Saturday, December 29, 2007

a bit of news

Scot and Trase are in Australia. When we get news, we'll pass it on.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

life

Mountain Man and beast

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The next Michigan coach

Nobody's asked me for my opinion on who Michigan should go out and hire as its next football coach, but I've been thinking about it a good deal. The thing that concerns me most is that this search, which ideally would be conducted rather quietly, has been nothing but a circus. In the process, a lot of negative things have been said about a lot of good people, and it's a shame it's all gone down like this. Perhaps Lloyd Carr thought he was doing a pretty good thing by announcing his intention to retire the Monday after losing to Ohio State, but I don't think so. In all of the controversy over this job, I haven't heard anyone point out that the damage to Michigan's reputation is Lloyd's fault. But, it is. The other culprit is the Michigan athletic department itself, which has more leaks than a Cuban refugee raft.

Carr should have made his intentions known to the top levels of the Michigan athletic department, so they could at least begin the process of identifying and contacting potential candidates quietly. The intense media scrutiny, and the not-so-secret overture to Les Miles put Michigan's best candidate in an absolutely impossible position. LSA wasn't dumb: They knew the call from Michigan was coming, and intended to play hardball. Miles was given the option of signing a long-term contract, or being prevented from coaching his team in the SEC championship. The intensity of the media circus virtually required them to do so:

I presume Miles was motivated as much by a sense of loyalty to his players as anything else in agreeing to sign the extension. Some people have criticized Miles as being after nothing but the money -- FOR KEEPING A JOB HE ALREADY HAS!!! Duh! After all, you'd be a fool to give up a great job for the CHANCE to talk to some folks about another job -- no matter how attractive. And coaching LSU in a potential national championship season qualifies as a GREAT job to have.

Even if Miles wanted to come to Michigan, Carr and the leakers at U of M made sure he could only do it by very publicly turning his back on his current team mid-season. People demanded that Miles swear loyalty to LSU -- OR ELSE. What elite school wouldn't? Imagine the uproar if a Michigan coach were entertaining offers at the end of a championship-caliber season! The alumni would raise holy hell. This is why big schools tend to recruit coaches from smaller-conference programs, which don't feel so hurt when big-time programs come calling. If you're in the MAC or Conference USA, the Big East (in football) or Division I-AA, it's a fact of life when you have a hot coach. You live with it.

But if you're a big program -- and LSU certainly is -- you don't want your star dimmed by having your coach beat a path to a rival. Michigan and LSU are both top-flight programs with tradition and talent. All of this was SO predictable.

Look for Michigan to snag a quality coach from a non-BCS conference in the next week or two. If the job stays open until Christmas, it means they're waiting to make another pass at Miles.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Searching for myself -- and finding TOO MANY

No, this isn't some existential journey. And tell me if this sounds a little weird, but... Have you ever Googled yourself? You know, just to see what the rest of the world finds when they type your name into Google?

I found out that I, Scot Woods of Grass Lake, am much less interesting than Scottish craftsmen who make things out of wood, motels named Scot Wood, and a Canadian chef who has a cool-looking restaurant in Toronto:

Restaurant review of 'Lucien'

The reviewer calls the restaurant "upscale yet unpretentious". Unpretentious, huh? So, flashing my ID won't get me any special treatment?

There's also a Scott Woods who is the president of West Arete Computing, and a short-haired fiddler from Canada who runs the Scott Woods band, which provides "Old Time Country & Fiddle Music." (He plays Mon Dec 17, 7:30 pm at Bethany Church in St. Catharines, ON. 905-684-1401)

All of these were very interesting. But the one who really made the ego-search pay off was the only Black (as in, of African descent) Scott Woods I found. He describes himself as a "Poet. Musician. Ne'er do well." But this Ne'er do well is the writer of "over nine books," which of course is a euphemism for, like, 10 books. So I'm poking around the Ne'er-Do-Well's Web site, and find this funny little link:

"Who Scott Woods Isn't"

I'VE FOUND MY PEOPLE!!!! I was lost, but now I'm found. And it turns out, I'm not the only Ne'er-Do-Well. I've applied to get on the list... cross your fingers!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Factoid

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the release of “Thriller.”

You're getting old, friend. Have you checked your IRA lately? What's your cholesterol level?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More bragging about Michigan

Today's headline is from Reuters: "Houses cheaper than cars in Detroit"

Detroit really used to be a great city. But man... Someone needs to bring some jobs here.

Huckster now #2 nationally

Huckabee is gaining quickly on the tumbling Giuliani, says the LATimes/Bloomberg poll.

Current national spread is thus:

Giuliani: 23%
Huckabee: 17%
F. Thompson: 14%
McCain: 11%
Romney: 9%
Paul: 5%

The wild card is that 17% still say "don't know". If they didn't like Rudy before, do you suppose the the revelations about his "Shag Fund" have helped? Me neither.

On the other hand, Huckabee apparently didn't know the shocking news about the National Intelligence Estimate which found Iran hasn't been working on nukes since 2003. (Maybe he's been watching Fox News, which would explain his campaign's ignorance). Seems like the sort of thing a serious candidate should know. Probably not fatal, but Huckabee can let this happen but ONCE.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Huckabee leads in Iowa


Mike Huckabee continues to enjoy the "Arboretum bump", rising to first in the latest Iowa GOP polling. Since I made my famous predictions, Huckabee has been rising like a rocket on the 4th of July. The Huckster leads Mitt Romney by a statistically significant 5 percentage points, and has more than doubled up on Rudy Giuliani (29% vs. 13%). Now, I'm not saying Huckabee's rise is due solely to my bringing attention to him. My observation is that of all the candidates, he's the one with the fewest flaws, the best "story", and the most in common with the broad coalition of interests that remains the GOP base.

In other words, I wasn't endorsing the man, just predicting that the GOP would find him and embrace him. Let me say a few words about him, though: While I disagree with him on creationism and half a dozen other key topics, I do think he's a really smart guy. And my first impression of him is that he's "real" -- what you see is what he really is. As the Des Moines Register reports, "Huckabee outscores Romney and the rest of the Republican field as the candidate seen as the most socially conservative, the most civil in tone and the most principled." And should he become the candidate, Huckabee will be tougher to beat than many people think. But I do think he'd lose to Obama or Hillary by maybe 4 percentage points.

Romney might be okay, but he's trying way too hard to pretend to be a red-meat conservative, which doesn't jibe with his record. He's an investment banker trying to play the pork-rind circuit, and it shows. He's a fake -- the perfect encapsulement of a post-modern USA presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the word on the street is that Fred Thompson is still considering whether or not to enter the GOP presidential contest. And Giuliani, well... I don't give him much of a chance. The people who vote in GOP primaries don't vote for liberal New Yorkers.

The GOP nomination will quickly become a two-horse race between Romney and Huckabee, I think, as Rudy practices immolation by in the oils of his NYC history. This includes his longtime man-love for felon Bernard Kerik and the emerging stories that he provided NYPD "protection" for his mistress while his wife was home in Gracie Mansion. Oh yes, and he hid travel funds for his booty calls in the budgets of various and sundry NYC departments. Now, there are lot of things the GOP will forgive -- Negroponte's assassination squads in Nicaragua come to mind -- but hidden money, misappropriation of funds and public girlfriend-shagging are not sins likely to be forgiven for a pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage candidate in a anti-choice anti-gay-marriage party.

As the wise man said, "So ends the reign of Denethor, son of Ecthelion."

Yeah, Giuliani's toast.

Saginaw: Home of highest dioxin levels. Ever.

My hometown, ladies and gentlemen, currently can boast a world record. Yes, Saginaw Michigan is can claim to be the home of dioxin levels 20 times higher than any ever found anywhere else (except, you know, in a tank full of dioxin). Call up the folks from Guinness.

AP: Dioxin Spot in Mich. Could Be Worst Ever

The levels of dioxin found were, in fact, 1600 times the threshold which requires cleanup action under law. I'm sure this will just be a splendid bit of good news for the already roaring Saginaw-Valley real estate market.

Here's the money quote, proving that satan-worshipping child-beating mass-murdering rapists have nothing on the worst corporate PR types:

"We don't believe there's any imminent or significant human health or environmental threat," Musser said.


Nah, cancer's never significant -- and hardly ever imminent, right folks?

