Monday, December 31, 2007

One Last Tip

Tam spotted it on CNN:
Brownsville, Texas (AP) — For nearly seven years Melina Salazar did her best to put on a smile and tend to the every need of her most loyal and cantankerous customer.

She made sure his food was as hot as he wanted, even if it meant he burned his mouth. And she smiled through his demands and curses. The 89-year-old Walter "Buck" Swords obviously appreciated it, leaving the waitress $50,000 and a 2000 Buick when he died.

"I still can't believe it," the Luby's cafeteria employee told Harlingen television station KGBT-TV in an interview during which she described Swords as "kind of mean."

Swords, a World War II veteran, died in July. But Salazar learned just a few days before Christmas that he had left her the money and car.

Cute and Cuddly

To comply with California's ban on Evil Black Rifles, RifleGear.com has built this custom AR-15.

Via David Hardy.

Get Out And Enjoy It

Today the weatherman said:
If the fog holds temperatures will remain in the 30s... but if it breaks they will rise to the mid 40s. Expect the latter.
It did.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Trolling the Carols

I missed Steyn last Sunday (too busy I guess).
This guy Huckabee is some kind of genius. A week ago, you had to be the pope or the queen to do your own big televised Christmas message. But now, since Huck climbed into his red sweater and hired George Lucas to do the notorious "floating cross" effect, every single-digit nickel 'n' dime presidential candidate is donning his gay apparel and trolling the ancient Yuletide carol. I haven't seen so much festive knitwear since "The Andy Williams Christmas Show" 1973.

The Least Worst

Victor Davis Hanson:
I think I share the same odd impression as millions of other moderates and conservatives whose logical reservations are more than outweighed by McCain's emotional appeal. They all worry about McCain's past positions on immigration, taxes, campaign finance reform, and harsh invective against Rumsfeld. But all that seems to matter little in the last analysis given his present steadfastness on the war and his own saga of courage. When I watch him speaking, he seems old and tired, sometimes on the verge of an outburst—but somehow deserving of our collective support. I would sleep easily with a President McCain, the oldest and most deserving in some sense of all the candidates.
This blog is still (officially at least) for Fred Thompson. But we have to consider alternatives, while we still have some.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Raptor Time

Opinion Journal:
In an alternative universe, the F-15 problem would not be significant, because the Air Force would already be flying large numbers of its designated replacement, the F-22 Raptor. But the Raptor--a fifth-generation fighter that outclasses everything else in the sky--was deemed too costly and too much of a "relic" of the Cold War. The Air Force currently has orders for no more than 183 of the planes (with some Raptor squadrons already fully operational), though there is now talk of keeping the production line open for as many as 200 more. We think it's an investment worth making.
This blog agrees.

Benazir Bhutto Shot

WSJ:
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in an apparent suicide attack in the military garrison town of Rawalpindi, according to her aides, throwing Pakistan's political system into a new round of turmoil.

Ms. Bhutto was emerging from a political rally in Rawalpindi when an attacker fired shots and detonated himself, according to news reports from Pakistan. At least a dozen people are believed dead from the blast.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ouch!

The hazards of living in Arizona:
When reaching to take a gift from under the tree this morning, my wife did not see the scorpion clinging to the box. Unfortunately, she got a nasty sting from this little creature. While bites from the scorpions we have in Arizona are rarely fatal, they can be really painful and debilitating....

Monday, December 24, 2007

Anonymous Blogs

The rabbi takes on the blogger.
Q: I'm thinking of starting a blog, but I prefer to remain anonymous. Is there anything unethical about an anonymous blog?

A: There is nothing wrong with using a fake identity, as long as the people you talk about also have fake identities....
After that it gets more complicated.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Sleigh

Is under weigh.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Solstice

Today's APOD.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Girls With Guns

Oleg Volk redefines the genre.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas in Japan

Merry Christmas from the Mainichi Daily News!
There's no kissing under the mistletoe, no gobbling turkey and rarely a reference to the birth of Jesus Christ, but Christmas is big in Japan.

