Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Monday, January 31, 2011

Groundhog Day

Hey, why not? They are just about as accurate as the paid forecasters, especially when it comes to forecasting six weeks out.

Groundhog Day 2011: Find your local groundhog

Punxsutawney Phil might just be the world's most famous weather-forecasting groundhog, but he's not the only one.

Whether or not Phil sees his shadow on Wednesday, his opinion isn't the only one that counts. The list below has a few other, perhaps more local, weather predicting rodents who may or may not foresee six more weeks of winter on Feb. 2, from AOL News.

  • Buckeye Chuck: Ohio's official groundhog since 1979
  • Staten Island Chuck: The groundhog of the Staten Island zoo who took a bite out of Mayor Bloomberg in 2009
  • Smith Lake Jake: Predicting the weather from Birminghom Zoo in Alabama
  • Wiarton Willie: Currently known as Wee Willie 2, the groundhog represents Ontario
  • General Beauregard Lee: The University of Georgia awarded this groundhog a "Doctor of Weather Prognostication"
  • Octorara Orphie: Lancaster, Pa.'s groundhog, often overshadowed by Phil
  • Dunkirk Dave: Representing Dunkirk, NY
  • French Creek Freddie: Representing French Creek, WV
  • Woodstock Willie: Representing Woodstock, IL
  • Malverne Mel: Representing Malverne, NY
  • Jimmy The Groundhog: Representing Sun Praire, WI
  • Stormy Marmot: Representing Aurura, CO
  • Shubenacadadie Sam: Representing Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Balzac Billy: Representing Alberta, Canada

So what are we in for? Six more weeks of winter? Or is spring around the corner?

Give us your guess below and let us know if you think Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow.



No way THIS will EVER make it on during the Super Bowl.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tighten your belts

or your suspenders, or your straps, or ...

It is a tragedy that we cannot bring ourselves to cut the war machine.

Never Enough

So, Ford Motor Company reported $6.6 BILLION in net profit for 2010, it's biggest profit in over a decade.

They awarded UAW members with a $5,000 profit-sharing check, two-thirds more than they were obligated to award.

They reduced their debt by $14.5 BILLION; they gained market share for the second year in a row and made money in every region of the U.S.

But, ooo! ooo! They lost $51 million in Europe in the 4th quarter, SO ANALYSTS WERE DISAPPOINTED AND THE STOCK WAS HAMMERED BY 13%!! Could it be the fact that "investors" don't want to see U.S. workers make any gains at all??

Wall Street is SICK! Wall Street greed is out of control! And what are we doing about it? A weak, measly "financial reform" bill that does practically nothing.

Ford made $6.6 billion in 2010, workers get $5,000 profit-sharing checks.

Ford, in reporting its biggest profit in more than a decade Friday, disappointed Wall Street but pleased UAW workers with bonuses averaging $5,000.

The profit-sharing bonus was two-thirds larger than the amount Ford was required to pay under its contract, said UAW President Bob King.

"What's really important for our members to know is they didn't have to do this," King told the Free Press.

With about 20,000 Ford hourly workers living in Michigan, the checks, due in March, will help lift the state's economy.

Ford's stock fell 13.4% on Friday and closed at $16.27 after the company said it made $6.6 billion last year -- its largest profit in more than a decade.

Ford disappointed investors by losing $51 million in Europe in the fourth quarter, and it spent more money than expected launching new models such as the Ford Explorer. Raw material costs also rose.

Still, Ford reduced its debt by $14.5 billion in 2010, gained market share in the U.S. for the second straight year and made money in every region.

"This is the best year we've had since 1999," Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally said, adding that Ford should make even more money this year.

After years of plant closures, job cuts and cuts in worker benefits, the profit-sharing checks should also boost morale as Ford enters contract talks with the UAW this year.

"It's great to see the company turning around," said Ron Buchanan of Clawson, who works at Ford's axle plant in Sterling Heights.

Ford falls short of expectations by hitting $1.3B in 4Q earnings

Ford's fourth-quarter profits, reported Friday, were nearly half of what some analysts expected, falling short of Wall Street's expectations for the first time in two years.

Before onetime charges, Ford earned $1.3 billion, or 30 cents per share for the fourth quarter. On average, Wall Street analysts forecast Ford would earn 48 cents per share.

That difference caused analysts to press Ford about its ability to deliver bigger profits for 2011 even after the automaker reported its largest annual profit since 1999.

more here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Black Collar Blotter

Could there be a larger, more-organized ring of child molesters than the Catholic Church? Lord, I hope not. The Catholics seem to have a thing for young boys; the other denominations spread the love all around.

Compiled by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Arrested / Charged

Geody M. Harman, 37, Fromberg, MT: 1stdegree rape. Harman is "Firsi Counsel of the Holy Ghost" of the Church of the Firstborn of the General Assembly of Heaven. The Utah charging affidavit said that Harman "had an impression from God" that the 15-year-old girl was to have sex with him.

There's also an outstanding warrant for Terrill Dalton, 43, president of the church, which is a Mormon splinter group. Dalton is accused of raping the same girl as Harman after telling her "that it she had sex with him three times, [she] would be blessed." Source: Billings Gazette, 8-18-10

Rev. Daniel Valentine, 45, New Miiford, CT. 5 counts of 1st-degree larceny and 2 counts of 2nd-degree larceny. Valentine, former executive pastor at Faith Church in Danbury, is accused of embezzling $221,000 from Squeaky's Car Wash, a business he and other church leaders started to make money for the church.

