Monday, December 31, 2007


To all blogsters at Flares and to all our friends and commenters throughout the ether.

I predict "interesting times" in the Chinese sense for the coming year, but I also have a feeling that in general, optimism will be rewarded.

Why? I haven't the slightest idea, but New Years' champagne, black-eyed peas, and herring may have something to do with it.

A toast to all!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Answer: about average.

Times defends hiring conservative Kristol - Michael Calderone - "“The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual — and somehow that’s a bad thing,” Rosenthal added. “How intolerant is that?”"

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rats, too late for Christmas

A company called Parastone Studios has wonderful little figurines taken from Paintings. Pictured above is a version of Bosch's Tree Man from his Garden of Earthly Delights. I want one of them little monsters. The Parastone site is a bit confusing, but they can be purchased from here, as well as other museum sites.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Corner on National Review Online

The Corner on National Review Online

Well Here's Bad News for the Spooks and Scholars [Michael Ledeen]

Something like a thousand Iraqis in Baghdad, some Sunnis and some Shi'ites, seem to think there's no reason why they are doomed to sectarian slaughter. Or, I suppose, for a good old-fashioned civil war, either. They're marching together for peace.

Next thing you know, there'll be Christians, too, praying alongside the Muslims. Nah, couldn't possibly happen. The experts at State and CIA have been telling us for years that Sunnis and Shi'ites are separated by an unbridgeable chasm and compelled to kill one another because of their ineradicable convictions. Say what? Yeah, they're the same guys who are telling us that Iran scrapped their nuclear-weapons program. And your point is?

I'd say "read the whole thing" exact, well, that is the whole thing. But follow the links, and contemplate the number of people, liberal and conservative, who've been telling us the Arabs just weren't ready to work together.

Weekly Links

The real invisibility cloak.

Did Radiohead's gamble pay off?

A microreactor in every garage.

Engineered blood vessels.

Buying your own private island.

A supernova in empty space.

Making money when music is free.

Elmore Leonard explains how to write.

Extending battery life by a factor of 10 with nanowires.

Instant machine translation in chat.

Don't shine a green laser into the cockpit of a helicopter.

Tunguska was a small asteroid.

The Lakotas are leaving.

The mystery of traffic jams solved.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I recommend stewing

The Washington Monthly: "Well, screw that. There's nothing we can do to stop them anyway, so give 'em the resources they want. Let 'em fight the war the way they want. If it works -- and after all, stranger things have happened -- then I'll eat some crow. But if it doesn't, there's a chance that the country will actually learn something from this."

That would be a year ago yesterday, by the way.

I'm dreaming...

Of my snowblower. Merry Christmas, all.

This year's light show.

h/t: The Jawa Report.

And, for comparison, the classic hit from 2005. And another realization of Wizards in Winter. And the Trans Siberian Orchestra itself in Sarajevo.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Just a Girl in short shorts talking about whatever: A Christmas Miracle in Colombia

Just a Girl in short shorts talking about whatever: A Christmas Miracle in Colombia

Look, just go read it, okay?

Fred Thompson On Farm Bills

Community Newspaper Group :: Serving Independence, Oelwein, Waverly and surrounding Northeast Iowa communities.: "It’s not a matter of what I would do for the farmers. Farmers are not looking for a president to hand them something. Farmers want fair treatment and a chance to prosper in a free economy and that’s what I would help ensure. There’s a lot of programs we’ve got out there, some of which are good programs, some of which are not. And I think that we need to work our way through that and make sure we’re doing what’s good for the country, not just the farmers, not just the people of Iowa, not just the people of Tennessee. But good for the country. A sound policy that makes sense. I think there’s a lot more that we could do for the working farmer in terms of ecological programs and environmental programs - land conservation, soil conservation - that would be fair and it would be beneficial to the nation and to Iowa and to our country. We’re going to have to phase out the corporate welfare system we’ve got, however. There are extremely rich people living in skyscrapers in Manhattan that are receiving subsidy payments. I think that’s wrong. I’d put a stop to that if it was within my power. That still continues in this latest Farm Bill and it’s not right. There ought to"

Friday, December 21, 2007


So, two weeks out from Iowa, here are the odds.

Rudy and Thompson each 20-1. John McCain 6-1. He has to win New Hampshire, and even if he wins there, he would be an underdog. Grass-roots conservatives do not like him and would prefer Huckabee.

Mitt Romney 3-2. If he wins Iowa, he is almost unstoppable. If he loses Iowa, he has to come back and beat McCain in New Hampshire. Then it would a Mitt-Mike race through Feb. 5.

And Huckabee? He has to win Iowa. If he does, he will be the favorite in South Carolina and for the nomination, as well.

Looks like a Mitt-Mike race, with Iowa and New Hampshire giving us by Jan. 9 the two candidates from whom the nominee will be chosen. And isn't that how it usually is? Iowa and New Hampshire choose for America.

—Pat Buchanan, Is it Down to Mitt and Mike?

Nicely done. Based on those odds, Mitt has a slight edge. In Giuliani's Nomination Path - Tougher, But Not Blocked, Jim Geraghty lays out a different possible scenario for the next 45 or so days on the Republican side.

