Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ford Launches Production H2 Focus FCV-Hybrid

From a new blog I found called Green Car Congress:

Ford today announced the first production of its new Focus hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Focus FCV-Hybrid.

This differs from prior demo cars in three ways. First, it’s the most sophisticated, according to Ford. Second, it came off a production line, not out of a lab. Ford intends to crank through 30 of the Focus FCVs initially for field testing. Also being tested and refined, though, will be the manufacturing techniques.

Third, unlike an earlier version of the Focus FCV, this model is a hybrid.

Well, there you go. A fuel cell hybrid. Just like I asked for. Anyone got a quarter million I can borrow? This car has a much better range using the hybrid technology than with using the fuel cells alone (at least compared to the Honda).

Of course, the automakers burned up a few billion in federal funds on electrics a few years ago and have nothing to show for it except a great deal of untapped demand while they jerk leased autos away from owners willing to pay top dollar to keep their EVs. Here is to hoping that the aims of the auto giants are a bit less cynical this time.

Oh, Come On! What's One Little Spider?

The speckled brown exotic creature — as big as a man’s palm — crawled from a set of drums brought in from Senegal for a music workshop.

Heck, I have spiders that size in my classroom every once in a while. It's funny to watch the students' reactions to them, though it's not particularly funny to have one crawl up your pantleg. Even so, I've never heard of anyone being bitten by one.

We have had people bitten by our eight-in-long centipedes, however. THOSE are brutal. Talk about a bite causing a "nasty reaction"!

Those huge spiders and huge centipedes only seem to be numerous in the area where my school is located, atop a hill overlooking Kashima Shrine and formerly a part of the shrine's precinct. When they excavated the area for my school to be built, they uncovered the remains of a village that was there more than 5,000 years ago.

Is it a curse?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

They Just Keep Getting Stupider

If we didn't need any more proof that Corporations rule over our government, we read the following from Wired in File Traders Could Do Hard Time:

Users of internet peer-to-peer networks, already dodging lawsuits from the recording industry, could face up to three years in prison under a bill passed Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House voted to enlist the government to a greater degree in the entertainment industry's fight against those who trade copies of its products over the internet.


The Senate approved a similar bill in June, but differences must be reconciled before President Bush signs it into law.

The Motion Picture Association of America applauded the bill's passage, while consumer groups, conservative groups and libraries said it would radically broaden copyright law and drag the government into a battle that should be handled by the entertainment industry.

So even though both liberals and conservatives don't like the law, (hopefully incompatible) versions passed both houses of (our dumba**) Congress. I don't doubt that both techo-ignorant presidential candidates are stupid enough to sign something so foolish into law.

This kind of law goes way beyond music swappers too. Intellectual property of any kind from pictures to ideas to just about anything becomes a legal battlefield. Innovation is already slowing in intellectual pursuits. What Ayn Rand and free-market ideologues warned about from socialism is now becoming reality in today's modified corporate capitalism...a malaise of the mind and the slowing of advancement of civilization.

The DMCA and this law are bad for business and just about anything else. Unless we get a grip on new technology and allow for the innovative thoughts of the millions of bright minds that brought us to this point, we are looking at a secretive, vicious, and expensive world of legal wrangling and stifled innovation.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Test drive provides a feel for fuel cell cars

(Link courtesy of Dew Kid) goes on 400-mile Southern California trek

By Miguel Llanos

TORRANCE, Calif. - As far as test drives go, this was going to be a long one. Five days across, and at times crisscrossing, the congested roads of Southern California. Not something to look forward to, you might say, but in this case it was. I was stepping into what carmakers call the automotive future: a car powered by non-polluting hydrogen and fuel cells.

This is a pretty good view of how far fuel cells have come and how far they have to go. I didn't realize that hydrogen fuel cell cars drove an electric motor. If that is the case, a fuel cell/electric hybrid scenario could certainly speed production especially if vehicles could plug in to recharge the battery bank.

Be sure to read the article because it has many fine points and a slide show with the features of the Honda FCX.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Cooking For Engineers

We haven't heard much from Ladybug recently, so I thought I would add the link in the title above. This is an interesting site that shows recipes graphically in a way that eliminates the need for the long verbal description underneath the ingredient list. It also shows in a very visual way how the ingredients combine to make a dish. Try it, you'll like it :)

This presentation looked pretty good: Recipe File: Meat Lasagna

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Speaking of Public Opinion and Balanced Journalism...

Al Jazeera, the most widely watched Arabic television channel, conducted a telephone poll during its top debating program, the Other Direction. In it, 93 percent of viewers said they approved of kidnapping foreigners in Iraq — even though by then, one of the two American hostages had been decapitated.

...ay-yi-yi-yi-YI. So much for being hailed as "liberators".

Laborer Mohammad Jassem, however, defended the right of Iraqis to kill and terrify Americans and those who work with them.
"Who told them to come here and sell our fortunes?" he asked. "I would not only kill an American, I would slaughter him and drink his blood. We'll never forget what the Americans have done to us. ...
"Every honorable Iraqi approves of killing Americans and beheading them. They should get out of our country."

(Wait a minute...isn't there a Judeo-Islamic prohibition against drinking blood? Somebody declare a Fatwah on that man!!!!! Tellingly, there is no such prohibition in Christianity. I guess that means that it's okay for the Religious Right to practice vampirism. They'd never fess up, though, because they could never bring themselves to admit to the public that they really suck.)

The balanced, objective media ('scuse me...hysterical laughter break...) has spoken, and it is seriously scary! And Allawi was thanking Bush for having brought peace to Iraq? Hey, kiddies, can you say, "TOESUCKER"? I knew you could.

