Sunday, January 29, 2012

Florida public safety fail..

This is a horrible story from Florida and it has nothing to do with either Newt, Mitt, or crazy Uncle Paul.  I'm talking about the series of vehicle crashes near Gainesville. Florida last night that claimed the lives of nine people. Police: At least 9 dead in Florida in multiple crashes
At least nine people were killed in a series of overnight accidents in northern Florida, blamed on poor visibility from smoke from a nearby brush fire, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said.  
Most of the collisions were on Interstate 75, said sheriff's Sgt. Todd Kelly, with some on U.S. Highway 441.
The crashes occurred between 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday in the same areas, he said. A responding officer reported visibility was virtually zero, he said...
The smoke is from a brush fire at the nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, he said. Darkness was also thought to be a "contributing factor" in the crashes, Kelly said.
And you have to wonder if the local authorities couldn't have done something different in response to the smoldering brush fire along side the highway.  They had to have learned somewhere in their training about how once an accident happens on a highway and there is poor visibility from fog or smoke then there is a huge risk that other drivers will plow their vehicles into the wreckage.  And the authorities knew about the brush fire yesterday afternoon when it was already creating a disturbance on the highways.   Brush fire burns on prairie next to U.S. 441 

A brush fire in PaynesGainesville has burned an estimated 40 acres and could possibly smolder overnight.
Park official Andi Christman said the blaze was reported about 2:45 p.m. Saturday and quickly spread in the parched prairie...
The fire in the open vista of the prairie became an attraction for passersby. Several people in cars and on bicycles stopped along U.S. 441 to watch the blaze and the efforts of firefighters.
To be sure, you could point out how hindsight is 20-20, but that is no excuse for the public safety officials failure to anticipate that which should have been obvious beforehand and employ some  preventive measures.  Police and fire crews should have either closed down the stretch of road altogether or at least parked heavy equipment with flashers and signs before the smoky stretch of highway to warn drivers to slow down as they approached the fire.

The accidents took place over the course of hours, between 11:30PM and 4:00AM.  What was the plan except to keep calling in more tow trucks and ambulances from neighboring communities.  This is the type of situation where the public sector aka  "the government" can either succeed or fail. When it succeeds, no one talks about accidents that were prevented.  When it fails, you have people in charge trying to blame the deaths on the fact that it was dark outside.

update:  Fla. officials defend decision to reopen highway minutes before accident that killed 10 people 
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Minutes before two pileups killed 10 people on a highway shrouded in fog and thick smoke from a brush fire, the Florida Highway Patrol had reopened the always busy six-lane interstate after an earlier serious accident. A sergeant and lieutenant determined after about three hours that conditions had cleared enough for drivers, but visibility quickly became murky again, officials said Monday.

NASACR fan knows that chain reaction accidents can happen on restarts.  Imagine one heading South on I-75 out of Gainseville after a three-hour delay with heavy smoke and fog across the track and no spotter.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I call bullshit on this photograph at Huffpo

On Huffington Post there is a story about a  recent picture of Planet Earth provided by NASA taken from a satellite.   Blue Marble 2012: NASA Releases High Definition Image Of Earth (PHOTO)  I don't consider this image to be an actual photo.   That word refers to a captured image of visible light unless otherwise specified,  particularly when the image is being compared to an actual photo, in this case the one taken by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972.   This is not what North America actually looks like to the human eye.  I'm not sure what data was used and what the brown regions represent but I seriously doubt it wasn't visible light.  Fer crying out loud, the entire continent of North America looks like the Gobi desert in this (PHOTO). ha.  Oooga Booga!

The space agency this week announced that the satellite, which was formerly known as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, would be renamed to honor Verner E. Suomi. Suomi was a University of Wisconsin meteorologist who NASA calls "the father of satellite meteorology."


For reference, here is what that picture of Earth from space looks like at the  NASA website...

What the Fudge?  Is that the point in all of this to get people to think the USA has become a giant dustbowl without actually tellin them.  Just show a giant brown continent with the word (PHOTO) instead.

I think this was lame.  There should have been some explanation that the Suomi satellite image was not a photo in the traditional sense.  The purpose of the Suomi satellite is predicting weather not taking pictures for postcards.  Here is mission:  
The Visible-Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometric Atmospheric Sounder (VAS) was a modification of the original spin-scan design with additional detectors for the proper spectral bands. By observing temperature and moisture structures, Suomi hoped to improve the prediction of severe weather.
So it is a useful image for, but not this story. Unless you are trying to mislead people about climate change.  I say there is enough real data for that case, and no need to use these kind of tactics.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why did we leave Iraq but stay in Afghanistan?

