Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lego illusions

Mighty Optical Illusions is an always interesting site to visit. Some of my favorite illusions at their site are there Lego illusions. They have a page which links to samples of optical illusions made out of Lego blocks that they have gathered.

However, while the illusions are fascinating, I can't help but wonder how many Dads swipe their kids Legos on Christmas morning so they can play M. C. Escher with them?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Chistmas Mystery

First off, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my fellow Yargbees and our readers.

Now, on to the mystery... my wife and I gave our son the statue pictured to the right as Christmas gift (as you can tell, nothing is too good for our boy).

It is a pig, with an apple on a little spring suspended above its back. It has a banner draped over it on which the following is written, "Make us one people united in praising you."

What that is all supposed to mean we don't know, nor does anybody we've shown it to have the slightest idea what it is about.

Does anybody out there have a notion or theory as to what it might mean?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An outcast among her geology friends

“I started getting on to wine and other stuff for a while, but I became an outcast among my geology friends,” said geologist Laura Webb of the University of Vermont. ”So I had to retrain myself to drink brew.”

Apparently Geologists are a bunch of beer drinking drunks. I confess, given that news, I'm liking them better than the humorless nags in Climatology. Wired Science has an article Why Geologists Love Beer which discusses their drink of choice and theorizes as to why it is so popular with them.

“Every other convention assumes that if you have a beer, your brain goes soft,” said Kathy Sullivan, who has been serving beer at the AGU meeting for 26 years. ”But not the geophysicists. They think if you have a beer, you can still learn things. So they do.”

Friday night beer sessions, called variously Friday Beer, Liquidus and who knows what else are common rituals in Geology Departments. Beer is also common at the end of the day during convention and seminars.

Theories have been put forward as to why beer is so popular, and so much of a part of the culture, with Geologists. The most popular is that field work is hot and tiring, and the work is often being done in areas with unsafe drinking water, and so it is the best thirst quencher.

“You have to think outside the box, you’ve got to release your inhibitions, and beer is one way to do that,” Saltus said. ”Anything that helps you get to that epiphany, that realization of what’s there in the rocks and not easy to see but there to spin a story from.”

Others argue that beer drinking aids science in that it frees up inhibitions and encourages conversation. A third theory believes it is just a tradition handed down from advisor to student for years.

By the way, I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure those are real Geologists hoisting tankards in the picture. Then again, maybe they're physicists. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

From Nosferatu to My Bloody Valentine 3-D

The website Honkiat has a post, Evolution of Horror Movie Poster Designs: 1922 – 2009, that uses over 50 movie posters to show their evolution over the past 90 years. My only quibble would be that they skipped the 1950s entirely, which is a shame because that era has such a strong graphical style.

At any rate, above I show the first and last of the posters in their sequence above. There are many more at Honkiat.

(via iheartchaos

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I wonder how much this would cost us?

In legislative news today some House subcommittee or another approved a bill that would establish a playoff system for college football. The bill was sponsored by Joe Barton, R-Texas and Bobby Rush, D-Ill. It passed on a voice vote with only one 'nay' coming from John Barrow, D-Ga. Good for him.

Reacting to crticism that the bill was a completely frivolous waste of time Barrow, the subcommittee chairman said, "We can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Well, perhaps, but the question isn't about walking or gum chewing, it is about wasting time writing insane laws. If for no other reason, exactly when did creating playoff brackets become a Federal matter? At any rate, the bill has little chance of passing.

However, in my overheated imagination I began to wonder what would happen if it were to dawn on the present group of Congress Critters that once playoffs were mandated they would then need two or three new Departments to regulate the whole affair. A mere 10 or 20 billion dollars later and we would end up with office buildings stuffed full of brandy-new bureaucrats pushing pencils and suckling off the public teat.

Then I suppose they would have to tinker with the sport to make it more politically correct. Soon, just like in youth sports, all of the players would get trophies for participating, because egos must not be bruised.

Oh well, I don't watch college football anyways.

By the way, the picture are diagrams by Red Grange of his T-Formation from the Cool Collections of the University of Illinois library.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Utter insanity

The Wall Street Journal reports that, as expected, the EPA has just declared C02 to be a pollutant.

We have unelected bureaucrats making decisions that will impact the entire U.S. economy. Worse, we all know this was done so that Obama can strut around the collapsing Copenhagen Conference and act like a savior.

We know that in a week or so Obama will sign off on some sort of lunatic World Carbon tax to transfer Western money to Third World kleptocrats. The Senate would never agree to such absurdity, but I suppose a puffed up bureaucrat who knows best will be found.

A million here, a billion there, a trillion over yonder... step by foolish step these people are trying their best to impoverish me in my old age. Disgusting, absolutely disgusting.

How have we allowed this to come to this pass and what can we do about it?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Sequel

My earlier post Weird Corner of the Internet featured people holding up album covers so that the pose and the cover art blend into a single illusion. Today's sequel features people blending in with their money. I guess you can never have too much of a good thing. Even though the ears on it are messed up I particularly like the Lincoln one.


