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Monday, April 30, 2007

Merit Badges for the Scientifically Inclined

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There are some pretty nice merit badges on offer by the
"Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique".

For example the five pictured here are (l to r):
  • The "Dodger of Monkey Poo" badge
  • The "World's Foremost Expert on an Obscure Subject" badge
  • The "Will Gladly Kick a Sexual Harasser's Ass" badge
  • The "Rejected by The New Yorker" badge
  • The "Works with Very Large and Potentially Dangerous Organisms" badge.
And plenty more.
If only my scouting troupe had worked to "Increase the N".

This Old House Hackjob

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I've been having fun scrolling through 4 galleries of pictures titled "Home Inspection Nighmares" on the TOH website. Heh.

This Week in the Bush Administration (sex files)

- Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias, a senior official, was responsible for such programs as AIDS relief "in which he promoted abstinence and a policy requiring grant recipients to swear they oppose prostitution." He has just resigned after admitting that he has hired prostitutes. (washington post) Ah, the familiar stench of the hypocrisy of the people swinging a moral sledgehammer.

- on a similar subject, Bush's $176 million dollar program to promote teen abstinence in lieu of safe sex education has bonked in the face of the published results of his program: teens who pledge abstinence were equally as involved in sexual activity as those that hadn't. (CNN) Big surprise there...duh. Too bad no one taught those kids how to prevent disease and pregnancy instead.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Useful website:
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)

A "a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency".

Friday, April 20, 2007

Exploring the NSW North Coast.

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(Big Prawns)

There is no shortage of stunning coastline and good surfing in Australia, but the north coast of New South Wales is particularly blessed. Surf magazines and surf movies have made the names of these places and their waves familiar to surfers the world ‘round. Surfing these breaks over these last couple of weeks has been something like the fulfillment of a high school fantasy for me.

I traveled these shores once before almost 16 years ago as a part of a much larger trip – but I had no surfboard and no money, and could only achingly watch the waves from the shore. I still clearly remember a day at Angourie with big perfect peeling lines, the legendary Nat Young out surfing (and screaming at people), and the refusal of everyone to loan me their board for ‘just a few minutes’. There was no way I could allow myself to leave the country this time without paddling out at a few of these classic locations.

I’m not sure how these two years managed to pass before I made it up the coast to these places. Timing is everything – you can’t go during the summer (no waves), you can’t go during standard holidays (insane crowds - everyone else goes too), and planning special time off of work might not coincide with a swell. But the timing was right this trip, and except for the Easter holiday weekend, there were no serious crowds and as luck would have it there were actually very good waves.

I’ll save the long-winded detailed descriptions of each break for discussions over beers with friends who surf and might actually care. But here are a few of the highlights.

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Boomerang Beach: Not a “classic break”, but a good right pointbreak none the less. The surf was overhead and pretty good, though a bit chaotic. What distinguished this place was the experience of staying at a house rented for the Easter Weekend by my ex-coworker Marc and his friends: huge place with a pool and a spa located on the point directly above the surf break. One night of luxury before weeks of tent sitting. One of the guys broke his board that day.

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Angourie: This one was personal…after watching it from the shore many years ago, I just had to go back and surf it. A classic right point, I scored waves head high and larger – some of the sets on the third day approaching double overhead. Those larger drops felt a bit skittish on my 6’-3” board. Occasional hollow sections, but mostly big carveable walls. Mellow crowd, no hassle from the locals. Voted #8 top surf spot in Australia.

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Lennox Head: Another fantastic right point break. Long sweeping rocky coastline meant even longer peeling waves. Known for handling quite large waves. I surfed it twice at a consistent head-high +. Surprisingly not too mean at that height and plenty of water below, but the entry and exit involves scrambling on barnacle-encrusted rocks; have a few new scars on my feet now. Not too crowded, but one local gave me a hard time anyway for no good reason. Voted #4 top surf spot in Australia.