The Geraghty scenario is the one I'd like to see play out for a great many reasons. The Buchanan scenario has nothing much to recommend it as far as I'm concerned. That being the case, my sense is that Buchanan knows better. No surprise and no surprises, alas. I hope I'm wrong.

Overcoming Bias: Two Cult Koans

Overcoming Bias: Two Cult Koans: "'If you find a hammer lying in the road and sell it, you may ask a low price or a high one. But if you keep the hammer and use it to drive nails, who can doubt its worth?'"

The Corner on National Review Online

The Corner on National Review Online: "Somehow I don't think each level of Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is consulting with the lawyers before firing its rockets at Israeli civilians."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Spotting Watermelons

This from R. Pielke, Jr. captures it nicely in Climate Policy as Farce:
Much of climate debate is exactly backwards. Advocates are spending far too much time arguing over how important that it is that others change their behavior, usually in ways that those doing the advocating would want regardless of climate change. In this way climate change becomes not a problem to be solved but a political weapon in service of other goals.

They are among us still

My Better Two-Thirds, during the course of her work yesterday, met and spent some time with an elderly gentleman who sported a tattoo he'd gotten here. He had only recently moved to the US to be near his daughter - the last of his family. May he find peace among us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Overcoming Bias: Guardians of Ayn Rand

Overcoming Bias: Guardians of Ayn Rand: "Science has heroes, but no gods. The great Names are not our superiors, or even our rivals, they are passed milestones on our road; and the most important milestone is the hero yet to come."

Overcoming Bias: Politics and Awful Art

Overcoming Bias: Politics and Awful Art: "There is powerful politicized art, just as there are great religious paintings. But merit in politicized art is more the exception than the rule. Most of it ends up as New Soviet Man Heroically Crushing Capitalist Snakes. It's an easy living. If anyone criticizes your art on grounds of general suckiness, they'll be executed for siding with the capitalist snakes.

Tolerance of awful art, just because it lands a delicious punch on the Enemy, or just because it affirms the Great Truth, is a dangerous sign: It indicates an affective death spiral entering the supercritical phase where you can no longer criticize any argument whose conclusion is the 'right' one."

“Young’n! That there Jamie Lynn Spears from Zoey 101 done got herself all pregnified!”

... you know what? She doesn’t care. And you know why? It’s not her business.

Because CNN Asked

Weekly Links

Quotes for entrepreneurs.

Quantum computing on a chip using quantum dots.

Death for pimps.

Firing around corners.

Chinese retail sales are growing at a record pace.

Saturn's ancient rings.

The new airfare sites deliver better deals.

The real death star is a black hole.

Riding the failure cascade.

The colors of ancient statuary.

Slavery in New York.

Giant rats in Indonesia.

Is cannabis smoke deadlier than tobacco smoke?

Japanese missile defence.

The case against peak oil.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Remember them

Back when I did this sort of thing it was pretty darned easy. It ain't easy anymore. Please remember them and when the opportunity arises let them and those who love them know you care.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Where are the life boats?

Remember the inspector general of SIGIR warning about the instability of the Mosul Dam? Remember various papers publicizing the warning. Well, look who else was paying attention.

“Some 250 armed men have entered Nineveh Province with the aim of detonating the Mosul Dam,” one source said.

BTW, SIGIR was set up by congress to oversee and investigate the reconstruction in Iraq and they have been quite popular on the left for their exposures. But now Inspector General Stuart Bowen and his deputy Ginger Cruz are being investigated by the FBI. Oddly, some of the left now blame Bush for this Congressional chimera, the usual cross of a Republican with a Democrat. But party probably pales beside the opportunity to enhance bureaucratic vitae in explaining the behavior of SIGIR.

Anyway, pay attention.

The Corner on National Review Online

The Corner on National Review Online: "... there are three parties in Congress (Ds, Rs, Appropriators), not two."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Star Trek Should Have Had These

... except the special effects would have been too expensive.

Must See Movie

How well do you know the World?

Know your World is an entertaining test of your Geography knowledge. Speed and accuaracy are needed to pile up the points. I made it through 11 or 12 levels before bombing out. Needless to say I nailed the capital of Turkmenistan, but Africa and the Caribbean, as well as some oddball Australian possessions, did me in. I finished with a Travel IQ if 119.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reaching for the Stars

The release of the Mitchell report concerning steroid use in baseball essentially confirms what everyone suspected but pretended not to know. People are shocked…shocked that so many players have been implicated. Some new names have emerged, especially pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Petitte. Still the litany of names is sobering. Furthermore, many sportswriters are saying that there are many more names not in the report but that “everyone” knows they’re doing it. And baseball isn’t even testing for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) at this point. Sports are a reflection of the culture IMHO. So, I’ll briefly ride on my hobbyhorse, namely living in the age of tantalization.

Tantalus was a wealthy king, who was not satisfied with his mortal powers and mortality. Seeking to have what the gods have, he cheats or commits crimes designed to acquire his objects of desire (Nectar and Ambrosia). In one version of the myth he even chops up his son in an attempt to make himself level with the gods. He is caught and punished by being eternally tantalized (seeing what he wants but having it hang just out of reach).

