Not that it matters much...

...science will, after all, surely have its way...but I'm not really sure this is a good idea.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – In a breakthrough that could signal a new era for human technology, US and Chinese researchers announced they are a step closer to creating an invisibility shield

[From The Raw Story | US, Chinese researchers engineer invisible cloak: study]

Imagine our surprise

An internal investigation has cleared the Pentagon of violating a ban on domestic propaganda by using retired military officers to comment positively about the war in Iraq in the US media.

In a report posted on its website Friday, the Pentagon's inspector general said "we found the evidence insufficient to conclude that RMA (retired military analysts) outreach activities were improper."

[From The Raw Story | Internal investigation clears Pentagon of propaganda violations]

And why do I imagine there's a run on whitewash in DC, here in the waning days? Getting things all spruced up for the inauguration, I suppose.


Photos: Lynn C.


I get my paycheck deposited directly but my driving expense can't be handled that way so I get a check for that. I get a pay stub every week but on weeks when there's no expense check involved I often don't bother to pick it up. Hey, you can't put pay stubs in the Coke machine. And anyway, if I don't pick it up, it just gets saved.

So yesterday I picked up an envelope of old pay stubs and when I was putting them away I discovered a check in there too - a check I didn't know I'd missed. And it was exactly, ex freakin' actly, the amount I need to get my iTunes library upgraded to the new DRM-free format. Bunky, that is undeniably fate. That is nothing short of a command.

Keeping up

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican will soon have its own channel on the video sharing site YouTube where the Catholic faithful or the curious will be able to see Pope Benedict or Church events, a Vatican source said on Saturday.

[From Vatican to get own YouTube channel | Reuters]

Et tu, peanut butter cookies?

(CNN) -- Kellogg officials said Friday they are voluntarily recalling 16 products that contain peanut butter that could be connected to a recent salmonella outbreak.

The Kellogg products to be recalled include Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers and Keebler and Famous Amos peanut butter cookies said Kris Charles a company spokeswoman.

[From Kellogg to recall products over salmonella concerns - CNN.com]

Oh, that's cruel.

Seems to me like a slam-dunk bet...

...that if the press spent just as much time on stories like this as they spend on, say, American Idol, we'd be living in a very different kind of place.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' investigative watchdog, has found that "a majority of America's largest publicly traded companies and the U.S. government's largest federal contractors use multiple subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to conduct business and avoid paying U.S. taxes," writes Carol D. Leonnig for The Washington Post.

The culprits include some corporate giants who are receiving countless millions in bailout money, Leonnig notes.

[From The Raw Story | Shocking: Offshore tax havens of the US corporate elite]

Check this out

See amazing pix:

The Earth Observatory is a website run by NASA's Earth Observing System Project Science Office (EOSPSO). Bringing together imagery from many different satellites and astronaut missions, the website publishes fantastic images with highly detailed descriptions, feature articles and more. Gathered here are some standout photographs from the collections in the Earth Observatory over the past several years

[From Earth, observed - The Big Picture - Boston.com]

(Also see the NSA Earth Observatory, new to our Work Avoidance List.)



Yeah, I was just about to say the same thing

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

[From Our world may be a giant hologram - space - 15 January 2009 - New Scientist]

But not Snoopy; Snoopy is far too cool

You know things are bad when your former spokesman is comparing you with a character on Charlie Brown.

[From The Raw Story | McClellan: Bush farewell sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher]


It was a long, cold, and overly eventful week. But also it was a week with a very, very good class. And a three-day weekend coming up.

So hey. Life is good.

Preflight briefing...

Not bad

Had to come to work an hour or so early this morning because that's when my ride arrived, but that's not all bad - here, I have 13 computers to play with. And they're all brand new, three or four days old. And best of all, not a single one of them runs Vista. They're all XP.

Actually, there's nothing new about the hardware but all the computers are virtualized. So the only hardware involved is a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a server in the back room. Which is really a pretty nifty way to do things. Saves immense hassle. When you want new, clean computers with freshly installed software, no cruft and no freakin' Yahoo toolbar, all you have to do is make one master image and then copy it 13 times. Presto - 13 machines, entirely constructed from 1's and 0's and identically alike.

If it gets any easier, we'll have to think of something else to do.

We're talking about one creepy dude

Towards the close of his nearly one hour speech, Pastor Warren asked his followers to be as committed to Jesus as the young Nazi men and women who spelled out in mass formation with their bodies the words "Hitler, we are yours," in 1939 at the Munich Stadium, were committed to the Führer of the Third Reich, a major instigator of a World War that claimed 55 million lives. ...

During his speech, Rick Warren also explained that God had personally instructed him to seek, for the good of the world, more influence, power and fame.

