Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is Obama's Iraq record really a fairy tale?

The press's failure to closely examine Obama's Iraq record is a source of perpetual frustration for the Clinton camp--and a fair gripe. It has allowed Obama's supporters to mythologize him as a fearless crusader. At the same time, it has enabled the Clintons to mount overzealous attacks on his record.

Sun Stays Sluggish as Weathermen Fight for Anti-Ice Age Funding.

Every day, scientists hoping to see an increase in solar activity train their instruments at the sun as it crosses the sky. This is no idle academic pursuit: A lull in solar action could potentially drive the planet’s temperature down, or even prompt a mini Ice Age.

For millennia, thermonuclear forces inside the star have followed a regular rhythm, causing its magnetic field to peak and ebb, on average, every 11 years. Space weathermen are watching for telltale increases in sunspots, which would signal the start of a new cycle, predicted to have started last March and expected to peak in 2012. “When the sun’s active, it’s a little bit brighter,” explains Ken Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada’s National Research Council.

The Inkjet Refill Racket.

Let me state that I once was unabashedly passionate about my now aged Canon i70 photo printer. It is compact (in fact portable if you buy a battery for it), fast, prints remarkably great images up to 8 x 10, and does documents too at a respectably brisk clip. When digital cameras first appeared, I’d spend weekends cooped up with my photo-spewing friend, printing out scores of crisp, colorful masterpieces to shove in the face of anyone who would look. “Isn’t it amazing! I printed it myself!” I would crow, impressed not only with my handiwork, but more with how I stuck it to the man by not paying for pricey store-made prints. Then I’d run to Staples to load up yet again on $40 worth of ink cartridges.

And there’s the rub. Printers are sold using the razor blade business model—the printers are dirt cheap, but you have to keep buying ink for eternity. And wouldn’t you know, it turns out that printer ink, especially for photos, is probably the most expensive substance per volume you’ll ever buy—more expensive than gold, oil, perfume, even blood in most cases. If you’re buying name-brand ink cartridges, which typically hold a few milliliters of ink, you’re shelling out the equivalent of between $3,000 and $5,000 per gallon. (Suddenly, spending $45 to fill your car’s gas tank doesn’t seem so extravagant, eh?).

Conventional Wisdom Wrong Again... and Again and Again.

If the 2008 primary season has taught us anything, it's that the conventional wisdom is not to be trusted.

Frozen in time.

Improv Everywhere’s latest stunt involved 207 agents all freezing in place at the exact same moment inside Grand Central Station for a whole 5 minutes. At precisely 2:30PM, the agents involved froze in the exact positions they were in and remained that way until 2:35PM.

American Gladiator rejects.

The sad part is I couldn't even get a try-out.

A visit to the dentist

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman from The Carol Burnett Show.

I always felt that the funniest thing on that show was watching Harvey Korman trying desperately not to laugh.

Rubik’s Cubes for The Rest of Us.

About time if you ask me.

How to sleep at work.


The Best Sandwiches in America.

Esquire weighs in.

I suppose I can think of this as my "Bucket List".

Saturn's moon awash with oil.

Saturn's moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, scientists report.

Take that OPEC. There is of course some bad news:

But this massive reserve is at least 1.2 billion kilometres away from us, on a tiny inhospitable world where on a warm day it's minus 179°C.

I know what you're thinking: "Isn't oil made from old dinosaurs and rotted plants?-Does that mean that there is/was life on Titan"?

In a word: no.

Oil on EARTH is partly organic, partly inorganic. Scientists have been arguing for fifty years or more about what and how much of it goes into making oil. The Russians have pretty much bought into the idea that oil is overwhelmingly inorganic and believe that if you dig deep enough you'll find enough of the stuff to basically last forever. Needless to say, most western scientists find this view hilarious and assume that oil is (mostly) organic and therefore finite and someday we'll run out.

I've never heard it suggested before that there was oil on other planets. If this pans out it may be that the Russians were right all along.

The Turn of the Screw.

Senator Obama, the uniter not the divider, continues on his quest for the MoveOn vote. This says a bit about what his foreign policy might be, should he be elected President. All we have heard from him, spoken above all the swooning at his pretty speeches, is that it is Bush and Cheney's war and he was against it in the first place and he calls for an immediate end to the war. OK. So, he goes into defeatist mode by labeling the war as such. He had no vote on the war, in the first place, as he wasn't in the Senate but still in Illinois at the time, and he admits in some interviews that immediate withdrawal is impossible in Iraq. And, now he is saying that he would hold private Americans and their companies liable if they cooperate with the American government's wiretap surveillance.

