"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

H2 Developments

An alternative to IC power, but a long way from production, much less mass-production

Copyrighted material: WSJournal

GM Hopes Engine of Future Sells Cars Now

November 29, 2006; Page B1

HONEOYE FALLS, N.Y. -- General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner will go before an audience at the Los Angeles auto show today and outline a future powered by hybrid engines, batteries and other advanced fuel-saving technologies.

About 3,000 miles away, in this little village 40 miles south of Rochester, GM engineers are working to perfect the hardware that could transform Mr. Wagoner's vision into reality. In the process, they hope the troubled auto giant not only gets ahead of the next big thing in cars but also sells a few more of its current models, too.

In a pair of blue-and-gray buildings behind a tall security fence, GM scientists have quietly started building working fuel-cell engines that run on hydrogen and produce no exhaust other than pure water. The facility looks more like a computer-chip factory than an engine plant -- the most critical component is a clear liquid that technicians mix in a glass-walled, dust-free laboratory.

[General Motors is developing its fuel-cell technology at a plant in Honeoye Falls, N.Y.]
General Motors is developing its fuel-cell technology at a plant in Honeoye Falls, N.Y.

Until recently, GM kept quiet about its most advanced research. Honeoye Falls has rarely opened its doors to outsiders. But the company recently brought a small group of reporters here as part of a strategy to demonstrate that GM can compete technologically with Toyota Motor Corp. GM hopes it can beat Toyota to market, grabbing an early lead with this technology that will change how consumers think of the company and boost the image of its conventional vehicles.

Mr. Wagoner and other top GM executives believe Toyota has gained an edge by jumping ahead of other car makers on gas-electric hybrids. Toyota is now often viewed as the industry's innovation leader, while many consumers see the Big Three Detroit auto makers as laggards that only excel at making gas-guzzling trucks -- and at losing money in the U.S. market.

Fuel cells won't be a real mass market item for years. GM aims to sell just a few thousand fuel-cell cars in 2011, and tens of thousands a year by 2013.

The company faces fierce competition, though. Other auto makers are also developing fuel cells, and some, like Toyota and Honda Motor Co., have deep pockets to fund their work. GM, by contrast, is burdened with a junk debt rating and is spending more money than it's making in its auto business.

Honda has recently sought to stake out a position as a fuel-cell leader, saying its newest systems are small and light enough to fit in conventional sedans. Honda says limited leasing programs with the redesigned FCX fuel cell car are scheduled to begin in the U.S. and Japan in 2008.

A bigger question hanging over the fuel-cell debate is where drivers would be able to fill up with hydrogen. GM hopes to test a fleet of fuel-cell vehicles soon on the East Coast, but there are no places for consumers to refuel except for one hydrogen station near Washington, D.C.

Nevertheless, GM engineers here are optimistic they will have the hardware to bring fuel-cell vehicles to market fairly soon. The performance of GM current fuel-cell engine "is pretty good," said Matt Fronk, chief engineer for fuel-cell systems. "Now we want to cut cost while maintaining good durability."

The heart of the system is a stack of fuel cells that feature translucent polymer sheets coated with a thin layer of platinum and carbon particles. In the presence of these catalysts, hydrogen atoms pass through the sheets to bond with oxygen, creating an electric charge on one side. Three or four hundred of these cells stacked together generate enough electricity to power a motor for a car.

In Room 304 in the research building in Honeoye Falls, engineers are working to wring extra amps and volts out of each cell. There they are testing different types of sheets, each about half the width of a hair, and different catalyst combinations.

At one test station, a computer screen shows a test cell generating about a half a volt. "That's not bad, but we want the volts higher than that," says Mark Mathias, a research manager. Ideally, auto makers would like each cell to produce a tenth or two tenths more of a volt.

Across the way in the production building are more tangible signs of progress in a clean room fed with dust-free air. Here technicians are mixing a clear platinum-carbon solution that will be applied to membranes GM will use in working fuel-cell engines.

The technicians wear plastic booties over their shoes to keep from tracking in contaminants. Getting the balance of the two elements is critical; platinum is expensive, but using too little reduces the electricity the stack can generate.

Nearby in Room 174, another clean environment, engineers are tinkering with machines that compress the delicate membranes into stacks. "They're working on the tooling for a future GM engine factory," Mr. Fronk says. "We're trying to figure out how we'll assemble on a mass scale."

Outside Room 174 finished stacks are lined up on the floor. Each is a metal box measuring about one foot by two feet by nine inches, and has a tangle of cable sprouting from the top. Two stacks together put out about 90 kilowatts of power, about the same as a 120-horsepower engine, Mr. Fronk says. The stacks are tested and then mated to an electric motor and a gearbox.

