Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Those Lazy Days of Summer

...look like pretty much all the other lazy days for our Maximum Leader.

Asian Pop Culture

This is a Pay Per Post ad. But I would have done it anyway after I saw the blog.

Asian Pop with Yein Jee is an Asian Pop Culture blog with all kinds of cool stuff. It's an eclectic blog and I liked it as soon as I saw it. It has movie reviews, artist profiles and all kinds of cool stories. My favorite was one written around this photo of a potato that looks like a foot.

Read his post to find out more.

I just found an even better one. Dig this. Wow.

For those interested in anime (I'm not one of them), his blog has what seems to have up-to-date posts on it as well. I liked the concise articles and Yein Jee uses graphics and photos to good effect. I'm not sure if I'll induct him into the Feline Theocracy just yet, but I'll be going back to visit in the future. If you stop by, let me know what you think.

In his Pay Per Post ad request, he insists that I include this link. Asian Girls. I'm not sure why. His blog does not seem to go in the direction suggested by the link. If it did, I'd be writing a very different blog review. My suggestion to young Mr. Jee is to drop the implications of that link and that title and focus on pop culture instead.

Not a Mustang, but an MGB

I've written previously that I was looking for a late 60s Mustang project car that I could work on with my son. We've changed our minds and will be bringing home my 1973 MGB that's been in storage for a decade. We'll save the money we would have spent buying the Mustang and will be able to use that on the restoration of the B. Here's a photo of a fully restored 73 B in the same color as my car, Glacier White.

I can't wait to get started. Photos and stories to follow.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mac vs. PC

Laurie McGuinness is a genius. Now I want to see one about the iPhone. :-)

The Road to Financial Peace Gets Rocky

I'm a huge fan of Dave Ramsey's work on personal finances. If you haven't got a copy of his book, Financial Peace, I highly recommend it.

In that book, he lays out a simple, seven step plan for managing your money. Some of the steps were easy for me, like paying off all of my non-mortgage loans and moving from a credit card to a debit card. Now comes the hard part. Saving money.

Once the bills for my car and credit card stopped coming and I found myself with some extra money each month, the driving force behind my financial discipline melted away. "Yes, yes, I'll save my money," I would tell myself, "but wouldn't it be nice to finally have a stereo system in the garage? I'd really like a TV in the living room, too." One thing piled on another and I started cruising Craig's List and eBay with the feeling that I had cash in my pocket.

The problem was that I didn't really have cash in my pocket. I had paid off my debts, but I had yet to build up my savings. Dave recommends that you have 3-6 months of living expenses in liquid savings. I had something like 3 weeks worth of expenses saved. I could see that progress towards 3 months of savings was going to be slow, too. Did it really make a difference if it took a little while longer to save the money? After all, that smoker for making great BBQ didn't cost that much and it would really add to my cooking repertoire.

Wondering about the wisdom of buying stereos and smokers, I deferred my purchases and didn't spend the money. As I sat and thought about my financial history, I recalled that every month seemed to bring a large, unexpected bill. In my old house, it was usually related to something breaking down in the house. Here, it could be child or vehicle-related. Without that liquid savings, I'd be back on the credit cards in no time.

Then the troubles started to hit. My PC died. My TiVo died. My microwave's front door glass broke. Our family vacation ended up being more expensive than I had expected because Dollar Rental Car had been giving me AA miles instead of Dollar points and I had to pay for my rental car instead of getting it for free. All of them were small to medium-cost items, but they added up quickly.

Luckily, I hadn't given in to my impulses to buy things and I had my savings to draw upon. My problems quickly ate away at my storehouse of cash, but it never got to the point where I had to draw out the credit card and use that. Now I'm convinced. The money goes into savings until at least 3 months of expenses are there. It's hard to do and it's not always fun, but when you need the cash and you've got it on hand, you feel really, really good about yourself.

Frugality is the order of the day over at the Festival of, well, Frugality.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Putting on her Game Face

We've had more raccoon infestations recently. A troop of four of them came in through our Maximum Leader's cat door the other night and made it all the way upstairs before she jumped out in front of them and growled at them. This woke me and we chased the little bandits away. We're back into lock down mode at night to keep them out.

Would you mess with this cat?

The last two nights, however, our Maximum Leader has gone outside to play and has stayed out past lockdown. We haven't been able to find her and she's had to spend those nights outside. She doesn't seem to mind it and always comes in right away in the morning. The nights have been so beautiful lately that I don't blame her.

As for the raccoons, I'm not sure what to do about them outside of just closing off all entrances to the house. It's a hassle and forces me to get the litter box out again, something I dislike immensely, but it seems to be the only method of keeping them out that works.

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

Termite Infestations

This is a Pay Per Post ad. But I would have done it anyway, since it falls in line with my curiosity about insects.

Kill the Termites is an informational website about, well, termites, apparently hosted by someone interested in San Antonio termite control. The pedigree of the site is a bit murky. In any case, the site itself is not commercial in nature, but is quite informative.

Having owned houses here in San Diego, I've got quite a bit of experience with the little devils. In fact, my kung fu staff is currently infested with them! How embarassing. Every time I use it, little termite droppings pop out of the end. In San Diego, there is no dormant season for termites. The weather is mild and they can crunch away on your house all day long. My previous house, built in the 1950s, had such severe infestations that sections of several of the door frames had been eaten away to paper. You could touch them and they would just disintegrate as the termites had eaten everything behind the painted surface of the wood.

Termites. I hate these guys.

Kill the Termites teaches you a great deal about the nature and treatment of termites. The information is geared towards killing them instead of teaching you detailed bits of entomology.
Termites don't live on their own. They infest your house in colonies, organized similarly to a bee hive or an ant's nest. That affects the way you have to try to deal with them, because it's not just a matter of killing a bunch of them. You have to kill off the colony for the infestation to end.
Here's some information from the website that I learned the hard way.
A healthy colony can consume an entire foot of a two-by-four in just a few months. That doesn't sound so bad, but the extend of the harm depends on how it's distributed in your house - the termites don't eat the entire board, they tunnel around in them. It is tough to tell exactly how much it will cost you to repair it, because it can vary so much.
For me, the best part of the site is the information about the ways to kill the termites. When I treated, I simply used and extermination company recommended by my dad and they tented the house. I had no real idea of what methods were available. My purchase of the service was made in ignorance. The thing I like the most about Kill the Termites is that I can get information about all kinds of extermination methods in the same place. I wish they had done a table comparison of the methods. Right now you have to do that mentally as you read about each of the termite treatments.

