Saturday, November 02, 2002

Digital Blue

On one of my very infrequent trips to Toys R Us I spotted some products from a company called Digital Blue. They make high-tech toys, and they claim to be "the antidote to the video game".

They have a number of products. The one that caught my eye was a little movie camera that can make up to 4 minute long movies and download them to a PC with a USB port. It also provides some digital editing software.

Then I saw a problem. Somewhere out there a kid will propose something to his teacher for show and tell, and he'll say he's making digital blue movies with his parents.

Paranoia on the left

Right here. A choice excerpt: "Dick Cheney would have his grandmother tortured to death for a dime, and for a nickle, he'd do the job himself."

There are many, um, remarkable things about this item and the rest of the blog too. But what astounds me is just how effective these various conspiracy theorists think their enemies are. To this guy it's the Republicans, to the al-Qaeda types it's the Mossad, but either way these types attribute a strange combination of omniscience, omnipotence and incompetence to their enemies.

According to this guy, apparently the Republicans decided that the greatest threat to their govt hegemony was Paul Wellstone, and they just took care of business.

But it must be so: "People are always asking why the left is in such disarray, and why the leaders of the left are such buffoons. One reason is that any leaders who have any charisma and any tendency to lead in any sort of progressive direction are simply slaughtered by the right." This guy must live somewhere where there's socialized medicine, or else maybe he'd have a prescription to control this.

I guess the part that amazes me the most is the idea that Republicans are particularly effective. Hardly. IMO most of them are a bunch of wimps. When it comes to nasty street-fighting politics, they're not in the same league with the Dems, with their Terry McAuliffes, James Carvilles and innumerable others. We'll see plenty of examples between now and Election Day.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

For Halloween...

I need a monster. So I stole the link to Mike the Headless Chicken from Dr. Weevil.

The text that accompanies the stolen link on Dr. Weevil's site offers further head related material.

Are you sick of pumpkin yet?

You aren't the only one.

Courtesy of none other than Last Page - accept no substitutes, even if her Weather Pixie is kind of slutty.

UPDATE: Alright, I'm changing the link to this. The old one didn't work for some reason, and this way you'll miss LP's not-suitable-for-work beefcake picture. (aside to LP - you can look, but they might not let a woman touch). At least she woke up the Unablogger, who serves the kind of cheesecake you probably can't have at work.

Hot air on climate change

David Appell is a science writer who maintains a blog called Quark Soup. He takes issue with Kim DuToit, Toren Smith and Robert Prather here about global warming.

The bloggers I mentioned are big boys and can take care of themselves. If they saw this post they probably have, but alas despite their permalinks to the left I haven't seen everything they have written. So I'll take a few whacks at this myself.

What got me were passages like this:
You can lead a skeptic to data, but you can't make them think.
Toren Smith repeats the flat-earther's mantra that "the whole global warming scenario scarcely counts as science and is based primarily on computer models that can't even accurately predict past climate, much less that of an unknown future."
Toren, Toren, Toren. Have you looked at the scientific studies? Have you read them? Have you read anything that doesn't agree with your ideology? As I just pointed out to Kim du Toit, many climate models have predicted past climates.
It is possible to disagree with someone without crap like this.

But let's get more substantial. OK, maybe many climate models have predicted past climates. That might be impressive until you realize that there is an infinite number of models that could do this in principle. So the existence of a number of them is not impressive in itself, and in fact makes me wonder why they can't decide among them.

Here's another item:
Let us continue our corrections of du Toit.
He rants , "I also need to see proof that human activity (eg. releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) has had a more profound effect on climate change than have volcanic eruptions...."
The global warming effect of volcanoes is not close to that of man:

"Volcanoes contribute about 110 million tons of carbon dioxide per year while man's activities contribute about 10 billion tons per year," according to the Volcano Information Center operated by geologist Ronald Fischer at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

That's 1%, Kim.
However, what volcanoes do do is spew a lot of sulphur aerosols into the atmosphere, but that causes cooling , not warming.
Mr. DuToit said "climate change", not warming. Mr. Appell offered nothing to prove that man's impact is greater than that of volcanoes, and noted that volcanoes had impact on the climate. From this he concluded that "The global warming effect of volcanoes is not close to that of man". If he's right, he hasn't made his case in the post. I propose that he should do so before he resorts to such condescension.

He's not through. Before he gets around to referring to "climate change flat-earthers", he notes the following:
"Several coupled models are able to reproduce the major trend in surface air temperature, when driven by radiative forcing scenarios corresponding to the 20th century. However, in these studies only idealized scenarios of only sulphate radiative forcing have been used.

Many atmospheric models are able to simulate an increase of the African summer monsoon in response to insolation forcing for the Holocene but they all underestimate this increase if vegetation feedbacks are ignored."
Interesting. In both cases he's noting known flaws in the models, yet that's what he uses for his support.

