Sunday, December 16, 2012

since we are never going to do anything about the guns...

I think the Egyptian Pharaohs had it right.

When a new one came to power, he often ordered that all images of the prior guy be defaced, and his name erased from History for all time.

I would never dream of advocating laws that dictate what Media can say (slippery-slope #1), but perhaps we can all urge the TV and Radio media to STOP spending countless hours, after these events, focusing on the shooter.  The current repetitive amateur psychology never 'explains' what happened, and only demonstrates to like-minded/susceptible young men how they can achieve (perverse) immortality, too.

Over the past couple of days, I did hear a report that one town's local newspaper, after one of these tragedies, made a policy decision that school shootings would NEVER appear on Page 1, and the shooter's name would never be mentioned.

That might help, but I can't honestly imagine the 24/7 TV news business ever adopting a policy that would just make viewers turn to a more-sensational outlet, and that would hurt ratings/revenue, so screw public interest.

...Unless they all agreed, and, come to think of it, thanks to the unprecedented Media Consolidation of the past 20 years, that would only require action by about 6 CEOs.  Hmmmmm.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

on iconic images

We remember the photo of the North Vietnamese POW, an instant before being shot in the head.

We remember the photos of the jet hitting the 2nd WTC tower.

We remember the photo of John and Jackie arriving at the Dallas airport that sunny Friday morning.

Photographs of impending tragedy have an understandable fascination because we know what is about to happen, and our helplessness to prevent it raises an emotion equal parts horror, frustration, and, let's face it, schadenfreude (oh, those sophisticated Germans).

It is happening again, with the photo of the subway guy trying to escape from the onrushing train.  In that blink-of-an-eye (or 'augenblick', again the Germans with the perfect word for 'moment') image, there is the possibility that he'll make it.  That we know he didn't is what turns the image into a perpetually-haunting one.

We observe, we know what is about to happen, and we cannot stop it.

The point here, is that I am nominating this photo as best metaphor for Humanity, in the face of the now-inevitable 2 degrees Celsius average global warming, from carbon that has already been burned.

The train is coming. and, unfortunately, the engineer is actually accelerating, not slowing down.

In this case, weirdly, all of Us (and our children) are both the Engineer and the Scrambler.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

another day

Got up at my usual time, dressed quickly and headed out the door with the dog.  Totally typical.

Our house is at the top of a small hill, and, when it was originally built, back in the 1930's, it must have had a spectacular Mt. Hood view, which is now obscured by neighboring trees.  You have to walk 50 yards to the street before you get a clear view to the east.

This morning, the cloud bank just to the right of the newly-white mountain had that luminous border that said the Sun's appearance was happening quite soon.  While the dog sniffed around, I stood for several minutes, appreciating the scene:  a few birds above, leaves drifting down, the steam from my breath, the increasing sense of the beginning of a new day.

The Sun appeared to rise above the cloud bank (a persuasive illusion indeed) and its light and promise of warmth filled the scene.  A miraculous, everyday thing.

This morning I am attending the funeral of a wonderful person my own age, who died suddenly on Tuesday.  The world goes on; glad I stopped for a moment.  Next, coffee.  Little pleasures.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

celebrating the release of Windows 8!

I finally decided to bite the bullet, and retire my extremely trusty primary development PC, a Windows XP machine that my son, Ben, built, a couple of years ago.

craigslist to the rescue: I found a guy selling a quad-core PC, with Windows 7 and 1 gig of RAM, for $60.  I contacted him, and he turned out to be a local retired fellow, from whom I bought a PC for Karen's office last year.

We chatted about this and I asked how much extra it would cost to throw in another gig of RAM, and he said $5.  I said, 'go for it'.

I picked it up and plugged it in (using the monitor from my main PC) and, sure enough, there was Windows 7, and it seemed pretty zippy, as expected.  I soon realized that having a 2nd monitor, to enable normal work while everything was getting configured, was going to be necessary.

craigslist to the rescue again - I found a local kid who was selling a perfectly good 17" LCD monitor for $15 - he took $12!

With all that in place, then began the horrifying process of installing and testing all software and development tools, my code-signing certificate, my Favorites.  Configuring SQL Server so that I can see it from Access took a while, as did restoring database backups from my development PC (hint:  the default permissions are not sufficient). 

Then, I spent hours (thanks to a USB external drive) copying over photos, documents and music, copying and testing Karen's web site tools (which, incredibly, require Java 6, not 7 - THAT took a while to solve), etc. etc. etc.  All that took the better part of two days.