There are many forces in society tempting us toward immediate gratification, and we seem to crave a never-ending onslaught of excitements and powers. The thrills don’t necessarily last too long. So we can set off in search of the next big thing or pick-me-up. Fans liked seeing the legendary records fall or be obliterated, since it is also a thrill to “be a part of history”, even as a witness. In Tantalizing Times –now available at a big discount through Amazon :>)--- I wrote:

Steroids have been the subject of much controversy in recent years. These have tended to be used by male athletes looking to get some kind of edge. They enhance muscle mass, and guys have been able to get pumped up on them and achieve almost unreal sorts of muscle development. They are used to assist the athlete to become stronger and more powerful, in addition to assisting the athlete to develop the body of a Greek god. Questions were raised about the productivity of many athletes as records began to fall in numerous sports. Football players and baseball players have especially been tempted to swallow steroids in the hopes of obtaining athletic immortality. Curiously steroid use has potential health risks and not only enhancement potential. Considering the theme of the book, its risks are almost poetic, namely the potential for shrinking of the testicles and of impotence. Although they temporarily can help one climb to the top of the heap, excessive use could easily produce a person with many of the characteristics of premature aging and impaired capacity to reproduce. Pg. 53

Although steroids affect muscles (more than brain) my focus here lies on the prospect of opening the door for mind drugs as enhancers. The same arguments will be used. In the case of using an enhancer to get the advantage, we abandon whatever investment we have had in something like will power or determination as well as effort. If activities are made easy by intake of pharmaceuticals, then the outcome is privileged over the process and we acclimate ourselves to the notion that anything worth having is worth being acquired via a bottle or needle. In fact it clearly sets the stage for an entitlement viewpoint to reign supreme. Pg. 80

Where You At?

Jay Cost today takes a look at where the candidates for the Republican Party nomination to be President of the United States have been and draws some conclusions regarding the strategies adopted by some of them. This put me in mind of what I wrote elsewhere a couple of days ago:
It's hard to see how the cash thing (Huckabee has a lot less) doesn't apply in this quarter and yet a look at the Rasmussen weekly numbers on daily tracking shows Huckabee at 6% on 10/8 and 21% on 12/10 and it's mostly at Thompson's expense.

Thompson's people know that their strategy, whatever it was, has failed. Iowa is important. So, it appears, has Romney's, but, again, until actual votes are cast and counted all one can do is watch and evaluate because no campaign is going to make it easy to figure out their strategy and its effectiveness if they can find any way to keep from doing so.
It's been decades since I've so enjoyed observing the political. It's been one entertaining read and view after another since the Republicans went on CNN a couple of weeks ago. The commentariat and the campaigns are all in an uproar because the debates are idiotic, the candidates are mediocre, Iowa is unworthy, the polling is wrong, etc. Same old, same old. What's not to love?

So, where you at? I'm in Washington state. A four month caucus process to select convention delegates for both major parties begins here on February 9th. Ten days later there is a primary. Some Republican delegates will be selected as a result. I'll probably declare myself a Republican for the day and vote for Giuliani or McCain depending on my mood.

It was only a little over a month ago that I wrote here:
Personally, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we see a repeat of Illinois in 2004 where Obama just stays out of his own way and lets his opponents bump up against themselves, one another and him until they come apart. Of course, I'm not carrying it so far as to suggest that the Republican Party will turn to Alan Keyes in its moment of need. Not with Ron Paul available.
So much fun to see Alan Keyes join the mix this week and so amusing to watch as the young guy's path became clearer and clearer through these past 31 days. 31 more days of the same, please.

Where YOU at?

I came back and did it the way blogger likes. I don't enjoy blogger.

Friday Links

The new Watrons of Japan.

You can't fight the Democratic party chairman.

Google acquires the internet.

The new atomic clock is an order of magnitude better than the previous one.

Waves to electricity in Rhode Island.

Are wild salmon about to go extinct?

Your personal jetpack at only a quarter million.

Porn for girls by girls.

The psychology of learning.

Why isn't government ("universal") health care the answer?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New adoption?

Nah. The dang thing keeps coming in through the cat flap and I'm getting tired of throwing it out. I could sure use a little localized global warming about now so the heat seeking critter would stay outdoors. The historical roots of this common situation are explored here.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | EU 'snub' threat at climate talks

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | EU 'snub' threat at climate talks: "EU ministers are threatening to boycott a US-led climate summit next month over the Bush administration's opposition to firm cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The row comes during the penultimate day of UN climate talks in Bali, where progress on outstanding issues is slow."

So, the plan here is that if the US doesn't agree in advance to the demands the EU is making, they won't come to the conference?