More Money Faces.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Piltdown Man walks

A lot of the posting about the CRU document hack revolves around how it will play in the press. There is a certain amount of cynicism that, because of the investment in AGW, the press and politicians tied to its cause will ignore or explain away the documents as best as possible. While I have no doubt that is true, I don't think it matters. What really matters is how the Climatologists and other Science Departments view it.

In 1908 the first fragments of the Piltdown Man skull were reportedly found. By 1912 the news of the discovery reached the popular press. While scientists outside of Britain were at first skeptical of the find, many were converted when, in 1917 it was announced that Piltdown II had been discovered.

The Piltdown skulls were of course hoaxes. They were a combination of fragments of a medieval man's skull, a orangutan's jawbone and chimpanzee teeth. However, the hoax wasn't unmasked until 1953. Prior to that date other hominid skulls had to fit into a sequence that included Piltdown man, and that resulted in a highly distorted family tree for modern man and his ancestors.

The revelation of the hoax badly damaged the reputation of the science of Anthropology. I remember sitting in Anthropology classes in the 1970s where the Piltdown hoax still cast its shadow -- there was a definite stress that the digs had to be done scrupulously, and the findings judged carefully, to avoid another such embarrassment.   

I think the leaked documents are absolutely devastating, not only to the AGW theory, but to the reputation and credibility of  Climatology in general. If the emails detailing the filtering of data to get the desired results hold up, and I expect what will turn out to be ludicrous computer programs and shaky primary data turn out to be true, then it will mean that the reputation of Climatologists as serious scientists has been brought into question and found wanting.

It is hard for me to imagine that climate scientists felt comfortable walking onto campuses Monday morning after word of the hacked documents spread. It is not what is reported in the press that will matter as much as how their peers view the scandal. It is that censure that matters. They have a lot of work ahead of them to repair the reputation of their discipline, and that reputation will not be repaired by spinning more alarm out of vapor in the Sunday supplements.

If nothing else, it is not often the Social Scientists can laugh at how sloppy a so-called hard science is with its facts.

Helloooo visitors from Free Republic. Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What if They use Email Proxies Instead

As you may have heard, a hacker has released data implicating CRU as less than straightforward about AGW. Our own Charlie Martin has a piece up on PJM. The reputation of the Hockey Team could suffer as a result. I have plotted the hypothetical relationship between reading the hacked emails and Hockey Team's reputation. As more emails are read, the reputation plummets.

But what if the Hockey Team were to run some filters on the data and instead create email proxies. These proxies have the advantage of getting rid of unwanted noise. Maybe it would look like this.

Gee, it's not so bad after all. A reputation Hockey Stick, the more you read, they better it looks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The forgotten Theater of the American Revolution

On May 8th, 1781, a shell penetrated the magazine in the Queen’s Redoubt. The explosion of the magazine killed nearly 100 English defenders of the fort. The Queen's Redoubt was one of the three strong points that the British had built for the defense of Pensacola against  a Spanish attack. After the explosion, the Spanish were quick to attack and occupy the position.

Campbell, the English commander, soon surrendered Pensacola to Bernardo de Galvez (pictured). With that surrender, the British lost their last foothold in Western Florida and were cleared from the Gulf of Mexico.

Although often forgotten, the Spanish declared war on England as well as France during the American Revolution. However, due to their American colonies, they did not recognize the United States. None the less, her contribution was important. Spain blockaded Gibraltar and caused the English to send much of its fleet to aide in its defense. Spain and England were also involved in a series of clashes throughout the Caribbean. In fact, the last battle of the American revolution was not fought at Yorktown, but in the Bahamas.

However, from the view point of the nascent United States, there is little doubt that clearing the English from West Florida and Louisiana was of critical significance. Had the English retained a toe hold on the Gulf, it is possible they would have eventually seized control of New Orleans. Had that happened the western boundary of U.S. expansion may have ended up being the Mississippi River. Who knows, maybe it would have been Jackson getting chopped to pieces as he was assaulting the entrenched British defenders of New Orleans in 1814.

Lafayette and Comte de Grasse have received their due in the history books. This post is a reminder of the forgotten Bernardo de Galvez. It can be argued that, in its own way, his victory at Pensacola was as important as Yorktown.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Social Justice delivered via a fist

Yoani Sánchez, runs the blog Generation Y which is on our blog roll. If you haven't followed our link to her site and read her you should. She lives in Havana and gives a fascinating look at the everyday internals of the Worker's Paradise.

Yesterday she and other dissident Cuban bloggers were detained by Cuban authorities and roughed up. From babalú (the comments in the thread give even more detail):  

"Ernesto, I have just spoken to Yoani. She is now back home. She has bruising around one eye. She has been verbally and physically assaulted. Orlando was too. 'This is as far as you're getting!' was repeatedly shouted at them inside a patrol car. She was placed head over heels and subjected to karate blows. She is very nervous. I am too."

This is a bad situation for her and her compatriots. Considering Obama's Honduran adventure we can expect very little useful comment or action from our government. All we can do is make noise so the Cuban authorities know they are being watched. Please contact who you can, and spread the word about this situation. Their courage requires us to at least try to make sure they are not beaten and intimidated in the shadows. 

