Thursday, December 22, 2005
- In a development health experts are calling alarming, two bird-flu patients in Vietnam died after developing resistance to Tamiflu, the key drug that governments are stockpiling in case of a large-scale outbreak.
The experts said the deaths were disturbing because the two girls had received early and aggressive treatment with Tamiflu and had gotten the recommended doses.
The new report suggests that the doses doctors now consider ideal may be too little.
Tamiflu and another drug, Relenza, are expected to be the front-line defense if that happens, but they must be taken soon after infection to be effective.
Tamiflu, made by Swiss-based Roche Holding AG, is the favored drug because it appears to be effective against all kinds of flu, including bird flu. GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza requires an inhaler and has not been widely tested in people with avian flu.
Roche is working with the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health to begin a human experiment next year that would test whether doubling the current recommended Tamiflu dose is more effective, said David Reddy, who heads Roche's influenza pandemic task force.
Technorati Tags: Bird Flu
T minus 8 hr
Swim night, went well. Alexis is a bit too independent but does get a bit of exercise. We went to Pippo's Fantastico after that. I had the Sea Bass (yummy) while the kids stuck to the old stand-by of spags-n-balls or cheese ravioli. The Mrs, chicken, white sauce, etc. There were leftovers of course. I finished mine though. Interesting enough, the establishment was rather empty so our tyrants in training did not disturb too many people. Additionally, Jake took it upon himself to flirt mercilessly with the waitress. At one point he latched on too her wrist to look at the (ohhhh, shiny) bracelet she was wearing and would not relinquish. Masher.
The big drive is coming soon. I'll be heading up either in the wee hours of the morning tonight or the post-rush hour times in the afternoon to pick up the OutLaws. Usually, we would insist that they take the train to the local drop point at Cornwall Heights but that is not going to happen. Thanks, of course, to the TWA Local 100 and their ILLEGAL STRIKE. Fire the lot of 'em I say. But enough of that ... I've got some packing to do. You see, since this is my last day at the client site, I need to remove all my worldly belongings from the sensory deprivation cube I've been crated into for the last 2 or so years. On the up-side, I'll be returning to the Home Office for an evening event and to drop off my cruft. We have an annual Secret Santa/Pirate Pollyanna every year and it can be a bit of fun. Since I've been away, we have lost a few employees and replaced them with people I do not know. It should be interesting. New people to victimize!
Technorati Tags: Family | Traffic | Christmas
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Come on, give it your best shot...
Technorati Tags: Family
- "A lawyer defending al Qaida-linked suspects standing trial for the 2003 suicide bombings in Istanbul told a court that jihad, or holy war, was an obligation for Muslims and his clients should not be prosecuted.
'If you punish them for this, tomorrow, will you punish them for fasting or for praying?' Osman Karahan -- a lawyer representing 14 of the 72 suspects -- asked during a nearly four-hour speech in which he read religious texts from an encyclopedia of Islam.
The November 2003 blasts targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and the local headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank, killing 58 people.
The Arabic word jihad can mean holy war among extremists in addition to its definition as the Islamic concept of the struggle to do good."
Technorati Tags: Jihad | GWOT | Religion
- It sounds like science fiction: a brain nurtured in a Petri dish learns to pilot a fighter plane as scientists develop a new breed of "living" computer. But in groundbreaking experiments in a Florida laboratory that is exactly what is happening.
The "brain", grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a single rat embryo, has been taught to fly an F-22 jet simulator by scientists at the University of Florida.
They hope their research into neural computation will help them develop sophisticated hybrid computers, with a thinking biological component.
The brain-in-a-dish is the idea of Thomas DeMarse, 37, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. His work has been praised as a significant insight into the brain by leading US academics and scientific journals.
The 25,000 neurons were suspended in a specialised liquid to keep them alive and then laid across a grid of 60 electrodes in a small glass dish.
Under the microscope they looked at first like grains of sand, but soon the cells begin to connect to form what scientists are calling a "live computation device" (a brain). The electrodes measure and stimulate neural activity in the network, allowing researchers to study how the brain processes, transforms and stores information.
"When we first hooked them up, the plane 'crashed' all the time," Dr DeMarse said. "But over time, the neural network slowly adapts as the brain learns to control the pitch and roll of the aircraft. After a while, it produces a nice straight and level trajectory."
Previously, scientists have been able to monitor the activity of only a few neurons at a time, but Dr DeMarse and his team can study how thousands of cells conduct calculations together. But it is still a long way from a human brain.
"The goal is to study how cortical networks perform their neural computations. The implications are extremely important," Dr DeMarse said.
Technorati Tags: Science
- When Google introduced Google Earth, free software that marries satellite and aerial images with mapping capabilities, the company emphasized its usefulness as a teaching and navigation tool, while advertising the pure entertainment value of high-resolution flyover images of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the pyramids.
But since its debut last summer, Google Earth has received attention of an unexpected sort. Officials of several nations have expressed alarm over its detailed display of government buildings, military installations and other important sites within their borders.
India, whose laws sharply restrict satellite and aerial photography, has been particularly outspoken. "It could severely compromise a country's security," V. S. Ramamurthy, secretary in India's federal Department of Science and Technology, said of Google Earth. And India's surveyor general, Maj. Gen. M. Gopal Rao, said, "They ought to have asked us."
Similar sentiments have surfaced in news reports from other countries. South Korean officials have said they fear that Google Earth lays bare details of military installations. Thai security officials said they intended to ask Google to block images of vulnerable government buildings. And Lt. Gen. Leonid Sazhin, an analyst for the Federal Security Service, the Russian security agency that succeeded the K.G.B., was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying: "Terrorists don't need to reconnoiter their target. Now an American company is working for them."
But there is little they can do, it seems, but protest.
- But a number of security restrictions apply to those companies. For instance, United States law requires that images of Israel shot by American-licensed commercial satellites be made available only at a relatively low resolution. Also, the companies' operating licenses allow the United States government to put any area off limits in the interests of national security. A 24-hour delay is mandated for images of especially high resolution.
Vipin Gupta, a security analyst at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, said the time delays were crucial, saying that in the national security sphere much can change between the time an image is taken and when it is used by the public.
"You can get imagery to determine whether there is a military base or airfield, but if you want to count aircraft, or determine whether there are troops there at a particular time, it is very difficult to do," Mr. Gupta said. "It's not video."
Mr. Ramamurthy, the Indian science official, acknowledged that "there is very little we can do to a company based overseas and offering its service over the Internet." But General Rao, the Indian surveyor general, said the Indian government had sent a letter asking Google "to show sensitive sites, which we will list - areas such as the presidential residence and defense installations - in very low-resolution images."
Mr. McLaughlin said he had not yet seen such a letter; he said talks with India had centered specifically on images of the Kashmir border, long disputed by India and Pakistan.
The images, which Google Earth expects to update roughly every 18 months, are a patchwork of aerial and satellite photographs, and their relative sharpness varies. Blurriness is more often than not an indication of the best quality available for a location.
Chuck Herring, a spokesman for DigitalGlobe, said that to the best of his knowledge, the federal government had never asked his company to obscure or blur images. Similarly, Mr. Hanke said no specific areas on Google Earth lacked high-resolution data because of federal restrictions.