All right, back to your regular programming.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

BMW Unveils World's Fastest Hydrogen-Powered Car

PARIS (Reuters) - German luxury carmaker BMW unveiled the world's fastest hydrogen-powered car at the Paris auto show on Wednesday, dubbed the H2R, capable of exceeding 300 kilometers (185 miles) per hour.

"Our drive toward the future is called hydrogen," BMW management board member Burkhard Goeschel said before the tarp slowly slipped off the teardrop-shaped body of the sleek race car.

I hate to pop their little Hindenburg hydrogen bubble, but 185 mph is not very fast anymore. The electric powered "White Lightning" traveled 245 mph five years ago. I am glad that BMW is pushing the envelope of technology, but let's wait until they've actually achieved something before we go all gaga here.

Besides, which of these little creme puffs can handle a real road with real bumps and potholes? Neither I say.

PS - The real horror of the Hindenburg was all the petroleum products burning in the skin, the hydrogen was gone in less than a heartbeat...

Get Well, Mark O. Hatfield

Hatfield suffers head injury in fall

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield is in intensive care with a head injury he suffered after helping to open a building named in his honor in Bethesda, Md., a family spokesman said.

I feel kind of bad. Mark Hatfield wrote a letter to the Oregonian that I took issue with. I wrote a letter to the editor that, I believe, set the record straight on some of what I saw as problems with his editorial. Then he has this terrible accident at his daughter's home.

I can only hope for a swift and full recovery and that, if the paper prints my rebuttal, it does not cause difficulty for his family. Although not a Republican myself, I really think of Mark Hatfield as one of the good guys and someone who brought good things to Oregon.

Get well soon, Mr. Hatfield!

Update: Well, it appears that the paper did not print my letter, which is kind of a relief. Those that they did print (that I agreed with) were more eloquent and better conveyed my thinking anyway. So, yeah.

To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone But Corn

This sounds both very corny (heh heh) and kind of scary...

William Shatner, who played the commander of the starship USS Enterprise in the '60s Star Trek series, arrived in Riverside Tuesday to hold auditions for four small parts in a low-budget, sci-fi movie he wrote with Star Trek co-star, Leonard Nimoy. The working title of the movie is Invasion Iowa. Shatner called the film "his baby," and said he's dreamed of putting the story on the big screen for 30 years.

I think Nimoy has shown some stuff by co-writing and directing the movies Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Shatner, on the other hand, mainly succeeded in ticking off a lot of die-hard Trek fans with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (the only Trek movie that officially "never really existed" as far as Trekkers in general are concerned), which was also "his baby".

On the other hand, Shatner has written some pretty good novels, including a couple for Star Trek plus his own, original Tek series.

Oh, well. I'm sure it'll all be good for some much-needed laughs.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom

Physicists and engineers at Beijing's Tsinghua University have made the first great leap forward in a quarter century, building a new nuclear power facility that promises to be a better way to harness the atom: a pebble-bed reactor. A reactor small enough to be assembled from mass-produced parts and cheap enough for customers without billion-dollar bank accounts. A reactor whose safety is a matter of physics, not operator skill or reinforced concrete. And, for a bona fide fairy-tale ending, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is labeled hydrogen.

Well, right off the bat, the graphic rocks. This Wired magazine article caught my eye while at the doctor's office waiting to be diagnosed with a hernia (oh, joy joy!). The premise of the article is that self-contained nuclear power is possible in a way that is many times safer and much less dependent on our old albatross, oil (although the hip, now authors wouldn't be so gauche as to bring up anything passe` like oil).

Knowing what I do about alternative energy, I think the tough facts are that unless we use any and all alternatives to oil, then we will never break the yoke. Now that China is officialy among the world's oil junkies, it will only get worse. And I DO NOT want to go down the coal path or even oil shale, which is a land-destroying path we face if we go without oil.

So when I see methods to get lots of energy, I pay attention. The traditional nuclear plant is a pretty dumb idea in my opinion. Obviously, nobody calculated the warehousing and security costs of storing matter for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS. It definitely makes U-STOR-IT look pretty cheap. However, if there were a way to more effectively use nuclear material in a way that made it impossible for a radioactive explosion, I would be all for it (and to heck with the patents; GNU license that puppy...well, at least if it comes from Communist China...its the least they could do).

This article outlines such a possibility. Read it and let your mind cook in that Wired magazine kind of way.

Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: From a Shamelessly Doting Teacher

Will wonders never cease.
I guess I'd better start out with a little background.
A couple of years ago, there was a TV drama miniseries (as all TV dramas/soap operas in Japan thankfully are) called "Waterboys". It was about a group of loser high school students that, after a lot of fuss, bother, and just plain humiliation, put together a successful men's synchronized swimming team. It was really kind of an entertaining drama (for a change), and it was successful enough to allow a sequel.
Enter our school.
At our school's anniversary festival in September of last year a group of boys got together and put together a synchronized swimming exhibition which they called (surprise, surprise) "Waterboys". I didn't get to see it, since I was too busy with the music club's live music tearoom, but everybody said it went over really well. In fact, it got a lot of very favorable write-ups in the local newspapers.
The "Waterboys" also appeared at this year's anniversary festival, which wrapped up just a little over a week ago. Once again, I didn't get to see it, because I was too busy fussing over the live music tearoom again (as well as providing practically a fourth of their performances myself...). However, everyone said the boys looked even sharper this time around.
Cut to today.
We had another meaningless argument session/nap time (i.e. staff meeting) this evening at my school. Since I was giving individual interview tests to my 9th grade students, I had an excuse to miss most (but, sadly, not all of) it. I came in toward the end, so I never really figured out what this month's argument was about. However, when it all somehow managed to come to a close, we were all told to be sure and turn our TVs to a certain channel at 7:00 p.m..
I arrived home a little before 7:00 to find a huge mess of mangled laundry and a message from Kiharu saying she wouldn't be home for dinner. After getting all the laundry more or less folded up, I threw the kids in my BLUE car and rushed off to Mos Burger for the evening's meagre fare (if a mustard chicken burger qualifies for that...mmmmmm...). I managed to turn on the TV just a little before 8:00 to find....

