Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why I cringe whenever I hear some moron jabbering about "man-made global warming" as if It were an established fact

Here is a lengthy, but thorough explanation, of why the notion of Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming (AGW) is bullshit junk science, being pushed by those who have something to gain from this imagined crisis. It's from www.americanthinker.com:


By Gregory Young

Mathematical Modeling is used throughout our world to help forecast the future in many arenas of life, including economics, biology, medicine, and yes, climate change.  Like all modeling, one attempts to study the past through scientific observation, accurately and unbiasedly collect the data, and then fit the data to a dynamic computer model that is meant to predict, to some degree of accuracy, some measure of tomorrow.  In this way scientists hope to discover trends that not only document the past, but could forecast the future. 

Virtually all climate models are basically mathematical models, built upon a series of mathematical equations.  Change just one equation, or the number of variables in an equation, or how they relate to one another, and the results of the model can change dramatically.  Unfortunately, unlike many other forms of modeling, climate models have yet to prove their wanted accuracy. 

For the most part, the reasons for their ongoing failure have everything to do with climate complexity.  The climate is such an extraordinarily difficult dynamic system to be approximated by mathematical equations.  There are literally thousands of components, all interacting in ways that we don't fully understand. Added to the cacophony of being terrifically circuitous, and involving reciprocating feedback loops with a multitude of leveraged factors nested within interdependent systems of energy exchange, some of these energy systems are not just confined to earth.  Therefore, in changing the profile or weightiness of just one variable, the model's ability to forecast results can shift critically, and indeed, can mistakenly and regularly portend catastrophes.

As Professor Ian Clark, Department of Sciences, University of Ottawa tells it: "If you haven't understood the climate system, if you haven't understood all the components -- the cosmic rays, the solar, the CO2, the water vapor, the clouds, and put it all together -- if you haven't got all that, then your model isn't worth anything."  As in most computer models, the adage of "junk in -- junk out" remains true for climate models.

Compounding the Problems of Climate Modeling:

In addition to the difficulties mentioned above, is the late arriving Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming (AGW) prejudice that has set the evolution of climate modeling back a few decades.  Previously known and accepted climate components have been summarily stripped from the equation --  such as the dominant factors involving the Sun and the importance of water vapor in the atmosphere as the dominant greenhouse gas.  This is because in the cause to acquire lucrative AGW-biased government grants, many scientists have opted to blatantly skew their climate models to amplify AGW-favoring evidence and amplify anthropogenic CO2 importance.  In this manner, they then qualify to receive funding and ensure publication. 

Describing the compounded inaccuracies of these Johnny-come-lately modelers who would rather be funded than scientifically astute, Dr. Tim Ball, a former climate scientist at the University of Winnipeg sardonically clarifies: "The analogy that I use is that my car is not running that well, so I'm going to ignore the engine (which is the sun) and I'm going to ignore the transmission (which is the water vapor) and I'm going to look at one nut on the right rear wheel (which is the Human produced CO2) ... the science is that bad!"

Dr. Balls analogy has never proved clearer than when examining the climate models used by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  As just noted, the inaccuracy of those models cherry-picked by the IPCC revealed that the largest and most robust variables of climate change and their antecedents were intentionally dismissed and dropped from inclusion in their investigations, including the variables of solar activity, water vapor and cloud formation in the atmosphere, major ocean currents, as well as other vital components. 

If you're thinking that without due consideration of the known and most weighty variables in the climate system, the forecastable conclusions should prove to be fallacious and wrong, you would be right.  Yet, that hasn't stopped the UN's IPCC from driving the propaganda of AGW, emphasizing the wrong deductions while deliberately disregarding the bigger picture altogether.

Ironically, model worthiness and accuracy can be quickly assessed by simply plugging in yesterday's numbers and seeing if the model actually yields results that are aligned with the known history.  Yet to date, climate models have failed miserably.  Though there is hope for further improvement, there is no current climate model that can, when applied to the  documented past, accurately re-forecast the known historical record, much less portend what could be happening to the weather next week, least wise the next century.  Climate modeling has yet to rise to a level of sophistication that allows us to accurately predict the future.

Knowing the primitive state of climate modeling, it is at least irresponsible, even not maleficent, to use such flawed methods to intentionally affect global public policy-making.  It is morally reprehensible, if not criminal, to promote the panicking of dire climate consequences and extinction scenarios authored by climate models known to be verifiably defective.  This tyranny of appearance has yet to be toppled.

Further Undermining Model Accuracies:

Aside from climate models not working, how they are "applied" and "used" in order to affect public opinion offers us insight into yet another scientific infraction.  For instance, AGW studies notoriously measure "short-term trends," from which they then attempt to derive long-term forecasts.  This is tantamount to predicting whether a building should be built upon a piece of ground by analyzing the topsoil alone, while ignoring the absence of any underlying bedrock.  Real risky!

When it comes to climate change, which has been ongoing for at least 4.5 Billion years, measuring short-term trends alone, such as 10-50 years at a time, is absolutely worthless.  It's worthless because short-term trends are typically just that, "short-term."  They are quick to change.  Only in the long-term does the variation of many contiguous short-term trends gradually give way to the more important real climate changes noted in the historical records.  From the short-term view point alone, nothing is really revealed except aberrant blips reflecting common statistical variation of the data pool. 

Also, depending on what side of the short-term trend we choose to initially measure, the respective forecasts can be 180 degrees out.  For example, the last ice-age persisted until 11,400 years ago when the temperatures rose dramatically some 10 degrees Centigrade in just 2-3 years. An accurate forecast depends on what side of the apex of the trend you happen to measure (for a variation on this theme, see René Tomes: Catastrophe Theory), just as one would when trading a stock on Wall Street.

Mind you, all of the climate change that ended the last ice-age happened without man's influence, and it was still a few degrees warmer then, than it is today.  Further, no such exemplary temperature-rate-differentials are in evidence currently.  Most agree that we are on track to add approximately 1.0 degree Centigrade of warming over the next century.  Then again, recent short-term trends of cooling are now documented.  The lesson:  short-term analysis is generally unreliable to produce meaningful long-term forecasts.

Awkward for warming alarmists, long-term modeling does not reflect AGW.  Thus, most of the predictions that account for AGW are derived solely from the short-sightedness of short-term models.  Though such narrow and myopic targeting of the timeline gives little to no accurate indication as to what the long-term climate trends will be, it does allow alarmists to spin data to their own favorable conclusive ends through the finding of false-positives.  Indeed, depending on where AGWers want to start and stop measuring, the results can be so contrived to be anything they want them to be.  But the prejudice of a favored outcome, or an apparent coin-toss, should not be at the helm of climate modeling.  This is not the kind of modeling that good science makes.

Corrections to Recent Climate Modeling Undermines the AGW Cause:

Next, let's consider the ongoing corrections made to various climate models due to error in data accumulation, data fabrication and exaggeration and the discovery of outright forgery delightfully explained in this video of Professor Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia, who demonstrated that on the basis of published studies, the IPCC modeling notions of AGW is not only undermined, but fatally torpedoed.