The arrest warrant said his partners got suspicious when they learned he had encumbered the car wash to get a personal loan. He allegedly wrote checks to fictitious contractors or to builders who had done work for Squeaky's, then endorsed them and deposited them into his own account. Source: Danbury News-Times, 8-1710

Joshua Wisdom, 37, Rogers, AR: Sexual solicitation and loitering. Wisdom resigned as a student pastor at the Church at Pinnacle Hills after the church asked for his immediate resignation. He was arrested with several others as part of an online prostitution sting by Bentonville police. Source: KFSM News, 8-13-10

Rev, Timothy Parker, 40, Westgate, IA: 2 counts of lascivious acts with a minor and 1 count of 3rd-degree sexual abuse. Parker, pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church, is accused of fondling and oral sex on a female victim on 3 occasions when she was age 1 2. Source: Waterloo-Cedar Fails Courier, 8-4-10

Rev. William Casey, 76, Greenville, TN: Forcible sodomy and indecent liberties with a child. Casey, who was removed from the Catholic ministry in April, was indicted in Scott County, VA, for alleged incidents in 1978 with a male minor at Natural Tunnel State Park.

Casey pleaded guilty in July in McDowell County, NC, to crimes against nature involving the same victim and received 24 months of supervised probation. Source: Knoxvitte News Sentinel, 8-4-10

Enoc "Tito" Sotelo, 50, Kinston, NC: 32 counts of 3rd-degree theft by deception. Sotelo, former Salvation Army pastor in Plainfteld, NJ, is accused in a scheme to defraud illegal immigrants out of tens of thousands of dollars by promising but not delivering "green" cards. His wife, Vereli Sotelo, faces 8 theft counts. Source: Somerville [NJ] Courier News, 8-2- 10

Rev. Valentine Tsaralunge. Taul, MOLDAVA: Reckless imprudence. Tsarafunge was suustituting for another priest who was supposed to baptize Laurentiu Gaydeu, 6 weeks. "He dipped the baby in the water without even covering the baby's mouth with his hand to prevent him from drowning," Dmitry Gaydeu, the boy's father, told Komsomolskaya Pravda. "He put his hand on his stomach and dipped him in the water three times."

The newspaper said Laurentiu's godparents tried to intervene when the boy didn't seem well, but the priest insisted he knew what he was doing. His son died of "asphyxia from drowning," Gaydeu said. The maximum sentence is 3 years in prison. Source: USA Today, 7-29-10

Harvey A. Zeek, another Muskegon County Scouting administrator, was sent to prison in 2008 on child porn convictions involving young girls. He was also convicted in 2009 of criminal sexual conduct that started when the victim was 6. At sentencing, the judge called Zeek "a monster." Source: Muskegon Chronicle, 7- 13- 10

Regina DaSilva, 41, Union, NJ: 11 counts of grand larceny, 12 counts of offering a false instrument for filing, 12 counts of making an apparently sworn false statement and 1 count of 1st-degree scheme to defraud. DaSilva, treasurer of the Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is accused of filing petitions with false information with two state agencies and a bank to obtain $22 million in mortgage loans for her employer. Source: N. Y. Daily News, 7-10-10

Pleaded / Convicted

Douglas Perita, 40, Eagle, CO: Pleaded guilty to 1 count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual contact. Perita is a graduate of Fairfield [CT] University, a Jesuit college. He started a boys' school in 1997 called Project Pierre Toussaint in Cap-Ha�ien, Haiti, with a grant from the Order of Malta, a Catholic charity. Rev. Paul Carrier, former head of Fairfield's campus ministry, and other church officials raised millions for the program.

Perlte was indicted in Connecticut in 2009 on 1 0 sexual abuse counts. The indictment said, "If minors refused to engage in sex acts, Perlitz would at times withhold benefits or threaten to expel them from the program." Although he pleaded to only 1 count, Perlitz did not dispute the state's contention he had sex with as many as 13 boys. Source: Connecticut Post, 8-19-10

Rev. James Blaine, 61, Greenfield, OH: Pleaded guilty to forgery and aggravated theft. Blaine, pastor of Good Shepherd Church, aliegedly forged documents to obtain $250,000 in the church's name for his personal use. The state dropped 1 5 other counts in a plea bargain. Source; Hillsboro Times-Gazette, 8-15-10

He filed a 2003 tax return with income of $101,064 when it was actually $407,062. Source: Akron Beacon Journal, 7-24-10

Rev. Tommy R Snetton, 65, Marion, KY: Pleaded guilty to 2 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child under his supervision. Shelton was pastor of Community Church of God in Dunn Loring, VA, at the time of the alleged incidents involving 2 minor males in the 1990s.

One of the men testified he was 14 when Shelton molested him while telling him their sexual activities were "the type of relationship a father and son had." Source: Washington Post, 7-20-10


Kristina Bibb, 37, Santa Fe, NM: Pleaded no contest to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Bibb was financial secretary at Christian Life Fellowship, the parent organization of Christian Life Academy.