To connect the new guy to the internet, I was using a USB wireless adaptor.  Finally, this morning, I reached the point where I was ready to unplug my old guy and plug in the new guy at my desk.  Oh no - ethernet was unable to see the Internet (a direct cable connection to my router)!!!

Windows 7 seemed to want my ISP username and password to establish the broadband connection.  This was puzzling - it should just work.  I reinserted the USB wifi dongle and was able to continue working, while trying everything I could think of, without success.

I talked to 3 Comcast people.  The first ended up giving me 2 phone numbers to call.  One was disconnected and the other was technical support at Netgear - totally useless!  The 2nd Comcast person had a very friendly manner and tried reprovisioning my modem, but that made no difference.  She ended up transferring me to a 3rd technician.

Suffice it to say that I hung up in disgust after 20 minutes on the phone with her, after she told me that I cannot do something that I have been doing all along with the old computer.

Just about at my wits end, I had the bright idea of checking the NIC card in Device Manager and, it wasn't there.  All of a sudden, the veil was lifted.

I rebooted, frantically pressed F2 and, amazingly, the BIOS program came up.  Sure enough, the setting for 'OnBoard LAN' was disabled.  I enabled it, exited the BIOS and, voila, I am (obviously) connected to the Internets, sans wifi.  It all seems so obvious.

Once this hurdle had passed, all that remained to configure and test was the connection to my trusty HP printer/fax/scanner.  I turned it on and Windows 7 did a fine job of installing the driver.  The final step in all this, to prove to myself that all capabilities I need are present and working was to initiate a scan from within Adobe Acrobat.  That seemed to work, although Acrobat crashed after I said 'go ahead and download updates from Adobe' (and that eventually crashed).  Sigh.

At any rate, I did a Speedtest with the new PC, connected via ethernet, and got an A-.

It has taken 5 elapsed days from the point of bringing the new Windows 7 PC home to having everything set up with all tools and files. 

For some reason, I am reluctant to do this any time soon, for Windows 8.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

oh, blog, I have neglected you!

Sorry, but quick Facebook posts are so much easier, and you get instant feedback (especially when posting pointed political stuff).

Fear not, though.  We are headed to France for two weeks in a couple of days, and I hope to do some posts as we go.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

opposite world

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends (a former co-worker) posted a link to a Conservative Facebook page that included this graphic, and a bunch of quotes from Founding Fathers, which implied that they would be outraged to hear that their descendants are considering increasing taxes on the wealthy.

I thought about this a while, and see this meme as an extremely-effective talking point, aimed at the Social-Security-is-an-entitlement and my-wealth-is-mine-and-the-government-has-no-right-to-use-it-for-THOSE-people crowd.

The more I thought about it, I realized, however, that the above alarmist sentiment is entirely correct.


Take a look at this graph, which is one of many at this site.

A MASSIVE redistribution of wealth has been going on at an accelerated rate since the glorious days of St. Ronald.  It has indeed been a theft from the 99%, cleverly engineered through tax, banking, and manufacturing policies that heavily favor the Very Rich, to the detriment of the Rest of Us.

Read any of the wonderful books by David Cay Johnston, who has been relentless in trying to expose this.

So, Dan, my friend, I am in total agreement that "Redistribution is not 'Fairness', it's THEFT".  Unfortunately, I must conclude that you are confusing the Victims with the Robbers.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

today's news

Listening to the news this morning, I hear:

disappointing monthly jobs number, disappointing monthly jobs number, disappointing monthly jobs number, disappointing monthly jobs number, disappointing monthly jobs number, disappointing monthly jobs number...

immediately followed by...

romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, romney says, etc.

Meanwhile, buried on page 14, it seems there is another number that just might be more meaningful in the long term.

Normally, I am quite in favor of Evolution, however, it certainly is too bad that the short-sighted gene won out over the long-term-vision gene.  It makes sense that this is so ('OMG, is that a tiger lunging at me?'), but, still, considering the general absence of tigers, why is it we are still so unable to hear the horn blaring and recognize the oncoming headlights pointing at us?

Simple, in the words of Upton Sinclair:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Substitue 'lifestyle' for 'salary' and it's all clear.

