Tuesday, August 28, 2007

China's Virtual Internet Police

Beijing police begin patrolling the internet today with virtual police men and women. View the image and newswire story here. Just a little scary, no?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Alberto Gonzales - Resignation Letter

Here is an image of Alberto Gonzales' resignation letter. Who of us didn't see it coming?
What you really should be checking out is Former Attorney General John Ashcroft's recording history.

It's tough being the Atty General. You just might consider turning down the job - if you're ever offered it.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Michael Vick Good as Unemployed

Michael Vick's atty's hinted he'd plead guilty to some charges surrounding the dog-fighting, cruelty, and conspiracy allegations that his good friends and cohorts have already turned state's evidence on with their plea deals. You might want to visit the Campaign to Sack Michael Vick, just to once again test the winds on the issues, whatever your sentiments.

The Clog Almanac advocates letting Vick plea to lesser charges by the federal authorities, thinking he'll be able, as one of the posts put it, to "Strut Training Camp Next Summer". Round 2 would be to allow South Carolina to pull the rug out from under him by later pressing state charges and try him for a longer list of crimes. Round 3 would be for the NFL to quietly ban him from their ranks. My employer would sack me and other little people (to paraphrase Leona Helmsley) and deny any vested pension benefits if convicted of the same list of state and federal crimes.

If anything, this whole affair puts other thug-athletes on notice that their anti-social behaviors and crimes will not go uninvestigated and unpunished. Go ahead, read the Code of Thug Life again.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Other Side of the World

From the clever interactive Antipodes Map:

Tunnel down through Hawa'ii: You come out in Botswana, Brah...
Jacksonville, FL - sorry, you come out in the ocean way off Western Australia.
Anchorage? Somewhere in the Southern Ocean north of Antarctica - Sorry to break this news.
Hong Kong? You're gonna end up in Bolivia. I wouldn't have guessed, either.

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US-Israeli Military Aid Deal

The US stock market, beset by the widening fall-out of overextended American greed within the whole of the residential real estate investing/brokerage/financing market, has seen volatility this past two weeks that resembles a graph drawn by a cricket trying to stand on a hot backyard grill. At this point, the only thing keeping the market from plunging once-and-for-all into the depths of the Earth are near-daily infusions of capital by major banks and governmental agencies in several key countries.

Meanwhile, US-Israeli negotiations have warmed to the extent that the US Undersecretary of State (Nicholas Burns) has just signed a deal that pledges US$30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next 10 years. Consider this as a couple of 5-year plans from the near-finished Bush administration. What are they pledging to beef up Israel for? War with Iran? With Syria? With ________
(insert country here)? Are they hoping to provide Israel with deterrent arms that could be pressed into service if/when the US mounts a liberation/terrorist war against another Middle Eastern country?

Time will tell.

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Gator Hunt Opens Today

Dean became the first hurricane of the 2007 season early this a.m.

The first full day of the alligator hunting season opened today too. All 4500 permits were sold. Each permit holder is allowed to take 2 alligators.

How do you kill an alligator? Get your 2007 training manual here.

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Dean First Hurricane of 2007

Tropical Storm Dean has strengthened and so becomes the first hurricane of the 2007 season. Hurricane Dean is walking its way across the Atlantic at 18-20 mph and appears to be headed for the Yucatan. A National Weather Service posting indicates that an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft will be dispatched this afternoon, and the NOAA will send its Gulfstream-IV on a surveillance mission.

You might want to bookmark this Google Earth site to track the storm's progress.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Distributed Proofreaders

Pages proofread for Distrubuted Proofreaders: 356
Rank: Proofreading Apprentice - 1393 out of 59,383 volunteers.

The Clog Almanac recommends this all-volunteer team that assists Project Gutenberg in the painstaking task of converting public-domain books into a broadly-accessible online format for all the world.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pakistani Clerics Stop Polio Vaccine Campaign

Islamic fundamentalists destroyed polio vaccines and took health workers hostage in the Bajur agency in Pakistan. Hard-line clerics in the remote region are convinced that the vaccination program is a US conspiracy to render Islamic children incapable of having children, and thus, anti-Islamic.

