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Posts from — February 2012

Conditions

Sled DogThings should be nice on the trail as long as the freezing weather holds, because there has been a lot of new snow to cushion things, and the puppies are much happier with cold weather.

Like the Quest, the moon is cooperating with a waxing crescent going to full on March 8th for those who want to run at night. The day was 10 hours and 16 minutes in Anchorage, and 10 hours in Nome. It is lengthening by almost 6 minutes a day in the South, and nearly 7 minutes a day at the northern end of the trail.

Speaking of puppies, the Anchorage Daily News is posting a lot of articles on the dogs, mostly on lead dogs, past and present. The ‘Howl of Fame’ article covers some of the great lead dogs of the past. It takes a leader gets into what mushers look for in lead dogs.

Then they cover one of the great of the current dogs, Silver, who is running his last race and first Iditarod this year at 10 years old. The Yukon Quest named its award for heroic acts by a dog, for Silver, with very good reason.

There is another nice piece about Sadie, a leader on Zoya DeNure’s team. Keep in mind that Zoya and John run their kennel with “rescues, runts, and rejects”, dogs other people didn’t want.

These races are about the dogs. That’s why it is called ‘Sled Dog Racing’, not ‘Musher Racing’.

Updating an earlier post, Mike Williams is being replaced by his son, Mike Williams Jr. Mike caught pneumonia this winter, and was in no shape to run the Iditarod, so his son replaced him.

February 29, 2012   2 Comments

More Politics

Peppermint Camellia

I see that Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has decided not to run for re-election to the Senate. She’s complaining that it has become ‘too partisan’. And who would be responsible for that change, Senator Snowe?

There also seems to be reporting that Bob Kerrey will run again for the Senate to fill the seat being vacated by Ben Nelson in Nebraska. Bob Kerrey is not something that the country needs at the moment.

It looks like the Mittser finally passed the 15% point with wins tonight in Arizona and Michigan. He has managed to hold off the flood of ‘St Santorum’. People are apparently buying his ‘electability’ scam.

February 28, 2012   14 Comments

Keep It To Yourself

Humorous Pictures

Believe whatever you want to believe, but keep it out of my laws. The laws of the United States are judged by the Constitution, not anyone’s belief system.

I’m not impressed that a proposed law is in concert with an Imam or Ayatollah’s interpretation of Sharia law from Mecca or Qom, nor a Rabbi’s interpretation of the Mishnah in Jerusalem, nor the Pope’s interpretation of Canon law in Rome, nor a pastor’s interpretation of the laws laid down by a French lawyer in exile in Geneva. None of these sources have relevance to the laws in the United States.

Most of the people who are pushing these ‘Personhood’ laws that make a zygote a person would probably not want it known that this is the position of the ayatollahs in Qom in their interpretation of Sharia. I wonder what voters would say about these politicians trying to impose Shi’ia Sharia law on them?

February 27, 2012   3 Comments

Changes

When the Iditarod starts there will be 66 teams on the trail, three more that last year, but well down from the peak years. I noticed 5 names that have withdrawn who have either been around forever, or provided a new element to race.

The kilted supporters of Wattie McDonald of Scotland will not be in evidence this year. They shook things up at the start last year.

Jessie Royer and Tamara Rose of Fairbanks have both withdrawn. Jessie said it was a matter of money, and people can certainly understand that. It will still be odd not seeing her in the top ten.

Native Alaskan mushers Mike Williams and Robert Nelson have also decided to sit out this year, and money probably played some part in their decisions.

The truth is that running the Iditarod cost $30K+ when you add it all up. If you add in the cost of transportation to start line, and then home from the finish, you need a really good year to afford it. When things are bad, the sponsors just aren’t there.

Another change of note is to the trail itself between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass. Alaska Public Broadcasting reports that the Iditarod Trail Altered To Avoid ‘Happy River Steps’. The ‘Steps’ have eaten a lot of sleds, and mugged more than a few mushers. If you’re lucky, the sled will break into pieces suitable for making splints for your broken bones.

Update: The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article on the course change includes a video of Aliy Zirkle’s passage down the steps in 2010 when conditions were perfect with deep new snow cushioning the rocks underneath. That is the best it gets. With less snow, and perhaps ice on the rock shelving, the ‘Steps’ get very ‘interesting’.