Back in 1986 I think it was, the Titabawassee River flooded its banks, and my aunt and uncle's house ended up with a couple feet of river water in their basement. When the water receded, everything was coated with a crusty white film. Probably dioxin. We helped them clean up. Dow was saying the same shit then about this stuff. As a company, it should be treated with zero credibility at all times -- even if they do sponsor the local minor-league baseball team and concerts in the park. So I imagine the cancer clusters will start emerging any year now.

Actually, if I were a property owner in Saginaw (or an enterprising lawyer, hint hint) I would start asking around to see if other people were interested in suing ol' Dow Chemical for compensation for depressed real-estate values. Should be much easier to prove than health claims. It would be one way to take a bit of flesh out of the Dow monster.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Spin this

USA TODAYHagel: Bush administration is 'incompetent' and he would consider joining a Dem ticket

If only he'd said so before the 2004 elections!

Click link

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Huckabee running even in Iowa

I'm telling you, folks, this guy is sitting right in the middle of today's Republican Party, and he's the only candidate I can see who can excite all the various "bases" in the GOP. Take him seriously.

Political Wire: Huckabee Catches Romney in Iowa, Clinton Fading

Every other candidate has a terminal shortcoming WRT Republican electoral politics. I'm reiterating my predictions: Huckabee v. Clinton, with Clinton winning. I'll add that I think it will be Clinton by 5 percentage points.

Insomnia Theatre

There's greatness, certainly, in this:

http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1786412

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Inky Hinky Pinky

Confectioning monster stunned

Mukasey and Waterboarding

So he's going to be Atty. General. Just great.

Hey, let's set aside questions about the Geneva Conventions for the moment... Regardless of whether you think waterboarding is technically torture, it's certainly assault, no?

The same is true for numerous other "interrogation methods" the Administration believes are appropriate for the unlawyered, untried, unconvicted detainees it is holding.

When did government officials (such as interrogators) get exemption from basic criminal law?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Snakes in a tub!

They make 'em different down there...

Texan sets record with 87 snakes in tub

But if he was really hard-core, he'd do it wearing nothing at all.

(Author confesses that with regard to rattlesnakes, he is not "hard-core".)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Presidential race

My official position is it's WAY TOO EARLY for a civilized nation to begin discussing a presidential election more than a year away.

The Constitution ought to be amended to prohibit any candidate from receiving campaign contributions more than 365 days before the general election and prevent any primary from taking place more than 9 months before the general election, meaning the first primary or caucus would be held at the beginning of March. (I also have devised a sensible system for holding the primaries which respects the Iowa/New Hampshire tradition, while giving every state an equal chance to be influential in the selection of the parties' candidates.) We could then have several months of meaningful primaries, ending in June, leading up to a nice July convention/coronation. That would be followed by a little more than 4 months of campaigning for the general election.

That would make sense, but instead we have our current system wherein we are already talking about "frontrunners" and watching the first of the hopeless candidates drop out. Not a single vote has been cast, nor will any be for three months! The general election is still over a year away. This is insanity. The issues which the candidates are running on today are not likely to be all the same issues on the political agenda a year hence, and then what do you do if your presumptive nominee dies? Yes, it's all asking for chaos, and chaos is increasingly what we get. And there's no respite from the campaign bullshit for my fragile eggshell mind.

Anyhow, that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to offer my predictions on who will take the nominations of the two major parties. This is NOT an endorsement on my part, and it's not even a wish list. But it's what I think will happen. About four years ago at this time, on my then-blog The Mighty Pen, I predicted John Kerry would emerge as the nominee, though the "smart money" was on Howard Dean or John Edwards. Kerry was a good candidate, ran a pretty good campaign (though he really bungled the Swift Boaters) and became a pretty darn good stump speaker by the end of the contest (I saw him at Joe Louis Arena a week or two before the vote, so I saw it firsthand). Anyhow, I called it, that's all I'm sayin'.

The Democratic nominee is going to be Hillary Clinton, a prediction which I know won't surprise anyone. She's smart, she's well-funded, she's disciplined as hell, and she's surrounded by a team of people who have been through this before. Obama is a compelling person and story, and I hope he'll be part of our political landscape for a generation, but he's just not experienced enough to overtake Hillary. It's not the B.S. lapel-pin issue -- that's just symptomatic of the problem: He needs to learn how to do one of these modern campaigns. He gets a B-. She gets an A. He's the student here; she's the teacher.

The Republican is going to be.... drum roll.... former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. I've thought and thought about it, and I think he's the only candidate with a prayer to win this nomination. Let's first dispense with the crap: Guiliani is NOT going to win the nomination. He doesn't deserve the nomination, he's rather unlikeable, and there's the problem that there's now video of him as NYC mayor explaining why he wouldn't attend the 1996 GOP convention (now THAT is an awkward clip to explain away). But that's not the real killer for him. The real killer is that he's pro-choice. I know a bunch of people have told him he can turn his fame from 9/11 into national office. But they're wrong. The Rudy show doesn't play all that well outside New York, nor does the liberal Republican motif. In a six-way race, Rudy can look like a front-runner, but as also-rans drop out the picture will become clear: Pro-life voters will not cross the rubicon to vote for Guiliani.

The other strong candidate is Romney. Again, he's a liberal northern Republican, only he's made a better flirtation with the paleolithic Christianist power brokers of the right. He's getting them to consider exchanging vows, but they haven't committed to the union just yet. His problem, you see, is that he's a Mormon. This is no small matter in a political party so thoroughly beholden to the Bible belt, and it is nothing like the problem JFK had trying to win the Democratic nomination as a Catholic. JFK appealed for religious tolerance (and certainly didn't convince everyone) but the GOP base isn't playing that game. While the base may be willing to swallow Romney's politics, they don't buy his religion, and that matters a great deal. Bob Jones III sort of endorsed Romney, but even as he did so felt compelled to remind voters that he views Mormonism as "a cult". Romney is wicked smart, and an enormously competent manager, but he's pretending to be a good ol' boy to appeal to the base. I just don't think the GOP base will embrace him.

That brings us to Huckabee. The first thing going for him is that, as far as I can tell, he's genuine. He's genuinely conservative, and he communicates very clearly. He says what he really thinks, and who he is puts him squarely in the middle of the Reaganite GOP. Fortunately for him, his positions allow him to appeal to the whole range of traditional Republican demographics. A former minister, he's a genuine born-again Christian. But he's no fire-breather; he's had to baptize babies and bury the dead, and I think his faith is more about conviction than condemnation. He's likeable. There are no flambouyant divorces or flip-flops on his record. He's pro-life, pro-gun, economically conservative, non-slick, amiable and genteel. None of the GOP candidates is another Reagan, but Huckabee is the best fit for that coalition, and he's comfortable in his own skin. So I believe that over the next couple months, he's simply going to appeal to the most Republicans.

The X-factor in all of this is Al Gore. He could conceivably announce his candidacy even as late as December and still give Hillary a fight. Even if he missed the ballot deadlines in a few states, he could clobber her in California and some of the other populous states and make a run at the nomination. But my feeling is that this is unlikely. He doesn't see his mission as being President -- he sees it as changing the world. He's happy now, in ways that he wasn't when he was a politician. And he's getting a whole lot done. It may be that as a person, he's moved on beyond politics. Maybe he's done compromising himself. I'd vote for him, but if he didn't want to run, I can't say I blame him.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tongue Twiddle answer

Okay, for those of you who have been trying, and want the answer, I've posted it as a comment in response to this post. (I wouldn't want to ruin it for those who are still working.

If you HAVE NOT given up, here's some clues:

-Three words all begin with the letter "P".
-The fish in question is commonly found in pet fish tanks.
-Think of synonyms for "after death".

Now you're on the right track.

David Copperfield raided by FBI

Yeah, it's THAT David Copperfield...

Reuters story

So the guy who made the Statue of Liberty disappear couldn't find a way to get rid of $2 million? What is he, some kind of amatuer?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How you know it's the 21st Century

I'm not sure what this means, but it means something:

TIME Magazine has an article this week about the small-town gay Spanish mayor who recently conducted a gay wedding dressed as Gandalf.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An alarming chart

I'm posting a chart which looks really technical because it is. I happened to spot an intriging headline at Reuters today, and following it, stumbled on this very complex article about oil production in Saudi Arabia. Before you let your eyes glaze over and roll back in your head, here's the point: Saudi Arabia's huge oil fields are crashing.