PS:  received this mass email this morning, from 'The Washington Times':

Say “no” to higher electricity rates!
Protect your family’s affordable electricity.
At a time of great economic stress, the EPA is enacting a series of back-door mandates that threaten to increase the cost your family’s electricity. EPA’s rules on coal will curtail America’s more affordable energy from the nationĂ­s most abundant energy resources. Click here to sign our petition against higher electricity rates!
American job losses.
With 14 million Americans already out of work — these EPA mandates could cause another 250,000 job losses across the country. We can’t afford to lose these well paying middle-class jobs. Click here to sign our petition.

    You can help. Stand up to keep energy prices low and protect
    American jobs! Sign our petition today.


Did you know that Denmark has significantly cut its carbon emissions chiefly by raising the cost of electricity?  You can look it up.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a visit with Mr. Pessimist

It's me again.  Can't help it - I've read too much history to convincingly portray myself otherwise.

This piece in the New Yorker is one in a long series of valuable Climate reporting they have published over the last few years.  See also Elizabeth Colbert's many pieces.

The Michael Specter article is about Geoengineering, and you should read it because, I believe, this is our future. This idea was reinforced when, a few months ago, we heard a presentation by Paul Gilding.

The basic idea is simple, and even a shallow look at human history reveals the long-standing pattern:  societies always reach points of crisis because they refrain from dealing with threats until the level of disruption discomforts the comfortable.  Duh!

At the point when the crisis becomes devastating (whether it's the Mongol hordes burning your cities or 'clever' financial manipulations crashing your economy), the society may or may not collapse (see Jared Diamond's work).  Many societies have ultimately not survived those types of crises.

Now, back to Geoengineering.

I firmly believe that the Political and Industrial Powers of our world will do NOTHING to scale-down the fossil-fuel economy.  We are too comfortable with the world we have created, where extracting and burning carbon at an ever-increasing rate is absolutely necessary.  Add in the clearly-emerging feedback loops in the Arctic and the oceans, and it becomes very difficult to envision any public policy shift that will effectively mitigate disaster, especially for coastal cities around the globe.  Sorry.

My prediction:  at some point, the world-consciousness will arrive at the penultimate "Oh, Shit!" moment.  Grasping in panic towards any possible way out, Humanity will have no choice but to turn to the Geoengineering community and plead, "save us."

One or more of the grandiose Geoengineering rolls-of-the-dice will be attempted.  We can only hope that one or more of them will work, although the problem with rolls-of-the-dice is that the Law of Unintended Consequences then becomes the Supreme Law of the Land Planet.

Oh, well, as George (W) Bush once said (paraphrased):  "I'm not concerned about how the future regards me, since all of us will be dead by then."

Monday, May 14, 2012

it drives me nuts - mid-May edition

Several times over the past few days, as NPR continues its 'balanced' approach to covering the Evangelical 'concern' (i.e. hysteria) over the Obama Same-Sex marriage announcement, I have heard several presumably-sincere individuals saying that their opposition is simply and firmly because it 'violates Biblical teachings'.

Case closed.

Reminds me of the viral email that periodically circulates (at least among Friends of Mine), reprinting a satirical letter to Dr. Laura, that Snopes accepts as pretty legit.  You can read the letter here, along with Snopes' comments about Dr. Laura, etc.  It's a brilliant piece of writing.

IMHO, anyone using the 'Bible tells me it is an abomination' argument as their reason to STRONGLY oppose Obama's re-election, and continues to, for example, eat those forbidden pork and shellfish products (not to mention refraining from stoning to death a neighbor who violates the Sabbath) is either a pathetically-manipulated sheep or a hypocritical bigot.

Or both.

Monday, April 30, 2012

men behaving badly

No, I'm not talking about World War I and II, although these are conspicuous examples.

Here's a thought I just had.  SOME White, Christian men are still so upset the a you-know-what is President, that they grasp at any of the many memes (both jokes and out-right lies) circulating thru the hatemosphere (I thought for a moment that I just made up that word, but I see a band has already claimed it).  This serves to bolster their sense that 'I am still superior', which was, after all, the subtext behind a lot of social thinking, prior to the 1960s.

I'm thinking that the recent right-wing state laws concerning contraception, forced probing, etc are yet another chapter in the same vein.  That is, their usage of 'take our country back' means SOME White, Christian men are fighting to return to the days when women and blacks knew their place (i.e. the slave quarters, the kitchen, and the laundry room).

Certainly not in the White House.  Certainly not in control of their bodies. 'Must assert dominance' (rinse and repeat).