The site also includes links to many other informative sites about both termites and termite treatments. Check it out for yourself if you've got termite problems. Right now, I need to go beat some termites out of my kung fu staff.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

LOL Hamster

You can find more fuzziness here.

World of Good, People Helping People Style

Welcome to another World of Good here at The Scratching Post!

Mark Elliot is a radio talk show host from Canada. I came across his site, People Helping People while searching for information about nematodes and flatworms.

Well, not really. To tell you the truth, I can't recall exactly how I found him, but I can tell you that I'm glad I did. I digress.

Mark Elliot was a very successful disc jockey in Ottawa who became addicted to alchohol and drugs. Here's a profile of him from a Toronto Sun article.
Remember Dr. Johnny Fever? Well, Mark Elliot is just like that guy -- the stereotypical veteran radio jock. Anyone who grew up in Ottawa will certainly remember him fondly from his decade or so on top of the ratings on CFRA doing the coolest evening rock show...It wasn't until he lost it all that he realized he was a drug addict and an alcoholic who had thrown away an amazingly successful high-profile life..."You name them, I have partied with them," he said of rock stars. "I snorted a radio network up my nose. I was leading a double/triple life. I was nuts."
Mark Elliot, sober.

Almost everyone suffers crushing blows in life from time to time. We all struggle with our weaknesses and fight through our recurring failings. Mark's addictions cost him dearly. Here's a bit more from an Ottawa Citizen article.
Mr. Elliot's co-workers and bosses could see he wasn't eating -- at six-foot-four, he weighed a mere 140 pounds. But at first they turned a blind eye. "I was a star performer," Mr. Elliot explains. And why mess with success?...In 1987 a new general manager arrived at Mr. Elliot's radio station and did the best thing for him -- she fired him. Mr. Elliot went into rehab at Brentwood Treatment Centre in Windsor and got clean.
As a recovering addict he now shares the wisdom gained from his own failures with others. He hosts a radio talk show (see his website for details) where he gives advice to callers, many of whom are addicts themselves or are in relationships with addicts.

Many talk shows focus on the hypocrisy of politicians, entertainers or sports figures. For example, Christian politicians caught in adultery are frequently attacked on the radio as hypocrites. Rather than flee from accusations of hypocrisy, Mark acknowledges his own failures and uses them as lessons to instruct his listeners. We all sin. It's part of being human. If we try to avoid accusations of hypocrisy by failing to continue to hate sin, even the sins we ourselves commit, we make sin more acceptable to all of us.

In learning from our failures or vicariously from the failures of others, we become better people. By sharing his lessons on the radio, Mark educates a large audience about the causes, dangers and methods of recovery from addiction. I don't know Mark's religious beliefs, but I would suggest that his concern for those caught in the grips of addiction thoroughly embodies Christ's teachings to care for our fellow man.

An earlier Mark Elliot, not quite so sober.

"Howard Stern and I are aiming at the same audience -- the sewer," he jokes. But in that sewer, he said, there are a lot of good people who need help. His show is designed to do that. Sober for the past six years (it would be 13 years if not for a little slip in the middle), the 46 year old has a theme he regularly puts across: "Fight like hell."

If they do, he says, they can get that second chance. He's living proof. And proud of it.
Mark believes in the people working towards recovery. His show devotes itself to that. Truly, he's doing a World of Good.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cool Photos

I was doing some stuff for work with Slideshare when I came across this presentation. I thought you'd like it. Enjoy!

Transparency at The New Republic

The New Republic (TNR) has been running a series of posts written under the pseudonym Scott Thomas that purports to reveal the sadism and brutality of our troops in Iraq.

It's absolute garbage from beginning to end.

TNR has failed to check into many of the technical details in the story and has clearly been taken in by fraud. That has been adequately detailed elsewhere. Personally, I am deeply disappoined in TNR. We used to subscribe to it and I always saw it as a top-tier journal. Its atrocious and unprofessional behavior has been dealt with elsewhere as well.

What strikes me in all of this is that open communications with the press are not bidirectional. That is, the reporters at TNR can call up companies, government agencies and people and get reasonably good sources of factual information. If, for instance, a reporter wanted to learn about the drug development process at Pfizer, they could contact the public affairs office there and eventually speak to some researchers and have a fairly candid discussion. Similarly, TNR could have called Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) and would eventually have been put in touch with the engineers who performed the acceptance testing on the Bradley Fighting Vehicles featured prominently in their story. I know, because I've done this where I work. The conversations are candid, pleasant and informative for the person visiting.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle swerving to kill dogs and small children. Err, maybe not.

Does it work the other way around? If the public affairs officer at APG called TNR to speak with the editorial staff and reporter and ask just how they came by this story, would they be treated to the same level of transparency? That question has already been partially answered as other publications have begun to research TNR's story. The results have been disappointing. I can understand that the press needs to protect their sources to some extent, but it's the transparency of the process of fact-checking at TNR that I wonder about.

Wouldn't it be interesting to try this out?

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Months ago I wrote a World of Good post about a group that was encouraging people to plant milkweed for the sake of the Monarch butterflies. I bought some and they've begun to bloom. Like most plants with tiny flowers, they are very difficult to photograph with an auto-focus digital camera. I played around for a while and finally ended up with this shot as my favorite. I had to bring the plant indoors and push it up against a wall so the camera would focus properly. The flowers are just too small for the camera to see when it tries to calculate the range of the subject.