The two key lines are the dotted rust-colored line -- which shows declining production from the world's largest oil field -- and the spiking green line, which shows a frantic expansion of oil rigs to try to keep the field producing crude oil. Even if this strategy were successful, logic says that this super-giant oil field is getting more and more expensive to run. But it does not appear to be succeeding.

You might also notice the odd horizontal blue line -- "Proven reserves". In a chart with lots of spikes up and down, odd how that line doesn't move, isn't it? De Nial ain't just a river in Egypt -- it seems to be characteristic of the Saudi government's oil policy.

Also note the second graph on the page I link to. It shows that Ghawar is currently about 50% of Saudi Arabia's total production. That's how big this one field is.

As Matt Simmons writes about in "Twilight in the Desert," the stark reality is that Ghawar is symptomatic of the other giant Saudi oil fields. These huge fields have been in production for over 50 years, and they are nearly tapped out. The decline in production at these fields is predicted by many to be rather shocking. I think this chart shows that this is what we're seeing now.

The upshot of this post is that Saudi Arabian production is going to decline by millions of barrels/day (it's currently around 8 million barrels/day) So, $5/gallon gasoline is right around the corner. Dump your guzzlers now, while they still have resale value.

More later on other implications of the collapse, which is apprently impending.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A tongue-twiddle


That is, a riddle with a solution that is a tongue-twister. So, when you get the answer, you'll know it.

What do you call an algae-eating fish that dies of a venereal disease? (3 words)

I'll post the answer after 5 guesses -- or the correct answer -- have been submitted to the comments.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Odd occurance

For about 10 minutes this afternoon, a pair of fighter jets were circling in the skies over the Chelsea area. They departed to the Northwest. Could be a training mission, but I don't recall that happening before in the 5 years I've lived here. Rather odd.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bless You Boys

"You know, when I first got here, I took a taxi from the airport and the driver said, 'This is a baseball town that's sleeping. You guys start playing well, the fans will come out of the woodwork.' There's really been an uprising ... and to have the seat I have and to see it soldout most nights, it's incredible."

-- Justin Verlander, young Tigers phenom. on the Tigers good-but-not-quite season. Thanks for the thrill ride.

Well said

"I told her that it wasn't about the 50 cents, it was about the principle. Any idiot would understand the principle - it's about simple human decency."


-- Elizabeth Schaper, of Harrison, N.Y., who was vexed that a library staffer coldly insisted she pay the fine on a book taken out by her recently-departed mother. Story here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Once again: HughesNet sucks

Another example of how awful HughesNet is

I just spent another hour on the phone trying to pry a refund out of HughesNet. It's an hour I'll never get back, and just the latest example of the "pain in the ass" factor involved in being their unwilling customer. It was a qualified success, and I'm going to move on. But first, I want to put this on the record as a warning to other prospective customers. And maybe, just maybe, a HughesNet exec. will see this and they'll address the alarming problems within their company.

Many of you know that I have been suffering mightily under the oppression of HughesNet, the satellite communications monopoly which sells Sat. Internet service. I had an older DW4000 modem, which had served me tolerably well for several years. The old dog still should work, technically, but early in August, the tech gnomes at HughesNet began disabling a variety of services. They want us all to upgrade, and they have eschewed the carrot for the "nothing but sticks" approach.

For a time, I thought these were just glitches that would be resolved, but after contacting tech. support several times, I learned that in fact my old DW4000 was being abandoned and I required an upgrade.(They called it "obsolete", but of course that's just because they decided to make it so.) My unsatisfactory options included paying them a $125 ransom for a new modem, or paying just shipping ($25) and binding myself to them with a 15-month indentured servitude contract. (Not happy, Jane!)

Before I get too far, let's start with a simple timeline:

June 24: Monthly bill: $59.99 for 6/24-7/23; Service working acceptably (not great).

July 24: Montly bill: $59.99 for period from 7/24-8/23

About August 7 (guessing here): Problems begin. Some browsing works, but secure Web sites, e-mail, IM, video files, file transfer, etc. are not working. There was NO WARNING from Hughes that this would be happening. I begin working from the road most of the time.

August 19: I call "Gotcha" -- HughesNet says this is the first record they have that I reported a problem. Maybe. Of course, their engineers knew there would be a problem months ago, when the made the decision to put the squeeze on all of us DW4000 users, but this is the date I call them out on it.

August 24: Montly bill: $59.99 for 8/24-9/23

Late Aug./Early Sept.: I win an eBay auction for a DW7000 modem, pay for it, and await its arrival. Very time-consuming. Costs me about $90.00 (but no service contract, and no $ to the leeches at Hughes).

Sept. 6: I call HughesNet to activate new modem. An installer is dispatched, "old" account is closed, and a pro-rated refund of $34.83 for the unused portion of the month is made to my account. (First thing HughesNet has done right!).

Sept. 11: Installer arrives and sets me up. Works great (finally!). $100 charge.

Sept. 24: Montly bill: $85.15 on the "new" account for 9/12-9/23 (end of previous billing period) + regular monthly bill through 10/23. Service is much better than it ever was with the old DW4000.


So there's your timeline. You'll note from this history that at this point, ZERO dollars have been refunded to me for the service interruptions CAUSED BY HUGHES. The only refund was for the post-cancellation days on the "old" account. Today I spotted the fat $85.15 charge on my bill, and call 'em up to ask about it. After a long time on the phone, I'm able to bring the very nice woman from billing up to speed on my case.

First, we ascertain exactly what the last bill was for, then I try to figure out what the refund was for, exactly. After being put on hold several times, we determine that it was a pro-rated refund for the post-cancellation days. I ask for a refund of ALL the days service was interrupted, or more than a month. They won't budge: Since I reported the problem Aug. 19th, that's the earliest date they'll issue a refund. INFURIATING, since they knew full well they were shutting me down, but what can you do? Sue them over thirty dirty bucks?

So, she says she'll refund me the six days from 8/19-8/24. I point out that's still asking me to eat the next couple weeks, when we all know service wasn't working. Ah, she says, let me talk to my support team members (i.e.: boss). On hold. She's back: OK, we'll refund you a total of 17 days. Grrr... Ok, that's satisfactory. Clearly, that's all I can get back. That will amount to $33 refunded for at least ONE MONTH of unacceptable service. But, it's something. Bloody and wounded, I declare victory and retire from the field with minimally-acceptable spoils from HughesNet.

I'll never get a refund for the two weeks pre-"gotcha." And I'll never get back all those hours on the phone with tech. support, sales, installers, and billing. And there were hours spent working on the road, and numerous costs associated with working from cafes and restaurants. What a HUGE headache for me. Aren't they supposed to WANT me to be a customer? It's a refrain I've heard from so many other HughesNet customers: If I had another choice, I'd take it. But I don't have another choice where I live.

The real joke here is that from a business management perspective, the BIG loser is HughesNet. First of all, their lack of communication with me cost them nearly a month in lost service fees from me. But the real cost was in their labor: Clearly, nobody told their front-line tech people that they were shutting off hundreds or thousands of their oldest customers. Their second-tier tech staff didn't have a clue, either. Billing had no idea what tech was doing, nor did they seem aware of the issue affecting 4000-series customers. Their insanely uncoordinated corporate structure means that this whole episode generated at least half a dozen "case numbers" from my contacts with them, tied up their personnel for HOURS, seriously disgruntled a long-time customer, and generated bad publicity. And it's not just me: Peruse the appropriate message boards, and it's clear they threw hundreds of their oldest customers under the bus in the same way, and nobody's happy. Call it, "How not to succeed in business, because you're not really trying."

Contrast all of this with the way DirecTV recently handled a similar situation. I got a recorded phone message from them saying, "Scot, you need a new dish to get all your HD channels. Call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX, and we'll send someone out to install it, pronto. FREE." There was no interruption of service, no hassle, no charge, and I had to make just ONE three-minute phone call. No wasted motion on their part or mine. I love that company. And I would have paid $50 for the new dish, if they'd asked.

HughesNet, pay attention: THAT is how it's supposed to be done.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Web Refugee

I'm working this morning, as I have for many mornings, on the road; I'm at Zou Zou's in Chelsea today. My itinerant life is not entirely of my own choosing, though I do find it a nice change of pace, and will probably come "downtown" once a week from here on out.