Thinking of Gandhi's famous dictum ("First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."), I guess the most hopeful way to look at this current spate of shameful state laws is that, maybe, we are at stage 3 1/2.

Unfortunately, many of them are armed, and not part of a well-regulated militia.

Friday, April 27, 2012

just another accolade

In this case, an Accolade Elm, planted this morning.  Check back in 10 years and it should be much taller!

Many thanks to my good friends at Friends of Trees.  If you don't know all about them, why not?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

what we did was perfectly legal

So, can we all agree that the Rich are able to pay absurdly and historically low rates of taxation, since clever lawyers (many of whom had a hand in writing tax-law provisions - but that's another story) manipulate the many arcane loopholes and dodges to hide/nullify income they receive (thru 'work' that pretty darn seldom involves dirtying one's hands)?

Remember: marginal tax rate was 70% before Reagan (and 91% under Eisenhower), so why are they screaming so loudly when it's proposed to take it up to 30%?  Just asking.  But I digress.

What's the reply of the 'Have Mores' when challenged about this situation?  "What we do is perfectly legal."

Of course it's perfectly legal, and that's the problem.  But I digress.

Now, let's examine the current outrage (they are SHOCKED, SHOCKED) about the Secret Service shenanigans in Colombia. I've only heard one Media Guy mention, quickly in passing, that prostitution is legal in Colombia. 

Since that is the case, wouldn't it be delightful if the Media would dismiss the boorish behavior and bad judgement (as they do with the Super Rich), by letting us know that it's no big deal, because, after all, it was perfectly legal?

Just sayin'.

Monday, April 09, 2012

I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling

Yes, it's a reference to the classic Fats Waller song, but, today, I'm thinking of the ('classic' does not begin to describe it) Hitchcock film, 'Vertigo', which was filmed all around the Bay Area, including the critical (an understatement) sequence(s) at San Juan Bautista.

I headed there this morning, to make a pilgrimage to the site of my obsessions. I was last here in 1976.  Frequent viewers of the film (if you are not among these, why not?) will surely recognize:

Looking across the square, to the livery stable and building where the inquest took place.  Both were securely locked up, to keep out gawkers such as me.

View of the chapel, from where 'Madeline' looks over her shoulder and pulls away from Scottie ("there's something I have to do").

Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak were here.  As you may have heard, it did not end well, twice.
Yes, this bell tower is a fairly recent construction.  Hitch (you knew this already) did a matte shot to create the bell-tower that did not exist in the 50's.
Pulling away from the town, heading back toward Watsonville, I drove along the (surprisingly brief) eucalyptus corridor (Highway 101) that figures in the mood-setting scenes where Scottie drives both Madeline and Judy to the Mission.

'Vertigo' can be viewed with10 minutes advanced notice at my house, any evening.

Leaving Santa Cruz tomorrow, heading for Ashland.  My work here is done.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

a walk in the (red)woods

Still here in Santa Cruz.  Drove up Graham Hill Road to the Cowell Redwoods State Park.

Walked a couple of miles, down into a little canyon with massive redwoods, then up to an Observation Deck, then, by another trail, back to the car.  A few other hikers around and a lively mild day.  Cell phone photos/videos:

Of course, it's impossible to show the size of these guys.

Believe me, this one was massive.

Even the little trees were photogenic (at least in person).

I was heading to this Observation Deck.

The fallen tree across the creek was pretty massive, too.

Here's a video from bottom to as far up as I could see.

Here's a 360 degree pan from the Observation Deck.  Unfortunately, some old, fat guy got in the way.

Back in town, I visited the (reconstructed) Santa Cruz Mission.  A few minor objects of historical interest in the Museum, but since it's a total reconstruction (based on an original painting that was on display), you don't need to see any photos.

I may try to get over to San Juan Bautista tomorrow - haven't been there in person in decades, although I visit it compulsively, via 'Vertigo', quite frequently.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

sight-seeing around Santa Cruz

I drove a few miles north and stopped at a informal parking-area where there were three other cars.  Went for a nice walk (maybe 1 1/2 miles out and back) along the cliff-top.  Aside from a couple of hispanic fishermen (proudly displaying a catch, although it was impossible to figure out how he did it from that height) there was nobody else around.

It was sunny and *very* windy, but I had no complaints.  Here are some cell-phone photos:

All I could think was "Pacific Ocean: here's North America!  It continues on to the east for a while."