Michael Vick, Dog Fighting and Racism

I've been getting some hits on a throwaway snark I wrote a while back when the allegations of Michael Vick's involvement in dog fighting first surfaced. I want to try something a little more serious here. I've interspersed some photos I took from last year's San Diego Special Olympics to help make my point. That Special Olympics event was hosted by an overwhelmingly white, Christian college which also provided most of the volunteers. With that introduction to these incongruous photos, off we go to the meat of the post.

There are those who are concerned that Michael Vick's indictment will lead to racial bias against other black athletes. I would like to suggest that the logical reasoning that leads to this concern is exactly that of the one that leads to racism: reasoning by generalizing from individual examples.

Where's the racism?

The blogosphere is filled with posts blasting Michael Vick. I could not find any that took Mr. Vick's actions and applied them to, say, Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Cincinnatti Reds or Deuce McAllister of the New Orleans Saints. There is no evidence that such generalizations are occurring with any kind of frequency. Yes, I'm sure you can find racist sites that are gloating about Michael Vick, but they are rare, individual examples and not the norm.

Find any yet?

If one can argue that because such sites exist then America still has a significant racial problem, then one can also argue that since Michael Vick was involved in dog fighting then black Americans have serious moral problems. If you can infer generalizations about a broad population from one example, then you can do it from another. Another example would be to look at a single shark attack and infer that sharks are feasting on swimmers every day.

White, Christian students were the primary workforce.

Suggesting that Michael Vick's issues will lead to problems for people like Deuce McAllister is insulting to the rest of America. It suggests that we cannot differentiate between people and this is clearly not the case. If you visit the New Orleans Times-Picayune's Saints Forum, you'll find a wild and almost totally unmoderated discussion group. Search it for any suggestion that Deuce McAllister is anything other than a stand-up fellow both before and after the Michael Vick indictment. I doubt you'll find any. Check out this thread, for example.

How was this kid allowed to win an award?

On that forum, there are many accusations that racism is a motivating factor in Michael Vick's indictment. There's just no strong evidence to suggest that this is the case. If an unmoderated, anonymous discussion board from the Deep South isn't infested with racist sentiments about this, then it's pretty doubtful many others are doing it, either.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Michael Totten in Baghdad

If you haven't read it yet, check out Michael Totten's post about going to Baghdad. Michael is a private citizen who has become a blog journalist. From what I've read, his primary oparea is Lebanon. He did some outstanding work during the recent Israeli-Hezbollah war from there. Here were a couple of interesting paragraphs from his post about going to Baghdad.
I watched helicopters fly over the city in the distance and launch burning white countermeasure flares to confuse heat-seeking missiles as the pilots flew over hostile parts of the city. This was the only evidence I saw that I was in a war zone. I heard no shots fired, and I heard no explosions.

After having spent several days Baghdad’s Green Zone and Red Zone, I still haven’t heard or seen any explosions. It’s a peculiar war. It is almost a not-war. Last July’s war in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon was hundreds of times more violent and terrifying than this one. Explosions on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border were constant when I was there.

You’d think explosions and gunfire define Iraq if you look at this country from far away on the news. They do not. The media is a total distortion machine. Certain areas are still extremely violent, but the country as a whole is defined by heat, not war, at least in the summer. It is Iraq’s most singular characteristic. I dread going outside because it’s hot, not because I’m afraid I will get hurt.


Baghdad is gigantic and sprawling. It looks much less ramshackle from the air than I expected. Individual cities-within-a-city are home to millions of people all by themselves. The sheer enormity of the place puts the almost daily car bomb attacks into perspective. The odds that you personally will be anywhere near the next car bomb or IED are microscopic.
Read the whole thing.

The Old Homestead

One side of my family came to the US from Austria in 1870, escaping the lingering effects of the 30 Year War. They rode steerage (the lowest class of ticket) and eventually settled in Wisconsin. Over the generations, their progeny have expanded across part of the state to the point where our family name (an unusual one) can be found in phone books in moderately large numbers. On our vacation, one of the oldest living memebrs of our family, a woman who had traced our geneology, showed us many of the farms. Here's a typical one.

Our family now runs many of these along with a wide variety of other businesses. As we drove through the countryside it struck me how very much like Switzerland and, by inference, how much like Austria this was. It's no wonder that they headed to Wisconsin to settle.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


My son took this photo as we flew from Chicago to San Diego on Tuesday. I rather like it. It's particularly cool if you click on it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Looking for Links

After some careful consideration, I've decided to act on my earlier post about my reading habits strongly influencing my writing. I'm going to delete all of my politics-related links on my portal. There's not many of them, but they were the ones I used the most. That leaves 8-10 links open for anything in the world.

What wacky, informative, funny, thought-provoking or otherwise interesting links should I put in their place?

She's Happy We're Home

We just got back from a week-long family vacation in Wisconsin. Stories and photos to follow. When we returned, our Maximum Leader was overjoyed to see us. She hadn't eaten much while we were away even though the neighbors came by to take care of her. She's stayed close to us ever since we got back. I just took this shot of her in her office furniture right next to my computer. I had to stand over her to be sure that I captured that look of comfort on her face.

Boy, am I glad you're home! Now I can relax.

If you like photos like these, be sure to visit this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

Happy with Pay Per Post

A while back I discovered Heather, our Holy Canadian Scholar, Eh? On her blog, she was using Pay Per Post's ads on blogs. I had been using AdSense and I thoroughly disliked it. It kept giving me the most horrendous ads and the pay averaged little more than single digit pennies per hour blogging.

Pay Per Post was different. It gave me inspirations for posts and allowed me to be crative and silly while making a little extra money. I haven't done it much since I refuse to do posts just for cash, but the $40+ I've had deposited in my PayPal account has been a welcome little treat. I also got to meet Heather and she became a member of the Feline Theocracy.

I don't think anyone noticed, but when I moved to the new Blogger and reconstructed my template, I threw away my AdSense. It's not coming back, either. Instead, when I want to generate a little extra cash with my blogging, I'll stop by Pay Per Post and see if I can do anything fun (and genuine) with what I find there.

