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Posts from — May 2011

The Fiesta Of Five Flags

Pensacola’s Fiesta of Five Flags has started [the real reason for the faux pirate thing in my area]. The first attempt by the Spanish to settle in the area that has become the US was interrupted by a hurricane, which is why St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied city [founded by Europeans] in the US.

They still use the wrong flags, but they have gotten better. I did notice that they use the wrong British flag at their Fiesta site, but the correct one on the city’s flag poles. At least Earl Bowden got them to use the proper flag for the Confederate year.

It’s all about celebrating local heritage [selling stuff] and that we are more than the “Redneck Riviera” [but we’ll sell you a T-shirt that says that].

May 31, 2011   Comments Off on The Fiesta Of Five Flags

Billy Bowlegs Festival

Jolly Rogers

In order to generate “local excitement” [sell stuff] the chamber of commerce is once again annoying people with the Billy Bowlegs Festival. This year the unavoidable part runs from Friday, June 3rd and finishes up on Monday with a really annoying parade that screws up traffic and sends a lot of noisy people through my neighborhood.

Almost at bad as the Monday traffic jam are the Friday fireworks. I know a lot of people enjoy fireworks, but they probably have not seen what loud noises and flashes of light can do to people and aircraft – I am definitely not a fan.

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May 31, 2011   Comments Off on Billy Bowlegs Festival

Too Much Time In Washington

Neil Macdonald of CBC News reports on US politics: Debt and insensibility in modern-day America

House Speaker John Boehner, addressing the Economic Club of New York this week, repeated the Republican sacrament that the debt can and will be conquered without a penny of new taxes.

Republicans consider Americans, the most lightly taxed citizenry in the developed world, to be terribly overtaxed already.

Despite near-consensus among economists (and even moderate Republicans) that only a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts can even begin to solve the mess, Boehner told his audience that that is just a myth.

Massive spending cuts and entrenching low tax cuts permanently, goes the Republican argument, will somehow goose such wild economic growth that government revenues will gush in and all will be well again.

Every economist here knows nothing can really be accomplished until the so-called “entitlements” — Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid — are brought under control.

Those programs are set to balloon by trillions of dollars and are severely underfunded.

He started out so well, but then he just had to “balance” the unkind things he said about Republicans by finding fault with the Democrats. I would like to see the names of the economists who are so concerned with “entitlements” that they don’t know that Medicare and Social Security have nothing to do with the Medicaid program or the budget.

Medicaid is different in each state, and the Federal government provides matching funds. The states are cutting their Medicaid programs, so the Federal cost will also go down without any action by Congress. A competent economist would know that.

Given that the Social Security Trust Fund has trillions of dollars in it, it would appear that the program administrators knew that the money would be needed.

May 30, 2011   Comments Off on Too Much Time In Washington

He Just Wants You To Remember It

The ABC reports on why Steve Bates used “that font”: Ugly font may improve learning

Inspired by comic strips and hated by font designers, new research suggests Comic Sans may help people remember what they read.

Comic Sans was released by Microsoft in 1994, as a font that looked friendly and childlike but most importantly did not look ‘techie’.

But the font does not enjoy overwhelming support. A few years ago there was an internet campaign to have it banned, and there are forums where designers and typographers whinge about the font’s awkward weighting and haphazard kerning.

US researchers from Princeton University and Indiana University decided to test what affect ‘difficult to read’ fonts such as Comic Sans have on learning and retention.

[If you aren’t using a Windows machine, you won’t may not see the font change.]

May 30, 2011   29 Comments

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Memorial DayThis is a picture from one of the columbariums at the Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of many of those who served the United States since the middle of the 19th century.

That is my Father’s marker. He didn’t know those located around his marker, but they all shared service to their country as part of their life.

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May 30, 2011   5 Comments

The Senate Republicans Are Also Scum

The Washington Post notes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demands spending cuts, Medicare overhaul for deal on debt limit. This is because he wants to kill off middle and lower class Americans who have spent their entire working lives paying Medicare insurance premiums, so they would have health insurance in retirement.

