Saturday, March 31, 2007

Playing It Safe

Whenever I come back from travel, our Maximum Leader tries to stay as close to me as possible. She's missed my company and wants just to be near me. Because I am unpacking and taking care of things that have piled up since I left, I typically walk from room to room, something that is inscrutable to cats. K T plays it safe by laying down right outside the door to the study so she can monitor my progress as I move from room to room.

For more feline watchfulness, visit this week's Carnival of the Cats.

Dogwood, Cherry and Sky

I just flew in from Washington, DC and boy, are my arms tired!

No, the Geneva Convention does not prohibit me from using that joke over and over again. Stop asking.

While there, I got a few minutes to see the local trees in bloom. This time I decided to take a few shots looking up at the sky from below the blooming trees. The white one I'm almost certain is a dogwood (what a horrible name for a beautiful tree) and the red one, I think, is a cherry. Click on the photos for larger images. It's worth it.

One of these trees was found in Maryland and the other was in Virginia. For those Virginiaphiles out there, such as the ones that visit the Carnival of Virginia, see if you can guess which one, just by looking at the sky.


Friday, March 30, 2007

A Little Bit of Paradise in Chicago O’Hare

Gates K2 and H3 are heaven. Heaven is here defined as “CNN-free.” Having endured 90 minutes of CNN at Washington Reagan, it’s paradise to be squeezed into a small space in a crowded waiting area, even if it is in front of a gate that doesn’t belong to my flight, just to be away from the incessant drumbeat of putrescence that is CNN. At Reagan, I sat through Wolf Blitzer’s crocodile tears over another serviceman killed in Iraq. No mention of the Seabees rebuilding school houses, no video of the dental or medical teams providing care across the countryside, no mention of projects like Spirit of America bringing new economic opportunities, no discussion of the economic boom in Kurdistan, just some mournful funeral dirges and ill-concealed gloating about how some poor fellow met his end. That was followed by the creepily androgynous Anderson Cooper holding forth on who knows what, his subject being obscured by the general cloud of eeriness that surrounds him.

I wonder if airport executives ever come by to see the difference. In this tiny oasis of sanity, the people are talking in normal tones and they appear much less stressed, despite the fact that tornadoes across Texas are wrecking everyone’s schedules. I’ll say it again. If you have to have video entertainment blasted at you in the airport, for the love of God, why not travel videos?

How about something like this?

Addendum: For whatever reason, the whole of the H concourse at O’Hare seems to be blessedly free of the scourge of CNN. There are a few spots infested by it, but for the most part the airport appears to be spared that video plague. We’ve changed gates three times and had the plane delayed similarly and as I’ve walked from one spot to another, Wolf Blitzer and his coven glare at me only occasionally.

Ahhhhhhh. I can handle the delays if they’re all like this.

For more posts about travel, please visit (what else?) the Carnival of Travel!

America is Morally Superior to Iran

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.
As you explore the choices (to adopt children) before you, let us (the American adoption agency linked above) be part of that journey. Our adoption consultants, many who have adopted themselves, know some of your personal concerns. Please think of our agency as a resource... a place where you may very well begin to walk the path that will make that dream a reality. Infants and toddlers are waiting for you. Their lives will be forever changed through adoption by loving and caring couples. These wonderful little children live in orphanages in Russia, China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Guatemala. They wait too!
Does it bother you to read this?

Failing Our Test Means We Have To Take It Again

When it first happened, I didn't think much of it. I thought that the Iranian capture of the 15 British sailors was an act of small theater, an attempt to tweak the Brits a little bit. Having mulled it over, I no longer think so. I think it's the Iranians testing us again and finding us weak.

First it was capturing the Israelis in Lebanon through their Hezbollah puppets. The Israelis turned out to be paper tigers. Their reserve forces were poorly equipped and totally unprepared for the conflict in Lebanon. They went into Lebanon, smashed a few things and then left without having freed their captured soldiers. In a conventional war, this would have been a defeat for the Iranians and their clients. The Israeli kill ratio was tens to one against Hezbollah.

This isn't a conventional war. The Iranians routinely used children to sweep minefields in the Iran-Iraq war. They place no value at all on human life. Zero. I would bet that little experiment was considered a success in Iran. Now they've gone after the Brits. The Brits haven't responded with Newt's cunning idea, instead they've gone to the UN and asked for a resolution. What an utterly pathetic response. It proves that America's best ally, Britain, is just as much a paper tiger as the Israelis.

Britain spread civilization throughout the world. Whatever happened to British confidence?

Who's left for the Iranians tweak? We are. The Iranians are already in Iraq, trying to kill Americans. We're not doing anything about that, either.

They don't speak our language. The UN means nothing to them. I don't think most Americans get it. Raised in a multicultural goo where the vast majority of our popular culture and educational establishment works to convince you that all cultures and all lifestyles are equal, as our College of Cardinals recently posted, the Iranian government lives in a world of absolute moral authority. They are right, we are wrong. Their righteousness grants them license to do anything they want against us.

Meanwhile, our popular culture works against us. If we had captured Iranian prisoners and paraded them in front of the TV as the Iranians did that poor British woman, the New York Times would go berserk as they did with Abu Ghraib. In order to prove that all cultures are equal, the NYT has to downplay Iranian atrocities and focus on ours. It's the only way they can counteract the overwhelming evidence of the cultural superiority of America over Iran.

Our Missionary to the Frozen Northern Wastelands left a comment on a previous post asking if the Royal Navy had the power to carry out a blockade of Iranian ports as Newt Gingrich suggested. Despite their massive cuts in their fleet, they still have the firepower to deal with the Iranians. That's not the issue.