For those of you who can't be here for the winter festival's romantic climax on "Kurisumasu Ibu" (Christmas Eve), we have put together a selection of Yule Tide images from across the nation.

Monday, December 17, 2007

This Ain't No Beauty Contest

And anyway Fred Thompson can out-ugly anybody.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lokulokus


As I've said before, I don't really like video, but you have to see these in action. Via Boing Boing.

Veto Pen Mysteriously Reappears

David Boaz cracks,
“Maybe the veto pen really was lost for years, and it just turned up in the White House Book Room.”
If that's an obscure historical reference, I have an offer for you.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oh! Christmas Tree

The weather man was not enthusiastic about our venturing forth into the wilds of the Upper Rogue with cold fronts sweeping through and blizzards threatening. We just ignored the weather man, as we usually do. The day was beautiful, with fresh snow on the ground and the occasional burst of sunshine between the snow showers.

A quarter of a mile or so off the road we found this gorgeous tree. Just before we cut it down we posed for a picture.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Accidents and Disasters

A magnificent collection of photos from the AP, by way of Mainichi Daily News.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Right Tool for the Job

Computer scientists staged a "collision attack" on the MD5 hash algorithm.
The result: a dozen perfectly normal-looking PDF files that do not flaunt the fact that they share one hash. The whole process involves a lot of simple calculations applied to chunks of the data simultaneously. That kind of work is perfect for computers that can do parallel-processing. For the presidential prediction, it turned out that a Sony PlayStation 3 was the tool for the job. It issued the 12 presidential predictions in three weeks. A PC would probably have taken two years.
In The Economist.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Old Phone

A Turner Retrospective

At the National Gallery of Art. Their images, while not large, make fine desktop wallpaper. Article also in The Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Please Don't Destroy My American Dream

Comic genius David Burge has written another one.
I've had a long time to think about it, and it's finally time to face up to the ugly truth: I'm a victim. A victim of a pernicious system that entices innocent borrowers with 5000 square foot homes and free money and Igloo coolers, only to bury their dreams under a bunch of APR-ARM-XYZ shyster bull**** gobbledygook.

But the blame doesn't rest completely with First Coralville; ultimately, the resposibility lies with our government, and society itself. Because it was you that elected the politicians that allowed this stupid crisis to happen, and continue to sit idly while victims like me lose our American Dream.
LOL.

FlashBlock

For years I have refused to install Flash on my computer because I want the Internet to "sit still while I read it." As a result I was missing out on more and more content. In extreme cases I would go so far as to log on to the kids' computer just to watch some silly video a friend sent me. What a bother.

I knew there had to be a solution, and when I finally got around to googling it, sure enough there was. It's called FlashBlock, and it does exactly what I want.
Flashblock is an extension for the Mozilla, Firefox, and Netscape browsers that takes a pessimistic approach to dealing with Macromedia Flash content on a webpage and blocks ALL Flash content from loading. It then leaves placeholders on the webpage that allow you to click to download and then view the Flash content.
Perfect. Thanks, guys.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Market Think Tanks

In Europe? Yes.
Last week the Stockholm Network, an umbrella organization for European free-market think tanks, held its first annual award ceremonies to honor the groups that have been most effective in informing policy makers and the general public about policies like school choice, portable pensions and decentralized approaches to delivering health care. The Wall Street Journal was a co-sponsor, in line with its adherence to an editorial philosophy of "free markets and free people."

In 1997, the Stockholm Network had five members; it now boasts more than 130 affiliated groups, stretching from Iceland to Armenia. In Bulgaria, the Center for Market Economics has played a major role in building support for the country's adoption of a 10% flat-rate income tax, effective Jan. 1. "Watch Bulgaria," says Steve Masty, an economic development specialist based in London. "The intellectual light bulbs that have been switched on there are now having real-world results."
So the Journal's slogan is "free markets and free people." Reason magazine's is "free minds and free markets." There's a subtle difference there. I prefer the Journal's because it implies political freedom. Reason, on the other hand, implies a different sort of freedom, and reflects their inability, sometimes, to distinguish between libertarian and libertine.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

You Might As Well Live

Just in time for the holiday season (when suicide rates always spike), a new book by David Benatar, reviewed here by Michael Cook.
Professor Benatar's thesis is that life is so horrid that we all would be better off had we never existed. And not just us, but all sentient life. He introduces his thesis with a Jewish witticism: "Life is so terrible, it would have been better never to have been born. Who is so lucky? Not one in a hundred thousand!"