From Evidence of Modeling Bias to Spinning Propaganda:

Compounding the problems of inaccuracy in climate models is their subsequent and de facto publication, virtually assured if the study is favorable to AGW. Reporting in the journal Energy and Environment, Volume 19, Number 2, March 2008, Evidence for "publication Bias" Concerning Global Warming in Science and Nature by Patrick J. Michaels has found significant evidence for the AGW penchant in his survey of the two premier magazines, namely Science and Nature.  Astoundingly, he found that it's more than 99.999% probable that Climate studies' extant forecasts are biased in these two publications.  In contrast the AGW party-line believes that there is an equal probability that published findings will raise or lower extant forecasts. 

This is akin to believing the MSM is fair, objective and balanced.  Michaels rightly warns that such bias "...has considerable implications for the popular perception of global warming science, for the nature of ‘compendia' of climate change research, such as the reports of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, and for the political process that uses those compendia as the basis for policy." 

And such bias did, does, and will continue to influence world politics.  This predicament has been vigorously exposed by Lord Monckton, who previously revealed through consummate analysis that a whole bevy of proven modeling errors yet to be have been corrected, willfully resisted, and pugnaciously ignored by the IPPC continues to this day to prejudice world opinion in favor of AGW.

Monckton specifically found that errors "via 30 equations that computer models used by the UN's climate panel (IPCC) -- [models] which were purposely pre-programmed with such overstated or falsified values for the three variables whose product is ‘climate sensitivity' (temperature increase in response to greenhouse-gas increase)  -- resulted in a 500-2000% overstatement of CO2's effect on temperature in the IPCC's latest climate assessment report, published in 2007."  

Accordingly, and in total agreement with other published opinions,  Lord Monckton stated most recently that there is an "overwhelming weight of evidence that the UN's climate panel, the IPCC, prodigiously exaggerates both the supposed causes and the imagined consequences of anthropogenic ‘global warming;' that too many of the exaggerations can be demonstrated to have been deliberate; and that the IPCC and other official sources have continued to rely even upon those exaggerations that have been definitively demonstrated in the literature to have been deliberate."

Thus, because of (1) complicit distortion and overstatement of climate related data-values, (2) repetitive denial of published corrections of exaggerated IPCC data-modeling, (3) deliberate direct and indirect fabrications of data input through falsified methods of interpolation and extrapolation, (4) willfully and overtly creating data forgeries and conclusions, and (5) other man-made errors introduced into climate warming models, from (6) faulty data collection methods from U.S. National Weather Service pedigree measuring stations to (7) the basic corruption of data analysis itself, all climate modeling to date has been woefully inaccurate, the manipulation of which has become the basis of a deliberate IPPC self-fulfilling prophecy concerning AGW. 

Nevertheless, IPCC members remain unrepentant.  They openly and truculently refuse to appropriately inculcate the corrected published data into their own conclusions because this would change their conclusions and dispel warming alarmism.  It is "priestcraft" in its darkest form.  Warming alarmists are acting as skilled magicians that can make a rabbit come out of any hat ... as long as we let them supply the hat!

The Tide is Turning:

But there is a silver lining in the clouds of despair sown by the warming alarmists.  Elsewhere, in a painstaking review of the literature accessing the scientific consensus about climate change involving 539 papers published between 2004 and 2007, Schulte and Klaus-Martin in the journal Energy and Environment, published in March 2008, found no actual evidence in any of these papers  regarding specific "catastrophic" climate change due to man.  Nada.  None.  Zero.

Additionally, from this most recent study we learn that less than 50% of the papers endorsed any notion of AGW, and only 7% did so explicitly.  This means that over half of these studies did not endorse AGW.  This is in contrast to just a few years ago when 75% of reviewed published papers between 1995-2003 suggested that the warming of the 50 years previous was likely to have been anthropogenic, or man-made.  This reversal is big news.

This study indicates that the tide is changing and the dissent from AGW markedly growing.  As AGW climate models are being continually scrutinized and vetted, there appears to be diminishing evidence witnessed en masse in the learned journals to justify the current climate-change alarm. 

Though we shall fight on, now the trick is to begin the even harder task of changing the politicians' minds ... politicians who are already salivating for, and grown used to the idea of, a lucrative carbon-tax, and the additional power they will likely inherit with it.  Science alone will not likely defeat the rapaciousness of Washington.  Any suggestions?

Dr. Gregory Young is a neuroscientist and physicist, a doctoral graduate of the University of Oxford, Oxford, England, whilst previously completing postgraduate work at King's College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and having taught graduate-level Statistical Analysis and Mathematical Modeling.  He currently chairs a privately funded think-tank engaged in experimental biophysics.

At the bank

marleigh I had to go to the bank this morning to order more checks.

Ordinarily, I'd just do it online, but the online site wouldn't let me make the address and phone number changes I wanted on the new batch.

The teller looked kind of familiar and then I read her nametag and realized I had photographed her for the Sun.

She was a member of Arkansas State University's A-Team, a dance squad that performs at athletic events and I got a shot of her working with some girls in a peewee dance clinic for girls in K-6th grade back on Jan. 19, 2008.

She placed the check order for me and said she remembered the photo.

His name is Jim, but we called him Bo

moa6 This is Jim Bradshaw with his BMW R??RS at the 2000 BMW MOA National Rally in Midland, Mich.

My recollection is that it's a project bike that may or may not have started out as an R100.

Jim lives in Atlanta, Ga., but he grew up a block away from me in Delphi, Ind. and graduated from Delphi High School a year after I did.

We run into each other at BMW rallies every few years - Bike Week in 1993, Midland in 2000, the BMW RA rally in Birmingham, Ala., in 2003.

I rather expect to see him at the BMW MOA National Rally this year in Johnson City, Tenn.

Happy Colorado dogs


Don't you love seeing dogs riding in cars and trucks?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The ShamWow Guy and the Hooker

 From thesmokinggun.com:shlomi

MARCH 27--Meet Vince Shlomi. He's probably better known to you as the ShamWow Guy, the ubiquitous television pitchman who has been phenomenally successful peddling absorbent towels and food choppers. Shlomi, 44, was arrested last month on a felony battery charge following a violent confrontation with a prostitute in his South Beach hotel room. According to an arrest affidavit, Shlomi met Sasha Harris, 26, at a Miami Beach nightclub on February 7 and subsequently retired with her to his $750 room at the lavish Setai hotel. Shlomi told cops he paid Harris about $1000 in cash after she "propositioned him for straight sex." Shlomi said that when he kissed Harris, she suddenly "bit his tongue and would not let go." Shlomi then punched Harris several times until she released his tongue. The affidavit, a copy of which you'll find here, notes that during the 4 AM fight Harris sustained facial fractures and lacerations all over her face (she is pictured here in mug shots hookersnapped following busts in 2008 and 2005). After freeing his tongue, a bleeding Shlomi ran to the Setai lobby, where security summoned cops. Harris refused to cooperate with officers, who recovered $930 from her purse. "Both parties had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from their persons," police reported. In a brief telephone interview, Harris declined to answer TSG questions about her run-in with Shlomi, though she did say she is considering a lawsuit against the pitchman. Asked if she worked as a hooker, Harris declined comment. As seen in the below mug shot, Shlomi was also injured during the fracas and, court records show, was treated at Mount Sinai Medical Center. While Shlomi and Harris were both arrested for felony aggravated battery, prosecutors this month declined to file formal charges against the combatants. Police records list Shlomi's occupation as "Marketing," but make no mention of his affiliation with the ShamWow or the Slap Chop, both of which sell for $19.95 (plus shipping and handling)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Road trip


Maria, as I have mentioned often, is a quilter.