The first All-Japan Boys' High School Synchronized Swimming Competition. I had missed almost all of it, and I had managed to tune in just in time for the final round. One of the finalists was an industrial school from Mie Prefecture (way in the south of the country).
The other finalist was Seishin Gakuen, my school.
My jaw just about hit the ground....
...especially when I saw who the students were.
The opposing team was made up entirely of seniors. Our team, on the other hand, was made up almost exclusively of 10th graders...members of what has often been called the worst class in our school's history. I'm sure you remember how much I griped about them last year when they were in my grade 9 classes.
I wish I could say that they won. They didn't. It was really close, but no cigar. Still, the boys put on one heck of a show. They looked absolutely brilliant. However, there were a couple of times where the formation wobbled a bit (leading the captain, watching from the bench, to make some truly classic faces that got broadcast to millions), and it cost them a lot...particularly because the opposing team from Mie was phenomenal. The Mie group's routine was also a bit more artistic. Even so, the captain of the Mie team was stunned. When the announcer asked him for a comment, he stammered, "I...I don't see how we won."
I guess I should also point out that, at the staff meeting this evening, it was pointed out that the recent achievement test results for our 10th graders turned out to be the best in the last eight years...even though they were such hopelessly aggravating suckwads last year. I guess there is a moral to all this: sometimes it pays to have a bit of faith in people. No matter how much they may seem like sodding hopeless wads of surplus sewage slick, they may still have the potential to turn around and impress you when you least suspect it.
Maybe that bodes well for this year's 9th grade class, because, as far as I'm concerned, they stink just as bad if not worse.

(I tried to find a news link, but they were all in Japanese. Sorry.)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Winter Festivals

Here are some happenings in the Portland area for the coming winter-which seems to have arrived early this year!

First on Saturday, October 30, The Portland Revels is holding an Elizabethan Feast as a fundraiser for their 10th anniversary Revels show later at Yule. For info on this event, and the The Revels main production in early December, visit their website.

Then in the first saturday in November there's the good ol' Verboort Sausage Festival-it's only one day and there's a shuttle to the beer garden, games for the kids! Good food, and you'll pass the old Wren farm on the way there; where dad used to catch crayfish in the creek. In later years, his elderly aunt couldn't quite keep up the place, (sad story- the only child she had by a con man who ran off, had died as an infant, so she decided she hated men)-she also shot a neighbor who was checking on her (didn't kill him though-just got him good in the leg). I think her relatives came and got her after that. She worked for several years at the Festival, it got started in the 30's to raise money for the local Catholic School (Visitation Parish).

Last but not least and FREE for all is the Willamette/Columbia Christmas Ships-bring hot chocolate in a thermos and hang out in your car at one of the riverside parks! Here's their website!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Talk Like a Pirate Day-TODAY!

Ahoy you landlubbers, will ye go in search of treasure, accost lovely lasses or lads as ye may please, and sail the seven seas in search of adventure? Then hoist up yer sail and point yer sword to the title bar, me hearties!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Need a Shed? Need an extra room?

Ladybug and I subscribe to a hip magazine called Ready Made magazine. A few issues back, they had an article called "Raising a Blazona." The challenge was to build an inexpensive building that was cool looking, usable for both living and storage, and could be built without a zoning permit. The article contained the following...

Need a little space? An extra room for sleepovers? Maybe a home office or an art studio? Edgar Blazona has the 100 square feet for you. The 32-year-old Blazona is a former graffiti artist turned furniture designer whose modular dwellings have been installed in art museums, at health spas, and by anyone willing to pony up the $15,000 they cost to build.


So, snared as we were by the Le Corbusier charm of his casitas, but crimped by the price tag, we asked Blazona to put together something a little different: a cozy, code-safe, zoning-friendly 10' x 10' version for elbow-greasers on a tight budget.

Nothing could prepare us for the shock and awe we felt when he showed us what he'd created. Blazona's ReadyMade shed is constructed from Plexiglas, steel, and prefinished plywood-and it costs just $1,500.

We have a deck that is HUGE. It has an entire section dedicated to a hot tub that never came to fruition from the previous owners. My wheels are turning and we may yet build a room using some lumber saved from this extra decking. It is not a done deal as I most likely have a second hernia surgery coming up and, as always, a million things planned and time to do only a thousand. But we bought the plans from ReadyMade (scroll down for details) and we are ready should the need or want arise (hopefully I am wrong about the hernia, but when you can feel gas against the skin of your stomach after a big bowl of chili, it leaves little room for doubt).

If we go through with it, my plan is to face the plexiglass side true south and create a lightweight overhang for the summer. Unbeknownst to the county, I was thinking about sneaking in some kind of insulation so it would be a real, usable passive solar room. Of course, if it were passive solar, it would need a concrete mass to store heat in the winter and absorb heat in the summer. Hmmm. More thinking is needed I see. Well, there will be time for that. Concrete is spendy, so maybe there is a better plan.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Monumental Nuptials

My wedding was very traditional fare for Japan. The ceremony itself was a small and very typical Shinto affair, i.e. notable mainly for its simplicity (not to mention the cool, Heian Era music, my actually drinking the sake [and getting quite a buzz off of it], and my dad goofing up the prayer ritual). The formal banquet, on the other hand, was typically flamboyant.