She admitted having sex with a 17-year-old male student and received 5 years' unsuperv�se� probation. She couid have been charged with a 4th-degree felony for consensual sex between a student and a school employee but wasn't. Her husband, the 2006 GOP nominee for state attorney general, didn't attend the hearing. Bibb's father is former Democratic Gov. Toney Anaya. Source: Santa Fe New Mexican. a-14-10

Melissa B. Jones, 29, Decatur, IL: Pleaded guilty to criminal sexual abuse and was sentenced to 2 years' probation and sex offender registration for 10 years for having intercourse with a boy. 1 6, who attended the Baptist church where Jones' husband was youth pastor.

The boy told police in 2008 that he met Jones at church camp. She began counseling him for addiction to Internet pornography. Phone calls and text messages turned into sex multiple times a week, he said. Source: Decatur Herald-Review, 8-6-10

Plaintiff Teresa Rosson, 48, alleges Kiesle molested her for years, starting in 1973 when she was 11. "He could have been stopped in 1 968, in 1 973, in 1 978, but it went on and on."

The diocese recommended removing Kiesle from the priesthood in 1981, the year Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office responsible for disciplining abusive priests. Kiesie was not defrocked until 1987. Source: AP, 8-19-10

Michael Unglo's family is suing the Diocese of Pittsburgh, alleging that Unglo killed himself last May at age 39 after the diocese stopped paying for treatment for the effects of abuse by Richard J, Dorsch, who was defrocked after being convicted of abusing another chiid.

"He needed long-term, continued, inpatient treatment," said Alan Perer, the family's lawyer. "The diocese firmly told the family and Michael that they felt they had done enough and that they would make one last payment and they would make no further payments in the future."

The diocese denied any negligence and said it paid "hundreds of thousands ol dollars" on counseling and residential treatment for Unglo, Source: KDKA/AP, 7-30-10

Gerald Derstine, 31, East Manatee. FL: Derstine, founder of the Gospel Crusade Ministerial Fellowship and operator of several Christian camps, is being sued in Minnesota for alleged sexual abuse of an 11 -year-old girl who called him Grandpa Gerald.

The suit said the abuse took place at Strawberry Lake Christian Retreat when the girl was between 11 and 13. Derstine's son. Phil, said the girl's mother is a disgruntled former volunteer who was fired.

The suit alleged Rev. Fogarty made a lalse and defamatory statement" in which he defined acts of fornication and said, ? have personal knowledge that I will not go into at this time . . . that Angela has committed one of these acts."

The statements were made "to obtain the church congregation's approval of the relationship between James Driver and Rev. Fogarty's daughter," the lawsuit said.

One reason given as grounds to biblically remarry was that James Driver once found Angela wearing a bikini at a swimming pool while with the husband of a mutual friend. Fogarty said that constituted exhibitionism and met the biblical definition of fornication. Source: Mac�n Telegraph. 7-7-10

Appeals ....

It just goes on and on. And that's just a sampling from a two month period in 2010.

More horror stories.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Forever Lazy

At first, I thought this was a joke, but no, they're serious. Absurdly serious. Be lazy! In style! Wear it to work! Soon, you won't have a job and you can wear it all the time!

Hey, modernwear for the legions of unemployed homeless! One size fits all.

Some people will buy anything. And believe anything.


It is usually trustworthy.

Ten impressive, weird and amazing facts about Wikipedia

The job of editing the largest encyclopedia that mankind has ever created isn't all serious. As you might imagine with a community the size of Wikipedia's, the occasional slice of brilliance, wonder or outright oddity breaks out. Here are 10 impressive, enlightening or just plain weird facts about the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

1) Wikipedia's official theme song is "Hotel Wikipedia"

The Eagles' 1976 hit Hotel California has been co-opted as the official theme song for Wikipedia, from a list of a number of songs described as W.O.R, or "Wikipedia-oriented rock". A sample runs: "And in the dance of the pages / Editors sweat / Some change to remember / some change to forget."

The site claims it was released as a single in the spring of 2004, but appropriately there's no citation for that reference. Be aware of editing it, though. On the W.O.R. page the listing states: "If you edit it, you are proposing an official change! Much bureaucracy will be involved!"

2) Wikipedia has a birthday committee

The birthday committee exists to wish happy birthday to Wikipedians who list their birthday on their talk page, or on the list of Wikimedians by birthday. The committee's homepage offers a number of banners that can be used to wish a Wikipedian a happy birthday, including one in the dreaded Comic Sans.

Want to join, but worried that someone else will get to each day's talk pages first? Don't be concerned! The rules of the birthday committee clearly state that "More than one person from the committee may send messages to the same person." That sounds like a rule with an argument in its history.

3) The least popular, but still active, alternate-language Wikipedia is Cheyenne

Netsêhesenêstsehe? Unlikely, but if you do, then you should be editing the Cheyenne-language Wikipedia, which has just 57 articles at the time of writing, and only 10 active users. Smaller alternate-language Wikipedias do exist, but they're locked from editing and in the process of being shut down.

English, German and French are the three most popular languages, unsurprisingly, but the Catalan Wikipedia -- which has just 13 million speakers -- is more than twice as popular than the Indonesian Wikipedia, which has 165 million speakers worldwide. The list of Wikipedia articles per population expands on this further.

4) Wikipedia has a policy titled "No Angry Mastodons"

There's a long tradition within Wikipedia of offering up insane policies under slightly silly names. There's " No climbing the Reichstag dressed as Spiderman", "Jimbo's prayer" and "No curses", which requests that users don't target the Wikipedia community with any malevolent hex, seal, spell, or enchantment.

