31 July 2008

Oh, no, not us...

The Associated Press is saying that Mexico is (what a surprise) denying that the recent salmonella outbreak was from a Mexican pepper farm: "The director of Mexico's Farm Food Quality Service, Enrique Sanchez, said the US officials 'totally lacked scientific evidence' to make such statements, and said they had broken a confidentiality agreement by announcing findings before their investigation is complete... "We're eating this same produce in Mexico and we haven't had any problems," Sanchez said.
He suggested the FDA officials confused the source of the samples because the tainted water was found on a farm in the Tamaulipas state municipality of Hidalgo — not in Nuevo Leon, as the FDA reported... Sanchez said Mexico produces 2.4 million tons of peppers per year but exports only 12,000 tons of fresh peppers to the United States. Another 267,000 tons of canned or bottled peppers are sent to the U.S. each year, he said. Pepper exports have not stopped, but U.S. authorities have been taking samples from shipments at the border and holding them up for up to a week until waiting for results. Sanchez said officials have not yet determined the scale of the warning's impact on Mexico's pepper industry."

Rico says the solution is simple: don't eat the damn things... (He's doing his part, but he can't not eat 12,000 tons all by himself.)

Other side of the planet, alas

The BBC touts the big total eclipse tomorrow, but notes that it will start in the Canadian Arctic and sweep across Russia to end over China. Not a big deal in the US, therefore, though the news shows will undoubtedly have video...

Pants on fire

Apple says it's easy to get its new 2.0 software for the iPhone. Of course, even when you do exactly what they tell you, you get a different story.

Rico says he hopes someone's ass is going in a sling at Apple right now...

Rico wants one

A division of Tata (which now also owns Jaguar and Land Rover), AirCar is planning on selling a compressed-air-powered vehicle.

Rico says check it out (esp. their History page); he'd buy one today if he could...

Thank god for that

CNN reports that "the grassroots group 'VoteBoth' announced Thursday it is abandoning its efforts to land Hillary Clinton on the bottom half of the Democratic presidential ticket, a sign even the New York senator's most ardent backers now believe she has little chance of being named Barack Obama's running mate."

Rico says that'll keep him from having to vote against that ticket...

Zing of the first water

Barack Obama, speaking in Cedar Rapids and referring to a recent McCain ad which trotted out Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in comparison with Obama, said "I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with?"

Rico says that's worth a vote, right there...

When you have enough, give some away

al-Reuters is reporting that JK Rowling, wealthy author of the Harry Potter series, is going to publish a book of fairy tales and give the proceeds to charity.

Rico says it's a nice thing, even if she is already filthy rich...

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which will be published on 4 December, is mentioned in the seventh -- and final -- Potter book as having been left to Harry's friend Hermione Granger by Professor Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of their school Hogwarts. Rowling initially only produced seven copies of the Tales, bound in brown Moroccan leather and decorated in silver and moonstones. She gave six copies to people closely connected to the Potter books and auctioned off the seventh, which was bought in December by Amazon for about $4 million. Bloomsbury Publishing and Scholastic will now publish editions with an introduction by Rowling, selling for $12.99, while Amazon will produce up to 100,000 collector's edition copies, which will aim to replicate the look and feel of the original book and sell for $100. Proceeds from the book will be donated to the Children's High Level Group, a charity Rowling founded in 2005 to help the 1 million children across Europe still living in large residential institutions.

But pork freezes in Alaska...

The Washington Post is reporting the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, on corruption charges: "The 84-year-old Stevens, dubbed 'Uncle Ted' by the friends and constituents who reaped the benefits of his nearly forty years in the Senate, secured or played a significant role in 891 earmarks worth $3.2 billion to Alaska between 2004 and 2008."

Rico says it is good to be the prince, and even better to be a corrupt one...

"Senate Republicans greeted their colleague yesterday with hugs and smiles, even as they dumped campaign contributions the Alaska senator had given them. The mixed message: We love you, Ted, but we won't let you bring us down."

Ugly, no matter what the truth is

The Washington Post is reporting that suspicion in the long-unsolved Chandra Levy case has fallen on a congressman (unspecified, alas). However, another person, Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique, remains a 'person of interest' in the case and the prime suspect.

That's the end of that shit

The New York Times has an article spelling doom to Big Tobacco: "Decades after the surgeon general first warned that cigarettes were a health hazard, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Wednesday that would for the first time give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products. Citing the long history of warnings about the dangers of smoking, Representative John D. Dingell, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that it was hard to believe that the federal government had not yet regulated the tobacco industry... The bill specifically states that the FDA’s new powers would stop short of the ability to order the elimination of nicotine from tobacco products or place an outright ban on all tobacco products. But the agency could reduce nicotine to nonaddictive levels if it determined that doing so would benefit public health. The FDA could also require changes in tobacco products, like the reduction or elimination of other harmful ingredients... The bill was opposed by many Republicans. Many said they objected to expansion of the federal bureaucracy, and complained in particular that the FDA was already unable to fulfill its work overseeing pharmaceuticals and food. In floor discussion, John A. Boehner, the House minority leader, a smoker, called the legislation a 'boneheaded idea'."

Rico says what else would you expect from a smoker...

"If the legislation is enacted, consumers would see a wholesale revamping of the warning labels on tobacco products. The small messages currently on cigarette packs warning of the negative health effects would be replaced by graphic images of the physical ravages often caused by cigarettes, such as lung tumors and mouth growths. The bill will also require cigarette makers to provide detailed disclosure about the type and quantities of ingredients in their products — like ammonia and acetaldehyde — which are believed to work with nicotine to increase the addictiveness of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The requirements mean that companies would be required to disclose internal research on the biological effects of those additives."

Rico says if this passes (not a sure thing, especially if the President vetoes it), it's doom for the cigarette industry; no loss, as far as he's concerned, but other people will doubtless be upset...

A serious case of 'who gives a fuck'

Aww, Lance Armstrong and Kate Hudson broke up. Durn.
But in the 'who possibly gives a fuck' category, this is pretty close to the top of the list for Rico.
Not that he ever actually cared, but at least he thought Sheryl Crow was interesting...

Didn't like 'em anyway

Apparently the pepper problem is just getting worse; now the FDA is reporting salmonella in serrano peppers from Mexico (along with tainted irrigation water) too...

Rico says fortunately he doesn't like any of them pepper things, so no loss there... But the Mesticans are waffling hard:

"Mexico's Agriculture Department disputed the FDA's conclusion that the source of the salmonella outbreak had been found in the Nuevo Leon farm's irrigation water. In a statement released Wednesday, Mexican agriculture officials said, "The farm unit in question ended its harvest more than a month ago, so the sample they say they have lacks scientific validity." The statement added that the sample "was taken recently from a tank holding rain water that was not used in production."

Can't get a good remake these days

From a review in the Chicago Tribune:
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is bleh, though it's likely to click with the public, given the enormous profitability of the first two in the recent Mummy cycle. Certainly Brendan Fraser's granite-jawed, goofily satiric take on a generic serial archetype, the tomb-raiding wiseacre, didn't hurt. Nor did Rachel Weisz simply showing up and being there, pulling laughs out of thin air and reminding everybody else that there's a trick to acting even in a soulless evocation of another era. It's called style. For this third installment in the series, Weisz took a powder, leaving a role open for the similarly overqualified Maria Bello. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor begins promisingly, with a pleasantly outsize prologue setting up the stuff about the ancient horrible warlord ( Jet Li) turned to stone by a 2,000-year-old curse. Michelle Yeoh plays the good witch who re-enters the story in 1946, aiding Fraser and Bello and their grown adventurer son. Also we get a trio of abominable snowfolk, and the skeletal ghosts of the emperor's long-buried slaves, revived to fight the emperor's stone-no-more army... The film has one objective: to smack its audience in the face with fleeting, competing wows, over and over. Characters both digitized and human are constantly getting kicked in the head, or beheaded. The bone-crunching sound effects are cranked up to the glory-day levels of Sensurround. Except it's Sensurround without a breather."