The final product is about the size of a washing machine. On this day, three were lined up, ready to be shipped to a Canadian plant that will put them into Chevrolet Equinox test vehicles. Next to them was a mock up of a new version that is smaller, about the size of a window air conditioner. Although smaller, this version is as powerful as the larger fuel-cell engine. GM officials say this next-generation engine represents a real breakthrough because it is just about the size they would need to commercialize the technology.

"With this one," Mr. Fronk says, patting the mock-up with his hand, "we're almost where we want to be."

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Took the evening off
Our first at the "cabin"

Fire in the fireplace, candles and some soft music, some nice wine ...

Living Room

Curled up with one of my favorite writers :
True North: A Novel (Harrison, Jim): Books: Jim Harrison

No TV, no internet, no phone

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hissie Fit

Posting this to get some things off my chest.
As Tip O'Neil was famous for ... "All Politics are Local"

For me, they sure are, and I'm damn fed up.
While I normally keep my politics to myself, I can't help it when it comes to our local county Board of Commissioners. I held my tongue when they decided on a recycling measure that those townships that did not approve of the millage would be denied recycling stations, having the bins removed the next day. Then they came to the voters bemoaning that they would not have enough funds for operations. Seems that they had been counting on the interest being earned on funds held for the new Courthouse.
Rough figures, $10,000,000 for the Courthouse, which had been earning about $500,000
Well … Duh!
How could they not foresee this situation.
Note that an “operating millage” passed by a mere 90 votes or .76%

This is a County Board that oversaw the construction of a new Jail, far larger than needed with the idea that they would make money by renting out beds … trouble is, others were building new jails as well.

But what really pisses me off is the issue of Farmland Preservation.
Farmland Preservation program

The board established this program but refused to find means to fund it, and were reluctant to put a millage on the ballot.
Local funding would have opened the door to Federal, State and Private Foundation matching grants.

When they finally did put a millage proposal up for a vote, there was vocal opposition.
Plenty of FUD thrown around, and a good bit of mis-information to scare the taxpayers.

The proposal was soundly defeated, and I accept that.
But then the bozo’s on the board decided that, despite no evidence to support their position, that the vote was a referendum on the program, not a millage.

Language on the ballot:
Farmland Preservation Millage

Official Language:

Proposal to Preserve Leelanau County Farmland

For the purpose of funding a voluntary program to permanently purchase development rights on working farms, orchards and vineyards in Leelanau County and to enhance access to matching grants, shall the tax limitation of general ad valorem taxes within Leelanau County be increased under Article 9, Section 6 of the michigan Constitution by one-half (.5) mill, or 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value beginning December 1, 2006 for fifteen (15) years (2006-2020, inclusive), thereby supporting the Leelanau County Purchase of Development Rights Ordinance and operation of the Farmland Preservation Board? If approved and levied in full, this Millage will raise an estimated additional $998,300.80 for farmland preservation in the first calendar year of the levy based on state taxable valuation.



NO was interpreted as "scrap the whole damn thing" ... which I fail to be able to find, even between the lines.
And here's "promotional material" from the County Board:


One (1.0) Mill for two years to fund 9-1-1/ Emergency Management Services, Public Safety and General Operations on November 7, 2006 ballot.

A $1.986 million deficit is projected for 2007 and a similar deficit for 2008. State law requires counties to have balanced budgets.

• The County’s population continues to grow (28%) along with expectations for services
• The costs for basic services and operations continue to rise, often exceeding the cost of living
• State and Federal funds for county services have declined
• Increased costs to provide online services for access to county information
• The 9-1-1 telephone surcharge expires this December
• Lost interest from accumulated savings for new Government Center
• The Headlee Amendment has reduced the 1969 approved 6.2 mill allocation to 3.7635 mills
• Increased operational costs with the opening of the new Government Center in 2008


WHAT WILL THE ONE (1) MILL COST? 50% of the residential parcels will pay less than $59/parcel per year and 50% will pay more than $59/parcel per year. To calculate what a 1 mill increase would cost for your parcel(s), you can go to www.leelanau.cc, click on the link, then enter your name or parcel number, then click on your parcel number. Citizens with a land line phone will save $25.44/year/line due to the telephone surcharge ending on December 31, 2006.


• 9-1-1/Emergency Management Services (EMS) staff
• Public Safety – Marine Safety Unit, Narcotics Deputy (TNT), Animal Control Officer,
Community Work Program
• Human Services- MSU Extension/4H/ Master Gardener, Budgets for Parks & Recreation Board, Farmland Preservation Board, EDC Board, Planning Commission, Solid Waste Council
• Law Enforcement deputies
• Family Court direct service staff
• Prosecutor’s support staff
• Staff for the Clerk, Treasurer, Register of Deeds, Equalization, Planning, and Administration.

