Tuesday, April 29, 2008- - -
Things that make you say.. Wha??
The InstaPundit wonders whether a GPS might be a bit of a distraction on a motorcycle. Sure it is, but no more so than the same gadget in a car. It's just that if you get distracted whilst ridin' the hog you're the one who'll likely suffer for your foolishness. Don't see a lot of bikers cruising around yakkin' on their cell phones either, do you?
I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't rather like putting ever bigger helmets and pads on football players leading to ever worse injuries as they think all that crap will protect them against anything. Until it doesn't.
You want to keep the rugger safe (that's a good thing, isn't it?) so you buy a great big SUV, put a cow catcher on the front, and you've got seat belts, air bags, side-impact air bags, anti-lock brakes, self-correcting steering, roll bars, a backup camera, a child seat for everyone under the age of 32, and a "baby on board" sign. Except for the occasional Kenworth you're the biggest hunk of metal on the highway! What could be safer?
Well, probably somebody in a jalopy with three varmints jumpin' up & down on the back seat who doesn't have a blasted cell phone screwed to their head. It's that old real security/false security dicotomy. Real security is being an alert, defensive driver. False security is buying the biggest iron you can find and trusting it to keep you safe no matter how you drive. 'Course I'm a belt & suspenders kind of guy who tries to be alert and defensive while driving the biggest chunk of iron I can afford.
Yet, made to choose, I'd pick 'alert' over 'big', so it amazes me how many times I see someone who's sprung for a $50,000 SUV -- and an extra $50 for the "4BABY" vanity plate -- carefully buckle in all eight kids, walk around the vehicle, check the mirrors, buckle up, and then whip out the phone and hit the gas. That's nuts.
Still -- in case you were thinking I was picking on women -- there's few things scarier than a one-armed farmer barreling a 10-ton grain truck through town while jawing on the cell phone. First time I saw that it took a couple minutes to dawn on me to wonder how he was steering the thing.
Truth be told, I'm not entirely innocent of such myself. Who is? Blasted cell phones. GPSs. Computers. All wonderful stuff to be sure, but I know I count on the technology too much. More than once I've been out walking on some client's project, looking at the ground and guiding myself with a GPS when I suddenly realized that if the GPS were to fail I just might have some fun finding my way back to the truck, because I haven't been paying attention to the terrain. I do have spare batteries for the GPS and I always carry a topographic map and compass, but it's still a bit scary to suddenly remember to look up and realize that I'm standing in the bottom of some valley and can't immediately point back the way I came.
So.. just to complete the circle on the rant I started this morning, how big will the football pads need to get before we're sure the Singularity has arrived?
The hometown paper has a new look, complete with actual news! I've carried their link for a long while, hoping they'd eventually figure out that you could use a web site for something besides a teaser to sell dead trees; they'd carry half a story and then tell you if you want to read the rest buy the paper. Cute. I do buy the paper, but it's not so easy getting it when we're traveling. They do still need to take that last step that I so loathe and add the blinky flashy ads that pay to keep the lights on, but this is a definite improvement.*
So here, for the very first time, is a link to actual homey news! And it is the complete article, I've got the paper in my hot little hand. [Sigh] But of course the first ever bit of actual news I'd cast my eyes on would contain the one subject that probably annoys me more than any other. It's that last line: "Hunt noted that if they do receive this grant no tax monies would have been used for this project." No tax money involved. It's magic! It's free! It's from a friggin' state grant ya goof, where do you think the state got the money?
This 'free and easy money' is a perennial theme among our small-time bureaucrats and I've many times had this same conversation, ending with "and where do you think the Department of the Interior [or whoever] got the money?" At that point the conversation always ends with said bureaucrat looking at me gape-mouthed and slightly bug-eyed, for all the world as if it never occurred to them to even wonder where the money came from, so long as it didn't come from their budget.
If this were merely a bit of somewhat willful economic ignorance it would be no big deal, but too, too many of these folks operate in 'easy come, easy go' mode. It's not their money, it's not even taxes they've personally extracted from someone's hide. It's "free"! Why should anyone care if they've pissed it away perhaps a little too easily?
That's certainly the case here. What they don't tell you is that they're also putting a brand new commercial kitchen in the brand new Senior Center they're building right next door. Seems they might have been able to consolidate those facilities just a bit, had they cared to try. Then again, perhaps the two new facilities couldn't share a kitchen for some perfectly logical reason. But they'd never think to explain that reason because 'it's free money!' Why would anyone care what they do with it?
Some things are the same everywhere, aren't they?
*Oh, I just had a horrible thought. I could buy the biggest, blinky, flashy obnoxious ad they could come up with just to show 'em how it's done; thereby becoming one with the spammers and phone bank dialers of the world!
Update: Aw bummer. They offer a "full online edition" but it's an $80 annual subscription+. Carrier delivery of the dead tree edition is only $73 a year. That's not bad I suppose. Pay $7 extra to save them how many pounds of newsprint and hours of delivery time? But hey! It's easy to subscribe. Just print out the form and mail it in with a check. Seriously. I can't remember the last time I encountered someone doing business on the internet who couldn't at least accept PayPal -- even the Nigerians accept credit cards -- and now I've found two in less than a week. Both are in Wyoming [Arrggh!] and I already do business with both of them [sob!].
What's particularly sad about this is that 100 years ago Wyoming had some of the first rural telephone systems in the whole country. We understood just how important communications are in a sparsely populated country, whether calling the doctor or putting out the alarm after a train robbery. Now, at least for a while there, I was wondering if I'd have to ride horseback to Casper to pay my ISP bill.
It's a rant for another time, but it would be interesting to explore some of the technological trends, architectural tastes, and major infrastructure developments of our state's history and see if I can get a hint of what happened to change us from strivers looking to be as modern and high tech as possible to dreamers wishing for a west that never was. As an example, your average downtown in Wyoming ca. 1880 would have been nearly identical architecturally to a similar-sized downtown in Hoboken at about that time. Businesses wanted to look substantial and modern, just like back east, so they built brownstones & such. Concrete sidewalks. Paved streets. Those boardwalks and wooden false fronts found in places like Jackson Hole aren't authentic, they're drawn more from 1950s western movie sets than from anything you might ever have found in real life.
+And that's just for the day's news. A one year subscription to their archives, limited to the retrieval of 1000 articles, runs $1995. No, that's not a typo. I wonder how many subscriptions they've sold?
The dread Singularity
I've just realized that I never got to the ultimate point of my "spotted jackass" post below. Lost in the rant I suppose. Re-reading, do I sound like a crabby old man going "kids these days" or what? With my luck "crabby" will be the last affliction of old age that's cured, which is too bad because I could use the occasional treatment right now. And I intend to get it. Soon as I finish up a little paperwork here and make a couple more phone calls I'm going to get the bikes out and see if I can find two that work without too much mechanicing. It's
72 74 79 (!) degrees outside right now, quite a contrast from this time last week when we got our mini spring blizzard. (Or at least I hope that was our spring blizzard, enough already!)
But I digress. Again. The Singularity is something we've discussed mostly over at Bill Quick's; not surprising that Bill would have an interest, the future is happening so fast right now that the science fiction writers are having a hard time dreaming up anything new and getting it in print before you can buy the improved version at Amazon. I'm not even remotely joking about modern medicine curing "crabby". It could happen and sooner rather than later. But,, you know there was going to be a "but", right? Will we reach The Singularity, the moment when we achieve sufficient computing power to tease out the last mysteries and all of nature lies revealed before us?