Rico says he was hoping for better from this one; without Rachel Weisz, there's no point in going anyway...

Old device, new theories

Wired magazine has an article about the Antikythera Mechanism's Olympic calendar widget, including possible links from it to Archimedes. This is cool shit, people, if you're into antiquity, as Rico is: "Consisting of intricately linked dials that foretold the future positions of the sun, moon, and possibly stars, the 2100-year-old mechanism was recovered in 1900 from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. Though its function took decades to determine, scientists assumed that it came from Rhodes, a center of ancient Greek astronomy."

Lust object of the day

Netflix is one-upping the competition, yet again, by partnering with LG to sell a Blu-ray disc player that will also allow Netflix subscribers to watch streaming video offered by Netflix.

Rico says even at 'well under $500', he wants one...

Children eating their parents

The Silicon Valley Business Journal has an article about Google setting up its own venture capital investment unit, looking to fund startups like itself.

A nightmare missed, fortunately

American Airlines lost its baggage handling system at JFK yesterday, causing zillions of bags to pile up and passengers to fly without them, hoping they'd show up later.

Rico says he's been through this, but not recently, and he doesn't miss it...

Not Cuil, either

The Brits at The Register weigh in on the new Cuil site, and they're not pleased, either: "In fairness, most concluded that Cuil would not be a 'Google Killer'. But the pondering over its chances would be laughable if it weren't so boring. We offered brief coverage of the launch to note that the results are a bit rubbish, and in some cases obscene. Our second report lifts the lid on the company's cake budget... It's easy to identify what happened. When it first surfaced in 1998, Google made sense of the web a bit better than anyone else. It was a useful improvement on existing services. Ten years later, the web does its best to make sense of Google. The sorry upshot is that barring some unimaginable technological leap no search engine's results will ever be better than Google's, at least in the West. And the switch leaves the likes of Microsoft and Cuil (and a dozen other doomed start-ups) effectively attempting to reverse-engineer Google, not understand the information on the web. Microsoft's recent purchase of natural language search start-up Powerset should provide a case in point. Like many others hungry for a slice of the hugely profitable contextual search advertising business Google has created, Powerset's founders are betting web users want to ask search engines real grammatical questions. But keyword searches, which the vast majority are adept at now, are faster for users. So the web has adapted to attract their, and Google's, attention... Now is probably a good time to abandon any hope of a benevolent Google dictatorship. In toughening economic times, we're already seeing the firm being tempted to abuse its immense power to prevent its halo slipping in the eyes of Wall Street. Do no evil became a bad joke long ago, but its latest move to multiply its customers' search advertising costs on the sly by co-opting them into its new Ad Matching programme is low by any standard. But don't blame Google's executives. It's just what monopolies do."

Rico says he'll be happy to switch to something better, once someone builds something better. The problem is, the only one doing that is Google itself... (And there's that splendid British use of the word 'rubbish' again.)

Quote for the day

From Anton Chekhov: "Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be."

Rico says he is, and it does...

Ready for my electric car, Mr. DeMille

VentureBeat has an article about the proliferation of electric cars: "After seeing more electric and hybrid vehicle startups than we could keep track of, we finally decided to start keeping count. We’ve compiled a list of thirty startups according to their release date, with information on fuel type, range, top speed, and price."

Rico says he wants one, doesn't really matter who makes it. (Though the Think car looks like a good bet, especially at $15,000, but the Air Car sounds like a hell of an idea, and Tata's making them; they will already have a dealer network, since they've bought Jaguar and LandRover.) That, plus a big solar panel on the roof to recharge it every day, and then he can really tell the Arabs to pound sand...

Can you say "use a small nuclear device"?

al-Reuters has the story that FDA inspectors have found a farm in Mexico, growing serrano peppers, that tests positive for salmonella, matching the strain that has sickened more than 1300 people: "Mexican officials had repeatedly denied that the outbreak, originally blamed on tomatoes but later traced to peppers, could be traced to Mexican farms... Mexican officials have been angered by the FDA's statements. Last week, Enrique Sanchez, director of Mexico's National Sanitation and Farm Food Quality Service, called the decision 'arbitrary' and said it could have an 'enormous' harmful impact on the local jalapeno industry."

Rico says he wouldn't have expected them to react any other way, but fortunately he doesn't eat serrano peppers... (And isn't a Mexican governmental agency called the National Sanitation and Farm Food Quality Service a contradiction in terms?)

White keys in on Bond

Seems Alicia Keys and Jack White are doing a duet as the theme song for the new Bond movie Quantum of Solace. Seems they weren't getting along during the taping: "A source at the taping says Keys was not happy with a number of technical details and initially wasn't too crazy about the song itself. She also wasn't totally in sync with how the song was being produced."

Rico says it'd only have been funnier if it was Alicia Keys and Jack Black doing a duet...

Oh, darn, now they'll have to stay home

The San Jose Mercury News has an article about declining illegal immigration, due to the stagnating economy and the new border fences: "Two key signals, an unprecedented slowdown in money sent by immigrants back to Mexico and a report that claims the nation's illegal immigrant population has dropped significantly since last summer, indicate a possible change... In a study released Wednesday in Washington, D.C., the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors tighter curbs on immigration, said a weaker economy and aggressive immigration enforcement have prompted many immigrants to return home to Mexico and other countries... The last official government estimate of the undocumented population was for January 2006, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said 11.5 million illegal immigrants were in the United States - a 37 percent increase since 2000. With 2.8 million undocumented residents, California had the largest such population of any state, but California's illegal immigrant population grew by 13 percent from 2000 to 2006. The Center for Immigration Studies report said the number of illegal immigrants in the United States peaked at 12.5 million people in August 2007, and had declined by 11 percent, or about 1.3 million people, since then..."

Rico says adios and farewell...

Old friends doing well

The New York Times article about corruption in Thailand isn't really the interesting part, it's the byline: Seth Mydans
The reason being that Rico grew up in a house in California that was built by famed photojournalist Carl Mydans, father of Seth, when he returned from being a correspondent in WW2.
Rico's a lot older than Seth, so he never met him (though he did meet his sister Shelley, aka Misty, who's now a lawyer in Sacramento), but it's still a tie to childhood, and that's always good...

Not unexpected

al-Reuters reports that the new sequel to The Mummy (now subtitled Tomb of the Dragon) isn't worth the nine bucks it'll take to see it. That's unfortunate, but not unanticipated; sequels, especially of popular movies, often don't hold up. (Plus they replaced Rachel Weisz, which lowers Rico's interest right there...) And this is the kiss of death, from the review: "But too much of the proceedings are silly rather than horrifying, with the nadir being the appearance of some particularly athletic yeti who briefly pitch in to lend a hand."

Rico says if the best you can come up with are some 'particularly athletic yeti', you're not really trying...