These cutbacks include a total of 29 full time and 9 part time employees out of 122 total employees or about a third of the workforce.
IMPACT: limited service or no service from the above departments.

If you have any questions or concerns, please go to the website: www.leelanau.cc for more information or contact the County Administrator (256-9711) or any member of the Board of Commissioners.

Provided by the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners


Devious wiggle room and close to dis-information : Maintain services "as you know them"

Sampling of reports and editorials:

Farmland Leelanau news Blot

Record-Eagle Editorial

Record-Eagle "Forum"


Leelanau Enterprise column

Remember – when politicians run un-opposed, do NOT vote for them… no sense in encouraging them.

From the Record-Eagle:

All candidates are running unopposed for two-year terms on the Leelanau County board of commissioners. They are Jean Watkoski in District 1, Mark Walter in District 2, William Bunek in District 3, Mary Tonneberger in District 4, David Shiflett in District 5, Robert Hawley in District 6 and Melinda Lautner in District 7. All are Republicans.

Republican Glen Noonan is the only candidate for a six-year term on the county road commission.

Joseph Deegan is running unopposed for a six-year term as county probate judge.

In the name of God/Allah/etc..

On the need for rational thought

A Free-for-All on Science and Religion - New York Times:
...a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif"

Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration: “Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance,” he said. “Something fundamental is going on in people’s minds when they confront things they don’t understand.”

He told of a time, more than a millennium ago, when Baghdad reigned as the intellectual center of the world, a history fossilized in the night sky. The names of the constellations are Greek and Roman, Dr. Tyson said, but two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. The words “algebra” and “algorithm” are Arabic.

But sometime around 1100, a dark age descended. Mathematics became seen as the work of the devil, as Dr. Tyson put it. “Revelation replaced investigation,” he said, and the intellectual foundation collapsed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

File under ... Duh

News Corp. Cancels Simpson Book
News Corp. canceled publication of the O.J. Simpson book and television special "If I Did It." Rupert Murdoch apologized for the project, saying it was "ill-considered."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blow Shit Up

Ya don't have to be pre-teen to enjoy it...

Is Mythbusters the Best Science Show on Television? - New York Times:

"Mr. Hyneman and his colleague, Adam Savage, are the hosts of “Mythbusters” on the Discovery Channel. It may be the best science program on television, in no small part because it does not purport to be a science program at all. What “Mythbusters” is best known for, to paraphrase Mr. Hyneman, is blowing stuff up. And banging stuff together. And setting stuff on fire. The two men do it for fun and ratings, of course. But in a subtle and goofily educational way, they commit mayhem for science’s sake. "

I really liked the one about a prop tearing up a parked small plane.

Get-Away aka Dear Camp

Closed this AM on our "new" get-away
Sits adjacent to our woodlot, shares a couple of lot lines.

Few steps away from what will be Shirley's studio...

Shirley came up with the name...

She says the rule will be to always answer
"yes dear"

Blackstone Acquiring Trust in Richest Buyout - New York Times

Quickie reaction:
Sam Zell selling ... top for commercial RE?
Further move to Private Equity, away from public markets.

Blackstone Acquiring Trust in Richest Buyout - New York Times:

"The Blackstone Group, a private investment firm, said yesterday that it had agreed to acquire Equity Office Properties Trust, the nation’s largest office-building owner and manager, for about $36 billion."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Virtual worlds get more "real"

'Second Life' faces threat to its virtual economy | CNET News.com:

"Groups of Second Life content creators were gathering digitally Tuesday to protest the dissemination of a program they worry could badly damage the virtual world's nascent economy.

The controversy gathered steam Monday when Linden Lab, which publishes Second Life, posted a blog alerting residents of the virtual world to the existence of a program or bot called CopyBot, which allows someone to copy any object in Second Life. That includes goods such as clothing that people purchase for their in-world avatars, and even the virtual PCs that computer giant Dell announced Tuesday it is going to sell in the digital world."

Comments on Global Warming and Common Sense

Samuelson: The Dilemma of Global Warming vs. Economic Growth - Newsweek Robert Samuelson - MSNBC.com:

The Worst of Both Worlds?
Scare stories about global warming may end up justifying policies that hurt the economy without much curbing of greenhouse gases.

"Let me throw some messy realities onto Stern's tidy picture. In the global-warming debate, there's a big gap between public rhetoric (which verges on hysteria) and public behavior (which indicates indifference). People say they're worried but don't act that way. Greenhouse emissions continue to rise despite many earnest pledges to control them. Just last week, the United Nations reported that of the 41 countries it monitors (not including most developing nations), 34 had increased greenhouse emissions from 2000 to 2004. These include most countries committed to reducing emissions under the Kyoto Protocol."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dickin around

Dick Morris on the election results ...

