Monday, December 31, 2012

I Make Plans and God Laughs

At least the little dogs played ball!

I had the idea of driving up to Shenandoah National Park and showing my 24-year old son a terrific little four-mile hike down past a half dozen really splendid waterfalls with jaw dropping scenery all around. No one would be there in winter, and it's a terrific run to do with a big powerful dog that can go up and down rocks.  The little terriers would stay home.

A two hour drive later, we get within three or four miles, and the road is closed due to ice. The Ranger turns us around.   Sorry boys.

Back down the mountain. Stopped off at a small town for coffee (a two hour detour) which was OK, but this was not the day we wanted.

So ends 2012 -- not with a bang, but with a whimper. Hope my daughter is doing a better job of it in Panama.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Flight Over the Shire

This looks like a GoPro camera strapped to an eagle, but in fact it's a GoPro strapped to a quadrocopter drone made up to look like an eagle.  Very cool on several levels.

Coffee and Provocation

Hermaphrodite Puppy Found Abandoned
A lurcher, in Ireland.  Eight weeks old.  A "double-neutering" is on the agenda "to render her as a female."  A headline below the article caught my eye:  "Dog sex case Irishman goes free after woman dies".  I advise not going there.  I did, and now I am boiling my brain in bleach. Ahhh!

Yes, read that sentence againWombat poop is cubic, ostemsibly so the very dry turds do not roll off the rock and logs where they are deposited as markers.  Photos at the link.
Holland vs The Netherlands

Greyfriars Bobby Fraud Confirmed

A Victorian-era hoax and tourist trap.

In the dog world, it's long been known that the story of "Greyfriar's Bobby" was a hoax, but apparently it was a more elaborate hoax than was previously thought.  As The Daily Mail writes:

For more than a century, he has been seen as the epitome of man’s best friend, known for loyally refusing to leave his master’s graveside for 14 years.

Now, however, it appears the heartwarming tale of Greyfriars Bobby the Skye terrier was a Victorian hoax cooked up by money-grabbing businessmen, an academic has revealed.

Dr Jan Bondeson has uncovered evidence that there were in fact two Bobbies from 1858 to 1872 – and that neither of them belonged to the man buried in Greyfriars cemetery, Edinburgh, whose grave they sat by.

Dr Bondeson, who has published his findings in a book, said: ‘I knew the famous story of Greyfriars Bobby but the more I researched it the more I smelt a rat.’ His research shows the first dog was in fact a stray which wandered into the nearby Heriot’s hospital and was then taken to the graveyard.

James Brown, the curator of the cemetery, treated him so well that he stayed, and locals assumed he was mourning his dead master.

He says his research shows the first dog died in 1867 and was replaced with another by Mr Brown and Mr Traill in an effort to keep visitors flocking to the grave.

Dr Bondeson said: ‘Pictures of Greyfriars Bobby show a distinct change in May or June 1867.

‘The first was an elderly, tired dog who wasn’t much to look at, and the second a lively terrier who ran around and fought other dogs.

‘It would also explain Bobby’s longevity – he was supposed to have lived for 18 years, when even today ten to 12 years is a good life span for a Skye terrier.’

He said Bobby was ‘very good for the local economy’ so it wouldn’t have been difficult to persuade those who knew to keep quiet about the con.

Iphone at the Aquarium

Mom and Megalodon Shark jaw.


Unknown (to me) species of fish.

A Tang of some type.

Spade fish

Shark of some type

Dropped the daughter off at the Baltimore-Washington airport yesterday, and she jetted off to Panama for the week. 

My mom and I had lunch in Baltimore, and then did a tour of the National Aquarium before her eye appointment at Johns Hopkins. 

These pictures were taken with my Iphone, through glass, without a flash, and so represent the outer edge of crappy-camera meets bad-conditions, and yet the photos are fairly serviceable for such tourist stock schlock.  Sorry that I am not better at identifying fish!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Caption Please!


ASPCA to Pay $9.3 Million to Settle Fraud Charges

Back in August, I wrote about how the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) were under the gun for RICO charges (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) for a rather bumbling effort to contrive a legal case against Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  As I noted at the time:

In the end, I think the court is likely to force HSUS, the ASPCA, the Animal Protection Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute, and perhaps some of the individual employees of those organizations, to shoulder Feld Entertainment's decade-long legal expenses, which could easily top $20 million.