I am a bit surprised that more people aren't familiar with this.  The news broke over a year ago.  NYT: US Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.
The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
In addition to those minerals, there was also discovery of an enormous quantity of rare earth elements concentrated in a small area. Huge rare-earth material in Helmand: USGS  

The Khanashin carbonatites in southern Helmand Province have an estimated one million metric tonnes of rare earth material, according to a US Geological Survey (USGS) estimate...

Rare earth elements are important ingredients in high-strength magnets, metal alloys for batteries and light-weight structures and phosphors. These are essential components for many current and emerging alternative energy technologies, such as electric vehicles, photo-voltaic cells, energy-efficient lighting and wind power.

Products containing rare-earth elements also are used in a number of key defence applications More than 95 percent of global REE production now comes from China, which in 2010 exported approximately 30,000 metric tonnes of such products.
Mining offers a fast track to modernization for Afghanistan. The influx of capital investment for new mining operations and the cash flow the mines generate will bring economic growth and a functional infrastructure to the remote provinces.  No invading force has been able to maintain a long-term presence in Afghanistan before, but then none have done much to help the people of Afghanistan develop their economy, choosing instead to focus on maintaining military dominance.  

Two of the minerals in particular, lithium and the rare-earth elements have special significance for the future of the energy grid and the electrification of the automobile by enabling lightweight battery technology and motor efficiency gains that will in turn reduce oil consumption and carbon emissions.   As the mines increase output, the additional supply will lower market prices benefiting both consumers and manufacturers around the globe.  Mine baby mine.

It makes strategic sense for the US to maintain a meaningful presence in Afghanistan long enough to enable both the development of the transportation infrastructure and stabilization of the Afghanistan government needed to enable the new mining economy.  This is an important economic, political, and environmental mission for the USA all enabled by the brave men and women in the US Military and our coalition partners. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Newt has a hissy fit, lashes at media for pointing out his creepiness.

It isn't a secret that Newt Gingrich has been carrying around lots of baggage ever since the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings in early 1999 during which Newt resigned as speaker of the House.  After all, it wasn't going to help the GOP sell their case to the public against President Clinton when their own Speaker of the House was cheating on his wife as well.  A memory refresher from Wikipedia
Gingrich also acknowledged cheating on Ginther while leading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton for allegations of perjury involving the Paula Jones sexual harassment civil case and the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky...

Speaker Newt Gingrich, announced the end of his candidacy for Speaker and his resignation from Congress from the floor of the house after his own marital infidelity came to light..
Fast forward to now.. Tonight at the GOP presidential candidate debate in South Carolina, Newt had a hissy fit when the debate moderator John King asked him if he would like to respond to allegations from his second wife Marianne that Gingrich had asked her to agree to an "open" marriage, as in just accept that he had a Mistress, shut up and move on.  Yikes!  That sure as hell aint gonna fly in the Bible belt, or in any other belt for that matter.  So Newt did the only thing he could do as a political candidate, which is lash out at the media.

A defiant Gingrich said “the story is false” and lashed out at what he described as “the destructive, vicious, negative nature” of the media.  
“Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things,” Gingrich said. “To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”  

 We know that Gingrich had already dumped his first wife.  He discussed the divorce with her while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.
Gingrich married his second wife, Marianne Ginther, months after he divorced Battley in 1981. According to Battley, Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.
"There are things in my own life that I have gotten on my knees and turned to God and prayed about," Gingrich said.
Oh, please spare us all the nonsense about getting down on your knees and praying Newt.  But as for the new allegations about the open marriage, lets go back to see what Newt said about the breakup of his second marriage at the time.  Also from the same Wikipedia link..
The couple "went through a very difficult time," Gingrich said. "We had a big difference about public life."
Finally Marianne spoke up and explained just what he meant when he said the two had a big difference about "public life".  Here is probably how the conversation went.  Look, If you make a big deal about the affair, the press will find out and then I'll have to quit my job so just keep quiet and I won't dump you and everyone stays happy. k?      

I think Newt's confrontational angry response was a tell that the allegation was true. That and the rest of his adult life, other than the times he was kneeling down praying of course nail him as a dishonest creep and a hypocrite.  The ride is almost over Newt.  Your bus stop is coming up soon. 


Here is another great example of Newt running his mouth and saying ridiculous stupid shit about his political foes, snipped from this 2007 story.   Gingrich Admits to Affair During Clinton Impreachment  

In 1994, Gingrich linked Democrats to Susan Smith, a woman who had murdered her two children in 1991. 
"I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things," he said. "The only way you get change is to vote Republican."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Public service announcement: Beware of fish flavored tea.