Elsewhere he refers to the period from 1951-1998. I wonder why he chose that period. I will note that aboveground nuclear weapons tests were common in the earlier part of this period. These might have led to abnormal levels of particulates in the atmosphere (a miniature "nuclear winter"). This in turn would have caused the beginning of the period to be cooler than the later part entirely independently of other anthropomorphic influences. I don't know how strong that phenomenon was though, so, unlike Appell, I won't make any claims.

The problems involved with measuring and modeling the relevant parameters would make a long post in itself, but let's assume that these scientists, with their big grants from organizations that want budget increases, are immune from conflicts of interest and are in fact doing everything right. Alright, what would they have to measure or evaluate in the course of developing models?

Atmospheric temperatures. Atmospheric composition. Land temperatures. Ocean temperatures. CO2 concentrations. Ice sheet/glacier coverage/volume. Depth of permafrost. Albedo (a measure of how much solar radiation is reflected back into space). Insolation (the power from the sun, which is not constant). Large fires, such as forest fires or Saddam's stunt of setting oil wells on fire in Kuwait after the Gulf War. Volcanic activity, both atmospheric and beneath the ocean. Non-anthropomorphic biological influences (cattle, termites, wetlands, forestation...). Economic activity (affects power consumption, thus coal/petroleum burning)...

That's just a few things off the top of my head. Some could be trivial, and I could be omitting major influences. The point is that the scientists who produce climate models are biting off a big chunk, and the pressure to produce results that will keep the grants coming is huge.

Now suppose they have data for all of the relevant phenomena above - now what? They have to model more than just the atmospheric temperature - they basically have to model all of the things I mentioned above too. Why? Because nothing happens in isolation. Heat up the atmosphere, heat up the ocean. Then the ocean absorbs more CO2, which allegedly lowers the atmospheric heating effect and at least provides negative feedback. More water will evaporate into the atmosphere, lowering ocean temperatures, changing the transport properties of the atmosphere and increasing greenhouse effects. Plants will grow more, soaking up water and CO2 and changing the transport properties of the land. I'm not convinced we even know all of the interactions and their significance, yet without them how can we model accurately?

Yet the scientists build the models anyway, based on data from a 50 year period which amounts to 0.000001% of the alleged 5 billion year life of the planet. They know full well that we have had a number of major non-anthropomorphic climate changes over that period that to date have not been modeled successfully.

Yet in their vanity and greed they attempt to do their science in the newspapers instead of in the labs, as Eric Lindholm notes here. (Appell doesn't like that post much either).

Enough for now. Let's see if Appell has choice words for me too.

Jimmy the Red

Thanks to John Weidner and Bob Ballard, I found this about our latest Nobel Peace Price winner, ex-president Jimmy Carter.

Would Carter work with the Soviets against the election of Ronald Reagan? IMO there's no doubt about it. He'd tell himself that he was working for world peace, which of course would be a higher goal to him than anything so trivial as national sovereignty. Jimmy knew best.

What would you think if it were shown that Saddam Hussein were giving money to Democrats to oppose the war? IMO bringing up that possibility is no more inflammatory than the recurring chant that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are pawns of the oil companies working against our national interests. The only question is whether Saddam is bright enough to try it - the Dems would take the money in a heartbeat and bury the bodies later.

Another thing I'd like to see investigated is whether French, Russians, Chinese or others are slipping money to the Dems. All do a lot of business with Iraq. It would be worth a lot for them to influence American policy against war, especially if Saddam owes them money. And it's not as if the Chinese don't have a relationship with the Dems.

I'm betting that this guy would have been a Democrat. All he had to do was deliberately weaken his defenses, put on a show of resistance against subsequent threats or attacks, surrender, and take the money and run.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

The Atkins Media Diet

Food for thought - just read it.

And scroll down a bit for the dog and cat haikus. Groan.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Attention wannabe hunters

You might want to bag an elephant or a tiger, but it's probably better if you start smaller. How about cats?

The news is telling me about a Feral Cat Initiative.
An alternative to the “trap and remove” method of dealing with the cat over-population problem is TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return). Entire feral colonies are humanely trapped, tested for feline leukemia, vaccinated for rabies, spayed/neutered and ear tipped to identify those altered. Socialized cats and kittens are put up for adoption while healthy feral cats are returned to live out their lives under the watchful eye of neighborhood caretakers. TNR is a non-lethal method of controlling cat population....TNR is making an impact. The Feral Cat Initiative has helped to significantly decrease the number of cats arriving at our shelter. Since the initiative began, more than 1000 cats have been treated, resulting in a 15% decline in euthanasia. Plus, participating neighborhoods have reported fewer problems with cat spraying, noise and number of kittens. Our program has been recognized by Alley Cat Allies, a national feral cat advocacy group.
I hope the feds aren't listening. If volunteers want to do something like this, they can have a ball (so to speak). But if it polls well...

With friends like this...

Glenn Reynolds posts this about reasons why the French and the Russians might be opposing us re Iraq. It's about oil all right - for our opponents.