For a little background, here is an article on the Cuban Blogging community.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Nine eggs sold

"Some wind in the morning, then nice sunny weather. Ground has dried up somewhat. In the evening violent wind & a few drops of rain. The wind actually blew the roof off the small henhouse. Enormous flocks of starlings, some tens of thousands at a time, going over with a noise that sounds like heavy rain. The leaves are mostly down now. Elder leaves just coming down. As I remember it the elms are being stripped much earlier this year than most.

Transplanted the gooseberry bushes. Trust I haven’t damaged them. One or two still had green or greenish leaves, & others were so deep in the ground I had to damage their roots considerably getting them up. The soil there (this end of the garden) is in places pure clay at only 1 foot below the surface. Dug some of this out & lightened the ground as well as possible with sand & turf-mould. Then limed the ground between the bushes & dug in, also pruned the bushes a little. Hope this wind will not blow them all loose again. Added another sack of leaves. [Total on facing page: 31/2.]

9 eggs (probably some of these laid yesterday). Sold 30 @ 4/- a score."

The above quote is George Orwell's diary entry on November 5th, 1939. The Orwell Prize has been posting Orwell's diary entries a day at a time. Each day he writes of nothing but the weather, his gardening and the eggs his hens produce. Soil, fertilizer, rain and eggs -- mundane things that would seem to be of little interest to today's reader.

November 5th, 1939 was in the midst of the Phony War. Germany had invaded and overran Poland and was preparing its attack on France, Belgium and Holland. In fact, while Orwell tended to his garden in England,  General von Brauchitsch was reporting to Hitler on the state of the Germany Army as the Fuhrer considered the starting date for his planned Western Offensive.

During those days Orwell must have felt dread over what he saw on the horizon. With hindsight we know his dread was not misplaced. However, the diary gives no sense of what he thought as he read the day's paper or listened to the news on the radio. He gives no sample of the discussions, fears and hopes that people would have expressed as war loomed ever nearer. Instead, in that diary, he narrowed his world to his garden. It must have been a therapy to him, a quiet corner of his world, a bit of peace to hold onto during the steady drip of disheartening news. 

Eleven soldiers dead today in Fort Hood. The killer was likely just a lunatic. It is just as likely that he wrapped his lunacy in jihadist politics. Is the violence in Fort Hood today a fragment of war brought to our soil, or is it just another side of the pathology that drives serial killers? I don't know, but I have a deepening pessimism, a deepening unease that these times may also be a time of Phony War.

Many years ago I read a translation of a fragment of a Sumerian inscription. It has stuck in my head ever since. Today it seems appropriate: "Look thou about thee and see that all men are fools."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Passing

The guitarist Peter Bocking has passed away. I wasn't familiar with his musical work. In the blogosphere he was known as PeterUK. The link has a tribute page for him. A fiery and smart commenter.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Piper's fight

A friend of mine has a Granddaughter named Piper. She has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes mucous to build up in her body, particularly in her lungs. There is no cure for cystic fibrosis.

Three times a day, for 30 minutes at a time, Piper has to use an airway clearing device called a vest as treatment. It helps loosen mucous in her lungs, which helps keep her airways clear and reduces her chances of hospitalization.

From her eyes, it looks like Piper is smiling behind her mask in the picture.

However, Piper and her parents have a lot to be concerned about. She needs a new vest which costs $15,000. Her insurance will not pay for one, and so her parents are trying to raise money to buy her a new vest. Please visit Piper's Fight if you would like to donate or for more information. Portions of any donation will go towards the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

If you run another blog feel free to post to her story. Piper deserves all the people she can get in her corner.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The gaping hole in my childhood

Oh man, my childhood microscope, chemistry set, plastic Babbage's machine, short wave radio, all of it -- even my brother's toy steam engine -- pale in comparison to the wonder known as the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab.

It included: a U-239 Geiger radiation counter, an electroscope to measure radioactivity of different substances, a spinthariscope to watch "live" radioactive disintegration, a Wilson Cloud Chamber to see paths of electrons & alpha particles at 10k mps, three very low-level radioactive sources (Alpha, Beta, Gamma), four samples of Uranium-bearing ores, Nuclear Spheres (used to visual build models of molecules), the book "Prospecting for Uranium", the "Gilbert Atomic Energy Manual", the comic book "Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom" and three "Winchester" Batteries (size "C").

A Geiger counter, radioactive samples, a "Dagwood Splits the Atom" comic book and Nuclear Spheres? Yowza! Can you imagine the look on a modern Helicopter Mom's face if her kid unwrapped a present and found that inside?

Details and more pictures can be found at orau.org and American Memorabilia.

Monday, October 19, 2009

21st Century Paper Flip Animation

A creative re-engineering of paper flip animation, although the laugh track is irritating. Be warned -- parts of it are rather crude and it may be NSFW.

VIDEOGIOCO by Donato Sansone from Enrico Ascoli - Sound Design on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oops, I guess I shouldn't have sold that at the garage sale

In 2007 Peter Silverman bought a portrait titled Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress for $19,000. Christie's had previously sold it in 1998. At that sale they described it as a 19th Century German drawing.

