15:22 /Asatru | 0 comments | permanent link

Ford shifts gears: More biofuel cars

In the long run, Ford is right. In the short run, Toyota is gonna wipe the floor clean with their hybrids...

Bio-fuels are going to be a viable alternative to petrochemical based fuel sources: someday. And remember that not all bio-fuels are created equal: corn based ethanol is not the same as cane based ethanol: the latter is cheaper to produce. Bio-diesel is an entirely different strategy for fuel in and of itself: you can make it based on the conversion of waste products (animal and vegetable fats) rather than "growing" it specifically as fuel.

But Ford has found the key here: and that's engine technology. One of the big problems with ethanol is that modern automobile engines simply aren't designed to run on it: they're actually more efficient with a high-octane gasoline, and many people have pointed this out. Rather than abandoning all ethanol research because of this, we simply need to design alternative engines that do run efficiently on bio-fuels. It can be done, and it's not rocket science, either.

I only hope that companies with a eye on the future (like Ford) can survive in the interim. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

In a sharp shift of strategy, Ford plans to focus less on hybrid technology and more on a wider range of alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered engines, Ford Chief Executive Bill Ford told employees of the automaker.

(link) []

07:44 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Russians lose 'against all' vote

There was a movement a few years back to get "None of the Above" added as an option to American ballots. I don't think it ever really took off, but this was one element of Russian democracy that we would have been wise to emulate. Of course, they're eliminating it since it's use was projected to go up! Some things are the same in any culture, and politicians are one of them.

Russian MPs agree to eliminate the "against all" option that voters have in elections.

(link) [BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition]

07:17 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Priest: Buffett is 'Dr. Mengele of philanthropists'

Bill the CatACK! Screed alert! I can't believe this! How hypocritical and detached from reality can people get? Gates and Buffet support family planning - that is, they support contraception, and the concept of a husband and wife having sex without makin' the bacon every time. They (well, the Gates Foundation, anyway) specifically forbid their funds to be used for abortion services. And for this the "right to life" movement goes bonkers!

That's because the "right to life" movement has little to do with anyone's life, and everything to do with a continual breeding program for humanity. They're against abortion, sure. But they're also unalterably opposed to any act that may prevent a baby from coming into this world - even if that child would be born into a grinding poverty the likes of which we in the West can hardly imagine.

"The merger of Gates and Buffett may spell doom for the families of the developing world," said the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest who is president of Human Life International.

What spells doom for the families of the developing world, you ignorant twit, is your idiotic religious insistence on their dropping babies like bunnies. You, sir, and your church's dogma of unrestrained reproduction are the direct cause of poverty and pain in the Third World. The foundations are trying desperately to alleviate the pain you are causing, and for this you compare them to the most infamous murderer of the 20th century?

"Some of the wealthiest men in the world descend like avenging angels on the populations of the developing world," wrote Population Research Institute president Steven Mosher, a frequent critic of Gates and Buffett. "They seek to decimate their numbers, to foist upon vulnerable people abortion, sterilization and contraception."

Excuse me? One of the wealthiest institutions in the world has already descended upon them, destroying their native cultures and threatening them with eternal hellfire unless they continually breed themselves into misery and poverty. You guys really like poverty, don't you? Poverty and fear give you power. With the Western world sloughing you off as irrelevant, if you lose your iron grip on the Third World who will fill your churches (and your coffers)?

If you're truly interested in finding the 21st century version of Josef Mengele, may I suggest you start a bit closer to home. Forget Seattle. Skip Omaha. Try Rome.

Warren Buffett's new philanthropic alliance with fellow billionaire Bill Gates won widespread praise this week, but anti-abortion activists did not join in, instead assailing the two donors for their longtime support of Planned Parenthood and international birth-control programs.

(link) []

21:00 /Asatru | 3 comments | permanent link

FireFox 1.5 Upgrade

I finally got around to it: I've upgraded the browser on my Windows box from FireFox 1.07 to the new, improved FireFox 1.5. And I wanted to detail my experience here, mostly because I was intensely annoyed, but also as a counterweight to my frequent screeds on Microsoft products: it's really not the company I object to, it's their poorly written software and lapsed security. But they are far from being the only software organization with "issues"...

