The temperatures got up into double digits today (15 degrees) so it seemed a good day for a hike.
I have wanted to get down into the woods for a while now, but 20 below is a bit cold even for me.
It warmed up today though so I decided to take a walk down to the river.
The property I live on is mostly woods, and the back boundary is the bank of the Grand River.
Every season here has its charm, but winter is rather special, if somewhat intimidating to people who are not used to dealing with the cold.
Most of our forest is deciduous, maple, birch and elm and box alder for the most part, but we do have the occasional evergreen as well.
I am quite fond of these Chinese Elm. This one is surrounded with about three feet of standing water, frozen to a depth of about six inches.
And here I am on the banks of the Grand. This is the heaviest ice flow I have seen on the river to date.
It is rather pretty though.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
The temperatures got up into double digits today (15 degrees) so it seemed a good day for a hike.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
They tell me that with wind chill, it's -20 f. out at the moment.
So of course I just had to go out to play.
It was amazingly cold out. Yesterday afternoon it had reached 46 f, tee shirt weather around here. Of course it rained all day, and all the snow melted leaving standing water everywhere.
Then the storm front got here. The temperature dropped to 25 f. within an hour and down to 5 f. by 11 pm.
This morning all that standing water had turned into one big sheet of ice with a layer of "crunchy" snow on top of it.
So here in West Michigan at least the tow truck drivers and body shops are prospering.
The woods on the lower forty were amazing today. the air was so cold it hurt to breath it and every living thing was still.
I wanted to hike down to the river, but it was just too cold for my usual winter dress.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
and other pleasant ways to pass an afternoon.
When I lived in Africa I used to love watching Nigerian movies. They were cheesier than "Plan 9 from Outer Space", they were mostly in English (for the broader African market) and full of ghosts, Witch Doctors, curses, demons, zombies and the like.
As it turns out many Nigerians tend to be somewhat superstitious and are often really into the whole "black magic" thing. This turns out to be an important bit of information.
By this time pretty much everyone has heard of the "Nigerian Scam" (AKA the 419 scam), you know the one "Dear sir/madam, it has come to our attention that you are the perfect person to help us transfer millions of dollars out of our country and you can keep half of it".
The people who run this scam are actually mostly from Nigeria, of the criminal class, and as it happens quite superstitious as a rule.
While threatening them with the law does not bother them in the least, I found something that does and have been sending it back to 419 scammers to great (and hilarious) effect for a while now. I send them a curse
Those of you who are fans of HP Lovecraft will recognize his hand in this. For playing on someone's superstitions, fiction is always better than fact.
I have gotten some real freak outs with this and at the very least you can bet that the scammer went to the local shaman to have the curse lifted (and paid handsomely for the service).
Well there is a new variation of the scam going on now.
What the scammers are doing now is hijacking someone's email and sending out letters to everyone in the address book claiming that they are the person, and that they are stranded in Nigeria with no money. "can you please help by wiring money asap?"
I got one such letter this morning. After calling my friend (who I knew was not stranded in Nigeria) to let him know that his email had been hacked) I have spent the day messing with the guy who was behind this. I told him that I would wire money and got his address, got him to go back and forth a couple of times on false starts. Then told him that the money was there, but he would have to use the name of the restaurant we last ate lunch at as a password to get it (without telling him what it was of course) and then finally sending him the "curse" above, with instructions that the password was hidden in it but that he would have to read the words out loud several times to find it.
He finally caught on :-)
Please feel free to copy the graphic and o send it to any Nigerian Scammers that might approch you. It works better than anything else I have tried.
The best curses are the ones the victim convinces himself are real.
(And these people have gone so far as murder in pursuit of their scams, so they deserve everything their imaginations can give them)
Monday, January 14, 2008
or, watch the Democrats screw themselves even better than the Republicans can.
Well, tomorrow is the Michigan primary and it is going to be interesting.
On the Democratic side, the State party has managed to completely screw Michigan Democrats with their antics, assuring that the party's votes mean nothing, and interestingly, almost assuring the Clinton gets the State's nomination. (I am sure that this has nothing to do with Governor Granholm being a Clinton supporter. Perhaps she has forgotten that she is in office ONLY because she was the lesser of two evils, no one wanted to see Dick DeVos running the State and Blackwater getting contracts for "State security").
One thing that I expected to see on the Democratic side, which I have not, is the spreading the word that if you vote in the Democratic primary and you don't want to vote for Clinton, you can vote uncommitted. That would keep Clinton, at least theoretically, from winning all the Michigan representatives.
I hope that the word gets passed around at least somewhat before tomorrow.
Myself, I am voting in the Republican primary.
