The Best Laid Plans

Yesterday at noon I had a flight to Richmond, VA (from Atlanta) to surprise my sister Joyce at her 50th birthday party. She wasn’t expecting me (Ann and I were just there at Christmas). She was having a catered party with about 40 friends expected at 7pm.

My plan was to sneak into the party through the back door and merge into the crowd. She would be so surprised when she spotted me.

I got to the Atlanta airport (via the MARTA train from North Springs, always an entertaining ride). When I checked for the gate for my flight, I saw that it was cancelled! I went to Delta ticketing and found out the 5pm flight was full (and likely to be cancelled due to the weather in Richmond — sleet). There was another flight at 8pm but that was too late.

The disappointment hit me like a brick. I was really charged up for the surprise and the party, and then I had to get back on MARTA to go home. I don’t blame Delta for cancelling this flight — the weather was really bad — but I had a hard time accepting that my plans weren’t going to work out.

Stuff happens.

Sixteen and Wise?

Scoot_earsOn Friday, April 10, 1998, we celebrated the sixteenth birthday of Scooter the Siamese Cat (he’s 80 in cat years). After a rough start (at 6:30am Scooter was escorted to the garage after throwing up), the day was a great success. Scooter got his favorite food — thin-sliced deli turkey — for every meal and received much petting and adulation. In light of achieving his advanced age in such fine form, I thought it might be fun to share some of Scooter’s secrets, based on my observations.

Scooter’s Secrets for Living Long and Looking Good

Be born with great looks.

Trust as few humans as possible.

Humans have a weakness for cuteness. Exploit it.

Humans are impressed with great athletic ability. Impress them.

Only sleep with humans you trust. Transfer all your parasitic insects (ticks, fleas, and chiggers) to your bedmates.

Make a sound like a 300-pound mountain lion to intimidate your enemies. Then attack. (Make sure you have someone to cover your medical bills when this ploy fails.)

Eat grass and throw up to cleanse your digestive system.

If a human bedmate has facial hair, snuggle up as tightly as possible to his facial hair in cold weather.

Eat salmon daily.

Eat a baby rabbit every spring.

Sprint 50 yards after a bowel movement.

Climb a tree every day.

If you want to get someone out of bed, lick his face. If that doesn’t work, walk on him.

Nap several times a day, preferably in a lap.

Stretch your muscles and spine 24 times a day.

Stay in bed on cloudy, rainy days. When the weather is sunny, have an adventure.

Get a massage at every opportunity.

Moving vehicles are dangerous, watch them diligently. Never turn your back on a human or a dog, especially large, foul-smelling males.

If an unknown something larger than you is coming your way — run. If something smaller than you runs away — chase it.

Hide and seek and ambush games are fun at any age.

A chunk bitten out of your ear looks cool (Scooter had it before Evander). 

Broadband for Rural America

Good advice even though somewhat self-serving.

Broadband is the answer of a rural economic revival in the United States. Or so thinks Nortel CEO Bill Owens, who believes unless the US government gets its broadband act together, US will start lagging behind broadband believers like China.

“If rural America does not have ready access to this information and the infrastructure on which it is delivered, we will see the gap in opportunity and prosperity widen between rural and urban America,” Owens said. He think special tax breaks for carriers who provide broadband in the boonies and feels that we need to get “Setting a goal to bring at least 10 to 20 Mbps of bandwidth to every subscriber in America in the near term and 100 megabits within the next decade.”

Link: Om Malik on Broadband.

Is Environmentalism on the Endangered List?

The following analysis from Shellenberger and Nordhaus (via Alex Steffen) says it all.

Environmentalists are particularly upbeat about the direction of public opinion thanks in large part to the polling they conduct that shows wide support for their proposals. Yet America is a vastly more right-wing country than it was three decades ago. The domination of American politics by the far-right is a central obstacle to achieving action on global warming. Yet almost none of the environmentalists we interviewed thought to mention it.

Part of what’s behind America’s political turn to the right is the skill with which conservative think tanks, intellectuals and political leaders have crafted proposals that build their power through setting the terms of the debate. Their work has paid off. According to a survey of 1,500 Americans by the market research firm Environics, the number of Americans who agree with the statement, "To preserve people’s jobs in this country, we must accept higher levels of pollution in the future," increased from 17 percent in 1996 to 26 percent in 2000. The number of Americans who agreed that, "Most of the people actively involved in environmental groups are extremists, not reasonable people," leapt from 32 percent in 1996 to 41 percent in 2000.

The truth is that for the vast majority of Americans, the environment never makes it into their top ten list of things to worry about. Protecting the environment is indeed supported by a large majority — it’s just not supported very strongly. Once you understand this, it’s much easier to understand why it’s been so easy for anti-environmental interests to gut 30 years of environmental protections.

At risk of being simplistic, I see two themes that might better grab the attention of the American public: health and terrorism. Recent election results indicate that fear is a great motivator. So I say that environmentalists must link the increasing rates of cancer with pollution. We don’t have to prove it scientifically — just say it often enough and it becomes intuitively obvious.