Silverman thought there was more to the portrait than met the eye, so he decided to have it examined further. The Paris lab he used to assess it found a fingerprint on it that they said substantially matched a known finger print of Leonardo da Vinci.

The drawing was done by a left-handed person and stylistic mannerisms, carbon dating and the dress the young girl wears in the drawing match 15th Milanese fashion.
If verified as a da Vinci the drawing would be worth tens of million of dollars.

Aside from wondering exactly how a da Vinci gets lost, I feel sorry for the poor person who sold such a valuable object. I wonder if they got tired of it hanging in their living room and replaced it with an Alma Thomas masterpiece?  Regardless, finding out you peddled a da Vinci it must feel make you feel kind of like you're the Fifth Beatle.

Telegraph article via Neatorama.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And That's What It's All About...

Narcissism, that is.

This from Algore: "Never before in human history has a single generation been asked to make such difficult and consequential decisions."

What utter piffle.

Friday, October 09, 2009

When the Don Quixotes rule the world

He had scarcely gone a short league, when Fortune, that was conducting his affairs from good to better, discovered to him the road, where he also espied an Inn. Sancho positively maintained it was an Inn, and his master that it was a castle; and the dispute lasted so long that they arrived there before it was determined.  --Don Quixote (pt. I, ch. XV)

Perhaps even more amazing than Obama winning the Nobel Prize is the fact that he was ever nominated for one in the first place. The nomination could have occurred sometime prior to the election, during his Office of the President Elect days, or in the in first few weeks after he was sworn into office.

His college years are a cipher to us. Later he had been a State and Federal Senator for a number of years, serving at both levels with no distinction. He had written no bills and had frequently ducked voting on other bills. He wrote a couple of memoirs. In perhaps his most visible position he -- if you'll pardon my French --  pissed away 140 million dollars of the Annenberg Foundation and with it accomplished nothing of measurable value in the process.

Oh, and he gave some speeches and campaigned.

That is to say, when he was nominated for the Nobel Prize he had done little more than write books and give speeches. He accomplished nothing of substance. Instead he just talked. Obviously what he said, rather than what he did, is what mattered to the Nobel jurists.

Pacifism in a parlor is not a brave thing. After all, there are brutish men with guns and greed loose in the world. What of the real peace makers? Mother Theresa stared down the slums of Calcutta, and Ghandi, who never received a Noble Prize, led a revolution he tried his best to keep bloodless. What has Obama done? 

I listen to Obama and I don't hear much but mush. I hear John Lennon singing 'Give Peace a Chance', or I hear a 'war never solved anything' bumper sticker read aloud in baritone, or perhaps a petition to Free Tibet touted. All admirable sentiments to be sure, but nothing more than sentiments none the less. How will those platitudes lead us from blood to peace in the real world?

Today, upon hearing the news of Obama's ascension into the exalted rank of Peacemaker Supreme, I thought of Alonso Quixano who reinvented himself as Don Quixote de la Mancha. I thought of the foolish old man who was so enamored by the fiction of the chivalric romances that he imagined himself surrounded by giants, kings, castles and fair damsels when the reality was something else altogether.

To the Don Quixotes of the world, and probably to Obama himself, it matters not that all he has done is waste other people's money and vote 'present' when the going gets tough. All that matters is that he talks the talk, that he spins the romantic fictions they want to hear. They are not people to be taken seriously. Don Quixote's earnest obliviousness was funny, theirs is not.

Helloooo visitors from Maggie's Farm. Thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

But, what if you get turned into this?

Nadine Jarvis is selling a rather unique product. She makes pencils from the carbon of human cremations. She says about 240 pencils can be made from the ash of an average human body. Each pencil has the name of the person foiled stamped on it.

They come in a box from which you can only remove one pencil at a time. You then sharpen the pencils with a sharpener built into the box. This collects the shavings so that, once the supply of pencils is exhausted, the box can be used as an urn for the remains.

It's all rather morbid to say the least, but I suppose the idea is an artistic person can use the carbon from your remains to create a body of drawings as your monument. A graphite on paper headstone. Add to that the notion that the box of pencils has a sort of a life of its own, starting out full and dwindling down to nothing but shavings, and you have an interesting reflection that physical things are born, worn down, and reborn again as something else. Meanwhile the drawings, the artifacts of the wearing down process, are something rather more sublime.

Yet, cynic that I am, I couldn't help but think that the quality of the monument created depended on the skill of the hand wielding the pencil. What if the monument ends up being something like Skull and Lemon, pictured above? However, perhaps that's the message -- what is left behind is nothing but shavings and drawings. The shavings can't be helped, but care should be taken in the quality of the art.

By the way, the Skull and Lemon drawing is from a post Real Drawings by Real Artists at redragtoabull. It was drawn by Harry Adams. Lest we laugh at it too much, or perhaps to add to its humor, it sold for £31.13.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mongolian Death Worm specimen found?

Oh-oh. Have the Japanese beaten the Australians to the capture of a Mongolian Death Worm?

Fear not, as we've seen before, the Mongolian Death Worm research community is rife with clever frauds. This isn't an anatomical diagram of a Mongolian Death Worm. To find out what it is, click on 'Read more' to follow this post below the fold.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Our Gadsden flag predates the Tea Parties. It was chosen as a symbol of the Yargbee's support of Western Values in the fight against Islamic Extremism. The Danish flag in the sidebar is of course from the aftermath of the Moslem rioting over the Mohammed cartoons.

