Monday, April 30, 2007

More info on Uncle Gary's Trailblazer

Via the Tuscaloosa News - Missing man’s SUV found in area
His vehicle was discovered Friday afternoon in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Skyland Boulevard.

Authorities said the 2004 Chevrolet TrailBlazer was under a tarp. It is now in police custody and being examined for clues.

[. . .]

Anyone with information regarding Vance’s whereabouts was asked to call Crime Stoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867) or the Kimberly Police Department at 205-647-5531.
I will post more updates as they become available.

Note: The Cooper quoted in the article is not me, but another niece of his on the other side of the family.

Our trip to the Renaissance Faire

On Saturday we attended a wedding at the Georgia Renaissance Faire. It was a nice little hand tying ceremony followed by feast complete with turkey legs. After the wedding festivities we wandered the fairgrounds for quite a while. We had never been to a Renaissance Festival before and it was a fun experience. In fact, my geekiness quotient (see comment #1) was raised by the trip because I actually wore a period costume the whole time I was there.

It was interesting being in costume. It seemed particularly like the people who worked there treated me differently because I was in costume. I think that maybe they assumed I was somehow more likely to buy something. I don't know, but I was frequently addressed as "My Lady". Here is a picture of me in costume at the faire (the outer sleeves are detachable so I didn't wear them most of the time).

I got several complements on my dress. My mother and I actually made it. It was quite time consuming and much more expensive than I had originally expected. I can understand why the merchants charge as much as they do for the clothing they sell. My dress would be worth about $100 in materials, plus a week's pay. Ouch!

CFLs are OK with me

Via WaPo - Fluorescent Bulbs Are Known to Zap Domestic Tranquillity
"There is still a big hurdle in convincing Americans that lighting-purchase decisions make a big difference in individual electricity bills and collectively for the environment," said Wendy Reed, director of the federal government's Energy Star campaign, which labels products that save energy and has been working with retailers to market CFL bulbs.

"I have heard time and again that a husband goes out and puts the bulb into the house, thinking he is doing a good thing," Reed said. "Then, the CFL bulb is changed back out by the women. It seems that women are much more concerned with how things look. We are the nesters."
I found this article to be particularly interesting because in the past year we have been fazing out our incandescent bulbs and replacing them with CFLs. It was actually my husband's idea (I think) but I was never opposed to the idea. There are still a few places that we do not use them, simply because of the nature of the fixture. The CFL bulbs that we buy say that they cannot be used in fixtures with are totally enclosed and we have about 3 fixtures like that around our home. We did have a fourth in the kitchen, but we actually changed out the fixture so that we could use the CFLs there.

I guess I'm not the stereotypical woman in many ways. I've never been much of a decorator, and that could explain why the CFLs don't bother me. It bugs me a little that they don't work with the dimmer, but we really never used the dimmer that much anyway, so it is no great loss.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Please Help Find this Missing Man

My uncle, Gary Vance, went missing on Friday in the Birmingham area. If you have any information, please contact the local police. Below is a copy of the flier that is being posted locally.







AGE 59 – HEIGHT 5’11” – WEIGHT 170LBS


He was in the Lincoln, AL area Friday morning. It is possible he was in or around Tuscaloosa on Friday afternoon.

Please call your local police with any information!

UPDATE: His Trailblazer has been found in Tuscaloosa, AL, but he is still missing.

UPDATE 2: see new info here

(I will be keeping this post on top until further notice)
Posting Update: I have decided to move the information about Uncle Gary to the sidebar. The post will still be available for comments but it will now float down the page as new posts are added to the blog.

FINAL UPDATE:  Gary has returned home to his family.  Thank you for your interest and concern.

Work at your own risk (the fox is guarding the hen house)

Via The NYT - OSHA Leaves Worker Safety in Hands of Industry
Across Washington, political appointees — often former officials of the industries they now oversee — have eased regulations or weakened enforcement of rules on issues like driving hours for truckers, logging in forests and corporate mergers.