But, by far, the most amazing sight in Santa Cruz today is the (once-a-year public showing), at the Santa Cruz Memorial Park and Funeral Home, of their life-sized (really) wax recreation of 'The Last Supper':

You gotta see it to believe it - a bunch of white European guys portraying all the usual suspects, arranged in the classic tableau that you've seen a million times.  The funeral home has owned this for many years, but they really only open it for viewing on Maundy Thursday, so I couldn't ignore it.

Also, I couldn't restrain myself from asking the attendant, both of us with very serious faces, if they ever considered replacing the bread with matzah.  "It would be more authentic," I suggested, before heading back out into the sunshine.

sloppy or evil? the perpetual question

NBC Nightly News, last night.  Oops, they did it again.

They devoted a couple of valuable minutes to the Big Question of the Day:  Does President Obama not understand the Role of the Supreme Court?

Um, the guy was a professor of Constitutional Law.

Presidents have frequently made political statements making it clear that they have a point of view on an issue before the Court. In fact, it goes back to John Marshall's first Court. Obama did not say "they can't do it".  He said, in effect, "I think it would be very bad if these 'activist, unelected judges' (a factually correct phrase, by the way) do this, and you (the public) ought to think about this."  There is a difference.

So NBC Nightly News is reinforcing the Talking Point that "this President does not understand the Constitution."  Thank you very much.

Then, to cement this, they continue by reminding us (by 'us', I mean potential voters with hazy memories and/or hazy understanding of logic), that this was the same President who, during a State of the Union address, called out Supremes, to their faces, while they were forced to be sitting there listening to him, that he was angry about an earlier decision they had reached about a 'campaign finance issue' (the exact words the reporter used).

See title of this post.

They (stupidly? deviously?) reinforce the 'he does not know the Supremes can overturn laws' meme, whereas, as the Rest of us know, the rap against Citizens United is certainly NOT that "they can't overturn a law" but "they reached a conclusion that flew in the face of established precedent, in a case that had been cherry-picked by corporate Overlords to open the door to a thorough corruption of the democratic process".

Never mind, I guess it's not worth going into that much detail, when the simple sound-bite ("President = Dumb") makes it easier to move onto the next Big Story (or commercial).

If they really wanted to honestly reinforce the point the President was actually making, rather than 'Citizens United' they would have made the quick reference to 'Bush v. Gore'.  Remember that one?  I still do.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hello, Salem? Hello?

I needed to fax some tax-credit documents to the Oregon Dept. of Energy in Salem.  Easy, right?

I started dialing early this morning - busy.  I waited until after 8:30 (maybe they don't turn on the fax until someone is in the office) - busy.

I tried after 9:00 am - busy.

Although Salem is within my Area Code, it is necessary to dial 1 first - no question about that.

Oddly, though, when I called the fax number from my cell phone, their fax machine answered.

What the heck?  Why can't my land-line call Salem (I tried the ODOE's regular voice phone number - 503-378-4040, too - consistently busy).

Time to call phone companies. 

I got frustrated quickly with the Qwest phone-tree, so thought I'd go directly to my Long-Distance provider (Credo).  I got someone on the phone quickly, but, after researching the path that my call would take, concluded that the call was not technically Long Distance, but was under the control of Qwest (i.e. CenturyLink).

Called Qwest and finally got a human who transferred me to another person, who described in great detail the technical path that my call would take, thru various phone networks.  She concluded that it was Credo's fault, and I mentioned that I had already spoken with them, and they denied involvement.  She then looked further and said it appears that the call had been routed to some other network - she had a Support phone number but didn't know exactly who would answer the call.

I called - Verizon answered, and, after hearing the problem, said that it was Qwest's issue, and that they couldn't help me because they needed technical information that comes from Qwest, not me.

I drove up to Karen's office and sent the damn fax from there - no problem.

Good thing I don't have to frequently call anyone in Salem.  Now, the question is, do I get back on the line with Qwest, or get back to my normal life?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

spring at last!

Karen left town last night, for a few days of work and family in LA.  Just in time.

I woke up this morning around 5 and it was clear the power was out.  No way of knowing what time that happened, of course, since we no longer have any electric clocks, with hands.

I got up around 7, just as the power came back on, which is nice.  Then I looked outside, cell-phone camera in hand.  Here's the back yard:

Then I walked around to the front of the house.  Hmmm - this isn't right!

Yes, the beautifully-shaped tree by the driveway is split and all the careful pruning over the years has evaporated.