My favourite, though is "No Angry Mastodons", which deals with posting under the influence of anger, and offers recommendations on how to avoid other people stampeding.

5) US Conservatives believe that Wikipedia has a liberal bias, so they've started up a competing Conservapedia

If you reject the scientific consensus on climate change, aren't keen on gun control or feel safe in the knowledge that the Universe was created by a supernatural being, you might find Wikipedia has somewhat of a liberal bias. No problem. Conservapedia will welcome you with open arms.

Some of Conservapedia's more notable pages include the entry on the link between atheism and obesity, listing a number of prominent overweight atheists including Christopher Hitchins and Kim Jong-il, the entry on "Hollywood values", which are "characterized by decadence, narcissism, rampant drug use, extramarital sex leading to the spread of sexually-transmitted disease, abortion, lawlessness, promotion of the homosexual agenda and death" -- and best of all the list of "examples of bias in Wikipedia", which encourages readers to email Jimmy Wales and tell him to sort it out.

6) There's a competition to guess what the last article in Wikipedia will be

If you're feeling clairvoyant, you can try your hand in a pool to guess exactly what the last article ever written in Wikipedia will be. Other pools exists for other milestones, but the last article inspires a bit more attention.

Why might something be the last article? Well, Wikipedia could be shut down due to lack of funds, the internet could be subject to some catastrophe, interest may dwindle, the site may change its name, or it's possible that it may one day reach the sum of all human knowledge. Suggestions so far include "How to divide by zero", " So long and thanks for all the fish" and "Last digit of pi".

7) Wikipedia has a list of "deleted articles with freaky titles"

If you're after a bit of amusement, Wikipedia's list of DAFT, or "deleted articles with freaky titles" is a good place to head. As the name suggests, it's a list of articles that people have created which have subsequently been deleted, but were too wonderfully-named not to keep some sort of a record of.

Examples include: "Beefstache", "Diarrhea of a genius", "Guide to: Blowing Your Nose & Getting Dressed" and the twin lists of "notable people who have been stung by jellyfish" and "jellyfish who have stung notable people". Excellent.

8) Wikipedia has had more than 1 billion edits, across 17.6 million articles, from 27 million users

You knew Wikipedia was big, but the best way to get some grasp of exactly how big is to refresh this page a few times in quick succession, and watch the numbers move.

Also of interest on the statistics front might be the list of article traffic jumps, the list of popular articles, list of notable Wikipedians and the page of awareness statistics.

9) The Wikimedia foundation runs a Wikiversity

Among the wide array of sister projects to Wikipedia, Wikiversity is one of the newest. It's a site dedicated to collaborative learning, where teachers can create and revise materials for helping other people learn things. While you won't get a degree from it, anyone can either take or teach a course.

10) Wikipedia has a bot that can suggest things for you to work on based on your editing history

One of the most daunting questions for a new user, once they've made their first edit, is what to do next. It's a problem that affects even long-term users. Wikipedia has a section of its community dedicated to answering that question, but that community has also built a bot that looks at your editing history to suggest you articles that you might like to work on next.

It has some limitations -- it can't prioritise redlinks, but it will avoid certain types of articles -- like section stubs -- that don't need much work. It should also avoid re-recommending the same page more than once to the same user. It also ignores anything that happens on talk pages. If you want to help out creating the largest encyclopedia in the world, then SuggestBot is the way to do it.
Read more about Wikipedia in our Wikipedia Week 2011 Topic Hub!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Out Campaign

No, not THAT kind of "out."

Atheists have always been at the forefront of rational thinking and beacons of enlightenment, and now you can share your idealism by being part of the OUT Campaign.

come out

Atheists are far more numerous than most people realize. COME OUT of the closet! You'll feel liberated, and your example will encourage others to COME OUT too. (Don't "out" anybody else, wait for them to OUT themselves when they are ready to do so).

reach out

The OUT Campaign allows individuals to let others know they are not alone. It can also be a nice way of opening a conversation and help to demolish the negative stereotypes of atheists. Let the world know that we are not about to go away and that we are not going to allow those that would condemn us to push us into the shadows. 

speak out

As more and more people join the OUT Campaign, fewer and fewer people will feel intimidated by religion. We can help others understand that atheists come in all shapes, sizes, colours and personalities. We are labourers and professionals. We are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandparents. We are human (we are primates) and we are good friends and good citizens. We are good people who have no need to cling to the supernatural.

keep out

It is time to let our voices be heard regarding the intrusion of religion in our schools and politics. Atheists along with millions of others are tired of being bullied by those who would force their own religious agenda down the throats of our children and our respective governments. We need to KEEP OUT the supernatural from our moral principles and public policies.
It is time to step up and...

stand out

We have many exciting activities and plans for the OUT Campaign, so be sure to watch for the latest developments.
OUT Campaign 'Scarlet Letter' T-shirts, lapel pins, buttons and stickers now available.

Come out.

Global Broadcasting

Oh boy! Here's my chance to get back into TV! But on second thought, no thanks!

Houston World TV network on air in 2011

Houston Business Journal - by Christine Hall
Global Broadcasting Channel is set to unveil a new Houston-based news network on DirectTV to 18.7 million American households on March 3.