Well guess what? I was not alone in making that determination. Today, the ASPCA agreed to pay $9.3 million to Ringling Brothers to settle their part of the decades-long direct mail fraud perpetrated on the American people.  As Feld Entertainment's press release notes, this $9.3 million payment was paid by the ASPCA:

... to settle all claims related to its part in more than a decade of manufactured litigation that attempted to outlaw elephants in the company's Ringling Brothers Circus. This settlement applies only to the ASPCA. Feld Entertainment's legal proceedings, including its claims for litigation abuse and racketeering, will continue against the remaining defendants, Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Protection Institute United with Born Free USA, Tom Rider and the attorneys involved.

As I noted back in August:

...whether this case is won or lost, more than money has already flown out the window as the HSUS and the ASPCA are now fully exposed as having created a make-weight legal case whole cloth out of nothing but elephant dung, and to have maintained that case for more than a decade while clearly knowing that core elements of the case were completely manufactured by a pay-to-say witness.

Does this mean elephants should be kept by circuses? 

No.  But it does mean, that the ASPCA and HSUS have had to resort to inventing facts and bearing false witnesses against the circus industry because otherwise they cannot make a legal case at all. 

Think about that.

Two Well Fed

Lucy on a long leash so she does not get shot as a deer (or chase one).

Death in Black and White

Dead crow in the snow.  The local fox has not picked this one up yet.

Year's End With Family

Still married more than 30 years later!

Sarah is off to Panama for a fun trip after Christmas!

Austin's Birthday is Christmas day!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tits and Teeth are Not Talent

The core message of the American Kennel Club is a simple one: beauty pageants are how we should judge dogs. 

By extension I assume that the women who attend dog shows also assume that beauty alone is how we should judge women?

If so, what an odd thing, and how very backward.

Could one reason that the American Kennel Club has fallen so far out of favor be, quite simply, that modern American men and women are no longer willing to judge people on looks alone?

If a man cannot be the wrong color, can a dog?

If a woman is more than tits and teeth, is a dog more than gait and ear set?

Think about it. 

Maybe the rapid decline in AKC registrations goes hand in hand with the rise of civil rights, and a world that is increasingly run on merit.

Who cares what your dog looks like?  What does it do?

Who cares what you look like?  What talent do your bring to this job?


An Era of Gears, Levers and Working Dogs

I think of terrier work as coming from the era of gears and cogs, levers and tracks.

This was the period before microwave ovens but after we stopped cooking whole animals, bone in, over an open fire.

This was the period before cell phones, but after metal type and pulp paper made books and newspapers cheap and readily available.

Sprocket, Ratchet, Torque, Driver, Rocker, Gear, Spindle, Cog.  These are all mechanical bits, but also excellent names for a working dog.

New Houses Going Up

I live in the smallest neighborhood in Arlington, Virgina and things are pretty stable for the most part, but the edge of a wedge of really big houses appeared about three years ago when my across-the-street neighbor put in a 15,000 square foot job.

Now these two houses are going up around the corner.  The second house is much larger than it looks, as it is shaped like an "L" and this is the short side. 

The covenant in the neighborhood requires all houses to be stone or brick and also that they have slate roofs, so I assume all of the sticks will get covered with suitable material.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Headline Evah

Congressman Norm Dicks joins the cause.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Best Terrier Entered to Fox

Someone give that dog a rosette!

Why Can't the Americans Be More European?

Mass killings seem to be about as common in Europe as they are in the U.S. on a per capita basis, but the shattered language structure of Europe and the general head-up-the-ass chauvinism that is common to all people everywhere wants this to be an "American" phenomenon and never mind the facts.
  • Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 in Norway
  • Michael Ryan killed 17 people in Hungerford, England.
  • Robert Steinhauser killed 17 in Germany. 
  • Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed 9 near Helsinki. 
  • Thomas Hamilton killed 18 in Scotland.
  • Matti Saari killed another 11 in Finland. 
  • Derrick Bird shot 23 and killed 12 in Cumbria. 
  • Tristan van der Vlis killed 7 in Netherland. 
  • Nordine Armani killed five and wounded 121 in Belgium. 
  • Tim Kretschmer killed 16 and wounded 11 in Germany. 

And I am not even trying! 
What America has more of than Europe is drug-related killings and incarcerations. 

If anyone wants to argue that the "war on drugs" has been done all wrong, I will agree, and I have written a little about that!

But is our rate of violent crime worse that Britain's? 

No.  In fact, as The Daily Mail itself notes, Britain is the most violent country in Europe, and is even "worse than South Africa and the U.S." 

Whoa!  No wonder the entire country is netted up in closed circuit television with facial recognition software in full force!  It's 1984, and no kind of evil could ever come from that, could it? 


While we have drug dealers killing each other in Watts, Detroit, and South Philly, the Europeans sniff that they are not nearly so barbaric. 

