should know that America's federal corporate tax rate is 35%, which when combined with state and local levies rises to an average of nearly 40%. Ireland, where politicians evidently care about economic growth and as far as we know don't seek to stifle free speech on the topic, has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%. 

Almost alone among civilized nations, Washington also demands to be paid on a company's world-wide earnings, rather than on money earned in the U.S. This tax is due whenever a company's overseas earnings are returned to America. Medtronic has about $14 billion overseas and rather than bringing it home and triggering the tax, the company will use the money to fund most of the cash portion of its $42.9 billion purchase. 
Will politicians pay attention?  Not very damned likely.

My mom would not like it...

My mom would not like it ... if I were to take up this sport!  Don't worry mom, I haven't purchased one of these bikes yet...

Duck River...

Duck River...  From the sound of the language and the fact that they're driving on the wrong side of the road, I'm guessing this is Thailand...

Finally! A bus ride that I would actually like to make!

Finally!  A bus ride that I would actually like to make!  I'd want a seat with a window that actually worked, though...

An aside on mass transit...  I've heard a great many people blathering on – sometimes eloquently, though usually not – about the wonders of mass transit (including buses).  Often these people have only a loose command of those pesky things called verifiable facts, but they certainly don't let that get in the way of their advocacy.  If you'd like an example of this phenomenon, I'll just refer you to the public records of speeches by the advocates of the current California “bullet train” proposal championed by the world's emptiest skull, aka California Governor “Moonbeam” Jerry Brown.

But there's another aspect of mass transit that I've never seen publicly discussed: the hell on earth that it is for anyone who is introverted (like me!).  Being shoved into a dirty, noisy, bumpy vehicle (train, bus, plane) with dozens or hundreds of poor examples of organisms allegedly of the same species as I – that is a well-designed instrument of torture for an introvert.  For buses and trains, you can add the additional horrors of government-run, union-manned “service”.  The bottom line: I'll do almost anything to avoid mass transit.  I fly only when I absolutely must.  I take a bus only to escape some life-threatening situation.  The rest of the time I drive or walk. Here in Utah, I just might get me a bicycle (the roads are virtually flat, and off the highway there are few cars).  The bus here (which is free) is likely better than others I've been on, but I'm not planning on trying it anytime soon...

I would like this house, please...

I would like this house, please...  Click to embiggen...

Man barks at dogs...

Man barks at dogs...  Dogs' reaction?  Varied :)

After listening to this guy barking, I'm convinced he's part canine...

Monday, June 16, 2014

“Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them...”

“Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them...”  This morning I stumbled across one of my favorite passages from one of my favorite Richard Feynman books (Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!):
There were a lot of fools at that conference -- pompous fools -- and pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools -- guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus -- THAT, I CANNOT STAND! An ordinary fool isn't a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible! And that's what I got at the conference, a bunch of pompous fools, and I got very upset.

Organic food...

Organic food ... isn't all it's cracked up to be.  I think this has been obvious to every farmer (or anyone who knows anything about farming) since the beginning of the organic food craze.  As P. T. Barnum said: “There’s a mark born every minute!”

Tag and release program...

Tag and release program ... for studying American consumers.  Ha!

“I’m feeling lucky...”

“I’m feeling lucky...”  What if quality journalism isn't?  That's the title of an article by Thomas Baekdal, and it includes an interesting use of the phrase I used for this post.  If he just deleted the first two words from his article's title, he'd nail it :)

Coming soon to a Google map near you...

Coming soon to a Google map near you ... high resolution satellite imagery updated at least three times a day.  Today the frequency of Google Maps' imagery updates varies wildly, depending on where you're looking.  At our home in Jamul, it's only a couple times a decade.  Once the Skybox imagery is integrated with Google Maps, the updates will be roughly 1,500 times more often.  This is the sort of thing that you can handily predict will be continuously improved (by adding more satellites) as demand rises, and it seems inevitable that it will.  Google is likely to application developers to access this imagery (through APIs), which will drive demand rapidly – just as APIs for the existing maps and imagery drove demand for Google Maps. 

These are amazing times we live in...

Steve McIntyre brings nuclear weapons to a knife fight...

Steve McIntyre brings nuclear weapons to a knife fight...  Though in his case, the “nuclear weapons” are all in his little gray cells.  I almost feel sorry for his target.  Mostly, though, Steve's analyses increase my appreciation for the high value of skepticism – in science and in everyday life...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

If Asians said the stuff white people say...

If Asians said the stuff white people say...  Friend and former colleague Aleck L. (who hails from Taiwan) sent me this hilarious spoof.  I suspect this is more universal between cultures and races than people on the receiving end assume.  After all, if you're Asian, then you're going to hear all the stereotypical Asian assumptions – and not the others.

