Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Trail Guide - Great Falls Billy Goat Trail A

It is here. No - it's not a hike - it's a rock scramble, so don't let the short distance fool you.

When you have the most powerful military in the world, everything looks like an aspirin factory

(Warning! Naked Hippies! Play at your own risk)

I, like I think most citizens of the world, became concerned when out nobel peace prize winning president went all warlike and became determined to make like Clinton and bomb an aspirin factory (or some other 'punitive' target).

So if the goal is to select some meaningful punitive targets in Syria, i'd like to help out. I put on my war planning and intelligence analyst hat, pulled up Google Earth, and went to work. Here's what I came up with.

I used Google Earth to scour the lands and deserts of Syria, looking for sites that looked suspicious. Right away I found this odd structure near Palmyra:

Very strange. It looks like a basketball court for giants! Who are they trying to fool?

Next I found this structure in the Lattakia district:

It's like a crop circle in the middle of a city. Exceedingly odd!

I looked some more and found this very strange stand of olive trees:

Note how they are all in lines. As I was looking around the country, I noticed that their olive trees all seem to be planted in squares. The farmers here seem to prefer lines. That reeks of some nefarious scheme afoot.

Another location that could be an aspirin factory is this structure (the Yarseli Dam):

See the floating squares? They are like those pill boxes your addled old grandmother uses to keep her meds straight. Better imagery and you could actually make out 'MTWTFSS' printed on them.

That got me to thinking about Syrian infrastructure. What critical infrastructure could the Barry take out that would really send a message to the Syrian leadership? This magic carpet manufacturing facility in Ali Baba jumped right to the head of the line:

Sometimes when deciding on targets, an analyst must not only designate targets, but also indicate areas that should not be hit. Given the Bamster's love of golf, it is very important that the only golf course in Syria (near Damascus) should not be hit:

Sensitivity to our allies there (Muslims - and er - Al Qaeda - wait what? Weren't they the ones that bombed us in 2001?) is very important. So the bombing should be of places that have no cultural significance for them. For example "Under Monastery Road":

Or even a Christian Cemetery (bonus! bodies everywhere and everyone is already dead):

Then I thought that as long as the targeting is arbitrary, then perhaps the name of a location is the most important feature. For example, if your point is to shame Syria, what better target than Shamer:

Or you could just say that we hit Hit (warning - may not actually be in Syria - note to self: double check this before the B1s leave Utah):

Think of the media storm when Obama gets to be the 'tough' guy and goes on national TV to announce that he has taken out Assad:

Or, to please his rabid constituency, Al Busayrah:

Ok - that is enough targets for the first 15 minutes. I'll leave the lesser insignificant yet punitive targets to the other analyst.

Pre-Publishing Update:
Damn! All this work is for nothing. It looks like with all the sequester cuts, the military won't have enough money to bomb at all without an unwilling Congress allocating more. Why do they hate black people?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Treyvon was a Thug

There's going to be a little gathering of politicians and decent people down on the national Mall today to celebrate a speech by a pretty inspiring Republican. As a product of southern education, I am guessing I have heard this speech thousands of times. I took his words about judge by the content of character, rather than the color of skin to heart and made it a part of how I interact with people. It really is just a repeat of something someone said before him, namely:
Luke 6:31 Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Contrary to what you might think about me, given I refer to myself as a grouchy old white guy, I try very hard not to prejudge people and expect 99.99% of the people I interact with with to not be nasty, self centered, or evil people.

That being said, once a person by his actions or words proves him / herself evil, then you have a long way to go with me to dig yourself out of it. Even then, I try to understand where the evil comes from. For example, I understand the motives of the drug addict in need of their next fix. They do terrible things to satisfy their needs. I understand the desperate drunk or homeless. They are trying to make their way in a hostile world and will sometimes compromise their morals while searching for security. These things I understand.

Thus I admit that I don't know Treyvon's motivation for attacking Zimmerman that night. I don't know if he was off his meds, angry at authority, in need of a fix, or just wanted to administer a whoop ass. I do know that Zimmerman waited a long time in the confrontation to pull his gun. Almost too long as it turned out. Tryevon's character was lacking that night, and the confrontation had nothing to do with the color of his skin. At his end he was a thug, and that is truly sad, as like all men he was born with the potential for greatness.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Be careful with that saber you're rattling, you might cut something off you'll need later

So Obama is going to team with the Brits and perhaps the French and go after the Syrians because they are "almost certain" that they used chemical weapons on their own people? Since he can't get UN approval over a Russian veto, perhaps he will attempt to form his own "coalition of the willing". I guess that might work as long as the Mexicans and the Poles are put on different parts of the battlefield or they will throw chairs at each other. Maybe he can send the rebels a few planes they can't fly or maintain like he did with Afghanistan.

The problem is that once again, we can't really trust what Obama is telling us. While Science! can tell us that it is indeed sarin gas, nothing can tell us who launched the attack. Logic (and the Syrian government) argues against it's use by the regime right after the arrival of international inspectors in the area. There are even credible reports that the 'rebels' have used gas on previous occasions.

That being said, whatever Obama does, he will get away with it. Consider the abandonment of the victims at Benghazi. While Congress stomped and held a few hearings, there is still no accountability for what happened there. Now that Obama is about to draw us back into another fruitless adventure in the Mideast, Congress is powerless to stop him. To answer Hillary's question at those hearings - this is why it matters.