Manuel Zelaya, the legally deposed ex-president of Honduras, returned to that country today in what can be called little more than a coup attempt. Sadly, from the start Obama's administration sided with Latin American dictators, Chavez, Castro, Ortega in opposing his ouster. The situation as summarized in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Zelaya was deposed and deported this summer after he agitated street protests to support a rewrite of the Honduran constitution so he could serve a second term. The constitution strictly prohibits a change in the term-limits provision. On multiple occasions he was warned to desist, and on June 28 the Supreme Court ordered his arrest. 

Every major Honduran institution supported the move, even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country's human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya's transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn't run again.
To say the U.S. Government's actions surrounding the situation in Honduras is a travesty is an understatement. President Obama, in his slavish admiration for the world's dictators, has turned America's long held principal of support for self-determination on its head.

The Honduran flag in the sidebar is obviously a small gesture, but it is intended as support for not only the people of Honduras, but for the greater principal of self-determination. President Obama would be well advised to bear in mind, as he coddles dictators without regard to American public opinion and tries to ram through his paternalistic agenda, that Americans know full well the meaning of self-determination.

Don't tread on us, and don't tread on our friends and allies.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Is Obama lazy?

For a week the news has been trumpeted far and wide that Obama was making five appearances on the Sunday talk shows. During that same week the ACORN scandal has been growing, culminating in the House and Senate, as well as numerous State governments, stripping ACORN of their funding.

Was there ever any doubt that Obama was going to be asked about ACORN at sometime during his Sunday media blitz? It was, and on ABC this was his answer to the inevitable question:

STEPHANOPOULOS:  How about the funding for ACORN?

OBAMA:  You know, if -- frankly, it's not really something I've followed closely.  I didn't even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Both the Senate and the House have voted to cut it off.

OBAMA:  You know, what I know is, is that what I saw on that video was certainly inappropriate and deserves to be investigated.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So you're not committing to -- to cut off the federal funding?

OBAMA:  George, this is not the biggest issue facing the country.  It's not something I'm paying a lot of attention to.

The answer to this type of question had to be carefully prepared for by him and his staff. It had to have been a question they spent a considerable amount of time practicing answering.  None the less, could Obama have sounded any more absurd and disingenuous?

Was that the best they could do? Is Obama too simply too bored by such minutia to be bothered, or maybe he figures us little people just flopped off the back of a turnip truck and will buy his nonsense? Whichever, it is hard to believe he took his preparation for the question seriously.

The more I watch him, the more I begin to think he might be the laziest President we've ever had.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Well She Only Said She'd Take the 3 AM Call...

... but didn't mention whether anyone would take hers.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirmed today that he declined last night to take a call from the U.S. informing him of the decision to scrap planned missile-defense bases in his country.
Two U.S.-based sources close to the Polish government said Thursday that Tusk also rejected a call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — on the grounds that, as the head of the government, he should speak to the president.

Thank goodness we have such a sophisticated foreign policy now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The show is real

One of my guilty pleasures is the ever ridiculous Steven Seagal. Imagine my joy when I stumbled across the above trailer for a his new AE show, Steven Seagal: Lawman.  It is a reality show with the premise that, between movies, he's been a Louisiana cop for 20 years. He assures us, "well, the show is real. I mean it's... this is not a joke."

Now Steven, why would anyone ever doubt you?

As I patiently wait for the premier I've been wondering... how much would it suck if, drunker than a skunk in your trailer park, you answered a knock on your door to discover Steven Seagal, dressed like a cop with a camera crew shadowing him, spouting Zen inanities as he arrested you?

Man, talk about a 'Come to Jesus' moment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I almost lost the blog screwing around with the templates. Unfortunately, I did lose our links list, so I'm going to have to rebuild that -- I'm open to sites we should link to. I'll have to add some widgets and what-not to the side bar.

ETA: Whew, I got the contributors, sitemeter and the flags back. I was in a panic there for a while. When I blew the blog up I just about had a heart attack. Mrs. Sinistral was wondering why I was laying on the floor in a fetal position, whimpering and sucking my thumb.

Anyhoo... how's it look?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Musical Face

My last post featured record album covers used as faces.
Now a face used as a musical instrument.

Daito Manabe via Odd Musical Instruments

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Weird Corner of the Internet

One thing about the internet is there are enough people on it for some very strange clumps to form from time to time.

The pictures below are from a site called Sleeveface. There are many, many more at the site. It has page after page of pictures of people posing with old record album covers in such manner that the pose and the cover art blend into a single illusion. The care they have taken in not only cleverly staging the pictures, but also matching not only the poses and clothes, but even the wrinkles in the clothes, is quite remarkable.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Squaring the Circle

The blog The Gormogons has a post by Ghettoputer, Doctors and the CIA, that discusses an ObamaCare issue that has also been puzzling me.