The Republicans don’t want to pay back the 17.9% of the deficit that is owned by the Social Security Trust Fund in the form of government bonds. They gave that money to the wealthy as tax breaks, and don’t want to have to get it back.

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune wrote an informative piece, Medicare is going bankrupt! Again., listing all of the predictions that Medicare was going broke. Those who predicted it make Harold Camping’s Apocalypse predictions look like Paul the octopus on World Cup winners, rather than the total loser he is. After all, Camping is only O for 2, while the Medicare crowd are O for 12+.

The best way of dealing with the deficit and improving Medicare is to put people to work by repairing the country’s infrastructure, just like FDR did in the 1930s.

May 29, 2011   Comments Off on The Senate Republicans Are Also Scum

Because They Are Scum

CBS covers the latest Republican attack on people: Funds for tornado victims will be offset

(CBS News) House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Sunday said that the government would “find the money” for emergency assistance to disaster-struck regions like Joplin, Mo., but that any aid would be offset by cuts to the federal budget.

Joplin is the latest American city to face devastation at the hands of a powerful tornado in what has been the deadliest tornado season on record since 1950. As of Sunday, the Joplin death toll was at 139, but is expected to go higher as the search continues for more than 100 people still missing.

In an appearance on “Face the Nation,” Cantor (R-Va.) emphasized that, in dealing with the devastation, “there is an appropriate federal role” – but that, like any family, the government doesn’t have unlimited resources.

“Congress will find the money,” Cantor told CBS News senior correspondent Harry Smith. “And it will be offset.”

The Boehner Politburo won’t even consider helping the victims of disasters unless it can extract a “pound of flesh” from some other weak and defenseless group. They created a slush fund in the Defense budget to hide the earmarks that they claim are no longer allowed, so let’s start by eliminating that, and then we can talk about reducing the size of Congressional staffs. If that isn’t enough, we can jack up their health insurance co-pays, and reduce their salaries and travel budgets.

May 29, 2011   4 Comments

Tropical Depression Songda – Day 8 Final

Tropical Depression SongdaPosition: 34.5N 137.5E [ 9AM CST 1500 UTC 0000 JST].
Movement: Northeast [050°] near 30 mph [48 kph].
Maximum sustained winds: 35 mph [ 55 kph].
Wind Gusts: 45 mph [ 75 kph].

Songda was disrupted by the rugged terrain of the Wakayama Prefecture and is transitioning to an extratropical gale. This is the final advisory.

May 29, 2011   Comments Off on Tropical Depression Songda – Day 8 Final

Building An Old Box

Today was the anniversary of Alan Mathison Turing publishing his paper, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem“, which is one of the founding documents of IT. Along with Claude Elwood Shannon’s1937 masters thesis, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits, you have the basis for the fundamental components of modern computers.

It was therefore highly appropriate to read that one of the more important of early computers has been resurrected: Code-cracking machine returned to life.

These were the machines that took the output generated by the Colossus, the true “code-cracker”, and used it to convert the encrypted messages into plain-text. Both the Colossus and the Tunny machines were created by engineers working for the telephone division of the Royal Mail.

May 28, 2011   4 Comments

RIP Gil Scott-Heron

The BBC notes that US musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron dies at 62. Juan Cole embedded his most well-known work: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

While he is addressing black issues in the piece, substitute liberals for blacks and you have the same problem of media invisibility. Just as the media selects “approved” black leaders, it selects a small group of “approved” political voices. Consider that a dozen Tea Party protestors show up anywhere and everyone is told about it, but tens of thousands of people can gather for a liberal cause and there is silence.

He was an oral poet. He continued what the “Beat poets” were doing, but the tradition goes back to the Greeks, and is found throughout the world. He wasn’t just a lyricist, although some of his poetry is musical, he also wrote poetry to be read and pondered in silence.

He has been called the “godfather of rap”, but rap is just a continuation of the same oral tradition, story telling in a rhyming pattern with accompaniment. The purpose is to make a point about the world the poet lives in.