I have not made up my mind yet as to who I will vote for, the guy least likely to win if he runs for president, (Willard "Mitt" Romney) or the guy who will do the least damage to our country if the Republicans manage to rig the election again. (John McCain)
In any event, tomorrow will be interesting, so
And here is an amusing video from YouTube from "Democrats for Romney" for you to enjoy
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Just in case Mr. 9/11 was wondering.
I caught this on Dan Abrams show last night and was floored by it.
Mr. "tough on immigration, everybody in America should speak English" Rudy Giuliani put out a campaign ad in Florida in Spanish!
That's right Giuliani is such a vote grubbing hypocrite that he is willing to try to get the votes of the very people he has been attacking by putting out an ad in a language he says they should not be allowed to speak as Americans.
Crooks and Liars picked up the segment and published it here. Take a look at it if you want to see just how pathetic Giuliani actually is. He outdoes even Romney in the "say anything to get a vote" category
Can you say "¡hijo de puta!" Mr. Giuliani?
I knew you could!
Here's the thing. Spanish is not a "language of immigrants". It has as much history here, perhaps more, than English does.
As an English teacher I would like to see everyone have the opportunity to learn learn the language well. I would like to see more Americans learning Spanish as well. Both are useful languages, both are part of our history.
Dumping on people who prefer to speak Spanish, or suggesting that they are less "American" is racist bullshit. America is not just the east coast, nor is it just the mid-west. It is the WHOLE country, including places with names like Colorado, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Mexico.
My grand Mother, who's family has been living here f0r the last ten thousand years or so, refused to speak English, even though she could do so fluently. She considered it the language of theft and murder, and beneath her.
When someone came around who couldn't speak Apache or Spanish I would often translate for her. It was funny, most people never caught on, even though they would ask a question and she would answer it in Indeh before I had a chance to translate it to her. So I would end up only translating her part of the conversation.
It is rather odd actually. We are getting more Spanish speakers here in West Michigan, and I have heard comments by people, when they have heard someone speaking Spanish to the effect of it is "disgusting", though I have never heard anyone referring to people speaking Dutch here as "disgusting". We do have a far number of Dutch speakers here, and Dutch style celebrations, and no one blinks an eye.
So Dutch is not an Un-American Language but Spanish is? Go figure.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
But it was also an example of how much bullshit the media throws at us.
The New Hampshire primary was a lesson to anyone who buys into media hype.
Of course the media is still hyping the election and it seems that no one is yet telling the truth about what happened last night.
What is the truth? Clinton took the popular vote by a small margin, and she and Obama are tied for number of delegates, going to the convention with nine each.
I suspect that this is the best possible outcome we could have.
Clinton came back and did well because she stopped acting like a republican and started talking WITH people rather than at them.
That's Obama's strength, his ability and willingness to dialog with people in a spontaneous, unscripted way. Clinton has been hammering her talking points since she started this campaign, not realizing that the American people are sick to death of Republican style politics.
After seven years of George Bush and his cronies acting like we would believe anything they told us if they just said it enough times, the only people who are interested in talking points are the hard core right wing authoritarians. They find comfort in being told how the world is and don't have the awareness to be troubled by cognitive dissonance.
Now we have a race!
If Clinton sticks to her new strategy of acting like a human being and giving the voters the respect of actually discussing her intentions, she will do well. If she falls back into politics as usual, she will not.
The nice thing about the Democratic side of things is that any of the four front runners could run the country better in their sleep than Bush could on his best day. There is no real downside. For my money Obama is still the best choice and Clinton the worst, but that's what makes this interesting.
On the Republican side, things are a bit different. You have an old (OLD in spirit) War Horse, a Chameleon, a
Hypocrite Theocrat, and a Thug.
McCain is the only one of them with any integrity at all, and I fear he is so out of touch with what America really needs he would have a hard time serving this country as its chief executive, though he would do a thousand times better than Bush or the other candidates, even without his Geritol.
Romney is a pure politician, doing and saying anything he thinks will get him elected, if he ever ran into the truth he would die of fright.
Huckabee is a guy who put a serial rapist back on the street to spite a political rival and suck up to his far right supporters. The Rapist rapes and kills more women of course. And Huckabee lies about the whole thing, which tells us everything we need to know about his "Christian" values. That whole "thou shalt not lie/bear false witness" thing seems to have slipped past him.
And mister "9/11" Giuliani gets creepier by the day. He acts like he's a "made man", a real New York Tough Guy. The only part I believe about that is that he is crooked.
It sucks to be Republican just now.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
like the dog you are.
You may remember a while back I wrote an article on Mitt Romney and his lack of fitness to hold public office in America.
As part of my argument I mentioned his confrontation with a MS sufferer, and Romney's coldly turning his back on him (I guess he never read that "as you have done to the least of these" passage in the New Testament). Well, it seems I was not the only one to notice.
Check out this little video
where Mitt gets a well deserved drubbing.
God I love the internet!