Instead, like civilized people they take away each other's guns and then herd entire train cars full of people into concentration camps.  Fresh-dug ditches for the sheep.  How many millions did that kill, again? 
And it's not ancient history, is it?  Bosnia is only the most recent example, and it's not going to be the last I'll bet.

Which is not to say that America does not need a decent dose of "time, place and manner" laws when it comes to certain people and certain guns in certain locations. 

Perhaps we can start the conversation by agreeing that a loaded Bazooka at the airport waiting lounge might be a bad thing?

But let's not kid outselves.  It's already illegal to take guns to schools, and there are already laws governing gun sales to crazy people and to criminals. 

Are there some loopholes that need to be closed? 

Are there some weapons that I think can and should reasonably be banned? 

Sure.  And I will include the Bush Master .223 on that list -- the main gun used in the Newtown, Connecticut murders.  Let's have that discussion, but if you want to know what caliber my shotgun is, maybe you should not talk too much while we are having it, eh? 

As for the notion that you can simply wave a magic wand and get rid of "assault weapons" (whatever those are) that's just ignorance. 

The simple truth is that you do not need a Bush Master .223 to inflict mayhem and mass carnage on a population.

The Glock handgun that is used by the FBI and most police departments, for example, is also the weapon of choice for a lot of civilians looking for a home protection piece. 

There are millions of these guns in this county, and they can all be fitted with a $40 aftermarket clip extension that will give the shooter 33 rounds per clip (more than the number of bullets in Lunatic Lanza's Bushmaster).

This is not a "special assault weapon" -- this is a regular, off-the-shelf pistol of the kind owned by millions of people.  Ban the clip?  Do you have any idea how easy it would be to make one?  Not hard!

And guess who carried a Glock to his massacre?  Not only the lunatic who shot up two rooms of first graders in Newtown, Connecticut, but also the lunatic who shot up Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and several others, and also the lunatic who shot up the Virginia Tech campus, and also the lunatic who shot up the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre. 

And guess what? 

All those guns were legal, same as gasoline is legal.


Yes, gasoline.  You see, the single largest intentional mass killing of people that I know about was not gun-related at all.  It was done by a lunatic (that word again!) in Korea who killed 198 people on two trains with nothing more than a gallon of petrol

So killing mass numbers of people, it seems, is not hard to do. 

And it is not particularly American. 

If you don't believe me, ask any Tutsi in Rwanda, or the families of those who met Ahmed Ibragimov, Woo Bum-kon, William Unek, Martin Bryant, or KumatarĊ Kido on their last day on earth. 

No, it turns out mass shootings are pretty common all over, and as common in Europe as they are in the U.S. -- and that's true even when we leave off that inconvenient and rude bit about all the dead that showed up in ditches after their guns were first taken away.  That could never happen again, right?  And never mind that it is happening every day, all across the world.  Never mind that -- we have closed circuit television now.   That will keep us safe from the things that go bump in the night.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The War on Saturnalia

A happy and blessed Winter Solstice to all my Pagan friends.

For those who are wondering, Winter Solstice (coming up on December 21) is the shortest day of the year and the ancient Pagan day of celebration to which Christmas conveniently attaches its sleigh.

What? Christmas is older than Jesus?

Yes, it's true.

In fact, it's older than Judaism as well.

Surely, you did not think the world began with Moses or Jesus? Dinosaurs once roamed your back yard. I promise you this is true.

Winter Solstice is the the darkest day of the year, and Winter Solstice is celebrated as the beginning of the return, or rebirth, of the Sun.

In short, tomorrow is the beginning of the REAL New Year, and it pretty much always has been celebrated as such.

The Roman holiday held at this time of year was called Saturnalia, and it lasted from December 17th to the 24th, with the Winter Solstice itself being (incorrectly) celebrated on December 25th (Sol Invictus) after Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45 B.C.

Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is the halfway point between the true Winter Solstice (December 21) and March 21 (the Spring or Vernal Equinox)..

It is not an accident that February 2nd is also 40 days after Christ was born, as in Hebrew tradition mothers were required to purify their children in the temple 40 days after giving birth.

February 2nd then is not only Groundhog Day, but also the "Feast of the Presentation" otherwise known as Candlemas. In the ancient Pagan world, Groundhog Day was known as Imbolc.

So where did the holiday we know as "Groundhog Day" come from? For that story, read the previous blog posts on that topic.

Bottom Line: Today is a great day to celebrate "that old time religion".

And yes, all you New Age Pagans should feel perfectly free to call it Festivus.

In fact, please do!