I'm enough of an optimist to say 'No'. We'll just relearn what Ambrose Bierce told us 100 years ago:
EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.I think the more we learn the more we'll learn just how little we really know. I've got to think there will always be new frontiers to explore and new things to learn, and old frontiers to revisit and old things to reconsider. And there will be! On a personal level even if not on a societal level. That's my best-case scenario. Next, in order of desirability, we might achieve some Fukuyama-like 'end of science', where everything is known and everything's been done. All the diseases are cured and all the backsides of all the moons are mapped. That would be nice, but it sounds awfully boring to me.
Finally, there's another possible set of outcomes that aren't so good. That's where I was headed when I spotted that jackass. It seems that as our machines are getting smarter and smarter, we're getting stupider and stupider. And more and more dependent on those smart machines. So what happens when the machines get smart enough to figure out that they don't really need us hanging around polluting the landscape? That's the whole premise of the Terminator movies and TV programs. Then again, a super intelligent computer network probably wouldn't be infected with the human loathing that afflicts so many humans. They'd probably keep us as sentimental pets. But maybe not. Being wiped out by our own creations might be poetic but I'm thinking it's unlikely, if only because computers don't have gonads and it takes a set of 'nads to work up a really good, ready to exterminate somebody, hate.
Then there's the outcome I'm thinking might be most likely: Remember the devastation that was predicted as a consequence of the Y2K bug? What if we're building ourselves a house of cards? As computers are becoming more and more capable we're inevitably becoming more dependent on them. Yet we have good reason to believe that not all those computers are being run by the best and the brightest. And they are One. Big. Network. Not a chain that can be taken down by a single weak link, but put the right idiot to pushing the right button at the wrong time and very bad things could happen. I know I'm being old & crabby and curmudgeonly, but I'm pretty sure some of them folks really are a brand new breed of idiots. Perhaps they're the result of bike helmets. All the kids that would have killed themselves running head-long into a brick wall 50 years ago. Or shot themselves in hunting accidents before they were old enough to breed, back before we got so dang persnickety about gun safety (Just Kidding! Be Careful With Them Things!!).
Whatever. I kid, but only a little. I do worry that we're putting too much faith in technology and forgetting that sometimes we do need a belt and suspenders. Using a computer can be a great boon, I can really get things done, but man, I'm lost without the darn thing when it decides not to work one day. Can't hardly fill out a one-page form and snail mail it to my ISP! But I still can if I have to. And if it had to be super neat I could still drag out the ol' Selectric, or the friggin' cloth tape that can be re-inked totally manual typewriter. But we're losing all that.
Consider another scenario: Nowadays the start of irrigation season means going out and turning on the valve to fill the settling pond one day and then going out and pushing the button to start the center pivot the next. Some of the north-town farmers can probably do it by pushing a button on the wall by the coffee pot. But No! we can't do that. Instead I spent last Sunday helping string gated irrigation pipe out at the Wringneck (Not a big enough plot of land to make a center pivot pay for itself I suspect). One of those curiously not difficult but backbreaking jobs that farming used to be all about before some bright lad discovered hydraulics. The pipe's not heavy or difficult to put together, it's just long and awkward, and a nuisance to keep picking up and laying back out. It takes two people to do it easily (or one migrant worker who actually knows what he's doing, hmm?).
But there we were, stringing pipe, some of it probably older than I am, and being a general spectacle for all the other farmers driving around watching their center pivots working and barley sprouting. And setting fires to about everything burnable (Guilty. You'd rather we poisoned all the weeds?). Here's the rub. The good stuff is aluminum pipe. It lasts forever or until some bonehead runs over it, but once it's retired it's valuable scrap. And that's assuming that some crankster doesn't make off with it in the wee hours. Once it's retired it's gone. But the old ditch/pipe and flood irrigation (and even more primitive methods involving shovels, hip boots, and syphon tubes; let's not go there) worked almost purely by gravity, often with no electric pumping involved, as they didn't have electricity when many of these systems were designed.
All the new stuff is electrically powered and all of our farmers just finished planting their barley. They need water now, although the snow last week has the ground nice and moist at the moment, but we're talking eventualities. We just couldn't stand to have an extended blackout at the wrong time. Could make the beans spooky. Worse, it could cause the barley crop to fail, which would lead to world-wide beer shortages. I think it's clear we're talking riots in the streets if that happens.
So now you know what I was thinking about while I was out there Sunday with butt in the air, trying to grip one length of pipe between my heels while I start the next length -- all slippery and muddy and wet of course -- into the gasket. Yes, I was thinking "Keep your fingers out of that first gate hole! When Cal feels the pipe seat in the gasket he's going to ram it home!" While I don't really need all my fingers I am rather attached to them. But whenever I wasn't counting my fingers I was marveling at how dependent even we on the last frontiers are on computers, the electric grid, the pipelines that bring us our heating fuels and our water, the truckers and railroad that bring us our food and clothing, and all the rest of the vast infrastructure of modern civilization.
And I was thinking how terribly fragile and terribly interdependent so much of that infrastructure is. We may very well reach the Singularity in 20 years, as predicted, but we might also be extinct. If it's the later it will probably be thanks to some doofus who couldn't wrap his noggin around the notion of PayPal. Like a butterfly flapping its feeble wings this would cause some trucker not to fill up and his load of parts not to be delivered to the hydroelectric plant, causing the plant to fail, causing the crops to fail, causing food riots that disrupt other bits of critical infrastructure and..
It's been nice knowing you.
Is the internet a passing fad?
We're a good 15 years into the IT revolution, we've had a "dot crash" that shook world financial markets, there's talk of a computer-driven Singularity, and yet some who should get it sure seem not to understand at all. Case in point: My ISP.
I pay by credit card with a monthly automatic payment. Automatic monthly payments charged to a credit card are surely one of the secrets to living a simple, no stress life (or a high-speed, high stress life!) and I do it where ever possible. But using a credit card, on and off the internet, has its risks. In this case it was time for the card to expire and the bank mailed me a new one, which promptly didn't show up. A month later and it's still not here so it's time to cancel and get a new card and go through the rigamarole of updating my account info with all the folks who thought they were going to get paid by charging the old card.
Cell phone? Check. Business internet? Check. Wife & MIL's cell phones? Check. Newspaper? Check. ISP.. Mmmmkay, how the heck do you pay these guys? First, they have no visible web site beyond a portal for directly accessing email. No phone numbers on the receipt they email each month. They're not going to make it easy.. ... And they didn't. Finally yesterday they condescended* to emailing me a form I can print out, fill out with my credit card information, and mail back to them. Yes, by snail mail. Methinks they think the internet is just a fad. Probably why they haven't upgraded their service or even tweaked the look of their site in 15 years.
Now these folks are boobs of the first water for sure and I'd write them off as such if variations on this theme weren't quite so common. Go to Verizon's web site and try to buy an EVDO card. They sell 'em, but good luck navigating their site to the point of sale. Likewise, I recently visited a major national eretailer's web site and tried to make a purchase. Everything worked fine right up to the point of entering my shipping address & credit card info and then the site locked up. Exit and try again, same story. On the third try I was looking for it and saw the tell-tale flicker of the screen that tells me my security software is fighting a pop-up. Enabled pop-ups and voila! got a screen to fill in with the pertinent info. Out of curiosity I went back and scanned the site again and I can see no notice that pop-ups must be enabled to purchase their products. Wonder how many people quit trying to buy something after the second try? I do. But I'm pretty sure they don't.