If you hadn't guessed, this was a Pay Per Post post. Just thought I'd share. If you want to join, drop me an email. They have a referral program and you'd be doing me a favor by letting me be your referrer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mitt Romney Treads Water in his own Ocean

This campaign commercial illustrates both what I like and dislike about Mitt Romney.

First, I totally agree with him. In my previous post I wrote about my own very recent enlightenment that my media consumption deeply colors my blogging. People, and not just children, are affected by the culture that surrounds them. It's the nature of our brains to form internal patterns to recognize and categorize the familiar, making the culture we expose ourselves to normal and things outside of our experience strange.

The government and the president, outside of a media campaign to educate us, has very little to do with this. The children that Mitt discusses in his ad are primarily impacted by parenting. Electing one candidate or another will have very little effect on this if we don't change our attitudes towards parenting. It could be argued that the government changed national attitudes towards smoking, so perhaps this isn't so far-fetched. I'm just very leery of any candidate that wants to tackle problems almost completely beyond the reach of the government. (See also: costs, health care.)

Lastly, Mitt's speech pattern is weird. Like Hillary's or Obama's or most of the rest of them, he's got that strange, halting speech pattern you'd use if you were talking in a foreign language. It's like he's having to translate the words before he speaks. It completely wrecks the message for me. He's not a friend having a conversation, he's some nut who thinks he has to talk down to me.

The only candidate who doesn't do this is Fred Thompson. His speech is natural and unforced. If he's scheming and plotting as he talks, it doesn't show. Unlike, say, Hillary Clinton, the mistress of duplicity, Fred seems utterly genuine.

You Are What You Read

About a year ago I made myself a portal and started using it as my home page. It has links to all of my favorite blogs and news sites. Every so often, I make changes to it and I find that those alterations dramatically change my blogging. When my home page features Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt and No Pasaran then my posts lean heavily towards the political. When I read the Wall Street Journal, they tend heavily towards the financial.

A few times on this blog I've claimed I was going to make a course correction and cut out this or that kind of post. It looks like all I needed to do was to change my reading habits.

Monday, July 16, 2007

How to Deal with Barry Bonds

Very soon, that human lab animal, Barry Bonds, will break Hank Aaron's career home run record. No one wants to be the pitcher or team that gives up the fateful home run to that cow growth hormone infused freak. I think this is improper. I would suggest that every team should be itching to be the one victimized by Mr. Steroids. In fact, I would want to be the pitcher who gave up the record-breaking dinger.

I'd want to be that pitcher because I'd pitch to him underhand. Like this.

For all time, the video of the record-breaking home run would make Barry Bonds the laughingstock he has made the home run record. As Barry ran around the bases, the crowd would be rolling on the ground in hysterics, laughing their heads off.

It would be glorious.

By the way, I used to love Barry. When he was with the Pirates, I always rooted for him and Bobby Bonilla. Had he come by this honorably, I'd be on his side. Now, I'm just sad that the real greatest baseball player of our generation, Ken Griffey Jr., of whom no whisper of steroids has ever been mentioned, lost so much playing time to injury. He deserved to be the one going for the record, not Mr. Inflated Skull Bonds.

Summer Reruns

Yes, I know I've posted this before. But it's summer and you have to expect to see reruns this time of year.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Jake Tapper Needs to get Over Himself

...he might also want to enter the 21st century.

According to his blog site, "Jake Tapper is ABC News' Senior National Correspondent based in the network's Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories."

He also recently got his head handed to him by our Patriarch of the Airwaves, Hugh Hewitt in a recent interview. Jake tried to do an ambush piece on Hugh and it backfired very badly. His assistant had sent Hugh a memo asking for an interview about Hugh's new book, A Mormon in the White House? Jake didn't seem that interested in discussing the book and the first question from Jake was about Louisiana Republican senator Vitter and his involvement with the DC madam.

Hugh answered the questions honestly, but about halfway into the interview, Hugh finally unsheathed his claws and went to work on the very unprepared Mr. Tapper. When confronted with the contents of the memo asking for the interview, Jake claimed no knowledge of it. That was like leaning into a left hook. His best bet was to apologize for the mistake and try to get off the subject as fast as possible. Instead, he tried to act like it was no big deal. What a moron. Hugh shredded him and rightfully so.

Look, either he knew about it or he didn't. If he did, then he's a liar. (I'm shocked, just shocked to find that the MSM isn't transparent about its methods!) If he didn't, then the vaunted advantage of the MSM over the blogospere, organizational cross-checking is just junk. (Like we didn't know that already, right Mr. Rather?)

Can you imagine ABC sending its senior correspondent to interview a nationally syndicated talk show host with an audience between 1 and 2 million and not having a prep meeting where they discussed the topic and the invitation they would send? That's total nonsense. When my organization sends invitations out to VIPs, we typically send out a draft agenda or at least a full list of topics we want to cover in the meeting. It allows the VIP to prepare. Meetings with unprepared people are a waste of time.

Unless you're trying to ambush them. Then unprepared people are exactly what you want.

My favorite portion of the interview was the one where Hugh asked Jake about how he voted in previous elections. Jake went off in a direction that sounded like it came straight from the Empress Jadis, out of C S Lewis' The Magician's Nephew. Compare the two and see if you can hear it.

The answer is because I am conflicted about whether or not it is appropriate for somebody whose job it is to be an arbiter, a truth teller of these elections, whether or not it is appropriate for that person to ultimately step into the voting booth and choose. I do understand those who say that it’s not appropriate to vote, and that’s how I felt in the last election, and that’s generally how I’m coming to feel.
The Empress Jadis:
You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or any of the common people is not wrong for a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.
Borrowing from a James Lileks analogy that I've come to love, I left this comment on Jake's blog.
For the love of God, Jake, get over yourself. You're not some kind of superhero whose identity must be kept a secret for the safety of us all. You're a reporter and a commentator and in the era of the new media, you're just one of us. I have a blog, too, Jake. I do news stories and analysis, too, Jake. It's not a big deal...You're an ant who thinks he's an elephant.
For a while, I regretted the comment as too snarky. As I started to imagine the planning meetings at ABC that must have gone on prior to the interview, I realized that Jake's whole line about "I had no idea the memo had gone out" and also his claim that Senator Vitter's steamy indiscretions were somehow important enough to ask Hugh about were just a load of manure. He ambushed Hugh and was trying to humiliate him by asking questions about a Republican scandal. Jake deserves nothing but scorn and derision.