Seinfeld - The Festivus Story


I Smell a Rat :: Patty Griffin


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ermine in the Chicken Coup

If you're a chicken, you're going to die soon enough.  Of all the ways to die, Death by Ermine may be the best end.  What a story to tell when you get to the Big Chicken Coop in the sky!

These great pictures are courtesy of David Cunningham, who hopes to exclude this little bugger and keep him alive and patrolling for the occasional rat around the outbuildings.  If the dogs catch him, however, it will be quick work, and nothing to be done.  But what a death for an Ermine!  Death by Terrier, Wolf Dog and Wolf Hound while stealing chickens!  Now, there's a great story for the Great Warren in the Sky!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Roots and Branches of Violence

Another massive shooting,  and more people chasing effect in order to avoid looking at cause.  

The killings in Connecticut, and the killings, assaults and bombings that occur all across America and the world everyday are about violence, not just about guns.

  • What percentage of violence is associated with alcohol? Anyone pushing to tax that more? Regulate it more ? Ban it? We have a hell of a lot of violence in this country, and most of it is fueled by booze.
  • It's hard to get or afford mental health treatment and even harder to institutionalize people and keep the mental health system properly monitored and reviewed.  Anyone want to talk about raising taxes for that?
  • People who assassinate Presidents and who do mass shoots are chasing fame. Anyone want to talk about First Amendment restrictions so people cannot propel crazy shooters to fame and give every lunatic loser on Facebook an idea?

28 dead in Connecticut.

Sad, but that many young innocents are killed on our highways by drunk drivers every week.

Our government routinely racks up that number with drone strikes in foreign lands.

Stop wringing your hands and wailing. Help a few kids. Give to charity. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Adopt. Write a letter and vote for taxes so the crazy can get mental health care. Take a kid fishing. Encourage a quiet child. Provide a job. Find a troubled soul and invite them into service with others and see how much change that can make.

And ask yourself this: What are the roots of violence?

For every one that is hacking at the roots, there are a hundred pushing at the branches. But it is at the root that violence is fixed.  All else is method.

The killings in Connecticut are not a record for mass murder even in recent history in the U.S.  That distinction belongs to the Virginia Tech killings, which I wrote about more than five years ago.  What I said then still rings true to me now, and so I append that piece below.

Support Mental Health or I'll Kill You

Reid Farmer sent me a piece from The Los Angeles Times in which that august paper suggests that the shootings at Virginia Tech are all about Virginia's "primitive" rural gun culture.

I find that pretty odd, as I have lived in Virginia for a hell of a long time and I am unaware of a gun culture in my state.

Sure some people hunt deer and turkey, but no one I know is reading Soldier of Fortune.

In my neck of the woods, the problem is not guns, but Mara Salvatrucha gang members from El Salvador who occassionally hack each other up with machetes.

I first wrote about Mara Salvatrucha in 1992, when Conrad Hilton's Best Foundation for a Drug-Free Tomorrow paid me to go to East Los Angeles to look at gang violence there. At the time, South Central was still smoldering, but East LA was far more violent, with two-thirds of all gang deaths in the City.

In fact, East Los Angeles remains one of the most violent places on earth. In rural Virginia, on the other hand, the thing that is most likely to kill you is a deer on the road.

The simple truth is that the massacre at Virginia Tech is not about guns: It's about violence, and most importantly, it's about mental illness.

Sadly, there are ferked up people all over, and there is not much intervention anywhere. This nation is heavy with people who are drunk, hazy, crazy, and stoned, but it's pretty damn hard to do anything about it, and that's just as true in Los Angeles as it is in rural Virginia, no matter what the good editors of The Los Angeles Times think.

Why is it so hard to do anything about it?
Simple: back in the "bad old days" of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, there were horrific civil rights abuses and people were locked up in mental wards with little due process (and often no real treatment) for very long periods of time.

The court- and state-ordered antidote to this abuse is that today we have severely restricted the ability of police, schools, families and neighbors to involuntary lock someone up.

You may think someone is a ticking time bomb, but now he or she is going to have to "go off" before anyone can take legal action to stop it. Merely having auditory and visual hallucinations is not enough. Not bathing is not enough. Living on the street is not enough.

Today people have "a right" to not bathe, to see and hear things that are not there, to live in a cardboard box in the park, and to panhandle for change. Similarly, people have "the right" to drink themselves silly on a routine basis, and there are also many who think people have the right to abuse other drugs as well (and why not; sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, they argue).

Add to this the fact that we have decided that people also have the right to drive cars and trucks, to preach odd religious beliefs (your religious beliefs are odd, but mine are not), the right to buy gasoline, the right to buy nitrate fertilizer, the right to own a gun, and the right to buy rat and ant poison, and it's amazing we do not have mass killings every day.