Long before we moved to Arkansas, she wanted to visit the Museum of the American Quilter's Society in Paducah, Ky.

Our present home is much closer to Paducah than we were in Indiana, but after 19 months in Arkansas, we still hadn't taken the trip.

We remedied that today.

He headed out about 9:20 a.m., stopping at Boomland for gas, lunch and fireworks.

Maria also wanted to visit Hancock's of Paducah, a king-hell fabric store, so we made that our first stop since Hancock's closes at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and the quilt museum is open until 5 p.m.

I can't remember when I've seen her so happy, giddy actually. A good fabric store does that to her.

Even I was impressed by several exhibits at the quilt museum.

We stopped at the KFC in Hayti, Mo. for dinner on the way home and wish we hadn't. The place was filthy and the food on the buffet looked like it had been there for hours. A truly nasty dining experience.

So we compensated with a stop at Mr. T's liquor store on the Missouri-Arkansas state line where we bought seven bottles of Chilean and Australian wine for $5 a pop.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting the Forester back in shape

subaru Our long-neglected Subaru Forester is being restored to its former glory.

Last week, it got a long-overdue head gasket replacement and while they were at it, the folks at Jim Keras Subaru in Memphis fixed a problem with the carpet in the back seat and replaced a burned-out taillight bulb.

Today, using parts I got at wholesale prices from subarupartsforyou.com, I replaced the dead clock and the broken dashboard double-cup holder.

A little Armorall on the dashboard and interior vinyl and it'll feel like a new car.

Making sense of media bias

As a career journalist, I've blogged frequently about my concerns over the way the mainstream media abandoned its last shreds of objectivity during last year's election. Here is the most cogent explanation of what has happened to the media in America from americanthinker.com:

By David G. Muller

Conservative exasperation with media bias is a tired refrain, a waste of energy. Complaints of bias start from the premise that press coverage ought to be fair and objective. But is this the premise on which today's mainstream media is based?

It's not. The premise that now guides the mainstream media is something we haven't seen before in this country - thus the never-ending consternation of conservatives at the blatant bias of the media and the nonchalance of its practitioners when caught in the act. We have seen press behavior like this before, though - not here, but in China and the Soviet Union during their classical Leninist eras.

When studying Chinese and Soviet politics back in the 1960s and 70s, I lived on a constant diet of the People's Daily, Pravda, and their companion publications. It was clear from the first day that the press in Communist China and the Soviet Union was fundamentally different from ours. It had a different purpose, a different relationship not only to the political power structure, but to the truth itself. Railing at Chinese or Soviet media bias the way that today's conservatives whine about ABC or the New York Times would have been foolish. Instead, it was necessary to understand the assumptions and objectives that underlay media that was under Leninist control. How did they see their role in society? What did they see as proper and improper practice?

There are rules about how a Leninist press works - its operational code. When reading People's Daily and Pravda with these rules in mind, the controlled press made perfect sense. What's the point here? Troublingly, these same rules fit today's American mainstream media - and the media's relationship to the Democratic Party - nearly to a T.

But you be the judge. Here are the rules, as I discerned and formulated them. "Party" here refers to the governing Communist parties of China and the USSR, in their 20th century heydays.

  • The press is part of the Party establishment, not an independent or adversarial entity. The press does not think of itself as a prisoner of the Party, resentfully forced to abandon objectivity in favor of propaganda. Rather, it sees itself as fulfilling a critically important role in supporting and expanding Party rule. Writers are not journalists in the classic Western sense, but are political activists or functionaries.
  • The Party decides what is news, what is not, what will be reported, and what will not. The press is used to convey Party positions, and politically correct thinking, to the population. Grass-roots activists read, heed, and promote everything carried in the press. The general populace barely reads it, but has no other source of information or worldview, so tends to passively accept the press's messages.
  • Articles must carry the interpretation of events that the Party wishes to convey, without regard to objective accuracy. The press evinces utter certainty of the wisdom and correctness of the Party's motivations, worldview, and policies; no differentiation - much less opposition - is allowed.
  • From time to time, the Party uses the press to agitate the populace in a motivational campaign, aimed either at accomplishing a major goal (such as the Great Leap Forward), or criticizing a domestic Party opponent or a foreign country.
  • The Party's leading individuals always receive deference, reverence, approval, even adulation. No criticism or adverse reflections on Party leaders are allowed. Senior Party figures have unrestricted access to press coverage. Investigative journalism is rare, and unthinkable if directed against Party organizations, leaders, programs, or policies.
  • Individuals opposed to Party rule are selected as targets of disapproval, usually to the point of demonization. Criticism usually extends to allegations of personal corruption, wickedness, or barbarism. Terms used to vilify Party opponents are formulaic, seeming to draw from a lexicon developed for the purpose; there is little if any verbal creativity in criticism of Party-designated targets. Critics or independent thinkers who are not demonized become non-persons, ignored in all articles related to their areas of expertise or attention.
  • Fabrication of events, quotations - even people - is permitted in furtherance of Party objectives. Historical facts, or previous Party positions, may be omitted or reshaped to fit current political requirements. The press will report no past error by the Party or its leaders, except when a leader or faction has fallen afoul of the current ruling Party group - then reporting takes the form of demonization.
  • National security topics are viewed exclusively through the prism of Party interest. Threats will be ignored if the Party is not worried about them, or if in some way they reflect badly on the Party's performance in foreign affairs. Conversely, bogus threats will be touted if doing so is in the Party's interest.
  • Independent media outlets are either forbidden, or permitted only if they address topics of no political impact.

When we look through this Leninist prism, the behavior of today's American mainstream media becomes quite comprehensible. Where conservatives see dishonesty, double standards, and deception, media practitioners see themselves as fulfilling their role in consolidating Party power in pursuit of a socialist utopia. They have fundamentally different ideas of the media's role in society.

How did this happen? Unlike the China or Soviet Union of the 1950s, there is no explicitly Leninist curriculum in the journalism schools, nor have the Democrats formally appointed political commissars on television and newspaper editorial staffs. Yet the effect is clearly apparent. There seems to be a natural, organic affinity between a political party with dictatorial ambitions and the press, and this makes formal indoctrination or routine enforcement unnecessary.

More interesting, what does this Leninist model predict for the mainstream media and its fealty to the Democratic Party? Today's media adhere closely to all the above rules except the last one: exclusivity. NBC or the New York Times may enforce ideological uniformity within their organizations, but what about independent, conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh or National Review?

Democrats have been explicit about plans to revive the Fairness Doctrine, whose implicit goal is to drive conservatives off the talk-radio airwaves. There is no reason to think that a new Fairness Doctrine would not also be festooned with prohibitions against public "hate speech," defined as anything critical of the Left's political program or personalities. Hate speech prohibitions could also be extended to the Internet, targeting conservative opinion sites and blogs. A compliant Supreme Court is only an appointment or two away.