February 26, 2012   2 Comments

Iditarod 2012 Trail

Iditarod map even yearsThese are the trail distances between checkpoints.

Willow – Start
Yentna Station – 52 miles [84 km]
Skwentna – 34 miles [55 km]
Finger Lake – 45 miles [72 km]
Rainy Pass – 30 miles [48 km]
Rohn – 48 miles [77 km]
Nikolai – 75 miles [121 km]
McGrath – 54 miles [87 km] [Spirit of Alaska]
Takotna – 18 miles [29 km]
Ophir – 25 miles [40 km]
Cripple – 59 miles [95 km] [Dorothy Page Halfway]
Ruby – 112 miles [180 km] [First to the Yukon]
Galena – 52 miles [84 km]
Nulato – 52 miles [84 km]
Kaltag – 42 miles [68 km]
Unalakleet – 90 miles [145 km] [Gold Coast]
Shaktoolik – 42 miles [68 km]
Koyuk – 48 miles [77 km]
Elim – 48 miles [77 km]
Golovin – 28 miles [45 km]
White Mountain – 18 miles [29 km]
Safety – 55 miles [88 km]
Nome – 22 miles [35 km]

The items in italics after checkpoints are awards for being first to those points.

The distance is from the previous checkpoint. Some teams in the early going will travel at 12 mph [20kph] or better with all 16 dogs eager to go.

February 25, 2012   1 Comment

It’s Back …

Yes, next Saturday is Susan Butcher Day in Alaska, which means the start of the Iditarod.

February 25, 2012   Comments Off

Wasting Tax Dollars

The Miami Herald reports that Pam Bondi, Florida’s Attorney General, has joined a law suit over Zero’s ‘attack on religious freedom’, a Republican construct.

She hasn’t filed a case against any of the financial institutions stealing homes in Florida, but she will devote state resources to this political talking point.

This is, of course, all part of the Republican ‘War on Women’, which will really help them at the ballot box. [/snark]

I don’t supposed she noticed that Virginia Republicans have been fleeing from the ‘Assault with a Foreign Object’ bill, and have tabled the ‘fertilized eggs are people’ bill because of the backlash.

February 24, 2012   2 Comments

It’s Almost Here

The CBC has an article on the pending availability of the $25 Raspberry Pi motherboard that focuses on the software developed for it by Seneca College of Canada.

I wrote about the board before, but now it is real with a release version of the board. Initially it will be available from the Raspberry Pi web site, but it will hopefully establish another purchase point on this side of the Atlantic.

This goes back to the hobbyist days of microcomputers, when people programmed their own machines, and generally played with them.

I’ll probably splurge and get the $35 version that has more capability.

February 24, 2012   Comments Off

Friday Cat Blogging

Looking For Trouble

Friday Cat Blogging

I didn’t do it … yet…

[Editor: Lucrezia at rest after a frantic battle with a blowing leaf.]

Friday Ark

February 24, 2012   5 Comments

What A Circus

Apparently CNN sponsored a group therapy session with some ‘special needs’ Republicans. They should have gotten an experienced Head Start teacher, instead of John King [I think that was his name, not sure] to supervise.

Digby and David Atkins actually watched to he whole thing, while I just looked at a clip this morning on the birth control question.

David highlighted a Romney non-response to a question, which culminated in Romney flatly stating that the moderator could ask questions, but he didn’t feel obligated to respond if he felt like talking about something else.

Actually the only thing remarkable about that exchange was that Romney was challenged on the issue, because all four of them were totally unable to stay on the topic of the questions they were asked.

Immediately after being asked about birth control, a question submitted by a viewer, they attacked the media for not asking Obama about in in 2008, and then went off on their ‘religious freedom’ kick.

Digby covered the ‘responses’ in depth, which is more than I had the stomach for. After about 30 seconds into the responses I had to leave. They need someone with a tranquilizer gun standing by for these events.

Oh, yes, when the birth control question was asked, the audience booed. What’s with that? It is a current topic and the candidates have been talking about it all week. Republicans are weird.

February 23, 2012   5 Comments

Naughty, Naughty

Adele is apparently a hugely popular British singer who just won a slew of trophies at an American music awards show, and she won a couple more at a British awards show.

The producers of the British awards show cut off her acceptance speech for the second award, and the BBC reports that Adele flips bird at BRITs.