Ah well, this is a phenomenon I've noted often. With folks like my ISP I figure they're probably not crackers from the top of the barrel, but Verizon? Some of these other major national retailers? Some of them are great -- Amazon for instance, I was just shopping for chainsaws at Amazon, they're freekin' amazing -- but some of them seem to think that if their site is flashy enough (and I'm surprised some haven't caused problems for epileptics with all that flashing swirling, jittering crap) that it doesn't really matter if they're actually functional. [Okay, I'm not that dumb. I do realize that getting you to look at the ads is the whole point of media web sites, but I'm just silly enough to want some content in between them.]
Some of this is just kids with toys: If something can glitter and swirl and shoot sparks it should glitter and swirl and shoot sparks -- call it the PowerPoint Principle -- but some is definitely idiocy. My wife just asked who won the Rockies game last night, so I went over to the DenverPost web site, scrolled down to the Sports section and found hot links in the Sports header to sections covering the Broncos, the Nuggets, the Avs, and "Prep" whoever that might be. Did the Broncos, the Nuggets, the Avs, or the "Prep" go to the World Series last year? Well no, but apparently that's not enough to merit your very own link on the DenverPost main page, even when two of the four featured pages cover teams in their off-seasons.
So I clicked on the Sports header to go to the main sports page, scanned down past the Woody Paige, the editorial by some doofus who thinks George Karl ought to be fired [okay, they lost in the playoffs, but lots of teams didn't get to the playoffs, perhaps you could hire one of their coaches?], and a bunch of other crap, just to find the stupid score (the Rox lost, again, 8-9 to SF, Tsk). Had I wanted to make it even more difficult I could have gone from the main sports page to the Rox page (they do have one, but like Oz you can't get there from here), scanned through all the same bloviation and found the link to the box scores.
Of course, if I actually gave a shit I could bookmark the box scores, but that's not my point. People apparently pay for special gadgets that give them nothing but streaming sports scores (I only know this because Emmylou Harris has one). On the other hand, I've never heard of anyone who paid good money to listen to Woody Paige. You listen to Woody Paige because he won't shut up until the game starts, and because he does occasionally get off a real zinger; I still chuckle to think of his "Investco Diaphragm" remark. Utterly priceless and terribly true, but it was a once-in-a-decade phenomenon. I've got to think there are more people interested in who won last night than in reading Woody's latest blather, so why aren't the box scores right up front? [Because the longer you search for them the longer they have to bombard you with ads, dummy. -Ed.]
Well yes, Ed, that's the other side of the coin. On one hand we have idiots who couldn't design a functional website to save their lives. On the other we have the half-wits who appear to be intentionally making their sites less user-friendly, with ever-greater ratios of advertising to content and ever more obnoxious ads. Only a very few seem to have modeled their internet businesses on the idea of providing a good service at a fair price. Funny it's that last bunch who also seem to be getting rich.
*Life rule #1: Never make life difficult for someone who's trying to give you money.
Sunday, April 27, 2008- - -
Use 'em or lose 'em!
Florida lawmakers consider bill banning ornamental testicles.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008- - -
We all understand that in American partisan politics, consensus is built before elections. We can't all get what we want. But at what point is being the lesser evil not enough for the party faithful?David Harsanyi on the joys of partisan unity.
And if Republicans can forgive McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman, McCain-Kennedy ...
Monday, April 21, 2008- - -
Floating the Big Bend!
A nice article in the DenverPost. It's always been a bit too cold in January & February for a float trip to sound like much fun, but it's the only way to see some parts of the park.
Friday, April 18, 2008- - -
Oh, just bite me!
"Small-town" does not equate with "modest means and limited education". I dare say the average person out here in the Rocky Mountain west is better educated and economically better off than the average in, say, Chicago. After all, we don't have urban ghettos with failing schools to drag down the average. Sure it's hard to find yuppies out this way, but I've long since ceased to be amazed when the raggedy guy with the beat up pickup who's out feeding the sheep whips out his cell phone and speed dials his attorney. Of course we're focused on cultural issues, it's just that our issues often aren't those that concern the average sunken-chested cubicle-dweller.
On the other hand, half my neighbors are lawyers, but there's an exception to every rule.
Ps. Follow the links to the comments and you'll find quite a few other folks who aren't amused at the assumption that we must be poor and stupid if we choose to live in a small town.
SAN DIEGO — This wasn't a game. It was a relationship.The good news -- the Rox won. The bad news -- they shut down beer sales after the 7th inning.
After 6 hours, 16 minutes, 15 pitchers, 658 pitches and even a kid mooning the in-stadium camera, the Rockies outlasted the Padres 2-1 in 22 innings, mercifully drawing the curtain on the longest game in both franchises' history.
Someone is thinking ahead!
I've railed against the proliferation of the abominable "40-acre ranchette", the smallest parcel of land that can be subdivided in Wyoming without going through the cumbersome permitting process required for residential subdivisions. 40 acres is a square 1320 feet on a side, so you can squeeze 16 ranchettes into one square mile. People want a place where they can have a couple horses and let their dog run free to chase the farmer's sheep, but they don't really need an area 1/4-mile square to park their single-wide and leave room for a corral and hay stack.
In the past this desire for 'a place in the country' had led to the creation of small areas on the outskirts of towns where people could buy a lot just big enough for their purposes, often resulting in a patchwork of horse corrals, auto parts graveyards, and old trailers with full compliments of yard apes. Often unsightly, but reasonably contained. However, the "unsightly" part led to more and more regulation and created the demand for larger, yet unregulated parcels. The predictable result was to take the unsightly and spread it over square miles of land.
Naturally, some saw this as a failure of regulation: If those ranchettes were subject to zoning and other city/county ordinances their owners could be forced to keep them up, the number and variety of livestock could be controlled, the old car bodies could be hauled away, etc. Thus, it was recently proposed that counties be allowed to regulate developments up to 140 acres in size. Just brilliant! Let's spread the mess over an even greater area of countryside! Not to mention the infrastructure problems created.
Graveling some streets, running a rural water line, and putting in a couple of fire hydrants in one of the old horse havens wasn't too much of a burden on the neighboring community as these places were neither very large nor very far from town. Providing those same services to residences that sprawl over many square miles is quite a different story. Forcing the lot size even larger than 40 acres? Let's just shoot ourselves in the other foot.
So today's news is good indeed:
DOUGLAS -- Lawmakers are redrafting a bill to give counties another option in allowing small rural housing developments that conserve open space while avoiding cookie-cutter "ranchettes" and limiting sprawl.Okay, so they couldn't resist getting into the urban "open spaces" thing -- we live out in the great wide open, a tiny city park in each couple blocks of subdivision seems a bit silly and the issue of "who owns them" is ominous -- but they're on the right track in streamlining the regulatory process to limit the sprawl created by people attempting to avoid regulation.
The Legislature's Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee was charged with studying how to encourage "clustered" developments by streamlining the subdivision process and issuing special permits. After almost four hours of discussion here Thursday, the committee agreed to define open spaces and who owns them at its next meeting.
Good for them.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008- - -
Okay, this is actually another gripe about taxes, sorta, kinda, anyway. Murphy is involved. You see, I work on my taxes right up to the last minute, trying to find every last receipt and account for every stamp. I don't make a full-time job of it mind you, but I piddle with it off and on until the calendar says "stop!" Working with a computer makes this easy. For instance, I can track each of the reports I've written and make sure I've got a postage receipt for shipping each one off. I won't claim such expenses without a receipt however, and I've been known to use them as bookmarks or leave them in the pocket of the jacket I haven't worn since. A file clerk I am not.