I've been amused quite a few times by assumptions people from other cultures or races have made about me.  What leaps immediately to mind were my earliest experiences (in the early '90s) driving around Estonia.  I often met people who had never met an American before – and when they heard that I was from California, the almost inevitable follow-up was to ask me about various movies stars, with the assumption that I must know them personally :)  I also vividly remember a black guy from Chicago who was part of my mess decks crew when I was in the Navy.  He was continually astonished at the stuff we white people would eat – especially vegetables.  Much of the Navy diet was food he'd never tasted before, and which he associated with white people.  And then there was my Indian colleague who was continually amused by (from his perspective) the American/white beliefs about dating, sex, and marriage – he thought we were four or five centuries behind the Indians in those regards :)

Deer rescue by hovercraft...

Deer rescue by hovercraft...  Via my lovely bride...

Syringa sweginzowii 'Superba'...

Syringa sweginzowii 'Superba'...  Beautiful.  Via BPOD, of course...

Remy's at it again...

Remy's at it again...  God Bless the USA (VA Scandal Edition)

Jo Nova's husband is working on something big...

Jo Nova's husband is working on something big...  She drops some hints...

0.0324 °F (0.018 °C)...

0.0324 °F (0.018 °C)...  That's the estimated reduction in global warming after losing 9 million jobs lost and spending $4.335 trillion.  Nice job, Obama administration...

Politics and intelligence...

Politics and intelligence...  You may remember the study from a few years ago that prompted headlines like “Conservatives stupider than liberals!”  The progressives had a field day with that.  I was skeptical of the result, partly because the test design seemed rather simplistic and prone to error.

This morning I ran across another study, with quite different results – and results that comport more closely with my own experiences.  The last sentence in the linked article is one that resonates particularly strongly with me:
As gratifying as Carl's research findings are, it is still a deep puzzle to me why it apparently takes high intelligence to understand that the government should stay out of both the bedroom and the boardroom.
If it's true that only people with higher than average intelligence love liberty (of all kinds), then demographics are dooming this country – because at least since the beginning of the 20th century there's a well-documented inverse correlation between IQ and fertility (that is, the higher one's IQ, the fewer children one tends to have).  Isn't that the drums of doom I'm hearing?

I'll add to the discussion this post I ran across a while back: basically it shows that the members of the Triple Nine Society (whose members have IQs above 99.9% of the overall population) hold very libertarian views on average.  One must add a strong caveat to this survey, though: it's from a self-selected group of triple-niners who want to be in such an organization.  I have no idea how that skews the data, but I'm pretty sure it does :)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A different way to look at population distribution...

A different way to look at population distribution...  For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I found this graphic fascinating:


IRS reaches the bottom, but keeps on digging...

IRS reaches the bottom, but keeps on digging...  The IRS is claiming that it can't find Lois Lerner's emails due to a “computer crash”.  There are two possibilities here:
  1. The crash really happened, and the fact that the crash happened to the key personality at the center of the IRS scandal at precisely the time when her emails were of interest is a pure coincidence.
  2. The crash never happened, and the IRS is covering up the connections between Lois Lerner and high-level Obama administration officials, including officials at the White House.
Somehow (2) seems vastly more probable than (1).  However, it's easy to anticipate that the Democrats in Congress will impede every attempt made to investigate this.  Let's hope the Republicans in the House (where they have a majority) have the cojones to proceed with an aggressive investigation.  Past experience, however, suggests that is far less than certain ... despite the rather obvious political advantage that would accrue...

Proof that information is infinitely compressible...

Proof that information is infinitely compressible...  This will be big news to my fellow compression geeks :)   XKCD

Friday, June 13, 2014

Flooring update...

Flooring update...  Well, after two days of work, the flooring crew has the hickory flooring down on most of my office and a bit of the adjacent rooms.  The black strapping you see in the photo is part of a clamp that's keeping all the boards tightly pulled together while the glue dries.  The boxes piled up are weights to keep the boards all pressed to the floor.  There are several clamps and lots of these boxes scattered about to keep the whole assembly in place.

For the curious, this is an engineered hardwood flooring product, 5/8" thick.  Essentially that means it's high quality plywood with a fairly thick veneer of hickory on the side that shows.  The flooring folks recommended this for the basement, because the floor is being installed directly to the concrete floor.  Because concrete is permeable to water, there will likely be some moisture that gets to the wood.  Solid hardwood (the traditional style) is likely to warp in such a circumstance, whereas engineered wood, because the plies are oriented crosswise, will be much less likely to warp.  

Hickory naturally has a lot of color variation and a lot of visible grain.  The product I selected includes some small knots, which adds some additional variation.  The photo at left shows a closeup view of one small section of the floor, to give you an idea what this looks like.  I love all this variation, but I'm told that most people – and all right-thinking people – prefer more consistent patterns and gentler variations.  To them I say “Fine.  Let me have the good stuff!”

Iraq...

Iraq...  Several readers asked for my thoughts on the apparent collapse of Iraq.  This piece in this morning's Wall Street Journal echoes my own thoughts quite nicely: given the Obama administration's amateur-hour approach to the Middle East mess and the complex mess the Middle East has turned into (especially in the last 100 years), something of this sort was all but inevitable.  I couldn't have predicted that it would take precisely this form, but predicting that the Shia Maliki government in Iraq would be threatened by al Qaeda inspired fundamentalist Sunnis is a complete no-brainer.

