And so, one drizzly afternoon last October, I found myself in the Pyongyang Airport waiting for a guide to take me into town and unveil this planet's most mysterious nation over the next five days--the maximum amount of time an American is allowed in for the games. Unless, of course, something goes terribly wrong--a fear made all the more real when my guide confiscated my passport and ticket out of the country and turned them over to the police for the entirety of my stay in North Korea. I wasn't going anywhere if the government didn't want me to. It wasn't until I returned to the airport terminal five days later that I was finally reunited with my only means out of the country.I just started and am still reading through it, but had to take some time to recommend it.
Those passportless five days turned out to be truly extraordinary and worth every moment of my will-I-get-out-of-here-alive fear. Over the next two weeks I will be sharing with you this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel back in time and personally witness the communist regime, cult of personality, totalitarian lifestyle, and oddball reclusiveness known as North Korea. It ain't Paris, but I think you'll love it nonetheless.
Monday, March 31, 2008
An archer has achieved a one-in-a-million feat of marksmanship after splitting one arrow with another. What makes the shot even more remarkable is that Tilly Trotter is blind.I am not boasting when I say that I did that once. It was very annoying, destroying a perfectly good arrow. Luck, good or bad, depending how you look at it. But then of course, I'm not blind.
Her husband, Tony, is crucial to her success, telling her how near her shots are to the target each time she shoots.
"He isn't allowed to tell me to aim left or right before I let loose an arrow," Mrs Trotter said. "I can only make my own adjustments to my aim before I shoot."
I've also had to repair fletching a few times from very near almost-misses. Sigh. It's been so long since I've practiced archery. Gotta get back into it when the house move is over. I packed up my bow a couple of days ago.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
See, what many people don't know about DDT is that the person who discovered that it could be used as a pesticide actually won a Nobel Peace Prize. Why? Because it was kind of effective in fighting malaria. When spraying of DDT stopped in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), malaria cases rose from 17 in 1963 to 2.5 goddamn million in 1969, an increase of approximately a bajillion fofillion percent. And to this day, the mosquito remains the deadliest killer Mother Nature has to offer, with a confirmed 2 million kills per year.And the clueless feelgooders are trying to fight it by supplying people with sleeping nets, because killing mosquitoes is too cruel.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Oh yeah, my dad also took our upright freezer over to his house and plugged it in on his front patio.
This will most likely be the last Friday night I have to sit and read blogs and smoke a pipe for a while. I think the forced hiatus will be a good thing, although I'm going to feel terribly out of touch since this is how I get most of my news.
I'm going to turn comment moderation on until further notice since I won't be able to monitor the blog every day.
I will be taking my laptop with me and I might be able to check in briefly now and then. Mostly I'm going to be re-learning how to use Melody Maker software, which is what I used to write a few gospel songs a few years ago. The last time I had to use the start-over disk to get this computer rejuvenated, I forgot to save all the files for the songs. Fortunately I had uploaded the pdf files so I was able to retrieve them, and I'll be re-writing them again so I have digital versions that I can revise and export midi files from. I might even try a little writing, but my dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?) have been packed up, and I'll feel crippled without them.
One of my biggest and prettiest hickory trees is going to have to come down so they can get the new house in, which is a shame, but I guess I'll have plenty of barbecue wood from it, so it won't be a total loss. My favorite tree, another very tall and straight hickory in the front yard, will be able to stay. I always use its shade to barbecue under during the summer. Another smaller hickory just behind the house will be able to stay also. After it's all over, I'll throw a few hickory nuts in the empty space left by the big tree that will be removed, so maybe in a couple hundred years someone else can enjoy another big hickory tree.
We actually have a lot of hickories on this place, but the one that has to come down is one of the biggest. Too bad it's not just another blackjack. At least one and possibly two post oaks will have to come down too, but then I'll be needing firewood for the fireplace, so they will be put to good use.
I'll use my phone to take some pictures if I can, and post them when all this is sorted out later on.
To prevent rain over the roofless 91,000-seat Olympic stadium that Beijing natives have nicknamed the Bird's Nest, the city's branch of the national Weather Modification Office--itself a department of the larger China Meteorological Administration--has prepared a three-stage program for the 2008 Olympics this August.So they are blasting the skies with silver iodide and frozen CO2 instead of orgone energy, but who can look at that photo and not be reminded of Wilhelm Reich?