First off, I should say that FF15 really is new and improved: the various updates and patches that'd I'd applied to my old installation were beginning to show signs of wear and tear: pages wouldn't load correctly sometimes, and the browser would occasionally die for no apparent reason. The new implementation is, as far as I can tell, virtually flawless. A few handy new features were added, too. But the problems with FireFox are not really problems with FireFox the software: they're problems with the organization and distribution of extensions, and problems maintaining a consistent API for the writers of these extensions.

FireFox extensions are applications designed to plug into the FireFox environment and add certain functionalities, and they supply some incredibly useful tools. For example, the spell checker that I'll use when I complete this post is an extension. Even more useful is an extension I have that synchronizes the bookmarks on all three of the computers I use at home. Another favorite is a XML formatting tool that let's me view RSS feeds in a coherent way within the browser.

When I installed FireFox 1.5, it cheerfully informed me that these installed extensions were incompatible with it, and disabled them. It seems as though some API calls had been "rearranged" between versions, and many extension authors had not updated their code accordingly. Shit! Technically not a FireFox issue, but it certainly impacts my use of the browser!

Alrighty, then. First thought, revert to the old version. Easier said than done, unless I wanted to lose my stored passwords, cookies and other data (except bookmarks). OK, so let's see if there are replacement extensions that offer the same functionality, perhaps by different authors, for the ones that were disabled.

After about an hour and a half of searching and scrounging, I had all of the updated versions of my disabled extensions installed and working perfectly. It seems as though they existed after all: the FireFox updater just couldn't find them, or didn't know where to look.

The spell checker is actually better in this version, highlighting misspelled words as they're typed. The bookmarks synchronizer no longer returns various spurious errors on closing (which I suspect was the cause of some of my problems with my previous installation). So I'm happy.

But I'm incredibly annoyed that it took a manual search and install effort to find what should have been apparent to the FireFox updater. This isn't a software problem, it's a problem of organization and coordination, of maintaining websites and links, of updating lists and doing a bit of QC on submitted extensions.

I know FireFox is Open Source, and coded and maintained by volunteers. Nonetheless, if you're going to climb in the ring with the Big Boys (and M$ is a BIG boy), you've got to make sure your ducks are all in a row. If I had the time, I volunteer to do it myself: but with the volume of FireFox installations, that would practically be a full time job. And they couldn't afford to pay me, since the browser is given away, and they're dependent on contributions (which I have made in the past) and volunteers. With lots of free time.

This really leads me to question how well open source software scales in the real world: not from a coding standpoint, but from the organizations and structures needed to support such an effort. Open source coding (or information efforts like Wikipedia) work because the number of volunteers required is relatively small. Distribution and organization require much larger numbers, and I'm not sure they're available.

I'll stick with FireFox because I consider it a superior product. But I'm not sure I'd install many extensions for my mom, nor am I sure I'd even tell other folks about the wonderful added functionality they offer: which is a shame, as they're one of the reasons I use FireFox in the first place.

Are we going in circles yet?

09:53 /Technology | 1 comment | permanent link

Ethanol Fraud

The real title on this piece from CNN/Money is "Ethanol War Brewing", and it's written from the standpoint of investors trying to decide into which ethanol companies to sink their funds. But the relevant part of the article details something far more nefarious, something that most Americans are blithely unaware of, in the media hype over "reducing dependence on foreign oil" and "cheap bio-fuels for the future".

You see, ethanol currently accomplishes neither of those: it takes nearly as much energy to create and distribute it as it saves in "foreign oil", and it sure ain't cheap:

The price of the stuff has shot up 65 percent since May from $2.65 a gallon to $4.50, largely thanks to the oil companies who have started to put small quantities of it in our gas as a clean-air additive (most cars can handle a blend of up to 10 percent ethanol in their tanks).

That means the fuel for our cars is now about 60 cents a gallon more expensive than it would be if it were just gas, according to analysts at JPMorgan. As drivers, ethanol is lightening our wallets; as investors, though, it could well fatten them.

Which immediately brings to mind an old libertarian slogan: TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch!