I've been forced from home by the dastardly actions of the folks at HughesNet, who have undermined my expensive Internet connection by turning off services. Apparently my 5-year-old satmodem, the DW4000, is no longer supported, and they're putting the squeeze on me to upgrade by turning off services. Without notice. And naturally, they're good enough to offer me a "free" upgrade which I can have for $25 in shipping charges if I sign a 15-month contract. Oh, and I'd have to have a professional installer come and repoint my dish for $125. So, it's "free" for $150 and a 15-month contract.

I'm over a barrel. Am I wrong to feel all this is a bit of a fraud?

My plan "B" is to buy a used modem off the 'Net and just attach it to myself. Should be as easy as a phone call and swapping over a few connections. And then I can work from home again.

Ah, the trials of a Web worker.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Julian stands up for first time

A big milestone for a great old friend of mine. Bill stood up for me at my wedding, and it's exciting to see his family growing.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Too much Beckham, thankee very much

I just watched a great MLS All-Star game, where the good guys defeated Scottish League champion Celtic 2-0. It could easily have been 4-0 (or more), but the Celtic goalkeeper stopped a penalty kick cold, and stonewalled a wide-open point-blank shot early on. The All-Stars were a good mix of American-born and foreign-born talent, and the pace of the game was exciting from the first minute to the last.

Unfortunately, the whole thing was overshadowed by the idol-worship the ESPN crew was bestowing on David Beckham. Now, Beckham's arrival is exciting and all, and certainly good for the L.A. Galaxy, if not the whole league. And it's a development which probably deserved some comment, and the halftime interview was justified and interesting. Beckham showed in the interview that he is genuinely enthusiastic and was quite the gentleman.

But the ongoing, non-stop chatter about the man just served to insult the quality of the product currently on the field. Every segment of the show somehow found a way to refer him. WHILE THE GAME WAS GOING, we saw him smiling in a booth, sitting in some seats, waving at a friend, walking here, walking there, putting on a microphone, waving some more... It was gratuitous. Rather than augmenting the All-Star Game with some exciting coverage of the Beckham phenomenon, ESPN treated the game as an afterthought, or an accessory to the Beckham Show.

It's not like the players on the field were slouches -- the MLS All-Stars absolutely handed it to a quality European squad. And if the MLS team had the advantage of playing mid-season (it's just pre-season for Celtic), the Scots had the advantage of being a real team that has been through the fires together. It wasn't a fluke -- the MLSers really were better.

The low point of the Beckham idolatry was the interview with the All-Star MVP, a guy named Angel, who scored a very nice goal and has really made a big impression on the league this season. In a quality broadcast, the interviewer would discuss the actual game, the key goal, the European opponent and the player himself for a bit. Then, at the end, it might be worth bringing up a topic like Beckham. Not question #2, for heaven's sake.

It was all just a bit too much.

Beckham will be a great ambassador, etc., etc. I'm not ripping on Becks here -- I'm excited too. But he'll be playing in one stadium, for one team, in front of one crowd each week. The challenge for MLS is to prove to its new fans that the product is a good quality and worth watching -- every week in every stadium. Beckham alone can't do it, and that's why the hero-worship is misplaced. His fame couldn't rescue a flawed product, but tonight's game showed me that the quality is there in MLS.

This was supposed to be a night to show off the talent that's already playing. ESPN lost sight of that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Better late -- even very late -- than never

While it took the New York Times plenty of time to come around to the obvious conclusion, it has finally thrown its voice behind the effort to end the Iraq war now. In a long, well-written editorial, the editors argue for an orderly withdrawal on as quick a timetable as possible. Rather than "bugging out", they advocate a safe, orderly withdrawal that protects American military assets. The Times acknowledges that the bloodshed may increase after Americans depart, but:
"While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost."

The electorate recognized that very clearly back in 2005 or 2006, and registered its feelings in black-and-white terms in November, when Democrats stormed into Congress largely on anti-Bush, anti-war sentiment. And the too-careful Congressional leadership, lacking the courage of their convictions, folded like a tent almost as soon as the President opposed their protests.

I'm very happy that Americans have not, generally, repeated the mistakes of the Vietnam era, when returning troops were blamed for the failures in that war. Americans remain proud of the men and women who serve, and one of the war's most vocal opponents has been the mother of a fallen soldier. But we, long ago, recognized the lack of competence at the top, and the lack of realism among the architects. Our troops were given a basically impossible mission.

So, even at this too-late hour, when so many opportunities have been lost forwever, I still welcome the tardy arrival of the "newspaper of record" into the land of reason.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th.

We ate barbecued ribs and drank beers on the deck yesterday. Tdec31 made icy margaritas with a homemade rhubarb syrup which were absolutely perfect. The Australians and I played catch with a baseball for a while. My nephew Jimmy caught himself a whopper of a smallmouth bass -- at 17+ inches, it was near a big as he is, or so it seemed. After the Tigers won, we took the kids outside and let them run around with sparklers. Just about perfect for the 4th of July... If only our government wasn't so busy waging war, subverting justice and undermining freedom.

This morning, it was back to work for me, but it's shaping up to be a very quiet week, which is nice. We're rounding up a group to go to Cabela's this afternoon. Jimmy will get to look at the live tanks of fish.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Special Day

June 29 is the 1st Anniversary of the marriage of Scot and Tdec.

Some of you were there!

Congratulations to the partners.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Two Enviro-notes

Looks like the Michigan Senate has lost its mind. They've approved a bill which exempts large animal farms -- also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) -- from most environmental legislation. There's even a Bay City "Democrat", Jim Barcia, supporting the bill. The Bay City Times reports:
"The state Department of Environmental Quality and environmental groups oppose the bills, saying the legislation would give CAFOs a license to pollute.
"
And the Flint Journal editorial page is against it.

CAFOs are warehouses for animals being grown for food. They don't see the sun much if at all, they are necessarily dirty, they overwhelm the ability of the land to process manure, and often require continuous doses of antibiotics be administered to the animals. Holding these places to environmental standards is a no-brainer. But they have $$$.

The other news is that blueberries are ready early this year in Michigan. As the Kalamazoo Gazette reports:
"The blueberries are ripening, almost two weeks ahead of schedule, as did the strawberries and cherries before them. As a result, cooks may have their pick of all three for July 4 pies."

Yeah, it could just be a one-year blip, a coincidence of favorable rain and warmth. But these blips are happening a lot more often lately.

If you're in MI, write -- no, call -- your representative on this one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Great Pop Schlock

That Todd Rundgren song "Bang the Drum All Day" always makes me smile. Every time. I think it's the cheesy but exuberant Casio-keyboard-sythesizer sound. iTunes has a variety of remixes, and they all suck.

And yeah, I understand that Rundgren recorded deeper stuff than that. It's catchy, that's all.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The no-hitter: Corrections and further calculations

A comment on my previous post about the chances of throwing a no-hitter poses and excellent question:

"I wonder what percentage of MLB pitching outings turn out to be no-hitters. How close is it to 0.0004%?"


First of all, I made the cardinal error of confusing decimal numbers with percentages... Yikes! I should have said the chances of throwing a no-hitter are actually 0.04%, which is represented as a decimal as 0.0004. Proof I was a liberal-arts major. Mea Culpa. Nevertheless, that's a slim chance.

Anyhow, to answer the question, according to the page I linked to:

"Since 1900, a no-hitter has been pitched 7.5 times for every 10,000 games -- about the same as the probability of pitching a no-hitter against a team of .235 hitters."


There's no date given for the time of that statement, so the numbers might be slightly different now. But if that holds, that would be a 0.075% chance, almost double the quickie estimate based on all batters hitting .250. But the actual overall major-league batting average isn't .235 or even .250. According to Wikipedia, "the league batting average in Major League Baseball for 2004 was just higher than .266, and the all-time league average is between .260 and .275." (The whole Wikipedia article is worth checking out!)

So, let's take the .266 figure and run the calculations again. The chance of a no-hit at-bat would be 73.4%. A no-hit inning:

0.734 * 0.734 *0.734 = 0.3954 or 39.54%

The chance of 9 consecutive no-hit innings is then:

0.3954 to the 9th power = 0.00023 or .023%

Again no-hitters actually occur 0.075% of the time -- that's about three times the statistical probability!!! Why?