At least there is now internet access and hot water for coffee.  Happy Spring, everybody.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

progress IS possible, in small things

World Peace and rational Public Policy is as distant as always, but at least my broadband has improved.

Here are the metrics from my original Qwest DSL connection (that I had for several years, and never complained about):

A couple of months ago, Comcast made me a TV/Internet deal that I couldn't refuse. I bought a used cable modem from a craigslist guy, and the connection improved enough to be noticeable.  Plus we were now able to waste infinitely more hours watching stupid TV that we did not receive before.  The initial Comcast metric was:

The other day, I got a letter from Comcast saying that, if I upgraded my modem to a DOCSIS 3.0 model, I'd get even better connectivity.  I bought one from another craigslist guy yesterday ($65), and (with ZoneAlarm turned off), it now looks like this:

Response time is noticeably faster.  Before yesterday I had never heard of DOCSIS.  Ya learn something new every day.

Now, I guess I better get to work...

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

I am troubled

Received a political phone call this morning.  It was in support of the Obama re-election, and the script that the person read hit all the points on which I am totally sympathetic.

Here's the problem.  At the outset, the caller identified herself as calling from some kind telemarketing company, for the Obama re-election campaign.  When she finished the spiel, I asked again 'what did you say was your organization?' and she (a little more slowly) said the name of what sounded like a for-profit marketing service.

I am just not comfortable about this.  I have done phone solicitations for organizations in which I believe, and that is fundamentally different from hiring a company to make the calls, and paying them a cut of the take.  I wanted to ask the caller if she also made calls for GOP candidates, too, but figured the best I could do for her would be to get off the line quickly, which I did.

Am I naive, or is it too much to ask that the Democrats use motivated supporters to make these calls (where 100% of the contribution goes to the cause), rather than a private (theoretically non-political) company, who could be selling pet-insurance as well as Barack Obama?

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Little Thought Experiment

I woke up this morning, and as on every morning, began to reconstruct the world. 

Unless yesterday or the day before included an event of significant disruption (i.e. any one of the Ten Plagues, or some other 'Act of God'), it's a good bet ($10,000?) that today will be (looking at the basic conditions of Life), pretty much like yesterday.

In other words, we are conditioned to generally not see long-term change, in the absence of obvious short-term change.  The frogs-slowly-boiled-alive thing.

Supposing that, instead of waking up every day, you wake up once a year.  Let's take a short walk thru the history of the past 10 calendar years (again, assuming 1 year per day - a 30-day month corresponding to 30 actual years):

10 Years Ago (~1550 BC):  Mycenaean civilization starts in Ancient Greece.

9 Years Ago  (~1200 BC):  Start of Iron Age in Middle East

8 Years Ago  (~800 BC):   Pre-Etruscan period in Italy. 

7 Years Ago  (~500 BC):   Beginning of Roman Republic

6 Years Ago  (~120 BC):   Maccabees victorious over the Syrians (and they've hardly troubled us since)

~5 1/2 years ago:    Jesus
5 Years Ago  (~250 AD):   Roman Emperor institutes persecution of Christians in attempt to restore the religion of Rome.

4 Years Ago  (~600 AD):   Human population of the Earth: about 200 million.

3 Years Ago  (~900 AD):   Human population of the Earth: about 240 million (not much change). 

2 Years Ago  (~1300 AD):  Population of Imperial China: 60 million

1 Year Ago  (~1680 AD):   La Salle explores the length of the Mississippi River. Finds no barge traffic.

Got it?  Now here's where it gets really interesting:

8 Months ago (~1770):   Human population - 750 million 

6 Months ago (~1830):   Human population - 1 billion (1000 million).  Not much of a change.

5 Months ago (~1860):    Edwin Drake drills first oil well (you knew I'd be getting around to this, right?)

4 Months ago (~1892):    Gottlieb Daimler uses internal combustion engine to build a four-wheel vehicle, considered the first modern automobile.

3 1/2 Months ago (~1900): 4,200 passenger cars built in the US

3 Months ago (~1922):   First year where Ford builds over 1 million cars

Catch your breath.  Here we go...

2 Months ago (~1952):    Human population - 2.5 billion   World oil consumption: 8 million barrels/day

1 Month ago (~1982):    Human population - 4.5 billion.  World oil consumption: 60 million barrels/day.  375 million cars in the world.