Civil War for the day

Still no images, sorry.

30 July 2008

Cuil isn't, yet

I went, like everyone else on the planet, to www.cuil.com to see if they knew me. I'm there, but on page eight of the listings. My father, who's much better known, was on page five. The site seems to do very well with Australian listings (there's even a graphic to explore Australian singers, musicians, and songwriters; not your everyday search requirements), so one might assume they're located there, though their nominal address is Menlo Park, California... (Given that they all appear to be US-based folks, that's probably right.)

Unlikely place for wisdom

Via the Domai site, this thought for the day from one of Rico's favorite authors:
"Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum. I think that I think, therefore I think that I am."
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

An education in gasoline economics

Via my friend the Peripatetic Engineer, this lesson, by John David Powell, in why you're paying what you're paying for gasoline:
I hang around educated and talented people. Each individual has at least one university degree. Most read, watch, or listen to more than one news source every day. They span generations with ages ranging from the 20s to the 70s.
Yet, not a single person among them knew the answers to some basic questions pertinent to the growing discourse regarding the rising price of oil. A few knew some of the answers, and some knew a few of the answers. To be fair, I had to look up the answers, or else I would have been among the shoulder shruggers.
For instance, how big is a barrel? Answer: 42 gallons. So, now you know that when the price for a barrel of crude oil hits $140, that's the same as $3.33 a gallon.
What nation supplies the most crude oil and petroleum products to the United States? Answer: The United States. According to the Energy Information Agency, our country supplied 41 percent of the oil we consumed in March of this year.
What nation, other than the U.S. , supplies the most crude oil and petroleum products to our country? Answer: Canada. Our northern neighbor accounts for 12 percent of our nation's oil and 20 percent of all the oil we import. The rest of the top five include Saudi Arabia (7 percent and 13 percent); Venezuela (6 percent and 11 percent); Nigeria (6 percent and 10 percent); and Mexico (5 percent and 8 percent).
How much oil do we import from Persian Gulf countries? I'm glad you asked. Answer: Persian Gulf countries accounted for only 16 percent of our foreign oil imports each year from 2005 to 2007. In fact, our Persian Gulf imports declined most of this decade, from a 15-year high of a little more than 1 billion barrels in 2001 to 791.9 million barrels in 2007.
What's the difference between crude oil and petroleum products? Answer: Crude oil provides, among other products, gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, heating oil, liquefied petroleum gas, lubricants, asphalt, plastics, synthetic fibers, detergents, fertilizers, ink, crayons, bubble gum, deodorant, tires, and heart valves. One barrel of crude oil (which is 42 gallons, remember?) yields about 19.6 gallons of gasoline. The other 22.4 gallons go into the products just mentioned.
How much of the cost of oil goes into the price of gasoline? Answer: A bunch. We consumed about 390 million gallons of gas a day last year in our cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, boats, farm implement s, and construction and landscaping equipment. Back when crude was $68 a barrel (that was just last year), it accounted for about 58 percent of the price of a gallon of gasoline. The rest of the price came from refining costs (17 percent), federal and state taxes (15 percent), and distribution and marketing (10 percent). By the way, the price of crude accounts for about 77 percent of the cost of gas at $4 a gallon.
Here's a little something you may not have considered. What products that you buy on a regular basis are sold with tax included? Answer: Gasoline. For everything else, you add the tax at checkout.
The folks in California pay 63.9 cents a gallon in state and federal fuel taxes, the most in the nation. That's just the base, though. Motorists there also pay an additional 6-percent state sales tax, with some paying another 1.25-percent county sales tax plus applicable local sales taxes. Same in Illinois, where Chicago motorists pay 12.75 cents per gallon on top of the 57.9 cents per gallon in state and federal taxes. Some Illinois motorists also pay a 6.25-percent sales tax.
Politicians, pundits, and other TV talking heads don't like to provide these answers, because facts get in the way of positions that pander to the mob. We don't point fingers at Canada , because it's de rigueur to paint the Saudis with the broad brush of blame. Folks float the idea of a moratorium on state and federal gasoline taxes without explaining its minimal impact on gas prices, or without mentioning the $3 sales tax some motorists pay on top of a $50 fill up. Policymakers don't explain that oil trades in the dollar, which is weak vis-a-vis the Euro, because that would require solutions for strengthening the greenback.
And it's easier for simple minds to convince simpler minds to impose windfall-profit taxes on pension funds, and owners of Individual Retirement Accounts who invest in oil companies, than to take on credit card issuers charging double and triple-digit interest rates to the millions of people using plastic to pay for food and fuel. Talk about irony!
And we sure wouldn't want to impose a windfall-profit tax on someone who goes from making $56,000 a year as, say, an Illinois legislator, to $165,000 a year as, say, a U.S. senator, an increase of nearly 200 percent (not counting book deals or real-estate related loans). To say nothing of his getting a raise to $400,000 a year if he's elected President...

Civil War for the day

Still no access to images. Sorry.

29 July 2008

Gotta get one

Courtesy of my friend Peter Vadasz, the coolest barbeque ever...

About time, too

al-Reuters is reporting the release, in November, of the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, again starring Daniel Craig.

Rico says he'll be seeing it after the crowds die down...

Cloud cuckoo land

The New York Times reports on the new work in 'cloud' computing: "The goal is to advance Internet-scale computing — the proverbial 'cloud', in which more computing chores are delivered to personal computers and cellphones as services, with the heavy computational lifting done remotely in large data centers... Google and IBM announced a big cloud research initiative last fall, pledging to build two large data centers that would be at the disposal of six universities initially: Carnegie Mellon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Washington, the University of Maryland and the University of California at Berkeley."

Rico says he's happy (and not a bit surprised) to see his old alma mater, CMU, on the list; his old high school friend Ted went there before going to Xerox PARC and helping start a bunch of neat stuff there...

Thank God for that

It seems the kosher restaurant in Beijing will be open 24/7 during the Olympics. (What, you didn't know there was a kosher restaurant in Beijing? Neither did Rico.)
There's an old joke about the rabbi who goes to a service at the synagogue in Beijing. (Actually, the joke's old enough that it was Peking when Rico heard it.) The punchline is "Funny, you don't look Jewish..."

Like that should have surprised anyone

The Chinese had apparently blocked access to the Amnesty International website when reporters at the Main Press Centre tried to access it today: "China loosened the regulations governing foreign media earlier this year and has promised the I.O.C. that journalists covering the Games would have the same freedom to report as at previous Olympics."

Well, now its doubly worse

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that you have to do an hour of exercise a day, not a half hour, in order to lose weight and keep it off.

Rico says that's now yet more pressure than he needed...

Running on angry

That CBS news headline pretty much sums it up; the guy's wired pretty tight. "But here's the question: Which Clinton campaign will McCain run? The one with a clear message and substance, which led to a string of more than a half-dozen victories in the late contests? Or the one that made her entirely unlikable?"
"So far, McCain is running largely on angry. That is, the initial game plan of Hillary the Scold -- in which she claimed that she was the only candidate who had been 'vetted', the only one who was truly 'electable', the only one ready to be commander in chief."
"Getting mad made Clinton look small. McCain just looks mean. So why not try to accentuate what works best for McCain, such as his credentials as someone who has spent a career bucking his party, working across the aisle, trying to fix things?"