The connection between fossil fuels and terrorism can be exploited. The money we spend in the Middle East funds terrorists. We must state that fact over and over. Only when that message is widely accepted will alternative energy sources be considered by the average American.

Wind Turbines Killing Bats

Jessica Kerns thought her survey of new power-generating wind turbines on a mountaintop in West Virginia would yield the standard result: a smattering of dead birds that were whacked by the whirring blades. But the University of Maryland doctoral student turned up something unexpected amid the trees and rolling ridges of Backbone Mountain: hundreds of bat carcasses, some with battered wings and bloodied faces. "It was really a shock," Kerns said.

Bats serve an important role in nature, and their populations are believed to be in decline, scientists said. The bats getting killed in Appalachia devour insects that pose grave threats to crops such as corn and cotton. They also feast on pests that can spread disease, such as mosquitoes.

Link: Researchers Alarmed by Bat Deaths From Wind Turbines (

The bat deaths, which have baffled researchers, pose a problem for an industry that sells itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional power plants. Wind proponents already have had to battle complaints about bird deaths from the blades and about unsightly turbines marring pristine views.

The white turbines in Appalachia rise more than 340 feet above the ground — well above the tree canopy — and are lined up close to one another to catch the wind as it blows over the mountains and ridges.

A View on the War on Terror

My question: what percentage of every dollar that we spend on oil eventually funds terrorism?

Excerpts from a speech by Haim Harari on the War on Terror

The root of the trouble is that this entire Moslem region is totally dysfunctional, by any standard of the word, and would have been so even if Israel would have joined the Arab league and an independent Palestine would have existed for 100 years.

Birth rates in the region are very high, increasing the poverty, the social gaps and the cultural decline. And all of this is happening in a region, which only 30 years ago, was believed to be the next wealthy part of the world, and in a Moslem area, which developed, at some point in history, one of the most advanced cultures in the world.

It is fair to say that this creates an unprecedented breeding ground for cruel dictators, terror networks, fanaticism, incitement, suicide murders and general decline. It is also a fact that almost everybody in the region blames this situation on the United States, on Israel, on Western Civilization, on Judaism and Christianity, on anyone and anything, except themselves.

The events of the last few years have amplified four issues, which have always existed, but have never been as rampant as in the present upheaval in the region. These are the four main pillars of the current World Conflict, or perhaps we should already refer to it as “the undeclared World War III”. I have no better name for the present situation. A few more years may pass before everybody acknowledges that it is a World War, but we are already well into it.

  1. The first element is the suicide murder.
  2. The second ingredient is words, more precisely lies. Words can be lethal. They kill people.
  3. The third aspect is money. Huge amounts of money, which could have solved many social problems in this dysfunctional part of the world, are channeled into three concentric spheres supporting death and murder.
  4. The fourth element of the current world conflict is the total breaking of all laws.

The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment.

In order to win the war it is also necessary to dry the financial resources of the terror conglomerate.

I have no doubt that the civilized world will prevail. But the longer it takes us to understand the new landscape of this war, the more costly and painful the victory will be. Europe, more than any other region, is the key. Its understandable recoil from wars, following the horrors of World War II, may cost thousands of additional innocent lives, before the tide will turn.

HAIM HARARI, a theoretical physicist, is the Chair, Davidson Institute of Science Education, and Former President, from 1988 to 2001, of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Link: Guerrilla News Network.

Not Understanding

This morning Scooter the Siamese Cat came into my office, yowling at top volume. After I scratched him thoroughly he went to Ann’s office and yowled continuously. She took him outside for a walk. Soon, Scooter was back in my office; I let him sit in my lap for 15 minutes while I worked. Then he went back to Ann’s office; she put him on the deck. Soon he wanted off the deck. He still bounced between our offices, yowling irritably.

After about two hours of the squeaky wheel needing grease, we were getting weary and angry with Scooter’s harassment. I rationalized that the bad weather heading our way had him upset. Ann always worries that he is tired of his food.

Ann went into our bedroom and happened to glance at Scooter’s bed. She discovered that he had barfed in his bed and had been trying to tell us about it. As soon as his bed was cleaned up, he took a long nap.

Anyone have a recipe for crow?

Does Gun Control Work?

The 328-page report by the National Academy of Sciences is based on 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, a survey of 80 gun-control laws and some of its own independent study.

It could find no evidence to support the conclusion that government restrictions on firearms reduces gun crime, gun violence and gun accidents.

As noted by John Lott Jr., resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and frequent contributor to this page, this stunning indictment of the ineffectiveness of gun-control laws was produced by a panel set up during the Clinton administration. All but one of its members were known before their appointments to favor gun control. No NRA shills here.

Lott credits the report for pointing out the obvious: Criminals who use guns to break laws will break laws to use guns. He also notes that the report failed to include in its analysis how gun-ownership restrictions may restrict defensive uses of firearms and endanger potential victims.

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