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Archive for December, 2010

Open Rat



As usual, things you need to know of here! Fine, American things!



Spoetry or Spoems are poetic verses made primarily from the subject lines of spam e-mail messages.

Examples of fine spoetry!

What Can You Do in 3 Minutes?

Look out your window
Make a child happy
Groom those bushy eyebrows
Get residency in Panama
Lose 10 lbs.
Remove dents

Spoetry, please

(The Guardian)

Winter Wonderland

My eyes can only see the arc of the road far ahead. The mortal architect had brought this landscape to life where arctic winds crack down from Canada to brush the lone mountain in its somber pall. In a winter’s haven, the birds are stretching their wings. In the city, no action is required upon your part.


Outsourcing Fantasy

From the Guardian. 2005.

They play games for 10 hours – and earn £2.80 in a ‘virtual sweatshop’


Their skills are so finely honed that they easily win every battle, earning valuable experience points which can then be passed on to other players.

The most valuable commodity in all such games is time, and this has spawned the rise of the virtual sweatshops. Every new player starts at the bottom with little virtual money and few skills. Moving up to the next level of the game involves carrying out dull, repetitive tasks such as killing thousands of virtual monsters.

But thanks to companies such as Gamersloot.net, new players now have an alternative. They simply pay someone else to do the dull repetitive work, and buy a ready-made character at a more advanced level.

This is about people being paid a pittance in Romania to, I guess, sub for other gamers?


New Fungal Discovery Could Lead To Gasoline Alternative

MSU nets grant to study fuel from fungi

Bozeman, Montana, 12/26/10

Angie Tomsheck, enrolled at Montana State University, has discovered a eucalyptol-producing fungus. According to this story, eucalyptol was only previously known from eucalyptus bark, and has potential to be a gasoline alternative. The fungus was one of a group of samples collected by her research professor in the Canary Islands (off the coast of NW Africa). It was collected from a laurel tree.

The two have written about this discovery for the journal Microbiology and their work has gone immediately to publication (presumably in January?).

And at least one person has already used eucalyptol as gasoline – Strobel put it in his Honda 110 motorcycle and drove it around town. The eucalyptol worked just fine as an additive, he said. And, if the compound meets its potential, its far-reaching impacts could include less dependency on foreign oil, less pollution and new jobs.

I find this article confusing, in the light of this from Wikipedia:

Eucalyptol comprises up to 90 percent of the essential oil of some species of the generic product Eucalyptus oil,[1] hence the common name of the compound. It is also found in camphor laurel, bay leaves, tea tree, mugwort, sweet basil, wormwood, rosemary, sage and other aromatic plant foliage. Eucalyptol with a purity from 99.6 to 99.8 percent can be obtained in large quantities by fractional distillation of eucalyptus oil.

But newspapers don’t always get science right, and I would guess the significance is that it’s a fungus that is manufacturing the stuff, and that fungi are easier and faster to grow than plants. But will it make eucalyptol when it’s not growing on a laurel tree?


Miracle on 22nd Street


True Love


Alabama Pension Fail

An excellent example of how “no new taxes” is working out for us.

Alabama Town’s Failed Pension Is a Warning

NYT, 12/22

PRICHARD, Ala. — This struggling small city on the outskirts of Mobile was warned for years that if it did nothing, its pension fund would run out of money by 2009. Right on schedule, its fund ran dry.

Then Prichard did something that pension experts say they have never seen before: it stopped sending monthly pension checks to its 150 retired workers, breaking a state law requiring it to pay its promised retirement benefits in full.

Since then, Nettie Banks, 68, a retired Prichard police and fire dispatcher, has filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Arnold, a 66-year-old retired fire captain, has gone back to work as a shopping mall security guard to try to keep his house. Eddie Ragland, 59, a retired police captain, accepted help from colleagues, bake sales and collection jars after he was shot by a robber, leaving him badly wounded and unable to get to his new job as a police officer at the regional airport.


A Win For Wilderness

A good move on the part of the Obama administration, coming on the heels of the failure of Harry Reid’s public lands bill this week.

Salazar to allow federal protection of wild land areas

Salt Lake Tribune, 12/23

Salazar issued an order allowing Bureau of Land Management officials to place public lands with wilderness characteristics in a new category that offers more protection. Some 6 million acres in Utah could be affected.