The network plans to launch with a 24-hour news cycle from its facilities in The Preserve, located at 2040 North Loop West.

The network is independently owned by the family of Dr. Bhabendra Nath Saikia, who produces media programs in India. Houston production company Zenfilm is managing the creative services.

GBC is expected to add about 75 new jobs in Houston next year.

Well, if it's going to be mostly Indian TV, fuhgeddaboutit.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kale Chips

... but you could also say "Collards Chips" or "Broccoli Leaves Chips" or "Chard Chips ...

I have discovered, along with a lot of other people at roughly the same time, a wonderful new use for the leaves of kale plants, or collard green plants, or the gigantic leaves of a broccoli plant, or the leaves of Swiss chard plants, or the leaves of just about any kind of "greens" out there.

Simply put, coat the leaves
in some olive oil, sprinkle with spices and bake at 350 degrees until crispy. They. Are. Wonderful.

If you were to ever take my advice on anything, ever, take my advice on this. Try it!

And with more details ...


A bunch of kale

1 tbsp olive oil


  • Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Wash the kale thoroughly. Dry them with a salad spinner or similar.
  • With scissors, or your hands, rip the kale leaves away from the tough inner stem into bite-sized pieces.
  • Place all the pieces into a bowl and add olive oil (extra virgin, of course) and thoroughly wet all leaves.
  • Sprinkle some spices into the bowl. Mix.
  • Lay the leaves on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Lay one layer only. Do not stack leaves on top of other leaves.
  • When the oven gets to 350, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes.
  • At the halfway - 5 minute mark - take out cookie sheet and turn each leaf over. Carefully.
  • Any kind of green works - collards, mustard, chard, broccoli or cauliflower leaves....
  • The crinkly-leaved kale probably works best of all.
  • Let the corners start to brown, but do not burn or overbake.
  • If they are a little bitter, sprinkle with sugar after removing from oven.
  • For spices, we prefer some lemon pepper and some limequat juice. No salt needed! Experiment with what you like.
Just do a Google search on "Kale chips" and enjoy!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ricky Gervais

This? This is what has Hollywood in a snit? God, get a grip, people. Surely there must be more to it than this....

Two Suns?

Oh boy, here they come.

Two suns in the sky?! It's a sure sign that GEE-ZUZ is coming back! The end of the world is at hand! REPENT!! REPENT, SINNERS!! But give me all of your money first. After all, you won't need it after the Rapture.

All the science in the world is not going to convince some people

'Second sun' on its way

The Earth could find itself with a 'second sun' for a period of weeks later this year when one of the night sky's most luminous stars explodes, scientists have claimed.

The supernova could provide the biggest light show since Earth was formed, and will be so bright that night will become like day for one or two weeks, experts said.

Betelgeuse, which is part of the Orion constellation 640 light years away from Earth, is a red supergiant, meaning that it is nearing the end of its life and is due to explode.

When it does go, it will burn so brightly that the earth will appear to have two suns in the sky, the Daily Mail reported.

What is less certain is when it will explode.

Brad Carter, senior lecturer of physics at the University of southern Queensland in Australia, said the explosion could take place before the end of the year – or indeed at any point over the next million years.


I wonder if that would upset the circadian rhythm of plants and animals?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Etna erupting again

Every day on Earth there are over 1,000 earthquakes strong enough to register on the Richter scale. Of course, most are of little consequence, unless it happens right underneath you!

And how many volcanoes erupt every day? An average of 2 EVERY SINGLE DAY. One gets the feeling that Earth is not a very stable planet!

Sicily’s Mount Etna roared back to life for several hours, bombarding its eastern slope with missiles of hot lava.

Columns of ash disrupted air transportation around the Italian island. Ash from the eruption forced Catania’s Fontanarossa airport to shut down overnight.

The year 2010 was an unusually quiet period for Etna, which last produced a major eruption in 1992.

Etna is in an almost constant state of activity, but is not considered particularly dangerous.

Its slopes are home to farms and vineyards that make use of soil made rich by centuries of regular eruptions.

Self-Driving Cars

Yeah, this is all well and good, but why can't they make a car that will BLOW ME?

Google developing 'the car that drives itself'
Google is developing technology that enables cars to drive themselves. The internet giant has announced that it has secretly been working on artificial-intelligence software to control vehicles.

The system scans the surroundings of a car and mimics the responses of the human driver, who remains on hand to take over if needed.

It also automatically adjusts the vehicle's speed depending on the local limit. Google claims the technology could save millions of lives lost in traffic accidents.

Engineers from the company have already clocked up 140,000 miles of test drives, using six Toyota Priuses and an Audi TT equipped with the software.

The trials, which have been carried out around the company's base in Mountain View, California, are reported to have been successful.

The only accident is said to have been caused by a regular car driving into the back of a computer-controlled Google vehicle.

The project has been overseen by Sebastian Thrun, a 43-year-old Google engineer also behind the Street View mapping system, in which users can virtually travel down streets.

In a posting on the company blog, Mr Thrun said: "According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents.

"We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half.
"Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to 'see' other traffic, as well as detailed maps which we collect using manually driven vehicles to navigate the road ahead."

Lawyers for the California transport department admitted the technology was "ahead of the law" as it meant drivers themselves did not complete various elements of driving that are legally controlled.

Google, however, claimed that because a driver would always be ready to take over in an emergency, they still remained in overall control, making them legally responsible for the vehicle.