What the Iranians are proving through each of these tests is that the West lacks the will to use their weapons. I don't think most people realize just how grave this situation is. By running to the UN, a body that put genocidal Sudan on their Human Rights panel, the British have shown themselves to be a pack of bedwetters just like the Continental Europeans. The only thing the Iranians lack now is the ability to deal a crushing blow to the West.

This is a huge turning point in the world. The Brits are failing to stand up for themselves. The Israelis didn't stand up for themselves. The West is consumed with multiculturalistic equivalence and it's all wrong.

The United States, Britain and Israel, Australia and the rest are better than Iran. Period. We're better culturally, better technologically, better militarily and better economically. We're freer, happier, more successful and morally superior. The evidence is all around us and totally overwhelming. Our educational system and popular culture have done their best to obscure this to the point where we can't even defend our own innocent sailors because we're so unsure of ourselves.

Make no mistake, failing this test ensures other, more terrible tests in the future. This has got to be stopped before the test becomes overwhelming.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poetry Readings

Our Poet Laureate's amanuensis gave readings of his work recently at a coffee house in Minneapolis. Apparently it was well received. A romp in the garden followed. Check out the story and the poems at their blog.

By the way, "Catted" is my favorite.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This Is Why I Love Newt Gingrich

Dig this cool bit from our Patriarch of the Airwaves interview with Newt.

Two Quick Links

Our Missionary to the Frozen Northern Wastelands was in San Diego last week and took some outstanding photos. Go take a look.

One of the coolest things about Web 2.0 is that it exposes you to concepts and subjects you've either never seen before or were never interested in before. For me, it's been geology and marketing, among others. For our Archbishop of Texas, it's...well, go see for yourself.

World of Good, Monarch Butterfly Style

When I was a boy living in Oklahoma, I remember a year when a huge cloud of monarch butterflies flew across the Air Force base where I was living. When I say huge, I mean that whole trees were coated with monarchs, as if the trees' bark had come to life and sprouted gorgeous orange and black and yellow wings. It was a sight I'll always treasure.

Renee over at fefyfomanna turned me on to the Live Monarch Foundation. The Live Monarch Foundation is cool in two ways. First, it works to preserve these beautiful and fragile creatures and second, it gives me an excuse to write a World of Good (WOG) post with photos of monarch butterflies. Why, look! Here's one now!

Live Monarch is a not-for-profit foundation that

  • aims to educate everyone in the United States and beyond about habitat loss and what they can do to assist native animals. We have implemented ongoing successful free seed programs and habitat reclamation projects across North America

  • is partnering with individuals, groups, schools, places of worship, government and private business to facilitate the success of our programs. Together we produce clear results quickly.

Monarch butterflies live on the nectar of milkweed plants. Unwittingly, developers, homeowners and farmers have replaced much of the milkweed on the monarchs' migration route with other plants, eliminating their only food source.

Each year aproximately 180-280 million Monarchs start migrating, mate, lay eggs along the way and their children continue the round trip. Milkweed is needed along the entire route or they will not survive. It takes more than one milkweed plant for each surviving adult due to natural predators. That is an enormous ammount of milkweed! Most North Americans were very lucky to have seen even one Monarch Butterfly over the past few years.

Milkweed is an attractive plant. Talk about something that's easy to do for the environment! Just plant a few milkweed.

In other WOG posts, we've looked at saving the world in various ways, some of them very difficult. In this one, the solution is so easy that there's no reason not to do it. Plant a few milkweed. If you don't want to make a donation, they'll send you the seeds for free. If you want to make a donation, it's about the cost of a Starbucks coffee. How hard is that? They're even on the Internet! Here's the link now!

I'm in for $13 and 10 plants. Butterflies are groovy, man. How can I listen to this blog's theme song (The Monkees' For Pete's Sake) again and not support the monarchs?

Scientists have conducted experiments that indicate that reading WOGs can reduce your blood pressure, increase your stamina and make you more attractive to the opposite sex. If you're a blogger, linking to the WOG posts has been associated with a reduction in bad breath and higher credit scores. We offer many attractive WOG options! Stop by this post to read them all.

OK, so most of that was utter nonsense. But really, we've done a ton of WOGs, they're all fun and inspiring and I'm always grateful for linking bloggers. Why, we even have a WOG Squad on our blogroll to the right! Stop by and see the whole set.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Strategic Planning Meeting Game

I go to many of our corporate strategic planning meetings. OK, I go to some of them. And sit in the back. And play solitaire on my PDA. But I digress.

In the process of going to these meetings, I've developed the Strategic Planning Meeting Game. It's a simple game. All you do is pretend you have no idea what your company does and in the process of the meeting, try to divine just what business you're in. Most of the time, our strategic planning meetings are so full of pointless blather about generic process improvement that I can't tell if we make running shoes, sell burritos or develop software.

That's a problem. Our process improvement tools have taken over. We no longer serve the customer, we serve the tools. Is our Balanced Scorecard getting the data it needs? Has everyone developed their metrics? Can we all work from our strategy map? How about our Lean Six Sigma (LSS) process? Do we have enough black belts and green belts? Does everyone have a LSS project?

Whoops, time's up! The meeting is over and we all leave the room. Meanwhile, serving the customer is nowhere on the agenda. All of this nonsense is forced on us from our national leadership who knows nothing at all about what we do. They've been sold a bill of goods by consultants and are forcing it on us. We're fortunate to have a decent Executive Director, but she's being forced to sacrifice her talents on the altar of process improvement. Oh well.