But Benatar is serious. "The central idea of this book is that coming into existence is always a serious harm." And, he continues, "Coming into existence is always bad for those who come into existence. In other words, although we may not be able to say of the never-existent that never existing is good for them, we can say of the existent that existence is bad for them."
Oooh, cheery. On the way to this review, before the link had even loaded, an old ditty by Dorothy Parker popped into mind (or at least the last line of which). And sure enough Cook included it in his review:
Razors pain you,
   Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
   And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful,
   Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
   You might as well live.
And really, you might as well (seein's you're already here), but if you had a choice (don't worry, you didn't), better not, at least according to Professor Benatar.

Umami

From The Wall Street Journal's weekend edition:
While umami is a relatively new concept in this country, it has been well known in parts of Asia for nearly 100 years. It was identified in the early 20th century by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese scientist who coined the name umami (pronounced "oo-MA-mee") using the Japanese term for "deliciousness." He found that foods with the umami taste have a high level of glutamate, an amino acid and a building block of protein. Mr. Ikeda developed and patented a method of making monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a processed additive that adds umami taste to food, much as sugar makes things taste sweet....

For years, Western chefs and food scientists debated whether umami was a true taste, as fundamental to the sensory system as sweet or sour. That changed in 2000 when scientists at the University of Miami published a study — partly funded by Ajinomoto — identifying receptors on the tongue with no purpose other than to recognize the presence of glutamate. Subsequent studies, some funded by the ingredient industry and others without industry funding, identified other umami receptors.
Fascinating article. Just reading it makes me hungry. Fortunately, it includes recipes.

Auction Today

Gold Hill:
The remains of the city's defunct police department, a longtime source of controversy for the small town, will be auctioned at noon at City Hall....

Up for sale are four police cars, police department supplies, office supplies, furniture, several dozen chairs from the council chambers and items from various city departments.

"We'll have some pretty good deals. We want people to come out and buy this stuff and haul it away," Holdeman added.
It's the end of an error.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Our Bullets Will Do It

They did, too.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Another "Gun Free" Zone Shooting

Professor Reynolds on the Omaha mall massacre:
...this was another mass shooting in a "gun-free" zone. It seems to me that we've reached the point at which a facility that bans firearms, making its patrons unable to defend themselves, should be subject to lawsuit for its failure to protect them. The pattern of mass shootings in "gun free" zones is well-established at this point, and I don't see why places that take the affirmative step of forcing their law-abiding patrons to go unarmed should get off scot-free. There's even an academic literature on mass shootings and concealed-gun carriage.

Perhaps we need legislation. If it saves just one life, it's worth it.
I like the lawsuit approach better—more free-market.

Update: Scott Ott envisions an alternate universe.
As Mr. Hawkins moved into the ideal sniper position on the upper deck, an unnamed middle-aged man emerging from the nearby Von Maur department store noticed his odd behavior and glimpsed the muzzle of the rifle peeking out from the sweater. Almost instinctively the man moved toward Mr. Hawkins, reaching to his belt to draw out a Springfield EMP, a small, 9mm semi-automatic handgun.

As the would-be famous mass killer raised the rifle to his shoulder, the unnamed shopper commanded him to stop. Mr. Hawkins turned the muzzle of the AK-47 toward the commanding voice, a single shot rang out and Mr. Hawkins staggered, dropped his weapon and fell against the railing.

By this time, two other shoppers were aiming their pistols at Mr. Hawkins — a young, single woman pulled a .40 caliber Glock 27 from her purse, and a retired farmer drew his 9mm Ruger SR9 (an early Christmas gift from his wife). Together with the first man they moved in to separate Mr. Hawkins from his gun, search him for other weapons and restrain him until law enforcement arrived.
Via Derb at The Corner.