Since George W. Bush became president, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court.
It is one thing to do away with truly outdated regulations, it is another thing entirely to practically stop doing the job the agency is designed to do. January 20, 2009 can't get here soon enough to suit me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Eat at your own risk

Via WaPo - FDA Was Aware of Dangers To Food
The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show.

Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, according to agency documents.
Yeah, self-policing that always works.


Via The NYT - Use of Wiccan Symbol on Veterans’ Headstones Is Approved
To settle a lawsuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.

[. . .]

Though it has many forms, Wicca is a type of pre-Christian belief that reveres nature and its cycles. Its symbol is the pentacle, a five-pointed star, inside a circle.
I suppose that if we are truly going to advocate freedom of religious belief and recognize the religions of soldiers then the religions of all soldiers should be recognized. It is discrimination if we do not.

I was surprised by this statistic quoted in the article:
There are 1,800 Wiccans in the armed forces, according to a Pentagon survey cited in the suit, and Wiccans have their faith mentioned in official handbooks for military chaplains and noted on their dog tags.
This statement, however, doesn't surprise me at all.
“I don’t think witchcraft is a religion,” Mr. Bush said at the time [1999], according to a transcript. “I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made.”
The decision Bush alludes to in the quote is the decision to allow Wiccan soldiers to worship at Fort Hood, Texas.

I'm sure there are many people who view Wicca as witchcraft, maybe even some who practice it, and I will admit that I personally know next to nothing about it. But I just get tired of continually hearing people make assumptions, judgments, and condemnations of religions that they know little or nothing about or that they do not even attempt to understand.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Prom Night 2007

Tonight was prom night and it made for a very busy day. I had to pick up corsages this morning (which were highly overpriced and not of very good quality). This evening I cooked a steak dinner for my eldest and his date, cook mashed potatoes for my middle son to take to a group dinner, took pictures at the location of said group dinner, took pictures at home, went to Senior Lead Out (where the seniors and their dates presented and introduced) and took even more pictures there. Whew, I'm glad it done now. Here are some pictures of the happy couples.

My eldest and his girlfriend.

Middle son and his girlfriend.

My youngest step-daughter and her boyfriend, Mr. Perfect.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The videos and the backlash

Via the NYT - NBC News Defends Its Use of Material Sent by the Killer
NBC News fought back yesterday against a growing backlash over the way it handled the pictures and writings of the student who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech.

Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, strongly defended the network’s decision to broadcast the material.
I watched some of the videos yesterday and I will admit I had mixed emotions about NBC's use of them. My initial response was similar to Rosie O'Donnell's. I saw a video clip of her saying that by airing the video they were playing into Cho's plan. They were helping to make him famous. However, my next thought was that people want to see it. People want to know why he did it and if the media has access to information that can help people figure that out, they have the right to show it.

There was more to the story than just the fact that NBC aired the video. What struck me after watching some of the video clips from NBC was how they were using them. There was one video I watched yesterday (and I would link to it but I can't seem to find it this morning) of Chris Matthews talking to someone and the still pictures from the manifesto are just looping on screen behind them. To me this just seemed to be in poor taste. Okay, maybe show them, but why keep looping them?

Maybe the video confession/manifesto should have been saved for the experts only. Maybe we should focus more on the victims and less on the killer (and that thought actually occurred to me early on Monday). Maybe that would remove some of the motivation of future mass murderers if they knew it wasn't a way to get their stories told. But that just isn't the way the human mind works, or at least the American mind. We want to know and we think we have the right to know.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sanjaya goes home

Via - Reality Check: Sanjaya Down and Out on 'American Idol'

I've never even watched American Idol and I know this a big deal.

Intentional contamination?

Via MSNBC - FDA: Pet food tainting might be intentional
Imported ingredients used in recalled pet food may have been intentionally spiked with an industrial chemical to boost their apparent protein content, federal officials said Thursday.

[. . .]