First, Beijing's Weather Modification Office will track the region's weather via satellites, planes, radar, and an IBM p575 supercomputer, purchased from Big Blue last year, that executes 9.8 trillion floating point operations per second. It models an area of 44,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) accurately enough to generate hourly forecasts for each kilometer.
Then, using their two aircraft and an array of twenty artillery and rocket-launch sites around Beijing, the city's weather engineers will shoot and spray silver iodide and dry ice into incoming clouds that are still far enough away that their rain can be flushed out before they reach the stadium.
Finally, any rain-heavy clouds that near the Bird's Nest will be seeded with chemicals to shrink droplets so that rain won't fall until those clouds have passed over. Zhang Qian, head of Beijing's Weather Modification Office, explains, "We use a coolant made from liquid nitrogen to increase the number of droplets while decreasing their average size. As a result, the smaller droplets are less likely to fall, and precipitation can be reduced." August is part of Northeast Asia's rainy season; chances of precipitation over Beijing on any day that month will approach 50 percent. Still, while tests with clouds bearing heavy rain loads haven't always been successful, Qian claims that "the results with light rain have been satisfactory."
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I had a dish called Southwest Chicken something or other. Grilled chicken breast covered with Monterey Jack cheese, sauteed onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and crumbled bacon. Onion rings and green beans on the side. The food was excellent except for the onion rings and the waitress kept my tea glass filled. If a waitress can keep up with me on iced tea, she's really on the ball.
Next time I'm going to try their Chicken Marinara, grilled chicken breast covered with marinara sauce and grilled mushrooms.
Stay away from the onion rings, they aren't all that great. Otherwise, I recommend it.
With some things, my memory is terrible. Mostly because it's something that I just don't care enough about to let it take up valuable memory space. Records are different. I can remember where I bought almost every one of them. I can usually remember the face of the cashier who rang me up at the record store (and the name in one case--Bianca). But there are a few that had me stumped.
I grabbed a stack of records and the one on top was from GTR.
I have a GTR record? I didn't know I had a GTR record. Why do have a GTR record?
I don't even remember any of their songs. But once the chaos settles down and I start getting things back in order, this will be one of the first I play to see if I can remember.
Within 15 minutes she had figured out how to create graphs.
I further impressed her by showing her some conditional formatting.
Come to think of it, the when I first started using Lotus 1-2-3 (for DOS, of course), I thought it was pretty cool, too.
Sometimes kids are so easy to impress. I'll miss being able to do that when she gets older.
Friday, March 21, 2008
My daughter has, unfortunately, grown up in the age of remakes and sequels. When the movie ended, the first thing she said was, "Did they ever make a number two?"
"No." I told her as I tucked her in. "All the best movies never have sequels."
"So it just ended with a mystery with that monster climbing up from under his truck?"
"Yep. It's just a mystery, what happens next."
And the last thing she said as I turned out the light: "They gotta make a number two!"
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It looks like I'll still have internet access until around April 4 or 5.
“It’s a simple case to me,” Heller said, “It is wrong for the government to tell me that it is OK for me to have a gun during my work hours, but illegal for me to have a gun when the only thing I want to protect is me.”As always, read it today because it isn't archived.
At that point, a reporter interjected: “the Mayor (DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty) says the handgun ban and his initiatives have significantly lowered violent crime in the District. How do you answer that, Mr. Heller?”
The initial answer certainly wasn’t expected – Dick Heller laughed. Ruefully.
Pointing at the Mayor who was making his way across the plaza, surrounded by at least six DC police officers, Heller said, “the Mayor doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
“He doesn’t walk on the street like an average citizen. Look at him; he travels with an army of police officers as bodyguards – to keep him safe. But he says that I don’t have the right to be a force of one to protect myself. Does he look like he thinks the streets are safe?”
There was no follow-up question.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
We've had an odd hot wind blowing up out of Mexico, and our humidity has dropped. It's just not right for this part of the world. Weather reports from San Antonio had the humidity at a low of 9% yesterday, and my weather station here at the house went as low as 18% today. I helped my dad move some carpet this morning, then came home and started tearing down the fence that I put up just last year because I didn't think I'd be tearing it down for at least another several years, but I just felt too lousy to do much. So I watched some stupid vampire movie that was supposed to have Bruce Campbell in it, but I fell asleep for about 15 minutes and I never noticed him anywhere in the movie. He definitely wasn't a main character. No good quotes in it, either.
The extreme low humidity and wind has kept us under a severe fire warning, but so far, no fires around here.