Bonus Monday Tech-No-Paloosa

(No - it's not raining here, just needed a Monday song, and that one came into my head)

I had a few tech articles and nonsense piled up, so it's time for a tech-day roll out of tech related stuff that has happened to catch my eye over the past few weeks. So here we go:

First up is the Half Million Dollar Canadian Stealth Snowmobile. Now I really do understand the need the Canadians have for a really quiet snowmobile, even though I live in the south and it's been years since I have seen a snowmobile used. I am familiar with them, having spent a couple of years in Alaska. They are a cool way to efficiently get around. I am currently working my way thorough Paul Doiron's 'Mike Bowditch' series about a game warden in wilds of Maine. There are a series of characters that give him fits because he has no way to sneak up on them due to his noisy snowmobile. If he goes on foot, they can easily evade them. Seen from that viewpoint, the need for a stealthy snowmobile is not really a hard concept to grasp. That being said a half million dollars seems a bit steep.

Next up is this blood drawing robot seems kinda like a bridge too far. Yes, I have been on the receiving end of real people who have a hard time finding my veins for a blood draw, but turning that job over to a machine? I am just not comfortable with that. There are just too many things that can go wrong. On the other hand using the robot as an aide to the process makes a great deal of sense. But the idea of sitting in a chair a robot going after your blood all on it's own is just a little too creepy.

While admittedly it's been a while since my kids did paintball, I remember when paintball was revolutionized by the 'automatic' action and remote CO2. Now for tactical paintball (think in the woods vs. 'playground' style as above) has been revolutionized again with a backpack feed that holds 1200 rounds. Yeah, I can see it changing the above style matches also.

This electric golfboard almost makes me wish I played golf... that's right - I said almost

Cheeseburger in paradise

(Uh Yeah - No!)

Ok – guess it’s time to go ahead and note this for the record… I’ll only note the whole story here once, and then perhaps as I reach different significant landmarks I’ll bother everyone to post the occasional updates. What’s significant? Well I waited 7+ months to post this if that’s any indication. So read on…

Back in December I had a go around with my BP meds that made it difficult to walk up my front steps. The root of the problem was really my bad overall health and frankly my weight. I was aghast at what I had become and was resolved that I would not allow my body to betray me anymore. I started tentatively changing my diet from a ‘eat pretty much anything and everything’ to a mostly ‘paleo’ type diet.

I note ‘mostly’ here as I have never been nor will ever be a religious fanatic about anything. I certainly didn't when I quit smoking 15+ years ago, and I refuse to be sanctimonious now. In thinking about my diet, I had the help of my long suffering wife and had read over Taubes books and a few others. The answer pretty much came to cutting out starches, breads, and white sugar stuff. I changed (gradually) to eating primarily fruits, vegetables, and reasonable proteins like eggs, chicken, fish, and beef, and whole wheat (minimally), and nixing most anything processed. Oh – and no alcohol as the caloric deficit of just one beer or glass of wine is really hard (ok – damn near impossible) to make up. No pills, shakes or miracle plans.

That’s it. I didn't ever need to go hungry. I always had some fruit nearby to snack on, and was always satisfied after eating my ‘strange’ food. I’d joke with my coworkers that I was up to a ‘pack a day’ of strawberries. It wasn't a diet – it was just a different way of eating. It made a difference. At first the weight really started dropping off at about 3-5 pounds a week. That has tapered off to 1-3 pounds a week now. Today I reached what I believe is the 50 pound lost mark.

The real difference is what has come with the loss and my ability to do more things. I now routinely exercise three hours a day on my days off. I can really enjoy long hikes or bike rides, and every time I go on one of my outings I can go a little farther, do a little more, and am less sore the next day. I would have never dreamed that at my age I could be improving my health. I mean really, after 50 your health is supposed to get worse, not better. I’d say I am currently in better health than I have been in over 10 years. And the weight continues to drop off.

When will I ‘stop’ dieting? Well, the simple answer is never, since I’m not dieting now. I will admit that eating what I do is more expensive and a touch more inconvenient that a quick run by the fast food restaurant, but comparatively it’s not really that different. Since it’s not a diet, it’s sustainable. At some point I will reach the right weight for my body and lifestyle and that’s where I’d be. I have no intention of being a fitness nut or exercise diva. I will continue to be the lazy bastard I always have been, but use the expanded strength I have to do more of the stuff I enjoy, like hiking, biking, and kayaking.

Why am I telling you all this? I don’t really know. I guess just to share my experience with those of you that may be going through what I went through. It is possible to change, it doesn't really hurt, and you can do it without supplements, ‘magic’ juice, or plans. I encourage you to read Taubes’s books (I got them from the library), but really everything you really need to know is here:

Just eat the stuff on the chart, in the proportions on the chart, and mostly nothing that not on the chart. Note that no chart is perfect, so I put cheese and Greek yogurt in that bottom layer of the chart as they are excellent protein sources. Amazingly, it really is that simple. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's not me, it's you

Via Gizmodo:

Since I took a bit of a drive yesterday I was struck by how many distracted cell phone user drivers there are on the road. I don't know how it is in your area, but in the DC area I can pretty much count on seeing two or three really bad cases every time I venture out. You know the type - going 45 in the left lane of a highway with a 65 limit. Swaying back and forth across their lane, sometimes drifting over the while line on the right or the dashed line in the center. Yeah, those people. Traffic backs up behind these oblivious asshole, and some very good driving by those around them has saved many a driver from high crash induced insurance rates. So I guess we should thank them for sharpening our driving skills. Or do what this guy did if the opportunity ever presents itself....