Yeah, that'll work.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Real Bailout

Alan Greenspan has an editorial today in the Wall Street Journal which carefully explains that the Fed was no more responsible for watching the barn door than Fitch's, Moody's or Standard & Poor. Where Fitch points all ten fingers, Greenspan waves his arms and encourages us to look backwards:
The root of the current crisis, as I see it, lies back in the aftermath of the Cold War, when the economic ruin of the Soviet Bloc was exposed with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Following these world-shaking events, market capitalism quietly, but rapidly, displaced much of the discredited central planning that was so prevalent in the Third World.
It's all clear now. Banks were allowed to move liabilities "off the books" to SIVs because of the collapse of the Soviet Union. That certainly makes sense. Somewhere. Mr. Greenspan somehow fails to note that the shell game indulged in by the banks through the magic of black box algorithms which engendered "no loss" derivatives marketed by unregulated hedge funds has ended with no pea to be seen on the table. His only concession to the phenomenon is by mentioning that:
Arbitragable assets--equities, bonds and real estate, and the financial assets engendered by their intermediation--now swamp the resources of central banks. The market value of global long-term securities is approaching $100 trillion. Carry trade and foreign exchange markets have become huge.
I'm not as impressed as I had hoped to be.

Never fear. Today, Bernanke rides to the rescue. Since the credit markets are frozen because absolutely no one in the world has any remaining faith whatsoever in ratings issued by the "Who?" "Not me!!" credit rating crowd, the Fed is going to start shoveling money to - "All depository institutions that are judged to be in generally sound financial condition by their local Reserve Bank and that are eligible to borrow under the primary credit discount window program will be eligible to participate in TAF auctions."

Of course, that determination will be made based upon their rating by Fitch or Moody or Standard & Poor. What a relief.

I don't have any particular objection to special auctions to
inject liquidity. That's the purpose for the existence of central banks. It would be nice if the Fed made it clear that a depository institution had an either/or choice regarding off the books deals and remaining a depository. The mental picture of depository institutions gathered around a blanket, rolling dice on black box outcomes just doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence.

The Fed still has a lot more credibility (IMO) than the IMF or the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank. Those are the folks who have been touting the success of China in following the "third way". It is becoming increasingly clear that China's 'ascent' is chimerical. I've never heard of a 40% cut in a country's estimated GDP before. Except for that one time when the Communist mythos concerning the Soviet Union was completely demolished, of course. It's almost as if China and the former Soviet Union had something in common. Maybe the World Bank, the IMF and the ADP will be able to apply sophisticated analysis to determine whether a common element might exist?

Bernanke needs to clip and save Greenspan's editorial. When China collapses he'll be able to say that not even Greenspan saw it coming.

Quote of the Day

An Interview With Matt Sanchez - Right Wing News (Conservative News and Views): "Porn was a no-brainer way of sticking the middle-finger at what I knew to be a hypocritical society. Porn was legal, it was marginal, edgy and I figured it would anger all the right people. Several years later I've been proven correct."

Don't play poker with George W.

American Thinker: Mind-reading George W on the Middle East: "So here's what W decides: Why not let the libs write that NIE? Nobody is going to believe it anyway. (And right on cue, the Europeans dropped leaks saying they didn't.) But it will cause a fuss in the media in Israel (which is under the gun most directly), but also in Saudi, the Gulf States, Europe, the United States, and even Russia, where everybody has been happily demagoguing W for ages, secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam would help them if they encountered real danger from the martyrdom brigade. It's very clever. Some countries are suddenly getting serious about Tehran's nukes. The UK Guardian (!) has been writing about the danger, the same folks who've been blowing superheated steam like Old Faithful ever since the overthrow of Saddam. The Brits, Germans and French have told the press that the Americans are just wrong again, just like with Saddam, but now in the opposite way. With Saddam, the myth goes, there were no WMDs, but now Iran has them coming for sure."

I'd been thinking similar thoughts, but hadn't really formulated them. Now I don't need to.

"... look on my works and despair."

I am nerdier than 100% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!


Weekly Links

What if the phone company edited your conversations?

Enter the Chinese market, lose your brand name.

18 alarm clocks.

Are humans evolving faster?

Indonesians hiding in Mecca.

Is food becoming dearer?

Reading your mind directly while you view ads.

Banning Scientology.

Free Yale courses.

Nanotechnology to kill anthrax.

Flying humans.

More antarctic dinosaurs.

10 exciting emerging technologies.

Will housing continue to crash?

Mammoths blasted from space.

The 4 things that make a good leader.

The future of robots.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

About Your Missing Horses....

One of the gnomes of Zurich woke up with a bad limp this morning. How in the world did a Swiss bank get clobbered with a $10 billion loss in subprime mortgages written in the US? A seriously misplaced trust in innovation firmly attached to "respected names" seems to be the main answer. Aside from greed, of course.

One of the "respected names" washes its hands of the matter thusly:
While we realize this was a very limited sample, Fitch believes that the findings are indicative of the types and magnitude of issues, such as poor underwriting and fraud, which are prevalent in the high delinquencies of recent subprime vintages. In addition, although the sample was adversely selected based on payment patterns and high risk factors, the files indicated that fraud was not only present, but, in most cases, could have been identified with adequate underwriting, quality control and fraud prevention tools prior to the loan funding. Fitch believes that this targeted sampling of files was sufficient to determine that inadequate underwriting controls and, therefore, fraud is a factor in the defaults and losses on recent vintage pools. Additionally, Fitch continues to attempt to expand its loan sample to provide further validation of its findings and will provide additional commentary as applicable.
See, it wasn't the credit rating company's fault, and, if you read very carefully and at length, it wasn't even the underwriter's (those folks who pay the credit raters) fault. It was the loan originator's fault and, in particular, the mortgage broker's fault. S & P, Moody's and Fitch were innocent bystanders who extended trust in good faith, although in retrospect, perhaps a tiny bit unwisely.