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Superbanks: This one is the crown jewel. The name “Superbanks” is a term given to encompass a number of formerly individual breaks (Snapper Rocks, Rainbow Bay, Greenmount, and Kirra) that now generally link together to form a single, insanely long, peeling, perfect wave. A continuous dredging project from the river mouth around the point deposits sand in a mile long sweeping arc that works the waves with machine-like precision. Catch a wave here, and your ride can take you a very, very long way. While the other breaks mentioned are somewhat remote in the countryside, this one is smack dab in front of the Gold Coast highrises, so avoiding the crowds is impossible. I went at first light, last light, mid-day, mid-week, and always had aggressive crowds to contend with. Got a precious few waves, but there is always someone dropping in on you. Still…wow what waves. Hollow and fast, and the caliber of surfing I witnessed was the very highest. The waves were head-high at the jacking Snapper Rocks take-off, and barreled for much of Rainbow Bay before backing off a bit and becoming a waist-high long-board wave that peeled the rest of the beach – and this was considered poor surf. Voted #1 and #2 surf spot in Australia. Kirra, sadly, at the end of the long sandbank line is now just a shadow of its former glory as the best wave in Oz – but apparently when conditions are right can come alive again.

Back in Sydney now, selling the car and the camping schtuff. Departure looms...

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter

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Christchurch Art Gallery, art by Michael Parekowhai

I Pity the Foo

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Check this most-ultimate of all foosball tables.
It's a limited edition 'Good vs. Evil' version of the Opus table by The Eleven Forty company (through 20ltd.com).

This beautiful table is a mere $28,800. Get two!

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Here's the team lineup:

Team GOOD:
Strikers: M. Poppins, God, Ghandi
Midfielders: Jekyll, Christopher Robbins, St. F. Assisi, Flash Gordon, Ma Teresa
Defenders: Sir Thomas Moore, Bobby Moore
Goal: Santa

Team EVIL:
Strikers: Vlad the Impaler, Lucifer, Caligula
Midfielders: Hyde, Pol Pot, Hitler, Idi Amin, J. the Ripper
Defenders: Rosa Klebb, Lady MacBeth
Goal: The Child Catcher

Which team are YOU?

Rock, Paper, ...Turnip?

rps plus

The classic way of resolving disputes - the game Rock, Paper, Scissors - has a far more complex version available.

101 hand signals to be exact.

The hand signals devised are creative, and the interface and graphics impressive.

I've been trying to play "Dynamite" for some time, but no one ever accepts it when I try to play it. So good luck with throwing a "Satan" or a "Sponge". And even better luck trying to remember what beats what.

(via kottke)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

This week in the Bush Administration...

You've heard about the White House aide that lied to a Grand Jury;
you've heard about the FBI's abuse of the Patriot Act;
you've heard about the firing of U.S. Deputy Attorneys that prosecuted crimes regardless of political affiliation (as one should);
and no doubt you've heard about the poor treatment of wounded Iraq War veterans.

But here's a few more that you probably didn't hear (Ruth Marcus, Washington Post):

-The President's choice for the director of federal family planning was a guy who was also the director of a group that finds contraception "demeaning to women" and refuses to distribute it. Oh, and this guy just resigned amid wrongful billing inquiries.

-The President's choice for the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who protects consumers from dangerous practices of manufacturers, was a top official of the National Association of Manufacturers.

-The President's choice for the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service has no academic background in biology, but has been overriding the recommendations of the scientists. She has also been sharing internal documents with industry and lobby groups on the side of lesser environmental protections.

- The number 2 guy at the Interior Department is an ex-coal lobbyist named Griles. He plead guilty in the Abramoff scandal.

- "Griles's new significant other, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, who helped him fend off ethics charges when they both worked at Interior, resigned as head of the Justice Department's environmental section. Wooldridge and Griles bought a $1 million beach house with the top lobbyist for the oil company ConocoPhillips; then Wooldridge -- supposedly with the blessing of ethics officials -- signed off on a move to ease up on anti-pollution requirements imposed on ConocoPhillips as part of a settlement."

- "Lurita Doan, a GOP mega-donor turned head of the General Services Administration, ...asked GSA employees how they could "help 'our candidates' in the next elections.""

Ruth's closing is also nice:

It's wrong to paint with too broad a brush here: Most administration officials are decent, honest and hardworking; the Clinton administration, like others before it, had its share of scoundrels and hacks. But there is something in the "loyal Bushies" mind-set of this administration and its fundamental scorn for government that contributes to this arrogant misbehavior.