New Trail Guide Posted

I went on a walk and took some pictures - blogging doesn't get any better than that!

here's the Trail Guide: Buzzard Rock North - Front Royal VA

Saturday, August 24, 2013

This is what democracy looks like

So the guys in Egypt are cutting their beards off so they won't be mistaken for radical Islamist (H/T Weasel Zippers) What about these guys:

Humm - I guess there isn't much chance of that. Thank goodness these guys are safe in Louisiana:

Or these guys:

Or even Bocephus:

Oh - here's a fun fact. The last US President with a beard? #23 Ben Harrison:

Course if you look at his record, he was the original RINO. Presided over the first 'billion dollar Congress', signed into law insane protective tariffs, and wanted federal education spending - and you thought GW Bush was bad?

In any case, I like the way that democracy is shaping up...

Just Rewards

So Nidal Hisan was unanimously found guilty of premeditated murder for his shooting spree at Ft. Hood, opening up the possibility that he will be hanged by the neck until dead (I wish). Actually, since the shooting took place in Texas, and under the Violent Crimes Enforcement Act of 1994 they have use the method in use for the state that the crime took place in, at best he will go out peacefully with the lethal injection, unlike the fear and confusion that his victims suffered in their last minutes. I'd say that since in his mind he was in Afghanistan, he should face the punishment that they use for terrorism based on the good old Koran - hanging or firing squad. I guess I don't get Sharia law, a gory execution by stoning for adultery, but a relatively clean and painless death by firing squad for mass murder? I guess it's true that you end up living in the hell you create.

That being said, I'd really like to see the fools who enabled this jerk to get promoted all the way to Major. He could have been stopped in his tracks and out of the service if they had just crapped all over his fitness reports. Instead they allowed the butt pimple to move up. Their names are surely known as his fitness reports should be part of the public record. If the fitness reports were bad, then the politically correct boards who kept signing off on his promotions are culpable accessories. I suspect that it was more a 'crime' of omission the commission (pardon the pun) by Nidal's board. Consider for a moment this paper on 'diversity' in officer selection process. 

If I were the families, I would push to find out how he got selected, and by who, then bring some civil suites against those responsible. See, the Army wants to call this a 'workplace violence' issue. Fine. Since it's not an 'accident', at one end of the scale, and not a terrorist act at the other end of the scale, then the Army must be liable for placing this mad dog in the company of decent people. They ones responsible for this must be called to account for it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My favorite plane

(Yeah - that's a trailer from The Great Waldo Pepper. Perhaps the greatest - and saddest - flying movie ever. If you haven't seen it, you should)

So I was dismayed to hear about the B1 crash, but thank God no one got hurt. The B-1 Lancer is by far my favorite plane. Probably because it's the first (and only) one that I ever flew (I don't count the times my Dad let me take the stick on a Cessna - that wasn't really flying). I learned how to take off and land in it, and even did a barrel role in it. Oh - did I mention that I did all this in a full motion simulator? No?

I worked on a series of B-1 simulators for a few years back at the turn of the century (2000). I also spent some time assisting the team that did the software for the maintenance trainers at the home of the B-1's at Ellsworth AFB. Watching those monsters take off and land, and blast overhead was an awesome experience. They are by far my favorite. A bomber that flies like a combat jet and has a payload like nothing else in the world. It would be tragic if the DoD used this crash to ground them for good. I suspect that since they have nothing to replace them with, that won't happen. But, as the title of the blog implies, I've been wrong before.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's Wrong with this picture

So we prop up a government in a small and insignificant country and they pay us back choosing for leadership a guy with ties to the very terrorist that attacked us on 9/11?

Meanwhile, we cut off aid to a country who has the courage to fight the Muslim Brotherhood who are burning churches and killing Christians. 

Am I missing something? What's wrong with these pictures?

A little thought experiment

So join me in a little thought experiment. Suppose your were some Russian scientist, hanging about your lair, trying to figure out a new project that would garner some more research money from your cash strapped government to keep your vodka supply flowing? Then you see this story about a bunch if snot nosed kids in Texas playing around with a multi-million dollar yacht and GPS spoofing. "Chert Poberi!" you exclaim. "In Russia GPS is like dog under the porch". Yes - that doesn't make any sense, but it's sort of a quote from Fred Thompson, and all Russian scientists know from the movie "Hunt For Red October", he is one scary dude - and maybe you had a little too much vodka for breakfast.

In any case, you call up a comrade in the Navy you know to try to arrange a little demonstration for the brass. While you wanted a destroyer, the best your buddy could manage was a really big hovercraft. "Da!" you exclaim, "I will make that my bitch!". You pack up your gear and head for the ocean. After a few rounds of vodka for you and the crew, you instruct them to "Go toward training landing beach in Kmelevka, but steer only by GPS, da?". Away you all go (after another round of vodka). Quite possibly this would be the result:

Ain't technology fun?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beaming Arod

Let me be honest. I have never liked A-Rod. His attitude and in your face approach to baseball is indicative of the so many things that I despise about modern baseball. I contrast his attitude and mannerisms with the quiet dignity that guys like the great Cal Ripken brought to the game. So I guess I wasn't surprised by his getting nabbed for doping and getting suspended. In a way I can understand why he did it. He was getting old, and he needed an edge to keep going in a game that more often than not is decided by tiny edges. In classic A-Rod style, he appeals the suspension, and keeps playing so he can eek out a few more games and a little more money. Like many rules of the game, I didn't like it, but we have to live it in today's litigious society. Ryan Dempster expressed the fans frustration with his cavalier attitude by beaming him (heh - 2 times in 4 tries). Rather than A-Rod doing the manly thing and charging the mound, he took his whining to the commissioner. I guess he knew his teammates would not have welcomed defending him. Good for baseball for handing Dempster a meaningless suspension. I kinda would like to see every pitcher A-Rod faces from now on 'honor' him in a similar manner.  That's the way to bring good manners back to baseball. Now if football players could get get a similar thing going for those jerks who feel they have to shake their booty every time they get a good hit, first down, or touchdown.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Now get off my lawn

So the youngsters aren't going to the national parks much anymore (H/T Instapundit). That's not really a surprise to me. I have have to agree with this assessment. Anecdotally, I have noticed on most of my sojourns in the parks around Northern Virginia located outside the metro area, like as not I will see older folks on the trails. It you think about this, it makes sense. There is an aging population, and those people with the most time are older. The 'new' focus for the aging population is to stay active and healthy (or die quickly under Obamacare), so those are the ones that will frequent the parks.