Our statistical exercise leaves out all the human factors such as strategy, nerves, mis-matched talent and other wrinkles. Here are some possible reasons why no-hitters, while rare, are more common than pure chance suggests.

-- No-hitters can only be thrown by starters, who are generally better-than-average pitchers.
-- Teams will often "pitch around" or intentionally walk better hitters in a lineup, thus reducing the chances of a hit without affecting the batting average.
-- If you presume that the team working on a no-hitter is in the lead, you can also presume they will play more defensively: Moving infielders back, substituting better fielders from the bench, etc.
-- Truly excellent pitchers can be hot or "on" at certain times. They're simply better than usual, and that extra margin of performance makes them virtually unhittable (as Verlander was on Tuesday). So averages hide "lumpiness" in the data.
-- You might think nerves and pressure would make no-hitters LESS likely to happen than statistical chance suggests... But it could be that batters also feel that pressure. By the 8th or 9th inning, perhaps they feel discouraged... Could the emotion and momentum in a possible no-hitter favor the pitcher?

Any other ideas?

Swinging Birches: "What Are They Thinking?"

Dad has a clever and deep post over at his new blog.

The package has landed

Our Australian branch has arrived safely in Mich. It's a rare thing to have them here two years in a row, but we've got them for a month. The sprouts grow quickly. It seems that they like June in these parts a great deal, except for the mosquites, or "mossies" as they say. But they say it so it rhymes with "Aussies", which they pronounce "Auzzies", so it sounds like "Mauzzies." The penchant for diminutives is a down-under thing. Don't even get me started on "beeries". But I digress...

Anyhow, they want to have about three months of fun in the four weeks they're here. They've already done the tour of Yosemite during their layover in California. I think in Australia, everyone gets 13 months of vacation a year, and is paid in gold bricks. They live 13,000 miles away and they've seen more of our country than I have.

And when they're not here, they're living in Queensland, "where the weather is beautiful one day and perfect the next," as they're proud to tell everyone else. Except that it hardly ever rains there. Which is just a quibble, I suppose.

I'm not jealous or anything.

The No-hitter: A series of unlikely events

The Internet is full of wonderful information. And as everybody knows, all of it is true. That's why I have almost no hesitation to bring you this factoid I found via "Ask.com":

The statistical chances of a pitcher throwing a no-hitter against a team full of hitters with a .250 average is 0.0004%.

That's based on the premise that a pitcher has a 75% chance of getting each batter out. That works out to a 42% chance of throwing a no-hit inning. Multiply .42 nine times, and you get about 0.0004%. I even checked the math on my own calculator.

It really gives me a new appreciation for Justin Verlander's feat on Tuesday, and explains why these things happen to a team once in a generation. But there's no explanation for why Virgil Trucks threw two no-hitters for the Tigers in 1952 -- he only had 5 wins all year!!!

This calculation doesn't work for perfect games, of course, because batting averages exclude a number of events, such as being hit by a pitch, walks, errors, sacrifice flies, etc.

I got this from a page that appears to be lecture notes from a course syllabus on probabilities, and it includes some interesting factiods on poker, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I was there


It's still hard to believe, but we were there last night. In person.

Tdec called me about 2:00 yesterday afternoon, and the topic was what to do with our evening. Maybe a movie, we thought, but decided the weather was too nice. Could we squeeze a Tiger game into the budget? Well, if we don't hit the concessions too hard, sure, we thought. Beautiful day for a game, we figured, and surely there would be tickets for a Tuesday-nighter. About 5, we hit the road for Motown.

We debated buying more expensive tickets, but at the Comerica Park box office, we opted for $20 seats in the upper deck behind home plate. We had plenty of time to mill through the crowds, poke into a couple of souvenir shops, and take our seats. Second-to-last row, the way it worked out. We could see every inch of the field and into the home dugout, and even got a bonus breeze sitting so high. Justin's first pitch at 7:05 sharp came under a mostly sunny sky on a breezy 79-degree day.

We downed a couple of mediocre hot dogs and split a big Pepsi. As the game started, it felt like a great slice of Americana -- the perfect day to be there. The first few innings flew by; people were still showing up in the third. It was actually sort of boring until Inge's bullpen-busting homer in the bottom of the third. Verlander looked good, but nobody's thinking "no-hitter" forty minutes into the game.

I started feeling something special in the fifth. The Brewers still couldn't find Verlander's pitches. They were missing wildly, and a lot of their swings looked like they were fishing -- or maybe just trying to slow the ball down. In the sixth, Trase turned to me as if experiencing an epiphany and said, "He's pitching a no-hitter." SHHHHHHH!!!!!! I said. You're probably the only person in the stadium who said it out loud, I teased. "I didn't say nothing," she declared. I guess she got the cat back into the bag, as it were.

The crowd was definitely aware. The buzz continued to build. The 33,555 in attendance were cheering routine grounders like they were Willie Mays basket catches. A woman one section over made a valiant try to get the wave going, but the crowd didn't take her up. She seemed to think we didn't have enough spirit, but the fact was, everyone was too riveted on every pitch to participate in a contrived cheer.

In the ninth, the crowd gave Verlander a long, riotous ovation through his warmup pitches, and stood for every pitch. The clapping and screaming ebbed after each delivery, only to build a little bit more for the next. Somewhere in the middle of the second batter, my heart started really thumping as I dared to believe this might really happen. I remembered Milt Wilcox losing his perfect game with two outs in the ninth. Hell, I just saw a U of M pitcher give up an RBI single in the collegiate Super-Regionals after 8 2/3 innings of no-hit pitching -- going from near-perfection to a loss in the span of three heartbeats. So you start to sort of expect the spell to be broken.

The spell wasn't broken last night. Verlander was unhittable, with a little help from Magglio Ordonez, Sean Casey and yes, even Neifi Perez. The crowd literally went nuts for five minutes. Trase held her face and squealed. People clapped and screamed. Strangers hugged. Folks cried. I started shaking and teared up. It couldn't have happened to a better guy, to a better team. We called my parents, who had no idea we were going to be at the game. They were almost as excited as we were.

We went down to the team store and bought a replica Verlander jersey. Had to do it, even it was $145. Who cares, right? We'll have that forever.

This morning, I've been soaking up the coverage. I'm still jazzed about the whole thing. I've been listening to sports talk, and ESPN, and reading all the papers when I get a chance. There's a good wrap-up of coverage over at Mlive's "Cutoff Man" blog.

They're replaying the game at noon on Fox Sports Detroit. I've got to go now so I can see it again...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SYCMU: Egg found inside egg

What I really love is the folksy but not condescending tone used by the writer of this story.

Saginaw News: Egg found inside egg

It was more than incredible and edible. Norma E. Bell's egg was multiple.

On Saturday morning, the Thomas Township resident found the beginnings of another shelled egg within her scrambled eggs.

"I started eating and then said, 'What's this?' " said Bell, 81.


Indeed, there was a second egg inside, to the astonishment of Bell and her 82-year-old boyfriend.


The remains of the second egg are now sitting in a cup covered in plastic wrap in Bell's refrigerator. She said she is not sure what she is going to do with it.


It's quite a conundrum, no doubt.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Gardening thoughts

It's getting late to start a vegetable garden, and it would cost some dough, so I think I'll skip it this year. I'll do some work: I need to get rid of the seed bank in our garden plot which springs up so many weeds, so I'll be tilling and pulling in order to get "clean" soil for next year's garden. I'll also tend to my raspberries and apple trees, and I think I'll plant a bunch of asparagus roots to get those established.

Instead of veggies this year, I'm going to focus on my perennials and landscaping. We have inherited some hollyhocks and lilacs, as well as some white pine seedlings.

I have a big spruce which has been topped by storms twice, and I'm inclined to think that's a sign of disease. When the top is broken off, upper branches bend upward to "fill" the spot, but the tree now looks like it's wearing a horned helmet. I think I'll cut down the spruce and put in some nice beds there.

I also want to plant some native trees -- hickory, maple, walnut and oak, as well as those white pines. I want to landscape with native plants mostly, but I intend the area in front of the house to be more "tamed" and ornamental.

Why don't all plants at the nursery have information on where the plant is found natively? That would be great to know.