Chinese authorities have told the FDA that the wheat gluten was an industrial product not meant for pet food, Sundlof said.
One has to wonder who was actually in the wrong here or if both the producer of the wheat gluten and the makers of the pet food are at fault. I just hope this gets straightened out soon, because I really just don't know what to feed my dog anymore.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The rest of the world reacts

WaPo - Va. Killings Widely Seen as Reflecting a Violent Society
Officials, newspaper columnists and citizens around the world Tuesday described the Virginia Tech massacre as the tragic reflection of an America that fosters violence at home and abroad, even as it attempts to dictate behavior to the rest of the world.

From European countries with strict gun-control laws to war-ravaged Iraq, where dozens of people are killed in shootings and bombings each day, foreigners and their news media used the university attack to condemn what they depicted as U.S. policies to arm friends, attack enemies and rely on violence rather than dialogue to settle disputes.
It is difficult to know how to react to such reactions. On the one hand, it gives some insight into how the citizens of other countries feel about the U.S., that their condolences are tempered with a dose of "but it was your own fault." But to some degree I have to agree. Our culture is awfully violent and some of the blogospheric reaction to Monday's events shows that our view of reality has become skewed by exposure to movie violence (Poliblog has some good commentary on the subject with links to examples). And I personally am in favor of stricter gun laws.

However, on the other hand, the article quotes an Iraqi who makes a good point, but not the point that I think he intended to make:
"We did not have this violence in the Saddam era because the law was so tough on guns."
No, they didn't have that violence, they had a ruthless dictator. And although I do not believe that the Second Amendment to the Constitution should be interpreted as broadly as it currently is, I think it was designed to defend against situations exactly like what existed in Iraq under Saddam.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More info on Cho

Time has an article with some more info on Cho - The Making of a Mass Killer

H/T: Poliblog

Gunman Identified

Via the Chicago Tribune - Va. Tech Gunman Was Student From S.Korea
A Virginia Tech senior from South Korea was behind the massacre of at least 30 people locked inside a campus building in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history, the university said Tuesday.

Ballistics tests also show that one of the guns inside that building was used in another shooting two hours earlier, at a dorm, Virginia State Police said.

Police identified the shooter as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a senior from South Korea who was in the English department at Virginia Tech and lived on campus.

"It's certainly reasonable to assume that Cho was the shooter in both cases," but authorities haven't made the link for sure, said Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police.
I'm sure more updates will follow.

Virginia Tech the day after

Via the NYT - Drumbeat of Shots, Broken by Pauses to Reload

The article has some first hand accounts from students, faculty and staff who were in the building during the shooting. There were a few things in the article that particularly struck me.

Here's the first:
Some students on campus took refuge in the library, searching the Web to find out what was happening. No one knew.
It is interesting to me that even when something is happening right where people are, they immediately look on the internet to find information. True that was safer than going to investigate, but still I think it says something about our society that we turn to cyberspace to find out what is happening just outside our own doors.

The school did not notify students by e-mail of the first shootings until 9:26 a.m., said Matt Dixon, who lives in the dorm. Mr. Dixon did not receive the e-mail message until he returned from his 9:05 class. When he left for that class, he said, a resident adviser told him not to use the central stairs, so he left another way.

On dry erase boards, advisers had written, “Stay in your rooms,” Mr. Dixon said.

Other students and faculty members said they had only a vague notion that there had been a shooting at the dorm.
It does seem that the campus police should have made more of an effort to get the word out, a gunman loose on campus, even if he was only shooting in a domestic violence-type situation, was something that the campus should have been notified of. It seems to me that this indicates just how lightly law enforcements takes domestic violence situations. It was like "oh, he only shot his girlfriend (or whatever), he's not really a threat to society." To me that is just wrong-minded.

It also surprises me that the news did not spread by word of mouth. I'm on campus (at a different University, of course) all the time and students are ALWAYS on their cellphones. I would think that if there was a shooting in the largest dorm on campus people would be talking about it. I guess people just aren't paying enough attention to the world around them.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Deadly shooting a Virginia Tech

Via the BBC - Deadly shooting at US university
At least 20 people have been killed and more injured after a gunman went on the rampage at the campus of Virginia Tech university in Virginia, US.