Will Newt run in '08?

Note that Dick, despite working for Clinton, is basically conservative.
That said - he is astute reader of Washington tea leaves


House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has been a disaster and the rest of the House and Senate leadership has not been any better.

The lean, ascetic, ideological purity of the Gingrich Republicans of 1994 had yielded to the corrupt, feather-your-own-nest psychology of the current Republican congressional leadership. They assumed that the partisan gerrymandering of 2000 left them invulnerable and they dipped into the till to get earmarks for their favorite lobbyists in return for contributions and free vacations. It’s time to get rid of this kind of leadership and to bring in people with a fine, tough partisan and ideological edge."

Followed by:

Oust Boehner and Blunt:

Did the Republican leadership learn anything on Election Day? Did they finally get it that voters are fed up with politicians who use their office to raise money and get perks? Will the GOP return to the lean, ascetic, committed politics that animated its 1994 surge to power or will it resist change and choose leaders who skate on the edge of corruption in their bid for privilege? And, in the Senate, will the Republicans realize that they need a mechanic who can make the trains run on time to tie the Democrats in knots?

And do the Democrats realize that their surge to the top was not due to the outpouring of true leftist believers but because centrist, moderate candidates won swing states and districts, just as Clinton did in 1996?

The answer to these questions will be apparent in the leadership elections coming soon in both houses of Congress.

In the House, Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will try to take Dennis Hastert’s place at the head of the diminished ranks of Republicans. This is the same John Boehner who took to the House floor a few years back and distributed checks from tobacco PACs to those congressmen who put their desire for cigarette money ahead of the health of their constituents and voted against government regulation of this hideous industry. This kind of self-serving, money-focused politics is just what landed the GOP in sufficient trouble to lose the House in the first place. Letting the escalator move up one notch and inviting Boehner to head the party’s House delegation will send a clear signal that House Republicans have, like the Bourbon kings of France, in Talleyrand’s words, “learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

Of course ... The Republicans went ahead with Boehner ...

Dick is no kinder on the Dems:

Ultra-liberals rise on moderate wings:

"All that has happened is that the ranking members have become the chairmen, regardless of their views or qualifications. It is a gesture of homage to seniority that would have the approval of the segregationists that used to run Congress by applying the same ground rules. Back then, no matter how loudly voters demanded integration and an end to racism, the Democratic majority kept apartheid firmly in place. The distortion of the electorate’s will taking place now on Capitol Hill is no more extreme."

So there's our results.
Republicans forgetting to put their hands back in their pockets, rather than out for "lobby bucks" and Dems mistaking the vote as mandate for left rather than middle of the road.

Then there's Newsweek :

"Hastert was never able to exercise the same iron control as DeLay. Nor was DeLay's successor as majority leader, John Boehner, able to bring real discipline to fractious House members who looked out primarily for their own political interests. The religious evangelicals became more demanding of the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, leading to the deeply unpopular spectacle of the Terri Schiavo case. Last year Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, eager to court religious conservatives for a possible presidential run, and the House leadership, sensitive to the religious right, intervened to try to keep the patient alive on a feeding tube, a questionable use of federal power, especially for a party that once stood for less government interference.

The GOP's evangelical base was shocked and demoralized this fall when Rep. Mark Foley of Florida was exposed for having sent salacious messages to congressional pages. House leaders blamed each other for not responding to warnings that Foley was a possible sexual predator. In early October, when Hastert was compelled to hold a press conference to announce that he would not step down as Speaker, it was clear that the GOP revolution was in its late Jacobin phase."


Congrats to all at JPL and NASA

In Orbit

Spirit Surpasses 1,000 Martian Days In Service
Aviation Week & Space Technology
11/06/2006, page 19

Edited by Frank Morring, Jr.

Printed headline: Spiritual Journey

Spirit, the Mars Exploration Rover designed to last only 90 sols--Martian days--has surpassed 1,000 sols in service. Each sol is about 40 min. longer than an Earth day, meaning Spirit has been functioning on Mars more than 1,026 Earth days. During this period, the plucky robot has transmitted more than 87,100 images to Earth. Opportunity, its sister rover that landed on the opposite side of the planet a little later in January 2004, has surpassed 980 sols and returned more than 79,000 images. Sprit is resting on a north-facing slope near the base of Husband Hill, which is named after USAF Col. Rick Husband, the last commander of the shuttle Columbia. From this location, the rover has been able to keep its solar array pointed at the Sun for maximum electrical and heater capability during the southern-hemisphere Martian winter, when temperatures can drop below -50F. Although stationary for the past several weeks, Spirit has been collecting science data while parked. With Sun angles improving in the coming weeks, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory controllers will move Spirit a few hundred feet back to an unusual circular volcanic feature dubbed Home Plate. Opportunity, meanwhile, is on the edge of Victoria Crater, where it, too, has paused temporarily to allow Mars to emerge from behind the Sun for better radio communications. Both orbiters are using the Mars Odyssey orbiter as a radio relay, while Spirit this week will also test a relay through the new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Crying Uncle ...