Our ED sacrificing her career. "Oh most wise national corporate leadership, please accept this sacrifice of our valuable time on the altar of process improvement that we might be spared budget cuts. And also that I might take this beard off, for it causeth my skin to itch and, as I am a woman, it maketh me look ridiculous."

Process improvement is a wonderful thing. It's given me a topic for loads of snarky posts.

Update: A quick search of the blogosphere revealed that Clark Aldrich, who seems to want to improve education, has been sucked into the process improvement vortex of doom. Nooooo! Save yourself, Clark!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Restroom OK to Use

This morning at work, I came across a crudely-written sign on the men's room that said, "Restroom OK to Use." I suspect that this is an incomplete description of the situation. Here are some ways the sign may have been intended.

Despite the presence of alligators in the stalls, Restroom OK to Use.

Ignore the pyramid of human skulls. Restroom OK to Use.

Please stop relieving yourselves in your office trashcans. Restroom OK to Use.

Restroom OK to Use. Rat population now mostly under control.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Surgery as an Investment

Mike Barris has a short article in today's Wall Street Journal saying,

HealthSouth agreed to sell its surgery unit to private investment group TPG for $945 million.
Can't you just see the board meetings where they review sample patient data?

Investment Banker: It says here this fellow's right kidney was swollen.

Surgeon: Yes, that's why we removed it.

Investment Banker: You removed it? Why did you do that? It had grown 25%! That's the kind of investment we're looking for, you dolt!

The British are Culinary Children

I don't mean that title rudely, either. Last night I made a complete meal from Jane Garmey's Great British Cooking. We had glazed ham, sweet peas and roasted potatoes. The food was tasty, if a bit simple. Preparing it was absolutely trivial. My daughter, who drowns everything in ketchup if it has even the tiniest hint of complex flavors, loved it all and didn't need the ketchup once.

Hence, the title of this post.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jacob Helps with the Laundry

I'm a firm believer in shared responsibilities for all family members. That even goes for Jacob the Syrian Hamster. Tonight he helped with the laundry.

I'm glad these pants are wash and wear. I really don't feel like doing any ironing tonight.

I'm always having to look for a matching sock. Where do you suppose they all go?

While you're folding the towels, I'll do the scurrying. That way, you don't have to do any scurrying at all.

Thank goodness we're done. I'm exhausted!

For more furry fun, visit this week's Friday Ark!

Groovy or Churlish?

Lewis Green, writing over at Marketing Profs: Daily Fix, posts this YouTube video featuring Dennis Hopper.

It's your standard "I'm a rebel, man" fare from someone who made his money doing his best to be popular with as many people as possible. A rebel? Err, right.

In any case, I didn't think too much about the ad until I read all of the nauseating, self-congratulatory Boomer preening in the post and the subsequent comments.

This ain't my parents' generation, baby...We are the peace, love and flower children; the do-your-own-thing folks; the don't-trust-the-establishment group, even though we now are the establishment; the make-the-planet-safe for our children and other living things kids; and the rockers and rollers...
I thought about my parents who were born in the 1920s. I posted this semi-nasty comment.

Cool ad, great music, but perhaps a bit arrogant and churlish. My folks are very pre-boomer, but upon retirement from the Air Force, my father took up painting and now his work is hung in 6 different countries. My mother raises champion roses and regularly is asked to do artistic flower arrangements for the local museum of fine art.

They drive a Toyota MR2 2-seater sports car.

I'm not sure how much has changed. Maybe the ad works because it keeps telling the boomers what they tell themselves, that they really are special and different and trail blazers and all the rest of that.
What do you think? Was that over the top?

Memo to Marketing Profs: This is the second trackback I've tried to send you without success. That's not good.

Galileo Crashes and Burns

Our College of Cardinals has a great post discussing the EU's navigational satellite program, Galileo. Predictably, it's in financial trouble.

Galileo is supposed to be a competitor for GPS. The idea is that they would launch the satellite constellation and then sell access to it for navigation purposes. The problem is that their competition is giving that away for free. When I first heard about Galileo, I thought it was a joke. I mean, what idiot would try to sell something that was freely available? That would be like my daughter and her friends opening up a water stand on the street corner in the summer instead of selling lemonade. Tiny American capitalist that she is, she would figure that one out pretty quickly.

The EU, steeped in socialism, isn't so prescient. Here's a tidbit for you.

The Spanish government wants to be guaranteed more jobs through the construction of a third control centre located in Spain, to be added to those currently under construction in Germany and Italy.
Satellite constellations have as few control centers as possible. The distance between control centers is based on the satellites' "footprint" or coverage area of the Earth. Each Galileo satellite, orbiting at roughly 12,000 miles, will be able to see the whole of Europe. Even assuming that control of it is done through a high-gain antenna whose spot beam is much smaller, Spain, Italy and Germany are too close together to warrant each having a control center. Control centers, like the satellites themselves, are expensive. Only a total idiot would build more than they need.

The result? After the initial flood of government spending, there's a rush to the door.

(EU Transport Commissioner Jacques) Barrot hit out at “selfish” member states holding back progress on Galileo, warning that the project could fall hostage to national interests, like troubled aircraft-maker Airbus in its “worst moments”. “I hear that some member states have started to ask for their money back,” he said. It would be an important step towards recovery, according to Barrot, for member states to confirm that they would participate in the community project.
I wouldn't invest in this boondoggle. If asked to by Mr. Barrot, I would produce my little GPS receiver and say, "I got mine, Jacques."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Low or Non-toxic Solutions for Indoor Plant Pests

I love my indoor plants. Sometimes they get pests and I don't like using chemicals on them. For example, I have a 10' fiddle leaf fig in the center of my house and it recently came down with what the nursery said was cottony scale, but I think is mealy bugs. In any case, I just found a great website with information on how to kill pests on indoor plants with minimal poison. It's the University of Missouri's Least-Toxic Control Methods to Manage Indoor Plant Pests. Just thought I'd share.