Update: Jake Tapper wants to fuss about Senator Vitter. Good choice. There might be a better one. Read this and then do a Google news search for any MSM stories about it. Find any? Neither did I. Jake Tapper, ABC senior national correspondent, call your office!

Links: Hugh and his blogging team have since followed up with a series of broadsides that leave Jake's protestations in tatters. They're glorious. Simply glorious. Why don't you wander on over and take a look. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Truth From Iraq

If you want to know how things are going in Iraq, turn off of the TV and put down the newspaper. Those people don't know squat since they rarely get out of their hotel rooms. Instead, take a listen to Michael Yon's interview with our Patriarch of the Airwaves, Hugh Hewitt.

Michael's dispatches can be read here.

Rick Lee

Don't ask, just visit his site. It's filled with great photos like this one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

If You've Ever Wondered What it's Like to be a Veterinarian

...our Official Artist is experiencing it. And blogging about it, of course! Check it out. I find his posts fascinating.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Michael Yon has posted another dispatch, this one further describing how the Sunnis have turned on Al Qaeda, how they're helping American forces, how large Al Qaeda was in Iraq and how they are now on the run.
The focus on al Qaeda makes sense here, where local officials have gone on record acknowledging that most of the perhaps one thousand al Qaeda fighters in Baqubah were young men and boys who called the city home. This may clash with the perception in US and other media that only a small percentage of the enemy in Iraq is al Qaeda, which in turn leads to false conclusions that the massive offensive campaign underway across Iraq is a lot of shock and awe aimed at a straw enemy. But as more Sunni tribal leaders renounce former ties with al Qaeda, it’s becoming clearer just how heavily AQ relied on local talent, and how disruptive they have been here in fomenting the civil war...

The same Zawahiri who issued al Qaeda’s latest call for recruits sent a letter to Zarqawi back in 2005, warning him to stop cutting off people’s heads and broadcasting it. Zawahiri’s version of a “Values Message” cautioned Zarqawi that these grostesqueries were losing al Qaeda the support of Muslims. He was right. Al Qaeda is no longer welcome in Baqubah.
We're winning.

Our Patriarch of the Airwaves, Hugh Hewitt has a post on senators calling for a general retreat from Iraq. I won't quote it here because it make me sick to my stomach.

Meanwhile, today's USA Today has an above-the-fold story on how some Iraqi police were conspiring with Al Qaeda. While true, this is an aberration and gives an entirely false sense of the situation in Iraq. There is no doubt at all that the Mainstream Media (MSM) is the enemy of truth and freedom. The information distribution revolution can't proceed fast enough for me.

Finally, at yesterday's MLB All Star game, the 7th inning stretch featured some woman singing "God Bless America." It was preceded by her stating her desire that the troops come home safe. What an utterly emasculated sentiment.

How about asking for victory, instead?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nintendo Goes to School

I've been waiting for this for a long time.

In today's Wall Street Journal (WSJ), there's an article (subscription may be required) about the Japanese school system making use of Nintendo DS's for teaching.
Every morning at 8:50, eighth-grade teachers at Otokoyama Higashi Junior High School bring out plastic baskets stacked with electronic devices. For 10 minutes, 122 students use styluses to scrawl English words like "woman" and "tree" on touch screens. Electronic voices beep responses like "Cool!" if the children spell the word correctly, and a mocking "Come on!" if they get it wrong.

The students are tapping away on Nintendo Co.'s DS videogame machine, a portable device customarily reserved for games like Pokémon and Super Mario Bros.

"Work sheets were such a pain," says Minori Yamanaka, a 13-year-old student, during a short break between classes. "These exercises feel like a game."

Atsuko! Put down that book and pick up your Nintendo DS and get back to your schoolwork! You can play with pen and paper on your own time.

Having worked on video game development teams before (I wrote software for Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. for the N64), I've wondered why there weren't educational games for some of these systems. Why buy a dedicated system like a Leap Frog when your kids already have a perfectly adequate hardware platform. In fact, I can guarantee you that the Leap Frog has nothing like the horsepower of even an N64.
Behind the fastest-selling portable videogame player in Japan is an unusual shift in the culture of gadgets: People are clamoring for it not just for games, but also to keep a household budget, play the guitar, and study the Buddhist scripture Heart Sutra. Since its introduction in 2004, the DS, which responds to writing and speech, has spurred software makers to fill the Japanese market with an eclectic array of reference guides, digital books and study tools.

Of the 500-odd DS software titles released or in the works so far, only about 200 are traditional videogames. Nintendo is quick to license uses of its DS device, which is also sold in the U.S., so long as they aren't violent or otherwise objectionable. Most of the software isn't available overseas, though Nintendo has released a few products like a "brain-training" quiz game called Brain Age and says it is considering releasing more. Game publishers believe the trend will eventually move outside Japan.
Brain Age has been a huge hit, selling more than one million copies.
Like many things, the transition from traditional educational methods to the use of the Nintendo DS, the shift is as much cultural as it is anything else.
There was another big advantage: It was teacher-friendly. Despite Japan's reputation as a gadget-loving nation, many schools, including those in Yawata, were surprisingly dependent on paper. Many teachers found computers to be a nuisance because they required preparing extra lessons, and moving children to a computer room. Some were even intimidated by the computers. But the DS could be used briefly and in the classroom. And it cut down on paperwork.

"It's not like we're letting the students play games without supervision," Mr. Hayashi says. "I don't even consider them to be a game device. It's a tool."

To avoid potential controversy, Mr. Hayashi introduced the device cautiously. He secretly approached IE Institute Co., a Tokyo educational-software concern, about making an English-vocabulary program. A year and a half later, Mr. Hayashi showed the finished product to his colleagues and proposed a test. Educators, including the principal of Otokoyama Higashi Junior High where the trial was held last fall, were impressed with the DS's ability to pronounce words and quickly recognize letters that were written on the screen.