Pakistan is one of only a handfull of countries in the world where polio still exists in the wild and where documented cases have been reported in the past few years.

How backward of those people, one might sigh, looking down from his/her western vantagepoint. One needn't be reminded that significant controversy still surrounds vaccinations in the US and other western countries. A search of "vaccine controversy" in your browser will return over 1.6 million links to investigate. Many of the loudest voices in the West seem to be centered in religious groups, and those who administer or practice alternative medicine.

Some have posited a link between vaccinations and autism. Here is the Center for Disease Control's statement.

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Mauritania Enacts Slavery Law

Slave owners in Mauritania can now face up to 10 years in prison if caught. There's progress - the practice was banned in 1981 but until now there was no penalty.

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Quebec Considers Plastic Bag Tax

Montreal environmental activist Jaques Lalonde is advocating a 20-cent tax on every plastic shopping bag, and Quebec's environmental minister is listening. The tax is not proposed as a source of state revenue, but rather, as an incentive to change the way people shop and reduce the amount of non-biodegradable plastic going into landfills. A similar tax in Ireland has reduced plastic bag use by 90% since 2002.

Must-Read Book

I finished reading Richard Preston's Wild Trees last night. This engaging account of the discovering, climbing, then exploring scientifically the canopies of the worlds tallest trees - the redwoods of northern California and Oregon - is utterly amazing. There are passages that will make your palms sweat, your stomach turn, and give you vertigo.

Visit the Humboldt State faculty webpage of the visionary Professor Stephen Sillet, the man behind the vision, the story and the science, then buy the book and read it.

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Little White Pill Update:

That pill languishing in the stairwell of my office building since sometime last month is still there.

Friday, August 10, 2007

United In Death - August 10

Today's Clog Almanac Friday Mashup juxtaposes two pioneers of flight. Both slipped their surly bonds on an August 10.

1896 Otto Lilienthal - German aircraft pioneer
1945 Robert H. Goddard - American rocket scientist

Lilienthal was known as the "Glider King". Photographs of his repeated successes at glider flight caught the imagination of the press and public. Lilienthal's studies of bird wing aerodynamics helped him to improve the design of his glider wings. Lilienthal worked with his brother Gustav, and eventually completed over 2000 glider flights before his death from a glider accident. The Wright Brothers were inspired by Lilienthal's successes.

Robert Goddard is the father of jet propulsion. He had designed and successfully tested a liquid-fuel rocket by 1926. His vision and work ushered in the age of manned space flight and nuclear warheads.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Michael Vick Honored by Christian Conference?

The current Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta explored ways in which to recognize Michael Vick in order to save his embattled soul. Trouble was, he was bound to stay in Virginia because of the serious felony charges surrounding the dog-fighting scandal, so they decided to wait until the case was decided in the courts.

Oh well. Perhaps southern Christians should look elsewhere for a person to honor. Maybe one of their own who are fighting to save families and to end poverty and racism, for instance.

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Product Review: Fudge du Locke

I've had the great pleasure of sampling once again the maple-walnut fudge from the Fudge du Locke candy kitchens of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, located near the Soo Locks. Every summer a gracious coworker sends a couple of one-pound sampler boxes of the delicious fudge south during her annual vacation to the family estate on the shore of Lake Michigan.

I've never been to the Soo Locks, which by the way, are the busiest locks on the planet (12,000+ ships/year). If the Clog-wife and I ever visit, we'll be sure to be there on the last Friday of June, when "Engineers Day Open House" occurs. On that day, visitors may gather at the edge of the locks within touching distance of the giant freight ships and other large craft that are lowered along the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.