Another Lean Six Sigma Success Story!

Preface: Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a process improvement technique made by business consultants who never get out of the house and meet real people for improving efficiency by examining a process and looking for ways to make it better.

At my work, we recently received an email with a rah-rah speech about our implementation of LSS. In it, the author talked about one of our greatest LSS success stories to date. Apparently, one of our army of LSS droids had just completed a project where we saved an estimated $16,900 annually.

$16,900 annually! That's fantastic! And all at only a cost of millions of dollars a year! In honor of this glorious event, I've come up with an animal graph to show how well we're doing. Here it is.

Cost vs. benefits of LSS. The giraffe is the costs, the ant is the benefits

If we stack up enough ants, we can surely get something as big as a giraffe, right?

I've got lots more on LSS. Check it out.

Update: Ron Pereira, our amigo over at the Lean Six Sigma Acadamey, is too nice. Check out his take on the situation.

Is it Insulting to Call Someone a Lady?

Andrea Learned, a blogger whose work I enjoy over at Marketing Profs, has posted a piece examining when to use the word "female" instead of "woman." She goes to that venerable etymologist, William Safire to solve the riddle. That's all well and good. Here's what struck me in her post.

The entire piece is worth reading (and perhaps posting on a company bulletin board) if you are involved in marketing to women, and is all the more the case if you are in an industry or business environment that still, even occasionally, refers to women as "ladies." (Egads.) In this day and age, most of the women I know would say that that 1950s-sounding word has an especially negative or condescending connotation.
My first reaction to that was, "If you're so thin-skinned that the word lady causes you to react negatively, you've got more problems than just picking out the correct words to use." Yes, I realize that the post is trying to help people use effective terms in marketing and ignoring the feelings of your audience is a bad thing to do, but still, what's the problem here?

Are we so full of modern arrogance towards the past that we can't handle the term "lady"? Geeze, get over it. My parents' generation knows for a fact that some things were better in the 1950s than they are now. Every generation has its good and bad. It's sad to see these little snippets of temporal snobbery.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jerry Garcia is our Pediatrician

Yesterday I took my daughter to see the doctor. The doctor is a very nice person and wants to help. Unfortunately, "help" in doctor terms is always one of two things: drugs or specialists. My daughter was having some trouble keeping up at school. The doctor's solution? Drugs. Or specialists. Or specialists with drugs. But mostly just drugs.

What my daughter really needs is more parental help. I just changed my job at work and it will give me much greater flexibility to take time off to help her with her schoolwork. That option was not offered by the doctor. Just drugs. As I left, I felt like we had just seen Jerry Garcia.

Problems in school, eh? Well, take some of these! Snort a line of this! Take a toke of that! Pop a few of those! Try this syringe! It's full of good stuff, man!

I opted for the parenting instead.


Last week, our Nun of the Above posted a recipe for asparagus with a garlic-lemon sauce. It looked delicious, so last Sunday I decided to build a meal around it. I went for my favorite cookbook, Terry Thomspon's Cajun-Creole Cooking and went back to a recipe I tried before, Rib Eye Steaks with Garlic-Mushroom Sauce. I fried some potatoes and onions with garlic in a separate pan as well.

Because I have derived so much pleasure from Ms. Thompson's cookbook over the years, I won't post her recipe, I'll just leave you with that link to her book. Here are some photos to make you hungry.

The steaks are pan fried, not grilled. I did them for 7 minutes on a side. I wish I had done 6. They were a little overdone.

The mushrooms and garlic cloves are browned and then cooked in beef stock and later in burgundy.

Here are the 'shrooms and garlic cloves after adding the burgundy. It reduced to a lovely caramel. Again, I cooked it a little too long and ended up with carmelized mushrooms instead of a more liquid gravy. It was still delicious, though.

Sister Scribbit and family, are you guys ready for dinner?

The cooking music? Why, it was Louis Prima, of course!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rainy Day Sunset

Sunsets, like children, change dramatically as they get older. Tonight we had some thunder, lightning and rain. By sunset the rain was gone for the most part, leaving scenes like these, shown in the order in which they were taken.

Video Stimulation and Society, Part II

A short while ago I wondered about the long-term effects on society of high levels of video stimulation of society. I've spent some time researching this and have come up with blanks. What I'm sure of is that it is almost universally negative.

Despite occasional studies indicating no correlation between TV and social problems, the vast majority of them show that there are indeed links between TV and video games and problems in individuals. Obesity, violence and attention spans are the most common problems cited. I don't think those can be disputed.

What's missing is a picture of the future where almost all of the population has lived with many hours a day of video stimulation. What does the world look like when almost no one has a long attention span? What kinds of jobs will go begging?

I'm still muddling around with this one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Unusual Natural Beauty

Today I have some photos of an unusually beautiful specimen from the natural world.

And the daisy's not bad, either!

Actually, the daisy is pretty rare. This is my daisy mom and she's decided to put out a twin flower. Click on any of these images for a larger view.

I've never seen one of these. The flowers are both almost perfectly formed, with the only flaw being right at the point of twinning.