Japan's Ministry of Education is taking a reserved view of Yawata's efforts. It says it is up to each district to decide which teaching tools to use, but hastens to add that the government isn't endorsing them. Still, the results of the five-month test have been impressive. The school found that nearly 80% of students who used the DS each day mastered junior-high-level competence in English vocabulary, compared with just 18% before. About half of those students had developed 11th-grade-level abilities. The school district is now testing other software for subjects like arithmetic and Japanese.
This almost sounds like the way certain corporate organizations are adopting Web 2.0.

Image used without permission from How Stuff Works.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Feral Cat Update

My previous posts on the colony of feral cats that live on the Quivira Jetty have drawn a lot of traffic and commentary. I am very grateful for everyone who has stopped by and left their thoughts. It's all been quite civil. A couple of thoughts have occurred to me as I've watched the discussion unfold.

First, everyone involved has good hearts. While I am strongly against maintaining feral cat colonies and even come down firmly on the side of eradication, I can see that the feral supporters are motivated by kindheartedness. They don't want to see the little fuzzies hurt.

As wild and ecologically damaging as this kitty is, even I don't want to see it suffer. No one does.

I think that the feral supporters love cats, they've probably had to put down cats of their own and remember the pain of seeing their loved pet pass away. They can imagine what it would be like for the feral cat to be killed. In none of the comments, however, do they mention the pain and death of the local rodents that are killed by the ferals. Imagined or not, it does happen. Our own Maximum Leader is a well-fed, spayed tuxedo and despite having plenty to eat, she routinely brings in birds, lizards, insects and mice that she has killed. She can't help it; it's the way God made her. I let her out because I want her to live like a cat and I accept the death and destruction she dishes out to the locals. Call it hypocritical, but I've made that moral decision.

My wild brethren are fuzzy and cute, too. Their painful deaths at the hands of the ferals happen whether you imagine them or not.

One commenter left a link to the site, TNRrealitycheck, which discusses the drawbacks of the feral cat trap-neuter-release program.
The creators of this website are vehemently opposed to TNR for many reasons. In short, TNR does not reduce the feral cat population through natural attrition and comes at the expense of our native wildlife. TNR is inhumane for our companion animals and the existence of cat colonies contributes to the unending cycle of abandonment. TNR only appears to solve the problem of feral cat overpopulation, but in reality new problems are created.
Here's the part that really motivates my position.
Native wildlife has not developed the mechanisms to live alongside non-native predator species. This causes an imbalance and can decimate local wildlife populations. Native predator-prey fluctuations are normal and maintain an ecological balance and biodiversity. No balance can exist between domestic cats (an exotic species) and native wildlife in the environment.
It's worse that this. The feeding stations left by the feral cat supporters allow the alien predators, the ferals, to live in much higher concentrations than they would if left to their own devices. So not only are they a threat the locals have not adapted to, they are a massed threat. It's like having one crack house in your neighborhood and then finding that the government has subsidized three more right nearby. It's a disaster.

In the first post, I put up a poll to see which side my readers came down on. Due to some viral marketing of my post by the feral supporters, the vote has gone dramatically in one direction. I'll bet local city and county government meetings go this way, too, when feral eradication is discussed. Here's the poll again so you can vote if you'd like. Comments and discussion are very welcome.

Should the feral cats be exterminated?
Free polls from Pollhost.com

The iPhone - Cute, but Useless

I got to play with a friend's iPhone yesterday. It is very cute! The screen is gorgeous and the user interface is wonderful.

It's also completely useless.

I make many phone calls from my car. With my cheap Sprint phone, I can do it one-handed. You can't do that with the iPhone. The iPhone fails the most important test of all: Can you use it as a cell phone.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Feral Cats of the Quivira Jetty

Yesterday, K T wrote about the ecological effects of the feral cats that live on the jetty between Mission Beach and Ocean Beach, within the borders of the San Diego River bird sanctuary. Today I rode out again to see them and this time I brought along the camera so I could show you the way they live.

This is what home looks like for the ferals. The jetty is made from granite blocks. Click on the image for a larger version.

Here are six of the cats I spotted today. If you click on the images, you can see the scars and wounds on some of their faces from fighting.

The folks in the area that care for these ferals leave food out for them.

The end result of leaving the food out for the cats is that they live in a much more confined space than nature intended, hence the fighting. The food is pretty scarce outside of these feeding stations, but part of that is due to the predation of the cats on the native species.

A late night snack?

This little fellow is native. I saw two of them on the whole jetty.

The two local birds I saw compared to 6 cats and those were just the ones I photographed. The density of predators makes it impossible for the native species to survive. They're being annihilated by the ferals.

Make no mistake, kitties are fuzzy and cute. But so are little birds and rodents.

What, I'm not cute?

So why are we letting the fuzzy and cute alien species wipe out the fuzzy and cute natives?

Update: These posts have generated so much interest that I've followed it up with another one here.

Brown Onion Flower

I had a brown onion from the store that began to sprout. Rather than eat it, I decided to plant it in the vegetable garden. So I could eat it and all of it's children. Muuhahahahaha!

Ahem. Sorry about that.

Err, as I was saying, I planted it and it recently bloomed. The flower is perfectly spherical, one of the strangest flowers I've ever seen. It looks like this.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Feral Cats at a Bird Sanctuary

I just got back from a bike ride around Mission Bay and out to the end of the Mission Beach jetty. The area around the jetty is a sanctuary for coastal wetlands birds. On the jetty is a colony of feral cats. I believe that most of them have been spayed. Despite this, I still think that they're an environmental problem. As much as I love cats, I think the whole colony ought to be wiped out.

Lots of the feral cats look like this mangy fellow.