There were over 300 guests, most of whom Kiharu barely knew and I had never seen before. Several spoke a dialect I could barely understand. Some were very, very old. Gifts were given to each of them. The food, which Kiharu and I had no time to eat (except one flower of broccoli that I quickly popped in my mouth when I could no longer stand it), was a gourmet course including several local specialties. I don't even want to try to guess how many gallons of beer, sake, whiskey, tea, juice, and Coca-Cola were put away. In keeping with modern custom, we wore three different outfits at intervals: traditional Japanese kimonos, Western wedding costumes, & Western formal wear. Every time we made an entrance, a different spectacle was presented. (In the case of the formal wear, we came in under the black-light-illuminated haze of a fog machine as "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" played in the background.) There was a concert performance by musician friends of mine plus my sister. Kiharu's coworkers sang a song (badly). Several individuals were asked to give speeches (which tended not to be listened to on account of most people being roaring drunk). The decorations were fancy. At the end, Kiharu and I marched out as the band played the "Liberty Bell" march (and the Japanese guests couldn't figure out why the handful of Westerners there were all laughing and why my sister threw in a quick "pfft" at the end of a phrase). All of the guests that had traveled more than fifteen minutes were put in rooms there in the Itako Hotel. There were two or three informal parties after the formal banquet. Itako's economy definitely benefitted.

Yes, it cost a BLOODY FORTUNE. Japanese weddings always do.

However, there are those that can't be content with the normal Tradition & Commercialism variety wedding, so they have to go out on a serious limb.

How about you guys? Do you have any good wedding tales to put in the thread? (Hint, hint...)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Speaking of Press Bias vs. Freedom of the Press...

Last year I had a letter I wrote to the Daily Yomiuri Newspaper published. In it I expressed my outrage at the fact that someone had mounted denial-of-service attacks on Al-Jazeera's website for an extended period and then finally hacked it and replaced its content with an image of an American flag. In other words, a symbol of a free country was being used to deny freedom of the press.

Even more frustrating is the fact that this attack was almost certainly carried out by an American, a citizen of a country that is so aggressively proud of the freedoms it claims to espouse.

Al-Jazeera is currently banned from operating in Iraq as its broadcasts have been accused of "inciting violence". Its offices in Baghdad have long since been sealed, and its reporters are denied entry into the country (if they can be identified). The Allawi government has recently extended this ban. For some time, Al-Jazeera has had to rely on other news sources for its coverage of events in Iraq.

Strange, then, that Rumsfeld recently implied that Al-Jazeera is still operating in Iraq in direct cahoots with the terrorists. The link goes to Al-Jazeera's surprisingly reserved rebuttal.

I know some of you are just aching to click the comments link to inform us that Al-Jazeera's broadcasts have always had a decidedly pro-insurgent, anti-occupation slant. Probably, but we all know that all the news sources we're familiar with (particularly the oh-so-popular, oh-so-objective Fox News) have always had a pro-occupation, anti-insurgent slant, and nobody is censoring them, are they? Fair is fair, right? After all, true objectiveness requires viewing both sides of the argument and making one's own decision.

(Actually, someone wrote a rebuttal to my Daily Yomiuri letter saying something like, "People don't need to know the unpleasant truths behind everything, especially if the cause is just," and also, "Fairness isn't always a good thing, especially if it leads to deception and violence." Okay, if that's true, I guess that means we need to stop our news sources from praising the efforts of our own armed forces. Doing so might encourage people to join them, and that would lead to more violence, right?)
(The truth is that I support our armed forces with all my heart, and so should you.)

How About a 97 Saturn?

Imagine a quasit...

So, we bravely traded in our 97 Saturn today for a...

...97 Saturn. What? Are we idiots you ask? Yes, I answer. But that is beside the point. Our old car had 88,000+ miles and our new has 66,000+. Our old car was a manual transmission (which my wife is currently untrained on) and the new one is automatic. The old? Cassette and so-so speakers. The new? CD with equalizer and good speaks. The old? Low-end sedan. The new? Station wagon.

So the numbers came out right and we have side-graded to a different car that more closely fits the family needs. To pay for the difference, we are selling Ladybug's 2000 Geo Metro to her sister who is teaching at 3 (count 'em, three) universities this fall.

So there we are. With a quasit.

Nature Magazine: Bush vs. Kerry on Science

Nature magazine posed 15 science related questions to the candidates and their responses can be found at the link above.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Can You Say, "Hypocrisy," Neighbor?

I knew you could.

Sir Powell is upset that Putin is rolling back some democratic reforms and giving himself more power in order to combat terrorism.

"We understand the need to fight against terrorism ... but in an attempt to go after terrorists I think one has to strike a proper balance to make sure that you don't move in a direction that takes you away from the democratic reforms or the democratic process," Powell said, adding Washington would raise the issue with Moscow "in the days ahead."

In other words, it's wrong for Putin to do what our own administration has been doing for the past few years.
Sheesh. Talk about the cherry calling the tomato red.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Get rid of the cats!!!! Or the oven gets it!

