Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Waste The Money

M.: That's too bad the car repair was so expensive. Here's $20.00 to help with expenses on your vacation trip to Tahoe this weekend.

E.: Don't worry; I won't waste the money. I learned my lesson the hard way with the penny slots: you have to play ALL the payoff lines on the machine to have the best odds, so it's best not to be cheap and place only the minimum bet.

M.: You are the Green Destiny!

E.: I AM the Green Destiny!

Damned Fine Print

E.: MMMMAAAARRRRCCCCC! It was all arranged! C. found a mechanic in Roseville to replace my starter. All we had to do was tow the car to Roseville. But Triple-A wouldn't do it! They wanted an additional $160.00!

M.: It's probably against Triple-A's rules. Roseville is a long way from downtown. They are probably forbidden from driving past one hundred other closer garages just to tow the car to Roseville.

E.: I spend so much money every month for insurance, and all they do is harass me. Where does it say they can't tow my car to Roseville?

M.: Oh, it's probably there in the fine print, somewhere.

E.: This is so E-STOOPID!

Like They Say, When Elephants Fight....

... the grass gets trampled. But in this case, my money was on the Wal-Mart Elephant. Small businesses and large businesses alike are getting reamed on these fees, and anything that can be done to lower them will help the economy:
By a vote of 54 to 45, the senate defeated a measure co-sponsored by Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt to delay a federal directive to banks, forcing them to lower the transaction fees businesses pay to process electronic transactions. The amendment needed 60 votes to pass.

...Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., originally proposed the plan to lower swipe fees, arguing it would provide economic relief to small businesses that he said were routinely being overcharged by banks and forced to pass the cost on to consumers. The measure does allow loopholes for certain small banks and credit unions, but Durbin and other supporters have largely framed the issue as a battle between large, powerful banking institutions and small businesses.

But McCaskill thinks that is a skewed perspective.

“I didn’t see this as David vs. Goliath,” she said. “I saw it as Goliath vs. Goliath. The vast majority of these swipe fees are paid by huge retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot.”

Gary Johnson Vs. Actor Reggie Brown

Reggie Brown wins.

If The Tornado Doesn't Get You, The Fungus Will

Hard luck:
JOPLIN, Missouri — The death toll from the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin has risen to 151, and three of the latest victims suffered from a rare fungal infection that can occur when dirt becomes embedded under the skin, authorities said Friday.

Coroner Rob Chappel said the three had been hospitalized with the unusually aggressive infection sometimes found in survivors of other natural disasters. He said it was difficult to identify the fungus as a cause of death since the people infected also suffered other severe injuries.

...A week after the tornado, patients began arriving with fungal infections.

"We could visibly see mold in the wounds," Schmidt said. "It rapidly spread. The tissue dies off and becomes black. It doesn't have any circulation. It has to be removed."

Schmidt said the infection is sometimes seen in survivors of mass trauma such as the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

Chihuahua Does 'Pirates'

Silly fun at Zooey Deschanel. Here is my entry

One Is The Loneliest Number

So, Newt Gingrich's entire campaign staff quit. Something about his lack of discipline. I know disappointed Republicans (like K.) consider him to be a liberal these days: the worst species of Beltway resident imaginable to conservatives. But still, Newt remains in the running.

It's hard to run a campaign all by yourself, but by clearing out the arena of all distractions first, Newt can grapple with the hydra-headed Washington beast, alone, Teddy-Roosevelt-like, and earn whatever accolades he can that way, gladiator-style. Just ask Mel Gibson, who has struggled in much the same way down in Hollywood.

Then again, Mel Gibson talks to himself these days through the medium of a Beaver-like puppet, so maybe he's not the best role model either.

Stopping Wallow May Be A Bit Easier Now

The Wallow fire burned through the entire forest; essentially, from one side to the other. There's less fuel present at the lower elevations on the other side, and the winds are said to be dying down, so maybe they can start getting a handle on this.

Fire perimeter on June 8th:

One side benefit is that archaeology may be easier to do in the area now that the vegetation has been vaporized. There are likely old Indian trails in the area - Coronado may have traveled on one of these trails to reach the Zunis at Hawikuh in 1540 - and the trails and other archaeological sites may be easier to spot than heretofore.

But the cost is horrible! It takes a while for vegetation to grow in this dry climate, and it won't be restored to anything like its former beauty in my lifetime, or another lifetime appended to it.