Cats are not native to San Diego. They represent a significant change in the predator ecosystem and a significant threat to wild birds, lizards and rodents. As development has proceeded in San Diego, wild, open spaces have vanished almost entirely. A reduced habitat and the introduction of a huge number of predators seems to be contrary to any concept of conservation. I know that kitties are cute and that wiping out a bunch of them seems cruel, but how cruel is it to allow the wild birds and rodents to be slaughtered? Death is death and allowing the ferals to stay just spares one and kills the others. I'd suggest adopting them, but given our current population in shelters and how hard it is to domesticate ferals, I don't think this is realistic. I also don't think relocating them makes sense. All you'd do is introduce a colony of non-native predators somewhere else.

What do you think?

Should the feral cats be exterminated?
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Photo used without permission from canalphotos.org.

Update: Surfing the web, I find lots of wishy-washy mumbling going on. The Sierra Club wants to study the situation more. A veterinarian magazine thinks we should engage in a different kind of steralization process. It all seems inefficient and dodges the issue. Other than the feral cat advocates, no one questions the damage done by the ferals. It seems like people just don't want to come down on the side of eradication.

Update: I posted a follow up post with photos here.

Update 2: These posts have generated so much interest that I've followed it up with another one here.

Some of my Best Freinds are Canines

Aside: I misspelled "friend" in the title. Since blogspot sets it's URLs based on the title and this post has been linked elsewhere, I can't go back and correct it. Argh!

Our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands recently posted about a Mitt Romney story that I, still living in the 1950s, had not heard.
In 1983, Romney's dog made a 12-hour trip from Boston to Ontario in a kennel lashed to the top of the family station wagon...What happened with the dog?

..."Seamus expressed his discomfort with a diarrhea attack. When Romney's eldest son, Tagg, and his four brothers complained about the brown runoff down the back windshield, their father quietly pulled the car over, borrowed a gas station hose and sprayed down both the dog and the kennel before returning to the road."
That does it for me. He should be overwhelmed with shame from this episode. He's now at the bottom of my list for Republican candidates. Well, maybe not the bottom, since Ron Paul is still around, but he's down there.

Our Missionary bravely saves us all from a stuffed octopus toy.

While I'm not a dog owner and our Maximum Leader is very uncomfortable in the presence of dogs, I submit to you that for their safety, neither our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands nor our Holy Ambassador to the Kingdom of Dogs would ever be allowed on the roof of my car, much less be strapped to it.

Our Holy Ambassador in all his glory.

If you want to look at this from a purely political perspective, this is just another example of how Mitt can be so tone deaf at times. If it isn't thinking that the rest of us will laugh with him at the thought of his dog strapped to the roof his car, it's his radio commercials which have all the weightlessness of Hillary's or Obama's. "If we walk, arm in arm towards the future..." or something like that. I expect childish, vapid rhetoric from the intellectually exhausted Democrats, but from Mitt, I expect a lot more.

No Romney support here. I'm with Fred.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Because I Can

Bush Should Resign Immediately

The WSJ chronicles yet another item in the lengthening list of horrors inflicted by this disastrous president.
Nonfarm payrolls increased 132,000 in June, after swelling 190,000 in May and 122,000 in April, the Labor Department said Friday. Previous reports showed job growth of just 157,000 in May and 80,000 in April. Monthly job growth has averaged a robust 145,000 so far this year. The unemployment rate was unchanged last month at 4.5%.

Average hourly earnings increased $0.06, or 0.3%, to $17.38. That was up 3.9% from a year earlier, suggesting tight labor markets still aren't putting much pressure on labor costs.
Will his reign of terror never end?

The Fourth of July is the Worst Holiday of All

This isn't intended as a rant, but as an observation. Two days ago, I stood on my balcony overlooking Mission Bay to see if I could see any of the fireworks displays for the fourth. When it's clear on the fourth, I can see about seven of them. This time it was overcast. The most I could see were the lower hemispheres of the explosions. It was kind of cool at the beginning, but for the most part it was just disappointing.

Meanwhile, the air was filled with the sounds of police, fire and ambulance sirens. The radio had been broadcasting all day about the traffic jams of people heading to the beach and how all the parking lots were filled by 10AM.

Traffic jams, muffled explosions, overtime for our emergency personnel, self-inflicted injuries and inaccessible beaches. This is how we celebrate independence?

The AP Shows its Bias (Again)

Normally I don't post links posted by Glenn Reynolds. It just seems ridiculous for me to link to a story when he has. He gets 600x as many hits per day as I do. In this case, however, it's worth it.

Confederate Yankee posted an open letter to the head of the AP asking why they were willing to run with fake atrocities and not publish real ones. The best journalist in all of Iraq, Michael Yon, wonders the same thing.

It's worth reading those posts. If you belong to digg, please digg it. I just joined digg right now so I could do so.

Thanks for suggesting this, Ron.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Peter Drucker on Medical Costs

As the presidential race heats up, we'll be hearing more and more about universal medical coverage with less and less informed commentary. I thought I'd share a tidbit from the management guru of all management gurus, Peter Drucker. Here's a passage from his Managing for the Future.

The most telling example are hospitals. When I first began to work with them - in the late 1940s - they were entirely labor-intensive, with little capital investment except in bricks, mortar and beds. A good many perfectly respectable hospitals then had not yet invested in available and fairly old technologies; they had neither X-ray departments nor clinical laboratory nor physical therapy. Today's hospitals are the most capital-intensive facilities around, with enormous sums invested in ultra sound, body scanners, nuclear magnetic imagers, blood and tissue analyzers, clean rooms and a dozen more new technologies. Each of these brought with it the need for additional and expensive people without reducing by a single person the hospital's existing staff. In fact, the world-wide escalation of health-care costs is the result, in large measure, of the hospital's having become an economic monstrosity. Being both highly labor-intensive and highly capital-intensive, it is, by any economist's definition, simply not viable economically. But the hospital has at least significantly increased its performance capacity. In other areas of knowledge or service work there are only higher costs, more investment and more people.
That is to say, investing in an X-ray machine does not reduce costs, it increases them since it requires greater knowledge and hence, higher salaries, on the part of the staff to use it properly. In the upcoming presidential debates, what we will not here from the candidates will be any understanding of the economic realities of the costs of medical care as outlined here. I'd be surprised if you could come up with a counterexample.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

LOL Hamster

They try to keep me in, but I can always find a way out!