Vulgarius writes:

I had an interesting ordeal this morning. While making my morning coffee, Grey (one of our cats) brought in his morning breakfast rodent through the cat door. But as I walked over to grab him by the scruff with snack in mouth and toss him back out, The large rat got loose and began running around the dining room. At that moment I noticed something different about this rat. It had a bushy tail and the squeaking was a little different. The alleged rat ran into the kitchen and then tripped, landing flat on its back, arms and legs splayed out. At that point I realized that this rat was actually a Northern Flying Squirrel. Native but very very rare. I tried to get a tupperware dish and catch it while it was shrieking helplesssly on its back but it leapt up and ran under and then into the oven frame. Now we have to wait untill I get home with a nutdriver (no pun intended) so I can remove the back plate and then the little critter. Im reasoning that since they are nocturnal it will stay hidden in the frame untill I get home. I will try to forward pics if I can catch it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Going light when backpacking

Outdoors lite

When it comes to backpacking equipment, enthusiasts pounce on every ounce to trim weight down to the absolute minimum

Paul Field forgoes all but the necessities when he takes part in days-long hiking, bushwhacking, bicycling and paddling events known as adventure races. To save on weight, he and his teammates don't bring sleeping bags if they aren't required to.

"You kind of just plop down on the ground in one pile and use body heat to keep you warm," said Field, 38, who lives in Northeast Portland.

Field is so scrupulous about how much he carries that he knows the exact weight of every item he carries. His "GoLite" backpack: 1 pound 15 ounces. His ultra-light windbreaker: 2 ounces. His socks: 1.5 ounces. And how about his underwear?

"Sometimes you skip the underwear. You know, go commando," a slightly sheepish Field said.

Well, it would be nice to be able to get into the woods with less weight, but there are concerns for most of us. For one thing, a lot of the real innovative stuff requires reinvestment. Water filters, ultralight packs and sleeping gear, and so forth all add up in costs, so a measured amount of outlay is sometimes in order.

Still, I felt like I was carrying a pickup canopy on my back on my last trip. It is plain that there are better avenues to check out here to make the trip easier and more fun (and better for my foot with the fallen arch). I will keep you posted.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Some Washington Schools Go Organic for Lunch

The tempting smell of pepperoni pizza drifted through the air as students poured into the cafeteria. But 11-year-old Cameron Landry walked straight past the cheesy slices and started piling organic lettuce, pita pockets and blueberries on his tray.


While fried chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers still reign supreme in most cafeterias, a small but growing number of schools are turning to organic food as a way to improve children's health and fight obesity.

The Seattle school district recently adopted a new policy banning junk food and encouraging organic food in school cafeterias. California school districts in Berkeley, Santa Monica, and Palo Alto have organic food programs. And through a program sponsored by the organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm, schools in Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut have or are getting new vending machines stocked with all-organic treats.

As always, read the whole thing. Here is my take on the whole organic movement (ohmygosh, another list):

  1. Taste: Vegetables taste more like vegetables. They are "gamier." Broccoli and asparagus have more flavor, but they are smaller and must be cooked more quickly before they wilt and go bad. Organic meats taste better...more like they are supposed to; maybe more primitive. There is something about lacking bulking hormones and being doped up on antibiotics (what, are we asking for a supervirus?) that just plain tastes better than regular beef. Even ground beef and turkey actually taste like what they are. Once you've had Oregon Painted Hills beef, it is hard to go back to Texas rawhide super-ranch beef.

  2. Local: There is something wonderful about helping your neighbor. Of course, there are family farms that are non-organic, but there is something truly ruggedly individualistic (as a certain Oxycontin-addicted Limbaugh would say) about a local organic farmer. Keep an eye out at your local farmer's market and take care of your neighbors...although some may need to travel to Salinas or something.

  3. Non-petroleum based:. Modern high-yield farming requires a great deal of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. How are these produced? Oil, mein freunds und freundens. What happens, as it inevitably will, when oil gets up to $70, $80, $90 a barrel or more? Food will, all of a sudden, get much more expensive. People will naturally look around for similar ways of doing the same job as petro-agricultural compounds. Consider organic farmers the technologists of the future. They are using technology to develop ways of increasing yield without straining the land in a way that requires oil we cannot afford to use.

  4. Non-corporate: Don't get me wrong. I am a total capitalist and I believe in choice. However, the ADMs and ConAgras have made a living off of sponging money off of taxpayers to not grow this, not grow that, stay competitive with third world countries, etc. Heck, let's be real Republicans and throw them to the sharks of the real market. Organic farms must live without most of the subsidies of these giants. It is part of the price of true independence. The chances for mad cow disease drop by orders of magnitude when eating organic beef. Organic growers aren't pushing the envelope in such dangerous ways. Don't be fooled, though. Technology and innovation abound in organic agriculture.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the rightful heir to the practical value of Martha Stewart coupled with the goodness of local support and true individual capitalism: Mary Jane Butters. We've visited her farm and her operation combines modern sense with traditional values to make good food for all. Check her out here. She rocks. Ladybug will certainly concur. Also, her dried foods kick total a*s over the usual backpacker food: MSG-laden headache producing crap. Get yourself some panbread or brownies for starters and you'll be hooked.

If you don't show your wives this post; I will be obliged to kick your collective butts (unless you are heterosexual women or homosexual men of course).

Getting by gets harder in Oregon

The rising costs of eight basic expenses dwarves the increase in median household income, a study finds

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Forget the rising cost of living. It's the cost of just getting by that's stressing many Oregon families at or near the median income.

From 1999 to 2003, bills for eight of the most common expenses increased 27.7 percent in Oregon, while the state's median household income climbed only 2.5 percent.

By the end of 2003, the monthly cost of gasoline, electricity, natural gas, garbage collection, water and sewer service, auto insurance and homeowners' insurance in Oregon consumed an average of $460 out of the state's median monthly family income of roughly $3,500, according to an analysis by The Oregonian.

