Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hackers Erase Orlando

Anonymous declared war on the city of Orlando, promising to remove the city's web site from the internet today from 10am to 6pm. I just tried to go to the site and it looks like they've manage to slow the site to inutility, although with some patience, it does sort of come up. Of course the rest of the internet feels like someone poured glue into the tubes, but it has felt that way for several weeks. It's intermittent and hasn't seriously effected us above the level of minor annoyance. And then I remember what it was like on a dial-up connection and stop being annoyed.

Of more concern is that the power companies will stop regulating the frequency of the electricity they deliver. So when stuff plugged into the wall stops working or dies prematurely, be sure to thank the power company for running an uncontrolled experiment at your expense. But I'm sure their stock will go up.

There is a commercial running on TV that just cracks me up. The basic message is that America doesn't have to worry about oil because of all that tar sand up in Alberta, which as everyone knows is part of the 51st state of The United States, although it looks like the locals didn't get the memo:


William Cohen, who was secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, said any Chinese-Canadian oil partnership must be done "with some diplomacy and care," in a way that isn't "a threat to the United States."

Canada can do whatever it wants, but "Canada knows it has a very close and vital relationship with the United States. I'm sure there will be discussions," he said in Toronto after a public debate about whether China will dominate the 21st century.

Eddie Goldenberg, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, said in an interview that Canada should care less if some American officials are leery about Canada selling oil to China.

"We're not the 51st state. It's not the business of the United States to decide where Canada sells its resources," he said.

So we have a former member of the US military establishment making thinly-veiled threats, and a member of the Canadian government telling him to fold it until it's all points and shove it on a slant. All of which ignores the bigger questions of net energy and environmental damage from trying to wring heavy, sour crude oil out of naturally-occurring asphalt.

I have other things I'm supposed to be doing, but I can't get my brain in gear. I've been bike-less since my Friday morning ride. I had some annoying noises that, as it turns out, were fairly minor to fix but will require a week-long wait for parts. I should have my bike back by Friday at the latest, but not being able to ride has put me in a bit of a funk. So instead of doing all the stuff that I need to get done, I'm posting random stuff on the internet.

Coming to a taco stand near you: lab grown meat. The take-away quotes:

Even if the initial results do not taste quite the same as proper meat, scientists are convinced the public will soon get used to it, especially if they do not have a choice.

A colleague of Professor Post said: ‘When we are eating a hamburger we don’t think, “I’m eating a dead cow”. And when people are already far from what they eat, it’s not too hard to see them accepting cultured meat.’

(Emphasis mine) So it's OK that it tastes like crap (and is likely a nutritional nightmare) because you won't have a choice and nobody really knows what they're shoving in their pie hole anyway.

State taxes will have to be raised $1,400 per household per year for the next 30 years to pay out government pensions. Given that most households don't gross $42,000/year not alone have that much in disposable income, I'm not real sure where this money is supposed to come from. Growth, I suppose. Now if we only had some....

Another flash mob hit a Walgreens on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Again, it was only petty theft (drinks and sandwiches) against a pretty insignificant target, which means either Chicago is lucky these people have no imagination, or these are training sessions. Note out of a mob of 50, police managed to grab three. I grew up with a lot of people that would take those odds even if all they got was a hoagie and a Coke. How long before they grab some oxycotine?

Matt Taibbi on Michele Bachmann. Maybe we won't. Maybe. But then there is that whole history thing.

James Kunstler on cities. It's a bit long, but worth the effort. Maybe we'll smarten up and avoid the worst of what is likely to be coming our way over the next couple centuries, but given that we can't plan further ahead than the next paycheck (and that's being generous), I wouldn't bet on it.

Another list of essays from James Altucher. I've probably linked to some of these before, but it can't hurt to hit them again.

How to Deal with Crappy People
The Crappy FAQ: All Questions Answered about Crappy People
10 Things You Need to Do if You Were FIRED Yesterday
Suicide, and 13 Other Ways to Deal with Failure
How to be THE LUCKIEST GUY ON THE PLANET in 4 Easy Steps

OK, I really got to get something done today other than blogging.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quickly...

...before I fall asleep at the keyboard: New post over at The Tax Geek. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Physics Lesson

Took my first fall this morning. No damage to me or (more importantly) my bike other than fine-grit sand everywhere. The northwest portion of Michigan's lower peninsula is infamous for its talcum-powder sand that can swallow an entire bicycle and rider whole without even a belch. This morning I discovered they have that stuff down here, too. My first mistake was a wrong turn down a dead-end while trying to enlarge my route a tad. The second was leaving the blacktop while setting up for a quick U-turn. The bicycle stopped dead and I... well.... Let's just say that while airborne, I heard my high school physics teacher's voice in my head: "A body in motion tends to stay in motion until it meets an opposing force." Like the ground.