Ultimately, we cannot make the world safe, and crazy people will always figure out a way. For $500 (the cost of just one of the legal guns used at Virginia Tech) you can buy 1,000 pounds of nitrate fertilizer anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley and kill far more people in 5 seconds than this lunatic did with two handguns and a couple of clips. Indeed, the very day that the Virginia Tech massacre was going on in Blacksburg, nitrate bombs killed more than 180 people in Baghdad. Am I the only one that noticed?

The "silver bullet" idea of banning guns is stupid on its face. This nation is awash in heroin, methamphetamine, illegal aliens, counterfeit handbags and watches, and cars that never saw an import sticker. I can get methamphetamine or heroin a lot faster than I can get a legal handgun and a box of bullets, and I live in (supposedly) gun-crazy Virginia.

Here's a hint: If a suburban matron can find an illegal alien to mow her front lawn, and an addict can find an eight-ball of heroin or cocaine, rest assured that criminals and lunatics will be able to find and obtain guns even if they are banned. In fact, they may be able to find them easier and with less oversight than they can now. After all, no one does a criminal background check at a drug dealer's, and there is not a 30-day waiting period for illegal alien jump labor.

Despite the fact that mental illness (and an inability to deal with it) was the obvious problem in Blacksburg, both sides of the gun debate are anxious to have another long-winded "throw down" about the Second Amendment.

And you know why? Because for Sarah Brady, the National Rifle Association, and the editorial writers across the country, gun control is the answer to the only question they REALLY want answered. And that question is this: What topic can I write a direct mail letter or newspaper column about that will generate a lot of money and/or attention?
As far as I can tell, not one of these groups really gives a damn about violence in America. When was the last time that the NRA talked about community-based mental health programs or the need for national health care so that all the crazies can afford their medications? When was the last time Sarah Brady pushed for more therapeutic communities in jail? When was the last time a newspaper or magazine said it would not accept alcohol ads because alcohol fuels so much of the violence in this country?

I am a proud Virginian, and I believe that the people of Blacksburg are not going to chase butterflies, but are going to ask the right question. The right question is: How can we enable people to be more responsible? How can we help people reach out to the troubled and disturbed people within the community, the dorm, the family, the neighborhood, and the job site?

We Virginians may be "primitive" in the minds of the arugula-eating, white-wine-and-brie crowd that edits The Los Angeles Times, but we know our ass from our elbow, and a real solution from a fake.

Above all we know enough to remember our dead for the bright young men and women that they were, rather than focus all the attention on the confused madman who craved media attention and was willing to kill to get it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


An erratum to Gore Vidal's obituary in The New York Times from earlier this year:
An earlier version misstated the term Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. in a television appearance during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was crypto-Nazi, not crypto-fascist. It also described incorrectly Mr. Vidal’s connection with former Vice President Al Gore. Although Mr. Vidal frequently referred jokingly to Mr. Gore as his cousin, they were not related. And Mr. Vidal’s relationship with his longtime live-in companion, Howard Austen, was also described incorrectly. According to Mr. Vidal’s memoir “Palimpsest,” they had sex the night they met, but did not sleep together after they began living together. It was not true that they never had sex.

Keeping in the spirit of things, the picture below is that of Gore Vidal Vidal Sassoon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Gina sent this to me. Clearly my body on Mountain's head.

Purebred Breeders: Liars Selling Defective Dogs

A complaint against internet puppy mill bundler Purebred Breeders was filed in Florida by defrauded puppy buyers (complaint here) and it makes for eye-opening reading.

Although a judge dismissed the complaint, it was dismised without prejudice, which means it may be resubmitted and was clearly not a frivolous complaint.

Purebred Breeders are said to sell between 1,200 and 1,400 puppies a month, none of which they actually see or take possession of. 

Operating from an unmarked building in a Florida strip mall, they simply bank the credit card cash, tell the puppy mill operators where to send the dogs (sight unseen by either buyer or Purebred Breeders) by airfreight, and try to squelch all complaints from their poorly informed but cash-rich customers.

If you know someone that is ordering puppies off the Internet this holiday season, this is probably where they are coming from or some other shady operation just as bad.

By the way the "Purebred" monicker is complete nonsense. This company will sell anything, including dogs like "Malta-Poos" which are as common as ditch water in the puppy mill world.