The whole article is worth reading. As someone whose salary hasn't changed since the Clintonator was in office, I can tell you that:

  • A. Things are spendier

  • B. Times are tougher

We took some actions to help ourselves out including switching to compact fluorescents, putting cheap outlet strips on our low watt, but constant, energy producers like microwave, TV, and stereo. More importantly, we put a fiberglass blanket around our water heater and turned the temperature down as low as we could comfortably stand it. We have a big expense getting rid of our 30 year old furnace, but we will be replacing it with a 90% efficient model which will save money in the long run (and give us a healthy tax break to boot).

There is a book by the Rocky Mountain Institute called Home-made Money that outlines a number of cost-effective ways to save money by becoming more energy efficient. It appears to be out of print, but I have a copy for friends, relatives, and neighbors who want to borrow it for a few days. Luckily, here are two sites at RMI that are almost as informative:

Energy Efficiency: First Things First

Household Energy Efficiency - Home Energy Briefs

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Glide is in the Hall

Drexler reaches pinnacle
The former Trail Blazers record-setting guard known as "The Glide" is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- He was cut from his high school basketball team in 10th grade, and he has been defeated in h-o-r-s-e by middle-aged billionaire Paul Allen, but Clyde Drexler never has lost his pursuit of basketball excellence.

"I don't think anyone has played more basketball than me, ever. I have played more than anybody in the entire world," Drexler said. "My goal was to play more than anyone because I wanted to be the best. And looking back at it, you have to truly love the game to spend that much time doing it."

Drexler's passion and work ethic were rewarded Friday night when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame after a 15-year NBA career, including his first 111/2 seasons in Portland (1983-1995).

"This is the ultimate compliment to a player's game," Drexler said. "I'm in awe."

A graceful yet powerful 6-foot-7 shooting guard, Drexler was renowned for his dunks -- many of which came at the end of soaring leaps -- which helped earn him the nickname "The Glide." He was known for his all-around game, and was the third player to amass 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists, joining Oscar Robertson and John Havlicek.

He certainly deserves it. Go Clyde!

Objective or Left-Leaning My A**.......

Now, THIS would merit an "asinine", or at least a "bloody irritating" tag on Fark.

I turned on CNN news, which I hadn't watched for a long time, to catch the ceremony marking the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So what did I get?

First they put on fifteen minutes of pro-Bush propaganda. They showed plenty of footage of Bush attacking Kerry's stand on Iraq and terrorism, but they didn't allow Kerry a nanosecond. In and among it all, they interviewed a whole bunch of people in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania that were firmly in the Bush camp regardless of their party affiliation (a point that they went to almost obnoxious lengths to make clear). Some of the comments that were made included:

- "I don't like the war in Iraq, but the President obviously knows more than we do, so we should trust him."
- "I opposed the war at first, and I was really upset and scared when they sent me there. I saw guys in my unit, friends of mine, get hurt, maybe even killed. But now I know the President was right, and I stand by him."
- "I fully support our commander-in-chief. I'm glad he's sticking to his guns, and we need to let him do his job regardless of all the casualties and whatever."
- "I'm a Democrat, even liberal, but I don't think Kerry will be as strong as Bush in keeping our country safe."

The only pro-Kerry voice they showed was a very unconvincing-sounding guy who said, "Kerry's a military man, so I trust him."

After that, they went on to talk about Al-Qaeda, how they were still active, how they're still really evil and really ugly, how Osama bin Laden is still clearly a major part of their leadership, how they were likely involved in the recent attack in Russia, and how they're apparently prepared to pull off an imminent attack on America, most likely to disrupt the elections.

Then they went on to sports.

When the first moment of silence came on, they showed Bush at the White House, not the people in New York.

This borders on obscene.
No, it doesn't. It is MOST DEFINITELY obscene.

And now they have just repeated that broadcast.
I have double checked. I was worried that I had somehow turned on Fox News by mistake, but it is most definitely CNN.
This "news" program, so often accused of a "liberal bias", is blatantly using the 9/11 anniversary to promote the Bush campaign. I'd be just as p***ed about it (happy, Snabbie?) if they were wiping Kerry's face, words, and supporters all over the screen.


(Yes, I know I ended that with a preposition. Shut the *uck up.)

Liberal bias, my a*s, speaking of which, these whining Fox fans on the op-ed pages can shove their "liberal bias" moans and groans up their own aft shafts.


(I really hate my diet...)

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Simple Life...

I mean really simple. Learn about lithic living and how it was done before modern tools came along. Build friction fires and wearing animal skins cured with brains and so forth.

I'm hungry already...

Link via Vulgarius

Fair D**n Warning

This is a PG-13 website. Any further un-asterisked use of words you can't use on TV will be deleted (or any similar words if I think you are being an a**hole). Thanks for respecting our readers.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Germany: Nation of Naughty, Naughty, Last Names

Fuchs wants Kuntz talks

Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg are reportedly talking to former German international striker Stefan Kuntz about the vacant post of sport director.

The Wolfsburger Nachrichten reports that Wolves executive Klaus Fuchs is planning to meet Kuntz to discuss the position left vacant after Peter Pander's recent resignation.

Do you mind if we just call you Schucks and Darns?

Link via Dave Barry's Blog

Update: Thar be bad cussin' type words in the comments, so skip 'em if you are offended by them.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Cytoplasmic Domain

By measuring the rates of endocytosis for either the overexpressed receptor, or that of other endogenous receptors, we were able to show that the endocytosis of identical receptors could be saturated, but a complete lack of competition exists between the transferrin receptor (TfR), the low-density lipoprotein receptor, and the epidermal growth factor receptor. And my left ear resembles a speckled warbler.