The systemic loss of young families, discouraged by economics, means that the concept of a family piling into the car for a camping trip in the mountains just doesn't happen that much anymore. I would wager that most public and private campgrounds are haunted not so much with vacationing 'families' as geezers in RVs.

I do have to say that I have not frequented a National Park for a while - well except bike rides through Prince William Forest, a national park just north of Quantico, VA. National park fees have gotten ridiculously high as their funding has been cut and cut some more in order to attract the attention of Congress for 'necessary' ancillary pork. Predictably, the high fees have discouraged visitors. I have frequented National Forests. There are no fees, but the trails are not as well maintained. There is a wildness there that you just can't find in the more groomed and 'civilized' National Parks.

Is there an answer for this? I don't think more 'wifi' hotspots or additional app development is going to help. The geocacher in me says that if they relaxed their policies on placing caches that might help a little, but I doubt the actual numbers back that up. No, I am thinking that if they really want to attract more young people, the Parks people have to think outside the box, and do something radically free market - like drop the admission fees back to say the mid 90's level. It's not like they have a limited capacity area like a movie theater, where doubling the number of visitors would be impossible, thus they have to maximize the profit for those that they allow in. Or here's a radical idea, do away with fees altogether. I wonder how much their ancillary profits would swell in that case?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Missed it by THAT much!

I was tooling through the internet and saw this Joy-Ann Reid piece attempting to educate Rand Paul on voting issues. I found it quite amusing actually. I thought i'd actually take a look at what she said and see if it made any sense. Here's what I came up with.

 if it’s evidence you want that voter-ID laws preclude African Americans from voting? Well then, here we go.
Cool. Actual evidence. That's great. A liberal founding their argument on objective evidence. Now we have the basis for an actual debate.
Up to 25% of African-American adults don’t have a photo ID.
That is an interesting fact. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to quote an actual, you know, study that establishes that or any of the statistics she elucidates. Kinda hard to debate without actual, you know - facts. I thought i'd help her a out a bit though and try and see where she got all those interesting sounding statistics. I did find this study about Wisconsin voters and drivers licenses. It was based on data from 13 years ago in a state not necessarily known for it's minority population, but other than that I guess it's good. However, this article cites numerous studies done in the last eight years that say that voter suppression due to lack of ID is a myth. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good argument Ms. Reid.

Now Ms. Reid had this to say about long lines at early voting locations:
Some of the worst lines were on the Saturday before Election Day, which also happened to have the highest minority turnout. And that led Dartmouth researchers to declare that the cuts to early voting disproportionately affected minority voters.
Anecdotal in Virginia in the last election I recall long lines effecting everyone, not just African Americans during normal voting. Once again, Ms. Reid did not cite the specific study, so I was left to do a little research to try to figure out what exactly she was was talking about. I finally came up with this study by Dartmouth. Interestingly, it appears to make no such conclusions. In fact it says this:
 One interesting question is the extent to which long lines at early voting stations, in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and elsewhere, led some voters to abandon their plans to vote early. To the best of our knowledge, there is at the time of this paper’s writing no data that bears directly on this question.
 Ms. Reid disassociates a bit from there. There were a few jewels in there that did get me chortling a bit. This:
Black adults are four times more likely than white adults to be disenfranchised due to a felony conviction—laws that happen to be a vestige of post-Civil War era, when many states tailored felony disenfranchisement laws to get around the 15th Amendment.
So blacks are being thrown in jail now so they can't vote? Do you actually want to make that argument? I suspect that poverty and drugs might have more to do with all those felony convictions than voting rights. She did miss one obvious followup argument when she said this:
In our old friend, Florida, 23% of black adults cannot vote due to a felony conviction.
She could have pointed out that if Zimmerman had let Trayvon continue to pound his head into the concrete and been apprehended by the police that showed up 20 minutes later, he probably would have been convicted of a felony assault and lost his right to vote, just like the <Democrats> did to backs after the civil war.

I think it's safe to say that Ms Reid should probably leave real debates to the professionals. I admit that I am not one, but I did drive by a Holiday Inn on my way to work this morning.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I like where this is going...

As an admitted Horologist (click on the link - it's not what you initially thought - yes you did think that!) I think this watch (H/T Gizmag) is moving the technology in the right direction. I like the idea of a traditional, honest to God, precision movement combined with smartphone connectivity. The 41 megapixel camera is probably a bit too much though. Here's a workable goal - a watch, with bluetooth connectivity, that has a normal sweep dial, that lights up or vibrates when my phone rings. I would also love to have a configurable 'other' dial / display on there too. Say it could show temp, altimeter, or tide chart or something. Maybe even caller ID when the phone rings. Oh - and is available for less than $70. Is that asking too much? <sigh> Probably....

SWAT Crazy!

I read with interest this article about a SWAT team in Texas (H/T Instapundit) going after an organic farm, on a dubious tip about MJ growing, but justified by an administrative code violation. What caught my eye in there was a reference to a similar raid in Manassas Park, VA against the Rack-N-Roll. I did remember that raid as it was in the news quite a bit at the time, and I used to drive past there almost daily.