For a brief period, photos of the White House and adjacent buildings that the United States Geological Survey provided to Google Earth showed up with certain details obscured, because the government had decided that showing details like rooftop helicopter landing pads was a security risk. Google has since replaced those images with unaltered photographs of the area taken by Sanborn, a mapping and imagery company, further illustrating the difficulty of trying to control such information.
As for security issues raised by other countries, Mr. Hanke said, "When we reach out and engage with knowledgeable people, the concern tends to subside."
Still, imagery is growing harder than ever to control, especially as it makes its way around the Internet. Several countries, notably Nigeria, China and Brazil, have recently launched satellites, making it harder for any one government to impose restrictions.
Well, work was actually interesting. Not so much that I had any work to do but that I was able to help JrPM with a problem regarding the destruction of the staging B2B environment. Apparently, there is a new security protocol going through a rush implementation and this involves some significant changes to underlying schemas and encryption mechanisms. Due to the short-sightedness of some engineers, the staging environment JAR was abruptly modified for one purpose and all peripheral systems that used that as a building block became corrupted. JrPM was in the middle of a knowledge transfer on how to test Incoming Order Feeds using the B2B interface when this was discovered. Apparently, the responsible parties were rather brusk and disinterested in repairing the damage. It was a long and angst ridden path where the torpid legions of inaction covered their ineptitude with extraordinary levels of hostility and vituperation. In the end, the solution was known to us but the permission was not forthcoming. Fortunately, we found an authority who would engage and resolve our little dilemma with alacrity. Ahh, the triumph of sagacity over malaise filled Reprobates!
Speaking of Reprobates ... the traffic on the way home was a disaster. Apparently there was an accident 15 miles away that managed to back up every roadway in the region. It took 1.5 hours to get to the manor. That is 90 minutes of time I'll never recover, 60 of which I should not have lost. An hour into the trip, I saw the location of the misdeed. There were skidmarks, fluids and shattered glass scattered about the eastbound lanes mid-way between Willow Grove and Fort Washington. No wreckage to be seen but at point, the traffic suddenly picked up just in time for the exit. Which was backed up ... onto the turnpike. Friggen construction. It's enough to make you want to quit your job and never travel again.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
- 150 Pounds of Explosives Missing in N.M.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - About 150 pounds of commercial plastic explosives has disappeared from a private storage site, along with 2,500 blasting caps and 20,000 feet of explosive detonation cord, authorities said Monday.
'In the hands of the wrong person, this material can be very, very destructive,' Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said at a news conference.
Technorati Tags: Terrorism | Border Wall
- Turnpike tolls to become one-way at Ohio border
"The Pennsylvania Turnpike will switch to one-way tolls at the Ohio border next month in an effort to ease congestion. But a similar plan to charge tolls in only one direction across the Delaware River Bridge in and out of New Jersey is still years away, officials said.
Starting Jan. 2, westbound motorists won't pay a $1.50 toll at the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. However, the toll for cars, pickups and motorcycles entering Pennsylvania will be doubled to $3. For five-axle tractor-trailers, the toll will be $12.
The turnpike's ticket system stops at Warrendale, just north of Pittsburgh and about 30 miles from the border. The new plan means that drivers entering the turnpike at Warrendale or any point west of that can drive west for free. Tolls will not be affected on the 330-mile stretch of the turnpike between the Warrendale plaza and the Delaware bridge.
The toll plaza at the Ohio border will be redesigned over the next year to provide two 55-m.p.h. eastbound E-ZPass lanes."
Technorati Tags: Turnpike | Gas
Nice, boring, mundane day. Excitement would be nice if came in the variety that I saw in our utilities bill. Last month, we were smacked with a bill for 112$ and this month (Nov) we found a 130$ bill. The gas usage did not change but the electric went down. Not sure if this is a result of the new miser bulbs or if it was the week we spent out of the house up in Ithaca. I'm guessing the later had more impact than the former. Of course, we will be in the house for nearly the last two weeks of the year so I'm expecting the next bill to jump 100% like it did last year. Likewise for Feb. If only we could heat the manor with angst and the encyclopedia sized bills. This is not including the fact that our wood supply may run out faster than expected.
Speaking of faster than expected, I've only got 3 more days at our client site. Three more mornings of being able to see my prison building from the turnpike fifteen minutes before I can get there. Well, make that two. This morning I did stop off at the regional postal distribution center to drop off our letters. Late, as usual, but we got it done. Typically we would have loaded the crate onto an AC-130 but our current automated air-wing is distributing white pine missiles over the barren landscape of Greenland. Getting ready for that global warming and all. Add all those trees and they'll suck up the CO2 and turn it into oxygen which will promptly cause another ice-age. I'm devious that way.
Technorati Tags: Family | Energy | Christmas | Gas
Monday, December 19, 2005
- FRANCISCO - Customs agents have intercepted more than 50 shipments of counterfeit Tamiflu, the antiviral drug being stockpiled in anticipation of a bird flu pandemic, marking the first such seizures in the United States, authorities said yesterday.
The first package was intercepted Nov. 26 at an air mail facility near San Francisco International Airport, said Roxanne Hercules, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Since then, agents have seized 51 packages, each containing up to 50 counterfeit capsules labeled generic Tamiflu.
The fake drugs had none of Tamiflu's active ingredients, and officials were running tests to determine what the capsules did contain. Initial tests indicated some Vitamin C in the capsules, said David Elder, director of the Food and Drug Administration Office of Enforcement.
Information on the packages was written in Chinese, but it is unclear where the drugs originated, Elder said.[ed. duh! just say it]
They were sent by Asian suppliers to individuals who placed orders over the Internet, Hercules said. She said none of the shipments intercepted was bound for doctors or hospitals.
Technorati Tags: Bird Flu
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Technorati Tags: Family
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Saturday night is all-all-right.
Saturday morning was actually quite tame. More enjoyable actually, since we started bringing the kids to swimming on Wednesday nights instead of the crack of dawn on the weekends. Getting breakfast made and herding the kids out the door nearly ended up in tragedy every time. No, this is preferable. Of course, Jake ended up in our bed again last night so when I extricated myself this morning, the Mrs and the Elder Son of Catastrophe immediately spread out to fill the newly made available space. Fine. I'll just go tend to the lawn-nemesis hounds and relight the fire in the wood stove. Once that is out of the way, it's on to breakfast: a pound of bacon, loaf of toast, a chain of sausages and whatever other vittles I can rustle up. Nothing is off the menu except scrapple. Even I wont eat that stuff.
Last night, I had to finally cave in and bring the car into the mechanic's. I just could not deal with the intermittent issues with the electrical system. I was fairly certain it was the battery, but just did not have the bandwidth to go out of my way to pick up a new one and install it. Of course, it that was not the problem I would still have to bring the car in so I just weighed the odds and figured it was best if I assumed the worst case scenario. After I dropped off the car, I had to walk to the Day Care/Child ReEducation Camp which was about a mile or so away. No great feat except for the obvious lack of sidewalks anywhere in suburban Philly. The shoulder of the roadways look like something out of Mad Max ... refuse and wreckage strewn about. All that was missing was gangs of scavengers.