If your faith is more in the operations of the private sector than in the capacity of government, if you have scant commitment to the laws you are pledged to enforce, if you see government less as a trust to be administered than a force to be used for the benefit of political and ideological allies, then this kind of behavior is the inevitable result.

In short, if you identify so completely with the foxes, it's no wonder that you end up with a henhouse that is so thoroughly, tragically trashed.


LATE EDIT - And then there's this, which I just ran across:

- Wolfowitz, the Bushie chickenhawk who was the "architect" of the Iraq War, who was then given the favoritism prize position of Head of the World Bank despite no prior banking experience, is up to no good again. He had a romance with an employee, which is against the rules. To resolve this breach of rules, he got her set up in a new job at the State Department where her salary was mysteriously inflated beyond all precedent to make her the SINGLE HIGHEST PAID STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL. Yes, his girlfriend makes more money than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
(Murray Waas, Huff Post)

LATER EDIT - and this:

- Karl Rove uses a private email system for "about 95%" of his emailing, thus bypassing the White House mail servers which record everything, as required by law by the Presidential Records Act. Now why would someone who is operating within the law and for the good of the country need to keep his dealings off the record?
(Kathy Gill, About.com)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

McDonough Video

Here is an inspirational talk from architect and eco-designer William McDonough that is well worth the 45 minute listen. Reminds me of another slide show that has gotten much attention lately - but this one is more about solutions.
This talk is from 2000, but still current if not more so.

(via treehugger)

BoKlok - the Ikea House

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No. way.
Ikea now offers houses. I give up.

Can't wait to see someone try to assemble these things with that funny little tool and a tome of pictograms.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Uh Oh...

More details to follow, but real quickly:
I am having entry visa problems with the U.S., which may prevent my return to the States as planned.
Apparently, DHS was made aware of some anti-Bush/Iraq war content on my blog, and it seems I am no longer welcome. How Orwellian is that?

I have a hearing in 2 hours - more later.

prilay oolsfay

Doesn't Measure Up

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Note to the United States of America: get off your backwards butts and switch to the metric system.

Do you know who else still uses the Imperial System? Nobody. Just you...and a few third world Caribbean islands. Not even the bloody Brits who invented the ponderous system use it anymore. None of their other ex-colonies either. Except you.

I acknowledge proudly that the U.S.A. is at the leading edge of many, many things. Thus it is especially surprising when one observes such a reluctance to do things that just make better sense.

Aren't you sick of having two sets of tools for everything? Sick of adding sixteenths to sixty-fourths? Really, what's easier - adding by tens, or adding by twelves with fractions?

Ok, I know change is scary. I was a bit worried when I moved and had to start working in the metric system. My whole career up to that point was all about Imperial measurements; it was what I knew. I was even a bit proud of how many arcane measurements I was able to recall. How was I going to re-learn all those little unintuitive bits of knowledge that I needed to do my job like "a 2 x 4 is really 1-5/8" by 3-5/8"?

After one day on the job, I was no longer nervous.
"Oh a metric equivalent 2 x 4 in metric is a 50 by 100? I can remember that. But how big is it really? Oh, its really 50 by 100."
See, not hard. In fact its much easier. Stack a few and you can add it immediately in your head. Stack a few 3-5/8" and unless you're Rain Man you are going to be reaching for some paper.

So of course the argument is going to be "...but the Industry! Their machines are all set up in Imperial. It will cost a fortune to change them all over!"

To this I say: so what? Do what everybody else did - keep using them, but just call 'em by the metric measurements. So what if certain mills produce lumber studs at 44 by 92 for a few years? Its still easier to add up. And when the equipment needs replacing - replace it with metric. Plus it will help with international trade; you can buy and sell goods and supplies without trouble. Half the stuff in the U.S. has both Imperial and Metric screws anyway, might as well simplify.

They promised me when I was in grade school in the seventies that the metric system was coming. Well, it did come, and it made sense, and the world got on board. Except, of course, for the United States of America.

Other examples where the U.S. is backwater:
- Cell phone standards: U.S.A = CDMA; Rest of the World= GSM (superior technology)
- DVD standards: U.S.A. = NTSC; Rest of the World = PAL (superior technology)
- Shipping Channel Markings: U.S.A. = red means right; Rest of World = the opposite (oops... *crash*)