Police say there were two separate shooting incidents - one at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a student dormitory, and Norris Hall, an engineering building.

The incidents were about two hours apart. Police say that the gunman at Norris Hall is dead.

The state university in the town of Blacksburg is home to 26,000 students.
That is the whole article at the moment, but I'm sure the linked article will continue to update as more info becomes available.

The Clinton/Obama money dance continues

NYT - Donors Linked to the Clintons Shift to Obama
A list of Mr. Obama’s top fund-raisers released Sunday showed the extent to which the Democratic Party establishment, once presumed to back Mrs. Clinton, has become more fragmented and drifted into her rival’s camp, lending the early stages of the Democratic primary campaign the feeling of a family feud. Some of the movement would have been inevitable given Mr. Clinton’s former dominance of the party.
Although it may be inevitable, I find it hard to believe that Hillary would be taking it very well. The feud aspect of the situation has often made me wonder about that true likelihood of a Clinton/Obama (or Obama/Clinton) ticket if one or the other of them should win the primary election. I know that either one of them would probably be willing to do whatever it takes to win the Presidency, but I can't help but feel like it would be a very strained relationship. And I'm not even sure that Hillary would be willing to settle for the number two slot. I guess only time will tell.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More on the Electoral College and its future

NYT - Maryland Takes the Lead

Although the article is an editorial and not so much a news article per se, it does include some info on the movement to circumvent the EC that I wasn't familiar with. The article states:
The reform movement, driven by a bipartisan coalition called National Popular Vote, has a long way to go. But Hawaii is close to approval, and hundreds of legislators are sponsoring the change in more than 40 other states. It is an ingenious way around the fact that the alternative strategy of trying to amend the Constitution would require the approval of three-fourths of the states, leaving veto power in the hands of smaller states over-represented in the college.
It is an interesting strategy. I would prefer a Constitutional amendment, but I really feel that the Electoral College needs to go, one way or another.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus Fired!

Via the Chicago Tribune - CBS Fires Don Imus From Radio Show
CBS fired Don Imus from his radio program Thursday, the finale to a stunning fall for one of the nation's most prominent broadcasters.

Imus initially was given a two-week suspension for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" on the air last week, but outrage continued to grow and advertisers bolted from his CBS radio show and its MSNBC simulcast.

"There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society," CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing the decision. "That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."
One has to wonder how much of the decision was based on ethics and how much was made on economics, but I'm glad to see that he's bearing the consequences of his actions. I'd be surprised, however, if he doesn't get a new job somewhere else once the dust settles. Shock jocks make their living by saying outrageous things and getting away with it. And eventually someone will decide it's okay for him to get away with it again.


I want to take a moment to congratulate my eldest son for his academic achievement. Today he was awarded the PRAISE Scholarship from the Pike County Chamber of Commerce for having the highest ACT score of the 2007 graduating class in all of Pike County (he actually tied with a girl in his class so they will share the scholarship). We are all very proud of him.

McCain on the decline

WaPo - McCain Calls War 'Necessary and Just'
Sinking in polls and struggling to reinvigorate his foundering presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) delivered a robust defense of the war in Iraq on Wednesday, declaring that President Bush and the conflict's supporters are on the right side of history in the struggle against terrorism and extremism.

Dismissing public opinion polls as offering nothing but "temporary favor" to the war's opponents, McCain directly confronted the biggest obstacle to his White House ambitions: his unyielding support of a war that more than two-thirds of the country has turned against.
I actually used to like McCain back when he ran against Bush in 2000, but now he is just beginning to seem pathetic. I don't, however, fault him for not totally conforming to public opinion. I feel like elected officials should respect public opinion much more so than this current administration has ever done, but in all honesty a leader does not lead by following. In fact, I greatly respect Sen. Obama's courage to speak out against the war back in the beginning when the war was still quite popular in public opinion.