I eventually made it to the semi-run down plaza that the swim club is located behind and I make a pit-stop at a warm little store on the corner. It's a candy-store (one that I imagine my kids will be visiting in the future) and picked up a few pounds of jelly beans. Some for the Mail-Person, some for my coworkers, a few for the kids, the Mrs and Myself. While I was there, I had to set down a cache of mail we had received that consisted mostly of Greeting cards, junk and a cell phone bill that is paid automatically via CC. In my anticipation of sugar-madness, I left the mail sitting on the counter. It did not hit me that my absent-minded behavior was so blatant till I had met the wife and we were already in the manor with our coats and boots off. Nutz. Hammer my way back through the rushing river of traffic like a red salmon scraping its way past bears, rocks, falls and other insurmountable obstacles.
Flash back to Saturday morning. I'm waiting till the Mrs is done with her shower before I leave the kids in front of the tube to scrub off the last remains of a nights sleep. Not more than 7 minutes into my warm, relaxing shower, the Mrs barges in and proclaims that the contractors that I had set a meeting with for 1000 had arrived. Fifteen minutes early no less. That NEVER happens! Well, while they survey the property (I've disarmed the mine field as well as the cyber attack drones) I quickly throw on my work clothing and dart out to meet them. These are the guys who are going to install my solar attic fans. We talk briefly and they note that my description AND evaluation about where the fans should go is right on the money. It takes all for 75 minutes for them to install the fans while I was putting up more lights on the eves of the roof. They were quite happy that I had a ladder all set up and that the slope of the roof was low enough for them not to need to tie themselves off. I had shoveled off most of the snow on the roof when I was putting up lights so that was an added bonus to them. No sitting in snow while it melted and invaded the clothing with semi-frigid water. Not that I've had to do that while trying to attach lights while staring down at the thorn encrusted bushes 20 feet below. Yeah. Anyways, they wrap up their work and I lay out the Thousand Dollars the units cost me. Good thing they have a great track record and significantly bullet proof warranty. One step forward on the fight to reduce our power consumption ... now where it that pamphlet for the heat pump/fuel cell/solar panel installations.
Speaking of power/gas consumption, I had to restock the wood brackets. It looks like we will have enough wood to last us for 10 more weeks. Hmmm, that will get us to the end of February but I'm not sure it will be enough. I'll probably have to order some pre-split/pre-seasoned stuff from the Guy on Buck Road. One more month (4 weeks) should do it. The alternative is a bit expensive actually. I would have to rely on natural gas to heat the house in that last month of winter and we all know how much of a tight-wad I can be about that! Yeah, I balk at paying a hundred dollars for heating gas but lay out a thousand for a couple of attic fans. Sheesh. I lay out serious dinar for food or gifts and all but I just can't sand paying for electric, water and gas.
Yes, spending money. When I picked up the SuperSaturn and drove it off I did not blink twice about the battery installation it required. Yes, I ruined the battery. The triple draining and then the cold-snap did it in. Chris the Mechanic could not get it to hold a charge. Damn. I've got to stop doing that. Having to replace the battery every two years is not acceptable. The Mrs, Tyrannical Twins and I stopped off and transferred the cargo/personnel on the way to the Seliga's house. She was going to do some 'Last Minute Shopping, Part XIV' while the kids went MAD at our guest's home. Needless to say, their pets noticed a disturbance in the force before we got within a mile and hid in their concrete bunker at an undisclosed location. We were there from 1400 till some time around 2300 hours. The kids were actually quite nice and did not set anything on fire or drink all the liquor. Of course, this acceptable behavior came at a price. Some time in the wee hours of the morning, Alexis woke up in a coughing fit and we had to immobilize her so we could give her a dose of cough syrup. I nearly lost a finger! She spent the rest of the night sleeping in our bed where the Mrs would normally be. She even got the part where she sleeps in the middle and jams her knees into my back correct. Something that is passed on from mother to daughter I guess. Since Jake woke up a bit later due to all the commotion, the Mrs retired to the futon with him and slept blissfully till mid-morning. Family Bliss, eh?
Technorati Tags: Family | Solar | Christmas | Car
- MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- One person is reported to have been killed and two others injured in what Russian government officials are calling an explosion at a smelter furnace on the site of the Leningrad nuclear power plant.
Russia's Interfax news agency reported Friday that one person, who suffered burns over 75 percent of his body, had died, citing local government sources in St. Petersburg, located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the plant. The other two were in serious condition, Interfax said.
The explosion at the furnace of the Ecomet-S enterprise -- a sub-contractor of the nuclear plant -- took place about 3 a.m. on Thursday, according to a statement issued by the St. Petersburg government.
The enterprise, according to the statement, is located at the premises of the nuclear plant's second reactor, which was shut down for reconstruction in July.
According to Rosenergoatom, a Russian state body in charge of monitoring nuclear safety in Russia, Ecomet-S specializes in recycling of radioactive metal wastes. But the incident did not increase radiation levels in or around the plant, Rosenergoatom reported.
A statement from the nuclear power plant calls the accident a "splash of smelt" from the furnace, which it says was caused by the violation of safety rules. The incident at Ecomet-S did not affect operations at the plant, the statement said.
Also, International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire said Russian authorities told the agency there was no release of radioactivity after an explosion that occurred near the Leningrad nuclear power plant.
"The Situation and Crisis Center of ROSATOM, Russian Federation, has told us that the explosion was at a smelter located in the industrial zone of the city of Sosnovy Bor, Russian Federation, about 1km from the power reactors which were not affected," Vidricaire said.
Technorati Tags: Nuclear | Russia | Iran
Technorati Tags: Multiple Sclerosis | Rant
Friday, December 16, 2005
- The World Food Program will halt humanitarian aid to six million North Koreans at the end of this month because the North Korean government says it now has enough food to feed its hungry people, the program's director said yesterday.
The director, James Morris, said his agency believed that "there still is a food shortage in the country" and that as many as a third of North Korean women remained anemic and in need of nutritional help.
The closure of the humanitarian assistance comes as North Korea is expelling about a dozen nongovernmental aid groups after European condemnation of its human-rights record.
Technorati Tags: North Korea | Starvation
Northeast US Kyoto Redux
- Northeast Emissions Talks Break Down (phillyBurbs.com) | National
BOSTON - Talks broke down Wednesday among state officials trying to reach an agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the Northeast.
A spokesman for Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri said Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut had misgivings over the proposed nine-state plan to cut so-called greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Carcieri is concerned about the costs, according to spokesman Jeff Neal. "Ultimately we don't know how much this plan will raise energy prices," Neal said.
- A spokeswoman for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would likely comment on the matter on Thursday. Romney has expressed concerns with the initiative in the past, saying the costs of cutting emissions would be passed on to consumers.
The draft proposal would freeze utility emissions at current levels through 2015, and then require a 10 percent reduction by 2020. It also would create a market for greenhouse gases, allowing those who lower emissions to sell excess "credits" to those who can't cut quickly enough.
Some critics fear the plan could drastically increase electricity rates because it would force companies to build new plants, or convert plants to use natural gas.
- Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/14/2005 | Emissions rules fuel a Pa. debate
The state's independent Environmental Quality Board in October set a 2008 deadline for all new vehicles in Pennsylvania to meet emissions standards set by California - which are more stringent than the more widely used federal standards.
Republican lawmakers, concerned about the potential higher cost of low-emission vehicles and angry about essentially ceding authority to another state, quickly drafted bills to revoke the Pennsylvania board's authority to adopt the standards.