So the search goes on and I calculate and recalculate. Ultimately, all I've got to do is hit "Print", sign the papers, write the check, and toss the mess in the mail by April 15th, right? Well that's where Mr. Murphy got me. Five pm on April 14th I hit "Print" and the printer started cranking out pages.. Pages with dimly visible printing followed by blank pages. Plenty of ink. Cleaning the ink jets didn't help. Shutting off the computer and printer and firing everything back up didn't help. In fact Nothing Helped.
We're talking panic. Terror. I've never filed early -- why give 'em my money before I have to? -- but I've never filed late either. I hear they put you in prison, right between the child molesters and the people who dog ear books.
Then it occurred to me that there's forms in the front of the book of instructions they mail me every year. Paper forms that can be filled out with a pen. Lots and lots and lots of forms, most all of which I need. Moan. I had to go to the library and print out a couple specialized business forms that don't come in the booklet, but I got'er done. By hand. Writer's cramp for sure, but it's oddly comforting to learn that I'm not entirely helpless without a computer.
Ps. It occurs to me that this is actually the Xerox corollary to Murphy's Law: The odds of the Xerox machine screwing up increase exponentially as you become more desperate to Xerox something. I knew that. I should have ordered a whole new computer and printer three weeks ago! [slaps forehead]
And speaking of taxes..
We just got our county property tax assessment notice in the mail a few days ago. Yow! They've decided to raise residential property taxes by a full 50% this year, based on a radical reassessment of property values. Our property taxes are still relatively low, and they're still undervaluing my property by about 30% according to my last insurance assessment, but a 50% increase still makes my butt sore. We can afford another $250 in taxes, but the old folks living on fixed incomes are going to feel the bite and I've a feeling that rent just went up for all the poor folk.
"... talking about cutting the corporate tax rate..."*
Sigh. Is there anyone out there that doesn't understand that corporations don't pay taxes? I don't pay taxes on my business, taxes are part of my overhead (a rather large part incidentally). Raise the taxes on my business and I raise my rates accordingly. My clients frown and mutter, and then they raise their rates in turn. Every time you buy gas you're helping to pay my taxes. And Exxon's taxes, and Halliburton's taxes. Only consumers pay taxes on the products they consume, they just don't realize how many taxes are rolled into the cost of the products they buy.
Update: ThreeCollie writes: "Thanks for your perspective on corporate taxes! It is so obviously true as to embarrass me that I never thought of it that way."
Sigh. Of course I'm being a bit too simplistic in my analysis. There are businesses and corporations that aren't in control of their own fates and can't easily raise their prices -- family farms come to mind -- that suffer when corporate tax rates, or any other overhead cost goes up. With red diesel creeping toward $4 a gallon and spring planting underway the anxiety is palpable around here. Sign a contract to grow beets or barley and you're locked in at a certain price without being able to know what your cost of production will be.
No wonder they're so darn grumpy this time of year..
Sunday, April 13, 2008- - -
Touting Michael Yon's new book, the InstaPundit offers an update:
MORE: Various librarian-readers suggest that you're better off requesting it than donating it, at least where public libraries are concerned.That seems a bit odd to me. Our county library has very limited funding and they're required to turn in any cash donations to the county general fund -- fat chance they'll get any of that back -- so they love donated books. They can use the long list of requested books they couldn't afford to buy as an argument for more future funding, not a bad thing either, but that doesn't put books on the shelves now.
I'm so sorry you rednecks misunderstood..
Got to love the latest non-apology from The Obama. And the Clintons painting him as elitist and arrogant? Does that come with extra finger wags?
"Global agencies say the demand for biofuel hurts developing countries."
WASHINGTON — The head of the International Monetary Fund warned Saturday that if food prices remain high, there will be dire consequences for people in many developing countries, especially in Africa.I question whether foreign aid -- 'transferring money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries' -- is really part of the solution, if there is one, but the demand for biofuels is certainly part of the problem. There's also the wee problem that biofuels are heavily government subsidized. I'm not entirely sure that more government regulation and meddling is going to help much either.
Earlier Saturday, Germany's development minister, who is attending the World Bank's meeting today, called for greater regulation of the global-biofuels market to prevent its expansion from driving up food prices.
The development group Oxfam, a frequent IMF critic, said rich countries are largely responsible for the food crisis because they have been cutting aid to developing countries and encouraging biofuel production.
"Rich countries' demand for biofuel is driving up food prices and is a big part of the problem," said Elizabeth Stuart, an Oxfam policy adviser. "Meanwhile, by cutting aid levels, they are doing precious little to be part of the solution."
Whatever. It's a good thing that people are starting to notice that we've got a problem.
CHEYENNE -- Gov. Dave Freudenthal says the state must be involved in any independent investigation into the health effects of increased natural gas drilling in southwest Wyoming.I suppose it depends on what you mean by "independent".
In addition, the process must be driven by the local community, he said in a written response this week to a petition by more than 40 citizens in Sublette County calling for an independent agency to assess plans to expand gas drilling in the Pinedale Anticline.
Friday, April 11, 2008- - -
It ain't easy being a librul..
Oh how fun! I've immensely enjoyed the primary season. After playing 'white men against everybody else' identity politics until it's become ingrained in their collective psyche, they're presented with the dilemma of Clinton v. Obama -- their conditioning tells them if you don't vote for the woman you're a sexist, but if you don't vote for the black you're a racist, and all arguments over issues and policies and facts and figures are just justifications used by Teh Patriarchy. I'm thinking it's going to be difficult to wriggle out of that one without a few mental bruises.
Now they've got an equally delicious dilemma: After years of fawning on commies and on non-western religions -- among which the Dalai Lama is iconic -- they're faced with the spectacle of Tibet and with the Olympics coming up it's going to be hard to close their eyes and cover their ears and shout La La La, I can't hear you!
Now the valley, cried with anger, mount your horses, draw your swords,And all their soldiers are made of tin. I almost feel sorry for 'em.
and they killed the mountain people. So they won their just rewards.
Now they stand, beside the treasure, on the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone, and looked beneath it... "Peace on earth" was all it said.*
Ps. Come to think of it, the Republicans have a bit of a problem v. Tibet as well. After 150 years of practicing the mental gymnastics required to explain why an association freely joined should not be just as freely dissolved, I've a feeling they'll not allow China the 'one nation, under God, indivisible' thingy.
Spare me the arguments about freeing the slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation wasn't signed until 1863, three long years after battle had been joined. So what were they fightin' about in 1860? National interests of course. It wasn't in the US' best interest to allow southern secession, but you can't fight wars for such pragmatic purposes as national interest, wars have got to be dressed up in ideological justifications.
Yes, I'm a cynic.
Things that make you say.. Hunh??
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, April 10 (Reuters) - The United States is set to start operating a powerful new military communications satellite over the Pacific next week, the first of a planned six-satellite network that will boost data flows 10-fold, the Air Force Space Command said Thursday.So.. you've got new communications satellites with many times the bandwidth of your old ones. But you're going to sit on them until the old ones wear out? Does that make sense?
On its own, the maiden Boeing Co-built Wideband Global Satellite will provide more capacity for video, data and voice than the entire group of 10 or so satellites it is designed to replace, the command said.
"We expect to start cutting over operational communications networks from the existing constellation to the new satellite next week," said Air Force Col. James Wolf, chief of the command's military satellite communications division.
The constellation is due to be fully operational by 2012. The second and third satellites are scheduled to launch in August and December this year, respectively, with the others to be phased in so as to make full use of remaining life of the old Defense Support Communications Satellite constellation, Wolf said. [emphasis added]
Well, no. That's like hanging onto the old rotary phone because it still works. I could think of several reasons not to launch all the satellites at once: They may not all be built yet and these have got to be custom-built. Putting one up every year or two as technology improves would insure that you've always got cutting-edge communications capabilities. Holding two or three back but ready for immediate launch safeguards against an anti-satellite attack by our favorite poisoners.