Grain alcohol is seen as the new gasoline. But which recipe is the one for investors to bet on?

(link) [CNN - Money]

09:23 /Agriculture | 1 comment | permanent link

Some New Critters (Some Just Visiting)

Things have been moving fast around here, and I've not had the time to blog too much about them. I had mentioned a while back that we'd sold most of the Highland cattle herd: we'll let them breed back up to full strength over time. But we really needed a calf for our petting zoo, so we purchased a Simmental bottle baby from a local farm:


We named her Annie due to her slightly curly red hair - she's not a purebred, but she sure is sweet. She took her first trip with the zoo last Friday to Holliday Park in Indy, and she had a great time! In fact, we all did!

We have also found a market for lamb, and have been selling more fleeces of late, so we thought we'd use a little of the money we made from the cattle to build up a small flock of sheep - now that they're weaned and out in the pasture all the time, Link and Cory were getting lonely! So we bought a small flock (two ewes with their three wethered ram lambs) of Horned Dorsets from Connor Prairie, and a couple of bottle ewe lambs (a white Texile and a black Suffolk cross) from Kevyn.

Dorset Flock
The Dorset Flock

Dorset Ram
One of the Dorset Ram Lambs

Dorset Ram
Another Dorset Ram Lamb

Texile and SuffolkX
Texile and SuffolkX Ewe Lambs (Piglet and Roo)

Texile Ewe
Texile Ewe (Piglet)

So our sheep count is back up to nine: we're going to get a Blackie ram and stand him to the ewes for next springs lamb crop, but that's the only addition we're planning right now.

As if all this wasn't enough to keep us hopping, we've also had a couple of visitors. These two birds of a feather wandered down from Kevyn's parents house into our neck of the woods a couple of weeks ago. The found our place last Friday, and they must like the chickens or something, 'cause they've stuck around.

Peacock and Peahen
Peacock and Peahen

Peacock Showing Off
What a Showoff!

Nobody's come to claim them yet, even though we've let the owners know they're here and hanging around. And I guess they can stay for a while - they are awful cool to watch, even if their call sounds like a mourning dove being strangled in a cement mixer!

And I think I'm all caught up ...

21:48 /Home | 4 comments | permanent link

Microsoft: Here's how to halt WGA alerts

I'm not sure how much good following these instructions would actually do, as M$ has indicated that this "tool" will be made a mandatory part of the OS in the future. So what's wrong with this, you ask? Are you a software pirate or somebody who supports using a pirated OS?

Not hardly.

The problem with this is that it's "full auto". And it has to be, to be effective, otherwise the pirates could just turn it off. But this capability means that it must be allowed through any firewall, by default, in order to contact M$ and do it's job. This makes it a prime target for hackers to replace, turning your PC into a "zombie". Given Microsoft's security record in the past, it's only a matter of time before an exploit is released that does exactly that.

I've resolved that I've purchased my last Wintel box: when my Medion PC finally dies in a couple of years, I'll be buying a new Intel-based Mac, and run Windows as a second OS when I need to write some code for my remaining Windows client.

Along with a new release of Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications, Microsoft shares how to remove the controversial antipiracy tool.

(link) [CNET]

08:32 /Technology | 2 comments | permanent link

New cell phone to prevent drunk dialing

Capitalism marches on ...

There just might be no other gadget that has transformed the party scene quite as much as the cell phone. Address books and text-messaging...

(link) [CNET]

08:26 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Bush ignores laws he inks, vexing Congress

I've never understood how the President thinks he can do this: the Executive is not the arbiter of legality, that's why we have the Judiciary. This President's use of these documents disturbs me even more than previous abuses, because this President has demonstrated that he believes the Executive can make law as well.

Given this, I wonder what purpose he thinks the Congress and the Courts serve? Are they to be naught but rubber stamps for his executive power? There are other places where this is the prevailing doctrine of government...

AP - Sen. John McCain thought he had a deal when President Bush, faced with a veto-proof margin in Congress, agreed to sign a bill banning the torture of detainees. Not quite. While Bush signed the new law, he also quietly approved another document: a signing statement reserving his right to ignore the law. McCain was furious, and so were other lawmakers.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

06:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Ponderables ...