Dr. Khidhir Hamza's book, "Saddam's Bombmaker", has a number of examples of how Europeans and others cozied up to Saddam for big money. My favorites were the French, in conjunction with the Osirak reactor that the Israelis took out in 1981. Here's a passage from page 130 of the paperback edition:
[Saddam] well knew, however, that we'd fought hard to put the reactor underground, where it would have been safer from attack. But the French would not agree. They were prepared to go along with our bomb deception only to the extend that they could plausibly deny it. And the only reason to put a nuclear reactor underground, considering the huge costs required, was to manufacture plutonium in secret and protect it from a military attack. The French weren't going to take the fall for that.
Another passage from page 129:
...the antiaircraft unit had been taking a dinner break at six every evening, shutting down its radar. Surely it wasn't a coincidence that the strike came at 6:25....The day before the strike, in fact, I'd been walking by the facility with a colleague and noticed a closed van parked next to the tunnel. When I asked what it was, he said it contained radiation detection equipment the French had just delivered. In the aftermath of the bombing, investigators reportedly found a guidance transmitter inside.
And you thought planned obsolescence was bad - these guys are the world's champion cynics.

Hamza doesn't have much good to say about the Russians either - from page 120:
To us, with a few exceptions, the Russians were a joke - badly trained, often drunk, sluggish at work, more interested in buying clothes and electronic goods unavailable in Moscow and sending them home than doing their assignments.
Gosh, do you suppose Susan Sarandon knows about this?

Not the Million Man March

My kind of guy:
H.K. Edgerton is a proud black Southerner who has no grievance with the Confederate battle flag.

And he's willing to march 1,500 miles across the South from Asheville, N.C., to Austin decked out in a gray Civil War uniform and waving the Rebel flag to bring attention to the issue.
Stolen from Chuck at Redneckin.

But what will the clowns think?

Check out the Ville for an excellent candid of Al Gore.


I guess the Raiders don't like Missouri very much, eh Dodd?

Bush wins again

In Iraq.

Most popular Halloween costumes

It appears that police and firefighter costumes are the winners this year. Challengers are Spider-Man, Josie & the Pussycats, Batman, the Power Rangers, SpongeBob Squarepants and Scooby-Doo.

In Brazil Osama bin Laden is winning over challengers Yassir Arafat and George Bush. Of course he has an unfair advantage, being a ghost too.

It's late in the game, but you can find lots of masks here. This outlet in the UK has a Saddam Hussein mask.

These are scary.

Small town Halloween

Whatever happened to Halloween? Yeah, I got older. But it seems like it's not as much fun for kids nowadays either.

I was in a small town where everybody knew everybody, at least in the neighborhood. You could start a day early and keep going a day late with most houses. For atmosphere, we even had a graveyard nearby stretching for several blocks and a couple of ill-maintained houses that for our money could well have been haunted. Oh yeah, we had the scary old lady who had to talk through a hole cut in her throat.

No parental escorts for us - we just marched up and down the streets, probably covering about a 20 block area of modest single-family homes. Daylight saving time gave us plenty of time after dark, and we'd stay out pretty late for a bunch that usually had to be in bed by 8:30 or so.

For loot there were a lot of popcorn balls and fruit, an occasional grab from a bowl of hard candy, or oddball stuff from those who had forgotten or had been sucked dry already. But most of it was miniature candy bars.

Groups of kids would cross paths once in a while, but there wasn't any trouble that I recall. Until we got older, that is, and that was when you figured the harvesting was over.

But then whole new opportunities arose for mischief bordering on delinquency. We'd go to the neighbors and note that we sure could use some eggs, toilet paper, shaving cream, soap et al, noting how it would be dishonorable to use them on the people who gave them to us (they knew if they didn't supply us, their neighbors would). We figured out about how much of the stuff we could carry without attracting suspicion ("No sir Mr. Officer, we haven't seen anything"), where we could ditch it in a hurry, and where we could stash it along the route. Thus did otherwise dead-end kids learn negotiation, game theory, procurement, logistics and project management (no, this isn't on my resume).

Old-timers (other than our parents) had classic stories of mischief. About all of them told stories of tipping outhouses. Usually this was done with a Model T, which subsequently got stuck in the "honey" (it must have been honey, because the guy who scooped it out and carried it away drove the "honeywagon"). Others told us of filling a paper bag with "honey", putting it on someone's doorstep and setting it on fire, in hopes that the resident would come out and stomp it out. We loved that idea, but never had the nerve to try it.

At some point many of us were dragooned into escorting the youngest kids, who of course would try to escape supervision ASAP. For the rest of us came cars, alcohol and girls - Halloween was for kids.

Alas, Halloween just isn't the same. And probably never was.

Google lust

I haven't mentioned her for months, but I keep packing them in with "Megan Morrone nude". In case you don't know, she's one of the Women of "The Screen Savers" - the darkheaded married one, probably wearing a tight T-shirt that says "got root?"

Listen, I have no problem with lay research of comparative feminine anatomy. But of the cast I'd pick Morgan Webb first, and I don't get anywhere near as many hits for her. Morgan, if you're feeling neglected, my email address is above under "Feedback".