New DNA Test Is Yielding Clues to Neanderthals - New York Times:

"The archaic human species that dominated Europe until 30,000 years ago is about to emerge from the shadows. With the help of a new DNA sequencing machine that operates with firefly light, the bones of the Neanderthals have begun to tell their story to geneticists."

Catch a wave and you'r sittin on top of the world...

(humin Beach Boys tune)

Did an Asteroid Impact Cause an Ancient Tsunami? - New York Times

Ancient Crash, Epic Wave

Dallas Abbott

The Fenambosy chevron, one of four near the tip of Madagascar, is 600 feet high and three miles from the ocean.


Maybe myths carry some truth.

An alternative to the Black Sea flooding as flood stories (Noah), or multiple myth sources.

Note further that more recent studies have found flooded settlements on ancient shorelines of the Black sea.

Black Sea deluge theory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"In a series of expeditions, a team of marine archeologists led by Robert Ballard identified what appeared to be ancient shorelines, freshwater snail shells, drowned river valleys, tool-worked timbers, and man-made structures in roughly 300 feet (100 m) of water off the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. Radiocarbon dating of freshwater mollusk remains indicated an age of about 7,000 years."


Amazon.com: Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History: Books: William Ryan,Walter Pitman:
From Publishers Weekly:

"Archeologists have long sought to prove that the great flood described in Genesis and in the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh was a historic event. Columbia University geologists Ryan and Pitman weigh in with a highly conjectural theory that seems as good as any other, if no better. Around 5600 B.C., they maintain, Noah's flood occurred when rising Mediterranean waters roared through the narrow Bosporus Strait, transforming the Black Sea, then a freshwater lake, into a bloated saltwater body. Taking a cue from Australian prehistorian Gordon Childe, who posited that Europe's first farmers came from Asia, the authors contend that the Black Sea at the time of the alleged flood was a fertile oasis, a cultural magnet where diverse peoples: farmers, animal breeders, artisans, exchanged techniques and possibly genes. They point to the sudden appearance in Europe, shortly after 5600 B.C., of 'outsider' tribes, advanced farmers who, the theory goes, were fleeing the flooded Black Sea region. Other flood refugees, in this scenario, migrated to Russia's steppes, Anatolia, Mesopotamia and the Middle East, preserving memory of the catastrophe in mythic and oral traditions later enshrined on clay tablets and ultimately in the Bible. Ryan and Pitman base their theory partly on radiocarbon dating of marine sediments that they collected in 1993 during a Black Sea expedition and partly on Ice Age climatic patterns, modern linguists' quest for a proto-Indo-European mother tongue and genetic studies of population migrations over the millennia. Their complicated detective tale is intriguing, but much more solid evidence would be required to convince skeptics. Illustrated with drawings by Anastasia Sotiropoulos and maps by William Haxby. Agent, Roger Jellinek. "

From NYTimes piece:

"The explanation is obvious to some scientists. A large asteroid or comet, the kind that could kill a quarter of the world’s population, smashed into the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago, producing a tsunami at least 600 feet high, about 13 times as big as the one that inundated Indonesia nearly two years ago. The wave carried the huge deposits of sediment to land.

Most astronomers doubt that any large comets or asteroids have crashed into the Earth in the last 10,000 years. But the self-described “band of misfits” that make up the two-year-old Holocene Impact Working Group say that astronomers simply have not known how or where to look for evidence of such impacts along the world’s shorelines and in the deep ocean."


"It would be a great help to the cause if the National Science Foundation sent a ship equipped with modern acoustic equipment to take a closer look at Burckle, Dr. Ryan said. “If it had clear impact features, the nonbelievers would believe,” he said.

But they might have more trouble believing one of the scientists, Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He thinks he can say precisely when the comet fell: on the morning of May 10, 2807 B.C.

Dr. Masse analyzed 175 flood myths from around the world, and tried to relate them to known and accurately dated natural events like solar eclipses and volcanic eruptions. Among other evidence, he said, 14 flood myths specifically mention a full solar eclipse, which could have been the one that occurred in May 2807 B.C.

Half the myths talk of a torrential downpour, Dr. Masse said. A third talk of a tsunami. Worldwide they describe hurricane force winds and darkness during the storm. All of these could come from a mega-tsunami.

Of course, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, Dr. Masse said, “and we’re not there yet.”