I'll be collecting seeds from her again to grow still more daisies. Last weekend I brought in a load of compost for my barren front yard. This weekend I'll be rototilling it and I've got an area, perhaps several, set aside more beds of daisies, all of which will have come from this one. She and her daughters will take over the world!

Err, well, maybe not the world. Maybe just my flower beds.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Heavy Seas

I was scrounging around YouTube for videos of sailboats rounding Cape Horn when I came across this one.



It's been too murky around here for me to get a decent sunset shot, so all I have are leftovers. Here's one from the series I took for the Ingraham Bridge Sunset post. In that series, the sky changed so dramatically over about 30 minutes that I thought putting the pictures together in the same post would be jarring. Click on the photo. I think you'll really like the larger version.

WOGlet, Tadpole Style

Joe Katzman and his wife went out of their way to save some drought-endangered amphibians.

The tadpoles... they've hatched out, too, but the heat isn't doing them a lot of favours. My sweetie and I were out walking in our area last week, when we spotted a small roadside ditch filled with water. Sure enough, it was full of tadpoles. This much we knew: unless it rained, soon, they were all going to die. "We have to rescue them" she said.
And of course they did just that.

You go, Joe! Read the whole thing.

Sometimes I find little bits like this one on the blogs, things that are too small for a standard World of Good (WOG), but need to be mentioned and linked. I struggled with a name (Wordlette of Good? World of Goodlet?) and then came up with a brainwave - WOGlet. What do you think of the name?

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I'm noshing on a few mouthfulls of sauerkraut. The jar says "best when used by 27 March 2007."

Err, how can you tell? What does sauerkraut do when it goes bad? Become more sauerkraut-y?

The Core

My TiVo decided I needed to watch The Core. Usually I delete the things it says I need to watch, but I decided to take a chance on this one.

The Core is the answer to the question, "What kind of disaster movie would you make if you had ADD?" In the movie, the core of the Earth has stopped spinning, or is slowing down or Look! some lasers to cut through rock and the rocks will blow up and then we can travel through Wow! there's static discharge in the air and huge lightning storms and Rome is getting blasted and there's running and Hey! we just hired this punk kid to hack the Internet and eat Hot Pockets and keep the news of the impending doom from getting out and causing Whales! there's whales following us as we dive into the ocean and they're singing I think it's Zounds! a crash in the magma because of an air pocket ...

Its science is on the order of the 1960s James Mason / Pat Boone movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth. They're going to restart the core spinning by blowing up some huge bombs, but since explosions tend to go in all directions, it's not clear how a massive explosion would start anything spinning instead of just spattering it all over the place.

The effects are moderately good for 2003. The love interest, Hillary Swank, is cute enough if you like butch, hyperambitious women. I don't. As an aside, I've had enough of this kind of heroine. In fact I had had enough before it started. I don't need to see one more woman that's more of a man than the lead actor and more of a woman, too. I half expect to see Maureen Dowd's (author of Are Men Necessary?) name on the credits in movies like this.

After I pilot this earth ship I'll have sex with you and then make partner at the law firm.

I admit I haven't finished the movie yet, but I might be done with it anyway. You don't watch movies like this for the plot. I'm at the spot where they've just crashed their earth ship and you know they'll come up with some clever way to repair it and blow up everything in just the right way. It won't be too clever, since the science is all of the Flash Gordon variety which means it's all deus ex machina anyway.

Come on, fellows, let's save the Earth!

I don't think I'll give it a second review once I'm done. I think I'd rather re-watch the Saints-Eagles playoff game. Now that's a good story!

Working too Hard

I think our Maximum Leader is working too hard. The last couple of nights she has slept at her desk, snoozing in her office furniture next to the PC instead of coming into the bed. There must be some big project she's working on. I wonder what it is.

Our Maximum Leader in her office furniture during the day.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Bus Boys

I saw these guys about six times in college in the 80s. The best live rock 'n roll show ever. Period.

Hit this link and listen to New Shoes.

If they're playing anywhere nearby, I'm there. Do you think they'll still have 25 cent beers at the clubs?

Global Warming, San Diego Growth

I've posted a few things lately questioning the Global Warming (GW) movement. I'm becoming convinced that they're just a front for the old pro-Soviet socialists among us. Having said that, I'm quite supportive of many of their goals.

Here's a photo of San Diego from space.

This is what San Diego would look like in the absence of humans.

Notice something? There's no water. None. I came to San Diego in 1979. Since that time, the city has repeatedly passed "slow growth" initiatives designed to prevent the place from becoming what you see in the first photo. Time after time, local developers went around, over and through these laws, both in court and at the ballot box in order to build, build, build. Their motivation was greed. They bought the land cheap, developed it and sold it for tons of cash. Each individual development had a tiny impact on the environment, but in the aggregate it was disastrous.

Quality of life has declined and we're just a drought away from massive water rationing. This might be the year considering the low rainfall we've had. The San Diego freeways are a nightmare. I went up to North County yesterday at 2 PM and the I-5 north of Del Mar was already a total parking lot.

How can you have gridlock at 2 PM? What does that tell you about unsustainable development?

You can forget about going to the beach on a weekend. No parking and no space. I took the kids down to La Jolla Shores last summer on a Sunday at 5 PM. When I had done this in the past, I had always had good luck. By that time on Sunday, everyone is heading home to get ready for work on Monday. What did I find? The parking lot was still full and had overflowed blocks away from the beach and when we finally made it to the beach, there were only postage stamp-sized open spots on the sand.