What utter hogwash.

The increase in default rates was traceable within months of the setup of each of the "deals". Each packaged mortgage "deal" is seasoned and the results are required to be reported monthly. The big banks set up indices to follow "valuation" of how creditworthy groups of deals are that allow one to follow a deal down to about the tranche level. ABX is one such index and Citigroup Mortgage Loan Trust 2007-AMC2 is a sample of a constituent element of the index. Go to the EDGAR CIK search engine, pop in "Citigroup Mortgage Loan Trust" and take a look at the list of deals, open 2007-AMC2 and take a look at the distribution reports. This is a $2 billion, ten thousand loan deal that was set up in February, 2007 and had over ten per cent of its loans at least 30 days past due by August. By December, twenty per cent were at least 30 days past due with half of them moving to the bankrupt, foreclosed or REO status group. My bet is that at least 500 loans out of the 1,000 that were sour in August were outright fraud of a sort that Fitch's report doesn't really identify. It doesn't take more than a shady realtor coupled with a soft appraiser and a "hot" mortgage broker to scam a sucker like Citi.

It might be cheaper for Citi in the future just to leave their vault doors open to the general public one day a year. Maybe they could get Fitch to pick up part of the tab? It couldn't hurt either of their current reputations very much. A sad part of this entire charade is that Citi wasn't anywhere near the worst player. The saddest part is that the reporting on the charade still doesn't identify the fact that the whole thing was driven by cost cutting at the origination level. The originators were driven by the underwriters into substituting simplistic (and easily scammed) FICO scores for "legwork" that really only entailed making a series of phone calls. The "savings" per app couldn't have been more than $200 - and it's not as if the borrower didn't pay for it in the first place.

Wreaths at Arlington

An old friend pointed me to the information that one Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, annually donates 5,000 wreaths to be placed upon graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Not only does he donate the wreaths but he annually drives from ME to Arlington with a group of volunteers to deliver and place the wreaths. Mr. Worcester has expanded his efforts to Wreaths Across America. Thanks for the pointer, Stosh.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

This Morning's View

"Garibaldi does not dominate the surrounding landscape, which consists of many high, rugged peaks. Many residents of Vancouver are therefore not aware that there is a volcano closer to the city than the more easily visible Mount Baker in Washington State."—Wikipedia

The Right Coast: Those darn liberal academics Tom Smith

The Right Coast: Those darn liberal academics Tom Smith: "But the most painful thing about being a conservative in the academy is not being discriminated against, but the sheer, awful tedium of having to listen to the cant that passes for reasoning where PC-ness has taken over. If you are a pointy-head, having your intelligence insulted is one of the worst insults of all."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Save the world, buy a Playstation 3

Folding@Home client statistics by OS

OS Type Current TFLOPS* Active CPUs Total CPUs
Windows 1731816941867933
Mac OS X/PowerPC 79281108973
Mac OS X/Intel 18589631084
Linux 4425733261056
GPU 417004810
PLAYSTATION®3 105342454364448
Total 1336265758 2638304

Folding@Home is a Stanford project to use home computers to simulate protein folding. It is also comes with the Playstation 3 and can be activated by clicking on an icon. Note that the Playstation 3 network is rated at over a petaflop. This is getting into the range of the human brain, although the brain only uses about 20 watts and is far more connected. The GPU stats are for programs using ATI X1900 class video cards, which can run the computations 20x to 30x faster than a CPU with SSE.

Here is a video snippet from DLTV that also shows simulated protein folding in action.

Dammit, why didn't I think of this?

Well, here's a fine invention from 1963: a spinning hospital bed that uses centrifugal force to facilitate the birth of a child. I'm not entirely sure how it was supposed to work, but I have a mental picture of a doctor standing at its foot with a catcher's mitt to snag the little goober when it shoots out like a cannon ball.

Google patent search 3216423

Newt Gingrich on NBC

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Links

The uncrowned king of heroin.

Talkin' 'bout the new generation. (H/T Colin)

Bomb-proofing your clothes with Zetix.

Is CompUSA no more?

The Long March into Africa.

Introducing the MemeBox.

The Nostradamus of the 21st century?

Tuberculosis from half a million years ago.

Roughing up the BBC.

Solar cheaper than coal?

No more Miss Tibet.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The voice of an angel

French perfidity and the Turkmenbashi, a.k.a. everybody's favorite maniac dictator. What could be finer? Too bad I don't speak French.