I'm sure you can think of other plausible reasons as well, and so can our military. Bottom line: When I read "science news" in the media I generally assume it's being written by a journalist and that he's probably a journalist because he's not a rocket scientist. When I read something in the popular press about something I actually know about it's usually terribly garbled, so I've come to assume that the rest is too, and this one is no exception.
Ps. Interesting though that they're putting the first one over the Pacific. They couldn't be anticipating problems with anyone out that way, could they?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008- - -
Hey! Maybe Obama is the Messiah!?
Last time someone's bonafides were questioned in that regard several lines of evidence were offered as proof of messiahness: "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them."
Now here we have a guy from Chicago, where the dead are raised up, every election day. He's done marvelously well at returning sight and hearing to the MSM, at least regarding their former darlings, Hillary and Bill. And let's not even get into the poor preaching, we've heard quite enough about that of late. I'm still waiting to see the lame walking and leper cleansing but he currently stands at 67% by my count.
Yes, I suppose I'm a bad person..
Remember the Bakken!
Next time someone tells you we're about to run out of oil. The InstaPundit links to an interesting bit by Business Week on the Bakken Formation, up in NoDak, Montana, and Canada, that gave me a bit of a chuckle. The folks at Business Week breathlessly tell us that "About two-thirds of the acreage is in western North Dakota, where the oil is trapped in a thin layer of dense rock nearly two miles beneath the surface." Nearly two miles! Amazing!!
Except that they've been pioneering deep drilling up that way since I was a kid and it's not at all unusual for them to drill four miles or more, using the biggest drilling rigs on earth. So.. they've been drilling through the Bakken Formation for years, on the way down to stuff that was easier to recover. Now that directional drilling is becoming common and frac technology is improving (thanks to those wonderful folks at HALLIBURTON!! among others) it's becoming possible to recover oil and gas we couldn't get at just a few years ago.
The good news is that there's a heck of a bunch of oil & gas out there that we know about but can't figure out how to recover (think oil shale and tar sands too), or that we haven't discovered yet. The bad news is that much of the low-hanging fruit have been plucked. The days of drilling a hole a few hundred feet deep and having oil come gushing out are pretty much over I'd guess. The deeper we go and the more high tech we have to get, the higher the cost to produce, but so long as people are willing to bear the cost at the pump we'll keep pumping.
Of course, the higher the price of oil & gas, the more alternatives become economically viable. That's a good thing, as it's always wise to have options. Believe me, I just paid $3.21 a gallon for gas in Billings yesterday and I feel your pain. But there's no need to panic, you won't live to see the day when we run out of oil & gas. Not even if you live 1000 years.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008- - -
Things that make you say.. ... Hunh!??
"We also need a pushback against biofuels, which turn out to have been a terrible mistake."I've been arguing that farming biofuels is a horrible idea for quite awhile, and was enormously gladdened when Time magazine covered the environmental devastation that's being caused by the demand for ethanol and biodiesel. So imagine my surprise when one of the world's most noted economists agreed with me!
Okay, so BDS recovery is a 12-step program and Paul Krugman is only on the 2nd or 3rd step, but it's encouraging nonetheless.
Monday, April 07, 2008- - -
Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!
El Opinador surely wins the award for best Photoshop of the 2008 campaign! Too, too true as well.
HT: Protein Wisdom
Ooooh! That's gonna leave a mark..
If the US withdraws from Iraq TOTALLY and leaves Iraq to the gentle devices of Iran and their Qods Force (a likely outcome if Mr. Obama is elected come November), Iraq soon will be subverted to an Iranian vassal state, a real Civil War would break out in Iraq, and most of the Gulf States might immediately go to a war footing.Despite the campaign promises, I seriously doubt that Obama would pull the troops out of Iraq. The danger of plunging the entire region into war is just too great and, while that would be annoying and embarrassing for us, it would be disastrous for Europe and Asia, who are much more dependent on Middle Eastern oil than we are. If BO were elected, and I seriously doubt he will be*, he'll receive visits from various heads of state, there'll be great pageantry, pomp and circumstance, and.. Well, something will come up that makes it impossible to abandon our European friends to their fate.
If this were cleverly played, the US could get them all to up the oil production and drop the worldwide price as a condition for us remaining in the region.
Cleverly played? Nancy Pelosi and her party of nitwits? Sometimes I even amuse myself.
Of course, if this were cleverly played, we might be able to use the threat of a pull-out to convince our allies to start pulling their own weight in this conflict. Why should they do that while we're there to do the heavy lifting?
"Just wait until they get all of your health records . . . ."*
Health records? Oh my dear Professor! You didn't really think they'd given up on Total Information Awareness, did you? Health records ain't the half of our private information our government would very much like to troll through. Because you're right, our political classes don't have anything to gain from freedom.
BILLINGS, Mont. -- A move is afoot in the cyber world to boycott Wyoming and the state's businesses over its wolf-management policies that have resulted in the recent killing of six wolves.Ah, yes. Punish Yellowstone NP for Wyoming's wolf policy. Makes perfect sense to me. After all, if the Park Service hadn't been so keen on introducing wolves we wouldn't be shooting them, would we?
Vicky Frangos, a former Billings resident who now lives in Santa Clarita, Calif., has posted on the Yellowstone.net forum a list of places to avoid and people to contact to voice discontent with Wyoming's wolf policies.
"I support putting pressure on the No. 2 industry in Wyoming -- tourism," Frangos wrote in an e-mail to The Gazette. "I suggest people write letters, call the local WY agencies and let your voices be heard, choose the option of not spending money in Yellowstone or WY while still being able to see the park - it can be done - you simply stay in Montana, get gas in Montana and buy Yellowstone trinkets in the Montana gateway towns."
Are they putting something weird in the water out in California, or what?
Ps. On the other hand, I wish there were some way we could convince all the Californians to boycott Jackson Hole.
On a lighter note..
JACKSON (AP) -- Researchers say a cougar with three kittens is caring for two other kittens that aren't hers, the first confirmed case of adoption by a cougar.Not sure they still qualify as "kittens" at 20 months, but still an interesting insight into lion behavior.
The cougar, called F27, wears a radio collar that transmits her location not far from the Hoback River in Teton County. Her own kittens are about 8 months old.
Late last year, a hunter shot a cougar called F1. That lion had three 20-month-old kittens -- a female and two males. They linked up with F27, although the female has since left.
Scientists previously thought that mountain lions were mostly solitary. Biologist Howard Quigley said growing evidence, including the adoption by F27, suggests that's not the case.
Well. Isn't this just special?
CHICAGO — Medicine mixups, accidental overdoses and bad drug reactions harm roughly one out of every 15 hospitalized children, according to a new study.Grandpa always warned me to stay away from doctors, along with various other bits of folk wisdom. Funny how often he turned out to be right.
That number is far higher than earlier estimates and bolsters concerns already heightened by well-publicized cases such as the accidental drug overdose of actor Dennis Quaid's newborn twins in November*.
"These data and the Dennis Quaid episode are telling us that . . . these kinds of errors and experiencing harm as a result of your health care is much more common than people believe. It's very concerning," said Dr. Charles Homer of the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality.
*LOS ANGELES - Actor Dennis Quaid’s newborn twins were among three patients accidentally given 1,000 times the common dosage of a blood thinner, but hospital officials said none of the overdose victims had suffered any ill effects.From my limited experience with them, Cedars-Sinai is among the best of the best. Makes you wonder about the rest, huh?
