Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cat vs. Dog

Stolen from Ace's.

Dog Loves Guitar

My guess is that the dog is expecting a treat when the music stops, and alerts whenever the person playing stops.

New Year's Eve PSA

"People who focus on the here and now, without thinking about the impact on the future, are more aggressive than others when they are sober, but the effect is magnified greatly when they're drunk," said Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

"If you carefully consider the consequences of your actions, it is unlikely getting drunk is going to make you any more aggressive than you usually are."
But then, if you were really weren't thinking ahead, you probably aren't reading this anyway.
"Alcohol has  myopic effect -- it narrows your attention to what is important to you right now. That may be dangerous to someone who already has that tendency to ignore the future consequences of their actions and who is placed in a hostile situation."
One thing about being in Academe is that you rarely socialize with people who don't think ahead.  They may not always think well, but they do think ahead.

I think I want to spend next New Years in Sweden...

Final Beach Report of 2011

The final beach walk for 2011 was graced with unbelievably nice weather for winter, almost 60 F, blue sky and very little wind. Supposedly the weather should be good for tomorrow as well.
In yesterday's report, I didn't say much, but I had a remarkable day for finding fossils, 130 sharks teeth, a pair of drums teeth, a porpoise tooth, and a whale vertebra.  Today was almost as good, but because I we didn't walk as far as I did yesterday we only ended up with 40 shark's teeth, including this large Snaggletooth, shown where I found it.
One of the eagles was out and about, the one that isn't concerned when you walk by
A gull flying by.  I'm told by the bird expert that it was probably a Bonapart's Gull.
A very large Snaggletooth sharks tooth I found today.  It has some of the original rock matrix stuck to it, which is very rare for the teeth around here, as the matrix is soft and wears off quickly.
Jane and Tyler.  Both bird experts (Tyler told me it was a Bonapart's Gull).  Georgia and I work with Tyler. 
Skye was still romping around.

It's Just a Small Defect, I Wouldn't Worry About It

General Motors Co. is recalling more than 4,000 of its 2012 Chevrolet Sonic subcompact cars to check for missing brake pads.

Some Sonics could be missing an inner or outer brake pad, which could increase stopping distance. GM said there are no known crashes or injuries related to the issue.

The recall involves 4,296 of GM’s 2012 Sonics sold in the U.S. Affected models are from the Orion Township, Mich., assembly plant, which makes Sonics for the U.S. and Canadian markets.
How could that have happened?

I'd like to think that a car missing brake pads would never make it off the sales lot, but it's hard to underestimate the perceptiveness of both the sellers and buyers.

Rule 5 Saturday - Jeri Ryan - I Blame 7 of 9

Jeri Ryan, best known (to me at least, and who else counts) as the partially de-Borged human woman on "Star Trek: Voyager" is the subject of this week's Rule 5 post, in partial violation of the spirit "All politics all the time gets boring after a while", but in full compliance with the dictum "Everybody likes a pretty girl".  In Star Trek 7 played the same role as Spock in the original and Data in "Next Generation":
Seven of Nine was an outsider who could comment on humanity and all of its follies as well as serve as a foil for Janeway’s character." She also remarked that "combining non-human qualities with an attractive human appearance," as in Seven's character, was a great move by the producers. In terms of portrayal, she said that "keeping a straight face" while showing suppressed emotion was an enjoyable challenge.
The character's attire, a form-fitting silver catsuit with distinct rib-lines and a high stiff neck, was criticized by veteran Star Trek writer/producer Ronald D. Moore, who felt she should have a more Borg-like appearance. Her outfit also annoyed some who felt that it was an attempt by the show's creators to make her sexually appealing to male viewers, without any storyline purposes intended. 
Demonstrating that Star Trek understood the Rule 5 principle...

Born Jeri Lynn Dylan Zimmerpersonman in Munchen, West Germany, in 1968 (I was in High School) to an American soldier, she sampled the United States growing up, living in Texas, Maryland, Kansas, Georgia and Hawaii (this may prove to be a significant stop in view of her later political role), before her father settled in Kentucky.
 In 1989 she was chosen Miss Illinois (another connection in the conspiracy theory), but only placed third runner up in the 1990 Miss America, having won the swimsuit competition.  Wikipedia has no record of what she performed for her talent event.