Nor is direct government ownership of media outlets out of the question. We already have the Public Broadcasting System, and this model could be applied more broadly. In this era of government bailouts, how hard is it to imagine a national icon such as the New York Times, crippled by shrinking advertising revenues, seeking government support "in the public interest"?

David G. Muller, Jr. is a writer in Northern Virginia.

Free wifi

librarycar Hastings’s Wifi is still down, so I’m blogging from my car in the parking lot of the public library on their free Wifi.

Over and over

 apocalypse-now-wallpaper-1-1024 image image image image

I have a Facebook account that I check on every now and then.

Facebook has features that let you list your favorite or least-favorite movies, songs, places, whatever. I did the "Five Movies That You Will Watch Over and Over" and chose the ones shown above.

I picked Apocalypse Now! over the Redux version because I don't like the way the longer Redux trivializes Robert Duvall's character, the crazy air cavalry colonel. I know director Francis Ford Coppola prefers the Redux version, but I think whoever edited the original made better decisions about what to leave in and what to throw out.

Easy Rider is a cheesy, clunky period piece, but I like it anyway.

Animal House is on my list because it's not that different from my own Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity experience in the '60s.

Gettysburg is there because it's just so damned well made. Martin Sheen is not particularly believable as Robert E. Lee, but Jeff Daniels is brilliant as Joshua Chamberlain, and Sam Elliott is spectacular as John Buford. Here's a deleted scene with Elliott:


My first impulse was to list Saving Private Ryan as #5, but that would make the list a little heavy with war movies, so I went with one of my favorite comedies, Best in Show.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More exploitation of a crisis

The government bailout of the floundering left-wing print media begins. Yesterday Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Newspaper Revitalization Act, which will allow obsolete newspapers to evade taxes by restructuring as "nonprofits."

This will cause the overwhelmingly left-leaning newspaper business to magically become nonpartisan:

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

If nonprofit newspapers fail to be objective — as liberal bureaucrats define the term — they will lose their tax-exempt status and promptly collapse. Alternatively, the government can arbitrarily nationalize them, as it is aggressively proposing to do with banks and insurance companies. The infinitely deep pockets of a government that prints money with no regard for the future ought to help "level the playing field" with nonobjective — i.e., not statist — sources of information that compete on the free market by meeting public needs.

Next will come the silencing of conservative radio and political regulation of the Internet. I hope you like NPR and PBS; soon it will be the only point of view available.

But, wait, isn’t there something about the press in the Constitution?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

One week to go

It just occurred to me that my son Steve and granddaughter Lisa will arrive a week from this afternoon for a visit.

To say that I’m psyched would be a serious understatement. I haven’t seen them for nearly two years, which is an unconscionably long time.

A motorcycle trip to their place in Las Vegas is on my agenda for this year, but I’m pleased and flattered that they’re coming to us first.

Things that go clank in the night


I must have been sleeping lightly about 4:15 a.m. today because I was awakened by the sound of one of our dogs’ metal food bowls being rattled around on the back porch.

I lay there in the dark thinking about it for a few minutes. It was probably just a raccoon helping himself to some leftover IAMS chunks, in which case I didn’t need to do anything.

But there was an outside chance it was a human intruder who blundered into the bowl in the dark.

Naturally, neither of the dogs in our bedroom took any notice of the sound. Pete slumbered on in his kennel and Ruthie remained an inert lump on the carpet at the foot of the bed.

So I picked up my tactical flashlight and .45, clicking the lasergrip master switch to “on,” and crept to the back door to investigate. I switched on the porch light and there, blinking in the glare, was a raccoon, a piece of dog food clutched in his hands.

By this time, Ruthie had noticed something was afoot and was sniffing excitedly at the door. She started barking excitedly and the raccoon took that as his cue and loped out the open screen door and away to safety.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Predators have Al Qaeda on the ropes

From Sunday's Los Angeles Times:

