Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Sunset of 2006

Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for helping make 2006 a whole lot of fun.

Ron Schott Rocks

Or should that be Ron Schott's rocks?

I used Ron's geology blog to illustrate the concept of barriers to interaction, combining microeconomics with blogging in a previous post. Ron read the post and responded here. Here's a tidbit.

My initial pleasure at being linked to was somewhat tempered by being used as an example of being a barrier to blog reading. On the face of it I have to disagree with Mr. Cat that I’ve erected any barriers whatsoever to blog reading - he was able to read my blog as easily as anyone - logging in was no requirement and therefore no barrier there. In a larger sense, though, K T has a point, because inasmuch as blogs are conversations (and I do indeed subscribe to tenets of the Cluetrain Manifesto), the necessessity to login to leave a comment is indeed a barrier to at least the immediate gratification that cats seem to desire.
Of course we desire immediate gratification. Would it kill you to open a can of tuna? And how come this catnip isn't fresh?

But I digress.

Ron followed one of the primary rules of marketing and that was to respond to his customers and attempt to satisfy them. I really like his work. I spent some time this afternoon looking over the San Diego State geology home page and discovered all kinds of cool things. As a total amateur, I'm looking forward to reading more of Ron's blog and leaving questions in the form of comments.

As an act of feline friendship, I offer him this charming photo of me to print out and hang on his wall.

Hi, Ron!

What? You mean you want one, too? OK, here's one for all of you not named Ron Schott.

Does this letter bin make me look fat?

Funniest Ads of 2006

Thanks to our Abbess of the Priory of Small Princesses, we have discovered the link to the Funniest Ads of 2006 Contest. Here's my favorite.

Life Sucks

I give up. I admit I was wrong. All of my posts about the world being a good place and people being kind more often than not is all hooey. The Mainstream Media (MSM) has convinced me that everything I see with my own eyes is just rubbish.

With that in mind, I start a new series today at The Scratching Post called "Life Sucks". I am joining the professional fuss-budgets and cry babies in the MSM and bringing one post after another to you illustrating how horrible life is. I'll also be linking to an MSM post that does the same.

In today's Washington Post, we have a story about the execution of Saddam called "Elation Gives Way to Dread of Daily Life". As Iraq rids itself of an insane, mass-murdering dictator, holds free elections, pursues the economic system proven to be the best in the world and the Iraqi economy grows at a robust pace, we see the reality of the situation.

Life sucks.

In my own life, I have a Black Jewel orchid that is blooming. It's terrible.

It clashes with my decor. I decorate in cool colors. The white of the tiny, delicate blooms doesn't work in my house at all.

My camera didn't focus. The technology that allows me to take a picture, edit and crop it and then post it nearly instantaneously to my blog, unheard of twenty years ago, didn't focus my camera properly on this one shot.

Life sucks.

You're welcome.

Help for Mog

Crossposted without permission from our Archbishop of Texas.
Mog from Mind of Mog, who helped convince me to keep the Carnival of the Cats going when it was only single-digit participation and didn't look to be getting any better, has had a rough time of it the past two weeks, having gone to the hospital for a flareup of her MS.

She's not going to be able to work for a while, she's out of time off, and she's in a real bind financially.

She can really use our help.

Her email address is idomoggie (at), so that's where to send PayPal contributions or inquire about where to send checks.
I'll be sending what I can.

Capitalization in Titles

As I've been writing this blog, I've tried to be grammatically correct. Nothing has given me more headaches than the capitalization rules for the titles of my posts. This morning, I finally looked it up on the web. Here's what I found from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

Rule 8. Capitalize titles of publications except for little words such as a, an, the, but, as, if, and, or, nor, when used internally. If these little words begin the title, capitalize them. Capitalize short verb forms such as Is, Are, and Be.

  • The Day of the Jackal
  • What Color Is Your Parachute?
  • A Tale of Two Cities
Just thought I'd share.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Satellite Images of a Volcano

Here's a really cool satellite photo of the Tungurahua Volcano in Ecuador from NASA's Earth Observatory website.

This false-color image was created by combining shortwave infrared, near-infrared, and green wavelengths of light observed by ASTER. The image clearly shows not only current volcanic activity, but also the results of earlier eruptions. Deep purple rivulets of rock carve through the bright green vegetation. The rock results from previous lava flows that later solidified. Similar in color to the hardened lava are geometric patches of bare ground on the volcano’s slopes, some of the numerous settlements in the area.
H/T: Geology News.

Combining Wood and Stone in Art

I've posted before about a great friend of mine who does artistic woodworking. While chatting with him on the phone a week ago, he told me about a new technique where he makes a wood filler paste out of crushed minerals and applies it to the cracks in the wood he's working with. After grinding and polishing and sanding, it looks like this.

As always, Brent has produced something spectacular.

Here's his description of the piece.

Chechen burl, wenge, maple burl, lapis, turquoise -- 10 inch diameter, 6 tall When I turned this chechen burl I unexpectedly found a lot of voids and holes, so much so they comprised the structural integrity of the bowl. I needed to fill them with something that would help hold the wood together. This "filler" is crushed stone, lapis lazuli and turquoise, which is held in place by epoxy resin.
One of the cool things to me was the way the wood cracked in fractal shapes, giving it an almost psychedelic appearance. I've known Brent for over 20 years and he never ceases to amaze me with one clever and unusual idea after another.

Brent's website is filled with wondrous works of art. Go take a look.

Barriers to Entry in Blog Reading

There are tens of millions of blogs out there. In any subject, even the most obscure, you can find dozens of people blogging about it. I went on a search mission to find some good geology / rockhounding blogs and found Ron Schott's. I liked a couple of his posts and went to leave him a comment only to find out I needed to log in to do so.


In economics, that's called a barrier to entry. In this case, I'm a customer (a reader) and he's made it harder for me to interact with him. Not only that, he doesn't post his email address either. There's no way for me to converse with him. He might as well be deaf. Blogging friend Jake Silver moved to Xanga for a short while and I had to register in Xanga to leave him a comment. That got old quickly. When it comes up now, I just leave. That goes for MySpace bloggers as well. When I find them on Thursday 13s, I just move on to the next one.

In a world of perfect competition like the blogosphere, any barrier you erect against visitors, even unintentionally, will be fatal.

Ron's got a great blog with beautiful photos. I'll post one here and send him a trackback to see if he gets the message.

Arch formations at Arches National Park.

Update: The Rockhound blog has the same problem. Argh! Their formatting is all hosed on their main site and I can't read the thing. I'd like to send them a screen capture, but I can't contact them without enrolling, registering, logging in and giving them a blood sample. %!@&*%!#&*%!!

Update 2: Rockhound blog works perfectly in Firefox, but not in IE. The Rockhound blog is outstanding with lots of tidbits of information for, well, rockhounds. What else would you expect? I still can't leave a comment without a WordPress account. Is that true with all WordPress blogs?

With what I discovered about my own readers, where less than 3% of them were willing to answer a simple single-click poll question, the percentage of readers that would actually navigate the WordPress account issue must be in the tenths of percents.

Update 3: This goes for trackbacks, too. If I link to you and can't send you a trackback ping, you can probably forget about me sending any more links in the future.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Asking for a Favor from My Readers

I know that most readers don't leave comments or participate in polls, but I'm asking for a favor on this one. I'm working on a set of posts dealing with what I've learned this year from blogging and your input would make a big difference to me. Please vote in this poll. All you need to do is select the answers that best fit what you like about this blog and click "Vote." You may select as many answers as you like.

If you're new to this blog, please let me know that in the vote, too. If you want to leave a comment, please do, but I'd really like it if you voted. Thanks in advance for voting.

The topics I like most at The Scratching Post are
World of Good
I never know what I'm going to find and I like that
This is my first time here
Free polls from

Life's Laboratory Notebook

I had left this in a comment over at the blog of our Precentor of Measurements, but I thought I'd repeat it here. In the process of thinking about why I am writing this blog and what I've gained from it, I was struck by the similarities between it and keeping a laboratory notebook.

In science classes my teachers insisted on having us keep a lab notebook that recorded everything we could think of so that experiments could be reliably repeated or changed to assess the effects of certain variables. In a way, that's what this is. Life's lab notebook.

First Annual Blog Analysis - Blog and Grow Rich!

I took a look at the basic metrics of blogging success in a previous post.

I recently bought a used copy of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. If you don’t know the story behind the book, Mr. Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie around the turn of the century to discover what wealthy and successful people had in common. From his interviews, Mr. Hill developed a set of principals for growing rich. It’s considered a classic text today.

The heart of the concept is finding what you love to do and getting really good at it. It’s much more complicated that that, dealing with the use of your subconscious thought, how to surround yourself with successful people and so on, but there’s the nub of the idea.

Right now, in terms of discretionary income, I’m as poor as I have ever been in my life. Because I follow the advice of Dave Ramsey, my debts are shrinking and I’ll be OK, but it sure would be nice to have more cash. Following the principles of the book, I started blogging because I have a lot of experience and education, enjoy writing and have free time in odd increments. I figured I could generate interesting content and make money on ads on the blog. After all, I had read how others made thousands of dollars each month blogging and I thought I could do just as well.

I was wrong and not for the reasons you might expect.

I had misread the title of the book. The word “Rich” in Think and Grow Rich, doesn’t necessarily refer to money. It refers to the rewards you get when you become an expert at what you love. If playing the flute is my passion, I will never become as wealthy as Andrew Carnegie, but I will become rich on my own terms as I learn how to bring musical pleasure to people around me.

What my blog has taught me is that my version of “rich” has nothing to do with money at all.

Bloggers who make money focus on specific subjects. Hugh Hewitt focuses on politics; Free Money Finance focuses on personal finance and so on. They are good at what they do and they devote themselves to the subject. If you read the advice on how to run a successful blog, you’re told to focus on a subject.

I tried to do that and failed. I went through a period where I wrote a lot of comedy and worked every day to write more. I tried politics. I tried marketing and business analysis. I found I couldn’t do it. It’s just not me. My blogging taught me who I am. If you had asked me a year ago what I would specialize in, I would have told you business case analysis and marketing. While I love that, it’s not something I can do to the exclusion of other things.

I discovered that I love all kinds of things. Most of all I love to share them with you. For example, I’ve blogged in the past about rockhounding. I recently took some quartz specimens I found at Ocotillo Wells and looked at them under a microscope. What a sight! My first thought was to capture the images and post them on this blog. My microscope is over 40 years old and won’t take a camera adapter easily, so I’m scrounging pennies together so I can get a microscope that will connect to my PC to share what I saw with you. Rockhounding is just one of many things I want to experiment with and blog about.

What my blog has taught me is how to grow rich on my own terms. Napoleon Hill’s maxims and recipes for success work for all kinds of riches and I’m learning to apply them to what I want to do with my life. Learn and share.

I might have one more blog post in me about what I’ve learned this year, but I’m not sure. I’ll leave you links to Think and Grow Rich and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace. I highly recommend these books. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm moving to Amazon for my ads and both of these links will send me a few coins if you buy the books.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why Hamsters are so Hard to Photograph

Many people make the mistake of attempting to photograph hamsters. This is almost always a futile waste of time. The reason? We scurry. We scurry all the time. On those rare occasions when we stop and strike a pose, you can get a shot like this.

Usually you get shot after shot like this.

If you want to see just how it works, take a look at this video our human caretaker shot while sitting in my room with me. I love to scurry and my favorite toy to scurry on is him!

Anyone want to try and get an unblurred picture of that?

For more scurrying furries, visit this week's Friday Ark.

First Annual Blog Analysis - Links and Traffic

Since it’s the time of year when one makes resolutions and commits to some level of introspection, I thought it a good opportunity to analyze The Scratching Post.

The original purpose of this blog was to make money through advertising. I thought I could write enough good political commentary and comedy to bring in lots of links and traffic and generate revenue through ads. A year in, I find that I was wrong, but the blog has been far more valuable than I had ever dreamed. I’ll return to that in a separate post. This time, I’ll focus on the things most bloggers love more than anything else, links and traffic.

Update: I just finished the follow on post. I wrote about how to grow rich blogging. You can find it here.


When I started out, I watched my place in the blog ecosystem on a daily basis. I check it about twice a month now. Dittos for the Technorati ranking. I think I peaked in Technorati at about numer 3500. I’ve dropped into the 6000s by now. It’s irrelevant. Since both of them count the links on people’s blogrolls (the list of links on the sidebars) and almost no one visits based on blogrolls, it’s not correlated to visitors. The place where most traffic comes from is when a popular blogger or website links in a post or article.

Conclusion: Don’t worry about the link count.


On my blog, there are three types of traffic. The first are my friends. They come by just to see what I’ve posted. They leave comments and send emails. The second type is the visitors who’ve never been here before and come by from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) or similar link. A small percentage leave comments, but they really click the AdSense ads. In their case, AdSense does a good job tailoring the ads to the topic of the post. The third type is those who come by for specific posts, either the WOGs or the Thursday 13s.

The majority of my traffic comes from the WOG Squad, the bloggers that link to my weekly World of Good (WOG) posts. Of secondary importance are the Wall Street Journal listing my blog as linking to one of their articles and the occasional links from Hugh Hewitt, No Pasaran or the very rare Instalanche. The smallest, yet most valued group of all is my regular readers who come by to see what’s new.

As an aside, WOG visitors are an odd breed. They come by in the hundreds and never leave a comment. If it weren’t for my hit counters, I’d never know they were there. In my last WOG I put up a poll to see what they thought. The WOG was popular and got about 300 hits. Out of 300 hits I got 10 responses on the poll and I knew three of the responders myself, which meant it was more like 1 out of every 50 people bothering to click their mice twice to vote. They never, ever click on an ad.

Shown below is a typical chart of my WOG visitors, broken down by total visitors, visitors who click more than once on the site before they leave, visitors who vote in a poll and visitors that leave comments. Click on the image for a more legible version.

Conclusion: All visitors are not created equal. My personal philosophy is preached through the WOGs, so it doesn’t bother me that they don’t comment. I like the fact that the WSJ visitors toss me a few pennies through AdSense clicks. I like my recurring visitors most of all because they’ve become my friends.

This doesn’t lead to any changes in the blog yet, but it lays out a foundation for the next post which will analyze the blog’s content and changes I’ll be making in 2007.


In two recent posts, I've put up polls and asked for some very simple feedback. One of them, a World of Good post, got over 300 hits, but only 10 people voted in the poll. 3 of the voters were people I knew. That led me to wonder: Just who is visiting The Scratching Post so stealthily and flitting off without leaving a trace?

I hired a local psychologist, a police sketch artist and a variety of other professionals to develop a composite of my lurker visitors. This is what they told me.

I'm being visited by single-celled algae. They are brought to this blog, not of their own free will, but by currents and eddies in the blogosphere. Some of them return to this spot, drawn by some other, unknown forces. If I don't watch out, they will reproduce and I will be covered with a green ooze.

I've decided I won't mind. All of those site hits are worth it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Heavy Winds, High Surf

San Diego is being swept by high winds today and we're getting some wild surf down at the beaches. Even the hardiest surfers aren't going out. It looks like this.

Lean Six Sigma is a Fraud for Engineering Consultancies

Where I work, we use Lean Six Sigma. LSS is a formal method for tracing work flows and processes in order to find inefficiencies. It's a total fraud for our organization. We do not measure the cost of implementation and overstate our results to upper management so that it looks like a success. Because our managers have been forced to use it, there is no effort to find the true value of LSS and our middle managers must report only good news. In short, LSS encourages organizational corruption. It's like being part of Mao's government during the Great Leap Forward. We even get cute little emails from our upper management talking about LSS success stories. Since I work with some of the LSS teams and am privy to our financial information, I can see right through the propaganda.

I'm waiting for the one that reads "Once more, glorious People's Committee on LSS meets Five Year Plan production targets!"

We make money on labor. LSS requires us to take people off of direct projects and put them on overhead to become full time LSS "black belts". If our LSS effort was ever to break even, we would have to release a commensurate number of people currently working full time on overhead. That has not, will not and cannot happen. It is mathematically provable that LSS will always be a money loser for us.

I was doing a little research on the net and all I could find while searching on "Lean Six Sigma Fraud", "Lean Six Sigma Failure" and so on were endless websites from consultants who will help you implement LSS. I think that tells you everything you need to know about LSS.

Update: I found the Wikipedia article on the Great Leap Forward (linked above) and I've edited one particular paragraph I found eerily similar to our situation. It's pure poetry. Just like Edgar Allen Poe's work.

Despite these process improvement innovations, the business climate in 2006 was very favourable and the profit promised to be good. Unfortunately, the amount of labour diverted to LSS meant that much of the business was left to rot unperformed in some areas. Although actual work output was reduced, local officials, under tremendous pressure from the central authorities to report record profits in response to the new innovations, competed with each other to announce increasingly exaggerated results. These exaggerated results were used as a basis for determining the amount of funding to be taken by the State to supply other efforts. This left barely enough for the actual operations costs of the organization, and in some areas, financial starvation set in. During 2006 we continued to be a substantial net exporter of profits, despite the widespread financial famine experienced in the workforce, as upper management sought to maintain face and convince the outside world of the success of their plans.
For more posts on capitalism, visit (what else?) this week's Carnival of the Capitalists.

Update 2: Dennis Howlett (owner of the world's smallest blog :-) ) asked, "Can you say more about how LSS encourages the kind of corruption you're alluding to please? What is the fatal flaw and how is performance as measured in your company out of whack with what the financial results show?"

LSS was chosen without regards to what we do. As a consultancy, the technical aspects of each job are different as are the maturity levels of the projects we are working on. Sometimes we work on equipment installations, sometimes we work on policy IPTs, sometimes it's basic research and so on. LSS relies on repetitive actions to achieve increases in efficiency. In our case, the only repetitive actions come in administrative support.

Given the state of the art in administrative support, just how much more efficiency can you squeeze out of it? And what happens when you do? In order for LSS to break even, you'll have to fire as many administrative personnel as you have LSS black belts and then get rid of some more to account for the time your green belts are now devoting to tasks unrelated to the customer. What are you going to do, have your assistants answer three phones at once? Have intelligent agent software make purchases for you?

The fatal flaw in LSS is the addition of people onto overhead in the form of black belts and green belts. If there was no such increase in overhead staff, we could have done a quick survey of the situation, junked the whole idea and kept on going with what we do. Instead, we now have full-time bureaucratic positions for LSS slurping down the profits, returning next to nothing with the standard resistance to firing them.

In short, they are a recurring cost, they produce almost nothing and they are hard to get rid of. Rather than be the only middle manager who reports that their LSS team has yet to yield results, we lie about it. Hence, corruption.

Perhaps the saddest part of all is that our LSS black belts are all really good people. It's not like they're trying to hide their results or puff themselves up. They're all doing their best with a technique totally ill-suited to our work.

Thanks for the question.

Update 3: Dennis has a larger site. Here it is.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

December Sunset

Click on the images for a better images.

The Feline Theocracy Grows Ever Stronger!

Rejoice all ye faithful members and followers of the Feline Theocracy! Raise a catnip mouse to your lips and tear at it vigorously with your hind claws. Let the crystal goblets overflow with tuna for today we admit two more bloggers to the Theocracy.

Sailorette is hereby named "Precentor of Measurements." She has an absolutely oustanding blog and photo gallery.

Kelly the Little Black Dog is granted the title, "Missionary to the Frozen Wastelands." Kelly has been a friend of mine for more than 25 years. Trust me, sending him to the frozen wastelands is a favor. He loves that stuff.

All members of the Feline Theocracy are permitted to use this charming graphic, designed by our Official Artist, on their sites.

If you've yet to hear the Good News of the Feline Theocracy, the nature and purpose is given here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Presents

For Christmas this year I got crinkly paper and tuna! I must have been a very good kitty all year!

What was your favorite present this year?

For more purrfect presents, visit this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Felis Navidad

If I don't post again until after New Year's, let me just say Merry Christmas to all of you. Have a blessed and safe holiday season.

Go Texans!

Bet or no bet, after today's shocker over the Colts, I've just got to do this.

I'll bet you had a great time, dude.


I was noodling around with my camera experimenting with shots of a geranium in bloom when a certain someone decided to improve the picture.

Lovely, aren't they?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Let There Be Peace on Earth Between Cats and Dogs

In this season of peace, the Feline Theocracy would like to offer a token of goodwill towards our canine brethren. Indeed, the time has come to invite one of them into our fold as a member of the Feline Theocracy. For has it not been observed that dogs will dine with great vigor upon tuna just as cats do? (Of course, they also dine on all manner of foul putrescence, but that's beside the point.) So let us make peace this day and let the trumpets of joy ring out!

Bruiser, the dog of Justin, our Official Artist , is hereby named The Feline Theocracy's Holy Ambassador to the Kingdom of Dogs. In this Holy season, we urge all of you to make peace with those around you and bring harmony and forgiveness to all. If you pledge to do that, then you may anoint your website with our sacred graphic.

Merry Christmas to all from The Scratching Post. Thanks for the links, visits and comments all year.

If you're curious, the nature and purpose of the Feline Theocracy is given here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Mob Leans on Rago

Joseph Rago, the assistant editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has written a piece that has come under some fire in the blogosphere called The Blog Mob.

For those of you with dyslexia, that was not a slur against Mog calling her a blob.

Mr. Rago makes some very good points in his article and for the most part, I agree with it. Essentially, he claims that the blogosphere rides on the back of the Mainstream Media (MSM). Without the reporting done by the MSM, there's not much to blog about.

Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.
That's a pretty dismissive prose, but I would agree with the underlying concept. I've done a little bit of citizen journalism, like when I went to the San Diego Special Olympics or went to a nursing home along with Love on a Leash. The rest of the time my writing is pretty much reacting to what journalists have dug up.

The MSM aggregates and condenses the news into a single location. I know that if I visit the WSJ and my local paper, I've got most of the general information for the day. I'd hate to have to do that without them, even with synopsizing sites like Instapundit. It's just not realistic to think that you could replace the MSM with individual bloggers.

Mr. Rago goes wrong when he dismisses our news analysis. Yes, much of the blogosphere is chest-beating nonsense. Some of it, however, is expert commentary and analysis. I have a combination of skills and knowledge that I can guarantee you is not found on the payroll of the WSJ. I chose not to be a journalist and because of that choice, I pursued other areas of learning. While my writing may not be as polished as Mr. Rago's compatriots, my analysis in my areas of expertise is far more sophisticated.

That's not a debatable point. It simply is. If you want a better example of this than me, take a look at Steven den Beste. His knowledge of practical engineering applied to current topics, such as alternative sources of energy, is unequaled in the MSM.

What Mr. Rago is missing is that Joseph Conrad was dead wrong.

If the blogs have enthusiastically endorsed Joseph Conrad's judgment of newspapering -- "written by fools to be read by imbeciles" -- they have also demonstrated a remarkable ecumenicalism in filling out that same role themselves.
We are most certainly not imbeciles. On nearly any subject that journalists write about, there's a group of us who know far more than they do. It's the dismissive air of journalists like Mr. Rago that drives us all crazy.

We need the MSM. Their reporting and summarizing gives us a starting point to apply our knowledge and expertise. We can just do without the air of superiority. What the journalists need to realize is that the blogosphere gives voice to what's been there all along. A knowledgeable readership that has a lot to contribute after the journalists have laid the foundation.

Others who have blogged about this include Spacey Gracey, BlogNewsWatch and B2B Insight.

Solar Geometry Redux

For more aligned felines, please drop by this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Perhaps the Most Ironic Link yet

Dig this.

When I went there, this post of mine had the top link.

Just who is "KT So"?

Tax Cuts for the Rich

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial today that delves into the IRS data for 2004.

What fun!

No, seriously, it's kind of interesting. Here's the short version.

The wealthiest 1% of tax filers paid a remarkable 35% of all individual income-tax payments that year.
It goes on to say that the top 3% paid 50% of all taxes. The tax system in the US is incredibly progressive. What that means is that any tax cut will be a tax cut for the rich, since no one else is paying any substantial amount of taxes.

Here are some questions to ask our friends in the Mainstream Media (MSM): Do you know this? If so, what's with allowing politicians to come on the air and talk about tax cuts for the rich? If the rich are the only ones paying a significant share of the taxes, who else would get a tax cut?

The real problem with the government is the spending. Right now, we spend every penny we get in taxes, we spend every penny of social security and we borrow more money to spend that. That's the same as you or I spending all of our income, spending our 401K savings and running up our credit card bills.

Just how long is that supposed to go on? What's the plan from, say, Barack Obama to deal with this?

Thursday Thirteen, Christmas List Edition

I haven't checked the blogosphere yet, but I'm pretty sure that lots of Thursday Thirteeners are doing Christmas lists this week. Not wanting to be left out, here's mine, in no particular order.

1. Low voltage lights for my yard. The wire's been laid and the transformer and timer is installed. Now I"m saving my pennies and dimes to get some lights.

2. A rock tumbler. If you're not into rockhounding, the way you make those shiny stones is to put them in a tumbler with some grit and let them roll around for a week or so. You're taking a shortcut of 100 million years of erosion to get pretty rocks. Mmmmmmm. Pretty rocks.

3. A telescope. And not just to watch the chicks at the OMBAC over-the-line tournament, either. I got to see the moon and Saturn through a telescope once and it was way cool.

4. All the parts I need to rebuild my little MGB. I've got a white 1973 B in storage and I don't see the point in bringing it home until I can work on it. I can't work on it with no money. Argh.

5. Techlighting lights for my empty lighting tracks. The tracks are installed, but now they hang there empty.

6. A digital video camera. I want to do movies with something better than my little Olympus digital camera.

7. Software to control my digital camera. I want to put it on a tripod, point it out at Mission Bay and do stop motion movies of the Bay changing as the day goes by.

8. A really nice lighting system for my seeds. I started some and they sprouted, but the lack of sunlight stunted their growth.

9. Coleus. I love coleus.

10. While we're simply wishing, let's go for the gusto. A huge flat screen, hi-def TV/monitor.

11. An XBox 360.

12. A family vacation to Cairns, Australia to go check out the Great Barrier Reef.

13. A chance to say thank you and Merry Christmas to all my readers and fellow Thirteeners.

Hey! I got something off my list already! I'll bet all the others are almost here, too.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

World of Good, Rockhound Style

For Roger.

Recently I have become interested in rockhounding. A friend at work turned me on to the wonders of gems and minerals and when I sat down to write today's World of Good (WOG), I decided to take a chance and see what came up with "rockhounding charity". What came up was a perfect WOG.

By the way, please vote in my WOG poll at the end of this post. I'd really appreciate the feedback.

Jerry Harr died in October of this year. He was 85 years old. The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a fairly long obituary on him that revealed a love of rockhounding and a kind heart. Jerry worked hard to become a master of his craft and then shared his knowledge and experience with everyone who wanted to learn.

Dedicated rockhounds and fledgling hobbyists eager to learn about gems and minerals found a jewel in Jerry Harr. Considered a pillar of knowledge in lapidary technique, Mr. Harr was as well-known for his teaching as for his award-winning jewelry making.

“He was everyone's mentor,” said Fred Wilson, president of the Vista Gem and Mineral Society. “We all went to him for his knowledge and advice. There wasn't much in the hobby craft that he didn't know or hadn't seen.”
Here's the money quote for me.

“Jerry learned everything he could and was happy to convey it to anyone who would ask,” said his wife, who shared her husband's passion for gemstones. “He taught many rockhounds the art of silversmith in his home for free. The only stipulation was that they, in turn, teach someone else at no cost. They came from as far away as Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Mexico.”
Imagine what that entailed. It's not just all the work that went into learning to make jewelry, it's the added effort of bringing strangers into your home to teach them. Like I said, Jerry was a perfect example of the World of Good. We all have become richer because he shared his talents with the rest of us. Who knows, some of the jewelry you or your daughters or your grandaughters wear might trace their pedigree back to someone who learned for free from Jerry in his home.

Jerry started from humble beginnings, did his part in the war and stayed married to his wife for more than 60 years.

Born July 2, 1921, in Quakertown, Pa., Mr. Harr attended first through eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940 and was wounded by shrapnel in the Battle of Guadalcanal. While recuperating from his wounds and malaria in Auckland, New Zealand, Mr. Harr began collecting cat-eye seashells. Quartz crystals caught his fancy in New Caledonia, where he recovered at another hospital.

After leaving the hospital in 1944, Mr. Harr married Lois Plummer, whom he had met in 1938 at a Pennsylvania roller-skating rink.
There are lots and lots of Jerry Harrs in the world. They quietly make all of our lives better. The advance of human civilization depends on Jerry Harr and all the others who share their gifts with the rest of us. I wish I had known him.

For more WOG posts and a description of why we WOG, visit this post.

What best describes your WOG experience?
This is the first WOG I've read. I liked it.
This is the first WOG I've read. I'm not sure I'll be back.
I've read others and look forward to them.
I've read others and forgot how boring they are.
Free polls from

Wordless Wednesday Post Post Post

Yesterday I put up (and fore-dated!) my first Wordless Wednesday (WW) post. All I can say is "meh."

The good: lots of great links to fun blogs that have put up creative images for their WWs. Plenty of people have stopped by to leave comments and links. It's a clearly a well-developed and cheerful online community.

The bad: The links at the bottom of the images in my post aesthetically ruin it for me. I just can't get past this. I like putting up pictures of sunsets and flowers and Jacob and our Maximum Leader, but I don't like the way it looks with all that added junk at the end.

I don't think I'll do it again. I will definitely repost "Solar Geometry" this week without the links and submit it to the standard critter carnivals.

By the way, the title of this post makes sense if you read the first "post" as in "after". I think.

Solar Geometry

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rummaging Around for a Blog Post

In the last week, I've done two posts linked to Wall Street Journal articles that have attracted plenty of hits. I also did one that I thought was a sure-fire hit, but never went anywhere. I still don't quite understand how they link to blogs. The Washington Post links to you on the article's page no matter what. If there are more than five, then they rotate through the blogs linking to their article. For the WSJ, it looks like they only list linking blogs if that story is in their top ten most blogged about stories.

Like I said, it's confusing.

WSJ readers bring their wallets. In the two posts that got the big hits, my AdSense click-through rate rose by a factor of 10. In contrast, my cat and World of Good posts get lots of hits, but have click-through rates near zero.

I just stopped by and checked out the Carnival of the Capitalists and Carnival of Personal Finance and found that the number of people posting had doubled since the last time I looked. That's the definition of the long tail. Lots and lots of content providers.

I also found something called the Carnival of The Law of Attraction. As near as I can tell, The Law of Attraction is a total fraud designed to separate money from suckers. Essentially, it says that certain people have luck because they attract it. Actually, certain people have luck because, statistically, in a nation of 300 million, you're going to find people where the breaks all go their way in life. There's a huge, undeniable correlation of good things happening to people who get and stay married, save money, acquire desired skills and stay sober. Not much luck there.

In rooting around through those finance carnivals, I came up with another reasons I don't like Google as a stock. There is almost no barrier to exit for their customers. There's no lack for competitors as web hosts or search engines. By contrast, there are no competitors for Northrop Grumman's aircraft carrier construction business.

Let's see the folks at Mountain View bend compound curves in 3' thick plate steel. Or anyone but Northrop Grumman, for that matter.

Last in my list of totally disconnected topics, I have to say that I have avoided using Technorati, del.ici.ous and digg in my posts because I hate the way they make them look. I used Technorati for a while and found that it added nearly nothing to my hit count. I'm too far down the long tail to get any hits from viral marketing. I may reconsider that, but as I write this I realize that the start of this blog post shows me why it's not worth it.

What I want are certain visitors, like my friends in the blogosphere and folks coming over from the WSJ, not totally random ones. If I'm going to go for a completely random readership, I might as well subscribe to the theory underlying The Law of Attraction and hope for some magical hit from a big time blogger who falls in love with The Scratching Post and then links to me frequently, like Instapundit does with Ann Althouse.

There's a blog post somewhere in all of that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Craigslist Passes the New York Times

Welcome, Wall Street Journal readers! Please have a click around. We're an eclectic blog doing posts about business, marketing, politics and humor.

After blogging about Google's financial basis a few days ago I wandered over to Alexa this morning and played around comparing various sites' visit history. I came up with something I think is interesting. Compare the New York Times to Craigslist.

A three year chart of daily hits, NYT vs. Craigslist

Newspapers get a lot of their income from advertising. Advertisers go where the buyers are. Craigslist's audience is growing. The NYT audience is stagnant at best. Further, people visit Craigslist to buy, so every one of those visits is not just a potential buyer, but someone with money in their hands looking for a product. That's the ultimate reader for advertising. People visiting the NYT are probably far more likely to be looking for news. The NYT is suffering from declining revenue now and the future looks even worse.

As an update to the Google post, the Wall Street Journal has an article today suggesting that Google's income growth from interest is likely to stall. A subscription may be required to read the article. I was shocked to find out that about 1/6 of their profit came from interest income. I still don't like them as a stock. They have a market capitalization of $150B and they don't make a bloody thing.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Barack Obama - The Perfect Candidate for Our Times

Peggy Noonan, the Feline Theocracy's Holy Ambassador to the Court of the Mainstream Media, has a great piece in the Wall Street Journal examining the apparently unavoidable presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. She's concerned that he is a candidate made of feathers or whipped cream or something similarly insubstantial. I'd say that makes him the perfect candidate for our times.

But only for about another four years. After that, we're going to want a Churchill. And not Ward, either. Let's look at Ms. Noonan's article first.

What does he believe? What does he stand for? This is, after all, the central question. When it is pointed out that he has had almost -- almost -- two years in the U.S. Senate, and before that was an obscure state legislator in Illinois, his supporters compare him to Lincoln. But Lincoln had become a national voice on the great issue of the day, slavery. He rose with a reason. Sen. Obama's rise is not about a stand or an issue or a question; it is about Sen. Obama. People project their hopes on him, he says.

He's exactly right. Just so we all know it's projection.
I've got a nickname for him already. He'll be the coat-hanger president! He exists to keep his suit from falling to the floor. Peggy read his book thoroughly, which takes more willpower than I have. She goes into it at length.

He also believes in the power of good nature, the need for compromise, and the possibility of comprehensive, multitiered, sensible solutions achieved through good-faith negotiations.
...and leprechauns and unicorns and the ability to find all of your socks after they come out of the dryer and not have a single one unmatched. Yay! I want to vote for him now!

Here's the money quote for me.

From reading his book, I would say he believes in his destiny. He believes in his charisma. He has the confidence of the anointed. He has faith in the magic of the man who meets his moment.
His moment is now! Strike while the iron is hot, Barack.

I would suggest we are experiencing the last of Pax Americana right now. The time is perfect for a big marshmallow like Barack Obama. The world is relatively benign. If we pulled out of Iraq and a few other places, we could buy ourselves a few years of peace and stability. We could even draw down our military for a while and spend it on social programs.

Our trading partners and Barack's intellectual peers in Europe haven't quite spent the last euro in their wallets. The European elderly haven't been cast out on the streets like they were in Russia. As an aside, when I was in Moscow in '97, there was no lack of starving, geriatric panhandlers. It was a physical manifestation of a social services network that had totally disintegrated. It's the taste of things to come for Europe.

Between now and the time when a major European country goes bankrupt and when the Islamofascists stick .50 caliber machine guns and infrared sensors on their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to mow down civilians more efficiently we can live in a gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane and vote for Barack Obama.

Barack is the perfect man to lead us during these soft and cushy times. He's the human incarnation of the Iraq Study Group. "If we just talked to other countries over coffee and biscottis, we'd find we all wanted the same thing." He's just the sort to spend money we don't have on all of the social programs that are slowly asphyxiating Europe.

And about four years after we elect him and ride a wave of mushy euphoria into the future, we're going to watch France and Italy and Spain crumble into bankrupt, Islamofascist-dominated wastelands and see Israel incinerate most of Persia in a spasm of nuclear self-defense. Until then, by all means, let's elect Barack Obama. Maybe that will get this unserious fantasizing out of our systems.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Year's Resolutions for Blogging Carnival?

Does anyone know if there is a New Year's Resolutions for blogging carnival or group like the Thursday Thirteeners?

Terminal Blogging from Chicago O'Hare

I'm on the last leg of a brief trip to Virginia. I didn't take my camera along this time to get any pictures for the Carnival of Virginia, but I wish I had. There was a store in Old Town Alexandria on King Street that had beautiful Christmas decorations. It was just some juniper or similar evergreen boughs with lights woven through it, but the effect was striking. As soon as I saw it, I wished I had it for my own house. My house doesn't have eaves or gutters that allow for hanging lights and the stucco finish is the smooth Santa Barbabra look, so putting holes in it is out of the question. Nothing in my yard is big enough yet to adorn, so all I can manage is a single strand of lights that go over the top of a feature above my garage door, affixed with some plastic hooks glued to the top of the feature. When the lights are down after Christmas, you can't see the hooks. This decoration of evergreen with woven lights would be just the dramatic look that would work for me. Right now, my lights are really undersized for the house.

On the second leg of the trip home, we had a robust, active young lad, less than two years old, I'd say, two rows ahead of me. He wasn't a bad kid, he was just one of those very boyish boys. Full of snails and puppy dog tails. Four hours in an airline seat was more than could be asked of him. From the looks of the little cherub, 5 minutes in one spot was too much. The result was a four hour battle of wills with his mother, complete with screaming and crying and pounding of the chair. She did her absolute best, but she was done in by genetics. He just was born an active little boy and there was no getting around it. There were several lovely moments where he played peek-a-boo with the people seated behind him. I wish I had my camera again. No one seemed to be bothered by the child and everyone got through the flight in good cheer.

On the trip out here I had a surprising discovery about modern journalism. I would argue that People magazine is much closer to reality than any metropolitan newspaper. The person next to me was reading People and the person in front of me was reading the Fort Worth Star Telegram or something like that. People had stories of personal courage and perseverance about hardships overcome and relationships surviving rocky times. The newspaper had murderers, rapists and destruction. I know plenty of people who have overcome hardships in their lives. I don't know anyone who is a murderer, arsonist or rapist. From a strictly statistical point of view, People presents a far more representative window into the world.

There's a blog series in all of that somewhere. Oh well, the battery is running low on the laptop and mine is, too, for that matter.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Google's Share Price is Unsupportable

Google's share price is currently $482. Their price-to-earnings ratio is about 70. For those unfamiliar with PE ratios, 70 is appropriate for a start up that is about to explode all over the market. A big company with a 70 indicates a possible over-valuing of the stock, like Amazon had back when it was around $100 per share.

At first I thought that Google was appropriately valued. I started using many of their services, such as their document and spreadsheet editors on line. I like Blogger, despite its hiccups with uploading photos. The transition to the new version of Blogger has changed my mind.

Blogger has rolled out a new, improved version and users are beginning to convert over. I tried when prompted by Blogger about a week ago, but after a while it came back and said it was unable to convert my blog and I would have to wait. I thought nothing of it and went on using the old version. Now there is a massive wave of people who have not converted, but can't leave comments on sites with the new version of Blogger. This is indicative of serious software development problems at Google.

Software development is a fairly mature technology. There are accepted processes used by large software development firms for configuration management, testing and code reviews. There are even metrics for determining just how sophisticated your group is at software development called Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) levels.

Where I work, we strive to be CMMI level 3 in our software efforts. We are not a software house, so we're not the most sophisticated of developers. In spite of this, an error like the commenting problem would never occur with our code. These errors, like the photo uploads before them, are indicative of very poor internal processes and a culture of sloppiness. Such a culture is no joke to change. It's reasonable to assume that much of Google's code base is in similar disarray. Poor software practices are rarely confined to single groups, particularly on something as prominent as Blogger. For a product that delivers the ability to allow people to broadcast their message globally, you would expect significant corporate oversight into the project. The fact that Blogger has so many bugs suggests that the rest of the company's products can't be much better.

I'd buy a stock with a PE of 70 only if I knew for sure that they had sustainable, long-term, strong growth ahead of them and I knew their products to be of high quality. I can see strong short-term growth with Google, but if their products continue to be so shoddy, I don't see support for such an inflated stock price.

Remote Backup Services for Your PC

Walter Mossberg has a stellar article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required) comparing two remote hard drive back up services. For $50 a year, either Carbonite or Mozy will load a small program on your computer and regularly back up files from your hard disk, allowing you to restore them if your computer ever crashes. This is an answer to my prayers.

I've been considering getting a network hard drive for my home to use as a back up, but I just can't swing it right now financially. Furthermore, I've always been concerned about what would happen in a house fire. Back ups are no good if they burn down, too. With so much of my personal data being stored on the PC, the thought that the files would be safe in another location and regularly stored without me having to take action every so often is very reassuring. I'll be trying one of these services out real soon and reporting back what I find.

Update: I just signed up with Mozy. I downloaded the software and it's running in the background. Way cool. They say you can access your files from the Internet. I'll be trying that in a few days once the backup is complete. It told me that it would take a week to do the complete backup. Not surprising, since I store TiVo files on my PC.

Shoppers Want to Hear Merry Christmas

Georgette of our WOG Squad has a post that proves something I've long thought.
(A) Zogby Poll of shoppers recently states that 95% of the respondents are not offended by wishes of "Merry Christmas," while only 1% of the respondents say they are offended. In addition, many shoppers are offended by the shopowners' avoiding saying Merry Christmas, and leads to lost customers and lost sales.

Chalk it up for another interesting social experiment. But I can't figure out why it never occurred to the politically correct followers what is only natural common sense: Folks who are out Christmas shopping are Christians. So, yeah, they would like to hear "Merry Christmas!" Denying their own holiday in their own country is what's really offensive.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Think My Head is Going to Explode

I tried to migrate to the new version of Blogger. It thought and thought and thought and then told me it couldn't migrate me right now and I should try later. No worries. However, now, when I try to leave comments on other Blogger blogs, like Justin's, where the owner has managed to migrate, Blogger tells me it doesn't know who I am and cannot recognize my log in information!


Update Rose of Sharon has the same problem. She's got a pretty funny post about it, too.

Thursday Thirteen, I'm Not Quite Sure What Edition

Today's Thursday Thirteen doesn't seem to have a focus. I just don't have an inspiration for it, but I really want to do it because I love the comments and the connections I make with these. As I free-write this, I think I've come up with a topic. Thirteen ways I get inspiration for blog posts.

Here we go.

1. The Wall Street Journal. It's the one paper I will never be without, even if it is just the online edition. Every morning I log on and see what's going on. I can usually find something to blog about for those days like Mondays and Tuesdays where I don't have a themed blog post I usually do.

2. No Pasaran. Their posts are typically short and pithy and make me think about longer responses. I find myself leaving the gang over there long comments that I come back and turn into blog posts here.

3. YouTube. If I'm sick or way behind schedule or just totally uninspired, I drift over to YouTube and root around for something fun. I consider this cheating, but there you have it. :-)

4. More coffee. I look forward to that brief, chemical rush in the morning where all my synapses are firing and the creative juices are flowing. The kids aren't up yet and I can just sit down and start typing. Sometimes, like right now, I'm surprised at what comes out of the keyboard.

5. Uh oh. I'm only on number 5 and I'm running out of ideas. Well, I also go and see what Hugh Hewitt has to say. There's usually something good over there to add to and work with.

6. I get some inspirations from work. I am in corporate marketing, so I get to see the genesis and development of corporate strategies up close. Like sausage, it's best not to watch how they're made. Most of it seems to be forced on us by people who don't really understand what it is we do. The result is like living in a Dilbert cartoon. The lessons learned are fun to blog about especially when combined with snarky analysis.

7. My digital camera can provide inspiration. I am truly blessed to live where I do. I get great sunsets almost every day looking out over Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Snap a few photos and come up with a caption or two and you're done.

8. This is getting much harder now. Hmmm. I'm blaming low blood sugar. Maybe I just don't have that diverse of a set of inspirational sources. OK, Here's one. My garden. I'm struggling to landscape an entire yard that is nothing but dirt on the narrowest shoestring imaginable. I'm growing a lot of my plants from seed. I've used this blog as a comic relief from that effort.

9. Five to go. Travel. I get some of my inspiration from travel. I fly a lot for business, typically back to Virginia. Sometimes I get odd bits of time here and there to explore parts of wherever I am and end up with a nice blog post and some photos.

10. Blog carnivals are another source of inspiration. In addition to doing Thursday Thirteens, I like to encourage links and traffic by participating in the Friday Ark, the Carnival of the Cats, the Carnival of the Capitalists, the Catholic Carnival and the Virginia Blog Carnival.

11. Current events. I've tried to keep the political posts to about 50% or less on this blog, but there are times when I just can't resist it.

12. The news media. With a few exceptions, I think they're dreadful. I do a weekly World of Good post and in the process I've found just how commonplace good deeds are. If you watch the mainstream media, you see nothing but evil. They spread the evil by over-reporting it.

13. Last one! I made it! Or did I? Hmm. I'm just not inspired to do the last one...


Brief Adsense Success

I've been using Adsense on this blog for months now with minimal success. I've blogged about it before here, here and here. I've found it to be designed entirely around Google's needs and not mine. The ads chosen for my site have not been ones I would choose for myself and trying to groom them to what I want has been futile. This week, however, I experienced the kind of success that I've read about on other blogs.

Most mornings I get up, grab my java and sit down to read the Wall Street Journal on line. I can usually find something to blog about there. Tuesday I found a great article on the Nintendo Wii's success as a holiday gift item and wrote this post. In no time at all I was linked on the Wall Street Journal article page and the hits started coming. Better than that, Adsense decided that this post needed ads dealing with the Sony PS3. My click through rate increased by a factor of 10. I went from a 0.65% rate to a 6.5% rate on that one post. I still made only a few bucks, but the difference was staggering.

I'd read on other blogs about tricks to make Adsense pay off for you and I had tried many of them with very little success. This was the first time I saw a huge jump. If I had been able to run these kinds of ads on my site all along, I'd have made well over $1000 by now instead of still scrounging around for my first $100. Unfortunately, I'm an inspirational writer. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll see that my topics are all over the place. I have tried in the past to focus, but I've always gone back to scatter shot topics. I just can't seem to help it. It turns out that this blog is more therapeutic and cathartic than it is a financial investment.

In any case, I've had a brief glimpse of the El Dorado one could have with a little discipline.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

World of Good, Blossom Swap Style

Since this is such a short World of Good (WOG) post that I think this is more of a WOGlet then a full WOG. I just like these guys so much that I had to post about them.

This week's WOG(let) is about a new group of friends of mine who post over at BlossomSwap. BlossomSwap is a discussion and informational site dedicated to gardening. It focuses on providing discussion boards filled with cheerful advice to people looking for help. Here's how they describe themselves.
BS is a humorous garden site that offers an immeasurable amount of advice from experienced gardeners.

Please join us in our appreciation for dirt and all the beauty that can rise from beneath it.
Additionally, it is a host for people who harvest the seeds from their plants and offer them for free to others. This is a non-trivial effort.


The folks who participate at BlossomSwap take the time to tend their plants and bring them to bloom. They harvest the seeds and then post what they have available. People respond on the message boards and the seed swappers package and mail the seeds for free to whomever wants them. That kind of cheerful, charitable exchange of the fruits of their labor is available to all. They're making the world a more colorful, flower-filled place, one packet of seeds at a time.


They could be doing something for themselves with the time they spend harvesting, listing and packaging the seeds. The people at BlossomSwap embody the essence of the World of Good. Their acts of friendly charity may seem small, but they're actually representative of a larger sentiment of kindness. Whenever you get depressed by all of the bad news thrust in your face day in and day out by the mainstream media, take a trip over to BlossomSwap and see just what a beautiful place the world really is. I'll just close this post with another photo they've made available for us to use.

Painted daisies

Thanks, boo and all the rest of you, too. My life is richer because of knowing you.

For more WOG posts and a description of why we WOG, visit this post.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

NMCI Tech Support

If you use NMCI, you understand.

Le Pen is Channeling Groucho Marx

Thanks to the Feline Theocracy's College of Cardinals, we have this little tidbit. An election poster from France's very own fascist loon, Le Pen.

Translation: "Nationality. Integration. Social advancement. Secularism. The Right, the Left. They destroyed everything."

Who is Le Pen channeling if not Groucho's Rufus T. Firefly from Duck Soup?

"The last man nearly ruined this place,
he didn't know what to do with it.
If you think this country's bad off now,
just wait 'til I get through with it!"

Now there's an election slogan we can all get behind! This is reminiscent of the slogan for the Cthulu for President campaign. "Why vote for the lesser evil?" Why is it that all the really imaginative politicians are in other countries? Or mythos?

In any case, I couldn't find Groucho's song on YouTube, but I did find Chico's trial scene. Enjoy!

We Want a Wii!

In looking over the kids' Christmas lists this year, the Nintendo Wii doesn't appear near the top. My kids seem to be anomalies, however. Joseph Pereira and Nick Wingfield have a Wall Street Journal article (subscription may be required) on how the Wii has become the hottest-selling gift this year. That's great for Nintendo and a catastrophe for Sony.

The Wii, which retails for $250, has emerged as this year's biggest must-have game console for Christmas. Long lines form hours before electronics retailers put them on sale -- usually no more than a few dozen at a time, if that, and often only every other week. In fact, the Wii -- pronounced we -- has proved more popular and harder to nab than Sony Corp.'s higher-tech, higher-price and highly touted PlayStation 3, which has superior graphics and a built-in, next-generation DVD player. The Sony machine comes in two models, priced at $500 and $600.
When the pricing for the different systems came out, all I could think of was that Sony was making a huge gamble. Parents who want to buy the latest game system for their kids usually get what the kid asks for, but in this case, a $250 price difference is huge. It will get even larger if a recession hits and people have to reduce spending. Remember, the game console market is worldwide, so you're not talking about the US economy only. A recession in Korea drives Korean buyers to the Wii and away from the Sony.

Second, the production delays have been a catastrophe for Sony against the XBox. XBox live locks gamers into the XBox platform. It's no longer two standalone systems fighting it out, it's two communities competing. As MySpace has shown, it's the quantity of connections available, not the quality of the product. Visiting MySpace pages is the aesthetic equivalent of falling down a flight of stairs into flooded basement. It looks and smells horrible, but it's filled with stuff and you can't get rid of it.

How's that for an off-the-wall analogy? Here's a few more tidbits from the article.

Many analysts and industry executives credit Nintendo for pulling off a smoother launch than Sony, delivering a system with few technical glitches and a strong catalog of games. Sony's machine, which includes a new, high-definition DVD format called Blu-ray, ballooned its price tag, making it one of the costliest game consoles ever...

Game publisher THQ Inc. of Agoura Hills, Calif., predicted Sony would ship so few PS3s initially that it would be difficult to make money on games around its November launch. So THQ decided not to release any PS3 games until next year. The publisher was more bullish about the Wii, releasing four titles for its launch last month, says Brian Farrell, THQ's CEO.
Remember, you don't play the console, you play the games. Game manufacturers have to make money selling games. There's a fixed cost to making games and if you don't sell enough copies of the game, you automatically lose money. If there aren't enough consoles out there for your game, you're doomed before you start.

Since Sony has missed the Christmas season with the PS3, I wonder if they'll be able to catch up during the year. I'm sure there's a big drop in game console purchases after December as families struggle to pay Christmas bills. As time goes by, the launch of the next generation of XBox gets closer and closer and the time to sell PS3s gets shorter. While the PS3 may be everything it's been hyped to be, I wouldn't be betting on Sony financially right now.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Not only did the New Orleans Saints lay a huge smackdown on the Cowgirls last night, but they also ended a bet with a certain Texans fan, blogger and friend of mine.

Check it out.

The Feline Theocracy's Official Response to the ISG Report

After posting about victory in Iraq and the Army's budget crunch, I was struck by the theme in two of the YouTube videos I used. From it, I have composed our reponse to the Iraq Study Group's report.

You want to retreat to American shores? Get a f*cking clue, you fat, ancient morons.

Army Cash Crunch

Today's Wall Street Journal features an outstanding page one article by Greg Jaffe about the cash crunch being suffered by the US Army (subscription may be required to view the whole article). Greg's right on the money about outfitting soldiers with increasingly expensive gear.

The cost of basic equipment that soldiers carry into battle -- helmets, rifles, body armor -- has more than tripled to $25,000 from $7,000 in 1999.

The cost of a Humvee, with all the added armor, guns, electronic jammers and satellite-navigational systems, has grown seven-fold to about $225,000 a vehicle from $32,000 in 2001.
The Army's budget is fairly fixed and increased per soldier costs translates into fewer soldiers with all the gear. Where the article falters is its comparisons with the other services.

From 1990 to 2005, the military lavished money on billion-dollar destroyers, fighter jets and missile-defense systems. Defenders of such programs say the U.S. faces a broad array of threats and must be prepared for all of them. High-tech weaponry contributed to the swift toppling of the regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has been of little help in the more difficult task of stabilizing the two countries.

Of the $1.9 trillion the U.S. spent on weaponry in that period, adjusted for inflation, the Air Force received 36% and the Navy got 33%. The Army took in 16%, it says. Despite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both dominated by ground forces, the ratio hasn't changed significantly.
"Lavished" is a poorly chosen word. Inexpensive jet fighters get shot down. Ships are just plain expensive.

The US military expects to fight its battles with total air superiority and that in the first few days. The Army doesn't spend a whole lot of money on anti-aircraft weapons systems because it already has one - the US Air Force. Further, military doctrine calls for the use of combined arms, where infantry can call in air strikes from waiting aircraft. All of the connectivity and interactions implied in this video are expensive.

Navy ships are big beasts. You simply cannot put one in the water for cheap. Again, the Army assumes their existence. The first force on the scene is almost always the US Navy. Enemies of the US are employing a variety of weapons systems to prevent US access to their countries from the sea. Mine sweeping is no joke and the weapons systems required to do it are very expensive. As the Chinese showed a short while ago, diesel electric submarines are sophisticated pieces of hardware and tracking them is very difficult. If you haven't cleared the area of mines and enemy submarines, then the Army had better start buying teleportation devices, otherwise they won't be going in.

And all of that air superiority they're expecting? A lot of the time it starts with the Navy. This is not cheap.

Greg captures the underlying philophical question in his article.

President Bush has said that the best way to protect the nation is to spread democracy. The experience in Iraq demonstrates that such a strategy requires a bigger Army that is more skilled in tasks such as building indigenous forces, fostering local government and economic development. "Revolutionary approaches require a lot of resources," says Conrad Crane, the lead author of the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine.

A less-ambitious foreign policy that seeks to promote stability and preserve the status quo could reduce the pressure to build a bigger Army with a broader array of skills.
Fortress America is cheaper than a policy of preemption. Well, it's cheaper until the enemy shows up on your shores.

If you want more posts on military matters from someone who knows, visit Commander Salamander. And be sure to vote for the Salamander on the weblog awards!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's Over, Justin

After today, the contest is mathematically over, Justin. I have to say I was rooting for the Texans. That Vince Young is one slippery devil.

Do Not Start the Car

I am only sitting here because it is warm and comfortable.

Do NOT start the car!

For more mobile meowing, please visit this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

This is Victory in Modern Warfare Looks Like

Listening to some of the questions from the Gates confirmation hearing last week, all I heard about was casualty figures, both ours and Iraq's. This many people died in this month and that many died in that month. These casualty figures are used to prove that we are losing. The numbers don't tell you the whole story. Take a look at the interactive map provided by the Wall Street Journal and walk backwards in time, viewing the locations where the insurgents have been active.

What you'll see is that there are some actions in Basra, a few in Western Iraq and a ton centered around Baghdad. Taking Baghdad out of the equation, no one would conclude that we're losing.

Allow me to suggest that in a campaign where your enemy is decentralized, does not discriminate between civilians and soldiers and is happy to die for their cause, this is what winning looks like. As long as your nation is growing economically and your infrastructure is getting better rather than worse, you're winning. It's a battle of order against entropy. Expecting the bombings and shootings to stop doesn't give credit to the enemy. The only expensive resource they require is willing martyrs. Given the teenage death cult that is Gaza, their supply is practically endless.

Dig this recruitment video from the Palestinians.

In a country where the per capita income is under $1000 and the place is completely trashed, they aren't working to clean it up and rebuild their roads, their throwing more rocks and shoot more guns.

Possible Palestinian recruiting slogan: The great thing about the Israeli tanks blowing your buildings to bits is that it gives you more rocks to throw!

So just what does victory look like when the enemy is, for all practical purposes, insane? That's the real question to ask Secretary Select Gates. The answer we got were casualty metrics. If casualties are your measure for success then Fortress America is your solution.

I have to say I was very disappointed in Gates' responses. When he was asked about military options against Iran the proper answer would have been to say, "Clearly the domestic political situation would not tolerate an invasion of Iran. Instead, it looks like we'll have to wait for them to come to us. And come they will. If you think we've got casualties now, just wait until they come after us here."

The message coming out of the White House and its supporters should be a war message. The front is wherever you stop running away. Get used to it. This is what modern warfare looks like.

More takes from within the Feline Theocracy and without:
Our Patriarch of the Airwaves goes off on the Baker Report.
Winds of Change takes on the Baker Report as well.
Just One Minute is picking on minutae about whether a congressman can tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shia.
Our Monsignor of the Breweries talks about victory.
Heidi, still on our Protected List, writes about victory as well.

Update: Via PC Revolt, we have this post by Confederate Yankee on just what victory over the Islamofascists looks like.