Two of my favorites are in trouble

Bennigan's and Whole Foods are both in trouble, of different sorts:
"Restaurant chains Bennigan's and Steak & Ale have both filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and restaurants owned by its parent company will shut their doors."
"In February, 2007, Whole Foods announced its plan to buy smaller rival, Wild Oats, for $565 million. Five months later, the FTC sued to block the deal, saying it would stifle competition in the market for natural and organic groceries. In August, District Judge Paul Friedman denied the FTC’s request to block the deal, concluding that that it had failed to prove that the merger would hurt competition. Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed Friedman, ruling that Judge Friedman 'underestimated the FTC’s likelihood of success on the merits' when he denied the agency’s request."

Rico says he eats occasionally at Bennigan's but shops regularly at Whole Foods; he hopes they both come out of this okay...

Maybe they're getting smarter, or at least more jaded

The headlines on the articles say it all:
Lightroom 2 released to suspecting public
Cuil? Not So Much
The reviews, of course, are more caustic:
Today Adobe has released Lightroom 2.0 after an apparently smooth four-month public beta test. New features have been added and tweaked since the beta builds. The addition of more local adjustments is pretty evolutionary but very welcome, as it's the main thing keeping people running back to Photoshop for masked edits.

Besieged by problems such as unavailable site access, and paltry and irrelevant search returns, Cuil, the new search engine launched Monday, has drawn the wrath of users.
Rico says he'll wait on both for awhile, let the dust settle...

Big one coming anyday

The New York Times has an article about a largish earthquake in the Los Angeles area today, a 5.4 temblor. (That's what they call it, though Rico is quite sure the locals used other words, in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, and any of the myriad other languages spoken in the Los Angeles basin.) "The quake, estimated at 5.4 magnitude (reduced from an initial estimate of 5.8), was centered 35 east of downtown Los Angeles in Chino Hills, just south of Pomona in San Bernardino county. It was felt as far east as Las Vegas and as far south as San Diego."

Rico says he was in Oakland for the Loma Prieta quake, a lot bigger (about 6.9), back in '89; that was more than enough for him: "The quake killed 63 people throughout northern California, injured 3,757 people and left some 8,000 to 12,000 people homeless... The worst disaster of the earthquake was the collapse of the two level Cypress Section of Interstate 880 in West Oakland. Forty-two people died and many more were injured."

Just don't breathe in

NPR has the story of the pollution problems that athletes will be facing during the Beijing Olympics: "The Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee says most athletes will not have trouble with Beijing's bad air, with the exception of endurance athletes. 'There may be some risk for outdoor events that include minimum one-hour continuous physical efforts at high level', the IOC commission reported in March. That includes sports such as the triathlon, road cycling, mountain biking, race walking, and the swimming and running marathons."
"There are no magic bullets for smog, except rain, which temporarily clears the air. Chinese officials have an extensive cloud seeding program under way to try to induce rain."

Rico says those records will forever require an asterisk, because times in many events will likely go up in these Olympics...

Missed the opportunity, yet again

A number of years ago, Rico was going to hook up with some investors and get into dealing in Siberia; paper, mostly, but anything else that came along was fair game. Didn't happen.

Rico says it was still a good idea, and the linked article from the BBC describes why: "Russia's cherished Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia is becoming a magnet for the tourist industry as energy revenues fuel an economic boom in this neglected region. Based in the city of Irkutsk, Viktor Grigorov's company Grand Baikal is one of the investors in regional tourism and a partner company of the state electricity firm Irkutsk Energy. "My conception is that there will be fast roads, hotels and spa complexes here," he says, pointing at the map. "At the south end of the lake I can envisage us one day hosting the Winter Olympics - for the first time in Siberia!"

The Beeb on Apple

Even the BBC says the new MobileMe from Apple is having problems. Fortunately (and he cheated by not plunging into using the new system just yet), Rico has been unaffected by the problems. (And only a moron uses a new product from Apple right away.) Once it gets sorted out (and it will, because Steve Jobs is riding hard right now on a bunch of folks at Apple to do just that), he'll jump into the 'cloud'...

Do bad things, sometimes you gotta die

The Associated Press has the story of a former cook in the Army who's been sentenced to death for multiple rapes and murders: "President Bush decided Monday that Gray's crimes were so repugnant that execution was the only just punishment. Bush's decision marked the first time in 51 years that a president has affirmed a death sentence for a member of the U.S. military. Ronald A. Gray, 42, was convicted in connection with a spree of four murders and eight rapes in the Fayetteville, N.C., area between April 1986 and January 1987 while he was stationed at Fort Bragg. He has been on death row at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since April 1988. "While approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
"Members of the U.S. military have been executed throughout history, but just ten have been executed by presidential approval since 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's modern-day legal system, was enacted into law. President Kennedy was the last president to stare down this life-or-death decision. On Feb. 12, 1962, Kennedy commuted the death sentence of Jimmie Henderson, a Navy seaman, to confinement for life. President Eisenhower was the last president to approve a military execution. In 1957, he approved the execution of John Bennett, an Army private convicted of raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl. He was hanged in 1961."

Rico says this is one of those things Presidents don't like to do, but have to anyway...

Wogs not trying hard enough

Seems India and Pakistan have gotten into it again in Kashmir; a little problem with the ceasefire and territorial encroachment, apparently. One Indian and four Pakis dead after a 'twelve hour gun battle: "Last night's battle was sparked by the killing of an Indian soldier, said an Indian army spokesman. He said a Pakistani unit "came into Indian territory, fired and then ran back to their side". Colonel Anil Kumar Mathur said four Pakistanis had been killed along the heavily armed frontier that divides Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir."

"Pakistan denied any soldiers were killed. Military officials in Islamabad blamed the incident on Indian soldiers trying to build a post on Pakistan's side. "On Pakistan's objection, Indian troops opened indiscriminate and unprovoked fire," the statement said."

Rico says it's sad that this all sounds like a bad ethnic joke; he can hear the heavily-accented telling of it now in his head. But to have two armies, in a fairly confined space, in an artillery duel for twelve hours and only kill five soldiers? That is an ethnic joke. The Germans would court-martial any artillery officer who fired for twelve hours and only killed four of the enemy...

In a related story, "police found 10 unexploded bombs today in the western Indian city of Surat, one of the world's biggest diamond-polishing centres. All were found in one of the city's most densely populated neighbourhoods."

Rico says isn't "most densely populated neighbourhood" a redundant phrase in India?

Floating ugly rumors is an artform

The Top of the Ticket blog in the Los Angeles Times went through the list of people who've already declined the Obama vice-presidency, and ended up by suggesting Clinton for the job. No, not Hillary; that ship's already sailed. Bill. As in the earlier president.

Rico says that's probably an interesting notion, but surely it's the fastest way for Obama to find himself on the short-list for an assassination...

Civil War for the day

Still can't access the disk drive with the photos. Sorry.

28 July 2008

If this wasn't disrespect, what is?

Seems a San Francisco radio talkshow host (and there's an expert if Rico's ever heard of one) made some disparaging remarks about autistic kids:
Savage said that autism is being over-diagnosed and actually is a result of parental failures.
"They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life,' " Savage said during his show. " 'Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, you idiot.' Savage's off-color remarks have not hurt business. With eight million listeners a week on 400 radio stations, Savage is the third-most-listened-to radio talk show host in the country, behind only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity."
Rico says the guy will be lucky not to be fired, if not hung in effigy...