In Defense of McCarthy

In the "increasingly irrelevant" National Review this week Ron Radosh reviewed M. Stanton Evans' "Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy." Ms. Coulter reviews the review.
Radosh makes misstatements of fact about the book, misstates facts about the cases and falsely accuses Evans of plagiarism. Other than that, it's a good review!
Maybe we can skip the review and go straight to Ms. Coulter. Or better yet, we'll buy the book and write our own review.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Daily Coyote

Via Lileks, a link to a 2007 weblog awards finalist.
Charlie came into my life when he was just ten days old, orphaned after both his parents were killed. He lives with me and a tomcat in a one-room log cabin in Wyoming.

Estimated Intelligence?

Opinion Journal says it's a confidence game.
As recently as 2005, the consensus estimate of our spooks was that "Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons" and do so "despite its international obligations and international pressure." This was a "high confidence" judgment. The new NIE says Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 "in response to increasing international scrutiny." This too is a "high confidence" conclusion. One of the two conclusions is wrong...
And VDH says the liberal critics of the current administration can't have it both ways.
Are they now to suggest that Republicans have been warmongering over a nonexistent threat for partisan purposes? But to advance that belief is also to concede that Iran, like Libya, likely came to a conjecture (around say early spring 2003?) that it was not wise for regimes to conceal WMD programs, given the unpredictable, but lethal American military reaction.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Brief

Monday, December 03, 2007

Web Loggers?

James Taranto quotes today from a New York Sun report:
""A Web logger for Time magazine, Ana Marie Cox, reported on November 11..."?
And asks, naturally enough,
What the heck is a "Web logger"?
In answer to that question this blog would like to illustrate:

Web Loggers
The man in the foreground is "sharpening" his "search engine," the fellow in the yellow is leaning against a "tree" he has just "googled", the character in blue is thinking about "beer," "snoose," "'tang," and "choker settin'," not necessarily in that order, and the guy in the back is the Chief Executive Silviculturalist of the whole "web" of "renewable resource" domains.

Hope that clears things up.

Keeping An Eye On Teen Drivers

In today's Wall Street Journal.
Last March, American Family Insurance of Madison, Wis., launched a three-state test of what it calls the "Teen Safe Driver Program." In a partnership with DriveCam Inc., a supplier of in-vehicle video technology, American Family offered consumers a system that records video of a driver's behavior and captured other data about the car's behavior such as swerving or hard braking. In the case of say, a sudden, sharp braking maneuver, the system stores video from 20 seconds surrounding the event.

That video is then sent to an "analysis center," not operated by American Family. There, American Family says, analysts comment on what happened, and rate the incident by its level of risk....

One fascinating finding of the Iowa study: Only seven of the 25 teens monitored were responsible for the bulk of potentially dangerous driving mistakes. In the test, 18 of the teens from a rural Iowa high school had a rate of 2.5 "safety relevant events" every 1,000 miles. But the other seven recorded 23.4 events per 1,000 miles -- almost 10 times the rate of the safer kids...
Not surprising to anyone familiar with the bell curve.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Following the Storm

Here's a picture of the airport at Newport, Oregon, on a good day. Like many airports Newport has an automated weather reporting system, known as a METAR, or Meteorological Terminal Air Report. You can access it by radio, by phone, or on the web.

Newport's reporting something like this right now:
    KONP 022152Z AUTO 20041G53KT 4SM -RA SCT038 ...
KONP 022131Z AUTO 20047G60KT 7SM RA SCT045 O...
KONP 022112Z AUTO 20045G63KT 3SM RA SCT042 B...
KONP 022051Z AUTO 20045G63KT 10SM OVC065 12/...
KONP 022032Z AUTO 20050G72KT 10SM -RA SCT047...
KONP 022013Z AUTO 20043G59KT 5SM -RA BKN048 ...
KONP 021951Z AUTO 21039G59KT 7SM RA SCT048 O...
KONP 021934Z AUTO 20048G71KT 7SM -RA SCT037 ...
KONP 021911Z AUTO 20040G68KT 10SM -RA SCT038...
KONP 021852Z AUTO 20041G54KT 10SM SCT035 BKN...
Never mind the first three columns, which identify the station, the time, and the fact that it's automated. It's the fourth column we want to watch.
    20047G60KT 
Means "wind from 200 degrees (south-southwest) at 47 gusting to 60 knots."