"It's a risky course," Sen. Mary Jo White (R., Franklin), chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said at a hearing yesterday. "We should make standards based on Pennsylvania climate and Pennsylvania economic conditions, not on a decision made by the California air-quality board." [ed. you know, this special blend of gasoline we use in the winter causes us to get lower mileage and thus, requires us to burn MORE gas ... start there guys]
Administration officials have argued that vehicles with lower emissions will not cost more - although industry officials say they will cost up to $3,000 more per vehicle. They have also cautioned that if federal clean-air standards are not met through improved vehicle emissions, they will be forced to further limit emissions from industries and power plants, which could cost jobs. [Ed. See above article]
Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler told committee members that the state could face federal sanctions, specifically the reduction of highway funds, if it does not meet clean-air regulations. [ed. Our highways/bridges SUCK ... where is all the money going now?]
In 2004, New Jersey adopted the California standards. Six other states, including New York, have either adopted the California standards or are considering them.
[ed. See the previous article above ...]
The 20-member Pennsylvania rule-making body includes environmental-agency officials, representatives of both parties in the General Assembly, and citizens.
At the hearing yesterday, Sen. Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) asked auto-industry representatives to explain how they reached their estimate that vehicles would cost up to $3,000 more under the California standards.
Charles Territo, director of communications for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the increase would be driven by new technology needed for low-emission vehicles similar to what is used in hybrid vehicles."There are added costs to those technologies," he said.
- PHILADELPHIA - By gradually adding hybrids to this city's vehicle fleet, James Muller knows he's helping to save the environment. What he doesn't know is whether switching to the more expensive "green" vehicles will save taxpayers money.
The city just bought 20 new hybrid Ford Escapes to add to the six Toyota Priuses already in its 6,000-vehicle fleet. Muller, Philadelphia's fleet manager, said officials are doing it to improve air quality, but that the upfront costs definitely take a bigger hit on city coffers.
"That's what we're finding with the initial cost ... it doesn't wash out," he said. "You're actually paying more money."
It's only been a year or two since many cities started adding hybrids to their fleets, but officials say the initial costs can be tough to bear. And they simply don't know whether they'll save money over gasoline-only or diesel vehicles the long run.
Officials in various cities estimate that choosing a hybrid vehicle costs an extra $3,000 to $8,000, depending on the model and which gasoline-only model would have been bought in its place.
Officials in Ann Arbor, Mich., decided not to add hybrids to their fleet after determining the costs would outweigh the benefits. Ann Arbor has other types of alternate-fuel vehicles, but found that hybrids just weren't cost-effective, said David Konkle, the city's energy coordinator.
Konkle estimated the hybrids would save $300 to $500 a year each in gas, making it impossible to make up the difference in purchase price, which he said was $8,000.
- King Henry the Sixth, Part II
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers". - (Act IV, Scene II).
"Small things make base men proud". - (Act IV, Scene I).
"True nobility is exempt from fear". - (Act IV, Scene I).
Technorati Tags: Gas | Politics | Kyoto
T minus 5
The commute to the manor last night was the standard fare given the weather. I, however, found no solace or comfort amongst the snow, sleet, rain, freezing rain and standard stupidity of my fellow automotive operators on the PA Turnpike. They did manage not to gridlock the local roadways with multi-vehicle pile-ups and for that I must give them credit. That, and the six inches of super-corrosive halite mixed with cinders that was heaped on every square inch of asphalt. In spite of the salt-flats mimicry, it still takes 75 min to get home, and at points I had to diverge to local roads in order to avoid highly congested areas. Fortunately, had foresight to get dinner YESTERDAY and that saved me quite a bit of hassle.
Since I was sitting in queue for lights under which only three of four vehicles seemed to be able to pass, I was thinking about something I noticed earlier this afternoon. Every so often I feel the urge to see who is dropping in but not commenting (aka: lurkers). So I bumbled off to the SiteMeter tracking site and found this. Essentially links to an unsettling observation I noted at Tish's place. Funny that this thing is till getting hits eight months later. Funny in a sad voyeur sort of way.
Oh, and the traffic this morning. At 0645 it was a breeze. It was 41 degrees and nary a patch of ice in sight. Go figure.
Technorati Tags: Winter|Car|Traffic
Thursday, December 15, 2005
- HARRISBURG, Pa. - A bill that would require Pennsylvania voters to show some form of identification at the polls or be forced to cast a provisional ballot passed the state Senate on Wednesday night.
The Republican-sponsored bill was approved without debate, 29-21, and sent to the House, which has already approved a measure with similar identification requirements.
However, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ed Rendell and an American Civil Liberties Union official criticized it as putting up obstacles for voters.[ed. STINKING ACLU!]
If the bill becomes law, the identification requirements would be in force for the November 2006 election, when Pennsylvania voters will elect a governor, U.S. senator and most members of the state Legislature.
Currently, only people voting in a polling place for the first time must show identification. Under the legislation, every voter would have to show election workers a form of identification such as a valid driver's license; U.S. passport; a student, employee or government ID; a county voter registration card; a firearm permit; a current utility bill; or a current bank statement, paycheck or government check.
The legislation also would extend the counting of absentee ballots sent from overseas until seven days following the election if the absentee ballot is postmarked no later than the day before the election.[ed.Note that Rendell tried to get Military Votes from overseas discarded last time]
Technorati Tags: Voter ID | Politics
- Since Jan. 10, the Gas Works has sent out more than 5,000 warnings to delinquent customers who could face shutoff. Spokesman Douglas Oliver said that PGW cut off service last week to 16 households - the first winter terminations in decades not to require PUC approval.
Oliver said the Gas Works was setting its initial sights on the worst cases: people who owe large amounts and have income that is at least three times the federal poverty rate.
And for now, PGW is targeting households that have no members 12 or under or 65 or over.
But it is not making any promises.
- Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/15/2005 | Heating shutoffs expected to jump
This week's wave of arctic cold punctuates a chilling fact: Thousands of area residents are facing winter with no reliable source of heat.
And with natural-gas and oil prices near record heights, plus a new Pennsylvania law that has ended a 30-year moratorium on most wintertime shutoffs, the problem could soon get worse.
The state's utilities are due to report today to the Public Utility Commission on their annual survey of households without heat at the start of December - a survey that last year showed that 15,005 households statewide, more than a third of them in Philadelphia, lacked gas or electricity that they use for heat.
Oliver said record numbers of shutoffs after the law was phased in last winter were followed by record numbers of reconnections.
Avocates for the poor and for other consumers say that no matter what numbers are reported by the utilities today, they are likely to understate a problem that has been growing steadily in recent years. From 1999 through 2003, an average of fewer than 10,000 households started winter without utility service.
Last year, besides the 15,005 dwellings without gas and electric service, utilities reported an additional 14,595 homes excluded from the totals as vacant because no one responded to knocking or phone calls during the utilities' door-to-door survey of disconnected customers.
Edith, a South Philadelphia resident who asked not to be fully identified, has been living without gas since August, when she fell behind on her $123-a-month payments under one of PGW's low-income discount programs.
The utility is demanding a $500 payment, which she hopes to get through LIHEAP, the government's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Until then, she is trying hard to keep her house livable for herself, her daughter and three grandchildren.
Utility officials say they will try to work with people who respond to warnings of termination. PGW pushed for the new law, Act 201, in part by arguing that city residents had come to regard the company as a pushover.
"Act 201 is doing what we hoped," said Oliver, the PGW spokesman. "It's changing people's behaviors."