She subsequently heard the call of Hollywood and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting.   Her first significant role was  am extra-terrestrial investigator (an investigator of the extra terrestrial, not an extra terrestrial who investigates, though that might have worked too) in "Dark Skies", a short lived TV series.
In 1990, while she met Jack Ryan, future Senate candidate from Illinois, while dealing black jack at a charity event.  They married in 1991, and had a son, Alex, in 1994.  Though she worked in acting more or less contintuously, she began a major grind when she signed up with Star Trek: Voyager in 1997.  They divorced in 1999, and the problems of a dual city marriage was cited by Ryan in a Star Trek interview as at least a partial cause for the divorce.

This is where it gets interesting:
When Jack Ryan's campaign for an open United States Senate seat in Illinois began in 2003, the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WLS-TV, the local ABC affiliate, sought to have his records released. Both Jeri and Jack agreed to make their divorce, but not custody, records public, saying their release could be harmful to their son.

On June 18, 2004, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider agreed to release the custody files. The decision generated much controversy because it went against both parents' direct request and because it generally reversed the early decision to seal the papers in the best interest of the child. It was revealed that six years previously, Jeri had accused Jack Ryan of asking her to perform sexual acts with him in public, and in sex clubs in New York, New Orleans, and Paris. Jeri Ryan described one as "a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling." Jack Ryan denied these allegations. Although Jeri Ryan only made a brief statement, and she refused to comment on the matter during the campaign, the document disclosure led Jack Ryan to withdraw his candidacy; his main opponent, Barack Obama, then won the 2004 United States Senate election in Illinois.
And we all know how that turned out.  So I blame 7 of 9 for all of America's current problems.  Seems fair enough to me.  Now, no more words about Jeri; just more pictures.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Long Awaited Beach Report...

I haven't put out a beach report in three days, and I had a lot of photos sitting in the camera when I finished today, so I just going to try something new, going through them and posting them as I find them and decide they're post worthy.  The weather has been nice the whole time, and the tides have been favorable.

Click on a photo below the fold to see the whole set as a slide show

The #Occupy Guy Wins One

I may have posted this before...

This time I saw it at Ace's. As always, I thank Wombat-Socho for his links in The Other McCain's weekly collection of Rule 5 posts "Rule 5 Monday: Apocalypse Edition."

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Star Dies

Tarzan co-star Cheetah dies at Palm Harbor sanctuary
Cheetah the chimpanzee, who acted in classic Tarzan movies in the early 1930s, died of kidney failure Saturday at Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, a sanctuary spokeswoman said.Cheetah was roughly 80 years old, loved fingerpainting and football and was soothed by nondenominational Christian music, said Debbie Cobb, the sanctuary's outreach director.He was an outgoing chimp who was exposed to the public his whole life, Cobb said today.

"He wasn't a chimp that caused a lot of problems," she said.

Cheetah acted in the 1932-34 Tarzan movies, Cobb said. Movies filmed during that timeframe starred Johnny Weissmuller and include "Tarzan and His Mate" and "Tarzan the Ape Man," according to the Internet Movie Database.
I remember watching the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies that had Cheetah as a co-star.  I used to watch them when they came on late at night when my parents were out. I find it amazing that Cheetah was still alive.
Sometime around 1960, Cheetah came to the sanctuary from Weissmuller's estate in Ocala, Cobb said. In the wild, the average chimp survives 25 to 35 years and at zoos chimps typically live 35 to 45 years, she said.

Cheetah, the most famous of the sanctuary's 15 chimpanzees, liked to see people laugh.

"He was very compassionate," Cobb said. "He could tell if I was having a good day or a bad day. He was always trying to get me to laugh if he thought I was having a bad day. He was very in tune to human feelings." It doesn't appear Cheetah had any children, Cobb said.

Ron Priest, a sanctuary volunteer for seven years, said Cheetah stood out because of his ability to stand up – shoulders tall, back straight – and walk like a person. Cheetah also stood out for another reason, Priest said: "When he didn't like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them. He could get you at 30 feet with bars in between."

Cheetah put a lot of thought into his art, though if he was tired he would give up easily and not play with it much.

He wasn't into watching animal shows on television, but he enjoyed watching all the color and movement when football appeared on screen. Cobb wasn't aware of whether Cheetah had any favorite teams.

"I couldn't ask him that," she said. "I'm not a chimp psychic."
Come for the monkey - Stay for the Cuties...