Knots are pretty much like miles per hour only bigger. 60 knots = 69 miles per hour. The station takes measurements every twenty minutes, and the latest is the line at the top.

After the Typhoon

The first blasts from the cold front came through just a few minutes ago, knocking the last of the leaves off the oaks, swirling them high into the sky. A few branches will probably come down too. It's nature's way of tidying up. It reminded me of this passage from a book I just finished.
“I was born by the sea,” I said. “I’d go to the beach the morning after a typhoon and find all sorts of things that the waves had tossed up. There’d be bottles and wooden geta and hats and cases for glasses, tables and chirs, things from nowhere near the water. I liked combing through the surf, so I was always waiting for the next typhoon.”

I put out my cigarette.

“The strange thing is, everything washed up from the sea was purified. Useless junk, but absolutely clean. There wasn’t a dirty thing. The sea is special in that way. When I look back over my life so far, I see all that junk on the beach. It’s how my life has always been. Gathering up the junk, sorting through it, and then casting it off somewhere else. All for no purpose, leaving it to wash away again.”

“This was in your home town?”

“This is all my life. I merely go from one beach to another. Sure I remember the things that happen in between, but that’s all. I never tie them together. They’re so many things, clean but useless.”
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.

Orderly Armed Citizens

David T. Hardy explains the plain, simple language of the Second Amendment:
The first Congress sought to reassure two bodies of concerned Americans, one of which (e.g., George Mason) feared that Congress would neglect the militia system, the other of which (e.g., Sam Adams) feared it might disarm the people.

The wording becomes utterly clear once we realize that, at the time, "militia" meant the entire male citizenry, bearing their own arms, and "well-regulated" meant "orderly" (Samuel Johnson's dictionary treated the two as synonyms, and many writers referred to a well-regulated gentleman, or well-regulated tastes). "Orderly, armed, citizens being necessary to a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms" makes perfect sense.
Via Instapundit.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

“I didn't dare eat the food.”

Garry Kasparov tells of his week in jail.
...the procedural violations continued. Not with regard to my treatment, which was respectful and as hospitable as a small box with metal furnishings and a hole in the floor for a toilet can be. I wasn't allowed a phone call and all visitors were refused access. Even my lawyer Olga Mikhailova and Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov were forbidden to visit me...

My other concern was food, since it was out of the question to consume anything provided by the staff. (Nor do I fly Aeroflot. "Paranoia" long ago became an obsolete concept among those in opposition to the Putin regime.) On Sunday, thanks to growing external pressure, they allowed me to receive food packages from home.

In a fitting conclusion, even my release was handled illegally. Instead of letting me out at the jail into the crowd of media and supporters, many of whom had themselves been arrested and harassed while picketing, I was secretly taken to the police station where I was first charged. From there I was taken in a colonel's automobile all the way to my home....

Holy Moly

You can check Yahoo weather all you want but for pure forecast drama you have to look at the prog charts and read the discussion.
Models handling the explosive development in a fairly consistent manner... model to model and run to run. Thus we have high confidence that details will unfold much as the models have forecast. A strong low will increase winds along the coast Sunday morning. The winds will diminish slightly Sunday evening as the low moves inland along the northern Washington coast. A more powerful low will deepen and move eastward increasing winds to hurricane force in the offshore waters with hurricane force gusts along the coastline late Sunday night and Monday....

The very impressive and persistent southwest fetch of strong winds associated with this storm will produce waves of mammoth proportions particularly Sunday night and Monday. Thus beach erosion... local coastal flooding and damage to exposed harbors are all a possibility.
(Emphasis added.)

Second-Best Democrat

Actually, Mitt and Huck are pretty good Democrats, too.