So what choices do we have? Our College of Cardinals has posted a great video promising a look into the people behind GW, but it looks a lot like what the San Diego developers were saying in 1982. There's a local environmentalist newspaper called The San Diego Earth Times that is simply reprinting rubbish from Nancy Pelosi.

We've turned local environmental protection and sustainable growth into a national election issue. I don't think it should be. Frankly, I don't see anything in the GW movement that would have stopped the paving of San Diego. All I see are people who are deranged with idiotic hate for George Bush.

Unfortunately I don't have a good wrap up for this. Maybe something will come to me later.

Update: Our Prelate to the Primates has a post that takes the Hollywood Ecopreeners out to the woodshed.

Jammie Wearing Fool goes after them as well.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I Love the Iditarod

The Iditarod sled dog race has been going on recently. I think it might even have concluded. I'll confess I don't know. In any case, I love it. I mean, I really love it. It's dogs doing what they were built to do.

Drag heavy objects through the snow while being whipped.



Any questions?

I Think Therefore I Yam

Our Nun of the Above has given me this handsome award as a Thinking Blogger.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Believe you me, she ain't just whistling Dixie. You bet I'm a thinker. Just look at this.

Me, thinking.

Thanks, Sister Scribbit!

Proper Leaping Technique

Many cats these days are practicing unsafe leaping. This leads to injuries and embarrassment as they slam into ceilings and walls or overshoot the kitchen countertop and fall to the floor on the other side, dragging the toaster down on top of them. As a public service, our Maximum Leader will now demonstrate proper leaping technique.

First, check above you. Ceiling fans can be particularly dangerous, so be sure to look for whirling blades. A casual glance is not enough. Those spinning propellers can injure a cat.

Check to each side for objects moving towards you. You want to watch for toddlers and dogs in particular. If you're leaping onto a small area, such as a lap, any deflection in flight can have disastrous consequences.

Now quickly leap before the situation changes!

It's easy once you get the hang of it. Practice it a few times when the house is quiet. We recommend doing it at 2 AM. To improve your accuracy, try landing on noisy objects such as paper bags or hollow cardboard boxes. In the silence of the night, the sound will give you excellent feedback on your performance.

Happy leaping!

To get your full-on feline ya-yas, visit this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

Frustrated with YouTube

I've been playing around with videos and YouTube lately and I'm pulling my hair out right now about it. Everything I upload ends up with the video and audio out of sync. That's OK if the movie is a coffee can with rocks rolling around in it like my DIY rock tumbler, but if it's a snippet of Gene Kelly or The Monkees, it doesn't work at all.

I thought I had the problem solved last night when I learned how to set limits on my videos' data rates. I'm using Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 as my editing software. I encode my files as Quicktime using the MPEG 4 encoder. It seems to work best. Anyway, for my experiment, I turned the data rate down to 200K/sec. That cut the file size way down so I figured I was on my way. I uploaded the video and it took until this morning for YouTube to digest it to the point where I could watch it.

No go. The only thing I can think of now is to unlink the audio and video in Premiere and then deliberately advance the audio a half second so that when YouTube distorts it, the audio will be in sync. What a pain! That can't be the right thing to do. I've seen plenty of videos there where the audio and video are in synch. It can't be that everyone else is having to do this, too.

After doing some research, I get this tidbit from DV Forums.


YouTube recommends fixing audio sync problems by converting .mov files to .avi or .wmv before uploading, and using MP3 for audio. However, FCP doesn't give me those options. So with After Effects I used Cinepak to output an .avi file, but it looked horrible, even at 80 MB! My 6 MB .mov clip looked a lot better.

Does FCP let you advance the audio by 1/3sec? In my Vegas, I just ungroup the thing and drag the video back (delay).
Here's what YouTube has to say:

Out-of-sync sound is usually the result of using an audio codec that our system doesn't support. We're always adding new ones, but if this happens to your video, you can try re-encoding it with a different audio compression. We recommend MP3 audio for best results.
Mine is not compressed at all. How can you not be able to work with uncompressed audio?

What a kluge! This stinks. There's no excuse for this at all. Audio-video sync has been worked on since The Jazz Singer. There are lots of known solutions. This is pathetic.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Maybe Sentencing is too Harsh

Something I've always wondered about...

Have you ever heard news reports about some ghastly criminal getting multiple sentences for his crimes? Like some guy that gets a life sentence plus another one of 10 years in jail? I've always wondered what it would be like to be the guy's cellmate for the last ten years.

Would you be happy for the quiet and the extra room, or would the smell really get to you?

I Don't Trust the Global Warming Movement Any More

At first I was skeptical about Global Warming (GW). Then the mathematician in me saw that too many record high temperatures are occurring in the 2000s to have them be uniformly distributed, ergo the Earth must be warming. Then I assumed that the GW movement was more or less on solid ground. I don't believe that any more. Two issues have convinced me that it is a political movement.

First, the ecological alligator closest to us is China. They are positively raping the environment and much of their industrial waste, particularly that which is in their rivers, is afflicting the rest of the world. When you see environmental demonstrations and marches, do you see any pictures of the Chinese leadership with devil's horns? Do you hear any speeches demanding that the UN take action about China? No. What you do hear is that President Bush is evil. GW is just a stick to beat President Bush.

Secondly, if CO2 was the cause of globabl warming, then how come in previous global warming eras, before industrialization, we didn't see a feedback loop leading to more warming? That is, as the ocean gets warmer, it releases more CO2. That should cause more warming, right? Wrong. It didn't.