Made-from-scratch fudge is a tradition in my family. I can still remember by heart the basic fudge recipe memorized as a high school student when for a time I took over as the sometime fudge-maker in my family:
  • Combine 2C sugar, 1C milk, 2T Karo light corn syrup, 3T cocoa powder, dash salt. Stir until mixed.
  • Cook over low heat DON'T STIR! to soft ball stage (236 degrees F - we used the cold water test, or candy thermometer, whichever was most convenient).
  • Remove from heat. Toss in a T or two of butter.
  • Let butter melt and let fudge cool for a half hour or so.
  • Beat cooling fudge with a stainless steel serving spoon to introduce air and to hasten cooling.
  • Pour fudge onto a buttered platter when it has lost its gloss and has thickened to the point that hand-beating is quite difficult.
  • Cool uncovered at room temperature until fudge is solid.
  • Covered unrefridgerated candy will keep for days. Refrigerated fudge will crystalize and dry out - BAD!
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Currently Reading

Two books that I'm currently enjoying:

The Dead Father - Donald Barthelme
The Wild Trees - Richard Preston

The Dead Father, one of Barthelme's classic novels, is a postmodern, metafictional pastiche that seems to defy the inertia of the giant half-dead, half-alive Dead Father being dragged by a cable across a collage of scenes and landscapes by a band of nineteen people. It's a remarkable story told in a remarkable style.

The Wild Trees seems more like science fiction than a narrative about an extraordinary scientific endeavor. It is an account of a group of adventurers who dared to climb to the tops of redwood trees and explore in the minutest detail the amazingly complex structure of a previously undiscovered unrecorded ecosystem 300 feet off the ground. Here you'll read about tree-dwelling voles, salamanders, earthworms and copepods; imagine clouds of honeybees buzzing around airborne huckleberry gardens, fern grottos, and many other wonders you may have previously assumed were bound to the ground beneath your feet. You'll read about a tree named Iluvatar by its discoverers whose complex crown of 220 trunks arranged in 6 hierarchies was one of many trees mapped in three dimensions. This tree is the most structurally complex living organism every discovered.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tancredo - We'll Bomb Your Holy Sites

Senator Tom Tancredo really did suggest that the U.S. warn Islamic fundamentalists that an attack on U.S. soil would precipitate retaliatory bombing of Muslim holy sites. Mecca and Medina are two of the places Tancredo has in mind.

Why Mecca? It is the holiest of holy sites. Non-Muslims are forbidden to set foot there on pain of death. Why Medina? The prophet Mohammed's tomb is located within the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

Would Tancredo go further and suggest that the bombing occur during Hajj time, when the holy sites and nearby cities are full of devout pilgrims? If so, he's likely already considered the following dates marking the beginning of the annual pilgrimage:

Hajj Calendar
2007 - December 18-21
2008 - December 6-9
2009 - November 25-29
2010 - November 14-17
2011 - November 4-7

The Clog Almanac judges Tandredo's saber-rattling to be dangerous folly - if for no other reason that the religious sites in question, Mecca and Medina, are in Saudi Arabia. Of course, there are many other reasons why threatening to destroy religious and cultural sites is a bad idea.

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Sack Michael Vick Saga

If you're trolling for info and sentiment surrounding the Michael Vick dogfighting saga, perhaps your first stop should be the Sack Michael Vick Blog Carnival. That site is organizing and tracking the development of the issues.

Vick's legal counsel, of course, would probably call it dogpiling.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

History's Yardstick - An Irish-American Success Story

The previous post mentioned the purchase of an antique yardstick at a community yard sale. The advertising on both sides reads:
The seller guessed the ruler "came from somewhere in the Midwest, maybe Iowa". Several other items for sale bore advertising from that state. What I found was interesting:

William John Dixon was born 12 Jan 1857 in Lisburn, County Antrim, Ireland. Dixon traveled to America as an 18 year-old in 1875. He worked in a lumber yard, learned the business, and founded a lumber business of his own. The W.J. Dixon Lumber Co. had yards in Sac City, Lytton, Denison, Audubon, Auburn, and the Dixon Lumber and Coal Company in Ida Grove and Rockwell City, Iowa. Dixon served in the Iowa legislature, the Board of Trustees of Iowa State College (now University) and the state board of control. He always went by the nickname "W.J."