1. I think the end of the world just came for that bag of Fritos I had in my pants pocket.
Spoken by Scott Wilson as Captain Billy Cutshaw in The Ninth Configuration.
2. Don't make me take off my sunglasses!
Spoken by the character Griss in Bringing Out the Dead. In spite of this being a Nicholas Cage vehicle (get it? vehicle? yuk yuk), I think it's actually a pretty cool movie. Griss is sort of a bouncer for an emergency room, if I recall correctly. Anywho, this is one of my favorite movie lines, and I have adapted it for my own on occasion with the variation: Don't make me put down my pipe!
5. He used to bring beautiful women here... eat fine meals, drink fine wine, listen to music... but it always ended with screaming.
Spoken by Jeffrey Combs as Crawford Tillinghast in From Beyond.
9. We prefer the term, "connoisseurs."
I'm not surprised no one got this one. It's from a movie that I consider a favorite because it is so unbelievably stupid. Spoken by Alan Brock as Dr. Ernst Prell in Shriek of the Mutilated (a.k.a. Bigfoot Terror). If you are a fan of stupid gore films (as I am, or used to be), be sure to see this film. This line is his answer to the accusation, "You...you're cannibals!"
I enjoyed this meme and I hope it makes the rounds again sometime, because there are plenty of other movies to remember with memorable quotes.
A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works. The machine was lost among cargo in 65BC when the ship carrying it sank in 42m of water off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. By chance, in 1900, a sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck and recovered statues and other artifacts from the site.But...
The machine first came to light when an archaeologist working on the recovered objects noticed that a lump of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Closer inspection of material brought up from the stricken ship subsequently revealed 80 pieces of gear wheels, dials, clock-like hands and a wooden and bronze casing bearing ancient Greek inscriptions.
Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon. Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods.
One of the remaining mysteries is why the Greek technology invented for the machine seemed to disappear. No other civilisation is believed to have created anything as complex for another 1,000 years.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Failing to recycle plastic bags could find you spending eternity in Hell, the Vatican said after drawing up a list of seven deadly sins for our times.How much longer before the Catholic church just chucks the Bible entirely?
The seven, which include polluting the environment, were announced by Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, a close ally of the Pope and the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Roman Curia's main court.
The "sins of yesteryear" - sloth, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath and pride - have a "rather individualistic dimension", he told the Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.
The new seven deadly, or mortal, sins are designed to make worshippers realise that their vices have an effect on others as well.
"The sins of today have a social resonance as well as an individual one," said Mgr Girotti. "In effect, it is more important than ever to pay attention to your sins."
According to Roman Catholic doctrine, mortal sins are a "grave violation of God's law" and bring about "eternal death" if unrepented by the act of confession.
They are far more serious than venial sins, which impede a soul's progress in the exercise of virtue and moral good.
Mgr Girotti said genetic modification, carrying out experiments on humans, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, causing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy and taking drugs were all mortal sins.
Of course sin has a "rather individualistic dimension." That's because I am responsible for the fate of my own soul. I make my own choices, and so do you. Not my neighbor, not my family, and not any organized church.
Note that if you work hard your entire life to be financially successful and harm no one, eventually you will cross someone's imaginary line of "obscenely wealthy" and are guilty of mortal sin.
I suppose the upper hierarchy of the Catholic church is exempt from the "obscene wealth" clause.
This was nothing but media spin. Via Taki's Mag.
#1: This is probably obscure for most people. It was a movie starring Stacey Keach but he did not speak this line. The movie was directed by the man who originally wrote the book, and the book had a different title than the movie.
#2: This line in context is not a request or a plea, it is a threat. It's from a movie starring Nicolas Cage but he did not speak that line.
#3: Another vengeance flick starring someone who became a really famous and respected actor later on.
#5: Another film based on a Lovecraft story.
#6: I'm surprised no one got this one. Another movie starring someone who became a lot more famous later on, and is a cult favorite for many people. The ending credits promised a sequel but it never happened. I chose this quote because most of the other good quotes would be far too easily recognizable.
#9: No one is going to get this, but here's a hint anyway. An obscure slasher film centered around cannibalism and a Yeti hunt.
#15: This is an enormously famous comedy, with many well-known actors, and is loaded with great quotes, many of which would be immediately recognized by most movie fans.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Pfizer, the manufacturer of the anti-impotency drug Viagra, is trying to force the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) to release the names and comments of its anonymous peer reviewers who judged a dozen studies into two of the company's pain-killing drugs.Translation: The public has no interest in objective peer-reviewed scientific information. According to Pfizer.
