Archive for February, 2008


February 29, 2008 4 comments

I thought it would just be a picture of footprints in snow,

but by accident it turned out to be an optical illusion. 

Categories: observations

Now how am I going to enjoy the election-night suspense?

February 27, 2008 1 comment

Doh!  Diebold accidentally releases results of 2008 election early.  Our voting machine overlords should be more careful.

I wouldn’t worry except this particular news source has shown amazing accuracy before.

Categories: Humor, observations

On terrorism: Credit where credit is due

February 27, 2008 Comments off

It’s welcome news, this statement from a huge gathering of Muslim scholars:

“…Scholars from 6,000 religious schools attended the meeting. The Deoband school promotes a brand of Islam which some say was an inspiration to Afghanistan’s Taleban. The school has always denied this.

Opening the conclave the head of the Deoband school, Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, described terrorism as a thoughtless act which is against the teachings of Islam. He said that the killing of innocent people of any religion was prohibited by the Koran, the Muslim Holy Book.

Many participants said they want to change popular perceptions in which, they say, terrorism is being equated with Islam. Others said that while Muslims should not be harassed because of anti-terrorism operations, the community also needed to be more introspective… “
BBC Reports Muslim scholars decry terrorism.

“More introspective.”  Yeah, that would be good medicine for both sides right about now – or a lot earlier.  And neither side needs to wait for the other to start looking in the mirror either. Islam doesn’t really have a central authority so it takes time to get that many scholars together to see the obvious. 

But the Muslim world does have many equivalents to our president; tough-talking, anti-intellectual demagogues whose jingoism just churns out death and suffering all around in the name of widely held good principles. Right now they’re probably denouncing the conclave with Arabic rhetoric that translates to; “Lousy liberals!  Don’t they understand we’re at war?!

Anyway – good going, Muslim-scholar guys, this is a really positive step. It truly is the best thing you can do to help Muslims who live in non-Muslim societies. And, uh, everyone else too.

Categories: Religion

Monday Morning Music: Caves Of Altamira

February 25, 2008 5 comments

(Yeah, I know it’s actually Monday evening but I like the alliteration) You-Tuberr Melegorm has assembled some photo-montages of quite a few Steely Dan songs.  The pictures are not really essential but he obviously put a lot of effort into them.

I love Caves Of Altamira because I was so much like that when I was a kid. I didn’t have any caves full of paleolithic artwork to explore, but spent countless hours at the University Of Iowa’s many excellent (free!) museums full of fossils, geological samples and biological displays from around the world.  And there was an abandoned rock quarry and several ravines nearby.  Excellently inappropriate playgrounds for a somewhat antisocial kid.

Steely Dan’s mythic description of ancient artistry is wonderful, and like many SD songs it is semi-historical.  Ideally when listening to Steely Dan one should be cruising down a 2-lane seacoast highway in a red ‘65 Impala ragtop with the top down…

Categories: Uncategorized

The E has landed in Decrepitville

February 24, 2008 8 comments

Wow!  I have received the E from Mike The Mad Biologist who says; ““Screw the Oscars, I received an E!”  Well first of all, Mike, right-back-at-you because your blog is awesome. (blinks in spotlight, shades eyes…) And an E is better than an Oscar.  For one thing, I don’t have to dust it.

The terms of this coveted award include passing it on to ten other blogs, blogs I read and recommend. Got to get right on it, because these memes move fast…

These are in no order, and there’s only ten so that means leaving out a LOT of excellent blogs that are listed in my sidebar. If I tagged anybody who’s already gotten the E, well sorry, you’ll just have to live with that much more attribution of Excellence…

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

Ralph Nader decides not enough people hate him, steps into presidential race

February 24, 2008 21 comments

Remember back in 2000 when Safety-Man got three million votes, making it possible for the Frat Boy In Chief to take the white house? BBC reports: Ralph Nader to run for president.  He denies that he’s a “spoiler candidate”.  Hey Ralph, your intentions are not the issue here.  If there was ever a time when one man could do a great service to his country by shutting the frakk up, it’s now and it’s you.

I actually agree with a lot of things Nader says, but the presidential race isn’t the place to say them.


