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Archive for April, 2010

Thursday News & Miscellany, With Dogs and Video Merit Badges

I used to live next door to a golden retriever who was kept in the yard all the time. My roommate and I watched him grow up from a pup into a young adult dog. The owners never let him in, never let him out.

I stole him late one night, and brought him over to our house. He was really freaked, it was so outside of his frame of reference to be inside, even though he was well acquainted with us (over the fence).

Then I put him back.

There’s a poem in there somewhere.

Never let him in, never let him out.

Police Dogs

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Eyeless in Gaza

A Middle East Peace That Could Happen (But Won’t)
In Washington-Speak, “Palestinian State” Means “Fried Chicken”
By Noam Chomsky

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange. For many of the world’s conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement. In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders — with “minor and mutual modifications,” to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

The basic principles have been accepted by virtually the entire world, including the Arab states (who go on to call for full normalization of relations), the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran), and relevant non-state actors (including Hamas). A settlement along these lines was first proposed at the U.N. Security Council in January 1976 by the major Arab states. Israel refused to attend the session. The U.S. vetoed the resolution, and did so again in 1980. The record at the General Assembly since is similar.

(rest at link)

Wheel Dividends: Europe’s Clues to Breaking Car Dependence”

Common Dreams

by Derrick Z. Jackson

Bremen, Germany – The self-congratulations by bailed-out American car companies are hard to take seriously in a continent of relatively Lilliputian cars, amazing trains, and almost perfect public transit.

Chrysler last week claimed it may break even this year. General Motors boasted of repaying billions in government loans. GM CEO Ed Whitacre said, “I think the government and us, the taxpayers, made a terrific investment, and I think it’s going to pay off big time.”

The payoff is not yet visible. GM promises the electric Volt, but it currently has only one car, the Malibu, among 52 wagons, sedans, and small cars cited by Consumer Reports for high fuel efficiency. Chrysler has none. Both companies still dominate the ratings for worst fuel efficiency from subcompacts to SUVs. Ford, which did not take a bailout, remains the only Detroit competitor in fuel efficient vehicles with its Ford Fusion hybrid. Fittingly, Ford is expecting a $1 billion first-quarter profit.

While America spends $82 billion hoping bankrupt companies retool for President Obama’s 35-mile-per-gallon standards by 2016, other countries are already into high gear getting cars off the street completely.

Homeless Good Samaritan honored at NY wake

By CRISTIAN SALAZAR (AP) – 10 hours ago

NEW YORK — About a dozen relatives and friends gathered Wednesday at a funeral home in Brooklyn to honor a Good Samaritan who was shown on video footage as passers-by ignored him while he lay, mortally wounded, on a city sidewalk outside an apartment building.

It was a humble service for Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, as mourners were outnumbered by television news crews and reporters, drawn to Funeraria La Fe in the scruffy Bushwick neighborhood by the national headlines generated by the Guatemalan immigrant’s death.

His body lay in an open casket, surrounded by flowers. A large wooden cross hung on the wall over his casket and a smaller one hung near a letter from a stranger, who had read about his story in the news. “He was an angel from God among us, and he was a brave, courageous, caring man, who sacrificed life to save someone else,” it read.

One of his grieving brothers, Byron Tale-Yax, said it was difficult to talk about the way his brother died.

“It’s a message about humanity,” he said. “We need to love one another.”

California’s Man-Made Drought

by Monica Showalter

COALINGA, Calif. — Would France rip out its storied vineyards? Would Juan Valdez scorch Colombia’s coffee crop? Sri Lanka its black pepper harvest? China its tea?

With global markets won by nations specializing in doing what they do best, and with regional reputations important enough to drive some nations to protectionism, it’s almost unthinkable.

But then there’s California.

On a springtime drive through the Central Valley, it’s hard not to notice how federal and state governments are hell-bent on destroying the state’s top export — almonds — and everything else in the nation’s most productive farmland.

Instead of pink blossoms and green shoots along Highway 5 in April, vast spans from Bakersfield to Fresno sit bone-dry. Brown grass, dead orchards and lifeless grapevine skeletons stretch for miles for lack of water. For every fallow field, there’s a sign that farmers have placed alongside the highway: “No Water = No Food,” “No Water = No Jobs,” “Congress Created Dust Bowl.”

Yeah. That happens when you try to run a huge amount of agriculture in a climatically unsuitable area.

Drought in SW China breaks after 6 falls of rain: official

BEIJING – The severe drought in southwest China has broken after six falls of rain in the past month, Chen Zhenlin, spokesman with the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), said here Wednesday.

The rain occurred from March 22 to April 26 and ranged from 50 to 100 millimeters.