H/T: lolhamster.

Intellectual Fun and Games with Blogging

If you haven't visited our Keeper of the Catacombs lately, you should. Ron's been hosting one of the coolest applications of Web 2.0 I've ever seen, a series of contests on his blog. I don't need to describe it because a quick visit will reveal everything you need to know.

Go ahead and click over there. I'll wait.

Did you go? Excellent. Pretty cool, wasn't it? Ron's area of expertise is fairly unusual. Without blogs and the network of friends and colleagues enabled by the Internet, such intellectually intriguing fun and games wouldn't be possible. I love it.

I've been trying to introduce blogging at work and have had some success. We've made some great connections made because of our blogs, but we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. I'm beginning to develop an idea for a similar set of contests we can hold at work on our blogs there. It would be a fun way to continue to grow our professional interconnections.

Thanks to an idea borrowed from Ron, we're going to find that there's much more below the surface of blogging.

The World Wildlife Fund Takes a Slow Boat to China

Our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands recently posted about Greenpeace's seeming lack of concern over the ecological devastation in China. They're not alone. Go and visit the World Wildlife Fund site and search on China. The top stories are all about 25 Years of Success in China.


Could it be that the WWF and others are missing the boat when it comes to China?

If you look at the WWF's current campaigns, they include stopping prairie dog poisoning, saving whales, stopping an oil drilling effort and, of course, the ubiquitous global warming. Nothing at all about mounds of poisonous slag leaching toxic heavy metals into the soil and ground water in China.

I will say this for the WWF, they definitely have a positive voice on their site. They eschew the heavy handed lecturing so common in the green movement and instead focus on positive education and stories of success. It's a pleasant site and encourages participation.

Still, you'd think that the ecological annihilation of vast swaths of land would raise some red flags, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Great Caffeine and Catkins Experiment - A Progress Report

A while back, I decided to cut down on my caffeine intake. I now drink one cup a day, down from 2 1/2 plus at least one Diet Coke. A short while after that, our Maximum Leader went on the Catkins Diet at the recommendation of her vet. She now eats Hill's m/d dry kibble.

Aside: Yes, I know that m/d was recalled by Hills because the !#%*%*! Chicoms poisoned it. The tainted food has been removed from circulation, according to Hills.

The result of these experiments after a few weeks is that we both feel better and have more energy.

With more energy, I blog faster and spend more time outside and less on the chair in the computer room.

A few days ago I had a Diet Coke late in the afternoon at work because I thought I needed a jolt to get something done. When I came home, I found myself irritable and I snapped at the kids a couple of times, something I hadn't done since I had reduced my caffeine intake. Meanwhile, our Maximum Leader has renewed energy and her coat has improved dramatically.

Her Serene Furriness is frequently seen soaring across the carpet, her newly improved, luxurious fur coat glistening in the sun.

All in all, we're both pleased with the results.

The MSM is Following a Process, but not the one You'd Expect

...just not the process designed to deliver factual news stories.

By now some of you have read that the AP, Reuters and various other elements of the Mainstream Media (MSM) have been duped again, this time by a mythical story of mass beheadings in Iraq. Over at Pajamas Media, Bob Owens takes the story apart, piece by piece and provides a chronology of his own investigation. He has all the facts in front of him and hits the salient points, but there are two dots he doesn't connect.

First, the process of discovering the truth of the story as followed by the MSM runs counter to logic.
I’m not Associated Press reporter Sinan Salheddin, nor am I Kim Gamel, AP’s Baghdad news editor, but if I was investigating a story about a 20-corpse mass murder in—let’s say, Manhattan—then I’d try to find a local police officer at the scene to interview about the case.

I wouldn’t rely on a desk sergeant in Staten Island who merely heard reports of other officers being dispatched to check to see if there was such a crime, nor would I rely on a beat cop in Albany who is only reporting rumors of what he heard from friends of relatives in Queens.
Second, the great strength of the MSM, editorial review, was present, but still allowed this to slip by.
As the quality and accuracy of their stories shows a marked and consistent decline, we can only attribute this decline to a failure in editorial leadership, and wonder how much further the respective Boards of Directors for these agencies will allow their reputations to slip before they see a need to replace senior leadership and re-examine their management decisions, editorial standards, and field-level accountability.
Here is where Bob misses the point. The AP and Reuters are professionally mature organizations. That is, they have an established, vetted process for confirming stories and determining facts. Their editorial staffs consist of sophisticated, experienced professionals with decades of prior art to draw upon. And yet, they are regularly taken in by stories like this, supplied by rumor and innuendo.

Reporters on your local junior high school paper wouldn't print things on such flimsy evidence. Even they would know to corroborate stories better than this. It's not reasonable to claim that the editorial staff in Iraq is ignorant or incapable of learning from past mistakes. It just isn't believable to suggest that this is an honest error. The process followed by even semi-professional media outlets would not permit such a thing to pass into the public.

The only thing I'm left with is to conclude that either the MSM has been reduced to a propaganda arm of the enemy or they have become tabloid journalists or both. There's one reason in particular I lean towards the propaganda explanation. The stories of decapitation are sensational and fit into their theme of chaos and failure in Iraq.

Traditional tabloid media relies on stories of spectacular heroism as well as hideous depravity. The mother who rescues her children from drowning in a sinking car or the fireman who saves the toddler from the burning building are the stuff of such media outlets just as the mass murderer and the psychotic rapist. From Iraq, stories of heroism in the presence of danger such as those from Spirit of America have been almost completely blacked out. That doesn't match the traditional format of tabloid media at all.

Occam's Razor holds for this case as well as any other. The simplest explanation that fits the facts is probably the truth. It just doesn't make sense to think that the MSM, with it's sophisticated processes developed through generations of reporting has managed to blow so many similar stories time after time. It's far more likely that they're just reporting what fits their view of the world.