Cheetah appears at about 1:30 in this one.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No, the Rich Don't Keep Getting Richer

According to the MSM and liberal economists, U.S. inequality has exploded to levels not seen since the 1920s or perhaps even the Gilded Age of the late 19th century. And to prove their point—that the 1 percent has gotten amazingly richer in recent decades—the inequality alarmists will inevitably trot out a famous income inequality study from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. But why not instead look at wealth—all financial and nonfinancial assets—instead of income? It’s less volatile and a truer measure of all the economic resources at an individual’s command. Turns out that Saez has done research on that subject, too. And he even created a revealing chart documenting the ups and downs of U.S. wealth over the past century. It reveals a very different picture of inequality in America:
So how does that happen; the upper 1% of income earners make more, but overall the upper 1% of the wealthy have been rather steady recently at around 21% of all wealth? Among other things, having an income in 1 year that puts you in the upper 1% doesn't guarantee that you'll make the same amount of money next year, or that you will be smart wise enough to convert that one time income windfall into wealth.  Ask M.C. Hammer...

How to Feel Young

At least if You're a Mouse...Gobble Prozac and Skip the Cookies.

Prozac Extinguishes Anxiety by Rejuvenating the Brain
Once adult lab mice learn to associate a particular stimulus—a sound, a flash of light—with the pain of an electric shock, they don't easily forget it, even when researchers stop the shocks. But a new study in the December 23 issue of Science shows that the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) gives mice the youthful brain plasticity they need to learn that a once-threatening stimulus is now benign. The research may help explain why a combination of therapy and antidepressants is more effective at treating depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than either drugs or therapy alone. Antidepressants may prime the adult brain to rewire faulty circuits during therapy...

In Castrén's study, adult mice that took fluoxetine while they went through extinction training behaved much like young mice—they lost their fear much faster than mice that were not taking the drug, and their anxiety did not return. In contrast, mice that were given fluoxetine but never went through extinction training remained anxious.
 Eating less keeps the brain young
Overeating may cause brain aging while eating less turns on a molecule that helps the brain stay young.

A team of Italian researchers at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome have discovered that this molecule, called CREB1, is triggered by "caloric restriction" (low caloric diet) in the brain of mice. They found that CREB1 activates many genes linked to longevity and to the proper functioning of the brain.
So, since I don't actually want to have to starve to live forever, how 'bout you drug companies find a way to stimulate CREB1 production?

The Tooth Fairy Better Watch Out

He might get Nerfed...

Were Dogs Ever Domesticated?

A Canadian researcher who specializes in the biology of ancient dogs co-authored one of the most significant studies of the year in canine science: a paper detailing the world’s earliest evidence of an animal in transition from wild wolf to domesticated dog.

The “extraordinary preservation” of the creature’s 33,000-year-old skull — found in a cave in southern Siberia — has helped show that dog domestication “was, in most cases, entirely natural” and not really a “human accomplishment,” says B.C. evolutionary biologist Susan Crockford.

She was part of a six-member team of researchers from Russia, Britain, the U.S. and the Netherlands that turned the clock back on wolf-dog transformations by thousands of years and showed that the phenomenon probably happened many times in many places around the globe...

“It doesn’t meet all of the criteria for what we consider to be a fully domesticated dog,” she told Postmedia News. “It’s got some evidence that it is partway through the process. That’s why we talk about an ‘incipient’ dog, because it’s smaller than a wolf but it still has wolf-sized teeth.”

Traits typical of canines transformed by generations of interaction with human communities include a smaller, wider skull, shortened snout and smaller, more crowded teeth.

It’s believed the wolf-dog lineage seen in the Altai Mountains specimen did not continue through the Ice Age that took hold of the region beginning some 25,000 years ago.
This is a very similar theme to that of a previous article I commented on here; the idea that wolves and modern humans linked together very early in prehistory, and that dogs evolved naturally out of the results of that linkage, rather than an act of deliberate "domestication".  Furthermore, having wolves/dogs as partners would likely have influenced human evolution as well, by shaping the path that humans took, and helping them to expand into new environments.

As for the belief that the wolf-dog lineage from the Altai mountains did not survive the glaciation, I think that it largely speculative and unwarranted.  Do they really imagine that the people and wolf/dogs stayed in the Altai and let the glaciers overwhelm them?  No, of course they moved.  While extinction is the ultimate fate of virtually every genetic line, there's no reason to suspect that this particular line of wolf-dogs did not contribute to the line of dogs that have come to live with us today.