The system is said to be several years away from mass production.

(Several, indeed. Original.)

Where's the P.O.?

A little boy was waiting for his mother to come out of the grocery store. A man came up and asked if the boy knew where the post office was.

"Sure," the boy said, "just go down this street two blocks and turn right."

"Thank you," the man said. "I'm the new pastor in town. Come to church Sunday and I'll show you how to get to heaven."

The boy laughed. "Are you sure? You don't even know the way to the post office."

(I think the pastor meant he would lead the boy to heaven, IN THE PASTOR'S PANTS!)

Farmer's Almanac

The good people at The Farmer's Almanac seem pretty serious about planting crops according to the moon phase. Several scientific studies have been done on this, and as far as I can see, they show no correlation between successful or unsuccessful planting by the moon phase.

Still, you know the old saw about wives tales and cliches. They're cliches because they're true. They wouldn't be there if there wasn't a reason to be there. They are often (usually) correct.

So, in our fall plantings, we studiously observed planting by moon phases, and lo and behold, we had a very successful crop of everything, with close to 100% germination rates. So, THIS time, it worked. I guess we should consciously plant something opposed by the moon phase and see how that works. This is one of those bizarre, unsolved mysteries of life.

Meanwhile...we are in the waning moon.

January 2011

Full Moon – January 19
Last Quarter – January 26

19th-23rd - A Barren Time. Best For Killing Weeds, Briars, Poison Ivy, And Other Plant Pests. Clear Woodlots And Fencerows.
24th-25th - Favorable Days For Planting Root Crops. Fine For Sowing Grains, Hay, And Forage Crops. Plant Flowers.
26th-28th - Plant Carrots, Turnips, Onions, Beets, Irish Potatoes And Other Root Crops, In The South. Lettuce, Cabbage, Collards, And Other Leafy Vegetables Will Do Well. Start Seedbeds. Good Days For Transplanting.
29th-30th - Seeds Planted Now Will Grow Poorly And Yield Little.
31st - Good Planting Day For Root Crops Where Climate Permits.

February 2011

New Moon – February 3
First Quarter – February 11
Full Moon – February 18
Last Quarter – February 24

1st-2nd - Favorable Planting Days: The First Day For Root Crops; The Second Day For Aboveground Crops Such As Sweet Corn, Beans And Peppers, In Southern Florida, Texas, And California.
3rd-4th - Barren Days. Fine For Clearing, Plowing, Fertilizing, And Killing Plant Pests.
5th-6th - Plant Peppers, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes And Other Aboveground Crops, In Southern Florida, California, And Texas. Extra Good For Cucumbers, Peas, Cantaloupes, And Other Vine Crops. Set Strawberry Plants.
7th-9th - Seeds Planted Now Will Grow Poorly And Yield Little.
10th-11th - Fine For Planting Beans, Peppers, Cucumbers, Melons And Other Aboveground Crops, Where Climate Is Suitable.
12th-13th - Any Seed Planted Now Will Tend To Rot.
14th-15th Fine For Planting Beans, Tomatoes, Corn, Cotton, Cucumbers, Peppers, Melons And Other Aboveground Crops, Where Climate Allows. Plant Seedbeds And Flower Gardens.
16th-19th - Clear Ground, Turn Sod. Kill Plant Pests.
20th-22nd - Favorable Days For Planting Root Crops. Fine For Sowing Grains, Hay, And Forage Crops. Plant Flowers.
23rd-24th - Plant Carrots, Turnips, Onions, Beets, Irish Potatoes And Other Root Crops, In The South. Lettuce, Cabbage, Collards, And Other Leafy Vegetables Will Do Well. Start Seedbeds. Good Days For Transplanting.
25th-27th - Neither Plant Nor Sow On These Barren Days.
28th - Any Root Crops That Can Be Planted Now Will Do Well.

Much more can be found at the original.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Top 100 Companies

Fortune/CNN Money has published their annual "Best Companies to Work For." My company didn't make the cut, again, but my wife's company was listed in the Top 15, for the seventh year in a row!

There are some interesting facets to the study, like what companies are near you, the Best Perks offered, a listing of some pay scales. It's good to know that there are still some good-paying jobs in America. IOW, not everything has been shipped overseas to India, China, Bangladesh, Malaysia, etc etc. Yet.

Click here.

Checking out

The last two posts I made, on Obama and Goldman Sachs, are the last posts of that type for awhile from me. In fact, I am so frustrated, sick and tired of politics and finance that I am simply dropping out, checking out, unplugging.

I have unsubscribed to most all of the political and financial email lists that I had subscribed to over the last so many years and am going to turn my attention to things that I can have a modicum of control over, like gardening, playing music, creating art, home improvement, personal health.

Maybe I'll start to feel like I can actually have an effect on the world around me again. Maybe I'll begin to feel like there is some real hope for the world. Maybe I'll become interested in politics again someday, but I hope not.

Good-bye White House (good riddance Obama)
Good-bye MoveOn
Good-bye True Majority
Good-bye National Review
Good-bye Mother Jones
Good-bye OpEdNews
Good-bye Truthout
Good-bye RSN
Good-bye CLG
Good-bye Motley Fools
Good-bye Marketwatch
Good-bye WSJ
Good-bye Forbes
Good-bye Economist

There. I feel better now. Hmmm ... I guess I should clean up all the links on this blog too. See ya. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Only in America

Nowhere but America can a company post billions in net profits and yet be grossly disappointed in the results.