Getting better, but not all better yet

"Some poor soul at Apple known only as David G. was drafted by CEO Steve Jobs to write every-other-day posts on the status of MobileMe, the successor to Apple's .Mac service that has caused no small level of frustration in the two weeks since it launched. In the initial post on Friday, Apple acknowledged that those affected by the outage lost 10 percent of their e-mail between July 16 and July 18, the height of the outage. Apple is still saying that only 1 percent of MobileMe users were affected by the e-mail problems, which were apparently caused by a "serious problem with one of our mail servers," David wrote. However, broader problems with accessing calendars and contacts information were the result of a misjudgment in demand, he said, and Apple has since added new servers and tweaked older ones to handle the load."

Rico says David G is paying the price for being smart, but hopefully he negotiated a serious bonus for doing this for Steve...

Not good, even if we did admit to it

The New York Times has an article: "The American military admitted Sunday night that a platoon of soldiers raked a car of innocent Iraqi civilians with hundreds of rounds of gunfire and that the military then issued a news release larded with misstatements, asserting that the victims were criminals who had fired on the troops."

Rico says it sounds like a court-martial to him...

Poster child for the death penalty

Do all crazed shooters look alike, or is it just bad photography? Jim Adkisson went into a church in Tennessee and blazed away with a shotgun until he was taken down by church-goers and held for police. His motive, as expressed in a four-page letter? Frustration over being unable to obtain a job and hatred for the liberal movement. Authorities also discovered a letter from the state government telling Adkisson he was having his food stamps reduced or eliminated, police said. "He did express that frustration, that the liberal movement was getting more jobs. And he felt like he was being kept out of the loop because of his age." Adkisson apparently acted alone and chose the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because of recent publicity about activities there that Adkisson considered liberal.

Neighbors said Adkisson was quiet and kept to himself.

Rico says he hopes no one ever says that about him...


Rico says he remembers the days of new drug launches, and the breath-holding that went into it at GSK and BMS.
But this, this takes the cake:
On Monday, Vanda Pharmaceuticals investors were disappointed when the FDA sent a rejection letter to Vanda for its drug iloperidone, a schizophrenia treatment. The news caused shares of the Rockville, Maryland-based company to fall a whopping 67.0%, or $2.25, to $1.11, in early afternoon trading. The stock has lost 93.9% of its value since its close of $18.57 on July 30, 2007.

Rico says he wonders who got smart and sold the stock short?

Nice try, for amateurs

Someone came up with an alternative to Google called Cuil. It looks pretty, but it couldn't find this blog, my web page, or several other fairly simple searches, including 'civil war library', which should have returned a bunch of stuff and found nothing. Rico says it's not long for this world, unless it gets better fast.

New logos all the time

Google has a conceit of changing their logo on a regular basis; hey, it's electronic, it's free, it's fun, why not?

Improvement, finally

Seems that Applebee's restaurants decided to update their logo. Good work.

Go ahead, make me an offer

This is an original print, from the photographer's negative prior to it becoming cracked in shipping, of Abraham Lincoln before he grew the famous beard. It has been, alas, trimmed down to fit a period oval frame (quite nice; black rim, dark wood frame, silvered lip, antique glass), but otherwise as it was made originally in approximately 1860. It is shown, in both this and its broken condition, in a famous book of Lincoln portraits.
Want it? Go to my auction at eBid; top dollar takes it.

Now that's how you kill people

"Scores of people have been killed and more than 200 injured after a series of suicide bombings in Kirkuk and Baghdad created havoc in Iraq Monday. A suicide bomber helped kill at least 36 people and wounded 116 others after detonating explosives during a rally in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk."

In death-related news, "the death toll in two bomb blasts in Istanbul rose to 17 on Monday in an attack that increased tension hours before a top court was to begin deliberating on whether to ban the governing party."

Rico says fortunately, the wackos here at home tend to use gubs and not explosives (well, since that clown in Oklahoma City, anyway)...

Pistol? No. Assault rifle? No.

Seems the latest mad-gunman tragedy, in Knoxville, was a shotgub. They'll be looking to figure out how to ban them, now... (Obviously not a high-capacity one either, and no backup weapon, since "the gunman was tackled by church members and eventually taken into police custody"...)

Made it

An eyeblink for a 'real' blog, but a lot of readers as far as Rico is concerned. Thank you for your support.

Civil War for the day

Still no images. Sorry. Computer error.

27 July 2008

Not sure where we go from here

I got a voicemail today from my oldest friend in California. He wants to know what's going on. To be honest, I don't know, but I submit this: “You can be at ease only with those people to whom you can say any damn fool thing that comes into your head, knowing they will respond in kind, and knowing misunderstandings will be thrashed out right now, rather than buried deep and given a chance to fester.” John D. MacDonald, speaking as Travis McGee in Darker Than Amber

Rico says he'll let you know what happens, but it feels a lot like this: "A Fremen is one who takes a frayed rope and, cutting it, says: It is over, because it ends here,” a quote from Dune by Frank Herbert, a gentleman whom Rico was lucky enough, thirty-plus years ago, to have dinner with after he spoke at Carnegie-Mellon.

Cancel the remodeling job

Damn, now its granite countertops. The Houston Chronicle has the story: "Some granite countertops contain levels of uranium high enough to be dangerous to humans."

Truer words were never spoken

“No one wants to die,” said Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs. “And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.”
The New York Times has an article about Jobs' brush with pancreatic cancer, which he seems to have survived. (Fortunately for Apple.)
Mr. Jobs told the Stanford graduates: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

Rico says it's a hard-learned lesson, but a true one. If Steve's cancer has come back, that's a bad thing, for Steve and for Apple and for Rico's few shares of its stock, but supposedly it hasn't. For his sake, Rico hopes so...

But one must remember, as the character played by Edward James Olmos in Blade Runner said: “Too bad she won’t live. But, then, who does.”
And William Saroyan once said "I know we all die. The evidence is around us every day. But I thought, surely, in my case, an exception could be made."

Nothing that 39 million won't get you

"Razor, designed by San Diego-based Wallace Cunningham, is a quiet sanctuary with museum-like architecture and unobstructed views of the Pacific. The modern home was constructed of concrete, steel and structural glass so plentiful that it feels as though the house is one with the outdoors... Glowing like an illuminated jewel box, the four-bedroom, six-bathroom estate was designed "to capture the magnificence of the site, to allow the owners to live as part of nature," says the architect, Wallace E. Cunningham of San Diego. The listing price: $39 million... Dozens of caissons were embedded into the hillside and attached to the house to ensure its permanence at the edge of Southern California's infamously unstable precipice. The property has four bedrooms and six bathrooms in 11,000 square feet. The lot size is about half an acre (or 21,000 square feet; not much left over)... The house has a living room; a dining room; adjacent chef's and family kitchens; a media room; a 4,000-bottle wine cellar that may be used for storage; a computer room; an indoor gym and spa; an infinity pool; a terrace; radiant heat; and a seven-car garage. The property has beach access."

Rico says it is always good to be the prince... (But he got sold a bill of goods if he thinks that anything is going to actually 'ensure its permanence at the edge of Southern California's infamously unstable precipice'. That cliff face is migrating east, and at an observable and measurable rate; permanence ain't in the cards.)