From No Pasaran: Giving in to their Homoerotic Love of Dictators.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

They Don't Ring A Bell

Who will be most disappointed by the end of the mortgage crisis? My bet is that it will be the various and sundry doomsday writers who glibly use "median" in their rationales for the 'end of the world as we know it' summaries on real estate. When mortgage lenders choked off the supply of jumbos in August it didn't take a genius to understand that the 'median' price was going to take a hit. The doomboys apparently can't afford the pixels to mention that. Nor do they appear to possess a sufficiency of pixels to note that the increase in average square footage for SFRs from 2000 and 2006 was 9.5%. Could that account for a say, 9.5%, increase in price? If it does, then it accounts for 20% of the total "exorbitant" increase over the time period. Did you know that the "exorbitant" price increase of the last seven years is actually precisely aligned with the annual increase in price over the past forty years? If you do it wasn't from the doomboys because the doomboys will never speculate on that point, no more than they will ever take a moment to examine the fact that "median" household income today has changed in the same manner that the average house has changed. Except that the "median" household has grown poorer due to its composition. The no spouse (NSP) component of the family household has increased by over 7% in seven years which dragged down the overall increase in family median household substantially. The income of the married couple component hasn't increased at the same rate as the cost increase of the median house but that has something to do with the fact that 25% of the married couple component is over 65.

Take another look at the doomboy chart MHA posted a few days ago. In particular, take a look at previous recoveries from the lows. The big home builder stocks jumped 4% today (average of Beazer, Ryland, Toll, Pulte, Lennar, Hovnanian, Horton and Centex).

Ding. Ding. Ding.

Weekly Links

Bruce Schneier speaks.

The top 100 PC innovations.

The Church of Rome vs. the Church of China.

The reality of Facebook.

The 8 most dangerous roads.

Buy tellurium.

Apple's new iBlade technology.

A dinosaur with meat still on the bones.

Robots learning from babies.

Sex in space.

10 semantic apps.

More cyberespionage.

Power series in Haskell.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Crash 2.0?

... and a PS to Joe Biden

Joe: saying in 2003 that the intelligence says Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, and then saying in 2007 that new information suggests they stopped, is not a lie.

Saying "I didn't have sexual relations with that woman"? That's a lie.

Saying "I just happened on my one experience with trading options to make a hundred times my investment"? Very probably a lie.

Stealing another politicians speech and using it as you own, without attribution? If not a lie, then the next best thing.

But saying "I have new better information that has changed our understanding"? Not a lie.

Always happy to help.


So let me get the straight. Some years ago, Bush said "Iran is making progress on nuclear materials that could be used in nuclear weapons. We need to pressure them to stop, and to open themselves to inspection, and while diplomatic means are the best answer and force is a last resort, we can't eliminate force, or else the other diplommatic means will be less effective."

And the reporting was "Bush threatens War."

Then Bush said "Iran is still making progress on nuclear materials that could be used in nuclear weapons. We need to pressure them to stop, and to open themselves to inspection, and while diplomatic means are the best answer and force is a last resort, we can't eliminate force, or else the other diplomatic means will be less effective."

And the reporting was "Bush threatens War."

Then some sanctions were set up, and Bush said "Iran is making progress on nuclear materials that could be used in nuclear weapons. We need to pressure them to stop, and to open themselves to inspection, and while diplomatic means are the best answer and force is a last resort, we can't eliminate force, or else the other diplomatic means will be less effective."

And the reporting was "Bush threatens War."

Then Ahmedinajiad said Israel should be destroyed and they were the ones to do it, and Bush said "Iran is making progress on nuclear materials that could be used in nuclear weapons. We need to pressure them to stop, and to open themselves to inspection, and while diplomatic means are the best answer and force is a last resort, we can't eliminate force, or else the other diplomatic means will be less effective."

And the reporting was "Bush threatens War."

Then Ahmedinajiad said they were successfully enriching uranium and no one would stop them, and Bush said "Iran is making progress on nuclear materials that could be used in nuclear weapons. We need to pressure them to stop, and to open themselves to inspection, and while diplomatic means are the best answer and force is a last resort, we can't eliminate force, or else the other diplomatic means will be less effective."

And the reporting was "Bush threatens War."

And finally, the new NIE came out and said that under pressure they now believe Iran has stopped an active eapons program, but they still aren't cooperating with IAEA, and Bush said "Iran is making progress on nuclear materials that could be used in nuclear weapons. We need to pressure them to stop, and to open themselves to inspection, and while diplomatic means are the best answer and force is a last resort, we can't eliminate force, or else the other diplomatic means will be less effective. But diplomatic means seem to have been somewhat effective, so we should keep up the pressure and I will continue to do so."

And the reporting is "Bush was an idiot to threaten war."

Have I got that straight?

Horsehockey Stick

Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit provides a nice graph for the idiots assembled at Bali to peruse as they decide how best to slay the dreaded AGW chimera. It will be interesting to watch the World's Greatest Deliberative Body make a collective ass of itself later this week as it, too, jousts in earnest with the dreaded beast. Not that this week will be extraordinarily different than any other week but the graph provides a very nice counterpoint to the dystopians seeking to control the world's economy using a hoax that will eventually be classified as falling between the Piltdown Man and Lysenkoism.

Roger Pielke continues to conduct climate science and has re-opened his blog. He provides another nice counterpoint to the Mannomatic hockey stick replicator (with 4-barrel data enHansenizer) that climatologists find as useful to their "art" as were the charts produced by phrenologists in their hay day.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Picture du Jour

click to enlarge

Back in the bread queue |

Back in the bread queue | "They have a vision of a vastly reduced population living simply on simple foods. A population that is suitably grateful to their beneficent rulers, who, because of the burden they carry, live in air conditioned comfort as they jet from climate conferences in Africa to something else ‘right on’ conferences in somewhere else far a way and interesting."