If you want a puppy, be advised that you will not be getting a puppy ever; you will be getting a dog, and if you really want a dog the test of that desire is whether you will go to Petfinder or yout local pounds and honest breed rescues and take an adult dog. Most of these dogs are terrific animals whose only crime is that they are no longer a puppy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Coffee and Provocation

Elephant Poop Coffee
If coffee that has been run through the rectum of a civet is too refined for you, then perhaps you might try Black Ivory Coffee from Thailand. "Trumpeted as earthy in flavor and smooth on the palate, the exotic new brew is made from beans eaten by Thai elephants and plucked a day later from their dung.... Black Ivory Coffee is not just one of the world's most unusual specialty coffees: At $500 per pound (or $50 a cup), it's also among the world's priciest."
Snake Oil That Works
Dr. Peter Martin, director of the Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt University says "If you drink [a lot of coffee], it's not going to do you any harm, and it might actually help you. A lot." How? It could reduce your chances of developing diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, depression …and the list goes on.
Piss on the Brain
Human stem cells harvested from urine may one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.
Lightning Deaths are on the Decline
Why? Because people are spending less time outdoors.
The Parsi are Going to Bring Back the Vultures
They need them to eat the human dead. Read about vulture poisoning from an earlier blog post.
Most Famous Wolf in the World Shot Dead
The most famous wolf in the world was shot dead by a hunter, even though it was wearing a radio collar. Yellowstone wolf 832F almost never left the park, but the one time it did leave was one time too often now that there are wolf hunting seasons in effect in Wyoming and Montana.
I Want This Castle
It's a real 30,000 square foot castle, in New York, and it's only $1 million dollars, which is pretty damn cheap.  More pictures here and even better ones here.  I would buy it too, if only I could get the woman's olympic volley ball team to move in with me.  How hard could that be?
Remember how Cass Sunstein was supposed to be the tip of the spear of a secret Obama Administration plan to end all hunting? I called bullshit early on, and time has proven me right. So what’s Cass Sunstein writing about now? He has declared a “war on Christmas” by suggesting that maybe people should think a bit more before spending money they do not have on gifts other people do not need.  Bastard.
The Obama's are Replacing Baby Jesus with Satan's Dog
Yes they are. Bastards.
We Spared the Rat and Tested Your Clone Instead
In the future, we may not test drugs on natural animals, but on lab-created heart-beating living human tissue.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Want your house to smell like a college dorm room? Here's the ticket.
Now We Know for Sure
DNA tests show that the Romani (aka the Roma, the Gypsies, the Travelers) came to Europe and America from India.
Saw-Whet Owl Tagging Makes it to The New York Times
Apparently, all the cool kids do it now.   Right.  You know I am cool, but really this is so last month.
Releasing Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in Florida
Hundreds of thousands of genetically-modified Mosquitoes are about to be introduced into the Florida Keys in order to eradicate dengue fever. The GMO mosquitoes are designed to pass along a birth defect that will kill baby mosquitoes before birth. 
Text Can Now Be Sent to Your Contact Lens
James Bond meets Star Trek… or something.
Drones Save Live
Here’s a map showing the location of every single bomb dropped during the blitz. Next time someone rants and raves about the horror of new and improved drones and guided missiles, show them this and ask them how much collateral damage (destroyed homes and dead children) the old unguided drones and bombs caused. 
Whatever Happened to Bubbles?
Bubbles the chimp, Michael Jackson’s former pet, is now the 29-year old alpha male of a group of seven at a Florida chimp sanctuary, and you can buy his paintings at $1,500 a pop. He shares his digs with other abandoned performing apes that have had shattered and miserable lives.
Five Fishy Presidents
Barack Obama is one of five politicians who have had their names attached to newly discovered species of fish. Along with Etheostoma obama, there are species named after Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore. All five of the fish are newly discovered darters native to the rivers and creeks of northern Alabama and eastern Tennessee.  Barack Obama also has a small carnivorous dinosaur named after him (Obamadon gracilis), as well as a lichen (Caloplaca obamae), and a worm (Paragordius obamai).
Manufacturing Coming Back to the U.S.?
Manufacturing is coming back to the U.S., but maybe without too many jobs. The reason: $30,000 robots are even cheaper than foreign employees, and dealing with all the shipping, brand-name knockoffs, theft, and other sourcing problems that come with overseas production is a pain in the ass. And yes, the robots are Made in America and no, they do not require complex programing.

Santa Claus Uses a 20-Terrier Sled

Russell muscle is the best.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Attentive Little Buggers

Something has their attention.  God help it.

Chicken Run

The backyard chicken craze
has gone as expected, with folks now able to buy expensive and elegant chicken coops online from the very-whitebread folks at Williams and Sonoma, which now have an "agrarian" unit for the fad-farmers of suburbia.
The coop designs are excellent, and anyone with access to Home Depot and a heap of scrap lumber should be able to knock off their own without too much trouble and considerable savings. 