Now, as a point of reference here is how I viewed that place before I did some research. The strip mall in question is on a major north / south thoroughfare for Manassas. If you are a commuter that works either in Fairfax or DC and live in Manassas or points west, you have two choices to get there. One is to go through Manassas and jump on I-66 at Rt. 234, the other is to take Rt. 28 through Manassas and join I-66 in Centreville. Notably, the Rt. 28 route is usually to shortest on Google map routing. If you choose this route (and an ever increasing number do) it will take you past the Rack-N-Roll in Manassas Park on Rt. 28.

Ok - so much for geographic context. My impression at the time of the raid from the news accounts was 'good end to bad rubbish'. The news reports talked about pole dancers and naked women, drunken brawls, etc., etc. That was my impression. So I took another look at it given this article, thinking that perhaps I misjudged it a bit. As you would expect, the back story is a bit more seedy than you would expect. This web site notes that the naked dancing women meme was a result of a City Planner, cum DJ, at the club encouraging teenage girls to show their boobs and then taking pictures of them; then turning around and acting as an informant to the police. Notably, I don't think anyone was charged with a crime for that. That being said, the owners of the club can't exactly be said to be innocent babes to those shenanigans, as that particular DJ probably pulled in a good crowd and the booze and profits were great (for a time).

How do things stand there today, given that all this happened almost 10 years ago?. There is a 'family fun center' (sans alcohol?) where the Rack-N-Roll used to be. There is a thriving 'Pollo al Brasa' place out front. Down to the right of the strip mall is a couple of ethnic (south american) places and a Radio Shack. The only establishment I have frequented there is predictably, the Radio Shack. I will admit, that I got a feeling that there was more going on at the food places than just eating. Since I was trying to track down some obtuse parts, I choose to ignore the atmosphere and go about my business. So, whatever the raid attempted to do, I suspect that all it did was really replace one borderline seedy place with other, perhaps more sinister enterprises.

My main point to all this is not really about a strip mall in Manassas Park. No, my concern is really about the explosion of SWAT capabilities in the US in a post 9/11 world. The presence of such units gives us a level of comfort that should bands of armed terrorist ever launch attacks in such defenseless locations as Manassas Park, we will have an equal and overwhelming force to counter them. The problem with such units is of course that if you have them, you will look for opportunities to use them. When such overreactions start to become more and more common, your average citizen begins to look on these teams, and by extension the common patrol officers, not as nice civic minded guys and gals, but as potential adversaries. This is not the way a democracy should function.

What is the solution? I am thinking that it is up to the local government to place appropriate leashes on such units. Funding for them should be proportional to their actual tasking - which is to say rare - extremely rare. I would think that the such teams should be 'virtual', i.e. not permanent fixtures, but additional duty for normal patrolman, with a rotating membership. This way elite military mindsets will not get a chance to get fixated. Call outs should be explicitly triggered only by a judge where the activating entity has the responsibility (and liability) of justifying why such overwhelming force is necessary. Such a ruling and proceedings should be open to the public after the raid is completed. In this way there is accountability for such actions.

On a federal level I would like to see the same types of accountability. The Posse Comitatus Act would seem to demand such compliance. Sadly, it seems that the current administration's actions, and willful judicial blindness ensures only selective adherence to power limiting laws. I fear there really isn't a solution to this, excepting the electorate miraculously gaining enough awareness to trigger a change in attitude of their servants in Congress.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ewww! A Hair!

So somebody puts a McNugget under a microscope and finds 'hair like structures' (H/T Drudge)? Just engaging a little critical thinking here... maybe, just maybe a hair fell into the cooking oil and no need for a congressional investigation? If things like bugs, hair, and, er, secretions in your food freak you out, then I suggest you steer clear of food that you didn't prepare yourself. Or perhaps stop eating altogether. As this FDA document suggest, there is an 'acceptable' level of yucky stuff in almost everything you eat. Examples:
    • Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams
    • Average of 3 mg or more of mammalian excreta per pound
    • Average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples
    • Average of 4.5 rodent hairs or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples
    • Average of 300 or more insect fragments per 10 grams
    • Average of 2 or more rodent hairs per 10 grams
Lets face it. We are only 1 of an estimated 8.7 million species on this planet. Our only hope for survival is to eat the rest of them. That being said, chicken nuggets are a horrible choice for a food if you are going paleo. Be a real animal and cook a steak - they cost about the same as a 'value' meal and I guarantee you will fill fuller.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Good for the Goose

I noted with interest this article about how a federal appeals court said that the NRC is in violation of federal law for not making a decision about going ahead with construction of the Yucca Mountains nuclear waste storage facility. Now with a causal read of this article you would think 'Yea! The Obama administration got their comeuppance in court!' and move along. For me a key point is buried there in the middle of the article. What Energy Secretary Moniz, perhaps the goofiest looking of all the Obama appointees, had to say about it caught my eye. Just so we know who we are talking about, here's a picture:

Yeah - he's that guy. I have a whole series of pictures of Obama's cabinet i'm working on that i'll get around to putting out someday. Anyway, here's the quote:
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the Energy Department was not a party to the lawsuit, but he characterized the Yucca Mountain project as "a complete stalemate." He said he saw no evidence of that changing.
"Currently we do not have funding," he told reporters at a clean energy conference Tuesday in Las Vegas. 

So follow my logic here. He is saying that if a law is passed by Congress, and there is no explicit funding for it's implementation, then the administration's hands are tied. This is actually a good thing for those opposed to Obamacare. If Congress, and specifically the house, stands their ground and provides no funds for Obamacare, explicitly mentioning that exclusion in every funding bill, then the administration, based of this observation by the Energy Secretary, cannot move forward with any Obamacare implementation.