Case in point: the recent Goldman Sachs 4th Quarter 2010 results. The headlines are depressing...

Goldman Sachs posts steep quarterly profit drop

Goldman profits plunge 52%!!

Oh, doom and gloom! Que terrible! It's not until you read the article that you see that, well, total boo-hoo, the company had a NET PROFIT of $2.39 BILLION in the 4th Quarter of 2010!! That is profit AFTER ALL SALARIES AND EXPENSES!! Oh, the shame! Annual profits for the bank were only $8.35 BILLION. ONLY!!!!

Oh, what "disappointing results."

And so, the markets tank. The financials tank, because Goldman suffered such a HUGE DROP in profits.

How many companies would die for results like Goldman's? But here, in America, it's just not enough unless every single quarter is better than the one before. America is so hung up on short-term results, it's disgraceful. No amount of profit is EVER enough in this country, and it's just sickening.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Obama: Republican?

Now this, is nauseating. Obama is trying, really hard, to alienate his base and be a one-term President.

Obama vows to cut rules to boost jobs
By Jeff Ostrowski

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

The president signed an executive order telling federal agencies to ferret out rules that place an unreasonable burden on businesses. But business owners and Republicans greeted Obama's order with skepticism.

Florida's legislative director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Allen Douglas, also noticed Obama's rhetorical shift.

"He sounds like a Republican, doesn't he?" Douglas said. "He sees the writing on the wall, that, yeah, government is in the way."


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Listen up, Sarah

Sarah Palin debate David Brock of Media Matters? Well, why should she? Sarah is never wrong about anything! That, and she's a coward.

Maher on Leno

I like to see Maher fired up.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Grayson - On Gabby

A reporter called me a little while ago, and told me that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been shot at a public event. She is in critical condition.

I'm going to let others comment on what this means for America. I just want to say what it means to me.

Gabrielle Giffords and I served together on the House Committee on Science and Technology. She was the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, and I was a member of that subcommittee. Her D.C. office was one floor above mine.

I saw Gabby dozens, if not hundreds of times, during our two years together. And nearly every time that I can remember, she was smiling.

Gabby is one of the most cheerful, charming and engaging people I have ever known. She's always looking on the bright side. She has something good to say about pretty much everyone. Bad news never lays a glove on her. She loves life, and all the people in it.

No matter what is going on in your life, after fifteen minutes with Gabby, you'll feel that you can touch the stars.

Everyone knew that Gabby would have a tough race in 2010. (She actually won with 49% of the vote.) But I always thought that if each of her constituents could spend that fifteen minutes with her, and see what she is really like, then she would win with 99.9% of the vote. (Same thing about Harry Teague of New Mexico, who lost, and a few others that I could name.) You would want her as your Congressman, because you would want her as your friend.

I know nothing about the man who shot Gabby, and what was going through his mind when he did this. But I will tell you this - if he shot Gabby out of hatred, then it wasn't Gabby he was shooting, but rather some cartoon version of her, drawn by her political opposition. Because there is no way - NO WAY - that anyone who really knows Gabby could hate her or hurt her. She is a kind, gentle soul.

My heart goes out to Mark Kelly, Gabby's husband, and the many, many people who love her. Gabby, we don't want to lose you. Please stay here with us.

Alan Grayson

Krugman - Climate of Hate

There is no evidence, yet, that the Arizona shooter was a Tea Party or other right-wing fringe member, but there is no doubt, among rational people, that the rhetoric coming from the right has been overly vitriolic since Obama was elected.

Threats to public officials, while unfortunately a part of life, have increased by over 300% since Obama was elected, according to the FBI. The Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, was right when he commented that "free speech has consequences." So far, the purveyors of hateful rhetoric (Beck, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Palin, Savage, ad infinitum) have not suffered any consequences. If justice is served, they will. I said "IF."

I do wonder how many "patriotic Americans" experienced a bit of glee when they heard the news of the shooting of the Democratic congresswoman?

Climate of Hate
Published: January 9, 2011

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Last spring reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pitt - It's Gonna Suck

This Is Going to Suck

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

This Is Going to Suck
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: deltaMike, Martin Pettitt)

The American people were treated on Thursday to a (mostly) full and complete reading of the Constitution of the United States from the floor of the House of Representatives. The performance was proposed and organized by the new Republican majority in that chamber for the purpose - according to them, anyway - of announcing that America is about to start going back to being America again. There's an irony in this, insofar as they chose to skip the Constitutional parts about African Americans not really being people. That portion of the document is a vital part of our shared history, so yeah, leave it to the GOP to to snip, redact and edit our founding document, even if it's just in a bit of political theater.

A friend astutely observed that this reading of the Constitution was an essentially meaningless act without including a recitation of the complementary documents and supporting arguments; i.e. it is akin to reading the owner's manual of a car, but not knowing how the thing really works once you open up the hood. Within my friend's opinion, however, lies a hidden solution to what is going to be, in my estimation, a truly messy and dangerous 112th Congressional session: make them read everything, up to and including the Federalist Papers. By the time they get through it all, this congressional session will have run its course, and a great deal of damage will have been averted.