By Greg Miller
March 22, 2009
Reporting from Washington — An intense, six-month campaign of  Predator strikes in Pakistan has taken such a toll on Al Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say.predatorB
The pace of the Predator attacks has accelerated dramatically since August, when the Bush administration made a previously undisclosed decision to abandon the practice of obtaining permission from the Pakistani government before launching missiles from the unmanned aircraft.
Since Aug. 31, the CIA has carried out at least 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 reported attacks in 2006 and 2007 combined, in what has become the CIA's most expansive targeted killing program since the Vietnam War.
Because of its success, the Obama administration is set to continue the accelerated campaign despite civilian casualties that have fueled anti-U.S. sentiment and prompted protests from the Pakistani government.
"This last year has been a very hard year for them," a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said of Al Qaeda militants, whose operations he tracks in northwest Pakistan. "They're losing a bunch of their better leaders. But more importantly, at this point they're wondering who's next."
U.S. intelligence officials said they see clear signs that the Predator strikes are sowing distrust within Al Qaeda. "They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible" for security breaches, the senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said, discussing intelligence assessments on condition of anonymity. "People are showing up dead or disappearing."
The counter-terrorism official and others, who also spoke anonymously, said the U.S. assessments were based in part on reports from the region provided by the Pakistani intelligence service.
The stepped-up Predator campaign has killed at least nine senior Al Qaeda leaders and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of the terrorist network since 2001.
Among those killed since August are Rashid Rauf, the suspected mastermind of an alleged 2006 transatlantic airliner plot; Abu Khabab Masri, who was described as the leader of Al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons efforts; Khalid Habib, an operations chief allegedly involved in plots against the West; and Usama al-Kini, who allegedly helped orchestrate the September bombing of the Marriott Hotel in the capital, Islamabad.
Al Qaeda's founders remain elusive. U.S. spy agencies have not had reliable intelligence on the location of Osama bin Laden since he slipped across the Pakistan border seven years ago, officials said. His deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, remains at large after escaping a missile strike in 2006.
But the Predator campaign has depleted the organization's operational tier. Many of the dead are longtime loyalists who had worked alongside Bin Laden and were part of the network's hasty migration into Pakistan in 2001 after U.S.-led forces invaded neighboring Afghanistan. They are being replaced by less experienced recruits who have had little, if any, history with Bin Laden and Zawahiri.
The offensive has been aided by technological advances and an expansion of the CIA's Predator fleet. The drones take off and land at military airstrips in Pakistan, but are operated by CIA pilots in the United States. Some of the pilots -- who also pull the triggers on missiles -- are contractors hired by the agency, former officials said.
Predators were originally designed as video surveillance aircraft that could hover over a target from high altitudes. But new models are outfitted with additional intelligence gear that has enabled the CIA to confirm the identities of targets even when they are inside buildings and can't be seen through the Predator's lens.
The agency is also working more closely with U.S. special operations teams and military intelligence aircraft that hug the Pakistan border, collecting pictures and intercepting radio or cellphone signals.
Even so, officials said that the surge in strikes has less to do with expanded capabilities than with the decision to skip Pakistani approval. "We had the data all along," said a former CIA official who oversaw Predator operations in Pakistan. "Finally we took off the gloves."
The Bush administration's decision to expand the Predator program was driven by growing alarm over Al Qaeda's resurgence in Pakistan's tribal belt.
A 2006 peace agreement between Islamabad and border tribes had allowed the network to shore up its finances, resume training operatives and reestablish connections with satellite groups.
The Bush administration had been constrained by its close ties with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who argued against aggressive U.S. action. But by last summer, after a series of disrupted terrorist plots in Europe had been traced to Pakistan, there were calls for a new approach.
"At a certain point there was common recognition of the untenable nature of what was happening in the FATA," said a former senior U.S. counter-terrorism official, referring to Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas where Al Qaeda is based.
The breaking point came when Musharraf was forced to resign mid-August, officials said. Within days, President Bush had approved the new rules: Rather than requiring Pakistan's permission to order a Predator strike, the agency was allowed to shoot first.
The effect was immediate.
There were two Predator strikes on Aug. 31, and three more by the end of the week. CIA officials had suspected that their targets were being tipped by Pakistani intelligence to pending U.S. strikes; bypassing the government ended that concern.
It also eliminated delays. Former CIA officials said getting permission from Pakistani authorities could take a day or more, sometimes causing the agency to lose track of the target. The missed opportunities were costly because it often took months to assemble the intelligence necessary for a strike.
In 2006, for example, the CIA got word from Pakistani intelligence that Habib was staying at a compound in Miram Shah. A CIA officer involved said he spent weeks at a Pakistani military outpost near the compound, monitoring images from a Predator on a flat-screen device.
"We had a Predator up there for hours at a stretch, just watching, watching," the official said. The agency studied the layout of the compound, trying to determine who slept where, and scanning the surrounding roads for the arrival of Habib's truck.
"They took a shot at the compound a week after I left," the official said. "We got some bodyguards, but he was not there." It took more than two years for the agency to catch up to Habib again. He was killed in a Predator strike in South Waziristan in October.
Pakistan has repeatedly criticized the Predator campaign; the attacks are reported to have caused dozens of civilian casualties. "Drone attacks are counterproductive," said Nadeem Kiani, press attache at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. Rather than firing missiles, Kiani said, the United States should provide intelligence to Pakistan "and we will take immediate action."
U.S. officials say that despite such complaints, the Pakistani government's opposition has been muted because the CIA has expanded its targeting to include militant groups that threaten the government in Islamabad.
The success of the Predator campaign has prompted some counter-terrorism officials to speak of a post-Al Qaeda era in which its regional affiliates -- in North Africa and elsewhere -- are all that remain after the center collapses.
"You can imagine a horizon in which Al Qaeda proper no longer exists," said Juan Zarate, former counter-terrorism advisor to Bush. "If you were to continue on this pace, and get No. 1 and No. 2, Al Qaeda is dead. You can't resuscitate that organization as we know it without its senior leadership."
How to achieve that without undermining the government in Pakistan is a key issue the Obama administration faces as it searches for a new strategy in the region. In a tour of the region, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta arrived in Islamabad Saturday for talks with Pakistani intelligence officials.
"There's a risk of driving [Al Qaeda and its allies] farther and farther into Pakistan, into cities," said Daniel Byman, a former CIA analyst and terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "There's a danger of weakening the government we want to bolster. It's already to some degree a house of cards."
In fact, the stepped-up strikes have coincided with a deterioration in security in Pakistan. Over the last six months, Taliban elements tied to Al Qaeda have carried out increasingly bold attacks, including in Islamabad, and a recent truce between the government and militants in the Swat Valley was seen by some observers as a capitulation to Islamic hard-liners.
But proponents of the strikes argue that the opportunity to cripple Al Qaeda, perhaps permanently, outweighs concerns over the strains being placed on Pakistan.
"Is this really helping when you have radical militants controlling more territory than ever before?" Zarate said. "That is a good question, but that is a different question from whether this is effective against Al Qaeda."
So far, that appears to be the prevailing view within the Obama administration. A strike in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province last Sunday was the second in four days, and the ninth this year.
Panetta, asked about the Predator attacks in a meeting with reporters last month, refused to discuss the program directly, but said, "Nothing has changed our efforts to go after terrorists, and nothing will change those efforts."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hastings, WTF?

I drove by Hastings this afternoon to see if their Wifi is back in operation.

It isn’t.

That means it’s been down for more than two weeks. Presumably, they are still waiting for the “part” the employee mentioned to me two weeks ago today.

Wifi is hardly brain surgery. About all they would have to do is drive a few blocks to Office Depot or Office Max and buy a wireless router, bring it back and hook it up.

It appears, then, that offering Wifi to their customers is not a priority. It would appear, also, that they haven’t noticed that business in their cafe has dropped off sharply and may not ever come back to its former levels once former Hastings Wifi users get in the habit of going elsewhere for their Internet and coffee fix – somewhere like Barnes & Noble, for instance.

I would have been in their cafe at least six times in the past two weeks, buying coffee, probably renting DVDs and maybe buying a book or a CD, if the Wifi was working. As it is, I haven’t set foot in the place and don’t plan to unless and until the Wifi is back.

Gun control


My definition of gun control is being able to hit your target.

And my gun control in low-light situations improved dramatically today when the UPS delivery guy dropped off my new set of Crimson Trace Lasergrips for my Colt Combat Commander .45.

I’d never removed the original Colt rubber grips and got a surprise when I found the two screws on the right side were secured to the soon-to-be jettisoned grip with a couple of bushings because the screw holes on the right side are larger than the two on the left.

This sent me scurrying into town for a set of replacement screws and bushings, which I finally found at Al’s Lock & Key for about $10.

Once I had those, everything fell into place and the process of changing grips went back to being as easy and as simple as I had originally expected.

A little tweaking with the tiny Allen wrenches for windage and elevation and the little red dot is exactly where the iron sights say the bullets will arrive.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy 99th birthday, Dad

3generationsfloras This is me, my dad and his mother in the summer of 1946.

My dad would have been 99 years old yesterday. He died in 1997 at the age of 87.

I miss him every day.

(Grandma would have been 133 by now.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Memphis Zoo

orang We took Maria's brother and two nephews to the Memphis Zoo today.

It was our first trip to the Memphis Zoo and we were very impressed and pleased to learn that in 2008, the Memphis Zoo was ranked "#1 Zoo in the U.S." by TripAdvisor.com.

janegoodallAs luck would have it, world famous chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall was there for a lecture and while the rest of our party toured the zoo, I hustled over to the Primate Pavilion and caught the Goodall show.

The day began cold and rainy, but the skies cleared around noon and a good time was had by all.

I lugged my D200 along and got some passable shots, including the ones above and below of a handsome orangutan whose name I didn't catch. I love ape faces.orang3326

Friday, March 20, 2009

Outdoor lunch


Here’s a rather unflattering webcam pic of me enjoying my potato soup lunch on the screened back porch on this first day or spring.

I’m doing laundry and some last-minute cleanup stuff in anticipation of Maria’s brother Raph and his two boys arriving in a few hours.

Pete, of course, is my constant companion in this, dividing his time between dozing at my feet and prancing around the back yard and barking at the sky. It’s a long story.porchpete

On the road again

roadshowbig This has always been one of my favorite jazz albums.

It's a concert recording made at Purdue University's Elliott Hall of Music in West Lafayette, Ind., when I was a high school freshman about 20 miles east of there in Delphi.