May 28, 2011   Comments Off on RIP Gil Scott-Heron

Tropical Storm Songda – Day 7

Tropical Storm SongdaPosition: 31.5N 133.4E [ 9PM CDT 0300 UTC 1200 JST].
Movement: Northeast [045°] near 35 mph [56 kph].
Maximum sustained winds: 65 mph [100 kph].
Wind Gusts: 80 mph [130 kph].
Tropical Storm Wind Radius: 150 miles [240 km].

Currently about 565 miles [905 km] West-Southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

It has encountered very strong sheer from a ridge ahead of it, and is being disassembled.

The Ryukyus were very lucky given what Songda was capable of doing a little over a day ago. It had been the strongest tropical storm of 2011.

[For the latest information click on the storm symbol, or go to the CATEGORIES drop-down box below the CALENDAR and select “Hurricanes” for all of the posts related to storms on this site.]

May 28, 2011   Comments Off on Tropical Storm Songda – Day 7

Preliminary Air France Findings

The BBC reports on the first finding released from the recovered data and voice recorders: Air France Rio crash: Jet plunged in minutes

The Air France jet which crashed into the Atlantic en route from Rio in 2009 stalled and fell in three and a half minutes, French investigators report.

The air accident investigations bureau (BEA) found the crew had struggled with contradictory speed readings just before the plane crashed.

The BEA statement did not look at the causes of the crash but one theory is that the jet’s speed probes failed.

Flight AF 447 went down on 1 June 2009 after running into an intense high-altitude thunderstorm, four hours into a flight from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Paris.

One of the instruments showed “a sharp fall” in air speed as the plane entered a zone of turbulence, the stall warning sounded and the autopilot and auto-thrust disengaged, the BEA said in its statement.

As the plane slowed, it climbed to 38,000 ft (11,600m).

Based on the information it looks like as they were attempting to avoid the turbulence they were caught in an updraft, as 38,000 feet is an dangerous altitude for a passenger aircraft, and then lost lift and went into a spin.

Their instruments were giving contradictory information, so there was no obvious solution. In clouds, there would be no visual clues to help them figure out what the aircraft was actually doing. The data recorder shows a spiral into the ocean.

May 27, 2011   12 Comments

No One Listens To Me

I keep telling people that the biggest danger in Alaska is moose, but people think I’m exaggerating. How about the opinion of an Alaskan wildlife biologist?

CBS reports Caution warned after Alaska moose attacks

Jessy Coltrane, an Anchorage-area state wildlife biologist, said moose are not predators and charge only when they feel threatened or their personal space is trespassed. But that distance that can vary widely from moose to moose, Coltrane said.

“The best practice around moose is to go away around a moose. Assume every moose is a serial killer standing in the middle of the trail with a loaded gun,” said Coltrane, urging people to treat them with more respect.

The “personal space” of a moose can be 1 to 500 miles, depending on the season. Just for Badtux, one of the attacks was to a “touron” who was “just trying to pet” 1500 pounds of psycho-protein under a shag carpet.

May 27, 2011   4 Comments

Typhoon Songda – Day 6

Typhoon SongdaPosition: 23.9N 124.4E [ 9PM CST 0300 UTC 0900 JST].
Movement: North-Northeast [020°] near 18 mph [30 kph].
Maximum sustained winds: 120 mph [195 kph].
Wind Gusts: 150 mph [240 kph].
Tropical Storm Wind Radius: 175 miles [280 km].
Hurricane Wind Radius: 65 miles [100 km].

Currently about 340 miles [ 545 km] Southwest of Kadena AB, Okinawa.

The Southern Ryukyu Islands are in for a very bad time from this storm, although it may lose strength quickly as there is evidence of an eyewall replacement cycle beginning.

Down to Category 3, and the weakening is expected to continue as it heads North. Still a major storm, but not as destructive as it had been.

[Note: My Dad and I both flew out of Kadena.]

[For the latest information click on the storm symbol, or go to the CATEGORIES drop-down box below the CALENDAR and select “Hurricanes” for all of the posts related to storms on this site.]

May 27, 2011   Comments Off on Typhoon Songda – Day 6