The Williams and Sonoma units are made by the good folks at The Green Chicken Coop in Michigan, and they have more designs (and slightly lower prices) at their excellent web site.   The folks at Williams and Sonoma are also selling the backyard beehive dream.

Feathers and Symmetry


From Pearl Harbor to a Robot Economy

Pearl Harbor, USS Virginia

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, but if you ask a dozen people why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor back in 1941, not one will give you a complete answer.

Here's the short story: Too many people.

The entire War in the Pacific was initiated by overpopulation.

There is no "beginning" to this story, but suffice it to say that Japan was a very isolated country up until the late 19th Century. With the arrival of western influence, Japan began to change and demand for "western" goods such as steel and oil, skyrocketed.

So too did population.

In 1870, Japan's population was estimated to be 33 million. By 1900 it was about 45 million, and by 1930 it was over 64 million. An island nation, Japan's economy and social systems were beginning to show real stress by the second decade of the 20th Century. A key issue was lack of farm land.

Large rural families needed more land to support new families, but new land was simply not available. At the same time, rising urbanization created a new and rapidly growing demand for oil, coal, iron and steel -- commodities Japan had very little of.

Looking across a short stretch of ocean, the Japanese saw a vast amount of farm land and raw resources in northern China. In 1931 Japan invaded that region -- Manchuria -- in order to satisfy their "shortage" of resources which, in reality, was a "longage" of human population.

Japan's invasion of Manchuria led to a U.S. threat of an oil blockade of the island nation. This threat of an oil blockade led to the Japanese "first strike" at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

World War II is a long story, but the short version is that we won.  Japan had to give up its land grabs in Manchuria, Korea, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

After the defeat of Japan, Gen. Douglas MacArthur encouraged the development of new laws in Japan, including laws to allow women to vote and to hold elective office. In addition, he encouraged the amendment of Japan's pre-World War II pro-natalist law so that it now legalized abortion (which remained illegal in the U.S. until 1973).

Why did MacArthur and the Occupation Forces turn Japan's old "pro-natalist" law into a "pro-choice" law?

Basically, because they understood the causal origins of World War II in the Pacific.

Japan's overpopulation (or over-shoot of its resource base) was seen as a core issue of geo-political consequence. Slowing Japan's rapid population growth rate was, therefore, at the top of both the national and the global agenda. As one Japanese web site (written in semi-fractured English) notes: "How to popularize family planning became the No.1 policy in health care of postwar Japan ..."

With the end of WWII Japan switched from being a pro-natalist country to being a country that was interested in slowing population growth.

After the death and carnage of World War II, no one in Japan needed too much encouragement to consider voluntary family planning as an alternative worthy of consideration and support.

How did fertility fall so quickly in Japan? The mechanics were simple and effective, if not particularly modern or enlightened: Condoms and abortion. To this day, these are the primary birth control options available to Japanese women. Though Japan is on the cutting edge of electronics, they are in the Dark Ages when it comes to contraception. Low-dose oral contraceptives, medicated IUDs, injectables and implants were still not legal in Japan as of 2004, and the diaphragm is no longer produced there due to lack of demand. High-dosage pills and the copper IUD were only approved in Japan in 1999.

Despite the lack of contraceptive options, the Japanese saw rapid and amazing reductions in fertility after 1945. While the rest of the world experienced a Baby Boom, Japan saws its total fertility rate (TFR) fall from over four to two in the space of just 15 years -- a phenomenal rate of reduction even by today's standards.

One factor driving fertility reduction was later age at marriage. Another factor -- too often overlooked -- was crippling poverty after the War. Japan in the late 1940s and 1950s was a miserable place, and few people could afford to have the large families they did prior to World War II.

The real driver of fertility reduction in Japan, however, was a desire for peace and prosperity. While prior to WWII large families had been seen as a source of prestige and economic growth, afterwards they were seen as destructive to the long-term peace and economic self-sufficiency of the nation.

Japan's new small-family ethic was fueled by both central government and local Government commitment to the goal of slowing pre-war rates of human population growth. A system of midwives, nurses, family planning clinics and doctors was put in place and it took root with assistance from the Family Planning Federation of Japan (FPFJ) and the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA).

While very wide, Japan's family planning program was not very deep. Despite a post-war interest in reducing the number of births, Japan has never really subscribed to what we in the U.S. think of as a "comprehensive" family planning program. Sex education in schools was (and still is) poor, and access to a full range of modern contraceptive choices was (and still is) very limited. In the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, the only "modern" contraceptive option was the condom. Though effective most of the time, the condom is not a perfect contraceptive vehicle. To be precise, condoms have a per-use failure rate of about 3%, which means even with "perfect use" the contraceptive device fails about 3 times a year on average (yep, 100 times a year is "average" according to the people that count these things).