W.J. Dixon's son, Paul William Dixon, took a degree in Architecture from Columbia University. For a time he managed his father's business, the W.J. Dixon Lumber Co. He eventually became the Chairman of the board of Trustees of Buena Vista College (now University) in Storm Lake, Iowa. Paul William Dixon self-published a book titled Our Heritage, which details the Dixon, Gould and Eastman family connections.

That, after just a few minutes searching the Internet. My yard-sale yardstick is the measure of an immigrant success story. An Irish boy comes to the United States, runs a successful business, and eventually becomes a trustee of the first land-grant college in the country - a school that will go on to achieve membership in the prestigious American Association of Universities. His son attends an Ivy League institution, manages the family business, and becomes a trustee of yet another college that will also go on to be noted as a University with a first: the first "wireless" university campus in the U.S.

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Small Town Americana

Early this a.m. the Clog-wife and I bicycled the few blocks to the historic center of our little north central Florida town. Her destination, the city-sponsored yard sale. Mine, the old-fashioned barbershop, for a trim.

As usual the man-talk in the shop was varied and comical. Southerners love a good story and love to tell them. Since today's talkative gentleman was a law enforcement officer from one of the neighboring counties, stories centered around humorous incidents and arrests of local characters back in the days when a feller got sent home to his wife without being charged, drug busts on the I-75 corridor, and other sundry accounts that contrast today with the way it used to be. About as close to Mayberry R.F.D. as you can get these days.

At one point an old local farmer walked through the door and one barber held his hands up and exclaimed "Hold it everybody, so-and-so has just walked in, so you better put your boots on!" - meaning that the B.S. would be piling up soon.

The downtown was awash with people from far and wide looking for good deals at the yard sale. I had 3 inquiries about my old bicycle, a 1960's Western Flyer. I wasn't going to sell it. It's too fun to ride. From the yard sale I brought home 3 items that I could hold in one hand while riding the bike home: a paperback version of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, an old yardstick advertising the W.J. Dixon Lumber Co., and a small antique vise designed to grip the edge of your workbench.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

End of an American Icon?

The other day an American icon met its demise in my neighborhood.

Remember when the neighborhood Quickie Mart parking area got its first coating of asphalt? I do. Remember how in years following the asphalt became studded with bottle-caps that had been crushed into it? I do. Of course, you had to have been born before the eclipse of glass-bottle pop by the popularity of can soda and its successor PET-plastic bottled soda. Those were the days when the cashier kept a cap-lifter behind the counter and offered to open the glass bottle for you. [There are places in Florida that to this day still do that for you if you want to drink on their premises - bottled beer even. But then, it's Florida.]

A convenience store, most recently a Chevron outlet down the road from Clog House Est. 1935, just re-paved the parking area. Buried under a couple inches of new asphaltum are a few hundred bottle caps forever sandwiched between sheets of black pavement. I wish I had taken a photo before they were entombed.

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Mississippi Kite

An afternoon bobbing and weaving between heavy rain showers found me at a vacant lot in an upscale subdivision in NW Gainesville, FL. A pair of Mississippi Kites winged overhead, calling loudly, and clearly taking insects out of the air above my head. I am not usually so close to these birds. It was very pleasing to watch these birds doing their work with such a will.

I was at that location to look at trees on the lot of a soon-t0-be-built home. Honest opinion: The lot was the one of the last to be built upon in the whole development. The pad was cleared and graded and I actually mistook it for a retention pond under construction. All topographic contours in the vicinity led down to this depression. I see why this lot was among the last to be sold. I hope the owner has approval to bring in the kabillion or so yards of fill that will be required to elevate the finished floor of the future home up out of the de facto moat.