Scientists Discover Demigod Particle

Large Hadron Collider researchers find new particle
British researchers say they've seen a new particle using data from the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. The chi b(3P) is the first new particle that has been clearly observed using the LHC, the world's largest particle accelerator, which is housed in a 17-mile (27-km) long tunnel near the border of Switzerland and France.

The chi b(3P) is a boson, but is different than the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle" that researchers have also been using the LHC to search for. Researchers from the University of Birmingham and Lancaster University describe the new particle as a new way of combining a beauty quark and its antiquark so that they bind together.

"While people are rightly interested in the Higgs boson, which we believe gives particles their mass and may have started to reveal itself, a lot of the mass of everyday objects comes from the strong interaction we are investigating using the chi b," says Professor Roger Jones, Head of the Lancaster ATLAS group.

How Does Chinese Food Differ from German Food?

As Mao Tse Tung said to Henry Kissenger, "I like German food, but an hour after I eat it, I'm power hungry again".

Oh wait, that's not it, this is:
Nature has published a fascinating paper that solves a seemingly silly but very interesting question: why do Western and Asian foods taste so different? After analyzing 56,498 recipes the answer is in the way they pair 381 ingredients.

According to the study, Western cuisines have a tendency to pair ingredients that share many of the same flavor compounds. East Asian cuisines, however, do precisely the contrary, avoiding ingredients that share the same flavor compounds. The more flavors two ingredients share, the less likely they would be paired together in Asian kitchens.
Why is this important?

This is the first time that a experimental study has confirmed what only was an hypothesis over the past decade:

This food pairing hypothesis has been used to search for novel ingredient combinations and has prompted, for example, some contemporary restaurants to combine white chocolate and caviar, as they share trimethylamine and other flavor compounds, or chocolate and blue cheese that share at least 73 flavor compounds.

However, since Asian food works by avoiding food pairs, their analysis also destroys the idea that flavor pairing is the only way to achieve amazing new plates. According to the study, this "discovery of patterns that may transcend specific dishes or ingredients" may open new ways to cook.
We found a pretty good new cheap Thai restaurant in Prince Frederick the other night...

Oxymoron Threatens Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem

Giant shrimp raises big concern as it invades the Gulf
A truly jumbo shrimp is causing big worries about the future of the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem.

The Asian tiger prawn, a foot-long crustacean with a voracious appetite and a proclivity for disease, has invaded the northern Gulf, threatening prized native species, from crabs and oysters to smaller brown and white shrimp.

Though no one is sure what the ecological impact will be, scientists fear a tiger prawn takeover could knock nature's balance out of whack and turn a healthy, diverse marine habitat into one dominated by a single invasive species.

"It has the potential to be real ugly," said Leslie Hartman, Matagorda Bay ecoystem leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "But we just do not know."
 Looks like it's about time to put another shrimp on the barbie.  I won't be concerned until they start catching them on "Big Shrimpin'."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Does a 16 ft Crocodile Do With a Lawnmower?

Anything it wants...

Shut Up and Eat Your Pony

The Case for Eating Horse Meat
Congress recently lifted a 2007 ban on funding for the inspection of horse meat, albeit to little applause. It’s not like the country was crazy for the stuff in 2006 and started turning over cars when they found out they couldn’t get it anymore. In a country where Funyuns, bug tacos and cayenne-flavored purgatives are all considered perfectly acceptable, we have never gotten over our national revulsion against horse meat. Maybe we should.

The arguments for eating horse meat would be strong ones, if they weren’t totally irrelevant. For one thing, more Americans are hungry now than at any time in living memory. Part of the reason is the cost of fresh meat, particularly the delicious beef, pork and chicken we have all learned to consider indispensable to human life. (Lamb, veal, turkey and game are remote runners-up.) Americans are never going to eat as much horse as they do veal, which accounts for less than 1% of U.S. meat consumption. Still, because horse meat is unpopular, it will be cheaper, and the poorest Americans could eat fresh meat more frequently.
Of course, the big objection to eating horses is not really food based, but on our American idealization of horses, the transport of the frontiersman and the Indians Native Americans, and the pets and hobby of the upper crust.  But intrinsically, a horse is just an vegetarian animal, probably not quite as intelligent as a pig, but smarter and more evil than a cow.  While I have never eaten horsemeat (to best of my knowledge; there was that roadside taco stand in Baja California...), I have no moral objection to it.  I wonder how it compares to porcupine?

EPA Financial Advisor Loses 1.2 Billion Dollars

During two days of recent congressional hearings into how as much as $1.2 billion disappeared from MF Global customer accounts, the chief operating officer of the imploding investment firm responded again and again that he did not know.