Pfizer has issued a subpoena demanding that the journal release the identities and comments of its referees, who normally remain anonymous so that they will feel free to give their honest opinions.
The motion filed by Pfizer claims that the public has no interest in protecting the editorial process of a scientific journal.
1) Look up 15 of your favorite movies on IMDB.
2) Take a quote from each and post them for your readership to properly identify.
3) As your movie-savvy readers correctly identify the quotes’ cinematic origins in the comments, strike out the quotes and name the commenter who answered correctly.
4) If the commenter also identifies the name of the speaker (the character or the actor), he or she gets bonus points in the form of a link to his or her site.
I never tag anyone, so if you want to play, feel free. Here we go...
1. I think the end of the world just came for that bag of Fritos I had in my pants pocket.
2. Don't make me take off my sunglasses! (not particularly a favorite movie, but it is a favorite quote of mine)
5. He used to bring beautiful women here... eat fine meals, drink fine wine, listen to music... but it always ended with screaming.
9. We prefer the term, "connoisseurs." (pronounced con-nos-see-ays--this quote is not in imdb, I quoted it from memory)
Whew! I had a hard time thinking of 15 favorite movies, since I'm not much of a movie-watcher. Although I'm sure later on I'll think of some other movies that would have fit the list better. Some of these should be easy, a few may be well nigh impossible (unless you cheat). Have fun.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Unfortunately, it means I'll be without internet access for a few weeks, probably most of April. I'll probably lock the blog down as "private" since I won't be able to monitor comments and so forth, but it will still be a couple of weeks until that time.
I have lots of prep work to do so I might be even scarcer than usual around here for a while.
Clarifications: We are not moving. We are just going to be uprooted for a while during the transition. So, we'll still be living in the same place. We are not moving into someone else's old house. The new house is partly pre-fab and will be set up here after our old house is removed. But the new one is permanent. It isn't the kind of house you can just stick axles on and drag out again someday. It will never be removed in my lifetime.
Thanks to everone for the comments!
I answer with the question, "Can armed people be coerced?" It is at least arguable that they cannot! The persuasion, especially when it gets into heavy arm-twisting, can certainly look like coercion; but for the armed, the question is always decided by a choice: go along, or resist. Just because we mostly choose to go along, it should not deceive us that that is the only choice; whereas for the disarmed, it is the only choice (and thus there is no choice at all). A state-employed thug, or a free-lance one, simply takes from an unarmed man anything he wants including life itself. To an armed man, he can only produce compliance using at worst a threat on one's life, accompanied by the risk of losing his own. Quite a different kettle of fish.Important reading. Read it all.
This calculus applies to all questions of compliance, but especially to the question of compliance with gun confiscation itself. One might say this is the meta-question of compliance. If one complies, then one by implication complies with all further demands no matter how extreme, because compliance with this one gives up the possibility of any future choice. It is saying, "Here is my gun. Now, what else do you want to do with me?"
We do not really trade our guns for our life, in a confiscation, any more than the Jews of Nazi Germany traded their guns for their lives. We do not really own our lives anyway, but only borrow them temporarily: we are mortal. The real trade here is guns for little more than a state-determined temporary extension of our lives on our knees — and the lives of our children and their descendents on their knees as well. Despite how repugnant, how low such a choice is, there is apparently no shortage of people willing to make it.
via The War On Guns
Monday, March 10, 2008
Your message has been received loud and clear--along with your warning that you will not hesitate to come down and arrest anyone you suspect of violating this law. Before I give you my reply, I want to make it clear that my response is mine alone. Any retaliation is mine to face, and taking it out on the man who passed your message along at your direction will not be something you can now do outside of a brightly focused light.David Codrea's public and identified blogging is what has kept me from "going anonymous" so to speak. Several months ago, I did begin an anonymous blog, but I haven't used it very much. I think the only honorable thing for me to do is to transfer those posts over here. Since I've commented and linked to The War On Guns, I'm probably already on the list, anyway.
That said, OK, I recognize bait when I see it. I'll bite. Here is my considered response. Now that you've snagged me, hang on tight.
First off, if you have anything to say to me, say it directly. Don't go presuming sovereign citizens are your personal messenger boys.
Second, how dare you?
Don't presume to have authority to impose any prior restraint on what I write. Don't presume to warn me about what you will or will not allow me to say.