  • Sheril at The Intersection compares Nader to the Energizer Bunny
  • Greg Laden weighs in, including a fascinating quote from Mike “I’m not Nehemiah Scudder” Huckabee

  • Even that bastion of uber-liberalism, the Mother Jones Blog, suggests
    ”…fret not, citizens of Berkeley, Burlington, and Madison. You’ve made your mistakes with Nader in the past but America can forgive you. Particularly if you ignore him this time around.”

  • Get your “No To Nader” blog badge Here
Categories: Politics

And I thought driving across Kansas was an accomplishment…

February 23, 2008 Comments off

Scientists studying the movement of glaciers in Antarctica;

Julian Scott has just returned from there. He told the BBC: “This is a very important glacier; it’s putting more ice into the sea than any other glacier in Antarctica. “It’s a couple of kilometres thick, its 30km wide and it’s moving at 3.5km per year, so it’s putting a lot of ice into the ocean.”

It is a very remote and inhospitable region. It was visited briefly in 1961 by American scientists but no one had returned until this season when Julian Scott and Rob Bingham and colleagues from the British Antarctic survey spent 97 days camping on the flat, white ice. At times, the temperature got down to minus 30C and strong winds made work impossible. At one point, the scientists were confined to their tent continuously for eight days.

“The wind really makes the way you feel incredibly colder, so just motivating yourself to go out in the wind is a really big deal,” Rob Bingham told BBC News.

When the weather improved, the researchers spent most of their time driving skidoos across the flat, featureless ice. “We drove skidoos over it for something like 2,500km each and we didn’t see a single piece of topography.”  (emphasis mine)

Holy frozen mackerel…  imagine making a fifteen-hundred mile trip on a frakkin’ snowmobile across a featureless sub-zero wasteland to gather data on ice movement.  The next time somebody tells me that scientists go into climate and geophysical studies because they get rich from academic grants, I’m gonna choke from laughing.



Not ‘getting it’, network news style

February 23, 2008 2 comments

TV news producer Chez, author of popular blog Deus Ex Malcontent, fired for blogging:

As far as CNN (and to be fair, the mainstream TV press in general) believes, it still sits comfortably at the top of the food chain, unthreatened by any possibility of a major paradigm shift being brought to bear by a horde of little people with laptops and opinions. Although the big networks recognize the need to appeal to bloggers, they don’t fear them—and that means they don’t respect them. Corporate-think dictates that the mainstream television press as a monstrous multi-headed hydra is the ultimate news authority and therefore is in possession of the one and only hotline to the ghosts of Murrow and Sevareid…

Chez lets his industry have it right between the eyes – TV news has descended beyond irrelevance to deceptive side-show, a frantic competitive contest for the title of Lowest Common Denominator. 

I have seen all the TV and cable news outlets, and the depth of triviality and sensationalism therein amazes me.  I have encountered only one remaining good general-news program on TV today, and it is The News Hour, with Jim Lehrer.  (What?  No panel discussions of Anna Nicole Smith?) And it is the only TV news program not beholden to corporate shareholders. Coincidence?

Categories: News, observations


February 20, 2008 2 comments

It was pretty darn cold and I was shivering (and I don’t own a telescope) so this is the best I could do.  But the Chicago Tribune got some really nifty pictures of the eclipse.

Categories: Nature, observations

Hot card

February 20, 2008 7 comments

You’re looking at the heat sink to an ATI Radeon X1600xt video card.  The cooling fan failed, causing the chip to overheat and the heat sink to delaminate.  The heat sink is soldered copper; lead-free solder melts at around 450 degrees Farenheit.  You can tell that it actually melted and didn’t just weaken and break by the fact that there are strands between the heatsink and its base where it became liquid and flowed as the parts separated.

What’s remarkable is that this card still works.  It shuts down after a few minutes of operation when it overheats, but it got hot enough to melt solder and still works.  The Radion X1600 only pulls about 40 watts at peak 2D operation; it was the fact that the heat couldn’t go anywhere that caused it to mount up.

Next up; carbon nanotube or diamond chips that can run at much higher temperatures.  But they’ll need entirely different kinds of heat sinks.  Soldered copper clearly won’t cut it.

Categories: Science & Technology