The bill goes back to the House for a vote now. Speaker Pelosi will be all for the defeat of it, as she is with our defeat in Iraq, but she will have 21 'Blue Dog Democrats' to contend with on the vote. They have written a letter to her voicing support for the Senate bill. Sunday, Pelosi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the war in Iraq has been a failure, and the surge has been a failure. Not once, but twice she repeated that the surge has "not produced the desired effect." That from The Politico. And, we remember that Harry Reid, Majority Leader in the Senate, said the war is lost last April. But, they support the troops.

The screw turned, though. The surge is quite successful, thank you.

100 Year-old Tortoise acts as Mom to Baby Hippo

A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa , officials said The hippopotamus, nicknamed Owen and weighing about 300 kilograms (650 pounds), was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean, then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on December 26, before wildlife rangers rescued him.

It is incredible. A-less-than-a-year-old hippo has adopted a male tortoise, about a century old, and the tortoise seems to be very happy with being a 'mother'," ecologist Paula Kahumbu, who is in charge of Lafarge Park , told AFP.

Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapse Blamed On More Than Climate Change.

When the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica collapsed in 2002, the event appeared to be a sudden response to climate change, and this long, fringing ice shelf in the north west part of the Weddell Sea was assumed to be the latest in a long line of victims of Antarctic summer heat waves linked to Global Warming.

Apparently the real story is a bit more complex-an inconvenient truth indeed!

Tom Lantos has died.

WASHINGTON — Representative Tom Lantos of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress, died on Monday. He was 80.

Fake "Enhancement" Pills? Turns Out, They Were Fake!

If you’re any sort of media consumer, you’ll have had a hard time missing the recent barrage of comical 1950s-style advertising for a product called “Enzyte”, which was supposed to offer “Natural Male Enhancement”. The ads were obviously for yet another worthless scam product, which you could tell by the fact that they never even claimed to have an active ingredient or mechanism of action, just like the worst half of the ever-changing array of “as seen on TV” diet pills. Anybody with a brain understood that you’d get a worthless sugar pill if you were dumb enough to place an order from these charlatans, it was inherent in their limited advertising claims.
Now, it turns out, the company and its senior management are facing federal fraud charges, and the first worm to turn is testifying, not only about the completely bogus nature of the product, but about the credit card shenanigans that turned this particular scam into a major money spinner:

James Teegarden Jr., the former vice president of operations at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, explained Tuesday in U.S. District Court how he and others at the company made up much of the content that appeared in Enzyte ads.
He said employees of the Forest Park company created fictitious doctors to endorse the pills, fabricated a customer satisfaction survey and made up numbers to back up claims about Enzyte’s effectiveness.
“So all this is a fiction?” Judge S. Arthur Spiegel asked about some of the claims.“That’s correct, your honor,” Teegarden said.

One spreadsheet purportedly showed how the pills increased penis size by an average of 24 percent, when in fact no customers had reported such results. Instead, Teegarden said, he made up the numbers.
Another report he created showed customer satisfaction ratings of 96 percent for Enzyte customers. But prosecutors showed jurors an e-mail from Warshak that they said asked Teegarden to fix the numbers.
“Here’s the spreadsheet you wanted,” Teegarden responded via e-mail. “Let me know if you want me to doctor it up some more.”

When customers ordered a product, the company’s goal was to keep charging their credit cards for as long as possible, Teegarden said.
He said first-time customers were automatically enrolled in a “continuity program” that sent Enzyte to their homes every month and charged their credit cards without authorization.
“Without continuity, the company wouldn’t exist,” Teegarden said. “It was the sole profit of the business.”
If customers complained, he said, employees were instructed to “make it as difficult as possible” for them to get their money back. In some cases, Teegarden said, Warshak required customers to produce a notarized statement from a doctor certifying Enzyte did not work.
“He said it was extremely unlikely someone would get anything notarized saying they had a small penis,” Teegarden said.

I’ve always assumed that the people who fall for these scams aren’t really as dumb as you would think they need to be; rather, I figure they’re thinking “it’s probably a scam, but what the hey, it only costs me forty bucks to find out!” The crucial mistake in that “reasoning” lies in forgetting that someone who will lie to you will also quite cheerfully steal from you, which they will find quite simple to do, once they have your credit card information.