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center declined to identify the patients, but a representative for the actor told The Associated Press that they included the 2-week-old children of Quaid and wife Kimberly — Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace.
What are they thinking?
Casper -- If a proposed ordinance passes, you might want to plan ahead before leaving your car overnight in front of the Wonder Bar after one too many drinks.Brilliant! So now when someone's had one too many and takes a cab they're going to be fined for good citizenship?
A downtown parking committee will make recommendations to the Casper City Council today with changes to parking regulations.
The changes include banning overnight parking from 2:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. between Durbin, Ash and First streets and the old Chicago Northwestern railroad right of way.
Sunday, April 06, 2008- - -
The health risks of blogging?
I think the moral of this story is that jumping to conclusions isn't very good exercise.
"It’s important to have a good backup plan"
Yes, in these days of run-away unemployment [Humph. If we'd ever hit 5.1% unemployment during the Carter administration people would have been breaking out the champagne, eh?*] it's important to have extra skills you can fall back on. Even Warren Buffet knows that. So he stays sharp by playing the ukulele in a string band!
Saturday, April 05, 2008- - -
Well. Here's some good news*
The Reverend Fred Phelps may not be the world's oldest POS, but he's certainly in the running for world's biggest POS.
While waiting for Blogger to heal itself (Which it seems to have ... or not. Sigh. Now it won't show this post.) I'd been searching for some appropriate lyrics to rip off for a song in honor of the world's oldest POS (got it, I'll post below in a bit). But I also found this video of Jalan Crossland performing in Sheridan. Utterly awsome guitar work and I echo the commenter that wonders why he's not as famous as he's good (and yes, he is a certified character). Enjoy!
Oh, how bizarre..
Every once in awhile Blogger does something that just boggles me. I've been trying to edit the pooperlite article below to make it more clear that I'm discussing two articles, the AP article I've linked, and the original article in Science that I can't access without subscription. I make the correction, hit "Publish", and then refresh the blog site to make sure I didn't scramble anything only to find that the corrections didn't "take". So open the edit window and the corrections are there. Preview and the corrections are there. Open another window with a fresh version of the blog and they're gone. Stupid computers.
At any rate, if the next post below has a "Ps" you've got the good stuff. Otherwise, I apologize if it's a little confusing which article I'm referring to at any point.
Gaa!!! And now this post isn't appearing at all when I publish it. Maybe I'd best just quit while I'm ahead.
And now for the rest of the story!
WASHINGTON - New evidence shows humans lived in North America more than 14,000 years ago, 1,000 years earlier than had previously been known. Discovered in a cave in Oregon, fossil feces yielded DNA indicating these early residents were related to people living in Siberia and East Asia, according to a report in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science.But first, let me point out that finding "teh world's oldest" whatever is a real thing with archaeologists, as you might suspect. I'll withhold judgment on this until I learn how they can be sure of these amazingly accurate dates from a period of time that's sadly lacking proxies, such as tree ring dates, by which to calibrate radiocarbon dates, and from a site that lacks any other temporal diagnostics, at least so far as this short article explains. You've got to pay for the actual Science article and the abstract says they've got a date of "12,300 14C yr. B.P.", so it looks like they've done some tweaking of the raw date to push it back to 14,000 BP. (Calibrating RC dates is common and accepted [and often necessary] practice, but I want to hear how they did it.)
"This is the first time we have been able to get dates that are undeniably human, and they are 1,000 years before Clovis," said Dennis L. Jenkins, a University of Oregon archaeologist, referring to the Clovis culture, well known for its unique spear-points that have been studied previously.
Humans are widely believed to have arrived in North America from Asia over a land-bridge between Alaska and Siberia during a warmer period. A variety of dates has been proposed and some are in dispute.
The petrified poop _ coprolites to scientists _ is yielding a look at the diet of these ancient Americans, Jenkins said.
Also, they're not giving the "plus or minus" part of the date, without which it's impossible for me to attempt calibrating the date, or to even guess how accurate their claim might be. There's very little radioactive carbon left in something that old and radioactive decay of a given carbon molecule is somewhat of a random event. Thus, there's considerable uncertainty involved and the older the object the more uncertain. That's part of the reason why we like to calibrate our dates by comparison with similarly dated objects of known age, such as a piece of wood that we can date by its rings. Unfortunately, the dendrochronological time line gets very shaky that far back because there's just too few samples.
It's not at all unusual to get an RC date from that era of, for instance, 14,000 + 4000 years before present. That plus or minus is commonly expressed at one sigma of standard deviation, meaning we have a 68% probability that the true date falls somewhere between 10,000 and 18,000 years (and there's no central tendency to the statistic, it's just as likely to be 10,000 years old as 14,000 or 18,000). We can extend that to two standard deviations -- plus or minus 8000 years -- and have a 95% probability that the object is somewhere between 6000 and 22,000 years old. Which is about as useful as smellin' the stuff and saying it's not fresh.
Nor would it be the first time that an archaeologist has taken an 8000 + 4000 date and gone "Wow!! This could be 12,000 years old!! Well, yes it could, but it's just as likely it's 4000 years old, so let's not get too excited. Whatever. Our dating techniques are improving all the time and they may have other evidence of this extreme antiquity that the article doesn't explain. In the mean time, hardly a year goes by that somebody doesn't find the world's oldest something or other that turns out not to be quite so old as their wishful thinking would have it.
But my skepticism has nothing to do with the best part of the story, namely how coprolites got their name, one of the more amusing legends of "the bone wars". When a biologist or paleontologist finds a new species it's his privilege to give the critter its scientific name. Back in the late 1800s paleontology was very new and new discoveries were being made every day. There was (and is) huge prestige in each new find and several eastern museums and universities were locked in a race to see who could find more each year.
Enter Othniel Marsh of Peabody Museum and Edward Drinker Cope of the Smithsonian; bitter, bitter rivals who clashed many times. Quarries were dynamited, researchers were bribed, bones were stolen, it was a no-holds-barred competition. Thus, it came as quite a surprise when Marsh, being the first to figure out that coprolites were fossil feces, made the magnanimous gesture of naming them after Cope.
Ps. I should note that there is one glaring error in the AP article. The Bering land bridge is exposed when sea levels fall sufficiently to expose it. That happens when more sea water is tied up as ice at the poles and in glaciers, thus, during colder periods rather than warmer as the article suggests.
PPs. I've seen this happen so many times at this point that it's beginning to become cringe-inducing*. Yes, if you've found the world's oldest whatzis, no matter that it might have been sheer luck, you're in the chips. At the least you'll be in demand on the lecture circuit, but this is also the sort of thing that keeps the grant money rolling in, even if you never do another thing of note in your entire career. But, for every world-famous archaeologist who really did find the world's oldest whatzis the path is littered with the broken careers of all the knuckleheads who made the claim, eager to grab that big brass ring, only to have someone come along and say 'You do know you've got your cranium mounted just anterior of your sacrum, don't you?' Inducing the Wicked Witch of the West effect: I'm shriiiinkiiing!
I've concluded that it's exceedingly unwise to make such sweeping claims. Report your findings straight up, even extra-cautiously, and let somebody else say 'Golly! That's the world's oldest whatzis!' Then you can put on your most humble face and say 'Well yes, it may prove to be, but we'll need a whole lot more time (and research money!) to confirm that. [Grin!]' That way when your research assistant calls and says 'Hey, remember that cave bear poop that came back with the anomalously late 2000 BP date? Well, I mixed up the samples. The human poop is 2000 years old and the cave bear poop is 14,000 years old. Sorry!' You won't wind up looking like a complete fool.