The drought had parched the southern areas of Yunnan Province, the northeast regions of Guizhou Province, and the eastern and southern parts of Guangxi, Chen said at a briefing.

The drought was among the most severe in decades, having a serious impact on people’s lives and economic development.

More than 20 million people and 10 million farm animals were affected by water shortages at the drought’s peak.

Good to hear the people in China are catching a bit of a break here.

Sales of Shirts to Help Navy SEALs Defense Fund Reaches Milestone

This past week, it was announced that the second of the three Navy SEALs who had been accused of prisoner abuse was acquitted of all charges. This was good news to the many who had joined together in support of the SEALs, including USNavySEALStore.com and SupportOurSeals.com, websites that was helping to raise money for their defense fund.

Background: Navy SEALs captured Ahmed Hashim Abed, an Iraqi terrorist allegedly responsible for the murder of four American contractors in Iraq. According to the charges, in 2004 Abed masterminded a successful plot to ambush American security agents. The burned remains of the bodies were hung from a bridge in Fallujah to allow the world press to photograph and publicize.

To help in the fundraising efforts, two t-shirts were created by USNavySEALs.com and sold at USNavySEALstore.com. $10 from the sale of each shirt was donated to the Warrior Defense Fund. Through their efforts, $10,000 was collected and donated to the Fund in less than 5 weeks. A letter of thanks from the Chairman of the Warrior Defense Fund was posted on the USNavySEALstore.com

I expect that if everybody sold T-shirts, all our worries would be over.

I could use a new T-shirt myself. I don’t think “Spare the Poor Abused Abusers” quite cuts it though. Doesn’t have quite the panache I’m looking for.

I bet they’re really crappy T-shirts, too. Lots of synthetic fiber. Ya know.

Abuse Worries Overblown


For example, the tyrant dictator Joseph Stalin had a policy that to surrender and be taken prisoner was a treasonous offence, punishable by death. …

Ooopps! Story not available. Hmm. I guess the abuse worries were so overblown, that the Star Phoenix decided they weren’t worth reporting at all.

Boy Scouts of America, Video Merit Badge

Belt Loop

Complete these three requirements:

1. Explain why it is important to have a rating system for video games. Check your video games to be sure they are right for your age.
2. With an adult, create a schedule for you to do things that includes your chores, homework, and video gaming. Do your best to follow this schedule.
3. Learn to play a new video game that is approved by your parent, guardian, or teacher.

Academics Pin

Earn the Video Games belt loop and complete five of the following requirements:

1. With your parents, create a plan to buy a video game that is right for your age group.
2. Compare two game systems (for example, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and so on). Explain some of the differences between the two. List good reasons to purchase or use a game system.
3. Play a video game with family members in a family tournament.
4. Teach an adult or a friend how to play a video game.
5. List at least five tips that would help someone who was learning how to play your favorite video game.
6. Play an appropriate video game with a friend for one hour.
7. Play a video game that will help you practice your math, spelling, or another skill that helps you in your schoolwork.
8. Choose a game you might like to purchase. Compare the price for this game at three different stores. Decide which store has the best deal. In your decision, be sure to consider things like the store return policy and manufacturer’s warranty.
9. With an adult’s supervision, install a gaming system.

I hope this isn’t replacing 4-H, but I fear otherwise.

(h/t Gary Farber)


News & Miscellany

We're #1!

Oil spill only 20 miles from ecologically fragile coastline now

Magnifico, Daily Kos

The ever-expanding oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon still-open well site is 20 miles off the coast of Louisiana as of Tuesday night, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. In less than a week’s time, the oil has spread to cover an expanse of the the Gulf of Mexico 100 miles wide by 45 miles long at its widest.

“It is the closest it’s been to shore throughout this response, and we’re paying attention to that, very careful attention to that,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry. She added that if the spill isn’t contained, it has the potential to become “one of the most significant oil spills in U.S. history.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is contemplating a “controlled burn” to try to prevent the spill from reaching the ecologically fragile Louisiana coastline, the NY Times reported. Current wind projections suggest the oil will not come ashore in the next 72 hours and late Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told the Wall Street Journal that oil is expected to hit shore Saturday if it is somehow not stopped.

Well, what good news for the East Coast as well. Something to look forward to.