On the other hand, McCain's continued support for (and sometimes outrageous statements about) the war seem to indicate that he has lost touch with reality as much as he has lost touch with the public opinion. It seems to me that if a leader holds a different view than what is popular opinion at the time, he or she must show the public that these ideas are better than those held by the public and have something to back it up. Eventually, if they have accomplished this, public opinion will begin to turn in their favor. In contrast, the current administration and Republican front-runners seem more like ostriches with heads buried in the sand than leader with a real plan.

Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

Via WaPo - Kurt Vonnegut Dies at 84
Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday. He was 84.

Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.
My he rest in peace. The article also includes some interesting facts about his life and traumas, including being a held as a POW in WWII during the fire-bombing of Dresden.

The article also includes a quote from Vonnegut that I found particularly striking:
"We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap," he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.
There is way too much truth in that statement.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Circumventing the Electoral College?

Via WaPa - O'Malley Revels in Legislative Successes
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law yesterday a measure that would circumvent the Electoral College by awarding the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.

The bill, one of 105 signed by the Democratic governor the day after the General Assembly adjourned, makes Maryland the first in the nation to agree to let the national popular vote trump statewide preference. It would not take effect until states that cumulatively hold 270 electoral votes -- the number needed to win a presidential election -- agree to do the same.
I must confess that I was totally unaware of this movement. I knew that some argued that the elector college should be abolished, but I didn't know that any states were working to circumvent it in this way. I would never have thought that such a bill could pass. It will be interesting to see if any other states follow suit.

The Effects of Rising Sealevels

NYT - Sea’s Rise in India Buries Islands and a Way of Life
The sinking of Ghoramara can be attributed to a confluence of disasters, natural and human, not least the rising sea. The rivers that pour down from the Himalayas and empty into the bay have swelled and shifted in recent decades, placing this and the rest of the delicate islands known as the Sundarbans in the mouth of daily danger.

Certainly nature would have forced these islands to shift size and shape, drowning some, giving rise to others. But there is little doubt, scientists say, that human-induced climate change has made them particularly vulnerable.

A recent study by Sugata Hazra, an oceanographer at Jadavpur University in nearby Calcutta, found that in the last 30 years, nearly 31 square miles of the Sundarbans have vanished entirely.
Now obviously all of the problems here are not global warming/global climate change related. But it seems to me that if it is at all accentuated by the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere then those responsible should shoulder some of the burden. Doesn't that comport with our own sense of justice? If you are at least partially responsible then you bear at least part of the burden of the consequences?

And even if human activities is not totally to blame for global climate change, shouldn't we try to reduce our contributions. As my sister loves to say, human activities don't cause it to get warmer in the summer time, but we all have sense enough to stop running our heaters when it gets hot outside.

Numbers don't lie. . .

but they help people lie all the time. And if you can't get the numbers to line up in the way that you want them to, start arguing over definition.

NYT - Panel Said to Alter Finding on Voter Fraud
A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times.

Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.

The revised version echoes complaints made by Republican politicians, who have long suggested that voter fraud is widespread and justifies the voter identification laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.

Democrats say the threat is overstated and have opposed voter identification laws, which they say disenfranchise the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely to have photo IDs and are more likely to be Democrats.

Though the original report said that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,” the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that “there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.”

[. . .]

And two weeks ago, the panel faced criticism for refusing to release another report it commissioned concerning voter identification laws. That report, which was released after intense pressure from Congress, found that voter identification laws designed to fight fraud can reduce turnout, particularly among members of minorities. In releasing that report, which was conducted by a different set of scholars, the commission declined to endorse its findings, citing methodological concerns.

[. . .]