The man was apparently a bit much, but Mahler's Second Symphony, Resurrection, rocks! Go Baby!

For the orchestration I heard last night, in addition to all the usual suspects, there were 10 horns, 5 trumpets, 6 trombones, and percussionists galore. Tuxedos dashing this way and that. I swear, one of the crescendos made me giggle. Way kewl.

And should you ever have the opportunity to hear the yutes of the Westminster Choir College do their thing, grab it. They're freakin' good, no kiddin'.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ammo with Attitude

So, I headed down to the range this afternoon to get in a bit of target practice. Buckmark pistol? Check. Box of Federal automatch ammo? Check. I've had good luck with this ammo before, but today was something different: Bang, bang, spiff, Bang, spiff, spiff, spiff, Bang, bang. Wow, it was a veritable symphonic performance, Bartok, I think. Most of the spiffs ejected, which was a wonder, but I have never heard such wild variations before. Time to head off to the internet and try something different.

Okay, I'm in Love

French-Quebecoise-Belgian Chanteuse Lara Fabian

... and my favorite video of her...

Not hard to look at either.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Interesting Chart

(H/T Barry Ritholz.)

the Evolution of Water

Computer water, circa 1982

Computer water, circa 2007

A series of 32 screen shots showing the development of rendering techniques for water in computer games from a German PC Magazine. I've actually played both the first and the last of the games in the sequence. Amazing how far graphics have come.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Immigration Policy

I suppose that we should get around to taking a look at the different approaches proposed by each candidate.

Fred Thompson

Comprehensive, detailed and logical. The problem didn't happen overnight and it won't be fixed overnight.

Rudy Giuliani

Doesn't seem to feel it's an issue. That or he hides it in a place I can't find.

Mitt Romney

The man has a really firm grasp of the principles of platitude construction. Promises strong employer sanctions and a "cut back" on federal funding to sanctuary cities. Doesn't mention whether it would be 1.1% or 1.2%. Doesn't explain exactly how he'll get the illegals to show up for their biometrically-enabled and tamperproof card nor does he explain why they shouldn't be deported when they do show up. The proposal can me read as a mandate to make all visitors get that biometrically-enabled and tamperproof card prior to entry. We had over 33 million foreign vistors last year. Should be a piece of cake.

John McCain

Open borders

Mike Huckabee

I urge you to read this one completely. It's not bad conceptually but the presentation lacks anything approaching the quality that one might expect from a serious contender. He makes some decent points but at a remarkably low skill level.

IMO - Thompson's proposal has the edge. Huckabee is too confrontational/combative. Romney - very, very malleable. He's going to be a hard one to corner.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Treason's Reward

Lovely, isn't it?

This morning Bank of America issued a "sell" recommendation that knocked the stock down to another new 52 week low. It's being propped at the moment by institutional holders (with very heavy volume). If Junior's office has operable windows, Keller better have maintenance screw them shut for the time being.

CyberMonday came in a lot better than even Black Friday.

Don't these people realize just how nigh the end is? Why aren't they huddled in a tent somehwere in Idaho awaiting the arrival of the dreaded Black Swan?

Weekly Links

Stem cells from skin cells.

More housing price records.

China's first spacewalk.

Is Mankind destroying the world? Worse, we're foreshortening the life of the Universe itself. Repent!

Australia shifts away from the US, toward China.

A group is its own worst enemy.

Robotic aircraft learn to stunt-fly.

How to protect IM from Big Brother.

The sliding rocks of Racetrack Playa mystery. (And who knew "playa" was an English word too?)

Time to burn cars in Paris again.

15 dark comedies to watch.

Google's privacy protections are worth the paper they're printed on.

Putin arrests Kasparov. "We don't need no stinkin' dissent", he opines. "One party's good enough for my boys, it's good enough for Russia."

10 free science courses online at good universities.

The Chinese African empire continues to grow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ermm... who tested this idea?

Hilarious! But then again...

During the course of the day we discovered two "baby" mice. They're old enough to walk but not old enough to scurry worth a darn - easily collected and, umm..., relocated.

The hilarious part is the ease with which My-Better-Two-Thirds can be made to jump out of her skin. A simple BOO! will do it. Repeatedly. What a laugh riot, such good fun.

But then again... I do believe that mouse litters involve a bit more than two of the critters. Not to mention mom. Off to buy some traps. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Video du Jour


The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

- Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation October 3, 1863

I do not mean the following to belittle anything anyone has said or will say about thankfulness or this fabulous holiday we observe. It is just something I like and am struggling to make real for me...

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.
--WT Purkiser
(No, I'm not reborn, I just choose to try and believe some things regardless of how difficult they are to bring to life.)

And last, but nowhere near least, in addition to the many things I will ponder upon over the next few days...
I am thankful for Jim, Brian, and Tony.
- Knucklehead
I would also like to thank my friends here at Flares for being here (and there). I have no idea what's become of Terrye but I hope she is well and happy.