From the liner notes: "On the night of Saturday, October 10, 1959, more than 12,000 people braved a pouring rainstorm in (West) Lafayette, Indiana, to hear memorable performances by Stan Kenton's Orchestra, June Christy, and the Four Freshmen. Filling the more than 6,000 seats (it was two back-to-back shows) of the vast Music Hall, the audiences were treated to an evening of the finest modern music available anywhere."

Dick Laughlin, my high school band director, introduced me to jazz and to this recording, which was initially released by Capitol as a double album on vinyl. Dick had an impressive - for its time - Fisher stereo sound system and this album was a revelation to me.

I bought my own vinyl copy some years later and picked up the CD version shortly after its released in June, 1991.

I sent it to Judy Thomas in Mount Pleasant, Mich. this week after she bought it for $63.50 at my Amazon.com store.

I'm listening to it on my iPod as I write this and I'm confident Judy will enjoy it as much as I have over the years,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In the post office parking lot

uspsmower Yes, a guy actually rode his lawn tractor to the post office this afternoon. I was getting ready to back out of my parking space when I noticed him in my rear view mirror, creeping past the back of the Subaru.

Lucky for him that I looked.

And yes, the Subaru is back.

BMW friend Charlie gave me a lift to the Subaru dealership in Memphis this morning. The Forester seems very happy with the new head gasket and the air conditioning is working great now.

Charlie mentioned that Sportsman's Warehouse is going out of business, so we went to see if there were any bargains. There weren't.

The place is festooned with signs saying that all merchandise is reduced "up to 30%" but mostly stuff is just marked down 10% which is hardly a deal. Also, guns and ammo are not on sale. Of course they aren't, considering the run on guns and ammo since election day.

We adjourned to Bosco's for lunch and then headed home.

Stand by for Spring!

Vernal Equinox Mar 20 2009 7:44 AM EDT

Sumer Solstice Jun 21 2009 1:45 AM EDT

Autumnal Equinox Sep 22 2009 5:18 PM EDT

Winter Solstice Dec 21 2009 12:47 PM EST

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Foreclosure in the neighborhood

There are only eight houses in our little wooded subdivision and it appears one of them is in foreclosure.

The family in the house down the hill from us has moved out and the neighborhood watchdog reports a utilities truck was there yesterday, presumably to shut off electricity or water.

We weren’t particularly close to them, but the guy did yeoman work clearing trees from the road during the ice storm and they were always pleasant.

I’m just guessing, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they were the victims of an adjustable rate mortgage. Bad juju.

Don’t expect me to be friendly if these clowns show up at my door

The current debate in Washington over President Obama’s budget has made one thing clear — ensuring our long-term prosperity won’t come without a fight.

Partisan voices and special interests are showing real resistance to President Obama’s call for making the necessary reforms and investments in energy, health care, and education. That’s why we need to bring the conversation back into homes and communities across America.

Last week, thousands of you pledged your support for the President’s economic plan and encouraged your friends and family to join you in a national display of support. Now I need you to take the next step.

This weekend, supporters like you are organizing Pledge Project Canvasses to talk to people in their communities about this plan and mobilize support in neighborhoods across the country.

Host or attend a Pledge Project Canvass in your neighborhood this weekend.

It’s absolutely crucial that Americans hear from you about this plan — we can’t leave this important debate up to a Washington establishment that doesn’t welcome change.

It’s up to you to show Washington that Americans are demanding this new direction and won’t stand on the sidelines while our country’s future is at stake.

On these canvasses, you’ll join fellow supporters in your community to:

  • Talk with people about the President’s plan
  • Ask them to sign their names to the pledge
  • Provide information on how to contact and urge their elected representatives to support the plan

    Host or attend a canvass this weekend:


    Nothing is more powerful than having people hear from ordinary Americans about the vision President Obama has laid out for our country. Join us this weekend.



    Mitch Stewart
    Organizing for America

  • +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Checking their web site, I see that the only such event within 45 miles of my home is a gathering of “Progressive Democrats in Action” at a ratty little coffeehouse/cafe near the ASU campus.

    The smallish building should be more than large enough to accommodate all of them, since Obama supporters are kinda scarce around here, even though Arkansas is a Democrat-controlled state. But that means something different here. They’re mostly Democrats in the old Dixiecrat unreconstructed Confederate sense and they have little use for the empty suit in the White House.

    That’s why guns and ammo, and especially assault rifles, started getting scarce in Arkansas the day after the election.

    Today’s t-shirt: Spaten beer


    I’m celebrating my favorite German beer today.

    This blog entry finds me at Barnes & Noble, sipping a fancy coffee and keeping an eye on my bike in the parking lot.

    It’s a sunny 72 degrees and I’m putting off going home after lunch with Maria to vacuum the carpet and scrub the tile floors in anticipation of company tomorrow.

    Maria’s brother Raph and his two sons are coming tomorrow for a four-day visit. Sometime between now and 6 p.m. Friday, I need to have someone drive me to Memphis to pick up the Subaru, now that I have word that the work is completed.

    Serious bonfire in the making

    brushpile This enormous pile of tree limbs is only a fraction of our debris from the late January ice storm.

    In the wake of the storm, we were told to drag all of our tree trash to the roadside in front of our property. The initial reason was so FEMA could survey the magnitude of the storm damage. The secondary reason was the assurance by Craighead County officials that county road crews would come around and collect the debris for disposal.

    We learned today that there will be no county pickup on our road because the roads in our little subdivision have not been formally accepted into the county road network. Never mind that we pay the same taxes as people whose brush is being picked up.

    Several other neighbors have similar piles of brush. A tree service hired by the folks across the street generated the monster pile of mulch seen to the left of our brush pile. It's sitting in front of the only undeveloped lot in our subdivision. Although I haven't spoken with the neighbors, it's my guess that they intend for it to be a community mulch pile.

    At least we don't have to worry about the county picking it up.

    Guns and religion

    I hate it when people try to push their religion on me.

    A couple of Jehovah's Witnesses rang my doorbell a few months ago and stuck a copy of the Watchtower magazine in my hand before I tersely explained I wasn't interested in their religion.

    I am quite content to be a Catholic and what they consider evangelism, I consider intrusive.

    In my somewhat limited experience, it appears that most folks of that ilk aren't terribly alert to the frame of mind of the people they're trying to reach.

    I was reminded of that the other day by a story in the paper about a barber who packs a 9mm pistol after being shot in both legs in a holdup at his shop.

    When the young assailant shot him in the right shin with a .25 caliber pistol, he told the kid, "Jesus loves you."

    The kid apparently was in no mood for a theological discussion and angrily put another bullet into his left knee.

    Maybe he was trying to reach the kid or maybe he was just turning the other cheek in a situation that might end up with him at the Pearly Gates.

    Either way, he's ready to let his Ruger do the evangelizing next time.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Well, that's a relief. Maybe.


    Associated Press Writer

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Midwest fault zone that unleashed a series of violent earthquakes in the early 19th century shows no signs of building up the stresses needed for the quakes many seismologists expect to someday rock the region again, two scientists say.

    The researchers said that may mean the little-understood New Madrid Seismic Zone is shutting down or that seismic activity is shifting to adjacent faults in the nation’s midsection.