I noticed that the home on the lot next door was built atop 2 nested ramparts delineated by a retaining wall, each 4 feet or so in height, like an ancient British hill-fort. The ledges provided great landscaping opportunities, but left little room for gardens and recreation areas. That configuration just made matters worse for the lot I was observing. That lot is the receiving area for all of the neighborhood stormwater runoff. Extra warning: since the subdivision road is a private road, the County does not maintain or take responsibility for the road or the runoff that properties within the development generate/receive. That should have red flags going up everywhere, especially to prospective owner-builders. Would you want your neighbor's home, who built up and atop the higher ground next to yours, towering high above your rooftop and surveying your Ninth Ward McMansion (c) from the vantage of his/her overlooking ramparts? Would you want the rainwater pouring off the roof and sheet-flowing from the yard to end up in your sunken living room?

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Weather Report

I would have liked to started the day with a post but a storm cut that short. Somewhere down the road a branch or tree fell and power was cut at Clog House Est. 1935. All things back to normal upon returning home.

The rain today was typical Florida rain: You drive through a downpour, turn a corner and there is no rain or evidence of rain. I must have found my way through a half-dozen localized gullywashers in my travels today.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Suspense Builds Over Cazoodle...

A Cazoodle bot/crawler has been sniffing my feed. Perhaps another Nutch-inspired browser alternative is in the works?

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GE's "My Earth Rewards" Debt

General Electric wants to help you move toward carbon-neutrality every time you rack up personal debt on your credit card.

People!, PEOPLE! This company wants you to feel good and oh so very green every time you put yourself deeper into debt! You may want to spread the word about this marketing ploy (I didn't say scam, mind) to entice you to feel good about paying them interest for A LONG TIME.

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Tourist Traps and Their Animals

I'm from Idaho, and this is even too much for me - a two-story beagle/motel room that rents for $88/night. I think I'd rather sleep in an igloo hotel behind a curtain of reindeer skins.

I note in the smoking policy of the beagle motel that one may only light up a cigarette outside the ground floor to prevent infiltration. I don't smoke, so this in no hardship. The owners decorate the place with chainsaw sculptures too, even some depicting Lewis and Clark. The website proclaims the proprietors have even sold their chainsaw dog figures on the QVC Channel!

There is, alas no pet policy (at the link, at least). I presume one may, of course, bring one's own pet beagle to the beagle motel. What's to stop anyone from patronizing this place with their other favorite pets, like the pot-bellied pig, pet llama, pet sugar-glider, pet short-tailed possum, pet hedgehog; pet prairie dog, chinchilla, Gambian pouched rat, or any of the many pet pythons and boa constrictors? What about pet scorpions or tarantulas?

I wonder about cats though. My cat will not stand to be transported to any place he has not identified as home. You might as well try to smuggle some kryptonite via Superman's red briefs.

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Meme For A Day: "Myspacification"

Wisdump posted a prediction that Facebook will suffer "an exodus of students and geeks and an invasion of Joe and Jane average. " The result will be the transformation of FB into another Myspace. Or to again quote the source, "a butt-ugly flashing and blinking banner farm." A process Wisdump goes on to describe as the myspacification of FB.

Strong words perhaps wasted on someone like me who is associated with none of the social networking sites, with the exception of del.icio.us, which is really simply a platform for me to store links and favorites on someone else's server so I can access them from whatever wherever computer I happen to be mashing buttons on.

Still, it must be depressing to perceive yourself to be droll and edgy and avante-garde only to witness the unwashed masses invading your bastion of coolness. The old "there goes the neighborhood" meme. What next, cyber-perverts?

See who has been blogging about myspacification here.

[Noted: Wisdump mentions the term twice in the post, and spells it differently each time. In both instances an incorrect "c" is inserted into the string. In this post I have spelled the term "myspacification" hoping to follow standard practice for adding suffixes. Perhaps "Myspace-ification" would make others happier.]

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