Carbon monoxide in the smoke plume is evident all the way to Iowa.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


I'm increasingly-worried that the cross-border arms trade, fueled by marijuana heading north and Second-Amendment-crazed loons sending guns south, will eventually allow Mexican Mafiosi to attempt a forceful takeover of the United States.

Narcotanks are a worrisome development on this path:
MONTERREY, Mexico — Soldiers on patrol in a Mexican border town discovered a warehouse where armor-plated "tanks" were being prepared for the Gulf drug cartel, a military source said Monday.

The patrol came across the warehouse when they clashed with a group of armed men in the town of Ciudad Camargo, in the far northeastern state of Tamaulipas. Two of the gunmen were killed in a firefight, while two hid inside the warehouse.

...The trucks were covered in steel plates one inch (2.5 centimeters) thick, strong enough to "resist the caliber of personal weapons the soldiers use," said the source.

The air-conditioned armored vehicles were equipped with portholes where snipers could open fire from and remain protected.

...The vehicles, locally known as "monsters," can even resist fire from a heavy .50 caliber machine gun and can only be destroyed with anti-tank weapons, according to the military.

The home-made tanks are used in clashes with other drug cartels as well as to protect drug shipments.

In recent years, soldiers deployed in the northeastern Mexican border region have confiscated 109 home-made armored vehicles -- including one dubbed the "Popemobile" because it carried an armored cabin similar to that used to protect Pope Benedict XVI in foreign trips.

Ghost Ships

John noticed this:
This would have popular with Techies, if Tech had been in Benecia...
Exactly! It looks like amazing fun!:
Getting inside the ships was usually not straightforward, and sometimes impossible. MARAD locks them down tight, but there are so many possible entrances that persistence often paid off. One of the first orders of business each trip was finding a place to sleep. The ships are often stinky from mold, mildew, PCBs, and decay, so a room with windows that opened was preferable. We typically slept in the captain’s room where we found comfy couches, convertible beds, lots of space, and plenty of light during the daytime.

Service With A Smile

Here at work, we occasionally test the effectiveness of exhaust-control systems of various vehicles. To that end, we store several barrels of standardized vehicle-certification fuel in the garage, but since we don't test vehicles all the time, the fuel generally just sits in its barrels for long stretches of time.

This morning, the Fire Marshall made a workplace inspection, and he was unhappy with the idea of idle barrels of fuel just laying around the garage. Get rid of the fuel, he ordered.

So later, when I rolled into the parking lot, D. was out there, rolling a barrel of automobile fuel around. He asked: "Would you like some fuel? It's high-quality 'cert' fuel. It's free!"

In these troubled times, it's nice to have someone roll some fuel up to your car and give it away.

The big challenge will be giving away the barrel of ethanol fuel, which is appropriate only for flex-fueled vehicles (FFVs). There may not be enough of those vehicles at work that can use it.

But we're resourceful. I'm sure we'll think of something....

You See, It's Like This....

For some reason, J. can't quite hear the transition. It's not THAT hard: just do it like Tina Turner does it....

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Escalation In Libya

NATO tightens the ratchet:
In a sudden, sharp escalation of NATO’s air campaign over Libya, warplanes dropped more than 60 bombs on targets in Tripoli on Tuesday, obliterating large areas of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya command compound.

In response, Colonel Qaddafi posted an audio recording on Libyan state television vowing never to surrender or accept defeat. “We welcome death,” he said. “Martyrdom is a million times better.”

...With the repeated bombing of his Tripoli compound, Colonel Qaddafi has become a fugitive in his own capital, unable or unwilling to appear on television and forced, so NATO and people in the rebel underground in Tripoli have said, to stay constantly on the move in the hope of cloaking his whereabouts from NATO.

His isolation has been compounded by signs that support for him has ebbed in wide areas of Tripoli, and growing numbers of high-level defections, from the top ranks of the government and the army.

...A senior NATO diplomat said on Tuesday that the daytime barrage in Tripoli was consistent with the steady escalation of attacks in and around the Libyan capital by allied warplanes and, more recently, armed helicopters.

“It’s a continuing sign that the pressure is increasing all the time,” said the diplomat. “There’s a psychological aspect to the campaign, and we’re sending a clear message: There is only one way out, and that is to go.”

Fantasy Role Play

It wasn't supposed to work out this way:
LAS CRUCES - A Holloman Air Force Base mother has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for spending hours online, playing World of Warcraft until late in the night as her young daughter "withered away" from malnutrition and dehydration, in the words of federal prosecutors.