Smelly robot eats flies to generate its own power

LONDON - British scientists are developing a robot that will generate its own power by eating flies.

The idea is to produce electricity by catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells that will break down sugar in the insects' skeletons and release electrons that will drive an electric current.

"Called EcoBot II, the robot is part of a drive to make "release and forget" robots that can be sent into dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry our remote industrial or military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

Take that you stupid spiders.

Urned Notoriety

Ashes of Cremated Man Crash Into Oregon Home

FOREST GROVE, Ore. - An unwelcome guest recently crashed into Barbara Vreeland's home: the cremated remains of a Washington man.

The 46-year-old man died of natural causes in June. He wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered over Mountain View Memorial Gardens, a cemetery near Vreeland's home, Forest Grove police Capt. Aaron Ashbaugh said Tuesday.

Family members told police the bag of ashes slipped as they were circling the cemetery in a small plane they had hired for the day.


Vreeland's roof is being fixed and the man's family is paying for the damage.

"I understand the man wanted to be with his (deceased) relatives," Vreeland said.

"I feel for those people. But I think some of their relative is still in our attic."

At least it didn't happen in ASHland. Sorry, I just needed to VENT some of my puns.

Sorry. That was wrong and I apologize (fingers crossed behind my back).

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

You Know You're a Real Hybrid Owner When...

  • 49.9 is not the same as 50.1 when it comes to miles per gallon.

  • You lean forward going up hills instead of hitting the gas.

  • You're not out of gas until the low-fuel light has been on for about 80 miles.

  • You memorize topographical maps of your daily drive.

  • You won't run errands unless they are more than 50 miles away so you don't hurt your average.

  • While you don't mind showing friends your hybrid, you'd rather not drive them around because the extra weight might lower your gas mileage.

  • You have a perfectly good air conditioner but refuse to use it unless you're going downhill.

  • You gleefully buy the cheap gas.

  • You post your gas mileage online.

Shout, Shout, Let It All Out...

This is an artist we can do without...

All of us have certain musical artists in mind whose fame and fortune continue to baffle us. In fact, there are some that we are no doubt convinced sold their souls to Satan a la Faust to even get listened to, let alone nail a place in the charts. Tastes vary between individuals. They also tend to be a lot stronger in some people than others. (Take, for example, my friend and fellow music collaborator, guitarist extraordinare and beer-loving Aussie Paul "Crusty" Lauritson, whose list of Most Hated Musical Artists would probably merit a blog of its own.)

So, people, what is YOUR list of Musical Artists That Deserve Their Own, Private Plane of Hell?

Such Fairness in Politics Is So Inspiring

First we had ads on TV in which veterans who were in Vietnam a year or more after Kerry's tour there ended impugned his record of service there.

Polls immediately seemed to indicate a drop in Kerry's popularity, as people began to see him as less trustworthy.

Bush denied he had any connection with those vets, but then some of them ended up being appointed to the VA committee.

Soon after those ads were aired, vets that had actually served in Vietnam while Kerry had been there came out and said that Kerry's record was on the level and his decorations earned.

Now we hear that the Pentagon, under Rumsfeld's direction, is going to investigate Kerry's service records and awards.

Any bets on how objective that investigation is going to be...or whether it'll be wrapped up in time for the election?

The Neocons are playing dirty, as expected. The question is whether the Kerry campaign can meet them on their own playing field. May the better below-the-belt hitter not win!

Monday, September 06, 2004

And now, the Album Cover

to the Jersey Cow debut album, 517 Stalactites

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Would You Buy a Used Car from This Man?

An article in today's paper said that Bush was leading Kerry by double digits. According to a "national poll taken during the Republican National Convention", Bush leads Kerry 52% to 41%, with Nader scooping up approximately 3%. The margin of error is given as +/- 4%.

The same poll says that 47% of respondents said they trusted Bush to run the economy, while 45% said they trusted Kerry.

Veteran pollsters say that polls taken during a party convention should be viewed with caution because everyone's attention is focused on one particular party at the time. Even so, it is somehow disquieting that Bush could be leading by such a margin in polls when, at the same time, at least half of New Yorkers are saying, "Bush knew," and more than half are calling for the 9/11 investigation to be expanded to take care of still-unanswered questions. It tends to make one wonder just what sort of priorities people have in choosing who they vote for.

(I know I ended that last sentence with a preposition. Shut up.)

One must admit that this most definitely brings back memories of the Clinton - Dole election, when Clinton won by a very large margin despite being accused of criminal activity (read "outright depravity"). With all due respect to former president Clinton while he's in for some very risky surgery, people were saying they didn't trust him at all as a person, or even as a president, but they were afraid of having a regime change just when the economy was finally on the upswing.

Such reasoning does actually have some small degree of sense to it, but I'm having trouble applying it to the current administration. You may point out the fact that unemployment has finally shown signs of leveling off if not going back down, but we're also seeing spiraling deficits (while cutting taxes, mainly on the rich), runaway outsourcing, a so-called "War on Terror" that has pointedly put its own goals even further out of reach (and, in fact, seems only to have served to earn Bush votes and Cheney's "former" company profit thus far), and clear efforts on the part of the administration to curtail if not eliminate the rights that have meant so much to our country for so long.

It's like people are saying, "I don't want to buy a used car from this man, but at least he's been around for a while!"
Pretty suspect reasoning, I'd say.

What things in life could truly be called "noble"?