The original report on fraud cites “evidence of some continued outright intimidation and suppression” of voters by local officials, especially in some American Indian communities, while the final report says only that voter “intimidation is also a topic of some debate because there is little agreement concerning what constitutes actionable voter intimidation.”
So to recap, a bi-partisan committee commissions some reports on voter fraud. They didn't like the findings so they rewrote them in such a way as to not really come to any conclusions at all. They determined that there was "a debate" and problems with definitions. Sometimes I think that if political scientists (and social scientists in general) couldn't argue over definitions anymore, we would just all have to quit our jobs and find something else to do.

Maybe there were methodological problems, most studies have some methodological problems and those who don't like the results are always the first to find those problems. But I agree with Mr. Martinez's assessment of the situation:
“Methodology concerns aside, we commissioned the reports with taxpayer funds, and I argued that they should be released,” he said, referring to the delay in the release of the voter ID report. “My view was that the public and the academics could determine whether it is rigorous and if it wasn’t then the egg was on our face for having commissioned it in the first place.”
Oh, and for those keeping score at home:
Democrats say there is little voter fraud
Republicans say there is wide spread voter fraud

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Terrorism more likely

BBC News - Iraq policy 'spawned new terror'
The countries had tried to "keep the lid on" problems by military force and had failed to address the root causes, the Oxford Research Group warned.

[. . .]

Its latest report said these issues were still the greatest threats, but added that the ongoing war on terror and the war in Iraq were increasing the risk of future terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11.
So much for the idea that by fighting them there we are making ourselves safer at home - an argument I've never bought into personally.

Fire destroys Johnny Cash house

Via BBC News - Fire destroys Johnny Cash house
The lakeside Tennessee home of late country music superstar Johnny Cash has been destroyed in a fire.

It burned down on Tuesday while renovations were being carried out for its new owner, Bee Gee Barry Gibb.

[. . .]

The agency said the fire spread quickly because construction workers had recently applied a flammable wood preservative to the exterior of the house during renovations.

After a few hours, little remained of the house except its stone chimneys.
It seems odd to me that a wood preservative would be so highly flammable, that seems counter-productive somehow.

Wow! An actual story on Richardson

ABC News - Richardson Hopes to Ride Resume, Personality Into White House
When Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico comes to town, voters should prepare for some up close and personal campaigning.

"I'm not a rock star," Richardson told audiences in New Hampshire during his last campaign swing before leading a Bush administration-endorsed diplomatic delegation to North Korea.

And while Richardson is the first to admit he isn't at the level of rival Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., when it comes to bucks or buzz, the governor is banking on his resume and personality to fill in the fundraising gap.

[. . .]

At town hall meetings, Richardson is prone to brief speeches, taking the majority of time to answer questions from the crowd.

"They want honesty, they want people with passion, they don't want overly controlled candidates, they don't want scripted candidates," said Richardson in between greeting locals.
I really hope he will make an appearance here in Alabama (and somewhere close enough I can go). I'd really love to hear him.

Land for sale. . .on the Moon!

BBC News - Making a mint out of the Moon
From his office in Nevada, entrepreneur Dennis Hope has spawned a multi-million-dollar property business selling plots of lunar real estate at $20 (£10) an acre.

Mr Hope exploited a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and he has been claiming ownership of the Earth's Moon - and seven planets and their moons - for more than 20 years.

[. . .]

Hope says he has so far sold more than 400 million acres (1.6m sq km), leaving a further eight billion acres still up for grabs.

Buyers include Hollywood stars, large corporations - including the Hilton and Marriot hotel chains - and even former US presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. George W Bush is also said to be a stake holder.
My guess is that this enterprise is similar to buying and naming a star and really amounts to nothing but a novelty for the purchaser. However, the story actually continues on to something much more important:
Data collected from the Apollo Moon landings have indicated that large deposits of an extremely rare gas called helium 3 are trapped in the lunar soil.

Scientists believe that this helium 3 could be used to create a new source of almost inexhaustible, clean, pollution-free energy on Earth.

One of them is Dr Harrison Schmitt, a member of the 1972 Apollo 17 mission and the only trained geologist ever to walk on the Moon.

"A metric ton of helium 3 would supply about one-sixth of the energy needs today of the British Isles," he claims.