Back from Fla (slow slow slow dial-up), catching up.
Not so final thought on Elections (National)...
Says it better than I could, and captures a good viewpoint.

Personally, not sure it was a mandate for the Democrats, as much as disgust for the Republicans.

The Doc Searls Weblog : Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bonus advice for Republicans, from Richard Bennett:
If Republicans want to win national elections they should drop the Southern Strategy that emphasizes guns, Bibles, and big spending, and adopt a Western Strategy that emphasizes small government, personal freedom, property rights, and the things that can only be done for us by government such as infrastructure, environmental protection, and (competent) national defense. This would be a return to Goldwater¹s ideals, and a rejection of the Religious Right¹s desire to use government to force a narrow set of social values on people. It¹s perfectly OK for the religious people to be grossed out by gays and abortion, but it¹s not OK to require everybody else to be grossed-out too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Open Letter to the Voters of Leelanau County

Buck Fever?
The Buck stops … there… not here
Well neighbors, the majority of you seemed to have decided to pass the buck.
You had that big old multi point in your cross-hairs, but missed, maybe you shot yourself in the foot, and now need 9-11 and North Flight.
Buck fever?
By about By 6 to 4 you decided to raise your property taxes and send your income taxes elsewhere.

By voting down Farmland Preservation, you have voted for development, sprawl (some have a better term: splatter), traffic and taxes.

Make no mistake, development will raise your taxes.
Cows don’t call 9-11, people do.

Furthermore, by turning down the chance to get State and Federal matching funds (not to mention private foundation funds), you should remember that each year, when you write that check to State of Michigan and the one to the US Treasury, that you are saying “go ahead, send my money downstate, or send my money to California, I don’t really want any of it to come back to my backyard”.

Am I mad?
Yup, you betcha…

The opponents of this measure stooped to deceit and misinformation, but then again, it’s just an election, why be truthful?
Guess they scared you right out of your pocketbook.

Let’s go for the gusto, build public palaces and pave the countryside, we can afford it. Good guess is $475+ per head for the Courthouse.
When was the last time you went to the Courthouse?
Was it worth it?
When was the last time you enjoyed a bit of open space here in our County?
Was it worth … something?

Just don’t complain about future property tax hikes, you asked for them…

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Reactions on Tues

Short blogging.
Yesterday was day of travel, mostly got to skip all the post mortoms of the election, till I got today's papers (hardcopy- see below)

Slow slow dial up
Got here (Fla) and landline was down. But fixed.
Established wifi for the week. Also looking to set up DSL for the complex (condo's) then wifi the whole place. We'll see.

Some analysis:
Austin Bay Blog : Rumsfeld resigns– with analysis

Rummy was geared up to transform the Pentagon, not fight a war. Ready to fight Congress and entrenched interests, not terrorists...

and :
Austin Bay Blog : Tet 2006

Challenge to the Dems is to do something about Iraq.

Then there was this, wouldn't have seen it except for picking up hardcopy (I tend to not look at Journal's OpEd page.

Dick Armey
End of the Revolution - WSJ.com:
"How did we get here? The war in Iraq and historical voting patterns that favor the opposition party in off-year elections are factors suggested by many post-election pundits. Certainly, the mounting problems in Iraq were on voters' minds, but responsibility for the conduct of the war lies with the executive branch, and President Bush was not on the ballot.

That said, this was a national election, driven by national issues. One big issue in exit polls suggests widespread voter backlash against the 'culture of corruption.' There is something to this, I think. Over time, too many Republicans in the governing majority forgot or abandoned their national vision, letting parochial interests dominate the decision-making process."

In short, the Republicans got what they deserved - a kick in the butt for falling into the Washington trap of greed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ciao! Bella!

Just How Good Can Italy Get? - New York Times

In brief : REAL Good!
Emilia-Romagna and the Piedmont

BTW : Plug : Earthy.com for great Italian Goods

Stop the Presses ... questions about Global Warming!

Now that the election is "in the bag" NYTimes questions Global Warming/CO2 connection.
Could it be?
Are there other factors?

In Ancient Fossils, Seeds of a New Debate on Warming - New York Times:

"For the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that analyzes global warming, plans to include a chapter on the reconstructions in its latest report, due early next year.

The discoveries have stirred a little-known dispute that, if resolved, could have major implications. At issue is whether the findings back or undermine the prevailing view on global warming. One side foresees a looming crisis of planetary heating; the other, temperature increases that would be more nuisance than catastrophe."

Read it...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Not just Utilities ...

Under Maintenance

Times File is undergoing maintenance right now.
We will return to full functionality shortly.


This is the service when you pay subscription ... something like 100 clippings per month.
Still trying to train myself to use it.

Ah well ...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Networks ...

What A Beautiful Blue Planet!