Since we seem to be on a poetry theme here, how about a Japanese classic? There's actually more to this than meets the idea. Can you figure out the main point here?

Noble Things
What are noble things?
A small kimono colored purple and white,
A white egg,
A sherbet with clear syrup in a new, silver bowl,
A crystal rosary,
A wisteria,
A plum blossom capped with snow,
A cute, little boy eating strawberries.

- Sei-Shonagon (10th century)
(translated by N. Hirano / K. Maxfield)

So, what things in life would you truly consider to be "noble"?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Some William Stafford

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all-- my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.


Cold nights outside the taverns in Wyoming
pickups and big semi's lounge idling, letting their
haunches twitch now and then in gusts of powder snow,
their owners inside for hours, forgetting as well
as they can the miles, the circling plains, the still town
that connects to nothing but cold and space and a few
stray ribbons of pavement, icy guides to nothing
but bigger towns and other taverns that glitter and wait:
Denver, Cheyenne.

Hibernating in the library of the school on the hill
a few pieces by Thomas Aquinas or Saint Teresa
and the fragmentary explorations of people like Alfred
North Whitehead crouch and wait amid research folders
on energy and military recruitment posters glimpsed
by the hard stars. The school bus by the door, a yellow
mound, clangs open and shut as the wind finds a loose
door and worries it all night, letting the hollow
students count off and break up and blow away
over the frozen ground.

Another Stupid Product for Children

Pimp and prostitute costumes for children would probably label this as "asinine." Maybe they already have.

And now, Juicy Juice presents, Mad Strawberry Coolers with a splash of chardonnay flavor...brought to you by the Inappropriate Corporation.

jersey cow 517 stalactites

This was the subject line of one of my 100+ morning spams. It seemed quirky, funny, and possibly a good name for a band.

Update: Courtesy of DewKid, click the title link to hear them...

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life.
I woke to black flak and nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)

Friday, September 03, 2004

.NET Week

I spent this week doing 3 AppDev computer training courses in Microsoft Visual Studio .NET focusing mostly on Visual Basic .NET and doing web services using nice, clean, scrubby SOAP (simple object access protocol).

Java fans will be impressed that Microsoft stole their concept of namespaces to replace the jumbled maze of DLLs, libraries, ActiveX/COM objects, and bits of MacGiver inspired household items that was the Windows API.

(Aside: If none of this makes sense to you, don't worry. Other posts will be less geeky.)

I am actually psyched about programming using .NET. They take care of so many things that I can concentrate on business logic (or game logic or socialist logic, but mostly business logic) instead of having to build widgets all the time like I do now. This is a good thing since much of the old stuff won't work as written. I won't have to rewrite most of my utility functions.

The disadvantage to .NET is that you are still tied to the Windows platform. I don't consider that a big deal because we all acquiesced to the Bill Gates God several years ago. At least the Web Services use open standards and I know that RealBasic (for Mac, Win, and Linux) can handle the SOAP/XML wrappers, so it can utilize the server on Windows and still have a rich multi-platform client.

If you made it down this far, you must be the DewKid. I am curious to see how the speed is. All .NET languages, VB, C++, C#, and J# compile into object code that is compiled on the run by the CLR (common language runtime). Sounds a bit like Java to me!

All in all, this new stuff I learned should, if nothing else, make my work more challenging and fun for a while.

A Sad, Sad Day

At Least 200 Hostages Dead After Hours of Pitched Battles

The siege of a school here in southern Russia ended today in panic, violence and death 52 hours after it began. At least 200 people — most of them students, teachers and parents — died, according to official reports and witnesses, after two large explosions sparked pitched battles between the heavily armed hostage-takers and Russian forces.

Ambulances, police cars and any other vehicle that was free rushed as many as 700 hostages to hospitals in frenzied convoys that careered through the streets of this small, leafy city in North Ossetia.

Scores survived, staggering from the school even as intense gunfire sputtered and grenades exploded around them. Many were barely dressed, their faces strained with fear and exhaustion, their bodies bloodied by shrapnel and gunshots. Many others never got out. Their bodies lay in the charred wreckage of Middle School No. 1's gymnasium, whose roof had collapsed and burned, a police officer here said. Many people feared the toll would rise.

What a horrible day in Russia. The pain of the parents of the dead and wounded children is unimaginable even, I think, for those of us who have lost children. It is the tiniest of silver linings that the surviving children are now out of there; I hope they are all being well cared for now.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Clean Diesel and Biofuel Alternatives

(need to order premium content to get the full thing)

A technical white paper that looks at the environmental and engineer issues of diesel fuels

The United States consumes about 5.45 MM bbl/d of nominally low sulfur (<500ppm) distillate fuels, mostly as diesel, jet fuel and heating oil. This compares to a gasoline market of about 8.9 MM bbl/d. Almost all of the diesel fuel is used by the heavy-duty trucking industry, which must use low-sulfur fuel. The balance of the diesel fuel produced is used by off-road and railroad vehicles. In the U.S, only a small proportion of the low-sulfur fuel is used by automobiles and light (e.g., pickup) trucks, but that fraction is much higher in Europe and is growing.

A new generation of advanced-technology diesel engines is making rapid inroads into the automotive market in Europe. Already, more than 45% of new car sales there are diesels, and the rate of penetration is rising. These new diesels offer clean, smoke-free exhausts and a performance that, under typical driving conditions, can be superior to the corresponding gasoline-engined car.

All I am asking for is a hybrid-diesel (running on biodiesel of course) that plugs into the wall and can go in all-electric mode for short distances (15-20 miles). I could run that car very cheaply and with much reduced fossil fuel impact. This care is another step closer.