2 Weeks ago (1998):    Human population - 6 billion; 600 million cars in the world.

1 Week ago (2005):    World oil consumption: 85 million barrels/day.

yesterday (2011):       Human population - 7 billion; World oil consumption: 89 million barrels/day.

The point of all this is to visualize how recently, in human history, we've been living with a *massive* burning of fossil fuel, and an  explosive growth in the number of people and cars. The world was a VERY different place in 1950 (not to mention 1980 when we elected the first Republican President after US Peak Oil was reached).

Aside from the energy required to run our cars, don't forget the energy required to make them: mining/refining/transporting/shaping the metals, making plastics (from oil), making tires (7 gallons of oil per tire), etc.

We have made a deal with the fossil-fuel companies, that has brought us astonishing comforts and conveniences (within the past 2 months, accordingly to the above vision). In exchange for enabling our modern life, we allow them to make exorbitant annual profits, feed the system that burns that oil/gas/coal (releasing ever-increasing amounts of CO2), and even continue to pay them extra subsidies (bribes?) from the public Treasury (although Obama is beginning to force the issue about that).

What am I getting at?

Picture yourself as Faust, happily enjoying your selection of TV channels, the abundance of groceries in your local supermarket, lots of roads and bridges, and the endless 'entertainment' of the current US political process. If you're REALLY hungry, it's probably just a short drive to your local fast-food place, where you can get a double cheeseburger off the 'value' menu.

Now imagine Mephistopheles walking up to your front door, about to ring the bell.

Just sayin'.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sedona - Airport Mesa sunset

I googled 'best sunset view in sedona' and several people said 'Airport Mesa'.  It's a shamefully easy drive to a little parking area half-way up (room for 10-15 cars) and then a short uphill scramble to an incredible viewpoint.  We got there in time for the show.

Looking south, towards VOC (Village of Oak Creek):

Eric and Lola, looking across the Sedona sprawl.

Red Rocks lived up to their reputation.

Ah yes.

Here's a video, panning 280 degrees, a little before the above intensity, but you get the idea.

Sedona - Doe Mountain hike

On our 2nd day, we hiked Doe Mountain. This is a detached mesa quite adjacent to Fay Canyon (yesterday's hike).

Got started around 10 am - the parking lot was totally filled, but, aside from one large group, had the trail (and the top) mostly to ourselves. It's uphill all the way!
As we climed, the views improved.
Looking across the valley - you can see the entrance to Fay Canyon.
Almost to the top!
The top is flat with a zillion paths, all leading to viewpoints along the steep rim.  This is looking pretty much north.
More of the view, to the north/north-east.
Looking back along the east rim.
Looking south-east, towards Sedona.  Lovely day - great hike.

Sedona - Fay Canyon hike

On our first full day in Sedona, we hiked into Fay Canyon. Here's the entrance.
A short side-trail led to this arch.
Looking up into the canyon.
Largely flat trail, easy to get to - great introduction to the area.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

it might as well be Spring

Half-way thru February, and the rhubarb is starting to come back!

Here are the garlics that I planted last fall.  Also, see the chard that wintered over?

But here is the big news:  today I planted 10 new Golden Everbearing raspberries surrounding some volunteers that spread from our main raspberry patch.

The asparagus bed is still sleeping - stay tuned!

Also this morning, I completed a new Access report of Species Richness data, that used some (ahem) clever code to programmatically sort a specific number of columns left-to-right based on the values in Row 1.  Actually, I used the Macro Recorder to write the basic code - I just had to adapt it for Access VBA.

To make that macro code work, I also needed a way to convert an Excel column NUMBER into the ALPHA Excel column heading (that is, I need to convert column #34, for example, into the string "AH".  Thanks to geniuses on the Internet, the formula for doing this is simply (the variable 'maxSpecies' contains the column number):

Left(xlSheet.Cells(1, maxSpecies).Address(1, 0), InStr(1, xlSheet.Cells(1, maxSpecies).Address(1, 0), "$") - 1)

I have no idea why this works, but I pasted it in and it does.  Cool, huh?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

translated by bing?

One of my Facebook friends is Baris, who was our (wonderful) guide in Turkey a couple of years ago.  Alas, most of his Facebook posts are in Turkish, which leaves me out.  Today, however, I noticed that Comments are accompanied by a 'Translate' link.

When I click the link, I get a translation, proudly advertised as from Bing.  I (like just about everybody else) never use Bing, but now that I see its translation ability, I can't wait: