Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How to Tell if Your Boat Is too Small

World of Good, Artists Helping Children Style

Get my cup of coffee. Stumble over the junk in the game room to get to the computer. Turn on the light that is situated at the far end of the room instead of the doorway so all of that stumbling is done in the dark. Repress shouts of pain to keep from waking the kids as I step on various hard objects on the floor.

Sit down. Do a little searching on the web. Very little. The World of Good (WOG) would leap in at me through the windows if I left them open. Check out a site. Good Lord! It's talking to me!

Do you want to brighten up the days of a sick child?
Well, yes.

Are you a crafty person who likes to knit or sew?
Not really, but some of my readers might be.

We need your creative spirit and your loving help. There are so many children in hospitals, shelters, orphanages, etc who could use a cuddly animal or doll.
Oh we do, do we? Just who is this we that's making all these demands on me?

Click on the bear to get instructions on how to make it.

"We" turns out to be Artists Helping Children and that little bit came from their Knitting for Charity effort. Here's how Artists Helping Children describe themselves.

Artists Helping Children is a site dedicated to bringing comfort to children in hospitals, clinics, and shelters by brightening their environment with murals and other art. There are so many children who live on a daily basis, suffering, and always surrounded by white walls. Our mission is to bring color and fun to these children's lives by painting uplifting murals on institutional walls, making the child’s visit much less stressful to take their focus off of their pain and refocus their energy.
Full disclosure time. I spent a great deal of my childhood in hospitals. They never had a problem figuring out where to stick the IV needle in my arm because they'd done it so many times before. Your wrist swells up after a few days with an IV stuck in it, so sometimes they had to take it out of one wrist and stick it in the other.

Simple instructions: Click on kitty. Make kitty. Give kitty to child in hospital.

Hospitals, as filled with caring people as they are, are sucky places to be as a kid. The pictures on the walls, if there are any, are anonymous. They were there before you came and they will be there after you leave. As I write this, I'm deciphering why I felt the way I did all those years ago. Wow. But I digress.

Traditionalists can make a Raggedy Ann. New Age types can call it Raggedy Gaia. I really don't care. Click. Make. Give.

Almost none of the stuff in the hospital room is yours. It's not your bed, it's not your room, it's not your family walking around outside the curtains. It's not home. What makes the work done by Artists Helping Children so special is that the gift the kid receives is theirs. It's not a toy borrowed from an antiseptic pile and it's something someone made special just for them. You cling to those little bits of warmth. Family visits are the best, but little things made just for you with a handwritten note are a close second.

Groovy, isn't it? Now click, make and give, quick! Your neighbor is surfing over to The Scratching Post right now and they're about to start making one of these. You've got to beat them to the punch otherwise you'll be humiliated forever!

Back to the knitting. "Go ye and knit!" said St. Augustine several centuries ago. Or he would have had he not been busy smiting infidels, keeping literacy alive or whatever it was he was doing instead of knitting. But what about us he-men, macho types? You know, the ones skilled at munching on tortilla chips and salsa while reading blogs. What can we do?

Are you uncomfortable with the idea of sewing or knitting, no matter how easy the pattern? There is one bag below that is made out of foam...there is no sewing involved at all.
Thank God. The last thing I want to do is let the guys know I'm knitting. They'd laugh so hard, they'd spit out their half-decaf soy milk lattes all over their pastel sweaters.

This is a simple, no-knitting required thing you can make for the kids from stuff you buy at Michael's. It's so easy even I could do it. With power tools, of course. Don't make me come over there and click for you.

Check out Artists Helping Children. Their front page says they are no longer acting as a non-profit organization, but everything they suggest is still valid and they've got great resources for people who want to do fun things as a family that make sick kids feel better. They're still a part of the World of Good, no matter how the US Tax Code classifies them.

For more WOGs, why we WOG, the philosophy behind the WOGs and the economic effect of WOGs on the price of polyurethane skateboard wheels in Zanzibar, check out this post.

An Image

My last four posts in a row have been all text and I find the effect aesthetically jarring. To counter that, here's a picture.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's Time for an AdSense Celebration!

I just broke $100 in AdSense! It only took about a zillion hits, but I did it. Now all I have to do is wait for payment. Something like 7 weeks from the looks of things.

This weekend, it will be time to restructure the site. Any suggestions for cool art or animations for the left had column?

Thanks to everyone who clicked. I really appreciate it.

Update: I just removed three of my four AdSense blocks. I like the look much better.

I Don't Think This is a Good Marketing Idea

This used to be apropos. It isn't any more.

The Sky is a Treacherous Thing

Last night it rained. Our Maximum Leader decided that the sky is treacherous. One minute it's giving warm sunbeams and the next minute it's making things wet. Wet! How hideous. She bravely went out into the rain to make her nightly rounds of her territory nonetheless. After that. she stayed curled up indoors, safe and warm.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Catfish Institute

I like to eat catfish. I'm always looking for new recipes and a great place to go is The Catfish Institute. The name has always sounded like some kind of high-tech research establishment. I've got a slogan for them.

"The Catfish Institute. Serving tomorrow's catfish, today."

You're welcome.

Resting Comfortably

After a frantic morning of being petted, laying around, eating her crunchies and being let in and out of various doors, our Maximum Leader is resting comfortably.

We will continue to monitor her condition and give you updates as events warrant.

No Ads Today

Just to let you know, I scoured Pay Per Post for interesting blog topics and I didn't find any. I tried two of them, but as I wrote them I found I didn't really like them. The PPP ads you see on this site really are ones I would have written about anyway.

I'm near a payout on AdSense. As soon as that happens, I'll be making changes to this blog. I'm thinking of using the space on the left hand side for photos from others' blogs with links back to them. I want to do something dramatic and beautiful with that space.

The Cruiser

Last night I hopped in my cruiser and cruised around the bedroom. Our human took a video of me. We're struggling with what YouTube does to videos, so the picture is very dark. Our .mov version of the video isn't nearly this dark. We need a way of increasing the brightness before upload so after YouTube dims everything you can still see what's going on.

In the meantime, we've got a cool video to share. Note how I fearlessly go into the Cave of Mystery and zip right back out again!

Update: I think the issue with the video is my monitor and not the video itself. Could you please let me know how it looked for you? Thanks in advance.

How bright was this video on your monitor?
Bright enough to see the hamster in the ball most of the time
Too dim to see what was going on
Free polls from

Sunday, January 28, 2007

One of These Days I'm Going to Learn my Lesson

So I reverted back to my old ways this weekend and did a political post, hoping for a link from one of the big, conservative bloggers and a couple hundred hits. I got nothing. Instead, if you compare the comment response to my little electromagnet experiment and the video of our Maximum Leader stretching and laying down to the political post, you'll see which was more popular.

There's a post about the nature of my readers somewhere in a deeper analysis of those three.

Thanks to everyone who puts up with my soapbox blathering and still comes back to see what else is going on.

Homemade Electromagnet Project

Today we tried making electromagnets. It was load of fun! We used a D cell battery, a 3 1/2" nail (not galvanized) and some 20 gauge solid core wire. All you have to do is strip about 1" off of each end of the wire and coil it around the nail. After that you tape one end of the stripped wire to one end of the battery and touch the other stripped end of the wire to the other end of the battery. Voila! An electromagnet. Here's what it looked like.

The lesson is that electrical current (electrons flowing through the wire) creates a magnetic field perpendicular to the direction of their flow. The bigger the battery, the stronger the magnet. The more coils, the stronger the magnet. Try it with a non-magnetic metal like aluminum foil. It won't work.

Do NOT use a car battery and do NOT use electricity off of a wall outlet. You could be seriously injured. You'll also find that if you handle the stripped wire directly as you touch it to the battery it gets very hot. We found that handling just the insulated part was cool to the touch.

You can do fun things with them afterwards like trying to see how fast you can pick up metal objects. Like this.

For more homeschooling fun, visit this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Why I Took the NRSC Pledge

Because I hate watching sequels. In 1975, George McGovern, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and their friends made a horror movie by betraying people that trusted them. It was not for the weak of stomach. It looked like this.

I don't need to see another one like that. Sign the NRSC Pledge.

Slogan Suggestion for Bloggers

"Because the news is too important to be left to the journalists."

The News from Iraq

Thanks, Glenn.

H/T: Our College of Cardinals.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Cruiser and the Cat

A few days ago I bought Jacob the Syrian Hamster one of those clear, plastic balls he could run around in. He took to it right away. I call it The Cruiser. K T Cat just came into the bedroom where Jacob is cruisin' in The Cruiser and she doesn't know what to make of it at all. Here was a yummy rodent protected by a massive, plastic sphere rushing this way and that across the floor. She backed off, but watched with huge, saucer eyes.

If I had a decent video camera, I'd get it on YouTube to share. As it is, I'll have to play with my digital camera that has a low quality, 30-second movie capability tomorrow night and see what I can do.

The Cruiser is way cool.

Update: I took a video of The Cruiser and uploaded it to YouTube. You can see it here.

Just Checking In

I usually don't do religious posts, but I like this one so much that I thought I'd share it. A friend sent it to me by email. Maybe you've seen it before.

A minister passing through his church
in the middle of the day,
Decided to pause by the altar
and see who had come to pray.

Just then the back door opened,
a man came down the aisle,
The minister frowned as he saw
the man hadn't shaved in a while.

His shirt was kind a shabby
and his coat was worn and frayed,
the man knelt, he bowed his head,
Then rose and walked away.

In the days that followed,
each noon time came this chap,
each time he knelt just for a moment,
A lunch pail in his lap.

Well, the minister's suspicions grew,
with robbery a main fear,
He decided to stop the man and ask him,
"What are you doing here?"

The old man said, he worked down the road.
Lunch was half an hour.
Lunchtime was his prayer time,
For finding strength and power.

"I stay only moments, see,
because the factory is so far away;
as I kneel here talking to the Lord,
This is kind a what I say:

"I just came again to tell you Lord,
how happy I've been,
since we found each other's friendship
and you took away my sin.
Don't know much of how to pray,
but I think about you every day.
So, Jesus, this is Jim checking in today."

The minister feeling foolish,
told Jim, that was fine.
He told the man he was welcome
To come and pray just anytime

Time to go, Jim smiled, said "Thanks."
He hurried to the door.
The minister knelt at the altar,
he'd never done it before.

His cold heart melted, warmed with love,
and met with Jesus there.
As the tears flowed, in his heart,
he repeated old Jim's prayer:

"I just came again to tell you Lord,
how happy I've been,
since we found each other's friendship
and you took away my sin.
Don't know much of how to pray,
but I think about you every day.
So, Jesus, this is me checking in today."

Past noon one day, the minister noticed
that old Jim hadn't come.
As more days passed without Jim,
he began to worry some.

At the factory, he asked about him,
learning he was ill.
The hospital staff was worried,
But he'd given them a thrill.

The week that Jim was with them,
Brought changes in the ward.
His smiles, a joy contagious.
Changed people, were his reward.

The head nurse couldn't understand
why Jim was so glad,
when no flowers, calls or cards came,
Not a visitor he had.

The minister stayed by his bed,
He voiced the nurse's concern:
No friends came to show they cared.
He had nowhere to turn.

Looking surprised, old Jim spoke
up and with a winsome smile;
"the nurse is wrong, she couldn't know,
that he's in here all the while

everyday at noon He's here,
a dear friend of mine, you see,
He sits right down, takes my hand,
Leans over and says to me:

"I just came again to tell you Jim,
how happy I've been,
since we found each other's friendship
and I took away your sin.
Always love to hear you pray,
and I think about you every day.
So, Jim, this is Jesus checking in today."

Do You Need the Theocracy?

If you react to this:

then you need the healing powers of the Feline Theocracy's Maximum Leader, K T Cat. We recommend you visit The Scratching Post at least once a day to achieve inner peace and tranquility.

Our Maximum Leader, radiating warmth and contentment.

Dirt Bike vs. Jeep

Earlier, I blogged about wanting a 4WD Jeep for my rockhounding trips. Our Official Artist suggested in the comments that I look at getting a dirt bike instead. The idea has merit. I just need something to take me from where I park my car or light pickup to where I want to rockhoud. Anything I find or bring with me ought to fit in a backpack. It sounds like a good idea.

Then I went and checked out prices of dirt bikes on Craigslist. Yowza! They're about $1000. Crummy, old Jeeps are $3000. You could probably talk people down from both, but I had expected to find beaten up old dirt bikes for about $300. I must really be living in the past.


A Feline Theocracy Catwa to Join ISHFTCILF

This is an official catwa of the Feline Theocracy! Read and obey!

Our Mother Superior of the Holy Order of Ocean Whitefish has attracted support celebrities from all over the world to fight for comment justice on blogs. Too long have some blogs hogged all the comments while others go commentless. Together with Bono, Kukka-Maria has created "I Still Haven't Found the Comments I'm Looking For" or ISHFTCILF. Brad Pitt, Oprah and others have joined the cause. Our Misionary to the Polytheistic has created this charming graphic to highlight the need for more evenly distributed comments.

Please feel free (after commenting here and with our Mother Superior) to right-click, save and re-size this ground-breaking logo so you can showcase your social conscience on your own blog. Tie the image back to the permalink of Mother Superior's post so people all over the world can be educated and inspired to join the fight for blog comment equality!

Our Maximum Leader has made it a top priority this feline liturgical year to bring comments (and more on-line poll votes) to all.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Caption the Photo - Blob Fish

A friend of mine sent me this picture of an odd fish that washed ashore following the tsunami a while back.

Leave an appropriate caption in the comments.

Letter from Iraq

Our Prelate to the Primates has posted a letter he received from his son in Iraq. Check it out.

Update: Hi, everybody! Lots of people are coming by this post from the trackback I sent to Gaius. There's nothing to see here at this post, but how about if you take a look at a post I wrote today wherein I discuss the long shadow Vietnam has cast on the way our military reports success? I think you'll like it. Feel free to look around in general.

I Want a Jeep

This is a pay per post ad. But I really want a 4WD Jeep so I can do my rockhounding in remote spots, so I would have written it anyway. is a website featuring classified ads for new and used cars and trucks. As my regular reader(s) know, I've gotten into rockhounding. All of the cool places to go look for rocks in Southern California require a 4WD vehicle unless you want to do some serious hiking on foot. Dig this Google Earth picture of one of the best spots, Wiley Wells.

Wiley Wells viewed from space.

You can see that the place is all sand and rocks. I have no intention of taking my precious Beach Bomber, a Nissan Altima out to the sand to get stuck. Instead, I want a Jeep. Not just any Jeep, mind you, but a real Willy's WWII-era Jeep. Like one of these.

How about this one?

Or this one?

I used to own a DeLorean. It was a really cool car. To be honest, the only reason you buy a DeLorean is so that people look at you as you drive by. It is a total Ego Car. I used to drive it along the beach here in San Diego and if not enough people stopped what they were doing to watch, I would make a U-turn and drive by again. Yes I do have inadequacy isses. Why do you ask?

Let's see what Lemonfree can do for DeLoreans...Here we are.

It doesn't get any cooler than that.

Go check out their Car Search yourself and see what you find. What kind of car are you looking for?

Vietnam's Very Long Shadow

For the past few years, you haven't been able to turn on the news without hearing how many people have been killed in Iraq. The dead people are always on one side. Ours. No one ever seems to count the bad guys getting greased. If we did this on sportscasts, we'd only give the score for one team.

How would you know who was winning?

Back in the day, when McNamara was running the DoD and the war in Vietnam was raging, the DoD published enemy body counts. McNamara was a fanatic for numerical metrics of success. "We've killed this many of them and they've killed that many of us, therefore we're winning." The press were told we were winning and was given a scoreboard of bodies.

When the North Vietnamese launched their disastrous Tet offensive, the press saw a major offensive action by an enemy they had been told was losing badly. Despite Tet being a catastrophe for the North Vietnamese, the press focused on what they thought was a pack of lies from the DoD. "You told us they were losing and here they launch this huge attack!" From that day to this, the scoreboard has shown only one score. The DoD was so burned by that experience that they've refused to go back to the days of telling us how many bad guys were taken out.

The end result is a one-sided scoreboard that convinces everyone we're losing. Are we? I'm not sure that discussion is even possible as most Americans have been convinced by the one score scoreboard that we aren't. Articles like this tell a different story.

The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.
I left off the author's name. Does it really make a difference who wrote it? Our one-sided scoreboard has so distorted reality that anyone making these claims is immediately disregarded as an administration stooge.

However, the technological, manpower and sheer firepower difference is huge. We've got it, they don't. An ancillary consequence of Vietnam is that not only do we no longer trumpet our successes, we don't even discuss our advantages. Dig this.

How would you like to be on the receiving end of that? Wouldn't that be a blow to your morale? Unfortunately, the DoD is so scared of setting themselves up to explain another Tet that they won't give the scoreboard for the bad guys. And the bad guys are getting creamed.

H/T: Our College of Cardinals.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Feline Action Movie!

Here she is, our Maximum Leader, doing what she does best!

Laying around.

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

Cool Tricks with CSS

Thanks to our Nun of the Above, we have found CSS Play, a site dedicated to fun things you can do with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). I need some time to go through all the tutorials and code snippets to find one I want to use. Or more than one.

State of the Union Analysis - Bauxite Independence!

President Bush recently gave his State of the Union speech. It's been analyzed all over the web. A crucial subject has yet to be touched, probably because it's so divisive and inflammatory.

Bauxite independence for the United States.


Bauxite is used to make aluminum. As more Americans lapse into middle age, they reach for cans of Diet Coke in the hopes of dieting their ways back to slender, youthful bodies. Those cans are made from aluminum and the best way to create aluminum is from bauxite. However, as the Mineral Information Institute tells us, the United States is dependent on foreign sources of bauxite for those diet coke cans.

Australia has huge reserves of bauxite, and produces over 40% of the world’s ore. Brazil, Guinea, and Jamaica are important producers, with lesser production from about 20 other countries. The United States’ production, which was important 100 years ago, is now negligible.

Our way of life is threatened by foreign bauxite suppliers.

Our dependence on foreign bauxite hamstrings our national security. Imported bauxite accounts for some of our trade deficit, with much of that money going to regimes we would never choose to subsidize. Rogue nations like Australia, Brazil, Guinea and Jamaica take our money and use it to fund efforts to subvert our interests by creating superior beer, excellent coffee, guinea pigs and cool reggae music.

The President in his speech and the Democrats in their response failed to address this crucial issue. We need a national strategy to create alternative sources of aluminum through massive government spending on academic research and subsidies to aluminum producers who look for alternatives.

If you're in favor of blowing billions of dollars on hopeless efforts to find substitutes for commodities insufficiently found in the U. S. in order to avoid sending money to a couple of psychotic heads of state whose regimes could be taken out relatively easily, then I leave you with a summation by C. S. Lewis from his novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

One day the cat got into the dairy and twenty of them were at work moving all the milk out; no one thought of moving the cat.

What Having Lots of Kids Says About You

Holy Scholar Happy Julie has the answer.

Tom Cruise Kills Oprah

Finally, it happened. Unfortunately, my money was on Rosie O'Donnell, suffocating Oprah in jelly donuts.

Has anyone told Laurence Simon yet? He needs to update his pool, if he's still doing it.

H/T: Holy Scholar Eric Scheske.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

World of Good, Gigi's Playhouse Style

Unbelievable. That's the only word I can use to describe what I came across while looking for this week's World of Good (WOG). As I read what this group does I marvelled at the beauty and, well, the holiness of the thing.

Gigi's Playhouse is a chain of educational centers for children with Down Syndrome. They are a not-for-profit organization staffed with full-time experts and part-time volunteers catering to the needs of children with this genetic disorder. Down Syndrome is a mismatch in chromosomes that occurs at conception. WebMD tells us the following.

Many children with Down syndrome have noticeable features, such as a flat face with small ears and mouth. Most young children have weak muscles (hypotonia), which generally improves by late childhood.

Below-average intelligence and physical problems often result in developmental disabilities. A child with Down syndrome may also be born with heart, intestinal, or ear and respiratory defects. These health conditions often lead to other problems, such as respiratory infections or difficulty hearing.
When I've seen parents with children that have Down Syndrome, I've always respected their courage at facing a lifetime of caring for a child that will always have extra needs. Gigi's Playhouse was designed to make their lives easier.

Who knew they had Moby Dick as a pop up book?

(They) offer activities, resources, educational programs and support for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community.

(At) GiGi's Playhouse (they) celebrate the lives and showcase the talents and potential of individuals with Down syndrome. This builds the individual's self-esteem and confidence as well as that of the parents.
Essentially, Gigi's Playhouse is a central collection point for all manner of resources for families dealing with Down Syndrome. They have literacy programs, playful activities, education for parents, guest speakers, and a social support network for parents and family members.

Smile! It's the paparazzi!

The biographies of their volunteers tell stories familiar to parents with Down Syndrome children. Here are some excerpts.

20 minutes after GiGi was born the doctors came into my room and told us she had Down syndrome. I can not even begin to tell you the total fear and devastation I felt...When my husband, Tom, and I found out our daughter Talia was born with Down syndrome and congenital heart defects, we were lost and did not know who to turn to for help, guidance,or simple words of encouragement...People looked at us as if we had drawn the short straw or been dealt a tough card.
At Gigi's Playhouse, Down Syndrome doesn't make you an outcast, it makes you part of the family.

Relax. You're among friends.

Does it work?
"“I watched as one of our children, who is doubly enhanced with DS AND autism...FLY around that place...touching, smiling, being SO busy...and LOVING every second of it...and was just totally blown away.THANK YOU ..THANK YOU...THANK YOU...not just for our day.....but for what you do!”--Email from a first time GiGi’s visitor

No caption necessary.

Gigi's Playhouse has been featured on local newscasts, particularly and at least one of the videos is still available on the web. Go take a look, it will make you smile.

To learn more about Gigi's Playhouse, visit their website.

For more about the World of Good and links to our list of more than twenty WOGs go to this post.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mother Superior, What Are You Doing?

Our Mother Superior of the Holy Order of Ocean Whitefish was recently photographed.

Explanation here.

What a Cop Takes

Brooke has a great post about being a police officer. Check it out.

H/T: Our Knight-Protector and Defender of Yarn Balls.

Overthinking Hillary

Our Patriarch of the Airwaves played the audio from a webcast by Hillary Clinton yesterday and parsed the speech. It wasn't pretty. Imagine the San Diego Chargers taking on your local high school football team. Hillary never seems to show evidence to support her "smartest woman in America" title and yesterday was no different.

One of the topics was our dependence on foreign oil. Hillary mentioned all the traditional politician claptrap about alternative energy sources, home-generated electricity from solar cells, geothermal and so on. As blogging genius Steven den Beste has written extensively, none of these will work, if for no other reason than the scale of the problem. We need terawatts of power and the alternative energy sources produce megawatts at best. It's physics, not politics that holds us back.

Hugh's destruction of Hillary was loads of fun and was done with his normal wit and panache, but it was mental overkill.

Hillary is not a candidate of ideas, she's a candidate of appearance. Each one of her lines had gone through more product testing than Kellogg's latest cereal. A good example was one that went something along the lines of, "Why are we paying money to buy oil from people who will use that money to buy weapons to kill us?"

Hugh made the point that if you changed the people in charge of the oil, you could give them all the money you wanted and no one would be trying to kill us, but there's another answer as well. We buy goods from China and China buys oil from Iran. If the US stopped buying oil from Iran, they would still get our money from China. That's just one example. There are many, many more. No matter how you work it, so long as the mad mullahs are in power, our dollars will find their way there and be used to buy weapons to kill us.

To top that, the weapons they're using to kill us are so cheap, they don't need our money at all. Now I'm overthinking. Hillary wasn't trying to solve the problem, she was trying to get elected. Her campaign is one colossal head feint, getting all of her opponents to waste their time responding to the empty content of her proposals. A better response would be to say that she was an airhead and make her defend her positions. Her greatest weakness is the stupidity of her positions. Opponents need to treat her like she was a moron and force her to prove otherwise.

Hillary's positions are simplistic and vapid because that's what focus groups have said the majority wants to hear. She's the Count Chocula of politics. A puffed up, processed piece of sugar-coated air. Utterly worthless, but delicious to children. I would argue that the American electorate is not childlike and if you pointed out how Hillary disrespects their intelligence, you could defeat her.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What a Great Season for the Saints

After digesting yesterday's loss and looking back on the wonderful 2006/7 season, I wanted to repost this graphic that a fellow on the SaintsReport message board created right after the NFL draft almost a year ago.

Bless you, boys.

Microbe Monday - The Practicalist

I spent a little time exploring some of the Insignificant Microbes in the Ecosystem when I came across Ben Clemens' blog, The Practicalist. I found some great posts. Here's one with a quote from Einstein that I heartily second.

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
— Albert Einstein
Ben's also got a good post about the utility of Digg and it's brethren.

the mob effects enabled by Digg, Slashdot, Technorati, and especially TechCrunch (which is a more a publicity firm than a blog, despite great instincts and virtuoso promotion of what I agree are good startups) are not the social Web at all, just reflections of existing and very old dynamics around attention -- more similar to the effects of traditional publicity than anything really new. On Digg and Slashdot and in the world of traditional press, seeking and getting attention is the coin of the realm, and people participate in these systems in order to create and promote their identity.
Read the whole thing. It's got an angle I had never thought of.

Nice blog, Ben! The only thing I would change would be having to register in order to comment. I've blogged about that problem before.

Update: TTLB still hasn't picked up these links. As of now, Ben's ranked #38,714. Let's see if it goes up in the next few days.

We've Won the Hugo Award!

Our Holy Canadian Scholar, Eh? has given the staff of The Scratching Post her very first Hugo award.

We've been trying to help her with some HTML and assorted other questions so she and Hugo gave us this charming award! We accept this with gratitude and humility. While Hugo is a dog, he is also black and white, a color scheme we favor. I'm sure he's a fine fellow indeed. Thanks, Hugo!

You can read Hugo's full post here.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rex Grossman vs....

I'm sitting here watching the Patriots-Colts game. The Colts have just tied it 21-21. While the Saints lost badly today, that game could best described as the Bears just standing around while the Saints shot themselves in the right foot, then the left foot and finally in the head. Rex Grossman was simply dreadful.

As I watch this game, all I can think is that the Bears will get crushed in two weeks. Rex Grossman vs. Peyton Manning? Peyton is running wild, ripping the Patriots to shreds. Rex Grossman vs. Tom Brady? Let's see here, Tom Brady's postseason record is what, 11-1 or something? He'll destroy the Bears.

Update: It's going to be Rex Grossman vs. Peyton Manning. I think it will look something like this. (Hint: Rex is the deer.)

Not-Quite-So-Perfect New Orleans Saints Postgame


Man, was that hard to watch. The Saints were able to move the ball and looked to be the better team for quite some time, but those four fumbles were just deadly. You've got to give it to the Bears, they played mistake-free football.

Whoever wins the Patriots-Colts game is just going to kill the Bears in the Super Bowl.

New Orleans Saints Pregame Perfection

Right now I'm cooking Jambalaya and Mixed Greens with Turnips and Tasso while listening to a replay of last week's Saints win over the Eagles on right before I go to a friend's house to watch the Saints-Bears game. He's a Saints fan, too.

Does it get any better than this?

I'm feeling really good about the Bears game. A Saints Super Bowl would be beyond words.

As an aside, for a great Cajun cookbook, check out this one, Cajun-Creole Cooking.

Life Sucks

This is another post in my series listing reasons why life sucks. In this series, I join the professional fuss-budgets and crybabies in the Mainstream Media (MSM) and put up posts illustrating how horrible life is.

Buried in the back sections of the newspaper, you might find an article from time to time about the growth of the Iraqi economy. I didn't find this one until our Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed it out. Here's what it had to say.

First, housing in Iraq is less affordable.
Did you know that Iraqi real-estate prices have gone up several hundred percent since the fall of Saddam Hussein?
A culture of greed is springing up.
That Iraqi workers' salaries have increased more than 100 percent in that time?
The terrorists don't lack for raw materials for their vehicle-borne IEDs.
That the number of cars in violence-torn Baghdad has grown by 500 percent in the same period?
Leisure time for the Iraqi people is declining precipitously.
That the Iraqi construction, retail and wholesale trade sectors are all growing at a healthy pace?
Some economists expect the total number of business bankruptcies to rise in the future.
the number of registered businesses has increased from 8,000 to 34,000 in three years;
Iraqi children increasingly are becoming "Blackberry orphans."
that the number of cell phone subscribers has increased from 1.4 million to 7.1 million;
Finally, many experts indicate that this rush to a modern economy will cause the Iraqi people to lose important parts of their culture. The increasingly frenzied pace of life forces them to spend less time sitting in cafes, drinking coffee.
The Global Insight firm,which tracks international economic activity, estimates Iraq's GDP growth at 17 percent for 2005 and projected 13 percent for 2006.
Here at our house, life is similarly bad. I recently planted some verbenas on a barren patch of soil in the hopes that they would spread and cover the unsightly dirt. Just look at what they're doing.

My verbenas, wasting precious resources blooming.

Here they are, sneering at me.

All of the energy they spend on those delicate, charming and cheerful flowers is energy they don't spend growing and covering the dirt. My plan is ruined.

Life sucks.

My Wish List from Optics Planet

This is a pay per post ad. But I've blogged before about wanting a digital microscope to share pictures of the unseen world of tiny creatures and mineral components of rocks before, so I would have done it anyway.

Optics Planet is an on-line retailer of all kinds of optics gear. Telescopes, night-vision goggles, binoculars, and...microscopes!

My kids being the curious sorts, are fascinated by what they see through our old microscope. We've found all kinds of uses for it. We've looked at water from the gutter (full of wigglies!), rocks (all those specks are different minerals!), salt crystals (ooh! Pretty!) and dirt. Yes, dirt. It turns out dirt under a microscope looks the same as rocks, only the mineral components are teeny.

What we want is a digital micrscope so we can take photos to our computer and share them on this blog. And bore the living daylights out of all of you. I digress.

Here's what Optics Planet has to offer. There's a page for microscopes. There's a page for digital microscopes. When I went there, I saw six different ones offered. Let's see which one I like best so all of you can get together and buy it for me as a about this one? The TMH4-BF-E Lomo multiscope. It will magnify up to 2500x and looks like it can fit my digital camera.

Dig this little promotional blurb.

Ready to use "out-of-the box", the TMH4-BFis capable of performing urinalysis tests, protozoan hunts, mycological sporeanalysis, blood counts, clinical samples and more!
Protozoan hunts?!? Wahoo! I'll be just like Teddy Roosevelt! (Not so much on the urinalysis, though. I don't think Teddy and the Rough Riders were that big on looking at each other's pee.)

Teddy Roosevelt hunting for protozoa.

It would be a great gift for me, hint, hint, hint. If you all chipped in together, it wouldn't cost much per person. There must be, what, three regular readers of The Scratching Post? That's only $250 per person. A pittance when you consider all the drivel I spew on a daily basis for your entertainment.

Anyway, if you're interested in optics, check out Optics Planet. They've got all kinds of brands, including Barska.

Why Hillary Will Lose

Hillary Clinton is running for the presidency. Hillary Clinton will lose. Want to know why? She reminds every divorced guy of their ex-wife. A shrill, self-important harpy who will do anything to get what they want.

Her latest bit is sending out hit teams to dig up dirt on Barack Obama. It turns out Barack was raised as a Muslim in Indonesia. Hillary's team is spreading this calumny far and wide. "Look out! He went to a Muslim grade school twenty years ago! Don't vote for him, he might strap semtex to his chest and blow up the Senate!"

We should be so lucky.

Update: I just reealized that this post is likely to insult a large portion of my readers, the divorced women. I don't think I'm having a good week. To register your complaints, go here.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Cyborg Name Is...

Kinetic Transforming Construct Assembled for Troubleshooting

Get Your Cyborg Name

Ben Bernanke is a Party Pooper

Well, the Democrats are now in charge of the national wallet and everyone's getting a raise in their allowance. Higher minimum wage! Health care for all! More money for education! Ponies for all the children! Lots and lots of ponies!

It's all going to be free.

Until we get the credit card bill and we all have to flee to Ecuador to escape our creditors. Ecuador may be nice, but I don't think it can handle all 250,000,000 of us.

Nancy Pelosi's party has just begun and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is pooping all over it. There's poop in the punch bowl, on the appetizers, on the drapes, on the sofa and in the sink. The Wall Street Journal's got the goods on this Scrooge in a suit. (Subscription may be required.) Here's a bit of what that tightwad had to say.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that rising health-care and Social Security spending could create a "vicious cycle" of rising debt and interest payments and an eventual fiscal crisis.

While breaking no new ground, Mr. Bernanke's testimony was notable for its emphasis on the consequences of a rising national debt -- the sum of all annual budget deficits -- rather than the annual deficit alone. The debt, he noted, would reach almost 100% of GDP by 2030 according to the Congressional Budget Office, a level previously reached only during World War II. The annual interest on that debt would be 4.6% of GDP, triple the current level.

"A vicious cycle may develop in which large deficits lead to rapid growth in debt and interest payments, which in turn adds to subsequent deficits," he said. Similar "debt spirals" have contributed to financial crises in other countries, a subject Mr. Bernanke studied as an academic. "Ultimately, this expansion of debt would spark a fiscal crisis, which could be addressed only by very sharp spending cuts or tax increases, or both," he said.
Don't think for a second that the Democrats represent any kind of change. That debt didn't make itself. The Republicans have been spraying a firehose of money at the country for the last 6 years. Luckily for all of the drunks at the party, the liquor's still flowing.

Despite senators' praise, it is unclear whether his advice will have much direct impact.
Yay! Carpe diem! Let's all get hammered tonight! Tomorrow may never come at all.

Encyclocentral A - A Cappella

This is a pay per post ad. But it gave me a chance to post a Monkees YouTube video, so I would have done it anyway.

Encyclocentral A is a website with an alphabetized list of hyperlinked topics such as A Cappella. "What's A Cappella," you ask? Well, it means without instrumental accompanyment. Like this.

This is Riu Chiu from the Monkees Christmas Special.

Post Open Thread Post Post Post Analysis Post Poll

That last post may have been a bit insulting. It's been brewing in my mind for weeks and I just had to do it. I didn't mean it to be insulting, I was just writing a bit of pointed humor. To gauge reader reaction and determine the amount of damage control grovelling I need to do, I've created the following poll.

In order to make it look like I've got more readers than I really do, you can check as many boxes as you like and you can vote every day. That way no one will be able to tell just how pathetically unpopular I am. In fact, I'm going to use this technique to manufacture a bunch of votes on this poll.
How Do You Feel About The Open Thread Post Post Post blah blah blah
I'm a regular reader and I was insulted
I'm a regular reader and I was not insulted
You don't have any regular readers
You're lucky Google search sends you anyone at all
I am a paranoid, cave-dwelling troglodyte and I've contacted my attorney
I don't participate in polls
Free polls from

Friday, January 19, 2007

Open Thread Post Post Post Analysis Post

The crack editorial staff here at the The Scratching Post (a lazy cat and a manic hamster) are hard at work attempting to resolve the technical difficulties posed by the previous open thread post. We are trying to embrace the Web 2.0 paradigm of user-generated content and yet cater to the needs of our readers, the vast majority of which are either mute, lazy lurkers or paranoid, cave-dwelling troglodytes. Or both.

Artist's conception of 90% of our readers.

We are also working on an advertising campaign that will work for either. We're toying with a combination of Preparation H and earmuffs. Or perhaps one slathered on the other.

Update: I put up a poll about this post. Feel free to go and vote and tell me how insulted you are.

Open Thread

In the fine tradition of bloggers from all sides of the polticial spectrum, Atrios (liberal), LGF (conservative) and Kos (insane), I've created my first open thread so that all of my readers can talk among themselves in the comments.

Since almost no one leaves comments on this blog, I've closed the comments.

What It's Been Like as a Saints Fan

Here's a little excerpt from a video about the New Orleans Saints that shows what things have been like for those of you who haven't followed the Saints.

I can remember watching the live updates on for the game they showed. At the time, I don't think they were broadcasting the audio, but you could watch the text version of the play-by-play. The game readout said "0:08 remaining" and the Saints up by 6 for a long time. The updates simply stopped. And then all of a sudden, the update just read, "PAT Good" and the score read "Final" with the Browns winning.

I sat there saying, "What PAT? What are they talking about? This has to be a mistake! The Browns were miles away from the end zone!"

Open heart surgery indeed.

Friday Funny

I'm blessed to go to a church with a great priest, Father Dennis Clark. He opens every homily with a joke that cuts to the heart of the issue of the day. He also podcasts his sermons and publishes them in pdf format. He's the best. Here's his joke from last week.

A financial wizard was giving his young son his first lesson on life in the world of big business. “There are two things that are absolutely essential, if you want to succeed in business,” he said, “integrity and sagacity.”

“What’s integrity, dad?” asked the youngster.

“Integrity means no matter what, always keep your word.”

“And what’s sagacity?” asked the boy.

“Ah,” smiled the tycoon. “Sagacity means no matter what, never ever give your word!”
You can find the sermon here and the podcast here.

Fiddling with Electronics Today

Blogging will be light today as I fiddle around with my camera, TiVo and other odds and ends to try to set up a process for getting more and better raw material for the blog.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

We Shouldn't Laugh at Pain

Tricia, of Tricia's Musings and As the Garden Grows, has posted a photo of a snowman posed in such a way so as to make light of pain. One commenter on her site took her to task for the photo and we absolutely agree with them. Here at The Scratching Post, we take this very seriously indeed and do not condone such behavior. There is nothing funny about that at all, nor is there humor in anything that might ever offend anyone in any way, shape or form.

Just to show how serious this matter is, we have asked Dick Van Dyke to speak about the subject. Tricia, I hope you take careful note of this and reflect on what you've done.

The San Diego Chargers' New Rallying Cry

Now that Marty Schottenheimer has been retained for another season, we can all look forward to a great 2007 regular season and a head-scratching debacle in the playoffs next year. That leads us to the Chargers' new rallying cry.

"Just wait 'til the year after next!"

ESPN's Page 2 published a review of Marty's playoff history, complete with a Marty Gag Rating. Great stuff.

Another columnist whose column I can't find now asked the pertinent question. If he can't win a playoff game with a totally dominant team like this, playing at home with two weeks to prepare, when will he ever win?

Save the Snowman!

Global warming has some people ready to end it all.

Thursday Thirteen, Low Energy Edition

When I came home last night, it was dark and cold at the house. I wanted to post a World of Good (WOG), but I just didn't have the energy for it. This morning, it's dark and cold and I don't have a lot of energy, either. Consequently, I'm writing a low energy Thursday Thirteen.

Thirteen things I do when I don't have much energy and I'm alone.

1. I grab a wee nip of the true and play Age of Empires. It's my default behavior. When I can't think of anything else to do, I play Age. I've worked out the mathematics of the game and the goal is to win in less than 50 minutes game time which is about 25 minutes of real time at the game speed I play.

2. I reheat some leftovers and watch TV. Last night I re-watched the Chargers-Patriots game. Urgh!

3. The Chargers just announced that they decided to keep Marty Schottenheimer for another year.

4. My new Chargers rallying cry: "Just wait 'til the year after next!"

5. If it's morning and I'm low on energy I wait for the caffeine to kick in from my java.

6. I only make two cups.

7. I'm trying to cut down. On days when I'm bad, I have four cups total throughout the day. On good days, I stick with just those two cups. Most days are in between.

8. In the morning, I go through my blogging routine. That will be the subject of a future Thursday Thirteen. I can tell that it's a low energy morning when I can't find anything to write about.

9. All of this is making me want to research energy levels in people. All of that hooey about biorhythms, horoscopes and so forth must come from an intrinsic need for us to explain the blues. If you always felt good, you wouldn't need an explanation. You'd be too busy running out to have fun.

10. If I've blogged myself into a corner, it effects my energy. Lately I've been writing a lot about rockhounding and corporate management. It's pretty dry stuff and I know it. I haven't done anything funny or colorful in a while. I want to do it, but my muse has been silent and I haven't had the inspiration.

11. Last night I fell asleep before 8PM. I treated it like a nap and figured I'd wake up in the middle of the night and be able to do a short photo session with Jacob. Since he's nocturnal, getting photos or movies of him is very difficult. I ran out of original photos of the little guy long ago.

12. The few times I woke up, our Maximum Leader was pressed up against me and it was too cold outside the covers and too warm inside them to get up. I clicked on the end of the Chargers game and watched that and a bit of the Saints-Eagles game.

13. I maintain that each of us has a finite supply of psychic energy. I don't mean psychic as in ESP, I mean it as a generic term for the energy we have to get things done. Work has occupied a great deal of thought and effort lately and I find that I'm less creative on my blog. I know what I want to write about, but I don't have the energy to do it. I've resolved to get some blog posts written over the weekend so I can just auto-post them during the week when I'm too tired to write something.

Whew. That's done and I'm exhausted! Time to sip some more java and see what all of you had to say this week.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Management by Xenon

I've written before about our organization's infatuation with process improvements. We so lack self-confidence that we're constantly reaching for someone outside to give us management wisdom. Lean Six Sigma, Whole Goals, High Performing Organizations, Balanced Scorecard, the list goes on and on.

At a recent meeting, where we decided to use a Whole Goals approach to a Lean Six Sigma event in response to our High Performing Organizations strategic plan to develop a new PowerPoint template for our semi-annual management reviews, it dawned on me that we were doing management by Xenon.

What do I mean by that?

Well, Xenon is an inert gas. That is, it doesn't react with anything unless it's forced to do so by a lot of external pressure. It vibrates and moves around, but accomplishes nothing.

(Warning: Tangential topic approaching at warp speed!)

I just ran across Guy Kawasaki's marvellous blog, How to change the World. The guy is a pretty deep thinker and writes about marketing, management, Web 2.0 and the new world of communicating and networking in general. His posts are original and well-researched.

It's a sure bet that no one in our management chain has read his work or any of the people he cites. One of the side effects of management by Xenon is a lack of quiet, reflective learning time. It's rush, rush, rush to the next meeting, the next training session, the next email barrage. Effectively, professional development ceases as soon as you become a high-level manager.

Management by Xenon crushes organizational innovation from above. If I read Guy Kawasaki's blog and find something fascinating and applicable, I will not be able to bring it to the attention of our management. Their time is wholly consumed with one frantic effort after another. Their days are scheduled in 15 and 30 minute increments. There is no way you can have a deep discussion about a new concept in 30 minutes. It probably takes that long for the adrenaline from the last frantic meeting to subside.

The end result? A caste system. Management spins off into its own world of buzzwords and process improvement flowcharts. The remainder of the organization separates itself from them. No reactions and no effect. Just like adding Xenon to a chemical reaction.

How about if we put that on the glossy brochures from the consultants who peddle these things?

Update: A chemist friend of mine suggested that it should be "Management by Helium" since Xenon can actually be made to do things under sufficient pressure and external conditions while Helium cannot ever be made to do anything. We then both decided that Xenon sounds much more mysterious and alien and left it as is.

The Relentless Idiocy of AdSense

Take a look at the ads AdSense is running on my left sidebar from my root page. It's all idiotic cat products. Every time I turn around, there's more of them. I keep grabbing their URLs and sticking them in my "remove" list on AdSense and more of them pop up. Here is my current "banned" list of advertisers.

I've banned all of those and I still get nearly 100% pet products listed on my left sidebar. AdSense is supposed to be incredibly smart and send you ads related to your content. How come it can't take a look at what I don't want, or better yet, ask me what I do want and then send me those ads.

The entire AdSense model runs contrary to the composable nature of the web. I should be able to pick out the ads I want to run and not constantly be playing Whack-a-Mole with AdSense.

I've Left the MSM far Behind

I stopped my subscription to the San Diego Union over a year ago. I don't get any magazines, either. Recently, I was at a little Chinese take-out restaraunt waiting for my order and picked up a copy of the Union lying on a table. As I looked through it, I couldn't understand why they had printed so many articles I didn't want to read.

It was an irrational, instantaneous, emotional reaction, but it made me realize that my reading habits have changed forever. In the mornings, I sit down at my computer and go read the things I'm interested in. I look at fianancial news, stories about the New Orleans Saints, news from the cultural war in Europe and so on.

I compose my own newspaper from a wide variety of sources. There's no way a static newspaper could provide me what I want. The slide of the Mainstream Media (MSM) is irreversible. They have an inferior product because they make it too hard to get what I'm looking for. Michelle Malkin, Bill Roggio and Michael Yon are frequently held up as examples of just why the MSM is doing so poorly. A much better example to hold up is the front page of your local newspaper.

Reporting from Iraq

Michelle Malkin and her Hot Air production crew went to Baghdad. Check out their first video here.

This is reporting the way it's supposed to be. It told me what the soldiers were trying to do, how they were doing it and it showed me the conditions on the ground. What you see in the video are the day-to-day occurances, not the deaths and violence and mayhem.

Great job, Michelle.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I Need a Topic

I need a topic for tomorrow's World of Good (WOG). Any suggestions? Tutoring for people with Down's Syndrome? Kids starting recycling centers at their schools? Craftsmen volunteering in poor neighborhoods?

What do you think?

If you've never seen a WOG, here's what they're all about.

What if you Asked for a Vote and Nobody Bothered?

This morning I discovered Guy Kawasaki's outstanding blog about venture capitalists, business, marketing, Web 2.0 and so on. At the end of each post, he has this cool little widget that allows you to rate the post, 1-5 stars. It shows the average rating to date and the number of people that have voted.

For him, it works, but what if you used it on your blog and no one ever voted? At the end of each post you'd see "0 out of 5 stars from 0 votes." Talk about wearing a "loser" label. Not only does no one comment, but they can't even manage to click on a star. That's even easier than the back-breaking two clicks it takes to vote in a pollhost poll. I don't think I'd risk it until I was getting well over 1000 hits a day.

I want a widget that reads the visitor's mind and votes for them.

Slow News Day

Refreshed with sleep, java in hand, I sit down to see what's new and different in the world and give everyone my very important opinion about it, only to find...nothing. Nothing at all of interest. Nothing in the Wall Street Journal, nothing provocative on the blogs, nothing but some photos from yesterday's rockhounding trip. I'm loathe to post those since I seem to have been posting a lot about rocks lately.


Adrift at Sea

Cast adrift in a cardboard box raft on a sea green carpet, our Maximum Leader finally washed ashore against the bed. Alone and without sustenance for weeks days hours a long nap, she looks up, hoping for rescue. And tuna. And some water from the sink. Out of your hand. And some petting. Please?

While I was lost at sea, all I could think of was tuna.

All the time, I was surrounded by a Great White!
You have no idea how hungry that makes you.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fire Marty Schottenheimer!

The Chargers had no business losing yesterday's playoff game against the Patriots. The dropped balls, the stupid penalties and the horrific play calling are all traceable back to the coach.

The game plan against the Pats should have been pretty simple. About 25 minutes into the game, you could see the plan for success, plain as day. The Chargers had the better team. All they had to do was play aggressive defense, work field position and get LaDainian Tomlinson the ball outside the tackles as often as possible, both with runs around end and screen passes. In the second quarter, for example, LaDainian took a screen pass about 40 yards to the Pats 5. They just had no answer for him at all.

On defense, up until Marty had a brain seizure in the last two minutes of the first half, they had Tom Brady on the run and totally out of sync. Then they started playing a base 4-3 zone against him. That gave him all day to throw the ball and he carved them up, driving 75 yards in about 110 seconds for a TD.

There wasn't anything complicated about the game. If you look at the statistics prior to that 75 yard drive, the Chargers totally dominated the game. They could have done the same things over and over and just crushed the Pats. They clearly had the superior athletes.

Then comes the boneheaded plays, like Drayton Florence head-butting a Patriots' player in front of the refs, or the interception late in the 4th quarter that the Chargers' idiot tried to run with and ended up fumbling. The game plan should have been beaten into their heads. Just relax and do what you normally do. Don't take chances. Terrorize Tom Brady and let LaDainian do the scoring. Don't get into fights on the field. There's no way San Diego could lose that game.

They did lose that game and there's one reason. Marty Schottenheimer just cannot be trusted to win a playoff game. 14-2 in the regular season and a one and done playoffs is the best you can expect from him. His team and his coaching staff were totally unprepared. They all need to go. Keep the players, lose the coaches.

Shell Canyon Road Trip

Today the kids and I went to Shell Canyon out by Ocotillo Wells to look for cool stones and fossilized shells. I had never seen fossils before and I wasn't sure what to look for. Fortunately, we ran into a woman who was out looking for fossils and she showed us. If you haven't been shown, they're pretty tough to see. Once you know where and how to look, it's pretty easy.

Where's the fossilized shell?

There's the fossilized shell!

Shell Canyon is about 90 miles east of San Diego, right off of I-8.

Blogging will be Light Today...

...because my daughter is having a sleepover and they're in the room with our desktop machine. I'm typing this on a laptop and getting a stiff neck. Laptops make me hurt.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunset for the Chargers

The sun has gone down on Mission Bay, San Diego's beaches and the San Diego Chargers' season. The Chargers just lost to the Patriots, 24-21.

Marques Colston key to Saints Victory

As Marques Colston's unofficial publicist, I have to point out that my main man had some crucial plays in yesterday's dramatic win over the Eagles. Dig this.

Marques (far right) throwing a black to spring Reggie Bush on an amazing cut back run.

He had 5 catches for 55 yards in the game. True to form, Drew Brees threw to a wide variety of receivers. That's OK. We're all about the team, all about winning. Throwing a block is just as good as catching a pass if it helps the team.

This photo comes courtesy of Dubya over at

Dean Barnett is in Over his Head

Dean Barnett, guest blogging at our Patriarch of the Airwaves' blog, has a post blasting our Holy Ambassador to the Court of the Mainstrem Media, Peggy Noonan. This may be the first time that two members of the Feline Theocracy have gone at it. Apparently, Peggy's analysis of President Bush's recent speech on Iraq was too pointed or too superficial or too something or other. Whatever.

The United States is not a pre-emptive country. That is, we do not start wars. It took Pearl Harbor to get us into WW II. We shrugged off the Japanese invasion of China, the fall of France and the Nazi invasion of Russia and stayed where we were until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in a fit of suicidal insanity. After that we beat the crap out of everyone.

9/11 was an impulse function to us. It drove us to take action. That impulse is dying down. We're tired and bored and just want the whole thing to go away so we can go back to watching "2 1/2 Men." Which, by the way, is a hideously unfunny show. All the name calling and yelling doesn't change who we are as a nation. No matter what the danger is, we just do not take violent, pre-emptive measures against our enemies. The nutjob in Iran can make all the speeches he wants and we'll still go snowboarding next weekend. If he makes the mistake of attacking, we'll turn Iran into slag.

Our enemies never manage to figure this out. They see our lazy, slovenly ways as a sign of weakness. It's not. Osama thought that Bill Clinton fleeing Somalia defined us. He urged more attacks on the US. He was wrong. The Japanese figured things the same way and got flattened as a result.

Maybe raping Nanking and bombing Pearl Harbor wasn't such a good idea.

While General Tojo and Osama got it wrong, so has Dean Barnett. He wants everyone to be up in arms about Iran or Iraq or Syria or Dirkadirkastan. Whatever. I'm going to go scour YouTube for funny videos and hang out with my kids. Call me when the bombs hit. After that, watch out.

Light from the Catacombs

Ron Schott, geologist extraordinaire and our Keeper of the Catacombs, wrote such a marvelous comment to our post asking about the geology of our favorite rockhounding spots that it deserves its own post. I took the liberty of adding links to the words in his post that I had to look up.

The two spots you've highlighted appear superficially similar in terms of their geographic setting - that is to say, they are both outcrops of basement (bedrock) that rises out from under (not over) a sea of more recent sediments. Based solely on the aerial photos, I wouldn't be surprised if the abrupt transition from sedimentary basin to uplifted bedrock mountains was a fault (not necessarily recent) in each area, but I haven't looked at a geologic map yet (and the outcrops are, sadly, too distant to visit for a quick inspection from here in Kansas).

You are right to associate crystal size with cooling conditions of the magma. The most direct correlation that geologists generally make is that large crystals are the result of slow cooling of magma, deep underground, whereas smaller crystals are associated with more rapid cooling of magmas that make it to the surface (lavas) or shallow subsurface. It's the rate of cooling rather than the specific cooling temperature that makes the biggest difference.

In detail, it's a function of the degree of undercooling and the nucleation vs. the growth rates of crystals of individual minerals. The presence of magmatic fluids, such as H2O (water, but not in its familiar liquid form) can also aid in the growth of large crystals.

Because individual plutons within the Peninsular Ranges Batholith were intruded at different times and under different conditions, they will have different compositions and textures (crystal sizes).
Here's what I learned. The mountain ranges that pop up out of the desert may themselves be made up of subordinate chunks of rock, called plutons. Each pluton may have formed differently from it's neighbors and hence have different sized mineral crystals. That explains why some spots have nothing but granite and basalt and others just a few miles away may have large chunks of quartz.

Our discussion of the melting temperatures of various minerals deserves a simplified example. Rocks are made up of mineral crystals. Each mineral melts at a different temperature. For example, quartz melts at about 1650C. As an aside, the amethysts in the ring you give your sweetheart are varieties of quartz. Mica melts at about 1000C. That means that if a molten deposit of mica and quartz cools slowly enough, the quartz will form large crystals while the mica around it remains liquid. If it cools or crystalizes quickly, then you get a mix of the two and all the rockhound finds is another uninteresting rock.

I believe that our Keeper of the Catacombs is considering a longer post on the subject at his blog. I'm looking forward to it.

Neil Shearing Blog Review

This is a pay per post ad. But had I found his blog on my own, I would have reviewed it here anyway.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I have written quite a bit analyzing my AdSense results. In short, they suck. Neil Shearing's blog is all about various ways of making money on line. It's got some interesting posts about other financial matters as well. He kind of reminds me of Larry Kudlow. Here's a recent post of his taking on a hysterical article in the press.

Today, in the Telegraph online we have this claim…

“Home repossessions are expected to soar after the Bank of England took the shock decision yesterday to raise interest rates by a quarter of a point to 5.25 per cent.”

Oh, C’mon now! A 0.25% increase in the Bank of England base rate, slightly earlier than expected (and it was expected to happen in February) and suddenly we are hearing that repossessions will “soar”.
Neil goes on to analyze the underlying numbers and finds out that there's nothing alarming going on at all. It's just your typical "let's induce mass panic" articles in the press.

Neil does a good job weeding out winners and losers in on line advertising schemes. Most blogs like his are short on science and long on blather. He actually did a substantial survey upon which he will base future posts. He discusses the survey and the response levels he got at this post.

I was surprised at his response rate. Here at The 'Post, we get response rates on our surveys of about 1-5%. He got substantially more than that. While I'm simply throwing out surveys to readers in my posts, he must be targeting his a little more carefully.

I'm looking forward to his analysis of the survey results.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?

Update: A lot of people have been hitting this page from Google searches. This was originally a post for my friends, gloating about the Saints beating the Eagles in the playoffs. If you're looking for lots of Saints news and information, check out

New Orleans 27, Philadelphia 24

Our house was, is and will be rockin'!

Catymology has some Great Photography Today

Sometimes when I see a great photo on a blog I'll borrow it and then link to the blog. Our Poet Laureate has some photos today too good to repost here. Check them out.

I love the rich, warm tones of the wood mixed with the silvery white fur. The gourd adds a rich, darker contrast as well. Wow.

Why Lean Six Sigma Works Only Sometimes

In a previous post I took out my frustrations on our organization's Lean Six Sigma (LSS) effort in a vitriolic manner. A comment on that post got me to thinking in a more reasoned way. Why is it that I don't like LSS?

It works for some companies, sometimes.

LSS is a technique for reducing any effort to it's component activities and then analyzing those processes for ways to become more efficient. GE is held up by LSS advocates as a LSS success story. I haven't researched the story, but apparently they experienced a great increase in profits from the use of LSS.

LSS works great if efficiency is your problem. It doesn't work so well if your problem is that you have a lousy marketing department, you signed a bad contract or your business model has grown out of date. LSS requires you to spend a great deal training your people and keep full-time LSS experts on staff. It is presumed that the efficiencies they uncover will pay for the effort. I would argue that this is a fallacy.

An organization using LSS typically prioritizes candidate LSS projects based on their Return on Investment (ROI). It tackles the ones with the best ROI first. Meanwhile, since the LSS experts are on staff, the cost remains constant. The following chart shows what happens over time.

Conceptual comparison of LSS costs vs. returns as a function of LSS project.

Eventually you get down to the projects whose ROI is less than your recurring LSS costs. After that point, LSS is a loser. How many organizations out there do a good job terminating bad projects? Not many. Most corporate efforts outlive their usefulness by a longshot and internal process improvement ones are no different. LSS is just one more.

Profit is income minus expenses. In gross terms, LSS helps you reduce your expenses by making you more efficient. Expenses have a minimum level. If you manufacture drive shafts, you can't get the steel or machinery for free. LSS will help you asymptotically approach that minimum cost. If you're already close to that minimum cost, then LSS is not a good fit.

I would bet that GE and the other LSS success stories were cases where the companies biggest problems lay in efficiency. If your problem is somewhere else, such as corporate branding, strategic vision or company infighting, then LSS is not the way to go. I would also suggest that LSS eventually wears out its welcome as the chart above shows.

I still don't like it, but at least now I know why. I wonder what our Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks.

For more posts on business, management and such, visit this week's Carnival of the Capitalists.