Conspicuously absent from the bill is any mention of tort reform regarding medical malpractice. When Howard Dean was asked why such reform was not addressed in the bill he bluntly answered:

"Here’s why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that, the more stuff you put in it, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason that tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everyone else they were taking on. And that is the plain and simple truth."
It is generally accepted that the real cost of malpractice law suits is not so much the cost of settlements, but rather the need for doctors to practice defensive medicine by ordering the maximum number of tests conceivable in any diagnosis.

ObamaCare attempts to address that problem by establishing boards, agencies and the like that will review medical best practices and mandate the scope of what treatments and tests should be performed (and for those who, like me, are too lazy to read the bill The Gormorgans has a good series of posts where he live blogs his reading of the bill in 100 page chunks).

That is ObamaCare seeks to reduce medical costs by setting up a set of guidelines that will free doctors from the need to do unessential medical procedures to protect themselves from lawsuits. Ignoring for the moment any questions about the wisdom of such a remote "top-down" approach to diagnosis, I wonder how malpractice suits will be impacted by the bill, especially in light of the fact that trial lawyers are such an important Democratic constituent that no attempt to reign them in is even considered?

The obvious answer is that, while the government insurance plan will be shielded from malpractice suits, the private insurers will still be exposed to them. However, it is rather more complicated than that, because over time the private insurers will be rolled into the treatment and testing guidelines mandated by the government. Would all insurers then not be shielded?

What then of the powerful trial lawyers lobby?

I think Ghettoputer might have squared that circle when he considers Holder, and the CIA investigation. The CIA interrogators had acted under Congressional and Justice Department review, yet at this late date the rules can simply be shifted and their cases opened again. Will the doctors end up facing a similar set of fluid rulings?

If they and private insurers are allowed to layer supplemental insurance on top of a government mandated minimum, does Holder and the CIA set the precedence of the rules being redefined after the fact move them into malpractice territory? Will that be the hidden fund the trial lawyers can expect to draw their settlements from?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Roh-oh! Bill might be in trouble again...

...but this time not with Hillary.

In addition, individuals interviewed during the Review identified other techniques that caused concern because DoJ had not specifically approved them. These included the making of threats, blowing cigar smoke, employing certain stress positions, the use of a stiff brush on a detainee, and stepping on a detainee's ankle shackles.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Political Theater of the Absurd

In Henan Province, China, a local ordinance requires that the road-facing sides of all adobe or brick homes be painted white or blue. This is apparently an attempt to address urban blight by making people improve their properties.

This has translated to grand facades, like the one shown to the left, being attached to decaying houses.

Looking at the picture, I wondered why a poor Chinese villager would spend so much money building such a ridiculous facade instead of just improving their home? Were these facades status projects, a brick and mortar version of a peasant's "Sunday Best", or were they something else altogether?

An article in Weird Asia News sheds some light with the following:

When the time arrives for inspection, the view is always from a passing car and there is no way for those inspectors to know that behind the shining walls lie deteriorating adobe homes. (Whether or not they would care or not if they knew the truth is another issue.)
Keeping up appearances often comes at a terrible price. This ordinance is vainglorious and obviously only a band-aid solution to the growing problem of urban decay and neglect. In addition and even more insulting to the local populace, this ordinance is a non-remedy sponsored by wasting taxpayers’ money.
How much better could these funds have served the local peasants and farmers who need financial aid so badly?
Ah, it all becomes clearer. Chinese tax dollars at work under the unerring hand of a bureaucrat. There is a certain mad logic at work; it is the appearance of urban decay that disturbs the passing inspectors, so a bit of whitewash and plaster is all that is needed to solve problem. No doubt the expenses saved go into the nearest deserving pocket.

This post is of course an extreme example; none the less, the problem with large government solutions is that you can't distill the scoundrels and buffoons out of them. Worse, once in place the scoundrels and buffoons become the voice of authority. So, when you need your faucet to stop leaking, like it or not you end up with a two-story monstrosity tacked onto your hovel instead.

What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mongolian death worm revealed

That's it - I'm canceling my vacation to Ulan Bator.

I recently stumbled across an article detailing the plans for an expedition to locate the fabled Mongolian Death Worm.

What is a Mongolian Death Worm you ask?

The Mongolian Death Worm is a creature rumored to live in the Gobi Desert. It is said to hide in the sand and spring out to spit a fatal dose of acid on its prey (which includes humans). Also, if you try to sneak up behind one of the worms it will jolt you with a lethal bolt of lightning it shoots out of its butt.

This summer two New Zealand TV journalists, David Farrier and his cameraman Christie Douglas, have mounted an expedition to try to document one of the beasts. They have already left for Mongolia. Like most of humanity, I'm waiting with baited breath to hear their results.

The accompanying photo is of the camera man Douglas. I assume the microphone is to catch Farrier's screams as he gets fried by an electric bolt, or whimpers as his face is being melted by acid.

Apparently, much like the Grabazoids in Tremors, the Death Worms are attracted to vibrations, so they plan on blasting off a lot of dynamite to attract them. Sounds like a plan to me. You can read more about their expedition, and even donate to it if you're in the mind to fund oddball scientific endeavors, at their website Death Worm 2009.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ObamaCare -- a return to house calls?