Surrender Donkeys, revisited

In a comment in reply to the first post, Jon trenchantly asks:

"So, what would you have the Congress do? Continue to pass bills that the President would veto and they don't have the votes to override? Constitutionally, that's a dead end. Eventually you have to pay for the bullets and the helicopter gas."


In short, yes, that's exactly what I would do. Make him veto it three times. Keep the issue front-and-center. Give him three different versions of the same idea. Keep the issue in the headlines, keep the heat on Bush, keep the conversation on Iraq and fight for the principles that people sent you to Washington to uphold. Make the damned GOP vote for this debacle a thousand times. Force Republican Senators to vote to uphold the veto. Hang it from their neck like a fetid albatross.

The Democrats' efforts to end the Iraqqupation end up looking like a formality -- going through the motions of objecting without changing anything. After the veto, they fell all over themselves to strip out the language offensive to Bush, and rush a no-strings appropriation back to his desk in the blink of an eye. They had weeks and weeks to spare. They didn't even make Bush sweat.

How many more Freidmans are we supposed to wait for something to happen? Kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight, as they say. Make your point, underline it and circle it.

The point is that this is a Democracy, and the President is not nor ever shall be a temporary king. He is not Imperator Americanus, and despite being the "Commander in Chief," Congress has a great deal of power. In the hands of the Republican patsies for the past six years, they have bent over (forwards) to surrender that branh's power to the Bushies, and this would have been a good time to ebb that flow. It's not just about war and peace; it's also an issue of checks and balances.

If a war roundly rejected by the American people cannot be ended via the plebiscite embodied by the last Congressional election, how then can we hope to end it?

Democracy is in danger.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Jail Bait

Best story line for today? Very brief:

'GOOD !!!!

(Let's face it, our readers do have some dignity and respectability, although not necessarily all of you, so we certainly wouldn't want to belabor this story.) However:

"Don't let the steel doors hit you in the ass!"

-------------
*co-posted at SWINGING BIRCHES
-------------

Saturday, June 02, 2007

America's Team Reminder

REMINDER

US Men's Soccer vs. China
Saturday, Jun.2
8 pm. ESPN2

Friday, June 01, 2007

Folksy Stuff from the Arboretum


Our good friend Marsha from Carolina says that she has gotten tickets to the King Tut display in Philadelphia this month, so we'll be going there soon. We also want to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Sly Stallone.

Felix reports that he has an indigo bunting in his yard. Mrs. Bud says that he's a snot. He just says stuff like that because he wants to make her jealous. Felix lives in a part of the world where there are huge storms, tornados, airplanes falling from thew sky, rednecks rampaging, almost monthly flooding, and all kinds of stuff, but they never bother him.

Dashman is on jury duty and cannot talk about what he does every day, and hasn't spilled a word even to me, his oldest friend (I mean, of longest standing) but he says he can hardly wait to have it over so he can tell people about it. In fact, he says he will write an essay. He says he has a growing faith in the machinery of justice including trial by jury.

Bill from WNNCO has been visiting a friend in a medical care facility and he promises that he will never have to go to one. What do you suppose that means? Meanwhile he's been running his Go-Karts at high speeds and winning races. Wait! Maybe that's what he means.

We're all glad to have TDec home from the north woods where she may have caught a fishing addiction, because she says, the "pike are "beautiful."

*(co-posted at Swinging Birches)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Surrender Donkeys

Dad asked my opinion on the Democrats' collapse on the Iraqi War deadlines. I would say that they were defeatist and surrender-oriented -- and that was about their own positions on the issues.

Here's a political party which stormed to the majority in November largely on the basis of two issues: Iraq and corruption. People want us out. Now. They were sold a bill of goods on this war, and they know it. And they don't have any interest in sacrificing more of their boys so that the oil companies can carve up the Iraqi fields.

The Democrats simply caved, and that's the story. They punted until September. No ifs ands or buts, from my point of view. They abandoned their mandate.

I dunno what else to add, really. It's like, if you watched the Golden Gate bridge collapse, you'd know it was a really, really bad thing. That's how the Democrats collapsed. And what mrore can you say?

Back from the northwoods

I have a mountain of dirty clothes, my lawn is a jungle, and the gardens need tending. But we all had a great time up north of Seney, MI for the Memorial Day weekend. We fished a trio of lakes and a large number of fish were caught -- and released. Tdec31 caught the first Northern Pike of her life, and then the second and third.

We also visited "Dunes," a restaurant which also goes by the name "Lake Superior Brewery" up in Grand Marais. "Grand" as everyone knows, is French for "large" and we deduced that "Marais" probably means "tits." We're very sharp after a couple of brews.

No photos as yet, alas, because we didn't take our camera. Cookie had her camera, and got a snapshot of Tdec's historic pike, so we hope to be able to post that soonish.

I'll sort out all of the world's ailments in upcoming posts.

Remember to go buy some compact florescent bulbs today.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New


I'm experimenting with a new blog.

Look in on it: CLICK HERE

Tell me what you think.

(note): The family is coming home from
the wilderness today.
Vote for the Best Caption or create one of your own:

1. Who farted?

2. They say it never rains in Southern Anwar Province.

3. Yellow can SO be manly.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day


In Memory of

HARLAN WOODS

who sacrificed both physical and
emotional health in Bougainville, 1943,
but came home to live a long life.

Sunday, May 27, 2007



Everyone's gone but me. They went wilderness camping.

I'm holding down the fort. So far, no one's attacked the fort.

Beware what you look at ...

A group of "conservative scholars" has gotten together to identify

The Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

1. The Communist Manifesto
Authors: Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels

2. Mein Kampf
Author: Adolf Hitler

3. Quotations from Chairman Mao
Author: Mao Zedong

4. The Kinsey Report
Author: Alfred Kinsey

5. Democracy and Education
Author: John Dewey

6. Das Kapital
Author: Karl Marx

7. The Feminine Mystique
Author: Betty Friedan

8. The Course of Positive Philosophy
Author: Auguste Comte

9. Beyond Good and Evil
Author: Freidrich Nietzsche

10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
Author: John Maynard Keynes

Source: CLICK FOR HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE , "Leading the Conservative Movement Since 1944"

(You know, what I don't see on here is My Pet Goat, which has been widely read in some circles. This is a test of your memories. Gold Star to the first one who remembers!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Doomed!

FedEx always has some of the best commercials, and I think it's because they don't try to do too much. They keep the message simple and then use humor and great execution to drive it home. One of the best is the one where Ned is always wrong. We all know someone like that (and if you can't think of anyone like that, uh, well, it's probably you.) Anyhow, I was sitting here trying to think of all the things Ned was wrong about, and had to Google it on YouTube. Remember: Steely Dan is not one person.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCrqy5S-H_A&NR=1

Of course, I had to click around and watch some of the others. I had almost forgotten about "Jenkins", a classic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YPaD-S-lRo&

Here was a great idea which didn't quite come off, IMHO. But "Bear, Hunter, Ninja" should have caught on in a bigger way:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhFbbq0zpHY&mode=related&search=

And then I ran across this one, which I don't think I ever saw on the TeeVee.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmZRDUO1wGQ

Truly, we're all doomed.

Mad props: WCRC

I don't often hand out "mad props" at this hour, but it's worth noting that at 7:35 a.m. on a beautiful May morning, a Washtenaw County Road Commission road grader passed by our house. My gravel road was just starting to show a washboard pattern. Those guys are on the ball. They must make good coffee down at the big barn where they keep those big rigs.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why we're in Iraq

Jim Hightower recaps why we're really in Iraq. Well, we know it wasn't WMDs and we know it wasn't to bring democracy. We're now there fighting a "war" in a nation which we have claimed now has a "sovereign" government. Against who? Well, that doesn't get discussed too much, does it? We're fighting against unnamed insurgents and terrorists, supposedly, but never is an attempt made by our government to say who they are. That might prompt people to think about all this too much.

No, the real issue has always been oil, and trying to break to Saudi stranglehold on supply of oil. Jim Hightower gives an excellent rundown.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK5jwhmY2ww

Thanks to Old Chip for sending the link, despite his apparent retirement from blogging.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Testing "the 5-second rule"

As a person who often drops things, I view this as unmitigated good news. Turns out there might be something to the old "5 second rule" about dropped food. It's almost scientific and stuff, too:

Hartford Courant: Five Second Rule? Relax

And here, I've always thought it was just a humorous fiction we use as a polite cover for eating fumbled food in front of others.