Anyway. The only casualty was my dignity. We'll see how I feel in the morning, but so far no bruises or twinges.

Speaking of being outside, today is the summer solstice. Our low temperature at six o'clock this morning was 79 degrees. Yea, it's summer all right. In Florida, dripping with sweat is not metaphorical.

Here's a question: when I was a kid and the phone book was the only way to find someone, we got one phone book every two years. We've lived here for less than a year and I just tripped over the fifth phone book we've had dropped on our doorstep. I don't know about anyone else, but I haven't cracked a phone book in a decade. When our congresscritters are so concerned with the environment that they make incandescent light bulbs illegal, why is someone (or someones) dropping a forest of flat dead trees on my doorstep every couple months that I never asked for and have no need for? If Al Gore would like something useful to work on, have him give me a call.

Flash mobs are discovered by the criminal class. I'm sure this will end well:

The same technologies that for years have brought together the mostly benign and goofy "flash mobs," in which groups suddenly break into dance at a mall or stumble around like zombies at train stations, is being used to plan and execute bold robberies.

I don't know that "bold" is the correct adjective to describe a bunch of kids mobbing a party store to steal chips and beer. Maybe when a flash mob robs Tiffany's or Saks. Or a bank.

The Misery Index (inflation added to unemployment) is back up where it was when I was a college freshman 28 years ago. But the stock market is up!

It's not just children who believe in Santa Claus:

A restructuring of Greece's 340 billion euro ($481.5 billion) debt is not on the agenda and would damage the country's credibility on bond markets, the European Union's internal markets commissioner said on Saturday.

So no restructuring or write-down on a debt that can never be repaid. OK. Hope Santa has a big frackin' bag of Euros to stuff down someone's chimney.

I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure that making up your data is frowned upon. Oh wait! Not when you're a climate scientist. My bad.

Opportunity has passed 19 miles and is a bit under two miles from Endeavour crater. It should get there later this year. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that it has something left once it arrives. It would suck if it got there so broken down it can only snap a few pictures.

A man self-immolated in our old stomping grounds up in Keene, New Hampshire. Yet another man persecuted beyond his endurance by our government. I trust everyone understands that when the pendulum swings back, it will be beyond ugly.

Parenting advice from Cracked magazine:

7 Things 'Good Parents' Do (That Screw Up Kids for Life)
5 Horrific Ways Bad Parents Turn Their Kids into Good Money
5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Make Kids Smarter

None of which are safe for work unless your employer isn't a prude about the Seven Dirty Words. Funny thing is, the advice is a good deal less goofy than most of what one finds in "serious" parenting magazines.

And that should do it for the day. Off to make some dinner; baked beans and kielbasa with added brown sugar and barbeque sauce, all bubbling away in the slow cooker for a couple hours. Mmmmm!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hangin' In There

If the humidity gets any higher, we're going to need scuba gear to go outside. A line of storms blew through last night, so I expected my ride this morning to be a bit dryer. Silly me; if anything, the rain made it worse. I had to hang my t-shirt over the shower rod because it was actually dripping sweat. Because of the weather and missing a full week of riding, I didn't add anything to my route this week. I'll start adding small chunks next week, but I'm running out of grid, so I won't be able to add much more. It will take me a while to get my speed up to where I want it, so there's no problem for most of the rest of the summer. After that...???

There is finally some real content at The Tax Geek. If you enjoy geeky posts about taxes, you should like it. I'm hoping to get on some sort of regular posting schedule, but no guarantees.

Just a few quickies from the news as I really need to get the dishes done before Debbie comes home:

Homeowners turn the tables and show up with moving trucks to "foreclose" a bank for refusing to pay court-ordered restitution to the homeowners. The bank had attempted to foreclose the homeowners even though they had paid cash for the house, then refused to admit they had screwed up forcing the homeowners to spend 18 months in court. Do I need to say that this is in Florida?

A short list of some of the new "rights" that the god's have showered on us over the last few years. Those rights come with no responsibilities attached to them, of course. This is the thinking of small children.

A two-part essay on how we got to where we are:
The Death of the American Dream Part I
The Death of the American Dream Part II

That's it; gotta scamper off.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Still Truckin'

Yesterday, Debbie had the day off. We had a bunch of running around to do (mostly futile) so while we were out putting gas through the engine, we clocked my current bike route. It's currently 9.8 miles, which I rode this morning at an average of 10.4mph. (Hey; if the global warming hysterics can claim to know the temperature of the earth to tenths of a degree, I can calculate my average speed to tenths of an mile-per-hour....)