Plans are already afoot in the US and Russia to strip-mine lunar helium 3 and transport it the 240,000 miles (385,000km) back to Earth.

The Moon, claims Prof Jerry Kulcinski of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, could become the Persian Gulf of the 21st Century.
I'm not sure what to think about this. On the one hand, alternatives fuels are a good thing. On the other hand, strip mining the moon doesn't sound like such a wise idea.

Progress with N. Korea?

Via TVNZ - Macau to unfreeze N.Korea funds
The United States has announced that millions of dollars frozen in a Macau bank will soon be released to North Korea, and has told Pyongyang it must now start shutting down a nuclear reactor days before a deadline.

The reclusive state has insisted it will only close the reactor, which supplies it with weapons-grade plutonium, once $US25 million dollars in funds linked to North Korean interests and frozen since 2005 in Macau's Banco Delta Asia are freed.

Under an international deal agreed two months ago to end its nuclear weapons programme, North Korea has until Saturday to start shutting down its Yongbyon atomic plant.
Hopefully this will allow the process to continue and eventually lead to the end of North Korea's nuclear program.

The article also notes this fact:
On Monday, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson flew to North Korea where he is to receive the remains of six US soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

NBC television reported that North Korean officials had told Richardson that once the money was released, UN nuclear inspectors, expelled in 2002, would be allowed back in.

Richardson plans on Wednesday to cross the demilitarised zone which has divided the peninsula since 1953 and enter South Korea with the soldiers' remains. They are to be flown to Hawaii for identification.
It is a pity that Richardson, who is currently running for the Democratic nomination for president, gets so little attention from the American press. I hear next to nothing about him unless I actively look for it. He seems like such a strong candidate on paper.

I've heard that line before

CNN - Obama tells Letterman he's not in race for VP
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday dismissed the notion he might consider accepting the No. 2 spot on the 2008 ballot -- with Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top.

"You don't run for second. I don't believe in that," the Illinois senator said on "Late Night with David Letterman."
As I recall, then-Senator John Edwards said the exact same thing when he ran in 2004 and where did he end up? The No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket. Of course he is going to say that he's not running for VP and right now he's not. He thinks he has a pretty good shot at the No. 1 spot and he very well might. It really would have been news worthy if he had said anything other than what he said. This, however, is really not news.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Quote of the day

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.
- Lord Acton

A possible return to normal blogging

Now that Lent and Easter are over, there is at least the potential that I will return to normal blogging. My Lenten act of self-discipline was not to look at site meter during Lent and I accomplished that goal. Also, I greatly limited the time that I devoted to blogging/reading the news during Lent because I had other tasks that I wanted to try to accomplish during Lent. So, now that Lent is over, the potential returns of normal blogging, but we will just have to see how that potential develops.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

From the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer
Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people.
(Book of Common Prayer, Easter Vigil, page 286)

Friday, April 06, 2007

A field experiment in political violence theory

Or at least that is how it strikes me, even thought the article says the tactics aren't really new. The NYT has an interesting article on Dutch tactics for dealing with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan (Dutch Soldiers Stress Restraint in Afghanistan). It is a very interesting article and I wish I had time to comment on it this morning, but unfortunately I don't. Hopefully I can get around to it later, but for now, just go read the article.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Pope says no to KFC

From PETA's Action Center - Why Christians Should Boycott KFC
Pope Benedict XVI had condemned the type of factory-farming abuses KFC's suppliers commit against animals, saying that "this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible." In slaughterhouses, birds are degraded in such a way that they become caricatures of their natural selves. They are confined to dark, filthy warehouses and denied everything natural to them. They never breathe fresh air, enjoy the warmth of the sun, dustbathe, or nurture their young. They are drugged and bred to grow so large that many suffer crippling injuries, and their bones often break beneath the weight of their massive bodies.

n slaughterhouses, the birds' legs are forced into shackles—often causing more breakage—and their throats are slit while they are still conscious. Many are scalded to death in defeathering tanks. Workers at a KFC "Supplier of the Year" were documented spitting tobacco into live birds' eyes, spray-painting their faces, and stomping on them. These practices are clearly contrary to the teachings of Jesus, St. Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, and basic Christian values of compassion and kindness.