For you to imply any of my work might be illegal is a vile slander and you know it--if it wasn't, I'd already be in custody (assuming I was allowed to survive the arrest). Hell, you even admitted as much, but qualified that while I hadn't broken any laws, people who comment on this blog might.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - The mayor of a village in southwest France has threatened residents with severe punishment if they die, because there is no room left in the overcrowded cemetery to bury them.
In an ordinance posted in the council offices, Mayor Gerard Lalanne told the 260 residents of the village of Sarpourenx that "all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish."
It added: "Offenders will be severely punished."
The mayor said he was forced to take drastic action after an administrative court in the nearby town of Pau ruled in January that the acquisition of adjoining private land to extend the cemetery would not be justified.
Lalanne, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Wednesday and is standing for election to a seventh term in this month's local elections, said he was sorry that there had not been a positive outcome to the dilemma.
"It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me," he said.
William Graves, owner of GPS Defense Sniper School, teaches Army Airborne soldiers how to use this 5-foot-long gun. He has invited me to this sunbaked backcountry to experience it myself. I'm wearing two types of ear protection — earplugs and an electronic decibel-filtering headset — because the M107's report can be deafening. At a safety briefing earlier this morning, Graves was disturbingly tactical: "Hold the gun tightly when you fire or it will kick and break your nose. If anything happens, take as many gauze rolls as you can and stuff them directly into the wound. If it's something to do with high-caliber rifles, it's going to be catastrophic."First, whoever heard of the mere recoil of a .50 BMG causing a "catastrophic" wound that one would have to stuff several rolls of gauze into?
I shiver as Graves scans the terrain and points to a speck on a hillside 700 yards across the canyon. Through the crosshairs of my 14X Leupold Mark 4 scope, it resolves as a head-sized rock. I wedge the stock into my shoulder and hug it tight.
Then a little math. Bullets don't fly forever — they fall in a shallow parabolic curve. Using a ballistic chart that Graves pulled off the Internet, we twist the elevation knob to lower the scope 14 minutes of angle (1 MOA equals 1 inch per 100 yards). I'm now aiming about 8 feet above the target. Hitting the rock should be simple. Advises Graves: "Move the trigger without moving the rifle."
Second, if Graves is who he is supposed to be, why did he have to hunt down a chart from the Internet?
Third, as the last paragraph quoted above shows, the .50 BMG doesn't render physics irrelevant.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Somewhere in the rail yards of Erwin, Tennessee the bones of Big Mary rest - a sore point for the little town, a part of its history the residents would rather soon forget. But for Mary, wherever she is now, there is a certainty, an absolute that is definite despite all conjecture and oral history: Big Mary will never, ever forget.The utterly bizarre story of an elephant that was executed by hanging at meine kleine fabrik.
So you need to lift a 4000 kilogram mass 1.5 meters to run this for 4 hours, and that's assuming a 100% efficient generator. Either that or you need to lift the 50 pound mass 57600/(22.7*9.8) = 259 meters. Either way, you need something on the order of 175 times more energy than they have available."Inventor's" response:
If there's any question as to the legitimacy of the competition now, I have offered to graciously concede the 2nd place win, as well as any winnings. My job now is to figure out a better design, plain and simple. I made an estimation based on feedback I got during the design process, and that estimation was shown to be incorrect.via Swallowing the Camel
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Indiana's change of heart gave University of California-Santa Barbara economics professor Matthew Kotchen and Ph.D. student Laura Grant a unique way to see how the time shift affects energy use. Using more than seven million monthly meter readings from Duke Energy Corp., covering nearly all the households in southern Indiana for three years, they were able to compare energy consumption before and after counties began observing daylight-saving time. Readings from counties that had already adopted daylight-saving time provided a control group that helped them to adjust for changes in weather from one year to the next.
Their finding: Having the entire state switch to daylight-saving time each year, rather than stay on standard time, costs Indiana households an additional $8.6 million in electricity bills. They conclude that the reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight-saving time is more than offset by the higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings.
"I've never had a paper with such a clear and unambiguous finding as this," says Mr. Kotchen, who presented the paper at a National Bureau of Economic Research conference this month.
The energy-savings numbers often cited by lawmakers and others come from research conducted in the 1970s. Yet a key difference between now and the '70s -- or, for that matter, Ben Franklin's time -- is the prevalence of air conditioning.
"In an inland state like Indiana, it gets hot in the summer," says Steve Gustafsen, a lawyer in New Albany, Ind., who filed a suit in 2000 in an effort to get his county to abandon daylight-saving time. "Daylight saving means running the air conditioner more."