Yet as the House and Senate interrogated Bradley I. Abelow and other top executives at MF Global Holdings Ltd., lawmakers did not mention Mr. Abelow’s role as a financial adviser for the Environmental Protection Agency, which as of Tuesday listed him as the chairman of its financial advisory board.

Even as he finds himself the public face of a bankruptcy and admitted to lawmakers that he had no idea how client funds disappeared, Congress and the administration have voiced no public concern about Mr. Abelow’s role advising the $8.6 billion government agency on its finances.

“EPA relying on Wall Street for financial guidance is like the blind leading the blind,” said Jeff Ruch, president of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington.
If you're incapable of tracking MF Global's customer's funds, you shouldn't be allowed to managed the governments funds, either.

Kids Grateful for Christmas...

Not. NSFW language because it's what some kids really tweeted when they didn't get the IWhatever they asked for.  And the music sucks too...

And not really related, a Flemish Children's choir singing about, well, follow the lyrics...

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There...

And Pretty Soon You're Talking About Real Money:  Obama to ask for a another 1.2 trillion debt ceiling increase:
The White House plans to ask Congress by the end of the week for an increase in the government's debt ceiling to allow the United States to pay its bills on time, according to a senior Treasury Department official on Tuesday.

The approval is expected to go through without a challenge, given that Congress is in recess until later in January and the request is in line with an agreement to keep the U.S. government funded into 2013.

The debt is projected to fall within $100 billion of the current cap by December 30, when the United States has $82 billion in interest on its debt and payments such as Social Security coming due. President Barack Obama is expected to ask for authority to increase the borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion, part of the spending authority that was negotiated between Congress and the White House this summer.

Under the agreement struck in August during the showdown over the government's debt limit, the cap is automatically raised unless Congress votes to block the debt-ceiling extension. Lawmakers have 15 days within receiving the request to vote, which is largely symbolic because the president can veto it and Congress would be unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority to override it. Moreover, the U.S. House of Representatives also is in recess until January 17.

As Instapundit points out, someone should ask him where the last trillion went.  Sadly, he won't even be embarrassed by this.  Even the Washington Post admits:

Washington’s year of drama leaves little done regarding debt:

Reid Ribble, a Wisconsin roofing contractor-turned-Republican lawmaker, has helped change the way Washington talks about the national debt. That’s not to say he has done much about the debt itself.

Nearly a year ago, Ribble and other newly elected House Republicans came to Capitol Hill on a single-minded mission to shove the federal debt to the top of the congressional agenda. They succeeded. At every opportunity, they demanded cuts in spending, forcing a series of white-knuckle showdowns that have kept the government in a state of perpetual crisis. Washington nudged close to a public conversation about the kind of government taxpayers want and what they are willing to pay for it.

Last week, however, Ribble went home for the holidays with little to show for all the political drama. The debt stood at $15.1 trillion, $1 trillion more than when he got to town. By the end of next year, projections show, it will grow by an additional $1 trillion. Ribble said he and his allies had cut spending for 2012 by only about $7 billion, a sliver so tiny Ribble could measure its impact in minutes.

“We’ve saved the American taxpayer about 17 hours of spending. That’s it,” he said. “When you just really stop and think about it, we’ve made very little progress.”
So somehow, the Republican is at fault again... 

About Damned TIme - II

Congress ends corn ethanol subsidy
The United States has ended a 30-year tax subsidy for corn-based ethanol that cost taxpayers $6 billion annually, and ended a tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol.

Congress adjourned for the year on Friday, failing to extend the tax break that's drawn a wide variety of critics on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Critics also have included environmentalists, frozen food producers, ranchers and others.

The policies have helped shift millions of tons of corn from feedlots, dinner tables and other products into gas tanks.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth praised the move.

"The end of this giant subsidy for dirty corn ethanol is a win for taxpayers, the environment and people struggling to put food on their tables," biofuels policy campaigner Michal Rosenoer said Friday.
Ethanol from corn as a source of automobile fuel has been one of the worst ideas ever forced on the US by Congress.  It is barely (if even that) a net source of energy for cars, after considering the fossil fuels which go into corn production and the refining of the ethanol.  It removes corn from the food market and helps drive up the price of  food, and it is a lousy fuel, especially for marine engines, in which it causes inconvenient and even dangerous failures.  And, for all that, we got to subsidize it to the extent of 45 cents a gallon. Good riddance.