In the mean time, I've composed a little ditty in honor of the world's oldest POS (with appropriate apologies*):
Will you wear pink (Oh, my dear, Oh My DEAR!)I hope I'm wrong. We shall see, but the odds of this turning out badly are pretty high.
Will you wear pink Denny Jenkins?
No I won't wear pink 'cause my poop don't stink.
I'll get me a tenure tracky, lecture circuit,
big shot corner office, department chair before I'm 30,
you'll find me!
What will you wear (Oh, my dear, Oh My DEAR!)
What will you wear Denny Jenkins?
I'll just go bare with a ribbon in my hair,
no one will notice that I'm even there,
The lab screwed up and they don't seem to caaaare..
There won't be a tenure tracky, lecture circuit,
big shot corner office, department chair before I'm 30,
you'll not find me!
*A former employer even found a whole new "lost civilization" down in Peru. Big Splash, much puffery by his university, Time magazine story & such.. And then someone pointed out that the civilization wasn't lost, everyone had known about it since the 1920s, it was just of such little interest that most researchers didn't bother with it. Oops. I'm shriiiinkiiing!
I wonder how much of that stuff I've breathed over the years..
Over at Classical Values they're debating whether Barry Obama has the Wright stuff. Eric Scheie drops this into the comments:
"On a more optimistic note, if Obama is the candidate, I think he might force the recalcitrant Republican right to do something they hate, and vote for McCain."Here's my response, as I posted it there:
Hmmm.. Do you really believe that the recalcitrant Republican right loath Obama more than we loath the Clintons (who've given us eight long years-worth of reasons to loath them)? Because I'm hoping you're not suggesting we're just bigots who wouldn't vote for a black under any circumstances. Just sayin' I wouldn't get my hopes up on that account.*Yes, I am getting heartily sick of hearing "Teh DemoNcrAt would be wurse!" I'm not Catholic, I'm using venial v. deadly in a figurative sense, but it works. Obama and Clinton are naughty and there's more than ample evidence of their naughtiness. But McCain is evil, and there's simply no amount of naughtiness you can pile up in one scale pan that will outweigh the evil in the other.
That said, if Obama wins the Democrat nomination I'm predicting a split-screen infomercial showing Wright ranting while BO sits in the front row nodding. That's not going to play well to anyone outside a few blighted urban areas. And that's just what James Carville is going to do to him, with suitable deniability, of course.
Stick a fork in him, he's done.
*I took an oath to defend the constitution. I'd sooner vote for someone who advocates sex in the middle of the street [Whatever. Think venial sins, of which Obama and the Clintons have certainly committed more than their share.] than vote for the guy who sponsored McCain/Feingold and got an F- from GOA on 2nd amendment issues. Those are deadly sins in my book, things that simply can't be forgiven or overlooked. I can't speak for anyone else, but that's why this recalcitrant Republican can't be browbeaten into voting for McCain. Ain't. Gonna. Happen.
Now I'm waiting for someone to point out that McCain took the same oath, just so's I can ask if they think he's honored it. All I'm hearing is that McCain is such a war hero -- undeniable, he did serve heroicly -- that we've got to give him a pass on every darn thing he's done since. Sorry, not buyin' it. McCain's record on 1st and 2nd amendment issues is the steaming heap in the middle of the table that the McCainiacs seem incapable of dealing with, other than to put a doily on it and hope no one notices the smell.
This is why I'm not paying much attention to presidential politics, I'm simply fed up.
And now we return you to your regularly scheduled programming..
Friday, April 04, 2008- - -
"A Geological View of Climate change and Global Warming"
Via the latest Contact, the newsletter of the Wyoming Geological Association, comes this link to the American Association of Petroleum Geologist's position statement on global warming. If you're looking for the long view, this is it.
Among their conclusions: All of the principal causes of climate change are beyond the control of human beings and, more chilling, glacial conditions will return.
"Of course" you say, "but as petroleum geologists aren't they biased by personal interest?"
Well, I'm glad you asked that question. If the US economy tanks thanks to attempts to radically reduce co2 output, it's going to take the entire world economy down with it. We all have a very real personal interest in getting this right, or at least not badly wrong.
Also, geologists are scientists, they are intimately familiar with climate studies and, being an active and fairly lucrative field, there's a bunch of them. Remember that next time someone tells you there's an overwhelming scientific consensus in support of AGW.
Thursday, April 03, 2008- - -
Oooooh! Isn't that pretty!
Say, if any of my readers out there are feeling particularly well-heeled right now, I think I've found what I want for my birthday.. ...
Okay, just kidding. $225,000 seems like quite a bit for a musical instrument, but a Lloyd Loar-signed Gibson mandolin is probably worth that, they're the "holy grail" of mandos, the best of the best. They're also of considerable historic interest: Loar is considered to be the Stradivarius of mandolin makers and you'd have a hard time finding a modern-made mandolin that doesn't show evidence of his designs, just as all modern violins owe considerably to Stradivarius' innovative design. Several of the best-known players have played Loars, including Bill Monroe and David Grisman, and the sound of the Loar is what every luthier strives for when he makes an F-style mandolin like this.
Besides, careful examination of the many photos provided at the link show that this is an exceptional instrument, regardless of who made it. Loar didn't actually make the instruments anyway. As an accoustic engineer, he designed the instrument, giving it a longer neck and more elevated fingerboard than earlier Gibson mandolins, and refining the graduation of the thickness of the top and back of the body. Then he apparently inspected each instrument "in the white", doing the final shaping of the F-holes that tunes the sound chamber of the body.
Terribly cool, but frankly these instruments should be in the hands of the very best musicians, not the thumb-fingered such as myself. I hope it finds a good home.
"The case for not-very-bright design, however, remains open."
Yup. I've always thought the most succinct refutation of Intelligent Design and affirmation of evolution was the human knee. The design has changed little since the first amphibians crawled out on land -- there are marked parallels in the skeletal architecture of all vertebrates -- while most any first-year engineering student could come up with a more functional and durable knee joint. There's really no bony "joint" there, just the same three mis-matched bones -- femur & tibia/fibula -- held together with a wad of cartilage and tendons. Downright defective. No darn wonder we have so many knee problems.
It's a bad world out there!
The InstaPundit's link to an article on perceptions of security reminded me to post that I've received two calls in the last two days from scammers pretending to represent "my insurance company" and "my cellphone company". Both tried to scam me out of a credit card number. Be careful with unsolicited phone calls, the scammers are out!
Heheh, that's not very nice!
From the good folks at Brownell's Gunsmithing Supply who provide most of the tools and parts to keep the arsenal running: A Gunsmith's Vacation.
If there were voices in my head..
I wouldn't be able to hear them over the ringing in my ears. I've been exposed to an awful lot of loud noises over the years, up to and including several unmuffled blasts from a 105mm tank main gun. [Hey, I only regret that I have but one pair of ears to give for my country. They're big ones though!] I have learned not to forget the ear plugs, but it still takes an occasional dose of painful reenforcement.
The result is a touch of tinnitus -- like crickets on steroids in my case. I'm heartily glad to report that I've not experienced any of the strange paranoia or nervousness that some report. It doesn't impede my normal hearing either, except that I can't tell if the cricket chirping is live or Memorex.