Righting old wrongs

The Los Angeles Times has the story of the vindication of 28 black soldiers convicted in 1944 of a lynching (now ain't that a turnabout?) and riot after an Italian POW was discovered 'dangling from a wire'. "The subsequent trial of the three men, along with 40 other black enlistees charged with rioting, became the largest and longest Army court-martial of the war, and the only recorded instance in U.S. history in which black men stood trial for a mob lynching. By the time it was over, 28 men had been convicted on rioting charges and two of them were also found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the 1944 hanging. Despite their protests of innocence -- and the government's own secret investigation showing the prosecution's case was poisonously flawed -- the men were sentenced to hard labor and forfeiture of military pay and benefits, and were given dishonorable discharges... Twenty-six of the men went to their graves with the stain of wartime dishonor still on their records. It wasn't until Saturday, in a low-key ceremony on a wide lawn at the Army base in Seattle, that history switched gears. A senior Army official handed out certificates setting aside the convictions and converting the discharges to honorable status, in recognition -- 64 years after the fact -- that prosecutors' 'egregious error' had resulted in a trial that was 'fundamentally unfair'... The case of the Ft. Lawton 28 had been little known in recent years, though the court-martial in 1944 was widely covered in the news at the time. It wasn't until former television journalist Jack Hamann came upon the Italian soldier's grave in 1986 and began years of research that archival material was uncovered, demonstrating fatal flaws in the government's case -- and pointing to the likelihood that the Italian prisoner was killed by a white man... Immediately after the lynching, the Army inspector general had conducted an exhaustive investigation that raised major questions about the evidence against the accused... But the Army had appointed only two defense lawyers to handle all 43 men, giving them 10 days to prepare their case, and they were not permitted to see the report. The prosecutor was Colonel Leon Jaworski, who in 1973 became the special prosecutor in the Watergate case involving the administration of President Nixon. "Jaworski disingenuously -- and, it's clear now, illegally and unethically -- said, 'Sorry, that's not what you think it is, and you can't have it.' He fought, and got the court to agree not to let it in," Hamann said in an interview. Jaworski died in 1982."

Rico says great, now Nixon's going to want to reopen his case...

Hey, it worked in 1968

The Times has an article of a threat by a "militant Islamic group" to attack the Beijing Olympics using "suicide bombers and biological weapons. It was issued by a group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic party. The group may be allied with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – designated a terrorist organisation by the US, China and several other countries – which seeks independence for the Muslim Uighur people of China’s far west province of Xinjiang, which Uighur separatists call East Turkestan... 'Commander Seyfullah' said the group was responsible for three bombs last week on buses in the city of Kunming, which killed two people, and for two bus bombings on 21 May in Shanghai, which killed three."

Rico says he hopes they don't do as well as the last time, but thanks for the warning...

Hi, there

"The Royal Australian Navy gets ready for underwater mine clearance and surveillance drills during a biennial training exercise involving ten nations in Honolulu, Hawaii."
Or, as the SEAL poster used to have it, "Hi, we're from the government! We're here to help!"

Nothing uglier than internecine warfare

The Times has an article about one Palestinian group, Fatah, bombing another, Hamas: "Gunfights and mass-arrests swept the Palestinian territories over the weekend in the aftermath of a deadly bomb attack on Gaza’s Hamas rulers, which the Islamists blamed on their western-backed rival Fatah. A major Hamas security sweep in Gaza, in which hundreds of Fatah members were rounded up for interrogation and the movement’s offices shut down, triggered fighting involving another group, the Army of Islam, a radical, smaller movement with previous links to both factions and which kidnapped Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist. In the middle of the internal fighting, Israeli forces simultaneously launched a raid to arrest a senior Hamas fugitive in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, killing the man when he opened fire on the raiding party... The Army of Islam is based in a cramped area of southern Gaza City dominated by the powerful and fiercely territorial Doghmush clan, with whom Hamas has had run-ins in the past over smuggling operations. Hamas policemen fought gun battles with clansmen and militia members for hours, at one point having to extricate a group of its policemen who were pinned down by Doghmush snipers. At least three people were wounded in the all-night clashes. Following the infighting, Israeli forces stepped into the complex melee this morning with a raid to nab the senior Hamas militant, Shihab al-Natsheh, whom Israel accused of masterminding a suicide bombing in the southern Israeli town of Dimona in February, killing an elderly Israeli woman."

Rico says it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys; he hopes they keep it up all summer but leave the Israelis out of it...

Thirty years later, who'da thunk it?

The BBC has the story of the stability and prosperity in Cambodia, of all places: "The Khmer Rouge presided over the deaths of almost two million Cambodians when they held power in the late 1970s, and that was just a short period of a three-decade long civil war which only came to an end 10 years ago. The picture now is quite different. Successive years of double-digit growth have made the Cambodian economy one of the world's star performers. Millions of tourists are discovering the country's heritage and charm every year, providing jobs for an ever-increasing population. The Khmer Rouge is no more, and a UN-backed tribunal has charged its surviving leaders with crimes against humanity."

Rico says this is a success story he would never have guessed when Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge... (Written about in his book At All Hazards; feel free to go buy a copy.)

Like we couldn't guess the answer

PC World has an article entitled Microsoft: Stodgy or Innovative? It's All About Perception. They go on to try and present the argument that Microsoft is really innovative, citing work on 'Surface', Microsoft's 'multi-touch tabletop computer' (otherwise known as vaporware; even the article said so). "After the demo, one analyst commented to Mundie that the technology looked great but that the rest of the world doesn't get to see such demonstrations, and he urged Mundie to spread the word so that people will perceive Microsoft as the innovative company that it is, rather than as a legacy software vendor. As Mundie and others begin talking more about new innovations, however, the company runs the risk of being accused of marketing vaporware, a criticism it has faced in the past. In fact, Microsoft has been accused of announcing its work on technologies very early as a way to discourage other companies from developing similar products in competition... Another analyst at the meeting asked Microsoft executives how the company expects to be able to sell Windows 7, the next version of the operating system, when people have such a poor perception of Vista. Executives didn't have a great reply, beyond assuring the audience that the problems that plagued Vista at its initial launch are now fixed."

Rico says they can say all the nice things about Windows Whatever they want, he's not changing from the Fruit Company...

Scary moments, surely

An oxygen bottle apparently exploded, according to CNN, aboard a Qantas flight, forcing it to divert to the Phillipines. Safely, fortunately, given the damage. "The Civil Aviation Safety Authority asked the airline to check oxygen containers and the brackets that hold them in each of the 30 Boeing 747 that's part of Qantas' fleet, the state news agency said. The agency thinks an exploding oxygen cylinder caused the rupture on the flight Friday because there were no signs of fire and the bottle had been in the spot that exploded, the Australian Associated Press said."

In an aviation-related story, "two drunken British women went on a rampage on a charter plane, hitting one flight attendant with a bottle of vodka and trying to open a cabin door as the aircraft was cruising over Austria at 10,000 meters (32,800 feet). The staff on the flight from Greece to England eventually forced the women back to their seats and the pilot made an emergency landing in Frankfurt. The rampage occurred when a flight attendant denied the women alcohol because they were visibly intoxicated. The 26-year-old took a swipe at a cabin attendant with a bottle of vodka, then attempted to open a cabin door. 'Apparently the 26-year-old wanted to catch some fresh air', the statement said. The identities of the women were not released, but police said the 26-year-old may be charged with attempted assault and interfering with air traffic."

Rico says he's happy he wasn't on either flight...

26 July 2008

If you got it, flaunt it

For a straight guy in a gay industry, Calvin Klein gets all the hot girls, like Eva Mendes here... (Okay, okay, he pays better, but he's got a lot more money than Rico does.)