Monday, January 07, 2008
As it turns out, contrary to the initial reactions of a lot of people on the net, the cup is in fact perhaps not half empty after all.
The think I find most interesting in my travels around the web checking out information on the Mini-CAT is how much negative reaction I see from commenters. These are not in the way of valid criticism of the technology for the most part, but rather on a more emotional, knee-jerk "if man were meant to fly" tone. It sort of makes me feel a bit for Orval and Wilbur (up until they got their "ungodly" contraption off the ground).
From what I can see, the idea looks pretty good still. Take a moment to check out The official Mini-CAT website and The Mini-CAT YouTube site to see what is already being done (by people who are not Americans, to our shame) using existing technology to make people oil free.
Then take a look at these two videos.
The first one is where I first heard about the car.
The second is from Australian TV showing both the Mini-CAT and another compressed air car that is quite interesting.
If you find this sort of thing hopeful agitate your representatives to put some of our tax dollars into this kind of research.
My guess is that if we put the kind of effort into freeing ourselves from fossil fuels that we did into getting into space we would have it done in about ten years.
Friday, January 04, 2008
And when the oil companies don't have a stranglehold on your economy.
Take a look at the Mini-CAT a car run on compressed air!
(and it warms the cockles of my heart to scoop Buddha on this one)
It reportedly gets about 125 miles to a charge, has a top speed of close to 70 mph and costs about three dollars to recharge with compressed air. The sticker price for such an interesting car? It will start at around $7,000 US. The car will be on sale (if the oil companies don't manage to talk Bush into invading India to prevent it) in Europe and India by the end of this year.
The car was developed in France, and is being produced by Tata Motors, an innovative Indian company that has been producing compressed air buses since 2000.
You can read a bit more about the car in this article by Business Week .and this one at Raw Story .
I am betting though that Big Oil, The US car manufacturers and their minions, BushCo and the NeoCons, will do everything possible to keep this technology out of the hands of Americans.
How could they continue to bleed us dry with gas at three + dollars a gallon when most of us could take care of 90% of our transportation needs at three dollars a day or less.
Bush and the powers behind him want Americans as their serfs, controlling us through limiting our mobility and, just like the big mining companies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, keeping us deeply in debt.
How did that song go?
"Move sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St Peter don't you call me 'cuse I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store."Technology like this car is very dangerous to the status quo. If the big American car companies don't get their heads out of their collective arses they will go the way of the buggy whip factory and the schools for key punch operators.
We need to be supporting the development of this sort of technology here in the States rather than stifling it. If we devoted the money that goes to subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies, we could have inexpensive private and public transportation in no time at all.
It is a sad day when we get beat out by France and India in the area of transportation technology. The Voodoo economics of Reagen and Bush have beggared this country, creating a national dept that will be handed down to our great grandchildren and bleeding off our resources, both human and material, with NOTHING to show for it but pain and suffering.
Reagen didn't make the world a better place, and Bush the Second has taken our country to new lows, and what we have to show for it is foreclosed homes the likes of which we haven't seen since the great depression, fuel costs that are so high that people are going into debt just to be able to go to work each day, and billions of dollars a day being poured into a pointless and failed war that has caused more death and destruction of civilian life and property in Iraq than Saddam Hussein ever did.
We have American children being denied health care so that George Bush and his NeoCon handlers can use our money to kill Iraqi children instead.
The next time you pay $90.00 dollars for a tank of gas, ask yourself why we, as a nation, are not putting the kind of effort to produce a fossil fuel free country that we did in putting a man on the moon.
The technology exists already, and we are behind the curve in comparison to the rest of the industrialized world.
Most of you who are reading this are too young to remember that the USSR beat us into space, and it took someone like JFK to rally the country and get our space program off the ground. (no pun intended) Nixon (who lost the election to JFK) wouldn't have done it and couldn't have done it. Conservatives after all think that "if man were meant to fly God would have given him wings".
We went from the shame of having been beaten into space by our enemy, to the only country to have one of its citizens walk on the moon (which fact won us , at least in part, the Cold War).
We did not do this by listening to Conservatives. There are no real Conservatives left now anyway, just Right Wing Authoritarians, NeoCons, and Theocrats dressed in Conservative clothing, people who would have thought Goldwater a liberal.
So it is up to you dear reader. Do you want to see economic prosperity to shift away from the US? If so then just support the Status Quo, vote Republican, and in very little time we will just be another has-been ex-super power like Great Britain and Russia, struggling to get by.
If you would like to be able to pay your bills, keep your home, and set a little something aside for your children, take a look at the other candidates and pick the one that will lead us in an energy self-sufficiency race as powerful as the Space Race.
When you elect this person, don't just sit back and let him do the work, keep on him and demand what this country needs.
The power still resides with the people here in the US, we have just been tricked into thinking that we are still children and do not have the rigt to self determination, Time to WAKE UP.