...From noon to 3 a.m. the month the little girl died, the computer showed "continuous activity" as her mother chatted online with friends from the online fantasy role-playing game. Less than an hour before Brandi Wulf was found dead, her ribs "prominent," her teeth appearing "black and decayed," her mother was online, doing just that, court documents state.

..."I'll never get to see her grown up ... That weighs on my heart. That was my little girl," Christie said slowly, with difficulty, her shoulders hunched, the chains on her wrists shaking.


From Southwest Coordination Center:

Kate decides to rattle my cage:

I noticed you had mention of the big fire in AZ on your website—I don’t know if you’ve seen these images, but I thought they were impressive.
I reply:
Hi Kate:

I’ve been hiding my head under the pillow trying to avoid news of this fire. The reason is that it’s so big and so fast-moving, and there’s just about nothing that will stop it. It’s almost burned it’s way completely through the forest, into the juniper woodland and grassland on the other side, in the Little Colorado River Valley. The fire might slow down, just because there will be less vegetation. On the other hand, maybe it won’t: maybe it’ll just burn all the way across New Mexico too!

Arizona forests are unusually vulnerable to these fires, not only because lots of people are present in these forests, and because it is so dry, and so windy, but because unusual conditions in the spring of 1919 created an unusually-dense undergrowth for a ponderosa pine forest. In that fateful spring, favorable weather and lots of rain and snow permitted every seedling to sprout. EVERY seedling!

Ninety years later, you can still track where each and every pine cone hit the forest floor that spring of 1919, because dense clusters of teensy-weensy 90-year-old trees no bigger round than your wrist are everywhere in the forest. The Forest Service never had enough money or incentive to clear out tens of thousands of square miles of these clusters. So, Arizona forests are sitting ducks for fires. I’m pretty pessimistic: perhaps in the long run, ponderosa pine forests along the Mogollon Rim are incompatible with civilization.

Scary pictures!
From GeoMac, here is a map:

From NASA:

Anthony Weiner, And All That

Weiner was being groomed for a major leadership position in the Democratic Party. Too bad he threw that all away. I don't think he should resign, but the pressure to do so will be intense. His constituency may forgive him. On the other hand, they may not forgive him. It depends on what else is out there.

The most disturbing element in all this is that Andrew Breitbart is strengthened. That guy is pretty evil when it comes to defaming and lying about people. But that's what happens when Congressmen act in a frivolous manner. Evil triumphs!

You Know It's Bad When You Can See The Plume On The Large-Scale Weather Satellite Pictures

Arizona's Wallow Fire is cutting through the forest like a hot knife through butter. It's going to come blasting into New Mexico, and there is precious little to stop it.

Paper Dolls

Noel writes:
I was looking for super hero paper dolls for Noah and came across this.
Oh, what fun! I can’t think of a better role model for an impressionable kid (is anyone more diligent in community support?) than good ol’ Gus Fring!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Recent Devaluation Of The U.S. Dollar Coincided With GOP Dominance

Just sayin':

Obama Can Raise The Debt Ceiling On His Own Authority

Just cut the GOP out:
Some observers, including Garrett Epps, who is a legal scholar, and Bruce Bartlett, who is not, have argued that Section 4 of the 14th Amendment makes the debt ceiling invalid. That Section reads, in relevant part:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.
That’s it, at least for the relevant parts. The only Supreme Court case law on it concerned whether government could renege on debts it made (no), and thus whether it applies to non-Civil War debts (yes).

...Now, what if Obama does as Epps suggests and just issues more debt? It’s perfect from his perspective: he doesn’t cave, pleasing his base (and anyone who cares about good policy), while ensuring that there is no default.

But it is also perfect from the Republican leadership’s perspective. They don’t cave; they don’t increase the debt ceiling; and they can rail against Presidential imperialism, Obama’s socialist-Muslim dictatorship, etc. And if I am right about standing, no one ever has to bring this to a head because no one has standing to sue!

Good For Huntsman To Skip Iowa

The small states that generally lead the presidential primary schedule like to flaunt their own importance, but they also secretly fret about their own potential-irrelevance. Still, no presidential candidate is bound to enter any primary they don't think is salient to their campaign, and it's good to remind the early-primary states of that fact.