PGW has indicated a reluctance to take any costly steps. According to the PUC, PGW promised only to abide by the shutoff law's limits on reconnection costs. "Due to its financial condition, PGW does not have any plans for being less restrictive" than the new law allows, the analysis said.
PGW earned $17.2 million in 2004, but carried long-term debt of more than $913 million. The city-owned utility was placed on a credit watch this year by the Fitch Ratings service.
In a letter to Rendell dated Tuesday and provided to The Inquirer, PGW president Thomas Knudsen did not back away from that position, but struck a cooperative tone. Knudsen promised an aggressive media and outreach campaign to sign low-income customers for discounts, and to promote conservation.
Consumer advocates such as Jonathan Stein, a Community Legal Services lawyer who has fought PGW over its push for the new shutoff law and its interpretation of key provisions, remain critical.
"PGW isn't giving an inch," Stein said.
Technorati Tags: Winter | Politics | Gas
- FORT WAYNE, Indiana (AP) -- A man accused of killing his family told police he beat and strangled his wife and killed their three young daughters after the couple argued about household chores, according to court documents.
Police found Simon Rios, 33, on the front porch of his home after getting a suicide call early Tuesday. Inside, they discovered blood in the living room and Rios' wife and their three children dead in a bedroom.
Rios pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four preliminary counts of murder and two counts of moving a body. He was jailed without bond.
Autopsies showed the girls -- ages 10, 4 and 20 months -- had all been strangled. Their mother, identified as Ana L. Casas, died of a blow to the head and strangulation, the coroner said.
The bodies were found a day after authorities searched the neighborhood for clues to the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl. Police spokesman Mike Joyner said that police did not find a connection between the cases when they questioned Rios, but that he is a possible suspect.
Rios had a previous conviction in Allen County for misdemeanor domestic battery in 2003, but friends said they had seen no signs of trouble in the family.
Technorati Tags: Children | Evil
- Vatican official slams Iran over Holocaust remark
ROME (Reuters) - A senior Vatican cardinal on Thursday sharply criticised Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for claiming the Holocaust was a myth, condemning the assertion as a shocking injustice to the victims of the Nazi genocide.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, who, like Pope Benedict, is German, launched a specific attack on Ahmadinejad in a speech accepting an award from an international Jewish organisation.
Kasper, the head of the Vatican's department for religious relations with Jews, made his remarks at a ceremony where he was given an award by the Anti-Defamation League.
He said he wanted his condemnation of the remarks by Iran's president to be seen as a "concrete" sign of the Vatican's solidarity with the Jewish people.
Technorati Tags: Iran | Politics | Religion
- KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine on Wednesday confirmed for the first time that outbreaks of bird flu in 11 Crimean villages were the deadly H5N1 strain that has jumped from bird to humans in Asia and killed at least 69 people.
Laboratory tests confirmed the lethal strain was present in 11 out of the 25 villages where bird deaths have been recorded on the Black Sea peninsula, said Ukraine Health Ministry spokeswoman Anna Trubachova.
Ukraine recorded its first case of bird flu on Dec. 4 after some 2,500 birds died on the Black Sea peninsula. The area affected is covered by marshy wetlands near the Azov Sea and is a popular resting place for migratory birds.
Technorati Tags: Bird Flu | China
Just pretend it's balmy ...
Well, we went swimming again last night and boy were there a lot of kids this time. A whole damn phalanx of them gurgling about in the pool. Like a mini-invasion horde of brightly colored SEALs. Afterwards, we went to Maggio's for dinner. This is the same place where I order the Thursday Night Pizza every week. Since I was there, I figured I would order the pizza now with dinner and take it home. When I went to pay for the final tab (dinner went very well btw), the guy who I always see when I pick up the pie was there. He was a bit shocked 'You're a day early!'. Heh, yeah. After a brief and friendly interchange, I left my typical 20% tip and we headed back to the 'New and Improved Haupertonian International HQ and Manor ... now with MORE LED LIGHTS!'. It was a bit chilly inside ... 58. The fire I lit before I had left 3 hours ago did not do much to change that. There were a few embers left, but nothing that could combat the stubborn blanket of cold that had the manor in it's tightly clenched fist.
Given that it was somewhere between 0 and 8 degrees last night, the car reacted poorly of course. I had it hooked up to a trickle charger last night in hopes of avoiding my morning jumper cable dance. I went out and started the car at 0630 with no problem. Of course, I should have left it running for a bit. The next time when I was really ready to go, the electrical system slumped and went dead. Argh. If this continues, I'm going to have to consider either replacing the battery (AGAIN!) or hooking the car up to the house current every night to keep it juiced up. Might as well have an electric golf cart at that point. Given the hazards of driving on the turnpike, that would probably not be a recommended course of action. I can see the headlines now. It would be akin to that jackass who tried to drive a zamboni from Wisconsin to Philly several years back. Speaking of absurd ... we are supposed to get freezing rain and sleet during rush hour this afternoon. I should have LOTS to write about tomorrow.
Technorati Tags: Winter | Car
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
- RIO DE JANEIRO - Once almost completely dependent on imports for oil, Brazil is poised to mark an energy milestone that promises to shield it from the twists and turns of the international market.
Early next year, Brazil will begin producing as much oil as it consumes, and shortly thereafter it will become a net oil exporter.
The accomplishments are due to a years-long push to find oil within Brazil's borders and to decades of government efforts to keep oil consumption low by encouraging the use of alternatives such as ethanol from sugarcane and soy.
Brazil's story may have only limited application to the United States, analysts said. Brazil, with 186 million residents, consumes only about 1.8 million barrels of oil a day, while the United States consumes more than 10 times as much, 58 percent of it imported, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
[ed. note that the US has roughly 300 million residents]
"Americans can't ignore geological reality," Tissot said. "It would be nearly impossible to produce all the oil they use."
Brazil will continue importing about 300,000 barrels of refined oil products daily because it lacks the refining capacity to process its own heavy crude.
The state-owned oil company Petrobras said more refineries were in the works, including a joint project with the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in northeastern Brazil.
The country also will continue to depend heavily on neighboring Bolivia to supply half its natural gas, an important source of energy in its mass-transit system.
[ed. note that there is political instability in Bolivia]
Brazil pioneered deep-water exploration methods using state-of-the-art pipelines, buoys and other equipment that extended the depths in which oil could be reached. Today, it extracts four-fifths of its oil from under the ocean floor of the Campos Basin field near the coasts of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo states.
Petrobras soon will launch its largest petroleum and natural-gas production platform yet from Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay into the Campos Basin. [ed. cant do that off Florida or California in the US]
[ed. NOTE: PAY ATTENTION BELOW!]
Another major factor has been the rise of alternative fuels. Half the new cars sold in Brazil are so-called flex-fuel models that can run on ethanol as well as gasoline. Ethanol makes up about 33 percent of the fuel pumped into cars in Brazil, compared with 2 percent in the United States. Brazilian law requires gasoline to contain at least 25 percent ethanol.
Ethanol has been a perfect fit for the country, the world's top producer of the fuel, since Brazil is also a major grower of crops such as sugarcane and soy that be used to produce the energy source.
About half Brazil's sugarcane crop goes to ethanol production.
The government has pushed the use of ethanol since the global oil shortages of the 1970s, with the public's embrace of the alternative fuel rising and falling with oil prices.
Ethanol has one major drawback: It produces 20 percent fewer miles per gallon than gasoline.