Some random related thoughts:
  • How on earth did the combined intelligence apparatus of the U.S., Iraq, and their allies managed to be taken completely by surprise?  Nobody seems to have known that ISIS had acquired the depth and material that allowed them to run over Mosul about like the U.S. led forces overran Kuwait in Gulf War I.
  • Early reports are that the Iraqi army commanders all evacuated before the attack on Mosul and other points.  The army regulars were left without leadership and without command communications to Baghdad.  In such a circumstance, it's no wonder that the ISIS forces prevailed.  It's a perfect illustration of the depth of corruption in the Maliki government – which is not substantially different than the depth of corruption anywhere else in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel and (to a lesser extent) Turkey.  I don't know any solutions to this corruption culture other than leveling the whole Middle East and starting over.
  • The events of the past few years in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Libya abundantly demonstrate (to me, at least) the need for a “world policeman” – and, unfortunately, there's only one effective candidate for that role: the United States.  The rest of the world is unwilling to pay the price in either blood or treasure, and increasingly (at the moment) so is the U.S.  That may change when the rest of the world deteriorates enough to present a direct threat to us – which is the pattern for the past 150 years or so as we (the U.S.) oscillate between isolationism and activism on the world front.
  • Establishing a democratic government is not the same as establishing the rule of law.  Iraq and Afghanistan are painful object lessons in this.  History's lesson here is particularly distasteful to most Americans (myself most definitely included): the only successful establishments of non-corrupt democracies that have ever occurred happened after countries were utterly conquered and new institutions were established – with transitional governments run by the conquerors.  The two most recent examples are Germany and Japan after they were defeated in WWII.  The Allies were much less involved with Italy's post-war government, and the result is notably less successful.

I don't see any color at all...

I don't see any color at all ... do you?  This optical illusion is called Benham's Disk (after the discoverer, an English toymaker).  Most people see some pale colors when the focus on different parts of the disk – but the perceived color varies from person to person.  Some people (including me) see no colors at all.  Nobody seems to understand where the colors come from (as the disk is just black and white), why different people see different colors, and especially why some people see no colors at all...


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Great customer service...

Great customer service...  Last week I wrote about the maiden voyage of my sprayer, which broke almost immediately because I stupidly forgot to tighten some bolts.  I had an amazingly easy and short phone conversation with their technical support people, who promised to send me the part I needed right away.  To my surprise, even after I told them the breakage was my own fault, they said there was no charge – they'd call it a warranty part replacement.

While I was away, the package with the parts I needed arrived, exactly as promised.  But it was actually more than I needed: they sent not only the parts that I needed, but a complete second set of those same parts as well.  A little hand-written note said: “Just in case it breaks again!”

I'm going to call that extraordinary customer service, and with that I will name the company: Chapin, purchased through Amazon.  I see that the price has gone up a bit since I bought mine last month.

I have very little experience actually using the machine.  It appears to be well designed and constructed, and it worked well once I got it assembled.  Well, partially assembled – but I'll be sure to tighten those bolts this time!

Paradise in bloom...

Paradise in bloom...  Some photos of things in bloom around our home in Paradise right now:


Let the flooring commence!

Let the flooring commence!  Late last week the painters finished everything they wanted to do before the new flooring went in.  This week the wood was delivered so that it could acclimate to our home's humidity.  There are great piles of it all over the place in the house!  Tomorrow the tile gets delivered.  Today the floorers are starting the installation, first of hickory flooring in the basement, in the area that will become my office.  Some photos:

Some hickory and the guide line
Piles of wood everywhere!
A pile of hickory
A pile of oak in the dining room
Oak in every room upstairs
Closeup of the oak
Even more oak!

I hope our cats never learn how to do this!

I hope our cats never learn how to do this!

The cost of light...

The cost of light...  We live in amazing times...

Economics and war...

Economics and war...  An interesting summary of WWII.  Asymmetric warfare (e.g., terrorism) completely upends this conventional analysis...

Dolly Sods...

Dolly Sods...  Here are some other photos I took in the area, on the several short hikes I took on Monday.  The area has changed enormously from the last time I was there (in the '60s).  My overwhelming impression was of increased wealth: the area was desperately poor back then; now it looks middle-class and better, with some areas even looking like an upscale resort.  Even the wild areas, including the sods (meadows) themselves have changed dramatically.  A local expert told me that's because of two things: aggressive fire control (fires used to be allowed to burn themselves out) and the cessation of cattle grazing.  Those two events have allowed the forests to start encroaching on the sods, to the point where 45 years later they bear scant resemblance to my memories of them.  On the other hand, the azaleas and other native plants seem to be thriving.

The photos below are from a short hike in Canaan Valley State Park, another short hike near the southern end of Dolly Sods, and a longer hike along Bear Rocks trail at the northern end of Dolly Sods.  That last hike had lots of azaleas, a beautiful stream, and even some big ants' nests (three photos of them below)...