Friday, May 11, 2007

God Smote My Computer

Wednesday morning saw some pretty strong thunderstorms in our area. And by in our area, I mean in my front yard. At approximately 8:20 My Dell Dimension 8250 expired suddenly, an event announced by a blinding light and a deafening thunderclap. I gently prodded the power button a few times in disbelief, but when the little guy couldn't even muster a little *beep*, I knew it had given up the ghost. The undertakers at Computer Alley confirmed that the cause of death was indeed a fried motherboard.

And yes, I was using a surge protector.

After two days working off a laptop in the purgatory of Panera Bread, I'm pleased to report that I'm back surfing the Internets from home this afternoon, with a sharp-looking and more powerful new system. It's a custom-built job featuring dual 4.2 processors (well, the AMD equivalent) and pretty blue LED lights (oooh! Shiny!)

They were able to save the old hard drive, and install it as a back-up of sorts, which saved a huge amount of time in trying to salvage all my old data. Thank the Lord I saved a backup copy of the installer software for my DirecWay satellite internet connection. I thought getting my sat connection working again would be a nightmare, but it turned out to be pretty simple. For someone who uses his PC to put food on his family, it's crucial to have all the accumulated e-mails, Web bookmarks and e-mails to refer back to.

It wasn't easy -- and I'm a long way from having all the old software up and running -- but I was able to get the system work-ready in about four hours. And I get a DVD burner, a huge new hard drive and twice as much RAM in the bargain.

Set me back a few bones, though.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

SYCMU: Runnin' Rebels

Old Chip has been talking about gun control lately. Following is a "SYCMU" story that should give pause to even the most pro-gun nuts among us. Apparently a sextet of unreformed racist rednecks from Alabama planned to drive down the road to the sleepy hamlet of Remlap and start a-shootin'. One of the guys is actually named Michael Wayne Bobo. That's right -- Bobo. His father's name is Bobby. No, really.

ATF: Alabamians plotted to machine-gun Mexicans

Were these boys serious? Oh yes...
"Authorities said agents during the raids last week recovered 130 homemade hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun and 2,500 rounds of ammunition in the raids."

Since the plot didn't come off, and since it exemplifies just about every single backward-redneck-southern-racist-cooter stereotype, I decided I can include it in my SYCMU series. It's certainly good news that authorities caught on to these guys -- the thing to remember is that it is exceedingly rare for such yahoos to be as well-organized and disciplined as Timothy McVeigh.

But here's a pretty profound question, I think: Did you think about this as a terrorism story? Because we usually don't think of a cell of whacked white racists as terrorists, precisely. But that's exactly what they are: The goal seemed to be to terrify Mexican immigrants and keep them away. If they had carried out the plan and killed even a handful of victims, it surely would have been effective.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

SYCMU: Woman held in dog ransom plot at North Toledo bar

Toledo seems to offer an inexhaustible supply of such stories. I don't think there's much I can say to embellish this latest installment in my semi-regular series, "Stuff You Can't Make Up."

Toledo Blade: Woman held in dog ransom plot at North Toledo bar

Hector went on the ride of his life yesterday.

And it’s not one the dog or his owner want to remember.

The long-haired Chihuahua was dognapped and held for $50 ransom. He was bound with duct tape, a broken electrical device, and wires to look like a bomb. And he was thrown through the open front door of his owner’s North Toledo bar.

“It was hard [that] my dog showed up like that. [Hector] was shakin’ and carryin’ on, definitely disturbed,” said Jerry Dalton, 77, owner of Jerry’s Pub. “It was strictly indescribable. My dog, I love him.”


Yes, there's more. It's worth following the link to read the rest.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sufferin' Succotash


In a comment which has drawn the rightful ire of, well, just about everyone with a central nervous system, Laura Bush said this about Iraq during an interview by reporter Ann Curry on NBC's Today show:

AC: "You know the American people are suffering watching..."

LB: "Oh, I know that very much, and believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this."

Well, we all knew he was suffering, but opinions vary on the cause of his malady.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Answer Me This

I hear all the time that we have to win the war. McCain says if we don't win, Al Qaeda will follow us home. That Bush bastard says our national security depends on winning. So I keep hearing "support the troops," don't "cut-and-run." I keep hearing that people who want the war ended now -- or soon or maybe even ever -- are unpatriotic.

If it's so important to win this war in Iraq, and to prevent that country from falling into chaos, and to prevent the spread of Iranianism, then answer me this:

1. Why aren't there enough troops in Iraq to do the job? Why aren't there a half million, say? Why weren't there more at the beginning when everyone said there weren't enough?

2. Why are we so alone there?

3. Why haven't we raised taxes to pay for it? Why haven't we gone on a war footing?

4. If the cause is very good and proper, why is our country so divided? Why do a majority of people polled want out?


Answer me those questions.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In My Mailbox

1. Our friend Dashman from Flushing sent a quotation from Lee Iococca's book entitled Where Have All the Leaders Gone. At first I suspected that it might be one of those things falsely attributed to someone which was actually put together as an internet propaganda bomb. Snopes, however, says it's legitimate --- and it is fascinating. Read it at Snopes, CLICK HERE

This is an excerpt: "I've had enough. How about you? I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to, as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention."

2. Gigi writes to inform everyone that Bill Moyers will be back on PBS. She calls him a voice of sanity, and I agree. If you're not in a tavern somewhere, try to watch it. CLICK HERE

3. Sparty refers me to a story in the New York Times about how OSHA under this bumbling administration has failed the people of America. Read it here: CLICK HERE

This is a brief excerpt: "Since George W. Bush became president, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court."

New Car

Why I Bought A Ford Focus



I've always been a sedan kind of guy. I'm passing into antiquity now, but I can remember driving my Plymouth Fury (1st car) when gasoline was abundant, there was no concern about global warming, and the cost of gas was 30 cents a gallon. I never had expensive sedans, but the 4 door carry your kids and all your junk in the big trunk sort of sedan. When I wasn't driving sedans, it was the family mini van.

But this time, I bought a Ford Focus, a small car. I fit in it, but it's more like a tubesock than a comfy shoe. It's not at all my "style." And, I have to work on developing a greater sense of safety, because frankly, I feel vulnerable in it.

So, why did I do it?
1. A big reason is that I must downsize my life. We all have to make less of an impact on the environment. I have a child who is theocratically "green" and he will nag me. He'll nag anyone. This is good, because it's the kind of nagging the world needs. But now when he nags me, I can say, "but I bought an economy car."
Use less gas! Take up less space! Live more simply! Slow down!

I know that in the totality of things, my impact on the world is slighter than many. Industries, truckers, polluters and high-volume users of resources can all make a greater impact in their conservation efforts than I can with my meager life. But I have a responsiblity as well. We all do.

2. We still have a mini-van. We'll use it for the junk we have to carry and for the open road where it gets reasonably good milage. On our way back from Florida, last time, we averaged 26.2 mpg, and that was, we thought, reasonable.

We use the van for camping. We have a tent which attaches to the back and we sleep in the van, off the ground. It's a good way to go. But it will sit, mostly, while the small car runs the errands.

3. The Focus is 70% US-Canadian. Its engine is made in the US and its final assembly point is Wayne, Michigan. This allows me to practice a level of patriotism.

4. We bought our car in a small town from a long-established family business.

My son the environmentalist will be glad but wonder why I didn't get a foreign car with even better milage. My friends will understand when they have to cramp their legs as they snug into the back seat. But mostly, I'll feel better about myself.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

NY City will plant a million new trees


GOOD NEWS

NYC Pledges 1 Million New Trees by 2017

By SARA KUGLER
Associated Press Writer

April 23, 2007, 9:11 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- One million new trees will join the urban landscape of New York City by the year 2017 to reduce air pollution, cool temperatures and help improve the city's long term sustainability, officials said Saturday.

The tree program is one of 127 environmental proposals that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was set to outline Sunday in a speech at the Museum of Natural History, timed with the observance of Earth Day.

His administration has been working for more than a year on the package of ideas, which is also expected to include a controversial plan to charge motorists extra for driving into certain parts of Manhattan, as a way to cut down on traffic congestion and pollution.