I am a proud coffee drinker.  I drink a pot or more every day.  Black of course, no cream, no sugar, God gave it all the flavor it needs.  Oh and if you are the kid filling the cup at McDonald's it better be up to the line or I will hand it back to you and tell you to fill it up.  This happens about half the time.  It must be in their handbook to stay 1/2" below the line or people will burn their hands and sue!

But anyways, I was feeling a bit under the weather today so I passed on the cup of coffee at the Canteen area at the office today and selected a flavored tea from the hundred or more available flavors.   This is the flavor that grabbed my eye..

Bursting with flavor, this caffeine-free herb tea provides a momentary break from the busy day.  Best of all, it effectively delivers Omega 3, shown to support heart health.  Now while you're enjoying the uplifting aroma and blended flavors of pomegranate and the hint of blueberry, you'll be sipping your way to a healthier you.
Mmmm, now doesn't that label make it look and sound tasty?  And it Supports Heart Health too!  What's not to love?  

Well, quick word of caution here. It doesn't taste as good as the label indicates. In fact it smells and tastes like a fish head was soaking in a cup of hot water just for you.  Turns out the Omega 3 comes from the second ingredient listed on the package... Tuna oil.  I took one sip and said  "Holy crap, this shit tastes awful, OMG Ima gonna hurl.. "and then dumped it out in the sink.

People, what the hell is wrong with the world today?  Who is the genius that dreamt up fish-flavored tea?  Why doesn't it warn people on the label?  It should be frank.   Caution: Pomegranate Blueberry Tuna Flavor.  Actually, they could just leave out the Pomegranate and Blueberry.  The only taste that registers at all is stinky fish.

Note to self,  stick with the black coffee next time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Captain Fail.

I am not into the whole idea of getting on a cruise ship to spend your vacation on a floating strip mall / cafeteria / resort / casino where the object is to eat, drink, party and relax with thousands of other people and sleep in itty bitty hotel rooms while you sail from one port to another spending money at an alarming rate.  I can't think of a more unappealing way to spend a week's vacation but who knows, I might like it if I tried someday, but after this story, there is just about zero chance I'm getting on a cruise ship.

The Captain of the Costa Concordia chose a course waaay too close to the island of Giglio, Italy just so he could show off his sleek beautiful ship to the folks on the shore.  The route should have been clear according to his nautical charts, allegedly.   Captain Fail.. Hasta la Costa.  

The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia leans on its starboard side as seen from the Giglio harbor, after running aground off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. The luxury cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Tuscany, sending water pouring in through a 160-foot (50-meter) gash in the hull and forcing the evacuation of some 4,200 people from the listing vessel early Saturday, the Italian coast guard said. The number of dead and injured is not yet confirmed Coast Guard Cmdr. Francesco Paolillo said. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

OK I don't know jack squat about being the Captain of a large ship or how to steer the thing or put it in reverse or even how to read a nautical chart, but I am guessing it must be easier than flying an airplane. All you gotta do is stay in the open water, aimed away from land and rocks, right?  I mean, how hard could it be?     

If a cruise ship is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and the lives of thousands of passengers and crew are at stake, then why is the Captain even given the control to steer the ship into rocks? It isn't as if the Captain is physically controlling the rudder, there are servo drives and motors that do that part.  The ship's electronic brains know its precise position and vector as well as local nautical charts  and can even see the other objects in the area. I am quite sure a working autopilot function would never steer the ship into a rock, sandbar or iceberg.   

In my opinion the Captain shouldn't even be allowed to disengage the autopilot function and steer the ship into the rocks, period. Oh and especially on a Friday the 13th if that matters. If some dumbass Captain Stuebing trying to show off the boat can do it, that means some idiot who is trying to kill a bunch of people at once could do it just as easy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Via Motors, my favorite exhibit at the Detroit Auto Show

I went to Cobo Hall today to look around and kick some tires at the Detroit International Auto Show.  There were a lot of very impressive vehicles from manufacturers around the globe but the overall theme was that the domestic automakers are back strong and this is their town and their show.  GM, Ford, Chrysler all have very strong product lines that compete well with the other major companies from Japan, Germany, and Korea. 

One of my takeaways is that it seems the art and science of automobile design has become a very important part of the shared culture of humans around the globe.  There really isn't another invention quite like the automobile and people around the world have been refining and tweaking designs for over a century now and it really is amazing how far the whole enterprise has reached and how in spite of all of our differences, the automobile unites. 

OK, so now to my point. I think the most important vehicles out of all of them were the three plain looking large white vehicles at the Via Motors booth. Via Motors is a new company that takes an OEM pickup, SUV or van and converts it to an extended range electric vehicle, sort of like the Chevy Volt, powered by an electric drive train with a gas engine to charge a large large lithium ion battery if the charge runs low.  Electric-only range is estimated at 40 miles.   Here is a video to describe the vehicles and introduces Via Motors.

I have pointed out before that based on how CAFE math works, the full size pickup trucks and SUV's will soon have to be purged from the portfolios.   Why the Gas Hogs Have to Go..  It turns out newcomer Via Motors has figured out the way forward for the industry.  Electrify the worst offenders of poor mileage, where there is the most opportunity to save gasoline.

I had the opportunity to speak with the President of Via Motors today at the auto show.  He was a very down to earth and friendly person who was not a Detroit insider, and admitted he knew  little about the traditional automobile industry.  He openly discussed his company's business plans at the company display.  Via Motors is already booked solid with orders for the next few years without a single private buyer, all of the converted vehicles are headed to company fleets.  Interesting that the fleet buyers who select models based on economics and not style are clamoring for the Via Motors vehicles.

I don't know how long Via will operate with this virtual monopoly on a new segment of the industry they started before the rest of the industry swoops in to copycat the design and offer their own versions so its hard to say if Via is a long-term player or if they will just get gobbled up by one of the major automakers in the next few years.

Either way, we all win.  Great job Via Motors.  In my opinion this vehicle should have been the Motor Trend Truck of the Year.     

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Layne Staley, still feeling the loss..

I listened to a segement on Drew and Mike's morning show on 101 FM this morning on my way through Detroit on my commute about the last days of Layne Staley.  Staley was the singer for grunge rock band Alice in Chains.  He died in his apartment in 2002 from the effects of heroin addiction.

Alice in Chains is my favorite all-time rock band.  I don't care to debate it, its just my opinion. I know the grade is incomplete due to the short list of albums,  but each of their albums and EP's with Staley are classic from the first to last song, and each disc is unique from the others.  My favorite is Jar of Flies but Dirt was the one that hooked me.  I sat in the car until the DJ came back on to tell me who that band was so I could go out and but the CD after work.  (That was before Google and the internet. You couldn't just search it..)

Anyway, the discussion on WRIF was about Staley's total social withdrawal and descent into drug use and seclusion until death, answering calls only from a select few and taking visits from drug dealers from the bar downstairs.  He knew he was too far gone to be saved and he was too ashamed to go out in public or invite friends and family in.  He was just hanging out alone shooting up not for the trip but just to ease the pain of coming down.  Just waiting to die, just like he sang about for years.    

Too bad his friends or family or manager or somebody didn't have an intervention and just force him into rehab before it was too late. Anyhoo.. I wanted to share a cool Alice in Chains song as a tribute to my man Layne Staley.   Here is Junkhead from the Dirt CD.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cheerleading coaches putting on a show.

I took this video earlier today.  I love the positive vibe these coaches project to their team who is performing their routine in front of the judges at a cheer competition.  Oh and by the way their team always wins these competitions around here, and competes for a State title every year so they must know what they are doing.  All you other cheer coaches out there who haven't won any State championships yet, you just might want to copy some of these moves..  They seem to work.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Veteran Truther Anti-Semites for Ron Paul.

An article in  made me cringe.. This site appeared at first to be a pretty mainstream news and information source for veterans.  Not for long though..
 The Stealth Zionist War on Ron Paul
I learn more about being “conservative” every day and wonder why we just don’t string all of them up. I want trials and arrests, of course, not real trials. I want “tribunals,” with no witnesses, no lawyers, no appeals, just executions, midnight arrests after doors are kicked down, the way “conservatives” have their henchmen do it...

Veterans Today is seeing massive support for Paul among active duty and veterans.

...We wish Paul would speak openly about 9/11, openly about torture and war crimes and how many of his colleagues in government belong in prison and not on America’s welfare roles.

I don’t see Paul as perfect but compared to everyone else, he isn’t insane. I also am very proud that one candidate has taken on a our real foreign enemy, the criminal  organization that tries to pass itself off as the Israel lobby, the gangsters and financial robbers who are tearing the world apart and destroying the good names of Jews who have been loyal Americans since the founding fathers.
Wow.  Oh that site is chock full of 9/11 truther stories and anti-Semitic articles that would be right at home on Stormfront.  Then to go along with all that there is this story from the news today..  Soldier on stage with Ron Paul could face punishment for politicking
Thorsen was interviewed on CNN, speaking in support of Paul’s campaign. Later, at a post-caucus rally, Paul identified Thorsen as a 10-year soldier who “has been with us in our campaign for a few years,” and invited Thorsen on stage to tell the crowd why he supports Paul’s foreign policy plans.
And it made me think of this sory from a few days ago.. The spectre of 1932: How a loss of faith in politicians and democracy could make 2012 the most frightening year in living memory

Hopefully they don't start scheduling Ron Paul campaign events in beer halls.

Is there a connection between PTSD and a gloomy climate at the base?

Horrible story the other day about an Iraq war veteran in Washington State who shot and killed a Park Ranger and then died of hypothermia in a creek in Mt. Ranier National Park while trying to elude capture.  Mount Rainier gunman died of drowning, hypothermia-officials

I am not defending the actions of the vet turned murderer who froze to death in the woods.  But there is one thing I wanted to point out. 

The Mt. Ranier area of Washington State is perhaps the cloudiest locale in the USA.   There is a 70% chance of total cloud cover in that area of Washington. Link..  Compare that to Fort Irwin near Barstow Califiornia where there is a 73% chance of sunshine. 
Of course sunshine, or lack therof, can affect a person's mood .
Certain circuits in our brain respond to the amount of light during the day, and these circuits have a strong influence over our mood. Therefore, in the winter months, when there is less daylight, is is common for many people to feel a depressed mood.
This article points out that Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State was named the most troubled base in the miltary.  Army Base on the Brink
The base, an hour or so south of Seattle, was named by the government-owned, independent news source Stars and Stripes last year as the most troubled in the military, thanks to an “incredible” number of incidents rooted in post-traumatic stress disorder, says Joseph Carter, a former Army sergeant with two Iraq tours under his belt.
The Stars and Stripes article is worth a read..Joint Base Lewis-McChord rocked by scandal
Plagued by one scandal after another, from violent mental breakdowns to steroid abuse and allegations of killing for sport, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state this year developed a reputation as the most troubled base in the military... 
.. More than 14,000 servicemembers returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan to the base...
Could there be some connection between the effects of PTSD and the climate? I suppose there is a  chance that sunny weather might help some soldiers in their fight against PTSD, or perhaps its closer to say that being stuck where the sun don't shine makes it even more difficult.

Monday, January 2, 2012

How to oppose the Paulbots

I do not think it makes the best political strategy to simply write off every single word GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul says as nonsense or automatically oppose every one of his opinions or positions.  There is plenty of craziness in his record, no doubt about that and I am certainly not defending him or endorsing him in any way, but I think it will actually help his chances if he can paint himself as the victim of a smear campaign by the political and media elites. 

He does make some sensible points about scope creep in the Federal government and how the US taxpayers simply can not afford all of the current global military operations and that the Federal budget  must be brought under control or the ship will sink.  Those are some pretty basic points that resonate with a whole lot of ordinary Americans from both the right and the left. 

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to oppose Paul's candidacy.  To simply paint him as a kook and ridicule him will do more to undermine the arguments that need to be made against his agenda. 

Ron Paul claims to be pro-Constitution, but he advocates intermingling of religion and law on a number of fronts.  He claims to be for peace and national security but he opposes offensive military operations and alliances that work to prevent enemy attacks and aggression.  He claims to want to improve the economy, but he would abolish the Fed and that would bring utter turmoil to American and global financial markets and kill off any hope for economic recovery for decades.  He claims to not support crazy conspiracy theories, but he is very comfortable hanging out with the people who do spread them and he welcomes their political support.  

He clearly does not look at the secondary effects of the policies he would enact. He does not consider all of the unintended consequences and chain of events that would result in the wake of the economic chaos his policies would create.  He does not understand that the confidence of the people in their future, their currency, and their government is the most precious commodity. 

For all intents and purposes, Ron Paul is the candidate of the John Birch society. He won't publicly admit that, but he parrots every one of their talking points and takes all the same political stands.  Unfortunately there does not seem to be a modern day William Buckley to take on the Bircher radicalism within the GOP.

In my mind there are plenty of reasons to oppose Ron Paul but I warn against taking the easy route and just ridiculing him without being familiar with the reasons why.

For the record, I do not think he will win the GOP nomination for President.  I do think he will end up running as third party candidate, perhaps with a lefty running mate like Dennis Kuchinich from Ohio.  Just a hunch there..