Despite my cynical tone, I do think a reading of the Constitution on the House floor is, by and large, a good thing. It is never a bad idea to review the essential genius of the Founders...and besides, I'm pretty sure there was at least one new House member who’d never read the thing before. I can imagine the mental conversation that took place within the mind of some newly-minted Tea-Partying GOP Representative:

"'Well-regulated' militia? Has it always said 'well-regulated'? Well, shoot, guess I'll have to change my opinion on legalizing shoulder-fired grenade launchers sold over the counter at Wal-Mart without waiting periods or background checks. Gosh, I'm really glad we did this!"

Hey, a guy can dream, right?

It wasn't all sunshine and Constitutional roses in the House on Thursday, however. As one House member read the text from Article Two, section one - "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President" - a woman in the Gallery who called herself Theresa began shrieking, "Except Obama, except Obama, help us, Jesus!" Yes, friends and neighbors, she was a "Birther," one of those who refuse to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Barack Obama is a citizen of the United States, and is therefore ineligible to be President. In other words, Theresa is a pillar of the base that supports the "Tea Party" faction of our newly-minted House majority.

Shades of things to come.

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A vast amount of Stupid is about to start coming down the pike in the coming weeks, now that people like Darrell Issa (R-CA) have been given chairmanships of House committees. Rep. Issa, who now chairs the House Government and Oversight Committee, gives every indication of preparing to follow in the spectacularly ugly footsteps of Rep. Dan Burton. Burton, during his Clinton-era time as chairman of this committee, issued more than 2,000 subpoenas against the White House, for no other reason than to generate headlines and gin up the idea that a scandal lurked around every corner, and Mr. Issa is getting ready to pick right up on that particular process. If you think Rep. Issa won't listen to people like Theresa and undertake an investigation into President Obama's status as a citizen, well, I've got a big, red bridge in northern California to sell you.

The 112th Congress is going to waste a fabulous amount of time and money (the Constitutional display on Thursday cost American taxpayers $1 million, for starters), all under the banner of saving time and money...but don't expect the hypocrisy to abate any time soon. After passage of a huge new rules package, one that reflects the shift in power that has taken place in the House, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), raised a proposal that would require all members of the House to disclose whether or not they will be participating in the excellent government-run health care plan available to all members of Congress. His proposal was defeated on a party-line vote. To wit: every Republican in the chamber voting against letting the American people know which of them will be partaking in the government-run health care they purport to despise.

You will, of course, recall how many GOP members of this House either saved their seats, or won their seats, by railing against "Obamacare." Not only does their resistance to government-run health care stop at their own health care interests, they are also not at all interested in letting you know about it. No health care for you, but they get theirs, and we don't even get to see a list of names.

I'm shocked, shocked that gambling is going on in this establishment.

As bad as all this is certainly going to be, there is one thing that worries me even more...because it is something that has been going on for two years already, and at this point, shows no signs of abating. From Thursday's Boston Globe:

During the health reform debate in 2009, Republican alarmists decried a provision to pay doctors to discuss end-of-life treatment options with Medicare patients as tantamount to "death panels." The bill as finally approved lacked that clause, but late last year Obama administration officials authorized such counseling in a Medicare regulation on annual physical examinations. Now they have withdrawn that provision in a cave-in to expected opposition. The retreat is lamentable.

Conversations about a patient's preferences for or against heroic, life-extending measures have nothing to do with death panels denying care to elderly or disabled patients, the red herring raised by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, then-House minority leader John Boehner, and others. Those leaders weren't mistaken; they were deliberately disingenuous, going to any extreme to defeat health reform. Instead, they blocked what had been one of the most widely accepted, and least controversial, parts of the bill.

After the dust cleared, a national organization of hospice-care providers and members of Congress asked the Obama administration to establish counseling reimbursement in a new regulation. Far from depriving patients of the right to make decisions about their own care, the regulation would have increased their autonomy by encouraging discussions about care options during routine exams and not in the midst of a medical crisis. The administration should have stuck by its convictions.

(Emphasis added)

The Obama administration in a nutshell: do the right thing, at least to a degree, and then fail to let people know the good that was accomplished, or, in this case, retreat from a perfectly good policy position because people like Theresa and her pals in the GOP spray lie after lie after lie. Don't fight for the policy, but run like cowards from the Republican Lie Machine.

This crap happened all too often when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. Now that people like Rep. Issa have been given very large megaphones, the barrage of lies is only sure to increase by orders of magnitude. Mr. Obama has begun what is reported to be a wholesale turnover of his administration staff, so perhaps the people getting broomed out are the ones who didn't have the stomach to fight against this tidal wave of disinformation.

But I don't have a great deal of hope in that, if the Globe's analysis is correct. "The administration should have stuck by its convictions," said the Globe editorial.

How many times have we heard that before?

How many times are we going to hear it again?

This - I think, I fear, I suspect - is going to suck, unless the Obama administration gets out of their permanent crouch and finally starts fighting back against a newly-empowered GOP, and the lies that will be pouring fourth like polluted water from an open spigot.

The simple fact that Mr. Obama tapped William Daley, a JPMorgan Chase executive whose purview was "corporate responsibility," to be the new White House Chief of Staff does not bode well at all. Try not to laugh too hard at seeing the words "JPMorgan Chase" and "corporate responsibility" in the same sentence.

Yeah. I'm pretty sure this is going to suck.