The Opte Project

CableCo Continued

The Saga continues
Trying to get to the bottom of double billing.

Site doesn't allow me to see activity on my account, Visa indicates double billing.
Comcast does show a credit, but I'm afraid it's short.

I always manage to get the following message...

The area of the site you are attempting to access is temporarily unavailable due to system maintenance. Please try again later.

Always end up here.
Seems that they may have some MAJOR system maintenance issues.

Emails get bot reply followed by what appears to be a real person.
First suggested that I reset my password - nope, same end point.

More strongly worded email this AM, with offer to take issue to Public Utilities Commission ... brought this:

Thank you for your message. My name is Kathryn and I appreciate you taking the time to contact us.

Offering our customers the most effective possible support is a priority at Comcast. We appreciate that you have given us this opportunity to communicate with you and we want to address your concerns as quickly as possible. Although most issues can be addressed from within the email forum, in some cases "Live Interaction" is necessary for account verification. In order to assist you, we ask that you use the link below to open a "Chat session" with a representative or call us using the information provided.

Chat Assistance is available from your home at:


If you require assistance and prefer to speak to a representative:

Please call us at 1-800-COMCAST (266-2278) - Customer Care Support 24/7

We value your business.

Thank you for choosing Comcast.


Comcast Online Customer Support


Not politically correct ...

The Price of Climate Change - New York Times:

"Even economists are getting into the weather business. Olivier Deschnes of the University of California at Santa Barbara and Michael Greenstone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have written a pair of papers that assess some effects of climate change. In the first, they use long-run climatological models — year-by-year temperature and precipitation predictions from 2070 to 2099 — to examine the future of agriculture in the United States. Their findings? The expected rises in temperature and precipitation would actually increase annual agricultural production, and therefore agricultural profits, by about 4 percent, or $1.3 billion. This hardly fulfills the doomsday fears conjured by most conversations about global warming."

Friday, November 03, 2006


Well, it's that time again

Hold your nose and mark the box, touch the screen or hang the chad.

Some points to ponder.

From Readback - WSJ.com

Is Political Judgment Innate?
Walter Lippmann Wasn't So Sure

Maybe democracy isn't such a great idea after all.

"Every other year, a fraction of America's eligible voters go to the polls. Some of them haven't paid much attention to current events and cast their ballots based on prejudice, stereotypes or narrow self-interest. Even voters who genuinely try to study the issues usually have access to only a small part of the information they need to make a reasoned choice.

Is political judgment really innate? Should the votes of the apathetic and the well-informed count the same in managing the "illimitable complexity of society"? "You cannot take more political wisdom out of human beings than there is in them," argued Walter Lippmann in his provocative and challenging 1922 essay, "Public Opinion."

Mr. Lippmann raised the politically incorrect possibility that universal suffrage, regardless of a voter's knowledge or willingness to entertain opposing arguments, may not be the best way to run a government. Even Thomas Jefferson, that most egalitarian of the founding fathers, had "all sorts of private reservations" about everyone being "equally fitted to govern." The democratic ideologues were adamant: "The free man was a legislator and administrator by nature," Mr. Lippmann wrote. "[The founding fathers] could not stop to explain that a human soul might not yet have, or indeed might never have, this technical equipment. …They insisted that a reasoned righteousness welled up spontaneously out of the mass of men."

When Mr. Lippmann wrote "Public Opinion" shortly after World War I, rapid advances in communication and transportation were remaking America from a nation of isolated and largely self-sufficient small towns to a complex grid of economic and social interconnections.


"Our access to information is obstructed and uncertain, and our apprehension is deeply controlled by stereotypes," Mr. Lippmann said. "We are concerned in public affairs, but immersed in our private ones. The time and attention are limited that we can spare for the labor of not taking opinions for granted, and we are subject to constant interruption."

As determined as some voters might be to learn the facts and open their minds, larger forces conspire to keep them blinkered. The media can try to keep the public informed but not at the risk of boring them -- newspapers have to resell themselves everyday. "The press is like the beam of a searchlight that moves restlessly about, bringing one episode and then another out of the darkness into vision. Men cannot do the work of the world by this light alone."

Political leaders -- some? many? most? -- also prefer to keep issues simple, black and white. It is hard to mobilize millions of people to support abstract goals thousands of miles away. To get anything accomplished, leaders have to manufacture consent by controlling and massaging the information they pass along to their constituents. "Every official is in some degree a censor," Mr. Lippmann wrote. "And since no one can suppress information … without some notion of what he wishes the public to know, every leader is in some degree a propagandist."

So what are we to do?

For at least a day, I "sorta" wish I was a Texan - I'd have Kinky as a choice:
Austin Bay Blog � She could go Kinky:

"...bumper sticker caught my eye: “Under Republicans, man exploits man. Under Democrats, it’s just the opposite.”"