Yeah - I know. the Energy Secretary really has no weight in these matters. Especially Moniz, who I view as kinda of the Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali of this administration. That brings up an interesting question - if he is the 'Raj' character from Big Bang, who would Obama be? Duh - Penny!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rodeo and Rodeo Drive

So a lot has been made in the news about the rodeo clown who put on a Obama mask and the crowd's reaction to it. I must admit it has probably been too long since I've been to a rodeo. Call it one more thing I have sacrificed by living too close to the DC beltway. So I guess it's possible that rodeos have descended into a place where racist gather - sort of a modern day 'KKK' ad-hoc gathering - but I fail to see how that is possible. I mean looking at the article, there were democrats at the rodeo, and democrats would never be found at a KKK rally, right? Well perhaps i'm wrong.

No, I don't think that's what happened here. The parallel that all right thinking people are supposed to draw is that a rodeo clown with a Obama mask is equivalent to when Ted Danson appeared in black face at the Friars Club with Whoopie Goldberg:
That was obviously racist too. Or not - even Whoopie thought it was funny (at the time). I guess America wasn't post racial enough. No, this is about rednecks mocking the greatest president ever. Since rednecks are all racist, this rodeo explosion is all about racism. No - I don't get it either.

In other news Oprah sees imagined racism in Switzerland, when a salesgirl tries to steer her toward a cheaper handbag. Now I will admit, being a guy, I don't get the 'style' thing in women's handbags. But then, I've had the same wallet for 10 years and will probably only replace it when it literally falls apart. A fashion maven I'm not. Thus, I applaud the sales girl there for snubbing the obviously overpriced handbag (designed by a white women by the way). However, to equate that experience to say blacks being made to drink at a different water fountain is sheer nonsense. The 'offense' here is that the clerk didn't recognize her a someone having more money than God, not her denigration due to her skin color.

Let's assume for a minute that the Swiss clerk was being racist. What does a European's attitude have to do with racism in the United States? To answer that question I have to relate a story where I, an average white guy, also experienced racism is Switzerland. Brace yourselves, this is going to get ugly...

I was working on a system in that was having problems and I was tasked to go to Switzerland to diagnose the issue. This was my first (and only thank God) business trip abroad and occurred about 20 years ago. I was riding up the elevator to the office the equipment was located in, when I noticed this lady staring at me. Finally, the lady asked in very heavily accented English me if I had had a skin condition. I was flabbergasted! I stuttered and told her no, that's just the way my skin looked, and the 'spots' that I had were called 'freckles'. Apparently this particular women had never seen freckles and was distressed by having to be in such close quarters with someone afflicted with my 'condition'. To say that experience scared me for life would be an understatement (not!).

So you see, I have experienced racism. It wasn't in the US, it wasn't a US person, I wasn't black, and it wasn't by a redneck. Oh - and it didn't happen in this decade or even this century. And yet, like Oprah, or the as yet unnamed people who were offended by the rodeo clown, I too can claim to have experienced racism. Now doesn't everyone feel better about that? No - me either - but perhaps I just don't have the right historical context. After all, it's not like both my parents and their parents didn't have to claw their way up from the very poorest situations. Oh wait - they did!

To me, the real tragedy is the stupidly that continues to be demonstrated in this day and age. Black churchmen urging their congregations to vote for the black candidate because of his skin color is stupid. Something like 90% of Black voters pulling the lever for a man because he is 1/2 black (twice!) is stupid. Black only caucuses in Congress are stupid. A justice department that refuses to investigate black on white crime obviously motivated by skin color differences is stupid. There is plenty of stupidity in the US, I just don't think it's where most people of color really want to look.

Speaking of clowns in mask - here's the Sec of Defense in a Biden mask - I am deeply offended:

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Due to technical difficulties (no power supply for my laptop) won't be able to blog until Monday - more free ice cream then. Have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The importance of being Ernest

No - not that Ernest - though I did like him. Humm - I wonder what happened to him (Jim Varney)? Crap - he passed in 2000 (the lung cancer got him). The world lost a great comedian in that one.

No, this embassy closings thing is what got my attention. I like many others have refrained on commenting on it as I don't know if it is real or not. But it strikes me that this not knowing is by and large a part of the problem. Until the Benghazi debacle I had always trusted the government on such matters. If they said there was a problem, even when the TSA were feeling up grandmas or toddlers, I sort of (jadedly) gave them the benefit of the doubt. After Benghazi and the 'reaction to a movie no one saw' cover story, not so much.

That is the problem with lies. They enjoin a trust debt that takes time and honesty to overcome. This administration has not paid that debt. It should come as no surprise that we don't quite trust that they are telling the truth about a real and credible threat after the exact same people colluded to mislead us as to what happened with the fall of a similar embassy in the same area of the world.

The real issue is that our checks and balance system of government is fundamentally broken. Democrats in Congress should have lined up with Republicans to demand the appointment of a special prosecutor for the investigation of the Benghazi debacle. Without the appropriate yoke of Congress, this administration has no accountability and can callously yank the chain of 'national security' whenever it suits them, and the Democrats in Congress dance along.

Even Ernest doesn't get that.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Aw Crap!

So now the terrorist will be using surgically implanted bombs? There is no freaking way I am letting those TSA guys do open heart surgery on me before I can get on a plane - no freaking way!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dear Verizon FIOS - You People Are Idiots

When Verizon offered to replace my copper lines for my phone service with fiber I was all for it. I had watched them for months slowly string fiber down a major feeder road toward my little enclave. In the past couple of months, I noticed on my daily dog walk where they were bringing their fiber from the main trunks on the feeder roads into my neighborhood. So, I was more than glad to have them replace my copper home phone service with the new and improved fiber connection.