Warren moved on, from his celebration of Nazi dedication to purpose, and held up Lenin, and Chinese Red Guard efforts during the Cultural Revolution, as behavioral examples for his Saddleback flock, whom Warren called on to carry out a "revolution".

[From Bruce Wilson: Follow Jesus Like Nazis Followed Hitler, Rick Warren Tells Stadium Crowd]

Sneak is good

The House Democrats' $825 billion legislation released on Thursday was supposedly intended to "stimulate" the economy. Backers claimed that speedy approval was vital because the nation is in "a crisis not seen since the Great Depression" and "the economy is shutting down."

That's the rhetoric. But in reality, Democrats are using the 258-page legislation to sneak Net neutrality rules in through the back door.

[From Democrats sneak Net neutrality rules into 'stimulus' bill | Politics and Law - CNET News]

Found emails, some, maybe

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Helen H. Hong had stated at a court hearing that "private contractors had helped find the e-mails by searching through an estimated 60,000 tapes that contain daily recordings of the entire contents of the White House computers as a precaution against an electronic disaster."

The judge's order came in response to a lawsuit by two watchdog groups. Anne Weisman, the counsel for one of those groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, responded to the Justice Department announcement by saying, "I'll believe it when I see it." She noted that officials have not described the procedures used to recover the emails and that she hoped their results could be verified by an independent expert.

[From The Raw Story | Court grants motion to search White House computers and preserve emails]

But then there are those RNC accounts.


Yeah, Dude, I'm with you

Daley: Too cold to fill potholes

[From Daley: Too cold to fill potholes - Chicago Breaking News]

Too cold to fill anything, if you ask me.

Chills, no spills

It was cold today (9º as we speak). And my car ate a tire. The good news is, no harm done. I'd been feeling a wobble in the front end for about a week, figured the wheels were out of alignment. I kept watching the driver's side front tire for uneven wear but none was apparent so I kept my fingers crossed and figured on taking it in for a check next week, when I don't really need it to get to work. But around noon, on a whim, I checked the other front tire and - woohoo! - a big chunk of tread was missing, right down to the steel. Fortunately I was only about two blocks from work so I drove it there, but by the time I got it parked the tire was noticeably low. After work, it was flat.

I was afraid to try driving home on the donut because I still thought it was something wrong with the car that was chewing up the tire, so I had it towed. Thanks to AAA, the damage for that wasn't bad. The early diagnosis is, maybe nothing wrong with the car at all, just a tire failure. I hit a horrendous pothole last summer which, now that I think of it, could easily have caused tire damage.

Anyway, I didn't wind up wrapped around a tree and I could use new tires anyway. I was thinking about replacing them before too long. So just a little earlier, is all.

That little car might still be running for a while.

If one is good, two is better

Blagojevich's Senate appearance came on a day when the Illinois House once again voted to impeach him.

[From Senate takes oath as Blagojevich impeachment jurors | Clout Street - local political coverage]

Quelle surprise

The outlook is grim for a complete accounting of the Bush administration's official communications, said Sheila Shadmand, counsel for the National Security Archive. "The White House admitted it did nothing to stop people working in the White House from disposing of memory sticks, CDs, DVDs and zip drives that may have been the sole copies of missing e-mails on them," she announced. "We believe our ability to get a complete restoration of the White House record from 2003 to 2005 and evidence of what went wrong has been compromised."

[From The Raw Story | White House admits negligence in finding, preserving missing e-mails]


There are some people who say...

...you should always eat the bad apples first. But the way I see it, that way you wind up eating bad apples all your life. I am not a bad apple kinda guy. Which is exactly why I now find myself with four cans of turkey SPAM.

Dude, where has all the real food gone?

11 below zero: Relatively warm

Predicted highs for Duluth will be minus 3 degrees today, minus 7 Thursday and zero Friday, with it climbing to 15 degrees for Saturday. The low this morning will be about 11 below zero, relatively warm compared to Tuesday morning’s 23 below.

International Falls’ temperature of minus 40 set a record for Jan. 13, according to the Weather Service.

And International Falls wasn’t even the coldest spot in the Northland. Embarrass reported 44 below on Tuesday, while Effie and Babbitt reported 42 below.

[From Arctic blast brings its usual discomforts to the Northland | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota ]

I guess they're too small to have a high school...

Effie is a city in Itasca County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 91 at the 2000 census.

[From Effie, Minnesota - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

...which is probably a good thing. Imagine the cheers.

Now weather, outsourced to Canada

As the temperature rockets downward this week, thousands of families must be wondering: How cold is too cold for school?