But Brazilians also pay 40 percent less for ethanol, an average of $2.54 per gallon versus $4.21 per gallon of gasoline, which that makes up for the lower fuel efficiency.
Consumption of ethanol grew nearly 10 percent from 2000 to 2004, while production zoomed 40 percent. Brazil exports much of its ethanol, nearly 700 million gallons last year.
Technorati Tags: Kyoto | Politics | Oil
- SAN FRANCISCO - Add another creation to the strange scientific menagerie where animal species are being mixed together in ever more exotic combinations.
Scientists announced yesterday that they had created mice with small amounts of human brain cells in an effort to make realistic models of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease.
Led by Fred Gage of the Salk Institute in San Diego, the researchers created the mice by injecting about 100,000 human embryonic stem cells per mouse into the brains of 14-day-old rodent fetuses.
Those mice were each born with about 0.1 percent of human cells in each of their heads, a trace amount that does not remotely come close to "humanizing" the rodents.
"This illustrates that injecting human stem cells into mouse brains doesn't restructure the brain," Gage said.
Still, the work adds to the growing ethical concerns of mixing human and animal cells when it comes to stem-cell and cloning research.
"The worry is if you humanize them too much you cross certain boundaries," said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Medical Center for Biomedical Ethics. "But I don't think this research comes even close to that."
Researchers are nevertheless beginning to bump up against what bioethicists call the "yuck factor."
Three top cloning researchers, for instance, have applied for a patent that contemplates fusing a complete set of human DNA into animal eggs to manufacture human embryonic stem cells.
One of the patent applicants, Jose Cibelli, first attempted such an experiment in 1998 when he fused cells from his cheek into cow eggs. [ed. Cow eggs? Chicken-Cow hybrid ... I LIKE it! ;)]
"The idea is to hijack the machinery of the egg," said Cibelli, whose current work at Michigan State University does not involve human material because that would violate state law.
Technorati Tags: Science | Politics | Religion
T minus 8 and counting
Hmmm, usual cruft at work, on the road, etc. Big news here is that it's colder than a brass door knob in January on an Eskimo's out-house. I'm sure our gas bill is going to be above 200$ this month. Speaking of cold, the Mrs bought me 5 more strings of lights and NO STAR for the top of our tree. I really only needed 2 more strings but I guess she figures that I could bring that auxiliary fusion plant on line to power these buggers. I'm hoping all this power drain does not melt our already strained power grid. As for the Super Saturn, well, I believe it has psionic powers. It felt that I intended on sending it to the ancient car graveyard and suddenly it started to behave. This morning, the windshield fluid pump and the rear defroster would not function but when I drove back home it was in perfect working order. It must be the cold. Probably draining the battery to a point where the system is shutting down non-mandatory subsystems ... like the anti-ecm battery and the micro-singularity generator. Looks like we may be able to squeeze out those extra 3 years I need to pay off the FamilyTank. Flash forward to the next morning and the battery is AWOL again. I'm going to have to put the trickle charger on it overnight. It's nearing zero now and the old mare is not taking it well.
Speaking of near zero, the manor did not clear 60 degrees last night. Not sure what went amiss but I had the stove going all night. Probably just did not tend it enough. On top of that, Alexis decided that she was unimpressed with her dinner and on the last bite, heaved up her meal all over the table and herself. It was intentional. She was upset that since she took TWO HOURS to eat dinner, she would have one hour less of play time. I have vague memories of my Big Little Brother doing this when he was just a tyke too. So we bathe her and send her off to bed. Perhaps we will have better results on her next evening meal since we will be eating out. Swim night, don't you know.
Technorati Tags: Winter|Car
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Diving back in
Another Monday, another week to be ground down like an old graphite pencil. The drive in today was merciful for me, not so much for others. A tractor-trailer dumped a load of steel rolls on the east bound turnpike between my exit and US Route 1. Fortunately for me, this did not add to my woes but assisted me a bit. The truck managed to spew debris on the westbound lanes as well which gated some of the fellow automotive pilots who I would be competing with for space. Closed down the turnpike ... what a mess. Other than that, the work day was fairly uneventful. Just a couple nibbles that I swatted away with my usual concise and curt statement of facts. The real excitement happened near the end of the day. I have a couple of purchases that I needed to return to the Local Home Depot Temple here in KOP. I had purchased an attic fan (version 3 - class 7 tornado power) and a motor for the fan that was dying in the upper attic. Initially, I was going to replace the motor and put a new fan in the lower attic but found an ad in one of the local trash mags that peaked my interest. Apparently, you can buy solar powered attic fans! The concept is actually quite sound. You only need the fan going when it is hot and it is only hot in the summer when the sun is baking your shingles. If it is covered with snow in the winter or it is cloudy it should not be running anyways. The downside is that you have to buy this from an authorized dealer. They apparently cost 400-500 a pop but have a really good warranty if needed. On top of that, I get a discount for having the silly coupon from the magazine. The guy is coming out next weekend at 1000 hours to do a 'first take' to see what he has to work with. I'll see if I can pressure him into cutting down the price a bit since I could probably install the one fan that will be replacing the old fan.
One last thing ... the SuperSaturn is starting to act up. It has had a problem with the key alert bell dinging even though the keys are not in the ignition and NOT dinging when the lights are left on. Now, the rear defroster is no longer working and the windshield fluid pumps are frozen. Not sure if this is the beginning of the end or just another bump in the road. I would really like to keep the car till we have the Family Tank paid off but this may not be in the cards. I'm no longer hot for a diesel ($2.65/gal!?), however, I am considering a Ford Escape Hybrid. They are actually fairly competitive given their size and all. We'll see. Perhaps if the weather heats up a bit (it was 8 this morning) this will 'go away'. My inspection is not till February so I'll have a pretty good handle on our financial state by that time. If repairing the heap costs more than 300$ then it is a wash and the car is going to have a short lifespan in the vehicle fleet.
Technorati Tags: Solar|Car|Traffic
Notes:After years of assailing the U.S. for refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, E.U. leaders admit they will miss their own Kyoto guidelines, and have actually increased greenhouse emissions by 1.1 percent.
Changes in greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries, 1990-2003.
Over all among these countries there was a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of 5.9 per cent, from 18.4 billion tonnes CO² equivalent in 1990 to 17.3 billion tonnes CO² equivalent in 2003.
Country Per cent
New Zealand +22.5
United States +13.3
European Union -1.4
Czech Republic -24.2
Russian Federation -38.5
SOURCE: UNITED NATIONS
N.J. and Del. are among the group aiming to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Pa. is taking an observatory role.
While much of the world faults the United States for not joining a plan to tackle global warming, up to nine Eastern states - including New Jersey and Delaware but not Pennsylvania - are poised this week to take action by themselves.
The states would freeze emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants starting in 2009, and then reduce them by 10 percent between 2015 and 2020. Details of the plan, which would have to be adopted separately by each state, are to be announced as soon as Thursday.
The states project that annual home electric bills could rise by more than $30 a year mainly as the result of power plants switching to more expensive, but cleaner-burning, natural gas. They also have rosier estimates that assume greater spending on energy efficiency and predict that electric bills might actually decline.
Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping "greenhouse gas." Nearly all climate scientists [ed. not even close, but let's continue] believe that emissions from smokestacks, cars and trucks are causing a slow but steady rise in average global temperatures - leading to rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes and the loss of habitat for some plants and animals.