Movie Review - "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" - på Svenska

Last night we sat down and figured out how to run our DVD player, so that we could play the Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2009)  Needless to say, we don't use our DVD player all that much.  Georgia had requested the Swedish version at the local library, and it came in yesterday.

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander
We had both read the three books the movie was based on over the course of the year, while commuting.  For those three of you who don't know the back story.  Stieg Larrson wrote the three "Girl" books (the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest and the Girl Who Played with Fire) while while at his day job as a journalist in Sweden.  The novels were published after he died in 2004. The books have become international best sellers.  There's a bit of controversy over the publication:
In May 2008, it was announced that a 1977 will, found soon after Larsson's death, declared his wish to leave his assets to the Umeå branch of the Communist Workers League (now the Socialist Party). As the will was unwitnessed, it was not valid under Swedish law, with the result that all of Larsson's estate, including future royalties from book sales, went to his father and brother. His long term partner Eva Gabrielsson, who found the will, has no legal right to the inheritance, sparking controversy between her and his father and brother. Reportedly, the two never married because, under Swedish law, couples entering into marriage are required to make their addresses (at the time) publicly available; marrying would have been a security risk. Owing to his reporting on extremist groups and the death threats he had received, the couple had sought and been granted masking of their addresses, personal data and identity numbers from public records, to make it harder for others to trace them; this kind of "identity cover" was integral to his work as a journalist and would have been difficult to bypass if the two had married or become registered partners.
The tattoo
The Swedish versions of the movies were all shot at the same time and released in 2009.  The "Girl", Lisbeth Salander was chilling played by Noomi Rapace, who captured the physical and emotional aspects of the main character flawlessly, physically slight, sexually ambiguous, emotionally damaged, intellectually brilliant and driven.  The Mikael Blomkvist character, played by Michael Nyqvist represented the authors vision pretty well. It's clear that Kalle Blomqvist is what the author saw himself; a crusading journalist, and a lady's man, smart and sensitive who beds three different women in one novel, all of them knowing of each other and not caring. 

The novels were clearly a vehicle for Stieg to promote his political views, the crusading liberal journalist, the abused yet strangely (emphasis on strange) competent woman protagonist, horrible male oppressors with extreme right-wing views (Nazi's in "Tattoo"), rapacious industrialist war mongers.  I'll let that all go in the name of art.  It's fair when Ayn Rand did it too.

The cinematography of the movie was excellent.  The Swedish landscapes, that changed with the seasons of the book were excruciating. 

I'm looking forward to seeing the two additional movies is Swedish in the next couple of days, and no doubt, we will also go to see the new Hollywood version, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

As Goes Maine...

Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, mentioned an uncomfortable truth in a radio address this month: Maine has more welfare recipients than income tax payers.

Democrats challenged the accuracy of this assertion.

The Bangor Daily News fact-checked LePage and discovered that 445,074 Mainers paid state income tax, while 453,194 received some sort of state aid.

In Maine, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps and subsidies for education have a combined enrollment of 660,000.

Adjusting for overlap reduces the number to 453,194 – or 8,120 more people on state assistance than there are state income taxpayers in Maine.
What cannot be sustained will not be sustained, but the end is likely to be abrupt, unexpected, and unpleasant.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scientists Put Fish on Vegetarian Diet

BALTIMORE — Researchers say they may have overcome a roadblock in efforts to satisfy the world's growing demand for seafood through fish-farming.

While more fish are being farmed, taking pressure off wild stocks, environmentalists and fisheries experts are concerned that expanding current fish-farming methods will not be sustainable for many species because that would require more smaller fish to be caught for feed. And that can affect stocks of larger wild fish higher on the food chain.

Researchers at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology say they have developed a plant-based diet for three popular saltwater fish — striped bass, cobia and Mediterranean sea bream. Taste-testers can't tell the difference between fish raised on the plant-based diet and those raised on fish meal, they say.
Hmmm.  I'm trying to decide whether this is a good thing or not.  In the long run, the world can produce more food for people if they eat lower on the food chain, and nothing is lower on the food chain than plants.  Every calorie of grain or soybeans fed to fish is one less available to feed the worlds hungry.