  • If you take an Asian person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?
  • If people from Poland are called "Poles," why aren't people from Holland called "Holes?
  • When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?
  • Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?
  • Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?
  • If horrific means to make horrible, does terrific mean to make terrible?
  • Why isn't 11 pronounced onety one?
  • Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
  • Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist, but a person who drives a race car not called a racist?
  • If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?
  • Why do women wear evening gowns to nightclubs?
  • Shouldn't they be wearing night gowns?
  • If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?
  • When someone asks you, "A penny for your thoughts," and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?
  • Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
  • Why do croutons come in airtight packages?
  • If you mixed vodka with orange juice and milk of magnesia, would you get a Philips Screwdriver?
  • Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a "whack"?
  • If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked and dry cleaners depressed?
  • Do Roman paramedics refer to IV's as "4's"?

21:38 /Humor | 1 comment | permanent link

'Involuntary smoking' never safe

Although I could dispute the "science" used by our esteemed Surgeon General, that's not what I want to comment on here: it's our seeming obsession with safety at any cost, and where it will eventually lead us ...

Riding a bicycle on a public highway is never perfectly safe. Neither is swimming, boating, or even hiking. Having a baby certainly isn't safe, and we all know the nasty diseases that sex (even the "protected" variety) can spread. And I must admit to giggling when I hear LA described as a "smoke free city" - take a look at that brown haze over the valley 24/7 and tell me again what "smoke free" means...

Will we eventually ban skydiving in the name of "safety"? Motorcycles? Mountaineering? Breathing? (Think of the germs spread through human breath itself, sans smoke!)

It goes well beyond our current fixation on tobacco - that's just an obvious symptom. Have you seen the kids these days riding bikes, all dressed out with more protective gear than a pro football lineman? By the gods, without it, they wouldn't be safe! They might even [gasp!] skin a knee!

No human activity is ever safe - nor should we desire absolute safety. What's at risk here is our very humanity itself: the life of every creature in nature demands risk. Only zoo animals are kept safe, and they're all behind bars. Is that really where we want to go?

Separate smoking sections don't cut it: Only smoke-free buildings and public places truly protect nonsmokers from the hazards of breathing in other people's tobacco smoke, says a long-awaited surgeon general's report.

(link) []

14:04 /Politics | 2 comments | permanent link

Supreme Court to Rule on 'Obvious' Patents

It should be obvious to regular readers where I stand on this one ... but maybe I should take out a patent just in case it's not!

The US Supreme Court will take up KSR v. Teleflex, a patent case in which the defense is arguing the patent is obvious and should be thrown out. The case hinges on a 1952 provision of patent law. Interestingly, several major IT firms are supporting the defense.

(link) [Slashdot]

13:34 /Copywrongs | 0 comments | permanent link

First compilation of tropical ice cores shows two abrupt global climate shifts

Repeat after me: there is no global warming ... there is no global warming ... there is no global warming ... pass the sunblock ...

The only real question is if we (as in humans) are the cause: on that there can be legitimate debate. But even if we're not the problem, we'd better be the solution, or there's gonna be a hot time in the old town tomorrow.

For the first time, glaciologists have combined and compared sets of ancient climate records trapped in ice cores from the South American Andes and the Asian Himalayas to paint a picture of how climate has changed - and is still changing - in the tropics. Their conclusions mark a massive climate shift to a cooler regime that occurred just over 5,000 years ago.

(link) [EurekAlert! - Breaking News]

20:34 /Technology | 2 comments | permanent link

Justices pooh-pooh Winnie the Pooh

Hmmm, the stories are nearly 80 years old, the authors been dead for fifty years and we're still arguing about "control" of an imaginary bear ...maybe Mr. Milne should've killed off Winnie in his final tale to to insure that nobody else could ever bring him back!

If this doesn't illustrate the absurdity of todays copyright in perpetuity I'm not sure anything does.

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to decide whether the granddaughter of A.A. Milne, British creator of Winnie the Pooh, can recapture control of the copyright for stories featuring the children's book character.

(link) []

15:08 /Copywrongs | 0 comments | permanent link