In actuality, of course, we do not live in a perfect world with perfect and consistent humans. Due to inconsistent product usage (i.e. situational nonuse) the "real world" pregnancy rate for couples using only condoms is somewhere between 10 to 15 percent (numbers vary depending on the study).

Bottom line: There were (and are) quite a lot of abortions in Japan.

In 1996 the pre-World War II law was further amended and it is now called the "Mother's Body Protection Law" and remains the principle family planning law of Japan.

Today, Japan's total fertility rate is 1.4, one of the lowest in the world.

While Japan's fertility rate fell rapidly after WWII, and reached below-replacement levels by 1970, the nation's absolute population continued to grow. A population that had topped 64 million by 1930 was over 83 million by 1950, was over 103 million by 1970, and was over 123 million by 1990.

The good news is that Japan's population has very nearly topped out. The bad news is that it took 45 years AFTER it hit replacement level fertility (and then went far below it) to achieve this goal. And this is in a country with essentially zero immigration.

Today, across the world, the effect of Japan's post-World War II population growth is felt in the form of massive factory-like fishing fleets that prowl the world's oceans to feed that nation.

In the Southern U.S., massive chip mills pulp our forests to supply pulp for Japanese paper and wood-strand mills.

Forests in Burma, Indonesia, and Vietnam are being chainsawed to supply plywood. Around the world chainsaws and oil derricks crank out product going to a nation that had already "overshot" its resource base by 1931 -- and whose population has doubled since then.

While Japanese fertility declines have yet to translate into a smaller population size (I doubt Japan will ever return to a population small enough that it can actually live within the "carrying capacity" of the nation itself) a great deal of "Global Good" has come out of its lower fertility rates.

One bit of "good news" for Japan and the world was a tightening of labor markets that began to occur in Japan in the late 1970s as the low-fertility rates of the early 1950s moved their way up the population pyramid. As wages of entry-level workers began to rise in Japan due to labor market constraints, Japanese businesses began to export capital overseas in order to take advantage of lower-wage labor pools in developing countries (much as many U.S. businesses are doing today). Much of the "miracle" economic growth of South Korea was, in fact, abetted by Japanese money going overseas due to fertility declines in Japan that had begun 20 and 30 years earlier.

Japanese investment in Korea's economy, in turn, helped improve the status of women there and helped speed urbanization, which in turn helped to reduce fertility rates in that nation.

The same labor market constraints that drove some Japanese businesses to export capital in order to find cheaper labor drove other Japanese companies to automate. Today, Japanese industry has more robots and complex automation systems in place than any other country in the world -- one reason that both Japanese productivity and quality remain quite high.

Are there lessons here for the rest of the world? I think so.

Though far less pronounced than Japan's labor market contractions (due to a very long Baby Boom, higher domestic fertility, and high rates of international immigration here in the U.S.), U.S. capital movements to Mexico and other nations seem to be doing for these nations what Japan's money did for Korea (albeit at a slower rate due to increased diffusion of our capital over a larger area).

At the same time, the very same labor market forces that worked to push automation in Japan are doing the same here at home where timber, steel, and manufacturing plants are producing more products with less labor (and at higher quality) than ever before. Though we may not think factory automation has an environmental component, it most certainly does -- automated plants, as a rule, waste far less than their non-automated counterparts.

The big lesson, however, is that fertility decline is the START, not the end, of bringing the "runaway train" of population growth under control. Even after fertility has fallen to replacement levels, total population numbers continue to rise for decade after decade after decade.

For a country like the U.S., where the total base numbers are already very large, this is a very sobering thought.

In terms of absolute population size, the U.S. is already the third largest country in the world.

In terms of population growth rates we are not yet where Japan was in 1955 thanks to a combination of massive immigration and the highest fertility rates of any country in the industrialized world.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's middle-series projections, the U.S will add more people to its population in the next 50 years as currently live West of the Mississippi River -- and this is the middle-series (most likely) projection.

Our population growth will not end there, of course.

Once the Population Juggernaut starts to roll, it tends to roll a heck of a long way before it comes to a stop. This has been true for Japan (which had rapid and sustained fertility decline and no immigration) and it will be even truer for the U.S. (which has non-sustained fertility decline and high immigration). It will be even more true for countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that are still some distance away from achieving replacement levels of fertility.

Kuka is a German robotics company. Germany also went from pro-natalist war-monger to pro-robotics peace lover. Today, Germany has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.