[From The Columbus Dispatch : Too cool for school? ]

Don't get me started. Some day I'll tell you how we used to walk to school in -10º weather, barefoot, uphill both ways. (In Duluth, as I recall, they closed the schools when the temp hit -20º. So we all went skiiing.)

And the award for procrastination goes to...

"I'm already 107 and I still haven't got married," the Chongqing Commercial Times quoted [Wang Guiying] saying. "What will happen if I don't hurry up and find a husband?"

[From globeandmail.com: Woman, 107, seeks spouse]

And you thought the Senate couldn't put on a good show

Dude, this is entertainment at its finest.

Appointed U.S. Sen. Roland Burris will be sworn in Thursday, ending the saga of his selection by impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Vice President Dick Cheney, in his role as president of the Senate, will do the honors...

[From Roland Burris to be sworn in Thursday -- chicagotribune.com]

So they thought Burris wasn't good enough because Blagojevich appointed him, but in the end they cave and let Darth freakin' Vader swear him in.

If they sold tickets they could pay off the debt.


A financial observation...

...sent by Charlie from California.

Dan was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business.

When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed a wife with which to share his fortune.

One evening at an investment meeting he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away. "I may look like just an ordinary man," he said to her, but in just a few years, my father will die, and I'll inherit $200 million."

Impressed, the woman obtained his business card and three days later, she became his stepmother.

Women are so much better at financial planning than men.

How Paris Copes with Bistro Smoking Ban

Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue, who adds, "Back in the day when I did actual journalism I lived for stories like this, and for writers who could actually write. Nice."

This winter, the coldest Paris has seen in years, the sidewalks in front of many cafés are full. Under electric heating lamps or cozied up close to the blue flame of propane burners, customers sip their coffees or their Cokes or maybe the rare glass of wine or beer or pastis, and they smoke. For a year now the inside of the café, even a "café-tabac" that has a license to sell cigarettes and cigars, has been off limits to those who want to light up....

Tourists, of course, still come expecting the city of the '20s, of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, and at first glance it looks much the same. The municipality has been careful to retain elegant facades. But behind them are fewer and fewer actual homes, more and more open-plan offices with suspended ceilings. The life of the city of lights is being hollowed out. And the cafés that once served as lounges for the poor, meeting rooms for businessmen, tabletop ateliers for artists, are losing not only clientele but the conviviality that was their true raison d'être.

[From How Paris Copes with Bistro Smoking Ban | Newsweek International | Newsweek.com]

And I, tourist, spent the night in one of those cafés once, with a couple of friends. Didn't have money for a hotel (spent it all at the Moulin Rouge). Slept in a back booth. But that's a story for another time.

Impossible to misunderestimate the man

The top 25 Bushisms of all time.

[From The top 25 Bushisms of all time. - By Jacob Weisberg - Slate Magazine ]

-Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue

The ultimate defense

There is, I'm told, absolutely no interest on the part of the incoming Obama Administration to pursue indictments against its predecessors. "We're focused on the future," said one of the President-elect's legal advisers.

(Still, there should be some official acknowledgment by the U.S. government that the Bush Administration's policies were reprehensible, and quite possibly illegal, and that the U.S. is no longer in the torture business. If Obama doesn't want to make that statement, perhaps we could do it in the form of a Bush Memorial in Washington: a statue of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner in cruciform stress position — the real Bush legacy.)

[From The Bush Administration's Most Despicable Act - TIME]

"Let's just focus on the future here, Your Honor."

Just go home, George

What could be more hurtful than a close friend's ingratitude? His gratitude — at least if you're Tony Blair and the buddy in question is George W. Bush. Later today in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Bush is set to dole out a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Britain's former Prime Minister....

"It is for services rendered," former Secretary of State for Development Clare Short told the Times of London. This is not meant as a compliment.

[From As George Bush Gives Tony Blair a Medal, Britain Winces - TIME]

Ya think?

MIAMI — A financial adviser from Indiana disappeared into the Alabama woods early Monday after faking a distress call and parachuting from a small plane that crashed in Florida.

... And there is evidence that Mr. Schrenker was an experienced pilot who might have been trying to fake his own death.

[From Pilot Fakes Distress and Flees Before Crash - NYTimes.com]

Like if one half of a ship needs to get past?

CHICAGO -- The city began restoring sidewalks and handrails on the historic downtown Michigan Avenue bridge today -- the first step in a multistage project that will stretch until June, disrupt pedestrian traffic and cost in the neighborhood of $3.5 million....

The work is being done one quadrant at a time to minimize pedestrian snarls and to leave one half of the bridge available to be raised in case of emergency...

[From Michigan Avenue bridge makeover begins ]

Oh dem Dems

After weeks of flip-flopping, Senate Democrats announced today that they’d let Roland Burris be seated as Barack Obama’s replacement in the Senate. Burris could take his seat this week now that Senate lawyers reviewed new paperwork he filed to become Illinois’ junior senator....