Obama's remarks about the postal service got me thinking... why not combine ObamaCare with the Post Office to form a new Federal Agency to handle both?

It would not only be super efficient, it would also extend much needed, and healthy, competition for not only UPS and FedEx, but also to BlueCross/Blue Shield and other major insurers.

Also, along with your mail, you could get medical house calls to aid you with your coughs, colds, bumps, bruises and end-of-life planning.

Finally, if Obama played his cards right in appointing the first Surgical Post Mistress General, he could solve the problem of African students getting yelled at for asking about you-know-who.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Analysis of Talking Points Against HR3200 (Healthcare/Insurance Reform)

Old Lurker, a regular on Just One Minute, posted an email he had received listing a bunch of talking points against HR 3200, the House Healthcare/Insurance Reform Bill. The Bill is 1018 pages long, and creates a bureaucracy of commissions, commissioners, task forces, study groups, funding for all of that and, incidentally, some general requirements for public and private health care which will be supplemented by the usual Regulations to be developed by the bureaucracy this monstrosity creates. I have undertaken to compare the talking points in the email with the parts of the Bill it cites for its points.

Here is the first installment:

Pg 22 of the HC Bill MANDATES the Govt will audit books of ALL EMPLOYERS that self insure

Not exactly. This section sets up a committee to study and compare large market self-insured and employee benefit plans, including financial solvency of the employers providing self-insured plans.

Pg 30 Sec 123 of HC bill - THERE WILL BE A GOVT COMMITTEE that decides what treatments/benefits you receive

This is essentially true. The committee will be patterned on the current committee that does the same thing for Medicare

Pg 29 lines 4-16 in the HC bill - YOUR HEALTHCARE IS RATIONED. You can only receive a certain amount of "care" per year

This is inaccurate. The annual limitations specified in this Section ($5,000 per individual and $10,000 per family) relate to co-pays or cost sharing by the insured, not to services covered by the plan.

Pg 42 of HC Bill - The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your HC Benefits for you. You have no choice.

The statutory language is ambiguous on this point. The HCC has this duty under Section
142 (a)(1):
QUALIFIED PLAN STANDARDS.—The establishment of qualified health benefits plan standards 8 under this title, including the enforcement of such standards in coordination with State insurance regulators and the Secretaries of Labor and the Treasury.

PG 50 Section 152 in HC bill - HC will be provided to ALL non US residents, illegal or otherwise

Not explicitly, but certainly possibly. Here’s the actual language:

(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as otherwise explicitly permitted by this Act and by subsequent regulations consistent with this Act, all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.

Pg 58HC Bill - Govt will have real-time access to individuals finances & a National ID Health Card will be issued.

Partly true. Government will have access to National ID Health Card, but Section 163 deals with an electronic system to allow determination of coverage and co-pay in “near real time”. It does not even implicitly give the government the right to record or see an “individual’s finances”.

Pg 59 HC Bill lines 21-24 Govt will have direct access to your banks accts for funds transfer

Not accurate. The system will allow electronic funds transfers to providers and will allow automated reconciliation with “related health care payment and remittance advice”.

PG 65 Sec 164 is a payoff subsidized plan for retirees and their families in Unions & community orgs (example -ACORN).

Not accurate. This Section sets up a reinsurance program for defined group health plans; eligibility for that program is not limited to union plans.
Pg 72 Lines 8-14 Govt is creating an HC Exchange to bring private HC plans under Govt control.

Accurate that HC Exchange is created by Title II (which begins on P. 72., and ends on P. 143). Title II covers all HC public and private health care plans including Medicare and Medicaid. Title II gives very broad powers to HC Exchange. Unless this federal statute is different from all predecessors (not likely), HC Exchange will exercise significant control over all health care plans.

PG 84 Sec 203 HC bill - Govt mandates ALL benefit pkgs for private HC plans in the Exchange


PG 85 Line 7 HC Bill - Specs for Benefit Levels for Plans = The Govt will ration your Healthcare.

Accurate that Section 203 specifies benefit levels for plans. It does not expressly specify the power to ration, but that will be a likely result of this system.

PG 91 Lines 4-7 HC Bill - Govt mandates linguistic appropriate services...... Example - Translation for illegal aliens

Accurate that bill requires “linguistically appropriate services”. What this means is not specified, but there is no limitation on who is entitled to this treatment, so illegals presumably would benefit.

Pg 95 HC Bill Lines 8-18 The Govt will use groups i.e., ACORN & Americorps to sign up individually for Govt HC plan

Unclear, but possible and maybe probable under this administration. Section 205 allows the Commissioner to use “…other appropriate organizations” to conduct outreach and informational functions. What is “appropriate” is undefined in the bill.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

For just a dollar a day

I snapped the cellphone picture to the left at Florida Caverns State Park. It was a monument to the workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The passage through the caverns had been improved by the CCC.

At one point on the tour, to the left of the path you were on, you could see the original passage. It was little more than a crawl space that was two to three foot tall. The guide said the boys cut the larger passage with nothing more than pickaxes, hammers and chisels. They hauled the excess rock out one pail full at a time.

Their pay was a dollar a day, of which they only got to keep $5 a month, the other $25 was sent to their families.