Now I know what you are thinking. "Home Phone Connection? What is this home phone you speak of?" For all you under the age of say 40, you just won't understand this. When I grew up, there was always a phone in our house. Your phone number was one of the most important and first things you learned. Having a home phone was akin to having an electric hookup. It is a 'norm' for us older folks that we have a 'home phone', yet I acknowledge that such a thing is unnecessary in today's world of the ubiquitous cell phone. Yet I, and I am guessing, most of the folks of a similar vintage, cling to the concept of a 'home phone'.

I believe a historical divergence is necessary here, as some of you may not appreciate this irrational clinging to the past. I realize that it is hard to imagine, but in some places phone lines were so limited that neighborhoods had to share them. I can recall as a child seeing (but not being allowed to touch) a phone with a crank on the side at my grandparents very rural house in Texas. The way that worked was each person on the 'party line' had a distinctive ring. Thus you didn't answer a ringing phone unless it was your 'ring'. To make a call, you would lift the phone, listen to see if any one else was on, then turn the crank. This would bring an operator on, whom you would give the number and name of the person you were calling.

It was a major social blunder to turn the crank without listening, as was listening without indicating you were. The NSA of today didn't have anything on old Ms. Peters down the road who listened in on everybody's calls and knew everyone's business. With those drawbacks in mind, you would think that people would have been more circumspect in their conversations. I don't think it was the threat of Ms. Peters that limited the phone banter as much as the (then) exorbitant cost of the calls. Even with all these drawbacks, it is amazing now to think about all the phone operators connecting all the calls, technicians sorting through bundles of copper wires, and lineman climbing poles in all sorts of weather to make that simple yet life altering technology happen. I stand in awe of the shadow they cast.

So now I have a fiber connection literally hanging in a box inside my house. My thinking was that now, finally, I was no longer beholden to my cable company for TV and the internet connection. In the past they have put filters in place which killed my internet then complained that I had too many splitters on my line, causing me to spend way too much time in my attic diagnosing what fundamentally was their signal problem. At one point I got almost threatening emails from them because, having a house full of teenagers, I was using "too much bandwidth". All that being said, they provide a fairly (now) reliable and consistent service. In any case I value a free market, and having the competition literally hanging in my utility room gives me leverage.

So the very first thing that I did after the install was to click on the ads that started appearing on my favorite web sites advertising Verizon FIOS service. Rather than giving a straight price and service breakdown, they insisted on making me look to see if FIOS was available. Obligingly, I plugged in my address and was informed that I already had Verizon service. Well Duh! Home phone! They then asked if I wanted to 'upgrade' my service. Since answering 'yes' was apparently the only way to get an estimate online, I did. Their security protocols then kicked in. They attempted to go through a series of questions to assure themselves that I was not a nefarious hacker. After entering in my home number three times and being told "that is not a valid customer number", I finally gave up, resolving that I would have to talk to an actual person (something I despise) to get a quote.

A few days later I am talking about the new FIOS line with my neighbor. He is a fairly low tech guy, but he does have internet, phone, and cable like me. Unlike me he is a sports nut and his wife is a movie nut, so they have a bunch of TVs and channels. He called them to get a quote, and by the time they were through jacking him up with 'features', the FIOS bill would have been bigger the his existing service. My wife had a similar experience with a door salesman who then tried to give her the 'make the deal today or we will have to charge you more' pitch.

I guess what is really sad is to see all that investment in technology go to waste. The tremendous load capacity of fiber brings a plethora of service capabilities to the consumer. With a low key marking strategy like the cable provider, they could be dominate. Instead, their high pressure tactics reek of desperation. While they are technically preforming like the company that brought copper wire service to rural Texans, they are blowing their investment with shady salesmanship tactics in suburban Virginia. It is an achingly painful spectacle to watch. So here's my message to Verizon FIOS - you people are idiots!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Techno-Palooza

I haven't done one of these for a while and my 'notes' collection is getting unwieldy, so it's time for a Techno-Palooza, where I write about tech-stuff that has caught my eye

First up is this little Motorbike:

Ride Apart (H/T Jalopnik)
A bike with massive acceleration, long range, and a 60 minute recharge time. Finally a 100% electric vehicle that is just like a regular vehicle. Unfortunately i'll never own it. The $50000 price tag is out of my league. It would also be interesting to know how long the batteries last and how much they cost to replace.

This waterproof spray (H/T Gizmodo) is the natural end of where waterproof coverings have been going for years. What is opens up though in thought provoking. Consider that the most difficult part of designing ROVs is the necessary pressure housing for the electronics. If you could just side step that, then ROVs would be much easier to make. Thought provoking, eh?


A old coastal defense fort made into a luxury hotel? That is exactly what they have been trying to do with Fort Carroll for 30 years. Also known as 'bird island' due it it literally being covered in bird crap, Fort Carroll was originally constructed in the Civil War in defense of Baltimore. It was abandoned in WW1 and though changing hands several times, has basically been left to rot due to the impracticality of overcoming environmentalist objections to ejecting the squatting bird population. Not that there are any 'endangered' species there - just flocks of  'rats with wings'. Why am I fascinated with it? It is one of those old civil war locations that is very much off the beaten path.

Finding  a dead body in your grandma's attic is pretty much every 10 year old boy's fantasy. Finding a mummy at grandma's house? Priceless.