Tsk, tsk. And she looks like such a nice and pleasant person.

I don’t suppose they still teach about fading out when a performance runs too long, like we used to do in radio. I would have thought fading at the end would be a better concept than cutting off the winner of the most important award at an awards show to have time for a final musical performance.

February 22, 2012   2 Comments

The Land Down Under

The Australian Labor Party is having a meltdown:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today announce that she is calling a ballot to resolve the Labor leadership stoush with her predecessor Kevin Rudd.

Ms Gillard will hold a morning press conference in Adelaide to call a caucus ballot for Monday when Parliament resumes.

Overnight she criticised Mr Rudd over his sudden resignation as Foreign Minister, saying she was “disappointed” he did not speak to her before his announcement.

For those who don’t follow this soap opera – Kevin Rudd was the leader of the Labor Party who was pushed out by the Julia Gillard faction within the party, and he has apparently decided to get his old job as prime minister back.

The two are opposites – Rudd is good at public performances, but a PITA on a personal level as a leader, while Gillard is good on a personal level but a disaster before a larger audience. The tension between they two has been a mess, and risks the chances of the Labor Party staying in power.

Waiting in the wings is Tony Abbott, who leads the conservative Liberal Party [no one said this was going to be easy]. Tony would be right at home with the current candidates for the Republican Party for President. He can be as dumb as Rick Perry, as religious as Santorum, as far out as Ron Paul, and as slippery as Romney.

[a 'Spill' is a party leadership vote, and a 'Stoush' is a fight]

There is some good news from Australia: a new species has been found. OK, so it’s a sea snake, and being OZ it is naturally as venomous as can be, but it is a new species. Ms Gillard would probably want it named after Kevin Rudd. ;)

February 22, 2012   Comments Off

Five Dollars A Gallon

There a lot of people beginning to notice that the price of gas is going up, and most probably think it has something to do with increased demand because the economy is improving. Well, it doesn’t.

People are seeing the effects of the ‘Goldman Sachs tax’ and the ‘Israel tax’ pushing the cost of fuel higher.

The ”Goldman Sachs tax’ is the upward pressure on oil futures caused by ‘speculators’ like Goldman Sachs [gamblers by any other name]. This has no relationship to supply or demand. [Update: McClatchy covers this]

On the supply side there are several restrictions coming into play related to the ‘Israel tax’. This is basically the pressure being applied to Iran, the fifth largest supplier of crude oil in the world, over the unsubstantiated claim that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has responded by ceasing to sell oil to the UK and France which is not good news for British petrol prices. The US and EU assumed that there would be no other problems around the world, and that Saudi Arabia would make up the losses.

Saudi Arabia is having trouble maintaining normal production, and there are problems in Sudan and Nigeria, so the price will go up.

In the US, the refineries decided that they liked $3.50/gallon gas, so they have been exporting refined products, rather than selling them in the US. The US has been a net exporter of petroleum for months, which makes the justification for moves by the GOP to open up more areas for drilling, and pushing the Keystone XL pipeline ‘inoperative’. We have excess capacity in the US, not a shortage.

You would have thought that they would have waited until the latest blow-out of a well on the North Slope was controlled before proposing new wells, but the GOP doesn’t worry about reality.

In the natural gas area producers are reducing their efforts because the price of natural gas plunged when they brought so much on line at the same time. They are limiting the supply to push the price back up.

In a free market, the price of gasoline and natural gas would probably be half of what it is today, but corporations don’t want it to happen, so it doesn’t.

February 21, 2012   7 Comments

Shrove Tuesday

Mardi Gras

The last day before the beginning of Lent on the Gulf Coast that once belonged to France, it is Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday”: Laissez les bon temps rouler!

It was first celebrated in Mobile, Alabama, but the big show these days is in New Orleans, and it is a holiday in the state of Louisiana, because people wouldn’t show up for work anyway, so why fight it.

The tradition is to serve King cake, which is a circle of cinnamon bun dough with a white frosting on top sprinkled with sugar colored purple, gold, and green. If that weren’t bad enough, they put the figurine of a baby in the dough, and whoever finds it in their piece is supposed to be lucky. Actually if you find it and don’t choke on it, I guess you are lucky. You should use a small ceramic figurine, as some of the cheap plastic versions melt in the oven [yummy].

February 21, 2012   Comments Off