The move earned a quick rebuke by conservative lawmakers, with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, calling it a “brazen” move to “kowtow to radical environmental groups.”

Salazar’s order essentially jettisons a deal struck by Leavitt with then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton referred to as the “no more wilderness” agreement that took away the ability of BLM officials to designate certain areas as protected.

Anybody who doesn’t agree with anything Bush did is radical, apparently. Doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room, eh?

BLM to Overturn Bush’s ‘No More Wilderness’ Policy

NYT, 12/23

The new policy will “give back to BLM the authority to conduct wilderness inventories, identify lands with wilderness character, set them up as wildlands for interim protection until Congress has to act,” said a source familiar with the new policy. “And it’ll allow BLM to do these assessments in Alaska, too.”

The new policy would be a crucial tool for BLM to protect the ecological and recreational values of lands in the face of proposed oil and gas development or off-highway vehicle use, proponents say. Wilderness management bars the use of machines, including bicycles and off-road vehicles, and is opposed by many people in the West who claim it stifles economic development.

The Interior announcement is “going to address the deficiencies in BLM’s policies with respect to unprotected, but wilderness-quality, lands,” said Dave Alberswerth, the Wilderness Society’s senior policy adviser on energy issues. “It’s going to be a repudiation of Norton’s policy” and a recognition of BLM’s duty under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to protect its remaining roadless areas.

Wilderness rules restored for public lands

12/23, AP/Forbes

DENVER — The Obama administration plans to reverse a Bush-era policy and make millions of undeveloped acres of land once again eligible for federal wilderness protection, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday.

The agency will replace the 2003 policy adopted under former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Salazar said. That policy – derided by some as the “No More Wilderness” policy – stated that new areas could not be recommended for wilderness protection by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and opened millions of acres in the Rocky Mountain region to potential commercial development.

That policy “frankly never should have happened and was wrong in the first place,” Salazar said Thursday.


Can’t Pee in Shakopee

Urine trouble now: Drunk driver can’t go, lands in prison, blames shy bladder

Star Tribune, 12/23

A 42-year-old Twin Cities woman is in the midst of serving more than two years in prison because she couldn’t pee. Or wouldn’t pee.

Three Minnesota judges determined that Deborah Lynn Ferrier, of Andover, refused to offer a urine sample after being busted in April 2009 for drunken driving in Eagan. This even though police gave her glass after glass of water during three opportunities to produce a sample.

The article says it’s a felony to refuse to submit to testing (under what circumstances?) and the woman says she drank 15 glasses of water but has a medical problem she’s being treated for while in prison. She didn’t want to do the blood test because she doesn’t like needles. There is no question but that she was DUI, a roadside breath test put her at .184. She had five priors.

In those earlier arrests, Ferrier said, “I’ve always done [just] a breath test and pleaded guilty.”

While I have no particular sympathy for someone who persists in driving while excessively drunk, I’m a little curious as to why the need for the urine test. However, I don’t know what the penalty is in Minnesota for DUI #6. More than two years, perhaps.

Aside from that, the mind boggles at being twice over the legal limit and not being able to pee after drinking another fifteen glasses of water. And this is a woman, mind you; men have larger bladders. There is definitely either something wrong with her bladder, or her story.


New Kid In Town

Solar, wind energy company coming to city


Carlsbad Current Argus

With the stroke of a pen Tuesday, the president of Sac-Tec Labs of California signed a lease agreement to take over a 25,000-square-foot commercial space to house a development and manufacturing facility in downtown Carlsbad.

Bob Kunesh said the company is poised to produce a new generation of mobile solar and wind-driven power generating systems. The company’s solar products division, SacTec-Solar, will manufacture portable power generating units that employ high-energy solar components, solar-charged batteries and power generation and conversion systems, he said.

“The persistence of a few people has captured our enthusiasm to see what we can do here in Carlsbad,” said Kunesh, whose Torrance, Calif.-based company has been exploring opportunities for expansion in New Mexico.

Fascinating. This is geared towards the military to some extent, perhaps to a great extent, unsurprisingly. The company’s website is here; they seem to be mostly about microelectronics for aerospace operations. I wonder who owns them.

This site indicates that

Sac-Tec Lab is a private company categorized under Semiconductor Devices Manufacturers and located in Torrance, CA. Our records show it was established in 1991 and incorporated in California. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $5 to 10 million and employs a staff of approximately 10 to 19.

Don’t know how old that listing is, though.