The CCC was a popular and successful New Deal Program. Anybody who has been to a National or State Park has seen the result of their handiwork in the lodges, visitor centers and trails they built. In addition they planted over 3 billion trees, cut miles of road and strung miles of telephone cable.

The program's popularity is such that from time to time calls are made to create a modern version of the CCC. Obama is only the most recent of a long line of politicians, from both parties, who has evoked them as a model for paid volunteerism.

As potent as such appeals may be, that was then and this is now. The CCC was very much a product of the Great Depression. Because of the high level of unemployment of the day, its ranks were filled by young men looking for a pay check. Many of the boys were dirt poor, had little education (an 8th grade average) and few prospects. Further, it was ran largely by the military. It was organized into the same eight districts as the state-side army was, staffed by officers and its camps started out as tent cities and only later were military style built for the workers. They ate in mess halls and discipline was strict.

Still, the young men were happy for the work. Many of them speak fondly of their days in the CCC. If nothing else, three squares a day and a bit of cash lifted their spirits. However, the true effectiveness of the program was in the night classes it offered and the skills it taught. Many of them parlayed their experiences in the CCC into careers. The Justin Oral History Center has a pages with numerous anecdotes for those interested.

In reading about it for this post what stands out is how pragmatic the program was. No-nonsense managers exerted discipline and the boys worked hard. However, what they worked hard at wasn't busy work, rather it was work directed at strengthening the infrastructure of our parks and wilderness areas. To this day we can see the fruits of their labors.

As compelling as the CCC mythology may seem to modern ears, it is hard for me to imagine such a program working today. The thought of a graduate with a degree in the Social Sciences trying to supervise hordes of forced volunteer slackers leaning on their shovels and text messaging each other all day is not a pretty picture, but it is hard to imagine anything else. Hopefully it is a scheme that, while it may get mentioned from time to time, never gets beyond the speechifying phase.

Note: I edited this post to add a title and clarify the final paragraph.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Alligators in Ellesmere Island?

Ellesmere Island, which lies within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, appears to have once been the home of alligators, according to the fossil records of the Eocene epoch (see After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals, 2006. By Donald R Prothero. Bloomington (Indiana): Indiana University Press). Alligators cannot tolerate freezing temperatures for long. Such tidbits are of interest to any folks who want to take a long view concerning temperature variations of the earth.

Moving to more contemporary pursuits, Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, suggests the signature of Greenhouse warming (that the warming should be accompanied by rather large changes in atmospheric temperatures in the tropics) has not occurred. The warming levels that have occurred in the atmosphere of the tropics imply that perhaps only a third of surface warming has been due to the greenhouse effect, and it is unclear how much of that small effect could be attributable to humans. Lindzen says:

This contradiction is rendered more acute by the fact that there has been no statistically significant net global warming for the last fourteen years. Modelers defend this situation by arguing that aerosols have cancelled much of the warming, and that models adequately account for natural unforced internal variability. However, a recent paper (Ramanathan, 2007) points out that aerosols can warm as well as cool, while scientists at the UK’s Hadley Centre for Climate Research recently noted that their model did not appropriately deal with natural internal variability thus demolishing the basis for the IPCC’s iconic attribution (Smith et al, 2007). Interestingly (though not unexpectedly), the British paper did not stress this. Rather, they speculated that natural internal variability might step aside in 2009, allowing warming to resume. Resume? Thus, the fact that warming has ceased for the past fourteen years is acknowledged. It should be noted that, more recently, German modelers have moved the date for ‘resumption’ up to 2015 (Keenlyside et al, 2008).
So should we hope that the political class taxes us to save us from ourselves? Who has lobbied hard for Kyoto? Enron (will we see some revisionist history on that score), Goldman Sachs lobbies fro cap and trade. If Healthcare is a 1000 page bill, how big will a final cap and trade bill be? If a bill is too big to read, maybe it's too big to pass.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Animated Engines

When I was a kid my brother owned a toy steam engine. It was similar to the Wilesco engine pictured to the right. You could connect a belt to its wheel and drive toy pieces of machinery with it. I remember it having a miniature table saw that could cut paper. We chopped up a lot of paper with that thing.

As you can imagine, it vastly entertained a young male's mind. There was an element of danger about it, with its little boiler of scalding water under pressure chugging away and, in our fevered imaginations, always ready to explode at any moment. Thus, we had great respect for the engine's pressure release valve. We fiddled with it endlessly to make sure it wasn't clogged.

However, the point of this post isn't really nostalgia. The other day I ran across a website called Animated Engines. The owner of it has methodically drawn frame by frame diagrams of engines with Autocad, which he then animates (and the speed of his animated gifs can be controlled). He's got 7 types of internal combustion engines, 10 steam engines, and 4 Stirling engines diagrammed. Quite fascinating to see all the approaches to building engines.

It was watching the animations of the steam engines that reminded me of my brother's toy. As much as we played with it, and as much as we fretted over the pressure release valve, watching the animation made me realize I never actually knew how it worked. Turns out the things had some really clever valve mechanisms to spin the drive wheel. The variety of their form is also interesting.

The site is worth spending a bit of time exploring.