Why There Is No Jewish Narnia

h/t Gary Farber

Although it might seem unlikely that anyone would wonder whether the author of The Lord of the Rings was Jewish, the Nazis took no chances. When the publishing firm of Ruetten & Loening was negotiating with J. R. R. Tolkien over a German translation of The Hobbit in 1938, they demanded that Tolkien provide written assurance that he was an Aryan. Tolkien chastised the publishers for “impertinent and irrelevant inquiries,” and—ever the professor of philology— lectured them on the proper meaning of the term: “As far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects.” As to being Jewish, Tolkien regretted that “I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”

Needless to say, C. S. Lewis wasn’t Jewish either, though he did marry a Jewish convert to Anglican Christianity (played by Deborah Winger in the film Shadowlands). In fact, when one of her two sons from a previous marriage became increasingly observant, Lewis turned to the great Jewish historian Cecil Roth for advice on finding kosher food and shabbat hospitality for his stepson. But of course no one would suppose the author of Mere Christianity and the Chronicles of Narnia to have been Jewish himself. Tolkien had famously converted his friend and fellow Oxford don from skepticism to Christianity through a series of conversations that led Lewis to the realization that “the story of Christ is simply a true myth.”

The author seems to be primarily basing this conceit on Lewis and Tolkien, but in any case, he put some thought and work into the piece.

Arched Hobbit Cottage – Homeless Initiative

from Tiny House Blog

Arched Hobbit Cottage

I am a lawyer by profession, but I retired my practice early to be able to devote full time to a community development foundation that works in impoverished communities. I have had www.zoeoutdoors.com on the side as an outlet for my creative impulses in building things but also as a way to help develop revenue and funds to support our non profit work- see:
www.csdcouncil.org and www.bright-hope.org

So, we built our first arched “hobbit cottage” as a prototype simply because I loved the eclectic natural cedar look and design. Then we built the 2nd prototype (pics below) with a little different approach, trying to figure out how to continue the classic look, but in a bit more affordable manner. We have engineered a new “Puzzle – Click” arch system where the whole structural framework of the cottage is produced on a CnC machine (computerized cutting machine) . If you look close at the picture below of the interior arches, you can see a puzzle piece connection that makes each wall-roof-floor system become one very accurate easy to assemble integrated system. each arch is assembled flat on the pre cut floor system, tilted up and screwed or nailed in place. The roof can be either cedar shake shingles or a copper or colored steel roof. Or a combination of both.

(see link for continuation and photos of more houses; fascinating!)

The Homeless Guy Is Changing Things Back

No one group owns or is responsible for homelessness. Everyone is culpable to one degree or another for its existence and prevalence. But more importantly, everyone has the ability to lessen the amount and negative effects of homelessness. Conservative, Liberal, Moderate, Activist, Inactivist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Caucasian, African, Latino, Persian, Educated, Uneducated, White Collar, Blue Collar, Adult, Teen, Child, etc., etc., can all do something to reduce and end homelessness. So, I have often struggled with the direction of this blog.

Originally, I posted about all sorts of topics here. The point of it being that I wanted the general population to understand that there was more to me, and homeless people in general, than just being homeless. Yet shortly after I started blogging W sent American troops into Iraq. This divided the American population and strong feelings grew, and animosity between Conservatives and Liberals intensified. At first I blogged about my objections to the war. For this my audience dropped in half, so did the few donations I received. Not all were that way, but most were. And so I have been riding the fence mostly, trying to not offend while at the same time getting my message across.

This guy’s been blogging ever since I got interested in homeless issues. Thought it was past time to give him some love.

Sperm donor drought in Far North


MEN of Cairns are being urged to pull together to help solve a chronic sperm drought.

Australia is in the grips of a sperm shortage with one clinic in Cairns forced to fork out as much as $800 for a single sperm sample from the US, for couples in need of donors.

As a result, couples are waiting years to find the right donor.

Queensland Fertility Group Cairns clinical director Dr Bob Miller said recent changes to legislation, which meant donors no longer remained anonymous to their offspring, had deterred many men from donating.

“In the old days, they used to sort of donate and forget,” Dr Miller said.

Back when I was your age, we could just procreate and not even know anything about it! Kids these days, I tell you.

We Know the Way to End Prison Rape. Is It Too Expensive?

Washington City Paper

Nine months ago, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released a report of proposed national standards for the “prevention, detection, and response to sexual abuse in confinement settings”—in other words, a path toward ending prison rape.

In order to achieve that goal, the commission has laid down a list of proposed standards for U.S. facilities housing men, women, and juveniles. Among them: That facilities adopt a “zero tolerance” policy “toward all forms of sexual abuse”; that staff be trained to identify its warning signs and respond to them; that prisoners be assessed for their “risk of being sexually abused by other inmates or sexually abusive toward other inmates”; that institutions implement sufficient surveillance procedures and technologies with an eye at preventing abuse; and that they keep records of assault rates inside their facilities.

Prison rape can be prevented, and some corrections authorities are already moving to implement the commission’s standards in an attempt to do just that. But other corrections leaders have shot back with one major complaint—ending prison rape sounds expensive.

Well, yeah. We have corporations to support here.

Feeling Warehoused in Army Trauma Care Units


(h/t HuffPo via Allison In Seattle)

COLORADO SPRINGS — A year ago, Specialist Michael Crawford wanted nothing more than to get into Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion, a special unit created to provide closely managed care for soldiers with physical wounds and severe psychological trauma.

A strapping Army sniper who once brimmed with confidence, he had returned emotionally broken from Iraq, where he suffered two concussions from roadside bombs and watched several platoon mates burn to death. The transition unit at Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs, seemed the surest way to keep suicidal thoughts at bay, his mother thought.

It did not work. He was prescribed a laundry list of medications for anxiety, nightmares, depression and headaches that made him feel listless and disoriented. His once-a-week session with a nurse case manager seemed grossly inadequate to him. And noncommissioned officers — soldiers supervising the unit — harangued or disciplined him when he arrived late to formation or violated rules.

I’m shocked, I tell you.

CEIA SMD601 Only Metal Detector to Fully Comply with NIJ Standard

TWINSBURG, Ohio–(BUSINESS WIRE)–CEIA USA, which has provided metal detection solutions to a variety of industries for many years, possesses the only metal detector in the industry to comply with all the required sections of the NIJ Standard 0601.02 (U.S. Dep. Of Justice) that establishes requirements of sensitivity, discrimination and immunity for law enforcement and correctional facilities. Because the CEIA SMD601 Multi-Zone Metal Detector was specifically designed with this standard in mind it is excellent for detecting conventional weapons, such as guns and knives, but it is also unbeatable at detecting small, hard-to-find items that could be considered a threat to officer and prisoner safety such as razor blades, handcuff keys, or screwdriver bits. It also has exceptional immunity to environmental interference which allows it to be easily installed and operated in any location. Analysis of the person passing through is quick and accurate.

The three levels of security specified by the standard (Large, Medium and Small object size) are pre-loaded in the metal detector and can be selected directly by the user via a simple operation at the control unit that has anti-vandalism construction to prevent abuse and unwanted programming. A full-height light bar displays the vertical location of the detected metal masses in transit. This results in rapid identification of threats and a reduction or elimination of manual searches. The technology used in the SMD601 is completely harmless, yet can detect items concealed inside the body, thus eliminate the need for costly, ineffective body orifice screening devices.

Okay, so does this make us #1 again? C’mon. Please?

Dos & Don’ts of High Fiving

h/t swimming freestyle


A Peaceful Day

This isn’t a given. No anger. Some contact, and I even invented some ways to maybe get good people in touch with each other.

crossposted from DK:


And meanwhile, I watered the plants I want to deal with, and it wasn’t windy. It’s a bitch down here in Carlsbad when it’s windy, so that’s not some small thing.

Peaceful, still day.

And I made myself some garbanzo bean stew, and I made my dog Casey some chicken. And nothing broke and there were no shots fired in the neighborhood.

Mostly, it wasn’t windy.

Carlsbad, New Mexico. Home of many misinformed people.

Little Texas, they call us, up in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

But it’s a mix, it’s such a mix. Lots of miners; they come and go. Often rough people.

Lots of First Nations People. That’s what the Canadians call our indigenous peoples. We have plenty of such peoples down here. I like the nomenclature.

Mexicans. Pueblo peoples. Navajo. Tarahumara. Apache. Hopi. So many tribes, and this is just a taste.

Mexicans. Down here, it’s popular to call everybody Mexicans. Well, except for our citizens who are clearly of African descent. We have some. They’re pretty middle class, down in Carlsbad. I like it. African-American bourgeoise. About time. We must all have the opportunity to work through what it means to have resources, and not to have to worry about survival.

I don’t think these folks are all that comfortable here, either, though. I think our African-Americans down here in Carlsbad, New Mexico; are still kinda worried.

There is an African-American family down the street from me. They have a really nice house, with porches. They work on their landscaping, from year to year.

They have a son who’s growing up into a man. I’ve seen him working on their yard. I’ve seen him playing with his friends, playing basketball; they have a hoop.

The other day I biked past their place, with all the trees, and the shrubs, and all of the effort..and there was some white boy up on the front porch, ragging around with whomever was there talking to him.

I could see it was cool.

About a year ago, I used to bike by these people’s house. And their little dog would come out and hassle me on my bike.

I pitched a fit the first time. I yelled at the mom of the boy who is now entertaining white boys and whose father is creating a fine garden of landscaping.

I yelled at the dog. Little chihuahau kinda dog.

That’s my bike route, though. I go there almost daily.

So, time went on. And the mom got better about controlling her little dog. And at one point, I laughed and addressed her and said; “Hey, no problem!” Silly little dog. So small.

And gradually, the little dog has lost interest in me. And I still bicycle by this house, inhabited by these people of African heritage, who are working so hard on making a home. One can see it all over their works. I don’t agree with how they do everything, but that’s okay. They likely would not like my style, either.

They are so tidy. They trim their plants endlessly.

They want peace, I’m sure. They’re getting it, I’m sure.

But at what cost?


Dawn Photos, Now With Music!

I thought maybe I’d be kinda happy here and post some of my photos, now that those of you who give a damn about me have been so helpful.

Thanks, Kossacks.

Dawn With Trellis

Dawn with trellis

I like this photo because of the shadows and the reflections, and the tired sad images around those. I find it hopeful.

Dawn Trees

Dawn trees #1

I took several photos of these trees at dawn that morning, and I like this one the best. It has a lot of contrast and brilliance, I think. I like the way that all works with the intricacy of the trees.

Sunrise Through Sophora

Sunrise through Sophora

This is my little mountain laurel with the sun through her top.

Sunrise & house

Sun at the crack of dawn, over my house.


Hi. I'm the designated collie.


The Elderness of Chat

I used to do chat a lot, back in the end days of the 20th century. I see that Facebook has chat, now.

It’s probably different, a lot, no?

I used to get a big kick out of chat, but mostly people got mad at me for going too fast.

So, what is that on Facebook? Filtered chat? Does it matter if one goes fast? (I’m sounding like a Monty Python routine).

Or is all myriad and stuff? Treed chat?

Chat is a funny thing. I’ve fallen off being interested in Chat in Meatspace, except occasionally with the very best talkers. The others only too often fall off into gossip and despair. I don’t think that’s a very good thing to do with one’s chat.

What I liked about Chat, back in the old Chat days, was the way a person could just go at it. And, if the chat got boring, one could leave.

No apologies required.

Ah, chat. I learned about it in the late 1990’s. With a friend, who couldn’t spell, or type too well.

Actually, he probably could. But he sacrificed all of that for the speed of the Chat.

God, was that fun. I was a much better typist, and it would have been a loss if my friend had not seen the benefit of not worrying about typing in any kind of organized manner.

I always saw what he was writing.

We talked about all sorts of things. (Funny how one wants to use the word “Talk.” I’m still mixed up about that).

We hashed out a lot of things, talked about life, animals. Humans. Tolerance.

And we had a hell of a lot of fun.

He went by the name “troll.” Lower case. He always insisted on that.

One of the best, smartest, funniest and kind people I’ve ever known.

He’s several years younger than me. Still out there. I know.

Happy spring, troll. Love you always.


On Bars

This is some stuff I’ve typed up from my American Heritage Dictionary. Watch out, I’ve got a 13 Volume Set of the OED!

We could go there.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, 1992

1. A relatively long, straight, rigid piece of solid material used as a fastener, support, barrier, or structural or mechanical member.

That’s the first noun definition.

There are twelve of them. Some have a’s and b’s.

Transitive Verb defs:

1. To fasten securely, with a long, straight, rigid piece of material.

2. To shut in or out with or as if with bars.

3. To obstruct or impede, block.

4. To keep out, exclude. See Synonyms at “Hinder.”

5. To rule out, except.

6. To mark with stripes or bands.

7. (law) To stop (a claim, or action) , by objection.

Oh, all right.


OMG, there’s like two pages of this stuff about Bar. At least this is the cool multi-volume edition of the OED. So I can read it, what with it having something bigger than four point font.

Well, what about Ban? maybe that’s shorter?

Oh, only about half a page.


Well, that suggests that banning is a lot less complicated than barring.

Back to the book.

Start with Ban.

Oh, interesting. Ban is about summoning, proclaiming. Commanding.

Prohibit, interdict, curse.

Okay, that’s pretty clear.

Preclude, chide. Execrate. “Proclaim under penalty, or with a threat.”

Or perhaps merely to proclaim, publicly announce.

“Summon” keeps coming up.

call forth, call for things.

“Ultimately all these go back to the same source; F. ban ‘proclamation, publication, summons, proscription, outlawry, banishment, assemblage of military vassals”


Let’s move on to “bar” now. still in my amazing OED (13 volumes!)

“An iron bar used in breaking criminals on the wheel.”

Oh, that’s good. Old, too. Established.

“A piece of material long in proportion to its thickness or width.”

Logic will triumph yet.

“That which confines, encloses, limits, or obstructs, with no special reference to shape.”

Oh, I like that. Heretics! Heretics right there in the OED. Who knew?


Why can’t I draw on the Internet?

There are times when words fail me, and what I’d really like to do is draw on the Internet. Draw pictures, words, assemblages.

Sure, using words and pictures and photos more carefully can so often constitute a good Internet post. But sometimes, it’s just not enough.

Or maybe it’s just too much?

It’s such a tease, the Internet. It suggests that we can eliminate all barriers, while simultaneously creating such where there never was before.

I think of all the times when I’ve been dissed, on the Internet. Why am I not allowed to draw mustaches on the visages of these personages?

Where is the fairness, Internet?


Open Happy Easter thread

How to Make Peepshi

Looking to expand your Peeps palate this Easter Sunday? There’s no place like Serious Eats to satisfy all your sugar-encrusted marshmallow needs and desires. Continuing in the grand Peeps Week tradition, here’s our offering for any occasion that calls for awesome and fun all at once: Peepshi.

The first issue. What do we call this lovechild of Easter and Japan? Peepushi? Susheep? Sadly, this is where my Asian Studies major failed to come in handy. Maybe I should have asked my adviser? Too bad his specialty is Japanese economics. Thankfully, Erin saved us from self-destruction with “Peepshi,” a term we’ll be adding to our modern Peeps lexicon.

Crisis averted, we could now move onto beheading Peeps. Yes, Peepshi will require some hard decisions, but the end results are worth it.


(h/t Gary Farber)

“Retarded” media kid doesn’t need Sara Palin to protect her

(h/t The 13th Floor)

Now, back on topic:

Peep Jousting

Peep Jousting

Peep jousting pits peeps against one another in an epic battle, ultimately determining which neon sugar blob is superior, a.k.a King of the Peeps (or Queen in the case that the pink peep prevails).

Peep jousting must take place in a proper arena, ahem, microwave. The peeps should face each other, ready to duel, equipped with proper weaponry (toothpicks…extra points for those toothpicks shaped liked swords).

Once the chicks are prepared for battle, slam the microwave closed and let the games begin!

Watch as your peeps expand and their swords begin to pierce and wound each other. Victory comes in the form of one peep deflating the other. (Just make sure you use a paper plate. Once those melted peeps harden, there is no turning back).

Peeps Facts

(NECN) – On this segment of the “Weekly News IQ Quiz”, Jim Braude is joined by Ernie Boch Jr., Courtney Hollands, a producer for Boston.com, and NECN meteorologist Tim Kelley.

For the final question of the quiz, the contestants are asked a question about the Easter treat “Peeps”.

Which of the following is not true about “peeps”:
A. Peeps are insoluble in acetone, water, aulfuric acid and sodium hudoxide
B. “Peep jousting” is a game involving Peeps, toothpicks and a microwave
C. “peep” worship” is practiced on several islands of the South Pacific


What To Do With A Five Gallon Bucket

Well, it doesn’t have to be a five gallon bucket. Some are smaller. All come with lids, and something inside them, which one is purchasing. The bucket is just the packaging.

But a five gallon bucket can be so much more than that. I have long wondered at how casually people dispose of these. They are tools, to me.

I first got seriously involved with five gallon buckets when I was spending a lot of time at a house that had a back yard across the alley from a grocery store, with all of its attendant trash bins. They threw out their bucket packaging on a regular basis.

Most of it was from the bakery. Lots of icing buckets. Occasionally garlic butter.

I learned pretty early on not to try to clean all of this residue out with soap. You scrape first. This stuff is greasy. Uses up a lot of soap.

Most people are more familiar with these buckets as containers for paint & other home improvement substances though, I would guess. But what I had was a grocery store’s trash bins, a garden and a compost heap.

Just about anything you need to collect and work into your garden or compost heap can be easily managed with a five gallon bucket, including water, if you’re short on hoses, and a wheelbarrow seems like overkill for the task. In fact, you can perforate them and use them as slow watering devices. You can set them by your roof (or elsewhere) to catch and store rainwater, too. And if you get a late frost, you can put them over your tomatoes to protect them from up to several degrees of it (put a rock on the bottom if it’s windy). And I bet you could make a perfectly reasonable worm bin out of one, with enough holes drilled, kept in the shade and appropriately filled with worm substrate and fodder.

Where I live, we have a lot of pecan trees. More ways to use up all of your buckets.

But wait. I lie. My first experiences with the myriad uses of the five gallon bucket was when I worked with the American Tarantula Society, and we made pitfall traps with them. Again, you perforate the bottom, so rainfall won’t drown your catch before you collect it. After burying the bucket with the top at ground level, you make a little top out of a square of plywood with shims. The critters you’re looking for walk under the plywood and fall into the bucket.

We were looking for vinegaroons at the time, but did occasionally catch an interesting snake. It’s important for people who want to do this, to check your traplines frequently, so you are not inadvertently killing off the wildlife, and also of course make sure you release anybody who falls in there who is illegal to collect.

Let’s see; what else? Well, they make good trash cans, or kitchen compost collectors, or general water storage devices in case your local water system collapses. You can even turn them over and sit on them if you don’t weigh too much.

What a funny country we are, that we treat such useful objects simply as packaging.

UPDATE: damn, I knew there was something I forgot. You can make planters out of them! But in this case, you want to make your holes in the bottom a bit larger, and maybe offset around the edge of the bottom too, like commercial pots have their drainage holes.

Since these buckets are white, that especially lends them to use as planters in hot climates, as the white coloration will reflect heat, while black plastic pots will absorb it and often dry out much more quickly in consequence.

To make the holes, you can use a soldering iron and just melt ’em out, but if you do, do it outside with some breeze, as these are toxic fumes you really don’t want to breathe.


News & Miscellany 4


h/t yuriwho @ daily kos

McDonald’s Germany Accused of ‘Harassment and Pure Manipulation’

Der Spiegel

April 8

Very weird story.

There’s a hint of the smell of deep-frying fat in front of the McDonald’s restaurants, even though such odors are not supposed to be detectable. “It’s the filters,” says Ulrich Enzinger, “it’s time to change them again.” The odor isn’t very strong, but 49-year-old Enzinger has a keen sense of smell, honed by 18 years of experience at McDonald’s.

One of his restaurants was in Lindau, a town on Lake Constance in southwestern Germany, in a prime location adjacent to the on-ramp for the autobahn to Munich. Unnerved, he gave up the business a year ago.

The restaurant is busy on this Monday morning, as Enzinger parks his car in one of the few empty spaces, locks the door and walks toward the entrance. Suddenly a dark sedan pulls up next to him, the passenger window opens and a voice says: “You are barred from the premises. Please leave.”

The KFC Double Down: One Sandwich To Kill You All (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Great satire, really disgusting.

From The Hill:

Democratic lawmaker back from Haiti says Red Cross nowhere to be found

“We were actually pretty struck by the fact that we didn’t see the Red Cross anywhere, at all,” Wasserman Schultz said during an appearance on Florida radio station WTFL.

Unexamined abuse claim “possibly” a war crime

Toronto, April 12

OTTAWA – An Afghan man’s claim that he was abused by the country’s secret police after being captured by Canadian soldiers makes it possible the military was guilty of war crimes, a commander with the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service testified Monday.

But military investigators never acted on the 2007 allegation of torture, one that top soldiers took seriously enough to stop sending detainees to Afghan jails for four months.

Lt.-Col. Gilles Sansterre, commander of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service admitted that the prisoner’s allegations, which were taken seriously after he showed Canadian officials welts, bruises and the hidden stash of electrical cables and a rubber hose he said were used to beat him, “raises the possibility” Canada was guilty of violating international laws designed to protect prisoners of war.

Sampler: Abuse Scandal, Palo Alto Cuts, Tenderloin for Tourists

NY Times

April 12

More on Father Kiesle | Melinda Costello was a 7-year-old parishioner in the late 1960s in Fremont, Calif., when the Rev. Stephen Kiesle first playfully invited her to sit on his lap. Ms. Costello, now 48, recalled that as the tickling and touching quickly progressed to fondling her chest and genitals, Mr. Kiesle justified his behavior as exorcism and “told me the devil was inside me,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. Emerging accounts like Ms. Costello’s in California churches have intensified pressure on the pope. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then a top Vatican official overseeing clergy, he sent a letter in 1985 to Bishop John S. Cummins of Oakland, who had repeatedly voiced concerns about Father Kiesle, saying that the case needed more time and that the “good of the universal church” should be considered before moving to discipline the priest.


April 12

UPDATE: Court issues stay of execution for Davis

Don Davis’ execution — scheduled for 9 tonight — has been delayed again.

The state Department of Correction said justices intervened because of a question about whether the Legislature properly left execution policies in the hands of prison officials.

Dina Tyler, department spokeswoman, said there would be no execution tonight.

Davis, 47, was convicted of 1990’s execution-style murder of Jane Daniel at her Rogers home. His appeals have been ongoing since except for a few months in 2001 when he waived his right of appeal.

Representatives of the state’s Attorney General’s office will hold a press briefing at 3:30 today to discuss the case, said spokesman Aaron Sadler.

Davis has been on death row since his conviction in 1992.

Daniel’s husband arrived home from a business trip the night of the killing. He found his wife lying dead in a nearby pantry.

Who will screen the interrogators?

WaPo blog, Spy Talk

For all the commentary over convicted former CIA interrogator David Passaro’s legal struggles, no one seems to have asked why the guy was hired in the first place.

Cynics might ask, who better to beat information out of al-Qaeda suspects than a former cop and Green Beret with a history of violence?

But if Ahmed Wali, the Afghan prisoner who died in Passaro’s custody in 2003, gave up any useful intelligence, he took the secret to the grave with him.

According to news reports, Passaro couldn’t get through his probation period as a Hartford, Conn., policeman in 1990 before he was fired for fighting.


Let the law take its course

April 12

Let the law takes its course and allow the courts to do its duty.

These are the words of assistant police spokesperson Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri after a relative of a rape victim mistakenly assaulted a remand prisoner who he thought was the accused in the rape case.

Sokomuri is urging members of the public to await the outcome of the court process and not to take the matter into their own hands.

The tramp stamps of a predatory teacher: Stephanie Ragusa goes to trial in Tampa

Jury selection begins today for Stephanie Ragusa, a former Hillsborough middle school teacher who faces several counts of lewd and lascivious battery and felony sex with minors.

Ragusa, 30, taught math at Davidsen Middle School before she was jailed in April 2008. In March of that same year, a 15-year-old student claimed he had a relationship with Ragusa when he was 14. Then a 16-year-old student came forward with a similar story.

It’s almost becoming a cliche for a relatively attractive, female public-school teacher to get caught having sex with her students. However, Ragusa separated herself from the pack of pedophiles and made a splash in the national news for her odd behavior—odd beyond the sex with minors part. Each of the three times she was arrested between March and April of 2008, she offered an excited smile for her mug shot. Ragusa tramp stamp 4The final time she was arrested was while leaving one of her teenage lover’s houses. Apparently the two previous arrests weren’t enough to end her minor love affair. One of the boy’s accusations were corroborated by the tattoos and tramp stamp he correctly identify on her “groin region.” If the case against Ragusa wasn’t strong enough, text messages were released in which she writes to one of the boys, “I loved today. The sex was amazing.” The boy promptly replied, “YES I KNOW!:” Then, as if to confirm her celebrity prisoner status, and love for younger men, she wrote a sympathetic letter to 17-year-old Nick Hogan while he sat in jail.

Gates: Wikileaks video doesn’t show the whole story


Defense Secretary Robert Gates this weekend expressed regret over the killing of two Reuters journalists and civilians in a 2007 helicopter attack but backed CENTCOM plans not to reopen the case in light of the now-infamous Wikileaks video unveiled last week.

Officials with the Wikileaks site call the video proof that the military has engaged in “indiscriminate slaying” of civilians. But in an interview with ABC late last week Gates said the edited footage only shows part of the story, and at best gives a misleading picture of what really happened that day.

“The video doesn’t show the broader picture of the — of the firing that was going on at American troops. It’s obviously a hard thing to see. It’s painful to see, especially when you learn after the fact what was going on. But you — you talked about the fog of war. These people were operating in split second situations. And, you know, we — we’ve investigated it very thoroughly. It’s unfortunate.”

Gates said that the Wikileaks release of the video “is clearly not helpful” but downplayed its significance, saying he does not think the issue will have lasting consequences. When the Abu Grahib prisoner abuse revelations were made public, the ensuing uproar threatened U.S. troops in Iraq and became fodder for insurgent propaganda efforts.

Texas Prisons Top Rape List: DOJ Drafts Reform


The number of rapes being committed annually in the U.S. prison system is just deplorable. And what’s even more shocking is that the majority of these crimes are reportedly being perpetrated by corrections officers. Who are the vast majority of victims? Women, gay men, juvenile offenders, the mentally disabled and the physically weak.

What’s even more gruesome is that five of the worst offending prisons are in Texas, which to me, suggests there is an atmosphere of abuse happening in the Lone Star State. At present, there is no automatic auditing of certain prisons where these rapes seem to be happening at a greater frequency. There currently is no uniformed process in which prison administrators are assessing the risk to certain inmates. In most of these prisons, there is not even a written mandate for prison officials to report any suspicions of sexual assault.

Consequently, we have prisons like the Estelle Unit in Huntsville, Texas—which topped the Bureau of Justice’s report— where 15.8 percent of its inmates report being raped annually. That means 470 people are raped in that prison each year, and the majority of those victims say they were raped multiple times.

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