Idiot's Parade

What's wrong with old Sesame Street?:

The old “Sesame Street” is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper “Elmo’s World” started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place — well, the original “Sesame Street” might hurt your feelings.

I asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of “Sesame Street,” how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the parody “Monsterpiece Theater.” Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, “That modeled the wrong behavior” — smoking, eating pipes — “so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.”

Weekly Links

My Girl Cuffy
Originally uploaded by dallasjlogan

Will the Internet run out of capacity in two years?

Killing cancer without surgery or chemo (part of our ongoing Dr. McCoy series).

Black Friday ads.

The debate dominatrix tames the Obambi. (H/T Doug)

How to catch a rainbow.

The best of what's new.

Is the end of the world is as nigh as next May?

The "drop-dead basic mathematics" of category theory.

9 awesome natural phenomena.

How to increase contempt and disdain for the law.

Growth stocks for a troubled economy.

The first virtual teacher.

The top 5 free anti-virus programs.

Hong Kong vs. Shanghai.

How the Inca leapt canyons.

Decode your DNA.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Overcoming Bias: The Simple Math of Everything: "t seems to me that there's a substantial advantage in knowing the drop-dead basic fundamental embarrassingly simple mathematics in as many different subjects as you can manage. Not, necessarily, the high-falutin' complicated damn math that appears in the latest journal articles. Not unless you plan to become a professional in the field. But for people who can read calculus, and sometimes just plain algebra, the drop-dead basic mathematics of a field may not take that long to learn. And it's likely to change your outlook on life more than the math-free popularizations or the highly technical math."

Late for the sky

RIP, Fred (see page 9 for those who are interested). As you mentioned in your interview with CNN back in 2004, when you were three years beyond the prognosis,
I'm much more empathetic towards my patients that I deal with when I'm at work. And I enjoy my life more one day at a time. And try and just appreciate everything that I have. And I do have a lot. And I am very blessed.
And you lasted more than three additional years all the while doing just that. Living life with empathy and appreciation. Well done.



The smart set had inched forward
Through the rows
Of lettuces and onions, summer stuff
That still means something
As a year wears on—
Those wedded to those meanings waited to
Release them, just a few spurts
At a time
Of their own choosing, late in fall, a light
Of golden motes filtering down through trees
And wires the warblers
Had abandoned for
Oncoming winter, storms still out at sea
In long lines, waiting
Northwest of the Bay.
To give up, to confess that one has failed
His spin class, just because he shows up drunk
With lust for ladies prettier than he,
Is sobering. But to stand around the way

We stood around the garden
Like scarecrows,
Just soaking up the blessings, crazed with light
And time, and so to fill the whole ram’s horn
With plenty, though we’ve angered several trees,
May be forgiven, if justice is done
To what the garden gives us.
Let the air
Be redolent of light and color where
Tomorrow we’ll be
Found with our bouquets
Of lavender, and marjoram, and sage,
As fall comes on. — Wild Goose Chase
And Blue Moon
Can be our theme songs, sixty years ago
They were atop the charts!
Time to bring back
The kind of longing that carried us here,
Bewildered, where a wilderness of vines
Hangs in the balance,
Just before the rains
Include us in the winter’s plans for us.

Tomorrow I promise to have made time
For gardening with boots on, —
Should the sun
Decline our invitation, we’ll still be
Strapped to our task, unbundling the light
Of gardens,
And we’ll all breathe easier
As day gets busy, erasing what’s lost.

For Jeremy and Deanie

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Greening of America

Plants are all the rage. Nothing brightens up a debate like potted plants scattered among the audience. The best rundown I have yet seen of the audience plants in the CNN debate is at pcexposed. I count three definite and one possible plant at this point. Read the post, then ask yourself what we can do to counter the corrupt and arrogant elites who are cynically manipulating and undermining the polity of our country.

h/t: Ace

Update: All sorts are piling on. Remember Rathergate? This is beginning to smell like that. Dan Riehl has a update with more links. This could be fun, especially if it makes it into the MSM. Rathergate never really did, amazingly enough, but this time even some Democrats might be interested in uncovering the scam. Especially if it turns out that some of them weren't in on it. And yes, our favorite corrupt senator, Harry Reid, seems to have played a part in setting up this disgusting charade.

Picture du Jour

Bring. It. ON.

Kerry has accepted Boone Picken's challenge.

I intend to follow this one here. I am sure Tom McGuire will have some posts on this as well.

This should be fun.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clockwise, or Counter Clockwise?

PIcture du Jour

Rare Nazi German shot

Weekly Links

As big a shock as Sputnik? So much for superpower status....

Is the new Zune better than the iPod Classic?

Fast food nutrition.

How to get 99% of the hydrogen from waste.

Google claims to have produced a quantum computer—but is it a hoax?

The 10 weirdest houses.

Is 10 years old too young for the 39 raisins?

Introducing Songza.

Squeezing 40% more transistors in.

The difficult patients of the information age.

The source of empathy and autism?

Krugman's latest innocent mistakes.

Even more poor people are with us in South Africa.

More Python goodies.

The source of all chocolate.

How to invest in Africa.