Yesterday, we once again engaged in a completely futile attempt to "buy local." We had a list of miscellaneous items that had been building up for the last couple months. So off we trundled into the Florida heat and humidity. Complete and total strike-out. So today, Amazon.com got another c-note from us. We wasted several hours and a quarter tank of gas for nothing. This makes twice; there won't be a third time.

I don't have much else to say right now, so here is a bunch of videos that sort of piled up while we were out of town.



Watching that made me realize that I spent waaaaaay too much time in front of the boob tube in my youth. Probably still do. I recognized far too many of those clips.

A time-lapse video:


The Arctic Light from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Amazing stuff.



Impressive bit of violence on the sun. At the scale in this video, the earth would be a dot, just to give some perspective on the size of the explosion.

Another amazing time-lapse:


Plains Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

Yes; I'm a sucker for these things. Sue me.



I may have posted this one before, but it's worth a second watch. These are raw shots from the Cassini Mission from Chris Abbas on Vimeo. Amazing stuff.

Last but not least:



It's so awesome that there are crazy people in the world so us normals can watch video of them doing spectacular stuff.

[This post is complete trash on Firefox, but looks OK on Chrome and IE9. Closing and re-opening Firefox does not fix things. I'm going to assume that something is borked on my system. Given the problems we've been having with the Internet in general, I'm not surprised. Anyone reading this from outside my household, let me know it things look squirrely.]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sweaty and Sore

After a week of sitting on my butt and stuffing my pie-hole, I finally got a chance to go for a ride this morning. Naturally, after yesterday's experiment in sleep deprivation, I over-slept and didn't get out on the road until 8:30am. which means I was out in 80-degree temps and full sun after a week off. I did manage to keep the time to less than an hour for somewhere between nine and ten miles. I need to clock my current route (or get an odometer for my bike) to get the exact mileage, but at worst I was still over the 9mph mark, which isn't bad after a week of feasting on Koegel meat products and sitting. Sitting in the car. Sitting on the plane. Sitting on various couches. Sitting at dining room tables. Sitting in restaurants. No wonder we're the fattest nation in human history; it wasn't even possible to get any real exercise. Most of the week, I was tired and barely able to move. Even my brain wasn't working right most of the time. I feel 100% better after a single ride even if I have Jello-legs and my shirt is dripping with sweat.

Speaking of my brain not working, I thought I was starting to hallucinate shortly after I started riding. Every time I put my head down, I caught a whiff of Mexican and would flash back to when I worked in the kitchen at Chi-Chi's back in 1982. (For those who don't ride, not a lot of mental work goes into piloting a bicycle, which leaves the mind free to wander a fair bit. Add in the endorphin rush from the physical exertion and things can get a little weird.) I was starting to seriously consider that I was finally goin' completely 'round the bend when I remembered that I had dripped some queso dip on myself last night while sitting on the couch without a shirt on. So I'm not crazy after all. Yet.

Anyway.

Michigan is still leading the way to a de-industrialized future. The freeways continue to disintegrate in spite of massive maintenance projects everywhere we went. Even the runways at Metro airport reminded us of driving down a washboard road. The northern portion of the lower peninsula was worse than the southern third or so, but it was all bad. Because we've been away for a while, we had to jump off I-75 at Bristol Road for a real, honest-to-gods Coney dog at Capital Coney Island, then head around the corner down South Saginaw to Edmonds Dairy Queen, still the best Dairy Queen we've found anywhere in the U.S. Rather than back-track, we headed up I-475 for a tour of Flint. The only positive thing I can say is that it never takes Mama Gaia long to erase the works of men. Even heavily contaminated industrial areas are going to scrub and many of the former residential areas have progressed to broad-leaf forest. In any case, it was depressing to see what has become of my home town, as it always is whenever we go back. Fortunately, we spent most of our time in rural areas of the state that never "progressed" all that far and so haven't changed much now that it's all falling apart.

Well, I need to unpack, sort and sift the foot-high pile of credit card offers for the few things we care about, catch up on my internet reading, schedule a carpet cleaning (free once a year), arrange for a light fixture to be installed on the living room fan, call about a couple possible jobs, blah, blah blah.

Later.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Home

We're back in Sanford. We spent a few days in northern Michigan to visit with my family, then a few days at Debbie's mom's place to help set up the graduation open house for my god-daughter/Debbie's niece. It was nice to see a lot of people again although we didn't get to see everyone we wanted to. Somehow, we never do. But it was the best we could do in the limited time we had.

When we got to Michigan, we though the airplane had done a U-turn and dropped us back in Florida. It was 95 and humid when we landed in Detroit. But just in case we forgot where we were, it was in the 50's when we left Detroit this morning.

We caught an early flight and only had four hours sleep last night. Neither of us can sleep well on a plane, so time for a nap.