Despite how they allow animals to be abused in the facilities, KFC's top executives are boasting about being good Christians.
I lived in front of about 5 chicken houses for about 2 years and the conditions in a chicken house are not good. I don't know how they compare to the ones specifically used by KFC. If one really thinks about it, the raising of any animal for meat and then its subsequent slaughter is no walk in the part for the animal in question. Maybe KFC is really worse than the next guy, I don't know. However, I feel like if I were to boycott KFC for these reasons I'd practically have to become a vegetarian to keep from being a hypocrite.

The one thing that does bother me a little about the story is the fact that the KFC people are lauding themselves as good Christians while using these business practices, but I really can't judge what is in a person's heart and I'm not going to start trying with these people.

From an Iranian perspective

The BBC has some brief comments from some Iranians on the street about the capture and release of the British sailors. These comments seem to generally confirm the ideas I already had about the whole situation. For example:
"It's very interesting! Passing through VIP lounge with suits and gifts!

On the other side of the Atlantic they dress them in orange clothes, blindfolded and shackled while being threatened by dogs.
By releasing the sailors the way they did, I felt like they were trying to hold themselves up as an example of civility and humane treatment of prisoners, in contrast to the view the world has of US-held prisoners at Guantanamo.

And there is also the issue of British/Iranian history at work here:
There is a long way to go in the relationship between Britain and Iran. This crisis has been resolved but there is a lot of fence-mending to do.

I think we need an urgent review of British policy in Iran.
There is a long history of animosity between the British and the Iranians and I am sure that played into this whole affair.

Lost and Found

CNN - Lost dog found four years later, 1,100 miles from home
A Boston terrier named Mickey who disappeared four years ago from his suburban Kansas City backyard was found in Montana and reunited with his owners this week.

Cher Jarosz and her daughter Kari Mitchell thought they had lost Mickey forever -- until they received a call from an animal shelter last week 1,100 miles away in Billings, Montana.

A microchip on Mickey helped the Billings Animal Shelter return him.
That makes for a nice story and all, but I thought the whole idea of those chips was to make it easier for them to find the dog quickly if it got lost. I don't think of 4 years and a quick turn around time. At least they got him back, but still.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On a local note

For any body who might have happened to see CBS 8's 6:00 news tonight and saw the story about the young man who got the perfect score on the ACT, that was my youngest step-daughter's boyfriend. Now we get to tease her that she's dating Mr. Perfect.

Obama rivals Clinton in funds raised

Via the Chicago Tribune - Obama fundraising rivals Clinton
Sen. Barack Obama raised at least $25 million dollars during the first quarter for his presidential campaign, a total surprisingly close to the $26 million collected by his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama actually may have raised more for the primary campaign than the former first lady, but that cannot be definitively known because the Clinton campaign has refused to say how much of its total is designated for the primary election versus the general election.
Well, if the nomination is for sale, I'm glad to see that Clinton has a strong rival, as I really don't want to see her get the Democratic nomination. I would still rather see Richardson get the nomination because I feel like he is much more qualified for the job, but I'm not naive enough to think that the most qualified person gets the job. I do prefer Obama over Clinton and here is just one of the reasons why:
Obama also made his fundraising task more difficult by refusing to accept money from lobbyists and political action committees, unlike Clinton.
The main reason, of course, is his stance on the war, which he has held the whole time. Which just shows me that he has a level head and good judgment.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Frustrations abound

To make a long story short - Vista sucks, LexMark tech support sucks, and my internet provider sucks! However, after about 24 hours of frustration, irritation, redoing the same task multiple times and even traveling to an alternate location for internet service, my LexMark X1270 All-in-One now seems to properly function with my son's laptop. I wish I had just stayed in the garden.