However, the requirement for fish oil in the fish diet totally negates the benefit allegedly being gained by using a vegetable based diet for the fish.  To obtain fish oil, fish are caught, and processed for their oil, and the remaining fish meal is used to feed chicken such things as poultry, which could be fed the grain.  This is what is happening to most of the menhaden caught in Chesapeake Bay.  The oil is extracted for various purposes (including human) and the meal is largely used to supplement animal foods.

Clerk Punches Out Gun Wielding Robber

"I got the money and he had the bag out and instead of putting it in the bag I stuck it out and said, 'Just take it.' So, when he reached out, I took a step in, I cocked back and preloaded and I hit him hard,” Mothershead told News 4's Mike McCormick.The punch knocked out the would-be thief. Mothershead was able to grab the man's weapon and realized it was a pellet gun.“When I pulled it out of his waistband I started laughing,” said Mothershead. “I said, 'Man, you came in here with a fake gun?'"Mothershead said he dragged the man over to a desk and held him down with one hand and called 911 with the other.

The man, later identified as Mostafa Hendi, eventually regained consciousness.“He kind of begged me, begged me to let him go,” Mothershead said. “I said, 'You came in and tried to rob us. You’re going to jail.'”While they waited for police and paramedics, Mothershead gave Hendi a roll of power towels, sprayed the floor with cleaner and told him to clean up his own blood.

Feds Bust Santa

Mr. and Mrs. Claus
U.S. Federal agents arrested Santa Claus earlier today at the North Pole.

The United States Department of Fish and Wildlife has arrested Santa Claus, an elusive figure with many aliases (e.g., St. Nicholas).  On the morning of 24 December, 150 heavily armed Fish and Wildlife special agents raided Claus’ North Pole compound, seized several tons of exotic woods forbidden by the Lacey Act, arrested Santa Claus and a female accomplice identified only as Mrs. Claus, and liberated thousands of diminutive slave labourers known only as “Elves”.
Two recently freed elves

Claus has been charged with multiple counts of money laundering, illegal exportation of currency, illegally importing into the United States toys made of contraband–rare woods, ivory and other banned substances.  He has also been charged with violations of slave labor and child labor laws, hundreds of patent and trademark violations, and illegally entering and exiting the United States.

Santa's Reindeer and Trainer
Santa's Sleigh and Sleigh Manager
Indeed, Fish and Wildlife agents also seized an unidentified aircraft called a “sleigh” which had numerous secret compartments holding the contraband.   Fish and Wildlife agents charged Mr. Claus with animal cruelty with regard to the caribou that he used to launch this “sleigh”.

Agent Smith
Special Agent Smith said
“We arrived just in the nick of time. A moment later, and the caribou would have launched the sleigh and Claus would have escaped with the illegal materials. By now, he would be in the United States, breaking into people’s houses and selling this stuff.”

The United States Department of Immigration and the Internal Revenue Service have also had their eyes on Mr. Claus.  An immigration official who also attended the raid said that they were able to obtain several dozen passports.  He said,

“It seems that this Santa Claus character has a different name in every country–his EU passport says, ‘Father Christmas’ and his Canadian passport says, ‘Père Noël’. We have, however, determined with certainty that Santa Claus is a United States citizen.”
Betty Grable after 1940's "visit" from Santa

 Apparently Claus worked in Hollywood during the 1940s and 50s making autobiographical films, such as Miracle on 34th Street.  During that time he applied for and received  U.S. citizenship.

Dorris Shulman, Commissioner of the IRS, has released the following statement:
At long last, the notorious tax cheat, Santa Claus, has been apprehended.  He has been living in a foreign country for the last 50 years and during that time he has not filed his US taxes even once.  It has become clear, however, that he has run a lucrative business at the North Pole and has never reported any of the income.  In addition to criminal tax evasion, we intend to charge Santa Claus with 190 counts of criminal failure to file Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBAR), as we found evidence in his papers that he is operating or has signing authority on bank accounts in 190 different countries.  It is our contention that the fines alone could help us bring billions in revenue into the United States government.
IRS Commissioner
According to United States law, all United States Citizens are required to pay taxes to the IRS and to report any foreign bank accounts.  Failure to obey these filing requirements may result in civil and criminal penalties including imprisonment.

The Obama administration declared that they were very pleased with the news.
”It is about time,” Obama said from his Hawaiian retreat, “that the United States returned those who have fled the country just because they don’t feel like paying their fair share anymore.”
The Republican candidate for president, Ron Paul criticized the raid:
“The United States has neither the authority nor the right to go into another country and enforce its laws. Santa Claus is a citizen of the North Pole and it is overreach for us to go there and arrest him.”