If you don't have it, have it made for you

Brigitte Nielsen, who wasn't bad looking before, has apparently had a lot of plastic surgery, live on German (of course) television: "The ex-wife of Sylvester Stallone looked at least 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter in a tight black mini dress, bright yellow jacket, knee-high boots and her trademark platinum blond pixie haircut."

The world has officially gotten too weird

The New York Daily News has an article about the 'man' who had a baby, though his wife is having to breastfeed: "Beatie was born a woman, but had surgery and gender reassignment which legally makes him male. He decided to carry the child for his wife Nancy because she had a hysterectomy years before. However, Nancy is able to breastfeed the baby thanks to a process known as induced lactation."

Rico says okay, this is too weird, even for him...

If they don't like him, that's a good thing

According to the New York Times, "Mr. Obama makes Europeans uncomfortable." His swing through France went well, but the Germans are not happy. (As if Rico cares whether the Germans are happy or not.) He had a nice visit with the Brits, too.

Inching toward twelve thousand

It keeps getting closer, but not quite there yet, and going slow today... (And Rico knows that's a good day's count, not several years' worth, for any 'real' blogger.)

He knows

James Lileks has an on-line column (and who doesn't), but his is cogent and well-written, which sets him apart from the rest (including mine). Rico says check him out. (And thanks to my friend Bill Champ for pointing me toward him.)

No Civil War for the day

Still experiencing connection difficulties, so no Civil War imagery again today. My apologies.

25 July 2008

Praised by faint damns

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, is talking about 'improving the user experience' by copying Apple. Damn, never thought you'd hear that, did you?

This, too, if less so

Seems Barack Obama went to my alma mater back in June and said a few things (actually, fifteen minutes of things).

Makes me proud to be a CMU alum

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who became a YouTube phenomenon with his Last Lecture, died at his home in southern Virginia of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 47.

The best line: "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."

Second best line: "Yes, I've had a deathbed conversion; I bought a Macintosh."

Rico says he is endeavoring to play the cards he's been dealt as well as he can; the verdict's not in yet, but there will be feedback as we go along... (And, yes, he didn't have to get to his deathbed to buy a Macintosh; he'll want to buy whatever cool machine Apple will be selling then, but someone else will have to buy it with whatever meagre money he leaves them.)

If you listen to nothing else in this blog (though I think I might say one or two things of interest along the way), listen to this guy. He knows.

You'd think they'd be embarrassed enough to stop...

...but his district in Ohio keeps reelecting Dennis Kucinich. Why, Rico has no idea. His latest? Still trying to impeach President Bush, with a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee scheduled for today. Like they have time to deal with this shit. (And his presidency has what, six months to run?) But they're trotting out everyone except Cindy Sheehan (probably because she'd make even the media gag), including Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., an Iraq war critic; Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C.; former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, D-N.Y.; former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga.; Ross "Rocky" Anderson, founder of High Roads for Human Rights and former mayor of Salt Lake City; Stephen Presser, of the Northwestern University School of Law; Vincent Bugliosi, former L.A. County prosecutor; Jeremy Rabkin, George Mason University School of Law; Elliot Adams, board president of Veterans for Peace; and Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Rico says best prediction of the day, courtesy of Fox News? "A circus-like atmosphere is not out of the question." No shit. (And it's not his fault that he looks so much like Alfred E. Neuman)

What's that whirring noise?

So Rico turns on the Golf Channel and there's a bunch of guys playing PGA golf at the Le Meridien Moscow Country Club. No, not a golf course in Moscow, Idaho or any of the other twenty-some Moscows in the United States, but a golf course in Moscow in Russia. Who knew?

Russia's first and only 18-hole par 72 (7015 yard, 6390 m) Championship Golf Course, home of the "Cadillac Russian Open", an event on the PGA European Challenge Tour, was designed by one of the world's finest golf architects, Robert Trent Jones Jr., built under the direction of Ivan Ivanovich Sergeev. In 1988 an idea became reality when construction began on what would become Russia's first 18-hole golf course. "The Golf Course", in Jones's words, "was designed to be a very traditional parkland course. From the back tees, it has sufficient length and difficulty to host any type of championship tournaments." The deep Russian forest with large evergreens, birch, native wildlife and songbirds complete a magnificent setting.

In addition to the course, there's a clubhouse, a hotel, and a sport club, including a pool.Rico says the whirring noise? Lenin, in his tomb, of course...

But he'd've been perfect

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, has taken himself out of the running for the vice presidential slot on the GOP ticket.

No, no, not the Mitt

The Boston Globe says there's talk that John McCain will choose Romney as his running mate. Boring...

What's next? Shooting the shooters?

The AP has a story out of France that there was a fight, on the grounds of the chateau occupied by Brad Pitt and his wife Angelina Jolie, between their security force and some 'camouflaged paparazzi'. Cross-complaints have been filed by both sides, alleging battery and 'causing injury', though the paparazzi aren't on good legal grounds here...

24 July 2008

MobileMess, apparently

The New York Times is reporting problems with Apple's new MobileMe software.

Rico says he was afraid he'd have to bail on the system before he's even had a chance to use it, but he's going to ride it out...

Can you say court-martial?

Or can you say nuclear clusterfuck?
Seems that three Air Force officers fell asleep while in control of an electronic component that contained old launch codes for nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, a violation of procedure, Air Force officials said. "The Air Force said the launch codes had been deactivated before the incident, but it was still a violation of protocol, prompting an investigation. It is the fourth incident in the past year involving problems with secure handling of components of America's nuclear weapons."

Rico says that these are the same guys who want to put missiles into Poland and the Czech Republic; no wonder the Russians are pissed off...

We've seen this movie, too

"Russia is said to be considering the use of bases in Cuba as a refuelling point for its nuclear bombers, in a move reminiscent of the 1962 missile crisis."

Rico says great, just when things were beginning to calm down...

Ah, the Canucks

Supposedly French-Canadian troops in a live-fire exercise. Probably not, but funny...

Another great one gone

Dick Teater is dead. This is a bad thing. Not for him, who'd suffered long enough, but for those of us who knew and loved him. Among many other talents, he got interested in mountain-man reenacting, and started American Rendezvous magazine to help promote it. You can click the post title and read the official obituary (obviously written by his wretched children, since they never mentioned my friend Kit, who was married to him for quite awhile), or you can trust me that a sweet & loving man is gone, and we'll all miss him.

New book coming

Long fascinated by the obscure story, Rico has decided to restart his book on Haj Ali (known, of course, as Hi Jolly to his ignorant American contemporaries), who came from Turkey in 1856 to help run a camel train from Texas to California. While there are some bad books out about him (Hi Jolly by Jim Kjelgaard being one of them; written as a 'juvenile', it's got some really bad history in it, along with the typical florid prose), Rico is hoping his turns out to be a good one.

Civil War for the day

Rico says he apologizes, but he is having a little difficulty accessing his Civil War photos; more tomorrow.

23 July 2008

Boom, there goes your nuke plant

Apparently there's a new bomb in town: MOP, or Massive Ordnance Penetrator. It's designed to penetrate things like underground nuclear facilities like those in North Korea or Iran. (Not that we'd ever bomb them, of course.) "Some nuclear facilities in both countries are believed to be buried deep, so U.S. designers — including some from Boeing — are developing a new class of bombs for plowing through hundreds of feet of earth and concrete before detonating."