So San Fran is considering a water treatment plant that will convert pee to drinking water. Given the high estrogen content of the citizens of that town, and the unusual effects associated with consuming it, one wonders if this is really a good idea. As an interesting aside to the, it is a little known fact that Fairfax county, a bastion of Democrats in northern Virginia, gets it drinking water from a similar source. I am guessing the current administration doesn't want to pay for a study of that phenomenon.

I have been a big fan of 'toe shoes' for a while. I got my first 'skele-toes' over a year ago after recovering from platar-fascitiis surgery - so I think I have a pretty good idea of how barefoot shoes are supposed to work. Thus I looked into this new shoe by Nike (H/T Gizmodo) The main issue with these type of shoes is a) toe comfort - i.e. rub points where your toes go, and b) the firmness of the shoe attached to your foot. Since these aren't actually toe shoes, (a) does not come into play. However, I cannot imagine that a knit construction would leave you with a feeling of security after getting wet. I would be hesitant to fork out the kind of money that Nike is asking on that basis alone.



This idea (H/T Gizmag) for putting lights under a paddle board or kayak is just neat tech. For a kayak I have to wonder how much drag it introduces though. Also, the price is pretty steep. On the other hand, it would be pretty hard to not see a kayaker at night with one of those, at least in calm conditions. I can't imagine they would be very visible in a heavy rain or rough seas. I also might be a little concerned about what kind of wildlife such a light might attract, given bull shark's proclivity for appearing in fresh water locations.

What could go wrong?

When I saw this article about a massive machine created by the Japanese that is digging a tunnel under Seattle I thought wow! That's cool. I then recalled the second earthquake I ever experienced was when I was stationed in Alaska. Why does that matter? Well, the earthquake zone that California gets all the press for extends up the west coast through Seattle all the way to Alaska.  Humm, a machine, made in the home of Godzilla, digging up to 200 feet under a major city, in the heart of an earthquake zone. What could go wrong?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fit as Fiddle

(WARNING! WARNING! DO NOT Play this Video! Contains Unhealthy levels of estrogen, which the surgeon general has determined may be hazardous to your health. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

As an almost convert to mostly eating paleo, I always have my eye out for healthy articles. When I saw this article about healthy habits of insanely fit people (H/T Instapundit) I had to have a look at it. I was severely underwhelmed.

What raised my ire? The first habit listed was "Fit People Don't Diet". Now as a paleo guy who has lost a lot of weight eating (mostly) paleo, I have to agree with that statement. I am almost never hungry and I don't 'diet'. That being said, they buttressed that statement with this picture of a women who was "owner of the most inspiring arms in America":

I'm sorry. When I think of healthy and inspiring body parts, arms are not at the top of the list. Not to be a nitpicker here, but that particular person has the largest backside of any first lady since... Nope - not going to pre-judge that. I'll do some research and you decide. To be fair, I will try to limit the pictures to when they were in office. Ok, here's a reasonable picture of Michelle:

Now Laura Bush:


Barbara Bush:

(sigh! Guess we can stop there - but i'd like to see what Michelle looks like at that age...). Before that, First Ladies were twigs by comparison - Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Cater, etc. You'd have to go back to the 1950's and Mamie Eisenhower to get a contender.

Ok - where was I? Oh yeah - 8 healthy habits. Habit number two was "Find a way to enjoy exercise". I can wholeheartedly agree with this one, but I would modify the object(?) a bit to say "Find ways to enjoy exercise". For me selecting a variety of stuff that turns out to be exercise is the key to getting off the computational devices and out to sweat.

Number three is "Don't compare your body to other people's bodies". WHOOPS! Guess I just violated that one - though technically I was comparing other peoples bodies to other peoples bodies. Anyway, this is the kind of non-competitive BS that results in every kid getting trophies at the end of the sports season. Of course you have to compare, otherwise you don't know if you are making progress. Who do I compare myself to? Being mostly narcissistic, I compare myself to myself. When I start to look like I have the thin & fit body I had when I was in my mid 20's, then I'll know I am there. No - I don't really expect to achieve that - it's a goal.

Number four is "Get Sleep". Now that's just filler. Sleep is way down there on my list of things that make me healthy. However a lack of sleep is more a symptom of unhealthy habits than an end unto itself. Staying up all night drinking, eating the whole pig with potatoes, chain smoking - these things will cause you to loose sleep - not the other way around.

Number five is "Cheat". Humm - I thought number one was "Don't Diet" - how can you "cheat" if you don't diet? There is a glaring flaw of logic here. My point here is if you are not dieting, then you can't cheat - it's not in your mindset to just sit down and eat that plate of fries if you are feeling full from eating a handful of grapes. "Cheat" is just not really in your vocabulary if you are eating right.

Six is to "make fitness a priority". Humm - isn't this just restating rule number two (enjoy exercise)? If you really like doing something, you will do it. If you don't you won't. "Making it a Priority" is just a weak kneed weaselly way of putting off doing something you don't really like.

Seven is "Eat Breakfast". This I can agree to, though what you eat for breakfast matters. Frosted Flakes, while a very tasty breakfast, isn't really going to go very far in making you fit. Given the rather stupid and wrong denigration of the egg, I suspect too many people are eating the wrong kind of stuff for breakfast.

The article ends with yet another platitude for number eight "Get support". Here's a clue - if you are staring down a Twinky or standing at an open refrigerator at 2am and all you can think about is that Eskimo Pie sitting there, no amount of 'support' in the world is going to help you. If on the other hand you rely on your own backbone, change your eating habits, go to bed sated by the right kind of food, you'll be sleeping at 2am and that Eskimo Pie will be in some former-President-to-be's fridge where it belongs.