I've consulted a couple of audiologists over the years but was told that there's really no cure, so I was momentarily encouraged when I saw this NY Times article proclaiming new therapies. Unfortunately, it appears that the most viable therapy is simply a means of training oneself to ignore the noise: "Since completing the treatment regimen last year, Mr. Edwards said his tinnitus had “become sort of like Muzak at a department store — you hear it if you think about it, but otherwise you don’t really notice.”" Well goody, that's about where I am now. It's always there but, like the rumbling of the refrigerator, I don't notice it unless I think about it.
C'est le guerre I suppose. As medical afflictions go it's only a notch or so above a permanent hangnail. I have seen various vitamin and mineral concoctions that promise to help, but my reading suggests that they're mostly snake oil, so I guess I'll just be patient and continue to ignore it. And wear plugs and muffs!
Gov Dave endorses Obama
CasperStar -- Freudenthal got a leg up in politics when former President Bill Clinton named him U.S. attorney for Wyoming in 1994. Freudenthal held that job until 2001 and was elected governor the following year. He was re-elected in 2006 with 70 percent.I'm pretty certain that Gov Dave gave this long thought before offering his endorsement and his opinion certainly carries a great deal of weight with me. Frankly though, I suspect that his endorsement was given on more pragmatic grounds than the hopey changeyness he expresses in his speech. Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that, ever since Clinton was elected Senator for New York, she's done nothing but piss on the rocky mountain west as she flies over*.
Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman John Millin said he wouldn't have been surprised if Freudenthal, who is considered a conservative Democrat, had chosen to endorse the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
"Clearly he evaluated all the options available to him and the fact that he came to the conclusion that Sen. Obama is the best candidate for Wyoming, I think there's some substance to that," said Millin, an Obama supporter. "I don't think it was a blind, knee-jerk political reaction."
Not that we should expect to be paid much attention -- there's just not enough of us, and enough votes, to much interest any national politician -- but just because we're politically weak is no excuse for continually trying to divert what small share of federal funding we get (not like we don't pay in) to one of the big city coastal constituencies. Whatever.
What the Dems (and the Repubs!) should be asking themselves is how it could be that a Democrat won 70% of the popular vote in a state that's about 70% Republican. Not to mention that three of our last four governors have been Democrats. I'd like to know the answer to that myself.
*The huge Homeland Security funding broohaha where California and New York took turns screeching that there's nothing in Wyoming so why should we get any Homeland Security funding, is a case in point. Nope, nothing in Wyoming worth defending, except those mines, oil & gas fields, refineries, pipelines, railroads, and major interstate highways that bring you your heating fuel and gasoline, not to mention your food. Our state troopers are very reluctant to shut down Interstate 80 for storms & such because it costs the US economy some ridiculous amount per hour when the country's largest transcontinental trucking route is shut down. It doesn't bother the Wyoming economy much though so y'all just let it hang out, okay?
Update: Here's the NY Times with their side of the argument, including the usual annoying comparison of funding on the basis of population -- yeah, we know there aren't many of us out here, but thanks for being so quick to write us off. Note that they appear to assess risk only as a factor of population density and don't take into consideration all that infrastructure outside their borders that's just as essential to their continued existence as their railroads and their ports. True, the 9/11 attack was focused on New York and DC, so they have reason to be paranoid. But any defense that only hardens a few areas and leaves obvious weak spots elsewhere is doomed to be defeated by any intelligent attacker. [And so we should be eternally thankful that our jihadi buddies appear to be some of the stupidest people in existence.]
The NY Times is right to point the blame at pork barrel politics, but wrong to assume that it's only us little guys out west that have that as our principle motivation. Not to mention silly to suggest that somehow Wyoming and Utah and Alaska have used our political clout to override the wishes of California and New York. Rather, I suspect that someone, somewhere, is making a more rational assessment of risks than they'd like to admit. [Ps. Heh. Yes, note that the NY Times is editorializing against "politics as usual" but what they actually advocate is politics as usual. Not the most introspective of organizations.]
Whatever. I'd not intended to get into a rant on Homeland Security funding, except to point out that it's all about pork barrel politics. It seems we're no longer making rational decisions about how much money the government needs and where it should be allocated. Rather, we send our representatives down to DC to argue that the government should collect as much money as possible somewhere else, and give it all to us. That means the money comes from those least able to defend themselves and goes where the political clout lies, in a sort of reverse Robin Hood of taking from the poor and giving to the rich. And Hillary has been happy to play Prince John to Nanny Pelosi's Sheriff of Nottingham in this farce.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008- - -
DenverPost -- The Weld County Sheriff's Department has an unusual discovery: 11 guns in the river that no one has reported missing.Storing your guns in the river? That's a novel approach. I suspect something's been lost in translation in this reporting.
A jogger along East 18th Street in Greeley spotted the cache of weapons about 6:00 Sunday night in the Cache la Poudre River, according to the sheriff's office.
Union Colony Fire Rescue Authority dive team members in cold-water gear recovered nine guns visible in about 18 inches of water and two more under a nearby bridge. In all, divers retrieve one pistol and 10 rifles.
Divers also found a pink-colored pearl necklace that may be connected to the guns.
Investigators aren't sure how long the guns were in the river, but some had "moderate amounts" of rust, a statement said.
Because of how the guns were placed, investigators believe they were stored there and did not fall from a passing car or truck into the river. ...
Well. That was fast..
LANDER -- At least three wolves were killed by Wyoming residents over the weekend, after the animal was removed from the federal endangered species list.
Large numbers of hunters reportedly prowled the state’s newly designated wolf predator area in Sublette County Friday, Saturday and Sunday, locals and outfitters said.
Wolves were removed from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act on Friday, at which point the state of Wyoming took over management of the animals inside its borders.
"Rubik's Cubes of stone"
Actually, before anyone had heard of Rubik we called them "Stone Johnnies", although no one seems to know who Johnny was. Whatever. Here's an interesting little article, in quite delightfully awful florid prose, on one of Wyoming's most ubiquitous historic features, shepherd's cairns.
(The one depicted here is about 50 miles southeast of Rock Springs, just north of the Colorado State line.)
Update: Okay, I'll bite. Of course we don't know why any particular shepherd built any particular cairn and it's likely that they were built for many different reasons. Perhaps some were built out of boredom, to mark the grave of a favorite sheep dog, because the herder on the next hilltop had one, or just to fulfill some psychological need to leave a mark on the world, but I'm enough of a Cultural Materialist to suspect that when that many people go to that much effort there's an underlying practical reason (or reasons) for constructing the things. The trick then becomes teasing out what that practical purpose(s) might have been.
I can only speculate (along with everyone else, we're deeply into the rhelm of Just So Stories here), but having spend a good deal of time tramping around out in the desert where one low ridge looks pretty much like the next -- and where the wind blows hard enough that you don't necessarily want to set up camp on the top of the ridge -- I've got to suspect that many of these things were built as navigational landmarks. Shepherds commonly graze their flocks over hundreds of square miles of territory that may not be terribly familiar to them, moving their camps frequently to areas of fresh pasture. Finding your way around an unfamiliar and featureless landscape isn't easy, and getting lost out there is a good way to become coyote food. So you pile up a few rocks in a visible location to guide yourself by. Then, as you range farther and farther from your camp in search of fresh grass, you build the cairn higher and higher so you can see it at a distance.
Of course, if you ask the modern-day shepherd why that cairn is there he'll likely shrug and say 'don't know', but even if he doesn't know who built it or why, he still knows it's on the next ridge north of his camp. Thus, they continue to serve as landmarks, even if those who employ them as such have forgotten that they were built for that purpose. Which, when you think about it, is fairly delightful. How many man-made objects can you think of that continue to perform their intended function long after we've forgotten what that function was?