Jon Huntsman doesn't want to enter the Iowa caucuses, for sound reasons, and that's OK. And I agree with him regarding ethanol: it's a cancer on American politics. Best to do without subsidies, but Iowans thrive on those subsidies. Good to remind the Iowans of their compromised status:
Former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman now says he will not compete in Iowa for his potential presidential run -- and leaders in Iowa aren't thrilled by his open snubbing of the state.

As ABC News reported over the weekend, Huntsman spoke to a crowd in New Hampshire:
"I'm not competing in Iowa for a reason. I don't believe in subsidies that prop up corn, soybeans and ethanol,"Huntsman said, according to multiple news sources at the event.

Huntsman, the former ambassador to China, continued, "I think they destroy the global marketplace.... We probably won't be spending a whole lot of time in Iowa. I guess I understand how the politics work there."

Gorilla, The Lucky Kookaburra

The folks in Brisbane are all aflutter over a lucky kookaburra:
Nicknamed Gorilla, the plucky kookaburra was struck by a car on the New England Highway near the NSW town of Scone a week ago and after being nursed back to health in Brisbane, will be flown home by an RSPCA volunteer in the next couple of days.

...The man whose car hit Gorilla said he noticed two kookaburras darting in front of him just before he collected one at 100km/h.

Miraculously, apart from a cut wing, Gorilla was unhurt.

...RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said there was an excellent chance the birds would be reunited.

"It is a bit of a happy ending for a love story," he said. "Kookaburras mate for life and from all indications this guy had a partner so we were always trying to get him back to where he came from."

"Kookaburras are territorial, but even though their territories are quite large (several kilometres), he should be able to find her again."

Motorist Bruce Wham thought he had killed Gorilla but when he went to remove the bird from his grille the following day he saw him stir and called the RSPCA.

Still Shakin' In Christchurch

They had yet more aftershocks from the September and February quakes in the vicinity of Christchurch, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand:
Cantabrians have been shaken by two earthquakes this morning, forcing some stores near the epicentre to close.

The first earthquake struck near Rolleston at 9.09am at a depth of 15 kilometres and measured magnitude 5.5.

...The Canterbury Quake Live website reported the shake was the sixth largest since September 4's magnitude-7.1 quake.

It was followed by a magnitude 3.8 tremor at 11.41am. This 10km-deep shake was centred in Weedons, about 4 km away from Rolleston.

GNS Science duty seismologist Brian Ferris said the 5.5 tremor was "within the forecast we expected".

...Fay Burson, manager of bottle store Henry's in Rolleston, said she probably lost more stock during today's shake than in February's magnitude-6.3.

...Burson said September's earthquake was much worse.

"We had minor damage, nothing compared to our first one of course."

...Spectators and players at a rugby tournament for four to 16 year-olds in Rolleston saw the ground "roll" during this morning's aftershock.

The tournament, involving 42 teams, kicked off just before the tremor struck, but it did not stop the players for long, Rolleston Rugby Club president David Egan said.

"Everyone stopped and looked, then carried on. Everyone's come to expect them now."

Some people reported seeing the jolt hit the ground, he said.

"They could see it rolling, heading towards the clubhouse. It hit the car park first and lifted some vehicles off the ground, then hit the clubhouse."

...People reported feeling the quake in Hawarden, Akaroa and as far away as Dunedin and Nelson.

Adapting To The Chicken

The two young women riding by on bicycles gaped in disbelief and slowed to a halt. One asked: "Is that your chicken?" I replied: "No, the chicken starting coming around last Friday." She replied: "That is HILARIOUS! That's a leghorn chicken! Persuade her to stay in your yard and she'll lay eggs for you!"

The chicken is adapting to the neighborhood, and in turn, the neighborhood is adapting to the chicken.

Later, I heard a big chicken commotion next door. I saw the chicken run up the roof on the shed next door, pursued by an aggressive cat. The panicked chicken leaped from the rooftop over the fence, landing onto a branch of the oak tree hanging over my back yard, and then blundered through the tree's canopy and fluttered into the comparative solace of my back yard. The chicken quickly accustomed herself to the yard.

Cute creature!

Kylie Minogue - "On A Night Like This/All The Lovers" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - " Better The Devil You Know" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - "Looking For An Angel" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - "Confide In Me" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - "What Do I Have To Do?" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - "I Believe In You" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - "Illusion" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour

Kylie Minogue - "The One" - 'Aphrodite' North American Tour