...Senate rules apparently were meant to be broken (or at least flexible.) On Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously rejected Burris' claim that, under the law, White was required to certify his appointment.

Then White reaffirmed his decision not to sign off on the appointment, though he agreed to send Burris a signed certificate attesting that Blagojevich’s appointment letter is a "true and accurate copy" of what was registered by the secretary of state.

And that was close enough for Reid. Of course, it took him a while to get there.


A breathless world awaits

WASHINGTON -- Congress is launching official YouTube channels where members of the House and Senate can create and control videos of floor speeches, hearings or ribbon-cuttings.

[From Congress gets its own YouTube sites - Chicago Breaking News]


Just dreaming

Just dreaming, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Nero may have fiddled, but...

Speaking about the Administration's claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction -- which served as the cornerstone of the president's justification for war -- Bush laughed.

[From The Raw Story | Asked about WMDs, Bush grins: 'Things didn't go according to plan']

Bush's Last Days: The Lamest Duck

At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he has become the lamest of all possible ducks....

This is a presidency that has wobbled between those two poles — overweening arrogance and paralytic incompetence.

[From Bush's Last Days: The Lamest Duck - TIME]

-Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue

Only one more week of this nonsense!

Dubya held what he (mercifully) said was his last press conference, trying to convince those who have been watching him for eight long years that he wasn't really such an abject failure. The AP report includes this passage, which begs for comment.

"...Bush particularly became indignant when asked about America's bruised image overseas. 'I disagree with this assessment, you know, that people hold America in a dim light,' he said. 'It may be damaged somewhat amongst some of the elite. But people still understand that America stands for freedom.'"

What Bush said is mostly true. But he, and the reporters questioning him, missed the point.

George W. Bush is probably the most disliked, most vilified person living on our planet. And America's image abroad has suffered mightily because of it.

I remember arriving in Quito, Ecuador, in 2003 and seeing"Fuck Bush" scrawled in huge black letters on whitewashed walls. And bicycling through France a year later, where farmers and inn-keepers and waiters would ask, incredulously, "He can't really be re-elected, can he?" And talking to decidedly non-elite people in Africa and South America and Canada during that second term, when folks who knew far more about our country than we knew about theirs would wonder if America had lost its soul.

Fortunately for us, people in other countries have suffered through crappy governments of their own. So they can pretty much understand what we have gone through in these opening years of the new century. And although they probably still believe, as Bush said, that "America stands for freedom," the abuses of the Bush-Cheney years have raised doubts.

My wife and I have wandered all over this fascinating world, and everywhere we have gone, no matter how harsh their criticisms of our government's policies, people everywhere know that our country is a special place, where hope and opportunity still abound. And the most asked question among the non-elite is: Can you help me go to America?

Folks throughout the world must marvel at the smooth transition we make from one administration to another with such divergent philosophies. Yet they share our hope, like the writers of this graffiti in Dakar, Senegal.

-By Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue

Bright Angel

Photo: Lynn C. - Our boat is the blue hull behind Bright Angel. The day after I took this picture we both crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Townsend to Lopez Island. (We got there first.)
Recommended reading...

   "One of the fascinating 'what ifs" of history is what would have happened 
      had lightning not struck the forbidden City on 9 May 1421, had not roared 
      down the Imperial Way and turned the emperor's palaces and throne to 

From 1421, The Year That China Discovered America

New York could have been New Beijing...

Piling up

-- Post From My iPhone
A midwinter thought...

It's too cold

Feels like 8º? Are they kidding?

Look. I know it's even colder someplace else. Maybe it's colder where you are. I don't care. It's too cold here.



Photo: Lynn C.

Looking to change careers?

The 35-year-old New Yorker makes a six-figure living as a Lego artist, creating large-scale works of art using tens of thousands of the plastic pieces. Among his recent projects are a 10-foot-tall replica of the new Trump Tower being constructed in Dubai for Donald Trump, and a four-foot-tall bumblebee commissioned by Fall Out Boy bass guitarist Pete Wentz as a gift for his new bride, pop star Ashlee Simpson. He says he receives hundreds of commission inquiries every month.

[From Lego Builder Nathan Sawaya - Job of the Week - Portfolio.com]

Let's not mention Dr. Strangelove

Last August, the U.S. Army held a three-day conference in Portsmouth, Virginia, to look at new developments in military science and hardware. The confab was called the "2008 Mad Scientist Future Technology Seminar." Really. It was.

[From Army Assembles 'Mad Scientist' Conference. Seriously. | Danger Room from Wired.com]