Also running for president, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich responded to Paul:

“The United States must reserve the right to arrest terrorists and to violate the rule of law in order to provide safety for the People of the United States.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada said that his government did everything that they could to help the United States, even to the point of allowing the use of Canadian air space.
”We are cooperating with the good faith efforts of the United States to eliminate terrorists in order to maintain the safety and security of all Canadians.”

Monday, December 26, 2011

DC Visit and Museum Reviews

Smithsonian Castle - Source of all evil
Today we decided to abandon the  dogs, and do a little sight seeing.  Traffic was unnaturally light for DC, except right in the Mall area.

Our first stop in DC, besides a little mandatory driving confusion, was at the National Geographic Museum to see the Anglo Saxon Hoard, an exhibit based on a trove of treasure discovered in a field in Staford-shire, England, apparently buried in about 650 A.D.
Natural History Museum

Washington Monument


Metallic Tree in Sculpture Garden

Inverted House in Sculpture Garden

The trove consists of a large number of intricate and often bejeweled articles of gold, often used as decorations on weapons.

I found the objects interesting, but the display less than perfect.  I understand you need to keep lights low on old art and fabric, but gold and garnets do not fade in the light.  More light would have made the jewelry displayed much more appealing.

Our tickets for the Anglo Saxon Hoard also entitled us to see the "Animal Grossology" exhibit, designed for children, to introduce them to the "grosser" aspects of nature.  It was actually pretty amusing, and the kids inside seemed to be having a ton of fun.  It was full of potty humor. One of the comments in the guest book was "I liked the cow fart".

After the National Geo museum, we traipsed off to Air and Space.  Air and Space is a huge museum, and well worth the time if you have any interest in space flight or aviation.

We split up, and Georgia and I searched fruitlessly for the perfect sweatshirt for a while, and then went to another kid's exhibit "How Things Fly".   It was a very hands-on exhibit, with lots of things for kids to do that illustrated the principals of flight.  Again, it was jammed with kids, and they seemed to be having a ball.

After the visit to Air and Space we walked back to the car, conveniently parked at Natural History.  On the way we walked through the sculpture garden adjacent to Nat. Hist. and I took a couple of pictures.

Triceratops skull statue outside Natural History

This house is an old classic.  The vertex of this house actually points away from the observer, making the house concave from the front.  But here is a very strong optical illusion that makes it look convex, like a proper house would be. 

T'was the Day After Christmas

Alex and Kelly came down from South Park Christmas Eve, and brought their little dog, Hendrix.  Much of the antics of the last two days has concerned the relationship between Skye and Hendrix, separated by a vast gulf of age and personality.  Still, except when food is involved, they get along well, and after a short reintroduction period we left them alone after dinner, and went to see the new Sherlock Holmes flick at the local theater.

Like most movies it was fun, but not deep. Sorry, I don't have the time or skills to do a Plinkett style take down, but our purpose in movies is not to find their faults.  As someone who knows physics moderately well, it's not hard to find implausible actions in an action flick.  That's why they call the "special" effects.  It was fun to watch, and fun to make fun of later, and that's enough.

We woke up Christmas morning and dove into the pile of presents.  Someone think I'm catching a lot of fish next year, as I received three fillet knives, (two "regular" and one electric).  The dogs got bones, and the women got clothes. I also gave Georgia a four port hummingbird feeder, which won't get use now until the weather warms and the hummers return.

The big story of the Christmas this year was the Alex got a banjo, which he had been hinting around about.  We shopped a bit and found one we thought he might like in Catonsville at  Appalachian Bluegrass.  He spent much of yesterday trying to retrain his fingers to do banjo rolls instead of guitar picking patterns.  We also picked one up for me for less than half the price, so I can try it out.

After trashing the front room, we headed out to IHOP for breakfast.  The place was jammed and service was slow, but the miracle was that they succeeded at all, so we were content to talk and sip coffee until they managed to make breakfast.

After we returned from breakfast (around lunch time), we headed off the to beach for a short walk with Hendrix and Skye.  It was pretty nice weather for the beach walk; a bit windy but mostly west, which gives us cover, and makes the beach calm.

Later in the afternoon (after lots of banjo practice), we headed off to our friends house for Christmas dinner.  We've been alternating houses for Christmas dinner since the late 80's.  This yea is was their turn.  We had a great dinner, and get together, and came home, and I had no inclination to blog at that point.