    Other scientists called those conclusions premature, in part because the study was based on a relatively narrow time period from the area that remains seismically active.

    For their study, researchers from Purdue and Northwestern universities analyzed global positioning measurements of shifts in the Earth’s surface taken from 10 sites within the New Madrid zone over eight years. That region in the central Mississippi Valley produced a series of earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 of an estimated magnitude 7.0 or greater.

    Researchers expected to find surface features moving at least one to 2 millimeters each year. Such shifts would reflect growing subterranean stresses like the slow stretching of a rubber band that seismologists expect to someday spark more big New Madrid quakes.

    Instead, they found annual shifts of 0.2 millimeter or less each year — an amount so tiny it essentially represents no growing stresses in the seismic zone, said Eric Calais, a Purdue professor of earth and atmospheric sciences who led the study.

    “If the area is not moving today, if the rubber band is not being put under tension, that could mean that the fault zone is shutting down. It may be that it’s produced several earthquakes in the past but now it’s turning off,” he said.

    Calais said the findings could also mean seismic activity is shifting away from the New Madrid zone and into other nearby seismic areas. He said those could include a fault zone in southern Illinois that produced a 5.2 magnitude temblor last April, or similar seismic regions in Arkansas, Oklahoma or elsewhere in the region.

    The paper, which appears in the current issue of the journal Science, was co-authored by Seth Stein, a professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Northwestern University.

    Other scientists called the study compelling and said it could lead to a better understanding of so-called continental fault zones, but one cautioned that the eight years’ worth of data is “just a blink of the eye” compared with the past 2,400 years.

    That period has seen four or five episodes of multiple large earthquakes rock the area, said Chuck Langston, director of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis.

    “We have just one little glimpse, one instant in time,” he said. “And we’re still having earthquakes in this area that look like they’re lining up on faults, so there’s no doubt that there are big fault structures there that remain active.”

    Langston also said that unlike California’s San Andreas Fault and others that occur along the boundaries of moving tectonic plates on the Earth’s surface, the New Madrid zone is a continental fault that’s found within one of those plates.

    Little is known about what forces trigger earthquakes within continental faults, so it’s possible that interior stresses can accumulate over a short period of time instead of continuously over longer periods, he said.

    Bob Smalley Jr., a research professor with the University of Memphis earthquake center, said the study points to new ideas geologists should explore. But he said the conclusions would be more persuasive if the data covered 20 to 30 years.

    “We should consider all of the things they’re saying in their hypothesis, but they haven’t reached the final answer yet,” he said.

    Nitpicking the Weather Channel

    Local_8s Note to Weather Channel:

    I live just north of Jonesboro, Ark. and get the Weather Channel via IndCo Cable Co. in Batesville, Ark.
    The regional observations list in my Local on the 8s includes Blytheville and Eaker AFB. Eaker AFB ceased to be a U.S. Air Force installation in December, 1992. It's now a civilian airport. Most of the time, it's listed as having "no report." It's also at Blytheville, which makes its data mostly irrelevant.
    Could it be time to replace it in the list with another regional location?

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Arkansas gun legislation

    flag1 I blogged recently about the Memphis Commercial Appeal putting the names of all Tennessee concealed carry gun permit holders on its web site in a searchable database form.

    The editor of a small Arkansas newspaper recently published the names of the Arkansas permit holders in his paper.

    Those of us who have an interest in the Second Amendment and the individual's right to privacy took offense. Publishing the names of permit-holders strikes us as an act of public intimidation by those who seem to think that responsible, legal gun owners are a threat to their safety.

    Any reality-based survey of the issue of gun violence will conclude it's the unlicensed gun-carrying criminals who are the problem, not citizens who follow the law and obtain a permit.

    The Arkansas Legislature has before it four significant pieces of gun legislation, one of which declares gun permit records along with medical and adoption records, grand jury minutes and other such sensitive information to be outside the realm of public access.

    As a journalist, I've always been concerned about any law that restricts the free flow of government-held information, but in this case I think permit-holders' privacy trumps any presumed public right to know.

    Also before the Legislature is an open carry law that makes it legal for anyone who can lawfully possess a handgun to carry it openly. You'll still need a concealed carry permit if you want to carry it in a purse or under a jacket, but not so if it's in plain view. A holster in plain view also qualifies.

    And there is legislation pending called the "Castle" law that essentially affirms that a man's home is his castle and he is justified in using deadly force against anyone who forces their way into the home for the presumed purpose of committing a felony. You don't have to fear for your life, just believe that the perp wants to commit a felony.

    And lastly, there is a bill that guarantees that your gun(s) won't be confiscated by civil authorities in the event of a disaster, as was the case by many people who sought to defend themselves in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.

    All of this, as you might suppose, makes me a little happier to live in Arkansas.


    bmwroadsideassistance I renewed my membership in the BMW Motorrad Roadside Assistance Plan today, something I should have done before it lapsed on Feb. 22.

    I supposed I was still covered when I rode to Daytona Beach Bike Week a couple of weeks ago. Turns out I wasn't. It also turns out I didn't need it because BMW motorcycles don't fail much.

    The only time I've ever used the roadside assistance program was last July when I had a flat tire about 100 miles east of Colorado Springs, Colo., near the tiny community of Kit Carson.

    My $35 annual membership came in very handy that day, covering the entire $404 cost of a tow truck ride back to Colorado Springs and the BMW dealership there. I suspect I could have added the $84 motel bill to the claim, but I didn't want to press my luck.

    So I'm good to go for another year. With any luck, they can use my $35 membership fee to rescue somebody else.

    Car stuff

    The service manager at the Memphis Subaru dealership called a few minutes ago with the estimate on our repair and - wonder of wonders - it came in about $500 less than I expected.

    The work is expected to be done Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, Now all I have to do is find someone to give me a lift to Memphis to retrieve it.

    In the meantime, Maria is driving the del Sol to work and grumbling about how much she dislikes my little 2-seater which, by the way, almost killed me Saturday morning.

    We were taking the back way down to U.S. 63 rather than go through town. About a mile this side of U.S. 63, there is a right-left S-curve on Nestle Road. The weather was misting intermittently and the pavement was a bit on the slimy side.

    I went into it a little faster than usual and suddenly found myself in a slide with the back end coming around to the left. As I fought to recover and keep it from turning into a 180-degree spin, I glanced up and noticed a pickup truck approaching on the other side of the S-curves.

    With deep ditches and utility poles on either side, the option of running off the road was pretty unattractive. But it looked for a moment like this might be the end of my '94 del Sol.

    I overcorrected, and the back end swung around to the right, then back left, right, left in a series of oscillations of decreasing amplitude until the car steadied out just in time for the curve to the left. By this point, I had scrubbed off enough speed that the car tracked around the left turn without incident.

    So I escaped with nothing worse than an adrenalin rush. Maria was following in the Subaru and seemed impressed with my ability to recover from the slide.

    They say that you don't rise to the challenge in a crisis - rather, you default to your level of training. In my case, that would be the experience of driving in 46 snowy, icy Indiana winters. When I was a kid, we used to do all kinds of crazy shit on snow-covered streets and parking lots and got pretty good at initiating and recovering from slides.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Towel racks at last!

    Our house had no towel racks or toilet paper holders when we bought it towelrackback in October, 2007.