The states include the six New England states, New York, New Jersey and Delaware, although last week it was unclear whether the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts would pull out.
The plan would have more heft with the inclusion of Pennsylvania, a major electricity producer whose emissions are nearly equal to those of the other nine states combined.
But the Rendell administration has opted to be involved in the plan only as an observer.
But a larger reason is that the strategy of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is not comprehensive, he said.
The plan does not address emissions of other greenhouse gases such as methane, which, while less plentiful than carbon dioxide, has a far greater ability to trap the sun's heat. The plan also does not restrict pollution from cars and trucks.[ed. because it could not pass and has no authority or teeth]
"While we respect what the RGGI states are trying to do... we disagree as to approach," Desmond said. "The RGGI states are focusing on a single greenhouse gas from a single class of industry: carbon dioxide from power plants only."
Cars and trucks account for more carbon-dioxide emissions than power plants in the Eastern states.
In New Jersey, for example, transportation accounted for about 69 million tons of the gas in 2001. Electricity generation produced about 21 million tons, according to federal statistics.
The plan would not require reductions at all power plants, but would instead accomplish the goal through the trading of pollution "allowances."[ed. bad, bad, bad. This creation of an artificial points market will stifle any progress here. It's one of the main problems with the Kyoto program]
Some plant owners might choose to reduce pollution more than required, and could then sell the extra allowances to other plants where cutting emissions did not make economic sense. A similar approach has worked well in a federal program to reduce acid rain.
[ed. Pay attention here ... this is the crux]
A big uncertainty is the cost of natural gas, which in the near future will be the main way of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions. A gas-fired plant emits about half the amount of the average coal-burning plant of similar size.
But natural gas prices have soared recently.
Some cost projections assume the price will average $7.50 per million British thermal units (BTUs) during the program. The spot price for natural gas has recently been above $14 per million BTUs, though it is expected to decline.
The nine states "are going to be shooting themselves in the foot economically and driving even more of their manufacturing base overseas," said Douglas L. Biden, president of the Harrisburg-based Electric Power Generation Association.
Another concern is "leakage" - the notion that Eastern utilities would import more coal-generated power from non-participating states, thereby negating some of the reductions.[ed. Free market always finds a cheaper way. Evolution with dollars]
The states are considering various regulatory approaches to limit leakage. They also propose that some proceeds from selling the initial pollution allowances be used for the public benefit, perhaps in the form of customer rebates or investment in cleaner technologies. Ideally, that investment would be made in member states.
Technorati Tags: Kyoto | Politics
Monday, December 12, 2005
I need to Name 5 Weird Habits, and then tag 5 people after I'm done.
Toni, Amanda, Dave, CC and Lei
Technorati Tags: Meme
Sunday, December 11, 2005
loosing power ...
On the way back to the manor, we stop off at one of the local produce dumping grocery stores and load up on milk, yogurt and fruit. Here, I have not choice but to stop off in the Meat Section and bask in the pink and red glow of fluorescent light reflecting off the pre-packaged delectables. Then I spot it, my true love. Spiral sliced ham at ONLY 1.69$ a pound! I lunge at the largest one I could find and haul my slain quarry back to the cart. Alexis is horrified at a piece of meat larger than her being dumped into HER cart and insists that I put it as far from her as possible. Little does she know that she will be dining on this delectable quarter soon enough.
As a final act of defiance in light of the coming Monday, I begin draping the manor with lights. Billions and billions of shimmering LED lights. Putting the non-LED icicle lights along the roofline is actually the most frightening and dangerous part of this. Since I crammed a load of R30 insulation into the attic years ago, we have quite a bit of snow remaining on the roof. I went about shoveling it off and a funny thing happened. A police cruiser rolled by, slowed down in front of the house and did not continue on till I waved at them. They were probably checking up on the manor from the alarm earlier in the day. Seeing some figure stomping about on the roof probably gave them a moment to pause and say "WTF!?". All in all, I was out there till after 1800 putting up strings of lights and I'm still short 2 strings. I'll have to give the Mrs Carte Blanche to go out shopping for them so I can wrap it up. The kids are impressed with the current state though. This year, I took a page from Gramp's book and put up hooks instead of stapling the lights. Makes it easier to put them up in successive years.
Technorati Tags: Family|Christmas
Saturday, December 10, 2005
I leave those two alone so they can sort out who commands the lion share of the bed while I go take care of the hounds. Upon hearing the floor creak, they begin their morning ritual of low barks and nerve grinding whimpers till I let them out. While they are busy trying to outwit each other, I take the 55 gallon drum of ash that we have produced over the week and filter out all the unburned coals. Cheap penny pincher that I am, I take these nuggets and toss them back into the firebox. I have a simple rectangle of 2x4 with a quarter inch screen attached. If it falls through, it's going back into the soil, if not, back into the manor. Every BTU counts, you know. After I throw the unburned carbon back into the stove, I light up the fire and start getting ready for the Breakfast With Santa deal that is being managed by our family friends, the Seliga's. It goes pretty well actually. Pancakes, chaos, screaming kids, Alexis being distant and surly when seated next to Santa ... as usual. Her vicissitudes when it comes to emotions is legendary. She can go from a sweet little chatterbox telling the world about Santa to a petulant, bellicose little burr in seconds. She would have made the most surly union worker wither should they have crossed paths. At least she did not whip out a Glock and try to do away with the Jolly old Soul. We managed to excise ourselves from the gathering with the grace of a pregnant three legged blind yak and get on with the day. I dropped off the Mrs and the 2 sprouts at Target while went off to get my haircut and MY barber shop near the WG Air Base. I got there just as one of the barbers was finishing up so I had ZERO wait. The funny thing about this visit is a man walks in right behind me and eventually sits down in the next seat. When asked how would he like his hair, he points at me and say 'I'll have what he's got!". Now, my flat top is nice, but the man has just a little cape of hair from ear to ear and a big old shiny chrome dome up top. Everyone burst out laughing at that point. Good one, old fellow, good one.
Shopping at Target is typically not a difficult trial for me. Today, however, the hordes of zombie shoppers made the environment stink of angst. On queue, when I found the Mrs and the Terrible Twin Tyrants, Jacob insisted that now would be the best time to use the local facilities. Gotta do this in every place we go at least once. Fine. After weaving through slow-moving wide-loads and surreptitiously circumventing the dazed cart wanderers, we squeeze out a couple tablespoons of fluid and make the return trip to the opposite corner of the giant-box facility. While there, I pick up a half dozen chains of LED Christmas lights for the manor exterior. The neighbors down the street put up a nice display this year so I'll have to one-up them a bit. We made a bee-line for the checkout lines and were happy to see that nearly every 'cattle chute' was manned (womanned?). Pay, pack and escape. Flee to fight another day. I really wanted to get out of there since my next stop was the DMV.