This is what the Iranian facility looks like before it gets MOP'd:
Afterwards, of course, it'll just look like any other big hole in the ground, like this one in Syria after the Israels got done with it:

Obscure history, part 127

From my blog-brother The War Nerd, this about the British invasion of Tibet: "Francis Younghusband marched into Tibet in December 1903 with a force of Sikhs and Gurkhas— a pretty scary mix, like rottweilers plus pit bulls. And the Gurkhas were definitely the pit bulls in that pair; Sikhs are very tough but not blood-crazy. The Gurkhas were not only devoted lovers of knife-work, especially on POWs, but ancient enemies of the Tibetans. It didn’t take much to push them to a massacre. The Tibetans knew the British were dangerous and tried not to resist at all. But as the British force pushed farther and farther into Tibet, the local commanders decided to resist. That was a mistake. This wasn’t Tony Blair’s cool Britannia they were dealing with. On March 31, 1904, Younghusband encountered a Tibetan militia force of about 2000 guarding a pass near Gyantse. He must have had a hard time keeping a straight face or wiping the drool from his lips, thinking about the medals he’d get for this one, because the Tibetans were armed either with spears and swords or at best with matchlock muskets. That’s right: the kind of 17th-century firearm that won’t fire unless you apply the smouldering wick to the firing pan. Younghusband decided to play with the poor fuckers he was facing. He said, “My friends, my friends, what’s all this hostility? Why dees paranoia? Here, I’ll tell my soldiers to take the bullets out of their rifles, and you tell your soldiers to put out the flame of their matchlocks.” The Tibetans, who had no idea that Younghusband’s troops had modern repeating rifles, put out their matchlocks. Younghusband then ordered his troops to open fire. 1300 Tibetans were killed, with almost no British casualties."
"It’s much easier to be a do-gooder about Tibet if you’re totally ignorant of Central Asian history, like the days when Tibetan conquerors filled up whole carts with the ears of guys they’d killed. Even this idea that Tibet is the homeland of Buddhism, the most Buddhist place on the planet, is crap; Tibet got Buddhism very late, trying it on a couple of times before it took."
"The Tibetans in their conquering days—which means roughly in Charlemagne’s time—were followers of something called Bon, or Bun, which sounds either like the department store in Seattle or part of a hamburger, but apparently was some sort of mix of Taoist magic and Mongol shamanism. Sounds pretty fun. And it worked as a military religion, almost as good as Mithras or Anglicanism. The Tibetans had a fearsome reputation as warriors who were honored to die in battle, thought they were headed for their version of Valhalla, which would probably involve big vats of tea with yak-butter and maybe central heating if they were especially worthy."

Rico says the Tibetans may have gotten peaceloving (ignoring the CIA-led Khampa resistance movement, which didn't end until 1976), but the Gurkhas haven't...
(Yet Rico still has a Free Tibet bumpersticker on his car, and always will.)
The Tibetans he's known over the years have always been the most impressive, stalwart people, and he wishes them well in their long struggle with the Chinese...

Note: the CIA link takes you to Part One of a six-part YouTube series about the Tibetan resistance. If you like real history, check it out.

Real morons stay in jail

The San Francisco Chronicle has an update on the software engineer who passworded the city's network: "City prosecutors said he had rigged the system to melt down during routine maintenance... Prosecutor Conrad del Rosario said Childs had arranged the system so that key programs were held in temporary memory files that would evaporate when the network was shut down during routine maintenance or any unexpected power failure. The city had scheduled a shutdown for regular maintenance last Saturday, but experts caught the problem in time and transferred data to permanent files, del Rosario said. "He had a malicious intent to destroy the entire network," the prosecutor said. Childs' attorney told the judge that Childs' bosses wanted to make him look bad, and that 'when they couldn't get rid of him', they created a false image of a 'rogue employee' out to terrorize the city. In fact, the attorney said, the city itself is terrorizing residents with needless warnings about the computer network's safety."

Rico says they'll burn him for sure for this (and richly deserved). And who does he think he is, Stanley Rifkin?...


The Los Angeles Times reports that Robert Novak, the columnist who 'outed' Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, was driving his black Corvette to work in Washington this morning when he hit a pedestrian. The victim, a man in his 60s, was taken to George Washington University Medical Center with 'very minor injuries', said D.C. Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter. Novak, cited for failing to yield a right of way and fined $50, is no longer taking press calls.

Rico says word is Novak was not talking on his cellphone when he hit the guy, but how clueless do you have to be to hit someone and not notice: "I didn't know I'd hit him. I really didn't have any idea it happened until they flagged me down and told me."

Hard times for Heidi

al-Reuters has the sad tale of the difficulties of a famous madam: "Fleiss set out to open a legal brothel in Nevada called Heidi's Stud Farm that catered to women... Fleiss packed her bags and headed to Nevada to do what she had done so well before, sell sex, this time legally on a small patch of hard-scrabble desert near Pahrump called Crystal (thus, the film's title, Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal)... She then ran into obstacles set up by local business leaders and battled her own drug abuse."

Rico says what a bummer; the most famous hooker in the US and she can't get a simple brothel going...

If that's not discrimination...

...Rico doesn't know what is: "France's data protection authority has given permission for a nudist resort to keep a 'black list' of guests barred from its facilities, the organization said." The centre's rules require guests to abide by its "naturist ethic" of nudity at all times, weather permitting, and bans upsetting other guests or failing to observe hygiene standards. "But nudity is not exhibitionism. Any indecent behavior will be sanctioned by immediate exclusion," the rules say.

Rico says he wonders how ugly or rude do you have to be to get banned from a nudist resort? (Though that 'indecent behavior' would be easy, depending on who you're near...)

Finally a Greek ruling we can use

al-Reuters says that a Greek court in Athens has "dismissed a request by residents of the Aegean island of Lesbos to ban the use of the word lesbian to describe gay women"... The ruling ordered the plaintiffs to pay court expenses of 230 euros ($366.20)

Rico says thank goodness for that, otherwise we'd have had to reset all the dictionaries...

Bulgaria corrupt? Whoda thunk it?

al-Reuters has the story of the European Commission's 'indictment of corruption in Bulgaria' and their suspension of aid. "The two reports on Bulgaria -- one on funds and the other on judicial reform -- were the harshest criticism ever levelled by Brussels at a member state. A report on fellow newcomer Romania, which also joined in January 2007, pointed to political and judicial obstruction of corruption trials but avoided sanctions... But the EU softened the blow at the last minute by toning down the toughest wording of earlier drafts and omitting a threat to delay Bulgaria's entry into the euro single currency zone and the Schengen area of passport-free travel."

One less moron in the world

Terry Childs, the system administrator who passworded the San Francisco WAN, finally gave the password to the mayor, probably to avoid staying in jail: "Since being taken into custody, Childs has been charged with four counts of felony computer network tampering and one count of causing losses of over $200,000. Childs was arraigned last week and his bail was set at $5 million. Suspects in a murder trial usually have bail set at $1 million."

Rico says the bail was, as the guy's lawyer said, 'ridiculously high', but it showed they were serious about wanting their network back.

Something about a fool and his lawyer?

Karadzic to Defend Himself at Hague War Crimes Tribunal

Rico says there's the lead on a story that ends "and was found guilty and sentenced to death for defending himself"... (Too bad Jerry Garcia is dead, otherwise he could play him in the television movie.)

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