So what gives? Why the fussing about the US and our SUVs increasing the sea level by a few inches in a decade or two, but nothing at all about China completely wrecking the environment right now? Occam's Razor tells us that the simplest answer that fits the facts is probably the right one.

The GW movement is a political movement and has very little to do with the environment.

Reconnaissance in Farce

The intrepid explorer pauses briefly to peek over some small hills...

...only to find a (flashless) camera!

For more furry fun, visit this week's Friday Ark.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What are the Long Term Effects of Constant Video Stimulation?

My kids and all of their friends have access to several channels of TV designed just for them, broadcast 24/7. They have vast libraries of video games at their disposal. They have iPods with tens of thousands of songs to listen to at all times.

What's the effect of all of this? Hmmm. I think it's something to be researched and blogged.

My bet is that the stimulation itself is not nearly so bad as the replacement of other activites with idleness. My son recently asked for stories from my childhood the other day. My buddies and I were pyromaniacs. We learned how to make gunpowder, made our own rockets, experimented with all manner of chemistry and plenty of other things. In the process we learned how to research things, patience in the development of our devices and a bit of planning.

Other kids in our neighborhood were into making their own go karts. They learned all kinds of mechanical skills. Where is that now? When was the last time you saw a bunch of boys taking an old lawnmower apart to get at the engine?


Update: It occurred to me today that this might be the unspoken reason that kids are being overscheduled these days. Organized activities are one of only two reliable antidotes to te constant availability of video stiumlation. The other is enforcement of draconian limitations on access to these things. That leads to battles with the kids. It's easier just to overschedule them and keep them busy.

Orchids in Alaska, Mr. Bond

Okay, even in the scenes that got cut, Hugo Drax definitely never said this. But he would have, had he paid a visit to our Nun of the Above's blog post featuring a photo of a stellar orchid she has blooming.

Check it out.

The Latest in Hood Ornaments

Our Poet Laureate has all the hip styles. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Bit of Historical Revisionism

I'm growing to loathe my daughter's 4th grade social studies book, Our Golden State by James Banks, et al. In their glossary, here's their definition of the Cold War.

Cold War - The belief that the United States would be in a war with the Soviet Union.
I don't even know where to start.

HI Surf Advisory

A friend at work runs the HI Surf Advisory website. Fantastic stuff. I'm stealing one of his photos before I ask. Hope you don't mind, Neal!

Insomnia on the Wrong Side of Midnight

So last night I go to bed and my body decides that it wants to live like a petulant teenager and fight sleep. Midnight rolls around and I'm still sitting there, reading, dozing on and off, but no real sleep. Argh! When it's like that I can't even get up, get some coffee and read and blog.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Coolest Man Whoever Lived - Gene Kelly

I'm not big into musicals. I prefer Jackie Chan movies or science fiction or silly comedies like Airplane or even recorded NFL games. However, listening to Lileks talk about the movie It's Always Fair Weather on the air with our Patriarch of the Airwaves, I got the itch to try it out. It came up on AMC and I TiVo'ed it. That's when I decided that Gene Kelly was the definition of cool.

Gene's mom forced him to take dancing lessons as a child when what he really wanted to do was play shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He would get beat up on the way home from school by the other boys who called him a sissy. When you see him in the movies, he's anything but a sissy. In contrast to Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly was built like the athlete he was.

Talking about the contrast between them, he said, "When I arrived in Hollywood, I was twenty pounds overweight and as strong as an ox. But if I put on a white tails and tux like Astaire, I still looked like a truck driver... I looked better in a sweatshirt and loafers anyway. It wasn't elegant, but it was me."

It took about half of It's Always Fair Weather for me to realize that everything he did was dance. Every movement was fluid and graceful and strong and purposeful. I'm in the middle of An American in Paris right now, but snagged this little bit out of the introduction to show you what I mean.

I replayed this scene several times and then showed it to my son to appreciate the choreography put into such a simple event. The guy is just cool and confident in every move.

I'll admit I don't watch all of his movies. I typically fast forward over some of the musical numbers. My TiVo has decided that since I like Gene Kelly movies, I must like all manner of musicals, so I'm constantly fighting with it to delete them as fast as they show up. In fact, I wonder if it thinks I'm insane with the eclectic collection of things I watch. Oh well.

One more biographical note about Gene Kelly. After his second wife died of cancer and left him with two children, he repeatedly turned down movie roles to be a dad instead. That's a strong man in my book. That's cool.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Climate Change?

Yes. Man-made? Maybe not. Visit our Abbess of the Priory of Small Princesses and see more.

Lenten Fridays Mean Tuna

Since this is Lent, we eat fish on Fridays here within the Feline Theocracy. That means our Maximum Leader got tuna. Yum! Since we are also conservationists, we preserved the remainder as leftovers and she got the rest today. Yum yum!

Next Friday I plan on videotaping her reaction and feasting and posting it to you tube. You can never have too much Maximum Leader.

Guess who Stopped by for a Visit Today

That's right, it was our Missionary to the Frozen Northern Wastelands, Kelly the Little Black Dog's owners.

The people came, but Kelly decided to stay home.

Thanks for coming by, amigo. It's always good to see both of you.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wreck Diving

For some reason, I've been getting Scuba Diving magazine. I don't dive, but I always wish I'd learned. This month's issue focuses on wreck diving. There were great photos, so I went to YouTube and found this film shot in the Bahamas to share with you. Great stuff!

...some stars and planets in scale

H/T: The marvellous John C. Wright. Our Court Jester turned me on to him and now I want to go read his books. Be prepared to think if you visit his blog!

A Modern Day Miracle

Our Court Jester has the full story.