CLICK FOR WHOLE STORY

Our Trepid Hero Speaketh


In the wake of the terrible gun accident at Virginia Tech by a perfectly legal handgun owner, it is perhaps time to reflect on the sage words of our fearful and conspitarted leader, Gerald Bush, self-styled "President" of our country:



"For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Woodchip of Wisdom -- about the war


There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.
Paul Krugman, economist and coumnist CLICK

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Smiles #3

Saturday Smiles:

1.Bill O'Reilly, on his television show, reads and comments on a letter supposedly from "Jack Mehofer." That's a chuckle even in the "no-spin zone."

2. Senator Patrick Leahy, about White House official's claim that thousands of lost emails cannot be recovered: "I've got a teenage kid in my neighborhood that can go get 'em for them"



3.

Wacko of the Week 04/21/07

THE VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATURE
It's a real temptation to just proclaim Cho Seung Hui the week's wackiest human. Too easy!

For wacko of this quintessentially American week, who could be better qualified than, collectively, the duly elected representatives of the fine people of Virginia who made the simple laws by which people can readily arm themselves and kill off the citizens by the dozens.

Lawns and Our Future

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency came forward with a proposal that the emission from lawnmowers be greatly reduced.

This is not a new description of the problem. Mowers all over suburbia, and all over the world for that matter, create tons of pollution.

Here's a quotation:
Walk-behind and riding mowers and other garden equipment account for up to 10 percent of summertime smog-forming emissions from mobile sources in some parts of the country.

The EPA's proposal applies to engines under 25 horsepower, which run nearly all walk-behind and riding lawnmowers as well as small generators and other devices. The rule would cut smog-forming emissions from the engines by 35 percent; the reductions would probably be accomplished by adding catalytic converters that reduce pollution from exhaust.

The rule would take effect in 2011 for riding mowers and 2012 for push mowers and would apply only to new engines.


To accomplish this goal mowers would probably have to be sold with catalytic converters. This would add greatly to the cost. Or, perhaps, under pressure from the circumstances, ingenious people in some manufacturing valhalla, like Detroit, will come up with an even better idea.

Naturally, ARBORETUM is all for finding a solution to this problem and will support the EPA editorially. We cannot help thinking that a new ethic of lawn maintainenance needs to evolve. Maybe the care and feeding of luxurious lawns is a frivolity we ought to abandon.

Now, what are we going to do about those great big trucks?

Friday, April 20, 2007

All Sins Considered in Proper Order

Apologize to Al for something --- Anything!

If you feel a need to apologize for something, here is a real good tongue-in-cheek opportunity.

I understand there is no particular need that you should have offended him specifically, because he demands apologies on behalf of almost anyone. Confession is good for the soul.

Caution: Your apology may not be acceptable. There are no guarantees.

You can apologize to Al Sharpton at this location
APOLOGIZE TO AL HERE .

This picture of Al weas borrowed from Salon.com, CLICK HERE TO JUMP THROUGH THEIR HOOPS

Update on Fast Trains: China

Perhaps it's not really a bullet train --- yet, because it will travel about 150 mph only.
China has begun running a new service of high-speed trains, capable of speeds of over 200 km/h. The first of the 140 trains left Shanghai for nearby Suzhou at 0538 local time (2138 GMT on Tuesday, Jan 17).
Chinese railways are struggling to cope with increasing transport demands and the trains are seen as a way to boost passenger capacity.
Last year China carried some 25% of the world's passengers and freight, on only 6% of its railways, local media say.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

2 Foreign Views

FRANCE:
Denis Lacorne est directeur de recherche au CERI (Centre d'études et de recherches nternationales) et responsable du mastère sur les Etats-Unis à Sciences-Po.

[Denis LaCorne is Director of Research at the Center for International Studies and Research where he oversees the United States political science group.]


"La tradition d'accès aux armes est beaucoup plus forte dans le sud des Etats-Unis"
"Le lobby des ventes d'armes détourne le sens de la Constitution"
"Ces événements ne font que renforcer le discours de ce lobby"



[The tradition of gun availability is very much stronger in the southern United States. The gun dealer lobby has hijacked the meaning of the Constitution. These events will only reinforce the chatter from this lobby.]

--Le Monde CLICK
=======================
ENGLAND:

Despite the worst mass shooting in US history, gun control campaigners face formidable and probably insurmountable opposition. The pro-gun lobby has consistently quashed pressure for change following previous massacres.

Pro-gun groups led by the National Rifle Association (NRA) have powerful arguments in their armoury. They draw on, and entrench, the notion of the country's so-called "gun culture", rooted in its frontier and rural history and what is billed as the early settlers' self-defence against Native Americans (though their tactic would often be more accurately described as offence).

They also lean on the Second Amendment, which supports the need for a "well-regulated militia" and protects the "right of the people to keep and bear arms". Advocates of gun control argue that the framers of the amendment had no intention, when they passed it, that it would apply to "every wacko with a beef" as one columnist put it today. But that subtlety has often been lost in the debate, with the NRA continuing to hold the upper hand.

The NRA was founded in 1871 as a body devoted to improving marksmanship. It came to prominence in the 1930s and became increasingly politically active from the 1960s when the first calls for gun control were heard.

Critics maintain that the NRA retains a stranglehold over the debate because it bankrolls politicians, particularly in marginal mid-western seats. It has donated $14m (£7m) in as many years, overwhelmingly to Republican candidates, spending a similar amount in addition on lobbying Congress.

Funny little thing...

Something made me laugh right out loud this morning...

You know those dumb little text ads from Google that seem to show up just about everywhere? Well, I was looking up the lyrics to Ray LaMontagne's excellent anti-war song "How Come?" and noticed one of those little things below it that read as follows:

"I Scorn Porn" shirt
Nothing says, "I Scorn Porn" like a shirt
that says, "I Scorn Porn."
Ads by Google

New chance for media circus

Mass Murderers go on killing spree: 127 slaughtered in Baghdad

Send in Katie Couric ... Send in 100 uplinked media vans.
Someone hand Wolf Blitzer a fistful of papers.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Conservation victory



The World Wildlife Federation and the Russian government report that the number of Siberian tigers living in the wild has increased to 600, the highest number in a hundred years. By the 1940's, unlimited hunting for tiger pelts had reduced the number to less than 50. SEE STORY

China Cheating on Endangered Trees



China, which in so many ways has been a devil in world trade, is up to new mischief.

BANGKOK, Thailand -- China is deliberately mislabeling a threatened hardwood and using forged trade documents to illegally import it from Southeast Asia to supply its booming furniture industry, an environmental group said Tuesday.

Greenpeace said in a report that Chinese importers were evading an Indonesian ban on the hardwood known as merbau by labeling it as sawn timber. Importers also used forged documents which claimed the logs came from Malaysia, despite the fact that much of the merbau has already been logged out of that country.

China imported thousands of cubic yards of illegal tropical hardwood from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea last year, Greenpeace said.


CLICK FOR STORY

Mobile phones killing the bees?

There's an extremely interesting article out in the UK Independent which reports on evidence that the transmissions from millions of cell phones may be at the root of the collapse of honey bee colonies around the world. Research at Germany's Landau University suggests bees will avoid a hive if cell phones are place nearby. Interesting theory, and I'm sure it will get quite a bit of testing.

If it turns out that our cell phones are destroying honey bees, and thereby imperiling the fruit and berry crops pollinated by these bees, what should be done? Should we choose to unplug until the problems are solved?

Headlines You Will Never See

Rampaging Poisoner Kills 33 on Campus

33 Students Beaten to Death with a Stick

Mass Murders Committed By Outraged Student Knife Owner

Man Pushes Entire Class Down Campus Steps

Crazed Foreign Student Suffocates German Class With Pillow

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bush and Wolf are shocked

Both George Bush and Wolf Blitzer say the nation is shocked.

Actually, guys, there are some of us who aren't even surprised, much less shocked.

As our fearful and trepid leader, himself, has so eloquently explained:
"There's an old saying in Tennessee
—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—
that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you.
Fool me—um -- fool me -- you can't get fooled again."


Fact is, we have seen this before and are no longer fooled. Some of us, at least.

Constitutional Scholar

Exercising his Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, a young Virginia gentleman has shot at least 6o people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, killing more than half of them.

Woodchip of Wisdom


Don't join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sunday, April 15, 2007

60 years later, just a brief remembrance of a very long journey.
Jackie 1919 - 1972