    The previous owners, who lived in it about two years, apparently didn't feel a need for such amenities.

    We've procrastinated all of these months because we were loathe to poke holes in the walls and because we kept finding other things to spend money on.

    towelringThat all ended this weekend.

    We went to the Home Depot this morning, hell bent on finishing out our bathrooms before Maria's brother comes next week and my son and granddaughter visit in April.

    We managed to find a line of bathroom hardware that matches our brushed nickel Delta faucets at what turned out to be a fairly reasonable price.

    We've mounted a hand towel ring and toilet paper holder in the hall half-bath and a towel rack in the master bath, but with much tp holderswearing on my part because it's fiendishly difficult to get these things perfectly level, even with the aid of a laser level. And the human eye has the astonishing ability to spot something that is the slightest bit out of level.

    And, of course, if you stare at anything long enough, it starts to look crooked.

    Saturday, March 14, 2009

    Taking the Subaru in for a new head gasket

    We're taking the Subaru Forester in for service today, which will be kind of a major undertaking since it's a head gasket replacement and the dealer is more than 90 miles away in Memphis.

    We got the leaking head gasket diagnosis in the summer of 2007, just before our lives got turned upside down with a move to Arkansas.

    What with double house payments and other pressures on our time and resources, the head gasket never got fixed. As a consequence, the car has been burning oil and coolant, sometimes smelling like it's going to burst into flames, but still it soldiers on like a good little Subaru.

    The dealer is scheduled to start the work on Monday morning and it's expected to take 2-3 days, so we're dropping it off today and plan to retrieve it sometime next week.

    Maria will drive the Forester and I'll drive the del Sol on this trip which - as long as we're close - will also involved a visit to the best quilt shop in the area.

    The photo above was shot in 2005. Maria was up on the back bumper trying to get a better look at some moose at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    How free is your state?

    Two political science educators have published "Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom" and they rank arkansaE2Arkansas 29th among the states.

    The authors are William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens.

    Ruger is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas State University. He is on military leave, serving in the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan. Ruger earned his PhD in politics from Brandeis University and an AB from the College of William and Mary.

    Sorens is an assistant professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He received his doctorate in political science in 2003 from Yale University, and his research focuses on secessionism, ethnic politics, and comparative federalism. His work has also appeared in

    Regional and Federal Studies, Comparative Political Studies, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and State Politics and Policy Quarterly.

    Here are some of their conclusions:

    We find that the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place. All three states feature low taxes and government spending and middling levels of regulation and paternalism.

    New York is the least free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear. As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and West North Central regions are the freest overall while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom.

    Regression analysis demonstrates that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration.

    Arkansas is #29 in our index, doing much better on personal (4th among the 50 states) than economic freedom (39th). Arkansas does surprisingly well on fiscal policy (33rd) for a poor, smallish state, once one adjusts for federal grants.
    However, the state could stand to do much better on fiscal decentralization and local government budget constraints for a state with strong counties.
    Local governments should be allowed more revenue sources and state grants to local governments should be reduced. Arkansas scores high on motorist freedoms, with only secondary seat-belt enforcement, no helmet laws for adults, no open-container law, and no personal injury insurance requirement. Arkansas has virtually no regulation of private schools, and the homeschooling laws are better than average, although parental notification requirements can be onerous (annual, extensive materials). Arkansas has jumped onto the smoking ban bandwagon. The state could significantly improve its regulatory environment (44th) by repealing its health insurance mandates, which add an estimated 53 percent to the cost of premiums.40 The state licenses 30 of the occupations we track, tied for first (worst) with Maine. As of the end of 2006, the state had made no eminent domain reforms of note. On the other hand, state-level land use  planning is virtually nonexistent.

    Here is the complete list:

    1 New Hampshire
    2 Colorado
    3 South Dakota
    4 Idaho
    5 Texas
    6 Missouri
    7 Tennessee
    8 Arizona
    9 Virginia
    10 North Dakota
    11 Utah
    12 Kansas
    13 Indiana
    14 Michigan
    15 Wyoming
    16 Iowa
    17 Georgia
    18 Oklahoma
    19 Montana
    20 Pennsylvania
    21 Alabama
    22 Florida
    23 North Carolina
    24 Nevada
    25 Mississippi
    26 Delaware
    27 Oregon
    28 Nebraska
    29 Arkansas
    30 South Carolina
    31 Alaska
    32 Kentucky
    33 West Virginia
    34 Louisiana
    35 Minnesota
    36 New Mexico
    37 Wisconsin
    38 Ohio
    39 Maine
    40 Vermont
    41 Connecticut
    42 Illinois
    43 Massachusetts
    44 Washington
    45 Hawaii
    46 Maryland
    47 California
    48 Rhode Island
    49 New Jersey
    50 New York


    You can read the whole thing here.

    Happy Birthday, Lauri!

    lauribirthday Happy Birthday to our friend Lauri in Crawfordsville, Ind.

    Oot and aboot (that’s Canadian)

    b&nHastings still hasn’t got their Wifi up and running again, so I’m online at Barnes & Noble at $3.99 for two hours.

    I reset my home desktop screen resolution to 800x600 before I left and when I connected to it from here with Dell Remote Access, it was much easier to use. It also occurred to me after I went to the low-res screen setting, that I could probably make those changes remotely, since I can access Control Panel as well as all of the other programs and files.

    Did I mention how much I like this Dell Inspiron Mini 9?

    I didn’t think so.

    Rowdy college kids on spring break


    Stepdaughter Morgan and her boyfriend are on a spring break road trip to Savannah, Ga. and she's uploading the trip pictures to her Flickr account as they travel.

    The embedded EXIF data indicates this was taken at with the boyfriend's SONY DSC-W55 camera 2:46 p.m. yesterday when they were in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Exposure was  1/125 at f/2.8 at ISO 100, in case you're curious.

    Indianapolis Star employees to take a 15% pay cut

    Another reason why I’m glad I quit/retired in October’ 2000. This announcement went out to employees at The Indianapolis Star yesterday:

    The Indianapolis News Guild is sad to inform you that Gannett is now
    seeking to cut the pay of newsroom and building services employees by 15 percent. The lawyer for the company provided us with a one-page 'supplemental' proposal this afternoon that he said would implement this uniform salary reduction either 1) at the time we reach a new contract with the company, or 2) at the time both sides reach an impasse and cease talks.

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Geek stuff

    I spent a few minutes this afternoon installing and testing Dell DellRemoteAccessRemote Access.

    It’s kinda like gotomypc.com, which lets you link up with your home computer from anywhere in the world and instantly see your home desktop, with the ability to run programs and perform actions just as if you were at the keyboard at home.

    Gotomypc .com costs about $20 a month, while the Dell product (which doesn’t run on Macs) costs $9.95 a month and comes with a 10-day free trial, of which today is the first day.

    I discovered immediately that when you take the text and images that are scaled for a 24” monitor and shrink everything down to fit on an 8.9” mini laptop screen, it gets very hard to read and work with. I may have to reset my monitor resolution to something like 800x600 whenever I leave home with the expectation of remotely accessing the computer with my mini.

    But it does eliminate the need to install a bunch of memory hog software on the mini.