Oh, the woe of the DMV. Actually, our DMV gives out little numbers like a deli and you get to sit and mind your own business. No worrying about what line you're supposed to be in or any nonsense like that. As much as they have tried to make the waiting area as stress free as possible, there is no reading material so you end up face-surfing the whole time. Everyone noticed the young woman with 4 inch heels on. We all looked down and snickered when she stumbled on her way out the door too. Winter, appropriate foot wear, 'nuff said. Other than that guilty little reprise from boredom, there were the standard FATHER-child pairings. Not sure why that is. No Mothers, just Fathers with their teen-age wards. On of the high-points of the day for the public servant I was paired with was me calling him SIR. He was stunned. A polite interaction? Indeed, he was even more amazed when I only required ONE photo for my driver's id. Not like the usual dozen or so for the people who came before me. I almost never need to present my ID so the photo really means close to nothing to me. I did not spend 15 minutes primping and priming myself for the photo either. Good thing I only have to do this every 4 years. I need a drink. Badly. The worst part of this urge is that the Mrs and Co. went off to SuperFresh in the same plaza that the DMV is in. This grocery store has an attached Liquor Store. Strange for Pennsyltucky where all the liquor stores are franchised via the PLBC. After giving her a long, loving kiss outside the gateway to inebriation, I tell her to send in a search-party if I do not come out in a week. Or if I call AMEX to up our credit limit.
Not much else came of the rest of the day. We picked up the Mrs' car from the shop. Needed an inspection so I had dropped it off on Friday. Back at the manor, I hid all my liquor and ill gotten booty (bought a 30$ spiral ham ... mmmmm). While the Mrs and Alexis made cookies, I napped with Jake for a few hours. He was doing his best melt-down renditions and I was just plain wiped out. One thing I did forget to mention is that we finally picked up our Christmas tree on Friday night. This year, we abandoned all the fragile ornaments and stuck to the stuffed, metal and edible ones. The top half of the tree is packed with candy-canes. I can see the desire in the kids eyes when they level their gaze on that forbidden fruit. I'm sure they'll find a way to get at it. They always do.
Technorati Tags: Family|DMV
The best thing about the farm was Grandma. She always had a pile of Jolly Ranchers around the house somewhere or chocolate setting in the cold-room out back. She also had a heart bigger than the world and a love of children that she passed on to us. Never a shortage of creamed-(beef/beans/whatever) at the dinner table either. Of all the places we went on the farm; the pump-house, the quanset hut, the hay-loft ... the one place we did not dare intrude was the basement. I'm not even sure if it is stone, cement or block. For all I know, Al Capone's booty is laying about in plain site down there. It's a forbidden zone that was not denied us, but we never challenged the unspoken warning. Nobody (at least none of my cousins would admit to it) went there. Like now, the fact that some of my uncles are getting on in years and are considering selling off their shares. It's something that pulls at me because I feel that I must pull that silver cord back to me and keep at least the thinest fiber available for my scion. If they so choose, they will have the chance to recliam their heritage. I've talked briefly to my father about this and it looks like I'll need to start saving a considerable lump of liquid assets if I am to start buying 'shares' for the future of the family.
Technorati Tags: Family Farm
Friday, December 09, 2005
- A Philadelphia family is demanding that a local school bus driver be fired after the driver dropped off a 5-year-old boy in a dangerous part of town.
Michael Quinn, 5, who attends Pope John Paul II Regional School told NBC 10 that his substitute bus driver was 30 minutes early and Michael's baby sitter was not waiting for him at the stop.
Michael said that he told the bus driver that he could not get off the bus until his baby sitter arrived, but said the bus driver would not stop yelling at him until he finally got off the bus.
"I said I'm not allowed to get off the bus," said Michael. "Then she screamed her voice for me to get off the bus.
"I got off, then stood there for a minute, cried and ran," said Michael.
Michael had been left alone in front of a bar and across the street from a drug rehab center near Bridge and Eadom streets.
"I was screaming and yelling for my baby sitter," said Michael.
Michael said that he started to run home but his baby sitter spotted him, picked him up and called his mother.
"I imagined him so scared and me not being able to do anything," said Michael's mother, Kristie Biasiello. "It was horrible."
Biasiello said that she called a transportation representative at the Philadelphia School District and the man was "belligerent" to her.
Biasiello wants the substitute bus driver fired and an apology from the school district.
"I don't know who in their right mind would put a little boy in the busy street, in front of a bar and drug treatment center alone and not think twice," said Biasiello.
Technorati Tags: Child
- Imam held after raid is deported
Mohamed Ghorab was arrested on immigration charges in a raid last year at his East Frankford mosque.
An Egyptian cleric arrested during a high-profile federal raid last year on his East Frankford mosque has finally been deported.
Mohamed Ghorab, the imam or spiritual leader at the Ansaar Allaah Islamic Society on Wakeling Street, arrived in Cairo escorted by U.S. immigration agents yesterday morning.
The cleric had sought asylum in the United States, saying he feared persecution in his native country as a member of Dawaa Salafia, an Islamic sect whose members have been repeatedly imprisoned by Egyptian authorities.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled last week that Ghorab had waited too long to ask for asylum.
He came to the United States in 2000 on a tourist visa that soon expired. First he tried to stay by claiming marriage to a U.S. citizen, and then by applying for a religious worker's visa. Immigration judges rejected both petitions.
I had set the alarm for 0500 and as alarm clocks (usually) do, it went off. As I typically do, I paddled the snooze bar for an extra 15 min of bliss under the warm covers. Eventually, I came to my senses and peeked outside to see what the wrathful fury of winter had lain on our doorstep. About a half inch of fluffy white powder. Good, good. I can shower up, take care of the hounds, light a fire and hit the road before things really get started. The forecast predicted an inch in the early hours then 4-7 inches after 0600. It was off a bit. I lingered in the shower a little too long and had to empty out the sooty ash from the wood stove and did not get underway till 0545. By this time, that little veil of tender snow had become a thick wet quilt of slippery cruelty. This is the first really big snowfall of the year so I fully expected anyone on the road to either be a trucker (professional driver, knows what the hell he is doing) on his way through, a Northern Son like myself (who knows how to drive in snow) or a blathering idiot waiting to either be struck down or to ram his/her SUV into some poor unsuspecting soul. I label every driver on the road and do my best to stay clear of that last category. We get the whole gamut of precipitation except hail along the way: snow, rain, sleet, hail ... and of course freezing rain. That last variety is the worst since it preserves your vehicle in a thin yet impenetrable layer of ice. Your locks wont work, your windshield wipers are frozen in place, all sorts of bad things. I manage to get to the client site by 0645 and find that there are a few people with the same thought on their minds. Get here ASAP and wait it out. Within minutes of sitting down, the Mrs calls to tell me that the Day Care/Interment Facility is closed. Good thing she had scheduled today as a vacation day months ago. Somebody was smiling on us since I KNOW the kids will certainly want to go out and play in the snow. Dogs too. I think the Mrs is going to have a pretty good day. Let's hope the predictions of this clearing up by noon are as accurate as the other ones.
Technorati Tags: Traffic | Winter
Thursday, December 08, 2005
- The Coast Guard yesterday gave energy giant BP preliminary approval to bring liquefied natural gas tankers up the Delaware River to Gloucester County with two big ifs:
BP has to implement "necessary" security measures.
Only four U.S. ports handle such shipments. In Boston, the Coast Guard and armed police marine units escort the tankers.
Scott said the Coast Guard's review committee presented him last week with a range of measures that would be needed to "responsibly manage" the risks posed by these vessels.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the meantime, has agreed to hear arguments in a brewing border war between New Jersey and Delaware over the terminal. Delaware has acted to block the facility, saying its 1,900-foot pier would extend into its waters and violate the state's Coastal Zone Act.
Technorati Tags: Gas | Winter