Rudyard Kipling Predicts the EU

The European Union, in a spasm of environmental concern, has agreed to large reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions.

EU leaders agreed to tough emissions cuts and a binding target to produce 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Hurrah! The EU is riding in to save the day! Er, don't get your hopes up.

...some countries said the targets may be unrealistic and the costs are unknown...(This) reveals a broader problem in EU policy making: The most ambitious plans are consistently coming up short and tough issues are serially sidestepped. A 2000 blueprint to make the EU the world's most competitive economy was scaled back five years later; a planned EU constitution was abandoned in 2005; and EU-led nuclear talks with Iran have largely floundered.
Kipling, writing about a hundred years ago, accurately predicted the behavior of the EU in his Road Song of the Bandar Log from The Jungle Book.

Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two--
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
One way to reach these goals would be simply to have their economies contract by 20%. Hey, look, they've already started!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sprint is Driving me Crazy!

I just transitioned from Nextel to Sprint. I needed to reduce my costs and go to a service with a larger coverage area. Before I moved, I asked all of my friends about what they used. Everyone had a horror story about a previous cell phone service provider. Unfortunately, they all had had different services, so the end result was that every carrier was hated by someone.

I switched to Sprint because I thought it would be the easiest transition from Nextel. I was wrong. I can't set up my voice mail. I have messages waiting for me, but every time I call my voice mail it tells me I need to set up my mailbox. It asks me to input my desired voice mail code and then press #. I do that and then it asks me to do it again. I do it. It asks again. I do it. It then tells me that it couldn't understand what I typed in and hangs up on me.

Right now I'm on hold with customer service on my FOURTH phone call to them to get this cleared up. It's my freakin' voice mail. It's not complicated. I've given them my passcode three times and they've reset my voice mail three times and after each reset, I call my voice mail and it tells me I need to set up my mailbox. It asks me to input my desired voice mail code and then press #. I do that and then it asks me to do it again. I do it. It asks again. I do it. It then tells me that it couldn't understand what I typed in and hangs up on me.


Update: Sprint made things better. I exchanged my new phone, one that came free with the service, for the next better model, one that cost $20. It is MUCH better. The salesman had tried to tell me that I wouldn't be happy with the cheap, free phone when I got the thing, but oh no, Mr. Cheapo wouldn't listen.

I'm very happy with the results now.

President Bush is the Worst blah blah blah (Part 2)

From the Financial Facts website:

A report published on Monday says that despite the current economic upswing, the EU is still losing ground vis-à-vis its global competitors...These are some of the findings of a EUROCHAMBRES study comparing EU and US economies in terms of time distance...The current EU level for income was achieved by the US in 1985. Since the first edition of the study, the time gap has increased by 3 years;
In other words, Europeans today have the same standard of living as Americans in 1986. They are 21 years behind us. In the previous study, they were only 18 years behind us. Here's a chart from their article.

The bars represent how far behind us Europe is. If the red bar is longer than the blue bar, they are falling farther behind.

All the red bars are longer than the blue bars.

Anyone for socialized medicine or a European-style welfare state?

H/T: Our College of Cardinals.

President Bush is the Worst President in the History of our Country

From today's Wall Street Journal:

U.S. EMPLOYERS ADDED 97,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in February as a steep drop in construction payrolls offset strength in the service sector. The unemployment rate fell to 4.5%. The U.S. trade deficit shrank in January.
Will the horror of this madman never end?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thursday Thirteen, Spending My Loot Edition

I recently received my first $100 check from AdSense. Considering the hours I've logged blogging, my wage worked out to about nine cents an hour. No matter, I'm now flush with cash and it's burning a hole in my pocket. What shall I do with my $100? Here are 13 ideas.

1. Vegetable seeds. This would be the entrepreneurial decision. I can buy seeds for next to nothing and then raise vegetables in my garden that would cost hundreds of dollars to buy in the grocery store. The subsequent post would be, “13 things I will buy with my $500”.

2. Movie tickets. I haven’t been to a move in over a year. I could take the kids to see Amazing Grace. I wish I hadn’t missed Casino Royale. Maybe it’s still playing in some backwater theater somewhere.

3. Socks. Mine are become sacred, errrr “holey”.

4. 4% of a big screen TV. I think that would work out to about 8 square inches of screen. The other 96% of the TV would have to wait another 27,500 hours of blogging.

5. I could have a wild shopping spree at a local used bookstore. Whoohoo!

6. Ingredients for cioppino. Yum! I love cioppino, but it’s sooo expensive to make!

7. A couple of nice steaks from the local meat market to recreate Rib Eye Steaks with Garlic-Mushroom Sauce.

8. A long-handled squeegee for my house’s windows. What’s the point of having a great view if you can’t see it?

9. Coleus for my atrium. Lots and lots of coleus!

10. Hanging baskets for my newly planted spider plant children so they can cascade down the atrium in a cataract of spidery green goodness.

11. A small rock tumbler to polish the stones we pick up in the desert.

12. A subscription to American Girl for my daughter. We let this lapse and she liked it. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a girls’ magazine that focuses on being a girl instead of being a young woman, if you know what I mean.

13. A rock hammer for future rockhounding expeditions.

I had intended to make this a funny post, but it ended up being a pretty serious one. In reflecting as I wrote, I realized how much I've learned to separate money from happiness in the past year and a half. Near the end of the list, I started running out of things I wanted to buy. All of the things I love in life right now, most of which are chronicled on this blog, are free or practically free.

I think I'll stop before this gets too deep. Happy TT, everyone!