When I go to vote Tuesday, I know some local issues that I'm passionate about, some that I'm indifferent about. As for candidates, one of my hard rules is that if they are unopposed, they don't get my vote ... why encourage them?

I wasn't at the time but could well be today :
The Doc Searls Weblog : Friday, November 3, 2006:

"If you're an old-style Goldwater conservative, I think you'll have little choice but to kick the current GOP in the posterior next Tuesday."

Out of my pocket and out of my bedroom ...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bad news for Sushi

Report Warns of ‘Global Collapse’ of Fishing - New York Times:

"If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global collapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting. The scientists, who report their findings today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say."

Related Web Link:
Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services -- Worm et al. 314 (5800): 787 -- Science)

Then there is the "Steve Jobber" point of view :

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: Fish are friends, not food

"We were working late and watching dailies, and Nemo just came alive for me. And then afterward we went out for sushi. No big deal. This was our usual routine. We always went to the same place, this fantastic restaurant in Sausalito. (I can't tell you the name because if you don't know about it, all the better for the rest of us, and my friends would kill me anyway. It's the best sushi in the Bay Area, and that's saying something.) So we sit down and order up a huge plank of sushi and we're talking about the movie and suddenly I just look down and I'm thinking of my little pal Nemo and it just hits me -- and I go, Ya know what? I can't do this. I can't. I'm sorry."

Dealing with Telco/Cablecos...

Doc picked up the idea:
The Doc Searls Weblog : Thursday, November 2, 2006

As he has a much bigger ... soapbox, I hope it gets some attention. Maybe, if enough "customers" get the same attitude, we'll get some changes.

Ongoing saga.
Got a call Tues from Charter - from a real live person! who sought to troubleshoot our internet connection problem!!!

Seems that when I returned the modem (having purchased my own) the clerk seemed to have failed to enter the modem's ID (although I'd swear that it looked like she did so).
Result - Charter couldn't recognize my node.

Anyway, truck roll was needed to test lines.
I've refined my position with regards to feedback.

I'll work with the tech, a real person attempting to sort out the problems. Just not with bots either robo-voices or un-empowered flesh-bots with a headset but no authority to solve issues or issue solutions (credit).

Lunch today with some old friends and discussing similar telco tales of woe.
Took me back to the AT&T breakup.

First bill I got after the breakup inventoried the equipment that was suppose to be on my site (home/office) turns out that I was being billed for equipment that wasn't there.
Ameritech (the MichBell) end was able to credit me very quickly.
AT&T was different.
After several hours on a Friday Afternoon, with a number of calls, and having worked up to a supervisor, we finally got the situation "resolved".
Maybe an $80 credit.
Then the woman got chatty, it was about 5PM on a Friday, and she said that I'd just done the impossible ... I'd beaten City Hall and that within AT&T the policy was that the customer never wins.
Lesson learned.

Ethanol-Maybe the Farmers know something

As Investors Covet Ethanol, Farmers Resist

Ed Zurga for The New York Times

Mid-Missouri Energy, an ethanol plant in Malta Bend, Mo., is owned by farmers who are debating whether to accept buyout offers. A recent drop in ethanol prices is complicating their decision.

Published: November 2, 2006

MALTA BEND, Mo. — Farmers do not see fast money very often. But with big profits gushing forth from ethanol plants, dozens of Wall Street bankers, in loafers and suits, have been descending on the cornfields of the Midwest promising to make thousands of farmers rich overnight.

Ryland Utlaut, president of the Mid-Missouri board, said members are attached to the plant. But, he said, “pride can make you poor.”

Most of them, though, are proving surprisingly reluctant to cash in.

And ...

Ethanol Could Corrode Pumps, Testers Say - New York Times:
Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: October 27, 2006

CHICAGO, Oct. 26 — The farm-produced fuel that is supposed to help wean America from its oil addiction is under scrutiny for its potentially corrosive qualities.

E85, a blend of 85 percent corn-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, could be eating away at metal and plastic parts in pumps being used to dispense the fuel at gasoline stations, Underwriters Laboratories, the private product-safety testing group, said this month."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Right ! I'll take a case ...

I'm partial to a nice Cabernet or Chianti ...

Substance in Red Wine Extends Life of Mice
Doug Hansen/National Institute on Aging
Substance in Red Wine Extends Life of Mice

A new report found that resveratrol offsets the bad effects of a high-calorie diet in mice and significantly extends their lifespan.

Published: November 1, 2006

Can you have your cake and eat it? Is there a free lunch after all, red wine included? Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the National Institute of Aging report that a natural substance found in red wine, known as resveratrol, offsets the bad effects of a high-calorie diet in mice and significantly extends their lifespan.